Tuesday, April 08, 2008

162. UCSB Bren School of Environmental Science and Management: Two Days of Playing with My Identity

Last night I was alone. My brain was fried from a nearly-entire day of orientation. It has been two days of playing with my identity. There are myriads of factors of my environment (my internal and external environment) that make up who I am, and one of them is the "social dressing," or "the social coat," because it is usually the people around me who provide competitive and collaborative drive to know what I know and do what I do. So I go from the UCR Earth Sciences at the Angels Baseball Stadium on Sunday to the Donald Bren School of Environmental Science and Management on Monday. Plus, last night, in my freezing cold condition of t-shirt and vest with no sweater at a Starbucks, I mindlessly signed the SIR, Statement of Intent to Register, and the SLR, or Statement of Legal Residence. I wonder what Dr. Young thinks about all this university bureaucracy. Anyway. Geeze, I mean, I made my decision. Physically transferred my "strings attached" from Riverside to UC Santa Barbara. I wish I had some time to reflect upon the day before doing that.

Afterwards I was stressed and alone, and though I don't eat pizza, I ate pizza. I signed up for a credit card at Kmart, and I was approved. It is shocking that only 1/3 of all people who apply get approved for credit cards. Scary. I was supposed to get a free Little Caesars Pizza for applying, but the joint inside Kmart closed. I need to destroy the coupon. I ate an expensive Rusty's Pizza instead. It was tiny. I remember craving for cheese. Why is this important? It is important in terms of how stress can dictate your life and stress can lead to eating food you wouldn't eat if you weren't stressed.

Don't get me wrong, the day was quite fun, but I was in a state of information overload. I wished I didn't miss Dr. Sylvester's geology lecture. There were a lot of things that happened, but I suppose a few highlights stick out in my mind. (1). The day was mostly oriented toward Environmental Masters students, because there were only two new Ph.D. prospectives. Me and a guy by the name of Jaime who's also prime meat for Scripps Institute of Oceanography and a few other places. (2). I find the whole day ironic because it was a UCSB salespitch day as to why go to UCSB rather than one of the "other" big four schools (Bren, Yale, Duke, Michigan). I told everyone that I was trying to convince these guys for over SIX MONTHS to try and let me in, and you guys are trying to get conned

It is an interesting decision-making protocol as to why students choose one school over another. It is the summation of factors in a new place. Some primary factors include (1) distance from home (humans are victims of homing behavior!) (2) structure of the program (3) the people, access to the profs, student life (4) the town, the region, access to opportunity and "life outside of school" (as Hunter Lenihan said that a drawback of this place is that students surf too much) (5) financial costs. West coast people are weirded out by the gothic, ancient properties of the east coast, and the east coast people are weirded out by the west coast. It's all goes back to people's spatial baseline to when they were a kid. That baseline of environment is the foundation of comparison for all new places you experience for the rest of your life. People choose what they choose based on gestalt knowledge: people tend to go with what they know and then venture into the unknown. So, if you have a family and friend base in Michigan, it might drive you to be there, or family and friends might drive you away, depending on the circumstance!

All I can say is that changing your geographic position changes your entire point of view and world view. All variables and factors in your environment are in flux, and it would be nice if some of these variables were known or familiar so your knowledge base of a new geographic region is not completely starting from scratch.

Many students were still in decision phase, but I was adamant about attending UCSB. I told everyone that I was a UCSB promoter. I come crawling back after 4.5 years of struggle with university "red tape" elsewhere. Every single university claims they are "interdisciplinary," but the difference between UCSB and elsewhere is "practice" versus "lipservice." I warned them that if you talk to me I will be advocating your attendance to UCSB, but I am not comfortable doing it in part because in high school, I convinced my best friend Jonathan Tao to attend UC Davis with me (I pushed so hard, it was almost like a Hitler situation of repeat a lie enough times it becomes the truth), and then after one year of UC Davis I LEAVE while Jon STAYS the WHOLE TIME. Ever since that embarrassing shift in perception and change of my own behavior, every single time I offer advice, I provide the disclaimer: "This is just my advice. This is just my perception. Everyone is different, so you can take it or leave it." Which is what I will do with my films. "This is just my perception of Reality. You can take it or leave it."

I didn't have to promote UCSB much because UCSB speaks for itself. You just walk around the campus bluffs and get inspired. The landscape speaks to you on its own. You don't need anyone to tell you why this place is so great.

I know in my mind I have entered an academic position of utopia... back to the College of Creative Studies (CCS) and infinite mental freedom. Now bureacratic red tape to hold you back. Now it's a matter of "just do it." Though I am in utopia, I must remember my struggles, because it is these struggles that generate stories of environmental media. Struggle and desperation is necessary for creativity. You only appreciate what you have, given that you have experienced some time of withdrawal and absence. I think that it is a struggle for actors and film-makers to achieve "success" but once they made it, they slack off, because they no longer struggle. I must always impose self-infliction, otherwise creativity dies like an annual flower in Riverside (two week bloom and then shrivels to brown dust with the sun)

Here are some inter-related reasons why Bren and UCSB... in terms of more theoretical elements of organizational structure:

(1) small institution / organization
(2) young organization / institution (as opposed to 250-year-old east coast institutions entrenched in tradition, habits, rituals)
(3) ease of access to professors
(4) red tape? What red tape? (more for masters students, it's like two-year medical school)
(5) open, flexible, collective, collaborative, adaptive, willingness and ease of change of the program according to student and external changes, co-evolution of the university with the outside world
(6) as I would say before, most universities are like overspecialized rainforests: every creature has its own intellectual territory and guards it fiercely, and then at UCSB it's like a bacterial mat of primordial ooze: intellectually incestuous, I'd say!

**The fact that UCSB is my utopia is problematic because when I design films that are satires on the operation of universities, I must tell everyone that this is a far cry from a satire on UCSB but a satire to every experience I have had outside of UCSB. I must constantly remind myself of the emotional pain. Easy. Go to UCR. I was in pain two days ago from it.

The question is now: HOW DID THE UCSB COMMUNITY COME TO BE SO OPEN-MINDED? Relatively speaking, at least. Well, I have a couple of theories. One. Relative geographic isolation from southern California. There are no competing interests in the community, in addition no incentives to commute. Two. You are in a landscape that is chronic inspiration. I told Milton Love, "I think it's the ocean air. It keeps pumping oxygen in these people's brains. The incessant flow of the crashing waves couples well with the flow and evolution of thought of the UCSB community." Nothing is stagnant. Everything is in flux, from moment to day to years. And people feel it in their blood and their brains. The landscape becomes a part of the people, and the people become a part of the landscape. It is reflected in their art, their science, their scholarly essays, their daily lives. People also feel this way about the desert. I met an artist who said that people in Riverside are detached from their environments, and therefore detached from any representations of the Riverside environment (aka "art"). Same with the city. I could call it "limited" attachment. When you let the landscape become a part of you, suddenly you are open-minded. Automatically. By default. So, this is the quasi-poetic derivation of UCSB gestalt open-mindedness. Milton Love is laughing right now, if he were listening to me.

So, yesterday I was a FREE PROMOTER for UCSB. Ridiculous. I was a living, walking, breathing, talking commercial box for UCSB Bren. Before I have been known to be a Living Font (aka Calligrapher of sorts) and a living GIS unit (because I drew my maps by hand because I didn't know the fancy computer software).

I guess now with this crop of students I was exposed to today, I will come to see who are the people who choose schools based on... prestige or name-branding, or for everything else. I told a few people yesterday that I cannot attend any big-name school simply because almost everyone there has a heightened ego complex in their minds' hearts. Oooo. Yale. Duke. Big name schools. Prestige. Etcetera. Puke. Puke. Puke. I was at UCLA. Oh, did I feel the prestige factor. I vividly remembered a UCLA bio graduate student stating that we are grad students at UCLA because it distinguishes us from the ditch diggers. I had only been at UCLA for five weeks. It was the first day I had a thought in my mind that I wanted to leave.

When people have a tiny portion of their brains reserved toward institutional-prestige-stamping-of-their-foreheads, that automatically makes these people less open-minded. UCSB is UCSB and people are here to LEARN. People are here in the humble context of a Kant-like "beautiful" and "sublime" environment (yes, both), which just automatically spurs your thinking juices to flow. It's a yuppy intellectual community like Sebastopol, California, except that Sebastopol doesn't have a university and Santa Barbara does.

I am not sure if I am a yuppy. I thought a yuppy was a wealthy hippi. Relative to the United States, I am not wealthy (physically). Relative to the rest of the world, I am wealthy, simply because I was born by default in the United States. Besides I find more value in intellectual wealth than physical wealth. So, I don't want to be called a yuppy. Thank you for respecting me. And also thank you for not teasing me with Victoria's Secret.

Both Oran Young and John Melack (my brain sponsors) were busy yesterday, so I didn't get a chance to talk with them very much. I will be meeting with Dr. Young this week, hopefully before Thursday dinner. I was talking with Dr. Melack on the deck yesterday, very briefly, and he told me about Dave Panitz' website design class last quarter. I thought he knew that I was in that class. I was a bit sad. He did help admit me to the program, right? In the end, the only person who can keep track of your life is YOU, Victoria. Besides my resume was liks 20 pages long, so how can anyone remember every single detail of my life. Besides, Dr. Melack is a Dean of Bren. He must have so much on his plate, I don't know how he can handle that. I would go NUTS. I am already going nuts right now....

Other interesting factoids. (1) Bren only has 35 Ph.D. students, 120 masters students (2). UCSB is the retirement research center for Nobel Laureates. We have five of them now. Why not combine research and vacation retirement?

Let's see. I am mentally tapering out here. I'll jot out the order of events yesterday and call it for blogging on Bren Orientation Day. My mind can only process so much. The rest becomes... detailed nuance.

Slept over in Ventura. Woke up early refreshed. Still pissed from the Angels game yesterday. Drove over to Kinkos. Wrote a little about the baseball experience. Then jogged. Bought jacket at Kmart, which I returned. Went home. Cleaned up. A little bit. Went to UCSB. Didn't wear my beanie. Tried to be open-minded. Went to Sylvester's Geo 2 class. Implanted voice recorder. Said he was glad I was listening in. Missed the first part of Dean Ernst von Weizsacker's speech. I remember him saying that "These environmental issues are mostly our generation's fault. So now we work with you guys to create a better world." First time a senior authority admitted their fault. Wow. Sat next to speaker. Met a girl fro UC Davis. Lauren Fisher? She reminds me of Brittany Enzmann, the cool girl who sits right next to you on the first day of grad school, end up becoming best friends. I sat next to the speakers. BJ set them up. I need to help her out. Good experience with audio equipment. We ate lunch. Mexican. Halibut. Great salsa. Sat with Dr. Melack and Dr. Freudenberg. Met a cool student from Berkeley who's girfriend's into educational media. Dr. Melack joked about my condition of excessive school transferring. Good stuff. I'm staying at UCSB. Also met Sarah Anderson, new political scientist with environmental organizations. We had then a professor's panel: why UCSB. Starting to get bored. Then student presentation on modular housing. Won big prize. Didn't watch. It was a business plan. It's scary. Be careful what you specialize in because once you dig deep into the rabbithole, it's hard to get out. Eco-entrepreurship. Engineering partnership. Ran up to Maria Gordon, talked with her for quite a while. The EMI research focus group was a bit of a "dud," not much going on. Few students. Everyone is overworked. Short notice. Where is this going? Talked about Thursday's dinner talk. I have to come prepared. Questions. Collaboration. Focus. Etcetera. Maria was very busy. It's very nice she talks with me. I got great ideas from that. Ran downstairs. Met Breana Flanagan, carbon calorie counter for film production. Works with Disney. Unpaid internship. She's cool. Nice talk. Did campaign analysis for Zaca fire. Ron Rice blurb on Smokey Bear counter-intuitive to Bub's research. Must see air-quality control board campaign analysis. Give her an email when possible.
bflanagan@bren.ucsb.edu. Sat in discussions about student life and programming at Bren in "steep-angled" underground lecture hall. Assistant Dean Laura Haston is Frank Davis' wife. My god. 8 Bren marriages. My god. Intellectually and biologically incestuous is UCSB! Got bored. Took notes on communication.

I'm stopping here. Can't write anymore. My brain blew a fuse from panic attack and reprioritization.

1 comment:

Daniel Huang said...

My goodness. I love your writing style. You ramble like I like to do in my journal. Awesome.

Well I looked up on the Bren website and you most definitely are a Phd student currently there. I'll be an incoming class of 2011 MESM student.

I found this blog entry via google. Google is amazing.