June 25, 2012

Nostalgia trippin'....

Generally I have a love/hate relationship with Facebook. I love that it keeps me from having to do as much talking on the phone, which I actually hate doing. I love seeing pictures and funny stuff that people post. I hate seeing political garbage that people post (especially in election years). I love being able to easily keep in touch with people in far away places like Mexico. I hate knowing the minutiae of the lives of friends who live fifteen minutes away. My feelings on Facebook are very mixed.

Every now and then, though, Facebook does something interesting. Like allowing someone you haven't seen in about 19 years (and I'm 29, so do the math) to find you. In fact, it was 19 years ago last week that my family moved to Molalla from Fairview, just a couple of days after I finished fifth grade. One of the people that I was pretty opposed to leaving behind in Fairview was a kid named Andrew.

I think I met Andrew in third grade. I don't believe he was at the school before that, though I can't remember if he moved there that year or what. I'd been there since kindergarten. I think we had different teachers that year, but we were in the same TAG class and there the bonds of shared nerdery were forged. I have sort of a jumble of random memories of time spent with him, but overall a very pleasant sort of association. We actually were in the same class in both fourth and fifth grades, if I recall correctly, giving us even more time to practice our brand of mischief. Which I think primarily involved playing Where in the World is Carmen San Diego on the computer any chance we got. So Andrew, if you're reading this (since I link to this crap on Facebook), please don't kill me. We don't have any mutual FB friends so your dignity should be safe... Here are some of those random memories I was talking about earlier:

*Working together in TAG class to build a structure that, if I recall correctly, was made out of milk straws and marshmallows.

*Trips to OMSI. I always thought Andrew's parents must be millionaires because not only did they have a fancy house with leather furniture in it (and the first artificial Christmas tree I'd ever seen), but he also got to go to OMSI any time he wanted, pretty much. And his mom was usually pretty willing to take me along. I always liked his mom. Even when she sang along to Michael Jackson songs in the car. (This was the only place in my whole life I ever listened to Michael Jackson music.)

*I remember when Hurricane Andrew hit. Andrew went around for days bragging that he'd just destroyed half of Florida. For some reason I found this hilarious.

*Andrew always insisted that he was cool because his family was Finnish. This was back in the day when just about all the kids at school except two were generic, white-bread Americans, and thus I also thought it was very cool that his family was Finnish. I also thought it was cool that someone besides me had a last name that nobody could figure out how to spell/pronounce. Also his surname reinforces my theory that most if not all Finnish names have a repeating letter in them. (Perttu, Eicca, Paavo, Mikko, Kivilaakso, Niiranen. The pattern holds.)

*I forget what he did, but in fourth grade he somehow managed to have his face contact a curb somewhere between home and school and showed up at school with blood running down his face. I remember the teachers freaking out over it and him being all nonchalant. It was the greatest display of manliness my nine-year-old eyes had seen (at least from someone in my own age bracket). And I think last time I saw him he still had scars from that. (Do you still?)

*One year, I think it was fourth grade (but possibly fifth), Andrew and I took first and second place in the school's geography bee. He only beat me because I couldn't remember the name of the volcano that had been erupting in the Philippines. Well, I'll never forget it now - Mt. Pinatubo. He won a Carmen San Diego board game, and generously offered to let me play. I think we decided it was kind of boring, though, and we ended up doing something else entirely that afternoon. But I would have been completely furious if I'd been beaten by anyone but Andrew.

*I have never known anyone else who could draw accurate maps of most (if not all) US states from memory. I remember in fifth grade for Valentine's Day we had these little heart-shaped books that we made and had to pass around and everyone had to write something nice in everyone else's book. Andrew drew a state in everyone's book. And he drew Illinois in mine, because he said it was his favorite state to draw. I think I may still have that somewhere in a box.

*Andrew's mom (who I believe is named Karen) actually taught me how to swim. In Blue Lake. She took us there quite a bit too, it seems. But I think he actually lived pretty close to Blue Lake, so that wasn't really a huge ordeal. 

*Fairview Elementary thought it was cool to torture fifth graders in April by making them learn the maypole dance and then having them perform it on May 1st. Most of the fifth graders thought it was torture because they had to be partnered up with and dance with someone of the opposite gender. Andrew and I were partnered up together. I remember practicing in his driveway and laughing about it with both of our moms looking on like we were insane.

*I actually did see Andrew one time after we moved. His mom drove him all the way out to Molalla, and he and I spent an afternoon hunting down the feral kittens living under our front porch. I think both of us got scratched quite a lot that day, but we caught some kittens (all but one of which we eventually tamed).

What really blows my mind, though, is that when we moved to Molalla I was almost exactly the age that my son is now. And suddenly I'm having all these memories from a ten-year-old perspective, which is a mental place I haven't visited in a long, long time, and remembering how I saw the world then. Also interesting since I just moved Damian from the only school he'd ever known (Molalla) and brought him to Gresham, about six miles from where I grew up in Fairview. I remember that first summer in Molalla as being one of the most boring times of my life, because I didn't know anyone, there were no kids around, and I hadn't been to school there yet so I didn't have any friends to call (and I think Fairview might still have been long distance from Molalla back then, before the dawn of EAS). If it hadn't been for the Molalla Public Library (and the mother of my future husband, but that's another story) I think I would have gone completely mad. Overall I think Damian's handling a remarkably parallel situation much better than I did. Of course, he's not hormonal yet. ;-) Though we did have this dialog this evening after I'd tucked him in bed.

DAMIAN: Auughh!!! My blanket reeks!
ME: Yeah, that's because it smells like boy. I keep telling you every morning that it smells like boy in here and you gotta let some air in!
DAMIAN: Man, I didn't realize that men stink so much!

Well said, my child... well said. ;-)

June 24, 2012

Knowing me...

Interestingly, Amy happened to post a blog about knowing oneself when I'd been musing on that topic just last night as I wrote the other post about music and stuff. (I Wanna Get a Mohawk - AFI) I don't know if Amy has spy cameras in my brain or if we're just psychically linked somehow, but it's a topic I've been thinking about lately. Probably because the knowledge that I will be 30 in just a few short months is really settling in. Also maybe the fact that my little sister is getting married on Saturday and that makes me feel SERIOUSLY old.

So here's some more stuff about me that I've recently figured out that I didn't already put in the comments of Amy's blog (and maybe some of the same stuff, but in more depth). Some of it you might not have wanted to know, but too bad...

#1) My first marriage screwed me up bad enough that I might never get brave enough to do it again. And I'm sort of okay with that. In fact, the only part of it I'm not okay with is the lack of sex. I am definitely not okay with no sex (sex, in fact, is one of the things that tends to get me most into trouble), but my belief structure is not okay with a "friends with benefits" setup, which would otherwise be totally ideal for me. I really, really like the idea of someone to just have sleepovers with when the mood strikes, but who has his own house and spends more of his time there. (Intoxicated - Lacuna Coil) I don't know if this is what happens when your husband totally destroys your life and self-esteem and then abandons you or what, but that is at least what happened to me and it's been a long road to recovery (our 11th anniversary would have been yesterday had our marriage lasted more than a year and a half). I'm not particularly jumping at the chance to let someone have another shot at ruining me forever. So I wouldn't say that I'm happily single, but I can at least maintain equilibrium that way.

#2) Music is my substitute for the sex I'm not getting. Yeah, you read that right. It's like the next best thing I can think of. (Okay, alcohol might have had a place in there but it had to be discarded for the same reason the "friends with benefits" idea didn't work out. I could quite easily become an alcoholic, I think, but more of that under the next number.) I have to have some music every day. I like music before bed. I like music first thing in the morning. I like music in cars. I like music in the shower. I'll even get music in the office if I can work it in around my busy schedule of being the face people can come in to complain at. And I like music with Shaun Morgan best of all. He is my musical friend with benefits. ;-) (The Gift - Seether)

#3) It was my sister who first called this to my attention, but she was absolutely right... I have an obsessive personality. I've always been this way. I have many interests, but there's always one thing that I am currently in the process of taking way too far, and I tend to take most things further than they ought to go. My line of obsessions started in about first grade, and I can remember them roughly in order: Ninja Turtles, Astronomy, Paleontology, Ballet, Ornithology, Gymnastics, The Lion King (shut up), Star Trek Voyager (continue shutting up... Chakotay was hot, okay?), Spanish, Pre-hispanic Latin American Civilizations, Seether, Jamie, Seether, Italian, Seether, Rock Band/Guitar Hero, House, Bones, Zumba, Seether. (Notice which one of those keeps popping up again? Every time they release an album, man...) (Eaten Up Inside - Korn) Some of these lasted much longer than others, the longest-lasting being Star Trek Voyager, which lasted from roughly the time I was 13 until shortly after the series ended when I was 19. And the end result is that I know a lot of trivia about astronomy, dinosaurs, birds, dance, Aztecs/Incas/Mayas and foreign languages and I can totally kick your butt at either Guitar Hero or Trivial Pursuit. Interestingly, however, my obsession with Seether is not strong enough to make me pay $75 to see them. You know why? Because they're touring with Nickelback, that's why. I'm not gonna pay $75 to see Nickelback. (What I've Done - Linkin Park) But like I mentioned under the last number, I think I could very easily become an alcoholic if I were to make alcohol more readily available. It's a thing I like too much, and for me that's dangerous. Moderation is not a thing I do particularly well.

#4) I'm shy. For the first five minutes, anyway. Maybe. Depending on the time of day. (Dónde Están los Ladrones - Shakira) This is what I have noticed about myself... the idea of getting up in front of people to perform, sing karaoke, act, dance, whatever, makes me nervous and jumpy. I invariably do it anyway. And then you can't get me off the freakin' stage/microphone. I think I read an interview with a musician once where someone said (I can't remember who it was) that after many years they still got nervous before shows, and they thought that was healthy, because if you don't get nervous anymore that means that you no longer care at all about your performance.

#5) I am getting slowly more girly as I age. I used to be a total tomboy. I used to be "more one of the guys than Derral is" (this in the words of Matt, one of the guys I hung out with in high school). And gradually I started wearing earrings. (Fire - Lacuna Coil) First it was just one at a time, then it was up to four as long as they didn't match. Now I can wear matching earrings (this is a recent development) and coordinate them to my outfit without cringing. I still hate carrying a purse (so far), but I can force myself to do it on those days when I just get the urge to wear a skirt. I am developing an increasing collection of shoes. I am beginning to enjoy shopping for clothing (I'm not sure if this is a side effect of having more money or of being able to find more stuff that fits now that my boobs aren't as ginormous). (Ghettochip Malfunction - Beck) Just the other day I gave in to my recent urge to buy cute underwear. Never before have I bought underwear that didn't come in a pack of 6 for $7 or less. Part of me died a little when I paid $3 for a single pair of underwear. But also they match my new purple bra really well.

#6) I am an introvert cleverly disguised as an extrovert. Most of my friends, if you asked them, would say that generally I am friendly and outgoing. This is a complete fallacy. (Got the Life - Korn) I find dealing with people to be draining... even people I actually like (and we won't talk about the ones I don't like). I enjoy spending time with friends, family, church family, etc., but I need several hours of solitude to recover afterward. This is why Damian goes to bed at 8:30 (during the school year) and I stay up until midnight. Because I need the alone hours, that's why.

#7) I have developed a burning hatred of American Politics, and when people post things about it on my Facebook wall it sort of makes me want to unfriend them. And no, I don't care which side they're on. (Stay and Play - Saron Gas) I may alienate some people with this one (particularly those of you fond of sharing your political beliefs on Facebook), but really I just cannot make myself care. Both of the major political parties are now more interested in money and badmouthing the other party than they are about actually doing anything for the country they supposedly "serve" as "public servants". I think they both suck. I think the American political system is irreparably broken and we are on our way to the collapse of government as we have always known it. And I'm not entirely convinced that will be a bad thing. I do not discuss my political views because they would make me immensely unpopular.

#8) I believe television is part of a conspiracy to dumb down the American public. Don't believe me? Watch Jersey Shore. Or Desperate Housewives. Even the TV news is so much conflicting misinformation that people willingly allow themselves to be spoon-fed, mixed with enough violence and tragedy to keep people interested. Anyone ever heard the song "Vicarious" by Tool? That song is completely correct. "Eye on the TV 'cause tragedy thrills me, whatever flavor it happens to be like. Killed by the husband, drowned by the ocean, shot by his own son, she used a poison in his tea... kissed him goodbye. That's my kind of story. It's no fun 'til someone dies. Don't look at me like I am a monster, frown out your one face and with the other stare like a junkie into the TV, stare like zombie while the mother holds her child, watches him die, hands to the sky crying "Why oh why?" I need to watch things die from a good safe distance. Vicariously I live while the whole world dies. You all need it too, don't lie... Why can't we just admit it?" And that pretty much sums up my thoughts on television news. (Mala Gente - Juanes)

#9) I always wanted to believe (and wanted everyone else to believe) that I didn't care what people thought of me, when the fact of the matter was that I cared way too much what other people thought. My entire life, until very recently, was ruled by what other people thought of me. Just recently I'm learning to worry more about what I think of me. Because let's be real, worrying about pleasing everyone else clearly wasn't pleasing much of anyone, and I have successfully managed to disguise my real self from most people for many, many years. (In fact, some of the things I've said in this blog post alone will probably cause some readers to choke on their coffee, because they might not believe I had such thoughts in my head... particularly the ones about sex and alcohol.) (Nada Me Mata Más Que Tu Voz - Gamberro) I've always read that your 30s are a time of self-discovery and self-realization. Maybe I'm starting early, but the real me is coming out to play and some of you aren't gonna like her much. But neither of us really cares anymore. :-)

#10) I figured I should think of a tenth one of these, just to make it a nice even number, so give me a second... hmm... oh, got it. People who attend the same Sunday morning Bible class as I do just found this one out in the last week or so, but most of the rest of the world is in the dark... I've always been fascinated by/attracted to the paranormal/supernatural. Not to the point of dabbling in any dark arts, but I don't mind reading about them, watching ghost-hunting shows, etc. Because think about it for a minute... demonic possession is clearly real. It's biblically documented. Even after the crucifixion. Evil spirits also are "scriptural" for lack of a better term. I personally have seen things I would term as being "ghosts" for lack of a better term, even within the last year. (Cult of Personality - In Living Color) The first time I remember seeing such a thing, I was probably five. I've never been frightened by anything I've seen... my reaction has always been closer to fascination. I don't know how much of this has to do with the fact that the house we lived in until I was 10 was at least eighty years old when my parents bought it and since then I've had a tendency to spend a lot of time in churches, funeral homes, and schools that are close to 100 years old (all 4 are prime spots for the paranormal, from what I've read). And yet, I think I've always known this is not the sort of subject my parents would be receptive to... even as a five year old, I figured telling them about the glowing lady I saw walking down the hallway at night was probably not a good idea, even though I saw her more than once. (Duality - Slipknot) Besides, she didn't scare me. I'll admit that I don't quite understand why Christians, who are supposed to be all about the supernatural (God is pretty supernatural) are so opposed to the idea of there being anything in the world currently that we can't quite get a handle on. Yeah, it's okay if people were getting possessed by demons in Jesus' time and I have to believe that because it's in the Bible, but that surely doesn't happen anymore, right? Umm.... okay, if you feel better believing that. I'll just say that there are an awful lot of practicing Satanists out there, to profess a belief in God is also to admit the existence of Satan (because if it were not for Satan there would have been no sin and you wouldn't need God, strictly speaking), and a lot of creepy stuff tends to happen in places where Satanism has been practiced in the past... forget about where it's actually happening now. Some things just leave a mark. We read something in the book of Mark in class this morning that made an impression on me: "When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, 'I will return to the house I left.' When it arrives, it finds the house swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first." (Luke 11:24-26) A nearly identical text is found in Matthew 12. These are the words of Jesus himself, people. Jesus just told you that at least 8 "impure spirits" of varying degrees of wickedness really do exist and are actively looking for people to dwell in. I think we do ourselves a disservice by pretending they don't exist anymore. I can go to Africa and say I don't believe in lions, but the lion believes in me. And he believes I would be crunchy and good with ketchup, whether or not I believe in him and am on guard against him.

Anyway, this turned into a much longer blog than I intended for it to be... I guess we'll see if anyone actually reads it!

June 23, 2012

I've got you covered...

I take some flak from my friends sometimes because of my distaste for pop music (and indeed pretty much anything that's currently "trendy", but that's another matter). I was being forced to learn the Rihanna song "Umbrella" (ella, ella, eh eh eh, etc.) for a skit earlier, and I was mentioning my distaste for Rihanna. The comment was made that Rihanna was one of the ones who can actually sing and I should respect Rihanna (note the implied admission that there are indeed pop "singers" who cannot sing). I replied that I might respect her if she put some clothes on.

I have in the past mentioned my distaste for things like "Ke$ha" (or Ke-dollar-sign-ha, as I prefer to call her), which like to portray themselves as pop "singers" when in fact they cannot actually sing without the aid of auto-tune. Their primary function is to look hot and be minimally dressed while bouncing about to whichever catchy song someone has written for them to "sing" on that particular day (or, in the event of a live show, lip-synch to).

I remember I was watching an interview with Shaun Morgan once in which he stated that they didn't put a lot of pictures of the band in their album covers/booklets because they didn't want the focus to be on what they look like... they wanted the focus to be on the music. He pointed out that in the case of bands like Tool, almost nobody knows what those guys actually look like. Their faces aren't recognizable, their sound is. The guys from Slipknot all wear masks 100% of the time when they're performing as Slipknot... the only way to know what they look like is to find pictures of them from their personal lives (or collaborations with other artists in the case of Corey Taylor). The focus isn't on whether or not the guys from Slipknot are good-looking... it's on their music.

I was pointing out to the Chamaco in the car earlier that most of the bands I like, such as Seether, Nirvana, Three Days Grace, Shinedown, Lacuna Coil, etc., write their own songs. On the other hand you have artists like Britney Spears, who are mediocre singers but are good-looking, so specially trained monkeys in Sweden write their songs for them and they are paid to sing them (with auto-tune if necessary), then dance around wearing as little as possible and earn money. He agreed this was pretty dumb.

Then as I was wandering about in the inky depths of YouTube this evening after forcing myself to listen to "Umbrella" a few more times, I stumbled upon the original version of a song I only knew the cover version of. The song is called "Losing My Religion", and the original is by REM. I'm new at posting videos in this manner, so hopefully it works, but you should be able to see the original here:

Now I'm not saying that REM sucks... I like some of their stuff. But Lacuna Coil, which happens to be a band that can do almost no wrong in my eyes, comes along and covers "Losing My Religion" and it comes out like this (please note that this is a fan-created video, not official... but the audio is good):

And that thought reminded me that just about everything is better with Lacuna Coil. Even a perfectly respectable band/song like Megadeth's "A Tout Le Monde"....:

... gets a million times better when you add Cristina Scabbia from Lacuna Coil!:

This thought led me to ponder how many other songs get better when covered by a proper rock band. Take, for example, "London Bridge" by Fergie. I recommend not listening to the whole thing... just enough to get the idea:

Now see what happens to it when Bowling for Soup covers it!:

This is not the only song that Bowling for Soup has improved immensely. They also took on one of Britney Spears' earlier travesties, "Baby, One More Time."

Now look what BFS did with it!!! This one is even cooler because I can actually play it on guitar... :)

Even I will admit that Lady Gaga can craft a catchy pop tune, such as the following "Bad Romance":

However, it takes Lzzy Hale and the guys from Halestorm to make the song truly great. Also Lady Caca only wishes she could sing like Lzzy Hale...

And it doesn't stop here... I'm not even done! Of course Seether has been on this bandwagon as well. Take the original 80s George Michael "classic", "Careless Whisper":

Seether had their wicked way with this one, resulting in the following:

And they even did the video with old video games! How awesome is that?!?! Seether has also worked their magic with Frank Sinatra... "I've Got You Under My Skin". Behold, the original:

And now Seether's take on it!:

Seether has also covered "Across the Universe" by the Beatles, but I'll let you dig that one up on your own. And I'll say again... Shaun Morgan can come sing me to sleep any time he wants... ;-)

There's a lot of fantastic improvement of pop songs going on out there, and today I'm especially proud to be a part of the not-so-mainstream rock brother/sisterhood that is improving most of what the music industry machine is currently mass-producing.

Rant over.