Tuesday, December 14, 2010
This year, more than any others in recent memory, has brought personal tragedy to people I know and love, has brought drastic changes that should never have been, has piled on the stress, insecurity and instability to almost every one I talk to. But...as the saying goes, that which does not kill us, makes us stronger. And strong we are.
This time of year always fills me with hope and faith: Faith in the people of the world to love each other a little deeper. Hope that we have learned something from the previous year to find it within ourselves to carry on and make the world - or our little corner of it - a little bit better. Faith that the new year will bring a fresh start and better things for all. Hope that we realize the gifts that we have been given and not to waste them.
So, whether you celebrate Christmas or not, here is my wish for all of us:
Peace in our hearts, minds and souls. Love that will wrap us in its warmth always. Faith that there is always a light at the end of the tunnel and we will bask in that light soon. Happiness in celebrating life's treasures that cannot be bought.
Here's to a wonderful 2011.
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
So, my husband recently introduced me to Soul Pancake. What is Soul Pancake, you may ask? It's a quirky little Website, co-created by actor Rainn Wilson of "The Office" fame (US version) and it attempts to tackle "life's big questions." Or at least, totally random questions that you might discuss with your friends after several rounds of drinks. Either way, it's a lot of fun.
So...do you want to try it "Soul Pancake" style? Let's see how we do.
One of my favorite questions (so far) that I've seen on S.P. is "What do you wish you'd accepted about yourself sooner?"
For me, there is a lot, but I'll spare you the therapy session and say that I wish I had accepted my height earlier. I was always the tallest kid in my class and still am one of the tallest of my friends. I always wanted to be shorter, petite, cute, but instead felt like a hulking beast next to my girlfriends. It even got to the point where I would purposely slouch to look shorter...and in effect, looked even geekier than I already did. But now that I'm older, I certainly appreciate being tall. Somewhere along the way, I also accepted that I am, by nature, a quiet person - and that there is nothing wrong with that.
Now, it's your turn. What do you wish you'd accepted about yourself sooner?
Monday, November 1, 2010
I can think of very few excuses that would prevent anyone from voting...and since so many of you managed to get out to vote two years ago for the presidential election, there's no reason why you shouldn't continue to exercise your right as a citizen to make your voice and opinions heard through the vote.
This seems like a strange political year. Mid-term elections usually do not raise eyebrows...not like this year. The mud slinging has morphed into an all-out ugly brawl with metaphorical fisticuffs, low blows, name calling, chair throwing, hair pulling...I'm just waiting for the choke slam. "In this corner, we have the disenchanted left. In the other corner, we have the radical right." And the rest of us seem to fall in between as helpless spectators. But we cannot afford to be spectators. We count, too. This is our country, our state, our town. We need someone who will represent us. Not happy with the way things have been going and want someone new? Tell them so. Think your representatives are just fine. Vote to keep them around. Election Day is our day to speak up.
So - whether you are red, blue, checkered, whatever - now is your time to stand up and take action. You think your vote doesn't matter? Think again. Every vote counts.
See you at the polls.
Thursday, October 21, 2010
So, this song is dedicated to my friend who needs our healing thoughts and prayers right now.
Friday, October 15, 2010
You could look at the episode two ways:
1) The creators of the show truly hate all things New Jersey, and like most people who have never been here, think we're all a bunch of idiots just like those seen on TV and in the movies, and this was a statement on how our state sucks - OR -
2) Like any intelligent person, they were mocking the idiots on TV and in the movies who "represent" New Jersey because the whole thing is so absurd. Either way, the creators of "South Park" show no mercy to anyone or anything, and NJ was just ripe for the plucking. Although the bit about a certain terrorist group helping out was just unnecessary.
I want to call attention to two sites:
Jersey Doesn't Stink - because, well, it doesn't. It rocks.
New Jersey Hall of Fame - because you would be surprised who calls/called NJ "home."
The "South Park" episode inserts the phrase "It's a Jersey thing. You wouldn't understand." throughout the show to insinuate that raucous fights, orange skin, slicked hair, gold chains and rings, and an overall obnoxious attitude is...well, a Jersey thing. It's not. Maybe certain pockets of people...who are also mocked by the rest of New Jersey.
You know what's a Jersey thing?
- The Jersey Shore, the Pine Barrens, the Highlands
- The Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival
- Jersey Fresh produce and wine
- Dinosaurs (ok, not exclusively a Jersey thing, but still cool)
- Weird NJ
- Pride in our state
- Talent (see NJ Hall of Fame or this list for a taste)
- Music, music, and music:
And so, so much more.
My dad used to say "If you can do it, it aint' bragging." New Jersey can definitely bring it, so there should be no wonder why we carry such pride for our little state.
Or maybe it's just a Jersey thing. You wouldn't understand.
Friday, October 1, 2010
The classic books on the more extended list are classics for a reason. Why on Earth would anyone ban Winnie the Pooh? Because he's a bear who doesn't wear pants? What bear does?
More seriously, I'll turn my attention to two books. To Kill a Mockingbird is an absolute MUST-READ, by children and adults alike. Of the many books I've read over the years, this one remains as my #1 favorite book. Harper Lee paints such a detailed description of the era, the racial tension and attitudes, the quest for morality, the curiosity and innocence of children. This year marks the 50th anniversary of this incredible novel, and has been celebrated by millions as the best novel of the 20th century...and even the best novel of all time. And still, it is banned by some schools for the language and themes, both sexual and racist. But they are not mere words plopped into the pages for shock value or disdain. They are part of the story, the characters, and the ugly truth of racism in the South in the 1930s...or for that matter, today.
Catcher in the Rye is another one that is often banned for language/situations, but it's really no worse than what your kids are watching on TV or hearing on the radio. I remember reading this when I was a teen, thinking it would really be some scandalous, juicy book since it was supposedly "banned." It really was tame. What's notable is the voice used by Salinger for the snot-nosed flunky who is lost in so many ways. It's the voice of a kid who feels alienated but tries to act nonchalant to everyone around him. The voice is not one that is going to turn your kid into a raging alcoholic or sex fiend, or whatever else scares you.
Fun Fact: Parents are the largest group of challengers to books (based on these reports), and they protest against sexually explicit material the most (yet, "inaccuracy" is almost the least reason for challenge.)
So, it's ok to read something totally inaccurate and have your kid remain ignorant than to have them learn from a celebrated novel because it may contain a brief moment of mild sexuality? I guess it's better that they learn about the birds-n-bees from Snooki. Unless kids are assigned Mein Kampf or Osama bin Laden's Messages to the World to read in class, is it really necessary to pull the plug on literature like this?
Maybe not all books are appropriate, but, in every great book, there is always something to learn. There are many ideologies and experiences in this great country of ours that should be celebrated through literature, and unlike many other places, we possess that freedom to do so. Is it really fair to our nation's youth to take that freedom away because of unfounded fear? When a book is banned, you are taking away so much more away than just a book.
Sunday, September 26, 2010
The other films that hit American theaters are typically remakes of foreign films - sometimes, with little to no modification other than a script change from [foreign language here] to English - yet, they are heralded as the best thing since sliced bread. I have a major issue with this since those in the film industry are paid to be creative, but they stay afloat with the industry's equivalent of getting an "A" on a test by copying a classmate's paper. And what's worse? Most people don't even realize it.
Foreign films often are presented as metaphors. Not everything is so obvious. Just like life, there are subtleties; there are strange angles; there are colorful characters and figures that blend into the background. The directors respect their viewers. They don't believe that louder explosions, more sex and gratuitous blood are needed to boost the film where the script is weak...like many American films. I'm not saying all American films suck. They don't. There are many many fine films made here. But I'm also a purist. If the foreign - and original - version is outstanding, would a copy in English really be any better? I get that film studios maybe want to bring a good story to a wider audience with the remake...but with Netflix and such, where films are more accessible, is there really an excuse to not see the original?
Examples of recent remake offerings:
- "Dinner for Schmucks" is based on the hilarious and smart French film "The Dinner Game." I have not seen the Hollywood version (although I'm a fan of Steve Carell) but I am not a fan of movies that try too hard. The original made me laugh effortlessly.
- "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" is a Hollywood remake of...well, this one is obvious. But as a fan of the books, I found the original film in Swedish to be true to the books in mood, plot and visuals. I don't think it needs an American copy since they got it right the first time.
- "Let Me In" is almost a direct interpretation (or just a carbon copy) of another incredible film from Sweden, "Let the Right One In" about a boy and his new friend. The American version has received some great reviews - mostly because it resembles the original in so many ways.
Monday, September 13, 2010
Then, I actually think about our house...which doesn't resemble any of that.
At least, not yet.
We have been working on designs and plans of a new and improved home...for a while. And we're so nearly close to starting the actual reconstruction/remodel. So close, yet a million miles away.
You see, our plans do not include a simple coat of paint and a few new windows. No. That would be easy. Instead, we're planning to more or less demolish and rebuild. And it truly needs it. Still, envisioning spacial arrangements is not exactly my forte. Ask me to decorate, I'm all over it. Tell me a room is this square footage, my eyes glaze over. I know. Could I be any more stereotypical?
My husband, bless him, has been wonderful and really spear-heading all of this. He understands the things that need to happen. I've been dragging my feet a bit, to his unbelievable patience, because at this point, I just don't care what the new house looks like as long as it's not the old house. But then, there are all the voices: You should do this; you should add that; that's not the way you should do it; we did this and you should too; have you picked out your tiles yet?; make it simple; make it the house you want; you should purchase the most expensive everything to add value to your house.
And my personal favorite: "How's the house coming along?" (if you personally know me, please do not ask me this. You'll get the same answer as the last time you asked me. No offense. I'll give you an update when there is an update to give.)
I'm sure I'll be blogging more and more about our home adventures, but just needed to get this off my chest. I wish that magically, our current house would be swapped with our dream home one day while we're at work, and then I will feel like life can start.
Until then, I have Crosby, Stills and Nash. And one day, this song will be about us.
Sunday, August 29, 2010
All summer, I feel like I wait for the season to start and imagine so much time stretched out ahead of me. We'll go here and there, do this and that, live a carefree, shoeless existence for three months like every summer movie ever made. I'll be the bohemian and break from an otherwise buttoned-up, serious world. We'll feel the electricity of thunderstorms that break oppressive heat waves. We'll have a road adventure and make all kinds of discoveries. Office-work will slow down long enough for us to feel like children on school break. At least, that was the dream.
And I have one more week to make it happen.
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
I'm always on the hunt for new music. I also like to give those tunes that stick in my brain like gum a permanent home on my iPod so I can learn the lyrics rather than making up what I think is being said. But, I can't always find what I want, and sometimes, I just want a song, not the whole album. Luckily, I found these great (and legal) sites that provide many terrific MP3 downloads for free. I've discovered some incredible artists this way, and have found that if I have access to a free song or two, and I like it, I will end up buying the whole album.
Amazon.com: Search MP3 downloads > free MP3s and see what comes up. New releases posted regularly.
Stereogum: An awesome blog all on its own, it also posts cool indie tracks and remixes.
RCRD LBL: "The Hottest Free Music Downloads. Served Daily." With a side of awesome.
Levi's Pioneer Sessions: Wear those jeans like a rock star while listening to free tunes.
Consequence of Sound: An outstanding music site, with "Friday Mixtape" offering unique MP3s.
Spinner: The music blog that other music blogs try to copy. With free MP3s of the Day.
These are just a few I have found to be quality. Not quite your cup of tea? Check out this listing of other available (and legal) sites. Download responsibly and enjoy.
Monday, August 16, 2010
Anyway, it's weird to see someone I once "knew" on TV. I put that in quotation marks because I haven't seen her in about 20 years. I don't know her now as an adult. I also "knew" her family, who appear on the show now and then. And boy, have they changed!
Realty TV is for other people - weirdos, freaks, opportunists, kids who were severely neglected by their parents - not kids who grew up five houses away from me. I'm glad that she looks well and seems to have a good life now. At least, due to some fine editing, it appears that way.
I've known a few people who became celebrities or pseudo-celebrities...and it's all so fascinating. They had the ambition to push beyond their humble backgrounds to become something a little larger. Or maybe it was just a chance meeting, a lucky draw, an acquaintance that knew someone...that sort of thing that propels the unexpected innocent into the next big star. Or maybe it was just some crazy stage parents who couldn't say "no."
Why do I write this? I guess it's goes back to the question "where is my life going?" When I think about it, I wouldn't trade my life for anything: I have a stable job that brings respect; I relish my privacy tremendously; I like having control over what is disclosed and what is not; I have wonderful people in my life keep me grounded; and it means the world to have just a few friends who love me for who I am - warts and all - rather than a pandering crowd of sycophants. But. It would be nice, for a moment, to know what that exhilaration felt like. And to know that, at least for that brief time, you're life will never be the same.
I hope fame doesn't change my old neighbor.
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
Apparently, Jeff Deck feels the same way...only magnified by 100 times. He and his friend, Ben, traveled around the United States trying to correct spelling and grammatical errors whenever possible. Wow. A noble cause, that, but someone has a bit too much time on his hands, no? And their journey is now in book format for all to share in the obsessive compulsiveness.
I prefer the musings of "The Grammarphile" on her blog Red Pen, Inc. In her humorous rantings, she's imploring us to be more careful in our writing, especially when it's intended for public view, and to not be tolerant of such gross errors. OK, maybe that's extreme. Maybe she's just saying "Hey, you people are idiots and I'm going to make fun of you until you're embarrassed enough to do something about it." Or not. But it's still a good blog.
Then there are the people who REALLY should know better, such as:
Painting "SHCOOL" outside of a NC school
Displaying "shcool" on a sign at a FL elementary school
Misspelled inscription at Cambridge University
Misspelling "university" on university Websites
And my favorite - because you know at least one person will misspell one of these words today:
10 words you need to stop misspelling
Monday, July 26, 2010
- Barenaked Ladies and Guster? Together? On a cruise to warm, sunny locales in cold, cold February? Wow. If only it weren't for the thousands of other people who will be on board (and as a second part of this - has anyone gone on one of these music cruises? Worth it?)
- I am addicted to Passion Pit's "Sleepyhead" and am quite amused that the sampled track is none other than Gaelic favorite "Óró Mo Bháidín" by Mary O'Hara. And you thought sampling the Ricki Lee Jones interview on The Orb's "Little Fluffy Clouds" was random!
- How cute are these kids, even if they don't know what Lisztomania is? (thank you to Graham Linehan's awesome blog Why, That's Delightful! for posting it first)
Songs on my summer playlist? MANY, but here's a random mix:
- Corinne Bailey Rae: Paris Nights/NewYork Mornings
- Bent: Beautiful Otherness
- The Raveonettes: Dead Sound
- Billie Holiday: Speak Low (Bent Remix)
- Gorillaz: Empire Ants
- Rusted Root: Laugh as the Sun
- Pet Shop Boys: I Wouldn't Normally Do This Kind of Thing
- Underworld: Two Months Off
Friday, July 23, 2010
In any case, my cap today reads "Six-year-olds laugh an average of 300 times a day. Adults only laugh 15-100 times a day." I don't know who did this research or if it's even true, but it makes you think, doesn't it? The difference between 300 and 15 is huge. And sad.
So, I think about this as my evolution around the sun completes another cycle, and I'm on the verge of turning another year older. How many times have I laughed? How many times have I cried? I can barely remember yesterday so I'm not going to strain myself to think about numbers. But I don't laugh nearly as much as I used to.
Each birthday to me is like New Years, when I think about the past year, the future, things I have done and things I would like to change. I'm not crazy about becoming another year older, but a new year is almost like a fresh start. Almost. I take stock of how far I have come, things I have accomplished over my lifetime, how I have changed and improved, and where my priorities are. I have met wonderful people along the way, have found real love, have earned respect of people around me, and still have my faith in humanity intact. In this respect, I live a charmed life. But I don't always recognize it. That is my birthday resolution - to truly appreciate my life, to embrace the love around me and to enjoy the ride - and to laugh more. Easier said then done, but it's worth a try.
So, as I count down to the next year, I have to sit back and smile today about how lucky I am. Now about getting back to those 300 laughs a day...
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
Sunday, July 11, 2010
No doubt, it is a contributing factor. Even those who still have jobs and income are being more cautious with their money. Gone, for the most part, are the days of frivolous spending. We want value for our money - more for less - or at the very least, some sense of satisfaction after our hard-earned cash vanishes before our eyes. For me, It's been a long time since I felt that way about a concert.
I love music and going to concerts, especially during the summer. I wait with anticipation for the slow winter months to inch into the subtle airs of Spring, when all the major venues in my area release their summer concert schedules. I eagerly pore over the schedules, mentally rating each show from must-see to must-skip, ready to determine which are worthy of my money. It's becoming more of a challenge every year. This summer? No concert tickets for me. None deemed worthy.
- I'm tired of the exorbitant ticket prices. Paying over $100 for a seat without a view for a lackluster performance is not my idea of fun. I admit, only once in my life did I pay an outrageous amount for tickets - it was for Madonna. The show was mediocre, seats were worse, and I took it all as a learning experience. If I'm paying that kind of money, I want to be brought on stage with the performer and have them sing only to me. And since that's not going to happen...
- It's not just the prices but the fees. Live Nation actually just had "No Service Fee June" to lure reluctant ticket buyers. I would like to see some statistics on the success rate of this promotion. One blog from the Boston area reported that ticket sales rose 40% in the first two weeks of the promotion. Still, though, are reports of overall ticket sale slumps. Hmm. And it's July, ya'll. Fees are back.
- Concert gods, this is the best you have to offer? I like all kinds of music, I really do. But geez - throw me a bone here! Concert offerings are so disappointing for me this summer: Iron Maiden? (No.) Meat Loaf? (For all that is holy in good music, no!) Lilith Fair? (You know I would have been all over it, 10 years ago, when I went through my girl-power, female rocker, angry-young-girl phase...and though I love Sarah, I'll have to pass on her weak line-up and the fact that her site lists "New York, NY" as the location for my area, even though it's in central NJ. [Sarah, baby, please learn your geography.]). Too old and aware for Bamboozled and too far away for Coachella, Glastonbury, Lollapalooza, and will just miss being in the area by one week for ACL. Too slow to get online for Lady Gaga. Too energetic to hear "Roxanne" set to strings. All Points West is dead because, apparently, New Yorkers can't be bothered to cross the river and New Jersey concert goers are not good enough.
Friday, July 2, 2010
We certainly have changed a bit in those 230+ years, haven't we?
In case you forgot your basic American history, the History Channel recently ran a series called "America: The Story of Us" to remind us. I find several faults with this project, most notably that it portrayed all things about our country in a good light - with the exception of a few minutes devoted to slavery and the civil rights struggle. Don't get me wrong. I love America, and feel very blessed to live in a free country, a melting pot of so many wonderful, different cultures, and landscapes that ring true to spacious skies and purple mountain majesties. But by no means is America perfect. I doubt there is any one living soul in the country that feels we are perfect, even though I'm sure that many outside of America think we are just a bunch of arrogant S.O.B.s. Still, there is a lot to love.
As I type this from the comfort of my own home, on a gorgeous summer day, in shorts, I think about the places around the world where people live in shanty towns of cardboard, smothered in dust and waste, without clean water or food, or a government willing to improve their horrible conditions. I think about the women who are not allowed to show an inch of skin for fear of punishment for indecency, and I think about the children who cannot enjoy such a beautiful day because they are working in sweatshops or worse when they should be playing instead. I think about taking a walk downtown later - and then thoughts cross to people who cannot walk anywhere without feeling terror of being kidnapped, raped, shot or blown up.
America is a fortunate country. Not perfect, but fortunate. We have freedoms that many do not have. We have access to a life that, even in the worst circumstances, tend to be better than what many can even hope for.
So, even though it's been a long time since we've been a colony, we must continue to celebrate our freedoms - and the people who work so hard to keep it so. Happy 4th, America!
Saturday, June 12, 2010
Along the way, MTV decided to add features that were not directly linked with music, like the once-groundbreaking "Real World" and its kid brother "Road Rules." The flood gates opened. MTV unleashed the likes of Snooki and Speidi on the world, and the innocent were left crouching in the corner, rocking ourselves to sleep, singing in hushed tones that "Reality TV Killed the Video Star."
When MTV started changing direction, they created MTV2 as a place for non-stop, commercial free music video viewing. [Sure, now MTV2 has its own roster of reality shows and videos seem to be going the way of the buffalo. But I digress.]
The title is tribute to one of my favorite Ocean Blue songs and a seemingly good description of where my poetry often rests. So...we'll see how this goes. It's still a site in transition, and I hope to get some new material up soon.
For poetry related posts, visit: Between Something and Nothing.
For everything else, stay tuned to The Humble Pen.
For those who don't care either way, here's a bit of music for you to enjoy:
the ocean blue-between something and nothing
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
- It's official - Super Bowl XLVIII in 2014 will be held at the New Meadowlands Stadium...in NEW JERSEY, thank you very much! Not New York. Even the so-called New York teams play in New Jersey. Just admit it, New York. You wish you were us.
- Is it the end of an era? The end of times? The end of the innocence? No. It's just the end of fictional TV shows, people. Life will carry on. Except if networks resort to more trashy reality shows (especially about NJ!) to fill the empty time slots. Then, I would share your tears.
- Just watched the original "Karate Kid", for the umpteenth time. Classic '80s. You can't remake a classic and still think it will be as good as the original. "Karate Kid" (2010) may or (more likely) may not live up to the hype. Either way, it just can't compare to the story of Jersey transplant Daniel LaRusso learning the ways of the master, Mr. Miyagi, and getting the girl in the end (played by real-life Jersey native Elisabeth Shue)
- It's almost Memorial Day weekend and around these parts, that means alot of good things - most notably, the start of beach season! Think you know the Jersey Shore by watching those orange kids punch each other out? Sorry, friend. This is the real Jersey Shore. And this. And I'll be there. Maybe you'll be, too.
Sunday, May 23, 2010
I don't recall receiving too much career guidance in high school or college either. Maybe I wasn't driven enough to seek the answers, but I think it was that I didn't even know what questions to ask. Even when selecting a college major, as a young adult, I had no idea what was out there or what I could even do with my degree once I graduated. I envy those who ever had such clarity in their life's direction. I graduated with honors in my major and have done well enough in my career since then.
Now, as an adult, I find myself wondering yet again, "What do I want to be when I grow up?"
I know what I've done, kinda know what I could do with my experiences going forth, but there is a nagging feeling that there is still more out there, more that I can do with my time here on Earth. And in typical Chrissy fashion, I find myself too scared to take the leap into the void to seek what that could be. After all, I'm not getting any younger, and there is more at stake now than when I first left college.
Someone I know recently made the decision to explore that void, and I am in awe of her. She did the brave thing and is seeking to fulfill her dreams. She has talent like no one I've known, and whatever she does, I am confident she will do amazing things. She listened to that voice within her, growing louder over time, pushing her in the direction she was meant to travel. I'm straining to listen to mine...or at least accept what it is saying.
So, because I'm struggling with this, I would really like your feedback:
Have you followed your career dream? If so, are you happy that you did? If not, why not?
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
Everyone's favorite 88 1/2 year old, Betty White, just hosted Saturday Night Live (thanks to a Facebook fan campaign) in some of the funniest sketches I've seen on that show in ages. Now there's a Facebook campaign to have her host the Academy Awards. She's red hot now, with rave reviews of her Snicker's commercial, her role in "The Proposal", a new TV show Hot in Cleveland, among other guest spots. And those of you who are my age remember her most fondly as the lovable but naïve Rose Nylund on The Golden Girls, a show I still watch in re-runs. In short, she's kicking some major young-starlet rear with every bit of zest.
Now, said Facebook fans are looking to have another funny lady host SNL, Carol Burnett. The 77 year-old comedienne has a new book out and is touring (and had I known earlier about her NJ appearance this weekend, I would have loved to have seen her!) Another one who seems much younger than her years, she always makes me smile, and even if she comes to SNL in nothing but a curtain rod and drapes, it would be great to see her knock it out of the park like Betty.
Today, there are stories of an 81 year-old grandmother from Britain, who sang beautifully on Britain's Got Talent, and some are asking if she's the next Susan Boyle, the phenom who blew everyone away with her gorgeous voice. I don't see her star reaching those heights, but the fact that she had the guts to go on stage, sing wonderfully, and have the world talking about her in such a positive way is amazing.
We young folks have a lot to learn from these women - and all seniors, really - that life doesn't stop when you reach a certain age. It keeps going, and can be better than expected. We love these octogenarians, not because they are cute or elderly, but because they show us how it's done - and they do it all so well.
Sunday, May 2, 2010
OK, so that's not how the Girl Scout Promise goes, or the Boy Scouts' for that matter, but it seems like it's heading in that direction.
Wow, scouting sure has changed since I was a kid.
Had we these kind of badges back then, I would have said sayonara to all the camp-outs and jungle breakfasts with bug juice; visiting the elderly at nursing homes; reading all those books; hiking; participating in those darn cookie sales; writing to pen pals and whatever other activity we were doing. Nah - I would have just stayed home and watched all the TV I could and said I did my project. Badge, please.
Monday, April 26, 2010
So, what to do?
Go for a run? Nope. Yoga? Negative. Scream therapy? Getting closer, but no.
For me, it's time to pull out the big guns and...LAUGH!
I love humor to deal with stressful situations, but sometimes, it's hard to be funny and not snarky. True. But what about forcing myself to laugh? And Laugh. And LAUGH!
You may have heard of Laughter Yoga. I've heard of it, never practiced, but I'm starting to, and maybe people around me will think I'm crazy. CRAZY RELAXED! or not. It's an interesting idea, though.
So, here's a clip to give you an idea, narrated by the humor master himself, John Cleese:
Saturday, April 17, 2010
It is the freedom of speech that allows me to post on this blog, to say whatever is on my mind, and for you to respond. It is the freedom of speech that allows us to protest things we see as unjust, incorrect, hurtful or just against what we believe to be good. Because of this, unlike many other countries, we have the liberty to criticize our government and our own leader, the President of the United States. It is not just a right, but sometimes, it's our duty.
Except if you happen to be in the United States military, apparently.
A Marine, Sgt. Gary Stein, created the Facebook group "Armed Forces Tea Party Patriots" to voice opposition to the Obama Administration's new healthcare bill (if you're not familiar with the tea party movement, let's just say, it has nothing to do with cups and saucers.) Stein was asked to take down the site because he is on active duty and his actions contradicts the Department of Defense directives. I quote from the article "According to Department of Defense directives, military personnel are prohibited from sponsoring a political club, writing anything that solicits votes for a political cause or speaking at any event that promotes a political movement."
There had been talks last year by the Department of Defense to ban these social networking sites altogether, but I guess they haven't yet because their own site has links to such sites.
So, the debate: can active duty troops criticize the President?
It's tricky. My immediate response is that if these brave men and women are risking their lives to defend such freedoms, they should be able to enjoy those freedoms as well. They are citizens of this country, and for what they sacrifice - my goodness, they should have whatever they want! They've earned it. But...they are not ordinary civilian citizens. They are military personnel. Criticism of the President or government puts our troops and country at risk of actions by other people/countries ready to attack America, its infrastructure, its government. Troops cannot take sides politically; their mission is defending the principles and policies of the entire United States of America. So, they have to keep their thoughts to themselves...or at least, not posted on public sites.
But is that fair? What do you think?
Thursday, April 8, 2010
So. Just as I get the urge to do some spring cleaning around the old homestead, I also want to do some sprucing up of my iPod. I'm looking for songs of spring.
With the exception of a few - "April in Paris", "Avril 14" and "June is Busting Out All O'er" (look it up, kids) - there aren't too many songs exclusively written about spring. At least, I haven't come across too many.
That's where you come in. What are some songs that remind you of Spring? (and it doesn't have to be specifically about spring itself).
- "Strawberry Swing" - Coldplay
- "Groovin' " - The Young Rascals
- "Elephant Stone (Mint Royale mix)" - Stone Roses
Friday, March 26, 2010
- Let Donna Martin Graduate? No - something more important. Let Constance Go to the Prom! With her classmates. Even though her backwoods school decided to cancel the fun for everyone because this teenage girl wanted to attend in a tux with her girlfriend. This is still a hot topic, and the comments posted to this article on CNN.com range from total support to total bigotry. Is it really that big of a deal, Mississippi? Hey ya'll - it's 2010. Get yourself educated and learn to not be so hateful.
- NaPoWriMo approaches next Thursday. Am I ready for that kind of discipline?
- Wow - the Barenaked Ladies are back! sans Steven Page. This band was staple listening in my college years. I still listen to Rock Spectacle all the time and think "Brian Wilson" is one of the best songs ever and would have been my American Idol audition song if I wasn't way past the age limit (but I digress). When Page was charged with drug possession, and then later left the band, my heart sank. So, will the rest of the band continue like nothing happened and make happy tunes again? All in Good Time.
- Oh, Glastonbury and your super-awesome line-up! You mock my Stateside being every year.
- The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and The Girl Who Played with Fire from the late, great Stieg Larsson are two of the most shocking, violent, complex, dark, mysterious and extraordinary works of fiction I've ever read, and I'm so psyched that the first book has been released as a movie (by a Swedish director who now lives in NJ, thank you). The only other book that got me so excited was Dennis Lehane's violent and mysterious Shutter Island (no, I haven't seen the movie yet. Please, no spoilers!) So, with all this violent, mysterious reading going on...what does that say about me?
- V returns next week! Finally!
[If you're curious: Such Random Things (1st edition)]
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Folks living in the United States:
If you have not filled out the Census form, what are you waiting for? It's very simple. Like, ridiculously simple. I thought I missed a page or something, but no - they just want the basics. Even if you're not good at counting or only work part time:
Monday, March 22, 2010
It's really amazing that my little home state has endured such a horrible reputation. Why? I never understood. All the jokes and comments and stereotypes are based on biased feedback from out-of-towners who only drive down the NJ Turnpike (yes, I'll admit - I hate that road, too and will avoid it when I can) or see the hideous sites around Newark Airport. Or watch TV.
I've heard enough about Snooki and her poof, and the rest of the gang at Jersey Shore. For all the hype about how offensive the show is to Italian-Americans, we have to remember: these kids aren't even Italian. And they're not from Jersey. And they're they reason, for at least 30 years - probably more, it's known as "Sleaze-side." And they truly need to grow up and get off TV.
We'll soon have more of the same with the upcoming Jerseylicious. I'll tell you, I wouldn't want any of them touching my hair.
We have our loudmouthed Cake Boss, who does make some amazing cakes - but he just needs to cool it with the attitude a little. But then again, there wouldn't be a show, would there?
Before that, we had our desperately gaudy Real Housewives of NJ. Oh, my gawd. Seriously. My sister said she knew someone who flipped a table like that. If that's true, it's sad. But not "real."
I won't even get into talking about the Sopranos.
With gems like these, it's no wonder the rest of the country hates us. Do we have our quirks? Of course. Do we have corruption and crime and guidos and all that New Jersey is known for? Sure. But we also have "normal" people - wonderful families, with normal jobs, that talk in normal tones and care about things a little more important than bronzer and hair gel. Where are the shows about that? Do people realize that we have lovely countryside, mountains, streams - beautiful, quiet beaches! Our state is steeped in tradition and history, but you would never know it. Maybe it's not as captivating as the charade taking place in a nasty hot-tub, but to TV viewers, it would certainly be something new. "What do you mean, put normal people on TV?" Yeah. Just a little cibo for thought.
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Next to Christmas, today is my favorite day of the year, so rather than babbling about why it's my favorite, including why I think corned beef with cabbage, soda bread and a good pint of Guinness is the best meal ever, I'm going to share some of my favorite songs to celebrate the day:
Lick the Tins: Can't Help Falling in Love
The Corrs: Toss the Feathers
Afro Celt Sound System: Dark Moon, High Tide
Flogging Molly: What's Left of the Flag
Black 47: Funky Céilí
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
OK, so the day: March 15, 2010. The place: New York City.
The event: 25th Annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony
And this year's inductees? Including but not limited to:
ABBA (yeah, that ABBA)
Genesis (for the record, Genesis 1.0 with Peter Gabriel was way cooler and more progressive/art rock than the lite-FM Genesis 2.0 with Phil Collins as the lead vocal. Although I admit to having Phil in my collection. But I digress...)
So, love 'em or hate 'em, they're now a part of one of the most sacred institutions (in my book).
An old classmate of mine was outraged when the inductees were first announced. "ABBA?!? Are you kidding?" I admit to indulging in a bit of Swedish cheese from time to time, although - yeah, it's pretty campy but I don't know if it's ever been considered rock. Genesis - well, just see my note above. The Hollies are ok. Jimmy Cliff is more reggae, and I'm sorry, but not the best that I've heard. The Stooges rock and are way out there, but that's why they're here.
It's not surprising that there are many, many artists who are overlooked when it comes to induction time. Depeche Mode and the Cure? Yeah, the likelihood of them getting nominated are pretty slim. I'm a big, big fan and think they continue to influence...but it's been over the required 25 years, so where's the nomination? I think it's time to start including some of these alternative bands who really broke new ground in rock. We'll see who is nominated next year, but I hope we don't have any more watered-down pity votes for bands that were great in some capacity except in rock and roll.
Monday, March 15, 2010
Some seasons, I'll pick my favorite, thinking he/she will bring it home and be the winner at the end of all those silly theme-weeks, semi-fake Ford commercials and poppy opening group numbers where you're never sure if they're singing or lip-synching. After all, if you're going to become a super-star, a little humiliation for TV ratings and corporate pandering is worth it in the end. Isn't it?
So, this year, I've been watching faithfully every week. Much to my husband's amusement. He's amazing to let me watch this show each week like a 12 year old girl (no, I haven't reverted to pig-tails and tears streaming down my face, thank you). He'll never admit it, but I think he's getting into it, too. Or not.
So, this year, my favorite is Crystal Bowersox. She's the clear front-runner, hands down. Every week, she's consistent and has the soul like no one else on radio today when she plays. I wait impatiently until she takes the stage each week, knowing she'll blow the competition away with her easy stride. If she doesn't take #1, I'll be surprised, but would be just as happy if Michael "Big Mike" Lynche wins. Now, if only they don't get thrown for a loop with one of the very soul-less theme-weeks...like disco.
Monday, March 8, 2010
In fact, this entire month is Women's History Month. Did you know that? I have a feeling most people don't. It's just not publicized the way other observances are, which is a shame.
I think there is the sense that we have achieved equality and empowerment, so what's all the fuss about? Well, for starters, I think as a society, we have become apathetic to the fact that women are still marginalized, still suffer abuse and violence and objectification because it all has become such a "normal" part of the culture. What's worse is that even some high-profile women, like Britney Spears, objectify themselves as a marketing ploy in the name of empowerment. Britney owns her sexuality about as much as that stop sign on the corner. This is not empowerment, and no one is telling her any differently. Not to mention how much of this empty culture has infiltrated what our kids absorb and emulate. When will it stop?
Women in developing countries suffer the most - often, they do not have any rights at all and could even be killed for the slightest breach of cultural protocol. Who is standing up for them? As a side, this site has some interesting information on the topic.
I was reading an article in my local paper yesterday and how strong women are still often overlooked in school textbooks. If it were left to the textbooks, our young girls would think that Betsy Ross, Harriet Tubman and Sally Ride are the only American women who achieved anything worthwhile. That's not to downplay their achievements, because they were extraordinary, but there are so many other women, in the US and abroad, that have shaped society. Most times, their actions were about achieving something for the greater good, not purposely breaking the gender barrier, but as it turned out, they did both. Our girls should learn about them and now...and not just what they did but why they did it and what it all means.
So, today, let's remember the amazing women in history, the amazing women in the world today and in our lives, but let's also show our support for those who are still fighting for basic rights and equality. We have come so far but have so far still to go.
Thursday, February 25, 2010
First, there were the Darwin Awards.
Then, there were the Awkward Family Photos.
Now, one of my favorites, is the Fail Blog.
Maybe it's the superiority or satisfaction that we can feel when others are so moronic and absurd, and we can relax in the notion that, thankfully, it's not us. It's the virtual equivalent of people-watching at the mall to feel better about yourself. There's always at least one person that walks by, and you think "oh my. What is going on there?" Hey, we have all done it at one point or another. Admit it. We're all friends here.
The trouble is that in this age of instant fame for no discernible talent (a la the Kardashians, etc.), you know there are a few out there more than willing to be mindless in front of a camera for an extra 5 minutes in the spotlight (see: America's Funniest Home Videos. The show wasn't funny 20 years ago, and it's most certainly not funny today.) Good for you. You'll be famous for purposely being stupid. Not funny. Just plain stupid.
But, there are other sides to this. First, maybe - just maybe, knowing that our mistakes could be published online for the world to see at any time, replaying the cringe-inducing stupidity over and over, would make us be a little more careful and a little more aware of our surroundings and ourselves. Second, if we do make that kind of mistake worthy of Internet fame, well - just laugh along. It's not the worst that could happen. So what if everyone's laughing at you? Hey, you lived to tell the tale, so just go with it.
And thanks for providing some awesome comic relief.
Friday, February 19, 2010
Today marks the 19th year since my mother's death from cancer. 19 years. It's such an odd feeling to come to terms with the fact that I have lived longer without my mother than with her. It's an odd feeling to know that I'm just about 2 years shy of the age when she was diagnosed with breast cancer, and that my sister is already the age my mother was when she was battling the disease. Furthermore, it's odd to realize that I am at an age when I myself could be a mother; how would I handle things if I was in her position?
I am not the only one I know who lost a parent at an early age. Young relatives of mine lost both mother and father before they barely reached their teens. My heart goes out to them. They are the best kids I know, and I am glad that they have a close family for support. One thing I have never told them, though, is how the loss of a parent remains with you, no matter how old you get. At my happiest moments, there is still an emptiness. I may not always be able to identify the cause, but deep down, I know what it is. Still, it's important to not let it destroy you. Use it to make yourself stronger.
I feel lucky to have known so much love from my mother in such a short amount of time; it has remained with me all these years and influences me even as an adult. So, today, I remember the death but also the life of my mother, and say thank you to all she gave to me.
Monday, February 15, 2010
Then, there are times I say things that would seem so innocuous, but - alas, no. Words said almost without thought strike back with a vengeance. It's like some higher being is ready to say "HA! Gotcha!"
Example: Driving along some highway that is known for horrific traffic, only to be lucky enough to be swiftly moving mile after mile without any pause. Always looking on the positive side, I have to open my big mouth and say [Wait for it...]
"I'm so glad the traffic is moving."
Red tail lights and a laborious crawl for the next 20 miles.
So, why should I be surprised that shortly after saying "I haven't been sick all winter! - knock on wood," I find myself with a scratchy throat, fever and headache. Psychosomatic? Doubt it. Self-fulfilling prophesy? Uh-uh. It's just a case of me and my big mouth, and never learning when to shut up.
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Something about the mere idea of a snow day lets me imagine snuggling up in a thick, fluffy, larger-than-life blanket with warm cups of cocoa with marshmallows, my fireplace crackling, watching sappy old movies or getting lost in a good book. And maybe, just maybe, a walk hand-in-hand with husband through the quiet streets of town just listening to the softness of the snow fall. My reality at this moment is sitting on the couch, sans fluffy blanket, doing work (well, not at this exact moment) watching said Weather Channel. Not quite the fun-loving snow day, but the day's only half-way over...and there's the possibility of tomorrow...Still, I could live the ideal snow day today, and that makes it all worthwhile.
For the last week or so, with two big snow storms arriving in the same area of the country, everyone refers to Snowmageddon and Snowpocalypse. Apparently, today is being called Snoverkill, as in snow overkill. Really, people? It's February. It's an year. Besides, we don't exactly live in the tropics. What were you expecting? For heavens sake, relax. Enjoy. [For more on this, you can also revisit this post]. If you lost power or heat, or found yourself in some disastrous situation, ok - you have a right to use such titles for this snowstorm. But for the rest of us - you can handle this. It's not like we're going to all become the next Donner Party.
For my colleagues who will most likely have to stay an extra day or two on the West Coast due to canceled flights, enjoy the sun and warmth. We'll see you soon.
For the rest of you, please enjoy one of my favorites:
Friday, January 29, 2010
this sodden pathway at night,
empty and void of all light -
weak earth believed to be strong.
Miles to go and behind,
Miles that stretch like a stream,
Widened by floods of a dream
Lengthened by tears that remind.
Render the person inside,
an image that no one sees:
stalwart beauty and bride.
Etched on a wayward soul
the time to begin has come
and after the rain, there's sun;
then, paid in full is your toll.
Monday, January 18, 2010
I watched Julie and Julia this weekend, and while, in no way, do I compare my meager offerings to the what Julie Powell accomplished with her blog project, I understand every bit of the frustration she must have felt before and during. My blog isn't a project with any goal, deadline or theme, but it would be nice to be able to shape it into something. Anyway, in my last post, I aired some of my grievances, and I apologize if I offended anyone. Still, they were said in honesty; so, as long as we understand each other, we can be friends.
So...why now? After all this time, why today?
My response: why not?
I just felt like writing, that's all. Sometimes, that's all the reason I need.