Thursday, December 18, 2014

Tune In Thursday: Camelot

Today's song is "I Loved You Once In Silence" from the Lerner and Loewe musical Camelot, based on the legend of King Arthur. It's no My Fair Lady, but it does have some good songs, including this one. In this song, Queen Guenevere has fallen in love with Lancelot and the two of them have been having an affair. She talks about how sad it was loving him unrequitedly before she knew he loved her back, and then compares it to how much worse it is now, knowing that they're going to inevitably hurt Arthur. The song has her realizing that there will be no happy ending to this story at this point (and there isn't). The music to this song is really gorgeous. Here is Julie Andrews from the original Broadway cast performing it.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Networking Tips for Introverts

From my ask.fm profile:

Do you have any tips for professional networking as an awkward introvert?

Well... let me start off by saying that I haven't had a lot of opportunities to practice this, thanks to a lot of working from home or nonsocial jobs. So I'm not particularly good at it. But I would like to address this, so what I've done here is done a little Internet research, found other similar articles, discovered advice I would give myself, and presented it here for you with my own spin on it. So I can't necessarily verify that this works all the time, but a lot of these principles apply to social interaction in general, so they should transfer fairly well to the workplace.

Shepton Mallet Christmas Party 2012-59 from Flickr via Wylio
© 2012 Niki Odolphie, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio
1. Schedule prep time and downtime at any networking events.

Yup, this sounds about right. I know I'm no good to anybody when I'm overpeopled or stressed, so just like I would for any other big social event, I need to plan for some quiet time, whether that means mapping out time before and after to veg or planning strategic trips to the bathroom to hide throughout.

You can also determine beforehand how long you're going to stay. If things go well, you can extend that time, but I'd suggest that you commit to staying at least 20-30 minutes. Often the first few minutes are the most uncomfortable, and if you leave 30 minutes in, that gives you time to meet one new person or have a conversation with an acquaintance. Measuring it in goals is good too. Sometimes I've gone to social events where I tell myself I can leave as soon as I've had at least five brief conversations with new people. That way, I push myself to accomplish my goals and don't risk standing in the back talking to no one for 30 minutes and then giving up.

2. Start small.

I've found that a lot of introverts have a tendency to be all-or-nothing at work. Either you never talk to anyone ever and are the hermit in the corner, or you go out of your way to talk and chat with everyone because you feel you should, and you come home more stressed than ever. I read an article recently that those who typically go out to eat for lunch should consider spending one or two lunch breaks a week in the workplace for networking purposes with your co-workers. This is an attainable goal. It could be awkward or uncomfortable at first, but it's not impossible, and it strikes a workable balance between hermit and social butterfly.

3. Have some conversation starters in your back pocket.

This is good social advice in general. For those of us who dislike small talk, we may not practice it enough to actually, you know, be okay at it. So keep an eye out for some good icebreakers, and keep the ones that work with you. This site suggests "What is your favorite part of your job?" which is a great one for introverts -- it's not just communicating mindless or uninteresting facts. It's a question that will actually reveal the personality and passions of the person you're talking to.

WWW_D3_Mingle-35 from Flickr via Wylio
© 2011 worldwaterweek, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio
4. Take advantage of your strengths.

Introverts may not like mingling, but once they get into conversations, they can come across very different than they feel -- particularly because introverts are often very good listeners. Take advantage of that! If you can get someone talking about themselves, you can just sit back, listen, display interest, and occasionally ask questions, and while you may feel like you didn't do anything, the person you're talking to may leave thinking positively of you because your attentive listening felt so validating. Of course, if the other person isn't talking much, share some personal stories of your own -- you don't want it to feel like you're interrogating them for information -- but you'll be surprised how often you can just get the ball rolling and then pay attention to it while it does all the hard work.

While for some of us (including me) it can feel awkward or difficult to mix professional situations with social situations, it can definitely work to your advantage. So it's worth it for us to practice these skills and become so awesome at them that nobody else even knows we're uncomfortable. Magic!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Tune In Tuesday: Aida

Today's song is "A Step Too Far" from the Disney musical Aida. This song is sung by three different characters: the princess Amneris, the slave Aida, and the soldier Radames. Radames and Aida are in love, but he's engaged to Amneris, so things are a little tricky here, and the three sing about, well, how weird life is and how none of them are really happy.

I have two versions of the song, and the women in both are played by Sherie Rene Scott and Heather Headley, but Radames is played either by Broadway cast member Adam Pascal or show composer Elton John. I prefer Adam, so you're getting this live version that the original Broadway cast performed on The View back in 2000.

Monday, December 15, 2014

A Day in the Life of Flickchart

I casually mention Flickchart here on my blog a lot, but if you've never been quite sure what it is, well, let me walk you through the process.

The basic idea of Flickchart is a simple one: It shows you two movies and asks you to choose which one is better in your opinion. If you haven't seen one or both of them, you can click a button to indicate that and they will never come up again unless you manually add them back into your chart. You can also rank "filters," meaning groups of movies that have something in common. For example, I could rank only movies directed by Woody Allen, only musicals, or only movies in the top 100 of my chart.

Over time, this ranking of one movie as better than another movie creates a chart of your favorites in order. Granted, it takes a lot of ranking to get it to this point. My chart is probably 90-95% accurate right now, but I've ranked movies almost 140,000 times in almost five years. So if "making a list of my favorites" is your main goal with Flickchart, you're probably going to get impatient very quickly when the movie at the top of your chart is Terminator 3 for some reason. But, for me, the fun of Flickchart is in pitting two movies against each other and making me choose one. It's a fun exercise in and of itself, and the list creation is just a nice extra.

I've heard other people argue that too many of the matches are impossible to choose a winner for. It may be easy to choose between The Dark Knight Rises and The Avengers as comic book superhero movies, but how do you choose between Se7en and Finding Nemo? They're too different, it's comparing apples and oranges. Or how can you compare two brilliant movies, like The Godfather and Rear Window? For me, though, I love trying to find something that will edge the other out, even if they're completely different -- or too similar in quality to make it an easy choice. (Incidentally, I think would choose Se7en, oranges, and Rear Window.)

The other thing I like to remember is that my chart is fluid. It's a reflection of my tastes right now. Plenty of movies start high on the chart and then, as time goes by and I realize that it didn't have a lot of lasting redeeming value, it starts dropping. So I don't have to agonize too hard because even if I choose one over the other, that doesn't set it in stone forever. A few weeks later, I may get a match-up where I choose the losing movie against the movie 3 spots up from the original winner. My chart changes in small increments all the time.

To demonstrate this, I figured I'd go through a couple match-ups with you guys right now. I'm a pretty quick decision maker, so some of these will be no-brainer choices for me, but hopefully I'll get a couple where I'll have to think about them. I'll be ranking my own chart today, which has 2277 movies on it currently, so it won't show me any choices I haven't seen. Feel free to chime in about where you think I've chosen all wrong!

#1: Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) vs. La Haine (1995)

I would like to rewatch Bridge on the River Kwai someday, but on its first viewing it was much more interesting to me than La Haine, which had a good ending but meandered too much for me up until that point. Checking my stats, it looks like Bridge is at #170 on my chart while La Haine is at #1460, so voting for Bridge doesn't do anything as far as chart movement.

#2: Jeff, Who Lives At Home (2011) vs. Crazy Heart (2009)

This is a slightly tougher match-up for me, as these were both movies I liked but didn't love. I watched Crazy Heart as one of the first movies in my movie challenge this year, actually, and was a little surprised by how much I liked it. Jeff, Who Lives At Home, on the other hand, I liked, but not as much as I thought I would. So let's give the nod to Crazy Heart for now.

#3: A Time to Kill (1996) vs. The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)

This is a very easy choice for me. I found A Time to Kill boring and The Pursuit of Happyness charming. Pursuit is a little less than 700 spots higher than A Time to Kill, so my chart definitely reflects accurate feelings about them both.

#4: Bully (2011) vs. The Spanish Prisoner (1997)

Documentaries are often difficult for me to rank against non-documentaries, and there are some Flickcharters who feel the same way and choose not to include them in their lists at all for that reason. I do include them, but their chart rankings always feel inaccurate. However, this choice is easy, as I thought Bully was one of the better documentaries I've seen and The Spanish Prisoner didn't work for me at all. Bully takes it here.

#5: Brief Encounter (1945) vs. Hot Fuzz (2007)

I probably owe Brief Encounter another watch someday, as I'm not sure I was at all old enough to understand it when I watched it, but until I rewatch and rerank, Hot Fuzz takes it as my second favorite of the Cornetto Trilogy. (#1 is The World's End.)

#6: The Devil Wears Prada (2006) vs. Sleepless in Seattle (1993)

Two chick flicks! Definitely not my favorite genre, but I happen to really like Sleepless in Seattle -- it's written very well -- and found The Devil Wears Prada OK, but a little tiringly overdramatic. Sleepless wins here.

#7: The Thing (1982) vs. VeggieTales: An Easter Carol (2004)

Shorts are another thing that are hotly contested among hardcore Flickcharters. I let some of them in but not others -- 30-minute shorts like VeggieTales or the Charlie Brown specials are in my chart, but shorter ones don't tend to make the cut because at that point I feel like I'm ranking a YouTube video and I apparently think of those differently in my head. All that being said, though, An Easter Carol was one of the most boring VeggieTales movies out there -- it didn't even have any good songs -- and so The Thing wins, even though I wasn't crazy about it.

#8: Hustle & Flow (2005) vs. Mr. Superinvisible (1970)

I saw Mr. Superinvisible once as a kid and thought it was kind of dumb even then. Hustle & Flow, on the other hand, is a solid and well-done story that I enjoyed a lot. Easy win for Hustle & Flow.

#9: Girl Shy (1924) vs. Big Business (1988)

I actually JUST saw Girl Shy about a month ago, suggested for my movie challenge by one of my Flickcharter friends. I liked it, especially the madcap race to the church that took up the last third of the movie. That was terrifically fun. I haven't seen Big Business for years, but I'm pretty sure it wouldn't hold up. I'm pretty sure it's ranked low on my chart. Yeah, it's at #1929, which is unfairly low, because I remember not thinking it was terrible, just kind of bland -- not bad enough for the bottom 300 on my chart. But it doesn't get a chance to move up today, as Girl Shy wins.

#10: Interiors (1978) vs. Copying Beethoven (2006)

I had to think for awhile before I remembered what Copying Beethoven even was, which doesn't bode well for that movie... especially since Interiors is a solid, interesting Woody Allen drama. Interiors absolutely takes it here.

So I didn't have any chart movement in those ten match-ups, which is fairly frequent now, since, as I said, my chart is pretty much in order -- but I still enjoy the exercise of comparing two movies against each other. It also reminds me of movies I should rewatch at some point and brings to mind movies I haven't thought of in ages.

This was a fun time, and I may have to do more match-up blogs like this for you guys in the future. And, hey, if you're inspired by this to sign up for your own Flickchart account, add me as a friend, browse through my chart, or talk to me about the first match-ups you're given!

Friday, December 12, 2014

The Quest for Forgiveness: Chapter 6, Part 3

OK, so last time, Sonya and Brianna were talking about how this music company stole Brianna's music and what they're going to do about it. Hopefully I'll actually make it through the rest of the chapter today!

We start off this section of the chapter with Brianna's response to learning her music has been stolen:
“I’ve been living on the street, giving in to the whims of men, just to survive, and these people have been making millions with my music.” Her expression sobered. She brushed away a tear, recalling her devastating teenage years.  
Then as anger took hold, Brianna slammed her fist on the table. “What?” She glanced around and noticed some of the patrons watching her. She sat down, leaned across the table to get as close to Sonya as she could, and spoke softly, “What can I do about it?”
This is one of those moments where I just want to say, "Rothdiener. No. Take one second to PICTURE this interaction. It doesn't make any sense, right? No, it doesn't." I cannot even a little bit figure out how to deliver that "What?" (Today's challenge, for anyone who wishes to undertake it, is to record yourself doing this scene and make it sound plausible. Mood swings and all.)

Anyway, Sonya suggests they propose a settlement to avoid court, as long as Ethan didn't waive his rights to the songs. Brianna agrees she can research it, but asks her to keep Ethan completely uninvolved.

Brianna asks Sonya what she was even doing in the restaurant that night:
“The owner of this restaurant is my uncle. He called me a few weeks ago and told me about his new singing sensation. He said you had the beauty of a goddess and a voice of an angel. . . . Now that I am here, I know he is right. You do have the beauty of a goddess, and I have never heard anyone with such a crystal clear voice.”
This here is one of the other huge issues I have with this story overall. Brianna is such a Mary Sue that they can't seem to figure out what to focus on. Her physical beauty is nearly always tied to her talent, as if she is talented just by merit of being beautiful. It's almost a little creepy how often her beauty is mentioned by... well, everyone around her. In fact, since we haven't seen any evidence of good lyric writing thus far, I find it extremely plausible that she's just extraordinarily beautiful and people don't realize how crappy a songwriter she is.

Meanwhile, Sonya keeps prying into Brianna's back story, and it's a long, boring series of pages. Eventually, Sonya asks to see the other songs she's written.
“Follow me.” Brianna signaled for her to come. They bounded up the stairs and walked into a quaint room.
Oh, I hope I hope I hope they really did "bound" up the stairs. That's a hilarious image.

Sonya starts looking through Brianna's bajillions of notebooks of songs.
The only word she could muster was, “Wow!” She flipped over a few more pages. “These are good. Good tunes, good lyrics.”
"Nothing like I've heard from you thus far. Wow indeed!"

Sonya continues:
“If these are as good as they seem to be, I will not be looking for any more clients. You’re all I need.”
...What?

Sonya's not a music manager or anything like that. She's a lawyer. She makes money from, you know, practicing law, not someone else's musical talent. Is she anticipating that either 1) she'll make so much money defending Brianna this one time that she can retire happily? or 2) Brianna will continue to be entangled in lots of legal battles and Sonya can be her own personal lawyer forever?

(Of course, Sonya does become Brianna's manager later, according the book's first chapter, but that doesn't make any sense, and it certainly doesn't make any sense for her to imply here.)

Sonya and Brianna make plans to go running together the next morning -- or, rather, Sonya announces she's going to run with Brianna and Brianna goes on a diatribe about how awful men are, and Sonya is sad that her 17-year-old friend is so bitter. Sonya teaches Brianna how to properly shake hands and then leaves to call her lawyer friend Harry.

Harry updates Sonya on the whole Brijanna-accusing-Ethan-of-abuse situation, and then Harry asks Sonya to dinner, to which she responds:
“Harry, when you see this girl, I’m not the one you’ll be chasing anymore.”
Yeah, you probably shouldn't be making comments about a jaded, traumatized, once-prostituted 17-year-old's hotness to your coworkers in a way that kind of sounds like you're giving them permission to sexually harass her...

Sonya calls Robert, Ethan's lawyer, who tells her that the music company they sent the songs to said they were trash. Sonya updates him on the whole they've-been-stealing-her-music thing. Sonya asks for proof of copyright, but Robert derails it by trying to convince Sonya that Ethan never abused Brianna, before finally agreeing to fax over copies so they'll be there in the morning. The songs are all copyrighted in Brijanna's name, so Ethan doesn't have to be involved at all.

Then Robert calls Ethan, who's still in the rehabilitation center or wherever he ended up, and tells him what's going on, as well as this bit of information:
“Ethan, I understand she’s a beauty.”
First of all, that's completely irrelevant to the situation at hand... but, secondly, it's really creepy for him to know about because Sonya managed to go an entire conversation without mentioning how beautiful Brianna was, so he'd have no reason to know this at all. I can only assume he's been stalking her.

The chapter ends with Robert musing on how awful life is for Ethan. And on that cheerful note, we're FINALLY done with chapter six.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Tune In Thursday: Nichole Nordeman

Nichole Nordeman has been one of the few contemporary Christian artists that I've liked since she started. Her lyrics are thoughtful and reflective and not at all afraid to touch on the darker, more melancholy side of life (something that is tremendously important for me). "To Say Thanks" is from her first album, Wide Eyed, which was a little bit darker than her later ones, and this is one of the darker songs, just about how difficult it is to praise God sometimes.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Tune In Tuesday: Bowling for Soup

Bowling for Soup is probably going to come up a lot, as they're one of my favorite bands -- a pop punk group that has a tendency to sing cynical and cranky songs that sound ever so cheerful. "I Don't Wish You Were Dead Anymore" is about (kind of) getting over an ex -- at last to the point where you're not as angry with them as you had been. I enjoy it. It's fun and silly and upbeat.