Monday, December 24, 2012

My Favorite Christmas Songs

And here is a big ol' Christmas playlist for all of you. Some classic favorites, some new favorites... just all the songs that make me feel most like Christmas. No explanations, just a list of songs and a link to download if you so choose. Also, the songs are a mix of MP3 and M4A because I didn't realize they were until I zipped and uploaded the file. I am a terrible, lazy mix maker sometimes.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, crew.

1. Darren Criss and Chris Colfer (from Glee) - Let It Snow
2. Mariah Carey - All I Want For Christmas Is You
3. Avalon - Joy (To the World)
4. Glee Cast - The Most Wonderful Day of the Year
5. Trans-Siberian Orchestra - Christmas Eve (Sarajevo 12/24)
6. Family Force 5 - My Favorite Things
7. Jonathan Coulton and John Roderick - One Christmas At a Time
8. Relient K - Sleigh Ride
9. Darren Criss and Chris Colfer (from Glee) - Baby It's Cold Outside
10. Point of Grace - Light of the World
11. NSync - Under My Tree
12. Jars of Clay - Hibernation Day
13. Leigh Nash - Last Christmas
14. The Carpenters - Merry Christmas Darling
15. She & Him - Christmas Waltz
16. Adam Pascal - New York State of Mind
17. Relient K - I Hate Christmas Parties
18. Jonathan Coulton and John Roderick - Christmas Is Interesting
19. Nat King Cole - God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
20. Vince Guaraldi Trio - Christmastime Is Here (Vocal)
21. Groovelily - Snow Song (It's Coming Down)
22. Brian Wilson - Peace on Earth
23. Jonathan Coulton and John Roderick - Christmastime Is Wunnerful
24. Vince Guaraldi Trio - Skating
25. Nat King Cole - The Christmas Song
26. Michael Ball - Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
27. Michael W. Smith - All Is Well
28. John Tartaglia - Rod's Christmas

Download aqui.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Top 5, Bottom 5: Holiday Movies (2011 vs 2012 Comparison)

I was going to do just a straightforward Top 5, Bottom 5 feature and then realized I'd already done a holiday-themed one. I thought it might be interesting to compare the two lists, as well as do a quick rundown of any holiday-themed movies I've seen in the last year.

Last Year's Top 5:
1. Love Actually (2003, #2 on my FlickChart)
2. It's a Wonderful Life (1946, #146)
3. White Christmas (1954, #159)
4. A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965, #165)
5. Amahl and the Night Visitors (1978, #223)

This Year's Top 5:
1. Love Actually (still #2)
2. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964, #145 on my chart)
3. It's a Wonderful Life (down to #181 on my chart)
4. White Christmas (down to #193 on my chart)
5. A Charlie Brown Christmas (down to #199)

So, basically, Rudolph jumped up to take its rightful place in the realm of Christmas movies and everything else scooted down. I'm happier with this year's top 5 than I was last year's - really, Rudolph should have been in my top 5 then too. It's always been my favorite animated special. Sorry to lose Amahl off the list, but it is #6, so at least nothing else has shoved it out of the way.

Last Year's Bottom 5:
1. The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause (2006, #1640)
2. Star Wars Holiday Special (1978, #1639)
3. The Santa Clause 2 (2002, #1623)
4. Frosty Returns (1992, #1591)
5. The Christmas Shoes (2002, #1586)

This Year's Bottom 5:
1. The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause (down to #1802)
2. Star Wars Holiday Special (down to #1801)
3. The Santa Clause 2 (down to #1786)
4. Frosty Returns (down to #1756)
5. The Christmas Shoes (down to #1751)

So... no changes there, except I hate all of them more. Or, well, actually, the lower numbers just mean that every movie I've seen in the last year has been better than all of them.

Have I seen any new holiday movies this year? Flickchart says the last one I added was Die Hard, which was back in February of 2011. However, I did just see Rise of Guardians, which I enjoyed immensely but haven't added on to my Flickchart yet, and I'm pretty sure that counts as a holiday film.

As a final bonus list...

Top 5 holiday films I have yet to see, according to Flickchart:
1. Gremlins (#455 on the global charts)
2. Die Hard 2 (#527)
3. Black Christmas (#647)
4. National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (#707)
5. Diner (#740)

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A Beginner's Introduction to Jonathan Coulton

Earlier this month I had the pleasure of going to my very first Jonathan Coulton concert ever. I've been a fan of his music for several years now, and he is one of only 8 artists to be played more than 1000 times on my In fact, as I look at my now, he has jumped from being my third most played artist to being the second, surpassing Groovelily and sitting right behind Glee Cast (which is only that high because they've released over 300 songs so far).

I wanted to put together a little collection of my favorite JoCo songs for those who maybe are not quite so familiar with his music. He is one of my very favorite songwriters, with a wonderful talent for mixing comedy and tragedy to tell stories with unexpected protagonists. Although he's primarily known as a comedic musician, some of my very favorite songs of his are beautiful, sweet, and sad.

So here is a beginner's introduction to Jonathan Coulton.

The Essentials

These are the songs that even the most casual JoCo fan knows... and they also happen to be some of my favorites.

1. Code Monkey
Possibly the first JoCo song I ever heard. I love the cheerful punkish rock sound and the reoccurring JoCo theme of impossible unrequited love.

Code monkey like Fritos
Code monkey like Tab and Mountain Dew
Code monkey very simple man
With big warm fuzzy secret heart
Code monkey like you

2. Still Alive
Probably the first JoCo song most people heard. He wrote this song for the end credits of the game Portal, to be sung by the computer antagonist GlaDOS. The song doesn't actually make that much sense for those not familiar with the game, but the lyrics are clever and interesting.

I've experiments to run, there is research to be done
On the people who are still alive
And, believe me, I am still alive
I'm doing science and I'm still alive

3. The Future Soon
One of my very, very favorites, I think this song is the perfect blend of funny and sad. It's a song about a young nerdy boy who dreams of someday not being such an outcast, and while the story is entertaining (his ultimate fantasy is of taking over the world with a robot army he's built himself) the inner desire to not be the underdog, for once, is very relatable. I'm pretty sure everybody has felt like this at one point or another.

It's gonna be the future soon
And I won't always be this way
When the things that make me weak and strange
Get engineered away

4. Skullcrusher Mountain
I suspect this song is telling us what's happened to the Future Soon kid... he grew up to be this evil genius, living on Skullcrusher Mountain with his assistant, Scarface, kidnapping women and making crazy half-pony-half-monkey monsters for them in an attempt to earn their love. This song is really funny... and, fun fact, it has somehow become "our song" for my fiance and I. Even though I promise he's nothing like this.

If you could find some way to be
A little less afraid of me
You'd see the voices that control me from inside my head
Say I shouldn't kill you yet

5. Re: Your Brains
What nerd rocker's repertoir is complete without a song about zombies? This zombie song is sung as a memo from a recently turned zombie to his human co-worker, trying to convince him that resistance is futile. In concert, JoCo encourages the audience to chime in on the chorus with their best zombie impressions.

All we wanna do is eat your brains
We're not unreasonable
I mean, no one's gonna eat your eyes

My Other Favorites (In No Order Whatsoever)

6. Today With Your Wife
One of JoCo's rarer serious ones, this song is perhaps one of the saddest songs I have ever heard. Although I haven't heard any official word on what the song is about, it sounds to me like it's about running into the wife of a good friend who has died, and the song just breaks me. It's simple, with a gorgeous melody and incredible, melancholy lyrics.

Everyone seemed okay
But then she'd never say
You should have been there
You should have been there

7. Blue Sunny Day
In true Coulton fashion, this song features a protagonist you don't usually hear much about in music - in this case, a heartbroken vampire - but the song speaks so easily to the human experience that there are really only a few lines that indicate it's about anything unusual.

Birds are singing, bees are buzzing, sun shines overhead
I'd be there to see it but I can't get out of bed
Since the day you left, the weather always feels this way
One more blue sunny day

8. Baby Got Back
Pretty sure this is the best cover of all time. A gentle acoustic version of Sir Mix-A-Lot's original. However, just as a warning, FYI: when this song gets stuck in your head and you quietly sing it out loud to yourself, it is VERY hard to explain to anyone around you.

9. Over There
This song is a satirical look at American elitism, singing about how horrific it is to travel to Europe. He sings so earnestly about the unpleasantness of overseas culture that it makes me laugh a lot. I'm including my favorite video of him singing this, where it is requested at a concert in Glasgow.

Over there, you'll never feel at ease
'Cause there's not much soap and there's too much cheese
And everyone wears clogs and rides on trains

10. I Hate California
This song never seems to appear on anybody's "favorites of JoCo" list, but it really is one of mine. I love the simplicity of it, and how halfway through the song it becomes apparent that, it's not California the singer hates, it's the memories associated with it, and suddenly the song stops being just a silly song about disliking a state and becomes a break-up song.

I don't blame the Beach Boys, I don't blame Hollywood
I don't blame L.A., although I probably should
I don't blame the sky for its careless shade of blue
Lord knows I don't blame you

11. Mr. Fancy Pants
One year, Coulton did something called Thing a Week where he tried to put out some sort of music-y thing every week. Some of the songs were better than others, but one week he put out this ridiculous little song about a competition for the fanciest pants. There's something very fun and cheerful about it, and I absolutely love it, but I think he was a little befuddled by the way it kind of took off among fans. The song is just over a minute long, so when he plays it in concert, he does a little Zendrum solo in the middle of it, as you will see in the following clip.

Chances are your pants are not as fancy as the pair
Of very fancy pants that Mr. Fancy Pants will wear
When everybody's marching in the Fancy Pants Parade
He's gonna pass the test
He's gonna be the best
The best in terms of pants

12. Chiron Beta Prime
A quirky Christmas song about a family celebrating their holiday in exile on a robot-governed asteroid. It takes all the holiday season cliches - snow, Santa, Christmas dinner - and turns them into something with... not so much Christmas cheer. This one's not on his newly-released Christmas album, but it is one of my favorites.

Merry Christmas from Chiron Beta Prime
Where we're working in a mine
For our robot overlords--
Did I say overlords? I meant protectors
Merry Christmas from Chiron Beta Prime

13. You Ruined Everything
I love how Coulton can write sweet songs that are never sappy or overly sentimental. This particular song is about parenthood, and while I *hate* most parent/child songs, I love this one. It's loving and honest and genuine and very, very sweet.

You should know how great things were before you
Even so, they're better still today
I can't think of who I was before
You ruined everything in the nicest way

14. Space Doggity
Songs and stories about space always connect very deeply with me for some reason, and this one is no different, as it tells the story of the first dog sent into space, who died just a few hours after being launched into space. It's a reimagining of Bowie's "Space Oddity" and although the title is a silly one, this song is completely heartbreaking.

Guess what, Malashenkov? I took the collar off
I'm holding my own leash and walking myself outside this door
I don't think I want to be a good dog anymore

15. I Crush Everything
And... I lied about these being in no order. I deliberately put my all-time favorite Coulton song at the end. It's a terribly sad song about a giant squid who hates himself. Heh. Weirdly, though, the melody and the melancholy lyrics get to me in a way that none of his other songs quite manage, much as I love them all. I tried to write something about this song *while* I was listening to it, but I just sat listening to it. The melody is beautiful, the lyrics are a wonderful mix of quirky and heartbreaking... there's just nothing about this song I don't love.

I can't do that thing anymore
Can't be the way I was before
Maybe I am better off alone
Because I crush everything

Monday, December 17, 2012

Annnnnnd Back Again!

Well, hi again, everybody!

So it's been about a month and a half since I last blogged. There have been three main factors contributing to that.

1) NaNoWriMo happened. Every November I participate and try to write a 50,000 word novel. Even though I didn't make it this year (my first failure since 2007, when I was traveling with the New Life Drama Company and had no access to a computer), I spent a large portion of the free time I had writing for that, not the blog.

2) My computer broke. Or, more specifically, the fan broke. It made a horrible grinding sound whenever I turned it on and if I insisted on using it, it would overheat and shut off after about 25 minutes. My computer time became rather a precious commodity, and blogging didn't quite make the priority list.

3) November was quite the busy month for me personally. The second half of the month involved a visit to my boyfriend up in Indiana, then bringing him back home to South Carolina for Thanksgiving with me and my household... and then during our week in South Carolina, he proposed to me.

(To answer the obligatory questions for any who have not yet heard: he proposed to me a day earlier than he meant to. Heh. Wednesday afternoon, we were going to go into town together and have some just-us alone time, and he was going to propose then. But Tuesday night, we were out in my car talking and he just decided he couldn't wait any longer and proposed right away. After I said yes, he said, "Well... I don't have a ring. This wasn't supposed to happen tonight. This was supposed to happen tomorrow." The ring he'd ordered arrived in the mail the next day, and he did the whole down-on-one-knee thing for that. We're planning a July wedding. There... I think that answers most things we got asked.)

All that to say, it's been a pretty busy month. However, two of those three things are done now - NaNoWriMo is over and my computer is fixed, and although I am still engaged, the fiance is back up in Indiana finishing school, and so he's not around as much to steal me away from my blogging. So I shall return. W00t!

Monday, October 29, 2012

My Favorite Worship Songs

I've written on here before about why I have so many issues with Christian songs and, more specifically, Christian worship songs. I listed a few of my favorite worship songs in that original blog post, but have decided to repost here a worship playlist I made for a good friend earlier this year. The list is about half Christian music and half not, but they're all songs that I am able to connect to in my relationship with God. I've provided YouTube links whenever possible.

1. "Feeling Good" by Michael Buble
This song always makes me feel worshipful and close to God. One of the most easily relatable praise songs, for those days when you're just grateful for everything you have.

2. "Rhythm in Me" from Altar Boyz
This was a musical that made fun of Christian boy bands... but, man, do I like this song. It's a beautifully silly dance song that makes me laugh and dance and enjoy the fact that, yes, God did put the rhythm in me. Or, well, at least in other, more talented people.

3. "Trucker Hat" by Bowling For Soup
Although this song is clearly about a girl, I've morphed it to a worship song anyway. It's about being with somebody and realizing that they've made you a better person and being amazed that you get to be associated with them at all... all thoughts I like connecting back to God.

4. "The Spark of Creation" from Children of Eden
From a musical about the book of Genesis (and one of my favorite shows). When I discovered this song I fell completely head over heels in love with it. It's a beautiful expression how art and creativity is a gift right from God, and there's so much joy in it.

5. "Someone Else's Clothes" by Jason Robert Brown
Another fantastic song about being changed for the better by someone you love... which I like to appropriate for worship. It also has some of the *best* opening lines of all time in a song.

6. "To Know You" by Nichole Nordeman
Moving from upbeat songs into more contemplative songs. This became a favorite back when I first heard it in 1999 or so and has stayed one since then. I've always loved how Nichole Nordeman isn't afraid to approach doubt or darkness in her lyrics. This song captures the desire to know God, the desire to be better, coupled with the knowledge that, well, we kind of suck at that.

7. "Small Enough" by Nichole Nordeman
I didn't mean to put two of my Nichole Nordeman songs together on here (there are two more coming up - she's just that good). But here goes. I LOVE this song. There are times when it has brought me to tears. It's one of the ones I've sometimes sat in a dark room and listened to over and over again as I prayed. I love that it doesn't try to negate God as the big, awesome king who saves us the way some more personal love-songs-to-God do... it just acknowledges that sometimes we just need God to kind of shrink himself and be close to us.

8. "I Need a Hero" by Chris Rice
He and Nichole Nordeman are very similar stylistically and lyrically, so it's no surprise that I love him a lot too. I love the vulnerability and the melancholy feel in this song. It's sort of the flip side of "Small Enough" - instead of needing God to be small and intimate, it's about needing him to be bigger than us.

9. "Hold Me Jesus" by Rich Mullins
Here's an oldie but a goodie. As you may have picked up on by now, I'm really drawn to vulnerable "I need you, God" songs. This song is one of the ones that always makes me think of those times when I'm awake at 3 in the morning having anxiety attacks or just plain stressing about life... and I just need God to be there and reassure me.

10. "Every Season" by Nichole Nordeman
Here she is again! This song is beautifully poetic and offers a gorgeous portrayal of finding God in everything.

11. "All the Wasted Time" from Parade
Let's break up the string of actual Christian songs with a showtune that is clearly a love song... and, wow, does it get to me. I was listening to my MP3 player on shuffle one day and this song came on and I just realized that it was, in so many ways, how I felt about God.

12. "Take My Hand" by Shawn McDonald
This one's harder to explain why I like because it's just kind of a gut reaction. I do know I really like the fast-moving pace of these lyrics and the simplicity of that last main line of the chorus: "And I need you."

13. "Replace Me" by Family Force 5
People tend to either love or hate FF5 - I love them. Most of their songs are not even close to being worship songs, but this one really works for me, especially the chorus, which becomes a high-energy, desperate plea for God to change who we are.

14. "He Reigns" by Newsboys
I'm really not a fan of Newsboys' new stuff in general, but I really like this one, even if it did then get overplayed. I love the grandness and the inclusivity of it all. It's not just about an individual relationship (although as you can see I obviously love those songs too). It's about the power of worship throughout all the world, in all languages, but still singing the same things, essentially the same song. That's such a beautiful idea to me.

15. "You Move Me" by Susan Ashton
As someone who deals with fear a lot, this is almost exactly my experience with God - I find myself frozen, scared to move anywhere or do anything, and God manages to be the one to give me the courage to move forward. I love that it's such a personal example of how God influences our lives. Not just "I was sad, now I'm happy" - it's a very specific experience that I relate to strongly.

16. "On the Deck of a Spanish Sailing Ship, 1492" from Songs for a New World
This is kind of an odd choice - it's a long song, and it's sung by Christopher Columbus on his way to America. But it's a showtune that's actually sung directly to God about feeling unguided and worried that maybe things aren't going to work out. I love the cry that begins halfway through: "Lord, take my hand, I am not strong enough, I am not strong enough."

17. "Take Away My Dreams" by Groovelily
This was not originally in my worship playlist, but it is in my "crying out to God" playlist, and that is *exactly* what it is. Another one I've listened to on repeat over and over again. Sometimes it feels like God gives me dreams and then doesn't let me fulfill them, and that is exactly when this song comes in handy.

18. "I Am" by Nichole Nordeman
The last Nordeman song on the list. It's especially meaningful to me because of having pretty much grown up with God. I love the theme of remembering God's interactions and meeting of needs throughout life.

19. "A Little Longer" by Brian & Jenn Johnson
This one has a bit of a story behind it. I was visiting NLDC and one morning during our prayer time, the guy leading it started pushing us to pray harder, stay more focused, we needed to stop thinking of ourselves and just focus on God. I was having trouble connecting to God that morning and found myself frustrated and discouraged, feeling like I was just unable to push myself that far and therefore it was all my fault and I failed God.
       The next day I was dreading going back to worship time. I just didn't want to deal with that again. But that morning, the girl who led it said, "I don't know why. I just feel like we're supposed to listen to this CD quietly today." And this song was on it... and it was absolutely a message from God. The first half spoke to my frustration of being unable to communicate: "No matter how I try, I can't thank you enough." The second half was God responding to me, telling me: "You don't have to do a thing, just sit and be with me and let those things go." I sat in a corner of the room, listening to the song, tears streaming down my face, so relieved that God was telling me he really didn't care how hard I was pushing myself, how hard I was working to connect with him on my own... he just wanted me to be there with him. No pressure. No hoops to jump through. He just wanted me there.

20. "I'd Give It All For You" from Songs for a New World
Sometimes you hear a song and it suddenly takes on a whole new context. I was listening to this one day and it suddenly hit me as a song between God and me, during a time when I was kind of on the run from God and not wanting to really connect with him. The guy's part is sung from God to me (although it's a little shakier and more vulnerable than God probably is, I do like that kind of aspect - that God loves me enough that it does distress him when I run from him) and the girl's part is me to God, realizing that I needed to go back to him.

21. "Music of Heaven" by Jason Robert Brown
My all-time favorite worship song. Man, talk about a description of a specific experience... This song is about having so many analytical, cynical barriers up during worship that you find yourself unable to reach God... but desperately, *desperately* wanting to. This song breaks me down every time I hear it. It's so beautiful.

22. "And Now My Lifesong Sings" by Casting Crowns
The one that gave me the idea for this whole playlist to begin with. As I said in chat, I love how simple and sweet this is. No emotional manipulation, just a quiet declaration of praise.

23. "I Feel So Much Spring" from A New Brain
This song has just recently become a favorite. It's become one of my favorite "life is good" songs. I love the metaphors used to describe the different feelings of happiness.  There's *so much* joy in this song. It's become one of my very favorite worship songs of deep contentment and praise.

Friday, October 26, 2012

"Go On": An Introvert's Nightmare

I've been watching the Matthew Perry sitcom Go On over the last couple months, but I think I'm pretty much done with it. It's pretty funny - certainly enough for me to keep watching it - but I have now seen two episode that seriously angered me in how they portray the relationships of everyone involved.

The basic premise of the show is that Perry plays the host of a sports radio show whose wife has recently passed away. He ends up going to a support group for those who have lost loved ones. The support group is full of very... quirky people, to say the least, and led by a woman who really has no qualifications to lead a group of this many people with possible psychiatric disorders in anything. The characters are entertaining and generally well-intentioned, and it's clearly meant to be a "tough guy opens up his heart to lovable eccentrics" story. Occasionally I think it's trying to be a less funny, more trying-to-be-heartwarming version of Community.

However, Go On much more strongly perpetrates two horrific myths that, as an introvert, I believed for a long time.

1. Friendship with everyone in a community is obligatory.
A few episodes ago, Perry's character revealed that he did not actually consider the people from the support group friends. He had no desire to hang out with them outside of the group. They took it very personally, which I understand - it hurts finding out that someone you think you're friends with doesn't consider you a friend. However, they then decide that it is mandatory and essential that he make up for not considering them friends by... making them his friends. They demand that he spend outside time with them to get closer to them and, in the end, they even guilt him into letting each one of them drive his expensive new car, EVEN THE BLIND GUY, because they found his non-friendship so offensive.

Let's set this straight right now.

He can choose his own friends.

He is under no obligation to be friends with anyone he does not want as friends.

He can make friends at his own pace.

He reserves the right to back off without judgment and forced interaction if he feels uncomfortable with the level of the friendship.

Nobody can claim someone's friendship as a right or an obligation. There are many people I have worked closely with for years, have shared many of the basic pleasantries associated with friendship, but for whatever reason I just never feel all that comfortable around them. So I don't count them as my friend.
I'm allowed to do that.

As much as it sucks when someone you want to be friends with doesn't want to be friends with you, what you do is let it go. You accept that they've made their decision, and you don't retaliate, or pout, or decide you're going to force your way into their lives.

Do people do all those things? Of course, they do. Is it charming and healthy and heartwarming when they do? NO. No, it is not.

(Incidentally, as I said in my posts about church earlier this month, this is why I have a bit of an issue with church. Church is a forced community and implies that a good person will find friendship in that group. If I don't, or if I don't try, people end up assuming I am not open to fellowship with other believers. It's not true. I just like exercising the right to choose my own friends.)

2. Once friendship is established, boundaries are no longer necessary.
Nearly every episode features some major transgression of boundaries done in the name of friendship, portrayed as something fair and just, something that all good people would agree to. These boundary transgressions include such things as invading people's house in the middle of the night (this has happened twice - once, when they broke in, they forced him to eat him until he got sick and no longer wanted junk food), stalking people, coercing someone's longterm boyfriend to share embarrassing details about them, and forcing everyone to talk about all things private when they have no obligation to and clearly don't want to do so.

The majority of these moments happen at the heartwarming climax of the show.

Except the problem here is that it is not heartwarming because NONE OF THESE THINGS ARE OK AND THEY ARE ALL TERRIBLE FRIENDS.

I don't care if you think you're helping people, crazy therapy group. You are not allowed to decide what is best for anyone but yourself, much less to take it into your own hands to fix them against their will. The fact that he seems to begrudgingly accept this as part of the deal does not make it any less awful.

Friendship does not mean you own the rights to that person's life now. It really doesn't. They can make their own decisions, and you have to honor them. Just because you are friends with them doesn't mean you have any more right to control them. If you are about to do some big gesture that you think will fix everything, and you have a feeling they would object to it if they found out about it ahead of time, then DON'T YOU DARE just go ahead and do it. None of these "easier to ask forgiveness than permission" nonsense. I will tell you right now, if anyone tried to do to me ANY of the things they do to this guy, I would not feel loved. I would not feel safe. I would feel claustrophobic, paranoid, and unsafe, knowing that at any moment, any of my so-called "friends" felt they were allowed to show up and manipulate my life to their own satisfaction.

My friends are aware of my boundaries. They are aware of my desire for privacy. And they respect that. If they didn't, I would no longer be able to consider them friends.

Do you know how horrifying life would be if these two myths were true?

It would mean that anybody, ANYBODY had a right to control my life and tell me what I can and cannot do, as long as they claim friendship. Since I cannot reject friendship and, once we are friends, I cannot reject any of their intrusions on my life, I no longer really have any say in my own life. If my friends like, they can intervene as much as they want.

Now although this may sound like an attractive idea to some people, to me it sounds horrible and awful and if you think I'm antisocial now...

It is a little sad to me that a show focusing on the psychology of healing so deliberately ignores any kind of positive social interaction rules, focusing instead on the "goodness" of invading other's personal lives because of course you know what they need better than they do.

I can't see that group as charming and well-intentioned. I have been on the receiving end of unwanted friendship initiations, and it doesn't matter how well-intentioned it is. Crossed boundaries are crossed boundaries, and privacy is something people are allowed to have, and, except for a very, very few dire circumstances, ignoring that does not make you a good friend. It makes you a creep.

And that is why I'm probably done with that show.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Music Guessing Game: Last Chance Hints

There are still a few songs left on the music guessing game that I feel like someone should be able to get. As well as a few that nobody should be able to get. So I am posting here the final list of unguessed songs, along with an alphabetical list of artists that have not yet been guessed. If you correctly match up the artist to the song, I'll give you credit for it even if you're not really sure what the song is.

2. My heart jumps, it jumps out of my chest 'cause I love you to death.

4. Hey, you with the sorrowful gaze, you'd better start singin' the blues.

5. I've invariably found that feet kept on the ground allow the grass to grow.

6. I'm sick and tired of working in this hellhole of a place with broken glass and used-up rubbers on the ground.

8. I am a force, a source of light, I shine too bright for mere mortals.

11. This song goes out to my good friends, especially the ones I had before the Grammy nominations in 2003.

12. They be like smooth, can you teach me how to dougie?

13. Grabbed the moon, full of hope, fell to earth without rope.

18. Bohemienne, no one knows where my story begins.
(guessed by Jacob)

20. Once upon a dream, we were lost in love's embrace.

23. I just wanna be ok, be ok, be ok, I just wanna be ok today.

24. I still take you to bed, but it's the you I'd face instead.

27. Sudden changes surround me, lady luck came and found me.

28. The distant future, the year 2000.
(guessed by Bryn)

29. And now I know Spanish Harlem are not just pretty words to say.

33. Ooh, this hot summer has got me down, you can fry an egg on the street.

34. Why do I have to fly over every town up and down the line?

35. Somebody said you better let go 'cause they said so, but I could never let this thing go.

39. This is his lair, I've seen the old fox around.
(guessed by Virginia)

41. There was a time, I don't know when, I didn't have much time for men.

43. So he's holding me in his arms and he's giving me sweet little kisses.

45. Take a little walk to the end of town and go across the track.

47. I'd been searching for so many years, I was wasting all my time.

49. Two shots of happy, one shot of sad. You think I'm no good, I know I've been bad.

Anthony Rapp - he is in here twice. He only has like 11 songs on his solo album, but two of them showed up in this list. Weird.
Bowling For Soup
By Jeeves (musical)
Cali Swag District
Cyrano de Bergerac (musical)
Family Force 5
Flight of the Conchords
High Fidelity (musical)
Ingrid Michaelson
Jekyll & Hyde (musical) - there are two from this show in the list.
Les Miserables (musical)
The Life (musical)
Little Shop of Horrors (musical)
The Magic Show (musical)
Mandy Moore
Matt Dusk
Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds
Notre-Dame de Paris (musical)
Sutton Foster

Monday, October 22, 2012

15 Glee Songs That Are Worth Listening To

(Sorry about no blog on Friday. Life got away from me. But here's this one!)

One of the main complaints about Glee is that the covers are really not worth listening to on their own, because they pretty much just do watered-down karaoke versions. This is an entirely valid complaint. Although I love the show, much of the time they do the exact same arrangement, exact same phrasing, and it ends up being fine but nothing special. (It's the context of the story that makes it special - but that's something I've discussed already on this blog, so I won't get into that.)

Every once in awhile, though, they'll do something new and interesting, and I figured I'd list a few of my favorites here.

Original Songs
1. For the most part, Glee's original songs are bland and uninspired. But there are two I have thoroughly enjoyed. The first one is Loser Like Me, a cheerful outcast anthem that, I feel, is the anthem for the show as a whole, which really does celebrate those on the outskirts of society in every way. It's poppy and upbeat, but it's a really entertaining song all on its own.

2. The second original song I thoroughly enjoyed was Big Ass Heart. The character of Puck wrote this song for his then-girlfriend Lauren, who was understandably offended when he initially sang Fat Bottomed Girls and dedicated it to her... so he wrote and performed this one, which is a ridiculous song but is absolutely a ton of fun.

3. Glee has done more and more mash-ups over the years. Some of them are bizarre and make no sense, like their combination of Hall and Oates' "You Make My Dreams" and "I Can't Go For That," but some of their mash-ups are incredible. There have been two separate "mash-off" episodes where the guys and girls in the club compete against each other to see who can do the best mash-up. In the first episode, I think the guys clearly win with their rendition of It's My Life/Confessions, Part II, which was more fun than the girls' poppy Halo/Walking on Sunshine.

4. However, in the second episode, it was the girls who rocked it with Start Me Up/Living On a Prayer, while the boys did an acceptable-but-not-that-interesting cover of Diana Ross songs.

5. The best mash-ups, in my opinion, have lyrical continuity, and that works perfectly with Hit Me With Your Best Shot/One Way or Another, which combine into an incredible fight anthem. (During the show, this is sung during a dodgeball fight between two competing glee clubs.) I almost can't hear the songs separated out anymore, because they belong together so well in this version.

6. The thematically appropriate mash-up of Survivor/I Will Survive leans more heavily on Survivor than I Will Survive, but overall it really, really works. The performance utilizes the two strongest and most interesting female vocalists on the show (e.g. not Lea Michele) so it ends up being pretty great.

7. I love the sound of the Umbrella/Singin' in the Rain mash-up. The songs are close enough in original meaning to make the lyrics work together beyond just the obvious rain references, but the song also sounds cool. Pushing Singin' in the Rain into a modern R&B style is fascinating and, surprisingly, really works.

Interesting Covers
8. The Glee version of Papa Don't Preach was never released as a full single, but even just the first and chorus of this acoustic, folksy cover is actually significantly more interesting than the original rocky version.

9. The crew doesn't do much to change the cover of Friday, but what they change takes it from being dumb and kinda annoying to being dumb and kinda fun. They speed it up, injecting it with far more energy than the original version had, and it becomes a mindless dance song. I would listen to this over the original any day.

10. Toxic was the only worthwhile performance of the first Britney Spears tribute episode, as it was the only one that deviated from the original song's sound in any way. While I like the original version of the song, I really like this rockier version.

11. One of the competing glee clubs is an a cappella group. There have been a few great performances from them, but my favorite is undoubtedly When I Get You Alone, partly because Darren Criss is super fun to listen to and partly because I love how the sound of this song changes when the music is taken out of it.

12. The Michael Jackson tribute episode was filled with music, mostly done exactly in the same style as the original, but for Smooth Criminal, they actually brought in the 2Cellos guys who had done a cello cover of the song earlier. The cello + the vocals = a fascinating version of this song.

13. Glee does its fair share of showtunes, but one of my favorites was their out-of-nowhere rocked out version of The Rain in Spain from My Fair Lady - not one of the showtunes I would have ever expected them to tackle. The song makes little to no sense out of the context of either show, so it's kind of a bizarre cover on its own, but it's certainly a lot of fun and differs from the original.

14. These last two are songs that I am completely in love with. The first was a recent performance on the show - Darren Criss' slow-down acoustic performance of Teenage Dream, just him and a piano. It was extremely moving on the show and really compelling to listen to outside of it. I've listened to it nine times in the last week, which is a ridiculous amount for me. There's something about this performance that is very sad and moving and beautiful.

15. And the final one... the song that was everywhere a couple years ago... Rolling in the Deep. While I enjoy Adele's version well enough, this a cappella version abandons the driving rhythm of the original song and we end up with something that almost sounds like an old-time folk spiritual - a totally different sound from the original and, to my thinking, a far more compelling one.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Music Guessing Game

These still occasionally make the rounds on Facebook, and I follow along when they do. I'm in the midst of writing a long deep blog for Friday (or maybe Monday... ya know, pretty much whenever I get around to it) so you get another light fluffy game today.

There are 50 lyrics to guess, but, um, several might be kind of impossible. I lost track of how many times I put in a lyric and thought, "Well, NOBODY is going to guess that." So you should all prove me wrong and guess ALL OF THEM before I post the answers next week.

Step 1: Put your music player on shuffle.

Step 2: Post the first line from the first 50 songs that play, no matter how embarrassing. (I'm actually only using my "Yes, I actually know these songs" playlist because I still have a bunch of songs on my iPod I don't really know and if I post the first line from any of those *I* won't know the answer.)

Step 3: Take the songs off the list when someone guesses both artist and track correctly. (Well, I'm going to just mark them as guessed. I want them to still be available for others to guess.)

Step 4: For those who are guessing -- looking the lyrics up on a search engine is CHEATING!

Step 5: If you like the game post your own. (Whatever. You can like it without having to post anything. That's dumb.)

Also, I have a lot of covers. I will give you points if you can guess the song and the original artist, but bonus points if you can guess the cover version for the ones marked with a star.

*1. I thought love was only true in fairy tales.
(guessed by Amber)

2. My heart jumps, it jumps out of my chest 'cause I love you to death.

3. Over time you've healed so much in me that I am living proof that although my darkest hour had come, your love could still shine through.
(What? Why do I even own this song still?)
(guessed by Bekah)

*4. Hey, you with the sorrowful gaze, you'd better start singin' the blues.

5. I've invariably found that feet kept on the ground allow the grass to grow.
(That is a horrible lyric.)

6. I'm sick and tired of working in this hellhole of a place with broken glass and used-up rubbers on the ground.

7. Listen, baby, ain't no mountain high, ain't no valley low, ain't no river wide enough, baby.
(guessed by Amber)

8. I am a force, a source of light, I shine too bright for mere mortals.

9. At the 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, my parents keep on telling me just being here is winning.
(show guessed by Bekah and Dad, but not the song)

10. Dragon whiskers, dragon toes, a dragon tooth, and a dragon nose.
(guessed by Bekah and Mom)

11. This song goes out to my good friends, especially the ones I had before the Grammy nominations in 2003.

12. They be like smooth, can you teach me how to dougie?

13. Grabbed the moon, full of hope, fell to earth without rope.

14. Don't be the leaf if you can be the tree, don't be a raindrop if you can be the sea.
(guessed by Bekah and Joel)

15. Lord of all creation, of the water, earth and sky.
(guessed by Amber)

16. I miss you, miss you so bad. I don't forget you, oh, it's so sad.
(Now those are heart-wrenching lyrics, right there.)
(guessed by Naomi)

*17. O holy night, the stars are brightly shining.
(guessed by Dad)

18. Bohemienne, no one knows where my story begins.

19. My people telling me that you the man that can heal the sick with your healing hand.
(guessed by Sarah)

20. Once upon a dream, we were lost in love's embrace.

21. Do ya need a break from modern livin'? Do ya long to shed your weary load?
(guessed by Bekah)

22. I am nothing, you are wind and water and sky.
(guessed by Naomi)

23. I just wanna be ok, be ok, be ok, I just wanna be ok today.

24. I still take you to bed, but it's the you I'd face instead.

25. I do believe you've laid a curse on North America.
(guessed by Naomi)

*26. Got me looking so crazy right now, your love's got me looking so crazy right now.
(guessed by Amber)

27. Sudden changes surround me, lady luck came and found me.

28. The distant future, the year 2000.

*29. And now I know Spanish Harlem are not just pretty words to say.

*30. I guess this means you're sorry, you're standing at my door.
(guessed by Amber)

*31. Looking out on the morning rain, I used to feel so uninspired.
(guessed by Sarah)

32. Our whole universe was in a hot, dense state, then nearly 14 billion years ago, expansion started, wait.
(guessed by Sam and Naomi)

*33. Ooh, this hot summer has got me down, you can fry an egg on the street.

34. Why do I have to fly over every town up and down the line?

35. Somebody said you better let go 'cause they said so, but I could never let this thing go.

36. If you're standing with your suitcase but you can't step on the train...
(guessed by Sarah)

37. I'm gonna be a mighty king, so enemies, beware!
(guessed by Naomi)

*38. Little baby, pa rum pum pum pum.
(guessed by Dad)

39. This is his lair, I've seen the old fox around.

*40. Why are there so many songs about rainbows?
(guessed by Sarah)

41. There was a time, I don't know when, I didn't have much time for men.

42. When you find yourself in danger, when you're threatened by a stranger, when it looks like you will take a lickin'...
(guessed by Bekah and Dad)

43. So he's holding me in his arms and he's giving me sweet little kisses.

*44. Those schoolgirl days of telling tales and biting nails are gone.
(guessed by Amber)

45. Take a little walk to the end of town and go across the track.

46. If I had a hammer, I'd hammer in the morning, I'd hammer in the evening all over this land.
(guessed by Dad)

47. I'd been searching for so many years, I was wasting all my time.

48. If my lips ever left my mouth, packed a bag and headed south, that'd be too bad. I'd be so sad.
(guessed by Emma)

49. Two shots of happy, one shot of sad. You think I'm no good, I know I've been bad.

50. I want your body, mind, soul, etc.
(guessed by Amber)

Monday, October 15, 2012

Disney Songs Translated to Death (The Answers)

Most of you got most of them last week... but for any you missed, here are not only the songs, but the specific lyrics I translated.

1. He's a tramp, but they love him. Breaks a new heart every day. He's a tramp, they adore him, and I only hope he'll stay that way.
2. No one's slick as Gaston, no one's quick as Gaston, no one's neck's as incredibly thick as Gaston.
3. Everybody wants to be a cat, because a cat's the only cat who knows where it's at.
4. Oh, this is a night, it's a beautiful night, and they call it bella notte.
5. I know it sounds sordid, but you'll be rewarded when at last I am given my dues, and with justice deliciously squared, be prepared.
6. Poor unfortunate souls in pain, in need. This one longing to be thinner, that one longs to get the girl, and do I help them? Yes, indeed.
7. Just whistle while we work and cheerfully together we can tidy up the place, so hum a merry tune.
8. Baby mine, don't you cry. Baby mine, dry your eyes. Rest your head close to my heart, never to part, baby of mine.
9. Let's go fly a kite up to the highest height, let's go fly a kite and send it soaring.
10. I look once more just around the riverbend, beyond the shore, where the gulls fly free. Don't know what for, what I dream the day might send just around the riverbend for me.
11. When the road is rough ahead and you're miles and miles from your nice warm bed, you just remember what your old pal said: you've got a friend in me.
12. You must be swift as the coursing river, with all the force of a great typhoon, with all the strength of a raging fire, mysterious as the dark side of the moon.
13. Cruella De Vil, Cruella De Vil, if she doesn't scare you, no evil thing will.
14. Gotta keep one jump ahead of the breadline, one swing ahead of the sword. I steal only what I can't afford (and that's everything).
15. There's something sweet and almost kind, but he was mean and he was coarse and unrefined. And now he's dear and so unsure... I wonder why I didn't see it there before.
16. Mr. Aladdin, sir, what will your pleasure be? Let me take your order, jot it down, you ain't never had a friend like me.
17. I will find my way, I will go the distance, I'll be there someday if I can be strong.
18. Heigh-ho, heigh-ho, it's home from work we go.
19. Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, even though the sound of it is something quite atrocious.
20. Look for the bare necessities, the simple bare necessities, forget about your worry and your strife.
21. A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.
22. It's our problem-free philosophy: hakuna matata.
23. Some day my prince will come, some day we'll meet again.
24. A dream is a wish your heart makes when you're fast asleep.
25. Who is this girl I see staring straight back at me? Why is my reflection something I don't know?
26. You'll be in my heart, yes, you'll be in my heart, from this day on, now and forevermore.
27. Zip-a-dee-doo-dah, zip-a-dee-ay, my oh my, what a wonderful day.
28. Can you feel the love tonight, the peace the evening brings? The world, for once, in perfect harmony with all its living things.
29. Sha-la-la-la-la-la, don't be scared, you got the mood prepared, go on and kiss the girl.
30. Can you sing with all the voices of the mountain? Can you paint with all the colors of the wind?
31. Be our guest, be our guest, put our service to the test. Tie a napkin round your neck, cherie, and we'll provide the rest.
32. I know you, I walked with you once upon a dream. I know you, the gleam in your eyes is so familiar a gleam.
33. Under the sea, under the sea, darling, it's better down where it's wetter, take it from me.
34. Up where they walk, up where they run, up where they stay all day in the sun wandering free, wish I could be part of that world.
35. When you wish upon a star, makes no difference who you are, anything your heart desires will come to you.
36. Til we find our place on the path unwinding, in the circle, the circle of life.
37. Just a little change, small to say the least, both a little scared, neither one prepared, Beauty and the Beast.
38. A whole new world, a new fantastic point of view, no one to tell us no or where to go or say we're only dreaming.
39. Put them together and what have you got? Bibbidi-bobbidi-boo.
40. Life is brief, but when it's gone, love goes on and on.

Friday, October 12, 2012

My Break From Church, Part 3: Ministry

The other thing I hear a lot is that I need to go to church to minister, to find a way to reach out to the people around me.

And I agree. I think a big part of Christianity is in living out my faith through serving other people and showing them love. And I would argue I do minister. Just in different ways.

In many ways, my blog is a form of ministry. Sometimes I talk about silly things like ChaCha and play games, but sometimes I will share things I have learned that I deeply care about. Whether they're God-related or not, I try to teach and encourage those around me by writing about my own experiences, and whenever somebody comes to me and tells me, "I really needed to read what you wrote today. Thank you," that counts as ministry.

Every time I stay up much later than I should have just to chat with a friend who's having a very difficult night and can't go to sleep, that's ministry.

The time I spend in prayer for my friends, that's ministry.

The conversations I have with close friends asking my advice or counsel on something, that's ministry.

The times when I see someone who is kind of obnoxious and not very well-liked, and I try to reach out to them and be their friend when no one else will, that's ministry.

I work very hard to minister to others by being a good friend to people who need one, by being a support system for those who have nobody else. Sometimes I get overwhelmed by life and fail at that, but that is my goal.

As an introvert, I have to be smart about how I divvy up my social energy. The more time I spend involved in ministry "programs," the less time and energy I have to minister to the people already placed in my life. I simply don't have much to spend before it's all depleted and I have nothing left, and then I'm not doing anybody any good.

A mini-conclusion
It's still very difficult for me to find a reason to go to church. Every once in awhile I get a craving to go and do something churchy, but consistent church attendance chips away at me and becomes a social obligation I dread. I'd love to think there's a church somewhere where I would feel completely welcomed, challenged and inspired. But right now I feel those needs are being met elsewhere.  Sometimes I'm OK with that, and sometimes I feel guilty... but I never feel like I'm really missing anything. I love the people I have surrounded myself with as my support system. I love the things God teaches about me through my personal Bible times and prayer, the blogs I read, and the discussions I have. I feel, for the first time in a long time, spiritually fulfilled... and it's hard for me to choose to give that up to return to church.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

My Break From Church, Part 2: Spiritual Community

The "spiritual community" section turned into mostly stuff about community, but in my initial attempt to write this out, I was also trying to incorporate things like sermons and worship and such. But most of what I have to say about that is covered in the first bulleted section. The second section is tougher for me to figure out, because it's the one most Christians ultimately go to in explaining why I *should* go to church. It's actually the one that makes it hardest for me to go.

One of the things that I realized recently was that church has had very little positive impact on my life. (Not a lot of negative impact either, but probably more than the positive.)

  • None of my personal spiritual revelations have been inspired by a church sermon.
  • I have had MAYBE a handful of positive corporate worship experiences. Maybe. (Though most of the others are neutral, rather than negative.)
  • I begin to feel the negative effect when I go too long without spending personal time with God. I have never felt that when I go a while without attending church.
And the arguments for community? Well...
  • I have so many people I would consider good friends, but I have not formed a single real, lasting friendship with anyone I ever went to church with.
  • My greatest spiritual mentors are people I didn't go to church with.
  • Church was home to most of the loneliest moments of my life.
  • I have felt true community many times. These times have all been outside of a church group.
  • Nearly every time I have been vulnerable and opened up to someone in a church setting, I have left feeling not encouraged, but misunderstood. (I will say, though, I seldom felt judged. "Misunderstood" is exactly the right word. My church experiences were never malicious, just... unsatisfying.)
I just don't fit. This is not just the problem of the church. I don't fit in much of the rest of the world either. But church is the one place where, apparently, it is absolutely necessary that I push myself into not just participation, but *joyous* participation ("If you don't love being with church and with God's people, something is wrong with you"). It is yet one more situation where I feel completely out of place.
I cannot choose my classmates, my coworkers, or my neighbors. With any of these communities, it's a gamble whether or not I will connect with them, whether I will feel warm towards them or pleasant-but-distant. I cannot hand-pick the people who fill these communities. I must work with what I am given.

Surely, with all the other forced communities I face every day, I should at least be allowed to select the community that is helping me grow spiritually. Surely my support system should be something I can hand-pick to help me grow. Surely I will encounter enough difficult people I can learn from in my other social interactions that I can afford to be exclusive about who sees me in my most vulnerable spiritual moments.

So often when I chat online with any of my close Christian friends, I have encouraging, challenging, spiritually stimulating discussions and leave with a passion and desire to connect with God.

So often when I go to church, I am bombarded with social interactions I do not have the energy for, sit through worship and a sermon I am not challenged by, and leave early with a desperate need to recuperate from an experience that did not enrich me in any way.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

My Break From Church, Part 1: Introduction and Background

I promised people on my Facebook that I would write more about this issue. It got super long and fairly unorganized, though, so I decided to break it up into a 3-part series, spreading it out over the next couple of days, grouping collected thoughts together. (Plus, that makes it look like I'm awesome and follow through on series. I MEAN I TOTALLY DO THAT.)

I haven't yet worked out entirely how I want to say this yet, and I may not for years. This is just a start.

Also, I debated calling this series "Why I Don't Go To Church Anymore," but I didn't want to scare TOO many of my friends into thinking I'd abandoned God or something. I promise I haven't.

John Shore wrote a blog last week sharing a story of a 67-year-old woman who had stopped going to church a few years prior and found her faith had actually gotten stronger than ever since then. This prompted him to ask the question, "Is church necessary?"

I have been asking myself this for the past several years.

I have not been a regular churchgoer since 2009, when I first went off to college. At first I tried to do The Right Thing and find a church. I found one where the people seemed nice and lots of college kids attended, but week after week I found it more and more difficult to go. There were at least three Sundays where I fought all morning to make myself go to church and then, in tears, decided I should probably just stay home and was overwhelmed by conflicting senses of guilt and relief.

The more often I stayed home though, the better I felt. The more likely I was to read my Bible on my own. The more energy I had to have serious spiritual discussions with my friends. I felt happier, more alert, more interested in spiritual matters. So I didn't go back. I really only returned to church on visits home, when I felt I should probably go as a matter of solidarity.

I pondered over and over again the reasons I should go, the reasons I'd been told all my life that I should go. And none of them seemed to make sense to me. And, honestly, none of them do now, either. I'm still pondering, but with less guilt than before, and I'm beginning to wonder whether constant churchgoing is ever going to be the norm for me.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Disney Songs... Translated To Death

A while back I posted a bunch of movie synopses translated back and forth from English to other languages. This time I decided to do it with several Disney song lyrics.

In all of these songs, I have used the most recognizable parts of the song - the chorus or part where the name of the song shows up. Most of these are pretty easy but some of them are... not. Feel free to guess as many as you want!

1. This product, but I love the new breaks my heart every day. That flirt, respect, and hopefully it will remain so.

2. Gaston just as fast as the others. No one really Gaston.

3. Does anyone know where the cat, the cat in terms of.

4. So it was a wonderful evening. The name Bella Notte.

5. I know it sounds gross, but you will be rewarded after the completion of my contribution, cavities, preparation of market later.

6. The poor beggar, pain is inevitable. I hope that those who want to live and aid the girl? Yes, indeed.

7. As the work and lots of fun, lets go back to the Automatic way thanks to this post.

8. I'll call. Click the two small eyes, Washington, in the heart, the second is not to see you.
(Uh. Good luck with this one. It's not even a little bit close. I'll tell you the decade of the movie to help out a little bit: it's from the 1940s.)

9. And we have a great dragon.
(Um. This one is an even worse translation. In fact, I'll even tell you the movie, because the movie has approximately 10,000 songs in it and I bet you still won't know which one this is. It's Mary Poppins.)

10. It seems that once a year, when newspapers fly-Riverbend. I don't know what my dream is just to send me the Riverbend.

11. The difficulties of the road bed, warm, remember that you will be more than a thousand miles away to a friend of a friend: when he spoke.

12. I used to shoot the mysterious Hurricane River runs fast every month, dark side of the force.

13. Cruella De village, village of Cruella De, if not fear, it's not bad.

14. To its support for the financing of the war before the jump swing. You can't just go, steal (stuff).

15. There is something sweet and almost all types, but he was mean and he was rough and raw right now, does not love, does not, so if you don't see it, I think. Before.

16. Aladdin, Sir, what is your pleasure? I take your order, write, never a friend like me.

17. I find a way, I be there someday if the distance can be strong.

18. Hugh, Hugh, we're starting to work from home.

19. Even in that case, what is Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious too draconian.

20. Looking for a House consume their life easy to forget their worries and their conflicts.

21. A spoonful of sugar, a description of the drug.

22. The following text is a seamless philosophy: Hakuna Matata.

23. One day my Prince will come, see there once.

24. A dream is a wish your heart makes, if you go to bed.

25. I don't know the reason, like women, reflected in the straight.

26. You are always in my heart, in my mind, this works for me.

27. Zip-through-a-Dee-Doo-Dah, Oh, it's a beautiful day.

28. Can you feel love the tonight led a relaxed afternoon? Once all of the biological world harmony.

29. Shalalalalala, but don't panic, your mood is ready to go and kiss the girl.

30. The sound, and the numbers? Bucket colors: all colors in the wind?

31. Our guest, put our service to our customers. Tie a scarf neck, Jerez, Ronda takes care of the rest.

32. I know you, I walked with you once upon a dream. I know that you are aware of my weak glow in their eyes.

33. Under water very expensive rain water better that you create.

34. Built on them to come together, it is a place where you it all day, the Sun travels through the free part of the world can run.

35. The stars and when you do not have any difference in future as you like.

36. Life cycle of a circular orbit in the previous days, until we find our place.

37. Only very small changes in a small fear that both. Beauty and the beast.

38. It's a whole new world of exciting new perspective, no one told us what it is and where to go, or say that only a dream.

39. How to put them together, what do you do? Magician bobbidi Boo.

40. Life is short, but still lost love.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Top 5, Bottom 5: Silent Films

Time for another top 5, bottom 5 list - this time, silent films are the category, since I just recently watched my 20th silent film ever. (I need to start watching more, really. 20 is a very small number.)

Top 5:
1. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920, #221). A wonderful film that does a great job showing the mindset of its main characters.
2. Sherlock Jr. (1924, #398). As you can see, this is my favorite of all the Buster Keaton movies I've seen - very funny.
3. The Artist (2011, #404). Although not my favorite of last year's Oscar nominees, definitely a beautiful homage to the films of the past. Nicely done.
4. Steamboat Bill, Jr. (1928, #487). Less laugh-out-loud funny for me than Sherlock Jr., but still has some very entertaining moments.
5. The Circus (1928, #760). Chaplin films all tend to hang out in the 700s of my Flickchart, which currently thinks that City Lights is my favorite, up at #631. Well, that's incorrect, because The Circus is my favorite, so I ignored City Lights to include The Circus on this list.

Bottom 5:
1. Un Chien Andalou (1929, #1733). Experimental surrealist films do not sit particularly well with me. I like stories.
2. The House With Closed Shutters (1910, #1705). Interesting to me only as an example of what so many films were in the very early teens.
3. Man With a Movie Camera (1929, #1594). As I said, experimental doesn't work for me.
4. Neighbors (1920, #1531). A Buster Keaton flick without nearly enough laughs. Pretty bland.
5. Napoleon (1927, #1459). Though technologically stunning, it is four hours long and was not interesting enough to hold my attention all those four hours.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Exorcist

This was written about a month ago, when I was recording my thoughts on my blind spot movies as I watched them. Since I wrote this, I've seen two or three more of my blind spot movies and sadly, have not done as good a job of keeping track of my thoughts on them. But, in the spirit of getting back to blogging, here are my thoughts on The Exorcist. Mega spoilers in here.

3:42 - Strange medallions always mean the devil!

5:52 - Glazed eyes always mean the devil!

6:11 - He's writing in Backwards Archaeology Code. That must mean the devil!

9:49 - ...Fighting dogs mean the devil? (OK, I'll stop doing that now. Although it has always been difficult for me to take scary demon movies seriously.)

10:07 - See, and this is why supernatural scare movies often don't sit well with me. They're so vague. So an old guy saw some fighting dogs and a statue that was the same as something he dug up. Why is this scary? Because of the music. That's all.

11:33 - Demons climb in through the window. And sometimes they come down the chimney, like Santa.

17:14 - And then she threw her daughter under a train for stealing a cookie. The End.

17:43 - The Exorcist is scared of The Homeless Man.

21:18 - He turned off the radio and turned up the movie's background music.

22:52 - Nothing like a fun Ouija board session with Mom.

23:30 - Maybe Reagan just got a demon as a birthday present. Some people just aren't good gift-givers.

27:30 - "My bed was shaking." Maybe my house doesn't have a overreacting washing machine after all. It's just a demon that shakes my bed around from time to time.

29:00 - Wait, a candle? Were flashlights uncommon in 1973?

29:20 - Mousetraps don't work for demons. They don't like cheese or peanut butter.

32:30 - OK, I'll admit it, this weird humming is creeping me out. But psychologically creepy more than anything else.

35:10 - "I think the best explanation is always the simplest." What could be simpler than demons? People have used that as an explanation for years.

36:15 - Wow, this scene in the home for old people is actually perhaps the scariest bit so far. It's so sad!

37:45 - This commentary so far makes it sound like I'm berating the movie for not being scary yet. I am totally OK with slow build-ups. I promise I'm not attacking it.

38:46 - Do I know this British actor? He seems so familiar but I can't actually place him.

39:00 - This priest likes to hang out with goth chicks.

39:35 - "Dear, are you trying to strangle the other guests again?"

43:00 - GET HER OFF THE BED. Tackling her fixes nothing.

45:00 - Wait, the faithless priest is dreaming about old archaeology man's experiences? Well, THAT'S weird.

46:39 - Heh, yeah, "muscular spasms" doesn't even begin to explain what happened there with the bed.

52:16 - Daaaaang. That jumping back and forth from clearly helpless little girl to crazy demon was kind of intense and made me go, "OH MAN THAT POOR KID."

53:29 - Split personality still doesn't cover the fact that she was being FORCIBLY TOSSED IN THE AIR. I just tried to duplicate that myself and, yeah, you can't launch yourself into the air all that easily from a lying down position.




57:05 - She looks so little under that mound of blankets. I like how the kid isn't portrayed as being creepy or evil so much as just being a victim.

58:37 - Commercial break?

1:03:27 - Oh! I forgot all about the Mary statue. I had no idea what they meant by desecration in the church.

1:07:00 - Exorcism recommended by doctors? Wow.

1:07:49 - No, if you were taking your daughter to a witch doctor the title of the film would be The Witch Doctor. Incidentally, this film is hardly about the exorcist at all. It's about the exorcism, or the exorcisee.

1:10:58 - Wait, those people are her SERVANTS? She must be much more well-off than I thought. Although I guess she has been able to afford some pretty high-priced medical procedures and such.

1:12:00 - Wait, the guy fell out REAGAN'S window? How did I miss that?!

1:14:00 - I just got super distracted wishing I had a watch again. That must be how I keep missing plot points. Like that the guy fell out of Reagan's window.

1:16:11 - Surely NOW they'll accept that it's not a psychological disorder.

1:25:40 - Is Archaeologist Guy ever going to show back up again? When we left him last, he was staring ominously at a random statue.

1:34:00 - But surely "help me" being written on her stomach wouldn't be the work of a demon. Why would they want anyone to help her? So maybe Reagan just has magical powers too.

1:36:06 - Yay, Archaeologist Guy returns! I don't know why I say "Yay" other than the fact that I was just curious about where he went.

1:36:28 - It's not the demonic powers that are scary in this movie - it's the pain and torture they're causing this little girl. Seeing her so helpless is awful.

1:39:22 - Hold on, baby priest's name is DAMIAN? How is the antichrist kid going to help exorcise anyone?

1:43:57 - OK, I am not all that squeamish about gore, but I do NOT like vomiting.

1:45:46 - This is kind of an incredible climactic scene to happen just in someone's bedroom while two people speak and another one is tied to a bed. It is somehow just as tense as if people were chasing each other through a haunted house. (Interestingly, the same director did Bug, which was a one-room thriller that terrified me. Apparently this is where his talents lie.)

1:49:49 - "Why this little girl? It doesn't make sense." "I think the point is to make us despair."

1:50:54 - Hold up, now. Is Old Priest on drugs or is that legitimate medication?

1:55:50 - What? Old Priest is dead? CRAP.

1:56:55 - Oh, that's cool. He sacrificed himself.

1:57:09 - But, man, talk about lifelong damage to that child's psyche. I mean, obviously it was the right choice, because continued demon possession isn't really an option, but MAN.

Final opinion:
That was an incredibly well-paced, believably-done horror movie. While I wouldn't say it *scared* me at almost any point, it did have plenty of tense moments and, above all, filled me with a sense of horror at how the demon tortured the little girl. While many films might overdo the "creepy child" effect, here it was so *very* clear that it wasn't Regan, but something possessing her. There were moments where all of a sudden you'd hear Regan's voice or see a glimpse of her and think, "Oh, my gosh, that poor girl is in there somewhere." That, to me, was the most interesting part of the whole movie. It wasn't just a Good vs. Evil fight - it was a fight over a person. It was a fight to make sure they didn't destroy Regan. And that was, for me, where it succeeded the most.

Monday, October 1, 2012

I'm Back (Maybe)! Also Some Stuff About Depression

So, as I mentioned in my previous blog post, I'm in the midst of a depressive... episode? Flare-up? Whatever you want to call it. After about a month off of blogging, I'm feeling the creative urge again and am hoping to resume regular posting. However, I wanted to start off this next batch of posts with a little piece about what depression looks like for me and how I attempt to deal with it.

My depression usually takes the form of anxiety and anhedonia. It's generalized anxiety, so there's nothing specific I can focus on - I just feel a general sense of doom and unpleasantness and like everything is wrong. If I'm dealing with non-depression-based anxiety (which is fairly common for me), it's easy for me to distract myself with a movie or a chat with a friend, and then I feel much better about the whole thing. But if I'm dealing with depression anxiety, nothing I do can fix it. If I try to watch a movie or a TV show, I can't focus on it, and I find my mind drifting off to panic about nothing in particular. Then I get frustrated, try again, and once again can't focus. I feel no better and now have a rising panicky feeling that I won't be able to turn off the anxiety, EVER.

So what do I do about it?

These are a couple of the tricks and coping mechanisms that have worked for me, to keep me functioning.

-I work to allow "mental health days" into my schedule. I figure out how many days are available for me to take off if necessary. Then, if a day comes up in which I am so anxious about my daily responsibilities that it is making me physically sick, I have that time to take off. I allow myself a very limited amount - in school I usually granted myself 2 or 3 a semester (fewer if I was in demanding classes where missing a day would have major repercussions). Sometimes I didn't even use them, but knowing they were there made a difference.

-I cut out most unnecessary social interaction, unless I really feel up to it. Sometimes I feel bad for doing that, as on my days off and in my mornings I hide in my room and may not speak to my housemates all day. However, if I am stressed and only interacting out of obligation, that is not a fun social time for me OR my friends. It's better to hold off until I'm in a better place emotionally.

-I count time in smaller increments. Instead of thinking, "I have to work eight hours today," which may feel overwhelming, I think, "I have to work for two hours, and then I have a break," and I focus on that, pretending that I don't have to return after that. Mentally, I always feel certain that I can power through two hours of something. Two hours is easy, I tell myself over and over again. Usually this at least allows me to get through daily chores on a functional level.

-I become very impulsive. If I have a sudden urge that I want to do something, I tend to go along with it and refuse to allow myself guilt, because I don't know when the next opportunity will arise for me to do something that brings me pleasure. (What with the anhedonia and all.) Do I want to sit in bed all day watching movies and not get up at any point? Then I do that. Do I suddenly really, really, really want Wendy's even though the closest one is an hour away? Then I go. Do I suddenly have an incredible urge to own a certain movie? Then I buy a used copy on Amazon. The small rush I get from doing an occasional "happy making" activity will sometimes carry me through the day, so I act on those impulses whenever possible.

Obviously depression hits people differently, and everyone who has dealt with it has their own bag of mental tricks to fight it, along with medication or therapy, if that is a good option for them. I just wanted to share a little bit of what this looks like in my life, and especially how it has looked for me over the past couple weeks.

Monday, August 27, 2012

TV I Watched This Summer

With this summer drawing to a close and all my fall programs starting to return in the next month or so, I figured I'd share what I've been watching this summer.

Continued From Last Summer
Alphas - A much more interesting superhero show than Heroes, IMHO. The characters are compelling, the psychological aspect of it is fascinating, and the stories are intelligent.

Franklin and Bash - There's very little substance to this show, but it's more light-hearted and fun than most lawyer shows, which get bogged down in serious drama, and the two main characters are great fun.

The Glee Project - This still has my vote for most interesting talent-based competition of all time.

Wilfred - I was shocked this one came back, to be honest. People besides me liked it? I still think this is Elijah Wood's best role. The show's hilarious and irreverent and awkward and occasionally quite moving.

New This Summer
Bunheads - I started watching for Sutton Foster and kept watching for the snappy dialogue and entertaining characters. This show is guaranteed to make me laugh out loud at least two or three times an episode, which is pretty darn impressive for a comedy/drama.

The Newsroom - Aaron Sorkin cannot write female characters to save his life, but the parts of this show set focusing on the actual newsroom are *unbelievably* captivating - the show has not once let me down in that respect.

Perception - Sort of Monklike, except so much more implausible. (EVERYONE in EVERY case appears to have some sort of psychological disorder.) It's Eric McCormack's wonderful portrayal of the main character and my own fondness for psychology-based plots that keep me wrapped up in this one.

What have you guys been watching this summer? What are you most anticipating the return of this fall?

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Some Blog Business

So, confession: I haven't actually written a blog entry in something like 2 1/2 weeks. The last two weeks' worth of blogs were all written in early August and post-dated. I tend to write when I have ideas or inspiration and then post-date so that if I have a quiet Wednesday and don't feel like writing a blog post RIGHT THIS SECOND even though I'm supposed to, I haven't abandoned my audience.

However, it's been a quiet couple of weeks.

There are a few reasons for this.

1) I started a job, worked there for 3 weeks, and then got a better one which I began on Monday, so my schedule's been a bit wonky and I've been losing track of blogging responsibilities. Also, the person whose phone I use to connect to the Internet has changed work schedules and started going to school full time, so I get Internet connectivity less.

2) I've had a bit of writers' block. Nothing's really coming to mind that I want to write about. (If any of you have ideas of things you want to see me talk about or respond to, feel free to throw them out there. I would totally do readers' choice blogs.)

3) I may be going through a bit of depression. I've never been clinically diagnosed and I've never been suicidal, so I'm sometimes hesitant to use the word "depression" - I don't want to be one of those people who just assumes that because they feel a little sad, they must be depressed - but every now and then I hit a patch of inconsolable sadness, anxiety and fear/resentment of the world around me. Sometimes it lasts a couple weeks, which would put me near the end of it now. Sometimes it lasts months. I haven't had a major attack in a couple of years, so I don't know how this one is going to hit me. One of the results, though, is that I frequently lose focus and energy for non-essential activities. Writing is usually at the top of the list. I blog and write and journal less when I'm depressed. (It can be cathartic, so I sometimes try to push myself to write *more*, but that's not always successful.)

So, all that to say... If my blog's a little sporadic for a while, it could be one of those reasons. I will do my best to get back on track and have *something* up for you most schedule days (routines are good! Schedules are good!) but if I don't, it's probably related to one of those three reasons.

To close out this rather boring entry, here's a silly video!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Musical Spotlight: The Music Man

In my last musical spotlight blog, I promised you something a little less poppy in the next one. I decided to go all the way back to what is probably my favorite classic musical - The Music Man, with music and lyrics by Meredith Willson. I love pretty much everything about this musical. I love the music, I love the lyrics, I love the story, I love the dancing, and I especially love the 1962 movie version with Robert Preston reprising the title role he played on Broadway. There's a 2003 TV version as well, but that stars Matthew Broderick, whose charisma seems to have been cut in half every year since Ferris Bueller. Although I dearly love Kristin Chenoweth as Marian, the title character has all the best songs, and if he's not wonderful, the show doesn't come together. So don't bother watching the new one - if you're going to watch this movie, look for the original.

All right. Now on to a few of my very favorite songs. (It was HARD to cut this one down.)

1. Rock Island
A brilliantly original opening number that gives us a nice amount of exposition. A group of traveling salesmen on a train complain about how life is difficult for a traveling salesman these days, and how a lot of it is due to a con man named Harold Hill who poses as a traveling salesmen selling boys' bands. (We learn later that "he don't know one note from another" - he simply collects money for dues, uniforms, and lessons, and then skips town.)

The song is spoken in rhythm instead of sung - in the rhythm of the train they're riding. The words move fast, following the chugchugchugchug pattern of the moving train. And let me tell you, this is one VERY satisfying number to sing along to. Or talk along to. Or whatever.

2. Ya Got Trouble
OK, I just finished rewatching this to write about it, and I can't stop smiling. Robert Preston is incredible in this role.

Anyway, on to the song: Traveling salesman Harold Hill shows up in the tiny town of River City, Iowa, and knows that before he can start peddling his wares, he needs to create the illusion that this town is in deep trouble and that only a boys' band can save it. In a very TV evangelist kind of way, he latches onto the new pool table the town has just gotten and manages in the span of about 3 minutes to convince the entire town that "that game with the 15 numbered balls is the devil's tool."

This song, like Rock Island, is mostly spoken in rhythm (I swear this musical does have some actual singing in it). I love how quickly the words go by, certainly imitating the slick, fast-paced talk of an experienced con man, who knows that the more he keeps talking, the less time people have to process what he said and find the holes in it.

3. Seventy-Six Trombones
In this song, Hill riles up the River City citizens about the pool table again at a city meeting and then jumps in as the hero, painting with this song an image of a patriotic, healthy community bonding together over their band, if they'll only let him save them all. He manages to get the entire town up and dancing around and through the streets with imaginary instruments. Only the town librarian Marian Paroo is not taken in by Hill's slick charm and vivid imagination, and when the mayor gushes about how great their band is, she calmly responds, "What band?"

I think this is the song that captures for me what I love most about this movie and, really, about musicals in general. Hill is a storyteller, a picture painter. He grabs people's hearts by helping them imagine what *could* be, and then convinces them he can make that happen. When he's accompanied by actual music with brassy instrumentation and dance sequences, it's just as infectious an image for me as an audience member. I don't even *like* brass bands or community activities, and yet I find this song engaging, inspiring, and kinda wish I was there.

Embedding disabled, but you can watch this clip here.

4. Marian the Librarian
Another one I can't stop smiling at. In this one, Hill goes to the library to... well, not quite seduce Marian, as it is a very public place, but he definitely wants to win her over to his way of thinking. And while it doesn't work entirely, she does let her guard down and allows herself to enjoy even something as forbidden as tap dancing in the library.

Admittedly, while this song is *really* sexual harrassment-y, I really like it. It's another song that very smartly uses rhythm - it incorporates organic, context-driven sounds into the music (for example, the stamping of the library books and the other library patrons shushing). Its varying in volume is context-driven, as well; the singing keeps rising to non-library-approved standard and must be brought back down again.

Random fact: When I was like eleven, I took my movie soundtrack, took the first "a" sound in "Marian," looped it for like a minute and inserted it back into its place in the song, just because it was hilarious to me to hear him sing "Maaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarian," like he'd forgotten what the end of his word was.

To my great distress, there is no available video of this song (why is this one taken down for copyright and none of the others are? Hmm), just audio. But here is the audio:

5. 'Til There Was You
I figured I should include not just Harold Hill songs, and I've recently grown to really love this song, sung by Marian to Hill at the end of the show. When I was younger, I dismissed it as being too generic, but rewatching it this time, I realize it's actually *very* specific to the situation. There are a lot of songs that sing about "you opened my eyes to the beauty around me," but that is EXACTLY what Harold Hill does for this town. The town grows to love Hill not just because he's charismatic and they yearn for his approval - they grow to love him because he (perhaps inadvertently) teaches them how to love their own lives. He brings music and community and adventure to them.

Also, this song is just really pretty. The Beatles covered it, but it was less pretty then and more cheerful.

Overall, The Music Man has a smart, funny script, great songs, a very satisfying story, and, if you watch the original movie version, some really fantastic performances. I think I might stick with the older musicals for awhile and explore a few of my other favorites in the next couple spotlights. I have a tendency to lean toward newer musicals stylistically, but there really are some wonderful ones from pre-rock opera days. And the nice thing is, most of my favorites are available as movies, since they were all about musical movies back then.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Seriously, ChaCha, What?

I had been watching the latest episode of Alphas, saw Zak Penn listed as co-creator, and suddenly felt like that name was familiar. I wondered if there was anything else I knew him from. The following text exchange ensued.

Me: Who is Zak Penn?

ChaCha: Zak Krug is on Facebook. Facebook gives people the power to share and makes the world more open and connected.

Me: What has Zak Penn done on TV?

ChaCha: Could you please specify who "She" is? If you do that ChaCha would love to tell you what "she" has done on TV!

Me: Tell me what Zak Penn has done on TV.

ChaCha: The institutions that are responsible for local government within states are typical town,... For more go to [a link]

Me: Wow. Clearly nobody's even reading my question. You people suck sometimes. This is not difficult to google. Look up Zak Penn on IMDb & tell me about him.

ChaCha: KeVontae Hairlson attends Henderson County's High School and plays basketball on the basketball team. He wears the number 4.

Me: I. Hate. You.

ChaCha: I don't hate you. Thank you for using ChaCha!

Me: Then answer my question. Who is Zak Penn?

ChaCha: We found millions of A's but not to that Q.

Me: Zak Penn

ChaCha: Zak Penn wrote, and directed Incident at Loch Ness, and The Grand. He also co-wrote the script for X-Men: The Last Stand.

Me: THANK YOU. See, that wasn't so difficult. You just have to not be dumb.

ChaCha: Thank you. Can I help you with another question?

Me: HAHAHAHA. Nope. I'm done asking you guys for answers. It shouldn't take me 8 tries to get a simple answer.

ChaCha: Then ask how do you do this math problem

Me: LOL LOL whaaat? That response didn't even make sense. That was so dumb I can't even tell if you're a lazy expeditor or a horrible automatic search.

ChaCha: Yo mama's so fat when she wears a yellow raincoat, people said "Taxi! All Hail Chacha!

(Yeah, there's no close quote on it. The joke loses some effect if the people are hailing ChaCha...)

Me: ...OK, this is all going on my blog as proof of how much you suck.

ChaCha: I'm sorry those services aren't provided by ChaCha and are illegal in the State I work in. Thanks for asking though.

Me: ...You live someplace where blogs are illegal?

ChaCha: I personally don't blog at webblog but if you're interesting in blogging about something you're passionate about, give it a try!

Wow. Just... wow. Seriously, I wouldn't think people are even working on these questions anymore, except for the fact that the answers are *so* bad that an automatic search would almost certainly do better. It takes a human to screw up this terribly.