Thursday, November 25, 2010

BOB Challenge #5: Thanksgiving (subtitle: The Beauty of Time)

I'm thankful for a lot of things. Too many to even begin writing down, although I've had this idea circulating in my head of a giant board where I can take colorful sharpies and marker in all the things I'm thankful for, whenever they spring into mind. The inspiration came from hearing about a friend who just does this to an entire wall in his room - I thought it was really awesome, but if I'm moving out of my parents' house in the next year or so, I won't be able to take that wall with me.

Anyway, I wasn't intending for this to be a really long post. I just wanted to talk about one thing that has popped up in my head recently, and that is the idea of time, and all its benefits. I've just begun to watch this 4 part sermon about time and how we use it, and one thing I thought was interesting was this statement: (in summary) Time generally seems to go by faster the older you are. The pastor comically explained that this is why Christmas always seems so far away when you're a kid, but as an adult, you feel like you never get a break from the holidays. I concurred with this statement, thinking about how I definitely felt the time fly by since I graduated high school. I used to fret about how fast a year would go by without anything significant happening ... specifically, for example, a relationship. But I'm just kinda used to that by now, and I have to remind myself that it sounds a lot longer than it actually is, so it's really not even a big deal. 

Back to the benefits of time. And relationships. People say time heals a broken heart, and it's a crucial part of getting over somebody. No comment on that per se, but what I do want to bring attention to is how crucial time is in letting go of grudges. Grudges actually isn't a great word to use, because it implies an insufficient reason for holding them. More like ... hurt feelings, caused by legitimate quarrels with or insults from people you care about. In the past relevant chunk of my life, I've had some issues that left me really really pissed at some friends, enough so that I didn't talk to them for a while. One in particular sort of ruined an entire friendship for a year, which is slowly being built back up again without intense discussion of said serious issue. 

In these situations, you have all this anger inside you for what that person did, and the function of time is to help that anger slowly go away. This is because the longer it has been since the anger-inducing incident, the more the memory has faded. It's not like you've just forgotten what they've done, but for one, you've become used to it, and two, the painful details aren't so fresh anymore. Just like a flesh wound is worse at the beginning when the senses are so stimulated from all the exposure to contact with foreign substances. 

When I lay this out in words, it seems like a no-duh type of thing, but the reason I'm fascinated by it is because without me realizing it, time has helped me begin to forget those initially hurt feelings and open up to my friends again. It doesn't erase what they did, but it softens my heart enough to let them back into my life, even if it's in bits and pieces. Is this the meaning of forgiveness? The word hadn't even crossed my mind until now, but it's worth pondering. I'll have to go spend some more TIME on that one. 

To sum up this post in one simple sentence (and to point out the actual relation to the topic of this week's challenge):  One thing I'm unexpectedly thankful for at this point in my life is the healing properties of time. Which I don't think is a coincidence of the design of the universe. So thanks, God. 

(sorry readers who may be annoyed/offended by that 
religious reference. I couldn't help myself.)

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Applause for "Speak Now"

Dare I attempt to voice my opinions on the music of Taylor Swift? I feel like I'm about to step onto a minefield where any small move I make will cause a sudden explosion, in the form of someone reacting to what I say that they don't agree with. Depending on the person, this could leave me in a bad mood, but what it comes down to is this: I have a strong feeling about this new album, and whether it be positive or negative, at least it's something to write about. And honestly, lately I've been having a hard time with that.

Fact: There are two kinds of people in this world - those who love T-Swizzle, and those who hate her. Anyone in the middle needs to reveal himself to me, because I know of no such case. If you wanted to be picky, we could say there are people who like her music but don't like her, but I'm not concerned with that at this point. I've been pro-Taylor for a while, and her new album Speak Now just further confirmed that standpoint for me.

In trying to discover why everybody loves her music, I've decided it's because her lyrics always tell a story. Lessons on effective arguing always teach you that one of the biggest persuasive techniques is appeal to emotion, especially with examples. Every one of Taylor's songs is either a love story or a broken heart story, and everybody can relate to that - whether it be from personal experience, or a dream harbored deep in our hearts with the rest of our hopeless romantic insecurities. Instead of confusing strings of poetic language like many of the more artistic/emotional song-writers create (emo music, for example), Taylor writes with naturally spoken phrases that are easy to understand. Less of the unclear, abstract feelings, more of the detailing what happens in situations that affect her life. The little things like seeing a charming boy across the room (by whom she is "Enchanted"), the first time another put his arm around her by the water ("Mine"), or the tiny hand of an infant wrapped around her finger as she puts her to bed ("Never Grow Up"). These details paint pictures in the mind of listeners, which forge the way for emotional connections to be made.

Besides the narrative lyrics that everybody can comprehend and relate to, a few witty rhymes are thrown in as well, such as on "Better Than Revenge": "She's not a saint and she's not what you think, she's an actress. She's better known for the things she does on the mattress." In the imaginative scene about interrupting a wedding to save the man she loves from marrying the wrong girl ("Speak Now"), Taylor sweetly croons in her innocent voice all her humorous and biting commentary about the bride: "I sneak in and see your friends and her snotty little family all dressed in pastel, and she is yelling at a bridesmaid somewhere back inside a room wearing a gown shaped like a pastry." It's funny because such remarks should be spouted from a grumpy voice, but instead they're sung brightly from the optimistic, Disney-esque Taylor who is angelic as always. And have I mentioned how cute "Mean" is, where the tone reminds me of an 8 year old version of myself or any other vulnerable girl sticking her tongue out at an offensive comment?

Back to that voice of hers - who could criticize the aesthetic appeal? Couple it with the simple guitar chords and varied, beautiful melodies that she impressively puts together herself (starting at such a young age, too), the sheer sound of her music is just pleasing to the ear. And to anyone who says all her songs sound the same, I say you need to listen to a couple more - besides the normal bubbly love songs, "Dear John" is a slow and beautiful ballad of heartbreak, while I personally heard a strikingly Paramore-like influence on "Haunted." On the first few listens, anyway. And those were just the ones I found that strayed from the norm the most; by no means do the other 12 songs follow one similar pattern. Taylor's producers also know just the right amount of subtle pop additives to complement the basic structure of every song. Kind of like how make up is said to enhance beauty, not create it. The harmonic back-up sections are not necessary, but they enhance the already present beauty of a song.

Some fun I've had with this album is attempting to pin every one of her public relationships to at least one song, using the small hints provided in the lyrics. "Back to December" (which I LOVE) is obviously about Taylor Lautner, while the only one "Dear John" could be about is John Mayer. If you watched the VMA's this year, you know "Innocent" was directed towards Kanye West, but I also think "Mean" could have been, too. I admire her for having the guts to release these raw emotions willingly to the public, knowing full well they'll figure out who the lyrics are about. It's one thing to put your love stories out there, but when they're not anonymous anymore, that's just risky territory.

I sometimes feel like I'm intruding on Taylor's diary, which is maybe another reason fans like her so much - she trusts us. I've read facebook statuses of people saying things like "Taylor Swift knows exactly how to put into words the events of my life!" so obviously there is a great deal of common experiences. I haven't even had that many relationships in my life yet, but I know many songs that I felt were direct representations of my own thoughts. It's just annoying that she can put them into song form so well, whereas I don't even have enough talent to ATTEMPT such a feat.

Conclusion: Two thumbs up, a round of applause, cheers, hats off . . .  to Taylor Swift's 2010 album Speak Now. Shannon is a very satisfied consumer.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Lacking Excitement: A New List

Dear Shannon:

You must find more inspiration to write in your blog. You've made this thing a commitment! It would seem as if you've fallen into a routine of life where everything is the same every week and those things are fun but just aren't compelling enough to blog about. Since you've slowed down on the 20s List, here are some more activities I (your other half) have thought about doing to spice up your (our) life in order to have more things to write about - or just to keep things interesting.

  • take a cold shower
  • send flowers to somebody
  • drive somewhere new and explore
  • memorize all the tic tac toe strategies
  • carve something in a tree
  • write my last will and testament
  • eat authentic indian food
  • do everything with my left hand for a day
  • compose a poem and leave it in a public place
  • write a letter to the future
  • duct tape someone to the wall
  • turn a sidewalk into a gameboard
  • decorate someone's car
  • send a postcard

If you don't heed my advice, you'll just have to start forcing posts about school subjects or something boring like that. So hop to it.

Dear Readers: If you can think of other random fun things to do like these written here, your suggestions would be much appreciated!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

BOB Challenge 4: Voting in Non-Presidential Elections

So ... recently there have been some elections going on. I don't pay attention to politics yet, for the most part. I couldn't even tell you who was running for what, that's how much I am oblivious to what's going on around me. It's pretty disgusting, I know. I have faith that as I mature and grow older, these things will become important to me. I'll end up watching the news on my own when I move out, and seeking information about political candidates once I know what my own views are, thus allowing me to judge who I think would best lead our country/state/whatever. 

I'm not going to be an ignorant, irresponsible citizen as an adult, but right now I'm not ready to take on the task of voting. For a few weeks my school was campaigning to get as many people registered to vote as possible. It was a competition between other schools in the area, meaning it didn't matter if the people who registered knew what they were even doing - a circumstance that was probably magnified due to the fact that your name was entered into a drawing for some rad prizes if you registered. It was just a game of numbers. I didn't want to partake in registering, or voting for that matter, if I knew that I have absolutely no knowledge of the matters at hand. It would be IRresponsible of me to randomly put a check mark by the name of the person that I think had the coolest name, or the one that ended up winning the Eenie Meenie game. I know people who have done that! It sickens me to think that might happen on a large level with more serious things like the actual presidential elections. I feel no shame in walking by that table and politely refusing the registration opportunity, because I will not vote until I am informed enough to know what I'm doing, and the consequences of my actions. Sure, one silly vote that wasn't intended to mean anything won't throw an election, but if enough people do that in college when they all they really care about is ... well, college, then I'm really worried about the state of our election system. 

One thing I DID vote in, that was non-presidential (keeping with the theme of the post), was which cover of our school's literary magazine I liked best. Those things are easy, take 5 seconds, and help better represent the student population's opinion if everyone took their time to do it. For now I'll stick with that - sharing my voice on what I can surely form my own opinions on, the things that have to do with what I'm experiencing in my life right now: School! I'm not ready to be an adult yet; however, I will get there in time. 

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Post on the Roller Derby

Yup, that's what I did last night. Thanks to an assignment for anthropology class (which didn't make much sense to me), I got to experience the thrill of witnessing the intense championship game between two local teams in my area. Something I never thought I'd get around to doing otherwise. It's just one of those things that either is or is not on your list, and for some reason it never occurred to me that I would enjoy going to the roller derby, but I'm bummed now that I didn't have it on my 20s List to cross off.

I'd only ever seen footage of what a roller derby looks like from trailers for that one show that Ellen Page is in and that Drew Barrymore directed. I wanted to see it, and I do even more now. Going into the game (with m good friend KC!), I knew absolutely nothing about how it's played, just that a bunch of crazily-dressed girls skate around in circles and beat each other up at the same time. Turns out there actually is a point, though, and strategy is involved, and it gets pretty physical.

An excerpt from Wikipedia:

"Contemporary roller derby is an American-invented contact sport with roots in sports entertainment. The game is based on formation roller skating around an oval track by two teams. Points are scored as the designated scoring player (the "jammer") of both teams each laps members of the opposing team, including its "blockers,"[1] hence offense and defense typically occur simultaneously.[2][3]"

So pretty much one person scores points during each round for their team by lapping the most people from the opposing team. Many tactics are used to prevent this from happening, which lead to rough tumbles and ripped tights and many bruises. Referees are constantly in the middle of the track following the "jammers" and keeping track of who's in the lead and how many people they've passed. It's a demanding job, as they have to simultaneously loop around their inner circle to keep up with the girls they're tracking, usually while displaying their status (lead or non-lead) with arm/hand signals.

The game started out slow, making it pretty easy to get a hold of how the rules worked. The second half picked up quite a bit though: Shoving started much earlier on in the rounds, more people were getting penalties and sent to time out, larger point tallies were being wracked up each time, and it was never a guarantee of who would win. During the last minute and a half, the teams were 118-110 (the team we were rooting for being the losers at this point), where previously there had been 30+ point differences that left you wondering if there was even hope. But like I said, things got intense and sometimes a team would earn 20 points at a time. The very last round started out great until the jammer on our team fell to the ground and lost a wheel on her skate, which forced her to basically forfeit trying to get any points. She sat on the side while the opposing team's jammer wracked up 20-something points, and furthered their score to win the game. The crowd was heartbroken.

At the end of the night, we obviously were very excited about the turnout of the game, but there was reason to be excited even before it started. If it's your first time, the atmosphere is definitely fun to soak in, as you will find obvious that it's not your typical contact sport. These girls are decked out in funky tights, usually bootie shorts or a short skirt (tutu optional), glitter and/or heavy make up, plus all their protective gear covering their heads, elbows, knees, and teeth (mouthguards are a must). Each skater has a unique name on her jersey that usually plays on words to make either a provocative or intimidatingly aggressive nickname. Examples are Babe Ruthless, Iron Butterfly, Katie Karnage, or Mudd Girl (even the referees have names!) Basically, if it's anything a normal person would be embarrassed to wear on their back, it could be seen as the moniker of a derby doll.

The variety of girls participating in roller derbies seems to be greater than your average sport. Size and age seem to be the most varied factors - this is definitely not something that limits players to having a Barbie physique, which made me happy. Heavier girls proudly strut their stuff in what a lot of women are too scared to wear in public, and skinny minnies can do the same.

What I was surprised to notice was the amount of calmness that resided in each team despite the fighting nature of the sport. When they're out on the track, everyone is trying to push the others down, or one-up them by sneaking up from behind and gaining the lead. Even when the more aggressive maneuvers lead to big falls and penalties, the teams always kept their cool and left the anger on the track. KC and I sat very close to the team's sitting areas, and never heard or saw any shouts or expressions of hatred. They play fair and respect the other teams, which I respect and admire, even though naturally I think people tend to be attracted to violence.

All in all I'm not as upset as I was before about spending $12 to go to the roller derby. I'd definitely do it again, when it's not required for a school assignment, and I'm still hoping I get to see that movie sometime.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Life Lessons (The Meaningful Ones)

It's been a while since I posted last, so I felt obligated to write today. Nothing has inspired me though, enough to share with people on my blog anyway, so I resorted to a random writing prompt generator on the internet.

What is the greatest lesson you've learned so far in your life?

Good freaking question. I'd first have to say that I'm kind of young and I haven't learned a whole lot of lessons so far, relative to what I'm sure will come in the next many decades of my life. The majority of things I've been learning in these first 19 years is factual information, due to this mandatory thing called schooling, and then my willful continuation into higher education. 

Learning life lessons comes from what you experience, mainly with hardships, relationships, and Pirate ships. Just kidding. But so far my count on the first two is kind of low in my opinion. Nothing traumatic has happened to me yet, nor have I fallen deeply in love and known what I wanted out of my future. But at the same time that doesn't mean that what I have experienced meant any less because it doesn't carry the same magnitude. When you're a teenager, the highlight of your day might be a really brief conversation with a boy you like. It takes over your mind and you'll end up thinking about that person till you fall asleep, and maybe even then some. In adulthood, those menial things happen everyday and bigger stuff takes over. So I feel like whatever I may have to say about my life so far will pale in comparison to the wisdom held by my elders. 

So let's try to get a good list going here, of what I HAVE learned. A lot of it sums up to what used to be my motto of "Expect the worst and you'll never get let down." Always. For a while in a darker period of my life it seemed that whenever I had something to look forward to, things somehow always went awry and I ended up in a very lonely place. I couldn't ever have hope in a budding friendship because something would come along and ruin it. I couldn't look forward to a planned gathering too much because I'd have this grand idea of how perfect everything would be, and reality would have it that actually it turned out to be a boring, uncomfortable ordeal that made me feel foolish for being enthusiastic about something. This still happens to me, but not to the same extent. Maybe it's because of a changed outlook on life that I haven't noticed but just somehow took over. Or maybe I've just been particularly blessed with this past year of my life. I don't know. One thing I do know is that if I had answered this question a year or two ago, it would have been a misery-filled response that sounded like I never got to experience joy, and that's not true. 

Another thought just popped into my head, that maybe all the important things I've been learning lately aren't exactly life lessons, they are just about ME. Figuring out who I am: what I value, what things attract me, what I disrespect or am apathetic about, what makes me the most satisfied. Those kinds of things. And I'm not talking about my favorite food or movie genre, I'm talking about deep stuff. Such as ... am I the type of person that obtains fulfillment from a successful career or from relationships? I think I've already got a good feel for this one, and I'm sure it will just become more and more clear the older I become. On the other hand though, I know that nobody is ever dominated by one trait over another, which leads me to another thing I've learned, which is the importance of balance.

Balance can be applied to many aspects of life. In that previous example, it means that I can receive fulfillment from both work AND relationships. I, and most people, will have a preference, but that doesn't mean the other is irrelevant. Balance is important in what pleasures you allow yourself in life - everything in moderation, right? Eat balanced meals. Don't become addicted to anything. Exercise on a regular basis. Such statements are self explanatory. You should also have balance in the priorities which take over your time. I see a lot of people my age becoming way too bogged down by school, or work, or both. It creates a large amount of stress when you don't even have time to relax and hang out with friends. Speaking of friends, balance applies here too, as you should not get caught in the delusion that you are best friends with multiple groups of people and not put enough effort into maintaining those relationships. Further, balance the tools you use to make decisions - do not put everything all on your heart or your head, but consider logic and emotion in every situation. 

All of the sudden all these ideas keep coming to mind! Never assume you know everything and that your opinion cannot change. It's good to have opinions, but always be open to learning and questioning and absorbing new information. The more you know about all sides of a topic, the more fine-tuned and responsible your opinion IS. 

Don't tell someone you love them unless you're sure of it. This is the item on the list that doesn't belong, it feels a bit out of place, but I had to say it. Continuing on.  

The Golden Rules works wonders in any situation. As long as you take into consideration the fact that some people might prefer a different outcome than you. For example, you feel most cared about when people express their interest through words and encouragement, whereas others might resonate more with significant actions displaying affection. Anyway, the point is to think of others and not be selfish all the time. 

And for me, personally, faith in God. Is very important. And I will stop at that.