Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Hipster Christianity

I recently read an interesting article in Relevant magazine called "The Gospel According to Hipsters" by Brett McCracken. It was very thought-provoking and balanced, I thought. Although I doubt many of us would consider ourselves hipsters, I think most twenty-something Christians are influenced by hipster culture. I can see so many "hipster" characteristics in me, my friends, and other people my age. We can't get away from it, unless we're willing to give up our coffee shop hang-outs and thrift-store scarves.

First of all, here's a (very) brief sketch of hipster culture, if you're wondering what it is. Hipsters are 20 to 30-somethings that tend to dislike anything mainstream. They like indie music, obscure, artsty films, vintage or thrift-store clothing (fashion is a big deal), coffee shops, tea on cloudy days, fresh vegetables from farmer's markets, old-fashioned bikes, etc. They want to show their individuality above all and like to be a little rebellious. They also want to be well-read in literature, philosophy, art, etc. Finally, they pride themselves in being globally aware. Travelling is a big deal, and it's even better if they can go off the beaten track and see more "authentic" sights. Hostels beat out hotels, and they wouldn't be caught dead on a tour bus. See? How many of these things relate to you? All of these things influence their faith.

There are a lot of good things that comes with hipster Christianity, and not just the plethora of tea flavors. As McCracken writes, hipsters can find joy in the little things in life and really appreciate beauty. They rejoice in many parts of God's creation like red suspenders or great conversations. These are great qualities, since we shouldn't take the good things in our lives for granted. They also care about beauty and and appreciate well-crafted things, often wanting to incorporate this into worship or church. They also tend to be thinkers and love conversing about new ideas and how they can find God in culture. All of this is awesome.

Another great thing about hipsters is that they generally care about justice and helping the downtrodden. They are trying to meet a need that hasn't always been met by mainstream churches. Bring on the free-trade coffee and TOMS! Mcracken also points out that they tend to embrace the revolutionary side of the Gospel. Since they're into being counterculture anyway, they bring that to their faith. They aren't afraid of being different; they revel in it.

I also think that hipsters can change some of the negative attitudes people have about Christianity as well as reach out to their friends through their shared interests. When people watch TBN and see the ladies with blue hair crying mascara all over their face, they tend to be repulsed. Hipsters are living examples that not all Christians are like that. Christians can be young and thoughtful and artistic. Besides, they relate well to non-Christians our age. Instead of going door-to-door to talk about their faith, they can do it in the context of relationships while talking about art or movies. I have had many awesome conversations about God that come up when talking about books. It's natural to talk to your friends about things that mean a lot to you, and it doesn't feel like proselytizing.

Besides all of this, hipsters are just people. While internally Christians have a lot in common, we come from all walks of life. Yuppies, trash-truck drivers, fisherman, punks, politicians, homeless people, CEOs, and goths all belong in the faith. Hipsters are just one branch of the family.

Of course, as with everything, there can be some pitfalls that Christian hipsters can fall into. These are things that I often see myself struggling with. Rampant individualism is one problem that most American Christians struggle with, but I think it can be even worse for hipsters. Individualism isn't necessarily bad, but it can lead to a me-first attitude. It can also inhibit our ability to serve. Instead of asking how we can serve in a church, we ask how the church can serve us.

The coolness factor is the biggest pitfall for hipsters, I think. As McCracken points out, the problem with the obsession with coolness is that it alianates people and promotes pride. Sure, hipsters get along well with other young, cool people, but what about others? Would they be friends with a soccer mom? What about the people that like cheesy praying hands banners or WWJD bracelets? And people who shop at American Eagle? Or those who actually like contemporary Christian music? Even if they would be willing to include "uncool" people, would their attitudes be too intimidating for others? Most hipster churches have awesome music, smart people, and good coffee, but they also tend to be pretty homogeneous. Christianity is about accepting all people, whether they're cool or not.

Pride is also a huge problem, as it comes easily. We don't have cheesy services. We know what's going on in the world, unlike those small-minded bumpkins. What? You like Michael W. Smith? And Taylor Swift? Well I like the Radiating Space Monkeys. You probably haven't heard of them.
I know that this is something I struggle with. There's nothing wrong with wanting quality things, but I shouldn't look down on others because they like different things. After all, what do we really have to be proud of? Sure, maybe we're cool according to the standards of this world, but God looks at the heart. That's what matters.

So go ahead, have fun at farmer's markets and enjoy great music. But be careful about how these things affect you and don't forget what our priorities should be. Where is our money going? Are you obsessed with fashion (even if it's cheap)? How much time to do you spend on things that really won't matter in the long run?

Once again, I congratulate you if you've made it to the end of this very long post. Go buy yourself a free-trade hazelnut latte and read some War and Peace.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Music Monday: They Might Be Giants

I just like this band's name: They Might Be Giants. Simply awesome.

Anyway, awhile ago I was talking to a friend about them, and he asked me what song I liked. According to his theory, everyone has one They Might Be Giants song that they really like, and they usually can't stand any of the others. I'll buy that theory.

Although I haven't listened to everything they've done, I do know that I only liked one song that I listened to. In fact, the reason I didn't listen to more of their songs is because I didn't like so many of them. After ten awful songs, why set yourself up for more pain?

But the song of theirs that I DO like, Istanbul not Constantinople, is quite stupendous. I'm crazy about it. It has fun music and unusual, quirky lyrics. It is also easily lodged in my brain and will begin blaring when I least expect it. Here's the link so you can enjoy the music and its accompanying Loony Toons cartoon.

Now the question is, what is your They Might Be Giants song?

Friday, September 24, 2010

Mid-Autumn Festival

Wednesday night was the Mid-Autumn Festival. Although the festival is on Wednesday, Thursday is the day off work so everyone can recover from the night before. During the holiday you're supposed to eat moon cakes (just google them; they're too hard to explain) carry a lantern around. Also, Wednesday is supposed to be the moon-watching time.

Well, Wednesday night I went over to Victoria Park at about 10:30 to see the festivities. They had all sorts of huge lantern displays, as well as some singers and a fiery dragon dance. There were a lot of people there, and most of the Chinese people were carrying hand-held lanterns. Most were made out of paper with varying degrees of elaborateness, and some of the little kids had plastic cartoon character lanterns. I even saw a Stitch lantern.

Here's some of the pictures I took. I love my new camera!

Walking in.

I love these hanging lanterns.

Goldfish are considered lucky.

Funny, but cute.

I thought these were pretty awesome. And remember, they were all bigger than me.

I got a random person to take my picture.

This was pretty elaborate and awesome.

Anyway, it was fun times. Although I've probably had enough mooncakes to last me for a couple of months.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

On Aging

I just found out that one of the ladies in my Colorado church died a couple of weeks ago. One of my mom's friends sent her a program from her funeral, or "Celebration of Life." She was 87 when she died. She was always one of those nice church ladies that would say hi to me on Sunday mornings, and I didn't think much else about her or her life. After reading the program, I was hit by two things.

First, it made me think about how we view elderly people. In her obituary, it talked about how she had been a model, founded a school of modeling, staged fashion productions, coordinated the Miss Colorado Springs pageant, and trained several national and international contestants. I was pretty surprised to read that. Of course older people have pasts, but it's hard to think of one of those nice church ladies as being a model and fashionista.

Sure, we care about our own grandparents, great-uncles and aunts, and old family friends, but what about other older people in our churches and neighborhoods? Do we try to get to know them or are we just focused on the people our own age? Maybe we're missing out on opportunities to be friends with people who are different from ourselves. I think that most of the time, younger people need to be the initiators in those kinds of relationships. Often older people don't want to "bother" young people but would really love to talk to us or have some honorary grandkids. I mean, have you ever invited an older person over for dinner? If so, awesome! If not, maybe you should try it sometime.

The other issue that came to mind was aging gracefully. All of us hope, even assume, that we will age gracefully. When we're old, we'll be the cool ones. We'll be the ones that will still go on road trips, fly overseas, go on adventures. A friend and I have had several conversations about how we'll be cool grandmas. We'll live next door to each other and feed neighborhood children cookies and maybe even have wheel-chair races. We don't talk about possible Alzheimer's or feebleness or children that could ignore us. We don't want that.

Included in the program was a poem that the lady wrote before she died. I hope she wouldn't mind that I re-publish it here, because I really want you all to read it. It's a little long, but worth it, I think.


Growing old is what is talked about
With friends I see each day,
We're continually faced with dreaded changes
That seem to happen along the way.

But what has happened to the way I'd planned,
To grow old gracefully and with a smile?
I planned to be serene and all together
And to always do it with great style!

The changes would be only for others
Only THEY would get an unsteady gait
Only THEIR hands would quiver when writing
And wrinkles would be only THEIR fate.

I was sure I'd keep my figure
Cause I wanted to always look great
And not stoop or change my posture
There'd be no negative on MY plate.

But then came the grim reality, and
Finally I had to face the cold hard fact...
That at eighty seven I AM growing old
And it's getting harder to fight back.

But inside my heart cries, "Please understand!
I don't mean to stagger when I walk,
I'd rather my hands not shake holding yours,
And I'd like to be fluent when I talk.

"I'd love it if my voice would stay strong,
And if I could still sing on key;
I'd love to dance, if I could
Cause that youth inside is STILL me."

It's that youth that is still of my choosing.
So my heart won't get wrinkled and gray!
Inside, in my dreams, I can still dance and sing,
And, I'm gonna love my life each step of the way.

I think this sentiment is important for us to remember. Right now, it's unthinkable for us that we'll be out of touch, that we'll go deaf, that we won't be able to dance. That's something that we will all have to face eventually. We should have compassion, not impatience, for those who walk more slowly than us or take a long time at a check-out line. That will be us someday.

Also, what she wrote at the end of the poem is so important. Maybe they wish that they could still go on adventures. Wouldn't that be frustrating to be limited by your own body, to have to give up things you love? Just like us, they want to have fun, to laugh, to love others. Even if a body changes, that doesn't mean the spirit does. Maybe we have more in common than we think.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Music Monday: Rainy Day Melodies

There's not much of Monday left, for me at least. You know what's funny? I didn't listen to music all day. Even though I LOVE music, every once in awhile (in a LONG while) I go through a no-music phase. Once, my junior year of college, I didn't listen to music for three weeks! THREE WEEKS! That's pretty major for me. Needless to say, I'm feeling rather uninspired for Music Monday.

I did try to think about it. The one thing that did interest me was rain music. It seems to me that most people have a certain kind of music that they like to listen to when it's raining. Right now we're at a Typhoon 3 watch (which means a typhoon is near and could come close) so there's lots of rain that comes with the proximity of the typhoon. I have a very bad habit of forgetting my umbrella when I go out. If it's a nice day, I definitely don't want to take it; I hate the extra weight it adds to my purse. But when there's a typhoon nearby, the clouds are dark, and my father warned me that very morning to take an umbrella, I don't have much of an excuse.

I went to work to observe a class, and I got a little wet on the way in. On the way back to the mini-bus, the rains were bordering torrential. I finally broke and bought a cheap, purple umbrella. I hate to be TOO wet when I usually have to share a seat with someone on the mini-bus.

I finally made it to the mini-bus stop and waited in a line that stretched in front of a children's shoe store, a maternity fashion store, a 7-11, and a BBQ restaurant with roasted duck carcasses (complete with feet and bills) hanging in the window. When the bus finally came, I was, happily, one of the last people to fit on the bus.

On the way home, I kept thinking about rain music. What is my rain music? Rain generally makes me feel more mellow, and I like melancholy mellow music. I would choose Gary Jules' "Mad World", an oldie but a goodie. Also, I recently came across some of Demon Hunter's acoustic versions of songs that are quite wonderful. Even a friend who is a mellow/folk music enthusiast liked the Demon Hunter songs, so no worries! Here's some links, if you care to listen. The first is Gary Jules, if you somehow missed it and its music video. The other two are the DH songs.
So what about you guys? What is your rainy day music of choice?

Friday, September 17, 2010

New Job!

I signed a contract on Wednesday.

For those of you who didn't know, I decided not to take the job I'd been working at as a temp during August. They offered me the job, but it was for a lot less than they had originally told me, and I'd have to work more days a week than they had first said. I didn't think that was very nice, changing the terms on me. Besides that, I have loans to pay off. I need the money! So the job search began all over again.

I interviewed with an adult language center on Friday, and they offered me the job right away. I told them that I had another interview to attend, but I'd let them know on Tuesday night. My other interview was WAY far away from where I live. I left two hours before my interview time to get there on time, and you don't even need to be early here! The guy who interviewed me was really nice, but the job wasn't for me. It was a lot less money, unpaid training, and I would have to go from school to school during my work day. Not that great.

After I got home and kicked the shoes off of my aching feet, I e-mailed the first lady and told her that I would take her up on her offer. She never got back to me, so I called on Wednesday morning, but the person told me she wasn't in. I was kind of hungry so I took my Food Network magazine (my brother was nice and mailed it to me) downstairs to a restaurant across the street. It only has four tables, and one has a computer on it so no customers can sit at it. It's tiny. I absolutely love dumplings, and their dumplings are very delicious! The first time I went, the guy offered me a fork, but my chopstick skills are now good enough that I do quite well with them. I was enjoying my dumplings and magazine when she called. They wanted to know if I could come meet the manager and sign the contract in a couple of hours!

I made it there on time, talked about my schedule, sat in on a class, and signed a contract. I'll be doing private tutoring as well as group classes, and it's mainly conversational English. Also, I'll mainly be working with adults. Hooray!

I am so thankful for this job. I was kind of bummed that my other job didn't work out, but now I think that God knew that this one was better for me. It seems like it will be a much better fit for me. If I hadn't agreed to work as a temp worker in August, I would have signed a contract with a kindergarten. I think God was just making me wait until the right job came along. I love how he does things like that.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Music Monday: Electronika!

I do know that electronika is actually spelled with a "c", but it's just so cute with a "k". It's all Germanified, like my last name!

I'm gradually getting back onto an electronika kick, but I still have a pretty small range of artists that I listen to. For the most part I've been listening to Scooter and Joy Electric with a lot of Breathe Carolina. BC is awesome because they do a superb job of incorporating a bit of screaming without making it anything close to metalcore (screamo). Basically, they're amazing.

I really love electronika, and not just because it's rave music. It's so full of energy and intensity, but it isn't dark or too peppy. It's my music of choice when I'm packing, because I always need energy when I'm doing that. Besides that, it also makes for some great dance music! Electronika has such a heavy beat to it that it's easy to dance to.

One particular dance that is centered around electronika is jumpstyle. I love watching people who are really good at it because they look like they have springs in their feet. It's amazing! Some friends and I had talked about getting together a jumpstyle routine to Scooter's Ramp! The Logical Song for the JBU talent show, but nothing came of it. Maybe someone else can carry on the dream. If you've never seen jumpstyle (or think it's interesting) check out some of these links.

These guys have serious skill, but this is super long. And there's a weird part in the middle where they have a cat in a bag and are talking in German. Anyway, you might want to skip around if you don't feel like watching the whole thing.

This one's from the front, an interesting perspective. I like the side-to-side action.

One of Scooter's official music videos. Jumping doesn't start for forty-five seconds, but when it does it's cool. 1:30 is awesome.

Saturday, September 11, 2010


I really hate it when I say something, and the minute the words leave my tongue I wish I could stuff them back inside my throat. I also hate it when I realize that I've done something wrong, something that has hurt someone else. That kind of stuff can bother me off-and-on for years (and I do mean on occasion; I'm not obsessive or anything). Often when I remember a recent act of stupidity, I feel like bashing my head into a wall. I never do, of course. Blood stains are a bugger to get out.

Whenever those things happen, it's because I wasn't thinking, not because I was trying to hurt someone. Seriously, I'm not a very malicious person. Thoughtless at times, yes. Not always careful of my words, guilty. But not malicious. Regardless of intent, thoughtless actions can have painful, long-term consequences.

I was talking with my dad tonight (surprise, surprise) about large-scale consequences. If I say something stupid I can hurt someone or make myself look like an idiot, but those are rather small-scale consequences. In the realm of missions, the consequences for thoughtlessness can be much, much worse.

Many wealthy Christians feel a burden for the poor of the world. They want to alleviate poverty, ensure justice, banish hunger. They want to save the world. These are all good, noble feelings, and we should be working to help the poor in other countries. BUT, problems come when these feelings outweigh clear thinking, and we try to come up with our own solutions that don't necessarily fit with the cultures we're trying to reach.

We need to ask ourselves what is best for the people in each country, in their individual contexts. We can't put our own standards on other countries. Just recently I've gotten a bit annoyed by people trying to explain a country's poverty by saying how many dollars a day they live on. You've heard that before, right? "Most of the world lives on two dollars a day" or whatever the amount is. I don't doubt that the people they're talking about are poor, but telling me an amount in US dollars doesn't give me any idea of their situation.

In Thailand, I could buy a nutritious meal (rice, meat, and a variety of vegetables) that was double the size of my stomach for about seventy US cents. So if I actually took my leftovers home, I probably could eat off of $1.50 a day. $2.00 easy. And that was in Bangkok, an expensive big city! Of course, that's just food. There are lots of other questions we should ask. How much does housing cost? Is their housing comfortable (not by US standards, of course) and safe? Do they have access to medical supplies? Do they have a tribe or family group that would take care of them if they're in need? There's a ton of questions that need to be asked, not just how much money they earn. I know, I know, they simplify it for the masses. But can't we ask for more?

Ok, I'll trot back down the rabbit trail to the main path. Consequences.

When we lived in Florida, Dad worked in Haiti setting up a rug factory. He and some church people wanted to set up a business to provide jobs for Haitians. With jobs comes dignity. True, giving is important, but can a culture sustain itself on handouts? Anyway, he ran into all sorts of people, both business owners and missionaries. Unfortunately, he learned a lot about negative consequences from some of them.

He said that a lot of missionaries (Tony Campolo types) would give him all sorts of trouble because his company only paid their workers $5.50 a day. To us, that sounds like slave labor. In Haiti, it was the highest amount they could pay without ruining the workers' lives.

In Haiti, status is related to how much money you make, and your status dictates what kind of work you can and cannot do. Another example. As is culturally necessary in Haiti, one of Dad's friends had a Haitian maid that he paid $45 a month. She had a lot of kids at home and an unemployed husband, so the guy decided he would up her salary to $75 a month. He figured that she could get better food for the kids, more clothes, whatever. She was glad to take it, but in a week they began running into some problems. They would ask her to do something like washing the windows, and she would refuse to do it. They would have to be constantly on her to do chores that she used to do all the time. Although they asked her why, she never answered. After a long time of going back and forth, they had to let her go and get a maid that would actually work. She went to another of their friends, and they hoped that it was just something with them. Unfortunately, the same thing happened, and her list of un-doables was even bigger. She tried two different jobs, but she wanted more and more money for less and less work. Basically, she didn't want to be a maid anymore.

This is Haitian culture. Dad's friend unwittingly changed the maid's status so that she would never feel like she could work as a maid again. But what else could she do? Her skill-set had't really changed, but she wouldn't do what she could to make a living. She still had a big family but was job-less. What could she do?

So that's a small example. Here's a bigger, more horrendous one. There was a basket company in Haiti that employed around 10,000 people who worked out of their homes. They would get paid around fifty cents a basket, and the baskets would get sold to places like Pier 1 Imports. A church group came in, saying that it was exploitation to pay so little for the baskets, so they set up their own company and started paying $1.50 a basket.

Of course, the people wanted to get paid a dollar more, so they stopped working for the original company and went over to the church company. The basket industry has pretty stiff competition worldwide, so the original company quickly went out of business after failing to complete a couple contracts. The church company was getting on ok for a little while, but they didn't have near the connections that the first company did. Besides that, most places that buy baskets don't care if something is "Fair Trade" or not; they want the cheaper basket. Without a widely marketable product, the church company went out of business in three years, leaving more than 10,000 Haitians unemployed. There were no other jobs, the people had no other way of making money. They lost it all.

What scares me about these stories is that these people had good intentions. Dad's friend just wanted to help out his maid. The church company wanted to raise the standard of living for their workers. But good intentions don't get far. As Dad says, "The law of unintended consequences is alive and well."

Even if we mean well, we can do horrific damage to people by our thoughtlessness. Just because it sounds like a good idea doesn't always mean it is.

These stories inspire me to really try to find out the truth about things I support. Sure, I'll never have perfect knowledge, and in an imperfect world we will always mess things up. But surely I have the responsibility to try to be informed, to try to see all sides of an issue.

All I can do is try, but I guess that's a start.

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Vastness of God

Lately I've been thinking about how big God is. That's not a terribly original thing to do, I know. Nature often conjures up these thoughts. The night sky is so huge and awe-inspiring; God is bigger than even this?

Although nature does remind me of God's vastness, recently it has been churches that are pointing me to that fact. As I've been visiting churches around Hong Kong, I've been reminded of my dormant fascination for church differences.

Over my lifetime, I've been in involved in a huge variety of denominations. When I was really little I went to a Presbyterian church, but I suppose I can't count that since the only thing I remember about it is its huge courtyard and the plastic cake they'd take out if any of us kids had a birthday. After that I went to an independent Bible church where about half the ladies covered their heads. After that, my family moved to Colorado and started attending an Evangelical Free church, where I was for most of my growing up years. In high school I started going to an independent youth group called CORE that had charismatic leanings. I also became good friends with several Catholics and a Greek Orthodox. We often dialogued about our differing theology and practices, and I even attended several of their services.

In college, I went to a non-denominational church for several years, until senior year when I attended an Eastern Orthodox church. During the summers I worked at a restaurant on Sunday mornings, so I went to a house church that met during the week. Besides that, I have talked with people from all sorts of denominations. I feel like I've had pretty good exposure to the different facets of Christianity.

I know that it's common for people to bemoan denominationalism, seeing it as a fracturing of the faith. I agree that it can lead to disunity, but I think it's sometimes necessary. I think it's ok to worship God in a place that you're comfortable and in a way that touches your heart. I love worshiping God to ska and screamo and rock, but I understand that some (ok, most) wouldn't feel very worshipful listening to it. To some people, standing still doesn't let them adequately express their passion for God's goodness. To others, the constant passion and emotionalism can be draining and distracting. I can understand all of these sides because I've felt those things myself at one time or another. So sure, everyone should worship God in the best way that they can.

That said, I think that clinging to one denomination without even looking at the others can limit our view of God. Don't you think there's a reason for all of the differences? There are SO many ways to worship God, but we're all worshipping God! Sure, that could say something about us, but maybe it also says something about how big God is! He's the God of house churches, or cathedrals, of basements, of stadiums. He can move in so many different places and different ways. Basically, God is vast.

I feel like we have a tendency to grab onto one piece of God (like passion or justice) and focus on that. We tend to pour everything into our chosen area, which can be good, but it can also limit our view of God and how to relate to him. God, in his great mercy and understanding, meets us there. He accepts our worship, however limited it might be.

I've often struggled with this because I don't want to be limited. I am attracted to so many aspects of God. I love Orthodox incense and crossing. I love charismatics' passion and faith. I love evangelicals' theology and hearts. I want it all! But I know that in this imperfect world I can't have it all. There is no church that combines all of these elements. But that just makes me long for heaven where our blinders are lifted, where we can see God in his fullness!

So what do I do? I write a poem of course. Feel free to laugh at my skills. I was always sorry that I couldn't take the poetry class at JBU, so I have to struggle on alone. Still, despite my lack of training, I do enjoy writing poetry and feel like it's a good way to express myself. So here is my latest literary(ish) creation.

A small name for such a confounding concept.
Do we know him,
Know more than the flannel-board Jesus,
more than the booming voice from the animated clouds?
More than the name?

Of course. Haven't we put off childish things?
Then why is it always big against small, old versus new,
a never-ending menu of denominations?
Pick a side--you must choose.

But why?
God, the Alpha and Omega, our alphabet,
encompasses all language, culture, history, nature.
He is.

He is in the hymns, measured and firm with meaning,
and the pews that encourage wakeful piety.
He is in the megachurch, the massive family,
and its cell-groups and stadium seating.
He is in the a capella chanting, crossing for the Trinity,
the weary feet and incense-air.
He is in the passionate worship, the dancing, hand-waving,
the sweat of emotional praise.

He is in babe-sprinkling, bad coffee, and basements,
in icons, icthus, and intimate confessions.
He is for the teenager, for the old,
for families, for those alone,
for all of squirming, thriving, failing, gasping humanity.

Personal, yet too big to comprehend.
Merciful, for we cannot take him in.
We pick him apart, keeping only pieces we understand,
clinging to what we choose as worship.

But must we choose?
Isn't he what's vast, what's full, what's free?
Please, let us truly see

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Music Monday: Fail!

I totally forgot to do my Music Monday post. In fact, I even forgot it was Monday, so I basically fail.

Anyway, I'll talk about a little something besides my failure. Some of you should be proud of me because I now have an "Eclectic Folk" playlist on my grooveshark account. It is a very short playlist at the moment (although longer than my electronica playlist, for which I am very ashamed) but we'll see how it will grow.

So far I just have two songs from The Decembrists, one from Mumford and Sons, and four by Laura Veirs. I usually try not to be so imbalanced, but I really like Laura Veirs. My favorite song from her is Cast a Hook In Me. It's kind of dreamy and talks about a merman, so what's not to love? See, I do like some folk. I just like it to be minor and somewhat melancholy sounding.

Any suggestions for expanding my playlist?

Thursday, September 2, 2010

A Paradox

I was talking with my dad tonight about Baltic personalities. I was telling him how much I like minor music, and he said that it's in the genes, part of the Baltic personality. Baltic being, of course, the region involving Germany, Sweden, Poland, Finland, Norway, etc. It's all Baltic. Anyway, his theory is that people from this area tend to have a pretty dark view of life. Maybe it's because of the lack of sun. Maybe it's because of the long winters. They both would contribute to pretty tough lives and that affects the way they view the world.

It makes sense to me. I mean, have you ever read any Viking/Norse folklore? I'm certainly no expert, but I did check out a collection of them once. It was a hefty book. It was in the middle of the school year and I'm a schitzo reader anyway, so I never finished it, but I read enough to know that it's pretty dark stuff. I mean, their version of the flood story is most of humanity drowning in a god's blood.

Anyway, I definitely see how that plays into my life. I do feel like a have a dark streak in me sometimes. Maybe that's what makes me like minor music. And certain macabre humor. Maybe that's where my grim practicality comes from and my need for consistent solitude. Could be.

At the same time, I'm definitely not all dark. I have a sunny side to my personality, probably inherited from my mother. I feel like I'm an odd mixture of the two, light and dark, and I can never fully abandon either one. Besides being a cynic, I'm also an optimist. I'm certain that suffering will come in life, but I try not to let it bother me much when it does. Last summer when I was working as a camp counselor, I was told by one of my campers that she was surprised such dark humor was coming out of such a happy person. She said that I had a "hidden bite." I had just made a joke about telling children that Santa had been hit by a Mac truck, so I suppose I can see her point.

I recently wrote a poem about myself (although I do take some artistic liberties, so don't be quick to pin everything on me). It's still a bit rough, but since it goes so well with this theme, I think I'll have to include the unpolished version. I call it

A Paradox

I organize by color clothes that do not fit.
I love all kinds of music except this annotated list.
I love my meat so much that I eat it once a week.
My passion is for fashion shows I watch with un-heeled feet.

So studious I procrastinate,
So clean I live in piles.
I'm so happily sarcastic
That my cynicism smiles.

I love a crowded party followed by a silent room.
I'm very slow to anger but far-off hurts still make me fume.
I'm glad to have no break-ups but miss the new-love thrill.
I walk alone with gladness though my hand feels empty still.

I'm so hurt that I can only smile
And so weary that I'll go the extra mile.
So close, I never hug too long.
So sad, there's nothing ever wrong.

So happy that my laughter's on loan
And so strong that I only cry when I'm alone.

Classic Movies

I've been watching a lot of classic movies lately. I have to do something while I grade papers, so watching movies is a good choice. Of course, the movies I've been watching aren't necessarily the kind of classic you would immediately think of. I haven't watched Lawrence of Arabia. No Breakfast at Tiffany's. And certainly no Gone with the Wind (yuck).

No, I've been watching more cultural classics, ones that people often reference. Once I should have seen and didn't. Or ones that I've seen but forgotten about. I started this a couple of years ago. Growing up I didn't really watch that many movies (at least not compared to most people my age). I didn't watch Titanic until my freshman year of college (and almost didn't finish it then, but I persevered through it). I didn't watch Gladiator until my sophomore year. And I didn't watch Two Weeks Notice until this summer.

Ok, maybe Two Weeks Notice isn't necessarily a classic, but I've heard people reference it for years and never knew what it was about. So sue me.

Today I watched Good Will Hunting. I have seen this movie before, but it was my freshman year and I couldn't remember everything about it, so I decided to watch it again.
Good Will Hunting is certainly a harsh movie. It's full of s-words and f-words and crass jokes. It's set in a place where bars are the main attraction.

But those aren't the things that I remember about the movie. What sticks out in my mind is Sean's passionate love for his deceased wife. Will's cocky attitude that he uses to hide his pain and the final breakdown of his defenses. Chuckie's concern for Will's future. The reconciliation between the professor and the shrink, an apology where no words were needed. This is what I remember.

Of course, I still like movies like Two Weeks Notice. They're enjoyable, fluffy, and a good viewing experience. But what do I remember about that movie? I remember Lucy lying down in front of a wrecking ball and handing out wet-wipes. Fun, but not much impact.

So what should I watch next?