Thursday, November 29, 2012

In everything, give thanks...

Is it just me, or have I been thankful for some really weird things lately? I blame all of my Facebook friends who did "Today I'm thankful for..." statuses all through November.
First of all, I'm so thankful I'm finally done with my 1st trimester and seem to also be done with morning sickness! Yay!
But that's not one of the weird ones. It gets better.
This morning, for example, I was scrubbing mouse droppings off my kitchen counter and stove-top, and I randomly thought, "These were long over-due for a good scrub-down and disinfecting anyway. I'm thankful to those mice for forcing me to stop procrastinating on this!"
Yes, I really thought that.
This afternoon, I was emptying several containers of REALLY old left-overs from my fridge. (If there's anything you don't want to do when you're dealing with morning sickness, it's clean out your fridge, or look at leftovers at all, and since that's been me for the past 2 months, things had gotten SUPER ugly, as in, month-old-salmon ugly.) As I was dumping moldy cooked broccoli into my compost pile, I suddenly thought, "I'm so thankful for my cold! My nose is so stuffed up I can hardly smell these!"
I promise I'm not bragging about how awesome and thankful I am. I know I can't take credit for it. I'm as surprised by it as anyone. As soon as I thought these things I thought, "What?! Where did that come from? What a weird thing to be thankful for!"
So yes, all you thankful status people, I blame you. Usually, I'm a complainer, a first-world-problems person. As far as I know, I've never been this ridiculously cheerful, glass-half-full person before in my life. Has anyone else gotten into this habit since the Thanksgiving?

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Life without Facebook.

I never realized how often I checked my Facebook. Until now.
You see, Facebook has disowned me. They claim I don't exist-- that I must prove to them that I am myself. Strange that the last six years of my posting, connecting to people, and being tagged in pictures don't count...
I have sent them the proof they require. It has been several days, and they have still to send me the promised e-mail reinstating me into their good graces. I know a few days does not sound like a long time, but it strangely is when it deprives a person of something they did every few hours.
And, apparently, I check my Facebook every few hours. I never knew this before, but now it is very obvious, as ever few hours I sit down at my computer and suffer the same disappointment, annoyance, and feeling of being lost and adrift, cut off from the world.
So, if you were looking for me on Facebook, this is why I'm not there. I'm sitting here at my computer, wondering what to do instead. The irony is that, probably, no one will see this post, because I didn't link to it on Facebook.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Music Review: Loreena McKennitt

Wow, I must apologize (to my huge audience, haha) for my complete lack of commitment to this blog. The good news is, because I never post, I always have lots of material backlogged in my brain to use when I do post, so it's never hard for me to think of something to write about.

I have not done a music review on here, yet. I have to say, one of my favorite musicians of all time is Loreena McKennitt. Not only does she have an amazing voice, but for a history/culture geek like me, her music is absolutely fascinating. When you have a hurdy-gurdy, uillean pipes, and an electric guitar all in one song, it can't not be good. She incorporates many world sounds into her music that you can't hear anywhere else, drawing primarily on Celtic and Middle Eastern sound. Her songs are intriguing, too. The lyrics are very poetic and poignant, reflecting a strong affinity to both nature and cultural traditions and celebrations. Some of her albums are primarily her covers of traditional Celtic songs; those usually aren't my favorites, though. I prefer her original songs, or, particularly, the songs she bases on poems. (I love "The Lady of Shalott" and "The Highwayman.") However, my favorites are probably her instrumental pieces. I love the way she uses rhythm and repetition to build the emotion in each piece.

Loreena McKennitt is little-known in the U.S. (she is Canadian), but she has made a few marks on our media. Her song "The Mummer's Dance" was featured on a preview for the Cinderella romance Ever After. Also, fascinatingly, she both narrates and sings the opening and closing songs for the Disney movie Tinkerbell. I generally try to avoid Disney's straight-to-DVD films, but I had to rent this one for my daughter, and I was so glad I did, especially when I recognized Loreena's voice! The score for the movie is wonderful, too, if you like Celtic music, and the animation is gorgeous. It's a cute story, too... typical feel-good Disney, but not the cheesiest I've seen.

Not sure how this became a movie review for Tinkerbell. Sorry about that. Anyway, my favorite Loreena McKennitt album is probably still The Book of Secrets, even though that is now almost 15 years old. I discovered it 8 years ago while working as a page in the bowels of the Grand Rapids Public Library. I took it home just because the art-work on the cover of the CD intrigued me--one of the best decisions I've ever made! The Book of Secrets features "The Mummer's Dance," "The Highwayman," and one of my favorite instrumentals, "Marco Polo." Ever since I discovered that CD, I've listened to any and all Loreena I can find. I really love her latest Christmas album, A Midwinter Night's Dream. If you like world or folk music and haven't listened to Loreena yet, you should probably check her out. Or at least rent Tinkerbell.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Entry 11: Chrestomanci!

Recently I encountered a series of children's fantasy books by Dianna Wynne Jones that I absolutely love: the Chrestomanci series. It includes the following books: Charmed Life, The Lives of Christopher Chant, The Magicians of Caprona, Witch Week, Conrad's Fate, and The Pinhoe Egg. (These are often found in three volumes of two books each.) There is also a volume of Chrestomanci short stories called Mixed Magics, but I have not read it, so from now on I will not mention it in this post. Hopefully I will read it someday and discuss it then.

I use the term "series" loosely here. Each book is a stand-alone story, and, while there is an internal chronological order, it's not really that important. The books could be read in any order, I think (I would make one caveat to that statement: You may enjoy the mystery of Charmed Life most if you read it first, but I did not read it first, and still enjoyed it. I read the books by internal chronology-- see below) . They all feature a character called "Chrestomanci." In a world where using magic is a part of everyday life, Chrestomanci is a government official who must monitor magic users and make sure they do not misuse their magic to harm others.

I have seen the books listed in several orders. The order in which I listed them in the above paragraph is what I would call the "recommended reading order": it is currently the most commonly found order, especially if one reads them in the three volumes as opposed to six separate books. However, there are two other prominent orders:

The order of original publishing:
1. Charmed Life
2. Magicians of Caprona
3. Witch Week
4. The Lives of Christopher Chant
5. Conrad's Fate
6. The Pinhoe Egg

And, the order of internal chronology (the order of time passing in the books):
1. The Lives of Christopher Chant
2. Conrad's Fate
3. Charmed Life
4. Magicians of Caprona*
5. Witch Week*
6. The Pinhoe Egg
Places 4 & 5 are interchangeable: The chronology of these two books is not as clearly defined as the others'.

There are several reasons I like these books:
1.) They are FUNNY. I read these books aloud with my husband, and every single one had us laughing out loud. Whether we were chuckling appreciatively at the sarcastic wit of one of the characters, or laughing uncontrollably at some of the slap-stick scenes and outrageous misunderstandings, these books never failed to tickle our funny-bones.
2.) They are mysteries. It wasn't until after I started reading Harry Potter (some 8 years ago now!), and then went back to other fantasy, that I realized my favorite type of fantasy is (possibly) the magical mystery, of which I think Harry Potter is a great example. I've been searching for more great examples of this sub-genre ever since. Chrestomanci definitely fits the bill. Each book usually consists of not one, but several mysteries, all woven together in an intricate plot. Since these books are written for children/young adults, the mysteries are probably fairly easy for most adult readers to solve (especially once they are familiar with the author's style), but I still love that the books keep me on my toes, constantly on the lookout for important, revelatory details that usually lead to exciting, suspenseful, and sometimes surprising, conclusions.
3.) The principal characters are interesting, sympathetic, and well-developed. This is a must-have for me in almost any book. Enough said.

I will finish by saying that I am very glad I read these books. I will probably continue to re-read them in the future. If you are looking for some good J/YA Fantasy, you could not do better than these. They are exceptionally well-written. I would caution, however, that I do not recommend them for children under twelve or so, for various reasons. If you read this ridiculously long review, then I congratulate you! Happy reading.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Entry 10: In which I share my favorite dubbed-over internet videos

I really hope this post doesn't offend anyone...........

When I was seven and eight years old, my family used to gather every Saturday night in my parent's bedroom, lounge on their big bed, and watch "Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman" together. (I can't believe I just admitted that to the entire universe.)

Now, my sisters and I loved Dr. Quinn. And we loved Sully even more. But our favorite part of this little family ceremony was the commercials. Because that was when my dad "said the funny things," as my sister put it. My dad always used to press the mute button and dub over the commercials in an outrageous fashion. It wasn't hard. Have you ever noticed the ridiculous acting in commercials? All my dad had to do was make his voice actually fit with what was already going on on the screen, and he had my sisters and me laughing so hard we couldn't breathe.

It was hilarious to me then, and the concept is still hilarious to me now. Any comedy routine that utilizes dubbing always makes me laugh. And that is why the youtube videos I'm about to link to are still (seven years after I first saw them-- gasp!) some of my favorite internet video clips of all time.

The hilarious dubbing isn't the only reason I still laugh at them, though. The other reason is that they are a pointed satire about common misconceptions of Jesus. (They are also funny because they make fun of the acting, costuming, and sets of the ancient Jesus film they dubbed over.) If you've seen these videos (and since they've been around 8 years, you probably have), you are now either laughing or groaning, because you know what I'm talking about. They were made by a church called Vintage 21 as part of a sermon series.

Remember what I said in the beginning now about offending people? If you've been living under a rock and are about to watch these videos for the first time, or if you've seen them before and been offended, please remember: these videos are not mocking Jesus, they are mocking a wrong perception of Him. They are funny because they are SO WRONG. As the church that made them put it in their description: "This is a satirical look at what some people think Jesus is like. Thank goodness He's not." (Emphasis mine. Amen!)

So here they are, with a quick summary of the idea they're satirizing. They're only about 2-3 minutes each, so if you haven't watched them, please do. Laughter is the best medicine, right? If you've watched them before and liked them, watch them again. I promise they're still just as funny. If you've seen them and didn't like them, or you haven't but know you won't because it's not your style of humor, well, I guess I can't please everyone. I'll try to have something for you next time.
Video Clip 1 : Jesus is too busy for us.
Video Clip 2 : Christianity is just a bunch of rules.
Video Clip 3 : Jesus just wants to condemn us.
Video Clip 4 : We can earn our way into heaven.

If you watched these, now or earlier, here are my questions: Which is your favorite? Why? (Mine is 3. Because it makes me laugh the hardest. Every time.) Also, can you tell what real Jesus story these scenes were originally meant to be (before they were dubbed)? I think I know all of them... A special question to any first-timers: Where have you been? Haha, just kidding.
P.S. I know this was extra long. If you read the whole thing, good job! I figured since the videos were so short I'd compensate with a long post. Next time I'll be asking you to watch a whole movie or read a whole book so, you know, the post will be shorter to give you more time to do that... or maybe not.

Entry 9: In which I discuss the direction this blog will (hopefully) take

I've finally decided the direction I'd like to go in with this blog: I will probably mostly share my reviews and thoughts on books, movies, music and other media. I will also share some of my philosophical and theological ponderings (occasionally).

Right now I'm pondering why Firefox says "ponderings" is not a word. Dumb Firefox.

I do this not because I think I have anything all that special to say, but because I have some friends who do something similar with their blogs, and I find I always learn about exciting new books and movies, and other random things that feed my soul, from them. I'm hoping to maybe, just maybe, pass on the favor.

Hopefully now that I know what I'm doing I'll post more regularly. But probably not.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Entry 8: In which I have a conversation with myself.

Me: Ugh, it's April 19th and it's snowing again!

Myself: Wow! Look at that snow falling. The flakes are so white and soft, and they drift down so gracefully and quietly. Theirs is the dance of peace and purity. I don't care if it is the middle of April. This snow is BEAUTIFUL!

Me: GAH! You.... you TRAITOR!

Myself: Well, it is beautiful... and, did you just call yourself a traitor?

Me: I don't know why I put up with you... I must have some kind of mental disorder...

Myself: See how the pure white contrasts with the vibrant green of the grass? Gorgeous...