Monday, January 31, 2011

An Essay from English Class

Terry Pratchett changed my life. This assumption may or may not be an exaggeration, but it is true. For those who don’t know, Terry Pratchett is the extremely successful British author of the Discworld series and other assorted books, over 30 in all. If you were to go into a bookstore, Pratchett novels would be shelved under “Sci/Fi- Fantasy”. However, his books are so much more than fantasy, or even science fiction. They are reflections on life as we know it: satirical, humorous, but ultimately about the human condition and how humans live and die.            I do not think there is a single book in the Discworld series in which the character Death does not appear. He’s a fairy obvious sort of person: tall, skeletal, black robe, scythe, white horse (called Binky, in case you’re wondering). He typically appears doing what Death does: escorting the dead over to the “other side”, but he also has his own trials and errors. When I first started reading Discworld books, Death as a character intrigued me. He was so… human. When characters (dead or alive) encountered him, they seemed unfazed by his presence. This portrayal of death as a personification rather than a blind force really changed my outlook on life and death.One of the themes that run through most Pratchett novels is the fact that death comes to us all, or life is terminal. Before I started reading Terry Pratchett, death was a sort of abstract idea for me. I have never experienced the death of a close friend or family member, eventually death will come to someone I love. I know that when that time comes, it will seem horribly unfair and sad, but at the same time I know I won’t be able to do anything about it because of one simple fact I’ve learned: death doesn’t chose who lives and who dies. That idea is where Terry Pratchett comes in. In his books, there is death (lower case) and Death (upper case). Lower case death is the actually dying part. Upper case Death is there to sever the soul from this world and sent it on its way.  The blind force of death just happens, while the personification of Death is there to make sure that the action of dying actually occurs. The underlying moral is that death happens to everyone, and there’s no use fighting it because in the end, Death always wins.The idea of Death and death may seem very strange and cynical, but to me it makes a lot of sense. Of course, it may make sense because I’ve never encountered death personally. Personal experience in this department is somewhat lacking for most people, and once they’ve encountered it, they are not exactly in a position to relate their experiences. Eventually Death will visit everyone, because everyone starts to die as soon as they begin to live. However, this eventuality does not mean we should be afraid. As Seneca said, “The man, though, whom you should admire and imitate, is the one who finds it a joy to live and in spite of that is not reluctant to die. . .” Terry Pratchett, though he was born centuries after Seneca died, conveys the same basic idea. His characters walk with Death every day: policemen, kings, wizards, swindlers, witches, musicians, orangutans, trolls, dwarves and everything in between. Each one lives with the idea of Death (some even see or talk to him on occasion), but also without the fear of dying.As a character, Death does not begrudge the living. As an idea, death cannot change how you live your life. It can only end it. The best we can all do as humans is to accept the fact that death happens to every single living soul. If death didn’t happen, there would be no such thing as life, because without life there would be no death. They are polar opposites, but clearly so intertwined and fundamental that one cannot happen without the other. Terry Pratchett offered that idea to me, the same idea that has filtered down through the centuries, since the beginning of time. And since the beginning of time, humans have pulled through and continued living joyously. Despite death, happiness and life still, and will, exist until the end of time. All we can do, here and now, is keep the trend going and live life to the fullest. 

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Too Many Secrets

Everyone has secrets. That's fine. What's not fine: making that fact blatantly obvious and then only sharing with certain people. Or saying "oh, you wouldn't understand." That may be true, but I'd understand a lot better if you told.

Everyone has secrets. That's fine. What's not fine: having a secret and keeping it so close no one knows until it's too late.

Everyone has secrets. That's fine. What's not fine: letting your secrets explode all at once. Drama is never good.

If you have a secret, tell someone if it's destructive, don't wave it in someone's face if it affects them, and don't let them all out at once. Basic rules of life.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

This is the Monster Cake

4 layers... 2 pounds of chocolate... a pound of butter... 2 pounds of brown sugar... sour cream.


So starting last night we got hit with a huge snowstorm. Huge for this area, that is (about 6 inches). Obviously we were off school, so I've spent the whole day doing nothing! Things that count as nothing:
  1. Watching Dr. Who. I've recently become addicted to this show. My friend lent me Season 1 of the new series on DVD, so I've been working my way through. (Though I must say I prefer David Tennant to Christopher Eccleston).
  2. Wandering the grocery store looking for cake-baking items. This adventure was quite fun, especially because on the way out my sister and I spotted a new storefront... for the Museum of Unnatural History. Intriguing!
  3. With said baking items, we baked a huge (read: four layer) chocolate cake out of the Serendipity cookbook. It's not frosted yet, but it's going to be decadent. Can't wait!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Hair Dye

I'm considering dying my hair. Blue and purple streaks, since you're wondering. I don't know why, it's just been an idea rolling around in my head for a while. Last year I had red hair, and the year before I had purple streaks, but my mom wouldn't let me bleach my hair so they didn't work. Hair color is something of an obsession for me: I always want a new color but I never have the guts to do it. I'd love to be one of those people who changes their hair every month, with awesome results and much eyebrow raising. However, I don't think my dad could survive that. Every time I mention the words "hair" and "dye" in the same sentence he looks perturbed and makes a kind of groaning noise that sounds a bit like a sick dog. I don't understand his problem. Maybe it's because the last time I dyed my hair (a really awesome red-auburn color), my mom and I went to the salon and didn't bother to tell him until after the fact... that's probably it.

This time it's a bit of an argument between my mom and I, because I want to dye/ bleach my hair at home and she wants me to go to a salon. I agree with her, but there's a small problem. I don't think any salon around here is going to 1) have the color dye I want and 2) be willing to do the job for me if I bring my own dye. It's a problem.

These are the two colors I'm thinking of doing:

SFX Blue Velvet
SFX Deep Purple

Tell me what you think!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

When Everyone Around You is Happy...

... It's hard not to feel jealous. Especially when people are pairing off and you're a third wheel. Even more so when it's girls that are pairing off and you wish you could too. Last night was a major turning point for more than a few people. I'm so incredibly happy for them all, and I know they couldn't be happier, but at the same time I can't help but think "When is that going to be me?" It's hard knowing other people are out in the open doing what they want and I'm stuck in, because I'm too afraid of what might happen if I told the truth. I know that most people wouldn't have an issue, but I know (and they know) I've always been a follower and they might think I'm hopping on the bandwagon, so to speak. It's incredibly frustrating, to say the least. I'm sure I'll snap out of this funk, but for now, I feel like an incredibly lonely person who isn't part of anything.

Thursday, January 20, 2011


I just sent an email submitting some of my artwork to a local show next week. It's a local show, really open and interesting, with performance art, photography, painting, etc. I saw the signs up earlier and thought about submitting, but my parents finally told me I should, so I sent the email. I'm so nervous! It's in a collective house that's pretty free-for-all, hipster, etc. I don't know if I will fit in, or if my artwork will be "unconventional" enough. Probably not, as I'm basically taking a classical art class, and that's what all my stuff is from.

Blabberment. That last paragraph was horrible. This is what happens when I've been studying. My brain falls out of my ears and oozes across the floor where it falls in between the cracks and disappears.

As the great author Terry Pratchett said, "Insanity is catching."

Thank you and goodnight.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


Why is it so hard? I've got exams tomorrow, and I even got an extra day to study because school canceled today. So why can't I concentrate? Distractions abound. Here's a list:
  1. Knitting- I've been coveting Blue Moon Fiber Arts sock yarn, and I can't get enough of Ravelry. Also, I've got a lovely cabled hat pattern that's very distracting...
  2. The Internet- self explainatory
  3. Inside my head- last night I had a really serious conversation with someone close to me, and the result of that has got my head spinning in circles. 
  4. Lack of exercise- when I don't get out of the house, hyperness ensues.
At least my English exam will be easy tomorrow. Surprisingly (according to my English teacher) , I'm pretty bad at grammar. This fact interests me greatly because when I write, I don't really have issues with grammar. It's a conundrum. Math, on the other hand, is going to be a nightmare. Too many theorems, not enough numbers. We'll see how that goes.

On top of all that, there's ice all over the place, which doesn't help the general atmosphere, and my brother is sick. So I'm stuck trying to avoid contagion and ice. And insanity, but everyone knows that's catching.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Pandora Radio

Whoever invented Pandora Radio is a genius, or at least very skilled at making people happy. For those who don't know, Pandora is an online, customizable music player that you can program with music that you like, and it will provide other music and songs that you may like according to specific criteria. They have some sort of formula that takes into account music style, vocals, instruments, and a ton of other factors in deciding what kind of music you already listen to, and what you might appreciate.

And appreciate it I do. Even with the occasional advertisement, Pandora gives me music to fill my life. I'm too much of a miser to actually spend money on iTunes, so I get my music other places (legally, I might add). Also, there's something incredibly fun about putting your ears in the control of a computerized program that decides what you shall listen to based on some sort of formula or algorithms. I've never thought of music like that before. Usually it's how it sounds, or what other people are listening to, that influences the listeners. With Pandora, it's from what you already like, but objectively, not subjectively. A bit of a takeoff from traditional musicology, in my opinion. I could be totally off base here, but as far as I know music was (and should be) about achieving sound and a connection with the listener.

Pandora's changing that, but not in a bad way. The listener still gets a connection, but it's with themselves. Bits of personality get embedded in the music you listen to, and bits also come out, influenced by music. It's like telling a circular story, but with a different ending each time. And if you don't like the ending, you can simply click the thumbs down button, and viola! you've got a new ending. Happy music listening times are here to stay.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Over The Shoulder

There's something intriguing about the little snippets of other people's lives. A few words of a cell phone conversation, the book they're reading on the train, strains of a song emanating from too loud headphones, glimpses of a computer screen. Today was one of those days. My dad, my brother, and I went out to coffee with a friend of my dad's from high school. The place we went is a quick walk from our house. It's a funky coffeehouse/ restaurant/ lounge kind of place, with couches and tables and a lot of people working on computers, reading, or chatting with friends. There's always a great mix of people in there- young, old, be-suited and in jeans and plaid flannel shirts, heels, running shoes, Mohawks and cornrows. Because it's a pretty open seating plan, it's easy to end up sitting next to someone on the same couch, across the same table, or with their chair opposite yours. It's also easy to eavesdrop a little on other people's lives.

About halfway through my chai, a young Asian guy took an armchair right against the couch I was sitting on. I didn't pay much attention until he took out a laptop and began to type. Naturally, I glanced over his shoulder to see what he was doing. What appeared on the screen looked like the beginning of a story, clearly fiction, about someone named Gabriel, after the angel Gabriel who told Mary she was pregnant, because the character was born on Christmas. I was immediately pulled in, and wanted to read more, but I couldn't. In the almost half an hour between the time he sat down and we left, he had about 4 sentences. I watched him change that little tiny snip of a paragraph about six times, each time in a different way. There was one sentence he wrote that I particularly liked, but he deleted it.

That deletion almost convinced me to tap him on the shoulder and say "Hey. That was really good. Keep it." But I didn't. Most people don't appreciate being accosted by random strangers about their work. Especially if that stranger is reading over your shoulder.

I wish the world worked like that. I love talking to random people, even though I'm shy, and I wish I could just tap people on the shoulder and talk to them about what they're working on. With more open communication, the world might end up being a better place. And that one difference in the sentence might make or break whatever he was writing. You never know. Sometimes all it takes is one comment to change destiny, fate, or whatever you want to call it. At least that's how it should be.

We make choices every day, some simple and some more complex. With everything we do, we influence others. Each little snippet our of our day, witnessed by someone else, can set off a chain reaction of unprecedented events. Just something to think about.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

A Missed Chance, or the Doc Marten Connection

Sometimes I wonder about the power of footwear. You can tell a lot about someone by the type of shoes that they wear. What sort of image they want to project, that sort of thing. I wear my Doc Martens for many reasons, but the one main reason is to stand out a little. When I first got them (3 years ago), everyone in my school was wearing either Sperry Topsiders or Uggs, maybe Converse low-tops. I wanted something different, something more edgy, something more "me". When I first wore them to school, I was incredibly nervous because I knew I would be judged, and I was for a while. However, as my Docs have broken in, so have others feelings about them. I used to be (and probably still am) that crazy girl with the big red boots. But now they're used to it. Amazing what people can get used to.

When this particular story starts I was not wearing my big red boots. Having just gotten out of crew practice, I was in my crew stuff and running shoes. There was a big swim meet going down at the pool, so I wandered up to take a look. Most of the spectators were either parents, siblings, or girls in uniform plaid skirts and polos from the other school competing. As I scanned the crowd, one girl caught my eye. Bleached blond mohawk, Sex Pistols album cover (I think) on the back of her jacket (complete with studs), studded belt, white jeans, and on her feet- black Docs. I know it sounds stereotypical, but the second thing I thought was "Wow, typical punk." The first thing I thought was "Doc Martens! A kindred spirit!" The immediate reaction was to run and change back into my pants and boots, and then bolt back to the meet before she left.

I really wanted to talk to that girl. When I saw her face to face, the first impression was "vulnerable", followed by "wow, red lipstick", followed by "she looks a lot younger from the front", followed by "screw that, she's got car keys". The thing was, I didn't know how to approach her. For most Doc-wearing folks I've met, a quick "Nice boots" usually breaks the ice. With this girl, I wasn't so sure. There was something... standoffish about her, and it wasn't the mohawk or the multiple ear piercings. I wish I had the guts to pull off a mohawk, I've wanted one for years. Anyone who can wear one with that much pizazz is definitely someone worth talking to, but she looked really defensive, scared even. So instead of accosting her, I left her alone. Another missed connection.

Monday, January 3, 2011


Music's a funny thing. Some days you feel like a certain type of music, and some days only one song will do. Each song has a unique ability to hold a particular memory or emotion, at least for me. Situations each come with their own song in my memories. Other times the lyrics or chords will play in my head, or I'll hear a snippet of a song and suddenly be back to a certain time or place that somehow became connected to that music. I have no idea why my memory works like that, but work it does.

I also seem to have my own private radio in my head, that plays music and lyrics from the countless songs I've listened to over the years... from Elton John and the Spice Girls (my two favorite artists when I was about 4-6), going through the Beatles, Queen (the first record I ever heard on vinyl), the Rolling Stones, Destiny's Child, a brief stint in R&B/ hip-hop, moving on to Top 40 pop, tangent-ing into Good Charlotte and MCR, migrating to Green Day, Nirvana, the Ramones, and the Strokes, hopping over a little to Streetlight Manifesto, taking the plunge with Black Sabbath, Seether, and Metallica, riding the wave to Smashing Pumpkins, the Sex Pistols, and Pearl Jam, surfacing for some Zac Brown Band, Miranda Lambert, and Trace Adkins, and finally landing (for the moment) with Avalanche City, the B-52's, Sons of Admirals, Eddplant, and Tom Milsom. Each of these artists have affected me differently, given me a little bit of them, their music, and their culture. The beauty of music is that the artists give only themselves and their music, and we, the listeners, take so much. On that level music is completely pure.

I remember the first time I heard Black Sabbath. I was in study hall, trying to do some homework, with my headphones in and my Pandora radio on. Suddenly there was a science, and then a single drum, pounding, pounding, and then that chord. That single power chord, building, building, rising up, and then the riff. I was floored. I'd never heard anything even close to that type of raw, heavy POWER. I literally stopped what I was doing, sat back in my chair, and just listened. I think I actually felt my heart beat in time with that riff. Going back and listening to it again, it still has that sense of pounding, inevitable, incredible power to it. Admittedly, there's not that first impression of starkness and "wow", but there's still something that resonates. I guess it's one of those things that will stay with me for a long time, simply for the impact it had at that one moment in time. Music's like that. And I wouldn't have it any other way.