Tuesday, October 31, 2006

A vegan Halloween Lunch Box. That is adorable. I especially like the baked apple shrunken heads.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Miscellaneous blog posts

  • I'm 24 and I already feel this way.
  • I read this post a while back and really related to it since I was a vegetarian for years as a teenager but decided to scrap that four years ago and eat meat of all kinds. The teen years, I refer to those as my peanut butter sandwich days.
  • The Hamlet Weblog. I've never heard of anyone so excited about a Shakespeare play.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

The week

I remember thinking to myself this week, it seems like I never do anything anymore. It's been months since I've gone anywhere outside El Paso. I haven't been to the movies in a while, and I haven't been to a concert in at least a year. Maybe once a week I'll go out to a restaurant, but it's always one I've been to a million times before. I do the same job and watch the same TV shows and even those were in reruns this week. Yeah, it was a pretty boring week. No wonder I can't think of much to write about. Hopefully that will change soon.

Ode to U2

There are bands and then there are Bands. And of the Bands, for me U2 is The Band. I was, unfortunately, too young to know much about U2 back in their supposed heyday in the 1980s. Of course I knew some of their songs from the radio, "Pride (In the Name of Love)", "Where the Streets Have No Name", "Sunday Bloody Sunday", etc., but until the past few years not much beyond that. I think I'm sort of unusual in the fact that I've become a true fan mostly based on their most recent albums, in the Bono-as-humanitarian-extraordinaire era of music.

It was 2002 when I was given the album All That You Can't Leave Behind as an Easter present. At first, I thought, oh, these songs are nice. "Beautiful Day", nice enough melody, though not what I would consider really innovative. But then the more I listened to the songs on this album, the more I was impressed by them--Bono's voice the perfect mix of soulfulness and vulnerability, the shimmering guitars that are like an ocean of sound. But most of all the lyrics. When I really stopped and listened to the lyrics I was blown away by how smart and poetic they were: the spiritual, romantic, and political themes, the biblical allusions sprinkled in, the way they are just elusive enough to keep you guessing what they're really about. Love and world peace. Bedouin fires and Noah's ark. And if you want to see me cry, "Stuck in a Moment You Can't Get Out of."

I ended up listening to that album quite a few times over the next year or so and was so impressed I begged my sister to buy How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb for me for Christmas in 2004. But after being so impressed by their previous album I was honestly a little disappointed by it. I had high expectations, and I thought it was good but not nearly as affecting as All That You Can't Leave Behind. I listened to it a few times. Then I literally lost the CD for a few months. I eventually found it again but didn't listen to it much. Until a few months later, that is. I can remember the exact night I "fell in love" with this CD. It was New Year's 2006, the loneliest New Year's I've ever had, over a year after I had received the CD as a Christmas present. I suppose I was in the right state of mind to be really affected by the music. I stayed up until 3 a.m. listening to the whole album, and I loved every song I listened to more than the last. Listening to these moving lyrics about third-world poverty and love and individualism, with the simple but profound "Yahweh" as the conclusion, I was just amazed at how great it was. Something clicked, and since then I have listened to this album over and over, mostly when I've been down and in a serious state of mind or depressed by the messed-up condition of the world.

And what's so great about U2 is that there's still more to discover. A week or two ago I bought one of their greatest hits collections, and it made me realize there's still a huge treasure of songs from the past that I haven't heard. How can a band can be so creative and still relevant after nearly 30 years of playing music together? This is probably the only band where I could see myself owning every album they've recorded because they're just that good. I really admire music that you can listen to over and over and find new meanings in every time you listen to it. I sometimes go to this website where they offer the supposed meanings for U2 lyrics. Which is cheating, I know, but it's cool that a song can be thought to have so many meanings and that it's sort of a puzzle that keeps you guessing. Their music is satisfying in that it's both popular and fun to listen to but at the same time has a serious message. Where listening to most pop music is like eating sugary candy, listening to U2 is like eating a really delicious meal.

It's funny to think about the sets of circumstances that lead you to appreciate some things. If I had been given a different present for Easter or had never recovered that CD I lost or had somewhere to go on New Year's I probably wouldn't be writing this post. Maybe I'd be writing about the Beatles or Pink Floyd or something. But instead, for me, U2 continues to be The Band.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Time essay: Original Patents. This is funny.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Mmmm, chocolate

I've found my new favorite ice cream: Haagen Dazs Mayan Chocolate. As printed on the pint container, "Rich chocolate ice cream with a fudge swirl and a hint of cinnamon." Yum.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Paragraph I read before falling asleep last night:

"There have been times when I think we do not desire heaven; but more often I find myself wondering whether, in our heart of hearts, we have ever desired anything else. You may have noticed that the books you really love are bound together by a secret thread. You know very well what is the common quality that makes you love them, though you cannot put it into words: but most of your friends do not see it at all, and often wonder why, liking this, you should also like that. Again, you have stood before some landscape, which seems to embody what you have been looking for all your life; and then turned to the friend at your side who appears to be seeing what you saw--but at the first words a gulf yawns between you, and you realise that the landscape means something totally different to him, that he is pursuing an alien vision and cares nothing for the ineffable suggestion by which you are transported. Even in your hobbies, has there not always been some secret attraction which the others are curiously ignorant of--something not to be identified with, but always on the verge of breaking through, the smell of cut wood in the workshop or the clap-clap of water against the boat's side? Are you not all lifelong friendships born at the moment when at last you meet another human being who has some inkling (but faint and uncertain even in the best) of that something which you were born desiring, and which, beneath the flux of other desires and in all the momentary silences between the louder passions, night and day, year by year, from childhood to old age, you are looking for, watching for, listening for? You have never had it. All the things that have ever deeply possessed your soul have been but hints of it--tantalising glimpses, promises never quite fulfilled, echoes that died away just as they caught your ear. But if it should really become manifest--if there ever came an echo that did not die away but swelled into the sound itself--you would know it. Beyond all possibility of doubt you would say 'Here at last is the things I was made for.' We cannot tell each other about it. It is the secret signature of each soul, the incommunicable and unappeasable want, the thing we desired before we met our wives or made our friends or chose our work, and which we shall still desire on our deathbeds, when the mind no longer knows wife or friend or work. While we are, this is. If we lose this, we lose all."

-C.S. Lewis, Chapter 10 "Heaven", The Problem of Pain

Monday, October 23, 2006


I just subscribed to Netflix and I can't get over how great this service is. Netflix is sooooo much better than a video store. No more driving down to the dingy shopping center where the video store is. No more having the movie you want to rent all sold out. No more stressing out about having to watch the movie in five days. And the selection is fantastic. For example, I've been wanting to watch the 7 UP series of documentaries for literally years and could never find them at the video store, but the whole series is available on Netflix. It's amazing and miraculous. I should do a commercial.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Working nights

The house was dark and quiet when I got home from work around 11:30 Monday night. Some nights my mom and/or my sister are awake when I get home and I stay up and talk with them just before they go to sleep. Not tonight. Disappointed, I went to the kitchen to get something to eat and when I turned on the light I noticed something: the house was clean. Not just sort of clean, but really clean, clean the way a hotel room might be when you check in. The house had been slightly messy before I left around 4 that afternoon, but now the kitchen was spotless, a new tablecloth had been put on the table, the rugs looked like they had been vacuumed, and all the stuff that had accumulated on the couch had been put away. It was like some magical cleaning fairy had come by while I was gone, but of course I knew that magical cleaning fairy was my mother. Somewhere in the nearly eight hours I had been gone she had managed to clean the whole house. This happens when you work opposite schedules. You miss things. Events happen that you are entirely oblivious to. I had no idea why my mom picked a weekday night to clean, and I wasn't exactly going to wake her up to ask her. I made myself a quesadilla on the spotless stove then sat alone on the clean couch to watch late-night TV.

And it reminded me of another, sadder, memory of the last job I had where I worked at night. It was my first real job, as a cashier at a big-box store that shall remain nameless. It was during the holiday season. I remember getting home from what had been a horrendous night. It had been so busy my boss wasn't able to give me a break during my six-hour shift. I was tired and hungry. I remember standing in the dark at the door of the house with my key, exhausted and so happy to finally be home. When I opened the door and went inside to the entryway it was quiet and dark the same way it was Monday night. All were asleep. And then I saw the glow of Christmas lights, the Nativity scene on the front table, and the decorated tree. You see, every year a few weeks before Christmas it was our family tradition to spend an evening together hanging ornaments on the tree and stockings over the fireplace, settting up the Nativity scene, and decorating the house with wreaths and garland. And this year while I was at work cashiering like a madwoman, they had done it all without me. At that point I burst into tears.

Some things you never get used to. I've had sixteen months of working nights at my current job and I'm used to the schedule for the most part. I've tricked my body into thinking it should be wide awake at midnight, but it's still difficult to accept the ugliest part of working at night: the lost time, time that could have been spent with loved ones instead spent in service to a corporation. All work requires sacrifices, but more often than working a "regular" schedule, working nights you have these large and small moments of pain in realizing what you missed that make you wonder if the sacrifices are worth it.

Update: Project Runway finale

Jeffrey won. Unbelievable. No indication of it in the finale, it seemed in the bag for Uli. I can respect the guy's designs even though they aren't really my style, but it was his attitude during the show made me cringe more than anything else. And he already has a fashion business, why not give the prize to someone who is truly just starting out?

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The Project Runway season finale is tonight. I'm excited. I hope Michael wins.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

As presented by NewMexiKen, NPR's 100 most important American musical works of the 20th century. None from my Top 20 made the list (I only wish my knowledge of music were that sophisticated or diverse), though I spotted a few favorites like "Good Vibrations", "Let's Stay Together", and Carole King's Tapestry album. NPR has a story for every musical work (some aren't songs but albums or musical scores). Worth spending some time on.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Whimsical life goals, part 1

1. Travel. Italy first, for the language and food and museums. Then the world. I'm talking Bhutan, Iceland, Argentina, Morocco. I would love to see some amazing out-of-the-way places, places no one thinks of where you can have a real adventure, maybe in Africa or Eastern Europe.
2. Have my own house. I already have this pictured in my mind so clearly--the charming little house in the city with wood floors, cream-colored walls, and plenty of windows with ledges where I can sit and read or watch people pass by. Warm in the winter. Small backyard where I can grow fruits and vegetables in the summer.
3. Get married (or close to it). *Blush*
4. Write a book. Non-fiction, probably, fiction just feels like lying to me. Some intricate, compelling, layered story that would require years of research.

The sunset

Today I drove to work along the border highway in the last light of the sunset. It was unbelievably beautiful. The sky looked like it was on fire. A sea of red-orange clouds and I drove toward it like I wanted to get lost in it.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Best songs ever

I was thinking about what I wrote in the last post about my list of the "best songs ever." I've never come up with an actual list, but after I wrote that I thought it might be fun to try. So here are my Top 20 most favorite songs, the ones on my hard drive or in my CD collection that I listen to with great delight, the ones I turn the volume up on and start singing along with when no one's looking. I thought 20 was a good number, 10 would be too few, anything over that would be overkill since there are so many songs I like. There's a definite theme- a lot of classic rock, a lot of what I would refer to as "lush melancholy pop anthems." They are listed in no particular order, since ranking them would be a pointless and impossible task. Without further adieu:
  • "Time After Time" Cyndi Lauper
  • "Silver Spring" Fleetwood Mac
  • "You Get What You Give" New Radicals
  • "Roxanne" The Police
  • "Wouldn't It Be Nice" The Beach Boys
  • "Drive" The Cars
  • "Just What I Needed" The Cars
  • "Masquerade" Madonna
  • "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" U2
  • "One" U2
  • "Sounds of Silence" Simon and Garfunkel
  • "Brown-Eyed Girl" Van Morrison
  • "Paperback Writer" The Beatles
  • "Something" The Beatles
  • "Let It Be" The Beatles
  • "Tiny Dancer" Elton John
  • "White Houses" Vanessa Carlton
  • "Linger" The Cranberries
  • "I Can't Tell You Why" The Eagles

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Retail therapy

I'm not above a little retail therapy. Purchased today:

- haircut (badly needed)
- pair of blue corduroy pants
- sweater and two long-sleeved T-shirts (cold weather looms ahead)
- U2: The Best of 1980-1990 ("I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" on my list of the best songs ever, on sale for $10)
- Lunch at Barnes and Noble- a turkey and cheese pannini and vanilla Italian soda. I managed to leave the store without buying a book, a major accomplishment.

Nice way to spend the day and a hundred dollars.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Paris Hilton

Not that I really admire Paris Hilton, but I think it's cool that a person like her even exists. She hasn't done much in the way of proving herself to the world, and yet she has all the confidence in the world. You get the idea that if you spent one day living her life it would be the most fun you've ever had.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

I know writing is ultimately about being honest. But how honest is too honest? Sometimes I'm in the mood to write soul-baring truths and I'm tempted to turn this into a sort of tell-all journal. Write freely about minutiae of daily life. There's a phrase in Italian that I read in a book that I love: parla come mangia. Speak the way you eat. Or in this case, scriva come mangia. Write the way you eat. But for various reasons I don't do this because "it would be irresponsible."

Confession: I do have a journal. A paper journal where I name names, write about the day's events, and write about my feelings and insecurities, usually at night before I go to bed. I have been keeping journals probably since I was 11 or 12. Sometimes I will go back and read what I wrote. Then I realize why I don't write like that here--I realize how bad the writing is. Things I notice when I go back through my journals:

1) I repeat myself a lot. The same issues come up, the same feelings. I think to myself, you're writing about that again? Let's move on.
2) I will jump from one topic to the next randomly and write a few lines about each. Details aren't filled in and so a lot of times it doesn't make much sense.
3) Sometimes I write about the most boring things. There's no sense of priorities. I will recall that something major happened one day and instead of writing about that I will write about something trivial that happened a few hours before.
4) I will be freaking out about a particular thing and I will elevate it to crisis status. A few months later I'll look back at it and wonder why I worried about that at all.
5) I will read something and not remember that it happened. Not even a vague remembrance. That's scary. Or sometimes I will write about a person and then a year later I'll read what I wrote and not even remember who that person is.

I wouldn't say there's no value to keeping that journal. At the time of writing, it's a good release. And it's good to remember where you've been and what you felt at the time. Looking back I notice the patterns, the persistent worries and struggles, the things in my personality that I struggle with year after year. There are nuggets of insight in there amid the chaos. I suppose the key thing I realize is that there is some value to keeping that unfiltered journal, but that value is limited to myself. You can't really call yourself a writer just because you keep that sort of journal. I hesitate even to call that writing, mostly it is venting. I'm being honest, the most honest I ever get, probably, but I realize I am writing for myself and the value of posting it in public would be limited at best.

So that, in a nutshell, is why this is not a journal and I'm not very forthcoming about things sometimes. The days of coming home and sitting in front of the computer and venting are over for me. But I do want to be honest in my writing, and the question remains of how to do that. I want to spray paint my deep-down honest thoughts on my bedroom wall, so to speak, per an episode of Made. I want to show who I really am and not project some image of who I want myself to be. That's the struggle of everyone who writes, though. How deep do you want to go? You strive for that deep-down honesty, but how much of yourself are you willing to reveal? Or, put another way, how many people are you willing to offend? Play it too safe, stick to the same old topics and you're boring. Be too open and you're disrespectful and offensive. It's a fine line to walk.

Monday, October 09, 2006

What my life is like lately

Read for class-go to class-work-watch TV-sleep. Repeat.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Piano lessons

My latest undertaking to keep my brain from congealing: piano lessons. This summer I developed a thing for piano music--pieces like Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata, Chopin's Minute Waltz, Fantaisie-Impromptu, and the Ballade No. 1 in G minor (my all-time favorite). Even in pop music, I found my tastes veering to keyboards--Five for Fighting, Keane, Vanessa Carlton, Elton John. One day I was listening to the Moonlight Sonata and an idea popped into my mind: maybe I could play that. I had taken two years of lessons as a kid, and it sounded like a simple enough piece to play. It was probably slightly too advanced for the level I stopped at, never mind how much I had forgotten over the years. But the idea was formed and I now had a goal: take enough lessons so that I could play the Moonlight Sonata.

I already have a piano at home, and it was easy enough finding a piano teacher. But of course, the idea of playing the piano and actually playing it are two very different things. I had illusions of myself as the next Vanessa Carlton, with these beautiful melodies naturally flowing from my hands. Instead I'm sitting in my piano teacher's living room trying to puzzle out notes, fretting because I forgot a flat. Half the time it gets to be more about the notes than the music. I'm obviously not a natural-born musician. Moments of frustration occur. I go days without practicing. But sometimes I can hear myself getting better and that's encouraging. It's not such a crazy idea for me to be able to play a Beethoven piece. It seems attainable.

And the thing is, I really like playing the piano. It seems the piano is more natural to me than the guitar, the last instrument I attempted to play. I took a couple of years of guitar lessons, and when I think back, the guitar seems almost painful to play in comparison, with its hand contortions and calloused fingers. But with the piano the notes are all laid out right there in front of you practically inviting you to play. I like the the loudness and physicality of playing the piano--banging out the chords, pressing the foot pedals, playing good and loud so the whole house can hear. It's also very self-contained and I like that. You can play by yourself and it sounds just as well, no need for an orchestra or a band or fancy equipment. You don't need to know how to sing, either, good for a person like me with a laughably bad singing voice. Vanessa Carlton I'm not.

Anyway, so I'll keep everyone posted on my adventures in piano-playing. Chopin seems a long way off, but I'm giving myself two more months for the Moonlight Sonata. Finally, a goal.

Friday, October 06, 2006

The latest installment of the Life Props series (about "Spring and Fall", a Gerard Manley Hopkins poem) is posted over on feeling listless. "Most art, especially art that someone might describe as their favourite has that quality - you'll often describe it as a favourite for reasons that have nothing to do with the item itself and its true meaning." So true. *Sigh* what a great post.

Summer photos

I finally got around to getting some photos from this summer developed. My favorites from the set:

Ah, summer. Here are my feet in my favorite sandals.

Here's a picture of a vacant lot near my house. The purple flowers and clouds reminded me of this Monet painting.

My across-the-street neighbor's mailbox. In the background you can see the steeple of Trinity Lutheran church. I like living across the street from a church. At night the cross lights up and I can see it from my bedroom window.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Commercials I can't stand

  • The commercial for Colonial Penn life insurance where an elderly woman is trying to keep up with her grandchildren. She stops to put quarters into a parking meter. "Don't you wish life were just like this parking meter?" Such a tacky metaphor and I hate how it exploits the fears of older people.
  • The U.S. Army commercial where a young black man stands in the kitchen talking to his father. "Dad, I figured out how I'm going to pay for college." By signing your life away to the Army and being shipped to Iraq shortly after you graduate? At the very least, why can't the Army be upfront about its purpose? The Army is obviously not first and foremost a college financial aid program.
Andrew Sullivan on faith and religion. This is a great essay. Worth reading all the way through if only to get to the fantastic quote in the second-to-last paragraph.

Monday, October 02, 2006

"No matter how much they pay, the paycheck isn't enough." This post came up in a Google search. I find it pretty relevant.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

There's no better thing than driving back from work on a Saturday and seeing my sister's car in the driveway. She had brought a bag of pomegranates (picked from a tree in her backyard) and a loaf of French bread home with her. So we sat on the couch and sucked the juice from pomegranate seeds while watching The Mirror Has Two Faces. Good times. Then she showed me the gi-normous load of homework that she was stressing out over and I remembered how much work it is to be in college. I sympathized as much as I could. That's about all I could do. I wish she still lived here, that I could see her more than once a week and help her in some way. Forty-five minutes doesn't seem like such a long distance but it turns out it is. I miss her a lot.