Friday, February 29, 2008

The Book of Questions

Everything happens for a reason, I swear.

I don't get my mail as much as I should from the mailbox at my apartment, but for some odd reason I decided today was the day I would open it and unleash the pile of mail that had been collecting. I scanned through the community newspaper and randomly crossed over a book sale, today, at the public library. Funny. I was looking for something to do. I jetted over to the library, my mom following along after a phone call, and we must have spent a good hour in there. I love a good cheap book sale more than most people, I think. I spent $19 and got a HUGE box of books. I feel awesome today.

One of my best finds was The Book of Questions by Gregory Stock. The book is exactly what it sounds like, a tiny book filled with questions that make great discussion and are very thought-provoking. My kind of book. A friend of mine had it and lent it to me, and it was hard for me to give it back to her. I loved it. I brought it with me on road trips and engaged in long conversations with friends, or I just whipped it out at late night talk sessions with friends at college. There are 200 questions, so it was a fun game to pick a number and then ask the question. Some questions took a long time to answer, others just moments. But they're incredible because they make you think.

I want to put a few in here that I enjoy. Feel free to respond to any of the questions below. They're very, very cool.

You discover your one-year-old child is, because of a mix-up at the hospital, not yours. Would you want to exchange the child to try to fix the mistake?

Would you rather be a member of a championship sports team or be the champion of an individual sport? Which sport would you choose?

Would you accept $1,000,000 to leave the country and never set foot in it again?

What would constitute a perfect evening for you?

If you were to live to the age of 90 and retain either the body or the mind of a 30-year-old for the last 60 years of your life, which would you want?

What is the most psychological torture you can imagine suffering? Anything causing even minor physical injury should not be considered.

Were you able to wake up tomorrow in the body of someone else, would you do so? Who would you pick?

I could keep going forever, but this is my sample. Amuse yourself. Answer one or two.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

What Music Evokes

I just finished reading one of my favorite short stories, "Sonny's Blues" by James Baldwin. Besides the detailed descriptions of life in Harlem and drugs, Baldwin creates a beautiful narrative about the power of music.

Music provides a lot of different modes for people, be it coping, happiness, or an escape. Different kinds of music even offer different feelings or ways of dealing with the world--I find it interesting to see which kinds of music, bands, or songs act for various modes for people.

I want to paste various excerpts from the story that stick out to me. When I read them, the lines moves slower. I read them over and over again. They have a different tone--they're deeper, about life. About music. See if any speak to you, or effect you, and comment, perhaps, on one or more.

"All I know about music is that not many people really ever hear it. And even then, on the rare occasions when something opens within, and the music enters, what we mainly hear, or hear corroborated, are personal, private, vanishing evocations. But the man who creates the music is hearing something else, is dealing with the roar rising from the void and imposing order on it as it hits the air. What is evoked in him, then, is of another order, more terrible because it has no words, and is triumphant, too, for that same reason. And his triumph, when he triumphs, is ours."

"I had never thought before of how awful the relationship must be between the musician and his instrument. He has to fill it, this instrument, with the breath of life, his own. He has to make it do what he wants it to do. And a piano is just a piano. It's made out of so much wood and wires and little hammers and big ones, and ivory. While there's only so much you can do with it, the only way to find out is to try; to try to make it do everything."

"Creole began to tell us what the blues were all about. They were not about anything very new. He and his boys were keeping it new, at the risk of ruin, destruction, madness, and death, in order to find new ways to make us listen. For, while the tale of how we suffer, and how we are delighted, and how we may triumph is never new, it always must be heard. There isn't any other tale to tell, it's the only light we've got in all this darkness."

"My trouble made his real."

"As the singing filled the air the watching, listening faces underwent a change, the eyes focusing on something within; the music seemed to soothe a poison out of them; and time seemed, nearly, to fall away from the sullen, belligerent, battered faces, as though they were fleeing back to their first condition, while dreaming of their last."

"No, there's no way not to suffer. But you try all kinds of ways to keep from drowning in it, to keep on top of it, and to make it seem--well, like you. Like you did something, all right, and now you're suffering for it. Why do people suffer? Maybe it's better to give it a reason, any reason."

"The silence, the darkness coming, and the darkness in the faces frightens the child obscurely. He hopes that the hand which strokes his forehead will never stop--will never die. He hopes there will never come a time when the old folks won't be sitting around the living room, talking about where they've come from, and what they've seen, and what's happened to them and their kinfolk. But something deep and watchful in the child knows that this is bound to end, is already ending. In a moment someone will get up and turn on the light. Then the old folks will remember the children and they won't talk any more that day. And when the light fills the room, the child is filled with darkness. He knows that every time this happens, he moves a little closer to the darkness outside. The darkness outside is what the old folks have been talking about. It's what they come from. It's what they endure. The child knows that they won't talk any more because if he knows too much about what's happened to them, he'll know too much too soon, about what's going to happen to him."

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Last Lecture

If you could give one lecture before you died, what would you say? What would you comment on when reflecting about your life?

A professor, Randy Pausch, dying of pancreatic cancer, gave his last lecture to his students, and he performed it on Oprah. It's a hypothetical lecture idea, but he takes it literally and gives the speech.

Check it out here. It's pretty interesting. Makes you think about your daily life...

What do you think of it?

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Diet Facts

Ever wonder how many calories were in something you ate at a restaurant?

Check out this website, DietFacts, to see how much fat/calories is in anything, from a Taco Bell chalupa to a pancake at IHOP.

Random gross facts: KFC's bowl was like 800 calories, 44 grams of fat. Dunkin Donuts muffins are 26 grams of fat. Taco Bell Chalupas, 27 grams. Chicken quesadilla, 30 grams. Yikes.

Any surprises?

Monday, February 25, 2008

SNL on Democratic Candidates

Hillary or Obama?

The Democratic race for this 2008 Presidential election has been really tight, and to me, pretty exciting. I know a lot of people have strong views either for/against each candidate for various reasons, and I'm even kind of torn myself. Hillary has great views on how to help/change health care in the US, and she'd have extraordinary help in the White House from Bill, who was a great president. On the otehr hand, Obama is this bright light, an extraordinary speaker who promises change and hope--and I believe him. I don't think I'd believe a Republican...but I believe Obama.

Anyway, it's interesting to see who backs who and what TV programs, especially comedy shows, portray different candidates. Conan promoted Huckabee in a funny sketch: "I made Chuck Norris, ergo, I made Huckabee." Now SNL, back on the air, is making tons of political jokes. Back in October, they actually had Barack on the show to play himself. That was incredible. They always portray Hillary as a bitch, or someone who is just completely arrogant. Amy Poehler and Darryl Hammond do a fabulous job as the Clintons. Then in last week's episode with Tina Fey, they criticized CNN for having too much support for Barack, and too much support and love from US citizens. They had Obamattacks and wrote love songs about him, stalked him in cars, etc. They show open support for Obama, in my opinion, except I don't think that Fred Armisen plays a good Obama AT ALL. Get someone else to play Obama!

But, when Tina Fey hosted, she wrote a fantastic speech in support of Hillary. I was blown away. She held a small section on women's news and ended with a rant on criticism of Hillary. I will show you it below. Please comment because it's hilarious, and she proves great points while making us laugh.

"We, women, have our first, serious Presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton. And yet, women have come so far as feminists that they don't feel that they need to vote for a candidate just because she's a woman, but they can make any choice that Oprah tells them to. Which raises the question, why are so many people abandoning Hillary for Obama? Some are saying that the fact that Hillary cannot control her husband or the fact that they'd be co-presidents would be terrible, having two intelligent people working together to solve problems. Why would you let Starsky talk to Hutch? I wanna watch that show Starksy. So what is it America? Are you weirded out that they're married? Because I can promise you that they're having exactly as much sex as George Bush and Jeb Bush are. And then there's the scrutiny of her physical appearance. Rush Limbaugh, the Jeff Connolly of ring-wing radio, said that he doesn't think America is ready to watch their president, quote, 'turn into an old lady right in front of them.' Really? They didn't seem to mind when Ronald Regan did that. And maybe what bothers me the most is that Hillary is a bitch. And let me tell you, yeah, she is. So am I. And so is this one (Amy Poehler)."

Poehler: "Yeah, deal with it."

"And you know what? Bitches get stuff done. That's what catholic schools use nuns as teachers. Those nuns are mean old clams, and they sleep on cots, and they're allowed to hit you. At the end of the school year you hated those bitches, but you knew the capitol of Vermont. So I'm saying it's not too late Texas and Ohio. Get on board. Bitch is the new black."


Sunday, February 24, 2008

Winter Woods

I'm not the biggest fan of winter, but on warm days, I love to walk through the woods. The sun is warm on your face, and you can enjoy observing nature after the snow has settled.

Today is a warm day, and I hope to take a walk and enjoy New York in its winter season. I wanted to show some pictures from two years ago when I took a nice walk through the woods with some of my best friends. I miss days like these, but there are more to come.

I love how one memory in the present can take you back to such warm, pleasant memories as this day. I hope the pictures capture the warm mood in the snow. We didn't say much, but we didn't have to. We just enjoyed our surroundings and the warm sun on our faces.

This poem also came to mind, by Robert Frost. It makes me think of this very theme. It's similar, somewhat different, but I'll make a connection somehow.

"Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening"

Whose woods these are I think I know,
His house is in the village though.
He will not see me stopping here,
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer,
To stop without a farmhouse near,
Between the woods and frozen lake,
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake,
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep,
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

And some pictures for your enjoyment. A calm, winter afternoon at Lime Hollow in Cortland with two good friends.

And my good friends, as they are:

Any similar memories for you?

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig: a book recommended to my first by a good friend, and then by a professor for an independent study class. I figured, two recommendations, this book is probably one that I should pick up.

To tell you the truth, I thought I was going to be more into this book. It's a pseudo-memoir where a man travels across the country with his son on his motorcycle as he runs into various people. Sounds interesting. But, he spends most of his narrative on rationality, technology, logic, reasoning, scientific methods, and of course, motorcycle maintenance. I thought motorcycle maintenance was going to be a metaphor. I didn't think he'd actually piece apart the motorcycle for me, as he does.

I keep reading the book because, every so often, these deeply philosophical words of knowledge speak through the narrative, and then I catch my breath of fresh air. I clutch on to his moments where he lives in the "present" of the book and when he talks deeply about life. Other times, he professes random bursts of knowledge, like the philosopher Phaedrus. Interesting, I know it all ties together, but it's not really keeping my attention. In my opinion, it doesn't really flow or make much sense. It's untraditional, as I bet he wants it to be, and I don't even mind untraditional, but I just feel more lost in it than enjoyable. But, I continue reading because I hate giving up on books (or things for that matter, in general), and I have optimism that maybe something else will happen to catch my attention.

He's a smart guy though, and I enjoy the book from time to time. I would recommend this book to someone, as long as they are interested in more mechanical ways of thinking and technicalities that wouldn't bore them too easily.

I will just insert a few quotations here below from Parts I and II. Feel free to comment on anything.

"We're in such a hurry most of the time we never get a chance to talk. The result is an endless day-to-day shallowness, a monotony that leaves a person wondering years later where all the time went and sorry that it's all gone" (7).

"You always suppress momentary anger at something you deeply and permanently hate" (14).

"When you want to hurry something, that means you no longer care about it and want to get on to other things" (25).

"The world has no existence whatsoever outside the human imagination" (31).

"Some things you miss because they're so tiny you overlook them. But some things you don't see because they're so huge" (48).

"When analytic thought is applied to experience, something is always killed in the proess. That is fairly well understood, at least in the arts. Mark Twain's experience comes to mind, in which, after he had mastered the analytic knowledge to pilot the Mississippi River, he discovered the river had lost its beauty. Something is always killed. But what is less noticed in the arts--something is always created too. And instead of just dwelling on what is killed it's important also to see what's created and to see the process as a kind of death-birth continuity that is niether good nor bad, but just is" (70-71).

"What is the truth and how do you know when you have it? ...How do we really know anything? Is there an 'I,' a 'soul,' which knows, or is this soul merely cells coordinating senses? ...Is reality basically changing, or is it fixed and permanent? ...When it's said that something means something, what's meant by that?" (112).

"You are never dedicated to something you have complete confidence in" (134).

"Look where you're going and where you are and it never makes sense, but then you look back at where you've been and a pattern seems to emerge. And you can project forward from that pattern, then sometimes you can come up with something" (149).

And I want to leave you with this puzzle to think about:

"Suppose a child is born devoid of all senses; he has no sight, no hearing, no touch, no smell, no taste--nothing. There's no way whatsoever for him to receive any sensations from the outside world. And suppose this child is fed intravenously and otherwise attended to and kept alive for eighteen years in this state of existence. The question is then asked: Does this eighteen-year-old person have a thought in his head? If so, where does it come from? How does he get it?" (115).

What do you think?

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Marley's Lessons

I'm about to reveal more picturs of my frisky kitten, Marley. As Marley's grown older, she's developing more curiosity and interest in every little thing in this apartment. I guess I would too if I was as house-bound as she is. Anyway, she has this excitement and positive energy, every day, towards life that I envy. I know she's a kitten, but she teaches me something every day.

For all who know me, you all know that I can work myself really hard with things, especially homework. My drive to learn is overwhelming. But sometimes when I get into this "go-mode," as I call it, I don't like to be distracted and I just work straight through pretty hard until I finish, no matter how long it takes me. Well, as I work, Marley torments me. Well, in my language, it's torment. She climbs on my legs, scratching them with her claws, she climbs my tapestries, darts around the room, knocks garbage cans, books, binders, stuffed animals over--anything for attention. She actually gets me to stop my crazy fury and pause. I look at her, and I just have to laugh. She's hilarious.

She teaches me that, amidst craziness and a frenzy, just stop, relax, and enjoy yourself. Is what you're doing so furiously really all that important? Shouldn't we just be silly for some of the time?

I love her to death, and I try to stop and realize what her lessons are to give me. These lessons will serve me well if I ever become a parent. I am not patient enough with her, she forces me to be energetic when I'm lethargic, she makes me get irritated when she messes up or destroys my things--but then I have to think, are the "things" really worth it? She's my baby, and I should love her more than my things, my tapestries.

These are my initial lessons from Marley. When I was alone with just her, she provided a companionship that I loved. I talk her to her, but overall, I just love this thing to pieces. She's getting a little bigger. Maybe you can see in the pictures.

And now she's biting my fingers as I type. She's trying to walk on the keyboard but I'm stopping her. Now she's preoccupied biting my mouse cord and pens, but she's trying to walk away with my mousepad in her mouth, so now I must intervene.

Anyway, here she is, and look what she does. She's insane. I don't even have that much courage to do what she does.

Yup. She's on my bookshelf. She loves to climb it.

And now she goes on top of the door... She climbs the tapestry on the door and then investigates up there. That'll get my attention. I have yet to help her down... She doesn't need me.

And now on top of our corner cabinet...

Or she just plays...

And she loves to pounce. It's her favorite game. Look at her. She's so dead-serious about it.

Or she bites...


And the best for last. This one is the best.


Wednesday, February 20, 2008


The battle of "Everlong."

If you're not a Foo Fighters fan, this might not appeal to you. If you do enjoy rock music, Dave Grohl, the Foo Fighters and their music, then maybe this is a debate you can appreciate.

A conversation I like to have with people is... Which version of "Everlong" do you think is the best?

Ever since it was released in 1997, new versions have come out that alter the song. But which, in your opinion, is the best way to play/sing the song?

We have these versions:

-Obviously the original. Harder, screaming, lots of energy.
-Acoustic version as played initially on the Howard Stern show.
-Acoustic with string band accompaniment on the live record Skin and Bones.
-I saw a live version where Dave plays slow for the beginning, and then the band joins in to play the next half a bit harder.

Interesting "Everlong" facts, courtesy of Wikipedia:

"During the instrumental break, three indecipherable tracks whispered by Grohl can be heard. The exact wordings are unknown, but according to the official Foo Fighters newsgroup FAQ, the source materials are a love letter, a technical manual, and a story about a studio technician's father. Grohl himself has only confirmed the use of the technical manual."

"Everlong" is David Letterman's favorite song.

Bob Dylan once asked Dave Grohl to teach him "Everlong" so he could cover it. Good choice.

It played during Monica and Chandler's wedding on Friends.

It was included in an episode of Daria. YES!

Watch the music video here. Like all other Foo Fighters videos, it is worth watching. I love their creativity. And he's so young too!!

Watch an acoustic version here.

Personally, I might have to say that my favorite is the newer version with the string band for Sticks and Stones. It's kind of a good mixture between the two since I'm so divided. I've went back and forth with my decision--at first I stuck to the original, but then the acoustic grew on me--but now the newest edition tops it all, in my opinion.

But what's your opinion? What's the best version of "Everlong?" And why?

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Britney Spears

Has anyone seen Britney Spears on the cover of the latest Rolling Stone Magazine? Is this a good move or a bad move for Rolling Stone and/or for Britney?

Not like Britney needs any more publicity anyway. She's everywhere. But, I actually like that Rolling Stone came out with this new article: "An American Tragedy." It's true. I've seen so many tabloids and video shots of her at her worst moments that it's almost becoming normal. There's not more shock value. But I don't even know what to believe anymore. I look at tabloids and I can't bring myself to believe anything they say. Is that bad?

Angelina has twins!
Jen can't get over Brad!
Brad's upset feelings after last week's fight!
Britney beats a reporter!

Ah! It's everywhere! It's too much! And I don't even know what's true in this country!

So, I was glad to see this magazine come up with an article where I knew the information would at least be fairly true. We've seen her go through phases, from Mickey Mouse to "Hit Me Baby One More Time..." school girl, to skanky girl dancing with a python around her neck. But this article really opened me eyes to the damage done to Britney.

Think about it: Britney was created to be a star by her mother during her childhood. They went to auditions hoping to score big, because they were pretty much bankrupt, and used Britney as their rise to fame and money. And once Britney was in the spotlight, she never came out. She's had cameras on her since she was a child. If I was her, I might freak out too. She can't even go to the grocery store without getting attacked by paparazzi.

Since Britney has always been a star, shes also always been told what to do. This is your new image--this is the new direction you're taking. She never really had a voice. When America responded to what they liked/disliked about her, she changed. We're sick of the schoolgirl look--Britney changes to get bigger boobs. She is critized heavier than most celebrities are for getting a boob job (who knows why) even though she goes on SNL to confront and laugh at the incident. Then she changes into her "Not a Girl, But Not Yet a Woman" stage, trying to show her growing maturity. Given, Britney does not write her lyrics or choose her outfits, so she's just going along for the ride.

She breaks up with Justin Timberlake and is pretty devastated, but she must keep performing and making appearances. Whenever Britney's life went through trauma, she never stopped to recollect her sanity and get over these things in her life. She always kept going. There were always people in the big industry who wanted her to keep going, because of profits, obviously. I don't know if I can blame her--a huge paycheck versus facing the conflicts in your life--the escape was easy to ignore.

As she kept shifting her image, the public reacted pretty negatively. Apparently, Britney was always open about her body and sex, so in her later years when she started actually writing her own songs, of course they started to be about masterbation and sex. The public then deemed her a "slut." This part of her was just always shut up by those controlling her, but now it was her time to unleash herself.

Perhaps an attempt to get back at JT, she hooks up with one of his dancers, we all now know him as KFed, Kevin Federline. Eventually they get together, get married, and have children. We all know what happents next. It's hard not to know in this culture. They make a reality show called Chaotic where they talk about having sex with each other all the time and Britney chain-smokes. And get this--her favorite drink is called the Purple Monster (Vodka, Red Bull, and NyQuil). Ah!

Then Britney spirals down, shaving her head, exposing herself, beating cars with umbrellas, doing drugs and partying--she's not ashamed anymore to show us who she really is. And, I think the main point of the article was this: Britney wants to show us the hurt and pain America has caused her. This is her backlash, her attempt to show us what we've done to her. Her downfall is our fault since we've been bad-mouthing her and stalking her night and day. And you know what, I think she's right.

And imagine this: Now Britney earns money just from being a person. She sold her wedding pictures and baby pictures for a million dollars a piece. A million dollars! Imagine that! Britney does interviews for a million dollars too. That's insane to me. She doesn't even have to perform and she's making money.

But, she's a huge comodity to the entertainment world. She's always on the cover of every month's tabloid, and she's always on some E! channel with new horrific footage. Britney takes up 30% of the attention of magazines and entertainment centers. 30%! They have staff specifically designed just to follow Britney's life. Imagine that job.

The reporter was standing outside of her house after Britney supposedly attempted suicide, and the reporters were all talking. One said that she couldn't die because that's his job. One wanted her to come out on the stretcher so he could bring back something to work. It's just disgusting how focused we are on certain people's lives. I thnk it's terrible. There are more important things going on in this world! We're fighting a war for crying out loud! But we always know our updates on Britney's life. Maybe not Iraq, but we'll know when Britney grabs herself a latte.

I hate to say it or even admit it, but I really hope she doesn't end up killing herself. I wouldn't be surprised if she OD'd (leaving it up to speculation) or just killed herself (maybe some reckless behavior leaving more speculation). What do you think? I think it's bound to happen when she's young. I feel sick even predicting it. Anyway, when Britney found out about Anna Nicole's death, she locked herself in her room and glued herself to the TV. She thought she was next. Maybe she is? But she got way too paranoid thinking that microphones were stashed in her clothes and people were watching her. I don't blame her paranoia--I feel sorry for her.

Again, a direct quote from the magazine writes, "Britney isn't ashamed of who herself. She wants us to know what we did to her."

What do you think?

So, overall, what are our feelings with Britney?

Do we think she's gross and horrible, or do you think that she can't help it because of what America has done to her?

Where can she go from here, or is there no redemption for her lifestyle choices?