Friday, December 30, 2005

"It's that same same song; the DJ sucks. ..."

I left the house around eleven today to do errands, and came home around three. My sister and brother in law had the kids, so I was able to get multiple errands out of the way. I spent a lot of time in the car! I have never been someone who was at all convicted about listening to secular music. I love good music, and always have something playing while I am in the car. I did not have our portable CD player in the car today (and don't most days) so I relied on the radio to provide some fun music for my kid-free car time. In the past, it seems that radio has served as an outlet to hear singles from various bands which helps one decide what albums to buy. I have noticed this a lot for a while but it got away from me during a month of listening to Christmas music: there is NOTHING new on the radio; OR if it is new, it stinks!

This is sort of a random sampling of what I heard today, minus a lot of snipets of Amercican Idol-ish grabage and oodles of commercials:
U2 "Beautiful Day"- 2000
"Funkytown"- 70's?
U2 "New Year's Day"- 1983
REM "Man On the Moon"- 1992
Black Crowes "She Talks to Angels"- 1991
Mr Big "To Be With You"- oh, yeah! 1991!
Dido "White Flag"-2003
Outkast "Hey Ya"-2003
867-5309/Jenny- mid 80's?
oh, and that song from the credit card commercials about 100 years to live- 2000 maybe?

And I guess I am not really sure what I am looking for. I didn't even have a radio in my Jeep all through college. I just played mix tapes all the time. I reckon I heard about new music from friends or Mtv ( before it became everything but music, and the cable bill was being split 8 ways with roommates). Now, all I ever listen to is U2, Oasis, or Jack Johnson. I also always enjoy Counting Crows or Natalie Merchant, but I grow weary of waiting for them to put out something new. And I suppose years of loyalty begs me to add Dave Matthews and REM to the list, but my interest is waning as they seem to get increasingly noisy (decreasingly melodic). So is the entire music industry as bankrupt as I am when it comes to good new music? Why is everything from the past five years angry rock or sappy pop? Has radio always been so stale?

I'm thinking I just need to go back to good old mix tapes. It would be great to get some recommendations from anyone that might have similar tastes (not sayin' I like all the stuff I heard today, just that I chose it over the other rubbish). I've got to do something so I quit spending all my time flipping stations and hoping for something not awful!

[The title quote is from REM's "Radiosong" off Out of Time (1991). "Hey! Hey! Hey!"]

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

To be neither too serious nor too silly

I'm having a little trouble with ideas about entries. Until this week, I had no idea that so many people were checking in. I am so easily embarrassed, so I didn't actually even tell anyone I had a blog! I don't even know why I decided to start a blog up except that George is always telling me, "you should write about that." I do love to write. But now here I am with writer's block.

Part of the problem is that I am pretty negative. My sweet friend Michelle calls it "analytical." But whatever it is, I have a real tendency to point out what is wrong with things. If you think about it, that's what comedians do. They are always making fun of something or asking why we do things the way we all do. So I guess that's how I can be so funny for a girl. Although, that is a half joke, and I am sure that there is no evidence of my being at all funny yet.

So, I don't want to be that site that is always whining. I don't want to be that PERSON that is always whining. But I also don't want to be that site (or person) that is just silly- in the Jane Austen sense of the word- not thinking through things or using good judgement. In my life, I have seemed to be one or the other, never a good gracious but wise medium like my dear husband. I have been the silly girl that never took anything seriously-I even started a little personal motto, "yeah right," when faced with any type of possible consequence for my actions. And now I seem to be, as evidenced by what Elizabeth pointed out as insanity, way too serious about everything (even gingerbread houses). So maybe the first step is not taking this blog too seriously. I am all for discussing the problem with too many government regulations on everything under the sun or with the healthcare industry and all the sky-high costs because of unnecessary procedures and medications or with people who have all different views on the Covenant, but maybe this just won't be that blog. Sometimes it might be, but not always.

Today, maybe I'll just say something like, "I really like chocolate chip cookies from Joe Muggs," and leave it at that. I've been thinking about those cookies. They have giant chips, regular chips and chunks- all of both milk and dark chocolate! The ratio of chocolate to dough is about even, if not in favor of chocolate. You can't get them up here; there are no Joe Muggs or Books-a-millions (and good ridance to them, save the Joe Muggs within). Anyone bound for St. Louis, swing through Birmingham or Paducah and bring me one! I'll share.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Perfectionism falling into place?

I guess I have just figured that everyone is as busy as I am and therefore not looking at my blog- as I have not either. The Christmas cards are out. Amabel and August have two sets of matching outfits, with a slight catch: I am not completely finished with Aug's longall for one set and I have not put together Amabel's dress for the second set. The smocking is all done though, and that is what really matters, especially because they are not so so Christmas-y that they can't be worn all winter. The Christmas program is over at church, and Amabel successfully learned "See the Little Baby Lyin' (not LION) in the Straw" and "How Far is it to Bethlehem?" (Not very far!). Oh, and August just stood up there and squirmed around. I have made two giant batches of sugar cookies- iced to perfection, save the darling ones the children, along with a little buddy of theirs (also 2) decorated themselves- a batch of biscotti, and m&m oatmeal bars, plus a giant batch of orange kifle(these fabulous Hungarian orange cake-like crescents) with my mother-in-law. I have shipped boxes of those cookies all over this great country as well as gifts to sisters and parents. I have hand painted little Christmas towels for a few family members and friends, and coated pretzels in chocolate for Sunday school teachers. I have wrapped everything- except I ran out of ribbon. But I actually still have not bought everything, so there will be more wrapping. The gingerbread is cut and baked, but the house is not actually assembled. I never did make the wreath, but perhaps I can have it up when George's family comes over for Christmas Eve supper. The saddest thing to me is that when I write this all out, it doesn't seem like I have done very much.

I hope everyone else is progressing down their list of perfection for the big day! I realize this is not progress in many ways because I still have the bar set in the same spot. And perfectionism is the problem, not actually the lack of perfection. But, on the other hand, that greenery just waiting to be formed into a wreath and those gingerbread trees just waiting to sparkle with icing snow are not nearly so much a matter of life and death as they were last week. And wouldn't it just be fine if I ended up throwing it in the trash without ever even finishing? Well, let's not get carried away. There's still four more days until Christmas! I wonder if I still have time to make homemade stockings for the kids?

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Randall the Jackass!

I am in total disbelief! I have just seen the end of the live finale of the Apprentice. The last two candidates were the clear front runners through the entire season. Both of them had major struggles to overcome during the 14 week interview process. Rebekah, a 23 year old who Trump said was unparallelled in her handling of stressful situations, broke her ankle the first week out and spent the entire season on crutches. Randall, an MIT grad as well as a Rhodes scholar from Oxford, lost his grandmother the first or second week out.

The final projects are always major things. In this case, they were fundraising events for medical research. Rebekah's was for Yahoo raising money for a pediatric AIDS foundation. Yahoo made the actual fundraising very difficult for her calling any outright asking for charitable donations "panhandling." Randall's was for I don't know who. It was at a baseball stadium, but it was rained out, so it ended up being in a narrow, undecorated room because he didn't have a plan B. His charity was to raise money for an autism organization. He used an auction format and raised $11,000 which didn't seem like very much to me at all as Donald Trump, Jerry O'Connell, Sugar Ray Leonard, and some other folks were all there. Unfortunately, because Yahoo was so unbending toward Rebekah's ideas for fundraising, she ended up with quite a lovely event and just sending people home with imformation and an envelope to mail back to the AIDS foundation so there was no dollar amount to compare with Randall's. I think that was sort of a big deal to Trump.

Randall also kept throwing his record out there like he was up for the NFL draft. He kept saying "I was 3 and 0 as a project manager; Rebekah was 1 and 2!" (or was she 2 and 1, you'd think I could remember as many times as he said it). Watching him made me think of the guys in my highschool. He was not so much defending himself as attacking Rebekah. I was so sad for her. She was so classy, really took the higher road and never said anything negative about her opponent. But every time she said something positive about herself, he jumped in there again with the stupid 3 and 0 line and other little negative remarks or even just expressions on his face. At one point he asked everyone to stand up that would vote for him over Rebekah. I can't believe how tacky! And only when Rebekah was pressed, when Trump said, "what is bad about Randall?" did she say several good things first and then that she thought his achilles heal was that he got bogged down in details forgetting the big picture- which is absolutely true. He interupted her and said how he couldn't believe she could say that about him, how he was so great and "run(s) a multi-million dollar company blah blah blah." He was getting so heated and she was completely composed- well, I did have to turn the volume down, but I am amazed she didn't cry.

So in the end, Trump says "Rebekah, you're outstanding." Then he pauses like he's still thinking and says "Randall...You're hired." So Randall is jumping all over the place, hugging everyone, ignoring that Trump is calling his name. Rebekah has so graciously applauded and embraced this man who has been completely unprofessional and gone above and beyond to humiliate her on national television. Trump finally gets Randall's attention and asks him to sit down. He says "Randall, what do you think of Rebekah?" So Randall now says that she's great and a worthy opponent and wonderful to work with. Keep in mind, or if you haven't seen it this year, Trump has done a lot of firing multiple people. He fired two at once a couple of times, and another time sent four home in one night. So I was almost expecting the next question to be on his mind: "Randall, I really respect your opinion on this, what do you think if I hire Rebekah too?" And everyone starts cheering. And you think he will redeem himself; the pressure is off him now and he will be kind and professional. And do you believe he said "Mr. Trump, I honestly believe that this is the Apprentice, not the Apprenti. There is only one." And Trump says "Oh. Okay, well, I guess I'll just leave it at that. I really think I could've been swayed." And everyone starts booing Randall. And that's it. Everyone, even Trump, was stunned. I bet his wife was mortified. And if I were Trump, I would've said "Oh, well in that case, Randall, you're fired on grounds of no integrity. Rebekah, you're hired for being A+ classy, probably a Chi Omega."

And because she is A+ classy, probably a Chi Omega (ha ha), she has probably forgiven him and is better for it. But this little Chi Omega would never be able to forgive that! He got the job; he won. How in the world can he live with himself for keeping someone else from having that opportunity? Selfish, arrogant, horrible man! He is obviously not a Chi Omega, but whoever he belongs to should pull his pin!

By the way, I have no idea if Rebekah has any Greek affiliation, and I think many fraternal orginizations worthy of a member such as she. And for that reason, I hope she IS a Chi Omega :) But whoever she belongs to family or fraternity, well done. And to whoever Randall belongs to, you must be so embarrassed.

Please read my post. I worked all day on it!

Not sure if I'm dealing with the biggest U2 fans in the world, so I am just going to make you fans, and then tell you about the concert!

I got my first CD player for my birthday in ninth grade- a little late, but I was in one of those homes that grouped rock'n'roll in there with sex and drugs. So I had finally convinced my parents that Amy Grant was not the only non-satanic artist out there. And with my CD player (the kind that loaded the disc upright instead of as all normal ones -then and now- where you load the disc in flat), I received (cringe) a Roxette CD (I don't even remember the album's name, it had "Joyride" and "Fading Like a Flower" on it) and the best album of all time, U2's Achtung Baby.

Well, that was the album that really defined U2's larger than life reputation. I mean, everyone knew them from Joshua Tree and Rattle and Hum because of songs like "With or Without You," "Pride (In the Name of Love)" and "Angel of Harlem." Even their earlier albums were popular, although that is just way before my time. But when they came out with Achtung Baby and Bono started wearing those glasses, they adopted a much less acoustic sound and look. Their tour for that album, Zoo TV, had these giant TV screens broadcasting everything imaginable: infomercials, televangelists, politicians, etc. Bono would flip through the channels just showing how crazy the things that come out of our television sets are. He invited people out of the audience to drink champagne with him as he sang "Tryin' to Throw Your Arms Around the World" (an absolutely amazing song live- my very favorite). He had belly dancers on stage for "Mysterious Ways." And he made frequent calls to the White House requesting to speak to President Bush (George Herbert Walker Bush). The whole experience of one of these concerts was uniquely artisitc and interactive.

Do I know this firsthand? Well, no. This is an unfortunate detail, but there was a guy in my highschool who had stalker calliber crushes that lasted for years. During my freshman and sophomore years in highschool, I happened to be his victim. He got two tickets to the Atlanta Zoo TV show, and I am guessing they were pretty nice seats. Of course, there was an alterior motive- he was going to be in the seat next to the two he gave me. I was 14 and couldn't drive, so he also hoped to drive me down and back. My parents were not okay with that, but they suggested I ask the pastor's son to take me. I was in every other way forbidden to initiate society with boys; but my parents did not want to take me. I have never been so embarrassed than when I had to ask Ty Jennings to take me to see U2. But I wanted to go so much, and I thought maybe the great ticket would be enough for him to overlook that I hardly knew him. He said his parents wouldn't let him- which is no doubt true as he was only 16 himself, and Atlanta was a 5 hour drive. I had no nerve left to ask anyone else. A friend from church heard about my dilemma and invited me to be her guest to go to the Birmingham show (Hurray!) with her family. However, Stalker guy got really ticked when I didn't show up in Atlanta. And when he heard that I was going to Birmingham, he called my mother and told her about all the horrible things on the screens at the concert in Atlanta. I did not know enough about Bono's political stances and his use of irony to illustrate his point and rally people to a cause. I did know that he and at least two of the other three band members were Christians, but it was no use. I missed not only one, but two U2 concerts- tickets in hand! Thanks, creepy stalker guy! However, I do have a fantastic bootleg from their 1993 two night show in Stockholm, Sweden. It's the next best thing, I reckon.

So what of the horrible things on the screen? I don't even remember what he said except something about burning crosses. Bono is an activist and stands especially for human rights. He is a sincere fan of Martin Luther King Jr. who is the person "Pride" was written about. Any kind of symbol of hatred, such as a burning cross, would have probably been shown during that song or "Bullet the Blue Sky," another one of his anti-violence songs that actually references burning crosses in the lyrics. There were probably other similar images; I have heard of guns etc. The whole idea is that he is making a point that those things are shocking and we should rise up against them- not against U2, but against violence and human degredation.

So did I ever get to see U2 before last night? I did! I went to see them in Clemson, South Carolina, of all places, May 16, 1997. It was in Clemson's football stadium which seats somewhere in the 70-80,000 range. We were pretty far back, so not as much in the experience- especially because it was outdoors. However, it was awesome. That was the Popmart tour after the release of Pop which is probably my least favorite U2 album. Nonetheless, it was quite the show. They had a giant lemon shaped discoball that spun out away from the main stage, opened up to be a new stage with the band on the inside! Bono likes to change costumes between songs so we got to see all of his many "faces" during the show.The tv screens returned, but not in the same magnitude as in the Zoo TV tour. There was one large screen framed by a giant golden arch that was anchored on either side of the stage. The whole atmosphere was larger than life and really FUN!

I am not convinced that I have fully communicated why you should love this band- or at least why I do. I have worried over the years that they were not as worthy as I had hoped. Most of those worries turned out to be caused by people like the Stalker guy who misunderstood them and painted them in a poor light. Bono is a serious humanitarian and helps to raise awareness as well as money and initiative to fight against human suffering all around the world. He also loves God and his family. He and his wife have been married for over 20 years. So the people of U2, Paul Hewson (Bono), Dave Evans (the Edge), Larry Mullen Jr., and Adam Clayton, are good people. Sometimes we avoid saying something like that because of total depravity, but really, I think God is pleased with much of what they are doing. It points to Himself. It points to treating people, made in His image, with dignity. It points to Him when any of His children use their gifts with great beauty and ability. And it actually, literally points to Him as in songs like "40," which is an excerpt from Psalms 40 put to music.

Sometimes all of that can be a little too much and you just want to be entertained, right? Well, for that, I just have to say to listen to the music, listen to the lyrics, see one of their shows. These guys are good. They master their instruments; they master their voices as instruments. Their lyrics are poetry. They write against war and mindless society, yes. But they write beautiful love songs too. They write really great dance tunes! They write beautiful songs about their faith as in the aforementioned "40" which they customarily close their shows with or the newer "Yahweh" which is essentially a prayer to be used for God's glory.

So are you a fan now? Or can you see why I am?

I won't give you the rundown of songs except some highlights. The stage was a circle with a larger circle coming off it out into the audience. Both stages had lights all around them that would change colors and move to the music. At various points during the show, each of the band members was out in the middle of the crowd on the larger cirlce. Larry Mullen Jr., the drummer, came out to the end of the big circle with Bono for "Bullet the Blue Sky," banging on one big drum until he went back to his set on the small stage and Bono began banging the one he left. During "Until the End of the World," Bono chased the Edge around the big circle, Edge still playing perfectly in a full run. Adam Clayton, the bassist, is the least flambouyant in a sense, but he too made his way out to the fans. At one point, we tried calling some of y'all when Bono had everyone get out their cell phones. He said we were "going to light the place up like a Christmas tree." His idea was that everyone would text their name to a number to support a Declaration of Human Rights. We don't have text messaging, so we just thought we'd call some folks and let them hear the music. We have no idea if anyone picked up because it was so loud.

They did play my favorite song, "One," which is not the same as my favorite live song "Trying to Throw Your Arms Around the World" which they did not play. However, there were other songs almost equal. Bono performed both his own part and Pavarotti's part (in Italian) from a duet they did together called "Miss Sarajevo." Evidently, he has been criticized for being a little off last night, but we thought he was amazing. I really enjoyed hearing the story behind that song and others. The best story was the one he told right before he sang "Sometimes You Can't Make It on Your Own." It has always been a somewhat puzzling song to me until I realized last night that it is about his dad. It was very moving; and if you read any of the lyrics I am linking to this, I would pick those and the ones to "Yahweh."

George and I both felt like we had a connection with Bono in spite of the other 20,000 people there; and George even found himself waving goodbye to him when he left. There had been two encores, but we knew it was the end because they wrapped it up with "40." I was especially pleased with that because I know it is traditional but not certain as they got away from it during Zoo TV (or Popmart at least- they didn't end with that last time I saw them). The whole crowd was repeating the last line again and again: "How long to sing this song?" There was a spotlight on each member of the band. Bono left first; there was an outburst of whistling and applause and the band kept playing and the crowd kept singing. Then Adam Clayton left, more applause, and the Edge and Larry Mullen kept on so we kept right on singing. Then the Edge left, and after the applause Larry Mullen kicked up the drumming a notch, and we kept right on singing. And then lastly, he walked out from behind the drums to the center of the stage and took a bow. It was just lovely, really, if a rock concert can be lovely; and trust me, it can.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Perfectionism pulling me down

Who in the world tries to start a blog in December? And now my husband has me on his blog as the top link- I am always the top name on phone lists, etc. because of alphabetical order- and I have nothing for people to read. I am consumed with Christmas baking and buying and mailing in spite of all of my efforts to avoid a last minute frenzy this year. I feel sad that I am anxious and frazzled for an entire month every year, and dread that my children will remember a crazy Christmas mommy instead of remembering the end I am trying to achieve with all the running around. The whole point is to really have a joyous season of celebration. But so much goes into celebrating! And it is stressing me out!

Then again, it has me considering that my whole life is sort of that way. I want so much to raise these well adjusted children who know how much they are loved by their parents and their Savior. I want so much for them to love God and others, to be faithful and obedient. And I want them to be polite and well educated, using their full potentials and giftedness. But in the effort to teach them, I wonder if I enjoy them as I should. It's like when I'm baking Martha Stewart style, following every single detail of perfection that she includes, and I don't enjoy the process. Did I pack down the brown sugar enough? Does it matter if I don't have a silpat thingy? Did I measure the flour without packing it in too much? Mix on medium speed? Is that 4 or 6 on my mixer? Maybe it's just me. But I don't deal well with being precise. On the other hand, I crave hard and fast rules. I am hopeful for a never fail formula, but then I can't get it right anyway. Or maybe the real problem is that I refuse to yield to the fact that there is no never fail- in parenting, baking,or any other where- and that is why I am stressing myself out so much trying to get everything just right.

Maybe for Christmas, I should just do crazy things like not spend the exact same amount on everyone or skip out on making my wreathes and just buy them instead. Maybe I should let my kids wear the same pajamas two nights in a row or not iron their playclothes. See, I know what you're thinking- it's crazy that I never do any of those things in the first place. But I don't think I will actually let any of those four things happen. Someone can identify with this a little bit though, right?

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

This is my blog

Yesterday was my 28th birthday. My husband sent me on a scavenger hunt around St. Louis ending with the discovery of a pair of tickets to the U2 concert next week. The first clue was left on his blog in the morning. Inquiring minds wanted to know how the hunt went; I obliged them and am now slightly more blog savvy. And as George is often telling me that I should put things "out there," I decided I would let him start this up for me. He has been wanting to for a while but we always got hung up on the name- and I got hung up on other things like thinking no one will ever read or post. We settled on "Pretty funny for a Girl" because during our somewhat bumbling friendship leading into a rather awkward courtship, I used to tease George for not laughing at my jokes and insisted that I am pretty funny for a girl. The awkward courtship led to a pretty rascally marriage. Not sure what I mean by "rascally" except that it has been sort of out of control and all over the place at times, or maybe I have been, like you might expect from a rascally puppy or something. But here we are, much better for all of that, working our way through seminary and having crazy birthday surprises way outside of our means! If you keep reading, I'll let you know how it all goes!

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