Friday, May 25, 2012

You Don't Even Know the Meaning of the Word

One Sunday morning during the summer of 2002, in my middle school Bible class, our regular teacher was out, so we were taught by a married couple whom all us junior high kids knew.  As one of the teachers was going over the lesson, she asked one of my classmates a question...but he/she must not have been paying attention, because he/she proceeded to ask, "What was the question again?" Everyone started laughing, including me, and I even went as far as to say to that kid, "You ignoramus!" At that, the entire class got quiet, and one of the teachers looked at me sternly and reprimanded me, saying, "[Siobhan], uh-uh.  There will be no name calling when I'm in charge."  I thought, What's your problem?! [He/she] ignored the question! Even after I got home, I turned on Super Smash Bros. Melee and played in multi-player mode with my character versus a computer-controlled Link and Zelda, whom I pretended was that married couple who had taught our class, and beat the snot out of them.  It wasn't until later that day, when my mom explained what the term "ignoramus" really meant--someone who is ignorant, not someone who ignores someone else--that I realized that I actually had made an inappropriate statement.
I bring that up for one reason: Whether used correctly or incorrectly, words have power.  I've always been a fan of little-known words; even with this blog, people have asked me about the meanings or usages of advanced terms such as "inane" or "coeval".  In years past, people have said that I "talk like a dictionary," sometimes even asking me to use simpler terms; I once was describing the fact that I have an astigmatism in one eye, and the only way I could get the other person to understand what I was trying to tell him/her was saying, "One eye doesn't work like it should."  Another time, a teacher was trying to describe my mental condition to a classmate, and used the word "autistic" to do so, but that kid kept saying, "Use small words!" The teacher glared at him/her and said, "There's no other word for it!"
That brings me to the point I want to make: One thing I've noticed is that repetition annoys people.  Whether it's a person who always says the same thing(s), an electronic device that--for whatever reason--repeats a sound over and over again, or an animal that won't stop making noise, people find that bothersome.  However, in recent years, I've noticed that people in general have become unable to express themselves without using profanities and/or euphemisms for them.  I was once sitting in the lounge at my college, trying to have an instant message conversation with a friend via the school's wireless, and had to go somewhere else because some young lady was on her cell phone ranting about some little girl--her little sister? her daughter? her niece? I may never know--wetting the bed, all the while using at least one profanity in each sentence.  As I was walking out, I thought to myself, Woman, you need to find some better words to express your feelings! Unfortunately, people like her are everywhere, and it only seems to be getting worse.
What I wonder is: Why aren't people annoyed by the overuse of profanity? If folks get bothered by a sitcom character using the same catchphrase in every episode, or a person whose only likes to talk about a select few things, or a radio station that plays the same songs every day, why doesn't the overuse of expletives do the same to them? Granted, I was raised in a house where the usage of such language led to punishment, which helped me learn to use other words (including so-called "dictionary talk") to express my feelings, so maybe I'm a bit biased...but I still feel that there are way too many people out there with small vocabularies.
In conclusion, let me say this: One tendency the denizens of this planet all seem to have is the desire for a "one size fits all" solution.  When a kid is acting up, or a computer is being troublesome, we look for one action we can take that will solve whatever issue(s) 100% of the time.  Unfortunately, that's rarely the case; whether it involves people, technology, or neither, there is usually a list of solutions that may or may not work.  The same is true for words; no matter what is going on in our lives, or what feeling(s) we want to express, we tend to turn to the same sayings--whether profane or not--almost every time.  You've probably noticed I have some catchphrases, such as, "In conclusion, let me say this," or, "It's story time again."  Sometimes, I wonder if people get tired of me using the same words or phrases all the time; however, everyone talks and writes in his/her own way, so, of course, that's just my trademark.  I grew weary of profanity years ago; after being bombarded with it upon starting middle school, it went from shocking to just repetitive and unoriginal.  Sure, using advanced language may not be everyone's strong suit, but, shouldn't everyone try to expand their horizons?
Any comments?

Monday, May 21, 2012

Happy Victoria Day! (Seriously!)

Smile; it's YOUR day!
So, my many wall calendars say that today is Victoria Day.  Yes, I know; this is actually a Canadian holiday in honor of Queen Victoria, but, being the huge Victoria Justice fan that I am, I can't help but think of my favorite actress today.  Some of you might have noticed that the majority of my recent posts have been me speaking out in my own defense; I definitely need a break from that, so, instead, I'll go back to my roots and tell the story of how Victoria Justice and Jennifer Stone became my top two favorite celebrities.
There were two big events in March 2010 that started me down the path.  The first was watching Spectacular!, a Nickelodeon original musical comedy/drama that Vic starred in alongside Tammin Sursok and Nolan Gerard Funk.  Although I didn't know much about any of the actors in the movie, I still said this in my review: "Still, I would have liked Victoria Justice to play the good girl rather than the villain, because she's way better-looking than the girl who actually played the heroine." Later that month, the pilot of VICTORiOUS aired just after the Kids Choice Awards.  (Ironically, that was the same night that Harriet the Spy: Blog Wars premiered on Disney Channel; more on that later.)  My official statement about it on Facebook was, "Victorious was a mess, with weird, unrealistic characters, and plenty of over-acting...but I LOVED IT!" Little did I know what was going to happen quite soon.
The rest of the year proved to be quite eventful for me celebrity-wise.  Of course, we all know the story of the trailer for Love and Other Drugs; however, that wasn't all that happened.  Towards the end of the year, I checked out Harriet the Spy: Blog Wars from the library.  I really wasn't expecting much; although Disney Channel Original Movies (DCOMs) are usually cute and family-friendly, they also tend to lack enough substance to warrant multiple viewings.  The main reason I reserved the DVD was the lead actress, Jennifer Stone; she intrigued me, and I wanted to find out more about her.  This may sound weird, but her name made her all the more mystifying; Jennifer Stone was also the name of the villainess (that is, the character, not the actress who played her) in Cadet Kelly.  So, a Disney Channel actress who shares her name with a DCOM antagonist? Sounded great to me!  Blog Wars ended up being much better than I expected; I liked it so much, I've watched it two or three times since I got it as a birthday gift last year.  Of course, I continued catching new episodes of VICTORiOUS when I could.
The REAL Jen Stoney!
In January 2011, I felt that a change was in order.  Anne Hathaway had been my number-one favorite celebrity for almost six years, but her career and life seemed to be headed down the tubes, and I was getting a little tired of her myself.  The same was true for runner-up Ashley Tisdale; one look at even the promotional materials for her show Hellcats, not to mention the dreadful film that was Sharpay's Fabulous Adventure, and the fact that I found out about her only days after discovering Anne, meant that they were just getting old.  I had a number of female celebrities I liked--my favorites list ranged from Siobhan Magnus to Rebecca St. James to Demi Lovato to Amy Adams--but Victoria Justice was just pushing her way into my heart, as was Jennifer Stone.  I even had a dream about Vic, and the number of times I dreamed about Anne and/or Ashley during those six years can be counted on one hand!  So, I decided to make it official: Victoria Justice and Jennifer Stone were the new Anne Hathaway and Ashley Tisdale.
Since then, although things have mostly been great with them, there have been some rough spots. Between Vic's abysmal "performance" on The View, Jen starring in the terrible flick Mean Girls 2, not to mention the whole "Breakfast Bunch" incident...yeah, it hasn't always been easy to be a Victorian or a Jennifer Stone fan.  Still, barring a seriously terrible controversy and/or tragedy, I'm in it for the long haul.  Will TORi and Jennifer still be my "top two" three years from now? That, I don't know; after all, Hilary Duff's time as my "main girl" lasted less than 2.5 years.  For now, though, I'm sticking with what I've got.  Those who decry that and say that I need to find a significant other instead of being a huge fan of famous people I'll never meet should go read 1 Corinthians 7:7-8; marriage isn't for everyone, no matter what society would have you believe.
Any comments?
P. S. If any of you read this all the way through, please leave a comment saying that you did. Thank you.

Friday, May 18, 2012

What's Out There?

Most of you who have known me for a while know that I used to be a big Nintendo fan.  Although I played and enjoyed various games from the Big "N," ranging from Super Smash Bros. Melee to Mario Kart 64 to Tetris to Game and Watch Gallery 2, much of my time was spent playing RPGs, especially on my Game Boy Color and Game Boy Advance.  I first became familiarized with the turn-based, level-up style of role-playing games by playing Pok√©mon: Red Version, but I enjoyed a few others, ranging from later "pocket monsters" titles to Golden Sun and its sequel to classic Final Fantasy games to even Mario Golf. (Yes, the latter title really was an RPG on Game Boy Color; look it up if you don't believe me.)  However, the one problem I had was that, for reasons we don't need to get into, I never actually beat any of the games all by myself, so, in some of the games, I spent my time walking around aimlessly and doing the same non-essential things again and again instead of completing whatever task(s) that would allow me to win the game and be the victor.  Some of you may wonder how that's possible in a video game, but among the typical features of role-playing games are save files and walk-around levels; such titles have few similarities to old-school favorites like Pac-Man and Super Mario Bros.  Although video games are known for being time-wasters, playing them the way I did was even worse, because I didn't accomplish a thing during that time, including beating the game.
What's my point in bringing that up? Simply this: Sometimes, I feel as if what I used to do in video games, I'm now doing in real life.  It's not that I don't do anything productive with my time; I work all day on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and am very grateful to have a job, especially in this economy.  Even on my own time, I make cards for people, help my parents and others with tech-related tasks, hunt for bargains at yard/garage sales and similar places, go to church three times a week, read quite a bit, and the like.  Still, I can't help but feel like there's something/some things I'm not doing that would lead to a better, richer, and/or more productive life if I were to do it/them.  What it is/they are, I don't know.  How to go about finding out what it is/they are, I also don't know.  What would happen if I were to succeed at that/those thing(s)? Would I find romance? Would I become able to live on my own? Would I become financially successful? Again, I don't know.
My loyal readers have probably noticed a recent increase in allusions/references to the Bible in my posts, even in parodies such as "Just End It (File, Quit)".  I've realized that God and His Word were taking a backseat to less important topics such as celebrities, shopping, technology, etc., and it shouldn't be that way.  Granted, it's not wrong to discuss non-Biblical subjects, but I was posting so much about Victoria Justice, garage sales, my past, and a few other topics that some people may have wondered whether I still believed in Jesus...but I never stopped.  Here's how my faith applies to what I said in the previous paragraphs: I believe that every life has a purpose.  Whether someone lives less than ten hours or more than ten decades, he/she is here for a reason.  Although I believe there's a general purpose for the creation of humankind in the first place, I also feel that every individual has at least one reason why he/she is where he/she is.  I'm reminded of the story of Elizabeth Vidos, a Christian percussionist who toured both with Stomp and CCM singer Bebo Norman.  Here's what she had to say in the August 2001 issue of CCM Magazine:
“Everything changed when I saw ‘STOMP’ on HBO my last year of college. Then I traveled to Mobile, [Ala.,] to see it live. I asked how many people auditioned for a spot and was told ‘about a thousand,’ so I put it out of my mind. But when [my] campers told me I had to, I called and left my name and number on an answering machine.  I spent a couple of months at home that summer. I kept asking God, ‘Please show me why I’m here!’ About 11 one night, I found my dad lying on the floor; he’d just had a stroke. God told me, ‘I just needed you there for that one moment.’ Two weeks later ‘STOMP’ called. The way that it all worked out shows God’s fingerprints all over my life.”
You know, sometimes, I feel the same way.  Last month, I went to my friends' anniversary party, and there was a online video that they wanted everyone to see.  The problem was that they were using someone else's laptop, which didn't have the correct browser or necessary plug-ins.  They ended up being really glad I was there, because I had the technological know-how to know exactly what needed to be done and how to do it.  When I first arrived at that party, I had no idea such skills would come in handy; I'm not sure what they would have done without me.  There are countless other incidences like that throughout my life, but this applies to all of them: Where others might see coincidence, I see God.  It's impossible to know the mind of the Lord, but, if I had to guess, I would say that where I am now is where He wants me to be, even though others may feel otherwise.  Yet, that lingering feeling is still there: Is there another step I haven't taken? Is there another chapter of my life that won't begin until I let it? I really don't know...but, for now, I'm happy with who I am, where I am, and how I am.  No, I'm not perfect; I mess up from time to time, just like we all do.  There may be all sorts of adventures awaiting me in the future; only time will tell.  At this time, though, I'll just press on with my life and see where God leads me; all of us, including me, might very well be surprised by what happens to me in the future.  Seriously, how many of you are exactly where you thought you would be years ago at this point in your lives? Didn't think so.
Any comments?

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

It's Okay to Be Single...Even For Life!

Our culture is obsessed with romance.  Almost all of the best-loved fictional yarns of the past century, ranging from Star Wars to The Great Gatsby to I Love Lucy, have some sort of romantic element to them.  It's rare to find a story these days that does not involve two characters falling in love.  Such a fixation makes many lifelong singles feel like losers.
That trend has made its way into the doors of the church.  God ordained marriage as a sacred union, and has even given commandments regarding it; however, Christians have become increasingly insistent that marriage is God's plan for everyone's life.  Is it wrong to get married? Of course not! However, take into consideration these verses:
  • "Jesus replied, 'Not everyone can accept the idea of staying single. Only those who have been helped to live without getting married can accept it.  Some men are not able to have children because they were born that way. Some have been made that way by other people. Others have made themselves that way in order to serve the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept living that way should do it.'" -- Matthew 19:11-12 (NIRV)
  • "Now for the matters you wrote about: It is good for a man not to marry." -- 1 Corinthians 7:1 (NIV 1984)
  • "So I say to those who aren’t married and to widows—it’s better to stay unmarried, just as I am." -- 1 Corinthians 7:8 (NLT)
 I have no doubt that, for some people, marriage can be a wonderful thing.  Still, there are plenty of cases where people should refrain from getting married, just because, as those verses say, it's not for everyone.  I've heard far too many heartbreaking stories of married couples, including some Christian ones, whose marriages have gone wrong, leading to all kinds of trouble.  There are some people who just aren't meant to find romance, and that's fine.
As usual, I'll use stories from the entertainment world to prove my point: Some of you may have heard of the Christian comedian/southern gospel singer Mark Lowry, who is a lifelong member of the Baptist church.  Mr. Lowry is old enough to be my dad, but he has no children (unless you count his nieces and nephews) and has never married...yet, he is perfectly happy with his life.  Sure, single Christian women have tried to start a romance with him; in his book Live Long and Die Laughing, he discussed getting dating proposals from unmarried female fans via e-mail such as, "I don't normally do stuff like this, but God contacted me last night and told me we're gonna have kids, so call me."  If he is still living a full Godly life without a significant other and is completely happy with his lot in life, then, I say, more power to him.  There are probably plenty of other Christians out there, of both genders, who are the same way.
Despite everything I've mentioned in this post so far, some people, including Christians, seem to pressure others into finding romance.  I've seen numerous cases where well-meaning believers assumed there were romantic feelings between two people of the opposite gender when there was absolutely zero, or assure people who haven't found "the one" yet that there is 100% chance they will at some point.  I ask: Why? Didn't the above verses say that some people are meant to remain unmarried?  Sure, our society's focus on romantic love may make it harder for those who are in such a situation, but not only is the entertainment industry to blame for that, but no one said that being a Christian, no matter your relationship/marital status, is easy.  Marriage may make some people happy, but, for others, it does the exact opposite.
In conclusion, I will say this: I've mentioned before that all of us have something that is only behind faith, family, and friends in terms of importance to us.  Some people's passion for that topic, no matter what it is, is so encompassing that it takes place of a relationship.  I'm reminded of a scene in the 2006 film The Astronaut Farmer where the title character has asked his friends and family what he should name the rocket he'd built.  A Latino buddy suggests La Otra Mujer; that's Spanish for The Other Woman.  As strange as it may sound, for some, their hobby is their "spouse."  I should know; I am one of those people.  I know I've joked about a celebrity such as Hilary Duff, Anne Hathaway, Victoria Justice, or some others I won't mention, as being my "girlfriend" or "wife".  Of course, it was all a joke; I've never met any of those famous people, and I never have been in any sort of relationship with them.  Still, as my interests have shifted and I've expanded my horizons, I really feel that I am "in a relationship with" or "married to" entertainment.  I know, I know; pretty much all of us love our movies, music, television, books, etc., but I spend so much time immersed in, discussing, and/or researching at least one form of entertainment that it rivals the number of hours I've seen young couples in serious relationships spend together.  Frankly, I'm perfectly fine with that; no, entertainment can't supply me with the physical aspect of romantic love, but it can make me happy and brighten my day.  It may sound like a defeatist attitude to feel that way, but that may be God's plan for me; check the above verses for proof.
Any comments?

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Why I Like "Juvenile" Entertainment

It's no secret that, despite being twenty-four years of age, I am a big fan of all sorts of "juvenile" entertainment (I'll explain the quotes later).  Nickelodeon creations such as Victorious, iCarly, and House of Anubis are among my favorite shows; "teen pop" music, ranging from well-known artists such as Selena Gomez and Victoria Justice to obscure bands such as the singular-album duo V*Enna, dominate my top played songs; my DVD collection has "kiddie" flicks ranging from the Jennifer Stone Disney Channel Original Movie (DCOM) Harriet the Spy: Blog Wars to the Nickelodeon comedy-sketch-turned-movie Good Burger to the old-school animated favorite Mulan to even the live-action 1997 remake of George of the Jungle; and I have read and enjoyed novels from series such as Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson and the Olympians and Bill Myers' Journeys to Fayrah, both of which are intended for younger audiences.  Some people don't get that, though; they seem to think that, since I am an adult, I should not spend so much time immersed in entertainment meant for the younger crowd.  If you believe that everything I watch, read, listen to, etc., is meant for kids, then you're sorely mistaken; one look at my playlist, which features classic rock by the likes of Electric Light Orchestra and the Beatles, just to name a few, as well as "adult contemporary" tracks by Josh Groban, Michael Ball, and numerous others; my DVD collection, which includes every theatrical Batman flick from the 1989 Michael Keaton original to The Dark Knight, as well as the entire Visual Bible series, not to mention a seven-film John Wayne set, and especially my book collection where adult fiction outnumbers juvenile fiction by at least a four-to-one ratio, disproves that claim.  Still, "juvenile" entertainment takes a big chunk of my spare time.  Some people would just blame that on me being mildly autistic, but I hate to use a blanket statement like that to describe why I do what I do, especially since modern technology allows me to express my feelings fully and honestly.  So, now, I will explain why I am such a fan of "juvenile" shows, movies, books, and music.
In my early years, I wasn't much of a television watcher.  Sure, I watched the nightly news, Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy!, Home Improvement, and a Saturday morning show here and there, but most of my spare time was spent playing computer games.  It got to the point where my mom would put me on restriction from even touching the computer, for no other reason than me spending too much time in front of it.  However, around late 1997, that all changed when I was introduced to a little show called Growing Pains.  Some of you long-time friends may remember me mentioning GP as "my first classic sitcom addiction," but, at first, I didn't know that it was a classic sitcom.  I got into it thanks to reruns on the Disney Channel (seriously!) that aired at least twice a day, every day, on there back then.  Over the next few years, I found out about other vintage television series, including Scooby-Doo, Mork and Mindy, Diff'rent Strokes (ugh!), and ended up going right back to the Seavers in summer of 2002, just before I started high school.  Their main appeal was the fact that they were humorous without being bawdy, a trait which proved hard to come by in network shows, even back then.
Right after school started, I hit a wall.  Growing Pains had been taken from ABC Family's line-up, and it was nowhere to be found on any of the other channels or technologies available within my household, and I just felt lost.  I even wanted to throw my television into the garbage bin; without the Seavers, what on there was even remotely worth watching? Yet, that all changed when a somewhat younger guy I knew showed me Lizzie McGuire.  I'd seen it before, mostly thanks to him, but, that one time, it clicked for me.  They were just like the vintage sitcoms, except with modern pop culture references and actors/actresses that were young at the current time, as well as without the occasional episode that dealt with a main character doing drugs or having sex.  When I saw Even Stevens, That's So Raven, The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, and even Drake and Josh, I loved them all because they fell along the same lines: clean, funny, and enjoyable modern entertainment.
That trend has continued well into today, because I still don't like entertainment that goes against my morals; in fact, I never have.  I can still remember refusing to play video games such as GoldenEye or Mortal Kombat: Sub-Zero all the way back in the nineties, just because of their content.  Some may believe that it was because I wasn't allowed to experience such games, movies, television shows, etc., but, honestly, I'm old enough to choose what I want to watch, play, read, listen to, etc., and I still have that same rule.  It really wouldn't be hard to sneak such media past my parents, but I have no desire to; the last time I did that, I ended up wasting about two hours watching a bunch of rocker chicks swear and use drugs in Satisfaction, and felt like an idiot for even wanting to try such a flick.  To be frank, the vast majority of my friends, no matter their religious beliefs, watch movies and television, listen to music, read books, etc., that I would never even want to try.  It seems like "juvenile" (non-literary) entertainment such as Victorious or Lemonade Mouth is, for the most part, the only genre of entertainment that fits my sensibilities.  Sure, there are adult-oriented-yet-morally-correct flicks out there; my mom is a big fan of Hallmark telefilms, and they usually fall into that category.  I've actually been considering expanding my horizons by giving them a try.  The problem is that, unless its target audience is the under fourteen crowd, recent morally good movies and television are hard to come by.
Now, for the explanation of the quotes.  Shows such as iCarly or The Suite Life on Deck (and their musical, literary, cinematic, and gaming counterparts) may be looked down upon by those above the intended audience, but, in my opinion, they're not juvenile entertainment.  Here's why I say that: Middle schoolers are the most immature of all people.  Although some kids within that age group show remarkable maturity, most of them are so immature, they don't even realize how immature they are.  They even do things such as get into "relationships" that last a week or two at most to show their supposed maturity, not realizing until years later just how immature it actually makes them.  One thing that I remember from my middle school days was that, to my classmates, if it wasn't sexually explicit and/or demeaning to someone else, it just wasn't funny.  I mention that for one reason: There are plenty of "comedies" that have come out in recent years that would put the average seventh grader on Cloud Nine because of how bawdy and/or mocking they are...yet, they're given an "R," which is an "adult" rating.  To me, irrespective of the rating, anything (or anyone, for that matter) who only considers such things funny suffers from true immaturity.
In conclusion, I will share some words a Facebook friend sent me last night:
"When someone disagrees with you, it doesn't mean they are wrong. It simply means you have a difference of opinion."
I don't remember who told me this, but this quote popped into my head while I was folding laundry tonight, and I thought of you. Make of that what you will.
 That's very true; in fact, I agree wholeheartedly.  I don't have a problem with people disagreeing with me; I learned many years ago that no one is going to see things exactly my way.  My problem is with people who are very adamant about expressing their opinion about what I'm doing, especially when they don't have any right and/or need to be telling me what to do and how to do it.  There might be some people reading this who feel that I shouldn't be watching Victorious or listening to Selena Gomez, but that's not their choice.  For each person who vehemently opposes me being a fan of such entertainment, there very well may be two or three others who are 100% fine with it.  I'm not going to be able to please everyone, so I just worry about pleasing the ones I have to answer to: my parents and God.  I can't let popular opinion, even that of the people I interact with, dictate what I like and don't like; that isn't and never has been my style.  My mom used to always say, "Opinions are a dime a dozen," and that's very true; however, some people don't always feel that way about their own opinion.
Any comments?