Friday, November 30, 2012

Gotta Read, Watch, and Listen To 'Em All!

Pretty much everyone of my generation remembers the insanely popular media franchise known as Pokémon, which started as a set of Game Boy RPGs, but spun off into everything from a collectable card game to a television show to movies to even other-genre video games, such as pinball and puzzle titles.  The whole point of the game was expressed in its four-word tagline: Gotta catch 'em all! The original game boasted 151 different species, but, with all the sequels and remakes that have been released since, the number of "pocket monsters" that one can catch is currently over four times that.  Though some people still play the games, the video game and its related media were at its peak popularity back around Y2K, when kids everywhere stopped at nothing to make sure they had every single "pocket monster," both in digital and card form.
Though I haven't touched a Pokémon game in years, the games' premise is a good parallel to an endless quest I've been on for a while.  It's no secret that I'm an entertainment lover; I specialize in Christian and/or family-friendly media, and spend much of my spare time involved in it.  When I'm bargain hunting, which I do fairly frequently, books, CDs, DVDs, and video tapes that fall into that category are usually all that I buy.  Even gifts to others fall into that category; for Christmas in 2010, I bought books for my sister and brother-in-law, and both of their kids, and my mom got a DVD.  Still, I seek out Christian and/or family-friendly entertainment wherever I can find it.  The number of "pocket monsters" in each Game Boy RPG was no more than a few hundred or so, which meant that, after you'd "caught 'em all," what was there to do? However, the amount of media that fits my tastes is pretty much endless; often, I end up finding books, movies, and albums that I didn't even know existed.
You may wonder: Why do I feel that I have to read, watch, or listen to all the media I can? The main reason is that, as a library employee, entertainment is what I do.  Though many of you reading this may think of a library as nothing but a bunch of old books, it's more than just that.  Libraries these days also have DVDs, music CDs, audiobooks, magazines, newspapers, and sometimes other media, and much of it, including right many of the books, falls into the entertainment category.  True, some of it is "edutainment," which means it is both educational and entertaining, but, to me, edutainment is still entertainment.  Ever since I started volunteering at my local library in 2009, I have felt that working at such a place is my calling; still, in order to successfully work with media, I have to know about it.  Even on Facebook, my friends have "liked" or left positive comments on my reviews.  It wouldn't be possible to use my media knowledge to help others out if I didn't experience and research it like I do.
Now, I know what some of you might be thinking: Isn't someone stockpiling media just like the "rich fool" Jesus spoke of: "Eat, drink, and be merry"? I really don't think so; at least in my case.  Not only is it work-related, but I'll be the first to tell you that I am not a hoarder.  Unless I'm buying a gift for someone else, I almost never buy a book or movie that I have no intention of reading or watching.  I say "almost never" because it has happened a time or two; just last year, I bought Valerie Bertinelli's autobiography Losing It as a joke, and soon wondered why I even purchased it.  Still, if I get it for myself, I pretty much always plan on doing something with it, not just selling it ASAP or letting it collect dust.  More to the point, whenever I am done with a book, CD, DVD, video tape, etc., I get rid of it one way or another.  I've donated countless items to thrift stores and libraries in my area, and I also frequent used bookstores and other trade-in places, such as MovieStop.  Plus, everyone in my neighborhood knows that, when I have a yard sale, there will be plenty of books available.
Here is my final point: In the late nineties, I was known in my neighborhood as "the king of board games," because I had quite a few, including some that were out of print.  Just like my media collection, most of it was bought used, but my friends and I still had a blast playing everything from Monopoly to Clue to Knockout to even Wallace and Gromit: Going Crackers.  Very few people outside of my family have seen my bedroom, but, if you were to see it, you'd likely be gobsmacked at how much media is packed into such a small space, as well as how much entertainment-themed memorabilia is on my walls and desktop.  Some people might call me "the king of books" or "the king of entertainment," but I'm sure that there are plenty of people who have much more literature and/or other media than I may ever have.  That's completely fine; I'm not jealous of them, nor am I in competition with anyone to have more of, well...anything.  I'm buying books, music, movies, and such according to my preferences, not to please or outdo anyone else.  You get that...right?

Friday, November 16, 2012

Setting the Record Straight (Again!)

Disclaimer: I don't know how to say what I feel needs to be said without potentially sounding snobbish or self-righteous.  Some of you may not like what I'm about to say, but, whether or not you like it, you may very well need to hear it.  Instead of reading what I say to simply refute it, read it to understand it, and maybe you'll realize that there's a good bit of truth in what I'm saying.  Also, I know that I've expressed similar views in previous posts, but, director David McFadzean once said, "Only exposing ourselves to Christian books, music and movies that coddle us can actually keep us in our own sin," and the same could be said for other works, including blog posts; therefore, I'm going to be a bit more direct and blunt this time around.  Still with me? Then, here we go.
We've all been hit with it: the one-word insult.  From preschools to colleges to offices to retirement homes, words such as "dummy," "idiot," "loser," "moron," and others--including some you will never see on this blog--are directed at everyone from family members to co-workers to famous people to faceless people online, and it doesn't stop there.  Even two popular reference book series--...For Dummies and The Complete Idiot's Guide to...--use such words in every title published.  Jesus had something to say about using such words: "But anyone who says, 'You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of hell." (Matthew 5:22, NIV 1984)  More to the point, though, I remember what Bob "Dr. Mac" LeVitus said in his intro to Mac OS X Panther for Dummies: that he did not feel that his readers were dummies, and would have rather called the book Mac OS X Panther for People Who Are Smart Enough to Know They Need Help, but the people at Wiley Publishing wouldn't let him.  His books on newer OS X versions had similar declarations.
Why do I bring that up? Well, consider the following: Our society is so obsessed with romance these days that, even subconsciously, we think of those college-aged or older who have never had a serious relationship as losers.  We may not say it or even think those exact words, but, think about it: if you met someone well into his or her thirties who never really dated anyone, how would you react?  Society tells us that romantic love is for everyone, and even youngsters are fed such ideas.  I used to even think of myself as a loser due to being in my twenties and still a lifelong single.
However, despite the permeation of such idyllic ideas into our culture, it is all debunked by 1 Corinthians 7:8 (NIV 1984): "Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I am." So, are the lifelong singles like me losers? No! In fact, upon thinking about it while suffering from insomnia last night, I realized that it's much better to stay single than to get involved in a relationship that you shouldn't be in for whatever reason, and end up paying for it for the rest of your life.  No matter what society would have you believe, romance and relationships are not for everyone and never have been.  Unfortunately, it seems that many people, including quite a few Christians, don't get that.
To continue the thought: Though Valentine's Day may be a few months away, it seems that, with my friends, love is in the air.  Between new relationships, new engagements, weddings and such, my Facebook news feed has been bombarded with such announcements.  Yet, other than a few April Fool's jokes, my relationship status has stayed the same since joining Facebook, and it was pretty much the same when it wasn't posted online.  Amidst all these special events, what's a lifelong single to do?
Well, that will take a little explaining: When I get faced with whatever situation, I usually think back to similar situations in the past, and think what of what I did, what ended up happening because of my actions, and whether whatever I ended up doing was right or wrong.  Some of you may not know this, but the whole celebrity obsession thing that started in 2001 was begun simply because of frustration with the coeval young ladies whom I knew at the time.  They weren't into what I was; their version of "love" was ditching someone after only a week or two; and some of their immature behaviors were annoying.  Though I was still in middle school at the time, I think that was partly a smart decision.  Yes, obsessing over anything is wrong; we all know that.  Still, seeking out a female eighth grader who met my standards was likely to be a frustratingly futile quest.  However, telling people, "I'm going to marry Hilary Duff!", even though I knew such a thing was unattainable, was fun, because how could I be disappointed if someone else married her when I knew I had zero chance anyway?
Fast forward to November 2012, and I've found myself in a very similar spot.  Though I've made numerous female friends over the past few years, usually, the ones who take a liking to me have already been snatched up.  Even the single ones have/have had some other reason: distance, directly opposite religious beliefs, or they just plain weren't interested.  It may sound like a bit of desperation, but, maybe I should go back to the days of saying that I'm going to marry a celebrity.  It may be a joke, but, hey, I'd rather make others laugh than cause myself endless frustration when I get rejected.  In fact, such feelings have been there for a while; remember two posts ago, when I said that I hadn't attempted to get a date since 2008?
You may be thinking, "But, don't you want to be happy?" Yes...and I am.  Sure, I've got my share of troubles, but I've got friends and family, as well as a God, who love me and regularly look out for me, and, for the moment, that's all I need.  Does that mean that romance has no place in my future? Definitely not! In thirty years, I could still be a lifelong single...or I could be married with six kids; that's all up to God.  Whatever happens, I just have to trust in His guidance.
Some of you may be saying, " can't have a celebrity in place of a real significant other!  It's creepy; people will think you're out of your gourd; and,'s just wrong!"  First off, if you have a coherent argument against what I'm saying, I'd like to hear it, though I'm sure I can argue against it nonetheless.  More to the point, though: Although the word "fan" is derived from "fanatic," they've taken on completely separate meanings.  Being a "fan" of something means that you like it; being a "fanatic" means that you can't stop talking about it, and that it influences everything you do.  It's as Ren Stevens said in an episode of Even Stevens: "There's a difference between fan and fanatic."  I've seen where friends who were in relationships spent every possible moment with each other, and I used to be the same way with celebrities and other fixations.  Not only did I burn up hours upon hours reading everything I could find about Hilary Duff and Lizzie McGuire, but, even as a kid, I didn't like anything getting between me and my Commodore 64.  Yet, when such actions/feelings are not reciprocated, it ends up being creepy and "stalkerish," and that was the problem I had in the past.  I know now that I can be a fan of a female celebrity, and even have others consider her my "girlfriend" or "wife," without it being a hardcore obsession.
However, for that and other reasons, some people are still likely to consider me some sort of idiot or lunatic; I have the "unfriendings" and perpetually pending friend requests to prove it.  I'm reminded of the second rap verse from the mega-popular song "Jesus Freak" by dc Talk:
There was a man from the desert with naps in his head!
The sand that he walked was also his bed!
The words that he spoke made the people assume
There wasn't too much left in the upper room!
With skins on his back and hair on his face,
They thought he was strange by the locusts he ate!
The Pharisees tripped when they heard him speak,
Until the king took the head of this Jesus freak!
Yes, that verse was talking about John the Baptist, who wore animal skins and ate wild locusts and honey.  Did people think he was insane? Probably...but he knew he wasn't, and he didn't let others' thoughts about him stop him from doing what God sent him to do: prepare the way for Jesus Christ.  Others had similar thoughts about the Apostle Paul; during a sermon on Paul's testimony to King Agrippa in Acts 26, I found this rendering in The Message paraphrase:
That was too much for Festus. He interrupted with a shout: "Paul, you're crazy! You've read too many books, spent too much time staring off into space! Get a grip on yourself, get back in the real world!"
But Paul stood his ground. "With all respect, Festus, Your Honor, I'm not crazy. I'm both accurate and sane in what I'm saying. The king knows what I'm talking about. I'm sure that nothing of what I've said sounds crazy to him."
Truth be told, some folks probably have a quite similar reaction when they meet me:
So, you're a twenty-four-year-old guy living under your parents' roof.  You're okay with the fact that you're a lifelong single because you somehow believe that the Bible defends it.  You have a penchant for the female kind, yet the majority of girls/women who take a liking to you are already taken.  You love pretty much any kind of entertainment, as long as it's family-friendly, and have many movies, books, and songs in your collection of which few people have even heard.  Your favorite celebrity is Victoria Justice, who stars in a Nickelodeon sitcom, and you like her so much that people call her your 'girlfriend'.  Your passion for entertainment is so great that you work at a library, which you call 'Entertainment Central'.  You have a blog where you use a codename that I can't even pronounce.  Yet, you want to be my friend? [Siobhan], who do you think you are? I'll tell you who you are: a Looney Tune who needs to be checked into a mental hospital! You're no friend of mine!
You know what, though? They can say, think, and/or do whatever they want; my true friends are the ones who know the above details and love me because of them.  Just like the Apostle Paul, I know I'm not crazy, and, if those non-friends would bother trying to get to know me, they'd realize it, too.
In conclusion, let me say this: I have no enmity towards those in relationships, friends or otherwise, and this is not meant to condemn anyone's relationship.  If you are romantically involved with someone, great! Romance can be fun...but it can also be very heartbreaking.  For all the Hollywood-style or storybook-esque love stories that I've seen or heard about, there are also the broken hearts, the spouses who walked out, the abusive significant others, the adulterers, and the ones who spent months if not years planning to marry someone only to have their hopes dashed for one reason or another.  Have I seen the latter among my friends? Definitely! However, I am also a product of a marriage gone completely wrong.  So, I know better than most that romance, even when it involves nuptials, isn't all it's cracked up to be.  I've heard people say that only to be in a new relationship mere months later; however, in this case, I mean that.  You may think that "there isn't too much left in the upper room," but I can simply reply with this: "With all respect, dear reader, I'm not crazy. I'm both accurate and sane in what I'm saying.  My friends know what I'm talking about.  I'm sure that nothing of what I've said sounds crazy to them." You friends of mine will back me up...right?
Any comments?

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Power of the Story

Late last August, I borrowed a copy of the new mini-series/telefilm The Witches of Oz, which is a different spin on L. Frank Baum's well-known fantasy novel, from my local library.  I'd only seen one review of the film, and it was largely negative and quite critical; still, I often find that I like the much-maligned movies.  Leap Year, a rom-com starring Amy Adams and largely set in Ireland, was quite despised by the critics, but it actually ranks as one of my favorite films.  I started watching The Witches of Oz one Saturday afternoon, and took a break after about forty-five minutes or so, which is what I usually do with movies, especially three-hour flicks like that one.  After getting home from Sunday church services the next evening, I sat down and planned to watch a little bit of it...and ended up seeing the entire remainder, even staying up past midnight to do so, which is something I rarely do for any reason.  Usually, at midnight, I'm either asleep or I desperately want to be, so for a movie to keep me glued to my seat that late, it must be really good.
However, by normal standards, The Witches of Oz wasn't that good.  The special effects were quite hokey, and the acting failed at times.  Sure, the objectionable content stayed within "PG" boundaries, but I grew up in the 90's, when bad special effects just weren't acceptable for anything not called Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers.  So, then, why did The Witches of Oz have that effect on me? Two words: The story.  Despite the cheesiness and sub-par acting, the three-hour flick spun a gripping yarn that kept me wondering what would happen next, and made me want to sit there to find out.
You know what, though? In some ways, that's been the case for me for quite a while.  I've always been a sucker for a good story, and usually want to see it through to the end no matter what.  In third grade, our teacher read us a book over the course of several days called The Grand Escape, about two talking cats who leave their home in search of adventure.  As a feline lover, I enjoyed the story, but, after the teacher began another novel, I couldn't remember how the story ended.  Years later--that is, after finishing college--I randomly thought of it and started searching my local library for it, only to find it by complete accident while volunteering there.  I started from the beginning, and, when I got to the end, I thought, I definitely don't remember that!
Other stories have had similar effects.  Sarah's Choice, a pro-life film starring Rebecca St. James, nearly moved me to tears.  Good Burger made me want a nice, juicy cheeseburger after watching it.  A telefilm version of Alice in Wonderland made me want to read the original Lewis Carroll novel and its sequel.  Ramona and Beezus made me want to stand up and cheer.  The "Meet the Seavers" episode of Growing Pains, which is the ultimate self-parody, made me laugh out loud and stuck with me for many years after only one viewing.  Mork and Mindy helped me understand the way the world really works, which I can be just as clueless about as that Orkan was.  In fact, just look at this blog; how many posts have I made that didn't tell or retell some sort of story? Whether real or fictional, a story can inform or entertain people in a way that an explanation just can't.  Even Jesus knew that; why do you think he used parables to illustrate His concepts? You can even find similar analogies in the Old Testament; in Judges 9:7-19, Jotham uses a fable of sorts to tell the people why they didn't want Abimelech as their leader, and Nathan the prophet uses a hypothetical situation to show King David his wrongdoing in 2 Samuel 12:1-4.  The old English teachers' maxim is, "Show, don't tell," and there's no better way to show something than via a story.
In closing, I will say this: There's an old joke that says, "Why is the library the tallest building in the city? It has the most stories."  Between books, movies, television shows, video/computer games, comic books/strips, online writings, and even some songs/albums, stories are everywhere these days.  I know that I won't be able to experience every single one of them, and, frankly, I shouldn't; Ephesians 5:4 (NLT) says, "Obscene stories, foolish talk, and coarse jokes—these are not for you."  Still, there are plenty of tales that do not fall into that category, and I seek them out.  For me, there's just nothing like a good story; if done right, it can keep me up past midnight or make me wonder for over a decade, and there's not much else that can do either.
Any comments?

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Has the Craziness Come to an End? Maybe.

Ever since I was about twelve years old, there has been one factor that has affected nearly everything I've done.  It caused me to do some things, yet to not do some others.  It also caused me to focus on different aspects of, well...whatever.  What is that factor, you ask? The presence of those of the female persuasion.  Throughout high school and college--and even before and after that--I was known for being what some called "girl crazy".  Between my desktop images, binder covers, bedroom walls, Internet browsing, entertainment choices, and even my daily interaction, nearly everything was impacted by some girl/woman.  We all know what happened with Hilary Duff, Anne Hathaway, and Victoria Justice, but I ended up getting into other shows and such also because of some lady I found attractive. Why did I start watching HGTV's Design Star? One of the female contestants caught my eye; so much so, I looked her up on the channel's website, even though I'd previously mentioned my loathing of that network.  What caused my short-lived addiction to Reba? Scarlett Pomers, the actress who played Kyra, the younger daughter.  Why did I even bother with the most recent celluloid incarnation of Nancy Drew? I was curious about Emma Roberts.  Why did I reserve Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows at my local Barnes and Noble? Well, I couldn't say no to the girl behind the counter; she had such gorgeous eyes.  Such incidents have happened so often that whenever I tell my mom I'm watching something new, she'll say, "What girl that you like is in it?"
As crazy about the female gender as I have been for several years, I think it's coming to an end.  Don't worry; I still like girls, and am very proud of the fact that I have numerous ladies who are among my best friends.  What I mean is: I think I'm done going gaga over any young lady I happen to meet.  It isn't just a recent thing; a few years ago, I regularly talked about my failed attempts at starting a relationship, one of which was "Rewind".  However, I haven't been turned down by a girl since 2008...simply because I haven't asked one out since then.  Even my entertainment choices have changed; though I still watch iCarly and VICTORiOUS, both of which are coming to an end soon, I've recently watched movies such as The Witches of Oz or Borrowed Hearts because they sounded interesting and family-friendly, not because of anyone in the cast.  My mom even asked the aforementioned question about the former movie, and I could honestly tell her that there wasn't any woman involved.  That's not to say that I shy away from female-centered entertainment; I've literally listened to the all-girl pop group B*Witched's cover of Toni Basil's "Mickey" over twenty times (no joke!) in the past twenty-four hours, and it's even playing as I type this.  Still, I didn't download that song because I have/had the hots for one or more of the group's members; frankly, I can't even name any of them right now.
Even my attraction towards females has changed.  In years past, an attractive girl/woman could do anything--even commit a "personal foul" towards me--and she was still attractive.  Of course, that also crossed over into the entertainment realm; Lizzie McGuire wasn't even that fantastic of a show, but I still held on until the end because of Hilary Duff.  I even knew of the vulgarity that was Havoc before anyone told me about it, but it didn't change my fanaticism for Anne Hathaway.  Lately, though, it has become less about how a woman looks, and more about what she does: Does she respect me? Is she kind to others? Has she stuck with me for a long time? If the answers to those questions are yes, then that is an attractive woman, no matter what she might look like.  I'm pretty sure that's a sign of maturity.
Of course, there's one quibble that I have with the whole thing: Though I've been crazy about females for several years, it's only been for the past two or three that I've been introduced in one way or another to a plethora of attractive ladies.  Between visitors and new members at church, the actresses or other stars in new shows, friends at a small group I used to attend, co-workers at the last three places I've worked at, newly discovered musicians, and the like, there's been tons of them.  In a way, I wonder if the above feelings have been because my life--in pretty much every way, and mostly by my own choice--has been oversaturated with beautiful members of the opposite gender.  Though it's good to be attracted to a woman based on what she does instead of what she looks like, my worry is that, because of what I just described, such an attitude is only temporary, and that I'll soon end up just as "girl crazy" as I once was.  I hope that's not the case, though.
Any comments?

Friday, November 9, 2012

Go Big or Go Home!

Among all the sports of the world, none is as revered by the denizens of the United States as football.  The Super Bowl always ranks as one of the most-watched television programs every year; NFL memorabilia, such as sports and jerseys, sell in the millions; and, though most colleges and high schools have numerous sports kids can participate in, none of them get as much recognition as football.  I myself am not a fan, and barely even understand the rules of the game, but one thing I do know is that becoming an excellent player at any sport--including football--involves lots of determination and practice.  It came as no surprise, then, when a friend of mine who went to a rival high school whose team was--at that time, anyway--the worst in our area told me that, during practice, the guys on the football team walked around the field instead of running like they were supposed to do.  One wonders why anyone would try out for a team and not put forth any effort; as the saying goes, "Go big or go home."
That right there is why I don't do sports, whether watching them or playing them.  Whether you desire to be the next Michael Jordan, or just are an avid spectator, you won't succeed at it if you don't regularly practice or keep tabs on the stats.  I'm sure that, if the desire were there, I could have been at least somewhat successful at sports in high school; however, you can't expect someone, no matter his or her medical condition, to put copious time and energy into something about which he or she is completely apathetic.
That doesn't mean that I always refused to invest large amounts of my time, energy, money, and/or other resources into anything.  In fact, throughout high school, my passion for my favorite celebrities led me to do some tasks for which many of you just wouldn't have the patience, especially if you hate technology.  When I first got into Hilary Duff in November 2002, the only computer I had was an über-pokey, crash-happy, 3.5 years old purple iMac, with a dial-up connection and an overly restrictive web blocker.  Yet, somehow, in the thirteen months or so before I got a new, better Mac, I managed to amass quite a collection of images of Disney stars, complete with random file names and even some custom-made images that looked quite presentable, even without Photoshop, Illustrator, or similar software.  Though finding images of famous people may sound like kindergarten work, a combination of poor technology, shoddy software, limited sources, and erroneous websites made it quite an arduous process.  If I hadn't been as dedicated to Disney Channel actresses as I was, I probably would have given up after AOL crashed for the fiftieth time.  My dedication was evident to others; ask any of my high school friends, and they'll tell you about the infamous binder pictures.  They probably had no idea of the hoops I had to jump through to get them.
Though I now have better things to do with my time than collect celebrity pictures, my dedication to entertainment in general is still evident.  You might think that working at a library makes it easier to get my hands on any books, albums, and movies I want to, but that's not always the case.  The library system I work for has quite an expansive catalog, but there are right many items--usually more obscure ones, such as little-read books from several years ago, or old-school DVDs/videos that have been largely forgotten--that I have had to get from another system through a process known as inter-library loan.  At first, doing so wasn't a big deal; I simply put in the request and waited for it to arrive.  Later on, though, a slight fee of one dollar per item was added; therefore, all the patrons, including yours truly, have to pay for every inter-library loan received.  More to the point, the online searches--finding the best deals on eBay, poring over reviews of films to decide whether or not they're even worth seeing, sifting through music files on sites such as iTunes or Amazon MP3 to find the ones I want, tirelessly searching for lyrics of songs I've recently added to my iPod, etc.--and other tasks, such as walking, taking the bus, or arranging rides to places where I can find whatever media I'm looking for, have taken up quite a bit of my time in recent years.
You know what, though? For me, it was all totally worth it.  Genesis 29:20 (NIV 1984) says, "So Jacob served seven years to get Rachel, but they seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her."  Though I've never had to work a full seven years to get anything, Jacob's passion for his crush Rachel somewhat mirrors my dedication to movies, television shows, books, music, etc.  The amount of time, energy, and money I've invested in entertainment doesn't feel near as large to me as it would to others, because it was all for what I loved.  Believe it or not, being an entertainment lover has even made me physically fit; if I wasn't willing to walk long distances, how else would I get to the library, or to the convenience store to get a iTunes gift card, or to the bus stop to take a ride to the used bookstore?
Some may wonder: Can't that passion be used elsewhere? Not only can it be, but it is.  For the past year or so, I have been listening to the Bible on audio.  I started with the New Testament, and then went back to the Old Testament after finishing the NT this past May; right now, I am currently in Psalms.  For a while, I wasn't taking it seriously; I'd have it on while I was eating, and the loud crunching would drown it out, or, other times, my mind would be elsewhere.  Lately, though, I've realized that, if I'm going to study the Bible--and I know I should--I have got to take it seriously.  So, now, I read the Bible via an app on my iPod or iPad while listening to it, so I'm seeing it and hearing it, which leaves little room for distractions.  Rarely do I miss a day; it's always three chapters every weekday, and four chapters each on Saturdays and Sundays.  In the event I do happen to forget one day, I make it up as soon as possible.  Despite being known for my Biblical knowledge, I had never successfully attempted to read through the entire Bible like that until a year ago; my plan is to keep doing it until I die or Jesus returns.
I will end by saying this: Most of us know people who are passionate about sports.  Whether it be someone who actually plays them, or just an individual who is ardently enthused about some team, player, league, or whatever, there are many such folks out there.  We all already know that I am not one, right? Well, some have suggested attempting to watch and/or research sporting events to give myself something to talk about with those who are sports fans, usually guys.  I've talked before about that, but I realized something recently that was the genesis of this entire post: Even if I attempted to do that, I'm almost 100% sure that it wouldn't last very long, because I simply lack the determination and perseverance for anything sports-related to keep track of such matters.  During each sports' season, stats and line-ups regularly change, and I likely would never become enthused about them enough to be properly informed.  It's my own fault; over the years, I trained myself to be apathetic about sports by filling my time with other hobbies, especially entertainment.  My belief is simply: I've come this far with remaining mostly outside the sporting world; why do I need to change that?  As the old adage says: If it's not broke, don't fix it.
Any comments?

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Yes, I am a Fan of Parodies, Remixes and Covers

Though my taste in music is quite broad--my iPod has everything from Victoria Justice to Josh Groban to Run-DMC to TobyMac to various American Idol contestants to the Beatles to Twisted Sister to Relient K...and that's just a fraction of it!--some of my favorite artists, past and present, are considered "cover artists".  Throughout high school, I was pretty much addicted to "That Christian Parody Band" ApologetiX's takes on popular mainstream hits, and I got into "Weird Al" Yankovic during my senior year.  Even after that, thanks to my mom, I discovered Michael Ball and Michael Bublé, whose songs are mostly covers of established hits.  As for remixes, I was one of the few active members of the now-defunct dc Talk solo community to like TobyMac's remix albums, Re:Mix Momentum and Renovating->Diverse City, as well as Freaked!, the all-cover tribute to Jesus Freak.  Whether they were remixes, parodies, or covers--which, despite popular belief, are not the same thing--I usually felt that, for one reason or another, the redone song worked better than the original.
In fact, let me explain that former point:
  • A remix is the vocals of a song with new background instrumentation.
  • A parody is a song with the lyrics changed, usually with humorous intent.  These are often heard among elementary school kids; "Deck the Halls With Gasoline" and "Glory, Glory, Hallelujah, Teacher Hit Me With a Ruler" are examples of this, but so is much of Weird Al's work.  Parodies can also exist in other mediums, as well; Spaceballs and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy are non-musical parodies.
  • A cover is a new version of a song from another artist or band.  Sometimes, the songs end up sounding very different; take a look at Alien Ant Farm's version of "Smooth Criminal" versus the Michael Jackson original.  Contestants on shows such as American Idol, The X Factor, The Sing-Off, and The Voice do covers quite frequently.
Now that that's clarified, let me get to my point: For whatever reason, many people--including many of my generation--don't care for parodies, covers, or remixes, especially the latter two.  The usual statements are: "Why would you take a perfectly good song and mess with it?" "Remixing a song is like admitting you were wrong." Maybe I'm just a sucker for entertainment, but, I'm always curious as to what remixers, parodists, and/or cover artists will do with the original song.  Many times, new elements--extra verses/choruses, a different style of instrumentation and/or vocals, a quicker or slower pace, etc.--make for a different, and sometimes better, listening experience.
Of course, sometimes they do end up butchering it; just yesterday, my ears were assaulted by the "Billboard Remix" (?) of "Leave it All to Me," the theme from iCarly, on the iSoundtrack II CD I recently got from the library.  That's not the only one; on the Veggie Rocks! album, Rebecca St. James ruined the VeggieTales theme song by turning it into a rock anthem.  As for parodies, while searching online for "Randolph the Red-Nosed Cowboy" a few years ago, I found an obscene "spoof" (notice the quotes?) of "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" that was obviously written by some sick-minded individual.
It's no question that entertainment today has become very derivative, but, then again, it always has been.  Though basing movies on video games, theme park rides, board games, and instructional manuals may be relatively new, many classic films--The Wizard of Oz, Star Wars, 101 Dalmatians, and countless others--were based on or inspired by literary works and/or previous films.  It's as King Solomon said in Ecclesiastes 1:9 (NIV 1984): "What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun."  Maybe I'm just a nerd, but I like seeing reinterpretations of established works; after all, that's most of what's coming down the entertainment pipelines these days.
Any comments?

Monday, November 5, 2012

This Is NOT Over Yet!

Late last week, feelings of frustration that had been stewing around my head for a while were really getting to me.  Specifically, my frustration was with people who I had recently met and added as friends on Facebook; though a few of them confirmed me almost immediately, most of them had kept my friend requests pending for countless days, which I took as a sign that they didn't want to be friends with me.  As usual for me, that led to: What did I do wrong? Was there anything I could have done differently? Why does whoever have a problem with me? Do the denizens of this planet despise me that much? Such feelings were seriously eating at me, and they just would not go away...until I came home to a happily shocking surprise: the new bride of a long-time friend, to whom I had submitted a friend request weeks ago, had confirmed me as a friend.
This may sound strange to some of you, but, I believe that was actually a sign from God.  Just as much as an author or screenwriter causes events in his/her characters' lives to teach them lessons, so does the Creator of all allow circumstances to teach His people.  What was the message I got? "Relax, Son; this isn't as bad as you think it is.  There are plenty of people who like you; who would know better than the One who created them?" With all the stressing that I did over that and other matters in the weeks prior, it was quite welcome.
I'm the kind of person who doesn't like to give up hope.  Unless I have incontrovertible evidence that something will never happen, then I still believe it can.  There are people who I haven't seen in several years, and can't even find on Facebook, yet I still believe that, one day, we may cross paths again.  It's not that we definitely will; it's that we could.  Unless I hear of those people's deaths, I'm not going to rule it out from happening; at least, in this lifetime.
Call it stubbornness if you like, but I've always believed that anything can happen in this world.  One person told me twice that something was absolutely never going to happen, only for both events to end up taking place soon after he/she made that declaration, which just makes me laugh in his/her face now.  Sometimes, when I feel like giving up hope, Someone reminds me: "This is not over yet!"

Friday, November 2, 2012

Sharpay's Completely UNfabulous Adventure

Most of you reading this know that Ashley Tisdale was once among my favorite celebrities; in fact, from March 2005 to January 2011, she and Anne Hathaway were my "top two," and Ashley was always second to Anne.  Many of my male friends considered her unattractive, and let me know in more ways than one, but I still defended her honor no matter what.  I wasn't as loyal of a fan as I could have been; though I adored The Suite Life of Zack and Cody and even went as far as renting Picture This from Blockbuster--which I only used when I couldn't find a DVD anywhere else--I watched about fifteen minutes of the original High School Musical, and never even bothered with the sequels.  My defense for the latter was that I liked Ms. Tisdale as an actress, not as a singer; to be frank, her vocals in the "Band in Boston" episode of Suite Life were abysmal, even though she was supposed to be a better singer than that opulent-yet-ditzy heiress London.
Despite my feelings on Ashley's singing talent (or lack thereof), when I heard that her character Sharpay (did they really have to name her after a dog breed?) was getting a spin-off movie, I got my hands on it as soon as I could.  When it came in at the library, I watched it first chance I got...only to be not only seriously disappointed, but also equally offended.  The statement that the makers seemed to be making was completely inappropriate, especially coming from the Disney brand, and I never have found any opinions that agreed with mine, so, I'm sharing mine on here in hopes that it will be heard.
Why was it offensive? Well, let me describe it for you: When Sharpay moves to New York in hopes of singing on Broadway, she has two nemeses: Roger Elliston, who wants his dog to perform in the show instead of hers, and Amber Lee Adams, a beautiful redheaded actress who is quite the mean-spirited diva.  (I'm about to spoil the ending, but, frankly, do any of you really care?) By film's end, Sharpay and Roger become friends, whereas Amber, who despises dogs, is ruined by a plot they concocted.  That would all be fine...if it weren't for the striking similarities between the movie's Amber Lee Adams and real-life actress Amy Lou Adams, who are both beautiful redheaded actresses, and have remarkably similar names.  What is even more shocking is that, prior to Sharpay's Fabulous Adventure, Disney pretty much made Amy Lou Adams a big-name star by casting her as Princess Giselle in Enchanted.
As a longtime fan of Amy Adams, I was shocked to see her betrayed by Disney in such a way.  Frankly, I wonder why Amy didn't sue the House of Mouse for defamation of character.  I know the movies always say, "Any resemblance to any actual person, living or dead, is completely coincidental," but there are too many similarities between Amy Lou and Amber Lee for it to be a coincidence.  Someone involved with Sharpay's Fabulous Adventure has it out for Amy, and she probably doesn't even know about it, which makes me, as her fan, fear for her.
Now, I don't want you to get the wrong idea here; I'm not going to boycott Disney or Ashley Tisdale, nor do I want to start a letter-writing campaign to notify Amy Adams of what the Mouse House did to her.  Disney's productions are made by various producers, directors, screenwriters, actors/actresses, etc., so just one does not define the company or their works as a whole.  Still, it stymies me how such a production could even be made, as well as why no one else seems to have noticed the similarities between Amber Lee and Amy Lou.  All I know is, I'm glad Jennifer Stone is now my "number two"; I don't know how I could have stood behind Ashley after starring in something like that.
Any comments?

Thursday, November 1, 2012

"He Is A Nervous Person"

Most of my friends already know that, due to a leak several weeks ago, our house has been under quite a bit of construction, especially the kitchen and family room.  Not only are we getting new floors, cabinets, and such, but we are also getting new appliances; the old refrigerator, stove, and microwave were given to a friend this morning.  Last night and early this morning, those appliances had to be cleaned, including the fridge, and that involved the removal of shelves and drawers.  This morning, I was putting the milk back into the fridge--because we didn't have an ice chest prepared yet--and the shelf fell, causing tea to spill all over my brown dress pants and the (thankfully unfinished) floor.  When it happened, I screamed so loudly that my mom, who was in her bathroom, asked what was wrong.  I told her, but she couldn't hear me, so I told her to come into the kitchen, and I then informed her of what happened.  She gave me a towel to clean up the mess, but told me that, from the way I was screaming, it sounded like I was hurt.
Frankly, that kind of scenario has been happening all my life.  When something goes wrong, even a little thing, I tend to do like Victoria Justice sang: freak the freak out.  Usually, that's the worst thing you can do; one thing I've noticed over the years is the ones who handle situations the best are the ones who remain calm.  I'm reminded of an incident that happened when I was in fifth grade.  Long story short, a classmate who was helping with a project that involved shredding paper accidentally got his hand caught in the shredder.  Thankfully, a teacher--who was also a retired Air Force pilot, at that--did exactly what needed to be done: unplug the shredder.  I wasn't around when it happened, but, if I had been, I likely would have been sent into a panic.
Most of us have had times where we've gotten nervous: delivering a speech to our class, performing in a play with a live audience, an interview for a much-desired job, etc.  However, there are probably few of you reading this who can actually say you are nervous people...but I can say that I am, because it's true.  When I took Spanish class from seventh grade through tenth grade, one of the earliest concepts was the difference between ser and estar.  Both of them meant "to be," but in different ways.  Estar was usually for more temporary traits: being pregnant, sick, happy, sad, a certain place, etc.  Ser, however, was usually for more permanent traits: where you are from, the color of your eyes and hair, your personality, and the like.  As you'd expect, the two were not interchangeable; El está nerviosa may be just as grammatically correct as El es nerviosa, but the meaning is different.  The textbook described the former as "He is nervous right now," and the latter as "He is a nervous person."  When I saw that example, I realized that the latter could easily describe me; I've always been high-strung.
It's true that my chronic nervosity is not as bad as it once was; in prior years, I used to get so upset during crises that I couldn't even say what had happened.  Is being high-strung part of my condition? It's hard to say; I've met others with it who were not, as well as some without it who were, and vice versa.  Whatever the reason, being a nervous person is something that I've always dealt with, and it may likely continue for the rest of my life.
Those of you who have been around me for long periods of time might have noticed how bad my nerviness can be.  Even during an activity that involves sitting down--eating lunch, watching a movie or TV show, even sitting in a church service--I can't refrain from moving my legs.  I could say that started in eighth grade; one day that year, my legs just started moving, and they wouldn't stop.  Still, inability to sit--or stand, for that matter--completely still has always been a problem; a classmate in third grade complained that she couldn't see an educational video we were watching because I moved around too much during it.  However, the problem is: If I don't stay "in motion" somehow, I can't pay attention to what I'm doing, especially if it's something I'm supposed to watch and/or listen to, such as a sermon or television show.  When I first became unable to control my legs, my sister--who always sat next to me in church--would kick me to get me to stop.  I understand why she did it; it was potentially bothering others.  Despite that, though, while not moving my legs, I was unable to pay attention.  One Sunday morning, for whatever reason, my sister and brother-in-law were not sitting next to me during the sermon--I would guess that they were doing Children's Church--and, despite the fact that I was in constant motion throughout the lesson, my eyes were fixed on the preacher, and I heard every single word he said, which is something that had rarely, if ever, happened up to that point.  So, it was either move around and pay attention, or not move around and not pay attention.  What would you choose?
Another problem always being nervous causes is an inability to relax.  "R and R," short for rest and relaxation, is something that is nearly universally desired; everyone needs and/or wants it at some point.  However, though I rest when I sleep just like the rest of the world, I honestly do not know how to relax.  The closest I come to relaxing is watching a movie or reading a book, and even that isn't all that relaxing, given how seriously I take my entertainment.  In fact, in some ways, I like a bit of freneticism; when I was younger, I liked playing board games such as Sorry! and Trouble as well as video games such as Mario Kart 64 and Super Smash Bros. Melee with the maximum number of players--usually four--because the more people that played, the crazier it got.  Even some of my current favorite songs--"Freak the Freak Out," "You Spin Me 'Round (Like a Record)," "What's Goin' Down," "We Didn't Start the Fire," "Can't Back Down," "Lovesick," and many others--are sonic frenzies, but that's why I like them.  I'm not all that into sedate, peaceful, and/or serene music, though it can be enjoyable at times.  Nonetheless, being unable to relax causes one big problem that trumps any others: difficulty getting to sleep, though I'd rather not get into that.
I mentioned in a previous post about my chronic preoccupations.  Some of you may have heard the phrase "perpetually pregnant," used to describe a woman who has one pregnancy right after another, such as 19 Kids and Counting's Michelle Duggar.  Well, I could be considered perpetually preoccupied; as soon as I let go of one bothersome issue, I'm on another kick.  A kick is not the same as an obsession; my infatuation with Hilary Duff and Anne Hathaway was the latter, whereas the former involves something that I want to happen or change, and won't shut up about it until it does.  A perfect example of one of my kicks was back in 2003, where I couldn't stop talking about having pizza for lunch at home on Sunday.  I had one of my infamous flashbacks of my friend Robert and I eating pizza for lunch one Sunday in either 1994 or 1995, and, after that, I couldn't stop telling my immediate family members that we should try it.  They tried everything from punishment to an it'll-never-happen declaration to getting pizza on another day of the week to get me to stop, but I didn't until they gave me what I early 2005.  However, it wasn't long after that when I got on another kick, and then another one, and then another one; it was an endless cycle that had started pretty much as soon as I could have been on a kick, and is still going strong now.  If you look back through this blog, many of the posts on here were inspired by kicks.
I will conclude by saying this: I'd like to be able to do away with my nervosity, and be able to relax like a regular person...but I don't see how it is possible.  In fact, I'm currently preoccupied with negative feelings towards myself just because I accidentally walked in front of a moving vehicle while crossing a busy intersection to get into my mom's car, scaring my mom "half to death" in the process.  You may say, "Well, we all make mistakes and forget things sometimes," but, as absent-minded as I have always been, I'm afraid I'll forget something and end up causing dire consequences for me or someone else.  It's already happened, to a degree; I got an "F" on my first test in fifth grade history class just because I forgot to label the four oceans as well as the seven continents, even though I knew them all and could have gotten an "A+".  My fear is that, one day, it will be something a thousand times worse, and it almost was today...but there seems to be nothing I can do about it.
I sure do sound preoccupied, don't I? That's par for the course for me, though; no matter where I am or what I'm doing, there's always something else in the back of my mind.  "I need/want to _____ as soon as I can." "I'm having an issue with _____, and I can't figure out how to solve it." "Where could ____ be?" "Boy, do I sure want to go to _______ this weekend!" No matter how I try, those feelings won't leave...and I've always been flummoxed on how to at least minimize them, if not rid myself of them completely.