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Once More With Feeling

20 May

In making my best effort to let special people know who I am, I present to you my autobiography as told in music.  You can play along here if you’d like a soundtrack:

I’ve left out #somany important and good songs.  Sometimes one’s life is not best described in their ability to wave their musical taste wang about to show everyone its size and girth.  So I’ll just remind that it’s not ladylike to disclose such things to you.

I’ll warn you, I’m trying to keep it brief but we’ll see.  I’m not sorry at all though, song has been my story for my whole life.  I’ve been making mixes since I was 10, and so this makes sense.  I hope it does to you too.

Dyslexic Heart – Paul Westerberg 

This song is one of a few from the Singles soundtrack.  I can’t reiterate how my becoming actual me that exists today me started with this soundtrack.  I used to spend a lot of time hoping someone would read my mind.  (Okay still trying to fight this problem.) I laughed when I first heard this song because it’s the other side of the story.  This is the first of three straight up autobiographical songs about my adulthood found on that soundtrack.  By the way – it is my strong opinion that too many people my age spend too much time trying to play the rules of dating as lined out in the movie Swingers and not enough from the movie Singles.

I Love a Rainy Night – Eddie Rabbitt

Are there cooler songs to flex my “I grew up on Classic Country” muscles?  Yes definitely.  Are there lamer songs found in my mom’s stack of vinyl rather than my dad’s?  A quick survey of Paul Anka, the Carpenters, The Gaither Family Trio, and Olivia Newton John should answer that for you.  I pretty much wore the track out on my dad’s album for this song.  I would sing it to myself when I ran water for a bath, and when I was scared of a thunderstorm or tornado warning.  It’s also illustrative of what I require 50% of my music to be: upbeat, peppy, and wonderful.  And illustrative of how much joy the seeming “downer” things in life bring me.

Do You Really Want to Hurt Me – Culture Club

At the age of 10, I received my very first clock radio and the ability to listen to the rock and or roll music.  Consequently, I also bought my first pre-teen mag with free posters in it.  Boy George was one such poster on my wall.  I wanted to BE Boy George when I was 10.  (I didn’t understand gender or sexuality.  I did, however understand wanting colorful hair and the ability to wear makeup.)  So I would clip Pixie Tails into my hair and sing this song into my mirror.

When Doves Cry – Prince

It’s likely the grinding guitar line in this song that makes it on my pantheon list of all time favorites.  Don’t ask why 10 year-old me loved the story in it, I obviously didn’t get the gist of the story.  But yes, here it is, the reason why being given a radio at 10 years old would change my life.

I Want Your Sex – George Michael 

I’m not sure who I loved more when I was 10 years old: George Michael or Jonathan from NKOTB.  Have I mentioned I’ve never had much of an ability to sense if a man would be attracted to me?  (Hey at least George I had a chance with.) So this song defines my life because mom heard it playing while I was in my room reading and almost tore the radio out of the wall.  She banned me from current day music on the radio.  Even though I tried to convince her there was a church song on the radio:

Faith – George Michael 

It didn’t work.  And I was banished to the local oldies radio station.  (Let’s not forget that the 50s, 60s, and 70s yielded us some of the most sexual innuendo and drug reference ripe music in history.)  Like:

I Think We’re Alone Now – Tommy James & the Shondells

There’s nothing better than still being able to hear that song by Tiffany even though you’re banned from hearing it.  You know, about a secret tryst far away from the prying eyes of society.  I’m actually thankful for my forced listening to the rock & roll music that neither of my parents seemed to have attached to in their youth.  Without this time, I would probably have had a harder time attaching to it when I had more autonomy in my music choices later in life.

Thy Word – Amy Grant

My Grandma would send me Christian singers’ tapes for holidays and let me take them home when we visited her.  For the most part they were has been or locally popular artists.  (Did you know that Aileen Quinn, the movie Annie, became a Christian chanteuse in her teen years?)  I was especially attracted to female artists who became popular when they were teenagers.  At the same time began my indoctrination into conservative Evangelical Christianity via church camp.  This was a campfire song.  I actually still love Amy Grant because she describes her blazing a path into “crossover” music with “tits to the wind like a lady on a ship.”  There’s a certain amount of mad respect in my feminist heart for a woman who bore the brunt of accusation for ruining her first marriage when her ex remarried faster than she did.  (Implying to me that Vince Gill wasn’t the only other person in that relationship.)  Amy Grant and Sandi Patty getting divorced spurred my first questions against the conservative dogma with which I was raised.  (This is also one of the piano songs I can remember how to play to this day.)

Luv is a Verb – DC Talk 

I think it’s easiest to say that a good part of middle school is best described as a “parallel lifestyle.”  Nashville started churning out Christian groups with the right message to go along with that hip music.  DC Talk, graduates of Falwell’s Liberty University, proved themselves versatile to many styles of music.  This was during their rap/hip-hop phase.  They then had a grunge phase and a singer songwriter phase.  Because in Christian music the message is more important than the medium.  This song makes me giggle, and I apparently still know all of the words.

Beyond Belief – Petra

There were several hair bands in the Christian realm.  Petra was one of them.  I’m including them here because between Dc Talk and Petra, that’s 2/3 of my very first concert ever at Red Rocks.   (PS I was sad that they were only playing their praise and worship music and not any of their earlier actual rock.) There was good metal in the Christian musicverse, but I didn’t really find it or like it until later.  (Ooooh feel the foreshadowing!)

If I Ever Fall in Love – Shai 

I started having crushes on boys when I was in 4th grade.  By and large everything remained unrequited until I turned 19.  There are so many countless songs about someone not knowing you’re in love with them, or are about someone falling in love with their friend, and et cetera and so on.  This is one particular one that I would hum pretty often under my breath during the dramatic 6th-8th grade years.  And thus we march on into High School.

Nothing Else Matters – Metallica

My life faced a significant shift in perspective and knowledge that started in late 8th grade and continues until now.  My family relocated to Durango, Co.  One of the important things to note about this geographic movement is that I now had more neighbors than just 1 close to my age.  And of my two closest girlfriends in high school, neither was very religious like my other friends were.   Both of them were/are Metallica fans.  I include this song because it’s the only love song that the boys sing, and also because my move to Durango signifies an opening of my mind that wouldn’t have happened had we stayed put in Longmont.

Black – Pearl Jam

One of the best things about discovering the Ten album is that I discovered this song.  It is the best song to split a list in  half.  I’m hoping this is halfway.  It’s one of my favorite Pearl Jam songs.  It should be known that one of the best uses for the perfect mix tape is for driving music.  And being 16 was a blast. (Except when you include Jackyll.  Please notice they are not included. Yes that’s an inside joke only understood by one person.  No I don’t care if that’s not you.)

I’m Going Slightly Mad – Queen

I was a theatre kid.  Theatre significantly split my mind wide open to new ideas and to very good people.  In high school, our theatre friends who were GLBT were very firmly closeted.  Most came out the year after they graduated. I still believed at this time that being gay was a sin and possibly a psychological condition.  I’m not proud of this strange view I had of people who I love very dearly, but it was there and took about 2 years into college to see scientific and relational evidence that what I had been taught was not true.

Farenheit – Five Iron Frenzy

Ska was a thing in the mid 90s.  The guys and girl in Five Iron are very dear to me. Though this isn’t my favorite song of theirs (see prior blogs), it definitely symbolizes my steps in the direction of true acceptance of all of my friends.  University in general was about teaching me how to be real and authentic in my relationships with people and also with my deity.

Chloe Dancer/Crown of Thorns – Mother Love Bone

At 19 years-old, I discovered grunge music more fully.  I also had my first honest to goodness real boyfriend.  And first kiss.  I’m pretty sure I was Chloe heading into that relationship and the narrator in the song walking away when it got scary.  It’s the kind that moves on, it’s the kind that leaves me alone. This song comes pretty close to best favorite song ever.

Flying Dutchman – Tori Amos

Directly after the above events, I met a very cool friend online.  We communicated with one another through mix tapes and he introduced me to Tori (which lead to me finding Neil Gaiman among other things) and to the Young Ones.  Among other things.  He’s still dear to me and I owe a lot of wonderful things to the Great Hoodoo.  I know this is probably blasphemy for him to think I’d say this, but if he left the Milky Way would indeed be dressed in black.

Stein’s Theme – Project 86

I promised metal earlier but none of it fit or made sense to where this thing seems to be leading.  I’ve just realized a lot of the music in this list has been brought to me through friendships with new and different people.  Project is no different.  Of course now in retrospect listening to one of my favorite songs by this band, I can see how it needed to fit very specifically into a life where I needed to scream (this band) and growl (other bands not listed here) and yell because it was the only way I was allowing myself to feel anything at the time.

Faded Away – Fatal Blast Whip

And be slightly creeped out by my music.  It should be noted that I wanted to list the song Mirror by lVl, but he unfortunately only exists on Spotify as a remixed ghost of himself.  So I guess I’ll just tap the bridge of my hip dark rimmed glasses and say you probably haven’t heard of him.  Fatal Blast Whip falls into the category of plonky electronic music that I really adore and that I will do just about any kind of work to.  If you read any of my blogs, they’re usually created with something crunchy like this.

All My Favorite People – Over the Rhine

In the same space of time that I needed to scream and growl and yell, I also needed a voice and music that would wrap me in a warm blanket and remind me that we’ll figure things out and make them alright.  There is not another band or songwriter out there writing exactly how I experience life other than this one. Linford and Karen regularly script exactly the things I was thinking.  And if I ever could take lessons to make my singing voice sound like someone’s it would be hers.

In a Sweater Poorly Knit – mewithoutyou

In the hot midwestern summer I once drove a car halfway across the country with one of my now dearest friends.  And we thought philosophically how modern and wonderful we were to listen to Aaron and his band.  She is now one of my closest and dearest friends and mewithoutyou will always be a band that I catch live as often as I can.

Secret of the Easy Yoke – Pedro the Lion

This song, though it belongs timelinewise up with Project 86, belongs here.  If I ever wrote a Dear John letter to organized in a building church, this would be it.  There was a moment when I realized I just didn’t want to go anymore.  And I’m still not sure what that means.

When I’m Small – Phantogram

This is the newest song on my list.  There are several bands introduced to me by various exes.  Sometimes it’s okay if the only thing left after a relationship is that you got the appreciation of a new band out of it.

High Low Middle – My Brightest Diamond

There was a time in my life when I had everything I ever wanted and had less than I’d ever had.  It was truly the best of times and the worst of times and this song embodies that.  (And also features one of my fave musical-type performers in the music video.)

Seasons – Chris Cornell

Likely I framed this little autobiography in this soundtrack because of recent events.  So be it.  But if there ever was a voice that moved me in crazy primal ways it was his.  And if there ever were lyrics describing a more perfect person for me than this:

If I should be short on words
And long on things to say
Could you crawl into my world
And take me worlds away

Then I’ve not heard them.  So there you have it.  Me.  In 25 songs that have been important to me in one way or another in the past 39 or so years.

Author’s Note: Man, am I glad I didn’t make this a Facebook post.  Copy/paste that meme.  Haha.  

Author’s additional script: It really is fascinating to me that these songs really do represent different people being introduced into, and thus changing my life.  I’m sure there’s an entire book in the idea that I’ve not actually grown on my own whatsoever.  

 

 

Tuning Fork or Pitch Fork?

20 Jan

 

Author’s Note: I had something more militant to post today, Inauguration Day.  I felt awful posting something that challenges many who have much bigger things to face today.  

As inspired, a bit, by the present trend on Facebook for us to list the albums that most influenced us in High School, but to avoid the limitation of what could best be termed as my “coming out of the musical wilderness,” I bring to you Tuning Fork or Pitch Fork.  A sometimes series about how certain songs have affected me in one way or another.  This next song comes from the College Years. 

It was fall of 1996.  A band came and played in my college town as a fundraiser for one of their bandmates’ relatives.  They identified themselves as a group of Christians who came together to create awesome music with a message in line with their beliefs.  They lived in Denver, Co, and were involved in the community there.  They started as a straight up ska band, (check your music history, the ska resurgence of the mid 90s was right up my alley) and then morphed into a rock band with a horn section.  They were (and continue to be, on occasion) Five Iron Frenzy.  Soon I was going to all of their shows.  A few of those shows, I crammed myself into the back seat of my friend’s Geo Metro to fly down the highway to places like the Ogden, the Gothic, and the Fillmore.  The above video is from their last show as a regularly gigging band back in 2003.  I’ve actually not caught them live since then performing as Five Iron.

I am an entirely different person than that 19 year old spending all of her not very much college kid money on shows.  She and I viewed the world through entirely different lenses.  She was still concerned that she should be listening to music with a good message, while now I listen to music because I enjoy music.

The reaction that I have emotionally and intellectually to this song is the same as the first time I listened to it. 

It connects viscerally to a 13 year-old girl who challenged God to prove He was there and heard the words, “It will all be okay,” in a voice not her own.  It connects to a young woman who wasn’t very sure of herself but knew that she had come to college for a reason that would make itself clear.  It connects to a young woman out of school and in her 20s who finds her atheist friend wanting to put his hands up and be up front for this song because, “I dunno, it’s just a good song okay.”  To that 25 year-old who had just lost her dad.  And now to the 39 year-old who stares down the world and her view of it with more uncertainty than even those early days of college.

The story that Reese, the lead singer of the band, tells about this song is that it was a gift to them.  They were rushing to meet a deadline, sat down, and it basically wrote itself.  Of course that’s an apocryphal story, but I heard him tell it a million times.  He would link the “conflict bridge” to the writings of CS Lewis, Aldous Huxley, Isaac Asimov, and other science fiction greats.  And I never thought the battle was against robots.

I don’t know anything else really to say except that I hope that reading the lyrics and listening to this song would also reach you today.  It will all be okay.  It might be a bumpy ride to get to okay, but it will.  It’s really the only certainty I’ve left and that I afford myself.

Every New Day 

(Lyrics by Reese Roper, music by Scott Kerr and Dennis Culp)

When I was young, the smallest trick of light,
Could catch my eye,
Then life was new and every new day,
I thought that I could fly.
I believed in what I hoped for,
And I hoped for things unseen,
I had wings and dreams could soar,
I just don’t feel like flying anymore.
When the stars threw down their spears,
Watered Heaven with their tears,
Before words were spoken,
Before eternity.
Dear Father, I need you,
Your strength my heart to mend.
I want to fly higher,
Every new day again.
When I was small, the furthest I could reach,
Was not so high,
Then I thought the world was so much smaller,
Feeling that I could fly.
Through distant deeps and skies,
Behind infinity,
Below the face of Heaven,
He stoops to create me.
Dear Father, I need you,
Your strength my heart to mend.
I want to fly higher,
Every new day again.

*Live Version*

You are not alone,
You are not alone,
You are not alone,
You were never alone.  *end live version*
Man versus himself.
Man versus machine.
Man versus the world.
Mankind versus me.
The struggles go on,
The wisdom I lack,
The burdens keep pilling
Up on my back.
So hard to breathe,
To take the next step.
The mountain is high,
I wait in the depths.
Yearning for grace,
And hoping for peace.
Dear God…
Increase.
Healing hands of God have mercy on our unclean souls once again.
Jesus Christ, light of the world burning bright within our hearts
forever.
Freedom means love without condition, without a beginning or an end.
Here’s my heart, let it be forever Your’s,
Only You can make every new day seem so new.

Peace and Noel

12 Dec

I put up my tree tonight.  There are two words in silver that I hang on it every year (mostly) first.  They are “peace,” and “noel.”  And may your Noel find some peace.

Check In

9 Dec

20151219_155136Hey there.  It’s Friday.  We’ve all been under a tremendous emotional strain these past weeks.  Just checking in with you to see a few things:

  • Have you had a shower or bath that involved not just cleaning up?  Just taken a bit of time in the steam or in the water to just think or shut off your brain?  Why don’t you plan one of those today or this weekend?
  • It’s getting darker here in our Northern Hemisphere.  Have you upped your Vitamin D intake?  Made it a point to go outside while it’s daylight?  Take a walk around the block next time there’s daylight.  It doesn’t have to be far.
  • How’s your jaw?  Clenched because you’re an iron jawed angel?  That’s what I thought.  Take a moment right now and just drop your jaw and let it hang loose.  Now yawn really nice and deep and let your jaw stretch out.  Promise yourself to pay more attention to this and to do some jaw relaxation when you think about it.
  • Breathe.  Breathe really slowly.  Sometimes lying on your back is nice for breathing.  Do that.  Put a video on that’s around 5 minutes long of a fire, or of the ocean, or of some rain.  Close your eyes and just breathe.  Some people like to pretend they are there, if that’s useful for you do it.
  • Have you eaten fruits or vegetables yet today?  Do that with your next meal.  I’m not going to judge you on whether or not you pick a “super food” vegetable or just get a wedge of iceberg lettuce covered in bleu cheese dressing.  Eat a fruit or a vegetable with your next meal.  Fruits and vegetables have nutrients in them that will make you feel like you have a bit more energy or are a bit more hopeful.  Maybe challenge yourself to eat one more fruit or vegetable a day than what you’re doing right now.  I know that comfort food feels good, fruits and veggies have these things called antioxidents in them that also feel good.

I’m writing these things because I also need to remember them too.  My jaw hurts and I’m overly tired and there’s nothing I would love more than to sink into my blankies and stay asleep until this year or the next four have gone away.  I do these things to remember that I’m not slipping away from something.  And I don’t want you to slip away either.  20151219_155136

Writing My Way Out

5 Dec

When the world turned its back on me
I was up against the wall
I had no foundation
No friends and no family to catch my fall
Running on empty, with nothing left in me but doubt
I picked up a pen
And wrote my way out                      (Lin-Manuel Miranda)

I have a lot of journals.  Some of them I’ve had since I was in high school.  Some of them are more recent.  Some are full, many are empty.  This blog is also a journal.  You can tell that sometimes I might set something down, wander away to other activities, then come back and rediscover that it’s there.

Writing has been something I’ve turned to journalsfrequently in life but not as frequently as I should.  The page has listened to more of my sadness, happiness, ideas from left field, and thoughts from right than the whole collective of my friends.  Sometimes the page has helped me to express something that was confusing me, or reason my way through a problem or concept I was trying to understand.  I would like to think sharing my thoughts might change someone’s mind or heart.  But I haven’t kept track of that much.

The time has come to remember that the written word is how ideas best disseminate.  The time has come for us to remember that we are all humans having human experiences together in this place.  And the time has come for us to acknowledge that not all of these experiences are positive.  And how we sometimes view our experiences can hurt ourselves and our friends.  In short, it is time to read and understand more, and to blindly hit the share button (so to speak) less.  I hope, in penning some of my experiences to these pages, that you might find something out of my experiences to apply to yours.

 

Prepare

1 Dec

We are now in December!  I didn’t quite make it to my “three days a week blogging” goal, but I certainly blogged a lot more and have found that I kind of love it.

I wanted to lay out what December’s gonna look like for you, my dearest reader.  This month will be full of many things.  In churchy words, this is the season of Advent, which merely means anticipation, waiting for an arrival.  We enter the darkest time of the year with the approaching Winter Solstice, and many prepare by adding light to our households; whether by menorahs, or Christmas lights, or trees, or adorning our homes with light.

Since it is always a time of year that I take to reflect on so many things, Mondays will be a time for reflection.  For myself and hopefully for you.  I want to make your Monday reading time a time to pause, reflect, and hopefully to bring some light into these ever increasing dark nights of December.

This is also a time of year when we ponder our generosity.  And so this December I’m going to bring you “Skip the Latte Wednesdays,” where we talk about skipping that Wednesday latte and giving to those that are considered “the least of these.”  To bring light into someone’s dark place.  This “Skip the Latte Wednesday” will feature charities that I feel are worth your five dollars.

This is also the time of year when we spend more time with those we hold dear.  On Fridays, I’ll be reviewing one of the Christmas movies from my list of unwatched films and tv shows and sharing with you my thoughts.  Then hopefully that will put them in mind for you to enjoy with your dearest ones with a nice big bowl of popcorn (either real or microwave) and perhaps a tasty beverage.

So there you have it:  December’s plan.  May you begin December with light in your heart, and joy for the season.  And may you also find peace during a time which seems so chaotic.  See you tomorrow!

Candles

It’s a Wonderful List

21 Nov

So before I bring you through a list of movies and TV specials which in my book are the Christmas Christmasy-est, I thought I should start with a list of shocking revelation.  Yes, Virginia, I haven’t seen all of the Christmas old standards.

Santa Claus

First we’ll start with versions of A Christmas Carol I haven’t seen.  I have a long lived hatred of Mr. Dickens and his paid by the word, adjective laden books.  But somehow, this one is dearly loved by myself.  Carol is one that I thought I could say I’ve seen most of the versions.  But I haven’t.  I’ve missed the following:

  • Bah Humduck, A Looney Toons Christmas (2006) Daffy as Scrooge
  • Barbie in a Christmas Carol (2008) Hm…wonder if my niece is still in like with her…
  • Bugs Bunny’s Christmas Carol (1979) Yosemite Sam as Scrooge
  • A Sesame Street Christmas Carol (2006)
  • A Christmas Carol (2004) Kelse Grammar as Scrooge AND IT’S A MUSICAL!
  • Scrooge (1970) Albert Finney as Scrooge, Sir Alec G as Marley (Apparently I have no soul if I’ve not seen this one.)
  • A Christmas Carol (1997) Animated!? Tim Curry as Scrooge
  • A Christmas Carol (2009) Creepy performance capture with Jim Carrey (No.)
  • Blackadder’s Christmas Carol (1988) Which I should watch since I now love this show.
  • Huh Huh Humbug Episode of Beavis and Butthead
  • Scrooged (1988)

Yes I know that last one is going to start public outcry.  Please don’t show up at my doorstep disguised as carolers with pitchforks and torches.  How about show up with the DVD and I’ll spike some hot cocoa and pop popcorn the real way.

The “Classics”:

  • The Shop Around the Corner (1940) JIMMY!  SO SORRY!
  • The Bells of St Mary’s (1945)
  • Going My Way (1944)
  • Holiday Inn (1942)
  • White Christmas (1954)

Yeah, I get it.  My upbringing significantly lacked Bing Crosby.  Basically I need to watch some Bing Crosby.

Television:

  • California Raisins Christmas Specials (I wish I could UNwatch these.  So dang creepy.)
  • Beauty and the Beast Enchanted Christmas (1997) Made during the years I was most Disney obsessed.  Not sure how I missed this one.
  • A Chipmunk Christmas (1981) Sure I know all the words to their Christmas songs, but I actually missed this one.

    Yeah guys.  I'm really sorry.  Really, I am.

    Yeah guys. I’m really sorry. Really, I am.

  • Olive, The Other Reindeer (1999) I was working at Borders the Christmas this one hit.  Never watched it…
  • The Snowman (1982) Let the wailing and gnashing of teeth begin…
  • Winnie the Pooh and Christmas Too (1991) For all the WtP obsessed I am, I’ve never much cared for the Silly Old Bear (SOB…HA!) as rendered by Disney.  I think there’s also a Piglet themed Christmas movie…I’ll skip that one too.

Get ready for the face-palming action…because here comes the rest of the confession:

  • Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas (1977) Jim, I’ve failed you and I will fix this immediately thanks to availability on Netflix.  I am so, so, incredibly and very sorry.
  • Hogfather (2006) Here’s where I lose massive amounts of SF/F points.  This movie is based on Terry Pratchett’s Discworld.  No, I’ve not read any of it.  Hence why I’ve not seen the movie.  Don’t worry, I’ve no qualms about Mr. Pratchett.  I’ve just only read his alongside Gaiman novel Good Omens and have just missed the train on his other stuff.  I’ll get there, I promise.  And along with that will come Hogfather.
  • Ghostbusters II (1989)  Yep.  I’m no longer a nerd.  Yeah, I’ll take my things and go.
  • The Polar Express (2004) I feel better about not seeing this one because it looked flipping creepy.
  • Joyeaux Noel (2005) Sooo…now I lose my European History cred too.
  • And now.  La piece de resistance!  That’s right folks, you can recoil with horror……………Elf (2003) I’m probably a farkle bummed mamma jamma ninnypoopsie or whatever, but myself and Mr. Ferrell only got along in 2 of his films, and both times because he was playing opposite such an incredible supporting cast that I didn’t mind he was there.  And in this movie?  My supporting cast in this film includes Zooey Deschanel.  No.

So what do you think?  What should be my priority to catch?  Perhaps you can confess your deepest darkest holiday movie secrets?

Rabbit Hole

19 Nov

get some flowers

Forgive me. I’ve been making my teeny tiny 2005 Vaio do my bidding and it’s taken two days of work. I’ll be back tomorrow with wit, witticism, and the beginning of my holiday season media spectacular.

Tract

14 Nov

Image

This little quote floated across my Facebook page this week.  It is apparently penned by an author that my friends who are fans of Youth Fiction say I should read.  I’m sure I’ll get there as soon as I can.  Because, as any good book lover can tell you, I’m deeply entrenched in a long list of books that I’ve made for myself over the years.

But onto the subject matter at hand.  I’ve knocked on your door today to tell you about the book that everyone who is even remotely interested in the 80s, MMPOGs, science fiction, Atari, or Family Ties.  Or in finding the Easter Eggs on DVDs or in video games.  Or…just plain old video games.  You see today I am here to tell you about a life lived once  you have read this book:

Ready_Player_One_cover

This book I purchased blind after a very good friend of mine told me about it.  It had my curiosity piqued, and my friend hadn’t been wrong before about such life decisions as what my eyes and brain should devour so I gave it a shot.

So, Ernest Cline is the dude who wrote that sweet little movie Fanboys.  You know, about the crazy Star Wars fans who break into Skywalker Ranch to find the original cut of A New Hope?  And I think something about cancer, I don’t remember.  Anyway, he’s no stranger to worlds of science fiction.

The world in Ready Player One is very dystopic.  Which is of course how we Americans like our futures to be.  And Cline doesn’t have much else to add to the worlds that Neal Stephenson and William Gibson haven’t laid down plenty of times in the past: in this future the outside is awful and everyone lives their lives online.

In a massive multiplayer online game.  (MMPOG)

Yeah…you read right: in an online game like World of Warcraft.  Well, at least that’s how it started.  And then you could shop there.  And then they created other worlds where you could go.  And then…school migrated there.  All based around your money that you spend in the game.  Fancy eh?

So it turns out the creator of this universe has passed away.  It also turns out that the creator of this ‘Verse was absolutely dedicated to his love of all things 80s.  But you see in 2044 that is all so quaint and everyone had previously dismissed this as a quirk.  Until the will is read.  The inheritor of the billions and billions of dollars this creator leaves behind?  Is the one who can find the HIDDEN KEYS TO HIDDEN LEVELS IN THE GAME AND BEAT THEM.  Yeah!  Enter Wade Watts, a brave teenager, cue a motley crew of unlikely friends (the best kind to have in a scifi mystery throwback novel), and of course throw in the evil, senseless, ridiculously evil corporation who is cheating at the game to beat everyone to the prize, inherit the millions, and also to fully control the ‘Verse for its horrific profit and evilness.

In case I’ve not converted you yet, did I mention Family Ties?  Seriously, the book interweaves all of these crazy references and technologies all together into one brilliant story which kept me guessing til the end.  The best part?  If you don’t know what things like haptic gloves are, Cline takes time to briefly bring you up to speed on them.  But here’s the kicker: he doesn’t make you feel stupid for not knowing what they are in the first place!  Unlike a lot of other cyberpunky books, Cline’s not out there to either write for an audience that he just wouldn’t have to lower himself to by explaining technology.  (Stephenson is quite guilty of this in Snow Crash.)  Nor does he go into sometimes long, winding, intricate descriptions of such technology.  (As Gibson has been wont to do from time to time.)  Nope, you get a few sentences, and you feel brilliant, and you move on.

Cline treats his pop culture references much in the same way.  I actually created a really cool 80s music station on Pandora by typing in every single band or artist mentioned in this book.  You should do this as well.

You should do many things.  And I know you are a human being who can make decisions for yourself, but to paraphrase perhaps one of the most famous evangelical gospel tracts: it’s not enough to know that this book is awesome, or to feel its pages between your fingers, you must personally read it yourself and find it brilliant.

But you don’t have to take my word for it….

What about you?  What’s your book you must absolutely evangelize everyone about?

Armistice

11 Nov

Armistice.  Definition:  A temporary cessation of fighting by mutual consent.

Today was originally known as Armistice Day.  The western world had fought a huge war.  And it was an awful one.  Modern weapons allowed us human beings to mow down entire lines of men at a time.  We had decimated the population of Europe.  And completely changed the topography of the earth in many places in Europe.  At the time that Armistice Day was named as a day to remember that war was over, parts of Europe were comprised of scarred, muddy, razor wire ridden fields.  And the world said, “Armistice.”  A cessation of fighting by mutual consent.

We fight gory battles every day.  Perhaps with a spouse who has managed to crawl under our skin in just the right way.  Maybe with someone we perceive to be a bully, or someone who stands in the way of our personal goals.  We even fight horrendous battles with ourselves.  We lie in wait until our head pops up over the embankment and then start turning the crank handle of our big guns.  An endless machine of war against that which we perceive to be ugly, to be the Hun, to be our enemy; we don’t want a sword any longer to fight our battles personally and face to face, we want to be able to do it from a long way off so we can’t see the looks on the faces of the dead.

The western world was so bent on the Great War being the only one ever fought that they convened a tribunal.  They wanted to make the main aggressors, Germany, pay for what had happened.  They must pay, for they are responsible for the terrible scars drawn deep in the earth.  They must pay for all of our sons, husbands, and able bodied men who are no longer so able.  The world collectively decided to put a price tag on these war reparations.  And that price tag was huge.  It destroyed Germany’s economy.  It battered the minds of their artists and great thinkers.  And no mind was paid to the Germans.  Because, well, “They started it.”  There really should be no surprise what happened a few decades later in the 1930s.  The very second that humans can fight back against unjust blame we will.  And we will do it better, stronger, and with more allies.

How many times have I seemingly declared an armistice and then demanded that the transgressor pay so hard that it hurts?  How many times have you?  Humans like to demand payment for the sins committed against them.  And for some strange reason we think that the harder it is to pay us back, the faster we will recuperate from being victimized by this horrible act.  We will make them pay.  And they will pay dearly.  Oh yes, they will pay very dearly.  Sometimes with the very life they were given, but most times we hope that we can keep them alive and still set in the place of “I’m so sorry, I’m a horrible person and I deserve this.”

A lot of historians spend a lot of time debating the question of “What would’ve happened had we not made the demands for repayment so large?”  What would’ve happened in my life if I had found a different way to treat the end of certain battles?  What would’ve happened if instead of bitterly making someone pay, I would instead release my right to punish them and moved on?

Armistice is mutually agreed upon.  Reparations do not solve the underlying issue.  Who in your life deserves armistice without reparations?  Who in mine?

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