Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Feeling Successful

Partly because I managed to finish The Importance of Being Earnest. And once I turned it on, the entire family that had been refusing to let me watch it slowly trickled in and sat, spellbound, staring at the television and trembling before the might of Oscar Wilde's wit. But anyway.
Mostly I'm feeling successful, and a bit accomplished, because my sister just came to me to ask for something to read. And after starting for my room to tear through my shelves in search of something ("Something modern!" she says) that the picky miss would take, I remembered: Oh yeah! I finally did it! Broke down and cataloged my library! So I went to my laptop instead, read off titles until I found one that was satisfactory, noted the makeshift call-number, proudly lead her to my bookcase, and made her watch while I put my hand directly to the book she wanted.
Epic win.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Today was a good day. Sundays, lately, aren't always, with the people-drama and such; but today was good.
First was, obviously, church. Helped Mum with stuff, hung around with preschoolers, chatted with people I haven't talked to in a while, snagged a few minutes to talk to my bestie about, of all things, the Hunger Games, among other things. The worship set was utterly fantastic. Our God Saves, Psalms 3 set to music, How He Loves, and Chris Tomlin's Our God. I adore Our God; it's one of the ones we sang over and over again in Dallas, and listening and worshiping to it this morning, for a moment I was back there, on campus in Garden Valley. I'd forgotten how much I miss it. After worship, I sort of ditched on sermon and helped Mum in Worship Arts Ministry (WAM for short) instead. Which consisted of listening to/helping with the first-fourth graders work on their part for Children of God, yes the Third Day song, yes it's going to be incredibly cute, with the worship leader; watching them have a blast free-worshiping to irritating kids music, grape-vining around in a circle with some of the youngest members of the dance group, and leading the whole group in a rehash of their hip-hop project however many months ago, MaryMary's Shackles. And then, I swear, it was the cutest thing ever. Mum asked the class the question "Why is God worthy of our praise?"
You had the standard Sunday-school answers (He made us, He died on the cross for us, etc.), and then you had first-fourth grade boys. I love first-fourth grade boys. Just a sampling:

"God is stronger than two light-sabers.""

"God is bigger than twenty tractors."

"God is stronger than the big guy with the mohawk on Ben 10."

After church we came home, ate lunch (quickly), and then left. To go on a social visit. Confession: I didn't want to go. Nothing against the people, it was a relatively new family from church that I've been wanting badly to get to know better; but it meant being "on" as Mum would put it. Dad couldn't understand it for the life of him, but for me, as much as I like some people, nine times out of ten I will get out of a social situation if I can. I'm no good at it, and I feel like I get locked out of my own head, and I turn into this annoying person with nothing useful to say, and I never ever know what to do with myself, and it's just . . . ugh. And after a particularly trying week of school, today I just wanted to curl up on the couch and nap.
.....I had so. Much. Fun. I couldn't believe how comfortable I felt, or how easy it came. They have teenagers, two girls a bit younger than me and a guy my age; which was part of why I was so nervous (I'm not good with people my own age I haven't known since forever), but it was kind of . . .perfect. We (me, Andrew and Anne, and the three of them) were all piled into their living room, with the adults on the other end of the house, and there was Mario Party and Man Vs. Wild and Prince of Egypt and, of all things, the yuck documentary Food, Inc. Seriously, it's nasty. Don't watch it if you ever want to enjoy food again. Which is exactly what I said earlier to (okay, I'm going to have to come up with blog-names for these people); and within thirty seconds it was playing. And, I don't know, I guess I just don't act like that much of a kid very often; but it was uncomplicated and kind of perfect.
The youngest girl is almost fourteen and hugely fun. It's her I was already friends with, as we have a love for dance ministry in common. The older girl is quieter, more introverted, and I think we have more in common, but because of that, we have a hard time getting to know each other. And, wonder of wonders, I think I might, kind of, have a friend...who's a guy. Or at least, a male acquaintance, near my own age, whom I can hold a three-word conversation with without stupidity. How weird is that?
I also discovered a very bad habit of mine. Well, I've known I had it, I just didn't realize how dangerous it has the potential to be. And that habit is, I tend to mirror accents. Not intentionally, certainly not to be rude, I just . . .do it. Which is really bad when your hosts are from a Spanish-speaking country. -_-

~Collected Thoughts~

~The Adventures of Tintin. Which we watched as a family Friday evening. And which was fantastic. I mean, really? You put Steven Moffat, Stephen Spielberg, and Peter Jackson working on the same movie, how in the world is the end result going to be anything but fantastic? And the voice cast, too: there are an incredible number of familiar names on that list. And it was hilarious and very well written, with some very Indiana-Jones-style action and really really great characters. And....well, I won't dwell on it in great detail, but it was definitely worth watching and I highly recommend it.
~Through the Looking Glass. As in, the sequel to Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. I read it for the first time earlier this week, and enjoyed it even more than the first one. It makes a bit more sense (if sense is ever a word that can apply to Lewis Carroll) and has a character I adore that I didn't even realize existed. The White Knight=<3
~The Importance of Being Earnest. The 1952 movie version. I've got it on my Netflix queue, and I want very much to finish it, but nobody ever lets me. I'm convinced I'll only get to watch it in five-minute increments when nobody else is in charge of the remote.
~I have a new lovely little friend. For extremely cheap at the Dollar Deals (Like Dollar Tree, only cooler) in town, I got a little pink box I can stick my iPod in and plug it into that lets me turn my iPod into an alarm clock, which is extremely convenient.
~I love liking the same kinds of music as my brother. Because whenever he gets up the gumption (or happens to have pocket money to spare), if I pitch in a bit, he buys music I like but don't feel like buying. Like a thirty-two track cd of Athlete singles. I liiiike Athlete singles. :)
~I really. Really. Really. Really wanna see Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. It's meant to be coming within the next couple of weeks, but I'm getting incredibly impatient.
~And. Erm. I think that's it. Ttfn!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

I Can Write a Personal Post, No, Really

Remember when this blog used to be about me? Like, what I'm doing, what I've done, what I'm going to do?
Yeah, me neither. But I think that's, technically, what I set out to do when I started this blog. Back before it was about books and movies and stuffs. I think I can still do that, though I'm not quite sure. Here goes, I guess.
It occurred to me, the other day, that I'm deliriously happy right now. Which is kind of strange, because I don't often feel all that happy. Sometimes I think I'm downright miserable. But I'm waking up every morning with a great big grin on my face, because I'm in love with my lovely little bedroom, and there's only about ten steps between me and my first cup of coffee. I love saying good morning to my parents and pouring a bowl of cereal and sweet-talking my precious kitty. I'm actually enjoying the whole eighteen-pages-a-day Bible reading thing; and as much as I complain, and as stir-crazy as it makes me sometimes, I really love how much I get to devote myself to my studies right now. And I feel like I've gotten over the hump, a bit, as far as frustration goes. I'm actually making headway in Spanish, and I feel like I'm understanding it a lot more than I used to. Ever since I switched from some obscure textbook to Khan Academy, online, Geometry has gotten a lot more tolerable. I conquered a really big giant by getting through A Tale of Two Cities in English, and it makes me feel ten feet tall that I actually enjoyed it. I like making a giant cup of Earl Grey to get me through the afternoon, I like popping my head out of my sunroom-turned-schoolroom to scavenge for something to eat and dragging it back to my workstation. I like school.
My Little Podunk County, as frustrating as it can be and as much of a pit of sinking sand as it feels like sometimes, is really, really, really gorgeous in Springtime.
I'm actually making headway in my writing. I feel like I'm perched right on the edge of actually getting better at it, of being able to write the way I want to.

Last Saturday night, I had the house to myself. I'm eighteen years old. I didn't have social plans on a Saturday night, I opted out to having dinner with a family at church with my parents and siblings. Instead, I stayed home, ate soup, listened to my audiobook for A Tale of Two Cities, and knitted. On a weekend night, I sat at home and knitted. It was one of those reevaluate-your-life moments. So I reevaluated, and I decided....I really don't have a problem with it.
And as terrifying as it feels to be eighteen, and to have to worry about the fact that I have to actually make decisions, that the rest of my life isn't going to plan itself or be planned for me, that there are things called money and banks and *gasp* insurance, and I'm eventually going to have to worry about for myself, as hard as I try to feel scared, instead I keep on getting . . . excited. I can't help but feel like there's this adventure ahead for me, and I get to pick it. I can do whatever I decide I want to do. I mean, I'm going to be wise about it, and it's still completely infuriating that no matter how many times I ask for a sign, God isn't giving me one. But I'm still ... really, really excited.

There! Hahaha! I have succeeded. Personal post.

The Finishing of Unfinished Things

I hate having more than one book going at a time. It feels suspiciously like unfinished business, things hanging over me. Unfortunately, it seems to always happen to me. Especially here lately, when I have far more good intentions than I have time. So very recently, I was reading, if you count schoolwork, four separate books at the same time. Last night, however, I finished the last one of four. In that they were finished, they are:
~Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, by John LeCarre. You may remember, from this post dated January 2. Well, anyway, I finally got it back, and managed to finish it.
As much as I hate to admit it, I'm either not old enough or just plain not smart enough for John LeCarre. Tinker Tailor was published in '74, so I'm hoping it's the latter. Either way, I had a hard time keeping up, and a number of pop culture references and what I'm sure must've been jokes sailed over my head. That aside, it was a fantastic book. It's a different kind of spy novel, no car chases or explosions here. Most of the "spying" happens in back rooms and nondescript hotels, and consists of poring over files and papers years old, instead of back-handsprings through laser grids and using laughable gadgets. The plot is slow to get going, but once it finally comes to a point, it's impossible to put down. What kept me reading through the dry spells, though, was the characters. It takes an outrageous amount of focus to keep all the names straight (Wait a minute, which one's Percy again?), but those characters that do actually get developed are great. George Smiley is a hugely endearing little man, and Peter Guillam is impossible to not sympathize with, and so on and so forth down the line. My favorite thing is that each of the characters exists on more than one level. On the surface is the level that's dealing with the plot, rooting out the mole in the midst of their ranks; that's where the excitement and the conflict and the action happens. But running beneath that, for each of them, like a completely separate train of thought in the background, they have their personal struggles. They've each built this wall between their professional and their private lives, but they each struggle to fulfill their tasks with their personal lives screaming for their attention. Smiley, whose wife, everyone knows, is cheating on him; Guillam, for whom middle age is sneaking up fast, and who finds himself far more attached to his much-younger-than-himself girlfriend than he's used to; even little Bill Roach, dealing with the guilt of his parent's divorce. So we get this sense of their all being real people; and of the real story happening beneath the surface.
On a side note, I'm hugely looking forward to getting to see the movie. It's well (very well) cast, all around; and I've heard good things about it. Except for the fact that I'm furious that they took my favorite character, Peter Guillam, took away the thing that he's actually struggling with (his dear, enigmatic Camilla) and turned her into a . . . boyfriend. Not only am I mad about what that will do to the story, I Do Not want to see my favorite actor in that sort of roll.
~A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. Yes, like, "It was the best of times..." School assignment, or I never would've read it, believe me. Bit of a confession, I've always hated Charles Dickens. I've never managed to actually finish one of his novels. Seriously, I got halfway through Oliver Twist, halfway through The Pickwick Papers, halfway through A Christmas Carol. So I was sort of behind the eight ball starting A Tale of Two Cities. However, I figured out what I've been doing wrong. I've been trying to read them to myself. Staring at a page, his style felt dry and dull and weighty to me. Then I met the love of my life, Librivox.org. Tagling: "acoustical liberation of books in the public domain." A gentleman, name of Paul Adams, I believe, recorded A Tale of Two Cities. Lifting the words off the page that way, bringing them to life (with a lovely accent and excellent expression, besides) let me experience it in a different way, and helped me appreciate the beauty of Dickens' language and word choice. And it let me keep my sanity by having something to do with my hands while I read, erm, listened. In this case, knitting (which you can appreciate the irony of if you've read the book). And, completely to my surprise, I loved it. I had the house to myself one night, and got through the majority of the book, and found myself cheering and crying and laughing and, well, I loved it. (and really need to go write the character analysis and five-page essay that are both due Friday).
~Where She Went, by Gayle Forman. Sequel to If I Stay, which I read several months ago. I loved the first book, I don't hesitate to say that Gayle Forman is the most talented author out there right now. In a world slowly being eaten up by a score of Stephanie Meyers and Lauren Conrads, Gayle Forman's writing, her actual prose, might as well be Shakespeare. However, I wasn't looking forward to Where She Went. It was a sequel, and rather a needless one, or so I thought. If I Stay was heartbreaking, and to tell the next leg of the story, I felt, absolutely ruined the self-sufficient beauty that was If I Stay. I actually wrote, on my to-do list, the day I picked up Where She Went from the library, "Pick up useless sequel. Ugh."
I was proved wrong, though. Where She Went is beautiful by its own right, and the direction it takes the story that If I Stay started really was worth the telling. It's sad and sweet and not easy to read at all, but has a fantastic ending. There's a vast amount of foul language, though, so I don't recommend it to anyone under fifteen or sixteen, frankly.
~And last, but Certainly Not Least, The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger. Whenever I hear that a book is somebody's favorite, I want to read it. And someone whose tastes I, usually, respect, lists Catcher in the Rye as the one book, above all others, that changed their life. So I got pretty excited about this one. I finally managed to pick up an old, beat-up copy at the second-hand bookstore I frequent. I don't entirely know what I was expecting. I hoped to enjoy it, I guess; reading the Wikipedia article about the book seemed to think that it was all about teenage rebellion, which is, kind of whatever; I don't even know. What I wasn't expecting was for the book to have an effect on my life.
It was slow-going. It's from the point of view of a teenage boy, and written as you would imagine a teenage boy would write his memoirs. The swearing alone made it hard for me to keep on, and there's some pretty shocking content. I got through it, though, although it took me almost two months to do it. It's downright depressing, at points, but I found myself identifying with the main character, Holden Caulfield, a lot more than I'd like to admit. Equal parts lost and stuck, frustrated with the present and no ideas for the future, disgusted with most of the humanity, with the way humanity works, and unable to picture a future that doesn't involve a solitary cabin in the woods (or a cottage by the sea, in my case). And the desperation Holden felt was starting to get me down. Then day before yesterday, I came to the two portions that are, I think the whole point of the book.
The first one comes when Holden is sneaking a midnight visit with his little sister Phoebe, one of few human beings he isn't disgusted with. She's confronting him with the fact that he doesn't like anything, doesn't want to be anything, demanding that he tell her one thing that he thinks is worth living for. Trying to make him find a point to existence. Pretty smart for a little kid. And after thinking for a good long while, he replies,
"You know that song 'If a body catch a body comin' through the rye'? ...I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in a big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody's around - nobody big, I mean - except me. And I'm standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over a cliff - I mean if they're running and they don't look where they're going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That's all I'd do all day. I'd just be the catcher in the rye and all. I know it's crazy, but that's the only thing I'd really like to be."
Weeding through what's figurative, and what's nonsense, there, I think what he's saying is that he wants to do something that really matters. He wants to help people who there's nobody else around to help.
The second part that I felt was speaking directly to me, I realized when I went searching in the book for the quote, is about four pages long and doesn't lend itself to being abridged, so I won't try to quote it here. Basically, Holden receives some very wise advice from a very wise person. Advice about finding his place in the world, and what to do when he found it. Advice I can, I think, apply to my own life in some way. So, I wound up enjoying (and getting more out of) Catcher in the Rye than I'd hoped.

So I'm feeling pretty accomplished. You know, like, maybe trying to finish all the other half-finished projects in my life. Ehh, maybe tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Good Christian B****es

...if you'll pardon my French. It is, in fairness, the title of a television series, not a personal sentiment.
Well, sort of the title of a television series. It's the title of a novel, by one Miss Kim Gatlin, which I have not read, my library does not have, and I am therefore not able to give any kind of commentary on, positive or negative.
It is NOT the title of the ABC drama based on aforementioned novel. Originally, the series was to be titled identical to the novel, but "Christians" made enough of a stir that ABC backed down. After toying with the idea of "Good Christian Belles," they settled, ambiguously, on "GCB."
This was several months ago. Just a couple of days ago, the pilot of this already-scandalous series aired. Not being much of a tv watcher (at least, not current, American television), it didn't hit my radar.
One friend on Facebook, about a day ago, posted a status reading, "Cleavage makes your cross hang straight." At the time I took it for quaint colloquialism or social commentary. I didn't realize that it was one of a couple of marketing catchphrases for the show (others being "Just remember that the higher the hair, the closer to heaven;" "I'm a devout Christian, and I think wearing Christine Dior is divine," and "I like gossiping with you because it's the only time I know you're not gossiping about me.")
The series comes to us from the people who gave us Sex and the the City and the writer of Steel Magnolias: which may or may not be a pretty dead giveaway of what to expect. Here (youtube) you can find the extended trailer. And while I don't usually recommend reading youtube comments, these are a pretty good sampling of reactions to the show. Christians saying "how dare they?" a handful of the more bitter elsewise saying "Finally, somebody's making fun of Christians," and a sensible middle-of-the-road saying, "People, don't get your panties in a bunch," "It's just television, and not particularly good television at that," and "Isn't Blake dreamy?"
Frankly, I'm with that last group. Okay, not so much on the Blake part, but the rest of it, yah. It's television, and ABC drama, which (I am sorry) means it sucks. Or is going to suck. Or something like that. Mildly Entertaining and Mind-Numbing is basically the best it can hope for on a scale of Desperate Housewives to Good Entertainment.
The title isn't a barefaced insult, it's a colloquialism. And I quote: "Good Christian Bitches' has been a term used for a certain Texas cultural subset for over 30 years, since I was in high school. The moment I first saw the title, I knew who it was about, where it took place and how the characters behaved. It's not about faith, it's about a current meme in which the subscribers use their faith (and a lot of other things like money) as a yardstick and a weapon and look, to the rest of us, decidedly un-Christian. If you don't understand the title, give the show a shot: you might be pleasantly surprised (and even recognize a couple of ladies from your PTA or church)." Courtesy, imdb message boards for the series. Full post, with replies, here.
And even were it not an already-standing figure of speech, oftentimes the "good," "Christian" belles of the Deep South can be, frankly, well, let's just say that the term is not entirely undeserved. I've never seen that part of Dallas (look here for an idea of the Dallas I've seen), but I've met my fair share of these belles. Ladies who might actually say, "I feel certain the Good Lord wants me to have a new fur coat," (~GCB character Gigi Stopper). I live in the part of the country where "Christianity" gets used as a means of ignoring or abusing anything we don't like or understand, where God must surely be white and republican, and so forth.
My Christianity, my God, is the most important thing in the world to me. I'm completely His, my life is entirely devoted to doing His will, I trust Him implicitly and love Him more than anything else. Period. I know that, sometimes, with the unpopular opinions I express on this blog, it may not sound like it. I'm a bit liberal in my thinking to fit into the expectations of a quote-on-quote Christian, but isn't that kind of the point? Bear with me.
Yes, my God is the most important thing to me. Yes, it makes me squeamish to see the way the title of this television show, the ladies on this television show, and so on, making "Christians" look bad. Yes, the title is offensive. Yes, their behavior, and in the name of Christ, no less, makes me uncomfortable. Yes, it's a melodramatic caricature. But what is the purpose of a caricature? Not to create flaws that aren't there, but to play them up in the name of satire. In this case, in the name of social commentary and prime-time television.
Yes, I'm bothered by these things. No, I won't watch the show. But to my fellow Christians saying that GCB is blasphemy or hate-speech and asking why it's okay to say Good Christian Bitches, but heaven help us if we say anything about the (insert other religion here, usually, predictably, Muslims); maybe. Maybe, for once, One Million Moms is barking up the right tree, maybe this is going to grieve the heart of God. Maybe. Do I think censorship, boycotting ABC (I mean, people, stop watchin AFV to get at GCB?), and harassing companies who advertise during the show is the correct way to respond? No. Do I have slightly less respect for the Home School Legal Defense Association after seeing their appeal to facebook followers to participate in such a campaign of boycotting and harassment? Indeed.
But what I'm really, actually, actively saying here is this: Maybe we shouldn't have let it come to this. Not "Christians should be more involved in legislation" or "God wants America to be a theocracy," stuff. Oh my, no. More like, if we'd been doing our job and deserving our name, living up to the example and the work Christ left us, it would never have come to this. In short, if we don't want to be called b*****s, we shouldn't have acted like b*****s in the first place.