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Scale The Summit March 29, 2009

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Found this really talented, interesting new band earlier today. They’re called Scale The Summit, and they’re an instrumental band. At their music’s core, it’s metal with a progressive flavor – think Between The Buried And Me, but without the keyboard, the vocals, the oppressive minor-key riffage, and the “technical for the sake of being technical” stuff. I hesitate to use a term like “prog-metal” for them, because they, unlike most other metal bands, are actually not afraid to use major keys, and they have some slower, more melodic, relaxed parts in their music that are really captivating and beautiful. At some points, it’s almost like you’re listening to a heavier version of a band like Explosions In The Sky, but the music stays clear, open, and well-defined – it’s not suffocating or weighty enough to be compared to “post-metal” bands like Isis or Pelican.

They call their music “adventure metal”, so check them out if you wanna go for a ride.

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The power that music can possess never ceases to amaze me. March 27, 2009

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Random thought before I get to the main idea of this post: Ryan Adams’ version of “Wonderwall” by Oasis is fantastic. I’ve probably listened to it ten times tonight.

I needed to get out of the house for a little while tonight. I just needed to get some fresh air, and be exposed to some stimuli, knowwhatimsayin? So I went to an arcade and played a few video games. Don’t judge me.

Anyway, as I was driving back to my house, I was listening to the Twilight Soundtrack. I pulled into the driveway while listening to Iron And Wine’s “Flightless Bird, American Mouth”, and I’m not entirely sure how to explain what happened next. I couldn’t stop listening to it. I was completely entranced. I must have listened to it five or six times straight before I “woke up” and got out of my car. I’ve sat alone in my car listening to music an innumerable amount of times before, and there have been times when I feel like I might not ever come back to Earth from whatever place the music takes me to, but this was different. It was like contrasting things happening simultaneously – like, my heart sped up quite a bit, because of the intense, simple beauty of that song, and because I couldn’t help but picture how beautiful the prom scene is that that song is used for in the movie. Yet, just as my heart was reacting that way, the longer I listened to the song, I actually felt more and more relaxed, almost like I could just drift right off to sleep. It was such a strange emotional juxtaposition – once I actually got into the house, it took me a few minutes to recover, so that I could process thoughts normally again.

Music is and will forever be the sun to my earth.

so, I’m officially on the Twitter bandwagon now. March 26, 2009

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We’ll see how it goes – if you want to help convince me that Twitter is awesome, and that I should hang out, than come follow me and say Hi! My profile can be found here. Also, I now have a widget on my sidebar that shows recent updates – it’s directly above the links, on the right side.

Personality Types, according to Helen Fisher (I’m a Negotiator) March 25, 2009

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I checked out Helen Fisher’s latest book a few days ago, titled Why Him? Why Her?, and I found it really interesting. In it, she goes over some of the biological reasons behind why we fall in love with some people, but not with others. She also touches on the “nature vs. nurture” debate, and how, for quite some time, the “nurture” side (how we are raised, our parents, the environment we grow up in, etc.) was thought to play a pretty significant role in determining our relationship preferences. Ms. Fisher doesn’t seek to dismiss that school of thought entirely, as that stuff obviously affects us to a certain extent, but she discusses at length some of the new research that’s been done on body chemistry, and how it’s become more and more obvious that a large part of who we are, as far as personality and temperament goes, is determined by the “nature” side. (Wow, that last sentence had FIVE commas. Nice.)

Through the research she’s done, there are four main personality types that she’s defined. Almost everyone has traits from all four types, on some level, but there are one or two that are usually at the forefront, and she has designed a personality test that can measure how strongly you exhibit tendencies of each of the four. There are fourteen statements for each of the four types, and you’re measured on how strongly you agree or disagree with each of them.

There’s the Explorer, who usually tends to rely on his/her impulses. Explorers are the closest personality type to what people usually call “adrenaline junkies” or “thrill seekers”. While the Builder, another of her personality types, generally finds comfort and relaxation from routine, Explorers are just the opposite – they thrive off of spontaneity, and they feel stagnated by nearly any sort of predictable, repetitive activity or routine. They are enthusiastic, optimistic, sexual, open-minded, and eager. They love trying new things, and are always up for an adventure.

There’s the Builder, who usually tends to rely on his/her values. Builders have a clear idea of what they do and do not agree with, and they conduct themselves based on that. Their values are the most “traditional” of the four personality types, and they view most long-held customs or traditions as good indicators that should be followed. Family is almost always a big priority. Ms. Fisher designated this type as the “Builder” for pretty obvious reasons – they are the primary “building blocks” of society, and Builders treasure and seek out stable environments for themselves and their loved ones.

There’s the Director, who usually tends to rely on his/her logic. Directors shoot for the stars, and, when they know what they want, they go after it with everything they have. They value getting to the point and speaking directly, and they normally don’t have much patience for procrastinating or for doing things that aren’t directly related to what they’re trying to take care of. They understand complex machines fairly easily, and are interested in seeing how things work, or in seeing rules and procedures that govern systems. Directors look at the world from a fairly scientific perspective, and, as such, are open to new ideas, just not new ideas that lack support, evidence, or justification.

Last, there’s the Negotiator, who usually tends to rely on his/her intuition. If the Director looks at the world like a scientist, the Negotiator looks at the world like a philosopher. Every topic or thought, no matter how big or small, can be dissected and looked at from multiple angles. Negotiators are emotional, passionate, empathetic, romantic, and nurturing. They also have the most idealistic view of love and romance – they would rather live alone than be in an unfulfilling relationship, and they are enchanted by the idea of true love, and of a soulmate. Being connected to and invested in others is part of what makes life worth living for Negotiators, and they find it hard to maintain interest in a relationship (romantic or otherwise) that doesn’t allow them to find common emotional ground.

So, I took the test, because I had become quite curious about what kind of results I would get, and because I had gotten a rough idea about where I would fall, and I wanted to see if I was right. (I was.) You’re scored on each of the fourteen statements on a scale of zero, one, two, or three, based on how strongly you identify with the statement. This is repeated four times, so that at the end of the test, you have four numbers between zero and forty-two, each of them corresponding to how much you agreed with the overall set of statements for each personality type.

For the Explorer set of statements, I scored in the mid-twenties – twenty-four or twenty-five.

For the Builder set, I scored lower – about twenty or twenty-one.

For the Director set, I scored almost identically to how I scored on the Builder set – about twenty.

For the Negotiator set? My score was almost the maximum score possible, which is forty-two. I think I was at thirty-eight or thirty-nine. I immediately had a strong positive reaction to almost every one of the statements – stuff like “I enjoy it when an author takes a sidetrack to say something beautiful or meaningful”, “After watching a particularly emotional film, I often still feel moved by it several hours later”, and “I like to get to know my friends’ deepest needs and feelings”. Moreover, when I read the chapter specifically about Negotiators, I caught myself agreeing with just about everything, and thinking, “That totally sounds like me!”

Word Of The Day #1 March 24, 2009

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I’m going to try to keep the Word Of The Day going – maybe not every day, but often enough. I’ll post the word, the definition, and something (a picture, a video, a song, a quote – whatever comes to mind) that I associate with it.

Today’s WOTD is awe-inspiring. The definition can be found here.

This song … well, it’s a lot of things, but awe-inspiring is definitely one way to describe it, at least in my opinion. You don’t even have to watch the video – just turn the volume up and the lights off, and close your eyes. If you wait the four and a half minutes until the end of the song to open them again, it’s like you’re waking up from a great nap, or refreshed and invigorated after going for a dip in a cool stream.

the twilight director’s notebook, hoodies, professional wrestling, and a tragic loss. March 19, 2009

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So, after an unsuccessful Wal-Mart run late Monday night to see if they had any copies of the Twilight Director’s Notebook on the shelves, I dropped by again last night and grabbed it.

It’s smaller than I figured it would be – I was thinking it would be comparable to that Movie Companion that was put out last year, but it’s more compact. It’s actually really close to the books, as far as dimensions go, which works too. Also expected softcover – don’t know why, just the vibe I got from reading about it – but it’s hardback. I’ve read some complaints about all the text actually being hand-lettered by Catherine Hardwicke, mostly that it can get a bit difficult to read sometimes, but I totally disagree – her writing gives the pages lots of personality and energy. There are doodles and annotations all over the place, which, going with the idea they probably wanted, makes it feel more like a real journal.

Also, LOVED the picture and description of what Catherine’s copy of Twilight looks like now – creases everywhere, scotch tape on the spine, Post-It notes sticking out. Fantastic. So broken-in and … comfortable. Like opening it up is as if you’re stepping into your favorite pair of shoes, or throwing on your favorite hoodie that’s like a bedroom that you can wear. Mine will, eventually, probably look like that … the next time I read it, which will likely be sooner rather than later, I need to grab some pens and start color-coding certain parts of it and just flowing, almost like you do when you write in a journal. Is it weird to, while reading a book, experience some of the same feelings you get when adding to a journal or diary? Like it’s almost … private? Like, even though the words you’re reading aren’t yours, there’s still that feeling of intimacy that you get when reading a journal entry or reading over a long e-mail before sending it? I don’t know … that might not make sense, but it makes sense to me, and I think the effect those books have on people is amazing.

Honestly, it almost feels weird, or insufficient, to use the word “read” to describe the act of reading them, because you’re doing more than that. You’re stepping into something. To use another clothing analogy – and this might not resonate with those of you who aren’t as awestruck as I am by the incredibly high Awesomeness Quotient of hoodies – it’s like the difference between wearing a hoodie with the hood off and wearing one with the hood on. Again, I’m sort of a hoodie fanboy, so bear with me (as my Analogy Rollercoaster threatens to run completely off the tracks), but it’s a COMPLETELY different experience, I assure you. 

Wearing one with the hood off is still ok, because you know the hood is there if you need it. It’s like a safety net – like the “Kill” and “Reset” buttons Tommy Lee has tattooed on his arm. It’s available, should your situation change.

But wearing one with the hood on? Dude. That’s REAL. For anyone that used to watch WWE (back when it was still the WWF), it’s like when Vince McMahon would be in the ring talking about whatever, and then, all of a sudden, the glass would break, Steve Austin’s music would come on, he’d saunter out with a steel chair in tow, the crowd would be going completely berserk, and Jim Ross would be absolutely beside himself, like “OHMIGAWD, IT’S STONE COLD! HE’S HERE! BUSINESS IS FOR DAMN SURE GONNA PICK UP, RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW!” Yeah. That’s what going from “sans hood” to “hood power: activated” is like. It’s taking things up a notch.

That’s what reading The Twilight Saga is. That’s the difference. Going allll the way back to my original point (I promise, I do have one), saying that you “read” them is just not enough. That’s such a cold, sanitized way of describing it – as if the interaction you have with the books is nothing more than simply reading the words. There are, I would suspect, thousands (if not millions) of other Twilighters out there who would join me in profound disagreement with that. We know how much more there is to it than that, and how strong the connection is.

Another thought: I absolutely can not wait for The Official Guide, whenever they actually figure out the release date for it. I’m really interested to see what ends up being included, and, of course, completely geeking out over it with the girls at Letters To Twilight.

Last thing: I heard earlier tonight about Natasha Richardson’s tragic passing. That’s awful. Awful. I love watching her in the remake of The Parent Trap, and watching that movie now (and seeing how she just brightens up every scene that she’s in) will be quite sad. Also, I feel terrible for Liam Neeson and their sons. Love Actually is one of my favorite movies ever (I watch it, at a minimum, a couple of times a year), and seeing him in that movie now will be heartbreaking, considering that his character has just lost his wife.

you know how I would love to spend tonight? perhaps more than any other way I can think of? March 15, 2009

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like this.

sweeping up a life. March 13, 2009

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Excerpt from Dreams From My Father, by Barack Obama – Chapter Thirteen, pages 249-251

 

“I’m telling you, man, the world is a place.”

“Say, the world is a place, huh.”

“That’s just what I’m saying.”

We were walking back to the car after dinner in Hyde Park, and Johnnie was in an expansive mood. He often got like this, especially after a good meal and wine. The first time I met him, when he was still working with a downtown civic group, he had started explaining the relationship between jazz and Eastern religion, then swerved into an analysis of black women’s behinds, before coming to a stop on the subject of Federal Reserve Bank policy. In such moments his eyes would grow wide; his voice would speed up; his round, bearded face would glow with a childlike wonder. That was part of the reason I’d hired Johnnie, I suppose, that curiosity of his, his appreciation of the absurd. He was a philosopher of the blues.

“I’ll give you an example,” Johnnie was saying to me now. “The other day, I’m headed for a meeting up in the State of Illinois Building. You know how it’s open in the middle, right . . . big atrium and all that. Well, the guy I’m supposed to be meeting with is late, so I’m just standing there looking down at the lobby from the twelfth floor, checking out the architecture, when all of a sudden this body flies past me. A suicide.”

“You didn’t tell me about that —”

“Yeah, well, shook me up pretty good. High up as I was, I could hear the body land like it was right there next to me. Terrible sound. Soon as it happened, these office workers rushed up to the guardrail to see what was going on. We’re all looking down, and sure enough the body’s lying there, all twisted and limp. People started screaming, covering their eyes. But the strange thing was, after people got through screaming, they’d go back to the railing to get a second look. Then they’d scream and cover their eyes all over again. Now why would they do that? Like, what do they expect the second time around? But see, folks are funny like that. We can’t help ourselves with that morbid shit. . . .

“Anyway, the cops come, they rope things off and take the body away. Then the building crew starts cleaning things up. Nothing special, you know — just a broom and a mop. Sweeping up a life. Whole thing’s cleaned up in maybe five minutes. Makes sense, I guess . . . I mean, it’s not like you need special equipment or suits or something. But it starts me thinking, How’s that gonna feel to be one of those janitors, mopping up somebody’s remains? Somebody’s got to do it, right? But how you gonna feel that night eating dinner?”

“Who was it that jumped?”

“That’s the other thing, Barack!” Johnnie took a drag from his cigarette and let the smoke roll from his mouth. “It was a young white girl, man, sixteen maybe, seventeen. One of these punk rock types, with blue hair and a ring through her nose. Afterward, I’m wondering what she was thinking about while she was riding up the elevator. I mean, folks musta been standing right next to her on the way up. Maybe they looked her over, decided she was a freak, and went back to thinking about their own business. You know, their promotion, or the Bulls game, or whatever. And the whole time this girl’s just standing there next to them with all that pain inside her. Got to be a lot of pain, doc, ’cause right before she jumps, you figure she looks down and knows that shit is gonna hurt.”

Johnnie stamped out his cigarette. “So that’s what I’m saying, Barack. Whole panorama of life out there. Crazy shit going on. You got to ask yourself, is this kinda stuff happening elsewhere? Is there any precedent for all this shit? You ever ask yourself that?”

“The world’s a place,” I repeated.

“See there! It’s serious, man.”

I stayed up most of last night reading Midnight Sun. Also, I wish extreme discomfort upon whoever leaked it. March 9, 2009

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Why did the evil, moronic, despicable person who saw fit to leak Stephenie Meyer’s half-finished draft of Midnight Sun onto the internet have to be evil, moronic, and despicable enough to leak Stephenie Meyer’s half-finished draft of Midnight Sun onto the internet??

WHY?

I’m sure that I part company with approximately zero fellow Twilighters on this point, so it’s not like I’m expounding upon a revolutionary point of view or anything, BUT STILL. ARGH.

I really sat down with it last night, and it was, unsurprisingly, completely engrossing. I ended up staying up for a good amount of the night reading most of it and will probably finish it later tonight. It was jarring and refreshing to hear Edward’s inner monologue, instead of Bella’s. I also loved how amazed he is when he considers how he could have possibly overlooked her beauty when they first saw each other. Of course, he ultimately does understand what initially caused him to not see her in that way – the overwhelming force of her scent – but, even despite that, he’s still completely unable to view her any differently once he really sees her, and he’s amazed that her scent could be powerful enough to distract him, even for a moment, from looking at her with eyes filled with nothing but fervent love.

I couldn’t help but smile when reading about just how excited Alice was at the notion of being friends with Bella. “Can I talk to Bella now??” made me laugh out loud, and I enjoyed seeing that she, of course, wants Edward to be happy, but that she also simply looks forward to hanging out with Bella and having her as a girlfriend. It was also heart-warming to see Esme’s ecstatic happiness that her son, the one who always seemed to end up alone, might have actually found someone to share his life with. Perhaps understandably, Edward falling for Bella isn’t exactly viewed as great news by most of the Cullens – Jasper is cautious, Rosalie is horrified, Emmett is probably more amused than anything else, Carlisle is happy for Edward but also intensely aware of the dangers posed, and even Alice is a bit worried despite her excitement over the idea – but Esme? She’s thrilled. Absolutely thrilled. She couldn’t be happier.

So, even considering how enjoyable it was to read, and how much I look forward to getting back to it, I remain extremely annoyed that Stephenie’s artistic integrity was attacked, and that her work was shown to the rest of the world in a state much earlier than she wanted the public to see it in. For the record, I don’t generally involve myself in piracy, and I justified reading it only because Stephenie decided to make it available on her website. If she had not, or if she were still working on it, I would stay away. I can’t say that I blame her for suspending the project out of frustration, either, but I do hope that, perhaps in the next couple of years, after she’s gotten a bit of distance and spent some more time with her family, she can continue and finish at least that one book through Edward’s eyes. I like that the idea didn’t start as any sort of a business decision, but merely as one example of how her love for her characters manifests itself – it was simply Stephenie wanting to see how Edward would tell the story and where it would go.

Twilosophy in defense of S.M. March 8, 2009

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I’ve recently come across a few blog posts from people seeking to defend Stephenie Meyer’s writing from those who seek to discredit it, and that got me thinking. I was also exchanging Twilosophy thoughts with a friend over e-mail the other day, and she asked me what I thought the “lure”, so to speak, of the series is, and why so many people (mainly girls) find it nearly impossible to stop reading the books once they start. She thought, perhaps unsurprisingly, that a lot of it had to do with Edward, and I’m sure that’s certainly part of it. There’s a lot more going on than just him, though, as far as the initial attraction to the series is concerned. I think that the Edward fascination is a byproduct of other, more basic things that draw people (mainly girls) into the story, like the dynamics between he and Bella and all the different motifs in play there. The story is sort of a cocktail of several different elements that young girls – well, any young people, not just girls – can relate to.

It’s first love and forbidden love mixed together, and I think that combination is what excites so many girls and draws them in.

For Bella, all the feelings and emotions she experiences after she meets Edward are completely and totally alien to her – she knows that she’s falling for a cute boy, so it’s not like she’s not an idiot, but her mind and her body have no idea what to do with any of that, or how to process it. It’s a huge tidal wave of hormones and emotions mixed together, and at first, it’s a sensory overload, like towards the beginning of Twilight when she’s not even sure why she can’t stop thinking about him. It doesn’t make any sense to her, because, despite all that she’s probably heard from other girls and all the movies she’s seen, she herself has never had anything like that happen to her. All of that, of course, is instantly understandable by any girl with a pulse, and Twilight being written from Bella’s perspective, from that of a girl, also has a lot to do with it. They understand exactly what Bella’s going through and why every single word, or gesture, or expression, is weird and unfamiliar and scary and sexy and exciting.

Also, from Edward’s perspective, she is his first love as well! Of course, when they first meet, it’s a bit more complicated for Edward, since he, unlike Bella, knows why she is drawn to him and why he, at least initially, wants her (and her blood) so badly. That’s where the forbidden love idea comes into play. There’s an amazing amount of chemistry and electricity between the two of them, and yet the one guy Bella is falling head over heels for is also the one guy who has to caution her about getting too close to him. It’s likely that no other guy at Forks High School would do that, but Edward has to, because of how dangerous it is for the both of them. That element of forbidden love, of course, is like a superconductor for the electricity and the sexual tension between them, and that’s why some girls can’t help but start screaming incoherently whenever they’re asked about Twilight, because they’re the exact same as Bella! They, in some cases, have no idea what to do with those feelings yet either, and they relish reading about even the most minute interaction between Edward and Bella, especially in the first book, because, to them, there’s no such thing as a minute interaction!

It annoys me when guys (or whoever, really) direct ill will towards the books, and Twilight specifically, for being too descriptive and lingering too much on the seemingly insignificant details of Bella and Edward getting to know each other. They like to point out that the book, for almost the first 400 pages, is nothing but the two of them talking. THAT’S THE WHOLE POINT! That’s exactly why so many girls love it! Those people that speak against it for those reasons, apparently, have never been teenagers, or in love for the first time, because when you’re in that situation, NO detail is insignificant! Every single thing, no matter how small, feels important on an earth-shattering level! That’s one of the things I loved about the movie – in interviews, RPattz and KStew talked about how they didn’t want to play their roles like they were kids from the Disney channel. They really wanted to get into them, for real, and they spent hours on set talking about vampires and what it would be like to be in love with one. They took it extremely seriously, which, in my opinion, was absolutely the right way to go. And you can see it come across like that in the movie. They got that right, because, to their target audience (young girls), there’s nothing in the world more serious than being in love! Also, while I’m rambling, I also think it’s stupid and insensitive that some people roll their eyes at the “Twilight Moms” and just dismiss them – I think it’s awesome that they can get into the story too. They like it for precisely the same reasons as the teenagers do, and there’s nothing wrong with that! Love, and the ability to be fascinated by the dynamics behind it, has no age limit!
 
As far as I’m concerned, like what the “lure” is, I like it for some of those same reasons that I just mentioned. I oftentimes can relate to girls’ emotions just as well as I can with guys, if not better, and I find it fascinating reading about why the story has touched so many different girls in nearly every conceivable situation. I love that so many have been captivated by the story and by Edward and Bella’s relationship. Also, I don’t think it’s at all crazy that some women speak of raising their real-life standards for relationships because of a fictional one. It’s a beautiful story, and people need reassurance that it’s okay to let yourself sometimes get a bit wrapped up in the idea of what you want love to be for you. The world around us is entirely too cynical about that, and life is entirely too short to settle for anyone less than someone who gives your heart wings and makes you feel like you can fly. That’s what those books are ultimately about, in my opinion. Stephenie Meyer likes to describe them as “vampire books for people who don’t like vampire books”, and that’s not a bad way to put it. However, for me, the glue that keeps everything together – the thread that sews it all up – is the purity, love, fascination, devotion, care, and mutual appreciation shown in Edward and Bella’s relationship.