Saturday, March 30, 2013

In Which I Talk About Things I Probably Don't Really Understand

So, I had a rather disturbing experience at the park today.

See, sometimes I like to go to the park and swing on the swings for a bit, when there aren't a lot of kids around. It's a sort of calming, meditative activity for me. Today, since it was warm and sunny out, there were more kids than usual, so I was being a bit more careful as the littler ones sometimes run into my swinging trajectory, and I need to be ready to perform evasive maneuvers in case that happens. Of course, about 99% of the time their parents are watching and they grab them before anything terrible happens. Either way, I have never, ever hit a kid, and have taken great care to maintain that record.

Today, though, as I was swinging, this little boy (about 7 years old, I'd guess) came and stood RIGHT next to my swing. Just to be careful, I slowed down and sort of drifted back and forth, ready to stop. He just stared at me for a few more seconds and then left. A few minutes later, I was swinging full-force (there weren't a lot of kids around at this point) when his little boy suddenly appears again, and this time he stands right in front of me. I'm caught off guard and frantically start dragging my feet through the woodchips, which has the desired effect and slows me down. As I slow down, he steps forward bit by bit, getting closer to me. My foot nearly hits him a couple times, but he doesn't move. When I finally stop, he halts, and then walks past me.

As you can imagine, I am very shaken by this and decide to call it a day. As I walk back, I (with my overactive imagination) can't stop thinking about the little boy. He had purposefully stepped in my path, and I couldn't decide if he was playing a game of chicken (not likely - he didn't even move when I almost hit him) or if he was curious to see if I wouldn't hit him or if he wanted me to hit him or what. I mean, looking at it from this perspective (sitting safely in my living room), it seems like a pretty typical little-boy thing to do, but it still bothers me. And as usual, I'm overthinking it. But I think there's some importance in this, so I'll just keep rolling. I apologize in advance.

Anyways, that happened. And now I am overcome with feelings of potential guilt and (most of all) incredulity. I mean, what if I had hit him? Where were his parents? Did it matter if his parents were there or not? Would someone have yelled at me if I had hit him? Would he have deserved it (which sounds cold and awful, I know), or would I be the one at fault? Was I being stupid for even being on the swings in the first place, while there were little kids around?

Probably. Who knows? I imagine there are many opinions on the subject, which I would love to hear. I am not a parent and have had limited contact with little kids (apart from Russia), and so it would be nice to get a more informed opinion.

At any rate, this got me thinking about other things - like, say, what happens in car accidents. I was nearly hit by a car a few weeks ago, and the experience (of course) really shook me. Much like this recent experience with the swing, it made me re-think what my place was in the world and how important or unimportant I was to other people, what my life/comfort was worth and how small and fragile my life really is. Although the swing experience wasn't quite as potentially fatal as nearly being hit by a car, it still made me think of those same things (albeit within a different sort of context).

The car that nearly hit me was driven by a guy my own age, maybe a few years older. The car was really nice, one of the nicest I've seen around Rexburg. And as anyone who has ever driven a car knows, it's usually the people with the nicest cars that are the most likely to show off their speed and generally act like idiots on the road. I had encountered this in my own driving experiences, but it hadn't really affected me all that much - primarily because I was driving a car and thus felt protected and isolated from my surroundings. In this most recent case, however, I wasn't in a car. I was on my own, out in the open. While I might have stood a chance had I been in a car, I would probably have died in this particular case.

Thinking about this, I think the guy driving the nice car had the same level of understanding and awareness as that little boy did - he could see me clearly in front of him, could see how close I was going to be, probably knew his chances of hitting me, and yet he drove on anyway. Why? Well, he wanted to get somewhere quickly, and he was confident enough in his abilities and in his car that the potential result didn't seem all that likely or important. I don't think he was trying to hit me - the experience would probably have been just as horrible for him, if not more so, since it would have been his fault. For his sake, as well as my own, I am glad that he didn't hit me.

The point is, on some level, he didn't understand what he was doing. And once you think about that, it's kind of terrifying.

I mean, when do we achieve that awareness? I know that it took me a long time to really understand how to relate to people and understand how I affected them, even on the smallest level. And for others, it takes hitting someone with a car or getting hurt themselves to achieve this understanding. I don't know why this is, and I'm not accusing anyone of being neglectful of this part of themselves or, heck, neglecting to teach this to their own kids. It's just fascinating, in a way, what it might take for us to become aware of other people and how our actions might affect them. Empathy is something that we aren't exactly born with (I mean, as cute as they are, babies aren't really capable of comprehending other peoples' needs and feelings), as I have stated, but when should we develop it? Preferably before we hurt anyone else, right?

Then again, how do you teach empathy?

In my own experience, it's not a matter of teaching but of wanting - and deciding - to learn. I didn't really start learning about empathy until I was about twelve or thirteen, having just undergone a few horrible experiences in my life and coming out of an emotional phase where I was moody and short-tempered all the time. By that point, I was well aware of how miserable I could make other people if I chose, and I found that  doing that just made me miserable, too. This was a conscious decision on my part, and it took me a while to really live up to it. Heck, I'm still struggling to live up to it.

But that's the thing - you can do your best to teach someone to be aware of the people around them and consider their needs, but in the end it's up to them to decide whether or not they're going to listen. That little boy I nearly hit is young enough that it's understandable for him not to have learned about that yet, but that young man in the fancy car was around my own age and had control of a heavy motorized hunk of metal. If he hasn't learned it already, he'd better learn it soon. Otherwise, the consequences could be tragic.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

A Few Remarks About Valentine's Day

So, it's Valentine's Day tomorrow. Also, this is the first post I have written in a few months, but whatever. I am talking about other things.

Valentine's Day. I never really enjoyed it all that much. I can't really think of anyone who has who isn't in a relationship. When I think of this holiday, most of my memories consist of sickly-sweet fruit candies I'd get in my valentines box at school. Man, I hated those candies. Also, being something of an unapologetic tomboy, I found the copious amounts of pink and roses and hearts and general frilly, glittery things that seemed to be vomited up everywhere around this time of year pretty repulsive. And of course, the custom of handing out valentines to your classmates in elementary was never really all that big a deal - there wasn't any drama involved because everyone had to give everyone one else one valentine, and the only ones we really paid any attention to anyway were the ones that had candy attached to them. And then, I only ate the chocolates.

Within my family, we were never that much into the holiday. We weren't really into anything beyond the standard Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter, and even then in our own, quiet sort of way. We preferred celebrating things privately with our family to throwing big parties and strewing decorations everywhere. Which is exactly why we never gave Val's Day much thought. (Yes, I called it Val's Day. Because I am tired of writing the whole thing.) My dad would bring my mom flowers, they'd exchange some small gifts, and then they'd go out to dinner, and that was it. There was one particularly exciting Val's Day where someone (can't remember if it was Mom or Dad) brought home a chocolate, heart-shaped cake, which my parents allowed me and my little sister to eat while they went out to dinner. It was pretty much the most exciting Valentine's Day I'd ever had. And have had since, come to think of it.

Anyways, my point is, since then Valentine's Day has come to represent all that I find annoying about the stereotypical aspects of my gender. For girls in relationships, it's a Big Deal. For girls not in relationships, it is also a Big Deal, but in a very different way. Like, in the way of taking the opportunity to moan about how alone they are and how they will never find love and they might as well just go live in a cave and so on and so forth. (not to say that everyone who has this problem is like this. But you know what I mean.)

Okay, so I do recognize the struggle these girls (and guys) are having. I do understand how frustrating and sad it can be when everyone around you is getting chocolates. flowers. jewelry, romantic dinners and so on you aren't. It can make one feel very isolated and lonely. It can make you like there's something wrong with you because you aren't in a relationship. And the way some girls act certainly doesn't help - I remember in high school, some of the clubs would sell carnations on Valentine's Day, and the carnations (while a sweet gesture, don't get me wrong) were often viewed as sort of status symbols. Girls who got carnations obviously had boyfriends, or at least boys who were interested in them. And even beyond high school, this sort of thing is often held up as a kind of status symbol. I won't say that the girls who had carnations shoved it in everyone's face or anything, but it was definitely important. That's the thing in our society: unless you're in a relationship, you're not quite as interesting.

Half of what girls talk about (at least in high school) is guys. Heck, in most movies, any girl that appears is guaranteed to either acquire a love interest at some point in the movie (if they're the protagonist) or be the love interest to the protagonist (if they aren't) or at least to one of the supporting cast. I'm not saying the same doesn't go for guys, but....let's face it. Guys are valued more for their characters when it comes to movies, or books, or really any form of popular media. Girls aren't so much. It's just a fact. A girl is given a bit more flack for their appearance if, say, they're overweight, or have a big nose, or whatever. Put an "ugly" girl in a movie, and I can promise that they will have a makeover by the end that will make them stunning and the guy stares at her in rapture and yeah. Again, not saying guys don't have the same problem, buuuut....yeah, guys don't get a lot of makeover movies. The only movies I can think of that brings up this problem is Real Women Have Curves (duh) and Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. Obviously, these are just the movies I have seen, so if you have any others you can think of, throw them at me. I will gladly watch them.

Anyways, my point is, when you're single on Valentine's Day, you are morally obligated to be depressed. That just seems to be the messages that the grocery stores and TV shows seem to be throwing at me. And you know what? That's pretty darn stupid.

Here's a Personal Fact about me: I am 20 years old, and I have been on exactly 1 date. 1. And you know what? It doesn't bother me. I have never really felt 'attracted' to a guy, at least not one that wasn't fictional (I am such a nerd :3), and this rarely serves to make me feel bad. I mean, yeah, I have moments where I feel insecure and lonely, but who doesn't? The thing is, I have never really wanted to have a boyfriend. I never really saw it as a big deal. I'm not saying it isn't, I'm just saying you shouldn't feel like you're more important because you're in a relationship. You, girls AND guys, shouldn't hold yourself to that standard. Some people don't find a companion until much later in life. Some don't find one at all. It's not unnatural. While finding a companion is a precious and important thing, you shouldn't make yourself feel bad because you haven't found him/her yet. You are important because you are YOU, and while it is a good thing to find a companion, it isn't everything.

So, on this Valentine's Day, take advantage of the discount on chocolate if you are so inclined (as I am), but otherwise, remember that this is a silly holiday that means absolutely nothing in the grand scheme of things, and if you looked at its roots in history you would find that it actually isn't all that meaningful to begin with.

(Seriously, it isn't.)

(Look it up.)

So enjoy the cheap chocolate and go on with your day. Happy Valentine's!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Dr. Who, Etc.

So I'm sitting here, watching Dr. Who.

I've been catching up on the classic series (should take me a couple years or so....yay!) and currently, I am on Season 6, in the Second Doctor's era.

As I'm sitting here, watching Patrick Troughton hop about avoiding explosions through the streets of Cyberman-infested London, I am suddenly struck by how much I've come to love this strange, yet undeniably unique British show that I had not too long ago stumbled into. It gave me cause to reflect on how I came to love it, and the factors leading up to it, which I am now going to submit you to, whether you like it or not, because this is my blog and I'll write whatever I want so HA.


British television isn't exactly an anomaly in my household. We pretty much grew up with BBC, watching Mr. Bean and Blackadder and Are You Being Served? and Keeping Up Appearances and the like. I remember watching an episode of Keeping Up Appearances as a little kid and thinking that it was about these crazy people whose steering wheels were on the wrong side of the car (I literally thought that was supposed to be part of the joke. Literally.) and who talked really funny and kept running away from this jolly old grandma lady for some reason. Also, steering wheels.

It's actually kind of strange that I didn't encounter Dr. Who until I was in my teens. Actually, no, that's a lie: when I was in my tweens (yes, I said 'tweens'. Bring on the groans.) or somewhere thereabouts, we bought three DVDS: Dr. Who and the Daleks, Dr. Who: Invasion Earth, 2150 AD, and some documentary thing about the Daleks (it wasn't all that interesting, sadly.) I think we watched those movies maybe once, and I had pretty much no knowledge of the series going into them. All I knew is that Dr. Who was this classic sci-fi show that was classic and amazing and stuff. So, total newbie.

Now, strictly speaking, I think that this was actually a pretty fun way of being introduced to the series, even if I didn't actually like the movies. Well, okay, I sort of liked the first movie, with the Daleks. I had no idea why these things were supposed to be scary. They looked like giant salt shakers. With toilet plungers for arms. But I liked the idea of them being this race of aliens stuck in these metal robotic shells. And I also liked the character of the Doctor (whose name was literally Dr. Who in these movies, if I recall correctly), this sort of jolly grandpa who had a time machine and did awesome things like being Peter Cushing. I only ever watched the movies once, but I still remember him quite fondly.

Apart from that, though, I wasn't impressed. As far as I could tell, it was standard 1960s science fiction stuff, with the weird robots and goofy-looking gizmos and ridiculous outfits. (I have always wondered what those people all the way back in those funky times would have thought of the world in 2012. I think they would be disappointed by the lack of spaceships and aliens. I know I am.) The reason I say it's a fun way to be introduced to the series, however, is because encountering the series itself afterwards is one of the weirdest and most awesome things ever.

I remember totally forgetting about Dr. Who until a few years later, when I think I saw the first episode of Dr. Who on YouTube (An Unearthly Child). Seeing the little icon that preceded the video, I was a little confused. Wasn't Dr. Who that 1960's sci-fi movie with the guy with the mustache and the time machine and the salt shaker aliens? This didn't look anything like the movie - a black and white TV episode with this old guy who was definitely NOT Peter Cushing as the Doctor. As I continued to watch, I grew more and more confused. Wait, wasn't Susan supposed to be a little girl? Wasn't Barbara the Doctor's granddaughter or something? Where were the Daleks? Why did the Tardis look like that?

I decided to do a little research, and was even more confused. Primarily by the fact that there was more than one freaking Doctor. I had no idea what to make of it. I didn't know anything about the whole regeneration thing back then, and the idea of this guy actually being 10 guys (at the time) made my brain hurt a little. What kind weird show was this? It was certainly nothing like the movies I'd seen. Or anything I'd seen, for that matter. Say what you will about Dr. Who, you cannot deny how unique it is. At least, in terms of universe and setting. Sort of. Point is, this was a really weird show. And weird things freak me out. So I moved on to other things and forgot all about it.

Of course, that wasn't the end of it.

After I graduated from high school, I decided to be crazy and went to Russia for 4 months. While I was there, I talked a lot with my older brother via Skype. John had become a big fan of Dr. Who, and kept pestering me to try the episodes. By then, I understood about how the Doctor regenerates and becomes a new person every time he dies and how he's an alien who travels through time and stuff. I was still stubbornly unimpressed. And it was for a completely stupid reason: I really hated how the actors they got to play the Doctor were so young and handsome and pretty much (from what I surmised) like every other pretty-boy male protagonist in every other modern TV show I'd seen. I have a thing about characters: I like them to be different. I like them to stand out. Even if it means they're ugly as sin, I'll go for it. I'm weird like that.

The longer John kept poking me to try it, though, the more I kind of wanted to. I mean, it was supposed to be really amazing, right? And I had grown a strong love for weird things like Dr. Who since my first year of high school. Plus, I was homesick, and this felt like it could be a connection to my family back in the USA. John and I are the Gigantic Fantasy/Sci-Fi nerds of our family (not that everyone else isn't, of course. We're all just nerds in our own different ways.) and I missed having nerdy things to talk about, and nerdy people to talk about them to.

So I gave in, and watched my first official episode of Dr. Who.

(The Eleventh Hour, if you're curious.)

And thus, I spent the next week obsessively watching episode after episode, squeezing every little second of downtime I had for this series. I was caught up on the most recent season by Saturday, and spent the next week staring glumly at my wall, pondering the meaning of life without Dr. Who.

I fell in love with this show, guys. I became a bona fide Whovian after the first episode.

And now, here I am, laptop, going back to those old black and white episodes that so weirded me out all those years ago. And I think I'm in love all over again. Oh, dear.

We all grow into our hobbies, I suppose. I sort of stumbled and tripped over this one. And you know what? I'm GLAD I did. Because now I have so many lovely episodes to watch and so many Doctors to get to know. It's going to be AWESOME.

So that's the story of how I came to love Dr. Who. How about you? Is there a TV show, movie, book series, clothing line, whatever, that you didn't come to love until much later in life? And it was really weird but kind of awesome when you did?

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Saga of the Hair, Part 2

Saga of the Hair, Part 2

So....I did it.

I cut my hair.

It feels really weird. Like, my head is lighter. I don't have all that hair falling down my back. And my neck itches.

But....I.....actually.....really really really like it. 

It's like, I look in the mirror, and I have a double-take, because I don't even recognize the person there.
But in a good way. 

Of course, there's some sadness and bewilderment swimming around there, too. I miss my hair already. I miss having it just sprawled across my shoulders. I miss its weight. I'm going to miss braiding it, and running my fingers through it when I'm bored (yes, I did that. Shush.) I'm just....really going to miss.

Well, hair holds a strange sentimental value for us, I guess. From what I have seen, it is not uncommon for girls (and even guys...but we don't mention that) to cry when they get their hair cut. The longer you've had it, I guess, the more you're attached to it. Even when you don't think you are. Why is this, I wonder? Is it simply vanity? The feeling of leaving behind the person you used to be? 

Who knows. 

There's also the bewildering feeling of, "Um...okay, it's pretty now, but how do I keep it that way?" 

Well, that's easily remedied. You just practice and use what you are given. Learn as you go along. I am very optimistic about this. Excited, even. I've always wanted to do more with my hair. This is definitely one way to do it. 

When I was thinking about doing this, I had no idea what to expect. Well, I sort of did, but it was kind of negative. My sisters' experience cutting their hair didn't pan out so well. And my mother wasn't too keen on it, having had bad hair experiences of their own. I guess the females in my family just aren't inclined to look good with short hair. Which, considering our heritage, is no surprise. 

But, you know what? I think it came out looking pretty darn good. 

Feel the power. 

And I think it's a testament to a good haircut when you feel sad about cutting your hair, but you like the haircut so much that it overrides the sadness. 

From the outset, this didn't seem like a big deal. And it probably really isn't. But, man, I feel so incredibly giddy about this that I had to share it. Shallow girly feelings for the WIN! 

And now I am done talking about hair. 
Thank you for indulging me and listening. 

Saga of the Hair: Part 1


I have long hair.

More specifically, I have long, thick, wavy blonde hair that is an obvious inheritance from my hairy Viking ancestors. 

 I am very proud of my hair. It is one of the few things about myself that I consider to actually be pretty, and that I don’t mind showing off.  I think everyone has that – a sort of vanity that they can’t suppress. I think it’s healthy, to have something like that. As long as you don’t go overboard and brag about it to everyone you meet and hold parties in its honor, it’s healthy. Somewhat.

So, why am I now being a hypocrite and talking about my amazingly luscious and beautiful golden locks?

Well, there’s something a story to that. Not much of one, but still.

I recently witnessed two of my roommates dyeing purplish-red streaks into their hair. They tried to get me to do it, too, but I cheerfully declined. “I’m sorry,” I said, “But I kind of decided that I am never going to dye or cut my hair ever again.” With looks of astonishment, they said, “Seriously? You’re never cutting your hair again?”

“Um….Well, I mean, unless I suddenly develop dreadlocks or something, yeah,” I answered.
They looked thoughtful, and then continued with their hair dyeing.

And I suddenly started thinking about my hair.

Now, as much as I’ve bragged about it in this post, I really don’t think about or do much with my hair at all. The fanciest thing I ever did with it was get it braided in a fancy Celtic style at a booth at the Celtic Festival that my hometown holds every year (think ‘Renaissance Faire’, but with more claymores and kilts and bagpipes and dancing. It’s kind of the most awesome thing ever.) I think that’s actually the only time I felt comfortable being girly, with my big medieval-era dress and my hair all prettied up with braids and ribbons and little flower buds……

Yeah, I think it was then that I decided that that was how I wanted to look when I got married.

But that’s beside the point.

What I mean to say is, I didn’t really think about my hair until that moment. And it didn’t occur to me that I maybe I wanted to do something different with my hair until that moment. Like, you know how you tell your mom you like something, and only a little afterwards discover you don’t actually like it anymore? Well, something like that.

So, the long and short of it is……I have decided to get my hair cut.

Yeah, kind of sudden.

But quite honestly, I think it’s important.


Well, because I’ve looked almost the exact same way since I was 13.

And for an almost-20 year old….well, that’s kind of sobering.

And also because I need - NEED - to know how it looks short. Properly short. Actually styled and all. Just to see if I like it. See if it works. 

Also, up until I stopped having it cut, my mother took responsibility for all of the hair-cutting in our household. I think I went to a salon maybe once.

My mother takes our hair very seriously.

Okay, I will admit that my mother isn’t bad at cutting hair. Years of practice from cutting my dad’s and my siblings’ hair, she has a developed a brisk, practical sort of technique. For years and years, my mother stuck to the same haircut when she cut mine and my little sister’s hair: chin-length with bangs. It didn’t really matter to me when I was a little kid. So long as the hair was out of my face and didn’t hinder my tomboy activities, I was fine. It wasn’t until I was older and far more uncomfortably aware of myself that I looked in the mirror and thought, I hate this haircut. It was definitely time for something new, and I figured I was old enough to decide what my hair should look like.
Also, the bangs gave me horrible forehead acne, so I had a medical excuse.

So, my mother allowed me to grow out my hair, and I haven’t cut it ever since. And let me tell you, it’s kind of one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Seriously.

 The biggest change I have made to it since then was bleaching streaks into it that one time when my older brother was going through a bleach phase. BHe had extra. I said “Okay, let’s try it.” And there you go. It’s been about six years since then, and the streaks are now long gone. So….not really a big change at all, I guess.

Now, I feel the time has come for another change. But a big one, this time.

So….I am going to CUT MY HAIR. This Saturday. 
It's happening, man. 
I wonder how it'll all pan out.

It's probably already beginning to plot its revenge. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Guilt, Regret, Pain and Forgiveness

This link goes to a video on It addresses forgiveness, in its most purest form. Even in the face of tragedy.

I have had many times in my life where forgiveness has been a hard, hard lesson for me to learn. Not just towards other people, but especially towards myself.

I have never done anything as awful as harm other people through my mistakes. At least, I hope I haven't. No, the person who was harmed the most was me.

You see, I once had a problem, a problem I still struggle with from time to time - a problem with viewing certain content on the Internet. Within the webcomics community, of which I am an active reader and hopeful member, such content is the norm, and encountering it is far too easy. What makes it worse is that when you stumble over it, you can rationalize that it's just a part of the story and you can easily flip through it quickly. You convince yourself it's not a big deal, that so long as you just went to the next page, you were okay.

That's about as rational as saying that song lyrics from suggestive songs have no impact on you. In fact, it's even less rational, because it's through images. Images are much harder to tune out, and thus harder to ignore. You absorb it, whether you want to or not. The temptation comes bit by bit, and if you're not careful, you soon find yourself giving in. You don't know true, awful temptation until you have experienced this. It's so very easy to give in. It's so incredibly hard to resist.

What makes it all worse for me, personally, is that within my family we have had traumatic experiences as a result of pornography. I won't say that I am addicted to it - far from it. I struggle with temptation because of the websites I frequent - some of my favorite webcomics link to other, less savory websites that I've checked out, not knowing what they contained. I have seen things I literally can't un-see. You see now why my family's past experiences makes this so much more awful to deal with. I feel like such a traitor, a horrible person who learned nothing from past experience and just causes more pain for her loved ones. I feel like the most awful, most unforgivable, unlovable, undeserving person in existence. I disappoint myself to the point of physical illness. There are times where I was so ashamed that I almost didn't tell my parents. I couldn't bear the thought of disappointing them, have them think so much less of me. My family has often been all I have, the only people in the world I felt appreciated and loved me for who I am.

And then there's not just that, but then there's what happens afterwards. After I've gotten over my impulses, and I find that I didn't do the right thing and I can't get rid of the images in my head, I feel sick. Literally sick to my stomach. There is no satisfaction, no peace, no hope. You feel empty. And then you feel filthy. You can't look anyone in the eye. For me, my anxiety kicks into gear. It's always the worst anxiety attack I've had in a while. In my religion, we believe that the Holy Ghost is with us always - that is, if we keep the commandments and are clean. I think that emptiness, that anxiety, is the feeling of the absence of the Spirit. It's terrifying. It's lonely. It's the worst feeling the world, when you become aware of it. The fact that you know you made a mistake, and now you're facing the consequences, is the only thing that provides some relief.

I don't frequent those websites anymore. At least, I try not to. There are artists that I like, who have blogs and Tumblrs that I enjoy reading. And these artists sometimes work in erotic fiction. For the most part, they don't show anything 'unsafe' out in the open, but there are some that don't. These are the ones that I sometimes stumble over, that I walk right into. These are the ones I have to remember, and walk around.

As sad as it makes me, I need to stop reading these blogs. I need to avoid a place I usually enjoy being in, which usually offers encouragement and advice. It's sad, that a place that is usually so good could result in something so awful. But, no matter how good it is normally.....I don't want to have that feeling. I don't want to deal with that horrible, horrible guilt. It's not worth it.

I went to to read about forgiveness, to try and make myself feel better about my past actions. This video was the first thing I found. As I watched, I cried harder than I have in a long, long time.

This boy - hardly older than I am - did something far worse than I did. It was not something that could be kept secret. It was not something you could ignore, or gloss over. I can't even begin to imagine what sort of guilt he must feel, what horrible images he can't get rid of. That someone - and not just anyone, but someone who suffered as a result of his mistake - could forgive him, help him through it.....for me, it's almost incomprehensible.

It made me realize something: that if he can be forgiven, so can I. I need to forgive myself, for the sake of my own happiness. I think that's something all of us forget, not just me. When we do something wrong, really really wrong, the hardest part isn't earning other people's forgiveness. You don't feel like you deserve any happiness, that the only sentence you're worthy of is continual suffering. The shame and the guilt are overwhelming. It never really ends. But it can fade. You can let it fade. The feelings will remain, in a small way, to remind you of your mistakes. But that's so you can move on, and not make them again. That's the whole point of our humanity.

I don't know if I am going to post this to anyone - I will admit to being scared of what people might think. I have family members who read my blog, who have no idea that I've had this problem. I don't want them to think less of me.

But I guess that's a part of the repentance process - admitting you've done something wrong, regardless of what others might think of you. All I can say is, I'm sorry I wasn't a better person. I'm sorry for making mistakes. I wish I had never made them. I can only hope that someone will benefit from reading this. That is the reason I wrote this. If someone can read this and feel some measure of hope for themselves, then that is all I could ask for.

So....I hope you still love me, Family. :) But this is something I needed to get out.

(Note: No, this is no longer a great trial in my life. I have overcome it. Just to clarify.)

Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Phantom of the Opera: A Rambling

So....this is actually an essay I wrote for my music appreciation class. I was supposed to walk about the play and its historical value, but I wound up comparing the movie and the play instead. Ah, well. I do love both. But anyways, when I finished this, I liked it well enough to post it here. So here it is. 

          Historical Video: The 25th Anniversary Stage Production of The Phantom of the Opera

    I was introduced to The Phantom of the Opera pretty early on in my childhood. Believe it or not, I actually discovered it through the book rather than the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical. After a fashion. My brother, who I believe was in 8th grade at the time, was reading the book for an English class. And he loved it. And when my brother loves something, he has to tell everyone about it - in this case, me, his easily impressed little sister. Although I don't really remember everything he told me, one conversation sticks in my mind: he was describing the "phantom" (whose name I knew long before any fans of the movie did: Erik) to me, saying that the skin of his face was stretched tightly over his bones, making him look like a living skeleton.

    Yeah, you would not be wrong in assuming that that gave me nightmares as a kid. Fortunately, I was also a fan of the book-oriented TV show Wishbone, which happened to do a program focusing on Phantom of the Opera (yes....for a kid's show, they covered some some heavy stuff). They gave a somewhat more child-friendly play of the book, and it presented the Phantom as more sympathetic and pathetic figure, rather than simply the murderous, demonic monster I had originally envisioned.

   I have always loved stories with anti-heroes and complex villains, and this story is a superb example. I think that this plot, combined with the ominous and epic sounds of Andrew Lloyd Webber's compositions, is what made the musical such a hit. It's so fascinating, and so suspensful, it's really difficult not to find something to like about this musical.

    But I digress - I'm supposed to talking strictly about the musical.

    Well, I suppose I better start off by saying that throughout the production, I couldn't help but draw comparisons between the 2004 movie and the play. As much as everyone else dislikes the movie, I actually think it's rather good, and watching it in 2004 was actually my first true encounter with the musical itself. My brother, of course, made sure that I also heard the soundtrack from the original Broadway play (with Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman), and so I became well acquainted with both versions. And yes, I also saw the Lon Chaney film, and I have to say.....Lon Chaney was the only awesome thing about it.

    But I digress again.

    I have always wanted to see the original stage play, and so when I heard about the filmed stage production at Royal Albert Hall....well, if I hadn't been too poor, I would have gone out and bought the DVD right then. As it was, all I could do was rent it from Amazon, and watched it over the course of two days.

   And...well, it was good. In fact, it was excellent. For the most part.

   Yes. For the most part.

   As I said, as I was watching, I couldn't help but compare certain things between the movie and the play. Take the orchestra, for instance - the orchestra is considerably larger than the one for the play, and so when you hear it blasting out the main theme in the beginning of the movie, it sounds mighty and impressive. It always gives me chills when I see that scene, where they light up the chandelier and the music suddenly starts.

    That being said, the orchestra for the play was also very, very good. But it sounded considerably less impressive compared to the movie. Now, I know that it's a matter of limitations in stage as compared to those in movies, but still. I wasn't feeling that chill.

    Then there is, of course, the main actors. It's absolutely impossible not to compare them. Gerard Butler's Phantom is more suave, handsome, and seductive; Ramin Karimloo's Phantom is more deformed, more passionate, and considerably more insane. Therein lies the Big Difference, and as far as acting goes....well, I have to go with Mr. Butler on this one. While he didn't look the part, he acted it extremely well. You can see why Christine feels compelled to follow him. Not to put down Karimloo's performance, but when I was watching him, I could not see that magnetic charisma the Phantom is meant to emanate. He's supposed to be genius, a person you can't help but feel drawn to, despite his frightening appearance. It's what makes him so compelling as a character. With Karimloo....he puts more emphasis on the insane part of his persona than the seductive part. And that just didn't sit well with me.

    Of course, Michael Crawford comes out on top of both, since he combined the best parts of each performance (even if he wasn't the best singer), but as I have only listened to him as the Phantom rather than seen him, I have no real proof of this.

   And then, there's Christine. And again....yes, I am going to go with the movie again on this one. My basis for this is the song Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again - in the play, Sierra Boggess's version of the song was a lot more...over the top. She was louder, and more passionate, and more, well, operatic. It wasn't bad, but I couldn't help but feel slightly uncomfortable as I was watching her. I mean, when I picture myself singing a sad song at my father's grave, I think I would be more morose, more quiet, and less inclined to cry to the heavens in anguish. I wouldn't be shouting to the air, declaring my sorrow to the world. That's just not the appropriate tone. Emmy Rossum's performance was more on par with my expectations - she was very quiet and slow, and obviously shaken from her ongoing ordeal. You can really feel her pain as she mourns her lost father. It's a quiet pain, something she's been dealing with for years. She's desperate for guidance, trying to make sense of the frightening situation she finds herself in. It's all in her face, and in her slow movements and soft voice.

    Say what you will - Emmy Rossum portrayed it beautifully. I even prefer her over Sarah Brightman, who was certainly better than Sierra Boggess, but still a little too operatic and dramatic. I know that it's supposed to be operatic, but keep in mind that there are subtle moments in opera, too.

   And now this essay has turned into a long-winded comparison between the movie and the play. I'll break away from that now and simply address the play from here on out. The play is currently one of the longest-running productions on Broadway. And when you see it, well, it's not hard to see why. The music is wonderfully composed (with certain "inspiration" taken from certain other songs but cough cough we won't mention that) and is well placed, capturing the suspensful atmosphere perfectly. The best of these, in my opinion, would have to be Past the Point of No Return. Yes, it's not exactly the, um, purest song of the bunch, but when I heard it for the first time (yes, at the movie) I was on the edge of my seat, absolutely rigid and staring at the screen. Somewhere at the back of my mind, I knew where it was going, but right then I might as well have been a newcomer. The play also executed this beautifully, and I still felt the same suspense. Which, considering my lack of chills earlier, is a grand accomplishment in my book.

    My absolute favorite scene, however, has to be the one in the Phantom's lair towards the end, where Christine is pleading with the Phantom while he threatens to kill her lover Raoul (who I honestly could not bring myself to like, but whatever, he's the helpless love interest) if she refuses to stay with him. Here we come to the climax, and here we see some true suspense and emotion. This was where Karimloo shined (and Boggess as well, although she still manages to be a tad over the top), and where you could feel the heightened emotions running rampant.

    And descends gracefully, slowly, as the heated music slows down and returns to a dark, rumbling tone. And then it rises again, magnificently, when Christine takes pity on the Phantom and gives him a strong, solid kiss. This completely disarms him, and touches that one remaining shred of humanity he still possesses.

   Now, somewhere (most likely the book), it's better explained why he reacted the way he does to the kiss: throughout his entire life, no one, not even his mother, ever kissed him. In other words, no one has ever shown him any compassion or kindness. This one small act reminds him of his humanity, which in turn compels him to set Christine and Raoul free. Personally, I think it's this scene that makes the play, and the story in general, the most memorable for me. You sympathize with both the Phantom and with Christine (Raoul is pretty much a convenient plot device at this point), and see clearly the entire theme of the story. It's moments like this that are so very rare in modern stage as well as cinema. And it's why I, personally, adore this play, and this story.