Monday, January 28, 2019

"I get down on my knees and I start to pray, 'til the tears run down from my eyes..."

I saw Bohemian Rhapsody about a week ago, and oh my lord. I wept like a child. My heart is dead inside for everyone but Freddie Mercury, apparently. 

In honor of this, enjoy one of my favorite Queen songs (how can one have a favorite Queen song, really?).

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Book Review: In Watermelon Sugar

As a person whose literature preferences skew largely British Regency-Victorian era, American beat writing is about as far from "myself" as I can get. So I decided to give it a shot. Of course, I read Ginsberg and Kerouac in college for classes, and basically hated it. But I decided to go for Brautigan this time, in this short, weird novel (almost novella?), In Watermelon Sugar. 

How do I describe this book? The fact that a book can't be summarized in 2 sentences almost certainly means it's good. I'll give it a shot. This book takes place in a dystopian world, in a town called Watermelon Sugar. Watermelon sugar is also, incidentally, the thing that people use for their primary building and fueling materials, along with trout. The narrator is an unnamed man who takes us through a strange, skewed history of Watermelon Sugar and its lodge/main gathering place, iDeath, as well as the story of the one rebel named inBOIL. inBOIL deserts Watermelon Sugar and lives in a place called the Forgotten Works. The narrator's ex-wife/girlfriend, Margaret, obsessively visited Forgotten Works and collected items she found there from the world before its state in the book. 

Also, the sun changes color every day and affects things like what kind of watermelons grow, and if sound works or not.

This book is trippy, but not for the sake of being trippy. It left me with the impression you get when you wake up from a really vivid set of disjointed yet interconnected dreams. Like you can't really remember all of it, just pieces, and you know it means something deeper but you're not quite sure what.

What I liked best about this book is that Brautigan uses the best tool available at his disposal: his reader's imaginations. He never explicitly says what happened to the world. He never tells us the narrator's name. He doesn't say whether Margaret had an affair with inBOIL or not. He doesn't explain why inBOIL hates iDeath, Watermelon Sugar, or exactly what point he was trying to make with his rebellion. He doesn't say that the tigers that eat people (including the narrator's parents) are actual tigers--they can walk, talk, and use instruments like humans. Are they feline, or cannibals?

Who really knows?

The imagination will always supply us with far more whimsical, fantastical, and horrible things than the written word can outright explain. Brautigan exploits this fact beautifully. In a time when everything is laid out plainly for us (usually in 140 characters or 7 seconds or less), reading this book felt like a weird bubble bath for my brain, and I'd do it again in a second. 

It was very short and the prose is simple but stunning. Absolutely do recommend. 

"My Name.
I guess you are kind of curious as to who I am, but I am one of those who do not have a regular name. My name depends on you. Just call me whatever is in your mind.
If you are thinking about something that happened a long time ago: Somebody asked you a question and you did not know the answer.
That is my name.
Perhaps it was raining very hard.
That is my name.
Or somebody wanted you to do something. You did it. Then they told you what you did was wrong—“Sorry for the mistake,”—and you had to do something else.
That is my name.
Perhaps it was a game you played when you were a child or something that came idly into your mind when you were old and sitting in a chair near the window.
That is my name.
Or you walked someplace. There were flowers all around.
That is my name.
Perhaps you stared into a river. There as something near you who loved you. They were about to touch you. You could feel this before it happened. Then it happened.
That is my name.” 

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Perhaps my most unpopular opinion.

I have a lot of unpopular opinions. For example, I don't like the show Friends. Brunch is lame. I think the movie Frozen is beyond stupid. Beyoncé  is average at best and heinous at worst.

I could go on.

But my current unpopular opinion is that "wine/booze culture" is absurd, unnecessary, and maybe dangerous? I just think that if a substance causes 2 million people worldwide to seek help, then maybe it's something we should be taking more seriously than "slap a phrase on some socks lol."

I also overhear a lot of like, "drunk mom culture" at work. And while it's charming in a way (moms aren't Pinterest perfect, and that's GOOD), I think it's sad. There are people out there who would kill to be mothers and for whatever reason, aren't. And you go around complaining that the only way you can handle it is to drink. Get stuffed.

Add to that the stupidity of selling an assortment of non-alcohol related items that say stupid shit like "Rosé  all day!" and like, I'm done. The above picture shows a plethora of products that have to do with drinking culture, and all of it was taken in the same store that sells accessories. As in, jewelry and scarves and stuff. Nothing even remotely to do with wine or drinking.

Again, I know this comes off as sanctimonious, especially from a teetotaler. But it's my blog and I can write my opinions. Maybe marketing companies should reconsider this whole thing. Alcoholism is a disease, and the casual way we're normalizing it is not okay. 

End rant.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Who's gonna sit on your fence when I'm gone?

Sometimes I like to try and branch out and hear new music. I did that this past week and came across this song which I did not care for at first, but then it got stuck in my head, and after about 20 subsequent listenings I decided it's pretty decent.

Idk, it's a little indie for me but I like the guitar riffs and the Mercury-esque falsetto, paired with good lyrics. This is okay.

Have a good week, moonbeams.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Hygge and Sisu

I love all things Finnish (not least of all their music, OBVIOUSLY), so I was really excited to get a chance to read The Finnish Way, and then I was curious about hygge and decided to read about that, too.

The Finnish Way was written by Katja Pantzar, who is the daughter of Finnish parents, and a Canadian ex-pat living in Finland. She has the unique benefit of knowing the North American way of life, and an "in" in Finland, which is important. Finns seem like absolutely lovely people, but for Americans, I think it would be hard to get in with them. They are notoriously introverted, not smiley, and don't even have a Finnish word for "please"--it's considered more polite to just ask for what you want directly. 

Pantzar does a good job of highlighting the difficulties of adjusting to a new culture and landscape, and focuses her narrative around the Finnish concept of sisu. There is no direct English translation for sisu, but it's generally best described as an innate courage and fortitude to persevere, survive, and thrive in the face of hardship. I love this concept. So much so that I bought a sisu bracelet to remind me to embrace my own sisu (Pantzar insists that while the concept is uniquely Finnish, one doesn't have to be Finnish to have sisu). Pantzar embraced hers by Arctic swimming year round (like, YIKES, add that to the list of things I don't think I could ever do). 

Overall, this book was great. I devoured it. Reading about how different life is in Finland is absolutely fascinating, especially through the lens of someone who came from the hustle and bustle and materialism of North American life. This book really explores and digs deep into both sisu and why the Finns are consistently some of the happiest people of earth. I highly recommend it if you're interested in the Nordic way of life at all, or just want to read something interesting about people who live differently than we do here in the US.

Springboarding off that, I read The Little Book of Hygge, by Meik Wiking. Hygge is a concept that's gained a lot of popularity in recent years. It centers around coziness and togetherness, and Wiking argues this is why Danes are the happiest people on earth. 

Maybe it's because I was born and bred in a humid subtropical place, but the idea of hygge is almost unrelatable to me. It centers around being warm and cozy and that feeling of like, if you went skiing all day, coming back to the chalet for something warm to drink and good food and laughing with friends. Which is all very nice, and I approve of people aiming for that. But it's not something that really moves me, at least, not the same way that sisu does. I feel like I can reach deep into myself and pull out dregs of sisu and nurture and grow them. If I think of hygge, I start to get overheated--there's just so much fire and blankets involved. It also seems more materialistic to me, even though Wiking insists it's not. And it doesn't have to be! And it probably shouldn't be. But scrolling the #hygge hashtag on Instagram proves otherwise.

Maybe I'll do a post in the future about attempting hot weather hygge. 

Anyway, out of the two, I definitely recommend The Finnish Way more, but enjoyed both. I can't wait to read Sisu: The Finnish Art of Courage and The Nordic Theory of Everything next (all while planning my imaginary trip to Finland, of course).

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Be a mess of cosmic proportions.

From Spiritual_af on Instagram
There's a lot of talk this time of year about resolutions and self-improvement. And while there's nothing wrong with constantly trying to better yourself or set and achieve goals, sometimes it can be a lot. It's in our faces all the time through advertising: join this gym! Start this diet! Do this financial thing! And a lot of us aren't in those places.

If, like me, you're not in that place, here's something to reassure you. Life is messy. The universe is messy. The planet, nature, all of it, was designed to be messy. Social media and media in general will give you unrealistic expectations of how things should be, and it's all bullshit. Relationships, jobs, your bedroom, it's all probably a lot messier than you let on. And that's perfectly okay.

My resolution this year, I guess, is to accept myself. As I am and where I am. I'm never happy with where I am. I'm like that scene in Star Wars:

Only my mind drifts backwards, too, not only forward. I'm always looking either behind or ahead and never right where I'm at. 

There are things I wish I could change about myself, but a lot of the fundamental things about who I am are unchangeable: I will always be a worrier who's prone to fits of profound melancholy. I'll always faint at the sight of blood. I'm never going to be a runner or someone who loves exercise. I'll always be on the chubbier side of curvy. I will always be exhausted and live in a state of slight anxiety all the time. I can always be depended upon to say or do extremely awkward things in social situations, especially when there's a cute guy around, and I'll always wish we could just sit around chatting about death and time rather than the weather. 


All of the aforementioned things are things that have been with me since childhood. I manage my depression and anxiety the best I can. I manage my Hashimoto's the best I can to help assuage some of my exhaustion. I walk and do yoga and dance terribly because I enjoy these things. And all of this perfectly effing fine.

My goal this year is to just be okay with myself, and continue growing into myself. I'm in a place where luckily, all the horrible things people said would happen as an adult haven't happened. I've not been ostracized or scolded or fired for wearing what I like and dyeing my hair, and being a general smartass and weirdo. And I am grateful every day that that's the case.

Here's to becoming in 2019. And to being a mess of cosmic proportions, because that makes us intune to the universe, after all.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Library ambiance

(Picture by Amber Downs)

There are so many things I love about working in a library, but one of my favorite things is the quiet. I’m an introvert by nature, and I find too much noise and stimulation exhausting. Sometimes, I wish we had soft music playing throughout the building, but those times are few and far between. I enjoy best just listening to library ambiance: soft voices and whispers, the “beep” of barcode scanners or the printers, the rustle of turning pages, the soft clicks of keyboards and mice, and the way the books whisper to each other on the shelves (if you don’t believe me, come into the library before we’ve opened sometime and sit quietly in the historic building--the books whisper.).

There are a lot of times that the library is anything but quiet: when people argue their fines, when children shriek in a way that literally curdles your blood, when people talk to themselves or hold the most impolite phone conversations, when all the evening staff arrives at the same time and the noise levels get astronomical in the party-like atmosphere of catching up and getting all the latest news and updates. But I still adore those quiet moments, when my coworkers wear their earphones, and I listen to the live performance of Library Ambiance.

Monday, December 31, 2018

However cruel the mirrors of sin, remember beauty is found within.

Back story! Angels Fall First is Nightwish's first album from way back in 1997, and it was the first Nightwish album I ever bought. I was 14 or 15, and bought it with Christmas money from my local F.Y.E., which has since long gone out of business. And I remember sneaking it in, feeling like I was getting away with something and listening to it on my purple Walkman because this was real metal from Europe and so badass. Even though in hindsight, this whole album is really almost more ambient Nordic synth-opera, not metal. As a whole, the synth is cheesy, the lyrics are corny, but I LOVE this album. Every single track is a banger, and I love to revisit it just for scope, and to feel young again.

I chose this particular track this week for a couple of reasons. Firstly, just as a piece of trivia, this is one of like, 3 songs that Tuomas sings. And you can hate on his voice all you want, I love that the band was so young and inexperienced that this is what they produced, long before Marco joined up. It's so pure. Secondly, the lyrics are baller. I was given a Beauty and the Beast necklace for Christmas from my dad, and it kind of just reawakened for me how much I love this story. You can cry bestiality and Stockholm Syndrome all you want, but you're wrong.

Anyway, enjoy. Have a Happy New Year's Eve. I'll leave you with my favorite new year's gif of all time: 

Monday, December 24, 2018

Ave Maria

I have been waiting all year to post this Christmas Eve mixtape Monday. 

Feast your ears on Marco Hietala and Floor Jansen of Nightwish absolutely SLAYING Ave Maria. So, so good, so beautiful and pure. 

I hope you all find some peace this holiday. And if Christmas isn't your thing, it'll all be over in a matter of hours now and life will resume its normalcy. 

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Enough is as good as a feast.

This is an old English proverb, and I know Mary Poppins was not the originator. HOWEVER, she's where I heard it first, and this is my blog, so we're going with it.

Those of you who know me know I love Mary Poppins (and I cannot, for the life of me, fathom why Disney needed to make the new one, except that Disney is a soul-sucking money-hungry monster of a corporation. A new Swiss Family Robinson would surely have been better, right? Why mess with perfection? OPINIONS.). And this is one of those lines that sticks out to me because I've never heard it said elsewhere. I chalk that up to being both a millennial and an American, and enough is never enough. 

I have to preface this by saying: my parents are good Catholics and taught us, of course, that physical things don't matter. They give generously (like, really generously), and have always encouraged me and my brother to do the same. 

Despite that, I grew up alongside people who didn't share these values. I went to private schools with other middle-upper class, predominantly white, and all Protestant kids. An 80's-born 90's child, I was taught the goal was to go as high as you can (get A's in school, go to college, get multiple degrees, get a house, get a bigger house, etc.). Accumulation of stuff was not the end-all-be-all, but it was a sign of your success. 

And the big-wigs in charge have made it so more is financially smarter. It's a better deal to get the value meal even though nobody on earth except triathletes needs that many calories per meal. It's not about eating enough, it's about getting your money's worth. Buying stuff on sale means you can get more which means it's better. Spend this much, get that much for free. Never mind the fact that we need for nothing, our closets are stuffed, and our garages, attics, and storage units are full to bursting with THINGS. It's not enough. Get more. It makes sense to do it.

I struggle with this. It's how I was raised, and breaking nearly 30 years of habit is difficult. But I am trying. I'm trying to remember that I have enough. There is nothing I need, in the true sense of the word. Especially at this time of year, when the "goal" is to buy and spend as much as possible, I'm trying to be conscious of what I already have, what I can reasonably afford to give, and maintaining a heart of gratitude. 

I think the key is gratitude. Being grateful for what you have is the best way to combat the advertisers and corporations who's sole job is to make you feel bad about the things you have. There are plethoras of studies (actual scientific ones, too, not just new age woo-woo) on the benefits of listing even 3 things you're grateful for daily. And they can be simple things: my lunch break, seeing a dog on the way to work, 10 working fingers, etc. We all have enough. It's just important to remember it.

Mary Poppins would want us to.