Some Thoughts On Kanye.

So I guess as a disclaimer I should say right off the bat that I haven’t listened to a Kanye West album since 808s and Heartbreak.  But since his beginning, Kanye West has fascinated me.  I believe he is a genuine artist: extremely talented, astute, and gifted. But I also believe he’s a person who is trying to be as self-aware as they can be in an environment that is never stable.  He’s not a port in a storm; to me, he comes across as the piece of flora caught in the storm a piece of nature powerless against the incredibly strong wind that is determined to blow however the hell it wants.

Kanye West is probably the most apt representation right now of what it’s really like to be famous: constantly bewildered; knowing you have a platform and knowing you want to say something but not knowing how to present it in a way that will be relatable; trying to manage the deluge of coming from nothing, where very few people on Earth care who you are to being something that has become a commodity.

It would be an adjustment (to say the least) for anyone.

I think he’s still trying to be real.  I think he’s still trying to be himself, whatever that is. Others who are famous and successful and beloved (and not viewed – at least right now – as mentally unstable) have become that way because they either 1) focused attention on issues other than/larger than themselves; [e.g. Bono]  or 2) they’ve surrendered who they really are, either putting on a show or becoming the one who orchestrates it [e.g. Beyonce].

All of this makes me sound like a major Kanye West apologist, and I’m really not.  I think I’m most interested in the idea of fame as a construct. The larger issue, one we can really all relate to, is what our authentic lives look like.  Who are you? Underneath the labels of what you do for a living or how many kids you have, who are you? How would that change if you were famous? And if you are somebody with a platform of some kind – and you might be – what do you have to say? What is your reality?

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On How “Wonderwall” is Kinda Like Baby Food

I don’t wish for high-tech things often, but I’d love a Bluetooth hookup in my car so I can listen to songs from my phone.  My Jetta came out just before the Bluetooth-in-car revolution, though, so I content myself and my kids with old mix CDs I have from college.  The one in the car right now (a really strange mix that includes dialogue clips from the films Chasing Amy and Dogma) features their current fave, “Happy Happy Joy Joy,” and Oasis’ “Wonderwall.” Driving home today from a friend’s house, one kid asleep in the backseat and the other nearly there, I realized two things:

  1. Wonderwall, as a song that was released in the 1990’s, doesn’t really hold up for me anymore.
  2. But that’s okay.  Because I’m not the person I was in the 1990s.

When “Wonderwall” was released, I was a naive, overweight teenager who was full of 90’s angst.  Its lyrics spoke volumes to me: I had multiple crushes on many of the neighborhood boys, and had no way to properly express my feelings for them.  So when I heard

I don’t believe that anybody
Feels the way I do about you now
And all the roads we have to walk are winding
And all the lights that lead us there are blinding
There are many things that I
Would like to say to you but I don’t know how
it made sense to me.  Oasis was speaking my language. Every boy I had a huge crush on was worthy of all my love and all my attention at the moment.  I was putting everything I had into the fantasy of being their girlfriend.  No one else ever felt the way I did about them, etc. etc.
And I’m grown up, now.  I see things much more differently as a mom in her mid-thirties than I did as a kid.  And the song itself just kind of grates, all that nasally singing and the monotonous strumming.  So it’s changed for me.
I think I might feel tempted to forget that I really liked that song, to laugh and say I was just a stupid kid when I listened to it.  But things meant something to me, and because it did, it wasn’t stupid.
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My daughter is 13 months now and totally over baby food in the jar.  She wants real people food, big pieces of whatever we’re eating.  But in order to get to the bigger stuff, she had to go through the pureed things.
Baby food in a jar is probably the best thing ever.  Babies love it because food scientists engineer what goes into it to make it taste wonderful.  When my son was trying solids, I’d make food for him, also pureed, that tasted like garbage compared to the same things I’d buy in a jar.
It’s kind of like that with music, too.  I’ll listen to a Justin Beiber song, or any pop song on the radio today, and that is a song that is engineered to be catchy as hell.  “Shake It Off” won’t be anywhere in 20 years, but that is a fun song to dance to.  It might not be the best song ever in terms of longevity or depth, but it’ll taste good going down!
That was “Wonderall” for me.  To get to where I am today, I had to go through Oasis.
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I read part of this interview recently with Dave Grohl, lead singer of Foo Fighters, and something he said really struck me.  He said,
“I don’t believe in guilty pleasures. I believe that you should be able to like what you like.  If you like a f****ing Kesha song, listen to f***ing Kesha.”
I don’t wish to be a teenager again.  It was a rough set of years for me, and I wouldn’t want them back to do over, not even knowing what I know now.  But I don’t mind that I used to like what I like.  I hope I don’t keep minding it.

Elevation // Destruction

(This is a 100% true story.)

“You can go if you want,” my husband said.  “But I’m not going.”

He was scared, I think.  Scared of Bono.

We had just been invited to a U2 concert this summer by friends of ours coming into town, and although he had no trouble with our friends staying with us, he had a hard time believing he’d make it to the concert.  It wasn’t the songs; he likes a few of them.  It wasn’t the venue; the Pittsburgh Steelers make Heinz Stadium a permanent Mecca for folks living in our city.

It was the curse.  “I believe in it,” he said.  “I’m not going.”

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The Bono curse originated, as most things do, in New York City, where my parents grew up.  In my late teens we were constantly over the GW Bridge from our Bergen County, NJ home  to mostly attend funerals, as my parents were reaching the age where the youngest of their groups of friends began to pass from illnesses or tragic accidents.  On one such weekend one of my brothers and I were hanging out outside the Piper’s Kilt bar in the Inwood section of Manhattan, waiting to go inside.

Scott, a roommate of our cousin’s who lived a few streets over, happened to walk by, wearing the expression of a man who has truly become the poorest of bastards.  We figured it was girl trouble, and we were right, but we were pretty shocked when we found out the exact source.

“Wait – Bono, Bono? Like U2 Bono?” my brother asked when Scott told us the news.

“Yeah.  Fucking Bono.”

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The story went like this: Scott, knowing his longtime girlfriend Beth had been a fan of U2 since she was about three weeks old, bought her tickets to the Elevation Tour for her birthday.  The good seats, too, he emphasized, ones closest to the points of the heart-shaped stage that joined together.

“A lot of people don’t know this about Bono,” Scott continued, but like…” He searched the air above us for the right words, circling his index fingers up and down.   “Whenever he enters a room, or, in this case, a stadium, he just…like…sucks the testosterone out of every male in attendance.  It just…like…” he widened the air circles with his hands to illustrate the gathering of it – “attaches itself to him, and he automatically becomes the largest thing in that room.”

He paused, taking a sip of the Coke he carried with him.  “That’s exactly what it’s like.”

Beth, like everyone else in Madison Square Garden, flipped out – screaming, jumping up and down.  Scott laughed, loving it, feeling kind of proud for making her so happy…even if he suddenly did feel a little less full in the testicles.

“So the show’s going on all right, right?” Scott asked.  “But then.  Then.”

As I’ve heard is pretty common on the Elevation Tour, Bono calls up a girl to sing to during “With Or Without You;” and, sure enough, he chooses Beth.

“At first, I didn’t have a problem,” said Scott, his voice sagging.  “I thought it was great.  But he’s dancing with her, right, and she’s standing there, grinning like a moron, her hands on her cheeks – and he puts his arm around her.  She fucking goes nuts.  But that’s not enough for Bono, no.  Not enough for him.  He fucking lays her down on the stage, and just before he lets her go, kisses her on the fucking mouth!”

Scott threw his Coke can against the brick wall of the bar, then stared down at the sidewalk, the tops of his ears shining bright red.

“I’m only just one man.  You know? Just one man, with two balls, and he’s got a stadium full of them.”

After the concert, Beth couldn’t let go.  It was Bono this and Bono that, every two minutes, Scott said, day and night.  The final straw came when she stood over Scott’s shoulder when he was doing their dishes and told him that wasn’t how Bono would wash them.

He kicked her out an hour later.

“You think it’s funny,” he said, his face long and sullen, his voice mournful.  “But it’s not.  You watch.  Bono breaks people up.”  And in a voice that would make the ancient Tiresias proud, warned us to never go to a U2 concert with our significant other – not if we wanted to stay with them.

“Unless you want to break up,” he said, after he stooped to pick up the Coke can from the ground, side-stepping us to keep going on his way.  “Then you can do what the fuck you want.  You don’t even have to spring for the front-row seats.  The upper deck will do you just fine.”

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Scott wasn’t wrong.  Some time later my brother and I were watching some awards show or another, and Justin and Britney – THE Justin and Britney, a hot item at the time – were being interviewed.  We watched, half-horrified, half-horribly amused, as Bono walked in between them, looked up and down at Britney, and then walked away.  A week later, every tabloid in NYC was blowing up with the news of Justin and Britney’s split.

And it even happened locally: at least three couples who were friends of ours attended U2 concerts and promptly broke up afterward.  Although they all claimed different reasons: too much arguing, one said; not enough time together, said another; we knew the real reason why.

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Amazingly, there has only been one couple to break the curse, and those are the visiting friends who are excited to catch them in our neck of the woods.  I want to study them, to sit them down and ask them questions, as though they were a highly evolved species of the U2 fan.  Have they been inoculated? Do they favor one band member more than Bono? Could that be it?

Or maybe it’s already happened, and my friend is hiding her burning, passionate, lusty burn for Bono underneath her kind face and loving smile.  “Of course I love my husband,” she might tell me as we’re standing in line, ready to have our tickets scanned at the gate.  “But there are days…”

Her eyes would glisten with a dreamy sheen, and I would know instantly what she meant.

“Just don’t tell anybody,” I would tell her.  “Don’t tell anybody at all.”

Some news.

My mom was diagnosed today with Acinic Cell Carcinoma, a cancer of the salivary glands. She’s without health insurance and the money for her biopsies were donated by their church and by friends, so it’s a worrisome time for more than a few reasons. We’re praying that her Federal Disability application goes through so she can get treated, and mostly we’re praying that she doesn’t give up hope and keeps trusting in God through this time.

After I got off of the phone with her all I could think about was a song by a Christian band called the O.C. Supertones, and their song called “Jury Duty”:

Though I haven’t had the best of days
Still I want to stop and thank You anyway
Every single moment, whether sleeping or awake
is Your creation, and what You’ve made is good

I don’t always thank You for the rough days
and the hard times in my life,
even though I should

Everything is God’s, the good days and the ones that aren’t worth saving. Thanks so much for your continued prayers for her and my family. 🙂

7 Quick-Takes Friday

For 7 Quick-Takes’ home-base, check out Jen’s blog here!

1.  This has been one of those weeks when I’ve been so stressed out and anxious that I forget my own name.  I’m one of those people who, even if there is very little to worry about, will go searching for things to worry about.  Horrible, right? It kinda goes like this: have you ever seen the movie “Office Space?” Remember the “Jump to Conclusions Map?”

Yeah.  I roll mine out pretty much every chance I get.  Let’s say something happens – it could be good, but it could be bad.  Either way, doesn’t matter.  I get all over it, basically looking for ways for it not to work for me.  I play out endless scenarios in my head,  start obsessing over it, and it’s all my poor husband can do to help keep me sane, all the while wondering what he ever did to deserve such a crazy wife.  I pray about it – well, mostly just pray to God to help me get out of these obsessive situations – until I’m physically and mentally exhausted and am too tired to care anymore.

Thaaaaaaaaaat was my week.  I basically got through the anxiety by praying St. Michael’s prayer a lot, listening to Nickelback (I know, I know) and the Five Blind Boys of Alabama, and finally getting myself back to yoga class (more on that later).

What are your favorite ways to relax and just get over being so crazy?

2.  But I did have a very serious thing happen, for real — my mom was diagnosed with a glandular tumor along her jawline. She’s had what she’s believed was Bell’s Palsy, which affected her facial movements, but had an MRI done two weeks ago that was confirmed yesterday that it’s not BP, but the tumor that’s resting on the facial muscles and causing her face, eye, and mouth to droop.  She’ll need to have surgery to remove the tumor, and it’ll be tested for malignancy.  It’s not the best situation, but it’s comforting to know what the real root cause of her problems have been so they can be treated.  We pray it’s not cancer, but if it is malignant, the doctor says it won’t spread much farther than the area it was already in, so that is a good thing.

3.  Back to yoga – I know there are folks out there who don’t believe Christians should do yoga because it’s of the Devil (or, at the very least, participating in another religion), but it’s not like that for me.  (I find that, as a Catholic, we’re a lot more forgiving of things like that, anyway, haha.)  It’s basically a physical thing, a way for my body to work through its anxiety issues and learn how to not breathe so shallowly and panic-like.

When I got to class this week, though, it was interesting: my instructor, a wonderful lady, told us that in certain poses, we have to “push down to go up,” so we can get grounded.  So if we’re going from a crouching position to a fully-standing one, we have to push through our feet in order to gain length.  And I just totally took that as a metaphor for my relationship with God: we have to go down to go up — humble ourselves in order to reach higher (where only He can take us).  I thought it was a neat analogy!  Plus, my body felt so good afterward…if you haven’t yet been to a hot yoga class, go — it feels amazing.

4.  My husband and I got engaged on a Friday during Lent (4 years ago, woah!), so we went to dinner at a seafood restaurant instead of the steakhouse he had originally planned to ask me to marry him in.  Today I’m making a vegetarian paella for dinner (recipe here) and hopefully having a couple of friends over.  What are your plans for dinner tonight?

(A quick aside: do you call dinner “dinner,” or do you call it “supper?”  I want to start calling “soda” “pop,” since that’s what Pittsburghers call it.  It sounds weird.  But if the “pop” thing works out, I’m totally down to start on “supper.”)

5.  Do you like punk/metal/alternative music from the 80s and 90s? If so, my friend Jay has probably photographed them in action, before they became famous.  He’s an excellent photographer, and we actually just recently got two photos (one of a pre-famous Kurt Cobain and of White Zombie) that I’m so excited to frame.  You can check out his photos here, if you’re interested in ordering a few!

6.  Time to play “Don’t Judge Me!” I may or may not have spent my evenings last week watching “Touched By an Angel” on the Hallmark Channel, only to switch over after that to HBO’s reruns of “Oz.”  I mean, you can’t have Heaven without the Hell…right? Because you can’t get more diametrically opposed than those two.

—-> 

 

7.  Have an awesome week, guys!

Way Down In The Hole

So this has been on repeat on my computer for about 12 hours.  Love this song…amazing.  It was written by the great Tom Waits, but performed here by the Five Blind Boys of Alabama.  You might recognize it as the theme song from the first season of “The Wire.”

When you walk through the garden
you gotta watch your back
well I beg your pardon
walk the straight and narrow track
if you walk with Jesus
he’s gonna save your soul
you gotta keep the devil
way down in the hole

he’s got the fire and the fury
at his command
well you don’t have to worry
if you hold on to Jesus hand
we’ll all be safe from Satan
when the thunder rolls
just gotta help me keep the devil
way down in the hole

All the angels sing about Jesus’ mighty sword
and they’ll shield you with their wings
and keep you close to the lord
don’t pay heed to temptation
for his hands are so cold
you gotta help me keep the devil
way down in the hole

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Sorry for the lack of updates! Things have been things, I guess you could say.  Work is work, and every day is another chance to get closer to God.  So far I’ve been treating my Lenten observations (for the most part) like a New Year’s Resolution – so far so good, but let’s see how long it lasts, haha.  I do the same thing pretty much every year, which is pray both morning and evening prayer from the Divine Office (a big sacrifice for me because I hate waking up earlier than I have to / going to bed later than I wan to to do it).  I also tacked on trying not to gossip or talk badly about others this year, which is something that I have a lot of trouble with.  I really am such a gossip, and I’m trying to quell that a bit.  So far it’s working, but not as much as I’d like, to be honest with you.  But that’s how it happens, right? Lent is a journey; it’s not all at once.  I hope all of your Lenten plans have been going well, and you’re getting a chance to devote some more time to God and His goodness.

🙂

Have a great day!

7 Quick Takes Friday

(For the original 7 Quick Takes, check out Jen’s blog here!)

1.   The Super Bowl is in two days! Go Steelers! We’re actually heading over to Philadelphia today (about a 5 hour drive) to visit my brother and brother-in-law and my sister-in-law; and although I love them so, so much, I would really hate for some weather-related event to keep us there until Sunday evening…because for a Pittsburgh fan, there is no worse fate (other than having to stay in Baltimore) than having to be in Philadelphia for a Steelers game.

2.  Or a hockey game, for that matter. Flyers fans are no joke, and to say they hate the Penguins fans is kind of an understatement.   I haven’t yet been, but I’ve heard that in Philly the Flyers fans throw around stuffed penguins with KNIVES in them around the arena.  Yikes.

3.  For absolutely no good reason whatsoever, I’ve been watching this on repeat before going to work every morning.  Ain’t nothing better to jam out to on the headphones at 5:45 a.m., I’m telling you.

4.  I missed yoga the last couple of weeks because I was sick, and returned to the studio on Monday.  Wow.  We could talk about being sore for a minute, but…that word won’t quite do.  But it also feels awesome, and I love it, and I’m sad that I have to wait until Monday to go again.  Although I bet there wouldn’t be any harm in executing some Warrior 2s and Upward Dogs during the Big Game; it might save me from nearly fainting from glee, the way I nearly did two years ago when we won then.

5.  I wish there were an easier way to color your own hair. I did mine this morning and I’m sure I missed whole patches again, the way I tend to do every few months.  I look like I’ve got the mange.  But it covers up the grays, so I guess it’ll do.  I just don’t want to have to pay $40 to get it done professionally.  My neighbor used to do it before she moved (my hair wasn’t why she moved), but now there’s no one around to get all up in my scalp for free.

6.  Starbucks tip of the week: Peppermint Mochas are advertised as a holiday drink, but we have them all year round, so you don’t have to ask if we still have them.  We will! 🙂

7.  I’ll be away for a few days, so have an awesome weekend! Go Steelers!