Friday, September 30, 2005
These are a few of my favorite things...
Monday, September 26, 2005
The definition of "beautiful"
Lemme give you a for instance: It's generally agreed upon that roses are beautiful (this having no scientific merit based on stats or polls or whatever, just something that we as a collective species tend to regard as true). But what makes them so? Why is it that a person will stop or slow down on a walk to look at a rose? Why is it that when a guy gives a girl roses, she gushes about how beautiful they are? What makes them so? From a not-very-thorough spur-of-the-moment analysis of this question, I would say that it must have something to do with the color combined with the fragility of the petals and the intricate detail the bloom of the flower shows as it opens. Because, it occurs to me that there comes a time in a rose's life that it is no longer considered "beautiful." When I first mentioned the word "rose," you saw a fully bloomed, partially opened flower, probably red, on a long green stem with a few thorns and a couple of well-formed leaves. But what happens after about a week in a vase? The rose flower blooms completely, opens up, and the yellow stuff (I don't remember my plant anatomy anymore) in the center shows through wilted, partially dried up petals. The leaves are dead, the stem is withered, the rose is near the end of its life. It's no longer "beautiful." It's not necessarily "ugly" (and that's a term for a different discussion...), but it's not "beautiful" anymore.
Or is it? I mean, this post is designed to ponder the definition of the term "beautiful," right? So, maybe that wilted, withered, on-its-last-legs-of-life rose is indeed beautiful in its own right. Perhaps not by the commonly accepted view of "beauty," but in a completely distinct definition of the word.
Is something beautiful merely because it's not "ugly"? That's hardly a satisfying definition. The next question is obviously, "Well, what is ugly then?" Okay. Scratch that out. Begin again.
Is something beautiful if it gives you some sort of emotional reaction? That thought sits better than the first, surely. But it's far from complete. What type of reaction makes something beautiful? (I could also ask why that reaction happens when one is confronted with beauty, but then I feel I'd be leading this question a little astray from its target.) One generally gets a sense of happiness when confronted wtih something beautiful, yes? Okay. And that doesn't necessarily mean the "something" considered beautiful has to be peaceful or in the safest place or in a utopic surrounding. (American Beauty: the plastic bag. That was beautiful, in its random trajectory through the wind that controled its movement. And it was a piece of trash.) But it's more than simply the feeling of happiness. I want to say that there's a certain feeling of peace and/or tranquility in something that is beautiful. When I see something I consider beautiful, it allows me to slow down and observe it, allows me to shut out the craziness of life to consider and take in and experience its beauty. A song, a person, a picture, a part of scenery, an idea, a moment in time. But, is that slowing down and experience of beauty a result of the beauty or a necessary element in what makes that something "beautiful"?
This is where I will set down this thought for today. I will pick up the topic later and continue to try and find an answer...perhaps there isn't a real, true answer...but it's fun to think about, yeah? I'd love to hear others' thoughts on this subject. What makes something beautiful? How is "beauty" defined?
Sunday, September 25, 2005
The Carleton Crowd
I went to a barbecue last night with a bunch of Carleton alums from my year (turns out there is a huge pocket of us in the Boston area...who knew?) and I had a blast!!! Catching up with people I hadn't seen in over 2 years, meeting people again who I recognized as a person I went to Carleton with, but didn't really know all that well while we were there. It was great! The kinds of conversations I can have with these people are on such a different level than conversations I have with other people I know in Boston because we can skip past the "initial conversation" talk...the "who are you, what do you do, why do you do it" sort of small talk, the guarded "I don't know how much of myself I can tell you since I just met you and I don't want you to judge me" talk that you have with people you don't know very well. The conversations I had last night were intellectually stimulating, always very familiar, and very candid and honest and open because, hey, they're Carleton people. I already know, on some levels, how they will react to me and how I should react to them...which is to say, I can trust that they won't judge me based on what I do or think or say because I know they will respect my differences and be interested in how we differ. It was such a good feeling to be among a group of people that I already felt so familiar with, even if I didn't really know them all that well from school. And nowhere else will I ever truly have that feeling of familiarity and safety in a group of people that I don't consider my "close friends." Nowhere else could I talk about personal experiences...ex-boyfriends, regrets, mistakes I've made, etc...with people that I haven't seen in years. There's just something about the Carleton bond that allows us to do that.
Granted, I can't do that with all alums...when we get out of the realm of our own class year, we tend to be a little more shy about personal conversation. But still, there's a sense of familiarity there. I went to an Admissions function for prospective students today out in Burlington, and hopped a ride home with an alum about 5 years my elder. He and I had such interesting conversations on the way home. He and I have met a couple of times, maybe, so we don't really have a lot of history of that "I just met you" type of conversation. But that doesn't matter...we're both Carleton people. So on some level, we already had that "initial conversation" without really having it. I think that that's truly spectacular.
As I read through this again, I realize that I haven't explained this well at all. I feel like I've tried and haven't come close to what I mean. But, see, that goes back to what I said in the beginning. There's just something about Carleton. Something that I can't explain, but something that every Carleton person (student or alum) already understands. That's the essence of why I enjoyed myself so much last night at the barbecue. I felt understood on a level that I don't always feel with other people...or if I do feel that, it's because I've known that person a looooooong time.
I wonder if this all makes me seem elitist and exclusive about my school and the people I enjoy hanging out with. I hope it doesn't. It's not that I can't fully enjoy someone's company unless they're from Carleton. It's not that I think their company is less worthy than the company of a Carl. If I was that elitist, I couldn't define myself truly as a "Carleton person." But everyone knows that feeling of being totally understood at the most basic level, right? The interactions you can have with people who understand you in that way are just...well, different. You never have to feel on the defensive about yourself. I very much hope everyone has a community like that somewhere...a group of people with whom they feel safe, with whom they don't feel judged, with whom they feel they truly belong just as they are. It's so important to have that...because life throws you curve balls when you don't expect them, life becomes a tangled web of appointments and responsibilities and demands on your time. It's nice to know that there are people with which you can shed all of that craziness and just be. Be yourself. Be content. Be happy. Be understood.
For me, I know I always have a community that allows me to just be Carleton-bred. And that makes me smile.
Tuesday, September 20, 2005
Myth? I thought. It's a myth?
So I click on the link to read more. Turns out, there are a bunch of people who are rather angry about this whole "10% brain usage" thing. And I guess what they say makes sense. Arguments include: why would we evolve such large brains only to use 10% of them? Apparently, 10% of our brain is about the size of a sheep's brain, and we don't really compare neurologically to sheep. (Okay, sometimes I wonder when people are in large groups, but that's a topic for a more philosophical post not based on completely scientific reasoning.) Brain scans show usage in all areas of the brain. And neurological diseases like Parkinson's or Alzheimer's take away efficient usage of our brains, causing huge disabilities. Severe brain damage can occur with only a small portion of your brain physically damaged. One website proclaims at the top of it's page that "There is no scientific evidence to suggest that we use only 10% of our brains." That site goes on to accuse people of misinterpreting Einstein, and other scientists long dead. The media is blamed for promoting and cashing in on people's willingness to believe this myth. And, at the end of the article, I found myself nodding ponderously. "Huh," I think to myself, "I guess what they're saying makes sense." I also found myself laughing at the emotion oozing from the page. "Take a chill pill, dude," I silently advise the webpage's creator, "Apparently you're passionate about people not believing the myth, but you are borderlining the label 'crazed zealot'."
It's true that not everything you read on the Internet is true, but there were a bunch of links to more websites on this topic, and Google hit a few different sites as well on the topic. So, perhaps it is a myth, or perhaps the myth is a myth, therefore creating a negation and we're left with only 10% of our brains. I haven't read about it enough or thought about it enough to know what I think or if it's obvious that the 10% usage thing is a myth. All I know is that I'm highly amused by the emotional fervor with which this website was written.
And all I was gonna do was pose a semi-ridiculous, philosophical question that I though would be fun to ponder. Go figure. The Internet and its overabundance of knowledge (true or otherwise) strikes again. Ha!
Monday, September 19, 2005
To clarify: my views on this whole Pledge business
After talking to some friends and doing some Internet research, I've since discovered that the phrase "under God" was not originally in the Pledge. It was added during the 1950s when communism was a huge fear in democratic America and the government was obsessed with proving their purity and worth through 'godliness' to distinguish themselves from the "godless Commies." That's also around the time when they added E Pluribus Unum to our paper money. Click here for details. Good to know that the original Pledge was not religiously based.
I also went back to reread the article I linked in my last post concerning what was deemed unconstitutional. Turns out, the Pledge isn't considered unconstitutional, but the saying of the Pledge as is has been declared unconstitutional.
Semantics. That's all that is, my friends.
I agree that the "under God" phrase is offensive. I agree it should not be shoved down the throats of our children if they are not brought up Christian (or even if they are, but their parents still have a problem with the symbolic shoving down the throat). I do not agree, however, that the Pledge should be stricken from the memory and heart of this nation.
I stick to my original statement that the Pledge is a symbol of our country; so much more than a bunch of words we're forced to recite in elementary school. I was also required to memorize the Preamble to the Constitution. Being able to recite "We the People of the United States of America, in order to form a more perfect union..." (and so on) seemed a chore at the time, but now I think of it as a way to take personal ownership of another of our country's great symbols. And I think there is real worth in having that connection. It includes me a part of the American culture. It makes me stop and consider for a brief moment every time I hear those familiar words what they mean to me as an American citizen and what they mean to my country.
I will not say that America has it completely right (especially with Bush in power for 5 years now). I will not say that America is even close to perfect. I will not say that I agree with everything that our country does or that our country's leaders stand for. But that's the beauty of this country. I don't have to agree. That's what those American symbols stand for. The Flag, the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, the Statue of Liberty, the Pledge. To me, they all come together to symbolize two things: my rights to freedom as an American citizen and the unity of our great nation under those freedoms.
They also symbolize each of your individual rights to disagree with everything I've just said here. And I respect that. I welcome that. I support that. It's the American way.
In the end, America does many things wrong. There are many days when I wonder why anyone could love this country. There are those times when I think maybe I'll move to Canada or France or somewhere else but here. But those days pass. (How wonderful it is not to be persecuted for having those feelings or to be in fear for even daring to think those thoughts!) But America also does many things right. (Who keeps score about whether they do more right than wrong? Not me. I don't feel the need.) And when I sit and think about it, as I'm doing right now, I don't know that I could easily pick up and leave. I'm too deeply rooted in the American culture. I'm proud to be an American. The Pledge, among all the others, is a symbol of that pride.
Maybe some think that I'm brainwashed into an American-culture-pushing-idiot who can't think for myself. I don't think I am. And I don't think teaching kids about all of those symbols early on (even making them recite the Pledge) is a tactic in brainwashing or unfair force-feeding. I think it's our duty as a country to continue the culture we've created, to continue the pride in our country through the symbols we have rooted in our history.
Take out the "under God" phrase. Make that unconstitutional. But don't make the recitation of the Pledge unconstitutional, thereby completely obliterating a symbol of our American pride.
Saturday, September 17, 2005
The dancing...oh, the dancing...
The dancing is quite amazing. AMAZING. The level of dancing, the level of energy, the level of mad awesome music... This is the place to be for any dancer who loves to Lindy Hop. The contests have been great...the Diversity Forum was insane...I can't even adequately describe it all. I've taken some pictures, I've taken a few video clips on my camera. I'll post some links for other videos of the weekend. In short, I will do my utmost to convince all y'all that you should have been there this year and so you should definitely go next year.
Oh, and I think I'm buying some new dance shoes...they let me try them out on the dance floor. I danced with Chance. It was beyond cool. I want those shoes. And I will dance with him again. :) Hehehe.
Thursday, September 15, 2005
That's right people...the Pledge of Allegiance was ruled unconstitutional by a California federal judge yesterday. Yes, I know that it's because it includes the phrase "under God." But that's just the small details. Can we just take step back here and think about what that means? The Pledge of Allegiance, as taught to me, is one of the symbols of our country - like the Statue of Liberty or the Declaration of Independence or the American flag. It reminds us of what our country represents. Sure, as elementary school children, we don't really understand what the words mean as we recite them...but they get so engrained in our heads, that by the time we've grown up, those words become something more.
I pledge allegiance
to the flag of the United States of America
and to the republic for which it stands.
With liberty and justice for all.
A symbol. Of our country. That's unconstitutional. I can't stand it. It's too much.
You know, the Declaration of Independence mentions God:
...the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them...
or a more widely known part:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men were created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights...
Does that make it unconstitutional?
At least the Constitution doesn't mention God, other than to say that there's a separation of church and state. How funny would that be to declare the Constitution unconstitutional???
Read more in the article I found here. I guess it just sent me a little off-balance this morning...what a laugh!
Tuesday, September 13, 2005
Bring on the Newbies!!!
At the same time, it's a big responsibility to teach newbies the dance. I'm shaping their eventual bad habits just through the words I use to explain something. I say "eventual bad habits" because I'm convinced there's no perfect way to teach someone to dance and have them understand everything exactly the way you meant it. That's the interesting thing about dancing, and about teaching dancing...it's all hear-say. It's an "I tell you something, I demonstrate, now you try" sort of thing. It's a trial and error, experimental, make mistakes and learn from them sort of thing. There's no perfect way to teach that. But having a bunch of new, dance-naive faces looking at you, hanging on your every word and trying to carry out your instructions to the best of their ability...there's just nothing like it. It's humbling, it's inspiring, it's a feeling of power and enhanced ability, it's a feeling of fear that they won't understand, it's awesome and troublesome and fun and agonizing. But most of all...it's a continuation of the swing scene. And that, my friends, is why newbies absolutely rule. They are the future of the dance. We are merely the history, the present, the constant. We are the already converted, the foundation. The newbies will carry on the traditions and stories and ideas of the dance into the future. They will shape the evolution of the swing movement. They are more important than, I think, most dancers give them credit for.
So, fellow dancers...be nice to your newbies. Welcome them, dance with them, try not to intimidate (hard, I know, they're like that when they start...). But most of all, respect them as an integral and important part of the scene. Happy are those dancers who know that the dance they love will continue into the future generations of our population.
Viva the Lindy Hop, and bring on the newbies!
Sunday, September 11, 2005
The funny thing about horoscopes...
Leo July 23 - August 22
You will be shunned by some of the more traditional members of the tightly knit community of pornography directors for your tendency to ruin climactic moments by splashing the actresses with all the wrong bodily fluids.
Age is so relative
I'm the second youngest person in my office by about 5 or 6 months. The next oldest person is almost 6 years older than me, then it skips to about 8 years older than me, and on up. So, to most everyone in my office, I'm a baby. It's hilarious. Hallway talk about "the past" puts us in totally different positions. I was talking about the Gap CD (oh yes, I'm still all over that album...I love it, remember? See the earlier post "That mysterious Gap CD"), and I made the comment (similar to what I said in my post) about it being like high school when you found the perfect album--the one you can play in its entirety because all of the songs are so good. My coworker laughed and said, "I'm sorry, high school? When I was in high school, we were still buying cassette tapes..." This floored me...has the music industry really progressed that fast? I mean, she's in her early 30s, so I guess it has. It's just weird to think about not having CDs.
But I digress.
So, in my office, I'm the baby. But, I'm now in my mid-20s. I feel old! My little brother (who's 5 1/2 years younger than me) just started college this fall. My friends are starting to get engaged. I have a full-time job that I may stay at for more than a year. I have my own apartment. I pay electric bills for god's sake! I feel so old in comparison to what I've been used to in the past. I realize that in the great grand scheme of things I'm young, but in my mind, "young" is high school. "Young" is my mother's second graders. "Young" is even undergrads now. "Young" is not me.
Isn't it funny how you can be old or young just by changing your surroundings and the people you're with? And I can literally change from young to old in a manner of minutes, after leaving the office and hopping the T with the school kids going home and while I walk home near Harvard with all of the college students. It's a little disorienting sometimes. There's a brief period in which I feel almost ageless...neither young nor old, neither experienced nor naive. Just me. It's kind of an interesting part of my day actually...but that's a topic for another post...
Saturday, September 10, 2005
I used to hate taking naps. It meant that I would miss something happening during the day, and I HATED missing things. People were up and about doing stuff...I wanted to be a part of it! People were playing a game...I'd miss the fun! People were going out somewhere...I'd be left behind! Most of my life, actually, I've been like that. It's like I've been living life waiting for others to do things so I can join them, instead of living my own life that may or may not coincide with what others are doing. And it took me a long time to realize that I was doing it. Even now, it's still a hard habit to break (and I'm reminded of a Chicago song now...). I catch myself waiting for things to happen still, and it's frustrating...because those little moments that happen now remind me of myself a couple of years ago...and give me a view of how I used to be. Man, was I lame! (Hahaha...how often do you read a blog in which someone accuses themselves of being lame in a positive tone of voice?) And what's sad is that I didn't realize that I was missing out on so much more because I was waiting for what others were doing before I moved my life forward. All of my life I've felt just one step behind my peers...and no wonder! I was...always waiting for them to start something before I followed suit. What a way to live!
These days I make my own choices. I wake up and decide what my day will be like. I sometimes have to turn down invitations to do things because I'm busy with something that I planned for myself. And its so refreshing. I feel like I've grown to catch up with my peers, in a manner of speaking, because now I'm forging ahead into the great unknown of a 20-something's world with the rest of them. And I make tons of mistakes. And it's wonderful...because they're MINE, not always someone else's that I just learn from. I meet my own people, I do my own errands (not do them when someone else is going to do them), I buy stuff because I want to (not because someone else is buying something and I want to be like them). Like waking of from this nap just now...on a metaphoric level I'm waking up from a 23-year-long nap to rediscover the world around me the way I want to see it. And it is a beautiful world!
It's funny...as I read over what I've written so far, I realize how completely childish this all seems. It seems like something that a person much younger than I should have figured out and moved away from. But, ya know, who cares when others figured it out? What's important is that I've figured it out now, and I have a whole life waiting for me to live the way I see fit to live it. The 'old me' would have gone on to worry over how long it took me to figure this all out. But what's the sense in that? Silly, silly, silly. We move on...
And so I leave you with a song lyric that I like to put up as an away message on IM when I'm in a certain kind of mood...this mood works well for it:
Time is a valuable thing--
watch it fly by as the pendulum swings,
watch it count down to the end of the day,
the clock ticks life away.
This can mean different things in different situations, obviously, but now? It's a warning. Don't let life pass you by. The clock is always ticking. Pick up and forge your own path, don't take the one already laid out for you. Robert Frost took the road less traveled, and it made all the difference. I take that to heart...I do my own thing...I go my own way.
And I take naps!
Thursday, September 08, 2005
That mysterious Gap CD...
I love those kinds of CDs. The ones you can put on Shuffle/Repeat and listen to over and over again for hours on end. It reminds me of high school...before iPods...before Napster...before mp3s... when you had to buy the album if you wanted the song (because it wasn't always out on a single). And you had to be really smart about what you bought...if the album sucked, then you just wasted $10-12 (oh man, they used to be so cheap!) on a CD that really only got you one song. And we all have those CDs in our collection still. Granted, most of them have been converted into mp3s on our computers and the good songs put into our favorite playlists and on our iPods, but we still keep those CDs for some reason. (Girls, you know we all have that CD with the one song that we danced to with our huge high school crush at the Semi-Formal!) But, back to what I was saying: I love the CDs I can play over and over again. There's nothing quite like a good song, and when you get a whole CD full of them, it's like a little slice of heaven. A song can set the whole tone of a situation (movies know this, and bank on it like nothing else!). A song can make you happy when you're sad, or sad when you're relatively happy. A song can make you remember old times, and look forward to new times. It can inspire you, or set you into a deep sense of apathy. It amazes me what music does to our lives.
So, to conclude this rather rambling post: Go to the Gap. Buy a bunch of stuff, and make sure it's at least $60 worth. Get the mysterious CD before they run out of them. Pop it in your stereo. And be prepared to fall in love with the album...just like you did when you were younger! (Okay, if you're "younger" right now, as in you have no idea what I'm talking about when I say we used to not have mp3s...what a poor deprived child you are.) And enjoy the good music to be had from this CD.
That's my rare plug for retail gimmicks. Bookmark so you can remember and remind me one day that I once supported things of this nature. Ha!
Wednesday, September 07, 2005
A point of interest concerning Katrina
Tuesday, September 06, 2005
Thought to vent...about a subject we know all too well (girls)
How is it that girls talk about wanting to be called over and over again and the male species hasn't picked up on this yet? It amazes me...and intrigues me... I know they must not go through the amount of self-torture over a phone call...but us girls? Hell yes we do! "He gave me his number, how long should I wait to call so I don't seem too eager but soon enough so I don't seem too nonchalant?" "What if his voicemail picks up? I always sound stupid on voicemail. And do I ask him then, or hint at what I want, or just say 'hi'?" "Why isn't he calling me back? Does he really just not like me? Did his phone die? Is he just really shy? Did he forget? (How could he forget?!?) Is he actually dating someone else, but just flirting at clubs on the weekends (in which case: scumbag)? What could make him not call?"
It goes on and on. And, girls, we try not to wait by the phone. It's considered desperate. So fine, we busy ourselves with other things, but you know you look at the phone every time you pass it. It's even worse when you have a cell because it can go anywhere with you.
And after all of this agonizing over tiny little details that could mean absolutely nothing, you suddenly realize you've spent way too long thinking about the whole thing and want to kick yourself even harder. It's just that silence always seems to be a bigger rejection than anything he could say to you, right?
In the end, life goes on, we move on, and say another general curse to the male species (and sound hopelessly jaded). Until the next guy crosses our path... What is it with guys? I use another age-old cliche: you can't live with them, you can't live without them. I just wish I knew the answer to my question. Why don't they ever call?!?!
Sunday, September 04, 2005
Do you ever wonder...
There are endless possibilities for interesting experiences as a fly on the wall. Think of the things you would see...all of the happenings in that room (make sure you pick a room with a good amount of traffic!)...all of the conversations you'd hear...all of the embarassing moments you might witness... You'd have the experience of what the walls would tell you could they talk (which is also an interesting thing to think about, but a topic for a different blog entry). I guess you get a similar effect if you take up a spot on a park bench for an afternoon and watch the people around you. You witness the most interesting things when you slow down your own life and begin observing other lives that are existing all around you. But part of the fun for me was (and still is!) the challenge of imagining the physical space from a vantage point that it was nearly impossible to actually view. How do the sight lines change? How do the perspective lines of the room change? What seems to become bigger or smaller? Would the shape of the room seem different?
I guess it's always been an interest of mine...to see things *physically* from a different perspective. It's kind of like the physical manifestation of the idea behind the Atticus Finch quote from To Kill A Mockingbird: "You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view-until you climb into his skin and walk around in it." What does it feel like to climb into the skin of a room and see things from its perspective?
The philosophical spin-off conversations that could come out of this question suddenly have sent my mind into a whirl...and I can no longer talk about this. Time to post and leave it to you to ponder. :)
While I'm at it...
Refreshing stories in a sea of endless political coverage
I opened the online version of the Boston Globe this morning to read up on some national news, and happened upon this fun little article:
Straddling a line in Oregon (or is it California?)