Sunday, August 21, 2016

Celebrity Fishbowls & Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift is all over the media all the time no matter what she's doing. Dating someone, not dating someone, walking around, hanging out with friends, dancing, anything TSwift is doing, people take pictures and report about it. 

Of course, many of the same people also complain about how overexposed she is, how she is in every tabloid, all over the news, and her picture is everywhere. 

Taylor Swift has been all over the tabloids lately, with everyone trying to take sides, explain, or discuss her "feud" with Kanye West, Kim Kardashian, and the ever-popular Katy Perry. First, let's wonder. Do we really care what Kanye is rapping about these days? Does anyone care whether or not Swift knew about the lyrics? Do people still care about KimK? If the answer is yes to all of these questions, then hey, good for you, but you might need a hobby or something. 

I like picking up a tabloid now and then and keeping up with who's popular these days, but I know to take anything reported there with a grain of salt. Who are all these "sources close to the family" that are telling secrets? Are they real secrets, or made up ones because they get paid either way, and hey, these celebrities are going to be in the news anyway?

The celebrity culture in the US is insane and out of hand. Movie and tv actors and sports figures are making millions upon millions of dollars, and we either worship or revile them. With A-Rod, with Mel Gibson, we have the villains. With Taylor Swift and Ellen DeGeneres, we have our heroes. 

They are only heroes and villains because we make them so. As fans, and superfans, and reporters, we build these people up to practically saint status, and we relish in their inevitable fall. 

Taylor Swift has given millions of dollars in relief aid and charity, she has broken records with her studio albums, she writes her own songs, and she has long been the country-pop sweetheart of our celebrity world. She is friends with a bunch of pretty people, and she seems to genuinely love her fans, responding to many on social media, sending people presents, visiting fans in hospitals. Is she perfect? I certainly hope not, I've always held out that no one is perfect. I wouldn't want that as my goal!

What she is, is human. A young twentysomething in the public eye 100% of the time. When she was single for a couple of years, people dwelled on her dating history. They wondered if she would ever find love. When she dated as a teenager, she was mocked by the media and by people all over the world for dating for a few months, breaking up, and dating someone else. Quick question: if we were to list every person you dated or even hung out with between 16-20, what would that look like? Include the thought that every single person had their picture with you plastered on national tabloids. Not a pretty thought!

I don't understand why we expect, and demand, perfection from some celebrities and then are outraged when it isn't accurate. Yet we only have those expectations for celebrities that already have a "good" image to begin with. No one is expecting Rihanna or Lady Gaga or Kesha to be perfect. They are exactly who they are and seem to be accepted by the world for it. 

I like Taylor Swift. I don't really care about her personal life, and I enjoy her music. I don't care how much money she has, who she's dating, or where she had dinner. I do like that she seems to love her fans, that she is really really tall, and that she dances in public. I like that she seems to make fun of herself and seems like a real person. Do I know how much of that is manufactured? Nope. But I don't really care. As long as she isn't a blatant jerk to people and I continue liking her music, then I will keep listening to it. 

I don't truly understand our obsession with knowing every detail and every secret of these people's lives. Living in that kind of fishbowl sounds like my own personal version of hell. I do NOT wake up looking like that, and I don't want to. I wanted to be a singer/songwriter when I was younger, but even then I knew I had no desire to be famous. 

It's a symbiotic relationship, though. In order to be successful, singers and actors need fans and people wiling to pay to see them. In order for the fans to want to pay to see them, they want to know their music and who the person is. 

When we idolize celebrities, we aren't doing anyone any favors. You're idolizing someone you don't and can't truly know as a person, and their inevitable failings will feel like personal attacks. They feel like they are trying to live up to an impossible standard, and they're right. We want them to be whatever we think they should be.

I would not want to be held up to imaginary standards and then punished for not meeting them. 

Monday, August 8, 2016

Marriage Is... (A Poem)

Your face lax, 
You snore quietly.
Your arm reaches out
To slightly whack me upside the head.

Warm and cozy
Wrapped up in the comforter
With a cat across your legs.
So handsome.

My alarm rings
And I roll over to
See if it woke you up.
It did not.

As I come out of the shower
And turn on my lamp
You make a disgruntled sound
Turning away from the light.

Your grunt is so cute
Your turn so sweet.
I could just hug you
But you'd be woken up and be morning-cranky.

I feed the cat
And brush my teeth.
I go to leave,
But kiss you first.

Good morning, sunshine!
I love you! Have a great day!
You mumble and kiss me back.
And then fart.

Marriage is...
Sometimes arguing
Being silly
Netflix and chill
Annoying each other on purpose

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Ahhh, Books.

I like to read. 
No, I love to read. 
Reading is both the problem and the solution to all things. Have a question? A book somewhere has the answer. Read a book and it only presents more questions? There might be a support group for that?

My mom was an English and Reading teacher. When my brother and I were kids, we didn't really have video games...we had 2 options: Read a book or play outside (you were allowed to read outside and play inside as well. Um, 4 options?). 

I love reading. I like seeing characters develop, getting their inner monologue. I do generally see movies made from books (after reading it first, so I can complain with good examples afterwards), and the biggest thing missing in the movie format is getting the main characters' narrative. How they felt, what they thought, the reasons why they do certain things. 

I like imagining a world that isn't the one I inhabit. I read scifi and imagine the universe, and spaceships, and battles and aliens and more. I read fantasy and imagine the world of the fey. I read thrillers and imagine being hunted or hunting the bad guys. I read biographies and imagine what that person was like growing up. 

I dream in vivid colors, and sometimes I dream about the book I'm reading. It's awesome! So, in honor of my favorite hobby, here are some random lines and book memes.

Me, preparing to travel in 2007: Packs 9 books. "I'm going to read so much! Wooo vacation!"
Coming back from vacation in 2007: "How did I come back with 14 books? Did I steal books from other vacationers? Oh well, happy time!"

Me, preparing for vacation now: "I have my Kindle, I am prepared for anything. What? Pants? What are these 'pants' of which you speak??"

My husband and I just moved. He suggested maybe I should give away my books, since I read on the kindle all the time. 
UM HOW BOUT NO? I told him that I literally refuse to live in a home without books. 
The worst insult I can possibly think of or have ever heard:
"I hope your favorite book gets turned into a movie and it doesn't translate well and the characters are nothing like you imagined!"
Oh, you think I have too many books? Hold on one moment while I use my books to build a fort and then go in it and then find an old magazine and cut out letters to form a 'No Idiots Allowed' sign to hang on the front. 

But not with tape, wouldn't want to mess up a book!
I literally get teased at work for walking around with my Kindle and reading, or reading while eating lunch. 

Sorry I like awesome stories, finding new authors, using my imagination, escaping life a little, and expanding my vocabulary! #sorrynotsorry
How old is too old to be excited about new Harry Potter? Never? Oh, good.

Literally my life.


Wednesday, July 27, 2016

You Can Be Anything - Even President! Finally true.

When we’re little, we are told that we can be anything we want to be. And I think most parents really mean that.

Up until today, that sentence really should have ended with “Unless you want to be President, little girl. Too bad for you, that job is for old men. Also Vice President. But you can do anything else. You could even MARRY a President!”

Women have had to fight, and are still fighting, to be equals. This is not about race, religion, or anything other than gender.

You think this is about race over gender? In 1869, Congress passed the 15th Amendment, giving African American men the right to vote.

The 19th Amendment, granting women the right to vote, wasn’t ratified until 1920, the victory followed “decades of agitation and protest.” Woman suffrage supporters were lobbying, marching and protesting in the mid-19th Century, and we were still made to wait 70 years.

Women still struggle for equality in many ways. There is a glass ceiling in many jobs. There are only 14.2% of the top five leadership positions at the companies in the S&P 500 are held by women, according to a CNNMoney analysis.

Women are often told that they can “have it all” as if there was a reason they couldn’t have both a family and a career. For highly ambitious men, having a family is seen as stability and a great thing. For women, people wonder if their family is a distraction or if they will need more time off than other employees because of sick kids and family stuff.

Men are often considered to be “babysitting” when they are alone with their own kids, as if it is some amazing feat that they keep the kids alive for a couple hours. It’s not babysitting when it’s your child, it’s just parenting. Why are women still always considered the primary caregiver and the likely stay at home parent? Why aren’t more men staying at home while the woman brings home the money? Why do we consider it weird when that is the situation?

Men claim that everything is fine, we’re all equal, we should all get over it. Men have NEVER had to worry that their government will continue to make regulations regarding their reproductive organs or their choices regarding them. Men have never had to worry about what they are wearing, where they go, how people will perceive them at night, alone. Men are the skeptical ones when women are raped. "Well, did you see what she was wearing? And she was drunk!" You will never know the fear of walking in a dark parking garage alone, or walking home and hearing steps behind you, but you don't look because you don't want to draw attention to yourself.

Instead of teaching our daughters how NOT to be raped, how to be careful, never put down their drinks, always have a buddy, don't go off alone, don't wear too revealing clothing, perhaps we should be teaching our sons "DON'T RAPE."

This is perfect explanation of our society until now. We blame the victim, we teach the victims how not to be attacked instead of blaming the attacker.

Men get all up in arms. Some call themselves “Meninists,” mocking feminists. Which makes zero sense to me. The majority, the unencumbered, the white men in the US are angry that women want NOT to take what they have, but simply to be allowed to also have those things? Why in the world would people be upset about that?

This is a huge day in American history. It will absolutely be taught in our country’s schools and government classes. The day that a woman is an official Presidential candidate.

When I talk to my nieces, when I have children of my own, I can tell them “You can be anything you want, even President, if you work hard!” And for the first time in US history, it will be true.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

US Politics: The "Us vs. Them" Mentality

"A man with conviction is a hard man to change. Tell him you disagree and he turns away. Show him facts or figures and he questions your sources. Appeal to logic and he fails to see your point." - Stanford University social psychologist Leon Festinger (1919 - 1989), best known for cognitive dissonance and social comparison theory.

It's so easy to tell people what you believe in terms of your values, your political leanings, your morals. But it is much harder to describe WHY you believe the way you do.
Science tells us we are more likely to believe things from someone we perceive as trustworthy. We are also more likely to believe things from people who are like us, maybe in terms of career, ethnicity, or socioeconomic levels.

When people form and cling to false beliefs despite overwhelming evidence, the phenomenon is labeled "motivated reasoning." As explained in an excellent Newsweek article, in other words, "rather than search rationally for information that either confirms or dis-confirms a particular belief, people actually seek out information that confirms what they already believe."

This is why anti-vaxxers rely so much on one debunked study done long ago by a disgraced scientist who was paid off by pharmaceutical companies. Despite the overwhelming evidence that vaccines do not cause autism, they want so badly to believe that they do, to justify their actions and beliefs, that they will point to anything to continue to believe it. Literally, deluding oneself.

Motivated reasoning can also help explain why the people of the US (and the internet) have such difficulty reasonably and coherently arguing or debating politics. It is a topic that people invest in mentally, emotionally, and sometimes monetarily. And we want to continually reaffirm why we believe the way we do: that our candidate is the best, that we picked the right one.

It also make debating politics with friends, family, and colleagues difficult. We each feel passionately that we are right, that we support the right candidate. And the media certainly doesn't help. We are bombarded from every station by differing commentary and results on the same topics. Much like religious texts, every political sound byte and statement, every video and every vote, can be spun in a way to support your belief. And when people don't believe the same things we do, instead of trying to understand why and accept that they feel differently, we most often try to find a better way to explain what we think, to CONVINCE them to believe the way we do.

It is incredibly frustrating to live in a country with a two party system, that takes 18-20 months to elect a new President. The two party system has a way of easily splitting everyone into "us vs. them" and it is a horrible mentality to have when trying to decide our next leader. Instead of individual accomplishments or their ability to do the job, we end up saying things like, "Well of COURSE you think that, you're a REPUBLICAN." As if it's a dirty word. And you can just as easily see it replaced with "democrat" in your Facebook feed, and almost anywhere else.

Instead of Republican vs. Democrat, Red vs. Blue, Us vs. Them, I wish we had the knowledge and the wherewithal to be simply "people who don't agree, but can listen to facts and make a considered decision about who could best lead."

But no. Instead we have people in the Republican party who have openly decried Trump, claimed they would never support him, but now choose to support him publicly because they have no other real choice. It's the Republican party, that is the nominee, and they could not possibly support the "OTHER SIDE." Again, "us vs. them" does not allow you to cross sides.

The two party system divides the people of the "united" states, either intentionally or unintentionally making it's citizens choose a side, dig in their heels, and then continually justify their choice.
On top of a broken system, we have a ridiculously long period of time with campaigns, money spent, propaganda, and debates before the election.

According to the Chicago Tribune, "In the 2008 [US] presidential race, the candidates spent a total of $1.7 billion, double what was spent in the 2004 race. In the U.K. election, a spending cap of 20 million pounds, about $33 million, was imposed on each of the major parties. Of course, campaigns there are less expensive partly because of a ban on paid radio and TV advertising or any ads on matters of 'political or industrial controversy.'" And, of course, is also limited by their 4-6 week time limit for campaigns before the elections.

NPR reports that, "The U.S. doesn't have an official campaign season, but the first candidate to jump into the presidential race, Ted Cruz, announced his candidacy on March 23 — 596 days before Election Day. Meanwhile, Canada just wrapped up its latest campaign season. That one was longer than usual — about 11 weeks. To the south, Mexican general election campaigns start 90 days before election day (and have to stop three days prior to the election), with an additional 60-day "pre-campaign" season, in which candidates vie for the nomination."

The US has NO LAWS as to how long a campaign can last, though many other countries do have laws in place limiting campaign times and spending, and more. NPR continues, "In Mexico, a 2007 law limited the length of campaigns. In Argentina, advertisements can begin only 60 days before the election, and the official campaign itself can start only 25 days after that. In France, the presidential campaign is generally only two-weeks long."

It feels like by the time we even get to the election, Americans are so tired of arguing, debating, listening to candidates, listening to pundits yell at us through TV screens, and the endless bombardment of ads and propaganda, that we just don't care anymore. We just want it to be over. It's hard to stay excited for something for a year and a half.

How can we move into a better system? One that represents more of the people and less of the politics? And can we PLEASE have some sort of campaign time limit and spending limit? There is so much good we could be doing with our money, let's all agree to stop throwing it at people who barely even represent or understand the average American.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Lyrics: Bravery In The Face Of Fire

I like songs that tell a story. I like to write them, I like listening to them and singing them. But I LOVE writing them and seeing how the phrasing and the words fit together perfectly to make something more. When the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. I wrote this awhile ago, and it's one of my top favorite songs I've ever written. I feel that the words and the melody tell a haunting tale, and the melody is really nice!

Bravery in the Face of Fire

Sometimes it hurts
So much.
Sometimes it tears
Your heart.
Feels like it’s ripping away.

Sometimes it burns
So bright.
Sometimes it turns
Too hot,
Feels like it’s melting the pain.

Bandaids cover,
Never heal.
Stitches close but
They don’t deal
With the scars.


You gotta stand and fight
You have to win the night.
You can’t turn away
When it hurts.
Doing the right thing, and
Protecting it all,
Even when you’re too afraid.
You’re all that I admire,
Bravery in the face of fire.

Sometimes you win.
Sometimes you lose.
Sometimes the outcome's
Not clear.

Sometimes it works,
Sometimes you break
But you’ll never stay broken
For long.

Bruises show,
Though they fade.
Tears shine bright,
Before wiped away.
He’ll never change.

He’ll never change.
But you don’t have to
Stay the same.

You gotta stand and fight
You have to win the night.
You can’t turn away
When it hurts.
Doing the right thing, and
Protecting it all,
Even when you’re too afraid.
You’re all that I admire,
Bravery in the face of fire.
[CH x 2]

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Varying Levels of Facebook Friendships

Most of us have several hundred (or more) Facebook friends. In my case, I am only friends on Facebook with people I have met in real life. Now, I may have met them 10 years ago (Yes, I got a FB account when it was starting out and only for college students! Back in 2004...whoa.), but I did meet them!

I have various people from all levels of schooling, book clubs, family, random encounters at parties, work people, and more. I use FB mostly for staying in touch with my friends and family, especially over long distances. I don't generally post a lot of controversial or overly personal stuff, and a lot of it ends up being pictures of penguins, my cat, and random things I think about. Much like this blog!

I know there are some people who LIVE for the Facebook likes, and maybe they equate "likes" with attention, I don't know. I just enjoy seeing my friends and family and keeping up with their lives. And mostly, posting random thoughts. Today's random thought inspired this post!

But of course there are some people I barely remember from 10 years ago. And that has me thinking about the different levels of Facebook friends.

Levels of FB birthday Comments:
-Level 5 (HIghest): Personal comment with actual memories and well wishes, includes tagging and a picture. (Translation: we are actually friends in real life)
-Level 4: Happy birthday! Hope you have an awesome day! (I like you a lot, I genuinely hope you have a good day)
-Level 3: Happy birthday! (you are good enough for the shift key)
-Level 2: happy birthday! (not even capitalized! scandalous!)
-Level 1: hbd (I am about 50% sure we have met, and I am not willing to type out 13 letters and a special character)
-Level 0: I unfriend you on your birthday because I cannot remember who you are.

Levels of Baby Picture Reactions:
-Your parents: Like and comment on every single picture.
-Your best friend(s): Like every baby picture, occasional comment on especially cute or funny one. Usually a sarcastic comment likening your baby to an old man/woman, a weird animal, or a derpy animal. These are the best comments. 
-Friends: Likes most pictures.
-That one weird person you knew in high school: Posts overly personal comments on every picture.
-Mommyjackers: Comments on every post/picture of your kid with comments about their own kid. 
[Thank you for the terms "mommyjacking" and "documom"!!! Hilarious site, check it out.]

Level of Parents on FB:
-Documom: Posts multiple pictures and videos per day.
-Regular parent: Posts some pictures, usually with an entertaining caption, and generally always posts the important milestones.
-Parent-you-forgot-was-a-parent: Posted pictures after birth and has since posted no pictures of the baby. 
-Grandparents: Reposts memes and quotes. 

What else? Who do you notice on Facebook? The Product Pusher? The Mom Friend? That Girl Who Got Engaged? The Guy Who Goes To Crossfit? Car Guy?