Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Pending seismic shift?

("Crumbling Earth" image by Dooni Designs)

Running along a wavy sidewalk made of vertical cinder blocks of various widths. Thankfully, there was a black metal handrail on either side, albeit thin. As my sister and I continued running while gripping the rails, the earth shook violently, causing the blocks to give way under our feet. We persisted, however, following the precarious cinder block path along the side of a building and up to an elderly woman's home...

The lady was sitting on her front porch, smiling and seemingly unaware that the ground was crumbling to pieces beneath all of humanity. Strangely, my sister and I knew that if we could just make it into her house, we would be safe. And so, my sibling went first. However, just as I was climbing the last two steps to the entryway, the earth began to completely give way underneath me. I made one final leap and landed on my stomach on the threshold with half of my body dangling into the black abyss below. With my last bit of strength I clawed my way into the house and did not look back. I knew everything else was gone.

(Image by James Porto from Photographer's Choice Collection/Getty)

This is the dream I woke up from this morning. It's also the most vivid one I've had in a long time. The dream dictionary Curious Dreamer claims that earthquakes denote "a shake-up in your life, such as in your beliefs, finances, relationship, job, routine, etc." Dream Forth elaborates on this notion further by saying "If you dream that you find shelter from the earthquake, then you will succeed in rising above these difficulties."

Oddly, I was just thanking God last night because this chapter of my life (i.e., being in debt, living with my family, working at my current job, etc.) finally appears to be coming to a close and was rejoicing in what I anticipated to be wonderful changes ahead. Whether this dream was confirmation of my prayers or coincidence, it certainly made me think twice.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Two legends in five days

("The Ultimate Tony Bennett" and "The Very Best of Aretha Franklin: The 60's" CD covers copied from Amazon.com)

Yesterday, I came back from a weekend trip to Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Yes, Amish country was great, but I wasn't there to see the "Plain People"; I was there to see Tony Bennett. THE Tony Bennett. Without a doubt, the Italian crooner extraordinaire was in fine form as he performed at the American Music Theatre this past Sunday at the age of 84. He literally didn't miss a beat and his voice was as strong as ever. On my way to Lancaster, I played my double-CD recording of Tony's 1962 Carnegie Hall performance and, wouldn't you know, when I saw him on the 26th, the guy sounded almost EXACTLY as he did nearly 50 years ago! It was simply amazing! And he is simply the sexiest octogenarian I know.

What was totally unexpected was a performance by his youngest daughter Antonia who, in her own right, is a great singer. Her vocals have a distinctly sweet sound and a nostalgic flair that hint back to the crooning heyday of her father. After belting out a few numbers, she introduced her legendary dad and later performed a duet with him. It was indeed a magical evening.

My second encounter with a living legend came last week when I took my mother on her belated Mother's Day trip to Virginia's Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts to see Aretha Franklin. As was the case with the Tony Bennett concert, I was able to snag orchestra seating. What was the bonus? The orchestra seats at Wolf Trap's Filene Center are situated under the venue's pine ceiling, which means that my mother and I didn't get soaked like those on the lawn when rain started pouring down in sheets.
(Cue Nelson's laugh from "The Simpsons.")



On Tuesday the 21st, the Queen of Soul's powerhouse vocal skills did not disappoint. Neither did her piano-playing abilities, elaborate gowns or her occasional jokes. One thing that was a bit of a letdown, however, was the fact that she didn't sing any of her trademark tunes like "Respect," "Chain of Fools," "Natural Woman," and "Think." Even though she did perform "Freeway of Love," it was sung in a totally different key, so, again, I was a tad bummed. But still, the sheer fact that I got to see THE Aretha Franklin was enough to allow me to go home with a smug smile on my face.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Oh, it's a jolly holiday, all right

I'm not a morning person. My cubicle neighbor at work is... which is why he frequently comes into the office smiling, singing and dancing. Literally.

No joke.

In recent months, he has politely toned down his antics whenever he greets me because he knows that if he doesn't, I will strike him down with a near-fatal death stare. Consequently, instead of shouting "Good morning!!!" when he sees me, he simply turns around and gives me jazz hands.

No joke.

Dick Van Dyke and Julie Andrews, 1964
(Photograph © Sunset Boulevard/Corbis)


I honestly appreciate his efforts. Really. And greatly prefer this silent gesture over him singing "A Spoonful of Sugar" from "Mary Poppins" like he did one morning several months ago. (Oh, the horror.) Moments after his impromptu performance he confessed to me that "Mary Poppins" was the most influential film of his early childhood. As much as I had wanted to tease him about this, I couldn't because, secretly, the movie provided wonderful childhood memories for me as well.

In my opinion, Dick Van Dyke was the best part about the Disney flick. And, honestly, something about the guy has always attracted me. Perhaps it's his seemingly carefree attitude toward life and penchant for acting like an overgrown kid, two traits which were on full display in "Mary Poppins." While Julie Andrew's title character walked around all stiff and dour, Van Dyke's Bert was all about having a good time. If need be, he could be sensitive and compassionate. However, in the end, it was all about rooftop dancing, singing and smashing around in his rusty ol' one-man-band ensemble. Yes, it was definitely Bert, and not Mary Poppins, who brought the real magic to the movie.


"What did I tell ya? There's the whole world at your feet. And who gets to see it but the birds, the stars and the chimney sweeps."

Bert - "Mary Poppins" (1964)

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Bubba and the old maid = obscure June holidays

(Photography by Lew Robertson from the Botanica Collection/Getty)

After reviewing Hallmark's Ultimate Holiday Site, I realized that I missed some pretty important days this month...

... Like June 2nd, which was National Bubba Day. Apparently, some comedian by the name of T. Bubba Bechtol thought that it was pretty important to reserve a day to commemorate all of the Bubbas in this world. Since I never heard of the guy, I went to his web site and found The Bubba Code, a list of guidelines which help to preserve the Bubba lifestyle. Some of the precepts include "Two men should never share an umbrella" and "If a man’s zipper is down, that’s his problem, you ain’t seen nothing!"

June 4th was Old Maid Day. And, like the name suggests, it "celebrates" all of us chicas who have yet to put a ring on it. According to the sages of cyberspace (who obtain their information from God knows where), the holiday began around World War II after many soldiers failed to return home. In order to remedy this situation, which left countless women without spouses, dances and other social gatherings were arranged to help these unmarried gals find a man.

One thing that I found strangely, and perhaps scarily, intriguing after studying Hallmark's holiday calendar was the massive number of days set aside to celebrate food. Yes, food. Could this be another reason for the obesity epidemic in America? Who knows, but dedicating over half of June's 30 days to edibles like onions rings, vanilla milkshakes, apple strudel, peanut butter cookies, and strawberry rhubarb pie certainly can't help.

I smell a (scrumptious) conspiracy.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Singles and scrapbooking?

Are the two mutually exclusive?

Of course I know they're not, but when I was perusing the amazing digital scrapbooking site created by my crafty blogger buddy lil-LIZ-bits, I began pondering to myself: Why is that I've never encountered an unmarried female without children who scrapbooks?

(Photograph by Longview from The Image Bank Collection/Getty)

Honestly, every female that I've ever known who was into the intricate art form was...
  1. Engaged and chronicling special moments of her relationship with her fiancé
  2. Newly married and chronicling the details of her wedding and honeymoon
  3. A mother and chronicling the precious fleeting moments of parenthood/grandparenthood
 
Seriously, what's with the dearth of solo scrapbooking artists? Is it that we subconsciously feel that there is nothing in our single lives interesting or worthy enough to warrant such an investment of creative time? Since scrapbooking is essentially done to encapsulate moments in time so that we can hold onto them forever, am I to conclude that single people DON'T want to remember their solo years? Do we not want to permanently commemorate our milestones and thus celebrate the person who we've become after years of growth and achievements? Have we've actually begun to internalize the erroneous deafening message that surrounds people at every turn in our society:

Life doesn't truly begin, nor does it even truly matter, until "somebody loves you."


Then again, maybe a lot of single people don't scrapbook for the simple reason that they don't like it.

Monday, June 20, 2011

WANTED: War dogs

Last month, I watched a segment on ABC News which talked about veteran military dogs. According to the report and Military.com, the interest in adopting such canines has skyrocketed since the story of Cairo was publicized. Cairo was the German Shepherd that accompanied the Navy SEAL team that took out Osama bin Laden. The dog's responsibilities? "Tracking anyone who tried to escape from bin Laden's compound and alerting the special operations forces to anyone approaching." Definitely NOT a minor task.

 
If you're interested in adopting your own war canine, Military Working Dog Adoptions is a good place to start. However, according to the May 25th Military.com article referenced in the beginning of this post, there is a six-month waiting list for anyone wanting a dog. Also, prospective owners "often have to pay $1,000 to $2,000 to bring them back to the U.S. on commercial flights [since] putting a retired dog in a crate on a military cargo flight is against the rules."

I would say that this is a small price to pay for companionship and, most of all, bragging rights. I mean, imagine all the cool dog park conversations you could have:

Random dog owner: 
"Fido is so cute! Yesterday he sniffed out Timmy's stash of granola bars under his bed and ate them all!"
Military dog owner: 
"Really? Because last night MY dog sniffed out CRACK in a DRUGGIE'S  KNAPSACK outside the club!"


Yep. Sounds like good times to me.

Friday, June 17, 2011

The fake compliment

A couple of weeks ago, when I was on my way to volunteer at Food & Friends, the company's shuttle bus driver gave me the following fake compliment:

"You're pretty, so why aren't you married?"

AAAAAAAARRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHH!!!!

What makes this even MORE annoying is that a former college classmate, who I hadn't seen in over 10 years, said the EXACT same thing when we bumped into each other at a friend's baby shower last year!!!

AAAAAAAARRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHH!!!!

I imagine for men, the fake flattery would go something like, "You're handsome, so why aren't you married?" What?!! Why do some people act as if physical appearance is the only requirement for a trip down the aisle? If that were the case, then everyone who was deemed "attractive" by society's standards would be married, while those who didn't fit the world's physical ideal would be "doomed" to a lifelong solo existence.

After all, everyone knows
that only "pretty people" get hitched.
(Photograph by Dan Dalton from the Photodisc Collection/Getty)
 
Recently, a 40-something, never-married friend told me that she has come to the conclusion that men simply don't find her attractive. She then proceeded to point out various aspects of her physical appearance that she said might be a turn-off to the opposite sex. Later, I e-mailed her the following:

"The more I thought about what you said about not being attractive to men, the more I internally disagreed. After all, we both know of many women who the world would consider 'average' or 'below average' in appearance who have married. And we also both know of [many] 'attractive' women who can't seem to keep a man... 'Good looks' may initially get a man's attention, but it won't keep it. Just as being sexually aggressive might lure a man into a relationship, but it won't keep him there. In the long run, it's a woman's character, personality, confidence and (if the guy's a Christian) her genuine love for God that makes a woman attractive to a man. As Proverbs 31:30 says:

'
Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
   but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.'
"

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Frustrating fashion finds

I know you've seen them: Breathtaking items of clothing and/or accessories that have absolutely no place in your reality. In other words, in the real world, in your every day life, there'd be no appropriate scenario into which these fashion finds could fit. They are simply, for lack of a better word, "impractical." Like so many of the awe-inspiring creations of the late fashion virtuoso Alexander McQueen, they are best suited for a once-in-a-lifetime party, preferably one of the masquerade persuasion.

Below are just a few items of apparel that I've been drooling over for eons, but haven't purchased for lack of a suitable arena in which to wear them.

*le sigh*


Feather Shrug and Collar
by MetamorphDK
This avian accessory totally caters to my inner tribal princess. It goes for $85 (plus s+h) and is custom-made by the extremely talented Etsy artisans at MetamorphDK. Thanks to the shrug's leather strips, buckles and elastic cord, it is also incredibly versatile and can be worn several different ways.

Pleaser Men's Reaper-30 Buckle Boot
by Pleaser
I'm thinking that brass knuckles and a breastplate would be the perfect accompaniments to this multi-strap buckle boot by alternative shoe company Pleaser. If you want to awaken your robo-Goth alter ego, then be prepared to pay anywhere from $175 to $255 (plus s+h) because cool is costly.

Dragomir Dark Elf Armor
by Fantasy Armor
I confess: I'm a gladiator fetishist. And thanks to being born a mesomorph (i.e., someone with an athletic build), I can pull off the warrior look pretty darn well. Other than a Renaissance festival, however, I'm not sure where I'd wear this $520 (plus s+h) sexy leather number or its complimentary battle skirt.

Gula Asymmetrical Over Bust Leather Corset
by Antiseptic Fashion
If the truth be known, I want to buy every single item in Antiseptic Fashion's Etsy shop. Unfortunately, my bank account will not permit me to do so at this time. If it did, however, my first purchase would be this $700 (plus s+h) made-to-order masterpiece which can be dyed to any color of my choosing.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The new prey: country boys

Recently, on eHarmony, I got matched with a farmer. When describing some of the things which he was passionate about he stated "mostly cows and pigs" and offered the following words to any woman who was interested: "You must be adaptable in life." Now, I have nothing against farmers, but getting up at the butt crack of dawn to feed swine and milk cows is not how I intended to fill the rest of my days on this planet. No, I'm not a "city slicker." I actually can't stand cities. But I'm also not a "country girl"... or someone willing to take scheduled bus trips out to rural areas in search of a man which, apparently, is becoming big in Australia.

Sorry, but this isn't for me.
("American Gothic" by Grant Wood at The Art Institute of Chicago)

According to an article in The Telegraph, it has gotten so difficult for Aussie women in their twenties and thirties to meet bachelors in cities like Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney that entrepreneur Brie Peters created "Thank Goodness He's A Country Boy." The company organizes weekend tours which "involve eight hours of intensive speed dating at a country pub, where lonely farmers are introduced to single city girls." Peters's idea for the trips came when she was visiting friends in a rural town and was told by a pub owner that metropolitan women were sending him and the local post office letters in the hopes of getting set up with an eligible bachelor.

Australian author Bernard Salt sites the continent's geography as one of the main reasons for the gender imbalance in certain areas since it is large and sparsely populated. Also, the evolution of gender roles over the past 50 years has had a tremendous impact on the country's courtship practices. "While women in the 1960s would marry a local man after finishing school, they now head off to the city in search of work, leaving the men behind." The results is populations of single men clustered together in areas Salt calls "man dams." 

Farmers need love too.
(Photograph by Augustus Butera from Getty Images)

The notion of a lovelorn farmer in search of a spouse is so popular that it has become the topic of a television series called "Farmer Wants a Wife." Since its 2001 debut in the United Kingdom, it has been adopted by several nations worldwide including Greece, Romania, South Africa, Spain and Sweden. The countries where the show is thriving includes Australia, which has recently closed a casting call for its 7th season, the Netherlands, which concluded its 5th season in February of this year, and France, which is now accepting applications for its 7th season. Unfortunately, farmer lovin' wasn't very popular in United States where the program was cancelled in 2008 after only one go-around. Hmmm, I wonder why?

Monday, June 13, 2011

Becoming a silver vixen

A few weeks ago, when I was styling my hair, I saw what I thought was a piece of white lint around my temple and tried to brush it out. When it did not budge, I leaned toward the mirror for a closer inspection and discovered that *gasp* it was a gray hair! Dude, what the ---- !? Almost like a reflex I pulled out the sinister strand and discarded it . Unfortunately, to my chagrin, it returned less than a month later and has comfortably made itself at home along my hairline ever since.

My hairdresser has been trying to get me to dye my hair for years. Personally, I think that she has a thing against brunettes since she and her assistant dye their own dark tresses every shade of the rainbow. I've protested on several occasions that the only time that either of them will ever see a different color on my head is when my hair goes gray naturally. Of course I didn't think that it would happen so soon. Then again, perhaps I'm just overreacting. After all, it's only ONE strand of hair. If it were ten or twenty, that'd be different. Not a problem... just different.

Maybe a few facial piercings
will make my gray look cool. 
(Photograph by Tyler Stalman from the Vetta Collection/Getty)

How common is it for someone to start turning silver at 33? Apparently, very common. According to a Scienceline article, "The average male starts to gray around age 30, while women typically began to notice lighter strands around age 35." Going Gray Looking Great, which touts itself as the first and only online beauty bible for graying women of all ages, gives little additional consolation: "If you were shocked by a gray hair or two at thirty, you may have felt they were premature, but, technically, they were right on schedule."

Thanks a lot.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Self-diagnosis

Mushy-mind.

For the past couple of days that's what I've been suffering from. My brain has been like a bowl of mashed potatoes in regards to blogging. This I find extremely perplexing because, waiting in the wings, I have several unfinished articles and unexplored topics that I'm genuinely excited about sharing. For some odd reason, however, when I sit down to actually blog, my brain stops cold. Even now my fingers are struggling to type out these words because... because....

I don't know.


 The effect blogging has had on my brain lately:
(Image by Linda Braucht from Illustration Works Collection/Getty)

What makes this whole situation even weirder is that I have absolutely no problems with all of the other literary projects I'm working on. Earlier this week, I finished composing another song and in a couple of days I anticipate completing another chapter of a story I'm writing. When I sit down to work on anything other than blogging, I have no problems. Granted, sometimes the progress is slow, but it's a lot more enjoyable and gives me a greater sense of satisfaction.

Maybe it's a phase. Maybe it's just a first-week-of-June thing. Maybe it's just...

I'll see how I feel in a couple of days.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Screenplay feedback

(Photograph by Comstock Images from Getty Images)

I recently received notification from one of the screenwriting competitions that I entered that I didn't make it to the semi-final round. Bummer? Not really. Although it didn't score high enough to advance to the next level, the judges' feedback was still encouraging. Here's what they said:

Strengths:
Great premise, strong characters, good emotional underbelly to the story.

Needs Improvement:
Three clear acts to the story but the first act could be tighter. Consider looking for ways to jump start the story sooner. The second and third acts are so strong, the first should be even stronger since that is what will either hold the readers attention or turn them off. Remove anything that doesn't push the story forward. This will help focus the act even more. Overall, nice job. With a little tweaking it will be great.


Needless to say, I'll keep writing  :0) 

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Cranial cravings

Last Friday, on June 3rd, Skull-A-Day held its very first Skull Appreciation Day exhibit at Gallery 5 in Richmond, Virginia. Fortunately, for skull-lovers like myself who were unable to attend, the show remains open until July 8th. I've checked out photographs from the event and, I must say, those with an osteo fetish are bound to find something that they like among the 100+ artistic interpretations of the human cranium. Take a look-see for yourself at Skull-A-Day's blog or Flickr.

(Image by New Vision Technologies Inc from Getty Images)

If your craving for everything skully is insatiable, then be sure to drop by Skull-A-Day every day because each new morning brings with it a refreshingly unique rendition of the noggin made from things like clay, glass, fabric, paper and stone.


Simply boney beautiful.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Marriage vs. The Fairy Tale

Within the past month, both my pastor and one of my favorite radio pastors have been talking about marriage. Several points from their sermons have resonated with me and totally changed my perspective on matrimony. The following are just a few of the ideas which made an impact on me.

("Newlyweds Having Argument" © Ken Seet/Corbis)
 
Marriage doesn't fix anything.

That's not its purpose. If a person has low self-esteem before they get hitched, they'll have it afterwards. If they've got a serious problem with loneliness before walking down the aisle, they'll still be battling it after the honeymoon. If they harbor any number of countless addictions before saying "I do," then those same problems will fester into the newlywed years. It's best to face debilitating personal issues head-on (preferably before making a life-long commitment to someone) than drag them into a covenant relationship where they will be magnified and likely worsen or, worse still, blamed on the spouse.

We must not look to people, particularly a spouse, as a "savior" figure to liberate us from what we believe to be a life of irrelevancy and purposelessness. To put that kind of expectation on another human being is unrealistic and unfair because you would be asking them to do something that is impossible. No human (and no job or dream destination or material thing) can fill the void of longing in our souls. The only One capable of doing so is God Himself.

The fairy tale myth
(Photograph by Colin Anderson from Getty Images)

The idea of marriage has been romanticized by society and the skewed image of matrimony has tricked people into thinking that their life will finally take on meaning once they've walked down the aisle. The reality is that our life is already significant in the eyes of God and our feelings of insignificance come from our innate brokenness. A spouse is only supposed to be a help mate, not someone who validates our existence and assures us that we matter, have worth and are beautiful/handsome. All of that is God's job. And until we turn to Him to fulfill those things in us, our relationships with others will always suffer and leave us feeling empty.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Premeditation

Yes, I realize that I'm EXTREMELY blessed to be employed right now. However, I'm still very much looking forward to the day when I can do the following:

video

And on that note,
TGIF!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Dude, seriously? - Dog armor

(Hand-sculpted dog costume by Organic Armor)

Over the past 13 years, I've attended at least four Renaissance festivals because I thoroughly enjoy being transported back to the days of fairytale chivalry, complete with jousting knights in shining armor. Although I've never taken a pet to the events, if I did I would DEFINITELY make sure that he was pimped out in one of the organic masterpieces of Paul Hersey.

According to the artisan's web site, Organic Armor, his costumes are "hand made, primarily of natural latex," which means that you don't have to worry about Fido being weighed down with a cumbersome metal contraption. The accessories are flexible, lightweight and, most of all, fun to wear. And, before you get jealous of your dog's medieval duds, Hersey also sculpts items for humans, including hats, belts, bras and custom pieces. Now you can finally rest assured that when you and your pooch attend that next fantasy event, you'll  both be dressed to the enviable nines.

For additional photographs of Hersey's exquisitely detailed wearable artwork for canines, go here and here.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Van Helsing way

(Van Helsing image from moviepostr.com)

 What is a "real man" made of? According to the 2004 film "Van Helsing," ideal masculinity is embodied in a 6'2" leather-clad frame which packs heat and sports one mean fedora. Yeah, that's what I'm talking about. Later for that name-dropping, designer-suit-wearing stiff. Give me the 19th century vampire hunter who handles crossbows, pistols and tojo blades. Tojo blades? As one CNN article explains, they are "handheld buzz saws that essentially butcher enemies daring [enough] to engage in 'hand-to-tojo' combat." Whoa! I feel safer already. And security is what the average gal wants when she's with her man. So, while Jane Doe is lunching with her buttoned-up boyfriend who can't even manage the moxie to fight off the local street kids, I'll be hangin' with Van Helsing as he shields me from the ravenous claws of werewolves and vampires, all while exuding rugged sophistication in his leather "Monster Hunter" fedora.


A girl can dream, can't she?