My Record’s Scratched

The curse of being an avid reader is that the more you read, the less there is to read. Now, in the grand scheme of things, there are more books that you could even read the titles of, but still. I got a book on Tuesday afternoon and finished it Wednesday morning. It was such a good book, but now it’s over and I’m sad. And, worst of all, it was the first book in a new series and the second book comes out in August. Ugh. I know not everybody reads like I do and, to be sure, that’s not a bad thing. But I get so wrapped up in stories (books even more so than TV or movies) that sometimes I’m actually trembling and giddy just reading words on a page. I think I’ve said before that I’ve never cried during a movie but I cry all the time reading books (this was not such an occasion). There’s something about books that moves me deeply and provokes an actual physiological response. Trembling, little yips of surprise or excitement, head flailing, loud, frequent, strained whispers of, “Golly!” Ahh, stories. Stories. Stories. Books are so much more than their pages.

Also, went and saw the new X-Men movie with my movie-going mate, thoroughly enjoyed it. X-Men is another story that I love. My favorite bit, not a spoiler, was the part where Charles said, “Goodbye, old friend” to Magneto. At the very beginning of the first X-Men movie, you become acquainted with the tragical history of Erik Lensherr and he calls Professor X old friend. Except you don’t know anything about that friendship (as a non-comic book reader). So I just think it’s amazing to see the tumultuous, trying, tremendous evolution of a relationship that, even with the Magneto of the first movie showing no sympathetic traits, at the end of the movie, the good guys’ wise sage character can call him friend. The scene in the new movie mirrors almost verbatim an exchange at the end of the first. It’s just a great moment. A full circle of sorts. Friendship is so mysterious.

On that note, I’ll continue with things that I’m comfortable making a top list about: X-Men! 1) Iceman 2) Storm 3) Nightcrawler. This movie definitely cemented the place of the second and third. As far as Bobby goes, he’s my favorite less because he’s a super awesome X-Man (his portrayal in the original trilogy was good not great) but because ice has topped my superpower list for as long as I can remember. I’ve often had to make do with another option, since it’s rarely offered, so I have respect for more traditional choices like invisibility, mind-reading, and telekinesis. But, I don’t know, there’s something about ice.

And now for something completely different. Around this time, one year ago, I entered Croatia for the first time. It was kind of a big deal for me, as someone who had spent the better part of the previous several years wanting to move there. And it didn’t disappoint. This was part of a larger tour of the Balkans with the AU Chamber Singers that, while not totally comprehensive, was absolutely amazing. We traveled through Macedonia, Kosovo, Albania, Montenegro, Croatia, and Bosnia & Herzegovina. One of my most unexpected highlights was the cheap restaurant scene in Prishtina–in particular, a fabulous establishment known as Fast Food 5 Plus. I don’t know what it was, it just served traditional Albanian food (burek–technically of Ottoman origin) which happened to be quickly prepared but it was outstanding. And I love it. This in addition to the phenomenon we encountered in Macedonia called тост (that’s tost =/= toast) which was a crazy combination–sort of–of hamburger + pita pit + french fries + panini + pizza. The place we got them in Skopje was called Magic Burger.

DSCN2930

Burektore means place that sells burek

Also, I know at the beginning of this blog I said I would probably talk a lot about the Russian language and I haven’t really. Most of you (probs all, honestly) are likely relieved. But I’m going to include this little note on Albanian because I can. FYI, Albanian is a really hard language. It uses the Latin alphabet, but very deceptively. For instance, tea is pronounced chai–not uncommon in other languages. But it’s spelled qaj. Which I love. But Albania, in Albanian, is Shqipëri (I think pronounced something like Sh-ch-EE-puh-ree). And thank you is faleminderit (fal-eh-meen-DER-eet). And xh, like in the Albanian last name Hoxha, is pronounced dg like edge. So there you go, didn’t think you’d be learning some Albanian today, did you? Surprise. Also, I didn’t include any of his songs this week, but if you’re interested in listening to some Albanian music, I might recommend Butrint Imeri.

Anyway, here’s the music list for this week. A few people have commented to me that these lists have been a trifle emo-lite, if you will, and I want to just put a little disclaimer–two, actually. First, I’m not feeling low or anything like that. I’m just into calm music, sort of like smooth jazz but not. It appeals to me regardless of mood and, while lyrics are important to me, I don’t necessarily identify with all of these. I’ve never been in love, I’ve never been heartbroken, it’s all good, I promise. But I want to say that this is my platform which, while I write with an audience in mind, I really am writing for myself and I want this blog to be honest and genuine, whatever mood I’m in. But anyway. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this month’s playlists and I hope you have too. This is the final installment for May, but it will be back–perhaps sooner rather than later. We’ll see. For now, enjoy.

  1. Do What You Love – Lily Frost
  2. Landslide – Oh Wonder
  3. Not Your Lover – Hermitage Green
  4. One Step at a Time – Jordin Sparks
  5. Over You – Ingrid Michaelson ft. A Great Big World
  6. I Found – Amber Run
  7. No Me Mirès Màs – Kendji Girac & Soprano
  8. Blue Neighbourhood Trilogy – Troye Sivan
  9. Somebody – Rhodes
  10. What Kind of Love is That? – Donovan Woods

Immovable Mountains

First off, an important PSA. This week is Washington State Volcano Awareness week, part of Volcano Preparedness Month. I hope you are all prepared. I meant this to be silly and sarcastic, but that’s a real thing, like. The danger posed by volcanoes in Washington is fairly low in probability but high in cost. Mt St Helens was kind of a big deal. And there are just a lot of volcanoes in Washington. So I sincerely hope you’re prepared, even if you’re unlikely to need such preparedness. When it comes to pyroclastic flows and unstoppable lahars, better safe than sorry is an understatement. So make like a Boyscout and be prepared.

Also, to take advantage of the lovely weather we’ve been having, I went with some church friends to walk the beach between Malahide and Portmarnock (a couple towns just outside Dublin on the DART) on Sunday. It was an enjoyable afternoon, and the beach really is pleasant. But I’ve got to tell you, I think wind is the great ruiner of all Irish nice days. If it hadn’t been windy, I might have actually been too hot (probably not too, but definitely hot). Instead, I was chilly and just sort of unreasoningly discontent. But it was a nice trip nonetheless.

Not sure if I’ve said this already or not, but here’s your little Ireland tidbit for the day. Trinity, as you know, is a very self-important institution. I’m not sure if other universities in Ireland do this too, but I find it most humorous at Trinity. In this case, it’s not anything actually pretentious, I just find it so because I’m an American. Anyway. The four years at Trinity are named as follows: junior freshman, senior freshman, junior sophister, senior sophister. I don’t know about you, but I just find those names really silly. It’s bad enough to spend a year as a sophomore, but two years as a sophister? I can only imagine the sophistry they get up to.

Camaro2016-5-14

Here’s the pretty princess. She was put out at not being included last week.

Kirk2016-5-12

Reprise of the lovely–er, handsome Cpt. Kirk

So mountains. In this season of college graduations and the like, the long-treasured Oh, the Places You’ll Go by the immortal Dr. Seuss has been on my mind. It’s a great book, I give it my utmost, highest recommendation. But there’s one line that, in conjunction with other things in my life and mind, I’ve come to have a different understanding of recently. Right near the end, the speaker addresses us by saying, “And will you succeed? Yes! You will, indeed! (98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed.) KID, YOU’LL MOVE MOUNTAINS!” While the book in general offers a pretty comprehensive picture of the ups and downs of life, I’ve just been struck. Ninety-eight and three-quarters percent. It feels a little bit like I’m living in the 1.25%. It feels a little bit like these mountains aren’t going anywhere.

That’s the thing, though. It’s such a tremendous metaphor. Sometimes, we’re on top of the world. Just like the picture on that page, we stick mountains on a wacky, wheeled contraption and haul them away. And when they’re gone, we walk gladly into a lush, green valley brimming with all manner of good things. Other times, perhaps we can dig a tunnel and bore straight through. Or perhaps we simply walk around them. And, of course, viewing mountains from a distance (especially after you’ve passed them, one way or another–or they’re someone else’s mountains) offers a very different perspective than when all you see is  cold stone inches from your face. Sometimes, the only way forward is up. Up sheer cliffs of unfeeling rock, whose summit greets you with howling wind and boundless, blinding-white icefields. And sometimes a peak doesn’t gift you with a view of how far you’ve come but instead confronts you with a higher, fiercer range that you couldn’t even see before. Sometimes, when you’ve reached that point, you don’t have to make mountains out of molehills because, for all the strength you’ve left, they may as well be.

In those moments, I don’t feel very brainy or footsy. As the good doctor points out, “Unslumping yourself is not easily done.” And it’s in those times, I guess, when we’re most in need of things outside ourselves. Friends and family, to be sure, but also the One in whom no trust is ever misplaced. And when I’m confronted with stationary mountains, icy and isolating, trusting is about all I can do. I’m pretty lousy at it, but I’m learning. And trying. And offering as much of myself as I can.

  1. Vivir Mi Vida – Marc Anthony
  2. Can’t Fight This Feeling – REO Speedwagon
  3. Oh My Stars – Andrew Belle
  4. Bleeding Love – Leona Lewis
  5. I’m Alright – Madeleine Peyroux
  6. Starfish and Coffee – Prince
  7. Everybody Here is a Cloud – Cloud Cult
  8. Ocean Drive – Duke Dumont
  9. Say Something – A Great Big World & Christina Aguilera
  10. Trust in You – Lauren Daigle

No News is Good News

This week has been pretty mundane. I have loads more reading to do for my dissertation, surprise, and other than that not much has happened. I did finally watch Django Unchained on Netflix, would recommend. There are lots of other movies, both recent and classic, that I’ve been meaning to watch but haven’t. I’m generally more into shows than movies because there’s just more to them, you know? Not that I don’t like movies. Anyway.

The great Irish heatwave of 2016 was, in the event, two days of gorgeous weather followed by several days which were, while still warm, overcast and rainy and just generally sort of gloomy. Now the forecast calls for more sun and pleasant temperatures this weekend, so here’s hoping. Dublin, much like Gig Harbor, doesn’t have loads and loads of nice days, but I’ll take a nice day here (or there) over one in D.C. no question. There’s something about it. And, of course, they’re all the more precious for being irregular. The sun shines somehow clearer after it’s been long hidden. The air feels warmer after the true, damp chill of a Dublin winter.

Bubba2016-5-11

Bubba wants to come visit. For the sun, I’m sure.

Congratulations are in order for all my friends who have been graduating recently. You’re so cool, yay for you!! I have some pretty cool friends and I know that they’re going to be doing some pretty incredible things in the coming years (I know since they’ve been doing incredible things already). Anyway, have fun with that adult thing, I think I’m going to give it a miss.

Some of you may be aware of the significance (or, rather, insignificance) of  18 April, 1930. On that day, the BBC’s evening news report was as follows: “There is no news.” The rest of the broadcast was simply piano music. I read a little article this week that highlighted the importance of sometimes just listening to that piano music. The world is covered in news, now perhaps even more so than in 1930–or at least, we have better access to it. But at some point, we have to admit that a great deal of the news we consume doesn’t matter much. And, even when it does matter, a constant stream of endlessly depressing stories about the depravity of human nature is trying to the soul. Sometimes, we just need to play out the evening with something other than earthshattering events.

This week, I don’t have much news for you. And perhaps that’s for the best. Of course, it’s no good to totally tune out the news. As much as the ostrich might see with its head in the sand, it’s probably better to be up and looking around. But by the same token, we need to allow ourselves a little break in keeping up with things in order to keep up with ourselves. So I hope you give yourself a break, a few moments of peace, some time to pause thoughtfully. Sometimes, I’ve found, taking a step back is the best way to move forward.

I didn’t get loads of feedback on my playlist last week (I didn’t mean that to sound so passive aggressive but…), but I’m really enjoying coming up with these. And I’m listening to loads of new music. So I’m going to keep doing them. Also, I do try to put them in order, one way or another, so you could listen to it like an on-purpose playlist. Maybe this week, I can provide a little piano music for your evening news (though perhaps not to the taste of the 1930 BBC). Anyway. Here’s the second installment.

  1. Never Be Alone – Shawn Mendes
  2. My Gospel – Charlie Puth
  3. Man in the Mirror – Michael Jackson
  4. This is Your Life – Switchfoot
  5. Midnight Train to Georgia – Gladys Knight and the Pips
  6. Dark Blue – Jack’s Mannequin
  7. Sevgilim – Kıraç
  8. Us – Regina Spektor
  9. ILYSB – LANY
  10. Without You – Oh Wonder

Alakazam, Gengar, Vaporeon

Guys, this is my fortieth blog post. Like, we’re coming up on a year. Can’t handle it. Anyway, first things first. My sister left on Monday, so I’ll give you a brief review of the last few days she was here and such like.

On Friday, we spent a lovely day in Dún Laoghaire, a seaside town that I’ve written about before. It was supposed to rain, but didn’t and was actually pretty sunny most of the day. The wind was kind of killer, but. We just sort of walked around, obviously got some ice cream at Scrum Tiddley’s. Went to the National Maritime Museum which was cute in a childish, sad sort of way. On Saturday, we walked through Phoenix Park and toured Áras an Uachtaráin (ARE-us ahn ookh-tah-RAHN) which is to say, the house of the President of Ireland. Then we went to Glasnevin Cemetary and saw cool grave markers of some important people, but mostly unimportant ones–or, I should say, ones largely forgotten by history. Sunday, we didn’t do much really. We took a slow walk through the park memorializing World War I, a very peaceful conclusion to her visit, I think. Anyway, I saw her onto the bus to the airport on Monday afternoon and here we are.

Tuesday was my first exam invigilation day with a short, small set in Regent House, a lovely room over Front Gate. It met all my expectations of being exceedingly boring but nothing really to complain about. By far the highlight was the Environmental Science student with a little Gengar figurine on his desk, presumably for good luck. Since Gengar is my second favorite Pokémon, I hope he does really well. The other three exams were two law classes–one on the French constitution and the other on the French Civil Code– and econometrics. Yay for me not having exams.

Also, headline in the Irish Independent I saw yesterday: “Mini Heatwave to hit Ireland this weekend after the coldest April in decades.” Of course, an Irish heatwave means that temperatures will ‘soar’ up to 22 C (about 70° F) in some places–the average high in Dublin for July is 20.2. This after spending part of the afternoon reading (for pleasure) in the sun on campus. Pumped, but a bummer my sister missed out. Alas. For me, though, it’s going to be great. Reading in the sun is one of my all-time favorite pastimes. There’s something really special about it. And, as someone who grew up (and continues to live, apparently) in a place where reading in the sun is a very restricted activity (by weather not policy), I deeply appreciate it whenever I can partake. Also, I’d love to not hear about how the weather’s been in Gig Harbor. I know, guys. I get it. You’ve had some sun. Some rain too, but way more sun than we’ve had. I don’t want to hear about it.

And finally, on a totally unrelated note. As last week concluded the monthly poetry posts (for a while, at least), I thought I’d try something different for May. Each week, I’m going to list ten songs that I’ve listened to and enjoyed, without commentary, so that you can get to know my tastes a bit. I encourage you to give them a try. You’re most welcome to react to them (in any way you see fit) but I doubt that any raging diatribes against a particular choice (or choices) will forever alter my taste in music. Perhaps a better tack, should you disapprove of my choices, would be to simply suggest alternatives. Anyway. I have pretty wide-ranging tastes but in the past year or so have started to identify a sort of style that I particularly like. The only genres generally that I don’t like are rap and country, but even there some good songs are to be found. I’m also going to refrain from including choral/instrumental music and songs from musicals because most of you already know I’m real into that and I want you to know that there’s more to my musical inclinations than what my elementary school (and even middle and high school) friends almost unerringly referred to as “opera.”

This is just another way for me to share me with you, so whether or not you like these selections, you can know that I do, at least. One way or another, here’s the first installment.

  1. Barcelona – George Ezra
  2. Birds of a Feather – The Rosenbergs
  3. Имя 505 – Время и Стекло
  4. War of Hearts – Ruelle
  5. Style – Taylor Swift
  6. Classic – MKTO
  7. Electric Feel – MGMT
  8. Cosmic Love – Florence + the Machine
  9. Nothing – Ji Nilsson
  10. Losing My Mind – Charlie Puth