29 September 2011

Just a tidbit

If you are a fellow blogspot blogger, you have no doubt already discovered the wonders of Blogger Stats. For those of you not in the know, Stats provides a handy look at how many people arrive at my blog, what internet browsers they use, if it's a computer or a smart phone, what posts they look at, things like that.

Now, I was browsing through my Stats this morning, as I normally do after I post, and came to an interesting realization. But first, let me give you the facts.

In April, I had 777 views.
In May, there were 775.
June: 1,124 views.
July: 597
August: 419
September: 494 (and counting)

There was an upward trend through April, May, and June, even though I only made one new post in May. My conclusions? I haven't come to any yet. But I'll let you know if I do. ;)

28 September 2011

I write poetry. And I don't really like sharing it with people, mostly because I'm kind of afraid that they'll laugh at what goes through my head. But I decided that if I can face my fear of heights, I can face my fear of literary criticism. So I think that for today's post, you're getting a poem I wrote last night, after my friends Shorty and Calvin stopped by. So here you go.

I saw some old friends,
                last night.
They were kind enough to
                drop by.

And we stood
in my hall
                 and talked
like things hadn't changed.

But they had.

And as we laughed
                  too loudly
I happened to look
                   at the patio
Where I saw spectres,
Waiting their turn
                     for a chance at life.

We laughed and talked
not wanting to invite
into our midst.


                         "Lost puppies!"

We talked and laughed
                   and I was happy
beyond words.

The thrill of life
The joy of company
the hope of laughter

Yes, I was happy.
                       It was good to be alive
last night when my old friends
                       dropped by.
Some days, I'm a bard:
Wandering from town to town,
Telling my stories to peasants
gathered around red hearths,
Making friends and then
Leaving them behind.

Some days, I'm a princess:
Locked in a tower,
Gazing out on the land,
Filling my thoughts with
Mundane visions.

Some days, I dream dreams:
Of earth; and of heaven;
Of courage; of honor; of
Strength through it all.

Some days, I'm a queen:
Holding court in her palace,
Deigning to hear the
Pleas of her subjects.

Some days, I"m a selki:
Working obediently
For the one who
Denies me my skin.

Some days, I'm a spy
And a sneak and a cheat
And a thief, stealing away
With my hard-earned reward.

Some days, I'm a murderer,
slaying, brutally, my own
Hopes and dreams,
Aspirations and thoughts.

Some days, I'm all of these things.

But today, I am I.
I have no blood on my hands,
No stories to tell,
No dreams to dream.

Today, I exist.
And that is enough.

24 September 2011

College Life

It's interesting what an effect sleep can have on your day. For instance, yesterday I headed off to college with about 4 hours of sleep under my belt, and while my day became progressively better (for reasons I shall explain momentarily), it started out very bad indeed. Today, I slept for twelve hours and world looks so much more beautiful than it did yesterday.

So. I have just completed my first week of daily school in 7 years. Is it bad to say I'm already looking forward to Christmas break?  Well, maybe, if you didn't know my schedule. This is kind of what it looks like.

6:00 am: Wake up
7:00 am: Be at bus stop
8:00 am: Arrive at college
8:30 am: First class starts
9:30 am : Tuesdays and Thursdays, second class starts. MWF, start waiting
11:20 am: T/Thu class ends
1:30 pm: Precalculus (yay! ... not really.)
2:45 pm: Be at bus stop
4:00 pm: arrive at home
4:30 pm: music lesson
7:00 pm: Youth Symphony rehearsal on Mondays, or private practice rest of the week
11:00 pm: bed time, but not until I've packed a lunch, taken a shower, and finished all my homework

Now, my readers who have attended public school for a while may be scoffing at me. Because, really, seven hours of sleep isn't too bad. Just wait until Problematic has to pull an allnighter to study for an exam.

I see your point. Really, I do. I understand that homeschooling has accustomed me to a life of luxury. Waking up at 8:00am. Going to school only once or twice a week. I know I've had it good, and it's kind of pathetic to be complaining.

The problem is, the schedule I just gave you is the one that I held to this week, not the one that I actually need to be scheduling. Somewhere in that mess of events, I need to get to to the gym, apply for private college, write essays for scholarship competitions, finding a job,and dare I mention ... my social life? I have seriously only had "meaningful" interactions with one person I knew from before I started college. I've talked a lot with two other people, but I had never met them before college. Not only that, but I had only even heard of one of them.

Yay for making new friends? I don't know. I miss my friends from my former life. I've been tempted to get back on the old speech and debate forums just to see how my friends are doing. Rubbish recently emailed me about collaborating on some music together, which was pretty nice of her. But besides getting together for coffee and chocolate cigars with the Professor and Cassandra a couple weeks ago, the only interactions I've had with my peers are what I see on my Facebook feed.

College isn't too bad. My music theory teacher is has an awesome pedigree: he started out as a metal head, became a beatnik when he ran out of metal, and then got interested in classical music when he ran out of jazz. Oh, and did I mention he's  a Berklee grad with a primary instrument of bass? Yeah. He's a beast.

My political science teacher is, um, interesting. The jury is still out on that, so I'll get back to you. And Precalculus? My teacher is a knight, so ++ for that. He's one of those mathematicians who obviously love what they're doing but are completely incapable of passing that love onto others. The thing that makes that class a little more bearable is that I'm making friends with my neighbor.

Okay, seriously. What are the odds that the person I just randomly sat next to on the first day likes to spin vinyls for fun and a little profit? Seriously? It's interesting, but the whole format of "I see person X for one hour every week day" is kind of strange for making friends. I'll post more about the progress in upcoming weeks.

Really, the hardest part about college is the waiting. Who would think that waiting could be so tiring. I've got a limited number of options to fill the time. I can do homework, but that doesn't take four hours. I can practice piano and voice, but that still doesn't fill things. There's the computer lab, but it get boring staring at a computer screen in the middle of the day for hours. If I had my violin with me, I might have enough to do to fill four hours. However, there is no power on earth that could induce me to bring Ignatius to campus.

Why? Let's put it this way. Ignatius, himself, is now worth over $1,200. The case is worth about $500. My bow is worth another $500. My set of replacement strings is worth about $120, the shoulder pad, about $100, and the chin rest, $50.  The entire package, all 2.5 cubic feet, is well over $2,000. And let's not forget that I had to pay for that over the course of several years. I would not bring Iggy to campus, to haul around on public transit, to potentially forget on the bus or in class or wherever I may spend my time in between.

But if you hear of a beater violin in my area, I'm more than interested.

So there you have it. The week in review. I am so thankful it is the weekend.


21 September 2011

Grab Bag #4

School started on Monday. I don't mean homeschool coops, like I've been going to for the past six years. No, I mean school. Everyday. Up at 6:15 every morning.

You see, folks, I am officially a college student. It's true. I am writing this in the computer lab at a local college near my house.

That's not actually why I am writing. See, it recently came to my attention that I had not posted on this blog since the end of July, and we are rapidly approaching the end of September.

So it seems I must apologize, friends, for the long and unexplained absence. I will try to explain it, but as I sit, I can barely remember eveything I've done in the interval.

Here's a highlight reel:
1. I had a waterfight to celebrate my birthday, but did not tell anyone its purpose.
2. I went on a short-term mission trip with YWAM to Gleanings for the Hungry
3. I was kidnapped for my birthday by Gray, Ophelia, and two new brothers who shall shortly receive Blog names.
4. My mom invited pretty much all the influential women in my life over to pray for me and share 'words of wisdom'. The funny thing is, if all the people present in that room agreed on a course of action they all wanted me to take, I'd have a very hard time resisting them for any amount of time.
5. I visited Wheaton College as a prospective student
6. Oh, and I started taking piano and voice lessons again.

Overall, life has been a pretty interesting combonation of very busy but very laid back. I'm looking forward to college because while I will be taking a lot of classes over the course of this year (to the tune of three math classes, two science classes, three music classes, a political science class), I only have to take three of them at a time.

Oh, and by the way, I'm 18 now.

19 September 2011

Yes This Is A Cult

A couple days ago, I was watching music videos on youtube. You might say that was a singularly unproductive use of my time. I might agree. But I will say, that is entirely beside the point.

So anyways. Music videos. There I was, watching this music video by one of Virgin Record's biggest bands. The song was decent. Nothing brilliant, but a solid song. A nice hook in the chorus -- "No! No! No! No!", but it wasn't crunchy enough to be memorable. When I went to look up the song again, I couldn't even remember what the hook was.  But you get the picture. It was a typical rock song such as one might hear on the radio.

The video was what stood out to me. It starts with some of this band's fans talking about what music means to them, and then clips of the band's live performances around the world start to play. The cinematographer is very good. Whoever assembled the video included small captions on the clips, like you might see in scrapbook.

Little things like "This was an awesome day." But that wasn't what stood out to me. About halfway through the video is an image the main singer holding his hands out, silhouetted by bright stage lights. As the image fades, the words "Yes This is a Cult" appear, to be replaced the image of the singer.

That got me thinking. I've made the snarky comment about that being dangerous for me enough, so we'll skip directly to the thought.

Almost everywhere you look, major religions and civilizations use music as an offering of worship to their gods. It could be chanting; ringing of bells; beating of drums; modern evangelical Christian worship; rich harmonies -- what have you. Point is, music is almost universally acknowledged as one of the best ways to connect with the supernatural.

I would argue that it is one of the few natural realities that transcend mere physical reality. Music isn't merely noise: it's tonal patterns or rhythmic noises that somehow give humans pleasure.  It's one of those sublime things, that, when done correctly, has the ability to elevate us from mere existence to something more beautiful. A click point, if you permit a return to old terminology.

For some reason, we view it as a worthy offering to God, the gods, fate, or whatever we happen to be worshiping at the time. And it's not surprising. Music can be sublime.

But watching the 30 Seconds to Mars video, I noticed something very interesting. The concert-goers were acting in much the same way as my church does when we really get into worship. Their hands were held in the air; they sang the words along with the band; they swayed in time to the music; and they responded to instructions from the band.

Yes This is A Cult.

If you're a long time reader of this blog, you've probably come to the realization that I  am an artistic person. I don't say this to be self-satisfied or obnoxious. It's a reality of who God created me to be. I picked up an ocarina at the market a few weeks ago, and figured out how to play "My Heart Will Go On" by the end of the day. My parents gave me penny whistles for my birthday, and there's a similar story. But like I said, I'm not trying to say this to toot my own horn. Though I probably could after a couple tries. ;)

As a Christian, I know I have an artistic gifting to be used for God's glory. But it is a depressing realization to know that, were I not saved, I would still be very artistic. I am gifted, and so use that gifting in worship. But were I not a Christian, I would still be using the gift.

Yes This is a Cult

It all comes down to a question of motivations, really. Music is, by nature, very beautiful; very sublime. But music is NOT the end goal. And as a musician, I have to keep telling myself that. The people in the music video were not the concert as a way to glorify God; they were using it as a way to glorify Music.

"Some people believe in god: I believe in Music. You know, some people pray: I turn up the radio." 

"Music makes the world go 'round, you know. And if it weren't for Music, I wouldn't be around right now. Music is EV- ERY - THING  to me. That's all I can say."

Some fans said this in the end of the music video. I get where they are coming from. When I listen to good music, and I mean REALLY GOOD music, I tend to forget the mundane realities of every day life. I start to focus on the rhythms of the guitar, the nuances of the vocalist's inflections, the fills and frills of the drummer, the juggling of tracks in the mix. It calms and concentrates. Things, simple things like running on a treadmill, somehow seem more important if I've got some rock pounding in through my ear buds.

Motivation is what changes music from a sublime thing to the Ultimate thing. It's what changes it from a gift to a sin; from a pleasure to idolatry.

The musicians who go into the industry to "become famous" pretty obviously have their priorities messed up. But what about a little, simple enjoyment? Is it really so bad for us to just enjoy the momentum, to be caught up in three-minutes of pure bliss?

Maybe. I went to EMP (Experience Music Project) in Seattle for my birthday last week. I saw an exhibit filled with Jimi Hendrix collectibles - old guitars he'd smashed, stage outfits, the whole nine yards. One of the exhibit panels made the comment that the guitars Hendrix burned were often written with mantra-esque phrases, as a kind of spiritual offering to Music.

Yes This is a Cult

Well, obviously Hendrix was a little out there. But the musicians who just want to make Music, they're not so bad, right? The musicians who are in it because they just love to make Music... They're not treating it the wrong way, are they?

Obviously, you have to take this on an individual basis, but we have to realise that there is a very, very fine line between treating music as sublime and treating it as Ultimate.

Well, that may be well and good for all those silly people who listen to pop music. I mean, classical music was written Sola Deo Gloria, so we don't have to worry about idolatry.

WRONG. I fall into this assumption more often than I'd care to admit, but let's face it: the 1812 Overture can be just as inspiring as any rock standard. The musicians who devote their lives to rigorous training just to play classical music are in just as much danger of idolizing their music as the rock musicians who burn their guitars for Music.

Yes This is a Cult.