Friday, December 31, 2010

Rows of Ducks

On this, an eve prior to a New Year, I have stopped to ponder my resolution-making capabilities. And I have reached a conclusion: like many members of the worldwide populace, I've quite the gift for knowing exactly what resolutions to make--and an equal or greater gift for breaking those resolutions. In short, I'm abominable at sticking to my goals. (Did I have some at this time last year? Most likely. Do I remember them. Erm, well, uh.... in a manner of speaking?)


With each passing year, I find myself marveling at one particular quality I have--my utter inability to get all of my ducks lined up in a row. Not actual ducks, mind you, as many of them are mean little biters (not, ahem, that I'd know or anything)... Let's just say that if my metaphorical ducks were forced to form a chorus line, they would just kick each other in the heads with their little flippers and knock each other out.

I fully recognize that there needs to be a duckherd--duckherderess?--at work here (i.e. me), who leads and channels and helps to organize the ducks. I'm ridiculously hopeful and optimistic that 2011 just may be the year where my ducks line up neatly and learn a perfectly synchronized can-can.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Sharing, Etc: Some Thoughts about Books and/or Reading

In the room I shared with my sisters, a little framed cross-stitch project hung on our wall. It depicted two girls standing under an umbrella and said something like "Caring and sharing is what sisters are for." And that, people, is what I am--the sharing sister. Not that I resent it. I'm coming to realize that I quite enjoying sharing (provided that, at some point, what I share gets returned.)

When we all drift toward my parents' house for holidays or for family gatherings, I find myself hauling books and sometimes movies right along with me. And this is why: I believe in trying my darnedest to give people an opportunity to love the same things I love. To laugh at the same things I've laughed at. To cry when I have cried. And to enjoy an experience I've enjoyed.

While I grant that no two people ever have exactly the same experience with any book, I think two people can come to better understand each other by delving into each other's reading. Forget the whole you-are-what-you-eat idea, because I've always been far more convinced of the you-are-what-you-read idea.

Further, I like to share a variety of genres and styles and emotions of books, because I like to have various reading experiences. (Although I can definitively say that I really just don't enjoy reading things that gross me out. I mean, sometimes it's good for books to cause a visceral reactions, but I tend to stray away from anything that creates a reaction that visceral, you know?)

And herein, I would also like to posit something: a person who reads cannot be boring. At least, not totally. Everyone has their moments, after all. Not everyone can be a tap dancing monkey all the time. (Doesn't stop some people from trying, though.)

But here's something that I've realized recently: almost every genre has something to offer. And it's not always nice--or right--to snub a genre just because it has what I once considered an iffy past and it doesn't as directly trace its literary heritage to what have been dubbed "classics." (Side note: the whole idea of a "modern classic" cracks me up, as "classics" are supposedly time-proven works that still appeal to a mass audience after years and years and years...I think labeling a book a "modern classic" right when it comes out has to be one of the most simultaneously nervy and dumb things that marketers do.)

Comic books have quite a lot to offer, and so do graphic novels. And yes, I've grown nerdy enough that I'd sometimes--not always, but sometimes--draw a distinction between the two. Not all mass market fiction is utter drivel. (Jim Butcher, I'll admit that you and Harry Dresden drew me right in.) Memoirs are not all cheap tell-alls or embarrassing amounts of over-revelation scribbled out to manipulate a reader's heartstrings. Not all economics books are filled with unsubstantiated B.S. You catch my drift.

The older I get, I find myself accepting more types of books than I used to. Someone once told me that tastes narrow with age, but I find I'm experiencing the decided opposite... but that can't possibly be a bad thing, can it?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Oh, the Fickleness of Memories

My grandpa's eightieth birthday is nearly here, and as part of a big celebration, my aunt requested that we write a memory of him. Only I've run across a problem: most of my memories of him are sketchy, at best. Prior to my grandma's death, most of my memories are of the pair of them--and to be quite frank, more of her than of him. Her player piano. Her: teaching me how to play Scrabble while my parents were insisting I was still too young. (The closest to a jolly, happy, little memory I get is thinking of the many times I played Scrabble with him, while insisting I wanted to play with Grandma. Grandpa, you see, has always had a tendency to add -er to any verb and insist that it's a word--the person, you see, who performs the verb. Frowners are people who frown, likewise smilers are people who smile. You get the idea.) Both of them taking us out to lunch on our birthdays, but Grandma insisting we eat everything, including the lackluster tomatoes on our burgers... "Katie, some child in Bosnia would love to eat that tomato." "Can't we just ship it off to Bosnia, then?" (I just dated myself, didn't I?)

Herein lies my problem: I have one absolutely concrete memory of him, but I feel less than comfortable writing it down and including it in his birthday book. Not too long after Grandma died, little teenage me strongly felt that Grandpa needed some company. He seemed so lonely and lost to me, leaving our family house in Centerville to return to what now seemed such an empty place in Kaysville. So I stubbornly insisted that I be allowed to spend some time with him, and he reluctantly brought me with him back to his house. I'm sure we talked, but I don't remember what about. School, books, all those things that were important to me. And when I say "we talked," what I mean is that I remember jabbering at him a lot. (Yes, yes. For all of you who know me well, some things don't much change. I still have a tendency to jabber.)

Anyhow. He opened the refrigerator to a myriad of prepared, packaged meals that my aunts had left behind with labeled instructions, and heated one of them for dinner. But what I remember most is that after I had gone to bed that night, I kept waking up periodically, and I could hear him pacing. Back and forth, back and forth. Every time I woke up. When I mentioned it in the morning, he said he wasn't used to sleeping without Grandma yet. And when he dropped me off in Centerville, he looked every bit as lost and lonely as he had when he left our house. And I felt...utterly useless. Like I'd tried to do something good and nice for him, and I'd absolutely failed.

So hopefully you can see why this doesn't really work as the type of 80th birthday memory one might want to include in a book otherwise full of happy stories. I don't want to say, Happy Birthday, Grandpa!, my strongest memory of you is when you were at your saddest, when you were having one of the hardest times, and when I felt I failed you. It hardly seems festive.

Scrabble's far safer a topic.

Friday, December 17, 2010

My Sister, David Archuleta, and Me: Or, A MoTab Christmas Concert Experience

First off: did you know people didn't get in to the dress rehearsal Thursday performance? Did you? Because apparently, people/cars/ALL OF DOWNTOWN gets insanely crazy when David Archuleta comes to sing with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Portions of streets are blocked off. Your assigned parking lots are nigh inaccessible. And then, inevitably (if you're my sister and me), you find yourself running to the Conference Center in less than ideal shoes. Just sayin'.

On top of that, when a random girl joins you (because she doesn't know where she's going, but clearly you guys do...which, yes, true) and declares David Archuleta to be the cutest li'l thing that ever lived and then looks at you funny when you say that you're really going for the choir...well. I suppose that wasn't surprising. This little youngling has, in fact, established quite the rep since the end of his American Idol days. And during them.

Except. It's not that I wholly disliked this concert, because that would be patently unfair to the choir and to the crazy-awesome dancers. So, right now, for the record. Choir: win. Pioneer theme: win. Richard Merrill--the organist--whose feet are fast like unto lightning!--playing a "Deck the Halls Hoedown" piece: win. Dancers, ballerinas and otherwise: win. (Especially the dancing at the beginning! Holy. Cow.)

David Archuleta? Not so win.

Maybe it's from watching About a Boy a few too many times, but it always seems odd and/or awkward when someone spends a great deal of their own concert time singing with their eyes closed. Secondly, I like his voice okay, but his expression needs some help. To wit, that "cutest li'l kid EVER" only has one arm gesture. I repeat: ONLY ONE ARM GESTURE. A gesture in which he vaguely moves his hand forward as though emphasizing something. And then does it again. And then again.

(He started off doing it with his right arm, but that arm must've gotten tired--because he shifted microphone hands and then started gesturing with his left hand. THE SAME GESTURE. Only left-handed.)

Also, dear lovely little Davey boy, we need to do something about that hair of yours. Something that doesn't look so...special.

I suppose that this much is true: the rendition of Joy to the World was lovely. The Spanish carol that he sang equally so. Would that he would not have done any of the following: strayed away from what the teleprompter on the back wall was telling him to say (yep, we could see it from where we sat); attempted any gestures at all (seriously--you know who gestured well?--Brian Stokes Mitchell, when he came a couple of years ago); frilled Christmas carols up with arduously and frankly unpretty pop-music runs.

And I (and my sister) really, really wish he wouldn't have doubled over in the middle of Silent Night. You know when you should double up? When you have the flu and you're about to be sick. Or when someone has just punched you in the gut.

For the record, the other special guest, Michael York, did a wonderful job with his story parts of the choir. Luke 2 was particularly lovely. But not lovely enough, I fear, to keep Megan and me from mercilessly mocking bits of Archie's singing on the way home.

Also: I'm sure that David Archuleta is a nice human. Unfortunately, I'm equally sure that I would never actually pay money to hear him sing.