Life Listening

Not just hearing, but actively listening to life!

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Location: San Diego, California, United States

I'm a suburban-born, small-town-raised, city-living young woman. I'm working on my master's in anthropology and I am intrigued (in a not so creepy way) by human skeletal remains, especially in an archaeological (rather than forensic) context. Apart from my studies, I love spending time with friends (appreciating San Diego -- dancing, hiking, zoo...) and visiting my family and my boyfriend (who lives waaay too far away!).

Saturday, September 30

interpretive headbanging

When I was an exchange student in Sweden, I went to an art school. This was great because language wasn't so much of an issue as it may have been if I had been enrolled in a literature or science program (classes are generally taught in Swedish). Basically, I just kind of followed along. I didn't always know what people were talking about, but I could get by... oh we're doing watercolors today? Okay, got it. I remember the day we all went upstairs to the nice, light-filled studio. Everyone started pulling out their easels so I followed suit. I figured we were going to do still-lifes, like we had done the week before. Nope. In comes a robed woman. Nude sketch time. It was a little bit of a surprise for an awkward and overwieght 15 year old like myself at the time. But surprises in class could be really fun -- I had this one class I think somebody translated it to me as "Art Through Movement". I'd call it a cross between improve acting, modern dance, and kindergym. Sometimes music would come on and students were supposed to express the music with their entire bodies. We'd use movement to display our interpretations of emotions, animals, even colors.

My very first day of school at Sundsta-Älvkulle gymnasiet, my Swedish high school, I thought I was all set in the perfect outfit - a black, fitted long sleeve shirt and a blue, black, and white wrap skirt (wrap skirts were really in at the time). I think the skirt had turtles on it - it was sort of that batik style - pretty cute. I had my outfit planned to a tee. I must have tried it on 10 times before my inaugural day of school. And get this: my first damn class was "Art Through Movement". Well, if you've ever worn a wrap skirt like the one I had, you know that large body movements are not that easy. Also, I hadn't anticipated the fact that we'd be sitting cross-legged on the floor. Hmm... sure wished I had tested out the cross-leg posture one of those 10 times I tried on the skirt. Haha okay, but I'm getting off topic. I'd like to build on this introduction to fast-forward about nine years to tonight.

After a day spent at the Living Room cafe, working on TA stuff and a sprinkling of thesis work, I rested my brain to head down the boulevard to Last Call, where my friend Susan's boyfriend Chad was playing with his new band. Last Call is sort of in a seedy neighborhood (which, incidentally, is just a few blocks from my house...) and I don't really like walking through the streets there at night. All of the past times I've been there, it's super-easy to park close to the bar because it's always been a weeknight. Usually it's just my group of friends and a few other people. It's got the Mo's Bar vibe -- really laid back. The bartender is friendly and the drinks are cheap -- strong mixed drinks for $3 and $1 kamikazee shots everytime a siren goes down the street. And lemme tell you, El Cajon Blvd. has tons of ambulances and police cars zooming down it!

So anyway, tonight Last Call was a different story than usual. As I drove by searching for a nearby parking spot, I saw what appeared to be people spilling out the door of the bar. I circled the surrounding blocks, searching for a parking spot. Eureka! I finally found a spot that was really close to the entrance. I walked in to Last Call. And yes, of course, no cover charge despite the fact that a great local band was playing. I searched in vain for Susan, finally spotting her in the back of the bar with Chad as the band was setting up. It was at this moment that I was glad it had taken me so long to park, leaving less pre-concert time to awkwardly and soberly stand around. I guess I'm a bit of an introvert. I recharge my battery by being in the comfort of my own home, vegging out alone or with really close friends. I'm not the kind of person that gets totally energized by meeting new people. It drains me. So here I was at Last Call, realizing that Susan was busy with the excitement of Chad's first night playing and chatting with her coworkers, who I happened not to know... She politely introduced us. But somehow I found myself standing on the outside of their circle. Wha? "Try not to act awkward. I'm not awkward, I'm not awkward, fake it till you make it, I'm not awkward... heh heh ehhhh... yea. Good times. When is the damn band gonna start already?" They were supposed to start at 11pm. I figured arriving at 10:50 would give me just the right amount of "hello" time before the music started. Yeah... they started around 11:40 or something. But once they started everything took a turn for the better. Maybe it was the Bud Light I had consumed during the first hour of being there, or maybe it was because I forced myself to make conversation with Susan's friends (heck, if they weren't going to try to talk to me, maybe I should just start asking them about themselves? people like talking about themselves. for some reason, they end up leaving the conversation thinking you're brilliant, without actually knowing much about you...), or maybe it was becoming fun because the band was great. They had the 90s-throwback vibe -- a No Doubty groove with the cute/punky female lead vocalist and men on all the other instruments. The ska-ish horns sound was supported by Chad on the sax. It was really fun to see the band members rotate around the instruments. The lead guitarist sat down at the drums after awhile, the bassist sang for a bit, Chad played keyboard and bongos, etc. The audience had the typical "we support our local band, yeah, the vocalist is my boss, and the drummer is my neighbor" energy which only added to the excitement and enthusiasm in the bar. This was great. I didn't even really mind the somewhat annoying, boobalicious hoochie chickies that were incessantly booty bumping me as they were dancing (aka flailing) and singing (aka screaming). I was enjoying the music.

Enter headbang chick. You've seen her before: she's got the long blond hair (how is it so long and healthy looking? props to her for that), the really loose board shorts, the baggy t-shirt or tight racer-back tank top, and the sunglasses propped up as a headband, no makeup. She looked like she rolled off the skateboard, into the '89 volvo, and off to Last Call. As she took center stage (seriously. she was about 3 feet from the band's vocalist), I was reminded of my Art Through Movement class. Of course, she through in some air guitar chords and some skankin pickle jumps. But the crowning move was the enthusiastic headbang. Her lucious hair flung around so artfully that I had to appreciate it. Especially hilarious was how she seemed to have no concept of human proximity. Occasionally strands of hair would flick Autumn (vocalist) on the arm, or thwap some dancing dude in the face. She took headbanging to a new level. (how were those sunglasses staying on her head??) I got the feeling that she was channelling emotion, animal spirits, or perhaps her interpretation of color through her dance. Go on with your bad self girl!

Friday, September 29

I find this funny!

At first I was a hater, but once I made it to the the end of the video, I changed my mind! Check it out:

Thursday, September 28

schoolifeducation

I was starting to think that my poor little blog might be feeling neglected so I've stopped by to fill a bit of virtual space. Today was the bomb -- I spent the bulk of the day, about 10am - 9:15pm or so, in the lab. I absolutely loooove my job working in the physical anthropology lab. I get to help teach two classes! Mind you, I'm not the teacher, but I'm getting experience doing all sorts of teacher-related things. For the intro physical anthro lab class, I get to run the labs. Before this semester, I thought TAs just graded papers and tests, and occasionally showed up to lectures to make sure they were up to date on the material. Not the case here. I almost feel like a co-teacher. It's pretty cool. A couple weeks ago, I got my very first raised hand! I had to stop and savor the moment and laugh to myself. The students thought it was funny that I was so excited about it. And get this, I got my first request for a letter of recommendation this week! What an honor. A student wants me to write a recommendation letter for them. Of course I said yes. =) And get this, for the osteology class that I TA, I actually get to write the quiz that the students take every week. This isn't your average, 15-question, type up in 20 minutes quiz. These quizzes are 30-question (with A and B parts to the questions) hands-on lab practicals. It takes me 2 to 5 hours to set up a quiz. Seriously. But the sick and wonderful part about it is that I am enjoying myself thoroughly the whole time I'm thinking of quiz questions and searching through the bones for the perfect specimens. I just put a CD on repeat in the lab and dig in to designing a challenging yet doable test of the students' knowledge. So far, the quiz topics have been skull bones, skull fragments (quite difficult material to learn), and dentition (substantially difficult). Tomorrow, the quiz topic is the axial skeleton, which in this case, includes all the verts, the sacrum, coccyx, ribs, and sternum. I find this material easier easier to learn than the rather complicated skull and dentition.

If I could, all I would do is spend time teaching (and all the prep work and grading) and of course take some time to do other fun stuff like vegging out with Kyle and my friends and family. I just need to get past this thesis hurdle and graduate. Then maybe my dream will become reality -- if I can land a nice job at a community college or museum.

Okay, I'm getting sleep. I oughtta go recharge my battery to get ready for another great day!

Saturday, September 9

Yerba Mate

After a few months of wavering as to whether I should fork out the cash for a yerba mate gourd and bombilla, I found myself at Whole Foods last night. I stood there in front of all the tea and bent down to examine the yerba mate kits -- complete with a gourd, bombilla, and 6 oz. of the yerba mate tea blend. Hmm, $35? That's a hefty investment for a grad student. I don't even spend $35 on jeans.

But then again, yerba mate is touted as a powerful engery beverage -- better than coffee because it's loaded with antioxidants (more than green tea) and it doesn't give you the jitters. It's supposed to give you a more mellow, though powerful, uplifted and awake feeling. This would be a helpful addition to thesis writing, especially because my focus drifts from my work so much sometimes that I wonder if I have adult ADD. Anyway, being that I would never consider focus drugs such as adderall (like some of my classmates), I thought this wonder-tea might be worth a shot.

I've tried yerba mate before. Ive had it in tea-bag form. I really enjoy the mate chocolatte flavor from the Guayaki brand, which happens to be based in San Luis Obispo. From my past experience, yerba mate does just what the package claims -- uplifts and energizes. And it's the only tea that I will drink to the last drop. For some reason, other teas --herbal teas and such-- I can never finish. It's like I just get bored with the drink. But yerba mate (especially mate chocolatte) I almost always finish, wanting more.

So I decided to just do it. I bought the kit. You see, the tea bags are really convenient, but they only provide a fraction of the benefits of the loose tea prepared in the gourd (that's right, a real gourd that's been dried out and decorated). The basic idea behind the gourd method involves filling the gourd halfway with the yerba mate, letting it soak in cold water for a bit, then filling it the rest of the way with hot water. You might be wondering how it's possible to drink it this way, since the yerba mate leaves are just freely floating around in the gourd. It's all about the bombilla. It's this cool straw that has strainer holes at the bottom. So as you sip through the bombilla, it only allows liquid up -- the yerba mate leaves are left in the gourd.

Here are some photos of my new beverage accoutrements:

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Isn't the gourd pretty?

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Pretty cool, huh? I know, I thought it was a little gung-ho and (as Kyle might say) "Whole Foods hoity-toity". =) But this method of yerba mate is really interesting. The best way I can describe the flavor of this drink, when prepared in the gourd, is pungent. Part of me wants to spit it out, while another part of me really enjoys it. It definitely tastes green. I just had a gourd-full of it, and I definitely feel a calm energy -- hehe maybe it's the placebo effect? Either way, it's a fun new kitchen toy.

Sunday, August 27

Showtime at the Apollo

Have you ever seen Showtime at the Apollo? I'm always pleasantly surprised when I happen to be up at the ungodly hour that it airs (like now), and also happen to have the tv on (i just got an antenna for my non-cable-hooked-up tv... 4 or 5 channels!). It's a fun little reward for being wonderfully frivolous and staying up until 2 am, even though I know I should get to sleep.

Anyway, if you've never seen Showtime at the Apollo, picture this: a large, pumped-up audience, a raring to go comedienne/ host (Mo'Nique, the big lady from the tv show The Parkers), and several amusing and often quite talented performers (who do anything from dance to singing to comedy). The best part of the whole show is when, for example, the singer on stage starts getting a little pitchy and the most exuberant and judgmental audience members stand up and start waving their arms back and forth in the air, basically pointing the performer toward the wings of the stage. Oh yeah, and they boo -- to the point that the singer becomes hardly audible. Okay, I know said that was the best part, but here is the crème de la crème: This energetic guy in athletic gear comes out and tap dances frenetically all over the stage, eventually encircling the singer who is struggling to carry a tune. The moment of glory is when you see the transition of the singer as they finally come to grips to the fact that it's over. Walk of shame time. Then they march off the stage, sometimes spitting some attitude back at the audience and sometimes just scurrying off as quickly as possible. Oh, and did I mention that the tap dancing guy sometimes wields a big cane that he uses to pull the performer off the stage?

Interesting, Showtime at the Apollo (STA) is actually quite similar to the newer show America's Got Talent (AGT), as they both showcase hopeful performers vying for the next big break, dependent upon viewer opinion. But what STA has on AGT is that the feedback is instant -- no waiting till Thursday for the next episode and, geeze, finally the results. Everything is packed into one half hour show. And while home viewers do not have the ability to text in their votes for the STA performers, they do get to indulge in the messed up human attraction to watch strangers go through trying or downright mortifying experiences. It's curious that STA actually fulfills similar criteria for drawing in target audiences as AGT, yet it airs at 1 am and AGT scores the prime-time slots. Perhaps it goes back to the whole delayed feedback thing. AGT makes people wait (through money-making, prime time quality commercials) to see which performers will be publicly disgraced, while STA just lays it all out on the table. This supports my sentiment that late night tv is inherently better than prime time... heh heh at least in regard to junk food tv.

Thursday, August 24

okay, enough!

Isn't funny how yesterday's novelty is today's annoyance? I've decided send the M.J. video on it's merry way...

It was fun while it lasted though, huh? Anybody? No? Okay. Quite right.

blogification of sensory state

As I sit down to my computer to write a blog, it's exciting to think of all the possibilities for what I could write. It's like those free-write sessions we used to have in school. Remember?

So I've decided to write about the first thing that comes to mind. What'll it be? As I'm thinking about my blog topic, I take a moment to scan my room and I think about all of the current sensory input...

Sight: new socks from the Everything $5 store (but the socks were $1.99, go figure), and I think to myself, "how did my socks already get dirty? this is the first time I've ever worn them!"

Sound: Outkast on my new computer speakers. It's a new jam called Buggface on their latest album, Idlewild. Definitely bumping, I dig it. The album in general is taking a little time to grow on me, but it's only a matter of time until it's on constant rotation.

Smell: Cigarette smoke wafting up three stories and into my open window, mixing with my new apple-vanilla plug-in air freshener (which incidentally sometimes smells like tobacco, but the kind that actually does smell kind of nice)

--pause for a moment as I take an inventory of my senses -- there are 5 right?--

Taste: giant diet coke (slightly flattened as I purchased it a couple hours ago) from McDonalds - the fantastic 42 oz. for 69 cents deal

Touch: clicky keyboard keys, cushy computer chair, slightly dry contacts

Just playin' around...

I wanted to see if I could paste a video into my blog...

(Michael Jackson "Don't Stop Til You Get Enough" video once lived here, now leaving an empty space of what once was...)

Sunday, August 20

Welcome to my blog!

Ooh, I am so excited to have started a new blog! Upon review of my old blog, I realized that it was, hmm, how should I put it...? A bit negative. As I have decided to make some positive changes in my life (taking better care of myself, procrastinating less with my schoolwork, budgeting my money more wisely...), I thought it fitting to begin a new blog to match my fresh leaf.

So welcome to anyone who happens upon this page!