Thursday, February 21, 2013

Typing Out Loud: Doing Stuff that Scares You


One of the more interesting comments I've received from people as I explore being an artist, a runner, a skater and even a writer is how brave I am. Um, really?

Then I look at where I came from, even how I felt the past couple weekends (5K and skating comp) and have to admit, some chutzpah was required.

What is startling for me to realize is my inner critic, the bane of everything I do, plays a starring role in coming close to paralyzing me with fear. At my first skating competition "you're not a real skater!" At my first run "you're not a real runner!" At my first art show "you're not a real artist!"

Jeez, shut up already.

But the bravery comment tells me I'm not alone in having a cranky superego. But why do I have it?

First instance of all and out fear in the face of performance was when I was at the Children of Mary banquet when I was maybe 7? Plans were to do skits and my idea was to lip synch a Helen Reddy song, a song I didn't particularly like but received the 45 as a present from my cousin.

It was improv. It was a disaster. What 7 year old can do improv? I failed and rushed off the stage to laughter and pity.

But instead of saying "I'll never do THAT again!" I remember thinking I needed to prepare in order to do it again in the future. Even though it scared me, I volunteered to be a reader in church, under the guise that it would become less scary the more I did it.

My first skating competition, I was so nervous, I didn't eat for 3 days beforehand. I remember being terrified to compete, but also knew I'd hate myself if I punked out. My first River Bank Run, I was convinced I would come in last, or not finish, or someone would sneeringly pass judgement that I wasn't a runner. Tears, yes real tears of anxiety mingled with my morning banana an hour before I eventually crossed the finish line.

Every time, I knew that although I was frightened, I would be even more disappointed if I were to quit or not attempt my goal.

OMG, pretty! Can I do it?

So, what's on deck to scare me this time? I upped the ante for the RBR from a 5 to a 10K. I applied to be a Champion team member for a local insurance company. And, I made the goal to be in a bikini by July 1 - thanks swimsuit issue of SI.

Of all of these, the bikini terrifies me the most. Why? It's like being on that stage again, at the age of 7, with all those eyes judging me; instead of baring my obvious lack of karaoke skills, I'll be baring my midriff at the age of 43-going-on-44. And that would terrify anyone, but there's no way I can NOT do it now. But as I have learned as one thing after another scares the pants off me, the effort and result is worth it.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Typing Out Loud: What Do You See?

Self loathing! Gaaahhh!

Weight Watchers is running a campaign where thin clients rip pictures of their formerly bulky selves in half, and pitch the paper towards the camera.

I'm not impressed. Matter of fact, I'm pretty annoyed.

One of the very reasons I resisted a lifestyle change over a year ago in the first place was the apparent necessity towards self-loathing as a key to success. I know it works, that what I used to do as a teenager, but it didn't make me, or anyone around me, happy. I remember one ex in particular who would hang up on me when I would lament over the phone, "I'm so faaaaaaaaat."

As an adult, I resisted this line of thinking and practically rebelled against it. "I like who I am," I'd grumble as I tried one thing after another (why oh why couldn't I have been diagnosed diabetic earlier?!) without success.

A recent podcast from Stuff Mom Never Told You supports my line of thinking, Is Dieting Anti-Feminist? As one of the hosts says, "I fell down the diet rabbit hole." There are feminists out there who are against dieting for the wrong reasons - vanity, approval from men, succumbing to societal pressure for the feminine ideal.

But one of the hosts also said (not quoted exactly, sorry) that dieting shouldn't be a feminist issue, it is a health issue, and should be about one taking care of themselves for the betterment of their own lives.

As someone who has gone through a major life transformation, I couldn't agree more.

But I also know my stance could also be seen as hypocritical. Part of the emotional roller coaster I've gone through the past year has included a ton of self reflection and self loathing. In September, I was not too far away from being a photo-ripper as I reviewed in horror photos from the past 5, 6 years when I was my heaviest.

This past weekend, I reviewed these pictures again. What did I see?
  • A host mom to a ballplayer who adored her.
  • A competitive figure skater at nationals having fun in the stands with friends.
  • A successful business woman embarking on her own freelance business.
  • An artist winning Best in Show.
  • A new mom.
  • A wife mugging on the arm of a happy husband.
  • A gal with a gleam in her eye at a friend's Halloween party.
  • A sister goofing in the kitchen at her parent's house.

No, there isn't a single part of my life I will ever deny. I hope no one who reads this blog ever will either. Life is too much of a fantastic journey to turn your back on any portion of your life.

And for the record, while typing this, every time I typed "part," I accidentally typed in "party." That ought to tell you something.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Why Art Matters: John Kricfalusi

Happy, happy, joy, joy!

I went on a little Rolling Stones video bender on YouTube, and was delightfully surprised to realize one of my favorite videos of the era, the animated gem Harlem Shuffle, was done by none other than John Kricfalusi.

John K is a Canadian born illustrator, founder of the studio Spumco. He grew up copying images from the golden age of animation, his heroes being Tex Avery, John Clampett and Chuck Jones. Y'know, the guys responsible for the multi-layered funny for kids but also for adults Bugs Bunny cartoons.

His love for this animation led to his own unique style, where one historian noted "no cartoonist since Clampett created cartoons in which the emotions of the characters distort their bodies so powerfully."

He created the Ren and Stimpy Show, which debuted on Nickelodeon in 1991. The high-strung chihuahua and stupid cat were famous for their off-color humor, oddball references, sexual innuendo and excessive violence, of course the perfect recipe to be a huge hit among the college crowd.

College kids watching a naughty cartoon on Nickelodeon. Something had to give.

The more the network pushed for cleaner R&S episodes, the raunchier K made them, the more we adult children loved them. It imploded, creative control was taken away from K, and R&S failed to survive past the third season.

R&S made it ok for edgy animation to exist, such as South Park and Beavis and Butthead. The conflict with the network coincided with the emergence of the internet, which led to K creating what has been billed as the first web-based interactive cartoon.

John K has remained busy with his web-based animation as well as music videos, commercial work, and other network cartoon programming. But for me, he is the creator of the coolest Stones video, Powdered Toast Man, and Log "it's big, it's heavy, it's wood... it's better than bad, it's good!"

Thursday, February 7, 2013

A Valentine Ditty for Will

A sweet for my sweet.

The Whitecaps have a contest going, where they are asking entrants to submit a poem for their love, the winner getting chocolates and roses delivered by the mascot Crash. Dave works well outside the delivery area, and what little kid wouldn't love to have a team mascot deliver candy to them at school?

So mom put fingers to keyboard and came up with this silly little ditty.

There simply is no greater joy,
Than William Garland, my little boy.

His play is inventive, his games oodles of fun,
His smile infectious, he keeps me on the run.

As his imagination continues to grow,
He pretends to be a train, a cook or a super hero.

He loves sports of all kinds, pretends he's Rocky,
And even figure skating, which he calls "dance hockey."

Will's favorite is baseball, can't wait 'til they're back,
Guys like Michael and Logan and Ryan and Zach.

He's a host little brother, at our house he rules,
(And all of the players think he's cool.)

Every day he's outfitted with a bat, hat or glove,
I'm happy we can share a game we both love.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

February Playlist: World Music for Dummies (that be me)

Cusack having trouble finding South African rap music he heard at a coffeehouse?

My knowledge of this genre is woefully deficient, but sometimes you need a broader worldview than BTO's "Takin' Care of Business" can provide.

That is why WYCE is a godsend, you can be listening to folk music from Ukraine then jazz from Ireland. Movies too provide a viewers an opportunity to expand one's musical tastes. 

I've come up with a handful of songs from my limited world music vocabulary, and hope to expand it in the future. Not sure if Peruvian folk chants are in my wheelhouse, but maybe...

Jaan Pehechan Ho, Mohammed Rafi - India - I really dug this opening video from the movie Ghost World, the video itself an excerpt from the Bollywood movie Gumnaam. It resurfaced last year in a beer commercial. Rafi is India's Kenny Loggins, singing more than 4500 film songs in many different languages and Indian dialects. He is considered a legend.

Ça Plane Pour Moi, Plastic Bertrand - France - Another movie soundtrack song, this one from European Vacation. It was used again in 2011 for the movie Jackass 3.5. Plastic Bertrand is a Beligan punk rock artist who has been recording music since 1975, and this song was an international hit in 1977, well before the release of Vacation in 1985 here in the U.S.

Too Sad to Cry, Imelda May - Ireland - One of those moments when you ask "what's that!?" and Shazam the song to get the details. May is a singer with strong rockabilly influences, not exactly as in demand as Beyonce's brand of pop, but one of my favorite musical genres.

I Walk Like Jayne Mansfield, - Japan - Another soundtrack, this from Kill Bill Vol. 1. They are an all-girl rock trio specializing in rockabilly and surf. Yoshiko, the lead guitarist/vocalist, has a "Teenage Queen Delinquent" tattoo on her upper right arm - awesome!

Character, Richard Thompson - England - Folkie that the critics love but doesn't really get too much airplay on mainstream rock. Rolling Stone had two of his albums in their top 500 of all time list. TWO! Of course, he's flown completely under my radar until driving through downtown Chicago when this song came on and Dave and I both scrambled toShazam it to download later. Total fail, so we had to wait for the DJ to blurt it out. I haven't been able to find the song anywhere on iTunes, so this may be one of those fantastic, fleeting moments of musical love.

Cup of Life, Ricky Martin - Puerto Rico - He and J.Lo really helped explode Latin music in the mainstream in the late 90s. This was the World Cup of soccer song I think in 1999, and basically, a party-your-ass-off tune.

This is Me in Grade 9, Barenaked Ladies - Canada - Indie rockers with a keen sense of humor. They went from LAV underground to mainstream with the hit "One Week," but the album Gordon is just too awesome. I picked this song because while there are universal high school angst themes in the lyrics, the song is also uniquely reflective of being a Canadian in the 80s. Bonus! Spirit of the Radio sample.

Ugh, this list is pathetic. Any suggestions on how to broaden my horizons is greatly appreciated.