Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Parentheses are my Arch Nemeses and other English Major Problems

So, like a true English major, I have strong feelings about grammar. And when I say strong feelings, I don't mean that there's one type of punctuation that I'm comfortable with, that's vanilla enough not to shock anyone, and that I could use for a typical essay. I mean I rant to anyone and everyone about how sexy the semicolon is, how em dashes will make the world a better place, and that people who get overly colon-happy better watch out.

But while I have fond memories of my first correct semicolon, and how proud my father was by my em dash-filled essays, not every grammatical run-in is quite so pleasant. Ever since the beginning of my copy editing class, I have gotten angrier and angrier at elementary grammar. It's gotten to the point where if I'm reading something mediocre, I have to stop and take a moment to breathe, or books will start flying and I'll be screaming bloody murder.

There are a few points of grammar that I have particular qualms with, the first being parentheses. I am a strong believer that in a college essay IN TEXT CITATIONS ARE THE ONLY PLACES I SHOULD SEE PARENTHESES. Parentheses that don't serve this purpose make me sick--they're lazy. Why not just walk around with a sign on your forehead that reads "hey, btw, I forgot to add this piece of information, so I'm just gonna stick it in here, among some other unsuspecting words"?? The worst part about parentheses is that when used in this horrifyingly elementary manner, they usually contain information that no one cares about. For instance, if I see "I was talking with Tina (who is my best friend), and she told me that the meeting was on Tuesday," is my life better for knowing that Tina was your best friend? Ignoring the fact that there are so many ways to edit this sentence for length, let's look at the context of this parenthetical statement. Would the meeting be on Wednesday if Tina was not your best friend? Would you not talk to anyone about meetings? No? Okay good, get rid of the parentheses and nobody gets hurt.

The only thing that could infuriate me more than parentheses is passive voice. Passive voice is akin to riding on a roller coaster until you throw up, rather than just riding it once and having a nice time with your friend Tina. The only reason to use this infuriating style is if you're trying to avoid blame. And really, rather than trying to say "the cookies were eaten," why don't you get off your word processor and tell your dad you messed up and ate the cookies, and everything will be fine.

I understand that to the untrained eye, passive voice seems sophisticated and fancy, and that all the job offers will leap out at you if you say "the work was accomplished by utilizing the knowledge that was given to me," but really it just makes you seem like a pretentious asshat who doesn't know about this lovely little word called "I."

Speaking of pretentious asshats who utilize things, I cannot stand the word "utilize." While my other English major friend and I have gotten into plenty of debates about this, I still stand by my belief that you can use just about anything that you utilize. The word utilize is like that obnoxious kid in class that yells out all the answers and smells like parental pressure. In 99.999999% of all cases in which I see this dastardly word, I don't think "smart person." I think "lalalala I know how to use a thesaurus, go me!"

Oh well. If someone flashes a series of em dashes at me, I'll forget everything and become the cheerful English major again. Or something.


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

I'm Old, and Other Earth Shattering Discoveries

So, since the moment I turned 21, something has happened to me pretty instantly. I've sort of forgotten that I can drink--I end up staring at a bottle of wine like "what is this bitter grownup stuff?", and thus begins the search to find alcohol that doesn't taste like alcohol. But what I haven't forgotten is that my body has gone from having the energy levels of a ten year old on candy to an eighty year old woman.

You want a for instance, you ask? Oh, I have plenty.

For nearly a year I've teased my boyfriend for being tired all the time. It'll be midnight, and he's all "hey, look, it's tomorrow already; I think we should go to bed." And my twenty year old self thought the day was young, that one doesn't even think about bedtime until 3AM, that sleep is for the weak.

But now. Just the other night I was at a friend's house for a sleepover (which apparently grownups call crashing at someone's house? What is this nonsense?), and I got so sleepy, that I had to go to bed two hours before the rest of my friends even thought about sleep. I was well on my way to dream land when my friend crawled into bed--the only upside to this, however, is that I've matured into a very peaceful sleeper and not once did I try to cuddle my friend, or kick her, or steal the blanket.

So not only am I finding it perfectly acceptable to go to bed at 10:00, AND take naps throughout the day, but during my waking hours, I'm getting increasingly horrified by the vernacular of youth. My friend informed me that "alc" is apparently a thing in text speak, as in short for the DASTARDLY LONG WORD "ALCOHOL." I'm sorry, but kids these days don't have the time to type "alcohol"???? Alc? Alc???? That sounds like a cutesey little nickname for that kid you always picked on in grade school. Are kids these days so busy with their eyebrow waxing, hair-straightening routines that they don't have time to write out a 3 syllable word? If you have an iPhone, by the time you type out "alc," your phone will probably get the gist of it and autocorrect the rest for you.

The worst part, however, is that my face is deciding to turn into a silver unicorn, sprouting grey hairs every two seconds. It would be far too normal for my body to give me a grey hair in the mix of all my blonde, though; instead, I get the gift of grey eyebrows. Yes. Every time I pluck my eyebrows, I see a giant strand of silver in between my tweezers, going "heyyy, look at me! Your death is inevitable, la la la!"

And then I stand in front of the mirror and cry for two hours.

So, 21 years old and it's already downhill from here. The things you learn from drinking.


Thursday, July 24, 2014

Finding Your Voice: How Writing Mirrors Life

So today, in light of celebrating different writing voices, I'm gonna stray from the funny blogs I've written lately, and discuss something a little more serious. When I started Coffee, Yoga and Life's Other Necessities, my intention was to share my journey through ashrams, college, and whatever comes next (let's ignore the fact that I still have nooo idea what to do after college, and how much that freaks me out). I guess, in a perfect world, it would have been a "spiritual journey" where I yoga my way to enlightenment. Just looking back on my first post, it's amazing how much more serious I intended this blog to be:

Two cups of coffee later, and I'm still ready to fall over. Even Godiva raspberry chocolate flavor can't get me to "spring forward" like the rest of the universe and beyond. It's funny how malleable time can be; we, as humans can just decide that because the sun does its little dance of being more visible throughout the day, we should alter the clock. It still doesn't make sense. Then again, such is life.
I guess it's something I should get used to. In less than three weeks, my body's gonna have to warm up to getting up at 4:30 and mediate (sans sleep) for the next hour and a half. Meditation can go one of two ways for me: 1) starting as a lovely image of the ocean and turning into freakish drams where old friends steal lemon drops, or 2) starting as a lovely image of the ocean, and turning into "saltwater tastes funny...water...oh shit, did I remember to do the laundry? I gotta charge my phone. Hey, it just buzzed! It's not dead yet...I should really check my phone." Is it just this generation that gets the unforsaken itch to check their phone while meditating? It's kind of a dilemma, to achieve peace of mind when three different pieces of technology are yelling at you to pay attention to your social life.

So that's imponderment #1. I'm not sure if that's a word, but it sounds nice and blog like, so there you go. I'll try to update this thing regularly, but regularly may turn into "whenever I have both free time and inspiration," which may happen only when both cups of coffee decide to kick in. 

Somewhere between returning home from the ashram, and my second year of college, I realized that I got more positive feedback whenever I wrote funny blogs. While I naturally lean towards more introspective writing, I toyed with silly gifs, the ever-popular "list posts," and embarrassingly high number of puns. While I enjoyed writing these silly posts, there was always that itching thought that I wanted my blog to reflect my life--and I wasn't always in a silly mood. Yet I had convinced myself that "funny" was all my readers wanted, and that sharing my introspection was too self-indulgent, too personal.

In every creative class I've attended, the teacher has emphasized "finding your voice." Similar to finding yourself, I had assumed that meant I had to search for one voice, and stick with it. To me, a writing voice was akin to a tattoo: either it was permanent, or it wasn't legit. So, because I started seriously writing in high school, I vowed my voice to be sarcastic, witty, and to include made-up words such as "sugly" (skinny and ugly--why, teenage Kira, why??). And while I LOVE writing that sort of dialogue, writing something that's supposed to be personal and sarcastic at the same time is like eating chocolate made out of rocks.

But, *shrug* the all important VOICE was set in stone, so what could I do?

Like, everything I didn't do. But we'll get to that later.

What I didn't realize at the time was how much my writing dilemma mirrored my "self" crisis. Throughout high school, I struggled with being the shy, quiet girl, who was also crazy at the same time. I didn't think that I could be totally genuine with such opposing qualities--thus, I was driven crazy by this search for a true self that I already was. Because--gasp!--I had yet to realize that a person can have different moods, different layers, and that it's totally acceptable to act differently around certain sets of people.

(Also, I'd like to apologize to anyone from high school, because my teenage brain decided to settle on the crazy, won't-ever-shut-up self as my "true self." Hmmm).

So today, I read a post from Youtuber Carrie Hope Fletcher's blog, All I Know Now . The post was so serious, so introspective, and so good, that it inspired me to just get my plain ol' unedited thoughts out into the internet-verse. But what I know now, is that doesn't mean I have to make any drastic changes to this blog, or to myself. Because my silly side vs. my thoughtful side isn't more genuine than the other. And sure, some posts will be more appealing to people than others. But forcing funny (or seriousness) out of me isn't doing anybody any favors.

I guess this is just a long-winded way of saying be yourself--hopefully in a less cheesy way--and that the self isn't this stagnant personality you just find one day.


How to College, the Kira Version

So it may strike some of you as utterly shocking, but my college experience has been about as normal as a micropig wearing a tiny raincoat and booties (props if you get the reference). I go to bed at midnight at the latest, and a wild game of "never have I ever" involves shots of water. Because my friends have all taken this abnormal college-ing route, it seems perfectly natural to me. However, to the outside observer, staying in and coloring on a Friday night is an odd practice, and requires farther explanation.

So, without farther ado, I present to you, how to college, the Kira version!

1) Instead of drowning your sorrows/stress in a can of beer, use Ben & Jerrys ice cream as a substitute. Take small bites of a pint at hourly intervals, so it feels like you're not consuming any calories. Then freak out when you gain 15 pounds, and claim "but I never ate anything bad for me!" (Because you're still under the impression that if you eat it secretly, it's not food).

2) To pretend that you have no social life by choice, get three weeks ahead in all your classes, and make all your classmates hate you, because you have officially become "that person."

3) Then when you FINALLY have no more homework to do for the rest of forever, have a wild night of coloring with your friends.
My poor attempt at the deathly hallows, and some 3D boxes
4) Make a drinking game with your friends (water only, because YOLO) where you read your journal and take a shot every time you mention your obsession's crush's name, every time you feel bad about yourself, every time you have multiple entries in the same day, every time you make up a word (like ridonculous), every time you say "gahhhhh I like him," and by this time you're all "wasted" on the floor.

All I can say is sixteen year old me was feeling a little...not myself.

5) Spend more time arguing about Star Wars with your boyfriend than you spend doing your hair.

6) You take like, two hours taming the beast doing your hair. You do the math.
You sure I can't wear this in public?

7) Have a Cards Against Humanity tournament, in which more than half the cards involve Justin Timberlake.

8) Make sure this tournament is with your mother, because you legitimately hang out with your family like friends.

9) Go out of your way to avoid get-togethers far away from your apartment, because you're well over sixteen years old, and driving is STILL the scariest thing you can possibly think of. 

10) Become so terrified that you won't get an A on a paper, write three different versions, show them to your friends, and make them decide which one is the best.

This is not a drill. I am really the neurotic.

11) Drag your tired ass to yoga when you can get the energy once a week, and pretend it's because you want balance in your life, you can't live without a solid half hour of meditation, and look at you, you're so mature with that whole mind/body union...but secretly you're trying to find someway to burn off that Ben & Jerry's ice cream, and you detest running oh so very much.
So how much chocolate can I eat after this?

12) Drink so much coffee, every inch of your body starts shaking, and the baristas at every Starbucks in town know you by name.

And finally, wear so much glitter, you look like a disco ball. That is essential.


Thursday, July 17, 2014

Get Ready With Me, Voldemort Edition

Hey, guys! Voldemort here. I know you've immersed yourselves in mudblood makeup tutorials and the like, but really, the key to success is intimidation, and you're not scaring anyone with your cream blush and excessively pricey eyeshadow. Sorry to burst your bubble, but you just can't buy power at a store.

Some people think I'm naturally evil. That's totally flattering and everything, but it takes practice and hours of preparation to look like I'm about to throw some killing curses at you. And it's not that I want to give away ALL my secrets, but my Death Eaters are looking a little on the pansy side, and if I'm gonna get some new followers, you all need some tips.
You think I just wake up like this??

The first thing I do is roll out of bed at 5:00A.M. I usually have to set three alarms, since I'm desperate to finish my dreams about killing Harry Potter and meeting Justin Timberlake. I mean, a Dark Lord has got to prepared when he meets his favorite pop idol. I make my bed, make my to-do list on my cave wall (paper is sooo expensive these days), and text a death eater or two to tell them they really screwed up this time. Malfoy's got to work on his texting skills; the next time he says "lol kk Voldy," he's got it coming.

Next I prepare Nagini's breakfast. She's lost taste for human flesh, so now I have to deep fry human brain and sauté onions. It's a bit of a pain to rip the brains out of my victims, but Nagini has part of my soul, so I suppose I have to spoil the damn thing. Plus this gives me time to practice my death threats, and while Nagini eats breakfast, I stitch up my cape. It's gotten several battle tears, but capes these days are so pricey, and I don't get paid to be pure evil--sometimes, you've just got to scrounge for that dark lord wardrobe.

Next is my makeup routine. I'd shower (Bellatrix just got me cherry blossom body wash as a birthday gift!), but generally smelling of flowers is a distraction from my horrible disposition, so I strive to have as much stench as possible. The hardest part about my routine is covering up my nose. I'm really quite insecure about the Riddle nose, and it makes me seem more horrifyingly non-human, if I just pretend I don't have any insecurities, or sense of smell. Usually the best trick is to staple my nose to my cheek, then use a little bit of CoverGirl concealer to even out my skin tone. It's easy, breezy, and terrifying. I use a little eyebrow pencil to draw on the nose slits, throw on my cape, and head to my room.

This whole catching Potter thing has filled up my days, so I normally have to cut my pep talks short. But I'm sure to stand in the mirror for at least five minutes, and chant my mantra of "kill the chosen one," "you look hot, Voldy!" and sometimes "be off the charts, kill everyone at Hogwarts."

A little rhyming never hurt anyone.

I try to head out the door by 9A.M. No one expects an early morning attack from evil, and I try to keep everyone on their toes. Nighttime risings from Dark Lords are so last year.

And remember, if you can't beat 'em, beat 'em anyway and prove your haters wrong.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Tortured Artist, Concert Edition (AKA Lindsey Stirling's amazingness, explained)

So as you might know from our writing blog, I am a strong believer that being a tortured artist makes for great art. There's something about universal pain that strikes a deeper chord than universal happiness. Maybe it's because we're all naturally pessimists--or humans are better sympathizers than we are lead to believe. It's not always the case, but most art that captures me the most comes out of a difficult childhood, marriage, disorder, etc.

Because I have the tendency to never go out, like ever, I've made this observation through books. However, this summer I've tried this whole social life thing, and gone to more concerts than I ever have in my life (so, two). One was a Lindsey Stirling concert, the other, Justin Timberlake. Both were incredible--I'm not a die hard Justin fan, so this may have something to do with my observation. But there was something about Lindsey Stirling's concert that felt more personal, more connected with the audience. Justin Timberlake's show was a performance. He's a very clear cut star; he's been idolized for over a decade. Lindsey Stirling's show had all the qualities of a performance, but it was very clear that she never thought herself better than anyone--not her backup dancers, not her drummer, not her audience.

So what does this have to do with needing to struggle to produce great art?

This is the part where I give you all the background information you could ever need. If you know everything about Lindsey Stirling, feel free to skip this part. Go get a coffee while I rant about her greatness. I'll wait.

So basically, Lindsey Stirling was this normal girl who took violin lessons. She had more interests than her family could afford, so while she begged her parents for dance lessons, she could only pay for violin. She learned how to dance (and moonwalk!) through YouTube. Once she got good enough at violin, she started posting her videos to YouTube until it peaked the interest of America's Got Talent. Once she auditioned for the show and got it, everyone was all "oh my gosh, you're so amazing, a dancing violinist, that's so creative!"

Then she went on the show, performed in front of thousands of people, and Piers Morgan was all "actually, JK, you suck. No one likes you."
If that had been me up there, I would have curled up on stage, started crying, and never touched a violin again. In fact, I do that if someone tells me my hair looks funny.

But not only did she keep trying, she continued posting her videos while suffering through anorexia, and being told by multiple record companies that she would never make it.

And if she believed those record companies, she would never have the millions of fans, views, and shows she has now.

When I went to Lindsey Stirling's concert, I was astounded that she 1) wrote a song about suffering with anorexia, and 2) told everyone in the audience that this song was inspired by the fact that every day, she hated what she saw in the mirror. Eating disorders are incredibly difficult to face personally, but sharing that pain on stage in front of thousands of people is beyond brave and beautiful.

Hearing her explain the inspiration for each song turned the night from a performance into a story. And because each song was so personal, so driven from struggle, it removes the artist from a pedestal where she's unreachable, above her fans.

There's a fine line between performance and sharing one's art. With the uniting factor of struggle, of pushing past the breaking point, it was clear that Lindsey Stirling was sharing her story through her music.


Thursday, June 26, 2014

I Hate Small Talk, and Other Rants.

So, with nearly twenty-one years of being a person, I've noticed a trend: In most circumstances among strangers/aquaintences, people are either really smiley and fake-y nice, or they're yelling in your face that you drove 2 MPH too slow, and you're ruining their family picnic. I'll literally talk to a person for two seconds, say "hi, how are you?" then ask to pet their dog, and suddenly I'm the most evil human being in the world.

What do you mean, you want to pet my dog? Are you some kind of kidnapper? How dare you invade my personal space!

I swear, my life is turning into a series of good cop/bad cop.

And sure, people have good days and bad days, but you know what I do when I feel less-than-delightful? I friggin' tell people I don't feel so hot, nothing personal, I just need some space.

Communication. Imagine that.

For the longest time, I just thought that everyone in the world is bipolar, and humans are a really shitty species that take pleasure in saying the meanest things to one another. But that would mean we're just one giant reality TV show, and I simply cannot accept that notion.

But now, I have a theory that it's so encouraged, taken for granted even, to be so outrageously friendly to literally everyone, we smile until our teeth hurt, then before we even know it, we're baring our teeth and growling at the next innocent passerby.

I'm a fairly bubbly person, but if I'm at a party, going "I'm Kira. Yes, I go to college. I'm studying English. Yes, I do realize that doesn't guarantee any jobs. Kira. No, not Cara. Kira. K-I-R-A" a hundred times over, I'm going to get very exhausted very quickly. It's akin to the feeling of sitting on a couch for a year then running a 30 mile marathon.

I know what you're thinking. "But we're not ALL selfish pricks who only want to talk about ourselves! Some of us really care about others."

And this is all true. I quite enjoy talking to my friends, family, and my cat Layla.

But what I can't get on board with, is that at an event where you're schmoozing meeting 20-some new people, you can't possibly care about what each individual is studying, how many siblings they have, and if they like to go jet-skiing or not. I'm sorry, I don't care. You don't care. Why are we pretending we care? Why are we wasting precious book-reading time to learn that this is John, he has three kids, and he likes apples?

But what's so aggravating, is that the older we get, the more we get punished for choosing not to stuff a hundred new names into our brains. Flashback to fourth grade, parent-teacher conferences. My classmates are in the gym, throwing balls at each other until their respective parents retrieve them. I'm in the hallway, writing a play. Teachers are passing by, going "oh what a creative spirit!" (Granted, this could be particular to Quaker school, but a girl can dream).

Now, if I'm sitting in a corner, dripping in social anxiety-induced sweat, I'll get bombarded with "what's wrong? Why so antisocial? Come meet my cousin's hairdresser's distant relative!"

Being that friendly for an extended period of time is like eating cupcakes. One is nice--it's sweet, it's satisfying. But if you keep stuffing your face with cupcakes, you're going to feel progressively sick until you puke, i.e, scream at the person closest to you.

So why can't we just eat our one cupcake? Why must we be excessively nice until it hurts? In the end, it makes everyone miserable, exhausted, and resentful.

On that happy note,