Grateful 365 #29 – Simple Strumming

guitar3When Rockband first hit the scene, I couldn’t have been more excited. I’d always enjoyed rhythm games and the idea of pantomime playing to my favorite rock anthems was too awesome an idea to not powerslide right into it. It wasn’t long before I had a plastic neck in my hand and my fingers poised over multicolored buttons. Surprisingly though, it wasn’t long before I put the controller down and solemnly walked away.

The game was fun, sure. But that…noise. That terrible, horrible missed chord noise that punished you for missing a beat… I couldn’t take it. I couldn’t stand it messing up songs that I loved. It scared me away from taking anything other than drums or microphone for years!

Maybe it’s that same aversion to dischord that makes getting a few chords on an actual instrument so damn rewarding.

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Recently a friend of mine gave me a guitar– one with history and character. That in and of itself is something to be extremely grateful for and adds an extra layer of pleasant feeling every time I open the case. Since then I’ve been practicing.

Not a lot– in fact, I probably don’t have more than a couple of hours under my belt. My novice fingers still suffer dents and soreness afterwards, but, wonder-of-wonders, I’ve gotten to the point where I can clumsily strum my way through a song or two.

It’s a great feeling– strumming and humming a little “Mad World Here” or a little “Zombie” there.

The best reward though?

It’s not hearing that awful noise from Rockband. Or at least not hearing them as often.

I’m grateful for the ability to make music in a new way, with a new instrument…and for all the joy and pleasure a little simple strumming can bring.guitar

~all the love~

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White Album 2 – Todokanai Koi Fingerstyle Guitar Cover & Chords

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In preparation for my AYWTYL on White Album 2, I decided to tool around the internet and look for some guitar chords. Now, I’m not very–no wait–I’m not any good at guitar at all. I just started and am lucky to get three of the four chords of pop music right every other day or so…

Which puts this awesome rendition of the the first opening theme from White Album 2, Todokanai Koi (届かない恋),  by Shiyun Wu so far out of my league that I’m surprised I can even see it.

For those of you who appreciate some amazing music or love the show, check it out here on youtube:

For those guitar players out there that want to give it a whirl, check out the real time chords here on chordify:
http://chordify.net/chords/white-album-2-fingerstyle-guitar-treborttttt

AYWTYL 1: Sakurasou na Pet no Kanojo

sakurasou1Sakurasou na Pet no Kanojo, also known as The Pet Girl of Sakurasou or simply Sakurasou to fans, sounds pretty tame in most descriptions. Our protagonist, Sorata Kanda is kicked out of his highschool dorm for harboring a cat and winds up in the residence hall for ‘problem kids’. He vows to escape his new home, called Sakura Hall or Sakurasou, as he simply can’t stand the strange cast of characters that resides there. To compound his problems, a strange girl named Mashiro Shiina moves in and quickly reveals herself to be incapable of even the simplest of everyday tasks such as dressing herself or preparing food. Sorata now finds himself in the often awkward role of being Mashiro’s ‘handler’.

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Okay, so maybe that last part struck a 10 on your ecchi radar…and you wouldn’t be entirely wrong. The series does sport a decent amount of fan service, and there are definitely romantic overtones and tropes. However, any synopsis is deceiving because Sakurasou is more a tangle of interwoven plotlines and stories that share a common setting and theme. It’s much more character study than rom-com at times.

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At Sakuraou’s heart are messages about finding meaning and purpose in life, leaning on and learning from one another, and being true to yourself regardless of consequence. Nearly every character main, side, or auxiliary, have distinct personalities– but within Sakurasou’s halls, the residents fall into one of two very broad categories– they either excel naturally or struggle for a dream.

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Ryunosuke is SUCH a boss.

In the first category we find Misaki Kamiigusa and Ryunosuke Akasaka. The former is acclaimed for her gifts in animation and the latter is a genius programmer. He’s also one of my favorite characters ever, but I’ll resist my urge to derail this review on a tangent.

In the second category we have Jin Mitaka, Nanami Aoyama, and Sorata himself. Each of these hopefuls is influenced and directly affected by the gifted in the house. Jin, the object of Misaki’s infatuation, wants desperately to write scripts that can even hold a candle to Misaki’s art. Nanami has worked tirelessly to keep herself enrolled in school in order to acheive her big dreams of becoming a voice actress. Sorata discovers, as the story progresses, that his dream is to create video games.

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Mashiro acts as the catalyst, as she falls into both categories at the same time. She’s not only naturally gifted, but world renowned for her paintings. However, the entire reason for her presence in Japan is to make manga– a choice that the art world is decidedly set against. Sorata is, throughout the course of the anime, both inspired by her passion and discouraged by her talent and apparent lack of struggle. Both emotions play a large role in the arduous journey of chasing his own dream.

To go into too much detail would be to ruin some of the best moments of the series, but the real triumph of Sakurasou is its portrayal of dynamic, likable characters and the ways in which they interact with, affect, and change one another.

sadsakuraIt’s about friendship, love, and growing up, but even more it’s about the inequity of dreams. This anime pulls no punches when it comes to the idea that some people are born gifted and some have to work their asses off. Far from predictable, it doesn’t just hand out happy endings — it accurately reflects the heartache of realizing that sometimes your best just isn’t good enough. You end up really feeling the stumbles and set backs of the characters to the point where you have to wonder if it wouldn’t be better if they just gave up…if only for the sake of your heart as a viewer.

However, this is far from a tragedy and resonates with cheerful hope and optimism. There are many, many funny or touching moments and if the mid-season finale with Nyaboron doesn’t put a big fat grin on your face then there’s probably something wrong with you.

 

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The visuals are awesome. The character designs are vibrant, distinctive, and gorgeous. The animation is fluid and has a real knack for capturing tone as well as visual gags. The comedic timing is second to none and the voice acting is really well cast.

The background music isn’t anything stand-out as I look back on it, but I do enjoy all of the opening and ending themes.

When the anime ended, I definitely wanted more…and that’s always a good sign.

Is there a love triangle? Sure.
Is there romance? Definitely.
Are there various tropes and cliches of the school-drama? Yep.

You’ll enjoy all of them though and chances are you’ll enjoy this show.
So try it out! You might find, as I did, that you’ve got a new favorite series.

Anime You Wouldn’t Think You’d Like – A Preface

neededit Preface harem anime AYWTYLAnime You Wouldn’t Think You’d Like is a series dedicated to  worthwhile anime that might otherwise go unnoticed or willfully ignored. These titles fall into all sorts of categories from the weird to the wacky to the plain surprising.

I was inspired to make a column like this after a panel at 2013’s Seishuncon kindled my interest with a sampling of titles I would have never even thought to check out. Stuff from genres I would generally never explore, series that showed character and depth even in the first episode or two.

That said, I’m not reviewing the first two AYWTYL  because of bizarre titles, weird premises, or the so bad it’s amazing honors that some featured titles will. In fact, these two, along with other titles I plan to cover, have a lot of fans and people who recognize them as the gems they are already.

So why the “anime you wouldn’t think you’d like” label? Well because I didn’t think I’d like them.

Yes, these two are here purely because of  easily made assumptions and a personal (former) bias . Bias against what, you ask?

Harem anime.

There, I said it.

Love+Hina_wallpapers_151I had nothing against it, really. It’s just that I, like many, met Ketaro and Tenchi back in the 90’s, made it through all or most of Love Hina and the No Need series(es)es)), and called it a day. Harem is as harem does, and if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all…right?

Tenchi Collection

Well, I thought so at least. Sure I’d catch an episode here and there of something ridiculous and ecchi, and you’d best believe I’m current on several reverse harems… But unless it was outrageous and goofy or nicely filled that little Mary Sue deep in my heart, I didn’t see much point in checking out any title with one guy and more than one girl on the cover. I mean, there are only so many ways to retell the story of “hapless guy awash in a sea of love interests,” and that’s all the male-protagonist slice of life romances were… So I wrote the genre off.

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..highschool?

Then a friend of mine started telling me about titles he was watching. Titles with serious drama, unique characters, and all the feels. Titles that involved male protagonists…and romance. Titles that were…set in highschools. Titles that, as soon as I put two and two together, I started giving him shit for, truth be told.

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…and romance?

However– always an open mind (and a firm believer that mockery tastes better when you have ingredients to cook it with) I agreed to watch a few episodes with him.

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omnomnom.

Suffice it to say, that day I dined on crow.

I now depend on him to share his shows with me because, as it turns out, he has great taste.

So you can thank Brian for the first two AYWTYL entries, Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo and White Album 2, because without him, I literally wouldn’t have known they existed.

Stay Tuned!

Grateful 365 #28 – Hot Tea & Cold Weather

snowBorn in and raised in the southeast, it’ should come as no surprise that this…thing where the sky opens up and sprinkles ice dust on the earth isn’t necessarily my favorite.

However, the chill, like salt, is good at accentuating pleasant undertones we might otherwise miss. Things like warmth. Shelter. Blankets. Time with friends. Time with friends in shelter with lots of blankets. …And the heat cranked. …and sixteen pairs of socks and pants over your pants and shirts layered until you can’t put your arms down.

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The point is that even if the colder forces of nature aren’t my cup of tea…they make the warmer, fuzzier comforts that much more enjoyable. For example (and despite an earlier turn of phrase) my cup of tea.
I think hot tea is the best made better in times like these. It smells great, tastes great, feels warm in your hands, your mouth and your belly. Just letting your face get a hit of that steam as it cools off fills the body and senses with expectation and really drives the feeling of winter (and a very grateful shelter from it!) home.

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So I’m grateful for cold weather and all the good things– like hot tea!– it makes even better!

~all the love~

Grateful 365 #27 – Hanging-in-There Hairs

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Since my diagnosis, my hair and I have been through a lot. I’ve been annoyed by it, missed it, hated it… Today however, I realized just how lucky I am to have what I have and am seriously impressed by the tenacity of my remaining strands!

Since the traumatic shower where I first experienced hair loss in a very big way, to the decision to be done with all my paranoia and grief and shave, I’ve kept a small patch bangs just for fun. (It would have been a mohawk if my initial alopecia hadn’t taken out clumps down the middle of my head! XD)

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I’ve since been informed that it’s actually a punk style called the “Chelsea,” and I’ve come to really enjoy the lengthy patch of bangs at the front of my chromedome.

Sure, I’ve lost a few of those initial long hairs and the patch has shrunk a bit, but I can’t help but be amazed that over halfway through my chemo, these tough little strands that remain have hung tight and stayed with me! Don’t get me wrong about the chromedome either– I really enjoy being able to switch color and style on a whim with wigs and not having a fully follicled head is pretty much the pinnacle of simplicity and ease when it comes to daily upkeep! Still, it really is comforting to have something to sweep back and brush.hairpanel

I have no idea if I’ll be able to keep this patch through the course of my treatment, and if it goes, I’ll likely miss it, but I’ve already prepared for it.

In the meantime though, I like imagining that I’ll end treatment and be able to keep rocking my rebel punk ‘do as the rest of my scalp catches up!

So thank you, my little scalp soldiers! Hang in there and carry on!

 

~all the love~

Before Youtube- Installment 1: The Hampster Dance

Dearest internet-denizens. Today, allow me to take you on a trip. A trip to a simpler, but not easier time. An era filled with gifs, flash and quicktime. A period of  history when just about everyone on the block had the web, but you all commiserated en masse about just how long things took to load. A time before 2005, when former Paypal employees would finally create that media sharing device we all cried out for. Before there was one spot- and only one spot- where we could all go for amusing, inane videos and meme fodder.

A time before Youtube.

No. no. Not before Youtube became a subsidiary of Google in 2006. Not before people started blogging about how it changed the world and shrank our social circles. Not before the absurdists and unmedicated ADDers came up with “Youtube Poop”.

Before it existed.

Do you remember that time, dear interwebz?

Back in the early days, you had to know what page you wanted. You had to know where the funny or the entertaining or the weird was. You had to type web-addresses.

And once you did know, you desperately wanted to share.

In future Before Youtube posts,  I’m going to take us all down a little side road I like to call nostalgia and bring up a few videos you may or may not have seen along with some history on when and where they spawned.

To kickstart our little journey, let’s talk dancing hampsters. You remember that, right? You typed in ‘www.hampsterdance.com’ and you got a simple page filled with spinning, bouncing gifs set to the tune of ‘The Whistle Stop’? That damnable, un-unhearable, catchy as hell tune from Disney’s “Robin Hood”, but all sped up just to make it even more of an ear-worm? That melody that you catch yourself whistling despite yourself even now?

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Even if there wasn’t a photo above, you could still see the hampsters…couldn’t you?

It was 1998, and a Canadian art student named Deidre LaCarte engaged in a friendly competition with two other young women to see who among them could generate the most traffic. (I’d assume it fair to say that LaCarte won. Hopefully she enjoyed her hockey tickets and bottles of maple syrup. (That’s currency up there, right?)) Her inspiration came from her hampster and the end result was a page filled with his likeness along with several other bobbing, animated gifs of creatures she would later dub Dixie, Hado, and Fuzzy. One might argue that it wasn’t exactly an artistic concept, but here’s the interesting part—

1998 to 1999? 800 visits. Maybe four a day if that.

Suddenly in 1999, the number of visits per day skyrocketed to an astonishing 15,000…per day! 15,000 views per day was not something a random Geocities page did! (Sleep well sweet pagehoster, btw…)

Maybe it was the catchy music. Maybe it was the origin of the internet and adorable furry animals playing well together. Maybe it was the fact that if you set a co-worker or a friend or a parent’s homepage to this looping 9-second loop of sped-up, high pitched music hilarity ensued. Maybe it was the fact that this particular facet of HampsterDance brought some mainstream televised attention to the site.

….Either way you cut it though, it was clearly magic.

I remember at least one entrancing afternoon spent watching the hammies boogie until they went out of sync. If you’d like to relive that magic, just click below:

Grateful 365 #26 – My Family

Family.

famcropNo one would be who they are without them. Some families are big. Some are small. Some are complicated or troubled. I could reflect for hours on how amazing families are as a social institution or how even the worst of families can still have astoundingly positive ramifications…

Today isn’t about all families though. Today is a moment for me to try to put into words what makes my heart swell with pride and warmth when I think about my family.

I was fortunate enough to be born into a happy, well-to-do home with two parents who never made any secret of their love for me. I enjoy saying that I’m the direct result of a musical actress-teacher and a New York ex-hippie English major. I feel that describes a lot, actually.cher and meg in da woods

As it is with most people, the pair that created me have long, fascinating histories of their own and I’ll need to reign myself in here to avoid my usual verbosity. In a nutshell, they were both, at their core teachers. Teachers, in my eyes, are special breed of people. Teachers are people with passion and a generous nature that wants to share that passion with others. My dad loves Shakespeare, old science fiction, civil war history, and all manner of comedies. My mother loved music, performance, and art in general. They both showed me what it was to have firm beliefs, but open minds and hearts. They both showed me all the joy in life and all the wonder of imagination. They taught me strength in every single way the word can be interpreted.Dad2

And that’s in a nutshell.

579689_10150802767576881_1306537912_nI have an older sister and although we grew close at an older age than most, there’s no doubt that we’re blood. We have the same laugh and a scarily (awesome) sense of humor. Simone has a kind heart and more talent in a variety of areas then most would know what to do with! Like most little sisters, I look up to her and hold her as my inspiration. She never gives up, always seems upbeat, and always puts her loved ones first, even when it seems there aren’t enough hours in the day.

Both my mother and father have sisters, and that means that I have aunts, uncles, and nephews.

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The Soderstroms on my mother’s side have always been extremely close. Their oldest son, Henrik, is like a brother to me. We grew up together and share a lot of similar tastes in art and comedy to this day. Aunt Bonnie has been a second mother to me even before mom was lost to us and my Uncle Chris was as wise and kind as his wit was dry. My younger cousins, Didrik and Ulrik, came later and as time has passed, I’ve grown closer to botrh as well. It’s incredible how much talent, optimism, and humor this family has. They suffered an enormous loss when Uncle Chris passed away, but demonstrated to everyone the strength of their faith and the power of their love.

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The Straubs on my father’s side have taught me so much as well. In addition to sharing the “Waddell” humor, they have lived through so many struggles without losing spirit, hope, or optimism. Aunt Anne solidily demonstrates what it means to turn a tough situation into something that’s not only positive, but that benefits others as well. I can’t remember a time when Uncle David or my cousins, Matthew and Andrew, didn’t light the room up with laughter.

When we lost my mother to cancer, the world imploded for a little while. My father led me through loss and showed me how to grieve with hope.

Daddy and MarjoryI will tangent a moment and say that while many friends become family over time, there is a specific feeling of total acceptance, love, warmth, and belonging that I have always associated with my immediate family. It’s the same principal as old friends sharing so much of their memories and history that letting go or walking away isn’t even an option. Family, to me, is binding and immortal.

So when I say that years later my father introduced me to a member of our family that I couldn’t possibly imagine not having in my life, I mean just that. I have often struggled with what to call her in the third person because, to me “stepmother” heralds in awful Cinderallic thoughts and just seems…cold. Instead I’ve resolved within myself to call her my “mother-in-law,” if the need for titles arises– even if I need to give a few extra lines of explaination. Words matter to me, and there is nothing ‘step’ about our relationship or the level of regard I hold her in.

My dad has great taste, what can I say? :)Marjory and Judy

In a nutshell, Marjory is the epitome of compassion, loyalty, and justice. If that sounds like some superhero tag line, it might as well be. In a world where many nod their heads solemnly at the mention of the underprivileged and beleaguered yet do nothing, a great portion of her life has been dedicated to setting such things right. I have learned, laughed, and loved with her in the years we’ve known each other and am always left in awe of her amazing balance of strength and warmth.

I have more family then that as well! Simone brought Sue into the fold; Marjory brought Judy, Mark, and their kids as well as her son’s family; Henrik is bringing Dottie;Didrik is bringing Ashley; and Matthew has gotten engaged~! It’s exciting to gain sisters, brothers, and nephews as the years go by…but going further will have to wait for another day.

HenrikDottieMeAfterall, this is the abridged version of my family and there’s still so much more that I want to say. What words can thank a group of people for a legacy of laughter and optimism and a lifetime of love and support? How do you phrase a gratitude when those you’re thanking are the same ones who gave you the disposition to appreciate everything good in the world?

I love my family. I wouldn’t be me without them. I wouldn’t be where I am without them. I wouldn’t be.
More than that, I’m proud of my family and feel blessed to know them. Individually, they are all amazing, inspiring people, and together there is no greater feeling of homecoming, welcome, and joy.

So today, and everyday, I’m grateful for my family.

~all the love~

Grateful 365 #25 – Pictures

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I can’t help but hear “Look at this photograph/ everytime it almost makes me laugh” playing in my head right now.

Thanks for that, Nickleback.

Between yesterday and today, I have done an awful lot of looking at pictures. Old pictures. New pictures. I even combined and altered some pictures.
They’re amazing things though when you think about it. Each one is like a flat solidified memory. A captured fragment of time that you can relive whether you were there or not.PictureWall

I’ve become a regular paparazzi lately, but it’s exactly for this reason that I’ve become so adamant about keeping a record of times shared.
You know how people say that if you smile at someone, they can’t help but smile back? Same thing applies with pictures. Whether it’s me smiling, or us smiling, or someone else entirely smiling, I can’t help but echo that sentiment.

Each picture is a little window to happiness.

So I’m grateful for pictures and all the people they show.

~all the love~

Grateful 365 #24 – Noise

White-noise

I’m not entirely sure where chunks of today went, but what I am sure of is that blip.tv will continue to cycle through whatever channel I’m on, youtube playlists will continue to loop, and mp3s will play out their musical payloads no matter what state I’m in.

I’m grateful for the noise–whether talking or music or just sound effects and laughter. When I often wake with a sudden need to focus on anything but myself, noise or music is exactly that anchor. Maybe anchor is the wrong word…maybe noise is the kite I need, lifting me up and instantly engaging me in whatever form it takes. When trying to nod off back to sleep that same blanket of sound helps make the transition easier, coating my mind with varied unlikely lullabyes.

I’ve always been a fan of sound in the air, and although I would like to praise one or two in particular, it was a team effort that I’m grateful for today.

So thank you noise for being there and not minding whether I was focusing on you or tuning you out.

~all the love~