The Last Five Days.

The last five days in Scotland have been some of the best five days i’ve had all semester. Last Wednesday, J pseudo-surprised me by rolling out a suitcase from the arrivals gate at Edinburgh airport. (Pseudo, because it was meant to be a total surprise, but i’m very good at guessing and also am in the middle of exams, so certain details had to be divulged ahead of time). There was a lot of nervous tippy-toe walking around until he arrived, and even more (probably embarrassing) embracing when he did.

I couldn’t believe my blessings: he was here, with me, in my favorite place in the whole world.

Yet the excitement didn’t abate there- two of my very best friends from Mount Holyoke arrived the next day for a weekend trip full of milkshakes, late night catching-up-chats, and even a daytrip to the Trossachs for some hairy coo sightings! (Needless to say, there was a lot of hugs in the arrivals terminal of the airport this week!)

My favorite shot of the daytrip! Taken by Stirling Castle. (J should always wear a Hairy Coo hat, should he not?)

My favorite shot of the daytrip! Taken by Stirling Castle. (J should always wear a Hairy Coo hat, should he not?)

Enacting romance by the shores of Loch Katrine, the setting of Sir Walter Scott's "The Lady of the Lake."

Enacting romance by the shores of Loch Katrine, the setting of Sir Walter Scott’s “The Lady of the Lake.”

The view of Stirling from the Wallace Monument!

The view of Stirling from the Wallace Monument!

Called "THE Bridge" by civil engineers for its feat of genius, this rail bridge crosses the River Forth just outside Edinburgh!

Called “THE Bridge” by civil engineers for its feat of genius, this rail bridge crosses the River Forth just outside Edinburgh!

The Wallace Monument, Stirling.

The Wallace Monument, Stirling.

Our tour, which was the most excellent TheHairyCoo.com free tour, began in Stirling and made its way into the lower Highlands around a number of rather famous lochs. It was a beautiful, uncharacteristically rain-less day to spend frollicking on mountaintops and even feeding bread crumbs to the “dangerously cute” highland cows (for which the company is named!).

My favorite part was the stop off at Castle Doune, where the famous scene with the French guards takes place in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. J and i couldn’t resist clambering our way to the top to yell out our own (very poorly accented) French insults at my friends below!

Hairy Coos!

Hairy Coos!

Doune Castle - where the bulk of Monty Python and the Holy Grail was filmed!

Doune Castle – where the bulk of Monty Python and the Holy Grail was filmed!

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The view from the top of the castle!

The view from the top of the castle!

 

I was running on a high of can’t-believe-this-itis, especially when the tour guide of our day trip put on The Proclaimers as we drove past the lower Highlands. If a perfect day exists, that was it: Scottish mountains, excellent music, and a batch of my closest friends to sing along with.

Trying to get us all in the shot!

Trying to get us all in the shot!

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The last five days have been bliss, but now i have to face the last five days i have left in Scotland. And that, that’s just hard. The good-byes have been a mixture of late-night chats in the flat to quick, painful hugs farewell. My friends from MHC left this morning, and my dear flatmate Abby leaves tomorrow. It’s been a day of sad farewells.

J being here is enabling me to not ache so much for the Carolinas and their rivers of sweet tea, which is such a gift. I feel truly able to grieve for my last walks past the Scott Monument or cups of tea at the Elephant House.

It also means i spent half of my morning weeping over my cup of after-church tea, trying not to think too much about what life will be like without the hum of this rain-slicked, enchanted city.

And in the midst of this emotional farewell to the semester in Edinburgh, i have two exams to tackle and a life to zip fast in my suitcases. So the next five days are shaping up to be crammed – crammed with wadded-up t-shirts in my suitcases, crammed with farewell-to-Scotland activities, and a helluva lot of cramming for finals.

For days of auld lang syne.

Just outside the Writer's Museum, Edinburgh.

Just outside the Writer’s Museum, Edinburgh.

current jam: ‘come thou fount’ sufjan stevens.

best thing: having places and friends so wonderful that the time to leave them brings mourning. it’s the double-edged sword of loving something, i guess.

Serendipity and Serenades at the Eiffel Tower.

So when i wasn’t prowling about the Eiffel Tower looking for a hot dog, i was busy being rather bedazzled by the tower itself. There’s magic in Paris, i swear; perhaps the secret entrance to Beauxbatons lies beneath the Seine.

eiffel tower in b&w, watermarked

Seeing the Eiffel Tower at all is striking and poetic and full of Aristocat-themed-music-making. Seeing the Eiffel Tower at night is unlike anything else; the gold against the purple night, the way it lights up and sparkles for ten minutes every hour, the glow it casts on the whole of the jardins surrounding it make me understand why so many artists and writers came to Paris and never left. It’s the music itself.

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Sparkling on the hour!

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Though initially disappointed to learn that the cables for the lift to the tippy-top were too frozen to function, the mid-atmospheric snow in the air at the second level made us quite content to look out at Sacre Coeur and L’Arc de Triomphe from our frozen perch. It was stunning; the whole of Paris reflected back at us like the lights on the tower itself. Even the Seine glowed. If you’re going to Paris, do everything you can to scale the Eiffel Tower at night. It may be knee-knocking, teeth-chattering freezing, but the view is transcendent.

Windswept!

Windswept!

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Making the climb back down!

Making the climb back down!

The Tower’s magic, though, was not bound in cables and floor and vistas for us, though. In some cosmic convergence, one of my very best friends from Mount Holyoke, Saran, was traveling through Paris at the same time as us. Neither one of us had functioning phones, so through spotty glimpses of wifi we’d managed to communicate online that we would meet at the Eiffel Tower sometime that night.

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My fingers were going numb, refreshing my inbox at the base of the Tower. J and i had scouted the lines, walked the perimeter, tried every cranny we could see to find Saran. Worry we were relying too much on chance in a city too big, i began to fret we wouldn’t find her at all.

Until someone shrieked my name from the other side of the tower.

There was a running and a leaping and a hugging and an OH MY G-D, PARIS-ing. I was so delighted to see her, and a mutual friend from Paris, all basking underneath the sparkling gold beams of the most famous French landmark. We walked, arm-in-arm, to a restaurant a few blocks up and had warm reminiscing and fast catching-up over French cuisine. Entrenched in a language and culture and place not my own, i was home in the hearts of people i love.

Blurry and beautiful because of what this means to me!

Blurry but beautiful because of what this means to me!

Just when you start to disbelieve in the magic that weaves Paris together, the rug is pulled out from under you all over again. I suppose that’s falling in love: being awash in passion, falling into a place of comfortable constancy, and, just when you start to get too comfortable or edgy from boredom, something happens to make you commit and believe all over again. 

Paris certainly lives up to its reputation in that way!

current jam: ‘little bird song’ ed sheeran.

best thing: these INCREDIBLE signs advocating for marriage equality at the supreme court yesterday.

inquiry: would anyone be interested in purchasing a (non-watermarked) print of the eiffel tower (or anything, really)?

Markets and More Eating (Amsterdam, Day 2!)

If the Albert Cuyp Market was a field, i was a plow.

I’ve never been surrounded by so many sumptuous and tempting things to try – from the wafels to the hot chocolate to the small bucket of olives i purchased. Plus, as a mayo-loving french-fries eater whose allergic to ketchup, i just adored the frites stand that sold paper cones stuffed with fries slathered in mayo. And the cheese, sweet Holy Mary the cheese! The displays were utterly intoxicating.

(Note the bicycle!)

(Note the bicycle!)

We’d decided, for our second day, to set aside the whole morning to explore the oldest street market in the Netherlands: the Albert Cuyp Market. Lining the block were some of the most eclectic stalls i’d ever beheld (including my experiences in pre-burned-down Owino Market in Kampala). There was an entire pharmacy spread wide under a tent and in the cold, more lingerie shoppes than i could count, a plethora of places to purchase scarves and the like, and a few stalls reserved for Amsterdam-themed souvenirs. Interspersed between the flower stalls (oh, the tulips!) and garter belts were the main attraction: street food.

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(Van Gogh had followed us, even here!)

(Van Gogh had followed us, even here!)

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It was as good as it looked!

It was as good as it looked!

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Making the famous frites!

Making the famous frites!

frites!

Frites!

I love street markets – the chaos, the food, the cool vintage things you can find, the food, and the experience of feeling like a local. As much as i may love doing silly tourist-y thing (see me in a large wooden shoe, below) i always try to find at least on thing per travel destination that gives me some sense of what it would be like to live there. Naturally, we were not the only tourists strolling about the market. But tourists were in a serious minority here, amongst the clamor of Dutch-speaking voices selling flowers and toothpaste and lingerie. I’d easily say this was one of my most-favorite things we did in Amsterdam!

Having sufficiently eaten our way through the market, we made our way over the Dam Square for more sightseeing. At the sight of THE LARGEST SHOE i have ever seen, there was a lot of squealing and leaping in to take pictures. So much for trying to blend in!

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About a block or so up from Dam Square is the (in)famous Red Light District. We chortled our way through all the funny little shops and such surrounding the red-lamped alleyways, but they definitely are not the reason i’d wanted to go to the city. And the whole district is clearly geared for people visiting the city, not the residents themselves. The gift shops are certainly amusing to visit, but once i’d cracked up at enough genitalia plastered on velvet hats (et cetera) i’d had my fill. Definitely would not say this was the family-friendly place to go on a holiday to the city, but as two young women walking around in the middle of the afternoon we felt pretty safe and took the whole thing in with a sense of humor.

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This is not the Red Light District, but it IS a picture of a red lit sign at night, so it metaphorically serves a purpose!

This is not the Red Light District, but it IS a picture of a red lit sign at night, so it metaphorically serves a purpose!

By then it was high time we ate, again. Utilizing a combination of my Lonely Planet guidebook and the MOST EXCELLENT TripAdvisor City Guide App, we arrived at the quirky and chic van Kerkwijk. With whitewashed, wood paneled walls and candles adorning the tables, we knew this promised to be a unique place to dine.

Turned out there’s no written menu at van Kerkwijk, so our gracious waitress just plopped right down at our table and talked us through the extensive list of their eclectic combinations. When asked what was a truly Dutch thing to try, she explained that the port-city-nature of Amsterdam meant all Dutch food was really a mash-up of European and Indonesian cuisine. We asked for an appetizer that involved bread and cheese, so she brought out a bleu cheese paté-type-thing that was incredible. For our entrées, Abby had steak with strawberry cream and goat cheese, and i had Indonesian chicken. We split a salad and (of course!) frites with glorified mayo.

The incredible cheese-and-bread combination!

The incredible cheese-and-bread combination!

It was an exquisite capping off to two days and three nights of fabulous dining. But, alas, the next morning we were whisked off to the airport leaving behind Amsterdam’s canals and bike lanes for a flight home to Edinburgh.

Though we’d only had an all-too-short time in Amsterdam, i was utterly entranced. It is a beautiful place (even in the cold!) and i am ever grateful for the opportunities i had to visit.

current jam: ‘day that i die’ zac brown band.

best thing: productivity. back to dale martin, for now.

of interest: i’ve added a new page at the top of the screen! it’s still a work in a progress, but have a look if you like!

Maps & Gastronomy: Eating and Reveling in Edinburgh

Edward Tufte says maps are metaphors. I’m no infometrics whiz, but i like this idea – if, for no other reason, than my affinity for maps. Splayed across my wall before me is a map of Edinburgh i peeled out of my guidebook. Adjacent to it is a map of Durham, North Carolina that i plucked from a visitor’s desk downtown. Though these maps are from far-away places, the greens couldn’t be of a more identical hue.

I love this metaphor within a metaphor: a town that is known to me and a town that is new are not so very different that they are required to clash. Durham’s streets are reminders of the world that has nurtured me, and Edinburgh’s closes and squares nurtures the at-times-overwhelming feeling of falling in love with a new world.

Yet falling in love with a new place means i need to share this love with the people who make up the home in the map of my heart. I sometimes fear my noticing of the very-matched greens will be a noticing only for me. That while this world i’m coming to know in Edinburgh is vast and exciting and beautiful, it starts to make my own dot on the globe all the farther from the world i knew.

This fear, though, was deeply assuaged this past weekend: i had the delight of sharing my budding romance with Edinburgh with one of my dearest, dearest friends – Nora!

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As she is also studying abroad in the UK, Nora and i threw together a weekend excursion about the city on a whim – a marvelous, serendipitous, and delicious whim. Because i’ve been so focused on making myself feel at home in Edinburgh, i haven’t necessarily done all the typical tourist-y things one might explore on holiday. Having a guest, though, was the perfect excuse to give myself full permission to go light on the schoolwork and heavy on learning all the reasons you should holiday in Edinburgh.

And easily ranked in the top ten reasons to visit Edinburgh would be the food! Thus, this is the first of two blog posts chronicling our weekend together. And it’s all about the food. (Don’t worry, the latter will be about the actual tourist-y things we did!)

Our gastronomical tour began with the comfort food haven, Mums. “Top nosh at half the cost,” according to the website, Mums boasts of a vibrant and edgy charm: they’re home-cooked comfort mixed with urban attitude. I mean, the mac & cheese has a spice kick to it and comes with chips!* Who doesn’t love drowning in cheese and carbs? Their food is locally sourced, their service impeccable, and the deal incomparable to anywhere else. Eating there with Nora was my first time, but it will so most definitely not be my last.

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Having sated our need for traditional fare, the next evening’s meal was one reminiscent of home: Southwestern American cuisine. Living in North Carolina for so long spoiled me, with taco stands and sit-down Mexican restaurants on every block. So to tend to my poor, burrito-deprived needs, we ventured to the local Tex-Mex joint: Illegal Jack’s. It was all i wanted and more, guacamole included.

Our final dinner was at a place i’ve frequented before: 10 to 10 In Delhi, a Halal Indian restaurant with excellent chicken roti and even better student deals. If you’re looking to stretch your pounds, three quid will get you a belly-stretching meal here. We particularly loved the pretty tapestries stretched across the ceiling and the cozy couches!

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Easily the best place we visited, though, was no foreigner to me: The Elephant House Café.

I met Nora in the fall of our first year at Mount Holyoke. She was wearing a Hogwarts crest t-shirt, it was love at first sight, and the rest (as they say) was Hogwarts, A History. Nora and i are no strangers to Harry Potter-themed adventures; in the winter of the subsequent year, we attended the Brooklyn Yule Ball together. On the last day of finals. In Christmas-themed ball gowns. We’d skipped dinner in an effort to catch the last train into the city, downing rolls of bread and Dr. Pepper’s in a convenience store outside the venue as substitutes.

There aren’t many people you can romp about New York City in a gold petticoat with, but Nora has always been an exceptionally genuine and beautifully adventurous friend.

I remember gleefully turning to her, as Harry and the Potters crashed and roared over their keyboard and guitar on stage. “I’m so tired, but i am having so much fun!“she mouthed over the din. It was a magical moment to share with a dear friend then, and it was just as magical to share the “Birthplace of Harry Potter” with her this weekend over elephant-shaped shortbread and excellent cups of tea.

We were sure to leave our own note in the bathroom – signed, as ever, with our nicknames for each other: Padfoot & Prongs.

(note the painting of JK Rowling writing in the café behind us!)

(note the painting of JK Rowling writing in the café behind us!)

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Feeling known is an immense gift. I feel known by this city – but part of this feeling known comes from sharing it with an old friend. Nora and i have a history of adventures (gastronomical and literary alike!) and to make this weekend a part of that map of stories was such a treasure. My green maps still match, and the loves in my life make the most beautiful harmonies when sung together.

current jam: ‘good morning sunshine’ alex day.

best thing: a beautiful place to be with friends.

p.s. you can always find my reviews of restaurants and attractions on my tripadvisor profile!

*for friends in the states: chips = french fries, just in case your daily dose of the BBC hadn’t kept you abreast of British slang!

Follow Me to The Mountain!

Today was Mount Hoyloke’s 175th Mountain Day – a cherished tradition wherein the bells are tolled one hundred times at 7 am and the community takes the day to clamber up the ridges of our namesake. None but the President of the College’s office know when the day will fall, so there’s been expected anxiety and predictions made working our way up to this brisk, falling-leaves-dappled day!

kate & i following the bus to the mountain!

I climbed the mountain with two of my darlings here at school, Carter & Kate! We were well bundled in our New England layers as we started the (paved) portion of the trail. When we embarked upon the actual (non-paved rocky terrain) trail, clambering over roots and stones alike, my wheezing asthmatic lungs were definitely struggling with the blustery air. Kate & Carter were champs about stopping every couple of minutes and letting me pump some oxygen back into my system. But! It was a prime time to capture some cute photos!

The trees were a vision of fall, their leaves gradients of bursting orange and sing-song yellow. Though this was certainly later in the year than i’d hoped for Mountain Day, the splendor of Massachusetts in her peak season makes it impossible to say the wait wasn’t worth it!

After half an hour of lung-pumping and trail-traversing, we reached the summit, delighting in the view of the Pioneer Valley stretched deep beneath us.

the oxbow!

squinty-smiles!

the most excellent jumping shot ever taken at the summit of mount holyoke. really.

The best part of the day, however, is that there is ice cream at the top served to you by the fabulous staff of Mount Holyoke and the President herself, Lynn Pasquerella. All that sweat-working-up and inhaler-employing was so worth it for this delectabel treat!

Our bellies sated, we began the trek back down the mountain to bask in the rest of our free afternoons. I decided then to truly take the day for myself, writing this blog post (ahem) instead of studying for my Islam midterm on Monday. Let’s hope the magic of mountain day is one of longevity and fortitude when writing about hajj!

current jam: ‘lover’s eyes’ mumford & sons.

best thing: j on a plane, bound for me!

Captured and Imprisoned Again: A Lefty-Trombonists Tale by the Sawktrombone.

Captured and Imprisoned Again:

A Lefty-Trombonists Tale by the Sawktrombone.

I am not Lizzie McMizzie, and this is a hostile takeover of Wandering Writes brought to you by the Socially Awkward Trombone.

OK, so it’s not really hostile. In fact, I was invited here in what was probably the biggest mistake Lizzie has ever made…

Now you’re wondering who I am and how the heck I know Lizzie McMizzie. Well, it’s a long story, and I can’t tell you how tempting it was to just turn this post into a long and embarrassing story about Lizzie and Her shameless childhood antics. Alas, I will spare Her the humiliation and give you the cliffs notes (I’m saving the REALLY crazy stories for Her wedding).

Lizzie moved to my neighborhood when we were in the first grade. We rode bikes and built forts and put on plays like all normal children who have ambitions to stage Les Miserables and Jesus Christ Superstar at the age of 7. I was a crazy child, but Lizzie was unusual. In that sense, She was (and still is) way more outgoing than myself. Yes, I loved musical theater, but did I want to act? No freaking way. Hide me under the stage please.

I have watched Lizzie grow through the years. I stood by as She tested out dozens of middle school names. I watched her go from a fashion disaster wearing rainbow ensembles and one opera glove to a fashion pioneer (AKA unintentional hipster). It was this sort of outgoing nature that made me positive that Lizzie was going on to great things. She never has cared about what people think of Her, and She remains grounded in Her beliefs. This brings me to why our friendship is so unusual.

Although I would admit to sharing a pretty strong moral foundation with Lizzie, as well as a love for old British men, most of our views do not align. In many aspects, we are polar opposites. Yet somehow, this friendship works. We have chats on all subjects, and I am probably the only one who is allowed to make fun of the fact that Lizzie is enrolled in an all girls school. Why? Because She knows that no matter how many times I joke about Her sexuality, I support Her in Her efforts to become an enlightened and cultured individual no matter how much it makes me laugh.

I also think it my job to bring Her head from the clouds by being as horrible and ignorant as possible to remind Her of the real world. But let’s face it, I’m a completely harmless goofball. So will this blog be a parody of McMizzie? Absolutely. I will shamelessly poke fun at Her (as a matter of fact, I already have).

That intro was way longer than preferred. Whoops. I shall now jump into my area of expertise. My blogs are generally about socially awkward situations that I mix in with music and trombone players. Today I will be diverging a bit in honor of Lizzie’s blog. I will be writing about trombonists and music, but it will be a kind of tribute to Lizzie’s style. I mean, just look at the title.

The Oppression of Left-Handed Trombonists

 Dearest friends/readers/ducklings,

 It is with a heavy heart that i alert you to an injustice that will affect you, dear reader, in no conceivable way.

A few of you may be surprised to learn that the trombone is an uncommon instrument, but it is more likely that you are momentarily leaving this page to search Google images for a trombone.

Now do you know what it looks like?

Good. We shall continue.

Historically, the trombone has never quite fallen into the category of “sexy”. Yes, there is a fair amount of innuendo that follows the trombone, but upon close inspection, one realizes quickly that the trombonists are the reason their instruments are seen as awkward.

Trombonists are awkward. In past blogs i have made it clear that anyone who decides to pick the trombone has been born with an awkward gene, or has had their childhood poop jokes suppressed due to the socially unacceptable nature of poop. But of course, if you like poop jokes you probably have been born with some sort of genetic predisposition to be awkward.

Poor genetics can be considered a disability right?

Let’s consider the genetic disbility that brings about red-green colorblindness. People with this disability are having new technology developed to make it easier to live in a world that is missing color. Trombonists born with awkward genes are left to fend for themselves in a world where avoiding eye contact is social suicide.

Life is hard.

Society enjoys pushing unpleasant things out of sight. For starters, trombonists are placed at the back of the orchestra. Not a big deal right? Trombones are loud. But did anyone stop to wonder why the trombone is loud? Maybe it’s because trombonists had been trying to get attention for years and when one of them got the bright idea to start playing loud for acknowledgement, the government placed the trombones in the back. All the government needed was a cover excuse that wasn’t “they’re too awkward to be seen by paying customers” because the media would have reported that as discrimination.

Government? you ask.

Yes. Government. It’s a conspiracy. The amount of awkward people on this Earth is regulated by a government that acknowledges the need for awkward people to play the trombone. If there wasn’t a need for trombones in every orchestra, all of the awkward people would have probably been exterminated by now.

The awkward people are kept in cells under the basement of every orchestra hall in the country. It is here where they are trained to play trombone and encouraged to speak to other “Awkwards” to improve their social skills.

Trombonist 1 (1): “I play trombone.”

Trombonist 2 (2): “I play trombone”

Trombonist 3 (3): “I play trombone”

1: “You play trombone?”

2: “I play trombone.”

3: “I play trombone.”

1: “I play trombone.”

There is rarely improvement.

When the need for a trombonist arises in an orchestra, a member of the stage crew, with the help of a uniformed official, reluctantly picks a person to place into society as a trombonist.

Now the real question is how the “awkwards” get captured in the first place.

Basically, if a child decides to pick the trombone of h/is/er own free will, s/he is doomed. After high school or college, anyone who picked the trombone as a child is whisked away and hidden under an orchestra hall. Even if the kid quit the trombone after a year, s/he is doomed to the same fate because s/he had the initial attraction to the instrument. Picking the instrument means you must have the awkward genetics.

One will occasionally find people who escaped the relocation. They keep their history under wraps, but it is difficult. Basically, if you know someone who is awkward, that person managed to avoid the government kidnapping by choosing occupations with limited social interaction. All of them played trombone at some point in their lives. I beg of my readers to PLEASE not turn these people in. If you know an awkward person, be friendly and accommodating. No one should have to go through what most trombonists suffer at the hands of the stage crew that poke through the cell bars under the theater. But of course, i don’t expect you to be accommodating. Go ahead and pander to the color blind. Throw the “Awkwards” under the bus.

It is now time to address the second part of this post. Lefties.

If there was ever a group that was oppressed, it was the lefties. Just a few years ago they were seen as the devil incarnate. Children who were naturally left-handed were forced to learn to write with the right hand. This often required school teachers to use razor wire to tie the left hand behind the back of the student as they learned to write with the opposite hand. Razor wire was used in the hopes that if the student couldn’t learn with the right hand, the left hand would be sliced straight off. This left (haha punny) the kid with no choice but to use the right hand.

Today, our society is just as bad as it was when there were frequent hand lacerations, but it manages to hide prejudices better. The world is still tailored to right-handers. For example, walk into any classroom. Most, if not all, of the desks are for the right handed. If there are any left handed desks, they are shoved to the back in hopes of keeping the devil people as far away as possible. Most computers are for right handed people, as well as most musical instruments.

Righties enjoy significant discounts when it comes to buying golf clubs, baseball gloves, and other sports equipment. All of the lefty stuff is priced way higher.  Hot water is on the right, cold on the left. People are better when in their “right mind”. When people are correct about something, they are “right”. Instead of saying “OK”, the word “right” is often substituted.

“Left” has bad connotations.

I “left” my stuff there and it was stolen.

S/he “left” the party too early and missed the goodie bags filled with 50 inch HD TVs.

Sandy was “left” at the cemetery to fend for herself among the awkward dead people that tried to kill her with trombone music and ghostly flatulence.

So where does this leave the trombonists that are left handed? Well, it’s funny, the awkward gene must also tie in with left-handedness. The percentage of trombonists who are left handed is higher than average. Still, they are a minority.

The left-handed trombonists tend to be the last people released into society. It would just be too dangerous. They get “left” behind so to speak. When a lefty trombone is released to an orchestra (as a last resort) they are embedded with a GPS locator and are essentially put under house arrest. They can play in an orchestra, but they still have to live in the theater. When the orchestra goes on tour, a trumpet player is assigned to the lefty trombone. This trumpet player is in charge of keeping the lefty out of trouble.

Trumpet players love having power of over people, so they enjoy being the babysitter of the lefty trombone. Usually the lefty is forced to stand perfectly still on snails and trumpet spit while the trumpet player alternates between blasting in h/is/er ear and playing the “Pictures at an Exhibition” excerpt over and over and OVER. No one could possibly imagine a worse torture than this.

There is one particularly terrible result that comes out of monitoring the lefty-trombone individuals.

You know those crazy people that think a chip has been embedded into their arm by the government? The ones who hide when planes and Nazguls fly overhead?  You probably just thought of them as homeless psychos in need of ostriching (ostracization), or John Nash.

(it should be noted that this had to be drawn with my right hand, as the mousepad was designed for right-handed people. prejudice.)

Wrong.

Listen to these people. They are escaped left handed trombonists. Somehow they managed to leave the side of their trumpet lord, and the GPS locator chip means that they are constantly being chased down. Help them stay free!

This is the end of my societal rant. I urge you all to help free the trapped trombonists as i am destined to be one when i graduate college.

Thank you for pulling through to the end of this. It should be noted that Lizzie did a guest post on my blog while I did a guest post on hers. So if you are now missing the McMizzie, feel free to hop over to socially-awkward-trombone.blogspot.com.

Lizzie: Thank you for allowing me to guest post today. I hope the reputation of your blog will not fall into the depths of Mordor after this. I wish you well, and I shall never forget your 4th grade offer to house my dark-haired family should there be another Holocaust.

-The Socially Awkward Trombone

Comment question of the day (see rules for the giveaway if you need a refresher!): What is the most awkward family event you were ever forced to attend?

Yesterday’s Winner: Morgan, for sharing the link on Twitter! Congratulations, Morgan, i’ll be mailing you the postcards next week.

A side note about the giveaway: if you choose to follow this blog as an entry into the contest (thanks!) you must let me know in an additional comment! This is so i can keep track of all of your beautiful faces. Or icons. Whatever. 

It’s Not as Weird as it Sounds: My Online Friends

Let’s just clear the air: i have friends i’ve made online.

Immediately whenever i disclose this particular piece of information to people who have not done the same, i (99% of the time) get one of two reactions. The first is a mild, “oh-that’s-nice” which reeks of subtextual fear and disapproval. The kind of response that means that people might ask politely intended but poorly phrased questions indicative of their worry that i only have friends online because i’m incapable of making them “in the real world.” I’m not a fan of this response, but i understand it. Making friends via YouTube is still relatively new in the broader discourse, despite YT’s years of existence.

The second response is one of overt judgement or worry – people who make comments like “that’s really weird, lizzie,” or “how do you know they’re who they say they are?” To the first comment, my initial response is simply to say: well isn’t any way you meet someone weird? Who defines normality?

But such esoteric smartass replies are not precisely conducive to communicating my point.

Because, at the end of the day, i get it.

The stereotype of creepy, predatory men lit in a dark room only by their computer monitor is a real one. At least, Criminal Minds tells me it’s real. The idea that there are dangerous people out to manipulate, scare, control, or abuse people (particularly young women) is not merely an idea: it’s a grim fact. I don’t discount that – but i also am aware that there are bullies and threatening people in every corner of our world. There are as many dangers as meeting someone online as there are in meeting someone at a bar or coffeehouse. You have to use your intellect, street smarts, guts, and meet in public places the first time around.

But here’s the other thing about said stereotype: it infers that i am talking exclusively to creepy men in their fifties preying upon my youth via chatrooms or facebook. The reality is quite different (not that you can’t make friends that way). My closest “internet friends” (a term i only use to distinguish them as people i met fist via wireless, and secondly in person, not that they are any less important to me than my “real life” friends) i met because of YouTube.

Which, understandably, might even compound the confusion. I would wager (again, in my non-expertise, totally subjective opinion) that 90% of people who use YouTube watch videos only pertaining to cats (totally acceptable), music videos, Rick Perry parodies (also completely okay), and the occasional school project for the super cutting-edge teacher. What is not included in this is how i got into YouTube – video blogging.

I’ve posted some videos here before of my own making, and more often than that make references to my favorite vloggers, John and Hank Green of the vlogbrothers. While the Green brothers by no means started the idea of a video blog (vlog), their channel and the community subsequently created around it has initiated an entire online movement. In 2005, the two brothers committed to a year long project where they would engage in text-less communication, predominantly through videos they would make for each other alternating every day of the week. The project, though not daily videos, has grown and persisted into the impending year of the apocalypse 2012. Because of their wit, insight, nerdiness, and utter abandon of self-consciousness on the web, these two gleaned, somewhat surprisingly to them, several hundred thousand followers (over the span of several years). As part of their mission to “decrease world suck” (which is literally to fight, through the power of love, anything that sucks in this world) they believe that all people are “made of awesome.” To this end, anyone who is “made of awesome” (who can be anyone) and wants to combat “world suck” is a “nerdfighter.” Meaning, if you like Doctor Who or Harry Potter and want to support small business owners in developing nations, you are a nerdfighter. Or if you’re into other things, that’s okay too.*

As i’m writing this, i can’t help but giggle a little at how strange this all sounds to put into a textual body. “Made of awesome” may not reek of Shakespearean eloquence, but it is pretty communicative and expressive of what the community is about. Yeah, the vlogbrothers are quirky and strange, but they have – through their own self liberation – given space for the inner nerd flag of anyone with an internet connection to be flown with pride. In their wake, thousands upon thousands of people have started their own vlogs, created nonprofits, made friends, hosted “gatherings” of nerdfighters, and generally united over a front to fight what they see is bad in the world by making connections with people who believe the same.

It’s no different to me then meeting someone at a Harry Potter appreciation society. Or a meeting for a campus organization seeking to promote awareness of injustices within the US Court System. A group of people, with common interests, meeting and talking. The difference is a computer screen.

In January of 2011 – exactly one year ago – i started a vlog. To be honest, i was wretched. My videos were too long, i had no clue how to edit, i talked too much, and never had much of a direction. But, six months new to the nerdfighter community, i desperately wanted to be a more involved part of it. That, and i was doing a little participant-observer research of my own for a potential senior thesis (more on that another time).

And, within a month of making videos, a fellow nerdfighter sent me a message on YouTube asking me if i would possibly be interested in a collaborative channel with herself and three other nerdfighters. I was both flattered and a little apprehensive – making videos on a channel with four people i’d never met before? Talking about what exactly? All of the responses i now get when i saw i have a video blog ran through my head. And yet, a part of me knew that this would be a really cool thing to try, should i only give it a chance. If it failed abysmally, it was just a little internet experiment. If it rocked, then i would have really been a part of this online community. Thus, allmadeofawesome was born a year ago this February made of myself, Jenn, Candace, Sarah, and Sara Michelle.

Fortunately for the five of us, i would say our little project rocked. It’s not famous, we’re not renowned among internet folk or anything like that – but that is not the point. The point is that, in spite of the weirdness of it all, i started talked to four other incredibly motivated, intelligent, and totally nerdy women about nerd culture and being at university. Basically, what i do with my friends “in my real life.” And through our videos, i’ve become genuine friends with these ladies. Not pornography, no predators, no venting of pent-up emotions i am incapable of expressing to people i see and hear and touch in the “real” world. Just friends.

Such good friends, though, that i’ve now hung out with two of them in person. Sara Michelle, who has the Friday slot on our channel, lives pretty close to where i go to school. We’ve attended two Harry and the Potters concerts together and have plans to do more nerdy stuff of the like – and when we’re hanging out, it’s just us talking and driving around or eating guacamole sandwiches (well, the last part is just me with my neurotic eating tendencies). Not weird. Not creepy.

okay, the normalcy argument may be lost here. but look, no serial killers!

With Sarah, i got to see her when i was in London in October. Sarah is, in fact, one of the major reasons i started watching Doctor Who, because she being British means that it’s somewhat compulsory to be awesome and nerdy and moon over Matt Smith (i know, sweeping generalizations (it’s a joke!)). Thus, when i’d fallen so deep in the time vortex that i wanted to go to the Doctor Who Experience in London, i invited her along – and we had such a marvelous time. For, despite his many waonderful attributes, my father is not precisely a Whovian. He was such a dear in spending the four hours with us in the museum, but it was Sarah with whom i geeked out over the tenth doctor’s actual TARDIS and the Ood prosthetics. She got the geekdom, the excitement, and the exhiliration at such silly things the way i did. Friends. Real friends.

sarah and i...in the tardis!

All of this to say, yeah. I have online friends. They’re real, they matter to me, and i realize that culturally this may not be the most acceptable. But as much as the internet has changed, so has our culture. The internet is a vehicle, i think, for what you make of it. For friends, for news, for connections, for cat videos during exam week. I think if we exercise appropriate caution in the same way we do in tangible reality, we can use the internet as a tool for good.

What are your thoughts? Have you made friends via the interwebs? Think i’m still a freak? You are all most welcome.

current jam: ‘safe & sound’ taylor swift, t-bone burnett, & the civil wars

best thing in my life right now: kitties, coffee, and my new mug.

*if this is not clear, i recommend this video as a better, from the horse’s mouth introduction!

The Internet: A New Blog Series

I’m never certain how to start blog posts like this. A very real part of me every time i begin to type, without fail, wants to commence the post with “Greetings, ducklings…”

But then i realize that might isolate, hmm, 99% of my audience. While its unquestionable at least one out of every hundred of you out there (ha) is, in fact, a duckling (or rather, convinced you are a duckling (no judgment from this end (i am a feline, after all))) the rest of the human beings and other sentient life forms might take offense.

So instead, i think: maybe i’ll start with a “Hello All!”

But that’s too chipper, too like a mass email sent out to tell you that sadly, no, you weren’t selected for the cast list/internship/duckling feeder role. Again with the possible turn-off to the audience members who, by now, are probably chucking rotten tomatoes at the screen and begging for the Muppets to come back and save them from this crap.

Which brings me, ladies and gentlemen and variations thereupon, to what the title of this very blog post indicated i would be writing to you all about: my next blog series.

Following the (still surprising) success of my first blog series on Women’s Colleges, i’ve decided to do another blog series. Since then, i’ve been cooking some ideas up and am now pleased to announce the first to you (and i swear, my idea-cooking is much more delicious than my food-cooking).

I give you: THE INTERNET: A NEW BLOG SERIES IN THREE PARTS.

(can you hear the dramatic music soaring?)

My intention for the series is to present a mélange of thoughts in my head about the big bad Internet; everything from my opinions on online dating to the dangers of cyber bullying. As a woman who lives, primarily, on the interweb, i feel qualified enough to spout my thoughts on these matters in a way that hopefully with be both productive and fun.

In this vein, i am requesting of you something dreadful. Well, maybe only dreadful for you, ducky, as typing with webbed feet is tricky business (trust me, i’ve tried).

I am soliciting your opinions – more intensely than i have perhaps before. This is because part of my intended posts include ideas about online communities and discourse. Most specifically, how i have grown personally and professionally in my life lived online. I see, in essence, the internet as a unique place to foster a new kind of radical community. While I do have personal and public rules about things that should/should not go online (to be disclosed in a future post entitled: Internet Etiquette) i warmly welcome your questions, contentions, raging disagreements, motions of solidarity, thoughts, and quacks.

And now, with no further ado, i give you the list of the approaching blog topics (titles are subject to change):

It’s Not as Weird as it Sounds: My Online Friends

Anonymity Online & Internet Etiquette: Why You Should Be Nice (Even When We Can’t See Your Face)

Radical Community: The New Face to Interpersonal

So there’s your teaser, sentient beings! I look forward to conversing with you via the connection forged in fire ethernet cables and wifi.

current jam: ‘helplessness blues’ fleet foxes

best thing in my life right now: my new gryffindor sweater. it’s cozy and my colors.