Tokes with Jesus (And Other Mis-Adventures)

My mother would have you know it is no secret i have a particular condition common among many children. She, in her sage possession of wisdom, aptly refers to it as “selective hearing.” I, however, call it forgetfulness, and claim it to be a side effect of an over-full hard-drive of a brain. But if you’re betting, i’d encourage you to put money on my mother’s diagnosis. Moms do have that knack for being right, even when we mere mortals want them to be anything but.

As further evidence of this, i have a tale to divulge to all ye gathered here concerning this precise malady of mine ears. Recently, in a conversation with my father, i uncovered some disconcerting news which highlighted, most evidently, this very ability i posses to only hear what i want to hear. He recently returned from chaperoning a service trip wherein the workers were predominantly high schoolers. On said trip, the members of his crew were particularly fond of singing one of my all-time-til-the-day-the-sun-implodes-favorites, “Wagon Wheel” by Old Crow Medicine Show. When i delightedly exclaimed my approval of such a song to fixate upon, my father agreed – and then uttered a sentence that would change my life forever:

“Yeah! But they had to change one of the lyrics.”

Bamboozled, i retorted that this song was only mildly sexual, and all allusions to such illicit activities were done in such euphemism even the most conservative of teens couldn’t be offended. Despite, of course, the bizarrely pseudo-raunchy music video.

To this, he replied that the line in the fifth verse had to be changed from what i thought was “I caught a trucker out of Philly / Had a nice long talk” to “Met a trucker out of Philly / shared an ice cold coke.”Still insisting that talking was always a good, productive, if sometimes irritating thing, i questioned why the line had to be changed.

A trip down googling lane later, the scales fell from my eyes. The actual lyric is:

“Met a trucker out of Philly / had a nice long toke.”

It was then my forty-something father had to explain to me, his almost-twenty-years-old, Seven-Sisters-School-Attending daughter, that this was not a thick-accented-way of saying “talk,” but rather a reference to smoking marijuana.

Oh.

It’s not that the song holds any less value for me now, or that i’m passing some kind of judgement on the gentlemen who wrote such lyrics. Really, it is mostly just hilarious to me that i could so completely not get a reference to weed – that such a not-subtle reference would have to be spelled out for me by my father.

But here’s the thing: i’ve started to question now just how many lyrics i have mis-heard in the course of my lifetime. Sure, there are songs like “Blinded by the Light” by Manfred Mann’s Earth Band, where NO ONE CAN POSSIBLY UNDERSTAND A WORD HE IS SAYING after the title lyric. Because, surely, the line is not “wrapped up like a douche who is a runner in the night.” Yet i take small comfort in this one-hit-wonder’s mumble-confusion.

And really, i wouldn’t be fretting at all over such a silly mis-hearing except, well … it happened again. Within twenty-four hours. In unrelated circumstances.

The subsequent day i went to work, put up with more crappy tippers and said twelve Hail Mary’s for not spilling any more drinks, and came home to collapse into bed. Whilst allowing myself to decompress from the day (a.k.a., wasting hours on tumblr) i chose to listen to my most recent musical obsession: Julia Nunes. Most particularly, i was jamming out to “It’s Raining Men” originally by the Weathergirls, and (obviously) covered by Julia Nunes. (I have no shame in my musical tastes).

While singing along i found myself stumbling on a lyric that had never once occurred to me to be anything other than what i had first heard when the song first befell my sixth-grade-ears. For, though the song is about letting yourself get totally wet as men rain down from the heavens, i had in all my innocence, invented a line that somewhat assuaged rampant female sexuality. (Because oh! The horror at such a thought!). In the bridge of this song, i always thought the line went:

“God bless Mother Nature / Jesus needs a woman too!”

Wrong. Again. As Julia Nunes has a little more enunciation (and less rain sound effects) than the original, i heard with all clarity the actual lyric:

“God bless Mother Nature / She’s a single woman too!”

Again, my love of the song has not at all abated. For this song, it’s probably grown – and my understanding of it is considerably less muddled. But twice! Twice! In twenty-four-hours! I’m starting to wonder if my mother’s diagnosis of my hearing impediment is not just confined to my “forgetting” to do the dishes or clean out the litterbox, but a plague upon the house of my brain. How many songs will i continue to mis-hear, continue to improperly sing, before this madness ends? Surely the cataclysmic fate of the world hangs in the balance of Jesus needing a woman and sharing a toke!

The only cure i see in my future is, well, furthered embarrassment. I suppose i shall only continue to naïvely mis-listen and subsequently mis-speak-sing. Still, i shall bear this burden with pride and refuse to sing quietly, even when such lyrics are written only in my brain. And if it means having a few talks outside of Philly or raining men because Jesus and Mother Nature have been a little too procreative in the weather department, so be it.

current jam: ‘good morning sunshine’ alex day (lord knows it could be ‘good morning moonlight,’ save that i double-checked the lyrics before posting this!)

best thing: orange juice and diesel in a suit.

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The Fault in Our Stars: Revisited.

From the open love letters i have composed so frequently to the writings rendered by John Green, it is no secret i am a fervent member of his cult of nerdfighters follower of his philosophies. My admiration from him stems from both his body of work as one half of the vlogbrothers with his hilarious and vivacious brother, Hank Green, and more deeply from his written artistry manifested in his novels. My favorite was, until recently, Looking for Alaska.*

In January, i had the beautiful opportunity to see John and Hank speak as part of the tour for the release of John’s latest book, The Fault in Our Stars. John said then – and has reiterated in many of his videos – that this was the book he had been writing for us for over ten years. His use of the phrase “writing for you” alone already was enough to fill me with unbridled anticipation to read it; knowing he had, in fact, written it for us made me beside myself. Having read almost everything he’d published prior to this, i knew that such longevity spent with his words must have made a masterpiece of them.

It did.

When i reflected on meeting John here, on Wandering Writes, i devoted my energy to thinking about the meaning of meeting your heroes. John Green is, in every sense of the word, what i believe to be a contemporary philosopher. He is utterly human in his admitted flaws and yet afflicted with the imperial sense of cosmic chaos and meaning indelible to those of Great Minds. I said then, and i think it bears repeating, that i don’t mean to idealize him (i think he would be genuinely worried to hear someone call him perfect) but i do believe he is an incredible voice in a generation in need of incredible leaders. Meeting him was humbling and human.

All this, before i had even so much as cracked open the spine of the book for which the tour had been commenced. In a multitude of facets, i am profoundly grateful for this; i was a blubbering, molasses-on-my-tongue fool enough having only read his previous works. Reading the culmination of his genius thus far was riveting enough to have reduced me to an absolute puddle in such circumstances.

Without betraying anything key to the plot or characters, i will say this: The Fault in Our Stars broke me down and patched me up in the way childhood once felt. The complexity of human existence amidst the disillusionment that comes with growing older seemed to, bizarrely, crumble while my hands were wrapped about the cover and my attention engulfed in the story. Reading the story, i simply was. Infinity was tangible. Then, of course, i finished the book and all the uprooting-to-my-core emotions suspended for the sake of being able to see the words on the page came pouring out. My stomach, i realized, had been clenched in a knot so tight i hardly breathed the whole book through. It was as if, for those twenty-four hours i spent in various curled-up positions engrossed in the book, i was no one. A human swept up in a story.

And then, with the closing of the last page, reality hit, and so did the beauty and destruction of the story. I know this sounds like the stuff of creative writing professorial nightmares – phrases plagued with sweeping statements that would make even Nathanial Hawthorne cower in vocabular fear – but i am being as genuine as i can be. This book went from being a work of art – a lie telling the truth – to lived reality. The truth unveiled consumed me.

I didn’t write up my reflections here, for i wanted to hold on to them for a while. Let the swirl of whisked-up sadness and truth and cosmic chaos brood. I’m still not done processing (i don’t think anyone really ever can be) and even these very words are only hands run along the top of the water. They aren’t plunged in, enveloped.

Such an experience belongs to the reader. And while my own torrents of comprehension are still in need of hashing out, i don’t think i want to do that all here. Not for lack of love for you, but rather because i want to give you the gift of reading the book yourself, making your own claims and dissensions and celebrations. For this reason, on the official first birthday of Wandering Writes (this approaching Saturday, the 25th) the last prize to be given away will be nothing other than a signed copy of John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars:

This is not, of course, the copy that he himself personalized for me; it is unread by myself and waiting for someone to drink in its wisdom and folly. May it find a loving home with you, whomever you may be.

For today and tomorrow, though, the giveaway will continue to be nine “nerdy and i know it” postcards (with the bonus tenth one from my globetrotting collection!). Rules and such are here!

Comment Question: What book fills you with inexplicable zeal or passion or longing?

Yesterday’s Winner: Kenzie for tweeting the link to the blog! Congrats, Kenzie! (sorry for the delay! The internet on campus went down last night!)

current jam: “permafrost” laurena segura

best thing in my life right now: the mountain goats.

*If these names are ringing in empty ears (that is to say, you have no freaking clue what i’m talking about) might i direct you to this video. Welcome. DFTBA.

And I Would Walk 500 More…

1087 miles. 11 days. The Mega Road Trip of Epic Proportions (That Are Really Epic) in the Month of January 2012 has, at long last, come to a close. Exeunt bear pursues with a sigh.

But, really. I drove for at least 800 of those miles, and have been living out of the same purple suitcase for the past eleven days, coaxing the last drops of shampoo out of my travel-sized Garnier bottle and forsaking all hope of keeping a neat and orderly pile of socks in the bottom right corner of the luggage. In a multitude of fashions i am utterly spent, ready to collapse into bed and sleep off my vacation in the remaining days i have before classes commence. And yet, i couldn’t have been more pampered or well-looked-after whilst caravanning about New England. My family in New York were lovingly attentive to every detail, from the coffee in the morning to the train schedules in the afternoon to the PBS programs at night. My family in Vermont were the best kind of adopted family members one hopes for when visiting friends: beautiful reasons for why you share in such precious space with such brilliant people. I have been hosted beyond my dreams. I didn’t start this post with the intention of writing a thank-you note, but as i meander through my thoughts, i realize it would be stupidly selfish and an inauthentic recounting of the journey without such a mention of the incredible hospitality i have so happily received. Thanks, friends.

For now, though, i am home again. That’s a complicated word, home. In a very real sense, i haven’t left home at all. I’ve just moved to other homes; homes in North Carolina, homes on the Metro North, homes along I-91. My home is the road, my home is my car, my home is a bed, my home is the people around me whom i love most in the world.

I was contemplating the complexity of the notion of roots, of home, as i was driving today. Nestled amidst the craggy peaks of Vermont-ian mountains was the winding highway that carried me back to another home, one i was both eager to see and somewhat reluctant to rush into. School-home means faces and hands belonging to people i’ve sorely missed in the last month, but also piles of untouched textbooks and pens full of ink. The promise of the new page, freshly turned, paired with the certainty of the anxiety over the unknown of such futures to follow. Last semester was one of my best and one of my worst; i emerged victorious, but as in all wars, there are casualties. Sleep and wellness were the two major contenders for most-wounded in the fall of 2011. And yet, i wouldn’t have it any other way. I take a kind of exhilarated delight in the madness of college; even when i am so dredged and tired and over-caffinated than i can barely make sense of the concepts before me, i relish in the intellectual exercise. The act is familiar to me, but the knowledge is beckoningly new and exciting.

As i made my way through the snow-capped peaks and few-and-far-between rest stops, though, my anticipation to get back grew. That was the phrase that was glued to my thoughts: get back. Go home. Return. Yeah, the work can be overwhelming, but i didn’t pick Mount Holyoke for its convenient location. In fact, i chose to go to a school seven states away from home to push myself – in every sense of the word. To travel, to explore a new part of the country, to endure cold. I chose to make a home for myself far from the home i’d known. I will, for the next few years at least, always be at heart in two places. Not to get sappy or pseudo-philosophical, but that kind of sucks – and is also pretty awesome. I mean, i get to bum my way from air mattress to futon across America with the nationwide friendships i’m making, so that’s got to count for something.

At any rate, it’s been an excellent eleven days of comfortable voyaging. No mosquito nets, no motorcycles, no dashing British actors, or Globe theatres, or fish and chips, but an adventure i will treasure for the replenishment it has granted me. And, you know, there was John Green. And Darren Criss. So not too shabby a tale to tell, i suppose.

Home is where the rambling heart leads me, after all.

current jam: if the title isn’t enough of a clue…

best thing in my life right now: THISTHISTHISTHISTHISTHISTHIS. (go to 0:13).

Grand Central Station.

I may only be a stranger in the city of lights and motion, but i’ve always felt that Grand Central is the pulsating center of New York City; commotion, direction, chaos, everywhere people, everywhere energy and worlds and life…

(but you might get trampled if caught unawares staring at the stars above)

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray: a Review.

It’s no secret i am a voracious consumer of Young Adult fiction. I have yet to start what surely will be the brilliant The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, but this is only because i have been utterly enthralled and consumed by another YA novel for the past three days. When not running around Manhattan, i have been glued to my recently acquired copy of Libba Bray’s most recent masterful work: Beauty Queens.

I’ve been a fan of Bray’s writing ever since i checked out A Great and Terrible Beauty from the local library some five years ago; she is fresh, manipulates a story with ease, and has one of the most wry and clever senses of humor i’ve yet encountered. Having read a smidget of the review for this book on Spark, i knew it promised to be a book of equal calibar to her other works, if not completely different in its setting and style (A Great and Terrible Beauty takes place in Victorian England, as i recall).

Beauty Queens is unlike anything i’ve ever read; in its concept, it is nothing unique, and yet it somehow manages to achieve exception both through the quirky narration style and Bray’s masterfully interwoven social commentary. The book begins with an enormous, devastating plane crash: the contestants for the Miss Teen Dream Beauty Pageant have fallen on an unknown island somewhere south of Florida. Hell breaks loose, as the collection of the surviving teen girls try to survive the unruly and unimaginable jungle they have found themselves in. Peppered with hilarious footnotes written by ‘The Corporation,’ the apparent official sponsor of the book (by which Bray is making a pretty snarky commentary on product placement and the cult of the celebrity) and rich character development, the book stands incomparable to most other YA i’ve read.

Unmistakably, the premise reeks of Lord of the Flies; and while the fact that the characters are stranded on an island with no adults to supervise certainly lends credibility to the parallel, the commentary Bray is making on humanity is far different from that of William Golding’s (in my humble opinion). To begin with, the characters are women – and women who embody a spectrum of sexual orientations, gender identities, races, and religions. These women may at first appear to be nothing but vapid products of a consumerist beauty aesthetic impossible to achieve, but as the tale weaves on we learn that not all is as it seems with the pageant wannabees.

In this, Bray has created a beautiful (pun intended) portrait of the expectations forced on men and women in today’s media.  Through hysterical allusions to contemporary pop culture icons like Larry King and Sarah Palin, Bray has created a not-so-alternate universe from our own. She handles such ideas with charm and humor, but simultaneously manages to give space to the gravity of what she is speaking about. Hair removal creams can become explosives, gender lines and expectations are blurred, and no sex ed program will ever be thought of as a scapegoat for “loose women” in her saga. Oh, and pirates. As if feminist theory told in a stranded-island form was not enticing enough!

I adored this work; i recommend it to anyone and everyone to read, be you a teenage girl seeking for some supremely well executed feminist theory or an intellectualist wishing for a more creative vessel by which to consider the implications of the reality TV-like quality governmental elections seem to have taken on.

current jam: ‘heard them stirring’ fleet foxes.

best thing in my life right now: books books books.

The Fault in our Stars

nerdfighters and our books!

(i wrote this last night after returning from the TFIOS tour…alas, the internet failed to put it up then so i’m posting it a little late. i beg of your forgiveness)

Tonight, i saw John and Hank Green. Tonight, i heard John Green read aloud from his most recent work – what some are saying to be the best book he’s yet written – and scarcely breathed the whole twenty minutes he was reading it aloud. Tonight, Hank Green sang about how he wished his high school had been Hogwarts instead. Tonight, the show ended with the brothers singing (my most favorite song in the world) ‘I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)’ by The Proclaimers.’

in the signing line. the mountain goats lyric from ‘how to embrace a swamp creature’ came to mind: i try to tell you just why i’ve come/ it’s like i’ve got molasses on my toungue.

To say the least, i’m floating on a bit of a nerdy internet cloud of wonderment and thrill.

Together, as i mentioned in my Internet Blog Series Thingymabob, the Green brothers have created and fostered this worldwide community of nerdfighters. People who are reclaiming the term “nerd” as an insult and (to paraphrase John Green (again)): accepting such a term as a congratulation for being intelligent, informed, and inquisitive human beings. A community that celebrates intellectualism and silliness, stirring up conversations in radically new ways with the help of online communication – one i am so content to be a part of. Together, the brothers do this in their weekly videos, but more expansively they have spawned some incredible projects to fight worldsuck (which is exactly what it sounds like – things that suck in the world, like poverty) and increase awesome. Simple terms (the silly factor) that communicate truly intellectual and brilliant ideas: make the world a better place by being informed and living into your full capacity as a human being.

While i may reference the Green brothers all the time here, on this blog, and on my video blog found on Youtube, i’ve never really expressed overtly how much these two brothers mean to me. Both them in tandem, as the unit that is The Vlogbrothers, but also as individuals. Perhaps most of all, though, for what they stand for and what they, somewhat unintentionally, created in the globe-spanning community that is nerdfighteria.

John Green, as it so happens, articulates why i haven’t been so decided in sharing such feelings (until now) in his new book. (Note: this is from chapter 2, so it’s not a major spoiler). The main character, Hazel, is telling the reader why she feels hesitant about sharing what her actual favorite book is with people;

“My favorite book, by a wide margin, was An Imperial Affliction, but I didn’t like to tell people about it. Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless all living humans read the book. And then there are books like An Imperial Affliction, which you can’t tell people about, books so special and rare and yours that advertising your affection feels like a betrayal.”

As in so many things, precisely what John Green articulates here is often how i feel about books – and, in beauteous irony, several of these books are his own. I don’t tell people how much his book Looking for Alaska moved me – and still moves me – because of exactly what he (via Hazel) explains: it’s mine. Well, not so much now that i’m writing this for the MILLIONS of you out there reading this to read, but still.

I don’t share this love lightly, because it’s kind of like baring your Soul out a bit and risking the inevitable scoff from the inevitable snob who thinks the book is crap. And while, in a very real way, Looking for Alaska is not mine (as i had no part in its rendering) John himself said tonight: books belong to their readers.

This idea of an artist slaving over a piece, giving of herself or himself in a way that their very Life is pouring into it, translates for me to works on a broader scale than just books. Van Gogh is my favorite painter not because i understand the intricacy in the way he manipulated his brushstrokes or revolutionized visual art through conceptions of color and form (though, in fairness, i do like those attributes to his work). Van Gogh is my favorite painter because i can look at Starry Night and cry for the pain and wonderment at such suffering it expresses so intensely. In standing before Van Gogh’s work i see my own Self reflected back; certainly part of that is his own – the work would not be so moving were it to as inauthentic to not reflect the artist’s own hand. But i only know Van Gogh’s struggle through the lens of my own – through empathy, through learning, through my own dreaming of stars. John’s recognition of this moment for the reader or audience member or art appreciator augments my appreciation for his own work. If i may be so bold as to put words in his mouth, he sees that the art will forever be of the artist, but it belongs to the audience once it is released. Loving something means letting it go, to employ the cliché.

I guess what i’m trying to get at is that John Green’s books are more than just silly Young Adult fiction. Sure, there’s plenty of teenage angst and bad wine and high schooly romance, but the core of his writing is this emphatic and indescribable beauty made from his own attempts to question the cosmos. He is, to me, a philosopher. I don’t mean to idolize him (the man has faults (many of which i’m sure i will never know, as these things should be)) or place him precariously next to Socrates. What i mean to say is simply that, to me, John Green is more than an author. His books are more than words on a page. To use his own words once more, “I believe now that we are greater than the sum of our parts.”

So meeting him tonight was incredible, in the act of meeting him alone. The fact that he and his equally awesome and nerd-tastic brother, Hank, put on a show together simply compounded the exhilaration. For the act of sharing the space with two people embracing nerd culture and all the weirdness that comes along with it, for shaking John’s hand and telling him that his books move me to my core, for singing along and dancing in the aisles and being a total goof with hundreds of other people – this is what i celebrate.

And for these moments and for this time, i am so deeply grateful.

current jam: ‘high school (this isn’t hogwarts)’ hank green.

best thing in my life right now: the above.

fifteen things challenges completed: one (item #2: shake john green’s hand and tell him how looking for alaska saved me)

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 NC House of Representatives has Voted for Legal Homophobia.

When I first created my Ten Things List as a blog theme, the listing of “voting in local North Carolina elections” held little significance to me. Well, perhaps that’s a bit of an understatement- allow me to clarify. Last year when elections first came around for this newly-legally-aged citizen, my absentee ballot arrived too late for me to actually vote. It was a bit of bummer, as I had marched all around campus declaring that my right to vote was one women had been imprisoned, tortured, marginalized, and otherwise harmed for me to have. Regardless of the fact that I was not particularly invested in last year’s candidates, my right to vote was a right I had fully intended to act upon. Snail mail and poor planning, however, prevented this.

Thus, when brainstorming activities appropriate for me to complete before the conclusion of 2011 it seemed only natural to include voting in the local NC elections. I had an elaborate post planned in my mind that entailed references to Susan B. Anthony and Iron Jawed Angels, a publication praising the road feminism has bravely trod thus far and what joy (even in the smallest and seemingly unimportant choices) I should take in using my political voice because of the sacrifices made by my foremothers. And while this all remains ringingly true, something occurred yesterday in the North Carolina House of Representatives that has both infuriated me as an active supporter of universal human rights and a legal, registered voter in North Carolina.

I am speaking, naturally, of the Referendum passed by the House actively banning the natural human right for same-sex couples to wed.

The first amendment in the North Carolina Constitution that would restrict, inhibit, and otherwise encroach upon human liberty. While state law already deems that marriage is defined as a legal union between a man and a woman, amending the founding legal document to the state utilizing this homophobic, irrational, and bigoted language to cement an already legalized violation of principle human rights is disgusting. The referendum, passed by an overwhelming majority in the Republican-dominated House, went on to the Senate today where the referendum was, yet again, overwhelmingly passed.

This means that, come May of 2012, North Carolina voters will choose on the ballots whether or not the state constitution should be amended to legally define marriage as a union between a heterosexual couple, thus banning gay marriage. North Carolina currently is the only state in the southeast of the United States to not have a legal ban on gay marriage.

I am repulsed. I understand that according to the laws of democracy, the majority vote is deemed the most important and applicable to the people. I get this. But when the majority stomps out the minority’s opinion an opinion not to be invalidated simply by the incomparable numbers the foundational principles of democracy itself are jeopardized. Democracy is meant to ensure liberty for all of its participants, and an amendment that deliberately seeks to undermine and exclude members of this legal social contract ensuring those very people’s right to freedom is an abhorrent disgrace and blatantly disregards the foundational principles of the government. And when these pillars of the fundamental social contract by which all American citizens abide begin to crumble, the government no longer is doing its job.

If you don’t like gay marriage, THEN DON’T GET ONE. The right to marry someone of the same sex whom one Loves does not encroach upon your liberty. Seriously. And to those who claim being gay, lesbian, queer, transgendered, or otherwise identifying as something other than a Kinsey 0 on the spectrum of sexuality is something sinful ,I have three words: The Establishment Clause. Your beliefs of what defines the parameters of “sin” (which, by the way, aren’t we all sinners according to the Bible, ye fundamentalist Christians?) are religious, and the people who wrote the Constitution of the United States made it explicitly clear that religion and politics are to remain in separate spheres. I simply cannot fathom how you explain to yourself the legality of banning a human right.

And by the way, nowhere in the Constitution does it say that marriage is only for a man and a woman. In fact, it does not mention marriage at all. This is the document that governs our nation, not the Bible, or the Qur’an, or the Bhagavad Gita, or any other sacred text.

So needless to say, members of the House and Senate who voted to put this on the ballots of my home state, come May I will be voting against this amendment, and come your next run for office I will not be voting for you.

current jam: ‘fly’ rihanna & nicki minaj