Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Wrath of Ken

"Did you get my e-mail?" Paul, the symphonic band conductor, asked as he signed the paper.

"Uh, yeah," I said. "I think so."

We were in the instrument shop. He gave me the form that would let me check out the A clarinet.

"So do you know of any trumpets I could get for symphonic band? I was hoping you could get someone from the marching band."

"I wish," I said. "I've already talked to everyone I could think of."

We wondered toward the hallway. "Of course, there's always you," Paul muttered, "but I'd be afraid to face the wrath of Ken."

"Haha, yeah," I said as we parted ways. Ken is my clarinet teacher. If I could help in the area of trumpets, I would. But alas, scholarship conditions dictate my instrumental choices. I am a whore of the music department. I do what they want and they pay me.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Do Pandas Have Tattoos?

It took me so freaking long to figure out how this could work. But I've finally got it. For your instant gratification. :)

Sweet Green IcingDo Pandas Have Tattoos?

Well, here it is. My first song. Not my first ever. But my first recording. Sorry my voice isn't the best ever. I'm not a vocalist, I'm a musician. I mean, an instrumentalist. At least I am always on pitch. I got A's in all four semesters of ear training.

Anyway, I was nervous about the recording thing so that's more like my talking voice than my singing voice. I also didn't realize how horribly California I sound. I'm sorry. People just talk like that here. It sounds retarded, but that is the California way. (By retarded, of course, I mean totally awesome, dude. Trippy. Righteous?)


Today I woke up wondering
Do pandas have tattoos?
And then I wondered,
Do the tattoos also have tattoos?
And then there was a neverending cycle
Of pandas having tattoos.
But then I realized,
That there is no way
That pandas have tattoos
Pandas have fur!
They have fur!
But because they're endangered,
They probably have piercings.


Limit Your Consumption

Picture this: You're bored to tears in the middle of a hot summer day, inside the house maybe watching the tube or finishing a puzzle, when suddenly something reminiscent of a cherry-red wrecking ball smashes through the wall with brute force. Though you are terrified that your house has been destroyed, you find sweet, high fructose relief when you hear a familiar "Oh yeahhhh!"

You have just encountered the Kool-Aid Man.

According to Wikipedia, the Kool-Aid Man was born in 1975, 48 years after his father Kool-Aid was invented. His mother, Glass Pitcher, has been around since perhaps the Late Bronze Age. You can see how they would be attracted to one another. Both come first in powder form, Glass as sand, Kool-Aid as Kool-Aid powder. Both are seemingly useless at this stage (except for sugar-crazy kids and sand castle enthusiasts) but after a variety of chemical changes become something completely new. It was love at first sight, and the young (?) couple married and wasted no time in having their one child, Kool-Aid Man.

However, that is where the list of similarities comes to an end. While both Kool-Aid and Glass can be considered liquids, the father often questioned the Pitcher's true form. They also had a huge age difference. They spent many nights fighting, and as a child it quite upset the young Kool-Aid Man. He did poorly in school because he was both starved for attention, and also had ADHD. Small doses of crystal fructose were the only thing that calmed him down.

Eventually, around the 90's, he started losing control of his fructose habits. During one of his blackouts he smashed through the wall of a K-mart in Missouri screaming, "OH YEAHHH!" A local talent agent hooked him up with his own spot on TV. His "Oh yeahhh!" campaign was a recipe for success: a giant glass pitcher busting through walls with a crowd of happy kids eager to consume his contents. He was a celebrity among kids and pre-teens alike.

However, things started to go haywire when the paparazzi caught him under the influence (of zombies) and posted the video of him eating people all over the Internet. The general public started to fear him, including Dane Cook:

"Don't touch me, you drink!"? Ouch, Dane. An enormous pitcher of liquid's ego is likely to deflate easily.

That wasn't the only way people started harrassing the Kool-Aid man. Webcomics and T-shirts alike depicted him losing his ever-futile battle between him and his addiction, busting through walls, spilling over, screaming "Oh yeahhh."

People don't realize that this is not part of the solution. The Kool-Aid man sought counseling in 2004. He needed to see that by consuming chemicals and destroying things, you only create more problems for yourself while losing the respect and support of your friends and family. And he did. He's cleaned up his act, lost a lot of weight, and got a new outfit. He has also learned that his appetite for attention can be better satisfied in an artistic environment and since has taken several acting courses. You can see for yourself how the Kool-Aid Man is doing here.


Sunday, January 20, 2008


When I was 15 we spent Easter Sunday at our cousins' house. It was boring, pretty much, considering that nobody in my dad's side of the family is really religious at all. But at the same time, even though my cousins only lived 45 minutes away we didn't see each other that often.

My grandpa was also there, my dad's dad. Kickin' it at 87, he had thin white hair, thick glasses and always wore a one-piece flying suit. My dad always talks about how similar we are, from our tastes for pineapple ice cream to our analytical thinking processes to our general tolerance of other people. He was the nicest, funniest old man (maybe even person) I've ever met, and I've met some good ones.

He sat on the couch with my mom, my sister Megan and me. "You ladies really love your music, don't you?" he said.

"Oh yes," my mom said. "Stephanie is getting really good at piano and playing clarinet in the school's marching band, and Megan's singing in the vocal ensemble at her school. Janet's learning clarinet as well."

"Well," my grandpa said, "I've got an old cornet that my friend gave to me awhile back. He played for a living. I've always wanted to learn, but I can barely play the phonograph, so I'll give it to you guys."

"Wow you guys!" my mom said. "A cornet! This will be great for Megan, because she has the lips for it."

I don't really know what my mom was thinking when she thought she could evaluate what kind of lips are suitable for playing brass. But soon it sat in Megan's room, all nice and ready to be played.

After a few weeks I hadn't even heard her try and play it. A musical instrument. In the house. That I didn't know how to play. I'd always wondered how brass worked.

So I downloaded a fingering chart from the Internet and when she was at a friend's house I "borrowed" the cornet and learned to play it fluently within two weeks. It's not that impressive because at that point I also knew piano, clarinet and bass guitar.

Of course my sister got all mad and then realized that it would be better off if I just had it, so she gave it to me. (That's also how I acquired my ukulele. Poor Megan.)

Only a month after we had acquired the cornet my grandpa went in for quadruple bypass surgery. Since he lived alone in a kind of remote area, the doctors suggested he stay with a family member during his recovery. Out of his four sons he chose my dad's family, because what can I say, we were the most awesome and least pretentious group of the choices. Plus he loved our dog.

It was summertime. I was too young to really get a job (although I occasionally worked archiving files for my mom's boss) and I was over swim team (over=tired of being the slowest one). So I spent my days practicing the cornet and making stuff. Maybe I could play trumpet in the band this year. (I did.) Maybe I could even join the jazz band! (I did!)

My grandpa said, "I really love hearing you play that thing. It reminds me of my son" (my uncle) "when he was a kid. He was a brilliant trumpet player and would have been first chair if the director hadn't put a piece of music in front of him and asked him to play it. He didn't know how to read music!"

That's so cool, I'd say. He then told me of another time when he flew a plane for a famous trumpet player Louis Armstrong. But when they got there, they had misplaced his trumpet, a golden trumpet presented to him by some really famous/royal person! Oh no! No fear, Louis told my grandpa. He pulled his mouthpiece out of his pocket and said This is all he needed to make the same wonderful sound.

We spent many a lovely summer afternoon sitting on the porch with the dog, sipping iced tea and eating sandwiches. I would make a sandwich for him and he would smile and say "Are you fattening me up for the kill?" One time he told me I'll be a beautiful wife someday. That was one of the nicest things I've ever had said to me. We became very good friends that summer.

Anyway, the time came when I graduated high school and dreamed of moving somewhere far away (but still within the state so I could get cheap tuition) to go to college. My grandpa said, "I hope you keep playing your music." I said I will, I'm going to be a music major. Even if my "career" has nothing to do with music. I'll keep playing.

A couple of months into my first semester, my grandpa had a stroke and died. He was 90 years old. My mom said it's okay, he was a really happy man and lived a very fulfilling life. It was still sad to me because he was my friend. My mom said they had a picture of me in his hospital room. My dad told me later (quite a bit later) that I was his favorite and he asked about me all the time. I guess I was making judgements about the fact that he was old, but I didn't think that our time together would really stand out to him. But I guess it did, and proves how much more alike we were than I realized. It was really special to me.


Friday, January 18, 2008

Axolotl Dreams and Ambiturning

I have two science major roommates. One day a few months ago (almost a year ago, actually) they told me they were going to try and save an axolotl from the evil clutches of science. A few days later, they came home with Piña.

Now, that picture really doesn't do Piña justice. In reality he is adorable like you cannot even imagine. His look is reminiscent of a Pokemon, except better because he's real. Fuzzy red gills surround his face which has little black dots for eyes. When he eats he opens his mouth for a split second while some kind of vacuum forces anything and everything into his stomach. This, in turn, forces his entire body to jump.

And finally, when playtime comes around, his skin changes color from a ghosty white to a full-fledged glow-in-the-dark pink. By that I mean the color of pink stuff that glows in the dark? That color. I must say there is no sight quite like that of a playing pink axolotl.

Now. Ever since we got
Piña I've had more dreams about him than I've had about anything else. One time I had a dream that my sister turned into an axolotl and escaped into a lake. Then I had a dream that I became an axolotl and Piña was my axolotl friend. I could go on, but those were several months ago. I thought I was over it.

But nay. Three nights ago I dreamed that
Piña had become just a regular old fish. I didn't even notice. Shame on me! The fish acted just like Piña. He got all excited when I opened the tank and said his name. I could have sworn it was Piña until I woke up and thought, "Wait...that's not right..."

And then last night, I had a dream that
Piña had become a black axolotl. I looked into his tank and saw the black axolotl and thought, "Well, that's different. But he's still cute!" Sure enough Piña is still white.

I also discovered last night that like Zoolander, I'm not an ambiturner. (I'm also really, really, really, ridiculously good-looking.)

All my life I've sucked at sleeping. No, that's a lie. My first two years of college I was a champion sleeper. I went to sleep and woke up at the same time every single day. I don't know how I did it.

But now I suck at it again. It mostly has to do with something weird in my ribcage that pops. It's not quite like how your back or ankles or knees pop. But it just feels like something is slipping in and out of place when I lie or inhale a certain way. It's been like that for years. Don't know why. But I can't find a comfortable position because that popping occurs when I breathe and it bothers me so.

But last night I realized that when I change positions, I can't turn left. I just. Can't.

That would explain why all my blankets get ripped off my bed one way, and the sheet underneath gets ripped off the other. Ohhh.

Also, I have a catchphrase for Violent Acres: "Sarcasm-infested claws of truth." I made that up before going to sleep. Yeah. It's pretty bad. I am addicted to her writing. I kind of just wanted to use the word "infested."

Wow! I just will not end this post! But I just ordered a crappy computer microphone for ten dollars. So maybe soon I can post my ukulele songs. Give me two nouns and a verb and I will make it into a song. I swear I will. I was famous for this game at the camp I worked at.


Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Pen Theif

My dad was a big fan of the show "Get Smart." He was in elementary school when he came across a problem--his pens kept disappearing. Another kid was stealing them from him, he was sure of it. My dad thought he knew which one it was, too, after yet another one had gone missing.

"Hey," he said to the kid. "You stole my pen."

"No, I didn't," the kid quickly responded. "It's my pen."

"But I just saw you swipe it off my desk."

"No, you didn't."

"Yes, I did," my dad said. But he did not bother tattling over a single pen.

My dad used the kind of pen that clicks on the top so the ball point pokes out the other end. He knew he could prove the kid had stolen it. He swiped the pen back when the kid wasn't looking.

When he went home he unscrewed the top of the pen and poked a hole through the clicker. Then he set up a safety pin, apparently not so safe, on the inside of the pen so the Pen Theif's thumb would get stabbed to death if he dared try and click it.

And so, the next day he left his pen on the desk for all the world to steal, and left his desk to watch from afar, the Pen Theif take his treasure. To start writing he had to click it, so--

"OW!" cried the Pen Theif. A tiny stream of blood trickled down his thumb. Apparently that was the point on the thumb torturers in medieval times used to crush.

And eventually my dad was sent to the principal's office, for the simple crime of delivering a slice of karma to this pen-burgling criminal.


Wednesday, January 16, 2008

A Stephanie

I'm in college. I won't lie, I party. Sometimes it's embarrassing. Most of the parties I go to are at my house. There are times when my house will host a party three or four weekends in a row.

One time my roommate, in an over-the-climax-of-the-night state of intoxication, told me her cheeks were involuntarily perky, forcing her face to smile. She said whenever this happens, she is having a Stephanie.

Aww. How flattering.

In elementary school, in the state of California, there is usually a lunch break and something called "snack" recess a few hours before that. Just a fifteen minute break to run around, socialize, burn off all your kid energy before returning to the jail cell of a classroom.

I didn't get it. I liked the jail cell. I didn't understand why we had to waste a bunch of time running around when we could be learning stuff. I guess I was that kind of weird.

I spent most of my recesses walking alone around the perimeter of the playground. I didn't know what else to do. Obviously playing with the other kids wasn't an option? I didn't know. I didn't want them to yell at me for trying to join their game or something.

The black top was speckled and had pretty, colorful shapes and lines painted on it. So I stared at the ground as I traced the border.

One day a girl from my class came up to me. "What's wrong?" she asked.

What's wrong? I had not made the connection that people look at the ground when they are sad. I couldn't think of anything to complain about. Not that I would ever do that as a kid anyway. "Nothing," I said. "I'm good."

"Okay!" she said and ran away.

This happened several times over the next three years. Then I realized: If I have nothing to complain about, then I must be happy, right? Happy people smile. If I smile, people won't bother me to ask what's wrong when nothing is wrong. So I started smiling all the time.

Except I never realized it was a habit until my sophomore year of high school, when I took Spanish I. The teacher was still trying to learn who we were. "Ah, Stephanie," she said during roll call. "The one with the big smile."

I didn't think anything of it at first. I didn't want to just look at her with no expression.

But then she started saying it almost every single day during roll call. "There she is with the smile!" And then it evolved! Instead of saying my name she would just say "Smiley?"

I will now interrupt my story with a rant about nicknames and about how people speculate things. I don't go around verbalizing every single behavior of someone I interact with, to them. So don't give me a nickname about how I behave when I see other people. I was taught to always treat people nicely. I am a shy person who can't always muster up the words to communicate pleasantries clearly. So I use my facial expression.

That nickname, Smiley, is creepy. Nobody always smiles, including me. Just the implication that I do makes me feel somehow very conflicted. I only want to acknowledge people who acknowledge me, without having to say anything. And now I'm being punished for it with a stupid creepy nickname?

It spread around to the point where my classmates started calling me Smiles. It bothered me so, but I only verbalized that once, to a friend who was in a couple of classes with me.

Then, my freshman year of college, one of my guy friends started calling me Smiley. I don't know why. I hate it. So. Much. Again, I don't go around naming other people based on their facial expressions. Someone else had to tell him I didn't like it. "Why didn't you just tell me?" he asked.

Just tell you. Like it's that easy. I feel like such a teenager when I think this, but people don't understand how hard it is for me to just talk to people. But that's a topic for another discussion.

Back at the party, my roommate describes the sensation of her face forcibly becoming a smile and calls it a Stephanie. That somehow doesn't bother me so much. Because I never even think about it when I smile. My face just does that on its own.

And it's interesting, whenever I don't smile I'm called on it. Once I was in Raley's, the grocery store, with my friend and her mom waiting for them to do shopping and my mom to come pick me up there. I stood by the door with all my school stuff, tired, damp from rain. Suddenly I hear a voice say "Smile! It's almost Valentine's!" I looked up from the ground to see a random scruffy middle-aged man in a wheel chair. I didn't care at all about Valentine's, but just the fact that I'd been seen in public not smiling struck my attention. Once I was trapped in one of those "Do you ever not smile?" conversations when a friend said, "I saw Stephanie not smile once!"

I guess I can't complain!

The Most Awesome Hiker

It was about one o'clock in the afternoon, and the breeze whispered though the trees. A sixth grade me continued to trudge over the vague dirt trail. I carried nothing but a bottle full of green water I'd filled at the halfway point and a gigantic white T-shirt with "Bullfrog Pond" screenprinted across the front.

There were people with me at first. My sixth grade science camp group was with me, the girls in my cabin. But they were practically running up the hill, and I didn't want to do that. So I joined the slower people. Little by little, the slower group dissolved. Once we reached the destination it became just me. And I did the simple, logical thing any sixth grader hiking alone would do: go back the way we came and look for the short cut I'd used before.

Well, apparently, the short cut I found was a long cut. Hiking alone, I didn't really care. There was nobody here to make fun of me except the trees. I started to sing such classics like "I've Been Working On the Railroad" and "Old MacDonald." There loomed a seemingly limitless freedom at an age when social pressure demanded restraint.

I ceased my howling of random children's songs when I realized someone was following me. Eventually, as I kept moving forward, I realized it was Mr. LaRash, one of the teachers. Why was he following me? Was I actually the slowest kid in the hike?

No, apparently I was the lost kid in the hike. I didn't even realize until we reached some place--some completely random place that was nothing like where we started from--and all the people there, my peers, their parents, the teachers and bus drivers, started clapping for me. Why? I didn't know. I didn't even know I'd been missing.

Really, they didn't need to send out a search party. I would have hitch-hiked my way home anyway.

The next morning they gave out awards. I got the "Most Awesome Hiker" award, which made no sense to me. It felt more like the "Clueless Person Whom Nobody Tells That They're Going On The Way Back From The Extremely Long Hike" Award, but maybe that wouldn't have fit on the paper. I could not process the teachers' attempts at irony at this stage of my mentality.

Two years later, they took the ten-mile hike out of the science camp itinerary. What a shame. :)


Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Mom and Dad

I am a very lucky person.

I grew up as the kid of my parents, Mom and Dad. Mom was born on October 22, 1961 in a place called Yonkers, New York. Her parents had lived their previous lives in England before they came there. When she was five years old, her parents moved her and her younger sister from the East Coast to the San Francisco Bay Area, where she grew up and spent a chunk of her young adult life.

Dad was born on January 31, 1954. I don't really know where. He grew up the youngest of four brothers, in San Mateo. He was the sixth generation of the family to be born in California. His father, my grandpa, was a pilot. His mom knew how to shoot a tin can thrown in the air.

Mom was eighteen, and her sister was sixteen, when her parents divorced. They moved to an apartment on their own, where they lied about their ages. Mom worked at Wells Fargo Bank for a long time. Her father wanted her to become a nurse, but a semester of nightmares at nursing school destroyed that ambition. Eventually she got a job at Radio Shack, working her way up the corporate ladder as first a manager, then as the Santa Clara district Secretary.

Dad's family moved to Calaveras County after they bought a gold mine in a town called Sheep Ranch, current population 32. He was in his last year of high school when he went on independent study and moved to Yosemite. There, he got a job as the manager for a bike rental shop. He learned how to play the guitar and played with his feet dangling off Half Dome. His mother died of breast cancer when he was nineteen years old.

Dad held a variety of jobs in a variety of places. Eventually he found himself again on the Southern Peninsula, working in a San Mateo Radio Shack.

That's right. I owe my existence to Radio Shack.

My parents dated for roughly two years, and got married on January 1, 1987. On August 11, I was born. I used to joke that I was conceived on the wedding day. Then I actually did the math and found that to be far from true. It was probably Thanksgiving.

They kept me in the town of Redwood City for roughly a year until we moved to Sacramento and another one arrived on May 21, 1989, a sister Megan. Then we moved yet again to a very small town in Placer County and on May 28, 1991, the last one popped out, my other sister Janet.

We lived a silly and wonderful existence until I decided that high school was finished and wanted to go away for awhile. To do more school, somewhere else, very much unlike what happened to my parents in young adulthood.

Then when I was nineteen, I learned that Mom and Dad no longer liked each other as much as they used to. And so my family, laid-back and goofy in style yet cookie-cutter in form, dissolved on December 31, 2006. Very much like what happened to my parents in young adulthood.

It used to make me very sad. I cried for days and my Christmas was ruined. I felt like I did something wrong, like I wasn't a good enough reason for my parents to be happy together. I felt like they were taking the easy way out, like if only they waited until Janet was gone, they'd have time to untangle the mess and clean out the house and I could have somewhere to return from school that was familiar.

But when you leave your childhood behind, it stays behind forever. You can't go back.

But because my parents are who they are, they provided me with the most happy, enriching life that anyone can imagine. And therefore, I am lucky. Not everyone gets to grow up with a good relationship to both of their parents.

Welcome to my autobiography. :)