Thursday, October 22, 2009

What I'm Listening to Now

For my New Testament class, we have to read through the NT (obviously). The pace is pretty quick and hard to keep up with. I didn't really want to repeat the experience of slogging through the OT while also keeping up with reading multiple commentaries in addition to my other schoolwork. So, I started shopping around for a good audio version to listen to so I could re-familiarize myself with the text while doing other things.
I thought about buying the classic audio version read by James Earl Jones - who I love - but heard the sample and kept thinking I was hearing the Bible read to me by Darth Vader. I first saw "The Bible Experience" several years ago in an Arkansas Cokesbury store. I was intrigued by it at the time, and have since picked it up many times. However, like any good audio Bible, it's pretty pricey and I could never afford to buy the whole thing, especially since (already owning several Bibles) I didn't have a need for it. So, when I was shopping for podcasts of the NT this time around, I saw that you can purchase individual books of this program through ITunes. Cha-ching!! I could buy what I needed at a fraction of the cost I would spend to buy the entire physical version and still have access to (in my mind) the best audio performance of the Bible around.
And it is a performance. With people like Blair Underwood (Jesus), Samuel L. Jackson (God) and Denzel Washington (Song of Songs), in addition to legendary gospel singers and acclaimed pastors voicing the characters and narration, the result is bar-none. In addition to the excellent vocal rendition of the text, original scoring and original gospel music accompanies it. I didn't know that actual "music-music" was a part of it, and was totally disoriented when, while listening to 2nd Corinthians, heard a "get on your feet" gospel song blare out randomly between paragraphs. Once I got used to it, though, I came to enjoy these random "dance-breaks." The songs correspond to whichever topic the text is covering at the moment. The books also feature high-quality, realistic sound effects. So, for example, during the performance of 1st and 2nd Corinthians, you hear Paul speaking over the sound of a ship at sea during a storm. In Galatians, you hear Paul speaking from a marketplace. Sometimes, I must admit, all this extra noise is a bit distracting (especially that damn duck who quacks all the way through Galatians). With all the extra music, scoring, sound effects and multiple voices, sometimes it's a bit overwhelming. However, my attention from the story certainly isn't zapped the way it was when listening to samples from either James Earl Jones or Johnny Cash, who read with NOTHING behind their voices. The only other con about this audio is that it is treated as a true performance, so no chapters or verses are read, which makes it difficult in my case, where I need to be aware of text critical issues. However, overall, I feel like I have fallen in love with the Bible again. I'm actually excited to drive the 40 minutes through rush-hour traffic to get to-school-and-back, just so I can listen to more. I definitely will be asking for the entire physical version for Christmas. How could I miss Angie-frickin'-Stone singing the Psalms! or Forest Whitaker as Moses!

The Bible Experience

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

"Love's Labour's Lost"

So, I lost my wedding ring. I've been putting off telling Brandon, hoping it would turn up. It's been a month, which is the longest amount of time I've misplaced it without it showing up. I know how and when I lost it, and a general trajectory of where it might be (somewhere between my house and Twain's parking lot). I stuck it in my pocket the day my car broke down because I had to root around under the hood and didn't want my jewelry to get scratched or in the way. When I finally got home after a hot, sticky, frustrating and expensive 5 hours (Mechanic: "Well, if this happens again, the only option you have is to get a new car"), I peeled off my skinny jeans and my heavy costume cocktail ring popped out of my pocket. The pocket of my stupid, blasted spandex/lycra/denim pants had turned inside out during all of my movement and commotion that afternoon. My wedding band, which is much smaller and lighter, was nowhere to be found.

I'm devastated.

Brandon designed the ring himself, and it was made for us by a company that makes eco-conscious, socially-responsible, recycled fine jewelry. Of course it has tons of sentimental value, not to mention the monetary value. I didn't want an engagement ring for feminist and financial reasons, so my wedding band represented both (I wore it during my engagement). It's beautiful and simple, with diamonds flush against the band and tiny beading around the edges. Pure white gold is soft, so it had adapted to fit my finger, which I discovered is not actually round, but kindof oblong or oval-shaped.

The day I got it is like the second-to-last scene in a romantic comedy, as well. Brandon was coming to visit me at my parents' house right before Christmas, and had arranged for the company to ship it there so he could give it to me during his visit. Unfortunately, that was 2006 when all of the horrible blizzards and ice storms blanketed much of the Midwest. My ring was coming from Idaho. Brandon had to keep making up excuses to leave the house to go to the Post Office to see if it had arrived. It still hadn't arrived a week later, after his visit had ended. However, I'm from a very small town where everyone knows everyone else's business and service people come to your house if you need them too because they go to church with you or you babysat their kid and they love you. So, the Post Master hand-delivered the ring to my house on Christmas morning because he knew how important it was and had been along on this anxious, crazy ride with Brandon and my parents for over two weeks. Pure Christmas Love and Joy.

So, that's the story of my ring - the symbol of my love and eternal commitment to my husband. I hate to think it was lost randomly on some stupid day when I made the decision to temporarily store it in sticky, tight pants on a hot, frantic day.
I hadn't been wearing anything on my ring finger, hoping that he wouldn't notice. He didn't say anything. But, I didn't like not having a wedding ring on, and I didn't want to keep lying-by-omission to him. I inherited my great-grandmother's wedding band, so today I started wearing it on my ring finger. It's very traditional; a thick gold band, very simple. It has my great-grandparents initials in curly script on the inside. I have the same initials as my great-grandfather, so it feels somewhat like my own. It's a good replacement, but it's still a replacement. Brandon's upset, like me, of course, but is showing grace, love and patience to me about it. Which represents our marriage more than a ring, I think.

Friday, October 9, 2009

My Cupcake is Smarter than a 5th Grader

Baking, like knitting, has come back in a big way. Consequently, publishers, DIY-ers, and wannabe-professional crafters have put forth a slew of cookbooks in the past few years aimed at hip, 3rd wave feminists. I'd thumbed through this book at bookstores before, and was thrilled when a friend sold hers to me for 2$ at a yard sale back in April. I haven't yet attempted this (Brandon jokes that he wants this for his birthday), but I tried out a really cool and simple decorating techniqe on a couple of batches a month ago.
Basically, you melt storebought frosting in the microwave for 10 seconds, then dip the tops of the cupcakes into it. The frosting dries quickly and gives you a smooth, shiny surface that is perfect for writing or other intricate decorating. I don't have a microwave, but achieved workable results on the stovetop.
I didn't think it was smart to keep batches of cupcakes in the house for myself, so I decided to experiment on my Greek class. 24 cupcakes in a batch; 24 letters in the Greek alphabet. Here, I present with trepidation, the results:

Blurry, but here's a pic of the cookbook turned open to the page where technique is demonstrated, juxtaposed with my Greek book. On the right is a closeup of alpha and omega cupcakes.

The tray above shows the cupcakes which didn't turn out as well. They were the first batch I did. Below are the second batch of cupcakes I decorated. You can tell that my hand got stronger and I got more confident the further along in alphabet!
The cake was devil's food, frosting was vanilla, writing was chocolate. If I were to make them again, I would use a vanilla or even a lemon cake. The chocolate showed through too much. Also, I would fill up the batter to nearly the top of the pan, because the cupcakes that were underfilled were too difficult to dip into the frosting. I wasn't especially happy with the results, but my Greek class seemed to like them!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Cure for What Ails You

You know what relieves post-midterm depression? Nothing. But knowing that both Tori Amos AND Bob Dylan are releasing holiday albums this year certainly helps.

Tori's album, "Midwinter Graces," will be released November 10th and will include her take on traditional Christmas carols as well as some TA originals (of course). I'm probably most excited about the song titled, "Pink and Glitter," mainly because last year I purchased a hot pink, glittery, aluminum Christmas tree for my home (it came with a hot pink reindeer decoration; how could I resist?). Because she's awesome, she will also release a deluxe edition which includes a dvd.
Dylan's album - "Christmas in the Heart" - skews towards the traditional, featuring classic songs like "Here Comes Santa Claus" and "The Little Drummer Boy (known to me as 'the song that will not die')." If you only have money for one, but can't decide, I say buy "Christmas in the Heart." 100% of all proceeds (including future royalties) go to Feeding America, guaranteeing that more than four million meals will be provided to more than 1.4 million people in need in this country during the 2009 holiday season. One more reason I love him. Dylan is also releasing a deluxe version which includes greeting cards featuring the cover artwork. This record debuts October 13th. You can pre-order Tori's album here and Bobby D's here.