Saturday, April 18, 2009

Why I Love Susan Boyle

Perhaps it's because I, like Susan Boyle--the Scottish singing sensation from 'Britain's Got Talent' who is burning up the Internet right now--am unemployed and have more time on my hands than usual, compounded by the fact that I've been confined to my apartment for the past two days due to a bad flu, but I've watched the youtube clip of Susan's performance about five times now, and each time been in awe and admiration of this woman.

Why do I love Susan Boyle? And more importantly, why do millions of people across the world love her so much? It's not that different of an answer than I would give if you asked me why reality television has become popular, not just in the U.S. but elsewhere. People can relate to Susan Boyle, and all the other contestants on reality game shows and the like. What makes Susan Boyle so special is that she is 'more real' and therefore more relatable than many other reality show types, who probably work out for days or do their hair special or make extra efforts to look 'better' for the cameras, and Susan is a real 'come as you are type'. Mark Goulston, on the Huffington Post, gives his opinion of the Susan phenomenon here.

Also, we love Susan because she confounds our very narrow and messed-up stereotypes of what talented people should look, act and live like. Her life, from the little we know about it, has been anything but dramatic or glamorous. It's been quite a normal, if not a little sad ("never been kissed") life, during which she's lived in a village with her parents the whole time, has never been married, and cared for here mother before she died a few years back. Susan, by all intents and purposes, is not what we think of when we think of 'star potential' or talent.

But the reality is that--and I think we all know this deep down inside--there are many, many thousands of if not hundreds of thousands of people out there who are just as talented (if not moreso) as Susan, but who are stuck in the drudgery of everyday life, because of where and to what strata of society they were born, because of shyness or lack of opportunity, or because they've been told that they are NOT talented by others who are bitter and jealous or what-have-you.

I love Susan Boyle because she so clearly loves to sing, loves to do the thing that she has not been able to do for her livelihood, but as a 'hobby' or something to do for fun. And, lucky for her she's really good at it! It's always beautiful to see someone who is so present when they do something, who loves what they are doing and are good and it and can move and inspire others when they are doing it. I feel the same when I watch my husband DJ or when I watch amazing dancers on stage or when I see a good public speaker. These are people using the gifts that the Creator gave them to create good in the world, and people respond to that.

I've been thinking a lot about my own life purpose lately, not feeling like much of a writer or anything else since I've stopped working and have been taking a break from a lot of things. I know that I'll get back into the thick of things soon enough, and that this time of rest is important and productive and necessary in its own way. But seeing Susan Boyle sing has inspired me to not give up on my own dreams, or at least not give up on trying to figure out what they are.

Susan is the epitome of the rags-to-riches tale, despite the fact that she's not yet 'hit it big'. It always amazes me how quickly and brightly someone's star can rise on the international stage, only to fall into obscurity not long afterwards. Fifteen minutes indeed. But I think there's something, dare I say it, in the stars and in the cosmos right now that makes all of us human beings long for more Susan Boyles, to long for our life's purpose. I hope her performance inspires other people to pursue their dreams, no matter how silly or impractical as they may seem.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Review of 'Long Way Gone' by Ishmael Beah

This is just my brief reaction via goodreads, but I figure the old cut and paste is a good way to kill two birds with one stone, so to speak. Enjoy!

A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
i gave this book an extra star because this story is so important in this day and age, when war for Americans has become a video-game-like-unreality divorced from our everyday lives and while so many people (including more and more children) are the victims or perpetrators of atrocious acts of violence. While the writing itself wasn't brilliant, it was very readable and the voice of the author, Ishamel Beah, was clear and resonant throughout. I liked the fact that several of the war stories that he tells are presented as flashbacks during the time of his rehabilitation, effectively mimicking how the author's violent past came back to haunt him even when he was no longer in the army. I also liked how the author didn't get into the politics/ideological arguments between the different factions fighting the war. In the end, that stuff didn't really seem to matter as both sides were 'recruiting' boy soldiers into their ranks. The author did an excellent job--like Elie Wiesel did in 'Night'--of illustrating the absurd futility and waste of war, as well as the healing that can come to those who were affected by it afterwards.

View all my reviews.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Disbelief, Grief, Outrage, Sorrow

Rest in Peace: Carl Joseph Hoover-Walker (1997-2009)

Those are the emotions that came up for me when I heard about Carl Joseph Hoover-Walker's suicide after the boy endured weeks if not months of bullying at his school. I don't even know what to say about this or write, except for that my heart goes out to the spirit of that young boy, who hopefully now is at peace in whatever after-life there may be, and also to his family who is trying to speak out and make sure that this destructive behavior does not continue.

Children are the most victimized and brutalized members of our society. Children of color, LGBT/queer or perceived-queer children, children who are disabled or are in any way 'others' to the American mainstream are often subject to humiliation, violence, marginalization and other forms of oppression that just need to stop. This young man's death is senseless in every way. This did not need to happen.

Two more posts here and here, and a heartfelt plea from a young man to participate in the national Day of Silence on April 17th to protest the hateful harassment and discrimination of LGBTQ people in this country.

I hope the teachers and parents of the children who bullied young Carl are talking to those young people, and trying to bring healing to the wounds that exist in that community, in all our communities. Rest in peace, Carl. I hope and pray that your death was not in vain.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

The Second Day of the Rest of My Life

This past year has been one of many changes, big changes--endings and beginnings of relationships, deepening of some, letting go of others. It's been an intense, fun, amazing and life-changing year. And I think it's just now starting to settle in for me, I'm finally feeling the gravity and the significance of these changes, now that I've stopped working at my full-time job and have time to sit, reflect, write and just be.

I'm sitting here writing this in a cafe, because my house is just too messy to write in and not get distracted right now, and I just finished working on one of my short stories--which I'm planning to submit to VONA on Tuesday for Junot Diaz and / or ZZ Packer's workshops--for about an hour. That may not seem like a long time to you but that is a long frickin' time to write for me. I haven't spent that much time working on a piece in the middle of the day, on a weekday, in YEARS.

And you know what? It feels good. Damn good. And all the preparation for my transition out of CFJ, all the planning and calculating how much consulting work I'd have to line up to make as much money as I was making before on less hours of work (not as much work as I thought I'd have to do, actually), all the worrying about how to deal with my health insurance and paying taxes quarterly, after all that, I'm finally realizing that what it all comes down to is having the TIME to do what I want to do, and not be beholden to numerous other people's needs and agendas, anxieties and problems.

I am feeling very blessed right now, as there are lots of people out there who need work and can't find it, and here I am choosing to work less and do something as silly and pointless as creative writing so that I can be happy. Believe me, I've set myself up pretty well (so far) work-wise. I'm not dumb and I'm not the kind of person that is happy not knowing where my next paycheck is, so I've done lots of planning. But I still feel fortunate that the stars have aligned and that there are enough people out there who have been supportive (including, ironically, my old job!) and helpful that I can do this and feel totally good about it.

Yesterday was my first day off from work, so today, then, is the second day of the rest of my life. And so far, I'm liking it.