Wednesday, May 27, 2009

My Last Post

This will be my last blogpost on this blog. There's a lot I want to say about Memorial Day and the graduation ceremony on Friday, but I'm not sure how much I want to write because I'm in a story writing mood and because I'm not sure if I should post it here or on my other blog.

I haven't uploaded the pictures of Memorial Day, as I didn't have time Monday night and only got on the computer today. I will say that it was a wonderful day with a game of tag football for the guys (and Mrs. Sheehan) who got roasted in the hot sun, excellent food, some drizzle and then the sun came out finally, and other sports. I'll try to upload the pictures as soon as I can, but I'm not in the mood to go upstairs and get my camera.

We safely made it to Houston on Tuesday night. We left the house at 6:52 AM and arrived in Houston around 9 PM. It was a long trip, and we mostly did it without our laptops thanks to the fuse for the AC converter blowing while charging up Seth's monstrous laptop while he played Celtic Kings. It was a long ride, but we made it with little traffic (and little road construction). We went through a lot of rain, and I never realized how much of the South is actually marshland.

Well, Mandy's dragging me into a game of bananagrams (like individual scrabble), so I better join in. I'll post about my job interview on my new blog after the game is over.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Ireland Sells Its Soul on PBS

Edit: I finished my other musical rant earlier than expected, and it likewise deals with Celtic Woman. Check it out here:

Here is a musical rant I've slowly been working on for the past few weeks, and today I have finished it. This deals with how Ireland is promoting itself in the music industry in regards to PBS specials such as Celtic Woman and its rival Celtic Thunder.

It appears that there are several ways for a musical group to get started. For Clannad, it was playing in their father/ brother-in-law’s pub. For Colbie Caillat, it was posting her songs on myspace and shooting to overnight fame. For Hayley Westenra, it was busking with her sister in New Zealand when she was a child. For Feist, it was starting as a Canadian indie pop artist and then shooting to fame when iPod used her song “ 1 2 3 4” for a commerical. It seems we love success stories, stories of those underdogs who strive to be famous and then unexpectedly become household names, remembered for years to come. Perhaps we love them because we often have the same aspirations and these humble beginnings tell us that it could happen to us. But what is that magic ingredient that shoots a person to fame? I say, there is none. Sometimes some groups pop up out of nowhere unexpectedly and take us by a storm, and then when other groups try to do the same thing they fail. This is currently happening to Irish shows that are trying to make a dent in the US by following the example of Celtic Woman’s fame.
As said elsewhere earlier, Irish show Celtic Woman (I refer to it as a show because of the lights, costumes, backgrounds, etc… that are not present for a normal musical group) shot to fame thanks to PBS using their original DVD performance for pledge drives back in 2005. Ever since then, PBS has solely promoted Celtic Woman, their CDs and DVDs, and then their live shows on their tours. Now Celtic Woman is quite a money-bringer for PBS, has they’ve worked with them for over four years and has no intention so far of letting them go. Because of PBS’s promotion, Celtic Woman’s CDs and DVDs have sold very well, placing number 1 on the US Billboard World charts on a few occasions though now they’re facing some competition from rival show Celtic Thunder. Needless to say, Celtic Woman has won a huge fanbase in the United States though not as much in Europe or Asia, thanks largely to the success of PBS. However, now that Ireland has such talent touring all over the world, other groups are eager for their piece of the pie of wealth and fame, and it is because of Celtic Woman that there is a trend occuring lately with PBS and Celtic music that has been growing and has me wondering what will come next.
Sometime in 2007, roughly around the same time, I learned that Celtic Woman was getting two male spin-offs, one of which was run by Celtic Woman’s original founder Sharon Browne and the other run by Celtic Woman’s manager Dave Kavanagh. The one run by Sharon Browne is Celtic Thunder, a “pop-ified” male version of Celtic Woman that sings mostly American pop music (which makes me wonder why it has the “Celtic” label though I could ask the same about Celtic Woman most of the time). Kavanagh’s show is called The High Kings, a group of four men singing traditional Irish ballads and using traditional instruments; High Kings has grown in popularity in Ireland thanks to its less “pop-ified” nature than Celtic Woman or Celtic Thunder, which I imagine sits better with the Irish than over here in America. Both of these spin-offs have been sponsered by PBS, and both have released their first recorded shows on CDs and DVDs, much like Celtic Woman has done. I believe Celtic Thunder is currently holding the #1 position on Billboard World Charts, which makes it a force to be reckoned with by Celtic Woman. While at first glance, it doesn’t seem surprising that the management of Celtic Woman is doing a few spin-offs to bring in more money, but what happens next was a bit surprising as non-Celtic Woman- affiliated parties are seeking their own fame via PBS.
Around the same time that Celtic Thunder and The High Kings were announced as PBS’ new moneymaking machines, Irish choral group Anuna announced that they were giving PBS a shot. In fall of 2007, they recorded a live show (I’m pretty sure it’s live, as the voices sound real and not fake like Celtic Woman, Celtic Thunder, and the High Kings) in Cleveland, Ohio and released their CD “Celtic Origins” and accompanying DVD, except Anuna took a different route. For one thing, Anuna is not a show and so they don’t need to promote themselves and go into a big theater and perform. On the contrary, probably also due to their partnership with Boarders (who almost exclusively sells their CDs and DVDs), they set dates for a few Boarders locations and send about four or so members to perform there. However, also because Anuna is not a show, it can still work independently of PBS and Boarders to release albums and DVDs. Their next CD “Sanctus” is due out soon hopefully, as is their DVD “Invocations of Ireland,” neither of which so far have been promoted by PBS or Boarders.
There are two other solo artists that are also using PBS to gain a foothold in America but not to the extent that the Celtic franchise has. Clannad singer Moya Brennan announced a few months ago she was doing the soundtrack for some upcoming PBS show about US foreign policy. She has never had much fame in the US, and this would be a good marketing way for her to set a foothold in the US. Former Celtic Woman Orla Fallon next year is recording a DVD with Jim Brickman which is (surprise, surprise) being done by PBS.
Not only are the Irish using PBS to gain audiences in the US, but apparently so are the Scots as well. A month ago, I learned that there is a new show being promoted on PBS called Highland Heartbeat. Basically, it is a Scottish version of Celtic Woman, though I’d consider it closer to Celtic Thunder music-wise. I watched a promotion for it recently and had to shake my head afterwards. I know very little about Scottish music, since I can’t stand the shrill sound of bagpipes and also because it is not as common as Irish music, but I was disappointed. It is basically singing a few pop songs by Scottish artists and then also giving traditional songs a pop-makeover. Then there were the lights, the horrendous costumes (and I thought Celtic Woman’s costume designer was bad), and then the general show atmosphere. It didn’t appeal at all to me, and I turned the video off before it was done.
You might be asking “why is Ireland selling its soul on PBS?” This is the reason. Irish, and now Scottish as well, music is seeking to gain audiences in the US and thus a big market of promotion, is following the example of Celtic Woman in an attempt to become famous as well. So, instead of focusing on remaining true to its musical roots, Ireland is focusing more on “what is marketable in the US? How can we twist it around to be more appealing to Americans?” As a result, the music has become fairly watered down and more pop-ish, with the shows being about lights, costumes, and choreographed movements that seem cliché after a while. Instead of quality, it has become more about quantity and how much money it can bring in. I read a blogpost by Anuna founding member Michael McGlynn who talked about something similar concerning Riverdance (I hate Riverdance, but that’s beside the point). He said he was proud to have been part of Riverdance back in the mid 90’s but also said that he does not like what it has turned into: something marketable, like plastic shamrocks, as he puts it. That is what Irish music is becoming: something to be watered-down and sold. Granted, not everyone wants to hear music like The Chieftains or Solas, but there is a way to market one’s music without giving up one’s soul. Anuna, I believe, has done it the best, trying new things but still maintaining the quality and beauty of their music. I cannot say the same for other Irish shows that are converging on the US. While I enjoy listening to them, I cannot help but think of the showiness of it all and be grieved that Ireland has decided to go the show business way to promote itself instead of relying on its excellent raw talent to go far.

I am currently working on another rant dealing with raw talent, so expect that one soon either here or on my other blog (see a few blog posts below for the link for my new blog).

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


I feel so excited right now that I feel like leaping in the air, which isn't a very common feeling. Anyway, about a month or so ago, I sent in an application for a job at a veterinarian office in Houston, and I was beginning to think that I would not get an answer about it. Well, today, Mom IM'ed me on yahoo and informed me that Aunt Susie told her that I have a job interview next Wednesday! I am very excited about this because there have been few job openings in Houston (most likely due to the recession) that I've been interested in or that would hire someone with little work experience. I'm praying that I'll get this job or that God would provide another one, if it be His will. In getting a job this summer, I'd like to get the hang of it so that when I come back in October (and if I'm driving by then) I can get a permanent job (provided, it'll depend on the economy and how it is doing) to help pay for school, as I'm still very interested in attending Christ College next spring.

I got more clothes today at Kohls, and I have realized that I am now a petite size, not a junior. In light of that, I got black pants, jean capris, a white tunic top, and a green t-shirt that I'm contemplating wearing to the interview next week.

Well, back to singing Sarah McLachlan (I love singing if I'm in a good mood) and to tormenting my poor main novel character Nishaun who just got done hallucinating and now has a broken arm. I think I torment poor Nishaun too much, but, hey, at least it's better than making him a Sue or an author's darling.

Monday, May 18, 2009

New Blog

Since I'm leaving for Houston next week and I'll be away for the summer and part of the fall, I've decided that I will not be updating this blog because, frankly, what's the point of updating it if I'm not among the Cunninghams of Georgia? So I can continue contact with my friends and family, I've created the following blog: Ramblings of a Geek. Enjoy reading it! I'm already contemplating my first rambling and may actually post it today. I'll continue posting here until probably Monday night, when I'll try to post Memorial Day pictures from the church's annual Memorial Day Picnic at the Howlands. After that, I'm going to hand the blog over to Mandy to manage, so we'll see how that goes.

Friday, May 15, 2009

The Trouble with Eyes

Last Friday, Dad and I went to America's Best to get eye examinations and to update our glasses. I got my first pair of glasses at America's Best, which included an exam and two pairs of glasses for about $70. We like this place, we're sticking with it. Our eye examinations went well. Both Dad and I have healthy eyes, though they have gotten a bit worse since our last examination. One interesting thing that I learned at that exam: my left eye is significantly worse than my right eye, just like Dad's. So not only have I inherited three wisdom teeth from him and a missing tooth from Mom, but now I have a bad left eye. I guess it's amazing how much we inherit from our parents. Anyway, instead of glasses, Dad decided to give contacts a try. He's worn contacts before, over twenty years ago and just in his left eye, but he wanted to get them instead of glasses. He's enjoyed his contacts, though he's still getting used to putting them in and taking them out as well as adjusting his focus because the lens is now close to his eye instead of further away like glasses are. It's sort of odd to see Dad without glasses because he's worn them for so long. Besides Dad getting contacts, I learned I would need a new prescription for my glasses (I'm sticking with them because they're easy and simple) because my eyes have worsened, especially my left one. This meant choosing new ones, so I chose a purple pair and a pink pair. I picked up my new glasses today. Even though the prescription is right, I'm still adjusting to them because they're stronger then my last pair, but the doctor said it should take only a few days to get used to them. When he was checking my current prescription, he showed me my sight with my old pair of glasses. Good grief.... I must have been as blind as a bat with those glasses. Well, good thing now is that I can see details like leaves a lot clearer than I did before, and my glasses now have some anti-glare thingy (which was originally suggested because I'm on the computer a lot and it would help prevent eye fatigue), but I've yet to notice a difference.

This week it finally dawned on me that I have one full week at home before I leave for Houston. It's like when you graduate: you know it's coming but you don't take it seriously until a few days before it happens. Mom and I did some more clothes shopping on Wednesday, but it's not much and I'm still missing vital things like summer dresses and things I can wear on Sunday. Wal-mart had some adorable dresses, but they puckered out in a way that made me look like I was much bigger than I already am. I think fashion designers for plus girls or those above a size four should actually know how their bodies work and not just estimate it. But I digress. We're going to go on another shopping trip possibly on Thursday because it's the only other day we can do it thanks to finals at Geneva and then the Graduation ceremony being next week.

In regards to the stupid bird, last night he did not sing. I've determined it was a mockingbird because his songs are imitations of other things like crickets or songbirds. I find it a bit odd because mockingbirds are currently not in mating season and the only reason the males sing at night is if they're single. Maybe the bird outside my window found himself a mate who was annoyed with his incessant singing. Well, I'm holding my breath to see if he'll be back tonight or sometime soon. Until then, I'm not counting on the fact he seems to have stopped singing. I will, however, welcome some peace and quiet from that annoying beak of his.

I've been out of GGC for a week now. I received A's on all of my finals... except for science because my slacker teachers never posted my final exam grade for it. I'm assuming it was an A because I have all A's this semester, but I'll probably never know. Darn teachers. Oh, well. At least I won't have to worry about them and their stupidity anymore. I'll just move on to having the interesting classes at Christ College, Lord willing, classes with interesting teachers like Mr. Butler.

Monday, May 11, 2009

What I'm Going to Do Tonight

Tonight, I'm going to get the BB gun and some night vision goggles, sit out in the front yard, and then find that stupid bird. For the past three nights, I've heard one or more birds singing in the yard as if it's daytime. I wondered if maybe I wasn't hearing them and maybe I was imagining it until last night when I heard the bird around midnight. I thought the sound was coming from Seth's room, which puzzled me greatly. Then I realized that the sound was coming from his window and that I could hear it coming from my room too. A quick google search suggested that maybe I was hearing a nightingale (which I thought odd because they live in Europe, but currently I'm waiting for more answers to my question I asked on yahoo answers last night). So after I went to bed, I listened to that stupid bird sing his head off and determined it was just one bird, not several as I had previously thought. I might have to close the window tonight if he won't shut up. Or I could go out and put him out of his misery. Though closing the window might be the best option because I don't have night vision goggles and the BB gun is broken. Drat. Oh, well. There's always the window.

Still working on the music post, though I'm wondering if I should even post it or not.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Some Pictures

I'm still working on my music post, but here are some pictures I've finally uploaded.

The Father/Daughter Campout on Friday and Saturday:

Rivers' 5th Birthday party a few weeks ago:

I could have sworn there were more that I'm missing, but I guess not. Enjoy!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Good-bye, GGC

Well, it's come down to this. I had my last final this morning, finishing my fourth semester/ second year at GGC. I am thus free of GGC, as I have no plans to return there unless I want to take more Spanish classes in the future, as I'm most certainly not taking history there. Anyway, it's been a crazy few days filled with studying and last-minute studying. On Monday, I took my science final at 11 AM and finished an hour later (I think I did pretty good though I'm not sure), and at 2 PM I took my government final (I think I made an A). I was on cloud 9 after government because Dr. Budryte paid me a high comment, saying (I think) that I was the best student in my class and in the other government sections. It was like a birthday present all its own. Mom also did her final on Monday, and she's been very happy ever since then; her teacher was grieved that she didn't do the extra credit like she normally does (but after writing four essays, I could see why Mom didn't want to do the extra credit). On Tuesday, I stayed home and studied for history before taking it at 6 PM. It wasn't that bad because it was non-cumulative and I knew pretty much everything. Dr. Mason quickly graded our final tests, and I was ecstatic on Wednesday to learn that I had gotten a 100 on my final, which I've never done for this class before because of those stupid essays that he nitpicks over and takes off points for fairly dumb reasons. Anyway, I spent Wednesday cleaning the house and studying. Blair came over that afternoon to study with me, and she stayed for dinner; it was a fun time, and I enjoyed it. However, after the studying, I remembered that I had to do one more thing in preparation for tomorrow: the "Crash" assignment. Two weeks ago, Dr. Haynes unexpectedly announced that we had a project about the movie "Crash" and various "mental disorders" of the characters. Besides the fact that we were given no warning about this project, my team was very disorganized. I did the paper, and two of the other guys did the powerpoint, leaving Blair with nothing. The powerpoint was very sloppy and completely clashed with the paper I had written, even though I had let the other two read the paper before the presentation. Needless to say, Blair and I were disappointed at the way it had been carried out. On a brighter note, I think I did good on my non-cumulative psych final, much better than that last killer test. After finishing the final, I went to the bookstore and sold all but three of my books (the three were "out-of-date" and thus couldn't be used. The joys of expensive college textbooks that cost a fortune and then you get a tiny fraction of the money back. Oh, well.). And then Mom brought me home, where I've been goofing off after a hectic week of studying. Now I can focus more on preparing for the trip to Houston, as there are some things I need to take care of before I leave like a haircut (my hair's too thick to be worn long in humid, Southern weather).

Oh, and I turned 20. No, I don't feel any older... not yet anyway. Mom took me shopping for an outfit on Monday after school, but I've yet to do the extensive summer/ Europe trip shopping. I have something coming in the mail, but it's not arrived yet and I keep wondering what it could be. Seth, who's getting tired of me using his power cord, keeps saying he'll order me a new power cord but has yet to do so.

Now I want to talk about some memories I'll have of GGC, both good and bad.

  • The fall 2007 semester when Blair and I would eat lunch with some classmates
  • Fall 2007 finals when the "lunch group" talked about random things for about an hour after the computer final and had a blast
  • Fun Spanish classes in Fall 2007 and Fall 2008
  • The long afternoon conversation with Blair and Hannah when I tried to count my pennies but Blair disrupted my train of thought ;)
  • Doing the research for my English 1102 project in Spring 2008 on the Solutrean theory and finding my passion: history
  • Dr. Mason's hilarious comments and "story-telling" during History 2112 in Spring 2009
  • Studying with Blair for psych in Spring 2009
  • Fall 2007 when everyone was kicked out of class instead of me (not to sound arrogant here)
  • Giving my science presentation with Hannah in Fall 2008 and then by myself in Spring 2009 (though working with a friend on a project is better sometimes than going solo)
  • Probably Fall 2007 when Blair and I tried throwing a ball up to the second floor of Building B in the cafeteria. We didn't make it, but it was fun anyway.
  • Spring 2008 when I got together with several peers to make "Bobby's Bad Day" for my video project in digital media. So much fun!
  • Discussing Irish music in music appreciation Fall 2008 :D
  • Making it on the President's List and Dean's List a few times
  • Dr. Rafshoon's history 2111 class Fall 2008
  • That horrible transatlantic lit class Fall 2008 that I dropped after the first day
  • Dr. La's Jedi teaching Spring 2009
  • Spring 2008 when I discovered bugs at GGCity Cafe and ceased eating there for the rest of the semester
  • The rowdy physical class 1 in Fall 2008 when the boys were disruptive and the teachers didn't do anything to hush them up
  • The inefficiancy of the doormen at GGC Idol in Spring 2009
  • The pool party that stank in Spring 2009
  • Some emotional issues in Fall 2007 that often made it hard to concentrate
  • Dr. Haynes' inability to communicate via e-mail and her throwing of random projects on us with little warning in Spring 2009

That's all I can think of for now. Well, back to goofing off. I've got another musical rant idea, though it's less about the music and more about how certain Irish groups are promoting themselves and seeking fame and fortune. I'll probably post it soon, so watch for it, if you're interested.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Finals... almost here!

Well, in about 12 hours, I will be sitting down in Building A and taking my physical science final at the same time Mom will take her biology final. Then, at 2 PM, I will sit down and take my government final. Two cumulative finals in one day. I'm more confident about science but not as much about government because we never had a test over our most recent material and so I'm not sure what to expect from Dr. Budryte. Quite a way to celebrate one's 20th birthday.

Mom and I have been studying ever since last week. I started studying on Friday but kept getting distracted with the laptop. So on Saturday, I never turned it on, and it's amazing how much studying I got done. It's funny, in a way, that on Saturday Mom planned the entire day so she would have peace and quiet to finish her paper and study. However, Saturday was anything but quiet. We had the Presleys come over in the morning so Mr. Presley could look at our air conditioner, as it's been acting weird again, but they left right after Mom and I did to clean the church. We got the church knocked out and came home to find our neighbors CJ, Vaneigh, and Shula there. To give you an example, if those kids are near, they will not leave you alone with their questions and their demands like "I want a water bottle." "I see juice in your pantry. Can I have some?" It requires a lot of patience to deal with them because they don't seem to get a lot of attention at home and spend most of their time wandering all over our neighborhood, looking for kids to play with. It's a sad situation. Anyway, Dad's co-worker Pascel (not sure if I spelled his name right. He's from Haiti) came over to bottle his beer that they had brewed last month. With the kids in the house, I couldn't study so I went out onto the back deck and lay there in the sun with my possessed MP3 and studied. A thunderstorm rolled in, so I moved to the front deck. It was nice and quiet outside, and the only disturbances were those darn carpenter bees (they've discovered the new wood to munch, and it's been a battle between them and Dad) and the slivers I got in my foot (my fault entirely). Anyway, Pascel went home but the kids didn't. They hung around for some time, up until about 7 PM. Grandpa Mike came over for dinner, as he'd been in the neighborhood, and it was nice to see him again because we don't see him that often except only a few times a year. The kids had fun trying to "fight" Grandpa, and we sent them home while we enjoyed beef and fried potatoes for dinner. We were still eating when the kids came back and asked to play, but Dad had to send them home (no one's looking forward to summer when they'll probably be here all the time but Seth and Mandy will probably be working and I'll be in Houston so they'll be a bit short on playmates).

Tonight (Sunday evening) Mom and I stayed home from evening service so we could continue studying. Another storm rolled in, which pleased Mom greatly because she always studies best during thunderstorms or rain, though I stayed inside part of the time when the lightning started getting threatening. I do have to say, I love spring storms. I love how afterwards the grass and trees look all thick and green and feeling the cool breeze. It's very lovely, and now with the new deck it's easier to enjoy.

Well, I got to get off and get back to studying. I want to study one more thing before I go to bed tonight, and my goal is to be in bed by midnight. Ah... just one more week and I'm free of GGC!