Amazon Pre-Order is Amazing

I preordered Mockingjay months ago and received a lovely notification Sunday morning that it had been shipped, which means, since it is released tomorrow I will probably get it tomorrow or Wednesday. Squeeeeeee!!!!

You have no idea, or you actually might, how excited I have been for the finale of this series. I’ve reread the first two books twice in 4 days now, just to be ready for what happens next! Who will die? Who will Katniss choose? What really happened to District 13 all those years ago? So many unanswered questions!

A Twitter friend of mine went to the book release tonight and met Suzanne Collins. While extremely jealous, I’m secretly plotting to fly there and steal her copy tonight, finishing it on the flight home so I can send it back in the mail. Homegirl Michal, I really need to fly to NY soon, and not just to steal your books.

Next time you see me, I’ll be very sleep deprived having braved the night and early morning hours to read Mockingjay.
-JS

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The Monster Ball

“The Monster Ball is a place where all the freaks are outside, and I locked the doors” -Lady Gaga

If you want to see Broadway meets Halloween high fashion with old Hollywood horror on crack cocaine, go to Lady Gaga’s Monster Ball Tour. I’ve been a Gaga fan since the beginning of her superstar career and have been looking forward to her second time coming to Los Angeles . Let me tell you, she exceeds expectations on every level.

As a classically and jazz trained pianist and woodwind player, I tend to be extremely critical of live shows, doesn’t matter if it’s the LA Philharmonic or some startup garage band. It’s hard to completely enjoy a performance because I know the technicalities behind what makes good music good. I left my years of training at the door that night and just appreciated everything for what it was: simply incredible. The energy of the fans was contagious, the costumes outrageous, the monologues heartwarming and wittingly daring, and her talent completely overwhelmed me almost to the brink of superfan tears (I know, I’m one of THOSE, but I’m just really moved by a good performance).

If you’ve ever been to the Staples Center, you know how big it is. It easily fits over 20,000 people in it and the show had been sold out for months. I don’t usually like going to shows at big venues because it’s hard to get a good liveliness from a crowd of those proportions, but I shouldn’t have been worried because Gaga fans never disappoint. I think every fourth person you came across was in some kind of Gaga costume, men included!, and most of them were homemade. And if you didn’t have a Gaga costume on, you were wearing ballsy attire, even for LA: four-inch platform heels in patent leather of every color, lots skin tight spandex and leather, studs, Christmas lights, boas, fishnets, leotards, red lipstick, fake eyelashes, and those were just the gays. ;-) It was easy to get lost in the excitement of seeing everyone’s clothing during the opening act, but when the intro and the beginning of Dance in the Dark came on everyone was instantly on their feet and screaming “GAGA, GAGA, GAGA!!”… and then she sang. She didn’t move a muscle for the better part of what felt like an hour of singing, and then BARELY moved her leg and everyone went crazy! After that the rest was passion, tears, blood, and amazing music.

I’m always worried an artist isn’t going to be as good live as recorded, but our Lady has an incredible voice, and I kicked myself for doubting her to be better on a recording. Silly me. Her voice is so strong with such good range and timbre that she belongs on a stage and not in a studio.

A few highlights: her piano came out of the hood of a car, it was also lit on fire during Speechless, she addressed the penis rumor with a risqué disco stick dance, and her jazzy/bluesy jam sesh with her band during Teeth gave me chills. She also gave a shout out to us supporters of LGBT and the overturned Prop 8 decision, after which all the male dancers came out proudly shaking everything that could be shaken during Boys Boys Boys. I also saw a little man on man affection on stage which made me very happy. She sang her new song You and I, which was another one of those piano ballads that sadly, while a beautifully written and performed, probably won’t make it very far on the radio.

The only thing negative that I can say is that I really don’t care for the live version of Alejandro. I’ve seen YouTube videos of it and not cared for it then, and Thursday night was no different for me. I still love the song and danced like a fool to it, but, eh.

I will always appreciate the ironic class and inner beauty Gaga shows in person. While shocking, she is never lewd, never crass or insulting. She is uplifting and full of humility and appreciation for her fans. Her life is a performance now and she has a good understanding of her part. She might be kooky, she might dance to her own beat, but most artists are and do, especially those with as much talent as she.

She announced that her new single had been picked that day by her and her team of friends, family, and producers. We begged and begged her to sing it for us! Disappointingly, she would not, but this got me super excited for her new album! And for another tour that will follow that, which I hope to see in her hometown of New York when that time comes, and you all better be there with me!

Bottom line: before you die, go see Gaga live.

-JS

GAGA

I just want to throw it out there that I will be at the Staples Center tonight seeing Lady Gaga, and you should be jealous.

You will see a review plus some phone photos in the morning. :)

Its going to be amazing! I can’t wait!

-JS

Updated To-Read List

I updated my To Read List and also wanted to throw out a few books I’ve read in the past 6 months that I really recommend. The first is The Hunger Games and the rest of the trilogy by Suzanne Collins. The third book, Mockingjay, comes out August 24th. Though I know of a certain online media guru that got ahold of an advanced copy! No fair! (See fansite Mockingjay.net for enthusiastic updates). This is very interesting teen sci-fi series. It has emotion and character development unlike a lot of other teen series out there and you simply cannot put it down once you begin the first chapter. Every person I’ve let borrow my copies have sent me angry texts at 2AM asking why I let them borrow because they have to work at 6AM and can’t stop reading. That’s always a good sign. :)

The other series I read was The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson. The writing wasn’t actually that fantastic (though it is a translation), and the beginning was kind of slow, but once Larsson develops the characters a bit you will be intrigued to see when he takes them. The second and third books,  The Girl Who Played With Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest get increasingly better with every chapter. I feel the first book was more of a prequel to the next two: it sits completely apart from the rest of the trilogy and serves more to introduce the characters and their relationships. I was sweating as I read the last third of the last book because I knew how it would end but couldn’t see how Larsson was going to tie up all the loose ends! I’m very sad he isn’t alive to write more Swedish wonders, but I hear there are actual incomplete drafts of a fourth and fifth book. Due to a bunch of legal issues they probably won’t be published for a while, if ever.

The Swedish movie adapted from the The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo was also excellent. I am curious to see how the American version will do in comparison. They haven’t casted who will play heroine Lisbeth Salander yet, but there is so much expectation surrounding that role that it could blow the whole production if it’s not a good fit.

Happy Reading!

-JS

I Am Archer

My father retired in November of 2007. Men that are used to working a lot need to be active. They need jobs, projects, yard work, things to fix, and people to worry about. My dad is very much one of these men. He went from working 50+ hours a week to sitting in a recliner watching Bloomberg and the Military Channel all day. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with that. The man grew up in the projects of East LA and has been working since he was 13– he deserves a break, but he was driving us all CRAZY. He was irritable from lack of motivation and all he did was wander around the house talking politics and religion at us. Summer of 2008, I suggested we start a father-daughter activity together. I did archery as a child, and he practiced in college, so we decided to pick it up again. Thus our new hobby was born.

It’s 2010 and I’m still shooting. My bow riser is a Hoyt and I have KAP limbs; both from this crazy German guy that owns an archery dealer in Orange County. It’s actually used but I’ve really attuned my form to the way it pulls. And my dad fletches our arrows. :) He’s gotten way more into this than I have just based on the amount of free time compared to me, but it has become kind of convenient as far as cost for parts goes. He has befriended a bunch of veteran archers: old Olympic champs, university champs, instructors, store owners, etc. This is a very poor quality picture of my bow, unstringed (ignore the clothing on my floor… I know I need to clean).

I now go about once a week if I’m lucky. I lead a pretty busy life these days as a student and volunteer pre-health intern at a hospital (that is for another post). But my bow is beautiful and fits me perfectly and I absolutely love archery. I’ve been a yogi for about 4 years now and am still incredibly passionate about that mind-body connection it brings, but archery makes me use completely different parts of my body and mind and I am a stronger person every time I shoot. The awareness and concentration a clean shot requires demands so much discipline. Your strength, agility, and breathing must all be synced to your form and focus on the target. The tiniest variation in form can send your arrow off by many inches.

I don’t have any target pictures to show because I shoot very inconsistently. Especially now since I don’t go to the range as often. I delete my pictures soon after I take them because I am embarrassed of all the outlying arrow holes!

If you haven’t tried archery, Bass Pro Shops usually have indoor ranges where you can try out bows. It’s not the same as being outside in the elements, but it’s still enjoyable.

People ask me a lot if I go hunting with my bow. I will say right now: never. I was vegetarian and am converting back for good reason. And if you DO hunt with a bow, or gun for that matter, you better eat and use every last part of that animal. Killing an animal for sport doesn’t have to be a waste, but it will be if you don’t thoroughly think through the ethics of hunting.

For now, that is one skill I’ve acquired. I have an interesting post to come on my new I-wanted-to-help-renovate-my-boyfriend’s-house-so-we-figured-everything-out-on-YouTube skills story. Until then.

-JS

Skillz

I’m back where I belong: at my blog, thanks to WordPress’ BlackBerry App! So incredibly convenient.

I’ve come across a few new skills in the past few months that I’d like to share (pictures included!). Sorry, they don’t include anything sexual or illegal in nature, though that sounds entirely more interesting than what my new skills actually ARE.

I’m actually on my way to bed so I’m procrastinating yet another entry.

Until next time.

-JS