Life's high notes

Writing playlist. I can't live without music. Since I was little, I've listened to or played music every day. But each day is different, so its playlist follows its structure, not some proscribed outline. The songs I choose are picked based on my rules, which are eerily similar to those for playing music in a public place.

  1. Gauge the mood. No one wants to hear hyper Latin pop if they're just hanging out. Likewise, the same music has its place during runs and workouts, but not many other places.
  2. Be mindful. If you're by yourself, pay attention to how the music affects you. Listen to the music that sets the tone for the rest of your day. After all, you don't want to be the only spacy emo kid at the disco or that twitchy overcaffeinated jock at the symphony. Don't be that guy.
  3. Make dedicated playlists. Appropriating specific songs for specific occasions heightens their significance to that activity. Assign songs to activities and don't let them cross over.
  4. Being sad is OK. Happiness is a constant choice, but the world can be overwhelming. Choose happiness, but take time to experience your other emotions. If you need a musical boost to lift or deepen your mood, pick your songs accordingly.
  5. Do it and dig it. Trashy rap aficionado? Get your daily dose of humor at Snacks n Shit. Classical junkie? Rock out with your Bach out. Time is too precious to listen to music you dislike. There's no reason to make yourself unhappy.


I write a lot...and watch trashy TV. Today's Blog Like Crazy prompt is to list things that I'm currently into. It's a simple idea, but I found that my categories were pretty different from others'. Without further ado,

  • Watching: After figuring out I was getting overstimulated from watching television while writing, I've started turning off the boob tube. I'm watching less television than I have in a long time, but still manage to keep up with a few programs. Adam and I have been watching Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D and Grimm since they started, and are still current on both. They're fun, (mostly) well-written and light. We also keep up with Boardwalk Empire and are looking forward to the springtime return of Game of Thrones.
  • Listening to: I have no music on my phone thanks to Spotify. About a year ago, my five-year-old iPod went belly up and I haven't been able to spring for a new one yet. Since I mainly used it in the car, it hasn't been worth the money to replace. Over the past few months, I've been jamming out to The Strokes, Foals, Young The Giant, Leagues -- all bands that are played regularly at Octane. My coworkers' tastes in music may differ from my own, but they're pretty darn good.
  • PlanningOne of my goals for this month is to build my blog's visibility and to build a client base for my writing. I have a tentative plan in place of how to achieve both, but it'll take an investment of a good deal of time.
  • Looking forward to: Thanksgiving. I'm taking some time off to rest and relax and spend time with Adam while he's off work and out of class. It'll be nice to be able to just hang out and not have to worry about so many things.
  • Reading: Cocktail books. Lots of cocktail books.
  • Making me happy: My new running shoes are still making me happy and helping to motivate my runs, leading to increased seratonin levels and chemically-induced good feelings. I dig it.

Jamming out

downloadAs the air gets crisp, establishing or ramping up a regular running routine is easier than ever. Without the draining summer heat, most weather-related excuses for not doing so may just melt away. One way to get motivated is to strictly designate a running playlist. To make it exercise exclusive, save these songs for running -- and only running. Not playing them during work or driving will deepen the association between cardio and those particular songs.

Just like signaling your body that it's time for work, music can immediately switch your brain into beast mode. If you're listening to the same music during work or your commute, your brain may very well kick into autopilot rather than getting yourself fired up to run.

According to an article from Scientific American"music distracts people from pain and fatigue, elevates mood, increases endurance, reduces perceived effort and may even promote metabolic efficiency." Without caffeine or any other performance enhancing drugs, your abilities jump. However, the same article also states that someone's associations with particular songs are more important even than the tempo of the music itself.

Over the past century, more than 100 studies have been performed on the effect of music on athleticism. One of the most consistent findings was the use of music as a pacing mechanism -- its beat can be the driving force to longer and more effective exercise.

However, listening to music while running in a public area does have its downside; blasting music into headphones can overwhelm automobile noise and make you less aware of your surroundings. As well, using music to push the boundaries of your athletic ability can also lead to injury or overexertion.

To be safe, use music like you would any other tool -- carefully and with proper form. If those two guidelines are met, you should be able to reap the benefits without serious consequences. Today, I'm putting together a new running playlist to get pumped up for the next few weeks of scheduled runs.

Have any tips for improving motivation? Leave them in the comments!

You got to hold on

call me maybeOut of my ten or so 2013 New Year's resolutions, only one has been doable. I have turned off the radio. At first, it was a struggle. Top 40 pop music is not challenging. Each saccharine-sweet song follows a predictable pattern and ends within three minutes. Some songs may be catchier than others, but none are truly remarkable. It's easy.

Silence and good music aren't. Each forces the listener to confront parts of his or her life that are easily overlooked when overlaid with silly lyrics and a pounding beat. After three or four days of complete silence on my morning drive, I was more refreshed and slightly less grumpy. The drives between tutoring sessions became opportunities for reviving my energy level, not trying to keep it artificially elevated with coffee and radio programs laced with celebrity gossip.

As a music writer, finding and tracking new artists keeps your writing fresh and your friends and readers excited. Turning off the radio gave me the chance to look up bands that friends had suggested, like The Lone Bellow, or were promoting, like St. Paul and the Broken Bones. Once I started looking, I began rediscovering amazingly talented local groups and friends of friends.

On one particularly stressful afternoon, I turned to one of my Spotify playlists. Though I was stuck in traffic and already 30 minutes late for an appointment, I started to relax. By the end of the third song, I almost felt like I was sipping pinot noir in a warm bath, not zooming around from job to job.

Each day, each of us chooses what to consume. For me, music is sustenance for my spirit just as food sustains my body. Choosing quality here is necessary to my happiness, and has allowed me some space that is distinctly mine. So far, it has freed up time outside the car for me to begin to work on other resolutions that have been so easy to break. Next up, exercise.

Today's title comes from The Alabama Shakes' "Hold On."

Things you don't know about me

20121212-222429.jpg Alright, stalkers. Today's Blog Like Crazy post is to make a list of interesting facts about yourself. Here are mine:

1. I don't have an all-time favorite album, song or movie, but I can give you a top 10 list for each that will rock your world.

2. Your use of BRB or LOL in face-to-face conversation makes me want to pull my hair out.

3. I drink tea instead of coffee even though I much prefer coffee.

4. Trashy pop music is one of my guilty pleasures.

5. Elf is my favorite movie and is one of the two DVDs I own. When I'm in a bad mood, Adam will sit me down in front of the tv/computer/laptop and put it on. I tear up every freaking time I watch it when Santa flies over the crowd singing Christmas carols.

6. When I was a kid, I would choose fruit or raisins over candy every time. I'm pretty sure that's part of the reason I get headaches if I eat too much sugar.

7. If I'm wearing a lot of blue, yesterday sucked. Light blue makes me happy.

8. Few things irk me more than Highway 280. When the Nordstrom's Rack is completed, I may be more inclined to make the trek, but right now I avoid it outside of my commute as much as I can.

9. Star Wars Episodes 1-3 didn't happen. The franchise did not get sold to Disney and they are not making an Episode 7. This video covers the topic well.

10. I have puppy fever like you wouldn't believe, but am unwilling to adopt or buy a dog before I have the time and resources to be a responsible owner.

Letter to my 16-year-old self

Dear 16-year-old self, You are beautiful as you are, and you will get better with age. As you build muscle and your curves fill out, your weight will redistribute itself. Building a personal style will get easier, so dress to your shape.

Your heart may be broken now, but you are not. Over the next few years, you will love more deeply than you think possible. Friends are going to cycle through your life and some will leave it for good. Though it's a cliche, it's a cliche for a reason.

The work you're doing now is worth it. Right now, you're learning how to write and how to write in very short form on social media. You'll make it out of high school before Facebook gets so creepy you can't start over elsewhere. You'll learn how to start over closer to home, and you'll form a community there.

Best of all, it gets better. People share your sense of humor and taste in music. In a couple years, you'll be interviewing the bands you love now. Don't limit yourself to one career possibility and try everything when you have the chance.

It may be self-serving for me to tell you to live long and well, but I'll do it anyways. Love you.


Break the spell of the typical

Photo credit Colin Gray Yesterday, I got caught up in the bustle of the office, tutoring and cooking and didn't write. Once I realized I wouldn't have time for creative thought, I got angry. I resented the spinach, the missing ginger, the bowl -- the anger wasn't about dinner, but it was hard to wrestle myself away from the train of thought. Falling into a routine is easy for me when it comes to working and eating. Emotions, exercise and writing practices are harder to maintain even though they can overlap.

Last year, I was prepping for my first interview with Darren King from MUTEMATH when I came across the video for "Typical," a single from their first album. Filmed backwards, the energy and passion that came through in the video was electrifying. My roommate walked in. "Why are you watching a MUTEMATH video?" "Oh, you know who they are? I've got an interview with Darryl? Darren? tomorrow." A lot of yelling followed ("You're doing WHAT?! With Darren?! Darren KING?").

Turns out that MUTEMATH is her favorite band. When she asked someone if he had any questions for Darren, his response was "Can you break the spell of the typical?"

As much as we still joke about that question, it's not easily answerable. Letting routines become typical means that process changes from something you do to something you are. That transition makes it more difficult to change your behavior to work past the negative bits because once it becomes typical, you're living it.

Recently, I've had some serious slip ups in mindfulness. Like last night's kitchen freak out, they've been triggered by realizations of the time constraints in my life. With my tutees' finals coming up, I'm going to plan out how to keep my good habits going so I don't start regularly turning into a giant green rage monster.

As the song goes, "Cause I know there's /Got to be another level /Somewhere closer to the other side /And I'm feeling like it's now or never. /Can I break the spell of the typical?" It's possible that, even if you try to change, something that is typical to you leaves an indelible mark on your person. I choose not to believe that, and will instead do something every day to change my routine.

Though I may not rip up keytars or get covered in paint to break up my day like MUTEMATH does in the video, I still have the power to practice happiness and kindness. I choose that.

Title from MUTEMATH's "Typical." There's also a video from Jimmy Kimmel Live of them performing the song backwards. IN ONE TAKE. The sound is pretty crazy because it's backwards, but it's really freakin' cool to watch.