Saturday, January 28, 2012

Church Language - Expectation

In the proper context, expectations are a good thing. My wife expects me to keep myself alive so we can grow old together. My voice teacher expects me to practice between lessons. My friend Matt expects me to write music periodically. I have granted these people the right to expect certain things of me, so it doesn't bother me in the least when they vocalize those expectations. "You gonna treadmill tonight?" "How's the breath control coming?" "When are you going to upload new music?"

When I don't live up to those expectations, I feel a twinge of guilt and I resolve to do better. Then I'm thankful to have someone who is paying attention.

In my experience in Evangelical churches, people seem a little fuzzy on where other people's boundaries are. Even as first-time visitors, Sarah and I are nearly always treated to this wonderful gem after shaking hands and exchanging names:
Congregant: So, do you guys have any kids yet?
One of us: Nope, we have a dog and a cat.
Congregant: Oh, well hopefully soon!

Another variation involves asking when we plan on having kids, and asserting that God will change our minds.

If we attend for any period of time, eventually someone discovers that I play guitar.
Person: You play guitar? Awesome! We'll have to get you on the worship team sometime!

Note the phrasing: "yet" indicates an expectation that we will have kids; invoking God makes it a moral mandate. "We'll have to get you..." assumes that possessing a skill means I want to lend it to them and destroys any concept of self-determination I may have.

And it continues. What night is good for you to join a small group? What are you bringing for the potluck? When are you taking a turn in the nursery (this one typically only applies to Sarah)?

It applies at every stage of life. I remember adults constantly asking other people's kids about their romantic lives, usually to express their distaste for teenage dating... and then, the minute these kids graduated from high school, asking when they were going to meet someone of the opposite gender and embark on a heterosexual marriage.

They'd ask what college we wanted to go to, just make sure we were planning on a Christian college. Bonus points if it was Bible college.

They'd ask what music we were listening to and whether it was "Christian".

They'd ask why we would possibly want to watch R-rated movies.

They'd ask anything, and they would do it in such a way that it expressed their opinion of what we should be doing.

Eventually, they'd drop the pretense and start prescribing. And then one morning you wake up and you realize one of two things:
1) The life you lead has been tailored to the preferences of a bunch of people you barely know.
2) You have been lying about who you are to an awful lot of people.

Either way, the only thing that eases the tension is to cut and run.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Church Language - Introduction

I live in perpetual fear that someone is going to ask me where or with what frequency I've been going to church lately. The answer -- "eh, nowhere, really" -- isn't the scary part so much as figuring out how to respond to the inevitable follow-up: "Why not?" The core of my religious convictions, the part that lends itself toward attending an Evangelical church, hasn't changed, but something about the thought of attending a church -- of even finding a church to attend -- fills me with a palpable dread. And hey, since I just outed myself to the entire freaking internet, I think I'm going to try and think through where that feeling comes from.

So, the plan is to spend a few posts reflecting on the language I've encountered at the churches I've attended and see where the hostility originates and whether it's real or all in my head. Some things I'd like to cover include:

Expectations - Statements and questions that reflect an expected way of doing things, the most common of which is the "When are you getting married/having kids?" series.

Divisive language - Situations in which an "Us vs Them" mentality is expressed/encouraged. Pretty much any time politics are mentioned.

Falsehoods and damn lies - I once listened to a dude go on a 30 minute tirade against gay people using all of these made up sounding statistics about their sexual proclivities. He did not cite a source. This may be bundled with divisive language.

Control - I may need to save this for last because it can be a part of anything people say. The sad fact is that some people just want to control what other people think.

These and pretty much anything else I can think of, or anything that may come up in the comments.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Day 15 - iPod

I'm skipping a few of these, as I don't feel like writing a letter (13) or digging around Facebook for a picture of me and my family (14). Today's prompt is "Put your iPod on shuffle: First 10 songs that play." This is a good one because I just got an iPod, so I have an excuse to keep playing with it.

1. Spitz - Indigo Chiheisen -- Back in the glory days of filesharing, my friend Don discovered a Japanese pop singer named Ayumi Hamasaki. Check her out, she's amazing. Anyway, I started going nuts looking for other good music from Japan, and wound up with a song by Spitz called "Yume Oi Mushi", which is still one of my favorite songs.

2. Spitz - Nana eno Kimochi -- Seriously, same band twice in a row? Gonna complain about the randomizer if there is a third...

3. Anberlin - A Heavy Hearted Work of Staggering Genius -- This is a short instrumental interlude before the last song on their second album, i.e. not the sort of thing I would seek out. Shuffle is fun!

4. Daft Punk - Flynn Lives -- Tron: Legacy was a freaking amazing movie, in no small part due to the brilliant soundtrack crafted by Daft Punk. If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend it. It was an experience that made me go home and start screwing around with synthesizer sounds.

5. Spitz - Hatsukoi Crazy -- Okay, seriously? I have way more Muse, way more Anberlin, and way more Thrice than I have of Spitz, and yet here we are. It's cool, though, I like Spitz.

6. Ayumi Hamasaki - We Wish (Ramon Zenker Remix) -- The Ayu Trance albums are great for listening to at work. They pass the time quite nicely.

7. Anberlin - Change the World -- Not one of their best. It's not bad, it's just kinda... blah. Unremarkable.

8. Paramore - Feeling Sorry -- I still think Riot is their best album, but Brand New Eyes has some good stuff. I'm curious as to how they'll fare without the Farro brothers, since they were the backbone of the Paramore sound.

9. House of Heroes - Drown -- I vaguely recognize this song. I guess I always tune out when I'm listening to the album. Huh.

10. Muse - Butterflies & Hurricanes -- This song is fantastic.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Day 12 - How/why I started blogging

Many years ago, two of my friends had accounts at, so I decided to join the crowd and created one of my own. I liked the idea of being able to write about personal stuff and easily share it with a couple of close friends. The site had a pretty minimal social feature, but I fumbled my way into following a couple of strangers. The idea of being able to write stuff for "people" was intriguing, but I wanted to keep diaryland under wraps -- too personal for general consumption.

Then I stumbled upon livejournal. It had a better social element and random online friends of mine were already using it, so it was pretty easy to jump in. It was great because it gave me an outlet for whatever stuff I felt like sharing with my friends, plus the ability to interact with them. Eventually the platform started to feel stale, so I moved to blogger, and eventually to a self-hosted wordpress blog (this site), which I'm pretty happy with.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Day 10 - Songs for Moods

This prompt called for "Songs you listen to when you are Happy, Sad, Bored, Hyped, Mad." Here goes:

Happy - Black Mages - "Those Who Fight Further"; Tobuscus - "Literal Skyrim Trailer"

Sad - Metric - "Gimme Sympathy"; Gackt - "Mizerable"

Bored - Foo Fighters - "Bridge Burning"; Mastodon - "Oblivion"

Hyped - Chevelle - "Jars"; Fono - "Sunlight Silence"

Mad - Thrice - "Firebreather"; Further Seems Forever - "The Bradley"

Monday, January 9, 2012

Day 9 - Something I'm proud of in the last few days

I have been exercising consistently for the last week. I'm pretty freaking proud of that.

It's not a New Year's resolution thing. I've been trying to get the ball rolling since November,  but the holiday insanity kept interrupting me. Now that the holidays are over, it's easier to focus, so BAM! A new habit.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Day 8 - Short term goals for this month (and why)

Goal: One piece of music.
Why: I'm trying to beef up various music skills, and the best way to do it is to keep making music.

Goal: Pretty up the website
Why: Cuz it ugly.

Goal: 500 minutes of exercise.
Why: Because SparkPeople is giving away an iPad! Also, health and stuff.

Goal: Maybe get to a doctor.
Why: Because my wrist hurts and I have new insurance that doesn't force me to always go to the same doctor who isn't taking appointments and tells me to call back every morning at 8 and maybe they can squeeze me in.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Day 7 - A pic of something that has the biggest impact on me

This is the sort of topic that makes me freak out a little. I know which people might see this post, so I feel like I need to cater to them. For example, the thought of someone in my family seeing this makes me want to reach for an old family photo; coming from an Evangelical Christian background, I'm terrified that if I don't put a picture of a Bible or Euro-Jesus that people will leave passive-aggressive messages about how I'm not a very good Christian. I talk a huge game about how much I loooove music, so I feel like maybe a guitar or a stack of sheet music should show up or people will think maybe I don't really like it all that much.

Thankfully, I found a picture on Facebook that illustrates the thing that impacts me most:

Peer pressure.

Don't get me wrong, I totally wanted to jump on that trampoline, but when there are two other people also jumping and you're afraid of heights and the photographer is telling you all to hold hands and jump at the same time...

Anyway, the point is that the terror on my face contrasted with the excitement on Mike and Kevin's is the perfect illustration of how I roll in many situations.

I don't have friends that actively pressure me to do anything. Seriously, no one gets on my case to do stuff I don't want to do. However, I create a lot of pressure in my mind and end up doing things that I don't really want to do because I think my friends will look down on me if I don't. For example, I've blown off plans to spend an entire Saturday writing music because a friend kindly asked if I wanted in on some game, and I didn't feel comfortable saying "No thanks! Maybe later/tomorrow." I think I'm getting better, though.

Day 6 - Favorite super hero

Look, I just started playing Star Wars: The Old Republic, so the Jedi are on my mind and it's really tempting to just pick one and call this entry finished.

Buuuut... Fine, I'll put some effort into it.

I've always really liked Spider Man. I have the most ridiculous fear of heights possible, so when I see pictures or play games that involve a masked hero swinging from buildings like it's no big deal, I can't help but imagine that it's me, that I'm that high up and moving that fast, and that I'm not afraid.

Also, the spider-sense is frickin sweet.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Day 5 - A pic of a place I've been

Thank you, Google image search.

This is Mackinac Island, MI. It's great because there are no cars and approximately 70% of the buildings on the island sell fudge or taffy. Also, historical stuff.

Day 4 - A habit I wish I didn't have

It's been months since I last bit my nails, so I have to actually think hard about this one. Hmm...

Well, I fell off the coffee wagon recently. Or jumped on the bandwagon? Whatever. I hate caffeine dependence because I hate caffeine withdrawal headaches on weekends. It's just hard to maintain the same sleep schedule in the winter when Mr. Sun is slacking off, so 7am starts feeling like 4am and everything falls to pieces.

Day 3 - A pic of me and my friends

I'm the groom in this picture.

On the far left is Mike, seated next to his brother Kevin. Behind them (again from the left) are Jeremy, Olson, and DonSlice.

The bride is Sarah. Seated next to her are Jenny and Melanie. Behind them are Beth, Adrienne, and my sister, Karen.

I don't have any other pictures on my laptop, and I'm writing this from Starbucks, so I'll just give a shout-out to everyone else: Denny, Matt, Autumn, Tim, Kate, Dave, Dana, James, Amanda, Joel, Holly, Troy, and anyone I may have forgotten because I haven't seen you in a while (we should get together sometime). And of course Krista, who I stole these prompts from.

Day 2 - Meaning of the blog name

When I game, my handle is typically StanManX. In grade school, "Stan" became a communal nickname that I shared with two of my friends (no, I'm not telling the story of how that came about), but in junior high one of those friends bestowed it upon me. "Stanman" was guaranteed to be taken at all websites, so I stole a little from Mega Man X.

Offline, most people call me Stan -- friends, coworkers, some of my friends' parents -- so it makes about as much sense as calling it "Matt's blog" or something.


New music! Even though I technically didn't start working on it until after the new year, I'm counting it toward 2011. Hope you enjoy it!

[wpaudio url="" text="sleepthru"]

Also, I've bundled everything from 2011 into a convenient package at my bandcamp store.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Day 1 - A recent picture and 15 interesting facts about me

Fact #1: I loooove me some brownies.

Fact #2: I have a BA in English, which basically only gets used when my coworkers are arguing about words and they need an official ruling.

Fact #3: I have been playing guitar for over 16 years. I've also spent some time on drums, bass, and vocals.

Fact #4: I am currently taking voice lessons from Maria Rose of Maria Rose and the Swiss Kicks.

Fact #5: Final Fantasy XI was the first MMO I played. I quit because it got repetitive, but occasionally I have dreams about signing up again.

Fact #6: Actually, I occasionally dream about doing a lot of stuff that I quit doing, like karate, guitar lessons, or playing in a band.

Fact #7: I get really stressed out at big social gatherings, even if I know and love everyone involved. My heart rate elevates slightly and I start feeling warm. I have found that deep breaths help quite a bit -- especially if you follow them up with talking to someone.

Fact #8: I wear glasses because the thought of putting something on my eye gives me the willies. Someday, though, I will try contacts, because I'm really starting to hate glasses.

Fact #9: I have a younger sister.

Fact #10: I like anime. When I was a teenager and pretty obsessed, I couldn't afford to buy the stuff I was interested in, but thanks to the magic of NetFlix, I can finally enjoy the stuff I wanted to see so bad in 1998.

Fact #11: I like reading, but I don't read nearly as much as I say I would like to. I'm hoping to remedy that this year.

Fact #12: I hated cats until Sarah brought Aeris home. It was an instant transformation.

Fact #13: Speaking of Sarah, we bonded over discussions of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, a single-player RPG. Now we're playing Star Wars: The Old Republic, an MMORPG, together.

Fact #14: My senior seminar was a class on James Joyce. No, he doesn't make any more sense after taking that class. Dude had too much time on his hands. If anyone wants to fund me for 17 years, I'll bring you the next Finnegans Wake.

Fact #15: I still really want to learn to play the piano someday.


I'm going to steal some prompts that my friend Krista is writing from this month. Hopefully it will reactivate sections of my brain that seem to have gone dark. Here they are:

Day 01- A recent picture of you and 15 interesting facts about yourself.
Day 02- The meaning behind your blog name.
Day 03- A picture of you and your friends.
Day 04- A habit that you wish you didn’t have.
Day 05- A picture of somewhere you’ve been to.
Day 06- Favorite super hero and why.
Day 07- A picture of someone/something that has the biggest impact on you.
Day 08- Short term goals for this month and why.
Day 09- Something you’re proud of in the past few days.
Day 10- Songs you listen to when you are Happy, Sad, Bored, Hyped, Mad.
Day 11- Another picture of you and your friends.
Day 12- How you found out about blogging and why you made one.
Day 13- A letter to someone who has hurt you recently.
Day 14- A picture of you and your family.
Day 15- Put your iPod on shuffle: First 10 songs that play.
Day 16- Another picture of yourself.
Day 17- Someone you would want to switch lives with for one day and why.
Day 18- Plans/dreams/goals you have.
Day 19- Nicknames you have; why do you have them.
Day 20- Someone you see yourself marrying/being with in the future.
Day 21- A picture of something that makes you happy.
Day 22- What makes you different from everyone else.
Day 23- Something you crave a lot.
Day 24- A letter to your parents.
Day 25- What I would find in your bag.
Day 26- What you think about your friends.
Day 27- Why are you doing this 30 day challenge.
Day 28- A picture of you last year and now, how have you changed since then?
Day 29- Your favorite song.
Day 30- In this past month, what have you learned.