Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Top 5: Worst Country Cover Songs Edition

While surfing CNN.com a while back I came across this story. After I read it, I had to find some of the songs on YouTube. That got me thinking about all of the lame country artists that decided to cover various songs. I remember listening to the country versions of songs like "I Swear" and "I Don't Want To Miss A Thing" and thinking to myself how bad they sounded. After doing a little research on my own I came up with a list of horrible country cover songs. Now I'm not saying there is anything wrong with country songs or cover songs. In fact I generally enjoy both, but the two should never cross. When they do, we get the unholy abominations below. I've added the original song to compare.

5. Faith Hill - Piece Of My Heart

I realize that the Janis Joplin version of this song was a cover as well, but what was Faith Hill thinking when she covered this song? Probably nothing, because she never actually heard the Janis Joplin version of this song while she was doing her own recording. Her only exposure to the song was the country arrangement made for her on a demo. Sadly, this version of the song has no power or feeling, it's sounds just like any other sappy country song.

4. Jack Ingram - Lips Of An Angel

Why do country musicians decide to release cover versions of still popular right now songs? Are they so desperate for new material that they have to cover the song before anyone has even forgotten about the first version that came out? The video for this cover is absolutely ridiculous. It has Jack Ingram singing the words of the song to his bride. Does he think it's romantic? Did he not pay attention to the words? He's singing to his bride about cheating!

3. Dolly Parton - Shine

I can believe that Dolly won the Grammy Award for Best Female Country Vocal Performance for this. I'm not saying Dolly isn't talented, because she is. This type song is just not where her talent lies. It makes me wonder how she won a Grammy for this song when not even Collective Soul, the original artists of this song, could win one.

2. Glen Campbell - Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)

Punk music is notorious for covering songs from other genres. It seems to be a very punk thing to do. Who would have ever thought that someone would do a cover of a punk song? Apparently the people who convinced Glen Campbell to do this thought it was a good idea. This just goes to show, that just because an idea is new and fresh doesn't make it a good idea.

1. Dolly Parton - Stairway To Heaven

When I first saw that she covered this song, I thought it was a joke. Come on, Dolly really wouldn't try to country up the ultimate rock anthem of the 1970's. Turns out she did and it wasn't good. Dolly Parton and Led Zepplin don't mix. It's not the worst version of a song that is covered by just about everyone, but it is pretty bad. Hopefully Dolly has learned to stay away from covering rock songs.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Memories Of My Dad

Today is the anniversary of my dad passing away. I can't believe he has been gone for 7 years. It's hard to believe how long it's been, how much I've changed, and how much he still influences my life.

My dad makes up a lot of who I am. It's interesting and a little funny that I find myself doing some of the same things I remember him doing. I remember my dad's laugh, and when I listen to myself laugh, I hear him. I look at my hands and feet, at the way they are shaped and I realize that they look like his. When I talk, I sometimes hear his voice instead of mine.

I enjoy the same things that he enjoyed. Things like watching Denver Broncos football, or playing pool, or watching episodes of The Andy Griffith Show. My first memory of football was Super Bowl XX in January of 1986. I watched the game with him at my grandma's house and we made a bet on the game. I remember we bet $2 on the game and I got to choose what team I wanted to win. I chose the Chicago Bears to beat the New England Patriots. Probably because at that age I knew exactly what a bear was and had no idea what a patriot was. The point is I remember watching the game with him and the time we spent together. It is that point that I can trace my love of football.

I'm grateful for my dad and for the way that he and my mom raised me. Growing up my mom was the rule maker and my dad was the disciplinarian. I think it's interesting how he would punish us when we did something wrong, yet we were never spanked. Punishment usually consisted of losing certain privileges, receiving extra chores, and in one case reading a series of magazine articles, writing about what I learned, and then implementing them in my life. As often as I would get into trouble he was there to put me on the straight and narrow through love and discipline.

One of the things that I really remember about my dad was his willingness to serve others. He would send me to my grandma's house to mow her lawn or shovel her sidewalk and he would specifically tell me not to take any money that my grandma would offer. He did things like organize a community Easter egg hunt. He would often gather the donations himself, organize the egg coloring (usually done by my aunts, uncles, and cousins), and hide the eggs. After he died, my cousins told us about one time they were stranded in a different town because of car trouble or something. They were out when they weren't supposed to be, so they didn't want to call their mom. Instead they called my dad and asked for his help. He went to help, brought them back home, made sure that they were safe, and never ever said a word about it to anyone.

Looking back I realize what a wonderful man my dad was. Of course he wasn't perfect. He had his weaknesses, struggles, and trials. Yet he was a good example to me and my siblings. I'm grateful that I was raised by him and hope to be the kind of man that he would want me to be.

Friday, September 26, 2008

When We Were Young

I've had the opportunity to instant message my brother quite a bit the last couple of days. In talking with him, we were both reminiscing a little about growing up and some of the things we enjoyed. We weren't a family that was well off financially and we lived in a small home, but we were happy. In fact, I don't really have any bad memories of my childhood and I'm grateful to my parents for that blessing.

Growing up, we lived across the street from a park. In essence, it was our front yard, complete with playground equipment, basketball court, soccer field, and baseball diamond. I remember meeting up with the neighborhood kids so we could play pick up games of football. Or making huge cities in the sand for our Hot Wheels cars. Or playing an imaginary hero's quest games with my friend Ponchy. He would be the narrator and bad guys for us to fight against. Or playing in the sprinklers on hot summer days. Or seeing who could climb highest up the big pine tree. There was always something to do at the park.

My brother used to be a master of making his own toys. He would find sticks and string and make a bow and arrows. He would also save the cardboard tubes from wrapping paper and old shoe boxes to make his own Ghostbuster equipment. He helped me to have ideas to make toys too. We would find a long stick and a short stick and nail them together to make swords. One time we even wrapped the handles with some electrical tape that we found in the garage. My dad wasn't very happy when he found out we used all of his electrical tape. I had to replace the wasted tape with a new roll. My dad even taught us how to make rubber band guns with wooden ground stakes and clothes pins.

Getting haircuts was always an interesting time growing up. I remember my parents discussing giving my sister a hair cut. She had long thick hair that was in a braid. I remember my dad sitting her down, taking the scissors, and cutting off the braid. My mom must have been horrified. The cool thing was she had the braid kept in tact to save. My dad also used to give my brother and me buzz cuts every summer. Oh, how I hated and loathed getting a buzz cut. I think my brother really enjoyed them, but I hated them with a passion. In 4th grade I received a buzz cut earlier in the year than usual. I would normally get my haircut after school was out for the summer, but that year my dad gave me the haircut over spring break. I was so embarrassed to go back to school. I wore the hood of my jacket as long as I could that day until the teacher made me take it off. I'm sure the other kids didn't care much, but back then I thought they were all laughing at me. After I got back from my mission I gave my dad a buzz cut because he didn't want to pay for a haircut. Sweet revenge. It was fun and I probably enjoyed it a little too much.

Aside from the fun and games we had growing up, we had chores to do as well. Bringing fire wood from the wood pile into the garage was a weekly task, so we could keep the house warm in winter time. Mowing the lawn and cleaning the garage were also regular chores I remember having to do. We also had to take turns with indoor chores like doing the dishes (which my brother hated), cleaning the bathroom (which I hated), and cooking dinner (which my sister hated). I remember coming home from school and being given the chore of having the house cleaned up somewhat before my parents came home. We would literally wait until the last minute. One of us would spot my mom's car coming down the street and all three of us kids would spring into action, trying to get all of the house cleaning done in the minute and a half before my mom walked through the door. We were usually less than successful.

Thinking about these things has really made me grateful for the happy childhood that I was able to enjoy. I hope my siblings have equally as happy memories.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Scars Remind Me That The Past Is Real

Sitting at work today, the song "Swing Life Away" by Rise Against came up on my play list. As I was listening to the words and possibly singing along I was struck by the following lyrics.
I'll show you mine
If you show me yours first
Let's compare scars
I'll tell you whose is worse

That got me thinking about some of the scars that I've managed to give myself over the years. Most, if not all, are mainly due to stupidity on my part. I remember three scars in particular that I inflicted on myself. One on my left index finger, one on my chin, and one on my chest.

When I was five or six, my family and my grandparents went to visit my aunt who was living near Denver. She had a two story house with a basement that provided 3 floors for me to play on. I had a fun time, until the last day that we were there. At that age, I had a habit of putting my hands on counters, or tables, or anything too high for me and push myself up so I could get a better view of whatever it was I was looking at. My aunt had one table that had a glass covering with the glass broken up into 3 or 4 big pieces. Now I, of course, saw something on that table that caught my interest, so I went over and pushed myself up so I could see. There must have been something under one of the pieces of glass, because as I pushed myself up, a glass piece stuck up in the air. As I lowered myself down the piece of glass that was sticking up went right into my chest. I don't remember a whole lot about the experience except crying a lot. I don't remember it hurting or anything thing else about the experience, but I'm sure it freaked my mom out.

When I was fifteen, I had a job working as a custodian for the high school during the summer. I was helping with general clean up and getting things ready for the upcoming school year. I wasn't old enough to drive, and had to ride my bike to work everyday. After work I would come out, get on my bike, and ride home. No big deal. Until one day I got off of work and got on my bike to go home. The bike rack was up on a sidewalk area next to the school and I decided to jump my bike off the curb into the parking lot and ride home. That was my mistake. Instead of riding away as I expected, my bike fell apart. Literally. As I landed my bike broke in half at the welds and I ate asphalt. My chin was the first thing to hit the ground. I split it open pretty good and was bleeding all over the place. I somehow managed to get up and make my way back into the school so someone could call my mom. She came and we got to go to the emergency room. I got stitches and a huge bandage on my chin. I was a typical image conscious fifteen year old and having that huge bandage on my face was so embarrassing.

Just before my mission, I was working at an embroidery factory. I ran one of the huge sewing machines that embroidered 12 shirts at a time. Each shirt location had about 10 needles, each needle with a different thread color. When the machine finished with one color, the computer would switch the needles to a different color to continue with the design. It was my job to make sure that the machine ran smoothly, the patterns were straight, and make sure there wasn't any loose thread or broken needles. The proper procedure when there was a loose thread or a broken needle was to hit the all stop button on the machine, fix the problem, and then start the machine again. I guess I was in a hurry or something because I saw a loose thread and decided to pick out when the machine was changing needle color. I thought I could be faster than the machine. Turns out I wasn't. The new needle came down and went into the tip of my left index finger. I was so surprised by it that I jerked my hand away and tore open the tip of my finger. Of course I was bleeding everywhere, so I went to the restroom to clean my hand off. My boss saw what happened and asked me to wait about 15 minutes until the shift ended so he could take me to the hospital. As it turned out he didn't have a car. I had to put his bike in the back of my truck and drive us to the hospital. I ended up quitting that job a month later and went back to working at McDonald's. I don't think that I've touched a sewing machine since.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Awesomely Bad Movies

Last night, Andrea and I watched the movie Call Of The Wild: Foxfire. Andrea rented it because she wanted to watch a nice family movie. I just happened to be invited along to watch. So we settled in and began watching the movie.

Now I'm not a movie snob. In fact I'm sure there are quite a few lame movies I like, but I still enjoy them. This was not one of those movies. Have you ever watched a movie that was so bad that you still found yourself amused because of how cheesy, campy, unrealistic, or badly acted it was? Normally when I'm watching a movie that I don't enjoy I try to go to sleep. Every so often though, there is a movie that is so bad that I can't go to sleep because I want to see what ridiculousness will come next. Such was the case with this movie.

I read Jack London's Call Of The Wild when I was a kid, but I don't remember a lot about it. I do remember some of the main points. Buck was a dog that was taken away from his comfortable life, became a sled dog in Alaska, and eventually heeds the call to return to the wild. The only thing that this movie had in common with the book was that the dogs name was Buck and it took place in Alaska. About 45 minutes into the movie, I turned to Andrea and asked what the point was supposed to be. There was no plot development. We could not figure out what, if anything, the characters were trying to accomplish.

Talk about bad acting. I remember wondering to myself what kind of people speak that way. The dialogue rivaled that of a George Lucas script. I actually started laughing at one point because a character was supposed to be excited about his wife staying with him and all that came out was the monotone unfeeling line, "I'm so glad that you are staying". I guess there is a reason that I've never heard of any of the actors before or since.

The direction of the movie was equally awful. There were secondary character story lines that had nothing at all to do with overall plot of the movie. These characters interacted maybe once with the main characters through out the whole movie. Yet we were still forced to see what these characters were doing even though it didn't further the plot. I think the director may have just wanted to make sure that there was more footage so it could be more than a 70 minute movie. I also enjoyed the exact same scene shot from different angles and then shown at different times through the movie. It reminded me of the stock footage that would be shown in the early days of film. It seemed the producers wanted to save money and were hoping the audience wouldn't notice. I guess that's what I should expect from a straight to DVD release.

What are some of the awesomely bad movies that you have seen? Tell me so I can steer clear of them as well.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Communication Is Key

Why is communication so important? Why is being able to convey your thoughts and feelings to others so important and vital to the relationships with those around you? Psychologist and author Rollo May said, "Communication leads to community, that is, to understanding, intimacy and mutual valuing."

So communication is important because it leads to understanding, intimacy, and mutual value. In the past week or so, it has come to my attention that I'm not very good at communication. How in the world did that happen? When I'm attending school, my major is speech communication. I think I have a lot to learn. I've found that my unwillingness to communicate or my inability to communicate effectively has damaged some of my relationships. I have lost out on the understanding, intimacy, and mutual value that could have been shared with others.

I realize this makes it hard to get to know me as a person. I find having a conversation of substance is sometimes a difficult task. It is so much easier to stick to the "small talk" or to subjects of no real value. Talking and sharing my feelings has never been easy for me. I don't enjoy it. Still, I realize the importance of effective communication with others and how much it can strengthen relationships. My relationships with those around me are things that I cherish and I am making a conscious effort to improve my communication skills.

It's also important to realize that effective and meaningful communication does not only including talking, but listening also. Author Rachel Naomi Remen said:

The most basic and powerful way to connect to another person is to listen. Just
listen. Perhaps the most important thing we ever give each other is our
attention…. A loving silence often has far more power to heal and to connect
than the most well-intentioned words.
I always thought that I was a good listener. I have to come to realize that wasn't necessarily true. I have a tendency to try to solve or figure out solutions to scenarios and situations that are presented to me. I realize this is not always helpful. Sometimes the other person just needs to vent.

I really want to improve my communication skills. It will not be easy and it will not happen over night. I'm fairly sure that I'll even get frustrated at times, but the rewards of effective communication can only enrich and deepen my existing relationships. My thoughts on this subject may not be 100% coherent. In fact some of the ideas that I feel I have discovered may seem basic and remedial, but these are things that I have begun to learn. I hope that I can work to improve myself and become more effective at communicating with those around me.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

My Own Before & After Photos

Last night there was a surprise birthday party for my roommate and my friend Danny at my house. It wasn't Paul's birthday, but it was Danny's. The point is that the people that planned the party brought pictures of Paul to hang up with the decorations. That's when I saw this picture. Holy crap!! How did I let myself get that big? Why in the world would I let pictures of myself be taken when I looked like that? Then I started checking out Facebook and found thisI don't remember that sweater looking that tight and form fitting when I was wearing it. I know that it sounds vain when I talk about the way I look. But mostly I look at these two pictures of myself and realize how unhealthy I had become. Not good. Not good at all.

I've been on my no sugar diet for about 5 months now. No processed or refined sugar and making sure not to stuff myself full when eating. Exercise has also helped a lot too. Not only do I feel better about my self image, I just feel better. I can run and play sports and not feel like I'm going to die after 2 minutes. I can go hiking. I don't know why I ever stopped being active or started being so lazy, but I am happy that I am on my way to a more active and healthy lifestyle.

Here are a couple of pictures that were taken of me yesterday. So these are my most recent pictures.

So I think that I'm looking better. I'm not down to my target weight yet, but it feels good to have lost about 30 pounds. I never realized how much 30 pounds really is. There are some toddlers that weight about 30 pounds. I've lost the equivalent of small child without having to give birth. I'll keep you posted when I finally get down to my target weight.