Sunday, May 23, 2010

Nervous laughter- Has it ever happened to you?

For some reason or another, I always had problems with nervous laughter. From laughing in the middle of class in High School to even laughing in the middle of community prayer. Of course, there's always a reason for the laughter, but once it starts it is hard to control . The more you try to stop the laughter, the less is your control over it. It is an odd dimension of the human mind, the stubbornness in which it refuses to stop doing what is inappropriate. Anxiety is not calmed by simply telling your mind to "stop worrying", fear is usually not dispelled by telling yourself "don't be afraid", impure thoughts takes more than a "no" to your mind to chase them away. And so it can be with laughter, at least in my case.

This is the second time it happens. We are seating inside the chapel, praying the liturgy. It is the feast of St. Rita, a solemnity to Augustinians. We use a separate book in conjunction with the liturgy of the hour for the antiphons, readings and intentions. This creates a mind bending confusion as you have to bookmark your prayer books in many different areas. I was in charge of the Antiphons. I was hopelessly confused. It comes the time after the hymn that I need to jump start the prayer with the 1st Antiphon. I'm lost between my bookmarks. The brother next to me tries to help me find it, and he gets lost as well. After a few seconds that seemed like minutes, I find the Antiphons. I say it, and in the middle of it, the brother next to me laughs. He tries to control his laugh, and I find his almost failed effort somewhat funny. I laugh a little. To which he laugh even more.

I'm able to carry through the first psalm, but I'm already sweating cold in my down spiraling efforts to simply not laugh. The brother, apparently, finds my efforts all the more funny. He laughs uncontrollably for a few seconds. I try to find the second Antiphon, running through the prayer book. I gather all the strength within me and I'm barely able to say the second Antiphon. The brother is holding his mouth, looking away to the wall. By this time, I'm not even able to completely pray the second psalm. Everyone is looking at us, thankfully smiling and not with angry faces. I was literally sweating cold. When I was not holding my breath, trying to control the overwhelming surge of laughter that screamed to get out of my lungs, I probably looked terribly afflicted, embarrassed.

By the time of the third Antiphon, I'm not even able to say it smoothly. Words are competing with laughter. For the Antiphon for the Canticle of Mary, I'm not even able to finish the Antiphon. Father looks at me with amusement, as if saying "What's going on with them?". He did not know how the laughing nightmare started. Father crosses himself, continuing with the Canticle of Mary without me finishing the Antiphon. In his effort to control the laughter, and find the right bookmark, a bunch of loose paper gets out from the brother's prayer book. Afflicted, he picks up the papers, and he laughs at himself. Finally, for what it seemed like an eternity, the prayer ends.

I wonder, has this happened to any of you? Or am I (along with the brother) just an immature kid? Perhaps I am. But if it had happened to you, I would love to hear your experiences.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

New blog: The weight loss challenge blog.

Hello all:

Just wanted to inform everyone that I will no longer post my weight loss challenge post in this blog, because I created another one solely for that purpose. So, if you are looking for that blog, you can find it here:

I will continue to post on this blog on random things. I felt that my weight loss challenge was too specific for this blog. I had thought about this for quite some time, and was very reluctant in creating a new blog. But now I feel it is the right time to do it. See you all there!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Red : Innocence and Instinct review

When I first heard of Red, It was from a promotional sample CD that I received. In it was Red's single "Breathe into me". As I listened to the single and the lyrics, I said to myself "umm, this sounds Christian". Months later I learned that Red was one of the few Christian rock bands that had some crossover success to mainstream radio.

The album kicks off with "Fight Inside". Listeners of Red's End of Silence will feel right at home with this song, as it is very similar to the sound of their previous album. This is one of my favorite songs in the record, as it creates a sort of relaxing and yet dark ambient, with minor chords and tonalities that run through this song, and not surprisingly, to the rest of the album. Then "Death of Me" changes gear into a more fast paced Red, the drums being the main ingredient in the song. "Innocence" has one of the best uses of strings arrangement that I have ever heard in a rock band. Its use nicely complement the music, adding an extra layer of depth to the sound. The strings are now deeply entrenched in Red's sound, being an integral part of their new sound, and not merely a nice flowery finish.

"Start again" is a good example of how the strings are an integral part of Red's new sound. And talking about the sound of Red in the new album, it has changed somewhat since the release of "End of Silence". The sound is harsher and darker, and in my opinion, much better than before. Red has matured and found their own unique sound, distinguishing themselves from other bands that had obviously influenced them (the best example perhaps being Linkin Park). Sure, there are some catchy tunes, but they all are framed within the context of their new sound. "Never be the same" sounds like the next perfect single, as it is one of the most catchy, and radio friendly songs on the album. It is even somewhat formulaic, but deliciously haunted by the harshness and darkness that fills Innocence's songs.

"Shadows" is another highlight of the album. The guitar riffs are very harsh, making it one of the heaviest tracks on the record. Even the strings are more subtle, leaving most of the work to the band, and particularly to vocalist Michael Barnes, as he screams his way through parts of the song. Things slow down with a cover of Duran Duran's "Ordinary World". It works surprisingly well. Red's sound permeates the song, making it more dark and harsher than the Duran Duran's original. Then comes one of my favorite songs of the album, "Forever". This endearing and yet hard-hitting song talks about redemption and how God can rescue us from darkness, even if we perceive Him late. It expresses a kind of redemption enjoyed after much sourness spent in darkness.

The album closes down with "Take it all away". It starts very slow, with a "dark" piano sound setting up the ambient of the song. Barnes' voice is barely audible, the words almost slithering out, until the chorus comes asking God to "Take it all away". In the middle of the song, the piano and the strings take charge, repeating the melody in which it started. After that, the band slowly ups the tempo, a crescendo that explodes emotionally with Barnes repeating "You take away". Perhaps the best song of the album.

Album grade: A-

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Week 12 of my weight loss challenge.

It's been too long since I last wrote, and for that I want to apologize. It is not that I discontinued my weight loss challenge. Neither is the case that I was too busy. I was certainly busy but I could have made the time to write. I've been simply caught up in other things. But here I am, for those who are reading (I know there might be a couple readers out there, though sometimes it feels like screaming to a vast empty valley), I promise to keep up reporting my journey.

It's almost the end of the semester, thank God for that. It's been a tough one, but a very satisfying one. God willing, I will be transferring to San Francisco State University to pursue my Bachelor's degree in Philosophy. I feel this is an important milestone in my life. I actually never thought this moment would come. I've been in College for 6 years, studying part while working full time. Being with the Augustinian community has finally enabled me to finish college, and I still can't believe that this important moment is just around the corner. It's been too long, but I'm finally almost there.

But why really, do we think this way of our distant goals? I remember when I was working and studying. The goal of finishing College seemed so distant that I almost felt it was impossible. Paradoxically, I continued studying with limited motivation, even though deep inside of me there was a voice who was telling me "I don't believe you will finish this". There is the almost constant motivation that I should study, it is the right thing to do. I should at least try, even though I was not convinced that I would finish. Perhaps I thought I wasn't good enough, or that someone as lazy as myself would probably not be able to invest the time necessary to achieve such goals. Worst of all, I got used to the idea. I got used to the idea of being lazy, and living life as it came.

When it comes to weight loss the exact same thing would happen. Weight loss was always one of my goals. So distant that it was, and so much work would I need to put into it that a lazy person like me could hardly begin to do it. I would sign up for the gym, go at it for a week, and then simply forget about it. I should at least try, it is the right thing to do. But did I ever believe that I would ever do it? Hardly. I got used to the idea of being fat. My ideal future was always of a thin graduate. That idea was always in my mind. But if I was asked to be realistic, would I think I will be there in a couple of years? No, honestly no. I know I'm capable of much. My past experiences tell me so. But I also know how comfortable it is to be complacent, and simply let life be, while you sit on the couch with the T.V on. I know how hard it is to get out of the comfort zone.

But here I am, some pounds thinner and about to finish College. It is possible and perfectly doable. It's often been said, "don't ever let anyone tell you that you cannot do it". But I say, don't ever let that voice inside of you tell you that you can't. You are capable of much. God has given us this incredible power to change things within us and around us. You already have what you need because the maker of Heaven and Earth has already given it to you. If you have a goal, however big it is, however impossible it is, be realistic about it and say "If I want to achieve this, this and this is required of me" and then plan the next step to do it with discipline, but most of all, with the motivation that comes with the knowledge that this is possible and doable.

But enough of that, here is the weigh in for week 12:

Week 9 weigh in: 304.
Week 12 weigh in: 299.
Total pounds lost: 17.

It's been more than 6 years since I've been under 300 pounds. This is an important step for me. When I started this, I wasn't sure if I would be able to accomplish my goal. I was more inclined to think that I would probably fail. But here I am, under 300 pounds and almost finishing college. Sometimes I have to pinch myself.