20 February, 2011

New Frustrations in Old Chinese

I do not know Chinese. Most of what I know about Chinese culture I learned about in my kindergarten classroom's Chinese New Year lesson. We threw a big party and said "Gung hay fat choy!" to each other while wearing crudely-taped together paper robes with crayon dragons drawn on them, which I'm sure was adorable if you were a parent and pretty offensive if you were actually Asian. But growing up in my small town, we only had one Asian person, and she was only half. So everyone seemed ok with this because we were "learning." (If I dressed up as a paper Inuit now, would everyone be cool with this? Probably not. It's cute if you are 4 and ignorant, less so if you're 24.)

I open with this statement because I am writing a novel. Or rather, I am working on my third novel that I shelved about a year ago, and recently decided was good enough to dust off, re-work, and see what could become of it. My first two novels did not merit such a dusting, the first focusing on the story of a lifeguard that I wrote in high school when (surprise!) I was a lifeguard, and the second that I wrote as a satirical memoir when I turned 23. Every person that I have told this to so far has laughed. Apparently you have to be older to write a memoir, even if it's humorous. I disagree.

I am writing this novel on my trusty mac computer. This computer has stayed up with me many a late night, writing brilliant college essays that, including myself, a total of two people have read. This computer has traveled to the West Coast, the South, and many mid-western cities on a 30 day road trip seeing the sights of America 2 years ago. It has stored numerous terrible poems and short stories, and a laughingly large amount of haikus from back when I thought that people could become real writers by working within the constraints of 5-7-5 syllable form. This computer came with me to the Bahamas one winter where I half studied renewable energy and half worked on a different story on the beach and learned the hard way that salt water, sand, and technology are not the best of friends. This piece of technology has kept me looking busy on innumerable commuter rail and subway rides across the city. This computer has run the gamut with me, but it has seen better days.

While dusting off this most recent of novel endeavors (double entendre!) I was going back through some old stories when I came upon the delightful discovery that my computer, no longer able to process word documents properly, had started to interject Chinese characters into the text after certain word and punctuation combinations.

Exhibit A:

   "泥epends on where you were when you died, I guess." I told him. He laughed.
    展hat would be the worst place to die?" He asked, glancing over from the driver's seat.
    展orse than the Dairy Queen?”
    泥epends. Was I eating a Blizzard?”
    哲ah. Unless you were choking on it or something.”
    泥id I choke on an oreo, or butterscotch?”
    的t'd have to be butterscotch, right? That shit is sticky.”
    展ell I'm not really a butterscotch kind of girl. So I guess that'd be pretty bad."

Barring the clearly meaningless conversation and the blatant Dairy Queen reference, I did not write this. I do not know what it now means with it's new Chinese characters. Does it make more sense now? Is it offensive? And yet I'm tempted to keep it because maybe this is an opportunity to explore the creative boundaries and new frontiers of bi-lingual writing!

Or maybe my computer is just dying.

Either way, at least my writing has improved. I would never write about Dairy Queen anymore. I've grown up, and am a Cold Stone girl, through and through. 

19 February, 2011

Bruno Mar's "Marry You" Lyrics

Peter Gene Hernandez (aka Bruno Mars to all you radio listeners out there) is an enigma. He has proven to be a prolific songwriter, able to write sweet, fun-to-sing-along-to songs about being yourself (Just the Way You Are), loneliness (Talking to the Moon), and the throw-yourself-in-front-of-a-train sentiment when your love goes unrequited (Grenade). He co-wrote K'Naan's "Waving Flag" as well as Cee Lo Green's super-hit "F**k You," the song that Time declared the top song of 2010. So this "Bruno" clearly has the talent and the accolades to mop the floor with pop music's super sexxxified auto-tuned atrocities that seem to be clogging the airways nowadays. (C'mon, no one listens to Ke$ha for her singing ability.)

And then he made "Marry You."

Many artists have attempted songs about marriage, but only a select few have succeeded. There is Darlene Love's classic "Today I Met the Boy I'm Gonna Marry," B.B. King's soulful "Marry You," Martin Sexton's sultry-folk tune "Marry Me," and even Train has gotten in on the action with their own song of the same name. Despite Bruno's excellent track record (hehe, music pun), his attempt to tackle this most illustrious of genres left much to be desired. What it lacks in classic appeal, soul, and sultry-folk, it makes up for in saccharine-sweet melodies and tinkly church bells. Lots of tinkly, tinkly church bells. Let's explore.

(A big thanks to astute reader and fellow pop-music critic, Katie Frances, who forwarded me "Marry You" for a quick lyrical look-over. I'm sure the world of pop culture thanks you as much as I do.)

"Marry You" by Bruno Mars

It's a beautiful night, we're looking for something dumb to do. 
Hey baby, I think I wanna marry you. 

Things that rank high on my list of dumb things to do on a beautiful night: find a big fountain to run through drunkenly. Go streaking in a public park. Try to bribe a city cop to get a free ride around town with nothing more than the five dollars in my pocket and pure sex appeal. The idea of holy matrimony falls very far down this hypothetical list, ranking somewhere above "voluntary colonoscopy" and below "self-inflicted kidney trauma." Maybe that's just me. Or maybe I just don't want to contribute to an already high divorce rate. (Happily, the U.S. only places twelfth internationally, ranking behind such divorce-riddled nations as Belarus, with 68%, and Moldova, with 52%. Oh, those Moldovans with their tempestuous love-affairs!)

Is it the look in your eyes, or is it this dancing juice? 
Who cares baby, I think I wanna marry you.

Mars' lyrics makes me ponder: what is this dancing juice? Is it like Lil' Wayne's sizzurp? The Clovers' "Love Potion No. 9"? Regardless of the ingredients, under the right circumstances I think I would try some. Though I might ease up on it before it gets strong enough to induce any personal desires to be randomly wed to the person who happens to be sitting in front of me that night.

Secondly, he thinks he wants to. He's like, almost really sure you guys. After all, it's only marriage- what's the big deal? What's the worst thing that could happen, divorce? People get divorced practically every second, especially for weddings that follow a night of boredom-induced drunken-ness, with the lethal combination of "dancing juice" and the knowledge of a little boulevard with a chapel on it. 

Well I know this little chapel on the boulevard we can go. 
No one will know, come on girl. 
Who cares if we're trashed got a pocket full of cash we can blow.

 Shots of patron, and it's on girl.

Girl, I'm not so sure you should believe Mr. Mars here. "They" will know; parents always do. It's like they have this weird 6th sense. Not the Haley Joel Osment kind but the kind that says, "I'm sorry, did somebody have some of that dancing juice and get married around here? It sure smells like a freshly signed marriage license.*" (*Because marriage licenses smell like commitment and the shattering of youthful ignorance.) But I suppose the "they" could also refer to friends. Maybe even society? Not sure why they'd care, unless it was because they knew you were drunk on Friday night. But who cares, there's patron!

Unless you're in the city of sin (aka Eugene, Oregon) there are very few boulevards with 24-hour drive-thru chapels. But at least they are going to take shots of patron. Because, yay marriage! Celebrated with the #1 drink in rap songs! (Besides sizzurp.) Do you think it's because the word patron is just so easy to rhyme? I do. Beefeaters just doesn't quite have the same ring to it. (But the icon sure is cute.)

Don't say no, no, no, no-no; Just say yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah-yeah; 
And we'll go, go, go, go-go. If you're ready, like I'm ready. 

I may not be a fully credentialed detective (yet...the online form said it would come in the mail next week!) but that sure sounds like an awful lot of peer pressure. Just listen to his what he is saying: the fast talking, the repetition of words that go in one ear and out the other before you're all like, "Where am I? What is that a marriage license? Darn that dancing juice!"

Cause it's a beautiful night, we're looking for something dumb to do. 
Hey baby, I think I wanna marry you. 

Because the chorus is repeated so many times, it's made me contemplate other dumb things I could do on a beautiful night: try a cheap indian restaurant with no food critics ratings, go to the airport and buy the next plane ticket to who-knows-where and hope that your credit card company won't cancel your line before you're able to call them, go shopping-cart racing. The options are limitless. Marriage still ranks low.

Is it the look in your eyes, or is it this dancing juice? 
Who cares baby, I think I wanna marry you. 

I care, Bruno. I can't be the only one.

I'll go get a ring let the choir bells sing like oooh, 
So whatcha wanna do? Let's just run girl. 

Excuse me, Mr. Mars, but bells do not "sing". They make a sound that's sort of like, "F'TAAAANG" depending on the size of the bell, the type of instrument that is striking the bell (a mallet? the meatier side of your fist? a small child who happens to be nearby?) and who is striking it (Bruno? Quasimodo? Snookie? LOLJK those last two are the same thing!)

If we wake up and you wanna break up that's cool. 
No, I won't blame you; It was fun girl.

If you're gonna marry the boy, at least stick around through breakfast. What if there were waffles?? At least Bruno redeems himself here by confirming what we all were suspecting: that the dancing-juice fueled wedding was a meaningless bond to carry him through one boring night. I'm not saying his morals are in the right place, but his self-awareness is not entirely lacking. So that's... good.

Don't say no, no, no, no-no/Just say yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah-yeah; 
And we'll go, go, go, go-go/ If you're ready, like I'm ready. 

Since Bruno has to coerce her that much, she might not be feeling it. I wish they followed this up with a reluctant, "....okay-ay-ay-ay" from the girl's point of view. Maybe Rihanna could sing it? 

Cause it's a beautiful night/ We're looking for something dumb to do. 
Hey baby/ I think I wanna marry you. 
Is it the look in your eyes/ Or is it this dancing juice? 
Who cares baby/ I think I wanna marry you. 
Just say I do/ Tell me right now baby, 
Tell me right now baby, tell me right now baby

Cause it's a beautiful night/ We're looking for something dumb to do. 
Hey baby, I think I wanna marry you. 

Is it the look in your eyes, or is it this dancing juice? 
Who cares baby, I think I wanna marry you.

I think we all need to give Mr. Mars a big round of applause for just being so real. So he gets drunk sometimes and wants to marry the pretty woman who happens to be in front of him on some beautiful summer's night, who cares. You can't tell me you haven't been there at least three times in the past ten years. Stop being such a prude, American public.

I always envisioned my first proposal as being ever-so-slightly more romantic than this. But if the majority of my age group is singing this song so fervently, maybe I need to start lowering my expectations.