My 20 Most Embarrassing iTunes Songs

Creating this list was difficult; not in that it was challenging to scrape together twenty songs I’m embarrassed to admit owning, but in that I had to pare down the original quite-lengthy list! In my defense, I’d like to think I have some great music in my library, but I don’t need to name specific artists or groups to exemplify that belief (Otis Redding, Bob Marley, The Rolling Stones). Considering the songs are of equal…quality?…ranking them in order of best to worst (or, really, worst to best) would be too daunting of a task. Therefore, they are listed alphabetically by artist or group name.

1) Dr. Jones (Aqua) – The fact that I didn’t list the most well-known Aqua song, “Barbie Girl,” is a testament of my loyalty to the Danish-Norwegian pop group. Also to the embarrassment I feel at having more than just one Aqua song in my library.

2) Larger than Life (Backstreet Boys) – Listening to this song helps me feel larger than life, or at least larger than the Backstreet Boys. And by larger I mean better.

3) Back at One (Brian McKnight) – How can a girl my age not have this in her library? If only for nostalgia’s sake in remembering those high school dances of yore.

4) Overprotected (Britney Spears) – I have this song in my library in an attempt to support every Brittany in the world, even those whose parents misspelled their name.

5) I’m Alive – Dance Remix (Celine Dion) – Having a Celine Dion song in my library helps me feel like I’m keeping on good terms with our friendly neighbors to the north.

6) Ridin’ Dirty (Chamillionaire) – This song is an homage to my childhood. (It is about riding in a car that has been dirtied by the mud because it rains so much, right?).

7) Only God Knows Why (Kid Rock) – Really, only God knows why I have this song in my library. Kid Rock and his auto-tuned voice don’t even know why.

8) Girl on TV (LFO) – OMG. LOL at having LFO in my ITL. ROFL. LMFAO. Wait, different group. (And really, when will we stop turning everything into an acronym?)

9) Without You (Mariah Carey) – Where would I be without you, Mimi, and your skyscraper-high voice and oh-so-inspirational music taking up space on my hard drive?

10) Air Force Ones (Nelly) – Listening to this song reinforces the idea that anything is possible. Entire songs dedicated to overpriced shoes can help a rapper go platinum. A rap music video can be successful even if more screen time is devoted to shoe boxes than nearly-nude women. And, perhaps most noteworthy, wearing a band-aid on your cheek can be considered trendy.

11) Gotta Be Somebody (Nickelback) – The saddest part about having this song in my library is that it’s there at all, especially considering I heard it on repeat for twelve hours while working as an extra in a commercial.

12) Super Bass (Nicki Minaj) – I refuse to remove this song from my library until I can figure out who “the guy with the thing on his eye” is, and just what exactly is on his eye.

13) Straight Up (Paula Abdul) – Straight up, I really have this song in my library as a reminder of Paula before her days on American Idol. And under the influence. Although the latter is considerably more entertaining than her days as a singer and dancer.

14) Shorty Be Mine (Pretty Ricky) – Not only does this song speak to me on a number of levels, but it references the great(est, in all the world) R. Kelly. (See number 16).

15) Bad Boys for Life (Puff Daddy) – This song reminds me that it’s okay to have multiple identity crises and go through numerous name changes. As long as not one of them makes any sense.

16) The World’s Greatest (R. Kelly) – Why I have this song in my library is a no-brainer. Robert Sylvester Kelly is the world’s greatest. Okay, he actually threatened to urinate on me if I didn’t have at least one of his songs in my library. Just to appease him, I have two.

17) Fire Burning on the Dance Floor (Sean Kingston) – Somebody call 911, because clearly having this song in my library means my ear drums are busted or my brain is fried.

18) Hustler (Terrence Howard) – I refer to this song from time to time when I need advice on gambling, specifically playing craps.

19) Live Your Life (T.I. featuring Rihanna) – I keep this song around because it provides my daily foreign language study, though I’m still trying to work out exactly what “Miya hee, miya ho, miya hu, miya haha” really means.

20) Boom Boom Boom Boom (Venga Boys) – Few songs have received such highly varied remarks as this ditty. It has been labeled “the fifth worst ever summer song,” (which makes me wonder what the worst is), “their biggest hit yet,” a “spine-chilling teeny-pop chart hit,” one of the “top songs of 1999” and “as daft as the title.” Additionally, a furniture retailer reportedly used the song in a promotional campaign and saw sales increase by ten percent, while an internet viral game containing malware used to gain remote control of computers used the song to “torture” those whose computers had been attacked. Such a controversial song has to stay in my library for interest’s sake.

What are the most embarrassing songs in your collection? Let me know in the comments!

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The 10 Most Annoying Words and Phrases

Let me first admit that I am guilty of having used all of the following words and phrases I consider to be annoying, whether in conversation, writing or both. (Except LOL and ROFL, which I refuse to use. Even if Noah Webster rises from the grave to add the two acronyms to his dictionary, I will not use them.) As an editor—among a random assortment of other jobs, as noted in My Top 5 Dream Jobs—and as a perfectionist, I strive to create correct, clean and concise sentences, be them spoken or written. While I am far from an error-free speaker or writer, I try to refrain as much as possible from using the following ten words and phrases that most get on my nerves:

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Elephants are really big, you know?

1) You know: “Like” has been supplanted by “you know” to be today’s most popular filler phrase. Nearly everyone says it, and I don’t get it. Are people asking if the listener knows what they are talking about? If so, the answer is always yes. “Elephants are huge, you know?” Well, yes, I think everyone knows that, so you asking me if I know is insulting. OR: Yes, because you just told me. Either way, saying “you know” is unnecessary. You know?

2) I mean: If people mean what they say, why do they have to tell you they mean it, you know? And if people say things they don’t mean, do they tell you that? Do they say, “I don’t mean to be rude,” and then say something rude anyway? I mean, I use the phrase much more than I should, you know, and I get annoyed at myself for saying it so often, but can’t we just mean what we say without alerting our listener that we mean it? You know? 

3) Honestly: “Honestly” is on par with “I mean.” I mean, if people preface sentences with “honestly,” does that mean they’re being more honest than if they said the sentence without the filler word? And if people don’t preface a sentence with “honestly,” are they then going to be dishonest?

4) Literally: I feel like most people who use this word literally don’t know what it means. “I saw my ex while I was at Starbucks and I literally had a heart attack.” Really? Did you go to the hospital and get your ticker checked out? I mean, honestly, heart attacks can literally kill you, you know?

5) Everything happens for a reason: Indeed. Especially because the definition for “reason” is: a statement or fact that explains why something is the way it is.

6) It is what it is: As opposed to being what it isn’t?

7) LOL: According to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, a laugh is a sound, so I’m confused how laughing can be done any other way other than out loud.

8) Like: “Like” is akin to that annoying person you couldn’t escape in high school, the one who followed you around all day every day, desperately wanting to be included in every conversation. Fortunately, for the most part, Like has remained in high school. Unfortunately, You Know has swiftly stepped in to fill Like’s shoes. 

9) Epic: Ben-Hur, a nearly four-hour film about a betrayed Jewish prince seeking revenge, is epic. Moby Dick, a 635-page book about a ship captain with an insatiable yearn to avenge the loss of his leg and destruction of his vessel by hunting down a sperm whale, is epic. The Great Pyramid of Giza, standing 455 feet tall and having a base of 756 feet, is epic. Your spaghetti dinner is not epic. Tripping and having people laugh at you is not epic. Can we please reserve the word epic for things that truly are?

10) ROFL: I mean, honestly, did you literally, like, get on the floor and roll around because you were laughing so much, and then, you know, type or text that you were doing so? If so, LOL! That’s epic! But if not, I mean, can’t you just LOL? Or, better yet, just laugh, and then carry on typing?  

What words and/or phrases get under your skin? Let me know in the comments!

* If this post offended you, check out when I turn the tables and poke fun at myself by divulging the twenty most embarrassing songs in my iTunes library!

1) Spend One Night Alone in the Wilderness

Though I have camped a decent amount in my twenty-nine years—mostly car camping, with a few backpacking trips sprinkled in—I have never done it alone. I love getting out in nature, watching animals in their natural habitats, cooking hot dogs over a fire, and snuggling up in my warm sleeping bag for a night under the stars. Just not alone. I’m not particularly fond of the dark—especially in the wilderness, when my ears and eyes often play mean tricks on me—and I consider myself to have a healthy, if not sometimes irrational, fear of bears. The idea of camping alone had never appealed to me. Until I turned twenty-nine. Reaching that age did not magically dispel my fears, but I felt like I should conquer them before turning thirty. The goal of spending one night alone in the wilderness was the impetus for my entire 30×30 challenge.

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Parson’s Landing as seen from my hike.

I chose to camp at Parsons Landing on Catalina, an island about twenty-two miles southwest of Los Angeles. Roughly twenty-two miles long and eight miles across, Catalina is home to slightly more than four thousand residents, ninety percent of which live in Avalon, a thirty-minute ferry ride from the Long Beach terminal. With its remoteness, a small human population, and a nonexistent bear population, I knew it would be a great place for my solo adventure.

I left in the morning and enjoyed a relaxing ferry ride to Two Harbors. Along the way I was treated to a show of leaping dolphins and playful seals. When I disembarked, I slung my twenty-five-pound pack over my shoulders and began the 7.6-mile trek that abutted the stunning coast. Two hours later, a little hungry and a little sweaty, I arrived at the stretch of beach known as Parsons Landing.

I located my campsite and had barely set my pack down when two crows descended from the sky and alighted on a rocky outcropping above me. They cawed. Not in a friendly way, as if to welcome me to the beautiful area of the island they apparently called home, but rather as a warning to the other animals, as if to say, “We saw her first, so she’s ours the second things go sour—like if she fails to start a fire and is therefore unable to heat water for her hearty and nutritious dinner of Cup O Noodles, rendering her (gasp) hungry for a night.” How they knew the contents of my pack worried me enough, let alone the thought of what they might do to me if things did indeed go sour. I would build a fire, lest falling into the talons of the crows!

Once camp was set up, I set out to find some wildlife; bison, in particular. Bison? Yes, there are wild bison on an island off the coast of Southern California. In 1924, fourteen bison were imported to Catalina for the making of the film, The Vanishing Tale. When the filming was finished, the crew departed and left the bison on the island. Over the decades, the herd reportedly grew to six hundred animals, but has since been monitored and controlled by the Catalina Island Conservancy, which was formed in 1972. An estimated one hundred and fifty bison now roam the island.

After wandering the hills for about forty-five minutes, thinking it was time to head back to camp, have a snack, and rest my legs from the midday hike, I spotted three bison grazing in a valley—one quite happily, as evidenced by his display of the part that indicated to me he was male. When one of the others, also male, saw me, he stopped grazing and engaged in head butting with the bison closest to him. I guess it’s a guy thing: always trying to impress a female, even if there’s no chance of…well, you know. I watched their show of manliness for a while, the setting sun bathing them in Academy Award-winning light, before heading back to camp for the evening.

On the way back, I crested a hill and there, also cast in the perfect light (I suppose they are descendants of Hollywood bison, after all), in all his regal glory, stood another bison. Right in the middle of the path. I immediately stopped and gave him the respectful distance he deserved. He seemed mostly apathetic about my presence, except for a sprinkling of curious glances, and continued grazing and meandering at his lethargic pace. Not to slight him, however, as bison can move pretty quickly if they want to (up to forty miles per hour, according to National Geographic). I watched him in awe, moseying along, until he had had enough of the spotlight and wandered into the bushes.

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One of the many bison that roam the island.

When I arrived back at camp, I was none too surprised to see the crows once again (or still?) perched on the rock above. Watching. Waiting. Not long after, when the sun was saying goodnight, assuring the bison it would return in twelve hours to give them another day to shine, I set about building a fire. Having watched others make a fire, though never having done it myself—yes, sometimes I’m ashamed to call myself a native Alaskan—I felt I knew the basic idea: amass some kindling, construct some logs in a teepee formation, and set it off with a Bic lighter. I really didn’t know what our ancestors found so difficult.

I quickly understood: the actual starting of the fire. I thought I was doing it right, lighting the paper to light the twigs to light the logs, only the twigs wouldn’t stay burning long enough to set the logs ablaze. Each attempt garnered the same result, and my supply of kindling and paper was rapidly depleting. A few more unsuccessful tries had me down to my last scraps of paper.

I looked up at the crows, knowing they were placing their bets. I shook off their menacing stares and returned my focus to the task at hand. I sighed. I lit the last piece of paper and touched it to the kindling. It caught and, as luck would have it, ignited a log. In moments I had a real, blazing fire! Considering I had been afraid of lighting matches until age fourteen, I was ecstatic! I was all up in that towering inferno! Smoke stung my eyes and burned my lungs, but I didn’t care! (Until the challenge to breathe and the thought of going blind encouraged me to back away). I wanted to lie on the ground and yell, “Freedom!” a la William Wallace in Braveheart, which had absolutely nothing to do with fire, camping, or anything I was doing, but seemed appropriate nonetheless. Just as that wonderful, liberating thought entered my mind, a loud caw jolted me from my Scottish war fantasy and back to reality, which was that if I dared lay on the ground in front of the ever-watchful black birds of doom, they might get the idea I had thrown in the towel and fly down in courses to prey upon me. I tucked away my Wallace reenactment for another time, and then wondered why I had thought of that scene, when the scene of Tom Hanks as Chuck Noland starting a fire in Castaway would have been so much more appropriate.

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The first campfire I created on my own!

I heated the water for my dinner and can scarcely remember a time when a Styrofoam cup full of noodles, dried vegetables and chicken flavoring tasted better. In fact, there is little else that’s as satisfying as being alone and self-sufficient in the wilderness. Sure, I didn’t hack down a tree for firewood, or slaughter a chicken for the flavoring in my meal, but I was happy with my accomplishments.

A little writing by the dying campfire, some focused contemplation (thanks, thirty days of meditating), a bout of star gazing, and I was ready for bed. I crawled in the tent, nestled into my sleeping bag and let the chirping insects and waves rolling ashore lull me to sleep.

When the dawn had pierced the night sky, I awoke from my peaceful slumber and took inventory of myself and my immediate surroundings. No snake had slithered into my sleeping bag, no squirrel had nibbled its way into the tent, and, most fortuitously, no bison had trampled me in the night. I unzipped the tent, stepped into the sunny morning, and stretched. Looking up at the clear blue sky, I noticed, lo and behold, the two crows perched on the rock. I stared at their small black eyes, smiled, and gave them a look that said, “Sorry, boys. Not today.”

They stared back without even blinking. The larger of the two, no doubt the leader of the two-bird posse, opened its beak. It cawed. Only this time, rather than the malicious, threatening sound it had unleashed on my ears less than twenty-four hours before, it emitted a humble, respectful caw, as if to say, “Well done, lady. Well done.” 

9) Practice Spirituality for One Month

Putting it bluntly, I am not religious, nor would I consider myself to be spiritual—no doubt in part because I’m not sure too what that means. Just because I don’t prescribe to a certain doctrine or set of beliefs, however, doesn’t mean there aren’t heaps of people in the world that do. According to Wikipedia (that trustworthy and verifiable site), 2.1 billion people practice Christianity, 1.5 billion practice Islam, 1.2 billion practice Hinduism and so on. A number of people practice religions I’ve never heard of, like Cao Dai (4 million), Juche (19 million) and Zoroastrianism (2.6 million). The site states that roughly 6/7 of the world population is considered to be religious, whereas the remaining 1/7 is classified as “secular, non-religious, atheist or agnostic,” which, I suppose, is where I fit in.

Since the overwhelming majority of Earth’s denizens consider themselves to be religious, many of which practice their religion on a regular basis, there must be some reason, some benefit, some positive outcome for doing so. It was with this in mind, and a few other reasons, I chose to adopt a daily spiritual practice for one month. Rather than forcing myself to pick a religion at random, and practice it in some way for thirty days, I chose to practice a component of many religious traditions and beliefs: meditation.

Meditation encompasses a variety of practices. Different contexts provide different meanings, but it is generally considered to be a time of contemplation and thought. It typically involves self-regulation of the mind with the intent to clear it, or to focus it on positive aspects such as compassion, patience and humility. It has been practiced in numerous ways since ancient times. Some techniques involve the use of objects, such as prayer beads, to keep track of an element of the training, while others use mantras to help find a state of peacefulness and relaxation.

For my practice, I chose to sit on the floor and close my eyes. My goals were to focus on my breathing, clear my mind, find an inner calmness, and be awake without being aware of anything, except for the awareness itself. Considering I find it nearly impossible to turn off my brain—even while sleeping, when it’s sometimes more active and inventive than when I’m awake—I knew this would be challenging.

Getting through the first thirty-minute session without thinking of anything except my breathing was no easy feat. In fact, I would dare even call it a moderate success. Was it relaxing? Most definitely. Peaceful, calm and pleasant? Without a doubt. Did I think too much about not thinking? You bet. In my attempt to shut down any thought that crept into my mind, I ended up having an Encyclopedia of short thoughts, snippets here and there, resulting in me thinking—fleetingly—about everything under the sun. And the sun itself. On the upside, I knew my practice would get better, as it really couldn’t get much worse.

For the most part, each day was a little better, and I was able to clear my mind more easily than previous sessions. Some days, however, my thoughts were bursting at the seams—like the belly of a large man who had stuffed himself into a button-down shirt one size too small, and then gone back for thirds at a Thanksgiving Day feast. Sometimes, just a button would pop, and one thought would be let loose in my mind. Other times, the whole shirt would burst wide open, and thoughts would pour out and roll around my mind, utterly unable to be tucked back in and contained. At such times, when the metaphorical shirt had been damaged beyond repair, I let my thoughts wander around and play with each other. Though not the original goal, it was fun and interesting to see what crazy ideas or random thoughts my mind came up with when I was completely uninhibited or unprompted by anyone or anything outside of myself. No surprise to anyone who has read List Mania, I can assure you I came up with an idea or two for a list.

Prior to some meditations, practicing felt like going to the gym on those days I don’t want to go, but just slightly more than that, I don’t want to end up like the guy whose gut finally rips his shirt on Thanksgiving Day, so I go anyway and vow to suffer through it. Once or twice I did just suffer through my meditation, painfully counting each breath, willing time to move faster. But mostly, when my thirty minutes were up, or when I was even just ten minutes in, I was glad I had set out to do it.

At the end of the thirty days, I had discovered how difficult it can be to quiet my mind, but also how simple it can be, primarily depending on my mindset just before beginning a meditation. I also realized the power meditation can have on altering my mood, as nearly every practice resulted in me being considerably calmer, more relaxed and happier. Additionally, I gained respect for those who are devout in their religion or spirituality and practice some aspect of it every day, or numerous times a day. It takes dedication I had not previously considered, and which I admire.

While I still don’t consider myself to be spiritual, I am appreciative for having experienced that world, even if I merely stepped a toe inside for a short while. I know I can turn to meditation when I need to relax, clear my mind and focus on nothing but my inner peace. Or when I need some inspiration for a list 🙂

My 5 Favorite Film Scores

In addition to being a professed film lover (see my 30×30 goal #16 about watching AFI’s top 100 movies), I have a deep affection for film scores. Just like watching a movie with stunning visual effects can sometimes help me not care about a ludicrous plot or stale acting, a wonderful score can add tremendously to my overall enjoyment of a film. A great film score can tug at my emotions, uplift me, motivate and inspire me, or make my heart swell. Pandora’s Film Score Radio is a frequent go-to music source while I’m working on an editing or writing project, the Themes genre in my iTunes library is one of my most-played, and my Legends of the Fall CD permanently resides in my car for those times I need to escape an aggravating freeway-turned-parking-lot. Simply put, I am passionate about, and sometimes maybe obsessed with, film scores. What follows is a list, albeit one that was incredibly challenging to create, of my five favorite film scores.

1) Legends of the Fall 

James Horner’s magnificent score perfectly captures the splendor and greatness of the sweeping epic, the expansive landscape the film depicts, and the devastation and heartbreak the lead characters experience. It instills in me a sense of peace and calm, while simultaneously fiercely grabbing hold of my heart and tugging on it. Listening to it repeatedly only makes me fall more in love with it.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0BSNU2ZLyKM

2) The Last of the Mohicans

Composed by Randy Edelman and Trevor Jones, this powerful score encompasses driving action, romance with a Celtic touch, and the relentless pursuit of triumph and heroism. In addition, it elicits my cherished memories of, as often as I could get away with, including it in the mix of music played throughout the quaint jewelry store in which I worked during most of my teenage summers. I delighted in seeing the reaction of unsuspecting tourists at one moment shopping peacefully to the crooning of Frank Sinatra or the twanging of Alan Jackson, only to quickly be jolted from tranquility to a heightened state of alertness (maybe in a hasty preparation to defend themselves from flying Tomahawks?) with the onset of the passionate and intense Mohicans music.

3) Jurassic Park 

John Williams is a creature from another planet. What else would explain the fact that the man, still churning out award-winning music in his eighties, has composed so many masterpieces that he has earned forty-eight Oscar nominations, five of which resulted in wins? While his Jurassic Park score did not earn him a nomination (seemingly one of his few projects to go unrewarded by the Academy), it definitely makes my short list. Listening to it always transports me to the imaginative world of cagey Velociraptors, a hungry T-Rex on the hunt, and massive, ground-shaking Brachiasaurus, originally created by Michael Crichton and brought to cinematic life by Steven Spielberg. Chills tingle my spine and endorphins flood my brain when I hear the music that superbly fits the world of dinosaurs, and the realization of such a world.

4) Forrest Gump 

I am most likely partial to placing Alan Silvestri’s Oscar-nominated score on my list because of my general love for all things Forrest Gump: the character, Tom Hanks’ genius portrayal of the character (which earned him his second Oscar for Best Actor in a Leading Role, and subsequently more brownie points in my book for his heartfelt, genuine acceptance speech), and the film as a whole. The theme is endearing, charming and uplifting, much like Forrest Gump himself, and just as the character does, it evokes in me happiness, yet also honesty and truth, and the realization that life is comprised of bullies, achievements, loss, pain, love, luck, coincidence, shrimp, and everything in between.

5) Schindler’s List: The violin has never sounded more tragic or more macabre than it does in the easily-recognizable theme song from Williams’ evocative score that garnered him his fifth Oscar for Best Music, Original Score. While credit must be given to violinist Itzhak Perlman for his solo that arguably adds the most drama and emotion, Williams’ subtle orchestral magic perfectly underscores and highlights the hauntingly beautiful solo.

*Inception (Honorable Mention): I’m not entirely sure I fully comprehend Christopher Nolan’s brain-twisting, inventive and disorienting film, but I am sure about composer Hans Zimmer’s brilliance, which is evident in his ability to create an entire score that is, in his own words, “subdivisions and multiplications of the tempo of the [1960] Edith Piaf track [‘Non, Je Ne Regrette Rein’].” The manipulation of time is a key element of the film, and Zimmer’s extreme dedication to adhering to that element is impressive. Warning: The following video clip shows the end of the film.