Friday, September 5, 2014

First look at GhostTunes

Much to my mom's lament, I spent most of my babysitting money buying music albums and books. She always wished I would spend money on clothes, and looking back at my junior high and high school pictures, she totally had a point. But there was something about browsing Sam Goody and buying a brand new cassette that was more gratifying than frosted jeans. One of my first cassette's was Garth Brooks' "Ropin' the Wind." I likely listened to the album in it's entirety about a million times and had spent many a night imagining myself singing backup or screaming from the front row of a concert. I would bellow songs like "Friends in Low Places" as if I actually had ever experienced whiskey drowning anything...I hadn't. But for a girl growing up in the middle of corn fields and the excitement of the year being the Plymouth County Fair, Garth Brooks' music was the soundtrack of my youth.

But when my disposable income was sufficient enough to actually include attending a concert, Garth announced his retirement to help raise his daughters. My hopes of every seeing him live were dashed. A dream deferred. That was until he announced his return tour would begin in Chicago. As luck or fate would have it, I was able to buy a few tickets when they went on sale in July. After 90 minutes of waiting and screaming at my computer, I was finally told I had secured two tickets but had only 3 minutes to complete the transaction. Should your life ever depend on me typing codes into a computer under such duress, I apologize ahead of time. I was instantly sweaty and shaky, worse than any first date jitters. But when that magic screen popped up to tell me I had in fact purchased two tickets to the Garth Brooks World Tour I let out a WHOOP that alerted the world...I WAS GOING TO SEE GARTH BROOKS.

Sadly, I lost much of his music in my move from cassette to CD to digital.Considering it was the music that was the soundtrack of my life, I had a limited supply of nostalgia. And you could not buy his music digitally anywhere (and heaven forbid I actually try to find an actual place that sold CD's.) Yesterday, that all changed. Garth and company launched GhostTunes, your one stop shop to buy all of Garth's music digitally. For the price of $29.95 I was able to get all eight studio albums plus a live concert (which confirmed my suspicion that I will in fact both cry and scream at the concert.). You can also buy music by other artists, but because Garth's music is literally not found anywhere else in electronic form, this was a big hairy deal.

Here are my thoughts on GhostTunes:

  • You can get all of Garth's And the concert (epic 90's clothes and hair included).
  • The visual layout of the site is appealing and somewhat easy to navigate.
  •  Did I mention you can finally buy all of Garth's music digitally? For the first time ever?

  • GhostTunes itself is not a media player. You buy the music and can then listen to it via the website or download it to the music player of your choice. For Garth's music it was a bit cumbersome, somewhat like the early days of physically downloading a CD onto your computer.  To download Garth's music I first had to open the album in the zip manager, then drag and drop the files into my music folder. From there I could download them into iTunes. Once I knew what I was doing, it didn't take long. 

There had been information that you should be able to download the music right into a media player like iTunes, so I had to buy just another song to try it out. That song did give me the option of opening it in iTunes.

  • The search function seems a bit wonky. For example. I was looking for Meghan Trainor's "All About That Base." When typing in the title of the song, her song didn't come up. But by typing in the artist's name, I was able to find the song. A few other songs/artists I tried didn't pop up at the top of the search like I thought they would. So if you're looking for anything beyond Garth, the search may not be as user friendly as you're used to with other music services.
  • I could not get the music to download from the browser on my iPhone. I had to download it into iTunes then sync it with my iPhone. I'm assuming the same will be the same for trying to download the video content to our TV or other media device.
  • The site doesn't seem to store your credit card/debit card data. The downside is I had to enter my information for each purchase. The upside is that I can't go on a music buying binge without a little thought. My finances thank GhostTunes. The part of my brain that is used to click and buy is a bit miffed.
I'll still use a variety of electronic media services to access music. I would definitely consider using GhostTunes for future music purchases. Artists are going to be able to create their own bundles and have more control over how their music is delivered. For example, some artists currently only have singles on GhostTunes, while others only allow you to buy entire albums. Remember listening to an album? Getting a wide range of an artist's work? You could appreciate the thought that had went into song selection along with the flow of the album.

So in this ONE WEEK leading up to my 25 year dream-come-true concert, it will be all Garth all the time thanks to GhostTunes. I will once again have visions of having a front row spot, although my actual seat is more nosebleed than "I can see nose hair." But you can bet your belt buckle I will enjoy Every. Single. Note.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Why do I lunge? Hatred or Love?

 How would your life be different if you could double your confidence level?

Wow. What a loaded question. A friend asked me that question a week ago, and the answers have been rattling around in my brain ever since. I stick with my original answer: “I would be better in relationships because I wouldn’t be looking for someone else to validate me.” (I admit my answer probably did not come out that smoothly). Even after I gave my answer, the question got me thinking a lot about the source of my own confidence and my motivation for exercising.

My thoughts took me to the novel “Eyes Wide Open” by Ted Dekker. I won’t go too much into the story, but the struggle of one of the main characters really gave me new insight into confidence and self-perception. The female character is being told she is ugly. She is told by someone in authority (paraphrased) “you think you are average or even pretty, but I’m going to show you just how ugly you are. Then you will be able to appreciate how we recreate you into something beautiful.” She is exposed to mirrors that distort and contort her image into a hideous creature. She is exposed to the distortion long enough that it becomes her reality. And she buys into the lie that she is a hideous being that needs to undergo extreme transformation.

I had to set the book down for a moment when her struggle really hit me. Isn’t that our own struggle? If there were no outside influences we would look in the mirror or some other facet of our life and think “I’m pretty average, even above average.”  But every single day we are exposed to false mirrors that show us how we should be displeased with ourselves. We are shown the images of chiseled physiques and airbrushed beauty. We are told over and over again that we are not even close. We are not average. We are below average. Hideous. And only by buying this product and that product and doing this exercise or not eating these foods will we become beautiful. Any effort made to improve our life is born out of a place of self-hatred. We are sold on the lie that we are in need of extreme transformation to even be tolerable.

I’ve told some people that I was less confident and more critical of myself when I lost 35ish pounds. How can that be? I was getting every compliment in the world and the reflection in the mirror was definitely smaller. But that transformation came out of a place of self-loathing. Because hatred was my motivation for restricting my eating (ahem, dieting), when I arrived at a lower weight that hatred was still there. It was telling me I still wasn’t small enough. Or that maybe I was small enough by my nose was too big or my hair too flat. I hadn’t been choosing to eat a Spartan diet because I loved myself and wanted to make food choices that would add to my health. I was living on salads and eggs because I believed that what I saw in the mirror was grotesque. And that thought stayed with me as the number on the scale went down. And it’s a curious thing. Now that the scale has gone back up I actually am more accepting of this body that I have.

After a hiatus from strength training I’ve been slowly adding weights back into my weekly activity. I love strength training in a gym setting but hate doing it at home. And with a serious lack of gyms within a 40 mile driving radius, I’m pretty much stuck with my dumbbells. And it’s like pulling teeth to even start a home workout. But today I reminded myself that I want to be able to carry my own groceries and get off the toilet by myself as long as possible, so it was time to pump some iron. As I started doing lunges I caught a glimpse of my legs in the mirror. Hideous. Ugly. Grotesque. These were the words that came to mind. I chided myself for poor discipline and told myself that I needed to start doing 100’s of squats and lunges to get rid of the lumpiness. But then the other thought passed through my head. Those thoughts come from a place of hate. Even if you arrive at less lumpiness your voice of hate will always tell you you’ve never arrived. You’re a slave to that voice. So I changed my focus. I want to be strong to continue being active with my kids. I want to be able to rock a strength training workout because of the empowering feeling it gives me.

I want my confidence to come from a place of love, not a place of hate. I want to choose to exercise not because I hate my body and want to change it, but because I love my body and I want it to stay active, vibrant, and powerful.