Saturday, August 28, 2010
Thursday, August 26, 2010
There's been a hell of a brouhaha regarding Sufjan Stevens in the last week. Last Friday the genius behind the 2005 masterpiece, Illinois, came out of nowhere and nailed us with a free stream of the single "All Delighted People (Original Version)" as well as the digital release of his latest EP, All Delighted People, the hard copy of which will hopefully be released by December.
I was pretty excited by all this, though somewhat bummed that I didn't have the moolah or good conscious to buy the mp3 of All Delighted People, but my spirits were lifted when I hastily jumped on my laptop after classes today to find out that Sufjan's also set a date and title for his FIRST NEW FULL-LENGTH ALBUM POST-ILLINOIS (October 12). I'm over the proverbial hill about this; Sufjan Stevens is a personal musical hero of mine. There's a lot of history between the two of us, so why don't I supplement this joyous news with the gripping Tale of Sufjan and Brendan?
Way back in my quiet and somewhat-introverted days of 2006, I found one day on the Harry Potter message boards of IMDb that my favorite actor of the Harry Potter film series, who also happened to be one of the most woefully underrepresented, cartoonized and diluted from the actual character, Rupert Grint, had wrapped up filming a small, independent movie called Driving Lessons. Of course, I had to see this movie- for one thing, that guy has a lot of talent that goes unused in the Harry Potter movies, and a title role in Driving Lessons was the perfect antidote for me. Also, the fact that it was described as a coming-of-age film really got me going, as I love relating my experiences to those of my favorite film and book characters. Unfortunately, it wouldn't be available in U.S. theaters until some time after its European release, and there was no chance the shitty theaters in Springfield were going to pick it up. So I reluctantly came to terms with the fact that I'd probably never see this movie, big deal, whatever. Then one summer day in 2007 I found a used DVD section at Hollywood Video, and in it were Hot Fuzz (an excellent follow-up to my favorite movie, Shaun of the Dead) and Driving Lessons!
I immediately went home and watched it three times in a row (excluding the time I used to sleep), and thankfully, it's now one of my favorite movies. But among the many highlights of the movie, two things stood out: Rupert Grint saying "Fuck Off" to some bitch who tries to tell him what's up (who hasn't wanted to see that?) and the soundtrack. Often, throughout the movie, the instrumental from Sufjan Stevens' epic "The Tallest Man, The Broadest Shoulders" as well as the full version of "All the Trees of the Field Will Clap Their Hands" would play and it would really set the tone for each scene it was featured in. I had to find the artist behind this music. I went back to IMDb, skimmed through some HP-related arguments and looked up the soundtrack to Driving Lessons (an excellent one, it has Nick Drake and stuff). After discovering Sufjan's songs listed there, I downloaded them and fell in love at first listen.
I asked for the Illinois album on a whim for my 16th birthday, not because I felt bad for illegally downloading Sufjan's music, but because I needed to experience more more more. And it changed my life. I came to realize how much of a genius this guy is. He can do so many different types of songs. Some, like those of Seven Swans (the "All the Trees..." album) are folkier, softer, easier listening-type songs. Others, like a few on A Sun Came, are bizarre, experimental, less listenable than others. But on Illinois, the follow-up to Michigan in a series of conceptualized LPs devoted to each state (a gimmick which has proven to be impossible, and a bit of a joke), Sufjan really delivers. What makes it different from his other albums is that he's able to construct these symphonic, orchestral masterpieces that tell a story, yet somehow brilliantly weave in allusions and references to countless, culturally-rich people, places and things of the state of Illinois.
Alas, I began to listen to Illinois quite heavily during the nadir of my teenage years, the six months I worked at Cold Stone Creamery. Laugh all you will, but it was the most depressing, tasking and wearisome job in the world. It's tough to explain to anyone who hasn't worked there, but ask any of us ex-crew members (and almost everyone quits at some point) and we'll generally blame it on the tyrannical management of the boss and his wife. The point is, in the months, and now years, after my time served at Cold Stone, I came to associate Illinois with the time of year it first started making sense to me, which is about March-April of 2008. So, while I loved every square inch of that CD, I was simultaneously reminded of some of the harsh times at the store and forced to be nostalgic about the past. Again, tough to explain, but I was feeling really conflicted- I kept thinking about how great it was when I discovered Sufjan, but subsequently realizing that was a shitty time of the year.
Anyway, since then I've grown out of those feelings, occasionally getting sentimental rather than depressed (as most college freshmen do at this time of the year). In that time since, Sufjan Stevens has grown to be one of my favorite musicians of all time, a brilliant auteur and experimenter, someone I look up to for his talents. I love that he's a musician I didn't hear about through my parents or a peer, he's somebody I discovered all on my own. So now that I know he's got another album heading this way, I'm ecstatic. I so badly want to download his EP, but I don't like buying stuff online. I mean, yeah, I could use my iTunes gift card, but I know I'm going to buy a hard copy anyway, so what's the point? I'll just hold off and create suspense and heightened anticipation in the meantime. I also feel super guilty these days whenever I want to get some new music. I used to download stuff illegally ("file sharing"), but I don't know, I guess I feel like I should do my part to keep the record industry from dying. And I also like having physical manifestations of and artist's work in my hands, a palpable CD or vinyl LP with artwork and grooves and all that jazz.
So basically, Sufjan Stevens is the preeminent contemporary musician of our time. And I owe my appreciation of him to Rupert Grint!
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Okay, so I have to be deadly honest with you. I don't know what to write.
Football season is coming up right around the damn corner. And I know all of you need a second before you continue reading to go ahead and roll your eyes. But, I don't care. If you don't like it go back to Pitchfork or Facebook or whichever medium you chose to waste your life on today.
Anyway, football season is coming up. And it's a lot different for me this year than everything that I've been used to has been. This whole going to college thing? It lays down a huge effect on my sports fanhood habits.
I'm sure I've mentioned this in previous posts, but I spent every Sunday for the last twelve years of my life watching NFL Sunday, specifically Packer games, with my family. Let me give you the cast and crew of my Sunday afternoon, and no, that does not entail the improv troupe (sorry guys). Me! my dad, my brother Andrew, my brother Peder, my dad's friend Matt, his son Mike, my dad's friend Ted, my brother's friend Nick, my dad's friend's daughter Lindsay, my mom, my mom's friend Jane, chicken wings, brats, beer and Brett Favre. Yeah, it was a frickin' party. We were all Packers fans (this includes chicken wings and beers). We devoted our lives to the rollercoaster that is NFL fanhood. Some of us were much more interested in the actual events than others, but everyone had their reason to be there. Food, family, fun, festivities, football. That's what Sundays truly meant. That and church. Church sucked. Boring and churchy. But after church meant we set up and caught whatever we could of pre-game before camping out at Damon's for the bonanza known as NFL Sunday.
This event has been destroyed to a sad sad degree. This September when the season kicks off and all becomes right with the world once more, my dad and Andrew will meet up with Matt, have some beers, enjoy some appetizers and watch the game (they'll smoke plenty of cigarettes too). Yeah, that sucks for them, but for me, it's worse. I will scramble to find a sports bar showing my Packers game, by myself, then I will have not beer and not cigarettes as my Packers trounce the inexperienced Eagles in an opening week contest. I will pay too much for bad wings and diluted soda, and wonder why a 26-14 win feels so much less satisfying now then it did six years ago.
The family will network their thoughts on the game, and none of it will matter. The game will go on, while some younger family declares it their finest hour. My dad will turn to my brother and say, "I wonder how El's doin..." and my brother will say "he's fine, he's definitely watching this. He's not Peder, he'll find a way to see the damn game." He will be right, but it will still be wrong. There is a sea of students here at the U of I campus, and I'm sure there are at least 2,500 Packers fan friends to be made here. I will find probably 154 of them, and meet six. None of them will be as mad as Andrew is when we run a draw on third and eleven. None of them will as seamlessly alternate between annoyingly optimistic and annoyingly pessimistic like my father. None of them will be as awkward a fan as my mother was (love you mom, but you were ALWAYS either too excited or too distraught by our excitement). None of them will be as much of a goofy turdball as Matt was. Well, maybe they will. The venue will be different, and definitely not Damon's. Damon's was eaten by the tornado of Sunday, March 12, 2005. Damon's had four big screen tv's playing four DIFFERENT games, and plenty of other tv's playing plenty of other games. FUCK YOU BUFFALO WILD WINGS. YOU DO A BAD JOB. Ted and Jane (married) stopped being regulars to our gatherings, which meant we saw their children Nick and Lindsay less. Mike went to college. Peder went to college. My dad divorced my mom, so she stopped being there. Hell, even Brett Favre left us.
Ahhh, wipe your faces kids, it's not all gloom and doom. We all still love the Packers. We just will be doing it this season from different corners of our midwestern universe. Except for Brett Favre. He'll be doing it from the dark side. Asshole. Those days were my introduction to the great game of football. They taught me something that I have yet to learn to teach others: football is and always will be the greatest thing in the world and everything else is just "pretty cool". People don't see the point in sports. It's just dudes doin' stuff. But if you allow for it, there's so much more to it that skyrockets the entertainment value of the games. It's called investing yourself. If you allow yourself to care, that caring will come back to you in a variety of ways in which you aren't ready for. First of all, which is a better conversation starter, music or sports? If you're at Lollapalooza, maybe music. In a real (not dream-fantasy-heaven-awesomeness-IstillamobsessedwithfuckingLollapalooza) setting, it's clearly sports. Try as you might to argue it, it's just fundamentally easier and more engaging. I can walk around school wearing an Arcade Fire t-shirt and six people will instantly become a fan of my personality. However, I can walk around school wearing a Green Bay Packers shirt and twenty five people will give me conversation starting remarks about how either they are as well Packers fans and that it's always good to see other Packer backers out there, or how they think I was raised by idiots because I'm not a Bears fan. The point is, sports are more universalized. They're, in fact, the universalizedest. You have baseball, football and basketball. You can bring any of those subjects up in a conversation with 90% of people you can have at least a two minute conversation about why they don't like the NBA or how they just don't care about baseball anymore. Whatever. You bring up any band in particular, there's like a sixty percent chance you're missing their music tastes. Even then, musical tastes are such random amalgams of bands that there's no way you can go into a conversation expecting to have your music tastes match up perfectly. You can do this easily in sports. If you can do that, you're half friends. Really. It's that easy.
Other than that though, sports has a lot to offer. People seek emotional ecstasy from music, right? Well, I feel a genuine rush of jubilance every time the Packers score a touchdown. Sure, being a sports fan entails a lot of losing and therefore rushes of depression so it kind of balances out. Regardless, I take so much pride in my Packers and will always. The Packers will never dump me. They will never change. They will never make a shitty fourth album. They will never not give me their all. They are the single most dependable entity in my life. They may do shitty, but damn it I know they're trying to make me happy. Also the players are all really cool, regardless of whether they actually are. They're super strong, super quick and they are real people. They are rock stars in their own right.
As for the actual entertainment itself, I guess you just have to know what's going on. If you don't know the rules and regulation to the games, you're basically watching dudes doin' stuff. And really, they're carrying out finely tuned precise plays that are reliant upon each and every individual player. It's cool. Again, FOR YOU MUSIC LOVERS, it'd be like someone not realizing that piano is anything more than throwing your hands at the keys. Oh and did I mention how awesome it is to see people get hit really hard all the time? Yeah it's cool.
Anyway, that was my best attempt. You still won't like sports. But you can't say there's no reason to like them. Everything we do is little more than a waste of time, but that doesn't mean we can't enjoy the shit out of that time we're wasting. So this year, I will be looking for a place to go on Sundays. For the first time ever. I will search, scavenge, network and finally find a place where other like-minded sports nerds congregate to fawn over the athletic display set before them by the idols of their little brothers. Meanwhile, you can go ahead and listen to the Drake album again, to try and convince yourself to like it just a little bit more. I will be basking in the glory that is NFL Sunday, or as I like to call it, the respite that God himself intended us to have on the sabbath.
1. College is a shitload of walking/riding your bike. I'm so tired.
2. College is horrible food. For every meal. I'm going to starve.
3. College is full of mediocre people. I've met a few nice people. None of whom I particularly want to hang out with. Guess I'm sticking with you Springfield kids.
4. If you are a girl and you want some alcohol at a party, you get first dibs automatically. Fuck lines! Also you have to do the frat guys later, but that's no big deal.
5. College showers are really small. Shaving is really hard. I think I might quit.
6. College is learning that air conditioning was a luxury and you're a bitch for relying on it so long.
7. Long distance relationships aren't as fun as they looked.
8. College is full of tools. I know we all knew this but still, I kind of hoped to be proved wrong.
9. All college professors try to be funny.
10. College is still better than high school.
Monday, August 23, 2010
That statement actually applies in a couple of different connotations:
1. Here I am in college, making friends and experiencing new things
2. Here I am being pathetically predictable and writing a Classic Brian about my college experiences thus far.
But, alas, it's unavoidable. College is awesome. I'm going to write about it. So there.
Firstly, my living situation is pretty sweet. Does anybody else have air conditioning in their dorm? ...No? Just me? Well, fancy that. My roommate is pretty cool. I put him down for a 7.5 out of 10 on the bulletin board on our door. He's pretty quiet and tends to keep to himself, and then goes to frat parties in the evenings. I wonder if he's less quiet at frat parties? Maybe I'll follow him sometime.
The first weekend was a blur of activities that felt like an entire week. They host a ton of different activities for freshmen to get to know each other, and I pretty much hit them all up. (I know, it's not cool to go to university sponsored events when you could be getting drunk.) It's a little difficult to make friends sometimes when everybody is moving around in groups and doing activities, but I figured out that if I just sat down with people and pretended to be interested in whatever they were doing, I would make friends.
That's how I met a couple of girls whom I've been hanging out with semi-regularly. They are really into video games and are generally pretty geeky, which is a big deal for me because I never knew any girls that shared my geeky interests in Springfield. The coolest part about college is that there are all different kinds of people here. It might take some searching but you'll find somebody you mesh well with.
I also have several "class friends", as I call them in my head. Friends who I take a class with and so I see them frequently. Or at least I will, in the future. Classes just started today. There are also dorm friends who I eat lunch with in the dining hall and stuff. I sometimes sit down with people I don't know in the dining hall to see if I can make friends with them, but that always ends up being awkward for everyone.
I think the last thing I want to mention is that it's way too early to evaluate. I'm still new to all of this and it's still all just sinking in. I've signed up for a bunch of clubs, plus an improv and a sketch comedy troupe, and I haven't even been to a single meeting for them yet. I guess the point I'm trying to get across is just to be optimistic; there are cool people here that I've yet to meet, cool things here that I've yet to do, and way more experiences here and abroad that I want to live. So for those of you in college, go and have fun, and for those not in college yet, look forward to it. It can be a fun time.
Sunday, August 22, 2010
I'm having the time of my life, and all of your weak little struggles only indulge me even more than I can do so for myself with my many new friends and my infamous charm and charisma. In the 5 days I've been here, I've made a close-knit group of 7-10 friends who I feel like I've known for a year. Every day feels like three, but never dull or inactive. We've torn up a brocal club dressed as ubernerds, partied at Target, and transformed ourselves into the most brobnoxious bros and brahs on campus as the fresh new group DMFAbrO. We are college's next big thing.
But seriously, for anyone who hasn't left yet, college is nothing. Things will be fine. You'll get along with your roommate, you'll make friends of all genders, and you'll become almost entirely self-sufficient without much internal struggle or homesickness. Unless you're not me. Then I can't promise any of those things. There's a good chance you'll end up realizing all your fears of loneliness, rejection, and failure. But maybe not.
But seriously seriously, I can't promise that everyone's experience will be as good as mine is so far. Mizzou is a great school with a lot of opportunities for clean fun, and a big school is a perfect fit for me (plus, it helps that classes haven't started yet). But college can be really fun, and there's no reason to believe that it can't be great for you (if you're not there already). It's a great chance to start over with no rules or standing social judgments. The potential for success is far-reaching and very reachable.