Saturday, January 29, 2011

We Are Rock Stars

There is no post-show anxiety, no butterflies in their stomaches. They sit at the bar and chat while they listen to the band that's opening for them. Then the guitarist gets up and walks over to the pinball machine. The sounds of him racking up the points can be heard in between the opener's songs. They're just biding their time...

They walk out on stage. The crowd goes silent as they just stand there for awhile, looking around the room. The venue isn't much, but they've seen worse. All eyes are on them. They are dressed all in black, except for the drummer's brown shoes. The woman is wearing a shirt that mimics her hair, long in front and short in back. The guitarist wears black army style boots just like hers, and has a style that could be described as almost vampiric, but he pulls it off. The drummer sits off in the corner, partially hidden by shadow. He's in his zone, and he won't be distracted.

Their instruments are things of beauty. They wield their twin guitars like swords of truth, their pure white color reflecting the spotlight. They start to play. The prerecorded synth wails in the background. She starts to sing, and when she does, it's with passion. You can see it in her face. Her hands help tell her story as they dance from her sides up to her face and around the microphone. The other two keep their heads down and play.

Song after song they continue to channel themselves through their music. There is no silence between songs, just a synth line transitioning them onto the next one. As they play, they continue to become more and more caught up in it. They are having the time of their lives. The guitarist smiles, looks at her until she looks right back at him, then whispers something in her ear. She laughs, and then continues to sing.

This is by no means their best show. The crowd is made up of perhaps 75 people. But that's not what's important. They are doing what they love, and people love them for that. Maybe not a lot of people, but people nonetheless. The time may come when they blow up, but for now they are content to be what they are. And they are rock stars.


Conor - This Post Actually Happened

Nicholas Dietrich I am a man of my word, eventually.

Everyone's seen Inception, right? Even if you haven't, listen to this. This is the ending theme to Christopher Nolan's Inception, and it's a powerful, powerful theme. Without giving away the details to the plot of the movie (the summary would probably get pretty longwinded and hard to follow anyway), the ending is emotional. It's triumphant, but there's a sadness underneath it all. There's ambiguity there, and the pain all of the characters have gone through is evident through this song. Hans Zimmer is incredible and I love this song, but movies are terribly finite things. The song starts, and 3 or 4 minutes later it's gone. It comes, it goes, and that's all we get. It captures the moment perfectly, but the moment is much too short. 

That's the beauty of Nobou Uematsu's work. He is the man who is responsible for probably like 99.9% of the music in the first ten Final Fantasy's. Nobou Uematsu's primary line of work does not involve capturing a scene, although when asked he does that quite skillfully. No. Nobou captures characters, towns, and entire worlds through his songs, and I love him for it.

Take Aerith's theme, for example. Or maybe her name is Aeris. Squaresoft sortof fucked up on that one. Aerith is the light of hope in Final Fantasy VII. She's a tragic character, but she never falls or breaks down to the sadness around her. She's unrelentingly positive, and not in an annoying way. Despite her outlook she can't prevent her death at the hands of Sephiroth, a girly looking badass, but she dies smiling. She's stabbed through the chest with a giant katana and she's like, smiling. This song perfectly communicates all of this. At least to me it does. Aerith's death scene is iconic, but I think it's the events immediately following that really blew me away the second time I played through the game. After Aerith totally dies and stuff the play her theme, and even as you fight this huge mutated beast, her theme continues to play, reminding us of why we're fighting and what we've lost. Ask Brian and Eliot, I didn't shut up about how cool I found that shit. 

Combat in Final Fantasy takes on 2 different forms. 1) Battles that are relevant to the story, i.e., fights with central antagonists, confrontational battles that push the plot forward. 2) Random fights that are irrelevant and extraneous, but necessary, because, well, it's a video game. Random fights comprise the vast, vaaaast majority and there's such variety in these battles that Nobou has to make upbeat, energetic, dramatic music that won't become obnoxious when listened to for the 300th time. He's damn good at it, too. FF VII and X have particularly good ones. But it's in the specific, story related fights that the epicness truly kicks it into high gear. With these specific tunes Nobou gets to personalize his themes. The final boss of FF VII is classic. Basically, the aforementioned pretty boy Sephiroth has turned into a shirtless angel 6 wings making up his lower body and a huge dark halo surrounding him. He has become a god, and his first new law as God is that he's going to destroy everything. A bold move that I think politicians should mimic. The music is apocalyptic and chaotic, the chorus sings "SEPHIROTH" and the world feels like it's falling apart. Awesome. Awesome.

I'm worried that I'm asking too much of you guys, so one last song. Check it out, Ami, from Final Fantasy VIII. This is the theme of the one place the main characters call home in the game. It's the only place they really belong, and as the game goes on they're forced to consider their home in a critical light and question it, but they never truly forsake it. While walking through the place, this is the song that plays, and by the end of the game you've probably heard this music dozens of times, for literally hours, but it never becomes grating. It always feels welcoming, familiar and warm. Whenever I walk back into Balamb Garden it's there. It's infinite.

The length of Final Fantasy games contributes to the music. Games take 40+ hours to beat. If it's one of the better Final Fantasy's, by the end you know the world and characters pretty damn well. Imagine if someone you were really attached to had a theme song. Imagine that your house, or some other place you truly love, had a song that embodied everything you liked about it. That's what Nobou gives to us. That's what he deals in. 


Thursday, January 27, 2011


by Brendan Cavanagh

I'm only nineteen years old, but I get about as nostalgic as an eighty year-old man sometimes.  And not just about the good times, but about the bad times, too.  I don't know why.  Do I wish I could go back and relive certain experiences in order to relive their value?  Do I wish I could correct past behavior?  Or am I dissatisfied with the present?  All of the above?  Yeah.

What causes my reminiscent behavior?  I believe a big factor is my indulgent pastime of listening to way too much music, and aligning my experiences with specific songs or albums.  Of the 7,000+ songs I've amassed so far in my iTunes, record and CD collection, almost every one relates to a particular period of my life.

Let's take The Band, for instance.  In the summer of 2009 I was faced with the task of completing six large novels for my AP English class, not to mention as many volumes of Harry Potter I could squeeze in between.  That summer I was infatuated with my mother's old portable turntable and my then-growing record collection, so certain favored records were played frequently as soundtracks to the books I was reading.  I had had a copy of The Band's 1969 eponymous album (jokingly referred to as the Brown Album, a take on the Beatles' eponymous White Album) since the previous Christmas, but before June I had really only acquainted myself with Side A, erroneously assuming off limited exposure that the album was front-loaded.  As I progressed through the first few novels, I simultaneously grew to appreciate all aspects of the Brown Album, which surprisingly displayed no wear-and-tear after so many revolutions.  By the time I worked my way into William Faulkner's As I Lay Dying, The Band had quickly become one of my favorite albums of all time, and so much so that the visage of each member of the group became assimilated into my envisioning of the novel.  For example, my favorite character, Darl, was portrayed by the Band's drummer, Levon Helm, and his brother Jewel was played by Garth Hudson, the stellar organist (to name a few).  Now, whenever I listen to that album, which is drenched in deep-South Americana, all I can conjure up in my mind are scenes from As I Lay Dying, but more significantly my exhilaration from spending each day that summer poring over six incredible novels (make it five, I hated Toni Morrison's Beloved).  I haven't been able to recreate those circumstances since then, since no summer is ever the same, and then again, what kind of favorable situation is ever the same twice?

The Band has also found its way into another one of my most recalled memories.  The summer of 2009 was my last summer running with Sacred-Heart Griffin's cross country team, one of the few organizations I've been affiliated with in which I've felt I truly belong.  After practice each morning I'd come home, drink a glass of grapefruit juice with a multivitamin as the main course, take a shower and jump into bed at about 9:30 a.m., iPod in tow.  I'd usually listen to one song on the album ("Look Out Cleveland," for instance) and then follow that up by "Whispering Pines", which would knock me out for a couple hours (but I may have passed out each day from the gripping turmoil of the abominable combination of an empty stomach and a multivitamin).  That was something I looked forward to each day.  Feeling productive for running the most amount of mileage I had ever done and being rewarded by laying in bed in a dark and cool bedroom, listening to music that had a certain resonance at the time.

Cross country is probably what I'm most nostalgic about these days.  There was something about growing as a runner and a person as I matured and progressed through each season.  Nothing makes me happier to think about than warm, soft, sleepy summer light streaming down through trees in bloom along Feldkamp, heading towards Washington Park.  Running with my friends, or even running alone (because if I ran alone, I allowed myself to stop short and take a bathroom break in the veritable sauna that is Washington Park's bathroom).  The memories are strong enough to recall on their own, but what really helps is listening to the music I listened to at that time each year.  For instance, when I listen to the Kingston Trio's Greatest Hits or Bob Dylan's Highway 61 Revisited I imagine myself sleepily driving my sister and myself to and from practice, as those CDs were played heavily in the family minivan at the time.

And like the summer of 2009, each summer meant a new set of novels to complete for school, though from freshman-junior year I was only required two texts.  I'd come home from practice in 2006 and cruise through Mark Twain's Tom Sawyer or George Orwell's 1984 on my mattress which was then placed groovily on my bedroom floor rather than on a frame.  I believe the soundtrack that summer was Journey's "Don't Stop Believing" and Willie Nelson's album Stardust.  Sophomore year I'd curl up on the couch every morning after practice and read Alan Paton's Cry, the Beloved Country or Linda Sue Park's When My Name Was Keoko (a wild card; this book was purely juvenile) while jamming to the latest Harry Potter soundtrack- the Order of the Phoenix in particular.  Then I'd sprawl out and watch episodes of Monty Python's Flying Circus while munching on this awesome white pasta dish my mommy would make specially for me when I asked for it.  Junior year was a bit different- I recall trying to replicate what I had done the previous summer by reading John Knowle's A Separate Peace on the couch with my iPod, but unfortunately I was unable to evoke the same feelings I felt when I'd fondly recollect the previous summer.  And when it came time to read Cormac McCarthy's The Road (my least favorite book ever), I was all over the place- on the road, in fact, touring colleges with my cousin, which turned out to be a highly memorable, now nostalgia-inducing vacation.  As you can see, no summer is ever the same, but each has some facet about itself that cause me to look back and miss it.

A short list of songs/albums and their corresponding, recent memories:
1. Richard Pryor's Anthology 1968-1992
 - Late school nights hanging out downstairs in deep winter of 2009
2. Kid Cudi's Man on the Moon
- First good high school parties on late winter nights in 2009
3. "Santa-Fe" by Bob Dylan and "Ragged Wood" by Fleet Foxes
- A week's stay at my cousin's in St. Louis in Summer 2009
4. "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart" by Wilco
- Driving down MacArthur Blvd. in snowy weather
5. MGMT's Congratulations
-Driving through Leland Grove aimlessly at 6:30 a.m. the morning after Springfield High's Prom/morning of my graduation (same day), looking for someone's house (never made it) in spring 2010.  Also reminds me of the entirety of 2010 from April on, as I listened to it every day (I just want to link this song, it's been stuck in my head for a few days because it's awesome)
6. "Dance Yrself Clean" by LCD Soundsystem - Summer nights of 2010

I realize nothing in this post is applicable to anyone who reads it besides me (and maybe I'm the only one reading it, therefore YEAH! 100% applicable blog post).  What I hope I impart to you is that this is the modus operandi of my mind; this is how I go about most of the time- not only hearkening back on past experiences, but relating them to the present, problem-solving and all that jazz.  At the very least, I hope I've made it clear that music and how it ties into my life is very important to me.  If anything, you've got a number of solid links.  But my point is that I'm the kind of guy who will detect the unmistakable scent of a certain shampoo and immediately be drawn to winter of freshman year when I was reading the abridged version of Charles Dickens' Great Expectations for my English class, which further makes me remember that I supplemented that reading with the Essential Dean Martin.  Maybe it's simply some sort of idiot-savant, audiographic or scenographic memory, but these are memories that are somewhat comforting to me, which is ironic because they only make me pine after the past and momentarily fail to acknowledge the current pleasures of the present.  But as a matter of fact, I've actually gotten better at living in the present lately.  Well, not entirely.  I'm still unbelievably nostalgic, but I don't let it bother me.  I just realized that what's happening to me in the present is something that I will indubitably will become nostalgic about in the future.  If I immediately look back fondly on classes I used to despise the moment I begin the next school year, then yeah, I'll probably enjoy my present situation sometime in the future.

River of videos!!

(I think I'm seeing them March 16)
(Not really, mom. Just like the song. Jeesh)
(Yes that's Judah Friedlander)
(I liked this song first, asshole)
(Busta Rhymes is fuckin' tight. I want to hang out with him)

(Here's hoping that works)
(Oh Shit.)
(His nickname should be "Oh Shit")
(Great live hip-hop is hard to come by)
(Best day of my life)


--Eliot Sill

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Optimism, I Guess.

For those of you who have experienced it, I am so sorry.

I spent seventeen years of my life sheltered. Emotionally that is. I had my fair share of family issues, loss of friendships, internal drama, etc, and I thought I had felt a lot. I thought I knew what it was like to hit highs and lows. Then one day, from out of no where, I was plucked out of my shelter by a very unexpected hand. I then began my 14 month journey. This journey included hilltops where I shouted my barbaric yawp at the top of my lungs, deep rivers I thought I wouldn't survive and unexpected ghosts I had to defeat. To quote a Taylor Swift song "I never knew I could feel that much".

Eventually my journey came to end as I encountered obstacles I could not overcome. I left the path and returned home. The hand that was once my salvation was now something I could not even think about without losing it. Those first days were the lowest I've ever been. But hey, it happens. People change. People make bad decisions. People hurt themselves and others. That's how life works. And I moved on. My heart is still in pieces but they're a bit more manageable now.

It soon came time for me to return to school and I welcomed this change of scenery with open arms. It is no bug secret that I did not absolutely love U of I last semester. This is quite a large school and it is often hard to meet people. I also had a terrible roommate. But this semester is going to be different. My roommate left for South Africa so I now have a dorm to myself and can play loud music whenever the hell I want and I have made a firm decision that I am going to be more social this semester. Another big change is the freedom I feel by not being bound to my previous journey.

Last semester I struggled with whether or not I wanted to go abroad as it would take me far away from the person I loved the most. I was in no way looking for any kind of internship this summer since that is the stretch of time that I could see that person the most and I even wondered a bit where I might go after college that would be suitable for both of us. That person is gone and it still hurts to admit that but it has opened a lot of other doors in my life. Yesterday I applied for a job at the Grand Canyon this summer. I probably won't get it but wouldn't that be so fucking cool? I also attended a study abroad first steps meeting because I decided that there was no better time to go abroad than next year. And as for after college, maybe I'll drive across the country and sleep in my car. Who knows?

Sometimes, just when you think you know where your life is going for the first time ever, the rug is pulled out from under you and you're right back where you started. And sometimes that's not the worst thing that can happen. I am being completely honest when I tell you that I think this semester is going to be much better than first semester. I am going into it with an open mind an an open heart. I know this will be hard and I know I will never forget the past but I think my experience has expanded my outlook and my perspective and I feel very optimistic about what is to come.


Monday, January 24, 2011

Nick - The Short End Of The Stick

This morning I went downstairs for breakfast, picked out my unreasonably large stockpile of yogurt to save for later, and looked for a place to sit down and eat my breakfast.

On this particular morning, two of my friends were at a table together studying. I sat down next to them and asked what they were studying. Chris says something about engineering that I don't understand. Theresa holds up the book she's reading as an answer: "How to Code Python."

And I started laughing. My natural reaction was to think it was a joke; we always joke with our computer engineering friends about never having a single girl in their classes. And I, as I'm sure many of you are predisposed to do, did not believe that a normal and attractive girl would ever take a programming class.

When I thought about it a little more, I felt bad for laughing; I think it's awesome that she's willing to take on a task that gender stereotypes tell us girls don't do. That led me to wonder why it's such a rarity for women to become programmers or engineers. The question can easily be dismissed as a preference; girls don't like that stuff, or some such argument. But I think it's a deeper, societal problem.

I went to google and looked up "girl toys," and here's some of the stuff I found.

As you can see, it's houses and stuff. There is, of course, nothing wrong with that. I'm sure that stuff is fun for kids, and it teaches some skills relating to living, housekeeping, ect.

But then I went and googled "boy toys," and got some other stuff. Actually, I just got a bunch of porn when I typed that in. But then I went and found you guys some pictures to illustrate my point.

These two toys were my favorite when I was a kid. The gears, over here on the left, are supposed to be put together so that when you turn one, they all turn. Once you get good at them you can make them move in more complex motions; I used to make spinning towers and stuff.

On the right we have the Marble Run, which you set up so that marbles run down the tubes through the various different parts. It's a lot harder to make than it looks; you have to have all the pieces positioned correctly or the marble will get stuck or will skip through one of the pieces.

While there are definitely cases in which my theory doesn't hold true, I think that we have a tendency to encourage creating and optimization skill sets, necessary for engineering and other professions, in boys from a young age; but not in girls.

And I hope that as time progresses we get past this hangup and encourages boys and girls both to use and develop these characteristics. I would really like to see more girls like Theresa who aren't afraid to step outside of the comfort zone of the roles society tends to lay out for us.


Sunday, January 23, 2011

Robert - Live Blog: Battle of the Souls

1st Quarter

13:25 — Hannah has officially accepted the bet. Aaron Rodgers has completed some good passes. Madden's advice from Madden 64 taught me as a child that this is conducive to winning.

10:50 — Packers on pace for a 96-0 victory. Hannah will regret ever dating me.

10:45 — Bears legendary defense proves itself again by tackling Bears returner.

6:23 — Packers finally fail to get a first down on a play. And it wasn't a touchdown.

5:47 — It's okay, next play was a 10-yard run.

4:49 — The ball goes way farther when they kick it. The quarterbacks could make way longer passes if they used that.

2nd Quarter

14:06 — Only buying products with funny commercials from now on. If we work together, we can make TV more interesting.

11:28 — I've noticed they get more yards when they pass than when they run. NFL needs to give up on the past.

11:13 — 14-0 Packers. We've officially reached my limit for pushups.

10:12 — This room is rooting for the Packers. The room across from us is rooting for the Bears. Every play hurts my ears.

8:39 — In my day, Charles Woodson was in college.

4:06 — Googling what a Packer is.

4:06 — Unimpressed by committee in charge of naming the Packers.

2:00 — "I'm so excited for 'Mama's Boyfriend' to come out" is not the same as "I'm so excited for my mom's boyfriend to come out."

:49 — Interception

:32 — Interception


*Commentators far more excited than actual players.

*Hannah texts me, "Why are none of your updates about the game?" Because 'Packers dominate' gets boring after a while.

3rd Quarter

11:00 — 26 game minutes away from continuing to own Hannah.

9:48 — Bears gaining as many yards for the Packers as the Packers.

9:00 — Packers give ball to Bears because Todd Collins is more entertaining to watch than our own scoring.

8:44 — Aaron Rodgers gives Brian Urlacher a taste of his own medicine.

8:35 — Collins throws incomplete pass on 3rd and long. Bears fans go crazy.

4:38 — Packers players learn empathy after getting stopped on 3rd down.

3:10 — What if "Chariots of Fire" played over the speakers during gameplay?

1:13 — Bears frustrated with inability to tackle Packers. Tackles own Bear teammate again.

:57 — Bears holding open tryouts on sidelines to find 4th string quarterback.

4th Quarter 

12:02 — Packers fans learn fear after allowing easy touchdown.

11:03 — Concussed Aaron Rodgers hopes that penalties advance Green Bay into the end zone.

7:22 — Purchasing Old Spice. Making TV more interesting.

6:04 — Things I'm going to make Hannah get me when I win: care package, signed letter acknowledging my superiority, the head of a bat, ten dollars

4:43 — Things I'm going to do if I lose: Regret doing this.

1:27 — I order the Bears to stop advancing.

:00 — Caleb Hanie is the MVP of this game.


You'll be green with envy. And Packer cleats.

MY GIRLFRIEND HANNAH TOLD ME THAT I SHOULD BE MORE COMPETITIVE ABOUT SPORTS BECAUSE THAT MAKES THEM MORE FUN. OKAY. The Packers play the Bears today in 18 minutes. Hannah's a rabid Bears fan. I'm a fairweather Packers fan. But I'm competitive! I'm willing to bet a lot that my Packers will stomp Brian Urlacher and whoever still plays for that team. MY PROPOSAL: Whoever's team loses today is the other person's official bitch until spring break. Publicly. Everyone will know. It will be so totally humiliating.

Hannah Kolkmeier, if you have any confidence or faith or true care for your team, accept this bet in the public forum, either on Classic Brian or on Facebook.

I will be liveblogging as the game develops to describe how it makes the destiny of my soul feel. Keep refreshing, please.