Saturday, March 12, 2011

Goin' Deep With Brian Malone (Not An Innuendo, You Sick Assholes)

Hey. Background time.

I grew up in a very Catholic oriented environment and, despite a slight falling out between me and the big C recently, we still have a sort of weird, half assed intimate relationship. I think that before college I missed about 2 Sundays of church ever. I never particularly liked going to Mass, and I stopped going altogether since I've been at college, except when I go home on a weekend. I just don't really see the point. I just feel like I don't need to get up early after a night of frivolity and pack myself into a crowded little space with a lot of loud noises to be able to claim that I love God. When you try and force people to do stuff they don't wanna, they're gonna resent it, and no one wants it to be like that. Maybe some day I'll learn to appreciate it and want to go. Who knows. My mom would call me a “cafeteria Catholic” for that. In fact, she has before. What she means by that is that even though I'm Catholic, I choose to disagree with certain beliefs that the Church holds, some of them rather major. Which is true. Sorry mom, but I don't like to follow dogmatically. SEGWAY! (cross-curricular)

Let's talk about some of these beliefs that I disagree with (cue controversy). I already mentioned the whole issue of churchgoing, but here are some other, bigger ones. First up is the death penalty. Catholic Church: against. Brian Malone: fry 'em. Sorry to be crude here, but when a person is so nasty to the core that they rape and kill and do other shit like that with no remorse, they lose their right to life in my mind. Because honestly, life is a blessing and a privilege, and when you no longer have any respect for the lives of others, you don't deserve your own.

Round two brings us to premarital sex. Catholic Church: against. Brian Malone: all for it, given the right conditions. I'm not saying I feel it's alright to just sleep around with whoever we want, whenever we want. I just feel like if you know someone really well, and you both really like/love each other, and you're both willing to take that step in your relationship, then go for it. And if not, then don't. I just don't think that there's all that much of a difference in the role sex plays in our relationships before and after marriage.

Next up is gay marriage and homosexuality in general. Catholic Church: against. Brian Malone: let gays be gay. I don't mean to be politically incorrect here, but I don't know how else to say it. I'm not into that, but who cares if other people are? And even if you think it's wrong or immoral, just keep it to yourself. There's no need to condemn people. That's not our place. It's God's. And that's not to say that they should be condemned, because I definitely don't think that.

Finally, let's talk birth control. Catholic Church: against. Brian Malone: for. To me, there's a huge difference between contraception and abortion. After conception, its a different ballpark. But preventing some eggs from fertilizing and producing life is not the same as ending life. I think contraception is really important, especially in today's world where more and more people seem to support my view of premarital sex. It's much better than getting pregnant and then having to deal with that moral quandary, something I think that the Church should be the first to realize. Unfortunately, they don't see it that way.

Now I want to address some misconceptions that a lot of non-Catholics, and even some Catholics, seem to have about Catholicism. Let's start with evolution. WE DO NOT TAKE THE GENESIS STORY LITERALLY. To paraphrase something my priest once said, “We as Catholics aren't supposed to literally believe that God created the world in seven days. It is just a metaphor for God's power and his hand in creation. Science has all but proven evolution to be fact, and religion and science are meant to work together in this sense.” So in other words, maybe we evolved from apes, and those apes evolved from something else, etc. all the way back to the first speck of matter that exploded to create the universe (or whatever theory you believe created the universe). But the point is, we believe that that speck, that first thing, whatever it was, was created by God, who then let things unfold. And I do not mean to belittle or discredit atheism here, but I have always wanted to ask, “Where do you guys think that that first thing came from?” I respect your answer, whatever it may be. I'm just wondering. But yeah, referring back to an earlier statement, Catholics don't necessarily interpret every word from the Bible as solid and unquestionable truth. We get that some things are just metaphors and guiding stories written in ways we can relate to and understand. Also, perhaps the biggest and most frustrating misconception people seem to have about Catholicism is that we're all bigots or something that see other religions as lesser entities to be frowned upon and shunned. Not so. So yeah, the point is that we aren't a bunch of elitist pricks like people often seem to think. We all acknowledge the atrocities the Church has committed in the distant past, but let's be honest. Not to belittle mass suffering, but what religion hasn't in some way repressed other religions at some point in time?

I've noticed that a lot of people I know that were raised Catholic and went to SHG no longer support Catholicism. Perhaps there were other factors, but for the sake of my point, let's assume it was SHG's fault. It really pisses me off when certain more prominent figures in Catholicism fuck up and all of us are frowned on for it, like SHG being super elitist, or that microscopic and unrepresentative percentage of priests molesting children. Not to minimalize the terrible nature of those things, but it's like people think that there's never been a reverend or a pastor or whathaveyou that's committed a crime. People are fallible, and it just sucks that those people who are the worst of us are often chosen to represent a much larger body that is, for the most part, good.

Another thing I've noticed is how taboo talking about religion is these days. People always seem to apologize when they bring up the topic, and I understand their desire to be politically correct and not offend anyone or make anything awkward, but in short, it kind of sucks. Now, I'm not advocating that religion should be integral in politics, because I believe the separation of church and state is for the best. But it seems like our freedom of speech is quietly being repressed more and more as we strive harder and harder to make everyone happy and be politically correct. The sentiment is a noble one, but it's just too bad that the world we live in can't simply have many voices of differing opinions coexist without conflict.

So clearly I'm not the best example of the ideal Catholic. I disagree with a bunch of stuff and I sin all the time. I'll be the first to admit that. I swear like a demon. I even did it a bunch in this post. Occasionally I break some laws. I'm pretty prone to sloth and gluttony. I love watching movies where the bad guys die horrible and awesome deaths, and I laugh my ass off when they do. The Boondock Saints is one of my favorite movies for this very reason. They just go around and kill scumbag criminals, and I love it. Sometimes when I'm eating dinner, I'll just sit and people-watch. In other words, I mentally judge people left and right, and though I do my best to keep that judgment in my head, I still know it's wrong. But I'll keep doing it anyway, because it entertains me and I can't help it. I do my best to learn from my mistakes, but the honest truth of it is, sometimes I just don't. Sometimes I just don't care. I know a lot of the time I'm rather cocky and arrogant and a bit of a douche bag, and I try my best not to be like that, but sometimes I just can't help it. I'm not afraid to admit my flaws, and I'm sure there are plenty of people out there that don't like me for them. I wish it weren't so, but at the same time, it doesn't bother me. There's not a person out there that is liked by everyone that knows them, and I'm not trying to be the first. I want people to like me, but if they don't, they don't. That's that.

But despite all this stuff, I feel like my basic morals are what they should be, and I'm happy with that. I'm proud to be me (pride is totally one of the seven cardinal sins, but fuck that shit). In the words of Al Pacino at the end of The Devil's Advocate, “Vanity is my favorite sin”.


Friday, March 11, 2011

College: Some Thoughts from a Guy Who's Trying Real Hard to Become a Professor-type Person

[Note: Conor called me at 10:39 on Friday evening asking me to pinch hit for him for his Friday Classic Brian. But, since the last time he called me and said, " you want to do me a favor?" he asked me to stick my hand in a toilet, swish it around, and flush it, with the phone near enough that the sounds could be heard, this seemed like a relatively minor task, so here goes.]

Considering that most of the people writing and (I think?) reading this blog are in college, I thought it might be interesting to give you a few thoughts about college from someone who's been through it as a student and is now going through it again as a graduate student/teaching assistant. As an undergrad, I majored in English and minored in music and theatre at Truman State; as a PhD student, I teach freshman writing and TA at Loyola University Chicago and will start teaching low level lit classes next spring as well. Here are some thoughts based on those experiences.

Do not underestimate the importance of the first impression you make on your professors. Your punctuality, attentiveness, preparedness, and quality of work in the first month probably shouldn't be more important than those of the third month of the semester, but realistically speaking, they most likely are. I don't know any professors who actively count those sorts of things more at the beginning, but all the 'firsts' of the first month or so of the semester are what a professor uses to develop their picture of you - the picture which will form the context for everything else you do in their class. If, in month three, something goes wrong in terms of attendance, turning in a paper, etc., you want the professor to think, "Oh, that's so unlike them," not "Here we go again." Make sure that they see good habits as the rule with you, and slip-ups as the exception. Again, this is an intangible, because I don't know anyone who is actively biased in this way, but I suspect that, to varying degrees, a first impression can have a significant impact on your overall credibility with your professors. If you have a really stellar first month, and slip up a few times in month three, I'm willing to bet that it'll hurt you less than if you have a sloppy first month and do fine in month three (when the prof probably already feels they 'know' you and is paying more attention to other things). Note that this is probably less true of papers than of, say, punctuality, attendance, and reading preparation. I recommend that you always be prepared all the time, but realistically speaking, if you're going to try extra hard sometime, do it early.

If you miss a class: 1) Do NOT tell the professor something really stupid, like "I just had so much going on that day" or "Don't worry, I'll always be on time on Wednesdays because I have to get up at 6:00 for my fraternity" (both of which are excuses given to professors I know this semester). Saying nothing is better than saying something that makes you look like a moron. 2) It's a toss-up whether it's better to give a true, albeit unhelpful explanation ("I just overslept") or say nothing. Either one maintains your integrity, so I'd say it's up to you. 3) If you do think you have a pretty good reason for your absence, feel free to explain it to your professor, but don't do so in a way that makes it sound like you think they OBVIOUSLY should ignore their own syllabus to excuse your absence - many professors might cut you some slack (or might leave some slack in the syllabus), but approaching anyone with power over you with an attitude that reeks of entitlement can only hurt you. A humbler approach is more likely to work in your favor. 4)If your professor has a few 'free' skips built into the syllabus, then generally you don't need to excuse them, and silence is fine. But keep in mind that if you use them as blow-off days and then you get sick when you're out of skips, you may well get burned.
Also, if you're leaving a day early or coming back a day late from a break (Thanksgiving, Spring Break, etc.), DON'T give some lame excuse about some other unlikely thing that has come up at the last minute that, honestly, for reals, has nothing to do with the fact that this is the last class period before break. It just makes you look dishonest. If something like this actually DOES come up, you might consider silence or you might consider saying, 'Look, I realize this sounds unlikely, but XYZ came up. I understand if you still need to treat it like any other day-before-break absence, but I just wanted you to know it wasn't intentional' or something like that. Again, judgment call.

Think hard about what you want from college - a lot of things that aren't advertised or offered are possible if you pursue them assertively (but without an attitude of entitlement). When I was in undergrad, I REALLY wanted to take a playwriting class that had been offered a couple of years before I was around to take it. I went to the professor and told her that I was very interested in playwriting and hoped very much she might be able to offer the class again before I graduated. She was flattered by the interest, and also interested in teaching the course again, I think, and as it turned out, she was able to get it on the schedule for my last spring semester. That semester, there were two courses I really wanted to take - 1) Advanced Creative (Fiction) Writing and 2) Playwriting. I was worried that they might be at the same time, so the semester before, when the schedules were in the process of being made, I spoke to both professors and they were able to find out the tentative course times for me - lo and behold, they overlapped, making it impossible to take both. I asked if the times were set in stone - the ACW class was, as it turned out, but the PW class wasn't (yet), and the professor told me if I could find a time that worked in her schedule and the department's schedule, etc., she'd consider requesting they move the time. I found a time that she actually liked better than the original time, and everyone was happy. However, this would not have been possible if I hadn't been proactive. Now, this exact situation would probably not be as easy to arrange at a larger university like OU or U of I, but the general point still holds - a lot of things are possible that aren't obvious if you know what you want, educate yourself about them in advance, interact respectfully, and pursue your goals. No one has time to do this with everything, though, so you have to think about your priorities and then pro-actively protect them. Similarly, this semester as a grad student, a class I was supposed to teach got cancelled for administrative reasons at the last minute; long story short, having to rearrange my semester on three days notice meant I might fall 3-4 months behind in my time-to-graduation (by having to prolong my coursework by a summer or semester), but by being assertive but respectful and working with the department administration and, through them, the graduate school administration, I was able to get the issue fixed without losing any time. This was after what had looked like (and been presented to me as) a couple of dead ends, but I figured I had nothing to lose by thinking up my own solutions, and happily, one of them worked out for everyone. In summary - know what you want, respectfully go after it, and some of the time, at least, things will probably work out better than if you just go with the flow of what the system presents to you.

On a related note, if you want something from college that your school doesn't offer, think about starting it yourself. I heard about 24-Hour Theater from a friend at Bradley University, so I started it at Truman. My wife Michelle really wanted to do some children's theatre work, so she petitioned for an independent study course, got a professor to agree to oversee it, talked to a local elementary school and partnered with a teacher and his class, and did a really cool semester-long theater project with 20-odd fifth-graders and maybe 5-10 theatre students. On a larger scale, Chicano Studies programs, Women's Studies programs, and many other university classes, programs, and departments now available to you were first formed after students demanded them (in various ways and at various decibel levels, figuratively speaking). Again, the message here is, decide what you want, and decide how to get it - the way things work right now isn't the only way they can work, though institutions often change slowly, if at all.

This goes for professors as well. Not all professors are equally clear about their expectations, grading criteria, attendance policies, etc. Think about what you want to know, and go after the info in an assertive but respectful way, but think about how you'll come off first. You don't want to be the guy who says "How many free skips do we get?" in class - that will never help you. Also, asking "Will this be on the test?" will probably never help you. Sometimes you might learn that it's not on the test, but sometimes that question will get it put ON the test, and it always makes you look like someone who wants to do the least work possible. Most of us do, at some level, want to be efficient with our time, but you have to think about image, too. Ask "How would you recommend we study for the test?" rather than "Will this be on the test?" It gets you essentially the same info without making you look bad. If a professor's term paper prompt (or other assignment) is unclear, poorly written, etc., consider tactfully asking for more specifics in class, after class, or in office hours. If their response is still unhelpful, consider asking if you can look over a good example from a previous class or something like that, so you can be sure you have an understanding of what kind of work you're being asked to do. If that fails, too, your obvious options are limited, but I might suggest trying to track down someone who's had that prof in a previous semester to get their opinion on what the prof is looking for. As a teacher and a writing center tutor, I can tell you that easily half of what is wrong with student papers is failure to actually address the assignment called for in the prompt. Sometimes it's because the student hasn't carefully read (or properly understood) the prompt, and sometimes it's because the prompt is bad or unclear, but it's always bad news for your paper if you don't address the issue soon in your writing process.

If you're emailing a professor, ALWAYS format the email formally, and make sure if you have a 'signature' tacked on to all your emails, that it isn't super casual. Consider any written communication with a professor a professional communication - not all professors care, but most prefer to have "Dear Prof. xxxxx" at the top and something like "Sincerely, namenamename" at the bottom, and it can occasionally hurt your image with the professor to send them a really sloppy email. On a related note, especially once you start thinking about internships, jobs, study abroad programs, etc., make sure that your voicemail recording is professional and informative. My sophomore year I studied abroad in London. one day I checked my voicemail and had a message from someone in London about the program; they sounded a bit annoyed, and I realized it's because before they could leave their message, they had to listen to a 30-second recording of 'Springtime for Hitler and Germany' from the Producers soundtrack. Change your message before that happens.

Know that your professors are busy, and it's sometimes easy to slip through the cracks in their attention or annoy them by wasting their time. Don't email with questions whose answers are on the syllabus - that hurts you. You have a right to use their office hours to get help, but make sure you're doing so in a time-efficient manner, and if you make an appointment, don't blow it off. Everyone appreciates a person who makes it evident that they take your time seriously and don't want to waste it.

Note from a writing teacher: if your paper doesn't (implicitly or explicitly) answer the questions "So what?" and/or "Who cares?" with regard to your topic and thesis, it's probably not a very good paper and you should rework, at the very least, your intro and conclusion. Also, the conclusion of your first draft often functions well as the introduction of your second draft, allowing you to finish with a more complex and insightful conclusion the second time around (that takes the first conclusion as its starting point).

Be as careful with credit cards (and debt in general) as you possibly can in college. I know way, way, way too many people who got in more debt than they needed to by thinking "Well, I'll just put it on a card and pay it bit by bit - it's only a couple thousand dollars, that's not too bad," and who are still paying now and/or are trying to avoid bankruptcy and/or spent ten (or more) miserable years sending most of their disposable income to credit card companies. They are, if not evil, at least highly dangerous corporations that have make many a person's life a living hell for quite some time. Be careful around them. Also, if someone at a desk in the Student Union says you get a free pizza (etc.) if you fill out your info for a credit card application, but that doing so doesn't mean you're approved and get a card, so don't worry, DO NOT DO IT. They are not telling the truth (whether they know it or not), and you WILL end up with a credit card you probably don't want and that is hard to get rid of. Worse, if you don't know it's coming and just throw it out as junk mail, someone could find it and use it to rack up money under your name (I know people to whom this has happened). I know college = debt for most, but handle your debt with the utmost care.

Read your professors carefully, figure out what kind of prof they are, what they prioritize, what they don't care as much about, what they're good at, what they're bad at, and use that information to ensure that your experiences with them go smoothly. Professors, like all teachers, have very different skill sets (and competence levels) and you need to be able to work as effectively as possible with all kinds, even the bad ones (though avoiding those is a better idea when possible). This is also good practice for bosses later on.

Writing teacher talking again: plagiarizing well takes about as much effort as writing well. If someone fails at plagiarizing well, they're screwed. If they fail at writing well, they do okay-ish. Plagiarizing is not worth it. They might get away with it from time to time, but it only takes getting caught once to really, really screw someone, and frankly, they have it coming, because everything they do to cheapen their degree also cheapens your degree in the eyes of everyone who looks at their lazy, corner-cutting work later in life and thinks, "They graduated from _____?? I thought that place had standards," and then values your degree a little less as a result.

Take your end-of-course evaluations seriously. Most professors value and adapt in response to detailed, thoughtfully-written student evaluations; evals that are one or two sloppy sentences are easily ignored and frankly not that helpful to you or anyone else, whether they're positive or negative. This is a chance for you to tell the professor and their superiors how they're doing - use it! I know of situations in which a professor has had their course load shifted away from a course they taught particularly poorly twice in a row (as the thoughtful student evals indicated). If you didn't like how a prof did, your eval will be taken more seriously if it is fair and well-explained and less seriously if it is vindictive, personally attacking, and generally mean-spirited.

Well, I think that's probably enough for now. However, if you have other college-related questions for someone who's on my end of things, feel free to post them in the comments and I will be happy to respond!

Sean O'Brien (for Conor O'Brien)

Thursday, March 10, 2011


 by Brendan Cavanagh

i step out the door, hearing that reassuring click of the door locking behind me.  i look both ways- as if crossing the street- making sure there is no one around me.  firmly resolved that i am indeed undisturbed, i swivel the volume on my ipod all the way up, letting the music fill my ears and thoughts and soul.  its tough being hearing impaired, always having to ensure that my music isnt too loud, disturbing those around me.  i think back on those instances in study hall in high school when i thought the clancy brothers & tommy makem were singing softly in my ears, only to look up and find my peers laughing at me, subsequently telling me to turn it down.  this is the deepest embarrassment.  oop!  someone ahead.  i turn the music down momentarily, with my thumb resting readily on the click wheel.  hes wearing headphones, he cant hear me.  he passes, i can turn it back up.  now im finally crossing the street, off the block on which my dormitory resides, technically out of butlers realm.  to the left- police headquarters.  i hope they don't follow me, thinking im up to no good.  what if i accidentally trip on a cracked sidewalk because of my lack of coordination or awkwardly sidestep a patch of resistant mud?

What are you doing?
Oh, hold on.  (hand goes in pocket)  No! i don't have a gun, i just have hearing aids.  (left hand raised, right hand in pocket containing hearing aids)
Have you been drinking?
No officer, I haven't been drinking or smoking.
Why do you say you weren't smoking?
I just meant- I don't want you to-

no, stop it!  thatsentirely irrational, stop envisioning things that wont happen.  just enjoy your daily walk.  i pass the iron railings of the first nice house on the block.  iron railings are highly significant in literature.  james joyce knows that.  they're all over dubliners- eveline feels trapped in dublin when she grips the railing and watches her chance at escape with her lover fade as she succumbs to the gloomy confines of her native city.  im more like the boy in araby- gripping the railings and silently admiring the beauty of that girl i cant have, mangans sister=the virgin mary?  that was my best paper.  five pages instead of two and a half, and an a- to prove my talents.  i saw a black woman enter the garden through a gate in these iron railings the other day.  thats funny.  black people were once confined to iron shackles when they were first exported to america like cargo.  now they own houses.  they look at me from the porch, over the railings.  am i confined by these railings now?  they have more than me- age, experience, money, a house.  bob dylans chimes of freedom [live] clang and toll in my ears.  thats a great political song, ive heard some say its the single greatest protest song of the civil rights movement.

Starry-eyed an’ laughing as I recall when we were caught
Trapped by no track of hours for they hanged suspended
As we listened one last time an’ we watched with one last look
Spellbound an’ swallowed ’til the tolling ended
Tolling for the aching ones whose wounds cannot be nursed
For the countless confused, accused, misused, strung-out ones an’ worse
An’ for every hung-up person in the whole wide universe
An’ we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing

i want to be one of the lonesome-hearted lovers he sings about,  standing on top of a hill and witnessing these magnificent chimes of freedom flashing across the sky, like brilliant lightning or colorful fireworks.  i should have been in the civil rights movement, or at least been alive so i could see dylan perform this at newport '64.  i love the way he laughs in the live footage as he struggles breathlessly to belt out that long line towards the end.  why am i staring down at the sidewalk like im struggling to begin on a test?  i look up.  im halfway across the block.  there are silent, sparse snowflakes drifting lazily down from the impassive gray sky.  this could be the start of a coen brothers movie.  i distinctly recall snowflakes or ashes drifting in a like manner at the beginning of true grit and a serious man in particular.  i watched both of those with my cousin in st louis last time i visited, over christmas break.  i cant wait to go back this summer.  with all this imagery around me- iron railings and scant snowflakes- its like im conducting a close reading on a short story about my life.  thats amazing.  i can find so many intangible themes traced throughout these walks.  ive reached 44th & graceland, the next block.  that would be a great album title.  44th & graceland.  the album cover would probably be a washed-out faded photograph of the conjoined street signs.  i wish i could improvise.  you would think playing the piano since i was five and having eight years of formal practice i could improvise.  if a band ever asks me to play piano or keyboards or synths for them AND they tell me theyll write the sheet music, im in.  too bad i finally turn after crossing the next block, making that street corner more significant than 44th & graceland.  44th & boulevard.  what a crummy (holden spells it crumby) album title- no let's use lousy- what a lousy album title.  bob dylan comes on again.  ah yes, this song perfectly matches my mood and the gloomy, rainy weather.  why do i identify so heavily with any song of his that deals with moving on after a relationship?  ive never been in a long-term, serious relationship.  i dont know what its like to feel that acute a pain upon splitting up.  yet when i hear his words i feel that pain in my heart.  i attribute too much significance to people in my life that dont really relate to the characters in his songs.  here comes the good part, the third verse

If you get close to her, kiss her once for me
I always have respected her for busting out and gettin' free
Oh, whatever makes her happy, I won't stand in the way
Though the bitter taste still lingers on from the night I tried to make her stay

i would want to tell the next boyfriend that.  that a part of me will still love her, but i have to say it without looking pathetic or anything.  i hope shes happy.  who am i talking about?  maybe i need a serious girlfriend so that if we break up, these songs will finally have meaning.  i need to stop wallowing in unnecessary depression.  though i feel like self-imposed depression brings out the suffering artist in me.  all great artists suffer.  that was mentioned in english today.  does one have to suffer in order to be an artist?  i didnt say anything.  i wanted to say yes, but i felt that would be unfair to those who have prospered off making happy songs or poems or stories, telling themselves theyve never been depressed.  maybe thats possible.  but i think suffering leads to superior art.  ill always identify with the poets whose fathers have died and the singers who had to move on prematurely from a relationship.  when i suffer i feel like writing papers, or blog posts.  i need to start carrying a notepad to record my thoughts and transcribe them to classic brian.  i dont know if im ready to dabble in experimental writing or creative writing.  i definitely cant write fiction.  coming out on top of the zombie snowpocalypse poll was a fluke.  im better at relating events that ive actually experienced and making them applicable to everyones lives.  but maybe if i write about the imagery i see on my walks, people will respond positively.  maybe my thoughts and ideas are more significant than i imagine.  this is really heavy stuff, these are my innermost thoughts.  it would definitely be thrilling to write about this.  i think im gonna- no, going to- do this.  i better put this off for a while, to collect my thoughts.  gather more images.  no.  im going to finally do this today.  the lewis & clark ken burns film soundtrack appears on shuffle.  somebody speaks out thomas jeffersons words regarding the success of the corps of discovery above a beautiful instrumental- god, that was my favorite part of eighth grade.  that video is beautiful and the music so sweet- he says

The work we are now doing is, I trust, done for posterity, in such a way that they need not repeat.  We shall delineate with correctness the great arteries of this country...those that come after us will fill up the canvas we begin. (his voice cracks) Thomas Jefferson.

after his words fade, the music plays on and seamlessly ties into the next song, a continuation of when summer ends.  hauntingly piercing flutes and rhythmic strings and soft violins.  the song is so sad, but so uplifting.  i feel like lewis & clark as they ascended the great divide and looked out across the vast expanse of undiscovered america.  the gut feeling they must have experienced- accomplished, tearful, heart-rending, triumphant.  i feel it too.  is this an epiphany?  is this song telling me to reveal my stream of consciousness to the readers of classic brian?  this is much like the climax of james joyces a portrait of the artist as a young man.  stephen dedalus ascends a great hill as he achingly mulls over what his true vocation is.  he decides to abandon his hope of becoming ordained and decides instead to be a writer, a lover of language,

to forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated conscience of my race.

ill do it, then.  ill write this blog post.  this revelation surges in my body- i feel as if i could walk forever, but no.  its terribly cold and windy and i have a lot of work to get done.  im nearly back anyway.  i look into the windows of parked cars on my left- my reflection peers back at me, the windswept hair flying over my sunglasses- the sunglasses make me invisible.  invisible man wore sunglasses to conceal himself as he walked alone on the streets of new york.  i do the same.  i dont want people to see me when i take my walks.  if my thoughts are my own and my music pouring into my own ears, then i should remain undisturbed as i walk along the sidewalk

i walk on the sidewalk
down the sidewalk i amble
across the narrow stretch of stone i pass

ever since i read mark hallidays poetry in class and saw him read it aloud when he visited last month i play with words throughout the day.  i couldnt be a poet, but its so enriching to color my mental play-by-play of the day.  like filling a blank page of paper with whatever i want.  i sprint up the short flight of stairs leading to the door.  ever since my friend said he always runs up stairs ive done the same.  i wave my butt over the scanner outside the door (my id rests in my back pocket).  although my ears are filled with a new song, i still hear a dull thud that i immediately recognize as the reassuring click of the door being unlocked.  i step inside, mindful to turn down my music so none of my floormates will hear.  i sit down and begin to type.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Pinch Hitter

[Editor's Note: Hey all, I was tired of thinking of things to say and shit so Zane Thompson is filling in for me today on Classic Brian. I don't know what we'll get and he probably doesn't either.]

Note: This is NOT supposed to be a religious or political rant…we’ll see*

When I was in 6th grade at the wonderful Franklin Middle School, my World History teacher (the wonderfully creepy track coach) Mr. Flohr made us turn in current events every Friday. At the time I blew them off and always made everything up, but looking back this class marked the first time that I had ever really cared about the world around me.

These days I make it a habit to at least read the cover articles of the New York Times and USA Today every morning. I find it extremely important to know what’s going on with my fellow citizens of the world. I want to make it clear that the word “fellow” is very important in that sentence. Regardless of religious beliefs, race, gender, or any of that other shit you have to answer for a census, we have all been put on this Earth TOGETHER. Why would your religion condone killing another human being because of their own different beliefs? How does this make sense in context with any other doctrine, and I am in no way singling out Islam right now, although they seem to be the most noticeably hostile religion at the moment. For thousands of years people have enslaved and killed other people on behalf of their religion, whether it be the Egyptians enslaving the Jews, the Spanish Inquisition, or the jihad taking place around the world today. Why????? What happened to the human brain that makes us forget how we all really got here in the first place? Whether you believe in evolution or creation or reincarnation it does not change the fact that we are all brothers and sisters. Nothing, NOTHING changes that fact. We are all born on the same level, we all are given a piece of paper and told to fill our life out on it however we so choose. So why is it that not every person chooses to live in peace, to respect all other citizens of the world just how they would respect their mom. Every human life is as valuable as the next, so why do so many people make it their goal to make others’ life so damn difficult? Life is a blank slate, there are no rules or creeds that any person is required to live by, and no one ever has the right to try and choose the RIGHT path. 

I asked Eliot to let me write this in light of the recent uprisings in the Middle East, namely Libya. It just astounds me that a leader of a country can possibly use violence on his own people in order to keep meaningless power. Even more troubling for me is the fact that there are people working under him that are willing to look their fellow countrymen in the eyes and then proceed to spray a machine gun into their crowd. Sure, this sort of violence is nothing new and in a historical context is mild, but it just makes no fucking sense. Why did Gadhafi ever CHOOSE to rule with such an iron fist? Why did he not choose to allow his people to live freely. As Kanye said, “No one man should have all that power.” No one, even an elected official, should have the right to tell me that I need to live a less pleasant life just because they say so. Where do the Chinese get off setting a limit on the amount of children a family is allowed to have. Doing so is suggesting that those at the top of the government making the decisions were given some sort of innate power to limit the freedom of fellow human beings. More importantly, why do these leaders make these decisions? When did a lack of compassion for another’s well-being become such a chronic problem?

Unfortunately, no country is more to blame in my mind than the United States of America. The political battles these days are always advertised as good vs. bad battles between the Democrats and Republicans, depending on what side you’re on. Yet take a closer look and the misuse of power is astonishing. Several of the prominent issues these days should not only be non-issues by now, but they should have never been issues in the first place. Who are any of us to tell any homosexual that they aren’t allowed to marry? How can any man or woman who claims to have any resemblance of a heart and soul deny another man or woman the right to be happy. People this is the 21st century, science has all but proved that being gay is not a choice. Gay is not a choice just like being born with one leg is not a choice, but a one legged straight man is still able to marry and enjoy all the financial safeties that come with it. If California allows its citizens to vote down gay marriage, can they also vote away all Hispanics? Republicans take such an unconstitutional stance on the matter that it’s a joke. The Constitution explicitly states that Church and State must be separated. So then how can Republicans rightfully defend the ban of gay marriage, when their only defense is based on the fact that they believe the Bible outlaws homosexuality. That in itself is combining Church and State. Every politician needs to think about what is best for the citizens of their nation, and in many cases citizens of the world, before they make any decisions. Political stances should not and cannot be based off of religious beliefs. Simple, as clear cut as something can possibly be.

Same thing with abortion. Until an argument can be made that doesn’t involve religious beliefs, than abortion NEEDS to be legal. No old Southern Republican should be against a 15 year old girl who made a mistake one night, having an abortion. Every one has the right to choose, because without this right we are all slaves to man made rules and religions. Holding political power does not give a person the power to choose the way another person has to live their life. Once again they need to all just stop and think, is this what is best for my people, the human being. Republicans seem to be very out of touch with this doctrine these days, and it’s sad because it’s leading to even greater threats like the Tea Party and others on the far left are not excluded from this as well.

I hate the fact that every person has to be a part of a group. I hate that as someone who was born in the United States without any choice in the matter, I am expected to be blindly patriotic and continuously affirm and prove my belief that USA is number one. Sure, I root for the United States to do well in the World Cup and whatnot, but I was born on planet Earth. I fully consider myself a citizen of the world first, and my theory is that if everyone felt this way the world would be a much safer and enjoyable place to live. When I’m at an airport and see that there are four men with turbans boarding my plane I can honestly say it has no effect on me. America probably has more people willing to hijack a plane and fly it into a Middle-Eastern building than the other way around. 

“We’re all out here trying to make a living, sometimes we get in each other’s way.” John C. Reilly dropped this wonderful line at the end of a horrific movie named The Promotion. It’s a terrific line, because conflict does happen. Sometimes you do get beat out by someone else for a job or a spot on a team. If we all just stopped and realized that that guy who just beat you out for the job is just trying to make a living the same as any of us are, then a lot of harsh feelings and ill will can be avoided. Apply this to a bigger stage and it still works. Every country need to supply their citizens with oil. If the leaders of these countries were to step back and realize that the worse solution to this problem would be greed and loss of life, then we would no longer be fighting wars over oil. Every human life is as valuable as the next, no man or woman is more important than another, and no one has the right to live otherwise.

--Zane Thompson

*-[Editor's Note: That is exactly what this was.]

I Demand That Someone Writes A Post About Me

So I forgot to post last night. No one is shocked. It's weird because I even talked to Eliot at dinner about how I needed to write my Classic Brian and yet I went to bed around midnight without a second thought. Oh well.

I only have about ten minutes before I need to leave for class again but I thought I would at least throw something out there, so here it goes.

I miss you guys. For realz. I miss my friends from this summer. Even you Brendan. I miss my friends who would go play tag and climb on shit and play four square even though we graduated high school and we were supposed to be getting schwatsed. I miss the improv troupe and the people we hung out with. I have made awesome friends here that I love but no one truly understands my humor. I always feel like I need to explain my humor or ease into it or something. Four members of Classic Brian go here but we are all so separated that it still doesn't help. Plus, it is still a partial group so the dynamic isn't right. Honestly, I often didn't feel like doing improv on Sundays from 3 to 5 but I went anyway because I got to be myself 100 percent including being annoying as hell and it would be fine.

Conor O'Brien. You're a faggot. I wish you went here. I secretly hope you don't find anyone as cool as me at Oklahoma because I'm selfish. I still consider you my best friend. Probably mostly because you don't like me that much and I think you're a douche. I doubt I will find anyone I can connect with as hard as I do with you.

Anyway, fuck all of you.


Monday, March 7, 2011

Nick - We're All Adults Here

I think we, as a society, tend to have a "sex negative" attitude. It's something you don't often stop to think about, but a teacher mentioning sex in the classroom could get into serious trouble. Even usually rational parents don't want their kids to hear too much about sex. Time and time again, it's considered completely politically correct to look down on sex as dirty and disgusting. We hear this view repeated and implied by priests, teachers, parents, and especially politicians.

Maybe if those people got laid once in a while, they wouldn't have a huge stick up their ass.

I would totally do all of these people.

I mean, seriously, you guys. Who the fuck thought that abstinence only sex education was a good idea? What's even the point? Everybody thinks that their kids are going to be wholesome and reserved about sexuality, but in reality they're just preventing their kids from having a realistic understanding of sexuality.

As much as you want your son/daughter to be special, wholesome, and perfect, you need to cut the bullshit and admit it. They are probably going to fuck somebody. BEFORE THEY EVEN GET MARRIED. Oh the horror.

And honestly, you have no idea the kind of harm done to kids by keeping them in the dark about this stuff. Think about all those poor mormon kids who grow up thinking that it's evil to touch their own dick. Think about the kids who are never taught about contraception. I mean, Jesus, people. This is crazy.

And then we wonder why we have a population with such a fucked up view on sexuality. You've seen them. I've seen them. Douchebags who are all about getting girls drunk and getting dome. Oral sex isn't fucking currency. It's foreplay. I'm assuming that people who don't understand this basic tenant are terrible sex partners.

And on the other side of the spectrum we have people who think that oral sex is gross. And, of course, those lovely people who think that looking at porn is a crime against humanity. How old are we? We're in fucking college. My god people, it's the human body. Learn how it works.

 This is a chart of ideal penis sizes, according to women surveyed. This graph begets two questions:
1. Do people have any concept of size?
2. Who's the bitch that said 11 inches?

I couldn't find a graph of ideal penis size according to men, but I'm sure it would be equally outlandish. You know how guys are about their dicks.

This chart shows actual penis sizes. Haha. Keep dreaming, folks.

When we don't educate people about sex, we get all sorts of problems and misconceptions. An unhealthy view of sex leads to shitty relationships, and this is a problem that we've just been propagating for generations.

It's time to start moving on. We're all adults here. We can have frank conversations and education about sex.

So, go fuck somebody or something.


Sunday, March 6, 2011

Robert - No Small World

There's a sort of collision of worlds that occurs within me whenever I see Claire Staten in my residence hall or Ali Becker at the Plaza 900 cafeteria. These are people from my old world, and they don't belong here.

My old world is 200 miles away from this one. Our childhoods ended, and we scattered about the country like roaches. Some to Columbia, some to Washington state, some to Washington district, some to Florida, to Massachusetts, and some still in Springfield, IL. So why do I still run into old friends and acquaintances almost daily?

The answer, I know, is that me and my peers' lives are still a little more preordained than I'd like to believe. We spent our younger years growing up in elementary and middle schools or oppressive Catholic grade schools, waiting for an age of freedom and responsibility. We went to high school at Springfield High and Glenwood or oppressive Catholic high schools, waiting to be released from the town of Springfield. At such a time, we would truly be our own persons, making our own decisions and independent from the teets of youth.

U of iRobot

Classic Nick

Hot party Nick.

Nick is a hilarious human being. He is incredibly honest and funny whilst at parties, as am I (haha self praise). So in that sense, we are kindred spirits. Haha get it? Spirits? This kid has some hilariously funny improv shows, to which I can only one day hope to be a part of.  I won't even start with Classic Conor's comments about Nick, because they are endless and mostly positive. I have just been to an improv show after party, so it is amazing that I am still articulate (going back through this this morning, I notice that this isn't all that true). I have been wanting to join for awhile now. Maybe next year, now that many of these people know me. But yeah, I find it hilarious that people know me as "Classic Brian". I have never introduced myself as such. Yet when people find out that that is who I am, they are suddenly honored to meet me. Hehe. But anyway, after hanging out with Nick and his crew for the night, I am ready to sleep. Just know that new Nick is hawt and sexy and attracts girls by the flock. This kid is my role model of funny and I wish I was him, because then I would be funnier and ultimately more attractive.  Also, Pokemon rule. I'm sorry that this post is such a disappointment (Nick).  I'll make sure to do better next time...