Saturday, April 2, 2011

Radically Poetic

Upon reading the title of this post, what was your initial idea as to what it was going to be about? Did you think it was going to be poetry as the name suggested? Did you catch the lyrical reference and play the song in your head? Or maybe you thought of something completely different. Only you know, unless you decide to share your thoughts with the world.

That's why critical analysis is bullshit. Every great piece of literary work has about a million different interpretations. Maybe you think The Awakening by Kate Chopin is a classic feminist novel that was years ahead of its time. But maybe someone else thinks its a long winded, boring ass rant about social structure with a main character who is, quite frankly, a selfish bitch. The two of you can argue all day about it, but I doubt either of you will change your mind. 

"It's inspirational to women because it's the story of a woman freeing herself from the restrictions of a male dominated society. If she doesn't love her husband, then she shouldn't have to be faithful to him. She's not his possession."

"Yeah well the bitch didn't need to marry him if she didn't love him. You can't just up and leave your husband and kids because you're getting bored with them. You don't just get to do whatever the hell you want whenever you want to. That's why we have rules."

"Yeah well the rules were made by men so they aren't fair to women. You're such a misogynist."


This is literally all I do in my lit class. We argue semantics. And that's fine, to a point. It's entertaining to see how people think different things about the same subject. But I'll admit, sometimes I just think people are dumb for some of the shit they come up with. Why do people find the need to dig so deep for some hidden meaning that may not even be there? Come on... (The above conversation actually happened, by the way. Of course it was much less dramatic, but this is what I was thinking as it was taking place. My dub, if you will.)

There's this big argument about how the author's intentions factor into interpretations of stories. A lot of people try to find the meaning that they think the author was going for. Other people think that once an author has published a piece, they no longer have any say as to its meaning. It is ours to interpret. I'm of the latter mindset. For instance, after having written all the Harry Potter books, J.K. Rowling decides to drop a bomb on us: Dumbledore is gay! There's nothing wrong with being gay, but I see no proof of it in any of the stories. I personally think she made that statement just to piss off some Christian parents who don't let their kids read her books. Dumbledore isn't gay to me, because that's not how I read it. The thought never even crossed my mind, so I say she's wrong. And that's the great thing about analysis, but at the same time, it's obviously bullshit. She wrote the damn thing so she would probably know, but fuck that. It's all bullshit.

Let's all stop getting so hot and bothered about what shit means and trying to prove that we're right to everyone else. Just live, man. Don't worry. Be happy.

Jay-Z said it best: "Fuck perception. Go with what makes sense."

This line is because Robert says I shouldn't end stuff with quotes. 

Fuck that kid. "I'M RUNNIN' THANGS!"


Conor - Distracted

I'm beginning work on my annual mix CD today. Right now, actually. Here I sit in the Union at OU, splitting the difference between optimism, pessimism, bouncing off the walls and falling asleep in chair I'm sitting in. I have been all week. It's been a good week, but I'm exhausted. I probably haven't been getting enough sleep lately, but that's not changing tonight due to a free viewing of True Grit that's starting in 2 hours.

Just went through my iTunes and picked all of the songs that jumped out at me. There are a lot of songs that aren't on this Macbook for some reason or another, for some reason it's next to impossible to import a full library from one computer to another, and there are several noticeable albums that are absent. Yankee Hotel Foxtrot isn't on here. Disappointing.

Interesting. After one really quick run through of my iTunes I picked 58 songs from 26 artists. I'm a little surprised by how small the number of artists is. Only 26 artists? What, have I been listening to less music? I honestly don't know if that number is down from whatever that number would've been last year, but I feel like it is. I fear that it is, at least. I feel like my world is shrinking. I fear that it is, at least.

To my right the best scene in Pineapple Express is currently playing.  James Franco and Seth Rogen are currently breaking everything in Danny McBride's house for my entertainment. Fight on, fellows. Bam! Bong to the face, and then they throw the fool's head through a wall. The best part is how clumsy the whole fight is. I read in an interview with Seth Rogen around the time this movie came out that the action scenes were supposed to be "what would happen if real life people were put into ridiculous movie like situations and then tried to act like ridiculous movie heroes." That's a pretty great description. These guys are going for really ambitious moves with decidedly awkward results. Comedy.

My world's not shrinking. Obviously no it's not. I'm in a new place, surrounded by new people. It's been expanding. Things are going really well here at OU. I'm recently appreciating/realizing that I'm happy here. I spend a lot of time with a lot of really cool people. I don't have many huge, exciting stories to tell people when I go back people, but I have characters to describe.

A new kid recently started coming out to frisbee so he was thrown onto the B Team with me. Earlier this week we were throwing around and I was trying to talk to him and get to know him. Conversation was awkward at first, but it eventually picked up when we discovered we were both willing to bet most of our worldly possessions over a game of Mario Kart, but before that talk hit its stride he asked me something that I thought was really depressing. After a brief gap in conversation he asked me "what is there to do around here?" That question really caught me off guard, partially because off the somewhat pained tone of voice he used, partially because it's late March and this guy has been here for over half a semester and hasn't found an activity or a group (hopefully he sticks with frisbee), but mainly because I didn't really know what to tell him. I don't remember what I told him, but I don't think I made my day-to-day sound all that exciting.

Norman isn't a lame town. It's not terribly unlike Springfield. It's not about events or awesome parties or anything like that for me, it never has been. It doesn't really matter what you do if you do it with the right people. I've found a lot of really good people here. I'm living in a house with 6 other people next year, all of whom I didn't know at all 7 or 8 months ago. One of those guys is on his way here to meet right now. I think he's bringing me a Monster, too. Because I'm tired and he's a good friend.

Fool just sat down infront of me and changed the TV from Pineapple Express to the OKC Thunder game. Boooooo. Let's fucking vote next time, chump. Boooooooooo.

Here's one song that's definitely going on this mix. I haven't been able to stop listening to it.

I could go on and on about what I love about this song, but I doubt my composition professor would listen to it twice.

Today during our one-on-one composition lesson, I actually worked up the courage to request that we listen to and then talk about a Band Practice song. I gave him a copy of the EP right after we got back from winter break, and every time I've come into his office there it is, sitting there on the desk where I put it after originally offering it to him, seemingly undisturbed. It's entirely possible that he has listened to it and that I'm just being paranoid and self-pitying, and even if he hasn't listened to it, I couldn't be too mad at him. If someone handed me their CD and said "listen to it," would I? I wish I could just say yes, but I know I couldn't guarantee it. People have given me mix CD's over the years, and I don't listen to a lot of them. I'm trying to fix that. I listened to one from Lauren, one from Carrie and one from my sister Betsy over the past couple of weeks. Betsy's has been waiting for it's moment for four years.

So I sat down with Professor Lamb and listened to "Tunnel," the song I'm proudest of off of our EP. The kind of song that I'd show a music professor. We sat there and we listened to it, and for the first 2 minutes or so I would explain every element that was in there and try to make it sound cool and impressive. I'm sure that was pretty pathetic. After we got done he complimented it and told me he liked it, and I think he meant that. He's a nice guy. I don't think he understands how his words affected me, though. After the initial compliments got through he talked about how this kind of music is good for "being at a club, when people are drinking, not really paying attention, hitting on eachother..." etc. He said that for a "generation of the perpetually distracted" this works, and he likes it on those terms. If he was sitting in a concert hall with his equally well educated peers, he wouldn't be fine with the repetition and lack of evolution.

I just sat there and nodded. A lot of what he said is true. I don't know if "Tunnel" is captivating. I want to make an argument, but I don't want to make it on behalf of our music. He's right about being distracted, I mean look at this, I'm writing a blog post about his thoughts while listening to the Magnetic Fields, texting my friends, and glancing occasionally at Fox News to my right. I never know what to say on behalf of our generation. Technology is both a blessing and a curse? You're right?

My argument stems from one thing he said while looking at one of the pieces I presented to him today. At one point in the song I had a plain C chord taking up an entire measure. He brought attention to this, and said it was too plain, too skeletal. He added an A and a D in there, and said that sounded "better."

"Better" was a horrible word to choose, Dr. Lamb. Maybe our music isn't captivating enough yet, but pop music as a whole isn't for just for playing over the loud speakers at K-Mart. There's phenomenal, emotional, amazing music out there. Some of it is simple and some of it is complex. But do not take umbrage with an artist who didn't add a few more embellishing tones into a chord because they wanted it to ring out with clarity. That's a choice.

But also in his defense that song he was talking about was sortof shitty and a little too simplistic. The A and the D he added made the chord sound better lololololololol


Just got out of True Grit. What a good movie!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Just BU

 by Brendan Cavanagh

I saw someone the other day wearing a shirt that simply said in block letters, "Just BU." While the logo clearly advertised our school- that is, Butler University- it got me thinking. It's important to be your own person, without any false ties to people or organizations that do not precisely match your interests. It takes a long time to fully understand how to belong to a group and yet still retain your own identity. I could have been one unique person within a fraternity of various characters. But I gradually discovered that I would much rather be one of several of my type instead. Out of context, the following quote sort of describes my rationale for leaving. Substitute the tone of conformity for finding that perfect fit:

"I was raised up believing / I was somehow unique / Like a snowflake distinct among snowflakes / Unique in each way you can see / And now after some thinking / I would much rather be / A functioning cog in some great machinery / Serving something beyond me"
       --Fleet Foxes, from "Helplessness Blues"

After nearly three months of pledging a fraternity here on campus, I decided to withdraw and remain with a group of friends in which I feel like I belong. And that's okay. I'm not cut out to be part of a fraternity, I don't think. It's not that I disagree with the ideals of the fraternity, but I don't think I could falsely exemplify a particular image associated with the house and its individual members, even a benign one. I'd rather have my image here on campus shaped over time by my actions, even if they're bad. I don't care. As long as it's my image, not the image I would immediately be assigned the moment I donned the letters of a fraternity.

"I desire that there may be as many different persons in the world as possible; but I would have each one be very careful to find out and pursue his own way, and not his father's or his mother's or his neighbor's instead."
       --Henry David Thoreau, from Walden

I don't know, maybe I'm inherently a rebel. I may not have a red windbreaker, and I've certainly never placed a bucket of porridge on top of a door for someone to wear as a hat when they walk through that door. But I've never been too interested in belonging to any organization that shackles me to a core set of beliefs, no matter how few or harmless. Maybe I've seen Cool Hand Luke ten too many times, but that's just me.

In a way, I'm proud of myself for declining to join. As mammoth as an opportunity as joining the frat was, I think it shows strong self-examination and keen judgment to be able to say no. I mean, I didn't simply not "feel like" doing it, and I wasn't childishly afraid of the consequences of joining, so I feel like I really weighed the options wisely. Even if withdrawing means I miss out on certain opportunities, so be it. I've essentially taken a left instead of a right in the proverbial yellow wood.

"And I- / I took the road less traveled by / And that has made all the difference."
       --Robert Frost, from "The Road Not Taken"

Finally, I'd like to share some memorable words from a book I just read. Yeah. For recreation.

"So I guess we are who we are for a lot of reasons. And maybe we'll never know most of them. But even if we don't have the power to choose where we come from, we can still choose where we go from there. We can still do things. And we can try to feel okay about them."
       --Charlie, from Stephen Chbotsky's The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Obviously we don't know what ramifications will arise out of each decision we make, big or small. But so long as we remain confident that we are making the best decision for ourselves and we're happy with ourselves for doing so, our choices will not have been made in vain. I opted out of joining a fraternity in favor of remaining true to my principles and forging my own path through college. And that, I've found, has made all the difference.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Fantastic out of 10

Observe the above painting. It's from Claude Monet's Houses of Parliament series. How good of a painting is it? Now, we aren't seeing the painting in the flesh in front of our faces, so our judgment is a little disjointed as is. Additionally, since we are seeing one painting from a series, it lacks a context, so we don't know whether this is a darker lighter mooded piece in comparison to its peer pieces. It portrays a, well, House of Parliament, erected against the overhanging setting sun. The sun reflects off the body of water in the foreground, and this reflection is portrayed in brilliant colors. The remaining sky seems to be an apathetic blue being under the negative influence of some clouds at a juxtaposition, and the base of the edifice is obscured and not illuminated. The impressionist painting has some very efforted brushstrokes and is given a texture that does wonders for the water in the foreground and takes away from the looming structure on the coastal landscape.

So what did we decide about the painting?



Art, in all of its forms and fashions, is created, usually, for the consumer. Therapeutic effects and personal satisfaction aside, art is created to observe. This observation can be through seeing, hearing, touching, or even smelling and tasting. This is called perception. As consumers, we have this fucked up tendency to perceive beyond what is there to percept. Along with perceiving art, we interpret art. We take what we see or hear and we put a context to it. That's why some people like certain things more than others.

All of this is "duh" shit so far, so it's about time I get to a point.

What's a good movie? What's a good album? Better yet, what makes it good?

Despite what we may believe, this isn't really an arbitrary thing. Some people like loud music, some people like soft music, some people like stupid movies, some people like action movies, some people hate movies where shit doesn't blow up (can't blame 'em; shit blowin' up is tight). Yeah, there's general trends to what makes something a quality production, but there's also so much to interpret and apply to one's own personal taste. It's art. If you like it, I might think it sucks. And that's fine, so long as I'm not a dick about it.

That's what I hate about Pitchfork. Pitchfork, popular douchey pretentious music website, makes its best effort to review like every album ever. Which is great, but the fact that there is one site that rates every album they can means that there's a standard. There's a status quo that music, an interpretive art, has to live up to. When I read a Pitchfork review, the thing that jumps out at me is the big red number that arbitrarily gives value to something that may mean the world to someone. Is The People's Key (Bright Eyes' latest album) the best album you've ever heard? Hm, nope! 5.0. This means Radiohead's Kid A was twice as good. Wait, you don't like Radiohead's sound? Well, you're wrong. Conor Oberst's lyrics are bad. No they aren't poetic, if you think that you're stupid. Things like these are what reviews tell us.

In journalism you're supposed to show and not tell. In giving a movie review, you can say "this scene was poorly shot" or "the acting was sub-par and lacked the proper emotion." In a music review, you can't really tell without showing. In other words, you just say "that synth part sucked" or "Oberst's voice sounds like a violin played with a cob of corn." So sites/magazines like Pitchfork really are just spewing their opinions, treating them as fact and playing God of good taste. It's stupid. Isn't it stupid guys? It's pretty stupid.

Now, if an album is especially awful, or fantastically great, it deserves some notoriety, and it's up to media outlets to create that. And I guess I'm not even mad about the reviewing process. The thing that pisses me off most is the large red number. The deciding factor, what it all comes down to.  A surprisingly high 7.0 is the same as a disappointingly low 7.0, and a shitty Radiohead album will still beat out a good Bright Eyes album every time.

Pitchfork has been hated on plenty by pretty much everyone, but they can't be blamed for doing what they're doing. The people love it. I can't remember the last time I anticipated an album and didn't check what score Pitchfork gave it, just for kicks. Out of stupid blind habit. They make some good points about  all the albums they review (usually), but give them context that the average fan won't experience. For example, on the paragraph about how Kanye West's My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (which looks just decadent when italicized), Pitchfork went on and on about Kanye's horrible public persona, the emotional personal struggle he went through overcoming the despise of the American people, which is, by all means, critical to understanding why Kanye made the album what it was, but, other than some spare lyrics here or there, it isn't what the fuck the album is. They mention the album in one sentence – the last one. Now sure the album is a product of the context, but what about the millions who hear the music and not the motive? I don't blame someone for not giving a shit who Kanye West is. However, it's a detriment to Big Boi if his album was just, regularly just made? Like an album? Stupid.

To some it makes the album better, to others it doesn't matter. That's the point. It's different depending on which set of ears it goes into. All music is. All art is perceived differently by different people.

Video games: review 'em. They aren't quite art. Though they have artistic qualities. There are elements of gameplay, story continuity, validity and smooth production quality that separate them from pure interpretive art. Things like movies, books, music and obviously everything artier than that should be thought about and discussed, but not rated. A rating coming from a media outlet puts a template in one's head from which to interpret a work of art. If someone says something sucks, but it's actually really good, it will take a lot more to sway your opinion from what popular perception of it already is.

Do you see what I'm getting at here?

Thank you for your time.

--Eliot Sill

Mada has things to say.

My feet hurt. A lot. I have a blister on the back of my heel and the pads of them just feel rubbed raw. My left calf is extremely tight and both of hamstrings could use a massage. Oh, and I can promise you that my butt will be sore tomorrow. But you know what? I feel great right now. Seriously, this is the best I've felt in a while.

Today I got to play real outdoor soccer for the first time in about 10 months. As in full field, nearly full teams and everyone was relatively competitive. I am extremely out of shape but I still managed to do a decent job as wing (though the defense might not agree) and I even managed to knock a few people over. After the game we all headed over to PAR for some carbs and I was dead. Like absolutely dead, I felt like my body was spent and it occurred to me that I have not felt this way since I started college. Even when I work out here I do not have the drive or will power to push my body as hard as I can or feel any real result, only sports can do that for me. I need a game and a ball and basically a big ol distraction if you expect me to do any real work.

Anyway. Back to feeling amazing. This dead feeling I have going on is something I did not realize I missed. But in fact I really really miss it. Like a lot. I miss the feeling that I actually did something. The feeling like I deserve to rest. I miss how easy it is and how amazing it is to fall asleep after something like that. This feeling is extremely therapeutic. It makes your stress seem manageable and it makes getting up the next morning seem less of a challenge.

So if any of you are feeling stressed out or just really over school, here's my advice for you: pick your favorite sport and play a pick up game with any one you can find. It will make your entire week look up. Now I'm going to go to bed and it's going to feel sublime. Peace out brothas.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Nick - Old People

I didn't pay much attention to old people until I went to college and there were none. Now coming back to Springfield is really strange, because there are people over the age of 40 or 50 all over the place.

Like many large demographics, you can't group all old people together. But all elderly folk have been through and seen a lot, and thus they tend to be set in their ways. I guess when you've been doing something for years, it becomes a part of you, and that's what makes our elders so different from teenagers in many cases.

I don't want to make blanket statements about how I think old people act. I'm going to talk about a few of my older relatives.

Aunt Teet

My Great Aunt Theresa, or Aunt Teet, as she encourages the kids to call her, is someone who I'm very close to. I started taking out her garbage for her at the beginning of my freshman year. Shortly after, she was no longer able to drive, and I started getting groceries for her too. I've been going to her house at least twice a week (while I'm in Springfield) for four years.

Aunt Teet loves to chat. I always set aside an hour or two on days when I go over to her house, just for visiting with her. She also writes letters to me every week or so while I'm in Champaign. She writes tons of letters, and sends out more than 100 Christmas cards ever year. Her handwriting is beautiful, and sometimes a little difficult to decipher.

Theresa has a lot to say; not being able to leave her house, she has a lot of time to think about things. She used to be a nurse, so medicine is her specialty. Despite being old and set in her ways, she isn't stubborn or entitled; I think life has taught her that humbleness is a virtue, and stubbornness yields no fruit.

Grandma Helen

Grandma Helen (or GH, as we often call her) is Aunt Theresa's sister, and they couldn't be more different. GH has always been stubborn, set in her ways, and somewhat standoffish. But she loves and values family, so we've been very close to her. She used to babysit me and my brother twice a week, and took us to dinner at least once a week after that.

GH developed Alzheimer's a little over a year ago. It's tragic, but at the same time, some of her standoffishness and her stubbornness has been washed away. Her sense of humor seems to be better than ever, and she's happy.

Papa (Pronounced "Paw-Paw")

My grandpa on my mother's side, Papa has been near and dear to me all my life. He used to care for me and my brother three days a week after school. He was a dentist, but he's been retired for most of my life. He had a big house on the lake, with a pool and a boat. We had many, many adventures in that house, and I miss it dearly to this day. Papa moved to Florida before I started high school, and it's a big deal when he comes to stay in Springfield for a week.

Papa is very stubborn, and he thinks he knows everything. He especially likes to talk about government, but has no idea how it works. He's probably in Florida running stop signs as we speak. He's 80 years old, but he still plays golf and works out every day.

We've vacationed at his house in Florida a few times, but I still miss his house on the lake. And more than that, I miss knowing that he's around and he could come visit at any time. I think he might be my brother's favorite person in the world.

Grandpa John

Grandpa John is different from all my other older relatives. He was a pathologist for a long time. He lives down the street from me. He sometimes sings at church. He isn't stubborn, or set in his ways, and he doesn't say much. He's just about the most friendly and nice person I can imagine.

Now that he's retired, he spends a lot of time golfing, caring for his beautiful garden, and making gorgeous furniture in his workshop. We built a table together once, but he did most of the hard work. I mostly just designed and sanded it. It's in my basement, and I love it dearly.

Grandpa John is way too generous. He got me my first laptop. She is an iBook G4, and her name is Lisa. She's currently sitting on a shelf at my house waiting for my dad to replace her bad hard drive.

Grandpa John also understands technology better than any old person I know. All of my other relatives here struggle to send emails. I don't think Aunt Teet has ever tried to use a computer. Grandpa John, however, has a Mac, and was using Netflix long before it became popular.

. . .

Talking to someone who grew up without air conditioning or computers is strange. It's like looking into another time period, and seeing how the people who lived then are living now. I wonder, when we get older, if we'll have characteristics stereotypical of old people? Or will the conditions we grew up in imbue different qualities?


Robert - Gay

You know you can be legally fired in Missouri for being gay? You can also be evicted for being gay, or fired or evicted for looking like you might be gay.

What? I realize there is a lot of lacking in the protection of gay rights in America, but the amount of discrimination allowed to LGBTs in Missouri is astounding. The Missouri Non-Discrimination Act gives legal protection on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, sex, and age, yet not sexual orientation. I'm not sure if Missouri legislators simply are not aware of the omission or if they perhaps see other issues as more pressing, but it seems like an abomination to call ourselves an advanced society when not only do we keep gays from the altar, but we are allowed to keep them from our homes and work places as well. A statewide LGBT organization, PROMO, is sponsoring a bill to include sexual orientation in the Non-Discrimination Act, but apparently Stephen Webber seems to be the only mid-Missouri state legislator who has any interest in LGBT rights. It's amazing to me that gay rights in Missouri are as backward as they are.

A friend of mine recently set up a facebook group in support of the bill. The group consists mainly of her own friends, but she quickly found out through the group that a friend of a friend was kicked out of her apartment a couple years ago for living with her girlfriend. The discrimination card is available and still put into practice in the modern day. It would be illegal to kick her out because she was black or Muslim, but not if she's gay. Not if she's gay-ish. Not if her lessor arbitrarily decides she could be gay.

Even the established lines are blurred. The Non-Discrimination Act protects on the basis of sex, but say a trans person is fired from their job. A case like that could easily fall under "sex" or "sexual orientation." In such a case, on which side does the judge's hammer fall? From a legal standpoint, there is no reason why LGBT rights should not be protected. Even the stringent eye of the Catholic Church has relaxed on gays — the Catechism condemns only homosexual actions, not homosexuality in itself (of course, I doubt it would be so kind to transvestites). LGBT protection is pressing, and hopefully coming fast.

The advancement of civil rights is a glacier that movies painfully slow, but it can't be stopped. From women to blacks to the LGBT community, it seems inevitable that the trumpets of history will continue to march until we are finally legally, and then eventually socially, an inclusive country. Until then, it's up to organizations like PROMO to keep the kettle boiling and the glacier moving.