Saturday, May 14, 2011


I dislike money. Just the concept of currency seems silly in general if you think about it. We take a certain type of paper and a lot of semi-precious metals and we deem them worth a certain value. Then we take them and we trade them away for things that we want or that we need. And if you don't have enough of these pieces of paper and circles of tin and nickel, why, we'll say your "poor" and we'll look on you with disdain, or maybe pity. And if you have a lot of it, then certainly you deserve a position of reverence and power.

I miss the days of bartering. And when I say miss, I mean they sound really cool but I obviously wasn't around for them. But I feel like that was a better way of conducting commerce. You know exactly what you're giving and you know exactly what you're getting. It's like, "Hey man, I have this extra television and I notice you have a lot of cows. Wanna trade me one of them?" There is no inflation rate on cows (unless they eat a lot, amiright? hahaha). I'll kill it and eat it in the form of many, many hamburgers over the next few months, and it'll be delicious. You can't eat dollar bills! Who was the wise guy who even came up with currency? What was that thought process? "Hmmm, this whole trading business is too direct. Let's institute an unstable middle man that has no real value other than what we give it!" Whaaaaat a jackass.

I gave up my pursuit of a career in engineering because I realized I was really bad at it and it just wasn't for me. I basically had a job guaranteed to me right out of college, but i threw that away. Why? Because I want to have fun in college. I've always heard that college is the best (at least) 4 years of your young life, and I didn't want to throw that away and be miserable just so I could possibly have a bigger annual salary down the road. Obviously I realize the importance of money because we live in the real world, which is an imperfect world. And yeah, I'd like to win the lottery as much as the next guy, because it would make life so much easier. But honestly, I think the world would be better of if we just regressed a few centuries economy-wise. I know it sounds backwards and extremely idealistic, but hey, this is my blog post.

Anyway, I have to go run to the bank now before I go out for the night, so peace out.


Thursday, May 12, 2011

Jerry & Me

Gerald Butt & the author, before glasses

by Brendan Cavanagh

A few friends of mine headed down to St. Louis yesterday to wait in line for about five hours just in order to meet Wayne Coyne, the frontman for The Flaming Lips.  While this may seem absurd amidst increasingly costlier gas prices, it was actually very important to my friends because they succeeded in taking advantage of an opportunity to meet someone whom they admire greatly.  An experience like this serves to confirm that your favorite musician or actor or local celebrity is, in fact, very much alive.  In a way, it gives that person's repertoire a deeper sense of significance.  I can't say I've been able to meet too many famous people, but here's a short list of some notables I've come into contact with:

Jerry Lambert

When I was a child, I was fascinated by the lead anchor on ABC (then NBC) News Channel 20, Jerry Lambert.  I just thought he was much cooler than the aging, soon-to-retire Don Hickman, and the no-nonsense, albeit comfortably familiar Susan Finson.  When I was five years old, my mother took my siblings and I to some trick-or-treat Halloween festivities out at the Henson-Robinson Zoo late at night (now that I think about it, probably about 5:00 p.m.).  Based on my colorful memory, I remember crossing a wooden bridge as it was getting pitch-black out, and running into Jerry Lambert hanging out there.  Displaying the manners and confidence of an older man, I promptly approached him and introduced myself.  He was polite and friendly, and shook my hand, which was a big deal to me.  Later that year, or maybe the year after, I was at Target to do some shopping with my family around Christmas, and there was a large van parked in the fire lane with "Toys-for-Tots" plastered on the side.  At the back of the van stood a few members of the embarrassingly banterific local news team, notably the weatherman with notoriously clouded judgement, Gus Gordon, as well as Jerry Lambert!  In my zeal I approached him once again and asked if he remembered me, making sure to introduce myself once again just in case he didn't.  I seem to recall him saying he did, in fact, remember meeting me previously at the zoo.  Whether or not this was true, his affability and calm demeanor always stuck with me, and to this day I get a kick out of seeing him continue to anchor on News Channel 20.

The Morning Benders

During a brief lull in between shows I really had a desire to see on the Saturday of Lollapalooza 2010, my friend Peter and I took the chance to meet The Morning Benders at a signing booth after their hour-long show.  While waiting in line for about twenty to thirty minutes, I bought a copy of their latest LP, Big Echo, in order to have it signed when I met the band.  When we finally got to their table, we exchanged niceties and I made sure to ask each band member a question with the hope that I would be more than just another fan craving a measly autograph- because to me, it was more than simply getting an autograph.  It was a chance to interact and converse with a real band.  With the first two guys, I actually succeeded in carrying a conversation about playing the piano/keyboards, who seemed surprisingly interested in the fact that I played too.  They were very friendly- one of them even gave Peter a high five- and they encouraged me to keep up my playing.  When I came to the drummer, I didn't know what to say, so I thought back to something Peter had said earlier- that The Morning Benders are said to have recorded some songs with an 808 machine.  I had no idea what this was, but in order to facilitate conversation I asked the drummer if he had one up on stage that day.  We kind of confusedly went back and forth about that, with me desperately hoping I could seamlessly complete the conversation.  When I came to the devilishly handsome lead singer, I gave up trying to be unique from other fans, so I got his autograph, thanked and congratulated the band once again, and left.

 The signed CD

The Springfield Capitols/Rifles

For a couple summers in my childhood, my siblings and I were enrolled in a baseball camp for the deaf and hard-of-hearing (although only two of us are hearing-impaired).  This program found its supervisors and aids in the form of the local baseball team, which seemed to change its names and faces every season for a few years.  The first year I played, we were joined by the Springfield Capitols, then the Springfield Rifles the year after.  Nowadays I think they play by the Springfield Sliders.  In any case, the camp was a fun way to kill a few hours every day for a couple weeks- we would drill and train, play pick-up games (one of my only line-drives ever went straight into one boy's teeth) and eat lunch with the guys on the team, who were incredibly humble and patient.  Not only were they dealing with small children, who can tend to exert more energy than a twenty-something athlete, but also they were dealing with children who had moderate to profound hearing losses, a challenging obstacle to overcome when teaching them how to play baseball.  Anyway, these guys were not too modest to sign anything- shirts, caps, even baseball cards with their pictures them.  One might take a look at my aging, beloved Cardinals baseball cap and estimate it at a higher value than it deserves, based on the number of signatures I managed to squeeze onto the underside of its bill.  Also, there was a  guy named Gerald Butt on the team.  Butt.  Imagine you're seven and you've never heard someone with the name Butt before.

 Steve "Mad Dog"

Harper Lee

In eighth grade, I was exposed to Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird in my mother's literature class.  After completing it before the rest of my classmates, I voraciously re-read the book twice more in a row.  As a result of the strong emotional response the book incurred in me, I was inspired to write a letter to noted recluse Harper Lee.  Even if she didn't respond, I figured, I hoped that she would at least read my letter and know that her sole novel made a difference in at least one life.  Motivated to finally express her similar feelings, my mother appended my lengthy letter with another one of the same length.  After a week or maybe two, the two of us were at a scholastic bowl meet at another school.  In between two heated rounds, my mother presented to me something she found in the mail earlier that day- a letter addressed to "Ms. Brenda Cavanaugh" (totally understandable) written from a Lee in Monroeville, Alabama with a stamp bearing two blue birds.  I trembled in anticipation and shock- how could a woman, known for retreating into obscurity and casting away almost all reporters, fans and interviewers, respond to a mere letter of praise from my mother and me?  With trembling hands I opened the letter, which I've since framed and hung on my bedroom wall, bearing the words:

"18 February '06

Dear Ms. Cavanaughs',

Thanks you and your son for your terrific letters, each the sort of letter every writer dreams of getting- and I got two!
You both are so generous with your praise that at 88 years old, I don't have enough time to live up to it!
My eyesight is failing, hence this [shaky? monkey? We couldn't decipher it, which I guess is the point she's making] writing, but hope you can read that it comes from my heart.

Harper Lee"

The letter

I'm sure I'm neglecting to mention a few more notable celebrities that I've met, and I'm sure that I've yet to meet many more, but this gives you an idea of the acquaintances I've made.  Mostly local faces with a few real celebrities interspersed here and there, but it's a list nonetheless.  Maybe I should write more letters...

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

College review — Experience of the Year?

When one first enters College, it can be a bit overwhelming. Where to start? There is so much surrounding you, yet you feel like a fish in an ocean, not knowing which school you belong to. The problem is that sometimes, college gets a bit ahead of itself, demanding too much from the attender and forcing relationships without giving them the necessary time to burgeon naturally.

College's first week is one of its highlights. The problem, however, is that it's so different from the rest of the experience that by the time you're halfway through the second semester, you wonder if you were even attending the same institution back then.

With merciless amounts of drinking (about half of it probably of the underage variety), you glean the impression that your liver is going to be doing two-a-weekends for your entire collegiate career. This isn't the case; there's actually much to do at college that doesn't involve drinking.

Eventually, as the first week ends and schoolwork becomes a necessity, you get stuck with your first choice as an attendee: is College a social forum or an academic forum?

This postulation seems difficult for many attenders to work out. In fact, whichever facet you choose to prioritize, you'll be under the impression on several occasions that you're doing it wrong. This leads to a lot of mentality changes over the course of your two semesters. Without stability, it's hard to say whether you're attending an academic or social institution; and as much as you'd like to claim it as both, college has sparse moments where it actually functions successfully as a socioacademic domicile. This leaves me apprehensive to label it a multidimensional maturational medium due to its lack of consistency to do this on a microcosmic level.

Eventually the workload steepens, and the general collegiate populace will glide down the spectrum from social enticement to become more academically attentive. Beautifully accompanying this is the atmospheric shift from summer through autumn into winter, serving as a sordid reminder that your thousands of dollars aren't going towards your friend groups, and that college isn't meant to be your playground.

On an extracurricular level, college succeeds where life's previous effort, High School, failed. It raises the stakes on the attender, raising the level of difficulty in the process, without dropping — and, in fact, increasing — the standard level of interest. There is a genuine feeling of productivity in the achievements of collegiate asides, as opposed to the apathy-chocked emptiness and general feeling that no one cares of the extracurricular activities in High School. Among others, "Student Media" and "Improvisational Comedy" are two of college's biggest hits, along with other more career-oriented clubs. The relationships formed in these extracurriculars at first tend to feel forced, but eventually gain legs, leading to solid new found companionship.

Overtoning the experience of College is the feeling that what the attendee is doing has a sincere and prevalent effect on their future, inclining them to take seriously and cherish intimately the opportunities they are handed. This adds an exhilarating aspect to further separate this effort from High School, and is definitely an element that was missing in earlier life efforts such as the feel-good Middle School.

In spite of this, many choose to spend college fraternizing (or sororitizing?) and drinking and hooking up with strangers for some good, clean (fingers-crossed, anyway) fun. This is certainly one route that can be taken with college, speaking to its versatility and openness to interpretation. Others, meanwhile, will throw away financial aid money attending every music group that claims to be good that comes to town, also a viable way to spend four years.

The drinking in college doesn't stop, but merely slows, stirs and speeds. After the first week, when seemingly everybody is waiting to hand you free beer, you work out relationships and establish your connections to enfranchise your illegal habits. Look out for cops though, and don't carry large wooden objects, or you'll have a $300 ticket like my stupid, stupid roommate.

"Thanksgiving Break," the long-winded odyssey "Winter Break" and party and dancing themed "Spring Break" provide a three-part respite from the traditional grind of the college experience. Because of this, College doesn't quite flow as well as it could if it cut down on some of the extra malarkey. "Finals" and its reprise, "Really Finals" punctuate each semester, giving college an epic ending showing that it was going for more of an academic feel all along.

This is a nice tidbit to figure out, but one that you learned too late to save your grades. Especially your Journalism class, which is embarrassing, because that's what you're trying to do with your life.

Overall, college is a spellbinding experience, and one that should be as fully explored as possible by its attenders. Despite striving for too much at certain junctures, it rolls along quite nicely and should provide a great experience for me for years to come.

--Eliot Sill 

Monday, May 9, 2011

Hanukkah Harold - What's All This 'Santa Claus' Business?

I've been putting your presents under the tree since you were an infant, and suddenly you're all about this "Santa Claus" character. Well, I've got news for you, pal. There's no overweight guy climbing down your chimney, except to the extent that I've gained a few pounds these last couple years. It's been me making your Hanukkah celebrations jolly, not some guy in a goofy red suit.

I mean, you've gotta be fucking kidding me.

I've been nice. I've been real nice. I was lenient enough to give you presents even though you didn't even light your Menorah. And you certainly haven't been saying your traditional Hanerot Halalu hymn as you light the candles. And for the love of YHWH, couldn't you at least try to eat kosher and restrain yourself from becoming unclean in the eyes of God?

But even after all of my forgiveness, you invent some fat, jingly old man who flies around with some fancy animals.

I know I don't look as interesting as this made up "Santa," character, but a little gratitude would be nice.
Listen, I know you think the idea of a guy coming down your chimney is more fun than anything I can do. But don't you think it's at least a little impressive that I deliver presents to everybody in the world through sheer force of will and belief in our divine Lord? Surely that must count for something.

And what's all this tree decorating? I don't get it. It seems like you're far more enamored in decorating this silly tree than saying your daily prayers. And I've noticed you haven't even been observing Shabbat recently! How ungrateful.

That leads me to another point: you're celebrating Hanukkah on the wrong day entirely! Aren't you aware that the Festival of Lights lasts eight days? Yet here you are, every year, celebrating it on the 25th of December like a fool. I almost pity you, in a way.

So please, if you don't want to make me cry with your sheer ignorance to the will of God, practice your Mitzvah for next year. If you don't, I might have to put you on my naughty list.

And you don't want to be on my naughty list. Don't make me call Mohel Mark.

-Hanukkah Harold

Let Freedom Reign Bullets

--Robert Langellier

Recently, I've had fewer iPods than usual, which means I've listened to the radio in my car on the way to work. Maybe you haven't noticed that upwards of 75% of FM radio stations are country stations, but upwards of 75% of FM radio stations are country stations. And not the kind of country I like. The kind of country where a song comes on and I think 'wow, this sounds really cool' and then the deep-south twangy dude singer comes in and I realize this isn't the Dixie Chicks after all.

I mean, I guess it makes sense — country is America's most popular genre of music. There's a lot of urbanites out there, and they all listen to different kinds of music. There's also a lot of rural people out there, and they all listen to the exact same kind of music.

What the radio showed me was that real modern country is not the new Decemberists album. It's Toby Keith and Keith Urban and other variants of "Keith" and/or Rascal Flatts. It's uninhibited patriotism and drawl, more recently combined with other core values of drugz n' bitches from modern radio.

I totally knew this already, but my utter lack of exposure to modern country still left me a little semi-shocked to hear Toby Keith's "Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue (The Angry American)."

I'm all for patriotism. It gives a lot of (sometimes red) color to the world, and it adds a lot to a culture. I'm also all for America. I love the American landscape and American history and American literature and America's old values. I'm also all for supporting the troops. They're not in charge of our American wars; most of them, I think, are just doing their jobs, some in areas of the world that need our help and some in areas that don't. DISCLAIMER OVER, THIS SONG SUCKS.

It's cheesy, which is okay. It's tailor-made for the radio, with some righteous, time-tested, punk-rock guitar chords building into a crashing chorus of good ol' American country anthem. Lyrics time.

"There's a lot of men dead,
So we can sleep in peace at night when we lay down our heads."

This is true. Militaries are nasty things, but without some sort of craaazy global revolution, we're going to need some kind of army to take for granted while we live our lives of gross American luxury. Maybe not trillions of dollars of army, but hey, shit happens.

"My daddy served in the army where he lost his right eye,
But he flew a flag out in our yard 'til the day that he died.
He wanted my mother, my brother, my sister and me.
To grow up and live happy in the land of the free"

Aw. That's sweet.

"Now this nation that I love is fallin' under attack.
A mighty sucker-punch came flying in from somewhere in the back."

Right again. No matter who was behind 9/11, it was still a devastating event for America. And it might be added that this song was written a decade ago, so using the present tense is relevant.

"Soon as we could see clearly through our big black eye,
Man, we lit up your world like the fourth of July."

Whoa! Toby! That seems a little rash, are you sure you want to record that?

"Hey, Uncle Sam put your name at the top of his list,
And the Statue of Liberty started shaking her fist.
And the eagle will fly and it's gonna be hell,
When you hear Mother Freedom start ringing her bell.
And it'll feel like the whole wide world is raining down on you.
Ah, brought to you, courtesy of the red, white and blue."

Starting to lose a little faith in you, Toby. Getting harder to defend you.

"An' you'll be sorry that you messed with the U.S. of A.
'Cos we'll put a boot in your ass, it's the American way."

I don't pretend to know a lot about politics. Monday Nick's in charge of that. But god damn. This is a pretty bad song. I recognize, and it's important to note, that this song was written and recorded within a year of 9/11, a time period where it was pretty understandable for most of the general populace to be a little shaken and uninformed. I don't hold Toby Keith responsible for that. It's also important to know that, from the little research I did, Keith surprisingly seems to be a very fair, level-headed man with his politics. He considers himself independent, although slightly to the left, and despite the sentiments of the song we just witnessed, he says he never supported the Iraq War. "(But) I don't apologize for being patriotic... If there is something socially incorrect about being patriotic and supporting your troops, then they can kiss my ass on that, because I'm not going to budge on that at all. And that has nothing to do with politics. Politics is what's killing America."

But Keith's song still rides the radio waves in 2011. The mentality of blowing to hell anyone and anything who touches us is dangerously ignorant and fosters the kind of prejudiced hate that embarrasses me about America. In the small, narrow world I live in at college, it's an extinct belief. But my world is narrow, and I'm not used to being exposed to the true body of America, much of which still buys into this destructive mindset almost ten years after ripping out Iraq's organs and reassembling it with toothpicks. Sometimes it's eye-opening to look over Mizzou's gates and get a glimpse into the real world, even when I already know what I'll see.