Saturday, February 4, 2012

Conor - his fears/my fears(??)/our fears

These people. These people. That guy, the overweight middle-aged man who said he was a painter, that he painted houses, he was absolutely 100% right. These people - these kids, really! - have never worked a day in their lives before. Here I am, 19, days away from 20, working on a Friday night at Pickleman's (with the good soups, the great pizzas, the very little sandwiches that never quite fill you up but are still very delicious), entertaining the drunk masses, making a dent in the debt I have or will undoubtedly drag myself into over the new few years. These children don't have to worry about it. They're just drinking and having fun and falling in love or at least saying they are if they think it will help to say. What are they majoring in? What are they planning on doing when they get of here? What education are they receiving? If I asked them, if I was the Chosen One who finally stood up and posed the question to them "what's your plan? how will your life be significant?" they would be taken aback. They did not expect such Bravery from me, and they certainly do not possess the same Bravery. As they fumble around in their head, they will see in my eyes, in my deft, tired hands, in my Pickleman's shirt stained with hours, hours! of hard work, they will see that I have a plan.
        Ha! No. I have a really nice scholarship. I am working these hours so I can buy the best new video game and eat out all the time and the next night I too will be drinking excessively -but it's my birthday so I am forgiven- and all the things that I am working for I do not need I just want. I'm making money because I refuse to learn how to not spend money. A noble endeavor if there ever was one.
       I am overstaying my welcome here. Everyone is figuring me out. They took a vote the other night, I know it, no one told me and they will not act on their decisions until the time is right, but I know that it happened. They - everyone, that is. Everyone who ever spent enough time around me to form an opinion - sat down around a large, circular table and when they were done discussing my pros and my cons every single one of them put their hands up when came time to damn me. Some hesitantly, some needed convincing that I was beyond saving, or at least not worth the time, but most hands shot up with such enthusiasm.
       I could see it in my roommates eyes when they told me I accidentally flooded the laundry room by forgetting to stick the faulty drain pipe out the back door. I could see it in the happy, dulled looks they gave me as I did not drink with them last night - because I had work! I could see it as they made dinner plans, as I said goodbye to join others, I could and I always am seeing it.
       It's my condescension that has done me in. My self-righteousness. They do not agree with me that I am morally always correct, and they do not see how accurate all of my judgements are, and they do not see the potential my body has, the muscles evolving every day, they don't see what I will become. They are oblivious to the Phoenix rising in front of them.
       They'll brink cake tonight for my birthday party. All the cake I could ever want and much much more. In this cake they'll put their final love. The last of it they want to give me. And I will consume it all.


Oh god it hurts to write like that.

I just got done reading Dave Eggers' A Heartbreaking Work Of Staggering Genius and true to the title it is terrible and wonderful. It's memoir and fiction at the same time. He loves and hates himself. He believes, he knows he's better than everyone and he knows everyone sees how he's placed himself above everyone and he knows he's being ridiculous and he knows, he knows, he knows.

Dave Eggers' thought process is shown vividly on every page. You see his fears, his hopes, his beliefs that he's doing the right thing, his alternative worries that everyone thinks this way or that he's the only one. He doesn't want to be alone, but he also wants to be seen alone, triumphing against all odds.

Reading the book, it unlocks the potential for this thought process. You start thinking like this. His fears because your fears. It's interesting, and it's worrying.

I liked the book a lot!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Songs of Yore

by Brendan Cavanagh

My name is Brendan Cavanagh, I'm twenty years old and I have a huge problem: I'm getting tired of my musical catalog. Certainly, I've made a number of infrequent musical acquisitions over the last year, but even the major breakthroughs I've experienced with my favorite albums listened to in 2011 seem to mostly be albums I already had in my possession, yet never fully discovered previously. Even the most recent albums I've picked up from the library recently seem to be as neglected as most of the same tired music on my iPod. When I pick up my iPod nowadays, I can't help but play the same smattering of songs each time- current, passing favorites and the like. I thirst for an album that will electrify and inspire me like some of the foundational albums in my repertoire once did. It appears to me that music these days doesn't affect me in the same manner that it used to. Let's look back and find out why:

Overlooking that short time in eighth grade when I had a "Rio" mp3 player ('cause everyone at school had one, Mom!), my first exposure to the harmonious rapture of crisp, stolen mp3 songs was as an eighth grader with the sleek, black iPod nano I received from Santy Claus. There were two songs I especially desired to "own," the appreciation of which I could happily attribute to Ken Burns. My eighth grade history teacher took several weeks out of our year to watch, at separate times in the year, his documentaries about Lewis & Clark and the Civil War. Each had a "theme song" of sorts- an historic, instrumental song that served as a running motif throughout each series of movies. For Lewis & Clark, there was "Beech Spring," and for the Civil War, "Ashokan Farewell."

My uncle Randy, whose 90s wardrobe has recently become my own- cardigans and flannels, and a short sleeved-button down I am actually wearing as I write, with "Randy" stitched on one side and "CO OP" stitched on the other- is the Cavanagh family's technological guru, and he offered to let me use his computer to try out a program called Limewire, from which I could acquiesce myriad songs I desired, without having to purchase or struggle to locate. Naturally, I was absolutely smitten with the idea, so I made regular visits to his house a mere three blocks away from mine on weekends and pirated music to my heart's delight. I can acutely recall sitting down at his home-office swivel chair, downloading favored songs illegally as often as I twirled around in that black leather chair. At first, I mostly downloaded songs I had always loved that my parents turned me on to. When I finally did get my hands on "Ashokan Farewell," I was ecstatic. To test the song quality, and hear it blasted directly into my ears for the first time, I blared the volume as I played it on my appropriately-timed four minute walk home that foggy, silent day of Autumn 2010. I unabashedly had my parents listen to it too; I desired that they should hear the same beautiful song I was once exposed to during each daily installment of Ken Burns' The Civil War, as well as hear mp3 music for the first time (Ah, the 2000s). Once, I recall, I was at my grandmother's Townhouse flat downtown, and I figured she, more than anyone else, would appreciate such an old-timey song, and surely she had no prior exposure to an iPod at the time (she currently owns an iPad, if that properly puts things in perspective), so I relinquished control of my iPod to her and made sure she listened to "Ashokan Farewell." The song came to her as a shock; literally, as I failed to keep in mind that she might not have been as hearing impaired as I was at the time, so the music probably blew out her failing ear drums at the time, as evidenced by a terrified shriek upon the song's commencement. Even so.

The music I downloaded illegally at the time seemed so much more different than it is today. Personally, it was harder to acquire. Of course, this is well before I learned of the passively pirating strategy of burning CDs from the library to my computer. Anyway, since I couldn't truly enjoy a song until I had it in my possession, on my iPod, directly played into my ears, my frenzied anticipation built each song up into a ballad of unprecedented effectiveness. Therefore, when I finally waded through the inexplicably ubiquitous mp3 files of Bill Clinton impressions and pornographic videos that veiled desired songs, the acquired song rang so much more loudly, and truly, and fully and effectively.

I wish I had more to say, or ideas to elaborate upon. My basic point is this: I don't appreciate music as much as when it was harder for me to acquire. This, of course, comes along with growing up in a constantly technologically advancing society, but traces of the primordial feeling can still be felt in finally acquiring that key album within the repertoire of an especially favored artist or musician after great waiting periods and eager anticipation (In particular, I'm reminiscing about my three-year crusade in high school to gorge myself on Bob Dylan's repertoire). Hell, maybe I just miss being in eighth grade, in a simpler time. Naturally, that would make sense, as most of my blog posts revolve around the idea (and oft-used tag) of overt sentimentality. Take me home, country road.

Race sounds expensive

We all know the feeling of not wanting to fail at posting a Classic Brian for the second week in a row. So let's gut this one out for old times' sake.

Right now I'm in ISR's lounge, home to Lauren Leonatti and Raeann Sheley, and two, oh, how do I say this, Indian people are singing Chris Brown. Across from me is a guy doing some work for a class. Across from him is someone who probably should be (talking about me there, in case you missed it you idiot).

Got a lot of things on my mind, a lot of ideas have ran through my head, most of which made it to the other side and escaped, but let's just half-assedly go over some of them.


I hate racist people. If you're racist and want to be around me, be in the closet about that shit. And be embarrassed to come out. The word "nigger" is so strange. It sounds different to people of different races, it just does. I try to empathize with everyone I interact with, which is hard when they're not in person, but that's beside the point. Point being, I've often tried to sit and think of what it would be like to hear someone use the N-word (here meaning "nigger") and hear it with the context that black people do. I can't fully comprehend it even, so it's hard to understand the heavy offense. Well, not to understand — I get why it's offensive — but to try and empathize is nearly impossible. I think there should be a class about it. Digesting the N-word "nigger" and its history and what sort of meaning it carries now compared to when it was slung around like rocks at a playground that still has rocks at it (way-too-not-serious-when-compared-to-current-racy-subject tangent: stop making playgrounds with rocks at them. use woodchips or rubber bits. and also, I was never that kid who threw rocks. to you who was, you're a fucker.); the kids throwing them don't realize how it actually hurts.

We shy away from nigger because it's so offensive and is jarring to hear. Whenever I hear it, I wish I hadn't heard it. Maybe that has a context to ancestral slavery (mine never owned slaves, ps.) like how it upsets black people because of the context of enslavement, it's tough to hear because of the white context of regret. Speaking of which, it's black history month,


That word is less abrasive, for some reason. "Did you just say "nigga?" and "What the fuck did you just say?" are very different reactions in severity, more so than in causation (the latter being to the N-word spoken with what is called "the hard R"). When you think of a nigga, you think of a friend; you know, yer boy and whatnot. I really dislike that black people call each other this, despite how it's a lazy pronunciation of nigger. That is forgotten through the medium of connotation.

Some white people think they can say this. I don't know if they can, but it makes me uncomfortable. White people calling other white people niggas as a joke is strange. Thom and Peter do it and I don't know why. Listening to rap, being hip-hop, it doesn't make you African-American, those to whom the term nigger has an especial connotation. Should nigger and nigga be tied in meaning? They are so closely tied in sound that it is really difficult to justify differentiating them.

• • • • •

I like music. I have two iPods, one of which contains music from my home desktop's old iTunes files, which have been lost to computer cleansing. So when my iTouch died last week, and I threw the old Nano into the spotlight, it shined quite brightly. Hearing music that used to be my favorite jams brought up nostalgia to high school, which has pros and cons.

I wanted to do a shuffle-bored using my old iPod, and thought of explanations I would give to songs I had. Boy, that would have been defensive. My music tastes were much more limited with rock and general with rap. Since my junior year of high school, I've started only listening to hip-hop artists that I feel "matter," and not merely the ones that can turn a phrase.

Speaking of hip-hop artists that matter, Kanye West. I think he's the most fascinating musical personality around today. Music changed his life, which changed his music, and thus you have this artistically and noncontrived expose of a man who is able to make it, and subsequently doesn't know how to handle it, but then-subsequently churns a gem out of this hectic, rapid, frenetic life he leads. I listen to Kanye's music and I visit Kanye through time — like visiting one city in different eras if time travel were possible.

Kanye begins so genuine, innocent and determined. He now stands accomplished, spoiled and overwhelmed. He is at the base of something and at the peak of something. Jay-Z found himself in a similar position years ago, before he became a billionaire. Jay-Z's a billionaire, right? I don't know if I'd enjoy being named Blue Ivy.

• • • • •

Man, I cost my parents $10,000 the other day. Shit, me. Paying for college is unreal. It's, I mean, worth it I guess. But it is so vast in price, it's a hard purchase to make. Guilt and embarrassment are a couple things that come with necessitating such a loan that you won't pay. I'm feeling those. But relief is the prevailing feeling. Whatever it takes, man, college is the top priority. I'm doing well here. And, this whole late registration business has forced me to talk to each of my professors personally, and actually allowed me into a class that I would otherwise be unable to take due to my standing as a sophomore.
Things continue to fall into place for me, with my errors just working themselves into beneficial resolutions.

$10,000 bucks says these actions have their consequences, guys.

Good talk.

--Eliot Sill

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

An Afterthought

So as you can probably tell, I forgot to post yesterday. Since today is not my day and (presumably) someone else will post today within a matter of hours, I thought I would slip in a quick thought or two while I still could.

I'm still in Sweden, so that's cool. I haven't fucked up and gotten deported or anything. This weekend I actually went to Riga Latvia on a boat trip which was super fun. I went with a bunch of people I had never met and one person I had met once, the alcohol was about half the price since we were in international waters, and Latvia is fucking freezing. I was dumb and didn't dress for the weather but it is probably the most fun thing I've done so far.

Yesterday, a friend form U of I and Springfield High School, Mel Cornell, arrived in Sweden. She is here for 3 or 4 months to do research for an internship and I can't tell you how nice it was to see a familiar face. Her arrival also made the fact that I really do live here much more obvious to me. I was reminded of how weird it was to be in Sweden when I first arrived and the contrast to how comfortable I am now was surprising. It was also cool to throw around a bunch of direction and Swedish terminology off the top of my head when I was helping her get around.

I also have a lot to look forward to. I will be visiting Carrie in Scotland in a week and half and 2 weeks after that I have booked another boat trip to Helsinki, Finland. I'm also in the process of planning trips to France, Barcelona, Vienna and northern Sweden. This is the sweetest semester of my life.


Monday, January 30, 2012

Nick - A Plight Of Pain And Passion

I climbed up from the wretched hole, now tired and short of breath
And weary from my nearly fatal run-in there with death
I stretched myself out in the sun to find a moment's rest
Then pondered in my pious soul; now where must I go next?

Clenching in my fist the gold for which I had been sent
A chalice, which, from my own folly, now was sorely bent
I set out west upon my quest to wander yet some more
I shall seek a man of steel to have its shape restored.

The blacksmith in this cozy town considers my request
He mentions some misgivings, but he says he'll do his best
He says a sum of twenty-one in coinage should be fair
I empty out my pocket, finding only four are there.

A deal agreed, I stay to feed the pigs for several days
And he will fix the chalice with the sum that I am paid
For all these days I think upon the status of my home
Surely they must worry I've collapsed, no more to roam.

Upon completion of the task I set out yet again
To find the marble pillars of the castle of my kin
The chalice in my hand, its shape is glorious, restored
I heave relief to think that I should have to roam no more.

I'm watching the horizon for the castle's brilliant spire
When in the distance is a sight that swallows me with ire
My eyes tear up, my anger such as that I nearly choke
For there I see in front of me, not marble, rising smoke.

I ride up to the castle, foreign soldiers at the post
And fearing for my wife that she may now be just a ghost
I call upon the strength of ancient heroes that I know
Aeneas and Ulysses, please be with me as I go.

The en'my's flag above my head encumbers me with rage
I strike one soldier, then am stricken while I'm turned away
They throw me down upon the ground, while shouting vulgar things
They bind my hands and drag me up to see their champion king.

So in the throne room I am thrown where my king used to rule
And Aerolis stares down at me, a king both rich and cruel
He chortles at my grim condition, seeing that it's bleak
His laugh a high and raspy laugh, he thus begins to speak:

"Your people fell to fiery hell, they're there now as we speak
But now you've brought me what I need; the chalice that you keep
So tell me where it is that such a thing is wont to be
And I'll unbind your hands, perhaps, and maybe let you free."

I stared at him with fury brewing quickly in my eyes
"So thank you for your offer sir, I think I'd rather die."
I spot my bag in one guard's hand, and kick it to the ground
The chalice spills out on the floor and makes a cracking sound.

They dive at me, but now I move as if I am possessed
They catch me not before my hatred clearly is expressed
I crush the cup beneath my foot and into pieces small
This which brought such pain here must be evil, after all.

Once again they throw me down, but now my task complete
Their king steps down to me until my head is at his feet
"I'll send you to the dungeon; I'll make sure I hear your screams
For what you've done in here just now has broken all my dreams."

"Well my dreams were of home before I came back to this place"
I counter with a sneer, now satisfaction on my face
"I can't make up for what was done,  and this much may be true
But for your part in what took place I'll ruin life for you."

"We'll see who gets the last laugh now!" The cruel Aerolis wails,
"So my revenge for your revenge will see you die in jail."
I could have bought a brighter fate, I could have made a deal
But I would rather die for this because of how I feel.


And thus it ends, I can't pretend to know the moral here
Because upon inspection still the outcome is unclear
Were our hero's actions just? And was he in the right?
Or shall we say he should have never acted out of spite?

So I implore you readers, that the next time you decide
Whether to take action or let burning rage subside
To think it over in your head, to calculate your loss
See if the consequences of your actions meet the cost.


Sunday, January 29, 2012

Robert - I Can't Actually Speak Today

Update: I have mono. All is cruelly explained.

It isn't until you have a sore throat when you understand exactly how often you swallow. Some people might call this a fascinating look at our bodies' unconscious phenomena. I prefer to call it severe pain. I swear to god, I do not swallow this often normally. My mouth is churning out saliva by the gallon. Each time I suck it up and swallow, my eyes shut tight and my ears and neck stretch out which in turn forces some kind of chin-thrust move. By the time I've lowered my head back into human position, I notice that my glands have already produced more fucking saliva for me to deal with. What the fuck is that about, mouth? Are you still mad about the dentist appointment? Because let it go. There's no need for this kind of horrible treatment. The only thing stopping me from installing a spit cup next to the couch here is my dignity. Look out, roommates, because dignity doesn't really mean that much to me.

Here are the things I imagine have vanquished and taken the place of my tonsils:
  • Golf balls
  • Pool balls
  • Exercise balls
  • My kidneys
  • Tiny aliens that stab at my throat with tiny alien swords
  • Two tiny alien motherships
  • Two full-sized alien motherships
  • That ball gag I lost when things got freaky
  • Porcupines
I also expect there to be a combination of the above things.

Of course, like a great infomercial, it doesn't stop at strep or potentially mono. I also have a debilitating cough likely caused by a separate chest infection. It's like two illnesses for the price of one, which are free I guess, so I'm not really saving any money at all. I would more accurately describe my cough as an occasional knee-buckling series of mucous-influenced, volume-11 wheezes. This human air compressor inside me is not friendly to those really sensitive tonsils we were just talking about. Imagine if you fell on the ice because you were drunk or something and you scraped off all the skin on your knee. Then your brain started telling you it would be a good idea every half hour or so to really just hit the shit out of that thing with a hammer you inexplicably have. That's what coughing is like.

You might remember my last, equally self-pitying post, where I outlined a series of unwanted liquids that have found their way onto my bed lately. This week, my bed has been inducing feverish night sweats, by which I have nightly turned my bed into a water bed (not as cool as it sounds). This usually happens in two parts: I wake up at approximately 3:00 am, and one side of my bed is soaked. I tiredly roll over until 5:00 am when I have finished watering any plants that may be growing in my mattress. I look like I just ran a marathon or covered myself in baby oil, and suddenly the couch looks real pretty for the fifth day in a row.

I'm not really sure how to tell the pretend doctors over there at the Student Health Center that those antibiotics they really unconfidently prescribed me aren't working. I mean, I want to get better pretty soon. This pile of my things next to my couch/base station is getting real big. Pretty soon, I think it'll have trapped me here for good. Is that what you want, mouth? That means no more kissing girls, man, I mean it. Now stop this shit.