Monday, June 18, 2012

My Art Project

I wanted to make sure that Hannah would never forget me. I wanted every guy after me to know that they may love Hannah, but they would never be the guy who wrote those songs about her-the songs that mentioned her by name. I wanted proof for every living eye that Hannah and I added up to something and 20, 30 years from then that remnant would still add up to something. That was the first time she and I predicted the future together. It's sort of been our magic trick-our gimmick if you will. We've done it once or twice since then and we'll pull it off again successfully in about 16 days from now. We did it when we bought our tickets for the Black Keys/Arctic Monkeys concert five or six months in advance. We did it over Christmas break when we planned to go to Germany together during  the middle month of summer. On the way home alone after the first time our lips touched I did say to myself, 'you're going to break up with that girl,' but I was also certain that we would stay together until logistics pulled us apart. But logistics can be a beautiful thing. It was because of logistics that the art project started. I was going to college not in Utah and I had a limited amount of time with Hannah to produce some material with substance to back up the claim. She was my art project. We were the art project. And now here it is...

Saturday, April 7, 2012

The Velvet Underground: Research Paper

Andrew Maguire
Mr. Sloan
AP English Language
25 March 2012
The Legacy of the Velvet Underground
 The first thing that attracted me to the Velvet Underground was their name. It sounded like the kind of place where there were unspoken rules of etiquette-the kind of place where it would take your eyes a minute to adjust to the dim surroundings. The second thing that attracted me to the Velvet Underground was how they sucked. It didn’t sound like the band members were unaware of their own suck, but more like they were sounding amateur on purpose. The third thing that attracted me to the Velvet Underground was Lou Reed’s singing voice. He wasn’t a good singer-in fact, most of the time it sounded like he was just speaking vaguely in rhythm. But the inflection in his tone was something I had never heard before. It was beyond sarcasm, beyond despair, on to something more like complete emotional resignation.
            At the time when I first listened to them, all I knew is that they were from 1960’s New York City. My Dad had grown up there and he had mentioned them once or twice. Having an affinity for all things New York, I researched further into them and was surprised to find that they were ranked #19 on Rolling Stone Magazine’s 100 Greatest Artists of All Time ( You would have had to live on an Amish farm your whole life to not have heard of the artists ranked above them-the Beatles, Elvis Presely, Bob Marley, etc. I considered myself pretty musically savvy, but I couldn’t name a single song by the Velvet Underground. Upon further research, I found that nowhere could you read about the band without seeing the terms “pop art” and “avant-garde.” Immediately I was very skeptical.
            I am a music lover, along with pretty much everyone else who isn’t deaf. But words the terms “pop art” and “avant-garde” are subjects worthy enough to have a textbook written about them. In my opinion, if someone decided to write a textbook on the band Led Zeppelin, it would inevitably turn into a rant by some bloated fan about why Jimmy Paige was the coolest guitarist ever. There are legitimate books written about the Beatles because they had a broad cultural impact. There is multiple different aspects of the Beatles’ influence. The purpose of this research paper is to determine for myself the extent of the Velvet Underground’s influence.
I interviewed John Costa, professor of Rock ‘n’ Roll History at the University of Utah, on the subject. Towards the end of the interview he said, “In my course, it doesn’t matter what I like, what matters is what constitutes as a legitimate object of study, and the benchmark is the degree of influence and originality.” (Costa) He was able to break down the VU’s influence into three specific things that nobody but the Velvet Underground was doing at the time. The fact that Costa was able to break it down so objectively, I think, speaks of the legitimacy of this subject. The first was their employment of post-modernism, the second was challenging conventional success, and the third was extreme expression. (Costa)
Post-modernism is a type of art in which high art, the avant-garde, is synthesized with low art, pop art. (Costa) In this sense, art is classified by the social class of the artist, sort of like how the car company Lexus is defined by their producing of a luxury vehicle, while Toyota is defined by their producing of a utility vehicle. The Velvet Underground’s work qualifies as post-modernism because the two primary creative forces behind the band, Lou Reed and John Cale, were both employing techniques of the avant-garde in a pop art format. Lou Reed, the singer and lyricist, was heavily influenced by a writer named Raymond Chandler whose use of opposing, contradictory elements were part of a high art literary movement. (Costa) So Reed applied that literary method to his poetry about sexual sadomasochism in the song, “Venus In Furs,” in which he sings, “strike, dear mistress, and cure his heart.” (Costa) Literally, he’s singing about a woman whipping her submissive sexual partner, but the syntax of that lyric is that which could have been used in a Shakespeare play. That contradiction of the subject material being 20th century debauchery that is being expressed in old-fashioned romantic prose is an example of Reed’s post-modernism.
John Cale was a classically trained viola player from Whales with an affinity for American rock ‘n’ roll music. He had worked with artists named La Monte Young and Terry Riley, both of whom were pioneers in the avant-garde western classical movement called minimalism. (Costa) From them, John Cale learned the two-note drone, which he employed in the song, “Heroin.” (Costa) For this song, John Cale filed down the neck of a viola, then manipulate the instrument in a way that produced, as he put it, “a noise very similar to a B-52.” (, VELVET UNDERGROUND Documentary (Part 1 of 2)) I would describe it as sounding more like the engine of a giant rusty freight train exerting all its force on a little hamster wheel. That’s really what the song is about. If that giant engine is the destructive power of heroin and that squeaky hamster wheel is the human body, then I’d say that song aurally depicts the torture of drug addiction pretty accurately.
            “Heroin,” is an assault on the human sensory system, and indeed it was meant to offend the listener, which brings me to John Costa’s second point: the Velvet Underground’s complete disregard for commercial success. (Costa) I conducted a survey about the band and found that 50% of the participants said they had never heard of the Velvet Underground, and 71% said they had never listened to the Velvet Underground. (, The Velvet Underground) Their best-selling album, Loaded, had only sold about 500,000 copies total in the 20 years after its release. (“The Velvet Underground”) Compare that to Adele’s album, 21, selling 17 million copies in its first year. (“21(Adele album)”) The VU’s record label requested that they change the lyrics on their debut, The Velvet Underground & Nico, which included, “Heroin,” and, “Venus In Furs.” (Costa) They also requested that the band change the album artwork because it was too offensive (the album artwork consisted of a paper-thin piece of plastic attached to the cover in the shape of a banana that, when peeled, revealed a pink inner-banana, thus having obvious sexual connotations). (Costa) But the band simply refused because, as their rhythm-guitarist Sterling Morrison said, “We didn’t care if it never got out of the four walls that we were in.” (, VELVET UNDERGROUND Documentary (Part 2 of 2))
            The point of this story is not to prove how cool the Velvet Underground was. The point is that they had no illusions of commercial success, and consequently they were free to “live by the art”(Costa). The emergence of punk music later on would be dependent upon the Velvet Underground setting that precedent.
Another precedent set by the Velvet Underground that profoundly influenced punk music was extreme expression, the third point of my interviewee. “The idea was it didn’t matter if you could play. It didn’t matter what your skill level was. What mattered was not only what you were saying, but how extreme by which you were saying it.” (Costa) Mo Tucker had, “no training whatsoever,” in playing drums. (, VELVET UNDERGROUND Documentary (Part 1 of 2)) She didn’t own a full drum set, so when she played with the Velvet Underground, she played standing upright using only a bass drum turned on its side, a snare, and a few tom toms. (“Maureen Tucker”) But it was her lack of musicianship and her increased physical leverage, due to the fact that she was standing, that afforded her the aggressive, primitive drum style that she was known for. That was extreme expression. White Light/White Heat, the bands second album, was actively raucous, even more so than their first. During the recording, amplifiers were stacked facing each other in order to achieve the maximum amount of feedback. (, VELVET UNDERGROUND Documentary (Part 2 of 2)) Concurrently, Lou Reed was delving further into drug abuse, and consequently, writing lyrics about even more perverse subjects such as prostitution and even amateur lobotomies. (“The Velvet Underground”) For obvious reasons, the band could not sustain itself for very long in this state and it splintered shortly thereafter. (Costa)
            Still, I was skeptical about their influence. Perhaps no other band was pushing the envelope like the Velvet Underground at the time, but certainly they were not the first artists from New York who incorporated elements of post-modernism in their work. George Gershwin composed “Rhapsody In Blue,” in New York in 1924-an orchestral piece that incorporated both elements of classical music, considered to be high art, and jazz music, which was considered to be music of the hoi polloi (“Rhapsody In Blue”). Bob Dylan, who was a contemporary of the VU but whom had gotten to New York just a few years earlier, wrote in his memoir, “I guess you could say [my songs] weren’t commercial. Not only that, my style was too erratic and hard to pigeonhole for the radio, and my songs, too me, were more important that just light entertainment.” (Dylan 34) Is this not the same ‘art-first-and-foremost’ mentality that defined John Costa’s second point about the Velvet Underground? Interestingly enough, John Cale had his own opinions on Bob Dylan. “I was really fed-up with folk music-Dylan stuff and Joan Baez stuff-I was quite disinterested in songs that had nothing but questions in them.” (, VELVET UNDERGROUND Documentary (Part 1 of 2))
 It is important to note that by the time The Velvet Underground & Nico was being recorded, Bob Dylan’s music had already become anthems of the US Civil Rights movement (“Bob Dylan”), John F. Kennedy had already been assassinated (Brinkley 822), and Andy Warhol was the VU’s manager and sponsor (Costa). More than that, Andy Warhol was the man who discovered the band and who encouraged them to be as offensive as possible. (Costa) This is because Warhol was a dissenter of the 60’s optimism that was manifesting itself on the west coast of the United States. (Costa) According to Matthew Bannister’s essay, “I’m Set Free…”, which appeared in the academic journal, Popular Music & Society, the Velvet Underground represented everything the west coast culture wasn’t. (3) They sang about free love, the Velvet Underground sang about S&M. They sang about hallucinogens, the Velvet Underground sang about hard drugs. While Bob Dylan’s songs were being used to garner youth support for a social revolution, Lou Reed was singing, “I want to nullify my life.”
Andy Warhol’s and the Velvet Underground’s dissention of the west coast culture was largely because of the fact that they were from New York. Madison Avenue had been the advertising capital of the United States since the 1920’s (“Madison Avenue”) , and consequently, a headquarters of villainy in the eyes of the youth culture that was disenchanted with consumerism, much like how Wall Street has become identified as the target of civil unrest today. The businessmen on Madison Avenue were manufacturing the optimism spreading throughout the United States.
            Lou Reed can be quoted saying, “The Lou Reed New York attitude is just the New York attitude. You can find lots of people with it…there’s no moral stance to these songs, it was just ‘this happened then that happened,’ presented kind of dry, unemotionally.” (, VELVET UNDERGROUND Documentary (Part 2 of 2)) Andy Warhol was heavily influenced by advertising and consumerism, which is why some of his most famous works included Campbell’s® tomato soup cans, or Coca-Cola® bottles. Rather than reject the ideals of consumerism, like the artists of the folk music revival such as Bob Dylan and Joan Baez, Andy Warhol and the Velvet Underground accepted them by using them as a format for serious art.
            When David Bowie first heard the Velvet Underground’s music in acetate format, he viewed it as the first time rock ‘n’ roll music was being taken as serious art. (Costa) Brian Eno can be quoted as saying, “Everyone who heard The Velvet Underground & Nico either formed their own band or became a music critic.” (“The Velvet Underground”) These two notions effectively summarize degree of the band’s influence.
            Popular music is shaped by those who take it seriously. In my time, artists like The White Stripes, Lady Gaga, Radiohead, The Strokes, and Kanye West have all attempted to make serious art out of pop music. When The Velvet Underground & Nico came out, the United States had only experienced roughly 21 years of the post-WWII affluence that has come to define American culture. Nobody could have known the extent to which popular music would shape American culture, but the Velvet Underground were one of the first indicators of just how seriously the forthcoming generation was taking simple pop music.
            Popular music is shaped by those who push the envelope. The emergence of punk music was all about pushing the envelope, and it was extremely pivotal because it marked a point when youth culture became violently self-aware of the differences between itself and its parental culture. In a way, punk music is an extension of American individualist ideals because it rids youth of their final and most intimate collectivist obligation-the parents. The Velvet Underground undermined the idea that one had to meet any sort of standard in order to push the envelope.   

Works Cited
“100 Greatest Artists of All Time.” Rolling Stone. WENNER MEDIA, n.d., Web. 26 March 2012
Costa, John. Personal Interview. 19 March 2012
britbluesfan. “VELVET UNDERGROUND Documentary (Part 1 of 2).” n.p., 11 Feb 2011. Web. 26 March 2012
Maguire, Andrew. “The Velvet Underground.” Survey. SurveyMonkey. n.p. 15 March 2012 Web. 26 March 2012
“The Velvet Underground.” St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture. Ed. Sara Pendergast and Tom Pendergast. Detroit: St. James Press, 2000. Gale Biography In Context. Web. 15 Feb 2012
21 (Adele album).Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 25 March 2012. Web. 26 March 2012
britbluesfan. “VELVET UNDERGROUND Documentary (Part 2 of 2).” n.p., 11 Feb 2011. Web. 26 March 2012
“Maureen Tucker.Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 10 March 2012. Web. 26 March 2012
Rhapsody In Blue.Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 29 Feb 2012. Web. 26 March 2012
Dylan, Bob. Chronicles: Volume One. New York: SIMON & SCHUSTER, 2004. Print.
“Bob Dylan.Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 25 March 2012. Web. 26 March 2012
Brinkley, Alan. AMERICAN HISTORY: A SURVEY, Twelfth Ed., New York: McGraw-Hill, 2007. Print. 
Bannister M. “I'm Set Free...”: The Velvet Underground, 1960s Counterculture, and Michel Foucault. Popular Music & Society [serial online]. May 2010;33(2):163-178. Available from: Academic Search Premier, Ipswich, MA. Accessed March 26, 2012.
“Madison Avenue.Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 18 March 2012. Web. 26 March 2012

Friday, April 6, 2012

Two of the Happiest Times In My Life Part I

This story was actually written in a math class two days before it was posted.

Two of the happiest times in my memory happened this year. The first happened on the day before I met Elena Piotter.

On that day I woke up feeling shit, much like I did today-scared out of my wits, sleep deprived, and emotionally rug-burned/whip-lashed. Christina called early and woke me up, asking if I wanted to volunteer at the animal shelter with her. I said yes because the fear of staying home and perseverating overcame my laziness. The drive over there was fun because Christina and I were swapping autobiographical porn-themed horror stories.

The animal shelter ranged from mildly to extremely entertaining depending on the species. Prince was a dog that looked out of Zelda: Twilight Princess, but that was far less interactive than any video game. Still, it came as no surprise that a canine of such radiant dignity was a guest at the animal shelter for about half an hour. Fiona, on the other hand, had been there for only God knows how long. She was this rottweiler the color of muddy army camouflage. Christina's and mine logic was that she would be very grateful for some attention. But when we took her out to the yard, she acted much the same as Prince-unreponsive and untrusting. Christina and I resigned ourselves to hanging out with cats for the rest of our time. They were gorgeous, cute, funny, feisty little things, and to every one of them I became attached. Especially two whom I dubbed Jim and Tom after the beloved brothers who built my house. 

After the animal shelter came the symphony. By then Park had joined with us and all were glad on it. Walking to the symphony, Christina was bein' a bitch, takin' a long time to cross the street. I said, "Bitch, if I was in them cheap-ass heels, I could keep up with the boys." From previous experience, Christina and I knew that we had similar shoe sizes, so we traded on the condition that I would have to stay inside her heels for the rest of the night. Not only did I accept her challenge, but after putting on her heels, I immediately tucked my tight-fitting shirt into my tight-fitting jeans. Boom: insta-gay. I told them that I would keep up with them, and when we realized we had to sprint to catch an approaching trax, I stuck to my guns. That's how I ended up running down the median on the train rails in heels with a train gaining on my ass. Ok, maybe I thought the train was a lot closer behind me than it actually was, but I was still running like I had just made one of the most ridiculously retarded decisions of my entire life, because hypothetically, I had.

At the symphony, I got a lot of looks-a lot of rich middle-aged white people giving me the up-down. A couple of the ladies glared like cunts, but it was really cute the way most of the men pointed their pupils up into their skulls like they were surrendering their powers of judgement to the gods. It's funny how in a crowd of people, you never notice others' shoes, but it was the way those heels propped up my ass that made people notice. I didn't mean for people to notice. I meant to join with those middle-aged white folks in the spirit of music, but my heels made me feel like I was selfishly distracting from the art these musicians had worked so hard to pull off. That feeling passed with the music, and the only thing I was really embarrassed about was how I clung to the hand rail after tripping on the stairs like a real tranny noob. And for the record, my feet were ass by the time we walked back to Christina's car. I will never take her walking pace for granted again.

The final phase of the night was undoubtably the best. Earlier that week, I finally finished my application to Oberlin, and I did a good job. Also, Kelsey had finished her finally finished her application to whatever graduate school that week as well. My parents were in Antarctica and it was time to rock. So in a hot tub with two of my best friends, a plate of Costco veggie-rolls, and a pyramid of empty beer cans, the three of us deconstructed our past four years of high school. My take pretty much consisted of my legitimately perverted relationship with my girlfriend freshmen year, my self-loathing relationship with Christina sophomore year, my masochistic obsession with a girl who kept leading me on junior year, and Hannah. Even in my drunken, ego-driven state, I had the least to say about Hannah. She was hot. She was German. Her sense of humor could fry an egg, and her kindness was as gentle as falling snow. How could I not be in love with her? A just moment of reflection: Hannah was the reason why I had felt so miserable that morning and this. But in that moment I caught a glimpse of how it all works, and I wouldn't have changed it for the world.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Kids Don't Stand A Chance

One time I was exploring the inside of Morgan public high school. There was this display case at the end of a hall-one of those attempts made by the administration to create an enriched learning environment. Inside it was a kind of biology themed presentation meant to generally represent the people making up the biology department at Morgan, and the biology-related curriculum taught at Morgan. My friend, Tim, walked up to what I was looking at and said, "If Mr. Hentschel saw this, he would weep." Inside the display case was the heading: Potential Future Species. Underneath that heading was multiple different drawings done by multiple different students depicting what the titles referred to as, "Penguin-zebra," "Jellyfish-eagle," and, "Kitty-lizard." I imagine some student teacher assigning this project, shouting over the voices of some thirty-odd high school students who had never learned to care about biology. Surely, the pictures that were selected for the display were the ones that were drawn by kids who were trying to make their friends laugh. Surely, there was a group of boys, the athletic ones, who were trying to make their friends laugh by how much their drawing skills sucked, that is, if there cared enough to do the assignment at all.
The fact is, if those kids had been in Mr. Hentschel's biology class at Judge, they would have realized that their understanding of biology was fundamentally flawed. I'm not trying to say that Judge is better than Morgan in any way. I am only pointing out the polite horror that, presumably due to the Utah State legislature's apparent and callous disregard for education, high school students are being taught concepts that undermine and invalidate all of the students' other understandings about biology. This is not being nit-picky. If a student is taught that a new species originates from two different species like a penguin and a zebra mating, thus creating a new species, the penguin-zebra, then that student's basic understanding of evolution, the most fundamental underpinning of the study of biology, is wrong.
Earlier today, which is a Sunday, I went to an AP Bio lab. In terms of students' understanding of biology, I am towards the low end of the bell curve of students in that class. AP Bio is ridiculously hard, and I am falling behind because I wasn't paying attention consistently enough over the past few weeks. Thinking back on when I was exploring the halls of Morgan, how could those kids stand a chance in AP Bio-the class that has to have classes on Sunday because there is not enough class time? Unless they had a teacher like Mr. Hentschel, which they don't, who had enough time to completely re-vamp thirty kids worth of poor study habits and false understanding, which he doesn't, then the answer is that they wouldn't. Actually, the more correct answer to that question is that they don't.

David's Stories

Two hours David was with me. When we first struck the deal two years ago, I was getting paid thirty dollars for an hour. In an unspoken fashion, David's parents and I allowed the lessons to augment to one and a half hours. That's totally ok with me. First of all, they have to drive from the border of Draper and Murray all the way to my house in Sugarhouse. Second, I'm only teaching one lesson a week. Third, I have a pretty sweet gig. I don't have to pay any taxes, show up anywhere, be in a uniform, take orders from anyone, or wake up before eleven on a Saturday morning. It almost doesn't seem fair that I get paid to play guitar with a nice, funny twelve-year-old that admires me because, oh my gosh, I'm so good at guitar. That's not mentioning that David has ADD, so about 20% of each lesson is used up on him telling stories from the past week-another reason I'm very willing to let lessons go longer than they're supposed to.
I get it. My Mom paid the same amount for half an hour with a man named Kim Driggs. To be honest, Kim did little more than listen to me and occasionally offer his standard two-cents: "It was good. I liked it." The longer I took lessons from him, the less we did anything that resembled a typical guitar lesson. He introduced me to sight-reading, basic music theory, and advanced technique early on, but his attempts to get me to actually practice these elements were fruitless. I never practiced, but I was always playing. I was grotesquely lazy with schoolwork and anything, everything that required discipline, except for songwriting. With respect to my single hobby, my lone method of mental stimulation and character-building, Kim Driggs was my role model. David is not as extreme of a case as I was, but how strange it is that I, the former archetype of the over-privileged unmotivated media-sedated American pre-teen, have become a the role model that Kim Driggs was to me. The role model that my Mom and David's parents pay for.
David's stories that he shares with me are darling. I don't want to make him sound younger than he is, but they're of a childhood that I fear is getting more and more rare in America today. He's at the ripest point, too-right when you start feeling comfortable dropping a swear word once in a while, and when you really can't help but incessantly flirt with attractive girls-especially the one's that are just your friends. He romps around with his friends around their neighborhood, and they film themselves doing stupid stuff that only they think is funny, and they don't feel bad about being politically incorrect yet. I never got in any physical altercations with anyone, and I barely ever got any exercise. I missed boyhood. But hearing his stories doesn't make me feel jealous or boring. I think my story of going from a bratty hermit to role model is just as action-packed as his stories.

It Takes A Lot Of Courage To Be An Asshole To A Little Kid

Ralph and Susan were a peculiar breed. Ralph was a large, bald man with a skull than was bumpy like an overripe pair. On top of his nose was a pair of glasses about as thick as a magazine, and underneath it was a bristly gray mustache. That is how I remember him. His wife had a weathered look about her. Her wiry black hair, streaked with gray, was parted down the middle and it stuck out nearly triangularly. She was very beautiful, and she was always smiling in a way that, when you were 6 or 7, made her seem very wise. Her husband had a way of smiling, too, that you almost couldn't see from underneath his mustache.
In my family, it was always announced when we were visiting Ralph and Susan, like we were going on a road trip. They had one of those houses that has a distinct smell. Susan was an artist, and up on the walls were her works. My favorite was not one that she had done, but one that was nonetheless in excellent taste. It was a large mural scene of a village in South America, all in the pre-Rennaissance no-vanishing-point kind of perspective. But the coolest thing was that every person in the scene was a three-dimensional woven doll that stuck out from the background to which it was attached. Other exciting features of their house included this rad synthesizer church organ from the 70's, a box of classic Star Wars action figures, and an exercise room. Ellipticals are really fun when they're taller than you are.
But every time any of us (my siblings and I) went over there, we had to sit at their kitchen table for a few minutes and act civilized before we could go romp around in their basement. One time I went over there with just my Dad. Ralph offered me a soda, and I accepted. When I set it down on the table, Ralph's eyes narrowed at me. "What do you think you're doing?" he asked in a quietly disgusted tone. Like my Dad, Ralph was very intimidating without trying, so when he put effort into grilling you, it was especially horrifying. There I was breaking some mysterious unspoken rule of manhood, and I hadn't even hit puberty yet. I think I knew that there was some element of a practical joke in the air, mostly because my Dad and Susan were still enjoying themselves. But I was still too rattled by that simple question to induct as to what I had done wrong. Ralph burst out laughing and called me a knucklehead while he fetched me a coaster to put under my soda can.
As my brother would say, it takes a lot of courage to be an asshole to a little kid. Yeah-that and a lot of self-awareness. Ralph and Susan were a sturdy, American couple because they had been there and back. What my mom told me is that Susan had severe depression that went unmedicated for a long, long time. She would periodically go AWOL and Ralph would be heartbroken in disrepair until she returned. Their periods apart and periods together were about two to three years each, and after their longest period apart, they divorced. But they got back together and in the presence of a mail-in order minister and a bunch of strangers, they were re-married over breakfast at their favorite dive cafe. Most of the other people in the restaurant weren't aware that a wedding had just taken place, for the ceremony was nothing more than three people sitting down at a table, exchanging a few words in the middle of a bustling morning.

Elena, If You're Reading This, You Were Right

            Elena was right. She didn’t need to call either of us out, and she didn’t need to tear down some poor coffee-shop brat in order to prove herself. For crying out loud, she had already referenced a Velvet Underground tune from their supposedly “lost” album and posed question on, “this weird rockabilly revival in the 80’s.” Far from pretention, she spoke as though everyone in both California and Utah had received schooling in rock ‘n’ roll history.
            I thought about the night prior when, after I had described Hannah’s cultural versatility, my brother remarked, “why is she going out with you?!” He didn’t know that the night before I explained to Hannah how sometimes it was hard to feel cool enough to go out with someone who visited her family in Germany each summer-someone who, like me, aspired to go to school in NYC, but who, unlike me, was actually mature enough to do so. I didn’t let my brother’s comment get to me because I had reasoned that I was cultured in my own, American Pie kind of way.  But now, here I was, in my room with a girl sitting on my bed next to my girlfriend who appeared to be equally well versed in Hannah’s assigned culture as in mine.
            As I became detached from the conversation, Hannah began to compensate, making jokes that she didn’t sound like she wanted to finish. I had done my best to look at our relationship objectively since the beginning. Never did I reassure her when she pointed out the flaws in her art. Every clever measure I could think of to avoid the clich├ęs of couple-dom, I saw through. Despite my commitment to this laissez-faire economic of love, I had become an extremist. I am in love with Hannah, and I judged her not for her insecurity. In fact, I found it painfully darling that she compensated in the same way I did two nights earlier when I so mercilessly compared my own worth to hers. But none of that changed that Elena was right.
            Hannah and I would get sick of each other after three weeks in Germany together. And Hannah bringing her boyfriend along would change the whole dynamic of the trip. If this trip was a privilege for me, like I had emphasized, then why did I feel so entitled to the experience now? Maybe it’s because it took me a minute to feel like I was cool enough to go to Germany with Hannah in the first place, even though she and her Mom had welcomed me since the first notion without batting an eyelash. Sort of like how, when I first met her, I didn’t believe anyone could laugh so hard, even after I had seen her do it. Or like how she loved me from the start, and although I didn’t admit it for a minute, I really loved her too. 

So Liberal That I'm Conservative

My girlfriend's Dad is a funny guy. He once told her ice-skating coach that he would marry Sarah Palin if he got the chance. Every time I've seen him, he's been wearing a long-sleeve oxford shirt tucked into black slacks. Compare this to my Mom and Bob. They're part of this posse clique which they have dubbed, "the family of friends." It's a group of rich, white doctors and assorted medically-related professionals that are all equally dedicated to spreading Obama's word and bluegrass music to the underprivileged parts of the world; Sort of like the retired-hippie version of imperialism. Currently they are whale-watching on a research boat in Antarctica. No kidding.
My biological father, on the other hand, is more like my girlfriend's Dad. He grew up in Brooklyn as the son of a proud Irish immigrant. He boasts about how when he was a kid, he loved being an alter server because whenever there was a funeral (which was every other weekend) the priest would give him a few dollars to head down to the nearest bar. There was no drinking age in NYC back then. Often when my siblings and I were growing up, we would reprimand him for being so insensitive to the social injustices of the world. He would respond by calling us, "commies."
So I think I can say I've had I've had a healthy mix of both liberalism and conservatism. My view on the world in a paragraph is this:
Its really upsets me that everybody acts as if everybody doesn't know what the most crucial and easily solvable issue in the modern world is. Education has forever been, and will always be the most fundamental benefactor of human progress. It seems to me that in the developed world's climate of constant media onslaught, the average person, in whichever country they may be in, loses track of all the social, political, moral, and environmental issues that their generation must deal with at some point, or face the consequences. If the United States put more money into education, then the numbers of those problems would decrease, and the average person would be able to breathe a little easier. It also has occurred to me that my generation's habit of sedating themselves with a never-ending stream of media stimuli has developed as a method to escape from the omnipotent notion that at any minute the world will burst into WWIII. But the more we sedate ourselves with the nihilistic and hedonistic values of popular culture, the more social issues reinforce each other. If the United States put more money into education, my generation wouldn't feel so hopelessly unprepared to deal with the problems at hand. Consequently, more would get done to solve those problems, and the vicious cycle of media sedation would come to an end.
As far as overpopulation goes, it needs to stop being considered a problem. Without the instinct to reproduce, the human race would've gone extinct a long time ago. I feel that the economy works the same way. The natural incentive to have sex and reproduce is much like the incentive to work in order to gain a more comfortable lifestyle. The irony is that once people start achieving a comfortable lifestyle, then people start committing gluttony and producing mountains of trash in places like rural China and Haiti. As for the environment, we have passed the tipping point. Global warming is here.
My mom taught me this prayer a long time ago. It was this:
please give me the courage to change what I can
the serenity to accept what I cannot
and the wisdom to know the difference."

Small Lake City

I was at a show a few weekends ago. It took place in this house right around 9th and 9th, and I didn't have to pay to get in. That was sweet. But inside was a shameful sight. The rooms were filled with the least subtle group of hipsters I have ever witnessed. Every single person, I swear, every single person had hiking boots on. Everyone wore sweaters of some solid, faded color. Everyone wore tight pants. Most of the guys had either facial hair, or long greasy hair, or both. It's like everyone was competing for the title of "most modest". Me-I was not modest.
I was in a really great mood that night because I was with my girlfriend, and I was not trying to hide that I looked good. I had black dress slacks, black dress shoes, and black suspenders, all complimented by a particularly colorful striped button-up. By the way the guys at the door looked at me, I could tell they were planning on ridiculing my naivety as soon as I was out of earshot. I obviously was not aware of the modesty competition.
And the competition wasn't restricted just to dress code. The first two acts were these coffee-shop bozos with an acoustic guitar, earnestly singing about other earnest people. There was this ginger whose eyes were sticking out in different directions. I kid you not, he was taking pictures of people he didn't know that were sitting next to him on the couch, and then he would look at his pictures, smile with satisfaction, and then look around to see if anyone was watching him.
On Halloween I was at this party and my brother, his friends, and I were droppin' it like it was hot on the dance floor. We had a really excellent streak of song selection going too-Twist and Shout by The Beatles, Once In A Lifetime by Talking Heads, Life On Mars by David Bowie. Nobody else was really dancing because nobody knew how to have a good time like we did. Then this kid, sulking on the pool table, not even in a Halloween costume called out, "play something indie!" I almost went over there and gave him a piece of my mind, but my brother said I shouldn't worry about those losers.

Indie is not a genre. And people shouldn't act like any artist's indie cred makes them good. In fact, there's probably a reason why artists are indie in the first place. Its because they couldn't get signed because they sounded too much like every other shit indie band in Utah. All you have to do is turn on KRCL at any time of day, and you'll know what all these douche-y locals want to be. It's all this shoe-gazer wannabe surf-rock crap.
I'm not through with this, but it's also pretty late and I have to do well in school so I don't end up some indie loser.

Baby Boomer Hypocrisy

Mr. Van Orden talks a lot. I am an eyewitness to lectures which he has given on multiple occasions on why the now sucks so much more than the then.
Among his reasons for this opinion is that back in the day he had the time to teach sometimes two or three electives just for pleasure, including Vietnam Diplomacy and Classic American Literature. Back in the day not only did he have the time to take a dozen or so students to Washington D.C. on a school-sponsored trip, but his students also had the time to complete the required reading including the federalist papers and to complete a project displaying their family genealogy back to when their ancestors first arrived in America. Apparently when he was in high school it was not uncommon for he and his best friends to have conversations about their favorite works of Shakespeare. See, these were the reasons for why the past rocked.
He also has reasons for why the modern world sucks. Literacy rate in American high school kids is way behind other countries. In fact, American kids are way worse than most other developed countries in basic math and science classes. Studies have shown that kids are better at accessing info but we are useless at understanding the information. Of course, this is the worst rate of long-term employment since the Great Depression. Constant media onslaught shortens attention spans and lowers self-esteem.
Mr. Van Orden is not the only one. My Dad is convinced that America is becoming a nation of homogenized wussies. Mrs. Mayer woes about how overpopulation is causing the loss of culture. Mr. Hentschel describes in the most objective way he can how the overuse of antibiotics has created a selecting environment for viruses, thus leading to drug-resistant viruses. Of course, global warming is pretty much on everyone's minds all the time.
Global warming is the thing that got me thinking about the baby boomers. Obviously the scientists who first discovered global warming had to be of the baby boomer generation. It made me furious when I imagined the moment when the idea first came to whoever first thought about it. How could they be surprised? How could they not know this was bound to happen?
Then I started thinking about the causes for all those other problems. Being naught but a germ line cell, I could not be exactly held accountable for the fact that I was born into an environment in which advertising had created as unsurpassed clutter about the American psyche. I have yet to have any say in the balance of the federal budget or the inner workings of the American Teachers Union. The Baby Boomer generation is where the problem lies.
Wait, wait, wait! The baby boomer generation? The same baby boomer generation that was somehow wise enough to allot their time in such a way as to go to Washington D.C., research their entire family genealogy, and read Shakespeare for leisure on top of all the other trials of high school? That baby boomer generation?
I don't know about you, but I have a hard time believing that. I work really hard. I'm in three AP classes. I'm composing 2 string quartets and a third jazz song just to get into college. I'm in jazz band, the main stage play, and I have a girlfriend. I'm not saying that to brag (okay, maybe a little), but mostly I am saying this because I am so sick of seeing, reading, and hearing educated adults depress themselves over just how screwed our generation is. And it especially makes me mad when Mr. Van Orden talks about it because he makes it sound like its my generation's fault.
I do not think our problems are any worse than those of any other generation. I'm not doubting that our generation is totally screwed up, but that doesn't mean we're hopeless. (Not to be a brat or anything, but the baby boomers were way more racist, sexist, cigarette-smoking, and violent than we are.)
My ultimate point is that our generation gets to experience possibly the most terrifying and exciting event in natural history since the dawn of man: global warming. When global warming really heats up, it will matter not how much better at math Chinese kids are than American kids. That is not an excuse to say that we should not try to be as good at math as we can be.
But I think the baby boomers would do a lot better to help our generation overcome our problems than to count out all the things that will doom us. The basic problems are very simple and have been known for a long time. People consume too much. Education is bad. The economy is bad. There's no time to waste.


I met a very interesting guy this weekend. His name was E.T. King-at least that's what his name tag read. He was working as a waiter in the restaurant in the Oberlin Inn where I was staying. He was this short black guy with grey hair and a limp, but when he whistled while he worked it reminded me of louis armstrong's muted trumpet. My step-dad was goofing around and started taking to him, asking if I could get a gig at the inn. E.T. thought that was pretty funny entertained the topic by mentioning his rhythm & blues band, who we later found out had 11 members. I had learned by that point that anyone you meet in Oberlin is more likely than not a musician of professional quality, and our conversation naturally started shifting from small talk into something much more intimate because we followed the thread of music. As it turns out, E.T. went to school with Gladys Knight, and was a touring guitarist in the Chili Circuit. I didn't know what that meant, but I lied and said I did, though I'm pretty sure he knew I was lying because he proceeded to explain what that was. All of the old R&B labels-Capitol, Atlantic, Motown, etc.-would basically send all their biggest acts out on the same strand of venues, and they called it the Chili Circuit. Most of these groups were out of these destinations that were on the route. If you were a musician in any of those areas, and you knew how to do business, you would periodically get called in to replace a missing member of the touring band. If they liked you, they would take you along for a few shows. If they really liked you, they would tell you to take the next train up to Motown with your instrument, and whatever you needed to start living in the city.
E.T. told us what it was like playing for James Brown, B.B. King, Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, Wilson Pickett, and Gladys Knight. I asked if that meant that he had to learn every song of all those artists. The funny thing was, he explained, was that he didn't because all the songs revolved around the same kind of I, IV, V chord progression, but each artist had their own small variation. Marvin Gaye tended to go up to the minor vi, and then changed it to a major VI. Gladys Knight used augmented chords. He also said that due to each singer's voice they would have a key that they would stick in. All James Brown songs were in C, but Aretha could sing in any key.
I couldn't really hide how stoked I was that I was talking to someone as cool as him, and I let him know how in Utah, nobody plays soul music. Leaning in, he responded, "You know what I've learned about musicians over the years is that they think nobahdy do what they do. Me and my wife is sitting' at a bah, and a man walks in with his girl and he has his nose up in the air and he don't make eye contact with nobahdy, and he looks at my wife, but he don't make eye contact with nobahdy and I say to my wife, 'look-him over there-he's a guitarist,' or, 'he's a singer.'" At that moment I felt a little ashamed and lucky that I had for some reason been making an effort to greet strangers during this trip. Most of the time, I consider myself more artistic than thou. That I have contemplated life on a more meaningful level than everyone else in my proximity, and it does show. Thanks to E.T. I think a flaw in my character, disguised as a virtue, has been found out. Now I am making an effort to open up to everyone, and I believe I will be a better artist and person because of it.

Why Harry Potter Blows

After reading Lord Of The Rings, I suddenly realize that Harry Potter is a big lie.
-Of every single person who reads Harry Potter, nobody actually likes Harry. Those of you that are disagreeing with me, I bet you anything that you love Ron and Hermione, but you rarely even think about Harry. Had Harry died in the end, I bet the only reason you would have cared at all would be because Ginny would be lonely. O! Tragedy-a hot ginger girl is now single! Wait, her boyfriend was just pretending to be dead. Never mind.
-In the 5th book, a meeting with Tom Riddle and Professor Slughorn is depicted in which Tom Riddle asks about horcruxes. In this meeting, Tom Riddle specifically mentions the number 7. J.K. Rowling deliberately mentions the making SEVEN horcruxes. So how the heck would Voldemort not know that Harry was the seventh horcrux?! And if he did know, then he wouldn't want to kill him!!! There are a few explanations. Voldemort forgot. Voldemort made six and got lazy. Voldemort was extremely stupid and just didn't realize that Harry had been turned into a horcrux. The only plausible counter-argument is this: due to the prophecy Voldemort weighed his options and decided he still had Nagini and the Elder Wand, so he was willing to destroy half of his remaining soul (at that point Harry and Nagini were the only two out of the former seven that remained.) To that argument, I have only this to say: J.K. Rowling is a bad writer. That "prophecy" is the most ridiculous plot point of the whole series. It is a piece of paper covering up a giant hole in the roof of the plot of the story. And J.K. Rowling knows it, otherwise she would have said more about it. Without this prophecy that is only mentioned in one book, Voldemort would have no reason for caring about Harry. The whole plot rests upon the invention of some arbitrary literary device that really has no other connection to the plot.
-Adults are seriously retarded throughout. It reminds me of the Simpsons. Think about it this way: nobody my age (18) could break into the white house, but Harry, Ron and Hermione could break into the ministry of magic? A kid of 17 years old can hold his own against the most powerful dark wizard of all time? The kids and the adults in Harry Potter are all studying the same thing: magic. So even if you were born studying any subject-english, biology, music, math-can you plausibly imaging outsmarting someone who has been studying the same discipline as you for twenty or thirty more years than you?
-Why the fuck do these kids not care about popular music, Apple products, movies, porn, drugs, or sex? 
-Where are the American Wizards? If we heard about a terrorist wizard in London, we would be crashing the party before you could utter a syllable of your gay latin-y spells.

-Cho Chang is way hotter than Ginny.

-They split up the last movie because they wanted to make more money, and it sucked.

Well, that's pretty much it. If you don't like LOTR, I understand. Try Brave Story by Miyuke Miyabe.