Monday, December 31, 2007

Apartment Mania

So, I have moved into a new apartment. I do not have cable or the internet; thus, my blog posting for the next two weeks will be extremely limited.

Who knew the weird things you have to do when you get your own place? Plungers, toilet brushes, step stools for shorties like me, etc. It's just a new world.

I have not dropped off the face of the earth; I am just preoccupied with moving life and I have no internet to escape to. Yikes.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Naive to Something Better

Random thought I wanted to explore...

You know how we get cold when we're outside and the wind is whipping sideways through our clothes, and we might just be yearning to be warmer and inside where we can sit by a fire or change our clothes?

Well, I started thinking about people who live(d) in Antarctica, or another extremely frozen/freezing climate, perhaps years ago, and they could not escape inside to warmth like we have waiting for us. They had to create their own shelters (igloos, etc.) to keep themselves warm. Even if they built a log cabin or hut, it wouldn't nearly be as warm as a house we live in. They could build a fire, but getting wood and keeping it dry to burn would be a difficult task.

But, since they did not know about getting so warm like we can get to, were they really so dissatisfied with being so cold? In other words, since they didn't know how it is to be so warm, was it so dissatisfying for them to live with such permanently cold body temperatures?

Can you yearn for something that you're naive to? Can you crave the opposite of what you don't have if you don't know it exists?

I asked a friend, Megan, and she brought up the point of people in Africa who live in less than suitable conditions in America's standards. As Americans, we think that they would hate their lifestyles or envy what we have over here. But, if they don't know that life can be made so much easier with technology or other advances, how can they crave this lifestyle? Can they?

What do you think?

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Alanis' True Irony

I went to teach irony this year, and as a child of the 1990s, Alanis Morissette's hit single "Ironic" pops into my head. However, once I confronted a friend about incorporating the lyrics into the class period, she informed me that the situations persistent throughout the song are not actually all that ironic. If you're going to teach irony to a beginner, they will often mislead the learner because they do not really capture what is "ironic."

Perhaps Alanis deterred me from properly and correctly understanding the true concept of irony since she was my teacher of irony, as I adamantly listened to the album, Jagged Little Pill, as a sixth grade teenager. Sidenote: both Jagged Little Pill and No Doubt's Tragic Kingdom were my first CDs. Influences?

So, if I was before confused over the concept of irony, I blame Alanis. (I have been corrected and lead by others towards the irony light.)

No hate towards Alanis, though. I consider myself a fan. I own alternate CDs besides her smash album, perhaps more than your average music listener. Don't worry Alanis; I only point the finger here as an English teacher.

Anyway, my friend Megan pointed out this website which corrects Alanis' lyrics to actually make them ironic. If you are not familiar with the song, google the lyrics. Otherwise, here are the corrections that originate from this website:

"An old man turned ninety-eight. He won the lottery and died the next day... of chronic emphysema from inhalation of the latex particles scratched off decades' worth of lottery tickets.

A black fly in your Chardonnay... poured to celebrate the successful fumigation of your recently purchased vineyard in southern France.

A death row pardon two minutes too late... because the governor was too busy watching Dead Man Walking to grant clemency any earlier.

Rain on your wedding day... to Ra, the Egyptian sun-god.

A free ride when you've already paid... all of your money to the good-natured cab driver when you mistook him for a mugger.

The good advice that you just didn't take... after reading Norman Vincent Peale's The Power of Positive Thinking and resolving that the key to success is making your own decisions.

Mr. Play-it-Safe was afraid to fly. He packed his suitcase and kissed his kids goodbye. He waited his whole damn life to take that flight. And as the plane crashed down, he thought, Well isn't this nice... now I'll never make it to the National Association of Aviophobics conference in Reno, NV.

A traffic jam when you're already late... to receive an award from the Municipal Planning Board for reducing the city's automobile congestion 80 percent.

A no-smoking sign on your cigarette break... at the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco corporate offices in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

Ten thousand spoons when all you need is a knife... with which to kill your spouse for sleeping with the young soup chef who works at the Au Bon Pain.

Meeting the man of my dreams and then meeting his beautiful wife... who happens to be the psychiatrist I recently hired in hopes of improving my luck with the opposite sex."

Ah...true irony.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Restaurant Report Cards

Men's Health magazine investigated the average amount of calories in a meal per various popular restaurants. Even though I have before criticized the fast-food industry for containing high-fat foods that contribute to our country's increasing weight problem, we can't ignore the sit-down restaurants that also serve high-fat foods that also contribute as well.

You can find this information, and more, at both websites.

Check out the "Report Card" they put out for restaurants based on the average caloric intake from their foods:


Average calories per meal: 390

Average calories per meal: 425

Boston Market
Average calories per meal: 479

Taco Bell
Average calories per meal: 427

Average calories per meal: 462

Average calories per meal: 464

Average calories per meal: 611

Average calories per meal: 530

Burger King
Average calories per meal: 531

Average calories per meal: 556

Panera Bread
Average calories per meal: 574

D-Pizza Hut
Average calories per meal: 585


Bob Evans
Average calories per meal: 593

Average calories per meal: 666

Average calories per meal: 774

Ruby Tuesday
Average calories per meal: 811

Uno Chicago Grill
Average calories per meal: 843

Average calories per meal: 910

P.F. Chang's
Average calories per meal: 1,003

On the Border
Average calories per meal: 1,068

Macaroni Grill
Average calories per meal: 1,131

Any surpises? Reactions?

Monday, December 17, 2007

Break on Through

Any fans of The Doors out there?

I'm in the middle of a biography of Jim Morrison by James Riordan and Jerry Prochnicky called cleverly Break on Through. I'm familiar with some details of Jim Morrison's life after watching the incredible film based on their career, and after reading a Rolling Stone article on his life after acknowledging an anniversary of his death. This book explores more details with which I was before unfamiliar.

Here's what I've learned (random Doors facts):

Jim had issues with his father who was a powerful military man. Perhaps some lyrics and behaviors can be psychologically analyzed with this paternal problem in mind. I can see why he clashed with that though, being a child of the 1950s with an older soul that was going to clash rock and roll to some degree that Elvis Presley did. He was not going to have a straight-laced career like the military, and he was going to pursue a career that is more in touch with the feminie side of oneself (singing, writing poetry, dancing, and performing) even though he was a national sex icon for females. Perhaps this is why he stated in an interview, upon becoming famous, that his parents were dead. Perhaps it was to save them the embarassment or bombardment of the media, or perhaps in a figurative way, they were dead to him.

Jim's first ambition was filmmaking. He went to a college in California (a division of UCLA) to study film. He made one film which was rejected from the audience for its wild, eccentric, and drug-induced material.

Many of The Doors songs and lyrics were created on a rooftop when Jim had a multiple-day acid trip. After college was completed, he went to this rooftop in Venice, California where he did not leave that spot for days, continuously tripping and writing until his hands cramped, not eating anything and shaving off pounds that used to have him considered a chubby person. During a trip, he envisioned himself on a stage singing in front of a mass of people. It was then he knew he had to create music even though he had no musical background whatsoever. Morrison's first song was "Moonlight Drive;" other songs include "The End" (later to be transformed to its longer version on stage), "Summer's Almost Gone," "Not to Touch the Earth," "My Eyes Have Seen You," "When the Music's Over," etc.

Morrison wrote "Hello I Love You" when on a beach with Ray Mazarek. A girl passed by, which Morrison responded the title to her and was inspired to write the song. "Soul Kitchen" was inspired by a cafe in Venice Beach called Olivia's Cafe. "Break on Through" was created when Morrison was walking through the canals. A girl from his past inspired him to write it as he reflected on the experiences with her on his walk.

The band's name was created by Jim who was inspired by a William Blake quotation: "If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear as it is, infinite." He also read a book by Aldous Huxley (author of Brave New World) entitled The Doors of Perception, also adopted from the quotation. That book was about experiences with mescaline, a drug, of course. Morrison wanted to provide a door for others to receive other experiences, be it lyrically or musically. He had multiple purposes in becoming a performer and artist.

The last paragraph of the book above reads as follows: "But the man who comes back through the Door in the Wall will never be the same as the man who went out. He will be wiser but less cock-sure, happier but less self-satisfied, humbler in acknowledging his ignorance yet better equipped to understand the relationship of words to things, of systematic reasoning to the unfathomable Mystery which it tries, forever vainly, to comprehend." Can we see why Jim chose The Doors?

Perhaps this entering the door coincides with him wanting the American population to break on through to the other side. It's fitting that this song was a big hit for the band early on. I think The Doors allowed America to do just that in 1967 when the album came out. They couldn't have picked a better time to come out with their first album, especially with the sound and messages they created on the album as a whole.

The Doors never had a bass player. They never needed one with Ray's addition on the keyboard.

Jim never was really into drugs before college, but once he got into them, he became hard core, hopping from one acid trip to the next. A friend of his and Jim used to travel from one free acid clinic testing to the next, taking as many tabs as they could get. They downed pills and smoked a lot of drugs, but Jim never really strayed away from this behavior. He could put more substances into his body than many. He always kept a high tolerance. He just chose a career where he could sustain this lifestyle.

Jim's main aspiration was to become a poet. He wanted to be recognized more as a poet than a recording artist, for he tried to create poems and lyrics that were deeper and more meaningful than others out there. It's no surprise now to discover books of Morrison's poetry and that he was one of the leading voices for the Summer of Love in 1967.

Jim met Pam (his long-time girlfriend) even before they became famous. Even though he had some promiscuous behavior, he always attached and stayed with this girl. He did need that deeper connection with someone to act as some sort of base or family.

Jim always voiced that he never thought he would live long. Dying at 27 with the other artists that are known as Forever 27 (Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Kurt Cobain), I guess he was right.

Lastly, I want to end with a conversation in Venice Beach between Ray and Jim:

JIM: How long do you want to live?
RAY: Oh, I'd like to go to about eighty-seven--get to see my grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
JIM: Not me. You know how I see myself? As a great shooting star, a huge fiery comet. Everyone stops and gasps and points up and says, 'Oh, look! Oh, look at that!' Then whooosh! I'm gone. But they'll never see anything like it again--and they'll never be able to forget me.

It gives me chills to even read it. I wonder if we do somehow feel our fate in the depths of our inner selves before it even happens. Something to ponder, I guess.

Let's swim to the moon
Let's climb thru the tide
Penetrate the evenin'
That the city sleeps to hide

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Free Rice

Does anyone have issues with world hunger?

Well, if you're bored or you want to do something small to help out with world hunger, check out this website,, to do a small part.

FreeRice has vocabulary trivia, and for each question that you get right, the United Nations will donate 20 grains of rice to help end world hunger. Why not? It doesn't take too long and the words really aren't that difficult. I'm not just saying that as an aspiring English teacher, I just sat here for a few minutes and churned out 2,020 grains of rice to donate.

I think it's a more productive way to spend internet time than Facebook, MySpace, or playing online video games.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Hard Sun

If I haven't yet convinced anyone to see or read Into the Wild yet, perhaps this music video will convince you.

This video, "Hard Sun" by Eddie Vedder, is basically a movie trailer for the movie. I haven't yet seen the movie, but after reading the book and seeing this music video, I am overwhelmed with emotions, thoughts, and feelings that I encountered with the book. These feelings resurface by seeing the book put to pictures because it seems like they did a really fine job with the film based on this video.

My only question at this point is, who is this girl they keep showing? In the book, they never mentioned that Chris McCandless ever really had a serious love interest. He was normally just an isolated guy. They even discussed in the book the fact that he never had any female relationships really. They debated why he was in cellibacy. Perhaps it's for dramatic appeal and effect for the movie, but I don't like adding fictitious elements to this story. It's appealing as it is.

It's a very calming, exciting music video with amazing shots of Alaskan landscapes. It makes me want to go out and explore or do something significant. Check it out for yourself. Let me know what you think of it.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

In Rainbows

Any Radiohead fans out there?

As one might know, I am a huge Rolling Stone fan, constantly reading the magazine whenever I get the chance, but I came across this information that really intrigued me. Maybe I'm behind the times too, since this actually happened a few months back, but I still feel that I need to put it here.

In October, Radiohead released an album off their website where fans would pay any amount they wanted for the album. It's called In Rainbows, and it's making such big news because it is showing how musicians can stand solo without record companies backing them. They might not have made all of the money that they could have off of that record, but maybe that was not their aim for making the music...

Rolling Stone quotes Dixie Chicks band member Natalie Maines as saying that they are guaranteed to make more money off of their album this way, however, than if they were signed with a major label. This must be sending massive signals to other artists out there, some who may be struggling since the music industry is facing major droughts because of illegal downloading. Such artists as Nine Inch Nails, Madonna, and Pearl Jam have voiced that they might follow Radiohead's lead, according to Rolling Stone.

They are also quoted saying that they decided to allow fans to choose their own prices for the album because they wanted to see how much value they hold to their music. What is the value of music?

Do you think this is just a one-time thing, or can you see this happening with more successful bands?

Obviously, smaller bands could not make such profit off of such a plan, but this really shows how some artists can go right to the fans, cutting out the middle-man. Even with websites and blogging, artists are coming closer to the fans which is a definite plus for us on the fan side.

A lot of bands sign with companies that give 360-deals, meaning that artists share revenue from multiple sources. Smaller bands normally get 15% of a wholsale CD, or $1.50 per record. When publishing songs, bands get about 9 cents for writing one song, but they get more money if it appears on TV or a movie. The label gets 10% of touring and merchandise. This is all according to a Rolling Stone bit on 360-deals, as the recording industry struggles to battle new problems.

So, what do you think about Radiohead's selling on a website? How much would you opt to pay for a CD? What effect do you think this will have? Any?

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

President Survey

Who do you want to be president in 2008?

I'm not very political, but this upcoming election is going to be pretty big. There is so much talk and hype about it that causes me to be curious about who people are gunning for.

A friend of mine found this website, and you really should look into it. You can go through a really quick survey where you select where you stand on certain issues, and then they choose a candidate who best fits what you believe in. It's interesting just to see who supports your beliefs. I got former Alaskan Senator Mike Gravel, someone I've never heard of, but that's the fun of the survey.

Who did you get paired up with?

(Too bad Gore's not running next election. Boo.)

Monday, December 10, 2007

Christmas Movies

This post is inspired from the last post about what is so fascinating to us about the Christmas tradition. Now I'm curious about favorite Christmas movies.

What is it that we like about Christmas movies? Do we like the family togetherness in movies like It's a Wonderful Life; do we like fantasy Christmas tales like The Grinch; do we like screwball comedy like National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation; do we like animated classic favorites like Charlie Brown, Rudolph, or Nightmare Before Christmas? What is it that we like?

I provide a list below. Which is your favorite (or favorites) and why?

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation
The Nightmare Before Christmas
A Charlie Brown Christmas
It's a Wonderful Life
How the Grinch Stole Christmas
Fred Claus
The Santa Claus (1-3)
A Christmas Story
Ernest Saves Christmas
Jingle All the Way
Home Alone (1+)
A Christmas Carol
The Muppet Christmas Carol
I'll Be Home for Christmas
The Holiday
Babes in Toyland
Frosty the Snowman
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Santa Claus is Comin' to Town
Miracle on 34th Street
The Polar Express
The Night Before Christmas
To Grandmother's House We Go

What's the choice?

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Christmas Excitement

What excites you about Christmas?

I was thinking about it on my way back to Cortland tonight. Driving always provides for random thought tangents. Perhaps I was recalling information from earlier in the weekend--Christmas shopping in oh-so-busy shopping malls, baking Christmas cookies, wrapping presents, sitting by the fire, and hanging out by the tree.

But what is it, which of those, or others that really make Christmas the most enjoyable for you?

Is is the presents? The family togetherness? The weather? The traditions? The food? The baking? The giving? The music? The movies? The shopping?

What is your favorite thing about Christmas?

Thursday, December 6, 2007

High-Five Hollywood

If you enjoy stupid humor, by a comedians such as Will Ferrell or Adam Sandler, you must check out this video.

It's called "High-Five Hollywood," and the title is pretty much self-explanatory of what the plot entails. I will tell you this though: it seems Will Ferrell either was a part of this or just cameoed in it--so it is definitely a must-see.

Let me know what you think when you see it.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Eliminating Judgment?

I need to keep adding to what I love in Lessons in Becoming Myself.

As I pointed out earlier, one thing I really love about this book is that she sees life as a continuous journey to learn. I absolutely believe that myself. It's actually pretty relieving to hear someone else say it. We are constantly learning through the smallest, and largest, of events that randomly circumvent their ways into our lives.

From the book:

"J.W. Dunne says the brain is a machine for the education of the soul. And that our experiences are what lay down the tracks in the brain with which to teach our soul. To me, experience is both a teacher for the soul and a tool to use in teaching others" (298).

100% correct.

Additionally, she hears Dr. Elahi speak, professing about good teachers and how we learn. He says that if one is interested in learning from life, give up five things: "smoking (anything), tea, pork, alcohol, and judging." Weird list of things, eh? Do you see why some of them are on there? Some are more difficult than others.

But, do you think it's really that easy to give up judging? I'd like to think of myself as a good and gracious person, but I really can't see it being too easy. I wish I judged less (especially myself), but that's not as easy as baking a cake right out of the box. That needs work and determination, some discipline and drive.

How can you not judge people who intentionally harm or hurt others, even you or people you know?

Ellen Burstyn writes, in response to a similar question to this: "It is not our job to judge each other because we don't have all the facts or information about the person's karma. They act out their own destiny and make their own mistakes that they will either learn from ot not, but that is their path, not ours. We can't even judge ourselves. Who knows what mistakes we need to make in order to learn the lessons we came here to learn? And if we learn them, how are we to judge what we had to go through to come into the light of understanding?" (303).

Wise. It seems extraordinarily difficult, but it makes sense. I just find that even ceasing the act of judging oneself is really hard. I find that I am my toughest critic. How can we silence that tough inner voice of criticism? Who knows, but it's different for each person; that I do know.

What are your thoughts on learning, or about judgment here at the end? How could one do this, or do you agree with these quotations?

Monday, December 3, 2007

Inner Instincts

I've moved on to a new book, and I found a wise quotation in the book that I would like to pose.

I am reading Ellen Burstyn's Lessons in Becoming Myself. I find her a talented actress that is more under-recognized than I believe she should be. She has always struck me as remarkable and talented, and now I am discovering that she is very wise as she looks back on the events of her life. I hope that someday I can reflect on my life's events and give such inspiring and clever feedback.

I think that's what I like about her autobiography. After she will tell about a particular event, she'll stop to say something she learned from the experience. I am all about learning in life. From our mistakes, from the details, whatever--we are here to learn.

Anyway, here is the quotation which draws my question:

"If you want to know who you truly are, the answer won't be found in the outer world; you must go inside and see where your instincts lead you."

I really like that. But, how would you go about seeing inside where your instincts lead you? Meditation? Time alone? Isolation? What do you think the trick is? How would you do this?

Or, is it all based on the individual? Even if it is, I am still curious to see how one would go about doing this. I have small ideas myself, but I scratch my chin here on what others would do.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Into the Wild Soundtrack

Before this post in months passed, I showed my severe interest to the novel, Into the Wild. This book had been on my to-read list, but it got shoved to the top when I read in Rolling Stone that a movie was coming out starring Emile Hersch and a soundtrack was additionally coming out with music by none other than Mr. Eddie Vedder.

Being a Pearl Jam fan, this highly excited me. Eddie Vedder has contributed to other bands and projects before this, like Temple of the Dog, but he has never completed his own solo album. Into the Wild is his first attempt, and it is sure worth listening to.

What's cool to me about this soundtrack is far beyond the fact that Vedder created these eleven tracks. He had to put himself in the shoes of this deceased person/character (Chis McCandless) and create music. Since I already adore Vedder's artistic creativity, I was so excited to see how he perceived the protagonist and his adventures through music. Comparitavely, the songs vary in mood and tone based on different themes he expresses from the novel and journey, from "Setting Forth" to "Hard Sun" to "End of the World," they each express different moods; you can even tell just by the titles themselves.

The tracks are simplistic, some seemingly only involving Vedder and his guitar, but I love that acoustic sound to music. It seems so raw and real to me. The tracks are all very short, most consuming only shy a few seconds under two minutes or two minutes and change, but some do surpass the three minute block. The eleven tracks only consummate around thirty minutes, but it's thirty minutes of great music.

Vedder creating a soundtrack based on a character's experience (in this case a real person) reminds me of The Goo Goo Dolls with Johnny Resnick. Resnick had a severe writing block, but allowing him to write a song through the eyes of a character in City of Angels consequently produced "Iris," which was a smash hit and projected him back into the rock and roll game. This single launched a CD that would mark the height of his career and his most well-known CD Dizzy Up the Girl. Vedder did not need this boost, but to me, I love to see how artists perceive literature or film and translate that to music. I think it's breath-taking.

Vedder nailed the feelings of McCandless in my opinion, from reading the novel avidly in a few short days. Just read the lyrics to "Long Nights:"

Have no fear
For when I'm alone
I'll be better off than I was before

I've got this light
I'll be around to grow
Who I was before
I cannot recall

Long nights allow me to feel...
I'm falling...I am falling
The lights go out
Let me feel
I'm falling
I am falling safely to the ground

I'll take this soul that's inside me now
Like a brand new friend
I'll forever know

I've got this light
And the will to show
I will always be better than before

Long nights allow me to feel...
I'm falling...I am falling
The lights go out
Let me feel
I'm falling
I am falling safely to the ground

OR, look at "Society." McCandless was an existential thinker, adoring the theories and essays of Emerson and Thoreau. He believed that we had too much "stuff" and to be truly "free" of society and to know yourself and the world, less is more. Less is more means that you can realize true meanings of life when you don't have many material possessions. You must experience nature, and be a minimalist to come to these revelations. I think Vedder nailed it in "Society:"

Oh it's a mystery to me.
We have a greed, with which we have agreed...
and you think you have to want more than you need...
until you have it all, you won't be free.

Society, you're a crazy breed.
I hope you're not lonely, without me.

When you want more than you have, you think you need...
and when you think more then you want, your thoughts begin to bleed.
I think I need to find a bigger place...
cause when you have more than you think, you need more space.


There's those thinkin' more or less, less is more,
but if less is more, how you keepin' score?
It means for every point you make, your level drops.
Kinda like you're startin' from the top...
and you can't do that.

I think the release single from the album is "Hard Sun," due to its catchy tunes and excellent lyrics. Please do check it out; I can't get it out of my head on most days!

Have you listened to the soundtrack? What feedback do you offer? Do you like the CD? Does it interest you? What do you like/dislike?

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

Hunter S. Thompson, as we all know, is a crazy, crazy guy. Or, he was. But in his writings, he always will be. It's just hard to determine the truth and fiction though, at times.

I was first introduced to Thompson when the film Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas came out starring Johnny Depp as Thompson. To tell you the truth, I really didn't know what to make of it after I saw it. I had to watch it multiple times afterwards to grasp the storyline, or even any main point in it whatsoever. The story intrigued me, beyond the drug binge that he and his attorney went on for multiple days straight, but the fact that he got away with so many bizarre practices really boggles my mind.

When Thompson died in 2005, it was a really big deal. Rolling Stone ran an issue dedicated to him, partially because he wrote multiple articles for the magazine and heavily contributed to their magazine in his strong writing years. Perhaps they also glorified his life in that issue because he has contributed many brilliant pieces of writing, and he has coined his own literary genre/style of writing: Gonzo. I am just beginning to learn this writing style as I begin to read his works, but I started with what I knew: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

The movie is a straight-forward retelling of the book, and I like that. Many movies that originate from books basically adapt the book into movie form, changing and abidging the book's version. Fear and Loathing, however, basically tells the story verbatim, only leaving out tiny sections that really didn't have a place in the film anyway. Parts of the books are even read aloud through Depp's narration through the film, so it's like I already had an insight into the book before I even began reading it.

His crisp and crazy writing style is unique and very easy to follow. Even though he talks about his bizarre experiences that perhaps the audience can't even begin to fathom (i.e. bats flying down at him from the sky in the middle of the desert as a result of an ether/mescaline binge), he recreates it so we can see it and feel it ourselves. That kind of talent is so powerful, for we can begin to understand a fraction of what it was like to be such a rebellious dare-devil that he was. As Hunter says himself, "There is nothing in the world more helpless and irresponsible and depraved than a man in the depths of an ether binge." Yikes.

One thing I like about the book is the contribution of sketches from Ralph Steadman, a friend of Thompson's. I will randomly insert them throughout the blog post to show you how much this man captured the visions and stories from the book itself.

I do want to point out that, after reading this book, I minorly researched his life, discovering some fascinating things that I will tell later once I read Gonzo. Despite being a drunk at an early age, crazed with drugs, leaving the Air Force, and living in Puerto Rico for a few years, Thompson was determined to being something extraordinary. He wanted to be a writer from an early age and even wanted to become something as large as Hemingway or Fitzgerald. Thus, he typed out The Great Gatsby and A Farewell to Arms on a typewriter to physically get the feel of how they wrote and what it felt like to write very well. I wonder how effective this strategy is, but I find it fascinating to see the angle he took and the drive he had early on.

Soon, The Rum Diaries starring Johnny Depp will come out, retelling another smaller book created by Thompson himself. Another film, Where the Buffalo Roam, also depicts Hunter's life, this time acted by Bill Murray in 1980. Definitely need to check that out.

Fear and Loathing originally was a two-part article that appeared in Rolling Stone, which is really cool. Thompson said he was searching for the American Dream, in Vegas--ironic? The title actually appears with the book as well, "A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream." Hm. He took drugs the entire time, perhaps trying to escape being a human and really finding the American Dream. The American Dream, in this book, seems to be more of a joke as they have extreme difficulty finding it, engaging in drug binges to get there. Can anyone really discover the American Dream? Do we really live it?

Also, Thompson definitely exposes the hippie/drug culture of the 60s through his travels, while also showing us the reaction from the public. He is ultimately trying to escape reality and living in general. He even introduces this quotation from Dr. Johnson at the beginning of the book: "He who makes a beast of himself gets rid of the pain of being a man." How much more do I need to elaborate from that quotation? It seems pretty self-explanatory from my previous rant...

What are your reactions to Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, even if it is just a reaction from seeing the movie? What do you think the point is? Do you love it or hate it (I can definitely see a polar reaction to this piece of work)? Is it too incohesive? Details!

Anti August Rush

If you're going out to the movies in the near future, I wouldn't recommend August Rush unless you are a sucker for a really cheesy movie. You have to be a person who looks beyond technicalities and accepts the unreasonable plot before you to believe that fate can really prevail despite millions of obstacles.

Okay, the movie trailer really drew me in, and especially the list of acceptable actors that appeared in the movie: Terrence Howard, Robin Williams, Keri Russell, and newcomer Freddie Highmore (the kid who is everywhere now, just like Haley Joel Osmont was years back, in movies like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Finding Neverland, A Good Year, The Golden Compass, and soon to star in The Spiderwick Chronicles).

I think the idea of the movie wasn't too bad; the way that they made the pieces of the plot fall into place just didn't seem realistic to me at all. Now, I don't mind seeing a movie that I can lose myself in, a movie that is more fantasy or goes beyond the odds, but this was just too over-the-top for me. There were too many situational happenstances that just worked out for this kid. He runs away from the orphanage in search of his parents, and you can guess if they stumble across one another multiple times, in New York City nonetheless!, and eventually become a family. Some of the lines were written to be way too cheesy as well; I even predicted some of the lines to come, whispering them to Megan at the theatre and probably bugging the ladies sitting next to me due to the fact that the theatre was absolutely packed! Surprisingly enough, I think the audience had mixed views. Many people applauded at the end of the film, which was not my reaction at its conclusion. We kind of laughed to ourselves and exited the theatre. That's just my reaction.

Now, the actors did a fine job with what they were working with. I thought it would be a good movie because, normally, Terrence Howard and Robin Williams select excellent films. This one had a great theme to it, but the dialogue and sequence of events just seemed too ridiculous to even be true.

If you don't want to see it, don't read this part but continue after this paragraph: How could this kid, once stumbling into New York City, suddenly latch on to an underground orphanage of kids aspiring to play music in an abandoned auditorium, instantly giving him food, shelter, and instruments to learn on? How can a child, let alone an adult, pick up a guitar on his/her first day and be able to play better than some mastered adults? How can a child, again, be introduced to music notes and instantly compose pages and pages of songs, some that are rhapsodies? How can this child, with no papers as to his history or real name, be accepted to Juiliard School of music? In a crowd of THOUSANDS of people, how could the parents find each other in the front row of all places? How could that child know, at that moment out of the thousands, that those two in front holding hands were his parents? When he slipped his hand into hers, how could she have no reaction but to smile? Wouldn't you have more of a reaction if you've been longing for this man for over ten years? Wouldn't you have so much to tell that person that you couldn't keep your mouth shut? How could Robin Williams get away with his business? How could this child compose a symphony in New York City with that talent? Don't even get me started on the arch...

I'll stop there. I probably could go on, but I think you catch my drift.

August Rush has that cheesy sound to begin with. It sounds like it's trying to be really deep or cool-sounding, but I thought the meaning would prevail in the movie. I think the writers just thought it sounded cool, like a movie with an awesome-sounding title that would draw viewers. They just saw it off a truck and slapped the name to this kid to sound appealing to listeners. Strange.

The kid didn't even fool me in the movie that he was playing those insane chords and notes on the guitar. He looked like a beginner just hitting a guitar with his finger tips. The music didn't really follow up with his imitations.

So, if you want to see a good film, take your chance. Try it out for yourself. I was more entertained with Fred Claus, which doesn't have too much substance to it but provides a good laugh and entertainment.

Has anyone seen it or could anyone offer another review? Perhaps I'm being too harsh...

Friday, November 30, 2007

Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs

Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs. Yes, it sounds extremely strange, but, yes, it is a good book to check out if you are intrigued with pop culture and would love listen to someone rant and analyze it. And no, the book is not entirely about sex, drugs, or cocoa puffs.

The title perhaps is a bit arbitrary, but essays within the book do contain parts of it. I was just blown away by his perceptive ability to deconstruct pop culture. His opinions may seem a bit strong at times, but I am completely entertained by his rants and observatios. I am jealous of his writing ability--he takes topics that we are well aware of and opens new windows which we can read into on those topics.

Examples. If you are interested in the following topics, this book will be rather appealing to you: Star Wars, The Real World, Pamela Anderson, porn, basketball, journalism, Billy Joel, cover bands, rock and roll conventions, Vanilla Sky, Saved by the Bell, John Cusack, cereal, The Sims, etc. It's amazing how much there is to tell about our culture just by analyzing simple media products, groups, people, etc.

I don't want to give too much away. I was just astounded that someone could articulate our culture so well. I have never been introduced to anyone who writes about media in this fashion before, especially in well-organized and well-thought-out essays. It is inspiring to me, me who sits here and jabbers on about random observations and media I ingest.

In between each essay, Klosterman inserts a small article (only a page or so) of witty life observations or commentaries. Whether it's exposing that comparing apples to oranges is really not a great comparison, or contemplating if Fonzy is really that much of a man whore as the show made him out to be, he really gets you thinking and laughing at the same time. He points out the obvious, or perhaps something we never got deeper into ourselves before.

I have to expose my favorite part though, without really exposing much of anything at all if you've never read it before. In the middle of the book, Klosterman includes a 23 part questionairre that he must give to a person before he can declare if he loves them or not. Well, maybe I would not give it to someone to justify my love for them, but I think that they are thought-provoking situational questions that are great for sparking conversation if you're just sitting around with your friends, or after a nice dinner with close friends, to perhaps ask them to generate covnersation. Mind you, these are a bit strange, and you might want to read them with people that you won't mind offending or opening up to, but they really are interesting and fun. Just reading them over was intriguing to me.

Sample this piece of writing from the book:

"So I'm eating supper in a Kentucky Fried Chicken, and this crazy old woman who looks like a disheveled version of Minnie Pearl taps me on the shoulder and asks, 'Can you buy me some chicken?' I, of course, say, 'What?' Because this does not seem like an appropriate question. She asks again, 'Can you buy me some chicken?' This time I flatly say no. Then she changes her query and asks, "Can I have a dollar to buy me some chicken?" I again decline, and she skulks away, exiting the establishment and camping out in front of the KFC sign on the sidewalk.

Ten minutes later, I finish the last nibble of my buttermilk biscuit, all the while watching this old woman out the window. She continues to unsuccessfully panhandle. As I leave the restaurant and begin walking home, I pass this woman and she stops me again, 'Can you buy me some chicken?' she asks. Again I say, 'What?' She preceeds to repeat her question, and--upon my silence--asks if she can instead have a dollar to buy some chicken for herself.

To me, this just seems like a poor business philosophy. I realize street people don't really provide a 'service,' per se, but--if you had to quantify what they do contribute into some kind of discernable social role--the most flattering description might be that they make us feel like we're a part of civilization. They are a part of an urban landscape, they are reminders of how life is wicked, and they are profiles in courage.

Or at least they could be profiles in courage, if they weren't so goddamn inconsiderate. How can you not remember talking to me, old woman? It's not like you're haunted by career responsibilities and bombarded by stimuli; in the past ten minutes, you've merely asked random strangers for free chicken. Is recalling that I've already declined to give you my charity too much to ask? Must you treat me like a complete stranger? As members of the same civilization, can I not expect the courtesy of a knowing glance when you beg for chicken a second time?

That's the problem with homeless people: To them, we're all just a number."

Thursday, November 29, 2007

On Hunting

I really feel like I need to explore this thought, perhaps because I am at a misunderstanding or I need clarification.

So I am driving back from school this fine afternoon, after being swiped by a truck that knocked off fifty percent of my side mirror this morning, and I am stopped at a red light behind a van. The van have doors for a trunk, where on the right side one could open to the rear of the vehicle, and at the left there is a tire with a tire casing over it. Normally people like to put a decorative cover over their tire, but this one puzzled me.

These local townies decided to cover their tire with an enlarged picture of a deer looking off into the distance with mountains and a lake intrically painted behind its head. Now, my first thought is "Why a deer? Perhaps they like to hunt." But then, I pursued the thought even more--if it is hunting they are representing with the deer there, aren't they projecting an image of the animal they want to kill? So they post the animal on the back of their car as if for show? Why would they post a deer on the back of their van?

Isn't that kind of cruel and sadistic? Do people like hunting for the sport, for food, out of boredom, or for killing animals (particularly seeking out deer, sticking pictures of them on the backs of their vehicles, and later stalking them in the forest to shoot them with a shotgun?). I am clueless when it comes to hunting. This is a new phenomenon to me. I feel like I've been dropped in hunting culture, having been completely isolated from it for my entire life. I knew it existed, but I never knew anyone who did, I never fired a gun before (until a few weeks ago), and I certainly had never seen people wear the attire or speak of it as a frequent past-time.

But, back to the van.

Is that creepy only to me? If I like to kill mosquitos, would I put a giant picture of one on the back of my Jetta, or would I mount a flag on my front porch? I feel that they're taking the sport of hunting and representing their hobby with the prime love of killing. I don't like glorifying something so destructive, something so primitive, something that is pretty cruel for the sake of entertainment. Am I getting my point across here?

Being a meat-eater myself, I know that even I partake in the killing of animals just by eating animals daily. My participating in meat-eating automatically assumes that I accept the practice of killing animals to contribute to my diet. I understand that it happens. I even read about the cruel practices that still go on today in slaughter houses in Fast Food Nation. A lot of the meat we do eat is not handled properly, and the poor cows are brought in by the thousands and killed execution-style, almost like a freaky Holocaust killing spree in a sense. I know it happens. Has it become so a part of life that it's just too easy to accept because we don't actually see the act happen? We don't have to go through with that step--we might not even think about the animal before we eat it. Our thoughts surpass that and go straight to cooking, if not just slamming the food right down our throats in the first place.

Hunting could be considered savage, but then does that make us all savage (excluding vegetarians)?

Perhaps. But, what started my rant was branding the animals we kill, almost like a sort of pride we had in killing them, like we sought out to kill them and took pleasure in the killing. That is an issue. There are certain levels of problems here, but I am not considering myself free from blame. I am surely to blame, but I am simply posing the earlier question about the van people with their strange deer tire cover.

Or, am I interpreting this all incorrectly. Does the deer tire covering mean hunting after all? I assume that it does, but maybe it represents something else entirely.

What do you think? Am I off? Am I close? Any comments? Help me out here.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Keith Haring

For whatever reason, I came across Keith Haring's paintings today, and I knew I needed to blog about it. His artwork was something I had seen before, but I didn't think much about the creator, but rather I accepted it as an art style of the 1980s.

I will credit Megan with opening me up to him and introducing me to his pieces and his life. Haring was a phenomenal artist who created graffiti and public art with his well-recognized designs of intertwined simplistic bodies. You'll see what I mean below. He contracted AIDS and was a victim to the disease, but he created a lot of artwork about it and for organizations. His artwork is still posted around NYC, and I will be excited to see it myself someday.

I love that someone would create artwork simply for others to see, not necessarily for the paycheck. Art can be about creation and spreading messages though images, so I am impressed and happy that Haring was so open to do so. Thankfully he was successful enough to be able to do this and leave a lasting piece of his creativity for all to see.

He was so talented that he created murals, paintings, sculptures, wall hangings, etc. I can't imagine having the vision or the ability to create on such a large scale as he did.

I enjoy having small blog posts on good artists, because it gives me the chance to find out who they are what great pieces they have. I paste them here and force myself to dig deeper into their art. So here is my Haring display.

A lot of these have extremely strong and powerful messages, but I am being courageous and putting them here for you to see.

Tell me what you like.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Deeper Meanings of Dr. Seuss

As I mentioned in an earlier blog post, I was reading a book on Dr. Seuss. As I read each children's story, I am enlightened by the deeper meanings behind each story. I am captivated that each story, of which I overlooked as a child, and now I revisit them and read them with a whole new frame of mind.

In this blog post, I want to expose deeper meanings, purposes, or themes that derive from various Dr. Seuss stories, some of which you might not be familiar with.

The Cat in the Hat (1957)

-Promoting children's imagination
-A revolt against authority
-Created as a Seuss alter-ego

How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1957)

-Consumerism (of Christmas)
-We don't focus on the holiday anymore! Appreciate!

Horton Hears a Who (1954)

"A person's a person no matter how small."

"I meant what I said and I said what I meant
an elephant's faithful one hundred percent."

-Trust yourself when others say otherwise

And to Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street (1937)

"Stop telling such outlandish tales,
stop turning minnows into whales."

-Don't tarnish or hinder the child's imagination. Imagination is a beautiful, wonderful thing.

Yertle the Turtle (1958)

"And today the great Yertle, that marvelous he,
Is the King of the Mud. That is all he can see.
And the turtles, of course... all the turtles are free
As turtles, and maybe, all creatures should be."

-The abuse of power
-Taking things that aren't rightfully yours (imperialism)
-Harsh and cruel treatment to other people
-Symbolism: Hitler/Moussolini
-Sympathy for the underdog
-Tyrants cause their own downfall

The Sneetches (1961)

"That day they decided that Sneetches are Sneetches
And no kind of Sneetch is the best on the beaches.
That day, all the Sneetches forgot about stars
And whether they had one, or not, upon thars."

-Against anti-semitism
-Civil Rights

The Lorax (1971)

-Negative impact we have on the enviornment
-Global warming
-The voice of the minority

Green Eggs and Ham (1960)

-Try new things
-Keep an open mind

Oh, The Places You'll Go! (1990)

"You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes
You can steer yourself
any direction you choose.
You're on your own. And you know what you know.
And YOU are the guy who'll decide where to go."

"I'm sorry to say so
but, sadly, it's true
and Hang-ups
can happen to you."

"I'm afraid that sometimes
you'll play lonely games too.
Games you can't win
'cause you'll play against you."
You'll get mixed up, of course,
as you already know.
You'll get mixed up
with many strange birds as you go.
So be sure when you step.
Step with care and great tact
and remember that Life's
a Great Balancing Act.
Just never forget to be dexterous and deft.
And never mix up your right foot with your left."

-Life is full of hard decisions. Choices are not easy.
-Sadness, loneliness, despair, isolation, etc. are all a part of life, but we are strong and wise enough to get through it and enjoy the beauty of life.
-Choose your paths wisely.
-Explore the world! Explore your options!
-We all make mistakes. The trick is what we do with them, how we learn from them and grow from them.