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.

Friday, November 23, 2007

The Perfect Thanksgiving Meal

My cousin brought something up at Thanksgiving last night, a thought that I had once had but never really surfaced it. He asked, "Don't you wish that the food served at Thanksgiving was better?"

I'm not trying to insult Moms around the country. The Thanksgiving dinners that I have tasted have been beyond delicious. But, don't you wish the food selection at Thanksgiving was better?

Given, the holiday exists with certain food because of the Pilgrims and the Indians. These items were the types of food that they collected and harvested for their big meal. And this holiday (and Christmas) allow for Americans to eat uncontrollably large amounts of food, and it is absolutely culturally acceptable.

So, if we are allowed to eat heaps of food, don't you wish we had a better selection of food?

Also given, some of the food is delicious at Thanksgiving. I'm not a real big turkey fan--I think another main entree would suffice better. Stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce--not bad side dishes. BUT, I think we could all concoct an amazing meal that we would LOVE to feast upon, not necessarily settle for like yams and instant stuffing.

My cousin offered that he would rather have an Italian Thanksgiving with pasta and manicotti, etc. If you could choose any meal for Thanksgiving, what would it be?

I understand that Thanksgiving would not be what it is today if it didn't have the certain foods we have in it. I am just trying to be imaginitive, and perhaps dabble into something that perhaps we have not explored before in our imaginations. I bet that many people do love Thanksgiving food, as do I, but I bet we could concoct better home-cooked meals that seem more appealing to us.

So, one of two questions:

What are your favorite foods on Thanksgiving?

What would your ideal Thanksgiving meal be, if you could change the traditional meal?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Giving Thanks

What are you thankful for?

On Thanksgiving, do you really stop to think about it, or are you more bombarded with family and food? The above question seems cliche, but it's the reason for a holiday, celebration and tradition.

Do you ever think about that phrase either, too? Giving thanks. Who are we giving thanks to? Others who we need to praise? Others who deserve a thank you? Perhaps should we use this day to thank all who have helped us within the previous year? Could you imagine if we really did that? I feel like we all, as a whole people, would be more appreciative, and the holiday would have much more meaning. Imagine if we really did give thanks.

Do you have any unique traditions?

Otherwise, what are you thankful for this year?

Monday, November 19, 2007

Retaining Memory

Do you feel like writing about something really makes you retain the information?

Like, when we read a book or see a movie. If you just watch it in isolation and not discuss or write about it, don't you find that you're more apt to lose that information? It's more likely and easier to fade out of memory.

I see this is almost a recorder for the texts I view, the new information I'm introduced to. I need a space to record what I learn--even when the topics are bizarre and don't seem like "learning material."

It also allows me to explore writing instead of always concentrating on writing to a certain fake audience--like for school. You have to focus on fulfilling so many requirements that it hinders creativity. At least in a space like this, I am free to explore writing where I will not be evaluated or heavily criticized (at least I do not hope so).

Additionally, it forces me to write. Otherwise I tend to push it out of the way and do "other" things instead. These things are really not all that important. They are more significant things in life than the menial tasks of my day.

Who knows where I come up with what I write.

Not me.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Echoes, Silence, Patience, and Grace

For Foo Fighters fans out there, this is no surprise. Recently, they came out with a new CD, Echoes, Silence, Patience, and Grace, which is pretty impressive. (That was quite an alliteration to start out with there, wasn't it? Yes, I am a dork.)

This could just be my opinion, or maybe it's shared by others, but does it sound like members of the Foot Fighters were listening to classic rock before they created this album? Much of it sounds like it was influenced by Led Zeppelin, with the perfect example of their hit single "The Pretender." The introduction seems strangely similar to "Stairway to Heaven," does it not? It starts with a slow tune that sounds VERY close to it. When I downloaded the single when it first came up, "Stairway to Heaven" also appeared under hits for "The Pretender." Hm. So maybe it's not just me.

Additionally, they perform a ballad on the album, which I think is awesome that good bands are currently doing this, but I think it also suggests that they were influenced or tributing classic rock bands. Have other recent bands created ballads? I think it seems a bit of a thing of the past, but I'm glad Foo Fighters have created their own with "The Ballad of the Beaconsfield Miners." It is beautiful and peaceful to listen to, definitely one of my favorite tracks.

The song "Erase/Replace" reminds me of "Speak to Me/Breathe" just with punctuation, but there are clear differences. "Erase/Replace" is repeated back-to-back in the chorus while "Speak to Me/Breathe" is two songs combined into one track.

With each new CD, artists seem to take their music to new and different places, but they still retain their musical energy, sound, and messages. They just expand and grow into changing, evolving musicians. Certain songs on this album remind me of different albums they've made in the past, like they could easily be incorporated into previous albums.

For example, "Stranger Things Have Happened" could easily incorporate itself onto In Your Honor, Disc Two. "Erase/Replace" and "Cheer Up Boys (Your Makeup is Running" are fast-paced, melodic songs that could easily follow "Monkey Wrench" on The Colour and the Shape. "The Pretender" has the catchy, radio-friendly sound that could work on One by One, as would "Come Alive," as it has that similar slow-build up to the end like "Come Back." Lastly, "Home" sounds like it could mesh on Skin and Bones with their live tracks, incorporating the piano. I'm very glad they're using the piano now. "Home" seems like it will be a new classic song for them to play slowly and drive a lot of love and attention from the audience. I think it will be up there with playing "Everlong," "Times Like These," "My Hero," etc.

Overall, excellent CD. I enjoyed it so much I let it stay playing over multiple times on my first hearing. Check it out.

Has anyone else listened to it? Positive/negative reactions?

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Dr. Seuss

For a poetry unit I'm doing for class, I'm trying to introduce poetry that they are familiar with. My aim for the unit is to make them enjoy poetry and see that it is not all boring and terrible. So, in order to do so, I am introducing the unit with Dr. Seuss.

The library had this humongous book of collections of his children's book along with his illustrations and essays from devoted fans. I am getting a little into it though, continuously researching his life because I find it borderline fascinating.

So let me share with you.

Dr. Seuss, whose last name was actually not Seuss, nor was he a doctor, was born in 1904 and went through Prohibition during college. Can you imagine? He was an editor for a newspaper at his college, and when throwing a party when it was literally banned in the country, was caught. He was expelled from participating in extracurricular activities. In order to continue his passion to write and draw, he needed to use a pen name. He chose his mother's maiden name, Seuss, and used Dr. to sort of mock the fact that he dropped out of his doctorate program in literature to write and illustrate.

Theodor Geisel was his real name. During WWII, Seuss began to draw a series of political cartoons, perhaps a fact that not many are aware of. Here is one below which pictures Japanese Americans entering California. His cartoons varied from Prohibition, pro/cons of Roosevelt, the Soviet Union, Congress, Communists, Nazis, and WWII overall.

Here is a political cartoon or two depicting Hitler:

After WWII, Dr. Seuss began to write his famous children's books. Many of his popular books were created during the 1950s and 1960s. Before writing Green Eggs and Ham, supposedly, Dr. Seuss was challenged that he could not write a story in 50 words. Seuss won the bet by writing Green Eggs and Ham. Additionally, a publisher gave Dr. Seuss a list of 400 words he thought were important for children to know as they develop as readers. That list was cut down to 220, in which Seuss used all the words, compiling the famous children's book The Cat in the Hat.

Dr. Seuss spent much time concoting the ideas behind each book. Each book generated a larger message that he wanted to spread to others. He even identified with certain characters he created. He writes that he identified mostly with the Cat in the Hat, and through a political cartoon, he illustrates his identification with the Grinch. His inspiration for writing The Grinch came not only out of consumerism during Christmas, but his own agitation towards Christmas, almost being a slight Grinch himself. In the book, he draws a cartoon of himself looking in the mirror, and in return reflects the Grinch. Quite interesting.

Colleagues of Dr. Seuss wrote an introduction to the book. They commented that Dr. Seuss would spend hours, DAYS going over each stanza and phrase until the book used the perfect words just right. He wanted such an easy-flowing rhyme with an overarching message. Obviously, his work paid off, for he is one of the most recognized children's authors of all time.

Although, he never had any children of his own. When asked by a children trick-or-treating at his house why he never had any, he responded that he didn't think he would be a good father (Wikiepdia). Dr. Seuss eventually died in 1991 after suffering an illness.

Famous Dr. Seuss books:

Horton Hatches the Egg (1940)
The Cat in the Hat (1957)
How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1957)
Yertle the Turtle (1958)
Green Eggs and Ham (1960)
One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish (1960)
Dr. Seuss's ABC (1960)
Fox in Sox (1965)
My Book about ME (1969)
Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You? (1970)
There's a Wocket in My Pocket! (1974)
Oh, The Things You Can Think! (1975)
Oh, The Places You'll Go! (1990)

What is your favorite Dr. Seuss book? Why?

Do you think recent movie adaptations do the books justice?

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Bee Movie

Was it just me, or did Bee Movie scare anyone else?

What I mean is, was anyone scared that Jerry Seinfeld created a lousy movie like other animations that would be a disappointment?

Initially, I was. However, after seeing the movie, Seinfeld has relieved me and entertained me through witty bee jokes and subtle commentaries on human life. Seinfeld, being one of the writers, incorporates his everyday, unique style of humor throughout the movie. I was afraid he just picked up this piece as some project to do, as other actors and comediens have done, but you can tell that this is a Seinfeld crafted piece.

Not only did certain points make me laugh very hard at various points, but the movie is very intelligent. Certain scenes, characters, and dialogues were exaggerations or commentaries on human life, even acting as metaphors for the rigorous, everyday lives and jobs of the "average" man, working the same job every day of his life, perhaps feeling just like a cog in the machine. The bees worklife, working each day the same for their entire life spans, is an intelligent comparison in this respect. The portrayal of lawyers, court rooms, work life, romance, etc. is witty through light comedy meant for children. This is another movie that has many layers; it can be enjoyed by both children and analyzed by adults.

In addition, cameo speakers really added flavor to the movie. And, for those who are fans of The Graduate, Seinfeld wrote a scene that parallels to a similar scene in that film where Dustin Hoffman's character floats in the swimming pool and is admonished by his parents to get a job. Very intelligent and excellent comparison.

Do not fear. Bee Movie is worth the watch. Seinfeld has used his humor for a different audience, showing his diverse talent to write and entertain. He has not dropped the ball, as I feared, he has proven to me how excellent he is as a comedian.

Has anyone else seen the movie? Any other reviews, comments, likes, dislikes?

Monday, November 12, 2007

Chris Cornell Concert

Last Saturday night, Chris Cornell played at Northern Lights, which I must say was a pretty decent concert. In my opinion, Northern Lights' stagecrew was a bit slow to change sets, making the waiting period between acts a bit agonizing and slow, but the wait was worth it. Cornell's voice and performance are well worth the wait.

The opening band, Earl Greyhound, is a must-check-out band. They sound like a modern day Led Zeppelin with a duet voice by the bassist, a female with the sound of soul. Very excellent combination. If you're really into Led Zepellin or that amazing female sound of someone like Joss Stone or Lauryn Hill, then Earl Greyhound is for you.

After that unexpected fantastic opener, Chris Cornell eventually came out, blasting his incredible voice. He announced he had not played in Albany in over 15 years, which is actually really cool for someone to have a career that they love to span that long.

Cornell played hits from all of his bands, even his solo albums.

From Temple of the Dog: "Hunger Strike"

From Soundgarden: "Outshined," "Rusty Cage"

From Audioslave: "Show Me How to Live," "Like a Stone," "Shadow of the Sun," "I Am the Highway," "Set it Off"

From solo albums: "Can't Change Me," "No Such Thing," "Billie Jean," "You Know My Name"


At first, Cornell came out with a band who mimicked each of his pre-existing bands fairly well. It was just a bit strange to see these strangers covering such amazing bands like Soundgarden and Audioslave jamming alongside Cornell. Cornell put on an incredible show despite this awkwardness.

After ending on "Rusty Cage," the room was completely amped from the fast-paced, energetic song. The band members left the stage, leaving Cornell alone to sit on a stool and play acoustic tracks. This was an amazing way to change the tempo and end the show. His voice is immaculate and sounds superb with just an acoustic accompaniment.

I wish he had played other certain songs too instead of primarily focusing on his new CD, Carry On, which I don't think is incredibly amazing when compared to his earlier work. Some specific songs on it are alright, but they do not match up to earlier hits. I know he is touring to promote that CD, but I think he focused too heavily on it, almost playing every track off the album. I think he would have generated a better concert and evoked emotion out of his fanbase in the audience if he had just went with older songs, not even hits, just older songs that probably drew most of the audience there.

Overall, good show. My friend who joined me says he's starting to look old, but I think he still looks pretty fine. Not a bad way to spend a Saturday night or $30 plus.

If you had went, what songs would you have wanted to hear?