Saturday, January 31, 2009

Fleet Foxes

Fleet Foxes are the new musical group to watch and listen to. I have recently discovered this band, and I am addicted to listening to them. They are so melodic, easy-going, and relaxing... It's easy to mellow out when you put them on.

Fleet Foxes are an Indie rock, folksy band that sounds like a cross between Iron and Wine, Band of Horses, and Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young. They sound like they're from the early 1970s, that slow, mellow folk-rock sound. It is quite soothing to have on with whatever you're doing.

They would classify their music as "baroque harmonic pop jams."

This band is from Seattle, and last year they put out their first complete album, self-titled. They have an EP that came out in 2006 called Sun Giant which hosts my favorite song, "Myknonos." They even look like they're out of a different decade. The lead singer sports scattered long hair from the 70s. Their clothing is very indie. The band members all look very different, like they wouldn't normally be friends unless it was for music, but something with them totally works. They play so well together, especially when most of them sing together in harmony.

Rolling Stone Magazine gave Fleet Foxes a four star review: "Indie rock is undergoing a folk renaissance, which has spawned some great harmony singing. Case in point: Fleet Foxes' debut opens with a woozy a cappella that's part sacred-harp-choral tradition, part Beach Boys, and it resolves into a Celtic-flavored march with a searing Richard Thompson-style guitar line. The 11 songs are mostly pastorals — the sun rises, snow falls, spring comes, birds fly and, on "Tiger Mountain Peasant Song," the "tall grasses wave/They do not know you anymore." (Dis!) This style is what critics used to label "freak folk" before the term became verboten, though plain freakin' lovely is more to the point. A lower-dosage Animal Collective, the Foxes stuff their free-form songs with rich, swirling melodies; billowing clouds of organs, tom-toms, bells and assorted stringed instruments cloak group vocals whose secular-gospel, suede-fringed precision owes plenty to Crosby, Stills and Nash (check out the gorgeous intro to "He Doesn't Know Why"). The lyrics are haunted by mortality — one song finds the singer "staggering through premonitions of my death," and another's narrator finds a drowned child on the banks of a river — but the exquisite voices thrum with life."

I think the clincher for me was when they performed on Saturday Night Live. They were INCREDIBLE. They absolutely won me over. First they played "Blue Ridge Mountains," then they played my favorite, "Mykonos." I hope this exposure will help them out, because they already seem to be a huge hit among many crowds.

Suggested songs to listen to if you want to get into Fleet Foxes: "Mykonos" (obviously), "Sun It Rises," "Winter White Hymnal," "Blue Ridge Mountains," "Your Protector," or "Ragged Wood."

Watch for them travelling and performing at festivals this year. If you haven't heard of them before, try them out. You won't be disappointed. They are an excellent new sound for new music. I am disappointed most of the time with where music is going, but bands like Fleet Foxes give me hope to take music in a positive direction.

And look at how cool their album cover is. What an incredible piece of artwork. You can analyze that guy for a while to uncover its meaning. Very artsy, very cool.

So what do you think of Fleet Foxes?

Friday, January 30, 2009

Morphing Presidents

With the new excitement of the president, tons of new videos, blogs, articles, etc are being created as a response. One of the coolest things that I've seen created is this video, Morphing Presidents.

Basically, the video shows every US president and each one morphs into the next one. Each president even has his own name underneath each one so you know who is being shown. Personally, I couldn't tell you the names of all 44 presidents, so it was extremely helpful. And educational.

I think it's interesting to see new styles and popular customs shown in the various pictures. You can tell hairstyles, beards, mustaches, glasses, clothing--things that wealthy, elite men would wear at the time. The styles eventually all morph together, slowly building towards today.

Obviously, this is meant to show the change as we have our first African American president. But even still, I think it's a cool mini history lesson. I think it's interesting that I didn't know about so many presidents. You really only learn about those big key figures in history class: JFK, Lincoln, Washington, Nixon, FDR. Interesting how some get remembered and how others simply fade away...

Anyway, check out the video. It's worth the four plus minutes.

So, what did you think of the video?

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Early Obama Interview

The second-to-last issue of the New Yorker had a really interesting piece in it on the Obamas. In 1996, a New Yorker columnist visited Barack and Michelle in Hyde Park, where they were living, and interviewed them as a part of a photography project on couples in America.

It's really interesting to see how these two commented on one another and their lives way before they were in the spotlight. They seem like real people, and you can detect that even from early interviews.

Below are excerpts from the interview:

MICHELLE OBAMA: There is a strong possibility that Barack will pursue a political career, although it's unclear. There is a little tension with that. I'm vary wary of politics. I think he's too much of a good guy for the kind of brutality, the kind of skepticism.

When you are involved in politics, your life is an open book, and people can come in who don't necessarily have good intent. I'm pretty private, and I like to surround myself with people that I trust and love. In politics you've got to open up yourself to a lot of different people. There is a possibility that our futures will go that way, even though I want to have kids and travel, spend time with family, and like spending time with friends. But we are going to be busy people doing lots of stuff. And it'll be interesting to see what life has to offer. In many ways, we are here for the ride, just seeing what opportunities open themselves up. And the more you experiment the easier it is to do different things. If I had stayed in a law firm and made partner, my life would be completely different. I wouldn't know the people I know, and I would be more risk-averse. Barack has helped me loosen up and feel comfortable with taking risks, not doing things the traditional way and sort of testing it out, because that is how he grew up. I'm more traditional; he's the one in the couple that, I think, is the less traditional individual. You can probably tell from the photographs--he's just more out there, more flamboyant. I'm more, like, "Well, let's wait and see. What did that look like? How much does it weigh?"

BARACK OBAMA: All my life, I have been stitching together a family, through stories of memories of friends or ideas. Michelle has had a very different background--very stable, two-parent family, mother at home, brother and a dog, living in the same house all their lives. We represent two strands of family life in this country--the strand that is very stable and solid, and then the strand that is breaking out of the constraints of traditional families, travelling, separated, mobile. I think there was that strand in me of imagining what it would be like to have a stable, solid, secure family life.

Michelle is a tremendously strong person, and has a very strong sense of herself and who she is and where she comes from. But I also think in her eyes you can see a trace of vulnerability that most people don't know, because when she's walking through the world she is this tall, beautiful, confident woman. There is a part of her that is vulnerable and young and sometimes frightened, and I think seeing both of those things is what attracted me to her. And then what sustains our relationship is I'm extremely happy with her, and part of it has to do with the fact that she is at once completely familiar to me, so that I can be myself and she knows me very well and I trust her completely, but at the same time she is also a complete mystery to me in some ways. And there are times when we are lying in bed and I look over and sort of have a start. Because I realize here is this other person who is separate and different and has different memories and backgrounds and thoughts and feelings. It's that tension between familiarity and mystery that makes for something strong, because, even as you build a life of trust and comfort and mutual support, you retain some sense of surprise or wonder about the other person.

You can see how genuine these two are, and how well they truly get along. They seem very happy together and are very comfortable with one another.

I really enjoyed when Barack was talking about how each of them represents different families in America, stable and unstable. That's a great mix to be running the country. They understand so many sides of American life, not just the elite side, so they are more realistic and fair. I like that they aren't the traditional couple and the traditional presidential family, but there's something that is genuine and loving with them. It's true. It's real. It's strong.

I wish I could have seen some of the other pictures from their Chicago apartment. What a life they've had so far. I wonder what they would have thought if they knew where they would be within 15 years from that point. He really has achieved a lot since this 1996 interview. Good for him. He deserves it.

So, what do you think of this 1996 interview?

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


In the second-to-last issue of The New Yorker, this poem surfaced and it caught my eye. It's innovative in the fact that it takes one word and makes so many different meanings out of it. It also uses it to describe marriage, which I think is pretty interesting.

I am always excited to see how poets can create new forms and new techniques in their poetry. Check out this one.

The use of little words like "oh" and "eh" and "ah" leave it up to your imagination but point in a way to a meaning that is clear, so very clear, to understand.



by Natalie Anderson

Eh he said and she
dreamed eh. It was
like that between them.

Not that his lips dreamed,
out that his dreamed lips
parted. Eh he'd say

and her dream was eh,
was all eh, all and
only. Sometimes

a near kiss an almost tide
drawn back withdrawn withdrawing.
Sometimes the hackled wave

raised, drew back its lip, sheered
its teeth, coughed its raw
gutteral. Or

she herself voicing
involuntary eh
his whatever, his

what-it-is. But
sometimes his naked eh
with her ah alongside--

the rocked bulls nudging muzzling
or was it scraping what
did she care? Would his eh

oh? How fast she'd
founder, taking on water,
mouth emptying full.

By day she'd hear on the air
his syllable, turn
toward or away, does it

matter? If she said ah
would he dream ah? Oh--
not like that between them.

So what are the meanings of "oh" and "eh" and "ah" or do they constantly change? And why is the title of the poem "Eh?" especially with a question mark involved?

At first "eh" seemed to be the obvious dullness and boringness of their marriage. There are no sparks; they don't like to make love; they simply coexist. But then "eh" turns into something sexual next to her "ah" -- and she wants nothing to do with it. "It's not like that between them."

The poem uses a lot of changing verb tenses and words, like "withdraw, withdrawn, withdrawing" and "lips dreamed/dreamed lips" -- this suggests to me that the states between them are always changing but pretty much consistent with the same old things. Good days, bad days, but the end result is always the same: they are always still together in a boring, dull state of marriage or togetherness (I don't know why I'm assuming marriage).

Two concepts are big in this poem besides the two letters words aforementioned. We have the concept of "dreams" and the concept of the "wave." They dream throughout the poem, both of them. It seems to be some sort of escape for the world they're already in. They are both dreaming of another life but remain in the one they're in, even though it is not satisfying and it doesn't make them happy.

The wave comes up when it seems that they try to be intimate. The tides withdraw, but then a wave pushes forward. The other seems to draw back like an animal "sheering its teeth" and "coughing gutteral," unless this refers to the sexual act itself which she makes out to be utterly disgusting and nonenjoyable.

So what do you think of the poem "Eh?"

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Inauguration Pictures

As many photographers and journalists attended this month's inauguration, many incredible pictures were taken as well. Now that the hype is coming down, excellent pictures are surfacing, and I've come across some that are simply breathtaking.

Check out this website for incredible inauguration pictures.

I showed my seventh-grade class these pictures and asked them to write about their reactions. Many of them were confused as to why many other nations were watching our US president's inauguration. I would never think that that point would be muddled or confusing. It was enlightening to converse with them about these and get their reactions.

The good ones are in the link above, but some are found below:

What do you think of the pictures taken on the inauguration?

Monday, January 26, 2009

Learning to Read

I enjoyed this poem from The New Yorker, maybe because I am an English teacher. Maybe not. Check it out anyway though.

I think it also shows how much some people take the English language for granted. I can't imagine one of my students now having this kind of attitude towards learning and reading. They don't put in this kind of work ethic to further their education. If only they still had the drive like in this poem...

Anyway, check it out.

Learning to Read

by Franz Wright

If I had to look up every fifth or sixth word,
so what. I looked them up.
I had nowhere important to be.

My father was unavailable, and my mother
looked like she was about to break,
and not into blossom, every time I spoke.

My favorite was the Iliad. True,
I had trouble pronouncing the names,
but when I was going to pronounce them, and

to whom?
My stepfather maybe?
Number one, he could barely speak English;

two, he had sufficient intent
to smirk or knock me down
without any prompting from me.

Loneliness, boredom and terror
my motivation
fiercely fuelled.

I get down on my knees and thank God for them.

Du Fu, the Psalms, Whitman, Rilke.
Life has taught me
to understand books.

The only sort of motivation that I see in students are ESL students, especially those who have moved or are temporarily visiting America. American students seem to have less motivation, and when it comes to "time" as noted above, they like to put their time in other places besides school work. Since we're living in this fast-paced world, they want things to be done as quickly and efficiently as possible. Learning is not like that, and that can sometimes be hard to communicate.

The last two lines are great too. I know that those words will ring true to me later on too when I am much older. I find it true now, but I can't imagine how more true they will be when I have must more experience than I have now.

So, what do you think of "Learning to Read?"

Sunday, January 25, 2009


So, I finished the third book in the series. Eclipse and New Moon are now blending together in my mind. It's hard to separate them, but I guess it's pretty easy if you focus on the ending climaxes and distinguish before-and-after points.

Eclipse frustrated me a lot, but I was still hooked into it. I found myself more interested in New Moon, unable to put it down and constantly finding time to read more pages. With Eclipse, it was good, but it was slower in the beginning like Twilight. It eventually picked up, but it wasn't as much of a hook.

The book (and series) is still a good read, so definitely pick them up to read.

I was frustrated that Jacob actually becomes a love interest. I question Bella's sincerity when she becomes in love with both boys. It actually makes me mad because Jacob started to irritate me. He became so pushy and insistant; I found myself getting mad when he kept pushing her and pushing her. Just let it go! Leave her alone! And Bella was such a tease, which frustrated me more. She gave him all these signals and dropped him at the first sight of Edward. Honestly, Jacob doesn't even deserve her. Move on with your life.

The way they even describe Jacob as this warm, towering wolf seems unattractive to me. They say he smells and tastes like a dog, so it just is repulsive. The sweet-smelling colder male seems more attractive to me. And Jacob plays games, messes with Bella, and tries to fight for her while Edward is so much more mature about the whole thing. Yeah, he's older and has more experience, but his personality is so much more attractive. I know that he can be over-protective and stubborn, but it beats the annoying persistance of Jacob.

I didn't expect the love triangle, but it was definitely there. The marriage route seems a little crazy too, but whatever I guess.

I am beginning to get frustrated that they haven't turned her into a vampire yet. It actually makes me question whether they will in the series. If they haven't yet, then maube they won't. Or maybe that's the final end-all in the last book, what we've all been waiting for.

But then I think, what is Stephanie Meyer's main message to us? What does she want us to take from her series? It seems so easy for Bella to just go along with Edward. That would be teaching us that love conquers all: go with the boyfriend and ditch your family. Not a great message. It tells us to give into the temptation. It seems like a more powerful message for her to be stronger and leave the whole situation. Be normal. Pick the hard route and learn lessons the hard way. I don't like that option and don't want to see it happen, but I fear that it might occur in the next book, Breaking Dawn.

The sexual scenes are teases too. Come on now. I wonder what Breaking Dawn will bring, but it makes me wonder because of the wide teenage audience. And it's not even so bad for older teenagers, but pre-teens are all into this. I wonder how far she'll go with that route...

I hope I'm not disappointed with the ending. The first three books seem to have all been leading up to this book. There better be some closure or else it's going to leave a sour taste in my mouth. No good.

So, what do you think of Eclipse?

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Bush's Presidential Speeches

With Obama's inauguration, it officially marks the end of Bush's presidency. On the day of the inauguration, David Letterman did a really funny sketch on former president Bush. He was upset that he can no longer make so many jokes about the guy, and in tribute, he put together this hilarious video.

Watch the video here.

I think what's so funny about this video is that these are real clips of Bush giving speeches and speaking with people in public. He digs his own grave. These aren't altered with; they are real clips of him showing how much he lacks speaking skills, and maybe general English language skills. Yikes.

It's a relief that we have Obama now. His superior intelligence and language skills when compared to our ex-president. Enjoy. It's a warm feeling inside that he's on his way to Texas.

So what do you think of the video?

Friday, January 23, 2009

Into Thin Air

I was extremely interested in reading Jon Krakauer's Into Thin Air after I had previously read his popular book Into the Wild. I must admit: I did enjoy Into the Wild much more, but if you are really interested in climbing, adventure, the outdoors, and mountains, then you would really enjoy this book.

Into Thin Air is a true nonfiction piece that recounts Krakauer's 1996expedition of climbing up Mount Everest. He used his experience to report for Outside Magazine, but the quest was so intense that he eventually compiled everything into this one book.

The book recalls Krakauer's traumatic experience: His travel group was accosted with a horrendous storm that claimed the lives of eight of his fellow travelers, including two experienced guides with their own companies to assist travelers up Everest. These two guides were Rob Hall and Scott Fischer. Krakauer was devastated by the losses and suffered survivor's guilt for much time after the expedition.

Krakauer traditionally starts off his books with the ending and then retracts back and tells of every detail that lead up to that tradic ending. In this case, he recalls the storm and all of the members who perished from the storm (and some that were left stranded) and then backs up to the climb itself.

He is very technical with his details. As with Into the Wild, he gives information on the history and background of Everest and factual details and statistics about climbing and Everest. Sometimes the information seems to come all at once in large amounts, but once he gets to the narrative, I enjoyed it much more.

And Krakauer is lucky to be alive. The rough statistic is that 1 in 4 climbers die who attempt to climb Everest. If the number is so high, why take the risk?

When I was reading about Krakauer's experiences, I couldn't believe what would possess someone to do these things. He would sleep in frozen temperatures in the middle of storms in a tent that could hardly stay up, some suffered frostbite, they had poor latrines, they were weak and fatigued from the high altitudes, they lost tons of weight from lack of eating and increase of exertion on the body, and they had to constantly deal with team members dying or becoming injured. Why experience that? Why risk it?

I know that some people are really into that rush and thrill, and I can see the appeal of climbing such a fierce mountain. It's a life accomplishment that one can be proud of. For me, I just can't understand it, but I guess that some people really are driven to do things like this.

The book did teach me an awful lot about mountain climbing. Not like I can go climb a mountain or anything now, but it offered some insight into what happens to the body when climbing. Near the top of the mountain, it is suggested to use an oxygen tank because of the high altitude. I also did not realize that the human body actually reacts to higher altitudes. You could develop various diseases and reactions from this high altitude:

High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE): fluid build up in the lungs

High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE): swelling of brain tissue from fluid leakage

Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS): headache, dizziness, fatigue, shortness of breath, loss of appetite, nausea, disturbed sleep, and a general feeling of malaise

These illnesses occur because the depth of respiration increases, pressure in pulmonary arteries increases, "forcing" blood into portions of the lung which are normally not used during sea level breathing, the body produces more red blood cells to carry oxygen, and the body produces more of a particular enzyme that facilitates
the release of oxygen from hemoglobin to the body tissues. (From this website)

One of the members of Krakauer's crew, Beck Weathers, was left for dead but awakened in subzero temperatures. He ended up walking to a base camp to save himself, but he was left severely damaged. He got frostbite so bad that they had to amputate his right arm up to his elbow, all fingers on his left hand, and his nose. They had to reconstruct his face using skin and tissue from his ear and other locations.

Weathers could not climb Everest because he was suffering eye troubles from an earlier surgery. He was waiting for his guide, Rob Hall, to come down the mountain so they could all return. Hall never made it back down due to the storm, and Weathers was left in the middle of the horrible storm. He passed out with his hands and face exposed (which led to multiple amputations). Those who saw him afterward said that he felt like porcelain and they didn't expect him to survive. Weathers now still practices medicine and gives motivational speeches.

Otherwise, I can understand why Krakauer expereinced such grief after the experience. So many highs, so many lows. I can imagine how incredible that experience would be, but so many other tragic things happened right at the end of the trip. What an experience.

I do wish Krakaeur would be more creative with his titles. Into this, Into that... I also didn't know this was a made-for-TV movie with Shooter McGavin as Krakauer. Not too bad.

So, what do you think about climbing Everest or Into Thin Air?

Thursday, January 22, 2009


The New Yorker published a very interesting article in their last issue on the ever-so-popular board game Scrabble.

Being that Scrabble is one of my favorite board games and sometimes makes me addicted to it, I was very interested to read many of the fascinating facts behind its history and statistics. I am not surprised to see how many people follow behind this game like a cult, especially considering online gamers. I am just impressed that people are so connected to a game about our language and using words.

From what I was reading, some people get really intense, go to tournaments, or seek out playing other great players around the world. They play each other based on high scores and memorize word lists to use for game strategy. They use words like aali, aerate, aioli, zin, taj, huic, etc. I bet they don't even know what most of these words mean! Are they even real words...?

Does it ever get too intense? Or is it good that people are fostering a love for the language that challenges their minds and expands their vocabularies?

It is quite addictive.

Here is some interesting information found from the article:

-The game was introduced in the early 1950s.

-An early Scrabble advertisement showed a wedding party stampeding out of a church. The bridge explains to the clergyman that the toy store next door has a new shipment.

-Between 1 and 2 million sets are sold yearly.

-1 in 3 American households own a Scrabble game

-30,000 games begin somewhere in the world every hour

-Said Scrabble fans: Barack Obama, the Queen of England, Madonna, Rosie O'Donnell, Duke Ellington, Meadow Soprano, Dustin Hoffman, Maya Angelou, Justin Timberlake, Chris Martin, Richard Nixon, and Ludacris.

-Some people play hip-hop Scrabble using words like crunk and hizzo.

-The second year that Scrabble was on the market, it sold 2,413 sets.

-Media sources that have used Scrabble in their programming: Rosemary's Baby, She's Gotta Have It, The Simpsons

-Scrabble sets are available in 28 other foreign languages

-Scrabble used to be called Lexico, and it was created by Alfred Mosher Butts, a young architect from New York during the Depression.

-He eventually earned a million dollars from his creation.

-The idea for Scrabble (Lexico) came from an Edgar Allen Poe short story, "The Gold Bug," where the hero has to decode a cipher that protects the hiding place of a pirate treasure by correlating its symbols with the alphabet.

-He changed the name to Criss-Cross Words in 1938 and was rejected twice for selling this game.

-In 1952, Jack Strauss, owner of Macy's, bought the game/rights from Butts. By 1954, 3,798,555 units of Scrabble were sold, an estimated hundred million sets in 21 countries.

Intense information. It's funny how much can be behind something as small as a board game. It's still wildly successful today--games like this and Monopoly are such excellent ideas because they can be carried down through generations and continue its popularity and excitement for years to come.

So, what do you think of Scrabble?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Inaugural Poem

Yesterday, I was blown away at how beautiful the inaugural poem was. It was so accurate and precise for the occasion; it was very well written and delivered. The words spoke true to the day and the future. It matched the beauty, hope, and excitement the day was filled with.

I really like how they put this part of the presentation right after Barack Obama spoke. It accentuated everything he spoke about and further spread this feeling of warmth and excitement throughout the country.

This poem is called "Praise Song for the Day" by Elizabeth Alexander.

Praise song for the day.

Each day we go about our business, walking past each other, catching each others' eyes or not, about to speak or speaking. All about us is noise. All about us is noise and bramble, thorn and din, each one of our ancestors on our tongues. Someone is stitching up a hem, darning a hole in a uniform, patching a tire, repairing the things in need of repair.

Someone is trying to make music somewhere with a pair of wooden spoons on an oil drum with cello, boom box, harmonica, voice.

A woman and her son wait for the bus.

A farmer considers the changing sky; A teacher says, "Take out your pencils. Begin."

We encounter each other in words, words spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed; words to consider, reconsider.

We cross dirt roads and highways that mark the will of someone and then others who said, "I need to see what's on the other side; I know there's something better down the road."

We need to find a place where we are safe; We walk into that which we cannot yet see.

Say it plain, that many have died for this day. Sing the names of the dead who brought us here, who laid the train tracks, raised the bridges, picked the cotton and the lettuce, built brick by brick the glittering edifices they would then keep clean and work inside of.

Praise song for struggle; praise song for the day. Praise song for every hand-lettered sign; The figuring it out at kitchen tables.

Some live by "Love thy neighbor as thy self."

Others by first do no harm, or take no more than you need.

What if the mightiest word is love, love beyond marital, filial, national. Love that casts a widening pool of light. Love with no need to preempt grievance.

In today's sharp sparkle, this winter air, anything can be made, any sentence begun.

On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp -- praise song for walking forward in that light.

What do you think of the inaugural poem?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

To Obama

In honor of a wonderful day for this country. To President Obama. This day is so exciting for all Americans. What a connected, loving country we are today. No more hatred for our president but honor and respect. Let us move forward.

I wrote a poem for the occasion.

A New Day

gather n
rejoice today

a new day

A sea of hope
and red white
with connection
not rejection

A day
move forward
in blissful chaos

No better time
for change
than now


in unison
with excitement
not anger

History today

New tomorrows

In a Praise Song
hum together
Not Divided
but One

From the darkness
march out
into a brighter sky
in Washington

And I feel the charge
in New York
in anytown

ready to be supportive
not hateful

ready for faith
ready for a catalyst

the catalyst
have been waiting for

n finally
has come

and celebrate
for the new day


n if Yes
did, then

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Assassin Riddle

A few years ago, I read Paul Zindel's The Pigman, an older YA novel that is commonly taught in middle schools, and they had this riddle in it which I found extremely interesting. This riddle is a great conversation starter or puzzle to bring up when in the car on long car rides.

This riddle is supposed to see what you value based on a story. The Pigman notes that it tells "what kind of person you are." Let's see how you do.

Note: You can either draw this out or just speak it to a crowd.

Here is the riddle verbatim from the book:

"I'm going to tell you a murder story, and your job is just to listen.

There is a river with a bridge over it, and a WIFE and her HUSBAND live in a house on one side. The WIFE has a LOVER who lives on the other side of the river, and the only way to get from one side of the river to the other is to walk across the bridge or to ask the BOATMAN to take you.

One day the HUSBAND tells his WIFE that he has to be gone all night to handle some business in a faraway town. The WIFE pleads with him to take her with him because she knows if she doesn't, she will be unfaithful to him. The HUSBAND absolutely refuses to take her because she will only be in the way of his important business.

So the HUSBAND goes alone. When he is gone, the WIFE goes over to the bridge and stays with her LOVER. The night passes, and dawn is almost up when the WIFE leaves because she must get back to her own home before her HUSBAND returns. She starts to cross the bridge but sees an ASSASSIN waiting for her on the other side, and she knows if she tries to cross, he will murder her. In terror, she runs up the side of the river and asks the BOATMAN to take her across the river, but he wants fifty cents. She has no money, so he refuses to take her.

The WIFE runs back to the LOVER's house and explains to him what the predicament is and asks him for fifty cents to pay the BOATMAN. The LOVER refuses, telling her it's her own fault for getting into the situation. As dawn comes up, the WIFE is nearly out of her mind and dashes across the bridge. When she comes face to face with the ASSASSIN, he takes a large knife and stabs her until she is dead.

Now, on a piece of paper (or in your head), list the names of the characters in the order in which you think they were most responsible for the WIFE's death. Just list WIFE, HUSBAND, LOVER, BOATMAN, and ASSASSIN in the order you think they are the most guilty."

Don't read below if you're doing this or it will give it away.

Here is what each person represents. If you selected each one on the top, you value this thing the most. The ones are the bottom are least important to you compared with the others.

Wife = Fun
Husband = Love
Lover = Sex
Assassin = Money
Boatman = Magic

Make of it what you will, but it's a good conversation to have with friends. You can argue over who IS resposible or look at holes in the story.

So what do you think of the riddle?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Satuday Nights and Sunday Mornings Meanings

I was watching an awesome live performance of the Counting Crows on a show called Sound Stage. It was airing on one of the VH1 Classic or MTV2 channels, or maybe Fuse, but it was almost like Storytellers, which I really liked.

Basically, Counting Crows played a bunch of songs off of their newest album Saturday Nights and Sunday Mornings. I really like this album because it has so much meaning to these guys. They completed two different sections of the album (Saturday Nights for louder music and Sunday Mornings for softer music). I really enjoy the new songs they have created.

On the show, Adam Duritz basically discusses the meanings behind a bunch of the songs. The only song they played that he didn't talk about was "1492" which they opened with. Otherwise, they went in order of its track listing but skipped a bunch of songs in between.

Below I have the song meanings that Adam discussed before he played each track. If you do enjoy the Counting Crows, you will enjoy what Adam has to say about each song.


The album is about disentigration, losing your place in the world, and going crazy and becoming numb.

"Los Angeles"

The song is about "living dirty." It's about three of the band members moving to the south end of the west coast and all the "crap we pulled in."


This song is about when you lose your place in the world and can't touch the world anyumore, you have to find some way to feel anything and mean something. In this song, the guy is so desperate to mean something that he climbs up onto the top of a building and the best way to accomplish meaning something is to try to fly. (Which is a big mistake.)


This song is about when you just become so numb that you will do anything to get it back. The only way you think you can is through extreme violence. Adam says, "It's about everybody at once and its about me."


This album is about not about getting better but failing to. But, it's also about a decision to change things and they way they are.

"Washington Square"

The song's main message is that the best way to change things and your situation is to leave home, but that's the hardest thing to do sometimes.

"On Almost Any Sunday Morning"

This song is about a cycle you can't get off of, and it's not a good cycle to be on.

"When I Dream of Michaelangelo"

Adam started writing this song 20 years ago when he was a kid. He had an image in his mind of what it was like to try to write a song, but it wasn't as easy as he thought it would be. He views it as a picture of himself reaching out to God on the Sistine Chapel and not quite touching him. Although it is about reaching something that you just can't touch in art, you just can't reach out and touch something that divine. The real crux of the song is that you can spend your whole life trying to touch something that you can't really, and you waste your whole life touching anything that's even around you that you might care about and that might actually be real instead of that divine thing that's not real. It's not about the thing you can't touch but the things you don't touch.

"Le Ballet d'Or"

This song is about looking at your life, but if you could just have seen it a little more clearly and done things a little differently then it would have been just a little bit better. But you didn't, so you have to live for today.

"On a Tuesday in Amsterdam Long Ago"

When Adam's band was traveling in Europe a few years ago, he was looking out a window wondering what if all that he was feeling now was just something he's looking back at years from now like a snapshot out this window, like a photo of Hard Candy in a drawer or a picture of that moment. What if things hadn't turned out as well as he'd hoped. This song is a photograph of a moment in his life a long time ago. It's the same song as "Accidentally in Love" but looked at from a distance.

So, what do you think of Saturday Nights and Sunday Mornings or the Counting Crows?


I finished another Chuck Palahnuik book, Snuff, and I am still quite impressed with his writing style. The premise of the book really didn't interest me much, but I picked it up anyway because I've really been getting into him lately.

Snuff is basically a commentary on the porn industry. The main character, porn star Cassie Wright, decides that she wants to break the record for serial fornication in a porn movie. She decides to have a porn movie where she has sex with six hundred men in a row. Men line up to get their big break in the business. The book takes the perspectives of three of the men (Mr. 72, Mr. 137, and Mr. 600) and the talent wrangler Sheila who calls the men on set. I like that Cassie's perspective is not given even though she is the main character. We can only infer about her feelings and her life from the men and woman.

Although the book is extraordinarily graphic (and of course it is because of the plot), he takes one event from one day and draws it out into an interesting book. The characters flashback to add more details to the story, making the characters become complex and intertwined mysteriously. Since it's over the course and one day and the plot slowly builds, you keep anticipating the final ending, the culmination, so it does keep you hooked.

I like serial narrators--he's really good at having them endure their own voice and style of thinking and speaking, which is very talented. What I didn't see in this book, that I did in the first and could see in Fight Club, were those stylistic ticks in his writing that were apparent in the others. He didn't use repition as much as he did in the previous works, and I liked that about him. But maybe it's good to mix it up every so often.

The repetition in this book was just in naming the tons of porn movies that Wright had starred in. Palahnuik lists so many that it's really near impossible that she starred in that many--he's really just doing this to amuse us I think. He came up with a lot of clever spin offs from popular movie titles, and I think he enjoyed putting them in there as much as possible. Those would probably count for the repetitious language he normally uses, as well as the crude way of describing different sexual scenes and positions (which I will not include here) that are mentioned over and over again.

Palahnuik really has the power to draw emotion out of his reader. He makes me feel what the characters feel, and most importantly, he evokes the senses like no one I've seen before. He makes characters feel raunchy when he wants to; he can describe scenes so well that I feel sick or can smell the disgusting smell that he sets up. He's incredible in this way.

I wouldn't recommend this book to all people because it is extremely graphic. But, it does offer an interesting commentary into the life of pornography. How does it feel to be in the spotlight? The secret life of porn is dissected in this book, and it's almost tragic. I think it was cool to look into his perspective, but I'm curious on why his books are all so sexual (or maybe just the ones I have been reading all focus around sex). Is this a common trend?

So, what did you think of Snuff or Chuck Palahnuik's work in general?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Killing Yourself to Live

Killing Yourself to Live, which prides itself as 85% of a true story, by Chuck Klosterman impressed me yet again with how much he can say in just one book. I really enjoyed the first book I read by him, Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs, but this one would appeal to people who prefer to read a story or book versus a series of unrelated essays.

This book was very interesting, especially if you really enjoy rock and roll and would like to know random facts about bands and musicians. He really does have an extensive amount of information about artists that astounds me. I feel like I'm in the middle of the coolest lesson I've ever been in on, and he tells them in such a way that you're sucked right into the middle of it. It's a fascinating experience.

Killing Yourself to Live is about Klosterman's journey across the country to visit locations where famous musicians passed away for an article he wrote for his magazine, Spin. He takes a rented car from New York to Rhode Island to Georgia to Mississippi to Iowa to Fargo to Seattle where his journey ends. This is how he spends his summer. Can you imagine such an experience? A cross country road trip stopping to discover information about dead musicians first-hand? I'm jealous.

Klosterman visits dead sites of Kurt Cobain, Duane Allman, a member of Def Leppard, the site of the Connecticut club fire, and the "day the music died plane crash" site which included Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and the Big Bopper. Those are the memorable ones he went to. There were others.

What I enjoy about Klosterman's writing must be his rants about music and pop culture. He provides very interesting and different insights into music and pop culture:

-KISS's lack of success with solo albums for more profit
-Fleetwood Mac's intense breakups and how it effected Rumours and "Go Your Own Way"
-Nirvana's downward spiral and Kurt Cobain's death as a revival
-How concert go-ers either want to rant about two things: 1. concerts sucked or 2. concerts rocked -- not necessarily just to enjoy the show but to say they saw it and offered their two cents
-Elizabeth Wurtzel of Prozac Nation and how she's really nuts-o
-How people from LA are self-absorbed and focused on fame only
-Rock journalism isn't really that cool like from Almost Famous
-Ten rock and roll casulaties that nobody talks about (page 104+)
-"Layla" and how it's written to George Harrison's wife...
-The songs "Free Ride" vs. "Slow Ride"
-Radiohead's Kid A and how it seems to be the soundtrack for 9/11 (try it out, pages 85+)

The book also chrinocles how Klosterman ends three relationships over the course of this road trip. He goes into detail discussing these women and the complications of the relationships. I understood why it was included, but I enjoyed more his journey and music inferences more than these longings and rants.

I think the most interesting train of thought has to be dedicated to the idea of the dead musician. Does it revive your career? Do you still just disappear without anyone knowing or realizing it? Is it cool to die? How will you be remembered? Does your death impact how people see you--legendary and going out with a bang while you're still on top or fizzling out slowly when no one cares anymore?

Some deaths have definitely revived careers and made people legendary: Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix (Forever 27 group), Biggie, Tupac, Elvis, John Lennon, Lane Staley, etc. Others can just fizzle out... No one remembers anymore...

I think that some people are still alive and will have a huge impact on music and will become legendary when they die. It just won't be as tragic or legendary as the aforementioned because they died while they were still on top. Those still alive and that live longer still had time to produce all the music that they could, so they might not be seen in that same light as the others. When Ray Charles and James Brown recently died, they were commemorated and honored as new music "legends" even though they died well past their prime.

I shudder thinking about the day Bob Dylan dies. I imagine a worse outpouring of fans and devastating feelings more than Kurt Cobain's death because Dylan has touched so many people, so very young and so very old. The world will mourn for him.

The idea of death and rock and how they work together is still an interesting topic of conversation. Use it if you need to when there's a good lull in conversation.

So, what do you think of any of these concepts or Chuck Klosterman's Killing Yourself to Live?

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Ghost World

I was pretty impressed with the film Ghost World yesterday. I didn't anticipate that it would be as good as it really was. The film is an adaptation of a comic book series based in the 1990s on two teenage girls who have just finished high school, Enid and Rebecca.

It must be fairly difficult to adapt a comic book series into a movie, as there are many copies and various plot lines that exist. How would you even select which to persue? The writer of the series, Daniel Clowes, did adapt the comic book into the screenplay which adds to the authenticity of the piece.

I enjoyed the commentary on so many aspects of our American culture:

Teenagers' non-direction after high school
Teenagers' criticism of basically anything (even themselves)
Geekdom--Embracing the inner nerd
American towns and how transparent they are
Superficial friendships
Phony teachers who flaunt their teacher's pets
The education system in general
The strive for teenagers to be unique and different
Teenagers don't want to work--just hang out
Relationships between people of different ages (say teenager and older adult) and how taboo they can be
Plutonic male and female relationships
What is art?
Single-parent families
Focusing on other people's lives to take the focus off your own
Music, what makes good music?
Teenagers' need for attention

I really enjoyed how those elements were portrayed. I also think that Thora Birch did a fantastic job as her role of Enid. She was convincing to be a major dork even though we all know that she is much prettier. Even Scarlett Johansenn did a great job--she doesn't normally play a role like that and and she was so overtly sarcastic.

My favorite character portrayal, though, must have been Steve Buscemi. He is always in movies that don't get much recognized attention but are incredible. I respect his work as an actor. He really sold me on being a total loser-geek, but you still grow to love him anyway. He really is a talented actor.

Interesting fact: Christina Ricci was going to be casted as Enid, but she waited too long to sign on. By the time she would have done the film, she already was too old. And also she gained too much public recognition as an actress which turned off the filmmakers. Interesting...

The end (don't read now if you want to watch it) was pretty surprising. I was wondering where he was going to take it from there, but I like how it didn't have that super-cheesy classic ending where everyone gets what they want and end up happy. The romance didn't work out (typical with teenagers). Friends don't stay together (typical as well). Enid doesn't get the once-in-a-lifetime scholarship to pursue her dream. Enid actually follows her daydream, to just get on a bus one day and disappear. Now THAT is a cool message. I like that it's not so cookie cutter. It's actual life. It's reality.

Anyway, it's an interesting film to watch if you enjoy analyzing teenagers and their behavior, the 1990s, or our American culture. There are a lot of characters in the movie to dissect and see what the writer is trying to comment on about American culture. Look into it.

So what did you think of Ghost World?

Monday, January 12, 2009

Lincoln and Kennedy Connections

I know that some emails can be really bizarre and often-times absolutely incorrect, but this email sort of intrigued me, and I wondered if most of these facts were actually true.

This information I received was linking the odd connections between Abraham Lincoln and JFK (John F. Kennedy) which are very similar, thus extremely strange and mind-boggling.

Not only do I want to present the information, but I also want to see how accurate and true these statements are. Most of them seem to be pretty right-on and checkable (as to see its correctness), but please do use your discretion.

Apparently this is also known information to a lot of people, as I have found a hooded sweatshirt above that has both presidents on it. Strange.

Here are the similarities:

Abraham Lincoln was elected to Congress in 1846.
John F. Kennedy was elected to Congress in 1946.

Abraham Lincoln was elected President in 1860.
John F. Kennedy was elected President in 1960.

Both were particularly concerned with civil rights.
Both wives lost their children while living in the White House.

Both Presidents were shot on a Friday.
Both Presidents were shot in the head.

Lincoln 's secretary was named Kennedy.
Kennedy's Secretary was named Lincoln .

Both were assassinated by Southerners.
Both were succeeded by Southerners named Johnson.

Andrew Johnson, who succeeded Lincoln, was born in 1808.
Lyndon Johnson, who succeeded Kennedy, was born in 1908.

John Wilkes Booth, who assassinated Lincoln, was born in 1839.
Lee Harvey Oswald, who assassinated Kennedy, was born in 1939.

Both assassins were known by their three names.
Both names are composed of fifteen letters.

Lincoln was shot at the theater named 'Ford'.
Kennedy was shot in a car called ' Lincoln ' made by 'Ford'.

Lincoln was shot in a theater and his assassin ran and hid in a warehouse.
Kennedy was shot from a warehouse and his assassin ran and hid in a theater.

Booth and Oswald were assassinated before their trials.

A week before Lincoln was shot, he was in Monroe, Maryland.
A week before Kennedy was shot, he was with Marilyn Monroe.

I know that some of these are a stretch, but a lot of them are pretty interesting. Look into it. It's not too far off.

So, what do you think of the connections between both presidents?

Sunday, January 11, 2009

At the River

I came across this poem yesterday in The New Yorker. It was a bit intimidating because of its length, but it was worth the read. It's a coming-of-age poem about sexuality. It's incredible.

At the River

by Louise Gluck

One night that summer my mother decided it was time to tell me about
what she referred to as pleasure, though you could see she felt
some sort of unease about this ceremony, which she tried to cover up
by first taking my hand, as she made her speech
which was more like a speech about mechanical engineering
than a conversation about pleasure. In her other hand
she had a book from which, apparently, she'd taken the main facts.
She did the same thing with the others, my two brothers and sister,
and the book was always the same book, dark blue,
though we each got our own copy.

There was a line drawing on the cover
showing a man and woman holding hands
but standing fairly apart, like people on two sides of a dirt road.

Obviously, she and my father did not have a language for what they did
which, from what I could judge, wasn't pleasure.
At the same time, whatever holds human beings together
could hardly resemble those cool black-and-white diagrams, which suggested,
among other things, that you could only acheive pleasure
with a person of the opposite sex,
so you didn't get two sockets, say, and no plug.

School wasn't in session.
I went back to my room and shut the door
and my mother went into the kitchen
where my father was pouring glasses of wine for himself and his invisible guest
who--surprise--didn't appear.
No, it's just my father and his friend the Holy Ghost
partying the night away until the bottle runs out,
after which my father continues sitting at the table
with an open book in front of him.

Tactfully, so as not to embarass the Spirit,
my father handled all the glasses,
first his own, then the other, back and forth like every other night.

By then, I was out of the house.
It was summer; my friends used to meet at the river.
The whole thing seemed a grave embarassment
although the truth was that, except for the boys, maybe we didn't understand mechanics.
The boys had the key right in front of them, in their hands if they wanted,
and many of them said they'd already used it,
though once one boy said this, the others said it too,
and of course people had older brothers and sisters.

We sat at the edge of the river discussing parents in general
and sex in particular. And a lot of information got shared,
and of course the subject was unfailingly interesting.
I showed people my book, Ideal Marriage--we all had a good laugh over it.
One night a boy brought a bottle of wine and we passed it around for a while.

More and more the summer we understood
that something was going to happen to us
that would change us.
And the group, all of us who used to meet this way,
the group would shatter, like a shell that falls away
so the bird can emerge.
Only of course it would be two birds emerging, pairs of birds.

We sat in reeds at the edge of the river
throwing small stones. When the stones hit,
you could see the stars multiply for a second, little explosions of light
flashing andn going out. There was a boy I was beginning to like,
not to speak to but to watch.
I liked to sit behind him to study the back of his neck.

After a while we'd all get up together and walk back through the dark
to the village. Above the field, the sky was clear,
stars everywhere, like in the river, though these were the real stars,
even the dead ones were real.

But the ones in the river--
they were like having some idea that explodes suddenly into a thousand ideas,
not real, maybe, but somehow more lifelike.

When I got home, my mother was asleep, my father was still at the table,
reading his book. And I said, Did your friend go away?
And he looked at me intently for a while,
then he said, Your mother and I used to drink a glass of wine together
after dinner.

Even though the poem can be straight-forward, there are a lot of other little things going on within the poem that are a bit deeper, i.e. the stars in the river at the end of the poem. "Real stars" versus dead stars and fake stars. Even at the beginning of the poem when her father has a glass of wine with the Holy Ghost, interesting to be brought up in a poem about sex. Religion and sex, often paired together, but definitely with the stance of her mother--not as pleasure, as procreation, wait until marriage (hence the title of the book she gave her). Wine also alludes to religion as well, brought up multiple times in the poem, first with her father, then her friends, and ending with her father again.

I am also curious about the title. Why emphasis on the river? Because that is where she really learns about her body and sex, more than from the textbook, her mother, her father? The fact that it takes place at a river is symbolic in its own way. Waters/rivers are life sources, as sex is as well (also with reference to birds birthing in eggs). See, there's so much going on here...

The poem has many layers which I think makes a good (great) poem.

So, what do you think of "At the River" and what else do you take from it?

Saturday, January 10, 2009

I'm Not There

Being the Bob Dylan fan that I am, it was only a matter of time before I saw the biographical film on his life and career, I'm Not There.

I didn't really know what to expect; I knew that there were different versions of Bob Dylan, all sorts of people who don't necessarily look like Dylan at all. But, I did not think it was going to be this abstract and poetic. I thought it was really going to be a biography, but it was less straight-forward and true-to-his-life than I anticipated it would be.

And maybe this is a good thing. It's not another one of those biographical movies like Ray or Janis. It's not a start to finish to understand his life. If you know his story (and his many phases), you will get a lot more out of the movie and will be able to understand what's going on, what symbolizes what, and why certain names were used to portray his character.

Each phase of Dylan's life and career are portrayed by different actors who are completely different:

Marcus Carl Franklin = Woody Guthrie = Young Bob Dylan
This is the African American boy who is portrayed as the talented Bob Dylan who travels the country yet is also some sort of delinquent.

Ben Wishaw = Arthur Rimbaud = Young rebel/poet
This is the black-and-white narrating character who is interviewed throughout the film. He acts as the narrator throughout the movie.

Christian Bale = Jack Rollins = Early '60s Folk Era Dylan
This is the version of Dylan with the attached harmonica and early folksy songs which gained him his most recognition. It is during this period that a character named Alice (based on Joan Baez) talks about Dylan.

Christian Bale = Pastor John = The Born Again Christian
Bale also plays Dylan who converts to Christianity and preaches to others. He is shown in a church singing his gospel song "Pressing On."

Heath Ledger = Robbie Clark = Dylan's personal life and failing marriage
Clark is a fictional actor who portrays Robbie Clark in a film called "Grains of Sand." This character shows Dylan on the road, Dylan falling in and out of love with his life, Dylan's traveling, Dylan's affairs, Dylan's lack of attention with his children, Dylan's pressure as he is attacked by the press, and Dylan's massive change over time with his gained fame. Claire is based on Dylan's first wife Sara Dylan.

Cate Blanchett = Jude Quinn = Dylan's height of fame in the '60s
This is Dylan's most famous look with the frizzy hair, the black-and-white suit, and teh sunglasses. Dylan's fans view him as a sell-out and rebel against him as this persona. He is attacked by the press and fans for turning away from protest music and folk. In this character, Dylan meets Allen Ginsberg and the Beatles.

Richard Gere = Billy the Kid = Dylan's country life in Woodstock and later years
This sequence goes back in time, which puzzled me, but he lives a simple life where he is hiding away from the rest of the world, almost like an outlaw.

I thought that the actors portrayed him very well, especially Cate Blanchett. I saw that she was nominated for and won tons of awards. She deserved it. Even though she is a female playing a male role, she looked exactly like him and got all of his mannerisms and speech patterns down. It was so on that it was entirely eerie. She was my favorite version of Dylan.

The movie was pretty scattered. Many plotlines were happening at once, all representing various time periods of Dylan's life. I was confused at a few parts and still have a few questions about the whole thing. This is definitely a movie that you can watch a few times and understand more and more about it each time you watch it. Those are the best kinds of movies. That must be why this movie was nominated as one of the best films of 2007, within the top ten on many lists.

I still have the following questions, if anyone knows the answers to help me out a bit:

Why was Billy the Kid's time sequence taking place so far back in the past?

Why was Dylan's life portrayed more negatively, as if more people hated him than loved him? Why did he receive so much negative criticism and hardships than portrayed as good?

Why was one of his personas, Robbie Clark, portrayed as a film actor?

Why was Dylan given two daughters to represent his children when he had many more children of both gender?

Why were certain names selected?

Why was Dylan's childhood noted as traveling for fame when he did not go out in search of it until after high school?

Why was he portrayed as an African American child?

I did think that the film was very well done. It was very artistic, as Bob Dylan would have wanted. I would like to see more movies like this. It was just unbelievable.

Also, the soundtrack is fantastic. So many good artists came together to pay tribute to Dylan with many of his great songs. Excellent artists who contribute on the album are Eddie Vedder, Mason Jennings (who sounds almost identical to Dylan), Sonic Youth, Cat Power, Karen O, Jeff Tweedy, Willie Nelson, Jack Johnson, the Black Keys, and of course, Bob Dylan and the Band. Do check it out.

For more information on the movie, Wikipedia has an excellent cite detailing the film.

So, what did you think of I'm Not There?

Friday, January 9, 2009


For those of you who really enjoy stupid humor, visit Homestarrunner. If you enjoy adult cartoons on TV, then this site is definitely for you.

I got into this website when I was in high school, but I watched it more much in college with my friends and roommates. We became easily addicted to the ridiculous humor on this website; it's not too hard to do.

I must admit: My favorite section on the website must be Teen Girl Squad. If you go to the site, you have to check out this cartoon. For whatever reason, this either really appeals to people, or they really don't get the humor. If you do get the humor, it's absolutely hysterical.

My friends and I have such a strong connection with it because each of our personalities reflect one of the characters. My bossy friend is the Cheerleader, the head of the pack. My free-spirited friend is the Ugly One because she is just so bizarre and odd like her (and they have the same gangly body type). And I am What's Her Face, the rejected, pathetic tomboy character. We never found a So and So character that we were friends with. We tried to make someone fit, but it was just trying too hard.

Even if you don't have that personal connection with the characters like we do (which is crazy that they're so similar to our personalities--just listening to their dialogue is hilarious because they almost reflect what we'd say in real life) it's still very funny to watch. They make fun of the youth culture in a way that is so true and dead-on. If you work with adolescents, you'll get this, and it will make you want to laugh until you cry.

I suggest watching Teen Girl Squad from episode one until the most recent. They become better as you watch them. And, at the end of the episode, you can click on a part at the last page that plays a small cartoon that builds from that episode. It's a funny secret addition.

Some people get really into Strong Bad Emails. They're pretty funny too, but again, they appeal to certain people's humor.

Classic Toons that I recommend:

"A Jorb Well Done"
Anything with Star Sad in it (he's hopeless and more hilarious than Eeore)
"Fluffy Puff Commercial"
"The Interview"
"Meet Marshie"
"Lookin at a Thing in a Bag"

These guys have been getting together and making cartoons as early as 2000. Could you imagine making enough money to run a comedy cartoon website like these guys do? I'm jealous. That's such a great gig. They probably also make money from merchandise you can buy on the website. It's an impressive thing they do here.

So, what do you think of Homestarrunner and Teen Girl Squad?

Thursday, January 8, 2009


I finished Chuck Palahniuk's novel Choke today, which was as bizarre (if not more) than I anticipated. Originally I picked up the book because he had such a smash hit with Fight Club, and now I see how Fight Club might actually be an intense and incredible read.

Reading Palahniuk is a crazy experience. The way he describes situations and feelings is so intense. I feel connected and like I am there. I find myself wincing and getting chills at time. He is extremely effective. His talent is apparent to anyone who reads his work. I was blown away even though it was very disturbing at times and was just very odd and bizarre.

I didn't know what to expect with his writing or this book, and it ended up in places I never imagined it would go. He uses flashbacks and "rhetorical writing ticks" as he calls them, or repetitive writing techniques, that blow me away.

One thing I really enjoy about his writing is the use of repetition of certain phrases. They really worked well and were brilliant. He used these phrases in this book:

For serious...

What would Jesus not do?

See also: (and would list medical disorders, diseases, or people like a medical journal would do)


I can see how he would also do this in Fight Club. He had the repetitive use of I am Jack's (insert crazy phrase like "smirking revenge"). It is very identifiable and very unique. He will leave that technique with some growing writer (or writers) out there.

For those of you who might want to read Choke, here is the premise: Victor Mancini is a middle-aged sexaholic who failed out of medical school. His mother has Alzheimers and is in a nursing home. Victor can hardly pay for her rent with his menial job as a worker in a living museum from the colonial times where he actually has to dress up like them at work and act as if he's from the time. To earn extra cash, he goes to restaraunts and chokes so that people will save him, feel better about their own lives because they are heroes, and receive some sort of cash and financial help from them. He is also trying to get over his sex addiction through the 10-step program with his best friend Denny, another recovering sex addict, although they both still dabble in it quite frequently (the book is very explicit). Victor ends up entangled in strange relationships with women, especially with one nurse at the hospital named Paige. That is the basic plot, for it unfolds into many strange directions which I will not give away.

I suggest reading the audio tape version because Palahniuk reads it himself, which is an experience in itself because you can hear the way he reads it and thinks it. He gives it the appropriate rhythm and tone he implied for it. Also, at the end, he describes the reason he wrote the book and an interview with him after the novel's publication.

The reasons he wrote the book: He wrote it to help explore his deceased father who (in a sense) was a sex addict. He jumped around from woman to woman a lot, so he tried to get to know him through Victor's character. He also went to sex addict meetings and discovered a lot about them through those experiences. Everything else is a mix of stories from his life that he tries to mesh into one piece to make sense of and document those.

Very explicit, very humorous, very real to life. You have to have an open mind to go into this one. It's very detailed, yet it's quite an experience to read Palahniuk. He's a one-of-a-kind writer.

So, what did you think of Choke?

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Dawn's Highway

I have to do a story-telling presentation for a class of mine, and it was kind of difficult to come up with something English related that I could tell a story about. For one, I know a lot of stories, but what would interest people? What would relate to some sort of classroom material?

The most striking idea to me was to discuss Mr. Jim Morrison, lead singer of the Doors, and his strive to become recognized as a poet. Not many people knew that he had such a passion and drive to gain recognition as a good poet. Everyone just saw him as the crazy lunatic drug-addict who caused riots on stage to gain attention. That sensitive, dark side of him came out in his lyrics, but a lot of fans weren't really listening to his words more than they were his music, his dancing, and his craziness.

The focus of my story is going to be the one moment that Jim says shaped his life: When he was a child, him and his family were driving in a desert and they came across an accident where Native Americans were sprawled across the street. Jim says that this moment is when he grew up and realized tragedy in the world. He never could shake this incident, and later believed that the souls of the Indians entered his body. He then became a Shaman, in his perspective.

This occurrence occurs in two actual Doors' songs, "Ghost Song" and "Peace Frog" where Jim repeatedly mentions "Indians scattered on dawn's highway bleeding / Ghosts crowd the child's fragile eggshell mind." Later on, he recorded this when he was recording his poetry (before he died) and the Doors put his poetry to music on an album called An American Prayer. "Dawn's Highway" was a result of one of these poetry readings.

The purpose of the story, connecting with English Language Arts is that many poems can be identified as an incident or occurrence. If we can identify the situation, the poem is easier to understand. Also, if we can understand the poet, it is easier to understand what the central message is. And, certain points (or point) in our lives shape us forever. Through art is how we express these incidences. Jim had many outlets--poetry, lyrics, and music--but he found his way to express himself, get out his emotions, and express them to an audience.

We all have occurrences happen to us, good and bad, and we all have different desires to express them in different ways. Some need to shout it for all to hear! Some keep them inside. Some use different ways to express this (paintings, poetry, music, slam poetry, etc.), and some don't know the means to do so yet. We won't know until we try.

Select one incident in your life that has shaped you, as it has Jim Morrison. First start writing out a line, a chorus perhaps, that describe the incident, as Jim's is located below. Then develop the poem around that. That would be the follow-up assignment after we go through reading Morrison's "Dawn's Highway."

For those uninterested in English but who are interested in Jim Morrison, the Doors, and/or poetry, here is the poem in full. You can download Jim's reading of it as well.

Dawn's Highway

Indians scattered on dawn's highway bleeding
Ghosts crowd the young child's fragile eggshell mind.

Me and my -ah- mother and father - and a
Grandmother and a grandfather - were driving through
The desert, at dawn, and a truck load of Indian
Workers had either hit another car, or just - I don't
Know what happened - but there were Indians scattered
All over the highway, bleeding to death.

So the car pulls up and stops. That was the first time
I tasted fear. I musta' been about four - like a child is
Like a flower, his head is just floating in the
Breeze, man.
The reaction I get now thinking about it, looking
Back - is that the souls of the ghosts of those dead
Indians...maybe one or two of 'em...were just
Running around freaking out, and just leaped into my
Soul. And they're still in there.

Indians scattered on dawn's highway bleeding
Ghosts crowd the young child's fragile eggshell mind.

Blood in the streets in the town of New Haven
Blood stains the roofs and the palm trees of Venice
Blood in my love in the terrible summer
Bloody red sun of Phantastic L.A.

Blood screams her brain as they chop off her fingers
Blood will be born in the birth if a nation
Blood is the rose of mysterious union
Blood on the rise, it's following me.

Indian, Indian what did you die for?
Indian says, nothing at all.

The repetition of blood is significant by far. It demonstrates the effect on him as a child. The choppiness and dashes show his fear as a child, trying to make sense of such a traumatic incident.

The fifth stanza makes sense if you understand Jim's life. He mentions three locations that are significant to his life as an artist:

New Haven: Where Jim was arrested on stage for public obsenities. The Doors career changed after this since a) club owners were afraid to book them due to these disasters and b) fans then expected a crazy show like this from now on and were displeased when they did not see it.

Venice: In California, where Jim met the Doors' members and started up the band. He met Densmore on the beach where he sang to him the first lyrics he created "Let's swim to the moon / Let's climb through the tide / Penetrate the evenin' that the / City sleeps to hide" which was the start of "Moonlight Drive."

The summer: At this time in Venice, Jim stayed on top of a building in the summertime, tripping on drugs, and wrote 5-6 of the Doors songs in a two-day span without food and water.

LA: Towards the end of the Doors' career. Their last album is a commentary on LA and what impact it has on people, especially in Jim's case.

I think it's interesting that Jim addresses the Indian at the end, asking him questions. What do you make of these last lines?

So, what do you think of "Dawn's Highway?"

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

All Movies Have 4 Themes Theory

Another interesting idea I took from Generation Me, from last post, was this idea of pop culture that Jean Twenge introduces. Since our culture is so repetitive, trying to reach this target audience of GenMe'ers, a lot of the themes and plots of movies are really all the same.

Twenge poses a theory about films that I think is pretty funny:

"Movies have latched onto the 'never give up on your dreams' with a vengeance. I like to say that modern movies have only four themes: 'Believe in yourself and you can do anything,' 'We are all alike underneath,' 'Love conquers all,' and 'Good people win.' (Do try this at home; almost every recent movie fits all of the four).

All of these themes tout the focus on the self so common today; in fact, it is downright stunning to realize just how well movies have encapsulated the optimistic, individualistic message of Western culture. [...] No one wants to watch a movie more like real life, where people try hard but fail more often than succeed" (84).

I think it's a pretty funny concept. It's something to ponder and quiz yourself. See if you can find an exception.

You know, this is just as hard as thinking of a movie that didn't have romance or love of some kind in the plot (in a sexual way). The only one I could think of was Saving Private Ryan. That's another riddle to think about.

So, what do you think?

Monday, January 5, 2009

Generation Me

Being a part of this generation, I really got a kick out of this book I picked up a few months ago, Generation Me by Jean M. Twenge. The books is exactly about what it sounds like: The current generation (Generation Me), the culture of the 80s, 90s, and today.

We could have various titles, this one fitting appropriately. Other titles have been called the following: iGeneration, Instant Gratification Generation, Millenials, the Net Generation, GenX, GenY, etc.

Why Generation Me? We're so centered and focused on ourselves. We are less involved with the world directly (with less human contact, internet, televisions, video games, etc) even though we are more connected. We are selfish and self-centered, thinking of pleasing ourselves and making ourselves happy instead of looking at the group/world. We are spoiled, we've had the most excess and surplus, we've had no major world wars, and we've been pampered. What will happen to this generation?

It's a very interesting cultural study she does here in this book. During her doctorate work, she completed various tests that were given to teenagers in the 50s-70s/90s and gave them to teenagers today. She compared the data to draw conclusions about teenage values, ideas, ideals, hobbies, etc. The data is very interesting.

This book compares the Baby Boomer Generation to Geneation Me. Here are some marked differences:

Baby Boomers: Self-fulfillment, journey, potentials, searching, change the world, protests and group sessions, abstraction, spirtuality, philosophy of life

Generation Me: Fun, already there, follow your dreams, watching TV, surfing the web, practicality, things, feeling good about yourself

Below, I will put some information that I found fascinating from the book:

-SCHOOL: "In 2002, 74% of high school students admitted to cheating, up from 61% in 1992. In 1969, only 34% of high school students admitted to cheating, less than half of the 2002 number.

-SCHOOL: In a 1997 survey, 88% of high school students said that cheating was common at their school. Three times as many high school students in 1969 compared to 1989 said they would report someone they saw cheating.

-MARRIAGE: In 1957, 80% of people said that those who didn't marry were "sick, neurotic, or immoral."

-MARRIAGE: Interracial marriage has also become much more common, doubling since 1980 and now accounting for 1 in 17 marriages.

-DATING: In a 1997 survey of college freshman, 95% agreed that "in dating, the important thing is how people get along, not what race or religion they may be."

-OPENNESS: In a recent survey of men, 62% of those 18 to 24 said they are comfortable discussing their personal problems with others, compared to 37% of those ages 65 and older.

-SELF-INTEREST: A careful study of news stories published or aired between 1980 and 1999 found a large increase in self-reference words (I, me, mine, myself) and marked a decrease in collective words (humanity, country, crowd).

-SELF-ESTEEM: By the mid 1990s, the average GenMe college man had higher self-esteem than 86% of college men in 1968. The average mid 1990s college woman had higher self-esteem than 71% of Boomer college women.

-SALARY: In 1999, teens predicted that they will be earning, on average, $75,000 a year by the time they are 30. The average income for a 30 year old that year? $27,000.

-MARRIAGE: GenMe marries later than any generation, at 27 for men and 25 for women. Boomers: 23 and 21.

-In 2002, 57% of men and 43% of women aged 22 to 31 still lived with their parents.

-DEPRESSION: Only 1-2% of Americans born before 1915 experienced a major depression, and they lived through a world war and the Great Depression. Today, the lifetime rate of major depression is ten times higher--between 15 and 20%. In one 1990s study, 21% of teens aged 15 to 17 had already experienced major depression.

-DEPRESSION: The number of people treated for depression almost tripled in the ten-year period from 1987 to 1997, jumping from 1.8 million to 6.3 million. During 2002 alone, 8.5% of Americans took an antidepressant at some time.

-EDUCATION: Today's young people are the most highly educated generation ever--more than 30% of people between the ages of 25 to 39 have a college degree.

-MARRIAGE: 62% of people in their 20s have never been married.

-SEX: In the late 1960s, the average woman lost her virginity at the age of 18; by the late 1990s, the average age was 15.

-BABIES: In 2003, 34.6% of babies were born to unmarried women, the highest rate ever recorded.

-RACE: In 1960, almost 80% of whites answered yes when asked, "Would you move if black people came to live in great numbers in your neighborhood?" By 1990, only 25% of whites still agreed. [I think that's still a bit high...]

-WOMEN: Women earn 57% of college degrees and almost half the degrees in law and medicine.

-GAY MARRIAGE: While only 30% of the country supports gay marriage, 59%--nearly twice as many--of 18-year-olds do.


-SUICIDE: Although 17% of teens said they seriously considered suicide in 2003, this was down from a staggering 29% in 1991.

-TEEN PREGNANCY: Teen pregnancy decreased markedly; births to teens aged 15 to 17 were down 42% between 1991 and 2003, and the abortion rate for this group dropped as well.

-CRIME: The violent crime rate fell 35% between 1992 and 2002. Fewer teens carried a weapon to school. Even alcohol use is down for teenagers."

With all of this information, Twenge does offer advice on what to do for the upcoming generation, Generation Me:

1. Ditch the self-esteem movement and the unrealistic aphorisms.

2. Provide better career counseling for young people.

3. Create more support for working parents.

How the government can help:

1. Create a nationwide system of paid parental leave.
2. Create a system of public pre-schools for 3 to 4 year olds.
3. Make child care expenses child deductible.
4. Change school hours.

Advice to parents:

-Junk the self-esteem emphasis and teach self-control and good behavior.
-Do not automatically side with your child.
-Limit exposure to violence.
-Don't use words like "spoiled."

Advice to Generation Me:

-Limit your exposure to certain kinds of TV.
-Avoid overthinking.
-Value social relationships.
-Combat depression naturally.
-Cultivate realistic expectations.
-Get involved in the community.

So, a lot of information here, a lot that seems critical too, but I think that criticism is fear for how this selfish, self-centered group of individuals will become the future if we're only looking out for ourselves and our own self-interests.

So, what do you think of Generation Me or this newer geneation?