Tuesday, March 31, 2009

90s Music Comeback

Rolling Stone had a recent article on something that I've been observing as well: 90s music is making a major comeback. Not even that, but 90s bands that had broken up in the past are also making their comebacks. And, there's a huge market for that.

In their article "The New Nostalgia: Nineties Rock Is the Big Business in '09," they report exactly on its title. Andy Greene, author of the article, lists many 90s bands that are rejoining to tour this summer. Fred Durst from Limp Bizkit was quoted as saying that "Things go in cycles. This movement from that time period is just naturally happening again now." I don't have much respect for Durst, but he's right. Nineties music is back.

Here are some bands that recently have come together:

Rage Against the Machine
No Doubt
Limp Bizkit
Blink182
Stone Temple Pilots
Smashing Pumpkins
Phish
Jane's Addiction
Blind Melon
Alice in Chains

90s band that are still rocking from the 90s:

Pearl Jam
Red Hot Chili Peppers
Counting Crows
Nine Inch Nails
Dave Matthews Band
Oasis
REM
Radiohead
U2
Weezer

In the article, Marshal Cohen, chief analyst at market research from NPD group describes the shift in interest of 90s music: "The influence of the boomer is finally starting to wane. Generation X'ers now have a lot of discretionary income. They've had their kids, and now they're starting to focus on themselves again." This will definitely show in concert revenue this summer. When the music industry is down, here's a way to help it out a bit and to cash in on this latest boom.

The article also notes that some 90s bands are even making classic rock lists. I even notice that when I do listen to the radio, it is heavy with 90s rock. Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Chili Peppers, Soundgarden--all the classic 90s rock hits are always on. You can count on a good song being on.

A rock station in Seattle (107.7) increased their share of 90s rock on the station, and they're seeing significant increases in listeners. I can't be surprised. I hope this interest in 90s rock catches on with music being made nowadays. It seems like we'r reverting back more to the 80s now, especially with fashion. When is it turn for the 90s? I think it's coming...

Speaking of this, Peal Jam recently released a reissue of Ten, perhaps one of the best rock albums to come out of the 90s. That should be a great listen.

Big festivals and concert venues are taking advantage of this too. Look at who is headlining festivals and concerts this year. This is the summer of 90s rock comeback. Enjoy it while it's here.

So, what do you think of the 90s music comeback?

Monday, March 30, 2009

100 Agents of Change



Rolling Stone recently came out with a top 100 agents of change in their latest issue. This list of individuals marks those who will have a large hand in changing and shifting the upcoming future.

Some of the people on the list are questionable (i.e. Kanye West in the top 10????) while others are obvious choices. The fact that Barack Obama tops the list is no surprise. It's also interesting to look up some of the foreign names or read the mini-article and description on them in the article itself. Some of these people I had never heard of really are going to help us adapt in the future and become a strong, sufficient nation.

Agents of change: interesting title in the era of Obama. Change, hope... Rolling Stone is rolling with his push and drive for a better America and a better tomorrow.

So, check out the list below. See some new names. See what you think about the selections.

100 | Taylor Swift - musician

99 | Nicholas Schiff - neurologist

98 | Arne Duncan - secretary of education

97 | Shepard Fairey - poster creator (Obama with HOPE)

96 | James Murphy - disco king

95 | Sudhir Venkatesh - professor

94 | Joshua Micah Marshall - blogger

93 | Wes Jackson - plant geneticist

92 | Alfonso Cuarón - director bringing globalization to movies

91 | Nate Silver - predictor

90 | Nick Denton - blog mogul

89 | Van Jones - special advisor for clean energy jobs

88 | Joseph Romm - climate change activist/blogger

87 | Philippe Starck - design maven for green tech

86 | Elon Musk - space exploration CEO

85 | Paul Thomas Anderson - director

84 | Will Wright - The Sims creator

83 | Mitchell Joachim - urban planner

82 | Melanie Sloan - head of CREW

81 | Matthew Weiner - Mad Men creator

80 | Jack White - musician

79 | Neil Young - musician

78 | David Chang - radical chef

77 | Shai Agassi - resurrected electric car

76 | Wafaa El-Sadr - global health visionary

75 | Marc Jacobs - Ralph Lauren-style empire builder

74 | Bruce Nilles - stop new coal plants

73 | Cliff Bleszinski - video game guru

72 | Banksy - graffiti artist

71 | Craig Venter - human genome pioneer

70 | Josh Schwartz - teen television creator

69 | Michael Pollan - local-grown-foods movement

68 | Josh Lasseter - chief executive officer at Pixar

67 | J.J. Abrams - creator of Lost, Alias, and Star Trek movie

66 | Joe Rospars - internet kingmaker

65 | Andy Samberg - comedian

64 | Anderson Cooper - news anchor

63 | Leroy Hood - inventor of DNA sequencer

62 | Danny Boyle - Slumdog Millionare creator

61 | Arnold Schwarzenegger - governor of California

60 | Avner Ronen - streaming internet video instead of cable

59 | James Cameron - director

58 | Anna Barker - scientist attempting to cure cancer

57 | Cornel West - philosopher

56 | Amory Lovins - conservation guru

55 | Tim Westergren - Pandora CEO

54 | Rick Farman & Jonathan Mayers - Bonnaroo creators

53 | Nathan Wolfe - healing viruses

52 | LeBron James - basketball player

51 | Kate Winslet - actress

50 | John Hanke - Google maps creator

49 | Dave Eggers - writer

48 | Danger Mouse - Gnarls Barkley producer

47 | Greg Daniels - The Office kingpin

46 | Trent Reznor - musician

45 | Jessy Tolkan - leader of grassroots movement combating climate change

44 | Alex Rigopulos & Eran Egozy - video game inventors, Rock Band and Guitar Hero

43 | Lisa Randall - theoretical physicist

42 | Brian Eno - music producer

41 | Michael Moore - political documentary creator

40 | Jay Keasling - bioengineer

39 | Samantha Power - leading crusader against genocide

38 | Will Ferrell - comedian

37 | Joseph Stiglitz - economist

36 | Ken Caldeira - climate maverick

35 | Roberto Bolaño - writer

34 | Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. - politician

33 | Reed Hastings - head of Netflix

32 | Alan Russell - medical futurist

31 | Angela Belcher - biologist to create new power

30 | Radiohead - music band

29 | Jeff Bezos - head of Amazon

28 | Sean Penn - actor, humanitarian

27 | Arcade Fire - music band

26 | Bill Gates - world's richest man

25 | Mark Zuckerberg - Facebook creator

24 | Steven Chu - new energy secretary

23 | Sacha Baron Cohen - comedian

22 | Rachel Maddow - commentator on Obama era

21 | Naomi Klein - political writer

20 | Julius Genachowski - nominee for FCC chair

19 | Lil Wayne - musician

18 | Al Gore - politician

17 | Nate Lewis - sage of solar energy

16 | Carol Browner - climate czarina

15 | Evan Williams - Twitter CEO

14 | Judd Apatow - movie producer

13 | Shigeru Miyamoto - video game creator, Wii

12 | Paul Krugman - economist

11 | M.I.A. - musician

10 | Arianna Huffington - Huffington Post

9 | Rahm Emanuel - Obama's chief negotiator

8 | Tina Fey - comedian

7 | Kanye West - musician

6 | Henry Waxman - laying down the law on climate policy and universal health care

5 | Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert - political comedians

4 | Bono - musician, humanitarian

3 | Steve Jobs - head of Apple

2 | Larry Page and Sergey Brin - heads of Google

1 | Barack Obama - President

So, what do you think of Rolling Stone's extensive list for agents of change?

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Big Love Season 3



Man, I really am hooked on HBO. They sucked me in with a recent hit of theirs, Big Love, about polygamy.

I've really been enjoying the inside scoop on having a polygamous relationship and trying to still have a normal life among normal suburban society. Even looking at it in a broader light, it's a look at living a nontraditional lifestyle or one that is not always acceptable. What about having a mixed racial marriage? What about having a homosexual relationship? What about an age difference in spouses? What about kids that range from different marriages or that span many ages?

Families vary so much that it's interesting to look at one kind of family that struggles to be accepted and to even just continue because of the hatred and bigotry of their neighbors. People automatically shun them out or consider themselves better. And it's also interesting to analyze the religion aspect of it too.

Despite all of my over-analyzing, Big Love has lived up to its allure on HBO. They have the room to deal with so many interesting and controversial issues.

This season, in season 3, Big Love tried out cheating, separating spouses, teenage pregnancy, incestuous intentions, premarital sex, neighborhood unacceptance, death, corruption, religious conspiracy, college searching, forbidden romance, family disapproval of relationships, parental deaths, money debt, divorce, parental neglect, drama of court trials, cancer returning, business struggles, and feeling lost as a teenager. It was a loaded season.

For whatever reason, this season's HBO shows had a very negative and struggling mood to them. For example, Entourage was always very light, fun, and exciting. This season, Entourage explored the downside to being a celebrity. Sometimes you're soaring, sometimes you're at the bottom of the barrel.

In the same light, families have their ups and downs. In season 3 of Big Love, the whole thing was a rollercoaster ride that rarely had its ups. They tried to incorporate a new wife, but that divided the family and she left. Each of the wives each had their own massive issue that encompassed their happiness in the season. Barb had a cancer scare. Nicki struggled with being loyal to her father in the trial, keeping the secret from her family, feeling neglected from her husband, falling for another man, separating from her husband, and reconnecting with a child that she lost fourteen years ago. Margie's mother passed away and struggled to feel like she even had a life at all. I've never seen them all so down before.



This season definitely had the biggest challenges for the family. The whole camping trip pretty much summed it up when Bill looked at his family and everyone was just absolutely miserable. No one wanted to be with each other, and no one could be happy because they were juggling so many horrific events in their lives. Bill almost feels that it is his responsibility to keep the family afloat and happy, but one man can't control that many obstacles. His happiness definitely faltered. With this many stresses, his hair will start graying very soon.

The writing on the show is absolutely amazing. Every episode is action-packed. Every episode leaves you wanting more and questioning what will come and what just happened. They're really learning to have many intense plots running side by side that eventually blow up and then effect many people. It's very intelligent, and it's very obvious.

Next season seems that it will take better directions. Hopefully most of the storm will pass, but new issues definitely will surface. The season finale was absolutely incredible. They crammed a lot into one episode. They ended the season with Joey suffocating Roman with a pillow. I really do think he's dead. If he was shot, that could be another story. He might survive that. I believe it was season 1 where they ended the series with him getting shot. But, he survived. I think he won't make it out this time. They seemed to be phasing him out anyway. Maybe the actor didn't want to pursue it anymore. They were really building up Alby anyway. I think Roman is toast.

For next season, there will be trouble on the compound if Roman dies because Alby will take over. Joey will need to cover his ass because people will want to atone for their death of their prophet. And, that will mess up the next trial and investigation with the Greens, the kidnapping, and the death of Joey's fiance. Sarah will be getting married: more drama within the family. Nicki will struggle with getting back into the norm with the family and Bill. Nicki's daughter will be a massive issue as her real family tries to rope her back into the compound. And, will the casino work? Will Barb reconnect with her sister, her mother, or her religion? Will Sarah go to college? Will Margie be successful with her business? Will there be a new pregnancy? They have so many options for the next season. I just know it's going to be something spectacular.

I'd also like to commend the high caliber acting on the show. Especially the wives--they really have stunned me with their abilities. Sarah is also coming out of her shell. Don't underestimate the talent of this group of actors.

As Big Love fans, we have a lot to look forward to for next season. I can't even wait for it yet. If you haven't seen it, I highly suggest it. Watch old episodes here or use HBO on demand.

So, what did you think of season 3 of Big Love?

Friday, March 27, 2009

The Glass Castle



The Glass Castle blew me away. I haven't been so effected by a read in such a long time. This book stuck with me after I would sit down reading it. I would think about it when I wasn't reading it because of how serious and disturbing the content was. But, in the end, it was so worth reading.

Since I am a huge fan of the memoir, this book appealed to me. It also appealed to me because some of my friends at the college level recommended it to me. One of my friends is even teaching this book at the end of the year to a group of high school students at Troy High School. Knowing this, I had to read it.

The Glass Castle is a memoir by Jeannette Walls, a journalist, who grew up in extreme poverty. Her life was extremely difficult, often having to raise herself as her parents were neglectful. Even though her parents were intelligent and capable of having jobs, they preferred to skirt by with little money, brinking on starvation and living in filthy living conditions.

The Walls' family moved around quite frequently when Jeannette, her older sister Lori, and younger sister Brian were little. They quickly moved from Arizona to California to Nevada, all choosing small run-down towns where they would live in dank houses that were falling apart. Jeannette's sister Maureen was born soon before they would pack up everything and move to Welch, West Virginia, the worst of all the towns they settled down in. The Walls moved around a lot for various reasons. Rex, her father, always though the mob was after them. They would often get into trouble or fights that they needed to run from. Or, Rose Mary, her mother, felt itchy if she stayed in one place for too long. She thought life was an adventure, so she wanted to continue having adventures by moving.

Every time the Walls would move, the children could only bring one thing with them. The children would get attached to places or objects, but they would be forced to leave it all behind (not like they had much to begin with). One time when they moved a considerable distance away, the parents made the children ride in the back of a UHaul, dark, cold, and dangerous as furniture shifted around them. The door busted open and the rode with it open for quite some time before a car waved them down. The parents then yelled at them for causing a ruckus. They threw a cat out the window of a moving truck because it was misbehaving. They were doing it a favor, the mother said, because now it was living in the wild where it belonged and it could no longer learn to be dependent on others.

The book opens up with Jeannette riding in a cab to an elite party when she sees her mother picking through the trash. She feels absolute shame. Then the memoir flashes back to her childhood to see how it all happened. Jeannette then tells of her first memory, cooking a hot dog in boiling water by herself, and how she burned herself so badly. She went to the hospital for a short time before her parents pulled her out saying how doctors were bad and didn't know what they were talking about. Jeannette developed severe scars from the incident and maltreatment of the burns.



I think I was just so shocked by how parents could treat their children in the ways that these parents did. And the crazy part is, they didn't think they were being bad parents at all. It blows my mind. They stuck so hard to their ideals, and teaching their childen those ideals, that it often scarred the children. It was hard to read, but it is valuable to see how neglected and abused others can be, especially as children. I'm surprised the children came out as good as they did too considering the circumstances. Some people can never pick themselves up out of this horrible abuse. This is where we see so many damaged souls: drug addicts, abusers, etc. It can be a terrible cycle.

The parents let their children go hungry and go without meals for days. They brought nothing to school for lunches, often picking out of the garbage to eat while no one was looking. When the children saved up money for food, the dad would steal it and lie about it to buy booze and cigarettes. When the children were starving, the mother would buy chocolate and hoard it behind their backs. The father would bring Jeannette to bars and would let an older man grope her and attempt to rape her. When they moved to West Virginia where it was cold, they had to heat and the parents refused to earn any money for coal. The children had to gather wood or scraps of coal to heat anything they could. They slept in their coats (Jeannette's had no buttons to close it) huddled together with animals for warmth. They went to school just for warmth no matter if they were sick or not.

When they moved in with Rex's parents' house at first in West Virginia, they were mistreated by the grandparents and others in the town. Erma, the grandmother, sexually molested Brian, and their parents brushed it off like it was nothing. "They were exaggerating." When Jeannette's uncle touched her inappropriately on the couch while fondling himself, Rose Mary's response was "What a sad man." No reprimands on the uncle's behavior.

In their horrible little house on Little Hobart Street, the house had holes in it. There was no heat or insulation. There was no running water. Garbage piled up in a big hole next to the house that was supposed to be the foundation for The Glass Castle (to be explained later). There was a toilet in the basement, but the stairs to get there were slippery and moldy. The children each fell at least once, ten feet down the stairs, since they were in such bad condition.

They only had a couple pairs of clothes and could only wash once a week. Their clothes rotated and could hardly be washed, especially in winter time. If they were washed, they would lay stiff and flat as they dried outside. The children were tormented by their peers as smelly, dirty, and poor. They went through so much bullying and torment. They got in fist fights and arguments, making very little friends, because of their situation. So, the children had to stick together.

It all stemmed from the parents. Rex was an alcoholic and spent all of his money on that, cigarettes, and gambling. Gambling did make him some money sometimes, but most times it lost them money. He was often away from the house, slumming at bars. He worked as an engineer in some places they lived in, but he would either get fired or quit because he was bored of it. He would work odd jobs, which didn't really amount to much. He liked to be in the wilderness. He always thought the mob and the union were after him, so he could never get a job that was affiliated with that.



Rex always said that Jeannette was his favorite child. She always had faith in him. He called her Mountain Goat, which is a strange little nickname for a child. For Christmas one year, instead of presents which they never received, he would give them stars in the sky. He really thought it was a big deal. Jeannette picked Venus and the star reminded her of him ever since. He did stress that education was important, which is great, so eventually the kids could elevate themselves with their intelligence and drive. He was the better of the two parents, even though he wasn't the best. He did love Jeannette even though he took from her a lot. He had a loving way about him that you liked and other part of him that you despised. He's a hard character to dissect.

Rex also had a dream of someday building the Glass Castle, a house he was designing for them to live in that was made of all glass. It was like this dream world he created for them and set them up for, but he never succeeded. The children dreamed of someday living in the Glass Castle, a better life, but it was all promises that led to nowhere, very similar to their parenting and their lives.

Rose Mary, on the other hand, said that she was addicted to excitement and chocolates. She had a degree to be an elementary school teacher, but she hated doing it. She would take up the job when she was forced to, but she could never stay with it. She was unorganized and too lenient as a teacher. Her children would have to get her up and out of bed for work; they would grade her papers; they would make her lesson plans; they would coerce her to go when she threw tantrums in the morning. Who is the child in this situation? When she did get the money, she would blow it on horrendous things; otherwise, Rex would take the money right from her and spend it on useless things so the children continued to starve. It seemed endless and tireless, a situation that is sad to watch children go through.

What Rose Mary wanted to be was an artist. She often spent all of her money on art supplies. She was always painting and drawing. She said that she hated living for others, her children, and wanted to live for herself. She had a very hippie mentality. Her happiness came above all others, and she was rarely happy. Rose Mary was sad when her children eventually moved to New York City, not because they were moving away from her, but because they would have happy lives where they would acheive goals she wanted to. She was jealous. She made me the most upset because she was so selfish as a mother. She made me blood boil at some points, as she was surely the antagonist. And she never changes. Some people do never change...

Jeannette and her siblings do eventually escape Welch and go to New York City. They make it on their own to survive and build lives for themselves. Unfortunately, Rex and Rose Mary follow them to New York City. First they crash with Jeannette's siblings until they are forced out onto the streets. They loved being homeless too. Eventually, they shack up in an abandoned complex where they build a little life for themselves. It's interesting though because they choose this life for themselves. They really could be somebody and have a life, but they choose to have this kind of poverty-stricken life. It's outrageous for me to hear.

After all, Jeannette puts herself through college and becomes a journalist. Journalism helped her escape in high school when she worked for the paper, it brought her to New York City, and it built her life and career. Lori became an artist, drawing for comics and other media sources. Brian became a police officer and rebuilt crappy houses into nice, perfect homes (ironic, eh?). Maureen got into drugs and depression before recovering and moving to California to escape her family. Rex had a heart attack brought upon him from his drinking. Jeannette eventually moved with her husband and husband's child to a country cottage where Rose Mary lives in a small cottage on the property. She always did take care of them in some way.

I just couldn't get over the neglect and decision to live this way. How could you put your children through life like this? Wouldn't it eat at your conscience? And what hurts me is that so many people must go through situations like this, but not many can tell their story. Jeannette is a good case where someone came out on top and conquered their past, but so many often don't. It's so depressing. And I can't even imagine how it is now and will be in the future now that we're in this recession where jobs are being lost and are hard to find. Eerie.

The overall themes were interesting to think about: Neglect (from parents and other basic needs for survival). Abuse (sexual, child abuse). Addiction (alcohol, excitement). Shame (family, where you come from, your past). Standing up against what is wrong, even if it is your family. Following a dream. Making something of your life. Making a change when your life is so bad, even if it's hard. Loving others despite hurt. Overcoming the past. Accepting who you are and your roots.

The Glass Castle is currently being made into a movie. I think it will be absolutely powerful. I can't wait to see how it will be made and received by the public.

It was an absolutely phenomenal book. If anyone asks me if I have read anything good lately, I will bring this up first for a long time. No other book that I have read recently has touched me so much, has had such a powerful message, and seems truly valuable to read about. There was a genuine purpose and soul searching to understand the past in this book. It was absolutely riveting.

So, what do you think of The Glass Castle?

Thursday, March 26, 2009

How to Listen

I love reading poems from Poetry 180. I came across a new one today that is worth noting. I think we all need to stop our lives and focus a bit. Sometimes we go in fast forward for so long that we don't stop to even listen to anything around us or talk with friends or family that we should.

I'm finding that the work week can do that to you. Sometimes you go on autopilot and forget to reconnect with your interests and with yourself. You can lose touch with your surroundings and your passions. Sometimes it's just nice to listen...

How to Listen

by Major Jackson

I am going to cock my head tonight like a dog
in front of McGlinchy's Tavern on Locust;
I am going to stand beside the man who works all day combing
his thatch of gray hair corkscrewed in every direction.
I am going to pay attention to our lives
unraveling between the forks of his fine-tooth comb.
For once, we won't talk about the end of the world
or Vietnam or his exquisite paper shoes.
For once, I am going to ignore the profanity and
the dancing and the jukebox so I can hear his head crackle
beneath the sky's stretch of faint stars.

I really enjoy the way he describes listening, like a dog. Animals are definitely keen to this, even though they cannot decipher our strange language. I am astounded with how well their senses do pick up as compared to human's.

Even the images he uses shows that he's paying attention to his surroundings. I think that I don't pay as much attention to my surroundings (noises, scenery, etc) than I really should. Again, it's this stupid auto pilot thing...

So what do you think of "How to Listen?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Eastbound & Down



I always trust HBO. They always come up with incredible series. Obviously, every once in a while, they have a dud. So, for the most part, I will try out a new show that they put on. They create the best television shows of every other channel. There's just something about the quality of their product that excels over their competitors.

So, when I wanted to check out a new show, I started at their channel and came across a new show, Eastbound & Down. It's a very strange comedy that stars Danny McBride as Kenny Powers--he also played one of the main characters in Pineapple Express. He's a recognizable face, but I couldn't tell you his name or anything else he's worked in.

Eastbound & Down is produced by Will Ferrell and Adam McKay and is backed by Will Ferrell's production company, Gary Sanchez Productions. Ferrell even has a character in the show. I knew that I could trust a show that has Ferrell and HBO behind it.

However, I wasn't blown away by it. The show is about an ex-baseball star who basically lost it all. He basically is a self-centered a-hole who loses his talent and slowly loses all his money. But, he still has his cockiness and arrogance. He moves in with his brother and his family in the suburbs of his hometown. He starts out as a substitute as his former high school, and he soon takes on the gym teacher's job even though he is crude and inappropriate. He runs into his high school sweet heart who is engaged to the happy-go-lucky, naive principal. Powers is trying to win her back even though she is disgusted by his pigheadedness and crudeness.

It's a little out there. It has SOME funny parts, but sometimes I'm just overly frustrated with his character. Other times I can't get over how unrealistic it is. I know it's a comedy show, but some of the stuff that goes on inside the school just could never happen. The portrayal of school is very far off. I do like how they portray an arrogant guy though who can't get over that he's not a celebrity anymore. Some people act this way even though they were never famous.

I also do enjoy Powers' 90's haircut. He's got the long curly, gelled mullet going on. It's hilarious. It totally matches his character. He does a good job with his appearance and upholding the character, but I wonder where they can take this show. There are some obvious angles, but can it last?

The show does use a bit of improv and on-the-spot acting, which I like. I enjoy that in any show, but its crudeness can be a bit too much. Some of it is tasteless, but some other parts can be sort of funny. I don't know. It's hit and miss for me. I wonder if HBO will pick it up for another season or not.

I also like the portrayal of Major League players. I think that baseball players are so pampered and whiny sometimes. And come on, with this whole steroid thing, they're really losing their credibility. I think they're becoming less respectible athletes; a lot of them earn it with their pompous attitudes too. I think this show does a great job of portraying that very well.

And where did Danny McBride come from? I see him in Pineapple Express one month, and the next month he's starring in his own HBO show. I haven't seen him in anything else. Where did he come from and how did he climb up the Hollywood ladder so fast?

So, what do you think of Eastbound & Down?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Plath Suicide



Strange. I always find it so bizarre when suicide is a thread in a family line. Actually, it's creepy, sad, and eerie.

Nicholas Hughes, son of Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes, hung himself last Monday (March 16th) at the age of 47. He killed himself 40 years to the day that his step-mother killed herself and his sister. Now that's no coincidence.

So, in a nut shell, both of his mothers committed suicide. His mother, the infamous poet and writer, committed suicide in 1963 when he was sleeping. She stuck her head in the oven and was discovered later on. That's chilling to leave children in that manner. What do you even tell them? How do you get the message across to small children? And, wouldn't they somehow think that they were to blame?

I wonder if Nicholas lived with this his whole life. Having his step-mother do the same thing later on couldn't have helped either. Maybe he felt that it was his fate. Maybe he was deeply troubled and depressed his whole life, and he felt that this was his calling. This would gain him fame or regognition, or this would surface the pain and depression he was feeling. Or, could something like this almost be genetic?

The whole situation reminds me of Hemingway. His father committed suicide, and after he did, his mother shipped him the gun that he committed suicide with. Years later, Hemingway killed himself with the same gun. Almost some sort of homage to the parent (similar to Hughes). What was the mother thinking by doing that?? Man. But still, the family patterns of suicide really creeps me out.

Nicholas Hughes didn't take the path of his parents though. He studied science, probably the farthest thing from his parents' writing skills, and he led a quiet life. I just wonder if he was depressed for a while or if it was just something that crept over him later on in his life.

I was disturbed to read that Ted Hughes burned Sylvia Plath's final writings that she had been recording before her death. That's selfish. It makes me very, very angry. I know that he was disturbed, but a lot could have been learned about depression and suicide from reading her final thoughts. I bet a lot of other people are angry too, and I can see why. I can also see why he would burn them, privacy and all, but art is so precious. It hurts when art is destroyed. Art is very hard to recreate.

For more details about the suicide, check out this article here.

So, what do you think about the suicide?

Monday, March 23, 2009

Band of Horses



I don't know what's going on with me, but I'm really into Indie bands right now. First I was really into Fleet Foxes. Now I can't get enough of Band of Horses. They're sort of similar to Fleet Foxes, but they aren't as folksy and light. I love Band of Horses' unique indie sound. I'm pretty much addicted.

Band of Horses has two albums out right now, Everything all the Time (2006) and Cease to Begin (2007). They've only really been around for a few years. They formed in Seattle in 2004, and they're pretty successful for only having two albums out yet. It's actually quite impressive.

They are currently recording a new album since last October, so if you are into this band, be on the lookout for a new album surfacing in the upcoming future.

Initially I got into them because they earned a lot of page space in Rolling Stone when they first came out. The magazine recommended the band, and I'm glad I listened. Their first single, "The Funeral," appeared in some SUV commercials. I think it's pretty catchy, it's a good tune. That song hooked me to want to look into listening to their albums. That song has appeared in Penelope, CSI, Criminal Minds, One Tree Hill, Numb3rs, and Skate, a video game. Check that song out first if you've never heard of them.



Cease to Begin was a bit more popular and successful for them. It was rated pretty well among critics. In 2007, it made the tops of the charts for the following magazines:

Austin Chronicle, Doug Freeman, #1 album of 2007
Delusions of Adequacy, #9 album of 2007
Filter Magazine, #2 album of 2007
The Onion AV Club, #5 album of 2007
Paste Magazine, #9 album of 2007

Pretty impressive. I think they'll get bigger from here. They've already toured with Iron & Wine, another indie band that I really enjoy. Keep an eye out for them if you're into this type of music. They have such a good sound to them.

Also, I would check out the song "Is There a Ghost," a single that became more popular than "The Funeral." On Rolling Stone's top songs of 2007 list, it was ranked #93. It's another good listen. I'm currently hooked on it.

Other songs to check out if you're interested in Band of Horses: "Islands on the Coast," "Ode to LRC," "Our Swords," "Weed Party," "The Great Salt Lake," or "No One's Gonna Love You."

So, what do you think of Band of Horses?

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Mom as Fly



Perhaps mothers are underappreciated. Perhaps this is a good poem for Mother's Day.

This poem comes from the recent issue of The New Yorker. It caught my eye based on title alone. I really like the metaphor of a mother as a fly. It's genius. They hover, there are so many of them, they seem pesty, they may annoy you a lot, but they are necessary (the food chain would be all off without them).

Here is the poem:

Mom as Fly

by Terese Svobada

A fly with a human head
heads for your screen. It's Mom,
toting groceries and laundry

way too tiny. An interruption in scoring.
But first score a bill worth
the trouble. Mom! A twenty?

The fly mounts the monitor
and notes the debt to education
remains unpaid.

But past midnight theorems
are not her thing. Way faux,
as in eternal, those problems.

She hand-rubs. You crush her,
forgetting anguish might lead to food.
No buzz to you equals a fast connection,

where all relationships worship
the math, holy Pythagorean. But you
don't have the millions of eyes

she had to watch over something.
What was that something?
Your hands drift to a pimple.

Could it be?
Dad decks you bad,
the triangle so over.


Hm. I feel like there are parts of this that I understand, and parts of this that I might not understand. I understand the mother/child component. The mother hovers. The mother provides and does motherly duties yet the child is still bothered by her. The mother has much more experience and knows more than the child (represented by having many eyes), yet the child doesn't want to accept that or acknowledge it.

The child is also involved in some sort of math. It is brought up a few times in the poem. Is the child doing his/her homework? Why the math connection? And why does dad show up at the end and in such a negative way ("decks him/her bad")? Why is dad mentioned once while mom is the center of the poem? Mom seems to care and try, yet the child squashes her. The one who isn't around and doesn't seem to care, dad, is hardly represented until the end. I wonder...

I really do think the metaphor is smart though. Mom as Fly. Very cool idea for a poem.

So, what do you think of "Mom as Fly?"

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Armageddon in Retrospect



There's just something about Kurt Vonnegut's writing that I can't help but love. I was drawn to his writign after I read his best-selling novel Slaughterhouse Five, and I have gone on to pursue more of his fiction since then.

Recently, I came across a book that was published posthumous, after his death, called Armageddon in Retrospect. This collection of essays, short stories, and speeches focuses on war and peace. Most of these pieces were unpublished; thus, they were dug up and pieced together for this new book published in 2008.

I read the audio book, and I've been reading that the actual book has artwork and hand-written quotations by Vonnegut himself. That's really cool. In the audio book, Vonnegut's son reads an introduction he wrote himself on his father. It was pretty enlightening.

In Vonnegut's son's introduction, I felt like I really got to know other sides of him that I didn't know before. Even though Vonnegut has some crazy writing, it wasn't influenced by drugs or alcohol. He was a pretty clean-cut guy. He entered the army to fight in WWII and was eventually kept as a POW in Dresden (the basic premise for Slaughterhouse Five and other short stories within this book). His dreams of becoming a published author almost didn't come true.

The introduction actually encourages me to read his son's writing. He's pretty good. His analogies are dead on. If Vonnegut gets a lot of things right with writing, his son must too.



I would have to say that the first piece in the book was my favorite. The first piece is a speech Vonnegut's son, Mark, gave at Clowe's Hall in Indianapolis in April of 2007. Vonnegut's son said that he kept writing and rewriting last speeches before his death. This was the final version that he wrote. It was very interesting to read from that perspective. This speech was meant to be his final words to the public. It is incredible. If you want to hear about how reading the speech went on that day, Mark's reading of the speech, read a first-hand account here.

If anyone can find the text of the speech online, let me know.

Otherwise, here are the other short stories from the book:

Vonnegut's Speech at Clowes Hall, Indianapolis, April 2007: Vonnegut's farewell.

Wailing Shall Be in All Streets: A recollection of the bombing of Dresden, almost like Slaughterhouse Five. On his capture and mistreatment as a POW.

Great Day: Time travel. The main point is that achieving peace in the world is priceless, even with time travel.

Guns Before Butter: 3 army privates fantaize about the perfect meal they will receive when they come home from war.

Happy Birthday, 1951: A young boy is adopted by an old man who is left orphaned from war. The old man tries to shelter the boy from war but is too young and naive to understand why. Better said, "the impossibility of shielding our children from the temptations of violence."

Brighten Up: Self explanatory.



The Unicorn Trip: This story takes place in the Middle Ages. A family needs to make a very difficult decision. Involving a unicorn? Yes.

Unknown Soldier: A very short story on the first baby born in the millenium.

Spoils: An American solider is terribly upset because of a German child who was killed because of him. This is to represent unrecognized tragedies.

Just You and Me, Sammy: A soldier brings another soldier into an abandoned house to loot it. He tries to get him drunk and steal his identity. The other soldier ends up killing him, saying that it was suicide. The army asks him about the death, for the dead solider was actually a German spy. Good twist ending.

The Commandant's Desk: A Czech carpenter is suspected of collaborating with Nazis and Russians through his building. He then must build a desk to satisfy commands. "Hopelessness overrides pacifism."

Armageddon in Retrospect: Demons and the devil. Dr. Lucifer tries to teach about evil and how good will never win. This eventually involves other countries and the UN. It is noted as almost a Paradise Lost feel.

If you like Vonnegut, it is definitely worth reading, especially if you are interested in history, sci fi, war, and writing that's just a little bit out there.

So what do you think of Armageddon in Retrospect or Kurt Vonnegut?

Friday, March 20, 2009

I Love You, Man



Yesterday, I had the prime opportunity to see an early screening of the new comedy I Love You, Man. I wish I had more connections for opportunities like this. Anyway, I knew this was going to be a good movie because Rolling Stone just included an article on Jason Segel, the writer and star of this movie. It's very worth reading if you enjoyed the movie and enjoy Segel.

I've seen man crushes, and this movie really displays the man crush well. It happens, and it's hilarious.

Segel is starting to blow up right now. Rolling Stone even mentioned that he might be the next Judd Apatow, good that they're friends then. He just recently writing and creating Forgetting Sarah Marshall, and now he has landed this new movie I Love You, Man starring himself and Paul Rudd. I think this movie will certainly jump-start his career. I haven't seen Forgetting Sarah Mashall though. Is it good? Is it worth watching?

Segel previously worked on Freaks and Geeks, where he met and worked with Judd Apatow. He also writes and works on How I Met Your Mother as well as creating the aforementioned movies above. So, he's doing pretty well.

Onto the movie: I think it was a REALLY good idea for a movie. The whole man-dating idea is hilarious, and the movie did a really good job with it. It's very interesting to dissect straight male relationships, and it was portrayed very well. How do you pursue a man friend without seeming like you're sexually interested when you're not because you're straight?

I also think it was hilarious how well Rudd portrayed a guy who is used to having all girl friends. He doesn't know how to have a guy friend, and he tries so hard to be cool and say cool things. He tries to refer to pop culture and make nicknames, but he's so off. It's so uncomfortable yet so funny.

I enjoyed Segel's character. It really made me appreciate his work, but I liked the persona he created. So laid-back, open, smooth, caring, individualistic--kind of the ideal man in a sense. The man cave was also pretty hilarious. He's that goofy, outgoing guy that I would find myself drawn to if I was looking for a friend. Hell, my best friend is very close to that, in terms of the girl version of him. Maybe that's why I enjoyed his character so much or the movie so much...



It just had a lot of social commentary on relationships (the too-close heterosexual relationship where there are no outside friends, the abusive heterosexual relationship, the straight male friend relationship, the gabby group of close girl friends, awkward work friends, familial relationships, hetero/homo friend relationships, etc.). It was just solidly done.

But, I didn't buy Andy Samberg as a homosexual. It's not criticism on the movie, more of a comment. I love anything he does, so I loved his character and his acting in the movie. I just could never buy him as a gay guy, but maybe he was playing a certain kind of gay person who really isn't that stereotypical role. Maybe I'm the one who's being judgmental! I still loved his acting though. He needs to have more roles in films.

Why did they try to set up Segel's character with the single friend if they never got together in the end or even tried to get in a relationship? What was the point of that? It didn't go anywhere or saying anything really about anything at all. And, I thought the last scene could have been a little bit different. It was a bit dramatic, and I thought it was a bit abrupt. But, I still liked the movie despite these questions and suggestions. I would highly recommend it to comedy lovers.

Rudd really is really blowing up isn't he? I never saw this for his career when I look back to the 90s in his days in Clueless. I'm happy though; he's friends with a great group of actors, and he really is talented. Good for him.

I also hope to see more of Segel. I like this new group of comedic actors/writers who are coming out now. They're like the new era of Stiller, Sandler, Carrey. Him and Seth Rogen can really take comedy by storm.

I also want to comment on Segel's choice of style in the movie. I LOVE it. The scarf/blazer/sandals/not matching/long-haired look really works for him. Keep that up.

So, what do you think of I Love You, Man or Jason Segel?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Slam



Nick Hornby's Slam wasn't a bad read. I recently read another one of his books, A Long Way Down, and he proved that he is a good author to pick up and read. I do want to read High Fidelity someday too.

I read this one on audio tape, and I think it really gives the book a an authentic, flavorful feeling. Since Hornby is British, he has British actors read his books. I like hearing them spoken with that accent. I don't know what it is about it, but it makes me feel more connected with the setting and the characters. It's a pretty cool experience.

This book interested me because of its nature with young adults. The book is essentially about teenage pregnancy and is told from the point of view of the sixteen-year-old boy, Sam. Not only does it tell of his experience of getting pregnant with a not-so-serious girlfriend, but he also describes the experience he had as being the child of a mother who was sixteen years old when she had him.

Sam feels pretty embarassed and ashamed of his young, hot mom. He definitely muses about the pros and cons. He likes that she's young and they're close in age, but he doesn't like when his friends hit on his mom or ask her out. It's also interesting that since he had this strong feelings against his mother's young pregnancy that he ends up in the same situation himself. But we see this all the time with kids. You don't always have to follow in your parents footsteps if you don't want to! You'd think he would have been scarred enough to try to prevent this from happening. But that's what makes the story interesting.

Sam is a skater and has this deep connection with Tony Hawk in his mind. Yeah, it sounds weird. He has a poster of him on his wall and talks with him in his mind all the time. He reads his book over and over and looks to him for help and guidance. Perhaps he does this because there is so little parenting in his life that he needs a real friend or person for advice?? It was a strange part of the book to wrap your head around.



AND, as if Tony Hawk speaking in his mind isn't enough (which is probably only his own psyche communicating with him in the persona of Tony Hawk and to show his youth and ignorance), he flashes into the future a few times once he knows he is going to have a baby. He is never happy with his future and is upset about it, but when he waits for it to come, it's not so bad. He learns that he could handle it, because he never thought he could.

In terms of dissecting the topic and concept of teenage pregnancy, the book is fantastic. It really shows all sides: the mother's, the father's, the parents, the child's. It's well rounded too because it shows the negative and positive thoughts, feelings, consequences, and emotions. It shows its complicated nature and the millions of questions that dart around the minds of those effected. Overall, it would really be worth reading, especially for a book group or for a class.

And, should young couples feel obliged to stay together if they get pregnant? What if there is no love? Does that mean commitment forever? I like how they attacked this question. I won't give it away, but I like the diversity of options.

I also really enjoyed British lingo. Slam=fall on a skateboard which is interesting to analyze. You never expect it coming. Toilet=bathroom. Tele=TV. Nappy=diaper. Knickers=pants. College=class (I'm going to college vs. I'm going to class). Mobile=cell. Etc.

I also have to add: All of the speakers tended to end their sentences with the same general endings which got kind of repetitive and annoying after a while. I could predict when they'd be coming. It would be okay if just Sam was saying it all the time, but all of them were, AKA Hornby. They ended most sentences with "isn't it?" or "wouldn't it?" or "couldn't it?" Always a question like that. I was happy when that ended.

I would recommend it. We'll see what you think.

What do you think of Slam or Nick Hornby?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Chris Cornell's Scream



I really need to vent this out, and maybe this is true of Chris Cornell/Soundgarden/Audioslave fans:

WHAT IS CHRIS CORNELL DOING WITH HIS NEW ALBUM SCREAM???

Now, I know that it's cool and creative for artists to continously change who they are artistically. Good artists grow and continue to change instead of just relying on that same old sound that always sold records. Taking chances is really admirable.

Genre jumping is a little iffy for me. I don't know if it works all of the time. When Bon Jovi went from rock to country, he picked up a big fan base. I'm not into country, so he lost me (not like I was a huge fan before at all). But some genres are really strange to jump to (AKA from rock to hip hop).

So, I'll come out and say it for those of you who are not fortunate enough to have heard samples of Cornell's new album, Scream. He worked with Timbaland on the record, and basically his tracks can be heard in dance clubs. It's not him at all. I mean, his wonderful voice is nice as he sings on the tracks, but it's just too out there. I respect his music, but I was very, very disappointed in this new album.

Technically, it's called "electronic pop." But still, I thought Cornell was like a rock legendary singer. This is tainting that image I have of him.

I think his album pretty much says it all. He's smashing his rock career with the guitar itself. He's kind of shattering the rock god image I have of him. There it goes.

Here is how it's being received (via Wikipedia):

"Initial critical response ranged from mixed to mostly negative, with which Chicago rock critics Jim Derogotis and Greg Kot called 'train wreck' and 'beyond Trash it,' and perhaps 'the worst album that we have ever reviewed.' At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the album has received an average score of 47, based on 13 reviews. Scream received positive reviews, from Entertainment Weekly and Hot Press who felt that the collaboration between producer Timbaland and Chris Cornell worked. The mixed reviews were more prevalent, with Spin stating the album was "strangely appealing in its elaborately empty efficiency." while Billboard noted that 'Sometimes it's good bizarre. Other times it's bad bizarre.' Rolling Stone wrote that Scream 'veers between drab–sleek and rock–dude soulful; Cornell's yowl never sounds at home.' Among the negative reviews, Allmusic wrote that "Scream is one of those rare big-budget disasters, an exercise in misguided ambition that makes no sense outside of pure theory."

Listen to short clips of the song here at Amazon.com. Apparently key tracks are "Part of Me" and "Long Gone." See what you think.

So, what do you think of Chris Cornell's new album Scream?

Monday, March 16, 2009

The City Outside



Yesterday I posted one of John Updike's last poems that was recently published in the latest New Yorker issue. I went on a little shpeal about the final days of Updike's life as he slowly died from lung cancer.

He wrote a series of poems in his final days, and they were published in this magazine. I am fascinated by them. In the previous post and posts to come, I will post some that I find memorable and worth reading. He will definitely leave a fine stamp on literary America.

This poem is called "The City Outside" and, as you can tell, it chronicles Updike as he sits and listens to things around him. I believe he is in the hospital at this time; he was in the hospital at least before Thanksgiving, and I'm sure other details from the poem can prove this.

When you're laying in the hospital knowing that death is coming, what else would you think about? What would certain noises make you think of? Would they trigger old memories; would they make them seem trivial; would they point out flaws in your past; would it make you feel melancholy; would it make you feel like you're wasting your last months here? What would you think of?

Here are his thoughts as he lays in bed. This poem was written on December 11, 2008.

The City Outside

by John Updike

Stirs early: ambulances pull in far
below, unloading steadily their own
emergencies, and stray pedestrains
cross nameless streets. Traffic picks up at dawn
and lights in the skyscrapers dim.
The map of Beacon Hill becomes 3-D,
a crust of brick and granite, the State House dome
a golden bubble single as the sun.

I lived in Boston once, a year or two,
in furtive semi-bachelorhood. I parked
a Karmann Ghia in Back Bay's shady spots
but I was lighter then, and lived as if
within forever. Now, I've turned so heavy
I sink through twenty floors to hit the street.

__________

I had a fear of falling: airplanes
spilling their spinning contents like black beans;
the parapets at Rockafeller Center or
the Guggenheim proving too low and sucking
me down with impalpable winds of dread;
engorging atria in swank hotels,
the piano player miles below his music,
his instrument no bigger than a footprint.

I'm safe! Away with travel and abrupt
perspectives! Terra firma is my ground,
my refuge, and my certain destination.
My terrors--the flight through dazzling air, with
the blinding smash, the final black--will be
acheived from thirty inches, on a bed.

__________

Strontium 90--is that a so-called
heavy element? I've been injected,
and yet the same light imbecilic stuff--
the babble on TV, newspaper fluff,
the drone of magazines, banality's
kind banter--plows ahead, admixed
with world collapse, atrocities, default,
and fraud. Get off, get off the rotten world!

The sky is turning that pellucid blue
seen in enamel behind a girlish Virgin--
the doeskin lids downcast, the smile demure.
Indigo cloud-shreds dot a band of tan;
the Hancock Tower bares a slice of night.
So whence the world's beauty? Was I deceived?



He really goes through a lot of memories just by triggered noises from outside. It must be weird to lay there in the morning and hear all these familiar sounds, but you no longer have connection to them when you only have a month or so to live. Maybe you used to get up in the morning and you hear the traffic and see the sun rise with the lights slowly turning on in office buildings. You dreaded that part of the day (maybe), but now (maybe) you wish you had it back because at least then you were alive.

I enjoy how observant he is in this state. He isn't giving up. He's still living his life even though he's constrained to a hospital bed. He muses, he thinks of his old life. He comments on the city around him. I give him credit for writing such eloquent poetry in such a troubling time.

So, what do you think of "The City Outside" or John Updike?

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Hospital



The New Yorker recently came out with some incredible last poems by John Updike. Updike is a well-known writer who recently died within the year. They've been paying tribute to him all year for his outstanding work with writing.

Updike died of lung cancer in January of 2009, and he knew he was going to die for a while. Considering the facts, his writing changed especially when he knew that his time on earth was ending. He put out a bunch of poems within he last year of his life (2008) that correspond with his battle with lung cancer, death and dying, his hospital stays--basically his last moments of life.

The New Yorker published a few of these poems, and I'm going to paste one of them here. The poem is called "Hospital," which is pretty self-explanatory as to the content of the material. It was written as Massachusetts General Hospital between November 23-27, 2008. Knowing what I've just told you, enjoy the poem.



Hospital

by John Updike

Benign big blond machine beyond all price,
it swallows us up and slowly spits us out
half-deafened and our blood still dyed: all this
to mask the simple dismal fact that we
decay and find our term of life is fixed.
This giant governance, a mammoth toy,
distracts us for the daytime, but the night
brings back the quiet, and solemn dark.

God save us from ever ending, though billions have.
The world is blanketed by foregone deaths,
small beads of ego, bright with appetite,
whose pin-sized prick of light winked out,
bequeathing Earth a jagged coral shelf
unseen beneath the black unheeding waves.

_________

My visitors, my kin. I fall into
the conversational mode, matching it
to each old child, as if we share a joke
(of course we do, the dizzy depths of years),
and each grandchild, politely quizzing them
on their events and prospects, all the while
suppressing, like an acid reflux, the lack
of prospect black and bilious for me.

Must I do this, uphold the social lie
that binds us all together in blind faith
that nothing ends, not youth nor age nor strength,
as in a motion picture which, once seen,
can be rebought on DVD? My tongue
says yes; within, I lamely drown.

__________

I think of those I loved and saw to die:
my Grampop in his nightshirt on the floor;
my first wife's mother, unable to take a bite
of Easter dinner, smiling with regret;
my mother in her blue knit cap, alone
on eighty acres, stuck with forty cats,
too weak to walk out to collect the mail,
waving brave goodbye from her wind-chimed porch.

And friends, both male and female, on the phone,
their voices dry and firm, their ends in sight.
My old piano teacher joking, of her latest
diagnosis, "Curtains." I brushed them off,
these valorous, in my unseemly haste
of greedy living, and now must learn from them.

__________

Endpoint, I thought, would end a chapter in
a book beyond imagining, that got reset
in a crisp exotic type a future I
--a miracle!--could read. My hope was vague
but kept me going, amiable and swift.
A clergyman--those comical purveyors
of what makes sense to just the terrified--
has phoned me, and I loved him, bless his hide.

My wife of thirty years is on the phone.
I get a busy signal, and I know
she's in her grief and needs to organize
consulting friends. But me, I need her voice;
her body is the only locus where
my desolation bumps against its end.



I know it's a little depressing, but it's brutally honest and biting to the heart. I think it's genius for getting across that horrible feeling when you know you're going to die. You reflect on those you know who have died and almost use them as guides to help you accept the fact that you will die, suffer, and pass on as they have.

We all might see death and put it off, maybe not recognize that it will happen to all of us (that which connects us all), but it will. Now he is finally coming to terms and peace with it, and he seems to be accepting this new life of his, the last his life will ever be.

He picks such solid moments that we can see, that we can see him seeing as he lays in the hospital and worries about what will come in the near future. He takes us through his thoughts and feel what he's feeling: the sign of a great writer. He muses, he shows memories, he shows us scenes of the hospital. He merges all of these moments into something solid that we can look at, analyze, and grasp a solid meaning. Even though that meaning might be sad, it's something valuable that can touch people in all sorts of different ways.

I praise the fact that he keeps writing up until the very end of his life. I guess a writer (or an artist for that matter) really can't stop producing no matter what happens to him/her. Or, maybe creating is something that helps the artist get by. Maybe his writing poetry helped him understand, come to terms, or alleviate the pain and stress of his upcoming future. Maybe it helped him deal with it. Either way, I give him a lot of credit for being so honest and for not giving up on his work. It's impressive. He's right on his game up until the last months of his life. Updike is a man to be honored and remembered.

So, what do you think of "Hospital" or John Updike?

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Top Earning Dead Celebrities

Yesterday's post inspired today's post on top-earning dead celebrities. It's incredible how much a deceased celebrity can still make even after he's gone. Maybe his death even contributes to these figures. Everything he has been involved in and has created is the "last" of its kind, it's more of a rarity now.

It even brings up Kurt Cobain's line: "It's better to die out than fade away." It seems to be that way with these celebrities. Would they be as famous if they lived on to be as old as Bob Dylan? Does a lot of the lustre of their fame come from their shortly lived lives and premature deaths? I think the money has a lot to do with it when you look at the figures...

The information I have below comes from two sources: Forbes Magazine puts together a yearly list. This is from their October 2008 findings. And, Rolling Stone put together a list in a recent article that I commented on from yesterday, specifically talking about Bob Marley with figures on other dead celebrities to compare his earnings.

Top Earning Dead Celebrities

Elvis Presley - $52 million

Charles Schultz (Peanuts) - $33 million

Heath Ledger - $20 million

Albert Einstein - $18 million

Aaron Spelling - $15 million

Tupac - $15 million

Jim Morrison - $10 million

John Lennon - $9 million

Jimi Hendrix - $5 million

Bob Marley - $3 million

Wow. At least their families can use some of that money to relieve soem of their grief. It's insane to me how much money a person can generate even after they're dead. It's insane.

So what do you think of these findings?

Friday, March 13, 2009

Bob Marley Merchandise Expansion



I just read an article in the recent Rolling Stone issue called "Marley Estate Plans Aggressive Expansion." Being a Bob Marley fan, I was interested to see what it said. I have a lot of mixed feelings about it.

Basically, Marley's estate is going to start expanding the amount of merchandise they sell around the world. Marley memorabilia is all over the place to begin with, especially at exotic vacation spots. How could they even sell more than they are right now...?

Oh, it can be done.

They're planning on selling the following types of items: Marley Coffee (slogan being "Stir It Up"), soccer balls, bedsheets, a Grand Theft Auto type video game, skis, pillowcases.

Isn't that just a bit too far?

Marley's family (children and other members) met up with the CEO of Hilco to make Marley an official retail business. So many companies bootleg Bob Marley stuff for profit. The bootleg businesses (vacation spots that sell Marley merchandise without the authority of the Marley family) combined has a business ten times the size of Marley's family. They would like to conceal that profit for their own gain. Do we blame them?

Bob Marley merchandise is so easy to come by. Ash trays, t-shirts, beer coozies, bandanas--you name it--they're everwhere. I mean, maybe there IS a demand, but I wouldn't be as apt to buy a Bob Marley t-shirt than if I came across another band or star that didn't sell their merchandise as much. It would be a hotter comodity. Rarer. It's just a giant already. How can they make a giant even bigger?

I can understand the motivations of the Marley family (I would probably do the same thing if I had a super-famous deceased rock-star father), but it just seems over-the-top. Marley coffee? Come on. Pillow cases? Too much. It's making him less cool by having his face posted all over EVERYTHING.

Right now, Marley's estate has pulled in $3 million as of 2008. He's ranked in the top 10 of top-earning estates for deceased rockers. Pretty intense.

So what do you think of Marley's family commercializing his name and reputation for profit and merchandise?

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Hudson River Landing Animation



By now, everyone is aware of the plane that landed safely on the Hudson River. The plane was struck by a flock of geese and immediately had to land in the Hudson River as they were flying out of New York City. The pilot basically saved many of lives.

Yadda, yadda, yadda--we know that.

But, I came across a pretty cool video that shows exactly what happened. I think it's really cool that some people have this kind of skill to put this kind of video together. This takes a lot of skill because (1) people have to do all the research for stats and figures (2) they have to apply this information to a video (3) create a video that looks real and is accurate. It's pretty impressive.

I guess this is where we're heading in terms of what we are able to do with computers. This is just a little video, but imagine what else we could simulate... Our generation (which is so keyed into videos and technology) almost needs things like this to help us understand concepts and events. We are pretty much adapting to these needs and using the skills we have to do so.

ANYWAY... here is the video. See what you think. It's cool and kind of scary to see how it all played out. Imagine being there, either on the plane or watching it happen. It would be very terrifying, but at least everything ended up okay.

So what do you think of the video?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Happiest Places in the US

Yahoo! News featured a pretty interesting article on their front page today. Gallup-Healthways created a study that determined areas within the US where people are happiest. This findings were caluculated from people's overall mental, physical, and ecominic health. It also examines diet, exercise, work, and other basic necessities. These variables would then determine areas in the US where Americans' well being was strongest and weakest.

Here is what they found:

The top three states where Americans' well-being is the highest is in this order: Utah, Hawaii, and Wyoming.

The bottom three states where Americans' well-being is the lowest is in this order: Mississippi, Kentucky, and West Virginia (lowest).

"In general, highest well-being scores came from states in the West while the lowest were concentrated in the South."

"The happiest congressional districts were some of the wealthiest, while the lowest scores came in some of the poorest."

The average scores between states wasn't that significant: Utah scored 69.2 while Wesy Virginia scored 61.2.

San Francisco, Georgia Rep, and Atlanta were in the top 10 areas of well-being and in the top 10 median for household income.

If you want to find out more, check out the article here or go to the website of the creators of this study here to check out their well-being index.

So what do you make of this study? I wonder if sunlight intake and weather differences have anything to do with it...

Monday, March 9, 2009

Beautiful Boy



After reading Nic Sheff's Tweak, a book on his meth addiction, I decided to pick up his father's, David Sheff's, book Beautiful Boy: A Father's Journey through His Son's Meth Addiction. I have to say, I really enjoyed both and thought that both perspectives were very interesting to see.

Addiction is hard, especially on the parents. I think that it was a very in-depth and interesting way to look at addiction: from both sides. First I read the account of the addict, the first-hand experience. I read his thoughts, motivations, and feelings. Then, the father gave us some more history on his upbringing and how he perceived the same experience. It was very rich.

The parental perspective is not as popular as the addict's perspective. Many former addicts have written personal accounts of their experiences, perhaps to try to educate others or prevent other terrible things to happen again. However, the perspective of those affected (family and friends) is rarely documented. It seems that the only person who has the issue is the addict, but if the addict has a bunch of people that care for him/her, then they are affected too.

Sheff begins writing about Nic from an early age. He describes how bright and talented he was; he never suspected that he would eventually become an addict. Nic experimented with drugs in middle school (but so many often do), so how do you know when a kid is just fooling around versus seriously becoming hooked on something? You can only control so much as a parent without turning the kid off, losing the kid, or festering resentment. Nic found drugs anyway, despite Sheff's intentions to stop it as soon as possible, and the road to addiction started off at a pretty quick speed after that.

Sheff depicts very well how the experience is for a parent. They blame themselves, something that it took Sheff a very long time to get over. He put Nic through a divorced childhood. He admitted to Nic that he used to take drugs (somehow making it okay for Nic to take that path as well. Sheff could just turn it off when he wanted to, unlike his son). He didn't stop it soon enough once it stopped. He smoked pot with him once in an attempt to build their failing relationship and regretted that ever since. Blame, blame, blame. He caused it, he thought. It was all because of him.

And maybe that's easy to think. I bet we all blame ourselves for things that were way out of our control. Especially when it comes to something that is biological... This addiction Nic had. It was like a switch inside that was turned on once he started taking drugs and alcohol. Is there anyone really to blame for that?



The toll Sheff took as a parent was frightening and sobering. He made a good point, and I don't have it verbatim but close enough: The parents suffer everyday, just like the addict, but at least the addict has many times where they can escape the pain with drugs--the family does not have that. Every phone call, Sheff would think it was his son calling or someone else calling to confirm his fears that he was hurt or dead. He said he relived Nic's death too many times over in his head. Every time Nic tried to get sober, he would have doubts. When Nic started stealing from him and breaking into his house, he hit an all-time low. He wasn't Nic when he was on drugs. So what do you even do in that situation?

Parents just want for their kids to be happy, safe, and healthy. Sheff expected that his son would go to college, get a good job, have a family, and be happy. He never expected that he would flounder at college because of relapsing and then float in and out of rehabs before becoming secure. No one expects that of their child, and who can? It's hard to have a vision and have it crushed by something this debilitating. It's depressing, and it happens ALL the time.

At least Sheff had the financial ability to keep assisting Nic every chance that he could. He bought him plane tickets and month stays at rehab centers. He had to buy therapy for him and his family (especially for his two younger children) to recover from the pain. So many people don't have these opportunities. How can we make more of these for those with so much less who hit rock bottom...?

Another point I would like to bring up is Sheff's two young children, Jasper and Daisy. They were so young when Nic's addiction started (Daisy was in kindergarten and Jasper is only two years older). A hard part for Sheff was explaining everything to the children in terms they could understand. Why was Nic home sometimes and not others? Why would he act differently? Why would he steal? Why was he in the hospital? Why is daddy crying? It's hard on the parents, but I can't understand how it is on the children who really have no concept for what is going on. It must be terrifying, but at least it's not their parent who is undergoing this trauma.

What once started for Sheff as an article titled "My Addicted Son" that was published in The New York Times Magazine in 2005 became Beautiful Boy. Sheff got such a response that he decided to fully flesh it out into a memoir. It helped him get over the hard times as therapy, but he also had to relive the horrible memories. Sheff has received many responses from parents who really looked to him for help and support, and they wanted to share their own stories as Sheff did himself. He opened up a door that so many never knew to open, and he's really doing a lot of good service for those who feel alienated and have no one to turn to. It's a very positive thing for such a negative situation.

He really points out a lot of good statistics and research behind addiction, to understand more about it. He gets into the psychology of it and how the brain functions when it needs drugs and after it's used drugs. It's very interesting. I also like that he points out that addiction affects anyone no matter what race, gender, or socioeconomic status. It will take anyone; it doesn't discriminate.

I would highly recommend reading Beautiful Boy AND Tweak. They are both very inspiring, motivating, and engaging. They can really drain you, but you'll take a lot out of their life lessons that they clearly put right on the table for you. It's time well spent in the end.

So, what did you think of Beautiful Boy?

Sunday, March 8, 2009

House Pet Question

I was wondering... (my cat inspired this question): Before cats and dogs were house-bound and taken in as pets, did they just roam freely in the wild?

I mean, they had to. They're animals. But, have they changed since then? Did they used to be bigger or have different features since they had to fend for themselves and only rely on themselves? Now, most pets have everything taken care of for them. They can abandon their natural skills to be a predator and can focus more on playing and sleeping. But what about before that?

Cats and dogs both have very close species that still do live in the wild. Cats have mountain lions, lions, tigers, etc. Dogs have wolves, foxes, etc. Did they adapt to become smaller?

When did we decide that they should be house pets? Why cats? Why dogs? Why not chickens? Why not gophers? I mean, why did we select these animals? There had to be some time where they were outdoor animals, and now they're not. It's weird to think of a time before that, but there must be a time.

Does anyone know the answer to my question(s)?

Saturday, March 7, 2009

The Poet



I really have been enjoying some Tom Wayman poems I've been reading. It started out with "Did I Miss Anything?" and now I have come across another gem I really enjoyed.

This is another poem from the Poetry 180 catalogue. Look for some other great poems here.

He discusses who the poet is and how they behave in their life. What is hard for them? What makes them different from others? Some people are born artists; some people have different talents. This is the life lived of the poet, and it is very cool to interpret.

Enjoy.

The Poet

by Tom Wayman

Loses his position on worksheet or page in textbook
May speak much but makes little sense
Cannot give clear verbal instructions
Does not understand what he reads
Does not understand what he hears
Cannot handle “yes-no” questions

Has great difficulty interpreting proverbs
Has difficulty recalling what he ate for breakfast, etc.
Cannot tell a story from a picture
Cannot recognize visual absurdities

Has difficulty classifying and categorizing objects
Has difficulty retaining such things as
addition and subtraction facts, or multiplication tables
May recognize a word one day and not the next


What I find interesting is that the poem focuses on all the poet CAN'T do, not all of the great things he CAN do. Well, maybe that's implied, but it's really trying to show their short-comings and hang-ups. I guess it's kind of negative, but it seems to be a bit humorous too.

I like that the poem is written in fragments because it kind of shows the poet's fragmented mind, making it hard to articulate some things. I couldn't imgaine having the mind of a poet. Sometimes I wish I had as big of a vocabulary as they do though.

So, what do you think of "The Poet?"

Friday, March 6, 2009

Weird Facts

I came across some really strange fact, and being that America really enjoys stupid and useless information, I thought it might be worth noting in a quick blog. I mean, just look at reality TV. We can't get enough trash in our lives.

Below I'm posting some information that is interesting, but semi-useless. I mean, what can you really do with this knowledge? But, still it's pretty cool to read through.

Being someone who is a lover of the English language, I find some of these things pretty interesting. Who comes up with these things anyway?

Here are some weird facts:

WEIRD WORDS

"Stewardesses" is the longest word typed only with the left hand.

"Lollipop" is the longest word typed only with the right hand.

No words in the English language rhyme with the words month, orange, silver, or purple.

"Dreamt" is the only English word that ends in the letters "MT."

Our eyes are always the same size from birth, but our nose and ears never stop growing.

The sentence "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog" uses every letter of the alphabet.

The words "racecar," "kayak" and "level" are the same whether they are read left to right or right to left. These are called palindromes.

There are only four words in the English language which end in "dous": tremendous, horrendous, stupendous, and hazardous.

There are two words in the English language that have all five vowels in order: "abstemious" and "facetious."

"Typewriter" is the longest word that can be made using the letters only on one row of the keyboard.

WEIRD ANIMALS

A cat has 32 muscles in each ear.

A goldfish has a memory span of three seconds.

A shark is the only fish that can blink with both eyes.

A snail can sleep for three years.

An ostrich's eye is bigger than its brain.

In the last 4,000 years, no new animals have been domesticated.

RANDOM FACTS

A "jiffy" is an actual unit of time for 1/100th of a second.

Almonds are a member of the peach family.

Babies are born without kneecaps. They don't appear until the child reaches 2 to 6 years of age.

If the population of China walked past you, 8 abreast, the line would never end because of the rate of reproduction.

Leonardo Da Vinci invented the scissors.

Peanuts are one of the ingredients of dynamite!

Rubber bands last longer when refrigerated.

The average person's left hand does 56% of the typing.

The microwave was invented after a researcher walked by a radar tube and a chocolate bar melted in his pocket.

The winter of 1932 was so cold that Niagara Falls froze completely solid.

February 1865 is the only month in recorded history not to have a full moon.

There are more chickens than people in the world.

Winston Churchill was born in a ladies' room during a dance.

Women blink nearly twice as much as men.

What do you think of these weird facts?

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Late Night with Jimmy Fallon



So, Jimmy's been on for a few days. He's got some big shoes to fill, and he's starting from scratch. He's in a tough spot, that's no joke, so how do we think that he's doing?

I was very impressed that they hooked The Roots to be his house band. That's very impressive. I've watched every show up to this point, and they make some really good music. It's very different from other house bands on late-night TV. I think they're helping out with Jimmy's show tremendously.

I guess that everyone's first time doing a job is difficult. It's hard to get up there the first time and actually nail it. What teacher is incredible on the very first day? What performer nails an act on their first try? I don't want to be too harsh on him for this point, but he does have a few things he needs to work on.

I think that since I've been watching Conan for the past few years, I'm used to someone who is trained, hilarious, and familiar with late-night television. He has his own quirks and mannerisms that I'm used to; he knows how to revive a dull joke; he knows how to make us laugh; he knows how to deliver jokes; he knows how to interview a guest without making it awkward. He has just become an incredible personality on television. I absolutely love his work and cannot wait for his transition to the Tonight Show in the summer.

Watching Jimmy's first show was a little uncomfortable for me. I think I was watching it in a different way than I'd watch any other talk show. The criticism ear was pricked up. I think I have the initial criticism because I was hesitant that he was Conan's replacement. I don't know why, but I thought it was an odd choice. I know it's a safe choice because he had such success with SNL on NBC and many people know who he is. I just had some small issues with his career to begin with, and I wasn't sure if these qualities would really help him out on a talk show. He never learned to control his laughter in sketches. Come on man, it's your job. He selected some really bad movies to do after he left SNL prematurely (Taxi for one). He's so young. I don't know if he's ready.



I think that with practice, he'll get better. I think something is there, but he'll need some time to get there and fit in. I never watched Conan from the beginning, and I bet he made some errors that I would criticize. I just wonder if the gig here will work out.

At least Jimmy's Late Night is being smart with transitioning him onto the show with little experience. They're incorporating the audience more than other talk shows I've watched. They're having Jimmy share the spotlight as opposed to being a full-blown host. They're putting on guests that he is friends with and could have easy conversation with. It's relieving the stress some, but it does still seem to be there.

His monologue was very awkward during the first show. It even seemed like he was emulating Conan's style with talking back to the audience. I think he's trying to find himself, but it's hard to follow someone and not take on their characteristics and mannerisms. He still needs to get a hang of the pauses in jokes, the audience's reactions (or lack thereof), and how to transition jokes. He'll get it.

The interview with DeNiro was a little strange. Jimmy seemed to be dominating the entire interview, doing all the talking. And, when DeNiro did speak, Jimmy would cut him off. I was feeling quite bad for him. The interviews seem very forced, like he's trying to control them by talking. But, the best interviews have the interviewee talking the least. Hard lesson to learn.

I see that the show has potential. The bits between the monologue and the interviews are so-so. They'll improve with time. The audience games I find to be a little strange. They're not very funny. Maybe they're using audience involvement to generate a big fanbase to draw in more people to watch.

I also wonder how long these incredible guests will show up. First week thing or the whole run of the show thing?

So what do you think of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon?