Friday, June 26, 2009

Stay Tuned...

I will be traveling for a week or so, so stay tuned for some more blogs in the very near future...

Michael Jackson

I know I will be the millionth person to blog/write about this on the internet, but I want to have a quick two cents.

My first reaction to his death was definitely shock; he seemed so young to die of a heart attack at age fifty. Part of me waited for multiple articles and tabloid stories on the mystery behind his "real death." But what I find the most shocking is that I knew of his death within thirty minutes of it happening. On the other hand, Farrah Faucet died the same day but we only heard about it because of Michael Jackson's passing. Weird world.

Michael Jackson is that person America loves to hate. I don't know if anything positive was published about him in the past ten years or more. We love to ridicule him on late night television and post horrible pictures and stories of him in magazines, let alone what airs on television. He was a public figure of embarassment, and it's kind of sad.

Now, I understand that he is also accused of molestation of young boys. I always wondered if this was true or if this was another publicity stunt. It's hard to tell nowadays. Some people just need money or attention. He could or could not be guilty; who knows. The media construes what it wants to be true. I never really judged him either way since I never really knew what was the truth. You can't always trust the media.

I bet he did have close relationships with younger boys, but I wonder if he really crossed the line. I think it's sad that he missed out on his childhood, thus constructing the Neverland Ranch, and he's always been trying to make up for it his whole life. Additionally, he has so many identity issues (hence the pigment and nose surgeries). If anything, his life is a sad tragedy, or was a sad tragedy and downfall.

Hence, once I heard he died, I was really interested to see how people would react. I wish I had polled people one week ago about Michael Jackson. I bet at least nine out of ten people would have said that he was a pervert or a psycho. Now that he's dead, people are treating him with so much respect, like the King of Pop and such.

Why do we pay so much respect to people once they're dead? Why didn't we show him this kind of respect when he was alive if we truly feel that way?

Those are my big questions around this death. When I went on Facebook or when I interacted with the public on the issue, people seem to be either one of two ways: they are either sad about his death because he was such a great public figure or they make crude comments and jokes almost happy that he is dead. There are polar opposite remarks. I just wonder what the positive side would have said one week prior to his death.

The reactions seem to be quite hypocritical, if you ask me. People are now making a big deal of him, but what about while he was alive? It's just a weird cultural, societal thing. We hate him when he's alive, but when he's dead he's a cultural icon? We are so full of it. We're so cynical. We're such hypocrites.

Now, what if Britney Spears died suddenly? We'd also make a big deal about her death, the Pop Princess. But, when she's alive, all we do is criticize her to death. We make her life (and we made Michael's) a living hell. Everything published about them was negative. Imagine living a life like that... But if Britney died, I'm sure we'd have the same reaction. I find it appalling and ridiculous.

I am also shocked at how news stations are covering this. NBC recorded over television shows just to cover his life and death. You'd think the president was shot or something. Who else would we make such a big deal out of their death? I'm just surprised that we are out of HIS life, because doesn't that set a precedent for other deaths? It wasn't THIS big when Ray Charles or James Brown died. I mean, they were big deals, but the world wasn't alerted within an hour's notice and news channels didn't give up everything to cover it. This whole thing is just blowing my mind.

Is the hype because it's unexpected? Is the hype because it's what we all wanted to hear? What is going on with the attention given to this death?

At least I'm glad that people are being nice and respectful. It blows my mind, but it's better than being mean even when he is dead. It's nice to step back and actually see some of the cool music he contributed to our culture. "Thriller" really was a cool song and video...

I also wonder how long this media fiasco will go on for. I'm glad I won't be around for the next week to watch EVERYTHING cover every angle of the story. It's going to get old really fast. There's only so much you can say about it. But, my heart goes out to his family and his fans.

Honestly, I feel bad for his mental breakdown. When you look at his work in the 80s and 90s, he really is a talented guy. He used to have such a beautiful face. He has a good voice and could REALLY dance. I feel bad that he went downhill from there. He was a really talented guy. It really is a shame.

I also wonder what will happen with the recent lawsuit between the actress from the "Thriller" video. She was recently sueing him over the video. Awkward lawsuit now...

Anyway. I just wanted to have my two cents on Michael Jackson and his recent passing. I'm curious to see others' reactions to this and how insane I think it all is.

So what do you think of Michael Jackson's passing?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Nurse Jackie

It seems that Edie Falco is starring in a new successful television show. Her new show on Showtime, Nurse Jackie, appears to have such a rich, engaging plot that I can't see this show getting cancelled. Showtime seems to be hitting it rich with new television shows--watch out HBO. They're starting to get something right.

I give Edie Falco a lot of credit too. She just came over some type of cancer, which explains her short hair that she is growing back, and she's jumping right back onto the big screen. Television shows are hard to work; they're long hours and a lot of effort. I really hope this show survives because it's very interesting, and Edie Falco is just incredibly talented.

The premise of Nurse Jackie is the following: Nurse Jackie, played by Falco, is obviously a nurse in a hospital in New York City. She is hooked on pills (Vicodin) and has a family at home, a husband and two young daughters. She sleeps with a doctor in the hospital in order for him to write her perscriptions to keep up her habit. She has a biting personality, being brutally honest to patients and even hurting those who are disrespectful and undeserving of treatment, yet she does an incredible job as a nurse. She really knows what she's doing, she really cares about her job, and she puts in way too much time to give back to humanity.

Falco's new character is so different from the one she played on The Sopranos. The two characters are quite opposite: Instead of Tony doing the cheating, now Nurse Jackie is doing the cheating. Jackie's personality is much stronger and doesn't take bullshit. She's a lovable character even though she is so biting, flawed, and outspoken.

To be honest, I was feeling quite nervous that Edie Falco was starring in her own show. I didn't know if she had a strong enough fan base to hold enough viewers. However, the plot of the show is just so good that you don't even need to be drawn in just by her alone. They also have some really good actors on the show to compliment her, one of them being Edward Cullen's father from Twilight, Carlisle. I think it's funny that the actor plays an older, esteemed, and brilliant doctor in Twilight, but on the show he plays a young, goofy doctor who is just getting his feet wet. He's excellent comic relief for the show.

But, Nurse Jackie is dealing with some really controversial issues and topics. They have drug addiction and cheating. Eventually, we know it will blow up in her face, but it's just so riveting to watch the channels of addiction. They also have homosexual characters, which is also an interesting route to explore. The show has rich characters and plot lines, and even in the fourth week of its initial airing, I'm hooked. This show is very smart, and I hope it lasts a very long time. It has so much potential.

Many television shows either feel safe to plan them around the law/crime shows or hospitals. This program obviously centers around a hospital, but it's much different than other hospital dramas. I like that this show is so focused in its thirty minutes. There are no bullshit scenes and the plots are very realistic. Each episode really focuses on one (major) or two (minor) patients and how Jackie deals with them. I also like to see how they portray the chemistry between nurses and doctors because that power struggle isn't really depicted in other shows. Overall, it's very intelligent and very well performed.

If you're looking for a good show, watch Nurse Jackie. Showtime is really hitting it big with shows lately (like Weeds or Californication), so check this new one out. It's really something to brag about.

So what do you think of Nurse Jackie?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

American Idiot Musical

A few months ago, Rolling Stone included an article on a new musical that will be coming out in the near future: American Idiot.

The musical will include ALL songs from Green Day's 2004 album American Idiot and two tracks from their recent album 21st Century Breakdown. The director from Spring Awakening decided to take on the project. When he first heard the album, he knew he wanted to do something with it. He called up the band, and they were thrilled to have their album adapted to the big stage.

The director, Michael Mayer, developed the plot around all of the songs on the album. The musical will deal with the same underlying themes on American Idiot: "disillusioned teens coming of age during the Bush years." There will be very little dialogue--most of the musical will be mostly using Green Day lyrics and song.

I bet the musical will be ultimately successful because of its major themes and newer music. Green Day is a very popular band; it's even reaching younger audiences in this younger generation as their songs sound very pop-ish and are being played on pop radio stations. Not only does Green Day appeal to their older fan base, but now they have a younger generation that will love to see their music live!

Does anyone see this move as sell out for this punk rock band? (Just wondering out of curiosity)

I will be very interested to see how this plays out and how they will construct this musical. I do know that the musical will be divided into three stories: one soldier who goes to Iraq and two teenagers who stay at home and try to make sense of post-9/11 America. There are 19 actors who sing the various songs of Green Day and act out the various scenes involved in the play.

I wish the American Idiot musical the best. Does anyone know what it will be called? Will it just be called American Idiot?

So what do you think of the musical?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon

My first Stephen King novel: The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon. I found it appropriate because it's the first one of his I've ever owned; now I have a massive collection that I have yet to work on. My parents let me pick out any book I wanted when I was in middle school, and for some reason I picked this one. It must have been a best-seller at the time (1998), but it's been on my shelf ever since then. Now, I finally made the time to read it.

King's work is known for being really bizarre and horrifying. I've seen many of the film adaptations of his books: The Stand, It, The Green Mile, Pet Semetary, The Shining, Carrie, Dreamcatcher, Hearts in Atlantis. Eventually, I will read some of these books, but their plots are extremely intense, in-depth, and scary (for a lack of a better word).

The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon was a bit different from the movies I have seen of his. The book is really about one person, a nine-year-old girl who gets lost in the woods. She wanders off of the path and finds herself lost in the woods in New England. She needs to rely on her basic skills in order to survive--she rations her food, she needs to eventually find food so she will not starve (fish, fiddleheads, nuts berries), she finds shelter, she follows a river because she knows it will lead to people. It's not too bad for a nine year old.

You may not think that the plot sounds too scary. However, I bet if you were tossed in the middle of the woods for nine days as a nine year old, you might think otherwise. King adds some other elements to the story to make it a bit more chilling: an unknown beast stalks her in the woods (the God of the Lost), and they eventually come head to end at the end of the novel. She also hallucinates at times, sometimes even seeing or hearing things because she eventually is starving and comes down with pnemonia.

Throughout Trisha's struggles, she keeps hope and fatih because of one person: Tom Gordon, closing pitcher for the Boston Red Sox. The only sanity that Trisha can find is from Gordon and the Red Sox. She listens to their baseball games on her walkman, also hearing small news announcements about her disappearance. The games give her a touch of humanity, and she feels not as alone. She convinces herself that if Gordon saves games, she will in turn be saved herself. Later on, she eventually starts to see Gordon in the woods. He communicates with her, sort of keeping her sane and pushing her to move on.

Not only does she hallucinate in seeing Tom Gordon, but she also hallucinates when she sees three dark hooded figures in a clearing near the river. They warn her of the God of the Lost and give her other forewarnings. Trisha constantly feels like she's beeing followed, and she basically is. What she thinks is the God of the Lost is really a bear. Once she finally makes it to the road, the bear comes charging at her. She hallucinates again, thinking it is the God of the Lost, and believes it wants to kill her. She decides to do exactly as Tom Gordon does when he closes games: he shows the opponent who is boss and stands his ground. So, in turn, Trisha stands her ground but is saved right before the bear attacks her. A nearby hunter scares away the bear, and Trisha is brought to a nearby hospital.

Trisha is eventually met by her parents (who are divorced) and points up to the sky just like Tom Gordon does after he wins games. Trisha's parents' divorce is a common thread throughout the novel. Trisha struggles with moving, dealing her with brother's hostility against the separation, her isolation, and her father's drinking. It is because her mother is so absent-minded over Trisha because of the divorce and external pressures that she is lost in the first place. However, the act of her going missing brings her family closer together, almost mending something that was broken.

Alcoholism seems to be a constant thread also in King's books. I think of The Shining for instance and wonder if King weaves in his own issues into his books--and why not? It was sad to see a nine-year-old girl affected by her father's drunkenness; no nine year old needs that kind of bad role model.

Even though the plot may sound kind of dry--just a girl traveling through the woods alone--King spruces it up with flashbacks and small adventures and problems that arise along the way. It was a pretty fast read, and it's a smaller book of his.

Some of the images that King portrayed were so clear that I could visualize, taste, smell, hear, or feel what he was describing. For instance, when he described the mosquitos lingering and buzzing and biting and swarming, it made me shudder as if I was there. His descriptions were so accurate and dead-on. Even for using this girl as his protagonist--I thought he did a pretty good job of characterizing her thoughts, especially from being so opposite of himself.

My only criticism of the book is in Trisha's language. She has very sophisticated thoughts and begins to swear all the time. Now, one could make the argument that she grew up a lot during those nine days and went through some pretty terrible experiences that would make her become more like an adult and vent her rage and frustration through swearing. Point taken. However, I just think it was a bit much and made me question the validity of the narrator.

I did like a lot of its underlying themes though. I enjoyed seeing what happens to the person who is taken away from society and needs to fend for himself. What happens to the person who is isolated in the woods? It's like the recent post I wrote on Deliverance--so many movies and books have themes (and dark ones) about true human nature, and that is truly discovered when one is away from society, in the woods or deserted on an island. This book also touches on that same idea.

Trisha must rely on herself to survive. She has crazy thoughts that run through her mind, and she relives moments of her life. This experience puts her life in perspective too; what was really important? What would I not take for granted when I come back? These questions and overall ideas are pretty interesting, for we are not naturally or normally confronted by them since most of us live pretty simple and straight-forward lives.

I also loved this novel because it touches on so many late 1990s cultural concepts: Surge, the Red Sox, walkmen, "Tubthumping" by Chumba Wumba. I was a little older than Trisha at this age, but it was awesome to come across these cultural references.

Wikipedia said that in 2005, there were motions to make this into a film. Does anyone know if that is being carried out? That would be crazy...

I was also shocked beyond belief to find out that it was made into a children's pop out book. Woa! And it's been translated into many different languages. I didn't realize its popularity!

Last note from Wikipedia on the symbolism and concepts behind the God of the Lost/the bear: "The novel also features many classic mythological and cultural themes. The entity that stalks Trisha referred to in the novel as 'The God of the lost' is very similar to the wendigo a predatory demon from Native American mythology that was said to inhabit the forests of the northeastern United States and Canada, and was said to torment humans lost in the woods before eventually devouring them. Another theme common to Native American cultures as well as cultures around the world is the concept of the ordeal, a rite of passage in which a candidate must prove him or her self by braving a dangerous or daunting task or undertaking to be considered an adult." Ponder those ideas...

For my first King book, I enjoyed it. I can see his talent and his critical acclaim. He is definitely one of the best authors alive at this time, and he will be forever remembered for his crazy mind and depictions of the world around him. The way that he can churn out books makes me envious--what a talent he has. My god.

So, what do you think about The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon?

Monday, June 22, 2009

Helen Keller's The Story of My Life

I picked up Helen Keller's autobiography recently, The Story of My Life, because I was so unaware and curious about her life as a blind and deaf individual. Obviously I knew the bigger details surrounding her life, but I was still curious to understand how this individual live.

Now, I'm not trying to sound like a skeptic in this blog post, but I am trying to come to terms with her understanding of the world. Since Keller wrote this autobiography, she had a means to communicate words onto paper. She mentioned using a typewriter, which would make sense. In terms of her understanding and communicating with other people, did they have to sign words into her hands all the time since she couldn't see sign language and since braille was only available for published works?

I'm also curious about this fact as well: How could Keller understand such complex concepts if she could not see them or hear about them? Some concepts and vocabulary are very complex and take a great deal of teaching in order for someone to hear them. Keller had a very sophisticated vocabulary and understood very rich and deep concepts that would be hard for someone to understand, even if they didn't have severe handicaps. I'm just baffled at the thought!

I mean, Keller explains in The Story of My Life how she came to understand the concept of love. It took her teacher many, many tries with many explanations to have her understand love. She had to make her feel it from the sun as well as spelling words into her hands to make her know. I just don't see how a person who can't see or hear can even make sentences together because they are not exposed to language as much as someone else. I know she eventually grows to read braille, and not only does she read, but she reads in like three languages! This also blows my mind. I can't get over some of these facts!

I couldn't imagine living in the dark world Helen did, but I feel like if I had the same handicaps, I don't know if it would have been easy to understand the world as much as she appears to. It blows my mind. But, is she supposed to blow our minds? Isn't she supposed to be the symbol and the figure that stands for beating all the odds and going against expectations?

I was a bit cynical at first and still have some doubts. She really makes me question when it comes to the abilities and inabilities of humans. A friend of mine was talking about learning, and he was saying that just because Keller couldn't see or hear doesn't mean that she couldn't use her other senses to make up for what we have. Using those other senses, she could then learn what we can. You don't need every function to learn something, but I just wonder how deep her understanding is of those concepts when she does not have every function of every sense.

Maybe since I'm a visual learner, it's hard for me to conceptualize a person who does not have that function and can still process information fine. I just think that having BOTH handicaps puts her at a great disadvantage. I wonder how and what she was able to know based on both of these weak areas.

I hope I'm not sounding too mean; I'm just trying to come to terms with understanding her life and her abilities. Her autobiography was filled with sophisticated language and lists of books and studies she's completed. I find it honorable that she can complete so much and have such a thirst for knowledge when she had so many things against her. Some of my students who have no handicaps whatsoever do not have the drive that she did, nor do they have the focus to accomplish a lot of what she did. When under those kind of circumstances, there must be more of a reason to prove onself. Nowadays, not many really strive for it (or at least that's what I'm seeing in public schools). I hope to reverse that some day!

I really do believe that every person on this earth is put there for a reason, and many of us face challenges that would be too difficult for others. Stronger people are given harder challenges, or they have the potential to be strong and they rise to the challenge. I could see Keller as one of these individuals, and I honor the fact that she lived a life that many of us shun to think about (who would want this for a life?) but she seemed to make the best of it despite the odds. It's quite an admirable quality.

Anyway, Keller's book made me think about some really intense ideas about human's abilities with certain handicaps. Maybe someone knows more to shed light on what's missing from my interpretation.

So what do you think of The Story of My Life by Helen Keller?

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Parks and Recreation

When I initially heard that Amy Poehler was getting her own TV show, I was psyched. When I heard it was modeled after The Office, I was even more psyched. When I saw Parks and Recreation, I really wasn't as psyched as I started.

Amy Poehler is hilarious, but I think she's in a tough spot to make this television show work. I don't think it will last too many more seasons. To be quite honest, I'm surprised this show is lasting and Kath and Kim is not. Now, Kath and Kim wasn't the biggest gem, but Parks and Recreation isn't that much better.

Parks and Recreation is about Amy Poehler's character who works for local government in Pawnee. She is actively trying to build her reputation, so she takes on a project when a local complains about a giant pit that her boyfriend fell into. Poehler decides to fill in the pit and build a park on top of it. Little does she know how hard this task will be.

What is good about this plot is that it has a destination: to build a park on top of a pit. She has many roadblocks and hurdles to get past, but that is what the show is about. However, the dry humor and the characters, I don't think, are strong enough to hook viewers. While The Office has the same kind of plot where the season doesn't really go anywhere, it relies on its cast. However, the character and cast of The Office are hilarious while these new characters on Parks and Recreation are mediocre at best.

The Middle Eastern guy is not funny at all--I find him quite annoying. The boss is a little off, but he's okay. The teenage girl does a great job of portraying teenagers, but it still isn't hilarious. Poehler's love interest is an alright character, but he's still kind of skeevy. The only two I find connection to are their two stars--Poehler and Jim's ex-girlfriend from The Office. Without them, I would have no hook to the show. There is only so much that Amy Poehler can do.

I don't even really know what else to say about the show. I've seen all the episodes this season out of loyalty to Poehler, but I can't see why anyone else would tune in. I'm curious about how long it will last and how many more people will tune in.

I mean, don't get me wrong, some things are funny, but I don't think there's enough that works. The chemistry isn't strong enough, but maybe it will grow. I hope so anyway. I want Poehler to succeed.

So what do you think of Parks and Recreation?

Friday, June 19, 2009


I was not expecting Up to be such a down-er (not to be too corny or anything). Last night, I was drawn to see Pixar's new film, Up, which is aimed at children as their primary audience for the film. I was shocked to see the movie with such solemn and serious tones imbedded throughout the movie! The previews did not portray the mature content that was persistent throughout the film.

What the previews showed of Up was an older man whose house is somehow lifted from the ground with hundreds of balloons. This older man finds a young boy scout on his porch (acting as an antagonist), and the two travel in this house with balloons to crazy places.

What was not introduced (and couldn't really be introduced in a thirty-second preview) was the purpose of this voyage of the old man. I'm about to spoil, so if you want to be completely surprised, don't read ahead. Mr. Fredricksen, the old man, is first depicted as a very young boy. He heard an adventurer speak at a local lecture hall, and from that day on, he wants to adventure. He meets a young girl named Ellie who also wants to be an adventurer. Through a series of actions (where the characters do not speak and piano overlays the shots), the movie progresses through their lives as they fall in love and get married. Then, the couple experiences Ellie not being able to produce children. Then they become older, but throughout it is shown how happy the two are together even though they remain living in the town that they vowed to live.

The couple's aim is to travel to a country in South America and live in Paradise Falls. They keep a jar to save up money to live there, but they continue to tap into the money as they need expenses to live (fixing popped tires, replacing the roof, etc). Eventually, they become senior citizens, and they are still in love. Then, and here comes the sad part, Mr. Fredricksen realizes that they never fulfilled their dream to go to South America. He buys tickets for them and plans to give them to her on a romantic picnic. As Ellie walks up the hill to the picnic, she collapses. The next shot shows her in the hospital, very weak but very loving. They gaze into each other's eyes. The next shot shows Mr. Fredricksen sitting alone on the alter of a church at her funeral. The piano music slows to a deafening stop, in which people begin to cry uncontrollably.

They showed the couple so happy and their dream so unfulfilled that it's ultimately extremely depressing. Okay, so this part is fine (even though very mature for young children) but it sets up Mr. Fredricksen's motivation to travel to South America and fulfill their destiny. However, these threads of his loneliness, isolation, and longing for his wife are continuously retouched throughout the movie, causing more and more tears.

Ellie had an adventure book, and on one page she wrote "Stuff I want to do" and she was supposed to write down everything they would do on their adventure (that never happened). But after Mr. Fredricksen arrives at South America without her, he opens up the book to find that she DID put pictures and memories after that part. Instead of having the adventure they had spoken of (traveling to South America), she had different adventures with her husband--growing old together. She put in images of them together and happy, which shows her happy life with him. It was HEART WRENCHING. Tears came again.

And as if that part wasn't mature and sad enough, they also drew upon some sad material with Russell, the boy scout who accompanies Mr. Fredricksen on his journey. He talks about his absent father who ran away with another woman. His father does not spend time with him anymore, and he misses his presence. He wishes that he could be at his boy scout meetings to award him badges as he is the only person who does not have a father to award them. There is a long awkward pause after this, in which some people again start to cry.

However, I do like the overall message with each story: Life is always an adventure, not always one that you planned, but even if that adventure goes sour or unfulfilled, more lie in the future of your life. Good can come from the bad. It is never too late to dream. It is never too late to fulfill the promises, hopes, and dreams that you set for yourself long ago, even if it seems difficult. It's a good message for children, but it was very racy and intense for them, in my opinion. I would have felt very shocked to see this with my children if I did not know the content beforehand.

Even though I might sound negative, I do think the movie was very smart and very good. There were many hilarious parts, as the comedy from the movie came from its abrupt nature. What I mean is this: the movie had many parts when something would happen so fast that it was hilarious because it would cut right to the next shot. There were many funny parts. There was enough comic relief to ward off the sad parts, but the movie seemed to operate like a heart monitor--high point, low point, high point, low point, and so on. It was an emotional rollercoaster, as far as I'm concerned.

I never saw where the movie was headed, with the introduction of "Kevin" the female bird, which was hilarious. Mr. Fredricksen eventually meets up with the explorer who made him want to adventure, except he is the bad guy. He wants to capture Kevin for his own pleasures, and Mr. Fredricksen and Russell decide to save this bird. Along with the help of a talking dog named Doug (dogs talk with collars created by the prestigious explorer). The talking dogs were hilarious; they really captured what dogs might sound like if they could talk. "Squirrel!" Hilarious.

Up had a colorful message like the colors strewn across its balloons, but it was also deeply tangled with some serious material. I think it can be read on many different levels, which makes a movie very good, in my opinion. I like its overall message, and I think it's one of Pixar's best so far. I hope I don't sound harsh because I did like it; I was just overly shocked and taken aback by the content, especially since it's a children's film. But, it was a pleasant surprise and I'm glad I got to see it.

So what do you think of Up?

Thursday, June 18, 2009


I found yet another poem in The New Yorker that I would like to share. This one is called "Treatment" and is obviously on the same topic. I like the way the poet explores treatment and how someone going through treatment might see it. The poet uses very clever word play and images to make one see and feel as if one is going through treatment.

Let's see what you think. Enjoy.


by Ange Mlinko

It's a little spa for the mind--seeing butterflies
set themselves down by the dozen like easels

on bromeliads, when out of the street the boutiques
are dilapidated, construction can't be told from ruin.

A single taste bud magnified resembles an orchid
but what that one's drinking from is a woman's eye

which must be brineless. I wonder what she consumes
that her tears taste like fructose. For minutes she's all its.

Then the moon rises and the river flows backward.
Composed of millions of tiny north poles, iron's

punched out of the environment, hammered into railways.
Pubs serve shephard's pies with marcelled mashed-potato crusts

and each tree casts its shade in the form of its summary leaf.
Is a woman's eye a single taste bud magnified?

Yet construction can't be told from ruin.
Out on the street the boutiques are dilapidated

by the dozen like easels. And the mind--it's a little spa.

I really like the use of repetition throughout the poem. It emphasizes treatment and how the mind needs to continue to learn and go back through previous events to come to certain conclusions. When in treatment, one must also continue to focus on a certain mantra or overall theme on which to focus. I also like how it was not worded exactly the same because our lives do repeat themselves, but they do in slightly different fashions each time.

My favorite line: "Yet construction can't be told from ruin." I love seeing treatment as construction--you're rebuilding the soul and healing parts that need repair. And, from ruin you can really go up. But, you can't talk about construction from ruin; it's only when the "house" is complete that one can look back and reflect and see how treatment really was, or how ineffective it was. I like looking at the soul or a person as a house that can go under construction and can also fall to ruin. It's a creative image.

Also, I see the easel almost like that surface on which we can keep creating and changing ourselves. It's not the palet, it's not the clean slate, it's the easel. It holds up how we can keep shifting ourselves, becoming weaker and stronger, which I find quite an interesting idea. Life is a constant shifting of ourselves, and it's how we paint that portrait of ourselves that is really quite fascinating.

Now, I'm sure some of the other random images in there have some sort of purpose, but I also wondered if they were randomly placed as to allude to the "crazy" person in treatment. This person may say things that seem really "crazy" but in effect are really meaningful. I'm sure they all make sense somehow, but I can't piece them all together.

Thinking about it, I'm sure the butterfly image is in there to suggest the transformation of the soul in treatment. Once a caterpillar, the soul can transform to a new soul, one who is healthier and stronger, much like a butterfly. That new soul is then more colorful and can fly, and you could never tell that the two things were once the same.

Drinking from a woman's eye?? To take in all that woman is seeing? To take another's experience and learn from it? Maybe to see the harm you might have caused on others to see how you can grow yourself from that? Maybe to see your effect on others to help your own treatment and to help out those you have previously hurt? What does that line mean then? Am I way off?

I also like the image of the tree and the leaves. Treatment can also be like a tree which constantly changes but always grows. It continues to shed its leaves and become new every season. Sometimes the tree looks ugly and sometimes it looks beautiful, just like humans go through stages like this too. But, it's all inevitable. We just need to embrace those dark winters we humans face to get over it (perhaps through treatment) and to come into the light to be positive and strong.

And what's up with shephard's pies? My brother loves them to death, but what do they have to do with treatment? I know they're a mish-mash of food, but what is the significance with treatment?

Lastly, I like the reference of treatment as a spa for the mind. It seems so obvious, but it's so clever. I wonder if this was the nugget the poet had in mind and then this poem budded from that thought. That's the initial feeling I got from the poem. Sometimes I have one line that permeates through my mind, and I want to capture it somehow. And sometimes all it takes to get a poem or a story or a blog going is to just start with that one line. Then the rest follows. It's very cool when such a beautiful phrase like that can repeat in your mind. I hope that's how it happened to the poet.

So, what do you think of "Treatment?"

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Neuroenhancing Drugs

The New Yorker once again stunned me with an article that I was extraordinarily interested in. The article is called "Bran Gain" by Margaret Talbot and it's on this new culture of neuroenhancing drugs--drugs like Adderall and Ritalin that many college students are starting to take in order to stay up longer to produce papers and projects.

When I was a college student myself, I was introduced to this culture of taking Adderall. However, I never needed to take it and never did. Many of my friends took it, but these friends were people who had a very difficult time focusing, some of them who might even had undiagnosed learning disabilities. I'm not excusing their behavior by any means, but I am perhaps diagnosing why they had to resort to Adderall at the end of each semester.

Why would my friends (and other students) take Adderall? Many of my friends would procrastinate and save things until the last minute. One friend had a forty page paper due (which should have been done in increments throughout the semester), but she blew it off. Instead, she popped a few pills and stayed up for days typing the thing away. Other friends would cram for tests, but many would use it to write long term papers. They say that it worked pretty well.

But, there were some downsides to it. Some of my friends would get a little "sloppy" and "under the influence" and instead of cramming for a test or churning out a paper, they would end up going on rampages to do other things. One friend felt so obligated to clean his apartment, so instead of working, he cleaned every last inch of his apartment. Another friend was pretty drugged up and basically talked with another friend for hours (both who were on it). Another friend was TOO into it and was bugging out. She couldn't focus on the task because she was overthinking it. The drugs actually stalled her progress.

So, unfortunatly, Adderall can go both ways. It can really push students towards the finish line to finish long projects or papers or it could be detrimental and make the student even farther behind. Note of wisdom: Just don't procrastinate to have to take these pills...

Before college, I had never heard of these kinds of pills. Many students would sell them right around finals time. Many people would even ask if I had any that they could buy. I never wanted to get involved in this stuff. But, the thing is, this culture is becoming more and more popular. This world of neuroenhancing drugs is growing rapidly as we speak, and it's a little scary if so many students need to depend on these drugs instead of learning time management.

I mean, are you really learning something if you're cramming in dark hours as opposed to learning slowly over a period of time? No. It's just cheating the learning you could be doing. The brain slowly learns over time through repetition, exposure, and practice. One night will not do justice to any learning process. It's a travesty. Then we will churn out these college students who really don't know too much. What kind of a society are we producing?

I want to include some interesting notes and facts from the article on these neuroenhancing drugs, including Adderall and Ritalin. Enjoy:

-Both drugs are normally prescribed to children and adult who have ADHD--Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. It makes people become "high-functioning, overcommitted."

-"In 2005 [...] the University of Michigan's Substance Abuse Research Center reported that in the previous year 4.1% of American undergraduates had taken prescription stimulants for off-label use; at one school, the figure was 25%."

-"A 2002 study at a small college found that more than 35% of the students had used prescription stimulants nonmedically in the previous year."

-"Drugs such as Adderall can cause nervousness, headaches, sleeplessness, and decreased appetite, among other side effects."

-Adderall has high potential for drug abuse and can possibly lead to cardiac problems later on in life.

-"White male undergraduates at highly competitive schools--especially in the Northeast--are the most frequent collegiate users of neuroenhancers."

-"Users are also more likely to belong to a fraternity or sorority, and have a GPA of 3.0 or lower."

-In the scientific journal Nature, people polled were asked if their senses are sharper and if their focus, concentration, and memory are sharper on neuroenhancing drugs. 1 out of 5 respondents said that it did.

-"What's the next form of society? The neuro-society."

-"He didn't really like the term "enhancement:" We're not talking about superhuman intelligence. No one's saying we're going to come out with a pill that's going to make you smarter than Einstein! ... What we're talking about is enabling people."

Some people argue that taking these neuroenchancing drugs makes it an unequal education and those who take it have an unfair advantage and edge over those who don't. Some schools even want to test students for taking them to make sure that they are fairly completing final assignments.

Others believe that anything that helps intelligence is a good thing. If there are so called "smart pills," why shouldn't we be allowed to use them? There are both sides to the argument.

Some students, as depicted in the article, take them because they simply need to keep up with other students in a fast-paced environment like Harvard, and the only way they can do so is to take these drugs. Another individual depicted in the article was a poker player who focuses much better on the game when under the influence of this drug. Since then, he's made tons of money. The question is, is it fair?

And, are classes really getting harder? It seems that standards have actually been dumbed down in the past few years. Or, were these people who just couldn't keep up ones who dropped out? Was it like survival of the fittest? If we allow these people to get through, who are we really pushing by? Will they be successful and adequate for the degree they will have? Hm...

I also know that I might be offending people who often take Adderall as the culture is slowly growing. And maybe I have a difficult time understanding it since I never needed stimulants to help me focus. I was born with the uncanny ability to do so on command. Maybe I'm not seeing the whole picture, but I'm also trying to look at it from a health perspective and a cultural perspective. The key to my argument is fairness. I hate to see people who slack off and goof off and then pull everything off in the last minute. The real world doesn't work that way, and when that lesson DOES come, it will be quite shocking. Some people just try to push this off forever and ever, and it will eventually catch up to that person. We are eventually held accountable someday; I just think that students in college should be held accountable. I mean, they're basically adults at that point. When else will the reality check set in?

So what do you think about neuroenhancing drugs?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Let the Record Show

I found this poem in The New Yorker, and I really enjoyed it. Unlike other poems I find in that magazine, I immediately connected with this one. I think I even chuckled to myself after I read it the first time.

This poem is exactly how I like poems: it's quick and simple. It's pretty much to the point, and the message is pretty clear. I found it rather amusing because I'm sure we've all had days like this. Enjoy.

Let the Record Show

by Dora Malech

I spent the morning trying to remember
the joke about a peanut and assault.
People dropped bombs on each other elsewhere.
I knew that many of them were at fault

and many blameless. I kept my office locked
and the lights off. The phone just kept ringing.
I didn't answer. Nor when someone knocked.
I was supposed to be doing something.

I'm sure we've all had these moments. Or days. Or months. Some days the brain just isn't as "on" or "focused," even for the smallest details that we can't piece together in our minds.

I like this setting that is painted for us: the person locked away in the office pretending to be busy but really pondering something that doesn't really matter. We all have lives like this. I also like how the poet describes how greater matters are going on--wars--yet here we sit in our quiet solitude contemplating such trivial affairs. I loved the connection and the paralellism.

I just think of college when work is supposed to be done, we're supposed to be doing something, but we're really not. In this case, the adult is pretending to be involved yet refuses to take phone calls or be bothered. When not responding, others assume that the person is too busy to take the response, but sometimes, we really aren't at all. Sometimes people just need a personal moment; other times, we just need to reflect on something in life (be it a joke that we can't remember). Sometimes we just need quiet (believe it or not) even if it falls within work hours. That's what I enjoyed "Let the Record Show."

What do you think of the poem?

Monday, June 15, 2009

Dave Matthews Band, SPAC 6/12

For my second Dave Matthews Band show, they definitely impressed me. The crowd is absolutely instense. I feel like you either love or hate the Dave crowd. People are either drunk, rowdy, and obnixous (or on something) or they are completely open-minded and loving. I found a good mixture of both last Friday when I saw them at SPAC for their opening night.

What a perfect day to see a show. It was warm out, but not too warm, and when it finally cooled off and night, the temperature was perfect. The crowd was SO into the show. I loved hearing the crowd (on the lawn) actually sing most of his lyrics, especially to some of the singles he played. It's such a warm, loving environment. I didn't want to leave!

Dave played for almost three hours. It was incredible. He came on around 8:15 and played until 10:15 straight. Then they broke for a little while and then played a decently long encore. Dave came on first singing solo, and then the band joined him after he finished that song.

I love their enthusiasm when they play together. You can tell that every person playing on that stage just LOVES playing music. They are all smiling and happy--Dave was even dancing at times--and most of them go off on these crazy solos. At one time, the saxophonist and Tim Reynolds--yes, Tim Reynolds was there--had a solo duel-off which was SO intense.

In honor of Leroi, Dave made a speech about him before he played "Why I Am," in tribute to him. He also dedicated his first encore song to him, talking about his love for whiskey, which alludes to the title of the album and the aforementioned song. I really liked that he did that. It was really touching.

My only criticism of the show is that, I felt, they played too much of their new album. Now, I know that when a new album comes out, the band should play a lot of that album to promote it, but they played literally every song on it. Now, play a few (maybe half) of the songs, but I felt that it was overkill. They played most of the songs, if not all, which trumped them playing older classics or unknown, obscure songs that older fans like. They put on a good show, but I wasn't expecting such a bombardment of new material.

If someone else found (or knows) their set list, please help me configure mine. I couldn't find any online yet, or maybe I wasn't looking hard enough. Include other songs from Big Whiskey and the Groogrux King. These aren't necessarily in order, but these are the ones I remember him playing:

Funny The Way It Is
Shake Me Like a Monkey
Alligator Pie
Lying In the Hands of God
Why I Am
Dreaming Tree
Corn Bread
You and Me
Burning Down The House
Ants Marching
Grey Street


Rye Whiskey (Dave solo)
The Maker
Stay (Wasting Time)

Check out the set list from the next night:

Shake Me Like a Monkey
Typical Situation
Alligator Pie
You Might Die Trying
Dive In
The Stone
The Stone (reprise)
Funny The Way It Is
Lying In the Hands of God
Lie In Our Graves
Why I Am
Jimi Thing
You and Me
The Song That Jane Likes
Crash (Into Me)
Time Bomb
Two Step



All Along The Watchtower

Which night would you rather go to? (Note, the first night was a beautiful night; the second night was quite rainy).

Would you rather go to a show where the environment was awesome and the music was mediocre, or would you rather go to a show where the enviornment wasn't very good but the music was awesome?

What did you think of Dave playing live at SPAC?

Friday, June 12, 2009

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas

What a depressing book! For whatever reason, I keep picking up real downer books. I just finished The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne. Now, it's about the Holocaust, so I knew it would be depressing, but I didn't expect the ending at all! I figured what would happen, but it was more sad than I was expecting.

Basically, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas is about a boy named Bruno whose father is a Nazi officer. He doesn't know anything about the Holocaust, but his family is sent to live in a house on the border of Auschwitz where his father can command. Bruno questions why there are people on the other side of the fence and why they were striped pyjamas.

As Bruno questions, he finds out SOME answers, but not enough to make him fully understand the catastrophes occuring on the other side of the fence. He knows there are Jews over there, but he doesn't understand why they are considered to be "bad" and that they are starving and killing them in mass amounts.

Bruno's father and the Nazi army are also depicted as demonic and cruel. The officers are mean and demeaning to Jews. Bruno's grandparents even have a massive fight at Christmas dinner where they question Bruno's father's commitment to the Nazi party. We see the child's outside perspective, but knowing about the Holocaust, the reader fills in the missing pieces.

Bruno makes friends with a boy named Shmuel who is very, very skinny. Even through their discussions and meetings at a chain link fence, Bruno learns very little about life on the other side of the fence. They constantly compare their lives, but not much is revealed. Bruno slips food to Shmuel but doesn't understand that he is literally starving.

At the end of the novel, Bruno decides to go on one last adventure with Shmuel before he returns with his family back home to Berlin. He decides to help Shmuel find his father who is missing on the other side of the fence. He is given an extra pair of striped pyjamas, and Bruno is shocked to see treatment on the other side of the fence. The only thing we are left with at the end of the book is that Bruno never returns home. It is assumed that him and Shmuel are gassed and killed. What a horrible ending. I assumed that Shmuel would be killed, but not Bruno too! How horrendous! But it is terribly ironic--Bruno's father received the horror he was dishing out to others.

However, as I was doing some reading, I saw that the novel received much criticism for its inaccuracy. For instance, boys under 12 years old, the same age as Shmuel, were murdered upon entering the camps. Everyone miles around could smell the stench of the extermination camps, so Bruno would have been able to smell death and maybe come to more conclusions. Also, the surrounding fences to Auschwitz were electric. No one could escape. The fact that he escaped would never happen.

Also, I picked up on some other details. Extra clothes could not be found easily, as they had been for Schmuel. Clothes were scarce. There weren't "extra" lying around. They would have been picked up by others to keep warm for survival. Also, why could Shmuel just leisurely hang out by the fence all the time? I doubt it. They couldn't just wander, and wander by a fence that had an opening!

It wasn't a terrible book. I'm sure that a young reader could get a lot out of it. I grew very frustrated with Bruno because of his ignorance, but I think that is the point. If this was taught, which I wouldn't mind doing myself, a lot of the gaps would have to be filled in where the author leaves them out. It was sad, but most books about the Holocaust are.

Has anyone seen the movie to compare?

So what do you think of The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Jungle

Wow. I just finished Upton Sinclair's The Jungle, and what a read that was. My global history teacher in tenth grade told us about the book when we were learning about the Industrial Revolution, and the title stuck with me ever since. He told us that The Jungle painted such an atrocious picture of the meat-packing industry, overworking, and child labor that many laws were passed because of its public exposure (The Meat Inspection Act, The Clean Food and Drug Act, and it established the FDA, Food and Drug Administration).

This novel, based on many true facts, caused quite a stir when it was released in 1906. Foreign sales of meat fell by one half once it was published. His popularity soared, and even the president, Teddy Roosevelt, was handed a copy of his book which led him to create the FDA and the aforementioned acts. Sinclair was even stated saying that he came to packingtown in Chicago and said, "Hello! I'm Upton Sinclair, and I'm here to write the Uncle Tom's Cabin or the labor movement!" He sure did.

Sinclair fully immersed himself in the life of workers in packingtown. He moved to a house on a street where workers lived and talked with them in the streets about their experiences. Many of them were immigrants who could find no better work. It's almost investigatory journalism but then tweaked to make up a fictional novel. I'm sure the stories come from stories he's heard and other details are from what he's seen and heard. I don't doubt that the small details of the book are compiled from the many people he came in contact with at the time.

The Jungle WAS pretty depressing, but I found it utterly fascinating to see how the meat industry used to work. People would fall into the vats, and their meat, bones, and flesh would get tossed in with the cows. Rats defecated and roosted on meat waiting to be processed. Sometimes the rats even went into the meat itself. Meat was rarely inspected, as the government inspectors would rather chat or hang out than actually inspect the meat. Bad meat was turned into other kinds of meat--pickled, sausaged, etc. Workers were worked to the bone for little money. If they could pay someone cheaper, they would fire someone on the spot, especially if a child could take over the job for much smaller pay. People jumped around from job to job just to keep alive. It was disgusting to read about.

The imagery Sinclair uses have stuck with me. In the beginning, he provides a deep and clear picture of the filth of packingtown, where these workers are forced to live. The stench and the smells that rise from this place is atrocious. People got sick for so many reasons and had no money to pay to cure these curable diseases. So many people died from their poor living and working conditions because they had no means to pay for it. The squalor they were living in... Poor sewage, broken bones and limbs from the job, some worked in pools of water and their toes slowly rotted off, the smells were damaging, some worked in fertilizer and smelled of it forever... The list goes on and on.

But the thing is, no one could complain about any of these problems. No one would listen to them because they had no money and no power. If they complained about their job, they lost it, and then they couldn't eat or pay rent. They could even become blacklisted. When they got in trouble (like Jorgis did), the courts will not listen to them. They are immediately jailed and fined, even if they did not do much wrong.

The Jungle follows Jorgis and his family, immigrants from Lithuania, who come here with nothing but expect to be "free" because America is the home of the free and the brave. They immediately are thrown into the meat industry to work odd jobs, some jobs that end up killing most of their family. They decide to buy a house but are swindled by lawyers and real estate agents. They are not told about interest, and their prices skyrocket, making the children go to work just to cover the costs. They slowly slip into debt as some members of the house die and cannot, thus, contribute money to rent. They stop eating. Diseases increase. Underneath their house lies a pool of fecal matter that had been sitting there for decades. It's just utterly depressing.

Jorgis's 18-year-old wife Ona gives birth to a son Antanas who is Jorgis's pride and joy. Ona eventually has another child who dies in childbirth, taking Ona with him. Jorgis's son eventually dies as he is drowned in the street from the built-up filth. Ona is a sad character as she is played by her boss, Connor. Connor tells Ona that he will fire and blacklist everyone is Jorgis's family unless he can continuously sleep with her. Ona keeps this shame to herself, giving in from time to time, so that her family can stay alive. When Jorgis finds out, he beats Connor to a pulp which sends him in jail for months. Unable to stay financially alive with Jorgis gone, the family loses the house. Once Jorgis returns, the family is in shambles. Ona dies shortly afterward from complications--disease, starvation, childbirth. Jorgis goes into a panic and flees.

Jorgis becomes a tramp, hopping train to train and taking odd jobs across the countryside. He sees a much simpler life out here, but he cannot stay there for winter because he will have no work. I wanted him to stay here because then he could have a happier, simpler life where he was not conned by businessmen. However, Jorgis returns and gets back on his sad working track where he is basically homeless and begging for money.

Homeless life. Jorgis describes being homeless since no one will take him for work in packingtown. He hasn't showered for years. People look at him so strange. He ends up being swindled by a bartender--Jorgis is given $100 by a drunk man, and when he tries to cash it at a bar, the bartender takes it and pretends he wasn't given it, starting a fight which lands Jorgis in jail. Once in jail, Jorgis meets a friend who gets him into the pick-pocketing business. Jorgis starts building up some wealth from swindling others. He eventually gets into politics but is soon abandoned by the politicians he's helping.

The politicians take Jorgis off the blacklist so he can go back to working at the meat industry so he can sway the workers to vote for him. Once the campaign is over, Jorgis looks to switch jobs, but the politicians wash their hands of him. They promote him to manager and leave it at that. Strikes start, and eventually Jorgis loses everything once again, becoming homeless. He eventually reunites with his family, discovering that his relative, Marija, sold herself into prostitution, working at a brothel. The owners hook their girls on dope to keep them there. Marija says she can do nothing else now but her job and dope to keep sending money home to the family. She never escapes this fate by the end of the book.

The only hope we do get at the end of the book is when Jorgis stumbles upon a socialist speaker. He immediately converts and praises the socialist message as much as he can. He gets a job for an active socialist member, and the rest of the book basically discusses the positives of socialism and how it would trump the evils of capitalism.

The Jungle , the title, is actually symbolic for capitalism, and it would make sense with the bitter portrayal of capitalism in this novel. Capitalism is supposed to work for all, but in this society, the rich get richer from the poor getting poorer. There are two clear classes and there is no way for social mobility. The rich are filthy rich at the expense of the poor, and the poor barely get by and have no voice or power. It is animalistic, like a jungle, where everyone fends for themselves almost like survival of the fittest. It is competitive and no one lacks compassion or morality for others. It is disgusting, and Sinclair paints it well.

I just wonder why socialism was the answer for Jorgis and Sinclair. Maybe that was the feeling at the time. Hm.

I was just blown away by human nature and how evil some people can be in order to make a profit, or even to survive in this case. It seemed like nothing could get better for Jorgis, everyone was out to get him. Even those who were nice to him were only being nice for a time being, in order to swindle him or get something out of him. It's depressing, but I guess one might be if they were in situations like this.

I am glad to think that we have come a little ways since this time period. At least our food and beverages are not tainted in such ways as they were back then. At least child labor has diminished in our country. At least we have semi-reasonable minimum wages, unions, and laws to back up those who may be economically disadvantaged. If there was not that protection, as we have now, I might feel just as hopeless and depressed as they did. At least we've made improvements.

How terrible it must have been for these immigrants. I can't even imagine. Especially when they had trouble communicating and could hardly earn enough money. They were just bodies, not recognized as people. I couldn't imagine the winters they had to go through. Sinclair mentions in the book how people would freeze to death, or limbs would get frostbitten and would have to be amputated (one boy's ears cracked off when walking to his work). It's just disgusting and terrifying.

However, the book is a good read. It has valuable information and teaches a good deal about the Industrial Revolution. Especially for those interested in history, this book is for you. It is depressing for most of it, but it is rich with information.

So, what do you think of The Jungle?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Eddie Vedder Solo Tour

Eddie Vedder is basically a god.

Last night, I had the wonderful, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see the one and only Eddie Vedder at the Palace Theatre in Albany. He put on a stellar performance and played some incredible songs.

The only thing I wasn't really expecting is for him to screw up his songs so much. But, he is still amazing. He could mess up songs a hundred times and I wouldn't like him any less. He would stop sometimes because he missed the guitar chord and yell a swear word, or he would stop playing and pause because he forgot a song lyric. The crowd helped him out sometimes, and he thanked them.

Supposedly, as Vedder talked about during the show, The Times Union noted that he was drunk at the show the night before, and that is why he was messing up so many times. Vedder made some laughs about it, noting that the reporter had obviously never seen him drink before. He was just rusty, for he hasn't played in six months.

Still, I was in awe of him throughout the entire show. He interacted very well with the crowd. He played alone, using different kinds of guitars--acoustic, electric, and a smaller eukelele-type guitar. He also used a foot pedal to have a steady beat. That is so talented, to sing, play guitar, and keep a beat. I was amazed.

He also told stories about being in Albany for the past few days. He even started off his first encore with a hilarious quick song he wrote for Albany. He swam in the Hudson River for the first two days he was here, and he read an article about how it's not safe to swim in the Hudson in the Capital Region because there are so many toxins in the water. (Basically, fecal matter and human waste) He then wrote a song about how we should probably clean up that mess.

Vedder also swam in Round Lake. My jaw dropped when I heard this. I grew up right next to Round Lake, and to think that my rock idol was swimming by himself in the lake on a Tuesday afternoon just blows my mind. What a small world it is.

Anyway, Vedder played for an hour and a half to two hours. The crowd was really into him, singing with him most times. People were chanting his name when he was on and off the stage. Vedder even went out to shake hands with the crowd after his first encore. He even jammed on his guitar in front of them, down on the floor, during his last encore. He really plays for the people.

Here are the songs that I can recollect from the set. They are not exactly in order, but they are the best I can do. I don't know ALL the songs he played, as some were not Pearl Jam or Vedder songs.

"Tolumine" (opens with)
"Far Behind"
"Rise" (eukelele)
"Long Nights"
"No Ceiling"
"Parting Ways"
"Who You Are"

First encore

"Throw Your Arms Around Me"
"Arc" - Looping his voice

Second encore

"Hard Sun"

Maybe played but unconfirmed?? "Gone," "Soon Forget," "Low Light?"

Vedder also played a lot of covers that I didn't recognize. Can someone please put up the setlist? My memory isn't that great, and I've tried my best!

I also want to commend Vedder's choice of an opener: Liam Finn. He is a New Zealander who really enjoys looping his songs. I was blown away that he could basically play an entire song all by himself--singing, guitar, and drums. He did have a female play with him who would also loop, sing, play drums, tones, and maraca. The two of them were just incredible together.

Finn played some faster and slower songs, and I found myself enjoying his faster songs a lot more. He can really jam out on those drums. He is an animal! His limbs are flying so fast; you can tell he's really putting a lot into it. Even when it comes to the guitar, he really can play. He really knows how to get a good riff and then keep adding to it. I was impressed.

There were a few parts where I couldn't help but make faces though. Some of his music got a little out of control. He would play with the electric guitar so much that it sounded like someone was putting on scary Halloween sounds. It sounded like a dinosaur was let loose in the audience. And then later on, they both started cackling and that started looping, and it was kind of creepy. I guess it was different and different is good, but it creeped me out a little bit.

But, overall, if you're looking for a cool, new sound, check out Liam. Vedder likes him so much that he had him come out and play his encores with him. Liam played "Society," "Throw Your Arms Around Me" and "Hard Sun" with him; they both sang and played guitar. They weren't bad together.

Overall, the concert was phenomenal. You can tell how much Vedder likes to play and really connects with the audience. Even though he wasn't the sharpest, he's still a rock god to me. I love Eddie Vedder with all my heart, and last night proved that. Pearl Jam still remains my favorite band. Thank God Eddie visited my hometown.

So, what do you think of Eddie Vedder or his concert?

Tuesday, June 9, 2009


I found this poem in The New Yorker, and I guess I'm looking for someone to help me come to the root of its meaning. I looked up Newfane and came up with some towns across the country, one particularly located near Niagara Falls, NY. Any signifance to the title?

Here is the poem. Let's see what you think.


by D. Nurkse

How we loved to create a world.

Out of gray we made the pin-oak leaves
with their saw teeth and odd waxy sheen,
dry and matte to the touch, out of granite
we made the marriage house, and always
we added a flaw that we called fire
or time or the stranger.

A drop of water on the lip of a jug,
trembling, trying to hold on
for another second to the idea of sphericity--
that was us, our nakedness.

We worked to thwart our happiness
because it was so unexpected;
suffering tasted like our mouths.

We had a flagstone path, a pond, four birches,
a dog racing in tight circles, helpless
against the dream of fresh snow.

In the future, the red Schwinn with training wheels
must find a way to pedal itself.

World like a child who learned to walk
beyond our outstretched hands.

So here is what I get from the poem: This seems like a poem where the poet reflects back on his/her childhood. Moments from the poet's childhood are reflected here, specific memories and objects that take the poet back. These are life lessons learned by the poet in childhood. Perhaps the poet named the poem after where he/she grew up.

This poem reflect the imagination of the child, the child who uses his/her imagination and "creates a world." I really liked how this child created realistic worlds where there are flaws, specifically time, strangers, or fire--real problems for adults that are simplified to children. They must see these problems in their parents lives and incorporate them into their play. Maybe they figure out the world this way.

I wanted to see about the reason for using italicized words in the first stanza. Why THOSE words? Perhaps they are new concepts to the children? Perhaps they are used in play and thus are emphasized? What do you think?

"Our nakedness:" such a great way to describe childhood. They are so open, naive, and vulnerable. They are learning and soaking in the world as it comes at them. They explore it through play. They approach the world "like a child who learned to walk beyond our outstretched hands." The child will fall, but the child will get back up and learn from those mistakes. Everyone learns to walk, everyone has a childhood, and it's what we do with that experience and beginning experience that molds who we are.

Innocence screams throughout this poem: nakedness, flaw, hold on, unexpected, suffering, helpless, dream, snow, training wheels. It seems to be a constant thread throughout the poem.

I love these innocent images spruced throughout the poem. I get the image of a child who is trying out life for the first time, the child who uses training wheels to learn how to ride the bike. The child who plays house to try out being an adult. The child who learns to walk.

Why have 5 sections of the poem? Why is five significant?

If anyone has further insight on the poem, please feel free to provide some insight on how you see the poem!

So, what do you think of "Newfane?"

Monday, June 8, 2009

The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien

Okay, so it's been a week since Conan has made his debut on The Tonight Show. So what do we think of how they're running it and how he is as a comedic presence on the show?

I didn't think the transition would be very hard for him since he has already completed around thirteen years on Late Night. I know he's gaining a younger audience, but he has such a big fan base to back him up. Even adults and older adults can enjoy his humor.

For the past week, he's hardly been able to control the crowd once he comes out. People are just so excited to see him and his show. I think it's an overwhelming success. I think he was nervous about making the transition (even if he doesn't show it) and was kind of insecure about its success. That thread even came through when Will Ferrell (the first guest) made comments about it, jokingly, and even sang a "goodbye/farewell" song to him, saying that he probably won't make it through.

Even still, its popularity is prevalent, and the jokes are strong.

Conan was pretty busy when he wasn't on the air for those few months! He's been doing all of these short films where he visits places in California, and there's a lot of them. They really kept him busy! Their ideas are pretty genius though: visiting Universal Studios, shopping on "Rodeo" Drive, playing around in a sound effects studio, and having tests on older adults to test out Conan's comedy and how they like it or not. Conan never seizes to amaze me.

I am very relieved to see that most of the same humor and sketches are still the same, but I am so surprised to see how much money Conan recieves now for his show! They used to recieve very little, which made the comedy and the sketches hilarious, and now they have high-tech stuff and a lot of money coming in. It's good, but it's just different.

His set is really nicely done, but I'm not in love with the background behind Conan when he gives his monologue. It's kind of plain--nothing I would expect for him. But, I am glad that he's made the transition well!

However, I'm not the greatest fan of having Andy Richter back on the show. He ditched Conan to begin with to start his huge "career", and now that that hasn't gone anywhere, here he comes crawling back. He's not even that funny. He's actually kind of pathetic. Conan is so much better and so much more hilarious. And what's with his little booth on the side? It's kind of weird and out of place. I wish they would have him more off to the side, but I am still glad that he's not sitting next to Conan to take him off the splotlight. That would be too much for me.

AND! They recently CHANGED In the Year 2000... ! I couldn't believe it. I wondered if they were going to because they have the opportunity to do so with the new show, and they HAVE changed the title to In the Year 3000. I guess it's the right thing to do, but I kind of liked that it was in the past because it added to the hilarity of the whole thing. Their new jump suits are hilarious too. That's what I'm talking about when it comes to having more money for sketches now.

Their guests have been PHENOMENAL too. I've been enjoying the show SO MUCH. It is crammed with hilarious moments and well-thought-out sketches. It's very well written and planned. So far they've had acts like Will Ferrell, Pearl Jam, Green Day, Tom Hanks, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and Gwenyth Paltrow. Very, verl cool.

I think this show will go far. It already has so much hype and popularity--who can't love Conan? He's just so lovable and hilarious. When he tells the simplest stories, they are absolutely to die for. He has a rare talent that I am glad is finally being noticed and recognized. Amen.

So what do you think of The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien?

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Shepard Fairey



Rolling Stone recently featured a small article on Shepard Fairey, a contemporary artist and graphic designer that has been receiving some fame as of late. His stuff is absolutely incredible.

Fairey is most known for his artwork from Obama's presidential election. The famous red, white, and blue picture of Obama with the word "HOPE" under it is his most famous piece, a piece that we all recognize but might not understand that this is the work of this man, Fairey.

You don't really read or hear about many famous artists, let alone graphic artists. Maybe I don't seek out great new artists, but I don't hear much about great artwork and great artists these days. I think it's such a respected profession that not many attempt since it doesn't pull in too much money. This is the kind of creativity we need here. I love to see it happen.

He has since ventured into some more political works dealing with the war we are in, so he is becoming a bit more contorversial than his popular Obama poster. But, he does seem to stem his work in politics. He is VERY effective in his message just by using images or maybe one word or two.

I wanted to take the time to showcase some of his artwork. It is very simplistic and unique. It almost has the feel of 1960s psychadelic rock posters. His work is so signature that you would be able to tell that it is his just by the way it looks. THAT is the sign of a great artist.

Shepard Fairey's work:

So what do you think of Shepard Fairey and his work?