The List

Music taste is one of my go-to choices of small-talk conversation. But I got way too into sending music suggestions once to the point where I was suggesting songs faster than my friend could listen to them, so she gave me the idea of making a list. A music list.

The actual “music list” was way less refined than this one, but that’s okay. The following list of songs is going to be, in a slightly non-arbitrary order, a pretty comprehensive summary of my taste in music. (Except for pop music, everyone listens to pop).

1. Paradise by John Prine (Performed by The Other Favorites and some random guy)

Living in Texas has kind of made me feel obligated to listen to country music. While I’m not really sure about the fine distinctions between the subgenres in this area, it definitely has a lot more banjo in it than I’d be comfortable listening to before I moved here. This song takes the number one spot, just because it’s really great. They have a lot of fun singing in the video, and it’s a great song to sing along to; it just generally makes me happy.

Josh Turner is the guy playing the banjo and absolutely murdering a high note in the last chorus. He’s pretty famous on YouTube for his arrangement of Dire Straits’ Sultans of Swing, and all of his videos are pretty cool. I thought the song was better suited to a couple of friends harmonizing rather than just one guy doing so by himself; it gives a more upbeat tone to the otherwise kind of depressing lyrics.

2. Jesus Christ by Brand New

Jesus Christ, I’m alone again. So what did you do those three days you were dead?
‘Cause this problem’s gonna last more than the weekend.

This song has an effect that is pretty unique to itself; the repetitive guitar in the background creates an immersive atmospheric effect that turns this from a song into an experience. The lyrics do really well to complement the haunting instrumentals: they’re just so well-written.

3. Siiiiiiiiilver Surffffeeeeer Intermission by Kanye West

This isn’t a song. It’s a phone call. I’m not going to analyze it because it’s a phone call. Ross and I (attempt) to know all the words when it comes on, and it’s really fun. Keep it loopy.

4. Waves by Electric Guest

The general consensus on Electric Guest’s album Mondo was actually that it was pretty bad, besides their 8-minute Troubleman. I never really got this; I like the whole thing, but if I had to pick a favorite, it’d be Waves, since it was the song that got me into Electric Guest. It’s catchy, upbeat, has a fun synth, and you can clap along to it. What more do you want?

5. Jubilife City (Nighttime) from Pokemon

Nintendo is really good at making music for their games. Like, really good. Pearl was actually the first Pokemon game that I played, back in 3rd grade when I got a Nintendo DS for Christmas. Listening to this takes me back to waiting for recess to start so I could duel and trade with my friends. I kinda miss 3rd grade.

For all of you that don’t have memories associated with this theme, it still has quite a bit of standalone value. It’s like a musical embodiment of the word comfy, and it’s great background music for studying, because it has the subtle effect of making you happy.

6. Dashboard by Modest Mouse

I’ve written about Modest Mouse before. They’re a good band. This is a good song. I’m overusing the repetitive short statement syntactical pattern.

7. Holding On To You by Twenty One Pilots

This is probably the most Twenty One Pilots song that Twenty One Pilots has ever made. It’s actually a revised version of a song by the same name on their second album, Regional at Best.

It also has quite a bit of personal value to me. I caught Chad humming this song one day last year when we were walking to tennis practice, and from there it was just a full-on conversion of my tennis friends to the Twenty One Pilots fandom. The URL of this blog is a lyrical reference to this song. It’s insanely fun to sing along to with friends, it has a lot of energy, and the video is just Tyler and Josh being themselves. |-/

8. Saved by Khalid

Oh man, this song is good. The guitar is so smooth and the lyrics are meaningful in kind of a unique millennial way. It’s by far my favorite off of Khalid’s breakout album, and I’m excited to see the songs he has in store for the future.

9. Can’t Keep My Eyes Off You by Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons

Not really any personal value to this one, but it’s a masterpiece.

10. Madness by Muse

Also really good. And in my vocal range. You know those really random moments that go into your long-term memory? This song is in one of them; I was going to swim practice at like 5 in the morning when this song came on the radio. I was really tired, but it was a good song. I think Muse is dropping new stuff soon, so I’m really excited.

There’s a reason why I didn’t nominate myself for class speaker.

Hello students, parents, guardians, siblings, orchestra, security guards. If you find yourself seated before me among your peers in the Senior class of 2017, that means that you’ve made it. After you cross this stage and get your diploma, your four grueling years of classes are over, and you exit this stadium a graduate and an adult.

This is no small feat, despite what anyone might tell you. And for that, I’d like you to turn to the person sitting immediately next to you, look into their eyes, get real personal, and ask them,

“Why aren’t you looking at the speaker?” That’s really disrespectful guys, I’m trying to give a speech here.

(wait for raucous laughter to die down)

All jokes aside, the topic I’d like to address today is experience. All 400 something of us seniors sitting here today probably had really different experiences these four years. Mine was especially weird: I hopped in and out of clubs because, frankly, I couldn’t decide what I liked doing the most. I never got too worried about my classes, and I’ve had tons of great friends that helped me to experience some of the best moments of my life. And so, at the end of all these four years, I’d like to think that it turned out alright.

Yet, chances are a lot of you weren’t involved in the same thing I was. To be frank, there are a lot of you that I don’t think I’ve ever seen in my life. But I know from seeing different aspects of this community that that doesn’t say anything about how much you’ve experienced relative to me. Before me lie talented musicians, comedians, videographers, actors, artists, and people who are way better than me at social media, to say the least. And I know that no matter what path you take in your future, you can find success in what you’re good at.

A lot of you are going to college, others to trade schools, the armed forces, you name it. No matter where you go, you’re going to provide something unique and invaluable – your own life experience as a person. And although sometimes you’re probably going to feel like that isn’t as big of a deal as it is, just remember that it’s invaluable. The combination of our experiences, skills, and knowledge make us who we are, and nobody can take that away from you.

And so as you venture into the future, keep all of your experience in mind. Don’t forget to stop and look back, and reflect over how you’ve become the person you are.

Gatekeeping

This week I’ll be writing about something that grinds my gears. I don’t have the charisma or accent to match Peter Griffin’s legendary Family Guy segment, but I feel like my topic is important enough to write about nonetheless.

That topic is gatekeeping. Not to be interpreted in the literal sense, gatekeeping is a term used to describe people who take it upon themselves to decide who gets to be part of a community or participate in something that shouldn’t really be exclusive.

The most overused, satirized version of this is like when people test whether other people are “real fans” of their favorite band (“You like so and so band? Name 3 of their albums.) Instead of showing the world how much of a fan you are of some random band by excluding other people trying to enjoy them, maybe you should encourage them to listen to some of your favorite lesser-known songs by them. Don’t be a jerk and turn the situation into an opportunity to feel better than someone else. Being a jerk grinds my gears.

Another probably more impactful version of this phenomenon comes in the form of people who are politically “aware” and make fun of people who aren’t. Not everyone has the luxury of gauging every opinion of suited white guys in Washington, D.C. Instead of making fun of someone for not knowing the ins and outs of the Syria situation (maybe it’s different if you’re running for president, Gary), or the details of literally any other politically divisive issue, encourage your friends to learn more about topics instead of laughing at them for not reading every single article on the Washington Post in their free time.

Talk shows are particularly guilty of this kind of gatekeeping. My friends were all passing around a video from Jimmy Kimmel’s show of people not knowing the difference between Obamacare and the Affordable Care Act (there isn’t one). While it was pretty funny to be in on the joke and watch people try to come up with answers that covered up the fact that they didn’t really know anything about the health insurance debate in politics, I feel that segments like this just worsen the problem that they broadcast.

After the recent election, pundits have begun to wonder whether political elitism has begun to play a major part in how people are voting. Many pointed towards the almost snobbish attitude of Democrats in the recent cycle, calling anyone who showed any semblance of support for a Trump presidency a racist, bigot and in some cases, a nazi. This was, sadly, a pretty egregious example of gatekeeping. For someone who might not have known a whole lot about the political climate, and had a legitimate economical interest for wanting Trump in office (small business owner, employee laid off by a company that relocated to a foreign country, etc.), the people who made these presumptuous accusations based on their stances on social issues only served to alienate these voters from seeing their side of things. I personally would have voted Hillary, but I can assure you with certainty that almost half of voting Americans are not Nazis. But it’s pretty believable that a sizable chunk of these almost half of voting Americans would have politically informed friends who would rather discount and reject their opinions using name-calling and labelling rather than share some of their expertise and encourage them to refine their opinion.

If someone that doesn’t share your expertise or experience wants to get involved in something that you are good at, don’t ridicule them for being less experienced than you. Everyone started somewhere. Instead, encourage and help them because that’s what nice people do. And if we had more nice people, not only our country but the entire world would be a better place.

Landfills

Landfills are actually surprisingly cool.

As someone who was brought up recycling every single thing possible, and also after sitting through countless school presentations on the importance of recycling, I get a tiny ambiguous feeling of guilt every time I throw something away. As someone who might be considered a journeyman recycler, a podcast about landfills caught my eye out of, like, cancer, death and taxes and stuff, so call me a nerd if you want.

Anyways, this podcast was just a pretty basic overview on the logistics of building and maintaining a landfill, and how that process has changed over time.

A majority of the podcast covers solid waste landfills. A common misconception about these is that they’re just places to hold trash in order for it to break down as quickly as possible and become part of the environment. In reality, they’re actually just places for trash to be held in order for it to break down as little as possible, so hazardous fumes and runoff from the trash can be minimized. To achieve this, they’re pest managed, compacted, drained and covered fairly regularly to ensure that the landfill remains as dry and stagnant as possible. Water runoff is collected and diverted, and after the landfill reaches capacity, it is covered with a final layer and either sold as a cheap, empty lot of land or as space to plant shallow-rooted plants and eventually convert into a natural ecosystem. I was really surprised by how well-regulated landfills are by the EPA, which makes me a little more optimistic about our ability to throw our trash into not the ocean in the future.

However, even these stagnant solid waste landfills release greenhouse gas emissions to some degree, no matter how well the waste is controlled. Since methane emissions are the predominant fumes coming off of garbage, and methane is a very potent greenhouse gas, a lot of landfill constructors have taken to putting power plants on their landfills. These can burn the methane, creating a source of energy as well as creating carbon dioxide, a less harmful greenhouse gas.

In modern day landfills, some companies have even taken to adding moisture to their landfills to speed up and capitalize on the methane-producing process. Although these landfills are managed in different ways, their trash decomposes faster while providing a profitable source of energy.

The issue of garbage management and its relation to maintaining our environment is a tough one, with landfills in states such as New York with little open space approaching maximum garbage capacity within the next few decades. Having large landfills far away from garbage sources necessitates increased use of garbage transportation via trucks, which produce even more emissions, so we can’t just stick all of our garbage in states where nobody lives like Kansas or Minnesota, either. Hopefully with the introduction of greener transportation the possibility of a Great Wyoming Landfill could become a more realistic one, but until then, garbage will continue to pose a difficult question to policymakers at local, state and federal levels (that you probably won’t hear much of).

(increase funding for the EPA, please? nobody wants to live in a flooded, garbage-ridden nuclear wasteland a hundred years from now.)

lol taxes

I’ve never filled out a tax return before, but I’ll probably have to fill one out this year for my job last summer. I did fill out a W-4 when i started my job, so I was introduced a little early to the tedium of filling out federal forms and doing simple addition and subtraction.

After some calculations, I’m pretty sure this Irma Money/Bear Oski guy owes the federal government $2423.41.

I’m pretty glad the complicated federal tax code of the United States can be condensed into a one-page form for people without dependents, but since my parents have to deal with a multitude of other taxes, they simply just choose to use software that makes it easier, which makes a lot of sense, since their time could probably be better spent not doing mundane addition and subtraction on pdf forms.

All in all, doing this random person’s tax returns has made me feel slightly more like an adult. And that’s alright, I guess.

 

numba 1

Jackson Pollock’s “Number 1A” is truly a quizzical painting. A behemoth of chaotic, multicolored lines, it seems to be depicting both nothing and something at the same time. Staring at it for long enough brings weird thoughts into your mind as your brain tries to make meaning of its lack of structure. I think that this awe that comes out as you gaze into the painting is why it is famous, but I really don’t think it’s anything special besides that.

I don’t hold Jackson Pollock’s paintings in very high regard. I think that any work that incorporates vagueness of meaning and relies on individual interpretation for value is just making the viewer do all the work. With that being said, I can’t help but hold “Number 1 by Jackson Pollock” by Nancy Sullivan with the same contempt.

No name but a number.
Trickles and valleys of paint
Devise this maze
Into a game of Monopoly
Without any bank. Into
A linoleum on the floor
In a dream. Into
Murals inside of the mind.
No similes here. Nothing
But paint. Such purity
Taxes the poem that speaks
Still of something in a place
Or at a time.
How to realize his question
Let alone his answer?

The poem refers to the extremely basic nature of the painting. With no discernible forms or imagery inside the painting, Sullivan claims that the painting is one of the purest forms of art, connecting with the mind of the viewer. She illustrates this point with numerous metaphors, comparing the painting to a maze, or a game of monopoly without a bank, referring to its simultaneous lack of structure and complexity. The ending, “How to realize his question / Let alone his answer?” refers to the vagueness of the whole thing. Nobody really knows what Pollock is trying to depict in his painting, because it’s all a mess. Sullivan seems to want to spin this as artistic genius, but I can’t really see it as anything other than the human mind’s tendency to make meaning out of nothing.

In short, I guess you could say that I’m not a fan of Pollock’s painting. I think that it’s just a mess of garbled lines, and it’s really only art for art’s sake. Call me a cynic, but when this painting’s only value comes from the value the viewer places in it, I think the label “art” is going too far.

 

Current Events

This week we’re doing current events. It would be pretty easy to do something to do with the current politics in our country, but I happened upon a really cool article about Wikipedia, so I’m going to do that instead. The article can be found here.

I find that many people don’t know much about Wikipedia. This is to be expected, as the degree of interaction that most people have with the site is just looking up random articles for curiosity, information or school projects. As someone who’s edited a couple of Wikipedia articles, I can say that the satisfaction of correcting false information as well as a sense of contribution to a greater community is motivation enough for anyone with expertise in a certain subject areas (usually obscure math articles for me), to try their best to make Wikipedia one of the most polished sources of universal information on the internet. Not very many people go out of their way to publish fake information, but for those who do, there are moderators on the site as well as peer-editing functions to ensure that this activity is kept to a minimum. Unfortunately, along with the peer-editing and discussion features of Wikipedia, as this article points out, comes a bit of social mischief.

I don’t really want to get into how little of a life you have to have to insult people on an internet encyclopedia talk forum, but as the article points out, this culture of insulting people on Wikipedia “seem[s] to be baked into [their] culture”. The article also identifies a phenomenon called the “pile-on”, where negative comments seem to be caused by other negative comments in close proximity. The article doesn’t have very much information of substance besides some cited research statistics, but I liked it because it brings to light some of the many problems plaguing internet communities.

Personally, I’m a firm believer in the merit of online forum discussion. Forum discussion in real life is tedious to organize, and even more tedious to moderate and record. With online forums such as Reddit, where users can validate the quality of content with a voting point system, anyone can access a multi-topic forum of tailored content by simply visiting the front page.

But forums where everyone’s opinion is treated equally have obvious downsides, some of which are pointed out in this article. Since with anonymity comes a lack of consequence, people can speak their mind unabashedly, leading to crude language and general incivility. In addition, the “pile-on” effect can take place, in which users, seeking validation from other like-minded users, voice the same negative opinion repeatedly, hijacking what once may have been civil debate and turning discussion into mudslinging.

Thinking that there can be a perfect form of forum discussion is naive. The organization of discussion in any medium is much like government – there are many types of ways to go about it, each with different upsides and downsides. With different media like Wikipedia and Reddit for users all over the world to curate content, we should acknowledge both the good and the bad. For the productive members of these content media, there is a constant push to contribute content; while this may come with negativity and toxicity, the product is nevertheless an exciting internet with information databases of unprecedented quality.

toby

The fact that the car had just slid off the road and into the snowy ditch seemed like a minor annoyance compared to the sight of Toby bleeding out of his chest.

The car was totaled and so was Toby.

Toby was the only other person in my Computer Science Algorithms class. Well, he was the only other person who kept on coming to class after the first week. Even for a community college in the mountains of New Mexico, the school I went to was severely underfunded; the “professors” were either crazy or incompetent, and the one for this class knew about as much about algorithms as we did. We didn’t really come to class for the sake of learning the material, but more to hang out; I didn’t have anything better to do. He lived off campus while I still lived in my dorm, so we didn’t see much of each other outside of class.

We were pretty similar in a lot of ways; we were both from Colorado, liked the same hockey teams, were sort of but not too into programming, and didn’t have many ambitions about our futures. But where I had trouble with articulating my thoughts, Toby flourished; he was invited to all the social gatherings on campus, granted, there weren’t many, but he was pretty much the guy to be around. I spent most of my time in my dorm with Fatty and Dorky, my pet hermit crabs and favored companions.

The thing about raising hermit crabs is that they’re fundamentally fragile creatures. They get stressed out when put in unfamiliar situations or are overstimulated, so they reminded me a lot of myself. Raising them in a quiet, dim area is a necessity, as a large amount of stress can be fatal to them. This turns away many potential owners, but since I was by myself most of the time, I was the perfect candidate for ownership.

Toby didn’t seem to get how anyone could live without interacting with other people all the time. At first, he’d tenderly avoid the topic of my lack of friends, but as time went on, he got bolder and bolder, inviting me to see his friends, and I was having a harder and harder time finding excuses to decline.

One day, on my way back from a particularly stressing Analysis midterm that marked the end of our classes for the semester, I heard loud music coming from my window and immediately knew something was wrong. I raced down the hall to find my dorm room ajar, flinging the door open to be greeted with a drunken, slurred “Surprise!” from Toby and three of his friends. While they tried to articulate that they felt bad for my being alone all the time and threw me a party, only to not have me show up until an hour after expected, I sprinted through empty cups and trash to get to Fatty and Dorky’s tank. And on the same pebbles where they had stayed and accompanied me through college, I found the still bodies of my beloved pet crabs.

I don’t normally have the courage to confront people about anything, but I was livid. I shouted expletive after expletive to Toby and his group, the murderers of my two best friends, all the while shooing them out of my apartment. I slammed the door behind them, then dropped to the ground and sobbed. As their arrhythmic footsteps faded out, they were replaced with the screech of tires and a series of harsh, piercing crashes.

I rushed outside of my door and ran to the scene.

The car was totaled and so was Toby.

Not Quite Hamlet

This week, we wrote about the “Bad Quarto”, an early edition of Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

There were several notable differences, but there were a couple major ones that caught my eye. First of all, in Scene 14, Gertrude decides to go along with Hamlet’s plan, something which didn’t happen in the modern version: “Then I perceive there’s treason in his looks / That seemed to sugar o’er his villainy. / But I will soothe and please him for a time, / For murderous minds are always jealous.” In the version we read in class, Gertrude never becomes Hamlet’s accomplice. Her behavior in the first quarto raises all sorts of questions, such as why she would trust her son who has allegedly gone crazy and murdered someone in front of her instead of her own husband. This comes after Hamlet somehow escapes the ship to England where he was supposed to get executed (good swimmer, i guess).

Earlier in the play, Hamlet’s “to be or not to be” speech occurs a little bit before it does in the modern version. It’s also kind of different, sounding way clunkier, as if someone watched the play drunk and then tried to write down what Hamlet said the morning after: “To be, or not to be, ay, there’s the point / To die, to sleep, is that all? Ay, all. / No, to sleep, to dream, ay, marry, there it goes.” First of all, the speech is just kind of sad without the iconic “ay, there’s the rub“. The actual effect that the early timing has on the quarto is that there’s less of an emotional climax, taking away power from Hamlet’s speech; instead of a culmination of a building dilemma, it becomes part of his characterization as an angsty prince, which we already have plenty of. In short, the placement of Hamlet’s speech in the first Quarto is just plain wrong.

The First Quarto sucks. That’s about all you need to take away from this.

THE SEXY SAXOPHONE SONG

George Michael passed away last year, found dead by his partner on Christmas morning, which definitely sucks, because that’s like the worst Christmas present ever. But hey, it led to me listening to his music, so silver linings, right?

A quick skimming of his Spotify biography revealed that he was born “Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou”, which is more than a mouthful. And also, he’s been making soulful love songs for pretty much his whole career.

I don’t quite remember how I first started hearing Careless Whisper over and over, but its bold saxophone opening pretty much screams two people getting it on. I’m also pretty sure that everyone’s heard it before, which is why I chose it; before this assignment, I hadn’t ever listened to the actual song, just stopped at the sax part because it’s so iconic. However, the rest of his music is actually worth a listen, for more than Careless Whisper’s 10-second gag gives it credit for.

(the music video gets kinda steamy, so you might get some weird glances if you watch it at school or in public)

I feel so unsure
As I take your hand and lead you to the dance floor
As the music dies, something in your eyes
Calls to mind the silver screen
And all its sad good-byes

I’m never gonna dance again
Guilty feet have got no rhythm
Though it’s easy to pretend
I know you’re not a fool

Should’ve known better than to cheat a friend
And waste the chance that I’ve been given
So I’m never gonna dance again
The way I danced with you

Time can never mend
The careless whispers of a good friend
To the heart and mind
Ignorance is kind
There’s no comfort in the truth
Pain is all you’ll find

I’m never gonna dance again
Guilty feet have got no rhythm
Though it’s easy to pretend
I know you’re not a fool

I should’ve known better than to cheat a friend
And waste the chance that I’ve been given
So I’m never gonna dance again
The way I danced with you

Never without your love

Tonight the music seems so loud
I wish that we could lose this crowd
Maybe it’s better this way
We’d hurt each other with the things we’d want to say

We could have been so good together
We could have lived this dance forever
But no one’s gonna dance with me
Please stay

And I’m never gonna dance again
Guilty feet have got no rhythm
Though it’s easy to pretend
I know you’re not a fool

Should’ve known better than to cheat a friend
And waste the chance that I’ve been given
So I’m never gonna dance again
The way I danced with you

Now that you’re gone
(Now that you’re gone) What I did’s so wrong, so wrong
That you had to leave me alone

From my interpretation, the song is sung from the viewpoint of someone who cheated on their partner and is consumed from the guilt of that act. Dancing in the lyrics is a metaphor for loving, in either a romantic or a skoodilypooping way, and over the course of the song, the singer’s lover realizes that they’ve been cheated on, and leaves the singer.

The lyrics aren’t the deepest, but they strongly convey a complicated sentiment; although the singer realizes after cheating on their “friend” that their friend is actually the one they love the most, the act has already been committed and their relationship is irreparable. Kind of a depressing addition to the sexy saxophone solo.

We had a discussion about “high art” and “low art” in art history. George Michael probably doesn’t qualify as “one of the greats” or a creator of “high art”. However, if you ever decide to look past the thin veil of lascivious saxophone riffs, you’ll find some truly romantic music.

edit: saxophone. I meant saxophone.