Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Favorite Moments of 2011

It’s impossible to distil life. It’s why The Tree of Life is ultimately a failure. Still many (including myself) admire it for trying. Here are some of my favorite moments from 2011 that I just now brought to memory (in no particular order (really- I mixed them up on purpose (which I guess puts them in a particular order (crap)))).

1. Writing these two sentimental and honest essays about September 11 and the death of a friend that tried not to be gross.

2. Seeing Arcade Fire and the National live with Katie Alex Kacie dancing how I do way too much. I made a list of albums I liked this year, but none of it compares to the experience I had with this song that I daresay is life-affirming. I would throw everything I heard this past year in memory-trash just so I could cherish this song of profound cherishment.

3. Leaving my night class this past semester, speeding my bike downhill through the heart of campus, smelling the water of Showalter Fountain while passing the cascading lights of the art museum. It’s a scene plucked out of a Teen Vogue essay contest entry and it’s magnificent.

4. TV- All of Friday Night Lights, season 4 finale of Breaking Bad (the moment I realized what the ENTIRE SHOW WAS DOING), season 4 of The Wire

5. Seeing a picture of Kinsey petting a goat. I won’t post it here out of respect, but I look at it regularly. It’s beauty.

6. Going to the Museum of The Moving Image in Brooklyn with Eric (really this whole vacation with my family). There are mind-blowing film artifacts, like huge miniature pieces from Blade Runner and Chewbacca’s costume and pages from the Network and Citizen Kane screenplays and so much more than there’s room to mention (this isn’t true). However, the only reason I went there was because it’s the only place in New York they have a functional, public 1981 Donkey Kong machine. Played for around 35 minutes and got all the top scores. Donkey Kong is a beautiful game.

7. Undeservedly earning my EGOT on Videogum, joining a group of funny people I admire and respect / making Gumby tell dick jokes.

8. Pounding a little girl in Pokemon at the Pokemon Nationals with Mike and Alec. I made this thing. It isn’t that good.

9. The Tree of Life - I usually don’t like talking about movies with other people studying film. Often I’ll get the sense that they’ve boiled their opinion of an entire piece, however extensive, down to a damning sentence blowing up a single complaint that they wouldn’t even have if they took more than five seconds of reflection in their brilliant evaluation outside of whatever blog they took their opinion from. “It’s ambitious but it’s preachy and pretentious” is an unfair assessment of a work as dense as The Tree of Life. I think criticism can be much more discursive and evaluative than that while still not having PhDs in talking about movies. This movie in particular has become the biggest recipient of this damnation, and is the same reason it’s my favorite movie of the year. This movie is dense and requires viewing upon viewing and background knowledge and self-reflection and profound empathy, and that is merely what is required for internalizing the thematic elements. These kinds of things are what I look for in a movie (although not all) and something I realize isn’t for everyone. At the very least, this is one of the most beautiful movies you’ll see with your eyeballs. I also had nice experiences watching Warrior, Moneyball, Tabloid, Super 8, Certified Copy, Drive, Win Win, 50/50 and Winnie The Pooh. Also, Meek’s Cutoff is up there with Elephant as most chilling movie I’ve ever seen (meaning I’ll never ever watch it again despite its greatness).

10. Hank.

11. Watching Children of Paradise for the first time. I’ve watched it five times this year. More here if ya want.

12. Couchception – We put a couch on top of another couch.

13. Jamie and I put on a fancy dinner party.

14. Talking with Hannibal Buress after a show he did in Bloomington. He’s just a great, hard-working comedian and I really look forward to what he does.

15. Finishing a book freshman year that was harder to type than it was to write/learning from and completely moving past all of that.

16. Gettin some of my shit shown at the cinema on campus. Am not all that crazy about some of my stuff, but still pretty cool! It seems like everything I’ve done and seen at the cinema has been cool, like talking to the producer of every Batman movie ever. You should all go sometime.

17. Skyrim is such a beautiful and full game that requires a certain transported state. It’s the Star Trek reboot of RPGs- the people who don’t like it are PC gamers who like things to be boring and terrible.

18. I chased Dobby around the movie theater at the premiere of the last Harry Potter movie dressed as the ghost of Harry Potter.

19. Walking around Half Price Books. I just like the smell.

20. In Moneyball – There’s a great montage showing how Billy Beane plans to reconstruct his team with quick cutting shots of statistics and graphs flying around, the voice over changing the way you think about how professional sports work. This then cuts to Jonah Hill’s character sitting alone in his silent office, printing out the final roster.

21. Watching The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Pt. 1 and then writing about it.

5 Worst Memories of 2011

1. Learning to exist in a community I often do not respect nor have the same interests and motivations and the pains of having that attitude.

2. Writing an impossible 12-page paper about the depiction of race on the first season of The Hills (a show only featuring white people), getting a 93 on it because of bullshit non-reasons.

3. Spanish with Shades.

4. General sadness at the beginning of the year, related to 1.

5. Realizing this year is going to end.


Well that ended kind of flowery.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

My Favorite Albums of 2011

Music is important to me, and I feel I listen to a good deal of it, although I don't think my tastes are that far out there. These are mostly popular bands that are sure to be on many year end lists. I'll say that these are ordered by how much I enjoyed and responded to them- that's all.

(If you listen to any of these, make sure you up the quality on the video so you don't listen to the songs at the worst quality. All you have to do is fullscreen.)

1. Bon Iver – Bon Iver, Bon Iver / The Roots - undun

These are two incredibly powerful albums that are masterpieces in storytelling, both magnificently arranged, are both beautiful and tragic. This music makes you feel something profound and recognizable, one whispered, the other shouted, both with their hearts and lyrics in the right place. The fact that "undun" does the whole Memento thing is also really effective.

2. St. Vincent – Strange Mercy

My favorite video/song of the year.

3. Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues

4. The War on Drugs – Slave Ambient

First time I heard this band was live. Hash tag humble brag. This band cuts through the sonic like none other. It's no coincidence that the guys from The National love these guys.

5. Radiohead – The King Of Limbs (with Supercollider EP)

At first I thought it was way too short, then I was reminded of how long Hail to the Thief was, but then I heard the songs they cut, and was like, "Why did you cut these." Also, this is by far the best rhythmic album of the year.

6. Cut Copy – Zonoscope

7. Holy Ghost! – Holy Ghost!

This is likely the next LCD Soundsystem.

8. Neon Indian – Era Extraña

9. Justice – Audio, Video, Disco

10. The Black Keys – El Camino (of what I’ve heard so far)

11. Coldplay – Mylo Xyloto

This album is in one key, and that is the key of "Ooooooooooooh."

12. Jay-Z & Kanye West – Watch The Throne

13. Washed Out – Within And Without

This song isn't on this album, but I really only gave them a fair chance this year so I caught up.

14. TV on the Radio – Nine Types of Light

I think a lot of music videos that are clearly storyboarded tend to be tacky and dumb. Yet, this one just gets at me even though I can see right through it.

15. tUnE-yArDs – w h o k i l l

I can't listen to a lot of popular music because I can't escape the thought, "Goddamn, I am listening to the same shit time and time over. This is just boring." It's because it is and people who only follow the radio have short attention spans and little knowledge of the past. For people like me who think this, a band like tUnE-yArDs comes around and all you can do is smile. Like, how often do you listen to something and say, "This is actually interesting."? Merrill also has a tremendous respect for rhythm. I feel she would get along with the folks from Efterklang.

16. The Weeknd – House Of Balloons
17. Real Estate – Days
18. Black Lips – Arabia Mountain
19. Lykke Li – Wounded Rhymes
20. Lady Gaga - Born This Way
21. The Vaccines, What Did You Expect From The Vaccines?
22. Feist – Metals
23. Beyoncé – 4
24. Panda Bear - Tomboy
25. Atlas Sound – Parallax
26. Wilco – The Whole Love
27. M83 – Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming
28. Beirut – The Rip Tide
29. Childish Gambino – Camp
30. The Strokes - Angles

Albums I Don’t Care That Much For (worst are at the top)

• Lou Reed & Metallica - Lulu
This is garbage. Suffer yourself through 30 seconds of this.

• Nicki Minaj – Pink Friday
She's annoying.

• Mumford & Sons – Sigh No More
They're fluffy.

• Tyler, The Creator - Goblin
He's mean.

• Lil’ Wayne – Tha Carter IV
He's dumb.

• James Blake – James Blake
He's boring.

• Florence & The Machine – Ceremonials
She's whiney.

(After this point, this list consists of much more respectable artists, I understand.)

• The Horrors – Skying
• Girls – Father, Son, Holy Ghost
• Paul Simon - So Beautiful Or So What
• Adele – 21
• Drake – Take Care
• Wild Flag – Wild Flag
• The Decemberists – The King Is Dead

This is great, though.

• Bright Eyes, The People’s Key

My favorite Bright Eyes song of all time comes from this, though.

• I also hate LMFAO more than most things on this Earth.

(If I could give #1 to Arcade Fire's "The Suburbs" again, I would.)

Friday, December 2, 2011

Of Children of Paradise and Freedom

I love Children of Paradise for the same reasons I love The Tree of Life- its beauty and impenetrability. Here's my attempt to in the only way an undergrad knows how- clumsily making love to it.

"Triumph of The Free"

Marcel Carne’s Children of Paradise is not commonly regarded as the greatest French film of all time for its gargantuan, lavish sets, poetic realism, metatextual narrative blurring between cinema and theatre, obvious influence on modern cinema, whimsical soundtrack, poetic dialogue, historical accuracy, groundbreaking acting, nor it’s disciplined and stylized cinematography, but under the conditions that it was first made. The filming of the picture took place during the Nazi occupation of France. It was released shortly after the end of the occupation and shortly before the end of the war. Due to the funding the film received by the Nazis, who effectively reformed the studio Pathé, the Jewish set designer and composer both worked in clandestine. Several Nazi extras were hired, unknowingly working alongside resistance fighters. Reels of the film were hidden before its completion. Despite these circumstances, the film can be read as an anti-occupation film, an allegorical piece of film history that works to boldly assert France’s freedom.

Children of Paradise operates differently from many films following it that similarly use the past to talk about the present in that its allegorical devices work at multiple levels. This essay will deconstruct these messages from the top down.

Children of Paradise is framed as a story of four men who all love the same woman, but differently. Baptiste the pantomime loves romantically with the heart, Frederick the actor with the body, Lacenaire the thief with the intellect, and Count Eduard with the purse. Early in the film the audience is led to side with Baptiste, but as the story progresses, the well-intentioned love for Garance leads each of the men to a certain demise. Baptiste ignores his family and abandons his stable life, his poor wife Natalie believing he is merely suffering from a dream state. The Count owns Garance, his love knowingly unreciprocated. Frederick’s jealousy actualizes his Othello role (on stage and off), pushing him to duel the Count. Lacenaire satisfies his pride by murdering the Count. Garance doesn’t foresee these destructive effects of love, interacting with each character gaily, becoming more restricted of her freedom with each of her interactions, just as was the case of Paris during the occupation. Under the hold of the Count, Garance, while beautiful, is fully clothed, hidden behind a veil, claiming to be “not sad, but not cheerful,” resembling the paralyzed state of Paris during the occupation. This sordid sequence of events culminating in tragedy for many characters begins with the best intentions, and the film does not initially damn these intentions as wrong. With this in mind, the film doesn’t merely exist to damn the Nazi occupation as a wrongful act, but empathizes, working to lead the audience to understand how an undesirable state of living comes to be.
The message of freedom is implied throughout. Early in the film, Garance is first presented on display in a sideshow attraction, sitting naked in a bath holding a mirror. Right from the start, she is presented as “truth,” a truth that is desired and fought for throughout the film and eventually set free. Yet, the film is told from the perspectives of the men who are ultimately at fault and made fools and cuckolds of. By doing this, the film doesn’t simply damn the oppressors, but presents their points of view while also making the case for Garance’s freedom. Despite each having fundamental psychological faults, there is no clear antagonist in Children of Paradise, but the audience is led to love Garance and her admiration for the poor French people (referred to as “the Gods”). The only individual we are led to love is the one who rejects her individuality and reserves her love for Paris alone. As she says, “I adore freedom,” which is later satiated with her solitary carriage ride away from the Boulevard of Crime, through a sea of her people, towards freedom.

The obvious parallel between the theatre and reality in the film comments on the purpose of roles in the film, and how each character fulfills their role. Acting is in no way confined to the stage, permeating in nearly every character, as is seen with the blind man who certifies diamonds. Baptiste is proficient in making the visual understood without the aid of dialogue. His voice is muted, just as dissenting voices of the occupation were muted at this time. The film acts as a strong voice for these many silenced Parisians, all the while concealed from oppressors. Allegory here provides social criticism from a distance, which amazes considering much quieter criticism at the time often resulted in death.

The authority figures in the film are brash and error-ridden, such as Baptiste’s father and the police. Jerico, an enemy to many characters, collaborates, informs, and spies on several of the characters, “selling friends” for personal gain. These figures can be read as a critique of Nazi informants in Paris at the time. These characters are despised for their parasitic nature and are given no explanation for their dubious actions, unlike others. In doing this Carne does not ignore the existence of pure evil, although none of these characters cause the main conflict. Rather, they work to complicate the story and direct the characters towards crisis, which is a unique, more realistic approach of representing evil, let alone Nazi informants.

Film scholar Brian Stonewall notes in an audio commentary of the film that the cast of extras, filled with Nazis and resistance fighters, was a model of the French nation at the time. Much of his oral essay is devoted to Carne’s use of poetic realism as a stylistic representation of allegory, of “illuminating the invisible with the visible” (Stonewell). When talking of the film’s message of setting truth free, he claims that “skillful allegory could keep it hidden but hint at its shape,” which is just the case when reading the story arguing against the occupation (Stonewell). The use of allegory is more than mere concealment or subtlety, but of embodying an idea, in this case a temporal, political one, through filmic creation. This is further hinted at when commenting on Baptiste’s mimed performance of Lacenaire stealing the pocket watch and freeing Garance from judicial error, saying, “Art can liberate a captive from tyranny” (Stonewell). Tyranny is used in this quote broadly, as is seen in Garance’s various forms of captivity. Yet, the specific idea rings true throughout the piece despite its variances, and this is accomplished through Carne’s poetic realism. Poetic realism is the stylistic lens of history Carne chooses to construct the film’s world through. Carne uses history (19th century Paris as well as historically famous actors who lived then) in order to write his own of Paris in 1945. That Carne stylizes the past to critique the present speaks to the communicative quality of not only the staged performances of the stage actors in the film, but also of the film itself as a staged performance.

In another commentary track, film scholar Charles Affron notes the importance of setting the film in 19th century France, as he claims distance from the present allows it to be critiqued. This statement serves as an interesting assessment of the use of allegory as critique, and is especially applicable considering the heavy censors the Nazis placed on films at the time. This does, however, render the film illegible to those who it critiques, which initially appears self-defeating. Only does this distance become understood when considering Children of Paradise a film not for a Nazi audience or even for the casual viewer today unaware of its history, but for “the Gods,” the actual children of Paradise. Thus, the film itself is not an agent of change, but a beautiful love letter to the common Parisian, to those who let the work of change begin. However, Affron does not read the film as chiefly anti-occupation, but rather as a reflection of the film medium and the boundary between life and art, emphasizing the film as a work of metafiction, also mentioned by Stonewell.

With all this said, to say that Children of Paradise is merely an anti-occupation film is to greatly disrespect the multitudinous and at times ambiguous messages. While arguments can be made (as one just has) about the film’s central theme, whether it is calling for 1945 Nazi-occupied France to be free, commenting on the boundary between life and art, warning against the dangers of unbridled love, or nostalgically recreating a Shakespearean narrative in the context of the lost 19th century France, the use of characters, dialogue, props, settings, theatre, and cinematography as allegorical instruments permit the simultaneity of these ideas and require the film be viewed repeatedly and analytically essayed to reach its meaning. Children of Paradise is still a relevant piece of film and history because it is not a one-sided recounting of a right that is wronged by evil, but an empathetic meditation of why freedom must triumph.

Friday, November 18, 2011

I Watched Breaking Dawn Pt. 1. - Tell Everyone I Love Them And That I Regret Nothing

UPDATE: I also did a vlog on Breaking Dawn Pt. 2.

-“Why are you writing about it? Why can’t you just enjoy it?”
-“I won’t enjoy it unless I write about it.”

It’s obvious that making fun of Twilight is no longer cool. I’m obviously doing that also, but that’s not what this is doing. I only have a little interest in making fun of Twilight. Like most things I’ve been making lately, it’s up to you to figure out what it is I am doing.

Six or so years ago, I went to a lecture and book signing for Emerson Spartz, a lanky shit super nerd who founded, a fan website capitalizing on the success of the Harry Potter books and films. Also, he did this.

To Azkaban with you! 25 to yuck with no parole! Although I had read all of the Harry Potter books and quite enjoyed them, in all honesty I only went because I had a crush on this.

Despite her, that still didn’t mean that I didn’t have an opinion on how the Harry Potter saga should have ended, it was just that I didn’t really give a shit about what this squirrelly-faced kid speculated about a fictional teenage wizard. The setup for the final book couldn’t have been more perfect. They set the stage for the larger than life battle between good and evil. Lines drawn and stakes set. Let’s go. Who would later become my high school newspaper advisor speculated that Harry would destroy all magic, so that the possibility of evil through magic would cease to exist. The more I thought about it the more it made sense. There was nothing indicating that Voldemort was particularly special, or that someone else couldn’t repeat his legacy with the same social awkwardness, hunger for muggle blood and stack of Megadeath albums. I thought of stories like The Lord of The Rings, Narnia and Star Wars. The protagonist never just won. Something had to die in the hands of good in order to change everything forever. Harry couldn’t just kill Voldemort; he had to kill magic. He had to destroy what was most beautiful and precious given to him in order to end the darkness that overshadowed it. I approached Emerson Spartz with this theory. Little did I know he didn’t give a shit about what I thought. He basically called me an idiot because magic good, destroy magic would be bad. There used to be a video of this exchange online, but it has since been lost. What a tragedy that is.

While in the actual ending Harry did not destroy magic, it was by no means simple. Quite honestly, almost everything thematically happened that would have happened if Harry had destroyed magic, except that there was no physical collateral (save around 8-12 minor characters, that is). I feared a complete happy ending and felt that was what I got. Happy endings have the hardest time being great. Although I ended up liking the ending to Harry Potter, I have never escaped that feeling that Harry got off a little too easy. Perhaps later in life I will learn to love that ending more. Maybe someday happy will be ok.

(I just looked at the release date for Breaking Dawn and the fact just DAWNED on me that this movie won’t come out for over a year. I am going to shove this .docx in a dirty cabinet and revisit in in a year. We might not even be using .docxs anymore! As a reader, this jump won’t appear to be all that long. I would just like to say that I am very sad right now and hope I am happier when I revisit this.)

You guys have no idea how long I’ve been this Twihard. I am so much happier now, but sadly this does not change the fact that this movie is coming out tomorrow, and that I am going to watch it, while sad.

Three things in life confuse me more than anything else- adolescence, vampires, and Mormonism. Twilight has all three. It was for this reason that I chose to tackle the task of watching three movies in that "saga" in one horrible day, documenting my sorrows along the way in a desperate attempt for both enlightenment and attention, one of which I succeeded at attaining much more than the other.

To recap, because I know we all need a recap, because even the thought of not having a recap at this point in this essay would be insane, Twilight is a heartwarming story of an uninteresting, emotionally ambiguous girl enamored with the undying affection of an emotionally torn vampire and a beefcake werewolf (insert picture of beefcake werewolf). The story teaches pre-teenage girls that even in the event of what is most emotionally trying, jumping off a cliff is always an option. Never rule out jumping off a cliff, pre-teenage girls! At least, Bella didn’t. In fact, that was the first thing that came to her mind. "Now this'd be a beautiful death," said Bella as she jumped off a cliff. Let's just watch the movie.

Breaking Dawn – Pt. 1 (2011) – From the director of Dreamgirls

It should be said that it has been years since I have been exposed to Twilight. I had to prime myself with my own writing before watching the movie, which you’re free to also do right here.

The movie opens to a nice quote about leaving adolescence, which the rest of the movie will try to convince us that Bella is an 18-year old big girl now. Then the movie jumps into full-on wedding mode and all of us just start squealing like guinea pigs for the next 40 minutes or so. So Bellward are getting married and have just agreed on the invitations. Upon receiving the invitation, Jacob is furious that they ignored his suggestion and printed it on engraved cardstock, so he rips off his shirt and heads for the hills, assumedly the nearest Hallmark Store to DEMAND to speak to the manager. When we last left Jacob Black, a werewolf who is also an overt rapist and big time dickbag, he was hmph-ing around. He spends most of the movie doing pretty much that. Meanwhile, Edward checks on Bella to see if she has cold feet. “My feet are toasty warm,” says Bella. In classic Edward form, he begins to feel guilty for something that’s not that serious (he used to eat out murderers, don’t ask it doesn’t have anything to do with anything). Suddenly all the Vampire Boys show up to take Edward to his bachelor’s party, because after all, 10,000 year-old boys will be boys. Bella dreams of her wedding, the Volturi (who don’t show up in this entire movie and are in no way a part of the conflict but undoubtedly will be in the final part) are there, and suddenly Bedward are standing over everyone’s dead bodies, a shot almost entirely lifted from Maus. Not soon enough comes the wedding, which is a doozy. A cutesy Iron and Wine song plays over the wedding vows and the two kiss as if (literally) nobody’s there, which is very teen paranormal romance.

An aside about Edward – I think I wrote about my dissatisfaction with the movie’s unrealistic expectation of love before, but this movie certainly takes it to new heights. I mean, shit, Edward takes Bella to Rio de Janeiro so that he can take her somewhere that is even MORE ROMANTIC. John Cusack didn’t have Expedia, but for fuck’s sake. Even Coach Taylor miscommunicates with his wife. Edward Cullen is denied negative human attributes, and him simply being a vampire in love is no excuse for this.

There’s a montage of wedding toasts, which doesn’t serve any purpose, but is actually funny. Jacob shows up after pacing around in the woods for a bit and says to Bella, “kind is my middle name,” which is just a cool thing to say about yourself. Then they get to talking about vampire fucking, and Jacob Kind Black is suddenly christened Jacob I’m Super Shitty The Rest Of The Movie Black, who doesn’t leave the movie until he [spoiler alert] falls in love with a baby. Now, I’m not even going to pretend to know the rules of vampire fucking, but apparently everyone knows that it’s not a good idea if you’re a human. As with so much in these movies, I found myself just going along with it.

Bella is nervous about having sex, feverously brushing her teeth and shaving her legs, which was a genuine depiction of human timidity that made me care about Bella as a character more than anything else previously. AT THE SAME TIME, she was not concerned that having sex with a vampire might kill her, which seemed like a glaring omission. The movie undoubtedly holds some weird conservative views of abstinence and abortion. Take this quote- “Abstaining from human blood makes us more civilized— lets us form true bonds of love.” -A real quote from Breaking Dawn (the book) It made me remember my elementary school WRE (Jesus) class I would take in a trailer outside of school where that one homeless person would break into and sleep at night. (He had mason jars of his urine and rolls of toilet paper stashed on the dashboard of his pickup.) The teacher/pastor once spoke with vague, sappy language why abstinence was inherently special and acceptable in the eyes of God, in her eyes. I was a kid and didn’t know shit about sex or love, and certainly didn’t feel I knew any more after she told us that. Not that I’m saying the movie is doing this, necessarily, but I will say that I find neither incredibly instructive concerning sex nor love.

In a next couple of surprisingly sexy scenes, Edwardella end up sexing. Bella wakes up to a bruised body and ravaged room, because vampires will be vampires. Edward feels bad that he’s kinky and as a result puts Bella in the friend zone, and they do friend stuff. In the greatest stretch of belief required for the movie, we see Edella deep in thought over a chess match.

I almost fell asleep in every scene with Jacob talking to his family, because I somehow cared less about that storyline. But anyway, Shitty’s mom or aunt or maid says to Jacob, “Being any kind of happy is better than being miserable about something you can’t have,” which is a very bold statement that I’m not sure if I agree with. I’m always suspicious of anything that ignores the potential positive benefits of a healthy dose of sadness. I mean, if happy is happy is happy in Twilight, then everyone’s life sucks, and I don’t think life sucks as much as I don’t think happily ever after is something that actually happens.

But before we have enough time to think about it, Bella eats some chicken and throws up, thinking it’s the chicken and not the vampire baby growing inside of her. Then *ding* she realizes her period’s late and *dong* she’s 18 and vampire pregnant. A postulate in the vampire-fucking guidelines states that the baby will kill Bella. We are officially out of the friend zone frying pan and into the baby fire. It has taken well over an hour for us to get to this point, and still there is arguably no conflict in sight. Classic The Twilight Saga.

Everyone debates just what it is inside Bella’s uterus, and it seems like this is meant to be a stupid discussion about abortion that I realllllllly don’t care to read into at all. Jacob tries to convince Bella to have a vampire abortion, which they don’t underline the logistics of (for instance- where is the Planned Parenthood for vampires?)

Back in the Black reservation of Cougar Town, the werewolves all suddenly want to kill Bella, breaking the treaty between the two warring families. The werewolves hang out around the house, because they want to attack when they have the upper hand, or something stupid. The point is Bella has to stay put. Pretty much the last half of the movie is at the house. Edward Yahoo image searches “vampire baby” on his iMac and comes up with Goya’s “Saturn Devouring His Son,” and Edward is all, “My life is Twilight.” Alice Cullen, the hot manic pixie dream girl, tells Bella that “your fetus isn’t compatible with your body” like it’s a hard drive. Bella’s health worsens because the baby is thirty for blood, so Skeletella drinks blood. Edward even gets her a straw because he is so sweet. She likes the taste, which I found a little odd that the movie would hint that she SHOULD be a vampire.

Bella chooses a dumb baby name that Edward obviously thinks is great, because he’s the “perfect man.” Oh, and while we’re here… “I should be treated like a princess.” –Heidi Montag, The Hills

Bella enters vampire labor and Edward eats the baby out of her stomach, killing Bella. Jacob Shitty Black says to Edward literally seconds after she dies, “You deserve to live with this,” which I thought was cruel, even for Jacob. Upon everyone learning of her death, everyone gets really shitty with the baby. Jacob walks up to Renesmee, intending to kill her, and instead is hit with love at first sight, which is the greatest rebound of rebound king Jacob Black’s life.

5 Things Jacob Black Will Say to Renesmee Cullen-

1. “You kiss just like your mother when she was your age.”
2. “I fell in love with you when you were five minutes old. They don’t call me Jake the Snake for nothing.”
3. “I only date girls my age divided by two plus seven minus 20.”
4. “Your mother used to bite her lip just like that. All the time.”
5. “What do you mean you can’t make it to Tuesday’s NAMbLA meeting?”

Edward is trying to save Bella, injecting her with his venom in order to make her a vampire, but she’s already dead. He bites her all over her body, but with no luck. Jacob goes outside and reveals he fell in love with a baby. Edward says something to effect of, “It’s their most supreme law!” The werewolves leave. Bella wakes up a vampire.

Yes, the resolution of The Twilight Saga- Breaking Dawn: Part 1 is a Deus Ex NAMbLA.

Stray Observations -

• I forgot Anna Kendrick was in this. She’s the best actor in this movie and has the least screen time.
• This movie clocks in at around two hours! That’s pretty long for a movie where not much happens.
• There are a lot of rack focuses in this movie, more than there were in Dreamgirls.
• I was thinking this entire time, “Why doesn’t she have a vampire c-section?” I hope God will be ok with the whole non-vaginal vampire birth.
• Jacob – “Don’t do that.”
Bella – “What?”
• I do not have many stray observations about this movie.

I was trying to remember why I began writing this essay over a year ago with the story of how I spoke with Emerson Spartz at the now closed Borders, and I think I remember why. It wasn’t to compare the two series. Everyone always does that and it doesn’t make any sense. It was the setup of the end of Harry Potter that I found beautiful. "The Half Blood Prince" will always be my favorite book of the series because there was so much that book made me want to happen, so much that it overwhelmed me and made me believe that everything I wanted was impossible. That's a pretty amazing thing for any book to do, let alone a children’s book, and something that I obviously don't feel entering the last chapter of the Twilight Saga. I found it easily the worst movie in the saga as far as storytelling. I now realize why that doesn’t matter, why anything I write will not deter those who care about Twilight. It’s because they care about these non-characters. I used to regard those reasons for caring as stupid, but I’m beginning to think they’re far more intentional. Edward Cullen is hyper-specific because nobody can be Edward Cullen, just as nobody can be Howard Roark or a prince charming character. Bella Swan is vague because we can all be Bella Swan. Many of us have mothers and fathers who will have to “let us go” in the most cliché, Twilight way possible. In the wedding scene, no young woman watching is thinking about Bella Swan. I know I wasn’t. Those who care about Twilight care about themselves, and there is nothing wrong with that.

With that said, here's my video review of the movie.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

I Love You Thomas Imel

I wanted nothing more than to sleep tonight, for things to be as they were, but they’re not. I prayed to God that they would, that the insatiable feeling of a feeling kept in a hardened self would be loosed, but I’ve always had a hard time letting go. Here’s an attempt. I’m not sure what to do, but I’m trying so goddamn hard.

A couple days ago we were unpleasantly reminded of Thomas Imel’s birthday, a man who was at one point in an early part of my life my best friend. He’s dead now, and I have never come to terms with that, not when I stood by Jamie and learned the news of his coma, nor when I stood by Jessica and learned of the news of his death, nor when I stood over his open casket next to my father while the casket of my childhood was lowered, weeping like a baby while he held my shoulder.

At this moment I am faced with the difficulty of comparing the person I am with the person I used to be. I used to wake up in a room with NASCAR wallpaper, shelves filled with Hot Wheels cars and action figures of superheroes, Nintendo 64 connected to the TV with Mario Kart ready to be played again, and VHS tapes of movies like “The Phantom” and “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” laying about. My clothes were thrown next to my sleeping bag because it got hot at night in the summer. It was always Sunday, but I never was obligated to go to church if I didn’t want to. I would wake up and call my parents and they would drive me home from my best friend’s house. Accompanying the drive home were the questions, “So what did you do? Who else was there? Did you have any fun?” And while the answers to the first two questions changed, the response to the last always remained the same.

We used to have sleepovers. I remember when Michael Kohlmann locked me up in a dog crate, later feeding me Ritz crackers between the bars. We played stingpong, for whatever reason. We used to take off our shirts and fight one another without managing to hurt ourselves or deal any pain unto each other. We would play videogames until it was midnight, when we would start watching videos on tape and fall asleep in the middle of them. One time we stayed up all night and pretended to fart in Will’s face because he was first to bed. We’d trade Pokemon cards but never play the game that was designed for them. Basketball in driveways, street hockey in basements and soccer in backyards not only served as appropriate sports venues, but also the preferred ones. I would be lying if I claimed to not love every second we wasted.

Somewhere along the way we made mistakes. Things changed, and I pushed away some of my friends and who I used to be. Others chased others, a few picked up addictions and some just got some shitty new friends. Regardless of what we did and whose fault it was, we gave up something we previously loved and that changed who we were. We still look back and think fondly of those times, but still we let it die. We exercised our only viable option, and then we continued to grow up together, but separately.

Thomas Imel was different. What pains me the most is that I don’t know where he ended up after the drift. I can’t remember the last time I talked to him, nor the last MySpace photo comment or time I mentioned him with someone else before I heard that he died.

It was junior year and we were pretty deep into putting on the play when we learned he died a couple days following his accident. It seemed as though we were all pretty close to him in our own ways, or at least it upset us all.

I’m trying to remember what I was going through, and I’m not doing a very great job at that. We had been so close for a sizable portion of my life; my memory of him was frozen in time for so long. I can’t even properly finish the thought, and that’s how I felt. It was empty. For a long while my Mom would have Earla over (his mother) to console her and comfort her. She would ask me to tell Earla about stories I had of him. I contested, “But that was only who he was.” My Mom essentially told me that was all Earla could hold onto, now. My memory of him won’t ever change. It doesn’t even have the option to.

When our bodies go cold and our blood stops, that’s supposed to be it. I’m starting to think it’s only this way if we allow it to be. All we really have is the time we spend together, what we choose to do with that time, and the memories we decide to keep. That’s where life happens. So of the memories I hold of the people I love, thoughts that are in no way up to date or completely accurate or even sometimes realistic, I wonder what makes any of these memories wrong.

I’ve struggled to write about Thomas not only because of my own fear, but also of the fear of impeding on the memory others have of him. I can’t count how many times I have been asked to write about him, and it required a crisis to push me to share this with everyone. I do not wish to make it appear that I am the only person who cares about him (so many do), nor solicit pity merely because I am in grief, because we all grieve sometimes. I merely wanted to present my life with him and what he means to me. Life, because while the knowledge of what was in the face of what is may not yield the act of living any easier, or meaningful or beautiful, it is what we have. I don’t understand why I should feel alone when we have that. Thomas is still the curly-haired kid in his messy room because that’s all I know. And all I know—it’s enough.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

what it's like here

For a production class I'm in, I was assigned to make a city film in the style of some old filmmakers about Bloomington, where I live. Below is the film and a reflection I wrote about it. It'd be a better experience if you watched it in HD and with headphones, or something that's not those shitty laptop speakers they give us.

In communicating the perspective of Bloomington as a space of conflicting and overwhelming stimuli without the crutch of narrative, many stylistic choices of filming and editing were made in the style of Ruttman and Vertov, their thematic elements at time affirmed and others opposed, but recognized.

The three broad topics covered in our film “what it’s like here” are the nature, people, and city of Bloomington, how they interrelate, brush up against each other, and in the end, synthesize. The film is structured similarly to Ruttman’s “Berlin,” the shots of the character in front of the mirror (implying that the mirror is a window to the images) serving as breaks in acts and noting important moments. The man in front of the mirror is James Donald’s man of the crowd, a “kaleidoscope equipped with consciousness,” (Donald, Modern Spaces, p. 84). Assumedly, it is his psyche we are witnessing.

The opening minutes of the film are devoted to displaying these different facets, each wondrous and unconnected. It is only after the character brushes his teeth do these worlds begin to cross through match cuts (the bicyclists, the square door and the rails, et. al.). These interconnections hope to accomplish Vertov’s “progressive reality hidden below the surface details of experience,” that the abundance of these elements can overwhelm (Beattie, City Symphony, p. 11).

Every shot following the chaos displays life in the spaces, be it animals, people, or statues (life preserved through art). The synthesizing of the piece culminates in the last shot of the crows, where we hear diegetic sound that expresses all three facets of Bloomington in the same space. The audience hears the crows, followed by the ambulance, followed by the bell tower. Immediately following these sounds is a cut to a girl sleeping in a dark room, illuminated by what could easily be the previous shot. This shows that she exists in this environment peacefully, choosing to turn towards Bloomington rather than away. The film expresses the harmony of where we live present in chaos brought about by “not only the massive proliferation of buildings, but also by their simultaneity” (Donald, “Modern Spaces,” p. 85). Such a message opposes that of Vertov by expressing a harmonious connection of people with Bloomington. At the same time, the city is not merely held in a romantic regard, indicative of how Ruttman displays Berlin (although we used subtle, stoic stress over suicide to express this). There is mechanization, industry, personal strife, human interaction and isolation, unoccupied nature and occupied spaces (pun intended) all present in Bloomington. The film is an amalgamation of these stimuli, portraying how they psychologically affect people, which is arguably the purpose of every city film.

Considering the ambitious thematic elements of city films, I considered the project predominantly a practice in editing. Much emphasis is placed in the film to clever match cuts and juxtaposition, rapid jump cuts, and other stylistic devices indicative of the city films of the era. While laden with aesthetic devices, few to none of them are used for mere aesthetic value. Even some of the more peculiar elements can be explained- the character doesn’t use shaving cream so that he may be cut later in the film; the edit of the young man to the statue expresses the temporality of life; the slowing of cars as they cross each other denotes interaction; the crossing of lines on and off the bus show mechanization. There are more examples than there is space to mention.

The original sound composition perfectly fits the slow-morphing mood of the film, all-the-while staying relatively the same. There is no tempo or ham-fisted key changes, but the sound never-the-less progresses with the film from being marveling, to more involved, to complicated and droning, to loud, harsh and mechanized, to something serene and beautiful. The sound is unlike the music used in city films screened in class, but experimental and bold, which fits with the choices of films at the time. We agreed that what was bold then is now cliché, which we didn’t care to replicate in that regard.

Attempting to communicate these ideals within the context of a group project was met with great challenge and even opposition. I attempted to work as closely with the group as I could, spending a day shooting with one member on-campus (independent of my nature shots), hoping to see match cuts that could be made, as well as accepting much input with editing, which greatly improved the project. This collaboration appeared to be similar to Vertov and his brother wandering the city.

Especially with city films, editing is simply decision making. Due to the extra effort I spent in labs outside of class (particularly sound mixing), I feel a heightened responsibility for the film. However, I don’t think my leading this project resulted in failure, but an effective piece that I feel is creatively satisfying in its risks, representative of a popular psychological perspective of Bloomington, and most importantly, moving.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

About Living Without (and not wanting to) ----- An Opinion

“What matters about myth and magic is not their truth, but their effectiveness."

For a sizable portion of my life I have thought that depriving myself would make me a better person and I am increasingly led to believe that this has been completely wrong.

While leading the life of a moralizing religious prude, I miraculously have not ending up stuck with any of those labels. If I were to give one, though, I would call myself a non-practicing moralist… but enough about me. *

It’s odd to learn that in the pursuit of being good and being happy, one must usually be compromised to benefit the other, especially when realizing that what is good is stupid and what we want is nonsense. Then you find yourself sitting on the couch, babysitting stupid so that it won’t choke on its own spit while nonsense is in the other room sluggishly eating dick-shaped desserts and playing videogames that congratulate you for murdering other human beings on a screen that is unnecessarily large and probably in 3D, or something. Y’all’re free to mangle this example to how you see applicable, but I think you’ll likely agree that this is the typical, probably wrong way of thinking about it. And because this is the manner that it is understood, it is by no means uncommon to see folks in joint custody arrangements between good and happy. Obviously, recognizing the nonsense doesn’t yield us good just as knowing it’s stupid doesn’t make us any happier, or even smarter. It’s an impossible position everyone is aware of if they think about it and I obviously won’t solve by saying anything, but I'd like to think about good and happy differently.

The position of depriving depravity is not only to pursue one facet of life unwaveringly, but also to wholly side with it. Consider those who can’t stand, can’t understand those who do not live as they do. ** Make sure to not just consider the first group that comes to mind. Think about the moralizing, never-ending assholes as well as the assholes that are only appeased when pleased. These people exist, but most of us live in between, in joint custody. The mistake to be made is to see that we’re in the middle and mistake this for not being on a side. Living sided calls for depriving, demanding condemnation and polarity and unbridled odium. I have been sided, constantly questioning how I could possibly hold contentment for those on a side I wish I could understand more fully. *** Example- I had previously rejected (in a tweet on a soapbox from the top of a nearby mountain) any form of “assisted happiness” because of reasons. **** Since then I have failed to bring to mind any happiness that isn’t assisted, and why the fact that it is should not be beautiful.

What sides us are our motivators, who we choose to live for. We believe we know who they are. On the list of yourself, others, and God, we either do great at helping one, work at serving two, or completely fail at capital L Living for all three. Never can we handle all three and difficult it is to cross one off entirely. Pray to God I made the right pick(s).****

What we require is to engage an uncomfortable honesty, to grossly prioritize our motivators more so that we may grossly prioritize our actions less; because we aren’t afraid of wanting to be good or happy*****, but of choosing whom we live for. Fearing as we do hinders us from both, and facing that truth requires a incalculable daily faith, inasmuch as faith is a currency, inasmuch as spending requires spending, inasmuch as we are never promised anything in return******, inasmuch as there is so much to be lost, inasmuch as it sometimes appears we’re more faulted than compassionate, inasmuch as expectation too often squalors reality*******, inasmuch as we have no choice but to lower-case l live, inasmuch as lower-case l living is easy, inasmuch as lower-case l living without really isn't capital L Living, inasmuch as love is an alternating current, inasmuch as being there is just as hard as it is easy, inasmuch as faith is fearlessly moving forward equipped with the knowledge of having lost some infinite thing (and being OK with that), inasmuch as wanting is so much different from needing is so much different from getting.

But still we spend. We need to because we live with when we capital L Live.


*This, of course, is a lie.
**Also accept the possibility that you may belong to this group.
***This, amazingly, is not a lie.
****Yes, I realized what I did just there. No, don’t ask.
*****We do this most of the time
******It wouldn’t be faith if we were.
*******Inasmuch as 500 Days of Summer isn’t complete bullshit.


Sunday, September 11, 2011

Filling Books With Color

“I shall keep asking You.”

My first remembered memory is of falling, terrified. The second is waking up. I’m not so sure if I just made up the second part to feel better.

Across the street from my childhood home is a court where my brothers and sisters and the neighborhood kids and I would ride our bikes and play sports. The court is still there, but the jungle gym in our backyard where we would also play isn’t, nor is the large oak that was cut down having been struck by lightning months after moving from the house. It was the same tree that I had fallen from several times, canopied us without question in needed moments, the kind of unrecognized compassion that is only felt when unwillingly hollowed.

Too often beloved memories as these when written nostalgically are wrote off by outsiders as a contrived manner of convincing oneself what they simply want to believe, but while it is undeniably true we selectively archive the past, the popular opinion remains that this choice defeats the alternative- letting go. This is the defense of journaling, a branded term as silly as it is confusing. Our present self lacks journalistic integrity and will likely continue to do so so long as the act of climbing requires holding onto something. I offer that more than mere opportunity colors our glasses rose, and what is more is the only reason to live. I’ll let you figure out what that is. Still, I’ll begin to explain what is more to me, for it remains a hazarding truth that what we have will be lost, most of all our precious cargo.

I wore a Joe Cool Snoopy t-shirt when I watched the second tower of the World Trade Center collapse live on CNN the morning I was late for Mrs. Hansel’s 4th grade English class, a wretched woman I rightfully hated.

Those who actively strive to be good are deathly afraid of the “default,” the natural, sinful, unconscious, unlearned standard of failure. The idea quite simply is that it takes work to be good. Even those who would claim to believe people are naturally good would attest to this, likely because they’ve thought enough to somehow justify the goodness of people. Like so much else that doesn’t deserve it, the popular opinion is to politicize the act of just trying to be better, when reality is far more nuanced. The nuance is reaction, consequence, inflation, misunderstanding, inarticulation, fear, and too many others for a lifetime. Still we want to be good, equipped with limited knowledge of what that is.

Often we shape recollections to agree with how we wished we had thought then, and 9/11 is the worst culprit of all. A horrible feeling takes over when those around me talk of their experience and where they were and how the moment affected the national identity through their experience, and how we were all so terrified and alone, uncertain if the world would be around the next day while aware that it would, at the very least, never be the same again. This is how we all felt when we talk about it now.

But how did I feel? I was a child. I likely didn’t even think of the attacks that entire day, not to mention fully understand fear, hatred, terrorism, murder, politics, and innocence. I still don’t. I don’t think any of us do. If you read this thinking I’m trying to persuade you of something, it would be to accept what we do not understand so as not to dishonor those who died and are still suffering.

I have never understood 9/11 and that will forever bother me. I don’t know if honor really means anything, if it actually makes the never-ending act of living easier for those who have suffered. It forces me to contemplate how easily the distance between people can be bridged, if our recollections are constantly lying to us. I begin to question if I had any real emotional connection with the large oak in the backyard of my childhood home at the time. I don’t know if the fact that I feel for it now changes anything. I have to believe I have woken up.

Now there's the job of deconstructing the line between actions and the way we say we acted. I want so much to clad them with empathy, to flank the default with love. The alternative is falling, and I can see no reason to regress to that. I may feel that I have no real right to say anything about 9/11 and what it means to me or anyone else, but I still agree with that ineffable truth that we needn’t be afraid, needn't turn away, even from this. Homeward.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Greatest Summer Hits Vol. 2 (also tweets)

Pencils down! Time's up! Fine, finish your thought, but hurry up.

Before I put this list together of my top posts this Summer, I kind of felt like I barely blogged at all. It was obviously much less than last year, but as it turns out it wasn't too bad! I also thought that nobody was reading, but after checking the stats there've been a few thousand hits in the past couple months. That seems crazy to me considering I don't promote this at all and pretty much only people I know read it, so thank you. Here were the best things I did here this summer.

Watership Down Prologue

This is my favorite thing I made this Summer, but I'm biased because I didn't make it? It was the only thing I remade? Please watch it. It took forever to make.

Axioms of Shadow Theory

I think about this a lot.

Snorlax Like Me

This experience made me like people a little more, but I'll admit this edited home movie (at best) is hard to watch.

An Essay For Anyone Who Watches Television

Friday Night Lights is my favorite TV show. It may always be. Here's an essay I wrote while I was in its excellent 4th season.

Dusky Panther's Saturday Morning Cartoon

I stopped doing my feature over at MOBFD (great website, the best website) at the start of Summer, so this was my last one of my weekly series. There are 13 or so, which you can watch here. I think it was a cool little project that I may do more entries of in the future.

10 Recent Movies That Were More Impressive As Trailers

Being There and Other Letters

A couple things I wrote on my own freshman year of college, each in different parts of the year and in very different mental states.

My Perfect Game of Call of Duty

The only video vlog I did this Summer.

To Be Forwarded to the Neighborhood Association

This is an example of something that has nothing to do with what I was writing about. I think this was a dumb way to try to understand all of my frustrations and fears. It's a failure, as any attempt to do that is, but it's interesting to learn from yourself, so I do not regret writing it, nor do I regret calling that poor woman a bad person.

To the hypothetical graduating high school class of 2014,

I wrote this self-mocking thing because of how many people out of high school condescend their youngers. It's a superiority I definitely feel, but perhaps by recognizing it, I can feel it less so.

Songs about Sounds Stuff Makes


This is a video that got lost in the fray and none of you watched. It's ok. I'm not mad, or anything. It was just a practice in editing. You either feel it or don't.

Summer of Somnambulism

This wasn't a bad kick-off.

Ultimate John Boehner Fan Video

The best part of this is the YouTube comments people left. I tried to make a very honest John Boehner fan video, except that it's scored by the Bee Gees.

25 Notable Tweets

I enjoy Twitter. It makes you work at word economy, which people should be teaching themselves anyway. As I replied to someone who told me I tweet a lot, "With my tweets, I go for quality over quantity, but the quantity comes when you've got so much quality." That said, there could be much better ones, but I just looked through a list of tweets that other people retweeted and picked a couple. Hope you like 'em. In almost no particular order,

Thanks for liking shit I do.

Until we meet again.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

to be forwarded to the neighborhood association

We need to talk, residents of Emerald Highland Suburban Complex. I would first like to emphasize that I’m not angry, but disappointed. I'm disappointed in a society that you have been a part of that has failed to teach you the common logic behind the knowledge that I am about to present, the same logic that you have shown to me time and time again that you lack. This logic I speak of may also be referred to as humanity.

Bluff Road divides the two halves of our neighborhood. Bluff becomes rather busy when those who commute downtown return home from work in the evening, so crossing from one half of the neighborhood to the other at times proves difficult. Therefore, crossing this gap already requires a substantial threshold for patience. Patience and humanity are required virtues for both driving and life. One of the more important objects of life, before self-fulfillment and prosperity and love, is to not die before it is appropriate. Cars drive on roads to go places. These are words that you read from left to right. You may find my priming you with this knowledge insulting, but after this recent incident, I have learned that it would be presumptuous of me to assume that you know anything. Although, perhaps it may simply be humanity that you do not understand. If this is the case and you are aware that cars drive on roads, simply disregard this paragraph.

Earlier today, while driving home, I came to a halt at a stop sign, waiting for the path to clear so that I may move straight, crossing Bluff so that I may enter the half of the neighborhood where I live. There are two unmarked lanes, so I waited in the left lane with my turn signal off. Later, a lady pulled up in the right lane, just as the traffic cleared, and we both accelerated forward into the entrance of the neighborhood, where a man was waiting to turn right. Surely you must see the dilemma, but if you don’t, I’ll reveal to you now that it is a problem for three cars to be in the entrance of the neighborhood, which are two wide lanes at best. I sped ahead and none were injured.

By choosing the right lane, she restricts access to those wanting to turn right. In order to move straight, the car must also have the ability to turn left. I am restricting no one by waiting in the left lane. In fact, the left lane is lined up directly straight with the other side of the neighborhood! I could understand if there was a stoplight with the usual “turn right or stay straight” lane, but this clearly is not the proper scenario for that. The reason those lanes exist is because if one were to travel straight in the left turn lane, they would be travelling into oncoming traffic, which, at the moment, I would not have put past this woman.

This is why I think that this woman is not only fundamentally wrong, but also a bad person. So she chose to go straight in the wrong lane. “Big deal,” you say sarcastically, “she just didn’t think about it.” “Yes,” I agree earnestly, but deliver sarcastically. Let’s say she did make an honest mistake (one that any of us could have made), realized it, and decided to cross the road anyway. She is selfish because she felt entitled to stand in front of line, entitled to her false assumption that what she was doing was right. God hates people like her. This is assuming what I do not know, so let’s not go there. She just didn’t think about it. By not thinking about it, she endangers those who are doing what is right, her own well being, and those who have nothing to do with the decision. As a driver, you don’t have the right to not think about it, just as you don’t have the right to drive drunk or (hopefully soon in Indiana) text. There are no honest mistakes with the sin of rudimentary selfishness. Case rested.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Watership Down Prologue

This is a near shot for shot remake of the prologue of the 1978 movie Watership Down, which is dear to me. I thought it’d be a fun challenge, and it was. It's about 4000 pictures stop-animated.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Snorlax Like Me

I don't play the Pokemon card game, but this didn't stop me from going to the 2011 US Pokemon National Championships. To my surprise, most there were really kind and awesome people, and it made me wish there were more groups who accepted one another without reservations. Before everyone in the Pokemon community falls in love with me, I will say that this was interspersed with the unavoidable, insufferable, parasitic fucking hipsters.

So if you want a taste of an outsider's look in, watch this makeshift freeform documentary thing.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Art That Makes Me Cry Like A Reserved Bitch

I think it’s cool that people invest emotion in art. That’s pretty valuable capital.

Friday Night Lights – “The Son” - (spoiler)

(Also see: most episodes of Friday Night Lights)

Toy Story 3 (duh)

Where The Wild Things Are

Finding Neverland

Bright Eyes – “Lua/First Day of My Life"
This album beat the shit out of me. Probably in ways that are impossible now.

If you’re really listening, I honestly don’t understand how you can’t be moved by this.

Mad Men – “The Suitcase”

Anything John Irving writes

John Mayer – “Gravity”
Did I studder? While I’m at it…

Dashboard Confessional – “The Places You Have Come To Fear The Most”

Winesburg, Ohio

Sufjan Stevens – “For The Widows in Paradise, For the Fatherless In Ypiasffsdaljk/Romulus”
Same as the Bright Eyes era

Hannibal Buress

…and that’s it. That is it.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Axioms of Shadow Theory

Axiom 1- Light cast on a bar creates a shadow.

At times it frightens me the amount of effort I exert in revisiting experiences and viewing them as confluential, but is that not what we are taught? “Learn from your mistakes,” says everyone, but not what we mean when we say it. What we mean when we say that is, “Be better than when you fucked up.” This assumes- A.) learning is important (because it is), B.) learning is important because learning is therapeutic, C.) Life is linear in terms of knowledge. The third point is one of the untruths about life that everyone seems to know is an untruth, but denies up until a certain point. Life seems so goddamn linear because its been cleverly structured with the uniform act sequence of birth, life, and death, the second act always being the best with the most conflict and lack of resolution (same goes with The Empire Strikes Back). In terms of knowledge, we are all afflicted with Huntington’s. So often knowledge is defined as the end product of learning, which is so dumb of us. We’ll put anything in capitalist terms. “Learn from your mistakes so you can spend that moral bread.”

The ageless cliché ignores how easy it is to regress to not only more things we have to learn from, but the same damn ones. Let’s call these “instinctual mistakes.” I’m trying to phrase this in a way that I’m not doling out moral bullshit, so forgive me if I end up doing that anyway. I hope to just talk about how we take in moral bullshit. Obviously, it’s up to you what shit you would like to eat.

I could read a thousand stories preaching the moral of empathy, but I’m confident I would still suck at empathy at times, that people who are close to me would still beat me out on the empathy scale, continuing to be disgustingly pregnant with empathy. Right now, somehow, somewhere, I am sure I am not being as empathetic to someone as much as I should be. That doesn’t bode well with the country’s The Wealth of Nations-like approach to learning.

Axiom 2- Light can’t travel through a bar

Perhaps why I’m reacting so strongly to this now partly results from the freshness of the problem to me. I’m coming up to the third decade of my life, and I’m starting to make the same mistakes. Even through the lens of my public persona, the pattern could easily be seen in my works. It’s the scourge of the productivist. When I wrote 300-600 word opinion pieces on the back of my school newspaper a couple times every month, I responded to the problems of the administration taking away our fucking benches for no damn reason (still bitter), school spirit, website blockers, rap artists, the role of the school newspaper, school spirit, Hollywood movies, vitriolic political rhetoric, the global energy crisis, all the way to supreme court decisions. I intentionally ordered that sentence to be more and more ridiculous, but that’s how I thought about it, met at the end with the horrible feeling that I had accomplished nothing. “Take it on and then move to the next one. Fix it and move on.” While many of the 3 to 600 word articles failed to change many students’ political opinions, let alone pieces of national legislation, the ones that were seemingly about so much less were the best ones, the ones that meant something to people, the ones that mean something to me. Emotional economics is a beautiful market to corner.

…but that was the OLD me. The NEW me knows not to ever write outside of my limited reach. The new me doesn’t make those mistakes. I said I could read a story with the same message a thousand times. The thing is that we do, otherwise there would be no reason for new stories to exist. This isn’t a reason to lower our standards and be worse people because of that, but it does challenge the always-feeling superior to our old self, defeatist mentality. Watch, before your very eyes, as I magically transform from an A student to a C student- it may do us some good to not learn from our mistakes, just for the sake of letting the learning begin.

Axiom 3- Bar B creates shadow Y.

Question- What creates the shadow between A and C (x)? No light is cast on A, and light does not travel through B to create X.

Problem- “No matter what we do to solve this paradox, we have to give up something we previously believed to be true.”

After explaining to our class of freshmen taking a philosophy topics class this concept, 90% of the students either didn’t understand it or just wrote it off as stupid. Obviously bar B creates a shadow that overlaps A, but what those who claimed this didn’t realize they were assuming something that was outside of his axioms, which is where I differ from my professor. We don’t give up what we believe to be true to simplify the unexplainable. We create more axioms.

The likely truth is that this essay never ends, always presenting a Hegelian antithesis, but must be stopped for a fairly simple reason- it’s getting late, and there’s a lot I have to do tomorrow. Hope I learn something.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Songs About Sounds Stuff Makes

Morning Bell – Radiohead

“Release me.” From the lyrics, the bell is an omnipresent force imprisoning everything, or something. This song’s about escaping…. or about cutting children in half. Who knows, really. That wasn’t a question, so I didn’t make it a question.

Super Bass – Nicki Minaj

Ok, so about Nicki Minaj. Based on this song, doesn’t she seem very materialistic and possessive? Also crazy? The selling point of the song is that this man, who potentially deals in narcotics, owns powerful subwoofers, and that magically puts him pretty high on the sex scale. I’ve been doing love wrong, or maybe I’m just more into treble. Also, her hair looks like a slutty cup of Trix yogurt. I’d rather put this than that stupid, stupid video, anyway.

Yes I did, yes I did.

My Mathmatical Mind – Spoon

If this is what math sounds like, then put me on the waitlist for M307!*

*To any of my advisors reading this- please, no.

Boom Boom Pow – Black Eyed Peas

This song isn’t about anything. The video is gross, too. Forget I even mentioned this. 2000LA8.

Bees – Caribou

I like bees.

Zap Zap – Cut Copy

This is probably the saddest song I would want to dance to, possibly because the zap sound is something of the dying past? Pretty rough for a dance tune.

Loud Pipes – Ratatat

This song also isn’t about anything. Who cares. Also not a question.

Satan’s Saxophones – Sufjan Stevens

The way you make this sound is by taking your bottom row of teeth and scraping it on the reed of a saxophone. It is the most horrifying sound in the world. The times I made it were very likely the most power I’ve held over a human being. Listen to this entire piece, just to say you did. The ending is actually kind of beautiful.

Songs not on the list, but probably wanted to be:

Comforting Sounds – Mew

I didn’t want to include any songs that were about music on this list, which I still don’t even know if music is what the lyrics are referring to. As with most of Mew’s songs, the lyrics make sense in the middle of the line, then there will be something that’ll throw the entire thought off its axis and leaves me scratching my head.

Moth’s Wings – Passion Pit

You guys did a pretty good job with the sound on this one, but think again before using an overt simile in your lyrics. Nice try, but I won’t let that slide. Also, your voice is obnoxious. I said it. (This is a good song.)

Dead Sound – The Raveonettes

Nice try. We all know this is about washed-out garage music, which is a sound that is clearly dead BOOOM. (This is a very good song.)

Pow Pow - LCD Soundsystem

I just couldn’t think of anything clever to say about this great song. Plus, probably not a pow sound.

My Doorbell – The White Stripes

Yeah. Doorbells go ding-dong. Duh.

The Sounds of Silence – Simon & Garfunkel

Now this just doesn’t make any fucking sense. Stupid.

Friday, June 3, 2011

An Essay For Anyone Who Watches Television

The original post for this essay was “Why ‘Friday Night Lights’ Is Great.” I think the one I chose will reach a larger audience.

There’s an interesting divide between those who write and actively think about TV and the mass population- each have a different definition of what is great. A similar argument could be made for those who talk about life and those who live. That alone astounds me. Any person could undermine the writings of Sartre if he were to say, “Sure, buddy. Fine. Now go get a day job and get back to me about all your existence shit.” We tend to think those philosophers, or really anyone who pays thought concerning anything than the mass population, operates on the fringe of reality, or perhaps not even a shared one. Perhaps they do. To bring this back to TV watching today, I find the debate over form and expectation that is diving audiences. It didn’t always used to be like this. If we look at Primetime Emmys, the bag of winners is insanely mixed between major sitcoms, sleeper hit dramas, and even some shows that are quickly cancelled. I say it’s odd because the Primetime Emmys is supposed to be culture’s reference point for what we’re watching, and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to say that is what it exists as. Once we throw out that definition, which many have, the Emmys become a measure of what is great on television.

Damn it.

If the Emmys are a measure of what is great, than why are they not awarding the most popular programs? Why have “CSI” and “Two and a Half Men” not swept the awards up? Really, though, why does population not equal quality? Oh, then those who think about TV have a definition of great which conflicts with that of the massive population. Ergo, the massive population doesn’t think about TV and is stupid. My tastes are better. I have just outlined a wildly popular opinion among those who feel they actively think about television. Many of them love “Mad Men” and “30 Rock” and “Breaking Bad” and “The Wire” and could readily quote lines from “Arrested Development.” For a few years I associated myself with these people, and it’s rather obvious that everyone hates snobs exclusively consuming media. So why is the choice between idiot and snob? I personally don’t believe this is the choice, but rather believe that our varying levels of comfort lead us to believe it is. This A.V Club article talks about how “Glee” and “Community” are pretty much the same show, but with entirely different formats (the article is a bit confusing at first read). The strongest point in the article made was that “Glee” features changing characters in the same situations, where “Community” features changing situations with the same characters. Because of this, different audiences may call “Glee” “lazy” or “consistent” and “Community” “innovative” or “random.” It all just depends on how comfortable the viewer is to take that logical leap of deciding what they’re comfortable with. As the article also says, with an episode of "Glee," whatever happens, you pretty much know what you’re in for. It isn’t as threatening of television as “Community.” If I were to spend enough time searching for programming that would make me that kind of comfortable, then maybe I would laugh hysterically at "Mike and Molly" and not just write it off as a traditional sitcom about farts.

This leads me to constantly question myself, “Am I more pleased knowing I will be pleased, or do I want to go for something more than that?” I honestly don’t know for myself. People are clearly more prone to judge others when they are content with what they know, but I always wonder if the goal of searching is more searching.

When I look at the decisions of what kinds of media people choose to consume, it is often an indicator of what kind of person they are. At the same time, I don’t use it as a scale to gauge the intelligence of others based on what media I deem “good.” We know those types of people, and I think we can agree, all together now- fuck those people. Great. That had a sweet timbre to it. While I will concede that those on the other side (the expectation-satisfied) get a bad rap for being a passive audience, and I have even accused them of such in the past, I am not a fucking hipster.

I could take my audience expectation theory of media to inappropriate lengths, as most theories of media do, but I trust that you understand what I’m talking about, as consumers of media yourselves. I didn’t write this to talk about my audience expectation theory of media, but instead prefaced those ideas to talk about why I love “Friday Night Lights” for a little bit.

"Friday Night Lights" is a strange show if you consider the mentioned topics. It’s about a high school football coach and the lives of some of the best football players in Texas, but what it’s about with quotation marks is arguably up to the viewer. It could be seventeen different coming of age stories, the changing relationships of those in a close community, a period piece of high school, about family, a love story, a crime drama, a war story, oh yeah, or about football, I guess. The audience has a lot of choices of what to fixate on, so the expectation across the audience is varied. Some critique the show for being soap-operatic, an argument that those who write about the show despise, defending the show by mentioning its cinematic production values and layered storytelling. The thing is, you can watch the show as a soap opera if you want to. I’m confident many do. I’m sure many want to know what Tami will do to Julie based on what she heard Landry said to Matt in the supermarket. (The show has so much gossip, if that’s your thing.) And if you must know right now, this amazing scene is what happened (played by Judy and Jane Jetson).

I probably watch it most as a period piece, except the period is a part of my life that I tiptoed around. While Friday Night Lights isn’t the life I necessarily had, or even wanted, for that matter, it feels like the life that I should have had, the life I expected. My cousin who watches the show once told me, “That’s what high school was like.” I can’t really relate with the characters at all, but my cousin and I probably enjoy it equally.

By gum, the show works on layers because it’s layered, which isn’t something you see on major TV shows so often; And when there are shows that are, they become cult hits and mostly on the Sci-Fi channel or AMC (maybe that’s why the show eventually moved to Dish Network, which is the first time most of you have even heard of that). "Friday Night Lights" did a great job of making the audience get it. (All this, plus quality. It always feels like people who write about TV always take that for granted.)

Oh yeah, and my favorite Sufjan Stevens song was on the show. I promise that this whole post wasn’t just a veiled excuse, and that my love for this show was solely decided by my crass, sentimental taste for indie folk music.

…but it didn’t hurt. Clear eyes, full hearts.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

being there and other letters

This past year I wrote a lot of things that you won't ever see because I didn't write them for any of you. Nevertheless, here are a couple things from that very long period of time. The first piece was not so subtly influenced by Gil Scott-Heron, who died a couple days ago. The second is a likely inaccurate account of when I went to Paris as a child. The third is a letter to everyone I've ever known, and I wrote it almost a year ago. The fourth is the prologue to a story, which I wrote recently.

"Being There"

Well the first thing I want to say is that I am disgusted by what we’re trying to do, and that I was there when we started doing it.

I stood by and did nothing while the reasonable manner of our discussion packed up and moved away; just didn’t think about it and texted to 1-866-IDOLS-08.

I became a statistic in popular opinion when we were all shouting that terrorists were the enemy and not the people who were shouting.

I forgone my privacy by virtue of the attention I would extract from a glowing screen and watched my friends follow in succession.

I sexted and was sexted without knowing anything about sex.

I was there in the repulsive public school, as it lied starving, whimpering, hysterical, begging those passing by for water, and I watched them watch it die.

I yelled out “present” to my grade school teachers when I was mentally absent.

I abstained from voting on the grounds that the next movie star in line would do just fine for now.

I panicked and prepared for the end of the world, disappointed when January 1, 2000 passed and nothing happened and when January 1, 2012 passed and nothing happened.

I never loved anyone but myself, ignoring the only kind girl who loved me while I traded Pokemon cards and settled with the woman I knocked up.

I wore blackface and did a song and dance for my employers and I wore a suit while doing it.

I was taught war from the television screen, and it made sense to me.

I stood next to my father, arms shaking and knees trembling when lowering the casket of my childhood into the ground, and I wept for days.

I was there when Phaedrus was there, when Daedalus forged wings for Icarus and when he flew too close to the sun, marveling at the sight of him falling to Earth.

I broke the 10 commandments in order by Saturday and was forgiven by Monday.

I danced with the stars, idolized the Americans, made and didn’t make deals, survived and wiped out.

I saw all these magnificent children running about, naked, neighing like sheep, surprised that I was following along, nearly removing my pants.

I hoped for the world to be better, for things to be different, and this was all I did.

I made the world what I wanted it to be, and it was. I wanted to be saved, and I was.

The world will not end with a bang, it will not be televised and nobody will give a damn. We will revolt by teaching our family to care, to respectfully disagree with what is wrong, by letting go, by working 8 to 5 for money and still meeting the cost to pay attention to our children. We will arm ourselves with the knowledge of love, we will riot, and we will be there.

Because what the children want, more than the ineffable urge for those around them to love and nurture and care, is to be understood.

Blessed be to life we magnificent children.


"Ceci Ne Pas Une Croissant"

I woke up cramped and tired in the motel, sitting up to see my family scattered around the room, still asleep. I was bewildered and amazed at how orange the sun looked coming over the elaborately designed city buildings and the villas within sight in the distance. We packed silently; our parents helped us pack our bags that were too heavy for our backs. In the lobby I sat on a couch too big for me watching Pepe le Pew dubbed in French, which while was probably appropriate proved impossible to understand. Still hungry having only eaten one croissant and drinking one cup of orange juice, I asked my Mom for more food. She called over a woman, and told me to tell her what I wanted. I couldn’t pronounce it, so I said, “I would like a cwah-want, please.” The woman laughed at me. She called her co-worker over and had me say it again and they both let out hyena cackles. I had never felt so helpless; I was ashamed. We walked for hours in the sun. My parents were stressed from extraneously planning country-hopping and constantly keeping an eye on us. I was wearing a sweater and was sweating, but I didn’t speak up because I was too afraid to stop or even say something. A place so beautiful, rich with life that I would not see again until decades later, quickly became my hell. I hated the people on bikes, odd-looking buildings, frightenly tall people, and of course the pickpocketers. My parents gave us a slight warning, telling us to hold onto what we had with us, which my siblings construed into scaring me into thinking pickpocketers were all over the city. I walked the streets with my hands in my pockets, sweating, baseball hat on straight, looking forward to the unfamiliar terrain, never knowing when it would end. My back hurt from carrying the weight, so my parents carried my bag for a little bit. We were all complaining, asking if we could just take a taxi. My parents weren’t familiar with the currency and didn’t want to spend more than they had to (they had all expenses planned). We eventually came to an open courtyard with a large glass pyramid sitting in the center, surrounded by large fountains. We sat next to one fountain, setting down our bags, relaxing for a breath and a splash of water for our faces. My dad, always emphasizing productivity, soon mobilized us, rising us to the occasion when we really just wanted to give up. We went into the pyramid, down an escalator, past counters and lobbies to empty rooms with lined walls with paintings, pictures, sculptures and stone carvings. I didn’t understand and thought it was awkward when we stopped at a naked woman with her arms cut off. The same went to the man sitting with poor posture, the woman barely smiling and the (naked) man with wings embracing the (naked) woman. We walked on, out the pyramid, through the streets, to the train station where we waited for a couple hours. We boarded the train and entered our cabin, finally freed from our bags and our legs. I lied down in my mother’s lap, tears falling from my face from thinking of how I failed to pronounce “croissant,” why those women were so mean, how exhausted I was, how I wanted very much to be home again. My mother turned my face around, scouring my tears until I was better, and I fell asleep right there, all the way to Denmark.


"Start Walking"

Sometimes the cardinals outside my window will wake me up when I sleep too late to remind me that I was dreaming and that what I was feeling wasn't real. At least I think so, and that's my problem.

I get into the habit of getting into habits. I'll base what I believe with what I think to be true and choose to not understand what I don't want to, and I guess everyone does this. I don't really like that we do that, but I can at least understand.

But before me, before anything even existed, there had to have been only one truth. I hold on to the notion that this single truth was accepted until someone didn't understand it. It wasn't that they didn't want to or find a reason to or failed to see it as important, but that they couldn't understand it despite all their wanting to. Maybe it was because they thought or maybe it was because they felt or maybe it was because they loved, but it created a truth that wasn't true that hadn't existed before they made it so. They based their lives on this separate truth-- and then they lived. They lived linearly with everyone else but within a parallel reality that didn't exist before creating an original thought. Someone finally had to have noticed and rejected what he rejected, creating something entirely different but nonetheless contrarian. And then their friends would go to the dinner parties these others would host and hear about these truths and decide for themselves what they felt or thought or loved and what they would embrace for their own. And then these people had children, sometimes together, and their children would hold dissenting truths from their parents merely for dissension's sake, and they would live dissenting everything that was true, knowing what they didn't feel in their heart held the truth. The kids made rock records that spoke their truth that nobody seemed to be thinking about. They mellowed out when they got older and then they had a reunion tour. Military men would scold non-military men for speaking of military matters with such ease. Traditionalists viewed everything dissenting, commenting, or otherwise as nothing more than negativity. Observationalists would write books about the accomplishments and trials of great men, trying to capture which truth made their life so important. Dreamers would read these books and go into politics. Opportunists would damn these men as opportunists. Activists would rally behind the truth, against some other truth, and passerbys would continue to exist as such (without the need for any). But while this all happened, everything that once existed continued to exist, only in different forms and manners. And so on.

I watch everyone around me I know and don't arguing about what is true and what isn't true and how we should be feeling from my nice little perspective. The truth always sounds like such a logical and clear choice. They've found ways to compartmentalize everything that I think and feel and love to be true into identifiable sides and quick sound-bytes and medical terms using political parties and applications and buttons and lights and sounds and money. And I understand why they try to make it so simple for me. It's because they want to believe that's the way it should be, that's the way it was before me. But I know that it's not and it wasn't, but I'm not sure if it never was.

When I was younger, I used to think that everything could be true to a certain degree. I tried to be polite, picking through shit for a sliver of reason that I could hold up to whoever I was talking to and satisfy them. For some people, agreeing with the slightest nothing can convince them that you wholly embrace their (often) bullshit world view, and they only do this because they want to think you like them. But the more I think and revisit, the more I see I change, am wrong, find ways to abhor myself. There is no reason to not suspect that everything that I'm saying is absolutely wrong, even if everything I say is voiced through reason and merit. "It's just not right." "You just kind of get a feel for these things after a while." "It's hard for me to make you understand." "You can't know what I know."

I got a little older and tried to find perfection, and that didn't work out so well. The more I looked the more I found wrong, the more I found I couldn't love the world for what it was. And while I hate to think that I'll ever stop looking, I realize that there are no ends. This doesn't, however, mean I have to search alone. I casually walk alongside everyone who's trying to figure it out, and it's nice to look around sometimes and not always forward. The writers seem to be trying the hardest and feeling the most miserable about it; the kids are running and it's hard to keep up; the tough guys are taking it at their own pace; the egoists think they’re the only ones walking; the religious can be the kindest but the biggest pests; the atheists can be the most sound-minded but the biggest assholes; the activists feel they have a purpose, and want to get there before anyone else; the druggies think that they're already there; the depressed don't know which way they should be going; the comics are doing it their own way; the existentialists are pushing their rocks along while the nihilists walk merely because it's better than not walking; the individualists are confidently marching in the direction of their dreams; the collectivists are carrying along those who can't walk; the poets are laying stones for people to walk on; the pessimists are walking on their knees; the optimists are skipping and hurting their feet; the tired are considering taking a break; the adventurers don't really care about getting there; the explorers walk about; the escapists never really get out; the engineers are thinking of the fastest way to get there; the laid-back aren't looking back; the worrisome are watching every step; the good are walking; the bad are walking; those who've felt love don't want to take another step alone; the forgetful can start over whenever they want to; the extremists never seem to be alone; the families are always remembering and forgetting how much they need each other; the anti-social would never let anyone know that they're looking for someone to walk with; the artists are always thinking of strange ways to walk; the athletes are distracting the rest of us; the lazy don't seem to be bothered at all by time; the parasites are being dragged behind by their betters; the kind are teaching us how to walk; the infants are crawling; the content are sitting; the talking heads are going the wrong way; the animals are trying to walk and we keep cutting their legs off; death seems to be stopping people along the way, but it's hard to tell; the idiots are walking just as we are; the haters are hating; the seasoned walk more confidently; the stoics break; the lively dance.

There are others, but there are so many that it's hard to see.

I don't really know who I am and I certainly don't know what I believe to be true, but I'm starting to figure out what it is that I'm doing, and maybe that's enough for now. And if it's not, then perhaps I'll take up jogging.


Prologue to “Magnificent Children”

His darkened silhouette outlined in the doorframe, Mr. Steak said to his class, “Turn on the fucking light. I can clearly see you.” His students emerged from under their desks, devilishly pleased with the response. They pulled bad jokes like this on him all the time. They were more affirmed by his frustration than they would if he had laughed.

At Twinsburg, the younger teachers were always assigned the worst classes with the most deplorable students, a job that nobody took pride in nor felt encouraged to wake up in the morning to go to, especially someone with the potential of John Staek. He had fast-tracked through an outstanding educational career, graduating in the top of his class at Grover Cleveland High School and magna cum laude at Bowling Green University with majors in English and History (he had finished college in three years). After dropping out of law school after a semester, Staek accepted a teaching job at the first high school that would have him, and he was optimistic at the prospect of sharing his knowledge with receptive, developing minds. His class schedule, which hasn’t changed since starting his teaching tenure, consists of five “tech-prep” English classes, which is just Fillmore Township’s way of lumping together the kids who have little interest in graduating, the group that is kept (physically) away from the C to B students, who are (also physically) kept away from the kids who are in the START program (which stands for something, although few actually could recite it). The START kids run the school newspaper, National Honor Society, class offices, student council, thespian society, morning announcements, robotics team, international languages club, civics club, book club, spirit club, chess club, environmental club, and there are others. It was the kind of mandated segregation with a doctrine writ in water. Three of Staek’s classes consisted of seniors and two juniors. The juniors- it was the juniors that he hated. Luckily for this year, enough students dropped out that the two classes of juniors were combined, thus creating “the children.”

Staek knew his dilemma with the children wasn’t unique whatsoever. So much of the time in the teacher’s lounge at lunch was devoted to sharing the day’s horror stories (who sexted who, which students were pregnant, who was written up, which urinals were pooped in, et. al.), a practice that Staek hated to participate in during his brief moments away from the children.

Based on two years of secondhand intake of these conversations, Staek gathered that the standard method of combating the problem of TP classes went as followed: follow the syllabus, review no less than three times, teach to the required state standardized test, make sure they’re awake, tell them everything they need to know, give them the test, take their phones until the end of class, hope for the best, and move on to the next, hateful batch. Staek welcomed that the last phase of the process was upon him and wished to do nothing that would complicate it. Three weeks remained in the school year.

Staek made his first attempt of the day to win back the class’ attention, saying, “Alright, you guys. Settle and sit down, you little shits. We’re reading Eliot.” His constant cursing was something that the class expected from people, not an abnormality that yielded him any cooler. “Now, did any of you read the poem for today?” Staek expected the silence and didn’t allow it to linger for too long, but long enough for the students to feel guilty, an attempt that he knew failed. He continued, “Then I guess we’ll read it aloud. It’s called, ‘The Hollow…”
“MOO,” one student interjected. The children laughed. Staek thought it must’ve been a recurring joke that he didn’t understand.

After taking a moment to realize what had happened, Staek said, “Did you just interrupting cow me, Omar?” Omar had just interrupting cowed him. Across the room, Antoine said, “Yeahhh, you my nigga, Omar.” Omar and Antoine were the only two black kids in the class.

Omar replied, “Hahhh, nah nah nah. I’m sorry, teach. You can go on tryin’ to fix us and shit.”

“I do not have the time nor the effort to fix you, Omar,” said Staek. Some students interpreted this as racist, though it was not.

After popping her gum, Emma said, “Spoken like a true teacher.” The children laughed.

He looked over the room, at his students who were absolutely pregnant with apathy. He felt nothing for them. After a breath, Steak said, “I’m not sure you all realize the state that you’re in right now, or even, better yet, the state you’re going to be in this summer, when you realize what little you have done with your lives up until this point, up until you face the moment where you’re working at an underpaying job when you will be forced to realize, “Yep, this is what the rest of my life is going to be.”

Steven was texting his girlfriend. Madison was asleep. Eric was paying attention.

He continued. “And you’re all going to feel so bitter about it, that everyone along the way has been working against you, that things would be different if you were in charge, when you’re just too stupid to not realize that there is nothing to be in charge of.”

Staek paused for dramatic effect, an attempt he knew failed. Someone farted.

“You’re not there yet. None of you are. You’re dumb and confortable with that, so happy with what little you know, and I guess if you ignore enough, you can be quite happy. I have no interest in teaching T.S. Eliot to hateful students.”

After saying this, he had realized that only a third of the class was remotely paying attention. Another third of the class was distracted and the final third were asleep. Not moving, standing leaned against his desk, Staek lifted his stapler, forcefully launching it at the chalkboard, creating a noticeable crack. The loud impact, which could be heard from 15 different classrooms (although they all just ignored it), awakened the class, a considerable victory for a public school teacher. Staek remained still and the class sat in silence, not sure what to do next. One student spoke up, “C’mon, teach. Nobody likes a crazy person.” Steak ignored this completely and made his way directly from his desk to the board, stood in front of the crack, staring at it for a moment. “Oh SHIT,” said Omar.

“This is the way the year ends. This is the way the year ends. This is the way the year ends,” said another.

Staek took the chalk and feverishly wrote one sentence, underlining it. He turned and said, “Your final project will count for 70% of your grade. You can do whatever you want. I will remind you that this class is a Fillmore Township requirement in order to graduate your junior year and if failed you will repeat the course with me at summer school. This will be graded tough.” The children knew that he meant what he had said.

The board read, “Make something that actually says anything.”