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.