Saturday, July 17, 2010

Conor - Band Practice!

I am the youngest of 4 children. Growing up in a household where I was becoming a functioning human being in the company of those who had already found themselves, or who at least had found enough of themselves to spare their taste and preferences on me has undoubtedly changed my life in a huge way. I am without a doubt a much different person than I would be without Sean, Katie, and Betsy. Their influence can be seen in pretty much everything that makes me who I am. They shaped my sense of humor. They shaped the way I talk. It's because of them I'm super flinchy and deflect most blows thrown at me out of the blue.

Most importantly though, they showed me music. I'd come home and my brother would be pounding away at the piano, playing the loudest, most percussive songs you've ever heard. I'd come downstairs to find my sisters around the piano, singing old christmas songs. Being way younger than everyone else in the house meant that I was being carted around in their respective vehicles. I still remember going to New Salem nightly with my sister Betsy one summer, always listening to old mix tapes my brother had made for himself. Yeah, that's right, mix tapes. This here's the real deal, mother fuckers. Sean made dozens of these, lovingly writing out the table of contents like a game of pictionary, drawing tiny pictures that corresponded with the titles of the songs. One song in particular stuck with me forever, Guster's "Two Points For Honesty," still my favorite Guster song. His love for compilation creating and that Guster song were both directly passed down to me. Making mix CD's is big ol' deal for me, and that Guster song was track 3 on my freshmen year mix CD, right after Queens of The Stone Age's "No One Knows" and right before Franz Ferdinand's "Michael." I was practically raised on Ben Folds and Ben Folds Five, and for years and years he's been my musical idol.

My brothers and sisters love music and they gave me a love of music. This love of music has led to a lot of things. It led to my college major. It led to what I spent most of my high school life doing. It led to Band Practice!.

A lot of factors contributed to me wanting to be in a band.

A) I love music. If you don't believe me fight me.
B) I'm good at music. I'm not technically proficient due to the way I learned, but I have a feel for it and I think that's important.
C) I'm narcissistic. All rock stars think they're really cool. I think I'm pretty cool.
D) This plays into point C, but I like attention. This isn't me getting down on myself, I just feel comfortable on stage. I like it there.
E) I want to follow music as a career. This is because I don't have other marketable skills. I'm not good at math or engineering or anything because I'm not lame as shit.

Band Practice! doesn't have a good story. Greg Knox and I were listening to a guy talk about how cool it was to be in a band and we were like "well shit, why don't we do that." Rhett was our go to guy because he's really good at bass and being extremely obnoxious. Tynan earned his way into the group through his impressive staring-at-the-wall-lifelessly and gig dodging skills.

Band Practice! plays for fun. It's fun to play music with them. It's fun to play music with anyone, really. That's sortof the idea behind Band Practice!. Music is more fun with friends. I found 3 friends who I think I work really well with, and we're having fun. I'm having fun, at least.

Band Practice began as a joke. We wanted it to happen, but instead of really sitting down and working, we jokingly told everybody we were super great. We talked and talked and talked and talked and occasionally practiced but mostly talked. We started playing together more often, and we won a 2-band battle of the bands, and then talked some more. But at some point in time we got good. I'm not sure how good. I'm proud of what we've done together.

I don't know if the music we play is great. It's unpolished, that's what I noticed tonight. Ironically, one of the biggest problems in Band Practice! is our inability to find time to practice together. We're all very busy people, so it's not one particular person's fault, and it's not as if they owe our silly band any significant portion of their life. We're a band that really started doing stuff during the summer before 3 of the 4 members went off to college. Nothing's really going to come from Band Practice!, but at the same time, I have to say: I'm having the time of my life. This might be a ridiculous statement, but this is what I want to do with my life. If it were possible, if it were realistic, if it were up to me, I would take this and run. I would try to do something with what the 4 of us have here, because I think it's worthwhile.

We'll see what's in store for the 4 of us. We'll probs play another show or two before the summer's up, and then we'll hopefully play when we're all back for vacations. I wrote this because I wanted to articulate the thoughts that I couldn't on stage tonight. Band Practice! means a lot to me, and it means a lot to me that people show up and listen. So thanks.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

A Response to Death

After reading Eliot's incredible blog from yesterday, I got to thinking about death and how it affects me. I'm proud to say that I do keep death in mind (as well as the possibility of a zombie apocalypse), but I don't really, dare I say it, give a shit. Death is not something I necessarily fear, but I also hope to avoid it as long as possible. Though, I think by most people's standards, I'm not doing such a good job.
I have this habit that most people consider to be very disgusting, but rightly so. I am a smoker, yes, it's true. I smoke cigarettes, and honestly, it doesn't really phase me like it does others. People look at it as this thing that only trashy gross people do, and that's just not true. I'm not trashy; I go through every motion to not be. I just smoke because, well, because I'm addicted I guess. And they will more than likely cut a few years off my life, if not all the years, and it doesn't really bother me too much.
I guess the reason death doesn't really bother me is that everyone I know and idolize will or has already died. Whether they were a great mind, a musician, a liar, a criminal, or a grandparent, they died the same way everyone else did: by losing all their life. I guess my favorite part of knowing I'll die comes from knowing that. One day I'll be in the same earth as my favorites, Charles Darwin, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda, Hemingway, Ian Curtis, and one day, all my friends and family. It's a sad thought, but at the same time, it's a very beautiful thought. We will all become one in the soil, where we'll decompose and become a part of whatever bug or plant eats us (unless you choose to believe in God and heaven), then ignore that part. I don't want to force my beliefs on you.
I know this post is short, but I'm in need of a shower, so I must be taking off. Hopefully this shower won't be my last; hopefully I don't have a stroke, or a heart attack, or get shot or something. Lets hope. I wanna be alive for at least 25 years. At most, 45.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

What the World Needs Now.....

The fact of the matter is, we will all die one day. Everyone who has ever lived has done it. And I don't mean the same "everyone" that saw Avatar. LITERALLY EVERYONE that was living that is not currently living got to that point through the same universal experience, death. Sucks, right?

Well enough of me being a Donald Downer. The point is that we all do it, we all die. So I think we should stop ignoring it. We should stop pretending like this life will keep going and going and going. We should prepare for death. It's something we belittle and every time it happens we treat it as if it were a mistake. Cut the bullshit, society. It's time to make death worth experiencing. I mean, the extent of humanity's preparation for death is usually nothing more than six months of people who have no idea what they're talking about remind you that this is why you spent all those years of your life going to church. They give you advice on what you should be feeling before you experience something they've never done and those people will flip the same lid we all do when it comes their turn. Most people begin to accept their own mortality mere hours prior to their final breath and frankly that's unacceptable. Shit. I'm sorry. I lied about stopping the Donald Downer routine, I guess I had more to say on that issue than I thought.

But here's the actual point of my post, I promise this is what I'm writing about: in order to maximize my fatality experience, I am formally requesting that humanity work together to accidentally cause a zombie outbreak. ...Yeah. That's what I was getting at.


First off, let's just accept this. Millions, potentially billions, would die. But we covered this, they were gonna do that anyway. (Note: Not my mentality for death in general.) They would die, and it would be sad, but at the same time, we're in constant fear for our own lives, so we don't have time to worry about the people that aren't good enough to survive an outbreak. Hey, we have the internet at hyperspeed, why not Darwinism?

There is actually a pretty bright silver lining to this gray cloud of death. Assuming we win the battle of human race versus zombie outbreak, we will survive. Survive, live on, evolve, develop. Seriously. Think of how many shitty corrupt people with power will die from the outbreak. Think of how many petty conflicts will be put to rest when your race starts to eat itself to death. Think of the serious potential international shockwave a zombie outbreak would cause. We would be......
.....stop it. .....You're laughing. Stop it. Of course this won't happen. Just have some imagination God damn it, I am Constitutionally equipped with the right to dream on. You just read and obey.
Anyway, shit, where was I? We would be set back to zero. History would be irrelevant and tradition would become extinct. Uhm, that kinda sucks, but if we could do it to end all current global c0nflict and be given the chance to start over, shouldn't we? Well if this outbreak was bad (in other words, good) enough, that would definitely happen. Whittling down the human race to those capable of surviving a fucking zombie outbreak? Almost a worthy investment. Like your muscles, the human race has to be broken down to be built up.

What would an outbreak do for the economy? Trillions of dollars of damages would be done, but hey, who needs that shit rebuilt anyway? Plus, all the money in the world would still be just out there, owned by dead people. We could put that money to actual beneficial use (Here's looking at you, American Cancer Society). Clearing the carnage would be a hectic task, but I figure we'd just sort of let the majority of that rot away while we kick away an area for us to live in the meantime.

Enough about the before and after though. DURING A ZOMBIE OUTBREAK. How cool does that make things? Every day is survival. Not an hour can you go without being in fear for your life. But at the same time, you're playing on borrowed time at some point, with all of your family and friends being dead and all. And by the way, I never feel like the family aspect is played up enough in zombie movies. It's always like, "Where are mom and dad?" dunuhnuhnuhnuh, "Turns out they're dead." "NOOOO!!!!!! Let's go find a helicopter" and then that's it. It'd be really cool to have a "family survives the outbreak" movie. Get to work, Universal Studios.

I spend an unreasonable amount of time thinking about the outbreak. When would it happen? Where would I be when it happened? What would I do if the outbreak happened now? What's my nearest proficient zombie weapon? There are a VERY select few on my zombie survival crew list. In addition to me loving you, you have to live in a close proximity to me because I am not driving across town just to pick your sorry defenseless ass up. Sorry, Conor. If the power still worked I'd be keeping in loose touch with just about everyone in my contacts list.

What is your mentality going into a zombie outbreak? Are you playing to win and survive? Or are you just trying to get your money's worth and pray to get lucky? I think I'd roll with the latter decision. Why, because it's a FUCKING ZOMBIE OUTBREAK. YOU ONLY GET TO DO THIS ONCE. And that one time is a hypothetical addition to the zero times that this will actually happen. You can hole up for a week with little food, or you can go try and be that legendary hero who saves stragglers and ends up being a sacrifice. Either way, you're going to be emotionally distressed. Would you rather see your friends die 0r assume one way or the other with no real closure?

The connection is that this is how I want to die. I don't want AIDS to let me know when death's on my doorstep, I want a zombie outbreak. It would be one fantastic thrilling experience that would make my life worth living. Nothing makes you feel quite as alive as when you are running from people who are animate but are nonetheless dead. Plus, talk about stress relief. If someone I dislike died this summer, it would be awful. I would be overcome with the sadness of loss and not know how to handle it. However, if someone I dislike dies during a zombie outbreak, it's a win! Relatively speaking, people. Hell, I might have to be the one to plug them full of bullets myself! That satisfaction is imaginary to kids like me who know for a fact they'll never have reason to shoot anyone.

Which of your friends would survive an outbreak? Who would you call and make sure to meet up with?

The questions are limitless and begging you to spend the next day thinking about them.

Look, I know, when this happens, the devastation will outweigh the fun. CNN will still be on the air, we will get depressing reports of hordes of people dying. Our militaries will be fighting their own families, blah blah blah. As far as the apocalypse goes, zombies sounds like a fun ass time, and if you can't accept that then you need to have a reality check. Also watch Shaun/Dawn of the Dead. But God, if you're out there apocalypse shopping, and you can't decide between the wall of flame deal or the Mayan calendar cop-out coming in 2012 or a re-airing of the seven deadly plagues or finding a natural-looking alternative, please, go with a zombie outbreak. I hope there is a contingent of scientists striving to seek out the possibility of zombiism and I hope they are successful, and unable to control their findings. I'm going to die eventually. And damn it, if 3 billion others dying along with me paints a prettier picture than so be it. I was terrified of zombies as a child. The concept freaked me out. I want to be given the chance to dole out some payback. It's just like hide and seek tag, only with extreme implications.

Oh, and you'd be playing with these guys.
.......1, 2, 3, NOT IT!

--Eliot Sill

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Reading is hard >:(

So here's a list.

These are ten movies I think every person should see. I'm writing this intro before i actually write my list so we'll see how that goes...

(In no particular order)

1. Hook- This movie is all about the importance of maintaining your sense of childlike wonderment for as long as you live. In my opinion you can never be truly happy unless you can remember how beautiful and full of adventure the world was when you were 10.

2. Ferngully- A children's movie with a blatant political message, who could ask for anything more? Plus there's a sweet ass rap about being a bat done by Robin Williams.

3. War of the Buttons- This movie is about a ragtag group of kids in Ireland who form a sort of gang rivalry with the kids from the next town. There's nothing better than a ragtag group of kids. Especially with Irish accents.

4. Sandlot- Again with the ragtag group of kids. You guys know.

5. Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys- I found this movie randomly in the video store and decided to give it a try. It stars a young Emile Hirsch and Kieran Culkin and it's pretty weird. It's a dark coming of age story that makes you think.

6. Wet Hot American Summer- This movie makes no sense. It's also probably the funniest movie I've ever seen.

7. Wedding Crashers- I'm not sure what about Vince Vaughn makes me absolutely love whatever he's in but i have a comedy crush on him. Pairing him with Owen Wilson has resulted in my favorite comedy of the last few years.

8. Much Ado About Nothing- Shakespeare, but interesting. Even funny. Seriously, you should try it out.

9. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind- This is a really beautiful movie. I don't really like Jim Carey's comedy but I think he is extremely good in this backwards love story.

10. Second Hand Lions- Here is another coming of age story, something I seem to be really into judging by this list. It's hard to explain exactly why I love this movie but I just think it really achieves what it's going for.

11. Dead Poets Society- Honestly one of the best movies I've seen. Another Robin Williams appearance on my list but in a very different role. He is a teacher for a group of prep school boys and opens their eyes to the beauty of poetry.

12. Empire Records- This is a weird but awesome 90's teen movie that I would recommend to everyone. It is funny but not cheesy and has a good soundtrack.

13. Goodfellas- One of the few gangster movies I've seen but it's pretty damn awesome. And makes me want to join the mob.

Alright so that ended up being 13 movies, but I've enever been great at editing.


Nick - Progress and Politics

The following synopsis is highly simplified and almost entirely untrue.

Way back when, some people got into a totally legitimate and consequential argument about how our government should be run. Some people thought that there shouldn't be much of a federal government and local districts should make their own rules. They were called conservatives, because they wanted to conservatively apply a federal government. Then there were people who thought that a strong unified government would best suit the people's interests, and these were called liberals because they wanted to liberally apply a federal government. This argument was more or less resolved by compromise, but people still held onto their opinions on how things should have turned out.

So naturally the two sides moved on to other things to argue about. And pretty soon they chose leaders and became what we call "parties." And the parties changed their views and got all contorted and twisted around and flipped sides several times. Even though our republican and democratic parties have the same names today as they did a long time ago, they have evolved to no longer resemble their ancient selves.

So now we have liberals and conservatives, but the words don't mean what they used to. Gone are the days of debating the application of federal government; neither mainstream party would be willing to change that now. Instead we see the words applied to other things: fiscal responsibility, social values, or regulation. But these don't always make sense. Many liberals claim to be "fiscally conservative," while not all conservatives are "socially conservative," and the conservative party spent more liberally than the liberal party while they held the white house.

So what we are forced to conclude is that these words simply don't mean much anymore. It's come to the point where the primary objective of either party is simply to sabotage the other party; it's become a battle for good standing with the people, waged with petty slogans rather than with policy.

And here is where my commentary on this whole thing begins: we've simply reached a point where policy doesn't sell. Nobody is interested anymore in debating matters of policy; nobody wants to talk about the merits of high-stake derivatives trading regulation because it doesn't get people interested. So instead they argue about whether that same regulation would be a noose around the neck of the free markets, because that's what sells. It's become a media-fueled war for the last word.

And this is all a shame because I think that most normal people who identify with the republican or democratic party could agree on ninety percent of policy issues if they were simply provided with the straight facts. I miss the days of debating Roe vs Wade, because that was a matter of policy; ("Where do the rights of one person begin, and another end?"; "At what point in development does a person have fundamental rights?") and now debate has turned into an all-out brawl, with slogans hurled and little to no fact behind statements made. ("Socializing health care would be akin to death panels."; "Tax cuts for the rich boost the economy.")

The reason I call myself "progressive," even though my views would be called more liberal than conservative, is that I'm not in favor of perpetuating this fight. "Progressive," signifies a want for progress; the ability to move on and make headway rather than continue the petty squabbles of other people. There are times to argue about details, but being progressive means fighting for the ninety percent of things we can all agree on. Things like removing corruption and corporate influence from government and introducing transparency. Things like finding the most efficient and practical health care system through experimentation and studying existing paradigms.

Most of this stuff isn't politics; it's just common sense. Somewhere along the line we lost our fact checkers, and everything is now coming through to us spun one way or the other. If we look at this stuff objectively rather than through the eyes of two competing parties, the answers are usually pretty clear. Once we train ourselves to read the facts for what they are rather than how they are sold, together we can begin to make progress.


Sunday, July 11, 2010

Religious People

--Robert Langellier [usually ignores writings that begin with quotes]

“The apple threw our half-baked fears, like a wooden shoe in the windmill gears. The turning stopped, and we clearly saw the flaws in that which finds the flaw.” – Aaron Weiss from mewithoutYou

Religious People

Those things are crazy. Suffering from a grander and more eternal version of the Santa Claus promise, religious people have bridged the gap between life and death with an infinite candy rainbow called heaven. They sit on their thrones built of hopes and dreams and fear and Pharisitic pomposity, a pedestal that can be knocked over only by the force of actual reality, or the brainpower required to see it. They are scared children who have walled away the enemy of reason and, upon that wall, have painted a picture of what they wish was there instead. To find out they are wrong is unacceptable, because that would make them wrong. And nobody’s wrong. Not if they can say “I’m right!” louder than you, anyway. And so yells the chorus of every religious community chanting their beliefs in a mass reaffirmation of their own volumes. Or more accurately, a mass quelling of insecurities, because they all on some level know that if they doubt, they’ll see, and then they’ll be wrong. And nobody’s wrong.

In fact, some people are SO not wrong that they need everyone they know that they're the rightest. In a universe-sized act of brown nosing, these humble pets of God beg and beg and roll over and shake hands for their treat, or maybe just the table scraps of heaven. To them it's a strategy, one where good deeds are performed in exchange for Heaven Points, and if they acquire enough before death, they'll pass through the shining gates. And when called out, they deny it so loudly that their idiocy is drowned right out, at least to them. It's the kind of scum that would rather die than admit to a fallacy in their belief systems. They're falling off the edge of religion right into their own stupidity.

I have good news for these people. There is no hell. They can stop pretending to love the homeless. They can save their nickels and dimes for the diamond studs around their Bentley steering wheels instead of writing checks of money they’ll never see to invisible charities which they’ll never know the effects of. They are free to be human beings, not puppet zombies carried around to feed off the damned blood of the heathen race until everyone in sight has their own fear buried under a crown of thorns.

I can argue for days with any Evangelist with his head in the clouds, purely for sport and entertainment (because you can’t mold a rock no matter how hard you try). It’s amusing what ridiculous lengths they go to in order to grapple for justifications for their joke of a life. For example, trying to respond to simple questions that have simple answers such as “Why a middle ground between Creation and Afterlife?” “Why was God so wildly active for about a thousand years there and then took a sudden backseat?” And for the progressive, “Who was the first person to barely eke their way over the evolutionary line separating ape and man, and therefore get to go to heaven or hell?”

But you can’t argue with faith. Faith has a slippery way of slithering out of any corner it’s placed in. Citing that no one can possibly understand the works of God is, to a person of faith, an acceptable response to anything that requires more than reason to answer. It's like watching a little kid who just lost a soccer game refuse to accept his failure by demanding victory with all the power vested in his tear ducts and vocal cords. Myself, I would rather die than admit to religion. Faith is wrong. It will always be a plague on humanity, and all I can hope for is that it will successfully kill off all those who are infected, so they can rot in the heavens they worked so hard for. End.


I'll say that lot of heavily religious people quite often say and do some dumb things. But one thing that is certainly dumber and more counterproductive (to any kind of development, on a social or a personal level) is one who despises it in its entirety. This piece was a caricature of a personality that I hate, but I know people who, to some extent, are like what you just read, and it's disturbing to see how moronic and hypocritical and close minded and strictly logical they are (not sarcasm), so I wanted to point that out.

In short, extremism is bad. Embrace ideas (but don't hide in them, either).