Saturday, September 4, 2010

The Novelty Has Already Worn Off

College was this big deal when we got here and for the months leading up to our arrival. We were all nervous and apprehensive and stressed out about all the preparation. Everyone was concerned about how the responsibility and workload might affect them. It was mind blowing to be living on our COLLEGE! For like...2 days.

It dawned on me today that it really is no longer weird to live like this. Everything's kind of fallen into routine, just like it did in Springfield. Granted, it's a much more exciting routine. And that's not to say that there isn't variety. It IS college after all. But it's a routine nonetheless, and I enjoy it. My classes for this semester are all required and are nothing special or terribly exciting, but I just enjoy the whole sort of block schedule thing much more than our high school system. I've adapted to the fact that homework is rarely due the next day, and no teacher is going to be there to hold your hand if you don't understand something. Not to say that there isn't help available (TAs have office hours and tutoring is available), but you have to man the fuck up and take initiative here if you want to thrive and succeed. Make an effort to stand out or fade into the woodwork. The choice is always yours here. And although that isn't always an easy concept for us to grasp, I fucking like that.

There are so many opportunities here. For instance, I tried out for a comedy group called Fishing With Dynamite, and although I didn't end up making the cut, I'm still glad I tried it because I had fun with it and it made me realize that sketch comedy isn't really for me. Also, all the Springfield people there were way funnier than the senior group members. They sucked. However, on a better note, I joined this group called The Illini Media Street Team. Basically, companies hire us to promote their products. This entails me getting a lot of free shit (or "swag" as it's apparently called here) and yelling at random people walking by about how awesome the shit I'm selling is. I get to help run tailgate in the upcoming football game, and guess what motherfuckers, I get free Famous Dave's. I'm excited to see what else I can be a part of here.

I saw my family today for the first time since I've been here, and it was nice. I miss them, but I can't really say I'm homesick. This is my home now. That isn't to say I won't go back to Springfield and visit, because I will and I'll enjoy it, but I don't have a burning need to do so.
I'm glad everything has fallen into its place.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Brendan Cavanagh and the Unnatural Obsession

With the release date for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part One rapidly advancing, I feel obliged to do my duty as an overgrown fanboy and dedicate today's post to man I've loved since I was seven: Harry Potter.

That's right! I'm still obsessed with all things Potter-related. I'm a Potterphile, or a Pothead or something like that. And I have the DVDs, soundtracks, trading cards, chocolate frog cards, action figures and curiously-similar articles of clothing as the movie character to prove it. The story behind my obsession is a rather thrilling tale, I might add, so dip your face into this Pensieve here and let me take you back about eleven years ago...

Sometime before I turned eight, probably in the late winter of 1999, I was just getting used to second grade and doing what I loved best at the time, which was voraciously consuming a wide array of books- Clue-themed mysteries, the Magic Tree House series, and a "classic" novel here and there that I picked off the shelf that no one neared (I once borrowed a copy of The Last of the Mohicans, last checked out by my dad in the early seventies). One night my mom decided to introduce me to something new, something she figured I would enjoy, since I enjoyed employing my imagination while reading (how else could I discover mummies in morning or swim with dolphins at daybreak?). She presented me with a paper-back copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, and I sat down to read it immediately (I usually read about three books at a time back in the day...oh juvenile Brendan, where are you now?).

I began the first paragraph and was introduced to Vernon Dursley of 4 Privet Drive, who produced drills for an important company called Grunnings, and promptly tossed the book onto the shelf on the other side of the room, thinking to myself, "What a boring book. Let's see what the Animorphs are cooking up!" Thus ended my first experience in the long relationship to come with Harry Potter. Things stayed dormant for a couple months, until I don't know what happened, maybe I felt bad for judging a book by the first paragraph (let this be a lesson to you, kids- don't judge a book by its cover), but all I remember is that there was a veritable explosion- I became infatuated with the three books already released in the series. My earliest memory of reading HP is during the St. Agnes Read-In, where us second graders brought sleeping bags to school, dressed in our jammies and curled up all day with our favorite books. I think I just brought two: The Sorcerer's Stone and The Chamber of Secrets, and I'm pretty sure I read both of them within the space of about five hours. Which is pretty crazy for a just-turned eight year old.

For the next several months, literally all I read were the two aforementioned books, as well as their sequel, The Prisoner of Azkaban. At this point it was cute- little Brendan found his first true passion since Thomas the Tank Engine, let's watch him go! To encourage this obsession, my dear mother once again stepped in and signed me up for a contest without telling me, one which allowed 500 lucky readers across America to have a copy of The Goblet of Fire shipped to their door on the day of its release. That day, I woke up early and begged and pleaded with my mom to take me to Barnes & Noble to buy this book, which she consented to do, but only after Grandma came over for a little coffee and a chat. AHHHHHHHHHH OMG JUST HURRY UP ALREADY GRANDMA. Grandma finally said those magic words, "Well! Looks like I should probably get going..." (YEAH PROBABLY). I graciously and speciously offered her my arm and walked her to the door with the intent of escorting her to her car in order to get her off my hands so I could jump into the backseat of our van and await our departure. So we get to the front door and there's a big yellow package laying at the bottom of the door frame with my name on it. Consequently, I dropped Grandma's hand from mine and inspected the package 'cause, come on, who doesn't like getting a package (sorry Grandma)? To my incredulity and wonder, it was a new, mint-condition copy of The Goblet of Fire! In my sheer euphoria and inability to come to grips with reality, I began to LOL as I sat Indian-style in the doorway, hugging my new Harry Potter book. "Oh ho ho! I nearly tripped over that when I walked in this morning, I meant to tell you!" WHAAAAAAAT GRANDMA. Whatever. I had mine.

Then for the next year almost all I read (and re-read) was Harry Potter. At this point now, my parents began to get a little nervous. "Why is this kid so enchanted with a make-believe wizard?" they probably thought, though not to themselves. They approached me one night as I lay curled up on my bed reading one of the four HP books and advised me to move on to another book. "You spend far too much time reading this silly Harry Potter series. It's all good, but you need to expand your horizons instead of devoting all your time to HP. We love you, honey, but we think you're a little too old for this." Ouch. That really stung. When they left the room, I thought long and hard about their words. Half a second later I dived right back into my book and read on. Oh yeah, and then there was one time in September of my eleventh year when on the way to school, my mom turned to me and said, "You know you're not going to Hogwarts this year, right?" My parents really didn't invest a lot of faith in me. But I knew what I was doing. Suckers.

2001 was a big year for us. We saw the release of book #5, The Order of the Phoenix, which featured the first major death (sorry Cedric, but no one saw you as that pivotal to the 4th book). In that year we also saw the first movie come out. This was huge- for once we were not asked to rely simply upon our own ideas of what characters looked like while reading the books. Finally we could watch our favorite books played out on screen! However, it seems like a lot of people really hate the film series. I don't like to look at the movies as attempts to directly adapt the book to the screen- maybe during the first viewing- but instead I like to see how the movie entertains me. As I've stated before, I really like Rupert Grint, and I think Daniel Radcliffe is hilarious, and there are so many talented actors and actresses in the movies that make it cooler to watch, it sort of brings these great talents to the same level as me- we all take some sort of stock in the series.

I'm running out of time, so let me try to speed things up here. I grew up and began to attend midnight releases of the following books, starting with Order of the Phoenix. It was always my pleasure to stay up late and wait out for my copy of the book, take it home and read until I fell asleep. My goal each time was always to finish it within the day, which may or may not have happened. Then once I was old enough to be out really late on my own, I started, once again with the Order of the Phoenix, to attend the midnight premiers of the movies. This was a great way to see great movies with my friends and make memories. OBVIOUSLY, I dressed up for all these events! To sum it up, midnight releases were awesome- you could get sorted into houses, drink and eat Harry Potter-themed snacks, find people who were equally as obsessed as you and have a magical good time.

I realize only now that there are so many side stories involved with this topic, so I'll save all that and leave you guys with this:

I don't know why I fell in love with the series as much as I have. I guess I just read it at the right age- I literally grew up with Harry, Ron and Hermione. Sure, I didn't battle dark wizards or compete in Triwizard Championships, but I've always found that the most readable, enjoyable and identifying themes throughout the series are those that I myself have experienced, too- love, friendship, school, family, death. At times, it may have seemed like I was bordering on the fanatic side, but I think with every similar jacket or shirt I bought or every extra inch I let my hair grow over my face I was just attempting to identify with Harry even further.

I used to get told all the time that I looked like Harry Potter or Daniel Radcliffe, and I loved it. When I went to the midnight release of Half-Blood Prince, a gaggle of girls screamed and ran up to me, asking for my autograph because they thought Daniel Radcliffe decided to stop by Springfield, Illinois for the night. As I got older, though, I sort of got tired of hearing it, much like Harry tires of being told he looks like his father (but with his mother's eyes). Now that I look quite different than I used to, I sort of miss hearing those comments. It's not that I want to look like this again, but I miss the innocence of my youth, of my Harry Potter days. It was tough reading that last page of The Deathly Hallows, and it'll be even tougher to see the credits roll for The Deathly Hallows Part Two. But I'm so looking forward to it anyway.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Making the Leap

Today was supposed to be a busy day.

I was supposed to wake up at nine for school, go to classes, come back to my dorm for lunch, go to more classes, go get an interview with a guy at Buzz Magazine, then take a test for the Daily Illini to see if I'm worthy of writing for them, then I was supposed to come home and study and read and work until I finished then watch tv for an hour and go to bed.

Like, half of that happened.

First off, I woke up at 11:30, meaning I missed two classes. Shit. Shit, shit, shit. I spend all Summer writing about how much I want to change my ways so I don't end up screwing up college. Good start, me. As a saving grace to manner though it seems as if those weren't the most necessary classes to attend. Not that I'm ever doing that again. Once is a mistake. Twice is a habitual problem. At least that's what I keep telling myself.

I went down for "lunch" (a bowl of Coco Puffs, what else?) and left for my 1 PM poetry class. Poetry is a class that at first I intended on dropping, then I intended on getting this one girl's phone number and THEN dropping, and then I realized that this was like the easiest class and the only reason I would have for dropping is if I was self-conscious about being in a poetry class. What a douche I would be. So I went there and seamlessly incorporated Facebooking and poetic analysis (I acknowledge that it sounds like I'm doing a shitty job at college but all we did was talk about words in these poems. They brought up blueblack in the Robert Hayden poem and all kinds of words and words combinations in the Gertrude Stein poem we read. See! I pay attention!).

From there I went to my sportswriting class which I'm sort of secretly in love with. It's in a cold room in a basement and it's three hours long and there's so much to not like about it yet I love it and hang on every word. We had a guest speaker come in and tell us how hard life is if you want to be a reporter. Fuck her. Don't you dare squash my dreams you snobbish succubus. Just kidding. I really liked how she wanted to talk to us and tell us that this will be hard. I am so up for the challenge because, shit, you guys know I can write. (I agree with you, he IS an asshole). But also know that I don't lack motivation at all. I will do whatever it takes to make it in some form or fashion. Anyway, after she finished her spiel (thanks, Dylan!) and we went from there to the Daily Illini headquarters. First off, I got a newspaperboner just looking at their set up. Still in withdrawal from not being able to be on the staff of The Senator (which is a class and production better than that of SHG's stupid Campus Crier), this brought me everything that had and more (with the exception of Ms. Negele). The paper comes out daily, which, duh, it's called the Daily Illini, but still. Damn. Everyone who's been part of a high school newspaper knows that takes a lot. And secondly, the sports editor guys seems really cool and down to earth. Also when I asked him what the DI's alumni have gone on to do, he included reporting for the Green Bay Press Gazette, which is like the number one newspaper I would want to work for as a career. I didn't have to leave to take my test. I did it right there and then I went home and, realizing I had nothing to do, took a nap. Then I got up and started writing this.

Where hath my day of tumults gone?

Oh well. The point of my post is actually this: everything I do here is for everything I will do hereafter. What does that mean? My summer jobs will be semi-professional. My extracurricular activities will become my curricular activities. I'm learning how to do shit that I will do forever, and there seems to be one common theme throughout it all. That theme is one of increased difficulty and less sympathy for those who don't make it. I've been so enraptured in making the leap from high school to college, and now I'm here. So, what's next? Hit the ground running, because this next leap is bigger, badder, and, bam, it's here right now.

Mada, Nick, Classic and I all tried out for a sketch comedy troupe here called Fishing With Dynamite. In Springfield, a sketch comedy troupe would be excited for our coming out to audition. Here? Mada got called back and didn't make it. Go team. I'm not even mad, those guys weren't funny, just good actors. The audition was basically a line-reading contest and the whole idea is devoid of spontaneous thought. Sketch comedy I guess just isn't my thing. There will be two more auditions for my comedic career before I throw in the towel and turn to summer freelancing as my only form of theatre. One is a longform improv troupe which, for those of you who know what it is, just plays Montage for about an hour. That's cool, but, I mean, I always liked playing Freeze Tag anyway. The other is for a short form improv troupe, which I sort of hope to make. It's more the traditional Whose Line games that are easy and fun to play. If I make either of those I'll be ecstatic. If not, then I guess they aren't looking for funny people. Their loss.

Also with this Daily Illini thing, the pressure is on. I have a University wide circulation and a bunch of people hating my guts if I miss a deadline. Much different than the heat of everyone my age or older on The Senator staff. I want to do well on the Daily Illini, and other than that, I want to add other interning opportunities to my resume. I need this stuff if I want to make the leap.

You guys reading this post, I'm sure most of you have somewhere you're trying to leap to as well. You're trying to get from somewhere to somewhere else. There's not as much help administered as there used to be. You have to go and find it for yourself. You have to be damn good at what you do and you have to care about being damn good. I'll never be Brett Favre or Allen Iverson. I'll never be the President of the United States. I'll never care to be a lawyer or doctor and I'll probably make less money than those who pursue those career options. I've given up my pipe dreams, because it's time to start being realistic. The fact is, it is entirely possible that me or someone I hold very close to myself may swing and miss in this world. And while we do live in America, the land of second (and third, etc.) chances, it has always been a tough thing for me to see someone doing something when they really want to be doing something else. I'd like to convince myself that all my friends are the best and that they'll never fail at what they do but, sometimes that's just untrue.

So it's my turn to jump. And though this metaphorical leap is stretched over the course of a four year period, in the grand scheme of things, it's all one instance. One instance where the decision will be made whether I'm a pass or a fail. So for now I've got to continue on my running start and make the second leap. The big one. The only advice I can think to give myself is this: don't look back. But, more importantly, don't look down.

--Eliot Sill

What?? It's not Wednesday...

So one of the awesome things about going to U of I is the oppurtunity to see bands tht would never come to Springfield. between the Canopy Club and the Assembly Hall, my options are pretty good.

Tonight I will be seeing Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin with opener Santahhh at the Canopy Club. Awesome. The tickets were only ten dollars and I was literally able to buy them on the way to class.

The next show I'm going to try to attend is Passion Pit. Now I really only know two songs by Passion Pit (Moth's Wings and Sleepyhead), but it still seems like it's going to be one awesome body paint, drug filled party.

Other awesome upcoming shit:

-The Pygmalion Music Festival which includes Of Montreal, Built To Spill, Surfer Blood, Ted Leo & the Pharmacists and some other bands I don't really know.

-Broadway touring companies of Spring Awakening, Grease and a Chorus Line will also be making a stop at the Assembly Hall

So If nothing else is ever good about college at least I'll come out in four years a little more culutured.


Monday, August 30, 2010

Nick - What I've Learned So Far

Two people walk into a party.

Guy number one walks in and starts talking to anyone who will listen, about nothing in particular. He doesn't have any cleverly thought out conversation openers. He doesn't ask any good questions, either. Generally he will see somebody, or a group of somebodies, who aren't talking and he will walk up to them and ask their names and maybe what major they are and what dorm they live in.

Meanwhile, guy number two isn't nearly as brazen. He walks in and enjoys the scenery; he looks around at the people present and just smiles watching them all dance around and do stupid things. He likes looking at people talking animatedly, simply because it's novel.

Guy number one walks up to a group of people and chats with them. It becomes pretty clear that they either don't like his personality or else just don't feel like talking with him at the moment. So our guy politely excuses himself from conversation after a little while and walks away with a bitter taste in his mouth.

Guy number two stands around for a little bit, gets a drink and drinks it very slowly so that he has something to do. Then a group of people walk up to him and initiate conversation. He's caught a little bit off guard (after all, why would they be wanting to talk to him?) but he answers their questions politely, if a little bit minimally. The group of people eventually moves on, and guy two stands around. He's grateful that he got to meet those people, but he's a little bit upset with himself. Why couldn't he have been more interesting? He should have been cooler with his responses, he tells himself. Maybe next time.

Back at the ranch, guy number one has found a new group of people to talk to. And they seem pretty cool. Cool enough, in fact, that he forgets all about the earlier groups of people who didn't care to be his friends. And he has fun and meets new people and all is well for guy number one. Eventually the party winds down and guy number one leaves with pretty much everybody else, but he gets some of their numbers on his way out. And even though he probably won't call them much, if at all, he's happy just knowing that he will probably run into them around.

Guy number two sees the party winding down, so he decides to head home. Really, he wonders, what's the big deal? There isn't much to do at these parties anyway. He could have had way more fun had he stayed home and watched a movie with some close friends. He isn't upset or bitter, he simply doesn't understand why people get so much enjoyment out of these things.


Sunday, August 29, 2010

An Artgument

--Robert Langellier

There are some things I don’t want to understand. “Hoppipolla” by Sigur Ros, “re: stacks” by Bon Iver, whatever e.e. cummings is getting at with his stupid poems, or Chopin’s piano compositions are a few immediate examples at first thought, but in a grander sense, I don’t want to understand the essence of musical and physical writing in general. I don’t want to boil them down to a mathematical formula, for then, where’s the great mystery? Part of the enjoyment I get out of writing music is the fact that I don’t in the slightest way understand music. I know basic aspects of theory, but for the most part I’m blindly forcing my hand into a vast mystery and trying to somehow pull out and shape something relatable and beautiful. To me it’s only beautiful because I don’t know what the hell I’m doing. I can sort of learn about myself through my unconscious stream.

The problem I see with a formulaic breakdown of art is that, although it helps establish the focus and discipline required to create it, it also really ironically takes a little passion out of the artist. There’s no passion in a calculation when art becomes a job or an obligation, which I’ve learned through many, many classes and lectures on prose writing. If a film major and a preteen girl step into a theater to see a new movie, one of them might marvel at the love between the characters, or the sentiment of a scene, but will spend a lot of time mentally disassembling the lighting, stage design, acting, dialogue, plot development, shot angles, soundtrack, editing, camera quality, and other aspects I’m not even aware of. The other will be swept up and away by the emotions of the moments. It seems like the only people who can’t be moved by great art are the ones who truly understand how the parts make up the whole.

There’s joy in discovery. For an innocent or ignorant person creating art is a new and revelational experience. It’s a venture into the unknown, a step into darkness, and a manifestation of the secret channels of the subconscious. Creation is a birth; art is. Without innocence there’s no growing. Without ignorance there’s no learning. That (at least to me) is the quintessential climax of art: when it’s done without any great pre-understanding. To be moved is to be in awe, and to be in awe of something is to be in the presence of something greater than yourself. I’d rather feel awe than see why I do. It’s a mystery I don’t particularly need to have solved. I don’t want to understand, not right now anyway. Maybe I’ll be dumb forever. I guess we'll see.