Saturday, April 9, 2011

Conor - Diary Of A Road Trip

I know that I'm not exactly going out on a limb here, but I love road trips. It's a good thing, too, because I spent 12 hours in a car today. Norman, Oklahoma to Champaign-Urbana, Illinois. 696 miles, according to Google Maps. A little over 2 tanks of gas. Approximately $100 went into this trek today, including the Oil Change required by the guy who let my friend and I borrow his car.

Here in Champaign, in approximately 5 hours from tonight, there will be a Frisbee Tournament hosted by the University of Illinois. Hat Tournaments are casual, for fun Ultimate tournaments where you sign up as individuals rather than teams and meet lots of new Ultimate folks. U of I is where several of my best friends go to school, and my good friend Kevin Kingsley also has several connections here seeing as how he's from Chicago, so when I was informed of this tournament a couple weeks ago by Wednesday Eliot we both immediately agreed. Without really considering how money and effort this would all take. But like the champions we are Kevin and I stuck to our poor decision, signed up for the tournament and hoped that everything would work itself out.

Things did, which I mean, hey, that's pretty rad. We borrowed our friend Spencer's car and ended up making what might be considered the most successful visit to my home in Springfield ever. It lasted 5 minutes and I left the house with hundreds of dollars, 2 bananas, a bottled water and 4 boxes of girl scout cookies. Score.

I'm here in Eliot's room, a little over 12 hours after Kevin and I left Norman and while I'm super excited for tomorrow, some of the best parts of the weekend have already gone by.

As Kevin put it, "road trips are awesome because they enable me to show off my ability to do nothing for extremely long amounts of time." Road Trips are an uneventful, boring, tiring, costly blast. For 12 hours Kevin and I sat there and did nothing, together, and I'm looking forward to doing the same thing on Sunday. Kevin and I don't normally sit around and just chat about our lives, but today we had no choice but enjoy eachothers company and listen to music.

We talked about how badass classical music is, the comedic potential of texting while beating people at things, this guy I heard about who biked across basically the entire world, Ultimate Frisbee, the University of Oklahoma, Daft Punk, the Dark Knight, how stupid it is that Spencer's passenger seat can't lean back, how it's apparently embarrassing that I haven't seen the Patriot, and of course, road trips. I got to briefly point out important Springfield landmarks to him, like Steak n' Shake, that church parking lot where I throw around with Eli and Harless when I'm back home, Springfield High School, the State Capitol, the Lincoln Museum.

I just spent half a day watching short, horizontal lines pass me by at 75 miles per hour. The country side got more and more boring as we neared Illinois, and the weather got worse. We got lost as we left Springfield for Champaign, which was a little embarrassing, and I spent my entire tenure as driver terrified of cops because I lost my wallet and therefore don't have my ID.

I'm tired, I'm not going to get enough sleep tonight, I don't know how well I'm going to fare in this tournament tomorrow, the weather looks like it's going to be pretty shitty. I'm excited, too.

Wish me luck?

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Title Tracks

by Brendan Cavanagh

So my entire post was just deleted. I don't have the time nor the fortitude to rewrite the whole thing, so here's a slimmer facsimile of my original post:

Plain and simple, I wish movies these days emulated those of the '60s. Back then, a plethora of movies employed the use of a current pop song as the main theme and prominent part of the movie. For instance:

One. To Sir, With Love (1967)
           --"To Sir, With Love" by Lulu
               -The "Inspirational Teacher Movie Ending" that we so hungrily crave
Two. The Graduate (1967)
           --"Mrs. Robinson" and "The Sound of Silence" by Simon & Garfunkel
               -Poppy, jangly acoustic guitar and youthful harmonies evocative of the '60s
Three. Midnight Cowboy (1969)
           --"Everybody's Talkin'" by Harry Nilsson & Fred Neil
               -Alienating and howling for comfort in a city of strangers
Four. M*A*S*H (1970)
           --"Suicide Is Painless" by Johnny Mandel & Mike Altman
               -cynical realization that the pain that builds over time can be avoided in a voluntary instant

Feel free to offer other examples.

A bit of fantasia

I saw the best pianist in the world Tuesday night.

Well, maybe not THE best, but one of the premier performing pianists in the world beat the shit out of some under-qualified grand at the local concert hall and did it unlike anyone I have or will ever see.

Concert pianists may be less popular than Arcade Fire, but they are better at making music. (Not necessarily making music up.) Play the following video, if you would:

This is a great pianist playing a great piece greatly. You don't need to watch (he looks like a dead person anyway), but listen for the intricacies and the emotions.

That's where it starts: emotion. That's why we invented music. We needed to get some emotions out so we started yelling, then we started making our yells sound good, chanting, making songs, and developing the invention that was music.

Emotion is why we seek out music. It fulfills the need for emotion in a very enjoyable way. It's why emo and metal and reggae are popular niche genres. And why my mom thinks all rappers are angry. Anyone talking that fast and loud must be mad at someone.

Anyway, music isn't only heard, it's also seen. Not literally, mind you, but you never listen to music without seeing things. Whether you're walking to class and a song comes on that perfectly aids your strut and puts all those mindless drones walking to class around you in their place, or it's a music video that gives the song a more concrete context, music and images were meant to accompany each other. That's why movies have songs and songs have videos.

As I sat in the second row of the Foellinger Concert Hall, all I saw was a piano. A grand, a big grand, but an old one that didn't have the sleek sports car look to it that you would expect for a piano player as prestigious as Mr. Andsnes. Mr. who? Oh, Leif Ove Andsnes is the name of the guy I saw. Anyway, this piano was respectable but certainly no sports car. It was pretty much all that was in front of me. A boring display, provided I couldn't see his hands.

When Mr. Andsnes came out, he looked for a second like the crowd made him nervous, then he remembered that he was about to wow the shit out of them, and his face turned to a look of disappointment, because he knew this place should be packed. Because he remembered how damn good he was.

He sat down at the bench, greeting the piano, took a breath and a moment, placed his hands on the keys, ready to begin. No, he wasn't ready. Not ready enough. He took them back down and took a couple more moments and thought whatever a pianist of his stature thinks before attacking. (That, or he couldn't remember how his piece started.) Then he begins.

Whoa. He makes the piano bend to his every whim, not only controlling what notes resound, but for how long, at what volume, and maybe this was just me, but carrying whichever message he so desired.

He started with some Beethoven. Let me take a second here. Beethoven is the fucking man. There's bad weed, there's good weed, and there's whatever KiD CuDi smokes (Maui Wowie is it?) that gets you high and shows you the secrets to life. Beethoven will get you high and show you the secrets to life. All of this according to my brother, because, uh, I don't listen to classical music (yet!).

Anyway, as he was playing this, I couldn't see his fingers, which I wanted to. After amusing myself by admiring his intense facial expressions, I did what Walt Disney has programmed me to do. I Fantasia'd. I closed my eyes, imagining the notes as events, lines, shapes, whatever. They sprung around, not necessarily to life, but nonetheless in a lively manner. This worked great for Beethoven. On his second piece, some Brahms ballades, I Fantasia'd too hard and began to dream a bit. I woke up as the piece was ending, but in my defense, I had been up for 14 hours on six hours sleep. Actually when I write that out it doesn't look that unreasonable. Damn. Anyway, at intermission I slugged a Coke and headed to the front row at a different position where I could see his hands.

He played some modern piece. Modern, uh, "classical" music? Sucks. It's awful and sounds like fleem-floom-fleh. Literally sing that aloud and you will hear what it sounds like. But, Andsnes poured everything he had into making those fleems and flehs into emotional expressions, and by golly he pulled it off. It's a stressful listen, one where you really hope the next note is a logical good-sounding transition from the last, most always to no avail. But I guess that's the point. My favorite moment of the concert occurred during this song.

He hits a chord with his hands, yanks them back to his sides, clenches his right hand into a fist (presumably his left as well) and lurches his upper torso forward and shoots the piano a look, as if he just found a piece of paper in the guts of the piano that reads "it's not actually your baby." (No, not a relieved look, he wanted the kid in this case.) Then, after a pause measured in heartbeats, he resumes playing.

The final piece, again Beethoven, was the most technically impressive of the four. His fingers went apeshit. It was awesome. The show wasn't over however, we did the whole "he's leaving, keep clapping, he's back, keep clapping, he's leaving, keep clapping, he's back, keep clapping, he's sitting down, shut up he's playing" thing and he played a modest encore, then we did the aforementioned clap routine again and he came out for a second encore and played us something to go home on. It is my mission (still in progress) to find out what the second one was. I don't know. Also there's no YouTube video because apparently that shit ain't allowed so I can't ask someone.

Anyway, I was amazed. He played the crap out of the piano. And, Hopefully you've been listening to Mr. Rubinstein. He's pretty damn good. Still not sold on the "classical music evokes emotion" thing yet? Good. Rubinstein's a chode. He's good, but he's got nothing on my boy Leif Ove Andsnes. Proof? Of course. Enjoy.

He, and his orchestra, play this song better. Way better (in God's opinion) than Mr. Rubinstein. Piano performance goes beyond hitting notes (what I thought it was in like third grade) and into unchartable realms of emotional expression. Andsnes speaks better through ivory keys than he does through his English, as he is from Norway (REPPIN'!).

After this concert, my roommate invited me to Piano Man, which has been brought up in this blog before. I decided that after seeing the best pianist I would ever see in my life, it wasn't in my best interests to watch some drunk guy hammer out approximated Lady Gaga while I frantically downed Long Island Iced Teas to catch up to my friends' lack of sobriety.

I've never appreciated classical music as much as I should, I mean, my mom took me to the symphony when I was like seven. I was so borrrrred. Only when they played, like, In the Hall of the Mountain King, could I get into it. But now I've grown up, and with half my family being classical musician fans (and the other half being stupid) (just kidding, guys) I can really appreciate why NPR plays that stuff to death. Its emotional ups and downs mirror the plight of life itself. Whoa.

--Eliot Sill

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

I'm Changing My Major!

Haha not really because I'm not an idiot.

My post today is about nothing.

So a few weeks ago I got an event invitation to Tom's A Day Without Shoes. I thought this sounded like a really fun challenge and I immediately accepted. I was totally down for walking across campus barefoot and feeling like a badass in class. Well the day finally came around (today) and I started to have my doubts. Who else is doing this day without shoes? Will anyone get what I'm doing? Also it's really cold. But whatever, I decided to stick it out.

I got ready fro my 9am lecture and decided to throw a pair of moccasins into my backpack just in case. Then I walked out of my building onto the cold concrete and took a deep breath. This was gonna suck. When I got on my bike I realized I had never noticed how freaking sharp and made of knives my pedals were. Whatever, I'm fine. Then as I'm riding I do not see a single person barefoot other than myself and it occurs to me that I look crazy. Plus my feet are freezing in the 35 degree wind to the point where they feel hot. Next it occurs to me that if anyone asks about why I am not wearing shoes I have very little to tell them about the cause. I don't even own Toms. I feel like a fool and put my shoes back on as soon as I reach my class.

That was a story about a lack of commitment.

A lot of times I feel it unnecessary to go to class. No one's gonna notice anyway, so I don't. I've been trying to change that recently and turn over a new leaf.  Today I had my backpack all packed when I went to lunch and was going to leave from eating to my calc discussion. When I got up at a quarter til my friend Rachel said "look at you going to class on time". For some reason this just felt so wrong and I decided that I wanted nothing more than a nap. So I went and took one.

That was another story of a lack of commitment.

Last Thursday I played in an intermural soccer game and got my ankle destroyed by a guy much bigger than me. It swelled up instantly and hurt so bad the next day that I didn't go to my classes and got it x-rayed instead (it's fine, just really bruised). My foot is still a dark purple and hasn't resturned to its normal size but I my team was scrimmaging today and I wanted nothing more than to join them. My ankle started hruting as soon as I started running but I ended up playing for almost 45 minutes before I just couldn't take how much it hurt.

This is a story about too much commitment to the wrong things.

Priorities are hard.


Monday, April 4, 2011

Nick - Starcraft

I think too often we fall into the trap of thinking that we know everything about a certain subject. We become so confident in our opinion that we forget to keep an open mind. I am firmly of the opinion that the only way to be right most of the time is to be completely open minded. To be willing to listen to the evidence or the opinion of someone else. To recognize that oftentimes humility is the only way to achieve understanding.

This is why I have chosen today to write about something of which I have no semblance of understanding.

God only knows what is happening in this picture. Well, god and Michael Vilim down the hall. Michael is crazy awesome at Starcraft. I really enjoy watching him play it, even though I usually have no idea what is going on.

Here is how I understand Starcraft to work: it's an extremely fast-paced game where you build some guys, and then you make your guys fight the other guy's guys. And, uh, sometimes there are forcefields? Also, Starcraft players like to use their own words that they make up. Here are some of them:

gg: This means good game. You say it when you're about to give up or beat somebody.
gl hl: I don't know what this means, but people say it at the beginning of matches all the time. I'm pretty sure Michael has explained it to me at least ten times.
Zerg Rush: I didn't really know what this meant, but I hear Michael say it all the time in a panicked voice, so I typed it into Google to get the picture at the top of this post.
DT: I'm told it stands for "Dark Templar," which apparently can fly around and are hard to find?

Michael owning some noobs.
Michael won the last Starcraft tournament at our dorm. He also set up and ran the first one. For the final match, we had a giant TV screen set up in a room full of people and we live broadcasted the match. Michael let me co-commentate with him. I want you to briefly picture me co-commentating a game of Starcraft. I imagine it was very similar to me co-commentating a basketball game.

Here's how that match went: Michael would explain what was going on, and then I would make open-ended blanket statements. Like, "it looks like he's employing an interesting strategy. We'll see how this develops later in the match," or, "this could spell trouble for his opponent if he doesn't do something about it."

I have also tried to play exactly one game of Starcraft in my life. I decided that I wanted air power, so I just built a bunch of airship factories. I started churning out airships called "Medivacs" until I had a whole fleet in my base. And then I waited for my opponent to attack.

As it turns out, Medivacs are only healing units. It was brutal. Never has a less effective air force been assembled.


Robert - Like Saturday, Like Sunday

That's a "like father, like son" joke, except with days of the week, like how Classic writes on Saturday and I do on Sunday. Ok, bad start. Also, what I write here will mostly apply to the people who know me. Another bad start. But remember how Classic stuck it to the man by throwing a finger to math, practical life decisions and his future when he switched his major to film studies?

I'm doing that. (I think.) I'm not positive yet, because I've only been bouncing the idea around my head and others' heads for about a week now, but fuuuuck journalisssmmm. It sucks. So far, journalism is reporting. It is going to crappy events, conducting interviews, shuffling facts, vacuuming out your soul through a pen, avoiding any kind of offense to all demographics both real and invented, editing, double editing, emails, triple editing, brutal hours, and frowns. I don't like it. I think I can safely assume it gets more enjoyable in the upper level classes, when I can actually get into investigatory journalism and magazine writing, but I don't know that that's enough for me. There's the fear that I'll dig through all the shit of college, get out, and be hammered by debt. My banks will cast me into a corner at gunpoint, where I'll begin my entry-level news reporting job at the local town gazette. From there my career spins off and sidetracks, and before I know it, I'm 46 years old with a wife and three kids, working at a dead-end job I will never love. Because there are very few jobs available in journalism these days, and there are very few journalism jobs I would actually love doing. And journalism is the idealistic, poverty-stricken major I boldly set out for with wide eyes last autumn.

So journalism is not idealistic enough for me. I won't settle until I've exchanged my impending lower-5-figure salary for a 4-figure. That's a joke. (I think.) Anyway, two weeks ago I had no intention of leaving journalism. One week ago, I gave myself a 10% chance of kissing it goodbye. After bringing it up and talking about it with some other people, I'm at around 51%. That's a fast change. And a big one, so I'm sticking with journalism at least until next year. I don't think I'll decide on anything until around the fall or spring semester. But there's still the chance I'll be deciding.

Creative writing. Oh my god.

What a stupid major. What a stupid, stupid major, but that's what I want to do. Journalism is a major where there are limited jobs. Creative writing is a major where there are literally 0 jobs. Okay, maybe like 10. A negligible amount. But that's what I want to do. I'm tired of pragmatics. I'm tired of planning and growing up and schedules and working hard for no return and emails. God I'm so tired of emails. I'm sick of holding off on doing what I love and replacing it with obligations. Are you really going to be an investigatory journalist for that major magazine or outlet and find or make the time on the side to write a novel? Are you really, Robert? Shit noooo. So I have a decision to make. 1) Poverty. Discontent. 2) Desperate poverty.