Saturday, May 28, 2011

My Bear Snuggles

"Annie, don't you ever put that bear down?", sneered her mother's boyfriend, Ted.

"No, she doesn't", replied Annie's mother, an edge of frustration in her voice. "We can't get her to let go of the damn thing. It's probably the only friend the little snot has..."

Annie sat quietly in the corner, seemingly unaffected by the insults. She rarely ever spoke anyway. She was content to nibble at her meal and stare deeply into Snuggles's eyes, as if they were mentally having a very important conversation with one another.

Snuggles wasn't much to look at. By many little girls' standards, he would be considered ugly. He was old and rather dingy. He had a crooked smile and was covered haphazardly in stitching from the many times he had ripped. Annie took good care of Snuggles, but sometimes her mother, when she was drunk, would try to take her bear from her, which almost always ended in a tug-of-war between the two of them. Annie always won because her mother was a clumsy drunk and Annie was exceptionally strong for a little girl, but Snuggles did not always escape injury. Of course her mother did not care enough to try and mend the teddy bear for her, so Annie always had to do it herself after her mother had passed out for the night.

"Well, can't you make her?", said Ted, his voice laden with contempt. "Little girls should do as they're told. If she were my kid I'd make her." He got up out of his chair, knocking it over in the process. Annie did not react as it clattered to the floor. She did not even look up. She just kept staring into Snuggles's deep black eyes.

Ted stumbles over towards her, the contents of the bottle he was holding splashing all over the floor along the way. "Hey, you stupid little girl! Fucking look at me when I talk to you! Are you deaf or something!?" He pulled his foot back to kick her, but at that moment, Annie looked up. She met his gaze unflinchingly, her steely blue eyes burning into his dull, watery browns. Ted froze, transfixed.

"What is it, Ted!? Did that little bitch hurt you? Why are you just standing there like that?", shouted Annie's mother.

Ted couldn't move. His brain was screaming at his foot to continue forward, but nothing happened. Was he having a seizure or something? He didn't understand. He started to panic, his alcohol-inhibited mind struggling to come up with an answer.

And then he realized. It was Annie. With a mere glance, she had paralyzed him. She had resumed staring at Snuggles now, but Ted still couldn't move. His panic was quickly replaced by a wave of utter terror. And then the pain came. His whole body felt like it was on fire, as if his muscles were being torn apart.

"Please, help me! She's killing me!" As he lost his voice, his screams slowly turned into sobs. "Oh God...I'm sorry...I'm sorry..."

Annie's mother, dazed and confused, finally jumped into action. She grabbed a knife off the counter and started running toward Annie.

Annie looked up again, but this time, she smiled. "Can Snuggles come out to play?", she whispered.

The teddy bear in her hand emitted a pulse of blinding light that filled the room, and when it faded, the teddy bear was no longer there. 

Before Annie stood the real Snuggles. He was massive, his head nearly touching the ceiling, but there was no mistaking him. He still had the same scars, the same crooked smile, and the same dark black eyes. Annie let out a shriek of sheer girlish delight as she scrambled onto his shoulder. Snuggles growled in approval.

Together, they turned their gaze toward Ted and Annie's mother. Annie's mother dropped the knife she had still been holding, cowering back into the corner with Ted. "Please...please no....", she whimpered, as Annie and Snuggles slowly moved toward her with ground-shaking steps.

The sound of dying screams rent the night as they mixed with Annie's high pitched laughter.


Conor - Sometimes You Just Have To Fight The Wu-Tang Clan I Guess

Thursday night I was hanging out with Classic Brian, Wednesday Eliot, Monday Nick, and our less-significant-because-they-don't-write-for-Classic-Brian-friends Tynan and Caitlin, when a sad truth dawned on us.

Looks like we're going to have to fight the Wu-Tang clan in a gang fight.

We could spend our time trying to avoid this fate, saying "No, Conor, there has to be some other way" or "try to talk it out" or "the Wu-Tang Clan has done nothing to earn your fury" but it would be no use. This must happen. Somehow I always knew it was going to come to this. Somehow I always knew that it was going to be us or them.

"Us" being this very specific group of my friends who happened to be in the same room Thursday night.

"Them" being hip-hop collective Wu-Tang clan.

According to Wikipedia the Wu-Tang clan is a highly influential hip hop group from New York. There are 8 core members of the Wu-Tang clan not including the late Ol' Dirty Bastard, and there are lots of other rappers associated with the clan, but bullshit, Wu-Tang clan, if you think we're going to let them enter this gang fight. Have you no honor. You already outnumber us by 2.

So let's set out some rules. There must be some order in this chaos.

NO FIREARMS  -  Yeah, no guns. 10 points deduced for every shot fired.

KNIVES ARE OKAY, KNIVES ARE FINE  - I accept that this fight will be to the death, and I don't like the idea of having to beat a fool named Inspectah Deck to death with my fists. I want it to be quick.

IT SHOULD PROBABLY HAPPEN AT NIGHT IN A DRAMATICALLY LIT ALLEYWAY PROBABLY - I'm thinking a blueish tint, with a harsh yellow light sortof bleeding in from the street.

THE FIGHT SHOULD LAST NO LONGER THAN 2 MINUTES AND 50 SECOND AND IT SHOULD BE SOUNDTRACKED BY THIS - Well I got the main idea here out of the way in the bold, underlined print.

Let's take a good look at our crew. (What should we name our crew?)

Weight: Somewhere in the 90 pound range
Height: Around 5'6"?
Fighting Style: Timid, Bird-like
Pros: Fearless, Has Killed Before
Cons: Approval Seeking, Would Probably Show Up To The Fight 15 Minutes Late/Leave Early

Weight: Also probably somewhere in the 90 pound range
Height: 5'10", 5'11"?
Fighting Style: The Annoyed Crab
Pros: Has Been Working Out A Lot This Year, Brilliant Tactician, A Robot, Unfeeling and Unemotional
Cons: Would Probably Get Our Crew Mocked By Skipping Around

(It should be something tough, like Da Kool Kidz or something.)

Weight: Probs like 250kg
Height: Height is a useless category
Fighting Style: Detached Criticism
Pros: There Is Literally No Way The Wu-Tang Clan Would Be Able To Beat Tynan In An Argument, His Dad's A Doctor
Cons: He Might Not Take It Terribly Seriously Even Though It's A Real Gang Fight With Real Death

Classic Brian
Weight: The Ideal Weight
Height: The Ideal Height
Fighting Style: Winning
Pros: Our Star Player, Has A Six Pack, Really Pretty

(Das Kool Kidz. Done.)

Weight: Weightless
Height: 5'9"ish?
Fighting Style: Confusion
Pros: Hostile, Quick, Probably Most Familiar With the Wu-Tang Clans Music
Cons: Poor At Communicating, Will Probably Make Terrible, Unforgivable Puns

Weight: Right around that 90 pound range we were talking about
Height: 6 feet mutha fuckaaaa
Fighting Style: Over-Confidence
Pros: Willing To Bring Guns Even Though I Said No Guns
Cons: My Ultimate Frisbee Skillz Are Probably Less Transferable Than I Believe Them To Be

I'm going to admit I'm not terribly familiar with the work of this "clan," but from the light research I've been doing I've drawn up an rough plan.

First and foremost, we need to get rid of the two killas. Both Ghostface Killa and Masta Killa have intimidating names that scare me, so they're done. After that Inspectah Deck and U-God need to go, I feel like they're probably wild cards.

RZA and GZA are probs brothers judging from their names, so if we take down one the other will probably be filled with unbelievable anger, so why don't we see if we can get them simultaneously.

Method Man and Raekwon, iunno. I see them being sortof the cheerleaders of the group. They probably won't get their hands too dirty.

I'm getting excited just talking about it.

Let's just do this! Are you guys free tomorrow night?

I know the perfect alleyway.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

You Shouldn't Let Other People Get Your Kicks For You

by Brendan Cavanagh

This is a post I wrote for a blawg my friends from college and I have. Enjoy.

One night two summers ago my cousin approached me with a serious look on his face. He gripped my arm tightly and vehemently expressed his concern that perhaps one is entirely unable to watch a movie or read a book or listen to a musician without first hearing about it from a reputable source- be it a friend, relative, magazine or website. He said, "Would we have watched Dr. Strangelove last night if it hadn't been named one of the greatest films of all time?"

At the time, I understood what he meant, but his qualms have stuck with me and influenced me to retain as much autonomy and individual interest as possible when encountering unexperienced aspects of media. So when I flipped through someone's copy of the latest Rolling Stone this weekend and discovered an article listing, in depth, the "70 Greatest Bob Dylan Songs," I experienced an amalgamation of several feelings: elation at seeing many of my favorite songs on the list, confidence that just like Rolling Stone writers and Dylan-worshipping musicians, I knew what made these songs great, disgust with certain songs I felt should have made the list but didn't as well as the ones included that I felt shouldn't have been, and inspiration to listen much closer to songs I may have previously ignored or misunderstood.

Obviously, everyone has different taste. But when it comes to Dylan's greatest songs, it's understandable that many people would share the same favorites. I think it's important to have this sort of mutual understanding, but I am really proud to have my own choices in my own order, be them on The List or not. So I'll list here my five favorite Dylan songs to give you a taste of how I view Dylan's work, but keep in mind my favorites vary depending on my mood,. the weather, the time, where I am, what I'm doing and blah blah blah blah blah. The following is the most enduring Top Five:

1. Don't Think Twice, It's All Right [Demo-Recording] - No Direction Home Soundtrack (The Bootleg Series, Vol. 7) - 2005
The studio recording was the eighth track on 1963's The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan, but I prefer the demo because although it excludes the bluesy harmonica, its stripped-down and mournful sound more accurately paints a picture of desolation and leaving a relationship.

2. Santa-Fe - The Bootleg Series, Vol. 1 (1991)
The lyrics are indecipherable and don't match up to their written documentation, but from what I can understand, they detail a life of endless wandering, the thoughts of a man who can't e tied down to a single place or person. It was recorded in the basement of Big Pink with The Band before they were The Band, so of course, the musical accompaniment is richer and upbeat. The seemingly comforting line "Don't feel bad, no no no no don't don't don't feel bad" kills me every time.

3. Like A Rolling Stone - Highway 61 Revisited (1965)

Honestly, this is one of the most important songs of all time, so it would make sense that it would be Rolling Stone's number one pick (though the fact that it is the magazine's namesake and that it was already chosen as their pick for the greatest song of all time eased any anticipation). Over time the song takes on added significance, and I find myself singing it scornfully and acidly in my head to certain girls I hate to love. Bruce Springsteen has rather articulately expressed his first encounter with the song, in a way speaking for most people, saying "The first time I heard Bob Dylan, I was in the car with my mother listening to WMCA, and on came that snare shot that sounded like somebody'd kicked open the door to your mind."

4. Idiot Wind [Alternate Take] - The Bootleg Series. Vol. 2 (1991)

Dylan haphazardly recorded most of the material on 1975's Blood On The Tracks without much help from a backing band in Minneapolis before revamping his songs and releasing them. This song is notable because it features simply Dylan on acoustic guitar and harmonica, desperately whining a depressing nine minutes of heartbreak and anger with a past love who done him wrong. In the end, though, Dylan places the blame not only on his ex-lover, but on himself, too, stating, "We're idiots babe, it's a wonder we can even feed ourselves." However, the lyrical imagery is overshadowed by the minute-and-a-half harmonica solo at the end of the song, a solo which most vividly relates Dylan's pain.

5. Chimes Of Freedom [Live] - No Direction Home Soundtrack (The Bootleg Series, Vol. 7) 2005

In my opinion, maybe the greatest of Dylan's folk-protest songs, and perhaps the greatest protest song of all time. Though instead of pointing fingers Dylan describes a truly epic thunderstorm whose violent lightening and thunder clang out the unjust derogation of all types of people and which is seen by everyone in a strange experience of global unity- from the outcast, the mistitled prostitute and misdemeanor outlaw to the poet, the lonesome-hearted lover and ultimately, "every hung-up person in the whole wide universe." I don't often listen to the original studio version on 1964's Another Side of Bob Dylan, instead favoring the live concert version recorded in 1964 at the Newport Folk Festival.

I love Bob Dylan. And you should, too.

...And the Livin's Easy

It's four in the morning; this is not a problem. I'm typing this on my house PC. I just came back from a run, I went shirtless. I'm following the it's-not-tomorrow-until-I-go-to-sleep rule in posting this now. My close friends are at my fingertips, and my family a shout away. It is positively summertime.

So here we are, back where it all began. Classic Brian is nearing its one-year anniversary, and as someone who has put a hefty bit o' work into this thing (approximately a post's work more than Sunday Robert), to me I kind of think of CB's birth as the mark of a changed era. When I look through my slow-glass mirror to see myself a year ago, I see someone of a completely different mindset; feeling undisciplined, but not quite free. I see someone who had yet to recognize life itself as authority and proclaimed himself untamed. I see someone ogling, wishing the mirror would show the future and not the present. Summer 2010 changed that reflection. It created an over-the-hill sentimentality in me that I didn't think I would find. It left me more equipped but less ready for the future, and it left me coming off a high that I still fear I'll never be able to replicate.

Yet here we are, stepping up to the plate for at-bat No. 2. After a couple practice hacks, I've come to realize I'm swinging a different bat. That is to say, things are different now than they were a year ago. This year there's going to be no Robert. Not to gush, but I can't put into words (and I'm a WRITER! lol!) how much that sucks. He's not the only one of my friends who I'm going to have to learn to be without. For instance, Old Conor. It's just weird, how throughout the year there was the desire to "get back" to summer. Well I'm back, but it's different from how I left it, and I'm just going to have to be okay with that.

We rolled into last summer riding a wave of graduation festivities and caught between an ending and a beginning, at a point where there was truly nothing to lose. Here we come in staggered, waiting for all the troops to come home, wishing they wouldn't go to summer school so you could retain them for a while, wishing that Conor would've come to Robert's cookout so we could take another Classic Brian picture before the opportunity was lost pretty much forever. Also we're in the middle of college. We came from it, we're going back, there's four years to be had there too, and did we not just learn our lesson to make the most of them?

But I can't shove Summer 2011 off a cliff. First off, we're in Illinois and that would be far from practical, given the landscape. Secondly, it's different, man. Like that second child who has maybe a 6% genetic difference from the one before it; you can't raise it the same way as you did the last one. Summers, much like kids, cannot be crafted on an assembly line. You have to take into consideration your circumstances. I've voiced this thought before, I'll voice it again: I want to do big stuff. I want to travel a bit. I want to be in new situations. I want to get close to some people, and catch up with others that I've strayed from (Side note: the term "people" as used in the current sentence may or may not also include Final Fantasy characters).

I don't really think there's a wrong way to live out your summer, unless you decide to see how many children of family friends you can get away with murdering or something like that. As long as you make your time worthwhile and remember to make each day count for something, you can accept the fact that it's not as great as last year. Maybe this summer will be for you, hell, maybe it will be for me. But it's here, so take it by its brain and make it do your bidding. Summer comes, passes, and is passed in the blink of an eye, and when it's gone it isn't there anymore. If you wanna make stupid decisions, now is the time. Growing up sucks, but fortunately it's summer, and you aren't graded on acting your age.

--Eliot Sill

Monday, May 23, 2011

Nick - The Contents Of My Toolbox

I found this by Google searching "pink toolbox."
The last day of improv practice before summer, we wrote down everything we had learned all year on a chalkboard. Every technique, all the little pieces of knowledge, every improv tool we had learned, all collected in one place. We called it our Improv Toolbox. And this concept can be applied on a much wider scale.

It turns out that we can learn a lot from people. Everybody has an experience we can learn from. Everybody has that distinctive style of humor. Everybody has something that I can add to my Toolbox.

For example, let's look at Sunday Robert. Sunday Robert makes a really funny angry face sometimes. His angry impression is hilarious. Now, if I see a situation in which it would be really funny to be pretend-angry, I just pretend that I'm Sunday Robert. I pull Angry-Robert out of my Toolbox and channel his energy.

I found this by Google searching "People Trapped In A Box."
Chances are, if you've done something funny around me, I've taken it and placed it in my Toolbox for later use. In this way, I can take your interestingness and add it to my own, making me seem more interesting.

Friday Conor's Awkward Manner, Wednesday Eliot's Way Of Phrasing Things, and Sunday Robert's Texting Hearts To People are now all in my Toolbox, along with many others. I wait until I understand your particular MO, that one thing you do, or that mannerism you sometimes have, and then I capture it for myself.

It's kind of like Pokemon, but with people.


Sunday, May 22, 2011

Fast Circles

By Robert Langellier

I’m struggling for something here. I’ve been lying face up in my brand new apartment, staring intently at my eyelids. Really intently, because I’ve been looking for something. Not that I know what; it’s just one of those numb moods where you don’t really feel like you’re yourself and everything in the world seems to hold equal weight. I think everyone knows the feeling, even if I can’t articulate it. I’ve been doing this for a while, and everything behind these eyelids for a while seemed to be swimming in fast circles, pushing around and around, and it was weird, and it was captivating. I’ve been lying here, still, waiting for the sensation to come back.

I haven’t even moved in, yet, really. I just got here three hours ago. I brought some clothes and a guitar into these empty rooms, and not really much else. The two lights in here aren’t very bright; everything’s a little dim. I’m using a blanket and some toilet paper as a pillow as I lie in this empty room and let my stomach dissolve six pieces of Domino’s I bought down the street.

(It’s extremely quiet.)

There’s no internet here. Some bare furniture, nothing on the walls, nothing moving, nothing whirring or churning or beeping or buzzing. Just me; I am alone. This room is empty. So is the rest of the apartment, and for right now, the entire town as far as I am concerned. There is nothing to do.

My friends are gone. Most are off in Springfield, beginning their summer together and probably struggling for the same magic something that I am. Some are in Chicago or St. Louis or spread around Minnesota. One is in Detroit, one is in Boston, one is in Cheyenne. A few will be arriving here in the coming weeks. My roommate will be here tomorrow. But I’m here now, and no one else is.

It’s raining. That’s partially why I haven’t moved any of my things out of my car. The sky outside is dark and bleak. It’s cold, too. I had hoped for a better day to move in. I did, too, when I moved out of my dorm a week ago amidst a rainy tornado. Guess the weather doesn’t want me to move, either.

(The ceiling creaks.)

I’ve been reading all the blogs lately of my friends. I think everyone’s had the most magical year of their lives. I don’t know that I did. I’ve been a little nostalgic recently. I kind of want to play “Landslide” or “Christmas TV” or “Still Fighting It,” but this silence seems too heavy to break. It’s an oppressive and anxious and heart wrenching silence, but it’s new. Silence is not something I’m accustomed to bearing anymore.

I’ve never been this quiet. I’m thinking back throughout this past specific year, and I don’t think it was for me what it was for everyone else. I was blessed the summer before. I know that everyone thinks they have the best friends, but they’ve never been me and they’ve never met mine. Maybe Joel is right to put Springfield on a pedestal. It definitely has some strange magic. There is an annoying amount of charisma generated in my friendship with them, and that’s been really tough to recreate with a brand new set of faces.

Not new anymore. I did plenty of bonding with many faces in an unforgettable year. But they’re not here, either. Springfield will have its summer without me, as will St. Louis and Chicago and Detroit and Boston and Cheyenne. I’m making the most of what I’ve got here, which is plenty. It’s not like I’ll be out of touch. There will be some magical visits. My time will be well spent.

But my eyelids kept spinning as I lay here, and right now it’s a new atmosphere. I’m months away from being a 20-year-old. I have two jobs, and I’m taking two classes. I have an apartment. It won’t always be cold and empty and white, but everywhere I go and everything I do I remember that these are places and these are things I used to watch my brother do when he got old.

There’s something intangibly new in the steps I take. The strides are longer and they’re going places now. They walk instead of run. They have focus driven into them. I wonder if I will be able to undo that, and if not, how long I can keep change at bay.

(I hear someone showering through the walls.)

I snapped fully awake a while ago, and I’m still just lying here. I kind of want to close my eyes again until the world spins around my eyelids once more, but I can’t get it to. It’s still deadly quiet, but I can’t get the moment to come back. It’s late now; it’s black outside. Eventually I’ll have to go down to my car and get my things. My pillow, at least, and my stuffed gorilla. I really don’t want them to get wet.

I want them to stay perfect. To never change or deteriorate. I want that for this past year and for last summer and for my youth. I really can’t tell if I’m trying to hold on to everything or if I’m just reaching for what I’ve already lost.

It’s hard to recapture a moment. Once it’s gone, it’s usually gone. But I’m still lying here, wishing those fast circles would stay.

(A machine somewhere is whirring now. It’s loud.)