Friday, September 23, 2011

Poetic License... to Kill

The author, left, pondering existence on his friend's knees.

by Brendan Cavanagh

As a budding English / Education major, I am required to take a creative writing class focused on either prose fiction or poetry. My good friend, already a practicing amateur poetry and song writer, opted for the latter, hoping the class could hone our skills for future self-indulgence and potential school-wide publication. Instead of eating dinner at five o'clock like I do every day, I vindictively throw off my mutinous stomach and metabolism on Monday afternoons and instead attend the only poetry class of the week, from 3:50 to 6:30.

So far, the class has been amazingly fruitful, instilling in me the intestinal fortitude to write poems casually throughout the day into a pocket-sized spiral notebook- when I'm not already memorizing alluring alliterations I can tell flow together well or texting myself concepts for future poems. And what I love about writing poems- what the pious love about prayer- is that I can do it at any time of the day, in any location, in any fashion I choose. And I could potentially do this for the rest of my life and never tire of it. There is an endless array of words and sounds and ideas to play around with- unlike your favorite James Bond game on Playstation 2 that's a little too easy to beat, or that novel you love that seems to end all too soon. Unless, like me, you sit down to write something unique and inventive and find that the only words you can cull are obscure lyrics from your favorite songs. But that'll pass if I am feeling particularly inspired.

For instance, there was a period of about a week and a half earlier this semester where I'd ride my bike to the Butler Prairie on the far end of the campus across the canal and hike through spiderweb-ridden forest trails to a secluded spot on the bank beside the hidden White River. There I'd sit on the massive, mangled roots of an ancient tree and read under the shade, and hopefully incite the burning poet inside me to break free ablazin'.
But I digress. The point is, having an inspiring location is just one of the many ways in which to relax and write freely, from the soul, without over-thinking.
After much deliberation, I've decided to just go ahead and post a poem I wrote to be workshopped in class last Monday. It loosely evokes what I saw and felt on a solo walk around the campus' neighboring neighborhoods. I unfortunately haven't sat down to revise or alter it since it was openly critiqued in front of me in class (I wasn't allowed to speak until afterward) by my cliche, free-minded, aging hippie teacher, the reserved, ambiguously-aged teaching assistant and hodge podge assortment of classmates. It was tough to watch people pick out little things in my poem that they didn't made sense or sounded good, lines or images that I thought were subtly nuanced. But it was a healthy critique- I'm glad to have gotten much written and oral feedback on my work so that I can improve upon it more adequately in the future. Anyway, I haven't changed anything  except I broke up the lines into smaller, more readable lines (at the unanimous behest of my class) for your benefit. Here it is, without a title and in an inexplicably different typeface, so interpret at your own leisure:

The setting sun beams on rusted reams

of rising dust emanating from pickup truck pipe dreams,

and I

(along the narrow path I tread,

peering silently at the serene sight taking place

before me)

adrift in the palpably hovering mist,

like a motionless spider

resting among the clouds on a lofted window.

Beneath a withering willow tree I see

each of the ninety billion particles of

light peeping through the tinted horizon.

A lone

sparrow calls from atop a tall brick wall,

falls to the freshly trimmed lawn and calls again.


the time for sunglasses has passed,

Though, boldly advertising

name-brand plastic black frames,

I shamelessly remain walking

upright through the silent, stiff chill of twilight.

Shivering in misery

below the moon's stellar gloom,

I shuffle home alone as

night begins to settle in.

.                            .                             .

Don't ever tell yourself you can't write poetry! Anyone can write poetry. Even the 6'5" athletic, senior frat guy in my class. Nice guy with- unbeknownst to him- a surprisingly melodic ear for sound which gradually emerges from within after rigorous practice. So if you have only ever written bland, automated haikus about Autumn Leaves for mandatory junior high assignments, or you want to write poetry but doubt yourself, or your favorite poem can be found on the funny pages of Hustler, take some time out every now and then to see what you can create. You'd be surprised what you can produce with a little motivation and imagination

Thursday, September 22, 2011

A state of mind I once knew — on immortality

The word “grave” tells you pretty much all you need to know. The “gr” at the beginning forces your voice to drop lower and imply seriousness. The “rave” calls forth images of ravens, dark birds with darker symbolism and of course the idea of something you can't control, a la the raven's sinister flight.

We can't even fly. We lie. In graves and to faces. The human fault, the invention of lying, that divides us as a people and serves to us our greatest wrongs; the prevention of dying, making us seek false hope and tightening our grasp on a reality that requires letting go.

Yet within this whirlwind world, we lose touch with those that we swear were just by our side. We wake up and have pushed away our tightest companions, we stop dazing and realize the hand we're holding is cold and the reason is that the fire went out.

And we can't even appreciate the things that we're given. Flying past us like billions of grains of sand, without appreciation, go faces, phenomenons, scapes and skylines. We make marvels that rival wonders we can't fathom, and achieve feats of excellence normally reserved for God himself.

But isn't it God, after all? Can't it be? A series of events set in motion, a provider of chance, setting boundaries — is what I'm thinking. Not like some President, making executive decisions based on the will of his people. No, no. Maybe some experimental expedition into interaction (as you may know, this God would have very little if not for creation) of different life forms.

Ha, God: the original scientist.

There is no awakening. There is no enlightening. There is no vision to miss out on. The vision is what you perceive before you die. That's all the epiphany you have time for. If you, friend, find what it is we are all supposed to be looking for, consider that you're on your own, and that I am looking for something entirely different.

Be tolerant. Be accepting. Be good. Be within bounds. Be true to your urges and respect your inhibitions. Fight for nothing. Work for everything. Don't take; acquire. Don't destroy; build. Don't take; reallocate. The world hums along a line and you buzz all about it. But you don't dare cut it. For if you cut it,

--Eliot Sill

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A riddle- Mada

A census taker interviews a woman in a house.
"Who lives here?" he asks.
"My husband and I and my three daughters," she replies.
"What are the ages of your daughters?"
"The product of their ages is 36 and the sum of their ages is the house number."
The census taker looks at the house number, thinks, and says,
"You haven't given me enough information to determine their ages."
"Oh, you're right," she replies, "Let me also say that my eldest daughter is asleep upstairs."
"Ah! Thank you very much!"

What are the ages of the daughters?

This problem is out of my Fundamental Mathematics book. It is not one I had to do for homework but it is almost exactly like one I had to do for homework. It is not impossible and I think these kind of logic problems are extremely fun so I thought I'd share it with Classic Brian. I would really really love if anyone tried it. Also I would like to take a moment to say that you have no idea what you're getting into when you pick a major at 17. I just spent 4 hours on one math assignment. LoVe It!!! <3!

P.S For anyone who cares, I will post the answer to this in a comment next Tuesday.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Nick - The Screaming Of Souls

It's the third week of school, maybe just the second. At any rate, it's one week after I signed up to audition to drum for a band. They're the only band that doesn't need you to have a drum set on campus already, so this is basically my one shot. They had given me a list of three songs to choose from: The Ocean, by Led Zeppelin, Aeroplane, by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and The Impression That I Get, by The Mighty Mighty Bosstones. I had only heard one of those songs before.

I nervously practice counting the mixed 4/4 to 7/8 beats of The Ocean as I fill out the form. I didn't get to practice any of this, because I don't have a drum set. My audition form is clever. I guess improv pays off in ways you wouldn't expect.

The first drummer goes in. I listen to him warm up. He's obviously really good. He shows off for a little while before starting the first song, and I'm blown away. He starts playing The Ocean. It sounds really good. He does a fill, and miscounts. The extra beat throws the time off, and the music falls apart for a second, before regrouping and coming back strong.

Is it bad that I smile when he miscounts? I glance toward the door, and another drummer comes in. All it's going to take is one really good guy walking in here, and I don't have a chance anymore.

The guy misses the tempo change in The Ocean. Another cruel smile to myself. Then the band begins playing Aeroplane. It sounds really good. Like, really really good. The bass vibrates my very soul as I desperately hope that my drumming doesn't sound childish compared to this guy.

The quiet part of the song comes, but he doesn't change his drum part at all. Another small, conflicted victory for me.

He leaves, and the next drummer goes in. He also misses the tempo change in The Ocean. He chooses to play The Impression That I Get. After a couple of measures he opts to play half notes instead of quarter notes for the rest of the song.

Suddenly it's my turn. I walk in in a surreal state of mind. I see the drum set. Wow. Wow. That is a really nice drum set. I want to play it.

I sit down at the set, fiddling around and adjusting the high hat as the singer reads my audition form aloud and pokes fun at me. I really like these people. These people are cool. I want to be in this band.

I warm up, and am surprised and delighted to find that my warming up and showing off sounds just as impressive as that first guy's did. We start The Ocean.

As soon as I start playing, the nervousness melts away. I'm ready for this. I can't help but add some extra light snare hits; I hope they don't mind. That's kind of my style, anyway, so there's no use trying to hide it now.

The drums and guitar stop for a moment for a vocal break. I join in singing with the guitarist and bassist. I see the guitarist flash a grin my way. Okay, drums back in now. Two more measures. One more measure. Aaaaaaand tempo change. Bam. I pride myself on being the first one to get it right. And then the song is over. No mistakes.

They ask me which song I want to play next. I honestly don't know what my answer is going to be.

"The Impression That I Get," I say.

Okay, I guess I'm playing that one.

I hate the way the drums come in in this song. I'm going to mess this up, I know it.

I don't mess it up. I'm happy to learn that the song is not as fast as I had worried. I won't have to switch to half notes like the other guy. I throw in a measure of sixteenth notes, just for fun. Chorus. My right arm is getting tired. I sing along loudly to distract myself. They'll probably appreciate that, right? We're all having fun.

Aw shit, I missed the quiet part, didn't I? Just fifteen minutes ago I was heckling the first guy for missing the quiet part in Aeroplane. I should have practiced this song more; I thought it would be straightforward. Oh, wait, we're definitely at the end of this song. I should be varying up my part a little. Is it too late now? I think it might be too late now. I'm gonna tough it out.

And just like that, it's over. I really want to play more drums. I reluctantly put down the sticks. I thank them, and make pleasant conversation. I really like these guys. I make eye contact with the bassist as I leave the room, and we smile at each other.

Damn, I feel really good about that. I haven't been this sweaty in like a week. Also, I forgot my glasses. I turn around and awkwardly go back into the room before the next drummer starts his first song.

I go home and shower. I set my phone to super loud, in case they call. I go to sleep really early. I check my email obsessively for the next two days, until the hammer falls. "We hope you audition again in the future... appreciate your enthusiasm in the band..." Ect ect.

. . .

Fast forward a week. I'm sitting in Gregory Hall, and I've been here for the last five hours watching improv auditions. It's judgement time. We've seen everyone, and there are nine slots available. With every name crossed off the board, I'm hearing their soul cry out in disappointment. These were good improvisors. Maybe they were having an off day. Maybe they were super hopeful that they would make it.

I'm so happy with the team that was picked. And yet, every time I think of the thirty people that didn't get picked, I'm back in last week, obsessively checking my email, waiting for the hammer to fall.


Sunday, September 18, 2011

Robert - Wasp

It's time for class! I love my Creative Writing: Fiction class. My professor is really hot. He looks like a writer. All we do is write and talk about writing. Man, I can't wait. Oh, don't be sad. I wish I could stay, wasp flying next to me. But I need to get up. I have people's writing to read and talk about. No, seriously, stop flying up my shirt, I have to go. Shit. Shit shit shit shit.


Don't move, me. Not in inch. Not a one. I'm sure he'll leave. You're leaving, right, wasp? You're not. That's fine. I can grow roots and absorb moisture and nutrients from the ground below me. It's possible—This cottonwood behind me did it somehow, yeah?

I feel you on my back, wasp. Every five seconds or so, scuttling along the bare skin underneath the tail of my t-shirt and stopping again, teasing me into insanity and desperate, desperate fear. I feel as if you're no longer my friend. That is, I know you want me to stay longer, but forced coercion is no grounds for a friendship, you know. Every second of this sharply decreases the likelihood of us hanging out again. Do you hear me? You don't care. You're a wasp.

Wiggle my fingers. Bend my elbow, slightly—slightly, dammit!—okay good. Put shoulder joints in motion. Yes. This is good. Lift both my arms. I can move my arms! Lafferre Hall is within sight from where I am bound. Perhaps I can claw at the earth and bring the class to me with infinite strength. I can't. Damn you, wasp. You are so small—how did you obtain such divine power over me?

Wait, I'm in public. Everyone can see me sitting here, face constrained, obviously intently focused on what appears to be absolutely nothing. You see, wasp? You're making a scene. People are starting to get uncomfortable. I would call them over to help, if I didn't think you'd be smugly satisfied with that. No way. Impossible. Maybe? In my head I measure the speed of my right hand flinging open my shirt and my left hand sweeping away at my lower back and my legs bolting upright and my eyes exploding from my head. I bet I can do it. I bet I can, wasp. Here goes.

Here goes.

I'm going to do it.

I am. I'm not kidding.

Here goes.

Okay I'm not. No way. You're terrifying. I admit you my respect, wasp, but not victory. I can still sit still here. And I am a well-trained American. I can go an entire day without significant physical movement. Man, but I really like that creative writing class. Do I like it as much as my back? Probably. Really, what do people even use backs for? Certainly the least useful part of the body. Fuck backs. Showers will be much easier without it, yeah? Yeah. You have nothing on me wasp NO NO pleasedonotgodownthereshiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii—okay near crisis averted with a risky tightening of the waistband.

I am still unstung. Time is running out, though. I will pay you $5, wasp. You'll be the richest wasp in the world. I will clean your gray hive thing. I will advocate wasp rights. Leave. Please god, leave. This is your last chance.

I'm going to have to do it. I measure the speed of my hands again in my head. Here goes, wasp. I didn't want it to end like this. Mostly because you'll probably sting me like the flying bag of wasp dicks that you are.

Here goes.

I'm not kidding.

Here goes.

Avatar: The Last Airbender (the show, not the movie) according to someone who IS watching Avatar: The Last Airbender (the show or the movie)

SPOILER ALERT: Uh yeah...there's spoilers and stuff so if you haven't seen this show and you want to, maybe now isn't the best time to read this post.

Alright, so here's how the plot ACTUALLY GOES.

These two little kids find this arrow-headed dude in a berg of ice, and apparently that's a big deal. He can manipulate air, which is most definitely not the least cool element. Also, he is the only person in the world capable of bending all 4 elements. He just has yet to learn the other 3, which is what his journey is all about.

So this guy who would absolutely kick Uub's bitch ass in a fight any day wakes up from his slumber (which is obviously not eternal; hence, him waking up) and starts manipulating air currents so as to FUCKING FLY on his stick that turns into a giant fan. The flying nimbus looks like a pansy ass Care Bear cloud in comparison. AND he has a giant six-legged air bison, which also flies, and is his spirit companion. Also cooler than the flying nimbus. 

The four element-wielding peoples live in different parts of the world, all staying inconspicuously away from modern civilization I guess. Also, the firebenders are apparently assholes. They go to war with the other three tribes, which is understandable, because fire is totally the worst bending, so naturally they're jealous and feel the need to overcompensate.

So the Avatar gets his gang together, Sokka (from the beginning, who is of the water tribe, but cannot water bend), Toph (the little blind earth bender girl who is a total badass that invents metal bending and is my second favorite character), Katara (from the beginning, who is Sokka's brother, and can blood bend and water heal), Momo (the flying lemur), and Appa (the air bison, my favorite character). Their goal, as I mentioned before, is to ensure that Aang (not Edd) learns to bend all 4 elements so that he can defeat Firelord Ozai and end the war that has been raging for about 100 years.

Meanwhile, Zuko, the troubled, banished fire prince is obsessed with capturing the Avatar and restoring his honor, while his tea-loving uncle, who seems like a somewhat reasonable guy, gently tries to get him back on the right path. 

Wire reference deleted, because I don't know how to translate. Also, the fact that they choose to never kill anyone is not weak or dumb, but critical to the underlying story and paramount to the ending.

In conclusion, Avatar: The Last Airbender (the show, not the movie) is one of the best shows ever, and comparing it to The Wire is a dumb thing to do.