Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly delivers . . .

I'm glad I sucked it up and toughed it out through this three-hour-long classic. It started to pick up towards the middle and there were some moments of true movie magic towards the end.

The reason this movie didn't grab me at first had everything to do with script. I learned an important principle: the most captivating plots have (ideally) a single, main climax towards which all the action tends. The problem with this movie is that it felt too episodic and, after one particularly climactic scene which felt like an ending, the action wandered around some more towards another climax.

The climaxes, however, were flawless. The scene where Angel Eyes & gang, Tuco, and Blondie, shoot it out in the ghost town gave me goosebumps. Who could forget the fateful duel between the three protagonists? Whoever shot the others down would get the gold . . . What about the scene where Tuco is left to die, his head stuck in a noose, his feet barely balancing on the gravestone? With no one there to save him, he chooses when (and if) he steps off the stone to his death. The wildness and violence of it. My review can't even begin to put into words the tension present at certain moments in the film. Or Clint Eastwood's charisma as uttered his enigmatic one-liners . . .

Quentin Tarantino has referred to this move as "The best directed movie of all time." Perhaps that because it leaves the viewer with scenes that, for whatever reason, will always stick in the brain . . .

Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly . . . has gotten worse.

To finish or not to finish? Not being one for westerns, I knew I was in for a doozy when this thing loaded up on netflix, 3 hours long. I'm half way through this movie and I can barely . . . get . . . through . . . it. Beyond boring. Clint Eastwood has gone from being a charismatic man of few words to being a man with nothing to say. But this flick's a classic, so, in the name of education I will slog my way through it. Anyone out there actually like this movie?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The most romantic moment in film . . .

I found it: the beloved lake scene. Darcy strips down and takes a dip . . . thinking about Elizabeth. Elizabeth takes a tour of his mansion . . . thinking about Darcy. Both characters believe they are hundreds of miles apart physically, and another million miles spiritually. But then the two "stumble upon" each other, and, well, they may just have a second chance at it.

By the way, the BBC Pride and Prejudice has a divine soundtrack composed by Carl Davis. One gets so attached to this movie and the excellent musical themes that accompany ever character and every moment. Guys . . . this would likely make a good gift for your girlfriends.

Who's the Hunkiest Romantic Comedy Hunk?

Now. Lest you think I'm a hopeless grinch, I do have a heart for a selected few romantic comedies and I'd like to pose favs for the male leads.

Heath Ledger in 10 Things I Hate About You get's a big thumbs up. As aforementioned, he looks like a good kisser. His australian accent adds a touch of class and his dimples are to die for. Now there's a man who could have melted the most lesbian of lesbian hearts. God bless you, Heath!

Hugh Grant in Two Weeks Notice also gets a thumbs up and perhaps two thumbs up since I enjoyed the plot of this movie more than that of 10 Things. If you're a girl and his baby-blue eyes, puppy dog expressions, devil-may-care charm, and British wit do not win you over . . . then I declare you are half a woman! Half a woman!

Now, I'll tell you who really takes the cake for hunkiness. Women of the world unite: I know you are all in this one with me. How many times have we enjoyed the following chick flick under the guise of relishing fine literature set to film? How many times have we "analysed" the lake scene when all we wanted to do was see the leading man topless? (Okay, the movie is too tasteful to make him go topless. But he does remove his cravat and waistcoat!) As I was saying, how many times? In all serious, for me it might total around 100.

And the award goes to: Colin Firth playing Mr. Darcy in the BBC's 1995 Pride and Prejudice miniseries. Best chick flick ever, hands town. This movie is simply every woman's dream. Even that of a cold-hearted chick-flick, romantic-comedy hater, like me.

10 Things I Hate About . . . romantic comedies!

So, it's ten years later and I finally get around to the classic romantic comedy 10 Things I Hate About You. Interestingly, all romantic comedies have this one thing in common: they all revolve around a girl skewering some guy (one way or another) and her watching him twist, turn, and writhe over the refiner's spit of ludicrous chivalric deeds until he is done to her perfection. Blue, black, and broken all over, he has finally proven his love to her (and his total lack of self-respect to us). When she deigns to bat an eyelash or flash him smile, (maybe even kiss him!), we supposedly have a happy ending as the dysfunctional couple unite and consummate their abusive relationship.


Maybe it's just because I have brothers and I'm upset about how their girlfriends treat them. But really. The antics women expect. It's sadistic. It has nothing to do with true love and everything to with a woman satisfying her prima-donna fantasies. Don't get me wrong, guys are not blameless when it comes to relationships and I think, to a degree, the romantic comedy as we know it is fundamentally a feminine plea for respect, attention, "true love." The kind of stuff some men are stingy about (when they're staring at those 'ahem beneath your tight sweater.) But honestly, ladies, romantic comedies are not the way to start a cultural dialogue about male-female relations. At best they are a lame, passive-aggressive response to real, deep seated issues. They make any self-respecting man . . . wince.

Okay, now that I've proven myself to be as onry as Kat, now might not be the best time to reprimand her. But I can't help it:

Kat, when Heath Ledger kisses you, you are supposed to enjoy it! Every last single delicious moment of it! Or else move over byotch cuz I wanna take your place.

One good thing I will say for this movie, (apart from it having a good soundtrack), is that it was a lesson in not judging people unfairly. I went through much of the movie hating the Julia Stiles character for being such an annoying feminazi. At the end of the movie, however, we learn about what a certain Joey did to her and I had some compassion. I guess we all have our "issues." And sometimes porcupine-prickliness is just a defense mechanism, a front to help a person cope with internal pain and protect themselves from future exploitation. Poor Kat/Julia. She still should have enjoyed kissing the adorable Heath Ledger, though.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Who Framed Roger Rabbit: a good soundtrack

Roger Rabbit got kinda annoying, so I ended up fast-forwarding through much of this movie, but one thing was a winner: the soundtrack. Alan Silvestri did a great job evoking post WWII LA with a mix of smoky, swingin' hard-bop and grandiose, symphonic statements (think Back to the Future.) It all screams HOLLYWOOD! I'm always looking forward to the perfect soundtrack to my LA expeditions. I'll pop this one in next time I'm in search of "classic" studio Hollywood . . . when I'm putzing around Warner Brothers studio or Universal City . . .

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Game . . . gangster rap that won't make you blush.

"Rap is just a white man's tour of the ghetto." If I hear that tired old adage one more time I'm gonna . . . admit that 99% of the time it's true. So, as a well-to-do white girl in the 'burbs, I must confess that I get a little touchy when I start hearing the musical equivalent of Gangsters blasting through my mustang's subwoofers. That said, I rarely unplug the 'pod because, well, I like my rap thuggish.

And that's what made the LAX Files such a great album. It oozed gansta glamour without the histrionics. The Game seems to be a fan of Contemporary R&B so the production generally consisted of cooing women and soulful keyboards. The gangster grit was all in the beats and the Game's voice and rapping. Being relatively unschooled in hip-hop, it's difficult for me to be terribly specific. I can only say that his album sounded tasteful. I'm looking forward to his next release . . .

The finally found bigfoot. Phew!

What a relief, I'm glad to know that Smosh got to the bottom of that mystery. I was getting a little apprehensive about my upcoming trip to the Sierras. Now I can rest at ease.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Paris, I love you, too!

In this video, we learn that Paris loves everything. The color pink, lasagna, her boobs.

Paris: "You've never had sex?"

Anonymous Paris Hilton Fan: "Nope, never had sex."

Paris: "I love that!!"



Best Breakthrough Video

Funny. Poignant.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

My VMA votes . . . .

It's that magical time of year again, MTV's Video Music Awards are just around the corner. Here's my picks:

1) Best Female: Taylor Swift, "You Belong to Me"
2) Best Hip-Hop: Eminem, "We Made You"
3) Best Male: Eminem, "We Made You"
4) Best New Artist: Lady Gaga, "Poker Face"
5) Best Pop: Lady Gaga, "Poker Face"
6) Best Rock: Green Day, "21 Guns"
7) Breakthrough Video: Gnarls Barkly, "Who's Gonna Save My Soul"
8) Best Video (that should have won a Moonman): Beastie Boys, "Sabotage"

Crossing my fingers!

Vote here:

Cut the ribbon: This Side of Paradise

. . . and the reading marathon of the Everyman's Library 100 essentials begins. I'm starting things out with a bang by reading F. Scott Fitzgerald's first novel, and, incidentally, the novel that made him famous: This Side of Paradise. He was only twenty-two when he wrote it. Wow.

The first draft of the novel was rejected by the publishers, so Fitzgerald had to revise things before they took it up. He revised with fury and passion: if this novel didn't make it, he knew he'd lose his chances forever with the lovely Zelda Sayre.

Zelda, a well-to-do southern belle, broke off her engagement to him after about a year, when it seemed like Fitzgerald's career was going nowhere. After This Side of Paradise turned him into a celebrity, she decided she liked him after all. Sounds like true love. Fitzgerald was so smitten that he took her back . . . but he always held it against her.

Rightly so.

I don't like her.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Oh no! U2 neutered rock 'n' roll!

Just finished listening to Mutemath's latest: Armistice. Red-flags, anyone? Is it just me, or should a rock band never be named Mutemath? And Armistice is borderline. It calls to mind some grand, important, serious statement. And rock 'n' roll should never be grand, important, or, above all, serious. Whatever happened to the sweat and the sex in rock? It really hasn't been there since the Rolling Stones. Here's my theory as to how the the lusty house of rock that Chuck Berry built got bulldozed.

The Rolling Stones may be to blame (I'm getting to U2). They were so sexy, so sleazy, and so exciting that I think every rock band wanted to be like them, one way or another. So every band tried to outsex the Stones and what we got in the '70s was one bare-chested band after the next, strutting their hot sweaty stuff, pumping out the jams like musical stallions. And rock became so big, so anthemic and so dripping in machismo that we . . . had had enough of it by the end of the decade. Except for the 80s hair metal bands who kinda kept the machismo thing alive but dropped the sexy. (Unless u think spandex is sexy?)

Enter punk rock. Rock kept its angst but it was stripped of sex: in other words, it was stripped of the blues. And those bad-ass brats were so ugly . . . intentionally. It takes a special breed of groupie to daydream about getting her upper protuberance snagged on some guy's lip ring, and her fingers tangled in his greasy, half-grown out mohawk. Don't matter if he's a rock star: ew. Punk rock is not sexy and that's what one thing, among many things, that made it inconoclastic in its day.

And then there was college rock. I guess that would be rock music for literate, thoughtful people like Michael Stipe. Again, cool and fun and catchy, but not sexy. Not rock 'n' roll. But at least you can hear the punk influence, and at least punk has an edge.

And then U2 and all of U2's alternative offspring (Coldplay) come along. The music is stripped of its thrashing, punk angst. We are left with cavernous spaces, tribal beats, and the wild voice of a native (Bono) belting out the heart-wrenching progressive message of truth, telling the tale the Native Americans never lived to tell. (?) Either that or singing the song of the repentant sinner. (How far away from Mick Jagger can you get?!!) The Edge's minimalistic guitar scintillates with nary a blue note. And everybody hails these guys as the best thing to happen to rock because, well, their music is so "good" and "spiritual" and all that jazz. And it's loud and has a backbeat, so therefore it must be rock, right?

Wrong! You take the blues out of rock and you no longer have rock. You take the sex out of rock and you no longer have rock. You have potentially good music with energy and a back beat, essentially amped-up singer-songwriter fare . . . but not rock.

I bet you can guess which side of the line Mutemath fall on.

After listening to an hour of Mutemath, I recovered by listening to Prince.

Since the beginning of the world and the dawn of time . . .

lol . . . that's how I like to begin my study of any topic. So this study of English literature is going all the way back to 450 AD: the Anglo-Saxon conquest of Britain.

Before I briefly guide you through 1,000 years of the English language's evolution, let me first say that I am very impressed by The Norton Anthology of English Literature so far. It is among the first and only academic texts I have ever read where the editors are not trying to impress me by confusing me. Thank you!

So, since time immemorial, the Celts lived in Britain. They were conquered by the Romans, who were then conquered by the Anglo-Saxons. Anglo-Saxon is just a hyphenation of Angle and Saxon, those two tribes both hailing from Germany.

The English language as we know it really begins with the Anglo-Saxon invasion. These German speaking tribes furnished us with a stock, German vocabulary. The language of this period is known as Old English. Old English can only be read in translation. Old English is, essentially, German.

In the 11th century, the Normans (people from Normandy, France), invaded and brought the French language with them. And there you have it. English is basically a fusion of German and French. It took some time, however, for the vocabulary and grammar to completely evolve away from Old English into Middle English. Middle English is the language spoken by Chaucer in the 14th century. With a little help, modern English speakers can read Middle English. Again, Middle English is a fusion of German and French.

Fun fact: the Wars of the Roses in the 14th century helped to accelerate the development of Middle English. These wars between the English and French resulted in English patriotism and interest in their own vernacular language and, ostensibly, a dislike for all things French. (Up until the 14th century, French was the language spoken by the educated and upper classes). During the 14th century, Parliament began conducting proceedings in English. Geoffrey Chaucer, a popular and influential poet in his own time, championed English by writing poetry in English instead of French or Latin.

Main points to remember:
Old English (essentially German, from the Anglo-Saxon tribes)
Middle English (post-Norman invasion, German + French, the language of Chaucer)

To be or not to be sexy?

Just had an interesting conversation with my mom. No, not that conversation. We had the kind of conversation you are never too old to have: how should women approach sexuality, how can they get respect from men?

My answer: find the right man.

At the risk of sounding simplistic, I believe there are two types of people in this world: selfish people and unselfish people. Selfish people go through life seeing everything as a transaction and seek to use everything in their environment to their own benefit. In contrast, unselfish people live life with a desire to share, contribute, and connect; unselfish people desire to think and feel at a higher, spiritual (as apposed to materialistic, advantageous) level. So the men out there who objectify women (and the women out there who objectify men) are just selfish people who do not care about love and do not want more than a physical relationship. Give those men a wide berth.

My mom's view of things is more that men are inherently sexual and they need to be trained to not see women as mere pawns in satisfying their sexual needs. Women need to dress modestly so that men do not look at them in the wrong way and get "tempted." T'hey need to not be sexual so that men will respect them for more than their bodies.

While there is some merit to her case, I would say this: if a guy likes women exclusively for that, the hole is in the guy . . . he's just a selfish, shallow person. No amount of foregoing makeup and miniskirts will turn him around. Surrounding him with respectable, intelligent women will not change what he wants out of a relationship. He's just a lemon. And look at the other aspects of his life. Chances are he's greedy in the way he approaches his career and other dealings.

In defense of my mom . . . when women dress or conduct themselves in a "sleazy" way, the chances that they will attract a lemon go way up. Because bad men love sleaze. Also, in the process, they will likely alienate good men who want more from a relationship. That's why makeup and miniskirts should be kept under lock and key around young, teenage girls. Youngsters may not have the wisdom to sort out the apples from the lemons. And young girls may fail to realize that being physically beautiful is only half of the equation . . .

. . . the other half of being drop-dead gorgeous is having wits and a strong personality. No man in my acquaintance worth winning has ever been attracted to an airhead. A vacant expression, irritating giggle, and fawning mannerisms are turnoffs to men . . . except the selfish ones I talked about earlier who love flattery and seek to dominate. Most men want it all ways . . . physical beauty, mental agility, and character. Makes sense, no?

So, the good news is that I do not believe women need to hide their beauty or "reform" men. Sexuality is all about the spirit it's done in. A woman in a tight, low-cut sweater can come off as ditzy or divine depending on how she sports it. Does she have the brains to match her boobs? Does she show off her figure to say "come get me, I'm easy" or to flaunt a beautiful body she is proud of? In other words, is she doing it all to "trap and bait" or to celebrate?

My religious beliefs put me in the "wait until marriage" camp, but I will be the first to say that there are unmarried couples out there who are having better, more meaningful sex than some married couples. Loving at a spiritual level transcends wedding vows and it transcends whether or not the woman flaunts it in her little black dress . . . instead it has everything to do with the people involved and the extent to which they are spiritually capable of loving (the extent of their unselfishness).

As in all things in life, love is the opposite of greed; love is always the solution and greed is always the downfall. If women want good relationships with men and vice versa, they must take care to not match up with greedy people. Attracting unselfish people involves fighting the greed in yourself, and then trusting your gut . . .

Everyman's Library adventure #1

So I printed out my list of the 100 titles I'm determined to get through and dated it. Let's go.

First up is F. Scott Fitzgerald's This Side of Paradise.

I forgot everything I learned in college because . . .

I broke the golden rule which is to condense your knowledge of something into one sentence (maybe two). Here are some examples of me doing that based on stuff I looked at this summer:

Kafka's Metamorphosis = Life is absurd.
Flaubert's A Simple Heart = The world will mercilessly hack down those who do not fight back.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind = Go with the flow: accept (even embrace) the good and the bad about life and who you are.

It is surprisingly difficult to sum things up so briefly. The process of doing it really makes you think through the work of art and, best of all, if the work of art is worth remembering, you generally will be able to remember one sentence about it.

That one sentence answers the question I was discussing before, "Why was this work of art made?"

And then answers to the second question, "How does the artist get their point across," sort of come to you if you can remember the answer to the first.

In college, my professors thought they would sharpen all of us up by stuffing our brains with bucketloads of information. It was so painful regurgitating all of it. It's so much better, when you read/see/hear anything, just to take away from it the one thing that really matters . . . the main idea.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

I'm feeling overwhelmed, but wait . . .

I know how to do this. How to read literature? How to make sense of any work of art? I think this is the best approach:

Ask yourself, "If I were the artist, why would I have created this?"

If you can answer that question, then I think you "get it," insofar as any work of art can be completely understood.

Answering that question will give you the "meaning" of the work.

As far as technique goes, see if you can answer how the artist communicated their point. If it's a work of literature, then how do the plot, writing style, characterization, and symbols in the piece work together to make the point.

Just two questions.

It's really easy, isn't it? Pass me Ulysses.

The Norton Anthology of English Literature . . .

Is excellent. This can keep you busy for a lifetime. I checked it out from the library along with my Everyman's Library selections. It's got it all . . . definitions, pictures, a vast compilation of essential works, timelines, critical essays, bibliographies, endless "for further exploration" resources. It'll make the nerd in all of us drool!

Can't wait to finally make sense of a vast topic that I've been curious about for a long time.

Join me as I read the Everyman's Library

The Everyman's Library satisfies my passion for two things: reading and lists. They have a "100 Essentials" that fits the bill perfectly. If I can get through this series, I will always be the smartest person in the room . . . of course that's why I (or anyone) reads.

Check it out at:

The Everyman's Library was originally published in the UK and was designed to be make the classics affordable for the layman, hence the title of the series. A pleasing democratic touch.

Clarissa . . . I want you back . . .

Nickelodeon in the 90s. Now those were the days. Love this song, happy memories . . . and Melissa is still so cool this many years later!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

I want black satin sheets . . .

Stunning song and vid. Female pop stars and R&B singers are a dime a dozen, but female rock stars are a unique breed. Who can you think of? Ain't many, Pink pulls it off. I could do without Pink making out with herself, but every other aspect of this vid, the fashions and everything, was delicious. Cool that she was rolling around with herself on black satin sheets, tho. Black satin sheets . . . way more provocative than skin . . . :)

What a chick ditty!

"Love Story" by Taylor Swift. This music video has it all . . . a castle, princess dresses, a ball, a Pride and Prejudice setting, a midnight tryst, the lovers running across a field towards each other across other (guy bare-chested) . . . there's even a silver pony! I love it! This vid prompted me to coin "chick ditty." Check out my definition for it at
Probably won't publish for a few days.

Urban Dictionary favs . . .

Magic Toaster:
A derogatory term describing an un-savvy computer users view of what a computer is.
Why my magic toaster no come on? I plug in, but no toast.

Blinker Beat:
When the tic-toc of the blinkers syncs with the music playing on the car radio.
e.g: dude check it out, I got blinker beat happening on this Jay-Z song.

Good hang:

Def: someone who is fun to hang out with

yo dude what do you think of dustin?
o yeah hes a good hang

An old tee-shirt you wear while hanging around the house.

The word is hard to say many times quickly.
The great man came to the door wearing baggy boxer shorts and a food-stained sloth-cloth.

Go primitive:
Instead of keyboarding or texting a long and detailed story someone suggests a phone call as a more direct way to have the conversation.
Dude, I'm good with texting but this is giving me carpel tunnel, let's "go primitive" I'll call you tomorrow at 8.


A word describing somebody who is uncomfortable being openly amiable and kind, so they give more subtle hints to their goodwill while maintaining a disagreeable exterior. See also.
That man spent the entire meal complaining to me about my service, and then he left me a $5 tip. He's totally aggressive passive.

Making base contact:

Making Base Contact; "saying" meaning contacting your wife, girlfriend, or serious female relationship via your cellular phone, just like as paramedics make base contact to get additional orders for patient care, one can give ones female an updated status on what the boys and yourself are doing.
you: hey guys so are we getting ready to head to the bar now?

friends: yeah sure were leaving in ten, can't wait to get smashed!!

you: sounds great lemme just go "make base contact" first


you: great if you leave any sooner Ill be over by the garage "making base contact"

Man Cave:

A room, space, corner or area of a dwelling that is specifically reserved for a male person to be in a solitary condition, away from the rest of the household in order to work, play, involve himself in certain hobbies, activities without interuption. This area is usually decorated by the male that uses it without interferance from any female influence.
Tom retreated to the Man Cave to play his online rpg game.


Coverage by contract whereby the party which has undertaken to guarantee protection or coverage against loss by a specified peril reneges said coverage when protection or action becomes necessary.
I had to take little Throckmorton to a specialist for his asthma, but the visit was not covered by our health unsurance policy.

Writer's Crap:
Derived from 'writer's cramp', writer's crap reffers to a stage when one is only capeable of writing utter crap.
'That story was horrible, i think she's got a bad case of Writer's crap'


Depression caused by the lack of a holiday to party about for at least a one-month period. Typically occcurs between St. Patrick's Day and Memorial Day in the US and also during the month of August when holidrawl is present between 4th of July and Labor Day.
Date: April 26th

Dear Diary;

I'm in such holidrawl that I can't think of anything else to tell you! *flips back to entries from St. Patty's Day and cries hysterically*

Lyrical themes . . .

Lyrically speaking, who agrees?

Pop music = romance
Rock music = rebellion
Hip-Hop = pride-in-your-stride
Singer/Songwriter = storytelling
Country = storytelling + romance

Funny how certain lyrical themes just sound best with certain sounds. I used to turn my nose up at "ooh-baby"ish lines, but, as someone who writes pop-ish music, that's where I've ended up and I'm cool with it. Pop music sounds best when it's light and sweet. Unless your a genius like Eminem and you know how to break the rules. Not me.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Penny pranks, hehe.
Kinda reminds me of when my bro and I paid up at a Taco Bell drive thru w/ nothing but coins. It took the poor people 5-10 min. to count it out. Rudest thing I ever did . . . but, hey, you gotta use your pennies.

Pink's Latest . . .

Pink inspires me b/c of her great voice and original, arty style. Above all, she knows how to sing the blues and brings a gritty, bluesy flavor (a la Janis Joplin) to her songs.

Cobra Starship, Hot Mess: Experience your brains popping out of your ears!!

The best punches come on the sly. So, the next time you want to have at it, don't sock it to 'em with your brass knuckles like any other average Joe. Instead, lure the offender into your vehicle, secure the child safety locks, crank up the stereo to Cobra Starship, slam the doors shut . . . and no one gets out until every last freakin' fortissimo note of the album has boom-blasted that car up and down. Your friend will emerge from the vehicle in an altered state of consciousness . . . guaranteed!!

Ah, the glory of emo-inflected euro-pop (made in the U.S.A), belted out over pummeling club beats, distorted guitars, and blistering synths! This is music made with love and you'll get an ear-full of it! It will enthusiastically bowl you over! Kinda like my review!

In all seriousness, this was a "fun" album and it was worth hearing in its entirety once and left me with a handful of tracks worth hearing multiple times. My only complaint is that this band my suffer from Junior-Senior-itis. Lukewarm Junior-Senior fans will know what I'm talking about. It's the experience of turning on an album and thinking, "This is the best, catchiest stuff I've ever heard!" only to reach the end of the album gasping, "I can't take it anymore!" It may, however, leave others gasping, "Gimme more, I need a fix!"

Hence the title of my review . . .

For me, on too many of the tracks, it was as if they couldn't decide who should do what and when, so they were like, "Ah, heck. Let everybody play. Spank-my-but drums, buzzing bass, UFO-hovering synths, fuzzy guitars, whining vocalist, the choir, the guy playing the quirky organ stabs and triggering the siren samples . . . ready . . . set . . . GO!" MAYDAY, MAYDAY, MAYDAY.

Actually, the arrangements weren't chaotic so much as they were over-enthusiastic. In terms of sound effects, this band had a lot they wanted to include on each track and aired on the side of trimming the tree as opposed to trimming it all down.

But I tend to feel that way about emo bands in general. The arrangements often sound noisy to me. If you really love the sound of Fall out Boy, for example, then you'll probably like this album. You'll likely give Cobra Starship two thumbs up for passion and energy.

You have been warned . . .

All I want is u!!

Love this song . . . love this song . . . can't stop listening to this song . . . cute video, too . . .

Dostoyevsky, thanks for helping me with my love life!

So the basic idea from Dostoyevsky was that we have the power to choose what we get out of life and how we see life. Sometimes life pitches us curve balls that are beyond our control, but that is the exception, not the rule. So the next time you have a "woe is me" moment, reconsider . . . is the world really that bad, or are you just incompetent?

Okay, ladies . . .

Most of us have had the experience of getting burned by someone we knew all along would be bad for us. You know the type, the party boy, the "popular" guy. No good, no good!

Funny how, back in the day, I used to go for those types and then gripe about how terrible men were. And, just like the narrator in the story, my bitter feelings and irresponsible actions were all a reflection of my ginormous ego. I was "too good" for the shy, quiet, less-than-perfect-looking guy in the back of the classroom. And, ultimately, I didn't want to a deep personal connection, I didn't want a real relationship. I wanted the thrill of the chase, I wanted to get bent up out of shape by the Greek God every one else lusted after. For shame! For all my griping . . . I got what I wanted . . . I chose what I got . . . I got what I deserved.

No excuses.

Dostoyevsky was passive-aggressive!

This will be - - I think - - the last in a long line of Notes from the Underground posts. So enjoy. This is the part where I tell you what it all means. Finally.

And here is the theme summed up: A human being may have such an enormous ego that they kill everything good that comes their way just so that they can stay aloof and in control. The classic example of this happening in N fr U, is when the unnamed narrator woos a prostitute, (just for the heck of it, just to see if he can have that kind of power over someone), and then rejects her when she shows up at his door. What an a-hole. Why is this significant? The lesson I learned is this: every time you are mean and unkind and you reject the world and the people around you, you need to look inside of you. The problem is inside of you. Not outside of you. Fix yourself. Human beings have the power to choose what kinds of lives they will live. That power of choice can be used for good or for evil. Use it for good!

N of U brilliantly illustrates how a person may deceive themselves into believing that the world is a terrible place and therefore it is their duty to manipulate, control, and ultimately reject the world. The anonymous narrator (admittedly of above average sensitivity and intelligence) finds that he is unable to connect with the world around him. People are mean to him, his talents are unappreciated. He writes a compelling essay for us explaining how hard it is for him, a dreamer, an adventuresome intellectual, to ever "connect." People and reality are just a ball and chain. So he commits himself to an "underground life."

Then he starts telling us stories about his life, and, at first, it seems like his theories hold up. The friends he meets with really are jerks and it seems like the world is truly the grim place the narrator makes it out to be. And then the narrator starts doing strange things. Like not wanting to pay his man servant on time, just for the heck of it. Just to have the power of withholding wages. Or making a woman fall in love with him and then casting her away. We begin to see that the narrator is actually heartless and very much to blame for his empty life. He sees the world through a twisted lense, and, above all, insists on seeing the world through that twisted lense so that he can have an excuse to be angry and abusive. At the end of the day, he is choosing to use a combination of isolation and abusive manipulation to feel apart and above it all. He never wants to be understood, he never wants to love, he never wants to let his guard down in any way . . . because, well, ultimately he is insecure and is nursing a fat ego. He tells himself that he is so awesome and that's why he's misunderstood. Turns out that he's misunderstood because he wants to be misunderstood. Life sucks for him, and he wouldn't have it any other way . . . because, pathetic as it may be, he feels strong and safe in his little cubby hole.

The cool thing about N fro U is the way the narrator is portrayed. At first, he comes off as extremely intelligent, likeable, and superior. His high flown theories are impressive and I found myself buying everything he said, even identifying with what he said (yikes!!!) . . . until he started telling stories about his life and then, unwittingly, exposes himself for the shallow fiend that he is. It was rather startling to experience that reversal. Dostoyevsky set it up beautifully.

Great read . . .

It made me think hard about the times when I've felt cynical and mean-spirited. Usually those feelings have gone hand-in-hand with narcissism. It's true, there are bad people out there and bad things in the world. But with some heart and intelligence, you can find the good in the world if you want to find it.

My new favorite song . . .

Love this song . . . the vid is cute but kinda *yawn* . . . good song, tho.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Dostoyevsky was a rapper

I haven't yet finished Notes from the Underground, so I'm going to hold out on the philosophical analysis for the time being until all the puzzle pieces come together. I'm leaving the punks behind for a post or two now to discuss Dostoyevsky's technique . . . a technique he has in common with the best writers, poets, painters, and, yes, rappers . . .

The key is using symbols. It's been a very long time since I've read a personal essay in which the author went to such pains to express their ideas symbolically. I've already mentioned a few symbols in the previous posts, but I'll list them here again . . .

"The Wall": when Dostoyevsky wants to refer to the assumptions and certainties people take for granted, he refers to the Wall. Small minded people bump up against "the wall" and don't question it, free spirits deny it exists . . .

"The mouse": this is the symbol for how Dostoyevsky feels in comparison to his associates who question the world less. Because he is constantly second-guessing himself and everything around him, he feels powerless to act.

"The crystal palace": some people believe that happiness can be reduced to an equation . . . classic example is the white-picket-fence scenario. If you give a person a marriage, a mortgage, kids, and affluence they will be happy. That white-picket-fence fantasy we poke fun at works in exactly the same way as "the crystal palace." Dostoyevsky denies that such a palace exists for humanity. Just because certain conditions are met in a person life doesn't necessarily mean they will be happy. Instead, people need free will and independence to do things their own way, not a formula . . .

I found the use of these symbols to be incredibly effective. Dostoyevsky made it so easy to understand and remember his concepts. And it got me to thinking . . . my favorite rappers lace their rhymes with concrete imagery that function like symbols. And every great painting has an iconic image/symbol that makes it unforgettable. That is the mark of high art. Don't express an idea using vague, abstract language . . . convert it into a visual that sticks on the brain like a sticky note . . .