Wednesday, December 31

Universal Mind Control

I dislike the New Year’s Resolution thing. It seems like an arbitrary time to decide to start something. But then January seems like an arbitrary month to start a year. Resolutions do help to focus one’s intent. And intent is something that could use some focusing in my life at the moment. So here are my resolutions for 2009.

1.) My first resolution is also the most pressing: find a fucking job! Not only do I need an income but I also need something to occupy my time. I tend to bug the crap out of my friends and spend too much time watching music videos otherwise.

2.) Decide what to do next, at least for the foreseeable future, once I graduate. Law School? Grad degree in history? Soulless corporate gig that pays well? The last one isn’t likely considering the state of market capitalism but a guy can dream. I should probably replace it with “work at Starbuck?” but that would be too depressing a start point.

3.) Read more books for fun. Or at the very least finish the books that I’ve started and never gotten through. It happens a lot.

4.) Stop being jealous of everyone’s new Mac. Mine works just fine, I don’t need a new one. I’m hoping that if I keep telling myself that it will work at any rate.

5.) Save more money once I find a job. I have like $13 to my name. I too have delusions of homeownership. Maybe a condo…

So those are my aspirations for the coming year. Stay tuned to Morning of Forced Lesure to see if any of them work out. I’m handicapping 3 : 1 odds against for the last four. I would assume I’ll be able to find some sort of work at some point next year. Fingers crossed.

Song by Common from “Announcement EP.” Listening to “Kids (Pet Shop Boys Synth-Pop Remix)” by MGMT. Sorry there was no Meursault review, I want more time with it since it deserves a well written and thought-out post.

Saturday, December 27

Transformer

So I’m out of my funk. It got worse before it got better but as of today I’m feeling good. I’m feeling fine. I have no idea why I was feeling so down about everything all at once. But whatever, right?

I finished Downtown Owl last night. It was one of my Christmas books. I read about five pages on Thursday but devoured the rest of it yesterday. Klosterman can write. Like… for real. I can see how he wouldn’t appeal to everyone (he tells very small stories that usually leave me feeling solipsistic and melancholic) but I love everything I’ve read by him. Downtown Owl is no exception. It’s about a small town in North Dakota in the winter of 1983-4. There’s a massive blizzard and lots of quiet sad little moments. Maybe I just like his style, or tone or whatever you’re supposed to call it too much but the book had a lot to do with the bottoming out of my funk and its end. Anyway, you should probably check it out.

In music news I have been listening to the new Kings of Leon album, “Only By Night.” I had bought their previous effort (“Because of the Times”) and would give it mixed reviews. A lot of the songs were solid but not great after a couple of weeks, but the great tracks (i.e. “Knocked Up,” “On Call,” “True Love Way”) stayed great. That usually doesn’t happen. If the album grows stale then by and large it’s the whole album. Only By Night has a higher ratio of great songs to average songs and seems to be headed towards the same conclusion as its older brother. “Sex On Fire,” “Manhattan,” “Use Somebody,” “Closer,” and “Be Somebody” are some of the best guitar driven songs I’ve heard in a long while. They somehow become more than what they are on the surface—southern rock tinged anthems sung by a bluesy voice that sings about love and loss. If you’ve never heard of the band you have heard songs just like it. And yet the sadness seems more genuine, older, more studied. The love is more desperate as his voice cracks and recedes in the mix. I’m still unsure how to pronounce Leon though. Elizabeth seems to think it should be like the American name but I always thought it was like the region of Spain. My evidence? The Spanish region known as Leon had kings… not that band names are logical like that. Just look at… well at lot of bands that became popular in 2008. I’d say MGMT might be the most inscrutable but Burning Sensations always makes me smile. STDs…

Next post watch out for my Meursault review, possibly my thoughts on some of the Christmas movie releases and a book or two. On the list for movies: Valkyrie, Slumdog Millionaire, The Spirit. Still to read: The Adventures of Cavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon and High Fidelity by Nick Hornby.

Post title is a song by Marnie Stern. I’m listening to Salt, Pt. 2 by Meursault.

Thursday, December 25

Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24

Merry Christmas!



I got books that I wanted which was sweet. My Gran gave me a White House Christmas ornament, a tradition that has been around since before I was born for my cousins. It'll be interesting to see if the old arch-conservative still purchases them when Mr. Obama moves into 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

So that was about it. A little cash from my other grandfather and from my British-mom. But Christmas isn't really about the stuff. Its about the people and the spirit and the bite in the air that makes you curl up by the fire and remember things like "Christmas isn't about stuff."

The people seem older and more tired, the spirit more muted, like washed out technicolor red and green decorations on some half forgotten Christmas movie. The bite in the air was absent today in DC and the fire (which wasn't) made the air seem leaden. Last year was a little like this too. Every year since I graduated high school it's been moving in this direction, our yule-tide festivities growing more shrill in their insistence.

Maybe it's because there aren't any kids. But even at my aunt's house last night (with contains a six year old) it wasn't quite the same. Maybe it's the economy. Maybe it's me. The song "No More Blue Christmases" is playing right now from downstairs, where there isn't a single person. They all went to bed or to read in bed.

I think its a Natalie Cole song. To Ms. Cole: they don't seem to be "going out of style," any advice?

It wasn't even all that blue, really. Not really. Just quiet. Or maybe reserved is a better word. Anyway, time to read my new Chuck Klosterman novel and wait for people to call me about going out. Maybe that will brighten me up... for real though-- merry Christmas. Happy New Year.

The post title is a day late to be appropriate but it's my favorite christmas song. Anything that can involve both air guitar and the baby Jesus is fine by me.

Thursday, December 18

Daylight

School is done with (as of about 2 hours ago), Christmas is around the corner and it is time for my Best of the Year in Review themed post. I apologize in advance if this seems trite or ill-conceived or both. It probably will be…

Music:
Culled from the “New Stuff” playlists from my iTunes this is my mix of the best music that I downloaded in 2008. I say downloaded because not everything was in fact recorded in 2008. But you know the old adage: it’s new to me!

1.) Campus by Vampire Weekend
2.) Come on Feet by Pete & the Pirates
3.) Alice Practice by Crystal Castles
4.) Northwestern Girls by Say Hi
5.) Bad Girl (Part 1 & 2) by Lee Moses
6.) The Inbetweens by the Magistrates
7.) Bumble Bee by Adam & the Amythists
8.) Keep Yourself Warm by Frightened Rabbit
9.) Until We Bleed (feat. Lykke Li) by Kleerup
10.) Sleepy Head by Passion Pit
11.) With Handclaps by Y’all Are Fantasy Island
12.) Curs in the Weeds by Horse Feathers
13.) Monster by The Soiree
14.) A Thousand Eyes by Crystal Antlers
15.) Sweet Disposition by Temper Trap
16.) The Furnace by Meursault
17.) Salt, Peppa & Spindarella by Johnny Foreigner

Television:
I don’t watch a lot of TV on my own. Its usually with Elizabeth but I feel like I can confidently say a could of things about the ’08 boob tube landscape.

Most surprisingly good show: 30 Rock
Now that it isn’t competing with Studio 60 I have made peace and actually like it. Baldwin is very good.

Most disappointing show: True Blood
Southern gothic, vampires, Anna Paquine getting naked: why didn’t I like it? No… I’m asking. There is no reason I should have gotten bored half way through the first episode.

Guilty Pleasure: Gossip Girl
Who among us can say no to witty NYC elites stumbling through adolescence? Oh, almost everyone. Okay. I’ll just be over here waiting for the next txt msg from GG, ttyl.

Comedy that makes me want to get HBO: Flight of the Conchords
The Bowie song they do is too funny for words…

Best Reality TV show that Elizabeth makes me watch, that I complain about but secretly like: Clean House
The woman from Reno 911 is on it. She’s funny. Don’t judge me!

The go-to Channel of ‘08: MTV U
A channel of music videos? Imagine that! They should have done this ages ago.

Best in Show: Tie – House & Chuck.
Both are so good, House is well written, compelling and hilarious, something that almost never happens on network TV. Chuck has an idiotic premise and fairly ridiculous characters that you shouldn’t care about, and yet you can’t help but root for the geek from Nerd Herd willing him to finally make a move with Sara, hoping that he and Casey actually become friends… and Capt. Awesome is freaking great.

Movies:

Dark Knight, Burn After Reading, Milk, WALLE, Rachel Getting Married, Smart People, Speed Racer, Juno (came out in 2007 but I saw it in theaters in January..)

That is in no particular order. Also it is based on memory and only what I actually saw in 2008. So if I saw a movie with you but forgot it or think its was longer than a year ago, even though it was not… please do let me know. These are just the ones that made a great impression.

Anyway that is everything. I think. Are there categories that I missed? Whatever. I just finished my semester. Time to go get drunk!!! Or have a quiet evening in. Depends on who answers their phone.

Listening to Until We Bleed (feat. Lykke Li) by Kleerup. Post title by Matt & Kim from their new album that I want really badly!

Monday, December 8

Quick & Painful

To do:

Tonight – finish 15 page paper on Raymond Aron and Albert Camus for History of European Ideas II

Tuesday – Hand in paper for History of Ideas II, write paper on Isak Denisen, finish rewrite of paper on “Dulce et decorum est” by Wilfred Owen for Writing About Literature, take clothes to drycleaner.

Wednesday – Write textual analysis for History of European Ideas II class on Lukac’s “History of Class Consciousness,” meet with some dude in my French History class to give him notes, start powerpoint presentation for Advanced Composition, turn in Writing About Literature papers, get clothes from drycleaners.

Thursday – Meet Advanced Composition group at the library to work on presentation, study for exams (part 1).

Friday – Give advanced composition presentation, study for exams (part 2), see family for pre-wedding festivities, go to rehearsal dinner after-party and get wasted.

Saturday – Go to pottery thing for Elizabeth, go to wedding, get wasted, exam study (part 3)?

Sunday – Sleep, Study for exams.

Monday – Exam in History of European Ideas II. Study more

Tuesday – Study for exams all day.

Wednesday – Study for exams… part 6 or something, cry a lot.

Thursday – Exams in French History, and Writing About Literature. Say goodbye to Fall 2008 Term.

Friday – Drive to Iowa.

Monday – Fly home.

December 23 though January 26 – Get wasted, look for a new job, read only stupid pop-culture books, or nothing at all.

Listening to my brain explode. Blog title: "Quick & Painful" by Free Blood, from The Singles.

The Dirt and the Roots

The end of my summer, briefly:

I drove to Billings, Montana at the end of August. Coach / Skippy / Mike needed to drive to college and wanted a companion to split the drive and generally keep him from going insane on the 1,800 mile journey from D.C. to Billings. I volunteered. This is a brief account of how it happened, sort of.

Original Plan: 6 days from DC to Billings. Day 1 from DC to Pittsburgh. Stay with friends. Day 2 from Pittsburgh to Bong State Park, IL. Stay in park for hilarious name and possible “rocketry” according to website. Day 3 from Bong State Park to Sioux Falls, SD. Stay in cheap motel because South Dakota is pretty but has dangerous wildlife. Day 4 from Sioux Falls to Deadwood. No plan of where to stay but thought it would be cool to live like a cowboy. Day 5 from Deadwood, SD to Billings, MT, stay in dorm room. On Day 6 I would fly back.

The schedule lasted all of about an hour…

In Pittsburgh we: 1) got lost 2) got a flat tire 3) had triple A fix it 4) found a statue I though my great grand father had made but didn’t 5) kept driving.

A decision was made, I’m not sure how anymore, to keep driving to Chicago. Through night and states I didn’t care to see we entered a new world. A world where sleep is for the weak, rest stops were only there to provide more Red Bull and music, blared loud into the cold Midwestern night was all that fed us.

We drove through Ohio then Indiana in the pitch dark. We drove through the twang of Johnny Cash’s guitar, old blues and Dylan. And it changed us. All the east coast baggage checked for pick up at National Airport six days later. New state, new start, next page.

We drove through night and into the New City at dawn. 2 hours of picture taking and many cups of coffee later we thought that city hotels were for suckers and set off to see what lay on the other side of the Mississippi.

We passed through IL in gray rain, through southern Wisconsin in hot summer sun, though La Crosse wishing for sleep, past Madison hoping for beds again. Someday.

We saw a jolly green giant five stories tall, in a town called Blue Earth. I looked but all I saw was a DQ. We spoke to amphetamine truck drives in rest stops. We ate Chinese food in Wisconsin that was surprisingly good.

We saw state slip by after state and into South Dakota around 5 in the afternoon.
Sioux Falls was: a Motel 6, twelve hours of sleep, a pretty park that had a name but I can’t remember, a bar with lectures on loyalty and Coors light in cans, eight hours of sleep, day 3.

South Dakota stretched out in front of us. We saw Wall, Rushmore, Crazy Horse, Badlands, god.

And kept driving. From a boarded up Deadwood we saw the last ray of sun in Wyoming.

We came though South Dakota baptized and came down through mountains to hills to sky that goes forever. Stars like a million pinpricks of light through black blankets. Cold wind and open windows kept us going into sky that goes on forever

See “Big Sky,” just once, before you die.

Billings was: Super 8 at 3am, pillars from history, shopping malls and co-eds, Obama in the same town as us. It all felt settled and nice. Until you looked up and saw jets take off from 800ft above your head. Rimrock leaves an impression.

I flew home after that. Nothing seems as big. Nothing feels as possible. “Go west young man.” I did. I want more. The greatest adventure of my life, so far.

Listening to the cold and trying to remember warm windswept rocks.

Thursday, November 20

Make This Work

You may have noticed, if you could still find this place, that the URL has changed. What was http://spinnythekid.blogspot.com is now forcedleisure.blogspot.com and better for it! Spinny the Kid was a nickname of mine way back in high school and I’ve used it intermittently since then for screen names and such. I happened to google “spinnythekid” a few days ago and found a rather troubling result. My blog came up along with an entry from UrbanDictionary.com. It included seven definitions of the term “spinny.” The best are numbers 1, 3 and 7. I’ll restate them here:

1.) Spinny – From south west England, mainly said if someone is confused about something. Spinny also means strange, tripping, odd, mysterious, unfamiliar.

3.) Spinny – The feeling you get after play a video game for at least three straight hours, usually an RPG. It’s a feeling hard to describe, almost as if you’ve checked out of your life for a while and then were suddenly thrown back in.

7.) Spinny – A small, fat, Italian kid who has a unibrow.

The first is appropriate. The second is how I feel a lot. And while I have nothing against small fat Italian kids with the misfortune of growing only one eyebrow I do not count myself among them. As #7 is the only noun I decided to change it up. A new look and a new URL. And pictures for the first time in the last post! Yes it certainly is exciting. Web 2.0 I mean. This blog is rather quotidian…

Listening to my post title which is a song by The Magistrates.

Monday, November 17

Half Asleep





Weekend = good.

1.) Went to m83 / school of seven bells show at black cat. SVIIB was amazing. Elizabeth bought their CD "Alpinism" and after a couple runs through it I've been converted. Where do I sign up for their school? M83 was great or at least exactly what I expected. I have strange feelings about them. At times I think its sublime, transcendent music that moves pop onto a stage where chords tell sweeping epic stories and drums beat out secret knowledge and rhythm in equal parts. John Hughes speaking directly to me. Other times it all seems like self-indulgent monotonous europop that tries way to hard to evoke the 1980s. Depends largely on the song... I think the show managed more of the first and less of the second. Even the over-the-top "Kim and Jesse" was fun. The concert was technically on Thursday but since I didn't do anything on Friday it counts as weekend. Pictures are from a sitting break during M83's set and the School of Seven Bells performance, respectively

2.) Went to see the new Bond movie with my pop. It was good. The reviews have been negative (they seem to think there wasn't enough classic Bond stuff) but I think the new, darker, antihero 007 is alright. I tend to like everything newer, darker and more antihero-filled so I may not be the best person to ask. Watch Casino Royale first. The new one picks up moments after the last one ends. I couldn't remember some of the finer plot points and was a little lost for a couple minutes. Not seeing the first Daniel Craig Bond will leave you scratching your head.

3.) Very little else. I watched reality TV, got stuck in traffic for almost two hours while protesters demonstrated against the G20 meeting on Connecticut Avenue. I got a wedding present for my cousin. There wasn't a lot to this weekend but that was what was so nice about it.

Oh. I got fired from my job too. The economic apocalypse and everything. I'm bummed but its cool. I didn't really want to work at a hedge fund for the rest of my life. The hours and pay kicked ass though. Like... a lot. So job hunting will begin shortly. My two best bets are nepotism or working in retail again. Don't you wish sometimes you could apply to be awesome for a living? Nothing to grand, just an entry level gig, say "Junior Consultant - Being Cool Department." I'd want to work my way up to middle management eventually though: "Lead Project Supervisor - Totally Boss Division." A man can dream...

In further music related news my monthly playist creation that I call "New Stuff: fill in the month" has been completed. November has born some sweet fruit. After culling through the music blogs for about five days here is what I think you should know about:

"Shotting Star" by Bag Raiders - The name of the band is hilarious and the song is great. Blips and glitches frame the uptempo melody while the vox sings out plaintively. I like the contrast. While nowhere near as good it reminds me of a sad Pet Shop Boys song that you can dance to. The build up and the song's climax changes the tone though and it turns into an above average dance track. Worth a listen if you're into that sort of thing.

"A Thousand Eyes" by Crystal Antlers - I read somewhere that "crystal" is the new "wolf" for band names this year. I like all the crystal bands: Crystal Castles, Antlers and Slits. These guys are a low fi guitar outfit from Long Beach. This song is my current fav by them. Slow guitar that quickly build as the chorus ramps up then crash back down works well for them. It has that grungy but layered quality that first attracted me to the White Stripes without really sounding much like the White Stripes...

"Lovesick" by Friendly Fires - Pop, pure and simple. Friendly Fires (along with Crystal Antlers) blew up at CMJ this year and a lot of people are writing about them both. Take this all with a grain of salt. They aren't doing much new but they do it so very well. "Paris" has been in rotation since I was alerted to their existence a while back in January. This newer find has everything "Paris" had going for it (catchy as fuck, fun vocals, great orchestration) but seems a little more "get-up-and-go." Just what the doctor ordered. One complaint: a little repetative at the end. You could trim by 45 seconds and lose nothing.

"Tuff n' Stuff" by Giantess - Epic synth got me to sit up and pay attention to this song on my first listen. It sounds like it should be sampled in a mainstream song... like a Chris Brown song. Then it turns into a rap song! By a group called Giantess. I was confused too. Okay it isn't Dr. Dre (there is an extended R&B breakdown and they sound white) but it all somehow comes off well. Okay. Its a little long and the R&B breakdown turns out to be the chorus which could be shorter but I stand by this song. Its too catchy not to.

"Sweet Disposition" by Temper Trap - The plucky guitar at the beginning, the crooning totally gay club hit vocals, the drums pulsing away-- you think this song is going to be a cliche and then it surprises you. It turns into somethings sweeter, more sincere. The two voice harmony in the chorus and the reemergence of the opening plucky guitar divorce it from its reference points, the anchors that would have made it a cliche. I have no idea who they are but Temper Trap have made my favorite song of November 2008.

"Bathroom Gurgle (Filthy Dukes Remix)" by Late of the Pier - Electronic for sure Late of the Pier does interesting things with a genre that is quickly becoming overrun with overnight blog-fueled success. I can't exactly figure out what it is that have going for them. I like the tempo changes, I like that they don't seem to sweat the big names' style (i.e. sound like Passion Pit or Crystal Castles). I like the sassy vocals. But it isn't anything that hasn't been done before. They're just solid. This song in particular illustrates this I think. Check them out. The line "put your hands in your waistline and move your body to the bassline" is just good fun.

I seem to be listening to a lot of dance music lately and I can't figure out why. Usually I like light fun pop in the summer, mid 90s emo in the autumn, New Order and other 80s synthy goodness in the winter and for spring a smattering of grindy screaming and noise-pop. Or at least that has been to equation I've followed since freshman year of college. There are exceptions to every rule (I love listening to Joy Division in the summertime) but the past year has been totally out of whack. The spring was all about etherial pop or folk, this summer was full of indie dance tunes and rap, and fall has seen guitar driven rock, more folk a lot of dance-- indie or otherwise. I'm not complaining I just wonder why. If you have any ideas please feel free to let me know.

Listening to "Glad I Met You" by Cut Copy. The title is from School of Seven Bells. Find them, listen, thank me later.

Tuesday, November 11

Let's Celebrate

I’ve had this song stuck in my head for the past three days. I find myself humming walking to class. I it sing under my breath while I file things at work. I jam out… hard… to it in my car everywhere I go.

“We’re like: love and train fare
we made monsters but monsters don’t scare
you (we) worked for weeks but the conscience never came
we made zombies to fight your zombies
and now they stare each other out in the sanctuary on saturdays
Brittany says ‘I don’t drink but if I did I’d get smashed and head for the library’
well I do drink, and I’ve done that and I still owe the money
how the champagne girls sit on and the stand and look out through the crowd
and nothing is wasted or compromised
the champagne girls won’t get you in
its like love and train fare…”

The song is call “Champagne Girls I Have Know” by Johnny Foreigner. The band seems custom-made for me. Guy/girl lyrics that are both shouty and melodic. Disjointed guitar parts that can’t decide how they want to go. All the while an electro anthem blares away letting everyone know this is a song to dance to. They write lyrics like, well… those above. Missed them at CMJ in NYC but whenever they come around next they cannot be missed.

Also in rotation:

Does It Offend You, Yeah? (if the Killers did electro-dance)
Laura Marling (singer/songwritery, great music video)
School of Seven Bells (alternating lounge and ethereal)
Duchess Says (grimy dance with screamed girl vocals)
Miles Anthony Benjamin Robinson (better live than recorded)
Free Moral Agents (hip-hop, jazzy goodness with Hooverphonic overtones)

All are for sure worth checking out. Except maybe Ms. Marling. I like “Ghosts” a lot. Its catchy and sweet. She sing “its not like I believe in everlasting love” like she does and to me its endearing. To others it’s cheesy.

I’ve been reading for English class. I know, shocker. “Babette’s Feast” by Isak Dinesen was quite good. Now I have to write a thesis using a school of lit crit. Marxism is easiest for me. Economic units help me make sense of the chaos that is story telling. New Criticism and postmodernism might be fun to try. Reader response seems pointless to me and why I hate English classes so often. Its like validating all the freshman who talk about their feelings all the time. Don’t they know that’s what bloging is for? I think I’ll go with the Feminists on this one. For once, it seems like the easiest way to go…

Listening to Underwear Reverb by Free Moral Agents. Post title is in honor of my two year anniversary with Elizabeth and by The Homosexuals (playing at the Velvet Lounge on Thursday, I’ll be at the M83 show. Spaced out French pop music instead of angular post-punk… the best kind of post-punk—a hard trade off)

Thursday, November 6

One Month Off

New classes for springtime:

HIST408N – History & Memory in Medival Islam
Wednesday 10:00am – 12:00pm
My senior methodology class that I have to take. I also needed a non-Western focused class (cause otherwise I’d be a racist?) so this seemed like the coolest. Representation is a cool concept and I think it will factor in heavily judging by the course name.
Excitement Level: 6/10 I have to take it and it could be awesome but there is a 40 page paper due at the end of it.

ARTH346 – 19th Century European Art History
Tuesday & Thursday 12:30pm – 1:45pm
I’m slightly terrified of this class. My high AP score junior year of high school was the last time I thought about Art History. I have a feeling the stuff I do understand will be great and most of the content will whiz by my head at surreal speeds. Ha ha. I’m hilarious.
Excitement Level: 7/10 sometimes that is also the Dread level score…

ENGL379R – The Jazz Paradigm
Tuesday & Thursday 2:00pm – 3:15pm
I’ve heard nothing but good things about this professor and the class. I couldn’t google him with any success and he seems like the only UMD English teacher without a bio on the department website.
Excitement Level: 9/10 Talking about Jazz as culture is so cool. Plus: A good reason to listen to Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk

ENGL312 – British Literature: Romanticism to Modernism
Tuesday & Thursday 3:30pm – 4:45pm
I have no idea what this will be like. It replaced a sociology class on gender that I thought better of at the last moment. The teacher is supposed to be nice, and I like some authors from this period. T.S. Eliot is really the only one I know well but we’ll see.
Excitement Level: 5 to 6/10

This will be the first time since 2005 that the amount of history classes I take have been outnumbered by the other subjects… I hope I can handle it. After a Spanish class over the summer and possibly a Germanic Studies course in Scandinavian Women (also over the summer and yes it is a real class) I will be done. I’ll be a graduate, an alumnus, a former student. No more homework, no more books, no more teachers’ dirty looks!

Also on my mind lately but unrelated: moving somewhere not on the east coast, taking up a trade, the various pros and cons of nepotism and OBAMA WON THE ELECTION!!!!!!

Laura Marling is worth checking out. She’s got the whole singer songwriter been there done that thing going on but I like her voice a lot and the video for “Ghosts” is amusing. With lyrics like “Lover please do not / fall to your knees / it’s not / like I believe in/ everlasting love” I was bound to like. Haven’t heard the whole album yet but its at least youTube worthy…

Battle Star Galactica is sweet. And addicting. Ceylons are awesome. I’m a nerd…

Listening to Intimacy by Bloc Party. New album. Highly recommend it.

Tuesday, October 28

Head Hits Concrete

Plans from the past:

When I was seven I would have told you:

“When I grow up I want to be a world famous author of awesome books like The Lord of the Rings. And a chef. And a poet. And have lots of money to buy stuff for me and my friends!”

When I was thirteen I would have told you:

“When I get out of school (Georgetown then the Kennedy School of Government) I want to work for the State Department. That’s only really a cover though. I’ll actually work as an intelligence analyst for the CIA. And no, its not like in the movies—I don’t want to be James Bond… it’s a desk job. I just think I would be cool to work with James Bond.”

When I was seventeen:

“I want to teach History. It’s the only thing I’ve ever thought of that would make me really happy. When Richard Rich asked Thomas Moore ‘Who will know?’ in A Man for All Seasons he replied ‘You will know, and your students will know and God will know.’ That would be enough me.”

When I was twenty:

“I want to teach college. I already dress the part and delaying real life for another eight years with a doctorate will be great. I know what you’re thinking too: ‘Greg, what happened to that simple dream of following the footsteps of the men who taught you?’ I woke up one day and realized that I hated children. Particularly other people’s poorly behaved children…”

Now:

“…I have no idea.”

I hate not having the answer. A lot.

Listening to: “Chunk of Change” (EP) – Passion Pit. Post title is from “The Locust” (EP) – The Locust.

Thursday, June 12

Please Drive Faster

Thank you to DCist for this little reminder:



I really wish I could argue with this. Alas, the only one I could come up with was that cabbies are worse... It just doesn't have bite. We all expect taxi drivers to run us off the road. An entire state, on the other hand is something else entirely.

I sort of can't wait until gas gets too expensive to buy and I can do away with The Rabbit (my car) and consequently my Maryland license plate.

Listening to Pretty Girls Make Graves while trying to blog, talk on my cell phone and drive down 16th Street all at the same time all at the same time.

Monday, May 12

The Inbetweens

Its been raining for too long now. On and off since Thursday I think. Why do I care about the weather? You’re right, of course. There isn’t anything I can do about it. I have no control over the decisions the weather makes. I have no way of altering the weather’s choices once they’re made. The weather is entirely intractable.

But that’s all anyone really talks about when it rains—how much they want the rain to stop, for everything to dry off and the gray days and washed out nights to go away. They feel like they’re only chance at happiness is sunshine without clouds. It isn’t that the argument is a bad one. After five days of this I want the rain to be over too.

I guess rain is just a fact of life. But unlike death with its stages of acceptance or taxes with its inevitability the rain never feels settled as a part of our lives. We never wake up one day to drizzle and say to ourselves: “Oh, it’s raining. Well it’ll stop eventually, and until then I’ll just go on.” We say stuff like “Its been raining for too long now.”

Maybe there should be a lesson in this. Maybe there should be a moral to my story. Something like without rain the sun doesn’t mean as much. Or the rain has a certain beauty too. Or that rain is how the plants grow stronger and the earth washes clean. Maybe that would be reductive and useless.

A lesson won’t help. Me telling you that you should learn to accept the rain will accomplish a grand total of nothing. The next time the sky open the both of us will glare at the clouds, hunch our shoulders and wait it out, unhappy about things that are beyond our control.

Sorry if that’s not the sort of thing that you wanted to reflect on. Sorry if you could care less about the rain. I guess I’ve just been having all these meaningless conversations with strangers lately. They all talked about the weather. They all complain about the rain. We all do. We all talk about the weather with strangers. Don’t worry though, the rain will stop soon enough and then we’ll start to grumble about the summer heat.

Sorry if this was a strange post. I’ve been in this bad mood lately and its been raining for too long now.

Tuesday, April 29

Ghost Under Rocks

Today is a strange day.

Today marks the anniversary both the collapse of the Ottoman Empire (or at least the beginning of its collapse) when they surrendered in World War I and the debut of Hair: The Musical. Its also the 238th anniversary of the discovery of Australia by Captain Cook. And to add to this already heady milieu this time sixteen years ago the Rodney King riots began.

Oh, and its International Dance Day.

Besides the historic element this day is strange for other reasons. It is the first time that I have posted in a long while. March was the first month I have missed doing something on the blog, and it’s almost the end of April…

Today I’ll also be inducted into Phi Alpha Theta, the History Honors society, which I don’t really want to do but need to for grad school. I have a feeling its going to be entirely an awkward experience.

It’s the week preceding my birthday, which always brings up the metallic taste of bile and the anticipation of getting stuff from people for not a lot of reason. Why can’t we pick another important date to get stuff on? For instance I’ve always been quite fond of the month September. I think I should be able to pick a day in September and have that be the day that people give me stuff for no reason… but alas I’m stuck with May 3rd, and free stuff is still free stuff.

I’ve got a presentation later this week too. Normally I’d be a lot more worried than I am right now but I can’t seem to muster the terror for failure that normally haunts my every step waiting for me to drop my guard and strike!

Anywho, that’s all really. Today is a strange day.

Friday, February 29

Purple Prose of Cairo

I am in awe of Hegel. The Phenomenology of Spirit, as disseminated by Arthur Hirsh in his book The French New Left (cause Hegel is really fucking long) has blown my mind. Elizabeth likens it to her understanding of geography. If a map of a city is a puzzle she’ll have some of the pieces and as she gets more of the pieces together there’re always one or two spots that you don’t seem to have filled. Once you find those everything suddenly makes sense. The whole picture emerges some much clearer. All the individual portions of the puzzle you have been working on suddenly make sense as a larger whole.

Hegel was my missing piece. Phenomenology, while I won’t claim to understand every nuance, has made the past two years of my academic interest suddenly come together like a fully formed map. The map is regional, not a lot of people go there, but now I feel like I can get around, explore the place I’ve been living inside my head for so long. I’m freakin’ psyched!

Enough extended metaphor.

Hegel is great but most of my readers will have little interest in my new found directional abilities (sorry, couldn’t resist). I have been starting work on a lot of school projects lately, which is why Hegel came up. The three papers I’m currently laboring over are going to be a lot of fun to write.

The first is for my class on Intellectual Life under Totalitarianism, I’ve tentatively titled it “In the Shadow of October.” Its about how the Western left dealt with Marxist-Leninism and Stalinism. Lenin and Stalin were murderous bastards, so why would these guys want to be too? The second is on the medieval kingdom of Castile. I’m not sure yet what my research question is, but I’ll figure it out. I just love the whole cultural interaction in Spain during the years that weren’t marred by massacres and religious intolerance. The last paper is on the construction of human beings relationship with nature. I’m focusing on the ways in which popular culture dealt with forest and garden and how they show Western attitudes towards the world as a whole. It should be fun.

I’m really excited about school. Sorry. I know it isn’t all that interesting, but I wanted to share.

I watched a documentary last night called American Hardcore, all about hardcore punk from 80 to 86. It was really good. There was a lot of Ian McKaye interviewing, and footage of D.C. bands from that era. Seeing the Calvert Street townhouse where Minor Threat played their first show with Bad Brains was awesome. I think I’ve walked by it before. I made me want to get my act together and finally finish that CD design I’ve been telling Mike I’d make a year ago. We’ll see.

Alright that’s all. I’ve got to wait around for the FiOS guy to come and make my house awesome. I’m going watch Chicago 10 tonight and my next post is going to be a media extravaganza. I’ve got a lot of movies and music to talk about.

Friday, February 22

Working In Three's

Albums I can’t handle:
- Xiu Xiu – “Women As Lovers”
- Say Hi – The Wishes and the Glitch
- Vampire Weekend – “Self Titled”

Lyrics I can’t shake:
- “Northwestern girls, I swear I’m all grown up this time. At least I lie different when you look so nice.”
- “Walcott, the Bottleneck is a shit-show / Hyannisport is a ghetto / out of Cape Cod tonight”
- “I'd kill for an adventure / Just you and I, in the Curzon Bar / Dancing till we knew / So all that we've learnt disappears”

Songs I hope always to be moved by:
- Ceremony (both…)
- How Near, How Far
- Waterloo Sunset

Things I want to do:
- Start a war within my self
- Create the new Situationist International
- Get out of my skin for just a half hour

Tuesday, January 29

Reactor Party

Back to school. I’m sitting in the Student Union, or to those in the know—Stamp. Its raining and it might as well be Monday. For some reason all of this excites me. Having purpose and work to do in life has gotten me out of my semi-funk and revived my hopes for Late Winter.

The schedule is as follows:
Tuesday – High Middle Ages, Environmental History and American Lit. from 9:30 to 1:15. 15 minute breaks for smoking and walking.
Thursday – Repeat above but add Intellectual & Cultural Life Under Totalitarianism in the 20th Century from 2 to 4.
Friday – Lit discussion class.

I still have to get my 20th Century Culture class’ discussion scheduled (it hasn’t been yet), but other than that the timing worked out quite well, I think.

I’d like to move and I’d like to continue to earn a big paycheck but other than that I’m feeling good. I’m sure all that will change once I get my syllabi, though. Then the panic will set in.

Hooray for panic.

Also, as an aside that doesn’t matter: a guy who honestly should be a Bertrand Russell impersonator is sitting across from me. He looks about 102 years old and he has a british accent. Good ol’ Bertie. I really need to take another Philosophy course.

Listening to “The Racing Rats” by The Editors (which as a more dance-y Robert Palmer feel to its music video) and “All My Friends” by LCD Soundsystem. The title is a song by ShitDisco. Good song.

Tuesday, January 22

Push Your Head Towards The Air

I’m making over my room. It’s getting a whole new image. You see, I’ve had, essentially, the same d├ęcor since I was twelve. Which is strange since the room looks like it’s the library/den/study of an English manor, and a stuffy one at that. So, a new coat of paint, some new furniture and art work that doesn’t seem to legitimize colonialism (or possibly just Orientalism in the Said sense) will hopefully give me a fresh new outlook on… well, everything.

This endeavor means that I have been clearing out a decades worth of detritus and junk. Right now there is no art on the walls, no books on the bookcase, nothing in my desk and very little anywhere else. The more stuff I take out, though, the more cluttered I think it looks. I think once the process is under way I’ll aim for a more Zen-like feel. Minimalism, thy name is Greg.

IKEA bookcases, a new dresser and a duvet cover have already been purchased, or at least picked out and hanged down. I’m searching for a desk and a chair still. And a paint color. These things take time. Packing my life up into a dozen boxes took days…

I’m so not Zen.

Sunday, January 6

What Would Wolves Do?

The Yuletide season is over. You can tell because we just took all the Christmas decorations up to the attic. It was a very secular design theme this year. A tree, nutcrackers, a few woodland elf things and some lights. I think my complete disinterest in religion is wearing off on my parents. We did go to St. Matthew’s Cathedral in D.C. for midnight mass (so that my parents wouldn’t feel like total lapsed Catholics). The service was beautiful. The choir and the architecture made me want to believe, which hasn’t happened in a long time. Huge spaces that make you feel small but safe are probably the best places to find God.

Beyond that the gifts were good. I got some new clothes, a few gift certificates, a couple books and this really weird stress ball that you have to see to believe. I would post a picture of it but… you know… I’m entirely inept at computer stuff. Of the wish list from a post ago, I got my 4.0 which I think may be a mistake. If it is then I hope they don’t catch it, if it isn’t: sweet! Paris is a possibility still but we don’t know yet, and while financial solvency is still distant I’m way better off after Jesus’ b-day than I was before.

New Year’s was spent in Baltimore. That was an adventure that would require an intire post in and of itself. Let’s just say that I saw women on cop cars getting their photo taken by the cop in various stages of undress, a three headed stag costume worn by a drum beating crazy person and the leftovers of a bar brawl. I love Hamden…

Work is kicking my ass but I get a little bored when I leave. I’m sure this is only because I need near-constant stimulation and working at a hedge fund provides an overload of it. School is starting back up soon. By the end of January I’ll be back to UMD and trying to balance my roles as employee, student, boyfriend, friend and son. I’m taking some cool classes but I’ll let you know about those when I’ve actually taken a few of them.

In my media reviewing I’ve been very busy. Lot’s to share. Nando lent me the Showtime series Dexter on DVD and I can’t recommend it highly enough. It’s about a serial killer. That alone makes for an interesting concept but they way the whole thing is done puts it on another level. The writing isn’t always amazing but its shot in Miami so there’s a lot of Michael Bay style bad-ass-lens/filter use. My favorite! I bought my dad Studio 60 and promptly stole it from him. I forgot how much I love that show. Sorkin is so good. In movie news Juno is amazing. I also got the pleasure of watching Short Circuit 2. If you don’t remember this movie its an 80’s robot flick that will blow your mind. I now understand why Nando lists it as his favorite movie of all time. Nightwatch was also quite good. I’ve been catching up on older movies lately so much of this may be news to no one.

Music has been sweet. Riot by Paramore, the Cut Off Your Hands EP, and the newest Les Savy Fav album are in heavy rotation.

That’s about it. Happy belated holidays to anyone who I haven’t already said it to.