Saturday, March 31, 2007

Pancake Breakfast

Today, we all woke up early and went to Lindsey's school for a "Pancake Breakfast." Lindsey and some kids in her class sang three songs (I filmed one, but I'll spare you). Anyway, a good time was had by all. Here are some pics:

The girls are all out trying on wedding dresses...I'm all alone with nothing to do but play with the Wii (I guess I could do homework...). Oh, Morrissey is coming to town! (both KC and St. Louis) I bought my ticket today (I'll be going to the KC Uptown performance at the end of May). Tickets are $40.00 anyone that likes good British crooning should go.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Spring Break--Camping Trip (Uncensored)

Well I'm bushed. All three of us (me, Leah, and Rusty) are back in KC visiting my family (we have the weekend before class starts back up again). We got back to St. Louis yesterday afternoon. I think all of us had a good time in the woods. Here is an uncensored account of our trip:

About three hours south of St. Louis is Sam A. Baker State Park. We took two cars, Leah and Rusty in one and me and Jimu in another. We lost cell phone coverage pretty early on in the trip (we were in the sticks). Luckily, I brought a set of small walkie-talkies which we used to communicate between the cars. This turned out to be really helpful. We got to the park and discovered that the camp office was closed. So, we couldn't pay for our campsite...we decided to build our camp anyway. Leah and Jimu set up the tent (Rusty sniffed and enjoyed the nature).

The next thing we did was explore the area around our camp. Directly behind our campsite we found a swiftly moving stream. It was really cool. Jimu went "natural" pretty much right away. Taking off his shoes and shirt, he really devolved into a mountain man. Not being a nature person, it was good having him around...he was gung-ho about doing a lot of the "mess" work. He built a fire, and generally kept it burning the whole time we were there. Leah and I scavenged for wood in the other campsites fire pits. Jimu tore a small tree in half and used two other trees to break it apart. I think he later regretted this because it TORE HIS HANDS UP.

It was overcast and had rained off an on (lightly) all day...but around 8:00 it started pouring. Me and Jimu were caught in it outside (Leah and Rusty were in the tent already). We scrambled inside...forgetting to close Jimu's trunk (it rained on everything...including his laptop which he had in his backpack, but it turned out to be alright). Once inside we started playing cards (Muppets UNO) but that quickly sparked a fight. Basically, me and Jimu haven't been getting along as well as we used to. He's doing some stuff I have trouble with. It's not really any of my business, but it has colored our relationship because I'm not 100% sure I can trust him with Leah. Me and Leah have talked about it, and she has assured me that I have nothing to worry about...but in the back of my mind I wonder about his motives. I didn't care too much about Jimu taking charge of the fire/cooking situation...but it seems like he questions/contradicts a lot of what I say WHEN LEAH IS AROUND. We have no problems when she's around. Anyway, I got pissed about him questioning the rules of the game...and I turned in for the night.

I lay there until about 10:00 or so when a truck pulled up--it was the camp people asking for our money. Leah went out and paid. Then it started lightning...and then the rain came. Around 11:00 me and Leah woke and saw the shadow of two legs on the outside of the tent. It was Jaime, he was outside, messing with the tent. Long story short, it was raining so much that water was collecting on the sides of tent's roof. He was trying to jury-rig it so our rain catcher So I shed my shirt and went out to help him. The rain was hard and cold. It was coming down so hard I couldn't see beyond a few feet from the tent. I used the wind-up flash light I'd brought to light the sopping tent. Jimu ran to the car and got a few extra stakes and used them to stake the rain guard to the ground (tightly so that there wasn't a shallow area where rain could gather). It took us a while, and I thought for sure we'd catch a cold and die out there...half naked in the rain. We got back in and used Leah's pillow cases to dry off (note to self: next time bring towels). We went back to bed, I felt better after helping Jimu in the rain. I wasn't pissed off anymore.

The next day we got up and put on new, dry clothes.

After breakfast, Leah and I decided to go hiking. Jimu didn't want to go with us, so we leashed up Rusty and went off in the wild. It was great. We drove to where this paved Equestrian trail was. We followed it and it eventually went off to where the camp's second camp ground was. It was nice, there was a diner and a general store...all of which were closed until Friday (when the season began). Behind the diner was a trail: Sam A.Baker Shut-Ins Trailhead. I started filming around that time here is about 15-20 minutes of what became a 3 hour hike. We had fun, climbed the nearby mountian (Mudlick Mountain, elevation 1223 feet), got really (really) lost, and was hunted by huge raptors (the birds not the dinosaurs...though that would have been cool). We made it back to camp, tired and dirty.

That night we had a fire (Leah popped popcorn that was really good). The weather was clearer so we were able to sit out on the picnic table and play cards (Phase 10). The whole time Leah drank rum and COKE and I played my favorite game--call drunk Leah a "lush." Fun word. It got too dark, so then we went inside the tent and played more cards. It got colder as the night went on...really cold. Me and Leah snuggled for warmth, but woke up really early. It was too cold to sleep. We woke up and started packing up. Jimu was really sore from sleeping on the ground, so were Leah and I. That hike through the Shut-Ins really made my quads sore. Anyway, me and Leah took the tent down (I killed the wasp that had lived on our roof). Once it was all packed up we started home.

We drove to Elephant State Park, which is a little bit North of Sam A. Baker State Park. I was really looking forward to seeing these "elephant" rocks because I've been hearing about them since I was in Junior High. They were really big, chunks of granite. We saw lizards and cacti, too. Then all four of us got lost. Really, really, fucking lost.

So LOST that we WALKED OUT OF THE PARK. Jimu and I decided to just walk along the highway until we got back to the entrance of the park. Jimu wanted to go downhill, but I wanted to go we did. We found a service road adjacent to a rock was roped off. On we went, on this shitty service road, soon we came to a meatal arm/gate thingy. Beyond that it started to get muddy, really muddy. Then it got so bad me and Jimu stopped. Leah and Rusty kept going and once she'd crossed a swamp started inspecting this old brick house she'd discovered. Me and Jimu wanted to go back. Leah was far enough away that we could hear here, but we couldn't see her. I wanted her to come back, she was sure that she was on the right track for getting us out of there. Long story short, I got pissed that she wouldn't come back and talk to me and Jimu turned and headed off back to the road. We nearly got there, but I was like "I can't just leave them lost in the woods..." so we went back. I crossed the mud and, it turned out Leah was right--she'd found the trail leading back. I was so mad at her for not coming back and meeting us halfway. She was frustrated that all the men were ignoring her when it came to "which way should we go." I understand. We were all hot and tired. I really let her have it, because I had been worried about her and she hadn't come back to where I could see her when I shouted for her. I yelled at her a lot, the worst I've ever yelled at her. I was scared. I'm worried that one day our stubborness is going to get one of us (both of us?) hurt or worse. I backed down this time, but I was really close to just leaving her in the woods....what if we bicker so much next time and I don't come back? What if next time Leah's wrong? We talked about it and decided not to let that happen again (communication is the key). We don't really have many fights (and never at that level) but when we do, neither of us want to back down...we're both so stubborn.

Anyway, we found the car (thank you Leah). But our ride home was interrupted...before we even left the parking lot. There was this line of cars. Some were cops, with their lights on. It was a funeral procession. And it kept going and going...and going...finally Jimu decided to pull out and join the line. Leah followed suit later on. It kept going on and on. We chatted on the walkies about what the hell we should do...Jimu put the flashers on (so we could blend in). This was on a two lane, country road...we were trapped. We felt bad--but then we felt even worse when we passed a school: There was an entire schools worth of children standing on the lawn staring at us. A group of fire-fighters stood in a silent salute. Crap, whoever this was--they were loved and respected and we were disrespecting him/her. I told this story to my dad, he thinks it was a soldier from Iraq.


Eventually we got to where we had to turn off and left the procession behind us. The rest of the trip was pretty much a non-event. We found a Wendy's inside a QuickTrip (45 minutes for St. Louis outside of Festus...this was exciting because all the Wendy's in St. Louis closed last September when the franchise owners filed for chapter 11). Despite the rocky parts, I had a good time. Me and Leah are really getting into hiking (she has another hike planned for next month). Me and Jimu are okay, I guess. I wish I could trust him as much as I used to, but frankly I can't. It's a shame too, becuase I think of him as a good friend. It's hard to write about, I don't want to hurt his feelings (or reveal too much about his personal life) but basically he's given me a reason to question what he says and does more than I should have to.

Leah and I are now playing Wii with my family, having a great time. This Spring Break was a good one. Tomorrow we're going to a pancake breafast at Lindsey's school. Leah and Amber are going to try on wedding dresses. Tomorrow we're going out to eat with my Great-Uncle David (my whole family will be there, including Amber's boyfriend Paul). Though there is a lot going on tomorrow, little of it has anything to do with me. I have HOMEWORK that I have to do (I have to read a novella and do my math homework). I had fun, but I'm glad to be back. I'm about to go soak in a bath tub and try to forget the horror of waking up at 6:00 AM freezing...having to the middle of nowhere....

For more videos (including some with Jimu not wearing a click on the link to my YOUTUBE profile. I've posted a couple more videos there.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Spring Break Hiatus

In keeping with the spirit of "I don't have to do anything," I'm going to vanish (for a while) from the digital realm. I know, I know, it's going to be hard for me too...but you'll be alright. You can always check your email! Or, if you miss me that much, stop by and relive all those classic moments of stupidity (see the link to my YouTube profile in my "Links" area).

I'm going: to KC, camping, and crazy (and back!). Upon my return, expect to see photos and a video or two from the road. Until that time, peace!

Things Change (And Yet I Feel the Same)

I'm sitting here in my dorm, about to leave for the break. Justin my RA and Sam were pretty much the only people we talked. Bellerive Hall is going to be converted into a conference center next year, so all these kids are going to be moved to another dorm. Most of them though, are going elsewhere (myself included). I've had a two year run here in the dorms. I'm ready to leave, there is no question about that...but it's still sorta sad. Like Westside (my old post in KC) I'm glad all my roommates won't be here after I'm gone, it makes it easier to leave. If I knew that all this was still going to be here, I'd be a lot harder to say goodbye to it. And though it's sad to think that I'm the last UMSL student to have this's also kinda cool.

I feel just like I did when I was six (ask my Mom or Leah...I still feel like a six year old...ha-ha!). I keep expecting to wake up one day and be an adult. To wake up and feel...different. But I don't. The years are rolling by and I'm still the same old Jason that I've always been. Okay, I know that's not true--I am changing, but you what I mean. Chapters have to end so an new one can begin, I know that better than anyone. But it still feels strange to think about next year, and all that will be different. When I was a kid, things stayed the same longer. The older I get, the shorter the respites from change are. Next year I'll be a college graduate. The year after that, I'll be married--and who knows where I'll be living (Leah's Grad school plans include St. Louis...and Seattle). Anyway, I'm a sentimental fool, I guess you could say. I think too much about things, and think about what has been more than I should. Once upon a time, this school and this dorm was part of the scary "unknown" future and that turned out alright. So I shan't worry...but I'm still sad to see this part of me come to a conclusion.

Friday, March 23, 2007

ATD-Pages 70-122

After a little reading last night and early this morning, I've finished the first part of AGAINST THE DAY. As a form of entertainment, the book is awesome...but as a "reading project" the book is heaven. I imagine a grad student could toil away for years at this book, and STILL have things to say about it. There are so many things to research, so many little nooks and crannies.

The first thing on my agenda: the myriad of (sub)plots. In the 100+ pages I've read, there are probably about five to seven novels worth of plot. As I mentioned previously, Pynchon is really good at giving ALL of his characters interesting back stories. While I think he treats his subjects more than fairly (Pynchon makes his two page summaries as vivid and life like as a novel), I think any number of lesser writers (myself included) could take any of his little threads and weave a longer (but not necessarily better) work. A good example of this is the character Webb Traverse. When Webb is introduced to us (via another character we've already met...this links Webb to pretty much ALL the other, numerous characters thus encountered--proving the notion that in Pychon's really is a "small world after all.") the novel quickly turns to Webb and his life leading up to his introduction. We see Webb grow fond of dynamite and explosions, gain employment in a mine, meet his wife. Then Webb has a life changing experience. Ripped from Tarintino's PULP FICTION, a pool table explosion (don't ask) triggers a massive gun battle, that Webb miraculously escapes unharmed. Staggering around outside, he meets an anarchist Reverend who convinces Webb (along with the rest of his flock) to fight the tyrannical power of Capitalism via bombs. Basically, Webb becomes a terrorist. We see Webb and an accomplice blow up a rail road bridge--is Pynchon making a commentary on today's modern terrorism? Webb leads a double life-his wife and children know nothing of his anarchist secret identity. Webb teaches his children to respect (and love) the awesome power of explosives. Growing up in a mining town at the turn of the century, this alarms no one (except, perhaps for Mayava his wife).

Now, that little snippet of plot exists perfectly in AGAINST THE DAY, but could also (I think) work all by its lonesome as a stand alone novel. Even more so when Webb's children slowly move Pynchon's narrative eye away from Webb. One of Webb's sons, Kit, grows up and studies not explosives...but that new marvel-electricity. While working as a low level tech for Nikolai Tesla (the mad genius Serb who invented the radio and A/C current we use today), Kit becomes wrapped up in another larger plot thread involving Scaresdale Vibe (and the Chums of Chance benefactor Professor Vanderjuice). An emissary of Vibe's makes young Kit an offer he can't refuse--Kit gets to go to Yale on Vibe's dime. He'll get to study electricity all he wants for free, but then he has to work for the wealthy tycoon (and his nefarious schemes). Naturally, Webb doesn't like the idea that his son is going to align himself with the very Capitalist forces he's spent his adult life fighting (and blowing up).

The "Small World" that Pynchon crafts in AGAINST THE DAY is very similar to the one he created in VINELAND. There are dozens of characters, thus far, and nearly all of them can be related to any of the others. Kinda like a literary version of the 6 Degrees of Kevin Bacon game people like to play at parties. What does his all mean? Does Pynchon believe in fate (or a community fate)? Is he an advocate of bizarre chance? Or, it is destiny that he's pushing? I suspect, that in typical complexity, he's gunning for all of the above (and probably some I can't even fathom). All writers are like God in many ways for their characters (see STRANGER THAN FICTION). I guess in that regards, Pynchon is just pushing his little action figures across the cardboard stage he decided to call AGAINST THE DAY. There is no need to rationalize the "why" or "how likely is it that so-and-so had a run in with so-and-so..." and yet, in real life I find examples very similar to the ones I chuckle at in the novel. Peer Networking sites like and Facebook can (and in my case often do) show links between people that, like a bridge can link several distant (geographically or otherwise) people. Perhaps the "small world, after all" or Pynchon's fiction isn't so strange after all. Maybe it's just another example of art imitating life.

Lastly, speaking of characters and strange-ness...I thought the reading/talking dog Pugnax was going to be the hands down weirdest character--but I was wrong. The photographer, Merle Rideout has a GHOSTBUSTER moment and while trying to rid a town of lightning (as a door-to-door lightning rod salesman) he meets "Skip." Skip is a self-aware ball of electrical energy. Part of a phenomenon of ball lightning plaguing a peculiar small mountain town. Merle gives up the sales job, and agrees not to force Skip into the ground ("it's no fun there" he tells Merle). So, instead of grounding the stray electricity, Merle and his daughter Dally adopt it...sort of like a pet or little, static-y brother. Eventually, a powerful electrical storm calls Skip back into the collective mass of electrical energy, where he tells Merle he'll be disassembled or reabsorbed by the collective unit of energy. Fascinating.

Until next time.


oh God we're going to kill each other in the woods...

Thursday, March 22, 2007

ATD-Pages 1-69

Have you ever seen those old black and white photos that have been touched up with paint? With the color filled in by an artist, the images becomes a strange and beautiful blur of reality. When I worked at Walgreen's as a photo tech, I had people come in with black and white film and say "I want this developed with a little bit of color." It was nearly impossible to explain to these people how what they were asking was, physically impossible. What does all that have to do with AGAINST THE DAY? Well as I read the novel, that's what I see in my head--that's how this works is being processed by my brain, it's black and white photo with the color hand painted in.

Set in the just prior to World War I (Francis Ferdinand-the Archduke whose infamous assassination triggered Europe's powder keg-has already made a cameo) AGAINST THE DAY exists in the twilight of the Victorian Age. The modern world is looming (as is war). The novel opens with the aeronautic club, The Chums of Chance, flying their gondola to the Chicago World's Fair. They get there and are hired by a local detective agency to help provide security for the event (their eyes from above provide an excellent vantage point for spotting those dastardly trade Union-terrorists).

I've heard that this novel has a crap load of characters, so I'm keeping a score sheet. Thus far (the first 69 pages) there are about 35 characters. Granted, not all of these are very important to the storyline...which is...???? Pynchon is great at swinging in and out of the main story. A new character will appear, he gives the reader a little back story...pretty soon you're wrapped up in this complex (and bizarre) off shoot. So far, they've all been very entertaining, so much so that by the time you realize "Hey, this has nothing to do with what is going on" you're back BAM! smack into the main story. This makes for some challenging reading (you have to keep track of who is who but also what happened to who (and when)). Many of the characters have a lot of overlap (a random photographer they Chums meet turns out to be a friend of their inventor benefactor Professor Vanderjuice).

Another thing that Pynchon is doing (that I like and think is funny) is refer to previous "books" detailing the Chums previous adventures. For example, when discussing Miles Blundell's fascination with the ukulele Pynchon writes "Since their Hawaiian escapades a few years previous (The Chums of Chance and the Curse of the Great Kahuna), Miles had become an enthusiastic ukulelist..." This kind of thing amuses me (because no where else does the narrative pretend to be a book, only when referring to other, imaginary adventure books, does the narrative voice let on that you're reading a novel).

Pynchon also writes a lot of science, or more often pseudo-science. I recently finished a section about (what appears for now to be) a minor character's interest in the famous Michelson-Morley experiment (where they proved that aether doesn't exist). Basically, in the 19th century it was thought that light (like water and sound) must travel through some type of medium...but because light can travel through a vacuum (space) it was thought that even a vacuum must contain a medium for light (the invisible, weightless, substance less aether). Michelson and Morley proved that aether didn't exist (don't ask me how, but they did). Now, how do I know all of this? Because I had to get up off my ass and do some research online. Pynchon discusses aether and the Michelson-Morley experiment in terms of "Hey, you know those crazy guys in Cleveland doing that experiment?" and "What about that aether, huh? Crazy stuff..." you either know this shit or you don't (you won't for the most part) and Pynchon rarely throws you a bone (or a life preserver). It's sink or swim baby.

So basically, if this book is so much work, why bother? I can't explain it...but here goes: for one thing, the book is very entertaining. Robots, talking/reading dogs, air ships, adventure, Telsa, conspiracies...all the good stuff is mixed together like cookie batter. It's tasty. Pynchon doesn't write down to you, he expects you to do a little outside reading, but it pays off because now I know about aether and the pseudo-science surrounding it at the turn of the century. I know that two guys in Ohio, Michelson and Morley proved it was bunk. Yay for learning! Also, the human aspect is there. Pynchon has two characters, that despite the mere 60+ pages have my emotional interest. One character, Lew Basnight, has done something terrible...but he can't remember what it was. Everyone else in Chicago (it seems) can remember but refuses to tell him. His wife leaves him, refusing to tell him "because to repeat it would mean I'd have to relive it." Now Basnight is trying to atone for a sin he can't remember committing (think about the religious implications there, folks). Much like the Chums of Chance, the reader feels like he/she is on a journey. But instead of being a passive observer, the reader is brought into the novel's world through careful reading and a little reseach.

Many books claim to be epic, but few actually are. Inside the pages of AGAINST THE DAY is an entire living, breathing world--populated by countless people and ideas. I can't wait to see what the next 1,000 pages have in store.

There is weird, and then there is HOLLYWEIRD

Just got off the phone with my mom, the fam (minus me and Amber) are in California for Spring Break. I guess they look Lindsey to DisneyLand (it was cool they say, I wouldn't know..). It's cold and rainy there, which sucks because that's exactly how it is here in St. Louis. Oh well, tomorrow is their beach day, maybe the sun will come out for that?

I guess my mom took my latest short story "Sea Change" onto the plane (for some light reading). I asked her what she thought and she was pretty quiet...a lot of "it was really...strange." So I guess I did my job there, because weird is what I aim for sometimes (most of the time). Having a person driving into LA tell you what you wrote was strange is pretty awesome really. No place has the whole "strange" market cornered like good old HollyWeird (which is how I now refer to the entire giant left-coast). I was a little dissapointed when Leah told me she liked "Sea Change." I was really hoping that she wouldn't "get" it...I guess because I want to be that weird writer on one gets...having mom tell me my story was "*pause* strange *pause*" makes me feel better. I don't even have my dad look at my stuff...I feel like he never really understands (why do you have to us so many curse words...etc.). I don't, by the way. At least, I don't think I do. Not anything above reality (Tarintino movies, for example use a hyper-cussing vocabulary). Anyway, I'm still sad that I don't take vacations with my family any more. I guess I have to start my own family to go on trips.

Spring Break 2007

Last night I finished up the last of my classes, so now I am officially on Spring Break. I had a 9:30 class today, but my teacher called it off (we had a test Tuesday). So I'm just sitting here, all done. This afternoon me and Leah are going to be planning our (big) trip out into the vast wilds of Southern Missouri.


Wednesday, March 21, 2007

"Blimps Go 90"

I'm sitting here, listening to "Blimps Go 90" by Guided By Voices (off the excellent low-fi album ALIEN LANES) and I'm pumped. My choice in music reflects something big (to me) that happened (or rather, what I happened upon). Today, through a series of strange (and not so strange) happenings, I have finally gotten my hands on Thomas Pynchon's latest (final?) novel AGAINST THE DAY. I'll spare you the details (long and windy)...suffice to say, I've been trying to get it from a library for months now, and today it practically fell into my lap.

Anyway, I'm excited. I read the first 15 or so pages before was great! So far it's about this club of adventure seekers called "The Chums of Chance." They fly around in a giant hydrogen powered gondola. They have a dog, who can not only read...but speak (sort of, he growls but they all seem to understand him). Coming in over 1,000 pages I'm not sure if I'll finish it by April ll (when it has to go back to the library) but I'm going to give it a shot (thank God for spring break).

Speaking of the break, after tonight I'm done!! Until April 2, that is. The big camping trip seems to be moving along nicely. Me, Leah, Jimu, and Rusty are going into the big scary woods of Southern Missouri for a few days of "Survivor." Frankly, I'll be surprised if one of us DOESN'T DIE...Ha-ha!!! Leah has no idea what she's in for (she really wants to go camping, me and Jimu are old hands at it). So far it looks like the weather is going to cooperate (always nice). I'm going home to KC sometime this weekend to fetch my folks tent. I plan on taking my camera to capture our last moments alive (a-la THE BLAIR WITCH). Expect to see some pics late next week (either on this blog or on CNN when my camera is found in the woods by some hiker).

Yes...that's a nickel...the book is that big...

Going back to Pynchon, I've already started taking notes over AGAINST THE DAY (yes, it's that kind of book...there are 100's of characters and I'm trying my damnedest to keep them all straight). Since I'm already treating this thing like homework, I thought I'd start making AGAINST THE DAY-specific posts every now and then. I realize that no one on earth would want to read just skip over them. I'm going to make them though, because I'll be able to access/refer to them later on when I'm reading the final 500 pages or so (and need to know what the hell happened in the first 500 pages). Wish me luck, also, if you're so inclined...I'd like to read this along with someone else. We could have a book club-type exchange. Anyone interested feel free to email me at:

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Black, White, and NATIVE SON

I finished reading Richard Wright's NATIVE SON today, and am having mixed feelings about it. The book itself is fantastic. Wright's first novel is filled with powerful imagery and has a powerful message about race and crime in America. But what is that message? At first, I thought this novel was going to be pretty didactic--a cut and dried tale of the evils of white supremacy in 1940's USA. But Wright throws readers a curve ball...his protagonist Bigger Thomas isn't a likable lad. He's a cold blooded killing machine, a murderer with little conscience. He kills a young white woman (by accident) after a series of events lead him to her bedroom. Afraid he's going to be accused of raping her (she's drunk, he was her driver for the evening) Thomas kills her. Now I could see, in the circumstances (too complex to get into, just read the book) how this slaying could have happened. So let's say you accidentally kill someone, what do you do? You fess up to it, fast right? Well if you're black and it's the 1940s you can bet that killing a white woman is going to get you killed--accident or not. So what do you do then? Me, I'd have gotten the hell out of town. This guy takes her boy and stuffs it feet first into the furnace in the basement. When she's too tall to fit all the way in HE CUTS HER FREAKIN' HEAD OFF!!! Riiiiight.

So Wright has this guy, not a bad guy (per say) just a victim of his environment, who accidentally kills this woman...then he goes off the deep end. Killing empowers Thomas, who up till that point has been oppressed by white society. Empowered by his crime, Thomas tries to extort money from the dead girl's family. He writes a ransom letter demanding $10,000 for her safe return. When his plans turn to shit (as they often do for new criminals) Thomas goes on the lamb...while he's fleeing the law he rapes and then brutally kills his girlfriend (she could talk and land him in prison). This guy is sick. He kills once by accident and then again on purpose. He kills two defenseless women, one white and one black. As I read NATIVE SON I wanted Thomas to get caught...but then he's captured and the lawyers and police are horribly corrupt/racist people (who you really don't want to root for).

In the end, NATIVE SON's only decent characters are the people who come to defend Thomas at his trial. His first victim's Communist boyfriend (Jan) snaps out of his delusions of "understanding" and realizes that he's been ignorant the whole time about blacks and their plight. In a super human act (is it believable?) of forgiveness, Jan and his Red friends hire Thomas a pretty good defense lawyer (Max, a Jew who works for the Communist/Labor Union group Jan is affiliated with). I didn't really need my teacher to tell me that Wright was a Communist when he wrote NATIVE SON, because they're the closest thing to heroes in the novel. In 1940 people didn't portray them like that unless they too were a little Pinko. Max has a brilliant 10 page (maybe it was longer, maybe it was shorter...honestly I quit's long) monologue where he begs the court to spare Thomas on the grounds that he's black and as such oppressed and unable to adjust to society properly. Denied their whole lives, he argues, blacks are molded by whites to be downtrodden, living bleak/hopeless lives. Thomas, he argues, was lashing out with this crimes because it was the only way he COULD control his fate. Basically, he killed two people because it gave him a sense of control.

The black/white dynamic of Wright's novel is more complex than I was expecting. Thomas is a monster, there is never any doubt of that. At the end of the novel, facing imminent death, he tells his lawyer to tell his mother that his actions are "okay because I was right!" Thomas makes his peace with himself by convincing himself that his actions were somehow "just" and "right" because "I killed...and people only kill when they have too, when it's right" (something to that effect). I was left pondering many things once I'd turned the last page of the novel (which is always a good thing). Thomas was wrong to do what he did, but if he didn't live in poverty and had been allowed the same rights as whites he probably wouldn't have killed. There are several white characters who actively try to help the blacks and their plight, but all of them contribute to the problem more than they try to solve it (Thomas is given a job, a good one, by the man who owns his apartment building...which rents his family a one-room rat hole for twice what whites pay on the other side of town).

Wright's book will haunt me for a couple of reasons: one it's portrayal of an accidental monster chills me. Thomas was a budding criminal, but not a killer...he wasn't even desperate enough to kill yet, it was just an accident. Two: the deep racial problems this country claims to have "moved beyond" took place two generations ago...not nearly long enough for them to be resolved. Jim Crow is dead, but have we killed the hate inside our hearts and minds? No. And thirdly: the un-fulfilled promise of Communism. Wright eventually gave up on the Commies...I wish things had been different. Communism is a great idea on paper, a Utopia even. The notion of a racial/class(less)blind society is great. Too bad it won't ever happen, as the lawyer says in his speech to the court--an underclass is always needed. It was blacks, now it's Hispanics. Eventually I imagine the distinctions will be made at the genetic level (see GATTACA). Scary, thought provoking stuff. If you ever get around to it, read NATIVE SON.

Monday, March 19, 2007

This is really sad

According to his Yahoo! news story ( one third of the people living in Washington D.C. are illiterate. The story claims that this is because of immigrants, but still this is really upsetting. How can our nation, which is supposed to be the best in the world, have so many people who cannot read? I also think it's really telling how crappy our nation's capital is. D.C. is filled with crime and corruption (and I'm not talking about the Federal Government). On top of that, we now have illiteracy to add to our capital's many problems. To me, our governments seat should be a shinning example for the rest of the nation...not an ignored, troubled city (which it is). Very sad.

This World is Full of Crashing Bores... says Morrisey. I think I have to agree, and like him "I am not one of them." I'm not sure exactly what has happened to me...I think I'm turning into an old man. Things that I wouldn't dream about doing, I find myself unable NOT to do. Does that make sense?

Today about 1/3 of my Literature class went into our room a little early. The class before us was over, most of the people had cleared out. The teacher in there is this old guy who usually takes his time leaving. Normally, it's not a big deal. Today, though, he decided to make it a big deal. Now I've been told "Hey, we're not done in here...give us another minute" before. I have no problem with that. This guy lets us sit down, all the sudden he starts yelling at us to be quiet. There's like three or four people left over from his class--they're packing up to go. Their not looking at him. I sit there for a while, letting this guy yell--really yell like the blowhard asshole that he is. Then I get pissed. I tell him that it makes no sense for him to make us quieter by YELLING at us. Every since I was little, I've hated it when people yell at me. This guy pushed that button. He was like "I have this class for another five minutes" (untrue) so I told him that he should have asked us to wait outside if he was still conducting class. Then he tried to explain that his yelling was just his "military" voice. I told him that "My civilian ears don't like your military voice." So he said, "Well then, don't join the military" to which I replied "I won't--that's why I'm in college." I don't think he liked that, because then he wanted to know my name. So I asked him what his was, Mr. Douche bag or something (I didn't really want to know his fucking name, I just thought I'd be coy) then I told him mine. But I had to repeat it for him twice, because unlike him, I didn't feel the need to raise my voice. Idiot.

I sympathize with him, and other teachers, who are forced out of their rooms...but this guy didn't handle himself well at all. But what really pisses me off is that I was the only person unwilling to let a random stranger berate them for nothing! Once again, I think it's because of the age thing (though my two friends in that class are a year older than me). I guess I'm just used to not being treated like a damn kid. We're in college people, they're not supposed to treat you like a puppy any more stupid! I'm really concerned about the general "herd"/"sheep" mentality of most of the people in my age group. I used to wonder how things like the Holocaust could happen...but not anymore. I'm convinced that most people are timid, fearful, little children who not only don't mind being told what to do/think--but I think they actually LIKE IT!! "Please sir, may I have another."

This is really stupid, I know...but once I let this teacher know that: 1. I wasn't rolling over and 2. Held him accountable for his behavior he backed down (like all bullies he fears confrontation). Anyway, once he had all his stuff packed up he came over to where I was sitting and apologized. I told it was alright, and that I wouldn't come into this class until he'd left the room. I can't speak for the other 1/3 of my class...but I respect his right to the room. Just as long as he keeps his tone down, we'll get along just fine.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

God of War II

If you read my blog, and you don't play video games...just ignore this post.

This past weekend I stayed over at Leah's. We played the crap out of God of War II. It's awesome, we love it. A lot of video game (and movie) sequels are just the same thing re-hashed...and while GOW2 plays exactly like the old game...I don't consider it a quick cash-in. For one thing, the story line takes what happened in the first game and moves forward logically. The main character, Kratos, killed Ares the God of War and then actually became the new God of War. At the start of GOW2 your powers are stripped of you by Zeus (so basically the whole rest of the game is you trying to take your revenge). The graphics are great, the control is good, and just like last time there are those awesome finishing moves (with those complex button pressing challenges).

Cool things I've done thus far: Ridden a Pegasus, ripped the wings off of Griffin, fought an invisible warrior, whipped four giant stone horses...forcing them to move and entire island!, killed Medusa's sister (she was just as ugly, now I have her head...I can use it to turn my enemies into stone). This game rocks.

Now the far the boss battles haven't been as cool. The Hydra from the first game is awesome, and so far I haven't had a "holy shit!" moment like that first fight. You keep fighting mortals in this game, and frankly, they're underwhelming. Also, it's pretty easy...I think they may have dumbed some of the puzzles down too. I'm playing it on Spartan (normal) and while I'm not breezing through it (like someone I know and love who's playing it on Mortal (easy)) I'm not having too much trouble either. The first game I only played on Easy...and it kicked my ass. Several times. Now if I hit a trouble spot I usually have to play it twice (I have had several areas where I have died A LOT...but I've managed to squeak by them).

I'm really saddened by this game, though. It's probalby the last one I'll play on PS2. I know they're going to make a God of War III for the PS3...and that also makes me sad. Hopefully the price of PS3 will go down by then, because frankly, I'll have to play that game. It'll be too sweet. In fact, I think Sony messed up. They should have made God of War II a PS3 game (only), they could have made it longer/better graphics and put it out over the summer. Oh well. I guess they made more money this way. But that new console of their's needs some serious help. A guy I know that has one (the only guy I know that has one) says his is already broken (A/V cable is all fucked up, now he's got this annoying white bar that is constantly rolling up the screen).

Anyway, if you liked the first God of War then you'll love GOW2. I love it and think it's the best game on the system (a dead system). It does feel less like a sequel and more like a continuation of the first game (no real evolution in the game play...they added a few little touches but nothing dramatic). The best is still the best.

UPDATE: Okay, I just got over to Leah's and played a little bit more...I just got a cool new item. It really adds a new dimension to the game play, which I thought was lacking (riding on the flying horse was new, but couldn't they give us more?). Well they did, two words: Icarus Wings. Now you can fly/glide. It's sweet. Also, I was thinking about it, and using the chain swords to swing around a-la Spiderman is pretty cool too. I guess I'm just too critical. It's a fucking fantastic game, go buy it!!!

Friday, March 16, 2007

A "Blah" Day

I feel really blah today. Last night I had lunch with Leah and we went to the bookstore. I got back to her place and she went to an appointment (wedding dresses) and I was all alone in her bed reading the latest issue of Mojo. I was overwhealmed with an urge to write. So when she got back I had her take me back to the dorms. I ended up staying up till 2 AM writing. I'm not sure if I like my new story "A Girl Named Squib." Time will only tell.

I woke up early (considering when I went to bed) and typed up what I wrote. 21 pages hand written turned into 13 typed. I'm always amazed at how that conversion works out. I never have more typed than hand written, but usually I'm only two or three pages shorter...not sure what was going on last night, I must have been writing really big.

Anyway, today has been a blah day. I read a little of my homework. I talked with some of the guys in the dorms about comic books. None of us buy Captain America being dead (we give it a month). I'm excited about playing God of War II tonight over at Leah's. It looks awesome. I have a lot more homework this weekend than I did last weekend...but I'm saving most of it for tomorrow/Sunday. I just got the blah's. I'm supposed to do a video blog, but anything I do will be lame...and I know I've said this before...but I mean it this time--no video blog this week. There's no point in just randomly filming crap. Besides, for the past few weeks I've posted a bunch of vids. Amber was going to come out and we were going to film something crazy, but she never came that killed that.

In case any of you are wondering, no Sinbad is not dead. Have you heard about this? Wikipedia was claiming he was dead...ugh, the power of the internet scares me. How much longer before history books are re-written by a pack of nutjob bloggers (ahem)? I'm in a weird mood.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

We All Belong

Blue-eyed soul. Indie Rock. Jazzy pop. All of these could be used to describe WE ALL BELONG, the second album from Dr. Dog. I won't bore you with the usual MPR Podcast rant (though that's how I found them, their single "Die, Die, Die" was a free download about two weeks ago). Instead, let me tell you about what a band can do with modest means. Using a simple twenty-four-track, Dr. Dog has crafted a fuzzy, rock masterpiece.

If I could only play you one Dr. Dog song, one that would sum them up...I'd pick "Alaska." The fifth track, "Alaska" doesn't hit you until you're nearly halfway into WE ALL BELONG. It's part of a trilogy of backwoods-y songs ("Weekend" and "The Lazy Way We Do" being the other two parts). All the elements that make up what Dr. Dog are can be found in this track: moaning organ, ragged-soul lead vocals coupled with honey sweet backing vocals, thoughtful (and sad) lyrics. Brilliant.

WE ALL BELONG has a strange jigsaw feel to it, sort of like THE WHITE ALBUM. There are quiet tracks ("Alaska" and "Weekend") and groovy roller coasters ("Old News" and "The Girl")...then there are awesome 60's/rock psychedelic tunes. "We All Belong" and "My Old Ways" are epic, complex bits of sunshine that would make Brian Wilson cry with envy. And just when you think you've gotten a proper handle on them, Dr. Dog slip something like the before mentioned "Die, Die, Die." It's a whole different kettle of fish. Sweeping aside all the happy-good feelin' rock, the band churns out this amazing blues track...with all this brilliant imagery (my favorite line "and like a marionette doll/oh manned by a fool/I went into the chicken shed/staring lookin' for tools" Brilliant.

The band's greatness comes from their varied influences. I hear strains of The Beach Boys, Chicago, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, The Dobbie Brothers, The Rolling Stones, and The Beatles. All this shit mixed together into something old, something new. The "classic" recording approach coupled with this mixture of sounds gives WE ALL BELONG a strange, 'out of time' quality. This record could have been made 15 or 20 years ago.

As far was weak tracks go, I can't find any. As far as singles go, I think "Die, Die, Die" and "Ain't It Strange" are pretty representative of this band's greatness. That said, there are about four other tracks that could easily be played on (a really cool) radio station. I saw them live at that in-store and they sounded nearly as good as they do on the album. This is the benefit of not using Pro-Tools to clean yourself up. I saw them on Late Night with Conan O'Brien and they did an awesome version of "Worst Trip." So besides making great albums Dr. Dog is a fantastic live band. Truly Dr. Dog is a band to keep an eye on.

I can't recommend this one enough.

Jason gives WE ALL BELONG an A++ (and wonders why you don't have it).

Also, as a weird side note: There's a fun game you can play with this you listen, try to keep track of the number of dog references. These boys like dogs...

N.B. Part II

Well I feel a whole lot better. Going to the gym (and working out with Leah) really helped me feel better. I still feel a little jittery, and I'm hot. It's beautiful outside, but inside ALL the buildings out here it's 75-80 degrees. Stepping outside feels so good. Right now I'm in between classes right now, my Math class got out real early...I saw my Spanish teacher holding class outside in the quad. I hope she has our class outside tonight, too. But I don't know...our class starts five minutes before we might have to tough it out inside. Maybe that will work in our favor though, maybe she'll call class short because of the heat (I can't believe I'm writing this in March). Ah, Global Warming.

I'm reading Richard Wright's book NATIVE SON for my Modern American Fiction it rules. We've read the best books in that class. Let's see, it only took me six years of college to finally get to the good stuff...add another 12 onto that...Oh well. I've had some good books forced upon me before, but never in the sheer number as in this class. I hope I have another class this good next fall.

I talked to Amber today. It was an accident, but I did it. She's just sitting around the house, watching CASINO ROYALE (which I watched last night...but then again SO DID SHE!!! That girl is obsessed with Daniel Craig). I can't be too mad at her for not coming out, but everyone I talk to about this all seem to think she was just looking for an excuse not to come out and visit. I don't know what to believe. I just hope she enjoys her Spring Break. I hope she doesn't waste it...

I'm going to try and write a review of the new Dr. Dog album either tonight or tomorrow afternoon...


I don't know what happened, but I feel like I'm on the cusp of a nervous break-down. My nerves are all frayed and jangly. My muscles are all twitchy and I feel extra jumpy. I did have a big, fat energy drink for breakfast...but I usually sleep those off in class (ha-ha). Anyway, today in Modern American Fiction I wrote two pages of notes for my next story (it's amazing, just like I said, the second I finished editing "Sea Change" I got an idea for my next story). I can't wait for tomorrow to start writing it (tentatively called "A Girl Named Squib").

I'm about to go to the gym with Leah, so hopefully that will straighten me out. I've been bad, I didn't go on Monday or Tuesday...yeeesh. Maybe I'm just going through gym withdrawl. That's what it feels like, withdrawl.

I'm pissed because Leah got another $50 ticket for parking at my dorm. I can't have her overnight, she can't park here...ugh...I'm ready to leave the dorms (come on summer!). If you see me today, punch me in the face as hard as you can (maybe that will snap me out of this).

Monday, March 12, 2007

Jason thinks too hard about 300

So I went with Leah and Jimu to see 300 tonight. I was stoked to see it, mainly because of all the buzz it's been getting in the dorms. Also, because of comic book artist/writer Frank Miller wrote the book it's based on. I sat down in my seat and I thought it looked great. The actors all seemed to really be involved in their characters (i.e. they worked out before a LOT before the shooting). The story was fine (the political aspects going on back at the home front were a nice complement to the battle). In case you don't know, 300 is about 300 Spartans who went (against Spartan/Greek Law) to fight an advancing Persian hoard. Now, why was it illegal for them to do so? Because a bunch of moldy, old oracles/soothsayers said that if Sparta fought they would lose. Thus, they shouldn't fight (these fortune tellers were, paid off by the Persians to make this prediction).

Okay, that's great. My problem with the movie was this: the Spartans kept talking about "defending freedom and reason" against "barbarians" who believe in "mystical demi-gods." Basically, the Greeks represented the new order (rational mankind) and the Persians represented the old guard (superstitious barbarians). Again, I'm fine with that. Not exactly history...but makes for a good movie. EXCEPT that the only reason it was 300 instead of 300,000 is because the Greeks didn't want to fight because A FORTUNE TELLER TELLS THEM NOT TO!!! Grrraa!!! They're being just as ignorant and superstitious as the Persians. Oh, but the Persian warriors are slaves, forced to fight against their will. The Spartans are free. Riiiiight. This too was untrue. The Spartans are raised FROM THE MOMENT THEY CAN WALK to fight. They're not given a choice of whether or not they want to fight or be poets or farmer...nope, you're either with us (Spartan warriors) or against us (dead). Who's the slave and who is free here? If you ask me, neither is free.

A lot of people in the press are asking, "is this an allegory for Bush and the times we live in?" Even though the producers/directors/writers say "no" I say "yes." Not in the sense that Frank Miller had a magic ball into the future when he wrote the original comic book back in the mid-1990s...rather, I think this war is the epitome of all human wars. Both sides were coerced to fight and sacrifice on the field of war because of petty, egotistical rulers. The Persian king wanted to rule the world. The Greeks want to be independent. The Greeks must be the good guys, right? Yes, in a sense. But they are free because they have an entire society (Sparta) that is nothing but a blunt instrument of death. Brainwashed men (and women) who think of nothing but the State (and what's good for the State). But the State is rampant with corruption. The Senate is being manipulated for the sake of a few (in the movie's case one man) and their own personal gain. This is the problem with human society. Someone must head it at the top, and most of the time the person at the top is only looking out for himself (and his/her friends).

Both sides are lied to, each thinking theirs is the noble cause (the Greeks fail to see how barbaric/superstitious they are...and how they share many common traits with the Persians). Both sides are comprised of armies whose members are pawns of a larger government that cares little for them. Today we have the US Army. Like the Spartan army, it's filled with honest, dedicated patriots. But they are wielded like a sword by people who often times have NEVER EVEN BEEN IN THE MILITARY. People who don't care if a few people die so long as they get what they want. Both sides of the aisle play "politics" with the lives of men and women fighting over seas. The Democrats want to stop funding the war in Iraq. Because they army has all it needs now? Is that why soldiers had to buy their own body armor? Even if that did shut down the war, how many people are going to get killed in the process? And don't get me started on the Republicans (or why we're even over there to begin with).

Anyway, 300 is an okay movie, but I was disappointed...I wanted a clear-cut swords and sandals popcorn movie. Instead, all I got was a reminder of who fucked up war is and how senseless it is to kill.

As a side note, I saw 300 at the St. Louis Mills Cinema and while the facility is nice, the picture was terrible. The print (not even a week old) was really scratched up in a lot of places. Some times it looked like the people had strings on them, like they were marionettes (which is sorta appropriate if you think about it). I make fun of George Lucas a lot (douche bag) but he has a really good idea when it comes to digital film. You can't scratch a digital movie, or get it smudgy with fingerprints...and the quality is MUCH better. I saw REVENGE OF THE SITH at a digital theatre and it looked awesome. It's sad to say, but I could have seen 300 better at my sisters boyfriend's house (he's all about the HDTV/DVD stuff). Even in my dorm, the picture would have been cleaner/clearer on standard DVD (playing on my XBOX 360 or PS2!). If they want me to keep spending my money at the movies (cost me $27.00 to get us all in) then they need to AT LEAST make sure the picture on the screen looks AS GOOD as what I can get at home. I was very disappointed.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Yours To Keep

So last week, as I mentioned I ran down to my local record shop (yes, it's a record shop, they sell's awesome) at midnight to buy the new album from Albert Hammond Jr. While they unpacked the boxes I also picked up the new Dr. Dog CD (which I will review later this week).

Who is Albert Hammond Jr. and why would I run down to the Loop at midnight to buy his record? Hammond is the lead (and sometimes rhythm) guitarist for the indie/garage rock band The Strokes. In 2001, before their first album had come out, the press labeled them the "new saviors of rock" or whatever. The huge buzz they generated prior to putting out a single track made a shit load of people jealous. Many, many people don't like them for this reason (also, they dress really fashionably which a lot of other people don't like). My sister Amber bought IS THIS IT? right when it first came out. She loved it, I liked it. Then, in 2003 they put out the dreaded sophomore record...ROOM ON FIRE. A lot of bands stumble on the second release, but I actually thought the record was better than the first one (better production, snazzier singles, etc.) but many people were put off by it. Flash forward to last year, they put out their third (and in my opinion best) album FIRST IMPRESSIONS OF EARTH. Then last month Albert Hammond Jr. announces in a press release that the band is "going to take a break." Then, just like Paul McCartney in 1969, in the same breath says "by the way I have this new solo record coming out..." Ugh. I hate that crap. Just break up, none of this testing the waters crap. Anyway, I downloaded the single "101" from i-Tunes (twice, check my older posts) and fell in love. It's great and it got me pumped about the record.

So, was the album worth the late night trip? Yes, and yes. Whereas The Strokes are loud and sorta mumbly YOURS TO KEEP is a clear as crystal. The record features some big name indie talents guesting: Adam Green, Sean Lennon (John's youngest son), and Julian Casablanca (The Strokes lead singer). The album opens with "Cartoon Music for Superheroes." If you know anything about The Beach Boys and their uber influential unreleased album SMILE, then you'll get the reference. Lots of harmonies, twinkling bells, etc. The song is great. "In Transit" sounds like a mellow Strokes track (I read online that it's a leftover track from FIRST IMPRESSIONS OF EARTH). It too is great. In fact, there's not a weak song on the album. "Call an Ambulance" has a nice drum/bass line and the already mentioned single "101" is fantastic.

I loved this album, I can see where the average Strokes fan might not like it (it's not a loud record). I put YOURS TO KEEP in a category I like to call 'Sunday Morning Albums.' These are the sort of thing you put on when you first get up...and you're being lazy. The record is mellow, but rockin' enough that you can listen to it in the car (it's good at sunset too). Maybe it's the harmonies, but I kept thinking of the beach as well. The only blemish on it are the two bonus tracks. The Guided By Voices cover "Postal Blowfish" is just okay and "Well...All Right" isn't anything to write home about (I've listened to it once, I doubt I will ever listen to it again). A ten track masterpiece marred only by it's 'extras.' I can forgive the guy for that. I can also over look the barely 40 minute running time (pretty short, but then again The Strokes aren't know for their long albums either).

Jason gives YOURS TO KEEP an A-

"Sea Change"

All this weekend Leah's been working (her third job). As such, I've been left to my own I sat down and worked on my latest short story. Today I finished it. Usually when I'm done, I think I'm done...this time I know I still have a long way to go (and many revisions ahead) before I am comfortable with it.

"Sea Change" is really weird. I'm happy about that, it turned out strange enough--but I think the middle bits are weak. I'm happy about the beginning 5 pages and the last 6 or so pages. So, that means 12 or so need improvement. I don't think I'm going to unload it on my buddy Paul, because I don't think he'll get it (frankly). Leah might read it tonight, and I don't think she's going to like it either. I like it. I don't think I'm going to take this strange path again, but it's nice every now and then (even just as an exercise) to make word and sentence combinations you normally never would.

This one broke my "story a week" roll that I had been on. But I think it was worth it to take my time. I'm worried because I'm not sure what my next project will be. With the last two stories I had my next idea by the time I was nearly done. Now I'm done and I got nothing! Maybe it has something to do with the unfinished feeling I have for "Sea Change." Who knows. Anyway, I'm going to veg out for a while. My brain is tired (thanks a lot time change!).

UPDATE: Well, I came back after picking Leah up from the Dome and worked on it some more. I bumped it up to 22 pages and smoothed out a few wrinkles. There is still one (newly added) paragraph that's going to need attention...but I feel much better about this story. I gave my editor (Leah) a copy to read. I predict that she won't like it (it's very, very strange) but we'll see. I didn't tone down the weird...I just made it more palatable.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Their Eyes Were Watching God

I just finished this book THEIR EYES WERE WATCHING GOD by Zora Neale Hurston (I love that name). It's probably the best book I've been forced to read here at UMSL. When I first saw the book, I was like "Ugh, this is boring chick lit." The giant fucking "Oprah" sticker on the front didn't help. I have a lot of mixed feelings about the Oprah book club. On one hand, I think what she does to encourage people to read (especially as a TV personality) is fantastic. And from working in a bookstore, let me tell you--that woman can move books. So it's also good that she helps get certain authors works mentioned to a public that is really no longer interested in literature. That said, maybe I'm an elitist...but I usually go out of my way to avoid the books she recommends. I guess I'm a hypocrite. There's just something very tacky about getting your reading recommendations for Oprah Winfrey.

Anyway, THEIR EYES WERE WATCHING GOD is a wonderful book. My teacher acted like we'd all been forced to read it before, but I'd never even heard of it. The book is about a woman named Jaine Crawford. The novel follows her through three different marriages. As a piece of feminist literature, it's great...but as a story of perseverance and love--it's dynamite. Hurston fell out of the literary cannon until the 70's when Alice "the color purple" Walker dragged her back out into the light. Her biggest "crime" was not being political enough. Guys like Richard Wright had a problem with Hurston for not writing more about black/white race relations. Maybe there is something to that. At that same time, though, I disagree that an artist has any responsibilities to anyone or any cause. Hurston wrote about people, plain and simple. True, THEIR EYES WERE WATCHING GOD is colored by race (dear god that was a bad pun) but it's mainly a "human" story, rather than a "black" story. I recommend this book to anyone, but especially to young women living today. Girls growing up today really do have more opportunities at happiness than women living 20 or 30 years ago (let alone two generations after the Civil War, when Hurston's book is set).

Despite being so good, I would never had read it if my teacher hadn't required I read it. I guess Oprah fills the role my teacher has for me for a lot of other people. So I guess people like me should get off our high horses...because in the end, all that really matters is that good books (like THEIR EYES WERE WATCHING GOD) find their way into the hands of readers.

The Police

Well I bought tickets for The Police concert in July out here in St. Louis. They weren't too expensive (just an arm...not an arm and a leg). I'm still sorta bummed about not being able attend The Killers/Hot Hot Heat show in KC in May (don't ask). Usually I can resist these big shows, but when I know the band playing probably won't ever be coming back (like The Stones) I do whatever I have to do to go. So, July 2, 2007 I'm going to take a day off of work to come back out here (I say that because I plan on working my ass off the rest of the summer, I've even decided not to take my birthday off like last year). The reason being, of course, that me and Leah are going to be living together next fall...and we'll need all the money we can get. Hopefully I won't die...

Speaking of near death, last night my sister's dog Rocky was attacked by my mom's psycho kitty. I guess it attacked the poor thing's it all bloody. So now, Amber is probably not coming out next week (she'd feel too guilty). Which means that next week won't be as much fun as I thought it was going to be. It also means that I have to go another two weeks before I see anyone from my family (it's been January since I've seen any of them...and that happened because of the funeral). *Sigh*

Friday, March 09, 2007

Friday Video Blog(S)--Pointless Edition

Enjoy. Next week, expect something interesting with Amber...

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Dr. Dog In-Store

Okay, I have to admit...they have a really stupid name. Worse than Casper and the Cookies. At least that sounds like an indie rock band. "Dr. Dog" sounds like a really lame (or "wack") rapper riding on the coat tails of Snop Dogg. Anyway, I went down to the Loop (for the third time this week) to Vintage Vinyl and saw the boys play live. It was 4:00pm on a you can imagine how many people were there. I let them play one song, hesitating on whether or not to film them. I mean...they were staring right at me. There were two dudes in front of me and about six other non-Vintage Vinyl employees there. But then they said they'd play "Die, Die, Die" (which, just to plug, I downloaded for free from the Minnesota Free Song of the Day Podcast) which I love. SO I reached into my jacket and whipped out the camera:

I felt really bad, beacuse right after they finished this kid came up and was like "Hey can I film you guys?" He had a really nice, super spiffy digital recording studio...of course they were like "Sure." I felt bad for not asking. But then my bad feelins went away as they started up their next song "Ain't It Strange." This song along with "My Old Ways" are quickly becoming my favorite from the new album. So here they are playing "Ain't It Strange" (which is going to be used in the movie version of FASTFOOD NATION):

They were awesome but cut their free set short because they had to get over to the Creepy Crawl (which they didn't even know where that is at...and I don't either). I wish I was going, but money is short in supply and I can only drag Leah to so many boring rock shows...

L'Esposizione Di Portabello

Today in Linguistics I wrote the outline of a mini-opera I'm writing for my story "Sea Change." Right now I'm calling it "L'Esposizione Di Portabello" which is Italian for "The Portobello Show." It's about a mushroom that wants to be a cedar tree. And yes, I realize that I may have lost my mind...

What else has been going on? Oh my eye. Two days ago I was cleaning my room and my left eye started to hurt, like I had something in it. I rubbed it and I guess I did some damage because for the next two days it hurt like a bee-otch. Leah wanted me to go over to the school of Optometry (literally next door to my dorm) but I refused (because I'm male and therefore hate doctors). Today I woke up and it feels much better (no more weeping in class). So I'm happy about that.

I'm not happy about the tests I took last night. My math test was okay (I didn't get a 100% but I got at least a B). I was too cheap to buy a calculator so I think I may have messed up some fractions I had to reduce. Oh well. I know I did some of them right and that makes me happy. And my Spanish III test was a disaster. Next time I will study those irregular verbs better.

On Monday Amber is coming out to spend a week of her Spring Break! I'm excited because...well I miss her. We're planning on doing a bunch of cool stuff: go to Forest Park (maybe the zoo), bowling with Leah and her Dad, White Castle (gotta do that), visit this cool piano bar on the Landing, I want to go and see this documentary at the Tivoli called "Glastonbury" (it's about the famous UK mega-concert...Oasis, Morrisey, and David Bowie are in it). Fun, fun, fun.

Tonight I'm going over to Leah's to watch STRANGER THAN FICTION which Kevin let me borrow. Nice. Nothing beats a free movie. At 4:00 I'm going down to the Loop to catch a free in-store performance by Dr. Dog (a cool new band that's rockin' my world right now). I might take a few pics or clips...just have to see what the set-up is like (if there are only 3 people there I might not do it just 'cos I don't want to call attention to myself).

It's the weekend for me now. I have a little homework, but nothing I can't handle. Basically I want to clean up before Amber comes out and I want to finish "Sea Change."

I just finished writing two songs for my mini-opera. One is called "To Be A Cedar" and the other is "The Spore Song." Anyone that knows me will tell you that I'm always making up silly little songs...and I thought this would be a good opprotunity to use that talent. Their pretty Dr. Seuss-y, but I think the whole scene will be pretty funny.

New Magnetic Wonder

After several long years, The Apples in Stereo have finally put out a new album. The last one VELOCITY OF SOUND was a fuzzed out, electric power popper that you either loved (like me) or hated (like everyone I've ever let hear it). The Apples are always at their best when they channel 60's ear pop bands (Beatles, Beach Boys, Turtles, Raspberries, Herman's Hermits, Mommas and the Papas, etc.) and VELOCITY OF SOUND was almost a little too punk-ish. Or at least, the Apples attempt at a harder punk sound.

NEW MAGNETIC WONDER returns the band to psychedelic rock--and that's where they belong. The album begins curiously, with a synth-ish voice saying "Turn up the stereo." The first time I heard this (which is used on several of the smaller "micro-tracks" peppered throughout the album) I thought "What the hell is that?" It really is a different type of production this time around. The overall album has 24 tracks. Of these, 14 are actual songs...the other 10 are short little Pollard-esque ditties/oddities/album fillers that add a cohesiveness to the record (but are nonetheless not really needed). I like an occasional interlude, but after a while (like maybe the first 5) aren't you just being pretentious?

The actual songs, though, rock. Standouts include the brilliant single (and A&E commercial jingle) "Energy" as well as "Skyway," "Can You Feel It?," "Same Old Drag," "7 Stars," and "Open Eyes." The previously mentioned "Energy" is one of the best songs, no I take that back--it is the best song I've heard in 10 years. It's a brilliant ear worm, with a catchy hook and Lennon-inspired message of "everything is going to be alright." Nice. The "Tin Pin Alley"-type song "Play Rough" is very "Hey Jude"-ish. But that's where the Beatles influence stops. Amazingly, the Apples made an ELO record. Listen to "The Same Old Drag" and it's piano opening. The synth-ed out backing vocals? It's all there. That's the ghost of Jeff Lynn you're hearing, and it haunts them for the rest of the album. Interesting.

Though it could have been trimmed and tightened (I'd have cut 4-6 tracks) NEW MAGNETIC WONDER works as an overall concept "album." By that I don't mean there is a prog-rock story line (or anything like that)...rather, what the Apples in Stereo have done is build a series of songs that are great stand alone, but are infinitely better when played in sequence. Much like The Beatle's MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR. Some could argue that a song that depends on another (and another) to exist is a weak song...others call that album making. The album is a dying art, especially in this day and age of i-Tunes downloads (and the single cherry picking that it brings). I still think the album is the music world's version of the novel. Thanks to the Apples in Stereo, the novels not dead yet.


Wednesday, March 07, 2007

R.I.P. Captain America (1941-2007)

Tomorrow Captain America is going to be killed by a sniper's bullet. Since WWII, Captain America has been fighting the good fight. After kicking major Nazi ass, Cap. America moved on to evil super villains world wide. As part of the Avengers, Cappy fought along some of Marvels best known and most loved characters. Now he's dead.

Much like the stupendous(-ly stupid) "Death of Superman" event, I think this is all just a crappy way of getting the public interested in a character that is no longer relevant in the modern world. Captain America's death will help bring an end to Marvel's recent massive CIVIL WAR story line (the one where the super hero world is divided between those who favor people with super powers be required to register with the government and those who oppose it (I'm serious, that's what it's about)).

In this post-9/11, politically correct world, the notion of a man (the product of drugs no less) dressing up in red, white, and blue and calling himself "Captain America" is a little insane. America isn't the "good guys" anymore. We're evil imperialists, hell bent on world domination (step one, get attacked on 9-11...check). The way I see it, Captain America is yet another casualty in the global war on terror.

Nah, I'm just kiddin. This is pretty much 100% a publicity stunt. Marvel is in talks to develop Captain America into a feature film, so I'm sure this renewed interest will only help them bilk more money from some poor studio that doesn't realize that the comic book hero movie boom is nearly over (FF2? Please...Ghost Rider? Wonder Woman? lame...Spidey 3 and 300 are about the only comic book movies I'm interested in). Anyway, because I'm lame (and fall for all types of nasty publicity stunts) I'd like to take this time to say goodbye to the Captain.

Until they find a way to bring ya back, so long....

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

I think I might be crazy...

At 11:45 I left for the Delmar Loop. I was excited to see how this midnight new CD sale went. I wasn't sure what to expect. I half expected to see the store closed. But, it wasn't. I thought that perhaps I'd be the only person there (besides the clerks). But I wasn't. Vintage Vinyl at mid-night on Tuesday morning is full of freaks. Freaks like me. People who, for whatever reason, want that new CD as soon as it's legal to sell it.

Most of the people (12-20 by my count...people kept moving around and it was late--so that's as good as my counting can be) were there to buy the new Sun Volt album and the new Arcade Fire (which I thought was already out). Most were male, young (20-somethings), and had facial hair of some variety. Yes. There is a pattern.

I picked up the new Albert Hammond Jr. album YOURS TO KEEP and the new Dr. Dog WE ALL BELONG. I got a free Dr. Dog 45 single (and it was on sale Leah). I rushed to my car and put in the YOURS TO KEEP...and it's awesome. SMILEY SMILE-era Beach Boys meets modern garage rock (The Strokes). Great, shiny, sunny day pop. I've listened to 6 of the 12 tracks (counting the two bonus of which is a Guided By Voices cover...nice) and already I love it. I'm equally excited about the Dr. Dog CD because what I've heard I liked a lot.

I think I might be crazy. I asked around and only a few people (Mitch) even thought it was a good idea to go. Most kids nowdays don't buy records. They steal them with the help of the internet. I guess that's cool. I mean I am in poverty central here (by choice), by choice the life of a college student is one without...I don't really care too much about what other people think. I may be off my nut, but I love music. It's weird when I meet people who don't even like music...or have any favorites, etc. What the hell is wrong with you people?! I ask that instead of what is wrong with me!!!

Anyway, it was a really cool memory I know I'm going to have. Whenever I listen to this CD I'm going to remember the fun little event I had in picking it up. Over the summer, when I'm in my car driving to some post down in Hellsville or wherever they send me...I'll pop this into my player and smile--and think about the morning I was one of the first.

Monday, March 05, 2007

I got the "101" again...

So I've written about this cool podcast from the Minnestoa Public Radio (Podcast of the Day). I don't know if anyone checked it out...but if you haven't, you really should. About a week ago I downloaded the new single "101" by Strokes guitarist Albert Hammond Jr. The ablum comes out tomorrow (I'm going to the Loop at midnight to buy it at Vintage Vinyl, where they stay open late on Monday nights so music junkies like me can buy all the new week's releases ASAP).

Anyway, the song was the today's free song of the day...which at first made me feel like an idiot. Once I got over the wasted dollar (then again, I did get to listen to it a week early) I thought "Hey, this podcast is better than even I thought." It's true. Then again the songs have been consitantly good. On Friday they offered up a local Minnesota rap group Mc/VI's song "Cold Check It!" (which Leah confirmed sounds like The Beastie Boys...the track rules they name check CITIZEN KANE and E=MC2). The day before was new stuff from the world's greatest (if you believe the hype) indie band Arcade Fire ("Black Mirror" it really is quite good). I'm going to go check out the free in-store on Thursday for Dr. Dog (whose track "Die, Die, Die" has been my most played MPR song). I was browsing and they have their new album 4 out of 5 stars.

What's the point of all this? I guess MPR's Song of the Day Podast is going to be the new (you know, the thing I constantly shill...because it's so fucking cool AND FREE!!!). It takes no money to get and will improve your musical taste GUARANTEED. After all, it improved mine.

Here it is again:

Exodus Chapter 20

Simple, (some are) common sense, easy to break:

1 And God spoke all these words, saying:
2 I am the LORD thy God, who brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.
3 Thou shalt not make unto thee a graven image, nor any manner of likeness, of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth;
4 thou shalt not bow down unto them, nor serve them; for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate Me;
5 and showing mercy unto the thousandth generation of them that love Me and keep My commandments.
6 Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh His name in vain.
7 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
8 Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work;
9 but the seventh day is a sabbath unto the LORD thy God, in it thou shalt not do any manner of work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, nor thy man-servant, nor thy maid-servant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates;
10 for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested on the seventh day; wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.
11 Honour thy father and thy mother, that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.
12 Thou shalt not murder. Thou shalt not commit adultery. Thou shalt not steal.
Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.
13 Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house; thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, nor his man-servant, nor his maid-servant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour's.
16 And Moses said unto the people: 'Fear not; for God is come to prove you, and that His fear may be before you, that ye sin not.'
17 And the people stood afar off; but Moses drew near unto the thick darkness where God was.
18 And the LORD said unto Moses: Thus thou shalt say unto the children of Israel: Ye yourselves have seen that I have talked with you from heaven.
19 Ye shall not make with Me--gods of silver, or gods of gold, ye shall not make unto you.
20 An altar of earth thou shalt make unto Me, and shalt sacrifice thereon thy burnt-offerings, and thy peace-offerings, thy sheep, and thine oxen; in every place where I cause My name to be mentioned I will come unto thee and bless thee.
21 And if thou make Me an altar of stone, thou shalt not build it of hewn stones; for if thou lift up thy tool upon it, thou hast profaned it.
22 Neither shalt thou go up by steps unto Mine altar, that thy nakedness be not uncovered thereon.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Kobe Japanese Steak House

Last night a bunch of us went out to celebrate Becky's birthday (one of Leah's friends). We had a really good dinner at Kobe Steak House over on Olive. A good time was had by all here are some pics (of course I brought my camera):

Jimu's brother Davu looks like a gruff sailor here, dontcha think?

And then this morning Leah took some picture while I was getting ready to leave:

Only God knows what this boy is thinking: