Sunday, December 24, 2006

Hopeless Post, Vol. 1 1/3

I started my third semester at the University of Connecticut after losing my house. Well... alright, I'm tired of using that term, that I "lost my house". That makes it sound like I misplaced it on the bus or something, which doesn't even make sense in the first place.

My house burned down. That's what happened. I got up early one July morning, fed my cats the last meal I'd ever feed them, drove to UConn with my mom and sister, dropped my sister off, and came back to find the house surrounded by firemen, policemen, and assorted onlookers. Apparently, a fire started in the back lawn somehow, spread throughout the house in a brisk 10-15 minutes, and that was it. Two of my cats, a lot of my writing, my room, and a crapload of other assorted sentimentality... gone. Nineteen years down the drain.

One thing I'll always remember about that morning - sitting on the stairs in my neighbor's house, cowering over and not knowing quite what to do, I said very simply to my mother - "I can't go back to school." Maybe not the most rational thought, but not one without merit. I mean, I'd just lost the only house I'd ever known, for fuck's sake! College, at that particular moment, just seemed... hollow, I guess, to put it in superficial terms. It didn't seem like there was any use of it. Of course, my mom started with the "Sean, you're going to school, stop talking like that" bit which of course shut me up. Knee-jerk reaction, I guess.

I don't know. Maybe I just didn't want to see people, after what had happened. After the fire, I developed something of a superiority complex - like my house burning down had taught me some valuable lesson about the evils of materialism that nobody else could possibly dream of experiencing. "Well, your house didn't burn down! You've got it made, man! So stop bitching!" That rang through my head more than once during the summer.

When I did get back to UConn, I was treated to the polite "How was your summer?" greetings that would elicit a very casual response from me under any other circumstances. Now it was a moral guessing game. Should I lie and say something like, "Well, it could've been better, but it was okay?" and feel guilty for the rest of the night, or blurt out something dumb about the incident and make the situation as awkward and sad as possible? "Oh, my house burned down, only one I ever knew, my cats died, I lost my baby blanket," pity pity pity bitch bitch bitch.

I chose the former in most situations, which wasn't great. The people I told, well, I told casually, like it wasn't a big deal. The way I made it sound, it was like, "Yeah, man, it was a real bummer." When I told my roommate what had happened, embellishing the fact that one of the cats that had died was my kitten, his response was simply, "Dude... that's not cool." I don't blame him, because how do you react to something like that? But it didn't make me feel much better.

It got to the point where I started to feel very, very guilty. My friends are used to me making very bizarre, morbid jokes. That's just what I do, you know? So when I told people that, "Hey, two of my cats died in a fire!" That's not a joke to me. If I smile while I say something like that, it's because I don't know how to deal with it. I can't face the truth, so I try to crack a grin and makey the laff-laff. Simply put, I was a psychiatric basket case after the fire, and I'm barely less of one now.

So what was I supposed to do? Crawl pitifully to the ruins of my old house and claw at the blackened door handles, hoping for the dapper visage of Jesus H. Christ to somehow materialize in the ashes right before my eyes and make this whole Job-esque domestic tragedy worthwhile?? Of course not. After the fire, the rest of the summer was very subdued. We moved to a rental condo in the middle of nowhere. I moped around a lot. I hung out half-heartedly with my friends. I played whatever video game was there. I think I shaved a lot for some reason. It was not a great August.

And then UConn. UConn became an abandoned stage; that's the metaphor I use. The weeks of rehearsal were finished, the production went off without a hitch, everybody partied and had a good time, and the stage was struck. Now when I wandered around campus late at night, I was walking through an empty stage. A lame image, I know. But it's the only one I can think of.

This didn't help classes. I sat and observed. I watched my fellow students, I watched my professors, I watched my assignments. I didn't feel like I was apart of many of my classes. I was banging on glass at an aquarium. It really didn't feel right. And it was a shame, too, because many of the professors I had seemed like genuinely nice people. My Modern Novel professor, specifically, seemed like a guy I would really get along with. I didn't talk with him once all semester; at first out of disinterest, and later on out of pure guilt. I hadn't talked to these people all year - what would it be like if I suddenly struck up a conversation? How would that go?? No no no no. Way too awkward. I just had to keep to myself. I'm the lonely kid who's house burned down over the summer. I'm that kid, now. That's my persona. That's my excuse.

I came up with this really cheesy motto before I went to UConn - "Embrace what you love." A totally unoriginal phrase, like something out of "You Got Mail." But that's what I started to do, whether I liked it or not. I searched out crappy pop songs I loved in middle school. I tried to rekindle my social life. A friend of mine pointed out to me that I ended up writing about The Legend of Zelda in my blog twice in a goddamned row - something I didn't even realize. I'm starting to care about this kind of stuff again - this fluffy, pointless nostalgia. I almost feel restricted by it; this is practically all I can write about anymore, The Legend of Zelda and old pop music.

I'm glad I have what I have. I'm glad I have friends. I'm thankful that my family is still here. I'm lucky that I can sit around and love The Legend of Zelda all over again. But at the same time, that's all I feel like I'm allowed to do. Be grateful. I can't mourn, because how do I mourn? The closest I've gotten to that is remembering random things about my cats that seemed way too recent, and just stop in my tracks for a moment and stop functioning. That's all I can do in their memory; block all bodily functions and just sigh. That's it. I'm afraid of depression, so I don't want to make a gravestone or revisit the house or something. I'm too afraid. I can't do that.

"Embrace what you love." Is that all I can do? I guess that's it, then. That's all I can do for now. Maybe I've just written myself into a corner, I have no idea. But I know what I love, and that's never a bad thing. I love good music, I love great video games, and I love just sitting around... just contemplating about that kind of stuff. It comforts me. And in a time like this, I'll take all the comfort I can get.

Maybe I'm just not much of a scholar. Maybe I've got ADD and am incapable of paying attention in my classes. Maybe I'm just a straight-up idiot. I don't even know anymore, and I don't think I care. I'll embrace what I love. Yeah.

That's kinda starting to sound nice, actually. My black-cauldron of a heart is cracking, I guess. I knew it'd happen.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

A Passion Play (This Entry Is About the Legend Of Zelda, Have You Ever Played That Game Sir??)

So I feel like I'm becoming insular. that the right word? I think it is. I mean that I'm getting too involved in things I'm interested in, or things I'm passionate about (that sounds lam0r), or things I'm involved in. I feel like I'm pushing people away, not getting through, etc. And it's kind of getting to me.

I dunno. Maybe it's really just an idle complaint, considering that my life is pretty good, I've got great friends, and I've got a shitload of opportunities out there considering my feeble age (well... I think so, at least). It's just the little things, you see.

An example. Recently I've been keeping track of this Legend of Zelda retrospective made by, which by the way is very well done and informative, plug plug plug, look it up on YouTube if you're interested. Basically, the series goes through every Zelda game ever made and talks about it's significance, important traits, etc. while showing in-game footage/music. And, really, it reminded me about how much I truly love The Legend of Zelda. Yes, it's nerdism, whatever. I will be the first person to admit that I am a big, pimply, scrawny nerdball for the Legend of Zelda. But I think it goes beyond that.

To state the usual cliche, I don't want to resort to the usual labeling. Therein lies the problem. How the hell do I explain to people - non-gamers, I guess they would be - about how much I love a video game franchise? In terms of worth, I put Zelda above the Lord of the Rings, in all honesty, and probably any other fantasy series of books, movies, games, whatever. I mean, yes, it's a video game, and it has a hackneyed, overused concept on paper: a princess is captured by a grotesque pig-demon looking for a Golden Idol so he can take over the world, and a young boy from the forest has to grab a big sword and kill him. But the games' presentations more than make up for it, and every single one is for me a legend unto itself, in both gaming terms and non.

The reason Zelda works so well is its emphasis on environment, feeling, personal emotion. Shigeru Miyamoto, the mastermind behind the series (and pretty much anything else big in the Nintendo world) once claimed that Link was called "Link" for a reason - he's the connection between the player and the world inside each game. The Zelda team puts so much work into creating an expansive, fascinating world for gamers to play in; you become familiar with it, and you learn to love everything about it - which makes saving it all the more important. Since Zelda connects on a personal level, stories involving golden triangles and castles and pig-demons with tridents become vital. It gives you a sense of purpose.

So I guess that's the weird thing about it. I don't want to go into all that "nobody understands me" bullshit, but why the hell would non-gamers give two shits about The Legend of Zelda, a series that most casual gamers have probably witnessed their siblings or friends play excessively and just wonder "Why"? If I were to explain any of the above to someone who isn't into video games, they probably would be like, "Wow, he really likes this stuff, huh? That's kind of... weird. It would be wonderful if he'd change the fucking subject."

Hell, I'm sure some people stopped reading this entry once I started ranting about Zelda. Well, that's bad form on my part, I guess. I started this one NOT talking about video games, but then it just kind of... led to it. Isn't this what always happens?

Well, anyway. There's also the issue of me loving video games TOO much. See, I like to call myself a writer - which would make a fuckrun of sense if I, you know, actually WROTE. Or did SOMETHING. I've got all these ideas for stories, short films, short stories, TV pilots, sketches, essays - but do they ever get off the ground? No, not really. Hell, even my freewriting notebook - which is space I reserve solely for writing gibberish, half-formed ideas, and free-association ramblings about dreams I've had or whatever - hasn't been touched in weeks, maybe months. Instead I'll be killing time playing video games, listening to video game music, and talking about video games.

I mean, the only writing I'm invested in nowadays, besides schoolwork, is... well, this blog. And even here, all I talk about is video games!! HAHA. The irony is sweet like Louisiana wheat. Does that make sense to anyone??

It's similar for music, considering that a lot of the music that I love is revered mostly by indie nerds or rock critics, as opposed to what a lot of other people like. And I have to explain a lot, whenever I talk about the music I like. But that's a whole other story.

So yeah. I have a "passion" for video games (lolz), which could be considered the most counter-productive passion anyone in the world could have, I guess. I press buttons, I sit and gain weight, and I marvel. I love it, for sure. But how the fuck could I express it in an artistic, universal way? How can I get anybody to give a shit, in the long run?

Well. All I can do is hope to create something as universal and poignant as that "Link, He Come To Town" song by the Rabbit Joint or whomever. You know, that song that everyone thinks System of a Down did, for some retarded reason that I'm not aware of. Oh, internet.

In conclusion. I'm an insular (yes... "insular") video game and obscure rock music aficionado who is very very confused and probably too lazy and self-pitying for his own good. Yes... that works.

(And yeah, I'm aware of the irony that most non-gamers who read this probably won't be able to get past the Zelda part. Especially Tolkien fans. Putting Miyamoto above Tolkien is pretty much nerd suicide. Isn't it??)

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Video Games - The New Frontier

Call this a stopgap entry, if you will. I'm writing it mostly out of frustration. Incredibly self-centered, suburban-white-kid-with-too-much-time-on-his-hands frustration.

I've been playing Final Fantasy VII recently... well, kind of. I started a new game back in May, and due to a few mishaps (i.e. my house burning down), it's been tough getting back in my element in terms of video games. I mean, I'm on the last disc of VII, which is pretty much the last dregs of the game before the ending. Heck, the ending is pretty much all there is to the last disc of the game, save for the side quests (which, of course, I am doing).

But see - over the summer, my entire video game "schedule" (as I like to call it) got totally out of whack. After I lost my house, I played whatever I possibly could; I needed a lot of distraction. I borrowed Resident Evil 4 from my friends and I finished that. I started a game in FFIV for the GBA and never got too far in it. When I got back to college, I polished off God of War. This was all during a time when Final Fantasy VII was still waiting there, right at the breakaway from Midgar, probably one of my favorite parts in the game.

Now, in all fairness, I didn't play FFVII at first because... well, it was still in my basement, in my old house. Later on my father grabbed everything he could out of that place before it was torn down, including pretty much all of my video games (I guess I'm lucky in that sense; I'm not sure). But before that I wasn't sure if I'd get to play it again for a long, long time, so I distanced myself from it. It was a natural reaction. So when I had it back, in almost perfectly fine condition, it was like, "Oh... great."

So Final Fantasy VII, at first, became something of a bitter reminder of how my life had been before I lost my house. Freewheeling summer days, you see. My cats were fine, I was in my beloved basement room, I was relaxed after a weird freshmen year of college. But now - now I was in a second-floor room in a somewhat bland condominium, in the middle of a 55-and-older condo complex on the other side of town. Plus, I had lost a player's guide I enjoyed reading while playing the game - the official guide from Brady Games - since it was so comprehensive and informative. But now it just didn't feel right at all. It was tough, getting back into FFVII after that. Everything just reminded me of how it used to be.

Eventually I got back in the swing of things. When I got back to UConn a couple of months back, I spent a lot more time on the game. And, thankfully, I've been reminded of why I love it. Remember that part where Cloud and Tifa fall into the lifestream? It's arguably my favorite part of the game... it plays this instrumental track "On the Other Side of the Mountain" when they talk about Tifa's mother, something I didn't expect. I've had the FFVII soundtrack for a while and I never could remember where that song fit into the game. It feels so much better, knowing. I honestly find that portion of the game to be among the most beautiful I've seen in any video game, and it lifted my spirits beyond the beyond. FFVII felt kinda short this time around - even with all the delays, the second disc whizzed by - but it still does mean a lot to me, and I hope that the next time I play it (by tradition, two years from now) will be during a less tumultuous time for me.

Now I've just gotta finish the fucking thing, though. I want to finish the sidequests and everything, but my completest attitude is pressuring me to get everyone to level 99, beat Ruby and Emerald (who I've still never beaten!), and get everybody's best weapons/limits. I might do SOME of that, but for god's sake, it's practically November already. I've got other games in mind! Damnit.

But okay. Just to be informative, the next few entries I write might very well be video game oriented, as opposed to a lot of the musical stuff I've been writing about recently. After FFVII is over, I feel it is my duty as Sean David Fucking Rose to replay Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy VI, and a crapload of Zelda games. I'm inspired. And if I can somehow divert some of the energy I have when I play video games into my writing - boy howdy, I may fucking have something!!

Then again, there's always the Wii release. That's gonna put my tightly scheduled balls into the onion grinder. But besides that - I don't want to play any more new games for a while. After what happened to my house, I feel the need to exorcise some demons - finish these older games, get the lead out, and become whole again. No more academic bullshit, no more wallowing in boredom and depression. Time to make something go right, damnit! Through the power of the FUCKING TRIFORCE!!

...ehh, maybe.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

This Is A Good Album: "Chocolate and Cheese" by Ween

I've been downloading albums like an insane nymph recently and I don't know which albums to pay attention to. Really!! I'm dividing up my music listening time way too much sir. It hasn't always been like this. I usually pace myself when it comes to music. What's happening to me??

"Chocolate and Cheese", though, this Ween album. This band, this music, has stood out. It is riveting.

I thought Ween were this cutesy, stupid country-folk band! I saw them on "South Park" and "Crank Yankers," way back in the day. They had that song "The Rainbow". "Many colors in the Homo Rainbow... don't be afriad to let your colors shiiiiiine!!" That was the only line they played in the episode, and it was hilarious. But that's all I thought of them, you know. That's what I thought of them when I first heard them mentioned by album reviewers and friends alike. "Oh... the 'Homo Rainbow' guys! Haha. That was pretty funny. They're probably a decent band for a laugh. Let's see how they are!"

Lemme just say one thing. Ween are not a joke band. And I mean that. They are jokey, joke-ish, they... well, they tell some jokes. Sure they do! But they're not a novelty, they certainly aren't cute, and they're not a bunch of songs written by some alt-rock parody band or something. I guess you really have to listen to the music to see what I mean, I like to generalize.

But you get the picture, I think. Right from "Take Me Away," you can see these guys aren't just a cute joke. Okay, Dean's voice (is it Dean or Gene? I forget which one) sounds like a Elvis impersonator after more than a few shots of Captain Morgan. But hey - the music is great! Rockabilly blues or something, I don't know. It's the same with a lot of their other songs - "Roses Are Free," one of my favorites, is kinda like Prince I think. Damn, man, it's striaght-up funkadelic shit. Lyrics about a pumpkin holding your destiny. Sounds silly, sure, but listen to the song! The way the guitar and that crazy synth noodly thing build during the bridge, right after that crazy circus-themed ditty rolls off. It's so much happening at once, and it's great! Ween, no matter how bizarre or funny they get, keep their insturmentation surprisingly powerful and tight on this album.

Oh by the way. This album is a genre-hopper - you know what I mean. "We're gonna do a bunch of different song styles 'cause we're so talented and eclectic, nyah nyah nyah." Well, yeah. Ween are that talented and eclectic, it turns out! They're not just making fun of a bunch of different song styles - they're writing songs that could be mistaken for straight-up pop and dance songs, really, if we all didn't know they were Ween. Have your mom listen to "Freedom of '76" (old-skoolz r&b), "Joppa Road" (kind of calypso feel here), "Buenas Tardes Amigo" (a seven-minute Spanish spaghetti-western acoustic thing or whatever - it sounds totally authentic, man!), or "What Deaner Was Talkin' About" (straight-up catchy pop). I bet that old fartpuss lady won't realize that they were all recorded as a JOKE! By a JOKE BAND!! (Was it all a joke? I can't tell, please tell me).

Side note, "What Deaner Was Talkin' About." So catchy. I've listened to it about thirteen times on iTunes already (omin-oussss) and hoboy I've only had the album for... like, less than a week. It's so catchy! I have no damn clue what it's about. "The sun comes up, and I'm all washed out/Is this what Deaner was talking about?" What was he talking about? I don't know. But this song makes me so happy!! It's only two minutes long so I have to keep listening to it. I cann't stop

Then okay. There are bizarre songs for all you sicko Residents fans. I don't want to separate the straight-up songs and the messed up ones - it's a disservice to the album, really, since every song flows so guddamn well. Every bizarre song has something conventional in it, every conventional song has something very weird nestled inside.

"Spinal Meningitis" is the weirdest one on the album - and it's the second track so it sets a good tone. Really catchy! And it's from the perspective of a child dying from spinal meningitis. This very unnerving, childlike voice emplores, "Why they wanna see my spine, mommy?/ Why they wanna see my spine?/ It's gonna hurt again, mommy/ much worse than last time." Creepiest part for me is "Am I gonna see God, mommy?" Oh man. This song is like a Residents song, totally. Chorus is very catchy, though. Ween, you sick fucks. Making diseasey jokes like this.

"Mister, Would You Please Help My Pony?" is another very depressing story, involving a kid who's pet pony is dying. "I think it's his lung," the child sings. But it's a happy-dappy, catchy song once again!! You'll find yourself singing along to this kid's desperate pleas to help a poor, defenseless dying animal, and you won't care. Ween have gone beyond the realm of a normal novelty band; they have proven, with this song, that we are all sick little fucks who will sing along to a tune about dying ponies. Hellz yeh mizzlebizzles.

"The HIV Song" is the song to play to your college-kid friends for a quick laugh. If you're nice and shallow, you'll download this song after having a friend play it for you, laugh a bit, and then never think about the song or Ween again. It'll be the cute novelty song between all your Red Hot Chili Peppers and Matisyahu. Basically it's a jaunty little instrumental that stops after every eight measures with the word "AIDS." Or "HIV." Yeah, it's funny. It's pretty much our generation's "Tequila", actually.

It's 4:30 AM and I wanna wrap up the review quickly I guess, so I'll go over some of my other favorite tracks quickly. "Baby Bitch" is a little silly, but it feels like one of the most genuine breakup songs I've ever heard. When Ween says "Fuck you, you stinkin' asshole" to a girl, I don't find it that funny. Well, okay, I do, but mostly because it makes a lot of sense. Doesn't that line just sum up breakups perfectly? Anyway. "A Tear For Eddie," is a REALLY impressive instrumental, "Voodoo Lady" is funktastic, "Drifer in the Dark" and "Don't Shit Where You Eat" are just funny, and "Candi" is just oh so silly. There... I think that's every track. Where's my blowjob.

Hahaahahahahahahahahahahaha!!!!!!11!!!!!!! BLOWJOB

So this album is wonderful, I am saying. And so is this band. If you're a fan of comedy rock - or just music in general - totally buy this album, or download it if you aren't sure, like I did (I want to give them my money now, however). I really can't give you a full assessment on Ween as a band, since this is the first album of theirs I've ever heard. But I'll tell you this - from the sound of this album, they really are one of the most unique groups I've heard in a while. They're poppier than the Residents, they're more diverse than Primus, they're riskier than They Might Be Giants. I'm not implying that they're better than the aforementioned - I love them all in their own ways. But Ween, man.

One last thing about Ween. A friend of mine told me that there's this online reviewer who keeps comparing Ween to the Beatles. No, really. I looked this guy up, and his simple question was, "Why weren't these guys as big as the Beatles?" Now I'm not going to say that Ween are the 90's equivalent of the Beatles. For one thing, that's musical sacrelige. For another thing, it's kind of apples and oranges. They're both wonderful bands. But in all honesty, "Chocolate and Cheese" really reminds me of "The White Album." Think about it! Weren't the Beatles a really fucked up band in their own right? Remember "Wild Honey Pie"? And "Bungalo Bill"? And "Piggies"? And "Good Night"? And "Rocky Raccoon"? And "Why Don't We Do It In The Road"? Hell, even "Savoy Truffle"? They're all pretty fucking Weenish to me, if you want my opinion. Plus, the genre-hopping in CaC is practically as convincing as the White Album, I'm serious. So I hope none of you Beatles diehards find a comparison to Ween as a stupid hipster shit-in-the-face to the band. I don't mean it in that bullshit British music press way. "This random crappy band is the next Beatles! They have a poppy guitar sound!!" Bullshit.

Difference is in perspective, if you want my opinion. The Beatles were a more serious band that liked to fuck around. Ween are a band that enjoy poking fun at musical styles by writing serious songs. I know that doesn't make much sense. But that's how I see it.

...uh, anyway. Maybe my intense admiration for Ween is misguided since I've only heard one of their albums. But it's so good, and I've heard that the rest of their discography is practically just as impressive. Different, but great. I want to actually buy and album of theirs now so maybe I won't get to downloading their entire discography just yet. But still. I'm tempted.

Case in point: College kids of the United States and probably Canada, stop sucking Cake's cock. Yeah, "The Distance" isn't a bad song. And they're decent instrumentalists, I'll give you that. But they're one note, man. There's nothing to them. Trust me. Ween really feel like the real deal. They may just PRETEND to be the real deal - that's the whole joke! But they sound like it anyway!! Pick this shit up.

Before I leave. Why am I so afraid to download albums?? I don't wanna download anymore Ween, I would feel dirty, since I wouldn't genuinely have a hard copy of the album. But you know, all my friends up at UConn seem to have no problem going on DC++ and downloading as many albums as they like. What's with me, people?? this what Deaner was talking about?

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Pointless Nostalgia, Volume 3003

You know what, fuck it, I really miss middle school.

Why? I don't really know. Well, okay, I have rational reasons, but I don't hear many people really talking about how lovely middle school was, at least not the proud members of Generation-Y (is that what we're called? What is our generation called??). Most of the time we're either complaining about the rigidity of high school or revelling in the newfound freedoms of college.

Yesyes. College is a mighty gas. I guess maybe I'm guilty for resenting college life slightly because I have yet to take advantage of the independence we're granted after high school; I don't have a driver's license (I don't even know HOW to drive, boyhowdy!), I don't have a car (well duh), I don't have a job and never have had one, I don't have a girlfriend and I've never been with a girl even for a nice little fling, I don't have my own apartment, I haven't started up any clubs or championed any dire political causes, I'm not writing for my school newspaper. I've been playing video games, going to boring parties, dicking around online, and... well, walking. A lot.

Maybe I'm not ready for the so-called "adult world." You know... even talking like this makes me feel like a pathetic child. "I'm not gonna conform to college kid norms, I'm not going to take responsibility for SHIT. I don't wanna! I DON'T WANNA DEAL WITH IT!" Yeah, that's starting to sound like me. Wonderful. So you know what, fine. Let's just go with that assumption - that I'm a manchild. For the rest of this post I'm not going to even argue that anymore. Let's just settle on it: I'm an overly nostalgic kid, wasting his parents' money on a college education that he's really not taking advantage of, and instead wasting his time making blog entries about said fact.

Okay. Okay. Let's take a breath and continue. Yes.

Middle school. Middle school gave me a chance to be stupid. Maybe not in an academic sense - well, I started sucking in seventh grade, but whatever. No, I was stupid, but I loved it. Music - music was free game. I could listen to Savage Garden, BBMak, and even abhorrent stuff like Creed (liberally, mind you) with little to no guilt. God, it was wonderful. Hell, middle school was when I started to get into music ITSELF, despite it all being pop pap - before 6th grade, I was listening to showtunes and video game tunes that I would only hear sporadically. Before middle school, music was distant to me. Beautiful, but saddeningly distant - very fleeting.

Then 6th grade comes along - so now I'm watching MTV, listening to the radio. Yes, it's TRL and yes, it's KC101, one of Connecticut's most unabashedly commercial radio stations. But it was great, for me to be surrounded by all this music, this musical imagery. I would watch TRL every day after school with my sister, and I'd listen to KC101 while I slept. It was all implanted into my brain, whether I liked it or not.

I mean... well, I had my boundaries. My sister loved boy bands and I thought they were lame, even when I was 12. At least that's how I would ACT, you see. My sister would play N*Sync late at night, and I used to sit around in the bathroom and just listen to it. When I was alone, I loved that sugary, sappy teen shit. Oh man. "Quit Playing Games With My Heart" by the Backstreet Boys reminds me of Christmas break 1998, sleeping in my basement with a smile on my face. I can't help it. Yes, it was all manufactured teenage crap. I know. But it was wonderful, being such a stupid kid and not caring.

A little bit more on music - most of it, in that 1998-2001 period, was a mixture of teen pop, weird R&B (for a little while), and - I think most fascinatingly - a dearth of one-hit-wonder wannabe alt-rockers shoveling out some very obvious hits that pretty much signified the death cries of the "alternative" music movement. Rememeber "Little Black Backpack" by Stroke 9? "Everything You Want" by Vertical Horizon? "I've Seen Better Days" by Citizen King? Pretty much everything Matchbox 20 and Third Eye Blind ever recorded? I was weaned on that paper-thin stuff. Ironically, a lot of these songs are still favorites of my generation; they're considered college favorites now. I don't quite know why, outside of nostalgia. They're very safe, neutered "alternative" rock songs. But when I was in middle school, it was perfectly valid.

In middle school - okay, I am getting a bit too sentimental here. But back then, my best friend was still my best friend. We'd sleep over each other's houses every week, we'd play video games all night, we'd watch scrambled porn and and yell every time we caught a tit, we'd play stupid pranks on my sister, we'd go OUTSIDE and take walks and complain about school. Sexuality was funny, if not confusing. For me, at least. We'd by GamePro and EGM and check out the new Nintendo 64 and Playstation games. I'd borrow from him, he'd borrow from me. We'd rent games, rent movies, play Zelda, Final Fantasy. Pokemon was this wonderful new thing that I was absolutely in love with, and we'd waste our money on games and cards, hoboy. It was all just wonderful, this casual stupidity, this loving of whatever was shovelled down our throats.

I'm a snob now. A total fucking snob. Music, especially. I can't listen to KC101, TRL is disgusting nowadays. I listen to Pavement, The Flaming Lips, The Beatles, early punk, classing rock, and still some 90's alt-rock that I'll never give up on. But I have a sense of critical integrity now. How can you expect me to call the manufactued, bland artists I grew up with "legitimate"? It just can't happen, not anymore. And with the state of pop music nowadays, I can't play ball anymore. Sorry, I don't find Fergie, Paris Hilton, Jessica Simpson, Justin Timberlake and all that other crunked-up "pop" shit very attractive. Not to mention that formless, trendy emocore bullshit that all the ladies seem to adore. It really just repulses me. But I don't think it's just me - say what you like about the Backstreet Boys, N*Sync and a lot of other boy bands of their ilk - there was a sense of beauty, a sense of uplifting pop spirit in what they did, despite being totally "corporate" and kinda embarrassing at times. Now most dance-pop songs are... well, "My Humps" or "Sexy Back." Nonsensical, stupid "guilty pleasures." Yeah, okay, the music I loved in middle school are my personal "guilty pleasures." But those songs? Don't they just sound ugly and grating, musically? Am I going insane here????

I'm sorry, ladies and gentlemen. Have I gone a little too far in this post? I just wanted to talk about how I hopelessly yearn for middle school and here I am bitching about Timberlake and college kids. What's happened here? This is probably the most unfocused post I've made... well, ever. It's a wellspring of emotion, it is. Raw emotion! I cannot tame it.

I'll end it now, okay? Okay.

Middle school... was nice. It was vibrant, it was exciting. Things happened. I felt like I was apart of something. I've really only focused on music in this post, so my view probably seems very limited, and I can understand that. I've got more to say on the subject, but I can't do that now. It would just be too much.

Maybe it's becuase I lost my house to a fire this summer?? That could be it. I feel very far away from home right now and I just needed to vent a little. It's a nasty thing, to not be home. Middle school music makes me feel like I'm home again, at least for a little while. I guess that's something I need right now.

Sorry. Sorry for that waste of a post, everyone! If you don't mind I'm listening to "Clocks" right now and after that maybe I'll listen to "She's So High". That one reminds me of standing up in my bed, summer of 1999, in my basement, late at night, punching at the ceiling for no apparent reason. Oh, what a joy, to be so stupid.

"She's so hiiiii-eeeigh... high above meee..."

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Politics + Me = lol equation

I'm not big on politics. I'm really not.

Hmm... how to phrase that in a more meaningful way.

Okay. I'm not a big fan of politics. Or moreover, I'm not a big fan of what politics can do to talented, decent people. You dig??

...ah, fuck, I can't explain this well enough. Alright, lemme dig up some backstory.

I'm interested in politics, I really am. I watch "The Daily Show" and "The Colbert Report" religiously. I took a political science course last semester at UConn, enjoyed it fully, and am taking another in my sophomore year. I read blogs, I read internet articles and the like. I enjoy keeping track of things, you know? I like to feel "relevant" 'n shit. Makes me feel like I'm a functioning part of my generation.

I got interested in politics - for super-serial - back when I was in my sophomore year of high school. Ah, the old days. It was then that the Iraq War was starting up, and I mostly learned my meat of politics from... well, eh, the internet. And my U.S. History class. God... I was very young and malleable then, but it was back then that I finally decided to be somewhat vocal against the Bush administration, and when I really started to dislike conservative talking-heads like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. (Btw, I still hate those guys.) With my new somewhat liberal stance, I would argue with uber-conservatives and moderate-conservatives alike. For me personally, it was a kind of bizarre reconstruction of my own personal beliefs.

Well, it's been about three years, and I've toned down a bit. Nowadays I like to think of myself as a moderate. I lean towards the liberal side, still. But I realize that there are plenty of smart, reasonable conservatives out there as well. I may not always agree with them, but I tend to agree with them on key issues (that I can't seem to remember at the moment, hahahar, just take my word for it). And, in a sense, there are plenty of annoying idiots on the liberal side of things as well.

Now I don't want to climb up on that "BOTH SIDES ARE STUPID!!!!" argument that a lot of people like to take. The nihilist route, you know.

But what I DO hate - I hate how politics have infected the kids. Or early adults, whatever. People my age.

When people my age take a strong, unflinching political stance, they immediately become very VETTY egotistical and faux-intellectual. And it's terrible, absolutely terrible. Now, I'll admit something - the people who get incredibly egotistical are, yes, mostly liberal. You don't see many teenagers taking irrefutable conservative stances save for church kids and the like - but, yes, 90% of college kids interested in politics are liberal.

Really, it's nothing against liberals. But I think you know the type. They join the College Democrats, for one thing. If they're writers, they write articles in the "Commentary" section of their student newspaper with witty, wannabe-parodies about Bush's stance on gay marriage. If they're musicians, they listen to "American Idiot" (which had, what, two songs about Bush?) and System of a Down and write songs with titles like "President Douche Needs His Dick" or "Heil Furher Rove" or something hilarious like that. They read Rolling Stone and find articles like "Bush Stole the 2004 Election" incredibly insightful, while admiring Dave Matthews' amazing courage to speak out against the current administration. And all that jazz.

It's because of all this that people start to think that they're rebels. They think, "Oh no, Mr. Bush! You can't control ME, see? I'm gonna throw taboos in your face and listen to indie rock and watch the Daily Show and just totally throw ALL that shit in your face, man! And I'm gonna spread the words to all my friends and we're all gonna hang out together and talk about what a bad president you are. And then I'm gonna get all the Democrats together at my school and we're gonna march with posters 'n shit that have very offensive slogans! AGAINST YOU!! How'dya like THAT, President DUMBASS??"

It's not just a liberal thing - it's like that with conservatives, too. Die-hard conservatives my age tend to not really know the facts very well and believe whole-heartedly what they're told, and it's depressing how oddly malleable they can be. But the problem with most active liberal youths nowadays is that they tend to think they're Woodward and Bernstein - they're all "OMG did you know that the Bush administration is doing THIS??" as if it's fucking Watergate. Yes, of COURSE I know the Bush administration is corrupt! And I don't like it! Stop acting like you're some fucking messenger of truth and justice just becuase you read something in Al Gore's blog!! (Does he have a blog?)

My point here is - many people who feel that they're saving the world with their political stance just end up furthering their massive egos and tend to forget about, you know, human decency. Yeah, I know, you're "fighting for the people" or whatever. But can't you just give it a fucking rest once in a while?

Case in point: when Ann Coulter was invited to come to my school last winter (mostly because the College Republicans are total fucking morons), every person I knew on campus went in droves to, well, "protest" her. They chanted angry slogans at her, messed with her mic, and forced her to end her speech after about 15 minutes. One kid, during a Q&A session, asked her how many times a day she combed her Hitler mustache. OMGLOL, nice riff, dude!

But seriously - Ann Coulter? You're gonna protest Ann Coulter?? Are you people so fucking stupid that you can't see RIGHT THROUGH HER? She's just saying stupid Naziesque crap so she can 1) bait dumb liberal college kids into mindlessly hating her, 2) go on Fox News and talk about how all these dumb liberal college kids are "oppressing" her, and most importantly 3) makes BUTTLOADS OF MONEY writing books and giving speeches about how liberals are stupid and hate her for speaking the "truth" or some shit. In other words, she's a money-grubbing asshole who wants attention and money. And all the "protesters" at her UConn speech gave her all the attention she needed to make herself look like a martyr.

You know what I did that night? I went back to my dorm and dicked around in Something Awful. Muuuuuch more entertaining. Wouldn't it have been a great thing if, like, three people showed up to see Coulter? She'd be nothing, then, and it'd encourage groups like the College Republicans all over the country not to waste their money on someone as utterly useless as her. But nay, it was not to be - people were too busy voicing their opinions to someone who obviously didn't care.

You know what bothers me more than political corruption? Crappy music, crappy comedy, and crappy video games. There, I said it. Maybe it's irresponsible of me to think that. Maybe Jon Stewart would be angry with me or something. But when it comes down to it, I'd much rather rant about how Hawthorne Heights and Staind don't deserve to be in existence than Bush's foreign policy. And I genuinely mean that.

So my point is - don't get too involved with politics. If you've got a cause, something to believe in, that's great. Fight for it. But don't do it to further yourself, don't let it blind you. That doesn't help anybody.

...argh, that entry was a little scattered. But I really need to get that off my chest. 2 months of buildup will do that to you. :P And just to reiterate, I'm mostly liberal myself, and I am not a fan of the Bush administration. But damn... this shit gets to me.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Defending Eighties Rock

Alternative rock became a reality in the 1980's. It's as simple as that. There were tons of bands before then that alluded to it, you know, like the Velvet Underground, The Stooges, Big Star, and all those thousands of punk bands that came out of the woodwork in the late 70's. But really, it all started in the 80's as a thriving, vital genre of music, and without it, we wouldn't have all the great - and sometimes derivative - music that eventually would permeate the 90's and the 00's.

Now, I don't think that most people in my generation would really give a shit about 80's music. Not alternative 80's music, at least. I think there are some kids out there who really dig Journey and Pat Benetar and shit like that, but for the most part the only reverence I get of 80's music comes from reverent pop-punk crap songs like "1985" by Bowling for Soup. You know, that song where they list all those bands from the 80's so they can be old-school and cool? Or like how Reel Big Fish likes to cover random 80's tunes in their super-cool "punk songs with horns in them for some reason" formula, you know, to be old-school and cool?? That's the fun, hip way of looking at the 80's nowadays, and it's gotten to the point where "indie" bands like the Arctic Monkeys can pull off lines like that to sound ironic or something ("Dancing to electro-pop like a robot from 1984!" Nice reference, guys).

I don't want to sound snooty here, or high-and-mighty, I really don't. I'm sure I do, and I shouldn't. Just because I spend my spare time noodling around looking for cool, influential "alternative" bands from the 80's does not make me a hip guy, as much as I'd like it to. Ask any too-cool-for-you record store owner from the mid 80's and he'd expose me for the suburban dip I am in a second. But the truth is, a lot of the music I've been getting into from this era is just so good, I wish more people would embrace it. People have such stodgy opinions of music from the 80's - it's either synth-driven new wave or fucking Bon Jovi hair metal. People hear the name "Echo and the Bunnymen" and probably equate it to fucking Frankie Goes To Hollywood. It's a bit depressing.

No, this kind of music isn't taken very seriously nowadays - the bands that are indeed revered usually are from the alternative 90's and, even more prominently, the indie-rock of the 00's. Now, there's tons from both of these eras that I enjoy quite a bit. I grew up in the 90's, and it's practically my favorite decade of music, with bands like Radiohead, Pavement, the Flaming Lips, The Verve, Weezer, and even old stalwarts like R.E.M. making fantastic music. And now in the 00's, there's lots of great stuff to be cherished. But now that we've gotten to 2006, the term "indie" doesn't even mean anything anymore (I love Franz Ferdinand as much as the next guy, but are they really "indie"? They sound tailor-made for the radio). And the truth is, despite many people's lack of interest in the 80's alternative scene, a lot of the stuff out today was pretty much birthed by these countless bands, before anybody cared about it, and before the 90's made it digestible by the mainstream. And what we're left with is easy-going, non-risk-taking bands like Guster and Dispacth being considered cool. Hmm.

The only thing I can see fit to do is talk about some of my favorite music from the 80's. It's not as broad as it could be, I'll admit, but it's all wonderful in my opinion. I beg you to at least try and give some of this stuff a listen - it's great, vital rock 'n roll.

One band that I'm not going to talk about at-length is U2, because everybody knows enough about U2 already. They're not all that underground, but I still love them. If anybody really feels that U2 have kind of lost it in recent years, pick up pretty much any album they released in the 80's, when they were still vital, powerful, and focused. That's all I really have to say about them.

R.E.M.'s another band that people know plenty about, but the truth is that they were probably the most important band of the alternative 80's - that is, they practically birthed the whole scene. Simply put, they were all about powerful pop-rock melodies with almost impenetrable lyrics and a guitar jangle that would influence shitloads of bands after them (really, Peter Buck's guitar sound so familiar to me, it's almost uncomfortable). Not only that, but they were excessively consistent in the 80's, releasing six albums between 1983 and 1988 without compromising their artistic ability, or becoming a one-note novelty act by repeating their signature sound over and over again. Murmur in 1983 may have seemed impenetrable and moody, but by 1987's Document they were fierce, political, and focused. While my favorite album of theirs happens to be in the 90's, ironically enough (Automatic for the People is a masterpiece, simply put), and though they had to work long and hard for their eventual massive commercial success, they were simply a fantastic band, one that surprisingly few people seem to recognize beyond their 90's work.

Another band that turned me onto 80's alternative rock was the Pixies, a band that pretty much laid down the groundwork for all the freaky, tension-filled rock that would explode with Nirvana in the early 90's and can still be heard prominently today. Sure, they sounded insane - especially with Frank Black's trademark yelping - but they were backed by instrumentation that almost sounded poppish, especially on songs like "Debaser" and my personal favorite song of theirs, "Here Comes Your Man." The touches they employed were great as well - Frank Black may have sounded angsty and bizarre at times, but he could meld his voice easily to even the weirdest, slowest songs, and bassist Kim Deal provided a wonderful, creepily melodic counterbalance to Frank's screams, one that somehow made a lot of sense (my favorite example of this being in the song "Tame", with both of them singing as if they were trying to catch their breaths before Frank starts screaming again). They also pretty much defined the "quiet-loud-quiet" setup that Nirvana would use in, like, every one of their songs. Simply put, these guys were awesome back in the day, despite their relatively short career.

Another great band from the 80's - one I actually mentioned earlier - is Echo and the Bunnymen, a band that is so consistently misunderstood it confuses the shit out of me. Some call them "goth-rock" because they tend to be very dramatic, some call them "new wave" for... uh, well, I don't know why people call them new wave 'cause they really don't SOUND like new wave, they just happen to come from around that time. But simply put, the Bunnymen sound beyond genre to me - they're very obviously influenced by the Doors, especially in Ian McCulloch's dramatic delivery, but they simply create beautiful, psychadelic guitar-rock. Ocean Rain, considered by many to be their pinnacle, is filled with wonderful, string-laced arrangements and passionate lyrics. These guys have gotten a bit more notoriety in recent years, with "The Killing Moon" making the most impression (it was used in soundtracks for both the well-revered "Donnie Darko" and the kinda-popular "The Girl Next Door"), but they're still in that 80's Band category that seems to turn people off to them before they even listen to them. Hopefully that'll change.

The Smiths were another pretty damn important band in the 80's, a band that anticipated a crapload of the guitar-driven Britpop music that would dominate the 90's. But unlike a lot of the likeminded indie-rock bands that followed them, the Smiths were much more genuine. Morrissey, unlike so many frontmen from this era that put on a "weird" persona to push the limits of their music, was genuinely unusual - dramatic, self-loathing AND self-pitying, obsessed with art films and literary figures like Oscar Wilde, and almost celebratory in his own misery, Morrissey was integral to the band's image. But what's great about him is that he's not only willing to poke fun at himself, he can do so in a witty, funny way, so much so that he ends up dreaming up an encounter with the Queen in "The Queen is Dead" ("She said, 'I know you, and you cannot sing.' / I said, 'That's nothing, you should hear me play piano.'") and mocks charges of plagiarism from his critics in "Cemetry Gates", a song about... well, playing in a cemetery for fun. And despite all the gloom the Smiths can create (like the indelible "Oh mother, I can feel the soil falling over my head..." from "I Know It's Over"), they sound fantastic, especially with someone as talented as their lead guitarist, Johnny Marr, whose extensive guitar sound and prowess perfectly complement Morrissey's charming indulgences. Simply put... well, they were really good, although I know some people who probably wouldn't like them much and call Morrissey a "fag." But that's life.

Only a couple left, folks. Another one of my favorites is XTC, another British band that started off as a really cool herky-jerky guitar-based new wave band in the late 70's/early 80's and then came into full-flower in the mid-to-late 80's, releasing wonderful pop albums like Skylarking and Oranges and Lemons. The whole studiocraft thing started mostly 'cause their lead singer/guitarist, Andy Partridge, suffered from excessive stage fright. In their early days they wrote some awesome singles ("Generals and Majors" is pretty much the catchiest thing ever), and had plenty of great albums to back them up. Skylarking, their 1986 homage to the concept albums of the Beatles and the Beach Boys, is really beautiful, anticipating the wonders of springtime despite eventually ending on something of a sad note with the song "Sacrificial Bonfire." XTC are also noteworthy for their side project, the parody 60's psychadelic-rock band The Dukes of Stratosphear; despite being a clever excuse for XTC to indulge in the music they grew up with, the band pulls off sounding like an authentic psychadelic rock band amazingly well, the songs themselves fantastic and original on their own despite the era they're supposed to represent. Simply put, XTC were an excessively talented British alt-pop band.

One more band that I have to mention - the Stone Roses. While they only have one album of theirs that's really celebrated, it's such a fantastic album that it deserves as much attention as an album can get. Their eponymous 1989 debut takes all of the great innovations in guitar pop that had been bubbling in the 80's underground, marries them with an infectious dance beat reminiscent of the best British dance music, and in turn creates a set of songs that are as epic as they are simply catchy. Songs like "She Bangs the Drums," "This is the One," "(Song for My) Sugar Spun Sister," "Elephant Stone," and the monstrous "I Am The Resurrection" are so fucking good I can't believe it, and the rest of the album is pretty much the same way. Ian Brown's cool vocals, John Squire's echoey guitar, and the propulsive dance rhythm of Reni and Mani all work so well together it's remarkable. The Stone Roses themselves couldn't hold onto this domination much longer; after this great record, they fell into some legal troubles which led to an extensive hiatus, which resulted in 1995's Second Coming - which is considered something of a letdown despite its merits - and then broke up. While The Stone Roses is an album that doesn't seem to be all that popular with people who aren't music nerds nowadays, I personally think it was the perfect album to end the 80's, and an album that any fan of music of ANY kind should own.

There's so many great 80's bands that I haven't even touched upon myself yet - hardcore-turned-alternative bands like the Dead Kennedys, Husker Du, Meat Puppets, and the Minutemen, plus other jangle-poppers like the dB's, Game Theory, Let's Active, the goth-rock soundscapes of Bauhaus and the Cure, noise-rockers like the Jesus and Mary Chain and Sonic Youth, and countless lesser-known bands resigned to the underground. The truth is, the 80's alternative scene set the foundation for pretty much all of the great (and lousy, I'll admit) 90's and 00's indie rock we have now. And I think it's high time more people start to recognize that.

P.S. - Just a little thing - I just downloaded the song "Do It Clean" by Echo and the Bunnymen and the iTunes genre listed is "Techno-Industrial." What the fuck??

Monday, April 10, 2006

Final Fantasy VIII and the Stupid Notebook

So. My third playthrough of Final Fantasy VIII is finally over, after two months of on-and-off playing. And to be honest, it feels much weirder than I expected.

I remember, two months ago, I was seriously debating whether or not starting a new FFVIII game was even a smart thing to do. Would it really be the same up at college, without the comfort and privacy of my own home? Wouldn't it be really, really weird to not be able to just play on my own? Would it be too distracting from the work I was (supposedly) doing up here?

The bigger question: Is there even a point for me to play this outdated game again??

That last question wasn't one I tackled with too much, but it's still one I think about. Most people I've talked to (including my sister, for one) really can't see the point in replaying a video game after you've already beaten it. Replays are usually reserved for nerdy types who want to get everybody to Level 100 or beat some hidden dungeon they missed earlier in the game or some crap like that. I mean, it's not like we're talking about legitimate pieces of literature here, which have a lasting, timeless value - this is just a video game. That shit rots your brain out, doesn't it?

I have a funny relationship with most RPGs I play - especially Final Fantasy VIII. For one thing, it was the first Final Fantasy I ever played, which is unusual since it's such a friggin' mutant compared to other games in the series. The characters are all pretty much normal-looking human characters, the world they live in is remarkably like the modern world (save for the monsters, though they do look like beasts in the real world as well), and the style of speech is toned-down and not very dramatic or direct. And then we have the love story. Oh yes - that was the big marketing draw of Final Fantasy VIII, the love story at its core between the angsty Squall and the... err, not-angsty Rinoa. Final Fantasies had had plenty of love stories in the past, but they were never made the focal point until this game, which was kind of unusual.

And of course, under this kind of setup, the backlash was inevitable. I mean, the game was received well and sold well, but so many jaded Final Fantasy gamers I know will go on record in regards to the shittiness of this game. It's not very well-liked. So it's kind of awkward for me, to have this particular game as my very FIRST Final Fantasy, in comparison to all the great NES and SNES era installments of the series. Indeed, I look like a total n00b.

I'll say this before anything else - I can see why people don't like this game. The battle system is awkward, and while the graphics are beautiful for the PSX age, the attacks are so overdone and the reliance of Guardian Forces (read: summon monsters) is so frequent that the game is slowed down waaaaaaaaaaay too much, hindering its "Fun Factor" as GamePro would put it. Then we've got the characters - Rinoa, who I personally don't like much considering that she doesn't have that much of a personality (and she's the goddamn second main character!!). The other characters - Zell, Quistis, Irvine, and Selphie - are all interesting enough, but they're totally overshadowed about halfway through the game by Squall and Rinoa, which bugs the shit out of me. They barely do anything! No final backstories for each character, no "this is why I fight" bullshit that I love so much. They're just, "Oh, we're here too." No development outside of their stereotypical personalities. It's annoying. The best character in the game - the cheery, weird Laguna - was only a guy you played as in mini-flashbacks randomly through the game. Maaan.

Still, though, the big enigma in the game for me was Squall, main character and inarguably the angstiest and meanest main character in the history of the series. I mean, Cloud from Final Fantasy VII has his problems, but for Christ's sake, he was psychologically tortured in every other scene in that game. Squall, with his hair covering his face (yes, like an emo kid) and a battle scar on his nose, came from some childhood trauma of not having parents, and because of that he was pretty much a cold asshole to everybody, his trademark phrase being a Nirvana-esque "Whatever". He was a totally stereotypical Gen-X teenager, and then halfway through the disc he becomes freaking INFATUATED with Rinoa after she goes into a coma-like trance, which confused the hell out of me. He never liked her much! Where did this "I'm going to protect you forever" shit suddenly come from?? Squall, what the fuck, man??

I tried something new this time around - this third playthrough. About a month or so ago I started to write in a notebook, so I could start this kind of free-association off-the-top-of my head writing that I believed would help me clear my constant guilt about not writing enough and in turn get my creative juices flowing (I was in Creative Writing class, which really got me interested in free writing a lot more). When I started it off, it was mostly just me ranting about things I had thought about for a while - and as such, I didn't really feel creative as much as I felt stupid and insecure. It was much more of a dead-end than I expcected, and it was a little depressing.

So one day, bored after playing FFVIII for a few hours, I simply said to myself - "Hey, what if I wrote as Squall?"

And suddenly, my free-association writing was turning into my personal conversations with Squall, the main character from a video game.

It's almost embarrassing for me to admit this. On one level people could think of it as excessively nerdy - or, even worse, schizophrenic. And yeah, it was definitely nerdy, I'll at least give you that. But I tell you, ladies and gents, it was freeing - taking the voice of another forced me to think like somebody else, opening up countless possibilities. The most interesting aspect of it was the "conversations" I had with him; I pretended to be a voice in his head, almost, and he responded as if I were an idiot, pretty much like he does in the game. Hell, I even grilled him about the whole Rinoa thing and he got angrily defensive - it started to feel like I was someone else, like I was arguing for somebody in some other universe, giving them a voice. As stupid as it sounds, it gave me a stronger understanding of Squall as a character, and made the game suprisingly personal. Squall felt like a living, breathing person all of the sudden, someone as vulnerable and weird as anyone else I knew. And... yeah.

After beating the game yesterday, I had what I considered my last "session" with Squall in my notebook, kind of clearing things up. I'd prefer not to share anything from my notebook specifically - it's pretty personal, you understand. But it felt good, to finish things like this. Different, but peaceful. Things felt like they made a lot more sense than they did other times when I beat the game.

I'll put it this way - I love Final Fantasy VIII. I have my gripes, but it's a great game. It has a lazy, alluring atmosphere that I can't get enough of, and its tender moments are wonderful. That part with Laguna adjusting to living in a small town, that was great. The whole part with the peaceful Shumi Tribe and the seaside towns of Fisherman's Horizon and Balamb are wonderful. It'll always have a place in my heart as that game I stayed up late almost every night to dick around in during the seventh grade, when my grades were shoddy and I still loved Dragonball Z. I'll always miss it. I dunno when the hell I'm going to play through it again - whether it's two years, four years, twelve years, whatever - but I'll always remember this time.

I guess I can't contain my nerdiness in this case - whatever. If talking to a fictional video game character in my writings helps me out, then fuck it, that's what I'm going to do! And I have no regrets about it. It's something I should do more often, actually.

I'm sorry, for anybody who isn't into video games much, I'm sure this entry was horrible. I'm sorry!! I'll make an entry about 80's music or Carlos Mencia or something like that next time to keep things relatable. I just had to get this shit off my chest. In case you couldn't tell, video games mean way too much to me. They always have.

So to summarize. Thanks, FFVIII. Now let me sleep.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

I Just Downloaded "At War With The Mystics" Illegally And Now You Have To Deal With The Consequences

I was very excited this morning. New Flaming Lips album, you know. That wonderful band that kicked me in the ass with Transmissions to the Satellite Heart , uplifted me with The Soft Bulletin and depressed the shit out of me with Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots have a new album out. Oh happy day in the month before May. (That was lame.)

If only the weather reflected my joy. I had some classes this afternoon so I had to deal with all that, and then I had to deal with walking back to my dorm IN THE SNOW - what the hell? It's fucking April. I shouldn't have to be pulling my hood over my face to prevent a fucking snow barrage. It should be sunny and lovely and I should be walking in around in a fucking cheeky T-shirt basking in the glory of God's illuminating orgy of light. (That was redundant and I don't care.) It seemed as if nature itself was making my journey to listen to this album unreasonably annoying.

But no! I got back to my dorm, sat down, put on my almost-broken headphones and listened to At War With The Mystics all the way through, no breaks. And I am wholly satisfied. I have some small gripes with the album, sure, but not enough to take away from a really enjoyable listening experience, something that the Lips never fail to deliver.

It starts off with "The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song." Now, I do like this song - it's got a killer chorus that reminds me of "Clouds Taste Metallic" and it's a very energetic way to start the album off. What's with all the little cutesy noises and shit, though? I mean, the "YAH YAH YAH" thing I can deal with, but when he starts with the whole "no no no no NO!" thing it starts to border on corny. My problem here - it's the Flaming Lips trying to sound weird, which they really don't need to do. You're already fucking weird, Wayne. You know it!! You don't need throw random arcade noises and "funny" stuff like that in a song like this to make it sound weird. You couldn't be normal if you tried. But still, it's a cool song that doesn't quite represent the rest of the album.

Same goes for "Free Radicals" - kind of a hard song for me to embrace. Cool groove, and I like the "You think you're radical..." line, but it sounds like they're going for a Beckish sound and it's not really my thing. It's a little... well, awkward. But it's not bad.

I think the record really picks up on "Sound of Failure" - holy crap, a Lips song you can kind of dance to!! It takes the grooviness of "Yoshimi" and kicks it up a notch (I'm tempted to pull an Emeril joke here but that would be really lame), and it feels totally natural and fun, unlike the first two songs. It also pulls of this neat little trick of getting oddly quiet and subdued near the end of the track, a trick employed later in the album (I'll talk about that a bit more later on).

Then there's "My Cosmic Autumn Rebellion," which has kind of a stereotypical Lips-ish title but is really fucking beautiful anyway. And I think I like "Vein of Stars" just as much. The Lips have a knack for talking about outer-space... I don't quite know why. "The Wizard Turns On..." is odd but a cool instrumental, which sets an uneasy tone for the next half of the album.

I wasn't sure about "It Overtakes Me" at first - it's chanting threw me off a bit, and I wish there were more substantial lyrics to its structure than "It overtakes me/It wakes and bakes me!" But it's still fun, and it leads into this great pretty, slower part in the middle, and then one of my favorite parts of the album comes up - everything mysteriously drops out of the mix except for an acoustic guitar. It's only about thirty seconds long, but it's a beautiful coda to the song, and it's a nice reminder of how powerful a lone guitar can really sound. Probably the best example I can give of that "sudden subdued ending" trick I mentioned earlier.

"Mr. Ambulance Driver" sounds even better now in the course of the album, I think, after the coda of "Overtakes." Fun, bouncy, kind of sad song. "Haven't Got A Clue" I thought was going to go for that "trying to be weird" thing I talked about earlier but, on the contrary, actually does feel weird - the instruments don't seem to be working with each other, Wayne's voice seems to be in its own little world, and there's this cool organ backing I can't get enough of. Nice.

"The W.A.N.D." has a sweet guitar riff - when was the last time the Lips had an awesome guitar riff?? Like, 1995, for fuck's sake. And Wayne says "motherfucker" in it! Hahaha. The melody's a little overtaken by the production but that's really nitpicking. It's such a cool track.

"Pompeii Am Gotterdammerung". Okay, my listening experience - around 1:33 into the song I literally said "Whoaaa" and turned the volume up. I haven't done that with any song in a long time. It's basically the Lips trying on an uplifting type of Pink Floyd-ism, and it works astoundingly well. If the Lips ever did a straight-up prog-rock album in the style of this track I have no doubt it would be fucking awesome. And then we end with "Goin' On", a nice, simple, pleasant track with a strong Wayne vocal that doesn't go nuts or anything, which is nice. The "uh-huh"s in the background get to me a little bit, but they're minor in the mix. A nice way to end the album.

I'll say this - At War With The Mystics isn't really the album to get if you don't know the Flaming Lips very well. In that case, I'd say go for Transmissions, Clouds, Soft Bulletin and maybe Yoshimi before this one. "Yeah Yeah Yeah Song" and "Free Radicals", while worthy songs, start the album off a little awkwardly, but it really picks up after those. It's probably unfair for me to single those two tracks out so much, but they make the Lips sound like they're trying too hard, which bothers me. Maybe I just need to listen to them a bit more...

But what intrigues me so much about this album is that it feels like the band has found a groove, and very distinct, cool groove exemplified by songs like "Sound of Failure" and "W.A.N.D." This kind of stuff was used in Yoshimi mostly for texture - here it sounds like they're enjoying themselves more. The album overall isn't quite as consistent as the last two, but meh. It's so good I didn't care. If you have any interest in the Lips at all pick this up A.S.A.P.

Oh, and a song every Flaming Lips fan should check out - "The Golden Path" by the Chemical Brothers. It's got Stephen Drozd (at least I think it's him) sing-narrating a cool little story about the afterlife, and then Wayne Coyne comes in at the end singing "I never meaaaaant to hurt youuuu!" Great beat, great song. Like a techno-Echo and the Bunnymen. Check it out at your local Best Buy. Or download it illegally like the filth you all are. That's what I did.

SIDENOTE: Something I almost forgot - after I came in from that snow and I listened to Mystics all the way through, I opened my windowshade and saw the sun shining through, the outside clear as day. The Flaming Lips stopped a fucking snowstorm. God I love them.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

This Is A Good Song: "The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite" by R.E.M.

So this is going to be a recurring thing (I think) called "This Is A Good Song," where I talk about a song I happen to like a lot. This could probably alternate as "This Is A Good Album" or "This Is A Good Band" or something like that, if I feel like it. It's already a pretty horrible title, which probably doesn't bode well for this segment, but it's the first thing that came to my mind. So I'm just going to have to deal with it.

I've been listening to a lot of R.E.M. recently - I mean, a LOT of R.E.M. And this is weird for me, considering that for about a year or so I've been trying to avoid just listening to one band for and extensive period of time. Hell, most of the bands I've been listening to have been alternative dance-rockers from the ninties, like Blur, Primal Scream, The Chemical Brothers, The Beastie Boys, etc. Great, interesting stuff, to be sure, but not really emotionally investing work. The closest I've come to that recently has problaby been "Funeral" by the Arcade Fire, which really tugs at my heartstrings. But I haven't really been embracing of one particular artist in a while since Bob Dylan about a year ago, when I fell in love with "Blood on the Tracks".

So last summer, I bought Document by R.E.M. on a whim. It's a great album, but it gave me a wrong impression of the band - they just seemed like left-wing political college-rockers who make fun of the state of the world while denouncing it. Cool band, but maybe a little too self absorbed for my tastes - they seemed to act as if they had all the answers, at least to me. So when I eventually downloaded Automatic for the People back in October, an album heralded by countless reviewers and fans as an emotional masterpiece, I couldn't embrace it. Not only did the tunes not really stand out to me, I couldn't find that much emotional investment in a band like this. Besides "Everybody Hurts" and "Man on the Moon," it didn't affect me too much. It was moody, and at certain points very pretty, but... it just didn't grab me.

Well - long and boring story short - about a couple months ago I got into "Radio Free Europe" and wondered to myself, "Hey, maybe Murmur's a good one." And lo and behold, Murmur was great. The lyrics made no sense, but the energy, craftsmanship and overall sound of the album blew me right over, an album so completely different from what I really expected from a so-called "college-rock" band. Much less easy to define than their other works, but beautiful nonetheless. So after thoroughly enjoying Murmur, out of boredom, I started up Automatic again practically out of instinct.

Automatic's one of my favorite albums now. What the fuck?? Who would've guessed that?

Anyway - I'll talk about the other reasons I love this album so much later - "The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite." Fantastic, wonderful. The lyrics are absolutely stupid and make no sense. "Baby instant soup doesn't really grab me/Today I need something more, substantial/ But can I be into black eyed peas/ Some Nescafe and ice/ A candy bar, a falling star/ or a reading from Dr. Seuss?" What the fuck does that mean, Michael Stipe, and why are you singing it so energetically? But who the hell cares. The song burts in with an organ, subtle electric guitar, and Michael Stipe singing the "dee dee dee dee" from "The Lion Sleeps Tonite" (which apparently inspired the title), which draws you in quickly, and the end of the song is pushed into the stratosphere with these strings that keep coming in and out. In all honestly, I have a boner for strings. I can't help it. If an already-great song suddenly comes bursting in with strings, I'll get as giddy as a school girl. I'll get wet. Seriously.

Uh, anyway - the chorus of the song - "Call me when you try to wake her up," said really fast, over and over again. Kind of a call and response, with Stipe saying it and then the rest of the band chiming in. Near the end he starts going, "I can always sleep standing up!" in a really giddy voice that just warms my dumb little heart. The song just sounds like this joyous celebration of the small, stupid things in life - something Automatic doesn't have that much of. I can't get enough of it, simply put.

Apparently the band hates this song now - just my luck!! "Shiny Happy People" and now this one. Peter Buck seems to hate anything of R.E.M.'s that I like... it's a weird phenomenon. But I love the song, in case you didn't gather that. It's become the most played on my iTunes, even above "Bittersweet Symphony" (still one of my favorite 90's songs). I can't get enough of it.

Maybe one of these days I'll get really sick of it and write a super-degrading entry in this blog proclaiming a newfound hatred for this stupid little early-90's gem. But until that time...

"We've got to moogie moogie move on this one..."

Friday, March 31, 2006

Chapter 1: The Sun Rises...

You'll have to forgive me... my "R" key doesn't work very well, so I might screw up some important wods in fustation. eally, I'm eally soy.

(Alright, lame joke. But seriously, I need to get my R key fixed.)

Let's get this straight: I have a LiveJournal. I use it to let my friends back home know how I'm doing here at the University of Connecticut, for the most part. I never write much of anything that could possibly be considered interesting or thoughtful, just personal ramblings. It's a wonderful waste of time.

But now I've got a "blog". And as such, I need to articulate on my opinions of things. Ohboy. I don't know if I'm gonna be good at this!!

So my name is Sean, Sean Rose. People like to call me "Seanrose" as one word, which is starting to get to me a little bit. I've been thinking of legally changing my first name to "Seanrose" to get things straight. The only problem is that I need a last name to accommodate that. "Seanrose Excelsior" sounds pretty cool. Anybody have any ideas? Sure you don't.

Anyway. I am a writer, first and foremost (I guess). I like to write; it keeps me at peace with myself. That sounds gay (as all the cool kids say) but it's true.

I also really like films, rock music laced with some rap as well, and acting. I'm more comfortable being onstage than being offstage. Being offstage is a frightening ordeal unless I'm in my room satisfying myself. (I'll let you interpret that in any way you wish.)

But my real passion... and you're going to laugh at this, but my real passion is video games. Seriously. Nothing can make me feel better than a good - no, great - video game. Mario, Final Fantasy, Legend of Zelda... that stuff pierces my bitter heart and makes me want to cry with joy. Just warning you.

I feel like I need to express my opinions, because I do have a lot of them that I really don't talk about much. They mostly involve music I love/can't stand, films I love/can't stand, video games I just love, and the state of my generation. The last one I'm really going to have to think about.

So yes... I'm sure I'll post something meaningful in this thing soon. Just to mention it, I was just listening to "A Long Day" by the Polyphonic Spree. It's 36 minutes long and fucking weird. I thought it was going to be uplifting like all their other stuff... I guess not?? Oh well. Primal Scream can heal me. Kind of.

Peace for now, ladies.