Friday, November 30, 2007

My First Love: Rivers Cuomo

The vast majority of my tastes in music fall into either 90s rock or classic rock. And I'm okay with that. I like a good guitar part and I like strong lyrics. But I have to be honest regardless of how much I may be made fun of. My musical tastes can be summed up in the following bands:

1. Weezer
2. The Beatles
3. Oasis
4. Simon and Garfunkel
5. Dashboard Confessional

Each of these bands holds significance to me. Oasis: 7th grade, brought me into the world of mid-90s rock and the radio station The Edge (the best radio station ever-don't argue because you're wrong). I also love their mellow, yet heavy, sound and I don't think there is a bad song on (What's the Story) Morning Glory. Dashboard Confessional introduced me to the accoustic emo that I fell in love with on his So Impossible EP while jumping snow banks on residential streets in St. Paul with my friend's old Buick (don't tell my mom). I have nothing but respect for the simplicity and true poetry in every Simon and Garfunkel song. My favorites are namely "Bookends," "Bridge over Troubled Water" and "Kathy's Song." And while I'm not normally a fan of greatest hits albums, I will say that my two-disc set is pretty good. The Beatles just go without saying. But, unlike most Beatles fans, I happen to like their early albums as much as their later work. I think I'm also more intrigued by the history (the photos, stories and memorabilia) of The Beatles than the music itself - hint, hint; I'm looking at you, mom, with the unopened vinyl of Sgt. Peppers. But ultimately, my love will always go to Weezer and Rivers Cuomo.

I remember listening to "Buddy Holly" when I was younger on the radio and watching the Happy Days music video, but I didn't get into Weezer until I was late in high school, out with a couple of friends when I bought their blue album and began my downward spiral into emo, when it was still good. I became the obsessed Weezer fan with thick plastic rimmed glasses, wearing argyle and my "I heart nerds" shirt that had a picture of Milhouse in the heart. And, up until recently, I was still that girl, and I still am to some degree, hence the title. Weezer has given me so many indirect memories, from screaming "The Good Life" or "El Scorcho" with friends after a hard night of drinking, to some guy referencing "Tired of Sex" as a pick-up line (I couldn't have made that one up if I tried).

But there is something in the sound of the music, specifically on the blue album, that I am drawn to and brings me back to my early college days (not that they were all that great) to when I saw them a couple times in concert. I first saw them at the Xcel Center, which was surprisingly awesome. I didn't think Weezer would be able to pull off an arena concert so well, considering they had minimal special effects and Rivers is so anti-social. I saw them a second time at First Ave. and it was hands down the BEST concert I've ever been to. And it better have been since I paid almost $100 to see it. The most interesting part of that concert was that they were playing songs off of their then not yet released Make Believe album but everybody in the audience already knew the words because they had most likely downloaded it off of some illegal website, just like I had. I feel elite saying that I saw Weezer at a venue that fits less than 500 people and got to be 20 feet from Rivers. He could have spit on me! It was also great being surrounded by the ultimate in obssessed when it came to Weezer; their crowd is very much a combination of trendy, yet pathetic uncoolness that I revel in because, really, that is what I am. I was always an obsessed Weezer fan, I just hadn't known it until college.

The one song that I absolutely love is "Undone (The Sweater Song)" by Weezer, off of the blue album. It is best to listen to it at decibles that border on deafening to get the full effect of the clashing instruments at the end, and plus, it makes you sing it louder. It's funny how so many people have told me, "I love the 'Sweater Song.' It's a song about nothing." When, in reality, it is a disturbing look at wanting to fit in and allowing yourself to be taken advantage of for the sake of fitting in, although you never really do become part of the crowd you so desire to belong to. I think they do this in a very lyrically metaphoric, as well as, musically symbolic way: the obvious metaphor being the destroyed sweater that leaves the person naked, and music being the clashing of sounds symbolizing the compromising of who someone is, wanting to fit in, never really fitting in and being taken advantage of and the complex tension this may create internally in someone. Below, I posted the music video for "The Sweater Song," which is also fun to watch. I still haven't quite figured out what makes them so appealing to watch when there really isn't all that much to them.

My one true love, Rivers, is in red.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

I am Technologically Sound...Okay, that may be a Stretch

Lisa, A.K.A. Olive the Wonder Hamster, showed me how to put links on the side of my blog, so now I can be cool like her. I only put a few up, but these are some of my classmates/fellow sufferers of the U of M graduate program. The top three are Lisa's, followed by Meaghan's and then Jessie's. I'm very much excited and proud that I was able to pull off such an amazing feat in my blog. I hope you like their blogs as much as I do.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Minnesota in a Nutshell

Okay, to be honest, I completely missed that we were supposed to write about a podcast a couple weeks back (I know, not the brightest bulb on the tree sometimes). So here's my blog on podcasts.

I will be up front: I love Kevin Kling. Not only is he ridiculously funny, but his stories have as much reflection as they do humor. He is able to take his comedic and artistic sides and put them together to create entertaining and meaningful stories about his life. I think his stories are useful in classrooms such as creative writing, speech or even a unit on narrative writing because his stories have a clear beginning, middle and end that students can incorporate into their own work. He is able to weave sub-stories into the over-arching one to add meaning and humor, specifically in his bit about prayer. Most of his stories are in podcast form on under the "All Things Considered" program. You can also download them on iTunes by going to his website

It's important to know that his career as a storyteller began after a near-death motorcycle accident, paralyzing his right arm, and his lifelong disability MD, effecting his left arm. My favorite story is "My Brother's Bachelor Party." I recommend checking it out if you enjoy baseball at all, or even have some vague familiarity with it. The story I have here is "Tips on Winter Survival from a Minnesotan." Maybe I'm the only one that finds this funny. Maybe it's because it is so true to Minnesota winter. Or, maybe it's because I tried to bury my brother in a massive amount of snow when I was little too. Either way, I hope you enjoy it.

Also, I was a trick-or-treater during the blizzard of '91. I was a fairy. In tights. Yeah, I still went.

Tips on Winter Survival from a Minnesotan (Windows Media Player)
Tips on Winter Survival from a Minnesotan (Real Player)

Monday, November 19, 2007

"It's Only a Flesh Wound"

This is one of my favorite topics (no, not flesh wounds). I love looking at modern adaptations of literature through movies and TV shows and I think integrating these in to the curriculum not only makes your job fun, but creates a less painful environment for your students. It also sets your class up to be culturally relevant as it seems media art is shifting from books to movies and shows. Our society is becoming increasingly visual through the use of film so it's important to prepare students for what they will be exposed to and how media is altered, presented and used as a form of art.

In my classes this week, we discussed satire. Expecting this to be a really difficult topic, as they're 11 and 12 year olds, I was surprised how well they caught on. I showed the episode of The Simpsons in which Sherry Bobbins (not Mary Poppins) comes to help the family. Not only was it an excellent example of satire, but the students really enjoyed watching TV in class. Later, I showed a large chunk of the beginning of Monty Python and the Holy Grail and they loved it, even Denzell, the kid who hates everything. I'd stopped the movie every couple of minutes to explain some of the jokes, British history and social atmosphere that the movie is referencing, but by the end of class, students were able to pick up on it and call it out for me. I think this is great because not only was I expecting students to really struggle with the language, but also because English humor can be so dry.

Among other great uses of modern works, for example the movie Clueless in a unit on Jane Austen, I came across a great movie for class. I'm still trying to figure out how to exactly use it though. I'm thinking I will spend some time talking about artistic representation of the creator versus the interpretor, or even for a unit on poetry. The movie for this is Across the Universe, a love story using the Beatles music. It's a little cheesey, yes, but it does an awesome job of taking a song you've always had a clear grasp on what it's about and changing it entirely in the context of the movie. I don't like giving away things, but this scene was so interesting: Using the Beatles song, "I Want You," the film creates an intense look at the draft during the Vietnam War. In the beginning, Max shows up and is quickly stripped down and given a physical. The officers of the military are singing the song while he goes through his training and is then deployed. At that point the song transitions into the end with the line, "She's so heavy" and the soldiers are tracking through the field carrying the Statue of Liberty. I thought this was very powerful, especially since I never really thought about that song as an anti-war statement. Beyond that, the guitar part is one of the best I've ever heard, enough said.

Another film I'm excited to look at in the classroom is Moulin Rouge. I'm not a big fan of the movie personally, but the filming and symbolism are outstanding. Much like Across the Universe, the imagery and use of color are very important to the themes and plot. My argument, and I'm beginning to think it's only my argument, is that the director wanted to make make sure the characters did not embody any of the key ideas in the film, "truth, beauty, freedom and above all things love." I'd like to study with a class how each of these concepts are held up in the movie. To me, it seems like each character fails miserably at achieving truth, beauty, freedom or love in the end. The entire movie is more like a massive web of manipulation and destruction. This makes the movie better to me for some reason. I know that the movie is based on another story, but I like this look better. Instead of making it into this soft love story, I'd rather look at how none of the characters actually lives up to what they believe and are all around weak characters. What can I say, I'm optimistic in that way.

And finally, I want to figure out a way to show Scotland, P.A. because it is hands down the best Shakespearean adaptation ever. It is based on "MacBeth," but in 1975. It takes place at the dawn of fast food and has some pretty kick ass classic rock for the soundtrack as well. Like the play, Pat (Lady MacBeth) and Mac (I shouldn't have to explain that one) have a very ambiguous relationship in terms of power and no one is really sure who (Lady MacBeth, the witches or MacBeth himself) is to blame for putting the idea of killing other characters into MacBeth's head. The problem with this movie is it has a lot of graphic language. And it has some sexual scenes. And there's a lot of drug and alcohol use. Oh and it's pretty violent. Okay, so maybe it's not the best movie for class, but it's still pretty awesome.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Ken Burns is a God and there is Nothing, No, NOTHING that Would Top Him

I've been told my grandfather had a lot of war stories. I don't remember any of them, as he died when I was seven. But I really would like to do a documentary on his journey through training and Normandy. I'd really like to know what brought him to hate shit on a shingle so much during the war since it was my favorite, as well as my brother's favorite, meal when we were little. Maybe this just seems interesting to me since I didn't grow up with him all that much.

Ken Burns called World War II a necessary war and I truly think that my grandpa believed that to the core of his soul. My favorite story about him is one that my mom tells a lot. My uncle had just returned from Vietnam and refused to stand for the anthem at a hockey game. My grandpa was so angry he spent most of the song yelling at my uncle about what a disgrace he was to his country. I think my grandpa always knew how to separate all of what America gave him in his life from where it was going during the 70s, which was quickly to Hell in a hand basket. I'd like to see what created such devotion and how it changed and developed into his later years, how it shaped his family and influenced his job. I want to show how the war became such a massive point in his life. I'd have to interview my parents and aunts and uncles. If anyone in his company is still alive I'd interview them to see what he was like in Europe around them. I'd really like to know what my grandpa was like when he was young. I only knew him in his 70s, watching Wheel of Fortune next to him as he smoked his unfiltered Camels (a smell that is still a pleasant one to me). The obvious problem in all of this is that he is no longer alive to tell it himself. I don't know if there is any film footage or photographs taken of him during the war. All I've got are the stories that my family tell and his uniform jacket, which is too small for me to even try on.

I have to say this was not entirely an original idea. When I went to see the presentation for The War when Burns was in Minneapolis, many vets came to see it. I quickly realized how jealous I was for all those family members that got to hear those war stories straight from the teller's mouth. Though not normally someone who is brought to immense tears while watching movies, especially documentaries, I must admit that I was brought to embarassingly passionate sobs that I had absolutely no control over as I watched the footage of The War. I'm sure the friend that I went with thought I was crazy, as well as the old woman across the aisle that stared at me all night, but I couldn't help it; I was grieving for the loss of my grandfather again, as well as for the men that died so he could live. This is what makes me want to do a documentary on my grandfather: to relive what he did, to understand what it may have once meant to be an American.

Also, I will die knowing that Ken Burns is the only man ever that is able to pull off the classic 90s bowl cut and still look professional.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

No News is Good News, Right?

I realize this is late and the moment for discussion has past, but I still wanted to post. I watched ABC's evening news. I was always a big fan of Peter Jennings. I really liked how he got down and dirty when it came to reporting and understanding the issues. After he passed, however, I really haven't watched the news all that much. Something that really bugged me was how little the reporters and anchors seemed to actually know about the issues they were reporting on. They didn't seem to go in depth on what they were reporting on, and they didn't include issues that may have lead up to what they were reporting on.

But then I got to the local news. It made me want to cry. This is why I quit watching local news altogether. I don't even remember what they reported on, but it reminded me of when that person was shot in Uptown. Everyone was panicking that Minneapolis was ridden with crime and all of Minnesota was going to melt into L.A., taking the rest of the Midwest with it. Mike and I were in Minneapolis at the time, and he so neatly pointed out that Minneapolis had already surpassed New York in crime, a city with over five million people in it. Everyone is so worried about the wealthier, safe part of town, but no news stations are covering how the north end seems to be getting worse, or that people live that way every day of their lives. There just seemed to be this utter lack of community involvement, despite it being a local station.

Another thing that gets me is the bias for politics and sponsors. Despite Americans assuming it is this great and free country, we are limited in the news we receive depending on who is sponsoring it and what political backing the station has picked up. No, that doesn't sound like communism at all.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

FINALLY A Real Purpose For Shakespeare

Yay! Our Movie Complete!

My partner in crime describes it in better detail than I could, so here's a shameless plug: go see her blog too and learn about our movie-making experience: