WTF for Friday, May 29th 2008

May 29, 2008

  • Mixtape Sometimes when someone has a crush on you, they'll send you a mixtape, to give you a clue. Pop it in the deck
  • Chapuline Do you know what a Chapuline is? You will now. DIG IN!
  • Fighter or Divider?Not sure where the Republicans stand on issues? Check it out. Test Your Skills

Weekly Quarterlife Links

May 27, 2008

  • A trailer to "Quarterlife Crisis," a film about a directionless and confused 20-something who embarks on a journey to find meaning, love, and happiness through New York City's wild and crazy singles scene.  (Limo Driver played by comedian Russell Peters) Quarterlife Crisis - THE MOVIE!

Top Ten Drawbacks of Moving Back In With Your Parents

May 13, 2008

10. Even though you don't have to do your own laundry, you insist on doing your own sheets. 9. Your one night stands don't believe you when you say that your roommates are simply "mature". 8. Your bathroom privacy is frequently interrupted with, "Hurry up, I have to go so bad I can taste it!" 7. All the sex toys you buy online now have to be shipped to your job. And the mailroom guys won't stop asking you out. 6. Your parents have spent a fortune on a plumber trying to fix the "banging pipes" inside your walls. 5. You never get a moment alone with your Wii. 4. Questions like, "Have you met anyone lately?", "Did you find a job today?", "I think I deserve Grandchildren, don't you?", "What do you do all day?", and "Didn't you wear that yesterday?" start to really grate your nerves after like the second day. 3. You're so plastered after a night of drinking, you forget whether your bed is on the left or right side of the exercise bike, and then you remember the bike is in your parents room... 2. Because the word 'temporary' will tear at your soul every single day you remain in that house. 1. The pick up line “Want to go back to my place? My parents are asleep and I can stay up as late as I want”, is hard to sell.

Weekly Quarterlife Links

May 8, 2008

  • Write a letter to your future self, reminding you of what is important in life
  • Navigating the Quarterlife Crisis to Career and Personal Success: Five Strategies for Fulfilling Your Dreams Quarterlife Career Crisis

Back to School

May 8, 2008

Bruce Springsteen released the album "Born to Run" in 1975, making him twenty-six years old at the time. I can't help but wonder if the title track was about a quarter life crisis-induced contemplation of grad school. Ok, The Boss probably didn't think much about doing his masters while he was burning his back in the Badlands, his version of being born to run involving a rusted Chevrolet, a dirty, white t-shirt, and the girl next door. But we can all relate to having an overwhelming desire to run, to escape from a situation that we find unsettling, awkward, or unsatisfying. In my case, the great escape was to the safe haven of grad school, and I'm not the only one.

Whether backpacking in Europe, going to teacher's college, ESL tutoring in Asia, attending graduate school, or playing "Legend of Zelda" in your parents' basement, most of us go through a period of dazed, free-floating time before, during, or immediately after college, when we aren't quite sure what to do with ourselves. By free-floating, I don't mean that we aren't tied down by various commitments, but that we do not necessarily attach ourselves to anything that requires a long-term contribution or responsibility. Instead, we tend to take on activities that stimulate us moderately, but that wouldn't hold us over for longer than a few years (even you will get off that couch one day, Zelda). This time allows us to gain skills and experience while we try to figure out what we want to spend the rest of our lives doing, a daunting task indeed (or an elaborate way of procrastinating).

Graduate school, as it turns out, is one of the ultimate ways to form the above-mentioned skills and experience if you haven't quite put your finger on your particular niche in the world. The student status provides refuge in a structure you know like the back of your hand: the familiar, simultaneously freeing and restrictive institution we call school. It's a respectable and welcoming place to be; you'll leave with a sharpened mind, enhanced writing and research skills, and another fancy piece of paper with your name on it to throw on the wall. But even aside from these benefits, there are other reasons to throw oneself into the academic world...again.

I remember the point at which I felt I had finally found my calling: I was sitting in the school pub with some other students to work on a group project. Being with classmates I was friendly with, I confessed to not understanding some of the terms other students threw around so confidently in class. Within five minutes, we were coherently discussing the meaning of post-modernism and neo-liberalism; within an hour, we had moved from critical theory to mulling over our favourite songs and a shared love of music, clanging our pints down on the table in agreement with another and easing into the comfort of the evening, brains buzzing not from the beer (ok, maybe a little), but from the thrill of feeling that we had finally arrived, finally achieved a point at which we felt ourselves growing into young, intelligent and confident adults who were going somewhere, making a difference, and enjoying ourselves in the process. We belonged, and it felt good.

Top Ten Benefits of Moving Back In With Your Parents

May 5, 2008

10. The time saved from cooking your meals and cleaning your room can now be parlayed into trying to beat Grand Theft Auto 4. 9. No matter how concerned you are about aging, it is never as bad as seeing your father standing in front of an open fridge wearing only his tighty-whities. 8. Your one-night stands now have someone to talk to during that awkward silence at breakfast (and your parents can spot them cab fare). 7. Ramen noodles are replaced by whole meals... made in the oven! 6. When you have company over, your parents are totally cool with you referring to them as, "the roommates." 5. Watching "Design on a Dime" with your mother has inspired you to change your room from "drab to fab." 4. You don't have to play drunken twister by yourself anymore. 3. The money you used to spend on porn can now be put into a high yield, long term FTSE All-World ex-US ETF, rolled into an IRA... or not. 2. Your clothes smell like Snuggles, and those tattered rags you call "underwear" are finally tossed out and burned. 1. Unlike your previous roommates, your parents don't get mad if your trifling ass is behind in the rent.

Did MTV Kill the Video Star?

May 1, 2008

You can barely find them on MTV, VH1, and MTV2, and they're starting to be phased out on Fuse. The music video has taken a back seat (well, more like it’s been gagged, blind folded, and crammed in a trunk) to reality shows, celeb-reality crossovers, wannabe celeb-reality crossovers, and Flavor Flav. So the music video is no longer in the mainstream, but does that mean it’s dead? Or can we find it, un-gag it and prevent it from going the way of Billy Batts in Goodfellas?

I started to notice music videos sometime during the early 90s. MTV was exploding in popularity, and broadcast videos throughout the day. They were imaginative, bizarre, meaningful, often offensive, and raw. The bumble bee girl in Blind Melon's "No Rain," the mud men in The Smashing Pumpkins’ "Bullet with Butterfly Wings," the shocking animals and nudes in Nine Inch Nails' "Closer" and "Hurt," the abundant symbolism in R.E.M.'s "Losing My Religion" and Nirvana's "Heart Shaped Box," and the eerie claymation in Alice In Chains' "I Stay Away" and Tool's "Sober" are just a few of the images that are as fresh in my mind today as they were almost fifteen years ago.

But there are two music video behemoths that really define this era. They were influential and invaluable to the art form. One set a tone and initiated a new generation of music; the other caused a controversy that would forever change music videos. I'm talking about Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and Pearl Jam's "Jeremy."

When I first saw the video for “Smells Like Teen Spirit” I didn’t know what to think. Nirvana didn’t look like bands before it – they didn’t wear spandex and leather jackets. They didn’t even look like they wanted to be a band. And they sounded like something from the sewers – dirty, angst-ridden, and sarcastic. Nonetheless, their sound was full of a heightened sense of injustice and frustration. Kurt Cobain’s senseless lyrics and the band’s semi-punk edge had a gymnasium full of kids rioting. I remember I had never moshed before, but I wanted to be in the middle of that gym, fighting for my life. The video provoked in me a raw emotion, a feeling of “us-versus-them,” that would manifest itself in my early teen years. To arouse any sort of emotion attests to the greatness of a video, but to shape the attitude of a generation makes it legendary.

Pearl Jam’s “Jeremy” had a similar effect but in a completely different manner. Its realistic portrayal of school shootings scared people, throwing many adults into a frenzy. When I first saw the video I thought it was cool. Eddie Vedder sings like a man possessed, and Jeremy, the boy in the video, enacts the ultimate revenge. But the frozen classroom covered in Jeremy’s blood haunted me. After letting it absorb for a while I felt guilty. The boy was dead, the classroom was shocked, but there was nothing left but newspaper clippings to document the shootings. This boy’s life was wasted. Many people understood the message of “Jeremy,” and acknowledged it for its controversial subject matter. Others, however, did not look so deep. Years later the video was accused of influencing several school shootings, including the Columbine High School massacre. I cannot argue that this video did not contribute to those acts of violence, but I can say that I was influenced positively by its message. It was powerful, meaningful, and created a debate. It elevated the music video to a new level, yet may have destroyed it at the same time.

And then with a blast from a shotgun it all ended. Kurt Cobain was dead, and music, along with the music video, would never be the same again. A few years later, after MTV had begun to change its format, we were bombarded with Hanson, The Spice Girls, Brittany Spears, N'Sync, and The Backstreet Boys (it feels wrong even to type those words). As the music became more synthetic, so did the videos. This new breed of video would center on flashy dance routines, partying in clubs, and “in your face” egos. Didn't we learn anything from the 80s?!

Interestingly, the heyday of the music video occurred during an economic recession. Kids were coming home from college in the late 80s/early 90s without jobs, and were feeling disillusioned. Generation X came of age, and a music revolution began. Grunge hit the mainstream, and with the help of MTV changed the face of music forever. Today we happen to be in another recession. The college/job situation is nearly the same, if not worse. The music is lacking, and the videos are without substance, taste, and imagination. If history is repeating itself, are we on the brink of a new music revolution? If so, is it even possible without any mainstream outlet like MTV?

I posted an article on this subject for two reasons. The first reason was to revisit those videos in the hope of rediscovering some old inspiration. Secondly, I wanted to find a way for people to contribute links, websites, or general information about where to find real music videos these days. I know they're out there, hidden from anything close to a mainstream audience. So, help me – and your fellow readers – out. Add to the thread, and post some pretty gems, or some rough gems, or some homemade gems, or, hell, just any video that you feel passionate about. Maybe a little exposure will go a long way, and we can stop Tommy DeVito from inflicting that last shovel blow to the head and bring some life back into a dying art form.