Sunday, October 19, 2008

Kate Bush: In Continuance and My Criticism of AEP

Let me this POST begin with a KATE BUSH update: The day after I wrote the last entry I went to the record store near my house, SCRATCH AND SPIN, and picked up her 1985 LP, HOUNDS OF LOVE, and WOW! This album contains two songs mentioned in my last post , "HOUNDS OF LOVE" and "RUNNING UP THAT HILL (A DEAL WITH GOD)," and since purchasing it, I have listened to it numerous times. On my first night with the record I tried to fall asleep to side B, entitled THE NINTH WAVE, and it was REALLY SCARY. It features chopped up, backwards vocals and an OMINOUS voice that sounds like it could belong to a DRAGON. She also references psychoanalyst, WILHELM REICH, in the song "CLOUDBUSTING." My KATE BUSH IMMERSION and APPRECIATION (which will henceforth be referred to on my BLOG as my KBI&A) is going swimmingly. I look forward to obtaining my next album of hers; I think 1982's THE DREAMING (pictured), as it contains the aforementioned "SUSPENDED IN GAFFA," may be my next try, but I'M NOT QUITE SURE YET.

Now, I have for the past month or so been fulfilling requirements for South Carolina's ALCOHOL EDUCATION PROGRAM because of an UNDER-AGED DRINKING TICKET which I received last semester. The program requires clients to participate in COMMUNITY SERVICE at non-profit organizations and take a number of alcohol-related information sessions
. One of these sessions was simply called an alcohol education class, which I attended for three Fridays with a couple other AEP clients. For the final class, the teacher, MR. BEN BOATWRIGHT (who actually is a decent, respectable fellow), said we were to create and present an "art project" (which encompassed any medium: painting, drawing, sculpting, spoken word, written word, et cetera) in which the students must explain what AEP means to him or her. I chose to write a manifesto, as it was the medium in which I could most-clearly articulate my views on the program, and my roommate and friend, ANDY (pictured), suggested I use it as a subject for a BLOG POST. I had already toyed with the idea myself and I have decided to do so as I thought about the essay for quite a while and treated the project much like I would a POST on my BLOG. So, the ensuing words come from my UNTITLED MANIFESTO that I created for the AEP PROGRAM.

South Carolina
’s Alcohol Education Program (AEP) has proven to me to be a system, constructed under the guise of a safety course, to wrench money and time out of young people and make them try to adopt the government’s strict views on substances. AEP has shown me that the government really does not care about the well-being of all offenders of imposed alcohol and drug laws; it simply wants to take the time and money of those who cannot manage to slip through the cracks of the system. Whatever negative connotations I had reserved for this type of program through my first dealings with Pre-Trial Intervention have been thoroughly reinforced and strengthened after experiencing much of the same in AEP.

My problem with the program starts with the evening on which I committed my “offense.” I had gone to a friend’s house out in Blythewood and was quietly spending time with friends and just happen to have been drinking beer. Nobody I was with was excessively loud or drunk and we were all having a pleasant, low-key time. The only reason that I think the police even showed up is because they were called to another house down the street that may have actually been disturbing the peace of the gated community. Whatever the reason, the police came in nine separate cars and searched the entire house. I willingly walked outside and stood with my friends, thinking that there was no possible way that these cocky dullards were going to write some nineteen tickets for those who happened to be under-aged. I was wrong, though, as we waited for about two hours while the law enforcers did their enforcing with smiles on their faces, the entire time trying to sound appealing to us as they lamented the beer which they made us pour into the sink. Any bad view that we were supposed to reserve for the liquid was immediately countered by the police officers’ assertions that they wanted to take it home and drink it themselves.

The issue of court dates for the ticket hearings again showed me how arbitrary the entire program is as some people had their lawyer parents or friends come along and had their charges and tickets immediately absolved. As the imbecilic and inconsiderate police officers scheduled the court dates to be right in the heart of my friends’ and my final exam week, some of my fellow “offenders” had to reschedule their dates in order to take their tests. Well, all those who chose to reschedule were also free of charge as the correct police officers did not show up at their cases and thus, another few of my friends got to save their time and money. The unlucky few of us who actually had to go through the AEP program were all left dumbstruck by the court’s simple dismissal of some cases and we saw very clearly that all this program is used for is revenue.

The actual program of AEP (with all due respect to you, Mr. Boatwright) has been a long process of redundant teachings, wallet-emptying, vain payments and a failure to make me see why I my “offense” should count as any sort of crime. In my Alive at 25 class, instructor Larry “Skid” Skidmore repeatedly told the class that he did not care if we drank, we simply have to be responsible and of-age. Responsible, yes, it is very important to avoid using machinery whilst consuming alcohol and to ingest it in moderation. Well, at the time of my "offense" I had taken in all of two beers and had planned to spend the night at the place of gathering. This, according to Skid, is responsible, so all I have to do is be of-age. Well, why if he says that is the only thing I am missing, should I even have to worry about it? I do not understand how a man could completely take and obey the laws imposed by the government solely because they are imposed by the government. Has he never thought to question these laws by which we are supposed to live? He had reserved similar ideas about marijuana as he said that he wanted to try the drug, and in 2040 (which, according to Skid, is 38 years from now), when he believed it would be legalized, would absolutely like try it. Why does he have to wait for a higher power to tell him it is alright? Has he no personal motivation or thoughts outside of the ways the government tells him to think and act? I find people who adopt and act in this subservient vein to be unreasonable and very ineffective types to whom I am supposed to listen.

In sum, the Alcohol Education one is a program that capitalizes mainly on the college student’s tendency to like to loosen up on the weekends after stressful days of schoolwork. We have learned that policemen go fishing for under-aged drinkers in popular areas like Five Points because they have to meet a quota that assures that the government will be able to pay enough officers so that it can also generate revenue from this lucrative, evil business as well. Nevermind the fact that the people forced to go to these alcohol classes have very busy schedules as is. It is perfectly acceptable to make them work extra hours at their jobs, work at their jobs on already-busy weekdays as they spend weekends fulfilling class and community service requirements and have them skip important university classes to hear statistics about their demographic rattled off by a preachy, homophobic moron. More than anything, AEP has made me more aware of the moral emptiness of the program and monetary goal for which it actually exists.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

My Life in the Ghost of Bush

Until July 2008, KATE BUSH was a name which I had heard mentioned in passing, but I had never pursued her music for myself. I had before heard praise for her work, but did not know whether or not it was something I would really be able to DIG, so she remained estranged to me for quite some time. For some reason, last semester I found myself engaged in a conversation with my friend, LINDSEY, about her song "WUTHERING HEIGHTS" and we watched the music video for it and I remember feeling like she was an artist to whom I would need to dedicate some time in order to really get into her. This past summer I was in the CHICAGO PUBLIC LIBRARY sorting through the music section when I came across her 1989 album, THE SENSUAL WORLD. I checked it out from the library and took it home and listened to it once. Again I was fond of it, but I felt that I would need to give her another chance at a later point, as I just was not quite connecting with LP.

The music from THE SENSUAL WORLD (the album physically returned to its place in the Chicago Public Library) went un-listened-to on my computer/iPod for a while, despite the recurring notion that I should be giving it another chance. In the past few weeks, though, I have experienced a surge of allusions and references to the work of KATE BUSH. In a relatively short span of time I purchased PETER GABRIEL's, SO, which features her in one song, heard her name mentioned in interviews with the bands HIGH PLACES, VIVIAN GIRLS and then again at my friends' house as I browsed through JOSH's music collection. The latter three of these instances involved the exact same song, "RUNNING UP THAT HILL," which I now know to be one of her biggest hits. After these encounters I gave this song a good listen, enjoyed it and decided that NOW is the time that I will actively pursue KATE BUSH's discography.

As I gave THE SENSUAL WORLD a couple more (figurative) spins, I finally started to be able to get into it. I think I was intially driven away by the many IDIOSYNCRASIES that make up the album, its tendency to sound somewhat DATED in its overall sound and the DENSITY that permeates every song. My recent multiple listenings and continually increasing enjoyment of THE SENSUAL WORLD are where now I stand in my first steps of KATE BUSH IMMERSION and APPRECIATION. Since listening to it, particularly the last song, "WALK STRAIGHT DOWN THE MIDDLE," I have again seen her influence on the band PONYTAIL's singer MOLLY SIEGEL, especially in very beginning of their song "BEG WAVES." Both women make that noise that happens when you MAKE YOUR LIPS LIMP AND BLOW THROUGH YOUR MOUTH WHILE HUMMING IN A HIGH PITCH, a sound often more associated with small children than with pop vocalists.

The ICING on my PROVERBIAL KATE BUSH CAKE, though, appeared after the commencement of my IMMERSION and APPRECIATION. Last Thursday I got RA RA RIOT's new album, THE RHUMB LINE (pictured) from WUSC while doing a radio show. I listened to the this album a lot last weekend and had chosen a couple of initial standout tracks to frequently revisit, one of them being the ninth song, "SUSPENDED IN GAFFA." I listened to this song a few times before I researched their album and figured out that this particular selection is a KATE BUSH COVER.

No more than four days later, I was at work creating an ON THE GO PLAYLIST on the company iPod. There is a lone song by British post-punkers, THE FUTUREHEADS, that comes from their self-titled album that I frequently listened to when I was a junior in high school. The song is called "HOUNDS OF LOVE" and I put it on the playlist I was making to see if I would still enjoy it as I used to do. Continuing to scroll through the selections, I came across KATE BUSH's name and, because I had recently started my venture into her work, I threw that song, also entitled "HOUNDS OF LOVE," into the mix as well. Of course I noticed that these two songs have the same name, but I did not pen THE FUTUREHEADS as people who would cover KATE BUSH. I was quickly proved wrong, though, as not longer after hearing THE FUTUREHEADS' singer request for his shoes to be taken off and thrown into the lake, KATE BUSH did exactly the same.

Here I realized that I was SO CLOSE to accessing her music YEARS before I actually did, if only I had checked for writing credits upon hearing the song the first time! I am trying to decide if an AFFINITY for KATE BUSH has always been in the cards for me, if I have been experiencing more encounters with her recently than can be considered normal, or if she is simply a HUGE, INTERNATIONAL POP STAR and it is common to hear her name mentioned. If the latter is the case, then maybe one or a couple mentions got her on my brain, so I have just been taking more notice when her name arises. I'M NOT REALLY SURE, but I am glad I have finally started to take note of and experience KATE BUSH's (so far) unique, gratifying music.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Consumer Self-Taxonomy

The other day I was cruising around on the INFORMATION SUPERHIGHWAY and accidentally rolled my mouse over an orange, rectangular ad that was at the top of the window at which I was looking. No big deal, right? Well, simply moving the cursor onto this orange area started off a chain of people (some recognizable, i.e. Pharrell Williams and Eva Longoria) identifying themselves as PCs and telling me the interesting jobs they do, clothes they wear, ways the help the world, et cetera. At first these messages were a bit disorienting, but I soon identified the rectangle as part of the new MICROSOFT marketing campaign, no doubt in response to the recent APPLE commercials that show a young, cool-looking JUSTIN LONG identifying himself as a MAC and ragging on the square, nerdy man who is understood to be a PC.

After having my interest piqued by this internet snippet of the ad, I consulted YOUTUBE to see what other incarnations this campaign has taken and I viewed the minute-long television spot. This version had even MORE interesting people proclaiming themselves to be PCs and giving examples of all the opportunities one can encounter by choosing MICROSOFT instead of APPLE.

Shortly after experiencing these advertisements, I found myself sitting in class waiting for the professor to arrive when two classmates, one of whom was seated behind his APPLE laptop, brought up the new MICROSOFT ad campaign and the two of them began to chide both the commercials and the company itself and even went so far as to denounce those who happen to use a MICROSOFT product. They listed off a few new products that each company made and proclaimed APPLE to be the superior electronics producer.

In meditating on the nature of these advertisements and my two classmates' conversation I have been left dumbstruck by how seriously some people take their products. WINDOW's new campaign shows people from every walk of life DEFINING themselves by the computers they choose to buy and use and my classmates seem to have adopted this method of self-taxonomy. In my AMERICAN AUTOBIOGRAPHY class and my '50s AND '60s CINEMA class we have been reading about the SHAMELESS CONSUMERISM that seemed to take over America in the 1950s. In each class we have seen the purchasing of now standard appliances like the refrigerator or toaster oven turned into a family event in which friends would come to said family's house to see the new appliance in action. Many other people in my class who speak up about the subject distance themselves from these kind of events because now it seems ridiculous get excited about a toaster, but what does not seem to get mentioned are the countless other items that are put on pedestals and coveted in modern America. The once-exciting oven or vacuum cleaner has now been replaced by items like MACs, PCs or VIDEO GAME CONSOLES. Families still invite friends over to herald their new purchases, but these products have now taken the form of BLUERAY-PLAYING,HIGH-DEFINITON TELEVISIONS or similar items.

I did community service at a nearby Christian thrift store, HIS HOUSE MINISTRIES, a few days ago and two other people with whom I was working (one a young man of about 18, the other an older fellow probably in his late thirties) immediately started up a purchase-charged conversation when the younger one was examining his IPHONE (pictured, right) whilst the elder talked about his IPOD. I listened to them talk for quite a while that day and the conversation seldom strayed from the subject of CELLULAR PHONES, TELEVISION SETS and CARS. In between discussions of products, each seemed hard-pressed to come up with conversational topics beyond the WEATHER or the FLOW OF TRAFFIC.

I cannot tell if the same CONSUMERISM that took over America in the 1950s is increasingly conquering minds or if its rate is staying the same, but simply selecting new products and new ways to target the CONSUMERS. There is another recent phenomenon becoming prevalent at least in the greater COLUMBIA, SOUTH CAROLINA that involves people BUYING huge decals emblazoned with logos of, say, REESE'S PEANUT BUTTER CUPS and getting them placed onto their cars. People are becoming so wrapped up in what they buy that they are actually PAYING the company to ADVERTISE its product!

Here, where I should be providing closing words, this whole situation leaves me at somewhat of a loss for them. I often attempt to end BLOG POSTS with either solutions or questions, but I cannot seem to conjure either right now, only these above observations.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

What is a Sex Pervert?

About a week and a half ago I watched WOODY ALLEN's Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* But Were Afraid to Ask (1972). This film is centered around frequently asked questions about SEX and there is an ensuing short story or skit for each inquiry. Whilst watching the segment for the fifth question,"What is a sex pervert?" I became interested because I have never actually known the answer to this question. I have heard the word "PERVERT" used plenty of times and feel I could even use it effectively on my own, but I have never actually heard a definition of what makes a PERVERT a PERVERT.

Lucky for me, though, in my film class, Cinema, Sex and the City 1914-1934 (not to be confused with the one mentioned in my last post), we have been reading and discussing MICHEL FOUCAULT's 1978 thesis, The History of Sexuality: An Introduction, which seeks to explain how and why SEX has come to be repressed by the POWERS THAT BE in western society. In the beginning of Part 4, Chapter 3, FOUCAULT addresses how there is no "...all-encompassing strategy, valid for all of society and uniformly bearing on all manifestations of sex." In approaching this problem, FOUCAULT distinguishes four great strategic unities which he sees as "...form[ing] specific mechanisms of knowledge and power centering on sex." These unities are: a hysterization of women, a pedagogization of procreative behavior and a psychiatrization of perverse pleasure; the last one of which contributes to the discussion in this particular post.

FOUCAULT defines "PERVERT" as an instinct that is set aside as separate in physical and psychic realms. He says that "... a clinical analysis was made of all the forms of anomalies by which it could be afflicted; it was assigned a role of normalization... with respect to behavior; and... a corrective technology was sought for these anomalies." So the pervert is an anomaly in the world of sexual normalcy, such as a PEDOPHILE or FOOT-FETISHIST, which were the examples used in my class. According to FOUCAULT, these anomalies are to go into a clinical setting and come out either "cured" of their sexual demons or can at least control them in public.

My professor also brought up SIGMUND FREUD's ideas on PERVERSION. He said that FREUD uses the same sort of definition for the word (one who deviates from the sexual norm), but does not think that these deviations should be in any way "treated" or "cured." It is perfectly natural for sexual preferences and ideas to differ from one person to another and the people who should really be "on the couch" are those who fail to acknowledge this acceptibility of qualities deemed "PERVERSE" in the public eye. Let me provide full disclosure here in saying that I have no citation for these Freudian views. I am simply working on what I understand from my professor's words on the subject.

For one more view of what a makes a PERVERT a PERVERT, I consulted the OXFORD ENGLISH DICTIONARY which produced this definition of the word "PERVERSE": "Of a person, action, etc.: going or disposed to go against what is reasonable, logical, expected, or required; contrary, fickle, irrational." So, one of the most respected dictionaries in the world gives a fairly broad definition of the word that echoes FOUCAULT's definition, but also throws in the words "fickle" and "contrary," which I suppose would rope in anyone who has an unstable, fluctuating sense of sexuality and one who does the exact opposite of what is considered the SEXUAL NORM, which, I suppose, would be around HETEROSEXUAL, VAGINAL INTERCOURSE.

Now, back to the WOODY ALLEN film: the aforementioned story that comes after the question about perversion shows a black-and-white game show that features a panel of celebrities, that includes one REGIS PHILBIN, asking yes or no questions in attempt to guess the contestant's particular perversion. As it turns out, the contestant apparently GETS HIS ROCKS OFF by exposing himself in public places (pictured,left; please excuse the poor photo quality). Immediately after the game portion of the show, the host reveals the winner of a mail oriented contest in which contestants send in their fantasies and the best fantasy will then be enacted on the show. Said winner is a Hasidic Jew whose fantasy involves his wife getting on her knees and eating pork while he is scolded and chastised by a dominatrix.

So with all of these examples of SEXUAL PERVERSION, which one can we decide on as THE definition for this mysterious, yet ubiquitous, word? If PERVERSION is deviation from the SEXUAL NORM, then what is this SEXUAL NORM in the modern western world? Well, I consulted the ever-trustworthy source of WIKIPEDIA for an answer and guess what it is? WIKIPEDIA says that, "In the West, many people have relaxed the traditional definitions of normality, choosing instead to define normal sexuality as any sexual practice which does not involve what are regarded as sexual perversions." This takes us in a big circle that again gives rise to the questionm, "WHAT IS A SEXUAL PERVERT?"

In ALLEN's film, the contestant with the hidden PERVERSION appears as a kind old man who looks like he a could be a loving grandfather. The only reason he is a PERVERT is because he is on the fictional gameshow, What's My Perversion? He does not seem strange or threatening until we hear what the man's PERVERSION is. But wait, let's take the answer in two halves: "He likes to expose himself." This does not sound so bad; maybe the man just likes to show his partner his genitals and he likes to hear feedback and admiration. Okay, no big deal. But "IN PUBLIC!" This is where the old man could really upset some people. Does this mean that a PERVERT is not a PERVERT unless he or she acts upon the sexual drive and projects it on to a non-consenting partner? I think this may have something more to do with it, but what if the person in question has desires to expose his or her genitals in public, but stifles the urges. Is this person still a PERVERT in the public eye (considering that the public somehow knows about the person's urges) and can this person be accepted in society because the stifling of his or her urges creates the illusion the he or she fits into the SEXUAL NORM?

I have been writing this BLOG POST on and off all day and still feel as though I am still pretty far away from an answer to the question at hand. I would appreciate some help if anyone has any incite into what it means to be a SEXUAL PERVERT.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

A Streetcar Named Desire and the "Age of the Chest"

Wow, folks. I cannot believe it has been over two months since I last posted. I never wanted to have such a massive gap in my BLOG's life, but a small bout of WRITER'S BLOCK turned into an extended period of BLOG APATHY, which I hope will end with this post. I am not proud of my inactivity, but I have come to terms with it and am ready to move forward.

Let me catch you up to speed with my whereabouts as they have fluctuated since we last spoke and I think it will help to put my (hopefully) forthcoming POSTS into perspective. I have departed from the WINDY CITY of CHICAGO after an eductional, enjoyable and enlightening two month stay. I have traveled back down to VIRGINIA, gone on a family beach trip in NORTH CAROLINA, gone back to VIRGINIA and driven back to my school in SOUTH CAROLINA, where I have been for about the past month. I have returned to work at the Columbia-located AMERICAN APPAREL and have been in my JUNIOR YEAR of school for three weeks.

Before addressing the MEAT of this POST I would like to DEDICATE it to the anonymous user who encouraged me to update my blog. Thankyou.

Today I read KRISTEN HATCH's essay called "Movies and the New Faces of Masculinity" for my '50s and '60s Cinema class. In this essay, HATCH addresses the arrival of actors MARLON BRANDO and MONTGOMERY CLIFT on the HOLLYWOOD scene in 1951 and how both of these actors completely shattered the proconceived notion of the Hollywood star and introduced new acting methods, behavioral norms and ideals about MASCULINITY. She discusses BRANDO and CLIFT's refusal to date Hollywood starlets for publicity, their shunning of materialism and, most important of all, the fact that each of these men changed the societal norm for MASCULINE BEHAVIOR both on and off the screen.

HATCH addresses BRANDO's role in A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) and highlights the actor's repeated shirtless appearances throughout the film. Apparently in this film (which I will be watching tomorrow for my class) BRANDO's character, STANLEY KOWALSKI is featured in soaking wet shirts that cling to his well-toned body and is displayed prominently without any kind of torso covering. This may not sound so RADICAL or OUTRAGEOUS in modern times, but HATCH states that, "The film's cinematic celebration of Brando's chest was recognized by cultural commentators at the time as a turning point in the representation of male body." She goes on to say that a 1958 PLAYBOY article jokingly references A Streetcar Named Desire "...ushering in the 'Age of the Chest' by making 'American chest concious.'" This portion of the book features this picture (at left) as an example of the actor's look circa Streetcar.

HATCH goes on to describe how this role flipped around LAURA MULVEY's theory of film's gaze being from a male perspective that objectifies women (which actually wasn't written until 22 years after) which would put the film's director, ELIA KAZAN, way ahead of the film culture curve. BRANDO's body in Streetcar was actually deemed "too desirous" and the Production Code Administration of that time had to downplay much of the film's sexual content. In concluding her essay, HATCH explains how "...the revolutionary possibilities of [Brando and Clift's] nonconformity were disregarded as childlike, unmanly" and that their mere physical presences onscreen served to "...offer new and unheralded erotic possibilities."

WOW! This absolutely blew me away when I read it! I know MARLON BRANDO was a big sex symbol in his day, but the fact that he completely revolutionized the way most women FETISHIZE a male is unbelievable! Just think of all of the advertisements for WORKOUT MACHINES, DIET PILLS, GYM MEMBERSHIPS, ATHLETIC APPAREL, etc. that all feature muscly, well-toned men as the desirable physique for men to embody and for women to possess. ALL OF THESE ideals stemmed from BRANDO's insecure, immature character in this 1951 film. This is basically proclaiming that he is the BEATLES (pictured, left) or the MIGUEL DE CERVANTES (pictured, above right) of anatomical builds.

It seems absurd to think that a man is depicted onscreen with no shirt on, something EVERYBODY does EVERY day (and there had to have been MUSCLY MEN around in the form of, say, construction workers or wrestlers), and causes a complete EROTIC REVOLUTION. I guess that the rest of the modern western world and I are immune to these sort of happenings now because we are so used to MASS CULTURE shoving different ideals in our faces, and I suppose these standards had to start in places like the film adaptation of A Streetcar Named Desire. MASS CULTURE is a very recent imposition onto the world it already seems strange to think of one specific image as having such a vast effect on people.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Reggaeton's Place in Modern Music

As discussed in my BLOG POST about REGGAETON, my surroundings have piqued my interest in this Latin America genre. I would still consider my research on the subject to be very superficial, but today I was reading about REGGAETON as compared to LATIN HIP-HOP, two genres which before I had considered to be synonymous with one another. The WIKIPEDIA article which I have been reading, though, begs to differ. REGGAETON has apparently garnered many comparisons to HIP-HOP and RAP music because the words are, in fact, rapped, and not sung. The article states that the only real difference between the two is that reggaeton beats are influenced by genres like REGGAE and DANCEHALL while true Latin hip-hop more resembles MAIN-STREAM HIP-HOP.

The idea that the only characteristic that keeps reggaeton from turning into hip-hop is the "DEM BOW" beat brings up the question of how this genre came to stand on its own in the first place. It seems as though reggaeton would just fall under the umbrella of LATIN AMERICAN HIP-HOP rather than be considered a completely different entity. I do not mean to question the artistic integrity of this genre, but only to inquire about the line that this music straddles and what actually has change to create an entirely new genre of music.

Let us consider two songs outside of the Latin pop world in which the vocal patterns are similar, but the instrumentation is obviously different: ever since hearing both of these songs I have considered BOB DYLAN's "LIKE A ROLLING STONE" and LOVE's "BUMMER IN THE SUMMER" to endorse very similar lyricism and intonation; not in subject matter, mind you, but simply in the way that ARTHUR LEE and DYLAN emphasize and sing the words. The music behind each song is obviously very different (I wish I could insert mp3s of each, but, alas, I do not know how). Sure, they both endorse the standard rock and roll set up of guitar, bass, drums and piano, but it would be very difficult to confuse the two if they were played as instrumental tracks. Now, I ask, would one really create different genres under which to categorize these songs? As another example: THE POLICE are noted for their influence of reggae, but does that really remove them from the genres of pop or rock and roll?

Let us view another example in the form of the DIWALI RIDDIM, a DANCEHALL rhythm that uses syncopated clapping and is named for its BOLLYWOOD influence. This RIDDIM is present in SEAN PAUL's 2003 single, "GET BUSY," a song that brought DANCEHALL to the attention of many. It was not long, though, before this RIDDIM showed up in other popular songs like LUMIDEE's "NEVER LEAVE YOU (UH OOOH, UH OOOH) and MISSY ELLIOT's "PASS THAT DUTCH".

As all of these artists continue to draw similar influences, the line becomes thinner among all of these urban styles that are indigenous to various regions of the world.

With all of these styles starting to share similar RIDDIMs and hip-hop artists continuing to collaborate with reggaeton artists like DADDY YANKEE, are Latin American hip-hop, main-stream hip-hop and reggaeton becoming increasingly similar and will they soon form one homogenous, all-encompassing melting pot (pictured) of a genre? I have often had trouble with the idea of categorizing everything into specific genres, and this question only gives rise to other ones. POPULAR MUSIC is a very broad way to discuss modern music and I realize that some differentiation is helpful, but this reggaeton and Latin American hip-hop classification is really making my head spin.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Fortuity Re-examined

In continuance with my post before last, I would like to further discuss this matter of FORTUITOUS HAPPENINGS that has been weighing on my mind as of late.

I have been HIGHLY ENAMORED with the idea of finding connections with individuals in a city as vast as CHICAGO, and as I continue to meet and chat with new people, they have only become more abundant. Much of the time not used to speculate about such occurrences has been spent reading, and I recently retrieved Milan Kundera's THE UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF BEING from the CHICAGO PUBLIC LIBRARY. The novel centers around the relationship of characters TOMAS and TEREZA, who one day met by chance at a cafe and proceeded to date shortly after. KUNDERA narrates the novel in THIRD PERSON OMNISCIENT and, about fifty pages into the novel, reveals TEREZA's mental reasonings behind why she pursued TOMAS after serving him in the cafe. Her reasons rely largely on coincidence (Beethoven playing on the radio, the number six being significant to both parties, TOMAS' use of her favorite bench) and KUNDERA addresses the reader about the nature of such chance occurrences. He says that when reading a novel, people have a tendency to write off a story's coincidental happenings as "NOVELISTIC." To this, KUNDERA says

...I am willing to agree [that such events may seem 'novelistic'], but only on condition that you refrain from reading such notions as 'fictive,' 'fabricated,' and 'untrue to life' into the word 'novelistic.' Because human lives are composed in precisely such a fashion.
His idea of the matter is that it would be even more outlandish to imagine a life without any fortuitous events like those I have previously addressed.

Upon my intial reading of this passage I did not really think too much of it (maybe because I wanted my life to have some incredible string of interconnected events that would provide me with some larger message), but after a second reading and consideration, I think KUNDERA is on to something. In the same passage he explains that fortuities probably happen much more than we even notice and that the novel should not be chided for utilizing them, but " is right to chide man for being blind to such coincidences in his daily life. For he thereby deprives himself of a dimension of beauty."

Then it hit me: the fact that I am even reading these words at such a CRUCIAL POINT IN MY LIFE is a coincidence (when I was very close to picking up Zadie Smith's WHITE TEETH in this book's stead) that I almost missed! I am part of the problem!

KUNDERA states that
Guided by his sense of beauty, an individual transforms a fortuitous occurence... into a motif, which then assumes a permanent place in the composition of the individual's life.
So, the AFOREMENTIONED FORTUITOUS OCCURRENCES and the ones to come need to just be observed and taken for what they are and the fact that I am even noticing them is a good sign. Thankyou, Mr. Kundera, for putting these AMBIGUOUS EVENTS into perspective for me.

In other news: DENNIS WILSON's reissued PACIFIC OCEAN BLUE finally came out today and when I went to the record store to pick it up, I was smacked in the face with a $30 price tag! What kind of person takes a highly sought-after album, waits until it is almost impossible to find, reissues it and adds so much bonus material that it costs an arm and a leg to obtain??? More information on this EVIL SCHEME soon.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

My Introduction to Reggaeton

The area in which I live in CHICAGO is called the UKRAINIAN VILLAGE and is, as its name suggests, heavily populated by people from UKRAINE. A simple turn of a corner, though, and one steps from the border of the eastern European country right into SAN JUAN as the area on W DIVISION STREET around HUMBOLDT PARK is heavily populated with people of the ASSOCIATED FREE STATE OF PUERTO RICO. This living situation has introduced me, WALKER and WEST to a few different cultural experiences as we balance our grocery shopping between the Puerto Rican and Ukrainian-owned stores and observe people carrying out their everyday activities just as they would in their native countries.

This CROSS-CULTURAL IMMERSION has brought to my attention a few things, but one that I notice literally every day is the loud music protruding from cars on the Puerto Rican side of the neighborhood. It is not just any loud music, though; upon first listen I thought every single young person in the area was listening to DADDY YANKEE's 2004 smash hit, "Gasolina" (which it is, some of the time), but after repeat listenings, the songs are noticeably different. I briefly discussed the mystery songs with WALKER and decided to look into this music that is obviously popular with the Puerto Ricans in my neighborhood. Now, I am not one who is at all well-versed in REGGAETON, but after some investigation I have learned that this is the music the resonates so often from the passing, Puerto-Rican-helmed cars.

Through my (at this point very superficial) research I have learned that the reason the songs sound very much alike is because most modern REGGAETON music utilizes a beat called "DEM BOW," which is characterized by heavy reliance on the snare drum. This RIDDIM was first pioneered by BOBBY "DIGITAL" DIXON and became popular through the dancehall artist, SHABBA RANKS' 1991 song "DEM BOW." The beat was not originally characterized as REGGAETON, but was quickly adapted as a staple in the burgeoning genre.

What interests me the most is the above-observed fact that this "DEM BOW" RIDDIM started as a Jamaican dancehall song and was then adapted to basically form and ENTIRE GENRE OF MUSIC. Maybe I am misunderstanding this whole Latin American pop phenomenon, but it has definitely peaked my interest and when I finally begin my job and make some money, I plan to delve into this musical style more in-depth than simply hearing DOPPLER-EFFECT-TINGED snippets from passing cars.

Hopefully there is more to come on my venture into the world of Puerto Rican pop culture.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


I know, I know: I am a terrible BLOGGER. I thought the summer would hold nothing but limitless BLOG ENTRIES for me, but my urge to post has been subdued by a very unfriendly, unwelcoming house in ROANOKE, VIRGINIA, and a lack of domestic internet connection in CHICAGO, ILLINOIS.

For a brief update: I have departed from SOUTH CAROLINA, spent about a week in ROANOKE and driven, with my good friend, IRENA to find my niche in the WINDY CITY. Thus far the city has shown me lots of bike rides, mexican food, free music performances and job hunts!
POST TOPIC: Small world!

Since moving to the big city I have fallen victim to many coincidences that continue to convince me that the world (or at least the USA) is not such a vast expanse, or it is at least very easy to convince oneself of this concept. Upon arrival in CHICAGO, I visited every American Apparel store (at which I was employed in SC) and told them my situation and dropped off a resume. Fast forward about a week and I see myself getting a phone call from the one in the LINCOLN PARK area. So, I went to talk to the manager and it turns out that one of the reasons he called me is because he too is from ROANOKE, VA and he used to work right next to/hang out at the same skateboard shop at which I worked!

Example number II:
My new buddy, PETE, invited me and my roomies to go see a couple bands in PILSEN last Friday, and so, never being ones to turn down rock 'n' roll, we tagged along. As I was JAMMIN' I felt someone walk up and stand very close to me and I figured it was just WEST, but when I looked over it was MATT KENNEDY, a South Carolina native and ex-USC schoolmate! There are about 3 million people in this city and the odds that we would be in the same small loft at the same time are seemingly impossible. One could argue that it was a rock show and this would be an easy place to run into people, but there were probably hundreds of rock bands playing that nite! Even MATT's roommate/other SC native went to see another one. Trust me, this is a big coincidence.

Example number III:

WALKER, WEST and I rode the metro home from a MEMORIAL DAY party a few days ago and talked to a girl called LORNA whilst riding back to our neighborhood. She gave WEST her card and he called her a few days later and before we knew it we were all headed to the GOLD STAR to meet up with her. On the way there my living partners and I were discussing how we want her to be from MICHIGAN so we can play euchre with her (a game that all MICHIGONIANS know, requires four players, and we have been itching to play since IRENA's departure). We walked into the joint and found her selecting jams at the juke box. One of the first words she said were, "I'm trying to find something by Television on here." Check one. After a little conversation we discover that not only is she from MICHIGAN, but she also loves euchre, has cards on her and is ready to play! Check two. All nite long LORNA had been wearing what appeared to be a KEFFIYEH around her neck. WEST inquired about the scarf-like garment and she informs us that it is actually a SARONG. Check three. WEST, WALKER, and I each own and adore SARONGS and this was just the straw that broke the camel's back.

The moral of this story is that it is indeed a small world after all and I will try to be a better BLOGGER and update this bad boy more often.

EPILOGUE to this post:
Remember our discussion involving JIM CARROLL about a month ago? Well I bought his 1980 album, Catholic Boy, yesterday morning, and I kept the CD in my back pack and went about my daily business. On a (seemingly) unrelated note, I was riding my bike down WESTERN AVENUE yesterday and as I passed an intersection I saw, just out of the corner of my eye, a man with a book by hard-boiled crime novelist, RAYMOND CHANDLER, pressed up against his face. This awakened thoughts of the class I took on the COEN BROTHERS two semesters ago and my reading of PLEASE KILL ME; in which LOU REED refuses someone a discussion of the author, instead requesting that the person DEFECATE on his FACE. Anywho, I got home and listened to the JIM CARROLL album and in the second song, "Three Sisters," CARROLL repeatedly sings the lyric "She's one to lay in bed all nite reading RAYMOND CHANDLER."

I can only wonder what underlying pattern of a larger FRAMEWORK of my life is being constructed around me. I will keep you posted.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Spooky Phone Takeover! Help!

I would first like to address the inactivity of TOTALLY BRANDON: It is FINAL EXAM time and I have been tending to other, some would say more important, writing assignments. Please forgive me. I have one exam left and then my only assignment for the summer is BLOGGING.

So anyway, I encountered a huge, unexplainable problem yesterday when I was trying to meet up with my friend, ANDY, at the CINCO DE MAYO FESTIVAL in Fenlay Park. I looked at my phone and had missed a call from him, so I called him back and he told me something along the lines of, "Hey did you change your voice message? Because it sounds like a girl now and I thought I had called the wrong person." I told him I had done nothing of the sort and then hung up and called my phone from my friend, PATRICK's phone. My phone rang and when it arrived at the voice mail message I heard, "Hey it's Meg; leave a message after the beep." It was my ex-girlfriend/still good friend MEG'S voice mail message!

This alone I found odd, but when I talked to MEG to ask her about it, she told me that she had recieved some phone calls, that she had missed because she was asleep, with strange area codes. After some further investigation, we discovered that the two phone numbers were those of PATRICK and ANDY, who had both tried to call ME. Then MEG hung up and tried to call ME, but all she heard was the "Please enter your password, then press pound" that comes on when one wants to check his or her voice messages.

What we have discovered thus far is that when I miss a phone call, the call will then go straight to MEG'S phone and she will then recieve the call that is originally intended for ME. I have never heard of anything like this happening before and of all the people with whom my phone could be COSMICALLY LINKED, the UNIVERSE has chosen MEG! I am BLOGGING about this because I am seeking help. If you have any experience with RENEGADE CELL PHONES please tell me what to do! ALSO: Shout-out to my older bro, BLAIR, who just turned 22 yesterday.
And DOUBLE shout-out to my parents, BART and LYNN, who celebrated their 28th anniversary yesterday.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

What We Already Know and What We Don't

First things first: Shout-out to LINDSEY for giving me her to ticket to the DESTROYER show in Asheville this weekend.

Now for THE MEAT:
Earlier in the semester I read/did an oral report on SIGMUND FREUD'S essay, "RECOLLECTION, REPETITION AND WORKING THROUGH", in which he writes about how to rid oneself of current mental/emotional problems by confronting the issues of the past. In the essay, he says that the analyst should ask the patient simple questions relating to the problem to engage him or her in a conversation and to begin a discussion of the present issue. He states that:

One must allow the patient time to get to know this resistance of which he is ignorant, to 'work through' it, to overcome it, by continuing the work according to the analytic rules in defiance of it.

By talking about the topic, the patient will move backward and "discover" the root of the problem.

The word "DISCOVER" is in quotation marks here because FREUD says that the conclusion the patient reaches is not really any uncovering of a forgotten or never-known fact. The thought has been present in his or her brain all along, and one simply has to discuss and confront the matter at hand to arrive at the realizations that can lead to a resolution or an explanation for a problem at hand.

Now, I just watched USHER'S music video for his 2001 single, "U DON'T HAVE TO CALL." In high school I was very fond of this song (and still am now), but I have not listened to it in probably 2 years. About two-thirds of the way through the song, in between the refrain, "U don't have to call", he emphatically sings "U don't GOTTA call". As I listened to this part of the song, I thought to myself, "I knew he said that, or did I just think I knew it?" I could not tell if I really had just learned the place of this specific lyrical interjection or if I knew and just came to realize it because I had gone back and examined this song that used to be ubiquitous in my past.

What's more, I think I remember that lyric being "U don't care to call" rather than "...gotta call". Had I figured out that it was "gotta" just now, or did I have this debate with myself back in 2004 when I listened to this song frequently? I do believe FREUD'S claim that one must revisit past happenings to uncover reasons for the present, but I just have trouble identifying when these instances are actually occurring or if I just THINK and am trying to CONVINCE myself that they are. Since I read this essay I have had a few different run-ins with this problem. We may end up discussing this later on if /when another instance of this type surfaces.

Also, did you know that the album, 8701, from which "U DON'T HAVE TO CALL" comes, is named after the time that spanned USHER'S career as an entertainer up to the point of it's release (1987-2001)? It was also released on August 7, 2001, but this date is, for the most part, coincidental. This sounds like something that THE BEATLES or PINK FLOYD would have done back when popular music still had cool hidden conspiracies. I guess the moral of this BLOG POST is that USHER is one of the edgiest artists of our time.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Minority Report, Punk and Jackie Robinson

[Prologue for this post: I have not yet addressed the issue of COMMENTING on my BLOG. Please feel free to leave your opinions or suggestions. I would like for this to be a dialogue between READER and BLOGGER.]

Yesterday I began reading Gloria Naylor's novel, BAILEY'S CAFE for my ENGLISH 386: POST-MODERNISM class. I have fallen behind at the tail-end of the class because the last two works that we have had to read have not really mattered in the class' grading scale, and I still only made it to page 16 of the book, which I was supposed to have read by Tuesday (4/22).

ANYWHO, up to page 16, the narrator, a black male who works at a cafe in Brooklyn, has started discussing America's past time: BASEBALL. He states that he gained a love for the game very early and he speaks as if he knows the sport very well. He comically talks of how there were two separate leagues for white and black people, not, as one would assume, because of segregation (oh yeah, the book is currently taking place in the 1940s, I think), but because the black people would completely dominate the white people if the teams were made to play eachother. Whilst reading this, I immediately started thinking about JACKIE ROBINSON, the man well known for being the first black person to join the all-white BROOKLYN DODGERS way back before the Civil Rights Movement happened. I did not really relate him to the story at all, I just started to think of a book that I read about him when I was a child.

Then, all of a sudden, the narrator brings up the subject of none other than JACKIE ROBINSON. I assumed he would speak of the man in a positive light, but he simply discusses him as a player who cannot hold his own in the "real", black leagues and says that if the DODGERS are suffering and need a "colored player", then "...dammit, bring in a colored player." This struck me as comical, but I also started to ponder the authenticity of many other people who we today regard as heroes. Naylor's narrator spouts off a few players' names who apparently can blow ROBINSON out of the water, but their names have not been solidified into Civil Rights chapters of history books or in any Baseball hall of fame. (Full disclosure: I am aware this book is fictional)

For example, when speaking of PUNK ROCK, many people will name-drop THE RAMONES, THE NEW YORK DOLLS or THE SEX PISTOLS. These are manifestly influential groups, but there are also other PUNK innovators like SUICIDE (pictured) and JIM CARROLL who, while I'm sure are common names for enthusiasts, do not resonate often in many discussions of the PUNK MOVEMENT. I read PLEASE KILL ME, which I understand is supposed to be THE book on PUNK, last semester and saw neither of these names mentioned, yet they still remain cult heroes. I am not saying that these dudes wanted to be remembered and leave a huge legacy (they were PUNK, you know?), but it just brings up the question of what other minor groups were present in New York in the 1970s who have been forgotten over the years?

I appreciate the alternate view points provided by books like Howard Zinn's A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES that introduce a new angle and illuminate the past in a new way. This practice of seeing other perspectives can really open one's eyes to, say, the fact that JACKIE ROBINSON was not the best black BASEBALL player in America in the 1940s. The problem is, though how can we see a different perspective of every historical subject EVER??? It is time-consuming enough to absorb information from just ONE source. And how do we choose which source to trust??? What kind of history are we learning everytime we read a new "fact"???

I also just re-watched Stephen Spielberg's MINORITY REPORT (2002) and it addresses similar issues of a society that fails to acknowledge MINORITY REPORTS given by the people who decide whether or not someone is guilty of murder. TOM CRUISE'S character, John Anderton discovers that the 2054 United States government and the PRE-CRIME department have been ignoring VITAL CLUES that can lead to the TRUTH that is sought-after throughout the entire film.

I am sure this matter gets pondered quite often, but Gloria Naylor's BAILEY'S CAFE really made me mull it over. Any contributions on the matter would be appreciated.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Dan Deacon, Beach House and BRYCE AND BRANDON???

So, I was not planning on blogging today because I did not have any INTERESTING MATERIAL to include in a post. That is, not until my buddy NICOL sent me a message via He told me that the new issue of ROLLING STONE MAGAZINE, of which I am normally not a fan, totally has a picture of me and my twin brother, BRYCE.

After hearing this, BRYCE and I rushed to the University of South Carolina Bookstore and took two pages from the latest issues of ROLLING STONE, the one that is titled "The Best of Rock 2008".

This page of the magazine is profiling their choice for best music scene: Baltimore, Maryland. The page includes photos of popular acts BEACH HOUSE and DAN DEACON, and it just so happens that they used a picture (from Flickr it appears) that was taken at a DAN DEACON/GIRL TALK/WHITE WILLIAMS show that BRYCE and I attended last semester (in Asheville, NC, not Baltimore). In the picture, as you can see, BRYCE'S face is directly over DAN DEACON'S right shoulder and I am in the right of the frame with my hand in the air.

So, many thanks to NICOL for pointing this out to me earlier today. If you are still skeptical and think this is an elaborate hoax, then go find an issue for yourself and check out page 62. That is all for today. I will hopefully have more INTERESTING, less egocentric, MATERIAL soon.

Sunday, April 20, 2008


Two weekends ago my good friends WALKER and WEST came for a surprise visit all the way from Charlottesville, Virginia. Amongst other things, WALKER came bearing the recently-gained knowledge of two sentences that seemingly repeat the same word over and over, but still form grammatically correct statements.

These sentences are:
Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo.


James, while John had had "had", had had "had had"; "had had" had had a better effect on the teacher.

I am not here to explain the correctness of these sentences, but a quick reading of the Wikipedia article on each can help to uncover their meanings.

I immediately found these sentences both amusing and highly mind-blowing, and now, 15 days later, while working in the library I have fashioned two of my own homonym experiments/sentences.

I am not as proud of this first one, but it was my initial attempt so I will include it here:
Art and Art, art Art and Art's "arts" art?

This sentence engages the word "art" as a verb which is synonymous with "are", name and in the noun form that refers to poetics, painting, sculpture, et cetera. This sentence presupposes that jazz musician, Art Blakey and graphic novelist, Art Spiegelman are discussing the music of Everclear's Art Alexakis and Art Garfunkel of Simon and Garfunkel. Speaking to Spiegelman, Blakey speculates the authentic artistic value of the two popular musicians' works.

Here is my second example in which I take much more pride. It is a posed question with an immediate, complete sentence answer.

Can Can can can-can Caan can can?
Can can can can-can Caan can can.

The different forms of the word "can" that I use here refer to the verb, meaning "to be able to", the German kraut-rock band, the high-kicking dance, the slang verb that means to figuratively trash or negatively criticize and the actor James Caan who is known for his roles in Elf (2003) and Misery (1990).

For the explanation of the question I will replace the verb with its meaning, "to be able to", the band, Can with the band, Canned Heat, the dance with "the macarena", the other verb with the word "trash" and the actor, James Caan with actress, Jamie Lee Curtis.

Are Canned Heat able to trash the same macarena that Jamie Lee Curtis is able to?
Yes, Canned Heat are, in fact, able to trash the same macarena that Jamie Lee Curtis is able to.

So, because the word "can" is very ambiguous and has multiple meanings, this one word can serve to populate an entire sentence and still be grammatically correct and make complete sense.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

First Ever Blog Post (of Many???)

I have decided to try out the practice of keeping an internet weblog after toying with the idea for some time now. What I would like to achieve through this blog is to have an outlet for what occupies most of my thinking time and try to formulate my mental explorations into well-organized, fully-realized posts. Consider this the beta launch of Totally Brandon: The Blog as I feel my way around the world of blogging and figure out if it is a fitting medium for me.

Earlier tonite I discussed the matter with my friends ANDY, JAMES, CHAZ and (brother/friend) BRYCE. ANDY recommended the name "Who Let The Blogs Out" to me, but I felt that would detract from what I am aiming to do with it, which is to have an entirely idiosyncratic internet environment. This brings me to the topic of the chosen name: "Totally Brandon." While contemplating a fitting name for my new blog, I considered a few punny names, but I decided on "Totally Brandon" so this would A) be congruent with my names in other internet environments like Ebay and CouchSurfing, and B) encompass my theme of wholly self-conceived ideas.

As this is just an introductory post, I do not have any INTERESTING MATERIAL, which is what I will strive for later, but consider this a kind of thesis proposing my reasons and goals for blogging.

Stay tuned!