Thursday, December 27, 2007

OZMA

Wow, I am just full of posts today. Perhaps it is because I've been sick and laying around thinking all day; or else it is because I am *still stuck in Pennsylvania*. Oy.

I would like to take advantage of my sole ownership of this forum and introduce anyone reading to the GREATEST BAND OF ALL TIME: OZMA. I know, this is a lofty title to bestow upon any one group, but I think they are one of the most creative and ground-breaking popular music group I've ever heard. I admire their innovative use of non-traditional instruments for rock instrumentation, their implementation of varying harmonies (modal and pentatonic scales, for example), and quirky, geeky love of video games (they play a version of the Tetris song). I've included several of their tracks on my new PLAYLIST to the right of my main blog. Have a listen, watch some of the videos below, and indulge yourself. :)

Link to Ozma video for "Spending Time on the Borderline," on YouTube.



Link for Ozma's "Bad Dogs" video.

Happy Holidays

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Merry Yuletide, Happy Winter Solstice, etc., whatever you celebrate. I am stuck in rural Pennsylvania with a head cold, sore throat and flu from my crazy family, and am playing around with geeky gadgets on the Internet to amuse myself. I think this video by Linkin Park is inspirational. I am subjecting anyone who reads this blog to it and the lyrics.



Linkin Park, "What I've Done."

In this farewell
There’s no blood
There’s no Alibi
‘Cause I’ve Drawn Regret
From the truth
Of a Thousand Lies

[Pre-Chorus:]
So let Mercy Come
And Wash Away
What I’ve Done

[Chorus:]
I'll face myself
To Cross out what I’ve Become
Erase Myself
And let Go of What I’ve done

Put to rest
What you Thought of Me
While I clean this Slate
With the Hands of Uncertainty

For What I’ve Done
I start again
And whatever pain may come
Today this ends
I’m Forgiving What I’ve Done

EDIT: Right, so this blog is by a person who thinks for herself. So why do I find the above inspirational?

1. The song lyrics call for a cleansing and renewing for something better. "Wash away, what I've become ... I start again ... I'm forgiving what I've done." As 2007 comes to a close and a new year is on the horizon, I'd like to think that whatever mistakes I've made in the past, I can wipe the slate clean. I am not damned, but the world still holds promise and hope. Very nice message.

2. The startling images throughout the video bring things into perspective, which is the ultimate message of the song. No matter what, have perspective, things could be a lot worse. One image is of a starving man, juxtaposed against images of an overweight person stuff himself with food and a very thin person measuring her waist with measuring tape. It is easy to think that life is over and nothing can get better, but there is real truth in the reality that life holds promise and possibilities.

Watch the video and read the lyrics and think for yourself. Yet again, music and video come together to convey a powerful message.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Where have all the geek girls gone?

I have been known to read a shitty magazine or two, now and again. I can't help it; I enjoy reading things like Allure and Glamour and Fitness and Self sometimes. So sue me. I do have my standards, though. I do NOT read Cosmo, Redbook, Good Housekeeping, tabloids, US Weekly, or (usually) People. However, recently I was waiting to see my therapist and picked up a People magazine. It was the Sexiest Man Alive issue and I wanted to do some babe-watching -- I didn't intend to read anything and let the silly words infest my brain. Unfortunately, just after the Sexiest Man Alive photos was an article on how 2007 was the year of the geek: this year, suddenly geeks have become desirable, cool, and sexy. My brain perked up at the mention of "geek." I have had an infatuation with all things from geekdom since I played my first video game, watched my first bit of sci-fi, read my first fantasy novel, participated in my first RPG. I'm a geek/nerd through-and-through, and quite unabashedly. So why am I bothered by articles about geeks and the current pop culture fetishization of geekdom?

I'm bothered for two reasons. First of all, although People magazine targets both men and women, all of the geeks featured in the article are MEN. The article was entitled "Sexy Geeks," but there are only MALES. Men! Of course, the geek girl is completely absent. If popular culture is to be believed, she is an endangered species. Even Beauty and the Geek, a show that mostly celebrates authentic geekness, has until recently had NO female geeks. This season features the very first female geek, and she has not received the same attention and celebration as the male geeks. I know for a fact that episodes have been re-edited and re-vamped to downplay her influence on the show.

Secondly, the men in the article, like many so-called "geeks" celebrated in popular culture, aren't even that geeky. These men are Adam Brody, Clay Aiken, Neil Patrick Harris, Chris Martin, Jon Stewart, Zach Braff, Jay Baruchel, Topher Grace, Beck, Jon Heder, and Elijah Wood. Why are they considered geeky? Apparently, because Elijah Wood collects action figures, Jon Heder starred as "Napoleon Dynamite," Beck has an album entitled "Loser" and wears polyester suits, Topher plays a lot of dice, Monopoly and poker, Jay is not a confident person, Zach is a self-avowed "film geek" and idolizes Woody Allen, Jon was called "Soupy" in high school and was called "awesome" by Alpha Geek, Chris is a vegetarian activist, Neil Patrick stars in Broadway musicals and has supposed geek cred for being Doogie Howser as a kid, Clay Aiken calls himself a "forever ... nerd," and Adam Brody is a "comic-book fanatic." Hhhhhhhhmmmmm. Now, I suppose there isn't a way of objectively defining a geek, but let's think. I'd say that I know enough geeks to be able to argue fairly convincingly that it is not a single geek interest that shows a person's inner geek: it's a conglomeration of interests and social awkwardness and intelligence and just general geekiness. You know when you're in the presence of a true geek. I know geeks, too: I've always found the sight of a guy in a lab coat to be very HOT. DarkWater.com defines the following as geeks: "gamers, ravers, science fiction fans, punks, perverts, programmers, nerds, subgenii, and trekkies. These are people who did not go to their high school proms, and many would be offended by the suggestion that they should have even wanted to." I would say that pretty much sums it up. Most geeks see themselves as disparate from the "norm." Sure, everyone feels like they don't fit in now and again, but not everyone grows up feeling separate from society, and views their entire life as growing apart from society and popular culture. This is the essence of the geek: to have a great interest in what is marginalized and misunderstood by society as a whole, and to see their life as parallel to society, but on a different plane from it.

Anyway.............. why aren't there more geeky girls in popular culture? I picked up a copy of Geek magazine to read on the train on my way to NYC on Saturday, and there was mention of a recent past issue with Tina Fey on the cover. AGAIN. What is so geeky about Tina Fey? I know, a geek girl, good, but seriously... is all that is necessary to define oneself as a geek a pair of plastic, dark-rimmed glasses?

That is all.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Music and Influence

I consider myself to be a very opinionated person, but not in a bad way. Just that I have very defined opinions that I like to share, but I expect others to lend their opinions and engage in an interesting dialogue with me. I tell my students that I hope they will disagree with me and engage in debate. I share my opinions with my students, which I expect them to take with a grain of salt. I realize that the freshman under my tutelage will not always understand and may be influenced by my musical opinions, but I try to convey to them that we don't have to like the same music. Recently, I have gotten to the habit of selecting music for playing to my students at the beginning of class, so as to enrich their exposure to different musics and get them to know a bit more about music history. I played one of my favourite bands, Ozma, for my students this week. The point was to illustrate how popular music can be very complicated and interesting and utilize different musical styles and techniques. In this case, the track in question contains pentatonic scales and interesting instrumentation not common in "typical" rock music, such as a prominent melody on the flute. I don't remember how we started talking about music I like to listen to for fun, but someone said to me, 'You like Pink Floyd, right?' This kind of took me by surprise, not because I particularly hate Pink Floyd, but because I don't really identify with people from that musical culture. The music I listen to, predominantly punk rock, is what I am most aurally infatuated with for a reason: I very much identify with that musical culture. I see myself as a punk rock chick who is forced by the constraints of society to dress more conservatively and less artistically than I would want. Anyway, I reacted negatively to this assessment and said, 'No, I don't listen to Pink Floyd!' a bit more emphatically that I would have liked. I now feel guilty about this, because I don't want to influence my students opinions about music. Conversely, I *do* want them to stretch themselves and learn to love new musics and all that the very rich musical world has to offer.

Music has a huge influence on who we are as people, and I think that finding the right kind of music that resonates with your soul tends to help shape you as a person, especially if you have a preponderance to musicality in the first place. Before punk rock, I was just Sammee. After punk rock, I am SAMMEE. I'm a new person. I want the same for my students... but I don't mean to diss their music or ANY music. Yet I am not perfect. I really struggle with appreciating lots of music, esp. R&B and rap. I really can't help it, and I've made a concerted effort.

Students, if you're out there, appreciate your Pink Floyd. But don't forget the rest of your musical palette.

Currently Listening...

  • Pearl and the Beard
  • The Dodos
  • Andrew Bird: Armchair Apocrypha
  • Anna Ternheim
  • NOFX
  • Fairiborz Lachini
  • The Clash
  • Rufus Wainwright: Rufus Does Judy
  • Radiohead: In Rainbows

Currently Watching...

  • Curb Your Enthusiasm
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation
  • Big Bang Theory
  • Mad Men
  • South Park
  • Zach Galifinakis

Currently Reading...

  • Bill Bryson: A History of Nearly Everything
  • Gabriel Garcia-Marquez: One Hundred Years of Solitude
  • The House of Leaves
  • Robertson Davies: The Rebel Angels

The World Outside

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Favourite Videos

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