What I learned on my first day of class

January 12, 2009

It’s the first day of my last semester of undergraduate classes. I shudder as I type that. But I won’t get into my post-graduation fear. I decided to take a hodge-podge of classes this semester just to see what was out there, and mostly because I only needed one for my major and UNC won’t let me underload and be a full-time student any more.

So here’s what the schedule looks like: 10 a.m., American Novel; 12 a.m., Environment and Society; 3 p.m., Chaucer; 4 p.m., Community Journalism. I don’t have Tuesday and Thursday classes, so I get to enjoy everything in the span of seven hours.

Here is what I learned in each class. Remember, this is only the first day.

American Novel: if you walk into the first class 10 minutes late, you will have to sit in the last available desk wedged in a corner in the back of the room after being shown the seat by a student waving their arms like one of those guys on an airport runway with the glow sticks.

Environment and Society: Despite the fact that I like all the work he is doing for the environment and global warming, Al Gore is a pompous ass. We watched the special features of his move “An Inconvenient Truth,” and it was basically 20 minutes of him talking about how the world is going to melt in the next 50 years, broken up with condescending chuckles.

Chaucer: Not only are we reading Chaucer, but we’re reading Chaucer in the original Middle English. Ha ha. No seriously. It’s honestly not as hard as it sounds. It’s easier to read than it is to unerstand it spoken. Here’s a taste: “O our Scots nables wer richt laith/To weet their cork-heiled schoone;/Bot lang owre a’ the play wer playd,/Their hats they swam aboone.” I’ll let you think about that one for a little bit.

Community Journalism: Over 97% of newspapers in the U.S. are considered small (less than 50,000 circulation). And they’re thriving. Apparently Asheville has a bunch of them. There are 190 in North Carolina. I guess that’s where I’ll be looking for a job in a few months.

Overall, a pretty good day. It’s not going to be as easy as last semester, but I think I can handle that.

On a quick sidenote, check out this headline from the Washington Post: Economy Made Few Gains in Bush Years. No…. Way to break that big story, WaPo!!!

Now I need to get to all that reading. Yay classes!

Picture from www.backoftheclass.net


Yes, I am still alive

January 5, 2009

In this internet age, it’s scary how disconnected and alone you can feel when you don’t have a functioning computer for a few weeks. I feel like I haven’t talked to my friends, have no idea what is going on in the world and have neglected all of my loyal followers on this wonderful blog.

But never fear, my computer is back and so am I.

Here is a quick rundown of the end of 2008 and the very beginning of 2009:

Dec. 21 – Dec. 24: Scrambled like a mad man trying to get last minute Christmas shopping done, because of course I wait until the last minute along with every other male in America.

Dec. 25: Christmas with the family. Promised a MacBook, but not sure when I’ll ever get it. It’s looking like it will be around graduation.

Dec. 26: Left for Charlotte to meet the band and get ready for the Meineke Car Care Bowl where UNC played West Virginia.

Dec. 27: Watched an exciting game that Carolina gave away in the last five minutes with a fumble and an interception. Typical. Sang karaoke with the band. Kinda.

Dec. 28-31: Went to my girlfriend’s house in Charlotte. Had great fun. Saw “Marley and Me.” Only shed one tear. Got the original Star Wars movies on DVD, a sweet wallet and Obama’s book. Watched football. Threw a football. Went ice skating. Ended up staying a lot longer than I planned to.

Dec. 31-Jan. 1: Went to a friend’s house in Charlotte with my girlfriend to celebrate the New Year. Felt good after quite a few Knob Creek on the rocks. Kissed at the New Year. Met fun people. Shot myself in the stomach with a roman candle. Had a roman candle war with my girlfriend. She totally owned me. Finally left Charlotte on New Years Day.

Jan. 3: Went to Greensboro with the girlfriend to have Christmas with my mom’s family. Got a tent. Played dirty santa. Started out with a pressure cooker, but it got stolen and ended up with a beautiful painting of the bell tower in Chapel Hill. Ate good food. Played a lot of Guitar Hero with my cousins.

Jan. 4: Came back to Chapel Hill. Watched the UNC basketball team fall apart against Boston College. Cussed a lot. Went out to Franklin Street with some friends to make it all better.

And here we are, back in the present. I have pictures of some of this stuff, but I just got the computer back and haven’t taken the time to put them all on here. It will happen soon enough and they will show up on my Flickr.

I’ll be updating regularly again, assuming that I don’t collapse under the stress of a new semester. Or the stress of graduating. Or the stress of finding a job.

I will leave you with the link to a very interesting story that I found in the News and Observer today. It’s about a teacher who marries a homeless man. Hilarity ensues. Enjoy.

Merry New Year.

The resurgence of vinyl

December 21, 2008

In the age of iPods and mp3s, illegal downloading and burned CDs, you would think that vinyl would be so, like, 1960. But I’ve recently been feeling an odd pull to the 12 inch black discs. And I’m not the only one. New bands are starting to release their albums on vinyl and there are even blogs and websites devoted to LPs. My roomate got a turntable earlier this year and I’ve caught myself scouring the stacks of records instead of flipping through CDs at the local record store.

So why is this archaic art form making a come back??
The answer might lie in something that my Intro to Rock professor, Mark Katz, talked about during the last day of class. The musical theme of this decade has been three R’s: Retro, Recycling and Revivalism.

Let’s break it down. A lot of today’s popular music is in some way borrowing or stealing from music decades earlier. First, take sampling. Artists — mostly in hip-hop — have started recycling older music by sampling it and putting new words, beats or ideas over top of it. Sure, they’re creating new music, but they’re taking something old and bringing it back. Prime example: “Gold Digger” by Kanye West samples Ray Charles’I Got a Woman.” An even more extreme example is my new addiction Girl Talk, where Gregg Gillis uses as many as 25 different songs to create something totally new.

Retro and revivalism sound the same, but there are tiny differences. Retro refers to bands that are taking some of the ideas of older music but taking it to a different level. Take the lo-fi garage rock that was popular in the ’60s. You’re seeing that same rough and unpolished approach to music today in bands like The White Stripes or The Strokes. It may not be exactly the same style of music, but it has the same aesthetic.

Revivalism is pure copying of an earlier style of music. For this I’ll use the example of disco. Bands like the Scissor Sisters have brought back that “four on the floor” drum beat and falsetto singing that the Bee Gees popularized in the ’70s.

So in light of all these musical trends, it starts to become clear why the album is making a resurgence. Popular music now is being heavily influenced by musics of the ’60s and ’70s. So it makes sense that how we listen to this music would be influenced in the same way. It doesn’t feel right to listen to lo-fi stuff like The White Stripes on a digitized mp3. I need some crackle and pop of a record to make it feel right.

I still love CDs and my iPod is always by my side. But there is something distinctly different in the experience of putting on some vinyl. It’s an experience. Taking the record out of the sleeve, starting the turntable and lowering that needle to the groove. You can’t compare to that. And the little imperfections are what make it beautiful.

Go buy a record and put it on, see if you don’t agree.

So long, Sparks

December 18, 2008

I know a couple of people who will be very unhappy upon hearing that their favorite caffeine-injected awful tasting excuse for an alcoholic beverage is no more. I, on the the other hand, will dance upon its grave.

Apparently the Illinois Attorney General, Lisa “Candidate 2” Madigan, claimed MillerCoors was illegally marketing the “beverage” to underaged consumers, by sponsoring an air guitar champion, or something.

“These drinks are extremely dangerous in the hands of young people,” Madigan said in a statement. “They contain substantially more caffeine than coffee or soda and are marketed as a way to ‘power’ your nights by staying awake and drinking more alcohol. This is a completely inappropriate message to send to younger audiences.”

Get the full story over at Gawker.

Nice Price Books

December 17, 2008

Photo of Nice Price Books taken from Vinyl Records Blog.

A review from the folks over at Vinyl Records finally convinced me to take my first trip to Nice Price Books, a little bookstore that sits right at the edge of Carrboro on Main Street. As much as I love books, what really drew me to this store was the music collection. Thousands upon thousands of CDs, tapes and records are piled up in the on the walls, on the floor and everywhere that there is space.

I have always loved sifting through stacks of music trying to find the “diamond in the rough” and this is the perfect place to do it. I was in there for an hour and didn’t even notice. I could have spent another couple of hours browsing around.

But I walked out of the store three records richer and only $15 poorer. Can’t beat that.

Here’s what I bought:

Out of a job

December 16, 2008

Out of a job

It looks like the economic crisis/disintigration of the journalism industry has hit me sooner than expected. Much sooner.

I just found out that this will be my last week at Chapel Hill Magazine, the publication I have been interning with this whole semester. Oh, and this is after they asked me to stay on for next semester just a few short weeks ago.

According to the editor, it had nothing to do with performance, but was a decision from higher up to not have any interns next semester and instead hire a full-time employee to do all the work the interns did.

As disappointed as I am, I understand. I don’t really blame anyone for what happened, I just wish I had known sooner. The economy sucks and journalism is taking a huge hit. It happens. I just didn’t think it would happen before I even graduated.

So, I guess I’m back on the market. If there are any publications or journals that are looking for an intern for next semester (January to May) let me know.

Ben Folds on “Brick”

December 15, 2008

While studying for my Intro to Rock exam (for the very few hours that I did) I came across this cool video of Ben Folds explaining the meaning of his hit song “Brick.” On the Ben Folds Live album he explains that it’s about him and his girlfriend having an abortion, but I was never really sure that it was the truth. Apparently it is.

He also gives some great insight into how his music was changing from early Ben Folds Five to Whatever and Ever Amen and eventually Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner. “Brick” was definitely a different direction for the piano-pop-rock trio, but it’s an undeniably beautiful and touching song. And I just love that Darren Jessee was the one that wrote the chorus. Folds seems to be a bit arrogant and the fact that the chorus to their most popular song is not written by him is just great.

There is also a section where he talks about how touring with Neil Young influenced him to make a “stadium feel like a living room.” He’s done that both times that I have seen him live, making a large venue like UNC-Chapel Hill’s Memorial Hall feel like a few friends hanging around a piano.

OK, enough blabbing from me. Check out the video for yourself.