Friday, January 29, 2010

This will be me someday.

Chilling in the great outdoors with some tasty food, and my adorable baby bunny. Who can share my tasty food with me because I love it so much. (It only because I don't know if my future baby bunny will be male or female.)

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

"I dig music..."

I definitely count music as a passion of mine. I can't read it, I can't play it, but I can and do love it.

This is evidenced, among other things, by my basically massive collection. I have more music on my iPod then I can really get to know, which has its upsides and downsides. On one hand, I'm always hearing new things. On the other hand, I don't always know what I'm listening to. It seems like it gets hard to appreciate certain artists, or their albums as a collective whole.

As much as the digital music revolution has benefited the consumer's ability to have portable music with songs in the thousands, I wonder if it hasn't affected the way we hear the artists' auditory visions. And sorry, but I'm not talking about the pop albums that are basically albums full of songs that could or could not be singles, and aren't really meant to stand together. I'm talking about the albums that are crafted as a whole, with songs that flow into one another, and full discs that have a running conceit or story. Pink Floyd's The Wall. Funeral by Arcade Fire. Tommy by The Who. The Mars Volta's De-Loused in the Comatorium, or Janet Jackson's Rhythm Nation 1814. All albums I have, and all albums that have suffered from a single song from each popping up on my shuffle, rather than being played as part of the album - part of the story. It's not that the songs aren't good enough to stand alone; it's that they're even better united.

And just as my old albums, that I used to listen to cohesively, have suffered from inattention, I'm not giving new artists the attention they really deserve either. I'll hear something I like, download it, and forget to listen to it. Then it will come up on shuffle a month later and I'll have to check out who it even is because I'm not sure.

And yet despite this, I still consider myself kind of a music snob. I've written before about my song electronic quality demands. I look down on the high school kids who are going to massives now because they're n00bs, and I feel like they mostly just go to raves so that they can dress like baby porn stars and roll on E. The thing is, I was a high school kid at some point myself at those raves, getting looked down on. And I know that I was going for the music, so why should I judge the kids who are getting into it now? What gives me the right? A lot of them probably are into the music too.

And so, it's that kind of undeserved sense of superiority I have that's giving me reservations about going to Coachella this year. I look at the line-up every year, and every year I think to myself, "Wow, there are some great artists playing." But then I think to myself about all of the people who are going just for the scene, like the people who I perceive are going to raves now for just that reason. And I kind of talk myself out of going, because even though I know that I'd be going to see the musicians I want to see, I can't help but admit that I'm a Coachella novice. It would be my first time. I'd be starting over - I'd be the n00b again. The veterans would no doubt think I'm just looking for a hipstery good time like all of the other poseurs there.

And as stupid as it is, my pride is having a hard time reconciling with that. Because I know that there are other people like me who feel ownership over their favorite artists and events, and don't like to see the fellowship polluted with other people who don't seem totally dedicated. I want to go to Coachella this year, but I want to do it right. I'm going to get a weekend pass, and sleep under the stars. (Maybe in my car with the sunroof open?) I'm not going to shower for three days, and I'm not going to look cute. (I will bring my 100 SPF though - it's in the desert and I'm not looking for a skin cancer surprise.) I'm going to push my way to the front of the stage when my favorites are playing. I'm going to dance and act a fool. If I'm lucky, I'll get some epic photos.

Does anyone else want to do it grungy style with me?

On Comedy

One of the most stressful things about being occasionally referred to as "funny" is that people who don't know me and have heard to me referred to as such are probably expecting it.

The problem with this is that my sense of humor is usually pretty situational, has a heavy foundation in inside jokes, and is - if not either of those two - just truly effing bizarre.

Sometimes "funny because it's true" is the best kind of comedy. If you're able to point out something in an amusing way that a lot of people can relate to, you're pretty much guaranteed comedic success.

And that's kind of the premise of what's probably my favorite webcomic, PhD Comics. Even in my first year of grad school, I'm finding myself relating tremendously to the subject matter, and appreciating the clever way in which it's presented.

For instance:

Probably almost anyone could relate to this. The cafeteria is more often than not disgusting, and always overpriced, but is it really worth it to have to make lunch every day? (Even if it's just packing up leftovers into tupperware?)

And anyone with a boss can relate to this:

And that makes it funny. There's no "punchline" in either of these comics, it's just turning a relate-able situation into a funny one by pointing out the irony/absurdity. You best bet that if I could draw, I'd try to do something like this too!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Knock knock! Who's there? Interrupting cow!

I'm in a class, this semester, that has two coordinating professors - a husband and wife couple - that are responsible for getting guest lecturers for every week of class while themselves coming to each class to oversee each lecture. What has resulted from this is some of the most incredibly egotistical and disrespectful lecturing I've ever witnessed. They interrupt each other and the guest lecturers constantly. And depending on the hubristic fortitude of the guest lecturer, it has been turning into an all-out interrupting battle of who gets to display how much they know about stuff. Neat-o, right? The husband usually backs down to his wife, who uses her interrupting to go off on lengthy tangents that are concurrently irrelevant to the discussion and redundant of themselves. The guest lecturers, who are often head honchos of departments in the med school/hospital and who consider themselves to be kind of *awesome*, are less likely to retreat into silence, but when they do it's in a huff of tarnished self-esteem.

I'm publishing this post during class, as a way to interrupt them all back - or at least, to interrupt my having to listen to them.

Interruption is a fairly normal part of casual conversation. I'm thinking of the type of conversations that occurred while sitting around the lunch table back at GPhi, where we all discussed the delights/indiscretions of the night before. We were excited, and we frequently couldn't wait to jump in and tell our own stories. Sometimes this would come at the expense of the tail-end of the previous person's story.

But that was ok. Usually. As long as, at some point when you were holding the invisible magic talking stick, people seemed to acknowledge and appreciate your story, you were probably ok being cut a little bit short. You'd pass along the imaginary stick - no harm, no foul.

It would suck when it seemed like people would interrupt simply because they didn't care about what you were saying. And it would become obnoxious when it seemed that particulars had the tendency to interrupt a lot. Otherwise, casual conversation interruption is usually forgiven. I myself have been trying to minimize even this, but admittedly my excitability will get the best of me from time to time and I'll jump in on someone.

Then why, given all this, including being guilty of it myself, do I generally count interruption as one of my hugest pet peeves?

There are two main instances in which interrupting gets me seriously riled.

One is during a serious discussion, debate even. An argument qualifies. It occurs usually during hot button topics. The topic could be frivolous in actuality, but as long as someone involved in the conversation feels personally invested in it, like their opinions have a certain gravity and shouldn't be disregarded - then interrupting will be surefire way to get that person irritated and defensive.

I see nearly all people get a dark look on their faces when they are interrupted during conversations like this. But some people don't do anything about it, because despite being disrespected, it is still seen as more civil to just allow the conversation to proceed. But they glower. They're annoyed. And at that point, they feel like either they just don't want to share any more, or, the next time they speak up they're more emotional, less composed.

Other people will keep talking to try and send the message that they weren't done talking, and the interrupter would do well to wait until they've finished. It's a more ballsy move, one I've attempted myself, but it feels really uncomfortable to do it. It's a direct challenge, and most people are uncomfortable engaging in direct challenges. In general, it's got a few amusing results - one is that the interrupter gets an irritated and/or embarrassed look on his/her face, but s/he'll stop talking. Another possibility, which starts off being funny but actually itself becomes embarrassing to watch the more that it happens, is that the interrupter also keeps talking. This then turns into a battle of wills, with the parties talking loudly over each other until one finally stops, defeated.

Which gets back to my opening story about my class. The other scenario in which interrupting seems really inappropriate, which is in fact the scenario that prompted me to write this post, is in these lecture situations with multiple lecturers. I can't really considered this much in the past - obviously the potential for interruption is there when there are multiple people who consider themselves "experts" conducting a lecture, but it was never so much an issue that I had to witness or experience until I got into this class. There has been so much of the "I'm talking over you in continually elevated volumes until you stop talking, BECUZ I'M MOAR IMPORTANT THAN U." It makes my class hard to enjoy, because if there's one thing I have a hard time with, it's obvious non-ironic egotism (I know, good luck finding kindred spirits in the professional world.) It's one reason why I can't handle Jon Stewart, as much as everyone else on Earth seems to love him. (But that's a topic for another post.) So to watch guest lecturers - who are supposedly the true experts on the particular weekly topic - get interrupted CONSTANTLY by this husband and wife duo, who then spend a bunch of quality time interrupting each other, is excruciating.

I've talked with my classmates about it, and they, fortunately, feel the same way I do about The Situation (which will probably be capitalized for awhile, at least as long as Jersey Shore is relevant.) It always makes you feel a little bit better to know you're not the only person that's being driven completely crazy by something small and random, right?

So tell me, if you're reading. Does interrupting drive you up a wall like it does for me?

Monday, January 18, 2010

The great music restoration

As I alluded to in a previous post, a lot of my digital music collection suffered from poor fidelity ripping from CDs as a result of me not really knowing what I was doing.

I've been slowly working to change that. I don't have all of my original CDs, but I'm re-ripping what I do have into higher quality mp3s - 320 kbps minimum, and lossless if I can find it.

You wouldn't think you can hear the difference between a low quality 128 kbps song and a 320 kbps song, but play the file on any speakers other than laptop speakers and I'd wager you would be surprised by the variances your ears can pick up on. Especially now that I do so much of my listening in a car stereo - not even a super premium one, mind you - it really diminishes my listening experience when, in the middle of a shuffle block, an older song comes on that is noticeably lower quality.

I've been trying to take mental notes of what all of those songs are. iTunes is making the job easier by allowing me to sort by bitrate. So, I'm starting at the bottom of the list (some songs in ghastly 96kbps, eek) and trying to make improvements. Fortunately I've got the hard drive space to accommodate my elitist ears and general neuroses.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

A Netflix Tale

Throughout time, I've done a few Netflix tree trials - different email addresses, different credit card numbers, and if necessary, different names. (My middle name has become my first name on at least a few occasions.)

My most recent free trial was a full month long thanks to a special coupon code I was gifted, but in addition to its month long status, a big difference between this trial and others was that I actually kept my Netflix subscription afterward. There were several movies that I saw over the summer that I wanted to copy to my hard drive and watch again, and I've been waiting for them to come out on DVD. So at least until I can't think of any more movies I'm interested in watching either for the first time or for permanent ownership evaluation, I'm keeping my Netflix membership.

At some point, I asked my dad if he could recommend any films for me to watch of the cult classic variety. He suggested a few (Time Bandits? Loved. It had mischievous midgets. I could not ask for anything else. Lost in America? Didn't do it for me. The wife was too square and the husband too shrill. Repo Man? Yes, yes yes. Radioactive cars and young punkish Emilio Estevez. Awesome.) and I ended up putting The Road Warrior and Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome on my queue.

Shortly afterward, I was browsing Netflix's recommended titles for me based on movies I had previously requested and rated. And lo and behold:

Thank you, Netflix, for recognizing my taste for violent films, but...

starring Mel Gibson? Two of the movies I have had on my queue, ever, have starred Mel Gibson. (The aforementioned Road Warrior and Thunderdome, Mad Max's 2 and 3, respectively) and suddenly "Violent Movies starring Mel Gibson" is a trend of mine?

Whatever, I'll take it. At least for me, Netflix's prediction algorithm is hilarious. Comedy silver, if not gold.

(Happy International Drunk Blogging Day! I've had pleeeenty of sake and beer to commemorate the event.)