Posts Tagged ‘Life’

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Stationary/Moving Pictures

February 24, 2010

It is early in the evening and I am reading John Dos Passos. And I am listening to Stars of the Lid, because Stars of the Lid make the only music that I can listen to while studying. Their drones and long-held notes frame my existence for short periods of time before they shift into another form.

I have been extremely tired lately. Tired, apathetic, lethargic. But not depressed or anxious, which is a big change. But my limbs are very heavy, I don’t have much motivation to do much, and I can’t seem to get excited about anything. This is not to say that I feel that things bore me or that I feel as if I’m above being excited by anything in my life right now. I realize that this is a personal problem and I would like to rectify it, but I’m not sure what I can do. Exercise is a possibility, but the thought of going to the gym makes me tired and uncomfortable, but it would still most likely be a good idea. In any case, I just find myself wanting to retreat to bed almost all the time, and when I have time planned to do something like study, read or write, I’m often just stricken with a really overwhelming sleepiness. If I then do go lay down on the couch or my bed, I can’t close my eyes and go to sleep, and so I get bored, get out of bed, go somewhere, and the cycle begins anew. Writing and music are still things I spend time on, but mostly because I’m bored, and they don’t really excite me like they used to. Maybe someone would just call all of this laziness, and it very well might be, but that I haven’t really pinned it as this makes me think there is more to it than that. My psychiatrist didn’t seem to take much notice of it when I told him about it, but my counselor did. I’ll ask my psychiatrist about it again when I next see him, and I’ll continue to explore the issue weekly with my counselor.

I feel like I need to remove myself from this time and place. I can’t do either but I can at least pretend, and maybe that would make me feel somewhat better. I’m going to take a cheese grater to my jeans tonight. I’ve been showering every other day, and I don’t find myself to be smelly. I’ve been listening to Love Battery and Hole, and Nirvana are beginning to excite me again. I’m going to buy converse sneakers, next time I need a new pair of shoes. I’ll probably buy a pack of Turkish Golds and get rid of the pack very, very slowly. I’m wondering why it is exactly that I want to do all this. I’m thinking there may be a deep seeded reason, some kind of desire for a certain culture that I never got to experience. A lot of people may call it pretending to be something I’m not. I don’t think that. I think it’s finally becoming someone I want to be. My biggest hate is people pretending to be someone else. “Myself” is someone I know deeply and closely, and it’s about time I let him out as much as humanly possible.

This week I’ve been reading Faulkner’s “As I Lay Dying” for my class on American Literature from 1865 to the present day, and I’ve been enjoying the hell out of it. Granted, the thing is exhausting. I can typically only stand to sit and go through about five to ten pages at a time, because the way it is written is exhausting and hard to follow. But it seems pretty self-evidently brilliant. Faulkner’s characters are just incredibly human, despite the fact that their actions and the way they are written is quite surreal. The story seems to be viewed through a blurred looking glass, the immediate, stream-of-consciousness perspectives of individual characters. It is a willfully difficult story and Faulkner clearly knew this, but still there are many rewards to be found here, though I’ve yet to isolate more than a few of them, and there are no doubt more. I need to teach a class session on this book, and I’m looking forward to that. I think it will be refreshing and informative to have a conversation with my class about this book.

I am looking for things to take pictures of. I want to get through this last roll so I can develop what I have and get back the pictures of the snow filled Washington DC. It is supposed to snow again tonight, a lot. I’ve heard upwards of a foot. Maybe more pictures? Hopefully my aunt will send me the old camera soon, the antique. I would love to take pictures with it. I want to pursue photography now that I have a camera, even though I’m not in a photography class anymore. If you would let me take pictures of you, please let me know.

For now, more Stars.

Best

ATB

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Washington DC

November 9, 2008

I have lived in Washington DC for nearly three months.

I find it difficult to even begin to sum up how I feel about my new life and this new city. In some respects I am extremely happy, slightly uneasy in some others, indifferent in others still.

If someone I know asks me how I like my new school and Washington DC, I tell them I love it. This is the truth, no distortion. I do love it here.

Somewhere along the line things started to go extremely right for me. I don’t think I could mention a specific point in time when things started to go very well for me, but it was around the time of Thanksgiving 2007. I was no longer depressed, and I started to find beauty in little things. Insignificant things. Life became poetry. Details fascinated me. I was learning things about myself and the world around me rapidly and appreciatively. I still feel this way now.

Things began to go really well with my friends. I started going out with my lovely girlfriend. My family started to seem less fucked up. I got into three colleges. University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, American University, and the George Washington University. I always counted out GWU because it cost so much, but then I got the scholarships, and the financial aid, and my future didn’t seem like so much of a stretch anymore. UofI gave me $500, while American and GWU gave me thousands. It seemed as if something wanted me to go to Washington DC. So I did. I saw the fireworks on the Fourth of July, and then I just continued to do what I was doing, and here I am, walking on solid ground and doing what I do.

Of course, it is not like I am simply walking on sunshine every day. I definitely am not. I have good days and I have bad days. What is still particularly disconcerting about this is that the good and bad days seem to have no specific cause. Some days, everything goes right and everything feels wrong, and on other days I feel unstoppable despite the fact that I am followed around by my own rain cloud. I don’t understand it and I hope to ask someone about it sometime soon, possibly my psychology teacher. I have obviously been able to manage very well but it bothers me not having control over my mind.

Which is why I don’t drink or do drugs. We talked about drug abuse in abnormal psychology. Barbiturates, hallucinogens, narcotics. Occasionally I have headaches so bad I wish I was high, or take enough allergy medicine to feel delusional, and I’ll be the first one to admit that I am well on my way to becoming a caffeine addict, but my mind is already fucked up enough as it is, and I see little good in causing it any more stress by adding any serious substances to the equation. It means I don’t have as much fun at parties, and I don’t go to them much, but I don’t really care.

When I want to lose my head, I climb the stairs to the top of the parking garage and look off at the city. Sometimes I climb the little ladder to the very top, before I am silently scrutinized by twenty somethings in their Mitsubishis, and I get a view of the Virginia skyline, which is quite beautiful. The buildings are much taller than the buildings in Washington DC.

But they don’t have to try too hard. I noticed several things within the first week of living in DC, one of the first of which being that the buildings here are very short. At least compared to the buildings in Chicago. The buildings in Chicago literally scrape the sky, but the ones here are very stout in comparison. To some extent I miss the cold of Chicago, the cold that comes up from the buildings and whirls and cuts right through you. Washington DC is a southern town, so it stays warm for a long time, and that cold is yet to come. I miss the weather back in Illinois. It doesn’t feel like home here, in that respect. I think it has the potential to be able to, but when it is still seventy degrees in November, it feels like someone has given the city painkillers and it has numbed to this unnatural warmth.

Another thing I noticed is that the animals aren’t afraid of people. In the suburbs of Chicago and even Chicago itself, the birds and squirrels do not let you get close to them. Well, the pigeons do, but it’s really only because they are dumb. But here the swallows line up on the fences as people walk by, and sometimes only barely hop out of the way of your feet on the pavement as your feet swing in time. The squirrels are insane. Rather, nuts. They will run out in front of you, jump on and off of tree stumps continuously, and just generally be very weird.

I also experienced the first time I ever really felt like an adult. I didn’t feel like an adult when I got my drivers license, or got my first job, or graduated High School, or turned eighteen, although all of these experiences still hold significance to me. But putting my absentee ballot in the mailbox made me truly feel like I was participating in the world that I live in. I think these milestones come at different times and in different places for different people, and they seem to be unexpected.

The experience of watching the election returns and watching history be made was unforgettable. It was by far the most distinct memory I have had here so far. The College Democrats’ watch party was fun, but what was really the highlight of the night was when what felt like every college student in DC (all the liberal ones, anyway, which would be a vast majority of them) ran down to the White House and partied outside the front gate. It was an experience to remember, with lots of celebrating, cheering, rejoicing, chanting, and all around good energy. A couple camera’s got up in my face and me and my friends ended up on the Associated Press as well as BBC news.

Whose house?

Barack’s house.

I’m here for college. I love GWU a lot. Maybe I just got lucky this semester. It seems like I keep on getting lucky. All five of my classes are excellent, and I would consider all five of my professors excellent too. I don’t always get great marks on tests, and I don’t always study enough. But it seems like I get it right more often than not, despite the fact that I always underestimate myself. I told people about this problem. This complete certainty that I don’t have things under control despite the fact that I seem to. They told me to roll with it. If it’s working, don’t fix it. I guess that’s what I’ll do.

I sign up for next semester’s classes tomorrow. I’ve got a flexible game plan together, but I really want to sign up for a University Writing class called Write of the Living Dead, which focuses on horror film. I also would like to get Statistics out of the way. I want to also take Social Psychology, which pretty much epitomizes the focus of my college studies, and do the second half of Introduction to Western Art. The fifth class is up for grabs. Possibly Anthropology, or Astronomy, or whatever else fits. But those first four I really, really want to take, and I’m going to wake up very early so that I can register as soon as the website opens to ensure I get them.

My interest in writing has waned, although my interest in music has not. My time and energy has simply been directed towards other things. I have been porting all of my music reviews to amazon.com, and that takes a while. Also, I am going to train to be able to be an intern at WRGW, the University’s radio station. With any luck I will have my own radio show by next semester.

DC has some pretty great record stores, apparently. The area around DuPont Circle and Adams Morgan reminds me a lot of Wicker Park in Chicago. Young, hip, fun, and totally hopping on any given night. My favorite record store is called The Red Onion. It sells lots of old records, CDs, and books at good prices. The employees are nice and very helpful, and the environment is comfortable. Since I got here I have amassed a fairly large stack of CDs that are now on my bookshelf. I’m still an avid music listener and my hobby won’t likely slow down.

I have gone to some pretty great concerts. I saw Broken Social Scene live in Falls Church Virginia, and they kicked all kinds of ass. The Magnetic Fields also played at GW, so I saw them again as well as Shugo Tokumaru, who opened for them and who I have been extremely into for the past month. I had a taste of classical music that I have missed at the Kennedy Center watching the Friday Morning Music Club Symphony Orchestra play lots of good Beethoven. They aren’t quite as good as the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, but really, who is? They were good, and pianist Wayne Weng was impressive.

The biggest problems I face here are social. I have not had a hard time making friends here, and the ones I have made I like a lot, but it is hard to start on a blank slate and try to give all these new people an accurate representation of who I am. I miss my family and friends from back home. I haven’t seen anyone from my old life in three months besides my mother and my grandmother on parent weekend. I go home for four days for Thanksgiving break and three weeks for Winter Break. Although I love it here, I am looking forward to going back home and seeing everyone again.

The best thing I have to say so far is that I know I am in the right place, going in the right direction. My problems are mostly easily fixed, and I am managing just fine. I have seen and done many things here that I could have never done back home. It was right for me to come here, and I can see myself living here happily and productively for the next four years of my life.

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News from the home front

August 11, 2008

Thought I’d explain why I haven’t been writing as much lately.

I’ve been working again, and that has been absorbing a lot of my time, but that doesn’t really last more than…well, at least five hours a day, at most eight, three days a week. Theres still a lot of downtime, but I’ve been either lazy or expressively content enough that I don’t feel the need to write quite as much. I wrote a short story about a month ago. That is a pretty rare thing for me. Maybe I’ll post that here eventually.

I went to Lollapalooza. I was thinking about writing on that, but it wouldn’t be plausible. I would have to write a book about it, so much happened. But at the very least I can say what bands I saw and a little bit about each.

  • Black Lips (Loud, fast, fun.)
  • Rogue Wave (Dull.)
  • Yeasayer (The band to beat for Friday. Only Radiohead beat them.)
  • The Black Keys (Loved em, I guess I should get into them. They are much like The White Stripes, which is my religion, so they’re my type of thing.)
  • Cat Power (Boring. We left after fifteen minutes.)
  • The Raconteurs (Pretty great. Played a long set and were enthusiastic.)
  • Radiohead (Best show I’ve ever been to. They put on a great show, but it mostly meant the world to me to finally see my favorite band live.)
  • Mason Jennings (Pretty boring. Nice little folk songs, but it wasn’t worth my sticking around for it to finish.)
  • The Foals (Pretty fun.)
  • DeVotchKa (The best band of Saturday. Very unique band with lots of heart, and fun live.)
  • Explosions In The Sky (Sounded exactly like the album. Very melodramatic.)
  • Does it Offend You, Yeah? DJ Set (Uh, entertaining enough.)
  • Lupe Fiasco (Not really into that kind of music, but he was fun.)
  • Rage Against The Machine (Played great, but the concert itself was miserable. People were getting hurt bad. I got gum in my hair. Fifty thousand person mosh pit. Not a lot of fun. I left halfway through to see…)
  • Wilco (Great, as always!)
  • Amadou And Mariam (Fun! Sounded great from the lawn.)
  • Black Kids (Horrible. worst “black” band there. Well, only bad “black” band there. I don’t think I was disappointed with any band more than these guys, but then again I didn’t know their stuff when I saw them. I just wanted to complete the “Black Trifecta” as I called it.)
  • Iron And Wine (Mellow. I liked it enough. I was a little bored by the end, but I want to get some albums now.)
  • Love And Rockets: Introduced by Perry Farrell! (Holy freakin balls. Amazing. The left field hit of the weekend. Played a blisteringly loud, fast, hard set. I love their music, and I look forward to getting into them. Great, great show.)
  • Nine Inch Nails (Awesome! their light show rivaled Radiohead’s, and they looked like they were having a lot of fun up there. Very enthusiastic. And a cool set.)

I do have some other things in the works. In particular, a big feature on my favorite EPs of all time. I made a top twenty list and I am progressively writing reviews for the ones I haven’t reviewed yet, and have been re-using old reviews or writing new ones for the ones that I had already written on. I’d expect myself to start posting those one by one soon. I’ve also got a couple other things tucked away that I have been working on in the long term, and I have gotten several new albums lately that I have been listening to. I finally bought the last of the Amon Tobin albums that I didn’t have and I plan on getting to know them better and possibly reviewing some of those.

I leave for college pretty soon. I don’t think that should effect what goes on here really. I’m going to be busy, but at the same time being in a new city where I don’t know anyone is probably going to leave me with a lot of desire to write things down, as I sometimes get. I would expect myself to actually write more once I get there, when I’m not studying, working, or doing whatever else I do.

Just thought I’d assure you that I’m still alive.

-A

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Favorite Classes

June 15, 2008

I am now officially done with high school. I have taken a grand total of 32 classes plus a couple doubles through the years (gym and orchestra). Some of these classes have been very good, and some of them have been very bad. I want to take some time to talk about my favorite classes from high school. I could never have the time or will to talk about all the good ones. Every year I had at least one or two classes that I liked, but classes that I loved were rare treasures. I could also talk about classes I hated, but I’m not here to do any bashing. That isn’t right. I won’t remember the classes I hated. I will remember the classes I loved. All of these classes seem to be in the area of English and Social Studies. Science has never been my forte, although I have had some decent teachers, and Math is something I am marginally good at but can never really get myself to be inspired by. Hopefully in a year all of my classes will be as excellent as these select few.

From Freshman year through Junior year, I was in Orchestra every day, fourth hour, conducted by Mr. S. There are two Orchestras in the school, the lower Strings Orchestra and the higher Chamber Orchestra. I never made it into Chamber Orchestra, but then again I never tried out. I guess I knew I could not have been good enough, and lacked the willpower to do anything about it. For a long time, there was some kind of resentment towards the Chamber Orchestra, probably to mask jealousy or insecurity. Despite my hidden anxiety, fourth hour was always a period I looked forward to. All respects to Mr. S, the class was not really about the teaching. It was about the music. Picking up my violin every day and letting my fingers do the work that they were so good at while my mind wandered was one of the only things that could really lift any anxiety I had, and I almost always had anxiety. The Strings Orchestra played myriad music, of more variety but lesser difficulty than the Chamber Orchestra. The Chamber almost always showed us up at concerts, besides once or twice when the Strings played marvelously on interesting songs while the Chamber unluckily got stuck with some more boring pieces. It was not about competition. It was about making music with your hands. By the time I left Orchestra Senior year to take AP Music Theory, I had spent half of my life playing the Violin. I made friends I’ll never lose and stimulated myself artistically to a degree that I doubt I will ever achieve again. Although the violin is not my passion, it is a part of myself I will never be able to remove.

The first truly great class I encountered that was in the vein of a traditional curriculum was my AP US History class with Mr. R Sophomore year. In many ways, looking back on that class is to me like viewing my ideal of what a High School social studies class should have been. Everyone needs to take US History and pass the Constitution test, but I felt like US History was less of a requirement and more of a privelage. Yes, I had my typical problems of motivation that prevented me from working to my full potential. There will always be worksheets I am too lazy to do, pages I am too lazy to read, and tests I am too lazy to study for. But I was always more motivated to work, read, and study for US History than any other class. This was due almost completely to Mr. R, who is nothing short of a brilliant teacher. The man could be a speech writer for christ’s sake. He stood in front of the class every day and delivered lectures that I will always remember for their passion, and the way he led class involvement was through full class and small group discussions about whatever issue in US History we were covering. His delivery was concise. This is what happened, these are the factors and questions we need to consider, let’s have a discussion. My notes for that class are defining of my personality. A tornado of notes, footnotes, drawings, thoughts, and feelings. I’ll remember US History not just for Mr. R, who might be my favorite High School teacher, but for how it felt like genuinely the first class in higher level education, as most everything in the previous year was BS.

Another class that I took sophomore year that I believe was a real higher level class was Debate with Mr. D. Every sophomore follows the same sophomore English program. For one semester, a sophomore takes a standard English class where literature is studied by varying curriculum. The other semester requires that the student take either a speech or debate class. I chose Debate, and I found myself sitting in Mr. D’s room. Mr. D is a man I will never forget…With the towering appearance of perhaps a lumberjack, or as he put it, Hagrid, he was a man of presence. When Mr. D talks, you listen. Debate was a lot of work. I’ll remember how silent the class always was when we were not actually debating, and then how each presentation lit the room on fire for just a few seconds only to have the flames die down again. It was not a fun class to do work for. There was a lot of paperwork, but there was also a lot of group work. We were forced to work together in studying difficult issues and learned how to create coherent arguments about any given topic, on either side. Mr. D is an extremely leftist individual, but surprisingly enough, he was able to keep his opinions balanced. I will never forget his speeches on gun control, wellfare, taxes, war and countless other issues. I will also never forget going up on stage, desperate for points, after the school macho man who had just made an extremely organized speech on something or other, and receiving a massive amount of points simply for stating my opinion and how it was in conflict with his. It taught me that just being there and speaking out really means something. This class more than achieved its goals.

In Junior year, I once again had Mr. R for a social studies class, this time Sociology. I confess, the only reason I signed up for Sociology was because I wanted to have Mr. R again. Luckily, Sociology was just as rewarding of a class as US History. I knew by Junior year that I was interested in pursuing Psychology in college. However, I had not yet taken a psychology class. I was hoping to take one over the summer before Junior year, but an irreconcilable road trip to Washington D.C. got in the way, and by the time class registration rolled about, there was no way to switch to Psychology from any other class. In Sociology, I was one of three Juniors in a class of Seniors. I felt somewhat like an outsider. However, the work and learning was still there. This was a good introduction to psychology because it worked with possibly the most applicable school of psychology right off the bat. It was a study of how societies and cultures worked, and also about specific societies and cultures, and their characteristics such as norms, linguistics, and taboos. The three Juniors were not outsiders in practice…We participated in class discussions that Mr. R was so wonderful at setting up. But in spirit, we were observers, which was probably the best thing we could have asked for. It seems like implausible irony, but the Seniors were in constant conflict and there was always some kind of drama within the class. The class was not a microcosm to aid our study, but I did feel like it was an exploration in social psychology that helped me appreciate Sociology much more. Particularly memorable was a discussion on class conflict that brought an individual to tears. Possibly the height of my social studies experience in high school.

The Junior English curriculum also allows for some options. In fact, now that I think about it, the English department might allow more options than any other department in the building, save perhaps Social Studies which matches its versatility. One could opt to take a Junior English class known as Interrelated Arts which was a study of just about every kind of contemporary art form, taking advantage of the great city of Chicago for lots of the studying. I however opted to take Junior English Honors, and I ended up with Mrs. R (no relation to Mr. R). It was not completely obvious to me right away that the class was as great as it really was. I disliked a considerable portion of the class…There was a row of about five people that did not seem to be able to quiet themselves and always drew unnecessary attention and distracted from the class. Mrs R was late to grade many papers and at first came off as irresponsible, which is an assumption that I now cringe to think about making. The truth of it was that Mrs. R was a full time mother of two as well as a full time teacher, so she had more than a full day of work to deal with within any 24 hour block of time. My other English classes before then, save Debate, were aimed toward the studies of classic works, some of which were enjoyable and some of which not so much. Yeah, I enjoyed reading The Lord of the Flies in Freshman year, but beyond that, none of the readings in High School had truly inspired me until Junior English. We studied myriad short stories of both the romantic movement and the realism movement. This alone was a breakthrough for my learning. I never really knew what it meant to be romantic or realistic in literature before then, so it was wonderful to be able to learn one of modern literature’s most important concepts straightaway. We also read the wonderful book The Great Gatsby, a fantastic combination of romanticism and realism, Hamlet, and The Scarlett Letter. Admittedly, I hated reading the Scarlett Letter save the odd chapter that would inspire me (A Flood of Sunshine makes no sense in the course of the book, at least in terms of its brilliance compared to the inconsistency of the rest of the book), but I learned a lot from reading it about myself and my tastes. Also very memorable was our experience with a Kindergarten class in the district, in which all of us found pen pals. Every few weeks, we would receive and write letters to our pen pals who were learning to read at the time. The act of discussing things with them was part of their reading and writing education, and by the end of the year, I definitely saw improvement in my pen pal, and was very happy to visit him and the rest of his class. I had never really experienced teaching firsthand before then. It gave me a good idea of what it really means to teach, and made me consider how different teaching Kindergarten and High School must be. An infinitely rewarding class despite its shortcomings.

By the time I took Psychology in Senior year, I had already decided I wanted to be a Psychology major. Maybe it was due to the fact that I was just starting to figure out how my brain worked that made me interested in psychology. It just seemed like such a basic, important study to me… The study of people. Taking Sociology the previous year only encouraged my interest. Lucky for me, my first Psychology class was perfect to start me off in the subject. The class was taught by Mr. G, a smart, fast thinking, smooth talking teacher who seemed to have captured the hearts of many of my female friends at the time. He was not fluff. His teaching style worked because everyone listened to him. Yes, there was a fair share of psychology videos, and nothing substitutes for reading the book thoroughly, but Mr. G always did the best he could to explain the main concepts as best as he could within class time and was always available to go in depth if we needed him to. I also loved the multitude of projects we were assigned within the semester. I loved the development project we partook in which made us explore our own development in particular. And I’ll never forget my own involvement in the teaching of classical conditioning…I was seated in front of the entire class. Mr. G read off a list of words. Whenever he said the word “can,” I was squirted in the eye with water from a spray bottle. I guarantee I will never forget the principles of classical conditioning. But I think what really made Psychology fun and memorable for me was the subject itself. I love Psychology, and learning the subject from the ground up was very rewarding.

The English department at my High School pulls something new out of it’s sleeves every year after the relatively standard Freshman English program. Sophomore year requires a Speech or Debate class. Junior year offers Interrelated Arts. But Senior year is the trump card, offering myriad options including Logic and Rhetoric, Creative Writing, Religious Quest, and my second semester choice, Film Criticism. My initial thought on Film Criticism was that it would be a rewarding class for me, an amateur writer and critic already, and I would be able to spend a class period a day enjoying one of my favorite mediums of art. I changed my mind soon after. Film Criticism started to sound like a disaster. A class full of second semester Seniors with little to lose, and little reason to do anything but screw off for an entire class period a day. The catch was that Mr. D, who was also my Sophomore Debate teacher, was the teacher for Film Crit. Like Debate class, Film Criticism had a massive, inordinate amount of paperwork. Yes, for about four days a week are spent watching movies, but as a student on the honors system in the class, I was required to read around five reviews or articles on a given movie per week, write extensive notes on the current film, read from my film criticism textbook, take a test on the odd day we weren’t actually watching a film, and write a report on each film. There was simply no time to slack off in the class, and because of how the class was built, we had to pay close attention to each film. Luckily, Mr. D was brilliant at choosing films and units of films to watch. We started off watching Minority Report, a light action adventure film with some deeper meaning that can be explored. The “Future Anxiety” unit continued, getting progressively more challenging, and the films in the unit got more ideologically complex as well as cinematically exciting. Even Mr. D questioned the quality of A.I.: Artificial Intelligence, but it forced us to take sides in an issue that high school seniors just don’t think about very much. We also watched Blade Runner, one of my favorite films, and Mr. D’s commentary on the films style and themes was extremely enlightening. The films only got more and more challenging. The next unit was the “Gender and Power” unit, with films ranging from the brilliant Afghani independent film Osama to the cheap thrill ride of Thelma and Louise. Then, the exhausting, brutal six film war unit, including Dr. Stangelove, Saving Private Ryan, Platoon, and Path’s of Glory. Finally clinching the year with one of the most challenging films I have ever watched, Dead Man Walking. What was most impressive about Mr. D was his unfailing ability to provide insight on every issue in frank, nonbiased way. After every film, the class would sit and have a discussion. We were usually quiet, not so much because it was nine in the morning but because we might have been speechless, and nothing we could have said could possibly have held a candle to anything Mr. D said. The big trick with Senior Film Criticism was that it was essentially a philosophy class in disguise. This was just how Mr. D operated. He drew us in with the medium of film itself, but what the class was really about was issues that we have to deal with in our modern world. He provided support for every point of view, and the passion with which he spoke about film was inspiring, and he made it clear that there was nothing he would rather be talking about than the art of film. I hope I can someday be as passionate a teacher as Mr. D, perhaps even in the same class, but realistically I don’t know if it gets much better than him.

These are my favorite classes from High School which I singled out for their educational value, and I will probably never forget them. While the majority of my High School education was sub par in comparison, they made the whole experience worth it, and I can only hope to have as rewarding classes in college. I’ll keep you posted on how that goes once it comes to it.

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Snow

December 23, 2007

I have no better way to open a sentimental holiday post than with a simple fact. The weather here, in the Chicago area, is ass backwards. Last night at around midnight it was over thirty two degrees outside, I am completely certain. Everything was melting. It was one of those times when my town became a dripping playground of water. But the past few days since I got out of school have been generally very warm, but not quite as warm as yesterday. Yesterday, there was a thick fog blanketing the entire county. Driving in that weather is difficult. And it seems like everyone who is going well over the speed limit in thick fog also just can’t manage to turn their headlights on. This isn’t a hard concept. If you put a little snow on the ground, people drive like idiots. When it melts, that doesn’t seem to help.

This morning it is about fifteen degrees outside. It is frigid, but only because of the wind chill. Because so much of the snow melted yesterday, there is nothing but a thin, wispy layer left that flutters all around town in huge whirlwinds in the bitter wind. Tomorrow, it is supposed to get a little warmer, probably up to around thirty degrees, and I’m hoping that it will snow so that the Christmas snow isn’t quite so pathetic. I like having white Christmases. They are almost always white, so I guess the chances of it not being nice and snowy are unlikely. But now isn’t the time to get sentimental about snow. In February, I come out of my apartment on mornings like this in shock, because it feels like a heat wave.

I should be savoring this day. It’s an important day, to me anyway. It’s the last day before Christmas Eve, which is when winter inevitably starts to suck horribly. I love the holiday season. From about Black Friday to today, the world turns into something magical. I love that month… That is where you see the Christmas spirit. Windows at department stores, snow flurries, Christmas decorations, the shopping rush, warm clothing, the ever looming feeling of anticipation leading up to the day that the rest of the year has been leading up to, and that generally magical Christmas spirit. A lot of people don’t notice it, because they are looking too hard. And when someone on the radio asks you, “can you feel that Christmas spirit, Chicago?”, you really just want to blow your brains out. But it’s there. It’s definitely there. It’s subtlety is magic, and from Black Friday to today is my favorite time of the year, hands down.

And then there is Christmas, and the eve before it. I hate those two days. I hate them with a passion. Christmas is the most over hyped, corporate, disappointing holiday of them all. On Christmas, all those hopes and warm feelings are slaughtered in place of materialistic bombast. I’ll admit, I have never been an even remotely religious person at all, so maybe I’m missing half of the angle, that is the day of the Lord. See how I capitalized that “L?” Yeah, I did that for posterity’s sake. I don’t really care about what happened on the twenty fifth of December thousands of years ago. In fact, thinking about that just makes me grumpy. And following Christmas, as if that wasn’t bad enough, is another four months of dead, chilling winter. It’s not that this part of winter is so bad. It just lasts too long in Chicago, and you have to make it enjoyable on it’s own terms. It is usually depressing and lonely. I think the extreme cold does something to your neurons, and it makes one more easily disturbed by mundane things than usual. On a cold, two degree February morning, burnt toast scares me just as much as the walk to school, or the school itself. Etc, etc, etc. In any case, Christmas is worth it to me if just for the month that precedes it.

What I’m most glad about is getting off of school for two weeks. When I was a Freshman or a Sophomore, I might have felt a little differently, and I would have perhaps felt sad that I would not get to see the people I normally see at school for two whole weeks. But by now, I’m just sick of school, the workload, the social issues, and I just need a couple weeks off, which is exactly what I am getting, so as far as I am concerned I have little to complain about besides the inescapable grasp of the calendar. It feels good to not have to worry about English essays, or Calculus tests, or social strain. I’m getting a lot of stuff done that I don’t normally have time for. I am finally re-reading The Lord Of The Rings. My father gave me his nice copy of it, that he no longer uses, because he listens to them on tape. He has read The Hobbit along with the entire Lord Of The Rings trilogy approximately twenty times, maybe a little more. He would always make obscure references to the books when I was a kid, and in an attempt to understand them, I tried to read The Lord Of The Rings when I couldn’t have been older than ten years old. Horrible, horrible idea. I know I got to about halfway through The Two Towers, but only to such a degree that my ADD stricken childish mind could have managed. My eyes read the words, but my mind did not process the meaning. I finally gave up when I picked the book up in the middle of some long speech that Gandalf was making, the context of which I was completely clueless to. I say I have read those books, but I really might as well not have. And I’m finally doing that now. The volume that I read from now is red, ornate, and contains all three books, maps of Middle Earth and the appendices. I’m finally appreciating this literature for what it is. It isn’t just the source of story for the films, which I really did enjoy a lot. The Lord Of The Rings is the apex of fantasy literature, and it is fantastically written, and I am having tons of fun reading it now.

I also finally have the time to watch a lot of movies. It is an appropriate time of year to watch movies at home like Fargo, The Thing, and A Christmas Story. I watched Sweeney Todd last night. Whoo, boy. Now that one was fun. It rivaled Pan’s Labyrinth in terms of degree of disturbance. Lot’s of blood spilled. I like that every once and a while, and it’s alright because it was a great movie, but it was just DRAINING. Interestingly enough, there are a ton of movies I want to see in theaters now. Juno, The Kite Runner, and No Country For Old Men, particularly. But I really have to watch my cash. I’m really low on it, and I’ve been spending like crazy lately, for gifts and for myself. Hopefully.

As far as Christmas music goes, there is always that bombardment of tunes and jingles in storefronts, and on the radio. But in terms of albums, my ears have been particularly fixated on three chilling pieces that accompany the cold very well. Substrata by Biosphere, Treasure by Cocteau Twins, and Vespertine by Bjork. Expect reviews for Substrata and Vespertine in good time. I’ve already done one for Treasure that is sufficient.

Everybody have a wonderful holiday.

-Alex