Thursday, February 17, 2011

Compiled From the Last Week...

Different people have different ability and tendency to understand nuance, or even basic argument. I am very nuance oriented. I spot inconsistencies in arguments, policies, and rules whether or not I want to. I see the implications of arguments, as in sub-arguments that the main argument implies that also can help to support or refute the main argument. This tendency (I say tendency rather than ability because its not something that I honed or something that I choose to be able to do), is why I was a good academic. I am excellent at telling people where the holes in their arguments are. It is also why I was a miserable academic, because I could see the giant holes in my own theories/areas of research and easily thereby easily lost interest. In other words, its an annoying habit and a satisfying habit. I know this is something I am particularly good at, or we could say, above average. Since I am above average at it, I should not be surprised when other people are not as good at it as I am, and typically I am not. But some people are just SO BAD at it, I just can't help but be shocked and I often struggle to communicate with these people. And these are generally not stupid people, they are average or even intelligent people, its just not part of their skill set. These are people who read or hear an argument and only pay attention to the subject, and not to the details. For example, if you argued that oranges are better in fruit salad than apples because the oranges don't brown, they would probably actually "hear" something of you saying "I don't like apples", and respond by telling you that they do like apples and it is weird that you dont. Or if you said "I don't like going to baseball games because the parking is so bad," they may assume you did not like watching television on TV either. These people drive me beserk. I feel like I am constantly saying "thats not what I meant!" only to have another person chime in with the same response. This is more than missing nuance, its totally not paying attention to what the other person is saying, and it is shocking to me how often this happens. Thats my rant for the day.

My MP3 player has been down, so have not listened to much music. BUT I Think my mP3 player is coming back up today. I think it is possessed. I brought CDs to work on Friday and got a couple new groups/artists in: Van Halen (too 80s, but great guitar solos), Bruce Springteen (surprised how different his general body of work was from "Born in the USA", which probably constituted my entire pre-existing knowledge of him), and Wilco - light/alt rock that I very much enjoyed.

(the next day: )My Mp3 Player has resurrected itself. This thing is so weird. Basically, last week was the second time it just stopped working mid song and would not respond when I tried to plug it in. Last time, when I tried to plug it in at home that night it worked. This time I tried 4 different computers before declaring it really dead. Then I waited 3 days. Then I tried to plug it into my work computer, and it worked. I don't get it. Its totally crazy, but I am glad its back up and running.
Some music reviews. I am getting confused about which reviews I actually posted and which I did not, so there may be repeats. In fact, there may be repeats that don't agree with each other since I tend to change my mind (minorly usually) about things.

Janet Jackson - the worst yet. I do NOT want to listen to this again. Everything else was at least sort of like "Eh, it OK". This is the first one that would get ranked 1 on a scale of 1-10. Synthesizer hell, horrible lyrics, total lack of musicality. Bleck!!

U2 - there is nothing wrong with their music, but I just am not excited by it, not moved, and I am listening to supposedly their best of the best, so if this is there best, how mediocre is their average?

System of a Down - highly amusing, not so musical per se, but very interested. It was actually hard to listen to this while I was working because I was trying to listen to their lyrics, which are very interesting, instead of concentrating on my work.

Barbara Streisand - she should stick to Christmas music and covers of classic songs. Her voice is fine, but her lyrics are SO CORNY.

Metallica - I think I may have already commented on them, but now, per some advice from friends, I got their black album. There is nothing wrong with it. I really like Enter Sandman and a couple of other songs. All of the songs would be fun to play on Rock Band, but as a whole the album is just repetitive. Every song has the same sound, and that sound is so heavy. I know. Its heavy metal. But it just gets really old really quickly.

Thrice - I am not even sure this band counts as famous. I have sure never heard of them and they are not on my "list" of bands I should know, but I was interested by their album cover, title, style, etc, so I picked it up. I think because I "picked it out", I really wanted to like it. I listened to it twice, and its not bad by any means, but its nothing special either.

Billy Joel - I listened to him last week and don't remember what I thought. I am trying to decide whether that means I should give him another change, or if he is just that forgettable.

Cher - I love the song "Walking in Memphis" (as featured on X-Files, lol), so I was looking forward to hearing more, but most of her songs are just OK. I prefer her work that really shows off her unique voice, but a lot of the songs on the album I had could have been sung by pretty much anyone.

Green Day - They are fun, I see why they are popular. Its definitely "teen" sounding music, but
very enjoyable.

Josh Ritter - some people who saw my list of "to hear" had no idea who Josh Ritter was, but I had heard the name before. Now I have heard him, and his music is really interesting, lots of variety from song to song.

Limp Bizkit - Some of their songs are really annoying, but on average they are fine. They have a unique sound and a lot of variety, but not exactly my cup of tea either.

New Kid on the Block - Ok. This may make some people angry. I hate them. Like, one step above Janet Jackson. Take all the stereotypes about 80s ridiculousness and they seem to have them. A new "wonderful" surprise at every turn. Did they really just end that song with "peace"??? Yes. They did. Wow. Now, I am sure there are some stupid things I like that I like just because they were from when I was younger and stupider, so I am not judging people who heard this when they are little and are still crazy about them... but I can't take it.

Other random music things: I have been picking up classical music as well, and I have been listening to classical music on the radio in the car a lot, and at night sometimes too. This is more a revitalization of knowledge than a discovery of knew things, since I had quite extensive knowledge of classical music in high school when I participated in the Minnesota State High School Music Listening Competition, sponsored by MPR (Minnesota Public Radio). This weeks selections: Strauss' Lieder, Salieri, Weber's Overtures. I have been trying to get one of Wagner's opera's on my MP3 player, but its having issues due to the way the CD company named the tracks. I need to go through and rename them, which may or may not happen.

To tie things together, I also just finished my first book for my New Years Resolution. I read "Nineteen Minutes" by Jodi Picoult, as recomended by my little sister. I have read Jodi Picoult and I have to admit I am not a big fan. I described the last book I read by her as "a bad lifetime movie". That description works for this book as well. However, that is really not the point of this resolution and I am likely going to be reading many books that I do not enjoy. Therefore, there are a few questions besides "Did I like it?" that I want to address. These include "What can a person, in general get out of this book?" "What did I get out of this book?" "Could I get more out of this book if I changed the way I was thinking about it?"

So, here it is. I think that books like Nineteen Minutes feeds into a human need for drama. Admit it, you love drama, in some for or another. Everyone likes a little drama in some form or another. Books, movies, message boards, gossip, celebrity gossip, sports... they are all drama. So that is the general purpose of books like this. This particular brand, a kin to the a bad Lifetime Channel movie, also serve as a sort of catharsis. They take scary or dramatic scenarios that can happen in real life - cancer, affairs, accidents, in the case of Nineteen Minutes - school shootings - and they play them out in great emotional detail. It gives you the impression are having all of these emotion expierences outside of your own reality, as if you get to experience what a tragedy is like without actually having your own - playing with fire w/out risking getting burnt. Its a human impulse, and thats what Nineteen Minutes is all about. That is what you can get from this book.

What did I get out of this book? Not the above. I have other sources of drama I enjoy more, and this particular brand is a bit time consuming. Secondly, know that knack I mentioned for picking out inconsistencies and details? Well, Jodi Piccoult is not exactly a careful writer and her book is full of them. I have difficulty looking past all of the inconsistencies and becoming emotionally involved, which is a necessity for this type of book. I also get a bit worried about what harm this book could cause. It is so chalked full of stereotypes I get worried that it will rub off on the wrong people, or subconsciously reinforce false ideas they have about how the world is or should be.

Could I have gotten more out of this book if I thought about it differently? Probably, yes. If I had been able to ignore the inconsistencies and the cliche's and focused on the more interesting points. Regardless of style, a book on this type of topic is capable of raising interesting questions. Perhaps if I focused on these - thing such as what role do parents have in the actions of their children? What is self defense? What roles do school's have in inteferring in the social interactions of their students? - I would have gotten more out of the book. Alas.


Allison said...

This is why I really like you. You think about things in such a different way that your analyses always give me a fresh perspective on things I'd already formed an opinion of.

I cannot imagine listening to most of the music you're hearing for the first time. I fell in love with NKOTB and Janet Jackson in the 80s and it evokes some nostalgia in me and, therefore, it's hard for me to take a step back and thing "wow, do I really even like this?"

Also, I didn't realize that Cher covered Walking in Memphis. I've always heard it by a male singer (after Googling, apparently Marc Cohn?), who, according to Wikipedia (because I had no other ready source) sang it in 1991 (compared to Cher's 2000-something).

And Nineteen Minutes. I cannot imagine reading the book without getting emotionally involved. When I read, that's what I'm seeking, even if it's not "drama", specifically. I'm seeking an emotional connection with a character and their story. I really enjoyed Nineteen Minutes (I was going to suggest it, but thought you'd read it for book club when we read it) because of the emotional connection. Part of me wants to re-read it from your point of view.

Just out of curiosity, which of Janet's albums did you listen to? I don't know if it matters, but I'm just curious.

Manday said...

What you mean by emotional connection is what I mean by emotional catharsis. Ask yourself why you want to cry over other people's fictional lives... that is what I am getting at.

I sometimes wonder what I would think of BNL, my alltime fav band, if I were introduced to them now instead of in high school. I think I would still like them, but would I be totally obesssed?

Janet Jackson, I believe the album was called Control. If that was not the album name it was at least one of the big songs on it. Google the lyrics. They are bad.

Manday said...

Oh, and I know Mark Cohn wrote "walking in memphis" but it was always my impression the cher version was way more popular. I know it was a smash hit in Europe.