The Songs That Shaped Me: Dance Yrself Clean by LCD Soundsystem

This is the first entry in a series that captures what songs have shaped me into the person I am today. This could be contributed to my taste musically or just shaped me as personality wise.

Where It All Began

It was the first or second day of junior year in high school. I was sitting in the main gym on the steep, tan, stow away bleachers awaiting my fate of what type of gym class I would be get to take part in. Do I be ballsy and aim for the class that goes on frequent field trips, risking my chances of the second or third choice or do I play it safe and head to the team sports line? Either way I’m not going to get stuck in ‘walking P.E.’ with the rejects of 16 and Pregnant and all the too good for gym class kids.

While I awaited the inevitable hell of racing towards the front half of the gym, I decided to pop in my tangled, nearly frayed and browned Apple earbuds and search for an album to listen to. I was scrolling through my recommended page on Apple Music (I was a fool at the time, forgive me Spotify) and came across LCD Soundsystem. I had never heard of them before, but the name was intriguing enough to catch my interest. I decided to choose This is Happening as the album of choice. What I didn’t realize is that the wi-fi at my school was such shit it wouldn’t let me play the album without downloading it first. By the time the first track was done downloading class was over. Didn’t even matter.

I walk past the stench of cannabis and fresh Axe body spray to get to the narrow, mustard yellow school bus, which had a weird black fade to it making it resemble a very old banana peel. The bus and banana peels are also alike because I don’t care much for what is inside of them.

I plop myself down on the patched up seat next to some kid who probably wanted no part of me and decided to give this song, Dance Yrself Clean, a try for the way home. I understand why it took so long to download the song, it was nearly nine minutes!! For me at the time I was unaccustomed to songs longer than five minutes. Reluctantly, yet curious I pressed play.

The first few minutes I thought my volume was broken because, well, Apple earbuds suck. Turns out they weren’t broken. I thought the song was pretty minimalist, but enjoyable. It wasn’t until the 3:06 part of the song that my world was flipped forever. The beat drop that opened my eyes to a whole new world of music. I got instant chills. Singer James Murphy screams:

“Don’t you want for me to wake up?
Then give me just a bit of your time
Arguments are made from make outs
So give it just a little more time”

What?

That’s so stupid, but awesome!!

It took the whole ride home to finish the song, but it was the most memorable bus ride I ever had.

Why It’s So Great

LCD Soundsystem is no stranger to making deep cutting, relatable tracks that speak to people of all ages. Topics like aging and losing passion in what you’re doing now that you’re forced to do it. Dance Yrself Clean is all about relieving yourself of all the bullshit that’s around you, even if it is stuff that once made you who you are. It’s an emotional tune with one of the most passionate vocal performances that Murphy has ever produced. In an interview with NME, at the first breakdown of the song where he belts at a higher pitch he says that it wrecked his vocal chords. He even had to take steroids to prevent further pain recording the rest of the album.

Dance Yrself Clean of course speaks a lot of what my dad an I always call simple truths (moments where you’re like ‘huh yeah that’s sad, but kinda true’), but also with the instrumentation. In the buildup to the first breakdown another layer of sounds pile onto each following verse. Every time I listen to it I get the same level of excitement that most people have leading up to the guitar breakdown in the latter half of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody. It’s so emotionally prevalent and hard-hitting in all the right ways.

The Lasting Effect

Dance Yrslef Clean and This is Happening in general opened up this whole world of mid-2000’s indie music to my attention. I would discover groups like Arcade Fire, TV on the Radio, and Animal Collective to name a few. It also introduced me to the genre of dance-punk. One of my favorite groups in my high school years, Death From Above, fit this category perfectly and was in frequent rotation.

This also marked the point in my life where people were very judgmental of my music taste. My junior year history teacher was very fond of me and let me pick a Pandora station for the class to listen to while doing group work. I chose another song from LCD’s album, I Can Change. I received so much shit so fast. Collective ‘what is this?’, ‘can you pick something else?’, ‘Miss? Can I pick something else?’ spread like wildfire throughout the classroom. I probably just put on ‘Mr Brightside radio’ and that appeased the haters.

The summer following I was lucky enough to see LCD’s reunion tour at Lollapalooza and Dance Yrself Clean was the greatest moment in concert history in my eyes. It also was the day before I started the best job of my life. I have so many fond memories of LCD and that song. It is easily in my top ten all time favorites and wouldn’t put it anywhere else.

Remember, just because a whole classroom of 60 kids had a negative reaction to your song choice, doesn’t mean your song isn’t special. You don’t want those stupid teens to like it anyways. They’ll be jealous of your taste in a few years when they catch up to your maturity.

I Read a Book!

No this wasn’t written by a four-year old…

Currently Listening to: Self-Titled by James Blake

Quarantine has motivated me to pursue a number of things I felt I never had the time to do in everyday life prior. I started to work out regularly, I began to write again, started learning about spirituality, but my favorite thing I did over quarantine was read. Books and I have a complicated relationship. We dropped off for a number of years after introducing me to the characters in the atrocity known as Lord of the Flies. That was the last book that I ever read front to back and that was nearly six years ago. This was a massive downgrade after reading To Kill a Mockingbird, which is still my absolute favorite, for sophomore English. Ever since then it was either SparkNotes or page skimming.

They say that school kills creative ambition and halts kids from branching off into their own person. I mostly agree with that… to an extent. Up until college you are kind of kept to a strict enrichment diet of nearly impossible math homework unless you’re a child prodigy, nearly impossible math homework disguised as science classes, and being forced to read books you have no desire to read. Don’t get me wrong some of this curriculum is super great for reading into context and searching for deeper meanings of life. Without my senior year speech and composition classes I wouldn’t be half the person I am today. It helped me a lot with my public speaking and my essay writing. TKAM taught me a bunch of lessons about life and how to properly tell a legit story. Math brought me deepest meaning of all. How deeply I meant it when I said I wanted to drop out during calculus. Thank god I didn’t, but I digress.

What made To Kill A Mockingbird so great for me was that it educated me on a timeless lesson of racism in America and how to flesh out extremely likable and memorable characters. I wanted all books to be like this. I found a book that I actually wanted to know everything about and study in depth. Sadly, I never picked up a book like that again. That is until my friend loaned me The Truth by Neil Strauss, a writer for Rolling Stone magazine.

The Truth was a bold name for a book that also happened to take on the appearance of a white bible. Underneath the title was the subtitle in gold print “an uncomfortable book about relationships”. Who does this guy think he is? The Jesus of heartbreak? Turns out yeah he kinda is the Jesus of heartbreak. The book is an autobiography about how Neil once had the perfect woman, Ingrid, and blew it all for a one night stand. He then seeks out rehab for sex addicts and learns to love and appreciate what is around him… or so he thinks. His entire world seems to crumble around him as he digs deeper into what he thinks he wants out of his life. The book reads like the most insane romance novel ever written. Even Nicholas Sparks would be like ‘man this is fucked up’. There’s a ton of twists and turns and points where it felt like I was reading about a fantasy. On the way though he has a lot of wisdom to share and it’s all valuable information.

Strauss also wrote a book called The Game, which is about picking up women and serves as the polar opposite to The Truth. It is frequently referenced in The Truth that there’s a lot that he regrets in writing that book and how what he learned while researching for it brought him to where he is today.

So why did a book about a guy who is confused about typical relationship structure and has a sex addiction connect with me so much? It is because I love sex SO MUCH! Actually no, it is the journey that he goes on and where I was in life when I first began reading it. When I first was recommended The Truth, I was in a bad place. I had very little faith in the world of romance since my perception and track record was kinda damaged. Someone I had deeply trusted betrayed me and turned on me out of nowhere. I developed what some may call ‘trust issues’ and it took a toll on me no doubt.

Reading this book was part of my recovery. When you can relate to such a deep emotion such as love and attraction with anyone it engulfs you. That connection feels tangible. Though I didn’t go anywhere near the scale of Neil’s adventure, I felt as though I knew how he was feeling and he understood the type of reader that would pick up this book. I believe that it was meant for people like me at the time.

In my mind, that is what makes a book so great. I feel as though that is why people often say movies that are adapted from books never do the source material justice. When I pick up a book and I read a paragraph or read into a scenario I try to envision what that would look like in real life. If I can connect it to something in my imagination and in my vision versus what it actually looks like on the screen through someone else’s eyes I feel as though I gained more from it.

Schools rightfully should let their students pick their reading material and let them find their own story and meaning from it instead of following a rubric and having to search back through the book for quotes. It should be about what you can learn from what the author has to say and not what the teachers say. If students were allowed to pick up a book that catches their interest and end up having an experience like I did while reading The Truth, then I would have fallen in love for English class year after year.

Is There a Connection Between TikTok and ADHD?

In 2012, the world was bestowed a new way to make kids excited and adults groan. This time instead of hacky sacks or JUULs, it was an app that was taking the world by storm. This app was known as… Angry Birds Space. OH GOD NO!! Just kidding, it’s TikTok. Man, do I hate this app, but I also kinda love it? Let me explain

Background

If you have never heard of this abomination before let someone who probably isn’t the right demographic break it down for ya. TikTok is an app that started back in 2012, but didn’t really gain a ton of popularity until 2018 when it merged with the ACTUAL worst app of all time, Musical.ly, an app where the douchey, Hollister model kids would lip-sync to the worst shit you could find on Top 40 radio. The app was mostly just an internet joke to a lot of people. For some reason though, once it merged with TikTok everyone flipped and raved over the app making it the most downloaded app of 2018 and 2019. The platform provided ways to combine the old Musical.ly lip-syncing with dance trends, comedy, weird talents, and advertising too comprised in a 60 second video.

Speaking of advertising, the advertising team behind this app deserves massive props because I could not avoid their ads if I tried. Watching YouTube? BOOM! Six seconds of unskippable, cringe-inducing TikTok ads. Scrolling through your Snapchat stories? BOOM! You get a ten second clip of a girl lip-syncing from Good Luck Charlie. Even on free app store games I would get interrupted by a duet video of two guys admiring a girl from behind putting up her ponytail only to be shocked that the girl was actually a dude. Ugh…

My Downfall

It wasn’t until last summer that TikTok kind of made its way into my generations’ phones. I couldn’t tell if it was ironic at first, but then I would be shown videos on the app from some of my coworkers and some of my friends had it too. Some of it was surprisingly hilarious. I kept trying to convince myself, no Campbell, don’t do it. You’re better than this. When I returned to college, to my dismay, my roommates would practice dances and quote all the annoying phrases that would pop up in viral trends. I didn’t mind. As long as I wasn’t a part of it that’s totally okay. So now I’ve had TikTok for five months and I still hate it, but it’s so bad that it’s good.

I had become what I had feared for months. I spent hours watching stupid clips of people doing different variations of Spongebob scenes, Donald Duck impressions, putting their mouths over a two-liter of Diet Coke with Mentos in it. It would be about midnight and that is prime time for scrolling through this irresistible bullshit. It is also the worst time to scroll through it. On multiple occasions my roommates would ask why I’m so tired. My answer was always TikTok *shudders*.

Why Write This Article?

I know at this point we are all sick of COVID talk, but quarantine inspired me to write this article. This time in isolation has helped me notice things about me that I didn’t realize before. While still in online school, I would sometimes not be able to sleep at night and sometimes have small anxiety attacks. I’ve spent so much time in my room for hours before so what makes it different? Besides the obvious reason for quarantine, I think my attention span has shrunk. I don’t know if this is solely due to this time period or if it was a growing thing overtime, but I knew something was up.

In a film class I took a few semesters ago, my professor had proposed a conversation about movie length. With the release of Avengers: Endgame last year, the length of the movie became a hot topic. The movie clocked in a little past three hours, which is pretty long for any film to be fair. My professor proposed the idea that our society nowadays has an increased amount of people with ADHD or behavior at least, which puts a blame on technology and television to an extent. The amount of quick cuts that is inserted into TV nowadays is ridiculous if you really pay attention to it. Take a look at commercials for sitcoms. CBS will air Thursday night promos that are all formatted the same way: quick cut, laugh tracked, and with at least two jokes. All under 30 seconds. Songs and albums too are often overlooked if their runtime is too long.

Do I think I have ADHD? No. I don’t think I do. I think that being contained may have made me feel squirmy and uncomfortable as I’m sure it has with others too. The connection between this and TikTok is the amount of content and algorithms that are presented on the app. TikTok has something I call a “like based” algorithm meaning it will cater recommended videos based on what you like and who you follow. It will rarely exit outside that territory. The front page when you open the app is the “For You” page, which presents this addictive quality since the app ‘knows you’ and what you like. I like a lot of dark-comedy and music related posts, so that’s exactly what I’ll get in my For You page.

Users are constantly uploading content everyday and some even have this as their full-time jobs (which is the biggest load of garbage). To make things even more inconvenient, it also uses location so it’ll recommend people in your state or even area in your For You page.

The Threat

TikTok is almost too user friendly. All this fast paced content coming all at once in under a minute can totally contribute to some attention issues in the future, especially with the younger users. These videos aren’t always 60 seconds, some could be less than ten or even three on rare occasions. It could be possible that this could develop impatience in longer videos or content that isn’t straight to the point. This was a problem with Vine when it was at its peak too. That platform was usually just seven seconds at most. I also spent hours on Vine too back in high school, but for some reason TikTok feels different. Who knows why that is, but there’s probably someone smarter out there that can give a better answer than me.

Conclusion

TikTok is an app that is equal parts toxic and addictive. I think that it is a great way for companies and celebrities to reach out to kids and teens alike. It’s also a great way to spread your talents and abilities. Many artists have found good fame with their songs being used as background in videos. I would’ve never found out about the artist SALES if it weren’t for the song Chinese New Year trending on the app. Artists like DaBaby, Doja Cat, and even Matthew Wilder from the 80’s has seen a growth in popularity thanks to the app.

The way I see it, TikTok is like alcohol or junk food, better in small doses. It’s okay to have it every once in a while, but if used in excess it might end up causing long term effects on the body and mind. I try to only use the app once a day for 30 minutes at most. There’s so many more important things we all could be doing than watching someone else do something. Get off your butt and climb a tree kid. Get out of bed dude, it’s 3 p.m. and you’re watching videos of kids blowing up water bottles. Wake up girl, you fell asleep to people hydro-dipping their AirPod cases.

Thanks for coming to my Ted Talk I’ll do autographs in the tent outside the venue.

One of my favorite tracks from TikTok:

MGMT Albums Ranked

MGMT (or Management as some weirdos call them) has been making a splash in the indie-pop world since the mid 2000’s with the popularity of tracks like Kids and Time to Pretend. Growing up I always resonated with the song Kids. I had made a friend in middle school purely out of both of us knowing it. Out of curiosity I did what I always did when I liked a song from the 2000’s and checked my dad’s iTunes library and hope that he bought the album, Oracular Spectacular. Luckily, he did. I tried downloading the album to my iPod Touch, but since I had an obsession with free app store arcade games I could only download half the album. The rest is history. I have loved the band for nearly a decade now and with the release of a few new singles recently, I thought I would revisit their discography. So here’s my definitive ranking of a pretty wacky album collection.

4. MGMT (Self-Titled)

MGMT (album) - Wikipedia

While there’s nothing really offensively bad about MGMT’s third album, there’s just a lot missing. The charisma, the fun, there’s just no Kids or Brian Eno… The album starts off with a lot of promise. Alien Days and Cool Song No. 2 are among some of MGMT’s best. I loved the lo-fi sound that they were playing around with. Sadly, this was very much a one-trick-pony. The rest of the track-list collapses into each other. MGMT has always been very good at mixing up their sounds on their records in the past. You can tell when an album is amazing when you can hear the beginning of any song and say “oh I remember this one!” Maybe not out loud, but you get it. This can be said about nearly all of their other works. It also seems to be the only entry that lacks a theme. You can argue that it is an outcry to society and how people are sort of wasting life away, but it’s not continuous throughout (especially when another album does this better). With the record label failure and poor reception that Congratulations delivered, it wasn’t looking good for MGMT. This album was perceived as their worst to date. As stated previously, I don’t think it is bad at all it just lacks the personality and quirk that made me fall for the band in the first place.

Bump This: Alien Days, Cool Song No. 2, Introspection

Dump This: Plenty of Girls in the Sea

3. Congratulations

Congratulations (album) - Wikipedia

Regardless of how you feel about the album itself, you can’t deny… This album art kicks ass. I wasn’t really the fan of MGMT that I am now back when Congratulations dropped in 2010. I can honestly say though if I had been listening to Oracular Spectacular and patiently awaited for their next album to drop with all that anticipation, I would’ve been let down. Thankfully, I didn’t live through that and I really enjoy their sophomore outing. To connect back to the album cover, I’ve always believed that a record was better if the art matched the music. It’s just so wacky with a hint of psychedelic coloring that makes it memorable. Whenever I think of MGMT I see this album art. Congratulations ditches the sound that made them skyrocket to popularity and goes for a more psychedelic rock sound. Songs like Flash Delirium and I Found a Whistle are living proof that they changed their intentions. It’s no secret that the band’s art is heavily influenced by drugs. The album is basically one big acid trip for the duo as they make a show of how getting lost in your high can be a dangerous, yet mind expanding experience. Can’t argue there if you get results like this. The mother of all trips has to be Siberian Breaks which feels like three different songs in one and rocks! The nearly 13 minute track feels like a journey through space and alternative rock.

What I love about the band is also the reason this album doesn’t resonate as well as other albums of theirs and that is they’ll do whatever they want as long as they like it. Sure everything on here is great, but it’s kind of one big insult too. The people that really connected with songs like Kids, Time to Pretend, and Electric Feel were not welcomed on an album like this. In promotion for the record the lead vocalist, Andrew VanWyngarden, said they created the album with the intent that no one would be able to take a few key singles and just run away. He wanted to create something that requires a full album listen. Ben Goldwasser (other half of MGMT) also said hinted at this idea in an interview with Spinner discussing Brian Eno and the track named after him. He said that he admired how Eno would create the kind of music that nobody would’ve expected from him next “just because”.

Congratulations is a great record, but what prevents it from being ranked higher is the bigger ideas that the other albums present. I enjoy the album a lot it’s just not one I return to as much as the others.

Bump It: I Found a Whistle, Brian Eno, Siberian Breaks, Congratulations

Dump It: N/A

2. Oracular Spectacular

Oracular Spectacular - Wikipedia

The one that would inspire fans and other artists alike. Oracular Spectacular is a once in a decade kind of record. I always get this video whenever I visit Genius’s website called “MGMT’s Impact on Hip-Hop” and every time I see it I think, yeah this album really created something new. Of course when I see the thumbnail of the video I always am reminded of the iconic collaboration between them, Ratatat, and Kid Cudi on ‘Pursuit of Happiness’. Their influence is especially visible on this track and a few others on Cudi’s debut record, Man on the Moon: The End of Day.

There is a reason that 12 year old me wanted anything and everything to do with this album when I first listened to it. The synths and vocals were the definition of infectious. Remember earlier when I said that the sign of a good album is being able to recall any track and say “oh I remember this one” out loud like a weirdo? This is what I was referring to because every track on Oracular Spectacular has something significant about it that makes the album’s journey all more interesting. Time to Pretend has that grimy, slow melodic keyboard opening, Electric Feel has that steel drum sound and drum beat that progresses into the first chorus, Of Moons, Birds, and Monsters has the subtle The Killers synth lurking in the background and the fun bird chirps, and of course Kids has that amazing breakdown at the end and the now iconic beat that everyone has fallen in love with.

The drumming on this album has to be mentioned. Radiohead’s, In Rainbows, has Philip Selway’s drumming on full display, more than other albums of theirs. This is MGMT’s In Rainbows. The drum work on tracks like Electric Feel and Weekend Wars are impossible to fall for. Try not tapping your feet to the beat of half of these songs. My favorite example of how outstanding a role the drums play on this record is in Kids. My god, what a show. While it plays a predominant role in the chorus and the bridge/breakdown in the middle, my favorite part has always been at the end. The chorus is repeated about three times until the last time when the drumming gets louder and forceful. Talk about goosebumps.

What makes this album so great is its sense of nostalgia and aspiration. Kids and Youth are the obvious poster children for this idea of not taking your youth for granted and what the threat of adapting to social norms and stereotypical lifestyles will do to you. This theme along with drug induced states of mind and growing up are clearly somethings that resonate not only through their debut album, but their entire discography to date.

I adore Oracular Spectacular in every way possible. It is a greatest hits collection. Every time I return to this album or hear Electric Feel on the radio I am reminded of the effect it had on me growing up. Kids and Time to Pretend are among my all time favorite songs. Anyone should check this album out. There’s a reason that MGMT didn’t like how awesome this was.

Bump It: Kids, Weekend Wars, Electric Feel, Of Moons, Birds, and Monsters, Time to Pretend, Youth

Dump It: Are you kidding? Why even look here?

  1. Little Dark Age
Little Dark Age - Wikipedia

I never thought that Oracular Spectacular would be topped, especially after their self-titled didn’t do a lot for me. This changed when Little Dark Age dropped. I hadn’t heard any singles prior to the album drop so I went in completely blind. Upon the first five seconds of She Works Out Too Much I thought wow… this sounds a lot like Ariel Pink. At the time I had an obsession with his album Pom Pom and it definitely made me skeptical. That was until I found out that Ariel Pink was credited on the record. Not that it would’ve affected my overall view of the album, just seemed interesting at first. Anyhow! Let’s discuss why this is MGMT’s best record.

Everything I could have ever asked for is on Little Dark Age. The awesome synths are back, the passion is clearly visible, the topical aspects are very of the moment, the vocals are as great as they’ve ever been, and above all it is very weird. She Works Out too Much is a prime example of this. How weird is it to start off the record with a song about not working out and a women telling you “the only reason it never worked out was you never worked out enough”? Well, that’s what is great about this record. On its own, this track is amazing, maybe even their second best song next to Kids, but the song along with others discusses relationship issues and something I like to call lazy culture.

Lazy culture is a theme that isn’t brought up a lot in music. There’s this lazy component to society nowadays that makes us feel like life must come to us before we attempt to go forth on our own. In the case of She Works Out too Much, that is not willing to commit to the relationship because in his eyes he is looking for an issue with his significant other (working out) so that he does not have to put in the effort. These ideas are also explored in TSLAMP (Time Spent Looking at my Phone) and Days that Got Away.

To further this idea of lazy culture, depression is definitely a cause of all this. Most of Little Dark Age is spent analyzing how culture and politics have corrupted us into these sad, mopey beings that just go with life as is and are strangely okay with that. Little Dark Age (the song) discusses these themes as hiding behind things like music and humor to disguise happiness. This idea leads into other tracks like When You Die which has an awesome, playful guitar riff in the background at the beginning only to lead into topics of suicide and loneliness. Yikes.

As much as I don’t wanna write about politics, this album wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for the 2016 election. Therefore we have to power through it. The track Hand it Over is about Trump and his condescending nature, almost them feel powerless. There that’s all I am going to say about it. However! What I think really seals the deal on this record is how ‘of the moment’ it was when it came out and how it still remains relevant to this day. The album is able to discuss politics, laziness, being distracted by technology (TSLAMP, Days that Got Away), and depression (Little Dark Age, When You Die, One Thing Left to Try, When You’re Small) and not make it the corniest thing you’ve ever heard. You can tell that MGMT thought these things through before putting it together. This didn’t just pop out of nowhere in 2016, this has been existent for a long while.

Little Dark Age also has some of the duo’s most emotional songs they’ve ever written. When You Die and One Thing Left to Try are very powerful moments. One verse in particular talks about the narrator looking into the fire, letting the darkness of night take over and have him realize he has one thing left to try to make him feel alive again. Committing suicide.

Little Dark Age is MGMT’s best album because it saved themselves as a band and brought the best parts of themselves to the table while creating new things we haven’t seen before. The instrumentals are great, the lyrics are truthful and emotional in the best way, and the relevance of the themes discussed will resonate for years, not just for me, but for someone who may need to hear the words that Andrew and Ben have to say.

Bump It: The whole thing

Dump It: Trump

Now what?

There have been a handful of occasions in my life where I ask myself the title of this article. Chances are you’ve asked yourself this question too. Maybe not out loud, but you’ve at least thought it. I have been wanting to write this entry for a while, but didn’t know how to go about it at first. I think with everything that is going on with the Coronavirus in the world today that writing this couldn’t feel more appropriate since a lot of us I’m sure are asking ourselves and our government “now what?”

This phrase may be a good thing. The one time I frequently associate with this feeling is when I first moved out to college. My mom and girlfriend at the time, as well as some douchey frat boys who I’m sure were just trying to get their service hours in, spent all morning dropping off boxes and bags upstairs into my dorm. When it finally came time to say goodbye, I gave my hugs and walked up the never-ending staircase because the elevators were broken (one of many times throughout the semester) and dropped my last bag onto the floor.

I remember looking around my room, scanning over the cardboard boxes and scissors I would inevitably have to access and then looking out my window. I stared intensely out the halfway jammed window and slightly yellowed window into the distance of the roadways and full parking lot. I returned into consciousness and thinking those magic words “now what”. I had never lived away from my family or my hometown, at least from memory, in my life. I left behind my job that I had worked at for three years, all of my closest friends and family, and my significant other who I was with nearly every single day at the time. I knew nobody who lived out here and I felt completely lost.

At the very least I was optimistic and entranced with the idea of starting this new chapter in my life. Luckily this turned to my benefit, but that’s for another entry. Point is, thinking “now what” is something that in my eyes should be asked more frequently. Not knowing what to do or what to expect is something that should be treasured. It’s fun to not know what is going to happen next. That is what makes books and movies most interesting. The suspense and curiosity is what makes life more lively.

However, there are some cases where “now what” can be seen as a phrase of hopelessness. Two examples come to mind when I think of a bad case of this seemingly hopeless question. The first being a more relevant example and that is the COVID-19 pandemic and the other being Avengers Infinity War, which in my eyes is just as vital.

With Coronavirus being something that absolutely NO ONE expected to come out of this new decade a lot of us are caught with our pants down. Raise your hand if you have never been through something like this before. 1… 2… 3… see at least the three people that will actually read this haven’t seen something like this before. With Stay-at-home orders dates that seem to only extend every other week and a diagnosis rate that only rises by the minute a lot, if not all of us have no idea what is going to become of this. Will it end?! Will I get to enjoy a frozen strawberry lemonade from McDonalds outside this summer? Will I get to see David Ross manage the Chicago Cubs for the very first time? Will I ever find true love???

The answers to all of those questions (hopefully the last one too) is yes. As bad as it may seem right now, things will turn around. Having this time to ourselves inside (if you aren’t inside then stop reading this and read the news dumbass) is a blessing in disguise. Sure, we are all probably wondering “now what” by the hour, but so much good can come from this “now what” situation. I firmly believe that as soon as the coast is clear or at least safe enough, a lot of us will not take our outdoor privileges for granted anymore. So many times I would come home from school or work and just collapse. Collapse into my bed and into the world of social media and Netflix marathons. This clearly isn’t a healthy lifestyle, but being forced to stay inside really makes me want to be outside. Maybe it is just humans natural crave to want what we can’t have, but I seriously don’t ever just want to spend a whole day inside unless I have to anymore.

On a less serious note, when I saw Avengers Infinity War I also asked the question “now what?” *SPOILERS* When Thanos snaps and wipes out half of the world’s population and just disappears, leaving all the superheroes speechless and just ending the film minutes after. This was just shocking, the bad guy won, and it seemed hopeless for the characters and the audience. I truthfully didn’t know what was going to happen after that.

When it comes to entertainment media, this question isn’t nearly as threatening as in real life, but I feel as though there is a lot we can learn from these forms of entertainment. To ask ourselves these questions like “now what” or “what happens next” leads to creative thinking and critiquing of what is to come. This is obviously a good thing.

I guess the main point I am trying to get across is don’t lose hope and asking the what ifs and focus more on the present or the “NOW whats”. There is a lot that we can learn about ourselves and each other by questioning where life will take us next.

Why ‘Us’ Should’ve Been Nominated for Best Picture

Jordan Peele has proven that he has the chops to produce, act, and front a major motion picture. In 2016, which seems like ages ago now, I went to the theater and saw the comedy Keanu, which he starred in, wrote, and co-produced. To this day it is still one of the funniest, underrated comedies in recent history. A year later he put out what many consider to be a modern horror classic and magnum opus, Get Out. I was skeptical of all the hype until I saw it as an in-flight movie. I understood the hype. Peele managed to create a film that both entertained and educated. Educated the public about what I’m sure there’s a better phrasing for, but I am going to say as ‘racial ignorance’. If you haven’t seen the movie *spoiler alert* the family in the movie tries to ‘be black’ and tries to get Kaluuya’s brain so he can see the world in his eyes. What an interesting idea for a movie! I didn’t think the movie was perfect, but it was very entertaining and original. Everyone I knew had seen this movie and very few disliked it. So you can imagine the excitement my friends and I had when the trailer for Us came out.

The trailer for Us gave off a terrifying, slasher movie vibe promoting the golden scissors the villains use in the film as murder weapons. A Jordan Peele slasher film? Sounds awesome. When the day finally came for Us to come out though, I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Not only is Us better than Get Out, I think it is a perfect movie. The whole time I was watching Us I kept thinking “Woah this is really Hitchcock”. There are so many layers to this film that it almost demands a second or even third viewing. The setup is simple, a family all goes to the beach for a vacation where the mom (played by Lupita Nyong’o) used to go as a kid. However, when she was a child she had a very traumatic experience that left her scared of ever returning to the beach. Everything seems normal until one night a group of doppelgangers clad in maroon jumpsuits and bearing golden scissors comes to their vacation home at night.

Simple, right? WRONG. This film is different and eerie from the start. This is mainly credited to the amazing set design and performances from the kid actors. The boardwalk at night just terrifies and is grim from the start. Even teasing the situation is a Michael Jackson Thriller shirt that is won at the boardwalk. Nyong’o’s character ventures underneath the boardwalk to an unattended, house of mirrors like maze. There she walks down the dark, narrow hallways and eventually runs into a clone of herself where the last thing you see and hear is the child actors wide, shocked expression in utter silence. Then it cuts to the main plot. That is all you are given.

The best mystery and horror films lead with a question. Films like Poltergeist, the first Insidious, and Rosemary’s Baby come to mind. They all have these beginnings that shake you and make you question meaning and what is going to happen next. Us makes you question MULTIPLE things within the first 20 minutes. What happened at the boardwalk? Why does the boy always wear that mask? Why are these doppelgangers trying to attack them? Why does the mom snap off-beat to I Got Five on It? So many questions raced through my head while watching.

From there we are treated to amazing acting, wonderful film editing, memorable settings, a great set of villains, great usage of symbolism, and an amazing plot-twist that I won’t spoil. Trust me it is awesome. So this leads to my question… Why the hell wasn’t this nominated for an Oscar? No joke, this amazing, thought provoking film got ZERO nominations. CATS got more nominations than Us!!!! How did this happen???

In past years the film-making aspect of the films nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars has been a big factor in whether or not it coins recognition. Birdman, The Revenant, Dunkirk, Phantom Thread, and La La Land all amazing on technical scale.

Think of La La Land. If you have seen the movie before you know that the story is told a lot through the costume and cinematography. The scene where Sebastian and Mia dance on the hilltop after going to find their cars is a great example of this. The lighting is dark blue with a glow of purplish-pink from the sunset and bright lights from the city below. Mia wears a yellow dress, symbolizing hope, optimism, and brightness. Her dresses change color progressively throughout the film as well as the color schemes. The scene where the two argue over dinner leaves Mia and Sebastian’s faces both in the dark of a pale blue light, symbolizing their fading love and dissembling of their relationship.

Us is a film that also relies on colors heavily. The usage of the color red and various shades of it promote a sense of danger. Adelaide (Nyong’o) as a child carried a bright red candy apple while walking across the boardwalk. Red is a color that symbolizes passion and love, but also is a color that raises blood pressure. When she ventures onto the beach, the redness of the apple is the color that is most prominent on screen. This is also demonstrated by the redness of the doppelganger costumes.

The symbolism in this movie is on a Citizen Kane level of greatness. The frequent use of rabbits, the verse Jeremiah 11:11, the golden scissors, and Hands Across America all contribute to the overall theme of the film and multiple conspiracy theories too. The power of great storytelling is being able to tell little stories along the way through imagery. This isn’t really that common in modern cinema with the exception of films like Inception and No Country for Old Men. In the past you had movies like Apocalypse Now, The Godfather, and A Clockwork Orange that perfected this method of storytelling.

If this film were to be nominated for anything though it is Lupita Nyong’o’s performance. You can argue that 12 Years a Slave is her best role, but no. In my opinion this is one of the best performances I have ever seen. Look at her facial expressions and tone of voice throughout the film. She genuinely looks terrified. her doppelganger was equally as terrified and creepy as hell. If you’re gonna nominate Joaquin for Joker then you have to nominate Lupita for Us.

My parents always told my older brother and I growing up that the way you tell that a movie is good is if you are thinking about it the next day. I thought about this movie for months. I watched hours of conspiracy theory videos and different interpretations of the plot to see if anyone had the same questions I did. I think the only other movie I did this with was Inception, but that’s a whole separate blog.

With all of these things in mind, it really does not make any sense that a film like Us wouldn’t be nominated. Black Panther was nominated last year and was a fine movie, but didn’t break any ground in film-making or acting. Us did more than just be a fine movie, it was a GREAT one. With all the Scorsese talk of what is and isn’t cinema, this totally is cinema.

Whether or not you are a fan of horror films or not, I highly recommend you see Us. It has a lot to offer and should be a film shown in classrooms in the future. You can analyze the life out of this movie and have a good time watching too.

Geese

You’re walking down the same path you’ve walked to class for weeks. You wouldn’t expect anything different other than the views of the oak trees protruding over the you and the sight of a brace of ducks in the shallow pond following this gravel walkway. Everything seems fine until you hear an awful squawking coming from opposite the pond. Before you’re able to look up and pause your footsteps, you find yourself mid-slip in a pile of excrement. You fall on the cold, hard pavement covered in green and brown waste. Not only have you fallen to the level of nature, but you have also wet yourself in the process. You stare in dismay and embarrassment only to look across the pond to see that flock of black and white menaces to society known as Canadian Geese.

Ever since I was four years old I have had this massive hatred towards geese and I don’t think I am alone on that. They have the most obnoxious bird call known to human ear, they are mean for no reason, they’re uncomfortably big, their babies are ugly, and they SH*T EVERYWHERE. It is with full honesty and confidence that I can say I have never had a positive experience with one of these creatures. The most negative of these experiences being when I rode my bike down by our riverwalk when I was still in high school and a group of them unexpectedly jumped onto the path and I almost fell on one of their babies from braking too fast. One of the adult ones didn’t like that and hissed immediately and came within inches of pecking me while pedaling the opposite way.

Geese can also get you in trouble with the law. If you hit a goose while driving and leave the scene of the crime there is a federal law that can leave you with a nasty charge. I’ve done my research when it comes to running over geese and let me tell you… these dudes have it good. They can be assholes and poop wherever they want and they can get away with it and protected by law man. LAW. Look, I am in no way looking to kill another living creature, nor do I think I would have it in me to be a hunter. Why is it though that the one living thing that I would WANT to run over will get me in trouble? Just another reason to hate politics. I also found out that deer and cats aren’t protected by law and that you don’t have to notify the police if they are struck. Kind of strange.

Most birds have protection too, but it’s not too likely that you’ll hit a bird while driving that is in the air unless you have the Weasley’s car. After reading a little more I found out that it is very illegal to hit a badger, let alone have one dead or alive. Don’t know why anyone in their right mind would, but then again people also eat hardened laundry detergent (look it up, it’s real) so I guess there’s people out there.

Anyhow, I felt inspired to write this because every morning I am greeted to the wonderful screeching of sweet nothings by these fellas and they seem to feel like they own the entire college campus. It’ll be late at night and I’ll have to grab something I forgot in my car or something and there they are in both ponds by my residence hall cuddled up in the water.

My relationship with geese is best described as when you walked into class as a kid and you see your teacher is out sick and instead that one substitute teacher that no one likes is sitting in their chair (I’m looking at you Mr. Ramirez). I can safely say that geese are my least favorite living creature. If there’s any merit to their existence I guess I can say I admire their consistency and stubbornness in a weird way. Assholes.

First Entry…

Hey. This is the first entry of what I hope to be many and continue to grow in the years to come. This may not be the platform, nor domain, that I plan to stick to for my ever-so-entertaining entries, but for the time being this is suitable. I am fairly new to the world of blogging and have as much experience as a communications major with a minor in journalism (with the help of a handful of YouTube videos) can have. I feel as though a proper introduction is in order.

I am a guy in his early twenties looking to put forth my passion for writing and discussion to good use. The idea of me starting a blog started back in the summer of 2018. I had always felt like I had a lot to say with very few opportunities to share without sounding like a weirdo. There would be times where I would talk to friends on the phone or in person about something I read on Twitter or some random video I came across on YouTube and as good friends and family do, they listened. In their heads I imagined they were thinking “this might be interesting, but what prompted him to think of this?”

Going back to the summer of 2018… I was lost. It had been a year since graduating high school, seeing all of my closest friends everyday, hanging out with them after class, going to the school dances, and working nearly every day of the week while simultaneously juggling a heavy classwork load. I loved having the company. I like to think of myself as a social person and I love hearing what is going on in everyone’s day. Well, after high school and the summer following everything changed and not in the best way. I had a very tightly knit group of friends that hung out nearly every single day. I would say halfway through summer two of my closest friends went off to join the military. Even though I still loved every minute spent with my other friends, a bit of myself suffered. These two guys had no access to their phones and very little contact in general outside of letters. This was where my life started turning.

While being independent isn’t hard for me, I had gone from seemingly having no friends, to having this tight group, to by the point of summer 2018 having lost steady contact with most of them. This was a hard reality for me to grasp or want to accept. While I still had people to talk to the communication had gotten to an all-time low. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I really began to neglect my health and spirituality. I started gaining weight, became a bit socially awkward, and truthfully a little sensitive.

I think back to the first day I started community college. I had finished my first class and went to the student center to grab something to eat. I realized I had to charge my phone so I had gone to a small charging station that resided between two small chairs. There were multiple chairs surrounding at a distance, but none close enough to stay put on my phone while it was charging. I plopped down into the chair, plugged in my phone, and started looking at where my next class was for the day. The girl that was sitting on the opposite side gave me a small, but noticeable dirty look. I thought, man what did I do to offend her. So I did what I am good at and made some stupid, but inoffensive joke about invading her personal space. She said something along the lines of “this f*cking kid” and then left. “That was weird”, I thought. I brushed it off and went to class.

My next class was a business course back when I thought I was going to be a marketing major (story for a different day). The day was about as basic as syllabus days go, the teacher walked us through the curriculum and then conducted the dreaded ice-breaker activity. We were all sectioned off into groups based on where we were sitting and were instructed to interview each other in this small group. My group gathered together, looking lifeless and drab hunched over their desks. I started to introduce myself and got out my piece of paper to take notes about the others when this dude speaks up and says “Let’s be honest we’re just here to sit and then leave. Wanna just bullsh*t this?” Everyone else was quick to agree. I sat shook. Is this what college really is like? Well, both yes and no.

The two years I spent at community college were hell. The conversation skills and friendliness of everyone there were less than admirable. I tried multiple times to make efforts to be the outgoing guy that I was in high school and just never paid off. I felt defeated and fell into a VERY deep slump. I’ve said this multiple times to my close friends and family, 2018 was and still is the worst year of my life. I felt like my world was crumbling around me and didn’t know how to handle it. I tried to reach out to old friends, tried to go about life differently, and even did a free week of online therapy. I just was losing myself fast and I didn’t know what to do.

That’s when the idea of this blog came up first. I felt as though I was speaking into the void with no one to listen. I thought well if I made a blog it’d be some outlet for me to get whatever it was off of my chest. A healthy one at least. It seemed like week after week I told myself that I would make this blog and just lacked the motivation. This continued into about summer of 2019 when I finally woke up. I realized that I didn’t need to depend on everyone else around me to be happy and that my feelings are more important than what I could do for others. I was a “people pleaser” and couldn’t stand up for myself and I realized one day how stupid that was. I needed to speak my mind more. There would be times where I would share my writing with close friends, a Facebook post, or when giving advice and someone would say “why don’t you write more” or “why aren’t you a journalism major?” These thoughts really struck a chord for me.

Flash-Forward to orientation for NIU. I was ready to take on the next chapter of my life and leave the negative aspects behind. The meeting my mom and I attended prior to the small tour given for the specific majors said that if we wanted to declare our minors that now was the time to do so. Once communications was called I stood up and started to walk, stopped and thought “why am I not going into journalism?!” So I turned around and asked my mom, “Is it okay if I minor in journalism?” She was very motivating and encouraging and that was the big first step I had to take on the long quest to start this blog.

I adored my journalism courses my first semester and could not have been prouder of my choice. It wasn’t until this semester that I finally came up with the money and willingness to take time to write this blog, The Art of Vibing. The title might change eventually, it was made from a word generator site and sounded suitable. As for now that is the very long story of the origins behind the blog.

Not all my posts will be this lengthy, but I felt an introduction was in order. Hopefully this was mildly interesting enough to follow my life in the future!