Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Music Post: Control

Before (or after, if that floats your boat) reading, please listen to this song and read the lyrics to Kendrick Lamar's verse: http://rapgenius.com/Big-sean-control-lyrics

Control, a song that didn't make Big Sean's sophomore album due to a sampling issue, will - without question or debate - go down as the most polarizing song of 2013. Unfortunately for Big Sean, it's not because of the bars he laid down, although they are very good. It's also not because of the appearance of Jay Electronica, a MC whose skills have become more legend than fact, as he has failed to release a project since signing a record deal with Jay-Z's Roc Nation label. 
This song is memorable and incredible because of the words in one person: Kendrick Lamar.
As the 1990s faded away and we moved to an era where competition is almost non-existent, the 26-year-old Compton MC shook the entire game up when he name dropped most of his relevant peers, even those that has working relationships with. Names like J. Cole, A$AP Rocky and even Big Sean are mentioned and in his voice you hear not only the intended shock value, but the underlying malice in his words. It's almost as if he's daring you to come at him.
His respectful call out is exactly what I think the rap game is missing. Every one is content being friends with one another – no matter what Drake has to say – and not push the game to higher levels, making it more interesting and meaningful. And I think this has a real life applicability to it.
As writers, even if we are writing about different topics and in different styles, we are all going to be trying to feed ourselves from the same plate. The money has to come from somewhere and we are all going to be competing for our own livelihoods, our own futures and a sense of security.
In my ideal profession – long form sports writing – there’s a ton of talent not only at the top (looking at you Wright Thompson, Ben Fowlkes and Jonathan Abrams) but even here at campus there are writers with bright futures that I’m going to go up against. There’s Christian Hoppens from the Post, who just recently caught my eye. And even at the magazine I write for - Backdrop  - has two of my best friends in Athens (Zak Kolesar and Chris Longo) on staff and they both are fantastic.
Sure, I want to see them succeed (and it's a different game because there is far less money involved) but, in the end, I want to out write them every time I put my fingers on the keyboard and I want there to be no doubting my skills as a wordsmith.
And like Kendrick rapped on Control: “What is competition/ I’m trying to raise the bar high/Who tryna jump and get it?”

Monday, September 16, 2013

Ackerman Criticism

When I started reading Diane Ackerman's, I was impressed early on with her ability so vividly describe the senses, especially smell. But when I came to the the middle of the passage titled "The Ocean Inside Us", I felt that she was starting to stretch the importance of smell. While it makes perfect sense that smell has the ability to take us back and remember key moments of our life, I found it to be a little bit extreme to use an "ocean inside of us" as a metaphor. She also (as proven by the use of the word snite, amongst others) has a tendency to use adjectives that the average person isn't going to understand off the top of their head. They can guess through inferring, but it's not the same as reading through as passage and knowing every single word. Maybe if Ackerman used different, more common adjectives the power of smell and other senses would be even more apparent to the reader.

That Smell

Sitting down in class on Monday morning in the Siegfried Auditorium, I opened my laptop to start taking notes on the soon-to-begin lecture. Right before my professor began class, a friend of mine slipped into the chair next to me. He greeted me with foul mixture of cigarette smoke and sweatiness that moved into my nose and didn't move out for another forty-five minutes. We didn't talk, not about the most recent Breaking Bad and most certainty about the Browns pitiful passing attacking like we normally would. I spent the excruciatingly forty-five minutes doing my damnedest to lean a way as far as I could, pretending I was readjusting myself just to avoid interacting with the odor beside me.
When class was over,  and I was able to get away, a sense of relief came over me. Instead of the smoke and stink, I smelled clean air the remnants of the coffee in my cup, glad to just be away from that smell and to be enjoying something that other than that stench sitting next to me.

Monday, September 9, 2013


I woke up this morning around 6:30, my eyes clouded and heavy from a short night of sleep. I walked over, flipped on the light and hit the button on my coffee maker before I opened the door and went to use the restroom.
When I came back, I could detect one scent before I even opened the door: the nectar of the Gods, fresh and warm in the pot. The aroma from far was a rich, strong aroma that only enticed me to pour myself a cup - or three - before I officially started my day.
As I got closer to the coffee maker and began pouring the coffee into my mug, the dark roast - with a subtle hint of cocoa and nuts- engulfed my entire nasal. The smell made me pause for a second and reflect on my coffee drinking career; I think I've had at least one cup of coffee per day since I was sixteen, starting off with sweet, cream-filled, sugar-loaded cups and slowly progressing to the rich, complex and potent smell of the black Starbucks Verona Blend that I drink today.
And right before I took that first sip, with the heat only enhancing the smell and keeping it as the dominant fragrance in my nostrils, the aroma of the coffee got even stronger, as the slightly nutty scent went up my nostrils more further and further. And before I even was able to put my lips on the mug, the strength of the coffee's transfixing, distinct smell removed the heaviness from my eyes, thus prepping me for another day on the grind.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Short Takes #2

Essays Read: The Unknown Solider by Luc Sante & In Wyoming by Marc Spragg
Responding to: The Unknown Solider by Luc Sante.

I was blown away by Luc Sante's essay, the "The Unknown Solider" - but only after getting to the end. At first, his style and prose was baffling to me. Each little section was a a concoction of often depressing events that didn't mesh together is anyway shape or form. But after I got to the end - and specifically the sentence "I am everywhere under your feet" - I had to sit there for a moment and reflect on what I had just read. It was this piece of work that - in an abstract, lucid manner - conveyed a powerful, important message.

We are all unknown soldiers, in some way, shape or form. In such few words, Sante conveyed something that, at least subconsciously, I always knew.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Short Takes Response #1

Short Stories Read: The Khan Men of Agra (page 60) & In Nebraska (page 122)

When I read The Khan Men of Agra, I could not shake the accounts of foreign woman (and Indian being raped and in some cases murdered. Honestly, anytime I read something about Indiana, that's what I think of. Nevertheless, I really liked the piece and one aspect really stuck home with me: travel and taking chances. I've also traveled within the continental United States, but even then you encounter people from those towns that you trust.
The best example of that is when I went to New York. I was about to get a slice of pizza as I walked through some Brooklyn neighborhood and some old black guy in a white Cadillac yelled to me that the pizza there was trash I should go a block over to a place called Eddy's. I listened, got pizza at Eddy's and it was the best pizza I've ever had.

On Dreams

Originally: On Sleep & Dreams
Sleep is something we need - we actually would die without it - but it's something that we can't always have right when we want it. A good night sleep is what lets us feels refreshed, makes us feel alive again and it is where we are truly safe, free from the struggle of the daily grind. In some ways, it is the only way escape from life and the only place were everything we know is safe from change:

“I love sleep. My life has the tendency to fall apart when I'm awake, you know?” - Ernest Hemingway 

As the world relative to you stop spinning when your eyelids close for the night; That is to say that you are sun that spots shining for a few hours each night when you are asleep. Intertwined with the characteristics mentioned above is the dream - one of the few things in this world that gives us real hope while also not being a tangible item we can buy at the store or on Amazon. They come and go as they please, sometimes impossible to figure out (or remember) but they are something that make you wake up in good mood and are only aided by that second cup of coffee. Above all, though,  dreams are were you life's biggest problems are solved:

"Sleep is the best mediation." - the Dalai Lama

When you sleep, you relax and you wake with the previous days problems wiped from your mind. Even if they come back later, there are moments each day were you have no worries and can just rest. Nothing - not any drug, not any liquor and not any food - is as powerful a force as sleep. So enjoy it, and don't ever - not even the night before that big final - skip it or get so much sleep that your groggy for hours after you wake up. Thus, it's essentially to get that perfect amount of sleep so you can get the most out of time you are awake, because in the end, that's what really matters:

"Those who have compared our life to a dream were right... we were sleeping wake, and waking sleep." - Michael de Montaigne 

Characteristics covered: Long sentences, lots of punctuation and quotations


Montaigne uses long sentences, lots of punctuation and vivid imagery in his writing. Those are the characteristics I aimed to emulate.

“Those who have compared our life to a dream were right... we were sleeping wake, and waking sleep." - Michael de Montaigne

A few nights back, I had the most vivid, peculiar dream set in – of all places – a church. I’m not – emphasis on the not– a religious person in any sense of the word. I haven’t been to church since I was very young and it’s not an experience I particularly remember enjoying then, when perhaps the music and sing-song should have kept me coming back.
I was alone in this church in this dream. There were no parishioners, no priests – just an empty chapel with a wandering, whimsical son sitting in the first pew. Right before waking up, a long-haired, bearded fellow put his hand on my shoulder, not saying a word, but calming me more than I had in days, staring right into my eyes and beyond.
I woke up feeling more relaxed, relived and refreshed than I had it days. I had only slept a little more than six hours and had gotten myself behind on some class reading, immediately make me feel tense and antsy. As I went to shower I quote came to mind:

I love sleep. My life has the tendency to fall apart when I'm awake, you know?” - Ernest Hemingway

Amen to that, I thought as I stepped into the shower, hoping that a good cleanse could recreate some of the previous night’s magic, even though I knew it to be a highly improbable occurrence.