Tuesday 29 December 2009

A Short Stack of Soul Searching with Rainn Wilson

When was the last time you felt both freedom and fear? Why do we fear looking our age? Is music a conduit to spiritual ecstasy? Who were you before laptops and iphones?

At Soulpancake.com, you can ask, be asked, explore, and discuss such questions.

The Office's Rainn Wilson founded this site with others including, according to this Twitter (yes I follow him on Twitter), his son Walter. Wilson follows the Baha'i Faith, a monotheistic religion founded in Persia that is accepting of most world religions, and focuses on the spirituality of all human beings. That said, soulpancake.com is does not push religion, or push away from it. Some of the questions cause you to simply reflect on your own life (eg. "Renovate Yourself: List 5 changes you want to make to yourself. No Spackle required.") while others are what the site calls "Life's Big Questions" (eg. "What do you have to lose by believing in a higher power?").

Expression can come in all forms on Soulpancake.com, as users upload photo and video as well as written responses. Some "Creative Challenges" ask you to upload a picture or work of art that represents something to you. Users can also submit questions into the "Collective".

So if you're getting tired from mindless Farmvilling, or you're finding textsfromlastnight just aren't as funny as they used to be, Soulpancake.com provides a eccentric, goofy way to soul search with others. If anything, the site's strange, sometimes creepy wallpapers are enough to entertain me for a few minutes.

Thursday 24 December 2009

Some Christmas Fun

The first is a clever spoof of Apocalypse Now, the second is my own little tip of the hat to Dave Matthews Band (who, interestingly, isn't even Christian). Enjoy!

Tuesday 22 December 2009

Old McFacebook Had A Farmville

My Farmville self, proudly harvesting peppers and adoring her pink tractor.

Walking out of a crowded class one day, I heard a very normal looking boy complain, "Come on, let's go, my rice is going to wither!"

He, no doubt, was one of the many of my peers to fall victim to the addictiveness of FarmVille.

My curious self could not let this social phenomenon go without my own turn to experience it, and I created my very own virtual farm. I was soon bombarded by neighbor requests and generous gifts from my fellow farmers, including several of my college friends, some of my high school friends, and some of my much older, married (with kids) cousins.

Figuring out the logistics of the game, I tried to find how exactly one earns FarmVille cash, rather than coins. There are two ways, that I've learned. 1. Move up a level or 2. pay money. REAL MONEY.
People actually send in money for their virtual farms. What do they get? Satisfaction and pride of a superior farm, I suppose.

This isn't the only game that gives you such an option. Most Facebook games do this: Happy Aquarium, FishVille, School of Wizardry, PetVille. I know this because, yes, I have played them all. While you can certainly play the game without spending money, the very fact that it is an option, I feel, is crazy.

Does it not seem a bit pathetic that people are not only wasting their precious, limited time on earth playing these ridiculous games but are also spending their hard earned MONEY to succeed at them?

I confess, I have on several occasions spent hours of my time playing these pointless games with my suitemates, and often times enjoyed it very much. If there is anything to be said of Facebook games, it is that they at least have a social aspect: you can interact with your friends as you play. But it seems to me that, just like junk food is a waste of your daily bread, online games are a waste of your daily life; you're filling up your small bit of time on nothing great, nothing you'll look back on fondly.

For this reason I've convinced myself I should delete my FarmVille. Whether or not I'll go through with this, I'm not sure I'll publish publicly.

Sunday 20 December 2009

I Like Dave Matthews Band and I'm Not a Bro.

Talking to someone I've just met, we find we have similar musical tastes: bloc party, Band of Horses, Beirut.. and I then I add, "Oh, and I love Dave Matthews Band, I've seen them live 5 times."
I get the shake of a head and a disappointed look.
"Nah, I don't like them much, I've never seen them live... too many 'bros'."

I've felt quite a bit of discrimination as a Dave Matthews Band, stemming from this "bro" stereotype of DMB followers. I studied music quite a bit in high school and continue to play several instruments; I like to think I'm a bit musically inclined and can judge when a band is talented or not. This strong dislike of Dave Matthews Band bothers me, then, because I appreciate them for their talent and high quality music.

For kicks, I looked up to see what urban dictionary had to say about the relationship between Dave Matthews Band and Bros. Here are the cleanest posts:

Dave Matthews Band: 1. A band that each of it's new releases is welcomed (along with the latest abercrombie & fitch catalog) by middle-class white kids.

Dude #1 - "hey bro, did you get the new Dave Matthews Band cd yet?"
Dude #2 - "yeah, man; it's great. let's go to the mall".

2. A painfully generic band usually found on the music interests section of Facebook.com.

Normal College Kid 1: Hey bro, what are you listening to?
Normal College Kid 2: Oh, just some Dave Matthews Band. I also like The Red Hot Chili Peppers, radiohead, John Mayer, and O.A.R.
Normal College Kid 1: Oh no way Bro, me too!

Bro: 1. A caucasian male, typically ages 15 - 24.
A Bro prefers Birkenstock sandals, polo or rubgy shirts (typically with the collar popped), and baseball caps with a pre-frayed brim for their usual attire. Bros are attracted by shops such as Lacoste, Ralph Lauren, Abercromie, and other similar outfitters.

Musical tastes typical for a Bro include Dave Matthews Band, Oasis, Jack Johnson, John Mayer, and Travis. Bros will also, on occasion, listen to the latest rap, and on even more rare occasions, punk rock.

If Dave Matthews Band comes to your city, expect bros to be out in large numbers. Proper bro repellent includes emo behavior, excessively loud grunge metal, a shortage of beer, and to constantly be in a state of high stress.

2. A Bro is a guy that thinks he is way cooler than he really is. A Bro can be seen in pics making a face or a pose where he is trying so hard to look like hes not trying. A Bro will call all the other guys bro even though noone likes the bro. Other people would refer to a bro as a douche bag.

Look at that absolute Bro with his stunna shades on inside and his white blazer.

I am not a bro. Obviously, because I'm not male. Now, I cannot deny that Dave Matthews Band does seem to have a large following of this young, white, preppy male demographic.

While my cry, my plead may be in vain (or go unheard, and very few people read this blog), I just WISH that people would not judge a band solely on the few people they know who listen to them. Admittedly, I sometimes do the same. But Dave Matthews Band is one of the most UNIQUE, talented bands out there today. They blend jazz, rock, pop, and southern American and African styles -- how many other bands do that?

So young Dave Matthews fans, beware of the pigeonhole you will soon be placed in when you get to college, and for the rest of you, give Dave Matthews a chance, and if you don't like him, leave me and other innocent DMB fans alone about it.

Friday 18 December 2009

Bon Appetite!

Tonight I watched Julie & Julia, a movie about two women who find themselves through cooking. Throughout the movie, I craved practically every dish they made. I felt like just getting up and cooking.

As I watched them carefully prepare their dishes, from poultry to fish to sauces or desserts, I reflected back upon the two boxes of Goldfish my friends and I consumed late last night sitting in a dorm room at RIT. I thought about the Pop Tart I had for breakfast, the mini bagel pizzas the boys microwaved at 4 a.m. I realized how much we waste calories.

I'm not talking about nutrition here, at all; in fact, butter played a somewhat significant role in this movie, and in real life, Julie gained weight from her cooking endeavors. What I mean is, we breeze through food, taking no time or effort to prepare it, other than to hastily tear apart the plastic wrapper or the cardboard box that contains our sugary, processed, mass-produced meal. We put no thought into our food other than what we feel like, what is accessible, and what is economical.

I've heard it said that Americans eat differently than the rest of the world, in that we are too sanitary with our food. We do not like contact with it; we don't like to know exactly what's in it, where it came from, who made it, or how it came to be on our plate. Rather than being something that will soon become part of our very bodies, it's something distant and separate, that at some point, will disappear into our mouths, never to be seen again and quickly forgotten.

So while I'm home from college for 30 days, perhaps I'll try to get more involved in this ever familiar process of eating: less unwrapping and more cooking. My hope is that I'll stop missing out on the quality of food and the creative process behind creating it; that it'll be one more thing in my life a little bit more authentic, unique, and real, rather than processed, ordinary, and fake.

Thursday 3 December 2009

Fate or Facebook?

Social networking has come a long way the past five years or so, when putting personal information in the Internet was something to be frowned upon and cautioned. Now it's anything short of a way of life; without Facebook, one seems to be less of a real person. Six years ago, when adults constantly advised us to conceal our identity online, I never imaged that I would be trusting the Internet to an extremely important decision: the person I would live with my freshman year of college.

I joined the UAlbany 2013 group, I posted the roommate surveys and I made my own. I looked for my UAlbany residential soul mate: a female with good taste in music, interests in matters outside the material world our generation lives in, a person who would go out with me but wouldn't go completely crazy. Lil' Wayne and Nickelback caused me to mentally reject the majority of my classmates as potential roommates, but that's a decision I do not regret at all. Taste is music can sometimes summarize a person better than anything else... that's my philosophy.

Everyone that seemed to fit my criteria was taken. Worried I wouldn't find anyone, I posted on the group something of a "WANTED" ad... and I got a response from Bridget O'Brien, whose bed I now sit on in my pajamas, watching Disney channel, blogging, and wondering what supreme force (besides Facebook) brought us together as roommates.

I have yet to find roommates who are closer than we are. We're by no means the same type of person, but we're a perfect match. On the third night of school I crawled into bed with her... of all the examples I could use, this seems to sum up our relationship pretty well. I consider her a "best friend", after our Superbad moment last Friday night -- "You're my best friend and I want to shout it from the rooftops."

Was it some all-knowing, all-mighty force that brought us together to share in the most perfect roommate bond the universe has seen? Or was it seemly the all-revealing power of Facebook? Perhaps my unhealthy addiction to the social networking site has sharpened mine - and Bridget's - ability to interpret people online, to see what the write and accurately judge them based on how they portray themselves. We, like much of our generation, speak Facebook thoroughly. We know that boys who list "Interests" as "girls, parties, cars, chillin", are not worth knowing and anyone whose music taste consists of only things on Top 40 radio don't have their own music tastes at all, and therefore must be unoriginal. Bridget's Facebook was perfect: I imagined her to be pretty much exactly how she is.

However, had she not messaged me I'm not sure at all who I would be rooming with, I was getting a bit too picky. All the Facebook-reading skills in the world wouldn't have helped to find her in the first place, so maybe it was some type of Irish luck that brought us together after all.

Tuesday 1 December 2009

The Word: How I Learned The Importance of Free Press

Upon entering high school, I was quite excited to finally put my love of writing to use: I could write for the school newspaper.

So I joined the Newspage Club. Notice it says Newspage, not paper. This is because a school newspaper does not exist at Le Roy High School, only a program allowing students to write articles for the local paper twice yearly. These "articles" are more like public relations measures for the school -- negativity is not allowed. Of course, I took advantage of this opportunity.

I did not cease to ask my teachers and administrators why our school did not have a newspaper, but I never received much of an answer. I believe their (perhaps unspoken) rationale was this: a newspaper would require too much work and could bring about too much controversy.

This frustrated me, and junior year I found like-minded friends (like Sam Bortle), who, unlike myself, were actually motivated and proactive enough to confront our principal. Their efforts were in vain, but they did not abandon our idea of a newspaper. About five of us combined our creativity, skills, and finances to create The Word. Taken from the Beatles song, our tiny, once-monthly newspaper was completely our own. We distributed it at school between classes, knowing that if it was banned, we would have no problem handing it out ourselves in our small town. Content was nothing too serious -- mostly music, book, and movie reviews, and some feature articles, opinions, and editorials on subjects like applying for college or recent football games.

Looking back, what we created was remarkable. We never ran any controversial stories, we never investigated wrongdoings in our school or community, we never criticized teachers or administration or examined relevant social issues. However, if we ever needed to report such important information or voice concerns, we had the means to. If we felt Le Roy High School was being undemocratic or violating student's rights, we could write about it and print it and let everyone know. At a relatively young age, we recognized the necessity for a free press, specifically in our own small community.

The Word was just that - free. Free of school interference or control. Somehow, the stubbornness, laziness, or tyranny of our school system (which ever you prefer, or a combination of all three) benefited us by not giving us a school newspaper and forcing us to create just a newspaper.

Now we're gone, and so is The Word, which only lasted a handful of issues. My co-creators and myself all keep our own personal blogs, but sadly, Le Roy High School is still without a form of student media, independent or school-run. It's a crying shame. Every school, every community, EVEN Le Roy, New York, hometown of Jell-o, population 4,000, needs a newspaper.

Sam Bortle's blog can be read here. She was the editor-in-chief, I wonder if she put it on her resume. (I recently used The Word on a resume.)