Thursday 21 January 2010

Blame It On the Pop

For a music snob, I enjoy this 2009 mash-up much too much. For the sake of honesty, I'm willing to abandon all that makes me a cool indie music guru, and confess that I think mainstream music in 2009 was not complete crap.

Degrading, overly sexual, explicit songs is what bugs me most about mainstream music, and I feel 2009 seemed to stay away from that, at least a little. Songs like Jay Sean's "Down" and Cobra Starship's "Good Girls Go Bad" surprised me by how clean they were, once I actually took a conscious listen to them. Our leading ladies, Lady GaGa and Beyonce are bold and sexy without being slutty - something I think women can really appreciate. Sweet, innocent Miley Cyrus is holding onto her place in the public eye as well as our common room wall without acting like a hussy.

As for this mash-up itself, the music theory junkie in me goes crazy over the continuous melody created from 25 different songs - did he change the key? Was it a miracle? Or are all pop songs in the same key? DJ Earworm earns my utmost respect for this creation.

Here's to the feel-good music of the past year, that makes me question my own indie cred.

For Mom: Love Story

note: This blog is for my mother, who brought me into the world, raised me, and is currently paying for my education. The least I could do was write a blog at her request.

"Love means never having to say you're sorry."

Before it was a widely-used phrase, it was just a sentence, written by a man, in a book.

Erich Segal, author of the best-selling novel turned hit film, Love Story, died Sunday of a heart attack.

Love Story, for anyone who has not read or seen it, is mother of all tear jerkers. Two young lovers get married despite a family's resistance, and then one of them falls ill and passes away much sooner than expected. Every time I watch Titanic, I think that perhaps the ship won't sink this time. Every time I watch this, I hope that she'll survive. (Both always end the same way.)

Segal's daughter spoke at his funeral, "That he fought to breathe, fought to live, every second of the last 30 years of illness with such mind-blowing obduracy, is a testament to the core of who he was -- a blind obsessionality that saw him pursue his teaching, his writing, his running and my mother, with just the same tenacity. He was the most dogged man any of us will ever know."

So if you can take anything from that movie, or from the author's life, take the simple message that none of us know if we're going to have 23 years or 72; either way, do your work and love your family with fierce passion, and have the tenacity to do so all your days.

Friday 15 January 2010

How to Help Haiti Without Being Anderson Cooper

For a while now, I've had a deep adoration of CNN's Anderson Cooper.

The past few days, he has been traveling around Port-au-Prince, flying in a helicopter above the city, going to make-shift hospitals, watching people bury loved ones in mass graves and unorganized cemeteries, picking through the mass chaos in the aftermath of Tuesday's devastating earthquake.

I know this because for the past few days, I have been sitting, injured, in my house watching him, while periodically checking Twitter and drinking gallons of green tea... feeling useless.

We can't all be Mr. Cooper, who I'm quite sure has not slept since Tuesday, or Dr. Sanjay Gupta, treating infant's head wounds on live TV. But it's not very hard to lend a hand in this crisis.

Some genius, taking into consideration Americans hot love affair with text-messaging, came up with the idea to link texting and philanthropy:
  • Text "Yele" to 501501 to donate $5 to Haitian musician Wyclef Jean's charity
  • Text "Haiti" to 90999 to donate $10 to the Red Cross
Both will charge to your cell phone bill. It literally takes a few seconds. Or 5 minutes, if you're technologically challenged like my parents...

If you're looking to donate online, try:
Be sure to check out the organization first though, don't get caught by a scam. Donate only to organizations you are familiar with, and make sure it's them.

That evil, life-possessing game of Farmville is now also allowing users to donating to Haiti, along with Mafia Wars. Despite my previous blog about the evils of online games, Farmville has now been (at least temporarily) redeemed in my eyes.

If you are one of those people that has an ipod, you can also donate through your iTunes.

If you're one of those people who would rather help with actions than just donating, well, you'll need to sit tight for a bit (unless you are also a Marine). The Red Cross is not accepting volunteers to travel to Haiti right now, as the place is already crowded and chaotic. Although it's early to think about, I think donating a Spring Break to volunteer in Haiti, helping to build it back up, might be a great thing college students could do to help, come March and April.

In the upcoming weeks I'm sure there will be many food, clothing, and supply drives. UAlbany students can check out what the school's Haitian Student Association is doing to help here.

On CNN tonight, Anderson Cooper will be reporting live from Port-au-Prince at 10pm, check it out, and see what's really going on; it's really something to watch, and not just because I love Anderson Cooper.

Wednesday 13 January 2010

Avatar: James Cameron's Remake of a Disney Classic

For a movie supposedly unlike any other, I felt like I'd seen it before.

Don't get me wrong, the graphics were incredible and pioneering. Yet, it all seemed familiar: a powerful nation trying to force "savages" out of their home, a native princess falls in love with an explorer and teaches him to respect nature and the circle of life, a talking tree that helps them both... oh, yes. Disney made an animated version in 1995.

While the movie was very much about the mindlessness and arrogance of imperialism, I thought James Cameron portrayed his Going-Green powerfully. The natives of Pandora, the Na'vi, understand that their energy comes from their earth and travels through the life around them. To quote the movie: "They know that all energy is borrowed, and one day you have to give it back." This shouldn't sound like a magical world or a profound concept - this is how earth works, with all energy flowing from one thing to another, someday leaving our bodies and returning to the earth. Pandora, essentially, doesn't have much that earth lacks. Contrasting Americans' apathy and indifference toward their environment with the Na'vi's deeply spiritual attitude towards life and their ecosystem, Avatar caused me, at least, to feel like our earth was under-appreciated and lame, and current efforts to save the planet's health are a joke. A striking shot in Avatar was to see humans boarding a craft to return home as the hero narrates, "The aliens went back to their dying planet."

So on the note of learning to love our planet and all that lies on it, and the striking similarities between this new blockbuster and one of my favorite Disney classics, here's a video created by someone who agrees with me.