Tuesday, November 29, 2011

LIGHTS: Siberia

Elecronica artist's LIGHTS' latest album is FINALLY here! After months and months of waiting and growing weary of her cute brunette self waving apologetically in her video blogs, saying "I wish I could tell you when my record is coming out...", Siberia arrived about a month ago! I think the concept of A NEW LIGHTS ALBUM thrills me more than the actual music, only because I (and thousands of devoted fans) have been waiting so darn long. Any assessments concerning her synth-pop sounds and high-pitched vocals that I made on the day it was released were be fogged up by the hazy, excited stupor cloud encircling my head. So I gave myself a month for the excitement to settle before really attempting analyzing her latest work.
Her newest sounds are simply a hybrid. LIGHTS meets Icelandic warbler Bjork meets British singer/pianist Imogen Heap meets rap. It's a far cry from her original sounds, which were humble, unique and all very similar. Her style remains completely her own; there's still no artist quite like her anywhere. But as Picasso said, "Good artists borrow. Great artists steal." LIGHTS has borrowed the sounds of so many other genres and artists, but has meshed them in a completely new way, adding her own inter-galactic, comic book nerd touch. Her original lyrics are, as always, simple, refreshing but underlain by dark whispers.

"I would sail across the east sea, just to see you on the far side.
Where the wind is cold and angry, there you'll be to take me inside.

We'll find ways to fill the empty, far from all the hysteria.
I don't care if we suddenly find ourselves in Siberia."

Noticeably grittier than anything she's every done, Siberia kicks off with the title track, where a distorted bass groove drives the tune straight into her flirty voice. The pop sophisticate’s alluring inflections balance soul with restraint on the next track, “Where the Fence Is Low”. Blown-out rhythms pulse against her demure coos, sounding slightly like a Daft Punk production. "Toes" is by far my favorite track; she braids dubstep with electronica and good old-fashioned radio pop.

"Oh, you capture my attention.
Carefully listening, don't wanna miss a thing, keeping my eyes on you.
Got me on my toes."

Anyone craving a new dance floor anthem need look no further than “Everybody Breaks a Glass,” where overdriven beats and a throbbing oscillation of sonic static perfectly contrast LIGHTS' silky voice. I love everything about the song until the rap verses begin, which unfortunately kill the vibe. It sounds forced; someone needs to tell LIGHTS that she doesn't need to combine pop with rap in an attempt to appeal to the amasses. She simmers down on the hushed "Heavy Rope,” serenading under skittering beats and sheets of icy synthesizers. The soft and demure sound is perfect- this is LIGHTS I've always known. “Flux and Flow" and "Fourth Dimension” work in hip-hop phrasing in the verse and R&B melodies in the chorus, featuring rap artist Shad. It's an interesting mix. The heavier drums, the dubstep influence and the more complex sounds indicate LIGHTS' musical transformation. As she said in "Heavy Rope", she's now "a little bit on the edge". And I love it.

Monday, November 28, 2011


People are awesome.

People always talk about people doing bad things, people being annoying, people being mean; sometimes, though, they talk about people doing nice things, people being nice, people being friendly, people doing other people favors. Well, whatever your particular opinion is, imagine what your daily life or world would be without people.

My goodness! Wouldn't it be so much less exciting? In fact, I'm a big proponent of the idea that at least half the reason why we wake up in the morning is to witness the fascinating antics of others as they play out during the day.

I could probably go into the psychology of it all, but think about it in the simplest of terms: think about what compels you to stop and talk to your friends in the hallway in the passing time from one period to the next during the school day. The risk you're putting yourself at - missing class, getting reprimanded by your teacher or administrators, etc. - is, independent opinions aside, quite a risk compared to the generally inconsequential activity of stopping your walk to talk to your friends about whatever pops into your mind. Granted, some conversations matter more than the risks they cause you to take - say, choosing to catch the next bus instead of the one coming now in order to catch up with a long-lost friend you just ran into at the bus station.

But such circumstances aren't the norm, at least on a daily basis. Thus, the only other possible explanation is that there's something genuinely compelling or otherwise attractive about people that draws us to them and leads us to minimize the priority of our responsibilities, such as going to class and getting there on time. So, in the end, our opinions about people - however derogatory or negative - are in fact the greatest tributes to them that we could possibly carry out.

Caught in the Middle

It's hard to fight with good friends, but it's even harder to see good friends fight with each other, especially when you're the one caught between them.
Being the messenger is not only a dangerous job -- often the person who is being told something forgets where the message is really coming from and gets upset at the person who delivered the message-- but also a stressful task. If you say something that you weren't supposed to know but heard from the other person, or if you say something that could be interpreted as supporting one person more than the other, oh boy, things could end up very badly.When balancing two friends who have different takes on the same argument, one of the biggest challenges is staying neutral. Taking sides is never a good idea, and it can cause you to get dragged into the disagreement as well.
Unfortunately, I am dealing with two close friends of mine who are mad at each other. I'm worried about both of them and want to help them both however I can, but I can't turn on either of them.
Remind me not to become a debate mediator -- being in the middle of two opposing sides is a hard job!

Monday, November 21, 2011

An Icon (James Rolfe)

I find it very unique of human beings to be able to assign so much spiritual value to something that, were it to be freed of the circumstance, would be as unimportant as the next thing. Take James Rolfe, for example, a budding indie filmmaker and one of my favorite Internet and film producers. His film works are incredible pieces of indie filmmaking, as impressive as the ones that maybe get more airtime in film festivals or other big events. But while I applaud his work, that's not the reason why I've continued to track him and his progress ever since about 8th grade.

One day at a friend's house, we were looking at Youtube videos of retro video games when we came across something called the "Angry Nintendo Nerd" and his review of Spiderman for the Atari 2600. That "Angry Nintendo Nerd" was none other than James Rolfe. From the moment we saw that, through now, I have found reason after reason to come back to his website for nearly any video Rolfe makes, however trivial or "stupid".

Some of those reasons are easier to guess than others. Being in 8th grade at the time, and hearing the Nerd spewing curse word after curse word was enough novelty to keep my eyes glued to the screen. But as I began to watch more of his videos, and even play some of the games that he talked about myself, I began to come to terms with some of the other qualities of his work that drew me to them and to him - a nostalgia factor, a 'bygone years' factor, a 'memories' factor.

Every time the Nerd does a review, he makes a comedy skit out of it and generally spews unnecessary amounts of less than honorable language; still, between all that, he makes earnest comments on what these games mean to him. This guy's a collector - his basement is a 1980s teenager's dream game room, with shelf after shelf filled to the brim with cartridges and original game boxes, all in pristine condition - and so a sense of warmth and affection towards the games he sometimes ridicules and sometimes appreciates gets through to the viewer, me.

And I've connected with that on a very personal level. Rolfe conveys these feelings through these hilarious comedy sketches about vintage video games, while other filmmakers convey through perhaps more conventional fiction tales. Either way, I know exactly what he's talking about, because I feel it too. For example, in addition to the sketches, Rolfe loves to review old cartoons and movies from his childhood, always managing to, foe example place a comment about how he'd wake up earlier than usual before school to watch the latest episode of whatever cartoon he's talking about. The earnest tone inherent to these retellings makes me think of my own childhood stories, of my own middle school memories or time spent playing with my toys or time spent lounging around in the morning before the bus came to take me to school.

And just because the guy makes a fool of himself for the game reviews doesn't mean he's not a cognizant soul. He produced film called "Rocky Jumped a Park Bench" that, even though it's really little more than a location tour of the different locations used to shoot the Rocky films, it ends up being both a tribute to the Rocky series as well as some of its underlying motifs like hard work, passion, love, the American dream ... the editing and shots and certainly script all make these things stand out, giving a new dimension to location tours.

So every time Rolfe releases a video - even if it's just a video of him and his filmmaker friends standing outside the house from Family Matters, say - I make time to see it and enjoy it, because in a way, Rolfe's nostalgic yet at the same time front-facing spirit (as an indie filmmaker) connects with my own mindset and philosophy, and seeing the fruit of such an attitude on my computer screen is in and of itself the most rewarding experience possible.

Puss in Boots is the Cat's Meow

Puss in Boots is the spin off tale of the small but mighty cat whom we adored from the Shrek movies. Now, no ogre in sight, Puss (Antonio Banderas reprising his role) sets off on his own adventure- with the help of Humpty Dumpty (Zach Galifanakis) and another fiesty feline, Kitty, played by Salma Hayek.

Set in far ago Spain, we first meet Puss running away from another one of his countless enemies- being an outlaw requires such. But when he finds himself in a bar with men telling tales of magic beans, and saying that they exist, opens up a whole new adventure for Puss, since he's been dreaming of finding them since his days as a kitten.

Filled with laughs and tons of fun, this movie put a smile on my face, without the help of a talking donkey.

Being Sick When There is School

Moday, last week, I woke up feeling terrible -- my stomach was aching, my head pounding, and a fever running high.

So, I sent an email to my teachers and guidance counselor informing them that I would not be present at school today.

A couple hours later, my email's inbox started piling up.

I checked my emails and found replies from all my teachers and my guidance counselor.

One of the emails was special, though.

This was from my AP World History teacher.

He told me that he hopes I get well soon, however he also wrote that I needed to text him when I would take my quiz, which I was suppose to take today.

Before you get confused as to how I would take a quiz at home, let me give you some background information.

About a month ago, my school (Florida Atlantic University High) decided to supply the whole freshman class (approximately 75 people) with ipads for a year.

These ipads would replace notebooks, some textbooks, and most paper tests.

One of the applications on the ipad allows student given a special test code by teacher, to take tests directly on the ipad (you cannot cheat on the ipad because once you close the app it will automatically end the test).

So, as sick as I was, I replied to my teacher in the late afternoon saying I would take the challenge and take my test.

My high school is amazing; even when you are sick there is no escape form the work in my school.

Thoughts re: Inept Fascists + extended metaphors for all you syntax buffs

If you haven't heard, those parents that name their kids after Nazi culture just lost custody of "Adolf Hitler", their son. In the spirit of Tosh, let's see how many comments we can make in thirty seconds!

Wouldn't you feel bad if you were one of the other kids who got named like "Himmler" or something (Hitler's second-in-command)? I mean, Hitler was pretty clearly the top dog in terms of Nazis. The parents are basically saying to the other kids, "Hey, even though you are descendants of the Übermensch and born leaders of the world, your brother is better than you".

My favorite part of this whole thing is that the parents are going through this whole court battle like they're all surprised they're losing custody. It's like "What's everybody mad about? The Nazi thing? No way, it couldn't be that. Really? Radical Neo-Nazism is frowned upon? Well I'll be jiggered." I mean did they really think people were gonna let this go on for too long?

I'm also not surprised this happened in Jersey. Whenever someone is pushing the limits of credulity, it's in Jersey. Can you imagine if Jersey Shore went Fascist? Let's hope that they stick with grenades instead of upgrading to A-bombs, cause if they had gotten the A-Bomb they prob'ly would have won the war….I guess in this extended metaphor World War II is being compared to the media, which is fine, but in case you're getting bored, here's a Jersey Shore related pun I thought of. They should call the Situation the Unfituation because he's UNFIT for life in modern civilized society, yak yak yak, except that sort of thinking led to World War II in the first place, so everybody be cool.

Anyway, in all seriousness, there's probably some sort of child abuse or something going on with these parents, so we should all approach this with a degree of maturity. Max out.

Also here's the article I found out about this in: http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-201_162-57328773/hitlers-parents-fight-for-custody-of-4th-kid/