Sunday, May 31, 2009

Crystallizing Moments

Lately, I've been listening to Wilco. This is because I am going to see them in concert. "Kaitlin," you ask, "why would you go see a concert of a band you hardly know?" And I would reply that the reason is because Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band are opening for them. "Kaitlin," you would continue, "I know that you have gone through a recent obsession with Bright Eyes, but you do realize that the Mystic Valley Band plays doesn't play the same music, right?"* At this point I would probably politely tell you to shut up and allow me to get back on topic.

My relationship with Wilco thus far has been me knowing that they exist, vaguely liking them, but never really getting into them. I made the decision to see them with the intent that I would throw myself into their music and be a huge fan by the time the concert rolls around.
So I got the album Summerteeth. And I listened to it. And then while listening to the title track, a lyric happened to catch my brain, and suddenly I was really listening to it. It was that crystallizing moment when I realized that I really like Wilco.
It may not be the same for other people. But for nearly all of my favorite bands, there was one lyric in one song that flipped a switch in my head and made me want more. That raised me from merely listening to listening. And from there, the band would grow from background music into a musical obsession. It would be all I listened to for a while. I would listen to it so often in fact, that I would make myself a little sick of it, and have to put it away in the files of favorite bands.
For the most part, I can still remember the specific line of the song. They may not give me chills anymore, but they're stuck in my brain since that moment. Here's a few of my favorite examples.

Wilco: Summerteeth
"one summer, a suicide
another autumn, a traveler's guide
he hits snooze twice before he dies"

Bright Eyes: Landlocked Blues
"and the world's got me dizzy again
you'd think after twenty two years, I'd be used to the spin
but it always gets worse when I stay in one place
so I'm always pacing around or walking away"**

Iron & Wine: Upward Over the Mountain
"so may the sun rise, bring hope where it once was forgotten
sons are like birds flying upward over the mountain"

The Shins: Pink Bullets
"since then it's been a book you read in reverse
so you understand less as the pages turn
or a movie so crass
and awkwardly cast
that even I could be the star"

Maybe this isn't interesting to anyone else, but I think it's a cool little phenomenom. I love that moment.

*Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band is Conor Oberst of Bright Eyes's solo project. It's okay, and likeable, but not quite as good as Bright Eyes music. It's just not the same to hear Conor in front of an actual band, rather than just him and his guitar, or those experimental noises in the background. Where Bright Eyes and Conor's voice is an acquired taste, the Mystic Valley Band is, well, a band, and hearing that acquired-taste voice in front of a more conventional line-up is a little disorienting. His vocals aren't really strong enough to carry it. I still love him though.
**Actually, there's been a few different Bright Eyes ones. I think Landlocked Blues was the first, but there was also "no one plans to sleep out in the gutter/ sometimes it's just the most comfortable place" from Road to Joy and "I keep making these to-do lists but nothing gets crossed out/ working on the record seems pointless now/ when the world ends, who's gonna hear it?" from Nothing Gets Crossed Out. That's part of the reason why I love Bright Eyes so much. It just keeps amazing me and drawing me in.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

My Feet Hurt

I"m still recovering, but Ball was last night. It was a lot of fun, in that almost-miserable way, but I only say that because we were all so tired, and we literally danced the entire night. We were all half-asleep for Laser Quest, which I failed miserably at (9th place out of fourteen people, eh, could've been worse. I was codename Godot!) Afterwards we went to Jesse's house and had a bonfire, where the caffeine-induced second wind kicked in. This was characterized mostly by ridiculous stories (complete with obnoxious hand gestures), giddy undirected laughter, moving chairs in and out of the tent as the rain came and went, and harkness-like discussions across the fire. It was really nice, in that mellow, peaceful way bonfires are, and it was only after the rain kicked up one too many times that we migrated inside.
We went inside with the intention of sleeping, but there was still those who were too hyper to allow anyone else to sleep peacefully. I can't complain, I was one of them, making those who hadn't yet dropped off stay up until five watching Spiderman 3, because I had never seen it before.
With that experience under my belt, I can tell you, don't bother staying up until five to watch Spiderman 3. It's not worth it, unless it's to watch Tobey Maguire dancing ridiculously around New York City and into the hearts of all women. (must be the new haircut) It was one of those scenes you spend most of it trying to figure out if it is supposed to be taken seriously or not. I'm still not sure, but I do know it was lame.

Cue emo hair flip and hand-points that haven't been seen since the 80s.

When I'm tired, I get strangely logical. Normally, I'm the sort of movie-goer who can suspend my brain and not get worked up about glaring logical flaws. But my tiredness kicks into hyper-observance, and suddenly I find every plot hole hugely distracting. Possibly the worst movie to watch with that mind set is a comic book movie, let alone Spiderman 3, which is rife with characters made of sand, who somehow find enough sand in New York City to replenish their supply (I guess Sand-but-mostly-dirt-man just doesn't have the same ring as Sand-man), and strange meteoric substances that are supposed to amplify characteristics, but turn random reporter into evil impossibly-large-mouth Spiderman. And dear god, who thought it would be a good idea to scar James Franco?

That being said, the AP class owned Senior Ball. We threw the King and Queen elections, made Come on Eileen our senior song, danced feverishly to requested songs such as Paradise by the Dashboard Lights, Total Eclipse of the Heart, Larger than Life and Freebird, and danced Thriller like we'd been learning it rather than studying for our AP exam.* It was practically Revenge of the Nerds, and I loved every minute of it.

*Oh wait, we were.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

The Saving Grace of Apathy

This past week has been one of the most hectic of my year, and the coming one only proves to be worse. But the last few days have instilled a new philosophy in me, partly born of anger and partly by a slow descent into a certain apathetic attitude towards school.

I could blame the apathy on senioritis. Except, I've had senioritis my entire high school career. It isn't so different this year, except that now I have an actual end to look forward to. I could apologize for it, because apathy is supposed to be a bad thing. Some people loathe apathy.* But it's not always bad. Sometimes it saves you from yourself.

This year, I took the plunge into AP classes.** I enrolled in Advanced Placement English, Biology, and Calculus. I lasted about two weeks, two failed tests, and countless nervous breakdowns into Calculus. I dropped it, a really difficult decision at the time, but now I am so glad. I didn't need that added pressure this year. So I was left in English and Biology. I've talked about English before, so let's take a minute to examine Biology.

I'll set the scene. Imagine a room. Imagine a mutant cat in a jar of formaldehyde, a dummy named Arnold, and a a projector that turns off by itself. Imagine coming on the first day of school, to a brand-new bio teacher with some very big shoes to fill, and seeing a beardy man in a labcoat and a band-aid on his head, and hear the story of a microwave dropped as it is carried up the stairs. Feel confused, mixed emotions of dismay and amusement. Fast forward through classes of part notes, part distracted tangents that often end derogatorily, and with almost half the class offended. Continue through the days where half the class isn't present, so the rest of the students watch "The Future is Wild", affectionately called Future Dinosaurs. Keep going through the days of doing almost nothing, the time the teacher wasn't there and so we put his labcoat on Arnold and left it there, and that whole period spent watching wasps have sex.*** Now stop about two weeks before the AP test. Look on as the students realize that the exam is so close, yet they are only just beginning the material that makes up about 50% of the test. Now move through a week or so, and watch as the students (well, the girls anyway) begin to study frantically, knowing that it is impossible to cover all this material in what is left of the class.
This has been my year in Biology class.
I realize now that I made it sound as if we were all in it together, teacher and students, in not really doing much 4th and 5th period. This is true to a point, but that's mostly because we're all seventeen and eighteen, looking forward to getting out of here, and just generally don't know any better. All our high school lives, we've relied on a teacher to keep us on track. And this year, this teacher failed. So I take my blame to a certain point, but I've tried. There have been many times in class where one of my friends or I have tried to lead the teacher back on track. Sometimes it's very hard, and this is why I abdicate most of the blame. I wanted to learn. It's not my fault no one wanted to teach me. But I've ranted and raved about this to everyone who would listen; my parents, my fellow Bio classmates, my English teacher, random people in my study halls, some girl at the gas station, my friends in college, my sisters. You name the person, and I've probably complained to them. Everyone knows. I've studied and studied, my yellow and black review book and my giant binder have been my constant companions for the last week and a half.
And then, last night, there was a click. (see: Brick from Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, only less hot and less alcoholic.) My anger turned off, and morphed into something else. All this week, every time I was not studying biology, there was a little nagging thought in my brain telling me that I should be.
But last night, Ali, Emilie, Jesse, and I met at Jesse's house for a study session. We all sat down at the kitchen table, opened our books, and got out our highlighters. I answered eight questions, and my three friends all highlighted about maybe a page. Mostly, though, we ate and talked. We abandoned our books, practiced self-defense moves, looked at Jesse's dress, and had a pow-wow on her bed, talking about everything. After that, we piled into Jesse's very fly and very sexy pick-up truck, which we call the V-Mobile****, and went for ice cream, which we ate in the bed of the truck. After, we went back and watched a movie. It is not until you actually get to hang out with your best friends, that you realize how much you needed them, especially during such a stressful time.
And you know what? I don't regret it one bit. Never once during the evening did the little nagging voice speak up to try to get me to study again. I realized something, and it is that I could study constantly for the next ten days, and there would still be no possibility of doing as well on the exam as I had originally hoped. So, why kill myself over it? I will go over the material, perhaps with less conviction that before, and then I will take the test and I will not beat myself up about it, I will not cry afterwards. It is not, not, not not not my fault.
So thanks, apathy. For putting things into perspective.

*Mostly people we don't care about.
**I realized as a wrote that, that it's entirely not true. I took AP Psychology online last year. (And got a 5, which is a wonderful accomplishment, as I finished the course work about a week before the test. Sound familiar? At least that was my fault.)
***It was a lab, I swear!
****But I'll never tell why!