Shameless Plug

While I know this may not be strictly be considered an art, there’s this cool new video for one of Umich’s newest student organizations, rEDesign, that I had to share with the arts community. They need creative, ambitious thinkers to help them in their movement! Watch the video, spread it to your friends and tweet your ideas.

Girl Talk. Free Concert. Blind Pig. Axe. One Night Only. WHO YOU GONNA BRING

Never been so sober- but I couldn’t have felt drunker. Never sweat more in my life but I couldn’t have felt cooler. Never been so tightly squeezed in a horde of people but I couldn’t have felt free-er. Never experienced such an interactive live show, so I knew I had to be at the Blind Pig. Girl Talk’s free concert Wednesday night, sponsored by Axe, was the perfect antidote to a stressful week of college finals preparations.

I have been a Girl Talk fan since I was in 7th grade, back when his music was as new as the Myspace page he advertised on. I was introduced to Gillis before he even released Night Ripper, when he used the 8-minute blend of “Too Deep, Smash Your Head, and Minute by Minute” as a teaser for his music, and when he used to play a free concert at any time, anywhere. I have followed him closely as he began to gain popularity and soared to new heights of fame few people imagined he would reach. I watched as he began to change his live show experience, performing at larger venues, incorporating a more advanced light show, hiring hype men/women to spray the crowd with all sorts of crazy substances, and my personal favorite: building a lifesize house on stage for his New Years Eve concert in Chicago.

Needless to say, his style has changed incredibly since I had the good fortune to see him four years ago in New Haven, Connecticut. When I saw him he was a few months away from releasing Feed the Animals, and just on the cusp of gaining the universal popularity he has today. The show was incredible, and didn’t involve any of the new techniques I explained above. So when I heard that Girl Talk was putting on a free show at an intimate venue, I knew I had to get tickets. I had to see if he still could go back to those smaller days.

In April of 2008 I saw him at a venue called “Toad’s Place.” The similarities between “The Blind Pig” and Toad’s are striking: both have seriously impressive history (Gillis tweeted a picture of the Nirvana poster at the Blind Pig after the show) and each can only hold around 100-200 people. Both concerts also enlisted talented opening performances, I saw Passion Pit in ’08 and People Under the Stairs on Wednesday. Gillis also invited half of the audience to join him on stage in both shows, and provided the crowd with non-stop fun.

I have to admit the music was much better when I saw him in New Haven. This time around he focused on his most recent album All Day, which is my least favorite Girl Talk record. He salvaged this by exhibiting a wealth of new music that I, and probably few others in the crowd, had never heard before, which gives me infinite hope for his next release. These new mashups were as magnificent as some tracks off Night Ripper, including samples from songs such as “No Hands, Dance (ASS), Shout!, Work Out” and even a combination of Tyler, The Creator’s “Yonkers” and Lil Wayne’s “Stuntin,” which was downright brilliant.

What set the two shows apart was the experience. Wednesday night passed in a frenzy that only plays back in my head in a very blurry, sweaty mess. The crowd literally moved and swayed as one unit, plastered together by the confetti, toilet paper and mist that was continuously sprayed on us by Gillis’s two assistants, who used leaf blowers and electric paint rollers to bombard the fans. As if this was not enough, they also released a number of balloons and beach balls into the audience, further clouding any type of mental and visual clarity. At one point I was following a particular balloon’s progress through the crowd when the lights rose and absorbed everything in their glares, ending in a burst of confetti that splattered myself and everyone around me. I searched around, frantically looking for the balloon, only to realize it had popped and exploded into the millions of scraps of colored papaer that had previously been trapped inside. Mind-blowing moments such as that one were the reason this show was such a unique experience. This feeling magnified during the last few moments of the show.

The end came without any notice. Suddenly, the tension escalated. The beat began, spinning faster and faster until it consumed the entire room. An overwhelming cacophony of indistinguishable noise. The confetti was a whirlwind of color. Outstretched forearms illuminated in their silhouettes against the inexplicably bright blue and white lights, imposed there, seemingly for eternity, until the all-encompassing wave of energy overtook the crowd, mere humans unable to even slightly withstand the magnitude of pressure swirling in cool breezes throughout the air until— a moment of darkness. The strain broke. The noise ceased. The crowd rested for a moment, finally still. Weaved together as one unit. Grasping for comprehension.

That’s a Wrap

I know it’s not exactly an original sentiment, but this is my favorite time of the year. Or, at least, it will be once finals are over. I adore the Christmas season – I love the story, the music, the decorations, the time with family, and I love the wrapping paper.

Christmas wrapping paper embodies a part of the happiness of the holidays. Seeing role upon role of the colorful paper crammed into bins down holiday

aisles at the store, one can’t help but think of some of the best parts of Christmas – Santa Claus, Christmas trees, a friend or family member’s face as they open an unexpected gift, the anticipation of Christmas morning. Looking through the bins of paper always makes me smile – sometimes because I like the patterns, and they make me inexplicably happy, but sometimes because they’re so terribly cheesy or awful that I can’t help but want to laugh.

Whenever I walk into a store at this time of year, the holiday aisle(s) have a nearly magnetic draw, mostly because of the wrapping paper. I love looking at the different patterns: traditional, funny, religious, modern, shiny, movie or television themed. I love to judge which patterns I like, which ones I think are cheesy, and which ones I could imagine certain people buying. It’s always difficult to remind myself that I already have plenty of wrapping paper already.

Of course, the best part about wrapping paper is actually wrapping things and getting creative with it, like the girl in the picture above. Although, that might be going just a little bit overboard.  If you’re looking for some creative wrapping ideas this website has some good ones.

Wrapping paper is a funny thing. It’s technically pointless, yet nothing says it’s a gift more than wrapping a present in patterned paper that’s just going to be thrown away. It’s such a personal thing too.  Everybody has their own style of wrapping. One person’s wrapping may look like  a train ran over it, while someone else’s may look like a piece of art – so beautiful that you almost don’t want to rip the paper off.  Almost.

That’s a wrap for the semester.

Happy (almost) Holidays and Good Luck on finals!


The 9/11 generation.  That’s what they call us.  The first time I heard that our generation is “defined by 9/11” was freshman year.  I remember feeling oddly offended.  Surely we are more complex than that, I thought.  One event, no matter how horrific it was, cannot be the defining moment of our generation, especially not one that happened when I was 11 years old.  I still have so many experiences ahead of me.  How can scholars or marketing executives or whoever it is who makes these decisions tell me what defined my identity and the identity of the rest of the people in my age group?

I am currently taking a class on the contemporary American novel.  All of the books we’re reading were written after 2001.  Only about a third of the novels we read dealt with 9/11 directly, but the tragedy left its mark on all of the books in one way or another.  The Lovely Bones, a novel set in an entirely different decade, still grapples with issues of mortality and unspeakable acts of violence.  Zone One is a straight-up zombie novel, but the imagery evokes pictures of destruction– ash-filled skies and unstable skyscrapers.  As we begin our final weeks of the semester, I am coming to certain conclusions about the state of the American novel.  Many of these conclusions are related to 9/11 and what a pre- and post- 9/11 American novel looks like.  If novels are supposed to reflect society, as I believe most good novels do in one way or another, it only follows that these same conclusions are indicative of our culture and identities.

We are more paranoid.  We are more concerned with what the societal structures we’ve depended so heavily on mean and how much we can trust them.   We worry about the legacy we’re leaving for our children.  Dying parents or other authority figures crop up time and time again.  We’re scared, we’re in a constant state of change, and we are looking for something to believe in.  In the case of many of these novels, the characters turn to books.  Before they may have searched for help in the Bible, but their faith has been shaken and they are looking for another outlet.

I sympathize with these characters.  As I’ve gotten older, religion has taken a backseat in my life.  At the moment, it is sort of a nonentity.  I don’t think about it one way or another.  Where some might “cling to guns and religion,” I “cling to text and art.”  They might not leave me with hope or reassurance, but through characters and masterful writing, I am given the supreme gift of faith in humanity.  According to Jonathan Franzen, a good novel should teach us how to live in this world.  I don’t need an author to teach me how to live, but at the very least they should make me want to learn how to live.

The authors we’ve been reading are certainly not in my generation.  They are my parents’ generation.  Some are a bit younger.  I like to believe that they are cynical and only see our generation as distant outsiders.  Many of them try to tackle the voice of our generation by bringing in younger narrators or central characters.  While the way they speak may not be realistic, there is something in the tone that feels right.  I still remember George W. Bush declaring war on Iraq a couple days after my 13th birthday and feeling indescribable fear because I did not know what was next.  They’ve got that uncertainty down.

As I’ve learned about the contemporary American novel, I’ve learned about contemporary American society.  We’ve got a ways to go.  For the time being, I’m reluctantly agreeing that my generation is the 9/11 generation.  Our adolescence was colored by uncertainty and fear.  As we move forward, I am excited to see what sort of novels we produce.  Maybe we will complete Franzen’s goal and learn how to live.  You know what?  Let’s do him one better.  Let’s learn how to thrive.

A Letter to Drake

So far this year I’ve been writing mostly about music you all should be listening to, or at least, music I’ve enjoyed listening to lately. Which isn’t really fair to all those artists who have released music that I haven’t enjoyed listening to recently. And who am I to discriminate? To all of these horrendous musicians, I apologize, but fear no more! My music racism stops here: following is a letter to Aubrey Graham, known mostly by his stage name, Drake, who just released his studio album “Take Care” on November 15.

Dear Aubrey,

Oh, you poor, poor child. If only you had stretched your prime, golden years on Degrassi into a more substantial career, because, in all honesty, you belong nowhere near the Hip-Hop profession. You could have been happily shooting season 28 with the rest of the old crew, but instead you’re producing worthless albums such as this one. Oh well, at least middle school girls now have your lyrics to use as material for their feisty teen anger.

Your opening track, “Over My Dead Body” is actually a beautifully crafted instrumental, full of powerful accompanying vocals, a soft and muffled beat, and a wonderful piano overtone. It truly embodies the nostalgic, quiet pride you are attempting to evince. Which is why it’s actually so hard to hear you, Drake, so pitifully ruin your own masterpiece. This song potentially could have been a revealing sentiment, but as soon as your oily voice appears, somehow clashing with your own beat, the song is destroyed. In the opening 30 seconds of your first verse you say, “Shout out to Asian girls- let the lights dim some.” Really? Who and what are you shouting out to Asian girls, if I may ask. Out of four consecutive lines, three end with the word “some.” Three! That’s not how rhyming works, pal, you have to find different words that sound the same. And no, it doesn’t count when you use “dim sum,” instead of “some.” That’s still the same word. You do this throughout the entire song. Three “again’s” in a row. Four N words. Two “from’s.” Maybe you had your Degrassi audition during this first grade rhyming lesson, I’m not sure, but you crucially need some help here.

The only song I enjoy shares the same name as the album. “Take Care” featuring Rihanna, is the only track that deserves to be classified as Hip-Hop. I always expect quality hooks from Rihanna, especially now as she is continuing her streak started by “We Found Love,” (yes, I like that song. Everybody likes that song) but “Take Care” exceeds her repertoire. Her voice powerfully secretes emotion and vulnerability; her soft passion coincides with the simple piano and hand-shaker beat to the point where it is almost palpable. You even manage not to completely and utterly ruin it, and I particularly enjoy how you change between rapping and singing, although your singing voice is far from gifted. If I force myself to only partially listen to the lyrics, this song gets a spot in my top favorite 50 songs. Of November. Also the Florence and the Machine cover is equal to if not better than your version.

A complete breakdown of every song (like D Prep’s heinous, praising, over exaggerated excuse for a review on Sunset in the Rearview) would probably result in me smashing my computer repeatedly against the wall from having to actually listen to every second of your album. Luckily for me, because of how dreadfully similar they are, I can accurately describe the remainder of songs in one general statement: they are not good. The only redeemable quality you have left is that you somehow feature Andre 3000 on the song “The Real Her.” Since it sounds somewhat like an Outkast song off of Aquemini, it starts off as a conceivably impressive song, but, true to your nature, you find a way to ruin it by offering Lil Wayne a verse as well. Andre 3000 is a legend. Lil Wayne serves no purpose on this planet.

Drake, I’m sorry. I don’t particularly enjoy doing this, and I want you to be a star just as much as the next twelve-year old, but you really need to show some improvement. There might be a slight possibility you have some actual talent buried deep, deep down somewhere, but in order to display it you have to stop pretending like you are a moron. You have a brain, stop writing these emotionless, ignorant lyrics. Get back to your “Forever” remix skill level. And if you really want to improve, leave Young Money and take Nicki with you. It’s either that or season 32 of Degrassi, your choice.





The weeks preceding finals are bleary-eyed and coffee-scented, punctuated by the restless clicking of keyboards and the shuffling of pages and episodes of forgetfulness. Lights gleam cold and florescent, the apathetic overseer of offices and classrooms, penetrating into libraries and dormitory rooms, a flat unforgiving glare that attempts to mimic the light of day but is never quite able to replicate it. They glaze windows into opaque sheets of blackened mirror until there is nothing outside; there exists only the image of you, notes and references lying in a sprawl before you, lit perhaps by a rectangular screen of blue-white light. Thoroughly unpleasant, indeed.

Warm, dim lighting is not necessarily conductive to productivity. A hazy oddslot glow might lull you into a sense of contentment, and the pool of light a single lamp spreads does little better than its cooler, flatter cousin. But sometimes- sometimes- in the hours past logic or reason- all one wants is some nice light, really, that doesn’t feel like a sledgehammer to the skull. Mixed lighting can be a good balance, of course, as long as the most unusual temperatures or colors are not the most dominant.

Diffuse light, though, tends to be a nice all-purpose. Bright or dim, warm or cool, day or night, the quality of the light is even without being cutting. String lights (Christmas lights, holiday lights), especially in neutral colors, I’ve found, work wonders in serving as versatile (and flexible) substitutes for single-bulb lamps. Alternatively, a lamp pointed at a white wall or ceiling lets the light bounce off those surfaces, creating a more even consistency that is often better for reading than a clearly defined pool of light sitting directly on one’s page, or a direct light that creates glares.

Thinking about lighting for spaces is in principle not unlike thinking about lighting for the camera, but it is certainly less complex and entirely more rewarding.