Wednesday, August 16

Postmodern music (because it obscures the nerdy origins)

I believe I was looking for Dance Dance Revolution tracks at the time. You know, so I could enjoy such songs as Afronova and Burning Heat outside of the intensity of emotion that particular rhythm game leads to the creation of. In the course of this mildly illegal action I came upon OverClocked ReMix a site that promotes and hosts free remixes of video game soundtracks. Most of them are classics, pulled from such gems as Chrono Trigger and Sonic the Hedgehog and the Donkey Kong Country franchise, though more recent games like Zelda 64 and the later members of the Final Fantasy series are represented. The site lacked what I was looking for, but the design was excellent and it looked interesting. So, I bookmarked it.

That was maybe a month ago. A week ago I returned to the site looking for some new music having gone on a free music collecting binge. I didn't think so much of it at the time, but, once the downloads finished (a day later because there was over a gig of music) it hit me, just how nerdy I was. I was downloading video game soundtracks. Not only that, fan takes on them. People who found the original scores and replaced the symphony with guitars or rapped over the top. This had to be some sort of turning point. I can't remember a time I had a problem with the label of nerd. I liked to read. I liked Star Wars to an inane degree. I had glasses. I deserved the title. But this music was something different. If the general populace learned of this, I would be thrown into the lowest levels of nerdery. Kids with pocket protectors could dump my books and give me pink belly with impunity because I was even lower than them.

Still, I have a problem with throwing things out, so the music remained on my computer. A short while later I was reading The Selfish Gene (funny story there. i had been reading a friend's LiveJournal earlier that day and, when my mom asked what it was about, i told her 'a meme.' turns out she knew what those were because she had read Dawkin's most famous work (in that it's the only work i know he has written) and had what might be a first run edition because she had to read it in college. upon her finding of it (it was fifth printing i believe) i was in a goofy good mood. yeah, funny.) and couldn't concentrate on it while playing songs with lyrics. I was tired of John Williams and other film scores, so I, not without some trepidation, put the OverClocked ReMix on and was floored. Sure, there was a slight nostalgia factor, especially in the case of Secret of Mana remixes, a game which actually had me crying at the end (that was a long bleeding time ago), but I hadn't played most of the source games and came to the remixes fresh. They were actually pretty good. Very professional and clean sounding. The remixers had put a lot of effort and care into these bits of sound, and it came through, clear as the water around the Florida Keys.

So that is my story. The discovery of some great art in an unusual place, art not to be dismissed because of its humble, easily dismissable origins.

Tuesday, August 15


It and variants on it came up a lot on college scholarship applications. What do you think makes a good leader? What is the ideal leader? How do you consider yourself a good leader? A poor one? In many respects, high school tried to prepare me for these. There were leadership conferences and seminars and a whole pile of ways you could act in a position of authority. There was student government, class officers and club positions.

Mostly I wrote trash for those particular essays. They were insipid and mostly regurgitated whatever it was that I had heard in those training sessions. It showed. I don't think I ended up with any scholarships with 'leadership' in the title.

However, I think I have a handle on what leadership is all about now. Leaders are simply the ones who make a decision and go through with it, even the most petty things. There have been times when I was with the cross-country team or friends or whatever, and we'd be trying to decide on something. What movie to watch, where to go to eat, what to do next, whatever. People would be willing to throw out all sorts of suggestions, but it would take forever to get anyone to act on them. I guess people are afraid of stepping on the toes of others. They don't want to seem as though they're imposing their preferences and whatnot on others when they can't see any quantitative difference. That's when the leaders appear. They would say, "Let's do this," and we would follow them. They realize that no decision is going to please everyone the same amount and do the best with what they know and are willing to live with whatever consequences, small as they may be in the above mentioned cases. That's all leadership is, the willingness to make a decision and see it carried out. Good leaders are the ones that make the right decision and are ready to make changes as the need arises.

Friday, August 11


I've had two days to think about this and even spent a decent part of work today trying to figure it out. I have nothing, so I'm just streaming here. See what happens.

Woodie was a good dog. The closest she ever came to mean was barking when somebody she didn't know came to the house. As soon as they came inside, though, she'd just rush up and sniff them. She was even decent to other dogs, especially smaller ones, or maybe just afraid. They would sniff each other briefly and then the other dog would chase Woodie in a few circles. I thought it was funny at least. She listened to me too. Not like Molly, but she was going deaf by the time I was taking her on walks when my dad wasn't around to.

Anyway, she was put down on Wednesday. When I came back to Baudette from college she was doing all right. But then she had surgery to remove a tumor or something, and it all went downhill from there. It must have been a malignant tumor because she showed signs of lymphoma, nasty bumps all over and didn't spend anytime in her usual places. Even that wasn't so bad, but the last weekend she got worse still. My parents went on a camping trip, and I had to take care of her, walks and feeding and such. Actually, that was basically it, but she wouldn't get up or eat or anything. She did a little of that when my dad came back and took care of her, but it still wasn't much. Was she in pain? I don't know. I guess my parents were giving her aspirin, and she wasn't whimpering or anything. Still, she wasn't going to last much longer.

It wasn't so bad as when Molly was put down. I knew it was coming this time.

Monday, August 7


It seems to me that we humans are so very eager to slap the adjective 'my' on to those things we are involved with. 'Our,' in the sense that it is within the possession of a limited group, is often substituted as it makes the sayer appear less greedy. This struck me most strongly at work today where my partner and I were loading picnic tables on to a trailer. Always when we lowered the ramp, I would unhook the right side and he would take the left, and it seemed to me that were he to work on the right side, I would tell him to stop doing my work, though we did the exact same thing only on opposite sides. I believe he felt the same way because the two of us would do an awkward sort of dance around one another to get at our respective sides if it ended up that we were ready to lower or raise the ramp but on the wrong side.

What's with that? is the first question that comes to mind, and the second question that quickly follows for me Is this right? My example is petty. It really matters nothing, but it's ramifications are much more clear when land claims and other such things are considered. This perspective that influences so very much, from the minute in impact and importance to the international, is strongly influenced by the American culture I have lived my entire life within, and I want to know if it is right. Unfortunately, this observation will have to be the sum of tonight's post. I lack the drive to write any more on the matter now and have other things on my mind. Perhaps I'll give this question the analysis it deserves in a later post.

Thursday, August 3

Thinking about teachers and education and such

I was thinking earlier. You see, that's why I'm making a post. I thought some thoughts and found them to be of some value, something others might enjoy. Thus, I write now.

Anyway, Nietzsche wrote something along the lines of "Teachers are a necessary evil." That's wrong actually. He wrote in German and it was probably closer to "Lehrer sind ein notwendiges Übel (courtesy of seeing as how my German vocabulary isn't extensive enough to come up with that line on my own, and I lack Nietzsche in German (not that I'd know where to look for it))." This is important though because I read an article through Arts & Letters Daily about folk science and how we as humans generally screw up science because of our limited perspective. At some point, the writer brought up heliocentricty and the earth as a globe as things we don't realize on our own. I know that. Those facts were ground into me in most every science book and I ever read and more than a few history books as well. The problem is I've never proven these for myself. I've been told that these are so, but I've never done the calculations, the figuring that proves them. How do I know for certain that these are true, and I'm not being mislead? I guess I don't. I could be living in some boring rip-off of The Truman Show, and everyone wants to know what ludicrous notion I'll swallow next.

I guess that's what labs like dissection and those that allow you to calculate acceleration due to gravity are for. They give us the opportunity to see that these are real. The problem with those, though, is that the students know what is supposed to happen, what results the teacher wants to see, and we, at least my friends and I in high school, fudged like mad. We accepted the established results even though our own results differed.

To quote another notable dead white man, Newton said (more likely wrote but whatever), "If I've seen farther than others its because I've stood on the shoulders of giants." The only way we can make significant progress is by building on the previous works of others. If everyone had to start off from the beginning, observing nature and working out gravity and whatever else, we as humans would not be at the level we are today. Then again, if one of these giants people are scrambling up today made some fundamental mistake, a whole lot of time would be lost in the development of a different approach to that particular field.

My history professor last semester backs Newton up against Nietzsche. He said something that I remember as, "You don't just give some chemistry set to a kid and say, 'Have fun!'" If I remember right, this is taken more than a bit out of context. He was drawing a comparison on whether ethics and morality should be taught to children when he delivered that line. Still works. Teachers are very necessary, both to overall progress and to safety.

Then again, I am more than likely reading Nietzsche a bit shallowly here and could be blasted off this planet by someone with a better background than I in his writings.

What was this post about? The fun one can have in comparing quotes, I guess. I should do this again sometime.

Wednesday, August 2

Mona Lisa

In my last post I made an example of La Joconde. Turns out my reflections on our history is worth a post. I took French for four years in high school, and, as I imagine most classes do, we went to France the summer after I graduated. It was one of those true whirlwind trips. No more than a night in any place and plenty of time on the bus. Not enough time to really visit any one place, which, very much unfortunately, was the case with the Louvre as well. If I remember correctly, we had two hours there. Most of that time I spent amongst the Greek, maybe Roman, sculptures, but, come on, it's the Lourvre. There are a few things you have to see, so I wandered a little bit. Managed to walk past the Winged Victory of Samothrace. Couldn't find David. The Mona Lisa was different. I find it easily enough, but couldn't get within twenty yards of it because of the mass of humanity surrounding it. Not that I actually wanted to see the picture. I was more interested in the security and all the preventive measures against light and environmental damage. Still, the crowd kept me from even seeing that much.

The people so eager to see this piece fascinated me though. What is the big deal about seeing it? The picture itself is not much bigger than a sheet of paper. You could probably get a better view of the picture from out in the hallway where ceiling to floor length banners of the painting were hung, yet people were still desperate to get in on it themselves. They held digital cameras above their heads to try for a shot, no doubt vastly inferior to those they could find in some gift shop or even online.

Curious behavior.

Tuesday, August 1

Ideal of art

Here's a problem that has been running through my mind since I started my first college literature course. Should art aspire towards ambiguity or certainty? Is Paradise Lost, where such basic questions as whether Eve was a positive or negative character were debated over in Literature I, or To Kill a Mockingbird, "Walk a mile in their shoes before judging them?" sounds pretty clear to me, to be lauded? Not that certainty is all that certain anymore, not when you can make Fight Club into an adult Calvin and Hobbes, but there are times when the creator's intent is bleeding clear as in 1984.

Why is Mona Lisa the most famous painting in the world? Well besides the intriguing mathematical principles da Vinci used, all I ever hear about is the smile, enigmatic and different to every person who views it. Ambiguity wins here.

But then again, when did ambiguity ever lead to something besides a great thesis or theory? The world's greatest and longest standing religions? All have nice numbered lists with elements that are nigh impossible to take in any other direction at the center of their faith. The Ten Commandments? The Five Pillars of Faith? The Four Noble Truths? The Eightfold Path? The Golden Rule? Not much wiggle room in those.

It's kind of cheating though to bring these in. They have their artistic and literary elements, but, centrally, they're not about those. Wait a minute though. This just occured to me. What is art but one's perception of reality, and what is religion if not what reality is and how we should exist within it? How does this relate? I'm not sure, but it sounds pretty cool to me.

How about this then? You want to change the world? Give it something distinct and clear. Want to be remembered? Give people the ability to choose the perception they find in your own. Neither can be placed higher than the other (unless, I guess, if you're going to argue against the existence of an ultimate truth that a religion can lay claim to). Art can introduce nuance to religion, but you can't very well live by it while you can live by a religion. They both have their places and must be recognized for what they are.