Monday, January 31, 2011

American Idol

I, like many able-minded music enthusiasts in the country, firmly assert that “American Idol” is antithetical and destructive to the artistic forces that render musical progression and even creativity.

Producers, judges, and even a percentage of the blindly following fanbase all seem to be in relative agreement that the competition is one not based solely on musical talent, but also charisma, demeanor, and various other superficial qualities. American Idol is primarily a popularity contest rather than a talent competition, but I suppose the fact that most Americans accept this is enough to repudiate an argument that this immediately removes any integrity from the show. But too many people seem to adhere that someone could conceivably get by on their musical prowess.

Too many hopefuls, contestants, and even winners have been described as “artists,” which is, more often than not, a misnomer. The more appropriate term seems to be “model.” In order to advance, adequate singing seems to be a requirement secondary to fashion, behavior, mystique, attractiveness, etc… Performances are based largely on visual display rather than audible projections, further diminishing any claim the show may make about its musical focus. Now, everybody sings on that show, and their vocals are criticized. But nearly every song performed has come from a previously established musician, restricting the possibility for originality and thus, artistry. Can a performer take liberties with an already existing song? Absolutely, but not without appearing as a hackneyed rip-off or distorting the song’s original intention. I reassert that these people are models, putting on somebody else’s work to see how good they can make themselves look instead of showing anything of their own.

I’m sure there are holes in my argument. I’m sure you could make a case for a scant few contestants who have displayed talent and creativity on the show (even though they’re still being judged as models). But even beyond that, the show is a farce. The judges are underqualified and rarely, if ever, address performances with thoughtful or direct criticism. Simon and Kara (now, of course defunct, in the show’s progression toward degradation) had respectable clout, offering genuine insights to aspiring hopefuls. But the rest of them seem either completely oblivious or ignorant to any sort of sophisticated critiquing skills—that is, critiques of musical talent. When it comes to analyzing a person’s dress, character, style, and overall appearance, they all seem to know what they’re talking about, as that is the true basis of the show. But that’s all they seem to successfully deconstruct.

Then, of course, there are the thousands of people who show up only in the vain desperation to appear on national television. The dress-uppers, the character actors, the ludicrous undignified, the obnoxiously arrogant—the pretentious and shallow hordes that realistically know nothing about music or its artistry, and show up only for attention. You could make the argument that the entire music industry has devolved into that kind of superficial façade, but I think it’s especially evident in the program, especially when people try to argue for its music-oriented justifications.

…Maybe I should just change the channel and shut up.

Sunday, January 30, 2011


Optional and temporary anonymity is, I think, a tremendous benefit for our society. Especially with the momentous role the internet has begun to take in shaping our everyday lives, the ability for anonymous self-expression is helping to encourage a creativity and sincerity that would otherwise go unspoken.

Now, I know the downsides; illegal actions, brutal deliberate offense, and lack of accountability, but I feel these are far outweighed by the advantages anonymity can offer. Piracy and illegal content distributions will occur one way or another. And offensive content is sometimes necessary for heightening expressive works; racial slurs in Huck Finn, profanities in Catcher in the Rye, and sexually charged graphic violence in A Clockwork Orange all added to the intensity and value of their production.

But creativity isn’t limited to fiction, or prose, or poetry. Creativity can manifest itself in any form of writing or pictoral depictions, and absolute freedom is often necessary in order to preserve that expressiveness. Oftentimes we find ourselves in situations in which we are forced to don an emotional or responsive guise that doesn’t reflect our true feelings (take my post on Fake Smiles for instance), but in certain parts of the internet, we are able to life those masks. We are able to say things we wouldn’t be able to say in any other circumstance, and brandish our truth in a purer sense than any other realm could tolerate.

Sure, there are those taking advantage of the cover by pursuing degrading or damaging activities. But speaking anonymously, these people are revealing the most sincere and intentional flows of thought and feeling of which they are capable. And I think we can progress as individuals and as a society only when we are true to ourselves.

So I’m thankful for this front, to help relinquish my stifling societal fears of true expression. And for my sake, your sake, and the sake of artistic development, anonymity remains a clear and true sanctuary, on the internet if nowhere else, for years to come.

Saturday, January 29, 2011


I think the ruling characteristic in America is narcissism, and it’s slowly unraveling the fabric of our society. I realize in writing this and publishing it to a personal blog, I am displaying a kind of narcissism myself, and that act can be construed as a kind of hypocrisy. But at the same time, I haven’t necessarily excluded myself from the diagnosis of the plague of narcissism that’s taken a hold of us all.

You can see it, I’m sure in nearly every interaction you face day-to-day, from the strangers that ask “how are you?” and move on without even waiting for a response, to your best friends that converse only in personal relations. “I think this” “I’ve done that.” It extends from young children to the elderly, but is probably most prominent in the young adults of the world today, especially with the onset of attention-span depreciating forms of new technology. Facebook, Twitter, MySpace… these were all, in essence created as a tool to keep people in contact with one another, a way of maintaining equal social interactions. But in the hands of this nation and this generation, they’ve all turned into self-absorbed pleas for attention in the world.

Everybody believes they are inarguably special, that somehow they’re better, smarter, stronger than everyone else around them. And this arrogance manifests itself in a complete and total lack of acknowledgement and sympathy for others. We all need to learn how to listen more and speak less.

Of course I realize the irony of posting this is a blog. I did say I was no exception.

Friday, January 28, 2011

The Modern Haiku

Let me rant about haikus for a moment.

I feel like haikus are a bastardized poetic form, often usurped and violated by uncreative creative writers who want to make their words seem more significant than they actually are. Now before I continue, let me say that I do respect the haiku as a form; the source of my irritation lies with the people who misuse it.

Since the haiku is so short, it makes people feel like they don’t have to put much thought into their work, when writers with more experience and more integrity realize that a shorter form requires more concise words, not less thought-out ideas. People somehow think that restricting the number of syllables in their sentences automatically imbues their writing with a poetic quality, often arbitrarily choosing words in order to fit the structure and wrecking any decent intention they may have had.

“I wrote a poem! It’s a haiku.” I hear this and shudder. I’ve seen a share of acceptably written haikus in my time, but the vast majority (especially from adolescents and young adults) are uninspired, insignificantly constructed, and for lack of a better word, offensive toward an otherwise delicate and majestic art form.

Let me punctuate my argument with a satirical piece of hypocrisy:

Just because you count
Syllables, it doesn’t make
You a damn poet.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Fake Smiles

I’m getting sick of faking smiles. It seems like every form of social interaction, be it between family members, friends, or coworkers, generally warrants some sort of façade of enjoyment. Now, I’m not saying every discussion I have is painful, but for the most part people expect to see a reciprocated sort of delight when communicating, and personally I think it’s bullshit.

Emotional conveyances (tone, inflection, facial features) evolved so that we could perceive and acknowledge one another’s feelings and responses. And now that we’ve “developed” more as a species, it seems we have an obligation to fake these responses in order to maintain group dynamics. It’s contrary to our nature. Emotions should be reflexive, not fabricated. But then again, social dynamics are far more important now than they were in our evolutionary ancestors.

It would be much easier just to maintain my boring-ass apathetic glare and speak only when I feel I have something to say, rather than contort myself into a face that would make the other person feel as though they are entertaining or interesting me. But the more I think about it the more I realize most people are probably paying me the same burdensome courtesy. Alas, so it is in our society. I really shouldn’t complain about having to be polite. I suppose I just long for a greater kind of sincerity.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


I've submitted several poetry manuscripts to various publishers for editorial consideration. I've received my first response--a rejection.

I've been afraid of rejection, not like most other people in the world, for an uncomfortable portion of my life. It's what's mostly kept me from being able to pursue non-anonymous creative endeavors. A recent spark in my creative output has prompted me with the confidence to actually try and get my work out there, but I still haven't told any of my friends or relatives. It's the fear of embarrassment that would come when I have to tell them "No one has accepted my work." But here on the wonderful anonymous internet, nobody knows who I am, and nobody gives a flying fuck whether I'm successful or not. It is a great feeling.

Bruce Lee once said "Do not fear failure. Not failure, but low aim is the crime. In great attempts it is glorious even to fail." I try to keep that quote in mind any time I undertake something that I fear may result in humiliation. Despite realizing that rejection should be acceptable, I cannot help but find that inner block every time I think of making an attempt at creative output, physical exertion, academic construction or even social engagement. I think once I'm able to stop fearing rejection and failure, my life will be much more significant, and my efforts will be far more fruitful.

But that level of maturity is a long way away.

...a Post on the importance and function of anonymity is sure to follow.
Thanks for reading!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Getting things going

I always struggling to get things going. I'm not an initiator. Be it academically, professionally, or even in the context of my interpersonal relationships. For assignments, I generally follow a generic prompt. I wait for others to make plans to socialize instead of making them myself. And when it comes to creative writing, I have to force myself to do things or else contribute to what other people have already started.

I don't really know how people get the inspiration to begin creating something from nothing, because I've always been more of a contributor, a kind of accelerator; the catalyst or exponential momentum that takes an idea and runs with it. I suppose time will tell whether I'm able to eventually find the means to matterlessly create rather than creatively embellish or otherwise expand, but for now I'll just pick up the ideas as they come externally. I guess in a way that's all any of us really do. No matter how independent or unique or anticonformist any of us strive or claim to be, we are all constructs of the society into which we were thrown. Every idea we've ever had, every word we've spoken, and every action we've initiated has had its roots in something somebody else has already done. Sometimes it's mimicry, sometimes it's expansion, sometimes it's a direct contradiction in one form or another, but it's always a result of what already exists.

So don't accuse me of being unoriginal. Feel free to accuse me of incoherently wandering from one topic to another though.