Uncivilized Civilization

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There is a saying that promotes the idea of wearing a smile. Adorn ourselves with an upward curve. It is much like getting dressed thoughtfully. The beauty to this the unknown joy that lays behind the smile. They say it’s contagious. They are probably right. Is it alright to exchange a look of content with a perfect stranger? Perfect stranger, well what makes them so perfect? It seems as if we have become afraid of making eye contact with those we do not know. Perhaps it is one of the more personal ways to communicate but also dating back, eye contact can be a means of intimidation, almost threatening. Not like this though. That weird guy just smiled at me on my way to class. Everyone seems to be locked in their own personal world with ear buds scoring the latest soundtrack to their life. Don’t get me wrong, personal time is good, and I am not so much asking everyone to smile at me on my way to class. However, it just seems that everyone is over anxious and it becomes difficult for many to remain with eyes locked during a conversation. Have we evolved to a nature where humanity is threatening? Is it a danger to share a glance, or to commit to understanding?

I did a test to see what my response rate would be here on SUNY Oswego campus. I walked around with a huge grin on my face as if I had just won the lottery(preferably not the kind where I get stoned to death as a result, but you know the “mega-millions”) and tried to make eye contact with as many people as I could on my travels. The majority remained head down, most with head phones. If there was eye contact, most veered away breaking the contact immediately, as if it happened on accident. To break this norm, there were a few that exchanged this simple hello, this simple exchange or recognition of another breathing person. We are all the same. In the aspect of the university complex we are here to learn. Well, and spend a lot of money. So what makes us so different, so afraid of ourselves?

Don’t talk to strangers. Don’t accept gifts from people you do not know. Look both ways before crossing the street. And God forbid if food falls on the ground –DO NOT eat it. The five second rule is a recent adaption and cannot be trusted. This growing phenomenon of trust issues a fear has gotten out of control. Turn off all of your lights when you go to bed (that is just practical conservatism) and make sure you lock the door. Now you lock the door because you are attempting to eliminate the threat of an unknown visitor entering your home while you are sleeping. However, have you ever been robbed before? Chances are probably not. Do you live in an “unsafe neighborhood”? You might. Regardless, where did this enhanced fear and distrust spawn from? We get home, flip on the tube and are slammed with everything from house fires, rapes, murders and robberies. Real colorful stuff there and I won’t deny that. Now statistically with the billions of people that inhabit this earth the chances of these events affecting you are slim. It’s a chance. Chances we attempt to eliminate.

So how does locking your door at night out of routine and watching the oh so frightening news affect the ability to maintain eye contact or smile? Very simply, I think we have grown to be a culture that is absolutely terrified of the unknown, miserably so. We have become so anxious and there has been a serious drought of depth and content. We are so mislead and terrified by the option of the unknown. There is no trust to having faith in an idea. We have become the need-to-know/oh-no-you-didn’t society regurgitating the recent true Hollywood story of people we will never meet. I like how when typing this on Microsoft Word, it automatically corrected the lower case ‘h’ in Hollywood. It must be important.

The next time someone smiles at you, don’t read into it so much. Chances are they aren’t trying to hit on you and they probably aren’t creepy. Well, I can’t say that for sure, but most likely not the case. Every day is one step further to that eternal dirt nap. Although life may be the longest thing we ever physically do, it really is such a short time. So instead of being afraid of Everything constantly, share something with someone. Create, explore, travel, and live with the intention for doing nothing more than trying to improve. Improve your life, improve others. You’d be surprised by the response if everything meant a little bit more. Remember a smile goes a long way.

Raw Transfer

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So here I sit at Old City Hall on the river of Oswego, Ny. Old City is a bar/restaurant located on Water street right on the crest of the Oswego river. I am the odd man out. Sitting at a bar, with my laptop while the rest of the population is celebrating in excess the Syracuse University basketball win advancing the team to the final four. Celebrating life in general. In this seclusion I’ve noticed a few things. Everything exists simultaneously and separately. I am nothing but a whisper in a crowded bar. Nothing but the ricket of a subway car. I am, on deck for tonights entertainment. As a musician I often challenge the perception of my relativity. There is a meaning to the message and the words written are honest. However, often times especially in the bar scene life music tends to shift to secondary objective. Not that I am asking to be the center or sole attention, however the one thing that separates bars from any other place is the legal purchase of open container. I am here for you, are you here for me? Either way, secondary subconscious infiltration of thoughts and ideas are what I am about anyway. There are two main rules to properly hosting a party on a musical level. 1. Rhythm. If people can get into the music by dancing and feel involved by the mood the music represents, that works. 2Nd, recognition. Unfortunately in this aspect my group only plays originals.

 The overall vibe here tonight is that of a mismatch. There was a band playing while we were loading in, playing mostly covers. I don’t want you to get the impression that I don’t enjoy cover groups. If they are done well, they work great. These guys were good. There was a lot of carry over from the Syracuse game that was on earlier this afternoon. This is consists of a bunch of middle aged well lit individuals singing along to the tunes, yet far from in tune. In an odd manner, despite the seemingly different differences there seemed to be an sense of unity. Despite the specific orient, or the underlying similarity the bar has to offer, the differences seemed to shed away once we started playing.

 I tend to get a little discouraged playing the same place repetitively. I get rather lost in trying to define the meaning of the message and how many people really care to see the same movie over and over again. However, last night really transferred a new idea to me in the live performance exchange. It was a fairly similar crowd of faces. Upon further inspection I noticed some friends that have traveled quite a bit just let our musical performance be a part of their night. One specific phrase of advice that I never forget that was shared with me by an elder in the field was to never forget your foundation. The basic premise being if you forget where you came from or what you made you where you are, your function will fail. There is often an element of doubt when doing the same thing over and over. With the instance of live music, change is the constant variable. Every live show is different even if it parallels aspects of similarity.

 I think that is the major plus side to a live performance social experience. No matter where you came from previous or how your day was prior to the show, once the music starts there is an all inclusive multi layered experience that begins almost immediately. It is a very empowering experience when words that you yourself have crafted to a rhythmic pattern are believed and repeated in unison by friends and people that believe the same idea. There has been other heartwarming aspects of performing live when people you have never played for sing along to a chorus of your song. It’s not necessarily just a repeat and sing along but an exchange of information that is relevantly exchanged.

 This is something that not many get to experience. Your words are known by others. Your story, in the construct of a song, is related to and in essence believed. This is something that can only be witnessed in the moment of raw energy exchange. It is hard to experience these same feelings or realizations from any other form of medium. The atmospheric background that sets the mood for the event is consistent of so many variables it is truly incomparable. Something that can never be truly transferred on an digital media.

A Similar Life

Age/ Sex/ Location? Well since you asked I would be a 26/M/NY. Information, that wasn’t given to you without permission. But since you asked. Well, you had to before we walked around with our hearts and intestines on our sleeves. Jolter65 joined latenightfun. Jolter65 was my online username in the late 90’s that gained me access to chatrooms. AOL chatrooms were the social playground for anyone with fingers. Here, you enter a world with thousands of other individuals, no name, no face, just a ‘user’name to represent a person behind a screen.  If you’re into cats, there is a place for you. There is pretty much any aspect of society available in the form of a chat room.  Here you were able to interact with numerous people that you never met and you may not ever talk to again. However the beauty is that there was a process of discovery necessary in order to further a conversation.

Today we log onto Facebook. Facebook is the most popular website which receives the most hits daily, trumping that of Google. Here there is no mystery. Your profile shows exactly what you look like, when you were born, your favorite movie and how your stomach is responding to that wasabi dish you had for dinner last night. There is no longer any sense of discovery. No search, no imaginative collection of interpretation. All nutrition facts are currently listed. It’s good to know your surroundings but whatever happened to the mystery of the unknown? I know more about someone I’ve never met by simply studying (stalking) a profile page than I know about someone who I’ve physically interacted with.

I’m sorry, perhaps I have lost you at this point. My main directional is that the commitment level of learning a person has been downgraded to a flat tire. Sure you have this bike in the garage but without any air in the tires you are going nowhere. I’ve noticed in some aspects people are almost offended when information is not provided for them. “Why isn’t their birthday listed? That’s stupid.” How many strangers birthdays do you know? Well I guess you wouldn’t call them strangers, they made your friends list.

Don’t sweat the petty things and don’t pet the sweaty things. The element of chatting has also been a part of our functions. Even Napster, as you are stealing music included a chat feature. Like with any large mass convening in the same area people tend to find enjoyment from starting arguments over points of little to no value. It has come to represent our MO as a society. Flap gums, for the sake of lip smack. Everyone has something to say but we tend to revel in the “oh no you didn’t” and when it comes down to it you abSOULutly did not.

Before having the internet in your pocket, or even the ability to transport it from spot to spot, there was patience. The internet used to live in the phone line that had to make calls and connections before you had room to move. Now you are updating statuses while releasing excrement that prove to be one in the same. Vomit gone viral hash tag new trend.

Jolter65 has left the room.

Vinyl is Vital

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I am in a fact a junkie. I can’t get enough of vinyl records. Perhaps you could consider me more of a collector, of even a pack rat. There is a thrill to digging through bins at a thrift store panning through countless Barbara Streisand and Chuck Magione records only to find that David Bowie album you just can’t live without. Now don’t get me wrong, Barbara Streisand has a lot of records, (which typically just get in the way) but she really belongs on The Muppets, not in my way. I get butterflies, similar to the first day of school for many, or even a first date when I walk through thrift shop doors. Knowing that for just twenty five cents a piece I could walk out with a fortune while only entering with quarters.

I first got turned on to the idea of records when I stumbled upon my Dad’s collection in the garage when I was in high school. He had an excellent collection of classic rock, which placed me perfectly as a determined seventeen year old who shared the beliefs of musicians thirty years prior. I was well on my way to having a really solid collection of what many perceive as junk.

There is a real warming feeling when throwing on a record with a group a friends. Slowly placing the needle at the edge of the vinyl as not to place it too roughly resulting in a scratching sound that has the ability to raise hair on your back like nails on a chalkboard or chewing on tin foil. Here the record spins round and round as a needle runs along the grooves responding to vibrations. Back in the day whole albums were explored rather than just exploiting the singles. You had an A side and a B side. Typically your most known song would be located on side A but none the less whole albums were just done more passionately than today.

Vinyl has made a recent comeback that has been minutely successful. They’re big, they are kind of expensive and besides, most material is probably available on the internet, for free. At this point I have acquired a little over 400 records. A handful are new artists such as, Eryakah Badu, The Roots and John Legend. One aspect that I feel is completely lost with the digital age of music is the artwork and sleeve inserts that support the album. Especially with vinyl being so large the artwork is magnified and exists as aesthetic art as well.

Now I was always into music growing up. Being a 90s kid cassettes were the beginning to my media addiction. Now I’m not going to lie my first purchased albums on cassette included, No Doubt – Tragic Kingdom,(Shh don’t speak I know just what you’re saying, Gwen Stefani really? Really) Alanis Morrisette – Jagged Little Pill and for single purposes Deep Blue Something – Home, for the hit single “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” I was ten.

Now one really neat aspect to think about is the time and involvement it took to make a mix tape. You had to sit next to the radio and wait for the song you want to record to be played on the air. Now a days you just have to compile a play-list and click burn. A process that now takes less than five minutes. Vinyl warped. Over time of improper storage or temperature these things could really take on a funny shape. Cassettes were no golden child to avoiding the infamous melt. You remember accidentally storing a tape in the back of your car on a hot summer day only to come back to find a melted mush of plastic. Goodbye Alanis. CD’s, which are becoming more outdated as singularity comes into play, scratch way too easily and double as coasters and frisbees most often. Records would skip due to scratches but the maneuvering was much more convenient that lets say that of a tape. If a tape starts to skip, you may or may not smell a burning, and then you realize all of the ribbon inside this plastic lunchbox is everywhere. Good thing we have a pinky finger or pencils with erasures. CDs skip and you just skip the track.

Vinyl has so much more energy and history than current media formats. As the record spins 33RPM’s you can hear each rotation and often when the records over and you forget to turn it off it sounds like constant wave crash. With all the formats that have surfaced in the last fifty years from vinyl, 8 track, cassettes, and cds are we going to reach a point where everything will be digital? I mean we are practically there now with music stores such as iTunes selling entire albums on the internet. Will the sold medium eventually be just a mp3 player/our phone.

 

GrateFully

You’ve saved up three weeks for this. Three whole weeks and all you have to show for it is thirty cents. However, thirty cents is a lot. It will you get you one whole candy bar. The excitement is building because you’ve managed to budget yourself for something you truly want. That excitement is not the same today. You open up the wrapper in a delicate manner, not to rip the packaging beyond repair. You take out this piece of chocolate and marvel in its well manufactured finely molded pieces. You break a piece along it’s perforation and consume ever so slowly. Each bite stimulating your taste buds reminding you of the savory pleasure that you worked hard to achieve. Chores of all sorts, scrubbing bathroom floors, sweeping the hardwoods, vacuuming rugs, all of these physical activities allowed you to be here in this moment enjoying. You smile. You wrap up this bar after having just one piece and save it for later. Later, as in probably not even later today. You will keep this treasure as a reminder of what the sweet things in life taste like. You are grateful.

 

You have no money, not a cent. You’re sixteen with no job, and no car. Schools a drag and homework is unappealing. Besides you can just do that in another class, right? You’re hungry. The dinner that was made for you tasted bland. It was consumed, however it was much to your dismay. You are seeking a sugar rush you want candy. At this point you borrow your mothers credit card and her SUV. Keep in mind your Mother has been paying for this car for the last four years and has at least three more to go. Essentially she is also borrowing this car too. You take a drive, with your freshly printed license that you almost did not receive due to a curb that came out of nowhere during your three point turn. The guy who scored your driving test was a jerk anyway. What stupid glasses. You take a turn through the McDonald’s drive through. On your order is a two double cheeseburgers, a small fry and McFlurry,(oreo flavored). You hand the woman this piece of plastic and off you go. Have a nice day. Next stop, the candy store. Upon entering the candy store you can’t decide between Reese’s Pieces or a Snickers bar. You settle with the Reese’s Pieces because you figure out it is more candy per square inch. Since you have the opportunity to roam you decide to go for a cruise. Turning up the sound system blaring the latest top forty pop tune. Cramming down the last of your fries wiping your grease ridden hands on the side of the leather seats. She’ll never know. Almost home, but you don’t want her to know you got more food after her less than par dinner. You throw your whole McDonald’s bag out the window. Wrappers and napkins stuffed inside a paper bag that will only later get shredded by the next vehicle that happens to run it over creating a confetti like display of white, yellow and red. You are home now. Walk in the house hand your mother back her card and head to your room and mutilate the packaging of the Reese’s spilling some on the floor. The rest are thrown down the hatch, like a glass of water after a intense workout. You are full.

 

The reason for telling these stories in this fashion is that I’m trying to make a point that today’s work ethic and appreciation of the value of our work has decreased in a major way. Back in the day living on a chore salary, if you were lucky, one would have to save for a few weeks to attain an item that one truly wanted. There was much invested in this purchase and it lasted for awhile, because you earned it. You actually held these heavy weighted coins in your hand and physically felt the cold metal as you slid the coins slowly across the counter watching your hard work go into the hands of the cashier.

 

Today I feel as though with the ease of availability that credit cards generate they is no longer a personal attachment to purchase. Money exists as an idea, and is just as easily traded for goods without the obvious physical reminder of what we have in our hands is all there is. I am speaking more on behalf of the younger generations and their attempt at living like an adult. Why recycle, someone gets paid to clean that up? Wouldn’t I be taking away someones job if there were no trash on the street? I am curious whether or not it is the availability of such access to credit cards or the decline of parenting towards instilling work ethics and values in their children is responsible for this behavior. Perhaps it is a major combination of both and if so, where do we as a society place our values? How is worth defined? Just remember to try and enjoy each Reese’s Pieces at a time.

Mass Message

I have had a dilemma with the integration of technology into culture ever since I received my first text message. We have worked up a lot of courage only to seemingly become very shy, in an outright vocal society. Sending a letter in the mail, calling someone on their house phone, knocking on a door; many of these acts have become obsolete.

“Hi, is John there please?”

“No, I’m sorry he’s out right now.”

“Okay, thanks. Can you tell him Rob called please.”

Rob: Hey, John you around?

Rob: Hey man, let me know what you’re doing.

Rob: You’re not mad at me are you?

Rob: You really shouldn’t be. There really isn’t a reason. Get at me.

John: Hey I left my phone in my room. Just got home, what’s up?

Here are two examples of using a telephone in completely different manners. First off, the original and only function; to call. When I gave John a call to see what he was doing in the first example on a land line, I got what seemed to be his mother on the other end and she told me he was unavailable. I was okay with this and felt content in the fact that I trusted his mother to relay the message that I had called. In the second example I have used the phone for it’s now seemingly only function; text message. In this example I got upset for the lack of immediacy of John’s response. One thing I have noticed is the dramatics associated with that lack of instant results. There has been a movement or shift in rational emotions associated with response time. The medium in which the majority of our younger generation communicates are (only) through text messaging. This is a vague representation of a true exchange, often abbreviated or shortened for ease of convenience. Without the ability to hear happy or sad by the inflictions and tones through ones voice during a phone conversation, I feel that much of the emotion has been removed. Aside from the inserted smiley faces or emoticons as they are referred to.

So far I have reiterated the point that we are more connected now than we have ever been, but the means in which we are connected allow us to be further disconnected. With the younger and younger generations being a part of this “techo-advanced” society I wonder if there will be a fair balance of pros and cons as far as how these devices are used. In one study analyzing the affects of cell phones and their link to increased loneliness, anxiety and divergent preferences it mentioned: “Compared to a voice call, SMS enables the cell phone user to disengage from the multiple attentional demands of real-time social interaction and focus cognitive resources on the task of composing a message, even to analyze the smallest of cues to achieve important self-presentational goals”

Pretty soon with the generation gap decreasing I wonder how powerful these hand held mini life remotes will become. Will we eventually be content with not getting paid or having to Make or Create? We will sit alone in isolation working for a boss we never meet and co workers we never see? We sure do complain about these facets quite a bit, are they to someday just disappear?