Thursday, October 25, 2012

Response to Jazz Music

This was an essay I had to write for class, responding to Kind of Blue by Miles Davis. In it, I pretty much explained why I dislike most jazz music. I’m sure you can find the tracks that I talk about on Youtube. I have since modified this essay to a blog format.

To really understand why I hate jazz music, I have to explain one of the fundamental attributes to my existence. I am an extreme visual thinker. In my experience, most people really don’t understand what all comes with being a visual thinker (even though they think they do), so I am going to explain something: Visual vs. audio thinking doesn’t always mean what people’s eyes see vs. what their ears hear. Visual vs. audio thinking is almost absolutely dealing with the conceptual visual and audio that formulates inside of my brain. Often that is a direct translation of what sense organs capture, but it is always a lens over the associations created by the signals the brain is receiving from the sense organs, even if that sense is audio, taste, touch, etc. So when I listen to music I enjoy, it is because that music stimulates my visual thinking.


I am a musician, and when I let fly my fingers across my guitar, I see patterns on the frets. I visualize lines crossing, drawing pictures on the instrument and formulating riffs that become music. When I compose a song, I visualize the different sections of the song like a sliding puzzle. I push a verse here, I slide a chorus there. It’s literally something I visualize. My brain applies a filter to music wherein I can see it. I instinctively interpret music through my “visual” filter.

hit the jump for the rest!




That said, I just cannot see jazz. Jazz is a style that is not structured like an image. Its timing runs like maple syrup out of a bottle, sometimes big gulps and sometimes stretching. The drums add a random hit here and there. It doesn’t conform to a structure. Its instruments don’t even have to stay together. The sliding puzzle pieces don’t have places where they can best go, heck, it seems like they can go anywhere. In most of the faster songs in Kind of Blue, there’s a basic beat with bass and piano, and then whatever instruments just solo for however long they feel like. One instrument could be taken out of the song, and the song would still exist. Jazz is not music to me because it has no set composition, and my brain classifies it as noise. I realize that most people do not have my extreme visual nature, and so I respect jazz for the sake of people who enjoy it, but my brain simply can’t decipher it. I wish I could change the way my brain works, but I’m pretty sure I can’t.

To me, one of the most important parts of songs are the lyrics. Most jazz music I’ve heard, like Kind of Blue, limits the lyrics of the song to just the titles. First off, this really keeps me from being able to visualize it. I don’t know who Freddie Freeloader is, and the song doesn’t give me an explanation for him. It gives me what sounds like a very standard jazz beat with what sounds like very standard jazz soloing. Honestly, “Freddie Freeloader” and “So What” sound so similar that I can’t distinguish between the two. Is Freddie that guy saying “So what?” I don’t know. I have a real problem finding a message within a song when there are no lyrics. This is why jazz makes such good background music for movies and TV; the TV actors can perform over jazz and give it a message. Their on-screen lines and movements make jazz have meaning, and, now that I think about it, I don’t mind jazz (and actually enjoy it!) when it plays in the background of something else. Jazz needs something else in front of it, so that I can “see” it.

As a meticulous song writer, I guess the lack of structure in jazz tortures me. I plan every note of the songs I write. I’m not kidding. So when drum hits come without aligning themselves with other instruments, it unnerves me. As visual thinker, I cannot stand improv. I need variety in my songs, and I don’t believe that jazz has much tonal variety at all. Basically, there is a set beat (ta’tata ta), bass, and piano, and random solos. There’s either fast jazz or slow jazz. It’s boring to me because I feel like the same thing happens over and over again in the song. I grew up playing music with someone who reminds me of Miles Davis in his autobiography I read for class, and he used to get up on stage and solo for ten minutes straight. Sometimes the other band members would end the song by just walking off the stage and leaving him solo up there by himself. That particular event reminds me of “Freddie Freeloader,” because it ends with all of the instruments at different times. I guess that guy I knew has affected the way I perceive music with insanely long solos. The unstructured style just feels like the musician is trying to show off his soloing skills without putting any thought into creating a composition. I love technically skilled musicians, but without skills in meticulous song composition, I just cannot give them my utmost respect.

What can I say? I tried; it’s just not my thing.

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This is about my life and other random stuff

I wanted to create one more blog for my network, which will house all of the random topics I've considered but did not write because it didn't categorize into one of my current blogs. There will probably be a lot of posts about music on here, as I love performing. I will also repost a few of my taste disorder blogs, and anything else random like that!

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me a long time ago, looking cool in my rented tux for prom

Monday, October 22, 2012

An idea that benefits EVERYONE with the next Smash Brothers

Clarify: Super Smash Brothers (hereafter known as SSB) is my absolute favorite game series ever. I have more respect for the Masahiro Sakurai (the game’s creator and director) than I do for any other game creator out there right now. He is a man who truly understands respecting the game and respecting the gamer, and his mastery of leading a team through a creative process that must respect so many IPs, icons, and egos is unmatched.

 That said; I want to bring up an idea I have floating in my head about the a few features that would allow SSB to help enhance the sense that this is a game that can be enjoyed by everyone, casual or hardcore.


 So, Nintendo has not had a great record for patching games after they are finished. In fighting games, patches are often an important to balance the game and fix exploits. With a lack of patching support, die-hard SSB fans have turned to hacking their Wiis and modding the game, just so that balancing issues can be resolved. While the game developer does a phenomenal job of balancing the game for your casual player, it would be nice if there was a way for advanced players to update the game themselves so that they can correct exploits.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

I finished my book today.

I have a long way to go for publication, I know.

I have a ton of edits to make, darlings to kill, holes to iron out.

I have many letters to write, rejections to receive, conversations to hold.

But, it's got an ending. The last chapter is written. I've never made it this far, but I feel elated. I've been considering this book for so many years--perhaps even since 8th grade. I've been doodling about this book since I remember pretending to take notes in my classes.

DONE! My book is done, and it feels good. I've written two unfinished novels before this. One was 60k, the other 40k before I decided that I couldn't go on. These first two experiences taught me how to write, how to plan, how to evolve plots and build characters. They were not failures, but learning experiences.

Today, I completed my life's dream (so far). I finished an entire book. 85k words, which is like 330 or so pages. Now, onward! To editing! To agent-searching! To publication!

It will happen! Not because I believe or because I'm the most motivated person alive (even though I feel I am right now!), but because I feel like my novel is great! I believe it will sell because it is great and it targets a wide audience.

Anyway, that's it. Just a quick post to signify that I have accomplished a life's dream.

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Saturday, October 20, 2012

Building a Haunted House: 5 Things I’ve Observed While Being a Visitor

It’s a HUGE dream of my wife and I’s to own and operate a haunted house someday. I’m a lover of all things horror/creepy/Halloween, and this would be the culmination of my fascination. The other day, I went to a local haunted attraction based in a mall. On the drive home, my wife and I discussed a few things we need to keep in mind when we do end up building one:
 1. Remember the ratio of time spent in one room to the number of props. 
Sometimes haunted houses are over too quickly, and that leaves the visitor with a feeling of poor value for the money they paid. The haunt I visited the other day had a classic “meat butcher” room, and the props amazed me. This room was FILLED to the brim with arms and legs and heads and other fun Halloween props. But, we were pushed through the room within a period of about 5 seconds. 

There was hardly any time to admire any of the props. Meanwhile, the haunt was VERY short (although they had a lot of unused space to work with). I realized that they could have taken 1/4th of the props from the butcher room and hung them from ropes and make you walk through them or something. Spread out all of those props you’ve invested in! People want to see them!

hit the jump for more!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Spiny Blue Shell of Mario Kart: An In-Depth Discussion on Why It Sucks and How to Fix It

We all know that the spiny shell weapon in Mario Kart is the cheapest load of crap ever, but I’ve never seen an article articulating exactly why it is so unbalanced and unfair. So, I sought to correct that gap (much like the spiny shell tries to correct the 1st position gap).

As with any weapon in the game, there is an attacker and a target. In the case of the blue shell, the attacker is usually one of the last positioned racers and the target is always the 1st position racer. This is half the reason why the blue shell sucks.

Look at it from the perspective of the attacker: If you’re way behind, you want a weapon that will put you ahead. Your direct rivals must be taken out or bypassed before you can even think about going for the leaders. So if you’re in 7th place, who are currently your biggest rivals? 6th and 5th place. Who do you target when you fire a blue shell? The guy in way up in 1st place.

If you’re like me, you shoot the blue shell immediately to make room in your inventory for something more useful (is there any sense in holding on to it?). The 1st place kart that you’ve just taken out will surely be up-and-running again before you get close to catching up with him, and, even if you do catch up, whoever was in second place just took over as the new first place.
Some help.

hit the jump for more

Will a childcare / nursery / learning center / preschool provide your kid with the social interactions your kid needs? Should I just hire a nanny?


Short answer: It depends

Children who interact socially with other kids and adults will grow up to be better at interacting within the world as adults. However, I say “it depends” mainly because there is an age line. 

This is not scientific, but based off of my person experiences with kids I’ve worked with in daycare. Use this for your own personal ideas: Young toddlers and babies DO NOT need social interactions with others their own age. They need 1 on 1 time with an adult figure. I would say that children don’t benefit much from a full class of other kids until they hit about 2 years of age. 

Hit the jump for more on this!

Babies and toddlers don’t interact with others, much. Honestly, they hardly notice that other kids are in the room. A 1 year old will bite another child, not because he’s mean but because he’s teething or experimenting with his mouth. Toddlers don’t make friends. They don’t form relationships like more advanced kids do. They don’t remember when another child is missing. They don’t really care.

For a baby or a child under 2, I would say a nanny is always a better bet. Personal time is far more beneficial for little ones.

But, this completely changes at about the age of 2 to 2 and a half. Starting then, children DO NEED and DESIRE social interactions with others their own age, and they will be developmentally disadvantaged not to be in a classroom situation.

If you’ve had a nanny, and your child turns 3… It’s time. Nanny is great and all, but your kid needs to know the outside world. Your kid needs preschool. Don’t shelter them, or they will end up being socially awkward. 


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Friday, October 12, 2012

Check out a few YouTube videos I made!

I make YouTube videos! Plz subscribe for weirdness: http://www.youtube.com/user/oxyborb

Here's a video I made last week. It's kindof a new sitcom show about this family. Father, son, and onion. You'll see: 
 

Yeah, my videos are pretty much all like that. Nonsensical jibberjabber.

This second video has a serious discussion of the inner monster that transgendered people have to live with every day:


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Thursday, October 11, 2012

Passing English Class Writing Series: The Difference Between an Argumentative Essay and a Report


It doesn’t matter if you’re in high school or college, to write an argumentative essay—a collection of paragraphs that makes a point, you need understand the difference between what makes your paper a worthless piece of fodder and a shining example for the rest of the class. I can tell you what that difference is: YOU!

Children write reports when they’re told to write essays. They list a bunch of facts that, at best, makes an all-too-obvious argument. For example:
 
Did you know that there are only 1,600 giant pandas left in the world? I believe that Pandas great and should be saved. People destroy 300 acres of natural forestland every year. This means that there is less room for pandas to live.

Let me be honest, if you’re above the age of 16, you should not be writing like this, but I can help you improve. Let’s look at the argument, which is:
I believe that Pandas great and should be saved. That is technically an argument, but tell me, is that a good argument? Would you read that? If more than 80 percent of the world agrees with what you have to say, then to whom are you really arguing against?

Hit the jump for the rest!

Pandas ARE great and most people would agree that they should be saved. Let’s be blunt—if hardly anyone would argue against you, then you’re not making an essay-worthy argument. Without an interestingargument, you’re making fodder.

Now, if you want to stand out in your English classes, if you want to pass with the +A, then give the teacher something that he’ll enjoy reading
. Many teachers will grade you higher if you’re making an interesting or bold statement (even if they disagree with you!), as long as you’re using sound logic to back up your argument.

Children report on tired topics through essays, but
adults make NEW ideas through essays. Use yourself. Write something ONLY YOU would have considered writing. Make an argument that teeters on the line of what most people would think it truth or normal. For example:

People destroy 300 acres of natural forestland every year. This means that there is less room for giant pandas to live. I believe we can solve this problem by breeding giant pandas to be smaller in size, and therefore they will take up less space in our shrinking environment.
 
 Now this argues for something perhaps the reader would not have been expecting. Shrinking down pandas to make way for deforestation? Sounds crazy, but as a student you can (and should!) make the craziest claims you want as long as you back up your argument with tons of facts that support your argument. High schools and colleges are places to experiment with writing. Make bold, unique claims. Step out of the zone you find comfortable. You’ll be thankful you did.

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Should I buy Animal Crossing?

I will answer that question in the end. For now, I will ask another: Is Animal Crossing obsolete? Is there a better game with similar game mechanics?


Yes, Minecraft.

Hear me out. Minecraft has caused Animal Crossing to become obsolete.

Why?

On the surface, these two games seem like they are very different. However, that’s not the case. There’s no real purpose to Animal Crossing, and, you know what? There’s no real purpose to Minecraft.

They both put you out there with nothing in your pockets and no goals more intricate than simply: gather stuff. They both allow you to do as you wish. You can choose where you want to go and how you want to spend your time. You can move into a house, upgrade it, add stuff to it, and live out a virtual life.

But Minecraft does everything better. Hit the jump for the full article!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

A Concept for a New Star Trek Series



I love finding out that the bad guys are not so bad.

I have been thinking about what a new Star Trek TV show series would have to do to be “fresh” without falling too far from what makes the show so great. What I came up with would be a show where the viewer would get to know two very different spaceships.

Here’s the basic concept: A seemingly independent group of “evil” space marauders steals some sort of important object from Earth, and a new starship has been commissioned and a new captain appointed to pursue the marauders, return the object, and see that justice is served.




The object might be any number of things; perhaps it is a key rock that is used to generate enough energy for Earth’s replicators. Maybe the object is a living person; maybe the daughter of the Federation President was taken. A new weapon or technology? Who knows? The object must be interesting enough to survive seven seasons, and it must be important enough to send an entire ship after it.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Parental Protips: 5 Things to Do to Win Over a Teacher That Hates Your Kid


Teachers are human beings and so are your kids. Like in any social situation, some personalities just don’t mix well, and sometimes you might have to deal with a particular teacher that simply can’t stand your child. Maybe that teacher is just an asshole. Maybe your student isn’t as angelic when you’re not around. If you’re honest with yourself, you’ll probably find that it’s a combination of both.

However, success in a class can often be tied to the relationship a teacher has with their student. Students will not listen to teachers they hate; they will tie the subject matter to their feelings for the teacher. On the other hand, teachers who like their students will often fudge grades up a few points just to move a minus to a plus. They will spend extra time on students they like. They will provide extra chances, test retakes, or accept late work more often. I’m not saying any of these are exactly moral practices, but it’s realistic. It happens whether its moral or not, and it’s next to impossible to prove in an argument.

But I’m not here to preach ethics; I’m here to drive your student’s success.

So, what can you do about it? Well, I’m going to list a 5 actions you can take as a parent to improve the relationship between the student and the teacher.

1. Realize that ideally, the teacher would be beyond happy to be loved by your kid and pass them with an A ++++. 
No teacher WANTS to have a bad relationship with their students. Some teachers don’t care if it’s great, but none of them actively want to be hated. I know this goes both ways, but let’s face it; you’re already in your kid’s tank. I don’t have to beg you to love your kid, but it will take a little work to make you love your kid’s teachers. Just, try to understand them. Jobs, no matter how fun they can be, will suck sometimes.

2. Remember Christmas, Teacher’s Appreciation Week, Halloween, and bring in cupcakes on your kid’s birthday.This might seem shallow, but for real: teachers love chocolate, coffee, and stupid little mementoes. Last Teacher’s Appreciation Week, I got tons and tons of 5-dollar giftcards to Starbucks, and you know, I just might have felt a little better about the respective students in my class because of it. You tip the waiter at Red Robin 7 bucks, surely you can find it in you to tip the one who mentors your kid every single day the price of a coffee at Starbucks, and that teacher will remember you for it. Also, if you make enough cupcakes for Mr. Sourface to have one as well, he will think of you for it. Heck, swirl his/her name on it with frosting. Make it about him, even though it’s your kid’s birthday. You won’t regret it. You’ll be surprised how long some teachers will keep Christmas cards, and every time they see it they will remember the name of your student. Doing little stupid things for a teacher can add up.

3. Try to talk with the teacher first, not the principal. Going to the principal is like going to the teacher’s manager. Ask yourself, do you really need to go behind the teacher’s back? Is there really no other resolution? Just try talking with the teacher first, and don’t get all emotional. State things in a matter-of-factly way. Be blunt. Write down your points or thoughts if you need to, and follow it up with, “How can we work together to solve this problem?” Remember this, Teacher+Parent=Success and Teacher÷Parent=Struggle. Fighting with a teacher does absolutely nothing for you or your kid. You’ll only have that teacher for a short time in the span of your life. A semester, a year. Small unit of time, trust me. If you as a parent start to fight with a teacher, it will only affirm your kid’s hatred for that teacher, and thusly they will hate the subject matter of that class and reject anything that the teacher has said.

4. Show up to meetings you set up. Be on time to Parent-teacher conferences. Leave your kid at home (you’ve heard his defense a thousand times, anyway). Show respect to that teacher. Don’t give them reasons to despise you. Be respectful, turn the other cheek (so to speak). If you’re always 100% good, then they will have no argument against you. Be logical, not emotional. Look for results, not your personal brand of justice. I had a mother who would never show up to the conferences we scheduled, and (after setting up and canceling several times) when we finally met, she was disinterested and ignored everything I had to say. I would have rather her not schedule an appointment with me at all. It was a huge waste of everyone’s time, and you know what? The teachers talked about that parent in the teacher’s lounge. If one teacher hates you, then all of the other teachers will talk about how horrible you are every day at lunch. Dislike is infectious. Having one teacher hate you can bleed over to other classrooms.

5. Pretend to their faces as needed. It doesn’t matter if you think that the teacher is a fluffy bowl of lard or the next Einstein. Pretend the feelings you can’t muster to really have. If you can pretend to respect and think that that teacher is a source of knowledge about the development of a child, they will pretend to respect your kid. They will remember to put aside their personal feelings and grade objectively. Fake it, if you can’t feel it. Remember this, you have nothing to lose by faking it. Pride is overrated and does not make your student successful.

I will almost certainly do a Part 2 someday, so search my blog for it if you found this helpful. Also, if you found value in this, like, share, and +1 this to support me.


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Sunday, October 7, 2012

My Story: Picking the Right Road in Life

In 7th grade I made my mother cry by telling her I wanted to quit marching band. I hated the trumpet. The thing didn’t make sense to me—a visual and haptic learner—because it only had three buttons to press. Visual learning is something I will talk a great deal about on this blog. I’m sort of an extreme visual learner. Things have to visually make sense or else it’s like air in my ears. 


The three buttons on a trumpet didn’t visually make sense compared to the many, many notes you’re supposed to be able to make with it. Therefore, in 7thgrade I had already been faking playing my instrument for over a year. I couldn’t read music (another visual thing that just wouldn’t process in my brain). I couldn’t play.

Fast forward. It’s high school and I want to form a rock band. My four friends all agree to learn rock band instruments. I picked the guitar. This instrument I find to be more sensible. Fingering goes up and down with the tones. Fret gaps get wider and thinner with the pitch. I could see patterns in the chords. It made sense to me. I learned it easily. I formed a rock band (with some other kids, my original friends backed out). It was popular enough to win some battles.


Fast forward. It’s college time and I need to decide my major. Music and rock music has been my life, so I decide to become a music major. I still can’t read music. I go to college on my first day not signed up for any classes. I didn’t know how to sign up. I get directed to someone who is in charge of male vocalists. He’s shocked that I explain that I have no classes. Somehow, (and I still owe him a thousand-and-one thanks) he gets me into all of the classes I need.

 I get placed into a remedial music theory class, and though I pass just fine with an A, I am no better at reading music. Choir is fun, but harder than high school chorus. You need to read music here. It’s hard. Diction class is taught by a lady with a wart on her tongue.

The next semester rolls around and I decide to quit music and try computer science. My mom is a programmer and so I figure I can make a good living that way. I do a semester of basic programming and engineering. I am a B student.

Next semester arrives. I am sitting in my new programming 102 class, imagining myself sitting in a cubical all day typing. Coding is fun, but not a creative thing. It’s like doing a crossword puzzle. I can only half understand my teacher’s thick accent. I’m zoning out. It’s halfway through class. I pack up and leave, wordlessly.

I walked to the English department. There’s a new adviser there, and she’s the coolest, most caring person imaginable. She helps me drop all my classes and pick new ones. I’m now an English major. My grades skyrocket. I’m one of the best in my class now. People come to me for advice and help on homework.

My point is this: School is a place, not only to learn subject matter, but to learn about yourself.
Make bold decisions.
Drop all your classes and change to something new, if you need to. You’re not stuck in your major. If you’re failing, it’s probably because you’re not doing what you really want to be. Only you can decide what roads to take in life. Not your mommy or daddy, not your teachers, not your pet poochie.

Things will get confusing, but college is about overcoming confusion. Just follow your heart (and find a stellar adviser!).

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The Spark That Started The Idea For The Novel: in dream, art, poem, and song

The idea for my novel began with a dream. In it, I saw a face—half alien, orange skin, and a large two-sectioned eye on the side of a half-oval head. The creature was flat.
Flat on the wall. I was walking down a dusty temple—possibly the inside of a pyramid. There were hieroglyphs on the walls. There were paintings of these alien creatures in poses that you might expect Egyptian art to display. A leg in the air; both arms outstretched.
I was alone in this dream, and I kept checking over my shoulder. I noticed that these alien creatures on the walls were changing. They wouldn’t move when I looked back at them, but I could tell that they were following me down this hallway. They were more than just ancient paintings. They reverted back to the sides. They were flat.

As I exited the temple, I finally encountered one before a background of a setting sun. It glared at me with its one big eye.

It spoke: “What questions of the meek follow time of terror?” I didn’t respond to it, so it continued, “Where did we fall?”

The alien lifted one of its arms. It was cybernetic and metal. It was twisting with gears and gadgets. It didn’t say anything else, but it made me feel as if there was a price for progression—and humanity wouldn’t see it coming until it was too late.

I woke up. I jotted it all down and then returned to sleep.

For years I drew that alien in my art classes, notebooks, math homework, or on anything. Years later, I formed a rock band and made the words it said into a song:

Download the song here!

 
Poem version of the song:
What questions of the meek follow times of terror?
Where did we fall? What was our error?
Humanity entombed in this silent prayer:
Where did we fall? What was our error?
With ties tied up, my friend,
you'll flail, you'll fight, but you'll drown.
With tides tying up the shore,
dark tidings turn around.
Can we move on my friend?
We used to move on and on and on...
-
Now, this dream has finally sparked the product of a novel (which I knew almost from the day of the dream it would someday). It is fitting that I begin this blog with a recollection of my dream—its evolution into art, song, and poem—because its final form is this novel I’ve created.


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