New Music

I’ve been in search of some new music lately. After a while, I get a little antsy with the music I listen to because I’ve listened to it so many times before (that’s not to say I don’t still like it, but every once and a while you need something new). Luckily for me, there’s this fantastic website called NoiseTrade that gives you downloads of music (with the artists’ permission) either for free or in exchange for a donation for that artist. It’s mostly lesser known artists, but it’s all fantastic music. They recently put an album on the website from Matthew Mayfield. A couple of years ago, I went to a NeedToBreathe concert and Matthew Mayfield opened for them. He’s pretty amazing. After the show, he stood in the lobby and handed out his album, Now You’re Free. I’ve pretty much loved his music ever since. But the album that was just put on NoiseTrade is 72 Songs | Every Release. This means every song Matthew Mayfield has ever released. It’s pretty incredible. A lot of these songs I had already from his other albums/EPs, but some of them I’m hearing for the first time. Whenever I get a new album, I get really excited about music. This album especially has been perfect for studying and everything lately (Funny story: I’ve been listening to all of my Matthew Mayfield music and I noticed that some of the songs I haven’t listened to in a while I played a year ago. Basically that means that Matthew Mayfield is the best at getting me through finals). Anyways here’s one of my new favorites off this album:

This is the live version, but it’s still just as good. And here’s his cover of “Ring of Fire.” Just so amazing.

I really like his music because of the acoustic sound. He doesn’t have a lot of songs that are over-produced. And really, it’s just such. good. music. Please listen to this guy because he’s so talented and more people need to hear him.

Studying

It’s that time of year again…tests et. al. I have a big test today that I’ve been studying for like crazy. I made close to 150 flashcards…just on vocabulary. It’s funny because it didn’t feel like we were going over a lot of material these past couple of weeks. I think I’ll do okay – I have to remind myself that I know more than I think I know. I used to watch this show (let’s be honest, I still watch it on Amazon Instant) called Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide. It’s about three best friends in middle school just trying to get through the years. Ned, the main character, has a guide full of tips about how to survive school. I kind of wish I had a guide full of tips for this time of year. I may have done this multiple times over, but finals never really get easier (they actually usually get harder). It’s always stressful to have projects, tests, everything piling up at once.  In times like these, I live pretty much in the moment (it’s the only way not to get too stressed out). I think, okay, I’ll just take this test, and then I can focus on everything else. Don’t worry, I’ll make it through unscathed, but happy thoughts would help. And chocolate. Definitely chocolate.

The Malted Falcon

As one of our class assignments, I created a Twitter Bot, The Malted Falcon.  I initially got the idea about taking a famous movie quote and replacing a word with something else.  I consulted AFI’s “100 Years…100 Movie Quotes” and decided to use the famous quote from The Maltese Falcon, “The stuff that dreams are made of.” Last year, I read the book for class, and although I haven’t seen the movie all the way through, this quote is definitely representative of the theme of the book. I started thinking that if I changed “dreams” to a different word, it would change the quote, but still make it recognizable enough. My first thought was that it’d be funny to change it to names of recipes. I tried to find a list of recipes on Food Network’s website, but was unsuccessful. After some Internet searching, I came across a PDF of all the recipes from Alton Brown’s show Good Eats.  I fiddled with the formatting and eventually was able to put the first 52 or so recipes into my bot’s vocabulary so that it would replace “dreams.”  From there, I needed to change the name of my Twitter Bot. The first thing that came to mind was “The Malted Falcon” – part food, part movie. I’m pretty happy with what my bot has tweeted so far. I might add more to its vocabulary in the future, but so far I think it’s doing pretty well!

 

 

 

Reflection: Jane McGonigal

We recently watched a talk by Jane McGonigal at the Ted Talks entitled “Gaming can make a better world.”  In this talk, McGonigal discussed how she believes that gaming creates better people who are better equipped to fix the problems in the world.  Overall, I think that McGonigal’s talk had some valid points that she backed up with solid facts.  She initially talks about the biggest problem with gamers: they don’t believe they can do in the real world what they can do in games.  Even if gamers can change the world in a game and solve all the problems affecting people, they don’t believe they can do the same in the real world.  This is one of McGonigal’s overarching points, and is one of the things she wants to try to fix.  I especially like how she ties back into this point by describing how people use games now to avoid their everyday problems as a means of escapism.  It’s these actions, McGonigal argues, that limit the ability of games and gamers to change the world.  If there were games that helped solve problems in the real world, then by playing these games, gamers could change the world.  Games do not have to be means of escaping; rather they can be problem-solving.  Moreover, the fact that there are so many virtuosos in gaming now, McGonigal argues, is another reason that we as a society should be looking at games as a way to solve problems.  Because so many people are so good at playing games, utilizing this resource would not only help us solve problems, but would also help us solve problems faster.  McGonigal’s talk raised some good points about the future of gaming in problem-solving solutions.  Her talk was well-researched and had a strong argument.  Overall, I really enjoyed McGonigal’s talk and I believe she has a keen insight into the future of gaming.

Catching Fire

I saw The Hunger Games: Catching Fire this past weekend. It was so good! I’ve read the book, and I think the movie stayed very true to the spirit of the novel.  There were a few changes between the book and the movie, but I don’t think they made a huge difference in the narrative of the story or the overall feel of the movie.  Entertainment Weekly has a really good list of the differences here. I know a lot of people find the premise of The Hunger Games to be disturbing.  While I think that is a good point, I really like to look at the books from the standpoint of the criticism they make of society.  For an English major, I always love analyzing the deeper meaning behind novels.  Although sometimes I think we can get a little ridiculous about analyzing literature, I definitely think looking at the societal context of a novel can really help the understanding of it.  A theme of the book is the excess of the Capitol while many of the other Districts suffer, which I think is definitely relevant to today’s society.  The Hunger Games movies do a really good job at representing the sheer excess of the Capitol in contrast to the outer Districts. Overall, Catching Fire was an excellent movie. I think I liked it better than the first one…but Mockingjay is my favorite book, so I have high hopes for those two movies!

December 1st

Happy December! It’s crazy that November is over. I feel like the fall went by so quickly. Although time always seems to go by quickly except when you want it to (sitting in traffic, waiting in line…). I’m not sure what to write about today…Music? Movies? TV? Books? Oh I know! Recently, Entertainment Weekly has been running a competition to see what is the best Young Adult book of all time. Here’s a link to the article about the winner!

That’s right – the winner was the Harry Potter series! I know I already wrote a post about Harry Potter, but there’s so much to say about YA books themselves. I thought there were some pretty serious contenders in this race – “The Hunger Games” series, “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” “The Fault in Our Stars,” the “Divergent” series…the list goes on. In the end though, I think the right book(s) won. I know this competition was about the best YA book of all time, but I think Harry Potter is significant because it has defined a generation. I think it is similar to the way so many people who were teenagers in the 60s see The Beatles as one of the defining pop culture moments of their generation. Harry Potter has convinced so many kids to read, and I don’t think it will ever age. It’s one of those singular things in history that is so exemplary, it probably will never be repeated. Which I am definitely okay with.

 

Same Old Same Old

Yesterday I talked about the fictional duo in “Once” (although they were a couple at one point and a band in real life!), but today I need to talk about The Civil Wars. This duo is fantastic. I think I was probably introduced to them when they sang with Taylor Swift on “The Hunger Games” soundtrack, and I was hooked. Their harmony is insane and their songs are so dreamy and ethereal (except when they’re screaming hardcore-country-rock-bluegrass blessed madness). Unfortunately, they are currently “separated.” When I heard about that I was so disappointed. Some bands break up and it’s not a huge deal – but these guys are different. This is just my opinion, but I don’t think they sound as good alone as they do together. There’s something that each gives to the other that makes them, them. I’m hopeful they’ll get back together soon and go on tour, because I would love to see them live. But their most recent album, The Civil Wars sort of narrates the dissonance brewing between them in perfect, harmonious, lyrical moments. I really love all the songs on this album. I read an article around the time the album came out from NPR. They did an interview with Joy Williams of The Civil Wars and she said this about the song “Same Old Same Old”: “there’s still magic when we sing; the way that our voices blend…” I think that’s a perfect way to describe the way these two voices sound together: magic.

Once

Can I just write a blog post that is all about my favorite movies? It’d probably be pretty long…and you’d probably get bored of reading it…and I’d probably run out of ways to say “awesome” or “amazing.” But I’m listening to a song from the “Once” soundtrack and thinking about how great this movie is. For those of you who haven’t seen it, it’s about two people (an unnamed man and woman) who meet on the streets of Dublin and spend a weekend recording music together. It’s about love, life, missed chances, and how music can connect people even in just one moment.

I first watched this movie with my family not that long after it came out, and I watched it again in my Film Studies class in high school. I love movies that talk about music as something universal; so often songs have the ability to connect us to people we’ve never even met – whether it’s the songwriter themselves, or a person halfway across the world who is listening to the same song. I know I’ve read different artists talk about performing in Asia and it’s incredible to them that people who don’t even speak English, can sing along with them at concerts. Even when you don’t understand the language the song is in, the language of the music speaks to us.

This is the song I was listening to. This scene is near the beginning of the movie and it’s pretty incredible what Glen Hansard can do with his voice (and his face).

This song is kind of the theme of the whole movie. This scene in particular is when the two characters first sing together. The first time I saw this, I got goosebumps. (And it won an Oscar!)

Happy Thanksgiving!

It’s Thanksgiving!!!!!! The food day of all food days. Today should be pretty fun – the parade, food, family, friends, good times. I’m definitely thankful for everyone in my life. Now you probably thought I would include a video from Snoopy’s Thanksgiving. But I’m not! (It’s not really my favorite Snoopy movie anyways – too much Peppermint Patty) But I am including a video from one of the classic “Friends” Thanksgiving episodes.

This is one of the best Thanksgiving episodes of “Friends.” (But let’s be honest, all the Thanksgiving episodes are fantastic. I particularly like the one with a guest appearance by Brad Pitt)

Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays. I’m not really sure why. I mean, yes, I love all the food, but I don’t think that’s it (I mean, I didn’t even like stuffing until middle school!). Every year when I was younger we would have Thanksgiving at my house (now we alternate with another family member) and I always loved the preparation the day before, especially since my Grandma would come over to help. Thanksgiving is all about togetherness and that is something that is definitely emphasized at our Thanksgiving. It’s that last peaceful moment of fall before the craziness of the holiday season (officially) begins. I hope you’re all with someone you love this Thanksgiving, and I hope you eat just enough turkey and trimmings to fill you up. Happy Thanksgiving!

A Different Perspective

It’s almost Thanksgiving! Today is all about resting up for the big day of eating.

I’ve talked before about how I love traveling and I recently started following Earth Pics on Twitter. I’m not sure who maintains this account, but they post some really cool pictures. Recently I came across this picture:

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This is a picture of the underside of the Eiffel Tower at night. It’s such an incredible photo for so many reasons. I love that it’s an unexpected angle of something really familiar, and I also really like photos that are taken straight up – I think they offer such an interesting perspective. After some Internet searching, I discovered the Flickr account of the woman who took this, CurlGirl1. From her profile, I’ve determined she’s German and that she takes really incredible photos. I encourage you to check out her pictures because they are all truly amazing. She is an extremely talented photographer.

In the mean time, here’s a picture I took in Notre Dame last year. The ceilings in that building are fantastically high and beautiful, and I really wanted to capture the feeling of space above you. (And like I said, I really like pictures taken straight up.)

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