Thursday, October 28, 2010

22

The heart warming color of "bleak gray", what I believe is a Crayola term, has finally settled in the skies over the Hoosier heartland. A friend of mine, who hails from Syracuse, New York and is only mildly familiar with the crazy weather patterns we worn and tested Indy natives are oblivious to, has pined for "fall weather" in the midst of record setting heat only two weeks out from Halloween. Welp - here ya go Dave.

But the chilling winds and Tim Burton-esque atmosphere can't trump my inner giddiness. After all, your birthday only comes once a year.

A year ago I was in the midst of a bad break up from someone I was secretly hoping I would marry. I hated (almost) everyone and (almost) everything, and at one point, during the coldest and darkest days of a rather harsh winter, was (almost) an alcoholic. My waist line receded after losing thirty pounds and I was relegated to watching "Coraline" and "Wall-E" while constantly feeling vulnerable.

Needless to say, Pete Wentz would have been proud.

It's amazing what a year does. I've always told my friends who found themselves in less than desirable circumstances to simply keep their chin up and let things "work themselves out" - whatever that means. Looking back I realize I didn't need an endless supply of whiskey sours, I just needed to take my own advice.

When I turned 21, I was rather gloomy. Sure the steak dinner I enjoyed with my parents for dinner was satisfying, but with the swirl of events that had happened recently left me bitter and wanting. I felt like I was deprived of something. The big bang I was hoping never arrived.

Last year I spent the whole day listening to P.J. Harvey songs about how tough living in New York City is - even though I've never been to New York City. This year? The Who's Quadrophenia - a rock opera about a boy who never finds satisfaction in anything then somehow finds it by learning to let go. Fitting don't you think?

My birthday marks the beginning of the Holiday season for me. Halloween is only a few days out (I'm dressing as Wall-E), and the warm spirited festivities of Thanksgiving and Christmas soon follow. Last year I spent the occasions held up in my parent's basement blogging about records no one cared about. I'll still be doing the same thing this year, I'll just be able to crawl out of my dude-hole and smile once and awhile.

I've often referenced an obscure Pete Townshend song through everything in the past year or so. It's called "I Am Secure", and more than ever - I am just that.

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Epic Bulldozer That Is Avatar

Half naked blue monkeys and rag tag mercenaries playing a space age game of "Cowboys and Indians" on a planet far out in space that essentially looks like the rain forest got a hold of whatever pumped up the second half of Barry Bond's career. Throw in some romance, explosions and the all important 3D factor and you get a movie that has made $53,333,333.33 per day world wide since it's release last month.

Avatar is a strange movie for me. I've seen it 4 times and each viewing has been worth the price of admission. I'm completely taken back by the world that James Cameron has created. It's colorful, magnificent, breath taking and an immersing experience. But at the same time it's so out of this world that it almost doesn't feel real.

It's so hard to get a grasp on Avatar because there is no means of comparison. Yeah the story line is predictable and the themes that are presented and explored are nothing new. I'm simply concerned with the technical pizazz. The effects and the visuals are so revolutionary that you can't judge it against any other movie yet made.

And yet for how disconnected this movie can make you feel, it's grossed over $1.6 billion world wide over the last month and has just passed Star Wars for the third highest grossing film in American history. The only films that have made more are The Dark Knight and Titanic which, more than likely, will eventually fall to the juggernaut that is Avatar.

However I suppose the film's other-worldliness and ability to disconnect you from reality is the ultimate appeal it has. While a film like The Dark Knight may have shattered box office records and stayed in theaters for over 6 months, that movie still rooted you to something tangible. True it's a comic book movie, but the film's gritty tone and realistic portrayal of modern times doesn't give you the escapism that Avatar does.

The thing that you have to admire, almost more so than the epic visuals, is how well James Cameron has mastered the concept of broad appeal. While he puts most of his eggs in the CGI basket, he distributes an even amount of eggs into other baskets making his movie a more well rounded product.

The story is simple enough for anyone to follow, yet it has enough resonance and meaning for today's world so as not to waste your time. There is a message behind the dialog and action, yet it's evenly dispersed throughout the film so that you don't feel like you're getting preached to. A passable and genuine love story is there to appeal to the Twilight tweener chicks, and enough heart racing, over the top action scenes are developed to please the dudes. The science aspect is there to give sci-fi fans their fill as well. Cameron's ability to please many people at one time makes him a Wal-Mart with feet - and an almost bigger bank account.

So bask in the glow of this perfectly flawed film. Breathe in that new car smell because ten years from now, every action movie will have this new computerized look - making Avatar seem like a Dinosaur. But the best of those movies will be called Avatar 2.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Sports Journalsim: Or How To Make A Living By Bullshitting

As an aspiring journalist, and a current journalism major, I've always thought that I was striving to make a difference. I envision myself telling stories about underdogs and the unsung. My words would give a voice to those who didn't have one and yada yada yada - all that tree hugging hippie junk. But the IUPUI School of Journalism recently gave birth to a bastard child called a sports journalism major and I've come to the realization that writing about sports is one of the easiest ways to make a living - you just have to be willing to admit that your life is a sham.

Let me be clear. I am a sports fan. Sure I might not watch ESPN religiously and no I can't quote you every starting roster of every MLB team, but nonetheless I am a fan of athletic competition. I cheer for my Colts while my heart aches for my Broncos and Pacers. Don't even get me started on IU men's basketball. I'll be weeping for a long time for that program. However I just can't bring myself to write about something that I actively enjoy.

Because sports journalism, more so than any other form of professional writing, is both incredibly stale and routine and nothing can change that fact. Sports, a very conservative past time, conflicts with the progressive and dynamic nature of journalism. Trying to combine these two element's best parts essentially cancels them out leaving only a hollow product left.

Let's use the NFL for example. As I type this blog the Colts are picking the Baltimore Ravens apart. There has been much hype about tonight's game and many sports writers, pundits and know it all radio hosts have all added their two cents. "Can Peyton Manning win after the bye?", "Can the Colts compete after a month off from a meaningful game?", "How can the Raven's solid defense match up against the high powered offense of Indianapolis?", "How will Pierre Garcon play after the tragedy in Haiti?". All of these questions are essentially meaningless.

Sports journalism is the equivalent of algebra. Insert any name or sports term into a sports question and regurgitate it onto the page. "Can 'insert any hyped or good player's name' win under pressure?", "How will the 'insert a life changing moment or sad story' affect the 'insert team name". Sports as a whole works like an engine on a car. The parts are expendable and are easily replaced to keep the engine running.

Just 20 years ago the same "career defining" questions were being levied at the Buffalo Bills and their hall of fame quarterback Jim Kelly. "Can they...? Will they...?". The Bills had it much worse than the Colts however. Imagine how much more intensified criticisms of the Colts and Peyton Manning would be if they went to the Super Bowl 4 times in a row and lost every one of them like the Bills did. Poor Manning would've had a nervous breakdown by this point.

That's my biggest complaint about sports journalism. You have to make the mundane and predictable entertaining for readers. Sure the names and faces of the game change over time but the core pseudo drama remains. Sports media is tasked with the job of creating something out of nothing. Even the players themselves are as dull some of the games they play in. How many times have you heard the same post game interview?

"Kobe Bryant you just scored 560 points and won another NBA championship. Tell me about your effort."

"Well I just wanna give thanks to God for the opportunity to do what I love. Big thanks to my team mates and my coach. Ya know we just came out and executed and did what we had to do to come in here and get a victory."

This video only helps me prove the point.

It's so repetitive. I can almost write a sports story without ever having to do interviews with players or coaches because of sport's conservative nature. Nothing dynamic ever comes out of a sports figures mouth. Even players who try to be flashy and one man shows are just another predictable ingredient. When loud mouths like Terrel Owens or Chad Ochocinco draw attention to themselves, they are just the offspring of people like Michael Irving, Deion Sanders or even Muhammad Ali.

"But Jon, you're a music guy. Isn't music journalism just as fickle and repetitive as sports writing?"

Yes and no. While some ingredients of music and sports writing are common - a routine system with replaceable parts music shares the same dynamism that is such an essential part of journalism. For as special as Bono thinks he is, he is just another piece of the engine. When he finally hangs up his sun glasses, some other flamboyant character with a knack for melody and a fondness of saving humanity will take over. Sure he may not be as important or as good as Bono when it comes to music, but the work will continue on nonetheless.

But music changes at a far more rapid pace than sports. Rock n Roll, as well as all genres, are about pushing the envelope. If music was as rigid and set it its ways as sports then we would all be stuck listening to jazz, blues or folk songs. The Beatles, Elvis, Michael Jackson, and Madonna's career would be mute.

"But Jon, how is music journalism so much more special than sports journalism? Why do people enjoy sports so much if you think it's so 'rigid"?

Because it's entertainment. People are dazzled by mankind's athletic capabilities. People pay $60 for nose bleed seats to watch Peyton Manning throw a football 30 yards down field to Reggie Wayne because they can't do it themselves. Same holds true for musicians. A band like U2 can charge $250 a ticket because they make music that neither you could ever dream of composing. I'm not trying to argue the merit of their tunes, I'm simply using them as an example.

The difference between watching a band or an artist perform in the limelight and watching athletes show off on the grid iron, hardwood, the pool or any other venue is that music, as well as almost every other form of entertainment molds and transforms over time. U2 has gone from a bunch of Irish garage punk wannabes with mullets, to a mighty musical force that grows and experiments with each new album or tour. Reggie Wayne runs a slant route - albeit and very good slant route, but a slant route nonetheless.

Also people have more invested in music. Nothing is ever truly at stake in sports no matter how great the hype. For all the talk and analysis put into next week's football games, it won't make any difference.

If the Colts come out and lay an egg letting the Jets waltz into Miami for the Super Bowl, the team won't face any real consequences. Manning will not be executed by the electric chair, Jim Caldwell won't be tarred and feathered and Dwight Freeney won't be given the nutri-system diet plan. Sure they may be judged in the court of public opinion thus leaving many bruised and battered ego, but their limbs would still be attached.

"But Jon the same argument could be made for music. It's all speculation."

Yes but it's different with music. People feel like they have more of a connection with musicians more so than other other person who has the privilege of being well known. Singers and lyricists have the ability to connect with people. When I listen to songs by The Who I often feel like Pete Townshend is speaking directly to me. I feel like we have a bond even though he doesn't even know who my name is. I'm sure the same goes for you and your favorite artist.

So when my favorite bands like The Who or Queens of the Stone Age release a bad album, make a crappy video or give a poor performance on stage it matters to me because it's an investment that I have time and money spent in.

When the Colts, Pacers or any of my teams lose, even though it may sting or be a tad disappointing, I don't get as down hearted as I do when something musical comes crashing down. That's because sports stars could never be as engaging as music figures.

"Wow that bubble screen really speaks to me! Did you see that 3 pointer? There is meaning behind his shot. I wonder why Tiger Woods chose to use that putter. There has to be something more to it."

You never hear anyone talk like that. Sports is simply sports for sports sake. It's nothing special beneath the surface because the surface is all that is there. Not that there is anything wrong with that. As I said, I love sports and I love following sports. I'm simply saying that trying to write about something superficial is essentially creating something out of nothing.

Good sports writers are brilliant because they have found a way to perfectly make an inch stretch into a mile. Either (a) I realize this profound truth thus making me a genius or (b) I'm the one trying too hard to be analytical and make my life meaningful when in fact everything is meaningless. I'd like to go with option "a" because I don't want to just disprove my whole blog. Oh wait....

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Sleep... I Wish I Knew You

For some reason over the past few nights my mind won't let me drift off to sleep. My normal schedule hasn't changed. I wake up around the same time and do the same activities yet when I lay down and try to do nothing but sit like a slug my mind still races 1,000 miles per hour.

I think it all stems from dreams that I've been having of late.

As most of you know the past few months haven't been what I had pictured them as being. I won't go into detail but all you have to do is read my last 2 blog posts to really get a firm understanding of what I had been going through.

For some reason last week I had dreams involving Erin on 4 consecutive nights and then a separate dream a few nights later. I hadn't really thought of her at all on those days. I've been too busy with school and work to really focus on anything else. Sometimes the dreams were terrible. Her and I would literally get into fistfights leaving me nothing but a ball of anxieties the next day. Other times the dream would be good - but still just the fact that I had a dream about her left me feeling uneasy and unable to get back to sleep.

Now it seems as if those visions have awoken something within me subconsciously that refuses to let my catch some Zs. I know I'm tired. I can feel it by simply laying there. My eyes are heavy and my breathing slows but the trigger to activate the sleep machine keeps malfunctioning.

Nothing works. Laying in complete silence doesn't work because I can hear my thoughts going through my head. Leaving the TV on or listening to music to drown out my inner voice doesn't work either. In fact it simply adds to the noise and adds more stress to the situation.

Night caps tend to help but I don't want my sleep schedule to become dependent on alcohol. Sleeping pills will make me sleep too much so those don't really comfort me either.

I don't want to become an insomniac. Nor do I want to become a zombie. I don't know what the answer is but I just wish I had one night where I could just have a decent nights rest.

Maybe the holidays will help. Maybe getting some time away from school and more time with family friends could ease the tensions. Things have been looking up for me lately. I've lost weight, I feel a lot more confident in myself, I'm getting back into my music and writing songs. I've been making a lot of new friends and make new connections with new people. There is no reason why I should be having issues like this.

I've really grown up and matured as an adult over the past few weeks. I look back at the person who wrote the previous 2 posts and I see nothing but an improvement compared to the Jon LaFollette I am today.

But for some reason I just can't seem to get to bed. I feel nervous at night now. Perhaps there is something there that I just can't see or feel right now. Maybe Erin is still on my mind more than I think she is. Maybe instead of dealing with all those issues I claimed to have dealt with I just buried them deep down and bottled them up and my dreams are the only way for me to deal with them.

I would like to think otherwise but at this point I just don't know. I mean there is no animosity there. Forgiveness has been issued on both sides hatred does not exist between the two of us. Yeah things were rough but what else happens in a break up? Maybe I'm reading too much into this... I mean I am pretty tired right now.

It's 5:30 in the morning now. I guess I should try to get some sleep again... hopefully.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Self Reflection Helps (in response to Self Reflection Hurts)

A million thanks are owed to those who responded to my last post. If you contacted me on this page or on my Facebook note I can't express how much I appreciate your support. It helped me a great deal. It made me realize that I wasn't alone, and that I'm in the same boat as everyone else. That we all face the same insecurities and anxieties deep down.

I've had some up and down days since writing that message. None equalled the anguish of that night. The highs keep getting higher and the lows are getting less drastic. Things can only get better from here and I know that they will with time and patience.

I can't believe that it took some sappy, overblown blog to make me realize that I really do have friends and people around me that genuinely care about me and want me to be as happy as much as I want them to be. I guess being in that kind of deranged emotional state can really do things to a person and turn you into the most irrational creature on the planet.

The events that helped me write my last post were just me trying to run away from the emptiness I was feeling at the time. I didn't, and couldn't, deal with everything that was going through my head. Instead of trying to be up front with the reality of the situation I ran away and hoped that not dealing with it would simply make it go away.

But with reading and talking to people over the past few weeks, I realize that we're all walking down the same path and facing the same insecurities, fears and anxieties. No matter how grown up and mature we think we might be, our lives will always shift and evolve whether we're ready or not thus releasing our insecure inner child that desperately reaches out for a safety net. However the only safety net we have is love of family and friends.

I'm dedicated to growing and learning from the last 2 1/2 weeks. I feel like I have the potential to really mature and turn into the person that I know I can be. I'm resolved to be a stronger, more focused, well rounded Jon LaFollette than the Jon LaFollette that wrote the last blog title.

I will be happy.
I am secure.