Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Can You Hear It?

            It’s something so common that most people don’t notice it.  It can be found in TVs, or cars, or even people.  We’re trained to ignore it unless we go looking for it.  But when we find it, there’s no turning back.
            When you turn on your TV do you ever notice a high-pitched hum that just won’t go away?  You’ve watched this TV every night for the past 4 years but until this fateful evening you never bore witness to this wretched noise.  Well you better get used to it, because that noise isn’t going away.
            The same thing often occurs with people.  When you listen to someone speak, most times they sound normal.  One day, you’re talking to that same person and you notice that they inhale quite loudly.  Next thing you know, you’re consciously aware of each inhalation they take.  Similarly, if you realize that one of your friends uses the word “like” excessively, now suddenly the same speech that you once found normal seems horribly polluted with the often-misused word.
            How can it be that one event can cause something in our brain to change the way it acts so dramatically?  I wish I could go back to the days when my TV didn’t hum and my teacher didn’t use the phrase vis-à-vis every other sentence.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Tastes Good

           I can’t drive my car without listening to music. I can’t do my homework without listening to music. Some nights, I can’t even sleep without listening to music. That’s fucked up, and probably unhealthy. But I don’t care. Music is the most universal form of entertainment on the planet, and probably the most convenient. It isn’t demanding in any sense of the word, and I can have access to all of it from my computer—plus it’s free if I want it to be. In our generation, it’s essentially an implied facet of life. I mean, who doesn’t listen to music? That’s a completely absurd idea to most of us. And, just like food, each person has his or her own personalized taste of music.
The phrase ‘music taste’ is an all-inclusive category that attempts to generalize the preferences and favoritisms of a person in terms of what they enjoy listening to. In my opinion, it gets tossed around rather haphazardly: “he has great taste in music.”, “ew, no, her taste in music is awful.” I hear talk like that a lot, especially when people are fighting over whose iPod to play at a party. But I have a fundamental problem with saying someone has a poor taste in music. Like, what exactly does that mean? How is music preference assessed in a qualitative fashion? What makes a person’s taste in music good or bad? It doesn’t make sense to me. I can’t go out to dinner with my friend and tell him that he has shitty taste in food…it would be meaningless. Music preference, just like food, is entirely subjective and unique to each person.
Despite the arbitrary nature of judging music tastes, many people proudly boast their own preferences and compare themselves to others in a competitive fashion. So then, what do the people who use the phrase in a contrastive manner think they’re saying? To find out, I asked a few people who considered themselves “tasteful”.
“What do you believe makes your taste in music good?”
A: “I think I have a really wide variety in regards to my interests. I'm also patient with songs and artists when other people will give up on them, I will try and find some redeeming aspects to them.”
B: “It's diverse and sounds good and it’s original.”
C: “I understand the art of good lyricism and instrumentalism, as I play music, and really know how to distinguish actual art and talent from a song that is purely aesthetically pleasing.”

“In terms of the actual songs themselves, what makes a particular one good or bad?”

A: “There are a lot of things to take into account: the lyrics, the rhyming schemes, the background music, beat, tempo, sound of the vocals (if there are vocals).”
B: “Lyrics, if like- an emotion/story/truth is told. That's pretty important, and if it sounds good I guess. And sounds different. If it's relatable, makes you feel something.”

“Does your definition of good music change depending on the setting or environment you're in?”
C: “Yeah, when i'm working with my dad in the summer on the farm, the only appropriate music is bluegrass, but if I'm on the table, I really only want to hear something that goes really hard. Likewise, dance music almost exclusively lacks art, but it serves a wonderful purpose: it makes you move.”

First of all, thanks, to all my interview subjects. Now, let’s look at their responses. The idea of novelty/originality comes up more than once. I guess that the theory is: if a song is undiscovered—a gem—then that somehow automatically makes it better. In the same vein, people that listen to arcane bands seem to believe they’re elevated over those who listen to traditionally popular music. Another trend in the responses is the mentioning of artistic and lyrical aspects of songs. By this logic, a song could then be lyrically brilliant but still sound like utter dissonance.
My point in all of this, and I think subject C had the right idea, is that the concept of “good music taste” is extremely circumstantial, and the notion that someone can have a better taste in music than another person is comparable to someone having better taste in food; they’re both misleading.

*I wrote this in defense of someone who many consider (including myself) to have poor musical taste. I disagree with many of the things I wrote. 

Monday, October 17, 2011

And The Winner Is:

The viewers have spoken.  Despite a controversy over word count, Electric Green Jammers is the winner of our first story contest.  Congratulations.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

CONTEST: The Moment

            My parents have been married for twenty-five years. They’ve had four kids together. For my whole life, I had always thought that they were an archetypical couple, a prime example of matrimony. Sure, they fight a lot, but so does any healthy couple. I maintained this image of them through 10th grade, never once considering the possibility that perhaps there was more to their relationship than I could see. 
            Last summer, sometime during July, I was stuck at home with nothing to do. It was 95 degrees out, sweltering and humid. I had to get away. My friends and I made arrangements to go swimming at the club. We arrived at the pool and I immediately made my way to the locker room to change into my suit. The familiar scent of slightly-mildewed carpet engulfed me as I walked down the hall to find a secluded corner. Just as I was turning into an outcrop of lockers, I experienced a sight so foreign and bizarre to me that I became instantly paralyzed. There was my father, right in front of me, nude, and fully embraced by another man. Their limbs interconnected, their lips plastered to each other’s. What a strange encounter, I thought. I wonder why my dad is kissing this man. Does he owe him money?
            “Seth!” He said to me, entirely flustered. “Son, I—I have a confession.” I tilted my head, slightly confused.
            “What is it?” I asked.
            “Seth…please don’t hate me for this, but, I’m gay.” And that was the moment when I realized my dad was a terrible liar.

- S.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

CONTEST: Fun at the Doctor's Office

            I was at my annual checkup at the doctor.  Of course I was due for several vaccines and my doctor proceeded to explain each of them one by one.  There was the average flu shot and tetanus booster, however, this time there was a new one: the HPV vaccine.
            My doctor proceeded to calmly explain that it is important get this vaccine before you become sexually active as a preventative measure.  It was at this moment that a few poorly thought out words escaped my father’s mouth.  He mockingly asked the doctor “Will it help him become sexually active?”  The doctor didn’t find this joke particularly amusing.


CONTEST: Cheerleading 101

            There isn’t one moment I can pinpoint and say definitively that this is the most awkward encounter I’ve ever had with my parents. In fact, I’ve had so many that I probably cannot choose. Whether it was my sister walking around the house with a sex toy asking what it is, or finding my father’s porn stash in his shirt drawer, it is expected at this point. 
            However, a very awkward situation arose at a basketball game- who would have guessed? I was excited to finally get out of the house and enjoy some college basketball with my good friend and my father. It was a great game at the end of the first half, and I was pumped to see the rest. However, that was quickly thwarted. During halftime the cheerleaders ran out to do a performance. As a male cheerleader was lifting down a female one, she awkwardly fell on his shoulders with her crotch in his face. My friend and I started to giggle, until my father looked over and said, “You see that, that’s what your mother and I do.”

CONTEST: Electric Green Jammers

I work out at the gym with my dad on the weekends. We usually keep to ourselves. He lifts. I run. Sometimes we’ll fill up our water cups at the same time or use elliptical machines in close proximity, but usually our workouts don’t coincide.
            But one Sunday afternoon in January I figured I’d alter my usual routine and take advantage of the salt-treated pool. I decided to swim laps for forty-five minutes or so. I put on my swim cap and goggles and jumped in. It was mostly sixty-something’s around me in the pool and a few younger women in the hot tub on the other side of the aquatic room.
            I started my workout and stopped every four laps or so to catch my breath. I had finished my fifth or sixth 100-meter set and I rested arms on the edge of the pool at the shallow end. More people had come in. I was going to have to share my lane. The ladies in the hot tub were still gossiping, the older men in the other lanes were floating with kick-boards, and in through the doorway walked my dad. In a pair of electric green swimming jammers. 
I pretty much died.
Arguably the most mortifying and scarring thing a teenage girl can witness is her middle-aged, hairy dad in a too-tight, too Olympic, too-everything swimsuit. In public. He walked over to me and waved. “How many laps have you done?” I cringed. Every single person in the room had turned to look at us. The hot tub ladies. The senile men in the other lanes. The one lifeguard. The cleaning lady sweeping the water on the sides of the pool.  Everyone.
I did probably the only rational thing I could have done in that situation. I pushed off the wall as hard as I could and tried not to come up for air for the rest of the afternoon. I hope my dad got the message.


Wednesday, October 5, 2011

CONTEST: Cameroon

In 2009 my brother Ian went to Cameroon, which was the farthest any of us had ever been from home. After 4 months we were all excited for his return, especially my father.
            The night before, my father couldn’t sleep; he just baked with James Brown playing until sunrise. When I came home from school there was a “Welcome Home” banner draped across our living room, complete with streamers, balloons and an apple pie, a blueberry pie, a chicken pot pie, and a pan of brownies cooling on the table.
            He thought that Ian would come home a different man, that he would realize he didn’t like my father anymore, or wish he’d never left Cameroon, so two hours before Ian’s flight arrived we filed quickly and silently into the sedan, me in the back seat, my brother Kyle driving, and my father holding a warm plate of fried yams: a recipe he found online. Behind the car, the cat sat in the driveway; with a sick desperation my father turned to my brother and said, “Fuck it. Run over the cat.”
           After an hour Ian came into view, with a sun bleached beard and skin the color of African clay. He came over to us, gave my father a hug, and said his first words to us in four months: “Hey guys.” He yawned, hugging my father. When we got home he gave us gifts. My father cried and we all stayed up eating blueberry pie and popping balloons.


CONTEST: French Toast

Okay, so it’s Saturday morning and I’m home alone.  Now I don’t know about you guys but for me clothes are about everyone else, so when I’m home alone, I don’t bother with stupid things like clothes or breathing.  So I’m completely naked as I walk out of my room and walk downstairs to the kitchen.  Then I’m faced with a difficult choice: should I have cereal for breakfast, or should I make French toast?  A question everyone must ask themselves one day.  Well the choice was made easy because we actually didn’t have cereal, so obviously I got to work on the French toast.  Then I was at that point where I needed to get out a spatula.  So I’m bending down trying to find a spatula when I hear an unnecessarily loud scream, immediately after the scream I hear footsteps sprinting down the stairs.  I turn around to find my mother’s friend who had spent the night at our house.  Once I turn around she continues to scream and it is still unnecessary.  Then my mom comes downstairs, thankfully she realizes that it is unnecessary to scream and so thankfully she doesn’t scream, instead she just looks at me she says to me “why are you naked,” unsure of what to say I say the only rational thing I can think of, “It’s comfortable.”  She gives me a look and makes me go upstairs to put on pants, and then I come back down and make myself some French toast.


CONTEST: Nail Clippers

            I was eight years old and I needed the nail clippers, kept in my parents’ bathroom. I had the worst hangnail in the world and it was all I could think about. I skipped down the hall to the opposite end where my parents’ door was closed, the norm at 10 pm. I slowly opened the door, as to not make any creaking sounds and awake my sleeping parents. As I glanced around I saw that my dad's side of the bed looked abnormally high off the mattress. I had Debbie Roffman guys, I was able to puzzle out what was going on. I was in such shock that they had the nerve to continue these escapades even though they were like 40. I dropped to the ground in utter disbelief. I squatted there, not sure what my next move would be. I heard my mom say "I think Z just came in." Oh shit. What the hell was I supposed to do at that point. So I continued my stance, right next to their bed. My mother came around (after throwing a bathrobe over her naked self) and saw me, just chillin there. I got up and bolted back down the hall and into my room, jumped onto my bed, and burst into hysterical tears. My mother came in, shortly after. I was so mortified by the whole situation. My mom, clearly ill prepared as to how to handle a situation like this, stuttered a bit, and then asked, "Is there anything that you need me to explain?" I really was not in the mood for that one, so I begged her to get out, which she did, and I fell asleep crying. Not sure why I got so damn emotional, but it may have something to do with the fact that I'm pretty sure my parents now think I'm a major pervert... thats cool.


Tuesday, October 4, 2011

CONTEST: 1995, Thunder and Treadmill

 It was 1995 and my parents had just moved us to a new city.  Along with it came all the requisite “new” things: new school, new house, new friends, new weather?  Damn did this town have some crazy ass weather.  On one particular night I woke to the crack of thunder and saw two small eyes staring directly at me.  “I’m scared,” a tiny voice peeped.  As the oldest of three, I was the stand-in parent, especially at night time.  “It’s okay, I will”- BANG- holy shit!  That is definitely going to hit our house.  “Come on, I’ll take you downstairs to Mommy,” I said bravely as I grabbed her little hand and yanked her behind me. 
Phew, I got us safely to my parents room, pulled down on the handle.  Locked?   I knocked.  “Mom?”  She couldn’t hear us over the storm raging outside.  I looked down at that terrified little face and pondered my next move.  I glanced down at the floor and there in front of us was a perfect image of my mother projected onto the high gloss tile floor.  “Wow, you can see mom there, just like a movie.  She is awake,” I said.  “Oh look,” said my sister as she stared down at our mother, “Mommy is exercising on the treadmill.”  “But we don’t own a treadmi-oh-god! You know what, why don’t you just come sleep in my bed for tonight.”

- LA

SPO's First Story Contest

To all of our loyal viewers, we offer you the opportunity to try your hand at blogging.  We will be holding a contest in which our viewers vote on their favorite stories submitted by fellow viewers.  All stories must be 250 words or less about the following prompt:

An awkward encounter with parents.

Please send all submissions to studentparkingonly@gmail.com and we will post them as quickly as possible.  Keep in mind that the stories will be posted exactly as they are submitted so please take care while proofreading.  The winner, as chosen by you, will receive a $20 gift card to Target.  We will take entries until Friday October 14th, and voting will take place from Friday at 7:00 P.M. until Monday October 17th at 9 P.M. If you have any questions about the contest feel free to ask in a comment below and we'll answer it as quickly as possible.

--Mark & Jake