Monday, December 28, 2009

'Cause everybody is doing it

It's been a long, long time. But I'm back and bloggin'.

Just about every publication (Rolling Stone to Time) has released their best of lists for the year and decade. Since I enjoy these lists: here are my picks for, first, the year and then the decade.

Best of 2009

*More than 10 could have made the last, but I chose to narrow it down

10.No Line On the Horizon-U2- I'm not Rolling Stone, so I don't hold U2 as automatic perfection. However, this was a reasonably good effort and an overall solid listen.

9.Horehound-The Dead Weather- Some things just feel wrong, Jack White on drums being one of them. Still, The Dead Weather crafted some great tunes on their debut. While at the same time offering up further proof that White is one of the most gifted modern day musicians.

8.Swoon-Silversun Pickups- If you haven't heard this band go pick up their first album Carnavas, then go grab Swoon. Both are excellent. Showcasing fuzzed out guitars this album harkens back to the glory days of The Smashing Pumpkins and other '90s standouts.

7.Humbug-The Arctic Monkeys- Although this disc is a little darker than previous material it may be their best. The Monkeys look to have a bright future ahead of them.

6.The Incident-Porcupine Tree-So I really got into prog last year, and Porcupine Tree is one of the best in the genre. This album doesn't disappoint, and follows 2007's thoroughly excellent Fear of a Blank Planet.

5.Picket Fence Cartel-Project 86- I love Project 86, and this album was very strong. The lyrics make you think, which is sometimes hard to come by in the 'hard rock/metal' genre.

4.Geneva-Russian Circles-If you check out one band, it should be Russian Circles. Instrumental metal at its finest.

3.Armistice-Mute Math- This one you can groove and sing to at the same time. Check it out if you haven't heard of them.

2.Hello Hurricane-Switchfoot- One of my favorite bands. EVER. Easily Switchfoot's best since The Beautiful Letdown, although personally I recommend New Way to Be Human. You get rock, ballads, and some fantastic lyrics all in the same package.

1.Crack the Skye-Mastodon-If you want your face blown off this one is for you. Crack the Skye sounds like thunder and shines like lightning. This album is heavy metal as it should be, HEAVY. The drumming is especially great throughout. Pick this up and be prepared to be blown away!

Best of the Decade (00-09)
*Chopped it down to 25

25.Hybrid Theory-Linkin Park (2000)- Go ahead and judge me for this one, but Linkin Park's debut still holds up 10 years later.
24.All That You Can't Leave Behind-U2 (2000)- I dare you to write a better song than Beautiful Day.
23.The Black Album-Jay-Z (2003)- Because I got 99 problems...
22.Lateralus-Tool (2001)- Dares to be beyond being 'genrefied.' Truly original.
21.Boxer-The National (2004)- Until someone writes something better than Mistaken for Strangers they belong on here.
20.Antics-Interpol (2004)- Do not play this to encourage, but please play it.
19.A Rush of Blood to the Head-Coldplay (2001)- Shut up! It'd be wrong not to have them on here.
18.Morning View-Incubus- (2001)- Give me a reason why not, and I'll give you ten why you're wrong.
17.Neon Bible-Arcade Fire (2007)- Yes, it's good. No, it doesn't deserve to be higher.
16.At War With the Mystics-The Flaming Lips (2006)- I like it better than Yoshimi. Deal with it!
15.By the Way-Red Hot Chili Peppers (2002)- Those I couldn't live without: start here.
14.We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank-Modest Mouse (2007)-Don't care that you like The Moon and Antarctica better.
13.In Rainbows-Radiohead (2008)- Probably should be higher, but I'm not going to do that just because it's Radiohead.
12.Sky Blue Sky-Wilco (2007)- Impossible Germany has one of the most amazing guitar solos. EVER.
11.The Beautiful Letdown-Switchfoot (2003)- Laugh all you want, but On Fire almost makes me cry every time.
10.Fever to Tell-Yeah Yeah Yeahs (2003)- Maps is an utterly beautiful song. How many songs are truly worthy of that honor?
9.Blood Mountain-Mastodon (2006)- The best drumming on any album in the 2000s. Hands down.
8.Hot Fuss-The Killers (2004)- Wanted to put it higher and it probably should be, but too many others in front of it.
7.Frances the Mute-The Mars Volta (2005)- If you like the electric guitar this is your album. I've never heard anything else like it.
6.Elephant-The White Stripes (2003)-In any other list this would easily be in the top 5. Jack White can do no wrong.
5.Yankee Hotel Foxtrot-Wilco (2002)- This is a cop-out by me, but it sounds as vibrant as it did when it first came out.
4.Change-The Dismemberment Plan (2001)- Time Bomb may be the best song written this decade. Do not let the name discourage you, they aren't a metal band, if you haven't heard them please go check them out. I can't recommend highly enough.
3.Kid A-Radiohead (2000)- Yes, this album is really depressing. No, it shouldn't be number 1. This was Radiohead's best this decade, but two album's beat it out for the top spot. Honestly, without Treefingers and Motion Picture Soundtrack, this was probably worthy of being numero uno.
2.Z-My Morning Jacket (2005)-It kills me not to make this number 1, and it was extremely, extremely close to grabbing the top spot. Z still is an excellent album. Pound for pound the first 5 songs probably beat anyone else on the list, except for the album ahead of it...
1.A Ghost is Born-Wilco (2004)-I don't understand why this doesn't get more praise. It SHOULD. Ghost beats out Z to grab the number 1 position. Don't get me wrong, there are mediocre songs on here. But the best on here beats the best the others have to offer. At Least That's What You Said is one of my favorite songs of all time, and is Jeff Tweedy's attempt to describe how a panic attack would sound. For that alone it should be 1.

Those who disagree voice your complaints. I'm all ears.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Two weeks notice

Not quite two weeks, but it's close enough. Obviously college has to end, and summer break is a welcome time off, still it all feels so boring. I love my family, friends, and being at home. However, I can't take the down time. I'm guessing that I'm not alone.

Summer is, held by most as, the greatest time of the year. The weather is superb, lots of awesome outdoor activities, and everybody is more relaxed than usual. Still, something is missing. College brings spontaneity that being at home usually doesn't. The freedom is missing, it's there to some degree but a house is a little different than a dorm. Parents have jobs and so do friends. Unfortunately, my summer job functions as a way to kill time/make some money for school. As a result, my days are occupied and the nights end early so I can get up the next day. I guess this is unavoidable, but it seems extremely monotonous and dull. Sure, classes become a predictable routine, but, at least, nights and weekends vary. However, when you live in a place with nothing to do almost everything has been done before. This leaves me home two weeks, and ready to get back to college. The only problem is the start of the semester is almost 4 months away. Part of the problem is that I want the freedom without the responsibility. I want to be able to do what I want, but not have to worry about paying bills, buying food, etc. It's a reality that doesn't exist. At college the freedom is there, but at home most of the responsibility is taken care of. So I'm thankful for the things my parents do at home, yet I wish that I could have the college freedom and excitement. Basically, I'd rather be in class than at a job. It'd be great if I could transport my friends and family to the college setting. I suppose it's pointless to talk about, still I do...

Maybe it's because I have trouble with change. I get comfortable, and then things end, change pace, get rearranged. It takes a while and then everything feels normal again. But some things are lost, which puzzles me when they're good. Why do meaningful people leave our lives? Not by death but by choice. Sometimes I think I just need to be patient...but when the phone isn't ringing, and is seems like it should be, I don't know what to think. People have to reach their own conclusions, and certain changes seem too difficult. Everyone is tired of being hurt, lied to, mistreated so they withdraw from the world. It's tough to penetrate the shell. Often ulterior motives seem to be the reason for the interest. So it's easier to maintain than to take a chance. Change can be terrifying, disappointing, and once and a while the greatest thing you can ask for. Can we exist to change for the better? I want to improve lives, including my own, not to drag people down. Past mistakes don't prevent change, but passing judgement does. If God can forgive so can we. I can be content, and learn to accept change. Appreciating the stillness is something I forget to do much of the time. The quiet passes me by as the noise drowns out my thoughts. Don't pull away, the change you need could be right around the corner. Sometimes it's a leap of faith, but God won't let you fall. And that will never change. My two weeks notice serves to show how I still come up short. Pampered and spoiled, I think I'll survive. I'll rejoice in the boring and savor it while I can.

Sunday, April 26, 2009


With another semester over the question becomes: what have I learned? Of course, many correlate learning with the grade received. Unfortunately, this is often a fallacy. Getting an A doesn't mean that you've learned more than in a class where you got a C. In many instances the grade is being seen as more important than the learning. This is hurting the goal college means to accomplish, and is breeding a generation of test-taking paper writers without social skills or real-world experience. Yes, grades do measure some sense of accomplishment, but they do not always measure actual knowledge or skill. As grades are released the head-scratching begins, and many judge their success on an A-F scale.

Last semester, I got two B+ in very different classes. In fact, one was the class which challenged me the most and I learned the most, while the other was the class that was least helpful and I learned little in. However, on a transcript this means nothing. Even though one is in my major while another is a useless general education requirement (disguised as a writing intensive class). If this could be explained to future employers it would mean little, but it can't be so I'm limited to what my transcript shows and my gpa is. This hurts students who challenge themselves, since no reward is given for taking my difficult professors or more intensive classes. As a result, lots of students become solely focused on the grade and not the learning. The result? An attitude that says: "I'd rather get an A and learn nothing than get a B and learn a lot." In a business, results-based, world this is the norm, but college is supposed to stimulate thinking of another kind. If this fails, what hope exists for those who dare to be themselves? I would rather learn than "succeed" on a strictly gpa basis. I'm not saying that straight C's are good, they aren't, but what does a 4.0 mean if you learned nothing? It may get you a good job, but it won't keep it for you if you don't have the skills needed to do the actual work. There are lots of "book-smart" people, who can study for a test, but can't think on their feet, adapt, or interact in a normal way. I'd much rather get a few B's then know I learned nothing and got a meaningless 4.0. To me it would be embarrassing to tell people you got one if you knew it took no effort. Sadly, little figures to change as long as gpa continues to dictate "success." This semester will, once again, not be 4.0 material, but I have learned a good deal. I consider myself fortunate, and believe I'm getting a good education at Pitt. A 4.0 would be nice, but i'm not demoralized by not getting one. Unfortunately, with many more concerned with their future job and pay than learning this will likely continue.

I suppose that this is inevitable, but it doesn't make it any less unfortunate. Still, take what interests you and you'll learn a lot in. The grades will come with the learning, and if they aren't quite at the magic number it's ok. No one said good grades would be easy, but learning isn't either. It, however, is far more rewarding.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

It's about time

So I've been slacking, with my papers to write and all. Unintentional, and possibly, unavoidable. Anyway, here I am, now a junior. Halfway to there, wherever that is. It's hard to fathom, and harder to understand. I could write a million cliches, and I may, but hopefully I have something meaningful to say. Maybe even something summer can't take away...

People come and go. Believe it or not, but sometimes the timing is too good to be coincidence. I've waited for the unlikely, and then watched the impossible happen. Friends have become lost, only to reappear as friends again. This year I've reconnected with those I haven't spoken to in years. I learned that timing is everything. Even found out that some people like to work, and that I can't change things on my own. Finally I learned that not knowing is ok. I don't know what I want to be, or where I want to go, or anything after the next two years. All I know is that I'll be at Pitt. After that, I'm up for anything. Not concerned with what I'll make, where I'll be living, or if I'll go to grad school, get a job, etc. I'd live in Pittsburgh in a second, but if I don't I'll survive. I don't have a set age when I want to get married (just definitely not while in college), a set number of kids I want to have, or the kind of car I want to drive. No idea what my type is, because I've fallen for: blondes, brunettes, dark hair, even a red head or two. Really any Christian would be great, in all honesty, and everything else could go from there. I've seen a little bit of good in almost everyone I've ever met. Mistakes have been turned into success stories. You're never too far gone for redemption to find you. This summer should prove that, at least I hope it does. Two years seems like a thousand. The respectable have turned into the fools, the fools into the motivated and gifted. It's been hard to watch people walk away, and I haven't replaced some of them. Maybe I won't. Fear is more powerful than most realize, it drives people apart. So to do: lies, greed, lust, pride, and discontent. Everyone is looking for their dreams in all the wrong places. Contentment is the impossible goal, the ghost that lies just out of reach. Somewhere in the noise I stop and shut my eyes.

I have no idea what's going to happen when I graduate in two years. It's hard to comprehend a life on one's own. Don't think I'm ready for the responsibility. I couldn't imagine being married at 22, let alone 20, it seems so young. Not ready to pay the bills, own a apartment/house, pay my own insurance. It's going too fast, and I can't slow it down. I wanna be back on the playground, riding my bike aimlessly, and without a care in the world. I'm tired of confrontation, heartbreak, and seeing broken people in broken situations. I've seen enough mistreatment, cold calculation, and senseless excess. What are we, what am I? Does anything still mean something, anything pure, or are we all broken? I want to trust, without preconditions or fear, and not worry about being hurt. There's no need for the cruelty, the malice, the survival of the fittest killer instinct. We can help each other, can't we? I want to work without thinking about productivity, numbers on a chart, or my pay rate. I need to do things for pure enjoyment, to reclaim my youth, my innocence, some sense of childlike wonder. Can I help without expecting some reward? How about doing things without thinking about how they benefit me? The dream that four years of college can change you, I still have it. This year I've met some amazing people. I wouldn't remove any of them they all occupy a place of importance. Unfortunately, some people have opted to remove themselves, which is out of my control. So I let it go, because I get busy living not dying. I've learned more than I could have ever imagined, and it isn't going to stop anytime soon. But I still feel that I could be doing more, my potential isn't being fully tapped. Thankfully, I've still got two years to go. It starts this summer. I'd love for you to be a part of the ride. For those I know well stay in my life, and for those I don't there's room. My four year goal: to be a better person and impact as many people as I can. It's been an ok start, but I could do better...and I'm trying to.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Mistakes happen, so should forgiveness

The posts have been lacking recently, but this one has been coming for a while. In fact, this one may be the most difficult I've ever made. Tomorrow is Easter, and I'm not sure everything will tie in but I'm going to try. The analogies may be slightly off, although I'm not intending to justify actions. However, since I'm neither a judge or jury I hold myself to the same standards. We ALL need forgiveness, which is where I'm going to start.

I'm a sinner, and so are you, and your father, mother, brother, and everyone you've ever made. Mistakes happen. People do things they aren't proud of, and regret them after the fact. I talk before I think, I act before I plan, and I judge without merit. Unfortunately, man has bias toward certain actions. Everyone has a moral relativism that skews their perceptions. An idea that "I've done this," but "I haven't done THAT." Passing judgement is nothing new, but pride goes before a, often hypocritical and embarrassing, fall. We've all heard the stories of the preacher cheating on his wife, the anti-drug crusader with the pain medicine addiction, or the author who makes up his 'autobiography.' Mistakes, yes, but all essentially the same. Sure, certain people hold some things as more severe, but who are they to judge? Let's face it, we all, if left to save ourselves, would be headed for hell. Luckily, our mistakes are washed away and forgiven if we accept Jesus as our savior. Some nails, a cross, and 3 days saved mankind. We got the ultimate second chance without having to do anything. It didn't cost man anything: no money, no jail time, no sacrifice, and certainly not death. Those who believe, regardless of past deeds, have their slates wiped clean. That's right. If you were a murderer, rapist, any other sinner, you can repent ask Jesus to be your savior and you're forgiven. With the idea being that you will turn from your past actions, especially those who have committed crimes, and seek God's will. This does not mean that you won't have to live with the earthly consequences of your actions: jail time, fines, etc. However, in the eyes of the Lord you're just as much a sinner as the pastor, priest, or any other 'spiritual' individual. You've been given a second chance, you're loved, and yes you will still sin. Mistakes never go away, but they can becomes less frequent, severe, and likely to produce massive guilt. Jesus removes the guilt, the shame, and the death. Yes, all men will die, but where you spend eternity is a product of your soul. If you believe in Jesus' death, resurrection, and forgiveness from sins then you'll be 'alive' in Heaven, or if not 'dead' in Hell. Regardless, as long as you're physically alive it's never too late to ask for this eternal life, even if you've made a billion mistakes. Unfortunately, mankind seems incapable of removing stigma, as God does. I think we could, but I think a self-righteous sense of 'morality' gets in the way. A great irony perhaps, considering the way men force women into situations and the expectations they claim not to hold. Why can man not resist the urge to pass judgement and opt instead for understanding? I know I'm not God, and neither is anyone else, but we're suppose to imitate Christ. Most of us do an extremely terrible job, which encourages certain situations and problems to continue to flourish.

Disguised motives harm mankind, maybe more than anything else. This may seem biased in favor of women, but I'm not going to pretend this problem doesn't exist. Men on a routine basis force women into situations that later cause them to be judged. Much of this happens in relationships, the idea that "if you don't do this you don't love me." Not only does this play off fear and a position of power, it also is designed to induce guilt and a desired course of action. Things cut both ways, but mean tend to be more concerned with physical aspects of life. Usually this physical aspect is sex, which men force, either explicitly or through guilt, on women. As a result, many girls get trapped in relationships, because they fear that a guy will leave if they say no. Then when it ends the girl, rightly so, feels used, and is fearful to trust again. To make matters worse, an interesting dichotomy emerges. Some girls stop trying to find 'good' guys, because they feel like they'll be judged by them. While others keep hope, but at the same time continue to fall for the 'love 'em then leave 'em' types. After a while, no one is willing to give anyone a second chance. Forgiveness goes out the window, along with trust, respect, and the rest of what use to be there. Of course guys make the problem worse by being exactly who they're accused of being. It's interesting how guys are encouraged to get with and lie to as many girls as possible, while girls who do the same thing are stigmatized as sluts, whores, or other similar terms. Apparently, mistakes have different meanings, or may not even be mistakes, depending on who they refer to. In addition, to really make things worse many girls aren't offered encouragement, understanding, or the opportunity to change, just judgement and stigma. The cycle carries on, some girls withdraw and trust no one, others keeping trusting and continue to be hurt. Love is replaced by sex, and the idea that you won't get the first without the latter. Girls give in, because everyone is scared they'll die alone. Feeling regret, shame, or disgust comes later, and by then it's too late to take it back. It gets hard to change, because once you start doing something it's difficult to stop. Trust disappears and pain settles in. But there's still hope.

Just as Jesus gave us a second chance, a second life, people deserve a second change. I will not judge, because I'm guilty of judgement myself. One mistake is no more severe than another. Guys need to stop making so many, if they ever want to find a girl. Any guy who forces a girl into something is part of the problem, never part of the solution. True love, care, and devotion come from sacrifice not force or will. Guys who truly care will not force things on girls, they'll respect them and take their own will out of the picture. Those who trust you won't judge you for your past, or assume it'll become your future. Mistakes happen, and it's never too late to change or follow a new path. It's hard to trust again, but it becomes easier when you try to first. We all need rescuing, and Jesus has done that on the cross. Unfortunately, some seem to have forgotten that they aren't perfect. Temptation comes in a multitude of forms, and resisting is never a simple process. But it's possible when we seek to do Jesus' will and not our own. Put your will behind the will of others, we are here to serve not be served. Guys that are all about themselves deserve to be unsatisfied and alone. If a girl says no, a guy should respect that regardless of his will. Disguised motives will shine through when given time. Honesty should be fundamental, not a courtesy or something that has to be asked for. I make my own share of mistakes. All I ask is that someone can accept my own faults and weaknesses. I won't judge you, if you don't judge me. This is how things should be. Girls deserve a higher standard of guy, who won't treat them like property, a conquest, or complete crap. We should be something worth trusting, that won't judge, and isn't looking just to 'score.' Everybody needs a second chance, a little bit of love, and some honest compassion. Girls don't give up, there are guys out there, yes they're real, that can restore your trust. If God can save us, the most undeserving beings, then we can give our own a second chance. Happy Easter everybody!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

North Carolina wins it all

Last night North Carolina capped off their season by winning the Men's NCAA Basketball title. UNC was the #1 preseason team, and many assumed they would win the title. The Tar Heels didn't disappoint, as they finished their season with a 34-4 record. In the title game they dominated Michigan St. Up 55-34 at halftime, the Spartans never closed the gap allowing UNC to handily win. With a final score of 89-72, North Carolina won their 5th national title. This was the second for Roy Williams at UNC, and seemed to be destined when last year's player of the year Tyler Hansbrough agreed to come back for his senior season. Hansbrough, Ty Lawson, and Wayne Ellington all had great tournaments. Ellington was named the MVP of the Final Four. With the victory the Tar Heels became one of the first teams in recent memory to begin and end the season as #1. As the NCAA Tournament concluded, analysts were already looking towards next year. However, until draft declarations are made it's far too early to make predictions. Here's to a great season.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

National Championship

So it comes down to this. After an action packed 4 weeks March Madness is into April and almost done. The National Championship game is tomorrow night. Before I give you my pick, first I'll recap the Final Four action. Then I'll let you know who I think will cut down the nets at Ford Field.

In the first game #1 Connecticut took on #2 Michigan St. The Spartans were essentially playing a home game, and looked fired up. A close first half produced a 38-36 Spartan lead at halftime. In the second half, Michigan St. pulled away for the 82-73 win. U-Conn only made two 3's, and just didn't look like they wanted it. Although Michigan St. was played in front of a very pro-Spartan crowd. With the victory, Michigan St. reserved a spot in the final to face... #1 North Carolina. The late game saw #1 North Carolina face off against #3 Villanova. Few expected to see the Wildcats in this game, but Nova had played extremely well in the tournament and was pulling for an upset. However, UNC made sure this wouldn't happen. The Tar Heels held Nova to 5-27 shooting on 3's, and 32.9% overall shooting. Down 49-40 at halftime the Wildcats never looked comfortable. North Carolina coasted in the second half to the 83-69 victory. The Tar Heels made 11-22 3's, although their mediocre free-throw shooting 59.5% could have cost them in a closer game. With the matchup set, here's my prediction for the final.

#1 North Carolina vs. #2 Michigan St. Both teams are balanced, but Michigan St. is a better defensive team with UNC the nation's second leading scoring offense. The Spartans only allow 62.9 per game, but UNC averages 90.2 on offense. However, UNC's defense (72.8) allows roughly Michigan St. offensive average (71.9). Keeping that in mind, it will be fascinating to see if the Spartans can contain the high-powered Tar Heel attack. If Ty Lawson has a big game the Spartans will be in trouble. Michigan St. is playing in front of a highly favorable, essentially hometown, crowd, but will it phase the battle tested Heels? Tyler Hansbrough came back specifically to win a national title. For that reason, and with superior athletes, UNC will be cutting down the nets. It should be close, but Michigan St. is going to fall short in this one. Final score: North Carolina 80-75. Tournament MVP will be Ty Lawson. This is my pick and I'm sticking to it. Tune in at 9:21 to see how it goes down!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Guitar Hero (solo edition)

So, it's been a while, but this installment will rock your face off (literally). I love the guitar, specifically when electric, but the instrument in general. In fact, the only thing that I enjoy more than a brain-melting solo is a cute girl singing so beautifully it gives you chills. However, that's for a different day. Right now I'm going to dive right in, and attempt to explain why some bands, and their guitarists, deliver some of the most amazing guitar work you'll ever hear. This isn't in alphabetical order, or by most amazing, because they all are fantastic in some way. To get things started, the greatest guitarist to ever live: Jimi Hendrix.

Hendrix revolutionized the guitar so much that his effects are still being felt. Rock, blues, jazz, you name it, Jimi probably played it. I could write a whole post on his guitar playing, but for the sake of space I'm going to limit each artist to three solos. Yes, even the master of guitar only gets three. Alright, here they are with album (in parenthesis):
1) Voodoo Child (Slight return)-(Electric Ladyland)-My favorite solo of all-time this one has it all. Jimi's masterful use of the wah-wah pedal to begin the song makes this instantly recognizable. It isn't one solo either, it's multiple blasts of earth-shattering feedback. However, the main solo is beyond description, and is so awesome that you should just go listen to it. NOW! Not to mention that guitar shifts from speaker to speaker in several places, which creates a really amazing sensory effect.
2)Machine Gun-(Band of Gypsies)-This is THE guitar solo. Jimi makes his guitar sound like a machine gun, among numerous other things in this song. A rather lengthy solo, Hendrix does so much with it it's unbelievable. More impressive than any jam band, and with way more feeling.
3)Are You Experienced?-(Are You Experienced?)-The toughest choice, as Jimi has so many excellent solo, Are You Experienced? has one of the coolest effects in any solo. Backwards guitar, which gives an extremely distinct and memorable sound. In reality, Purple Haze, Foxey Lady, Axis: Bold As Love, and numerous others could have also appeared here. Now going with a style more in the format of a list, please welcome, Led Zeppelin.

Led Zeppelin is my favorite band EVER. With that out of the way, Jimmy Page is an out-of-this-world guitarist. He, like Jimi, still is extremely influential. This is why picking just three solos is so difficult, besides the fact that everyone in Led Zeppelin was amazing. Even so, solo number one is...
1)Dazed and Confused-(Led Zeppelin)-My favorite non-Hendrix solo, Page really knew how to stretch this one out live. Often with pieces of other songs spliced in to create one giant guitar epic. Also, Jimmy made use of a violin bow for part of it, which creates a tone and eeriness unlike any other. Blazingly fast, for the time, this one made all the kids go crazy.
2)The Rover-(Physical Graffiti)-This is still one of the greatest riffs I've ever heard, but the ending solo is fantastic. Page keeps playing, a simply killer lick, as the music fades out. The tone is fantastic in this one.
3)Stairway to Heaven-(Led Zeppelin IV)-Ok, I caved. I wasn't going to put this one on here, but it's simply too good. Playing his famous double necked guitar, Page spawned a million future guitar heroes with this one. The build up to the solo is epic, and when it gets unleashed, you get chills. Beautiful every time. Other standouts: Whole Lotta Love, Communication Breakdown, Since I've Been Loving You. The bios are taking up too much room, but the next band doesn't need one their name says it all: Metallica.

Metallica. 'Nuff said, Here's the solos.
1)Master of Puppets-(Master of Puppets)-Brutally fast, bursting with passion. If you wanna blow someone away, put this one on and stand back. Speed metal at its best.
2)One-(...And Justice for All)-Kirk's guitar sounds like it's at war. Based on the book, Johnny Got his Gun, this song is an epic. The solo confirms it, as the song is ripped apart, much like machine gun fire does to a body in war.
3)Seek and Destroy-(Kill 'Em All)-Really anything from Master of Puppets could go here instead, but this solo is pretty awesome for their first album. Go check it out. Too many other Metallica songs have amazing solos, so I'm not going to list any additional ones. Next up, Pink Floyd.

Pink Floyd. Simply revolutionary. Dave Gilmour is the man, and here are the moments of genius.
1)Comfortably Numb-(The Wall)-Easily one of the best solos of all time. The one is amazing, and it drips with passion and feeling. You can hear the guitar wail on this one, as the song fades out. Amazing.
2)Money-(Dark Side of the Moon)-Beginning with a jazzy feel, this quickly speeds up. By the end the guitar is yelping, and keeps going higher and higher. A fantastic slice of guitar from an awesome song.
3)Any Colour You Like-(Dark Side of the Moon)-You haven't heard one like this before. Gilmour harmonizes his guitar, he actually played two, in this instrumental track. However, the solo is killer, as his the guitar in the whole song. Time for some Pearl Jam.

Pearl Jam
1)Alive-(Ten)-A rather lengthy solo, this one helped to put them on the map. Mike McCready makes use of the wah-wah pedal throughout, as the guitar changes several times. A crowd, and personal, favorite this one brings it every time.
2)Life Wasted-(Pearl Jam)-Excellent solo from their most recent release. As Pearl Jam marked a return to the roots for the band. This one, like World Wide Suicide, grabs hold and doesn't let go.
3)Once-(Ten)-This solo explodes and sets the tone for the rest of the record. Now some additional solos from some other amazing bands.

1)At Least That's What You Said-(A Ghost is Born)-Walls of feedback scream as Jeff Tweedy attempts to 'musically transcribe' one of his panic attacks. Distortion and who knows what else are on this one. When I first heard this solo I was terrified. Now it's one of my favorite solos ever.
2)Impossible Germany-(Sky Blue Sky)-A true 'guitar' jam. the dueling guitar solo is impressive. Nels Cline lends his considerable talent to this one, which sounds even more amazing live. This one is perfect for a summer drive, simultaneously rocking and laid-back.
3)I'm the Man Who Loves You-(Yankee Hotel Foxtrot)-A crowd favorite live, this one is awesome every time. It has a killer sound, and just barely beat out another personal favorite Spiders(Kidsmoke).

My Morning Jacket
1)One Big Holiday-(It Still Moves)-A simply amazing guitar duel. As Jim James and Johnny Quaid, who has since left the band, trade killer spurts of quick-picking. This one really brings the fire, and has a definite southern-rock vibe.
2)Lay Low-(Z)-Another fantastic two guitar attack, as Jim James once again brings the heat. You can feel the emotion in the solo, which is extended and expands as it goes.
3)What a Wonderful Man-(Z)-This soul kicks you in the gut. It's quick, powerful, and really awesome. Barely beating out Dondante, which is an absolute show-stopper live.

1)Paranoid Android-(Ok Computer)-Johnny Greewood and the rest of Radiohead are weird, but this solo is utterly fantastic. Distorted and bizarre Greewood is all over the place. This solo sounds like nothing else on the record, or in general, for that matter. It helped to launch Radiohead's super-stardom in the US and UK alike.
2)There There-(Hail to the Thief)-Another completely unique and unmatched solo from Greenwood. This one is fantastic live, and a true crowd pleaser. Listen to the tone, as the distortion seems to swallow itself towards the end of the solo.
3)My Iron Lung-(The Bends)-This solo is terrifying upon an initial listen. But the feedback and distortion among others grow on you with multiple listens. I'm not exactly sure what Johnny did with his guitar to get some of those tones and notes. However, it's definitely a solo I wouldn't live without, and here are some more...

Like A Stone-(Audioslave)
Out of Exile-(Audioslave)
Sound of a Gun-(Audioslave)
Welcome Home-(Coheed &Cambria)
Sick Sad Little World-(Incubus)
Most of the albums De-loused in the Comatorium and Frances the Mute-(Mars Volta)
Colony of Birchmen-(Mastodon)
Stockholm Syndrome-(Muse)
Live Forever-(Oasis)
Slide Away-(Oasis)
Morning Glory-(Oasis)
Fear of a Blank Planet-(Porcupine Tree)
Bulls on Parade-(Rage Against the Machine)
Killing in the Name-(RATM)
Sleep Now in the fire-(RATM)
Know Your Enemy-(RATM)
Suck my Kiss-(Red Hot Chili Peppers)
Can't Stop-(RHCP)
Don't Forget Me-(RHCP)
Torture Me-(RHCP)
Turn it Again-(RHCP)
Cherub Rock-(Smashing Pumpkins)
Geek U.S.A.-(Smashing Pumpkins)
Bullet With Butterfly Wings-(Smashing Pumpkins)
X.Y.U.-(Smashing Pumpkins)
Slaves & Bulldozers-(Soundgarden)
Let Me Drown-(Soundgarden)
Black Hole Sun-(Soundgarden)
Suite Madame Blue-(Styx)
Forty Six & Two-(Tool)
The Pot-(Tool)
Say It Ain't So-(Weezer)
Cold Dark World-(Weezer)
Seven Nation Army-(The White Stripes)
Black Math-(The White Stripes)
Ball and Biscuit-(The White Stripes)
You Don't Know What Love is (You Just Do as You're Told)-(The White Stripes)
I'm Slowly Turning Into You-(The White Stripes)
Catch Hell Blues-(The White Stripes)
and I'm sure many more, which I'm missing or can't remember.

Either way, these are some of my favorite, and, what i believe to be, greatest guitar solos. Go check 'em out, or, if you have, enjoy what you've got.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

It's a Wonderful Life

It took George Bailey a while to realize, but eventually he got it quite well. In the 1946 classic, Jimmy Stewart, as George, gets the opportunity to see what life would be like if he never existed. Unless you're massively cynical, or opposed to Christmas on a fundamental level, you should see this movie. Most, if not all, of us can relate to the idea of not making a difference in the world or living a pointless existence. Expect for those individuals that are too arrogant to ever acknowledge things happen that have nothing to do with them. Regardless, at one point or another, everyone has felt down, unappreciated, or neglected. In the movie, George is contemplating suicide amidst his mounting debts. Given the current financial crisis many may be doing the same thing now. This is tragic, because people do make a difference. At least in my own experience, God puts people into situations for distinct reasons, which may or may not be evident at the time. In fact, in my own life I can see evidence of this over the years, specifically in a few distinct instances although others most likely exist. I'll detail those, as well as some where people were put in my life at specific times to encourage, direct, or save my decision making process.

When I was younger, 5-8, I use to love visiting my grandfather. I still do, but the point is that when this event happened I was too young to understand its importance. My grandfather has dozed off at family get togethers for as long as I can remember, but I figured it was just what older people did. It might be; however, doing so in the car is not what anyone should ever do. For this reason my grandfather never drives at night, aside from the fact that his eyesight is rather poor. Still, the middle of the afternoon should be fine, right? One day it almost wasn't. I was around 6 or 7, maybe 8, and I went to stay with my grandfather for a week. It was after my grandmother died, so I know I was at least that old, but definitely younger than 10. Regardless, one day we decided to drive a mountainous and windy road to go see a year-round Christmas store. As we started to drive, my grandfather started to lean over and somewhat shut his eyes. I wasn't sure why, but I was too young to be scared or alert of any potential danger. Then he turned to me and asked me to keep talking to him to keep him awake. Looking back, I was suppose to be in the car. If not, he would have definitely fallen asleep and lost control of the car. Most likely he would have gone over the steep embankment, and I would have been without a grandfather for my entire life. As my mom's dad died before I was born. Or what if I had been asleep? We may have both been killed, my parents without a son, my brother without a brother, and the whole family without two James Moore's. God put me there so that didn't happen, and I will firmly believe that until I die. In a different, but equally memorable, incident, thanks to my brother, I developed a healthy fear of glass. My brother and I have always been big on sports, specifically taking each other on in them. He always wants to play, beat, me in one-on-one, and we had numerous homerun derbies, games of catch, and many pigskin tosses. Although, sometimes it got out of hand. One particular day, when I was around 12, I decided to kick a ball as high as possible. Unfortunately, it nailed my brother, who sometimes has anger issues, directly in the head. He went Bruce Lee on me, and decided to track me down. I backed, ran, away, and had made it to our back door. Unluckily for me, not fast enough. He plowed into me, and sent my head and neck directly through the glass. Looking back this is kind of funny. but not any less dangerous or fortunate for me. I had no cuts, despite the myriad of nerves running from your neck to your brain, not to mention the eyes, ears, and scalp are not usually things you want damaged. We both got yelled at, and looking back God wasn't yelling, but he was teaching me a lesson. This lesson was 'even when you do stupid things, I can and will protect you.' 'Now stop doing those things!'My lack of injury defied logic, but God is capable of that and then some. Also, it gave me great respect for the sharpness of glass, which I still have to this day. Example number three may seem harmless, but it is the greatest show of God's timing. Last spring, I returned home from school at the end of April. My family was really excited to have me home, especially my mom, since she is home by herself with my dad and brother at school. I was taking a break from all forms of work, so I hadn't started my summer job yet. Therefore, my typical day was to get up around noon. I know: very taxing. Still, I felt real worthless and unproductive. Anyway, one afternoon I was brushing my teeth, and I was about to go somewhere. Then I heard our dog barking, and what I thought was a voice. I walked out, and the dog was at the top of the stairs barking, as someone was at the bottom laying there. It was mom, who said her foot really hurt. I walked downstairs, saw that it was very swollen, and called my dad to come home. Now all that she had was a broken foot; however, it could have been so much more. She only missed the last two steps, but what if it had been the first two? Our basement steps are steep, and the potential for hitting your head is high. What if I had still been at school? My dad and brother wouldn't have been home for at least 2-3 hrs, more than enough time to potentially bleed to death from a cut, or to lapse into a coma from head trauma. This didn't happen, but I was supposed to be there regardless. She could have yelled, but no one was coming, and our neighbors wouldn't have been able to hear. God had me there to get her help as soon as possible. These are three examples of God using me, or teaching me a lesson, that was absolutely necessary. Call them George Bailey moments if you want. Aside from these, people have had their own moments in my life that were absolutely necessary.

When I first moved to Montoursville in first grade I knew no one. My first friends, and still some of my best, were courtesy of Community Baptist Church. I'm convinced, despite some trying times; God put these people in my life for a reason. They have given me good, and sometimes questionable, advice more times than I can count. These guys have been a good pick-me-up for as l long as I can remember, and I wouldn't trade 'em for anybody. Numerous times have arisen when I probably would have made a stupid decision without them, and some where I made stupid decisions because I chose not to listen. Additionally, last summer I got some great advice from an amazing girl. I was having my usual moment of self-pity, when I had a good conversation about relationships. Mainly, that the right one will come along when I stop hoping and start praying. She was right, and it completely altered my outlook going into this past fall. This was exactly what God wanted me to, and it was what I needed to, hear as well. Next, a set of twins is responsible for getting my spiritual life back on track. At the end of spring semester, I was the definition of a bum. I wasn't going to church, barely doing anything in my classes, and basically playing Halo or other video games till 4 am every day. These guys continued to encourage me to go to Cornerstone, but since I wasn't even going to church I made excuses. After an interesting summer, I decided a change was in order. I took their advice, and I know God put them there for that reason. Regardless, this definitely has been the best thing I've done since coming to Pitt. I've meet tons of cool people, gotten a new appreciation for worship and praise, and definitely grown closer to God. It's made my life much more functional, and lessened possible temptations and problems. In fact, one of the people I met at Cornerstone has been a big part in this. For the past 4 or so years, I've had an on, and, sometimes, off, I guess you could say, 'addiction.' Even on here, I'd rather not elaborate, regardless it has been a problem. It's not something I'm proud of, even given the prevalence it enjoys culturally. At the start of this year, after it prominently factored during the summer, it once again reared its head. I was sick of it, but I didn't have something to remove the feeling of need. Then I found it. After the fall retreat for Cornerstone, I begin to notice I gradually was removing my 'habit' from my life. Now for all you out there wondering, it was not tobacco or drug related just in case you thought I was a massive hypocrite. However, once I started to interact with this person it all but disappeared. Now with less interaction, it occasionally rears its head, but far less and quickly goes away. I owe this person a great deal of thanks for enabling me to begin to stop. It's the only thing that actively was an embarrassment for me, but now it won't be and doesn't have to be. This was the most notable of numerous improvements in my life. I'm convinced that God put this individual in my life for these reasons, and I'm so glad he did. There are others, but these most readily stand out.

So when you think you don't matter, or the world would be better off without you, you're dead wrong. God has a plan for everybody who seeks him, and wants to do his will and work. Prayer is instrumental is this process. Although as is an open heart, and a willingness to trust and admit our weakness. We are strongest when we admit we are weakest, and trust on God to hold us up and protect us. I'd like to think I can do it all myself, but I can't, it’s way too hard. I have to give my hopes, fears, and dreams to God. It's hard to let go, or to understand sometimes, but God has a plan. Some of the events I talked about I didn't understand at the time, although I certainly do now. God had me there, and put those people in my life, for distinct reasons. We can all be reminded: not our will, but His will be done. I like being that person God sends into people's lives for a purpose. Sometimes we don't recognize the people God sends into our lives. But this doesn't mean it's too late, sometimes our hearts are hard, but God knows this. He gave the best second chance ever: Jesus. In turn, he wants you to give his will, people, and situations second chances. When it eventually clicks you'll know. As D.C. Talk said, "sometimes you fall before you fly." Have faith for you will fly. It's a Wonderful Life for sure, and I hear the afterlife is even better.

The Final Four

Well, Saturday was a very disappointing day for Pitt fans everywhere. However, this was not the only let down of the weekend. The Elite Eight sent two #1's to the Final Four, and two home. Pitt and Louisville were the unlucky parties. I'll briefly, and with some difficulty, recap the Elite Eight. Then I'll give my picks for the national championship game.

In the first game, #1 Connecticut squared off with #3 Missouri. The Tigers were hoping for the upset but came up short. The Huskies were up 44-38 at halftime, and were ahead for the majority of the game. Eventually, U-Conn finished off Mizzou 82-75. The speed of the Tigers kept them in the game, but Connecticut proved too much. So the Huskies were the first team to punch their ticket for Detroit. The night game saw #1 Pitt face #3 Villanova. This heartbreaking game was a nailbiter, which unfortunately saw the Panthers fall. Pitt held a slim 34-32 halftime lead, as the lead changed numerous times. Tied 76-76 with 6 seconds left, Wildcat point guard Scottie Reynolds hit a runner with .5 left to break Pitt's heart. The Panthers saw Levance Fields get off a look at the buzzer, but it hit off the backboard and harmlessly bounced away. This was a hard-fought game, and both teams were worthy of the win. However, it was especially disappointing for Pitt's three seniors: Young, Fields, and Biggs. With the win the Wildcats became the second Big East team headed to Motown. In today's action, #1 Louisville battled #2 Michigan St. Few expected a Spartan win, but Louisville played terribly, and that's exactly what took place. MSU was up 30-27 at halftime, and went on a second half run to pull away for the 64-52 victory. The Cardinals did not shoot well, and looked nothing like the team that dismantled Arizona in the Sweet Sixteen. Tom Izzo and the Spartans get to essentially head home, since Detroit is only 90 miles from East Lansing. Finally, in a highly anticipated match-up, #1 North Carolina took on #2 Oklahoma. Despite another fantastic game from Blake Griffin, the Sooners trailed the entire contest. Up 32-23 at halftime, the Tar Heels never looked back winning 72-60. This marks the second consecutive Final Four appearance for UNC. With the matchups set, here are my picks for the national championship.

The first game will see #1 Connecticut tangle with #2 Michigan St. Most, myself included, didn't expect either team to be here. However, both have played well and definitely deserve it. Since both have beaten Louisville this makes for a tough pick. I'm going to give the Spartans the edge playing in front of the hometown crowd, and send Tom Izzo and crew into the national title game to meet...
#1 North Carolina who face #3 Villanova in the late game. Jay Wright and the Wildcats have had a great run, but, as for a lot of other teams it ends against the Tar Heels. Although UNC hasn't faced a defensive team of Villanova's caliber, the Heels simply have too many weapons. However, this one should be compelling, and Nova will keep it close. Maybe even close enough for the upset, if you want to call it that. There you go a North Carolina vs. Michigan St. national championship game. Will I be right? Wait and see.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Sweet Sixteen-Day 2

Friday was not any more memorable than Thursday. Only one good game took place, as the other three were various forms of blowout by the higher seed. I'll quickly recap, and then break down the Elite Eight matchups and give my picks for the Final Four. Here we go!

Last night I said that #1 Louisville vs. #12 Arizona wouldn't be memorable. I was wrong. Arizona will remember it as their largest tournament loss ever. The Cardinals absolutely demolished the Wildcats. Massacre doesn't even begin to describe this one. Louisville was up 49-28 at halftime and poured it on from there. The final score was 104-63, as 'Zona was thoroughly embarrassed. Next up, #2 Oklahoma took on #3 Syracuse in a game that should have been closer than it was. It was close in the first half until the Sooners went on a run to go up 39-26. Syracuse never got close again, and fell 84-71. Blake Griffin continued his monster season, and tournament, going for 30 points and 14 rebounds. Maybe the Orange finally ran out of gas, or perhaps just didn't play well. In the late games, #2 Michigan St. faced off against #3 Kansas. This was the only compelling game of the night, and featured lead changes and comebacks. The Jayhawks were up 36-29 at halftime, but the Spartans hung around and tied it with a 1:50 left. Michigan St. then squeaked out the 67-62 victory. This win bounced the defending national champs out of the tournament. The evening's final game saw North Carolina destroy Gonzaga. Few expected a close game, and they weren't disappointed by the results. UNC led 53-42 at halftime, and used the second half to increase it. The Tar Heels eventually won in landslide fashion 98-77. Thus, the Elite Eight matchups were set. Analysis and picks are right ahead.

In the 4:40 game, #1 Connecticut takes on #3 Missouri. Both teams have looked good in the tournament. Although, Missouri's win over Memphis may be the most impressive in the tournament. Memphis allowed 102 points, the most it had all year, and Missouri looked unstoppable. It will be interesting to see if U-Conn can handle the fast pace of the Tigers. However, the Huskies have been the tournament's most dominating team so far. This one looks to be a test of which team can play better defense, and make free-throws and shots when needed. I'm going with the upset, and picking Missouri to take out U-Conn. At 7:05 #1 Pitt faces fellow Big East foe #3 Villanova. This is one of the most anticipated games of the entire tournament. Villanova beat the Panthers in the regular season, but DeJuan Blair was in foul trouble during the game. Both teams have dynamic players capable of stepping up and taking over a game. However, the Big 3 of Young, Blair, and Fields will be too much for the Wildcats. The Panthers will prevail in a close one. This one may come down to the final seconds. On Sunday, #1 Louisville will do battle with #2 Michigan St. Both teams are defensively sound and have fantastic coaches. However, after the beating Louisville inflicted on Arizona the Spartans will have a hard time getting into their game. The Cardinals will be too much, and Louisville will advance to Detroit. Finally, #1 North Carolina battles #2 Oklahoma. Everyone is already salivating over the player of the year matchup, Blake Griffin vs. Tyler Hansbrough. It will be interesting to see who gets the upper-hand, unfortunately for Oklahoma they won't in this game. UNC has too many weapons, and will return to the Final Four for the second straight season. Those are my regional representatives. Louisville from the Midwest. Missouri from the South. Pitt from the East. And North Carolina from the South. We'll see how close I get. LET'S GO PITT.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Sweet Sixteen-Day 1

Thursday night brought the thunder. March Madness resumed, as eight teams were back in action. Only one game proved must see tv, which has Friday shaping up to be more thrilling.

First up, #1 Connecticut took on #5 Purdue. I didn't expect to see the Boilermakers in this game, but they were only down 30-25 at halftime. Unfortunately for Purdue things went down from there. Although kept close, the Huskies never trailed and triumphed 72-60. The Boilermakers didn't help their cause by committing 26 fouls compared to 12 for U-Conn. Those extra 19 free throws and 13 points were the difference. #1 Pitt was also in action against #4 Xavier. Once again the Panthers came out of the gates slow, and trailed 37-29 at halftime. However, the Musketeers were limited to 18 second half points and came up short. Pitt, off of a clutch Levance Fields 3 and lay-up, pulled out the 60-55 victory. DeJuan Blair once again had a double-double with 10 points and 17 rebounds. Still, the Panthers looked sluggish and never pulled ahead until very late in the game. In the night cap, #2 Memphis faced off with #3 Missouri. It was close until Mizzou used a pre-halftime run to go up by 13, 49-36. The game was effectively over with Missouri up 64-40, until Memphis used a furious comeback to get within 6. Regardless, Memphis played their worst defensive game of the season, and didn't look like the powerhouse they were hyped to be. Missouri won 102-91 in a high-scoring contest. Some see this as a major upset, but I had doubts about Memphis going into the game which were confirmed.The late contest saw #2 Duke face off against #3 Villanova. The Wildcats were only up 26-23 at halftime, but exploded in the second half to bury the Blue Devils. Duke looked frustrated all night and shot an anemic 26.7%. Villanova won in a blowout 77-54. Nova looks tough, and has won two straight by 20 or more points. Other than the Pitt thriller, Thursday lacked the usual Sweet Sixteen intrigue. Will Friday provide better thrills?

#1 Louisville takes on #12 Arizona. This most likely will not be an extremely memorable game. A Louisville loss would be shocking, and is rather unlikely. However, the game following promises to be a great match-up. #2 Oklahoma squares off against #3 Syracuse. Expect some fireworks in this one. The Orange sharpshooters: Jonny Flynn, Eric Devendorf, and Andy Rautins vs. likely player of the year Blake Griffin. If Griffin is contained, which is a huge if, expect Syracuse to win it. However, this figures to be a thrilling contest nonetheless. In the late games, #2 Michigan St. tangles with #3 Kansas. The Jayhawks are the defending national champs, and will be looking to make it back to the Elite Eight. This one should be a good game. I'd put my money on Kansas, although no Tom Izzo coached team can ever be counted out. It may come down to the final seconds in this one. Finally, #1 North Carolina takes on #4 Gonzaga. This one isn't going to be close. The Zags have had a good run, but UNC is too focused and deep to exit yet.

I'll have tomorrow night's recap, and my Final Four picks after the games wrap up. Will it be four #1 seeds again? Only time will tell.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Rest for the Weary

Tonight once again showed me my limits. At Cornerstone, BJ Woodworth, pastor at Open Door, spoke just the message I needed. The topic was rest, not sleep or a break, but true rest. This is something most college students get very little of, and the general population seems not to find important. In some ways this will be a more eloquent post than the last. Basically, I'm going to elaborate on how to find rest and why it is important.

We are never satisfied. It's true. Almost everything I do is gain some measure of satisfaction or to impress someone else. We seek praise. We want to be accepted. This is fine, but it can become our only goal if we aren't careful. There's never enough time, so we must work longer, harder, faster, and without ceasing. Skipping meals becomes common, and we become slaves to our jobs and homework. I can't go a day without checking my e-mail, facebook, or the news.I need the connection or I might miss something. My phone is always with me and on, except when I'm asleep. It's hard to relax. Even when I'm not in class or doing homework, I'm always thinking about something. My mind is seldom at ease. I have to fix every problem, make everything the way I want it to be, and I need to be in control. I want perfection, nothing is ever good enough. If I got a 98 I want a 100. An hour after dinner I want more food, I'm always looking for something to top my current best. Even if it isn't my business it is. I care about my image, even though I claim not to, acceptance means a lot actually. I judge things before I try them. I'm jealous when other people succeed, my own failed relationships make me envy of those with successful ones. I think I'm better than other people, even when I'm not, and I show favoritism to people. I've been conditioned that I can do anything if I want to, so I don't accept no as an answer. My casual indifference is a symptom of my lack of direction. It's hard for me to be truly passionate about anything I'm suppose to be. It's hard for me to fake interest, yet even classes that I designate as 'boring' are capable of holding my interest. If given the chance I could talk about everything from football to geography and back again. If a job doesn't 'utilize' my talents I hold it as beneath me. It's easy for me to put very little effort in and still do a good job. I'd never choose a job over class, and I think working in an office is often slow torture. And despite everything I can't rest. Sure, I can sleep, but I seldom find peace. My heart is usually burdened with something, and I can't stop thinking as hard as I try. It doesn't turn off.

I always want to be something to someone. I'll listen, I'll give advice, which may suck and I might not follow, but I'll give it. I can be the realist, optimist, even the pessimist from time to time. I wonder about the pain other people feel and how I can stop it. I want to help people forget the past, or to embrace a beautiful future. I want to be the one to tell people how special they are. I want to be the one that doesn't lie. I want to be the one who isn't late, won't keep you waiting, and isn't going to walk away when it gets tough. I'll be the friend who would take a bullet, and the one who would show up even if everyone else refused to come. And I try, but I still don't find any rest. I'm never good enough, and I can never help the people I want to most. Although, there are people who get me close to rest. Some of my buddies from home can get my mind off almost anything. When we hang out and do nothing I feel like nothing is a problem. Even the worst day seem better. I forget my worries, my hopes, my fears, and everything aside from the distraction of harmless fun. At college, they aren't around and it's a shame. However, last semester I found similar feelings for a time. These were more meaningful feelings, and in moments I felt completely at ease. Then I begin to think about what happened if it ended, and then when it did I was once again drifting. It's a rare person who makes you better than you are just by being around you. I found that, and I'm thankful that I did, but I still try to re-capture it. But I'm missing the point. There isn't anything I can, do, say, or be to somehow re-create it. Still I can't find rest. Probably because I've been looking at it all wrong. The answer isn't with me, but it is with God.

I can't DO anything to find rest. Until I realize that I'll never find. If I don't turn my brain off, and stop trying to play God rest isn't coming anytime soon. It's time to get off facebook, turn the phone off, and put the remote down. Things are beyond me control, and I need to give them to God. Yes, it's really hard to do, and most of the time I fail. However, in the end this is the only way to find true rest. Sometimes work is too much, and you have to stop completely. This isn't a slow down or a change of pace, it's a complete and utter shut down of everything. The business of others is beyond my control, which is something I need to learn to accept, and I'm not the answer to the problems of the world. I have limits, I'm not all-powerful, all-knowing, or all-anything. My identity is not determined by my job, my zip code, or my paycheck. I'm a human being, flesh and blood, and I have a soul. It needs refreshed, refined, and rested. I need out of the dorm, out of Oakland, somewhere outside and isolated. My soul needs to breathe, my brain needs to turn off, and then I can find rest. My concerns, hopes, and fears all will go to God. I will shut my eyes and let God open them.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Why money sucks or (the gap between ambition and results)

Fear not! This is not a rant against capitalism or an advocacy for a handout. However, it is a commentary on an unfortunate necessity of turning ambition into results. College is expensive, for a variety of reasons, and someone has to pay for it. The government would like to, not really, but they have a massive federal debt and economic crisis to handle. As a result, dear old mom and dad, unless you have rich grandparents, end up footing the bill. Although some parents aren't committed to advancement, and mandate that their son or daughter pay the whole thing. This is absurd, especially if the individual is attending an expensive institution, but that's for another day. As a result, many are forced to sacrifice ambition for 'so-called' results. This is the side of college that doesn't get much attention in Time or on I'm going to attempt to examine my title and see why it rings true.

Money does suck. Having it creates opportunity while decreasing true joy. The rich aren't happy, they're miserable. Why? Mainly, because people forget to live when they can pay not to. The average American works every day, at a job he or she don't entirely enjoy, in order to live a reasonably satisfying existence. Those with large amounts of wealth work sometimes, being on Oprah or having conferences in Maui don't count, and live opulently with their things as comfort. Without struggle there can be no satisfaction, because when you get everything you've wanted, what then? This is post college, but what about in college? Well, unfortunately universities are conditioning their students to embrace monotonous, low paying jobs as satisfying in preparation for later 'cash cow' careers. It isn't exactly revolutionary, but these jobs suck. Taking classes is far more important than a pay check or so-called experience in an unrelated field. Sadly, many believe that having free time during the day is somehow wrong or lazy. It isn't. From 25 until 60, except for the very wealthy, a perk of cashing in on being in charge rather than subordinate, everyone will work some variety of an 8-5 type job. Some more hours, or at different times, others may even work far less. The point is this is the last measure of freedom, an opportunity to learn rather than follow orders and attend meetings about nothing. Working just for the sake of money is pointless, to buy what or pay for what? Work study jobs are just loans in another form. It's the university's way to get students to perform crappy, boring, rote jobs so they can 'pay' them less than if they hired someone in the work force. Think about it, you get paid barely above minimum wage and the money is intended to go to your total bill. If you go spend it, the university tacks that on to your bill and makes you pay the difference of what you didn't use from the work study. The word scam is appropriate. Additionally, other than food, supplies, and vanity purchases what do we need money for? Health insurance. Nope. How about electric, sewer, or heating? Negative. Property taxes? I don't think so. Our children? I'm hoping no one has this to worry about. Mortgage payment? No way. The list goes on, but you get my point. No one truly needs a job while at college, except in a few select instances. Those who live off campus do have to pay some of the mentioned things, and most likely need the extra cash flow. Also, if your parents are poor or just cheap and unhelpful you also need to work. I'm sure there are a couple more, although I'm drawing a blank at the moment. Unfortunately, for those of us with ambition, not those just interested in having money, there is a need for cash. This need is study abroad and affiliated programs.

I can't think of something I would like to do more than study abroad. Well, that isn't true, but I'm not going to put anything I'd rather do more on here. Anyway, unfortunately these programs are usually expensive. My parents aren't loaded, so my options in this area are rather limited. I could work for the money, but a poor paying campus job isn't going to get me anywhere close to what I need. Working over the summer isn't an option, because this money is already going for books and other related expenses. I could look for aid, which usually is hard to find. Also, most people are cheap and are uninterested in helping you leave the country to 'site-see.' So what can be done? This is where the gap between ambition and results kicks in. The ambition is there, but the results are lacking. I feel unaccomplished and lazy. I'm never what I would call 'busy,' I've never pulled an all-nighter to write a paper or study, and I don't volunteer if I don't have to. Yes, I know if it's mandatory it isn't volunteering. Regardless, it isn't that I'm apathetic. I care deeply, I just don't like commitment specifically the kind that requires time of a mandatory nature. 'Extra-curricular activities should be in addition to class, not an extension or equal with them. Having terrible time management or not being able to say no magnifies the problem. If finishing assignments is a problem, because of outside the classroom activities, then quit them. You pay to go to class not to feed the children in Africa. It isn't that the cause isn't noble, it's just that failing out of college isn't going to help you or help anyone else either. If you want to truly help: go to the people. Sending money and raising awareness doesn't do anything if no one goes to where help is needed or the money never gets there. I want to go somewhere and help, but until I see some of the world I'm not going to know where I'm needed. Every Italian wants to go to Italy, and girls love Paris, but what about those people in the other 200+ countries? The ambition is here, not the money, and certainly not the results. Yes, it takes money to produce results unfortunately. There is no greater feeling than the feeling of helping someone truly in need. That's why I can't do it here. America is selfish, I feel no spirit of compassion towards the 'suffering' in this country. They've had an opportunity, or at least the opportunity to get help and find opportunity, but those over-seas have not. I don't want to be part of a self-righteous frat, go sing at a nursing home, or make Pitt green-friendly. Sorry, but I don't. I do want to be a part of democracy in a former dictatorship, enable a child to go to school instead of work, or lead the lost to salvation. However, right now I'm stuck ambitious without results. I could be doing so much more, I know that. It wouldn't kill me to volunteer, get a job, or take a heavier course load. But it won't get me any closer to being a part of the solution either. It just looks good on a resume, tells everyone how involved you were, and what a good person you are. Maybe you are, or maybe you're just self-serving. Maybe constantly being busy is a charade you maintain to hide unhappiness or lack of fulfillment. Maybe you can't take free-time, because you've been conditioned that time=money, and you're a failure if you stop, slow down, or ease up. Maybe you want to be busy to compete with your peers, maybe being able to complain makes you feel like you fit in, or you've convinced yourself that using 'volunteerism' to further your own ambitions is noble. Maybe you've been guilted into it, maybe you think God wants you to prove yourself to him. Maybe you hold everyone who doesn't think like you in contempt, maybe you schedule things so rigidly because if decisions were left up to you you couldn't make them. Maybe you hate free time, because you can't handle the thought of not being engaged, maybe you think you can solve the world's problems and get everything in your life in order if you try hard enough. Maybe you actually enjoy everything you do, but I highly doubt it. I often wonder what would happen if my effort matched my ambition. I'm sure the results would be there, but would they be mine or God's? Are you doing God's work or your own? If it's for you, you'll always feel somewhat hollow. But don't worry the money, prestige, or praise can fill up that hole. I leave my schedule open, so that God can put some of his time in. Yet, there's still a gap between ambition and results. I am a failure. The truth hurts.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Giving up, second chances, and failure to try

The lull in college basketball affords me the opportunity to once again engage deeper issues. This one has been coming for a while, but it didn't hit me just right until this week. Our lives are all about these three components. We're told never to give up, to always give things second chances, and always to try. For the most part this is true; however, different circumstances call for different approaches. I've got a particular viewpoint on each. In fact, some of these viewpoints might surprise all the regular readers out there. I'll begin with what I should probably end with, giving up, get it. Moving on.

This is obvious, but it's hard to give up. Completely quiting on something is one of the hardest things in the entire world to do. Addictions are so hard to break, because they require something to be given up. An addiction is almost always bad, so stopping that action or behavior is a good instance of giving up. Just imagine how much cleaner the air would be without cigarette smoke. Or how many poor decisions could be avoided if alcoholism didn't exist. Unfortunately, these addictions will continue to persist, and continue to be extremely difficult to give up. Other things are easier to give up on. Many people make proclamations, but give up on them quickly after making them. New year's resolutions are a good example. Going to the gym, walking more, and eating less sweets usually go out the window quickly. These activities, despite being positive, are usually seen as ideal but not necessary. In addition, it is easy to "give up" on people in speech, but not in action or actuality. As a result, people often stay in unproductive relationships rather than 'give up' on them. Usually the rationale is: I didn't want to hurt them, I couldn't bring myself to take that step, or I thought I could make it work. This is admirable, but some things need to be given up on. Sometimes people don't want to change, and other times people say they will change to produce a desired effect when they have no intention of doing so. When it causes emotional, mental, and especially physical anguish it's time to give up on it. It isn't easy to do, but sometimes giving up is a good thing. Everyone wants to be strong, but some things are beyond your control, Those things that YOU can't change, you have to give to God and give up on. Hard work and determination only go so far. As much as you might like to, you're never going to move a building on your own. You can't fly, live under water, or jump to the moon. We, men and women, have limits. Some things; however, aren't impossible or necessary to be given up on. These things usually deserve a second change, as initial impression can be deceiving. Often another perspective or taking a look at it from a different angle is enough.

I use to think second chances were pointless. To me, it seemed stupid to try to convince yourself an initially unappealing thing was now appealing. However, then I gave some things a chance and proved myself wrong. In high school I hated Coldplay. Of course, I also never really gave them a chance, but that didn't matter since they sucked. Then I came to Pitt, and decided to give Chris Martin and crew a chance. Now I like, not love, Coldplay. Parachutes and A Rush of Blood to the Head are good albums. Also, Viva la Vida ain't half bad either, although X & Y is still awful and I do not own it. Regardless, I had an initial premise of hating Coldplay without ever having given their music a true chance. Another music example: I despised worship and praise songs. I felt they all sounded the same, had pathetic lyrics, and lacked passion when sung. Then I started going to Cornerstone, and my attitude completely changed. Worship and praise songs can be very engaging, I recommend checking out Hillsong United. Anyway, now I really enjoy going to Cornerstone, and especially enjoy the worship and praise portion each Wednesday night. I always hated 'romantic movies,' which could be its entirely own post. Even so, for whatever reason I was not a fan, and anything that even remotely suggested 'romantic' I was against. This probably would have survived, but I was 'persuaded' into watching a movie I vowed to never watch: Tristan & Isolde. It actually wasn't terrible, much to my surprise. Although, I would still not consider myself a fan, 'romantic' movies are better than I made them out to be. The list could continue, but the point is if I can do it so can you. I'm stubborn, which makes second chances always difficult to grant. However, some things need closer inspection and a little more time. Sometimes relationships are like this. Maybe getting to know someone takes longer than one would think. Circumstances change and produce new chances. Too often I've talked myself out of things without giving them a change. I use to think, for some bizarre reason, girls with glasses were incapable of being my type. I still don't know what my 'type' is, but I know that my initial premise is completely false. If the reasoning for dislike is irrational it probably deserves another shot. However, many don't give it a shot. This leads to a failure on multiple levels.

Everyone hates failure, even though it's everywhere. No one wants to not finish, leave answers blank or a test, or have to retake their driver's test. However, these failures happen multiple times even day. Still, nothing is more pathetic and worthless than a failure to try. This isn't apathy, a lack of care, it's fear of failure or even success. Some people don't try, because they give up before they even start. Many have defeatist mentalities, the idea that too many things need to work out that it isn't even worth attempting to try. This is a sad and terrible attitude. Innovation would have been impossible if no one had tried. It's better to try and fail miserably than to never try at all. In addition, some don't try because they fear the past. This is the 'history repeats itself' mentality. "My last boyfriend/girlfriend treated me badly and the relationship ended horribly, so I won't even try this time cause the same thing will happen." "I've gotten an 80 on the first three tests, so I won't try on this one because I'm just going to get another 80." These arguments many seem valid, but they aren't. The first is built on the premise of fear, and unwillingness to take risk out of inability to separate the past from the present. The second is just ridiculously stupid, and is poor manipulation of laziness as a justification for performance. Yes, trying is difficult, this is true. However, without taking a chance and trying you'll never know success. Although, you may find failure in life, in the end God will show you to true success. If you believe in Jesus, and that he saved you from your sins and wants to be your savior, you'll find this success in eternity. Luckily, this is one thing you don't have to try for. For now, we do have to try as a presently earth-dwelling being. This often involves trying, and being hurt, disappointed, or let down as a result. However, this doesn't mean we can give up on trying. Those people who try to get close to you, and aren't out to hurt you, don't push them away. The world is too brutal to be callous. Trust is a part of trying, and often this trust can get broken. Don't lose heart though, keep trying to trust. Forget the past, or learn to live with it, and then stop judging everything on that basis. Remember the people you push away. Those that keep trying to come back are worth giving another shot. Giving up may be easier, but trying is more rewarding in the end. If someone cares, they'll try to demonstrate this as best as possible. You can question motives, truth, and character, but not effort. No one tries for something that means nothing to them. But I'd make a fool of myself trying for something worth trying for. I have. Try to understand that, if nothing else, this isn't pretend.

There you go. Stop giving up before you try, and go give something/someone a second chance. Take my word for it you'll be glad you did.