Gorillaz

I haven’t often mentioned it, but music gets me through the day. I very deeply love music, whether I’m walking to it or writing a paper or just listening to it for the sake of listening to it. I think, therefore, I’ll make this post about one of the most fascinating bands around: Gorillaz.

I first got into their music back in ’05, or maybe it was ’06, when I heard their most popular song, Feel Good Inc, on the radio. I was captivated immediately: I’d never heard anything quite like it, and I listened to a lot of alternative. Later that week, in my creative writing class (I went to an art school back then), I was listening to it on my mp3 player (this was well before I had an iPod) and a friend asked me what I was listening to. Turns out she was a huge fan of the band, and was able to tell me all about them.

I learned that they were a virtual band. A virtual band is a band whose public face is characters that don’t really exist, and virtual bands are often actually massive projects including large groups of constantly changing members– Gorillaz may well be the best example of this. The project was started by musician Damon Albarn and visual artist Jamie Hewlett, and, as has been mentioned, has included the work of a great many people. The characters, named 2-D, Murdoc, Noodle, and Russel, each have their own distinct personalities, and are, to put it mildly, very entertaining. And it shows in the fans– I dare you to find a more obsessive, devoted fanbase than that of Gorillaz. I mean, they’re characters, not real people, and yet they haveĀ  larger personal followings than that of many living, human artists. This reflects the fact, of course, that they are the most successful virtual band.

There is nothing virtual about their music, though: it’s what lured me in, and it’s what kept me a fan. Albarn lent his voice to the project (in the guise of the virtual singer, 2-D), and his singing voice truly has a unique quality. Their music, too, is incredibly unique. It doesn’t even really fit into a single genre, and their music has evolved completely from album to album. The project’s willingness to risk popularity by changing from the kind of music that got them notoriety to a new kind of music is particularly impressive, in my opinion.

You might wonder how a band that doesn’t really exist shows itself to and interacts with the public. Well, the characters are seen in music videos, ads, radio shows, TV show episodes, live show DVDs, a book, and several truly impressive websites for fans to explore that feel more like adventure games. In other words, Albarn and Hewlett found ways of getting their characters out there. And it worked, remember those rabid fans I mentioned?

Sadly, according to the founding duo, that project that brought us such unique music has finally closed. Of course, coming from those two, it’s a maybe at best. They’ve said they were done before, and then came back to make two more albums.

Anyway, if you haven’t heard of Gorillaz or any of their music, check them out sometime. You might find it well worth the listen.

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Harmless

In the wake of another shooting disaster, I find myself reflecting on the shooting that really changed how America saw gun violence– I’m speaking of Columbine. Massacres like these always leave people on edge, and wary of other potential culprits. And so, fearful eyes turn their wary stares to counter-culture folks once again.

It really is unfortunate that the Columbine shooters chose to wear trench coats. I mean, had they been wearing red polos, would the United States have forever seen red-polo-shirt-wearers differently? Somehow, I don’t think so. But the public was very eager to try to connect the killers with the goth and punk subcultures. The so-called moral guardians maintained that these subcultures adhered to a violent philosophy.

Well, allow me to say differently.

First, let me briefly describe my attire for the first time ever. I am wearing a simple black shirt, jeans, a spike collar, and black lace-up boots. My nails are painted pitch-black, I have several piercings on my right ear, and I have been known to sport my favorite black trench coat from time to time. My style might surprise some readers, because until now, (I assume) you have probably assumed I dress more mainstream. But let me be clear: Edgy? I prefer to think so. Omnicidal? I think not.

It’s very annoying and frustrating that people might look at someone like me and see me as a threat. When strangers bother to talk to me, I think they find me very friendly. Hell, I smile at people and hold open doors. I realize that doesn’t preclude someone from being a sociopath, but come on.

And, research shows no correlation between violent attitudes and the goth or punk subcultures. People who identify with goth culture do tend to be more likely to be depressed, but professionals even say that for these people, identifying with this culture is beneficial, as it provides these individuals with peers with similar interests and problems– a kind of support group.

Some people might argue that while the connection between certain styles of dress and violence in the public’s mind is unfortunate, the easiest thing to do would just be to stop looking this way if you want to stop being perceived as dangerous.

My answer to these people is, quite simply, why should I? I mean, I prefer to dress this way. It makes me happy. If it didn’t, I wouldn’t do it in the first place. So why should I be the one to change, when I’m not the one who is mistaken?

Some communities have made steps toward a more open mind. I remember seeing a documentary about a high school football player who intentionally ran down a goth-looking boy with his car. The football player, if I remember correctly, almost got off the hook, but was properly sentenced in the end. The community regarded the teenager’s death as a tragedy, and began educating people about the subcultures I have mentioned. The end result is that the town is now a very goth- and punk-friendly place. Now, if that doesn’t show that openmindedness is possible, then I don’t know what does.

Let’s just hope no more teenagers have to die to get the point across that we’re harmless.

I’ll close with just this: next time you see that goth-looking person out in town, try to be more openminded before you just write him off as a freak or as a threat.

“Where Are You From?”

That’s often the first question people ask, isn’t it? Especially when they find out that I have just moved into the area. I heard it several times, last night, when I was meeting new people. For me, it’s such an awkward question. I mean, sure, I could just answer that I’m from the last state I lived in, but that’s simply the last place I lived. That’s not where I’m from.

To me, to be from somewhere is to have grown up there, to know all the best places to get Chinese food and the cleanest movie theater. It’s knowing that you had a home there, a safe, comfortable place. It’s knowing that the backyard of your parent’s house there will forever be haunted by memories of your childhood.

Well, after a few months of living in a place, I can usually tell you where to find the best Chinese food and the theater with the least-stickiest floors.

But that other stuff, I’ve never had.

I was born in California. I’ve lived in Washington state, other parts of California, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, several parts of South Carolina, Virginia, and places near the coast of Alabama. The longest I’ve ever stayed in a place was three years, and that was an unusually long time for me. When I get my degree from Pitt, I’ll have lived here four years, breaking my record.

But the point is, I’ve moved a hell of a lot of times. As a result, I sometimes feel like a tree without roots. I don’t have that deep network of connections, of childhood friends and shared memories that most people do. In small communities, which are my least favorite places to be, I find it even harder to fit in and find people similar to me, not just because there are less people, but because most of them have lived there their entire lives, and so, yes, I’ll say it, their thinking is often small-minded. It’s a curse and a blessing to have moved so much, because I consider myself very good at seeing things from all sides of the argument. There are no small-town mentalities binding my opinions. And I think that’s great, but it can isolate me from everyone else when no one around thinks like I do.

But to the point: where am I from?

Well, I’m from the United States, which is a small part of planet Earth and the human race.

And that’s about as specific as I can get.

Paying Off?

So I know I’ve been gone from WordPress for quite a while, but I’ve been very busy during that time. Regrettably, even this post probably won’t end up being very long.

However, I have encouraging news for those who are also trying to lose weight: it’s possible, and I can personally attest to that fact (finally). In my last post, I mentioned that I had just started watching what I ate more closely and had just started walking every day. And, well, I did. And, I have now been on my thyroid medication long enough for it to start kicking in.

The result?

I lost five pounds in the first week and a half.

I know it’s just a small amount, but hell, it’s a start. And it’s a good start, too: I never expected to see results so, well, soon. And I haven’t weighed myself lately (I find weighing myself too frequently to be detrimental to my mental health, because I lose my patience with myself), but I feel confident that I’ve probably lost a little bit more.

So I’m proof that you can start losing weight without counting Weight Watchers points on everything you eat. I mean, if that helps you, go for it. Though I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t want to be doing that for the rest of my life. I’m not doing a temporary diet; I’m changing my lifestyle, which is something I can easily maintain for the rest of my life, and keep the weight off. Not to knock Weight Watchers, because I’ve known some people it has worked wonders for, but if you start the program and then quit, you will gain weight back. I’ve known people who have experienced that, too.

But just walking every day, as I have… it feels good, it’s good for you, it’s free, you don’t need equipment to do it–the list goes on. And, of course, it’s a start toward a healthier lifestyle.