2007: A Recap

2007 was a good year. A great year. Like all years it had ups and downs, but I am not a person who dwells on the unpleasant memories.

Things I did in 2007:

-Got my first A in college
-Had the best kiss of my life
-Blacked out from alcohol consumption for the first time
-Had my first cigarette and cigar
-Fell in love with David Bowie
-Learned how to play Guitar Hero
-Posted my first YouTube video
-Bought my first car
-Added over 150 new cds to my collection
-Entered the workforce full time
-Bought a guitar
-Sold the guitar
-Got a keyboard
-Installed Leopard after the Mac BSOD
-Fell in love with Pan's Labyrinth
-Gave up video games
-Had Christmas away from my family
-Didn't watch 300
-Attended an awesome wedding
-Watched my brother graduate
-Saw Vernon Reid live
-Fell in love with Scrabble
-Went through three iPods
-Bought clothing for a dog
-Started writing
-Got addicted to Qwantz.com
-Saw My Brightest Diamond live
-Started this blog
-Packed up my life in Japan


The Super Great Car-Finding Saga Extravaganza - Part Three

(The title of this blog is not pretentious at all)

So I realize that Part Three has been extremely slow in the making/writing/publishing, but there is a reason for this! I have been lazy. Yes, I realize that it is not a good reason, but it IS a reason. We last left off where I had called the nice salesman trying to sell me a Jaguar with a faulty instrument panel and sagging headliner (gross!), and I was left with very few leads on potential cars to buy. As fate would have it, however, my future car was closer to me that I had realized. Because of the nature of my work I am constantly gassing up cars at a local gas station. I go there, no joke, about four times a day. I had seen a older model black Nissan 300ZX sitting on the lot with a for-sale sign in the window but it was priced at a bit more than I was willing to spend. One Monday I casually mentioned it to one of the guys working at the station.

"That's a nice Z sitting out there."

"Yeah man, it's been there for a while. Just can't seem to sell it, which is a shame, because the guy would sell it for less than that price, too."

My ears perked up.

"How much less?"

He quoted me a significantly lower number. I was hooked. Apparently the guy who was selling it needed money for Vegas "bad", and just wanted to unload the car. It had a brand new inspection, new battery, and was ridiculously clean inside and out. It had a 3.0L V6 (a big engine for a car only weighing 2000kg), a five speed automatic tranny, leather seats, heated mirrors, power drivers seat, new tires, and an aftermarket Alpine CD system. The guy told me to come back on Wednesday and talk to the guy who was selling it for his buddy. I showed up at the station around 10am on Wednesday with a large amount of cash in an envelope, talked to the other guy who told me to go down the road to ASC Title and Tags to get a license plate and temporary registration and transfer ownership of the car. I had to work from 12:30, so I booked it down to the title place, filled out the paperwork, and got a new plate. Luckily I had my checkbook with me, because I had forgotten all about the tag and title fees which turned out to be about $100. I rushed back up to the gas station, handed over the money for the car, put on my plate, and drove off to work. I had one of the technicians at my job look at the car for me, because I know next to nothing about cars or engines or anything.

For those of you wondering - yes, I bought the car without ever driving it or even sitting in it.

The tech recommended I get a whole new rear suspension system (which makes sense considering the stock suspension was now 20 years old) and new front brake rotors. I had the work done and now my car is running awesomely. More importantly, I HAVE a car, and did not get ripped off by some guy trying to offload a junker. My car has a few quirks (no passenger side mirror, for example), but overall it runs fantastically well.

Look out world, I am going to drive home now.


Using vinyl and USB drives for the distribution of music: Revolutionary?

CD sales have been dropping every year, and fingers are pointing at every imaginable source. Internet piracy, legal download sources such as iTunes, and internet streaming could potentially to blame, but who can get accurate figures on that data? Surprisingly, vinyl is on the rise, courtesy of the nostalgia factor,the more tangible medium, warmer sound, and supposed better audio quality. A few indie bands have steadily been releasing their album in the vinyl format as well as cd, but distribution has generally been limited to indie record stores, live shows, and online catalogs. This however, is about to change.

I am a huge supporter of the record replacing the CD, and I would love to own records and have all the benefits of the vinyl medium. The huge album cover for more creative art, the feeling of placing the record on a turntable, setting the needle, and listening to the warm, popping sound of the latest effort by my favorite band drifting across the room. Records are just cool.

The main obstacle in the way of the vinyl revolution is the difficulty in converting the record to digital files playable by your favorite digital media browser. USB turntables are still expensive, and generally are not suited for both good audio playback and conversion. The ability to have easy access to the music in digital form will be a big factor in vinyl overtaking CDs in terms of distribution and sales. My suggested options? I have two.

1. Bundle a memory card with the vinyl album with the files preloaded. For the audiophiles who require the digital files to be FLAC in the best quality available, at least 800-900MB of space will be required. Therefore, 1GB SD cards would be the best choice. These cards are priced as low as $5.99, and the more accessible 1GB USB drives start as low as $9. Keep in mind that these are retail prices, and would probably be available for two or three dollars cheaper when bought in bulk or wholesale. If the actual vinyl album could be sold for $9 and bundled with a $6 USB drive containing the digital files, the total is a very reasonable $15. I really think people would pay for this.

2. Another option is for the music industry to sell the records by themselves and include a online way to download the files, using either the label's own dedicated server or even via a online service already in place, such as a redeemable iTunes gift. This could be a cheaper option, though obviously not everyone who buys music will have the means to download an entire album, either because of a slow internet connection or a lack of a computer altogether. Still, this would be the most convenient option for most music consumers, as the trend of getting all of one's music from online sources is growing exponentially with every passing year.

Personally, though, while I do support this growing trend of vinyl, I would decline to join the movement for one simple reason - I travel a lot, and plan to move a great deal. I would not even consider packing up a heavy record collection and fragile turntable and moving it every time I feel the need to have a change of scenery. Being able to put 200 CDs in a box that I can easily lift is something I care about a great deal. I support music, I pay for my music, but I do not like having to transport my music.

Having said that: Kick ass, vinyl! I'll be busy downloading.


The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of Niggy Tardust! - An Online Review

    Few people have ever heard of Saul Williams, and even fewer are aware that he makes music. Williams, a veteran of the New York poetry scene, has released two previous albums, and with his latest effort, The Rise and Inevitable Liberation Of Niggy Tardust, seeks to finally have his message heard by the millions to whom it no doubt applies to. The album, produced by Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor, is overtly political, confrontational, and invigorating.  Saul appeals to his audience on a very tangible level, his smooth baritone voice tinged with the brilliance of Malcolm X and coupled to the beats of Tupac Shakur. The homage paid to music legends such as Bowie, U2, and Public Enemy fuse well with William's brilliant, smooth-as-butter poetry and talk/rap style of delivery.
    The album moves along at a brisk pace, chronicling the rise of a Messiah figure, Niggy, and continuing to hammer home nail after nail of culturally relevant messages. Niggy draws references from the Bible and spirituality, hip hop culture, and the continuing struggle of the black man in the United States, all the while pulling cards from the hands of rap, rock, hip-hop, and industrial music to craft his own unique deck of rhymes. He is neither a thug nor a 'G' - he is simply an observer of problems in society who has ideas for fixing them. Again, musically, the album wanders all over the page, with the woes of miscommunication, ignorance, and violence being revealed through everything from over-produced industrial chaos to a simple synthesizer-and-strings arrangement. Despite the variations, however, Williams drives home his point very starkly - that today's generation are killing themselves, and need someone to guide them, whether that be an evanescent cult figure such as Niggy, or a more corporeal character, such as a community leader. Give it a listen.

The Rise and Inevitable Liberation Of Niggy Tardust is available as a free download or as a paid donation from http://niggytardust.com


Leopard and Two Gigs of RAM

As mentioned in a previous post, I ordered 2 gigs for RAM and OSX 10.5 from Amazon.com. The RAM came before OS X did, so I had a few days of blissful Tiger running on almost 5 times the minimum required RAM. To be clear, it was speedy. I opened all of the applications on my dock at the same time just because I could. With 512megs (the default amount), I have to be responsible and prioritize which application I really wanted to have running. No more! There's really no downside to having more RAM. A new OS, however...

Leopard arrived at my door last Monday, three days after it's release. From what I had read on message boards and in reviews online, it seemed great. Sure, there was talk of the little 'Leopard BSOD' incident, but I threw it in the back corner of my mind, where it splattered against the wall.

Two hours after I had begun the install, and I was staring at a very bright blue screen. I had mouse control, but that was about it. No keyboard, no CD drive, no nothing. I grabbed a nearby laptop to see what was the matter. Upon a quick Google search I found myself at Apple.com's support pages. One clearly hastily thrown up page told me that I had an issue with my ApplicationEnhancer plugin (which I had indeed installed). The site told me to reboot into Single User Mode (a 'feature' which happened to have locked me out of my computer on the flight over - my fault) and type in a few lines of code to delete the file bundle, which I did. A quick reboot and Leopard was now ready to go!

The install overall was the smoothest install I have ever had the pleasure of sitting through. Granted, all the previous install I had done were with Windows, but still, Leopard was amazing. Macs are set up so that the system folder is completely separate from the applications and other data folders, so a new OS install leaves everything else perfectly intact. This is unheard of when using Windows. I plan to install Mac OS 9.2 onto my G4 Powermac soon, so I'll get to compare the experiences soon enough.

Now for a basic run-down of the pros and cons I have found with Leopard so far.

-User interface is gorgeous
-The ability to lock folders to a certain view option is much appreciated. I use List for Apps, Grid for Movies, etc.
-Spaces is brilliant
-The new iChat is awesome
-The new backdrops in Photo Booth are nice
- I can finally record video via built-in iSight from Photo Booth - I no longer have to open iMovie
- Cover flow is a nice addition to Finder, especially in the Photo and Documents folder
-The predefined spotlight searches for Today, Yesterday, This Week, etc, are nice

-Takes an additional three gigs of space over Tiger
-Time Machine wants to re-format my external before it can use it. That will not be happening.
- Stacks are no so cool. In fact, they get rather annoying.
-My Cocktail app doesn't work with Leopard yet.

Overall, I enjoy using Leopard a lot. However, seeing as Spaces alone takes up probably 200megs of RAM, I wouldn't recommend using Leopard on any machine sporting less than gig or RAM.


A Concert of Hosts

I had the privilege of seeing three American music titans in concert last night: Vernon Reid, guitarist of Living Color, David Johansen of the New York Dolls, and Galt McDermot, composer of the musical Hair. All three were premiering original work at the St. George Theatre on Staten Island, and it was a night of music I will not soon forget.

Honestly the only reason I as interested in the concert was because Vernon Reid was performing. I have been a huge fan of Vernon's ever since I found his Mistaken Identity album on a rack of CDs in a Japanese used-media shop and bought it on impulse after falling in love with the cover art. After thoroughly digesting that disc I went on to buy every Living Color album, sans their most recent, and have continued to be an avid fan of Vernon's work. I found out about the 10/27/2007 show in Staten Island through his MySpace page, and bought second-row seats to the show a month in advance. The chance to see one of my musical heroes live on stage this late in his career was something that I was not about to pass up.

Allow me to expound upon my reasoning behind adoring Mr Reid's work. Vernon Reid, simply put is a musician who faithfully weaves his music around the very idea that music is something to be enjoyed by the listener as well as the performer. Though he is undeniably a guitar player of awe-inspiring skill, he doesn't let that constrict his musical style nor dictate how he conveys his ideas through his instrument of choice. His music is passionate, yet he never falls into the pit of self-indulgent meedle-ing, shredding, and wah-ing his way through track after track of solo material. He delights in textures, sustains, grooves, and flowing improvisation. His encyclopedic knowledge of guitar styles combines with his musical vision to produce unique and original music that has room for many different artists and instruments.

Vernon Reid has a vision for music that doesn't always involve him.

He sees music as a way of communication, possibly more so than it as an art form. Living Color was an outlet for certain ideas, but not others. Reid's own solo albums contain material and themes that he deemed not necessarily 'unfit' for Living Color, but rather better expressed through a different channel - much like a clothes designer chooses a model to display certain fashion styles but not others. Vernon chooses different ways to express what he wants to say to the world, and that in turn allows endless possibilities for reaching people through music. This is what makes him a great musician.


Brief updates from various spaces in my life

-I recently sold my candy-apple red Fender strat copy to instead invest in a 25-key USB/MIDI controller. It has a pitch-bend wheel, which excites me greatly.

-Speaking of 'excite', whatever happened to www.excite.com? Does anyone even care about it anymore? It made the Internet so exciting(tm)!

-I am keeping up with the respective season four's of both The Office and House, M.D. via torrent. Both are sufficiently awesome.

-My car has been in the shop for about 17 of the last 21 days. More on that after I finish Part 3 of my extravaganza.

-I have rocked Medium on Guitar Hero II to the point of unlocking the Viking Guitar (five stars on all songs). I also have started playing Gran Turismo 4.

-I pre-ordered Mac OS 10.5 Leopard, along with two gigs of RAM for my Macbook. Thoughts on that when they arrive later this week!

-The new Radiohead album, available for free via download, was downloaded by me within 15 minutes of release. Dare I call it their best album since Kid A?

-I am gearing up for No-Spend November, a month of buying nothing that isn't completely necessary. This means no new music, movies, being content with water for lunches, not going anywhere that requires tolls, etc. Let's see how much money I can save!

-Cute girls!


The Super Great Car-Finding Saga Extravaganza – Part Two

(The title of this blog is not pretentious at all.)

When we last left off here, I had returned home after getting shafted by the car salesman at Easy Buy Auto Sales. Completely disregarding that, I called him the next day to set up a test drive on the following Monday. My hopes were high and my eyebrows bristled with anticipation.

Monday morning found me at the car lot with two friends, Joe and Danielle. The salesman had nicely offered to bring the Jag down from the lot, and arrived at the lot at 9:15, ten minutes after we had arrived. The Jag needed a quick jump, and then we were on our way. Naturally I drove, and Joe sat next to me and Danielle sat in the back and complained about the loose, dangling headliner. In all fairness to her, it was pretty gross - I mean, who knows how many old peoples’ hair it had touched!?

It’s rather hard to describe the feeling that welled up inside of me when I had both hands on the wheel of a luxury car, my butt firmly in a well-worn seat, driving a smooth in-line V-6 that purrs like a cat next to a hot water bottle. The low growl of the finely tuned engine, still in tip-top shape after all these years, was soon ambient noise as the rolling green hillsides and shady, tree-lined avenues whizzed by. The car handled extremely well, and all the outside lights worked. About five minutes into the test drive, however, I noticed that my speedometer, odometer, and gas gauge weren’t moving. Um, that could be problematic.

I really don’t know how it took me so long to notice that. I guess I was too preoccupied with listening to the engine and transmission, and testing the brakes.

I got us lost on the test drive, and we ended up on the backroads of Chester County for about twenty minutes. When we made it safely and legally back to the dealer, I asked the guy, Doug, about the issue. He said that the car had been sitting on the lot for seven months, but had recently passed inspection. Apparently since then the board controlling the three gauges had failed. That seemed fishy. I told him I would be in contact and left for work.

Once back in familiar surroundings, I started asking people I knew their opinions of my prospective purchase. I learned that the speedo and odo board failing was a common problem in older European luxury cars, and the fix could be as easy as some re-wiring or as expensive as a $400 board replacement. Strike one. My friend Tony, who sells cars for a living, had this bit of advice for me.

“Dann, I sell cars for a living. I don’t try to sell Jags. People actively buy Jags. I never recommend a Jag to anyone. In my opinion they aren’t well made cars, and, in fact, I think an’85 Jag is the worst possible choice for a car for you. The Brits don’t know how to make a dam car. Buy something you can get parts for easily – ideally a Japanese import.”

This sounded like very good advice to me. I decided that pursuing the novelty of owning a Jag was not in my best interest at this time in my life, or possibly ever. It would have been cool to be able to say, “Yeah, my first car was a Jaguar,” but paying through the nose for specialized imported parts would have thrown a wet blanket on that really fast, I feared. The Jag would have to sit on the lot for a bit longer.

Fear not, dear readers, part three is near.


The Super Great Car-Finding Saga Extravaganza – Part One

(The title of this blog is not pretentious at all.)

Since my arrival in the United States a month ago, I have been trying to procure a mode of reliable transportation. My host family has, until now, generously allowed me to use one of their cars, but I did not want to get used to using that and thus have been actively looking for a car over the past month. At first I thought about buying a motorcycle, but then thought about the cold, frigid, and also freezing climate of Pennsylvania during the winter months and decided against certain death brought upon by slick asphalt and two thin wheels. So, a car it is.

I had fairly simple criteria for finding a car. Seeing as I am not rich nor an extravagant spender, nor am I stupid, I had to set a budget, which I decided to be $1-3k. I figured $3000 would get me a good-enough car and, at the same time by only looking above $1000 I would weed out any really crappy cars. My initial criteria were a running car with four doors and less than 100,000 miles. It was pretty simple.

I started my search how any post-teenage boy equipped with a laptop would – by searching online. By making routine searches of four major used-car websites, Cars.com, Autotrader.com, Craigslist Philadelphia, and Ebay.com, I began to compile a list of possible cars to check out, as well as if my criteria were reasonable considering the current market conditions. Based on my research, the $3000-and-under car market seemed to be booming.

My first lead on a car lead me to Easy Buy Auto Sales of Coatesville, PA. They had a 1985 Jaguar XJ6 listed on Cars.com for $2995 with 83k on the odometer and a new alternator (new, direct from Jaguar – not exactly a cheap part to replace). My friend Joe graciously agreed to accompany me to the dealer, so we hopped in the car and drove the 10 miles or so to get there. Below is an actual transcription of our conversation in the house before leaving.

“Hey Joe. Playing Guitar Hero again, I see.”
“Indeed, as it is loads of fun.”
“So I found this 1989 Jaguar online, and it has 150,000 miles on it. Private seller. Two grand.”
“Yes, indeed. But oh, wait, here’s a cooler-looking Jag for $2995 and it’s ten miles away! Lets go!”
“Ok, sure.”

So, just like that, Joe dropped Guitar Hero and we drove to the dealer. We got there around 6:30 and walked around the tiny lot looking for the Jag. This wandering took much longer than it should have, seeing as lot had only one car of each major body style on it and was about as big as some living rooms I’ve had the pleasure of lounging in. We finally resorted to asking the salesman inside the barely-furnished office as to where exactly the car was.

“Oh,” he replied, “it’s up in the other lot we have. It’s right around the corner here. That’s a good car, man. Big strong engine with a smooth tranny in that car. Runs really well. They put airplane engines in those cars, man. It’s amazing!”

He was a little too enthusiastic. His sales pitch wasn't bad until he threw that bit in about the airplane engine. Then I felt like he was trying to sell me a collector’s novelty item instead of a car. Nonetheless, Joe and I decided to go up to the other lot and look at the car. We found it easily enough, and I was disappointed that it looked smaller in real life than in the pictures. No matter, though. Hmmm, cream paint with a red interior. Classy.

The exterior looked decent enough. A few rust spots here and there, and some fading paint. The tires looked under-inflated, but the car had been sitting on the lot for about six months. As Joe and I tried the doors we discovered that the rear passenger side door no longer locked, thus giving us free access to the inside of the car. We of course hopped in and had a look around. The inside was really clean, and, barring a really torn up leather driver’s seat, I was really pleased with what I saw. We couldn't really do any more than sit in it and admire how good we looked in it, so we did that before hopping back into Joe’s car and driving back to the dealer. We got back only to find that the salesman and skedaddled home, leaving us nothing to do but return home ourselves.

We would be back.


Oceans of Confusion

Distant. I feel distant as I sit here in a booth on my former college campus where I am visiting for a day. I feel disconnected from the student body, from people whom I still call friends; from people whom I spent my days with just five months ago as a fellow student. I know their names, their hobbies, their likes and dislikes, yet I feel that we live in two worlds apart. My decision to leave college was not in the least of my own choosing, but I still feel as though I deserted it. I feel like a foreigner in a place that still welcomes me and enjoys my company. In this way I suppose that this institution of higher learning is not unlike anywhere else I have left, whether it be country, city, house, or home. It is not unusual for me to return to places I have left behind, because I find value in unearthing old memories and experiences. Nostalgia can be a lot of fun if done in moderation. Returning to my old college however, is different. My emotions are twisted, and my feelings chaotic.

Coming back here is not nostalgic.

I am not a different person now - I have not changed since I left college. Before, I could take comfort in being able to associate nostalgia with maturing. I could look back and associate a place with a certain maturity level I was at and could chart my progress as a human being by counting how many times I had changed surroundings. This college, however, is still somewhere I want to be. I feel displaced, and unfairly at that. I feel cheated and taunted by fate.
Of course, it was my own decision to return and visit. Nobody dragged me here and made me socialize with these people. Perhaps I return in hopes of staying relevant, in hopes of retaining former relationships, and in hopes of remembering why I am working my fingers to the bone to return to college. I want these relationships, and I want this community. This is a place where I have much more growing yet to do.

All my life I have felt, to one degree or another, unwelcome in a place where I belonged but did not fit into. For the first time, I feel welcome in a place where I fit in but do not belong.

(for the time being)


The Sound of Goodbye

Here I sit on a trans-pacific flight, a tag groggy after a light nap. I am embarking (or perhaps disembarking) on a great adventure. Today finds me leaving my much-loved country of Japan, the land I have called home for as long as I could identify a ‘home’, and the land that has been my actual physical home for fourteen of my twenty years. This departure comes with a feeling of sadness, more aptly described by ‘pang‘ then the ‘tinge’ I have felt so often before when boarding an aircraft for a foreign country. Indeed, sometimes I have felt very little sorrow when leaving Japan, but I was much younger back then, and a lot less wise.

As a missionary kid who is uprooted every at least every four years and forced to adapt to a new environment, I have never been a stranger to change. Most time I faced it with courage, ready to tackle the new challenge ahead with the support of a loving family and a rambunctious younger brother. In truth, change is now so ingrained in me that I find myself feeling uneasy and yearning for a new setting every few years, a change of routine that I can re-accustom myself too. Yes, I have become accommodated to travel - to constantly seek broader horizons and brighter vistas.

So then, in light of that explanation, what set of circumstances have me feeling pangs of sorrow upon what will be my 25th airplane flight in 20 years? The answer is pretty straight forward - every other time, I had plans of returning. This time I embark for the United States unsure of when I will return to Japan, the closest place to a home that I have. I will arrive in America with plans to begin work, purchase vehicular transportation, and launch out on my own. I cannot do this in Japan. Japan, as it stands now, represents a safe place; somewhere too familiar for me to take risks and challenge myself. At this point in my life, I feel that I can do no more growing in Japan. I need a change. And for the first time in my life I have no plans made to return to my parents. I believe this is healthy for me.

But it is not easy. Tearful goodbyes were said to my mother and father. People who are close friends of mine in Japan I shared a last beer with; unsure of when I will see them again.

At the same time, the silver lining is bright. One of the upsides of the missionary-travel lifestyle is that almost everyone you know travels just as much as you do, and therefore you always have an a completely unexpected reunion to look forward too. (Who would have known that you would both happen to be in Tierra del Fuego in October!) A lifetime of traveling has made us flexible, and spontaneous schedule changes cause unexpected meetings. These moments I can look forward too. A goodbye can never be fully accepted, because hope is always present.

This past weekend then I fully packed up my room, loaded my suitcases in the car, and rode with my dad to the airport. Long car rides like that are always so hard. On one hand you want to get as much conversation as possible, with this person whom you are soon to leave, into the ever-diminishing time remaining. On the other hand, conversation is very hard to force. If you genuinely don’t have anything to talk about, you end up waiting for your plane alone, full of manufactured regret. Fortunately, this did not happen to me this time around. The goodbye with my father was of course quite hard. I respect the man so much, and it is hard to part with someone who you know loves you and wants what’s best for you, even if that means you leaving him. Holding back the tears I made my way to the gate.

As I rounded a corner I saw a shop attendant standing in front of her duty-free store with a plate of free samples. “Man, what a boring job,” I thought. Seriously, who wants to stand there all day holding a tray? What was on the tray, however, a complimentary shot of a premium Scotch, was very much appreciated and immediately brought a smile to my face. God bless Japan.

All of the mundane boarding procedures went smoothly, and I soon found myself sitting in a seat with ample legroom. I whipped out a book on Leninism that I had stuck in my briefcase and proceeded to devour chapter one and regurgitate detailed notes, all the while munching on the complimentary, well-packaged pretzels and sipping a can of Sapporo beer. Though there is something very blue-collar and perhaps even proletariat about drinking beer and reading Lenin, they don’t quite go well together.

Also, yay for nice stewardesses. Yay!

I will soon land, get my life in order, and boldly take on whatever challenges come my way, knowing that my family and friends support me from afar. Which, when you think about it, is becoming closer and closer with each day that passes. Far is never too far when your whole life revolves around travel.


Lighting up the Room

I am writing this entry from a small McDonalds in Japan. The place holds about thirty people of all ages, offering them the same menu available to millions and millions of people around the world. You may ask, “What is the main difference that makes this one worth blogging about?” One deep breath will give you the answer. This McDonalds is not non-smoking. In fact, it is quite filled with smoke, as a quick glance around will tell you. At least five people are puffing away, with a few others tentatively fingering their cigarette packs and lighters on the tables.

Most people in the US would be outraged, with cries of “Second hand smoke!” ringing out across the McFlurrys and double cheeseburgers. I am not worried. Should I be? Second hand smoke is a proven health hazard and, it is true, I don’t smoke myself, so I have every right to be mad. But I am not. Having spent many blissful hours in smoky arcades, I do – to a degree – find smoke comforting. It takes me to a happy place of sorts. The way it lazily curls up in the air, blanketing the ceiling, gives me something to focus on, something to keep my mind from wandering. But, of course, that is not the only reason I do not mind smoke.

The truth is, I like that fact that Japanese society is tolerant to the degree that it allows smoking in a very child-friendly, family restaurant. I like that people are willing to tolerate other peoples' so-called “filthy” habits in order to allow the greatest variety of people to be at the same place, enjoying the same food, at the same time. Simply put, I am willing to put up with smoke in order to facilitate a tolerant society – a society where people feel free to do what they want, where they want. I even go so far as to consider myself considerate of others because of this. So often we want someone to stop something they are doing – in this case lighting up – because it bothers us. I say, “Is the confrontation and undoubtedly hurt feelings of the smoker worth the complaint? They just want to relax the same way you do. Stop believing you are number one for a few minutes of your day and think of those around you." They want to smoke? Let them.

This is very Japanese of me. And, in a country where porn magazines are regularly read openly on trains, ads on the street for sex shops contain nudity, noise pollution laws are non-existent, and truckers openly urinate on the side of the road, it could be argued that smoking in a public restaurant is the least of the Japanese peoples’ worries.

Putting up with cigarette smoke is a small price to pay for the privilege of being in a society where people are forced to interact with each other. In the suburban US it seems that so much of the population goes from their isolated house to their isolated car - very controlled, environments – and rarely have to interact with other people to the degree that city-dwelling denizens do. People matter, smokers matter, and if having a all-smoking restaurant is part of nurturing the wildly diverse society that is present in Tokyo, more power to them.

Differences Magnified Through Coffee

As I sit here in the Starbucks outside of Tokorozawa station, a Springsteen record barely audible in the background over the hubbub of chatter and small talk, my mind wanders, and I smile at the subtle differences between American and Japanese culture brought into the light when examined in the common setting of a coffee shop. Coffee is such joy for some, a vice for others, and part of the young adult culture as we have come to know it. How we enjoy it, and how it is representative of culture in general, however, varies greatly from country to country.

As I sit here at a bar looking out onto the sidewalk and busy pedestrian traffic, I can’t help but notice just how different and foreign this atmosphere would be to an American in their 20s. This particular Starbucks has seating for about fifty. Most of the tables are set for two, but there is a bar that seats five (where I sit), a group table seating six complete with chill blue lamps, and two sets of armchairs. Items that have become iconic of a Starbucks such as the lamps above the pick-up counter, the checkerboard tables, and the modern abstract art on the walls, are of course present. The clientele, however, is much more varied than at a typical American Starbucks. As I look around I see young girl, maybe 12, sitting with her older brother. There are five college age kids sitting at the group table, a grandma eating a baumkuhen alone, a black (saying 'African American' seems silly here) street vendor ordering coffee, a woman reading a book. People of every age, ethnicity, and color come here. Due to the high recognition of the chain the place often finds itself as a haven for foreigners. The staffs are considered appropriately, and most of the baristas at any Starbucks you enter will speak basic English.

The ‘yuppie’ image, so associated with patrons of Starbucks and other supposedly ‘high end’ coffee shops in America, is non-existent here. Why is that? I believe it is because the famous chain is so accessible here. Starbucks is everywhere, and it offers patrons a place to rest, come in out of the summer heat, and enjoy a good caffeinated beverage. But more importantly, it is seen as just a coffee place. The fact that it may be somewhat expensive is not a factor when you think about the many benefits and relaxing atmosphere that literally wraps itself around you when you enter. So what if I just paid ¥460 for a venti iced caffé latte? I get to sit here for as long as I want, soaking up the ambience of the establishment, sipping my beverage, writing this entry, and smiling at the passersby on the other side of the tinted window. I am in no hurry to go anywhere. Starbucks in Japan is a place for the common person, a place for anyone at any time.

As you can probably now imagine, Starbucks is incredibly popular in Tokyo. Granted, I have no experience with a Starbucks in any major US city, but I would imagine they are not varied to the degree that they are in Tokyo. The one I am currently at has two wings, one on the outside of the station, and one on the inside, offering coffee to people waiting for a train on the platform. The Starbucks in Hiroo, an area of Tokyo known for having quite a few embassies, has a four-story Starbucks. The busiest Starbucks in the world, located at the Hachiko intersection of Shibuya, refuses to offer Short versions of the drinks because of the great volume of people they must serve in a day. The Christian Academy in Japan, my alma mater, has even managed to arrange a nearby Starbucks to cater to special events they have on campus during the school year.

So, what causes the great differences in how Starbucks is perceived in the West versus how it is in the East? Does it have to do with the transportation involved – the car vs. the train? Does it have to do with accessibility? Location? Advertising and product placement? I doubt it.

I believe that it has to do with the stigma surrounding the place; the attitude of the Japanese when patronizing Starbucks. The Japanese simply see it as a place to get coffee. Nothing more. Social class is not an issue. Nobody will think you are stuck up. Starbucks is simply a place for a very busy society to slow down; a place to relax and talk. There’s very little planning involved in going to a Starbucks; it is simply a place to go, a place to be. You, whoever you are, are always welcomed at Starbucks, and it shows in the appreciation and recognition given by the people of Japan.


Finishing thoughts

Now that I have thoroughly cleaned my Macbook keyboard, track pad, and snow-white case with strong ink-remover solvent, it is time to commence with the blogging!

(Note to Apple: That official-looking text printed on the bottom of a Macbook comes right off when attacked with ink-removing solvent.)

Man, that is strong stuff. Officially it’s called hydrolon, but all the guys around me refer to it as gasoline. That’s right - I may be soaking rags in pure gasoline to clean machine parts. It could be kerosene I suppose, or perhaps even pure alcohol, but that doesn’t really make me feel any better. I am at work right now. The machine I am assigned to has run out of ink. As you can imagine, without ink we cannot print, so I am relegated to do nothing and have chosen to take the opportunity to blog. I do this tentatively, never knowing when ink might show up and I will be whisked away to stack palates and change rolls (called ‘webs’ in the industry) of paper.

Summer is coming to an end and, with it, the end of my part-time job here at NLL. It has been a great couple of months spent learning, sweating, smiling, and making friends. Making money was a big part of it too, I suppose.

Despite the repetitive nature of the menial tasks assigned me, I still leave with good memories and having grown up a lot. I was pleasantly surprised by the attitude and work ethic of all of my co-workers. They proved to be very good role models for me; people whom I would do well to emulate.

Mr. A, a twenty-year veteran of the company, is head of the printing division. He is in charge of all four of our machines and covers every aspect of the printing process, from ordering from suppliers to making sure the machines run without a hitch in the course of preparing our product. A well-dressed Indian man, he is extremely organized, knows these multi-million dollar machines in and out, and is very skilled at people management. Any disgruntled employee is paid heed to with grace and understanding.

Mr. S is a diligent printer who has been playing guitar for over twenty years and wishes to become a professional musician. He is nonetheless extremely knowledgeable about printing and takes it upon himself to do any work that he sees needs to be done, whether it is his job or not.

G, the Nigerian man who I mentioned in this post, has learned a lot even since I’ve been here. He perseveres like crazy often staying hours late to fix problems caused by his inexperience. He is eager to learn, and always comes to work with a smile on his face.

Mr. T (who doesn’t even remotely resemble the famous Mohawk-sporting actor) is dedicated almost to a fault. He lives upstairs in one of the dorm rooms like I do, and will often come downstairs even while off shift to help out. He also has made quite a few modifications to the machines including connecting a paper counter to ease packing bundle calculation, and installing a webcam to get a good view of the paper chopper (Short explanation: paper coming out of the machine is folded once, then folded a second time by the chopper. The chopper folds, perforates, and moves the paper along to the conveyor by which it exits the machine. The chopper can be a common point for paper to jam and stop the machine, and must be closely monitored.) He speaks good English, builds his own computers, and prefers Linux.

Mr. M is an extremely quiet man who works well behind the scenes. Extremely quiet is perhaps an understatement – I have never had a conversation with him lasting more than three exchanges. He is I guess what the Japanese people would call an otaku of the printing profession. He is meticulous and calculating, tending to the machine much like a mother duck cares for its ducklings.

Mr. K is a German fellow who has been here fifteen years. He came as a part-time worker for a year but came back the next year and before he knew it was permanent staffer of ten years. He speaks decent English, but very little Japanese. Ironically he is married to a Japanese gal who speaks almost no German– they communicate in English.

These are just a few of the people that I have had the pleasure of working with. I have learned a great deal from them and am very glad that God decided to put me in this environment to spend my summer.

The aforementioned chopper - apparently a ‘hand lubrication chopper’.


Subtlety is key

With about an hour left to go in my shift today, I was asked to take all of the work that we had done and cart it up to the the binding department on the second floor. The newly printed calendars only occupied eight palates or so, and bookbinding in only one floor up.

With the handy elevator by my side, no big deal.

Grabbing a convenient red-colored jack, I proceeded to scoop up the palates two at a time and load them into the elevator, after which the group of us took a nice ride up to the dark and deserted second floor. Then we made out. Ok, not really. It was all very platonic. After I had moved five of the eight palates, I found myself in a pickle; there was not enough floor space for the remaining three palates. The printed and cut paper, only hours ago so tightly wrapped up in a 250kg roll, was going to be separated! By me!

Actually, this is probably not a problem.

I rode the elevator back down and decided to seek out my supervisor, to see what he would advise. A quick search of the premises (ok, so he was right there) and we delved into deeply veiled, very Japanese double talk.

Me: "I have moved all the palates I can at this time." (Translation: "I'm done")
Him: "Are you sure? There are still three palates remaining! Look!" ("You're totally slacking.")
Me: "There are no more spaces on the floor to put any more palates! I have run out of open concrete! ("I am not slacking. I finished, fair and square.")
Him: "You know, seriously, any open space is fine. As long as you don't obstruct a obvious walkway, they can go anywhere!" ("You may actually be done. I will still, however, offer helpful suggestions to possibly save face.")
Me: "I am more than willing to double check upstairs to see if, in my inexperience, I may have overlooked an open space of floor. Shall I go now?" (It would be very difficult for me to do as you ask. However, you are my superior.")
Him: "No, it is ok, do not stress yourself over little details. Finish up and go home!" ("Yay! I saved face and at the same time look considerate!")

After this nice exchange, I proceeded to clean up around my work area, read a bit of a newly printed Bible, pray, and clock out.

Wee! More pictures!

[A Cutter/folder thing]

[ M, K C, and Y colored ink to be loaded]

[The four ink dispensers, one for each color]

[Very large, very heavy paper rolls stacked on top of one another]


Saturday, August 11th: A Summary

Time spent in Shinjuku, Tokyo - 10 hours

Times walked around the entire station - 1

Cute Korean coworkers hung out with - 1

Different train lines ridden - 4

Number of pictures taken - 7

Number of purikura taken - 6

Hours of tetris played - 1

Music listened to - Living Colour

Lines waited in - 2

Guitars ogled over - 5

Number of movies seen - 1

Number of video games played - 2

People kissed - 0

Alcohol consumed - Yes

Last trains home caught - 2

Number of train stops short of mine the last train ended at - 3

Time it took for me to walk the distance of that 7 minute train ride - 2 hours

Number of dead cicadas I saw on the walk home - 6+

Number of bikes stolen - 0

Number of cops passed - 2


A game of gentlemanly conduct

The Rules for Silent Football (as I remember them)

1. This is a very serious game

2. This is a very serious game

3. A group of people will arrange themselves in a circle, sitting on chairs with no arms

4. One person, (usually the one with the most experience, will be designated as the 'Commissioner'

5. This person will choose how others will refer to him/her (examples: Mr. Commissione. Mr Commissioner Sir, Madam Commissioner, etc)

6. When addressing another person in the game, the addresser will use the addressee's full name, with title (Mr., Ms, Mrs, etc)

7. The Commissioner chooses who starts.

8. The object of the game is to pass an invisible ball around the circle. There are three ways you can do this. (1) Pass - hold your neck with your right hand and point your elbow at another person in the circle. Make eye contact with them. (2) Handoff - Thwap your hand(palm) against your thigh twice (once on the downstroke and once on the upstroke). Do this on the right thigh to pass it to the person one on your right. Left thigh for the person one on your left. (3) Lateral - same as a handoff, only you thwap your thigh twice, and the ball moves to the player two seats over on the right or left (respectively).

9. The same action cannot be repeated three time in a row (e.g. person A passes, person B passes to you, you cannot pass you must lateral or handoff)

10. No noisemaking is allowed. Should a participant talk, cough, sneeze, clap(?) or start to seizure, when they are done they must follow up their noise with a polite, auditory "Whoop whoop!" Two whoops is key.

11. Laughing is never tolerated. EVER.

12. Should a participant observe ANY infraction (improper thwap, failure to whoop, laughing, improper addressing of other participants, anything) of the rules stated above, they have the option to raise their hand (slowly is properly). Should the Commissioner see the raised hand, he will call on them. They will then, after addressing the Commissioner properly, voice the infraction that they witnessed
(Betty Adams slowly raises hand)
C: Yes, Ms. Adams (or Ms. Betty Adams- either is correct), what is it?
Betty: Mr Commissioner Sir, I believe that Mr. Charles Forberg improperly thwapped his left thigh when passing the ball to his left.
C: Do we have a second?
At this point, someone has to agree, and sustain (ratify, confirm, whatever) Betty's accusation. Should someone second, the commissioner has the option to punish the offender.
(Bob ratifies)
C: I see we have a second. Yes, indeed, I agree that Mr. Forberg failed to give a full-hearted thwap. Mr. Forberg, you have one strike.
(Commissioner picks someone to start the game again)
It should be noted here that a second to a motion does not guarantee a conviction. The commissioner still has the final say. Also, yes, the commissioner can be guilty of an infraction and must fess up if confronted.

13. Once a participant has received three strikes, the group can vote to end the game, or the commissioner will impose a embarrassing action (silly song, dance, weird dare) to the person with three strikes. The offender must carry out their sentence (still no laughing allowed), and the game continues.


Gourmet indeed!

I find it a rare occasion that I am able to sit down with two good friends over a good meal. Tonight, however, happens to be one of them.

Tonight I am scheduled to take my brother and friend Ryan to the best yakitori restaurant in Tokyo. While the restaurant serves more than yakitori, it is their chicken-on-a-stick that has me recommending the place to everyone who I think truly appreciates spending big bucks for good food. Yes, the place is not cheap. It is run by a single guy, the owner, and preparing food takes him about twenty minutes per order. This will be a two and a half hour meal at least.

I figure we'll start the night out with a round of draft beers followed by raw chicken liver, raw horse meat, and a bowl of cabbage. The cabbage goes well with the beer, and the raw meat is an excellent appetizer.

Following that we start ordering the yakitori. I figure 4 sticks each of heart, neck, and thigh, and maybe 2 sticks of liver. Maybe we'll decide to try something new as well. Who knows.

After that I'll order some semi-cooked chicken with legumes, rice, and maybe some tea. I wouldn't be surprised if we added a soup to that as well. Once we are all full, we'll order a few rounds of their house saké, after which we will enjoy good conversation on the spirited train ride home.

Ah, bliss.


Time well spent?

Tonight I got off work on time for the second day in a row, which is unusual for me when I'm not part of a 24-hour rotation. I have something to be grateful for!

While working the 3pm-12am shift I've come to realize, or maybe even expect, that I will work at least a half-hour if not a whole hour of overtime. Most of the time the overtime is to compensate for time lost fixing a break in the paper or perhaps repairing the machine. Occasionally I stay overtime to finish one last palate or one final paper roll. Hence, I do not mind overtime so much.

Overtime also nets me more cash, since I get a bonus on top of the extra 1.5x I make for working after 8pm. And, it goes without saying that, as a college student, I need the cash.

I suppose I should be thankful, though, that I only have to work, at the most, two hours overtime. With NLL being a small Japanese company, overtime is pretty much expected for office workers. Most of my co-workers work 4+ hours of overtime a day, and a select few often are still hunched over their desks well past 11pm, the light from their office the sole source of light in the long-darkened hallway.

I have much admiration for these people who spend most of their adult lives at the office, yet I can't help but wonder, 'What do they do for fun?' I know of a handful that enjoy bicycling and during the summer months often make a two hour ride to work. Others play instruments or spend time with their families. But how much of that time is quality time. I mean, sure, work is important, but do I really want to follow in their paths and be so dedicated to my work that I spend most suppers during the week cradling a cup-of-noodles?


When we were young

It's eerie how bad childhood memories can remain vivid in our minds years after they occur. In my case they are not really bad in the nefarious, "I tore both arms off all my sister's Barbies", type of memories. Mine tend to be more of a spectatorly nature. One event I remember all too clearly.

I couldn't have been older than five years of age the first time I remember being at CAJ, the school from where I would graduate twelve years down the road. My family had driven in for some event, and I decided to spend some time by myself, wandering the playground. It was a very large playground at the time, for I was small. There were two slides; one for people younger than I, and the other bigger one for the bigger kids. Both slides were painted blue with gold steps, made of metal, and very old. A mother was playing with her very young daughter (most likely 2 or 3), and decided to take her over to the slides. For some reason I was near the slides, and for some other unknown reason I volunteered to stand by the side of the slide in case the little girl fell. Out of kindness the mother accepted my "help" and took her daughter to the top of the slide and let her go. I was standing on the left side of the slide.

Before the girl had even made it half way down she lost her balance, teetered, tottered, and plunged over the side rail of the slide - the left rail. She plummeted a good six feet before landing face-down of the ground about a meter and a half in front of where I was standing. There was nothing I could do but be shocked and look confused.

How could I let this happen?

Her mother of course rushed over and picked up her bawling daughter. That image of the little girl, crying her eyes out, gravel and dirt ringing her open mouth, is a permanent snapshot in my head. The mother hustled off to care for her child, and I left to wander the playground.

Looking back now, I see, of course, that there was nothing at all I could do. Even my volunteering to look out for the child's safety was a useless and empty gesture. I was five; what could I possibly have done? Let her land on me?

Still, the event haunts me as a situation where I could have done something more. Maybe it serves as a motivation to get involved now. Maybe what I couldn't have done then, I can make up for now.

Who knows why we keep the memories we do?


A Nighttime Endeavor

I wake my friend from her restless sleep
I say to her, "Let's go on a walk, somewhere"

She smiles, and asks me, "Where to?"
And I reply to her, "Anywhere our feet lead us"

It's past midnight when we start our stroll
The whole world gone to bed by now

Out the door and down the walk
We turn left because we feel like it

Lazily along the sidewalk we go
In tandem on this cool summer night

The rain has lessened, but is still, there
The drops in the street lights fall slowly

Our hands find the other eventually
And mindless babble is not needed

When two lovers get as close as we
The sound of breath is more than enough

We come upon an intersection
One way flashes red, the other yellow

Apparently even in the deepest night
One way is still more important

We go straight for no real reason
We walk down the center line

'Fwip fwip' go our bare naked feet
The sound makes me smile and I turn to her

The moonlight gives a shining image
A face with no imperfections

The streetlight reflects her figure in the puddles
I kiss her on the fore head; she smiles

We find a bridge and stop for a bit
The water running like Chopin in our world

She turns to me and on her tip-toes
Gives me a playful peck on the lips

The time is only as romantic as we make it
The only pressures are we have are specious

We are free, she and I, to love and walk
As we see fit; as we see needed

We could stop, we could go
All the world is ours for now

Words are few as we complete our walk
The nighttime insects dance with us

For moonlight is a strange music
Dancing is only minutes away

We dance to the door, I stop and unlatch it
We slide in, soaked; our clothes are cast aside

We cuddle up, and drift asleep
Dreaming of the tides


Dawn gently brakes,

With my window open.
Have I what it takes
To make this day happen?

To make this day worth it?
To help mankind profit?

I question myself. Then,
Despite the high stakes,
My face starts to soften
As dawn gently breaks.



So I've started this pretty awesome book called Don't Waste Your Life written by a guy named John Piper. In it is this quote that really hit me.

"The really wonderful moments of joy in this world are not the moments of self-satisfaction, but self-forgetfulness. Standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon and contemplating your own greatness is pathological. At such moments we are made for a magnificent joy that comes from outside ourselves. And each of these rare and precious moments in life--beside the Grand Canyon, before the Alps, under the stars--is an echo of a far greater excellence, namely, the glory of God. That is why the Bible says, "The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims the work of his handiwork" (Psalm 19:1)"
Do you have moments like that? I think we all do. I can remember a few of mine quite distinctly. Moments like when I saw a shooting star from the top of Mt. Fuji as day broke, the first time I listened to a Klaus Schulze album, or playing the video game Rez for the first time. Moments like these make you wonder, "If God allows this kinda awesome stuff to happen on Earth, how much better will heaven be? Complex music, beautiful art, and jaw-dropping landscapes are just a hint of what heaven will be like.


A quick note

I would just like to take the time to publicly thank German multi-instrumentalist Marten Kantus for taking the time and effort to send me one of his cds for free. I really admire artists who are willing to do that. It's not every day that an artist is willing to, with money out of his own pocket, send out cds for free (overseas, no less) to spread his music. Thanks, Marten.

Check out Marten's stuff at:




Junior Printer Extraordinaire

I suppose that previous post deserves some background. I can't just randomly post something and expect you to know that I have to cope with ink and grease collaborating in attempts to soil my pale skin on a daily basis.

On May 21st I began work at a small Christian printing company, henceforth referred to as NLL. I work in a three story building, in particular with the huge printing presses on the ground floor. The floor is home to four presses. I don't want to bore you with technical details, so I will refer to the presses as A, B, K, and T. I work on K, which can print in two colors. Basically my job is to take the printed paper off the machine, bundle it into neat little packages, and place it on a wooden palate. When the machine is not running, I am in charge of cleaning the ink off the machine's rollers. Printing machines are home to a host of rollers of all sizes (but only one shape, round). This is what I do for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week.

Most of the time I work with a Nigerian guy named Gbenga Damola Mosaku, or, as he prefers to be called (and as his bling around his neck so boldly reinforces) 'G'. This dude is unbelievable. He was a semi-pro/pro boxer for 18 years and is unbelievably ripped. I'm talking like a perfect triangle torso. He does pushups when there are lulls in work. He has scars all over, most noticeably above his nose (which is to be expected) and, get this, in his left cornea. If that's not hardcore, I don't know what is. He used to be a street merchant before he took up printing (and by 'took up' I mean 'started last December'), and has that impeccable sense of style that goes along with being a black man who traded fashion accessories for a living. He's working extra hard to support his wife and two kids because he wants his wife to be able to stay at home and be a good mom. I really admire him for that.

NLL is too far away from my house to commute every day. Luckily, the third floor houses dorm rooms which are available for tenancy should a employee require such quarters. There are about nine rooms, and I fill one of them. I am the youngest person staying in the company dorms by at least 20 years. It's all a bunch of old guys. My dorm room is quite nice, and I find the time by myself relaxing. With my work being on the first floor and my room on the third, I find myself perpetually drawn to the comforts of a sit-back-and relax lifestyle.

Last week I did not once venture outdoors.

Here are some iSight-quality pics of my room. Enjoy.

At Exactly 2:47 P.M. Today-

My Boss: "Hey you know how at CAJ (my alma mater) they have that Wall of Fame?
Me: "Yeah..."
Boss: What do we have here, the Sink of Fame?
Me: "???"

Ok, so I did wash my hands like five times today, but my hands were all inky! And greasy! And inky and greasy!


A New Teen Anthem?

Every generation has a popular song that they can identify with. This song usually gets a lot of radio airtime and is often popular for years to come. Another possible staple for securing a song as a ‘teen anthem’ is ease of play. Quite a few people teach themselves guitar by practicing this song over and over. For people a few years older than me, Nirvana’s ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ was their anthem. This song led the hair-metal-bashing, rebellious, grunge scene, and is probably the best song of the most well known album of 1992, Nevermind. This as unfortunate because two other fantastic grunge albums, Pearl Jam’s Ten and Soundgarden’s Badmotorfinger, also were released that year.

Smells Like Teen Spirit is a song that was catchy, fast, and easy to play. Couple a simple song with Cobain’s dark lyrics (“I feel stupid and contagious/ Here we are now, entertain us”), and the result is a track that will appeal to teens worldwide. The song catapulted Cobain to star status almost overnight.

If the teens in 1992 had that song, then what song can the teens of my generation rally around? I’ve been a teenager since 2000, but I’m willing to add a couple of tweenage years to that count. What song was around then that my peers and I can relate to? Songs that immediately come to mind are ones like Blink-182’s ‘All the Small Things’, ‘Come out and play’ by Offspring, or perhaps maybe a Hootie and the Blowfish tune. But I’m gonna go ahead and say that, no, none of these are the teen anthem of my generation. There is a different song that I think is our teen anthem.

That song would be ‘Seven Nation Army’.

There are several reasons that I pick ‘Seven Nation Army’ over a host of other songs.
  • The opening bass line is instantly recognizable
  • The song is extremely catchy
  • The vague lyrics allow a host of interpretations
  • The song is easy to play, even by ear
Granted, Jack White is not Kurt Cobain. Neither is he Jack Black, for that matter. Mr. White, despite his attempts to shy away from the public view, is fast becoming a teen icon. Maybe it’s the red-and white outfits? Perhaps it’s his strict adherence to analog recording techniques? Could it be his once-mysterious relationship with his drummer, Meg? Whatever it is, teens and young adults alike are buying his music in droves. I can’t wait to see what comes next.

Hopefully not suicide.