Saturday, June 11, 2011

we got a real cynic here.

I wrote this post probably around a month ago. I wrote a good chunk of it quickly, but felt like there was more to say on the subject, so I kept it in drafts. And then forgot about it. I still think it's kind of funny, so I decided to add just a bit more and then posted it. If you thought I was bitchy before, get a load of this shit:
A short post; while it's fresh and sort of funny.

So, in my "History of Rock and Roll" class this morning, there were a few awkward moments that I believe are typical of the average young student. Let's see, we were going over Lieber and Stoller produced records and singles, and we were looking at the song "Charlie Brown," by The Coasters, in particular. Our instructor has power-point slideshows coordinated with his lectures, and these usually have pictures. The picture that came up when discussing this song was the actual bare record single. Below "Charlie Brown," was another song (I can't remember what song) by a group called Ronnie Dio and the Prophets. Yes, I was wondering if it was, too. Apparently, so was another guy. He raises his hand and asks, "Now, that says Ronnie Dio up there; is that actually Ronnie James Dio?" The instructor says, "I am not sure about that," while a few people in the class start shaking their heads and saying "no, no...," or "no, it's not the same." Immediately, the guy who asks the question turns around to everyone and says, "Oh yeah, it says here that it is him." He says this with confidence and with an indignant expression on his face. His laptop is open and he is, presumably, looking right at a wikipedia page or some other kind of quick info page.

The obvious point here being that he already knew this bit of trivia, but thought it would, I don’t know, make him sound funny or observant. Stupid, fucking rhetorical questions is this kid's game, seems to be. So many times he pipes up with something equally dumb to say, or rather to "ask." Last time he spoke up, it was to make a glib comparison with Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers to Justin Beiber, by way of question: "So, you could say that Frankie Lymon was kind of like the Justin Beiber of his time, right?" Time before that, it was to ask something like, "so that's kinda the same as when Lady Gaga uses techno in her songs that everyone now thinks is cool, but used to diss back in the nineties when it was associated with raves?" I believe the topic was irony in rock and roll. If so, this guy's a king, no?

There was another thing that happened this morning that I couldn't help but notice. It had to do with, yet again, the power-point presentation. Our instructor often times likes to put up funny pictures. One slide had multiple pictures of the fifties/sixties starlets, like Brenda Lee, Leslie Gore, Shelley Fabares, and Connie Francis. The picture of Connie Francis was some sort of animated .gif, or jpg., where the right eye occasionally blinked at you. And yes, it was funny and bizarre, and made you wonder for a minute if that was really happening. So, this image is winking for the next five minutes while there are plenty of giggles and whispers, some belated. And then someone raises his hand. Wanna take a guess as to why he's raising his hand? Maybe I'm a snob for rolling my eyes at that one, but I was thinking right as he raised it, "c'mon,'re not really going to make the observation now, five minutes after the majority of the class has become aware, that the picture is winking, right?" Well, yes actually he did that: "So, I'm not sure if the picture is supposed to be doing this or not, but it looks like the picture of Connie Francis is winking?" Way to state the obvious for a really fucking minor-league laugh.

I remember this happening all of the time throughout my early school years: my classmates’ propensity to laugh at the obvious, cute, and silly. What was alienating about it was that it sure did seem like there was a consensus on this: you laugh at the silly clown who falls down. I always thought, "is that really enough for a laugh?" I kind of resented kids who laughed at the stupid videos we watched in grade school, or the actual clown who came to our school to perform (who was not funny at all, sorry to say; "Zero the Hero" was his name), or whatever else was deemed funny for our tiny little minds. A real "sense" of humor is kind of important to me. I naturally feel closer to someone who has one that I like, as I think everybody does, of course. It is strange what some people find to be genuinely funny, though. Sometimes, you wonder if the joke is that they actually find this funny.

And many times it is the hipsters you have these shit-senses of humor. One would assume that a Portland hipster would understand the depth of irony. But no, don't bet on it. In the basement cafe at PSU, known as 'Food For Thought,' one will find young practicing hipsters working the counter, bantering with each other, making semi-ironic references to how awesome mustaches are, or how awesome eighties music is (I love, by the way, that there tends to be no distinction in eighties music when you talk to someone who was born at the end or after the decade. It's all gaudy and retro, and is all about dance music).They’re the types that talk about how they "want so badly" to own film collections of Chuck Norris, or Steven Segal, or Charles Bronson. Bob Seger is an idol, Kenny Rogers rules because he has white facial hair and owns a corporate chain of fucking chicken roasters, etc... I think you get it. To be fair, the "I want to own the Steven Segal movie collection," quote was said by some young barista at Crema Coffeeshop. She said it with a ridiculously stoned kind of voice, as in "yeah, braahh, I'm gonna hit the powder on the mountain," bullshit stereotypical snowboarder/surfer voice. Yeah, that's right.

What's kind of silly is that it tends to be rehearsed script. I've been hearing variations on that joke for as long as I've been in Portland. When someone says something like: “I want to own a velvet painting of Kenny Rogers; how rad would that be?” as a sort-of joke, you’re left wondering when the other shoe is gonna drop. Well, not very rad at all. It would be silly and pointless since you are expected to think that's funny/rad because of how you look. Oh, and by the way: fuck you. Come up with something funnier next time. Or better yet, try to cultivate a personality that doesn't exclusively rely on your peers for input or influence. 

On a side note, the PSU cafĂ© itself serves the most god-awful veggie/vegan fare to unsuspecting customers. I’m gonna be a snob on this one, because I was a fucking vegetarian long enough ago to remember what one would get if you ordered something vegetarian, or bought a vegetarian item in a store: that is to say, a big pile of shit on your plate that you’d be thankful for because at least it was vegetarian. You could count on such creations as dense, fat-free biscuits smothered in almond gravy, or a flavorless tofu scramble. For all you knew, the almond gravy could’ve been  made out of ground-up shoes, since all you’d taste was tamari. And this is the kind of stuff that Food For Thought serves. One day, I had French toast there, which wasn’t even vegan, but they gave it the vegan treatment. It was flat and boring as hell, and looked like it had been scraped off the ground. It was unappetizing to look at and it definitely had no fucking flavor. 

Though I am unsure if Food For Thought serves vegan pastries, it would seem fitting if they did. Even if a shop/restaurant is vegetarian  they usually have vegan baked goods, exclusively, because the items could claim things like maple syrup as a sweetener, and whole-wheat non-bleached flour as their base, and the owners could feel a little less guilty. However, baked goods were almost always heavy and weird since they were missing the two key ingredients: eggs and butter. Butter makes your biscuits light and fucking fluffy, and eggs give cakes their perfect texture. Technique, too, is essential, and that brings me to another point: why is everyone a chef when it comes to vegetarian/vegan cookery? I think it’s because there is an element of surprise: no one really knows if this ‘thing’ is supposed to look, taste, or feel the way it does.

Well, times have changed and cooks have gotten better since vegetarianism and veganism have both taken root in this country, and the people demanded a higher quality to their food, rather than having it merely sustain them. I understand the political/moral intention behind the decision to become vegetarian, but who said you had to stop enjoying flavor, or equating flavor with decadence? 

Well, that was quite the complaint. There's always more where that came from, but I'll settle down now. 

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