May 2, 2010

My Overly-Indulgent College Soundtrack

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In my long, overdrawn tenure as Sun writer, columnist, editor/alcoholic, Nepalese correspondent and pain in the ass, I’ve talked (about) a lot of shit. Sex and nudity and vaginas, mostly, (f)artsy goings-on, a lot, TV too much, Nepal some, politics rarely. But music? Thrice. Maybe your first clue that, among generations of arts editors whose very life’s blood is music, I am a dirty fraud. I listened to Counting Crows, and yes, Dido, in high school, when everyone else already knew Pheonix, or pretended to. I found most music via TV shows — and then listened to obsessively, disregarding long suffering roommates who didn’t sign on for Fiona Apple, Damien Rice or Josh Radin in neverending emo repeat. So, in an attempt to perhaps finally claim my place among my brethren, this* goodbye column will be a trip through my college soundtrack — the desert (of the real) island (aka: college bubble) mix. And in doing so, maybe I’ll help dispel that myth that music’s only good if you’re the first to it, or that there’s even such a thing as good.The always-present anthem — Des’ree’s “You Gotta Be”: As a wee lassie, my much older-siblings/babysitters [Note to those planning on popping out chitlens in the near future: Age gaps in procreating equals free child care!], relied on Des’ree’s “ You Gotta Be” as a lullaby. Today, it’s still my go-to reprise. It’s a serious, soultasticly eager pick-me-up, so raise your head high when you listen. It’s especially good for Orientation, when you decide you can and will do everything Cornell has to offer. Including signing up for the swing dance club you’ll never actually go to. And refusing to unsubscribe. Bear McCreary’s “A Promise to Return” / Toby Lightman’s “Everyday”: John Wang ’10 introduced me to Battlestar Galactica, one of the greatest shows of all time. With it comes a postmodern-Handel soundtrack that doubles as religious experience. And after waking up halfway through freshman spring semester, having lost an election I never wanted to win, in classes I had checked out of and finally at home in this beautiful place with 2 + 100 sisters, I needed it — along with Toby Lightman’s soulful reminder not to put your foot in your mouth … Regina Spector’s “Edit”/ B.I.G.’s “Ten Crack Commandments”: … Which I still did. Overwhelmed with too many commitments and underwhelmed by sophomore year’s inevitable fractioning of the student body, I considered transferring. My cynicism came out in satires I don’t regret writing but inevitably were misinterpreted by hurt friends. I finally let go of the shoulder-chip that wondered if dressing up for themes and dancing on tables went in the face of everything I believed. Life became more fun, and I became less of a toolette. Go figure. The Felice Brother’s “Ballad of Lou the Welterweight” / Kate Nash’s “Pumpkin Soup”: Blessed with a 30-hour a week editorship, the co-editor yin to my yang and a 126th editorial board who became my boisterous, argumentative but always present work-family, I essentially gave up on being a student. I also realized a few life lessons: People you think won’t matter end up mattering greatly, you can be a bitch and a victim simultaneously, all the things your friends do in relationships and you wince at, you’ll inevitably do, and that just because someone has the same frame of reference as you, and no matter how strongly you feel about them, doesn’t mean it’s going to work. Doesn’t mean you’ll ever not want them in your life, either.  The Weepies’ “World Spins Madly On”: As arts editor, I made more mistakes than I care to admit, spent more time dealing with politics I thought possible, and forgot that just because some people are only their ego doesn’t mean everyone is. Because you forget that for you, what’s just one drop in the pan — one review/feature/column in a line of the same is one of the few, maybe the only, review of something someone else spent months on. At times I was a doormat, at others an ass. And yet what kept me going was that amazing group of talented editors and writers — often more talented than myself — who put love and humor into their work. (You’ll also realize you’re pretty uncompromising when it comes to certain things. You should work on that.)Citizen Cope’s “Son’s Gonna Rise”: And then you’ll run, screaming, for some bit of Zen on the other side of the world. Your always-supportive academic advisor will raise an eyebrow at your “need to go be a Buddhist for a bit,” and you’ll finally appreciate his refusal to tell you what to do. You may not get that Zen you craved, but you will see beyond that huge personal bubble you’ve constructed. You’ll realize how fucking lucky you are, and how little the details matter. Lily Allen’s “22”: It didn’t have meaning until I turned 23. But this fall, when I was over the hill, college wise, I embarked on a thesis that I thought would keep me grounded but did exactly the opposite. I was determined to live it up, while already feeling burnt out, torn between the ever-present urge to pull up roots and do everything, and the fear that if I didn’t settle into something, I would wake one day actually over the hill and completely rootless. Mike Doughty’s “I Hear the Bells” / Florence and the Machine’s “Dog Days Are Over”: But then here I am, now, nostalgic about college before its over, missing my friends before they’ve left, having gone full circle with want to do, yet with no clue where I’ll end up. It’s been said, but more options in life don’t make us happier. But the other, always present argument is my mother, who deserves an entire column of thanks, and whose only option involved secretary jobs that required the ability to type X number of words per minute. It’s one thing to say you appreciate what you’ve been given, it’s another to actually be grateful.To be honest, I’ve never been particularly good at that whole stay-in-the-present thing. But that’s what indulgent, desert island mixes are for.So always remember your inner soundtrack. Not the shit that’s cool or gives you mad street cred, but the songs you can listen to, over and over, that touch you or make you dance like a fool in public, headphones in, no worries, no nothing. You’ll always find yourself in a group of other self-conscious peeps, bopping along to music they think they like but probably don’t. Don’t do that to yourself.

Just dance, baby, just dance.

*The nice thing about graduating is that people feel inclined to indulge your self-indulgent sentimentality. I hesitated, worried that I would make all of you hate me, but my young friend Dan Fipphen ’11, the first to mock me, encouraged me to embrace my toolishness.

So, to: Lauren, The Rs, Shuja, Zach, Julia, Benj, Alex, Jared, Charlie, Suzanne, Sydney and the rest of the arts writers — thank you for always being there to pick up the slack, and so awesomely. To Tracy, Elliot and Jonny: Thank you for recruiting me, letting an overenthusiastic freshman write so much, and convincing me to take a risk with The Sun. To Sammy and Becca Weiss: Who was writer and who was editor when gets muddled in my brain, but regardless of the hierarchy I was always happy to be working with both of you. Pete … hold your horses. Ann and Ted — if there’s anything I’ll take unfair credit for, it’s for a hand in your co-editorship; Peter and Ruby, I know it’s overwhelming, but I’m already proud of your enthusiasm and ideas and know we’ll see great things (cough: don’t let us down). Thanks for indulging a past-timer. Make that shit sing. (And to Brian Kramer: I promised, didn’t I?)

Original Author: Julie Block