Shadowverse and The Benefit of Losing

Recently, I was introduced and goaded into playing a mobile game called Shadowverse by a close friend of mine. I had heard about it for weeks – a fantasy-themed card game of sorts, where the player builds decks of cards in order to defeat other’s decks of cards in a sort of card battle.

Despite my friend’s enthusiasm over the game, it never seemed like the sort of thing I’d enjoy. I’ve never really been a big fan of card games of Shadowverse’s ilk for one main reason – I hate losing. It’s not really a pride thing… well, okay, it is. What I mean is, it’s not that I want to prove myself as the best in everything, it’s that I can’t stand being bad at anything. I’m usually okay with being average or passable at something, it’s just that the problem with games like Shadowverse is that there’s often a huge learning curve.

Starting out in a game without knowing anything often means you have to play against people who do know what they’re doing in order to learn, and I hate doing that. Maybe it’s being a “gifted and talented” kid my whole life, but I have a major vendetta against seeming ignorant in any situation, even little games. It’s the reason why I usually dislike learning new card or board games with people who play them a lot – it makes me feel stupid.

So I entered Shadowverse with a lot of hesitance. For a long while, I refused to play online against other people. I made lots of jokes to my friend about how terrible I was at the game with the purpose of making it known to everyone that at the very least I was not ignorant of my ineptitude. And let me tell you, this method of playing the game was not at all successful. The little missions in the game more or less required you to play against other people if you wanted any sort of rewards.

So what did I do? Well… I hesitantly dipped my toe into the pool of competition. I played some online matches, lost a ton, and then drew back into my single-player safety for a while. Eventually, little by little, I managed to convince myself that it was okay to lose. It also helped that I had the support of my friend. (At one point, he even literally built a deck for me – and his strategy of making one became the skeleton for all of the decks I made moving forward.)

And you know what? Eventually, I became halfway decent at the game. I lost a lot. A lot. There was a solid three or four days where I did nothing but lose. But eventually I made my way over the metaphorical hump into mediocrity and the game, honestly, became fun. And you know what? A lot of times, it was the losses that led to the most delightful moments of brilliance. Getting pummeled into the ground by someone else’s deck always gave me tips for improving my own deck.

But anyway, I say all this not just to talk about a niche mobile game I’ve eventually become halfway decent at, nor to encourage anyone to play it (though, like, it’s actually really well-made with lovely art and really surprisingly impressive voice acting, so, if you’re into that, do check it out.) What I mean to say is, losing is often a good thing.

That’s not to say it’s an easy thing, because it’s obviously not. It can be annoying to devastatingly heartbreaking. But I’ve come to find, this year especially, that losing can also bring out the best in ourselves.

This year has been a year of new for me. I graduated high school, got my driver’s license, and got my first actual job. College is hanging over my head like an anvil, and I’m doing my best to prepare for it to fall. Even in my personal life I’ve had to adapt to changes. I’m not the same person I was January first of this year and I think, ultimately, despite the successes, a lot of the positive change has been found in accepting the things in my life that aren’t so nice.

The end of high school was a death slog. Driving still gives me anxiety. My job combines my anxiety over driving with my anxiety over being bad at new things. College is going to uproot all of the relationships I’ve so carefully built over the years, and I’m scared of having to regrow them. It has been a year of loss. I have lost the person and the life I used to have.

Okay, dramatic, I know, but in a way it’s true. And yet… you know what? I’m doing okay. I’ve adapted to the new freedom and the new responsibility and I bet I’ll adapt to college too. And if my prior losses have taught me anything, I’ll come out the other end better for it. And that doesn’t mean it won’t be scary or bad.

If Shadowverse taught me anything, you have to deal with the losses before you can start winning.

A Story in Song

While talking to my friend Marie, she mentioned listening to a classic song with her mom and dancing around. She highly recommended this song, (“Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress” by the Hollies) to me, and because I’m not one to turn down a song recommendation, I looked up the song on Youtube.

Marie’s taste in music is a little different than mine. I would say in general she’s more appreciative of the “classics” than I am, but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy it whenever she throws an older gem my way, and this time was no different. However, I made the terrible awful mistake of scrolling down into the comments, where I found this gem.

YoutubeComment

And, unsurprisingly, I was peeved. My problems with people like this is one of the biggest reasons I’m not more into classic music. I’m no stranger to music elitists. One might call me one, to be honest. But as far as I’m concerned this commentor has never even heard a modern song before.

See, I’m a huge fan of music that tells stories. And, as a caveat, I should say, most songs tell a story. Even your cookie cutter radio hits tend to follow some sort of plot. I mean, just cherry picking from the current Billboard Top 100, the so-called scourge of music according to classics fans like this person, “That’s What I Like” by Bruno Mars tells a distinct story of the narrator wanting to shower their lover in luxury goods and experiences, “Shape of You” by Ed Sheeran recounts the singer’s physical attraction to their lover and tells the story of their first date as well as several sexual encounters… I mean, even the most vapid 2008 pop has some kind of story. Ke$ha’s “Tik Tok” is a clear story about the singer’s lifetime devotion to partying! To say modern songs don’t tell stories is ridiculous because all songs have to have some sort of story, or else they’re just incomprehensible gibberish.

But, okay, I’ll bite. Maybe what this commentor means is that no modern music tells such a romantic story as the one in “Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress”. And not romantic in the love, coupley, sense, but more along the lines of a novel put to song. And even then, this commentor is wrong, as I will prove today.

I’ve mentioned a few times that I really love lyrics. They’re probably my favorite aspect of music. Whenever I get into a song, I like to delve into the lyrics and discover their meanings and the story behind them. So, why not talk about some of my favorite musical stories? So, here we go, five songs that tell fascinating stories… true or not.

In Another Life – Vienna Teng

I’ve touched briefly on this song before in my Women in Music post, but I didn’t get to focus specifically on what it is that makes this song magical. Vienna Teng uses her usual theatrical style to tell the tale of two lovers over the course of many different lives. The song traces these two lovers through various points of history and through various occupations. I think the story is told just beautifully, with some really poignant images, and even though the song never directly states that the two subjects of the song are in love, it is clearly conveyed through the tiny details in the way they interact.

I love the tone of this song. It’s really disconnected, very objective. You get the feeling that although the singer of the song identifies themselves as living all of these very tragic lives, they are happy and distant enough from the tragedy to describe it objectively. Even when this song gets morbid, the narrator remains disconnected and simply describes the scenes.

And the subject matter of this song gets… well, really morbid. I mean, we go from mine shafts caving in to Tiananmen Square to stillborn children yet the same up-tempo style continues, which really drives home the bittersweet message of the song. Even through the death and suffering these two lovers experienced over the course of their many lives together, the song is ultimately a positive one. Ultimately, the lovers end up happy and together in modern times.

The Mariner’s Revenge Song – The Decemberists

The Decemberists is no stranger to fantastical stories told through song (part of the reason I keep meaning to familiarize myself with more of the music). I also considered discussing their equally fantastic song “O Valencia”, but I decided this one fit the song storytelling category in a more straightforward way.

This song is a shanty fit for a pirate ship, and that makes sense considering the subject matter. The story is told at the end first, with the narrator stuck in the belly of a whale. From there they go into the tale of how they arrived there. What follows is a tragic tale of revenge after the singer’s mother is cheated by a rakish young man and left to die penniless and heartbroken. The singer follows this man all the way to sea, where the two are ultimately swallowed by a whale, bringing the song back full circle.

I think this song is an absolutely beautifully told story. The instrumentals always match the emotion of the story. Plus, I think the story itself is loaded with some great dramatic irony. I mean, the fact that the singer’s quest for revenge leads him to dying himself alongside the man he swears revenge on, in the belly of a whale, a tried-and-true symbol for hopeless and self-destructive quests. (Think Moby Dick). Plus, the repetition of the mother’s voice, and her sweet, singsong tone contradicting the violence she wishes upon the man who did her wrong… it’s all so great. I always get chills at the end.

Jenny Was a Friend of Mine – The Killers

This song is actually one of a three-part series of songs, all of which describe a man murdering his lover. Yep, some real happy stuff, I know, but trust me, this song is really fascinating. While the other two songs tell the story leading up to and during the murder, this song recounts the questioning of the murderer afterward. It’s a fascinating look into the mind of a murderer, and the way he justifies his actions and proclaims his innocence.

Paired with the police sirens at the beginning of the song and the tense, dark instrumentals, the repeated admission of the man that his lover Jenny was a friend of his becomes sinister and chilling, and that’s the mark of a really well-told story. This song always gets me singing along and then feeling bad about it because the lyrics are just that twisted.

Unfinished Business – White Lies (Mumford and Sons Cover)

I always feel bad recommending the Mumford and Sons version of this song because it’s not the original, but to be honest, the jangly banjos just fit this song so perfectly that I have a hard time with the original. The title is a play off of the idea that ghosts remain on earth because of unfinished business – in this case, the narrator is the confused ghost of someone who has just been murdered by their lover (… yeah there’s a bit of a pattern here, I know).

The interesting thing about this song, though, is the narrator is completely unfazed by their own demise. Instead, they seem more concerned about their lover, noting their fearful oaths to God and urging them in the chorus to “get off their low” so they can “dance like they used to”. This song is tragic and also somewhat beautiful – the murdered lover vows to wait for the one they love in the afterlife.

The reason I recommend the Mumford and Sons version over the White Lies version is I think the upbeat instrumentals match the ultimately positive tone of the song better. Sure, the situation described is dark, but the real interest of the song is the singer’s positive attitude over their own demise, so I think the jangly banjos fit this perfectly. But hey, to each their own.

Cleopatra – The Lumineers

And finally we arrive at one of my favorite songs of all time. This song took my number one spot in my top 30 songs of 2016 list, and that’s hugely because of the beautiful and tragic story told within its lyrics. Based on the real life of a taxi driver the lead singer met, “Cleopatra” is the story of a woman who refuses to marry the love of her life and how she lives with the regret. It’s told as if the woman is telling the story herself, and hits that perfect combination of tragedy and hope as the woman struggles to live her life to the fullest despite her sadness over the loss of her lover.

The song is warm and nostalgic, and I’ve yet to find a single person who isn’t touched by the real-life story behind the lyrics. I have a hard time describing it here, so I’ll just advise you to give it a listen and read through the lyrics yourself.

But this isn’t even the half of all of the songs out there that tell poignant stories within their lyrics. I advise people like that youtube commenter to give more songs a chance – to really read into their lyrics. You’ll find some fantastic stories there.

 

The New Idols on the Block

I like to think I have a fairly refined taste in all things media. The truth is, though, we all have things we love even as we also acknowledge they can be, at times, silly and maybe even a bit problematic. Such is my love affair with rhythm games Love Live and BanG Dream.

I’ve been a fan of Love Live since my sophomore year. It’s a bit of an institution in my life and the lives of many others, I think. It was my introduction to the world of addictive rhythm mobile games, and it remains an important part of my life to this day. I’ve watched the anime all the way through and cried several times throughout. I’ve logged hours and hours into the mobile game.

(For those wondering, best girl from μ’s is Nozomi and from Aqours is Yohane. Best subunits are Lily White and Guilty Kiss respectively, obviously. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, don’t worry about it.)

BanG Dream is more of a recent favorite. It was introduced to me by a good friend of mine, and I had to jump through a few hoops to download it from the Japanese app store. Since then, though, I’ve been hooked with this game. It’s relatively new, and currently only has a Japanese version. (I had to enlist the help of my friend and a few guides to figure out what all the buttons do because… well, I don’t read Japanese.)

(And, once again, for those wondering, best girls are Misaki, Kanon, and Kokoro, and obviously best band is Hello Happy World)

And sure, it’s comparable to Love Live, but there’s something about it that has distracted me from returning to Love Live for a while now.

Because both BanG Dream and Love Live are made under the same parent company, Bushiroad, they get compared a lot. These comparisons aren’t always completely fair – true, they’re similar games, but they’re made by different teams and they have a lot of key differences. Actually, I think there’s a lot Love Live can learn from BanG Dream, and that’s what I want to talk about today.

First off, let’s get a little more in depth about what each game is.

Love Live is a rhythm and card-collecting mobile game. It involves “scouting” for cards of the eighteen main idols and a large collection of side characters. These cards are of different rarities and can be leveled up, strengthened, and put on teams to play “lives”, or songs where the player has to tap along with the rhythm of the music. Each card can be used to unlock small stories about the girl. These stories usually involve the girl just talking, although there are overarching stories about the eighteen main idol girls that are unlocked as the player levels up. These follow a loose story similar to the anime (I’ll go into the story a bit later).

BanG Dream is similar in that it employs the card-collecting rhythm game format and uses a combination of small single-character stories and larger overarching unlockable stories. Like Love Live, BanG Dream also features options to strengthen your cards and put them on teams. However, unlike Love Live, BanG Dream also features a relatively large world that is inhabited by the characters. Players can explore this little world and watch the girls talk or buy songs and powerups. In addition, BanG Dream features a multiplayer option that allows players to play alongside each other in order to increase their points and rewards. Finally, the biggest and most important difference between the two games is in their events.

Both Love Live and BanG Dream have events – these events coincide with the release of new cards, and participating in these events allows players the chance to earn these cards instead of hoping to randomly draw them in a gachapon. Love Live actually has several types of events, some allowing players to compete against each other directly, some making them play long strings of songs for points, and some simply adding on a chance to earn event points alongside their normal rewards for playing songs. BanG Dream has only one type of event, and it’s the most similar to the last event I mentioned in Love Live. However, and this is important, BanG Dream’s events are pivotal to the game.

Yes, events are fun and change things up in Love Live, but the reality is that they’re not always very worth participating in. The event card that is available is of the third-highest rarity in the game, and most seasoned players, unless they particularly like the look of the card, will probably have cards that are more powerful than the event one. In addition, Love Live events are notoriously brutal. A lot of success in events depends on playing near constantly in order to fully maximize the time given. If you look at guides on how to succeed in Love Live events, you’ll find instructions like “set an alarm to wake you up every few hours in the night so you can make sure you’re playing as much as possible!” And that’s… that’s ridiculous. I’ve never found the motivation to devote myself so fully to an event, and as such I’ve never been very successful in them.

In addition, events are just sorta… extra. The event cards are separate from the cards released into the gachapon “scouting box”, so a player who is looking only to get specific cards from that box might find more success avoiding the event entirely to focus on working towards increasing their chances to draw their desired card.

And that’s all fine and good, but it means that gameplay in Love Live can get really stale really fast. There is basically one good way to get love gems (the most valuable currency and the one used for scouting), and that is to build three of the strongest teams possible and to play lots of songs all by yourself. That can be fun for a while, but the game never challenges the player to change everything up. In fact, consistency is rewarded in this game. The players that continuously play in the most efficient, constant possible manner are the ones who tend to earn the most love gems… or least that’s what I’ve seen in my experience.

On the other hand, BanG Dream’s events are pivotal to the gameplay. All cards that are released into the gachapon are released in conjunction with an event. In addition, each event has specific girls and specific traits of each card that give multipliers to the amount of event points you earn. This means your best team for one event will most likely be wildly different than your best team for the next event. So, the most successful, efficient player has to change up their play style every so often.

In addition, and this is important to stress, multiplayer is always an option in BanG Dream. In Love Live, multiplayer modes are restricted to one type of event that rolls around every so often. In BanG Dream, it is always a good idea to play with other players… and maybe it’s silly, but that adds even more to the constantly changing feel of the gameplay. When you have to constantly collaborate with others to be the most successful, it keeps things fresh and interesting.

Don’t get me wrong, Love Live is a great game and has a lot of things going for it. For one, it has a lot more years under its belt. There’s way more cards available. Plus, as an English speaker, it’s far more accessible. And I’m not really talking about the animes, but the Love Live anime is like… way better than the BanG Dream anime. Like waaay better. Although, interestingly, I find the overall plot of BanG Dream to be a bit more fascinating and complex than Love Live’s plot. (That might sound kind of weird, but… like, stick with me here.)

The Love Live anime is a simple story but it’s enjoyable because of the lovable characters, the music, and the fun and mostly high-quality package. The BanG Dream anime, on the other hand, is the same simple story but in a far worse package… or at least, that’s how the anime is. In the game, each of the five bands get their own unique story, and these stories can get surprisingly dark and complex. I enjoy it.

But I’m getting off track. Love Live is a great game, but I think it has a lot to learn from the likes of BanG Dream. Sure, the formula has worked for Love Live, but I think it could benefit greatly from the ways BanG Dream diversifies the gameplay experience. Love Live should add a constant multiplayer mode, or perhaps make use of the same sort of “certain characters and certain attributes give bonuses in the events” system that BanG Dream has. This could encourage changing up play style and would keep the game from getting stale, as it often does.

And maybe, just maybe, Love Live could wrench me back away from BanG Dream’s addictive clutches.

(Oh, who am I kidding, I’ll go back to Love Live again someday. I can never fully escape idol hell.)

Who Knows, Really?

I begin typing this post after finishing my one and only final (Web Design, the one final I couldn’t skip… yeah, I’m salty about it too). It’s quiet right now, and all I can hear are the sounds of people typing the final essay question. This class was first period on blue days – a dull slog of a class, saved only by the fact that the subject matter is interesting and allows me to stretch my creative muscles.

Currently, I’m not sure if I’m allowed to be doing anything that doesn’t directly connect to the final. If my teacher notices me typing on WordPress, I will explain that I have already submitted my final so there’s no way I’m cheating, but who knows? I still have a little less than an hour to go in this finals period, and I would rather be working on this blog post than sitting here staring at an empty screen. For today, I’ll ask forgiveness rather than permission.

After this, I’ll walk outside in the spitting rain to the library parking lot, where the red Mustang convertible my grandma gifted me before moving to Vegas is parked. I didn’t do the best parking job, so I’m somewhat concerned it’ll be difficult to pull out again. It’s hard not to worry about this fact, as driving tends to stir up my anxiety something fierce. It’ll probably be fine, as it’s been a while since I royally screwed up pulling out of a parking spot, but then again, who knows?

These are the thoughts travelling through my mind during my last period of high school, ever. After today, I won’t be returning to this school in the same way again. I’ve already cleaned out my locker. Last night, I sent emails to all of my favorite teachers thanking them. In my closet, there’s a plastic bag with a cap and a gold stole. Hanging in the doorway of the guest room is my gown – Carmel blue, the same color mom wanted her car to be so she could decorate it for marching competitions.

This is it. After this, there’s nothing else. There’s graduation, I guess, and senior night, but neither of those things capture the daily feeling of being a student at Carmel High School.

I can pass by the newspaper room one more time, maybe even step inside, but it won’t carry the same low, constant level of stress. I won’t ever again sit at those frustratingly complicated apple computers and work on a spread design. Never again will I comment on how stuffy it gets when you pack a newspaper room full of stressed editors as the time ticks ever closer to their deadline.

I’ll probably walk over to the band hall before I leave one last time. It’s a little out of my way, but it seems only right for the hallway outside the band room, the one I’ve made my second home. I’ve spent hours there, sitting against the wall. We’ve accidentally spilled tea on that floor so many times. We’ve eaten meals, shared jokes, slept, colored, studied, listened to music, read… lived there. I’m not concerned that after my class leaves this hallway will be bare. I imagine there will be band kids making that hall their living room for years to come, possibly until the end of time, who knows? But I won’t be one of those band kids anymore.

Of course, the real hub of it all is the band room. It’s probably mostly empty now – the calm before the storm. In a week or so, it’ll be filled again with hundreds of marching band members during their first week of band camp. I can’t say I’m sad that I won’t be taking part, but I doubt I’ll be feeling the same way once November rolls around, and I watch someone else take the field at Grand National Finals. Some of them will know how it feels to stand on that field while your name is called first place. Some of them will remember the tears, the hugs, the listless wandering around the field while the other bands cleared off. Some of them took part in that somewhat tragic encore at one in the morning, standing in arcs, trying to remember how the music they practiced for hours and hours went.

However, the number of these people is decreasing, and will continue to decrease in the years to come. Maybe it’ll happen again, the winning, the tears, the awards, but who knows? Regardless, it won’t be the same for them as it is for me, and ones who remember it like I do will eventually step off the field and onto the stands, just as I’ll do this year.

I leave Carmel High School forever changed. Mostly for the better, but honestly, who knows? I’ve met and gotten to know so many people who have molded me into the person I am. I’ve started writing poetry, and this blog. I’ve discovered things about myself I didn’t know before. It hasn’t been all good, don’t get me wrong. There have been heartbreaks and frustrations and stress and stress and stress and stress… but the result has been overall positive. I’m more open, more adventurous, more sure of myself than I used to be.

Without this school, this blog probably wouldn’t exist. (But, say it with me, who knows?) I do know it required a lot more confidence and self-understanding than I had the summer before my freshman year. And knowing all that, it’s strange to leave it all behind. I feel like an alien in the place that has been so central to my life for four years.

There’s about ten minutes left in this final period now. I hadn’t really expected to finish this all up in one go. It’s probably kind of meandering… I’ll definitely give it a second look before I publish it on Sunday. I’m thinking the header image should be one of the probably hundreds of graduation photos that will be taken Thursday evening. I’m hoping it’ll be me and my friends smiling and laughing, everything the same as it always is except for the blue robes, but who knows?

Who knows? I didn’t know going into this post I would finish. I didn’t know going into the library parking lot that I would find a spot, and I still don’t know if I’m going to be able to pull out of it without hitting anyone. My teacher hasn’t mentioned anything about me clearly not working on the final anymore, but who knows if she’s docking my grade as we speak?

Who knows where I’ll be in another four years? I certainly didn’t know, four years ago, that I’d be sitting in Web Design typing out a blog post, prepared to drive myself back home in an admittedly really sweet car on the last ever day of high school. So who knows, really?

I hope you’re all as interested as I am to find out.

 A Lyrical Analysis of “Sometime Around Midnight”

I went through several possible blog post ideas for this week, but the one I finally settled on came to me in a flash of inspiration after my AP Government test. (Okay, maybe not a flash of inspiration, more like a cascade of boredom. The essay questions did not take up the full 100 minutes allotted…) Anyway, this song was stuck in my head, and I came to ruminate on the lyrics, and how expertly written and deep they are… and well, here we are.

“Sometime Around Midnight” by Airborne Toxic Event is one of my favorite songs, and it has been for years. It’s so simple, so beautiful, and drags you into its emotion so effectively. This is due in part to its structure. The song has no chorus, and instead relies on verses that constantly build upon each other. The melody itself is pretty simple and repetitive, but the constant addition of new string instruments into the sound builds up the emotional intensity in tandem with the story told in the lyrics. I’m no expert in music, so that’s the best analysis I have in that particular area, but there is a lot to dissect in the lyrics, so that’s what I’m going to do today.

So let’s all put on our analysis caps and dive in!
“And it starts sometime around midnight
Or at least that’s when you lose yourself for a minute or two”

The beginning line of the song sets the scene. And yes, the scene is vague. A really important thing to remember about this song is that it’s incredibly general. You get the feeling that this song is not describing one particular person and situation, but rather hopes to draw the listener in by allowing them to substitute the vague descriptions with their own personal experiences.

For that reason, the exact time of the scene presented in this song is just “sometime around midnight.” It’s not an exact time or place, and that is continued in the second line with the vague subject of “you.” The song is presented as something that has happened to the listener personally, which may also explain why the descriptions are so vague, so as to apply to as many people as possible.

Finally, these first two lines introduce the idea of “losing oneself.” This is a motif that will come back several times throughout the song, but in this case it furthers the attempt of this song to put the listener in the shoes of the situation it describes. The time the song takes place relies on when the listener themselves imagine they most “lose themselves.”

“As you stand under the bar lights
And the band plays some song about forgetting yourself for a while”

Once more, we come back to this idea of losing oneself. These lines makes the subject of the song seem disconnected from the setting. They’re not doing anything, just standing there, apparently alone. All of the emotion they’re experiencing is not their own – it’s being supplied by the band playing, and even in that case the band is suggesting forgetting your emotions and troubles.

“And the piano’s this melancholy soundcheck to her smile
And that white dress she’s wearing you haven’t seen her for a while”

And here we are introduced to the conflict of the song, the subject’s ex-lover. I love the juxtaposition of the melancholy music and the ex-lover’s smile. It serves to further this idea that the subject of the song is disconnected with what is happening, and plays with the idea of mixed emotions. The subject is happy to see her, but is also filled with a rush of sadness. It also serves to set up the difference between the subject and the ex-lover. While they ruminate on the sad music, she is smiling and apparently happily moved on from the relationship. 

Finally, the first image of the ex-lover cues the listener in on understanding that the story of this song is being presented in a stream-of-consciousness way. The speaker notices her white dress and then ruminates on the last time they saw her with no connection between these two ideas – we’re simply witnessing the thought process of someone who has just run into their ex-lover.

“But you know that she’s watching
She’s laughing, she’s turning, she’s holding her tonic like a crux”

That stream-of-consciousness perspective is important to remember when looking at these lines. The story is being presented in the unique, unfiltered perspective of the “you”, the subject, and as such the events presented are very biased. This explains the confusing way the ex-lover is portrayed here, simultaneously watching the subject of the song while also apparently enjoying her time at the bar in a carefree, happy way. The fact that it’s the subject that “knows” that she’s watching suggests some degree of projecting on the speaker’s part – they want to believe their ex has noticed them and is watching them, but it seems that the reality is she’s simply enjoying herself on a night out.

Once more, the inner thoughts of the subject and the objective reality of the situation is placed at odds.

“The room’s suddenly spinning, she walks up and asks how you are
So you can smell her perfume, you can see her lying naked in your arms”

And here the subject goes again, their inner thoughts conflicting with the reality of the situation. Nothing about the actions of the ex suggests any sort of intimacy in these lines – quite the contrary, in fact. She simply walks up to them and asks how they’re doing, an action which suggests distance between the two of them. She is no longer involved enough in the subject’s life to know how they’re doing.

And yet, and yet, the subject flashes back to memories of intimacy, of being incredibly close physically. It’s clear that this is no longer the reality of the situation, but the subject clearly cannot move on.

“And so there’s a change in your emotions
And all these memories come rushing like feral waves to your mind”

Remember that emotional distance we established early on in the song? Of “losing oneself”? Yeah, here’s where that all comes crashing down. That is the “change in emotions” described. Where the subject of the song could once spend their time at the bar in blissful denial of all of their problems, here their ex is, making their problems tangible, real. And this conflict is feral, wild and uncontrollable.

“Of the curl of your bodies like two perfect circles entwined
And you feel hopeless and homeless and lost in the haze of the wine”

The most important aspect of these two line is structure – not of the lines themselves, but rather the idea of structure within. The subject’s memories compare their intimate moments as two “perfect” circles – two exact, quantifiable shapes. Now, without their ex, the subject feels unstable. They have lost their structure, and in this exact moment it causes them to feel listless and lost. They’re shapeless where there once was form.

“Then she leaves with someone you don’t know
But she makes sure you saw her, she looks right at you and bolts”

Once more, it’s important to remember that we’re seeing this scene through the eyes of an unreliable narrator, imposing their own bias. The fact that the ex is leaving with someone the subject doesn’t know establishes that she’s moved on enough from their relationship to already have friends (or possibly lovers) the subject doesn’t even know. This is obviously not a positive thing for the subject, who seems to impose a degree of vindictiveness on their ex. It’s very likely the ex paid no mind to the subject of the song as she left the bar, but to the ex the very act of leaving without them is an insult, and they present it as such.

“As she walks out the door, your blood boiling, your stomach in ropes
Oh and your friends say ‘What is it? You look like you’ve seen a ghost'”

Remember how I mentioned before that the subject of the song seems alone in the bar? Here we have the first mention of any other person with them. I think this is important – it establishes a certain degree of selfishness in the subject that they didn’t even think to note their friends before now. The subject is too consumed with their own internal emotions to note anyone in the bar other than themselves and their ex. I also think it’s interesting how this line and the line where the ex asks the subject how they are are both never answered. It continues to emphasize this point that the subject is all alone in their thoughts, never responding to anyone else but themselves.

Also, I love the double meaning of “ghost” here. While, yes, it’s a common idiom to say those who look pale or frightened appear to have “seen a ghost”, in this case it’s almost literal. The subject has seen a ghost. A ghost of their past, someone visible but untouchable. There and gone, like a specter. Excellent symbolism.

“Then you walk under the streetlights
And you’re too drunk to notice that everyone’s staring at you”

Finally, the strings have reached the highest point of the crescendo that is this entire song. There’s a definite disconnect between this line and the line before it. As I mentioned before, this song is very stream-of-consciousness, so I think the lack of connection between the subject being in the bar with their friends and them being outside of the bar following their ex suggests a lack of thought between these two events. It’s pretty heavily established that the subject is drunk, and very little rational judgment was used in the decision to leave the bar and go after the ex.

“You just don’t care what you look like, the world is falling around you”

There’s an almost fatalistic lack of care in this last line, as well as a continuation of that selfishness we’ve seen so many times throughout this song. No longer is there any rational thought driving the subject, all they can focus on is their own inner sadness. They see this event as so catastrophic that the whole world is crumbling, even though, to an onlooker, they would appear to just be a sad drunk.

(Yup, that’s that dichotomy between reality and the inner thoughts of the subject.)

“You just have to see her
You just have to see her
You just have to see her
You just have to see her
You just have to see her
You know that she’ll break you in two”

These are the only repeated lines in the entire song, and they serve to further the point I was making earlier – that the subject is no longer employing any rational thought. The only motivation driving them at this point is their desire to see their ex again, and this is shown through the repetition of “You just have to see her.” What’s interesting, though, is the last line. It’s the final thought of the song, this contradictory statement. Considering that the lyrics of this song are the inner monologue of the subject, though, it makes sense. Even as their mind is consumed with the desire to follow their ex, there’s a tiny thought in the back of their mind that holds onto the reality that seeing the ex won’t actually do anything to heal the subject. In fact, it’ll hurt them more.

And with that, the song winds back down, returning to the simple instrumentation of the beginning. Whether or not the subject catches up with their ex is left up to listeners to decide on their own, but ultimately I feel it’s not important. We know from the last line that it won’t lead to anything but more heartbreak.

Anyway, thank you for indulging me in a bit of lyrical analysis. I hope to do this sort of thing again in the future… it’s my favorite part of listening to music.

Guest Writer: Feeling the Heat

Note from Gillian: Hello hello! I’m very excited to bring to you Absoludicrous’s very first guest writer post! This is something I wanted to happen from the very beginning of this blog, and thanks to a school project, it’s finally happening! 

Our guest writer for today is Kirby Fleitz. (I assure you, this will not be his last appearance on this blog if I get my way.) I ask you all to pay him the same sort of kind attention you always pay me, and to please share this post! Kirby will tell you more specifically why… but it’s important, I promise. Far more important than the usual content of this blog.

Anyway, enough from me. I’ll let Kirby take the reins.


Hello there reader! I’ve had an outstanding invitation to write something on this blog for awhile. After going back and forth on what to write for longer than I want to admit I settled on what to write thanks to a school project. A shocker I know! To give you a hint, this project is for an Environmental Science class and polar bears are involved.

Some of you may have seen the above image before. It was used by many environmental groups to raise awareness for a recent phenomenon known colloquially as global warming technically Global Climate Change. By now the subject of this post should be apparent but to state it definitively it is how GCC affects us, specifically in Carmel IN, my hometown, and ways we can address it (because despite what some groups might try to argue, this is our reality).

For all of the skeptics reading this I will include multiple sources demonstrating that this unfortunate change is occurring. Here is a site explaining the increase of both carbon dioxide levels and temperature. Here is a site covering species extinction, broken down by type of animal. Here is an overview of all types of evidence directly from NASA.

The major effects of GLC are as follows: rising sea levels, decreasing biodiversity, ice sheets melting, glaciers melting, increase in vector-born diseases and other adverse effects. Clearly some of these do not apply to the landlocked paradise known as Carmel. Instead, let’s focus on two major consequences: decreasing biodiversity and increase in pollution. Before addressing why losing biodiversity is really, really bad let’s define biodiversity. Biodiversity is the variety and adaptability of organisms and the natural systems they interact with and the ecosystem services they provide. Basically it’s the amount of living stuff in an area. While it might not be totally apparent this has been decreasing lately. Why you might ask? The answer is a combination of habitat loss, from urban sprawl or more land needed for development, Invasive species, pollution, increasing human population, climate change, and overharvesting. For local examples think about the recent increase in road and roundabout construction. While this might be beneficial for transportation, many species are displaced or separated both during and after construction. While losing species through extinction is bad two larger issues exist. The first is that many crops we depend on, like soy or corn, are at an increased risk of disease due to losing genetic diversity. The second major negative is that the ecosystem services, like storing harmful carbon or lumber or filtration of toxins from groundwater, are being lost daily.

From one depressing topic to another, let’s move onto pollution. While water pollution is a major issue many areas, unfortunately developing and low income areas suffer the most. Therefore, for Carmel it is not a major problem. We have a great waste treatment plant and practices in place already. Instead I want to focus on air pollution, primarily from automobiles. Industry is a major polluter, usually nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide, Carmel does not have much industry to pollute our air. Automobiles are a much larger concern. Just think about how many people you know that do have an automobile. Unless the person you are currently thinking of uses an electric car they are emitting pollutants constantly as they drive, primarily nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, and particulate matter. Air pollution is usually a respiratory irritant and incredibly harmful to human health. In addition to harming humans, air pollution can also harm animal species if they inhale enough emissions, contributing to a decrease of biodiversity.

Time for some hope! Luckily there are solutions to decreasing biodiversity and pollution. Even luckier, Carmel has already taken steps to address this issue. You know the roundabouts that seem to multiply and appear someplace new every couple weeks? In addition to the traffic benefits roundabouts help cut down on automobile emissions by reducing the amount of time the automobile is idling, waiting to move. Pollution has also been somewhat addressed by our waste treatment facility on the white river and partnering with Fishers to help clean up the Cool Creek watershed.For those who are not aware, a watershed is basically all of the water that flows into a certain area. The major concern with watersheds is pollution from the sources going into it such as synthetic fertilizer. While these steps are great, in addition to having a mayor that recognizes the threat climate change poses, a few more simple solutions can be made. On a personal level simply reducing consumption of non-renewable items, like getting a reusable water bottle to use, can help reduce your footprint. In addition, in a roundabout way you are helping protect biodiversity by reducing demand for resources taken from land. Also on a personal level reducing automobile usage, perhaps by using this awesome local trail we have here called the Monon trail helps reduce your emissions by a little amount. In addition, growing some plants in your own backyard, even just a few, can help conserve some biodiversity and produce food for you. It’s a win-win.

Personal contributions are great, and many are not massive lifestyle changes. However, getting those around you involved would help even more. While awareness of GLC is increasing, many are not aware of ways they personally can help reduce it. Governments can help but a multitude of local movements is both easier to create and can more quickly improve quality of the environment in the community.

I implore you to share this with at least one person and prompt them to spread it. Global Climate Change is threatening but through many people coming together to combat it I believe we can persevere over the challenge. Thank you for reading.

 

In the News

It’s the end of senior year, so as befits my position as someone on their way out from… basically everything, really, it feels like I’ve been going through lasts at the speed of sound. Last marching season gave way to last semester of high school gave way to last jazz season gave way to last band concert and on and on and on ad nauseam. But I mean, it is my last year, so it makes sense that along with that would come a cornucopia of other lasts.

This week was yet another last for me: my last production week on the school’s newspaper, the Hilite. Like every other production week for me, it included coming in early to the newspaper room every morning to make changes to my spreads, copy-editing other spreads, and tweaking and re-tweaking every aspect of my pages until everything looked perfect for our Friday deadline. Unlike every other production week, however, I also was responsible for mentoring next year’s two new Perspectives editors as they learned the ropes and prepared for taking over my position next year.

Mentoring them reminded me of how I felt in their position next year, and it’s made me reflect on what this newspaper has been for me over the years. So because this blog has been an outlet for my nostalgia lately, I’m gonna talk about it.

Newspaper was the one thing I was sure I was going to be a part of, even before I started high school. Writing has always kind of been my thing, you know, and I thought newspaper would be the best way to put my skills into practice. Of course, like most things, I was horribly misinformed on what exactly being on staff of the Hilite would entail, but it didn’t matter at all my freshman year since I had no room in my schedule for the prerequisite class.

I was devastated by this, by the way. I was assured I would be able to take the prerequisite as a sophomore and join staff as a junior just fine, but I felt like that would paint a big fat target on my forehead that I didn’t really care about the newspaper or something. I think not joining staff my sophomore year like most people did did affect my time on the staff negatively in the beginning, but I also feel like my stress regarding this fact was increased a bit by the fact I was just overall stressed about my high school schedule.

Still, I eventually did take the prerequisite, and it was one of my favorite classes. Our advisor, Mr. Streisel, had a way of teaching that made me feel very capable of all of the aspects of media. The fact that I wasn’t great at the graphic or design portions of the class didn’t bother me at all. I knew for certain I was going to be a reporter and only a reporter once I joined staff, so there was no need for me to worry about photography or graphic design. I was a writer. It was what I was good at, and there was no need for me to diversify my talents.

And then I actually joined staff. And that idea very quickly vanished. My first few weeks on staff involved me sitting at a computer with the creeping feeling that I had no idea what I was doing and everyone else did. Everyone else seemed to have a purpose, a job, and I was just sitting there, twiddling my thumbs. My title was listed as “Feature reporter,” but I didn’t get a story assignment there for a few issues.

So, on a whim, I attended the planning meeting, known as a maestro, for Perspectives, the opinion section of the paper. I took with me two carefully researched column ideas and got to engage in several debates about the topics of all the columns going into that particular issue. In the frenzy, I received my very first Perspectives assignment, a column addressing the then-viral video “Dear Fat People,” where some JennaMarbles wannabe insulted fat people for eight minutes under the guise of “concern for their health.”

Getting my first assignment was one of the most beautiful things that had ever happened to me. Suddenly I had a purpose on staff, something to do while everyone else was working. I did exhaustive research and put a ton of time and effort into my very first column. And then, when it was published, I floated on air.

Since then, I’ve written a few regular articles but mostly my time on the Hilite has been spent dedicated to the opinion section of the newspaper. I found a lot of joy and purpose in taking part in these discussions. So, by the end of my first year on staff, I was encouraged by the current Perspectives editor to apply for her job. So… I did.

Being a Perspectives editor was great in a lot of ways, for sure. I loved being able to lead the discussions that I took such joy in taking part in as a reporter. I loved enabling others to speak out on their opinions. But, there were aspects of the job I didn’t quite love too.

See, I came on staff to write, but I quickly found out that being an editor meant not a lot of writing. More often it meant making graphics and designs, and for a while I felt like I’d made a mistake.

But then, partly spurred on by necessity (deadlines continued to loom no matter how confident I felt about them) I started to get used to the graphics and design aspect of my job. Towards the end I even started to enjoy it. (I’m not much of an artist, but tracing things in Adobe Illustrator is actually really calming).

And that’s really, in a nutshell, what Hilite was for me. Something unexpected, different than what I thought it was going to be. It always challenged me to try new things, and think of myself in ways I never could before. When I joined staff, I was intent on writing and only writing, staying quietly behind the lines and doing work every so often. When I left staff, I was an editor, mainly responsible for design, doing constant work every month.

Even more importantly, Hilite opened my eyes to the idea of journalism. I always sort of knew I wanted to write someday, and had considered journalism, but the idea had never been solid and real until I spent time on staff. It’s the reason I’m going to study journalism at IU next year. It opened the door for me to be an Ernie Pyle scholar… and sure, it was stressful and frustrating a lot of times. But I’m so thankful for it.

I’m going to miss it.