People are so vulnerable at night. They’re willing to spill out their souls to anyone willing to listen. They have desires to do things that never cross their mind when the sun is in the sky.
I try to be a constant question to the world around me. I spend every waking moment of my life questioning the world around me, and I dissect everything I do down to its finest point. My name is Chaz McKinney, and I’m an 18 year old Aquarius dreamer, just living my life and pursuing my happiness on the coattails of the grandest dream in history.
I’m a very firm believer that everything happens for a reason and is, at its core, intertwined. Though my thoughts on the Creator aren’t all sorted out properly just yet, my thoughts on the nature of destiny are.
The most glaring, visible reason I’m entering adulthood with no real friends to my name is simply because I do not need them. Relationships of any sort are nothing but a hinderance to the goal advancing before me. I will be unscathed and will revel in my solidarity to one day reminisce upon my own perseverance in the face of absolute isolation.
While any friends I have are off at universities in Arizona and Indiana, I’ll be on my own pursuing the American Dream, for better or for worse.
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Today at 1:40, I turned in the last test I will ever take to the only teacher who’s ever made me feel terminally handicapped in a subject. After losing myself in an endless abyss mathematical processes and chemical formulations for the final time I handed in a final exam that I’m not confident will get above a high C, and sighed in relief as I realized that I didn’t care. After one of the worst years of my life, I’m ready to live.
With the advent of ADHD culture, it seems there is an implied stigma within society towards those who read fervently: on one hand, they alone attempt to maintain a veneer of independent intelligence through their ongoing quest for satiable reading material — on the other hand, they’re pretentious for setting out on that ongoing quest in the first place. Of course there’s something to be said for trying to be seen as a human being whose literary tastes are above those of the common man and whose feces doesn’t emit a detectable odor, but there’s also something to be said for trying to not come off as an asshole about the whole endeavor. What most people seem to forget in this age of video games and instant news updates is that the mind absolutely should be kept fluid and youthful through reading; it expands the imagination, allows a blissful escape from reality, complies comfortable with each individuals own taste in the medium, and introducers readers to new concepts and ideas while never trying to explicitly educate them. Unless, of course, it is an educational book — but, for our purposes, we’ll assume that “reading” is in fact synonymous with “literature” in the aforementioned monologue.
As far as my taste in literature, I am an asshole. I like F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemmingway, Joseph Conrad, and books about the human psyche. My favorite author is James Joyce, whose most prominent work is considered the most difficult in the English language because it has no discernible plot, dialogue, or characters, and is written in a stylized mix of Irish colloquialisms and gibberish (though to be fair, aren’t they really one-and-the-same?). I hate paperback pulp fiction, I don’t like “adolescent fiction”, I don’t like stories with shallow depth in their plot or characters, I don’t like a weak conflict, and I detest books that don’t leave me in some sort of contemplative assessment on the whole of society or human nature. I am the most annoying sort of reader save for those who only read within the veins I’ve listed above and I am, without a doubt, the kid you hated in your high school English class. I admit this readily with no shame of it. Were I to be honest, I’d say it’s because I simply love language; I love the ways in which it can be manipulated to convey a message about human nature or to indict a societal norm that many dare not indict. With that in mind, it was earlier today that I realized this might be a habit I needed to curb in the coming weeks.
It began in my AP LIt class today as the few students around me discussed their summer reading with Mrs. Breunig, whose now taught our particular group of students through two years of critical reading and dissection of language. I’d credit her almost solely with honing my taste in literature due simply to the enjoyment I’ve gotten out of said critical reading and said dissection of language. It was with this spirit of scholarship that I announced my plan to read Joyce’s Ulysses over my summer before moving to Nashville in the end of July.
“Oh gosh”, she said, an uncomfortable twitch in her mouth defining her near-disgust at the idea.
“What?”, I replied, “I’m actually kind of excited to get into it.” A silence permeated the room as my classmates listened nonchalantly to the exchange. “I was actually torn between trying to read Ulysses or get into Finnegan’s Wake, but I’d heard I’d almost need to take notes to get through Wake.”
“I just can’t imagine trying to spend my summer reading James Joyce”, she said with a small chuckle as if to breathe levity into the idea. “I feel like he just drags on and on without reaching a point for most of his books.”
“Well yeah, but at least it’s got some literary merit.”
She replied only with a raising of her eyebrows and a closing of her eyes as if to say something along the lines of ‘it’s your funeral, kid’.
“I like the whole stream-of-consciousness style he uses.”
“Yeah, but even I can’t read books like that all the time — I like to just make my brain happy with a basic plot if I don’t have to.”
“I thought you liked Fitzgerald and Dostoyevsky?” I implored quizzically.
“Oh I do”, she said, defending the merit of her palette to an 18-year-old whom she’d never see again after the bell had rang. “But they’re both very plot-centric and short without being dense like Heart of Darkness or Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. You can’t just always read critically, you start to desensitize yourself with books that are almost too much in the first place; you need popcorn reading every now and again.”
“Plus”, a friend interjected, “Ulysses seems like a book you read just to say that you read it.”
Convinced by the argument, I decided to shirk off my pretense and downgrade my standards to read purely for pleasure as I begin my adulthood. Nevermind my expanding queue that includes Crime and Punishment, Walden, 1Q84, The Fountainhead, Atlas Shrugged, House of Leaves, Slaughterhouse 5, The Road, The Sun Also Rises, The Grapes of Wrath, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, The Memory Keeper’s Daughter, A Picture of Dorian Gray, After Many a Summer Dies the Swan, and [now] Ulysses; I had set out to buy a book that relieved me of seeming as if I was merely trying to hard to look intelligent. So, after grabbing a $20 bill from my savings envelope, I set off to Barnes and Noble to begin my summer (and my adult life as a reader) properly having been released early from school.
I searched through the shelves of store for close to an hour, tailoring even my browsing to books I’d never heard of. Granted, I still wanted something with a deeper sense of morality and speculation on the nature of man, but I longed for something just below qualifying for a college literature class selection, while still having enough money to buy myself a cup of coffee. I proceeded to the checkout with copies of Hermann Hesse’s Demian, Bret Easton Ellis’ American Psycho, and Nick Hornby’s Juliet, Naked, honestly a tad relieved at the revelation that I wouldn’t be starting off my summer engulfed in a book that would require just as much dedication and study as those I’ve read in the last year. This was it. This was my discovery of what the rest of the world seems to call “reading for fun”. Yes, this was as little pretense as I could’ve begun my own literary life with.
“$15.94”, read the jubilant clerk behind her glowing cash register, awash in the sunlight peering through the silver storm clouds that lined the muggy sky. I reached into my pocket to deliver the $20 bill to her outstretched hand, and —
I’d gotten a $10 bill from the envelope.
Panic swallowed me as I flitted between books, deciding which would most fittingly kickstart my non-school assigned reading. I’d go into detail on the whole decision process, but frankly a reader even moderately aware of the caliber of the books I’d set out to read initially should be able to accurately predict precisely which of the three books at hand I chose to purchase.
None of them.
I left with an anthology of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s short stories, This Side of Paradise, the Beautiful and the Damned for $8.91. I can live with being pretentious, I cannot live with reading unsatisfactory literature. Or, more appropriately, literature I can’t afford.
I don’t know where I will find you
if I’m not right there beside you;
it’s nothing that I care to talk about.
I could wish away a lifetime
for you to come back here and I
I’m not afraid to say I need you more than you could ever know.
Mourn not for the vanished ages
With their grand, heroic men,
Who dwell in history’s pages
And live in the poet’s pen.
For the grandest times are before us,
And the world is yet to see
The noblest work of this old earth
In the Men that are to be.
I haven’t done a film review in some time (about a year and a half, if I’m not mistaken), so I find it only fitting that I pick up the gauntlet again with what has possibly become the most anticipated film in recent history: Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby.
First and foremost, it is pertinent to call to attention my unnecessary affection for Gatsby; frequent readers of this website will know, undoubtedly, that the novel ranks as my absolute favorite and has since I first read it in October of 2011. It completely enraptured me with its ideals of the decay of the American Dream and the complete and utter heroism I found in the character of Jay Gatsby. Herein lied a character who achieved every facet of success and opulence in an era defined by the spirit of both, yet never really grasped success simply because he never was able to fully win the heart of his obsession. I connected with little struggle to James Gatz and his determination to become better than his birth allowed, and therein I saw a challenge: to bring Gatsby’s idea of success to fruition in my own line of work by simply not becoming distracted by love. Gatsby became my God and Fitzgerald became a prophet of his word, a religiosity I adopted and still carry the mantle of. A quick search for the tags “#gatsby” on this blog will bring forth a multitude of musings and essays dealing with this obsession. It is with this knowledge that I impart (as well as the note of my having read the novel [now] 9 times), that I ask you to imagine my anticipation for this film for now close to two years.
It also with this knowledge that I ask you to imagine my dismay at the film’s dismal reviews over the past week — leading to a steadily declining aggregate score on Rotten Tomatoes which bottomed out at 30% two days ago before rebounding back to a 50%, finally killing my initiative to even see the film. Sure, the 1974 adaption starring Robert Redford was boring, but Lurhmann’s appeared not even be worth my time. And in fact, Lurhmann is the problem — being so polarizing ensures that every film he puts out will be polarizing fare. Some absolutely love his style of hyper-realistic, LSD-infused, cacophony, while others hate it. Typically (i.e. Moulin Rouge!, Romeo + Juliet, Strictly Ballroom), I’ve fallen into the former. And, after seeing Gatsby full of anxiety at the imminent failure of it, I’m proud to say that I still fall into the former.
This was a masterpiece. Not perfect by any means, but a masterpiece nonetheless. To my chagrin, I had to watch the flick with an unbiased eye so, to give credit where it’s due, I’ll start off with what’s wrong with the film.
Now, with the criticism out of the way, let’s sort through what’s good about the film.
Certainly the film has mediocre elements (any of Maguire’s emoting beyond his character’s required emotional detachment….), but, overall, I couldn’t have asked for a better film adaption of Gatsby. The leads hit all the right marks, the editing is used effectively, the modern score never hinders the film, the emotional connections that should be made are made far better than many other reviews wold suggest, the acting is reminiscent of the 20’s themselves while always remaining within the realm of modernity, and (most importantly) the story is still just as powerful and impacting visually even without the subtlety that made the novel so beautiful. When seeing this, one must remember who exactly it’s dealing with in the director’s chair: a man who transposed Romeo & Juliet overtop of 1990’s Miami beach, gave every character a gun, and kept the original Elizabethan dialogue. A man who placed Nicole Kidman as a famed courtesan in 1901 bohemian Paris singing “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” while her male spectators sang “Smells Like Teen Spirit”. And, almost more importantly, a man who made Australia (something he completely redeems himself for with The Great Gatsby). I’d personally recommend imagining that Gatsby is simply set in the same universe as Moulin Rouge! — with all the colors, schizophrenic camera-work, and emotional power still intact — just across the Atlantic and a mere 21 years later.
Are there issues? Of course there are. No book has yet to truly accurately translate from the page to the screen, but dammit Baz Luhrmann comes close. Even if it’s not perfect, it’s the best thing out at the cinema right now and is much more worth your ticket fee than Oblivion, Peeple’s, Scary Movie 5 (I mean really?), GI Joe: Retaliation, Olympus Has Fallen, The Big Wedding, or Pain and Gain, I assure you. Come to think of it, this is one of the better films 2013 has offered us yet.
Every bit as polarizing as one would expect, I’ll place my bet that this particular adaption of The Great American Novel will halt another from being made for quite some time and will be the source of passioned debate in living rooms and cinema studies classes for even longer.
Everything is vibrations and technology is shifting lights.
I’ve waited 12 years for something that will occur with no universal consequences in merely 24 days. The fanfare will proceed around me, but I will maintain my collectedness, walking on and off the stage of the gymnasium with only a piece of paper in my hand to signify some sort of accomplishment.
I’ve got to be transparent: school has never really been my bag. As a young child I was bullied to the point of transferring schools; I spent the majority of elementary and middle school relatively friendless and unpopular; my teacher’s have typically not enjoyed me (outside of the English/Social Studies departments); high school has been an excursion into the worst parts of human nature and interaction; and, frankly, I’ve been gone since about 6th grade. Once I performed on stage for the first time, I was mentally already out of Elizabethtown — my head permanently in the clouds ever since.
I’ve been writing songs for most of my life hoping they’d get me out of public school but, in retrospect, I’m glad I’ve been able to finish out the adventure with the same people I’ve always been surrounded with. It’s been comforting to find myself in the darkest moments with the help of people who’ve seen me progress throughout life from a timid little kid to a charismatic older kid; I’m ready to graduate, but I wouldn’t have traded my educational experience for the world.
The days are passing progressively quicker, much to my amusement. In the coming weeks, I’ll be taking my AP Chem final, my last Precalculus test, writing my last school-sanctioned essay (I’ll admit to a bit of reluctancy over this), seeing Baz Luhrmann’s adaption of The Great Gatsby (over which I could write an entire blog concerning my expectations and anxiety in relation to), going to the Louisville Zoo with a class of kindergarteners, and riding out close to 2 weeks of no real school work. After graduation, I’ll be going to DisneyWorld for my senior trip before moving to Nashville — finally — in the first week of July to start my life as a starving artist. Or somewhere above starving, whatever the universe has in store, really.
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I’ll close with a short anecdote: amidst talking about the future with an English teacher we’ve had now for two years, three of my buddies (possibly the only guys I’ll keep with post-graduation due to our headed to different parts of the country) and I agreed to all reunite in 5 years for a game of golf. Whether we remember to or not is a completely separate conversation of its own, but I’d like to think that — along with everything I have to look forward to in the next 5 years — that golf game is one of them.