Blahsmopolitan No. 11: “Friendly Creature Double Feature” AKA “Home Is Where the Shart Is”

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This is Blahsmopolitan, a column about one sophomore’s misfortune as he navigates his New Adult Life in Chicago. New stories are posted every other Thursday alongside an audio reading and a curated Blahsmo playlist to take the journey yourself. This week, our columnist has skips class, has digestive troubles, and goes home (whatever that means) in hopes you can learn from his mistakes.

 

My mom used to go to the movies alone.

She was sixteen years old and very, very cool. I mean cool in the sense that she was tough, a girl that nobody wanted to f*ck with, but a girl engulfed in so much effortless mystery that you wanted to know her with every fiber of your being. Digging through old stuff before I left for college, I found a picture of her from 1992, a little before my time, crouching down in shiny black Doc Martens, high white socks, french tip nails, a messy bun pulled up high, and a huge leather jacket with nothing underneath it, staring directly into the camera, looking like she had something to say.

Continue reading “Blahsmopolitan No. 11: “Friendly Creature Double Feature” AKA “Home Is Where the Shart Is””

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A Fine Line Between Literacy And Love.

When I gently flip open the worn out pages someone else has written, chaos still flows around me, but all is calm in my mind.

I go through the routine motions of my everyday: walk, bus, sit, listen. Searching for the perfect times to put my headphones in and read, and scribble in the margins.
The day and night pass, almost unnoticed to me, while my pierced nose is still stuffed in the pages of different worlds and eras, with unordinary characters that comfort me more than the people I call my friends.

When I put pen to paper
Or my fingers to the keyboard,
All the thoughts passing through my mind shine through and I’m set.
I’m free, I don’t have to be outspoken as long as I’m not out worded on my word doc.

I haven’t forgotten about you, my most honest friend, sometimes the only one I can turn to. you know everything, there are no limitations between us except maybe the limited word count on my text message drafts or memo notes, where I can easily and quickly write down my thoughts at 2, almost 3 am, before they slip away.

Why do you write if no one reads it?
I write for me.
How many thoughts do you have jammed in your mind?
I’ve lost count.
Picking at my mind, I comfortably reveal beliefs, and disbeliefs I didn’t even know I had.

All I hope for is to carve out letters, form words, create sentences, and paragraphs to calm his mind as well.

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Blahsmopolitan No. 10: “Urbana-Champaign for My Real Friends, Real Pain for My Sham Friends” AKA “You Can Lead a Horse to Water, But You Can’t Make Him Show His D**k”

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This is Blahsmopolitan, a weekly column about one sophomore’s misfortune as he navigates his New Adult Life in Chicago. New stories are posted every other Monday, alongside a curated Blahsmo playlist, and an audio reading, to take the journey yourself. This week, our columnist meets the four Fates of U of I, crosses paths with a probable murderer, and goes skinny dipping in hopes you can learn from his mistakes.


I hear people tiptoeing around me. Floorboards make little creaks and doors are opened and closed ever so gingerly. All talk is kept to a hushed murmuring. Am I still wearing my boots?

Ohmigoddddd, how are we gonna fit the Omega through the dooooooor?”

“I don’t know, Sylvie. I just don’t wanna chip it. The girls were up so late painting it last night.”

God is doing the Hoedown Throwdown on my skull and has injected fire ants into my temples.

Continue reading “Blahsmopolitan No. 10: “Urbana-Champaign for My Real Friends, Real Pain for My Sham Friends” AKA “You Can Lead a Horse to Water, But You Can’t Make Him Show His D**k””

Donald Trump Isn’t The Problem


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Donald Trump did not create the current awfulness of our politics; he is the product of it. Every evil, nasty thing you see on TV with the name ‘TRUMP’ attached to it is not his idea, not his creation. Trump doesn’t have original creations. He is just a name, a name to attach to other people’s creations, be they buildings, golf courses or horrific, life-ending legislation. To quote HBO’s John Oliver, he was (initially) a ‘sh*tty lifestyle brand,’ nothing more.

I say this because I have a very real fear that if Donald Trump leaves, so will people’s interest and awareness of the mess in this country. It is because people failed to be interested for so long that Donald Trump became president. It is because of passive disinterest, not active evil, that he came to power. All-too-common attitudes like, “I don’t care about politics,” ultimately gave him way more leverage than the minority of people who chanted, “Make America great again!”

Studies have shown… what the rich want [politically], the rich get, and when it comes to the rest of us, tough luck!

State and local community issues need to become a focus, and they are something we can start focusing. on. now. Both Democrats and Republicans alike have betrayed us, to varying degrees, for favor of the upper class. Studies have shown when it comes to actual results and enacted policies, what the rich want, the rich get, and when it comes to the rest of us, tough luck! This is oligarchy. Donald Trump isn’t the reason Illinois doesn’t have a budget. Donald Trump isn’t the reason colleges are in danger of shutting down. Admittedly his decisions are exacerbating all of this, but these dilemmas existed well before his rise to power. If Hillary had been elected, we would still be dealing with our problems closer to home (and many/most of the national ones, as well). It all originates at the top.

There’s no reason for it to be this way. Way more of us exist than them. Waiting a potential four (or god forbid, eight) years for one human’s time to be up is a strategy for brutal loss. This is something Bernie has been practically screaming from his old, tired lungs ever since the election started. Just as Trump can’t be solely responsible for the bad, as many before me have desperately pointed out, Bernie (nor any one president/figure) can’t be the sole source of good. It is our responsibility to fix this mess at all levels, continuously, as collective Americans. I don’t have all the answers. I just know what isn’t the answer. And the answer isn’t to start and stop our activism with Donald Trump. 🇺🇸


Trev Richards is host of the weekly talk program Trev on UIC Radio; Live, Mondays 8:30 – 10:30 PM Central Time. Follow/listen on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, iTunes and SoundCloud

Note To Self

“this is an open diary. this gives my insides a voice through visuals and poetry; this is me spilled out on paper.”

Typically on this blog you’ll find album reviews and updates on everything new in the music scene, but for right now I would like to do something different and talk about a book.

Books and albums are pretty similar. They’re both a form of art, they both tell stories, and they both can be used as a mental crutch.

I’ve recently finished reading the new book, Note To Self, written by Connor Franta. Connor Franta is a YouTuber, New York Times bestselling author, entrepreneur, and a LGBTQ+ philanthropist. This is Connor’s sophomore book following his memoir, A Work In Progress.

Note To Self is a collections of poems, memories, thoughts, and essays that come from a deep and vulnerable place. Connor Franta allows readers to see the world from his perceptive as he opens up about love, heartbreak, and dealing with mental illness. Note To Self gives us an interior look into Connor’s life that cannot be seen online.

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This book is real. A lot of these pages I read with a heavy heart and truly could empathize with Connor. I found myself reading a line and thinking, ouch, that really hits close to home.”

But then there were the pages that left me feeling hopeful and inspired. They were reminders that I’m not alone with my feelings, and to always keep an open heart and an open mind.

Connor Franta wrote this book for himself (hence the title) as a way to reflect on his past few years. Through this self-reflection, Connor has opened a gateway for readers to come in and find their own meanings and to find comfort. Through the highs and the lows, this book made me feel something; it was something I could relate to and something I could find a sense of ease in.

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I highly recommend everyone picks up a copy of this book. It’s a great read, and it offers a little something for everyone. You can buy a copy of Note To Self Here.

I also had the pleasure to meet Connor Franta at the Chicago stop of his book signing. I will also be attending the Note To Self Tour in Milwaukee, which includes visuals from the book created by Connor, and a Q&A and discussion session. You can buy tickets for the tour Here.

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Tips for Music Festival & Concert Goers

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A couple of useful tips to keep in mind when attending some of those awesome festivals and concerts I mentioned in my last blog post:

Stay hydrated

Don’t be that person that gets carried out from the crowd during the show 😦 it makes us sad and you don’t get to enjoy the show.
Whether it’s water you’re sharing with the people you’re with or water bottles some of the nice security guards offer – drink it, stay hydrated. No, beer doesn’t count as staying hydrated, neither does juice – H2O bro.
Also, if water is allowed during the entrance bring more than one bottle! If not, drink your 8 glasses before going to the concert / festival but also use the bathroom first – Porta potties suck.

Wear appropriate clothing

Don’t wear a jacket because it’s cold out — I made this mistake once. I wore my north face windbreaker to a concert and regretted it one song in because I was front row and everyone’s body heat almost made me pass out even though I was drinking water. When it’s hot, wear clothes you’ll be comfortable in (for example tank tops and sports bras).

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Wear comfy shoes

It’s hard figuring out what shoes are best. I’ve worn running shoes to concerts before but I made the mistake of wearing NEW running shoes…to riot fest…after it rained a whole day. Those new white running shoes are now brown. I also wore converse to some concerts and even before the headliner performed – my feet were killing me! I had waited hours standing.

Be nice

Don’t be the jerk to start a fight because someone accidently pushes you, I’ve made so many friends just by apologizing before and after a concert to the people around me if I was pushing them or if my hair gets in their way. Everyone is there to enjoy themselves and have a good time.

Purses

Always a purse with a zipper ladies you don’t want people being able to open your purse without you noticing and stealing your phone or wallet. Side purses are my go to because I don’t need to be bothered during a show holding my purse. Also a book bag!! Especially for music festivals, essentials: water !!
And…

Portable chargers

These are life savers. Make sure to fully charge them before a concert.

Lastly,

You don’t need that merch

The merch table is always exciting, and the merch guy is always charming but don’t spend your paycheck on merch like some people (I’m pointing at myself).

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Troye Sivan Takes On Coachella

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The incredibly talented Australian pop star, Troye Sivan, surprised his fans with a surprise performance at the 2017 Coachella music festival.

Sivan joined DJ Martin Garrix on the Sahara Stage during his set to drop their new song together, “There For You.

This is the first piece of new music that we have gotten from Sivan since his 2015 debut album, Blue Neighbourhood, and we couldn’t be more excited about it.

Sivan has been hinting on his Twitter that a new album is in the works, and new music will be coming our way in the, hopefully, near future.

There For You” is a brilliant song with a beautiful message. It’s pop heavy and radio-ready, and while it may be a great song to bop to, the lyrics hold a lot in them.

“I got you, I promise

Let me be honest

Love is a road that goes both ways

When your tears roll down your pillow like a river

I’ll be there for you

But you gotta be there for me too”

Communication is the most important thing in any relationship. You cannot expect someone to always be there for you, if you cannot be there for them. Communication, and as stated in the song, love, goes both ways. One sided relationships are toxic and unfair and I cannot stress this enough.

There For You” is a song I feel like everyone can relate to at some point in life, and songs like this are perfect to find comfort in. Sweet and soft.

With that being said, I cannot wait to hear what Sivan has planned for his sophomore album.

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As a longtime fan of Troye Sivan (and a fan of music and talent in general,) it’s been an emotional ride watching Sivan go from posting quirky videos on YouTube, to preforming on the iconic Coachella stage.

It just goes to show that if you’re passionate about something, and you want your dream bad enough, hard work and dedication pays off, and living the life you’ve always dreamed of, is possible.

I Won’t Apologize, Regret Or Change This

Whenever I get a new tattoo, the most common question I get is, “what does that mean?” When I answer this question with an explanation of a band name, or something related to music I always get, “wow you must really love that band,” “what if they break up?” “you’re going to regret that” and of course the unavoidable lectures from family members about having too many tattoos and how I will eventually need to cover them up for work. Nah, I think to myself every time I hear these. Although, this picture isn’t me, this would probably be a tattoo I’d regret… just a little bit.

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Tattoos are a passion. Writing these blogs help me express myself, well the writing on my body is a creative form of expression as well. The tattoos I have and plan to get will tell a small story of who I am, who I was and who I’m becoming.

My Simple Plan tattoo, although I’m still a huge SP fan, is more for 12 year old Cathy. The band was an important part of my childhood and I wanted this representation on my body forever, yes FOREVER. I know what forever means, yes I’m aware these will be on my skin when I’m old and wrinkly and that’s 100% fine.

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Kid Cudi’s quote I have on my forearm “Never Feel Alone, We Are Always Here Even In Death,” was taken from his third studio album, WZRD. This quote isn’t just because I love Kid Cudi, but because this is the best way I could describe how his music makes me feel. I searched for a long time trying to find the perfect lyric in his songs that would sum up what he has meant to me and what his music has helped me through. Finally, I landed on this quote, although not a lyric it describes how his music and him have made me feel like I’m not alone, despite struggling with this on a daily basis.

My “MCA” tattoo is to honor Adam Yauch from the Beastie Boys. I’ve looked up to him since the day I started listening to the Beastie Boys. I used to write essays and create projects based on his life, he fascinated me with the way he become so caring, stopped doing drugs, and become a feminist, an activist and changed his life around. I try not to think of famous musicians as role models or heroes but, Adam Yauch was all those things for me.

Eventually, I want a large Green Day tattoo on my arm of their third album, Dookie. But, for now all I have is a green rose from their first album artwork, 1,039/Smoothed Out Slappy Hours. I do love bands like Simple Plan, the Beastie Boys etc. but Green Day will always be the most important and my favorite band. It’s only right to tattoo an album cover on my arm.

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Generic Is The New Basic

Trumpcare/Ryancare making you nauseated? Me too.

A short one this week, as (let’s be real) we gear up to take on more hours at work next week. That’s how we spring-break UIC style. This means I write about something I’m fascinated by, and don’t need to research, as I usually would. My main game is healthcare, so my odd interest this week is drug policy, e.g. the laws that govern our prescription drugs.

Ready for that nausea to lurch to full-on heaving? Let’s get to it.

-A drug patent in the US lasts ten years. The company of origin has a decade to market the absolute hell out of it before the recipe (ingredients AND quantity) are released. This is how generic drugs exist, usually comprised entirely of the active ingredient of the “designer drug.”
For example, Tylenol’s active ingredient is acetaminophen. You can buy Tylenol for 15$ a bottle, or get much larger bottle of just acetaminophen for about 6$ at Jewel or CVS. Benadryl’s active ingredient is diphenhydramine. It’s a mouthful, but you can just buy a generic “allergy relief” box of pills for $4, with the only ingredient being diphenhydramine–it’ll serve the exact same purpose with the same quality. Read your labels!

-“I did read the labels! And the drug I saw on TV has more ingredients, not just the active ingredient! That makes it better than its generic version!”
This accusation is half-right. Brands put more things in their pills, but these ingredients are usually inactive. It’s essentially to make people believe that their drug is more comprehensive.

-“Then why do branded drugs cost so much more?” Because they can. And because they spend billions of dollars on marketing. The US and New Zealand are the only developed countries that allow direct-to-consumer marketing by pharmaceutical companies. Those wacky ads featuring 60-year-old white couples fishing and going to a ball game? They’re illegal practically everywhere else, because they divert pharmaceutic money away from research and development, and the ads are often misleading. Just think of the super-fast disclaimer at the end.

But back to the “because they can” part. Ahem. IT IS ILLEGAL IN THE US FOR THE GOVERNMENT TO EVEN TRY TO NEGOTIATE DRUG PRICES WITH PHARMACEUTICAL COMPANIES. Not difficult; not uncommon; illegal. That’s why epi-pen prices were allowed to rocket to hundreds of dollars a year ago. Because the CEOs had no opposition. And big surprise! People with life-threatening allergies need eip-pens to live, so they’ll pay whatever the cost.

-“OH GOD, why can’t we stop this?” Because designer drug brands make lots of money this way. The more money they make, the more powerful their lobby is in DC. I’m sure you’ve heard of “Big Pharma.” They’ve got more lobbyists, more cash, and more power than the National Rifle Association.
It took one meeting with Big Pharma lobbyists to turn Donald Trump’s view from “hey people should be able to afford their drugs” to “more money for Pharma means more innovation and more jobs or something.”

Oh man, here I said that’d be short, and yet here we are. Next time you’re in CVS looking for allergy meds, headache relief, or researching a new birth control pill, look at the ingredients. Then find the generic that boasts the brand-name’s active ingredient on its box. If you’re curious about all the other ingredients, you’ve got a smart phone. Look ’em up! If the generic’s package says “Compare with [Brand Name Drug]” that means it’s identical, except the pills might be a different shade of blue, or come in a bottle rather than a box.

The only difference is marketing. Be an educated consumer. The only way these kind of lobbyists will back off is if we stop feeding them.

Have a Scien-tastic Day!

 

Music Ratings are Nothing More than Opinion: Artists Done Dirty by Pitchfork

 

IMG_1433Judging music is merely an illusion. No one can actually quantify what the people like because the people, after all, are all unique. What one person thinks is crap, another will consider a masterpiece, and a small group of people can’t decide for the masses what is good and what is not in such a subjective field. Music is purely preference. My prime example has to be Pitchfork. I appreciate Pitchfork news and updates and being exposed to new music, along with the music festival they host in Chicago, but many of the ratings are far from what the populace would consider correct. Unless you’re Radiohead or someone who follows the “uncommercial” pitchfork aesthetic, don’t expect to find an album someone makes in the pitchfork perfect tens category. In fact, there are more than a handful of albums that I don’t believe deserved a perfect 10 in general or by genre. I implore you, the reader, to take any review with a grain of salt and listen to an album before you write it off. You might end up missing a diamond in the rough and hate yourself when you finally get into an artist and find out their concert was 3 weeks ago in your hometown.

1.  The Airborne Toxic Event  (1.6/10)
An old rating but a good album, the self-titled The Airborne Toxic Event is a popular indie band from the mid-2000s. While this band received praise on this album, pitchfork decided the album was not worth their time. It didn’t phase this band much, they even wrote an open letter sarcastically inviting pitchfork to watch one of their “moody and dramatic” concerts.

2.  Mumford & Sons- 1st and 3rd albums. (2.1/10-2.0/10)
This is an example band that doesn’t fit the mold the raters are looking for. I’ll admit, you either love them or you hate them, but in the end, Mumford and his band didn’t deserve the low ratings. The reasoning for the low rating was due to Pitchfork thinking that they are a Fleet Foxes knock off (Every rated Fleet Foxes album has received an 8.7 or higher), along with alluding to them being phony or fake artists ([They] are in the costume business.They’re playing dress-up in threadbare clothes.). Either way, after 2+ World tours, 3 albums, and 2 EPs, I don’t think M&S cares much for their ratings in the first place.

3. Hamilton The Mixtape (4.8/10)
Hamilton, the Tony Award-winning musical, received less than a 5 on the mixtape version, which consisted of many well-known artists collaborating on the rap tracks that the world has been learning history through all of 2016. The reason for the low rating? Basically, It wasn’t the same as the original and it lacks the narrative of a musical. Crazy. I invite pitchfork to find any musical soundtrack that has the same narrative as the onstage production, excluding operas and operettas, which tend to have no dialogue outside of their songs.

4. Nine Inch Nails- The Fragile (2/10-10)
Nine Inch Nails in 2017 received a 8.7 on their reissued album The Fragile, but in 1999 NIN received a 2/10 on the same album. After some digging, I found the original review. It still exists, but any linking to the page does not. Almost 20 years later after their review was deemed futile, and NIN popular, and the original deleted. The lead singer Trent Reznor had no nice words for pitchfork, which a lot of artists seem to agree with these days.

5. Childish Gambino- Camp (1.6/10)
Pitchfork basically said Gambino was too conceited for rap and should stick to comedy. Camp definitely isn’t Because the Internet or any of his other works, but it is a quality album that Pitchfork didn’t give the time of day. Find Gambino on any “Certified Bangers” playlist at your local college campus. Email me if you genuinely honestly believe this album didn’t deserve better.

6. The Killers- Any of their albums (5.2-6.4)
The Killers are known for their amazing songs. To this day I know every word off of Sam’s Town and any of their singles including Mr. Brightside and Somebody Told Me, which were both on Hot Fuss, The Killers’ first album. Pitchfork has never liked The Killers and basically say their sound is too generic or their albums aren’t cohesive enough, wanting every track to be the screaming your head off in the car with your friends while people stare at you masterpiece that Mr. Brightside ended up being (Hot Fuss deserves at least an 8.5 in my opinion). Even the greatest hits album received a low score, which means that Pitchfork just really does not like this band.

7. Ed Sheeran- Divide (2.8/10)
The initial Artist that inspired this article. Sheeran probably doesn’t care what an American music rating website has to say about his new album when it has no effect on whether or not he’s going to sell out his next stadium (to be clear; the stadium is going to sell out even if he released 50 minutes of straight fart noises). A short summary of this album review is that Ed’s music is that Ed shouldn’t rap and the shallow album has no real worth.

8. Travis Morrison- Travistan (0/10)
Fans of Travis Morrison will proudly say that Travistan is worth a listen. Lead singer of the indie band The Dismemberment Plan decided to come out with an album and got a crushing review from Pitchfork in 2004. If you are able to write, produce, and sell an album, anything written definitely does not deserve a 0/10 even if the content is poor. Not saying this album is poor, many people enjoy this album. The review mildly hurt Morrison’s career but he still made more music after this review came and out and for that, we thank him for proving his naysayers wrong.

 

Say what you must about these albums, but I can assure you that they are all pretty decent listens, even if they aren’t my musical preference. Take a second to listen to an album, even if you’re weary of what everyone says about it. It might end up being your favorite. If you have any artists you think were done dirty, comment below and I’ll add them to the list.