Wednesday, December 29, 2004


But then, after nearly three years in advertising, my life turned upside down. Harsh Brutal Reality came knocking at my door and sometimes Harsh Brutal Reality doesn't like to wait until you answer. Nope. Harsh Brutal reality is not above breaking down a door or two.

On a typical bitter Monday night in January, I received a phone call that my father was in the hospital. A million and one worst case scenario thoughts popped into my head and I tried to prepare myself for the worst. Little did I know that the worst in unpreparable. They never tell you that but I am now.
Dad had suddenly passed away and I would never have the chance to say goodbye.
He would never hear how appreciative I was of his warmth and generosity but I had good reason to believe he didn't need to hear my thanks.

As the Jewish tradition dictates, our family mourned and sat Shiva for seven days in our house while hundreds passed through recounting favors my father had done for them and advice he had given. It seemed that humble Dad had a profound and noble effect on a great number of people. I could list the stories here but you ask only for a personal statement, not a personal series of books. Paradoxically, I could not attribute such wondrous qualities to myself. My admiration for Dad and an inspiration to be better grew profoundly while exponentially, my disappointment in my self-serving lifestyle increased as well. All those years of my family's encouragement to apply to Social Work school suddenly took on a weighty validity. You'd be so good at it, they would say. You love talking to people and listening and helping. It's a part of who you are, they continued. Genetically. You are your father's son.

And now here we are in the present. I am finally ready. I am ready to accept my responsibility to the people around me, those I already know and those I have yet to meet. As I get older, I acknowledge the importance of stepping out of my world and into the one at large. It's a scary place full of genocide and tsunamis. But it's also a world full of teenage boys with a lack of direction, mothers on welfare that are dealing with depression, college girls that face anorexia. I remember as a child I retreated into the introverted world of rebellion. I listened to heavy metal. I gave my teachers a very hard time. All the while, I recall I had no where to rebel to, never finding a destination for my retreat. Just running. Just escaping.

With each oncoming year, I am becoming less naive, encountering the rich complexity of people everywhere. I yearn to help them find where they are running or escaping to. I want to help them find the destination of peace and comfort, a sense of mental rest. But that's an overwhelming and presumptuous goal. Most likely, I have to start somewhere specific, somewhere like Social Work graduate school.

Ideally, I would like to focus my two-year program in dealing with teenagers. These are the formative years of a true identity development. This is when you find out what music you really love, when the hormones become full time employees, when you realize that life will only get progressively more difficult. This is when one needs listeners, people who want to understand those that are not understandable (or so teens think). Because life doesn’t always provide the ears for us or the sage wisdom that comes from the neighboring mouth. We don't always encounter someone like my dad and I think it's time for me to presumptuously fill in the large gaping hole he left behind.

And I start this bold task by submitting this application to you. The rest, they say, is in your hands.

Monday, December 27, 2004


Then during college, I discovered the world outside of New York. Yes, apparently there was one and I wanted to see it. Like a Napoleon enrolled in university, I sought to commence on my world domination--of course my forthcoming domination would be the non-violent sort (but if you consider abusing a credit card a violent activity, well then, call me Bonaparte). The only problem was my sufficient lack of funds and it's hard to see the world when the world costs a great deal of money. This is when my roommate at the time introduced me to the glories of the volunteer educational programs.

Over the next three summers, I would travel to the Ukraine, Belarus, Russia, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, England, Scotland, Ireland and...err, Canada. While others saw my summer plans as valiant and selfless, I rejoiced in the satisfaction that I finally got the chance to see places outside of a New Jersey mall. Granted I did some great things during those trips like leading summer camps for poverty-stricken Ukranians, teaching adult education courses in Jewish law and tradition, running multi-media getaways for troubled high school teens; nevertheless, my priority was to check off the countries on my traveling 'grocery list.' I was seeing the world and to quote myself from back then, that totally ruled.

In between those summers away, life had reverted back to normal. The years were full of movies, concerts, buying CDs, the occasional comic book (in secret), pizza and hamburgers, and sadly, very little, if any, volunteer work. Dad still carried on with his unspoken mission of healing the world, one phone call at a time. Every day, Mom came home exhaustedly from her role as principal of a reputable and ever-growing (size-wise and demand-wise) elementary school. My sister, Aliza, was away in graduate school studying to be a teacher and a school psychologist. All the while, I was preparing both a portfolio and myself for a potentially lucrative career in advertising as a copywriter. My encouraging parents recognized my creative side and accepted the fact that not everyone had to partake in making this world a better place. Some, like those in the advertising industry, were better at diminishing the souls of the masses.
Someone had to balance out the goodness in my family and as I found out from my three years in advertising, there was plenty opportunity for me to do that. In fact, the merit scale was usually tipping in my unfortunate direction.

[to be continued]

Wednesday, December 22, 2004


So I'm applying for graduate school.
I know. I'm shocked as well.
I swore to myself ages ago that I would never subject myself to another textbook for as long as I lived. Textbooks are intimidating because they have 'facts' that need to be 'memorized.' Textbooks are bullies with their hard covers, out-of-date photos of people you don't relate to, people your parents most likely knew, and charts and graphs that know nothing about using fluorescent colors tastefully (if there is even such a concept). And studying? An activity almost as attractive as a colonoscopy. The only difference is that some people could potentially enjoy a colonoscopy.

Nevertheless, despite my hesitation, I proceed to fill out applications with their probing questions; what was my GPA in college (like it really makes a difference--I learned more after college that I ever learned in), what is my work experience (the term 'corporate prostitute'- admission board turn on or turn off? Discuss), am I an American citizen (does New Jersey count as a foreign country?). While responding to these questions is a tedious activity, it really only takes minutes to do so. The hardest thing to do is not breaking up, but rather filling out the personal essay. For weeks on end, I stared at a blank Microsoft Word page while the animated paperclip danced around the screen asking me if I needed help. Yes, I needed help but not the sort of help a dancing paperclip with round beady eyes could offer. No offense, Mr. Paperclip. While you bounce about quite buoyantly, do you have a good personal essay for graduate school? I think not. On with your dancing.

Whenever I find myself faced with a challenging writing activity that involves introspection, I start from the beginning with simple concepts, simple questions, from point A. What's my name? Oh, I know this one--Arye Dworken. Where was I born? In Portland, Maine. Where am I applying? I am applying to Graduate School for Social Work. Good. I'm 3-3. Keep the rhythm.
Ok, now why Social Work?
Hmmm. Well....not yet ready for this one. Let's get back to more simple questions. Do you like tuna fish? Yes, I do. As long as it's not smelling up my kitchen.
Ok, once again, why Social Work?
Why Social Work (repeating the question is always a good stalling tactic)? Well, because...first off, if I can get your permission to be a bit serious and personal here, I will get a bit serious and personal. Oh, yes. I will put the 'personal' back into 'personal statement.'

I grew up in a thoroughly nurturing and warm environment where I was always encouraged to be generous and selfless. My father, who was a Rabbi, was available on a regular basis for those who sought council and advice. We had a joke in our family that the phone was a permanent part of Dad's face but in retrospect, I'm quite proud that I lived with a man who was valued outside the house just as much as he was valued inside of it. Dad was a role model in every sense of the word. I wanted to be like him. I wanted to dispense sage advice, share wisdom with others, have meaningful conversations, leave an impression on someone's life. In fact, I always envied his restraining ability to offer his ear first and after much consideration, his words second.

But time went on and after years of being catered to with unadulterated love and wisdom, I abandoned my mission of being as selfless as Dad was. I devoted my life to the pursuit of comic books, music and writing, all introverted activities (especially with headphones on). I reached out less and less, finding myself in a much smaller world, the microscopic world of Arye Dworken’s Interests. Population: 1.

[to be continued]

Tuesday, December 21, 2004


Allan sat there nursing his drink thinking that he had never realized how much he actually liked the song playing over the loudspeakers. Surely, he had always respected Aerosmith and their longevity but Allan never thought he would be consciously admiring one of their songs. And their words. These words are actually pretty good, he thought. ‘Tell me what it takes to let you go/ tell me how the pain’s supposed to know.’ Gosh. Steven Tyler has feelings and he's, like, pouring them out.

“Are you listening to me,” Zoe asked, “or are you wandering off again?”
“Yes,” Allan responded.
“Yes what? Yes-you-are-listening or yes-you-were-wandering-off?”
“Yes. I’m wandering.” Allan was too tired to pretend otherwise.
“We need to talk.” Allan noticed that Zoe was looking down, telling the wooden beer-sticky floor that they needed to talk. Allan had to assume that she was actually talking to him because floors made lousy conversation. He knew that from experience. "I'm not who you think I am," Zoe said.
'Oh?" Allan was now paying attention only because he was certain that Zoe was finally going to tell him that she was a secret agent. That would finally explain all her time spent away on 'business trips.'
"I'm not in love with you anymore."
Wait..does that mean she's not a secret agent, Allan wondered.
And with this, Elton John's 'Sad Songs' played next.

Monday, December 20, 2004


I am tired of running. So. Friggin'! Tired. And come to think of it, I can't help but blame you for putting me through all of this. There were precautions we could have taken like more vitamin C, more could have worn a hat with that wet hair. But no. You had to 'look good' and worry about hat hair. That's just seriously lame, dude. Like so lame. I've got a song for you: 'You're So Vain' by Carly Simon. And, kiddo, it is sooo about you and your stinkin' hat hair.

As a result of your silliness and blase attitude towards health and well being, I am suffering with all this running and pain. Oh, the pain. And lotion my butt! I'm still sore and red. So it's wasted money. Money that Mr. Kleenex is adding to his piles and piles of dollar bills because of silly people like you who refuse to take precautions. And I don't handle running well, if you haven't noticed. I don't have a fancy pair of sneakers or feet or argyle socks and that just sucks because I kinda like those Vans with the checkers and would've loved a pair but then again, they're so played out, aren't they?

It would be so nice to smell something, ya' know? Something. Anything. A scent. It doesn't even have to be a good one...I mean, it shouldn't be a bad one but it should be something that I can distinguish. Oh, that's fish, I could say. And that's coffee, I could say, all because I smell them. Remember how fun that was? Smelling? Not like wheee-look-at-us-fun but like God-given-right-fun.

Frankly, and I'm tired of all the Rudolph references. It was cute the first time especially considering this time of the year but now it's just tired. Next person who makes that joke...I will just sneeze on them. Swear.

I know we will make it through this as we have in the past but--hey--we didn't have to go through this in the first place. This could have been avoided. Do me a favor: drink some tea. Drink a lot of tea. Take some medicine and make sure it's not drowsy. You always make that mistake. And then you fall asleep and you're cranky and people don't like talking to you. Whatev. Just not worth it. Have some hot soup. And for God's sake, vitamin C. Take so much vitamin C, you'll turn orange and you'll look in the mirror and see your skin is orange and think, cool, so this is how I would look if I was orange. Fight this cold like you are Tyson and it is Holyfield. Bite its ear. It deserves a good ear-biting.

Godspeed. Don't let me down. Like you did last week with the wet hair fiasco.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004


From: Mann, Maureen
To: John, Phil
Date: December 15th, 2004 9:23 AM
Subject: Meeting to discuss meetings

Phil -

Hey there. I hope you're well. How are the wife and kids? So, I'm writing to schedule a meeting with you so we can discuss the recent surge of meetings happening in our office recently. While I do love a good meeting (especially when the company caters!)there have been so many meetings and I'm wondering just what's going on during all them. Do you have time to meet soon?


From: John, Phil
To: Mann, Maureen
Date: December 15th, 2004 9:47 AM
Subject: Re: Meeting to discuss meetings

Maureen -

Not sure if you knew this but I am divorced and my wife has custody of the kids. Haven't seen them in a while but no biggie. It's all good. Don't sweat the small stuff, right? Ha.

Anyway, yes, I have been noticing all the meetings happening here. Heck, I think I've been in half of them. Double ha! So having a meeting to discuss why we have so many meetings is a great idea and just what we need to reduce the frequent long and tedious meetings we have here at our company. What's your availability like? And I thought I was the only one who loved the catering here. Have you had their corn chowder?


From: Mann, Maureen
To: John, Phil
CC: Harris, Jane
Date: December 15th, 2004 10:14 AM
Subject: Re: Re: Meeting to discuss meetings

P - so glad you're on board. It's so important that we see eye-to-eye and that the synergy of this company is so strong. We set an example for the others and when we agree, its a wonderful thing. Agreed?
And the corn chowder? Nope, never had it. But you must let me know about it when they serve it again.

My availibiltiy: looking rough for the next month or so. I have meetings just about every day and then a luncheon or a dinner... one of those... and then there's that conference in Bathesda. You know the one with salesmen getting embarrasngly drunk and wearing ties around their heads like a warrior bandana. Too funny. But I should be open sometime in mid-February. Sorry about the wife and kids. I have a husband and a few kids of my own. I never see them though because I am a working woman. Hear me roar. Roar! Ha. Did I scare you? But truthfully, they're great but not allll that great.

My assistant, Jane, is CCed on this email. Hopefully she can work something out. She is a total miracle worker and makes a great tuna casarole.


From: John, Phil
To: Mann, Maureen
CC: Harris, Jane
Date: December 15th, 2004 10:22 AM
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Meeting to discuss meetings

Yum. I love tuna casarole.

From: Harris, Jane
To: Mann, Maureen
To: John, Phil
CC: Barrow, Amy
Date: December 15th, 2004 10:37 AM
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Meeting to discuss meetings

I'm so flattered about the tuna casarole comment. Thank you all. Maureen, I'm looking at your calendar right now and it seems like you are booked up with meetings and a luncheon until February 17th. But you're looking open then. I have CCed Mr. John's assistant on this email, Amy Barrow. She will check the calendar to see if all involved parties can make this meeting about meetings.

Please call me with any questions. Especially trivia questions about New Zealand. I used to live there.


From: John, Phil
To: Mann, Maureen
To: Harris, Jane
CC: Barrow, Amy
CC: Corporate Catering
CC: Conference Room Reservations
Date: December 15th, 2004 10:37 AM
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Meeting to discuss meetings

So Feb 17th it is! I have CCed corporate catering and conference room reservations on this email so we could have some food while we're meeting to discuss the recent surge in meetings. I can't tell you how essential this is and how nice it would be if catering gave us some of those chocolate chip peanut butter cookies. Hint, hint.

From: Barrow, Amy
To: Mann, Maureen
To: Harris, Jane
To: John, Phil
CC: Corporate Catering
CC: Conference Room Reservations
Date: December 15th, 2004 11:17 AM
Subject: RE: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Meeting to discuss meetings

Unfortunately, Phil has spoken too soon and he will be in a meeting on Feb 17th all day for the review of all projected reviews for projections in '04. Let's work on something in March.

From: John, Phil
To: Mann, Maureen
To: Harris, Jane
To: Barrow, Amy
CC: Corporate Catering
CC: Conference Room Reservations
Date: December 15th, 2004 11:17 AM
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Meeting to discuss meetings

Automated Response: Hi. I am out of the office for a meeting today and cannot be reached until tomorrow. If it is important, please contact Amy Barrow at ext. 2377.

Thank you.
Phil John

Tuesday, December 14, 2004


Bring Back Sincerity: Welcome, broccoli.
Broccoli: Hello there. Thanks for having me.
BBS: What's your deal...if I can just get right into it? You're not like a tomato which has the flexibilty of being sliced or eaten raw. You are not a radish which is an aquired taste and not that common.
B: Gosh. I don't know. I'm just broccoli. What else can I say? Granted I'm not a favorite like the lettuce or the cucumber but I am a great source of folic acid and fiber. You can't just dismiss those benefits.
BBS: Do you like being green?
B: Green's nice. It's the color of money.
BBS: I like your hair.
B: Oh, really? Wow, thanks, I work very hard on it and wash it quite often. In the vegetable community we call it a brocfro.
BBS: Ha ha. The first time I've heard that one. What's your day-to-day like?
B: Oh, you know. Sometimes I boil, sometimes I steam, sometimes I get crazy in a mixed salad. It changes depending on my mood.
BBS: Favorite dressing?
B: You want me to say something exotic, don't you?
BBS: Say whatever you're feeling.
B: French dressing...or rather, Freedom dressing. Ha.
BBS: Yeah, I don't think we need to do the French/Freedom thing anymore. I think we use France again.
B: Oh, I love France. Did you know that a serving of broccoli has 3 grams of protein.
BBS: This is fascinating stuff. Who would've thought...? Is it weird that you have a stalk and like, stalk is a word that people use when they're following someone obesessively?
B: I never made that connection.
BBS: Are you tired? You seem really sedate.
B: Nah, I'm always like this. I'm not a crazy vegetable. No one ever made a movie about me called The Attack of the Killer Broccoli for good reason. We're not an exciting vegetable. When was the last time you opened a fridge and grabbed a stalk of broccoli to snack on? People snack on carrots...pickles...cherry tomatoes.
BBS: Does that hurt you?
B: I can't expect anything different. I look in the mirror and I see green. That's it. Where's the appeal?
BBS: You, my friend, have a bad self-esteem issue. We need to work on that.
B: Yeah, I know. I'm sorry.
BBS: Why are you apologizing? No one likes a sorry broccoli. What are your thoughts on broccoflower?
B: It's pretty sick, if you ask me. Mixing cauliflower and broccoli together is just wrong. What kind of world is this? Why do you need to combine one bland vegetable with another?
BBS: You're doing it again. Self-esteem. I hear that more broccoli in your diet can help shrink breast cancer tumors. That's pretty amazing.
B: Yeah, you're right.
BBS: And I bet that cabbage can't say that.
B: That's also true.
BBS: Who's my vegetable?
B: I'm your vegetable.
BBS: I'm going to need to hear that a bit louder.
B: I'm your vegetable!
BBS: Better. You are a real nutritional powerhouse!
B: I guess I am. I also have beta-carotine.
BBS: Whoa now. That's hot. Chicks loooove beta-carotine.
B: Awesome.
BBS: Broccoli, I'm glad we had this chance to talk but our time is up. Thanks for coming down to speak with us. You are an underrated vegetable and I hope you get the respect you seek.
B: Oh, thanks. This has totally been my pleasure. It's not every day that we broccolis have the opportunity to share our thoughts.
BBS: Again, I have to say great brocfro.
And for the people at home, stay tuned for Bring Back Sincerity's next exclusive interview with Jerry of Ben & Jerry fame. Until then, be sincere.

Friday, December 10, 2004


Dear Bring Back Sincerity,
So I just met this new guy and I think he’s absolutely awesome. Like the awesomest! In fact, there is no awesomer. After hanging out with him a few times, I want to let him know how I feel for him but all my friends are telling me ‘no way!’ They say I have to be cool and ‘play the game.’ You know the game, right? Play hard to get, be unavailable. It sucks but don’t we all have to play it? And if we do, then how do we guarantee a win?


Dear Pacheesi,

Step…away…from the game…slowly. Okay, you can do it. Slowwwly. NO! Too quick. Slower. Don’t make any sudden moves. No need to startle the game.

So, yeah, your friends told you that being unavailable and playing hard to get would be the best way to win the attention of your ‘trivial pursuit’ (sorry. I couldn’t resist) but your friends also told you totally have to see ‘American Wedding’ with Jason Biggs because it was “hysterical” and it so sucked. Here’s the deal, Cheesi, sometimes you need to be real and start being yourself. It’s a major ‘risk’ (oops. Did it again) and four out of five emotionally dysfunctional people wouldn’t recommend it but shouldn’t someone be into you for who you are and not for the image you create by fighting your natural instincts? Perhaps by doing so, you’re setting your relationship up for failure--by acting like someone else Awesomest is actually falling for someone else. And wouldn’t it suck when he really gets to know you and realizes that you are so into Maroon 5? Ech.
I know. I know. You’re reading this and saying, oh my gawd. He wants me to do what? Be myself? Has he gone insane? And by the way, I don’t have a thing to wear!
No, Cheesi. I haven’t gone insane but this is only the beginning of the week. Give me time yet.
A famous man once said ‘to thine own selves be true. And it must follow as the night the day. Thou cannot be false to any man’ His name was William Shakespeare and we had to read his crappy books in high school and they made no sense to us so we just rented the movies instead and they still didn’t really make sense to us, either but Claire Danes was just so cute as Juliet. ANYWAY. Shakespeare had a great point. The bard (that’s what they call him in graduate school) was telling us that we should be who we want to be and then, and only then, will we find happiness. So if you want to play the game, then please do so. You are by no means the only person socially regressing. And just to clarify; boys don’t have the cooties. Swear.
Cheesi. I can’t promise that if you act like yourself then everything will work out smoothly with Awesomest. He may not be interested. Like I said, you do like Maroon 5. But the next guy that comes along that really, really likes you back will like you. What a novel concept.
Do you get it now? Don’t play the game. Repeat after me. No, really. Repeat it. Did you? Okay. Better.
So, be a rebel. Be different. But most of all, just be yourself.


Thursday, December 09, 2004


Tilly & The Wall
Wild Like Children
(Team Love)
Naming themselves after a children book, Tilly & The Wall won’t go near a drum kit. Instead, they’ll happily tap dance on amplified platforms keeping rhythm with their feet. Those looking for an indie rock Shirley Temple singing campfire sing-a-longs…well, it’s here.

Iron & Wine
Our Endless Numbered Days
(Sub Pop)
Sam Beam’s voice sounds like watching the sun set in all its crimson glory over grapefruit-colored skies. Our Endless Numbered Days could subdue even the most anxious--perhaps this is the substitute for your Paxil.

Kanye West
College Dropout
Kanye West reportedly has a notorious ego but with an innovative hip-hop album like this, it’s almost justified. His latest single, ‘Jesus Walks’ is the catchiest rap song in recent memory to have Jewish people everywhere feeling guilty for dancing to it.

Dogs Die In Hot Cars
Please Describe Yourself
(V2 Records)
Despite the fact that the band claims they never heard of Andy Partridge, Please Describe Yourself is pure XTC. Dance like Madness.

The Futureheads
(Startime International/Sire)
This hyperactive gang of four recorded the most complex-yet-simplistic mod album of the year. Multi-part harmonies over singular guitars. Bonus: a pogoing and brilliant cover of Kate Bush’s “Hounds of Love.”

Junior Boys
Last Exit
The Junior Boys’ Last Exit is make-out music for cyborgs. It’s also a retro-futuristic electronica album that the Prada set and the Levi’s set can both enjoy.

The Legends
Up Against The Legends
(Lakeshore Records)
What if the Jesus and the Mary Chain cited the Ronnettes as a major influence? Oh, like you never asked yourself that question.

Action Pact
(Koch Records)
The Canadian power-poppers have almost become the Rodney Dangerfields of indie-rock but who needs respect when you have the arsenal of cheap tricks like Sloan does?

Snow Patrol
Final Straw
While Chris Martin is babysitting Apple, Gary Lightbody and Co. stepped up with ‘Run,’ a song that soars so high it may even be a bird or an airplane.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004


Oh, the guilty pleasure. To feel two simultaneous, colliding human conditions at the same time. The guilt grabs control of you commanding you to enjoy this pleasure in secret, in the privacy of your own room. Shh, don't tell anyone you like this pleasure, the guilt says. I am living inside your body with your kidney and small intestine!
But the pleasure makes the overwhelming guilt all worth while. The taste. The sound. The sight that you behold. This feeling of jubilance that you know you shouldn't be partaking is worth that measly feeling of guilt. Pleasure? Yes! Guilt? I scoff at thee.

Kelly Clarkson's newest single 'Since U Been Gone' is more than a song with a grammatically incorrect title (after all, she is singing 'you've'), it's an incredible three minutes and eleven seconds of pop perfection. Yes. I am sober. And yes, the apocalypse is possibly neigh.
While many were on their living room couches laughing at the American Idols--myself included--the unlikely performers were going through their very public awkward stage on stage in front of millions of apathetic citizens who are better suited to vote for a pop singer than to chose the right President. Take Clay Aiken, for example; a gawky, unpretentious school teacher with a pretty decent voice who suddenly had to deal with being a public figure. Despite his baffling popularity, he is still gawky, albeit a famous-gawky. Clarkson, on the other hand, is better suited for fame. She has a 'regular,' relatable face with common brown hair and could seamlessly make the transition from torch song to rock song without looking uncomfortable about it. Paradoxically, Ruben Studdard couldn't do a rock song unless he really woke up one morning to find that he had become Mick Jagger. Clay Aiken can do rock but ultimately it feels all wrong like drinking orange juice after brushing your teeth. Clarkson is the favorite son. She is the Idol with potential longevity (can't we just forget that Kelly and Justin beach movie? Lord knows they want to).

With 'Since U Been Gone,' Clarkson convinces us that she has potential to be more than just a contest winner. The song, which has the same 'punky' elements of an Avril Lavigne track feels more authentic and less bratty. Moreover, Clarkson has superior lungs--Lavigne could only hit those notes if she had vocal manipulation assist her as she's done in the past (for those citing 'I'm With U' as a potential argument). 'Since U Been Gone' imitates the winning formula of a Nirvana song with a strumming electric guitar leering in the background and when Clarkson reaches the chorus, the guitars reach for the sky--along with Clarkson's vocals. But the true brilliance of the song is the way the lyrics parallel the music. 'Here's the thing/we started out friends. It was cool but it was all pretend,' Kelly sings with a subtle delivery, exhausted and fed-up. While she is angry, she can't find the strength to express that disappointment just yet. But then the chorus comes and after singing about her frustrating ex for a few lines, Clarkson remembers the anger, the reason she is here. She is finally inspired enough to release her disappointment with a chorus that feels like the pop equivalent of punches flying in the air sans mercy.

"But since you've been gone I can breathe for the first time/I'm so movin' on," the Idol sings with unforgiving, proving that one doesn't have to write a song to feel a song. The scorned lover expresses such a sense of relief that her lungs can actually operate again. The target of her angst has emotionally strangled the singer, disabling her to even perform the most simplest of functions. Clarkson will not take it anymore and well, sure, if you're payin', she'll sing about it [in the video, Clarkson breaks into the ex-boyfriend's apartment and destroys his belongings. Most of us wish we had such an opportunity].

The bridge is the peak of 'Since U Been Gone.' With a guitar solo that sounds like Nick Zinner of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs was playing it, Clarkson reaches for glass-shattering heights: You had your chance you blew it/Out of sight, out of mind/Shut your mouth I just can't take it/again and again and again and again." The last molten 'again' melts into the guitar's roar. We feel the pain. All this in a pop song.

The other difference between 'Since U Been Gone' and the angsty anthems in Lavigne's catalogue is that I doubt (maybe presumptuously) Avril's emotional depth. She feels like a ratty high school student roaming the malls and inviting the drama that comes along with dysfunctional relationships. Clarkson seems real. Clarkson appears to truly want love and I believe her disappointment when it fails. This is not fodder for a hit song, Kelly thinks. This is hurt and it sucks. And you shouldn't feel guilty for listening to it.

Friday, December 03, 2004


"Why didn't you say 'hello'last night?"
"I didn't want to. I didn't think it was time.Moreover, I had nothing to say."
"Time? Dude, you are such a baby."
"This is not normal."
"No, it's not but if you remember correctly I did not bring us to this abnormality. That was you."
"You are really frustrating me. I am trying to be as mature as possible and here you you are...God. Do you think this makes you cooler? Any better? Do you feel like playing this game solves anything?"
"What game am I playing? As far as I'm concerned this is how I deal."
"By not dealing...?"
"This is making me sad. I'd rather not talk about this. You're obviously not open to seeing this through my eyes. How unfortunate this all is but how necessary this all is."
"Well, this conversation is happening in your head right now. If you didn't want to have it, then think of something else."
"Like what?"
"Presents you need to get for Chanukah."
"I was going to get you a great present. I had a couple of very solid ideas."
"That's nice."
"Yeah, it is...but do you know what's weird?"
"You're not real to me anymore. You have become an idea, almost a myth. I have a hard time remembering your face. It's blurry. That's really weird and uncomfortable. It kind of bothers me how the mind is so selective in what it retains and what it lets go."
"A self-defense mechanism perhaps?"
"You know, your mind is kind of cluttered. You have too much going on up here.You need to do some spring cleaning."
"But it's Decemeber..."
"You know what I mean."
"I need to go soon."
"That's a shame. I enjoyed talking to you even though it is just in your head. You know, you mattered a great deal to me. I think about you a lot."
"I wish I felt that that was true. Maybe its an insecurity but I can't help but think that you couldn't care less."
"What does that mean? C'mon. You spend so much time with someone...there are so many reminders in our day-to-day lives. Like those U2 posters I see everywhere on the streets. Funny...I see Bono, I see you."
"You're not the first to say that."
"Maybe you could say 'hi' to me next time..."
"I can't guarantee anything."
"Well...take care of yourself."
"Thanks. I'll try. You too."
"You know where to find me, right?"
"Yeah. For the time being, right here in my head."

Thursday, December 02, 2004


In the 90’s, Seattle was overcastting the American skies with grunge, their distinct and gloomy brand of cloudy rock. For the most part, we were screaming, moshing and wearing a lot of flannel. But in England, on the other hand, the British were smiling, better dressed and listening to music full of sunshine and optimism (its no coincidence that two songs on this playlist are titled “Alright”). Britpop, a genre that combined the playfulness and pop of the Beatles and the Kinks with the drama of the Smiths and the Jam, was all the rage…or rather, lacking the rage. While the music and lyrics were distinctly very English, like referring to cigarettes as ‘fags’ (Pulp’s “Common People”) or speaking of ‘hanging out in Camden’ (Lush’s “Ladykillers), some of the bands below received local success even though we couldn’t exactly figure out what they were saying with those darn accents. The opening song, ‘Bittersweet Symphony’ by The Verve is perhaps one of the best tunes imported from the country that brought us Hugh Grant (google him--he was really big then), while “Wonderwall” by Oasis is the other epic classic. Eventually, the Britpop trend spawned hundreds of sound-alikes but the bands in our playlist, like James, Blur and Travis are the ones that left the largest imprint on the British music charts. Lastly, for the full Britpop experience, pour yourself a cup of tea while listening.

1. Bittersweet Symphony – Verve
2. Wonderwall – Oasis
3. Alright – Cast
4. Slight Return – The Bluetones
5. Barney (And Me) – The Boo Radleys
6. Girl From Mars – Ash
7. Common People – Pulp
8. Ladykillers – Lush
9. What Do I Do Now? – Sleeper
10. Boys And Girls – Blur
11. Where Have You Been Tonight? – Shed 7
12. You’ve Got It Bad – Ocean Colour Scene
13. Alright – Supergrass
14. The One – Menswe@r
15. Animal Nitrate – Suede
16. Design For Life – Manic Street Preachers
17. Be My Light, Be My Guide – Gene
18. Car Fiction – Echobelly
19. Sit Down – James
20. Why Does It Always Rain On Me? - Travis
21. There She Goes – The LA’s

Wednesday, December 01, 2004