simple pleasures

I wanted to hate this song…

I really did.  The first few times I heard it, I recall thinking that the beginning sounded similar to “Carry on Wayward Son” by Kansas.  The chorus sounds like “Cecilia” by Simon and Garfunkel.  Both songs are classics in their own right and it’s annoying to have audible expectations only to be disappointed.  Furthermore, I thought the band performing the song was One Direction.  With all of this going through my head, my disgust rose with each time I heard the new mishmash of this song.

One day the song was stuck in my head so I began searching Google for the lyrics to find the song and then play it on youtube  in an effort to get it out of my head. Google.  “but i still wake up” lyrics.  Enter.  Ok, here we go.  Let’s try this one.  I get to this video (below) and I watch it.  (con’t after video).

A few things happened the first time that I viewed this: I realized that it wasn’t by One Direction; The video has totally decent production value; and it’s telling a story – a good one.

Confronted with these self evident facts, I was forced to re-evaluate my perception of this song.   I liked it.  After watching the video for a second time, I found that it tells a timeless story in a meaningful way and maybe the homage to the two classic songs is part of the whole theme of the song and video.

Let me explain: The video opens following two men.  One young and one old.  The younger guy is spending time with his presumed girlfriend and the older guy is doing chores and tending to his homestead.  This bit is filmed in a way that shows the older guy’s enjoyment and respect for the land.  We see the older man also cleaning his rifle and bayonet. Both men go off to fight in the American Civil War, but on different sides; young guy on the Union, the older guy on the Confederacy.

Here’s where this gets interesting.  This song was written in 2010 – 2011 and the video was filmed probably in late 2011/early 2012 (the official video was released on YouTube in June of 2012 and the album dropped in February 2012, so I am making an educated guess here).   The time around when the song was written was the height of the Occupy movement.  In addition to humanizing the ‘other side’, the lyrics repeatedly ask “What do I stand for?  What do I stand for?”  The chumbolones of the Occupy movement  avoided any central leadership and failed to answer the question of what they stood for in a unifying and meaningful way and the movement fizzled out.

aaaaand it's gone

Occupy what?

That is the understated theme  that I picked up from this video.  More overtly the song and video are about losing oneself and compromising one’s values in the face of war, but I took away from it an equally enduring conflict of young vs. old and the two different ideologies as it related to the Occupy movement.  When the veneer of war and overt conflict is stripped away from the rift between the 99% and the 1%, the Occupiers and whomever it is they were occupying against, it’s just about people fighting for their way of life, just like the two men in the video (and the Civil War itself).  

It would seem that this song is a call to action for young people in general to make a definitive stance on what they stand for, and to fight for it. In the video the older guy knew what he was fighting for.  He was fighting for his farm, his horse, his land, his way of life.  It seemed that the younger guy was going off to war as part of his duty.  He was with his girlfriend and didn’t want to leave her, but had to.  As it turns out, he was just a slightly better fighter and was able to win the struggle, but he didn’t have the motivations for fighting that his opponent did, thus leaving him lost and conflicted and asking the question over and over again, “What do I stand for?  What do I stand for?” 

“But I still wake up, I still see your ghost
Oh, Lord, I’m still not sure what I stand for, oh
What do I stand for? What do I stand for?
Most nights I don’t know anymore…”

Read more: Fun. – Some Nights Lyrics | MetroLyrics 

An aimless struggle, a directionless movement will not result in any meaningful change, as was evidenced by the whole Occupy movement.  This calls to mind the old adage, “Stand for something or you will fall for anything.” As young people, it is important to make a thought out and intelligent decision on what you stand for and why, and then defend that with everything you have.  Also, if there is another sort of movement, it must be united by a common cause or ideal.  If the Occupy movement focused on the issue of income inequality and only focused on that issue, the the potential to achieve success in reform was well within their grasp.  Without clear issues, without clear direction, without knowing what you stand for, all the ‘victories’ will be hollow. 

I’m interested in hearing about your interpretations on this little movie.  It’s pretty awesome and I’ve enjoyed watching it something like 15 – 20 times.  Share your thoughts and opinions in the comments.

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Today’s Workout Inspiration and Motivation (and 7 reasons why its important)

This one here is all about inspiration and motivation.  Right now, in Chicago and most of the country (east of the Rockies), it’s freaking cold.  High 7F, low -15F.  It’s almost March and the 10 day forecast doesn’t show a single day above freezing.  We are also due to get a ton of snow this weekend.  But summer is coming and you want to look good.  The mantra is “I will do today what others won’t, so that tomorrow I can do what others can’t.” Yes, that means taking off your shirt when it’s warm out and feeling really good about it.  We have a vein, materialistic culture and that’s a rant for another post, another time.  Right now it’s about feeling good that you went to the gym when it was cold out.  And feeling good that you got a good workout in while others stayed home and ordered in some junk food.  Today is about you feeling good that you stuck to your commitment or resolution and the pride that comes with it.  Don’t say, “f*** it, it’s cold” instead say, “f*** it, summer is around the corner and this will pay off.” 

My workout today consisted of:

  1. 10 deadlifts
  2. 10 squats
  3. 20 kettlebell swings (28kg)
  4. 20 kettlebell shoulder swings (18kg) – 10 forward/10 side to side
  5. 15 box jumps (box slightly higher than the tops of my knees)
  6. 2 elbow/toe army crawl with kettlebell advancement (18kg – crawl over a kettlebell on your elbows and toes, rise to your hands, lift kettlebell forward with one hand, get back down to your elbows, crawl over it again, lift it with the other hand)
  7. Do this set 3 times with minimal rests in between exercises and sets.

Why this workout important:

  1. Most of your power and strength comes from your lower body.
  2. The largest muscles are in your lower body. Just by having muscle burns calories.  Working these muscle groups out means that your are burning way more energy in your off time.
  3. Deadlifts are among the top/best exercises  you can do for all around health.
  4. This workout will increase your heart-rate and burn more calories both during and after.
  5. You are hitting the slow and fast twitch muscle groups.
  6. Your ‘rest’ sets (army crawl/shoulder swings) are hitting your core, shoulders and back, but not to a point where you can’t work them in on your upper body day (tomorrow : ).
  7. and maybe the most important reason to do this: You don’t want to be these guys.
Quit whining.  Now's the time so you don't wish later that you just did it.  (Like how I worked in that sunrise pic?)

Quit whining. Now’s the time so you don’t wish later that you just did it. (Like how I worked in that sunrise pic?)

The delightful pleasures of cold, rainy days.

Sometimes (ok, maybe often) I write about things that are wrong in the world that I want to see changed to make it a better place. However, there are some awesome things that are so right with the world that are worth appreciating. With the terrible weather we’ve been experiencing lately it can be difficult to stay positive which is why a reminder to stay positive and thankful is long overdue. As I right this, the five day forecast includes highs around 50 F and rain, rain, rain. There isn’t a nice day in sight as far as I can tell. And last week was all doom and gloom and rain, also.

Now showing the true measure of a man.

Now showing the true measure of a man.

This brings me to whiskey and cigars.  When the sky is that dreary gray color and the clouds and rain haven’t let up in days, there is nothing better than enjoying the complexity of flavors in a delicious scotch or well made bourbon. Enjoy it however you like (neat, rocks, a splash of soda), but enjoy it. Cigars offer a nice compliment to the whiskey.  If you can stand outside and hear the patter of the rain (while staying dry, of course) it can be quite pleasing to slowly enjoy a cigar and some good whiskey. Savor the flavors and think back to a simpler time or to the last time the weather wasn’t so soul crushingly bleak.

On these particular cloudy, rainy, and cold spring days I also really enjoy forcing myself to become immersed in a work of fiction (as opposed to watching TV). It pairs well with the aforementioned whiskey, and also a good meal or a quiet spot in the local public house, if you feel the need to move out of your home to a different four walled spot with a bit more activity.

I live in the quiet little Chicago neighborhood of Buena Park. Here we are fortunate enough to have a library directly across the street from my favorite bar (that boasts over 130 different whiskeys on hand…). After a long rainy day there’s nothing better than picking out a good book at the library and walking over to the bar to enjoy a delicious burger ($4 on Monday’s), sitting on the couch or big comfy chair in the corner, and sipping on a well crafted piece of art while being immersed in a fictional world. It’s one of my favorite ways to escape reality and enjoy it at the same time. Sure I’d rather be out riding my bike in good weather or spending the day at the beach or doing something active outside, but its these rainy days of spring that we have to endure before the fun in the sun can happen. And for me there’s no better way to enjoy that than with a few real world pleasures and some creature comforts.

buena whiskey bobcomfycorner

On the walk home at night there’s one special scene that these rainy days treat us to and that’s the picturesque environment created by the water reflecting the orange/gold glow of the street lights. A row of street lights casts out a particular hue that is reflected and refracted by the rain and puddles that change the very appearance of whichever street you happen to be walking down. It takes on a lively, almost an otherworldly appearance that reminds me of something out of a movie. Maybe the streets of Victoria era London or something of that nature. It’s just kind of cool to look around for a minute and see the world a little bit differently. Even if it is uncomfortable outside.

Not shown: Jack the Ripper and things that go bump in the night.

Not shown: Jack the Ripper and things that go bump in the night.

I’m interested in how you enjoy the cold, rainy spring days that precede freedom of the delightful summertime. Leave your ideas in the comments. We read every one.