Memory Can Be Funny

Memory is a tricky thing for humans to grasp. It is such a natural element of our consciousness, yet is such an incredible phenomena. It both helps us develop our skills through trial and error, and helps us connect with others through shared experiences and events. Memories can be vivid, or hazy. They can be misremembered, or developed over time with additional information. Studies have shown that witnesses can very easily have their memories altered by false information if certain false-memories are planted in their minds or presented in group settings. If a group of witnesses hear another witness mention a read coat that the victim was wearing, then all of the sudden most of the other witnesses brains may start to construct a red coat on to the victim, whether that is how they saw it or not. Memory can be funny like this. But also, misremembering can get you in trouble.

I have been doing Stand Up Comedy for two and a half years now. It is one of my absolute favorite things to do and has been an obsession of mine since probably my junior or senior year of high school. Right off the bat when I arrived and Fordham and went to the club fair, I discovered that there was actually a stand up team. Instantly I knew I had to join so I visited their table to get all the information about auditions that I could. Since my obsession began I had always been keeping small notes of possible stand up sets that I would think of and keep them in a notebook dedicated solely to the topic. I wrote some new material for my first audition, was excited about it, nervously auditioned, and was turned down by the team. What I didn’t realize was how competitive the team would be. Not only did I not get on with my below average set, but even more measured acts did not get on as the team’s standard was one that demanded intense amounts of creativity, personality, and originality in every sense.

I became increasingly obsessed with making this team, writing down new ideas all the time. I auditioned again the following year with a much more polished set, but was still turned away. I wasn’t until January of my sophomore year that I made the team. Being on the team means we had to be performing 5-10 minutes of original material at each of our monthly shows, all with audiences with high expectations. I was super excited, but also nervous about the idea of underperforming. At this point I must have been watching stand up all the time and writing new material from my own experiences or observations just as much. I would take pleasure in completing a notebook and then archiving it, filling out the dates of the starting and finishing page, and always going back to reference old material when I needed to write a new set. In the spring of 2018, a little bit over a year into the whole gig, I went on stage and told a joke that lasted only a few sentences that I had believed to be mine. It was only afterwards that the team captain pulled me aside and told me that I had just told a joke that belonged to a famous comedian. I was shocked and doubted it, but he was able to find a video of the comedian using the joke as a promotion on a late night show. Not only was it the same joke, but I had said it essentially word-for-word with similar pauses and emphasis. If I didn’t steal it, then it was a complete glitch in the mainframe. I don’t doubt that I saw this video in the past, but what was so troubling to me was that I could have that joke living in my mind as a memory long after I was even capable of remembering I had seen the video even as it played before my eyes.

I talked about this occurrence with some other team members, and we came to the conclusion that this sort of incident must happen all the time. Stand up is such a high pressure environment that stand up performers are always itching for new and successful material. A lot of work goes into a joke, so naturally one would become rather mad to see another comedian just take the joke from their hands and perform it as their own. Feuds like this are sparked in the comedy community all the time, and most of the problems lie in that the comedian who “stole” the joke will never own up to it. The explanation, which I read in a “Variety” article one time, is that, most likely, these jokes are not being intentionally stolen, but rather misremembered as original. A successful joke is such a unique and lasting work that it is very believable that the memory of joke itself could outlast the memory of someone else performing it. And for someone who is constantly in the mind frame of trying to come up with jokes, it would be very believable to them that a joke in their head that is a lasting memory without a source would be a joke of their own.

Memory can be an odd thing. The amount of weight we put on something can greatly impact the priority our mind places on whether or not to renew a certain memory. In a class discussion we had on memory this year, the theory that memories are constantly and unsparingly fleeting was brought up. This would mean that any lasting memories are not copies of the original events, but rather a memory of the most recent memory you had of those events. To conceptualize this I picture a fist picking up the same patch of sand over and over again. Sand is seeping out around all the fingers, and each grab is a renewing of memories— trying to grasp on to the same grains each time. Of course, it’s impossible to grab on to the same grains time after time, but with enough concentration, you could get pretty close. The mind will inevitably misremember or drop off some key portions of a memory, but if one exercises the act of remembering enough, most of what happened can be retained for a long time.

So, when I was remembering the stand up set, I was more willing to remember the joke itself than I was to remember the performance. Not knowing the root of the joke hurt my originality, but also made me become more cautious with my own memory and with examining my ideas. While I was worried that my reputation might get hurt, it seemed as though I didn’t have to worry— most of the audience either didn’t know or didn’t remember the joke either. For this I have poor memory to thank.

Adaptation and Time

Time keeping can be a tricky thing in film. As a film major, one of the first things you asses about a film is the narrative time in which it takes place, keeping track mostly of the points where is speeds up, and absorbing the material that is exposed when it slows down. A lot of times character-driven films will start off quickly, maybe covering several hours worth of character actions in a few minutes in order to quickly acclimate the viewer with the protagonist. Then, in the moments before and during the main inciting event, time will slow down so we can watch the drama of the situation unfold. Whether you are aware of it or not, time in films is incredibly important. A filmmaker must allow for the viewers mind to subconsciously account for missing time in an effort to not disorient the world of the film, and to allow for the pacing of events unfold how they desire them to, and how it would be comfortable to watch.

Time goes further than editing too, timing is kept in mind all throughout the directing process as well. Directors are constantly thinking about how certain movements, acting choices, and shots will represent passing time, or affect the viewers interpretation of time. Also, when directing or acting, knowing when your character is in the script and how their relation to other characters or events are related impact their decisions greatly— essentially the entire basis of acting and directing. Timing means everything in a story. It’s what grounds us as viewers, it’s also what disturbs us or brings us in. When films are kept in time we are more comfortable as it is a pacing that we recognize as our own. When a film speeds up we are either excited or disoriented. When a film slows down we are intrigued or confused. When events happen out of order we are upset, when the laws of time keeping are not followed by the director, the film becomes representative of a certain message or ideal other than narrative. Conventional timing is used to build trust between the filmmaker and the audience. Breaking this trust results in a bothersome crowd. Whether or not it was your intention, as a filmmaker, to bother people will strongly impact your favor of the results. All this is to say is it is imperative to consider time in filmmaking— the most important factor, in my own opinion. So, what does this mean for storytelling across other platforms? Well it means that there is a right and a wrong answer when communicating time, and I took an entire course on how its done. Here are some snippets of what I learned in my semester studying adaptation.

Whether you’re aware of it or not, most popular television series or films are not completely original. Many of these are adaptations of previous works. Adaptations are different from remakes because remaking a book as a film would be a horrific viewing experience. It is important to translate the two mediums. When translating, the vibe/style and story stay the same, but the pacing and time are altered. This is why JR Tolkien spends pages upon pages describing the textures and cultures of the Hobbits and their native land, whereas the Lord of the Rings film series can achieve this explanation with a single shot, and develop it further as the film progresses. Books do not have this luxury as many of the sensory detectors that films get are not present in the reading experience. A reader needs to have their environment and character deeply explained so their reading experience is not one of someone wandering a dark room with spots of light. The reader needs the whole room.

In my final paper for my adaptation class I related the art of adaptation to that of translation. When my language professors would warn the class to not use google translate, I always thought they were just trying to prevent us from using a very useful tool because it was essentially cheating myself from learning the language. Later, as my skills developed, I realized that speaking another language is much more than a 1:1 transfer of words or phrases. Translating a language is much more of an interpretation than it is a translation. In order to say a phrase or communicate a message you heard in one language in another, you must have a very deep understanding of what it means to the ear of a native speaker, and you must know more than the words that successfully translate it, but also the feeling and pacing behind the words that you are choosing to represent the message. In film, it comes down to that. If you are taking a page of comic book frames and moving them to film, you might begin to realize that just because a new frame has begun does not mean a new scene has begun. A filmmaker must take the comic book and completely absorb it for what it is before moving forward and beginning the task of interpreting (adapting)it into film. If you begin translating a english sentence into Spanish one word at a time, you will find yourself restarting the transliteration after almost every word. Timing is sensitive in adaptation, and one must carefully consider the choices they are making when adapting any book, comic book, poem, play, or anything else into a film.

When Lin-Manuel Miranda was working on Hamilton, a fellow playwright gave him advice in a point of writers block adapting Ron Chernow’s book “Alexander Hamilton” into the 2.5 hour musical. He told him to remember to just write the parts that are a musical; there is no need to write the whole story. Miranda references this as a turning point in his writing process. Chernow’s book is a thick historical biography, and ultimately too dense to be considered a piece of pop-culture. Miranda took this comprehensive writing to learn a fuller story about Alexander Hamilton and was able to take the twists and turns of his life and the surrounding story of the American Revolution into the most successful Broadway play of all time. Chernow even joked that he felt legitimately embarrassed when he heard the opening lines to the play, which ask the question, “How does a bastard, orphan son of a whore and a Scotsman, dropped in the middle of a forgotten spot in the Caribbean by providence, impoverished, in squalor, grow up to be a hero and a scholar?” Saying that that one sentence essentially summarized the thesis for his book which he outlined over the course of a lengthy first chapter. Miranda knows how important the information Chernow laid out was, but he also knows that a musical audience will understand the gist and would just like to get to the action. Both are successful and both audiences will leave knowing the same story. All that is different is the time it will take to communicate the two, and that is the power of adaptation.

Atomic Clock Helps With Another Major Scientific Achievement

A number of weeks back I made the semi-reckless decision of choosing the Atomic Clock as my “time keeping device” for the class research paper. I say semi-reckless because I really did not know much about clock other than the concept of it— I didn’t even know the name. I just knew that there was a singular clock that was deemed “the standard” time keeping device, and I believed it to have a central location. Knowing this little about the clock made researching it so complex, but also so much more rewarding. Now, with my knew knowledge of the Atomic Clock, I feel as though I see and hear about it in so many casual ways. It’s not exactly like everyone is chatting about it, but I heard the reference in pop-culture as I picked up on a drummer being nicknamed “The Atomic Clock”, and I heard it mentioned even on 60 Minutes an investigating they were doing on radio waves used in warfare. It is truly astonishing how much atomic clocks are used, and to what extent.

My hyper awareness to these clocks, with which I have spent so much time, lead to me noticing their use in NASA’s capturing of the first ever photographic evidence of a black hole. This was a particularly excited usage to see because I was already so amped up about the photo before I realized that the Atomic Clock played an integral role. I remember just seeing the announcement and the photo all over twitter, and as a personal fan of scientific theories and with a fascination of how they did it, especially considering I had no idea it was even possible, I immediately starting looking up videos to give me an explanation. In my journey I found this video to be particularly helpful in giving both a basic understanding of black holes, as well as diving deeper into more advanced description, all without being overbearing:

If you don’t want to watch the video, then I’ll break it down very quickly. What a black hole looked like was always just theoretical, or based on other data collected that would reference the result of light entering areas of such a high gravitational pull. Why they are called “black holes” and why they are such a phenomena is quite obvious: they are areas of mass with such a high gravitational pull that no light can “escape” or otherwise be reflected or projected. This means that you cannot take a picture of black hole because you cannot take a picture of something unless you are able to get some sort of exposure on the object (photography 101). So the nature of black holes, the fact that the nearest black holes to us are incredibly far away, and the fact that there are no singular telescopes on Earth that are large or powerful enough to be able to take such a photo have lead to us never having grabbed that long desired snap of a black hole. 

RESUME HERE:   I continue to be amazed by the Atomic Clock, and several times throughout the process or watching this video I really did have to laugh to myself as to how blown away I am by what is both such a extremely simple, yet complex device. But really, its function is so simple, but the things it could be used for seem to be endless. The video only briefly mentioned the atomic clock, and another listener who had not just done a research project may have missed its mention, but I can attest that without the atomic clock, this photo would not be possible. Let’s dive in to what the video left out.

First is that just implementing the atomic clocks in the satellites is not enough, they surely had to wait for an atomic clock precise enough to get as synched up as they were. As recently as November 2018, a new and even more precise atomic clock was introduced. This new clock measured the oscillations of the element ytterbium. Once an atomic clock’s time keeping abilities are able to measure faster oscillations at a more consistent basis, older elements that were being measured can be replaced with faster moving ones, therefore making “the second” that is being counted a more finely tuned one that can be trusted and created better harmony between multiple devices all using the same atomic clocks.

This type of harmony between multiple devices in order to use their connectivity to make a more powerful “unit” or “network” is nothing new in the field of the atomic clock. The very same technique is used in satellites orbiting, and on, Earth in order to make for better cell phone service. The technology is also in use in all senses of GPS navigation. Boats crossing, planes landing, cars navigating, all of these actions are made better and smoother by the use of atomic clock powered networks of devices, allowing services and updates to be accurate and in real time. This use of GPS networks and cellular networks were easier for me to grasp than the network of photos, however. That is until I realized that these scientists used the size of the Earth in relation to the size of the black hole to their advantage.

The black hole in the photo is 6.5 billion times larger than our sun. A black hole of that size certainly makes it easier to get a photo, but a high powered satellite or system of image captures was still required. Being that the earth is so small in comparison, it would be very easy to use this network to make it as if the entire planet were its own camera. It’s a cop-out example, but think about how the Death Star works in Star Wars, or how a stadium light is made up of a collection of lights. This is just a theoretical representation of how the cameras worked since theirs was more likely a consistent collection of data depending on the rotational position of the earth, but in theory it is quite like how the death star would make one large streaming laser out of several that would convene at a singular point. This is just exercising the simple physical law that multiple energies convening will make for a greater energy.

Of course the satellites coming together is much more complicated. It was as if two or more satellites collecting data would tap out another. All this is to say that this became a highly coordinated event. A photo capturing series that relied on exposure that would take place over months. When working in harmony like this, the most important facet has to be the timing. You could have the best scientists in the world with the most powerful equipment, but when comes down to it, if these systems are not in time with one another, then there is no result. The Atomic Clock proves itself again, and thanks to this ever-evolving system of time keeping, science makes another breakthrough achievement.

I Guess It’s About Time

I won’t beat around the bush: the title to this blog post is an excellent pun. It covers my graduation, the topic and culmination of this course, and the slight misdirection it seems this course has taken. At the beginning of the semester we were asked, “what time is it?”, “what is time?”, “what is your relationship to time?”, and then more extensively, “why does any of this matter?”. I remember the vast feeling of uncertainty I felt when walking into the room on the first day of class. I remember realizing how vague these questions were meant to be, and I was certainly uncertain with how I should be moving forward to answer them. When the class was asked “what time is it?”, we gave multiple rows of columns as a response. We had a lot to say. Usually, when someone asks “what time is it?”, they demand an ultra-specific response. If they don’t get the exact one they want, I can guarantee they will ask again, and maybe even get mad. But, it is, of course, all situational. In fact, we can take comfort in knowing that there are so many ways to clarify the time.

At the end of the semester, I can confidently say that I have more clarity on the subject. But, time hasn’t become any less vast, if anything it is more vast. Only now I have become more comfortable with the vastness. I am more comfortable with the endless answers to “what time is it?” and I am more comfortable knowing that this is how it is meant to be. One of the most impactful readings this semester, and one I have beaconed back to many times, is Einstein’s Dreams. Having this reading early on was extremely beneficial to my framing of the class. While much of the book featured fantastical representations of time, it really did pound home the idea that time really is relative. Even during class while we were accumulating lists on the board, every once in a while someone would bring up a topic or a facet of time that was not even close to my radar. Time has proved itself to be so immensely personal, and the deeper we dived into the course the more apparent that became.

While it could be frustrating to contemplate what time really means, it was comforting to read how philosophers like Seneca also struggled with the questions of “how to spend time”. Knowing that even the greatest thinkers in history would sit around struggling to contemplate how to manage their time is both scary as well as comforting. This made me realize that time really isn’t supposed to be understood, but it is instead meant to be studied so that we may be aware of it in whatever capacity it is needed. I found it particularly interesting whenever the terms “spend time” or “save time” came up. We all are constantly “spending” our time. Whether we are spending it wisely, well, or not, we are spending it nonetheless. With this constant outflow of time, there is still, somehow, room to “save time”. Usually it is brought up that we can “save time” by taking faster transportation, or we could “save time” by online shopping, or even by using a microwave to cook food. The connotation is that we are saving the time from doing something bad with it to doing something good. There are uses of our time that we value less, and therefore would rather allocate to other tasks. These seems like a very simple concept, but what is the use in “saving time” microwaving when the person loves to cook? What would be the use in “saving time” by flying somewhere when the person loves to drive? 

What we have learned here in class is that time is a currency that stems from nature, embedded in our own biology, and then put to work by our minds. We looked at how time is layered in the earth itself and in our universe, how the development of our world is dependent on time, and how we continue to measure time looking at the smallest moving parts of our natural world. Time is rooted in our world, as well as rooted in all of us. It only makes sense that it is up to us how we spend it. Like all things, there will be trends associated with how we spend our time, as well as the personal decision, and inherent repercussions, on how we are spending our time. So then, when asked “what time is it?”, “what is time?”, “what is your relationship to time?”, and “why does any of this matter?”, we should view these questions as the journeys that they are, instead of digging through our skulls for the perfect answer. 

All I can be assured of is that this class has been time well spent. I will miss it and the lessons we exercised each class. I do, however, take solace in the fact that at any time, I can go back to explore our syllabus, and spend some time looking over some past readings to always keep my new found knowledge of time refreshed and ready to go. But, if I truly took the readings to heart, maybe I would understand that it is best to move on. Thank you again, class, for providing me with the time I needed to help me with my time management, my time tolerance, and my time awareness. I just hope I am forgiven the next time someone asks me “what time is it?”.

Let’s look at a 2019 calendar in the year 4019

This will definitely be my most blog-influenced post yet. Most of my posts so far have been more journal-y, or more reflective. However, this one, just based on how I wrote the title alone, already feels like some sort of click-bate. I hope it worked, because I have had this idea written down in my notebook since our lessons on calendars. The note said that I would revisit one of my own modern calendars as if I were discovering it 2000 years in the future. For this experiment, I knew I only wanted to look at one calendar: my magnetic New York Mets calendar that my dad and I get every year in the mail through some kind of Mets mailing list we’re on. Another way to receive this calendar is by attending any one of the first three games at their home ballpark in a given year. This calendar has very limited purpose as far as calendars go, and if you’re a baseball fan, or at least have a general awareness for professional sports, it is pretty easy to read as it is mostly written in short hand. But, if we were to take this 2000 years in the future, let’s see if we can begin to break down the meaning of this calendar from the perspective of future historians.

In any other kind of hypothetical experiments I do, I always like to first lay down some rules. Rules are especially important here because they are the basis for our deduction later on, as well as place us all on equal playing fields in what will become a more solidified (yet hypothetical) future. In this, the year 4029, we will

  • still be on Earth.
  • Generalizations and common knowledge will remain the same, for the sake of getting too deeply invested in the story of the future.
  • assume the calendar has evolved.
  • assume Major League Baseball, and other sports like it, no longer exist in the organized sense.
  • all existing records of our history continue to exist, and continued to be recorded throughout the 2000 years.

So, let’s begin. A class at Fordham University 4019 is shown this:

Immediately the most eye-catching aspect of this calendar is the car on the front. In my personal studies of design, given that the car and the “Mets” logo are the two largest items on the front of the page, I would venture to assume that they are tied to one another– or that this car brand is “Mets 2019”. One of the reasons this calendar first popped into my head was because of our mentioning of businesses giving out calendars as promotion. This calendar is clearly meant to be Mets promotion. However, the brand of the New York Mets is so strong and reliable, that other brands wish to associate themselves along side it. So, here we have a calendar that seeks to deliver us a constant presence of two brands: The Mets, a brand people mostly choose to have around them (choose to allow to dominate their calendars), and Hyundai, a brand that has to try a little harder to stay at the forefront of the people’s minds, but would like to be recognized by the same people who associate themselves with the Mets.

All that aside, as someone from 4019, I will begin to start ignoring the Mets 2019, the large car, the word Hyundai paired with the matching symbol from the car, and the other year in the corner: the 2020 Palisade. The listing of two different years would be confusing when attempting to decode this calendar, and a historian could come into some trouble deciding which year this was meant to display.

Next, we should begin diving in to the content in the calendar. There is no denying that this calendar seems to be denoting some sort of ritualistic activity. Nearly every day has some type of writing on it. Most of the days without writing are Mondays, however there does not seem to be much of a pattern aside from that these rituals have many different names and occur 3-4 days in a row at a time. The calendar is marking off events such with either a symbol, or three letters.

A good historian would notice pretty early on that their is a key in the bottom right hand corner. The grey boxes denote “away” and the blue boxes denote “home”. Near by, the “” marker could begin to point to the fact that this calendar was reporting on when and where the mets would be. The calendar does not offer ways of getting tickets, just the reminder of when games will be and when your opportunities are. Notice how the home games are much more desirable in their design, where as away games are much more informational. This calendar is designed to make you want to align your own personal calendar with that of the Mets. The grey boxes, times when the Mets are away, are almost as bleak as the white boxes. These are the dates and times where the Mets are inviting you to assume that you are free. The blue boxes are almost marking your calendar for you, telling you that you have obligations on this day, and that those obligations involve the Mets and whatever opponent they might have on that given day.

A lot is assumed by this calendar. This calendar assumes that you know the symbol for all of the opposing teams. As far as the away games, 3-letter notations for each city and club are pretty common and could be decoded, but for someone who is unfamiliar with the professional sports, the symbols could be mostly challenging to decode.

You might think these are fairly useless calendars that hold too narrow of a purchase, but I will tell you that every year a version of this calendar goes up on my fridge, and I would reference it most days. It is not the most practical calendar, and historians could probably not figure out much from it, but for baseball fans looking for a quick look at both a short-term and a long-term Mets schedule, nothing it better.

Changing Perspective On Time

In class, one of our repeated exercises that I feel really defines our class is the times when we begin to list all the factors of a certain subject that we can think of. Most recently we accumulated all of the different things that we thought that time sounded like. In the past we listed all the different “time keepers” that we could think of, or as early as the first class when we wrote down all the different ways to answer “what time is it?”. These may seem like simple icebreakers for discussion in class, but as we’ve done more and more, I have really began to value these as a way of broadening the playing field for the classes discussion. Point is, we all have answers to these questions, and we could all silently conduct research during the class period, but the power of the class bringing in factors and examples that I had yet to consider, or had yet to know about is what really allows this class to breath and grow and work as effectively as it does– as a group.

Last night, my sister gave birth to her first child– the first child from any of my siblings. I became an Uncle for the first time. I rushed home with my brother from the city as soon as we heard she had gone into labor, and we were lucky enough to be there with our family as it was happening. I write this from where I’ve spent the better part of the last 18 hours: the hospital where the baby was born in Monmouth County, New Jersey. Over the time I’ve spent here, and especially after meeting the baby, I felt my perspective naturally develop. Like I mentioned, this is my first time being an uncle. That’s a strange feeling, because to me, an uncle is one of the eleven older men who I see twice a year at holidays. They’re men who rotate mustaches and ask me how old I am. Now, since I’m an uncle and don’t fit that description, I couldn’t help but begin to think about how I view my own uncles and how time could have affected this view.

Realistically, I didn’t form a true opinion of my uncles until I was maybe about eight years old. If we jump eight years in the future to when my niece will be eight, I will be thirty years old. I feared that time will make me a mustache having uncle who barely knows his nieces and nephews, too. But I wondered how time could be the device that makes this alteration to someone. In this case I began making a list of the type of language people use about time. People call time an enemy. People say time flies by. People say time makes a fool of us all. I’ve also heard that time heals, or that people will look forward to time. But, I think relying on time is a tricky game. I’ve been trying to think about creating a positive relationship with time as a way to give myself peace to know that I could be as good of an uncle as I can be.

Time should not particularly be seen as an enemy. Time is maybe more of an obstacle, but not necessarily a force working actively against you. Obstacle courses certainly don’t make things easy, but they are not more of an enemy than perhaps someone you are racing the obstacle course against. Now, I’m not declaring any enemies here, or that I’m in competition with my brother. I was just trying to write out a semi-competent metaphor. Either way, I could view the time ahead of me as the time where I could grow apart from my sister, her husband, and their child. Or I could view the time ahead of me as the empty time that it is. Time that is more so waiting, than it is looming. Time waiting to be filled with memories and opportunities.

While time is sometimes blamed for being too short or acting too quickly, trying to have a positive relationship with it is important in situations as joyous as this. Later, I will try to add a photo of the baby because everyone loves photos of babies! It would be wrong to write a blog about her without including one! Here’s to looking forward to the time with my new niece, Olivia.

Staying in time with Music

I was slightly hesitant to post on this topic because there has already been a few other blogs about music, but then I realized that it’s music. And there will certainly be plenty of blogs on the subject. Because it’s music.

So, anyway, it is fairly obvious that music is played, recorded, and sung in time. Being “in time” is slightly more specific for music, because it’s important for songs to follow a certain beat or rhythm in order for it to kick a certain way to get our heads bopping and to give people something to dance along to. It also helps accompanying instruments or singers string along, and keeps the listener on pace. The listener should always, usually, be comfortable with the music. At least to the degree of they would know about what comes next, or at least when it would come. Any deviation from this makes for uncomfortable music. It would sound sloppy, rushed, unprofessional. Even someone with an untrained ear or no knowledge of any instruments at all would be able to tell, from listening to a song, whether or not it was played “in time” or not. Sure, there are more attentive ways to discuss the nature of staying “in-time”, just look at Whiplash with J.K. Simmons screaming “not my tempo” at Miles Teller (reference:

But, generally speaking, music is kept in time or at least close enough to the point where the typical listener would consider it to be in time. But can music be successful when played out of time? For me, such experimentation is only successful when played out of time by a solo act. Take, for instance, the following recording:

Now, I find this to be successful. It is meant to be more personal than the song it is based off of (You Only Live Once – The Strokes). If you read the comments on the video, you see people commenting on how this out-of-time version is calmer, more intimate, smoother, more emotional, etc. However, if it were to be paired with a drum set that kicked to the tempo it should be in, I can make the assumption that most listeners would find the tune to be stressful, hard to listen to, and a complete disaster.

Julian Casablancas was able to make this song successful because he performed it as a solo act. With only himself to keep track of time, simply balancing his vocals with his synth, he was able to take the song at whatever pace he wished, which was a pace where he knew to land the correct beats where he wished them to be, without the restraints of an official time keep or other instruments to look out for.

I think the same message stands for those who know their own personal tempo to work at. If an individual works better every morning for a few hours at a time over the course of a few weeks, then that is no problem so long as their message is articulated. If the same project could be executed by another student over the course of only a couple nights at a more extended singular period of time, then so be it. It remains so important for the individual to have a good understanding of what it means for them to be “in-time” and to play at their own pace. So long as they stay true to a pacing they have established for themselves, then their execution too will be successful.

Toaster Time

I have found people outraged at a common misconception in the world of kitchen appliances and I have found it both extremely nonsensical but also highly intriguing. This misconception is that the toaster dial features numbers to display which degree of toasting you would prefer- the intensity of the toasting experience. In reality, while it does sound nice, the numbers actually correspond with the amount of time you would keep an item in before it pops. Now, this is not a misconception held by all people. There are some young scholars who grew up with the knowledge already. How did they know? I wish I could say. If you fall into the category of those who grew up with open eyes, then I congratulate you. I grew up believing the dial and the numbers were a gauge for toaster intensity. I don’t blame myself. Maybe because it felt like a stereo amplifier that displays the range of volume, or that I wasn’t sure how to account for time in such a vague range of whole numbers. Whatever it was, I was duped by Big Kitchen (the companies that control my cooking and other meal prepping experiences).

But, despite the outrage I have seen over this discovery (a discovery that comes at some point in everyone’s life), I think it could make for an interesting view on how we value time and what time is supposed to do for us. In my experience with this topic, it seems that people are frustrated with the truth of it: they would rather the toaster dial reference the intensity of the toasting experience instead of the time it is spent being toasted. But what is the difference there? It seems like people are bored by the idea that it is just numbers and not a more magical toaster experience. Maybe they were afraid of the toaster getting even more boring than it was before. Maybe it is the fear of life becoming more monotonous, even for the toaster; the mystique was done away with. But the truth is, we would rather think of the effort and journey of life’s fruits than we would the time spent to yield them. Setting your toaster to “3” will make your toaster “3-ier” and it will take “3-ier” time to do it, but the moment you consider that the time spent being “3-ier” the more daunting it becomes. We don’t like thinking of the time we have to spend doing things. Just as we don’t like hearing how much time we spend a year being asleep, or at a stop sign, or on public transportation. And, for that matter, how long we spend making toast. It’s uncomfortable, but this bridge between the implied effort and the known time-put-in could be an enlightening discovery. If we have a daunting project ahead of us, and we want to do it well, we may decide to set our internal “toaster dial”, so to speak, to a 5, or a 6. But, the more well you would like to do your work, the more time you have to be willing to put in. It’s a difficult truth to face sometimes, but it is also a hopeful message for those who are willing to put in the time.