Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Age-Old Struggle

One of my friends from recently posted this on her facebook, and there was a minor uproar of response: 7 likes and 15+ people discussing it.
This opinion didn't really surprise me - from what I know as a friend of Melissa she's particularly into singer-songwriters (no matter how well-known or obscure).  There were a lot of comments, some agreeing with her, and some disagreeing.  I'm a Skrillex fan myself, and I said so.  It doesn't bother me that some people don't find certain styles pleasing or interesting, so none of the comments for or against really bothered me, either.  But later that day Melissa's brother posted a comment that actually irritated me.
Maybe it seems pretty innocuous, but this comment really made me mad.  A little backstory: Michael Jones is in his mid- to late-20s and a math teacher at a high school near Austin.  He's also a talented musician, and he plays regularly at a local bar.  He sings solo and accompanies with acoustic guitar; he does covers of his favorite artists.  I've seen him - he's good.  I don't know this for a fact, but my guess is he doesn't write any original music, and if he does, it's nothing special.  Would I ever call him out on this?  No, it's in bad taste.

Until you make an ignorant comment like this one.  At first I had no idea what would compel him to say something like this about someone else in the world of music.  Don't artists have each other's backs most of the time?  But thinking about it some more, the whole comment reeks with jealousy.  It's practically drowning in it.  Evidently, Michael Jones fancies himself a prodigious musical talent.  He thus believes that someone like Skrillex - who makes music that sounds bizarre and computer generated to him - doesn't deserve the fame he has gained.  He wants to be in Skrillex's place on stage at huge music festivals, by virtue of his perceived talent, and he thinks he deserves to be.

Saying that an artist who uses a computer to generate music has no talent is the most enragingly closed-minded statement I've heard in a long time.  Regardless of whether you like his music, denying that Skrillex is a musical innovator is the height of ignorance.  Since before Brian Eno, a certain brand of musicians has been expanding the scope of music using computer-generated sounds.  Progressive Rock bands used Moog synthesizers in the 70s; Daft Punk led a host of DJs creating electronic house music; rap and hip-hop have used similar tools to create backing music and beats.  Like it or not, the computer is an integral part of music today.

Apparently Michael doesn't like it.  There's one essential point that is lost on Mr. Jones.  Skrillex goes through the same process any "normal" musician would in creating his songs.  In place of physical instruments, however, he uses the vast catalog of sounds afforded him by computer generation.  The intricacy and detail in his songs makes it evident that no computer could, on its own, create these tracks.  They can only aid an artist in the production.

This is really nothing new, though.  Innovative musicians have always face resistance.  If you can believe the basic premise of the movie Amadeus, people liked what Mozart was doing in general, but thought he used too many notes.  Jazz as an art form has come under criticism because of its lack of structure, yet it was among the most influential musical styles of the 20th century.  The other Beach Boys pushed back when Brian Wilson brought them Pet Sounds.  Some people still maintain rap is not music because they don't outright sing.  Skrillex is just another artist in this long line of musicians pushing sonic boundaries.  He'll meet resistance from those who don't recognize his genius.  But luckily that'll never stop him from creating.

College Football Uniforms

...are a hot-button issue this season.  A lot of teams have come out with vastly expanded uniform designs and combinations, most of these being teams that use Under Armour gear (Oklahoma State and Maryland have been the most talked-about).  I guess they figured they better try to compete with Nike or fall behind even more.  These new uniforms have come under heavy fire, especially from the boring old people commentating on ESPN.  But the reason they're around is the players love them, so odds are the trend isn't going to slow or turn.  And it shouldn't, necessarily.  The amount of colors and combinations used make it inevitable that some heinous uniforms will come out, but a lot of them are really pretty good.  Oregon, the poster child for uniform madness, has had unis at both extremes.  And one can't forget that there are some programs that have landed on a look so classic it doesn't need changing at all.  The flip side of that, though, are the programs that haven't changed their uniforms in forty years.  These are mostly incredibly boring (Penn State, Alabama, I'm looking at you).  There's a balance to be struck between classic and cutting-edge, and different styles suit different programs.  That being said, I thought I'd add my two cents on which teams have gotten it right, because it seems to differ a lot from what others are saying.


Like I said, there are several teams that have stuck to simplicity amid the trend to difersify, and a few have done so with fantastic results.  It seems like a lot of these programs are teams that have been elite for decades, which makes a lot of sense.  People know immediately who they're looking at, so don't fix what isn't broken.  


I'll get this one out of the way.  I'm a UT student so I'm inherently biased, but I've looked around and a lot of people agree with me.  Texas has some of the best football uniforms on planet earth; the away jerseys especially.  All white with burnt orange accents, they're basically the visual embodiment of less is more.  The home jerseys are very similar, just switching burnt orange with white on the top.

Florida State

The perfect balance between two really good-looking colors.  That helmet logo is among the very best in college sports.  It sounds a bit ridiculous, but the word beautiful is perfectly fitting for these uniforms.

Ohio State

I'm definitely not an Ohio State fan, but I have to admit they have some great home uniforms.  They're one of the few three-color uniforms I've seen that look truly great.  A ridiculous number of teams have red as their primary color, but OSU's red is surprisingly unique.  The helmet stripe is repeated exactly on the sleeves and the pants, a design chioce I like a lot.  I prefer the helmets sans buckeye stickers, but everything is so simple they don't really distract you.



Notre Dame


Slick and New

Nike has led the charge on modern, varied, and multi-textured uniforms with their Pro-Combat series and their runway models at Oregon.  A lot of these combinations can look really good, but there are some that transcend to classic status almost instantly.

Arizona State

ASU completely rebranded last year with the help of Nike, and it was a huge success.  The new logo looks great, and all the jersey combinations are good.  The all-blacks are the real standouts.


Oregon has been the standard-bearer for Nike in their uniform experiments, and their jerseys seem to change every game they play.  As many look really good as look ridiculous, but every once in a while a true classic emerges, and is promptly scrapped for something else.  The Pro-Combat unis in their season opener vs. LSU were great.

I really liked the helmets they wore in the National Championship game last year, too.


My family raised me as Mizzou fans, so I'm biased to black and gold.  Also, Mizzou has been the beneficiary of some of the best Pro-Combat unis since the series began.  


LSU benefits a lot from making the gold of their Purple and Gold... actually gold.  




And Finally...

The most talked about uniforms this season by far were the ones Maryland unveiled in their opening game against Miami.  Definitely the most striking unis so far, they featured patterns from the very unusual flag of Maryland, and they were almost universally panned by crotchety ESPN analysts.  The Maryland players seemed to love them, though.

I'm going on record as saying I like the infamous flag uniforms.  They're a great way to rebrand a program that has struggled in the ACC and needs a jolt.  Obviously uniforms won't make a tangible difference on the field, but they create interest and are uniquely Maryland's.  Sure the patterns are wacky and bold, but the rest of the uniforms are simple white, so there's a pretty good design balance.