Monday, April 23, 2012

Adventures in the Dojo: Saturday Night Live, But at Hofstra?

This evening, I stumbled into local hotspot and "hip" hangout area, The Dojo, expecting the usual raucous and rowdy group of troublemakers I normally spend time with.  However, I was pleasantly surprised when, instead, I found a group of upstanding young men and women in the midst of a tech rehearsal for Saturday Night Live.  For those of you who don't know, SNL is a quite popular sketch-based comedy show featuring a recurring cast, a celebrity guest, and a musical guest.  Tonight's celebrity guest was the world famous obnoxious film student, Dylan Brawnsauce Merrick.  What follows below is what I saw when I rudely interrupted their performance in order to do well on a Journalism 010 assignment (thanks a lot Professor Peyronnin!).

Now, some people may say that The Dojo is not a hip hangout spot for really cool outcast types.  Others might even go so far as to say that is merely what Dylan and I call the 5th floor Nassau lounge.  So this video goes out to all y'all haters, it's real and really awesome.  Here's proof.  Yeah.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Spring Break to end All Spring Breaks

As we all know, this is the last spring break any human will ever see, according to the extraordinarily accurate and credible Mayan Doomsday Conspiracies.  In light of this impending tragedy, I decided to make the most of my spring break by spending it in the last place anyone would expect to find an inquisitive young college student: the Hofstra campus.

Yes, I spent Easter of 2012 alone, meandering through the veritable ghost town of a campus listening to The Black Keys and The Rolling Stones and feelin' real cool and aloof.  At this point I had been almost two days without any real human interaction, and it was starting to get to me.  I resorted to the Internet to find comfort, but it wasn't the same.

Only Flight of the Conchords could express how alone I felt.
Lucky for me, reinforcements came the next day in the form of future Supreme Court Justice Pat Tierney, who looks strikingly familiar to my good friend Gustaav's older brother.  Pat and I tore the living bajeezes out of this campus.  We did incredibly badass activities like going to work and watching TV, and even going out for pizza!  This was probably the craziest period of my break; we never knew what was going to happen next.

From time to time I would also journey to the distant part of campus known as the WRHU Radio Station.  While there, I helped with the broadcast of Hofstra's own award-winning news program, Newsline.  There were three or four separate fires on the Island, and I got to report on them!  I also broadcast some stories about robberies, identity theft, and other events.  It was really fun.

My face when I read aloud about the man bitten in a robbery attempt in Freeport.
Testing out my journalistic chops in live broadcast was fun, but probably the coolest thing I did at the radio over break was getting an interview with one of my favorite modern ska-punk bands, Suburban Legends.  I got to talk to the lead guitarist/professional awesome guy Brian Klemm about the album they just dropped and their upcoming tour with Goldfinger and Reel Big Fish.  Just to show you briefly how awesome they are, here's one of the awesome covers they recorded for the album:

Yup.  Disney covers.  Enough said.

Toward the end of break, the badassery of the Mufson/Tierney duo escalated real fast.  As more people came to relieve me of my solitude, the awesomest of all things happened: we made a blanket fort.  The successful construction of a blanket fort is a necessity for any group of ambitious young college students.  Ours may not have reached the magnitude nor the square footage of the fort from NBC's hit television show Community, but it turned out ok.

Pat and I needed the help of only one other student, our friend Renee, before we began to commence the building process.  And what a process it was.  We planned, gathered, clipped, pinned, tucked, ate, drank, tied, located, relocated, laughed, cried and duct taped until what stood before us was the majestic and beauteous construct that you see in the slideshow above.  After that most of the rest of my break was just spent chilling in and around the blanket fort.  More people came and more people basked in the glory of the fort, but after the building process was over, the break kind of plataued.  Fun was had by all, but nothing can compare to the sense of achievement one feels when laying inside a blanket fort he has constructed with his own hands.

This majestic piece of real estate is staying up til Hofstra Public Safety tears it down.  It remains a monument to a rather mellow but very enjoyable spring break.  

And now, Suburban Legends' cover of the Bed Intruder Song.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Punk's Ear View: Letting the Cat Out of the Bag

The Cat Empire Songs:

The Car Song: This song is the story of a boy becoming a man, struggling with finding direction in life while the world changes around him.  It's very upbeat and lively, and one of the first songs I loved by this band.

Miserere: A slow, beautiful song, Miserere isn't a narrative like The Car Song, but more of a philosophical examination of the world around us and what humanity is.  Mellow as all hell.

Sly: Very fast paced song focusing on the more worldly pleasures and emotions than Miserere.  Some of the narrative revolves around music festivals and shows, but the song is about how bad the singer wants the girl.

The Chariot: The Chariot is a vibrant and energy-filled song about the struggle of a band in today's music industry, comparing their battles to war zones and using lots of military imagery.  This was their encore, and a fan favorite.

The Wine Song: A roller coaster of fast and slow paced segments, this song ranges from slow relaxation to raging party from verse to verse, evoking a carnival atmosphere toward the climax.  The crowd may love The Chariot, but it gets the wildest during this song.

Fishies: This lively tune opened the concert at Webster Hall, and is a great song about journeys and love and all that good stuff.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Punk's Ear View: In Defense of Mosh Pits

If you've ever been to a real Rock 'n Roll concert, you've seen a mosh pit of some kind. It may have been a standard pit you see at metal and hardcore shows, or it may have been a circle pit, which have become popular at Punk, Ska, and Punk Fusion shows, as well as at a lot of the more lively Rock shows out there. If you've never seen or heard of a mosh pit, I describe what it means to me in far too much detail during this podcast.

Here's a link about the Rolling Stones Concert mentioned in the podcast, and here are a couple of videos of different kinds of Mosh Pits:
  • Wall of Death: this is an extreme example of a Metal Mosh Pit.  I recommend you mute the sound to observe it, since the quality of the audio isn't very good, and the music sucks too.
  • Ska Punk Circle: my favorite kind of pit, the Circle Pit allows for easy movement in and out of the pit, and there is very little hitting.  This is the pit for those who just like dancing and having a good time.
  • Read more in my upcoming blog about Mosh Pit Etiquette!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Punk Profile: There's Something About Gustaav

     Very few people are familiar with the foreign students program here at Hofstra University.  I make it my business to get acquainted with our foreign comrades, and it was because of this interest that I met Signore Gustaav Smenhoultz.  He is a blogger from the Great Fascist Commune of Gustaavia, and he is incredibly punk.
     The first picture in this series illustrates Gustaav diligently working at his daily blog.  One of his foreign quirks is that he is most comfortable blogging in the bathroom.  As a bona fide bad ass journalist, I investigated this strange behavior, but he was as impenetrable as an iron curtain.  He alluded to his war-torn country's customs, and answered the rest of my questions only with fart jokes.  I had to respect him for the audacity of this maneuver, and I had to respect his privacy, so I dropped it.  What I found out next was more than enough to satisfy my curiosity about Gustaav.
     In the second photo, you may notice Gustaav's strange attire: he has a magnificent pair of cowboy boots upon his hands and a Russian style hat.  These are the traditional uniform of the world  renowned Gustaavian Military, of which Gustaav has been a member since he was 14.  Their orange-clad legions  have struck terror into the hearts of villagers all throughout the region for centuries, and Gustaav has many hilarious stories about his time pillaging for the Gustaavian government.
     After some particularly humorous stories about how he and his war buddies broke the will of a village by slaughtering their livestock, Gustaav decided to take a nap.  You may notice that Gustaav's eyes are wide open in the second picture.  He told me, "This is a talent I developed on campaign in Hamlet of Turinville, the Turnip Capital of Northern Gustaavia.  I sleep with eyes wide open.  One close friend who thought he did not need this technique woke up one morning without a kidney!"  So it goes in Gustaavia.
     One of Gustaav's favorite pass times is opening doors.  As you may be able to assume, the Gustaavian uniform is much more suited to the outdoor life of a warrior than our domestic lives, so doors fascinated him.  He spends a good 45 seconds on each door but he says, "As warrior, I welcome the challenge!"  This kind of attitude is what makes him so punk.  Even though he knows that it would be easier to just take off the boots, he refuses to compromise his integrity and cultural values for the sake of convenience.  Gustaav respects himself too much to give up his boothands just to save a minute here or there when he has to open a door.  For this, the man is one of my personal heroes.
     This weekend, Gustaav was visited by some other Gustaavian natives: his brother Gustaav Smenhoultz, his grandfather Granpapa Gustaav, and his girlfriend Gustaaviana.  Gustaav was especially excited to see his girlfriend.  When they got in they all took a gorgeous family photo.  Then Gustaav immediately took them to his room to show them the new American songs he learned on his guitar.  This happened:

After he was satisfied that he had taught his family about American culture, the Smenhoultz clan and Gustaaviana sat down for a traditional Saint Patricks day meal of bagels and green food coloring.  They shared some polite conversation and very dinner-table-appropriate affection before eating. Due to the warlike nature of Gustaavian culture, they fought viciously over the food on the table, as illustrated in the slideshow.  This whole mentality he grew up with explains a lot about Gustaav.  Not only is he as fiercely independent as any punk, but he has been actively taught that he must earn every scrap of food he eats.  Even when there is clearly enough for everyone, the Gustaavians learn discipline and hard work every minute of every day.
     As my profile came to an end, I asked Gustaav one last question: "Where do you like living more, Gustaavia or America?"
     He gave me the best possible answer.  "I don't know."  He flung his booted arms into the air and smiled, refusing to quantify and compare his love for his two homes.  This mere article can't explain why I love Gustaav, but maybe it can give you a glimpse into who he is.

     Check out his blog here:

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Balkan Beat Box Concert Experience

The date was March 9th, 2012.  I gathered together two of my closest compadres to embark upon a very important mission: infiltrate New York City and have as much fun as possible at the Balkan Beat Box concert scheduled in Irving plaza.  This is the story of that mission.

Palenke SoulTribe, the opening band, wore matching white leisure suits. They were awesome.

Happy concert-goers decide whether or not to sleep with each other among polite conversation between acts.

The moment Balkan Beat Box comes on, the crowd goes ballistic.

Tamir Muskat, lead singer of the band, pumps up everybody in the venue. 

Muskat loved going into the crowd and experiencing his audience first hand.

Some moments, time stopped and I knew my mission was accomplished.

The crowd danced non-stop for hours; we couldn't stop even if we wanted to.

Every so often Muskat would give a politically rallying speech, eliciting outcries of passion and really making revolution seem possible.

And the cleaning process begins.  The mark of a good night is a tough clean up.
The night was a success.  The story of the Balkan escapades is a simple one.  Fun was had.  Love was found and lost.  Revolution was seen by all.  We three amigos returned to the hallowed land of Hofstra University and retired, having seen the face of Humanity and having danced ourselves to oblivion many times over.  The date was March 9th, 2012.  The mission was to go to a good old fashioned Balkan Techno Rave and have a damn good time.  Mission Accomplished.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Renegades of Punk: Gogol Bordello

Every once in a while, a band comes along that changes the way you view the world.  For me, one such band was the the Gypsy Punk caravan known as Gogol Bordello.

Just try not to idolize this man, I dare you.
Flash back to the March of 2010.  A young Beckett Mufson is on the rise, almost done with high school and becoming restless with life as he knows it.  Enter mister Trenton Hall, a gentleman, a scholar, and a true punk. Trent calls me up and says, "hey, I'm gonna change your life."  He took me to my first ska punk show and opened my eyes to the punk rock lifestyle I enjoy today.  The first band he and his girlfriend, T-dawg, showed me was Gogol Bordello.  This glorious, multi-national, multi-genre, cultural mutt of a band struck me in a unique way.  The energy in their music is apparent even in the studio recorded tracks I was first exposed to, but nothing holds a candle to their live show.  Put yourself in the place of any audience member in the following video and see why I now look back at my life as pre-Gogol and post-Gogol.

Dancing, singing, jumping, drinking, screaming, shouting, Gogol Bordello creates a party on the stage and injects their boundless energy directly into the audience.  They embody the simple guitar structure and fast paced drum lines that are hallmarks of punk rock music, but these alone are not why they are truly Punk in my eyes.

Eugene Hutz, mustachioed frontman extraordinaire, is Ukranian, and he formed a band with a Russian violinist and a Russian accordionist, an Israeli guitarist, an Ethiopian basist, and several other members from all over the world.  Together they fused their collective values, histories, skills and personalities to create something entirely new.  Punk is very accepting of outside influence, from folk to rockabilly to surf, and Gypsy culture is the latest infusion to hit the scene.  Folk in general has made a resurgence in rock n roll music, as evidenced by Bon Iver's victory at the Grammys, but Bon Iver channels the softer, simpler (and sleep-inducing) heritage of folk music.

Conversely, Gogol Bordello hearkens back to the campfires and alcohol-induced celebrations that poor minorities and malcontents used to liven up their ostracized communities.  In these uncertain economic times, Gogol Bordello provides a similar carefree atmosphere in which human beings of every ethnicity, nationality, and creed can dance and sing and forget their problems in the revelry.  Countless sources give Gogol Bordello concerts rave reviews, and when I saw them open for System of a Down, it was something of a dream come true.  Their ecstatic and chaotic live show is the second characteristic that makes Gogol Bordello so punk.

The third characteristic is their political activism.

Singer Eugene Hutz has lived through the American immigration process, and the injustice he witnessed there fuels the angry and less carefree side of Gogol Bordello's repertoire.  He advocates for many anti-globalization movements, and sees the mutation and growth of culture and society as the only sensible way forward.  This counter-cultural, anti-establishment attitude manifests in many of their tracks: from Immigraniada, We Comin' Rougher (shown above) on their newest album, to Not a Crime on their most popular album, to Passport, on their first album, Gogol Bordello's passionate activism is apparent throughout their discography.

Eugene Hutz and Madonna pictured above inconspicuously staring at each other's chests.
And yet, despite their clearly counter-culture aesthetics and political orientations, Eugene Hutz can turn around and play a totally awkward duet with Madonna or collaborate with Gucci.  Gogol Bordello is effortlessly punk, and these forays into pop culture prove how little they actually have to work at their punk attitude.  These men and women care about their culture and their music, and go about it in the most carefree way.  They don't adhere to the maxims and dogma of the punk rock lifestyle, which, in my mind, makes them all the more worthy to be called Renegades of Punk.