What I Got Out of College.

College was an interesting experience; and almost nothing like what I anticipated. I will say I didn’t have a typical college experience. I participated in ROTC and went to a small liberal arts college, a privilege that most of America is not afforded. I attended college with the intention of majoring in International Studies, minoring in Arabic Language, and finding a job working for the government. As I plan to graduate in less then two months I couldn’t be farther from that initial plan. This is the number one thing I learned in college; stay flexible.

College can honestly be whatever you make it. Whether you want it to be one crazy frat party, or you want it to be a safe-haven for intellectual discussion, you can find it. Although, sadly, the latter is much more difficult to find. People go to college for a variety of reasons, but most can be boiled down to two basic agendas: (1) to get a job and (2) it’s what you’re supposed to do. Students claim these are not what they want out of college, but of those people, the majority use it as a facade. College is a highly competitive, envy-filled, pseudo-intellectual environment, and there is really no way around that.

Colleges are run like corporations.The administration is a business and they act like it. They have one goal: to make money. If a college could find a way to hire subpar professors while maintaining subpar academic standards, yet still make money; I’m sure they would do just that. This is essential in understanding everything about college. The President of the College is merely a spokesperson, whose objective is to raise money for the school.

There are some professors out there who truly have a passion for teaching, but in my experience these professors are the exception. Most professors are in college because they have a need to be in academia, and the only reputable job within academia is to be a professor. (I have my own reasons and for saying need to be in academia but I won’t go into them here) They only care about putting their own name forward, don’t care much about the students, and their main objective is to show how intellectually superior they are to everyone else.

The students are not as diverse as colleges or the students themselves claim. Writing about the dynamic of college students could fill an entire book. But I am too lazy to go into it right now.

I used college to discover what I like and don’t like. Pretty simple. I entered college thinking I liked a lot of things that I actually don’t, and I thought I didn’t like things that I actually do. I honestly wish that college was not a necessity. It’s extremely overpriced, partially ineffective, and for many people it can amount to a wasted four years. Use college to discover yourself. It sounds corny, but it’s true. Don’t use college for academic purposes only. The social lessons learned from college can be extremely useful. Look at the social dynamics from different angles and determine for yourself what you like and don’t like. Realize that things are not going to work out the way you think they will or should. Don’t go into college expecting it to be a stimulating intellectual community or a place where you can escape from the real world. College is tied to the same cultural standards that the rest of society is. Realize that a lot changes between student’s freshman and senior years, which creates for an almost volatile climate. College students are young, opinionated, judgmental and competitive. Be skeptical of people, but have trust in those you believe you can trust. Most importantly, do what makes you happy, and do your best to learn how to not care what other people think. It will make college, and life, much more enjoyable.

Can Beer Commercials Indicate an American Cultural Shift?

I have never thought of the Super Bowl as a ritual; however, being a life-long football fan I have been glued to the TV on Super Sunday for as long as I can remember. I decided to take an objective look at something that I have viewed as one of the major plights of capitalism: mass consumerism. (Thankfully the Eagles weren’t playing or else I would have not been able to focus on anything but the extreme stress the game would have presented me with.)

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I have always been slightly anti-consumer culture. Of course I indulge in a cell phone, laptop, etc., but compared to my peers I have always enjoyed face-to-face conversation as well as being outside away from electronics. Looking at my generation, I have frequently been faced with a sense of sadness over where culture is heading. This year, as I ordered five dominoes pizzas and forty wings and fired up the projector in my living room, I decided to put my focus on the positives of consumerism. The Super Bowl is the perfect time to do this because it is essentially a celebration of American consumerism, as the commercials are viewed as being almost as important as the game itself, unless of course your team is playing.

This year, two products dominated the commercials: cars and beer. Cars represent the height of American consumerism. Cars are the ultimate status symbol in the United States and considering how much money car companies are pouring into their advertisements, it is clear this trend is not going to change. Americans buy specific cars because they want to impress others. I don’t agree with this and I don’t think I ever will. A car does not determine the man/women. Beer commercials, on the other hand, are an interesting study. Drinking beer does not make one think immediately of consumer culture. But the way companies typically market their products make it clear the beer conglomerates think they are. For a while, beer was marketed against other beers. Beer companies wanted you to think that because you drank their beer you were better then other people. Either you are more American, of a higher class, or had better taste. I saw a shift from that approach in this year’s commercials and this shift has made me optimistic for our future.

The beer commercials focused on getting together with friends and enjoying a cold beverage. They weren’t bashing the other beer companies, they were simply saying enjoy our beer and you will better enjoy your time with your friends. While it can be debated if that is true, it is nice to see that Americans are beginning to value their time with each other. Instead of watching the game with your friends via Skype and texting, Americans want to get together and experience each other’s company. It is not about what beer choice indicates about you individually, it is about what the beer can do for people as a whole, ‘enjoy your time with friends better with our beer’, is much better then ‘drink our beer because your friends will think you are better than them’.

The Best Songs on Eric Church’s The Outsiders

My review of The Outsiders (http://tinyurl.com/l5jutzz) received a lot of traffic and was  posted on a radio station’s blog saying that it was ridiculous. I stand by what I wrote. The album is not as original as everyone thinks and is highly overproduced. I commend Eric for making an album that is vastly different form the typical Nashville format but I reviewed this album objectively. No, I don’t think the album was good, but I do believe it has some very good songs.  Because I am not a critic and I am a huge Eric Church fan I’m going to review these songs below;

1. A Man Who Was Gonna Die Young

I think this is one of Eric Church’s best songs. This is the format where Eric shines; a stripped down, acoustic guitar focused melody. The lyrics are excellent and the song is very emotional. Songs like this should have been the foundation of  his album. Yes he is a hard rocker and those songs should be there as well but this is what Eric does best.

Grade: A

2. Give Me Back My Hometown

This song harmoniously combines  rock, country, and folk elements. This is a terrific song that has a powerful storyline. It is both genuine and well produced. Eric showcased his voice as well as his ear for music and put together a great single.

Grade: A-

3. Dark Side

This song may be better then “Give Me Back My Hometown” but it is not the progressive sound Eric Church was “trying” to have on this album. As I said before, this is the format where Eric Church shines. He does it the best whether he wants to admit it or not.

Grade: A/A-

4. The Outsiders

I really liked this song when it came out. I saw it as a statement song. I thought it was his proclamation to tell the world that he was not going to conform. I did not want the entire album to be in this style because it can only be used for one maybe two songs in an album. But this song on its own is very good.

Grade: B+

5. Talladega

This is another good song but it’s NOT original. It is the farthest thing from it. This song has been made a million times over. Eric claims he wrote/recorded over 100 songs for this album but did not want to include material that had been done before. Well this song has been done before. I like the song and I like Eric’s approach to it but it clearly goes against what Eric said he wanted the album to be about.

Grade: B

6. Like a Wrecking Ball

This song is good. I don’t like the reverb on Eric’s voice and I think it gets a little monotonous but the song is solid. It tells the very personal/intimate side of a story that has been done a million times; an artist on the road away from his wife/girlfriend. I think the lyrics could have been tightened up a bit but overall it’s a good song.

Grade: B

-MWez

Album Review: Eric Church’s The Outsiders

Eric Church has been my favorite mainstream country artist for some time. I love his style, lyrics, approach and sound. He is currently one of the few genuine artists on county radio. I thought both the lead singles; The Outsiders and Give Me Back My Hometown were great songs and were a precursor for things to come. I expected the album to be one of the bests of 2014.

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After listening to the entire album I was very disappointed. The Outsiders is bad, the entire album feels disjointed, and Eric has tried way too hard to be different. He clearly went into the recording studio with one thing in mind: to create an album that could not be categorized into one specific genre. Eric has succeeded. Church didn’t create an album that blends genres harmoniously, no, he created an album that’s so bad, no genre is going to want to claim it. The album is an unoriginal cliche trying all too hard to paint Eric and his fans as Outsiders. I thought the lead off single was a statement. Eric wanted people to know that he would not conform to the musical format that is being released on country radio today. I did not expect the entire album to sound identical to The Outsiders (single) and harp on the same themes throughout, but it does. The lyrics are neither intriguing nor relatable. I doubt Church himself could relate anything on the album back to his real life.

Eric should have stuck with he does best; making country music with some rock influences. He should have written songs that are either true or at least relatable to his life. It’s one thing to have one song on your album that portrays yourself as a tough-guy outsider, its another thing to make an entire album with the intention of beating us over the head with the idea. The album sounds nothing like what he has released in the past. I understand artists grow overtime but this is too much. Eric needs to sit back and remember who he is and where he actually came from.

Grade: C/C+

-MWez

Steakhouses: Classy Before Classy Was Cool

Time for a rambling post. This post is partly inspired by my dinner last night at a steakhouse that I had never been to before. I was pleasantly surprised and will most definitely be returning. But first let me explain the title.

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“Classy before classy was cool.” Overtime the world has become increasingly less classy. I’m not trying to to make a social statement here but it doesn’t take much investigation to realize that over the last 20 years culture has changed. Modernism has taken over and new progressive restaurants have become the places to be. I don’t dislike these restaurants, in fact I happen to like many of them, but it has become a competition to see who can design the most hip/vogue restaurant. I resent this because it has pushed out the classic eateries. Life has become so gaudy that classiness has become a rare find. With that being said; this trend could be reversing as all trends do. But that is not the point of this post, the point of this post is to praise the classic steakhouse.

I love steakhouses. I am a red meat/red wine kind of guy. If I am going to spend some money on a nice dinner a steakhouse is going to be at the top of my list. I have frequently been told  that a steak is a steak. I don’t agree with that. I enjoy cooking steaks but, the best steaks I have had in my life have all been at steakhouses. It may just be that I am a hopeless romantic but when I am at a steakhouse I feel as though I am part of history. I like the style, the culture, and the elegance that accompanies steakhouses. At  many ‘hip’ restaurants I feel as though I am being rushed out the door to make room for the next. This is not how steakhouses operate. Their patrons are there to enjoy the full meal experience and the restaurant accommodates them.

A few nights ago I ate at a Longhorn Steakhouse. I went with my girlfriend for the first time. I was pleasantly surprised. I have been to some of the most famous and expensive steakhouses in the world and would I trade them for Longhorn? No. But longhorn was a great deal. I had a glass of whiskey and a glass of wine, my girlfriend had a cocktail, and we both split the 30 oz porterhouse which comes with two sides and two salads, for a grand total of $75. I left Longhorn pleased and with every intention of returning. It confirmed my opinion that steakhouses, of all varieties, are my favorite restaurants. If anyone is on a budget but wants a solid steakhouse experience I recommend Longhorn. But by no means does it replace some of the ‘classier’ steakhouses.

Heres to a glass of red wine and a nice cut of red meat.

-MWez

Alcohol: It’s All Relative

I understand that some people are die-hards when it comes to alcohol. They like one kind or one brand. While I certainly have favorites, it’s the atmosphere that decides my drink of choice. There are a few drinks I do not like no matter the occasion. I hate all tequila: straight or mixed. I truly dislike Bud Light. I’d prefer a Natty to a Bud  any day, and that’s the truth. But aside from a few anomalies it’s my mood that dictates the drink, which explains why it’s so difficult for me to claim favorites amongst alcohol.

One of my deepest and darkest confessions is that I love Bud Light Lime. I rarely drink beer with food. The beer fills me up too much and I don’t fully enjoy the meal. Bud Light Lime doesn’t fill me up and is one of the few sweet drinks I can tolerate in large quantities. When I’m enjoying a meal in the tropics or during a hot summer day/evening there is no beer in the world I’d prefer to a Bud Lime.

ImageWhen I’m lounging by the pool or the beach don’t bring me a dark Belgian Ale, bring me a Bud Light Lime. I know their are some great summer beers out that are  better quality. But For its cost and its taste Bud Light Lime suits me perfectly. However, between the months of September and April (unless I’m on vacation) you will never see a Bud Light Lime in my hand.

Beer is very seasonal for me. The time of the year for me to drink expensive beers is during the holidays. I like Belgian Christmas Ales and they do not come cheap. I’ll spend top dollar for some of the best beers in the world. I can’t spend that kind of money year round so I have to limit myself. But if you come over to my house between December and January expect to be treated to some fine, dark beers.

My go to year round is Yuengling. I’m from PA and it’s in my blood. If I want to grab a pitcher at a bar, hang out with some friends, or just enjoy a few beers I’ll drink Yuengling. It is not expensive and tastes good. If I’m planning on only having a couple beers I’ll treat myself to a Smithwicks or a Guinness. Both are too expensive for me to consistently drink in large quantities but are both, in my opinion, two of the best tasting beers in the world. When the mood strikes me, I’ll grab my growler and head to the craft beer store to try something new.  Honestly, more often then not you’ll find me pouring crafts from my growler, as there is always a craft to suit my mood.

The same thing goes for liquor. During the summer/at the beach I drink the fruitiest cocktails you can find, as well as straight rums. My guilty pleasures are rum-runners and piña coladas. But in the winter my drink of choice is always straight whiskey. Normally bourbon, but I dabble with scotch and Irish Whiskey as well.

Yes, wine works the same. I tend to prefer dry wines to sweet but I’ll drink them both. My wine knowledge is quite limited but pick almost any wine on the spectrum and there is a situation where I’d enjoy it.

I challenge to you to do the same. Expand your horizons and don’t let other people’s opinions keep you from trying something new. You’d be surprised to learn what you’ll enjoy.

-MWez

Don’t Be a Beer Snob

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I visited Belgium last year and fell in love with beer. Trying the various Belgian craft beers was one of the most enjoyable experiences of my life. When I returned home I turned my sights to the ever-increasing number of American craft beers. I live in a great location for craft beer, as there are multiple breweries within an hour of my house. As I was expanding my craft beer horizons I came across an aspect of craft beer culture I was really disappointed by: beer snobs.

Craft beer is the new thing. Craft breweries and stores are opening up everywhere. Americans have shifted their beer drinking habits. Instead of consuming large quantities of cheap beer, people are consuming fewer more expensive beers. The craft beer market boomed and entrepreneurs are seizing the opportunity. As a result America’s beer preferences are expanding. Consequently people have begun to pride themselves on knowing the intricacies and differences of each style. This is great. It allows people to experiment with and perfect different beers. But it has turned into a competition to show who knows the most.

If beer is your hobby, that is great. If you know a lot about it, then that is also great. But don’t be the guy who scoffs at someone who doesn’t know whether they want a hoppy ale or a dark porter. You’re not helping anyone.  You’re not making the novice beer drinker feel comfortable. The more you learn about beer the more you should be willing to help. You don’t look cool by taking sips of a coolly named beer and priding yourself on being able to spit out a slew of nonsense. If someone is in a craft beer shop don’t look at him sideways if they look unsure of what exactly they want. Don’t judge them if they don’t know anything about beer besides the major companies.

The funniest thing to me is when people wear T-shirts that say, “drink local beer,” berate the big beer conglomerations, but then get upset when someone new decides they want to expand their beer horizons but don’t know exactly what they’re talking about. You should be happy that people are willing to spend more of their hard earned money to drink the more expensive but craft produced beer. Don’t pride yourself on knowing more than someone else. I guarantee you there is someone who knows more than you. Your beer store is not cool due to the fact that only a small group of ‘enthusiasts’ are allowed through the front door. Your beer store is cool because it has a variety of fun new beers to try.

Don’t be a beer snob and we can all enjoy this beautiful elixir of the gods, while supporting small business owners and furthering the product.

-MWez