Thursday, May 22, 2008

Top Ten Albums

While I listen to a wide variety of music when it comes to single tracks, my love for alternative rock shows when the discussion revolves around whole albums. These albums are all so incredibly solid all the way through; I had a really tough time deciding on the order. If you enjoy alternative and don’t own these albums, I recommend you buy them all!

1. New Found Glory – Coming Home
2. Jimmy Eat World – Chase This Light
3. Evans Blue – The Pursuit Begins When This Portrayal of Life Ends
4. Saosin – Saosin
5. Evanescence – Fallen
6. The Killers – Sam’s Town
7. The All-American Rejects – Move Along
8. Evans Blue – The Melody and the Energetic Nature of Volume
9. Sum 41 – Chuck
10. Linkin Park – Meteora

Honorable Mention
Incubus – Morning View
Pinback – Summer in Abaddon
Brand New – Deja Entendu
Linkin Park – Hybrid Theory
Teddybears – Soft Machine

Sunday, May 4, 2008


For the record, yes, that is the correct spelling of what sounds like “clicks.” It’s a French word (big surprise) with its origins in the early 1700’s. Hooray for useless information!

Webster’s defines clique as “a narrow circle of persons associated by common interests or for the accomplishment of a common purpose; -- generally used in a bad sense.” I think of a clique as any group of friends that hangs out with the same three or five or whatever number of people. The pattern is consistent and little effort is made to include others.

Cliques, despite the bad connotation that Webster’s cites, do provide some legitimate benefits. It’s great to have good friends. It’s also great to have people to do things with. A clique can provide both of these. Having a tight group provides some sense of security; most of us prefer the company of others in favor of solitude and having a tight group often fosters a dynamic of an unspoken rule that you just plan to hang out. Comfort level is also an important consideration. The more one is familiar with another, the easier it becomes to enjoy oneself. A clique can provide a venue where one’s comfort level can be increased and, therefore, a better time can be had.

To go along with why Webster’s states that the term clique is often used negatively, I have some criticisms about cliques. Clique is often synonymous with exclusive, and exclusivity builds walls between people. Also, since cliques allow its members to have a heightened sense of comfort, inside jokes are much more common. Generally, inside jokes are a lot of fun and can strengthen relationships between those who are “in the know.” However, whenever an inside joke is referenced around a person or an entire group that isn’t familiar with the joke, it also builds walls. Inside jokes, when unwisely used, are still fun for those involved, but make everyone else feel uncomfortable or left out. They ultimately have exclusivity written all over them.

I have heard about and been involved with discussions about cliques in the past. As a general rule, change is very difficult and is not desired by most people in this world. Most people prefer to stay in their comfort zone. Not surprisingly, someone who is in a clique prefers to stay in the clique. When this topic comes up in some kind of discussion, whoever is in a clique usually tries to justify why they shouldn’t do anything about their situation. The most common rationalization I’ve heard is that the person and/or the person’s clique invites others to participate; there is some effort made to befriend others or invite others to outings. Such an effort is largely futile. Even when an invitation is extended sincerely, many times the person being invited will not go purely because they don’t think they’ll be comfortable. A wall has been erected around the clique and most people have a hard time getting past that obstacle. Inversely, some people decide not to attend an event because they themselves are in a clique. Perhaps other clique members are out of town, so the comfort level of whomever remains is also out of town.

There is one other point I’d like to bring up, and this item is what keeps me from getting cliquey: the negative impact a clique can have on someone’s spiritual well-being. Suppose that Johnny hasn’t been to church in some time. He’s a nice guy, works hard, but just hasn’t made church a priority in his life. Over time, his parents’ urging for him to go back and the fond memories he had of church when he was younger instill in him the desire to go to attend meetings one Sunday. He hasn’t committed to going back to church every week, but if he has a good experience this Sunday he will certainly consider doing so. Well, Johnny goes to the church meetings, but he doesn’t feel comfortable introducing himself to people, so he keeps to himself.

What could happen next? Other people who are in attendance could introduce themselves to Johnny, sit by him, and get to know him. Or, nothing. The members of the congregation could easily not even notice that Johnny is in the meeting, no one shakes Johnny’s hand or says hi, and Johnny will likely not return. It’s my experience that the latter happens more often than not, and that the number one reason why others don’t seek out those who are new is because they are occupied chatting with the same people they hung out with the day before, often fellow clique goers. If you think that you can’t possibly know who is new and who isn’t, it could be that you are in a clique and haven’t made a solid effort to get to know others through various activities on an ongoing basis.

I’ve identified some of the pros and cons of cliques and interactions that resemble cliques. I’m not trying to point fingers at anyone; I’m merely seeking to broaden your perspective. It’s a constant struggle for me personally not to fall into the comfortable pattern of being in a clique, but when I think of Johnny, I think not of this fictitious character, but rather all the friends I have who have been a Johnny at some point in time. I hope you will join with me not in searching for excuses why not to include and fellowship others, but rather in searching for ways to make others feel welcome.