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  1. The Stranger by Billy Joel

    January 29, 2015 by Garren Christopher Stamp

    The record that I picked up this week is “The Stranger” by Billy Joel. I listen to Billy Joel occasionally and like what I’ve heard so far. Vienna is my favorite Billy Joel song ever, so I decided for my first record to get the record it was on, “The Stranger”.


    Billy Joel was born on May 9, 1949 in the Bronx, NY. He is often considered one of the greatest Piano players of all time. He had 33 top hits in the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s all of which he wrote himself. He is a six time grammy winner and has sold over 150 million records worldwide. While he is an exceptional artist and I think he has incredible talent, my personal feelings on Billy Joel are mixed. I like his music a lot and really respect that he wrote his own songs. However, as a person, I kind of dislike him. He is known to be very arrogant and this shows through in his music. His music is often self centered, or has an underlying message of him being better than everyone. Think back to his most famous hit “Piano Man.” In that song that Piano Man (Joel) is so much better than the rest of the people at the bar. He describes each person in a way that has hints of how much better he is than them. (people who are in the song his fans and are listening to him!!!). While this isn’t the most obvious example, ( I would argue that would be either the entertainer, she’s always a woman, or It’s still rock and roll to me), it still shines through if you listen to the lyrics of even his most popular song.

    My overall impression of the record is that it is a strong standard Billy Joel record. It was released in 1977 and was ranked 70th on Rolling Stone magazines 500 greatest albums of all time, a ranking I would somewhat agree with. His Piano playing is exquisite during this record. I also think that the songs play together well and give the album a completed feel. Certain songs definitely stand out more than others, but overall I would give it an 8.5/10 (minus a .5 on Billy Joel’s character)

    The first song that stuck out to me was Just the way you are. This song really shows off Joel’s vocals. It starts off slow and really focusing on Joel’s voice, but eventually adds more and more instruments as you slowly move into the song.

    The next song that stuck out to me was Scenes from an Italian restaurant. This is a very dynamic song. It starts off slower and slowly evolves. By the time the first third is over, you wouldn’t recognize it from the beginning. This middle part is my favorite and it tells the story of a high school couple marrying and then divorcing. The end returns similarly to the beginning. It feels very complete.

    Only the good die young stands out as well. It is one of Joel’s most popular songs. It’s all about the narrator convincing a catholic girl to just give in and have sex with him. It’s done in a comical and lighthearted way that makes it very enjoyable (I like how the females name is Virginia)

    Another song that stands out is she’s always a woman to me. This song is an admitted paraphrase of Bob Dylan’s Just like a woman. Joel loved that song so much that he decided to make his own take on it. While the fact that he paraphrased the idea of a song he liked in order to make a new song is bad, I could overlook the lack of creativity if he had captured the same idea as Bob Dylan. Dylan’s song was all about love and used the word woman to show respect and the contrast with the child inside of her. Billy Joel completely missed this subtly of Dylan. He throws a lot of anti-woman stereotypes about women being cold and it ruins the song for me. The subtly isn’t there and this changes the meaning making it quasi sexist. The song is listenable just don’t listen too hard to the lyrics and don’t listen to it if you have listen to and understand Dylan’s Just like a woman. I have included videos of both below if you would like to listen and see for yourself. But If you are only gonna listen to one song listen to the video after these two.


    Side 2 begins with Vienna. Like I previously mentioned this is my all-time favorite Joel song. The tempo is slower and it shows off Joel’s stronger vocal ability. The song is about an older person telling a younger person to slow down and enjoy life. Basically, the message of the song can be summed up with, “Life is a journey not a destination.” I especially like the lyrics of this song. One of my favorite lines is “Don’t you know only fools are satisfied.” I like all the lyrics too much to choose a few to demonstrate so Il just end this blog with the entire lyrics. (I’ll bold some of my favorite parts)

    Slow down, you crazy child
    you’re so ambitious for a juvenile
    But then if you’re so smart, tell me
    Why are you still so afraid?

    Where’s the fire, what’s the hurry about?
    You’d better cool it off before you burn it out
    You’ve got so much to do and
    Only so many hours in a day

    But you know that when the truth is told..
    That you can get what you want or you can just get old
    You’re gonna kick off before you even
    Get halfway through
    When will you realize, Vienna waits for you?

    Slow down, you’re doing fine
    You can’t be everything you want to be
    Before your time
    Although it’s so romantic on the borderline tonight
    Too bad but it’s the life you lead
    you’re so ahead of yourself that you forgot what you need
    Though you can see when you’re wrong, you know
    You can’t always see when you’re right. you’re right

    You’ve got your passion, you’ve got your pride
    but don’t you know that only fools are satisfied?
    Dream on, but don’t imagine they’ll all come true
    When will you realize, Vienna waits for you?

    Slow down, you crazy child
    and take the phone off the hook and disappear for awhile
    it’s all right, you can afford to lose a day or two
    When will you realize,..Vienna waits for you?
    And you know that when the truth is told
    that you can get what you want or you can just get old
    You’re gonna kick off before you even get halfway through
    Why don’t you realize,. Vienna waits for you
    When will you realize, Vienna waits for you?

  2. Civic Issue- Assault Rifles

    January 29, 2015 by Garren Christopher Stamp

    Gun rights is a large topic and has within it thousands of different arguments and topics. One of the most commonly debated sub genres of gun rights is the ability for civilians to own assault rifles.

    Assault rifles are hard to define due to the large amount of variation within the rifle category of weapon, but most definitions include magazine fed, semiautomatic to automatic firing options, and the ability to attach things such as bayonets, grenade launcher, pistol grip, or flash suppressors. Assault Rifles are the primary weapon of foot soldiers of the military and common assault rifles include the AK-47, M16 (known as AR-15 for civilians) and Uzi. Many civilians want the ability to own these types of weapons as well.

    Civilians being able to possess military type weapons is very controversial. These weapons are designed to do a lot of damage, relatively easily, and pretty quickly. Allowing civilians to possess these weapons would allow for one crazed citizen to do massive civilian damage. This can be seen in the shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, Webster, NY, and the Aurora shooting. In fact, from 1982- 2012 over 50% of mass shootings involved the use of assault rifles. All of this damage eventually led to an Assault Rifles ban in 1994. This law banned the new creation and sale assault rifles, automatic, high capacity handguns, and certain kinds of semi-automatic shotguns. However, this law did not completely eliminate civilian owned assault rifles. This law allowed for previously owned and manufactured assault rifles to be kept by civilians and companies alike. And since like I said earlier, defining assault rifles is difficult, the law had loopholes that allowed new assault rifle like weapons to still be produced and sold. This ban was in effect for 10 years and ended in 2004. During the time in which it was still enforced, there were several court cases against it that ultimately failed, but showed the unrest by certain people and areas against this law. After the law ended, many politicians tried to reinstate it, but currently have had no success. Which brings up a question, if these weapons are so dangerous and are responsible for so many mass shootings, why would people be against them being banned from civilian use?

    The arguments against banning assault rifles fall into three main categories. First, people argue that the second amendment guarantees them the right to arm to arm themselves. They say that the founding fathers wanted to preserve the right to arm themselves and form their own militias. These people argue that this right includes assault rifles. People against assault rifles argue however that during the time of the founders their most advanced weapon was a musket. One crazed person with a musket is able to kill one, maybe two people before being stopped (and thats only if he was fast at reloading) while a crazed person with an assault rifle can kill hundreds before he is stopped.

    The second argument is somewhat an extension of the first. Some people argue that the second amendment wasn’t made to ensure civilians rights to defend themselves from other civilians, but instead to defend themselves from their own government. Because of this, many of them argue that civilians should be allowed to own military type weaponry. This ensures that citizens could put up some type of fight against a future “tyrannical government”. However the anti-assault rifle activists state that the fact that the government owns tanks, bombers, explosives, and a lot more advanced technology, making this argument that allowing people to own assault rifles would allow for the citizenry to be able to fight off the US government with all its resources is invalid. 

    The final argument is that Americans should be able to defend themselves and homes from intruders, and an assault rifle with its rapid fire rate, ease of use, and massive stopping power should be an option for someone to use. They argue that if someone breaks inside of your home and intends to arm you and your family, why shouldn’t I be allowed to own the weapon that gives me the best chance to do this. The other side argues that a handgun or shotgun would be just as effective and that you don’t need an assault rifle to defend your home.

    Overall assault rifle ownership is a a complicated topic with no clear answers. As someone who’s dad owns an AR-15 as well as an FN P90 I see no problem with assault rifle ownership. We use both guns as simply something fun to use at a shooting range. My dad also uses the FN P90 as a possible defensive weapon from any intruders in our house. However after witnessing the damage these guns do to targets, I do see how in the wrong hands they would be capable of doing a large amount of damage to a civilian population. I think the true issue with assault rifles is not the gun itself, but the person who possess it.

  3. Passion Blog and Civic Issues Choices

    January 22, 2015 by Garren Christopher Stamp

    For my Passion Blog I have decided to write about and review a new record that I purchase. I have a decent record collection but I really want to continue to add to it. I plan to pick a new album, preferably one that I don’t know that much about. I will give some background on the artist and the album itself. I will discuss possible influences on the record and the artist. I will then review the album as a whole and include individual reviews of specific songs that on the record that I either really like or dislike. This will allow me to continue my blog theme of music, but allow me to expand on bands other than the Grateful Dead.

    For my Civic issues blog I want to right about gun rights. Guns are an important part of our society and our right to own them is guaranteed by the second amendment. However, restrictions on gun ownership as well as what type of guns civilians should be allowed to own place limits on this constitutional right. Also massive shooting and other gun related issues have brought the discussion of much more restrictive gun laws. As a gun owner and avid hunter this issue is very crucial to me. I think this topic has many different facets to it so there will be a lot to talk about it and since it is an ever evolving issue there will be recent changes that I can talk about and incorporate into my blog.

  4. I believe Rough Draft

    January 22, 2015 by Garren Christopher Stamp

    The Dead will never die.


    Most bands are just bands. They make catchy music that a portion of the population likes, they make a comfortable living off this music, and when they inevitably break up or die off them and their music are done. However, a handful of truly remarkable bands transcend just being a band and become something much more. These few bands overcome the death of the actual band and continue to live on.

    The Grateful Dead are one of these bands. The Grateful Dead began creating music as the house band at Ken Kesey’s Acid Tests (huge LSD parties that author Ken Kesey threw when acid was still legal) in 1965 and continued to make music for decades until Jerry Garcia’s death in 1995. Throughout this time they played over 3,500 concerts, released 14 studio albums, and released over 40 live albums. This by itself is an impressive feat for a band by their sheer massive volume of music isn’t what makes them truly great, It was their ability to create songs that’s meanings evolved as the listener evolved.

    I am a perfect example of Dead continuing to live. I have never been to a true Grateful Dead concert and unfortunately I will never be able to have this honor, but yet the Grateful Dead have affected me in ways that rivals any living person today. They have helped through their messages of positivity and helping each other to live a more positive and accepting life. They have taught me how to better handle the bumps in life.

    One of the hardest times in my life was when my best friend from high school went to rehab in Ohio. Prescription pill abuse was very prevalent in my high school and unfortunately my best friend fell victim to it. Through what he called “harmless experimentation” he became a daily user of xanax and 30mg  Oxycodone “M” boxes as well as an occasional user of cocaine. I remember the day that he came to me and my other best friend and told us that he officially realized he had a problem. He told us that he had told his parents and that they were coming to get him and taking him to a rehab in Ohio. After he left me and my friend sat there in silence. I put on a Dead record in order to try and get my mind off of my best friend leaving. The Dead song “he’s gone” came on. I went to change it because previously i had thought of it as a sad song about someone leaving, but as i listened to the lyrics again the meaning changed for me. The lyrics  were

    “Now he’s gone, now he’s gone Lord he’s gone, he’s gone.
    Like a steam locomotive, rollin’ down the track
    He’s gone, gone, nothin’s gonna bring him back…He’s gone.

    Goin’ where the wind don’t blow so strange,
    Maybe off on some high cold mountain chain.”

    The meaning of the song evolved for me. The singer was no longer sad because the person was leaving, he was happy. Because of my new experiences I connected my friend with the steam locomotive. He was “rollin” towards a new future. One that didn’t hold all the negativity of where he was from. The possibilities were endless and the Dead helped me realize this. It turned what was one of the darkest things in my life at that time to a positive.

    The Dead’s music has the ability to evolve with the listener. With each new experience the listener feels a new, but just as strong connection with the song. It is this ability that makes the dead endure. A parent can listen to a Grateful Dead song with their child and they can both enjoy it, even if it is for two completely different reasons. That is why the dead will survive.

    I Believe in the Grateful Dead and I believe in their ability to remain important long after all the members are dead and gone.

  5. Future Blog Ideas

    January 15, 2015 by Garren Christopher Stamp

    I feel confident in my ability to do Passion Blogs. I had no issue doing them last year and most of my posts were around the newly-increased 500 word requirement anyway so I believe that the Passion Blogs won’t present any major challenge. I liked my topic of the grateful dead last year, but by the end of the semester I felt very restricted since my blogs where forced to be about only one band. Don’t get me wrong, the Grateful Dead are my favorite band and I listen to them a ton, but they certainly aren’t the only music i listen to. For this semester’s Passion Blogs I intend to continue to write about music, but would like to eliminate this one band limitation. My idea is to review a new record from my record collection every week. I buy a new record about every week and I was thinking I could do some background on the album, the band, and give my impression of the album as a whole as well as a few songs. For the weeks in which I don’t end up getting a new record I could always choose one from my collection at random and discuss that. My other idea is to discuss future music festivals. I go to 2-3 music festivals every summer and love them. I could review the music festivals I have gone to and discuss others I have not.

    I feel less confident for the civic issues blogs. First we have never done them and i am not confident in what type of issues are supposed to be chosen. Are they supposed to be like smaller, local civic issues or larger national issues. Regardless my first idea I had was voter ID laws. Voting is one of our most important civic abilities and the limitation of that whether on purpose or as an accidental byproduct of anti-fraud legislation is a big issue. Another issue I was thinking of was the housing of the homeless on tax payer dollar in Salt Lake City, Utah. The government provided free housing to the homeless in order to get them off the street and provide them a way to get on their feet. All of this was of course paid for on the working, tax payers dime. This brings up several issues such as taxation, government handouts, and the role of government.

    The “This I Believe” project is difficult. There are so many different directions that you can take on this project. There are serious ones about religion and god to simple ones about tipping pizza men. One idea I was thinking about would deal with guns. I am a strong supporter of gun rights and i strongly oppose anti- gun legislation. My love of hunting combined with the fact that I am a gun owner makes this issue very important to me. Another possibility would be that I believe the Grateful Dead is the greatest band of all time. I have many reasons in support of that, despite a lot of them being opinions.

  6. RCL Looking Back

    December 4, 2014 by Garren Christopher Stamp

    I have been pleasantly surprised with my RCL class this year. I was a little nervous coming in, with it being an honors class and not knowing what to expect, but It turned out to be a lot better than I expected. The Honors level allows for more creativity and gives me more of the responsibility of making sure I get my work done in a timely fashion, which I like.

    I also feel like I learned a lot during this year. I learned to be more analytical of common rhetoric that I previously didn’t even notice. I learned about constructing arguments and categorizing different logical strategies. In addition, I learned the importance of connecting things to the modern day in order to show the reader the importance of the topic in discussion. I also learned a lot about giving speeches in front of groups. However, this is the area that I still think I need the most work.

    I’m more confident than when I started the class with giving speeches, but I still am nervous. The idea of talking in front of a group of my peers is still frightening. I think this is something that will just take time and experience to reach any high level of confidence with and the second half of this class i’m sure will provide some of this. Looking back, I wish my High school would have done a better job preparing me for this, but there is nothing I can do about that now.

    I look forward to the second half of this class and hope I continue to improve in the areas I struggle with.

  7. Dead Tattoos

    December 4, 2014 by Garren Christopher Stamp

    I will forever love the Grateful Dead. I have grown and experienced so much through their music that the Dead will always be a part of me. Because of this i have wanted to get a Dead related tattoo for awhile now. Their are two slight problems with this; first the Grateful Dead for better or worse are associated with drugs, an association that would most likely hurt me when applying for certain jobs, and second there are just two many different designs to choose from.

    In order to remedy the first problem i have decided to put my tattoo on my left bicep. This will allow me to hide my tattoo with a simple t-shirt. If my possible employers don’t know that I have a Grateful Dead tattoo then there is no way that any drug-related association can hurt me. The solution is simple, but i did kind of want to put the tattoo on my forearm, but this would be a lot more noticeable and inconvenient to hide in hot weather so bicep it is I guess.

    The second issue is a lot harder to solve. The Dead have a ton of artwork associated with them. The most common include; Dancing Bears, Steal Your Face, Skulls and roses, and dancing Terrapins.

    The Dancing Bears are probably the most well known dead artwork. I like the dancing bears, but they are a lot wider than they are tall which doesn’t fit well on a bicep. The Dancing Terrapins come from one of my least favorite Dead albums so i don’t see myself putting them on my body anytime soon. Because of that these two are out.

    My favorite Dead related art is the Steal Your Face. It’s cool and well known and can come in versions with extreme detail. However, this tattoo doesn’t allow for the incorporation of Lyrics very easily. The Skulls and roses are very intricate and do allow for lyrics to be easily incorporated. If I choose to include lyrics, I will probably go with them.


  8. Dylan and the Dead

    November 18, 2014 by Garren Christopher Stamp


    One of my favorite artists other than the Grateful Dead is Bob Dylan. I think he has an amazing sound that he combines with interesting and deep lyrics. Dylan’s voice is also super unique and fits his folky country-ish sound that a lot of his songs have. Dylan is also an amazing harmonica player and often plays harmonica and guitar at the same time. This is extremely difficult and is very impressive to see. Finally, Dylan has a great live personality. I have watched a lot of his live performances at festivals in the 60’s and 70’s and he engages and jokes around with the crowd in a funny and creative way that doesn’t come off as gimmicky or fake. Because of this he is near the top of the list of artists that i want to see in my life time before its too late.


    Bob Dylan was friends with and respected many members of the Grateful Dead. Because of this in 1989 a live album titled “Dylan and the Dead” was released. I had high expectations for this album; two of my favorite artists who make amazing live music collaborating on a live album. Before listening to it I believed that this album had the potential to become my new favorite album. Unfortunately, this was not to be. This album was a major disappointment to me. The album is only made up of only Dylan songs. There are no Dead songs on the album, a major disappointment. The Grateful Dead are basically just Dylan’s band. This does allow for some cool Dead jams which Dylan enhances with his harmonica and guitar, but doesn’t capitalize on all the potential this album had. I mean Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir providing nothing but backup vocals, what a waste of talent. I had high hopes for this album, and i have to say it disappointed me.


    It’s still a good album that is worth a listen, but don’t have your hopes up too high. It’s basically just a Dylan live album. This being said the live versions are still pretty good. In fact it does contain my favorite live version of “Knockin on Heavens Door”. However it is impossible to find a video of them performing that song so I’m going to put a link to “Tangled up in Blue” by Dylan and the Dead, and a live version of “Knockin on Heaven’s Door” by just the Grateful Dead.

  9. Ted Talk Reflection

    November 18, 2014 by Garren Christopher Stamp

    Unfortunately I do not have my Ted Talk video. I don’t know what happened for sure, but I’m pretty sure that I pulled my flash drive out too early. I wanted to get out of there ASAP since my Ted Talk did not go at all like planned…

    I think my main mistake was that the way I prepared my Ted Talk. I made a powerpoint for my speech. This powerpoint had pictures but it also had a good amount of words. I was under the impression that i would be able to see my powerpoint out of the corner of my eye while presenting. Because of this I put key facts ad examples on the slides. I memorized my basic ideas and major themes and was planning on relying on the powerpoint for the specific details. For example, I knew the basics of the cycle of growth caused by the creation of groups such as the Tea Party, but I was gonna rely on my powerpoint for specific groups and examples of this cycle. When I gave my speech I realized that i couldn’t see the words on the slides without awkwardly semi-turning around and breaking eye contact with the audience. I also couldn’t make out the words on the tiny screen to my right. This threw me off and i felt uncomfortable and uneasy with my speech which led to more mistakes.

    Since I had lost my confidence early on I made other smaller but still important mistakes. I didn’t get to important examples, examples which I had planned on using as a Segway between my different slides. This interrupted the speeches flow and made it feel less unnatural. My lack of confidence also resulted in me fidgeting with the clicker out of nervousness and accidentally dropping it during the presentation. This might not have been that big of a deal but it felt like the final nail in the coffin for my Ted Talk. The rest of the speech I was unable to think about anything other than my previous mistakes. Because of this I rushed the rest of my speech, which didn’t turn out well.

    Overall my Ted Talk did not go at all as planned and there are many mistakes I wish I could change.

  10. Bob Weir Live

    November 6, 2014 by Garren Christopher Stamp

    I want to take a break of my usual format of contextualizing and reviewing Dead Albums to discuss the time when i saw Bob Weir Live. For those of you who don’t know Bob Weir was the second in command and in the Grateful Dead(Jerry Garcia was the unannounced figure head). He was one of its founding members and played with the Dead for their entire musical career. He sings the second most amount of songs (behind Jerry Garcia) and also was the lead guitar player. Bob also wrote a good amount of their most popular songs.



    For anyone who loves or is interested in the Grateful Dead Bob Weir is a must see concert. The Grateful Dead are no longer a band since Jerry Died due to heart complications from battling drugs and an unhealthy lifestyle for decades. The remaining members will occasionally perform together calling themselves the Other Ones, a reference to one of Bob’s most famous songs “Thats it for the Other One’s I-IV”, but these concerts are very rare and hard to get tickets to. Bob Weir also performs with his solo group (Bob Weir and Ratdog). They play a lot of dead songs as well as some of their original music which is actually pretty good.

    I got the chance to see Bob Weir and Ratdog two years ago. My friends and I love music festivals. That summer we had decided to go to Peach Fest. Peach Fest was a four day music festival set up on a giant Mountain in Scranton, PA. It was set up by the Allman Brothers, another one of my favorite bands, and would feature a double set (ended up being 3 sets) from Bob Weir and Ratdog. Their were a lot of other good bands their but my memory of their names is a little hazy. Anyway I finally got to see a living member of the Grateful Dead perform. I could finally here Dead songs as they were intended, live. It was an amazing experience that i wouldn’t trade for the world. I remember during his second set he started playing at like 4 in the morning because all the other bands had jammed over their time slot(something that no one at festival was complaining about). Anyway, Bob’s setlist was amazing. He even brought Grace Potter ( a female act) on stage with him to do an amazing cover of Dear Prudence. Anyway at like 6am the sun was beginning to come up and Bob was still jamming on stage doing an amazing rendition of “Fire on the Mountain”, a popular Dead Song. It was then that my friend pointed out to me that the sun was coming out from behind the huge mountain the concert was below. He said, and i quote, “Dude their literally is a fire in the mountain”. This blew my mind. It was such a unreal and awesome moment. All of the days events had led to Bob Weir not playing till 4 hours later than he was supposed to and then the song selection at that time was perfect.

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    Bob Weir gave everyone at the concert an extra set two. He was only supposed to play a set on the second and third day. He decided to play on the last day as well. Bob performed an acoustic set that was so relaxing and awesome that it just summed up the festival perfectly. I would recommend anyone to go to Peach Fest or any festival with Bob Weir or the Allman Brothers to anyone.

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