Friday, April 22, 2011

The Right to Remain Silent II

Remember the monologue from way back when?

Recently I saw a flier calling for monologues relating to diversity to be performed (anonymously) for a production similar to Duke's Me Too Monologues. I remembered my old one, so I dug it up and sent it in. I was notified it was to be accepted, and invited to perform it as well if I was interested. After thinking about it, I realized that the monologue depicted me at a different stage in my life than I am currently in, and decided it would therefore be inappropriate for me to perform it.

The organization contacted me again, saying that the actor would like to meet with me (if I was comfortable with that) to really be able to capture the spirit of the writing and the disorder. You know me, I'm not one for anonymity with my Tourette's so naturally I agreed. Unfortunately, we weren't able to schedule a time before the show, but maybe it was better that way.

I had to arrive to the show late, so when I walked in I wasn't sure if mine had been performed yet or not. I watched several very emotional monologues before the last monologue started with familiar words: "I have Tourette Syndrome..."

It was an incredible experience to hear words that I had written so long ago be performed. It was very literally like stepping into a time machine and taking a look at myself in the past. It was a reminder of some of my darker struggles, a contrast to my present emotions - a ride I was not expecting when I first submitted the monologue.

The actor, Philip Delvecchio, did a great job both with interpretation and faking tics. I noticed a few differences in how the he portrayed the story versus how I had originally intended it - not big things, and certainly not wrong things. My first thought was to wish that our schedules had worked out so we could have discussed it before the show, but in reflection I'm glad that we didn't. This was a work of art - specifically a dramatic monologue - that I had written in my past, something that should not be retroactively touched by my present. It was his job as an actor to decide how to best tell that story, a task he did marvelously.

After the show, I shook his hand and gave him a hug. It was all I could do.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Are rappers musicians?

So I just answered the question "Are rappers musicians?" on Facebook Questions, and I'd like to share my answer on here!

Music is defined as (paraphrasing, combining tones and sounds for artistic value.

That being said, rappers are very much musicians, as their contribution to a song is integral to not only a song's effect but also its meaning. Rappers rely less on tones and more on rhythms, and as many people have already pointed out, so do drummers - musicians. Rappers use their voices to produce their music, just as every other singer or vocalist does. Although the don't focus on pitch (but they do use it), their tones, timbres, and inflections are used and even celebrated. This is why B.o.B sounds different from Eminem sounds different from Lil' Wayne.

An interesting point on drummers - tabla players in Indian Classical music have onomatopoeic syllables to describe different kinds of strikes or hits. They are expected to be able to pronounce them as fast as they can play them, and sometimes even perform this way.

One point of argument may be in the repetitive nature of most rap songs. Cyclic music, although definitely found in Western music, is even more common in other musical traditions. In these styles, the musical piece is appreciated as more of a repeating melody with subtle or not-so-subtle variations thrown in; much like rap. I'm thinking particularly of Shona, Hindustani, and Gamelan music.

Although rap lyrics can definitely be considered a subset of poetry, it's hard to imagine most rapper's style applied to other poetic forms such as haikus or limericks. While a rapper can and sometimes do rap without music, their lyrics are specifically intended to be performed withinstrumental accompaniment. This separates rap from Spoken Word, which is a definite form of poetry.

They may not be musicians like Rossini or Mozart as one answerer said, but I would argue that they may be. Mozart and and the like gained their popularity by how their arrangements of tones and sounds appealed to the common listener, which is exactly what guys like Jay Z or Snoop Dogg are doing. Time will only tell how long their music will last - don't forget that Mozart was the "sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll" of his time and genre, and Stravinsky's Rite of Spring essentially caused a mosh-pit at it's debut.

With all of that being said, I firmly believe that rappers are musicians.

Friday, November 12, 2010


Hi everyone,

I haven't blogged in an unforgivably long time. I've been very busy with school and haven't found the time to sit down and blog.

But a couple highlights!

Over the past couple weeks, I have spoken in two of Dr. Jeannie Loeb's psychology classes. One was an abnormal psychology class, and the other was an introductory course. Both times I talked for the full fifty minutes, and had time to answer questions from the students. In fact, the 101 class seemed to have more intelligent questions than the more advanced one. I had a great time and the professor was very appreciative - it looks like I'll be doing this more in the future!

The second highlight is that the school newspaper the Daily Tar Heel ran not just one but two features on me and my Tourette's. One was a print article that went on last Friday's front page, and the other was a multimedia presentation intended for the internet. Here's a link to both!

Written Article

Multimedia Feature

Sorry for making you wait so long! I'll try to be better about staying updated!


Monday, August 16, 2010


Monday was my birthday!! I:

1) started the day (at midnight) with the tail end of a jam session with Casey Smith, Duncan Lewis, and Paddy C.
2) Woke up late
3) Had a ton of birthday wishes on fBook - thanks everyone!
4) Sat and wrote music for a couple hours
5) Was sung 'happy birthday' by my dad ( Pj Crosa) and 'happy beerthday' by my grandma
6) Was almost sung 'happy birthday' by Christina Fluet. But then I wasn't.
7) Talked to my mom ( Melissa Robinson), who made an A on her first med school test!
8) Got a rice krispy treat cake in the mail from the afore-mentioned mother
9) Staff meeting cancelled by Josh Giles Alexander, yeeeeesss!
10) Went to Sugarland, read a couple chapters of "Mozart in the Jungle" and took a picture of what I got.
11) Doodled around in my office (that's right... I have one. Kind of.)
12) Got the ball rolling on a student org for people with neurological... differences
13) Stuffed myself at Chili's with my brothers
14) Went on a food run with Paul Rosser and Sami Card

15) I turned 20!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Camp Twin Lakes XVII - Outdoor Living Skills

This week I switched to work in the other CTL location in Rutledge. That means that while I know how to do all of the things, I'm not quite as familiar with the location. One of the session that we offer is called Outdoor Living Skills, which can be a pretty painful session. At Will-A-Way, we have a treasure hunt set up to teach the kids how to use a compass. At Rutledge, we discuss camping skills and maybe try out a few things like fire building, tent pitching, random play in the woods, etc.

I was scheduled for an OLS session with ten year old boys this week. I was a little nervous about not having the treasure hunt, but still confident. One was in a wheelchair to reduce internal bleeding (he had hemophilia) from a sprained ankle. I met them at the ball field with the external frame backpack full of camping essentials, and we went through the list and talked about each one in the shade. They seemed pretty interested, or at least interested in relating each of the items to a bear attack. When I got to the end of the list, I told them we'd go down to the camping outpost to try some fire building. They were pumped!

Now, here's the thing... I hadn't actually been to the camping outpost before. Somebody told me the trail to it was behind the ball field. So I found a trail that looked promising and off we went! As we walked, we sang "Goin on a bear hunt" and related the verses to the trail we were on. Once we came to a huuge field with nothing looking remotely like a campsite in sight, i was like 80% sure we were on the wrong trail. My poker face went into full swing.

"Are you sure this is the right trail?" asked a counselor.
"Yep!" I said.
"Are there snakes out here?"
"No way!"
"Are there bears out here?"
"Not at all!"
All bluffing. As for the bears and snakes, it's not that I knew there were any, I just didn't really know the status yay or nay.

It had to be between 90 and 100 degrees outside, and we were out in a field with absolutely no shade anywhere. The kids and I were dripping sweat - they were begging to turn back so I said "What do you guys say we stop right here and try building a fire?"

So there we sat, trying to light sticks on fire with a single set of flint and steel, blazing hot. I wanted to tell them that I've scared a bear away before, but I felt that with all the bull I was telling them before, they probably wouldn't believe me. The counselors had found a scrap of shade and were standing in it skeptically . I turn around and see one kid with his shirt off, spinning in circles saying "I'm dying of heat stroke, I'm dying of heat stroke!"

Finally I decided it was time to pull the plug. "You know what guys? You're doing such a great job that I think I'm gonna let you guys go a little early!" We headed back through the random field and the blazing sun. The wheelchair got stuck a couple times, it was crazy.

I thought I had gotten away with it without them knowing until I was walking back towards the dining hall after the session. I ran into one of the other counselors that hadn't come. He came up to me smiling and said "Hey Mike! I'm sorry I missed the session. I went down to where the campsites were and I didn't see you guys!"

I was glad he hadn't said that in front of anybody else from the group. I hoped that he wouldn't think to say anything to them later. I looked off in the distance and said:

"Hmm.... how strange....."

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Camp Twin Lakes XVI

A little over Twitch and Shout left, I still have a lot of vocal tics. It's fine being at camp, but it would be difficult at school. It's a little strange, most of the staff forget when I didn't have vocal tics - kind of a strange play in identity!

This past week was absolutely amazing. The camp was dedicated for kids affected and infected by HIV. I didn't realize how much people with HIV have to hide - in fact, this was one of the only camps that is openly HIV, many others operate in secrecy. The large majority of the camp were inner city kids from Atlanta. I was a little worried about how the kids would react to being in the woods and to camp in general, but it couldn't have been better.

The kids and the counselors were an amazingly cohesive group. I knew all of the counselors name within the first day (never happens) and the kids immediately identified with the counselors and gave them respect. The kids treated each other like family, encouraging each other to try new things and enjoy every minute of camp.

Many of the campers were wary of my tics at first, but during opening ceremonies I got on stage and gave an explanation of my Tourette's. I always do my best to not parallel my Tourette's with whatever special need they might be at camp for (in this case, HIV). All though it might be a common thread to share, I have no idea what they've been through and if it really can be compared. I'd much rather them make that connection on their own. With that in mind, once I explained about my Tourette's the campers took to my Tourette's in a great way. The younger ones used my tics as a greeting to me and to each other, and even started affectionately calling me "Tip," my most common tic at the time. The older ones asked me questions, and even told me about friends and family members who have Tourette's. In fact, one of the kids in my cabin had Tourette's and I didn't find out until the last day. He was beaming when I asked him about it!

Camp is amazing.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Camp Twin Lakes XVI - Twitch and Shout

Reflecting on Camp Twitch and Shout, it was a great experience and I can't wait to help them out next year. I wasn't sure exactly what I wanted to get out of the week, and it was good to go in with no expectations. I got to meet Brad Cohen, author of Front of the Class, a book about Tourette Syndrome which has meant a lot to me and others. I also got to meet Jimmy Wolk, the actor that played him in the Hallmark movie based on the book. Both guys were phenomenal at camp, and I got to be particularly close with Jimmy. Here's a (bad) picture of the three of us:

Jimmy Wolk, Me, and Brad Cohen
This summer has really pushed me towards music as a career and possibly music therapy. Brad was the founder of Camp Twitch and Shout, and I (probably) wouldn't have known about Brad had it not been for the movie. I had them both sign a little djembe that I've had for a while - a significant thing, I think!

Camp Twitch and Shout had a Hollywood theme for their dance, red carpet and all that. On each of the six doors, they put up a star with somebody's name on it. Two were the camp directors, one was the nurse, one was Jimmy, one was Tim Howard (Team USA goalkeeper, who has Tourette's), and one was for me. It was a small gesture, but a meaningful one. At the end of the night, Brad found me and asked for a picture with me. Also a small but meaningful gesture. Meeting the Twitch and Shout crew really showed me how much is being done, but also how much is still needed. I want to take this motivation back to UNC, raise some money for next year, start a group - and who knows, maybe even create some awareness ;-)

Brad and I after the Twitch and Shout dance