Good Media

I like to let my brain melt after work, and I’ll watch a lot of YouTube, or I’ll play a TV show I’ve seen a hundred times already in the background as I do some other task like dye my hair, but neither of these things are particularly stimulating. If I’m paying enough attention then yes, The Office can still provide an entertaining and thoughtful 22 minutes, but I watch those shows passively now, and most often the videos I watch on YouTube don’t make me think very much, if at all.

And while that’s perfectly fine, I used to watch television–good television–religiously. I still believe that TV has the best story-telling potential, but my favorite shows came to their necessary conclusions or jumped the shark, and I never picked up anything new. Like what happens to most of us with the music we listened to in our late teens, I got stuck in my own golden era of media and just kind of stalled out.

I don’t think I spend less time consuming now, I just don’t consume much of value, and that’s sad, so I’m resolving to seek out good media as part of my bid to become more creative in 2018. There have been many times when I’ve seen a preview or read a review and thought, “Yes, that’s what I’ll watch/read next!” and then don’t follow through, but the other night I saw a preview for I, Tonya, a Tonya Harding (sort of) mockumentary and decided then and there I had to see it.

I, Tonya was easily one of the best films I’ve ever seen. Maybe part of my love for it is having been starved of new and exciting movies recently, but I doubt that is the sole factor (especially since I just saw The Last Jedi and fell head over heels for that).

Stories that make you rethink what a villain is, like Wicked or even the new Star Wars trilogy, have a special place in my heart. I, Tonya is one of these stories, and it’s beautifully complex. The real villains in I, Tonya are her mother, her ex-husband, and, unexpectedly, but refreshingly, you, the viewer. Highly recommend. A quick warning, though: if you are at all triggered by domestic abuse, you may want to steer clear.

I read a negative review of this movie because I like when other people are wrong, apparently, and the critic said that, “ultimately what gets lost is empathy for whom it matters most: Harding.” If you come out of watching this film without feeling total empathy for Harding, You. Are. Not. Human. Or you don’t know how to critically analyze something, which is rough for a professional analyst.

I’m trying to focus this resolution on all media, not just movies, so I did some digging in modern music as well, and I stumbled on both Selena Gomez and Miley Cyrus.

Hear me the fuck out, okay?

I grew up in the age of the CD. An artist released a track on the radio and within a month their album, no, their compact disc came out. The CD was a story, regardless of if that was intended to be, and usually had some kind of overarching voice to it. In the age of the digital album, however, things are a-changin.

And that’s fine, but it’s also frustrating. I fell hardcore in love with Selena Gomez’s “Bad Liar” and “Wolves” is also pretty good, but as far as I can tell these songs aren’t attached to an album! If you like a song, there is a pretty good chance that the album the song came from will be a hit with you, but here I am with a couple measly singles and a desire to place them into a larger story that doesn’t seem to exist.

Then I found what is basically the exact opposite in Miley Cyrus. So, she had a rough patch, admittedly, but her newest album, Younger Now, and its title track especially are not just divergent of what she was doing, but it’s all stand-out, good pop music. Apparently between the, well, let’s say the “mistake” that was Bangerz and her newest, she released what’s essentially a mixtape, Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz. It’s touted as psychedelic pop and sprinkled with these really lovely songs that make you feel like you’re floating in space. I guess that’s exactly what psychedelic pop would be, hu? “Karen Don’t Be Sad” is my favorite so far, but I’ve not listened to all of it.

It’s essentially a foil to what Gomez has done in that she released a 23 track concept album for free on the internet. I don’t begrudge Gomez in any way for selling her music, they should all do what they want with their intellectual content, it’s just interesting the different directions each has gone.

This post is probably long enough, but I should also mention I’m reading Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer. I know I need to read more in general, and this was a good place to start. The book is short and reads very quickly. I’m really enjoying it so far and it’s very dissimilar to what I would normally read, but I’m going to save a more formal review for when I finish the whole trilogy. A film is being made for release this year, but the trailer feels much different than the book so far. An older me would be like “that sucks!” but a new me is looking at it like “this is great, two pieces of media for one!”

It’s funny I started out talking about TV, and then told you, Dear Reader, about all these non-TV things, but that’s the just the thing: I’m looking for something new and exciting, and movies and music can be consumed and moved on from while TV kind of sucks you into a commitment I might not be ready for again. Too soon, TV, too soon!

2018, the year of good media. I hope.

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Blogmas: A Show

I think I’m officially an adult, Dear Reader, for, you see, I have been to a Show™. Well, to be fair, I’ve been to see a few live performances in the past, Christmas ones to be exact, but this was different. This time, Dear Reader, I was an adult!

There’s something particularly Christmas-y about getting together with a group of people you care deeply for and going to a venue where you’ll watch real-live people put on a performance. It’s probably the camaraderie, both of your small circle, and then of the greater circle you become part of when you cheer with, laugh with, and dance with a bunch of strangers. The shared sense you get when you’re part of a group or crowd can actually be quite nice. Of course, it can morph into mob mentality, but let’s not go there.

Instead, let’s stay on the lighter side of crowd psychology. Losing a sense of individual responsibility, in a reasonable and ethical way, is really freeing. You laugh as loud as you want, you smile, you dance, you don’t overanalyze, you can just kind of be. This might work on a smaller scale too. Sure, sometimes around groups of people we might act a little more reserved or put on a bit of a persona, but I find that more and more I’m able to be a little sillier, a little more daring, and a little more open when there are others around in ways I never thought I’d be able to before.

So, a Show, as I said. Husband, lovely couple, and I went to see Blue Man Group on Saturday, and it was a fucking blast. I always have a great time with lovely couple, so that was no surprise, but the show itself was wicked! I have always loved theater–the idea that there are real people in front of you in real time, performing their passion is something else. No one accidentally becomes a performer, not really. If you’re on stage, you love it, and if you’re talented, it will show. You end up there because you should be there.

Blue Man Group was so unique and a whole lot of fun. Even though it was a little topical with technology references, felt timeless in that it can always be updated but since it relies on physical instruments that are clearly handmade, it will remain this familiar thing. There was something about the narrator’s voice, I felt like I’ve heard it before. Maybe, maybe not, but it was familiar. But I definitely remember the Intel commercials featuring the “Bluemen” when I was pretty young, and the show felt exactly like that. Like maybe BMG had always existed and always would. And of course, the music.

I guess I didn’t realize the show would be so musical. I knew there was drumming, but it’s more than that (not that drumming isn’t complex on it’s own, percussion friends!) The instruments the performers use are totally unique to the show, so they’ve learned this distinct skill that can’t really be applied to much else, and it’s so incredibly impressive. For as long as I can remember, music has been the most moving thing to me. I can cry at the drop of a hat, but I’m extra emotionally susceptible to sounds. The show played with that a lot.

So now I want to go to Vegas and see another show, and also see some musicals here, and I want to dress up and be a fancy adult for all of those things. That’s reasonable, isn’t it?? Oh, and I also want to bring my rock and roll career out of retirement. I think that’s equally reasonable, yeah? Being an adult is hard.

Woah, it’s so hard I almost forgot your x-mas-y video of the day! Dang!

A Question For You (seriously, please comment)

Let’s do a creative exercise, shall we? This is a game I like to play with Husband on occasion, but I’ve elaborated here a lot. You don’t have to post your answers, but by god would I love it if you did.

Tell me about yourself. Not current dimensional timeline you. Tell me about you in dimension 104-D where alternate reality you is a pop* superstar. I want to know the following:

Your stage name or band name (or both!):
You music sounds like a mix between these two artists:
Instrument/s played (voice counts):
First Single:
World tour theme:
Compilation album title:
Name of another famous person you’re rumored to have hooked up with:
Name of the musician you do a Christmas duet with AND the song:
Name of the film or TV show (can be fictional, but please elaborate) you inexplicably guest star in and the role you play:
Your favorite candle scent:
That time you fucked up but everyone forgave you for it because you’re so damn awesome:

*Pop = popular, not pop music per se, BUT IT CAN BE.

Nothing In Between

I unabashedly label myself a feminist. I’ve experienced some terrible treatment due to my gender, including when I was pretty young, but I know I’ve grown up in what is historically one of the best countries/times for women, so I’ve been wondering how I became so passionate. Injustice has always bothered me, and there’s never really one thing that contributes wholly to a personality trait or belief, but I’ve come to the conclusion that a big part my feminism’s origin story is rooted in one kinda strange thing: 90s music.

The first CD I ever owned was Meredith Brooks’ Blurring the Edges. (Well, that and the first Pure Moods album. I was a weird kid.) I was 10 when “Bitch” was at the top of the Billboard charts, and I knew every word. I listened to the entire album on repeat which came to be my biggest pastime, and I absorbed the words. I say absorbed like some pretentious douchebag because it was more than just memorizing what she was saying, even though a lot of it I couldn’t really understand (what 10 year old really gets the complexity of the Pollyanna principle?), but these concepts of wanting more, wanting to be heard, struggling against this force that didn’t have a name but constantly held you down, that was all there, and it helped me to later understand feelings that cropped up when some old guy catcalled me at thirteen or when someone I was supposed to respect insisted that women were literally less human than men in (their) god’s eyes.

Those sentiments were pretty prolific in a lot of the music at the time. Squashed between the 80s and 00s, two arguably similar decades that seemed to follow this borderline vacuous, we’re-gonna-live-forever, corporate-controlled mindset, the 90s define the word alternative. But where the 70s acted like a transition from the break in conservatism that was the 60s into the much more progressive 80s, the 90s didn’t ultimately do the same thing. There’s so much growth in pop culture during this time, but then the 00s took a huge step, not necessarily back, but in a totally different direction.

So I did some digging through my old CDs and with the help of Sirius XM’s 90s on 9, I’ve come up with I guess what you can call a playlist which I present to you with a tiny bit of commentary. Forgive some of these being from the 00s – my musical education has always been anachronistic.

spice-girls-say-youll-be-there
If I split myself into five people, these would be them.

 

(The titles below are all links but apparently my CSS or whatever isn’t setup to show you that because that makes total sense? Why would I want my reader to know some random words are actually a link? Aren’t WordPress themes just THE BEST?)

  • Meredith Brooks – “Bitch
  • Shawn Colvin – “Sunny Came Home
    • Shawn refers to this as a “murder ballad” which is just beautiful.
  • Spice Girls – “Say You’ll Be There
    • I could easily write a thesis on these ladies. Despite what people would consider problematic about them today, they taught me about girl power and for that I’m eternally grateful.
  • Natalie Imbruglia – “Torn
    • “Torn” is actually a cover, but there really isn’t any pop music that doesn’t owe something to the Scandinavians
  • Sheryl Crow – “If It Makes You Happy
    • Something about being caged and on exhibit.
  • Paula Cole – “Where Have All The Cowboys Gone
    • Another of my very first CDs was This Fire which I was totally shocked to see a naked Paula on the cover. I’d seen a lot of naked women by the time I was 10 because, well, they’re everywhere, but something about this cover didn’t scream sexualization to me. I can’t confirm this, but I always felt she chose that image.
  • Imani Coppola – “Legend of a Cowgirl
    • If you only watch one of these videos, please make it this one. The gender subversion is amazing.
  • No Doubt – “Just A Girl
    • “Don’t you think I know / Exactly where I stand” has always stood out (ha) to me in a world where everyone will tell you just how invalid your own experiences are.
  • Fiona Apple – “Criminal
    • I was asked by someone who knew me when I was young how I got to be so morbid and obsessed with creepy things now, and I think the answer is the demon eyes in this video.
  • Jewel – “Who Will Save Your Soul
    • Jewel wrote this at 16 when she was hitchhiking across America. WTF.
  • Alanis Morisette – “You Oughta Know
    • Duh.