Blogoween Day 29 – Halloween Playlist

blogoween

So I’m forgoing Vacancy for another week because moving has been a bit more overwhelming than I expected, and I’m still trying to get prepped for NaNo properly before November hits. I’m confident I can release Vacancy during NaNo, but right now it’s a crap shoot.

I do have my kitchen mostly organized though, and that’s a huge part of any moving battle: now I can properly cook, so I can eat better, feel better, live better, you know how it goes.

In lieu of a story today, I’m instead offering you a list of some of my favorite Halloween songs! I’ve separated them into three categories: Spooky Psalms, Conceptual Classics, and Darkest Ditties. Please enjoy the work of other people.

Spooky Psalms

These songs are quintessentially Halloween, they’re fun, they’re a little spooky, and you probably know them–or should.

“Thriller” – Michael Jackson

As if you could have any Halloween playlist without Michael and this video specifically. I especially love his disclaimer at its opening. Also, “No, I’m enjoying this!” Why did they paint Michael’s character as such a sadist? I don’t know, but I fucking love it.

“I Put A Spell On You” – Bette Midler/Hocus Pocus

My favorite thing from this video might actually be the mom dressed up as Madonna.

“This Is Halloween” – The Nightmare Before Christmas

Is this a Christmas movie or a Halloween movie? Great news: IT’S BOTH! It makes me sad that Husband hates claymation so much, but to be fair, it is inherently creepy.

“Ghostbusters” – Ray Parker Jr.

Bustin makes me feel good! And this video makes me feel…something. Like, it is so bad, I’m not even sure it’s good.

“It’s Almost Halloween” – Panic! At The Disco

I really appreciate this song and everything it’s trying to do. It even references “The Monster Mash” so it’s kinda two birds, one vid, ya dig?

Honorable Mention: “Werewolf Bar Mitzvah” – Tracy Morgan/Donald Glover/30 Rock

Important: A lot of the extended parts of this song are not being performed by Tracy Morgan at all, but are just amazing impressions by Donald Glover.

Conceptual Classics

These are tunes that aren’t really Halloween songs, but they get me in the spookiest of moods.

“Witchy Woman” – Eagles

Listen, I know it’s about drug use and Zelda Fitzgerald, but if this song doesn’t make you want to paint your nails red, slap on something leather, and kill a man, nothing will.

“Season Of The Witch” – Donovan

To me, this song feels like autumn. Summer dies slowly and then all at once giving way to chilly winds and shadows without casters.

“Werewolves of London” – Warren Zevon

Why Kid Rock sampled this for “All Summer Long” I can only imagine is because this song is an absolute bop (that’s what the kids are saying now, yeah?) I wish there were 17 verses and it never ended.

“Psycho Killer” – Talking Heads

I hate people when they’re not polite.

“Hotel California” – Eagles

All good things begin and end with (the) Eagles. I always wanted to do my cubicle with a Hotel California theme at work for Halloween, but I never got around to fully embracing the concept, and I also didn’t think most people would get it. My idea was to make my desk look like a reception area for an old, dingy, 60s/70s-era hotel out in the desert with hidden satanic symbols everywhere, and a covered silver tray with bloody organs underneath which would have probably been a little too dark for work. Instead I always just infested my desk with rats, but those were good too. And they squeaked!

Darkest Ditties

Go hard, or go home. Or go hard at home!

“Sweet Dreams” – Marilyn Manson

Remember when we all somehow knew that Marilyn Manson had a set of ribs removed so he could suck his own dick, but no one was sure where that rumor came from or how it spread? That was, like, pre-mass-internet-usage too. The late 90s/early 00s were wild.

“Bodies” – Drowning Pool

One of my fondest memories is of a few years ago when Husband and I were driving up to Halloween Horror Nights. We were in the parking lot, slowly snaking around to get into the parking lot of Universal Studios, and this song came on the radio. We blasted it and scream-sang to one another, and it really got me in a festive mood, plus it was most of my favorite things all in one place.

“Closer” – Nine Inch Nails

Trent Reznor is a musical genius. Fight me.

“Voodoo” – Godsmack

Again, is it about drugs or is it about magic? Is there a difference? Does it matter? These are the questions every generation will ask.

“Living Dead Girl” – Rob Zombie

Fun side story: Remember when I wrote my introspection? Something I didn’t mention was my life between like 11 and 14 when I was in one of my weirdest and darkest places, and I discovered Rob Zombie, Marilyn Manson, Mindless Self Indulgence, Nine Inch Nails, and scary music in general. I simultaneously loved pop music and this kinda stuff by separating my personality into these little boxes (eerily similar, I think, to disassociation), and I’d enter each one dependent on how I was feeling (all of the boxes were musically based, another was strangely occupied by Eminem and Limp Bizkit because I guess I’ve always been a little trashy). Maybe everyone does this, but I certainly didn’t show other people most of the boxes. Anyway, the point is that this time probably had a huge effect on my love of the creepy, and also Rob Zombie has a special place in the darkest, coldest, most barren part of my heart. I had a fucked up dream about him once when I was about 12, and I woke up with terrible scratches all over my arm, so he probably actually is immortal and supernatural, and I’ve been cursed.

Blogoween Day 27 – An Interlude

blogoween

So big fail yesterday, I actually completely FORGOT to post, I don’t know how, but by the time I remembered, it was too late, SO I’m hoping to get out a bonus post at some point this weekend. But for today, a quick musical interlude. A dude I love has released a new song just in time for Halloween, and I fucking love it, so I figured I’d share it here.

The only thing I don’t understand about Gerard Way’s solo stuff is how muffled/suppressed/drowned out the vocals are. I suppose he’s going for a vintage sound? Or perhaps, as a vocalist and someone who screamed a lot in older music, he’s forcing some subtlety into his vocals? I can appreciate that, but at the same time I always feel like something’s wrong (like literally with my speakers or headphones or whatever) when I’m listening to his stuff. Does anyone have any insight on this?

Regardless, I find this enjoyable because it’s a liiiiiittle harder than Hesitant Alien, and it’s sPoOpY, and it’s somebody for which I’ve had the hardest of lady boners forever getting back into music at the exact right time for me. The Black Parade and Danger Days got me through more than I care to say emotionally and creatively, and even if this goes nowhere and there isn’t an album coming after this, it feels so right.

Blogoween Day 0 – It’s Almost October

blogoween

It’s almost October
Time to get crunked on pumpkin spice
It’s hard to overstate my jubilation

Blogoween’s coming
Hang up your skulls and frickin bats
Raise a cup of virgin blood
And party with the undead

From their year-long slumber hungry ghouls will awake
Fend them off with funk-of-forty-thousand-year cake
Get your spookiess on
Get your graves out on the lawn
And hope in a month you’ll survive

I’m so frickin happy
I’m being so sincere right now
Even though Christmas decor is encroaching

Just leave me my pumpkins
Now give me that knife, he needs a face
Double, double, toil and trouble
Hide round the corner say “Boo!”

These ghosts and goblins on your soul they will dine
Then it’s R I P if you run out of time
So get your creepy ass in gear
It’s the best time of the year
To be thankful you are still alive!

Maybe I went too far?
I can see how this blood’s a little much…
Maybe I should take down this satanic altar?

Consider Jesusween?
That was a joke. Ha ha. FAT CHANCE.
Anyway these brains are great
They’re so delicious and moist!

Look at me still talking when there’s hell left to raise
Don your scythes and cloaks, there’s only thirty one days
Think of all the fun
There’s black magic to be done
On the people who are still alive

You should be happy you are still alive
Sucked all your blood, you can be still alive
Ate your brains, but you can be still alive
Sewed on new body parts to be still alive
You might be dead but you can be still alive

Still alive

Still alive

Podcast: Vacancy 1.15 -Turn Around

Episode 1.15 – Turn Around

Vacancy is an ongoing web serial. Find out more about it and start reading or listening here.

Vacancy’s Theme is “Planet Bullspit” by Corey Major

So I’m finally back on track with the podcast. It took me so long to get this out for two reasons 1) I am a lazy fuck, but more so 2) this one was really hard to edit. I recorded the vocals for this way back on August 2nd, but couldn’t figure out how the heck to edit my own singing. If you read the episode, I utilize lyrics from Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart” throughout the little karaoke scene, but I wrote this thing way before I ever thought I’d ever do an audio recording of it. When I did the recording, yes, I sang, and badly too! But here’s the problem: It wasn’t bad enough.

This is not some humble brag where I say “I sing so well I just can’t possibly sing off key!” Not at all, actually it’s almost the opposite! I don’t sing well, often off key, often with really weird inflections, and just in general my voice is kinda annoying (why am I doing a podcast again?), so the singing was bad, but it wasn’t bad in the way I intended it.

See, I imagined Lorelei singing so badly that it was funny, but this singing I was doing was just cringey. Like, it sounded very much like I was trying to sound good and failing as opposed to just singing really poorly. Does that make sense? Because Lorelei’s meant to be drunk and scared and fighting for her life, so the song should be over the top in every way, but I didn’t have that in me as an incredibly novice voice actress, so it just came out…really lame. I played around with reverb and other effects, but they just didn’t work.

The conclusion I came to was to just strip out the singing, play a karaoke version of the song in the background, and leave in a couple lines at the very end. I pray for your ears. Anyway, thanks for reading my whine, if you got this far, and have fun listening!

Vacancy Episode 1.15 uses these sounds from freesound, all of which have been remixed. The inclusion of any sound does not indicate endorsement of this completed work or its author:

A Short Story About Misplaced Nostalgia

Sometimes, because the human brain is imperfect and possibly glitchy due to some kinks in the simulation, we get songs stuck in our heads. And some of those sometimes, we get not a whole song, but a snippet of a song stuck on repeat indeed like a broken record. And even fewer times than all that, the snippet is unidentifiable. At least that’s my experience which I assume is shared by every other human because uniqueness is theoretical only. Usually this passes, the song is identified or forgotten, but if I had a story about one of those times, I wouldn’t write about it.

This is about the unidentifiable snipped I’ve had stuck in my head FOR LITERAL YEARS.

I have been singing the following to myself for at least a decade anytime 1) someone says I can’t do something, or 2) I get excited about taking on something new:

I can do that
how hard can that be
I can be
anything I wanna be
wanna sail the seas
just like a sailor

I knew the melody to this, and I knew that the voice behind it was male and poppy, but for the life of me I could not remember from where I’d heard the song.

But the theme of the song and the admitted silliness of the lyrics lead me to believe (correctly) that I’d first heard it when I was much younger and that it was possibly on a children’s show only, here’s the thing: I didn’t watch a lot of kids’ TV. I legit watched Friends and Seinfeld and Xena when I was a kid. And while, yes, I know all the little songs to Blue’s Clues and Eureka’s Castle, the problem there is I know those songs. And I know none of them had the melody or the lyrics that plagued my mind.

I consider myself pretty good at The Internet, and also pretty good at remembering specific things. Husband can feed me a line or two where every word is wrong and the melody is nonexistent, and I can get the song correct 90% of the time, but this case was just mind boggling.

I have tried on many occasions to find this stupid fucking song, Dear Reader. Believe you me, I’ve googled that stupid line a hundred times. You know what comes up? NOT THE SONG.

So in the last few years I became kind of content in my lack of knowledge. Ignorance is bliss, they say, and while “they” are usually very wrong, I forced myself to accept this. I even got a little delusional for a while and thought I may have made the song and melody up myself, but that seemed pretty crazy since I have attached a very specific memory of listening to this song, instruments, and a different voice to it.

Well, Dear Reader, I am happy to report that this day, September 13, 2018, I FOUND THE SONG.

I was peeing as I am wont to do quite frequently resulting in lots of good ideas, and the song popped into my head because, I guess, water, and I got the sudden very strong feeling that Len was the musician. Detour: Len is that band known for the incomprehensible “Steal My Sunshine,” the anthem of every late 90s, early 00s summer. If you do not click that link, I’d really like to tell you that you are missing out on an incredibly awkward music video where you see the camera reflected in every fucking pair of sunglasses and they do that thing where they filmed with the song at double speed then slowed the video down to sync it up (but only for the first half) to get a “cool slow mo” feel which is completely out of place, and also if you look closely at 1:28 you will see the girl screw up and VERY CLEARLY say “fuck” and that gives me life. (I wonder what that baby the tat’d preggo woman was carrying is doing now.) Anyway, all that’s to say, I thought Len probably had a second song, and it was that sailor song, but it didn’t get very popular.

Dear Reader, it wasn’t Len. I didn’t even bother to google it because I knew in my soul it wasn’t them. But it did make me think: I had this song on CD, but I didn’t own the band’s actual CD because if I did I would have for sure known them, so that left only one option: it was on a soundtrack.

THE POKEMON: THE FIRST MOVIE SOUNDTRACK.

That absolutely had to be it. Now, you have to understand, the Pokemon: The First Movie soundtrack is…a whole thing. To be clear: I didn’t buy it as a kid because I liked Pokemon, I bought it because I liked the musicians. That’s the kinda fan I was. I needed everything Britney had her name on even though “Soda Pop” was exactly the same on Baby…One More Time. It’s kinda the perfect snapshot of where pop music was at the cusp of the millennium: a handful of really big names that pumped out a lot of soulless shit (no shade, I LOVE soulless shit) for years, a larger handful of one-hit-wonder types, and a couple pseudo alternative but not really edgy enough acts that actually played their own instruments. It’s amazing. I’m fairly certain the songs have almost nothing to do with the movie, and the soundtrack was just a marketing tool for Sony to test out new artists, but I think most of the 90s/00s was just a marketing tool for Sony, so that’s fine.

Anyway I perused these songs for a good while on Wikipedia, but I knew from the titles alone (because I could recall how almost every song went just from the title *sigh*) that none of them were it! How? Did I own some Japanese bonus tracks not listed? Did I accidentally see the movie and remember the one song that didn’t make it on the soundtrack? Did I actually just make the damn thing up?

No, Dear Reader, the song exists. And I knew that in my heart of hearts. The song exists on a CD I owned and on a soundtrack. And that soundtrack could only be to the absolute pinnacle of 90s teen high school movie: Drive Me Crazy. (I was 12 in 1999, by the way, so not in high school. I don’t know what was wrong with me.)

Bonus: The webpage made for this movie still exists thanks to the Wayback Machine and holy fucking shit. I’d show you the boyfriend I made on the Interactive page, but sadly that bit of code fails now. Alas and alack, I suppose Husband will have to do.

So I perused those songs and had so many punches right in the nostalgia feels. But sadly, none of them stuck out to me as the song, and, Dear Reader, I am ashamed to say that I almost gave up. I would never know, it would forever be a mystery, but then I saw a song listed that I just didn’t really remember, and thought I needed to hear it because why not? And, well, I’ll let it speak for itself:

None of the rest of this song would come into my head when those lines I wrote out above would, but as soon as I heard this thing I instantly knew all the words. I also instantly knew I’d HAD THE FUCKING WORDS WRONG ALL ALONG.

Wish I could be
Anything I wanna be
Wanna be a fireman
Wanna be an astronaut
Wanna sail the sea
Just like a sailor
But it’s not the end of the world
So baby don’t get upset
It’s just a little regret

And that’s a fuckload more depressing than my version.

So, Dear Reader, you’re probably wondering why I’ve committed to writing this blog especially after such a long silence, but that’s precisely it. I wanted to let you know what I’ve been up to for the past two months. Research. Now that we have this all clear, we can return to regularly scheduled programming.

The Tools I Used To Win Camp NaNo

During Camp NaNo, I used a number of tools while I wrote. These aren’t necessarily the great works of art that inspire you to go forth and create your own prose, they’re more of the pen and paper variety, but you’re not writing anything without the utensils, okay?

Ambiance

I’m a pretty big fan of silence. I wouldn’t go so far as to say I have misophonia, but there are times when even the AC coming on annoys the fuck out of me (and living in the southern US, it’s an unfortunate necessity). I’ve found that gentle, reliable background sounds, like the click of Husband’s mouse while he plays Rimworld or Bart snoring from under the bed, can be pretty soothing. So when I’m trying to block out something annoying like drunken toddler relay races thundering the length of the apartment upstairs, I turn to ambient noise machines. As a bonus, these can act as background to your scenes. If you’re writing something spooky, pull up a “dark and stormy night” track, or if your characters and traipsing through the jungle, get you some rain forest ambiance. I really like these sites for finding my audible zone:

Tracking and Sprints

As I discussed in my posts on Camp NaNoWriMo (10k | 20k | 30k | 40k | 50k), I tracked my writing very closely. I intend to continue to do this to hold myself accountable as it worked beautiful and provided me with that oh-so-delicious data (and you can’t know you’re improving–or getting worse–if you’re not tracking your progress!).

  • Google Sheets – Works very closely to Microsoft Excel and because it’s cloud-based, can be accessed anywhere, including offline once it’s been loaded. I used this to track all my numbers in a really clean way, and to help out with the math aspect.
  • Calculator App – Isn’t it funny how all the grownups in the 90s used to say we wouldn’t be carrying calculators around with us 24/7 when we were adults? Ringo-Wrongo!
  • Timer – I use the built-in timer on my computer because it gives me a handy popup and a pleasing sound when it goes off. I prefer it to my phone because that alarm is obnoxious, and I don’t want the distraction of even picking up that god-forsaken thing when I’m in writing mode.

Plotting

I’ve never properly plotted before this go round, so my process is still way developmental, but I like the programs I’m using to get the job done, and they’re simple:

  • Pinterest – Gods, I hate this site and all it stands for, but if all you’re trying to do is collect images for an idea board, this is where it’s at, and I’ve written about this before.
  • Google Docs – I do all my writing in Google Docs so hopefully that cloud never gets hacked and destroyed. Like Sheets (this is all in Google Drive, to be fair) it can be accessed anywhere, including offline. I like the ability to make different folders and view my work in the Drive, so I can treat it like a desktop with everything close at hand. I create different Docs for the outline, history, ancient history, mythology, etc., and of course for the story itself. It’s very close to Microsoft Word (the whole Google suite is) but for as close to free as you can get (meaning, you’re paying for the service with your info, but the minute you Google anything, you’re already doing that, so whatever!)
  • Google Keep – #NotSpons, obviously, but this is an application I used to use a while back then stopped. I pulled it up again out of curiosity in early June (I’d installed the extension and forgot about it), and the changes that have been made to it are phenomenal. It’s a post-it note app with a helpful labeling and color-coding system. You can keep little bits of information in here that don’t go anywhere else, or use it more permanently like I’ve been doing for characters. I used to create a Google Doc for characters, but I found that cumbersome. Now, I just make a note for each character, pasting in a character sketch and filling it out as needed. I label them all so I can filter down to the them by story and subject (right now I have both SAT and Vacancy stuff in there). Similarly, I create a note with names that I like, using the same label so I’ve got a ready-made pot to grab from when I’m at a loss.
  • NameBerry – I find naming people, things, and whole books to be a bitch and a half, and I get really hung up on leaving blanks or fill-in names for my characters. NameBerry has a nice “If you like X, you’ll like Y” concept, and you can search up any name and find similar names to get a good convention going.
  • Fantasy Name Generator – A classic, the fantasy name generator has about a bajillion different kinds of generators that make for awesome jumping off points for just about everything, and it makes up for what NameBerry lacks: you probably won’t find someone saving “Tlannatar Helekrana” for the future child.

Fun Stuff

  • A good drink – I’m talking a big glass of water, iced green tea, hot hazelnut latte, anything to keep my mouth busy so I’m not cramming popcorn or chips into it. Seriously, writing is incredibly sedentary, and unless you’ve mastered dictation and jogging simultaneously, you gotta find a way to counteract the possible pounds you’ll put on if you’re prone to bingeing like me. Just a note: I don’t advise “write drunk, edit sober.” Even with sober editing, you’re not a good enough anything when you’re drunk: you’re just obnoxious. Just like my phone alarm.
  • An easy to-do list – Between sprints I often got up to pee (see the above bullet point), and liked to complete a task when I did so. Something like throwing in laundry, emptying the dishwasher, sweeping the cat litter up in the bathroom. Knowing what these tasks were ahead of time helped me to not waste precious minutes thinking about what I needed to do or stressing about what I might be missing and would surely drown under as I whiled my time away typing out nonsense. A list made things manageable and helped me to balance my life and my book. The tasks were also pretty mindless, so my brain could go on a little jaunt while I did them and was refreshed for the next sprint.
  • A comfy spot and lots of blankies – Don’t let anything distract you, including the temperature. I always had a sweatshirt and a soft blanket handy when I was sprinting. Like I mentioned, writing is sedentary work, and I get cold really easily, but if I leave the AC off all day the apartment becomes sticky like the Amazon and Husband and all the cats get cranky in the evening. I don’t give myself the excuse of shivering to stop midway through a sprint.
  • A cat – Rutherford sat on me for about 88.3% of my writing sprints, and since it’s illegal to move when a cat has made you its bed, he basically chained me to my laptop. I owe him most of my success, if I’m being entirely honest. If you only take away one tip for this, I hope it’s this: “get you a cat.”

Is “Semi-Charmed Life” The Best Pop Song Ever Written?

Yes.

Oh, you wanted a whole post about this? I don’t know if I can manage that, but how about a top ten reasons list? Wait, you’re sick of numbered lists? Bullet points it is! Here’s why Third Eye Blind’s “Semi Charmed Life” is the best pop song ever written.

  • You know this song, at least peripherally. That’s how great pop music works: everyone who was around when it was released is familiar with it.
  • This song is about drug addiction, overdosing, and oral sex, but you probably didn’t know that. That’s also how great pop music works: the song is so good you bop along with your mom and dad to a radio spewing intimate details about blow jobs and crystal meth.
  • It dates itself just enough to feel 90s (see lyrics “velvet dress” and the poppy grunge sound of the guitars) but not so much you can’t love it in any decade.
  • “Do do do do do do dooooo, do do do do do do dooooooo”
  • There are about three different versions of the song played on the radio not including the versions with various levels of bleeping. I remember when it came out that the pop station “B103.9” of my youth would reverse A LOT of tiny parts of the lyrics to the point that today I still sing “Doing cnvkweroiufsckncdhffhsdkfh til you break IT WON’T STOP!”
  • Did I mention the “dos”?
  • “The four right chords can make me cry” and the song is basically just four chords (like all great pop songs).
  • It starts all at once with this weird little intense drum solo thing and as soon as you hear it you know you’re in for a good fucking time (like I imagine one’s first time on speed might be).
  • The breakdown where it’s all chill and cool which seems to mimic the slow, dreamy, trippy sleep you might slip into when you start coming down.
  • “But I’m not coming down!”
  • This is one of those 90s songs that’s simultaneously sad and happy at once. Even if you don’t know the theme or most of the lyrics, the concept of a “semi-charmed kinda life” is one of those “aww that’s nice…wait” kinda phrases. Stack on top of that the reaching “good-byeeeeeeee”s and sandwich it all between how happy a “do do do” should be, but how strained and almost mocking they sound and you’ve got a good feel-weird hoagie going on.
  • “And I speak to you like the chorus to the verse / Chop another line like a coda with a curse” is pretty fucking great. Any song that’s kinda meta really gets me.
  • DOO DOO FUCKING DOO, BITCH!

 

Defining Albums

I’ve got this top five albums that I carry around in my heart. They aren’t necessarily my top five desert island albums or the top five albums I think are the pinnacle of what music should be. These are if, say, I needed to explain to someone how the fuck I got this way without my own words, I would just hand them these CDs. That’s a situation I’ll never be in, but guess what, Dear Reader? You’re on my blog, so technically you’re in that situation right now.

These are meaningful to me because of the times in my life when I fell in love with them, and the fact that they can so easily transport me back to how I exactly felt during a listening session. To be fair, Mandy Moore’s “Candy” can do that too, but I’m pretty sure that’s universal.

wallflowersbringingdownthehorseThe Wallflowers, Bringing Down The Horse, 1996

If there’s a theme going forward, it might be “depression.” I don’t know that I was ever clinically depressed, but sadness plays a big role in these picks, and pretty much every song on Bringing Down The Horse is, in a word, bleak. I was eight when it came out, and I think I got the CD when I was nine or ten. That may sound weird, but I grew up watching adult sitcoms and listening to both alternative/pop radio and classic 70s/80s rock, so The Wallflowers, The Verve Pipe, Matchbox Twenty, these were all sort of the backdrop to my childhood alongside Aerosmith, Bruce Springsteen, and Queen. I used to make up supernatural stories to the songs on Bringing Down The Horse, pretty easy when Jakob Dylan’s lyrics are already so prose-y and fantastical, and it sort of paved the way for me to really get into writing more dark and somber stuff. I mean, a pre-teen is probably already on the verge of that anyway, and the images of a boy living in a tower, a girl dying of a broken heart, and a man who can survive disconnecting the wires in his own heart just push you over the edge. Every song is magic, and if you didn’t before, you will absolutely appreciate the existence of the slide guitar after one listen, but of the non-singles, I’d suggest “Josephine” to get a feel for the album as a whole. (Please keep in mind that to a nine year old, the schoolgirl imagery was not weird. As an adult, I find this song…odd, but I don’t think that escaped the band.)

 

green_day_-_american_idiot_coverGreen Day, American Idiot, 2004

The first time I was old enough to cast a ballot for the President of the United States, I had the privilege and the honor to vote for Barack Obama. Everything I felt about this country could be summed up with the title track on this album when I was a teenager, and consequently, it’s probably more accurate now than it was 14 years ago. Beyond a punky middle finger to George W (remember the good ole days when Bush was the bad guy? Now the dude who infamously said well, I can’t pick just one, is the voice of reason!), there’s this sad, angry, trippy story about finding yourself and your place in a fucked up world on this album, and that’s what a lot of teenagers deal with. Sadly, the story itself ends with the protagonist giving up, so I was never keen on the last couple parts, but I like to think that just because he gives up on Whatshername doesn’t mean that Whatshername ever gave up fighting the good fight. The album is also incredibly theatrical (they did adapt it for the stage, after all) and loud and in your face. Basically a lot of things I wasn’t but desperately wanted to be. “St Jimmy” is one of the most fun, scream at the top of your lungs with your tongue sticking out songs:

 

the_killers_-_sam27s_townThe Killers, Sam’s Town, 2006

I used to say The Killers was my favorite band, but I realized that it’s actually just that they made one of my favorite records because they change pretty drastically from album to album. There are a lot of songs on their B-sides release, Sawdust, that I really like, but you can tell those songs were the ones that didn’t make it onto Hot Fuss because they belonged on Sam’s Town but ended up on Sam’s Town‘s cutting room floor. (A little detour here, but “All These Things That I’ve Done” is probably The Killers’ best song, but it’s weirdly on Hot Fuss despite the very clear Sam’s Town vibes it gives off, though it might be too hopeful and cymbal-crash-y for the latter. Okay, I’m done!) Again, there are a lot of story-telling songs, but the focus here is faith and in the mid 2000s that’s what I was struggling with too. Who am I, what’s my role in the world, what does God (yeah, big G) want me to do? All that bullshit. I also got interested in my mom’s life when she was growing up as I got closer to the age she was when she had me, thinking “I could never have a baby right now,” and curious about my biological father, and Brandon Flowers explores similar ideas in a lot of these tracks. “For Reasons Unknown” spoke to me on a primal level, and “Read My Mind” was basically the soundtrack to my struggle with sexuality. I don’t know if everyone has experienced this, but you know that thought when you’re driving over the speed limit toward a sharp curve on a country road and you’re like, “You know what, self? You don’t have to turn, you could just, like…keep going straight.” Well, “Why Do I Keep Counting” basically kept me wondering enough about mortality and God and the future to stay out of the ditch and keep my feet on the ground throughout 2008:

 

bat_out_of_hellMeat Loaf, Bat Out Of Hell, 1977

If there’s one album that doesn’t fit in…except it totally does! It’s a rock opera, it tells a story, it’s about finding yourself (though admittedly finding yourself half naked in the backseat, dry-humping a cheerleader), and it’s epic. I think my mom got this on CD when I was around eight, and I’ve been listening to it since. It was always fun, even when it was about heartbreak and death, and it might be what introduced me to the idea of the devil being a pretty cool guy. Like with Bringing Down The Horse, I wrote supernatural stories in my head to this one too, only these were cheesier and self-aware. There were vampires and werewolves and demons and blood pacts and necromancy and, of course, motorcycles, but with bat wings. And all before Twilight! I’m not going to offer you a non-single suggestion because “Paradise By The Dashboard Light” is literal perfection and Ellen Foley is a goddess (that’s not her in the video though):

 

blackparadecoverMy Chemical Romance, The Black Parade, 2006

The Black Parade is a desert island album for me. In fact, if I could only listen to one album for the rest of my life, just one set of songs, it would be this. Why? I wish I fucking knew, honestly. It’s super dramatic, it’s sad and self-loathing, it romanticizes war and cancer and abuse all of which are absolutely not romantic, but it’s also loud, clever, thoughtful, uses “fuck” unabashedly, it is just so much fun. Of course, My Chemical Romance’s popularity wasn’t born out of fun, they rode a wave of emo tears to the top of their genre. I wasn’t a huge fan of their first two albums (but “I’m Not Okay” always does it for me), and I never had scene hair or a lip piercing, but I felt a lot of the things expressed in these songs. Yes, they’re self indulgent, but I don’t think you can really feel an emotion without wallowing in it for at least a little bit. On top of all that, The Black Parade presents music in some of my favorite ways: broadway-esque with vocals that are full of emotion (and also ENUNCIATION), borrowing from other cultures and sounds but making those things sound borderline poppy, orchestral sounds, and lyrics that are angry but also humorous and kinda grotesque and demonic. Or maybe I’m over-analyzing it and it’s all shit, but it doesn’t matter because I love it. So on that note I’ll leave you with one of, if not the, most fucked up songs on the album.

Eulogy

In Billy Joel’s Master Class, he tells the story of explaining to his young daughter what death is. He told her that people never really die, they never really go away. Instead, when you die you go into other people’s hearts, and they take you on their journeys. In this way, no one ever really leaves us.

I really like that idea for the obvious reasons, but also because it’s so much easier to use someone else’s words when you can’t figure out what to say. If you know me you know I love words, but I don’t think I could ever find the right ones to define my grandma’s life. There are a handful that stick out: crafty, musical, hard-working, charitable, loving, but none of these can sum up who she really was.

She tried – emphasis on tried – to teach me to play the piano. My biggest regret, and I think one we all share, was not listening. There are only so many times you can play “Hot Cross Buns,” and only so many times the average person can listen to it, but Grandma wasn’t average. Just like how she never got sick of playing “Für Elise,” Grandma endured listening to us hit the wrong keys over and over because she wanted us to be on the same journey that she was: a quest to always be a better you.

She love music, singing, art, and I think she instilled that passion in all of us. Not necessarily for painting or piano, but she gave us the ability to develop a deep and enduring love for something. She taught us all a lot of things. For example, she taught me key words and phrases in French: bonjour, merci, au revoir, pamplemousse – that one’s grapefruit. She also taught me to call my grandpa “Tony” or “To-neeeee!” But most importantly she taught me to keep learning. The world is full of more than any one person can ever really take in, but it’s our responsibility to try.

Everyone here played a role in my grandma’s life: a caregiver, a friend, a son, a daughter, a husband, and you all gave her things so special, so dear, that they are irreplaceable. There is nothing left we can give to her now that she doesn’t already have in abundance where she is. But there is something we can do, though it may be more for ourselves. Carry my grandma around in your heart, bring her wherever you go, show her the world, take her on your journey, because she would want to see you keep learning, and she would never want to stop.

grandma

The Sportball We

I love language. The trivialities of linguistics, the odd words we use, how simple semantics can change entire meanings, dialects, colloquialisms: it’s all awesome (except, I admit, there are some accents that I hate, but that’s a whole other thing). English is remarkably complex and word-wealthy, borrowing from so many other languages and spreading across the whole globe, that there are practically no rules in English that aren’t at some point broken yet still considered correct, and just when you think “okay, this thing is a rule and there’s only this one exception”–BAM something else hits you in the face!

But I think I’ve come across something wholly unique in the English language, and I am fucking pumped. I have come to affectionately deem it “The Sportball We,” and, Dear Reader, I would love to explain, especially since it’s about to be the Super Bowl.

The Sportball We is something that we all are familiar with, but it hides in plain sight (hearing?), and you’ve probably never given it a second thought. Let me be clear: this is not a rant. I don’t care that people do this; I just find it fucking fascinating. What I am calling The Sportball We is the phenomenon that occurs when a person speaks about a sports team as if they are part of that team despite it being understood by everyone that they are, in fact, not a player of or other peripheral teammate to, that team. Example:

Did you see the Lightning game last night?

Yeah, we really crushed the Canucks!

or

Do you think we’ll make it to the Super Bowl this year?

or

Are you guys getting a new head coach?

Those second two examples are especially interesting since they can be said utilizing The Sportball We as a total replacement for the team name if all the speakers in a conversation know which team the answerer is “part of.”

What is most fascinating about this to me is sports are the only activity or organization that the speaker is not actually a part of yet speaks as if they are. When I tried to find other examples, my mind immediately went to religion and houses of worship. People say “we” when discussing their congregation or religion; however, they actually are part of these things. People are Christians or people belong to and attend a mosque. Sportball We-ers don’t take an active part in the game in the way a Jewish person might actively celebrate Passover, but SBWs do, in some way, take a passive role in sports by being fans.

So I thought, okay, what are other things of which people are fans? Music, of course. But do Beyonce’s fans leave a concert declaring “We totally slayed it on stage!” or ask one another if they’ve seen our new video yet? I don’t think so. Sometimes people refer to a fandom as a whole that they are part of, but that’s the thing: you are part of a fandom as you can take an active role cultivating it, but you’re not part of the band or musician, and music fans have a distinction in their speech that SBWs do not.

The same can be said for people who say “we” about their hometown or their alma mater. Though they might not live there or attend that school anymore, they did at one time, took an active part in living there, and would still be considered a representative of those peoples.

The only thing that seems to come close is when men say “we’re pregnant.” Your buddy Bob at the office is hauling around a fetus and vomiting his guts out as much as he’s tackling Tom Brady on the 30, but at least he actually (probably) had a hand in making it possible for a fetus to eventually exist, and in that way we can kind of parallel conception to being a dedicated sports fan who “helps” their team win. However, there are a lot of people who find the “pregnant we” weird, and almost no one who thinks The Sportball We is bizarre.

In fact, I never thought The Sportball We was weird until I started working in a male-dominated department where sports were discussed in numbers equitable to how children were discussed in my previously female-dominated department, so the language was constantly in my ear. It’s just a part of American culture and language, and that’s kind of cool. There is, of course, a lot that could be said sociologically about patriotism and sports fanaticism, but I’ll leave that to someone else for now. Instead, we can all just marvel at the uniqueness that The Sportball We brings to English.

Also if you think you have another instance of a “we” used in a socially acceptable and understood instance despite the user having no actual, active participation in the activity or organization, leave a comment below, Dear Reader, and I’ll be happy to tell you why you’re wrong.