Nov 102013

Most of the time when we get songs stuck in our heads, it’s annoying. We don’t want it stuck in our head, we get sick of hearing it loop over and over–especially if we can only remember snippets of it! But sometimes, I’ll get a song stuck in my head that I just want to listen to over and over again. It’s stuck there, but I don’t want it to leave. For the last week or so, that’s been “You Know My Name” by Chris Cornell, familiar to most people as the title music to Casino Royale, Daniel Craig’s debut film as James Bond.

The rockin’ style and melody of the piece aside, a couple of lyrics in particular resonate with me.

I’ve seen angels fall from blinding heights
But you yourself are nothing so divine
Just next in line

I want to steal this verbatim for a line in a book somewhere. It’s right up there with Roy Batty’s “Tears in the Rain” speech from Blade Runner or Dirty Harry’s “Do I Feel Lucky?” bit in terms of how utterly badass a line it can be, in the right context. I also get a kick out of how completely dismissive it is.

Arm yourself because no one else here will save you
The odds will betray you

This is the part that taps directly into my brain; I absolutely love what happens musically on that first chorus line. I could listen to that line on loop and be happy. But setting aside the music, the lyric itself has some gravitas to it just because of how cynical it is. At the same time, it actually makes me think of Iron Man (or Batman; any genius-human that becomes “super” through the application of knowledge and training). There are a ton of ways to read the line, from the superficial “you are in a dangerous situation and will need to take up arms yourself because no one else will save you” to the deeper but more mundane idea that you are the architect of your own success because no one else is going to build it for you. If you depend on that, “the odds will betray you.”

The coldest blood runs through my veins
You know my name

So far, I’ve called out a badass verse and a verse about self-actualization, but this one gets me for an entirely different reason. One of the things that Craig’s James Bond captures that I think many will agree got lost in prior portrayals is a sense of cold, ruthless lethality. This line, right here, embodies that for me. Similar to the way “Sympathy for the Devil” never calls out just exactly who is singing the song, this line expects the listener to know from the harsh, ruthless tale weaved by the lyrics just who the singer is. No names are necessary; we already know.

I love dissecting why certain songs resonate with me, so I might do more of these in the future!

Jul 302012

I turned 28 on Saturday.

This is a curious occasion for me for a number of reasons. The first is numerological: this is the only time my age and the date of my birth will ever coincide, unless I live until I’m 728. We celebrated in proper style, with somewhere around 25 people attending a party that lasted until 6:30 the next morning. I am a little disappointed with myself for not drinking more than I did, actually, but we had great fun. My sister in law baked some amazing peanut butter cupcakes, and there were pies to be had as well. One of the more notable activities of the evening was the game Psychiatrist, which proved to be a lot of fun. I think we’ll be revisiting that one. Disney Action Princesses were also a thing.

28 is also “the year,” as far as “the plan” goes. It’s the year most novelists get their first publication out, and the book is on track to fit that mold. It’s also the threshold beyond which certain…expansionary discussions could reasonably start happening. I’m not saying those discussions are happening; just that this is when I feel like they could potentially start.

In some ways, 27 was a great year. In other ways, it was rough as hell. But I think all of the rough spots in 27 are ultimately going to have been worthwhile experiences that pay off in 28.

Here’s to the future.

It’s no secret that Tony Stark is a bit of a hero of mine. I am not the child prodigy offspring of a billionaire industrialist, though, so the odds of my ever achieving Tony Stark success is…even smaller than if he weren’t a fictional character. That aside, I apparently now have a target dollar value to aim at: $1,612,717,000.

Aside: I received this as a “silly” birthday present, which I of course immediately assembled and placed on my desk because awesome.

In news that shocks no one, the money won in the Pirate Bay lawsuit/trial is going go to…not the artists.

Hey, RIAA, there was this little movie a while back called Gladiator. You might’ve missed it; it wasn’t big or anything. There was a line in it that you might do well to consider: “win the crowd.” If you win the crowd, even a lowly slave-cum-gladiator can wield enough power to challenge a king (or, y’know, Caesar). You are not winning the crowd by being money-grubbing jerks that don’t compensate the people that make you rich.

There was a piece in HuffPo linked on Slashdot that caught my eye. Much as the Olympics (are meant to) represent the peak of human athleticism, there are yet greater achievements going on that we as a global society aren’t paying any attention to, and that’s sad. Especially when it involves sending an incredible piece of technology to another world to look for other life.

Next week, while we’re all watching NBC, a nuclear-powered, MINI-Cooper-sized super rover will land on Mars. We accurately guided this monster from 200 million miles away (that’s 7.6 million marathons). It requires better accuracy than an Olympic golfer teeing off in London and hitting a hole-in-one in Auckland, New Zealand. It will use a laser to blast rocks, a chemical nose to sniff out the potential for life, and hundreds of other feats of near-magic. Will these discoveries lead us down a path to confirming life on other planets? Wouldn’t that be a good story that might make people care about science?

Remember Richard Muller, the guy who stood up and told the vast, overwhelming majority of the scientific commnuity that it was wrong about climate change and that anything we were seeing was just circumstantial and definitely not human-made?

Yeah, he’s changed his tune. Completely.

Most people don’t understand just how catastrophic this is going to be–at this point, we’re not going to avoid it–because on the surface, it’s not obvious. People in this country, to steal the phrasing a friend of mine used, aren’t going to notice until “growing corn in Iowa becomes impossible, but suddenly Alberta[, Canada] is a fantastic place to do it.” I said to him:

Heh. At that point, famine and drought will have killed quite a few people in Africa, South America, India, and China.

But that’s okay, because those places are full of spics, chinks, and brown people.1

The NSA is spying on everyone, all the time, always.

I find this deeply bothersome in many ways, but in some respects I don’t care. Privacy is a big, big deal to some people. Certain things about privacy are a big deal to me. I don’t want my credit card or social security number spread across the internet for all to steal my identity with, for example. I’d rather not have someone take pictures of me siting on the toilet through my bathroom window, either. In the former case, it’s less because I care that someone has that information, and more because I care about the damage they could do with it. There’s nothing intrinsically problematic with me telling a friend what those two numbers are, because I trust that the friend–even with that power–isn’t going to do something dastardly with it. I don’t trust the rest of the world, thus I want to keep it “private.”

Some people have massive trust issues when it comes to the government. I…don’t really think about the government very often, except when something happens in the news, when it comes time to vote, and when it comes time to pay taxes.2 So, the NSA spying on the conversations I have with my wife, or my friends, or any of that…I just sort of shrug my shoulders. I’m not worried about what the NSA will do to me with that information.

But I am worried about what the NSA might do with that information on everyone. Expand the scope, and it becomes a lot scarier.

In something that will come as no shock to all you Nickelback naysayers out there, we now have scientific evidence that corroborates the general meme that pop music is more homogenous now than it was back in the ’50s.

That said, might one simply interpret this as the gradual honing of our understanding creating music that is pleasing to the largest number of people? While I’m sure a lot of people will balk at the finding on a knee-jerk level, I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing.

One of the author blogs I follow is that of Rachel Aaron. She posted this, which gave me some heart.

Here’s a secret, though. When I was starting out, I didn’t write every day. There were times when I quit writing for months at a time, or days when I got up to write and ended up wasting my entire two hours reading web comic archives. It took me a year and a half to finish my first book, and another year to finish my second. But there, friends, is the kicker. Though there were days I didn’t write, days I flubbed, sometimes even months when I walked away from the computer, I never stayed away. I always came back.

The difference between the writers who make it and those who don’t is that the writers who win are the writers who never quit. This is the secret to all writing: You only fail when you stop. So long as you are writing, even if you’re not writing as much or as fast or as well as you’d like to be, so long as you do not quit, you have not failed.

Along the same lines, here are two letters Patton Oswalt presented to Just For Laughs in Montreal during his keynote address. They resonate with the indie groundswell going on across all forms of popular media.

  1. And in case it’s not completely obvious, I was satirizing the typical close-minded–dare I say conservative?–view of the rest of the world that a fair block of this country seems to have. []
  2. And even then, I’m less thinking about the government and more thinking about making sure I have all my documents in order for my accountant. []

Great Big Sea

 Posted by at 11:13  No Responses »
Aug 212009

Until last night, I had never attended a professional concert. I had seen high school/college bands play, but never a pro, touring band. That all changed yesterday, when I popped my concert cherry with my favorite band, Great Big Sea. I could not have asked for better.

They played at the South Shore Music Circus in Cohasset, which is essentially a bunch of food kiosks surrounding a large circus tent with a stage in the middle. We had amazing seats, not 10 feet from the stage. The show opened with another Canadian musician, Chris Velan. Cody and I were both surprised by Velan; he was an excellent musician, and did some great stuff using a recording/playback box controlled by his feet. He’d use it to drum on his guitar, keep that drum beat going throughout the song, and then mix in guitar licks. The effect was five or six musicians’ worth of music, all played by one guy with an acoustic guitar.

After a 20 minute intermission, Great Big Sea took the stage with Donkey Riding, and followed with a playlist that included several songs I hadn’t yet heard (and which I have yet to identify), as well as: A Boat Like Gideon Brown (also new to me), Beat the Drum (also new to me, and a new favorite), Captain Kidd, Consequence Free, Everything Shines, General Taylor, I’m a Rover, Jack Hinks, Mari-Mac, The Night Pat Murphy Died, Ordinary Day, and When I’m Up.

They modified the chorus for Pat Murphy from “Some of the girls got loaded drunk, and they ain’t been sober yet” to “The Massachusetts girls got loaded drunk, but what can you expect?” At one point, Sean—whose hair is getting longer—randomly broke into My Way, as well. After they left the stage, the crowd started chanting “Great Big Sea!” and they encored (surely pre-planned) with The Old Black Rum.

There were a couple of really young girls there (couldn’t have been more than 5 years old) and throughout the show, Alan—now sporting a mighty beard, presumably from his role as Allan A’Dayle in Ridley Scott‘s upcoming Robin Hood film, starring Russell Crowe—would give them guitar picks. It was very cute. They bantered quite a bit, much to the entertainment of the audience. Alan lamented that they were the only band to have played at the South Shore Music Circus that hadn’t been on Letterman, which prompted much of the audience to shout that Conan was better anyway. At one point, Sean noticed that his beater finger (Alan: “Is that a euphemism I should know about?”) had a blister since it had been so long since they’d last played. An audience member supplied him with a band-aid, which he made a great show of putting on. He then held out the now-bandaged middle finger to Alan, demanding that he kiss it.  He also claimed that the lozenges(?) he was eating throughout the show were pure methamphetamine.

Later, Alan and Sean were discussing in what direction the band would go next, raising the possibility of folk music. They didn’t know how to define folk music, though, so they asked Bob, who responded, “I play folk music.” We were in the section closest to Bob, and it was fantastic watching him play the accordion and fiddle. The man is a master. During one song, while Sean was singing, Alan came over to our section and asked everyone in the first few rows “Are you having fun? Are you having fun?” It’s great how much they really care that their audience has a good time.

All in all, they played for close to two hours, without a break (except the pre-encore interlude of perhaps two minutes). Absolutely phenomenal.