Sunday, July 31, 2011

Balloons and beavers and record players

I have a fondness for old vinyl album covers - there's just something about them that a CD cover or (God forbid) an mp3 album artwork file cannot capture. I'm usually not one for "holding the music in my hand" but I will admit to loving the feel of a 12" record album in my hand. Perhaps it's because I had so many of them when I was growing up. I bought vinyl long after it was on it's way out - the last vinyl album I bought new was Bananarama's The Greatest Hits Collection in late 1988 - and even then, I'd gone almost exclusively to cassette tapes. Christmas of 1988 saw the arrival of the CD player so who in the hell needed vinyl?

I've turned a lot of the vinyl albums I have into artwork in my home office (see the post "Vinyl trim") but that's left me with a lot of vinyl albums that I can't play. Usually this is no big whoop as most everything I have on vinyl I have on iTunes. But for some reason, I've really had a hankering recently to get a record player and play some of those vinyl albums. I haven't had a record player in 20 years and although vinyl's making a comeback, I just could never justify the expense of buying a turntable to be able to play records again.

Yesterday we went down to Indianola where our friend Jeff was hosting a party for the National Balloon Classic. He has a front row seat to the Mass Ascension of the balloons. The whole thing sounds vaguely religious to me, but trust me, with the company we were keeping, it was as irreverent as ever. Last year was highlighted by the presence of the Beaver Balloon.

Attack of the killer beaver!!

This year, the Beaver Balloon was back, but it turned it's back on us. You can see it in this photo - it's the lowest balloon about 2/3rds of the way across the picture.

That's right, we were snubbed by the beaver (ironically enough, also the title of my college memoirs.) As we said, if there are any beaver jokes that are not inappropriate, we're not interested in knowing them.

But more than that, Jeff was having a garage sale of sorts - selling stuff he had painted as well as some of his personal belongings. One of those was a complete stereo system WITH TURNTABLE (and speakers) for a lousy 20 bucks. I hemmed and hawed as per my usual and then ultimately purchased it after he assured me that the turntable still worked. I set it up today and have not turned on iTunes all night. Here I sit with 21,000 songs in iTunes and I'm happy as a clam to be sitting listening to record albums, just like I did 30 years ago. No, the sound isn't like it is from a CD or an mp3, but there's just something about it.

Click to make it bigger! It's Stevie Nicks!

I've also listened to Barbra Streisand's Stoney End and it's just made me more determined then ever to get more Barbra vinyl. If nothing else, I need to get the People album and probably Simply Streisand which are both albums I had on CD in college, in addition to Stoney End. Jeez, having had all those albums in college, it's not surprising no girls wanted to date me! (not really true, but boy I sure couldn't see through the fog of self-doubt and low self-esteem enough to see it.) It's truly amazing my wife said yes when I asked her to marry me.

Barbra crimped her hair and went down the stoney end. She never wanted to go down the stoney end!

There's something about vinyl, especially the really old albums, that just seems so right. The acquisition of the turntable for the rock bottom price of twenty bucks makes me want to head to ZZZ Records in Des Moines and see if I can score some Joni Mitchell vinyl, or Laura Nyro's Eli & The Thirteenth Confession. As I've said before, if there's an album that begs to be played on vinyl, it's that one.

So everything old is new again. The only thing I wish it did is keep track of play counts. I guess you can't win 'em all. Now if you'll excuse me, I think I'll listen to some Bananarama. ON VINYL.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Doing something right

Those of you in my most intimate circle may (or may not) know that the last couple weeks have completely kicked my ass. Work's been stressful, there was the whole tire debacle, and then there's other shiz going on that I'm not going to go in here. But when you combine it all with the fact I'm just starting to burn out after having taken my summer vacation in May, there's no denying that I've been going through a bit of a rough patch. The other night when Heidi and Anna came out to have supper with me at work, Heidi must have really noticed it and I told her that I'd "talk to her when I got home." Her eyebrow arched and she wondered if something specific had happened and I assured her no but that I just "wasn't feeling very good about myself."

Anna must have heard me say this because this is what I found when I came home from work that night, exhausted and spent.

As Heidi pointed out, I shouldn't feel bad about myself because I had a hand in helping mold this child who knows enough at age nine the thing that I still frequently forget at age 39 - always like yourself! Much of that for me is an old pattern that I'm working on changing, but still, I'm glad that I've helped arm her with that kind of internal monologue.

So here's to a reboot today. We're going down to Indianola for the National Balloon Classic and good times with friends and may-as-well-be-family. I slept till 10:30 and skipped my cardio because clearly, I needed the unconsciousness more than the aerobic workout. There's always tomorrow.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Book of Awesome

I don't even know where to start with The Book of Awesome. I guess the best place to start is how I acquired this book. My friend Mary sent it to me in the mail last week, thinking I might like it. This isn't the first time that Mary has recommended a book to me, but it is the first time she's ever given me the book she was recommending, with the instructions to pass it on to someone else that might enjoy it when I was done with it.

I can see why you'd want to pass it on after reading it. It's not really rereadable - once you've read through Neil Pasricha's list of awesome things, you really don't need to go back and read them again. My understanding of how this book came to be is that it grew out of the blog 1000 Awesome Things which Pasricha started in order to chronicle the little awesome things in life that often get taken for granted but are, nonetheless, pretty fantastic. When I started the book, I rolled with it and enjoyed it, but he started to lose me about 20 pages in when I realized that every single entry is going to end with the the one word sentence (in all caps, no less) - AWESOME!! And it wasn't long before his writing style started to irritate the hell out of me. You can tell that these things are lifted from a blog as you can pretty much hear Pasricha talking when you read the various items. It was as if the words just poured out of him without so much as a second read through to make sure that his writing didn't sound douchey. Actually, I take that back because he must have gone through it a second time so that he could put in random bold face type that made little to no sense.

I think that's my biggest trouble with this book. Even though I have never met the author and who knows, if we did meet or we had a history together or something, I might feel differently, but this book made me feel like there's no way on God's green Earth I could handle being in his presence. I got this image of him sitting at his computer, rubbing his hands together and laughing uproariously at his latest play on words, made up word (gasholenorememberitis is one that springs to mind), or appropriating of dude culture in his writing. By the end, I was seriously skimming because I just couldn't handle him being not as funny nor as clever as he thought he was being.

*sigh* I kind of feel like an asshole for not liking a book that is all about celebrating the little things in life that are great. There's no doubt that many of the things he mentioned are awesome. I love the cool side of the pillow, finding old mix tapes and let me tell you how I watched The Price Is Right religiously every time I was home sick. However, to be frank, if I hear anyone use the word "awesome" for a while, I may start twitching. I stand behind my assertion that it's the writing style of the author that turned me off to the book. That, and the fact that all these entries are still posted on his blog so you could read them for free on the internet and not content with 36 million blog hits, he cashed in on his free material by putting it in book form. I can't say that I blame him, but it still kind of pisses me off.

Maybe I'm just being cranky. I have to admit that I'm mildly intrigued by the parody The Book of Awful, but even I'm not that cynical. Plus it might be written in a style to approximate his and really, I can't handle that!

(Sorry Mary - if it hadn't been for his writing style, I would have totally eaten this book up!)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Seven songs from my summer (so far)

The one good thing about having a computer crash that requires you to completely reinstall everything is that, even though you lose your iTunes play counts *sob*, you find yourself in the unique position of totally shaking up the Top 25 Most Played playlist. Some of the most interesting songs are in mine right now - the top song has a mere seven plays. So I thought, what the hell, let's do another seven songs post. They're always fun and if you aren't careful, some of you might find a present in your inbox. Here we go.

1) Carrie Newcomer / Before & After
Very much in the vein of Mary Chapin Carpenter, this is so much more a fall song than a summer song. If you listen closely, you'll even hear MC squared on harmony vocals.
Choice lyric: I've lived on fumes and religious corn flakes.

2) Madonna /Run
If the "Broken" demo didn't exist, it'd be the hands down best Madonna demo out there. A nice mix of William Orbit blips and bleeps with a very rocky guitar. Straight forward vocals by Madonna make this better than anything on Hard Candy. I read somewhere once that Madonna's voice is remarkable only in its familiarity and I feel like that's so true here.
Choice lyric: Don't ask me to slow down/I don't wanna go down/You won't catch me lookin' back/Coz people like me don't live like that.

3) Annie / Me Plus One
Probably my favorite song that spells (which is a post all its own), I've never cared much for most of Annie's other stuff, but this is perfection.
Choice lyric: Mrs. D, Mrs. I, Mrs. F-F-I, Mrs. C, Mrs. U-L-T. If ever there's a girl that could rock your world/Then that girl sure is me.

4) Blondie / Love Doesn't Frighten Me
My favorite song on Blondie's fanfuckingtastic new album (I like it 100 times more than No Exit and The Curse of Blondie combined), I still can't get over how little Debbie Harry's voice has aged.
Choice lyric: All this nothing is real something/It's time spent.

5) Duran Duran / (Reach Up For The) Sunrise
I have gone on record in several places that Astronaut is my favorite DD album - heresy in DD circles, I'm sure. But there simply isn't a bad song on that album and the first single is very indicative of the album as a whole.
Choice lyric: You can touch the sunrise/Feel the new day enter your life.

6) Erick Macek / Aries Man
I have my friend Bess to thank for introducing me to Erick Macek. He's kind of a cross between Jason Mraz and Eric Hutchinson and although that's kind of the last thing this world needs, his stuff really works for me. I downloaded this on a whim because of the astrology reference. Now if someone would just do a song called "Gemini Man."
Choice lyric: You gotta learn to be patient/And feel the pride/Cuz I'm an Aries Man inside.

7) Chesney Hawkes / The One & Only
Total soft spot for this song. It feels like an 80s song even though technically it's 90s. We never heard from Chesney Hawkes again, but this was enough for me. I always love a song that makes you feel good and this one does it for me. I remember listening to it during my darkest moments trying desperately to make myself believe it. And what do you know? It finally worked.
Choice lyric: No one can be myself like I can/For this job, I'm the best man.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Flat tires update

A quick follow-up to last night's car shenanigans.

The car is fixed. 443 dollars, two new tires and an alignment later, it's like the nothing never was. Funny thing is I just got a bonus at work and although it's not poetic and exactly 443 dollars, it does put a serious dent in it so it proves the adage "easy come easy go" quite nicely.

In any event, it's done. As my father says, "don't get money ahead, because a kid will get sick." Or you'll run your car into a median and trash two tires.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Double flat

I have to be up at 5AM tomorrow but this story must be told - partially because it's too good not to tell and partially because I have to own it in order to stop the negative monologue that is trying like crazy to go at full bore.

The short version is that I went to Hy-Vee tonight to pick up some milk and coffee. I added some Diet Rite Zero to the list as well, then swung by Hy-Vee Gas and got my 8 cent per gallon discount. After that, I headed northbound on Grand Avenue and that's where the fun started.

Somehow, some way, I ended up hitting the median right by the Ames Veterans Memorial and flattened both my driver's side tires. Like most car accidents, looking back on it is like looking through etched glass into a foggy night. I can't, for the life of me, figure out HOW I did it. Clearly, I was driving too close to the median (you think?) but I hit it and the next thing I know, I'm pulled off to the side of the road with two flat tires. I'm lucky I didn't hit a sign, or careen into oncoming traffic. This, of course, makes me sound like someone who routinely drives recklessly which, let me assure you, I am not. The worst part was that I was mere blocks from home, but far enough that I can't make it without doing more serious damage to my car.

So I get my car off Grand Avenue and pull it onto 5th Street. At this point, there's no doubt that I'm going to need a tow. Finally, AAA is worth more than just hotel discounts. They send me a guy from the local Amoco who takes nearly an hour to arrive. He puts the donut on and tows me to CarX which is who does all our car work. Once we get there, I ask him if he can give me a ride home and he either couldn't or wouldn't - I can't figure out which. He said he had another call to go to and acted like driving me a couple miles back home was like driving me from the south side of Chicago to the northern outskirts. WTFE, I walked from CarX. He was kind of a jerk, but a jerk that towed my car so he gets points for that.

It was at about this point that my evil twin really started in on me. He started with the old reliable "stupid" and then moved on to "klutzy" and "absent-minded" and "you just don't pay attention!" For him, it's like the word "accident" doesn't exist. I did it deliberately and because I was an idiot. At other times in my life, this evil twin, who really is a shithead to me, would have won the argument. I would have felt terrible and awful and beat myself up for something that was clearly accidental. Yes, it's a big deal, but no, I didn't do it on purpose and just because I had an accident does NOT make me "stupid." Nice try. Moron.

Anyway, the best part of the story is that I was texting Heidi this whole time. As I started to walk home, she tried to get someone on Twitter to give me a ride home since Anna was already in bed. By the time I noticed this, I was nearly half way home, so I texted her to let her know this. I must not have turned my phone off before I slipped it back in my pocket because the next text I got from her was "??" As it turns out, I had pocket-texted her and as random pocket texts go, this one was a doozy. Of all the possible letter combinations, the text I sent her was "Fu" which made her think I was saying "f*** you." We had a good laugh about that.

So yeah, it sucks. But it could be worse. At least I didn't get hurt. At least I didn't hurt someone else. At least there wasn't any more damage to the car. It probably won't be cheap, but as I always say about money, easy come, easy go. My dad always says you don't want to be the richest guy in the graveyard and at the rate I'm going I'm sure that will be no problem. I did, however, get the great joy of drinking Diet Rite Zero right out of the 2 liter bottle while sitting at the Ames Veterans Memorial. I know - classy.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

A losing game

As a friend of mine said on Facebook today, "Today I learned that the internet is only for insensitive assholes. That's nice." While that's a bit of an overstatement, I have to say that I agree with the sentiment.

As we all know, Amy Winehouse met an untimely end at the age of 27 this afternoon. I was at the gym when I found out - actually I was in the locker room sweating from every pore in my body. While I had been on the treadmill, my Twitterfeed exploded with news of her death. There were tweets galore, many expressed sadness combined with a lack of surprise - understandable considering her very public struggles with substance abuse. But it didn't take long for the jokes about rehab to start and the judgmental "why should I feel sympathy for her" tweets and posts to start to pile up. Many people, rather than understanding that a 27 year old woman with family and loved ones - someone's daughter for Pete's sake - had died this afternoon, insisted on providing a snarky commentary based on their own presumptions and the version of her story that they created in their head. Perhaps their version of events may ultimately prove to be true. But at the time, it was completely inappropriate.

I was sickened by the jokes and snarky comments people made, by people's selfish behavior and refusal to understand that while Winehouse's death was certainly not surprising, it is no less tragic than if it had come as a complete surprise. A tremendous talent (admittedly, one that I didn't appreciate completely) was silenced and, as I said before, a woman not even 30 has had her life cut short.

I'll admit that back in 1994, when Kurt Cobain met a similar end, I was probably among the snarky ones. It didn't help that I was certainly no fan of Nirvana and I'm sure my take on it was "he was a junkie that deserved it." Well, I was 21 then, and with the benefit of 18 years, I'm ashamed of my behavior then, just like I'm sickened by those implying Winehouse "deserved" her fate or that somehow Winehouse's drug use made her death worth less or not worth mourning. To those people, I only have to remember the internet mantra..."too many anonymous internet assholes, not enough time." Only this time, they weren't so anonymous.

The world is full of pain and shit happens on a daily basis. Life is full of tragedies, large and small. It's how we deal with them that defines us. But more than that, it's how we feel for other people's tragedies, even if they don't seem that big to us that make us human. As I so frequently say, we just need to treat each other a little nicer. I wish I could say that in death, Amy Winehouse has received that respect that the dead deserve. Instead, it's been mostly vitriol and jokes that are simply, way too soon.

Her music will live on forever and there will certainly be a spike in interest. She won't be the first artist more celebrated after her death than while she was alive. Her short and tragic life is a reminder of the destructive effects of addiction and how, even though it shouldn't be, sometimes the addiction is stronger than the addict.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Solo Blondie?

There are only a few artists left on my bucket list of people I really want to see live before I die. I'll have checked at least two off the list by the time the year's out (Kylie and Janet Jackson) and between those two concerts and Lady Gaga earlier this year, I figured I had already spent beyond my concert budget for the year. But when I found out that Blondie was going to be playing at Harrah's Council Bluffs (I always kind of laugh a little bit when I say that), I was seriously tempted.

Technically, I've seen Debbie Harry perform live once and that was at the True Colors concert in Chicago. However, she was a bit disappointing as she played no Blondie hits at all and most of the solo songs she did perform were from her at-that-time unreleased new album. Talk about a prescription for a disastrous set! She didn't even play "I Want That Man" which would have gone over like gangbusters! Plus, she had a very unfortunate hairstyle and, as Heidi so classically put it, looked like "Anne Murray gone hard."

I couldn't help but wonder how different her performance would have been had she been there with the rest of Blondie and because I've been listening to Blondie's music for 22 years now, I really gave it some thought. Then I found out that it was general admission. Strike one. And that it was at an outdoor venue. Strike two. I am too freaking old for general admission shows. I just don't have the energy to fight people for 1 sqaure foot spot of property to stand all night. The National, who we saw at First Avenue in Minneapolis, would have been million times better had it not been general admission. Kylie's first U.S. tour was general admission at the Chicago date, which was one of the biggest reason we didn't go. And my experience with outdoor venues has been decidedly mixed. Most of the time, the weather works out great, but the times it doesn't, it's miserable. But the ticket prices were appropriately adjusted - 30 bucks and some change. Still, I decided against it.

This last week though, I really got it in my head that I wanted to go. At 65, how much longer is Debbie Harry going to want to tour with Blondie? And seriously, Blondie with no Debbie Harry is no Blondie at all. They're not one of those bands that can just replace their lead singer and go on touring a la Journey. During Blondie's heyday, the common catchpharse was "Blondie is the name of the band" so that people took in the whole package vs. just Debbie, but I think there is definitely something to her being the frontwoman of the band.

So I set about trying to find someone to go with. I was pretty sure that Heidi wouldn't want to go, so I asked my friend Matt who pleaded not being a big enough fan. Fair enough, I can get behind that. Then I asked my sister, who has always been a bit of a Blondie fan, but she texted me back this morning saying that she wasn't sure she'd be around that weekend so had to pass. Again, fair enough. My friend Kyl had been the one that alerted me to Blondie's Iowa presence, and I still haven't heard back from him, but I'm starting to think I'll have to go to this concert alone. That is, if I go at all.

I would have no problem going alone if it weren't a general admission show. I do not want to awkwardly hang around the venue for two hours (at least) from when the doors open and the show starts. And also, it's more fun to do stuff like this with a friend. So who knows what will happen. I may ultimately decide against it. I'm still not sold on this general admission shit.

Still, it's Blondie. They're no spring chickens, but Debbie's voice has magically not aged a bit.

Sunday, July 17, 2011 her most underrated

I have been a VERY bad blogger this summer. Too much to do, no time to do it in. However, hopefully what I'm about to offer makes up for it just a little bit.

You might remember back in March of 2010, my friend and stalwart Madonna fan Jeff and I did a podcast about what our most memorable Madonna moments were in our lives. We were clearly amateurs at it, but we had a good time and the plus side was we got to spend an hour plus talking about one of our favorite mutual interests. That podcast is still up and available so if you weren't around then and are so inclined, feel free to download it.

Last week I got a wild hair to do another podcast with Jeff. This time, I decided that the topic would be the most underrated or underappreciated Madonna songs. I split it into three categories - songs that we thought were underrated by Madonna, songs that are underrated by Madonna fans, and songs that are underrated by each other. As I say in the podcast, so much of the time, when there is substantial discussion about Madonna, it is not about her music but rather about her image and her controversy. This, I believe, does a disservice to the mammoth amount of work that she's managed to put out over the course of nearly *gulp* 30 years now.

So if you have an hour and some change to kill, I'd say definitely give us a listen. I even got all professional and added some song clips so hopefully Madonna doesn't send me a cease and desist letter (and if she does, I hope she hand signs it.) If you are a fan, you'll probably enjoy it. If you know one or (better yet) both of us, you need to download it and listen. This is what happens when you talk Madonna with someone for 25 years.

Here's the link - get to listening! I would love to hear what you think, even if it's negative. I thought about doing solo podcasts in the future, but I have no idea what I'd talk about and honestly, it's easier to play off Jeff.

Download the madness that is Jeff and me here.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Papa, can you hear me now?

I don't know what made me do it, but last night while doing dishes, I got a huge yen to listen to the soundtrack from the 1983 Barbra Streisand film Yentl. When I was a kid, Yentl was the butt of a thousand jokes, none of which really progressed much past "Barbra Streisand is playing a man!!" Whether or not she pulled it off successfully is up for debate, but there's certainly no doubt that Streisand OWNS that movie. I never saw the movie during the 80s but when I started listening to Streisand's music in earnest in the early 90s, I found myself really wanting to see it. I can't remember which came first - buying the soundtrack or watching the movie. It really doesn't matter in the final analysis because I took no end of grief from my brother and sister (mostly my brother) for buying the soundtrack.

The funny thing is, when you think about Streisand's bazillion albums, Yentl is probably one of her finest. Granted, it's not the folky fun of Stoney End or even the cheesy bombast of Guilty. It is, however, what I feel to be Streisand at her vocal peak. Simply put, she sounds great on this album. Heidi always prefers Streisand's 1960s albums, saying that anything much past the early 80s sounds like someone's grandmother singing, albeit someone's exceptionally vocally gifted grandmother. I don't really agree with her assessment - the grandmotherly voice wouldn't arrive until the early 2000s and I would argue it's more of a change in the timbre of her voice but whatever. One listen to Yentl and you can hear just what a gifted vocalist Streisand really is. An actress who sings? Who is she kidding?

So yeah, I puchased the Yentl CD on winter break in 1993 and I listened to it like crazy during January of that year. I think it's pretty safe to say that I was the only straight 20 year-old male college student listening to the Yentl soundtrack in his dorm room at the University of Iowa, although at that point I had not made the connection between Streisand and her legion of gay male fans of a certain age. It was music that spoke to my soul and, much like I do now, whenever I find that, I hang on tight to it. The cool thing about the CD is that listening to it, you almost don't need to watch the film. Why watch the 2+ hour film when you can get the Cliffs Notes version in ~40 minutes on the CD. Thanks to the liner notes, a lot of the gaps are filled in and now, looking back, the CD must have come first because I remember learning the story of Yentl via those liner notes.

The story, for those that don't know it takes place in late 19th century Poland. Yentl is the only daughter of a rabbi who is teaching Yentl the Talmud and other religious teachings, despite the fact that women are not allowed to do so. When her father dies, she disguises herself as a man, takes the name Anshel, and enrolls in a yeshiva to continue her studies. She meets Avigdor at the school, who is engaged to marry Hadass. As Anshel, she gets to know both of them, but falls in love with Avigdor. When the engagement between Avigdor and Hadass falls apart (a silly reason that could only happen in the late 19th century), Hadass's parents conspire to get Anshel and Hadass together. During the time, however, Yentl has fallen in love with Avigdor. Oy vey!

As you might imagine, Hollywood didn't exactly jump on this idea. I remember reading in a Streisand biography that after she finished filming Funny Girl in 1968, she brought the idea for Yentl to her agent or somebody and said "I've found my second film role." Their response was "you just got done playing a Jewish girl, now you want to play a Jewish boy?" The film was in development hell for 25 years, but eventually Streisand got it filmed, starring Streisand, co-produced by Streisand, co-written by Streisand and directed by Streisand. It's starting to sound a little bit like Lindsay Buckingham credits on a Fleetwood Mac album. I'm pretty sure that the movie got turned into a musical at the insistence of studio heads. I can't imagine that they would be willing to take a chance on this kind of material without Streisand music to push.

Thankfully she agreed, because, as I've said, the story is told so well through the songs by Michel LeGrand and Marilyn & Alan Bergman. In many ways, it's like a Broadway libretto, with themes that recur throughout and, most importantly, lyrics that push the plot forward and are not simply musical interludes to endure. The best known of the songs is probably "Papa Can You Hear Me?" which was exposed to a whole new generation when it was used on Glee last season. And like the best music, you can take your own meaning from the lyrics that tell the story of Yentl/Anshel, Avigdor and Hadass. Without that universality, it wouldn't have the appeal to me that it does.

You can take a lot out of this story and its music. I think the most obvious one, listening to the lyrics, is that the entire story could serve as an allegory for a "coming out" experience. When Yentl becomes Anshel and falls in love with Avigdor, her feelings for him (as a female pretending to be a male) that are expressed in the songs are what I could imagine a young gay man (or woman, for that matter) would think. The song "The Way He Makes Me Feel" is a good example of this - with lyrics like "Why is it that every time I close my eyes, he's there/The water shining on his skin/The sunlight in his hair/And all the while I'm thinking things that I can never share with him." "Tomorrow Night," in which Yentl describes her feelings as she's about to wed Hadass screams to me how a man marrying a woman might feel if his heart was not really in it, so-to-speak. And the song "No Matter What Happens" plays like the best song of self-assurance after the eventual coming out occurs. I've always felt like this story of a "repressed love" speaks to that kind of situation. But maybe it's just me because a quick and dirty Google search turned up only a few message board results that agree with my assessment.

For me, the song that always got me in my early 20s was "Will Someone Ever Look At Me That Way." My story of being a lonely early 20-something who felt like he had nothing in common with most men and no qualities that would make members of the opposite sex want to date me is well documented in this space. In hindsight, which is always 20/20, I had many friends and actually, there were more than a few women that liked me and were probably waiting for me to make the first move - some of whom I actually had crushes on or whatever. The fact that my self-image was in the ashcan and I struggled with undiagnosed depression is probably why I saw my life through the lens that I did. When you don't even like yourself, it's really easy to concoct a narrative in your head that no one else does either. Even now, at nearly 40 years of age, on my worst days I can see vestiges of that. In any event, the line in "Will Someone Ever Look At Me That Way" that always resonated to dateless Dan was "Even though it's crazy, still I can't help wondering if I'll ever live to see the day/When by some miracle of miracles/You'll turn around and look at me that way." As I saw everyone pairing up, especially late in my college years, I felt like that would never happen and wondered what I was missing that everyone else had. As it turned out, I just hadn't met the right person yet. Fortunately, in November of 1995, I did just that.

Anyway, I will always view the Yentl soundtrack with a little bit more fondness than most guys at my age and station in life might. Maybe this post helps explain that. Maybe it just confirms your suspicion that I was REALLY weird. Whatever. This is who I am. Like it or not. Never gonna stop.

And honestly, every time I hear the Lady Gaga song "Paparazzi" I wait for her to sing "I'm your biggest fan/I'll follow you until you love me/Papa-papa-papa can you hear me?"

Friday, July 01, 2011

Red white and bluegrass

Well, for most everyone else, it's a three day weekend. The weather here in Iowa is going to be hotter than blue blazes but that will be a welcome change from the last few years of rain and 60 degree highs. Although our strategy of walking down the street to watch fireworks has seemed less and less smart since they moved the fireworks just slightly further away, we'll probably still do that as we don't want to fight traffic even if it IS just Ames traffic.

I said it's a three day weekend, but not for me. I work both Saturday and Sunday, but at least I have the 4th off, having worked Memorial Day this year. With the rate I've been blogging these days, it's likely I'll let the 4th go by with no fanfare here at all. To be honest, it's not my favorite holiday. I'm not one for standing out on the sidewalk in 95 degree heat while a parade full of uber-patriotic stuff passes by. There's usually a block party on our street that's pretty fun, but most of the time I don't like forced socialization and would rather do it on my own terms. And naturally, this weekend is going to be colored by Bingley's imminent death from lung cancer. So really, I'm not looking forward to the weekend very much.

I have been listening to the new Dolly Parton album Better Day which is full of positive messages for these not-so-great times (speaking generally, not specifically.) Overall, it's a much better album than Backwoods Barbie, and that album was no slouch either. The problem with it was that it felt so forced in so many places, like Dolly was consciously trying to figure out a way to get back on country radio. She may try to look like a 30 year old, but there's no denying that Dolly's 65 and there's no way that she is going to get played on country radio. This album blends the great success she found on her bluegrass albums with her attempt at a more mainstream country sound.

The combination of that and the upcoming 4th of July made me think of the only Dolly album I have never purchased - For God and Country, Dolly's response to the 9/11 attacks. It was an album full of traditional patriotic songs along with a few Dolly originals. By the time she got around to releasing it in 2003, the flag had been co-opted by the Bush administration and the radical right (although the radical right of that time looks damn tame compared to the radical right of today.) Anyway, I never bought it because it seemed like the soundtrack to the Republican National Convention, which I'm sure was not Dolly's intent. She never publicly speaks about her politics - she prefers to say she's "not political but very patriotic." However, I always assert that you can't have as big of a gay fan base as Dolly does and be too conservative. Anyway, even though I never bought it, I always did kind of like one song on it - "Red, White & Bluegrass."

Of course, there's a lot of things to that the U.S. does that are not things to be proud of, but I sometimes think that on the 4th of July, even someone as jaded as I am can be a little bit proud.

Happy three-day weekend everyone. I hope it's a good one. And buy the Dolly album - it's her best since probably Little Sparrow. When Dolly dies, I'll probably have to call in sick to work.