Sunday, January 13, 2019

"My Heart Will Go On" by Celine Dion (as covered by New Found Glory)

::SPOILER ALERT:: I am going to share some minor details about "Aquaman." And some major details about the movie "Titanic." Newsflash: The ship sinks and that movie is 20 years old - if you haven't seen it by now, you're probably never going to see it. Which is a shame, because it's one of the most definitive movies of the 90s. But it is a long movie - the movie takes more time to finish than it took for the actual Titanic to sink. But I digress. I'm going to weave these two movies together into a philosophical discussion on the nature of Fate and Free Will. And that's the real spoiler - your head is going to hurt something awful after reading this. ::END::

I'm going to share a controversial opinion - Jack was always meant to die in "Titanic." No matter what happened, even if Rose had moved her fat ass to make room on that door, he would've died. If somehow, he had made it to New York with Rose, he probably would've been instantly run over by a taxi or choked on a hot dog. That was his Destiny. Sorry folks. It's clear from the very beginning of the movie that the Universe was conspiring to get Jack onto that damned ship. First, those Norwegian guys bet their tickets to travel on the Titanic, which was a stupid idea to begin with and not something sane people would do considering the historical nature of Titanic's maiden voyage (it would've been historical, even if they had made it because the ship was so huge). Second, Jack actually won that poker game, which seems like good luck but we now know it wasn't. Third, while Jack and Fabrizio are celebrating and probably would've tried to sneak in another drink before heading to the ship, the bartender let's them know that they only have 5 minutes to get there - exactly the amount of time needed to get to the ship if they rushed. Then, somehow, they are able to get through the crowd and onto the gangway just before the doors closed. And finally, the doorman lets them in, knowing that they haven't gone through the hygiene check, just based on Jack's dubious claim that they're both Americans - a major breach of protocol considering how quickly disease spreads on a ship. Yep, Jack was just too lucky not to die a watery death on April 15, 1912.

The Universe was not unkind, though. It knew that, in order for Jack to meet his True Love, he had to be on that ship. Because, otherwise, Rose would've died. That was her Destiny if she didn't meet Jack. She would've succeeded in throwing herself off the stern or would've killed herself at some later date due to her unhappiness at being Cal's wife. Meeting Jack gave her a reason to live, even after he died, because she had to fulfill her promise of having a happy and full life, which she did. And I'm sure she thought of Jack every single day. I'm sure some days she was sad, but most days, she was probably grateful for their short time together. Grateful he existed. Because not everyone gets to meet their True Love within every lifetime. And if Jack had not gotten on the Titanic, he would've been one of those unlucky people. Sad but true.

Love can touch us one time
And last for a lifetime
And never let go till we're gone

Love was when I loved you
One true time I hold to
In my life we'll always go on

Near, far, wherever you are
I believe that the heart does go on
Once more you open the door
And you're here in my heart
And my heart will go on and on

"Aquaman" begins with a Jules Verne quote - "Put two ships on the ocean, without wind or tide, and they will meet....it is only a question of time." Then the movie launches into how Arthur Curry's parents met. And that's how all great romances start - two people are put into a situation where they cannot avoid meeting. And, when I think about it, there's never really a chase in these romances - both people just know that, whatever happens, they were supposed to meet. Anyway, due to the way "Aquaman" starts, it was pretty much tugging at my heartstrings the whole movie. During the movie, Tom Curry walks to the end of the pier every day at sunset, waiting for Atlanna to return. Even after Arthur tells him Atlanna was executed, he still waits, brushing it off as "old habits." But I don't think it was old habits - and not to give away too much, but I think his heart still pulls him to wait for 30 years because, deep inside, he doesn't believe she's dead. He has faith she'll come back, though everything up until that point has told him otherwise. Going back to "Titanic," I think about that sometimes - yes, Rose lived an amazing life, got married, had children, but when she dies, it's Jack who is waiting for her. Was she just waiting this whole time, faithfully knowing that he was going to be there in the end? I also wonder sometimes if we intuitively know that a person is supposed to be special to us. That we're supposed to meet them, even if it's just for a second. But, then, what happens if we don't follow that inner prompting?

I read recently about a guy who had a love at first sight experience. A girl came into the subway car and sat down next to him. He talked to her - of course, because everything in his being was telling him to! - and finally, the subway car came to his stop. He hesitated a moment, but then got off the car. He didn't even give her his number! Based on the article I was reading, I don't think he ever ran into her again but he was still hoping he would. Because it's one of his greatest regrets, getting off that car, not even trying to leave himself a breadcrumb. It'll probably haunt him forever, because he might never get another opportunity. As I've said, the Universe hates when people aren't listening. After reading "The Alchemist," I feel like I finally understand something fundamental about the nature of Free Will - Free Will is simply the ability to choose NOT to take the path that God (or the Universe) has laid out before us. The Universe will keep trying to put us back on that path, certainly (if it's possible - sometimes, we just miss our chance), but we always have the choice to not follow it. While I'm rambling, I'm going to suggest some reading by Pico della Mirandola. In his "Oration on the dignity of the human being," Mirandola describes in beautiful detail the gift of Free Will and the responsibilities that accompany it. I learned a great many things in my Medieval History class, but Mirandola's speech was one of the things I actually remember. It actually figured greatly into my Medieval Philosophy paper on St. Thomas Aquinas' theories on Destiny. Because I've been wracking my brain on this nonsense for over two decades. I'd like to think I'm a centimeter closer to understanding now, but I'd be deceiving myself.

I know - the above rant (which I know is nowhere near coherent - merely an amalgamation of shower musings, to be honest) has absolutely nothing to do with music. "My Heart Will Go On" was one of the greatest ballads of the late 90s. And as much as I love Celine Dion, I like it when punk bands do covers of love songs like this. Something about the heightened tempo and harsher instrumentation contrasting against the romantic lyrics makes it magical to me. Perhaps it's the nostalgia for the music style of my childhood - I do have an unusually large soft spot for 90s alternative. Maybe it's that it takes the trite nature of "My Heart Will Go On" and makes it sound more rebellious. Because, if all these loves stories and fairy tales have taught us anything, it's that going after True Love is always rebellious. The characters always have to break down so many barriers and call upon so many miracles to achieve it, how could it not be? Just saying. Anyway, my brain hurts, so without much further ado, watch the video below to behold the genius of New Found Glory's "My Heart Will Go On."

New Found Glory Version


Celine Dion Version



Saturday, January 5, 2019

"While My Guitar Gently Weeps" by The Beatles (as covered by Girl in a Coma)

George Harrison wrote "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" after The Beatles became immersed in Transcendental Meditation (TM). After months of trying to get in touch with your inner One-ness and becoming infinitely more wise in the process, there's a moment when you become despondent that others don't understand what you understand. In the moment, in feels like it was so easy to get to this point. You've forgotten that - in reality - it wasn't. It was full of a lot of pain and before that moment, your life was an endless string of struggles. That's where Harrison was when he wrote this song. He felt so at peace with himself, but walking through the world, all he saw was people in immense amounts of pain. Suffering that was usually caused by their own inner demons - low self-worth, anxiety, competition with everyone in the world. Lacking in authenticity, not knowing that who they were was more than good enough.

I look at you all see the love there that's sleeping
While my guitar gently weeps
I look at the floor and I see it needs sweeping
Still my guitar gently weeps.

I don't know why nobody told you
How to unfold your love
I don't know how someone controlled you
They bought and sold you.

You've got to understand - in 1968, when The Beatles really got into the TM movement, they had spent several years under the influence of fame and excess. Lost in that world, they became jaded, as anyone would in that situation. They all felt as if they lost their passion for music and, in some ways, their passion for living. So, they went searching for something, like we all do eventually. Well, those who are awake, anyway. The Beatles decided to visit India and study TM under Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. His time there marked a profound change in Harrison and, afterwards, began a period of prolific songwriting. When he came back, he started to read the I Ching and embraced the idea of relativism - that everything is in relation to everything else. Nothing is coincidental. Nothing is an accident. He made a decision to write a song based on the first words he saw when he opened a book, which were "gently weeps." Similar to how Stevie Nicks used bibliomancy to write "Rhiannon." In the lyrics, he laments the universal love for humankind that is dormant in all people but remains unrealized. It was his profound wish that everyone would see and embrace this capability. If Love conquers all, why hasn't it yet? I don't know, George....I don't know.

I look at the world and I notice it's turning
While my guitar gently weeps
With every mistake we must surely be learning
Still my guitar gently weeps.

I don't know how you were diverted
You were perverted too
I don't know how you were inverted
No one alerted you.

A few words about Transcendental Meditation - it's simple to do yet, for some reason, you have to go to a teacher to learn it. Like everything worth doing, the world commodified and commercialized it. The Beatles were partially responsible for that - their very public endorsement as the biggest celebrities of the time created a surge of interest....and, simultaneously, hordes of customers desperate to emulate The Beatles. And once people realize you can make money off something, they'll do it. But, as I said, it's simple to do. You sit in silence, repeating a mantra in your head, for about 15-20 minutes twice a day. Supposedly (and please be aware that I have never taken a paid TM class in my life), the TM instructor gives you the mantras to work with and that's what you're paying for, really. Ancient wisdom. But, my friends, that's what the Internet is for....you can look up mantras and the TM technique yourself. You can decide if it's worth the money to get private TM instruction. But I believe the search for inner peace doesn't have to cost money and I'd be wary of anyone who says otherwise.

I look at you all see the love there that's sleeping
While my guitar gently weeps
Look at you all
Still my guitar gently weeps.

This version of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" comes from Girl in a Coma's "Adventures in Coverland" album, which is exactly what you think it is - an album consisting solely of covers. As I've mentioned, I love Nina Diaz's voice, and GiaC's general style is highly influenced by rockabilly and surf rock. While Harrison's original recordings of the song were more folk music-inspired and the final version that made it to the White album had hints of progressive rock, the twangy guitar in GiaC's version hearkens back to the classic rock that influenced the young George, Paul, John, and Ringo. Additionally, I think Diaz's soulful crooning gives the lyrics more weight, somehow. You can really feel the worldly despair at the end.

Side tangent - While I was listening to this song (both out loud and in my head), I began to think about the idiom "heart of gold." Someone once said I had a heart of gold and I always thought that was a good thing. It sounds like a good thing, doesn't it? You would think it means that  I have a pure, good heart that is precious and valuable and needs to be protected. But then I was thinking that gold is one of the heaviest metals, atomically speaking. A gold bar is extremely heavy - you couldn't easily steal a bar of gold, because no one is that strong. So to be carrying around a heart of gold would be like always carrying this weight around in your chest. That's exactly what it feels like. If that's the case, I suppose it would be better to have a heart of stone. You don't have to carry around so much with you. You'd feel lighter. Oh, the places my mind goes when it's not doing anything....

As I write this, I feel strange. There was an eclipse today, the first New Moon of 2019. I don't know if that means something but an eerie calm has come over me. A sort of peace. A feeling that anything could happen - the world could end tomorrow - and I'd still know everything is going to be okay. And I'm ready for it. I can't describe it but I know it's true somehow. I don't really know what's happening to me. Anyway, I'm putting both the Beatles version and the GiaC version so you can hear the differences between the styles. Enjoy!

Girl in a Coma Version



The Beatles Version




Tuesday, January 1, 2019

January Theme - "Under the Covers"

Just a short post for today - as you might've guessed, I'll be doing cover versions of songs for January. As I mentioned in the previous post, I'm trying to use my very limited amount of writing time more effectively so, during January, I'll be prioritizing some of my other writing projects. That doesn't mean I'm abandoning this blog entirely - I'll just be posting considerably less than I have been. But, since covers are a good way of exploring different genres and artists, I intend to pack a lot more musical history into this month than usual. Don't worry - I'll try to limit myself to one Beatles song....but I won't make any promises.

To be fair, they were all high as fuck while recording this album
so we can't really fault Ringo for writing "Octopus's Garden"

Monday, December 31, 2018

breathin" by Ariana Grande

In a recent interview, Ariana Grande said that 2018 was both the best year of her life...and the worst. All I can say is...Ari, I'm right there with you. I think a lot of people are. And while most people haven't had as crazy a year as Grande has had (recovering from the trauma of a terrorist attack at one of her concerts, getting engaged, losing someone she loved to an overdose, getting un-engaged - all while churning out chart-toppers), there seems to be this atmosphere hanging in the air. That this was supposed to be a year of trials, tribulations, and transformation. I've been hanging around on Twitter a lot lately (a lot more than I had been the last couple of months) and - perhaps it's just the people I follow - but there's been a lot of "2018 year kind of sucked but I grew a lot as a person and that's awesome" stuff going around. Along with this seems to be an undercurrent of "2019 is going to be a-mazing." And while we always seem to think that around the New Year before it turns into same shit, different week...I'm hopeful. Who knows? Maybe 2019 really will be amazing.

I have plans, though. Lots of plans, because I do see the new year as an opportunity to start over, in some ways. To renew motivation. To refocus on what's important. Because, sometimes, that's all you can do. So, in addition to my perennial resolution to become a member of the Illuminati (which I make every year, because that should be everyone's goal), I'm expanding on my yearly motto of Read More, Write More, Move More, Be More.....and now, Love More. I'm going to try to be more present for my family, and more understanding and patient. With them and myself. I'm going to keep writing and try to be more effective with the few hours I have a week to devote to my projects. I plan to continue and expand my yoga practice (something I've taken up recently that I've found helps with the existential dread). Cook more and eat a more plant-based diet (The Husband is not very happy with this so we're not going completely vegetarian....for now). And then the usual business of continuing to be awesome at my job, being a good leader, and maintaining my current pace of constant learning. Which is exhausting, but incredibly rewarding when I look back at how far I've come.

Some days, things just take way too much of my energy
I look up and the whole room's spinning
You take my cares away
I can so overcomplicate, people tell me to medicate

Feel my blood runnin', swear the sky's fallin'
How do I know if this shit's fabricated?
Time goes by and I can't control my mind
Don't know what else to try, but you tell me every time

Just keep breathin' and breathin' and breathin' and breathin'
And oh, I gotta keep, keep on breathin'
Just keep breathin' and breathin' and breathin' and breathin'
And oh, I gotta keep, keep on breathin'

Lately, I've been having these moments of soul-wrenching pain. And by pain, I mean mental anguish...but I also feel it in my heart as well. But it's fine - they last 5 to 10 minutes at most. They might go away eventually....or I might keep having them until I die. I've accepted this - I have a sinking feeling that it's the latter, but I'll keep hoping. Anyway, I have this ridiculous theory that tears make your eyelashes grow longer so, really, weeping for no good reason (or for reasons that cannot be fully articulated or even understood) is an integral part of my beauty routine. As I said, these moments are temporary and the way to get through them is to stop. Keep breathing. And remember everything I have to be grateful and happy for. I'm a different person than I was a year ago. Despite all my failures and faults this year, I've become a better version of myself. And isn't that the purpose of a resolution? To make a conscious decision to better than you were before? Well, I'm going to take a page out of Neil Gaiman's book and make some new mistakes next year. Some really good, imaginative, spectacular mistakes. Because I'm still trying, damn it, and that's all anyone can expect from me. I'm putting in the effort, I'm putting in the work.

Some notes on the song - As you might've been able to guess, "breathin" is about Ariana Grande's struggle with anxiety, which got considerably worse (understandably) after the Manchester Bombing. Grande was diagnosed with PTSD shortly after a suicide bomber killed 23 people leaving one of her concerts. She has been very open about the feelings of guilt and pain and grief that she's experienced after this event. Unfortunately, this has led to quite a bit of public scrutiny. I think it's important to remember that we can't really judge other people's experiences or how they deal with them. It's not easy to tell when someone is struggling with anxiety or PTSD or depression - some people are more adept at hiding mental illness because they feel like they have to. On the flip side, society has this idea that mental illness should be obvious - that you should be breaking down in tears if you're really feeling sad. But really, the most common signs of these illnesses are being withdrawn and exhausted all the time, which seems to be the American Millennial's red badge of courage. However, this seems to be changing. Taking time for yourself is not selfish, but essential in order to be able to contribute your best to the world. There's a number of women younger than me (all around 23-27) that I really admire because it seems they've figured out things (like the aforementioned truisms) that took me three decades to even begin to learn. I wish I had understood when I was in my 20s, but there's a lesson in that, too. It's never too late.

Happy New Year, my friends! I hope your 2019 is everything you imagine it will be!

"breathin" Video




Sunday, December 30, 2018

"8 Letters" by Why Don't We

I heard this song very recently - the Friday before I started my vacation - and I made a mental note to write about it, because I found it meaningful at the time. It's about how hard it is to say those three simple words. And now I'm about to go on an epic philosophical rant - you've been warned.

It should be hard - it should be hard to say "I love you." Because there's so much weight and meaning behind them, that those three words aren't nearly enough sometimes. And if they don't have that momentous heaviness, if you can say them without even considering it first, then why even bother? I've gotten into this space where I feel like I hear it so often that it feels meaningless, like it means even more if they're not said but shown. Actions speak louder than words and what not. When I do say it, I try to make sure I'm really feeling it first. Because if I don't feel it, I don't want to say it, just because it's expected, just because it's required. Because I don't want them to be a lie. Okay, maybe the rant wasn't that epic. Sorry for building it up so big.

You know me the best
You know my worst, see me hurt, but you don't judge
That, right there, is the scariest feeling
Opening and closing up again
I've been hurt so I don't trust
Now here we are, staring at the ceiling

There are things that are just hard to say. I find writing them down helps. I write a lot more than what I put down here, some of which I know (and hope) no one will ever read. That's a common therapy technique, something I found helpful when I was recovering from my eating disorder. Writing letters to the people who have hurt me - and especially to the people who I have hurt. They will never see them but it helped to put the words down on paper. It helped me forgive them and myself, which is essential for loving people. That's what a lot of people don't understand - you can't really love anyone if you don't love yourself first. You'll always just be expecting them to fill a hole that is your responsibility to fill, and that's too much to ask of somebody else. Especially if you really, truly love them.

The video is pretty unremarkable. A boy band singing in beautiful locations - meh. The interesting thing about it is that each of the locations appears to be in a state of suspended animation. More importantly, the location would be and are an absolute mess when the movement begins again. I think the director was trying to evoke the overwhelming, out-of-control feeling that Love can create. Why Don't We is a test tube pop band, in the vein of N'Sync. The theory is that if you get five attractive young men who can sing together in the same recording studio, magic happens. It generally works, at least financially. "8 Letters" is the name of their debut album and the latest single that was released in 2018. It's still climbing the charts but currently, it's well within the Top 40 for Pop.

"8 Letters" Video

Saturday, December 29, 2018

"Youngblood" by 5 Seconds of Summer

I'm going to keep it short for today. My trip for the holidays simultaneously wore me out and fucked up my whole plan for this month. I did have a lot more songs for this month planned out but between getting ready to travel, actually travelling, and trying to spend time with my family, I didn't get in as much writing and ranting as I would've hoped. Which is maybe a good thing. I do feel a bit rejuvenated, which means I will not be putting up with anybody's shit in 2019 - well, at least not for the first few weeks. As a result, you may have noticed I focused more on new releases for 2018 instead of just ranting about a bunch of my favorite songs (although there were a few of those thrown in). Overall, I think that was a good compromise and you'll get to hear/learn about those other songs sometime in the future.

"Youngblood" was my favorite Song of the Summer that came out in 2018. It kind of just hit like a meteor in the US, because it became 5SOS first Number 1 single on the Top 40 and it stayed at the top for over a month, which is impressive for any song, especially considering the amount of really great music that has been released lately.

Lately our conversations end like it's the last goodbye
Yeah, one of us gets too drunk and calls about a hundred times
So who you been calling, baby, nobody could take my place
When you're looking at those strangers, hope to God you see my face

5SOS has said that "Youngblood" is about the push/pull of a relationship or maybe of a relationship that the singer never quite got right. Because it's pretty clear it's over, if she's seeing other people. Or it's an on-again/off-again relationship, where they just can't let go of each other but they can't make it work either. They just keep going in this circle when really they either need to move on or actually make a commitment to be together instead of playing games. The whole song reeks of being exhausted with the whole cycle. Whether he's going after her or pushing her away, he feels like a dead man. But he needs it "all of the time." I've needed things all of the time - eventually, you just learn to live without it because you have no other choice. Especially if whatever "it" is - and in "Youngblood's" case, it's a person's love - isn't willing to be given, you can't force it. In my honest opinion, he should delete this girl out of his phone, out of his life. If he can't do that, well -- he's fucked. I don't know what to tell you. I guess he could be honest and tell her how he feels and if she's a grown up, she'll be honest too and they'll figure it out together. Or, if she is in fact a "youngblood" who can't deal with icky emotions and the realization that she's actually causing this guy a lot of pain because she's doing whatever she wants and stomping all over his heart in the process, she'll cut him out completely. Which will hurt - immensely for at least the first few weeks - but it's in both their best interests. And that was your weekly dose of Love Advice with Dr. Jess. Next week, we'll explore how to bring up polyamory in your currently monogamous relationships without a horrendous fight.

"Youngblood" Alternative Video

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

"All I Want for Christmas is You" by Mariah Carey

I was going to post this yesterday but I felt it was more important to watch "My Best Friend's Wedding" with my older sister. Because I've been lazy over the holiday, I've decided to scrap the third Taylor Swift song for this month. (You're welcome!) Anyway, this is my favorite Christmas song. Not very original. I'm pretty sure everybody's favorite Christmas song, at least of the female/gay male persuasion. I'm pretty sure most people can identify it - we've all had a Christmas where we couldn't be with someone we love, either due to distance, work obligations, or other reasons. My dad was deployed pretty much my whole childhood but I honestly can't remember a Christmas that he didn't spend with us. We were very lucky like that - other military families are not. I think that's the probably the hardest thing - missing someone so badly, knowing that they can't come home, even though you know they're missing you, too. I think that's why this song resonates with so many people. It captures a part of Christmas that isn't so happy, but it's still pretty fucking catchy.

I don't want a lot for Christmas
There is just one thing I need
I don't care about the presents
Underneath the Christmas tree
I don't need to hang my stocking
There upon the fireplace
Santa Claus won't make me happy
With a toy on Christmas day
I just want you for my own
More than you could ever know
Make my wish come true
All I want for Christmas is you
You baby

I'm going to keep with the theme and talk about my favorite Christmas movie. It's "Love Actually." Don't act surprised. It was on TV last night, but I'm pretty sure it's on Netflix, too - not sure how long that will last, but it's there if you want to watch it. Basically, it's a bunch of different love stories (which revolve around Christmas) interwoven together into a cohesive narrative. I believe most of the characters know each other, at least by sight, so it's fun to see them weave in and out of each other's narratives. My favorite story out of the ones in the movie is that of Jamie and Aurelia. Jamie comes home to find his wife/girlfriend (it wasn't specified but they live together) cheating with his brother. To get some distance from the situation, he goes to his summer rental in France to work on his novel. Since the owner didn't expect him during winter, the usual maid that assists him wasn't available, so she's hired Aurelia. She doesn't speak English (or even French), just Portuguese. But they manage and, at the end of the day, he drives her home. My favorite scenes are when they are each saying something in their native language and it's almost the exact same thing but from the opposite perspective. For example, in my favorite scene, he's driving her home and he says to her, "It's my favorite part of the day, driving you home." And she replies, "It's the saddest part of my day, leaving you." Isn't that so sad? OMFG, the heart strings! But they get a happy ending. After Jamie leaves France, he starts learning Portuguese on his own. Mind you, he has no expectation that he'll ever see her again, no idea how she feels, but in his mind, a plan is starting to form. On Christmas, he is about to join his family but he has some sort of epiphany. He drops the presents at the door and runs to Heathrow airport. In his grand gesture, he walks the Portuguese district of Paris looking for Aurelia (with most of the residents of the area in tow). When he gets the restaurant where she works, he proposes to her in bad Portuguese. Aurelia says "Yes," in broken English. She learned English for him! "Just in cases." I think that's beautiful. Neither of them knew each other felt the same but they knew they had to overcome this barrier in order to even have a chance.

Anyway, a belated Merry Christmas to you all! There is an official video for this song. Enjoy!

"All I Want for Christmas is You" Video