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I Know This is a Cheesy Song. . .

Posted by purplemary54 on May 29, 2016

Yeah, I chose just about the cheesiest song about war you could possibly pick for a Memorial Day-themed post.  I don’t care.

The thing is, the hero in this song dies.  People die in wars.  It’s one of those ugly facts that we just can’t avoid.  It’s why we have a Memorial Day in the first place.  To remember the men and women and service animals that died protecting American ideals.

Some people have co-opted this day as an excuse to wave the flag about all service people, living or dead, but the point of this day is to remember the dead.  To honor them with solemn ceremonies.  To find a way to send thanks to the universe for their sacrifice.  I don’t knock service people; they do an incredibly difficult and dangerous job so that people like me don’t have to.  Because we have an all volunteer military, these people chose this job (we didn’t always, and I am especially indebted to those who didn’t choose to serve but were conscripted).  And a significant number of them never come home.  But Memorial Day isn’t about knee-jerk patriotism, and anyone who says it is ought to be reminded of the horrors of war.

Because it is horrible.  William Tecumseh Sherman got a lot of flack for the total war he waged on the South during the Civil War, but he had a point.  War is hell, and he made sure every living being in his line of fire knew it.  It is violent and ugly and unfair, and it should only be used as the last resort when there is literally no other choice to be made.  Too many times lately, young men and women have been deliberately sent into the line of fire without clear cause or justification.  The “war on terror” isn’t a clear enough directive or reason to endanger anyone’s lives.  You cannot fight a war on an idea, an emotion.  The idea or emotion will always prevail, and you will look like a vicious war-monger.  You want to stop terrorists?  Stop blowing civilians up.  Stop invading countries that have not committed an act of war on you.  (No people, Afghanistan and Iraq did not attack us on 9/11; it was a group of thugs that were actually mostly Saudi Arabian.  Why didn’t we attack that country?  Oh yeah.  Oil.)  Most terrorists are simply criminals.  A street gang with better weapons and religious zealotry.  Al Qaeda and ISIS are basically the equivalent of the Crips and the Bloods.  We should be arresting them and putting them in prison, not waging war on a bunch of innocent civilians.  Too many people have already died on this incredibly futile quest.  It is time to end it.

I am not dishonoring the dead to say these things.  I am honoring them.  Because the ideals they believed they were fighting for were ideals like the freedom of speech I am exercising.  I don’t agree with any war, but the ongoing wars we’ve been waging for the last fifteen years are especially egregious.  All we’ve succeeded in all this bloodshed is to destabilize a significant portion of the planet, damage the environment, waste a LOT of money, and kill a whole bunch of people.  Oh, and there’s the added bonus of the destruction of hundreds of thousands of artifacts from the beginning of civilization.  Way to go, America.

If you have a service person in your circle who died in combat, please light a candle for them.  Display your flag if you have one.  And go ahead and enjoy your barbecue.  But remember that there is a way to stop all the Billys in the world from becoming dead heroes.  Wage peace.

Posted in Music, Pop | Tagged: , , , | 4 Comments »

“Put Your Hand Inside the Puppet Head”

Posted by purplemary54 on May 24, 2016

One of the nice things about being on a They Might Be Giants kick is finding myself back in their wonderfully insane world.  It’s hard not to enjoy this band’s oddities and quirks because they’re delivered so joyfully.  TMBG songs might be as surreal and experimental as, say, Pere Ubu, but with the addition of a childlike glee that makes all the weirdness less weird.

Take this classic from their first album.  “Put Your Hand Inside the Puppet Head” is a disjointed collection of one-liners and accordion music that John Flansburgh and John Linnell somehow make seem like the best party ever.  Well, it would be a great party if you’re a nerd like me.

After a few listens, you realize this isn’t a song about some sinister cult that forces people into puppetry as a form of psychological torture; it’s just another coming of age song (a whole sub-genre of Country music).  The absurdity of life, of responsibility, of how out of place you feel as you move from teenager to adult, is summed up with the insolent “Memo to myself: Do the dumb things I gotta do.  Touch the puppet head.”  Who hasn’t felt strangled by the pointlessness of all the things we have to do when we adult?  (I love how usage has turned a boring nondescript noun like “adult” into a really descriptive, if vague, verb.)  Why does the singer have to touch the puppet head?  Who knows, and who really cares?  The puppet head is just another version of Hitchcock’s Macguffin.  It’s the thing that puts the action of the story into motion, but is never really clearly defined and might not ever even be seen.

Kind of like growing up.

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Posted by purplemary54 on May 22, 2016

I’ve still got that TMBG bee in my bonnet.  Come to think of it, them, Josh Ritter and episodes of the Star Talk podcast (with my personal astrophysicist Neil Degrasse Tyson; he could be yours, too if you start listening) are just about all I’ve been listening to on the iPod for the last week or so.  I don’t know what that means.

Whatever.  Try not to dance as you listen to this song.  I dare you.  And if you can, please explain to me why They Might Be Giants aren’t more popular than they are.

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“Your Racist Friend”

Posted by purplemary54 on May 12, 2016

Now that my class is finished, I’ve got a bit more time to go back to one of my favorite activities: ranting. (I don’t know whether to envy you poor fools or pity you.)

I’ve actually had a bit of a bee in my bonnet lately (the only one, I swear. . . see what I did there?  No?  Well, maybe you should go back to some of my older jukebox entries.)  So I’ve been listening to They Might Be Giants on the iPod lately, which always makes me smile.  But yesterday it dawned on me that they were, scarily, kind of prescient.  After all, have you gotten a look at the presumptive Republican nominee for president?  Yeah.  This song suddenly has a whole new dimension to it.

I wavered between this song and another frighteningly apt TMBG song, but the nasty bitterness of “Your Racist Friend” won out.  (By the by, I’d like to extend my thanks to the YouTubers who took the time to create videos to match the narrative in both songs.  Really nice work!)  And since the Blowhard hasn’t actually won anything yet, anointing him anything, even in jest, would just play into his enormous ego.

My message to anyone who would come to this craven, narcissistic, misogynistic, xenophobic, spray-tanned slime bucket’s defense is simply this: He is just as awful as he appears.  He always has been.  This man tears down historical buildings and replaces them with ugly phallic symbols (you just know all his skyscrapers and mega casinos are over-compensating for something).  And he is a racist.  He’s made that clear right from the get go.  Some poor deluded fool out there might try to argue he wants to improve our security, but he just wants to pander to the same disgusting ignorance and bigotry that he’s been carrying around his entire life.  I’ll give him this, he’s damn good at it.

I honestly thought he’d have imploded by now.  That the Republicans would’ve shunned him, and then he’d have run as a third-party candidate and confused all the bigots like him trying to decide which hateful idiot to vote for.  (Let’s face it, Kasich was the least objectionable of the bunch, but only because he lacks any sort of personality whatsoever; it’s a miracle he lasted as long as he did.)  But he’s managed to fool bluff hornswaggle convince enough people that he’s got something legitimate to offer this country.

He doesn’t, of course, and I doubt he’ll be able to get enough moderate Republicans and independents to vote for him.  He’ll get enough votes that he’ll be able to say that he’s important.  But he won’t win.  And, hopefully, his mere existence in this political race will wake up enough of the reasonable conservatives (yes, they do exist) to do something about the hideous demagoguery that has been masquerading as the GOP platform for the last few decades.

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More Prince

Posted by purplemary54 on April 23, 2016

I make no promises about the future availability of any Prince clips I find and use.  I suspect this video won’t be there in a week. And as much as I hate looking over my old posts and seeing the video I chose unavailable, I just want to share.

Prince loved women.  That really wasn’t much of a secret.  He apparently really liked sex, too, although his music became less risqué after he became a Jehovah’s Witness.  He also disavowed a lot of his earlier, sexier songs, which was a damn shame, because they weren’t just songs about sex.  Prince was probably the most sex-positive musician out there.  It wasn’t hateful and misogynistic when Prince sang about a woman’s sexuality or body; it was reverential and joyful.  He really, really loved women.

Which makes “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World” one of the most heartfelt songs Prince ever made.  He wrote it for his first wife, Mayte Garcia, but in a way, it was for every woman.  And it doesn’t matter who you are–gay or straight, young or old, whatever–if you’re a woman and you hear this song, for just a few minutes, you feel like the most beautiful woman in the world.

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Posted by purplemary54 on April 21, 2016

It seems really weird to write this post.  Not just because Prince has left this plane of existence at only 57.  Not just because this is the most surreal year in the music business, and it’s only April.  (It’s going to get worse.  I just have this terrible feeling.)  But because I am posting about the loss of this brilliant, brilliant man and I am not posting a clip of him.

Prince was a paranoid, controlling son of bitch.  I don’t blame him for it; he knew that if he was going to make money off of his artistry, he was going to have to hold a tight rein on when and how it got disseminated.  I’m pretty darn okay with that.  But his control was such that he didn’t even post his own videos on YouTube, much less let someone else post them.  His online musical presence is pretty much nil.  He designed it that way.  If you wanted Prince’s music, you had to pay him.  Like I said, I’m okay with that.  But it makes paying tribute to him that much harder.

Prince was a true original.  He made music unlike anyone else.  In his music, you could hear echoes of influences, genre-bending styles, and an absolute disregard for what anyone else but Prince thought about pretty much anything.  He understood the world from a distinct perspective.  You could get glimpses of it in songs like “Let’s Go Crazy” and “Sign O’ the Times.”  You could hear it in the sexy playfulness of “Little Red Corvette” and “Raspberry Beret.”  You could see it in his smile and sideways glances at the camera in his music videos, or in his strut and swagger onstage.  But you never would get the full picture.  Prince managed to be something very, very few celebrities and artists ever pull off convincingly.  He was an enigma.

I’m still in shock.  After losing Bowie and so many others this year, it’s just kind of numbing.  When I go home in a few hours, I’m going to queue up some Prince on  my iPod, and I’m probably going to cry then.  Because even though I did not know him–almost nobody really did, I think–losing Prince today still hurts.  He was my generation’s funky master of all trades, jack of none.  He belongs to us even though he did his best to keep his distance.   That’s why I chose this cover of one of his songs by Cyndi Lauper.  Not just because it was one of the very few Prince-related songs I could actually find.  But because it  states what I’m feeling right now.  “I don’t care, ’cause I love you baby, that’s no lie.  I love you more than I did when you were mine.”

Posted in Music, Obituaries, Rock, Pop, R&B/Soul | Tagged: , , , , | 4 Comments »

A New Twist on a Classic

Posted by purplemary54 on April 16, 2016

I saw Rachel Barton Pine on PBS Newshour recently, and I was really impressed.  She’s a classical violinist who nearly died when her violin case got caught in a train door, dragging her for hundreds of feet.  She now walks on a prosthetic limb.  She believes in bringing music to the masses by playing in prisons and homeless shelters.  Oh, and she just happens to be a metalhead.

Somewhere, Randy Rhoads is smiling right now.

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Merle Haggard

Posted by purplemary54 on April 6, 2016

We couldn’t really afford to lose Merle Haggard.  There just aren’t that many like him left.  Country music has become an assembly line production of empty, shallow, factory-produced pretty faces.  There’s no style or originality.  There’s no personality.  There’s no danger.  And there’s no emotion left.  Merle Haggard had all of those things in spades.  He lived his music.  That’s what made him so damn special.

I think it’s kind of fitting that Haggard died today, his birthday.  He left this world the same day he entered it.  Maybe that means his work was finished.  I don’t know.  I do know I hope he stops by the great bar of the afterlife and has a drink with my dad.  I think they’d enjoy talking shit with each other.


Posted in Country, Music, Obituaries | Tagged: , , , , , | 4 Comments »

“Snow is Gone”

Posted by purplemary54 on April 5, 2016

I’ve posted this song a couple of times before.  I don’t care if I’m being repetitious.  I just might post it a hundred times.  I abso-freakin-lutely love this song.  And besides, it’s Spring!

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“Gonna Change My Way of Thinking”

Posted by purplemary54 on March 27, 2016

Today is Easter, so Happy Easter to all those who celebrate.  I like candy and dying eggs, so that’s what I celebrate about this holiday (plus, bunnies are super cute).  But I am not a Christian, so the religious connotations of the day do not matter to me.

In fact, the religious aspect of Easter have confused me for a number of years.  Not the honoring and celebration of Christ’s resurrection.  I totally get that, and I respect my Christian brothers and sisters in their observance.  And I don’t want to anger any Jukebox listeners who may be of that particular persuasion, but there’s something just the tiniest bit. . . off about how Easter is celebrated.

Okay, stick with me for a second here.  A Thing happens on a particular date.  If that Thing is of some kind of historical or cultural consequence, that Thing gets enshrined in a holiday of some sort.  Generally, that holiday falls on the same date as the Thing That Happened, or as near to it as everyone can agree on.  If said holiday is not in commemoration of a particular event or birth but in honor of a special group, it usually has a rule about when it is observed (i.e., a particular Sunday in a particular month).  Still with me?  Awesome.  A good example of a holiday for a Thing That Happened is the Fourth of July, which celebrates our declaration of independence from England (roughly coinciding with the publication of the document).  A good example of a holiday honoring a group would be Mother’s Day, which is held on the second Sunday of May every year (it’s the 8th this year; don’t forget your mom).  The one exception to both of these rules seems to be Easter.

See, every year Easter is on a different date, as are the holy days preceding it beginning with Ash Wednesday.  Now since this holiday is generally considered to honor a particular Thing That Happened, you would think it would occur on the same day every year.  It would also seem to follow that the holy days preceding Easter would also always occur on the same dates as well.  But each year, Easter is celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon of the northern hemisphere’s Spring (thanks, Google!).  The day of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection did not change.  (While we can’t be 100% certain which days those things happened thanks to numerous calendar changes over the centuries, we could probably find a generally agreed upon date if we were pressed.  Kind of like we did for Christ’s birth.)  So why does the date of Easter range from the end of March to the end of April, generally speaking?  Why does what is generally agreed to be one of the absolute holiest days on the Christian calendar move around with the changes of the moon like some kind of Pagan holiday?

Think about it.

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