In the Mix: From Adam Lambert to Janet Jackson

I was just thinking the other day how long it’s been since I really listened to some new music, like just released on a Tuesday and home with me, to be listened to at high volume preferably in a residential area (tell me if you recognize that reference). In this age of digital media and internet radio being so huge, I’m still one of those old school folks who like to listen to actual CDs from start to finish, the way the artist intended it.

There was this Beck CD a few months ago that captured my imagination, the same one that got him the Grammy for album of the year (you remember the Kanye semi-interruption), and I got it through the library. It brought back memories from the 90s when I would spend hours in Tower Records just soaking it all in, and I miss those days. When was the last time you were in an actual music store, not an app store, or a general store that happens to sell music as well? Anyway, listening to that CD made me appreciate it all so much more.

A while back I did a series of blogs called “Shuffle” where I turned on my iPod, set it to shuffle, and chronicled the first 18 songs that came up in an attempt to share some of my musical tastes with my readers. So I’m going to do something a little different now. Instead of hitting “Shuffle” I’m going to scan through my artists and pick five relatively random ones, listen to one song from them, and write about it here. Here goes…

  1. Adam Lambert – Cuckoo. I’m a huge American Idol fan, and probably my favorite artist ever from that series is this man, who somehow ended up second in his season. His solo music has been nothing short of spectacular, but I still don’t think he’s appreciated as much as he should be. It’s the combination of his classic rock roots, his techno leanings, and his sparkling falsetto that drag me under his spell. This song is from his second album, Trespassing, and it’s highly indicative of the style I love so much from this superstar.
  2. Banks – Waiting Game. Well, to me Banks is kind of like Iggy Azalea. I like some of her material, but I’m not a big fan. In fact, I probably wouldn’t have even heard this song if it wasn’t for the Divergent soundtrack having a lot of Ellie Goulding on it. I am a fan of Miss Goulding, so I had to hear the soundtrack, and the “other” songs on it captured my attention, particularly this one. There’s just something about Banks’ voice, so deep and so vibrant with emotion, that makes me like it. But it’s the only one.
  3. better-than-ezra-before-the-robots-2005-cd2-cover-13531Better Than Ezra – Before You. Speaking of new music, their All Together Now album came out last year, and it’s from one of my favorite bands, but somehow I didn’t realize it was out until about two months ago. There’s something to be said for having a surprise like that show up, so I quickly grabbed the record, put it in my player, and listened from start to finish. It doesn’t disappoint. It’s the perfect mix of slow songs (like this one) and stadium anthems, and it makes me want to see them live. This is one of those “lighters up” songs that I hope I am blessed to see live at some point.
  4. Heather Nova – London Rain. I first heard Heather Nova at a friend’s house. He had all of her albums, and I was intrigued by the song titles, particularly this one. I hadn’t been to London yet, but there was something about it that fascinated me. So I borrowed the CD, listened to the song, and was hooked from the start. Later on it was included on one of my favorite shows — Dawson’s Creek — and I included it on the faux-soundtrack I created to honor the show. It still gives me good chills every single time I hear it.
  5. 8538538574_0f60a850e7_zJanet Jackson – If. One of my first CDs I purchased in the 90s was the self-titled album by Janet, and it was on the strength of this song alone. Sure, the lyrics are risque (and don’t get me started on the amazing video), but the beat is infectious. It hooked me from the start, even if Janet doesn’t have the strongest vocals. With her it’s never really been about the vocals anyway. It’s really about the delivery, and she delivers a hook as good if not better than most others I’ve heard, particularly when it comes to R&B and the occasional rock jam. “But I’m not, so I can’t, then I won’t, but if I was your girl.”

Sam

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Dear Journal: Ultra-Violence

BBiPx5e.imgDear Journal,

In talking with a friend earlier I began really thinking about my stance on violence. From the time I could make such decisions I’ve been a pacifist, someone who believes non-violence is the best way to go at all times. Maybe that’s only been the case, though, because no one did anything that forced me into a violent reaction. Or maybe I’m just a wimp. Who knows? All I know is that I can’t imagine starting something physical with someone else, no matter what they’ve done to me.

I think about it this way: my mom always told me that violence solves nothing, but I had to make my own decision based on what I saw in the world around me. I haven’t been around for too many wars that have gotten extensive coverage in the U.S., but I have seen evidence of violence in the news on a consistent basis. And it never ends well. All I’ve seen violence do is create an atmosphere of fear, and then a cycle of retaliation that never seems to end and just fosters even more violence.

Even when violence is effective, meaning no violence comes in response to it, it’s just ugly. That’s how I’ve always seen it. Violence is an ugly beast that rampages where it will, creating destruction, devastation, and tears. It’s an obvious beast, too. It doesn’t sneak up on you. It shows up and nothing is the same once it has gone, if indeed it ever goes away. That’s because violence is addictive, like a drug. Once you become a violent person it is so much easier to be violent again. It’s a learned behavior, which is sad in all sorts of ways.

I wonder if there’s a 12-step program for people who have violent tendencies, and I wonder if they have a bouncer at their meetings. It would probably be prudent.

Sam

The Other Cleopatra

wpid-2014-06-26-19.01.17.jpg.jpegShe came into our lives clandestinely, as a sort of castoff from a lady who had too many to begin with. It was originally going to be a short stay. We already had another one, and we weren’t looking to expand our little army, but one look in her eyes and I know I was hooked. I had to have her, and I would have done anything to get her. Luckily for me my wife agreed, and she’s been living with us ever since. Of course in the time between then and now things have changed in our home. We had two kids, buried a dog, and just this past year she lost her older brother. But she’s still here, and she can really be a pain in the ass at times.

Her official name is Cleopatra Godden-Jones McManus, the result of a long nighttime conversation between me and my significant other. The Cleopatra was a gift from the gods, honestly. There was always just something about ancient Egypt that fascinated me, and as we began our conversation I just blurted it out, and my wife agreed without hesitation. The middle name was a bit of a trial, though, because I wanted her to have a typical, ironically American nickname, and Heidi was dying for a bit of a British moniker. So we split the difference and gave her a split-level, hyphemic, Godden-Jones. It was our gift to her.

I think she’s a pretty cat, and my wife thinks she’s pretty in a strange way, so we both think she’s pretty, at least I tell myself that. She has endeared herself to us despite her always kittenish ways — the constant night dashes, the clawing of the furniture — and she has survived the carnage of the pets, as I like to call it, motivated by hunger and with an affinity to find the worst possible places to have an upset stomach.

Because of how she came to us, I don’t know how old she is, but I like to think she’s ageless, or at least I fool myself into thinking that. When it was time to lay her brother to rest it was too difficult, and I know for her it will be the same, so I try not to think about it too much. But I do know she has to be getting up there, because we got her shortly after Lexi was born, and our oldest child is 9 now. It’s crazy to think about because she still looks pretty much the same. She’s always been a small cat, and no matter how much she eats she still hasn’t developed any kind of paunch. Maybe that’s the worst, though, because it helps me convince myself she will always be around.

So we make memories — nights spent with her head in our laps, the insane purring — and life goes on, life as a one-cat household. We’ve already said that she is our final pet. It’s just too emotional when they inevitably go. Which means all of those moments when we get upset at her for spitting up in random places are tempered by the thought that eventually there will be no pet to get upset with. Until then we will appreciate her for what she is — not for what she isn’t — a good cat. Our good cat. And Cleo is her name.

Sam

Broken

Broken_Stick_by_phil_eI am broken and scarred
Left behind by too many
Stranded by the roadside
Of apathy and chagrin
Between these two extremes
Shackled to a burning tree
That is never consumed
And a rainbow never blooms
Even though the storm is gone
Replaced by a Judas kiss
Bloody in its welcome
Sheltered under this twilight
That mends us all
If we break without bending
So we can start again.

Sam

300 Writing Prompts: #49

“Look around you and choose an object in the room. Now write something from the point of view of that object.”

A small child walks past me, intent in a conversation with herself. I can’t often tell what they’re saying when they come in here because of the voices swirling around my circuitry, but I can tell that this one is pretty excited. She bounces on the balls of her feet like she’s ready to spring, and I hope she doesn’t turn in my direction. She really shouldn’t be looking at me right now. Her time is up for today.

Most days I sit here looking at a man instead, a man I’ve known for four years, a man who has changed probably the most of anyone else who comes into this room. He spends a lot of his time seated in one corner of the couch with his technology around him, and even on him, until it almost appears that he’s become one with it, that it’s growing out of him. He hardly ever talks when he’s in this room except to sometimes laugh at some of the things that come from me. But I can’t see those things, and the voices just aren’t as funny if you can’t see the actions.

But right now this child with the curly hair is sneaking glances at me, dressed in a pale blue nightgown, meaning she really should be in another room, the room for sleep. Sometimes the people who come into this room sleep here, on the couch, and occasionally on the floor, but I can tell that the purpose of this room isn’t sleep. It’s a place to entertain and to be entertained, but more of the latter than the former, and I’m the centerpiece of most of that entertainment. Sometimes I catch my reflection in the glasses on the man’s face, and I can see some part of what they see. At those moments I am in awe of myself.

I sleep too, you know. I could be in the middle of listening to the voices and watching the people move about the room (or sit still, whatever is their prerogative), and suddenly, like a narcoleptic I pass out. I hear no voices and I see absolutely nothing. Most times I’m out for at least 8 hours. I know because I have an internal clock. But sometimes it’s longer, and I remember nothing from these times. In fact, I am a bit annoyed that I miss whatever happens in this room when I’m not awake to chronicle it. Just as I entertain them, these people entertain me with their movements, with their jokes, and in their interactions with each other.

And I know this won’t last forever, so I try to soak in all their faces now because they keep changing, flickering in and out of focus like firelight. The world is changing and as permanent as I may seem now, something newer and better is coming, or may already be here, so I’m going to cling to these memories for as long as I can. Or as long as the remote stays pointed in another direction anyway.

Sam

Chatting With Lexi: On Being Wrong

to-be-creative-lose-the-fear-of-being-wrong-quote-1Okay, so she gets it honest. Lexi absolutely hates being wrong, at any time, in any way. In fact, she will try her best to convince you after the fact that she’s still right regardless of the evidence against that even remotely being true. She reminds me of myself when she gets obstinate like that, crafting entire scenarios to bolster her version of events, creating entirely new scientific evidence from thin air to support her claim. But in the end she’s not even really convincing herself, just really trying to distance herself from what she perceives as failure.

We’ve talked about it often, this inability to accept the truth when it skews differently from her opinion, and it bothers me because I see her growing up as this inflexible human being, like I still am at times. I guess it’s true that we want something more for our children than we’ve had, and in this case I don’t want her to have this portion of herself be like me. I want her to be open to the glory of being wrong. The following conversation happened while we were reading Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

Me: So, Lexi, why do you think Harry is worried about this potion that Snape just gave to Professor Lupin?

Lexi: I don’t know.

Me: Well, think about it. Harry thinks Snape is evil, AND he knows that Snape wants Lupin’s job. Why would that worry him, Snape giving Lupin the potion?

Lexi: I don’t know what you want me to say!

Me: I don’t want you saying something just because. I want you to use some of your own reasoning skills and arrive at an educated guess.

Lexi: But I don’t know.

Me: Well, how do you think Snape could get Lupin’s job? And how might a potion have anything to do with that plan?

Lexi: Maybe the potion could give Snape Lupin’s job.

Me: How?

Lexi: Daaaaaad. I don’t want to guess anymore. Continue reading “Chatting With Lexi: On Being Wrong”

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