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Heaven

Talking Heads – Heaven

Yesterday I went to a funeral for my former boss at my previous job. He had been really ill from cancer and honestly, if he wasn’t going to beat it (which he wasn’t) then I’m glad he wasn’t suffering any longer. But. He was only one year older than me and he leaves his wife to raise their 13-year-old son alone. His older brother had died some years earlier so there were his parents, outliving both of their children. It was all very sad and it sure made you think about how unfair and random life can be.

He was not religious, pretty agnostic I’d say, so it seemed a bit odd to have the service led by the hospice chaplain. To hear him tell it, after just two visits, my old boss had become a believer.

Maybe I’m just too cynical. Maybe everything the chaplain said was true, or if not true, perhaps it was at least comforting to people who would feel better about the situation if they thought he had come to peace with god before he died.

Not being inclined that way myself, I found my thoughts drifting while the chaplain rambled on about what awaits us in the hereafter. I can appreciate that it would be a difficult day and probably your loved ones are not in a condition to be playing the role that the chaplain did, but this is why I have my funeral playlist. There were a number of songs played at my old boss’s service yesterday. Some unconventional choices which, while not what I was expecting having listened to his music booming out from his office for the better part of five years, were at least a nod to the man everyone knew.

So I returned to the thoughts about what is a service for? My mother pointed out that a funeral, in her book an actual sacrament and religious rite, is more about sending that person off with all the appropriate prayers and solemnity one expects. A memorial service could be more of an occasion for friends and family to remember the person and celebrate their life, tell funny or heartfelt stories. More about the person, less about the death and dying.

I kept thinking, when this is over, and we are safely out of earshot in our car, I am telling my husband, do not let any service for me be like this. Do not, under any circumstances, let some priest who never (or barely) met me, stand up and tell everyone what his ideas are about what I was thinking at the end, or how I was feeling. What comes next. You take my now-renamed memorial service playlist and you hit play.

This song is on there. If it gives people comfort to think about me up in heaven (which I don’t believe in) then let it at least be a bar where the band plays my favorite song, plays it all night long.

Bad Art & Weirdo Ideas

Beach Slang – Bad Art & Weirdo Ideas

Thanks to a random retweet I caught today, I have been checking out Beach Slang. I love the title of their forthcoming album, The Things We Do to Find People Who Feel Like Us. Pretty great.

The other day This Is My Jam, a music site I took part in, announced that it would be closing up shop. I first got the word from a Facebook post that a friend made, a friend I know from another music site that folded a year or two earlier (sniff! R.I.P. Turntable.fm). And I found that site through a friend I’d made on another music site that’s still in existence but a shell of its former self.

A lot of my friends aren’t really into music. I have a hard time understanding how they can have such a passive relationship with music and they have a hard time understanding why I get so excited about it. We have other things in common and they’re nice people that I like a lot. But there’s something about people who get the same high from music that I do. It’s how it makes us feel, or maybe it’s more accurate to say, it’s how the music expresses what we feel. The thing is already there. Music just gives it shape. When words aren’t enough, that’s where music comes in and fills those holes.

The things I do to find people who feel like I do? I go to shows by myself, I hang out on music sites with unstable futures, I follow total strangers on Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr. I write about how my life has been influenced by music in hopes that other people who have that same passion will recognize me as coming from the same place and say hello.

South Philly

Cayetana – South Philly

This whole album (Nervous Like Me) is really hitting the spot for me lately.

It’s summer. I’ve waited all through one of the longest, most depressing winters in a long time to get here. I feel like I’m not appreciating it enough. Soon, much too soon, it will start to fade and what will I have to show for it?

I went for a walk at lunchtime the other day. If it’s not raining or too hot outside I try to get out of the climate controlled office so at least I can feel like I haven’t missed the entire summer. There was a group of kids from a day camp playing on a grassy field in the shade. Some of the older kids were playing touch football, another group had a Frisbee, then there were these four little girls facing each other sitting on the grass. They were playing the hand clapping game “Miss Mary Mack.” I was close enough to hear them as I passed by and not a word had changed. It has to be more than 100 years old.

Old and new. Cayetana is one of a bunch of new bands from Philadelphia, an old city (for the US) and an old favorite of mine. Check out the whole thing at Bandcamp.

Alone at the Show

Girlpool – Alone at the Show

Last night I was alone at the show, as I frequently am. I went to see Waxahatchee with Girlpool opening up. I had heard some buzz about Girlpool but other than the fact that the band is two teenagers, I didn’t really have any idea what to expect.

The venue was some sort of former movie theater/small town playhouse. It was extremely quiet, with everyone sitting in their seats and the stage, a wide expanse of black, was nearly empty. They joked, “Welcome to the talent show!” and seemed completely at ease. Just two young women with a guitar and a bass and eyes firmly shut while they belted it out into the darkness.

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The songs have a simplicity that’s not surprising given their ages and stripped down sound. As I sat listening to their lyrics and between song banter, with the audience and each other, they began to remind me of something. Ernie Pook’s Comeek.

That’s not another band but the Lynda Barry comic strip that used to run in the City Paper in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. They have a similar combination of innocence and insight beyond their years. Humor and sadness. Awkward yet confident. They felt like the kind of band Marlys would love. Girlpool, girl power. Like the lyrics from one of their songs, “If you are a Jane put your fist up too.” Right on! Even Super Right On!

If you’re not familiar with Ernie Pook and Lynda Barry, man, you are missing out. And if you get the chance to see Girlpool, you should do it.

Bottled in Cork

Ted Leo & the Pharmacists – Bottled in Cork

Just like Ted Leo going to see his sister, we’ve been visiting my husband’s family in Sweden. We just got back late on Tuesday and I’m still pretty tired from jet lag and just traveling. I am not going to catch up on all the online finery that we missed without access to the internet, there’s just too much. I managed to grab a little free wifi here and there to add some pictures to Instagram but didn’t have time for much else. That’s mostly a good thing but I do feel like I’m playing catch up.

Hopefully I’ll be back on track with a weekend under my belt. Until then, please enjoy this great send up of Green Day and American Idiot.

Sexuality

Billy Bragg – Sexuality

The headlines have been giving me headaches and making me angry, depressed, and scared. Sometimes I feel fired up and come out swinging, other times I am just overwhelmed by it all.

Today seemed like a good day to spin this 24-year-old (yet still eerily topical!) Billy Bragg song and watch Kirsty MacColl throw a pie in a stodgy old lawmaker’s face.

Today is the Day

Yo La Tengo – Today is the Day

It was snowing as I drove to work this morning. Of course it was. I was driving in the snow, making do with my phone-streaming-Bluetooth combo which was playing some ok music but not exactly what I want, and suddenly I thought, that’s it. I give up. You win, winter, you win.

My eyes stung. A heaviness came over me. It’s like I can feel the weight of all the snow, dragging me down. It’s cumulative, you know? If it could just melt a little in between storms, maybe it wouldn’t be so bad. If it could be even close to an above freezing temperature on the rare occasions when the sun does make an appearance. I’m not asking for a lot. Sure, I want the snow to be completely gone, but I’d settle for a day that’s 35°F and sunny.

I can’t go away. I can’t quit winter. I just have to live with it. Today is the day it got the better of me. You defeated me, winter. You made me cry. Are you happy? Is that what you wanted?

The Only Place

Best Coast – The Only Place

Dear New England Winter 2015,

Fuck You.

XO,
Ellen

Seriously, I’ve had it. I never truly considered LA as a place I could ever live for all the stereotypical reasons. I’ll admit to being an east coast snob. But I watch this video and…I just want to cry.

Blizzard warning in effect, snowplow scraping by; I want to live in LA and be a music supervisor and own nothing heavier than a jeans jacket. Sigh.

Next stop, Hawaii.

50 Words for Snow

Kate Bush – 50 Words for Snow

I’ve got 50 words for snow, but not one of them is nice.

Earlier this week that blizzard that all the New Yorkers complained was a bust, dropped close to two feet of snow on us. My kids had an early dismissal from school on Monday before things got bad and my daughter has yet to go back. More snow is forecast for Sunday night/Monday morning.

My main concern was that we would lose power. The last time a blizzard moved through here it switched over to freezing rain and then back to snow again, which resulted in lots of downed power lines. It’s one thing to lose power in hurricanes (that’s happened twice – Irene and Sandy), but when there’s no power and the temperature outside is below freezing, it gets cold inside, fast. I was not eager to repeat the experience. I bought food we could eat cold, I made sure we had flashlights ready, I left the heat up overnight. Luckily nothing happened, except all that snow that needed to be shoveled away.

I don’t find the snow pretty. I am incapable of seeing anything other than hours of shoveling, the inevitable melting and re-freezing creating ice rinks in the driveways and on the sidewalks which in turn leads to twisted ankles or wrenched backs. It depresses me. It stops being bright and white after one day and instead is gray and brown with hard, dirty chunks everywhere. Why can’t we hibernate like bears? Just sleep through it all and then come out of it when the weather starts to get nicer.

Soon I will have had too much and I will start dreaming about Caribbean Islands and Hawaiian vacations. I’d even settle for California or some other place with no snow but yes, palm trees. In the end I will be lucky to find a greenhouse I can stand in for twenty minutes. Spring can never get here fast enough.

Blood Bank

Bon Iver – Blood Bank

Look at that album cover. Brrrr. It doesn’t matter that I know exactly what I’m getting out of winter in New England, I am never ready for its arrival. It’s not that I’m caught off guard, I just live in denial until the last possible minute. Why spend one second more than you’re forced to thinking about it?

I don’t really wish I could join the legions of people who love winter, or even those who tolerate it well and think it can be pretty. I am very content to continue singing the praises of spring and summer. And one thing’s for sure, if I ever moved to someplace that doesn’t have winter, I would never miss it. People have questioned me on that one but I have lived through more than enough winters to last me a lifetime.

As I sit here now, wrapped up in a blanket, the wind is blowing down the chimney and rattling the glass doors on the fireplace. Snow is falling and pelting the window screens making an icy sound. So it begins.