Forget regret

rent_main.jpgLast night, I finally saw a live production of RENT. It’s 20 years old this year, which seems impossible. Up until last night, I had only seen the movie, which I do enjoy even though I know that it is not perfect and lots of fans of the Broadway musical dislike intensely. After seeing the live production, I can understand their concerns a little bit better. That having been said, it was probably the best film version of RENT we were ever going to get because as produced for the stage, it’s unfilmable in the traditional movie sense. It does make me want to get the DVD of the final Broadway performance filmed for posterity just so I can watch it again.

I think that RENT is kind of a funny thing. I don’t know that it packs the same cultural punch that it did in the late 90s when it premiered. Heidi pointed out to me last night that the queer/trans character with AIDS died, while Mimi (who really should have died) managed to live. That’s more a product of the time than anything else – queer/trans people did not really get happily ever afters – but it’s still worth thinking about. It was just last season on CWs The 100 where they killed off the LGBT character and Twitter erupted in a firestorm. Hollywood still hasn’t gotten the message completely that LGBT folks need happy endings too. I’m pretty sure that’s a big part of why Heidi writes what she does.

Watching the show last night was very emotional for me. I always get something in my eye during “Life Support” – especially the “because reason says I should have died three years ago” part. And “Finale B” is so intense for me, with its overlapping vocals containing so many of the musical and lyrical themes, before ending with a triumphant “No day but today!” It probably sounds trite, but it’s how it makes me feel.

Whenever I watch a show like that, I think, wow, I wish I could have done something like that. Some people dream of being a stand-up comic or a dramatic actress. Me, I wish I could have done musical theater. Now, I don’t pretend for a minute that that could have ever been a reality, even if I had been mentally well enough to pursue that in my younger days. First off, although I’m no slouch, I don’t really have the voice for that. Also, I’m not coordinated enough to do the dancing. And at 44, I KNOW I don’t have the stamina to keep up with rigorous stage work. But every time I go to a live musical, that part of me gets a little wistful for what might or could have been, even if it really couldn’t have been.

But as RENT says “forget regret! or life is yours to miss.”  I think that the part of me that wishes it had done musical theater is the part of me that does karaoke now, even though I don’t think I’m that good at it. It’s the part of me that has managed to push past the risk-averseness that is my nature and put myself out there for public evisceration. But to paraphrase Rob Sheffield, there is no other pastime in the world that celebrates your effort even if you suck at it. So perhaps that’s why I take solace in it. Because even when I suck (which I have – like the time I attempted “Dark Lady” -eeesh!), I am doing better than the people that won’t even try.

And I’m honoring that part of me that wishes I could sing as well as the people in the show last night. Honestly, I don’t know how they do it. After two songs, my voice is usually somewhere between “frog” and “non-existent.”

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Obligatory post-election post

I haven’t been able to write since the election. Honestly, it derailed most of my productivity. I was all set to blog the Madonna song “Celebration” on the day after the election – that’s how sure of a Democratic win I was – but clearly, given the results, that was a poor choice. I almost blogged it anyway, just to show that we should celebrate the fact that we are surrounded by our like-minded friends and family of choice, but that seemed disingenuous since there are so many communities that stand to be hurt by our current president-elect.

I haven’t really had a chance to process it fully. I’ve kind of been holding it together for everyone else around me. So not much wailing or gnashing of teeth for me. I’m trying like hell to be pragmatic about it, but it’s not working so much the last couple of days. Maybe that’s why I feel so tired when I haven’t been doing anything. I’m headed back to work today after 10 days off and my rule is to not talk about the election. I hesitate to talk about it even with people who feel the same way because it’s easy to get caught in the anxiety loop. When it comes to indulging anxiety, I’m kind of like an alcoholic. I really don’t get to do it even once – all the while recognizing that’s an imperfect analogy because it’s not like there won’t be times I have no choice. But then you get back up on the wagon.

I’m disappointed in our country, in many people I thought knew better. In people that knew he was a bad choice but either voted for him anyway because they didn’t want to pay more taxes or because they hated Hillary. The people that voted for him because they hate everyone else different from them have a special place in hell. I’m sure there are many of my fellow Iowans that fall into all these categories.  And now we have the alt-right getting influence in the White House.  Frankly, I’m ready for them to announce Alex Jones as White House Press Secretary.

It’s a scary time to live in America, for sure, but I know that I say that from a point of privilege. There are many that do not have my privilege and for them, I will continue to fight. While it’s fine to send money to national organizations (HRC, Lambda Legal, NAACP, etc.), what we really need is action on the local level, because that’s where we can affect real change. I have an e-mail out to the Ames chapter of PFLAG, but I haven’t heard back yet. I wonder if it’s even still active.  I could do things in Des Moines, but honestly, I’d rather help out in the city I actually live in.

I’m tempted to curtail my social media presence, but that to me seems like putting my head in the sand. That’s not to say that if you need to do it, you shouldn’t. I just don’t know that that’s the right move for me.  I’m not reading as much news as I did prior to the election, and while I never listened to political podcasts before the election, I’m trying to find sources of entertainment that are good for my soul. Self-care is really important these days. If we’re going to be strong for the people around us, we have to keep ourselves healthy.

I suppose at some point I will erupt in fiery anger but right now I just don’t feel like I can. I’m kind of numb to the whole thing. I don’t know if that’s the result of being medicated, but I’ll take it for now if that’s the case.

That’s where I am right now in this bizarro-world where President-Elect Trump is a real thing.

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Arcadia / Election Day

Electionday.jpgIs there a more appropriate song for today than “Election Day”?  The bad part is that I don’t have tons to say about it. It was not a major part of my pre-teen soundtrack as I was listening almost exclusively to Olivia Newton-John in 1984 (Madonna was just around the corner in 1985.)  I knew some Duran Duran songs, and remember seeing the video on MTV but the song itself never really registered.  Thankfully, Spotify had it and I listened to it for what might be the second or third time ever.

It’s a good enough song – probably not as good as some of the most so-so Duran Duran songs, but it’ll do. It helps that Simon Le Bon did the vocals because he really is pretty much the sound of Duran Duran. I’m sure at the time many people just mistook it for another Duran Duran song.

Today, as everyone knows, is Election Day in the U.S.  Today we pick a president and the people who represent us in Congress. The campaign has been exhausting, not just for the candidates (which I’m sure it has been), but for the nation as a whole. It’s been more divisive than any presidential campaign I’ve ever experienced. Many people feel we’re choosing between two evils. I don’t necessarily feel that way, but the Republican nominee for president is the most abjectly unqualified major party nominee in as long as I can remember. He’s a truly loathsome individual, who got a free pass from the media during the primaries when they were more concerned with ratings than the fact that we were actually picking a presidential nominee.  Hillary Clinton has her issues, but when you put them side by side, there’s no comparison.

I’ll let you all in on a little secret – I’m kind of a one-issue voter. Any candidate that will roll back or threaten LGBT rights will never ever get my vote. I don’t know that Donald Trump gives an actual shit about whether or not gay people can get married, but I can only listen to his rhetoric during the campaign and based on that alone, my vote did not go to him. Truth be told, it never was going to anyway.

It’s our civic duty to vote and Howard Dean once said that if voting is all you’re doing, you get a D.  My vote went to Hillary in spite of all her faults and foibles. The alternative is just too terrifying to contemplate.

I’ve had a lot of election anxiety, as my friend Matt can attest to, but today I am strangely calm. All that’s left to do is count the votes and see what happens. Que sera sera I guess. As my father says, we are but a feather in the wind of all this. And as I say, all I have is my one vote, and I proudly cast it.

Here’s hoping that tonight, America rejects fear and discrimination, even though I have a sinking feeling that Iowa will not.

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Crowded House / Something So Strong

sss.jpgIt seems the latest trend in music these days is repackaging old albums into “deluxe” editions to trick people like me, who have already purchased them at least once, into buying them yet again. I mentioned last night that Stevie Nicks had done that with her first two albums. One of my sister’s favorite bands, Crowded House, has gone a step further and reissued all their albums in deluxe versions with additional tracks as well as repressing them all on vinyl as well. I wonder if there’s anything new on there to my sister who, during the height of the Napster days, managed to accumulate a nearly definitive Crowded House collection of rarities and demos.

“Something So Strong” was the follow-up to Crowded House’s best-known hit “Don’t Dream It’s Over.” Truth be told, I like it more than I do “Don’t Dream It’s Over”, mostly because it’s so much more fun.  I mean, just look at Neil Finn in this video for the song. I don’t think he ever stops smiling.

Sadly, “Something So Strong” didn’t perform to quite the level that “Don’t Dream It’s Over” did. It came close thought – topping out at #7, but it doesn’t have nearly the staying power that “Don’t Dream It’s Over” has.

Although if I were to pick one to do at karaoke, it’d be “Something So Strong” in a heartbeat.

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Stevie Nicks / Think About It

Bella_Donna_(album).jpgOn Friday, deluxe remasters of Stevie Nicks’ first two albums, Bella Donna and The Wild Heart were released. I have made my way through the first two discs of Bella Donna, but have yet to wade into The Wild Heart. Bella Donna is one of the defining albums of my high school years, and I wrote about the title track almost two years ago to the day in this post. But tonight, I want to talk about a different track on that album – one that contains some of the oldest advice that young Dan has to offer old Dan (or maybe vice versa, sometimes it gets hard to differentiate.)

“Think About It” was written by Stevie for fellow Fleetwood Mac member Christine McVie during her divorce from John McVie. I don’t pretend to know what it’s all about specifically, but it definitely alludes heavily to the break-up of a romantic relationship. Especially the lines “anytime you think about leaving, think about what you know/Think about it/Think about it before you go.” It’s one of those things that is kind of pot and kettle because Stevie and Lindsey Buckingham were breaking up, although I think Christine was the “breaker” in her relationship with John, whereas Stevie was the “breakee” in her relationship with Lindsey so I suppose Stevie could be speaking from a space of “hey, this relationship may not be perfect, but you know it so think about it.”

It’s not like 15 year-old Dan was in anything that even remotely resembled a romantic relationship, but I do remember relating to this song so much. Throughout most of my teens and early 20s (as I have talked about freely and frequently), I dealt with undiagnosed depression and anxiety, and I found refuge in music generally – and in Stevie’s music specifically. Inside “Think About It” was the sage advice that I still find myself repeating to myself nearly 30 years later.

Even when you feel like your life is fading
I know that you’ll go on forever, you’re that good
Heartbreak of the moment is not endless
Your fortune is your life’s love

Heartbreak of the moment is not endless. Feelings aren’t facts. It’s just a feeling. All the mantras I use to defuse anxiety and depression and live a fuller, happier life. I still don’t quite know what she means by “your fortune is your life’s love” but whatever. It didn’t matter then and it certainly doesn’t matter now. Part of being a Stevie fan is dealing with her wtf lyrics.

A couple of different versions of “Think About It” are floating around out there – one from one of the expanded editions of Rumours which I almost like better because it’s a little bit jauntier and fun. A second appears on the deluxe version of Bella Donna which was just released but is mostly identical to the album version only with lazier vocals.

“Think About It” may not be one of Stevie’s better known tracks, but it’s an essential one for me.

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Joshua / Dolly Parton

Dolly_Parton_-_Joshua.jpgBeyond all the hair and boobs and makeup and glitter, Dolly Parton is, at her essence, a songwriter – and a prolific one at that. She’s written some of the most iconic country songs of all time, and if country music does any one thing right, it’s the story-song. Today’s song pick is one of my favorite Dolly Parton story-songs, “Joshua.”

“Joshua” tells the tale of an innocent Dolly walking down the railroad track of her hometown and in so doing, passes the run-down shack home of Joshua, who is rumored to be the meanest guy in the town. She doesn’t believe it and has to find out for herself because she didn’t believe “nobody could be that mean. Amazingly, Joshua actually ends up being nothing more than misunderstood and they find that they have a lot in common and fall in love, sharing the little old run down shack. What Dolly’s parents might have to say about this turn of events is anyone’s guess.

I discovered this song during a massive Dolly Parton Napster downloading party that I had one day when I was home sick from work. Most of my knowledge of Dolly’s work at that time was limited to her 80s and 90s output, save “Coat of Many Colors”, “Jolene”, and “I Will Always Love You.” I found a Dolly Parton compilation that highlighted her 60s and 70s work and started looking for songs and as it turns out, “Joshua” was one of them. I always figured it would be about Joshua from the Bible, but the actual song ended up being a whole lot more interesting than I predicted based on the title.  I still feel kind of bad that I downloaded all those songs for free from Napster, but Dolly has gotten so much of my money over the years, I feel like it’s kind of evened out.

Now that NBC has agreed to do movies of Dolly’s songs, here’s hoping that “Joshua” will be one of them. It will certainly be a better choice than “Me & Little Andy” or “Down From Dover” might be!

*perhaps my favorite part of the song is when Dolly sees the “big black dog laying out in the yard” and “swalleRed hard.”

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Any Which Way / Scissor Sisters

Scissor_Sisters_Any_Which_Way.jpgI really miss Scissor Sisters. They were one of those bands that, much like the Dixie Chicks, were greater than the sum of their parts. However, I suspect that toward the end of their existence as a band, they were pretty unhappy, so it’s times like these that I am just glad that they existed at all.

Of their four albums, Night Work will always be my favorite, probably because I feel it is the most accurately embodies what Scissor Sisters were as a band. Listening to Night Work is like heading into the seedy part of town where sex and drugs rule only you get to do it from the safety of your own home or car or whatever.

“Any Which Way” exemplifies these traits for me perhaps better than any other song on the record. It’s pretty much straight up about sex, any way that you can get it, especially anonymously. Take these lyrics, for example:

You don’t need reservations
No identification
To give me your relations
Sting me like a bee
Oh I want you to funk me
Your battleship has sunk me
You dip me and you dunk me
Set my body free

It doesn’t get much more libidinous that that, and the reckless abandon is so damn much fun, mostly because it’s safe. As someone who is pretty risk averse, I’m ok with just listening to the activities described in this song than actually participating!

But perhaps my favorite part of the song is Ana Matronic’s spoken breakdown

You know baby
When I was taking my pantyhose out of their egg this evening
I thought: I’m going to find that man that is the right shade of bottle tan
A man that smells like cocoa butter and cash
Take me anyway you like it
In front of the fireplace
In front of your yacht
In front of my parents
I don’t give a damn baby, just take me

I remember thinking during the 2012 election that a man with the right shade of bottle tan, smelling like cocoa butter and cash probably was a pretty accurate description of Mitt Romney. But in light of Donald Trump, I take back every bad thing I ever said about Mitt Romney, who was a decent man with whom I happened to disagree.

But no politics! Let’s just watch this great video for “Any Which Way.” It’s appropriately rainbow-ish and obviously, Jake Shears is raiding my closet  for his clothing choices. PS background vocals by Kylie Minogue who sadly does not show up in the video and probably goes a long way toward explaining why I like the song so much.

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