Keeping anxiety at bay

I’m anxious about lots of things tonight. It’s been one of those kinds of days.

The only trouble is I’ve had more of those days lately than I’d really like to have.  I know that I’m always going to be an anxious person. There’s no changing that. What I can change is how I react to those anxious thoughts and feelings.  For lots of reasons, the strategies that I usually use to keep those thoughts and feelings under control have not worked as well as they usually do.

In many ways, I’d rather be depressed than anxious. They’re usually inseparable from each other, so I suppose I can’t have one without the other. I really can’t say that I have been depressed lately so much as I have had a lot of negative self-talk. Even earlier tonight I was working on this antimicrobial stewardship thing I’m trying to get certified in and I kept missing questions on the test at the end of one of the sections and I would say to myself “I am so stupid!” which is patently untrue but nevertheless, was the automatic response I had.

So it’s no wonder I’m drinking tonight. Liver enzyme test results be damned.

So in an attempt to keep anxiety at bay, here’s a list of some fun things.

  • Madonna’s “Gang Bang” and Jermaine Stewart’s “We Don’t Have To Take Our Clothes Off” have aged better than you would expect.
  • I get new glasses this week.  They have shipped from Texas and are supposed to be here Saturday but I really want them to be here on Friday because I have that day off and I can’t wait to start wearing them. New glasses, new Dan so to speak.
  • Deborah Harry is going to be 72 and she still sounds as good as ever.

Something that is not so good is that I have a raft of journals from my college years that are password protected and I thought I knew the passwords but apparently for some of them I don’t.  Maybe on a night that I’m not drunk on the Valentine’s Day wine that Heidi bought for me, I’ll be able to remember them. Although a part of me thinks that perhaps they are better off forever sealed.

 

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Mix CD Redux: Dan’s Tres Excellente CD

Once upon a time, probably in the spring on 1998 right after Ray Of Light was released, I made a mix tape and I cleverly called it “Dan’s Tres Excellente Tape.” I remember Heidi making fun of it because there were some songs that she definitely looked over her glasses at, but we were newly married and so much in love that she tolerated them. When CD burning became a thing, I took to transferring a lot of my mix tapes to CD. The only trouble was the tapes were 90 minutes and the CDs were only 74 minutes long, cutting out over 15 minutes worth of music and up to 4-5 songs. The cuts were always brutal, but never moreso than they were in making “Dan’s Tres Excellente CD.” I wish I could remember the songs I cut.

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Some thoughts:

  • Lots of duplicate artists – two Madonnas, two Loreena McKennitts, two Chers, two Mary Chapin Carpenters. I wonder if any of the songs I cut were a third selection from any of these artists or ones I should have kept in lieu of keeping a second by any of the previously mentioned artistts. But duplicate artists played well on mix tapes as long as you didn’t have them on the same side of the tape! CDs (and now, playlists) are much less forgiving.
  • I had completely forgotten about that Amanda Marshall song, “I’ll Be Okay.” It came from the soundtrack to My Best Friend’s Wedding and was a big favorite of ours at the time. We loved Amanda Marshall’s debut album so much and this song would have fit right in with that bunch. I’ll always think of the early years of our marriage when I listen to Amanda Marshall.
  • Heidi always turned up her nose at “There Are Worse Things I Could Do” but it is arguably the strongest song on the Grease soundtrack. I’ve always dug Stockard Channing’s portrayal of Rizzo – it’s surely the definitive performance for a generations of fans of the musical – and this song that she sings as rumors of her pregnancy swirl through Rydell High is a huge favorite of mine. It’s also home to one of my most infamous misheard lyrics. Actual lyric: I can feel and I can cry/A fact I’ll bet you never knew. What Dan heard: I can feel and I can cry/That dog bit you, you never knew.
  • This was the beginning of a big Pam Tillis obsession for me. I’m pretty sure that “Spilled Perfume” was my gateway into all things Pam. How was I supposed to resist a song that contains a lyric “there’s no use crying over spilled perfume”? Pam’s music is pretty cheesy but it was some of the best 90s country had to offer.
  • “Quittin’ Time” is such a college song for me. A song about the end of a romantic relationship, I remember applying it to any  number of platonic relationships I had at the time. A lot of that was my depression talking, but it doesn’t change that’s how I felt. You pretend and I pretend that everything is fine. And though we should be at an end, it’s so hard admittin’ when it’s quittin’ time. God I wasted a lot of college feeling like shit.
  • I LOVE “Trail of Broken Hearts.” It’s such a quintessential Cher song but no one knows it, not even a lot of fans. I can’t even describe why I like it so much. I guess it’s just something unique to me.
  • That goddamn Titanic song.
  • “Dante’s Prayer” is the best last song on a CD ever.

Anyway, if you want to listen to this mix, here’s a Spotify playlist. I recommend it as it’s “very great.”

 

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Scaling back on concerts

Last year, I famously went to 10 different concerts. I enjoyed each and every one of them, but by the end of the year, I have to admit that I was pretty exhausted. I love the thrill of going to a live show, be it an arena show or a smaller show in a general admission venue. It would have been different if I hadn’t had to travel for almost all of the shows – only a few were in Des Moines. As J.D. Salinger said, you can’t go on abusing the body, year in, year out – regardless of what you may think. And by the end of the year, I felt like my body had been through the wringer as far as traveling to concerts went.

Because of that – and some other things that I’ll get into – I’m seriously cutting back on concerts. It’s going to take something AMAZING to get me to go to more than the one that I have lined up for March. Honestly, my bucket list is getting pretty short. The only two bonafide bucket list artists that remain are Suzanne Vega and Pam Tillis, and I am pretty sure that Suzanne Vega will not be touring in 2017.  Anybody else is mostly a “would be fun” type thing. Not that I’m opposed to that – quite the contrary – but sometimes you just have to say no.

The fact that I bought at $2300 computer in a couple of weeks ago is probably the biggest reason that I will be saying no to more concerts this year. It’s hard to justify that AND the price of some of the shows. I really did need a new computer, my old one was a late 2011 model iMac and was barely limping along. The good thing was that it never gave me a single day’s worth of trouble in the 5 years that I had it, which is more than I can say for some of my PCs. The instant that I purchased it, I knew that meant fewer concerts.

I’m also really trying to pay down debt. I refinanced two different credit cards with Sofi this year and got it into one monthly payment that is lower interest and $200 less per month than I was paying before. I refinanced the house last fall to save another $200 per month. I can’t really justify putting concert tickets on credit cards that I have just paid off. It would be different if I had actually paid them off and not just refinanced them to a better interest rate and lower monthly payment. I still have to pay them off and the last damn thing I need is to pay Sofi AND the credit card companies.  That defeats the whole purpose. My student loans may be going away at the end of the year thanks to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, which will be nice, and I plan to put all that money on Sofi or the car to pay those down faster.

But perhaps the most important reason I want to cut back on concerts is I want to see people this year, not concerts. I would love to take a trip somewhere to see far flung friends – NYC or Washington, D.C.or Denver or Ottawa – I have friends in all these places that I haven’t seen in a long time and would love to see again.

However, I couldn’t say no to this “could be amazing, could be a train wreck” combination in Minneapolis in March.  It’s combining going to a concert with seeing people as there are five of us going to this show.  Given Ms. Carey’s New Year’s Eve meltdown in Times Square, it could be interesting. Still, I’m really looking forward to it, even though I have to drive to goddamn Minneapolis.

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More old favorites

I’ve written about my “Old Favorites” playlist before, so this blog post feels like cheating, but I have a really good reason to be blogging about it. For those that don’t know, my “Old Favorites” playlist is an iTunes smart playlist that my friend Matt came up with back before he switched to all streaming all the time. The criteria for a song to make the list is it hads to have been played more than 22 times, but not within the last 3 months.  I frequently ignore it and it gets huge and unwieldy, sometimes coming in at between 300 and 400 songs.  Well, I would like to present this picture as proof that it is not always that way.

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It is down to 10 songs total after a few days of very diligent listening. Frankly, I don’t understand how I went 3 months without listening to Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Boy Problems.”  But by the time I go to bed tonight, that playlist will be empty.  Perhaps it will populate with some new songs in the morning, and I’m sure that I’ll ignore it for another 6 months and then do the same thing all over again.

I’ve had to edit the playlist a lot since I first created it. The original minimum play count was 8, a laughably small number now.  That playlist would easily be a thousand songs with that kind of criteria.  I’ve toyed with making the time since last listen 6 months, but just haven’t pulled the trigger on that yet.  A change like that just delays the inevitable and doesn’t really change the dynamic of the playlist.

What I love about this playlist is how it reminds me of songs that have fallen off my radar. Many of these songs were once residents of another smart playlist “Dan’s Favorites” that you can see in my iTunes sidebar if you look closely.

I don’t know that I’ll ever completely throw over iTunes for Spotify, although I definitely go in phases as the binge listening in iTunes over the last few days demonstrates. And until Spotify adds play counts, it is woefully incomplete. I know that they have that data, they just need to show it to me!

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Mix CD Redux: Dan’s Prozac Mix

It’s no secret that I’ve dealt with depression and anxiety for the better part of my life, and over the years, I’ve dealt with it in many different ways. One of the most successful ways I have done so is, not surprisingly, through music. Back in 2000, I made a mix CD that I titled simply “Dan’s Prozac Mix.”  Frankly, I can’t even remember whether or not I was taking Prozac at the time I made this CD, but it hardly matters because the goal was clear – gather up a bunch of songs that would make me feel better. What I ended up with is a motley mix of songs that I haven’t been able to stop listening to this last week.

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A few comments:

  • Billy Joel’s “You’re Only Human (Second Wind)” holds up better than you might think. I feel like he made such a good call to stop making pop albums because by the late 80s, his albums were at the point of diminishing returns. Better to preserve the legacy than sully it with a bunch of late career turds.
  • “She Bangs” is a forgotten gem. It seriously smokes – in many ways a superior song than the better known (and overplayed) “Livin’ La Vida Loca.” It’s too bad that Ricky Martin couldn’t really replicate the success of the first album with Sound Loaded.
  • This CD was made at the height of the Napster era, so many of the remixes were Napster finds. Primary among these is the remix of the Bette Midler song “I’m Beautiful.” Honestly, it succeeded in doing the impossible and made something put out by Bette Midler even gayer than it already was. Have a listen here, but any song that talks about someone’s cosmic fabulosity or how Bette woke up one morning, flossed her teeth and decided “damn! I’m fierce!” is campy enough even before it was remixed for the clubs.
  • Loreena McKennitt seems out of place here, but really, the song, which consists of just the word “la” repeated over and over again, really makes me happy. Hers was one of my favorite concerts I saw last year, if only because it was so long in the coming.
  • I will always love the Barbra Streisand song “Emotion” because it is so 80s it is practically wearing leg warmers. I really wish she would have sung at least a snippet of it at her concert I saw this year, but alas, it was not from a number one album (or from her new album) so it did not make the set list. The whole Emotion album is so hilariously and awesomely dated. One of my all time favorite Streisand albums.
  • And there’s Madonna, with “Music” which had just come out that fall. Simpler times, folks.
  • Jo Dee Messina is so autotuned, it’s pathetic. However, there was no better song to end the CD with than “That’s The Way.” An ode to how things can go wrong, but you have to pick yourself back up again. Seems like the perfect last song to me.

But my favorite thing about this CD is its background. Oh and the Brady Bunch font that I used for the title.  There were two other Prozac mixes that I made but like most sequels, they failed to live up to the original. I made a Spotify playlist, but it’s lacking the Dolly Parton and, devastatingly, the Bette Midler song. Here it is anyway.

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Barbarella psychadella

So I got a little bit of Christmas money and because I’m not going to go to many concerts this year (famous last words), I decided to buy a few albums that I’ve had my eye on for a while. Well, and one that was an early morning spur of the moment splurge. It hasn’t arrived yet, but here’s a couple pictures of it.

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Yes, it’s the soundtrack to the 1968 cheese-fest Barbarella. I am not in the habit of buying movie scores on vinyl because I just don’t listen to them that much.  I’m not a movie score kind of guy generally and to consciously sit down and listen to one on vinyl seems weird to me. But I couldn’t pass up this picture disc version. And it was only $20 + shipping, even though some guy on Discogs is trying to sell his for $250. Good luck, dude.

I’ve actually been listening to the soundtrack on Spotify a lot lately – it’s cheesy in that late-60s way that appeals to me. The score is by Charles Fox, who later went on to write the score to 9 to 5. It’s funny, but you can hear echoes of the Barbarella score in the 9 to 5 score. It’s subtle, of course, but it’s there. I think it must be the horns.

Anyway, I watched – or rather, tried to watch – Barbarella many years back. In fact, I even found the post from ELEVEN YEARS AGO. It’s amazing that writing of mine from over a decade ago still lives on the Internet. Anyway, I was not all that kind to Barbarella at the time, but I see that it’s still streaming on Netflix so maybe it’s time I gave it another shot. Maybe I’ll appreciate it more now that I’ve been listening to the music.

Of course, the only part I truly remember is the opening credits and its accompanying theme song, which is frankly the best part of the whole movie. I’ll let you know if the movie has improved with 11 years between viewings.

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From 39 to 50

upward.jpgThis is kind of a quick follow-up post on the first post of 2016, in which I vowed to increase my blogging output. WordPress had sent me an e-mail telling me that I had only made 39 blog entries for the entirety of 2015, and I vowed then and there that I would surpass that amount, if only by one entry, in 2016.

Well, I’m proud to report that I have increased by my blogging output by 28% this year. Not only did I write 40 posts, I ended the year with 50 posts! Now, that’s still a far cry from the glory days of blogging, especially in 2008 when I hit blogging max at 275 posts.  I don’t know that I’ll ever be that into blogging again, but the only way to keep my writing skills up is to work the muscle, so-to-speak.

I’m not going to sit here and say that I am going to blog even more in 2017, but I hope to. With one of my goals being to Internet less, I’m hoping that some of the stuff that I would normally post to Facebook might end up here instead, with at least a couple paragraphs. Does that mean fewer people see it?  Yes, almost undoubtedly. But writing isn’t about getting likes or comments. It’s about, as Madonna would say, expressing yourself. I won’t lie – I like knowing that people are reading and comments are fun and there’s a certain thrill that comes from getting Facebook or Twitter likes, but it’s important to put all that in perspective. I write for me and me alone. If someone happens to find that interesting, well, so much the better.

I’ll probably still write a lot about music. It’s really what sustains me, even if no one else finds it interesting. I’ll try not to write about politics as that makes me feel bad and there are enough people in the world writing about that. I will, however, still continue to fight for what I think is right and defend those that need defending. That you can count on.

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