Sunday, September 29, 2019

Talking Dreams

“No one wants to listen to your dreams.”

I mean, this is obvious, right?  So glaringly true that it’s practically a cliché.  After all, This American Life put it on a list of “Seven Things You’re Not Supposed to Talk About” in 2013.  In 2015, Amy Schumer worked it into a comedy skit on her show ... and that’s barely scratching the surface of how many comedians have made a joke about this.  Hell, given a Google search for the quote that introduces this blog post, we can find any number of articles expressing this thought, from sources as silly as Cracked to those as prestigious as Scientific American.  So, there’s nothing else to say about it, really.  No one wants to hear about other people’s dreams, it’s undeniably true, end of story.

Except ...

Well, I do.  I enjoy hearing about other people’s dreams just as much as I enjoy talking about mine.  Oh, sure: I don’t talk about my dreams with anyone else outside my family, pretty much in the same way that I don’t try to convince other people that Keanu Reeves can act or that Nickelback is a pretty good band, even though those are both things I believe.  But there are memes and then there are memes, ya know?  And you don’t buck “facts” that are buried in the public consciousness this deep.  Not unless you want to get into physical altercations.  Hey, I’ll bring up politics at work any time—hell, I’ll even bring up religion, if I’m feeling particularly saucy—but I will not try to convince my co-workers that Chuck E. Cheese has pretty decent pizza.  I’m not crazy.

And, honestly, I’m only going to be half-hearted in my attempt to convince you that listening to other people’s dreams isn’t the horrible thing you’ve always been told.  (And, as always, if half-hearted is still half a heart too much, feel free to remind yourself of the name of the blog.)  But it just sort of bugs me how very wrong almost everything about this myth is.  Let’s start with a quick overview of how much wrong there is in the articles from the afore-mentioned Google search.

First off, we can dispsense with the silly ones.  Cracked says:

There is no greater gap than the one between how fascinating dreams are to the dreamer and how fascinating they are to literally anyone else in the world.  Dennis from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia probably put it best: “Listening to people’s dreams ... is like flipping through a stack of photographs; if I’m not in any of them and nobody is having sex, I just don’t care.”

Of course, we must always remember that the entire point of Sunny is that it’s a show about terrible people and how funny it is to watch terrible people do terrible things.1  Those of us who are not terrible people probably agree to a staggering degree that at least some photographs of other people not having sex are worth looking at.2  Also, the author was kind enough to use the word “literally,” which means his statement is trivially disprovable by providing a single counter-example, of which I am one.

The author of the opinion piece in the UK’s Metro was kind enough to do the same, right in the title: “Literally no-one cares about your dreams.”  She continues:

There is no sentence less interesting, less exciting or less compelling than: ‘I had the weirdest dream last night’.

I can (literally, even) think of dozens of sentences less exicting or compelling to me.  In fact, probably the weirdest thing about this article is that the author ends it with:

For those who are still in doubt about whether or not it’s really such a heinous crime to share the story of your dream, ask yourself this: when someone tells you about a dream they’ve had, do you find yourself rapt, begging them to carry on, to make the story longer and to provide more detail?

Well, ummm ... yes, in fact, I do.  In fact, the dream that the author invents to prove how boring dreams are is this:

... they were at the office, but it wasn’t really the office because it was in Yorkshire, and everyone kept talking about sheep.

And, perhaps bizarrely, I really want to hear the rest of that dream.

The article from Vice is a bit of a head-scratcher.  Its title is “Why People Can’t Stop Talking About Their Extremely Boring Dreams,” and it admits:

When it comes to sharing our nightly musings, the overwhelming message seems to be: Just don’t.

But then the author goes to interview Alice Robb, author of a book on dreams, and gives us this:

Robb says it can feel “very intimate” to share a dream with someone, especially depending on your relationship with that person.  But, she adds, “because dreams so often are really cutting to the heart of our emotional lives and emotional concerns, sharing them is one of the best ways to process and understand them.”

I sort of get the feeling that the author of the article is trying to have it both ways.  Or perhaps that she wishes she could advocate sharing her dreams with others but realizes that she’s never going to get anywhere with that message.

The Scientific American article is the most disappointing though.  Titled “Why You Shouldn’t Tell People about Your Dreams” and, just in case you missed the message from getting beaten over the head with it the first time, subtitled “They are really meaningful to you but not to anybody else,” it contains a plethora of “facts” that just don’t ring true:

Because most dreams are negative (support for the threat-simulation theory), our bias in favor of negative information makes them feel important.

I feel really sad that this author’s dreams apparently reinforce this belief for him, because very few of my dreams are negative (at least of those that I remember; common theory is that you forget most of your dreams).  Many of them are utterly bizarre, of course, and sometimes they’re vaguely discomfiting, but that’s very different from “negative.”  Of course, this author disagrees with my assessment of “bizarre” too:

We tend to think of dreams as being really weird, but in truth, about 80 percent of dreams depict ordinary situations.

There’s a scholarly article linked there as well, to “prove” the point, but I can only surmise that there’s a different definition of “ordinary situations” going on here, or that we’re just counting percentages differently.  Perhaps 80% of the dreams I can’t remember were about ordinary situations.  It may even be true that 80% of the dreams that I would never even want to share with anyone else are about ordinary situations.  But, come on: if I want to tell someone about my dream, it’s because it was downright weird.  Why would I want to regale you with a dream about an ordinary situation?  Why the hell would I even want to relive that dream ... because a big part of wanting to share your dreams is wanting to hold on to them.  Telling someone else about your dream manifests it, gives it reality in a way that almost nothing else will—not even writing it down.  Assuming you have a good listener, and the two of you can chuckle over the absurdities and marvel over the oddities, sharing a dream with another living, breathing soul can bring out more details than you initially thought you remembered, plus now someone else will remember your dream too.  And you can trot it out later and chat about how weird that was.

But here’s the most bizarrely incongruous passage.  Admittedly, this is the end of one paragraph and the beginning of another, but the author is the one who butted them up against each other, not me:

Just like someone having a psychotic experience, the emotional pull of dreams makes even the strangest incongruities seem meaningful and worthy of discussion and interpretation.

These reasons are why most of your dreams are going to seem pretty boring to most people.

What the hell?  “Most people” find psychotic experiences with strange incongruities and emotional pull boring?  Really?  Apparently I don’t know “most people,” because very few of the people I know would find that boring, and any I can think of off the top of my head who would aren’t people I wish I knew better, if you catch my drift.  How much imagination do you have to lack if you’re thinking, “you had a psychotic experience? that also carried emotional weight? oh, puhh-leeze—I could care less”???  Well, I’m sorry, but send those people to me.  I am fascinated to learn more.

Nevertheless, it would be foolish to completely ignore such a prevalent opinion, even if I do feel there’s quite a bit of bandwagonry going on here.  So, if you find yourself about to hear about the dream of a friend of yours, and you’re dreading it, here are some tips that maybe will make it a more pleasant experience.

A dream is not a story.  It seems ridiculous that I have to point this out, but a lot of the complaints I hear about listening to other people’s dreams revolves around what an incoherent mess it is, and how there’s no proper ending to them.  Well, duh ... they’re dreams.  Dreams don’t follow internal story logic.  Dreams don’t have nice tidy beginnings and middles and ends, rising actions and falling actions and character growths.  They’re just little snippets.  Enjoy them as little snippets: little disconnected slices of unreality that can be appreciated in isolation and examined, not for meaning, but for intrinsic interest.  And, speaking of “not for meaning” ...

Stop trying to interpret the dream.  This goes for whether you’re a listener or the dream teller.  Dreams don’t have to mean anything.  Sure, maybe sometimes they do, but there’s no way for you to tell whether this particular dream has a meaning or not, so stop trying to psychoanalyze it and just go with the flow.

Never ask “why?”  This is sort of the combination of the above two points.  When someone tells you their dream and you respond with “but why did that part happen?” you’re missing the point.  It isn’t a story, so there is no logical answer, and it probably doesn’t have some deeper meaning, so there’s no deep psychological motivation to be found either.  It’s a question that can only make the teller feel dumb, and, I hate to tell you, but it doesn’t even have the side benefit of making you look smart, because it sounds like you’re trying to make dreams make sense, and smart people don’t do that.

And, finally, one tip for all the folks that, despite their better judgment, have decided to share their dreams anyway:

If your dream isn’t weird or unusual in some way, then don’t bother.  Being a dream doesn’t exempt boring conversation from being boring.

I actually debated with myself on whether or not to share a dream of mine with you, dear reader.  On the one hand, it seems practically hypocritical not to support my premise with some actual, personal proof.  On the other, I recognize that I won’t sway everyone (or perhaps even anyone), and no point gifting people with a juicy dream if they’re not going to appreciate it.  I’ve decided to split the difference and give you just a few snippets from the dreams that I’ve had over the years.  After all, even the entire dream needs to be examined in terms of snippets, as I’ve explained above, so why not cherry pick what I consider to be the most interesting bits and leave them for you here?  Perhaps some of these will intrigue you and make you more interested to hear what other people might want to share.  Just don’t fall into the trap of thinking, “that does sound interesting ... I wonder how it turned out?”  Remember: dreams don’t have endings.  It didn’t “turn out” any particular way; it just trailed off, or transmogrified into a totally different dream, or I just woke up.  Still, these are some of my favorite dream moments.

I dreamt that I wasn’t me, but that the actual me was also in the dream, and I ended up killing myself.  I dreamt I was driving a sports car and sometimes it would take off so fast I couldn’t keep up and then I would have to chase it down and get back into it.  I dreamt that I was with an old man and two younger men (his sons? grandsons? nephews?) and the old man told them they were forbidden to be angry until sundown (because of the religious holiday), and so they sat down until dark came and then the old man sprang up and shouted “Now we go get the bastards!” I dreamt I was writing a script that was being produced while I was still trying to finish it, and one of the characters was a disgusting cartoon cat named “Stash.” I dreamt that I dropped a pill in the carpet and, when I went looking for it, I found three completely different pills, one of which was a shiny rose-pink one partially covered with a hard white candy coating designed to resemble foam.  I dreamt my vacation cabin was invaded by badger-like creatures that hunted like the velociraptors from Jurassic Park.  I dreamt that my little sister was upset because she had to do a magic trick in front of her classmates and she was afraid they would find out that she was actually a witch.3 I dreamt that I was in love with the manager of an all-girl band, and at the end of the dream she turned into a ferret in my arms.  I dreamt that a sister and brother swam out to the middle of the ocean to a house that sat up on stilts, too high to reach, and they rang the underwater wind chimes that were the secret way in.  I dreamt about hoods made out of writhing tentacles that were forced onto your head, making you catatonic.  I dreamt that we were attempting to defeat a demonic carpet using holy water and blessed post-it notes on which had been written the address of Hell.

Somtimes I dream about famous people.  I dreamt that I was a noble at the time of the French Resistance, and my friend was played by Ryan Gosling.  I dreamt that Alex Keaton (as portrayed by Michael J. Fox, naturally) grew up to be an alien geneticist and lived in Eureka.  I dreamt that Terry Jones tricked me into giving him the answer he wanted about Parliament.  I dreamt that President Obama helped me investigate a mystery during which we uncovered a body but we couldn’t notify the authorities just yet, because we were too close!  I dreamt that I was telling Liam O’Brien about a dream I had in which I tried to ward off a bullet by holding up my hand and (of course) the bullet went right through it.4 I dreamt that I met actor Clifton Gonzalez Gonzalez and was trying to remember what movie I knew him from and he was helpfully recreating some of his past roles to try to jog my memory.

Sometimes all I get out of the dream is litte more than a name.  These are all names from my dreams: Stephen J. Tourettsal, Mark Hanahan, Renwe, Johnny “D-Legs” Crab, Freefall,5 A.B.E. (whose name was short for “Android Beyond Expectations”), Dar Beck (a weatherman), Memory (the ex-girlfriend of my eldest child), Merlock and Etheros and Devane (ethnic Riufus6 from Latvia and/or Russia), Boxilea Toxicity Brown (“Boxy” for short), Aryn Gill (an anthropomorphic duck wih a human sister named Deborah who had had small role in Pretty in Pink), Mitch (a female aerospace engineer; apparently her real name was Abigail Mitchell, at least according to Samuel L. Jackson, who shouted it out during an emotionally charged scene), the Captain Alexander (a drink, made with Alexander rum, of course7), Briscol (a town), Nacho de Vaca (a medieval town in Spain), fontana blue (a color), Pedrolischizenko (a dog whose owner only spoke to him in Hungarian8), SQL Snitch (a database of criminal informants), macrocellular degenerative evolution (an alien genetic disease), YaHaNaHael (a monster), Pontebello (a fancy book about cake and Hermetics).

Sometimes I all remember is a quote: “Men and women cannot coexist without blood somewhere.”9  “When a statement conveys a Great Truth, it matters not if it is a little lie.”

None of these are sensible, and very few of them have any deeper meaning.  But I think they’re all interesting, at least.  If any of my friends have bits and pieces of vignettes that are as interesting at these, I would love to hear about them ... cultural taboos be damned.  Dreams are insane, and surreal, and wonderful, and perturbing, and occasionally all those things at once.  I’m glad I know as many of them—mine and those of others I’ve been fortunate enough to hear—as I do.  Perhaps you should give it a try some time.  You never know what you’ll hear.


1 Whether you actually find this funny or not probably varies from person to person.
2 If you somehow don’t believe that, just go find any of the number of sites full of staggeringly beautiful nature photos.  Here’s one to get you started.
3 Note: I do not have a sister, little or otherwise.
4 Note: the dream I was explaining was not a previous dream I’d actually had, but rather part of the same dream.
5 A character who I ended up adapting for my ongoing novel; you can see a cameo from him in Chapter 2 concluded.
6 Note: not a real ethnic group.
7 Note: not a real rum.
8 Note: I do not actually speak Hungarian.
9 To be fair, I was much younger when I dreamed this one.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

That fresh new operating system smell ...

So, this weekend, I finally upgraded my laptop’s operating system, a disagreeable task that I’ve been putting off for about 4 months now.  Many of my friends and coworkers are no doubt wondering what the big deal is: just do it already.  Some of you may even be thinking that I was avoiding it just because it would involve rebooting my computer.  But my computer was crashing every few weeks anyway, which is why I agreed to this unpleasantness in the first place.  No, it’s not the pain of rebooting—don’t get me wrong: that’s a very real painit’s the massive time suck.  For the past several months, I’ve been working on some tricky stuff at $work, and the thought of being without a computer for a big chunk of the weekend was just a non-starter.

And, in case you’re thinking that my assessment of the amount of time it would take to upgrade my OS as “a big chunk of the weekend” is an exaggeration, I’ve now completed the task and I can tell you: it’s around 8 hours.  That’s soup-to-nuts, of course ... starting with trying to back everything up (upgrading your OS shouldn’t delete all your files, but it’s one of those things that you really don’t want to take any chances on), upgrading all the packages to the latest versions before starting, doing the actual upgrade, then trying to reconfigure whatever was deconfigured by being upgraded against your will.  But, still: 8 friggin’ hours.  It’s a major chore.

But the good news is that I completed the second of my 3 simultaneously ongoing major projects on Friday, so I had some free time, and I figured, what the hell.  So now it’s done.  It’s too early to say for sure, but I’m cautiously optimistic that the laptop situation is improved.  Maybe not entirely fixed, but at least better.  Probably.

It’s a short week this week, so this is all you get.  Tune in next week for something more substantial.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Moonside by Riverlight II

"Fuckin' Posh Like Dave Beckham"

[This is one post in a series about my music mixes.  The series list has links to all posts in the series and also definitions of many of the terms I use.  You may wish to read the introduction for more background.  You may also want to check out the first volume in this multi-volume mix for more info on its theme.

Like all my series, it is not necessarily contiguous—that is, I don’t guarantee that the next post in the series will be next week.  Just that I will eventually finish it, someday.  Unless I get hit by a bus.]

Fun fact: when my eldest was a toddler, they thought that the refrain of Fatboy Slim’s second biggest hit1 was “funk so rubber.”  Besides that being a cute-kid story, it might also occur to you to wonder why my toddler had such excellent taste in music.  Well, I’d like to think I could take credit for a lot of it, but I definitely can’t take credit for that one: his mother is the big Fatboy Slim fan in the house.2  Now, “The Rockafeller Skank,” as it is officially known, is perfectly fine, but I’m not a huge fan like others in my family are.  However, the first time The Mother played “Wonderful Night,” I was entranced.  I’m not a huge fan of rap, but there are a few songs I like—mostly Ice-T or Public Enemy or some of the many random KRS-One breaks in the middles of songs in my collection—and there’s something about the rap here (performed by Lateef the Truthspeaker) that I just love.  I seem to be physically incapable of not singing along, even though I’m not very good at keeping up.  The wordplay is amazing, with verses like this:

We live the masterful life that’s mythical.
Feel its chords and its vibes atypical.
Do what you want; it’s all right, this mystical
Time you’ve got that’s alotted is plentiful.
If you stay in this moment so critical,
Let the music change your brainstem’s chemicals,
Make you feel like your spirit’s invincible
Force centrifugal
Reaching up to your pinnacle

And, of course, the most exquisite line ever, which was always going to be the volume title: “fuckin’ posh like Dave Beckham.”3  Cook’s mixing is excellent too, but Lateef is the star of this show for sure.4

In many cases volume II of one of my mixes is all the leftover bits that didn’t make it on volume I.  For Moonside by Riverlight, I didn’t have very many tracks left over.  “Wonderful Night” was one, and it only “didn’t make the cut” because, while I think it’s perfect for this mix in general, it just didn’t work anywhere in the first volume: it was too upbeat.  There were a few more upbeat tunes on volume I, but nothing like this.  In fact, you could make a good argument that this shouldn’t be considered lounge at all, but it just has a smooth feel to it that makes it perfect for this mix in my view.  And I’ve placed it squarely as the opener so that it can set the tone for what’s to follow.

Overall, these are still the smooth, jazzy, lounge-inspired tunes this mix promises, but several of them are a little more happy-making.  Following immediately after Fatboy Slim, we have “Skokiaan,” which was not originally done by Louis Armstrong, but he did one of the first versions in the US, and this is almost certainly the most famous one.  I’m pretty sure I know this song because my kid plays Fallout 3.  Nearly all the music in that is eary big-band fare, and my eldest really got into it.  They curated a Pandora channel seeded with Frank Sinatra and that sort of thing, and we were listening to it one day and I heard this.  Again, I’m not a huge Armstrong fan, but I can appreciate him sometimes, and I really dug this tune.  As often happens when I hear an old standard, I go looking for other versions to see which one I like best.  Sometimes, as with “Jump Jive and Wail” or “Ghost Riders in the Sky,” I end up finding a more modern version I prefer.  But sometimes, just as with “Sing Sing Sing” (from Salsatic Vibrato III) or last volume’s “Whatever Lola Wants,” you can’t beat the original.5

On the other hand, when it comes to “One for My Baby,” neither the original (by Fred Astaire, from 1943’s The Sky’s the Limit) nor the definitive (by none other than the godfather of lounge himself, Frank Sinatra) can compare to Hugh Laurie’s version, as far as I’m concerned.  Now, if you’ve watched A Bit of Fry and Laurie,6 you already know how musically talented Hugh Laurie is.  So when I found out he had put out a couple of albums of old jazz, blues, and lounge standards, I had to check them out.  I have to say, as much as I love Laurie, these albums are a mixed bag: while the man can play like nobody’s business, his voice isn’t perfect for every track, and some of them are too faithful to the originals for my taste.  But, as just about every artist does, when he hits it, he hits it hard, and “One for My Baby” is, to my mind, the best of the best.  When it comes to doing a slow, whiskey-soaked drawl, Laurie’s voice is perfect, and even the great Sinatra can’t beat him here, in my opinion.  It’s the slowest (and most melancholy) track here, and especially given the lyrics—a hard drinking man is expounding his troubles to a bartender at closing time—it’s the perfect closer for this volume.

Most of our returning artists hew to the slightly-more-upbeat throughline of this volume.  Cherry Poppin’ Daddies are back with “Pink Elephant,” Meaghan Smith brings us the slightly bouncy “I Know,” and there’s yet another excellent Yukimi Nagano vocal from Koop, “I See a Different You.”  Pink Martini’s contribution this time around (the title track from their album Hang On Little Tomato) is a bit slower, granted, but, considering some of the tracks we’ve heard from them,7 I think it’s fair to say it’s fairly upbeat for them.  As for our final returning artist, many times when Lee Press-On and the Nails do lounge, they come off as almost unbearably goofy.  But “Well Did You Evah?” is somehow sophisticated and just the right amount of silly at the same time.

There are a few other obvious choices too.  It’s pretty amazing that we didn’t hear from Squirrel Nut Zippers last time, especially considering most of the time when we get to hear Katharine Whalen sing, we get exactly the smooth, loungy sound this mix is all about.  “It All Depends” is from Bedlam Ballroom, which is certainly not as good an album as Hot, but still quite good, and this is one of the highlights for sure.  The Blue Nile, who so far have only appeared on Numeric Driftwood III, are another natural choice; “Tinseltown in the Rain” is somehow both happy and relaxed, and I think I have an increased appreciation for its imagery now that I live in the environs of Tinseltown and know how rarely it actually rains.  Similarly, the Dream Academy’s amazing and poignant “Life in a Northern Town,” which I’ve loved since I first heard way back in 1985, is a natural here.  I can’t say it’s exactly upbeat, but it’s bold, and its “hey"s have a tendency to explode into otherwise quiet spots in the song in very exciting ways.  And, once again proving that anywhere the Cherry Poppin’ Daddies can go, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy is sure to follow, we finally see a contribution from them here.  “The Maddest Kind of Love” is pretty, and smooth, and fits in nicely on this volume.

Among my newer discoveries, I came to Feist not that long ago, and, while her ouvre is typically more suited to other mixes,8 one can’t deny that she can croon when she puts her mind to it.  “Gatekeeper” is an excellent example of just such a moment.  Shivaree you may recall me first discussing back on Smokelit Flashback III, and I even pointed out that their selection there (“Little Black Mess”) had some Moonside by Riverlight leanings.  So it should be no surprise to see them make their debut here with “New Casablanca,” which is one of their slower tunes, but it works very well here heading out to the closing of “One for My Baby.”  Finally, Carmen Rizzo is someone we’ve seen several times before in this series; I first (and most extensively) talked about him on Smokelit Flashback IV.  He’s amazingly talented and verstile,9 and even beyond his initial appearance we’ve seen him on Rose-Coloured Brainpan II and Shadowfall Equinox IV.  Here, the lounge aspect is mostly provided by the smooth vocals of Grant-Lee Phillips.10  “As the Day Breaks” (apparently sometimes listed as “Snowflakes”) still retains the worldmusic vibe that Rizzo is so good at, but it also works very well here.

I also want to want to call attention to something I’ve done here that I don’t believe I’ve talked about before.  When I’m working on ordering tracks, I start by pairing up two tracks that seem like they ought to flow into each other, or perhaps three or four tracks that all seem to have something in common.  Slowly the small groups get shuffled around and joined together into larger and larger groups, and, in an ideal world, I end up with one continuous group comprising the entire volume.  But, then again, sometimes I end up with two gropus that seem like they could go together, or maybe they could each be separate, but also neither is long enough to make its own volume.  When this happens, I have two choices.  I could divvy them up into separate volumes and try to fill them out with more songs that go into each group.  Or I could just “glue” the two groups together with a little bridge.  Notable places we’ve seen this before are Rose-Coloured Brainpan I, where “Please Please Let Me Get What I Want” bridges the firmly downbeat first half to the ever-so-slightly more energetic second half that kicks off with “Groovy Tuesday,” and on Salsatic Vibrato III, where “The Dirge” leads into the powerful back-half opening of “A Tap Dancer’s Dilemma.”  In the former case, that particular Smithereens track just wasn’t a strong enough opener to anchor an entire volume; in the latter, Diablo Swing Orchestra certainly could have carried a separate volume, but I had metamix reasons for wanting to keep those two groups together.  This time out, the first group comprises the first two-thirds of the volume, and the inimitiatble Caro Emerald kicks off a strong second group with “A Night Like This.”  Much like CPD and BBVD, we first heard from Ms. Emerald on Salsatic Vibrato,11 but her slower tunes work very well here.  But I needed a bridge to join up the two groups, so I went with “Intro” from Bonobo’s Animal Magic.  It’s slightly reminiscent of Jane’s Addiction’s “Thank You Boys” (which we saw last volume), and I think it makes a nice opener for the back-end of the volume.  But, just in case you were wondering why I had a song called “Intro” in the middle of the tracklist, hopefully that makes it make more sense.

Moonside by Riverlight II
[ Fuckin' Posh Like Dave Beckham ]

“Wonderful Night” by Fatboy Slim [Single]
“Skokiaan” by Louis Armstrong, off Greatest Hits [Compilation]
“Hang on Little Tomato” by Pink Martini, off Hang on Little Tomato
“It All Depends” by Squirrel Nut Zippers, off Bedlam Ballroom
“Exquisite” by Shriekback, off Big Night Music
“Life in a Northern Town” by The Dream Academy, off The Dream Academy
“Tinseltown in the Rain” by The Blue Nile, off A Walk Across the Rooftops
“I Know” by Meaghan Smith, off The Cricket's Orchestra
“Blue Moon” by Models [Single]
“Pink Elephant” by Cherry Poppin' Daddies, off Zoot Suit Riot [Compilation]
“Well Did You Evah?” by Lee Press-On and the Nails, off El Bando en Fuego!
“Feeling Good” by Michael Bublé [Single]
“As the Day Breaks” by Carmen Rizzo, off The Lost Art of the Idle Moment
“Intro” by Bonobo, off Animal Magic
“A Night Like This” by Caro Emerald, off Deleted Scenes from the Cutting Room Floor
“Baby I'm a Fool” by Melody Gardot, off My One and Only Thrill
“I See a Different You” by Koop, off Koop Islands
“Maddest Kind of Love” by Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, off Americana Deluxe
“Gatekeeper” by Feist, off Let It Die
“New Casablanca” by Shivaree, off Who's Got Trouble?
“One for My Baby” by Hugh Laurie, off Didn't It Rain
Total:  21 tracks,  78:32

First up in the unlikely category: “Blue Moon,” by Models.  Nowadays, we have a tendency to think “Blue Moon” is supposed to sound like the doo-wop version the Marcels put out in 1961.  But few remember that “Blue Moon” is a Rodgers and Hart composition first recorded in 1934 or ‘35.  When the Australian band Models (criminally almost unknown in the US except as a one-hit wonder for “Out of Mind, Out of Sight”) decided to do a version for the 12” of their first big Australian hit “Barbados,” they remembered.  This version hearkens back to many of the earlier versions, such as the Connee Boswell, the Billy Eckstine, and especially the Mel Tormé (from 1949).  Of course, I’d never heard any of those when I stumbled on this track at the end of the cassette version (only!) of Out of Mind, Out of Sight in 1985.  It was exotic and strange, and somehow evocative, and I’ve always had a soft spot for it.

There’s also a tune here from Shriekback, who I’ve noted previously is probably best suited for Slithy Toves, where they’ve contributed three tracks across two volumes, but they’ve also showed up in such diverse places as Rose-Coloured Brainpan, Shadowfall Equinox, and even Numeric Driftwood.  Their track here, “Exquisite,” is also a little bit slinky, and a little bit relaxing, but mostly it’s just smooth; it’s drawn from perhaps their mellowest outing, Big Night Music.

And, not so much unlikely for this mix as unlikely for me in general, two final tracks.  First up, Melody Gardot.  Now, if you don’t know who that is, that’s understandable, but hie thee hence forthwith to Wikipedia and read about how she nearly died in a car accident, learned music to help her regain her memory and sense of time, and eventually became an amazing singer.  In my opinion, her album My One and Only Thrill, is pretty fucking amazing, but I can’t really tell you why.  It’s full of jazzy torchsongs, which is not something I’m normally attracted to.  So, I can’t explain it, but I think she’s amazing, and “Baby I’m a Fool” is possibly her best, and I knew I had to include it here.

Finally, with nearly every artist that I dislike, there’s one song that is the exception.  Take Whitney Houston for instance—I really don’t like Whitney Houston.  In particular “Greatest Love of All,” which I especially despise.  And yet, there is “How Will I Know,” which I think is awesome.  And so it is with Michael Bublé.  I don’t particularly care for Mr. Bublé in general, but every once in a while he hits a good one.  There’s his turn with Barenaked Ladies on “Elf’s Lament,” which was so amusing that I named Yuletidal Pools I after him.  And then there’s “Feeling Good,” which is just a pretty damn good song all around.  I suppose it’s mostly because he hews so closely to the Nina Simone version (as opposed to the original,12 which is more operatic and a bit bombastic), so I suppose we have Nina to thank more than Michael.  But, as good as Simone’s version is, Bublé’s has something that speaks to me even more.  It’s a moderately downbeat song with an upbeat message, and it’s perfect for this loungy mix.

Next time, we’ll have a crossover of sorts as my love of music and my love of D&D collide.


1 In the US, where I live.  In the UK, it was his 5th biggest; interestingly, “Praise” was the biggest on both sides of the pond, but the intervening three I’d never heard of before looking up his discography on Wikipedia just now.
2 Although I am quite fond of the band where I originally heard Norman Cook—which is who Fatboy Slim is when he’s at home—the Housemartins, and even moreso the other musical act spawned from it, the Beautiful South (who I’ve talked about before in this series).
3 In order to fully appreciate this line, you need to know who Dave Beckham’s wife is.
4 It also has quite an awesome video.
5 Although, as I say, the Armstrong technically isn’t the original here.  But then the Goodman “Sing Sing Sing” and the Vaughan “Whatever Lola Wants” aren’t the originals either, as it happens.
6 And, if you haven’t, go do that right away.  Easily one of the top 5 British comedy shows of all time.
7 Such as “Veronique” on Rose-Coloured Brainpan II or “U Plavu Zoru” on Phantasma Chorale I.
8 For instance, we’ve seen her thus far on Porchwell Firetime and Sirenexiv Cola.
9 For instance, he’s one-third of Niyaz, another third of which is Azam Ali, another person whose versatility I’m somewhat in awe of.  You can listen to me blather on about her over on Apparently World I.
10 Who you may know from Gilmore Girls, if that’s your sort of thing.
11 In her case, on III and VI.
12 By which I mean either the Cy Grant version or the Gilbert Price version: take your pick, as they’re not significantly different from each other.

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Closing out another Virgo birthday season

Well, all our birthdays are done for a bit: 4 out of 5 for the year, in fact.  This was a pretty easy weekend overall; our eldest is now 21, and thus fairly independent.  Not nearly as much work, don’t you know.

Still, not a lot of time left over for blog posts, I’m afraid.  Hopefully more next week.

Sunday, September 1, 2019

What My Kid Did This Summer

According to the schedule, this week really should be a long post week.  However, we’ve entered the Virgo birthday season again: this weekend is The Mother‘s birthday weekend, and next weekend will be the eldest spawn’s.  So you’ll need to wait a couple more weeks for something substantial.

In the meantime, I picked up the middle spawn from camp on Friday—I mentioned last week that I thought it was his third year, but it’s actually his fourth.*  Getting him to tell you what he did at camp is always somewhat painstaking, but the person who does the pick-up has the best shot, so I endeavored to gather all the info I could so I could report back to The Mother.  Here’s what I managed to get out of him:

  • He ate pizza a lot.

  • He had several counselors who he’d had before, including his lifeguard, codenamed Trillo.  (Counselors at Camp del Corazon, many of whom are medical folks, go by nicknames while at camp, for some reason that has never been completely clear to me.)

  • Another of his counselors was an actor who looks like a viking.

  • This year he had the camp’s first female doctor; her codename was Snowflake.

  • He shot his badge with a BB gun, although he just sort of grazed it so you’d only notice if he specifically points it out.

  • He won a competition at “disco bingo” and the prize was that his cabin got to jump off the dock into the water (this is a privelege normally reserved to seniors).

  • He kayaked to Spain again.**

This is more info than we usually get, so we’re quite excited.  And possibly a bit jealous: I’ve never gotten to see a leopard shark in the wild.

Birthday weekend for The Mother was fairly chill; she and I are wanting less and less to go out and do “exciting” things and more and more just to be able to relax at home.  Sure, you can argue that we’re home all the time, so it’s nothing special to stay home.  But, here’s the thing: under normal circumstances, home is where you have to teach school, and pay bills, and take care of children, and clean up things.  Any time when you can actually just chill out, with your laptop or tablet, maybe hang out in the pool, have a glass of wine or a hard cider, and just do a whole lot of glorious nothing ... those are actually some lovely times.  This year we gave The Mother a hammock and a waterproof case for her Kindle to facilitate the relaxation vibe.  So far it’s been quite nice.

Anyhow, that’s pretty much all I got for this week.  Next week, most likely a brief recap of the next birthday weekend.


* I did say that I was starting to lose track.
** As the story goes—as well as I understand it second-hand from my 13-year-old—there’s one “island” (no more than a large rock, really) that was accidentally omitted from the documents of the sale of Catalina Island.  Therefore, it’s “technically” still owned by Spain, and, thus, you can kayak to Spain from Catalina.