The Lyrics That Live With Me

When Lou Reed died, there was some great news coverage, such as the NY Times obituary, and much absurdity – which I guess could be predicted. My local news stations struggled to explain him to those who’d never heard of him. Here and there a reporter would add personal viewpoint (“He singlehandedly invented alt rock!”) to the obit pablum. Pablum. Does anyone still know what pablum is?

Not for the first time, I was grateful and impressed with how social media responded. Facebook, for example, didn’t just spread the news of his death, but also filled with tributes from people to whom Reed had mattered. Many simply quoted song lyrics that were important to them, which started conversational riffs that were moving and healing. I wish social media had been available when we lost Lennon! Or Strummer!

All of which got me thinking about what song lyric I would quote if another of my musicians dies before I do. There are certain songwriters who have been so important at some point in my life – so transformative – that their deaths would leave permanent holes. Even if I haven’t listened to (or thought about) some of them for decades, I need them to be in the world.

Below are the lyrics I might post. Although who knows what might instead occur at the time. When Alex Chilton died it wasn’t Chilton’s words or Big Star’s lyrics that surfaced, but Westerberg’s tribute song, Alex Chilton.

I’m in love, what was that song? 

Here is one of my lists. What would yours be?

 Leonard Cohen

 I have tried in my way to be free.

Elvis Costello
(note: the link has lyrics altered for TV!)

And the radio is in the hands of such a lot of fools
trying to anesthetize the way that you feel.

John Doe

You are the lump in my throat
I am the aching in your heart.

Bob Dylan

I can’t help it if I’m lucky.
Okay here is where I acknowledge what a silly exercise this is.
The proper Dylan lyric changes hourly.

Exene & John Doe

She had to get out. Get out. Get out. Get out.

Patti Smith

Jesus died for somebody’s sins but not mine.

Bruce Springsteen

The dogs on Main Street howl because they understand
If I could take one moment into my hand

Graham Parker

Life isn’t good enough. Music makes it good enough.
(Actually that quintessential Parker line
comes from an interview not a lyric.)

Kelly Joe Phelps

like a shine-eyed Mr. Zen
actually I’d probably use the lyrics that Corinne West
surely wrote for him in “Whiskey Poet“,
You took some chances
now the silence is your friend
As will I be in the end

Chris Thile

I’d probably quote his stage observation
that he lives vicariously through his own songs.

Paul Westerberg
(Live video without image.
Song that truncates unexpectedly.
Yup. Those were our ‘Mats.)

Look me in the eye and tell me I’m satisfied.

Neil Young

I am just a dreamer but you are just a dream.

This post responds to a recent WordPress weekly writing challenge about music that matters.)

Is It (All, Always) Just Me?

Is it just me or are there more narcissists than there used to be?

I suppose it is a which-came-first-chicken-or-egg-or-frying-pan? question to try to sort out whether blogging and tweeting have simply released our inner mirror gazers, or whether social media have become popular because there is a narcissism gene, or whether social media are causing a rapid mutation in humans to develop such a gene.

Overall, I must say that I find narcissism more becoming in cats.

P.S. I would be interested in hearing your experiences. I work with a supreme narcissist so I have always got stories to share…

Blogging Feels Wrong

Warning. This post won’t be fun to read.

December 14, 2012 was a terrible day for the human race. It feels wrong to blog about it, to tweet or plurk or Fb it. Sure we all need to talk about what happened in Connecticut (and in China) but I am finding our social narcissism so disturbing. Worse though are those who keep blithely updating profile pictures or talking about weekend eating plans. I understand I have no right to judge how another handles stress. Grief.

I am mad at everyone but especially, perhaps, myself. I feel no hope that the United States can make the changes in societal attitudes that will reduce the number of such killings. Intellectually I’m thinking I should be out organizing for change. The rest of me retreats to a dark private corner where I can pretend I am not involved.

So many kids die all the time at the hands of adults with guns, but they die one by one and largely unnoticed, the car crashes to yesterday’s plane crash. If I were the parent of one of those other kids my usual sorrow would explode with the new distant grief yet chill with resentment that my own child died with so much less attention.

Every time there is a terrible public gun tragedy I think surely now- after this -it will be impossible for them to deny the connection between easy gun access and gun tragedies.  Every time I am wrong. 

Maybe we could start small. Maybe we could ban ammunition.

Gun advocates, please don’t point to the knife slayings in China as some kind of twisted indication that guns are not the problem.

On the internet I savor the opportunity to meet and get along with all sorts of folks and so I usually avoid discussion of politics or religion. Today that feels hypocritical: I can’t avoid mention of gun control to sidestep discovery of who is pro or con.

Fear of Blogging, part III

Damn, I really thought I was on a roll and had figured out how to incorporate writing-a-daily-blog-entry into my life. Now, two days in a row, life (and especially the stupid old day job) have interfered.  Here I am at bedtime with no energy or ideas or clarity. Which probably means I shouldn’t be typing and yet here I am.  Today’s blog has become symbolic of the larger struggle between life’s obligations versus the things that make life worth doing in the first place. I have always been too bound by obligations. I need to do better at eating dessert before I finish the veggies.

I am a Populist and This is My Time

I have always been a populist.

Populist: represented or connected with the ideas and opinions of ordinary people. (Cambridge)

Populist: a believer in the rights, wisdom, or virtues of the common people. (Merriam-Webster)

(Actually those definitions seem distinct and different to me – and there is a separate issue about how I balance populism with curmudgeonry – but don’t let me distract myself.)

How do I know I am a populist? As a film student, I wrote my thesis on Frank Capra’s populist masterpiece Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. Watching an interview, I’d rather hear from the man-on-the-street than a celebrity.  And so forth.

This is such an exciting time to be a populist – consider just these few examples of ways that populist movements are changing our world:

  • The Occupy kids started discussions that now infuse mainstream politics.
  • The Arab Spring is still toppling governments.
  • Self-published books have an escalating share of the publishing industry.
  • Open-source software expands coding in so many directions.
  • Popularity bred by browser clicks has become so important that people now tout their expertise with “viral marketing”.
  • And – sustaining all the above and more – social media give voice and influence to everybody.

I can’t wait to see what comes next.

P.S. What else should be on my list?

Fear of Blogging, the Sequel

When I started this blog, I feared it would eat into my novel-writing time. Two weeks into the experiment, all is well on that front. Creating and writing the blog turns out to be like anything else:

  • make it a part of daily life
  • don’t try to do it all at once
  • identify what makes it fun and don’t let that slip away.

As for how the blog impacts my new novel, if anything blogging may have helped by giving me an outlet for stray ideas.

Now I’ve got a new concern (maybe I’ve always got to have a concern). When people Like or Follow my blog, I of course check out their blogs and that has been a revelation. There are so many interesting and informative and inspiring blogs! I could spend all my time reading them.

So I find it easy to Like, but hard to Follow.  The latter feels like such a serious commitment. What’s the point of following a blog if you don’t stay engaged with every post? Still, I don’t mind letting posts flow and slip away on Facebook. What’s the difference? Maybe that blogs are writing and Fb is chatting?