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by Jeff
Rated: 18+ · Book · Biographical · #1399999
My primary Writing.com blog.
Logocentric (adj). Regarding words and language as a fundamental expression of an external reality (especially applied as a negative term to traditional Western thought by postmodernist critics).

Sometimes I just write whatever I feel like. Other times I respond to prompts, many taken from the following places:

         *Penw* "The Soundtrackers Group
         *Penw* "Blogging Circle of Friends
         *Penw* "Blog City ~ Every Blogger's Paradise
         *Penw* "JAFBG
         *Penw* "Take up Your Cross

Thanks for stopping by! *Smile*
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February 8, 2022 at 11:42pm
February 8, 2022 at 11:42pm

"The Soundtrack of Your Life | Day 8

"Could Have Been Me"
by Halsey (from the Sing 2 soundtrack)

Sing 2 was easily one of my most anticipated movies of last year, and it was worth the wait. Was it basically a re-hash of the original? Sure. But did it have updated songs and was it a heck of a lot of fun to watch? Absolutely. If you liked the original Sing you'll almost certainly like the 2021 sequel which has plenty of charm and cover versions of popular songs. I almost went with the entire cast singing Prince's "Let's Go Crazy" or Kiana Lede's rendition of "Can't Feel My Face," or any of the great U2 covers... but I chose Halsey's version of "Could Have Been Me" by The Struts because this was a new song for me and one that I find myself skipping over to a lot when I'm listening to the soundtrack in the car with the kids.

On a professional note, I'm kind of in awe of the deal they must have had to negotiate with U2 that involved: (a) the rights to cover their most popular hit songs, (b) Bono's voice acting services for a character in the film, and (c) an original U2 song for the soundtrack. I know it wasn't cheap, but that must have been one complicated negotiation with a lot of moving parts. It was worth it, though, because all three U2 elements in the film are really memorable.
February 8, 2022 at 11:31pm
February 8, 2022 at 11:31pm

"The Soundtrack of Your Life | Day 7

"Surface Pressure"
by Jessica Darrow (from the Encanto soundtrack)

I went back and forth on which song to pick from this soundtrack. Like most of his work, I think Lin-Manuel Miranda did a great job with the songs on this soundtrack. He has such a distinctive flow to his lyrics, it's really remarkable. While I don't necessarily share his same passions like musical theater, I do admire him as an artist because he's managed to accomplish the goal most artists have, which is to have such a unique style that you instantly say, "Oh, I can tell that's a Lin-Manuel Miranda song!" We should all be so fortunate to have that kind of brand identity with our own creative works!

As tempted as I was to choose "We Don't Talk About Bruno" or "What Else Can I Do" (or even "Colombia, Mi Encanto") because I find myself listening to those songs more often, I picked "Surface Pressure" because I think it's the song that I most identify with right now. I won't ruin the movie for anyone who hasn't seen it (definitely worth a watch, though!), but it's about someone who feels all the burdens placed on her, and who struggles to always carry the ever-increasing weight of expectations. Needless to say, as a parent of young children... and as someone who has been struggling to manage work and family in a pandemic... the themes of this song really speak to me right now. *Wink*

February 6, 2022 at 8:20pm
February 6, 2022 at 8:20pm

"The Soundtrack of Your Life | Day 6

by Ben Platt

Ben Platt has a remarkable voice. I've been a fan of his since his early debut about ten years ago in the first Pitch Perfect movie, although most people probably know him from his Tony-winning performance as the titular character in Dear Evan Hansen, which debuted on Broadway in 2016. By the way, there are few movies I'm less excited about than the film adaptation of Dear Evan Hansen. While I understand the business reasons why someone would want to adapt a hit Broadway musical into a movie, it's one of those things where creatively it makes no sense to me why you would want to adapt something that's basically already perfect. The Broadway show is incredible... we don't need a movie version of the same thing. They'd be better off doing what Hamilton did and just releasing a highly-produced recording of the Broadway show itself for those who aren't able to make it to a live stage performance.

This song is the first single off Platt's second studio album (Reverie). The single came out in April of last year, with the album following in August 2021. He initially conceived of the song during the COVID-19 pandemic while quarantined and isolated from loved ones. The song, as he puts it really beautifully, is about "the way that our loved ones, the people that make life worth living, can turn the mundanity of suburbia into something magical and fantastical. Everyone has that person or people that make their world technicolor, fueling us with a love that can feel supernatural." Which also explains the direction of the somewhat odd music video.

Random fun fact: Ben Platt is currently in a relationship with Noah Galvin who replaced him as the title character in Dear Evan Hansen when Platt left the production.

February 5, 2022 at 11:36pm
February 5, 2022 at 11:36pm

"The Soundtrack of Your Life | Day 5

"Easy On Me"
by Adele

I'm including the lyric video version of this song because the actual music video includes almost two full minutes of "intro" story, and that's one of my pet peeves. I get that every song tells a story and whatnot, but if the music in a music video doesn't actually begin until 30% of the way into the video, I'm out. So I found the lyric video instead, which gets right to it. *Smile*

One of my favorite things about Adele's music (and her albums in general) is that they're a snapshot in time. She writes about what she's going through at the time, and she doesn't rush albums until she has something to write about. Each of her albums is titled after her age at the time of their release (19, 21, 25, and 30), and this particular song is from 30, which was just released in November 2021. It deals with a number of her personal and professional experiences over the preceding six years, including becoming a mother, getting divorced, dealing with the pros and cons of being famous, etc. It's an amazing album, and her raw emotional experiences shine through on every track.

While this song, for Adele, is a plea to her son (who had just turned nine when this album was released) to go "easy on her" and be kind to her despite her mistakes, including her divorce from his father. The lyrics at the end of the song - the last stanza and the repeated chorus - really had a particularly profound impact on me:

I had good intentions
And the highest hopes
But I know right now
That probably doesn't even show

Go easy on me, baby
I was still a child
I didn't get the chance to
Feel the world around me
I had no time to choose
What I chose to do
So go easy on me

As I get older, I'm learning how to deal with these own feelings in my life. Of things not turning out exactly the way I had hoped despite good intentions and high hopes. Of feeling like the choices you make aren't really choices at all because they're dictated by the circumstances you find yourself in and you're just trying to make the best of the hand you've been dealt. And the desire for grace for all the mistakes you've made and things you wish you would have done differently.

I really admire Adele for how raw her music is, for how nakedly honest she is with her audience and herself. It's the kind of art I think we can all learn something from because, as artists, most of us struggle with how much of our authentic selves to infuse in our work. This song is the kind of work I aspire to one day create... something beautiful and resonant that's also true to myself.
February 4, 2022 at 11:27pm
February 4, 2022 at 11:27pm

"The Soundtrack of Your Life | Day 4

"All I Know So Far"
by P!nk

I'm really digging P!nk's new rock/country sound with her last few albums. I was thinking about doing one of the tracks off her last studio album Hurts 2B Human from 2019. But after she took a hiatus in 2020 to spend more time with her family. She subsequently released a song she recorded with her daughter, and this song was released in 2021 accompanied by a documentary that followed P!nk's life as she recorded and performed live, traveling around the world with her family.

These musician documentaries are something that my wife and I have really been enjoying lately. The Taylor Swift one is great, as is the one with Shawn Mendes. What really appealed to us about P!nk's documentary is how focused she is on her family, and how much the people she tours with for the live shows are like an extension of that family. While I know that a lot fo this documentary stuff is idealized and intended to show them in their best light, it's still true that she travels with young kids, her husband is with her watching them while she goes to work, and they try to steal time away with each other during a go-go-go existence where there are a million demands on their time.

This song also really spoke to me this year while I was dealing with my mom's passing. I've been really attaching to bittersweet songs, movies, etc. that celebrate the messiness of life. I'm sure a lot of that is part of my grieving process, but I've found it really comforting to explore creative works that are willing to embrace pain, regret, grief, trauma, etc. and make something beautiful out of it. This song has been heavy on my playlist rotation when I want to mope a little bit, but also feel inspired to move forward anyway.
February 3, 2022 at 11:35pm
February 3, 2022 at 11:35pm

"The Soundtrack of Your Life | Day 3

"All Too Well (10 Minute Version)"
by Taylor Swift

This is probably going to turn into a longer piece at some point because I have a lot to say about the "Taylor's Version" re-releases, but I'm going to try to keep it succinct here and talk broadly about the many reason why I've been listening to this song a lot since she dropped the updated Red album in November.

1.The whole "Taylor's Version" movement.

It was a travesty that her old label allowed some dumb record producer to purchase her old masters without first giving her the opportunity to buy them back. So the fact that Taylor decided to re-record all of her old albums and release them as new "Taylor's Version" albums to cut into the proceeds the producers make off her old tracks is a really brilliant idea. There's also something to be said about the fact that Universal is publicly celebrating her doing this because it's popular, while also turning around and quietly updating their contracts with other artist to prevent them from doing this exact same thing in the future... but that business hypocrisy is a topic for another blog post. *RollEyes*

2. Taylor's business savvy.

She's not announcing which album she's releasing before it's out, so the owners of her old masters can't counter-program. They won't get any plays from people going, "Oh, this new album is coming out soon, so I'm going to catch up on it and listen to the original again." Nope, she just drops the new album in whole and is like, "Here you go, world. Update your favorites and listen to this one instead." And why would someone listen to this version instead? Because she's giving people everything. The old songs they love. New versions of the old songs just to mix it up. Bonus tracks that hadn't been released before. Take Red, the album this song is from, for example. The original album from 2012 was sixteen tracks. The deluxe version was 22 songs. Red (Taylor's Version) has 30 tracks (31 if you include the message from Taylor that comes with the version on Apple Music). This particular song was a fan favorite from the original album but was never a single, never had a music video, etc. So in addition to re-recording the original version, she also made this 10-Minute version to acknowledge what the fans wanted. She's not just re-doing the old albums and dumping them into the world... she's rethinking and recalibrating her albums and strategically releasing them in a way that both undercuts her antagonists AND gives the fans an improved product.

3. Taylor's artistry

This song isn't just a double-length song with a bunch of repeated choruses, or a tacked on verse here and there. If you listen to it and compare it to the original, she's expanded the song and put new material between the existing verses. She literally created a more fully-realized version of the song, fleshing it out and seamlessly integrating the new and the old lyrics. There aren't many artists that could pull off doubling the length of a song and still having it feel fresh.

I've been listening to this song a lot (and the whole album, in fact) because it's a master class on improving upon your old work, as well as making smart creative and business decisions that really pay off. Even if you're not a Taylor Swift fan per se, it's hard to deny that she's doing something remarkable with these "Taylor's Version" releases and everything that comes with them.
February 2, 2022 at 1:40am
February 2, 2022 at 1:40am

"The Soundtrack of Your Life | Day 2

"New Friends"
by Henry Jackman & Dave Bayley

This pop-inspired song from the Ron's Gone Wrong soundtrack just makes me smile. It's been a regular feature on my playlist since the movie came out last October, and almost always cheers me up or inspires me to keep going with whatever I'm doing.

While the general premise of the story is reminiscent of Hiro's relationship with Baymax in Big Hero 6 (lonely kid is befriended by a white, awkward robot and they eventually become friends), I was actually really impressed with the story in this movie. The idea is that Bubble (the movie's equivalent of Facebook/Google) invents Bubble Bots (B-Bots) which become kids' best friends, mirroring all their interests and helping them navigate social cues with others. Barney is the one kid who doesn't have a B-Bot and his dad gets him a cheap one (unknowingly defective) named Ron that isn't connected to the Bubble network and therefore doesn't have any of the algorithms and other software that his counterparts do.. so he's actually a blank slate and he and Barney learn how to develop a friendship the old fashioned way, by spending time together and learning about one another.


What I really liked about the movie, though, was that it really shone a light on social media culture and how, in a desperate attempt to fit in, kids will obsessively cultivate their image and end up feeling more alone and depressed than someone who doesn't have many real-world friends. It comments on how you can spend enormous amounts of time and energy building an audience who will turn on you the minute you make a mistake. It illustrates how addiction to social media stunts actual real-world social skills. And it highlights the importance of quality friendships being a two-way street rather than someone who just likes all the things that you do, and who agrees with you all the time.

The movie also had a subplot about how technology companies claim to be doing things for the greater good ("connecting the world!") but are also, ultimately, capture user-data for profit-driven reasons more than altruistic ones.

It was, of course, a funny animated movie and my kids loved it for all the usual reasons (amusing jokes, physical humor, etc.), but it was also a surprisingly sophisticated commentary on modern technology and relationships in the digital age. Those are my favorite kind of family movies, where both kids and adults can get something out of it.

This is the first released feature film from UK-based Locksmith Animation. The film was acquired by 20th Century Studios and subsequently released by Disney after their merger. They have a number of other projects currently in development and a new overall distribution deal with Warner Bros. through their Warner Animation Group label. If Ron's Gone Wrong is any indication, I'm really excited to see what Locksmith comes up with next.
February 1, 2022 at 3:54am
February 1, 2022 at 3:54am

"The Soundtrack of Your Life | Day 1

"Do Ya Wanna Taste It"
by Wig Wam

It's February and that means "The Soundtrack of Your Life is officially open for business!

This year's challenge is going to start strong, with all the things my musical choices are known for:

         *Bullet* Obscure band (a 2000s Norwegian glam metal band in this case)

         *Bullet* High Energy (you read the part about it being a Norwegian glam metal band, yes?)

         *Bullet* Discovered on a film/TV soundtrack (it's the Peacemaker theme song)

I actually included a link to the opening title sequence of Peacemaker rather than the full actual song because the choreographed dance number is also worth watching. The song and dance together do a remarkable job of establishing the over-the-top cheesy tone of the show.

Fun fact, this show's theme song actually saved the band. Formed in 2001, they had broken up in 2013 and then tried reuniting in 2019. According to an interview with Billboard, the lead singer (Glam) said that their agency actually dropped them three days before the pilot aired. Thanks to the popularity of the show, their streaming numbers are spiking, they've signed with a new agent, and they're booking gigs all over the world, including the United States where they previously hadn't ever been able to drum up enough interest for a tour.

The real reason I wanted to include this song, though, was to talk a little about Peacemaker's showrunner, writer/director James Gunn. In addition to Peacemaker, he did last year's The Suicide Squad, and before that was the writer/director of both installments of Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy franchise. He was slated to continue on with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 in 2018 when, in response to right-wing troll Mike Cernovich unearthing past tweets of Gunn's, he was fired by Disney.

To be fair, some of those tweets were in extremely poor taste and made light about topics such as pedophilia and rape. The other side of the coin, however, was that these were tweets from over a decade prior, and had already been deleted after a mea culpa from Gunn explaining that he recognized in hindsight that the tweets were in poor taste and not acceptable, hence why he deleted them. And Mike Cernovich has a reputation for hypocrisy, bad faith attacks, and smear campaigns against "liberal" celebrities.

Neither side was completely innocent, which is what makes it a fascinating case study for the question of whether people can truly atone for mistakes in their past, and if there's a point where "I was young and stupid and make a mistake" is an acceptable excuse. Or should your past follow you forever, always? Does it depend on the offense, or how sincerely their remorse is perceived to be by others?

Ultimately, Gunn parted ways with Disney and did The Suicide Squad and Peacemaker for DC over the past couple of years. And then Marvel hired him back to do Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 after all, thanks in large part to the Guardians cast advocating for his return and in some cases threatening to leave the project themselves if he wasn't reinstated. Personally, I feel like it was the right choice. The initial accusations against him weren't in good faith, he had previously atoned for those mistakes, and I think Disney caved to political pressure.

It does worry me, however, especially now that I have two young children. Mistakes are a part of everyone's life, especially in our formative years. In order to grow and develop as people, we have to make choices that have consequences, both good and bad. But there's a lot of research now about how kids are so afraid of being ostracized for "wrong" or out-of-the-mainstream opinions that they just go along with the status quo rather than questioning things, suggesting ideas that are out of the box, etc. And with something like humor, if you're not pushing the envelope from time to time, you're probably not very funny. It's not healthy to live your entire life in fear of being called out for making a mistake a long time ago.

I worry that my kids are going to grow up in a world where every mistake will follow them around forever. Where any pissed-off ex can post revenge porn on the internet, and every job recruiter can find pictures or video of that one time they got hammered on spring break. Or, even worse, where my kids play it so safe that they never even try to think for themselves or voice their own real opinions for fear that some troll will pick apart something they said years ago when they were naive or immature or didn't know better.

Anyway, when you're ready for a break from these deep thoughts, you really should check out Peacemaker if you enjoy irreverent humor and violence. It's a fun show that takes a surprisingly deep dive into the psyche of the title character, trying to figure out whether he's basically a good guy who is sometimes a loser asshole... or if he's really the loser asshole and just occasionally does good things. *Bigsmile*

January 29, 2022 at 11:35pm
January 29, 2022 at 11:35pm

I keep meticulous track of all the books, scripts, and comics I read every year. Plus the podcasts I listen to. But the one thing I don't do very often is write about the things I watch. I don't really know why I haven't until this point, but I recently noticed that a friend of mine writes up a "media consumption" post on Facebook every month and I thought I might start doing the same.

To qualify for the list, it has to be something that I've watched that's new to me. It doesn't necessarily have to be a current show, it just can't be reruns of something I've already seen. So if I'm including it in this list, it means this month is the first time I've watched it. I won't list the stuff I lost interest in quickly, but I'll put "DNF" (Did Not Finish) next to anything that I stopped watching and have no immediate plans to finish.

So without further ado, here's January's watch list:

Viewing in Progress

         *TV* Mayor of Kingstown


         *Movie* Dune
         *Movie* Encanto
         *Movie* Hotel Transylvania: Transformania!
         *Movie* Matrix Resurrections, The
         *Movie* Ron's Gone Wrong
         *Movie* Sing 2
         *Movie* tick, tick... BOOM!


         *TV* And Just Like That...
         *TV* Book of Boba Fett, The
         *TV* Cleaning Lady, The (DNF)
         *TV* Peacemaker
         *TV* Real Housewives of OC, The
         *TV* Sex Lives of College Girls, The

I enjoyed a lot of the stuff I watched this month. Except Dune and Hotel Transylvania: Transformania which were pretty meh. I'm also only watching And Just Like That... (which feels like a soulless cash grab) and the evergreen dumpster fire than is RHOC because those are my wife's guilty-pleasure shows.

I highly recommend Encanto and Ron's Gone Wrong which are both really touching animated movies that both kids and adults can enjoy. Peacemaker is delightfully crude and funny. But I'm going to try to do a single "top pick" each month and January's is...

TOP PICK: The Sex Lives of College Girls

Continuing Mindy Kaling's strong run as a television creator, it follows four college freshman who end up sharing the same dorm room: a spoiled rich girl, a lower-middle class awkward scholarship student, a star athlete, and a wild child. The four of them have realistic roommate chemistry (they don't all get along right away) as they all navigate sex and relationships, being out on their own and adulting for the first time, etc. It's really well written, smart and funny. I highly recommend it, especially if you like Mindy Kaling's other shows like Never Have I Ever... and her work on The Office or The Mindy Project.
January 28, 2022 at 4:23am
January 28, 2022 at 4:23am

It's not exactly a secret, but the housing market in California sucks. Especially where I live in Southern California. In my current city, the median home price last year was $1,130,000, which is nearly a 25% increase in value year-over-year. The average home sells in under three weeks, the majority (75%) going for 5-10% over asking price. In this area, there's a general presumption that if you can afford a house before you're 40, it's because you either: (a) come from wealth; (b) lived like a college student for over a decade after graduating to save up; or (c) inherited the house (or money) from a deceased family member.

There is some truth to that. For the past ten years (i.e., my thirties), everyone I knew who owned a house fell into one of those three categories. It's admittedly a relatively small sample size, but I don't think I knew anyone my age from the middle class who bought a house the "old fashioned way" where they graduated, got a job, and saved up for a downpayment.

As I mentioned in my notebook a few months ago, my grandmother passed away on Halloween last year. Since she's the last grandparent standing (my grandfather passed away a number of years ago), her assets got divvied up among her four daughters. And since my mom passed away in November 2020, my brother and I received equal shares of the assets that would have gone to my mom.

It was a fairly substantial inheritance. Enough that, when combined with what we already have in savings, it puts us just about where we need to be in order to afford a downpayment on a place of our own. Before you get too excited, it's still a bonkers seller's market so we're not rushing into anything.

We're going to wait until the market cools off and we don't have to get into a bidding war with other buyer to see who can pay the most over the asking price, but it occurred to me in a somewhat somber moment taking care of my grandmother's affairs that I now fall into that category of people who can only afford California real estate because we inherited money from a loved one who passed away.

It's a strange feeling. In early 2020, we were lamenting that we'd probably never be able to afford a house where we live. Or if we did, we'd be paying off the mortgage until we were in our eighties. Two years later, we have the money to buy a house but are faced with the reality that not only are we only able to afford it because my grandmother (and my mom) aren't here anymore, but that they'll never see the home that we buy and grow into with our family. *Cry*

Ultimately, I'd give the money back in a second if it could buy even one more day with my mom and my grandmother. We'd happily give up the dream of ever owning a home if we could see and talk to them just one more time. We don't actually have that option, though, so we're going to try to buy a house and live there in a way that will do them proud ...

... just as soon as the housing market cools off a bit. Because over a million dollars for a modest three bedroom, two bath, 1,500 square foot home is still insane to me, no matter how much money we have in the bank. *RollEyes*

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