One blog to rule them all
Welcome to my blog!
I would make some sort of clever introduction here, but most of us already know how blogs work; if you like me and like my writing, you might also enjoy my personal ramblings and assorted thoughts. If you don't like me, you're probably not reading this anyway. And if you're undecided in your opinion of me, I invite you to read as much or as little as you like and decide for yourself.
Please read on and, if you find something worth discussing, don't be shy about submitting a comment!
"Barrel of Monkeys" | Day 8
from Loud (2011)
All due blame credit due to Jayne for introducing me to redaction poetry, where you take existing text and selectively redact sections to create a poem from what's left. Naturally I immediately through of turning an already dirty song into even dirtier poetry. This one's stretching the 18+ rating of this blog... definitely NSFW, folks.
Full Redaction Poem ▼
feels so good being bad
pain is my pleasure
chains and whips
the affliction leaves
me wanting more
i may be bad
but I’m perfectly
good at it
i like it
i like it
you turn me on
give it to me
make my body
say ah, ah, ah
sex in the air
i don’t care
"Barrel of Monkeys" | Day 7
"Call Me Maybe"
by Carly Rae Jepsen
from Curiosity EP (2012)
My most distinctive memory of this song in all of the probably hundreds and hundreds of times I've heard it in the past eight years, is still the video that the United States Olympic Swim Team made set to this song while in London for the 2012 Summer Olympics. I still love that video, and I think it's because it was the first time the Olympics seemed like fun rather than being a stuffy, serious competition. Granted, the United States Olympic Swim Team was full of a lot of bold personalities and they were coming into the event as the heavy favorites after dominating in Beijing in 2008, but there's something so good-natured and fun about this video, it just makes me smile every time.
It didn't hurt that this song (along with many of Jepsen's hits) is incredibly catchy and upbeat; I definitely listened to this song for weeks and months after the Olympics were over, and it still features on my playlists every so often, along with "I Really Like You" and "Cut to the Feeling," the latter of which is probably going to show up in my entries for "The Soundtrack of Your Life Challenge" next year.
No matter what's going on in my life, this is one of those songs that I can play and will instantly improve my mood. Not just because the song is fun and energetic, but because I remember the video from the 2012 Summer Olympics and how, even when people are in serious places to do serious business and have the weight of the world's expectations on their shoulders... it's still okay to have a little fun and enjoy yourself. Honestly, that's a lesson I've needed to remind myself of a few times over the years.
"Barrel of Monkeys" | Day 6
"Safe and Sound"
by Capital Cities
from In a Tidal Wave of Mystery (2013)
This song will always remind me of one of my favorite Writing.com memories, when we all put together this appreciation video for The StoryMaster and The StoryMistress for the site's 13th birthday. It's hard to believe that it's been seven years already!
One of the things I've noticed over the [checks notes] seventeen years I've been a member of this site is how things like this really feel like moments frozen in time. Some of the people who helped contribute to that video are still here on the site, but many are gone, and many more still aren't as present even close to as much as they were seven years ago. 2008-2015 felt like the real pinnacle of the site. There were so many users and so many contests and activities, it felt like there was always something going on.
Things have slowed down in the years since, and I assume that's just a function of life getting more complicated for a lot of us, or at least that's what's happened for me. I miss being so plugged in here, always knowing who's new and what's noteworthy. Sometimes I feel like I'm just going through the motions and am stuck in my own lane here, but revisiting activities like this remind me that it's important to sometimes venture out into the community even if free time is more limited than it used to be.
"Barrel of Monkeys" | Day 5
"Honey, I'm Good
by Andy Grammer
from Magazines or Novels (2014)
I remember being blown away when I first heard this song because it was a catchy pop song that was actually fun to listen to, but it also... celebrated faithfulness and honesty in a relationship?
It's not too often that songs focus on a positive image of a healthy relationship. So many are either about failed relationships, bad relationships,temptations while you're in a relationship, affairs, etc. and it was completely refreshing to hear a song extol the virtues of being tempted and saying, "You know what? I shouldn't do this. I have someone at home and I want to stay faithful to them as tempting as your offer might be."
The video itself is also a celebration of fidelity, with one hundred couples who have been together for as little as a year up to decades, all celebrating the message of this song. It reminds me of my relationship with my wife (we've been together for eighteen years and married for thirteen of those) and how, over the years, we've both been presented with temptations. They're not worth going into detail about because nothing even came close to happening in either of our cases, but just through the process of experiencing life's ups and downs together, it's easy to see how truly beguiling it can be to suddenly, unintentionally find yourself in a position where the possibility of something new and exciting and maybe even not all that serious is an appealing alternative to whatever you and your significant other are currently struggling with.
Relationships are hard work, and they're made even harder by the fact that many of us have a "greener pastures" mindset where we're always looking at what we don't have and wondering if that might be a better option than the one we currently have or maybe even feel like we've settled for. But the hard work is so, so worth it and I really appreciate a song like this that recognizes and celebrates the not-so-glamorous, not-so-sexy side of showing up and putting in the work on a relationship every day, even when it's tempting to do otherwise.
"Barrel of Monkeys" | Day 4
"Sit Still, Look Pretty"
from Daya EP (2015)
This is another one of those songs (like yesterday's) where the actual date can be a bit misleading because it was first released in 2015 as an EP, with the song re-released as a single and included on a later full album. I included this song on my list because songs about female empowerment are something that I really enjoy listening to, especially now that I have a daughter.
In one interview, Daya said, "I think [this song] is just about not being an accessory for someone else. Just having your own dreams and goals. Going after them and not having to always try to please someone else." In another interview she also said, "It's important for young girls to know that they don't have to act a certain way or depend on someone else for happiness."
Messages like these are important because there's so much pressure in society to do things a certain way, or be someone that you're expected to be, and it's been really damaging to young girls in particular to set expectations from a young age of what their life should look like or be like in order to be considered acceptable. My family and I were swimming at our apartment community's pool just yesterday and two women were talking about their goals in life. One of them literally said, "All I want to do is find a guy who will take care of me so I don't have to work or do anything." And don't get me wrong, this wasn't someone saying, "I aspire to be a devoted housewife" or, "My dream is to be a mother and raise children." I don't think there's anything wrong with having a goal of being the best spouse or parent you can be. But this woman was very clear in articulating that she wanted to just lay around all day, no goals or no desires of her own, just have a rich husband to literally take care of her every need so she could spend her days by the pool.
I don't want my daughter to grow up to be someone who aspires to be taken care of by someone else. Especially since, in my experience, that rarely comes with no strings attached. Where I live in Orange County is rather famous for having trophy spouses to successful men (and women!), and in a lot of cases it's very clear that there are expectations that come with "being taken care of" by someone else, even if it's just a posture of deference and a power imbalance. If my daughter grows up and wants to be an amazing homemaker or mother, that's just fine. But I want it to be because she has developed that as a goal for herself and not because of societal expectation or feeling like she has a lack of options.
So I look forward to continuing to listen to songs like this, and hopefully the messages in many of them (along with the rest of the things we're doing to be good parents trying to raise well-adjusted kids) will help my daughter realize that she needs to be who she is, and not who anybody else tells her she should be. And it's going to be important for my son to realize that women need to be accepted for who they are and not who society expects them to be.
"Barrel of Monkeys" | Day 3
"Unsteady (Erich Lee Gravity Remix)"
by X Ambassadors
from VHS (2015, this remix was released in 2016)
The songs from these next two blog entries are going to get a little wacky, mostly due to the fact that the songs were first recorded as EPs, then released on albums, and - in the case of this song - also remixed a year after the album was released. I originally discovered this song on an episode of the television series Lucifer, and I've been kind of obsessed with it ever since. Even though the themes of the song are originally about divorce, this song has become something of a catch-all for any kind of emotional feeling of uneasiness.
One of the reasons why this song is so impactful for me is that I discovered it right as I was experiencing all the work drama in 2018 (leaving Marvel for a job that laid me off three months later, trying to get back to Marvel after they had already hired someone for my position, etc.), so I was definitely in an "unsteady" period of my life at that point and this song really resonated. Even though I haven't had quite that level of uncertainty in my life since, this song has been popping up in my recent playlists more and more thanks to the pandemic. It's kind of my "uncertainty anthem" for all those moments in life when you need someone to hold onto you because you feel like you might otherwise slip away.
"Barrel of Monkeys" | Day 2
"Body Like A Back Road"
by Sam Hunt
from Southside (2020, single released in 2017)
I picked this song because the "bro-country" sub-genre of country music fascinates me. On the one hand, songs like this those from artists such as Florida Georgia Line, Luke Bryan, and Jason Aldean. On the one hand, bro-country has been extensively criticized for its repetitive subject matter (frequent themes are partying on Friday nights, drinking, trucks, and the objectification of women), and the lack of representation for female artists. On the other hand, the sub-genre is immensely popular with fans, regardless of what music critics, radio programmers, and established, old-school country stars may think of it. This song, for example, broke a record by being the first song in history to spend more than 24 weeks on the Hot Country Songs list, a record which had until then been held by "Cruise" from Florida Georgia Lina, another "bro-country" song. Those two tracks also have the distinction of reaching the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 as well. And yet many critics labeled this as one of the worst songs of 2017.
I'm torn about this sub-genre of music. They are definitely popular songs, and in a lot of cases that remind me of pop country where it's often upbeat, catchy, and easy to listen to on repeat. But I have noticed how many of the songs tend to glorify drinking, partying, and treating women as little more than sex objects... so I don't disagree that the songs can be somewhat problematic.
One of my favorite things about this genre, though, are the childish responses of bro-country singers to those who criticize their music. Blake Shelton was quoted as saying he doesn't care what "old farts" think, and went further to say, "[The reason you don't like it] is because you don't buy records anymore, jackass. The kids do, and they don't want to buy the music you were buying." When Zac Brown criticized a Luke Bryan song as being one of the worst songs he'd ever heard, Jason Aldean replied, "nobody gives a shit what u think."
Based on its popularity with fans, it seems like whether you love it or hate it, bro-country is here to stay for a while.
"Barrel of Monkeys" | Day 1
"All The Stars"
by Kenrdick Lamar feat. SZA
from Black Panther The Album (2018)
Even though choosing this song forces me to only take this challenge in one direction (you know, since I don't know what songs are going to be available to use in 2021 through 2028 ), it was important for me to start with this song for a couple of reasons, most notably because of the importance this movie has played in my professional life, and the unexpected effect that the recent passing of Chadwick Boseman has had on me.
Black Panther was a transformative movie for me to work on, professionally speaking. I've enjoyed all of the Marvel Studios projects I've worked on in some form or another, but this is the first one (well, second after Captain America: Civil War, but that was back when I was just learning the ropes of my job) where it felt like we were working on something truly special. A feeling that would ultimately be repeated in short order during Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, incidentally. There was just an air of excitement around this project that I think was hard for people to explain at the time, but once we started seeing the audience and critics' reactions, if of course made sense in retrospect. This was one of those movies that profoundly impacted a whole lot of people, and empowered a whole generation of fans. A lot of people tend to be dismissive of super hero movies as mindless entertainment and not actual cinema (thanks for that, Marty ), but when these movies work, when they aspire to be something greater than a popcorn flick, they can be really profound.
More recently, though, I found myself revisiting this album in the wake of Chadwick Boseman's untimely death. For those of you who don't follow celebrity news, the star of Black Panther died about a week ago from colon cancer. It caught everyone by surprise; not only was he so young, but virtually no one knew that he was even sick. He had been diagnosed four years earlier and had essentially done a number of his most iconic roles (Black Panther in four Marvel movies, Thurgood Marshall in Marshall, and Levee in the forthcoming Ma Rainey's Black Bottom) while simultaneously going through surgeries and chemotherapy to fight stage-four colon cancer.
This news hit me hard for a number of reasons:
Even though I didn't ever get the chance to meet him personally, from my time working at Marvel I've had peripheral conversations about him with people who have and, by all accounts, he was one of the kindest, most generous, kindest, most authentic, most talented actors we've worked with (and Marvel has worked with quite a few over the years!).
It's always a tragedy to see someone die in their prime. By the age of 43, Chadwick Boseman had already played a number of important roles that had impressed both audiences and critics. By all accounts, while already at the top of his game in his early 40s, he was someone that just about everyone who knew him predicted was destined for a number of other prominent roles, awards, and commercial success. It's so sad to me that we'll never get a chance to see him continue to mature and grow as an actor, and to see what (further) heights he would have been able to attain.
Dying at 43 after a four-year battle with cancer means he was 39 when he was diagnosed. Nobody should have to be diagnosed with what's effectively terminal cancer in their thirties. But what's particularly significant to me about that age is that I'll be turning 39 in December. It was a sobering reminder that no time on this Earth is guaranteed, and that any of us could, at any time, have a change in health, finances, etc. that could dramatically reshape, or even end our lives.
Knowing that, Chadwick Boseman chose to keep his diagnosis private and continue the work he felt called to do as long as he could do it. He worked grueling production schedules (can you imagine doing the 12-16+ hours a day of working out, acting, stunt work, etc. required to be a super hero?) and continued to work, even while being in what must have been intense pain and discomfort from his surgeries and chemotherapy. He didn't ask for special treatment, he didn't try to cultivate favor or sympathy, and he didn't complain (or even speak out to set the record straight) toward the end of his life when the media started making fun of his appearance for all of his weight loss, assuming he had an eating disorder or something . The truth is that all of the "he was a great guy" accolades in the world from his coworkers are nothing compared to the statement this last point makes about what kind of a person he was.
Ultimately, what this song, this album, this movie, and this actor's passing signify to me is that every moment we have on this planet is a gift. It's easy to take things for granted, to take the easy road, and to procrastinate and tell yourself that you'll do things later. But later isn't promised, and I think I'll forever now associate this album (especially this track and a few others like "Pray For Me") with the much-needed reminder to make the absolute most out of every single day.
Rest in Power, King.
Written in connection with "Note: 48-HOUR CHALLENGE : Media Prompt Deadl..." | 411 words (excl. lyrics)
Oh man, this song really takes me back. For some reason, I thought it was released way earlier than 2009. I thought it was popular while I was in college, but it turns out it was actually a full five years after I graduated. This was the point in my life where I was working my first executive job in the entertainment industry and I must have played this track on repeat for half the day sometimes. It's such an energetic song, it's hard to be in a bad mood when you're listening to it, even if you're stuck at a desk doing paperwork.
One of the things I didn't know about this song was that it was produced by French DJ David Guetta and was only released a couple months before Guetta burst onto the American music scene with his first hit, "Sexy Bitch." This song was incredibly popular, having been nominated for Song of the Year at the World Music Awards, Record of the Year at the Grammy Awards. It was the first song to sell 7 million digital copies in the United States, and currently holds the record for being the most downloaded song of all time on iTunes. It spent fourteen consecutive weeks as the top song on the Billboard Hot 100 and, along with the Black Eyed Peas' previous song "Boom Boom Pow," made them one of only eleven bands in history to occupy the top two positions on the Billboard Hot 100 at the same time with two different songs.
I'm a bit more partial to the albums Elephunk and Monkey Business, but this album unquestionably had the bigger hit in this song, as well as some other memorable tracks. Listening to this song tonight actually made me think of the Black Eyed Peas for the first time in a really long time; I don't think I've listened to them in earnest since Fergie left the group in 2016. I suppose I should give them a try and listen to the tracks they produced with J. Rey Soul, their current lead vocalist. I haven't listened to either of those two albums yet.
I can't think of a better song to get all of us in a party mood and excited about Writing.com's 20th birthday. This is a song that still gets people pumped up and excited when you play it at a party. It definitely got me tapping along to the beat again!
My wife and I have been rewatching The Newsroom for the umpteenth time, and every time I watch it I'm reminded all over again why Aaron Sorkin is such an extraordinary writer. While it's usually Episode 4 of the first season that gives me chills and fits of jealousy over how good it is, this time I was really struck by the final episode of the first season with the recurring theme of "the greater fool."
This YouTube clip compilation does a great job of distilling the theme of the episode down into just a few minutes and key scenes:
As Sloan Sabbith (played by Olivia Munn) says in that clip, "Most people spend their lives trying not to be the greater fool" and then, "The greater fool is somebody with the perfect blend of self-delusion and ego to think that he can succeed where others have failed. This whole country was made by greater fools."
Maybe it's the current moment we find ourselves in, maybe it's that I'm a relatively new father and am learning how to deal with a completely different way of prioritizing things in my life now, but rewatching this episode really made me realize how long I've tried to avoid being the greater fool. Self-consciousness, perfectionism, fear of failure, social anxiety ... whatever you want to call it, I've often chosen passivity over action because I'm too afraid of looking like a fool. Or at least attempting to not be the biggest fool in the room.
What I've been reflecting on since watching this episode is just how hard it is to do something remarkable when you're playing it safe. As someone who wants to tell impactful stories and leave a mark on the world, it made me realize how long I've been spending not actually attempting to achieve that for fear of coming up short. And I'm not sure that, at the end of my life, I want my legacy to just be, "Yep, he definitely played it safe and made sure he wasn't the biggest idiot in the room."
I've also been watching the new docuseries Dear... on Apple TV+ and the episode on Lin-Manuel Miranda recounted a story I'd forgotten about his early years. In 2008, he was just coming off the success of his first Broadway musical, the Tony-winning In The Heights. In 2009, he was invited to perform at the White House Evening of Poetry, Music, and the Spoken Word. The expectation was that he would perform one of his hip-hop inspired Tony-winning numbers from In The Heights but, instead, he decided to perform a new piece he had been working on, inspired by a biography of one of America's founding fathers that he read while on vacation. The piece he performed was "My Shot," which ultimately became one of the standout songs from the record-breaking musical phenomenon Hamilton. And I can't stop thinking about what a bold swing Miranda took. He got invited to perform in front of the President of the United States alongside the country's most talented poets and musicians, and rather than performing a guaranteed crowd-pleasing surefire hit from his current award-winning work running on Broadway, he decided instead to perform something he was still workshopping.
I don't know if this speaks to anyone else, or if anyone else needs to hear it right now, but I'm really weighing the pros and cons of spending one's time and energy focused on not looking like an idiot rather than taking a big swing at things, even if it doesn't always work out and you sometimes fall flat.
I guess what I'm trying to say is that maybe I want to try being a greater fool for a while.