Please Stop, You’re Making Me Look Bad


Okay, normally I’m vehemently opposed to identity politics on so many levels. I mean, yes, I’m still (sort of) a libertarian, so that right there is strike one. And I truly believe they are more trouble than value, being used divisively by both sides rather than in any meaningful and constructive way, so that’s strike two. And let’s be honest here, I’m a straight white cis-gender male, so there’s really no universe in which identity politics are going to paint me as the good guy.

But it’s that last point I really want to visit, because of late there’s been a reactionary force on the rise in American politics, a sort of “counter” identity politics that I feel a responsibility to speak out against. As someone told me recently, things have gotten to the point that if you don’t specifically stand against them, you are passively with them. And there are some groups out there who are trying to claim me on the basis of my ethnicity, my gender, or my sexual orientation that I have to say the following to:

PLEASE STOP, YOU’RE MAKING ME LOOK BAD.

Seriously, this shit is getting out of hand. I’ll take just a few of them to the carpet individually, but if you see yourself even remotely empathizing, supporting, or even thinking “yeah, but they kind of have a point” then you need to rethink your priorities.

Neo-Nazis: I’m going to tackle these fuck-knuckles first, mostly because it shames me that I even need to. What fucking century is this? What world do we live in that I even need to explicitly say “Nazis bad”? I would try to say something like “look, I get it, you’re angry, you’re lost, you’re hurting, you just want to belong”, but fuck that. You signed up with the Nazis. Lonely? Get a dog. Angry? Get a therapist. Lost? Get a counselor. Hurting? So are a lot of people. Just want to belong? May I suggest joining a club. Know what I don’t suggest? Joining the fucking Nazis. Here’s a hint: when you’re on the opposite side of FDR, Churchill, and Indiana Jones, you’re on the wrong side.

White Supremacists: All the hate, twice the crazy. (Here’s a pro-tip for you, President Trump: if you want to engage in some moral equivalency, this would be the way to do it.) While the Nazis have a twisted and warped ideology, they at least aren’t completely ignorant of modern history. I mean, I have yet to hear a Nazi say “Germany was just trying to fight off France’s War of Aggression.” There’s no point in trying to convince white supremacists of this, but again, we seem to live in a day and age where this needs to be explicitly said (especially since I was raised in Virginia, where apparently this is not taken as a given): The American Civil War was about slavery. Full stop. “No, wait, it was about states’ rights!” Yeah, the rights of some states to declare certain people the property of other people. And in case I wasn’t clear enough, let me go even further and say slavery is wrong. I don’t care what color your skin is, what your racial or ethnic background, who you worship, who you love… you know what guys, just read the fucking Constitution. I mean seriously, read the god damn thing. And not just the part that starts “A well regulated militia”.

InCels: This is one I just found out about, and while I thought the Men’s Rights Activists (MRAs) made my skin crawl, these guys manage to take it to a whole new low. For those of you like myself who have never heard of this particular group of self-aggrandizing asshats, the term is short for “Involuntarily Celibate”. Apparently the conceit they have is that the fact they can’t get laid is because women are evil and have failed them, because they are men and… okay, this is the part that gets fuzzy, but it basically involves some mental gymnastics and a lot of hand waving… and therefore they deserve sex. The disturbing levels of entitlement, anger and bitterness, not to mention outright misogyny and rage prevalent among this group is frightening.

These guys probably bother me more than the others because they strike a little too close to home. I can actually remember a time in my own life when I could honestly say if all cops were women I couldn’t get arrested, and yeah, it made me a little bitter and occasionally angry. But my anger was channeled toward “what am I doing wrong?” not “why are women not giving me what I so clearly deserve?” (The fact that I was saying this while unemployed, living with my parents, and apparently incapable of dragging my ass to a gym is an irony not completely lost on me.) I would try offering some advice to these guys, but having been all too close to that abyss myself I already know it won’t help. I can only hope that one day they will realize that the path they are walking at best ends in further isolation, and at worst ends in misery and madness. If there was any chance they would listen to my advice, it would be this: stop worrying about sex. Wake up, smell your own bullshit, and do something to make your own life less pathetic. It really doesn’t matter if that makes you more appealing to someone else; you still gotta live with you.

That’s not all the groups out there who are co-opting my identity for their own ends, but that’s all I have the energy to throw the bullshit flag on right now. If there’s anyone I missed, please feel free to mention them and I’ll be sure to give them a tip of the hat in my next installment, “No Seriously, Just Shut The Fuck Up Already.”

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Heartbreak Symphony Songlist


Side A

Song

 

Artist

Happy Ending Mika
Time Pink Floyd
When You Were Young The Killers
She Talks to Angels Black Crowes
Raining in Baltimore Counting Crows
In Our Bedroom After the War Stars
Pompeii Bastille
Glycerine Bush
Jumper Third Eye Blind
 

Side B

Song

Grey Cell Green

 

 

Artist

Ned’s Atomic Dust Bin

Closer Ne-Yo
Bizarre Love Triangle New Order
Another Rainy Night (Without You) Queensryche
Little Lion Man Mumford and Sons
Rock On David Essex
Demons Imagine Dragons
I Miss You Blink-182
Panic Switch Silversun Pickups
Sex On Fire Kings of Leon
First Cold War Kids

The Making of “Heartbreak Symphony”


This project started out as what I thought would be a simple idea. Back in the late 80s and early 90s, a lot of us who were teenagers at the time would try to impress the people we had crushes on by making them mix tapes. For those of you who are too young to know what those are, they’re kind of like playlists that you had to make with cassettes (no I am not going to explain what those are, just Google it), and they had a limited run time.  You had to find just the right blend of songs to express what you wanted to say in the time you had to work with, and there was definitely an art to it.

I got to thinking about that old art form, and about how sometimes you would pick a song because of a certain line or phrase, and how in many ways you were crafting a poem with someone else’s words. That inspired me to do just that – to write a poem completely out of other people’s words, taken completely out of context but arranged in the order that made sense for my needs, to express my feelings. I also wanted to do it in such a way that it would make a good mix tape, because that was an essential element of the original art form as well – it couldn’t just be a random jumble of songs. Well, I suppose it could, but a poem can also just be a random jumble of words. That doesn’t make it good. The artistry is in the flow, putting them in a certain order so that they sound good and take you on an emotional journey. I felt that if I could manage to do both, to create a poem that worked while at the same time creating a mix tape that worked, I would have achieved a multimedia art form unlike anything I had done (or seen) before.

The first step was the same as any mix tape: picking the songs. I went through and gathered up a list of over 60 songs by artists ranging from the Eagles to Limp Bizkit, paying particular attention to songs that had lyrics that grabbed me. They didn’t have to be anything in particular so long as it was something unique. From there I compiled all the lyrics of the songs with only two rules in mind: first, I had to use a given line complete as written in the song, and second I couldn’t use any line that contained the actual title of the song (I felt that would be cheating). At this point I started narrowing down my list fairly quickly, as I found many of the songs on my list either weren’t as compelling as I originally thought, or else they didn’t have lines I could use. I also found the general outline of the poem already beginning to form, which may have been due to the songs I selected. Whether it is due to my own particular taste in music or perhaps just the nature of pop music itself, I found that most of the songs I was finding quality lyrics in tended toward the melancholier end of the spectrum. (Personally, I think it’s more the latter – the first person who can find any poetic value in “Call Me Maybe” wins a gold star.)

Crafting the poem itself was a bit more of a challenge. It was easy to pick out individual lines I found compelling – too easy, in fact. As the goal was to make a mix tape, I couldn’t use any given song and (preferably) any given artist more than once, and I had a time limit as well. I had to consider the run time of each song I used as part of the poem, and although I have always been fond of the 90 minute cassettes, apparently I am also fond of songs with long run times. Sometimes I wish more artists heeded the mocking advice of Billy Joel from “The Entertainer” and “cut it down to 3:05”.  But I digress. As I went through and wrote the poem, I quickly realized I was piling up a large number of songs and likely would run out of time, so I went back and started adding in the length of each track next to its complementary line in the poem. As I did I saw that I would run out of space before the end of the second stanza, so I made the decision to cut that stanza entirely, which to be honest was not particularly strong anyway.

In this way, the constraint of the time limit turned out to be a blessing in disguise. It forced me to keep the poem tighter than it otherwise would have been and cut weaker material that I might have left in. It also provided me with the artistic guidance to break the poem into two stanzas which equate to the two sides of the cassette. While I believe both the poem and the playlist work very well as a comprehensive whole (and both are meant to be enjoyed that way), there is also a certain completeness to each component part, whether it be the individual stanzas or Side A/Side B of the mix tape.

I hope you enjoy it. Come back tomorrow for a complete playlist so you can enjoy the mix tape for yourself, and feel free to leave any guesses in the comments below.


Heartbreak Symphony


This is the hardest story that I’ve ever told.
Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day,
you sit there in your heartache
in certain company.
And I don’t have nothing to say;
if there’s no one there, then there’s no one there, but at least the war is over.
We were caught up and lost in all of our vices –
I couldn’t change though I wanted to.
And if you do not want to see me again, I would understand.

When your desire has been found
I just can’t pull myself away –
living a life that I can’t leave behind.
You leave me wanting, always leave me wanting more.
But it was not your fault but mine,
and where do we go from here?
I need to let you go;
I cannot sleep, I cannot dream tonight.
Could I be anything you want me to be?
But it’s not forever –
Call it a dark night of the soul.


A Personal Interpretation


Fair warning: I follow where my muse takes me, and the other day she took me to a very dark place. If you don’t want to be depressed, I suggest visiting Disney.com. I hear it’s very nice.

I can still remember how
A very long time ago
Acting used to make me smile.
And I knew if I had a chance
I could make people laugh, or cry, or cheer,
Even if it was only for a night.
But the day came I had to admit the truth,
If only to myself
I would never have the dream
And a dream was all it would ever be.
I can’t remember if I cried
That day I finally let it all go
But something inside me was lost
The day my childhood died.

So goodbye innocence,
I looked inside and the well of inspiration ran dry.
All my friends of yesteryear
Have long since faded away,
Long since faded away.

Did you inspire my boyhood crush?
Do you believe in a higher power?
Is it just because you read it in a book?
Or do you believe in art, music, and dance?
Does culture connect you to something greater than yourself?
And can you teach me how to make love and not just fuck?
I know you two are an item. I saw you off by yourselves at the party.
You were off in a corner alone –
-I was off in a corner brooding.
I was a lonely teenage spastic dork
With a leather jacket and a station wagon.
I knew I was out of luck
The day my childhood died.

I was all alone singing goodbye innocence,
I looked inside and the well of inspiration ran dry.
All my friends of yesteryear
Have long since faded away,
Long since faded away.

For ten years I was in a daze,
Bouncing around from place to place
But that’s not how it was supposed to be.
When the Buddha first came on the scene,
With a voice filled with agony and rage,
He was hailed as the voice of my generation.
And while the Buddha was feeling down
He graced himself with a blood red crown.
The bodhisattvas all were scattered,
But the legend was eternal.
And while Al exposed an inconvenient truth,
The market rose like Icarus,
And we all danced while Nero fiddled
The day my childhood died.

He was playing goodbye innocence,
I looked inside and the well of inspiration ran dry.
All my friends of yesteryear
Have long since faded away,
Long since faded away.

The end of our world was televised:
Matching towers falling from the sky.
A hole was made that never can be filled.
A lonely field became a heroes’ grave;
The blue and red tried to salvage the day
While the fool sat bewildered with his pet goat.
There was a brief reprieve of unity
While we were all bound together in grief.
Imagine the greatness that could have been
That was stillborn in the legacy.
Because the fool had to avenge the king,
Which reopened the wounds that had never healed.
Which side of the lines did you stand on
The day my childhood died?

As they were chanting goodbye innocence,
I looked inside and the well of inspiration ran dry.
All my friends of yesteryear
Have long since faded away,
Long since faded away.

So there we were, all in the same boat.
A generation sacrificed on the altar of September
With no semblance of an exit plan.
So Georgie Porgie Pudding Pie,
Georgie Got An Eye In The Sky,
How are you gonna make this one okay?
As the wars raged on and empty promises were made,
The faces changed but the tune stayed the same.
And as the boys and girls bled in the sandbox
Their broken toys lying all around them
In the end what did we accomplish?
The day my childhood died.

They were crying goodbye innocence,
I looked inside and the well of inspiration ran dry.
All my friends of yesteryear
Have long since faded away,
Long since faded away.

I knew a girl with the voice of an angel
And I asked her to sing for me one more time
But she just smiled and turned away.
And I went down to the sacred places
Where I dreamed my dreams so long ago
But the sacred places had long since closed and moved away.
And in the streets nothing’s really changed
Hearts still get broken every day
People scurry here, and scurry there
We do our best to make it somehow.
And the three things that I clung to most –
My grandfather, my father, and my belief in my own immortality–
They all left me at the same time:
The day my childhood died.

And they left me saying goodbye innocence,
I looked inside and the well of inspiration ran dry.
All my friends of yesteryear
Have long since faded away,
Long since faded away.

Goodbye innocence,
I looked inside and the well of inspiration ran dry.
All my friends of yesteryear
Have long since faded away,
Long since faded away.


Dating Advice From Famous Poets


Maya Angelou

By York College ISLGP [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By York College ISLGP [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Dear Ms. Angelou,

I’m writing to you because I’m quite vexed over my father’s intractable position vis-à-vis the proposal of my commencing a relationship with a boy. I am fully capable of making my own decisions, having already attained twelve full years of age, and while I have not yet reached menarche, I am still as much a woman grown as any of the other girls in my class, many of whom have already gone on one or more dates. I think he is being completely unreasonable. What say you?

Signed,

A Caged Bird, Too

 

Dear Fledgling,

A free bird leaps
on the back of the wind
and risks unknown
are hers to embrace
without a care
to cast aside the chains
of a life left behind.

But a bird that stalks
down her narrow cage
held back by father’s
blindness and fear
her wings are clipped and
she knows not why
so she opens her throat to sing.

The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and her tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.

The free bird gets cruel education
on the price of casual flirtation
and the handsome boys not as good as their word
and her eyes with tears are blurred.

But a caged bird knows more than a father could
He’d lighten up if he understood
But he still says “no” and locks the doors
so she opens her throat to sing.

The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and her tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.

 

Edgar Allen Poe

Daguerreotype of Edgar Allan Poe, known as the "Annie" Daguerreotype.

Daguerreotype of Edgar Allan Poe, known as the “Annie” Daguerreotype.

Dear Mr. Poe,

I’m planning to propose to the love of my life, my beautiful girlfriend of many years, and I want to do it somewhere special, someplace so magical she’ll never forget it. Can you offer any suggestions?

Thanks,

Searching for the Moment

 

Dear Lost in the Moment,

It was many and many a year ago,
In a kingdom by the sea,
I proposed to a girl you may know
By the name of ANNABEL LEE;–

Let’s just say things didn’t exactly work out
The way that I thought they would be.
If I had it all to do over
In that kingdom by the sea,
We would have just gone out to a nice dinner–
I and my Annabel Lee.

My advice? Bundle up, stay inside, stay warm —
STAY AWAY FROM THE SEA.

 

Dr. Seuss

Ted Geisel (Dr. Seuss) half-length portrait, seated at desk covered with his books / World Telegram & Sun photo by Al Ravenna

Ted Geisel (Dr. Seuss) half-length portrait, seated at desk covered with his books / World Telegram & Sun photo by Al Ravenna

Dear Dr. Seuss,

I’m not sure who to ask about this, but here goes. I’ve started noticing the boys in my class, and I think I like them, you know, in that way. Which would be great, except I’m a boy too.  Which I guess means I’m gay? And some people say being gay is bad, and other people say it’s not, and I just don’t know what to think. What do you think?

Signed,

Confused and Lost

 

Dear Lost and Found,

There once was a girl named Julie Madevin,
A charming young thing the age of eleven.
She had a crush on a boy in her class,
The boy known as Billy Sassafrass.
Julie thought that he was quite alright;
His eyes were blue, his pants were tight.
But there was something the other kids would say:
They all insisted that Billy was gay.
Julie didn’t know what to do,
So she ran home and asked her mommies two.
They told her this was quite alright,
And Julie slept quite well that night.

 

Lord Byron

George Gordon Byron, 6th Baron Byron, by Richard Westall, from National Portrait Gallery, London.

George Gordon Byron, 6th Baron Byron, by Richard Westall, from National Portrait Gallery, London.

Dear Lord Byron,

I want to do something really special for my wife for Valentine’s Day this year. It’s been a rough year, and I really want to show her I love her more than anything in the world. You’re renowned as one of the greatest romantics of all time; can you please give me something to show her just how much I love her?

Signed,

Truly Desperately In Love

 

Dear Truly Desperate,

I dunno. Flowers?

 

 


Deck the Malls


In the past I’ve railed against the Christmas excess, particularly the consumeristic aspects of it, starting well before Thanksgiving (and even before my beloved Halloween). Seeing as how this year some stores (all of them) are opening on Thanksgiving for their “Black Friday” sales, I’m giving up.

That’s right; I’m throwing in the towel. You win. I even wrote a little song for you heartless bastards, just to show I care. Enjoy.

 

Stores are open, let’s get hopping.

Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la

Screw the family, let’s go shopping.

Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la

Out into the hurly burly,

Fa-la-la, la-la-la, la-la-la

Black Friday is starting early!

Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la, la-la

Save the turkey and the stuffing.

Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la

Human contact we’re rebuffing.

Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la

We’ll be loyal Christmas elves

Fa-la-la, la-la-la, la-la-la

All those gifts won’t buy themselves!

Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la, la-la

Fast away Thanksgiving passes.

Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la

Lines move like frozen molasses.

Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la

Looking for that coat of leather

Fa-la-la, la-la-la, la-la-la

Instead of being all together.

Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la