Shan MacGowan died last week, which is a shame and a tragedy for those of us who enjoy Irish/Celtic punk music. He was the lead singer for the Pogues, a brilliant band, and he did some solo work as well.
I’ve always liked Irish and Celtic music, but when a dormmate on the second floor of my dorm building introduced me to the Pogues album Rum, Sodomy, and the Lash with its piratical tones and hardcore notes, I was hooked. I went out and bought several Pogues albums at the local music store, and loved them all; my favorite was If I Should Fall from Grace with God but Rum, Sodomy, and the Lash will always have a special place in my heart.
Of course, a classic song by the Pogues is their Christmas tune, “The Fairytale of New York”. Well, it may be a Christmas tune in the way that Die Hard is a Christmas movie, which is to say, only peripherally (I won’t get into that debate here, thankyouverymuch). Point is, it’s a classic tune. I’ve linked to the official video above. Be warned, it’s not safe for work or for children (which is why I was amused that it showed up in the soundtrack to Lily and Dash on Netflix a couple of years ago).
Is punk music part of your holiday tradition? I didn’t think so, though I certainly do enjoy this song as well as Dropkick Murphys “The Season’s Upon Us”:
My recommendation for today is, of course, the music of the Pogues. Check out Rum, Sodomy, and the Lash, of course, as well as their other albums. Their music also shows up in the movie Lair of the White Worm.
Through exhaustive research and millions of man-hours listening, I have uncovered the dark secret behind one of the internet’s most beloved singing sensations, Jonathan Coulton. Sure, he may look innocent and mild-mannered, but in reality what he secretly is looking for is WORLD DOMINATION. In this blog entry, I will demonstrate how his early music clearly states this goal, and how it has driven him throughout not only his career, but his entire life. All we have to do is consider some of his early songs. Now, granted, I haven’t really kept up with Mr. Coulton’s career, but is that truly necessary? Here we go.
First, we have the song “The Future Soon”, from is album Where Tradition Meets Tomorrow. This song is clearly from the point of view of a man who has a crush on a woman (called “Laura” in the song, but that may be a pseudonym). Coulton leaves her an anonymous note and is spurned; but instead of moving on, he dreams of becoming a notorious scientist and conquering the world with his army warrior robots. Listen to the song for yourself:
Next, we have Mr. Coulton taking on a soul-crushing job as a computer programmer (he makes no secret about the fact that he really did work as a “code monkey” at one point in his life. In his song “Code Monkey” from the album Thing a Week III, he sings about this boring life and how it destroys his creativity and soul. We find that he has given up his dream of taking over the planet with his warrior robot race (even though the warrior robot race doesn’t actually show up in any song other than “The Future Soon”). Have a listen:
Office life continues for Mr. Coulton, as he tells us in this next song, “Big Bad World One” (Thing a Week IV). He sings in this song about loneliness, sadness, and the isolation that everyone faces in the modern world. But all is not lost for Mr. Coulton!
No, things are about to turn around for our nemesis. In the same dark, smoky place where he ended the last song, he encounters the ghost of George Plimpton, the dilettante and hero who has inspired so many of us, in “A Talk with George” (Thing a Week II):
Inspired, Jonathan Coulton goes out and conquers the world, finds a henchman, takes a captive (the Laura from “The Future Soon”, perhaps?), and sings about his plans for the planet in “Skullcrusher Mountain” (Where Tradition Meets Tomorrow):
So. We can see that Mr. Coulton’s plan is in full motion at this point, and he’s planning on igniting our planet’s atmosphere if his nefarious demands are not met. We are very fortunate that Paul and Storm, another internet music sensation, have talked him into postponing his dark plans and taken him on several cruises, or we may not be here today.
If you have uncovered other clues about Jonathan Coulton and his dark deeds, let me know in the comments here. Or on Facebook. Or on, as Matt Wallace calls it, the Goddamn Twitters (though I probably won’t see it there).
(I should mention, before I am taken hostage, that all these songs and plenty more can be found for download and ultimate enjoyment on the Jonathan Coulton store. Please share and enjoy!)
X does indeed mark the spot, and today, sisters Pancake the Penguin and Pep the Lungfish, along with their new friend Narlee the Snow Monster, find the Magic Chest that they’ve been looking for! It was right where the map said it would be! Huzzah!
Now, for me, it might just be the heebie-jeebies after watching Raiders of the Lost Ark too many times, but I always get wary when I see a wooden chest with wings on it. Holy Melting Faces Batman! Presumably, though, the wings can be removed and put onto Pancake (Pep and Narlee left out of the magic, as observed previously), and Pancake will be able to fly.
A Dream of Wings that Work indeed.
Not included: animated gif image of the face-melting scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark. That would be too grotesque for this blog.
Speaking of music, last night I went to the final performance of Jennifer’s vocal group Vox Musica. It was a beautiful performance, especially the Magnificat of Mary, which had so many amazing movements I could barely keep track of them all. I highly recommend checking out Vox Musica when you can, and some of their music on their website. It’s not the Pogues or Dropkick Murphys, but it’s fantastic anyway.
Today’s entry in the Episcopal Advent Calendar (Learn) reads, “Read Habakkuk 2:1-4. Does this reading remind you of Thomas the Disciple? Why do you think the folks who organized the lectionary picked this reading from the Old Testament for this friend of Jesus?”
Tomorrow is the Feast of St. Thomas the Apostle. Now I’m kind of embarrassed because I don’t actually know much about Thomas beyond that he was the doubting apostle who needed to have physical proof of Jesus’ resurrection. So I’m afraid I have no thoughts for this one right now.
Okay, Narlee, having seen the madness of the honey bells behind the brittle façade of reality (represented by a shrub), is overjoyed and returns the Golden Key to the sisters. This whole adventure makes me think of Edgar Allen Poe and H. P. Lovecraft, even if neither writer would have ever deigned to have female main characters. This is a tale for a more modern and enlightened age. I’m not saying that ironically. Both authors were extremely problematic, perhaps Lovecraft more so than Poe.
At any rate, Narlee is so happy that he offers to accompany the two sisters on their journey to find the Magic Chest. We already know that the Magic Chest, when opened, will allow penguins to fly on Christmas Day, but will it let Pep the Lungfish and Narlee the Snow Monster fly as well? We shall see.
This story is taking on cosmic twists and turns I’m not sure the author intended!
Anyway, here’s some music for you, some of my favorite holiday songs. I’ve shared them before, but, you know, I can’t help myself.
First, “The Season’s Upon Us” by Dropkick Murphys, my favorite Boston-area Irish punk band. Loud and exciting, this really gets to the heart of a raucous family gathering which is probably nothing like yours or mine.
Second, “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Fishmen” by the H. P. Lovecraft Historical Society. I’m not sure who did the video, but it was definitely someone clever. If I researched it more, I’d find out. But here’s the weird little video to a weird little song:
And, finally, a Christmas classic: “Fairytale of New York” by the one and only Pogues. A classic, it was even featured in the Netflix miniseries “Lily and Dash”, which I highly recommend. Be aware that this song contains a couple of slurs, so you may wish to skip it.
There are plenty of Christmas songs performed by classic punk bands, and I definitely plan on checking some of them out, although for now I am listening to some classic crooners sing their Christmas tunes. At the moment, it’s Vince Guiraldi’s “Linus and Lucy”. Always a classic, even if not necessarily a Christmas tune.
Today’s entry in the Episcopal Advent Calendar (Go) reads, “Go out into your neighborhood today. Where is God at work? Ask God to show you how you can celebrate that good work and name God’s presence in your community.”
The Episcopal Church is not without its problems, including dwindling membership and a growing schism over the rights of LGBTQ+ members of the church (should they be allowed to be priest? Should same sex marriages be blessed by the Church? I say yes to both). However, I really like that the church places its emphasis on finding the divine not in splash and money and what-not but in neighbors and the community. The Baptismal Covenant reads, in part, “Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?” (The response is, “I will, with God’s help”). Compassion is central to the tenets of the Episcopal Church, which is one of the reasons I love it.
Tonight I’ll be wandering into Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in downtown Sacramento to watch my wife perform with Vox Musica in their 2022 Christmas concert. I’ll keep an eye out for God in the midst of that.
I really have nothing to say that I haven’t said already before. But that won’t stop me from saying it.
I’m on a social media hiatus for now. I’ve had a rough couple of days, and I found that the more I hung out on Twitter and Facebook, the worse my mood got. Especially Twitter, which is now mostly a cesspool of right-wing propaganda and left-wing reactionarianism to that propaganda.
Is reactionarianism a word? Sure it is. I declare it so.
Now, I consider myself a good liberal, but there’s only so much outrage I can sustain before it affects my overall mood. I’d rather not spent my day swinging between seething rage and hopelessness; if I’m going to have hopelessness at one end of my emotional spectrum, I’d rather have the other end be something a wee bit more positive, thank you very much. Hence, my social media hiatus. I expect it to last only a couple of weeks.
On another note, I’ve decided that I really like the music of Janelle Monáe (see pic above; if she looks familiar, it’s because she played Mary Jackson in the movie Hidden Figures). Her song “Django Jane” is pretty incredible, even if I’m not necessarily the target audience. Check it out (but beware the explicit language):
At the moment I’m listening to her album The ArchAndroid, which is a neat concept album along the lines of Styx’s Kilroy Was Here: it’s basically a love story about an android and a human. This core conceit may seem trite, but Monáe makes it special, and the whole album ranges from swing to classical to hip hop, all with pop overtones. It streams for free on Amazon Prime, so I suggest you check it out.
The writing is going well. Haven’t sold anything, but I’m doing pretty well on both Padma and The Solitude of the Tentacled Space Monster. I’ve finished my short story “How the Old Ones Saved Christmas” and I’ve made good progress on revising a couple of other stories, and have begun the process of researching the background of a new one.
I’ve pondered setting up a Patreon. It seems like a lot of work, though, depending on what rewards I decide to offer my patrons. If I set one up, would you contribute? That may influence my decision. We shall see.
Anyway, that’s all I’ve got for now. Thanks for reading.
I’m behind on the A-Z blogging challenge. Woefully so. Partially because I’ve been busy; sometimes I write my blog posts during my breaks at work, but lately work has been so busy that I haven’t been able to take breaks. And my evenings have been busy as well, what with my writers’ group and other commitments (that television won’t watch itself, after all). Plus, I just haven’t been sure what to write. So today I decided I was going to use the letter U, and put a call out on Twitter and Facebook for words that begin with U. One response (from my sister) was Ukulele, so that’s the word I chose.
I don’t really have that many thoughts about ukuleles. I like the way they sound when played well. They seem to be popular, especially among nerds, but I don’t really know why. Maybe it’s because of Molly Lewis or Garfunkel and Oates.
I thought briefly about learning how to play the ukulele. There are several musical instruments I’ve thought briefly about learning how to play. When I was young, I took piano lessons, but they were at the same time as my favorite Saturday morning television show, Land of the Lost. This, by the way, is a show that does not hold up upon watching as an adult. Even with scripts by notables such as Larry Niven, Ben Bova, David Gerrold, and so on, the show was clunky and silly. I sometimes regret the life choices I made as a seven year old child. But, on the other hand, the show had time travel, parallel dimensions, aliens, and, of course, dinosaurs, elements that certainly affected my creative proclivities as an adult.
Soon after college, in those “floating years”, I decided to learn how to play the fiddle, because I was entranced with Irish folk music (particularly with the bands Tempest and Golden Bough). I couldn’t afford to pay for lessons, but I did find someone who was willing to teach me in exchange for food. I took a few lessons on an instrument I rented, then ended up delivering pizzas for Pizza Hut and my schedule no longer allowed me to take the lessons. I returned the fiddle, and never played again.
But back to the ukulele. Of all the ukulele players I know of (and, I can count them on one hand) my favorite is, of course, Israel Kamakawiwo’ole. And my favorite song of his is his medley of “Over the Rainbow” and “What a Wonderful World” (the video of which I’m linking to below). Actually, I really can’t listen to this song without crying these days. That’s because I downloaded the song onto my MP3 player about six years ago, and on the day that Tangerine got sick I listened to that song over and over and over and over and over again, especially as I was driving her to the emergency vet for the last time. Even now, as I write these words, I’m starting to get a little weepy. So I’m going to wrap this up. I’ll catch up on the challenge later today.
Update: Well, apparently that’s not actually Jonathan Coulton himself in the video. Just a guy who’s very good at lip-syncing. That’s okay. I still approve.
One of the things I really missed about Dragon*Con this year was Dragon*Con TV, the in-house tv network that shows parody commercials and "bumps" reminiscent of those done by AdultSwim on the Cartoon Network.
Apparently, this year they added music videos to their repertoire. Among those videos was this one of "Re: Your Brains", one of my favorite songs (because it’s got zombies), by one of my favorite singers (Jonathan Coulton). Here it is:
No, I don’t know what it is about zombies that amuses me so much. As a horror trope, they’re overdone to the point of cliche, almost as bad as vampires, and almost every zombie movies has pretty much exactly the same plot: zombies rise up, people defend themselves, lots of people die and get eaten, and at some point a loved one gets turned into a zombie: a spouse, a child, a co-worker, whatever. And as my friend Beth pointed out, my fondness for zombies seems to be at odds with my dislike of the Bush Administration.
I want to thank Jer over at Nyquil.org for introducing me to the music of Imogen Heap. Check out this video:
I’ve always enjoyed songs like this, where one person does all the different parts, becoming, essentially, a one-person acapella group, and Imogen Heap has a lovely voice. I’m now on a hunt to track down more music and videos by her.
Watching Ghost Rider last week and hearing Spiderbait’s cover of Johnny Cash’s "Ghost Riders in the Sky" made me want to dig out the Blues Brothers 2000 soundtrack. In the first Blues Brothers film, you may recall, Jake and Elwood do a cover of "Rawhide" in a cowboy bar; I have that soundtrack, and I like that song a lot.
In Blues Brothers 2000, the generally inferior sequel, Elwood and Mighty Mack (John Goodman’s character) end up in a similar predicament. I can’t recall the specifics, but the song they end up singing is "Ghost Riders in the Sky". When I first saw the film in 1998, I recall being thrilled by that scene; there were great CGI ghost horses galloping across the sky, and there were Dan Aykroyd and John Goodman, two of my favorite comedic actors at the time, singing one of my favorite songs of all time. "Wow," I thought to myself. "I didn’t know John Goodman could sing!" (Of course, I was a much more impressionable 30 years old at the time; now I’m a much more cynical and world weary 39).
So I listened to the soundtrack the other day. Turns out my first instict was actually right. John Goodman can’t sing; or, at least, he couldn’t when they did that cover of "Ghost Riders". And Dan Aykroyd didn’t do such a hot job either. Both of their voices were warbly, and uncertain about the notes. Some of the notes were too low even for John Goodman to hit properly (face it, there was only ever one Johnny Cash). The other songs on that album are pretty good, but I think the first one was probably better.
So, of the three versions of "Ghost Riders in the Sky" that I’ve heard, Johnny Cash’s is, of course, the best.
No killer squirrel reports to pass on today. Things are quiet in the interspecies conflict.