I hope everyone had a delightful Christmas, as I hope that everyone, Christian or not, is able to enjoy the candy and camaraderie and carols and so on. In this sequel of sorts to last week's post, I address what is widely recognized as a great era for music. The music of very decade prior to the 2010s has its own unique qualities, so it's hard to pick a favorite, but if I have to, it's the eighties. They make me nostalgic for a time I never lived in. Plenty of eighties songs are still loved and repeated, but for unclear reasons, other equally good ones have fallen out of favor and collective memory. I've never heard any of these on a classic hits station even though most of them were rather successful at the time of release. In theory, sharing videos like this instead of writing posts from scratch saves precious vacation time that could be better used to try to get into graduate school and hunt Gold Skulltulas.
We're starting off with something very clever; a song about jazz that isn't a jazz song, as far as I know. I don't know much about music genres or terminology, I just know what I like, but I'm pretty sure this isn't jazz. No further comment, unless "jazz" is actually a euphemism for some kind of drug or weird sex thing, in which case please don't tell me because I don't want to know.
The vast majority Eurythmics songs are underrated. In my opinion their biggest hit, "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)", isn't even in the top five. So it was no easy task to select just one to showcase here, but I settled on the one that was the catalyst for me buying their debut album which was the catalyst for me buying more of their albums. Their debut album was their least successful, but its unique and cool experimental sound makes it my favorite.
An instrumental, electronic version of this song was the demo on a few varieties of Casio keyboard, including the one my parents used to keep under their bed. I yearned for those moments when they let me take it out and push the special button to set it off. As an adult I found the demo online, but stupidly never considered that it might be a real song, until one evening when I was reading "Here There Be Robots" and letting YouTube play in the background and recognized a melody that made me stop in my proverbial tracks.
A better-known song in Australia, but most of my audience isn't in Australia. It's about the invasion of Australia by Europeans, which I think is a bit harsh since most of the Europeans who settled Australia had no say in the matter, but it's touching regardless. Much to the writer's chagrin, in recent years some Australians of European descent used his song to take a stand against the "invasion" of Muslims. It's comforting to know that worthless bigots aren't exclusive to the United States.
A rejected theme song for "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom". Okay, it's actually a joke song made in 2008, but it's more eighties than the eighties so I give it an honorable mention. I'd just as soon play along with the joke and not admit that, but then I'm afraid people would assume I'm stupid.
No comment necessary. (Insert your own quip about none of my comments being necessary here.)
Once upon a time, two songs from the same album rose to great prominence. As the years went by, however, one remained prominent while the other fell into relative obscurity. The former is "Take On Me" and the latter is this one. While I can't bring myself to say that the godlike masterpiece of "Take On Me" is overplayed, since I doubt such a thing is possible, I wish the powers that be would spare just a bit of that time for its underrated brother. Until then, it's just another victim of Luigi Syndrome.
For some reason, the album is titled "Strange Behavior" while the song from which it presumably borrows that title is titled "Strange Behaviour". But I haven't chosen that song anyway, because it's not even one of the better ones on this great album. I recommend this entire great album, but you won't find it on Spotify because something something record label bullcrap.
I pronounce it "duh-PAY-chay mode". If that's wrong, please don't tell me because I don't want to know. This song has nothing to do with the classic Peter Sellers film of a similar name, but when said film gets its inevitable remake, this song had better be in it or the director should never be allowed to work in Hollywood again.
Another Australian song, but with no overt Australian themes (unlike Icehouse's other really great song, "Great Southern Land", which is basically an unofficial national anthem). It gets ten billion points for not rhyming "on my knees" with some variation of "begging please", and another ten billion points for this guy's hair. I'm tempted to grow my hair out just like it, but that's a big decision to make. I need to mullet over for a while.
Information Society is one of the most underrated bands of all time, with at least a dozen songs that deserve to be a lot more popular than they are. This one showcases their fondness for irrelevant Star Trek dialogue samples. The band's debut album from which it is taken was the only one they released in the eighties. They're more of a nineties band, though they started making music again a few years ago, I guess because of Trump. Their sound obviously evolved during that time and in this early offering it's at its simplest, but still powerful.
If I think of any more besides the ones from the same artists that I left out to promote diversity, I'll pull a George Lucas and edit this post, but without telling anyone.
I said "the world", which is a generalization, and I said "seems to have", which means I'm just expressing how things look from my perspective. Maybe it's just because I left New York for planet Utah. So if you remember any or all of these, good for you and sorry for getting your hopes up. In any case, this will provide a brief and welcome respite from Christmas music, won't it? (I like Christmas music. I just need a brief and welcome respite from it.)
OMC - How Bizarre
If memory serves me, this and Del Amitri's "Roll to Me" were constantly on the radio in 1995. I may be conflating 1995 with later years when I was no longer two years old, but what's certain is that I haven't heard this on the radio for a very long time and that's a travesty because it's really, really, really good. Looking at the video now I'm not sure if the crappy greenscreen effects are a stylistic choice or an artifact of 1995.
Fastball - The Way
Similar to how I was first introduced to many, many songs through "Weird Al" Yankovic's parodies and polka medleys, I was first introduced to this song through Gigi D'Agostino's dance remix. It's a surprisingly upbeat interpretation of the true story of an elderly couple who went for got lost on what should have been a short and simple trip and somehow fell down a ravine hundreds of miles from their destination and died.
The Click Five - Just the Girl
Not sure if this is creepy, touching or sad, but it's catchy and when all is said and done that's what really matters in a song, isn't it? Not to be confused with No Doubt's "Just a Girl", which is also great but sounds nothing like it. Articles matter.
Stacie Orrico feat. The Chipettes (Just Kidding) - Stuck
Occasionally, in the right lighting, Stacie Orrico bears an uncanny resemblance to my friend Cece that I haven't mentioned in forever because I haven't seen or talked to her in forever. I'd like to know how she's doing, but she isn't currently responding to my texts and that usually means she's not doing well. Please pray for her.
Howie Day - Collide
Pretty, lilting and wistful, this song was one of those that somehow sounded like nostalgia from the day they were released. Fifteen years later, of course it sounds even more so. In another fifteen years, if I'm still alive, it will be unbearably painful to listen to.
Los Lonely Boys - Heaven
This song was once overplayed to the point of being annoying. As soon as I heard its opening chords I would be like "Come on, play something else already." But after a hiatus of a few years, I'm able to revisit it with fresh ears and overplay it on my own terms.
Mario Winans feat. Enya (Not Kidding) - I Don't Wanna Know
Possibly the greatest hip-hop song in the universe. This is hip-hop, right? I don't know much about music genres, I just know what I like, and this song is light-years ahead of most of the garbage that was being released around that time. Or today, for that matter. Yes, barely into my teenage years I already had a head start on becoming the crotchety old man who hates this generation's music.
In conclusion, there's a lot of underrated music out there, but what's really baffling is when people recognize a song's greatness, make it a hit, and then forget it exists. And on an unrelated note, Merry Christmas Eve Eve Eve.
Okay, I'll give the blathering on about Star Wars a rest. A review of "The Last Jedi" will probably be forthcoming in a few weeks. I'll just say for now that I liked it much better the second time.
Visiting my family in Indiana required getting up at 6 am on Saturday morning. So like most people would do, I set an alarm. But additionally, my brain does this really helpful thing where it likes to wake me up at least an hour before my alarm goes off. And it did that. So after a bit of unpleasant half-sleeping delirium I came to my senses, such as they are, enough to figure that I should check how much time I had left. And the clock said... wait for it... 12:46. So I had probably been asleep for like two minutes. I said to my brain, I said, "Are you ----------------------------------- kidding me??"
I got back to sleep and, sure enough, woke up again. I checked again. Maybe it was almost time. Or maybe it was 2:59. It was 2:59.
"I hate being me," I told God. That was an overstatement, of course, but it was how I felt at the moment.
The third time, I wasn't optimistic, but it was 5:49 and that somehow came as a relief even though I felt like crap. I just wanted to put on a blindfold like Kanan Jarrus and never open my eyes again. How was it possible to be so hungry and so needing to throw up at the same time? Ironically, I felt worse than I did a week later, yesterday, when I went to bed at 10, fell asleep sometime after 1:30, and was woken up at 5:24, aka 3:24 MST. Somehow I got so hot while being unable to sleep that twice I went outside in my underwear and stood with my bare feet in the snow and it felt like a cool spring day. But I digress.
I had to get up so early, in large part, so I could arrive at the airport two hours before my flight to make sure I would have plenty of time to get through security even though it's never taken more than five minutes. But this time it did. This time it took an extra ten minutes. When my laptop didn't come out of the scanner with the rest of my stuff, I knew something was up. When the TSA guy carried it over to another station and asked "Whose laptop is this?" I knew something was up. When he gestured me over to him with a couple fingers and pointed to the external hard drive enclosure duct taped to the top of it and asked "What's that?" I knew something was up. He said that for future reference it looks suspicious to have something taped to a laptop in an airport and their explosives expert would have to look at it. That was fine with me, as I had nothing to hide, but I started to get a little worried that they would confiscate it anyway like they did my toothpaste one time, and then they may as well just shoot me too because it has my tens of thousands of songs that took years to accumulate.
It was nice of the people at both airports to let me through with my expired ID. There was an officer at one of them who looked like Will Smith. I wanted to get a picture of him, but I might have gotten in trouble. I traveled all day, had the usual delays, and got to Indiana around 9 pm EST. It was another hour to the house and then I was ready for bed. And right as I got out of the car I remembered the trains that pass like twenty feet from my parents' house several times a day and night and always blow their horns. I used to like trains. On a more positive note, the next morning it was once again nice to attend a congregation not completely full of white people. Don't get me wrong, most of my best friends are white, but it just gets stifling when that's all I'm ever surrounded by, you know? Because it was Christmas Eve, somebody thought it would be a good idea to sing like eight hymns. I opted out of all the extra ones because I was tired. The black Baptist convert behind us complained that we had ruined the tunes, and she wasn't wrong.
So, the fifty degrees of winter thing the previous and only time I'd visited Indiana turned out to be a fluke. It was very cold. One day I walked a couple miles from the house and on the return trip my fingers felt like they had been hacked off. I have gloves, I just don't know where they are. But it was sunny! I was asked to post some pictures and bring the sunshine back to Utah! So here are some pictures and I got a pocketful of sunshine which, as anyone in Logan can attest, is being put to good use. It wasn't too terribly cold some days, but one day I went for a walk and my fingers felt like they'd been hacked off. I have gloves somewhere, I just don't know where they are. I hope I got enough pictures to satisfy the person who requested pictures.
Trains that were very hard to photograph through the trees
As Douglas Adams famously wrote in "Last Chance to See", here be chickens
My parents have the best kind of neighbors
A church we don't go to
Bustling city stuff
My scary friend Mackenzie is starting to sound even more like a mob boss
I knew what she meant the first time, of course, but I like messing with her. My advice to her and anyone else hiring someone to take me out is make sure you're not talking to an undercover cop by mistake. I saw that on TV once. It was real, filmed with a hidden camera in the cop's car, and this woman was hiring him to shoot her husband and he was playing Satan and trying to goad her into being more evil. He was like, "You know, sometimes when I shoot people, it takes them a long time to die and they suffer a lot. Does that bother you?" And she was like, "I don't care, I don't care, I just want him gone. Ohhh, I'm gonna sleep good tonight." You can spot undercover cops because they never actually drink the beer. Wait, wrong setting. You're on your own then.
My parents have a few books
I took the time to read some of them and record my thoughts.
"Lost Race of Mars" by Robert Silverberg. Written in 1960, set in the distant future of 2017, where the colonists on Mars still use film cameras and paper mail. I'd trade digital cameras and email for a colony on Mars. We haven't even put a person on Mars, which is pathetic and inexcusable. We should have done it decades ago. Would we even be able to get emails on Mars? Could they set up the internet infrastructure between here and there? But hey, at least we have fidget spinners, amiright?
"Peanuts Classics" by Charles Schultz. This one is mine. I don't remember it having a broken binding and a brown stain all the way through. Let's see... oh, I know all these comics by heart even though I haven't read them in who knows how long. I read them so many times and yet I never really understood how great some of them are.
"From First Date to Chosen Hate" by Brenton G. Yorgason. Oh, "Mate". Right, I always read that wrong the first time. It's not the best font. Well, maybe I ought to read this famous book. Plot twist: it's for Australians wanting to escape the matezone. "Hooley dooley! So you've come the raw prawn with another true blue Sheila and she's dobbed she just wants to be mates? Do you just cop it sweet and hope she'll be apples, or bugger that for a joke? Fair suck o' the sav!" etc. 1977? Then it should be good for a few laughs. I'm sure it's very... dated. Hum de dum. Oh, so dating sucked even before millennials ruined it? So much for my... romanticizing the past. Creative date ideas - skip! Satan's deceptions - skip! Getting engaged - skip! Oh, look, it's available on archive.org and I just wasted my time reading the hard copy instead of something else! Well, it was very dated but it did have some good stuff. I recommend modern readers to supplement it with "Modern Romance" by Aziz Ansari and "Animal Behavior" by John Alcock.
"Happy Valley Patrol" by John "Blitz" Krieg, pseudonym for Robert Kirby. This book has seen better days. The binding is all but gone and at least a quarter of the pages are not connected to anything. I didn't do it, though I have read it many times. It's a collection of the eponymous newspaper column about Kirby's time as a police officer in Utah, and I love it because it makes fun of two things that I love making fun of: the human race and Provo. And it's just as hilarious this time around.
I also read through all my Tintin books that my sister is keeping safely for safekeeping. I hadn't read them since before I started college, and now I get more of the jokes and references. Hergé truly was a rare breed of genius, which would explain why most Americans don't appreciate him. If you haven't read Tintin, do so; you won't be sorry unless you have no taste. If you want to be thorough you can start from the actual beginning with the mediocre "Tintin in the Land of the Soviets" and the racist "Tintin in the Congo", but it's probably better to just start with the sanctioned volumes and come back to those for thoroughness after you're hooked.
The Mormon Section
A noble crusader against injustice has brought to light that in the last five years, twenty Holocaust victims were posthumously baptized by various Mormons in violation of LDS Church policy, sparking another round of complaints about baptizing dead people without consent. One should always obtain a dead person's consent before performing an ordinance that will either unlock their path to salvation or have no affect on them whatsoever. And it is, of course, incredibly selfish and thoughtless for Mormons to spend time baptizing people who will never be on the membership records, pay tithing, or help a church ball team. How would we feel if someone did it to us? I, for one, would be outraged if I were dead and a Muslim or a Hindu or a Rastafarian did something they thought would help me get into heaven. In fact, there's a website called "All Dead Mormons Are Now Gay" which purports to make that happen, and you can guess how much that upsets me by how many times in my life I've mentioned it. (This is the first time in my life I've mentioned it.) Why doesn't every religion just do this for everyone, and then we'll all have all our bases covered?
Several Jewish leaders take this practice personally because it reminds them of the long history of Jews being forced to convert to Christianity or die. That's understandable (even though, as people keep pretending to forget, Mormon teachings state that dead people are free to accept or reject the ordinance). The LDS Church is under no legal obligation to stop the baptizing of Holocaust victims, but does so as a gesture of good will. Most of the people feigning self-righteous indignation over the very few who slipped through the system are atheists who believe that Holocaust victims ceased to exist as soon as they were murdered. That in their lives, millions of lives, the Nazis permanently and irrevocably won. And these complaints about baptizing dead people without consent ring just a little hollow coming from them. And do they care one iota about Jewish religion or culture at any other time? A random teeny little hunch tells me probably not. Some people need to grow up.
The world has survived year one of Drumpf's presidency. True, he didn't accomplish much worthwhile, and he consistently refused to behave in an intelligent or dignified manner befitting a nation's leader (which comes as a surprise to no one), but he hasn't started a nuclear war yet despite his best efforts so I say we should count our blessings. I look forward to blogging for another year, and striving to please my loyal fans, unless of course I unexpectedly die and move beyond this vale of tears, which would be even better. I suppose it's also possible that Daesh will cut off my hands. That would really suck. I will surely face many challenges in this coming year, and just as surely God will bring me through them as He always has in the past, as undeserving as I am. I don't stress nearly as much about them now. So there's that.
George Harrison - Ding Dong
There aren't a lot of New Year's songs. That means there also aren't a lot of good ones. Enter George Harrison's "Ding Dong", which ought to be a lot more famous than it is, and might become a tradition with me since this is the second time I've shared it.
Will you permit me to be shockingly vulnerable and risk total humiliation for a moment? I regret to inform everyone that my mental health has deteriorated farther and more rapidly than I ever imagined was possible. I can't trust myself anymore and neither should anyone else. Frankly, I'm scared. There's no telling what I might do or whether I even truly have a say in the matter. I don't know how this happened, or why I failed to notice, but now that it's far too late for me to seek help I've finally gotten a red flag too blatant to ignore. Recently I re-watched "The Star Wars Holiday Special" for the first time in many years and I... well... I... I liked it. I thought it was interesting and exciting and hilarious. I understood for the first time where the writers were coming from and how they could have maybe not thought it would be impossibly terrible. I'm not going to argue that it isn't impossibly terrible. It is. But I don't care anymore. I'm so sorry.
Maybe I'm overreacting. It could just be really, really bad hormones. After all, my pregnancy test came back positive.
It must have been conceived by the will of the Living Force. You know, the mini-chlorines.
I binge-watched "The Clone Wars" again too, and it often made me sad, and I loved that. When dealing with reality, virtually anything that makes me sad goes a step further and triggers depression, which is entirely different and sucks. Sadness is a healthy and normal emotion, depression is not. And sadness is so many light-years removed from depression that it literally feels good by comparison. And because the suffering and death in these cartoons is fictional, it doesn't trigger the depression, and I can just cry like a normal person. Some episodes are like a laxative for tears. In one [SPOILER ALERT], a person very close to Obi-Wan Kenobi was murdered in front of him, and while I wasn't particularly attached to her, I am particularly attached to Obi-Wan, and so (even though I'd seen it before) I felt his pain vicariously, felt my own heart stop at the sight of his gaping mouth as the lightsaber skewered her, and as they spoke to each other of their forbidden and unsatiated love for the last time I cried for his loss and it was great.
And really, this prequel era is incredibly dark. The whole business of manufacturing millions of humans to follow orders and be cannon fodder, while the supposed guardians of truth and righteousness just play along with it, is dark enough in the movies alone. But these cartoons show time and time again that these clones have individual personalities, feelings, and self-selected names. They love each other as brothers. That makes it so much worse. In one story arc near the end of the series [SPOILER ALERT], one clone discovers that they all have chips in their heads that at some point will make them kill the Jedi, their best friends, and he tries to tell everyone but Palpatine frames him as unstable and dangerous and he becomes a fugitive from justice and everyone thinks he's insane and the other clones feel forced to kill him and the secret dies with him. It's dark and tragic and creepy and awful and I love it. And what about how even the most expendable droids are programmed to feel pain and fear death? The battle droids' comic relief is downright disturbing if you think about it too much.
There was also a story arc about slavery that was probably the most disturbing of all because it wasn't very fictional. Anakin's old master Watto was relatively kind, but this arc showed how much worse it could be. It started off innocently enough with the usual violence. And of course there was the usual humor as Ahsoka rolled her eyes at Anakin sweet-talking the Zygerian Queen to gain her confidence. And then a slave girl attempted to assassinate the Queen, and Anakin stopped her, and the Queen said she would have to be "processed" again to teach her submission, and she became horrified and jumped off the balcony rather than go through that again. Whoa. And then the heroes themselves were exposed and pressed into slavery and it was awful which was great. I probably sound like a sociopath. It's just that in my opinion, suffering and tragedy are what makes compelling stories. There has to be a balance, of course - there has to be humor and love and hope and goodness - but without darkness there can be no meaningful light.
And have you ever realized that the bad guys won in every single prequel movie? In Episode I, the Sith took over the Senate and found Anakin. The outcome of the Battle of Naboo really didn't matter. In Episode II, the Sith orchestrated a war to give them even more power. The outcome of the Battle of Geonosis really didn't matter. This is what's known as a Xanatos gambit, where any possible outcome is a victory for the villain, and Palpatine was a master of those. Yoda said it himself: "Victory? Master Obi-Wan, not victory. The shroud of the Dark Side has fallen. Begun, this Clone War has." Dun dun dun. And then of course in Episode III the Sith seduced Anakin, exterminated the Jedi and renamed the Republic the Empire, but that one's obvious. (And it really was little more than a renaming. In "The Clone Wars" we see that the Republic has already drifted far from being "the good guys". Which is awesome.) So the bad guys won in four out of six original Star Wars movies, which is one of the gutsiest moves of any franchise ever.
On Tuesday I became the last person in the world to see "The Last Jedi", as my workplace generously provided tickets for everyone as its Christmas party. Once again, it was worth waiting a few more days because free is better than not free and the fewer people in the theater, the better. I'm grateful that no one spoiled it for me because I've never killed anyone on purpose and hope to keep it that way. So, maybe I'll review it at some point but for now I'll just say that in my judgment it was better than "The Force Awakens" and not as good as "Rogue One". Serious props for its originality, though I wish they'd put in more familiar aliens like Rodians and Twi'leks to make these newer Star Wars movies feel more like Star Wars movies. Oh, and maybe you'll hate me for this, but BB-8 is at least as ridiculous as Jar Jar Binks. Still, it was great to witness the continued adventures of the Rebellion's, I mean Resistance's diversified millennial cast in their struggle against the forces of Discount Palpatine, Emo Boy, and Ginger Hitler. Will they prevail, or be annihilated? Only time will tell...
I didn't mean to write all that stuff about Star Wars, but it just kind of happened. I'm not sorry.
The other night I heard some people right next to me being matchmakers for a couple of other people. They didn't want these other people to find out that they were pulling all the strings, yet none of them thought to ask, let alone bribe me to stay quiet about it. I'm still undecided on whether to issue demands or just spill my guts because I can. You know, I got roped into being a matchmaker once in high school and decided that, as much as I like playing God with other people's lives, it wasn't really my thing. Quinn was like, "Find out if Samantha likes me, but don't tell her I like her." And then Samantha was like, "Find out if Quinn likes me, but don't tell him I like him." And that was stressful. The only way I saw to half-meet both of their requests was to lie and be like "Well, I think he/she likes you, but I'm not positive..." And I hate abandoning my integrity for free.
My dear friend serving in the Nigeria Enugu Mission of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints recently wrote to me:
As you can imagine, it does my heart good to read such words. They validate the conventional wisdom that the LDS Church is doing very well in West Africa. This year, in particular, it has been expanding into unreached areas of many countries in an unprecedented way, and Nigeria is one of them. Of course this guy doesn't go into much detail here about why the work is going very well and being directed, though he mentioned in an earlier email that he had a baptism already as soon as he started. I will continue inquiring. It's very exciting to me to have a personal proverbial finger on the pulse of these happenings in one of my favorite areas of the world that I may never get to visit. This is a great young man, I love him dearly and I'm happy that he's having such a good time.
Self-Referential Rambling that Probably No One Cares About
This has been an exceptionally good week in the self-promotion department, and I'm sorry if this stuff holds no interest for anyone but it bring sunshine into my life so I'm going to write about it. I have an unsolicited blurb for this blog now. I didn't know where to put it other than the sidebar that most people never see because the mobile version of the site puts it at the bottom, so here it is too. Amelia Whitlock, whom I am not giving a pseudonym because that would defeat the purpose of using her quote (with permission) as a blurb, wrote, "Chris's blog is the stuff of legends. If you're ever looking for a good read, check this out!" So then of course I felt like
I could swear I've found this GIF before, but now I couldn't and had to make it myself. A word of advice: if you ever search for "bugs bunny gif", make sure SafeSearch is on. Please take my word for it. I still want to claw out my retinas. But I also realize that since I enjoyed the Star Wars Holiday Special, I'm in no position to judge anyone else's tastes. Anyway, I think Amelia started a chain reaction. The next day Allison mentioned that she had become aware of my blog and hoped to read it and then we could discuss it. That was nice, but I didn't think too much of it and assumed in my selfishness that if she really wanted very badly to read it she would have already done so. I saw her again the next day, and knew I should play it cool and wait at least a week before asking her if she had read my blog. To my pleasant surprise, she sought me out and started gushing about how great my blog was.
Then Alice, who had never spoken to me before or deigned to respond to my Facebook request one way or another, came up to me and said "Chris, word on the street is that you -" and I thought Oh crap. She was smiling, but I couldn't tell if she was being sadistic or just friendly. My eyes darted around for escape pods just in case. Was my past catching up to me? Why must I continue to be punished for poor decisions made with a younger and less experienced mind for which I have fully repented? "- have a blog," she finished. I love how she said it like it was some kind of impressive rare accomplishment. So that was nice. But who told her about it? "Allison," she said.
So I confronted Allison again. "Yeah, sorry, I'm just so excited that I'm telling everyone I know about your blog," she said. "Is that all right?"
In truth, I hate it when people read the personal, private stuff that I put on the internet, and was rather alarmed to hear this, but I didn't want her to feel bad. So I told her I check every day how many views my site has gotten and the higher, the better. (Incidentally, it's been good lately always dips around Christmastime. Yesterday it was below three hundred for the first time all month. Sad.)
"Oh, then let's see if we can get it to spike a little," she said.
"I should pay you," I said, hoping she would say no.
"You can pay me in friendship," she said. And that crushed my other hopes a little, because what I really wanted was to just throw her away like a used napkin as soon as she had served her purpose, but I guess just being friends is fine too. Just kidding about that first part. Really.
So that was the best evening in a long time, for those and a couple other reasons, and then of course I was punished for being too happy with an extra couple hours of insomnia, but it was worth it. And now I feel like
Today is Christmas Eve. Tomorrow is Christmas. I feel like I should be saying more about that, but what is there to say, really? You know what Christmas is, you know what it's about, and I've already used up my non-cynicism quota for this year. So just enjoy the peace and love and stuff.
The Muppets - One More Sleep 'Til Christmas
"The Muppet Christmas Carol" is one of the greatest movies ever, and I had been planning for some time to share a different song from it as kind of a passive-aggressive message to the world, but as things have panned out with it now being Christmas Eve, this one is more appropriate, so here it is instead. Steve Whitmire at his best.
I have noticed that non-Muslim Americans, even those who love and support Muslims, often make the mistake of thinking that Islam is a race or nationality. Something "other", in other words. In truth, Muslims can be as white and/or American as anyone else. They're just normal people. And while they certainly deserve their reputation for being devout, far more so than Christians in many cases, they have other pursuits and interests just like everyone else. I thought about this recently when I watched "Rogue One" again and noted that, since it was partially filmed in Jordan, the credits listed several Jordanian people of whom the vast majority are undoubtedly Muslim. And Riz Ahmed, the rapper who was so eager to play defecting Imperial pilot Bodhi Rook that he sent in ten audition tapes, is a Muslim. I hope this doesn't sound patronizing. I only wish to tear away some of the "otherness" that many of us ascribe to Muslims without even realizing it.
So it got me thinking, what is it about Star Wars that transcends cultural and religious differences, that appeals to Muslims as well as Christians or atheists or whoever else? Of course, all of the above enjoy the action sequences and cool aliens and so forth as much as the next guy, but I think there's a deeper reason than that, especially for people as devout as most Muslims who weave worshiping God into every day of their lives. In my futile and long since aborted quest to collect all the Star Wars books that existed, I got "The Episode I Scrapbook". It was full of pictures and trivia and it had a behind the scenes section with a couple quotes from George Lucas that I think speak to why Star Wars is so universally appealing and enduring.
"The Force evolved out of various developments of character and plot. I wanted a concept of religion based on the premise that there is a God and there is good and evil. I began to distill the essence of all religions into what I thought was a basic idea common to all religions and common to primitive thinking. I wanted to develop something that was nondenominational but still had a kind of religious reality. I believe in God and I believe in right and wrong. I also believe that there are basic tenets which through history have developed into certainties, such as 'thou shalt not kill.' I don't want to hurt other people. 'Do unto others...' is the philosophy that permeates my work."
"The first film simply sets up Anakin as a sweet kid, which is what we have to do - say, 'First of all, he's just like you and me. He's a nice little kid and he wasn't evil.' A lot of people got very upset and wanted him to be an evil little kid that went around pulling wings off flies, as if that would explain everything. But then where does the story go? The point is not that you are born evil - the thing that makes the film work ultimately is the fact that he is a good kid, trying to be a good kid, and he grows up to be a good kid. It's simply that his emotions take him places he can't control. He becomes evil out of his own ambition and greed, and revenge and hatred - all those things that kids face."
And virtually all of those books are now non-canon anyway. Goodbye, Dave Wolverton's masterpiece "The Courtship of Princess Leia". No more of Han gloating, "Kiss my Wookiee!" No more of Luke threatening, "Take your hands off her or I will take your hands off you." No more of C-3PO singing, "Han Solo, what a man, Solo, he's every Princess's dream!" I hope great lines like these will at least be reincorporated into future movies. The Nightsisters of Dathomir did get used in "The Clone Wars" series, at least, resulting in an utterly ridiculous but thoroughly awesome storyline.
Star Wars is a subgenre of science fiction called space opera, which is sort of grand and sweeping and larger than life. Viewing it as a work of art as much as a story has helped me tolerate some of the more ridiculous elements, like technobabble and single-biome planets and blockades of only three ships and old friends running into each other in a galaxy of over a quadrillion people, while still appreciating the internal logic and consistency and depth of everything else. So many planets and characters and species and ships and droids and stories... it's got to be the largest franchise in the history of ever. And I'm blessed to have been born into the small window of human history when it exists. But the absolute most ridiculous thing that I can't get over is in "The Force Awakens" when Han uses the hyperdrive to get past the third Death Star's, I mean Starkiller Base's shield and then slows down before hitting the planet. Light travels at 300,000 kilometers per second. The Millennium Falcon was going faster than that. Either from hitting the planet or decelerating so abruptly, it would have been pulverized to atoms.
Now that Star Wars movies are being released in December I have to write about them and Christmas at the same time, and there's only so many ways to tie them together. Is there Christmas in the Star Wars galaxy? Their equivalent is generally considered to be "Life Day", first revealed in 1978's really really really bad "Star Wars Holidy Special", a holiday that Wookiees celebrate by covering their nudity with red robes and evidently taking some kind of psychedelic drug so they can walk through space into a star and listen to Princess Leia sing while she's so coked up that her eyes are pointing in opposite directions like a chameleon and she has to hold onto Chewbacca to stay standing. But the special was actually aired (one and only time) around Thanksgiving, not Christmas.
The 1980 album "Christmas in the Stars", in addition to giving a young Jon Bon Jovi his debut on one track, revealed that the Star Wars galaxy has Christmas as well. Not that it's saying a lot, but this album is scads better than the Holiday Special and I actually like it and recommend it to everyone without apology. You don't want to miss Artoo beeping along to the tune of "Sleigh Ride" as Threepio teaches him to sing, or a bunch of droids pondering the age-old question of what to get a Wookiee for Christmas when he already owns a comb. (I shared that a couple years ago here.) In the end [SPOILER ALERT] it is revealed that Santa's brother helps him deliver toys because the galaxy is too big for him to do it on his own.
Why do we spend so much effort making movies where the entire point is that Santa Claus is real and the skeptics need to have faith when Santa Claus is not, in fact, real? I think it's because Santa Claus should be real. In a just world, Santa Claus would be real. Because Santa Claus is second only to Jesus as an embodiment of all that is good and right and noble. But if we cultivate these attributes in ourselves, and keep them alive not just at Christmastime but all year round, then Santa Claus is real in a lame metaphorical not real sense.
One of my bishopric members really wanted to read my book, providing an opportunity to see how the more chronologically advanced Mormon demographic will receive it. So far he has been thrilled and not bothered by the thematic elements, cynical critiques of the human condition, or references to evolution. He says he learned some new words for the golf course; "Fardles" and "Space spit" (affectionate homages to Anne McCaffrey's "Dinosaur Planet" and R.L. Stine's "Space Cadets" series, respectively).
Originally I used real swear words, mainly because "The Outsiders" didn't and it totally ruined my suspension of disbelief. "We'll kill each other with broken beer bottles, but we won't swear or talk about sex, no matter how contrived this makes our dialogue at times. Also, we have names like Soda Pop and Pony Boy." So I was just being realistic. But then I read an interview with Dave Wolverton, who was asked how his Mormon faith influenced his writing and said in part: "When I first started writing, I was trained by my professors to try to create natural sounding voices (so if people swear, then you should swear), and I started realizing that I was really not being true to myself. Just because people swear doesn't mean I need to do it in my writing. I decided after my first novel to sort of back off on that, and I've noticed that a lot of other fine bestselling authors do the same - they don’t use any profanity at all." I figured that probably no one would read it because of the swearing, but people might not read it because of the swearing. So I fixed that. Though the concept of having words in our language that we're not supposed to say is still stupid to begin with.
I hope Star Wars doesn't steal all my ideas. "The Force Awakens" had me a little worried when the Millennium Falcon's escape from Tatooine, I mean Jakku, bore somewhat of a resemblance to a similar escape in my book.
Rebel Force Band - Living in These Star Wars
The original Star Wars movie was supposed to be timeless, but the myriad third-party attempts to cash in on it, including at least a score of disco or pop covers of the main theme (with the one by Meco charting at number one), were forever rooted in 1977-8. This band went a little too far with this album. They thought that Lucasfilm wouldn't sue them if they wrote the final S in "Star Wars" backwards, but they were wrong. Forty years later and like most of the others it's long since become public domain. I like it not just for its "camp" charm but legitimately as good music. Sue me. With gems like "Don't Fall in Love With an Android" and "Chewie the Rookie Wookie [[sic]", how could I not?
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C. Randall Nicholson
This is where I occasionally rant about life, the universe, and/or everything. I'm a white cisgender male and a Latter-day Saint, so you can hate me without guilt, but I'm also autistic, so you can't. Unless you're an anti-vaxxer, in which case the feeling is mutual. Please don't make sweeping assumptions about my views based on one or two posts (hint: the Democrat and Republican parties can both go back to hell). Don't assume I'm always angry just because I try to use hyperbole for comedic effect. If you disagree with something I write, try expressing your point of view in a comment instead of getting offended and never reading my blog again. And please don't judge all Latter-day Saints by my shortcomings.