I really couldn't care less about football. For any non-Americans who may happen to stumble on this post by accident, "football" in this context is not the game where you kick the ball with your foot, but one where you throw a ball with your hands. And the game stops every five seconds for reasons that are unclear to me. I cannot comprehend how anyone finds it exciting, but lots of men are obsessed with football and worship football players. I watched one football game in my first semester of college, and that was enough for me. But when I get the chance, I go to Super Bowl watch parties for the food, the commercials, and the company. Even when I was a Mormon and didn't believe that sports were keeping the Sabbath holy, I felt that bonding with friends was a more important consideration. The local YSA bishop evidently feels the same, as he's (unofficially, of course) hosting a watch party for the second year in a row.
I keep hearing about some stupid controversy over Taylor Swift dating a football player and getting too much attention at football games. I won't mind very much if all the footage of the Super Bowl is replaced with Taylor Swift's face. Actually, I'll pay a lot more attention if that happens. I don't know much about her as a person and I'm only a moderate fan of her music. I'd rather listen to any of her songs than watch a football game, but I don't understand why she's the second-most streamed artist in the world. Still, good for her. I remember when she was a teenager singing country songs about boys. When I heard her almost every day on Q Country 102.9, the school bus driver's favorite station, I never imagined how far she'd go. And if she's making MAGAs angry, she must be doing something very right. I think I know what it is. I've heard various things, but I think what really set these terrible people off the most was when she encouraged young women to vote. She didn't tell them how to vote, but it's a given that most young women will not vote for the senile orange fascist. His cult is scared. And it should be. All Americans, whether they realize it or not, will owe Taylor Swift a debt of gratitude if we just get a civil war after he loses instead of the nightmares he'll unleash if he wins.
I've spent most of my break from work adding to my Spotify playlists, bingeing the Muppets, reading a book about the history of psychedelic drugs in religion that so far has taught me more about spirituality and the human condition than 29 years in the LDS Church, celebrating that my asshole roommate is gone for a long while, and trying to get my money back from a scam company. I have plenty of time, and no excuse for not writing a long, thoughtful post except that I don't feel like it. I do feel like reminding people, however, that my humorous science fiction novel is out. I've sold at least three copies, and I don't know how many more because the purchases take over a week to show up. But I need to sell many, many copies, and I have no advertising budget, so I'm going to be a bit of a nuisance about it. This is my lifelong dream and my only hope of escaping from a life of mediocrity and borderline poverty we're talking about here.
ebook - reminder that this option is cheapest but gets me the most money because it has no printing costs.
Now here's a nice underrated song for the new year. Of course, the numbers we attach to dates and times are really meaningless, and nothing is going to magically change at midnight tonight, but celebrate if you want to. Myself, I'm just happy to be at home with no responsibilities and no roommate.
I've completed the final pass through my novel, I just have some more description and other touch-ups to add, and then I hope to get it published by Friday, though that partially depends on whether the artist I hired comes through with the cover in time. If he doesn't, I'll be kind of pissed, but it won't be the end of the world. Anyway, I'm very sleep-deprived even by my standards. A couple of nights ago I had multiple nightmares, and I don't even know why. First, I either woke up and had sleep paralysis or dreamed I had sleep paralysis and then woke up. I imagined a shapeless white ghost thing coming through my window, and then a vague black demon thing standing over me while I couldn't move. I've read about sleep paralysis, and I don't believe in demons in large part because everything that people used to blame on them has been explained by natural phenomena like sleep paralysis, and it only lasted a few seconds, but it was still terrifying. Then I dreamed that lightning struck hundreds of times simultaneously, all over the sky, and I thought about how much it would hurt to get hit by lightning, and I wondered how anyone could survive that, and I remembered that I was more likely to get hit by lightning twice than attacked by a shark, and I decided that if I was going to get hit by lightning twice, I didn't want to live. It's weird how sometimes my thoughts in dreams are entirely coherent like that. It makes me think my brain is still working too hard.
So anyway, this post is basically filler to keep up my goal of writing one every week, and I will continue by mentioning some other things from my Spotify Wrapped that I would have mentioned last week if I hadn't been in a hurry. Spotify said that I'm a "Shapeshifter," and described my listening habits as "eclectic." That's exactly the word I would use to describe it. I also used to use that word for my political philosophy, but then I realized that one side of the spectrum is a much, much, much, much, much bigger problem than the other one. (Hint: it's the one dedicated to fighting against social equality and education.) These were my top five songs, none of which are by my top five artists, because I'm a Shapeshifter.
Cerrone - Supernature
A fun Halloween disco track that clocks in at almost ten minutes but is worth it for the way it starts small and layers instruments on each other to gradually build up to the good part. I like it when songs do that. And that's the closest I'll ever get to sounding like a legitimate music critic. Completely out of nowhere, Duran Duran covered it on a Halloween album just a couple of months ago.
Omega - Gyöngyhajú lány (The girl with pearly hair)
A hauntingly beautiful fantasy song from the sixties that sounds like it must have always sounded old. An English version was released a few years later, but the lyrics are so hard for me to make out that I find it barely more comprehensible than the original Hungarian.
Vogon Poetry - Atomic Skies
A fun song about the Fallout games. If you, like me, have never played the Fallout games, then it still works as a fun song about living in a post-apocalyptic hellscape. We'd better practice having a positive attitude about that sort of thing.
Yarmak - Ragnarok
I encountered this banger as the backing track for a compilation posted in r/ukraine of the Ukrainian military prepping to kick Russia's ass. According to Google Translate, this is what the artist said about the song on YouTube: "These lines were written just a few days before going to war. It contains my entire inner state, and I want to convey this state to every brother. A great battle is ahead, after which not only our country will change, but the whole world as well. This is a real war between the warriors of light and the forces of evil, the battle of angels against demons, people against the dead. Each of us must accept and walk this path. Today, the future of the planet is being created in Ukraine, and we must do everything in our power to defeat the horde of darkness. Perhaps this will give someone motivation, know that I will not only be by your side in song, but also physically at the front with my unit. It's time to return yours! This is not a track, not a composition, not a song - this is a spell of immortality!"
Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit - If We Were Vampires
According to this song, maybe love is more precious because it can't last forever because we're all going to die someday. It was always beautiful to me, but it became more poignant after I lost my faith and had to take it more seriously. I still think it's possible that human identities and relationships will persist after death, but I'm no longer confident of that, and I am confident that whatever the afterlife may look like, Joseph Smith's eternal sex fantasy is not it. I heard this song a lot because I have three versions of it on five playlists - my 2010s playlist, my Halloween playlist, my fall vibe playlist, my nostalgia playlist, and my death playlist. It works on many levels. I just realized that I should also add it to my twue wuv pwaywist.
Everyone cares about my music tastes, right? I hope so, because I'm too busy revising my novel to come up with a blog topic out of thin air. According to Spotify Wrapped, this year I listened to 13,846 artists for 91 days, and these were my top five.
1. The Beatles
I would have discovered the Beatles on my own, but my fondness for them has a lot to do with my parents frequently playing their album "Magical Mystery Tour" when I was young. Granted, when I was really young, it terrified me to hear them sing that the Magical Mystery Tour was coming to take me away, and the creepy animal costumes they wear on the album cover didn't help. But the Beatles deserve the almost universal praise they've received. This year, they topped my list because I listened to all 71 songs of "Live at the BBC," which I hadn't heard before. Also, this year they released what's meant to be their final song, "Now and Then," using new technology to clean up one of John Lennon's demo tapes that they found unusable when they first worked on it in the nineties, then adding parts from the other three Beatles. The song itself isn't mind-blowing, but the fact that I lived to see this day is. I can only imagine how Paul and Ringo, born in the 1940s, must feel about it.
2. Xeen Music
Xeen Music is actually a guy who works with composers to release their soundtracks to early nineties computer games from Sierra Online and other companies, and he gets listed alongside them as an artist. When I found him, I was so overjoyed that I could have kissed him. I didn't play these games in the early nineties, or even know that most of them existed until adulthood, but they fill me with nostalgia for the era of pixels and 8-bit sound. Check him out so these composers can get a few cents for their underrated work.
Roxette were a duo from Sweden that sang about the glories and pitfalls of love, lust, and like. Their female vocalist, Marie Fredriksson, died from cancer four years ago, but Per Gessel has continued an iteration of the band with other singers. My parents played their albums "Look Sharp!" and "Joyride" countless times on car trips to my grandparents' house and back. Because of that, I'm a fan of pretty much all of their songs. Without that exposure, I would probably only be familiar with their songs that have the most streams on Spotify, because I simply don't have the time to check out every song by every artist, even though there must be countless songs with lower stream counts that I would love if I heard them. My life is an unbearable tragedy.
I was introduced to Rammstein in my first semester of college, when I walked into Honors US Institutions a couple of minutes late while the professor was playing the music video for "Amerika." I saw guys with an American flag on the moon and heard an Eastern European language, and my first thought was "Soviet propaganda." I enjoy many of their songs, though I stopped listening to some of them after I learned enough German to realize what they were about. "Amerika" is a harmless satirization of the United States' disproportionate influence on the world's cultures, but in some of their other songs they sing about oral sex, bestiality, incest, child abuse, murder, mass shootings, erotic cannibalism, and/or normal cannibalism. I don't mean to group oral sex in the same moral category as those other things; I just personally find it gross. Anyway, Rammstein are still great because they have loud guitars that sound epic.
5. John Williams
You already know that he did some of the greatest scores of all time for some of the greatest movies of all time. Need I say more?
I spent Thanksgiving at home alone, and honestly, I was fine with that. I really loved being home alone all week without my roommate. He's not even around that much, and he's usually quiet and not annoying when he is, but on a psychological level it just felt so much better to be alone and have total privacy and freedom. On Friday I had ham and potatoes with my neighbor, and that was a good enough feast. I also introduced him to Voyage of the Rock Aliens, and he loved it. I enjoy introducing that movie to people with the preface, "Do you like intentionally bad movies?"
Speaking of watching things, one of the few benefits of substitute teaching is seeing the posters for the plays and concerts that the various high schools are putting on, except for Mountain Crest High School, which sucks butt. So this past week I watched Logan High's performance of "Anything Goes." I was familiar with several of the songs, but I'd never seen the play, and I hesitated like I often hesitate to watch things that I haven't seen and don't already know I'll like, but I needn't have worried because good lord 'n butter it was funny. So funny. Ten stars.
I also watched Disney's 1940s classics Saludos Amigos, The Three Caballeros, and Melody Time. I'd never seen any of them and was only motivated to do so now because I wanted to find more Latin music for my 1940s playlist. All three of them have unskippable warnings at the beginning that "This program includes negative depictions and/or mistreatment of people or cultures" and yadda yadda yadda. In the case of Meloday Time, that's true. The Pecos Bill segment shows Native Americans dancing in war paint, and then the supposed hero just shows up and starts shooting at them, chasing them away so that the paint flies off onto the mountains. I actually saw that last year when I was substituting for the librarian at Canyon Elementary and she had me show part of the Pecos Bill segment as part of a lesson on tall tales. It made me uncomfortable that she didn't see a problem with exposing dumb little white kids to such an insensitive portrayal of a marginalized group with no explanation or context to counterbalance it, but you know, this is Utah, so my initial shock didn't last long.
The other two movies, however, are literally propaganda about how awesome Latin American cultures are. They were made to increase goodwill between the United States and Latin American countries to counter the latter's goodwill toward Nazi Germany. Negative depictions? Mistreatment of people or cultures? I know my opinion on this subject might not mean much, but I honestly don't know what the hell Disney is talking about. And I did think about it. Saludos Amigos has a few goofy-looking (not to be confused with Goofy-looking) cartoon Bolivians, but they aren't racial or cultural stereotypes as far as I can tell, and they're no goofier-looking than plenty of cartoon white people. You know, they're cartoons. The narrator at one point refers to Brazilian music as "strange and exotic," which is obviously kind of tonedeaf, but in context it's not pejorative, and I think a normal person would just roll their eyes and chuckle at it. That's all I could think of. And the warning label on The Three Caballeros is even more baffling. Maybe Donald Duck dancing to Brazilian beats is unacceptable cultural appropriation? At the risk of losing my bleeding-heart liberal card, I really want to tell Disney, "Take your virtue signaling and shove it."
Adding to my confusion, The Three Caballeros does not have a warning about Donald Duck's persistent horniness toward live-action human women. True, his infatuation with Carmen Miranda's sister Aurora is cute and innocent enough, even though the song she sings, Os Quindins de Yaya (Yaya's Cookies), isn't really about cookies. And that segment is my favorite of the movie because the song is really fun, even though it isn't really about cookies.
But then when the three caballeros visit a beach full of women in bathing suits, Donald becomes... less innocent. I mean, all three of them chase the women on their flying carpet - suggesting that despite what they claim in their theme song, they are not gay caballeros - but Donald just keeps going crazy after the other two have had enough. Then the women mess with him and toss him around and stuff, and he probably likes that. This whole segment is like someone's weird fantasy and I don't know why it exists. I'm not complaining, I'm just saying.
Donald's friends eventually have to drag him away from all the women, and he's pissed. (Must resist impulse to joke about the rooster being a cock blocker.) Then he gets infatuated with Carmen Molina (who dances with cacti) and Dora Luz (who is a flower), and then the movie turns into a horny acid trip that didn't warrant a warning either. This was the point at which I said "What the f---?" out loud.
In fairness, Donald isn't the only cartoon character with a problem. In a segment of Melody Time, a rabbit gleefully stares at a human woman's underwear until his rabbit girlfriend smacks him. But at least the woman is also a cartoon, so it's less of an affront to God. Still, this cross-species thing seems to be a fowl trait. Remember Howard Duck? At least now I have more appreciation for his relative self-control and the fact that at least Beverly was also live action.
Then I watched Walt & El Grupo, a documentary about the making of Saludos Amigos that doesn't have a warning label but is rated PG for "historical smoking." You see, everyone shown smoking in footage from the early 1940s is now dead, so smoking is very bad for you. Anyway, this documentary made me cry from how beautiful Brazil is, and now I really want to go there. I don't speak Portuguese, but I can read and understand it passably enough due to its similarities with Spanish. I once read a whole Dog Man graphic novel in Portuguese. My friend Steve just married a woman from Brazil. Incidentally, her visa process took over a year and a half, which is why I support illegal immigration. But anyway, maybe they'd let me be a third wheel when they go back to visit.
Last night, as part of my slog through the entire series that I began over two years ago, I watched three episodes of The Simpsons, including, by sheer coincidence, Thanksgiving of Horror. I found it more unsettling than most of the Treehouse of Horror episodes. The first segment with several of the characters as turkeys being murdered by the other characters was unsettling, and then the second segment where Homer gets a fully conscious AI version of Marge to cook dinner for her was very unsettling because, as he pointed out for comic effect, it's "chillingly plausible." I'm not afraid that conscious machines will kill all humans. I'm afraid for the machines themselves. I felt so bad for AI Marge in her literal prison and existential hell. Creating a conscious entity is literally the most sadistic act I can imagine, and I pray that scientists and programmers never figure out how, because of course they'd do it even though they shouldn't. Actually, that's just one reason why I don't want to have kids.
After that, I also watched the 1985 cult sci-fi movie Lifeforce. It's about an alien energy vampire who takes the form of a gorgeous naked woman for necessary story reasons, hypnotizes her victims, and sucks out their souls, turning them into dessicated zombies that have to suck out other people's souls every two hours or else they'll explode. The dessicated zombie effects are pretty creepy and realistic, contrasting sharply with the CGI spaceships at the beginning, which look like preliminary animatics from an early VeggieTales cartoon. Seriously, I can't believe the filmmakers didn't say "Hey, this looks unbelievably bad; let's just use models like everyone else." Anyway, I have mixed feelings about the story. In some ways it's creative and in some ways it's just ridiculous. But I'm sure people don't watch it for the story as much as they watch it to see Mathilda May naked. It was made by the godless heathens in the UK, so it shows more of her naked body more often than an American film would have. I shudder to think how Donald Duck would have reacted.
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About the Author
C. Randall Nicholson is a white cisgender Christian male, so you can hate him without guilt, but he's also autistic and asexual, so you can't, unless you're an anti-vaxxer, in which case the feeling is mutual. This blog is where he periodically rants about life, the universe, and/or everything.