Thursday was the first time since 2019 that I made it up to my grandfather's house for Thanksgiving. Although I had a great time, afterward of course I waxed nostalgic and depressed about how those three years have zipped by and how much has transpired within them, good and bad. Back then it was my grandmother's house too. Back then nobody had heard of Covid-19. Back then the girl next door hadn't yet sent the police after me. Back then I hadn't even applied to graduate school. Back then I had zero nieces instead of two. And when all is said and done, back then I was three years younger. Not that I'm old, but I'm significantly closer to the end of the prime of my life than the beginning. After thirty-five, if I'm lucky, I'll spend the rest of my life physically deteriorating. That seems like a really perverse ratio to me. A majority of people in developed nations - not me, I'm sure, given my state of health, but a majority - can reasonably expect to live into their eighties or beyond. So in my view, they shouldn't start actually being old until they turn sixty or thereabouts. They shouldn't start losing their hair or their eyesight or their bladder control until then. But nobody asked me.
Getting old is going to be a major theme of Indiana Jones 5, which is one of the things I'm grateful for this year. Of course I'm being a little premature because it might suck, but I'm confident that it will be at least moderately entertaining and that I'll prefer its existence to its nonexistence. Give me a few chases and explosions and I'll be happy. It will be set in 1969, the year my dad was born. It's going to heavily feature the moon landing and the Nazis who ran the American space program. (On the one hand, casting Nazis as the villains again feels ridiculous, but on the other hand, Nazis are still villains in real life and it will be more cathartic than ever to watch them get what they deserve, which, in case I wasn't clear enough, is death. Nazis deserve death.) I hope it also touches on the Stonewall riots, the civil rights movement, anti-Vietnam War protests, and second-wave feminism, just so the people who complain about everything being too "woke" will have aneurysms when they watch it. But I digress. Indiana Jones is canonically 70 years old in this movie (though Harrison Ford is pushing 80, and is older than George Hall was when the latter portrayed 93-year-old Indy in the highly underrated Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, which shows that at least people are aging better than they used to even if they still spend most of their lives looking old). He's an old man in a time of immense change and upheaval and as he approaches retirement, he's becoming obsolete.
This angle is especially interesting to me in light of the character's origins. He is, of course, based on the action heroes from old adventure serials and was never meant to be taken altogether seriously, yet he's always been a little more realistic than them. He gets hurt and he gets tired while they never did. He's firmly a product of the 1930s and 40s just as they were, yet unlike them, he stuck around and aged through subsequent decades, and that's just cool to me. Meta, almost. And Disney has promised not to recast him or reboot the series with a different actor. When Harrison Ford is done, Indiana Jones is done (even though he's already been portrayed at different ages by multiple other actors - the aforementioned George Hall as well as River Phoenix, Corey Carrier, and Sean Patrick Flanery). So more than likely his goddaughter Helena, introduced in this upcoming movie, will get her own spinoff series instead, and the people who complain about everything being too "woke" will weep and wail and gnash their teeth that this icon of masculinity has been replaced by a woman. I see no downside, though. If her series sucks I can just pretend it doesn't exist. I don't anticipate that, though, because as long as it gives me a few chases and explosions I'll be happy.
Another thing I'm grateful for, one that's actually been released, is the first season of the Star Wars series Andor. Now again, because I have very low standards, I found Book of Boba Fett and Obi-Wan Kenobi worth watching, but in some ways they were disappointing. They fell short of their potential. Andor is just phenomenal in every respect - great plot, great characters, great dialogue, great music. It dares to be original instead of nostalgia bait - so much so, in fact, that the first three episodes didn't feel like Star Wars to me and were hard to get into, but once I got used to it, hoo-boy it was great. So much political intrigue, but done better than the prequel movies (which I also liked), punctuated periodically by just the right amount of action. Likeable villains, despicable protagonists, and just regular people trying to make it in the galaxy with no Force and no lightsabers. Great debates and doublespeak and monologues. Electronic music that sounds more modern and different than the usual scores, but works beautifully. And the thinly-veiled parallels to real life give the people who complain about everything being too "woke" a lot to complain about, so that's a plus. I recommend it to everyone because I've seen multiple people say that they're not really into Star Wars but they love this show. They say it's just a great show, period.
Last but not least, I'm grateful now and always for music, my love, my drug, my lifeblood, my precious, my escape from whatever disappointments or existential horrors life can throw at me. I hope and pray that whatever happens as I age, I won't lose my hearing. Which means that I probably will because God doesn't seem very concerned about what I want.
One of the best things my parents ever did for me was play New Age music to set the mood almost every Sunday morning instead of boring church music. I've loved it ever since and recently came to the realization that although I appreciate all genres, this one might be tied with metal and eighties as my favorite, if eighties counts as a genre, which right now I say it does. But if you were to ask me what New Age music actually is, I would say something lame like, "Uh, it's usually instrumental, but not classical, and sometimes it's not instrumental. And a lot of it is Celtic-influenced but a lot of it isn't." I know because that's more or less what I said once when someone did ask me. I don't know how to talk about music, I just know how to listen to it. According to Wikipedia, however, New Age music is a pretty vague umbrella term after all, with two competing definitions: it can be "music with an ambient sound that has the explicit purpose of aiding meditation and relaxation, or aiding and enabling various alternative spiritual practices, such as alternative healing, yoga practice, guided meditation, or chakra auditing," or it can be "[m]usic found in the new-age sections of record stores.... more of a marketing slogan rather than musical category." So that makes me feel less stupid.
New Age or New Age-adjacent artists that featured in my childhood included 2002, Acoustic Alchemy, Ayman, Cusco, David Arkenstone, Diane Arkenstone, Enya, Gandalf, Hennie Bekker, John Adorney, Loreena McKennitt, Mannheim Steamroller, Suzanne Ciani, Vangelis, and Yanni. Of these, David Arkenstone was by far most frequently in rotation. My parents had most of his CDs released from 1990-2000 and a couple of more recent ones. He alone showcases the diversity of so-called New Age music. To date, including collaborations, he has released ninety-nine albums drawing influence from cultures all over the world. I guess now that's cultural appropriation, but I don't care because good music is good music. He's criminally underrated. He's been nominated for five Grammies and I think it's a travesty that he didn't win any of them. I don't know who did win them because I don't pay attention to that sort of thing, but maybe there should just be more Grammies to go around in the first place. In my book he's tied with John Williams and Koji Kondo as the greatest composer of all time. He certainly deserves to be the most streamed artist in the world more than Ed Sheeran does. He even has an objectively cool-sounding name and in his younger years he could have gotten the lead in The Chosen with his beard and long hair.
A while ago - I thought it was earlier this year but realized today that it was last December, which just goes to show how my life is exponentially slipping away - I joined his Facebook group and got some stuff in the mail. OMG, a childhood hero wrote my name.
He actually interacts with people in the group, not always in the timeliest manner, but still, OMG, a childhood hero spoke to me.
In conclusion, I urge everyone who isn't familiar with his music to rectify that situation ASAP. If I have to recommend just one of his albums, difficult though that is, I'll go with Citizen of the World (1999) because it earned a Grammy nomination and showcases several different cultural appropriations, I mean influences. If you don't love it, I'm still right and you're wrong.
The Gypsy Camp
I've shared this track on the blog before because when I first heard the Gerudo Valley theme from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, it sounded to me like an inferior pastiche of this one. Don't worry, I got over that and learned to love them both.
Land of the Tiger
Carried Away Across the Sea
Temple of the Pharaoh
Into the Dreamtime
This is by far the most popular track of the album on Spotify for some reason, the only one with the six-digit streams that the others also deserve.
Last week I went to a haunted house attraction for the first time. I went in with a larger than average group and they warned us that it would be better with smaller groups, but none of us wanted to split up. So maybe that's why I didn't find it very scary, but I don't think the concept itself is scary anyway. When you go to a place like this, your whole intention is for people in costumes to jump out at you in the dark and yell. You know they're going to do it, you know they're not even allowed to touch you, and you know the chainsaw isn't real because that would be a million dollar lawsuit waiting to happen. (The sawdust smell was a nice touch, though.) Some mystery remains as to the precise moments when the people in costumes will jump out at you in the dark and yell, and I did get startled a couple of times, but most of the element of surprise is gone. So I don't know why people find it scary enough to yell back. It's like in the remake of "When a Stranger Calls" (I haven't seen the original) when the protagonist finds the maid's body in the fish pond and you're supposed to be shocked even though you guessed it forty-five minutes ago.
Mind you, that's just my thought on the concept and not a criticism of this particular establishment, which had fascinating costumes and decor and atmosphere and was fun regardless. But then I'm not sure why humans go to a place to get scared for fun either. I'm not sure why activating the primal instinct that tells us we're going to die if we don't get the hell out of here is a source of pleasure. I've heard that it's cathartic to exercise this primal instinct in a controlled environment where we know we're not in real danger, and I guess that tracks. But I can imagine every other species on the planet, all the generations of our pre-industrial ancestors, and otherwise objective alien xenopologists looking at this behavior, throwing up their hands and tentacles and other appendages in consternation, and yelling at us in their various languages, "What the ----ing ---- is wrong with you?" And then when the alien xenopologists learned that a lot of humans also find pain sexually arousing, they'd blow up the Earth to save the rest of the universe.
I was in a group with five people I knew from the local YSA LDS ward - I still attend their weekday activities because I like most of them - but then somehow some girl I've never seen before ended up in our group, and she was real nice and I would have thought she was flirting if I hadn't learned from harsh experience that apparent flirting is nothing of the sort and true flirting is only discernible with years of hindsight. While we were still in line - so before the scary part, although some people found the clowns walking around with obviously fake tasers scary - she touched me on the arm. I thought about the sexual misconduct prevention trainings I had to take as both a student and a faculty member at Utah State University. As I recall, they straight-up said not to touch people at all without permission, and I rolled my eyes because we all know that isn't how neurotypical people live their lives. They don't touch me nearly as often as I'd like given that touch is one of my love languages (I have a three-way tie, which makes me thrice as needy as a normal person), but when they do, they just do it. And I never touch them in return because I don't know when it's okay and even if I did, the action would be scripted and awkward and not a spontaneous show of platonic affection like theirs are.
Some time after I had taken those trainings, no less a figure than university president Noelle Cockett touched me without permission. It was at an event where people were supposed to eat bagels and talk to her, and I think some aide signed her up for it and forgot to tell her, because she showed up late and confused. I was the first person in line who actually had to talk to her before getting bagels. So with an awkward look on her face she asked about my major and stuff, and she touched me on the arm while she talked, and that's setting a really bad example for the student body, don't you think? (Note: I'm not serious. Please don't anybody complain about her.) I don't remember where I was going with this. Happy Halloween. Anyone interested is invited to check out this post from a couple years ago on "Some of My Favorite Halloween Carols," which is hard to top, but also here's an underrated eighties song that really has nothing to do with Halloween but has zombies in the title and has been in my head lately.
My youngest sibling is far more tech-savvy than I'll probably ever be. My family didn't even have a computer until I was in second grade, but by the time my sibling was four they were drawing better with the mouse than I could with a pencil. Nowadays they collect old TVs and VCRs and VHS tapes, and recently they got a device that allows them to digitize VHS tapes and put their contents up on YouTube, which so far they've done with two. As a good brother who loves them and wishes them success in everything they do, I hereby promote these videos to both of my blog readers without being asked.
A Dozen Dizzy Dogs
This is a simple narration of a simple children's book that my siblings and I watched multiple times well after we'd aged out of the target demographic. Our dog Milo (to whom the video is dedicated along with me) didn't watch it as attentively but he did react to the barking dogs in the little live-action interludes. Now it appeals to me for the nostalgia. I don't remember why it appealed to me back then, but it was probably for the song at the end. If nothing else, watch the song at the end. It starts at 18:42. In a just world it would have won a Grammy.
Happy Birthday, Dr. King!
I anticipate that this one will be of interest to more people. My sibling's friend found this at a thrift store, and there's no information about it online. It's always fascinating, sometimes infuriating and sometimes refreshing in a weird way to stumble upon an unexpected gap in the internet's virtual omniscience. A lot of effort seems to have gone into this video for it to simply disappear from humankind's collective memory. For starters, ten children recite lines about Martin Luther King at a public gathering. Most or all of the children and some of the adults in the audience should still be alive to remember it. Then there are appearances of varying length by Dr. King's widow, Dr. King's sister, Rosa Parks, the Great American Mime Experiment, the Ebenezer Baptist Church Choir, ventriloquist Willie Tyler and dummy Lester, the hip-hop group Full Force, and a group of "friends of Dr. King" including Bill Cosby (awk), Sidney Poitier, and Stevie Wonder. So it's not the fanciest production ever but I would have expected it to be a slightly bigger deal than it is. In any case, I'm grateful that my sibling has rescued it from the dustbin of history.
A Nun Harassing Strangers
This video is from July but a page I'm following shared it the other day and I just have to talk about it. Two women in Italy are kissing for a TV show, and a nun physically separates them and yells, "Jesus, Mary and Joseph! It's the devil! It's the devil!" I would just roll my eyes at her being a crazy old lady who's probably jealous because she's not allowed to kiss anyone, but what really alarmed and sickened me was the cavalcade of commenters who lauded her behavior and condemned the women for laughing at her. Yes, a lot of people exist who think it's admirable to harass strangers for not believing as you do. I don't believe that God cares if two women kiss - like, at all - but unlike the people who insist that he does, I don't claim to speak for him, so let's assume for the sake of discussion that I'm wrong. Two facts still remain. First, nobody on the planet is going to repent and change their lifestyle because a stranger physically accosted and yelled at them. Of course they laughed at her. They would have been justified in doing worse. (Not a lot worse. I'm not saying they should have beat her up or anything.) Second, I'm not sure what Bible these people have been reading if they think this kind of behavior emulates Jesus in any way. He spoke his mind when people asked for it, but he didn't go around publicly butting into their business and trampling on their right to live as they chose. Sorry not sorry but I can't wait until the generations that think this way are extinct.
Following the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in police custody for allegedly violating the dress code, protesters all over Iran have risen up against their horrible theocratic government. I wish them the best. I took two graduate courses from a delightful Iranian woman. I never inquired about her religious or political beliefs, but based on her rainbow stickers, androgynous suit coats, and faculty position in a university English department, I guessed that she wouldn't get along very well with the regime back home. On one occasion we watched a documentary she'd worked on about how Iranian women have had to leave their traditional domestic spheres to work in textile factories because their husbands are lazy, and then we met the director over Zoom and I asked him if this had led to any broader changes around gender roles in Iranian society, being very careful not to so much as imply the obvious fact that gender roles in Iranian society are irredeemably sexist because good folklorists aren't supposed to judge other cultures like that. So anyway, I hope current events lead sooner than later to the deaths or exiles of the religious fundamentalists in charge of the country. Maybe Ukraine's army can help out after they finish driving Putin to suicide.
I substituted at a preschool on Monday, and I wish I could just do that for every assignment because it was a blast. (Of course I checked beforehand to verify that I was only filling in for an aide and wouldn't be responsible for everything.) On the whole, the kids were much better behaved than some second grade classes I could mention. One kid in the second class screamed bloody murder for the two-thirds of the time that he wasn't sleeping, but I think that was a reasonable reaction to being abandoned by his parents in a strange place full of strange people for the first time in his life. When I arrived, the first teacher was like "A dude! We never have dudes!" Then she asked about my teaching experience, and I may or may not have imagined the look of horror on her face when I said two years at the college level and three weeks substituting, but I did fine because kids love me. They enjoyed scaring me with rubber ants and spiders, and then while I cowered on the floor this little girl that I hadn't yet interacted with at all walked over and sat on my lap, and I was just blown away by the innocence and trust behind that gesture, innocence and trust that unfortunately have no place in the real world.
Wednesday was the twentieth anniversary of my participation in a Red Grammer concert with my fourth grade music class. We practiced one of his songs for a few weeks and then performed it with him. My parents bought one of his CDs, Hello World, and it was in frequent rotation on long car trips. When I found this autographed concert flyer at my parents' house last year, I had no memory of the particular song I had practiced and sung. Because I'm neurotically obsessed with dates and I missed the nineteenth anniversary, I waited until the twentieth anniversary to look it up and be nostalgic. I still don't remember practicing or singing it.
The song in question:
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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.