Quiz! California: Great Song Topic Or Greatest Song Topic?

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image in the public domain

Why are all the songs about California?  Sure, there’s the occasional Sweet Home Alabama or Midnight Train to Georgia, and plenty of people are in an Empire State of Mind, but in the final analysis of pop songs about places, California tops the topic.  I got a demonstration of this the other day when I put my iPod on shuffle and, in the space of 90 minutes, it played five songs about California and not a single track about Michigan, South Dakota, or Maine.

To be fair, Michigan and South Dakota are hard to rhyme.  Maine is really, really easy to rhyme, though, and when was the last time anyone whipped or nae naed to a song about Maine?  (Nae nae’d?  Naed nae?  Do you nae nae with your bae?)  Here’s a quiz to help you figure out if you think California truly deserves to win the little gold statue for Best Song Topic By A Location or whether you think it just gets all the songs because it’s pretty:

1.  So what is it about California girls, anyway?

A.  They’re undeniable!  Daisy dukes, bikinis on top…
B.  I wish they all could be California girls.
C.  Her mind is Tiffany-twisted, she got the Mercedes Benz.
D.  Soon as I stepped on the scene, I’m hearing hoochies screaming.
E.  Spray tans and Photoshop.  Nailed it!

2.  How is it that, every time California is in a magazine or a movie, it looks like paradise?  Isn’t there a massive drought there?  And, like, a major earthquake fault line?

A.  You could travel the world, but nothing comes close to the golden coast.
B.  From Oakland to Sactown, the Bay Area and back down, Cali is where they put they mack down.
C.  I was thinking to myself, ‘This could be Heaven or this could be Hell’
D.  All the leaves are brown, and the sky is gray.
E.  I never thought paradise would have this many Kardashians.

3.  The official state motto of California is “Eureka.”  The unofficial state motto is:

A.  The state where ya never find a dance floor empty.
B.  You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.
C. Space may be the final frontier, but it’s made in a Hollywood basement.
D.  We’ll melt your popsicle.
E.  Sorry about all the Kardashians.

4.  I’ve heard that all the nuts roll to California.  Is that true?

A.  Let me welcome everybody to the Wild, Wild West!
B.  It’s the edge of the world and all of Western civilization.
C.  Warm, wet, and wild; there must be something in the water.
D.  And still those voices are calling from far away…
E.  No.  They roll to D.C. and stay there until it’s time to run for re-election.

5.  All right, I’m sold.  I’m going to California!  Who’s with me?

A.  Once you party with us, you’ll be falling in love.
B.  Pack a vest for your Jimmy in the city of sex.
C.  If I didn’t tell her, I could leave today.
D.  What a nice surprise!  Bring your alibis.
E.  I would, but I have narcissophobia (fear of Kardashians)

Mostly A’s, B’s, C’s, or D’s:  Party on, California girl!  You know when to whip and when to nae nae, and you always make time to lay underneath the palm trees sipping gin and juice.  Keep on living it up at the Hotel California!  Just try to limit the money and alcohol fiendin’, and remember to practice safe Californication.

Mostly E’s:  Congratulations!  You hate politicians, Kardashians, and the culture of celebrity as much as I do.  You win the quiz.  You lose the internet, though; California won that a long time ago.  Second place went to catz.  Sorry.

Prince Was My First

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dove [image in the public domain]

How do I post to a humor blog on the day Prince died?  This is not the same world that existed yesterday.  The sky is not the same sky, the air is not the same air, and I am not the same person.  It stands to reason, I suppose:  everything Prince did changed the world.  Of course his death has done the same.

Prince was my first for a lot of things.  He sang the first song I couldn’t stop listening to, the kind you keep playing in your head even when you’re in church confessing your sins.  I remember my younger self waiting for a confessional to come available, time I was supposed to use to contemplate what bad deeds I should list for the priest, but instead I was playing “I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man” in my head.  My turn at confession came right after the part where Prince is telling a woman that she wouldn’t be satisfied with a one night stand.  I had to scramble into the booth and try to remember all my sins off the top of my head, and my voice was shaking so wildly that I was sure the priest could tell I’d been engaging in near-sacrilege just a few moments before.  Luckily, he regarded the stench of my guilt as a sign of desperate contrition, took pity on me, and told me I’d offered the most genuine confession he’d heard in a long time.  That’s how Prince gave me another couple of firsts:  the first time I realized that priests aren’t all-knowing (yes, I feel bad about tricking the holy man), and the first time I understood that sometimes the things and people that scare me may actually be on my side, if I let them.

I had several other memorable firsts with Prince.  When he changed his name to a symbol and wrote the word “slave” on his face to protest the way his record company treated his work, it was the first time I understood that art can not only convey a message but also fight an entire war that most people will never realize even happened.  Art history lectures in school tried to convey the same point as I nodded and took notes and memorized for the test; when Prince lived the message while I watched and listened, then I understood, and I never forgot.  Another first came from his cover of Joni Mitchell’s “A Case of You,” which was the first time I saw how the same thing can be perfect in more than one way, and how interpretation can be a form of authorship as valid as any.  My sister can correct me if I’m wrong, but I think the first time we bonded over music our parents would definitely in no uncertain terms never understand, it was Prince.  And, yes, Prince was acting as a musical Cyrano de Bergerac the first time I had sex; for those of us of a certain age, that was practically mandatory.

It’s hard to explain Prince’s allure to anyone who doesn’t already understand, but since this is basically a eulogy, let me try to tell you why this isn’t simply a transference of nostalgia and why I’m grieving over a man I never met.  My childhood was sheltered, relatively privileged, and safe.  Then Prince came along, and he was unlike anyone I’d ever seen or heard.  He assumed his audience was intelligent, he considered danger to be essential to creativity, and he could write a four-minute pop song that had shape and texture and heft.  All the songs I’d heard B.P. (Before Prince) were sanded flat, polished smooth, and as insubstantial as the air that carried them.  A lot of what I hear today is the same.  But Prince’s music always made me think, made me feel, and made me dance–enthusiastically, if not very well.  It’s true that Prince wasn’t the first artist to pitch the rulebook and do something different, but he was the first who made me want to throw my own rulebook away.  He showed me how to find my path away from the ordinary, and then he showed me how to dance along that path while rocking five-inch electric blue satin platform heels, and now he’s gone, and the world will never be the same.

Prince being Prince, though, I don’t see death stopping him from doing his thing.  I think he’s just got a new audience.  In fact, I take strange pleasure in the thought of the Heavenly Host suddenly confronted with The Artist.  He’ll probably be using a halo as some sort of percussion instrument and asking where he can find a pair of wings with glitter.  In my mind, I see the angelic choir looking on in seraphic condescension as Prince gives his first celestial concert, and I can’t help laughing a little at the shock they’re going to feel when they turn and see God the Eternal and Omnipotent dancing on His throne, rocking out to Purple Rain.

R.I.P, Prince Rogers Nelson.  You were my first, and you were the best.

Therapy Sessions of the Fictional and Famous: Lorelai Gilmore

Being famous can be very stressful, particularly if you’re a fictional character into the bargain.  Certain mental health professionals specialize in treating the fictional and famous; true, most insurance companies don’t cover this, but fortunately most of these therapists accept space bucks, Federation credits, and Monopoly money.  Primary among this elite cadre of professionals is Dr. Sidney Freedman, of M*A*S*H fame.  As he is also a fictional character, he can relate to his patients and help them feel at ease.  I, being a quasi-fictional character myself (the Little Blind Girl, or LBG, is a recurring character in Charlie Cottrell’s Hazzard novels and is based on me!) have availed myself of his services from time to time.  Don’t ask how I pay him; this isn’t that kind of blog.

Lauren_Graham,_2008_appearance_(crop)What he doesn’t know (and shh, don’t tell him) is that I planted a listening device in his office the last time I was there.  I was curious about what his other patients had to say, and let me tell you:  what I heard was astounding.  There are so many famous fictional characters whose dirty secrets I could share with you, but I think I’ll start with Cathy Coffee herself, Lorelai Gilmore.  She comes off as sweet and friendly on the surface, but believe me, there are some demons flying around in that head.  Once you hear what she has to say, you’ll never view small towns, quirky neighbors, or questionable eating habits in quite the same way.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Note for those of you who understand that this is a humor blog and I’m just kidding about all this, or at least most of it:  all of Lorelai’s responses are actual quotes from her character on the television show Gilmore Girls.  If you haven’t heard of Gilmore Girls, just turn on the TV or open up any webpage on the entire internet and the indoctrination will begin within ten minutes.  I hope you like coffee.

Without further ado, here is Lorelai Gilmore’s therapy session:

Dr. Freedman:  Hello, Lorelai.  That’s an awfully large cup of coffee you’re carrying.  Are you ready to get started?

Lorelai Gilmore:  (on the phone) I’ll be right in.

Dr. Freedman:  Who are you talking to?

Lorelai Gilmore:  My other two personalities. (Turns off phone)

Dr. Freedman:  Is that why you came to see me, because you have multiple personalities?

Lorelai Gilmore:  Voices in my head–totally normal, right?

Dr. Freedman:  How many voices do you hear in your head?

Lorelai Gilmore:  There’s only two.  That speak English.

Dr. Freedman:  And what are these voices saying?

Lorelai Gilmore:  Oh, I don’t know.  How about “Good morning, Appalachia, I got a mighty cute sister and an extra set of toes.”

Dr. Freedman:  You’ve got an inbred hillbilly in your head with you?

Lorelai Gilmore:  Well, I know how mad you get when I bring the Insane Clown Posse with me.

Dr. Freedman:  Lorelai, you know I only asked you to stop talking to the voices in your head because you said they gave you flashbacks to your alien abduction.

Lorelai Gilmore:  Okay, as long as you’ve got a sane reason from a reliable source.

Dr. Freedman:  I’d like to go back to a concern you raised in a previous session, about your inability to maintain a loving, romantic relationship.  Is that still a problem?

Lorelai Gilmore:  I love pudding.  I worship it.  I have a bowl up on the mantel at home with the Virgin Mary, a glass of wine, and a dollar bill next to it.

Dr. Freedman:  We’ve talked about this.  Your feelings toward food are not appropriate.  I want you to do the exercise I gave you, all right?  Go ahead.

Lorelai Gilmore:  (concentrating hard) I am attracted to pie, but I do not feel the need to date pie.

Dr. Freedman:  That’s good, Lorelai, we’re making progress.  Now, why don’t you try putting down your coffee cup?

Lorelai Gilmore:  If it was physically possible to make love to a hot beverage, this would be the one.

Dr. Freedman:  I can see we’re not going to make any further progress on this front.  Is there anything else you’d like to attempt during our session today?

Lorelai Gilmore:  I hear there’s a shipment of plutonium coming in on the docks.  And I thought we could dress up as nuns and you could fake a stigmata and you could put the plutonium under your habit.

Dr. Freedman:  I see.  And how will we dispose of the plutonium once we have it?

Lorelai Gilmore:  Well, one of those bench ads usually does the trick.

Dr. Freedman:  Lorelai, this is the seventh session in a row during which we’ve accomplished practically nothing.

Lorelai Gilmore:  We should commemorate it with an oil painting or a severed head or something.

Dr. Freedman:  Yet, despite your complete lack of effort, I want you to continue seeing me.

Lorelai Gilmore:  Prove it.  Drop your pants!

Dr. Freedman:  I want you to give me one more session with honest effort.  Will you do that for me?

Lorelai Gilmore:  I’ll give you two because you scare me.

Dr. Freedman:  I’m only asking for one, Lorelai, and there’s no reason to be afraid of me.  I’d like to see you again to work on healthy ways to deal with conflict.  When would be a good time to work on that?

Lorelai Gilmore:  Tomorrow, if you have time, I’m planning on despising everyone who says “Hey, how’s it going?”

Dr. Freedman:  (sighs) Please don’t make me bring out the Hello Kitty straightjacket again.  It makes me feel so silly.

I swear, every line is verbatim as it came out of the mouth of Lorelai Gilmore.  I await the Wrath Of The Fans with trepidation, a plateful of pop tarts, and an IV of caffeine.  Lorelai’s coming over later, once she fast-talks her way out of the asylum, and we’re going to decide once and for all if we’re Team Dean or Team Jess (don’t even talk to me about Team Logan), and then we’re going to go do something even more dangerous.  Have you ever heard of a Brazilian Bikini Wax??

Image credit:  Photographed by Greg Hernandez*derivative work: – Kerαunoςcopia◁galaxies – Lauren Graham, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17574854

 

I’m not old! I’m not! I’m not…yes, I am

Kurt Cobain (front) and Krist Novoselic (left)...

Kurt Cobain (front) and Krist Novoselic (left) live at the 1992 MTV Video Music Awards. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I had occasion to hang out with some girls who are a bit younger than I am; I don’t want to admit how much younger because every time I try, I have to go sulk for a while and I want to get this blog post published tonight.  We started out talking about current events, which went fine.  I summarized world events and gave insightful and witty commentary, and the girls all nodded appreciatively because they had no idea what I was talking about.  My favorite kind of audience.

I should add that, throughout the conversation, even when they were all talking excitedly to each other, they all had their cell phones out and were texting and surfing and twittering the entire time.  They either have the most amazing abilities to concentrate on more than one conversation at once, or else they’re talking to me and simultaneously tweeting things like “Sky cloud sleeping greenly lol asdf qwerty #notreallypayingattention #godhelpthefuture”.  I don’t know.  I don’t really understand this Twitter thing.

Which brings me to tonight’s blog topic:  I am not old!  I’m not, really.  It’s just these kids today, with their smart phones and their YouTube…did you know that MTV doesn’t play music videos anymore?  I didn’t know that.  I’m pretty sure I still wouldn’t have known that even if I owned a television.  Oh, and no one actually uses a cell phone to call someone anymore. It’s all texting and tweeting.  The only call I saw any of the girls get was from one of their parents.

One girl was typing away on her netbook (I think that’s what it was) and went to save her work, commenting “I’ve never understood why this icon means ‘save’.  I don’t even know what it is.”  I leaned over; it was the icon for a floppy disk.  I tried really hard to not feel old. I was wearing low-rise jeans!  And I was entitled to!  You can’t do that and be old, right?

Then the conversation turned to our taste in music.  I recognized at least half of the names they mentioned as their favorite artists, which was encouraging.  Some of them even liked Adele and thought she was cool, and I was all “Me, too!  Me too!  Wow, you guys are awesome.  We’re totally bonding.”  Then I plucked up my courage and mentioned Kurt Cobain, musical genius and tortured soul, and how much I enjoy the body of work he left behind.  Four blank stares and complete silence.  Then, and I’m not kidding about this, one of them asked, “Who’s Kurt Cobain?”

And then I gave up.  I’m old.  I’d tweet it to the world if I knew how.

Whitney Houston

Miracle (Whitney Houston song)

Image via Wikipedia

I love music.  I may not be able to see the sunset, but I can hear and appreciate music in a way I never could if I’d grown up with perfect vision.  I grew up depending on my ears because I couldn’t depend on my eyes, and I grew up learning how to sing and how to play the flute and piano, and I learned the theory and the practice and the soul of music.  No, I learned the theory and the practice of music.  The soul of music I found when I gave my time and love to learn how to perform those incredible songs.  If you want a memory worth having, blindfold yourself for a month, then at the end of that month go to listen to a symphony performed live.  It’s worth losing your vision for a time to be able to experience music properly, to hear that overwhelming, melting, glorious music for one evening and remember it forever.

Whitney Houston died.  She was a beautiful and intelligent woman and obviously had family and friends who loved her very much, and it is a tragedy that she died so young and after so much suffering.  But her voice died a long time ago.  I can’t mourn the loss of an irreplaceable talent because I’ve already done my mourning.  Her voice was one of the wonders of the world.  When I think to myself that I’d rather be blind than deaf, the inability to hear her songs is one of the reasons I think of.  Beethoven’s Eroica symphony; the incomparable performances of Yo Yo Ma; the perfect voice of Whitney Houston.  As I go blind, I’ll miss the incandescent clarity in the blue of the daytime sky and the wonder of the stars at night, but if I had the image of the world in flawless detail, I would trade it to be able to hear her sing.

It shook me to my core to hear what had become of that voice.  When she sang, her voice was a river in flood, terrifying and awe-inspiring, carrying everything before it.  When she softened her voice, the river sparkled in the sunlight, flowing gently and whispering, “Follow me.  I will lead you somewhere new.”  When I found that the river had run dry, I grieved as though a living person had died.  I hope that she is somewhere beyond suffering now and that her voice, that voice that angels would die to have, is ringing through Heaven like a reminder of Eden before temptation, like the way the world could have been if we had made different choices, like the musical expression of the will of God.  If I’m very good and very lucky, when it’s my turn to die, I think the voice calling me home will be the voice of Whitney Houston singing the first, last, and only Song.

Rest in peace, Whitney Houston.  I’ll remember your voice when I’ve forgotten that I was ever able to see at all.