Soundtrack of the moment, part III

Haven’t done one of these in a while. Since the last one, I’ve tightened my music collection dramatically so as to eliminate the stuff I don’t listen to, as well as the stuff I had just for the sake of having. Here it goes…

“I’m Waiting for the Day” – The Beach Boys – Pet Sounds
Pet Sounds has grown on me. At first I thought it was overrated, but after repeated listenings, O can’t get enough of it. Now if I can only get the vinyl…

“Your Mother Should Know” – The Beatles – Magical Mystery Tour
Such a catchy melody. Tight composition and easy to listen to over and over again.

“Prelude/Angry Young Man” – Billy Joel – Turnstiles
I’m so glad I’ve discovered more of Billy Joel’s catalogue. His late 70s music is among the best of all pop music.

“Jesus” – Brand New – The Devil and God are Raging Inside Me
From a former pop punk rock band comes this thoughtful, heavy-hitting tune in an album worthy of decade-best lists. A great spiritual song from a great rock band.

“The Greatest” – Cat Power – The Greatest
I’ve just gotten into female singer-songwriters and I’m lovin’ ever minute of it! Down to the bare bones, a la the Plastic Ono Band.

“Rubylove” – Cat Stevens – Teaser and the Firecat
Again with the singer-songwriters. This just goes to show that all you really need is a guitar or piano and a voice to make really good music. Check out any of Cat’s stuff.

“You Are My Joy” – David Crowder Band – A Collision or (3+4=7)
Listened to this album all the time at summer camp. It flows together well and provides the usual Crowder kick in the upbeat songs, as well as the deep thoughts in the slower ones.

“When Your Mind’s Made Up” – Glen Hansard & Marketa Irglova – Once
Such a brilliant movie. Since it’s basically a musical, the songs make it what it is. This song is quite powerful and driving, but you need to see the movie and buy the soundtrack. I hope ‘Falling Slowly’ gets an Oscar nod, and hopefully a win.

“Bring on the Lucie (Freda Peeple) – John Lennon – Mind Games
Basically all of John’s solo stuff is great, but this song is especially catchy. I finally have the vinyl as well.

“Potato’s in the Paddy Wagon” – the Main Street Singers – A Mighty Wind soundtrack
I think I heard the soundtrack before I saw the movie, but both are awesome. I just love this song’s groove and altogether folksy spirit.

“Man We Was Lonely” – Paul McCartney – McCartney
This was the solo album that was released right after the Beatles broke up, and pre-Wings, so it’s good. All the songs are acoustic and stripped down, which is good.

“Leavin’ on a Jet Plane” – Peter, Paul & Mary – Album 1700
I didn’t know PPM did this song. I love this kind of stuff.

“Videotape” – Radiohead – In Rainbows
I’m no Radiohead snob, but it’s a great album overall. I paid a few bucks for it on their website because I wanted to be legit, and I also wanted to reward them for sticking it to the recording industry.

“Political Science” – Randy Newman – Sail Away
This song was written in the 1970s, but it is still all too relevant today. Plus, I love Randy Newman. His voice is quite off sometimes, but having just piano and voice for most of it is a plus for me.

“America” – Simon & Garfunkel – Bookends
Yet another ridiculous catchy S&G tune. I could listen to their albums all day.

“Island” – The Starting Line – Direction
I didn’t think they could top their previous album, but Direction is just flat-out good. It’s different enough from their past work to be progress, yet it sticks to what’s worked in the past, so it succeeds on every level.

“Sir Duke” – Stevie Wonder – Songs in the Key of Life
We played this in pep band. It’s such a fun song. I haven’t delved too far into Stevie’s music, but I will eventually.

First Love Birds: Notes on The Notebook

I watched The Notebook again recently. I still really like it, but now I have some reasons for it. (Though I’m still searching for more.)

There is a bird motif. Birds of some kind appear in 3 obvious time: in the very beginning, when old Allie overlooks a boater we assume is Noah/Duke; on the beach, with the “if you’re a bird, I’m a bird” exchange; and when Noah and Allie visit the bird-filled pond.

The most poignant instance of those three is the last, because when Allie asks Noah about the birds, Noah replies that “they’ll go back where they came from”, just like Allie will presumably go back to where she came from.

There is the issue of identity. Allie says she’s one person when she’s with Lon, and a completely different person when she’s with Noah. This is evident in her interactions with said gentleman. She becomes more like her mother when she’s with Lon, but acts more like “herself” when she’s with Noah.

This also has to do with the idea of “first love.” No matter what Allie’s future would be, she still had Noah as her first love, so everything else would be second-best. This relates to identity because she feels most like “herself” when she’s with Noah, her first love, so it would seem that being with Noah would be the natural choice. But because she had to move on from her first love, she created a new identity in her second love. Which to choose?

I’m sure most of this was obvious to most people on the first viewing, but I just started to pick up on the deeper levels of these issues recently. I’m still trying to figure out exactly why so many people, especially women, responded so strongly to this story. I suppose the idea that Noah stayed with Allie into her old age and dementia resonated with women, but I suspect there is something more.

Of course, the chemistry between the two leads is undeniable. But did you know that they hated each other throughout production of the movie? They started dating immediately afterward, but the chemistry their hate created worked just as well as the romantic kind.

Either way, this film resonated with me more than most other rom-coms. Maybe it was the classic World War II setting, or maybe it was the simple yet effective score. I suppose the story is most compelling (though I read the book and it was dreadful.) Who knows. What is clear to me is that The Notebook made me want to be a good husband, lover, and friend to my future wife. Regardless of what Hollywood or reality may tell me, it’s something I can do if I just try.

The ‘Rite’ Of The Male Gaze

Published in the North Central Chronicle on September 28, 2007.

Imagine: John Q. Student is sitting on a bench outside the Science Center with his friend Billy. John spots a voluptuous, scantily-clad young woman walking their way and takes a long look at her behind his sunglasses. He says to Billy: “Dude, check out that chick’s…personality.”

You mean you’ve never heard that before? Well, replace “personality” with a part of the female anatomy and you’ve got what is commonly referred to as the “male gaze.” The male gaze, according to Dr. Jonathan Schroeder, “signifies a psychological relationship of power, in which the gazer is superior to the object of the gaze.”

It’s about having “the power” to look a woman up and down, see what we want to see, and then move on. Century upon century of male superiority has made this act commonplace and even encouraged. It’s considered a badge of honor within the Brotherhood of Man. But that doesn’t make it right. In fact, it’s something that needs to be changed.

Perpetual use of the male gaze degrades women to mere objects of a man’s desire – pieces of meat, essentially. When we as males check a girl out, be it mindfully or not, we’re saying to the woman: “You are only worth what I’m looking at right now.” That’s quite a message to be sending to a fellow human being.

The male gaze has in a way become a rite of passage into modern manhood. In order to impress our buddies, we have to talk about how hot a girl is or how nice her breasts are. Ladies, odds are you’ve never heard this talk before, but it’s very real. It can happen as soon as you pass a group of rambunctious guys, or as soon as you leave the room at a party, or even right before your eyes. Think Glenn Gulia in The Wedding Singer: “that’s Grade-A top-choice meat.”

The fact that the male gaze has been accepted as normal male behavior disturbs me greatly. Take a typical beer commercial for example: A man is caught checking out a good-looking woman by his girlfriend, but he just shrugs it off. His girlfriend is then forced to surrender to the notion that it’s “just a guy thing.” He will continue to size women up, and she will continue to feel powerless and undesirable. How painful.

A big reason why men utilize the Gaze is because we know women like being desired. The depth of the desire isn’t important so long as it’s desire. That could be a gross generalization, but I know for a fact that many women eat up the attention. Trust me; that attention is fleeting. Your self-esteem cannot survive on lustful looks you absorb from the guy across the room. Do you really want all the good things about you ignored simply because they’re hidden from view?

You are worth more than the looks you receive. Put your self-worth somewhere else, somewhere worthwhile. Guys are admittedly very easy to bait, but I’m challenging you to give us something more than a mini-skirt to value about you. There’s a part in every one of you that deserves to be shared with the world; I dare you to show us that part. Be a mystery that we men have to solve. Flaunt your gifts, not your G-string.

I issued a challenge the women, so I will issue one to my fellow men as well: It’s time to clean up our act. No matter how we try to justify it, the male gaze is just not cool. Just imagine seeing another guy check out your sister, or your mom. That’s no different from what you just did with that girl sitting next to you in class. The women we’re ogling are sisters and mothers as well, so let’s treat them as such. They deserve nothing less.

Live your life

From the blog Pharyngula in regards to the sixth anniversary of 9/11:

“I’m not impressed with moments of silence or candlelight vigils or noble rhetoric about this event. If you want to do something to remember that tragedy, the best thing to do is to simply stop living your life in fear.”

Art for art’s sake

“We make in our measure and in our derivative mode, because we are made; and not only made, but made in the image and likeness of a Maker.” -J.R.R. Tolkien

Art for art’s sake. What a concept. So what if the song I’m listening to doesn’t mention Jesus or discuss Christian philosophy? It’s still a song, a piece of art. Why can’t it be appreciated as so?

In the latest issue of Relevant magazine, Aaron Marsh, the lead singer of Copeland, says that “inspiration is too abstract to pin down. There are a lot of things that influence the lyrics or melodies.” You don’t have to be listening to a worship song or writing lyrics based on Scripture to be inspired.

“In the end,” the article concludes, “it’s all just music–good music–but just music, all the same.”

Amen.

the fall

Ever since The Fall, we’ve been in denial of our true purpose. As men, we were brought into this world as the likeness of God, made to make and lead. But ever since The Fall, we’ve doubted ourselves in that task. We think, I can’t lead. I’m not strong enough. I’m afraid of being exposed as the fraud I am.

Then women, also created in the likeness of God as a companion and nurturer, fall into doubt. They think, I’m not good enough. He doesn’t value me.

Where does this get us? I guess we can’t get any farther away from God, so why now pursue him?

the darndest thing

I love being powerless to art.

I can listen to a song, but I can’t choose how it affects me. Sometimes a song makes me feel the darndest thing. For instance, I was listening to the Fergie song “Big Girls Don’t Cry” on the way to a bowling outing with some very rambunctious RA buddies.

So, so far we have Fergie + rambunctious, dancing-in-their-seat ladyfriends. Not always my best formula for a heart-rendering moment.

But there I was, in the middle back seat of a huge caravan, actually getting into a Fergie song. It’s mostly the chordal structure and back beat. There is definitely a formula for creating the perfect pop song–damned if I know it. But that’s why they hire professional songwriters. They know how to make a song. Who cares if it’s sung by a trashy, no-talent diva–at this moment, I like something in what I hear. I’m powerless.

It’s a strange, yet oddly cathartic feeling. A song comes on, and you have a spiritual awakening. I love it. It’s a moment in time, in space, in God, that makes some dissonance in your life resolve. No matter where you are, it will find you. And that’s sweet, basically.

the intersection

“What direction now? Life begins at the intersection.” – Switchfoot

This lyric smacked me right in the face. What direction now? What are you doing to do now? Which path are you going to choose?

When you’re staring down your options, burning holes with your eyes, which way? What direction now? Are you going to stand up to the darkness, the unknown, the fear? Or are you going to embrace mediocrity, complacency, unproductivity?

What direction now?

It’s your decision, make it the best one. Stand up and decide. What direction now?

those three words… part 2

Those words
Those three words
The end all of every phone call
The start of every time apart from you
The definition of what we are
Together apart, either one is better than before
Sitting in neutral, afraid to say more

Those words
Those three words
They flow like a wave away
Crashing on the dock of the bay
With grace and sometimes misplacement
But I’ve faced my demons of sentiment
We stared off until I won the race

They’re my own prophesy fulfilled
The heart-hole I’ve been covering
That wouldn’t stay still
The story of they’re conception:
Oscar-worthy, critical reception
But too sublime to fully realize
Too special for a TV special

Those words
Those three words
We’ve finally met, again and again
Would you meet my family and friends?
They haven’t seen us together
Now is the perfect weather
To say “I love you.”

those three words…

Those words
Those three words
The bane of my existence
The thesis of the paper I’ve never written
The end of the date I never went on
The kiss goodbye I never got or gave

Those words
Those three words
They end every phone call
Every birthday card, every letter home
Except mine
I can’t send these three little words
From my head to an utterance
It’s become an inconvenience

What do they mean anyway?
I can’t be a rank sentimentalist
With every word I say
Now I’m stealing lines
From the only things that make sense to me
Where whatever they say, they mean
No ifs, ands, buts, or truths about it

Those words
Those three words
My finale, my comeuppance
The end of every well-meaning sentence
They’ve become to me a penance, a nuisance
Something I’ve unknowingly stood against
One of these days I’ll learn what love is