Ending is a New Beginning?

“No other Odysseus will ever come home to you”

οὐ μὲν γάρ τοι ἔτ’ ἄλλος ἐλεύσεται ἐνθάδ’᾿Οδυσσεύς,

Homer, Odyssey 16.204

 

 “Music-cued autobiographical memory can also demonstrate the power of first associations. A song that might have been heard many hundreds of times can nevertheless send the listener back in time to its first listening…” Charles Fernyhough, Pieces of Light, 54

 

After too much thought and time, I have come to the conclusion that I am not going to write for this blog any longer. Because I cannot let good enough alone, I will explain this. And, because I would much rather go out with a bang than a whimper, I have written a few final posts (after this one) to rectify some of the mistakes I have made and to bring the whole project full-circle.

 

This blog has/had two starting points and many other ancillary goals that were all in some way related to our favorite subject, our father. I don’t want to rank any of these points, lest I give the mis-impression that one in some way outweighed another. But the first time I remember thinking about it was after a call and an email from my father. He told me he was worried about my brother, that he needed direction and some way out of his depression after the end of college and the end of a relationship.

 

Tegan and Sara, “Goodbye, Goodbye”. I still love this band. This song may be a bit harsh.

 

I had been trying for some time to be a better brother—but the majority of my attempts were merely talking to him frequently on the phone and trying to help him continually spruce up cover letters and his resume. Once my father made a specific request (something he rarely did), I started daydreaming and eventually came up with the idea for a blog. In part, as my reasoning went, my brother needed something else to do, but he also needed something else that helped him change his vision of himself, to introduce new ideas about his future.

 

In a way, and this is where another motivation for the blog comes in, I needed the same thing.  I was definitely not loving my career; I felt unmoored and exiled in Texas; and I was languishing emotionally and intellectually because of both. The blog seemed like a salve for both of us: we could be closer; we could work on something together; and we could explore different visions of ourselves and different options for the future.

 

Social Distortion, “Bye, Bye,Baby”.  I am still pissed that I never went to CBGBs. I suck

 

When my father died, the writing of the blog also had a therapeutic function.  As I re-read pieces, I can see us coping with our loss in different and mostly productive ways. In his absence, being there for my brother was even more necessary. I threw myself into writing for the blog and cajoling him into writing, editing, and then re-writing.  Before we posted anything online, I think we had nearly 75 1000-word pieces ready.

 

My reasons for leaving the blog now are in part related to its origins. The therapeutic effect has waned; my brother has grown up a lot, found music in new and exciting ways and has a full-time job in his own field; and I have learned an immeasurable amount about myself. I am a better writer now, a better thinker (I think) and I know a lot more about what goes on online.

But my frustrations with the blog have to do with my own contributions, what they cost me in time and energy, and what I derive from the process.  If we have any regular readers, you will know that I have posted sparingly during this year. While not writing for the blog, I have done more writing for my career than ever before. Obviously, the practice of writing daily has helped my discipline. It has also helped make my writing less stilted (seriously) and my interests more broad. And, yet, this has also helped me see the limitations of my writing on the blog—I don’t know as much as I should about music to keep this up. The dilettantism shows up too often. I can’t write well for the blog and write well for the many other projects I have going on.  I am an all or nothing person.

When it comes down to it, though, the simplest explanations for my departure are these: I have many other things to do (and for two years I was spending 6-10 hours a week working on the blog); and the writing of the blog has ceased to make me closer to my brother. If anything, it has had the opposite effect.

 

Guster, “So, Long.” I still love this band. This was recorded in Portland, Maine.  In another timeline, I might have been there.

 

At the same time, we never really achieved the success I imagined we would in creating a community or in attracting readers. Part of this is certainly due to my own writing style (which isn’t always friendly and which is also not well-suited to the medium). My frustration derives also from my ego—I think we’re doing more creative and interesting stuff than people who have a hundred (or a thousand) times the daily views. Because WordPress gives you graphs to show all of these things, I became somewhat obsessed with tracking our pageviews: looking between classes, in the middle of the night, even while running.

And another nail in the coffin has been the superficial and narcissistic nature of the medium. The content, level of discourse, overall tone of conversation on the internet has only served to undermine my confidence in the medium as a force for discovery and debate. It may sound dramatic, but I am sure there are days where my involvement in the blog has been mentally unhealthy. I don’t think the world needs access to everyone’s opinions.  I am sure that little good has come from my words thrown into the mix.

I don’t think I will ever stop searching for new music, ruminating on why I love the music I do, or writing. I want to write more freely and more pensively and I also want to shed the veil of anonymity. One of the things I have worked on outside this blog is the danger of living separate lives and how emotional instability and narrative uncertainty can ensue when you maintain separate personae. A watershed moment came from me when a blogger wrote on his site that “this [the blog] is real life”.

“Farewell and Adieu To You Fair Spanish Ladies.” As a Mainer, I love Sea Shanties.

I disagree wholeheartedly. The internet is a mirror of a picture of real life. It is an echo chamber twice removed from real sound and real experience. It prizes noise and frequency over quality and beauty. Perhaps I came to this too old or perhaps I am just too natively intense to spend as much time as I have online without losing something of myself. But I have been spending random days unplugged, and the quiet is beautiful.

The last few posts I leave all in some way contend with other frustrations that I have had during the writing of the blog. Much of it will seem too confessional, but I strive to narrow that gap between the person I am and the one I want to be.  I will post a story about my father we should have put up earlier.  I will post an early piece we were too cowardly to post because it was too ‘real’ and then I will close with an adaptation of a letter that I wrote to my brother before all of the blogging started.

I am grateful to the readers we’ve had and the empathy and consideration they’ve shown. I am also forever in debt to my brother for his patience with me.  Everyone in my family thinks I am hard to please. And they are right. But as my brother put it in his most recent post, we cannot rebuild the past, we can only lay out better designs for the future.

NSync, “Bye, Bye, Bye”.  A little fun to end the game. True story: I hate this song. But I like it too. That’s about all you need to know.

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Songs of the Year—1999

You start a conversation you can’t even finish it.
You’re talkin’ a lot, but you’re not sayin’ anything.
When I have nothing to say, my lips are sealed.
Say something once, why say it again?
–The Talking Heads

Songs of the Year: “Either Way”, Guster; “Psycho Killer”, The Talking Heads

Runners-up: “Steal my Sunshine”, Len

Honorable Mentions: “Thank You” Dido

At the beginning of the year, if I remember correctly, Conan O’Brien attempted to outlaw all soundings of Prince’s “1999” for 12 short months. 1999 was the year of the Y2K panic. It was the year that boy bands were triumphant and when Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera ruled the world. Back then, Carson Daly was on MTV and American Idol was still three years away.

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Songs of the Year—1997

Go ahead you can laugh all you want
I got my philosophy
Keeps my feet on the ground
And I trust it like the ground
That’s why my philosophy
Keeps me walking when I’m falling down
–Ben Folds Five

Songs of the Year: “Super Bon Bon,” Soul Coughing; “Bury Me,” Guster

Runners-up: “Philosophy”, Ben Folds Five; “Stickshifts and Safetybelts,” Cake

Honorable Mentions: “Firestarter,” The Prodigy; “Tubthumper”, Chumbawumba; “Hypnotize,” Notorious B. I. G.

In 1997, I went to college. I had the grandest of opportunities to re-invent myself. In life, rare are the occasions when you can literally trade in your old mask for a new one. So, I changed my clothes (a little); I broke up with a girl over Limp Bizkit and I went off to conquer the world.

Or something like that.

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Hail to the Champions!

On the evening of October 30, 2013, the elderj and I were able to see our beloved Red Sox win their 3rd World Series championship in 9 years. My daughter and I left the frigid north to visit him and his family down in their adopted southern state. It was the first time in recent history that I was away from New England while the Sox were playing in the fall classic, but it was a nice treat to be able to watch the games with my older brother. We hadn’t watched a playoff game together in 8 years, and we’d never seen a World Series game together. Our kiddos were all asleep as we sat glued to the television during game 6 in Boston, and when Boston badass closer Koji Uehara struck out St. Louis’ Matt Carpenter, we rejoiced, watched a little bit of post-game celebration coverage, then said goodnight to the TV to head off to dream about yet ANOTHER Red Sox World Series championship.stay strong

What a crazy several years it’s been for the Sox and their fans! After an 86-year drought, the team won championships on the road in 2004 and 2007, then finally clinched it at home this year for the first time since 1918. What a way to pay tribute to Boston, the greatest city on earth, after a hellish year. Boston and its baseball team belongs to the entire region of New England, and throughout the country, fans basked in the glory of baseball dominance. The 2013 Sox had the odds stacked against them and came through to deliver a well-deserved championship to its club and all of its fans!

As my little one and I flew back from the south back to the north, I started thinking about how I could pay tribute to the 2013 team on my brothers’ blog. I thought about which songs I could discuss, and composed a brief draft of this entry in my head while attempting to keep my squirmy toddler in our seat. There are some obvious songs that come to mind when thinking of the Red Sox–“Sweet Caroline” (Neil Diamond), “Dirty Water” (Standells), and “Shipping up to Boston” and “Tessie” by the Dropkick Murphys. Those are the obvious ones and the ones I WON’T mention further in this entry. I’ll dig a little bit deeper and choose some other ones…here we go!!!!

“Baby, I grew you a Beard.” –Neil Halstead (I couldn’t find a video of him actually singing it–this is a cover)

Anyone who watched even one Sox game this year would be able to tell you about the scruffy beards each player sported. Some of the most obnoxious beards belonged to Jonny Gomes, Mike Napoli, Dustin Pedroia and David Ross. Others kept them short and close to the face–Jacoby Ellsbury, Xander Bogaerts and David Ortiz. Rumor has it that Dustin Pedroia and Jonny Gomes didn’t shave during the entire season!!!!! Even if the beards were short, every single player grew one. The guys bonded together, and the beards represented team unity. This team may not have been the best team to ever play in Boston, but they really knew how to play as a unit and each guy could be described as a team player. While most of the beards looked ridiculous and even disgusting, they represented a team and showed the world that the Red Sox players would do whatever it takes to win the trophy!

“Three Little Birds”–Bob Marley

This song was Shane Victorino’s entrance song and it got to a point where the fans would sing along as he came to the plate. His acquisition during the offseason was frowned upon, many were shocked by the money spent to bring this mediocre player to Boston. He knew this team was special. He knew that despite losses, errors and odds against them, that everything would be alright and that this team could and WOULD come through. Victorino delivered a game-winning grand slam in Game 6 of the ALCS, securing his spot in Boston Red Sox fans’ hearts.  He sat out Games 4 and 5 of the world series due to back pain, but he came through again in Game 6 of the World Series, when he hit a bases loaded, bases-clearing triple to put the Sox on top once again!!! During Game 6 of each best-of-7 playoff series, Victorino showed everyone he was worth every penny and that every little thing would be alright!!!!!

“We’re not Gonna take it”–Twisted Sister

When I think of the 2013 Red Sox, this song comes to mind because so many sportswriters and experts were against the team, spouting off stats that Game 3 losers only won the World Series twice in history, or that teams finishing in last place the previous season had no chance of taking it all the following year. (These are 2 examples of several odds stacked against them–and these aren’t the exact stats, just stated in general terms). But this team didn’t care about the negativity spouted by so-called experts. They weren’t gonna take the shit thrown at them, and they were going to be strong and play through the haters! And what did they do! They said screw you all, we can do this, AND THEY DID!

“Keep it Together”–Guster

I have to include this song because the Sox really kept it together and pulled off the World Series win. This was hardly the prettiest World Series ever played–it was full of errors, an OBSTRUCTION CALL TO END GAME 3,  and a pick-off to end game 5 (though this was in Boston’s favor!) Despite the errors made in the outfield and by seasoned players in the infield (Dustin Pedroia), these bearded ballplayers managed to keep their shit together and produce runs and play defense when necessary. The team knew what was at stake, and the outcome was exactly what they wanted.

“Hangin’ Tough”–New Kids on the Block

Because I am unable to think about any music without thinking of NKOTB, I had to include this song. However, it’s appropriate for several reasons. First of all, again, The Sox hung tough and pulled through to win the big prize. They overcame errors, injuries and negativity to capture Baseball’s most coveted trophy. But also…the members of NKOTB hail from Dorchestah, south of Boston, and are some of the most famous Sox fans out there! So how can I not include a New Kids song in this situation? The New Kids have played at Fenway, they wear Sox jerseys during their shows, and they, like my brother and me, grew up rooting for Boston sports teams. They experienced loss and heartache just like we did, and just like us, they have been lucky to see THREE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS IN A DECADE!!!!! This song is also a tribute to the entire city of Boston. After the marathon bombing tragedy in April, the city hung tough and got through all the bad times. Boston Strong, bitches, and Keep hangin’ tough!!!!!!!

“We are the Champions”–Queen

Does this song really need an explanation?????

World Series MVP David Ortiz said that the 2013 World Series was the best of the recent 3 championships. He is the only current member of the team who has played on each championship team in the past 10 years. My brother and I disagree with him and believe that the 2004 championship was the most special, after Red Sox Nation waited for years for a championship. Some people lived and died without seeing their Sox win a World Series, and now, my daughter, niece and nephew live in a time when the Sox are nothing but winners! What a crazy few years it has been for Boston baseball and Boston sports in general. We are lucky to be Sox fans and every playoff win feels a little bit better.

What about you brother? What songs come to mind for you when thinking about the 2013 Team???

Being Bad and Breaking Bad: Songs for the end of the Series

Breaking Bad is ending next week. It won an Emmy for Best Drama last night. My brother and I have both loved the show for a while and will be sad to see it go. This week I am taking the easy way out by listing songs that have to do with being bad (in the title or chorus) along with the hard task of trying to figure out what makes the show tick: Walter White is part Odysseus, part Faust, and part our father.

Michael Jackson wasn’t “Bad” back then. But things didn’t turn out great for him. Like the King of Pop, we all like to play at being bad.

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Guster all Squared: Four Shows, Four Albums and….

It is funny how if something happened before google it almost doesn't exist

It is funny how if something happened before google it almost doesn’t exist

My sister recently wrote about the possible resuscitation of her faded love for the band Guster. I really identify with the phenomenon of hearing old music anew through the experience of her child because I have watched my daughter and son learn to love music bit by bit and have had my sense of wonder and mystery reborn through them.

But I also identify with my sister’s confession of perplexity, that something she once loved so much is now so distant and strange. I think that  the nostalgic fit of self-doubt that comes in such moments is in part a function of our own sense of aging and mortality. But there is something undeniably true about the band: their music has changed. But, then again, so have we.

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My love for Guster: Lost and Gone Forever?

Now that my daughter is getting older and is starting to recognize music, I’ve been making a point to introduce new and different music to her. Her tastes have started to change as she has grown, though Queen remains her number one choice, as it has been since about 3 months of age. She now loves Tom Petty and Johnny Cash, but doesn’t like the Aladdin soundtrack or anything by Bruce Springsteen. She currently favors Tchaikovsky over Mozart.

gusterMuch to my dismay, she does not seem to like New Kids on the Block—however, we’ve got lots of time to change that. Most recently, while driving around in my “Grocery getter”, as my husband refers to my SUV, during a fun errand-filled day with my toddler in the backseat, (as a brief aside—I sometimes think it’s easier to defend those charged with murder than be a full-time mother, wife, housekeeper and errand runner—but that’s a different story for a different day),  for some reason, still unknown to me, I decided it was finally time to introduce the little one to Guster.

I plugged my trusty hot-pink iPod nano (which I received for my birthday in 2006 7 ½ years ago and it STILL works—not sure what the deal is with my older brother and his iPod problems!) into the “Aux” cord and let the sounds of Guster fill the car. I was very pleased to see how my mini-me reacted. She clapped her hands and relaxed into her carseat and a very content smile spread over her face, and she sat remaining in that state, calm and happy, as we continued to drive around town.  I mentioned to my brother the elder J that his niece is a fan of Guster and he encouraged me to write about this and to inspire him to finally write about Guster!

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