Monday Earworm: Jonathan Coulton

So if you’re in the U.S. and are eligible to vote, I hope you’ve either already done that or are going to do that tomorrow. It truly matters, even if you *think* it doesn’t because you live in a “safely” blue or red state. (Yes, Texas, I’m looking at you. Go do the do.)

Let’s hope evil geniuses like the one in Coulton’s song don’t get any more power — or keep what they have. See, you get to help decide that by using your voice in the form of a vote. It’s pretty simple.

Go do it.

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Monday Earworm: Annie Lennox (Yes, more Annie!)

After yesterday’s Witchy Weekends post (the final one for this year), I began looking around for another Annie Lennox video to share with you, because she’s just so fabulous and has had such an undeservedly underrated career. I thought about the 2004 Oscars performance of “Into the West” and the 2012 London Olympics performance of “Little Bird,” both of which are powerful in their own different ways, but instead I’m going with something more whimsical, her video for “Walking on Broken Glass,” which apparently co-stars Hugh Laurie and John Malkovich, as well as some stunning costumes and sets. That feels about perfect for Hallowe’en festivities. Enjoy!

Monday Earworm: Girl In A Coma

One of my all-time favorite songs ever is “As the World Falls Down” by David Bowie from the movie Labyrinth. The reasons for this are vast and varied. And since my family’s annual Hallowe’en party (this year, cleverly entitled Masquerade 2018) is coming up this weekend, I thought I’d choose a song for today that has to do with a costume ball. Well, sort of a costume ball. In the movie, this song happens during what appears to be a masque. (And I do love a good masque. There should be more of them near me. Someone please make that happen.)

And for several years one of my brothers and I attended a masked ball in Los Angeles entitled the Labyrinth of Jareth, which was originally based on the movie but then evolved into its own extraordinary world. And at this event, each night, several of the songs from the movie’s soundtrack could be heard in the various ballrooms, but one thing remained constant, which was that this song (Bowie’s original version) would play at a certain time in each ballroom, and then everyone would find someone to waltz with for a few minutes. It was a really interesting experience, because even if you didn’t already have someone to dance with, you would probably find someone, or someone would find you. And maybe you would become friends with that person (that happened to me in one instance) and maybe you would never see them again, not even at the event (that’s happened to me too).

So to my friends Tara and Margo and James and Yolanda and Leonard and Sarah and Adrienne and to my brother Mo: I hope you all, especially, will enjoy this. It’s not Bowie’s version (which remains my favorite), but it’s a pretty good one.

 

So what else is going on? Well, it’s early voting time here where I live, so I’m gearing up for that because for heaven’s sake, why wouldn’t someone exercise their right to an opinion? Srsly. Go out and make the world better, y’all.

Also, my Kickstarter project has just 19 days left to meet its goal. We’re almost 75% of the way there! Thank you to everyone who has joined on. If you haven’t yet, now is a good time. If we get to 80%, I’ll announce the extremely marvelous perks for some stretch goals. And either way, I hope you’ll share the link to the project with people you know who like poetry or like my writing or like supporting indie artists. Because that’s good for your karma, yo, and we need more art in the world.

Otherwise I’ve got some grading to do and some KS updates to write and some front and back matter for the new book to finish and the new galleys for the 3rd edition of FINIS. to proof. Woot! Busy night!

I hope yours is awesome.

Witchy Weekends: Frank Sinatra and the Question of Agency

Here’s a cute little song from days gone by. It’s kind of fun to listen to, if you have fond memories of the music of this era.

But there might be more to it.

The premise of the song is fairly straightforward, fairly simple: “You’re an alluring lady, so much so that my attraction to you goes beyond normal, and so there must be something supernatural going on here. But that’s cool, I can roll with that.”

The subtext is also pretty clear: “You’re an alluring lady, and I’m going to enjoy pretending I don’t need to take any responsibility for my actions because of how attracted I am to you.”

I can already hear some of you protesting that I’m making this nonsense up. That I’m ruining something sweet and nice.

Buckle up, buttercup.

You can’t denigrate witches as the ultimate evil predator in league with the devil — a Christian concept if ever there was one — and then also say how lovely and fun and exciting and marvelous and sexy witches are at the same time, unless you do some serious introspection on your particular fantasies and fetishes.

***

In my English classes we spend a lot of time talking about character agency, or (rather simply) the ability of a character to make decisions and enact choices that have consequences, which in turn have bearing on the plot. (You can read an excellent explanation of character agency in stories here on Chuck Wendig’s blog.)

This song suggests that part of the allure of the “witch” in the song is the usurping of the singer’s agency, “[stripping] [his] conscience bare,” and he’s totally on board. But why?

In the current miasma of what passes for public debate these days, some of the more socially conscious have been talking a lot about personal responsibility.

When I taught AP Gothic Lit., we spent an entire unit of study on the heritage of the Witch as a political figure and literary archetype. Fascinating stuff. For a very small taste of one part of this, check out this wonderful article on the archetype of the “sexy witch” in literature.

One thing that comes up again and again is that — in fairy tales, for example — witches are those characters who are agents of change. Sometimes for nefarious purposes, such as the crone living in a gingerbread hut in the forest or a wickedly vain queen. And sometimes their magics lead to positive outcomes: think fairy godmothers and Glenda the Good.

In the Burning Times, “witches” were more often than not women; and more often than not, defenseless other than through their own fierce and fearless agency; and more often than not, opinionated or otherwise empowered in a way that threatened the patriarchy (in whatever form that might have taken, be it political or religious or social). These days one might imagine a representation of the greatest perceived existential threat to the patriarchy might be depicted as a flash mob of women, having the time of their lives bellydancing in the streets, wearing pointy hats.

Others have written on this subject more eloquently and more coherently than I. Right now, so much of this subject is just swimming around in a maelstrom in my brain. ‘Tis the season and all.

Please, discuss. What do you think of all of this?

Monday Earworm: Suzanne Vega

In honor of its being Columbus Day here in the States — or rather, Indigenous Peoples’ Day, or even Columbus-Was-A-D-bag Day (I know, I know, tomato, tomahto) — I thought I’d post Suzanne Vega’s song “World Before Columbus” for today’s earworm. But seeing as how it contains some questionable lyrics, I’m instead going to post one of her other songs which I love. Enjoy!

And if you’re in Canada, Happy Thanksgiving. I hope you’re having a wonderful time. It’s probably snowing there, and I’m jealous. I have to admit, though, the idea of having Thanksgiving before Hallowe’en might just be a cultural bridge too far for me to handle. I guess I’ll keep living here for now, at least to see how the midterms pan out.

Wish us luck…