Sunday, July 24, 2005

my one-minute mega-master-massively-me-meaningful mix tape

To be honest, my previous report of my non-ruminating while jogging with my iPod shuffle was much exaggerated. Indeed, one thing I thought about was the musical baton that got passed around many blogs earlier this year (see, e.g., here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here) but that I never did despite being a relatively early passee. The question I thought that was most intriguing was to name "Five Songs that Meant a Lot to You". Two things intrigued me about this:
1. However eloquent one may be, one can never really successfully convey why a song that meant a lot to you meant a lot to you, at least by the strong standard of imagining somebody else reading one's description and listening to the song and feeling like really do at some genuinely complete emphathetic level understand the meaning of the song to you.

2. At least my own attention span is sufficiently short that, while I could produce names of "Songs That Meant A Lot To Me", that list would actually be overly macroscopic. Rarely does a whole song from beginning to end mean a lot to me. Instead, "Stanzas and Choruses That Meant A Lot to Me" would be a more authentic list. And, even then, "Lines from Songs That Meant a Lot to Me" might be more authentic still, since it is really some of those that have swirled around my head thousands of times until they have been considered from every possible angle.
Below I provide ten examples that I came up with during my run. Understand, this is completely self-indulgent, me posting this. Even more self-indulgent than this blog in general! Because, it's not like I expect you to understand. Indeed, the whole point is that these are idiosyncratic little intersections of my temperament, my biography, and five seconds of song that happened to hit me in the right way. So, kind of the whole point is that you won't understand. Presumably you have your own special-meaningful-lines that I couldn't really quite be made to understand, either. But, gamely (or, again more accurately, self-indulgently), I will not just list them but provide little pseudoexplanatory annotations as well.

"I'm crazy, but I get the job the done." from Ben Folds Five, "Philosophy" (as far as motivational/affirmational quotes that one can take to heart as their own go, this one is so wildly misleading--the thing being that while I am crazy all of the time, only intermittently do I get the job done.)

"I get knocked down, but I get up again." from Chumbawamba, "Tubthumping" (originally my job market mental slogan, then my finish-the-dissertation mental slogan, and then my first few years as a junior faculty member mental slogan)

"We'll crucify the insincere tonight." from Smashing Pumpkins, "Tonight, Tonight" (I don't really have a violent streak, much less a mass-homicidal one, but for some reason I find something extraordinarily hopeful and uplifting in the idea that Billy Corgan and I just might this evening go out and round up the ranks of the insincere and kill them all in the most painful way possible. Don't ask me to explain, other than that all the insincerity of the world really does wear me down sometimes.)

"Why do good things never wanna stay? Some things you lose, some things you give away." from Sleater-Kinney, "Good Things" (in my mind, this entire song, and especially these lines, is actually about my mind, its travels, and the extent to which I let piddling things colonize it)

"Call me when you wake her up." from R.E.M., "The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonight" (NOT the other ninety times this line is sung in this song, but the time near the end when he giggles through the first couple of words. I was a serious R.E.M. fan, back in the day, and I think this is the second-best three seconds in their entire oeuvre--that's how much I admire the effect of it. But then I wonder: Did he intend that? How does someone recognize that it would be a warm and clever effect if they giggled the next line? Is it even giggling, or am I imposing giggling on a weird vocal quirk? I've lain awake trying to work this out-- don't think I'm kidding.)

"You were a-wandering out on the hills of Iowa, and you were not thinking of me" and "She said: Love, where did it get me? Whoever thought of love is no friend of mine." from Dar Williams, "Iowa," (a break up)

"I thought you were special. I thought you should know." from Garbage, "Special" (another break up)

"He says well this will eat up a year of my life. And then there's all that weight to be lost." from Paul Simon, "Crazy Love, Vol. II" (I will actually say 'and then there's all that weight to be lost' to myself when I am feeling overwhelmed with work- or other-people-related projects. I think what I take as meaningful is the idea of just causally offhandly saying a major undertaking like it is one more thing on a to-do list that you can casually get around to and be able to check off whenever.)

"Well, it's the biggest thing in my life, I guess." from The Replacements, "Talent Show" (You want to depress people in their late twenties or thirties? Or at least childless people who aren't in the middle of planning a wedding or finishing their dissertations? Ask them, as innocuous-sounding as possible, "So what's the biggest thing in your life right now?" It's like watching the air come out of a balloon as you can see people's disappointment with the possible answers that they weigh giving. I suspect a comely person with a sadistic streak could psychologically destroy a string of people at a speed-dating event by using this as her/his opening question.)

"Leave tonight or live and die this way." from Tracy Chapman, "Fast Car" (yes, that's right, I have appropriated a line from a song about a young black woman's desperation to escape her bleak urban life, and I mentally invoke it in moments like, for example, when I'm in the middle of some interminable conversation at a party. I use it as a mental prompt that gets me to be assertive about bolting, as I think, if I just stand here, it's one more example of me letting other people run over me and waste my life being bored to death.)

"He stepped on his dreams so many times he wore out the path he needed to take to find the life he thought would just happen to him, like the changing of the seasons" from Huffamoose, "James" (in theory, this line would prompt me to be wary about getting so incessantly caught up in small practicalities that I continually compromise larger aspirations, etc., that I might have. In practice, it's more that I use the line to berate myself for doing exactly that.)

I guess that makes eleven. Since I was being openly self-indulgent, you didn't really expect me to stop at ten, did you? And besides, I didn't even get to "Being small is hard and no one ever tells you how" from Jeff Lewis, "Back When I Was 4." Or to "But I somehow, some way, keep coming up with funky ass shit like every single day" from Snoop Dogg, "Gin N Juice." Or to...


Anonymous said...

I think what I take as meaningful is the idea of just causally offhandly saying a major undertaking like it is one more thing on a to-do list that you can casually get around to and be able to check off whenever.)

Hmm, I've always interpreted that line differently. The weight gain is a consequence of the break-up and divorce. Fat Charlie files for divorce and says, "Well, this will eat up a year of my life, and then [in addition, afterwards] there's all that weight to be lost." So he's drolly resigned in advance to all this hassle.

jeremy said...

Yes, that's all well in good, except that what swirls around in my head is not how the applies to Fat Charlie, but how it applies to me. (Me! Me!)

Anonymous said...

Yes, that's all well in good,

Well and good :-P

dorotha said...

ignoring the rest of commenters...

i'm quite suprised that so few of our song lines overlap given that we share so much of the same musical taste. i guess being 5 or 6 years younger really does make a difference.

jeremy said...

Anon: Well and good, well in good: for all intensive purposes these are the same thing. I have a keyboard homophone disorder.

Dorotha: Being 5 years younger than me--I don't what new math they are teaching the kids these days that would warrant "or 6"--probably does make a big difference. That, and, I haven't drawn nearly the same kind of life inspiration from Weird Al as you have. Besides, one's Lines That Mean A Lot To Me really should be pretty idiosyncratic, shouldn't they?

mcd said...

i think this may be my favorite jeremy post. i like it when you're self-indulgent.

my favorite jeremy joke, by the way, is the "diet something pepsi through the nose when you weren't even drinking the diet something pepsi" joke. good times.

dorotha said...

hey, jeremy, why was "or 6" afraid of "or 7?"

Rhymes With Scrabble said...

This post made me go look at my autobiographical mix CD that I made a couple of years ago, which in turn caused me to think that I should really make a new one, because the track listing somehow doesn't seem so appropriate anymore. Except for "The Desperate Things You Made Me Do"--I'd like to be beat you black and blue / for all the agony you have put me through still works.

jeremy said...

Martine: Thanks!

Dorotha: Because "or 7" "or 8" "or 9"!

RWS: I strongly suspect the rate at which one's autobiographical mix CD becomes obsolete declines with age.

Rhymes With Scrabble said...

No doubt. I'm just grateful I don't have one from junior high. (Especially since I think I only listened to three albums, on constant rotation, for most of it--towards the end my mother was literally trying to bribe me not to play Tori Amos for a 24-hour period.)

A+ said...

I remember mine from junior high! It's hilarious; depressing doesn't even begin to cover it. I played "All I Want Is You" so many times I actually snapped the tape. I wish I were joking.

jeremy said...

Whatever I was listening to in junior high, I'm sure I would be ashamed to confess to now. Not a lot of non-bad-top-40 music made it's way out to the farmlands from whence I come. However, I am a treasure trove of trivia about the Billboard Top 40 from, say, 1981-1985.

Corrie said...

RE: ["Call me when you wake her up." from R.E.M., "The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonight" (NOT the other ninety times this line is sung in this song, but the time near the end when he giggles through the first couple of words.]

that giggle makes my top-10 list, too. definitely a giggle, definitely intentional. the pretentiousness doesn't prevent it from making me silly gleefull every time i hear it.