One of the main things they teach you about writing film reviews is hey, maybe don’t blow the ending. But, god, do I wish I could tell you just how much I needed the last few minutes of Taika Waititi’s “Jojo Rabbit” on today of all days.
Besides, I always err on the side of personal essays anyways. Let’s not pretend I am in anyway a film critic. I aimlessly left my apartment to go for a walk in the pouring rain this morning, trying to tire myself out because I didn’t sleep a wink. I zoned out and walked about four miles.
Candidly, the droplets on my sweatshirt were a mixture of rainwater and tears. Realizing I walked too far to turn back, I sought shelter in the nearest theater. “Jojo Rabbit” happened to be starting right as I arrived, so it was fate, really.
Taika Waititi is an accomplished filmmaker responsible for one of the greatest cult films ever made, “What We Do In The Shadows,” among lesser important things, like “Thor: Ragnarok.” (Sorry, one of the Hemsworths.)
It’s no surprise that I’d be drawn to Waititi’s buffoonish take on dark Nazi Germany. Jojo, played by Roman Griffin Davis, is a 10-year-old Hitler Youth during WW2, whose hopes to become a soldier are thwarted after an accident.
Jojo’s imaginary friend, Hitler, played by Waititi himself is a caricature of the fuhrer that does silly rumor-based things like eat unicorn meat.
As a literal child, Jojo is a scared boy who wants to belong and loves his mommy (Scarlet Johansson.) He wants to fall in line and thinks love is gross. A development at home challenges his entire belief system and forces the plot along.
Not without its sad and horrific moments (there are literal Nazis after all) the movie still ultimately punches up.
“Jojo Rabbit” has a a lot of heart, humor, and hardship. Without spoiling too much, I’ll just say that I left feeling like I had been given a sign to keep going, no matter what. For that, I am really thankful.
On May 22nd, 2018 I walked into Boston’s Royale. Passing the merch table for Jukebox the Ghost, my eyes caught a glimpse of a t-shirt in the far right corner plainly stating “The Greeting Committee.” I pushed myself into the crowd eager to see one of my favorite bands perform. But before the main event, I had to sit through another opening act.
Voices bubbled as the lights dimmed and three men walked out on stage. They hit their instruments hard. Guitars wailing, the bass shaking me. I could feel the drums behind my eyeballs. I rolled my eyes.
“Great, another punkish popish three piece boy band* here to sing the same sad songs I’ve heard a million time-”
I never got a chance to finish my snarky comment as a young woman bounded onto the stage in a red jumpsuit.
In my memory it was a single twenty foot bound that carried her to center stage. Descending like The Phantom from the rafters. A poor stagehand had to follow after with her mic cable to make sure she didn’t clothesline her bandmates.
All thoughts of snarky comments left my head.
There were four of them on stage that night, Lead Singer Addie Sartino, Pierce Turcotte on bass and saxophone, Brandon Yangmi on guitar, and Austin Fraser on Drums.
The crowd that night was tough, but they put performed as if a whole stadium was screaming their names.
Personally the emotional peak of the set was the first time I got to hear Dancing to Nothing at All. Halfway through the song their bassist Pierce hands off his bass to Addie and breaks out into a Springsteenian saxophone solo the song crescendos into this wonderful cacophony of sheer emotion. What starts out as a relatively slow and sparse song swells into an absolute wall of expression. I was floored. I was in tears.
Dancing to Nothing at All exemplifies so many of the reasons you, yes you, should be listening to The Greeting Committee. Throughout the song you get to hear each member of the band shine and bounce off each other. From Brandon and Pierce riff together on guitar and saxophone respectively. To the way Austin’s drums support, yet elevate the playing. And at the end when Pierce tempers his saxophone to Addie’s yearning refrain:
If you’re gonna love someone, let it be me.
It’s been a really long time since a band has captured such a specific feeling about love and life that resonates with me so deeply. They make grand declarations feel incredibly intimate. Dancing to Nothing at All is such a huge song about such a simple moment. Two people, young and in love dancing alone in a house. And through that song, they bring you there. It’s not some generic song about some generic person who the singer is generically in love with. It’s this vivid moment with real people, in a real world. Not some generic vacuum.
On the song Elise we’re once more brought into a love song full of intimacy and grandeur, yet incredibly grounded in reality. You can really feel these moments happen, the world building in these songs allows for such an easy empathetic connection to be made. Pulling the words out of you that you never knew you needed to say.
In a back car seat, reminding me
That even in a wreck,
I’ve got someone for holding.
And they’re able to bring this intimate grandeur to pain and heartache as well. On the track I Don’t Mind we play witness to a breakup:
Comfort can’t exist
I never felt it in your lips
You used your skin as weapon
When the right words wouldn’t fill in
Their ability to make tangible intangible moments through both lyricism and musicality. The playing so beautifully matches what the lyrics are portraying.
They weave in and out of difficult topics so beautifully and gracefully, such as in Birthday Song. There we are painted a portrait of a broken home. With dashes of negligent parents. Streaks of broken promises. And the contrasting shadows of the pain and suffering that comes from a home that falls apart. Live it’s just Brandon and Addie on stage. Sitting there. There’s no theatrics, there’s no jumping anymore. No shouting. Just the song speaking for itself. The song ends with the audience singing together, all kinda teary eyed. As intimate as if you’re gathered around the cake in the song.
The Greeting Committee isn’t trying to be too cool for their emotions. There’s no glib irony in their songs. It’s the pure empathetic transference of emotion. Even on their poppier tracks like Don’t Go still bursts with earnest expression of love and bickering. The song wonderfully addresses the difficult push and pull of a relationship without any snark or snide. The song is full of vulnerability without feeling weak of begging. The strength of the music behind it gives power to the vulnerable nature of the subject.
I know I pushed you to before
I’ll never make it on my own
Don’t go, don’t go, don’t go, don’t go
I can’t say that all the songs are autobiographical, nor do I want to. But to me the beauty of The Greeting Committee is that they feel autobiographical.
I remember being very very young and listening to Rosalita by Bruce Springsteen and my father having to explain to me that it’s not real, there isn’t actually a Rosalita Bruce is searching for.
Maybe that’s where so much of my fondness for The Greeting Committee comes from. Not to make everything about Bruce Springsteen, (even though I can make literally anything about Bruce Springsteen) but so much of what I love about Bruce Springsteen, especially early Bruce Springsteen, you can find in The Greeting Committee. The world building, the yearning, the intimacy, the grandeur, the feeling that somewhere at sometime this happened to somebody. The ability to turn abstract concepts into songs that express everything you’ve ever wanted to say.
The Greeting Committee are brave, wearing their hearts on their sleeves. Opening for bands with rabid fan bases who might not know them. Rabid fan bases who resent the idea of an opening band purely on principle, just like I did. But every night they’re showing people why they should love them. The Greeting Committee is one of the most fun, energetic, and honest bands I’ve ever encountered. Once their given the full stage to headline their own tour they’re going to rule the world.
I was lucky enough to meet Pierce and Addie when they came to Boston last Monday. I was able to tell them how much I loved them and how much their music means to me.
I hope this essay convinces you to listen to them, and go see them on tour. I hope then you can feel the things I’ve felt and more and tell them how much their songs mean to you. Because I don’t know if I know of a band right now that deserves to be loved as much as The Greeting Committee.
You should be listening to The Greeting Committee because for my money no one is writing songs as consistently visceral or empathetic as they are. For my money no one is putting on as fun of a show as they are. Time after time I can go back and listen to the same songs by The Greeting Committee and I can feel just as much as I did that rainy night standing in the Royale.
Your Fool and More,
Bailey F. Olmstead
P.S. Here’s a lil playlist to show you some of my favorite songs by them, some not even mentioned in this essay!
*I’m aware of the irony of saying this at a Jukebox the Ghost Show, a band that is piano punkish popish.
Weezer, the ever uncool. Weezer the awkward nerds with guitars, synths and a strange affinity for KISS. Weezer has been producing music for 25 years. And according to a large percentage of their fans, they only have two good albums.
I think I was 14 when I was first told there were only two good Weezer albums. Before that I just enjoyed Weezer. In particular the Red Album. I thought The Greatest Man Who Ever Lived was a masterpiece. I would listen to the whole album all the time. Troublemaker would play as a 12 year old me cut behind the elementary school on my way to go hang out at the library for several hours as I waited for my parents to finish work. I listened to Hurley a lot and had a great time. My first introduction to Jackass was Memories. It’s also probably the most time I spent watching Jackass. I don’t have a stomach for these kinds of things.
But I was sitting in the living room of my best friend Erik’s house when he told me that there were only two good Weezer albums. And that Pinkerton, the one I never cared much for, was the best one. I was floored and upset. I walked back to the library to meet my dad while listening to If You’re Wondering if I Want you to (I Want you to). I felt conflicted.
I then did my best to get really into Pinkerton, stopped listening to the Red Album, and wrote a really long note to a girl confessing my love for her while citing songs from Pinkerton. It was a dark and greasy time.
I grew out of that, thankfully.
One fateful day Everything Will Be Alright in the End came out. I listened to it constantly. I loved it so much I made it my computer background. A friend, Brendan, saw it and asked what it was,
“It’s the cover of Weezer’s new album.”
“Weezer still exists?”
The White Album came out at a time when I was in love and I loved it even more. I mean, I couldn’t get my girlfriend at the time to listen to it. But the songs made me think of her and I was young and everything was alright. (in the end).
I actually found out about the White Album in my high school’s locker room. My father had texted me asking me what the hell my little band Weezer thought they were doing, when the real White album was already released by the Beatles.
Time passed and I became weirdly wary of Weezer again. Maybe it’s because I went to art school and had the volume of “Pinkerton is the only good Weezer album” cranked to 11.
When Pacific Daydream came out I listened to it once and wrote it off completely.
A few more years passed and I began to solidify my own opinions on Weezer. I still feel like the popularity of Weezer’s Africa overshadows the fact that the campaign to get them to cover the song in the first place was huge. And it was reaching a fever pitch as the rumored release date for Weezer’s long anticipated Black Album was supposed to originally drop. And you know what they did? They released a cover of Toto’s Rosanna instead.
And two days later they released Africa. And nothing Weezer-wise was ever the same.
Weezer blew up in a way they hadn’t in years. Bigger than they ever were before, singing someone else’s song, getting radio play and late night appearances, They were on Dick Clark’s Rockin’ New Years Eve Hosted By Ryan Seacrest. But now Weezer were the ones who weren’t happy. Rivers talked to EW about the struggle of being a songwriter for 25 years and having your biggest hit be off of someone else’s song you covered as a joke.
Weezer’s Africa amused me, but didn’t hold my attention.
Summer came. One morning on my way to my old job I decided to go back and revisitThe Red Album. That cool 5am Boston morning reminded me why I loved it so much in the first place. Later I heard some songs on Pinkerton and remembered why I never cared for it that much. They’re such different albums. Much of Pinkerton is full of these weird and unsettling emotions that I don’t really enjoy listening to anymore. It seethes with a mix of emotions from high school I no longer wish to revisit. It quite literally feels like a sophomore album. On the other hand Red is just wall to wall with bangers and ballads. It also holds a reference to Bruce Springsteen, so it gets a 10/10 in my book. Also the video for Pork and Beans is one of the greatest pieces of internet culture ever released.
I revisited the Weezer of my youth. A band full of awkward angst and optimism. A band trying to have a good time, a band in love with the Mythical Land of California. A band that you had to defend as you were talking about liking, or even loving them.
SNL released a Weezer sketch that was sent to me so many times by so many people saying “look it’s you” when Matt Damon screamed that “Pork and Beans is better than Buddy Holly!” It happened so often that my dad sent it twice, forgetting he sent it the first time. I felt strangely validated.
Then SNL was like “It was a joke, we had no idea people had these opinions.”
That was a little invalidating. I choose to ignore that.
It was in Maddie’s DC apartment in bed around 2am when I heard about the Teal Album. At first I thought it was a joke. Rivers is infamous for letting other people write shitposts for his tweets. But it was real. After I stopped crying and laughing out of fear and amusement, I listened.
And actually really enjoyed it.
This time around Weezer’s Africa felt more impactful in the full context of the Teal Album. It lingered. The album had a lot of fun and heart put into it. And some really cool interpretations of songs, my favorite being Happy Together. Hearing Weezer have fun on the Teal Album made me realize how much I loved Weezer, and why I loved Weezer. They’re just some guys trying to have fun.
I enjoyed it so much that I went back and gave Pacific Daydream another try. And actually liked a lot about it. Not everything, but a lot. Mexican Fender is one of their best songs in recent history.
I went back and listened to Raditude again and enjoyed it. I fell back in love with Weezer.
As a writer and a Weezer fan I will be subjected to years and years of Weezer discourse. A lot of it negative and boring and bad.
A lot of headlines you see about Weezer’s exploits seem to be punching down. Sure, is it very weird that there’s a Weezer island in Fortnite? Yes. Absolutely. But somehow it feels perfectly Weezer. It’s so cool to hate on Weezer, yet Weezer’s Africa charted. People are listening to this stuff, a lot. And Despite the fact that it’s ‘cool’ to say that no one has cared about Weezer since 2001, they’re still drawing crowds. They’re still having article after article written about them. And they’re still putting out albums, each one different than the last. Some of them weird, some of them straightforward, but each one different than the last. Each one something new.
Why we can’t just let Weezer have fun? They’ve been trying so hard to have fun for nearly 30 years and every time they seem like they’re having a good time, all their fans are doing is complaining it’s not what they wanted. But the whole point of Weezer, their whole persona and mythology is that they’re oddballs and outcasts who no one wants. The fans reaction to Weezer’s output just reinforces the mythos of Weezer. They’re just gonna do the things that they wanna do.
Weezer never was cool and Weezer never will be cool. They’ve been proudly uncool ever since the beginning, with that wonderfully awkward first album cover. One headline by the Brooklyn Vegan says they’re “Confused and Out of Touch on the Black album.” But that’s always been Weezer. That’s what In the Garage was all about. They’re just some nerdy weirdos trying to have fun. They’re not going to fit in whatever molds the larger world tries to constrict them to.
And sure they don’t always hit the landing. I’d be relieved if I never had to hear the album version of “Feels like Summer” again. But at the same time I’d rather have Rivers, and Weezer as a whole try something new and weird and maybe even too poppy than release more songs like Pink Triangle. Rivers and Weezer are always working on albums. Even now they have two more albums in various stages of completion. Unlike other darling bands of the era, Weezer is producing new albums consistently. Meanwhile I’ve been waiting five years for a new OK Go album.
With the release of the Black Album Weezer fans have found more and more to complain about. As they will continue to do long after Rivers has run dry, so to speak. And maybe that’s the way it’ll continue to be. A strange push and pull, a back and forth. A yin and yang.
I suppose I’ll continue to unironically believe that the Red Album is the best Weezer album. Miss Sweeney is one of the greatest songs of all goddamn time.
Just, let Weezer have fun. They’re not hurting anyone. They just want to have a good time with the people who have been their fans for nearly 30 years.
Having listened to the album while editing this essay, the Black Album is really good. I like it a lot! It’s poppy and upbeat and a little weird. It’s a logical evolution from the White Album, with a lot of feelings of the Green Album, and maybe a little Raditude thrown in there. If that doesn’t sound like your speed and you wanna wallow in some angst, I hear Gretta Van Fleet has a covers album or two.
Thank you for your time. All hate mail can be forwarded to my Beverly Hills address.
I remember the first time I heard Life on Mars by David Bowie. It changed my life. I had never heard a song like that before. Bowie is wailing. The piano is crashing. The guitar is crying. It’s so beautifully haunting. Very few songs hit me like this one. When I hear it sometimes it’s like being struck like a bell. I hear it and I can feel myself ringing. A little while later I would hear Rock n’ Roll Suicide. As Bowie screams “Oh no love, you’re not alone!” I would be flying down hills of my small hometown on my bike. The summer hot on my back. I was maybe 12. That song was everything I had dreamed of, yearned for. It was life changing. It was life affirming.
I’m from Newfield, New York. You’ve never heard of it. When people ask I say that I’m from Ithaca, New York. Which isn’t entirely a lie. I spent a lot of my life in Ithaca, but I grew up in the small town just outside of Ithaca. I had a class of maybe 54 other kids, give or take. I felt very alone. But Bowie would call me ‘love’ and tell me I wasn’t, so it’d make the days a little better.
I remember being in the car with my father when I first heard Space Oddity. I was young I was obsessed with the narrative. The fact the song could tell a story like that. He told me there was a follow up. I was very sad when I heard Ashes to Ashes.
Ashes to ashes, funk to funky
We know Major Tom’s a junkie
Strung out in heaven’s high
Hitting an all-time low
I ran into his room. I cried out, “Dad! Why?” and he explained the context for the song. How a lot of astronauts turn to drugs after space because nothing on Earth could match that. I still get a little sad when I hear that song.
Because of my obsession with Space Oddity my father gave me a David Bowie cassette. It was Changes, a lot of great songs on that hunk of plastic. It was a prized possession. When I was much younger than I am now, but older than when I got the cassette I gave it to the girl I lost my virginity to. It had Heroes on it and that was ‘our song.’ I was in high school, and in love and I gave it away because I thought that’s what you did for love. Maybe I still do.
I got older and more into Bowie. I heard the lyrics to Young Americans and I realized how that first verse was more or less exactly the story of me losing my virginity.
They pulled in just behind the bridge
He lays her down, he frowns
Gee my life’s a funny thing, am I still too young?
He kissed her then and there
She took his ring, took his babies
It took him minutes, took her nowhere
Heaven knows, she’d have taken anything…
What a young little Casanova I was. What a fool I was. Around the time I discovered Young Americans I was beginning to question my sexuality. I think I was 16. I didn’t know how to talk about it or who to talk about it with. I didn’t know any bisexual males that I was aware of. My sister had just come out, but I didn’t want to talk to her and seem like I was trying to steal her thunder. I was alone in my anxiety and my own sexual ambiguity. I was afraid to declare anything. I wrestled with it for nearly two years.
Three years ago when David Bowie turned 69 (nice). I had decided I was done hiding from myself. If David Bowie could be so wonderfully flamboyant and incredible and bisexual and beloved then why the hell couldn’t I?
Three years ago I came out as bisexual. I came out as bisexual in a small lil podunk town who didn’t fully understand who or what I was. They still loved me all the same. But there wasn’t anyone there who could show me the way to claim this part of myself. But that’s what I had Bowie for. And when the younger boys who called me faggot weren’t calling me faggot because of my sexuality, they said it because they didn’t know what else to call me. But it didn’t matter when they did. I was myself.
So come on
We really got a good thing going
(Well) Come on
(Well) Come on
If you think we’re gonna make it
You better hang on to yourself
Coming out was one of the best things I ever did. I felt this weight come off of my shoulders and I felt more genuinely me than I think I ever had before.
Two days later David Bowie died.
In retrospect I find it a little funny. You finally find a bi icon, a Bicon if you will, and then as soon as they give you the courage to truly be yourself, they die. I was devastated. I still am devastated.
I got in contact with my ex and got my David Bowie cassette back. Reclaiming a little bit of what I gave away.
My relationship with David Bowie would continue. Just as one sided as before. The following Halloween I was Aladdin Sane. That was my first Halloween in college. That was also the time I learned a lot of important lessons.
1)Wearing a full suit and face makeup to a dance club is a mistake.
2) When boys and girls tell you they like your costume responding with “Thanks, I did the makeup myself,” is not usually a turn on.
3) When you do finally get over enough of your social anxiety to go onto the floor. And someone decides she’s okay with making out with a man in full face paint, some of that face paint will rub off. You’ll then be able to identify all the men she makes out with after you step away to go to the bathroom. That’ll kinda hurt. Even though you never learned her name.
Two years have passed since that night, and I look back on it with a lot of bemusement. I do a lot of things to try and be more like the people I idolize. I bought a pair of boots because I saw an old promotional picture of Bruce Springsteen where he wore similar ones. French 75’s officially cemented themselves as my favorite cocktail because a book said they were the most similar to the persona of David Bowie.
I didn’t know what I was going to write when I started writing this. I just knew I had to write. The anniversary of David Bowie’s death is today. He would have turned 72 on Tuesday. I’ll never meet Bowie, or tell him how much he meant to me. I’ll never be able to tell him he gave me the courage to be more myself. He gave me the strength to come out as bisexual. He gave me the courage to dress weirder. To be More. More flamboyant. More ostentatious. More grand. To be more myself.
Often times when I’m at work and I get to play music I’ll put on David Bowie and let shuffle handle the rest. Song after song I’ll be delighted.
Maybe this piece is more about me and my relationship with an icon than it is about the icon himself. Maybe that’s narcissistic.
As I’m sitting in my chair writing this, my Changes cassette sits next to me. I’ve set the Bowie discography to shuffle. Dancing out in Space is playing. I miss him.
No-one here can see you
Dancing face to face
No-one here can beat you
Dancing out in space
Some days before work I’ll be stressed. Worried about what the night will bring. And I’ll queue up Bowie’s performance of Heroes from Live Aid. I’ll listen to all the hope he has in his voice. I’ll hear the optimism he’s exuding on that stage. I’ll listen as he dedicates the song to his son. I’ll stand a little straighter. I’ll walk a little more confident into work.
I, I will be king
And you, you will be queen
Though nothing, will drive them away
We can beat them, just for one day
We can be heroes, just for one day
A few weeks ago I was a little drunk and strung out on anxiety. I stumbled down the front steps of my apartment, lighting my cigarette. Wandering in the cold. I was stressed, I was tired, I felt alone. I put my headphones on, and those first few chords of Rock n Roll Suicide flooded my ears. I exhaled the smoke. I felt a sensation as some of the tension left my shoulders. Bowie was screaming and the music was swelling and I found myself choked up, lightly crying in the dark of a cold Boston night.
Bowie told me that I wasn’t alone. And ever since then, I haven’t been. I’ll always have my headphones, I’ll always have Bowie to keep me company.
Oh no, love, you’re not alone
You’re watching yourself, but you’re too unfair
You got your head all tangled up, but if I could only make you care
Oh no, love, you’re not alone
No matter what or who you’ve been
No matter when or where you’ve seen
All the knives seem to lacerate your brain
I’ve had my share, I’ll help you with the pain
You’re not alone
I woke up extra early this morning, on a Saturday, with a pit in my stomach. Trying not to feel so sick, I looked over to see my dog snoozing on the futon next to my bed. “Good morning, sweet girl,” I said, for the last time.
Before we got Darby in 2004, I was terrified of dogs. 14 years later, I’m terrified of life without one.
She was the runt of her litter, tiny and trampled by her brothers and sisters on the day we got her. I was 8 years old. She was so small that she had to wear a cat collar.
It’s so incredible that we got to spend 14 years with this quirky Coonhound-Doberman mix. Everyone thinks their dog is the best dog, but Darby truly was a once in a lifetime dog. She was so sweet and so funny. She boldly stole chicken nuggets from my plate, gave side-eye when she felt ignored, and would kick golf balls back and forth to herself on the wooden deck. We lived close to the shore. She was afraid of the water, but constantly tried to eat crabs on the beach.
She quickly stole the hearts of my entire family. My mother, who once insisted that our dog would mostly stay outside as her dogs had when she grew up, shared her master bed with Darby. The dog’s preferred sleep number was a solid 25, in case you were wondering.
Darby’s silly yet sweet temperament became the focal point of our whole family dynamic. My parents initially joked that Darby surpassed me in the family ranks. In our four person family, I became #5.
There are so many moments with her I will never forget. When I cried in the weeks before my high school prom, she sat extra close to me and licked my hands. When she revenge-shat on a stack of my laundry (her only real accident in our house, and one that my parents will never not find funny.) The many times I sat in the grass next to her as she outstretched her silky body in the sun. She was a pizza crust vacuum and sass queen.
I liked my dog more than I liked most people. Friends came and went, but I always had my little buddy. Whenever I didn’t want to face unfavorable realities in my life, I’d gloss over them to focus on her. “Well…how is the dog?” I’d say over the phone, when I was at college and didn’t want to have hard conversations.
A few months ago, we found out she had cancer. A mass started to grow in her mouth. I was heartbroken, and I cried in my apartment about the thought of her leaving us. I started coming home from college every weekend, just to get more time with her. As the mass grew, and began to bleed and smell, she mostly was still the same happy-go-lucky dog. A week ago, I watched her hop in the yard after a squirrel as if she was 12 years younger. At my arrival, she would still wap her tail back and forth. At the same time, I realized that she was ready to go, no longer able to go up the stairs by herself, and skipping meals. 14 years is an incredible amount of time to have with a dog. I know that. When I arrived home for our last day together, I noticed the black mass that once hung from her mouth was missing. My mom informed me that it fell off two days ago. She wasn’t in any less pain, but I’m glad that thing fell off. I’m sure she felt more comfortable by its absence. I thought I’d be okay today, knowing how lucky we were to get 14 years, but at around 12:30 I found myself desperately crying to my mother in the kitchen, “Can’t you just cancel it? We can take care of her if she falls again!” As the day ticked by, the countdown aspect of this was extra haunting. I’m not ready to say goodbye yet.
Moving forward, it’s going to be so hard. I’m anticipate a hollow feeling in my household as I pass by all of her favorite places. Even the places where she once puked on the carpet will hold sentiment.
Over the summer, I found a golden, tarnished, heart-shaped locket in my childhood bedroom. The chain broke, so it was just a pendant. It was from fourth grade, and I was so amused. I thought inside there would be some embarrassing remnant of an old crush. Lord knows what fourth grade me could’ve put in there. Would it be Jesse McCartney or the name of a kid in my class? I pried it open to find a picture of Darby in there. My heart’s desire in fourth grade was my dog. I attached the pendant to my bracelet and I’ve worn it every day since.
Darby spent her last day like a queen, with plenty of bacon and belly rubs. I lost an incomparable love from my life today, but god, I am so thankful.
Sir Elton John’s “I’m Still Standing” was probably the cheesiest 80’s pop song that wasn’t George Michael’s. Though my love for Sir Elton John runs so deep (a fact most people in my life know) this particular song was an always immediate skip in the playlist. As a listener, I couldn’t possibly start with emotional “Daniel” about a Vietnam War veteran, or my go-to karaoke jam “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” and transition to an upbeat, nonsensical “I’m Still Standing” and it’s ridiculous diss: “And if our love was a circus, you’d be a clown right now.”
Quite literally “I’m Still Standing” stood out as something trivial and silly. I’ll be the first to admit it’s because as much as I constantly try to fight it, I am an innately snooty music snob. This song wasn’t “deep” at the first listen, or even the first 30 listens, so it was out. Until recently if a person were to come up to me and mention they loved Elton John only to reference “I’m Still Standing” as their favorite, I’d probably internally scream, “Sure, Jan.”
Listen to this without telling me it’s cheesy.
It wasn’t until I learned a lesson about resilience that I really understood “I’m Still Standing.” It’ll never be “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.” But it isn’t trivial, and my many years of disdain for it were misinformed. I had to learn that there’s so much power in just saying, “Well, I’m still here, aren’t I?” That seemed to be a major theme of 2017 for me. I’m still here. Despite everything.
For the same reason, I personally clung to P!nk’s latest album, Beautiful Trauma. Specifically the blatantly named track, “I Am Here” and it’s’ line, “I can make anywhere home.”
A year ago I wouldn’t have imagined where I would be now. I’m sure many feel the same about 2017 both politically and not. I have many new faces in my life. That’s a weird way to put that, but I’ve got a lot of new company. I’ve strengthened older friendships, too. I went from someone who had a lot of acquaintances they never hung out with to a person who cackles with them over drinks. I didn’t know that I’d live in my favorite neighborhood in Boston. Mostly, I didn’t, and still don’t really know, how to manage that mental health thing people talk about.
I also don’t have to disclose much about that. I constantly remind myself I don’t have to share that. I don’t owe anyone anything, in that regard. Brevity is a virtue.
Recently, I was talking post-grad plans with my dad, about where I may take a job. He said maybe jokingly, maybe seriously, “You couldn’t even survive living alone in LA!” I shot right back, amused, “I’m still here, aren’t I?”
That’s the thing. I’ve survived 3,000 miles away from everything I knew. I’ve survived heartbreak. I’ve survived loss. I’ve survived every single day that I’ve ever doubted myself. Nothing and no one can take that away from me.
A week or so goes by, and I’ve left what was supposed to be a normal doctor’s appointment worried. I was laying on my bed, pondering and listening to Elton John’s latest album, “Diamonds” staring at the ceiling, as one does. Teary-eyed, I heard the stupid beginning to my least favorite masterpiece. I reached for the skip button, almost laughing, “Dear god, not this stupid song, not now” but I stopped myself.
It took a mixture of crying and laughing for me to understand this silly song. I guess I’m just trying to say that I’m still standing, better than I ever did.
I thought of a few of absurdist Halloween costume ideas, so you don’t have to. These are not for the last minute draw-whiskers-on-your-face kind of person, rather these are for the individual that wants to win Halloween.
You have approximately 21 days to get this together. Allow me to help.
1.) You could go as Beyoncé’s Ultrasound. We all know that the announcement of Bey’s pregnacy was a momentous in this year’s history. Twins Rumi and Sir Carter will probably be the first twin presidents someday, so it’s important to start honoring them early. I know what you’re thinking, “Maddie, how am I going to pull off being an..ultrasound…?” Well, allow me to explain with this concept art. Obviously, you’re going to need two people for this one.
2) You could go as Baroque Obama. Dress in Baroque period clothing with a puffy collar and as #44.
3) To really spook your friends, go as Ann Coulter. 4) Get a motorized scooter, some cardboard, and remove your spine to become Sean Spicer with a moving podium à la SNL.
5) Lastly, are you one of those people that wants a costume your friends, “just won’t get” ? Or are you afraid that you’re running out of sexy costume ideas? Impress yourself with an original, *quirky* sexy version of the best Guillermo Del Toro film to date. All you need for these ones, is well, professional help.
There you have it. Which one of these amazing ideas are you going to steal? Please, don’t all thank me at once.
Reading @jonnysun’s “everyone’s a aliebn when ur a aliebn too” is the cutest existential crisis I’ve ever had. If you’re a creative, introvert, included in the 1 out of 4 average that suffer from mental illness, or a combination of all three; this book will feel like a hug. I was genuinely sad I finished it. Luckily, sadness is fleeting.
If you don’t believe my hype, take Lin Manuel Miranda’s, “Read this book if you want to feel alive.”
Jomny is an outsider alien sent to earth to study humans. His journey to find friendship in a world that is so confusing to him gets deep, cute, and insecure. Before you go spellcheck crazy on me, remember that aliens, or “aliebns” shouldn’t be expected to fully understand how to spell. I believe that Jomny is simply doing his best.
While at earth Jomny meets many woodland creatures he assumes are humabns. Notably, he meets: a tree, an egg, a bear, a ghost, a hedgehog, a puppy, and casually, the concept of nothingness. Each of these characters, whom have never really had a chance to open up before, find solace in stumbling across someone who’s willing to listen.
The bear is surprised Jomny doesn’t run and questions fear. The puppy cannot communicate with Jomny for some reason, and ponders its frustration over the inability to communicate just how happy it feels. From an outside view, Jomny is jealous of how happy the puppy appears.
The egg, very relatable, questions both its future and present.
Same. I am not crying over an egg, you are.
The tree struggles with stagnancy as others come and go. The ghost claims there’s nothing to fear beyond. The hedgehog manages creativity as an introvert, fight crippling self-doubt. Nothingness gets fed up.
There is so much here I want to say, but I don’t want to ruin anything. I want everyone to experience this intergalactic journey on how to be more humabn as authentically as possible. I came out of reading this with laugh lines, life lessons, and feeling like I now have some sort of celestial son I must protect at all times. Beliebve the hype. “everyone’s a aliebn when ur a aliebn too” is the cutest, most thought-provoking and heartwarming cartoon to have on your coffee table this summer.
There have been so many things I have wanted to write here, I promise. I have lists of ideas scribbled on napkins, ripped notebook pages, and bulleted lists clogging up my iPhone notes. It’s just…that I can’t write them. For some reason, within the last month or so I’ve built up a stigma about posting to this blog. Everything I write for it, I delete. If this makes the cut, it’ll be a miracle. I don’t know if this thing started back up recently because The Funyun now has over 1K followers on Twitter (I kind of have a feeling deep down that’s definitely not it) but in the past I have grappled with the whole “writing for an audience” vs. “writing for me” type of thing. I’d like to think that I write for me but also like, aren’t we all writing so that someone reads it and receives it well? Was this ever a thing I did that was “just for me” ? You can’t answer that. I certainly can’t answer that. Here comes the crippling self-doubt and existential meltdown that at 21 years old I am appropriately having.
I’m in a very transitional part of my life. If I’m being honest, I don’t really know who my friends are. I don’t do a lot of things for fun. I recently just left a job that I was working at pretty much full time. Since the end of April I was either at work, doing other creative work, or asleep. I have friends, sure. Although often it seems that my best friends have their own best friends, if that makes sense. This is just something I’ve gotten used to after using the past 3 years throwing myself from one work environment into the next, trying to fool myself out of an anxiety disorder. Spoiler alert: you can have the best grades, the best job, and still be an anxious mess. How unfair, right? Anyways, I am sitting here, age 21, just thinking about how at age 13 I was probably in the same mindset. Isn’t it funny how life works out?
I have still been writing, and enjoying doing so on a platform where I feel less paralyzed. This summer I’ve been writing for Mack In Style, a lovely fashion and lifestyle blog. That’s been great. You can find that writing here, here, and here.
I’ve started going to therapy a while back. It turns out pretending to relate to Lana Del Rey lyrics wholeheartedly can often be a sign of something else. For a while I was a die hard Marina Diamandis and Lana fan that I swore their often sad aesthetic accurately portrayed the anxious mess inside my head. I wanted to embody Lana, in a way. In high school once a guy told me that I looked like Lana at school one day and at the time I thought was the nicest thing. The fact I even remember that compliment says something about my obsession with her. This week Lana’s new album Lust For Life came out, and I found myself staring at the ceiling listening track by track thinking back to the times when I angstily thought she understood me. Honestly? Her music has phonetically not changed at all. The songs sound exactly the same. It didn’t bother me, but the fact that I am now recognizing how beautiful and romanticized her angelic voice makes depression sound did bother me. She makes sickness sound so sweet. As a teen I totally bought into it; that somehow my discomfort was beautiful and cruel in a way. It wasn’t. That is bullshit; but those intrusive thoughts are easily brought to surface when your mind is already halfway there and a practical angel sings you into validating those sad thoughts.
Anyways, off the Lana tangent, I also stopped going to therapy. I’m still figuring my mind out. If I learned anything from what has been the hardest school year of my life is that I truly am my own biggest roadblock.
I have a bright future. I work really damn hard, but that’s all not going to matter if I am not mentally there for myself. I’m not sure how to be there for myself yet. Outsiders love to tell me their own remedies to anxiety, I’ve noticed. Drink water, try this natural thing I like, make new friends, go out – and while it’s nice of them to think of me, most of that advice isn’t going to personally help me, but rather just give the person offering advice a better feeling about the whole thing. I’m learning that I need to learn what makes me happy. It seems crazy to some that I’ve forgotten what does.
For years I’ve badly kept a secret under a snobby “I listen to the Shins” facade. I play it “cool” when talking music. If you ask, I’ll recommend eclectic Tame Impala, soothing Jenny Lewis, and mention how I just got into Andrew Bird and wish I saw him at a house show in the city before he got big. If you hand me the aux cord I’ll put on Fleetwood Mac’s stomp-y “Tusk,” pretend I liked Lorde from the start, or select Jack White’s “Lazaretto,” not before mentioning it’s unfortunate that he’s an asshole in real life. I’ll mention that I saw the ever so angsty Simple Plan in concert when I was 15, and how I once fainted during a Modest Mouse set.
If you met me now, you probably wouldn’t guess that at one point in my life I knew the whereabouts of Harry Styles at any given time and day, but that’s the goddamn truth.
One Direction was more than just an obsession; it was a ride. I was there since 2011 when they auditioned on X Factor. I knew everything past the basic information everybody knew like his birthday, hometown, his tattoos. Just from scrolling through my Twitter feed I knew where he was, who he was with, why he was with them, I mean everything. My parents gifted a cardboard cutout Harry to me as a reward for being inducted into my school’s National Honor Society. I was mortified, embarrassed, and only a few, trusted, friends ever saw it. I had 1D books, their DVD, cut out pictures of them. I even had a favorite picture of Harry. This was it. I don’t know, okay?
I’ll try to write this to the best of my ability as if I did not own a cardboard cutout of Harry Styles in 2012. You see, it was “embarrassing” to proudly stan One Direction in my day. It was shameful to bop to “trivial” hits like “Live While We’re Young,” “Up All Night,” and the one that started it all, “What Makes You Beautiful.” It was basic. Society deemed 1D as soft, childish, and because it was beloved by hormonal teen girls: dismissible.
Here’s the truth about that: assuming something is shit because teen girls like it is inherently sexist, elitist, and frankly, a waste of both yours and my time. Nothing is worse at a party than having to listen to a mediocre dude mansplain Weezer, Coldplay, or Radiohead to you while vaping. I once had a man-bun donning Uber driver in Los Angeles ask me, “Jack White, ever heard of him?” and I rolled my eyes so hard I resembled an eightball.
Mr. Styles himself is aware of the sexism that surrounds his fame and actually addressed it in a recent Rolling Stone interview:
“Who’s to say that young girls who like pop music – short for popular, right? – have worse musical taste than a 30-year-old hipster guy? That’s not up to you to say. Music is something that’s always changing. There’s no goal posts. Young girls liked the Beatles. You gonna tell me they’re not serious? How can you say young girls don’t get it? They’re our future. Our future doctors, lawyers, mothers, presidents, they kind of keep the world going. Teenage-girl fans – they don’t lie. If they like you, they’re there. They don’t act ‘too cool.’ They like you, and they tell you. Which is sick.”
Forced into hiding during One Direction’s peak, I began to share my “cooler” musical interests more often. It wasn’t necessarily a lie, because I did and do listen to Elton John, Fleetwood Mac, and Jenny Lewis frequently. In childhood journals, I wrote that Stevie Nicks was my role model and mentioned how “Tusk” and “The Chain” were the best songs ever created. (Though 21-year-old me contests now that Outkast’s “Hey Ya!” may tie).
I went into complete stalkerish-fangirl-retirement around the time of One Direction’s third album. I had just dropped off, lost interest in the drama, and I was done. I heard the last album post-Zayn and I liked it, but didn’t obsess over it like I had previously. I truly did just naturally stop listening to their music. Things were smooth sailing for a couple of years; my headphones only blasted some good ol’ Norah Jones, Rilo Kiley, Fleetwood Mac, Father John Misty, and y-know, indie folk stuff.
That’s why when Harry Styles went solo, with a newer, folk-y rock sound I knew I was in trouble. At first I avoided the album, I knew that once I listened I would be too far gone. I heard peers compare his “Sign Of The Times” to Bowie and call him a baby Mick Jagger. Shit, I thought. The album came out, I avoided it, but my mind had already started to get on board. I swore to myself that I wouldn’t get back into my 1D conspiracy lifestyle, but when I saw headlines “Harry Styles’ New Girlfriend: Tess Ward” and I immediately doubted it because it was announced so close to the album release date. Oh no, here we go again, I thought. Then there was SNL, which I regularly watch anyway, and there he was, in a goddamn plaid suit, singing “Sign Of The Times”, and then, “Ever Since New York” (rumored to be about Taylor Swift – see! I’m doing it again! Ugh!). Upon hearing his soothing voice sliding out of his goddamn smirked mouth it was game over, I had to listen, and I did. And now, just like Sum41’s classic 2000’s angst anthem, I am “In Too Deep.”
“Sign Of The Times” does slightly evoke the late David Bowie’s “Space Oddity.” It’s dramatic, soothing, and written about the current political state. “Just stop your crying, it’s a sign on the times. We got to get away from from here. We got to get away from here. Stop your crying, baby, we’ll be alright. They told me that the end is near we got to get away from here.” I mean true though. Styles admitted to long-time best friend James Corden in his recent Carpool Karaoke segment that he cries sometimes performing this song, but in a “cool, emotional way.”
By the way, Harry’s Carpool Karaoke, at the time of publishing, is just three days old and has already accumulated 12 million views on Youtube. It’s also a gem. Harry and James reenact romantic comedy scenes and sing “Hey Ya!” (which I have mentioned a million times is the best song of my generation!).
The other tracks on the album won me over just as easily. “Meet Me In The Hallway” sounds like a Mac Demarco or Tame Impala track, with drawn-out dream-like sentences. It’s desperate, entrancing, and perfect for those who select certain songs to induce them into sleep whilst picking their own brain. “Carolina” is 60s-ish. The repetitive “La La La’s” really make me think of rose colored glasses, neon flowers, and high-waisted bell bottoms.
A favorite, “Two Ghosts,” murdered my soul. It is slower, calmer folk about the ebb and flow of a dead relationship. “We’re not who we used to be, we are just two ghosts swimming in a glass half empty, trying to remember how it feels to have a heartbeat.” Ouch. This one is negative, but not unrelatable. The next track, “Sweet Creature,” is well, sweet. A lot of fans seem to think this was written about his older sister, Gemma. It is also his mom’s favorite song on the album. The background vocals are really eclectic, I think. In fact, the thought of Styles recording just the high-pitched background vocals “Oooooooh-woop! Oooooh-wooop! Oooooh!”s makes me laugh.
“Only Angel” is that classic rock sound many were waiting for. It’s sexy, catchy, and about goddamn time. In the foreseeable future Harry Styles will probably jump around stage to this and possibly swing an electric guitar over a plaid-suited shoulder of his. The not-so-retired fangirl in me wants to guess this song is about Kendall Jenner, but I won’t talk about that. (Though wouldn’t it be amazing if he became a reoccurring character on KUWTK?)
My absolute favorite song on this album is “Kiwi.” It’s the most honest, loud, and rock and roll sound we have heard from Styles yet. It mentions the lifestyle that you’d expect to hear from a 23-year-old celebrity living in LA — cocaine, hard liquor, prostitutes, a crazy impulsive party scene, and baby-makin’. The chorus screams the lyrics “I am having your baby! Its none of your business!” and I quite literally have felt that way toward Harry Styles for years, so thank you, for that, for affirming what I have been thinking this whole time.
“Ever Since New York,” is a slower ballad similar to “Two Ghosts.” Oh, tell me something that I don’t already know. Truthfully, eh. There’s got to be one on the album that just isn’t a favorite. For me, this is it.
“Woman” is moody and confrontational, with some long guitar riffs and orchestrated duck sounds. Well, it’s actually Styles’ voice with an effect over it and it’s not supposed to sound like a duck, more of like an “UHH” but it totally sounds like a quack.
Lastly, is “From The Dining Room Table,” which sounds like the kind of song in an opening scene in Judd Apatow movie starring Michael Cera as the shrimpy male lead. It sounds how unshakeable uncertainty that comes with the twenties feels. It progresses into almost a heavenly sounding chorus for a brief second. My favorite lines are “Fell back to sleep, I got drunk by noon. I’ve never felt less cool.” and “Comfortable silence is so overrated.” For me, this taps into the nature of impulsive decisions a lost twentysomething sometimes makes. It reminds me of almost every time I have drank alone. It’s about longing, missing someone, and in a way, missing yourself. I dig “From The Dining Room Table” and relate, hard.
To make matters worse, I truly think Harry Styles is trying to personally kill me. On Sat. May 20th, he performed a “secret show” at The Troubadour with a special guest. It was Stevie Nicks. They sang “Landslide” together. He cried. I cried. Goddamnit.
So here we are in 2017, Harry Styles’ self-titled rock album has debuted at number one on Billboard’s top 200 chart. One Direction critics will act as if they’ve been won over. That mediocre guy from that party earlier will state the obvious, “This is Harry Styles? It doesn’t sound like One Direction.” A new era of fangirls will mix in with the old. People like me don’t have to hide anymore under elitist “well actually, I listen to-” tones. Harry Styles is cool, has been cool, and if you thought he was lame before just because teen girls liked him, then you were probably being a little sexist. Now if you excuse me, I have an old cardboard cutout to dig out…
A more down-to-earth entertainment source than The Onion* who we are not affiliated with whatsoever.