it's a great life, if you don't weaken (matociquala) wrote,
it's a great life, if you don't weaken

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"C'est magnifique, mais ce n'est pas la guerre."

It's time to meet the muppets! It's time to dress up right!

I so love living in the DVD era. Yessssss.


mkhobson quoted John Buchan this morning: "It's a great life if you don't weaken."

Long and long, have I loved that quote. And when I googled it, out of curiosity, today, I couldn't find out where it was from (other than "John Buchan, 1919). It's just one of those quotes that's so pithy and ironic and so broadly applicable, that it's achieved an out-of-context life of its own, a kind of linguistic immortality. People quote it without even knowing what they're quoting. They're quoting Bartlett's.


I don't suppose anybody can enlighten me on the context?


Stop! tapir_time!


Progress notes for 8 June 2005:

Whiskey & Water

New Words: 1,274 (I would have got more done, but I decided doing the silly song meme was better therapy)
Total Words: 111,365 / 125,000
Pages: 500 (w007! only about 140 pages left to go!)

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
125,000 / 160,000

Reason for stopping: work, another sitting later, maybe
Mammalian Assistance: none
Stimulants: granadine black tea, not very good.
Exercise: none
Mail: nomail
Today's words Word don't know: leechcraft,
Tyop du jour: n/a
Darling du jour: n/a
Books in progress, but not at all quickly: Dorothy L. Sayers, The Unpleasantness At The Bellona Club;
Interesting research tidbits of the day: "C'est magnifique, mais ce n'est pas la guerre."
Other writing-related work
: n/a


The AskOxford word of the day is "futhark." That makes me happy.

Welcome to the Word of the Day from AskOxford:

[FUU-thahk] the Scandinavian runic alphabet. The word is made up of the first six letters of this alphabet: f, u, th, a, r, and k.


How about that six songs that mean a lot to me thing? Nobody tagged me that I saw, but given how spotty my lj reading has been of late, there is no guarantee that I didn't miss it.

Still, to narrow it down to just six songs. That's hard. I don't think I can. I can't even narrow it down to six favorite artists.

Which is why I resisted this meme. Because I knew once I got started, I wouldn't stop.

Just remember, quoting for review purposes isn't copyright infringement. *g*

Right this second, I'm listening to Janis Ian's "On the Other Side," which I listened to over and over and over while writing Scardown. It's a song that seemed creepily prescient in the days right after 9/11, and which I love for its eerie beauty and its stark, soaring vocals--and the way the lush, layered arrangement undercuts the plain desperate honesty of the lyics.

And the kyrie blended in at the end of it. Gorgeous. Just gorgeous.

They say that you were with me when the building fell.
They say I couldn't possibly have done it by myself.

But to say that I love "On the Other Side" best cuts out "Stars," and "Pro Girl," and "Tea and Sympathy," and "Play Like a Girl," and half a dozen other works of grace and power.

And then there's Leonard Cohen. How do you choose? "Hallelujah," of course--the predictable choice, and one of the ten greatest lyrics in the English language, and I'll wrassle you if you disagree. But that's a hard, hard pick. Because there's also "Who By Fire," and "If it Be Your Will," and "The Future," and "Everybody Knows," and "In my Secret Life." But yeah, "Hallelujah."

Maybe there's a God above
But all I every learned from Love
Was how to shoot at someone who outdrew you.

And oddly enough from my generally agostic perspective, that's two songs about God.

The Joan Osborne version of the Bob Dylan song "Man in the Long Black Coat." Except on the days when I like "St. Theresa" better. God lord, her voice. She's like the bastard offspring of Bonnie Raitt and Janis Joplin. Deep and resonant and true, expressive and powerful, voice that makes your neckhairs stand on end.

I remember the first time I heard "One of Us," on the radio. I was in the car with a boyfriend, and I shushed him, boys and girls, and made him sit there silent whil I listened on the little tinny car speakers, rapt. She gets up under my heart and pushes.

Every stone a story, like a rosary.

Arlo Guthrie, "In My Darkest Hour"

The moonlight held her breast as she easily undressed
In my darkest hour

although "City of New Orleans" is up there, too.

And the sons of Pullman porters
And the sons of engineers
Ride their father's magic carpets made of steel.

Dire Straits, and I'm stuck again. "Iron Hand"? "Romeo & Juliet"? "The Man's Too Strong"?

Oh, "Ride Across the River." Silly me.

One of the few chosen not for the lyrics, but for the deep, swelling, seductive rhythm of the music. It's the aural equivalent of a Dylan Thomas poem.

Emmylou Harris, and torn once more. "The Pearl"? Or "Deeper Well"?

"The Pearl" is rich and dreamy and sad and it gave me two characters and most of a book, and it drifts along under her voice, seemingly aimless but really, utterly relentless.

It is the heart that kills us in the end.
Just one more old broken bone that cannot mend.
As it was now and ever shall be

Oh, look, another song about God. I am such a bad agnostic.

And then there's "Deeper Well," with its quasi-military drum rhythm and tinkling melodies undercutting the most amazingly brutal lyrics, and Emmylou's voice dopplering like a siren cutting the night.

So I ran with the moon and I ran with the night
And the three of us were a terrible sight
Nipple to the bottle to the gun to the cell
To the bottom of a hole
Of a deeper well.

Ferron, "Shadows on a Dime."

This window makes a perfect frame
For New England leaves like painted rain
They hold me as I hold this train

Maybe the loneliest song I've ever heard, haunting and sweet and nothing but Ferron and her guitar, sadder than anything Tom Waits has ever written, which is saying something. Oh, her voice. And oh, her words.

And speaking of Tom Waits, there's one where I can't cut one clear. "Ol' 55"? "Earth Died Screaming"? "I Hope that I Don't Fall in Love with You"?

"Hoist that Rag", for its thick, sucking guitar, and irresistible hook, and for the lyrics that do the thing that Quentin Tarantino wishes he could still do, but hasn't pulled off since Reservoir Dogs. Ballet of violence, hell yes.

God used me as a hammer, boys, to beat his weary drum today.

On the other hoof, there's Hugh Blumenfeld, "Shoot the Moon." Because it's true, baby. True. And catchy as hell. And the man can put that ache in his voice and twist.

And space was the object of all my country's desire
And the skies of my childhood were laced with launching-pad fire

My favorite band is probably Jethro Tull. I love them with a love unholy, for their complexities and their quirkiness and their endless reinventions of themselves--and Ian Anderson's lyrics, which wander from poetry to raunch and back again without seeming to notice a difference. Pick one song? I used to love "Moths," but it's paled for me in later years. And there's some gorgeous stuff on Roots to Branches. The two train songs ("Raising Steam" and "Locomotive Breath" are tempting: I love the jazz piano into on "Locomotive Breath.")

But it's got to be "Something's on the Move." A love song to a glacier, boys and girls. With flute and guitar and synthesizer playing tag-you're-it under the lyrics, and duelling extended metaphors of ice queens, chess games, and record player turntables.

It's not their best song and it's not their best album, but I really like it.

Capturing black pieces in a glass-fronted museum
The ice mother mates, and a new age is born

Alice Cooper, "Desperado."

It's not actually a song about Doc Holliday. But it should be.

I'm a gambler and I'm a runner.
But you knew that when you lay down.

I also really like middle-period Fleetwood Mac, but you know, none of their songs strike me as standouts. I like the sound rather than the songs, and they had a phrasing during the Christine Perfect (I so would not have changed my name) era (say, Bare Trees through Rumours?) that's just sultry and laced with irony and musicianship and layers of listenability. Likewise Joni Mitchell. Love her stuff. What the hell would I pick? Thus, moving on:

Big Country, "The Red Fox"

Nobody else on earth can get this sound and make it sound just right. Wailing guitar, tight, on the beat. No, that's not bagpipes. It's electric guitar. Yeah, I know. And it's a song of a tragic misunderstanding and a sickening, noble choice. I'm a sucker for that sort of stuff. The narrator protags, dammit. And man, that hook. The riff will eat you alive. I love "Eiledon," "Remembrance Day," and "The Storm," too, but this one is special.

Poor, poor, stupid Stuart Adamson. You know, he killed himself while I was writing All the Windwracked Stars, which is one long Big Country riff from one end to the other?

I was not born into this time to cleave the soil or work the mine
I come to claim my enemy and meet the fox's destiny

Chris Isaak, "Wicked Game," because it makes me shiver like ghosts are crawling up my neck. We are learning that I am a sucker for good guitar, and better lyrics.

The world was on fire and noone could save me but you.

Speaking of which, there's, John Hiatt's "Cry Love."

Steel guitar and a nice chunky sound, and those lyrics. Oh, man.

A moment of steel.
A dry-eyed house

Speaking of under-rated lyricists, next up, Jackson Browne. So much to choose from. But it comes down to "Casino Nation," "The Next Voice You Hear," or "Barricades of Heaven." I've loved the latter longer. Poignant and piercing, and a twist of hope and pain that will not quit.

But I live in Las Vegas now. So "Casino Nation" it is.

They don't quite seem to understand
The way the hammer shapes the hand.

Wandering into the realm of Boiled in Lead, next stop, "Army Dream Song." Wacky, catchy, earwormy, and clever.

And the Army life is good, but I'm ankle deep in blood
So I went to see the Quartermaster, and the Quartermaster said,
Son, your socks are awful red.

Which leads me to Kate Bush's haunting "Army Dreamers," which does that eerie tonal kind of thing (technical terminology, note) that Tori Amos never quite pulls off for me. Which is not to say that I don't like Tori Amos. I just prefer the songs where she sings.

Anyway, another lyrically brutal and beautiful song, merciless and quiet as a stilleto in the ribs, and the melodic round pulls you through the song relentlessly, so you almost can't stand that it ends. Good stuff.

He should have been a rock star
But he didn't have the money for a guitar

Shriekback, "Dust and Shadows" (though there are a buttload of runners-up there). It could have been "The Bastard Sons of Enoch" on another day, or "Signs," or "Everything's on Fire."

But today it was "Dust and Shadows," with its piercing keyboard and rumbling vocals, and the collage of unsettling images playing across them.

Ah, the pride and shame or the bone and glass
These kind of fragile things were never going to last

The Legendary Wish, "Be's That Way." I also really like his versions of "Duncan & Brady" and "Lodi" a lot. And yeah, he's my dad, but so what?

Some short notes before we get to the all-time favorite, then: Steeleye Span version of "Tam Lin," Tracy Chapman version of "House of the Rising Sun," but darn her for cutting so many verses! Doc & Richard Watson, as my backup on that one, The Pogues, "Bottle of Smoke" because it's *fun*, Dr. John version of "Iko Iko" likewise--and oo, so yummy.

The McGarrigle Sisters
' "Complainte Pour Ste. Catherine" is Jenny's theme song, by the way. (Except when it's Tom Cochran's "Life is a Highway.")

The whole world knows of my love for the Seven Nations version of "Faithful Departed," and I can't do this without mentioning Paul Simon's "One Trick Pony" (which is a song that will always cheer me up when I'm depressed, because it reminds me that I don't actually have to be good at everything--

He makes it look so easy, he makes it look so clean
He moves like God's immaculate machine...
He's got one trick to last a lifetime, but that's all a pony needs.

and John Gorka's music has been a lifeline to me in some very rough times--notably "January Floor" and "Wisdom" and most particularly "Morningside"--

I don't want to waste what I have to give and any of the time I've got left.
I can do more than I thought I could.
Work brings more luck than knocking on wood.
There's random bad and random good.

And Jann Arden, becase I could listen to "Cherry Popsicle" and "Could I be Your Girl" until my ears fell off.

Hide your heart under the bed, unlock your secret door
Wash the angels from you head, don't need them anymore
Love is a demon and you're the one he's looking for

That sucker got a lot of play during the writing of The Stratford Man, lemme tell you. And on the same note I need to hit Richard Thompson (so much beautiful work. Where does the needle stop? Um. *stabs in the song list with a pin* "King of Bohemia." There you go.

And there is no rest for the ones God blessed,
And he blessed you best of all

and I need to stop off and visit Warren Zevon "Desperados Under the Eaves":

And if California slides into the ocean
Like the mystics and statistics say it will
I predict this motel will be standing
Until I pay my bill

But then that ignores "My Ride's Here":

I was wrestling with an angel
You were working on a sonnet

Which has better lyrics, but I don't like it as well. And how about Vienna Teng and her gorgeous two albums? "The Tower" and "Harbor" and "Gravity" and oh, yeah, "My Medea." Yes, that one. Her voice is like a violin.

And this child I would destroy, for I hold her pain most dear.

And then there's the current top two. Or maybe the current top one, and the perpetual favorite. So what are my favorite songs?

Number two, and current contender for emotional support song for 2005, is Peter Mulvey's "Shirt," which is a song about being 33 and hitting the road. And starting over. Again. *g* Which, fortuitously, I am.

And boy did this song come along at the right time. It's catchy and upbeat and playful, and the lyrics are both clever and poignant, thoughtful and whimsical.

And it's the same old jar of car keys by the door
The same old scuffed up floor
The same old thirst for more
Until they put you in the dirt.
Same old nights alone
Same old baby when you coming home
To feel the same old joy, oh that same old hurt.
Same old corduroy shirt.

Which brings us to number one, and a song I have loved with a sharp, agonizing love since I was in junior high. Manfred Mann's Earth Band, and "Runner."

Almost nobody has heard this damned thing. It's off Somewhere in Afrika, which is, to the best of my knowledge, out of print and nearly impossible to get--I'm not sure it was ever released on CD, even (my digitized copy is home-made and flawed, with tape hiss I couldn't eliminate, and a sharp tinny echo because the tape was twenty years old when I ripped it)--and it's a terribly '80's kind of period piece.It starts off with a high, piercing, held note, and picks up a driving synthesizer riff that plays off the old blues musician trick of the train noise. You know the one. bum bum BUM bum. dum dum DUM dum.

A not particularly special tenor voice, not working very hard, with a heavyhanded reverb mixed in, picking up with lyrics that also aren't notable for their poetry.

Through the night
Through the dawn
Behind you another runner is born.
Don't look back
You'll be there
See the mist, it's your breath, it's the air.

And then guitar. Fuzzed out and harsh, like Jack White's older, calmer brother, driving down that lingering taste of sweetness, rolling over the synthesizer pulse, outracing the voice, overwhelming the voice, subverting it, and then picking up the rhythm, as if by contagion, swept up in the song, shoving it forward, snare drum and cymbal picking up the beat, push. push. push. push.

And it doesn't stop. It layers on, folds in, and the rhythm catches me and drags me in, the cycle of the drumming feet, the cycle of the rolling wheels--

Sun come up, sun go down
Hear the feet, see the sweat on the ground
Watch your step, keep your cool
Though you can't see what's in front of you

--and the song turns into a round, lyrics overlapping, layered in and out of the instruments, determined, staggering, heavy-footed. Pushing on, pushing on, dimming, darkening, flagging. Until that lonely sweetness emerges again, breathless, the synthesizers winding down, exhausted, run out, run ragged. Run off its feet. Except it's still there, the voice, fading, rolling down with the music:

and you will run your time
a shooting star across the sky
...and you will surely cross the line.

The whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

That was six, right?

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