Tuesday, February 22, 2011

I Was Told There Would Be Snow

A portrait of my Monday evening in three haikus:

I wanted a half-smoke.
Where are you hot dog cart guy?
Now I am hungry.

It's President's Day
And it's raining in D.C.
No one out to eat.

Saw gum in the road.
Thought that it was a quarter.
Such disappointment.

Friday, February 18, 2011

RoundTable of Loooove

Valentine's Day has come and gone, but love (and its antithesis) are always in the air.  These Gentlemen gathered 'round the RoundTable to discuss our favorite love and anti-love songs, and they go as thus...

David Pratt
I've got plenty of good love songs I could list here, but in my travels I've come across three exceptional anti-love songs.  I would be remiss not to mention them here, along with my two picks for top two in the pro-love field.

3) "
Again I Go Unnoticed" by Dashboard Confessional

Key lyrics:
Please tell me you're just feeling tired
cause if it's more than that I feel that I might break
out of touch, out of time.
Please send me anything but signals that are mixed
cause I can't read your rolling eyes
out of touch, are we out of time?

This is a wrenching song for anyone in a relationship where they can tell the days are numbered.  The singer is obviously trying desperately to hold on to a love that is slowly slipping away from him, and not in a dramatic fashion either.  The relationship is over for one of them, and she's going to slowly slip away from a person who doesn't want it to end.

2) "
Said the Spider to the Fly" by The Paper Chase

Key lyrics:
Good things die all the time,
God bless your heart, vengeance is mine.
"Kiss me like you mean goodbye," said the spider to the fly.
When all those times you thought that you were wrong, you were right.

This song takes place clearly after the love has already ended, and at least one of the participants is looking back on this with a little bit of bitterness ("when your lover loves to cheat there's another you can meet, it's a short pier it's a long walk - home").  If you want to look back on a failed relationship and be filled with righteous indignation about it, this is the song to listen to.

1)  "
Don't Say a Word" by Sonata Arctica

Key lyrics:
Closing your eyes, don't ever say you love me, whore
You never meant a word, I know you lied
When there is life, there is despair, indulge me now
And stay alive this night
I promise you the end before the first light arrives

So, unlike the last two, this song is about an angry, angry relationship and is about as firmly anti-love as you can get.  Whatever happened between the two people in this song was terrible, self-destructive, and mutually devastating, probably from the start.  It takes a special kind of bad break-up to spawn a metal song, and we have a front row seat to it.

I'd also list "
Almost Lover" by A Fine Frenzy, but since I'm limited to 5 I'll press on to more uplifting fare.

For Love Songs, I'm trying to stay away from songs that specifically remind me of my girlfriend and stick with those that make great statements about the emotion itself.  So with that in mind, the first two songs I think of are . . .

Can't Stop Loving You" by Phil Collins

Key lyrics:
I could say that's the way it goes
And I could pretend and you won't know
That I was lying
Cause I can't stop loving you
No I can't stop loving you
No I won't stop loving you
Why should I?

Someone might say "Hey, this song is about a relationship ending, isn't that an anti-love song?" to which I'd say "No, you ignorant pleb, listen CLOSER."  The girl in this song might be walking away from the guy, but he's not going anywhere.  He loves this girl completely, entirely, and so what if she's leaving?  She is all the love he ever wanted or needed - his life is better just for having known her.  The song is strong and up tempo, and swells as it tells the story of her departure.  He doesn't regret a thing.  He found true love.  Why would he ever try to let that go?

Thank You" by Dido

Key lyrics:
I missed the bus and there'll be hell today,
I'm late for work again
And even if I'm there, they'll all imply
that I might not last the day
And then you call me and it's not so bad,
it's not so bad

So, if you've never seen the video for this song, Dido's having a much worse day then even these lyrics let on.  She's essentially living the plot of the movie "Up," only she's fresh out of balloons.  But the point of her song isn't all the awful stuff she's going through - it's that there's someone in her life who, when all of this happens, still makes everything wonderful simply with their presence.  I don't know kids, that sounds like what love means to me.

Brett Abelman
"When You Smile," Flaming Lips - love song
Maybe it's just because I enjoy a love song that seems to compare love to nuclear fusion, or maybe it's because who but the Flaming Lips could make a love song sound as simultaneously innocent & sweet as it is trippy & dazed?

"Astral Weeks," Van Morrison - love song
I could potentially pick like a hundred Van Morrison songs, but this is my favorite for the transcendent, transported feeling.  At least, its my interpretation that it's a love song; your guess is as good as mine as to what the lyrics really mean:
"If I ventured into the slipstream/Between the viaducts of your dreams/Where immobile steel rims crack/And the ditch in the back roads stop/Would you find me?/Would you kiss my eyes?/To lay me down/In silence easy/To be born again/To be born again."

"Soon It's Gonna Rain," from The Fantasticks - love song
'Cuz I'm a sap, and it was the first stage producion I worked on out of high school.

"Hyperballad," Bjork - love or anti-love song
I know, what?  I pick it because it's either about 1) how love and the comfort of a loved one is the antidote to fear of death in a cosmic, existential way, or 2a) how the narrator is in an unhappy, reclusive relationship so bad the only way she can make it bearable is by contrasting it with a horrible death or 2b) the only way she can bear it is by (metaphorically) imagining that leaving her lover and being single would be like tumbling down a cliff to a horrible death.  It's a multi-purpose lyric!  And personally for all the stereotyping she gets as a ridiculous screecher, her singing here always gives me chills.

"Losing My Religion," REM - love song
It's actually my favorite song of all time, in a most extreme case of "songs mean a lot to you when you hear them at a certain time and associate them with the feeling of the time, regardless of whether they're extremely overexposed and well-known or not."  It was approximately 1997 when I first really heard it, in middle school, and I associate it with my first crushes and all those crazy middle school-y feelings (but, strangely/luckily enough, only the positive ones - hooray for the filter of nostalgia?).  And the lyrics just happen to fit perfectly.  I'll let Michael Stipe explain:
"When you have a crush on somebody, and you think that they understand that but you're not sure, and you're dropping all kinds of hints, and you think that they're responding to these hints but you're not sure -- that's what this song is about: thinking that you've gone too far, you've dropped a hint that is just the size of Idaho, and they responded in a way that maybe confused you, or they haven't responded at all or they responded in a way that seemed like 'well, maybe I'm gonna- maybe I'm- maybe something's gonna happen here!' and I think I've probably said this seven thousand times, but the phrase 'losing my religion' is a southern phrase which means that something has pushed you so far that you would lose your faith over it. Something has pushed you to the nth degree, and that's what this is about. Now, some people still think that it's a song about religion; it's not. It's just a song about having a crush."

Max Nova
1. For reasons trivial and not of relevance now, Coldplay's "clocks" became the soundtrack to one of my early relationships.  Soon after the relationship ended acrimoniously I was in a movie theater and the song was playing quite loudly.  Thus it went from the soundtrack of a relationship to this soundtrack to me peeing.

2. When I was in college, I had a Joy Division shirt and said to friends that the first girl that commented positively was the girl I was gonna marry.  Luckily I did not follow through on that.

3. I wonder if it's possible to have sex to Barry White without giggling hysterically.

A Love Song:

Not a Love Song

Brittany Graham
I have an annual tradition with a dear friend from high school, in which we send each other Anti-Love mixes for Valentines Day, and I’ll be posting on that later. So, in the interest of balance, all five of my choices are love songs. The very best love songs, in fact.

Weezer – Miss Sweeney: This song wins the award for most adorable EVER. About a man who has a tremendous crush on his coworker and can’t seem to keep his mouth shut about it, I get chills every time I hear that guitar riff in the chorus. This is the bonus track on their recentish Red Album, so don’t tell me Weezer can’t still do it if they put their minds to it.

The Beach Boys – Wouldn’t It Be Nice: I actually don’t like the Beach Boys at all, except for this solitary song, which I LOVE. The idea that a young couple can’t wait to grow up and grow old together really strikes a chord with me, a person who never really wanted young love anyway.

Johnny and June Carter Cash – ‘Cause I Love You: I love this song because I love Johnny and June, and think their story is one of the more romantic of our time. This is why I place them in a tie with a fictional couple with a very similar song, which inextricably binds them in my mind…

Jesse L. Martin and Wilson Jermaine Heredia as Collins and Angel – I’ll Cover You: This song, and its reprise, make me melt into a million little droplets of gooey sad/happiness/feelings. I am of the firm belief that Collins and Angel are the most perfect couple that ever lived. And don’t you even try to tell me they’re not real.

T.V. Carpio – I Want to Hold Your Hand: If given the choice, I don’t often choose the non-Beatles version of a song, but this is one glaring exception. I keep writing sentences about this song, deciding they’re not good/accurate enough, and deleting. Because the feelings I have when I listen to this song (loud, on repeat, and often in my car) are just too strong and uncomplicated, and wordless.

Daniel Bedingfield – If You’re Not the One: I don’t care what you say about the cheesy early 2000s music. This song destroys me. Every. Single. Time. I also chose it as my character inspiration song for a show I was in, in which I played a young woman in the 1940s who realizes that she is a lesbian, which biases me a bit. But seriously, if you have a soul this song is for you.

Ray Charles – Georgia On My Mind: Songs about the South, and Southern girls in particular, pretty much have full reign of my heartstrings at all times, no matter what. But this song, a love song to his home, gets me every time. For very different reasons, I too left Georgia a long time ago (the ancient 90s), but I feel the exact same way about my original home state. Ray Charles just says it sooo much better.

So there you have it, folks. We feel it. The love, that is. And also, you know, not.  We hope you enjoy our playlist, for the new songs and to commiserate with your favorites. What are your favorite love and anti-love songs? We hope you'll share.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Gay Marriage, and Feminism, and Bears*, Oh My!

Here is why gay marriage is important for the feminist cause:

Marriage is, historically, a business transaction between a man and a woman’s father.  The woman’s father trades his daughter and a dowry, in exchange for protection for said daughter and, hopefully, a higher class status.  Multiple wives have historically been important for bolstering population within the community.  Marrying for love was essentially unheard of until the mid-20th century in places like the United States and Europe, and more recently elsewhere in the world.  Judeo-Christian tradition called for a woman to be married off as soon as possible, with or without her consent, in order to prevent extra-marital sin (her fault) and extra-marital children (also her fault) from occurring.   And so the institution of marriage everywhere continues to essentially be an antiquated property exchange: for a caretaker for the man, for a provider for the woman, for children borne within the rules of society, and for a transaction of goods provided by both families.

That is, if the definition of marriage is between a man and a woman only.  Because if the definition of marriage relates strictly to a heterosexual pairing, there is also the weighty societal assumption that women cannot provide, men cannot caretake, and that the couple will do their duty to God and procreate.  Love has nothing to do with it; it is strictly business.  But.  If the definition changes as our society has changed and brings love into the mix, all bets are off.  A woman can marry the man she loves, rather than the man her family loves or the man who loves/wants her.  A woman can marry the woman she loves, rather than her best male friend who may or may not also be closeted.  A woman can marry the man or woman she loves, regardless of class, social distinctions, career, or want for children.  It’s a beautiful thing.

Freedom for one minority group of people spells freedom for the majority (52%) of humankind to love, to cherish, to spend her life in sickness and in health with the person she chose.  The tradition of marriage is important; the ceremony binds a couple, their families, and their friends together in a way that simply moving in together can’t do.  The legality of marriage is antiquated but very, very present in a couple’s everyday life.  If a couple has that legal document in their possession, they hold rights and benefits reserved only for family, particularly in the health sector:  for health benefits received from a job, for hospital visitation rights, for the right to decide whether a plug should be pulled, and for property and possession distribution after one of them has died. 

So yes, feminists, marriage is extremely important, and it should absolutely not be done away with.  But our society has changed; there is no population crisis and women are generally taught to marry for love, so the law should reflect this.  Who a woman chooses to marry should reflect on love and shared values, not ability to procreate or heteronormative tradition.

*Sorry j/k there are no bears. Please still like me even though I sometimes lie to you about bears.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

I Love the Smell of Revolution in the Morning

We're kicking off a Gentlemonth of love here at These Gentlemen, and in doing so we'll be posting a lot about things we love, or hate, or maybe just crush on a little.  So there's something going on in the world right now that I am just absolutely enamored with, and I thought I'd sing a little song about it . . .

I love democracy
and when protesters sing
I love a free press
and when freedom rings
I love the whole world
and all its awesome things
Boom de yada, boom de yada
Boom de yada, boom de yada

I love revolution
and people in the streets
I love a spirit
That won't accept defeat
I love what's happening
Out in the Cairo heat
Boom de yada, boom de yada
Boom de yada, boom de yada

I love Tunisians
and all the change they bring
I love the new hope
that we'll see by Spring
I love the whole world
and all it's awesome things
Boom de yada, boom de yada
Boom de yada, boom de yada

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Snowpocalypse Affects the Brain, Apparently

GW Parkway had a facepalm moment last week.  If you live remotely in the DC area you remember that day last week when the foot of snow hit all of a sudden, all at rush hour, and every single commuter going in or coming out of DC had a 6-11 hour commute.  (The 6 hour commutes were reserved for those lucky enough to live a mile or two from their places of work.) 

And if you were unfortunate enough to be on the GW Parkway that day, you know that it came to a complete stop until about 4am the next morning.  What you might not know is that the reason the traffic cleared up after 4am is because a lone police officer hiked two miles to the epicenter of the traffic jam and discovered one guy, stuck in the snow, who had eventually given up and gone to sleep.  So, naturally, he banged on the window, woke the guy up, pushed him out of the snow, and singlehandedly cleared up what could have become a traffic jam of Chinese proportions.

And man, A+ to that officer, because WTF everyone else.  I related this story to a coworker the next day, thinking only of the insanity of the sudden snowfall, and she shook her head and said, “These people have no survival skills.” And I realized immediately that she’s right. Because what were the twenty or so people directly behind this guy doing all that time?  Did no one, over the course of ten hours, pop their head out their window and go, Hey what’s going on up there?  Or if they did, did they see the guy stuck in the snow and go, Welp, nothing can be done there, I guess we live here now?

Seriously, what is wrong with those people.  Even in the absence of curiosity or concern for what is going on in the world around them, where is the self-preservation that bands people together as a means to an end?

The answer is, apparently, nowhere. Everyone just sat in their cars and waited for someone else to fix the issue, because ten hours in, they were still so sure it would happen.  I mean, I’m sure the people several miles back simply thought the road conditions were undriveable or there was an avalanche or a Land of the Lost-style chasm had opened up down front and they were stuck until road crews could get them out, as opposed to one idiot who decided to take a nap instead of get his damn car out of the snow.

But the driver of the offending car and the cars directly behind him?  No excuse.  It’s called being proactive. It’s called NOT being defined by the bystander effect.  It’s called common freaking sense.

Congratulations, guys. You are an entire highway of asshats.