Love Is A Serious Business

Even more than in previous years, 2017’s music mix was strongly influenced by the ongoing Album Assignments project that’s happening between me and my friend Robby. Most of the songs on here come from assigned albums in one direction or another, though there are some exceptions thrown in, mostly to do with a few concerts I saw. So what that means is I’ve already written pretty extensively about most of this music. Nevertheless, a mix is a new context, so I’ve got a little bit to say about the songs as they come together here.

1. Pink FloydWish You Were Here
These mixes are an annual Christmas gift to our friends Sian and Kelly, who live in Wales. We haven’t seen them for seven years now — it’s easy to mark the time since they last visited right as we moved into our house. And we miss them terribly. So this song is pretty straightforward in that context. Not that we wish they lived here, necessarily — we know they’re happy where they are, and so are we — but I sure would love to be able to have that Star Trek transporter so that the ocean in between us didn’t have to be such an obstacle. It feels like such an awfully long time, especially as we’ve watched Dante go from 5 to 12. I hope we can come back together soon, whether that’s taking the 3 of us to Wales or them finding themselves in Colorado.

2. Indigo GirlsFugitive
The main factor driving the inclusion of this song is the fact that Laura and I saw the Indigo Girls this April. They played on the CU campus, with the CU student orchestra, which was a unique and wonderful context for an Indigo Girls concert. They said at the time that they were recording a live album during that session, so maybe we’ll get an official document of it someday. In the meantime, we have our memories, and I remember this song in particular as being transcendent, between Amy’s impassioned vocal and the excellent orchestra arrangement. But I also associate this song with Sian and Kelly, due to our shared love of Amy and Emily.

3. AdeleRiver Lea
As I said when I wrote about 25, this is a fascinating song to me — such a different character than the one Adele usually takes on. Also, like the rest of her songs, it’s so well-produced. It just sounds great. And the UK connection makes me think of our friends, though I realize they’re not exactly in London.

4. Death Cab For CutieWe Looked Like Giants
The home-rootedness of “River Lea” leads into the nostalgic tone of this song, and there’s a connection in the bitterness too, although where Adele is resigned to how she’ll hurt people, Ben Gibbard still seems angry when he sings “I’ve become what I always hated.” But even more than the lyrics, the music in this song sweeps me away. I absolutely love when the riff kicks in right after the 30-second mark, and then crashes back like raging waves throughout the song. The rhythm section in the verses is so propulsive, and then that crash comes again… transcendent.

5. The Airbone Toxic EventGasoline
Another great rock song reminiscing about a fiery early love. It’s not as emotionally or musically complex as “We Looked Like Giants”, and its imagery is all heat where the Death Cab song is frosty, but they feel closely linked to me. I guess part of it is the relief of knowing that there’s lots of music to love from the 21st century as well as the stuff I grew up with.

6. The SmithereensYesterday Girl
Speaking of songs I grew up with, okay, yes, it is another nostalgic rock song about a bygone relationship. I’m not doing a bunch of middle-aged mooning over old lovers, I promise — it’s just that for whatever reason I kept assigning or getting assigned albums that partook of the theme, and the songs themselves just stood out like gems. As I said in the review I wrote of 11, I think this is the best version of the Smithereens’ rock voice, and that is a high peak. I read this morning that Pat DiNizio died, which makes me even gladder to have spent time with this album and included this song in the year’s mix. RIP Pat — you were a true rock and roll disciple.

7. World PartyWay Down Now
This is the opener to an album that I absolutely adore, Goodbye Jumbo. Not an assignment, but just a record I revisited because I needed to hear it a bunch of times in a row. I love the entire thing, but this song really spoke to me this year, especially as I watched one disaster and disgrace after another unfold in the news. “Come on and show me anything but this.”

8. Pink FloydUs And Them
Robby assigned me The Dark Side Of The Moon to listen to during the week of the eclipse, which was so absolutely perfect. That record is actually perfect at a whole lot of times, and this song in particular resonated with me, embodying as it does the idea of tribal division as a deeply ingrained human trait. The gulf between me and my people versus the seemingly rock-steady 37 percent or so of people who remain Trump supporters feels enormous to me. I know there’s that othering mechanism in my brain, and I do not want to be controlled by it, but the anger and disgust that his behavior produces in me is visceral, and boy is it not interested in counterpoints.

9. Public EnemyFight The Power (soundtrack version)
Which brings us to this anthem, an amazing vehicle for outrage against the system. Fear Of A Black Planet was an album assignment, but the version of “Fight The Power” on that album is really disappointing, with some of the strongest lyrics censored and some of the best music — including Wynton Marsalis’s trumpet — edited out. For the definitive track, there is absolutely no alternative to the Do The Right Thing soundtrack.

10. Hirway and MirandaWhat’s Next?
2017 was the year of The West Wing for me. My friends Trish and Art watched the show when it aired, and regularly rhapsodized about it, but I just wasn’t up for adopting another TV show back then. But last Christmas I was home for a while, and had some unaccustomed time to take on a little project. Trish was all excited because there was a new podcast called The West Wing Weekly, which analyzed one episode at a time in depth. So I decided to get on board, and watched the whole series between December and March. I absolutely loved it, and this was the perfect time to watch it. Visiting a world where the president is a compassionate intellectual, and his staff spent their days in genuine efforts to make the world a better place for the less powerful, was a wonderful tonic.

Then I started listening to the podcast, which is co-hosted by Josh Malina (an actor who was in the show’s cast from seasons 4-7) and Hrishikesh Hirway (a veteran podcaster). They also regularly bring in guests — people who worked on the show both in front of the camera and behind it, as well as various government officials and experts to speak about the issues the show raises. This podcast is utterly delightful — the dynamic between Hrishi and Josh is hilarious, and their insights are excellent. Spending time with it feels like hanging out with really smart, funny friends. They always sign off the show with phrases that became West Wing motifs: “Ok. Ok. What’s next?”

It turns out another huge fan of The West Wing is Lin-Manuel Miranda — you know, the Hamilton guy. In fact, for his final performance as Hamilton, he took his final curtain call to The West Wing’s theme song. It seems he is also a fan of the podcast, because in January of this year, he recorded this awesome rap, stuffed full of West Wing references, to a version of the podcast’s theme remixed by Hrishi. “The flentl” is Josh’s coined term for sound that plays after the screen has gone to black and is showing end credits. You can see how it’s a flentl in the song’s video:

11. Fountains Of WayneNo Better Place
I got to revisit the phenomenal Welcome Interstate Managers via an assignment this year, and this time “No Better Place” was the song that jumped out at me. I already wrote about how musically fantastic it is, but did I mention the comedy? “Is that supposed to be your poker face / or was someone run over by a train?” Actually, in that line and in the others, it’s really comedy mixed with poignancy, which is wheelhouse territory for FoW, and part of the reason I love them so much. “You’re awake and trying not to be / Wrapped around your pillow like a prawn.”

12. Jonathan CoultonI Crush Everything
Hey, did I mention that I love comedy mixed with poignancy? I saw Coulton open up for Aimee Mann this year, and as much as I loved her, I may have loved him just a little more. The two of them together were the most delightful of all, and I’m thrilled I got to be there. They both talked a lot between the songs, which is one of my favorite things at live shows. (Well, as long as the performer has something interesting and non-canned to say, which they did.) He introduced this one by saying, “Here’s a song about a giant squid who hates himself.” How many artists can uncork that leadoff line?

13. Phil CollinsIt Don’t Matter To Me
Poor Phil has taken on a poignancy all his own, especially apparent in the retaken photos for the covers of his reissued solo albums — same face, different value. But how great he was in his day, and this song is from his zenith period. The contrast between the bright horns and the dark lyrics works so well for me — it’s a great recipe for a denial song.

14. Lindsey Buckingham Christine McVieGame Of Pretend
I liked this album fine, but I so wanted it to be better than it was. For that to happen, though, it would need to be balanced, meaning more McVie and a lot less Buckingham. That’s just not much of a possibility when an ego like Lindsey’s is in the mix. This song came the closest — Lindsey is still all over the place, but at least we get to hear Christine’s piano, and her best lyrics of the collection.

15. Dire StraitsHand In Hand
Piano is the connection to this one. Dire Straits is canonically a guitar band, thanks to the artistry of Mark Knopfler, but when I assigned Making Movies what I found was that a huge part of the magic comes from Roy Bittan’s piano. It features prominently in this song, which lands in the bittersweet place that the mood from “Game Of Pretend” sometimes leads to.

16. Diana KrallSimple Twist of Fate
Nobody does bittersweet places like Bob Dylan, especially Blood On The Tracks-era Dylan. One of the later breakers from last year’s big wave o’ Dylan was an Amnesty International collection I listened to, three discs of Dylan covers. As always in a situation like that, it’s a mixed bag, but there are some gems inside it, and this is one of them. Again, the piano is central, Krall’s gentle playing replacing the melancholy guitar strums of the original. Her voice, too, has a hushed and intimate quality that pulls out the sweet over the bitter, the reverse of Dylan’s plaintive timbre. For one of my Watchmen articles this year, I listened to an awful lot of Elvis Costello, and my rotation was full of Dylan albums. Costello’s wife covering Dylan brings them together beautifully.

17. Aretha FranklinDr. Feelgood (Love Is A Serious Business)
The keyboards are up to something entirely different in this song. There’s the organ in the background, sounding like it came straight from the Baptist church. A preacher ought to step out and start sermonizing the gospel, but instead we get this syncopated, swaying piano from the juke joint, an earthy sound to counterpoint the airy organ. And finally there is Aretha’s voice, the true preacher, evangelizing a love in which the sacred meets the profane, the sensual meets the spiritual. In “doctor” and “feelgood” the mind joins to the body, and the music provides the spirit. The subtitle fits perfectly — this is not frivolous love, but a profound, life-changing force. It felt fitting for a title to this collection, a prayer and wish for the love that has power to change hearts, minds, and spirits.

18. Tom Petty and the HeartbreakersEven The Losers
The day Tom Petty died was one of the worst days of the year for me, on lots of levels. It bad enough that I was struggling through a difficult go-live for a critical portal feature. It was awful enough that some lunatic had opened fire on a concert, killing dozens of people. But to lose one of the guiding voices from my life so suddenly, so unexpectedly, that same day… I couldn’t even listen to his music for the first couple of days, and after that for a while I could listen to nothing else. In the midst of one of those long listening jags, this song jumped out. I’d always loved it, but the words that took me by the throat were: “You made me feel like every word you said was meant to be.” That’s exactly what I wanted to say to him.

And that’s all. 2017 was a year of one shock after another, though perhaps not as painfully as 2016 was. I was learning how to get grounded, find clarity, and keep the flame of hope burning. For me, listening to music and thinking about music was one way of doing that.

Put On Some Silver

Because I’m sending these year-end CDs to Wales, my listening year runs November to October, giving me time to assemble and mail a mix in time for Christmas. This year, that meant I’d done most of the assembly work during the first week of November. Shortly after that, you may or may not have heard, the United States held a presidential election. It was a pretty low-key affair — only about 55% of us actually bothered to vote. What’s more, we have this quirky system that gives more power per voter to rural (ahem, whiter) areas of the country than to more diverse urban areas, a system we’ve decided to reinforce by drawing super-crazy boundaries around congressional districts in order to keep them as ideologically homogeneous as possible.

Anyway, when faced with a choice between the most dangerous and least qualified major party nominee, like, ever, and a woman with decades of political experience and a clear, proven track record of working to help vulnerable people with compassionate policies, we of course chose the qualified woman. That is to say, more people voted for her. Like, a couple million more. But, funny thing, she’s not actually going to get to become president, because the couple million extra people who voted for her live in the wrong states. Did I mention we have a quirky system?

Anyway, for people like me who were rooting for the qualified woman to not only win the most votes but also to get elected president, it’s been kind of an emotional time. You know how after you go through a big breakup or suffer some kind of major loss, every single song that comes on the radio seems to gain this halo of extra resonance, to get freighted with a bunch of additional meaning so that it turns out all those songs are about EXACTLY WHAT YOU’RE SUFFERING, who knew? Listening to music was kind of like that for a few weeks in November.

That experience seems to have permanently infiltrated my experience of making this mix, and thus of listening to these songs. So it’s possible these liner notes may feel a bit repetitive for that reason. Oh, and also for the reason that a bunch of these songs have already been written about in the context of my ongoing album assignments project. All those messy caveats aside, here’s a mix of songs I was listening to in 2016, and a few thoughts about each one.

1. Taylor SwiftClean
This was the year I got around to 1989. The Taylor Swift album, I mean. I’d never been drawn to her stuff too much previously, though she did always seem to me like the real thing, a talented singer-songwriter who was committed to a musical life, rather than being a video pop tart. But the country idiom isn’t a natural one for me, so I never sought her out until I heard the infectious and addictive “Shake It Off.” (And stay tuned for that one.) A few singles into this album and I knew it was for me. I wasn’t wrong, either — I love the whole thing, and this track is especially compelling to me. It’s a collaboration between TS and Imogen Heap, who herself vaulted onto my list after this. Her album is on the docket for next year. “Clean” is a relationship song, clearly, but heard in the November context it was how I was hoping to feel on the 9th. That didn’t work out.

2. Jefferson AirplaneEmbryonic Journey
As I wrote in my review of Surrealistic Pillow, I think this is my favorite rock instrumental of all time. I find it absolutely transcendent, in a way that defies encapsulation in language. Maybe that’s part of the definition of “transcendent.”

3. Joni MitchellCarey
Blue was an assigned album this year, and listening to it I was struck anew at just how gorgeous it is. Every note sounds so pure and right. Every song feels on par with all the others, so picking a song from it was a bit arbitrary. “Carey”, though, feels emblematic of the album, musically joyful and lyrically both aching and celebratory. I love the bohemian images, and the feel of reveling in the sweetness of life just as we still revel in the sweetness of this album. The lyric “put on some silver” makes me think of making the choice to embrace life and happiness even in dark times. It seemed a fitting title for this collection.

4. Fountains Of WayneAction Hero
After getting to know FoW last year, I dove deeper this year, branching into some other albums, including their (presumably final) entry from 2011, Sky Full Of Holes. It’s a typically great collection, but for me this song stands above most of the rest. There’s the usual lyrical cleverness, stringing together rhyme chains like “tests”, “chest”, “best”, “guess”, “rest”, and “stress”, with an internal rhyme of “suggest” thrown in there as a flourish. But the moment that gives me goosebumps everytime is after the second chorus, when the music swells underneath “and he’s racing against time.” Where the action hero metaphor starts out comical, with the man serving as a bit of a punchline, by the end of the second chorus his true heroism reveals itself to us, reflecting upon us the way we’re all racing against time.

5. The LumineersSubmarines
On a musical level, I find this song hypnotic. The way it switches time signatures back and forth keeps me wonderfully off-balance, and the mix of instrumental voices is a pleasure — strong piano, subtle cello, stomps and snares for percussion. Lyrically, it’s about seeing a danger coming that nobody else believes. I can imagine there were a few who could relate to that feeling recently. I wasn’t one of them, though — I’m not sure whether I wish I’d seen it coming or not. That’s a bit like the old philosophical question about knowing the time and manner of your own death.

6. The MotelsSuddenly Last Summer
I think The Motels are one of the most underrated bands of the 1980s. I love Martha Davis’ voice, and her writing often has a mysterious, evocative quality, hinting at truths greater than the words can capture. This song is a perfect example — I’m not sure exactly what it’s about, but you can’t miss the the yearning, regret, and pain in the music. It always makes me think of how some incident can change your life completely in an instant, branching you into a future very different from the one you expected. For me, the words “one summer never ends, one summer never begins” are about that inflection point.

7. Bob DylanPositively 4th Street
I listened to a lot of Bob Dylan this year. The subtitle of this mix may as well be “Hope Ya Like Dylan!” He’ll be showing up frequently in this list. This song is one of the best kiss-off tunes of all time. In Dylan’s context, I think it’s about the false friends he had in the Greenwich Village folk community, people who pretended to love him but were in fact jealous of his success and ready to undermine him at any turn. (At least, from his perception — no doubt there are many sides to that story.) In the 2016 context, it’s about seeing through bullshit, something we’ve all had to become well acquainted with.

8. Peter GabrielLovetown
Here’s a little-known Peter Gabriel track, from the soundtrack to the 1993 movie Philadelphia. Like many of the soundtrack’s songs, it’s an interpretation of the tone of the movie — a complement to Neil Young’s “city of brotherly love, don’t turn your back on me,” and Bruce Springsteen’s “Oh brother are you gonna leave me wastin’ away on the streets of Philadelphia?” Gabriel’s song is more subtle, more translucent than transparent. But that’s where I think its power resides. It brims with powerful images, like “do those teeth still match the wound” and the corresponding “whose lonely lips will find these hidden scars?” I listened to that soundtrack this year, and even though I love most of the other songs on it, this one felt the richest and the deepest to me.

9. The Velvet Underground & NicoVenus In Furs
As I wrote, this is the song that captivated me most when I listened to the VU’s debut album on assignment this year. It illuminates an unusual relationship to suffering — pain as release, pain as freedom, pain as comfort. It’s not my path — as Armatrading said, “It’s their way of loving, not mine.” But I’ve learned about it from friends, and come to see it as another aspect of diversity, and possibly even a different approach to the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism. It’s a brilliant purple candle flame in a darkened room, casting weird shadows on the wall but nevertheless an irresistible cynosure.

10. Bob DylanUp To Me
Oh, “Up To Me.” The way these mixes come about is that as I go through the year of music listening, I keep throwing standout tracks into a playlist, and then I pick from that group when November comes around. There are always more songs than would fit on a single CD, so some culling is necessary, and that’s all to the good. Some songs, though, I mark as sure keepers, that will make the mix no matter what else doesn’t. This is one of those songs. I found it on the third disc of Dylan’s 1985 box set Biograph. I listen to music mostly during my commute, and when a song particularly catches my interest, I repeat it. And when it obsesses me, I repeat it until I’ve learned it. That’s what happened to me with this song, which is every bit as good as anything from Blood On The Tracks, one of my favorite Dylan incarnations. It feels like an epic novel to me, but condensed down into a series of scenes that indelibly carve the runes of friendship, regret, responsibility, loyalty, and memory.

11. Stevie NicksSisters Of The Moon (demo)
There was a period, probably about a decade ago, where conditions in my life and conditions on the Internet were ripe for gathering lots and lots of Stevie bootlegs. People had web sites up where they’d feature some collection of mp3s for a week, then take those down and put up a whole new set, week after week, site after site. Some of this stuff gets pretty repetitive — how many fan-taped shows from the 2002-03 Fleetwood Mac tour does one person need? (Answer: a combination of “the best quality one” and “the one from early in the tour where they hadn’t dropped the rare songs yet.”) But there’s one collection that stands as my favorite. It was labeled “Gems” by whoever put it up, and the description is apt. It’s piano demos, mostly young Stevie singing by herself, accompanying herself, doing versions of her songs from when they were freshly written. Of that collection, this one is my favorite, an acoustic “Sisters Of The Moon” before it became a Fleetwood Mac powerhouse, when it was just a spooky, hushed, mystical gauze draped over a Tiffany lamp.

12. Buckingham NicksCrying In The Night
When I saw her on October 27th, Stevie’s set was full of surprises, but none more surprising than this one. This is the opening track from the Buckingham Nicks album, the one she and Lindsey released before they were invited to join Fleetwood Mac. This album isn’t even available to buy — it’s been out of print since a few months after it was released in 1973, and has never even come out on CD. (At least, not in a version released by any record company.) I never, ever expected to hear it live, and it was a huge thrill. Maybe that means we’ll see a disc one of these years? We keep hoping.

13. The PretendersStop Your Sobbing
Yes, The Pretenders and Stevie Nicks are side by side in this mix because they were side by side in concert. And yes, pairing “Crying In The Night” with “Stop Your Sobbing” was no accident. But I’d likely select this song even without the thematic connection, because Chrissie’s performance on it was her fiercest of the night. Yeah, it’s a Kinks cover, but for me this is a Pretenders song through and through, and one of the best. This month, it also represents what to do next.

14. The PoliceTruth Hits Everybody
Now here’s a song that resonated in November. I’d just assigned Outlandos d’Amour the month before, and rediscovered the furious allure of The Police as a young band, especially Stewart Copeland. Now, listening back to the music I’d selected from the year, this song jumped out at me and took me by the throat. Reality has seldom felt so merciless.

15. Bob DylanTombstone Blues
Here’s another version of merciless truth, one flooded with metaphor and cloaked in symbol, but the chorus is pretty plainspoken: “Mama’s in the factory, she ain’t got no shoes / Daddy’s in the alley, he’s looking for food / I am in the kitchen with the tombstone blues.” Sure, there’s Belle Starr and John the Baptist and Galileo and Gypsy Davey and on and on, but at its heart this song is about poverty, desperation, and death. It turns out those are powerful forces that, in a democracy, can be harnessed and pointed at a target. Sometimes, the target is even the people themselves, though they only find that out later.

16. Jenny Lewis with the Watson TwinsThe Big Guns
The commander-in-chief says, “Death to all those who would whimper and cry.” Okay, I’m still on the previous song, but it connects right up. This Jenny Lewis solo album is much closer to the parts of Rilo Kiley that I love than was the actual last Rilo Kiley album. This track was a standout when I listened to it months ago, but it really jumped up when I was putting the mix together. “I’ll pretend that everybody here wants peace / Have mercy, have mercy, have mercy on me / Cause we’re tired and lonely and we’re bloody.” Some people just love the big guns, and we’re going to be hearing a lot more from them soon. Not that the last 8 years were some peaceful haven — we’re still in some kind of 1984 state of constant war — but it was directionally correct, and we’re about to lose that, I think.

17. HeartGoodbye Blue Sky (live)
Which leads right into this. I think it’s very hard to cover Pink Floyd successfully — I’ve not even heard that many people try. But I absolutely adore this version of “Goodbye Blue Sky.” It comes from a Heart live album in which they play the entirety of Dreamboat Annie, and then go on to cover some of the other people’s songs they loved from that period. The original of this is fantastically sinister, but the Ann Wilson treatment just launches it into the stratosphere, no unsettling reference intended. The incredible sense of menace and power fit my November mood perfectly.

18. ColdplayAmsterdam
The turning point. This song captivated me when I listened to A Rush Of Blood To The Head on assignment. I connected with it emotionally far more than any other song on the album. To me, this song is about being in the deep well of despair, for a time that feels it will stretch into eternity, and then finally seeing a shaft of sunlight break through. Right at 3:57, the song absolutely takes off, and the feeling changes from hopelessness to freedom. I’ve been through this once already. In 2004, I gave up on us in disgust, only to witness what felt like a miracle in 2008. This time, I’m not giving up — we just have to keep climbing until we get to that sunlight.

19. Bob DylanThe Times They Are A-Changin’
This song was first played on October 26, 1963. Less than a month later, and before the song was released on an album, John F. Kennedy was assassinated, giving the clarion words an entirely different cast. Yet when we hear it now, it signals all the good changes that came out of that painful decade. The words, though, can play either as hopeful or foreboding, or maybe both at the same time. “The battle outside ragin’ / Will soon shake your windows and rattle your walls.” That’s where we are. But the change doesn’t stop, and we can be a part of it.

20. Taylor SwiftShake It Off
So here we are. I started with a wish to be clean, but it’s a dirty time that lies ahead. But I can’t stay mud-encrusted. As much as I can, I have to rise above, and the only way I know to do that is to connect with human joy. This song crystallizes that for me. Haters gonna hate, and that’s not something we can change. What can we do? Shake, shake, shake it off. 🙂 And look forward to 2017, despite everything.

Happy New Year.

Album Assignments: Welcome Interstate Managers

Robby has been a teacher for the past 12 years, so I took a page from his educator’s handbook before this assignment by giving him an assessment first. “On a scale from 1 to 10,” I asked, “with 1 being you’ve heard the name and that’s all, and 10 being you know all the words to all their albums, please rate your familiarity with Fountains of Wayne.” His answer: “I have heard of them and I think I have heard one of their songs, so I guess a 2 or 3.” That told me what FoW album to assign.

See, my friend Trish has been singing the band’s praises for a couple of decades, and so when I finally decided to check in with them, it was her I consulted for what album to start with. Her recommendation: Welcome Interstate Managers. So a couple of years ago that album found its way into my life, and I loved it. So much so that I’ve sought out a bunch more of their records and now count myself a fan. If Robby was already a fan too, I might have assigned him one of those later albums, but for a beginner, there’s no better introduction than Welcome.

This album epitomizes the wit, the sparkle, and the pure pleasure that makes Fountains of Wayne such a fun band. Let’s start with the lyrics. Just on a mechanical level, there’s so much cleverness going on here. Rhymes like “I saw you talkin’ to Christopher Walken” or “working all day for a mean little guy / with a bad toupee and a soup-stained tie” demonstrate a wonderful mastery of lyrical forms. “It may be the whiskey talking / but the whiskey says I miss you every day” starts with a cliche and then squeezes the poignancy out of it. “Ever since you hung up on me / I’m hung up on you” is a perfect satire of typical country music wordplay, so perfect it hardly seems like an exaggeration. And could a tune about feeling exploited by the music industry possibly have a better title than “Bought For a Song”?

Welcome Interstate Managers album cover

Then there’s the conceptual level. So often on this album, Fountains Of Wayne takes the emotionally charged pop song structure and applies it in unexpected ways. Take “All Kinds Of Time”, which grafts a U2-like anthem onto a football play, taking an overused game-announcer phrase and turning it into something transcendent. Or how about “Halley’s Waitress”, musically a wistful missing-you soft-rock song, but lyrically grousing about poor table service at a diner? “Fire Island” takes a chorus-starting lyric of “we’re old enough by now to take care of each other”, and builds around it a teen-movie scenario of “driving on the lawn / sleeping on the roof / drinking all the alcohol.”

Such comedy inversions are all over the album, but the band isn’t simply having a laugh. Taken together, these songs form a panoramic picture of early 21st-century suburban male life in New York and New Jersey, in all its ludicrousness and pain, skipping from character to character like a Robert Altman movie. “Little Red Light” drops us into the car with a guy who’s stuck in traffic on the Tappan Zee Bridge, recently dumped, and bemoaning his lack of messages. “Bright Future In Sales” shows a different kind of desperation, an alcoholic salesman who keeps vowing to get his shit together, but never quite seems to get there.

And if the J. Geils Band’s “Centerfold” is the fantasy version of what happens when your childhood crush gets famous, “Hackensack” sounds a lot more like the reality — a guy who works for his dad, scraping the paint off hardwood floors, but promising his now-Hollywood acquaintance, “I will wait for you / As long as I need to / And if you ever get back to Hackensack / I’ll be here for you.” As if she’s ever coming back, and as if she’d want him waiting even if she did.

These marvelous lyrical inventions find themselves polished and set in glorious, glittering musical gold. Fountains of Wayne absolutely nails both the power and the pop, with tender melodies in some places, slamming rock in others, and utterly dazzling harmonies throughout. Pretty much every song is musically excellent, but a particularly superb example is “No Better Place.”

Acoustic rhythm guitar, chiming Byrds-style electric, subtle bass, and powerful drums meld together to form the firmament over which shoot meteoric synth effects. The first verse features Chris Collingwood’s vocals unadorned, but they’re double-tracked on the chorus and thrust aloft by gorgeous chorded backing harmonies. The second verse has Adam Schlesinger singing harmony on lines like “the night-time’s wrapped around you”, setting the loneliness of the lyrics into stark relief. Those intermittent harmonies come in with regularity throughout the song, and they’re a pleasure every time. Schlesinger and Collingwood’s voices fit together like Lennon and McCartney, which is to say both jarringly and perfectly.

Then there’s the bridge, in which the subject of the song seems almost dissociative, and immediately following the line “so you sail between the rooftops and the sky”, a powerful thrumming synth bursts in, rattling bones and raising goosebumps into the guitar solo, which evokes and echoes the narrator’s yearning tone. The last note of that solo carries us into the final verse, in which Collingwood is alone again, with just rhythm guitar and the occasional tambourine hit. Then the electric guitar, drums, and harmonies return to take us to the chorus one final time, everything shimmering and magical as the meteors crowd the sky, slowly fading into the distance.

Every element of the song combines for a symphony of aching pleasure, and every song on Welcome Interstate Managers is full of such treats. If you like rock or pop music at all, there’s something here for you. For me, it’s a tremendous smorgasbord whose delights get deeper with every listen.

Wait Another Day

This year’s music mix has a new factor thrown in. Normally these collections are culled from the music I’ve been listening to over the previous year (with “year” being defined as November – October, so I can get the CD mailed to Wales in time for Christmas). That part hasn’t changed, but the new factor is the album assignments game I’ve been playing with Robby over the fall. That’s changed my listening habits, so that a couple of days out of each week are now devoted to a particular album, with the aim of writing about it later. That’s brought in some things that wouldn’t have been in my regular rotation — Elvis Costello and The Clash among them. It also means that some of this stuff I’ve already written about, so I’ll try not to repeat myself. Of course, that means I may be a bit briefer than usual on some tunes.

1. The Airborne Toxic EventNo More Lonely Nights
Case in point. TATE is now on my “to-do” list after this track, which performs the minor miracle of resurrecting this Give My Regards To Broad Street tune into something subtle and moving.

2. Stevie NicksBelle Fleur
Okay, I just wrote four paragraphs of background about Stevie’s 24 Karat Gold album, then realized that they’re supposed to go in my article about the album itself. Robby doesn’t know it yet (as I write this), but I’m assigning that album to him next.

Meanwhile, a few words about this song. It’s an example of a song that I’ve had in demo form for decades, but never really connected with that much. This re-recording, on the other hand, moves me a lot. To me, it’s a story of love and magic, but not magic love — it’s no ticket to dreamland. What it is, though, is an exchange of stories, and a sharing of lives — you sing to me, and I’ll sing to you.

3. Joe JacksonOde To Joy
Speaking of new albums from old friends, I just saw Joe Jackson in concert in October, touring to support his new record Fast Forward. This was my favorite song he played that night, and my favorite from the new CD. I love its wholehearted embrace of joy, joy as a pure experience unfettered by the material and phenomenological planes. The New Yorker did a wonderful profile of Joe, and one of my favorite parts of that is this quote:

Some of my early stuff was infected by the deadly disease of cynicism, which is a disease of the young, I think. When you’re young, it seems very clever to be cynical. But as you get older, hopefully, if you’re not completely stupid, you realize that you have to be a bit more positive, as a simple matter of survival.

I happened to listen to this album right before reviewing Don Henley’s Cass County, and Joe’s optimism is a lovely contrast to some the harshness on display there. And being Joe, he cleverly quotes Beethoven in the bargain.

4. Elvis CostelloMystery Dance
I wonder if the kind of world that could produce this song is gone forever. Can sex still be mysterious when so much information about it is so easily retrieved? Sure, there’s a world of difference between reading about something and doing it, and lots of what’s out there could warp a kid’s perceptions and blur the difference between fantasy and reality, but there was a time in living memory when you could try and try and still be mystified. Does that happen anymore?

5. The ClashDeath Or Glory
I can hardly say more about this than I did in my London Calling post. Suffice it to say that I put it on repeat in my car for a day, and never got sick of it. And I drive a lot! It’s as energizing the 20th time as it was the first.

6. Fleetwood MacSongbird (live)
This last year was a special one for Fleetwood Mac fans, because we saw something we never thought we’d see again: Chrstine McVie touring with the band. I actually saw them in December 2014 *and* April 2015, which is why there are two songs from the set list on this CD. In April, she didn’t play “Songbird” — apparently she was dealing with some kind of injury, because it came back to the set later. She played it in December though, and it’s just the most perfect set closer. I never got the chance to see Fleetwood Mac in its prime — my first FM show was the 1987 tour where they replaced Lindsey with two other guitarists, and my first time seeing the classic lineup was in 1997. That was also my last time until now. It was such a joy to hear this song at the end of the show. This recording is from 1977, and was included in the Rumours expanded edition that they released a couple of years ago. [The YouTube clip I linked to above is from a different 1977 show — I couldn’t find the expanded edition one online.]

7. Tori AmosPromise
I’ve been a Tori Amos fan for a long time now, so I was aware that she had a daughter named Tash. But that wasn’t uppermost in my mind while I was listening to her new album Unrepentant Geraldines this year. So when I heard this song, I could tell it was a duet, but I didn’t recognize the other voice — all I could hear was that it was somebody who had a lot on common with Tori vocally. As I listened to the lyrics, discerning that this was a conversation between mother and daughter, I started to wonder, “Could this be Tash?” And sure enough, it is. That realization sent chills through me. Tash was born on 2000, so she was probably 13 when this song was recorded. Given that, it’s a remarkable performance, and as a parent I find the lyrics very moving.

8. Roger McGuinnIf We Never Meet Again
I revisited McGuinn’s album Back From Rio this year — I’ve always liked his twelve-string guitar sound, and this is my favorite of his non-Byrds releases. This time around, “If We Never Meet Again” latched onto me. The tone is just golden, and the message of acceptance for whatever may come sits well with me.

9. Best CoastEach And Everyday
I came across this band on a Fleetwood Mac tribute album done by a bunch of indie groups, called Just Tell Me That You Want Me. There were lots of great covers on that album, but Best Coast’s version of “Rhiannon” really grabbed me, mainly I think because of singer Bethany Cosentino’s voice. So I sought to know more about them and ended up quite enjoying both of their first two albums. (I haven’t got their third yet, but it’s on my wish list.) This is a track from their debut.

10. The ClashThe Card Cheat
There are so many great things about this song, but it has to start with the production. Contrary to what you might expect from a punk band, this song is as well-produced as any pop gem. The ringing piano, valedictory horns, majestic rhythm section — it’s like a classic Phil Spector “Wall Of Sound” record, infused with a cathedral grandeur. Wedding this incredible sound to the tale of a lowlife gambler is like the aural version of a Scorsese film, elevating the dismal criminal world to an operatic level.

11. Paul F. TompkinsKing Hat
My friend Tashi put me onto this comedian, whose records I just adore. Many of his bits have now become part of the conceptual vocabulary in my mind, especially the ones from his most recent album Laboring Under Delusions, which is a concept piece about all the various jobs he’s done in his life. I listened to that album a bunch over this last year, and knew I wanted to include something from it. I had a hard time picking. I went with this one because a) it’s a great showcase for his style, b) it’s a linguistic rant, which I find endearing, and c) it reminds me so much of the stories Laura tells me about her retail-esque experiences at the library. Oh, and because it’s so freakin’ funny, of course.

12. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis feat. Mary LambertSame Love
Here’s another album I spent an awful lot of time with over the last year. I was a bit late to the Macklemore party, but boy The Heist is great. A number of songs from it got thrown into the hopper for this mix, but if I had to pick just one (and, it turned out, I did), it’d be “Same Love.” I so appreciate the personal story flowing into the cultural analysis, and the strong, clear call for hip-hop to stand behind marriage equality. Damn right I support it.

13. Dan WilsonFree Life
Dan Wilson was the lead singer and writer of the 90’s band Semisonic, who were a one-hit wonder with the song “Closing Time.” It’s a shame that they never found greater success, because Wilson is an absolutely brilliant songwriter, who did amazing work with Semisonic and then went on to co-write such killer songs as Adele’s “Someone Like You” and the Dixie Chicks’ “Not Ready To Make Nice.” This song is from his 2007 solo debut, and it stands out for me this year because my iPod dialed it up as I was driving back from New Mexico, having just participated in the 2015 Geek Bowl in Albuquerque. It felt so perfect for that specific moment in my life that I put it on repeat a few times, just listening to the music and feeling free.

14. Elton JohnRocket Man (I Think It’s Going To Be A Long Long Time)
Sometimes a classic just jumps out and reminds you why it’s a classic. I was listening to Honky Château in the car, and when this song came on I marveled at how intensely gorgeous it is. Plus, it’s a fantastic song to sing along to, which is probably why I sang it over and over on that 45-minute commute.

15. Elliott SmithJunk Bond Trader
I’ve had XO in my collection for a while, and while I enjoy it, I never really imprinted on it. Figure 8, on the other hand, knocked me out. So many great songs on that album — as with Macklemore, there were a bunch in the running and it came down to this one. The lyrics to this are so fantastic — elliptical and evocative, with the occasional razor-sharp one liner, like “Checking into a small reality / Boring as a drug you take too regularly.” What’s it about? I really don’t know. But I sure do dig how it’s about it.

16. Fleetwood MacSisters Of The Moon
This was the highlight of the April 2015 Fleetwood Mac show. It’s always been one of my favorite Stevie songs — I love the power chord progression and the mystical vibe. She can’t hit those high notes any more (the backup singers do it for her), and the cocaine-fueled frenzy that used to characterize live performances of this song is long behind her, but still, it is a powerful, spellbinding incantation, and it lifts me up every time I see it.

17. Florence + The MachineDog Days Are Over
Speaking of powerful. Ceremonials was a big record for me in 2014, so I decided to check out Florence’s debut as well, and I’m glad I did. There’s a reason this song got so famous. I love rock songs with big drums and a big voice like this — they make me feel like I’m flying.

18. Best CoastThe Only Place
Here’s a song from Best Coast’s second album. True to their name, it’s a paean to California, and I have to say they make a pretty good case. Especially for somebody like me who could be perfectly happy never seeing snow again, Southern California seems like a pretty amazing place to live. Oh, except for the earthquakes. And, I guess the mudslides. And the forest fires. And how expensive everything is. But other than that, aces!

19. Fountains Of WayneBright Future In Sales
One final showcase from another album I really got into in 2014. My friend Trish has been a huge FoW fan for ages, and always told me I should check them out. You know how it is with that kind of thing, though — I’d always think, “Yeah, I should,” and then go listen to something I already know. That’s the beauty of the wishlist, though. I can just tag something based on a passing thought, and then some angel will bring it into my life, where I can give it the attention it deserves. This album, Welcome Interstate Managers, dominated my car for about 3 weeks, and I got to love each and every song on it. There were a bunch to choose from, but this one does a great job of encapsulating the humor, the characterization, the storytelling, and the awesome power pop slam that Fountains Of Wayne brings to its music.

M-m-m-my TCONA! [Day 1]

If you tend to read what I write here, you’ll know that this has been quite a trivia year for me. The most recent highlight is that I played in another pub quiz tournament with the Anti-Social Network (renamed The A-OK’s for this event), i.e. the same team that won The Geek Bowl. And we won again! This time the purse was $1000. It is astonishing, weird, and wonderful to be part of such a high-performing group.

The highlight before that, though, was the Trivia Championships Of North America, or TCONA. This event is poorly named, according to me — it sounds like it’s going to be some kind of culmination of a long season of North American trivia contests, when in fact it’s more of a triviapalooza, a big convention of trivia hobbyists who get together to compete in and/or watch a variety of events. The “championships” of anything else is not something that just anybody can buy a ticket to, show up, and participate in the competition, but TCONA was open to anybody who cared to pay the ($100) admission fee and get themselves to Las Vegas, where the event was held.

Economic times are a little tight in my family right now, so I would not have been one of those people, but for two things. First, organizer Paul Bailey reached out to us Anti-Socialites and offered to waive the admission fee if we’d provide some material for the weekend: a 100-question seeding test for the quiz bowl tournament event. Secondly, also because of the Geek Bowl, I had some winnings set aside, to be used for a special occasion. I decided that TCONA was just such an occasion, and booked my ticket. However, I still tried to cut corners, which is how I found myself getting up at 3:30am on July 8th, preparing for a 6am flight to Las Vegas.

I got myself on the plane without incident (unlike my last airplane adventure), and by 9am I was in Vegas. (This delay brought to me by a layover in Phoenix, another cost-cutting measure.) I’d never actually been to Vegas before. It is a strange, funny place. One of the first things I noticed is that it is totally the land of women-as-things. I mean, every place in America is at least a little bit like that, but Vegas is really like that, in little things like magazines and bus advertisements, and in big things like enormous billboards. Or this — pretty much the first sight that greeted me when I walked into my hotel, the MGM Grand, was an enormous bank of screens, all projecting one massive image: a long line of women, framed against a black background. Then, the women turned around, and revealed the backs of their outfits, completely black from head to toe, blending into the background, all except for their asses, which were left perfectly bare. Picture it — as I walked in the door, my greeting committee consisted of an extensive queue of disembodied asses, hanging in the air and twitching tartly back and forth, with military precision.

Anyway. The hotel staff was very nice about letting me check into a room early so I could get a nap before the trivia festivities began that afternoon, and they also gave me an extra key for my awesome sister Jenny, who was flying out from L.A. later that night to join me for Vegas partying. I headed up to the room for a much-needed nap, and afterwards explored the hotel, so that I could figure out the lay of the land. Trrish gave me some excellent advice about Vegas, which is that everything is much further away than it looks like it’s going to be. That is so, so true of the MGM Grand. I swear I did about 45 minutes of walking each day, just within the hotel! It’s like a huge hotel combined with a huge casino, a huge mall, a huge conference complex, and another huge hotel. Finally, I scoped out where the events would be held, though it was all barricaded because nobody was ready yet. After I snagged some lunch, I returned and got my nametag, program, and cute little swag bag.

Prior to the TCONA kickoff, my Colorado trivia colleague Bill Schantz hosted some mock-Jeopardy games in his room. Bill wrote a cracking J-simulator, and I went on a long Jeopardy-question-writing jag last year, so I was one of people who provided material for this unofficial event. Thus, around 3:30 on that day (more like 3:45 once I’d figured out I was at the wrong room and took the 10-minute hike to the right one) I got to do a very enjoyable trivia warmup, both as a reader and as a player. My “The Onion Rates The 2010 NFL” category was a hit. (Sample question: “After giving up 50 sacks in 2009,” this team‘s “offensive line appears to have forgiven Aaron Rodgers for whatever he did.”)

I did do a little gambling. I’m not a fan of slots — they feel more like just rolling a die than actually playing a game. And I don’t have nearly the skill, interest, or bankroll required to play table games. But I do enjoy video poker, and I’ve had a little practice at it too — Colorado has a few mountain towns in which gambling is legal, and I’ve been there enough times to learn the basic video poker ropes. My mom had given me some casino mad money — thanks Mom! — and I sat down at a poker machine and spent a very enjoyable 90 minutes turning $5 into $50! That was as lucky as I was ever going to get that weekend — turns out I’m much better at turning $10 or $20 into $0, though I have a reasonably good time on the way there.

Finally I sauntered down to the main event room — basically a big conference room with tables and chairs set out — around 5:30. Lots of trivia compadres were there, and it was fun to catch up with them. At 6pm, the first event began: a solo “kickoff quiz.” This was a pen-and-paper test, one of my least favorite trivia formats, at least when I’m not by myself. Also, I found it ridiculously hard. The gimmick was that all the answers consisted of a two-letter abbreviation for a US state, US territory, or Canadian province. Given the “North American” theme of TCONA, this made some sense, though obviously Mexico and Central America were conspicuous by their absence. Mr. Bailey explained that this was because nobody from those countries was attending this time, though he’d love to recruit anybody who’s interested. You can see the quiz here. (It is a bit annoying to read because it is “intentionally presented as an image, and with disruptive background to deter OCR,” per Mr. Bailey. I’m not sure why the copyright anxiety, but whatever.) Answer key is here.

After the kickoff quiz was an event called “Smarty Pants,” hosted by Paul Paquet. The deal with this game is that it sets up two opposing teams of four players each. Three members of each team are famous game show winners or trivia “celebrities” in some way. Players in this edition included Ken Jennings, Ed Toutant, Kevin Olmstead, and Bob Harris. All the “civilians” in the room got handed a card with a number on it, and then Paul picked random numbers for people to come and play on the all-star teams. I wasn’t one of those picked, but I had fun watching, and found the questions pretty interesting and clever.

The next event was a “pub quiz mash-up.” Representatives from four different pub quiz companies — Geeks Who Drink, King Trivia, TriviaNYC, and the aforementioned Paquet — brought a couple rounds of trivia each, and took turns quizzing a roomful of teams, 11 in all, with one extra made up of the quizmasters. Moreover, the teams themselves were randomly selected, with an eye toward geographical distribution. Each was captained by some kind of trivia celeb, so as to ensure that no one team marshaled an unreasonable amount of firepower, and they were constructed to ensure that each would have someone from outside the USA, someone from the west coast, someone from Colorado, etc.

The selection process for these teams was painful — rather than having the teams assigned beforehand, they were constructed on the fly, which meant about 45 minutes of tedious “Okay, please come to the front if you came here from California. Hm, only 8. Okay, California, Oregon, or Washington, please come to the front. Can everybody hear me?”, etc. However, once the teams were settled and the questions began, this was one of the most fun events of the weekend. I was on a team captained by Jerome Vered, called “Veredable Smorgasbord.”

Everybody on the team was extremely nice, and nobody was overly uptight about scores and answers, which was great, since nothing kills a good time at trivia like the guy who takes the whole thing too seriously and gets emotional about things going wrong. The questions were a lot of fun too. One group just did category questions, like “There are 11 NFL teams whose helmet graphics include some kind of writing or lettering. Name 10 of them.”, and “There are 10 people who are in the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame both as a solo artist and as a member of a group. Name them.”

My favorite round was presented by Geeks Who Drink, an audio “before and after” round in which two different songs were played blending into each other, and the answer was a blend of the two titles, hinging on the common word. Examples: Tori Amos & The Beatles “Precious Things We Said Today”; Guns ‘n’ Roses & John Mellencamp “November Rain On The Scarecrow”; and Wu-Tang Clan and M.I.A. “C.R.E.A.M.I.A.” Probably this was my favorite round because Adam Villani and I teamed up to kick ass on it, and brought our team back from the doldrums to a solid middle-of-the-pack showing.

Somewhere around the middle of the pub quiz, Jenny (my sister) showed up, and watched from a back table. After it was over, she and I headed out to explore the strangeness of Vegas. We ate a little, gambled a little, and walked a lot. She was looking specifically for a slot game she loves called Invaders From The Planet Moolah, which has a fun cascading reel effect, a bit like Bejeweled. We finally found it at Excalibur, but occupied, so we stalked the person playing until she left. By which I mean, we casually hung around playing neighboring machines, until finally she split, and we pounced on the moolah!

In true Vegas fashion, we suddenly realized it was like 3:00 in the morning, and headed back to go to sleep. Thus ended Day 1 of the Vegas trivia adventure. More to come, but for now, the answers to some lingering questions.

NFL Teams with lettering/writing on their helmets

  1. Baltimore Ravens (a raven’s head with a “B” inscribed)
  2. Chicago Bears (The letter “C”)
  3. Green Bay Packers (A big “G”)
  4. Kansas City Chiefs (A “KC” inside an arrowhead)
  5. Miami Dolphins (The jumping dolphin is wearing a little helmet with the letter “M” on it)
  6. New York Giants (A stylized “NY”)
  7. New York Jets (The word “Jets” with an outline of “NY” in the background)
  8. Oakland Raiders (The word “Raiders” at the top of the shield icon)
  9. Pittsburgh Steelers (The word “Steelers” by the logo)
  10. San Francisco 49ers (The letters “SF”)
  11. Tennessee Titans (A comet bearing a “T”)

People in the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame both as a solo artist and as a member of a group

  1. Jeff Beck [The Yardbirds]
  2. Eric Clapton [The Yardbirds and Cream]
  3. George Harrison [The Beatles]
  4. Michael Jackson [The Jackson 5]
  5. John Lennon [The Beatles]
  6. Curtis Mayfield [The Impressions]
  7. Paul McCartney [The Beatles]
  8. Clyde McPhatter [The Drifters]
  9. Paul Simon [Simon & Garfunkel]
  10. Neil Young [Buffalo Springfield]

Gratis Oryza Sativa

Trrish pointed me to a nifty little site called FreeRice, and the experience was satisfying on several levels. FreeRice offers an unending stream of multiple-choice vocabulary questions: given a word, choose which of four options is its synonym. For every word you get right, 20 grains of rice are donated via the United Nations World Food Program. The money for this comes from fairly unobtrusive banner ads that appear below the test area. I enjoy a vocabulary challenge, so the opportunity to play a fun game while effortlessly doing a little bit of good was a double pleasure. In addition, the site ranks your vocabulary level, so there’s a scoring element, which helps encourage replay. The scores range from 0 to 55, but according to the site, “it is rare for people to get much above level 48.”

Your initial vocab level gets set after you answer your first four questions, and then advances by one for every three words you get right. The first time I played the game, my initial level was set at 40. Almost immediately, I was being given unfamiliar words, trying to piece together their etymological roots, narrowing down options by process of elimination, and generally having a fine time. However, the next time I played, I started out hasty and careless, so I got the first word wrong. Well, my initial level got set at 10 that time, and I then slowly crawled up to my former level.

This got me thinking: what’s the real score on FreeRice? Because I am all game-playey and test-takey, I immediately focused on the vocab level as the place to focus my achievement efforts. However, the session I played when I bombed my first question most certainly contributed more rice, and during that session I came to see that the real score isn’t vocab level, but rather grains of rice donated. I was reminded a bit of games like A Change In The Weather and Little Blue Men; these games offer an initial “win” state early on, but if you accept that win, you’ve missed the point of the game. It was yet another level of satisfaction: not only was I building my word power and donating food, I got to think a little bit about clever game mechanics as well.

After getting my first question wrong, I donated 2340 grains of rice and built my vocab level to 48 before getting another question wrong. Can you beat that?

New term

In the spirit of “blog = web log”, I give you:

blush = blog crush

I’m not referring to a boy-girl, “let’s go on dates” kind of crush, but rather the feeling you get after reading someone’s blog who is just so so so cool and smart and funny and awesome that you really should be friends with them, except why would somebody as awesome as them be friends with a nobody like you?

My friend Trish has a blush on Derek of Penmachine. For a while there I had a little blush on Jefito.