Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Love and Death Songs

"[The] more he absorbed this principle of love, the easier he found it to renounce life, and the more effectively he destroyed the dreadful barrier that the absence of love sets up between life and death." - Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace

Guys, I love Anna Karenina. Like, a lot. And we just finished reading it in class. Which means I have almost no one with whom to keep discussing this book that has seized control of some pretty splendid parts of my brain. It's just tumbling around in my head, themes and concepts and ideas rattling against all the other loose objects I keep chucking into my thought processes, and as it does so all my thoughts grow in size until I can do nothing but think them. What I'm trying to say here is that I really like this book, and there's a strong possibility that I will blog about it at some point. Probably soon. Probably multiple times.

In the meantime, I would like to honor Tolstoy's thoughts on the interconnectedness of life, death, love, and faith with a short list of My Favorite Love Songs that Mention Death in Them. I think I will choose five. Here they are, in no applicable order:

Brett Dennen - When I Go
This is a little more of a Death Song that Mentions Love In It, but it's just so lovely that I can't resist it. Add in the upbeat charm of Dennen's singing voice and his catchy picking skills and you've got yourself one Awesome of a song.
Oh the thought of death has yet to make me afraid
'cause I will march right off this world into the next like it's a grand parade
but if you feel lonely just like you want to run and hide
then I'll wrap my wings around you and give you strength and I won't leave your side
and I'll watch over you
you know I'd love to get to heaven

you know I'd love to see the view
but first I think I'll stay and watch over you
Death Cab for Cutie - I Will Follow You Into the Dark
Come on, you all knew I would choose this one.
Love of mine some day you will die
But I'll be close behind
I'll follow you into the dark
If there's no one beside you
When your soul embarks
Then I'll follow you into the dark

The Mountain Goats - Love Love Love
Bonus points to this song for mentioning Crime and Punishment in another verse. I know it's not so much a "Girl, I love you so good" type of a love song, since it's a bit more of a meditation on love as an abstract concept than a declaration of love set to music, but I still think it counts. I mean, just mentioning the word "love" thrice consecutively as often as John Darnielle does here qualifies it as a Love Song.
And way out in Seattle, young Kurt Cobain
Snuck into the greenhouse, put a bullet in his brain
Snakes in the grass beneath our feet
Rain in the clouds above
Some moments last forever, and some flare out
with love love love
Ben Folds - The Luckiest
I still think this might be the world's most romantic song. I really believe that I could fall in love with anyone who both played and sang me this song. It's just that powerful. Perhaps this particular mention of death only deepens its power and impact:
Next door there's an old man who lived to his nineties
And one day passed away in his sleep
And his wife; she stayed for a couple of days
And passed away

I'm sorry, I know that's a strange way to tell you that I know we belong
That I know

That I am
I am
I am
The luckiest
Ben Harper - Happy Everafter In Your Eyes
OK, this barely counts as mentioning death but this song is just so soft and lovely and gently romantic that I really can't stay away from it.
Couldn't leave you to go to heaven
I carry you in my smile
For the first time my true reflection I see
Happy everafter in your eyes
David Gray - Please Forgive Me
I got half a mind to scream out loud
I got half a mind to die
So I won't ever have to lose you girl
Won't ever have to say goodbye
And as a matter of fact, yes, I am a little confused about why he thinks dying is the best way to not lose a relationship; then again, maybe I just finished reading a book in which characters repeatedly consider death to be the only way out of their relationships. Whatever his thinking, David Gray's song remains one of those nearly-timeless "slow dance at the prom" songs that will always place warm fuzzies in the pit of my stomach irrespective of whether I believe they should or not. And so I choose to mention it here.

Bonus Song: The Weakerthans - Night Windows
This song is a bonus for two main reasons. First and foremostly, it is one of the more awesome songs circulating in the world today. And secondly, it isn't really clear if the song is actually about death and I'm not quite willing to look it up and see if it is or not. It's also not so overtly about love. Basically, I just like this song, so I'm quoting it. That's about it.
In the stick count for the song with knowing you're gone
Glancing up at where you lived when you lived here
I see you suddenly alive and nearly smiling
Stop and hold my breath and watch the way we used to be
But you're not coming home again, and I won't ever get to say
"Remember how I'm sorry that I miss the way it could be"
"Remember how I'm sorry that I miss the way it could be"

Night windows

So that's 5 1/2 songs about love and death (I'm still not sure that the Ben Harper song quite counts) plus one bonus because The Weakerthans are cool. Tolstoy would be just so proud. I'm sure that I know many more fantastic love-and-death songs - or at least, I assume I do, since I have a deep and abiding love for songs that mix happiness with melancholy. I'm sure they're lying undiscovered somewhere in the vastness of all that music that lives only on my external harddrive (my regular harddrive having been wiped clean in the wake of the Great Computer Crash of 2009) - you know, all the stuff I'm too lazy to dig out. I mean, there's a lot of Ryan Adams and Bright Eyes to sift through there. But I said five, and I've already given you 5 1/2 plus a bonus, so I guess that's enough for today. If you know think of any good ones, just let me know (leave a comment or something!) and I'll try to add them to my illustrious playlist. In the meantime, please read
Anna Karenina, and then contact me so that WE CAN TALK ABOUT IT. Thank you.

Edit: I was going to include a playlist here with all of the songs I mentioned, but too many of them would only play in 30 second incarnations and that annoyed me. And since I've already embedded "When I go" one time in this really really long and rambly blog post, I figured I'd just add "Love Love Love" here - since it is essential listening for all human beings and I'm sure most of you have never heard it - and leave it at that. Still give me suggestions for Love-and-Death songs though, if you have them, because I like those.

Love Love Love - The Mountain Goats

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

In Which NCIS Openly Admits that Gibbs is a Cowboy.

So there wasn't a new episode of NCIS this week, which makes me sad. So instead I'm sitting here on a Tuesday night watching one of the reruns on USA (the cable network, not the country) watching one of the old episodes from the first season, back before Ziva and McGee were a regular part of the show. In other words, I'm the most bored that I can be while watching an episode of NCIS. So what is a young Miss Julie to do in order to make the most of this situation? Why, reminisce about the last new episode of NCIS, of course! (Note that I'm likely to give things away, so if you want to watch the episode first, go here, or if that doesn't work just go to cbs.com and find it there.)

So when I finally got caught up last week and saw the latest episode from this season, happily titled "South by Southwest," my first reaction was the following:


And not just Gibbs either, my friends. There's Gibbs, the grizzled old Sheriff whose name escapes me, and, of course, Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo, who I think came along just so he could make that Blazing Saddles reference later in the episode. Old Sheriff also openly and without irony refers to Tony as a "tenderfoot" at one point. Not only that, but we also have some stunning desert-y scenery (meant to be in the area of Yuma, AZ, no less, home of my sister, her husband, and the adorable little folks they hang out with every day), uranium paintings by a wild West hippie painter woman, and - AND - there's this part where Gibbs stands his ground, under fire, and shoots a helicopter pilot with a shotgun. The helicopter then explodes, though you only get to see that through the satellite feed Ziva and McGee are watching back at base. In other words, this was pretty much THE BEST NCIS EPISODE EVER.

Something you should know about me is that I really like horses, and I really like people who ride horses, and I have this thing where I think real, non-hick cowboys are impossibly cool. My mother grew up moving to different ranches throughout western Montana because her father was a real, chaps-wearing, ride-the-range cowboy. My dad used to catch pigs and "break" horses to make extra money; last Winter he told us the story of the time they hitched a team of horses up to a truck that got stuck in the snow on the old family farm. It's in the blood, folks. So when I see Leroy Jethro Gibbs, whom I was already convinced might actually be the coolest person on the planet, tacking up a western saddle and riding through the Arizona badlands with his usual confident ease? Well, let's just say it warms my heart to a pretty serious degree. And then when he leaps off that horse in one fluid motion, shotgun in hand, and takes aim at some passing murderer in a helicopter? Friends, I am sold. Even the sight of Tony bouncing around awkwardly on horseback made me smile, and not just in a mocking kind of way (one might be tempted to wonder what Tony is doing here in the first place. I can only assume he was chosen because Ziva might spook the horse, and the horse might spook McGee. Plus Tony has the ridiculous cowboy boots and, as I mentioned, the Blazing Saddles jokes).

My rerun is over, so I'll just go ahead and sum up. This episode was AWESOME. Go watch it now.

Bonus reason to like it: you get to see Abby's black lace parasol.

...And then I want to be fabulous enough to use it in public. The end.