30 Day Song Challenge (1-10)

Here are all my selections in a Spotify Playlist

Day 1: Mr. Blue Sky (ELO): Literally the first song that came to mind when I read the prompt.

Day 2: Bubblegum 45s (Jim Boggia/Jonathan Coulton): Jim Boggia is a singer-songwriter Rand introduced me to. This one’s interesting in that Jonathan Coulton has a songwriting credit. I think the story is that Coulton wrote a song that he ended up not using for anything, and Boggia took it and wrote new lyrics. (I don’t know if he rewrote the melody.) I’m going to share the album version, and then in the comments, I’ll post a live version of him performing it with Coulton and Paul & Storm.

Day 3: Fantastic Voyage (Coolio): There were a number of ways I could have gone with this…but I thought back to songs that remind me of a specific summer. (I dug up an old blog post about this.)

I spent a lot of time driving around in cars, forced to listen to the radio in the summer of 1994. Here’s one of the songs that reminds me of that summer:

(I also considered posting “Here Comes the Hotstepper”)

Day 4: More than Words (Extreme)

This song reminds me of my high school boyfriend, and that’s all I’ve got to say about that.

Day 5: Renegade (Styx)

Despite having grown up in Steeler country, my selection of this song has nothing to do with football. I just like it.

Day 6: Uptown Funk (Mark Ronson ft. Bruno Mars)

I never, ever get tired of this song.

Day 7: Carry On Wayward Son (Kansas)

I knew day 7 had to be classic rock. I wavered on my specific choice, but settled on this.

Day 8: The Old Black Rum (Great Big Sea)

Day 9: Just Can’t Get Enough (Depeche Mode)
So, this is hard. I have an entire playlist on youtube that’s titled “BE IN A GOOD MOOD” that’s meant to be a pick-me-up when I’m feeling down. And this list is far from complete.

When I replied to Rob’s post on this day, I chose “Wandrin’ Around” by Carbon Leaf. And that’s a good choice. It always makes me happy. But today, I think I’m going to go off list and choose a song by a group people don’t usually think of when they think “happy.” 🙂

Day 10: Cranes Over Hiroshima (Fred Small)

Well. There were certainly a number of songs I could have chosen for this. I actually browsed a list of the 50 saddest songs of all time, and no arguments from me, for the most part. I considered choosing their #6 choice, “He Stopped Loving Her Today,” by George Jones, which may just get my vote for saddest song ever.

But instead, I chose this one. The first time I heard it, I just cried and cried and cried.

Day 14-Friendship

Make new friends

But keep the old

One is silver

And the other’s gold

Kill the Beast

Back when I taught high school English, I did an introductory lesson for The Crucible that introduced students to the concept of a “witch hunt.” I used “The Mob Song” from Beauty and the Beast, in which the villain, Gaston, whips the townspeople into a frenzy so that they will help him kill the Beast.

The Beast will make off with your children! He’ll come after them in the night! We’re not safe until his head is mounted on my wall. I say we kill the Beast!

Gaston doesn’t really believe any of this. His reasons for wanting to be rid of the Beast are selfish ones, but he uses fear to manipulate the townspeople into doing what he wants.

And it works. Frightened people, it turns out, are easy to manipulate. Soon, they are marching–with literal pitchforks and torches–to help Gaston kill the Beast, who was never really a threat to anyone.

We don’t like what we don’t understand
In fact, it scares us…

The words are simple, but I think they get to something at the heart of human nature.

So, why am I talking about this? Well, I originally started writing this quite a while ago, because of something I saw posted to facebook last year…an article about an organized boycott of Target, because of Target’s announced policy in response to so-called “bathroom bills” like the one passed in North Carolina.

Since then, this issue has come to the forefront again, as the current administration has moved to roll back protections for transgender individuals put in place by President Obama.

As transgender people have become more and more visible in mainstream culture, I’ve been seeing increased fear and panic coming from ordinary people. That fear and panic is, I think, genuine…but I believe it’s being stoked by various Gastons at various levels of political and cultural leadership.

Gaston’s goal was to remove the things he saw as obstacles to Belle marrying him. I’m truthfully not sure what the goal is here. (I have some guesses, but I’ll keep them to myself for now….that’s not really my point.)

I am far from being an expert on trans issues, but I do have a number of transgender friends and acquaintances. I do feel entirely comfortable in saying that they want what everyone wants: to be allowed to live their lives peacefully and be treated with dignity and respect. That dignity and respect includes being allowed to use public restrooms without being harassed or arrested. (and trust me, they are far more likely to be harassed or assaulted in a public restroom than you are.)

Chances are good that you, and your children, have been sharing public restrooms with transgender people without incident for some time now. You haven’t noticed. I’m not sure why people think, now, that this will somehow open a door for perverted straight cisgender men to pretend to be trans women for nefarious purposes. (There is no evidence at all that this has happened/is happening. And I submit…if there are actually people doing or wanting to do this, do you somehow think the lack of a specific law preventing it has been stopping them?) Also, there are plenty of people whose appearances don’t conform to “accepted” gender standards, regardless of how they identify…I’ve already seen a number of news stories involving cisgender* women being thrown out of women’s restrooms for this very reason.

I feel like I’m wandering away from my point, so I’ll end with this: “the Beast” is not a danger. In fact, I submit to you that, in this case, the Beast does not even exist. Don’t listen to those who are telling you to be afraid.

If you want to read more about this, here are a handful of articles I’ve come across that I thought were informative and well-written.

Stop Using Your Children As An Excuse To Be A Hateful Human Being (Scary Mommy)

North Carolina transgender student asks to meet governor over ‘bathroom bill’  (Today)

Top 10 Myths About Transgender People (Everyday Feminism)

Transgender People: 10 Common Myths (Vox)

(Please share your suggestions for additional reading on the topic, if you’ve got them)

*cisgender just means identifying with the gender you were assigned at birth.

OVFF 2016 (with a brief history)

I’ve told the beginning of this story before, but I’ll tell it again, (briefly) for the sake of those who need catching up.

Once upon a time, a long time ago, I met this nerdy guy named Rand, who was in a nerdy rock band. This nerdy rock band played at Comic and Science Fiction conventions, but they were also a part of this thing called filk. (Here’s a Wikipedia article about Filk; and Debbie Ohi’s Filk FAQ)

I’d been introduced to filk as a concept by my close personal friend Amanda before meeting Rand, but Rand brought me to my first filk convention in 2005. And (I know I’ve said this all before), while I was immediately taken with the community, I did not think I would ever sing in front of other people. Or write a song. Or sing a song I wrote in front of other people.

Well, slowly but surely, I was proven wrong on all counts. This community can be, uh, very persuasive.

pegasus-concert
(photo courtesy of Sunnie Larsen)

And this year, you guys, I (along with that nerdy guy of mine) was nominated for an award. (we didn’t win the award, but that doesn’t matter so much, really…) I got to perform that song in a concert with all the other nominees. And if you’ll forgive me for going all Sally Field for a minute (even though it didn’t win), people liked it. They really liked it. The response from the audience during the performance was amazing. And then, all weekend, people I knew, people I didn’t know, and people I’d just met made it a point to tell me how much they enjoyed it. Here’s a link to Cliffs of Insanity as performed at FilKONtario in 2013. (I’d absolutely love it if someone shared video from the Pegasus concert…)

It was a tough ballot all the way around. I mean, it usually is, but it was a really tough ballot. In multiple categories, there were at least two nominees I’d have loved to see win.I think I congratulated most of the winners in person, but if I didn’t, congratulations!

I have a lot more to say about this convention in particular, and this community in general, but I don’t think I have the brain cells for it at the moment. I’ll leave it at this:

This community means the world to me. There are infinite reasons I’m glad I met Rand, but you–the people I’ve met through and because of him, this found family full of acceptance and support and guidance that has helped me to find the courage to do things I never thought I’d do–I wouldn’t be who I am right now without you. Thank you. I love you.

(I didn’t prepare an acceptance speech, but if I had, it would have been something like that. And who knows…I might still get to say it someday. ;))

 

 

And we have video!

So, last year I blogged about my and Rand’s concert at FilKONtario. Well, I recently got that DVD of the concert that Tom promised, and I managed to get some video posted on YouTube over the weekend.

Here’s a link to the playlist I made, which includes five of the songs we performed.

And directly embedded above is “Cliffs of Insanity,” our Princess-Bride themed parody of “Green Hills of Harmony.” (lyrics at the link)

Enjoy! 😀

On big numbers and “bucket lists”

Y’know, I’ve kind of resisted the term “bucket list” since the movie came out, and everyone started talking about having one. And not just in terms of “things to do before I die,” which is, pretty much, the definition of the term. Suddenly, everyone had a “summer bucket list” or whatever. But, I digress…

Anyway, this year, I turn a big number. A big, scary number. (I was born in 1974–you do the math.) And while I’ve had a couple of setbacks, career-wise, I can’t really complain too much. The past decade has been really good to me. Last year, in particular, I took on some things that were a pretty big deal to me personally. I performed in a concert! On a stage! In front of people! I started learning how to play the ukulele. (still a work-in-progress, but I’m continuing to plug away!) I decided I was tired of waiting for someone else to create a local alumnae organization of my sorority and took it upon myself (with the help of my awesome and dedicated friends) to get it going. I wrote two songs. (Okay, co-wrote, and they were parodies, but still!) I also celebrated 5 years of marriage to an amazing man.

Looking ahead to this year, I’m finally going to take that ASL class like I’ve been talking about for ages. I’ve got some other song ideas that I want to work on. I’d like to get myself writing regularly again. I want to get back to yoga, too. And then there are some other things, some big things, that don’t necessarily need to happen this year or before the BIG NUMBER, but they are things I would like to do/see/experience at some point. So, here they are:

  1. Go to a Disney park (never been…bonus, go to a Disney park WITH SEANAN!)
  2. See the Northern Lights
  3. (this one has a huge question mark after it…) Get a Ph.D. (???? I think about it, but I’m not sure if I really want to do it. I’m not sure if it would be worth it…)
  4. See a show on Broadway. (I’ve seen lots of Broadway shows, but none of them on Broadway.)

I thought I had more things for this list, but that’s all that’s coming to mind at the moment…I reserve the right to add items as necessary. 😉

At any rate, happy 2014 to you, and please share what big (or small) things are on YOUR lists!

 

Grandparents

FilKONtario report posting has been interrupted because earlier this week, my paternal grandmother passed away. The funeral was today.

me & grandma

(This picture is from my bridal shower in 2008)

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My paternal grandfather (pictured above, at Justin’s wedding), died in 2009, and my maternal grandmother died in 2001, not long after I moved to Buffalo. I wrote about losing her here.

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(One of my favorite photos of her. I don’t have any more recent photos scanned.)

I know I’m very lucky to have known all of my grandparents, and to have them in my life as long as I have…but it’s very heavy on my mind that I only have one grandparent left. I’m too exhausted to put any more thoughts together right now, so I’ll leave it with this.

me & grandpa again

 

(at grandpa’s 85th birthday party in 2007)

 

Thoughts on FilKONtario Part 2: the concert

This is probably going to be a long one, so prepare yourself! Get a snack; I’ll wait…

I’ve always been a performer in one sense or another. I had a not-insignificant role in my 5th grade play. I was in a community theater production of Annie when I was in middle school. I was a cheerleader (don’t judge me! And if a cheerleader hurt you in your formative years, let me apologize on behalf of all nice-girl-cheerleaders everywhere…)

I never really thought of myself as a performer in the musical sense. I had been scared off of singing by an experience in middle school (Even after getting a role in Annie, I was cut from the middle school show choir. I ask you, who does that? It was middle school, and it’s not like I went to a performing arts school or it was super competitive or anything…but I digress.) When I went to college, I joined a sorority that took music very, very seriously, and I declared myself a founding member of the “tone deaf club.” Now, to be fair, I knew I wasn’t actually tone deaf, because people who are actually tone deaf have no idea that they’ve hit the wrong note. For us, it was about being people with no musical/vocal training among people who had been singing in choirs their entire lives. I was intimidated. I wasn’t very good at harmonizing. And so, I went merrily on with my life, singing when I had to (at things like Greek Sing, or other sorority events), but otherwise, singing along with the radio or my CDs was about it.

Well, it’s probably no surprise that the longer I hung around in filk, the more people started to express an interest in hearing me sing (*coughdebbieohicough*). I protested at first, but little by little, people started to wear me down. 😉 The first time I sang at all was in a very tiny circle very late at night at GAFilk in 2007. I blame Amanda.

erin and jam banquet

Amanda is one of my co-editors at Toasted Cheese, and the reason I sort of kind of knew what filk was before I even met Rand. We had been online buds since…ummm…I’m going to say 1999? But this was the first time we had met in person. Anyway, Amanda had written a short filk of “One Singular Sensation” and she asked me to sing it with her. We practiced it a few times, and then went looking for a small circle to sing it in. So, a handful of people in that room heard me sing that night.

I think it might have been the following year (at GAFilk again) that Rand convinced me to sing a bit of a Flaming Lips song with him–not “Yoshimi,” but “Fight Test,” which has a chorus with overlapping parts that becomes counterpoint at the end. The Flaming Lips are kind of known for having a singer who can’t really sing, so I figured it was pretty low pressure. (Actually, here’s a post I wrote about that.)

After that, he convinced me to try “Yoshimi,” which would have me singing lead. We worked on it, and I sang it in a circle at FKO in 2009.

Yoshimi!!!!!

(Photo by Brooke Lunderville)

People seemed to enjoy that, so I was encouraged. Rand and I kept singing “Yoshimi” in circles, but I was a little worried that people were going to start to get sick of hearing it, so I never really pushed for it. 😉

In 2010, Rand and Adam were nominated for a Pegasus award, and Adam was unable to attend the convention to perform it. Rand asked me if I wanted to try to do it. “Um…” I said.  I agreed to work on it with him (and I think I only freaked out and had a meltdown once!) We went ahead and did it, and but for the fact that I was later informed that Rand’s microphone wasn’t working, I think it went okay.

OVFF 26 059

(Photo by Walter Korynkiewicz)

Fast forward to last year, when Tom contacted Rand to invite us to be this year’s Filk Waifs. We started putting together a list of things we might be able to sing together, as well as ideas for songs (mostly parodies) that we might be able to write. I bought a ukulele last August, thinking that I might get good enough at one or two things to play it in the concert. (that…did not happen. It will, but I was more focused on the singing. Did I mention I was nervous about the singing? I ended up taking voice lessons from a former colleague, which was a HUGE help. Thanks again, Shelley!)

Erin practising in our room

(practicing in UT’s room Saturday morning. I’m playing a melodica–also known as a hooter. Photo by Allison Durno)

Fast forward again to the day of the concert. The Filk Waif concert is the first concert on Saturday. After having breakfast, Rand and I met up with UT to rehearse a song they were going to be performing with us, and we showed them a couple of other things we were going to be performing as well. It was really, really good for me to have a chance to warm up.  After that, there were a couple of workshops. I ran one on calligraphy and paper crafts. Tim Walker ran a percussion workshop at the same time, which I am super bummed I couldn’t attend! I’ll write more about the workshop later. After the workshop, we grabbed a quick bite to eat in our room, and then it was go time!

Rand and Erin's Concert

(Photo by Debbie Ohi)

Here’s the set we played:

  • Star Wars That I Used to Know (parody of “Somebody that I Used to Know” by Gotye. Credits can be found at the YouTube link)
  • My Baby Loves a Bunch of Authors by Moxy Fruvous
  • St. Brendan’s Way by Lowest of the Low
  • Actually Ironic (parody? sort of? of “Ironic” by Alanis Morrissette)
  • Dear Seanan (parody of “Dear Gina” by Seanan McGuire written by me and Merav Hoffman. Video and lyrics at the link.)
  • Crackstatic by Ron Hawkins
  • Yoshimi/Space Oddity/Major Tom mashup (Flaming Lips, David Bowie, Peter Schilling)
  • Cliffs of Insanity (parody of “Green Hills of Harmony” written by me with help from Rand and an assist from Amanda. More info in my previous post, linked.)
  • Still Can’t Buy Me Love by Ookla the Mok (with Urban Tapestry)

If you’re interested in the lyrics (other than the parodies I wrote/co-wrote, which can be found at the links), they can all quite easily be found by googling. I’m tired. 😉

I’m pretty sure it was a success. 😉 After we left the stage, Tim and Annie (who knew how nervous I was) ran over to us and gave us gigantic hugs, and everyone we talked to seemed to enjoy the performance. So…singing! Win! Right now, the “Dear Seanan” video is the only one I am aware of. I’m sure other things will appear eventually, and I’ll let you know!

Here’s Allison’s post about Saturday at FKO. I’ll have more later. Stay tuned!

Thoughts on FilKONtario (part 1)

To tell you the truth, I’m not really sure where to begin. I guess I’ll begin here: FKO 23 was simply amazing.

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(I know that ribbon is hard to read, but it says “Guest.”)

I mentioned before, but I will mention again, that I’ve been attending FKO regularly since Rand first brought me there in 2005. (I appear not to have taken any photos at FKO 2005. I’m going to borrow some!)

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(Me with Debbie Ohi at FKO 2005. Photo by Allison Durno)

I had a wonderful time at my first FKO (which was also my first Filk convention); I got to meet/see/hear so many fantastic people, like Debbie, Allison, and Jodi of Urban Tapestry, and Carla Ulbrich and Joe Giacoio, and Tom Smith, and John Hall, and Tanya Huff, and Steve MacDonald, and Mary Ellen Wessels, and Kathleen Sloan, and…oh, man folks, we could be here all day. 🙂 Let’s just say that if I met/encountered you at FKO in 2005, you were part of a very important moment in my life. What I can say, without a doubt, is that I felt immediately welcomed. I was afraid it would be awkward. Here was Rand, bringing in this new person. I didn’t sing or play an instrument; I am introverted and tend to be awkward in social situations when I don’t know many people. Those worries turned out to be unfounded, and needless to say, I kept coming back.

And fast forward to this…

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When Rand told me that Tom had contacted him and wanted us to be Filk Waifs at FKO this year, I was incredibly honored. I think I cried a little. (and let’s be perfectly honest…I was also a little terrified. Not so much about the hosting duties, but about the fact that the gig comes with a concert. I started to get all rambly here, but I decided that I’m going to move all the rambly bits about singing to a separate post, which will include details about the concert…look for that soon.)

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(Hanging out in the con suite Friday evening. Photo by Dave Weingart. I’ll be relying on the photos of others for most of this post, as I was a bit too preoccupied to take very many photos myself!)

Rand and I arrived at the hotel late Thursday afternoon and got to enjoy a nice dinner in the hotel restaurant with Tom and Sue Jeffers, Dave Clement, and Ju Honisch. And to tell you the truth, I have very little memory of what else we did on Thursday. It was nice arriving on Thursday, though, because it allowed us to have a pretty easygoing Friday. These details are also a little fuzzy, so I’m going to skip on ahead to the actual convention.

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(Photo by Phil Mills)

After an informal meet-and-greet, things kicked off with Kathleen Sloan performing her song “Take it Back.” The song has a beautiful message, and I think the world would be a better place if more people took it to heart!

The opening song was followed by concerts from Judith Hayman and Peggi Warner-Lalonde and Cat Faber, both of which were lovely. It was during Friday night’s concerts that Rand and I began our hosting duties, giving brief introductions for each of the performers and making various announcements throughout the weekend. As each of the performers took the stage, we asked them to answer a question from our Master List of Questions. (Sample questions: Flight or invisibility? Kirk or Picard? What product do you most miss from your childhood? And so on…)

I think the questions were a hit. 😉 After the opening concerts, we headed into the night’s big event: Urban Tapestry’s 20th Anniversary concert!

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(Photo by Dave Weingart)

Urban Tapestry is always a pleasure to see and hear, and this concert was no exception! Here’s a link to Allison’s livejournal that includes a video of one of the songs they performed (“I Am Stardust”). Allison wrote more about Friday night at FKO here.

And…I think this is going to be a long one, so I’m going to call this part one and end it here. More coming soon!