Into My Playlist: Boys of Summer

Hello, and welcome back to my music!

Today we’re covering another cover of a song: “Boys of Summer,” originally done by Don Henley.

Don’t get me wrong. I love the Don Henley version of this song. Someday, I will purchase the Don Henley version of this song. But the version I currently own is The Ataris version of the song.


When I was maybe eleven or so years old (I was pretty young) I bought my first stereo. Nothing fancy or expensive, just speakers, a CD player, and a radio. I bought one CD (Country) to go with it, and then collected CDs from there. I have since bequeathed that stereo, which still works wonderfully, to my little brother, but when I first got it, I was looking for a radio station.

And I first began to listen to rock music.

Songs that are now “old” were brand new then, and even the ones that were covers of much older songs, like this one, were still brand new to me. And I forever recall that young, musically naive moment of my life in conjunction with these covers, notably, this one.

The Ataris version is a fairly faithful cover rendition, which I appreciate. The instrumentation is different, which amps up the sound a bit, but this is more in keeping with the sound at the time when it was made. More of a post-grunge sound.

There is only one significant lyrical difference. Instead of “I saw a Dead Head sticker on a Cadillac,” this cover version says, “I saw a Black Flag sticker on a Cadillac.”

Not a huge difference, except again, a sort of generational update. When I first heard the song, it was literally brand new, on its first play on the Portland radio station I was experimenting with. I don’t remember what the station was now, but I do remember the radio host pointing out this line when he compared it with the Don Henley version (I had never heard of Don Henley, so that meant nothing to me), and he said that it was the prerogative of The Ataris to update something small like that, make it relevant to their listeners.

This was a strange concept to me, because I had – to that point – always valued the most accurate copy possible in covers, in book-to-film, etc. A few years later, I would grow to understand why a slightly personalized artistic interpretation is good, and how it can still be faithful by becoming something new. At the time, my mental development was simply not ready for this sort of thinking, and this simple statement by the radio host blew my mind.

I think of that every time I hear this song, in either version. Now I know who Don Henley is. I know what Dead Heads are (ah, how young and naive I was), and I’ve heard so many cover versions of so many songs that I actually can appreciate the cover as an art form.

I think I can safely say that this version of this song – while in many ways simply a suitable cover version of a good song – was a seminal moment in my artistic development, and in many ways changed the way I look at art forever.

All thanks to a radio host I don’t even remember the name of on a station that I couldn’t find again if I tried.




Into My Bookshelf: God is Not a Christian

Hello, and welcome back to my bookshelf!

Today we’re talking about Desmond Tutu’s God is Not a Christian. This book was a coursebook for my History of Christianity course in undergrad.

I can’t stress how fabulous this book is. It is filled with religious musings of the brilliant Desmond Tutu on the nature of religion, Christianity, and what it means to be a Christian in a world where so many religions exist.

In a talk he gave in Birmingham, UK (my favorite city in the world), included in the book, he brings up the point that for so many of us, what religion we follow is an accident of birth. We are usually raised in the religion of our parents, and if we switch, it is often to the predominant faith of our friends, neighbors, or culture. In some places, certain religions are enforced by the state, or illegal to practice within a nation’s borders.

He talks in that same section about how insulting it is for Christians – as so many do – to say that practitioners of other faiths are just Christians without knowing it. If you’re a Christian, how would you feel, knowing that Muslims or Jews were sitting around somewhere saying that you Christians were really of their faith, but just didn’t know it?

The essential point is the things that Christians hold the most dear – God, the Spirit, divine love and mercy – exist outside the realm of Christianity. They were around before Christians ever came to be. Christians, like other faiths, don’t have a monopoly on divinity, and  if you are truly a Christian, that requires respecting the faith of others on their terms. They believe what they believe no less than you believe what you believe.

I think the critical thing he gets at in this book is something I remind people constantly: spirituality is universal and divine, but religion is man-made. Even if you believe that those who created your religion were inspired by God, you have to concede that man is flawed, and if you look back on the history of whatever your religion is, those men running things have made choices that clearly were no inspired by God. Let’s not forget the Pope Pius XII had his actions in regard to Hitler, just to name one that could be nearly universally agreed upon. If we look at our religions rationally, they are flawed.

And yet, people haven’t left the Catholic church in droves because of Hitler, or the Crusades, or things like that (although I do know someone who didn’t let his children be baptized into it for the stuff with Hitler, but that’s a rarity). I didn’t see a mass exodus from the Muslim faith after 9/11, and the comparisons could go on.

The fact is, while faith is important to everyone, the really critical things in Christian faith are love, forgiveness, mercy, grace – things where doctrine and the beliefs of the other people around you are irrelevant. You care for your own soul, and that includes loving everyone, all of God’s creation.

The fact that Desmond Tutu had to say that, the fact that it isn’t just a given, is the part where we should all be looking inside of ourselves. Because no matter what our spiritual and religious beliefs, there is no reason not to love our neighbor.



Into My Notebooks: Star Trek Notebook Again

Hello, and welcome back to my notebooks!

We’re back with my Star Trek fan fiction project notebooks, and I don’t have a nickname for this one, since it’s general notes out of sequence from the rest of my notes.

We’ve got another of those Top Flight single subject college-ruled 70 sheet notebooks that I’m so fond of. This one’s blue, and was originally (my label tells me) for my French 33 notes. I don’t actually recall taking notes in that class, but apparently I did, because the first page has a list of companies that are French (Bugatti, Citroën, Peugeut, Renault, Chanel, Dior, Givenchy), and notes about the differences of stereotypes of the French and les québécois (in French, naturally).

Then the notebook had a brief life as notes for my jobs for Claremont Sports Connection – the one club I was in for college. Page two are notes on my jobs for the second annual Sports Industry Day, which was basically price-checking various components of the folders we were handing out on the day, from printing costs to where to buy the folders.

Then I must have brought it back to french class, because I have verb sets for the next three and a half pages. At the bottom of the next one, I have a list of people I was considering getting things for if I did study abroad. It’s a long list. Needless to say, my final list was much shorter.

Then I’ve got another page of French notes (apparently I did more in that class than I remember…)

Then I have this little flash-fiction piece that I don’t remember writing:

Wisps of smoke were sucked up into the prevailing fog, invisible to anyone around to see. Anyone who might have noticed this was dead. A single pair of eyes pierced the fog, a mist so thick and heavy that it hid from those eyes what secrets lay on the forest floor: blood, bones, flesh. Fog could cover the sight of the massacre, bu tit could not cover the scent: of metallic blood and putrefying flesh, of scorched skin and hair and wool and earth.

The wolf’s paws fell on ash as it surveyed the clearing caused by fire. The smoke had burned out almost entirely. not a single living presence could be sensed.

Beauty can be seen in the right sort of death, awe in all death. But this, this was not death. It felt closer to oblivion.

Snow would come, and perhaps in spring it would begin again.

I’m not really sure when I wrote this, because as I said, I don’t remember writing it. However, as I have a short story that has a similar mindset to this (without the wolf) that’s longer and (I think) better, I doubt I’d ever do anything with this piece except maybe cannibalize it for parts. I’m not sure that isn’t what I did already.

From here I actually have ten pages of a draft outline for my six generation Harry Potter fan fiction, the full outline I discussed in a previous post.

At present, only the next three pages are Star Trek. They’re notes on where my fan fiction series goes after the events of DS9 and Voyager, with what is essentially a list of plot points, some only a line jotted down, some a paragraph that takes up a third of the page. I also have a list of people who are actual characters from other Star Trek series who will make significant appearances or important mentions in this story.

Why do I list this as a Star Trek notebook while there’s only three pages thus far? Because that’s currently what it’s in use for, and likely will be its use for the remainder of its life. But this is the typical life of one of my notebooks, mixed and matched and used and abused. Thought that might be interesting to see.



Into My Playlist: Bluebird

Welcome back!

I’ll preface this by saying while this is currently the only Christina Perri song I own, “Bluebird” is more an acquisition of opportunity.

There was a time in my life when I trolled the iTunes free releases, and the super-discounted songs. “Bluebird” was released as a free song during this period, so I snagged it because I had fallen in love with “Jar of Hearts” on the radio and figured there was a good chance I would like this one.

And to be fair, I do.

It’s about losing someone, though, and someone you aren’t ready to lose, and then their moving on with someone you both know. And like so many songs on my playlist that are sad, in spite of a lack of driving beat, this manages to be remarkably – for lack of better word – chirpy.

Christina Perri writes a good song, and this one tells a very good story. I think my issue with this song at the moment is that I always really liked it, but didn’t love it, and I maybe over-listened to it. So lately I only listen to it when it pops up on my “play all” shuffle. I still enjoy it, but I never feel the urge to listen to this song. And thinking back, I don’t think I ever did.



Into My Bookshelf: Treasure Island

Welcome back to my bookshelf!

Like so many children, I wanted to be a pirate.

This started young. I had a little pirate action figure set complete with ship and skull-shaped island (I’ve since leased this, if you will, to my niece to play with when she visits her grandmother’s house). Peter Pan was one of my favorite childhood stories, and Hook and Smee my favorite Disney villains (apart from Scar, admittedly, but you never forget your first). When Disney came out with Captain Jack Sparrow and updated my always-favorite ride, Pirates of the Caribbean, needless to say I was in hog heaven.

But even if I weren’t a literature fan, I would have all of this owed to Robert Louis Stevenson, a Scottish author from the late 1800s.

If you read Treasure Island, or watch one of the many television or film versions (seriously, take your pick, there’s so many), you might roll your eyes and think it’s cheesy. A stereotypical show if pirates, with X marking the spot on an island where treasure is buried, and a peg-legged pirate with a parrot on his shoulder. I mean, that’s in every poorly conceived pirate story, right?

Where do you think those stereotypes came from?

As many great novels from this era, Treasure Island was serialized, and Robert Louis Stevenson released it in segments to a magazine (or maybe a literary journal, minor distinction, and I’ll admit that I haven’t carefully researched this; I just happen to know it and I don’t remember why). In those segments, he not only told an adventurous tale that young boys could play with and relate to as a coming of age story, but he literally wrote the book on over-the-top pirate lore that has become canonical, thanks to many Disney imaginings of pirates since based on this original brilliance.

It’s important to remember when we read old books that we’re reading the baseline. Classics aren’t classic necessarily because they’re any better than what we have today. Some things are classic because they did something significant first. Treasure Island formed the conception of pirates in the way Ivanhoe romanticized the Crusades and chivalry for future generations to play with, but it did much more than that.

Apart from crystallizing my pirate obsession as a child, this novel also presented me with a story that creates almost an antihero in Long John Silver (who has his own seafood chain because he’s that cool). Unlike many children’s books, of the era or of our era, good and evil aren’t so clearly delineated. Like our modern Jack Sparrow, Long John Silver makes you wonder if up is down on many an occasion, and this resonates with children, even if we adults don’t want it to.

The world isn’t black and white, and even though children seem to want it to be, this isn’t natural to them. They think it’s that way because we present it in that way to them, but they are remarkably perceptive about the complexities of life. They know that things aren’t always fair in the numerical sense, and they know that right doesn’t always win. They also know that the “wrong” choice often looks very tempting, reasonable, and even good.

It’s this moral complexity that Robert Louis Stevenson appeals to in children when he writes this book, and generations of young children (admittedly mostly boys) were just as captivated as I was by a story that tells it like it is while still capturing the imagination with adventure, puzzles, and a world where rules are a little bit more flexible.

Because seriously, who didn’t mark the spot with X?

(If you didn’t, shame on you.)