Saturday, November 27, 2010

My Top 10 Bowie Tracks

Okay, you knew this was coming. You knew that considering my blog is named after Bowie lyrics, that this was coming. You knew that I dressed up as Bowie for Halloween last year, so this definitely was coming. And if you don't like Bowie & you're reading this -- I suggest you go lock yourself away in a cellar and never show your face again. Harsh, I know.

It was VERY, VERY hard for me to pinpoint my top 10 Bowie songs. I had to think about which songs gave me goosebumps the first time I heard them. I didn't necessarily pick the most popular or crazy songs, but rather, the ones that will always stick with me (awwww!)

1) Life on Mars?
This one is obvious, considering "to my mother, my dog, and clowns" is taken directly from it. I love EVERYTHING about this song: the piano part (which I've memorized), Bowie's soaring vocals, the fact that he looks similar to Ronald McDonald in this video, etc. Nothing about this song makes sense and I don't think anyone will ever know the true meanings of the lyrics. He sings about "sailors fighting in the dance hall" and being "hooked to the silver screen." I particularly love the line where he says, "Now the workers have struck for fame/ Cause Lennon's on sale again." How ironic is it that in 2 years time, Bowie would record a song called "Fame" with John Lennon? The answer is, "Yes, k-money, that is sooooo ironic!"

His makeup for the video was done by Pierre Laroche, who also did the makeup for The Rocky Horror Picture Show, which only gives "Life on Mars?" brownie points. Also, apparently Bowie went to the store to buy shoes & came back with "Life on Mars?" in his head. Craziness.

Bowie has continued to perform this song throughout the years -- it's a fan favourite, obviously -- but he doesn't always aim for the high notes. But I still get chills every time I hear it.

2) Aladdin Sane (1913-1938-197?)
This song, although not a smash hit like many of his others, tops my list because of the ridiculous piano solo performed by Mike Garson. He supposedly did the solo in one take, which absolutely BLOWS MY MIND. The song also represents Bowie's Aladdin Sane character, which in itself is great because of the pun of "A Lad Insane." The song itself is haunting, especially because of the dates in the title, which are the years preceding the world wars. It looks like Bowie was predicting that another world war would happen in the 70s. The lyrics are also extremely poetic -- I would love to paint lyrics like "swinging an old bouquet of dead roses," "sadden glissando strings," and "battle cries and champagne just in time for sunrise" in the blank border spaces on my wall.

3) Starman
Okay, this song does sound kind of cheesy/nursery-rhyme-ish, but I love it. It represents the moment when the character of Ziggy Stardust was revealed to the world. You can tell that Ziggy is still in his early stages, however, because his makeup is not super crazy...yet. The chorus is also modeled after "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" -- Bowie admits this -- and was the first single released off The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. Plus, I LOVE watching the awkward 70s dancing audience members in the video. Also, when Mick Ronson (Bowie's super-awesome amazing guitarist) creeps up beside Bowie to share his microphone, and Bowie doesn't notice for a split second, you literally go, "ohh, poor guy!" Then Bowie acknowledges his presence, puts his arm around Mick, and they share glorious harmonies together. It makes my heart melt every time.

4) The Width of a Circle
This epic 8-minute track is my favourite from The Man Who Sold The World. Not only is this Bowie's most metal-sounding album, but he is donning his hippie hair & a dress (which was apparently quite controversial at the time) on the album cover. This song is practically 3 songs in 1. It's as though Bowie is telling a very nonsensical story, with random guitar parts & vocals all over the place, but it somehow works. When Bowie performs this song in Ziggy Stardust: The Motion Picture, he is wearing a skanky body-suit covered in woodland creatures and does a miming bit towards the end of the song. He pretends that he is stuck between some kind of walls/cavern, musters enough miming strength to free himself, and does this eagle-soaring bird-type mime move. Love it.

5) Boys Keep Swinging
"Boys Keep Swinging" is ridiculous, to say the least. It's a bunch of stereotypical and also random things that boys apparently are/like, such as "Life is a pop of a cherry when you're a boy," and "You can buy a home of your own/Learn to drive and everything." I particularly love, "When you're a boy, you can buy a uniform/Other boys check you out." The video is so interesting to analyze because he performs some quite hilarious dance moves/facial expressions as a "man"/"boy" which hearkens back to the 50s. The rest of the video is Bowie in 3 different drag outfits -- one young-ish, one middle-aged, and one old. By the end, he yanks off his wig in a very dramatic way and smears his makeup across his face, except as the old lady (he blows a kiss instead!). The guitar at the end sounds like it's being murdered, and sometimes I can't stand it when I listen to this song, but it's still wonderful.

For the record, I think Bowie makes a horrible-looking middle-aged woman. But an AMAZING grandma with a cane.

6) Letter To Hermione
This song is from Space Oddity. I love it because it's one of the few love songs the Bowie has ever written (and one of the few songs that actually makes sense). It's about his girlfriend in the late 60s, Hermione Farthingale, who lived with Bowie & was in his miming troupe, but left him for another man. It's such a sad, honest, and heart-breaking song with lyrics like, "I care for no one else but you/ I tear my soul cease the pain" and "But when he's strong he's strong for you/And when you kiss it's something new/But did you ever call my name just by mistake?" Oh man! It's my belief that Hermione shattered his heart so fiercely that Bowie completely lost his mind and chose to marry the most annoying woman on the planet, Angie Bowie. It's all your fault, Hermione.

7) My Death
"My Death" is Bowie's cover of the Jacques Brel song (he also covered Brel's "Amsterdam"). Bowie's version, performed at Ziggy Stardust: The Motion Picture is by far my most favourite song performed on the film. He is dressed in full Ziggy attire, and yet performs it so real & full of emotion. This song has many chord changes & key changes that it keeps escalating until the end, where it slowly "dies" down. Clever, I know. Especially since this is the last concert that Bowie puts on as Ziggy, before he "kills" him off. Aha. Watching Bowie's facial expressions & pronunciations is amazing & you can tell that this song is really important to him.

8) Station to Station
This is another super-long epic song, totaling just over 10 minutes. Like "Aladdin Sane" and "Starman" which introduce 2 new Bowie characters, "Station to Station" introduces us to The Thin White Duke. Although the first 2 minutes of the song is comprised of simply helicopter noises, the rest of the song makes up for it, especially with the repetition of "It's not the side-effects of the cocaine/I'm thinking that it must be love." And on cocaine, he was. Station to Station is the album that Bowie has practically no recollection of recording. It was the year where Bowie was his skinniest, craziest, and most creative. He apparently survived on nothing more than milk and red peppers, and according to a bio I read, kept his own semen in the fridge because he was scared that witches were going to steal & and do horrible things to him...or something. If you watch the documentary called Cracked Actor on YouTube which was released around this time (and is very appropriately named), you'll see that Bowie is NUTS. He is being interviewed in the back of a car and in the background you can hear police sirens. He all of a sudden starts snorting like mad & wiping his nose (clearly paranoid that cops might see the cocaine residue). At a different point in the documentary, he is being interviewed in the back of a car whilst crossing a desert & drinking a giant carton of milk. He is jittery, distracted, avoids answering questions and starts talking about a fly in his milk, and relates it back to him feeling like a foreigner in a America..."just like the fly" in his milk...
Although Bowie is absolutely crazy during his coke-fueled years, I still think he's super sexy as The Thin White Duke. Yum.

9) The Drowned Girl
This song is from the EP of Brecht's Baal, that Bowie performed on a BBC television version. "The Drowned Girl" is so haunting & mysterious. The black & white video only accentuates this. When Bowie aims for the high notes and reveals his creepy/wonderful teeth, he seriously looks like a HOT EVIL GHOST. Plus, the background instruments -- especially the clarinet -- remind me of something from the BBC's The Chronicles of Narnia (another guilty pleasure which I will post about...someday...). Plus, this song perfectly showcases Bowie's various voices -- the low deep one, the powerful vibrato one, the soft sad one, the crazy/drunk one, etc.

10) Rebel Rebel
"Rebel Rebel" is a classic Bowie song that everyone immediately recognizes from the opening guitar riff. This is the very first song that I learned on the guitar (probably THE song that made me want to learn the guitar in the first place), so of course it has a special place in my heart!! This song is a true "rock" sounding song which signifies Bowie's departure from the Ziggy Stardust/Glam Rock era & his progression towards the Diamond Dogs era. Ziggy's bright red hair still remains, but Bowie's pirate-like style in the video is definitely different. Apparently, he is only wearing the eye-patch because he had pink eye, but he totally rocked the look. The lyrics certainly echo gender ambiguity ("Got your mother in a whirl/She's not sure if you're a boy or a girl"), which always makes me happy.
Things to notice in the video:
a) Bowie's tight tight red pants (it echoes his Labyrinth look that would come 10 years later, no?)
b) The fact that he sometimes plays the guitar (without a strap) and gets tired, so instead uses it as a prop
c) The many many Bowie faces in the kaleidescope-looking mirrors (who doesn't like many many Bowie faces?)

My close runner-up songs were:
  • "Quicksand" and "Changes" from Hunky Dory
  • "Time" and "Lady Grinning Soul" from Aladdin Sane
  • "Soul Love" and "Five Years"  from The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars
  • "Cygnet Committee" from Space Oddity
  • "The Man Who Sold The World" and "All The Madmen" from The Man Who Sold the World
  • "Sweet Thing" from Diamond Dogs
  • "Fame" from Young Americans
  • "Word on a Wing" from Station to Station
  • "Heroes" from Heroes
  • "Teenage Wildlife" from Scary Monsters
  • "Can't Help Thinking About Me" from David Bowie and the Lower Third
So, there you have it. It was so hard to choose! If you read through this entire thing, congrats. I secretly hope that you now have at least 1 Bowie song stuck in your head.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Why I'm Not Having Kids

I've never really felt like I understand teenagers. But who does, really? Even when I was a teenager, I never understood them.

I did -- and still do -- use slang and colloquialisms that I don't really understand. It's not like I do it intentionally...It just happens. For example, I wrote "I love spunk" in huge letters with marker across my binder in grade 10, thinking that "spunk" meant "smooth punk." I used to think that S&M meant "stupid & mean." I would say to people, "Stop being so S&M!"

So it's no surprise that teenagers still puzzle me. And since working in a high school, I've noticed a lot of things...

#1 - Kids Start Dating Only Days After Getting Their Molars
I was shocked when I first heard about kids discussing their previous ex-boyfriends. I'm sure each of these kids' relationships can totally beat each of mine in terms of length, frequency, and fulfillment (get your head out of the gutter, people!) What's worse is that while I was photocopying shit today, I overheard a bunch of kids talking about their sex lives.

I didn't even have my first kiss until I was 18. It was ridiculous, I was getting birthday cards that said, "Happy Birthday! Sweet 16 18 and Never Been Kissed!"

#2 - Kids Don't Like Justin Bieber
I thought that it was a universal thing that all kids like Justin Bieber?!? I was trying to be a cool teacher, and mention Justin Bieber in my lessons. Big mistake.

#3 - Bringing a Pencil & Piece of Paper to Class is Too Much Work
Seriously. Only 1/3 will bring a writing utensil, and maybe one will bring paper.
Here's a typical day:

"So class, today we will be--"

A student walks in late.

[To student]: "Have a seat. Here's what we're working on. Do you have a pencil?" Student shakes head, "no." I waste a minute, looking for a pencil. The other students start throwing junk food, spitballs, and insults at each other while I'm digging through drawers for a pencil.

"--As I was saying, today we will be looking at the various ways that --"

Another kid walks in and the cycle continues at least 5 more times.

I eventually walk around and observe the students' work. If I notice that the student hasn't done anything, I'll ask, "Why haven't you done anything yet?"

"My pencil isn't sharpened. I guess I can't do any work."

"That's not an excuse."

The student hands me the pencil.

"Fine, sharpen it for me, then."

"No, you have two fully functional legs. You can do it yourself."

"I don't want to. I guess I can't do any work, then."


"Why haven't you done any work then?"

The student shrugs.

"Do you need a pencil?"


"Why didn't you raise your hand when I asked at the beginning of class if anyone needed a pencil?"

"I didn't need one then."


#4 - Kids Throw Around Offensive Terms Like It's Casual Conversation
I don't know how many times I've heard, "Jimmy, stop being so gay!" or "You're such a fag" among other things that I don't need to repeat. I'm not sure what exactly is the proper way to deal with this -- I've tried explaining to them what the implications of using those words are, but considering these kids can't even write a paragraph unless I tell them exactly what to write, it's no use. I've tried getting really upset/angry when I hear them use these terms (because they truly do make me angry/upset) -- but then again, I've been told that, "The more angry you get with kids, the more likely the kids will repeat the action to see you get all riled up again."
Today, a kid handed me an assignment that had nothing completed. This student said, "I don't want to do it!" and I said, "Well, you can hand it in but I'll give you a zero." The student then proceeded with a "Fuck you!!" and stormed off.

Ah, how I love the young, innocent, delightful minds of the future.

#5 - Kids Don't Care if They go to the Principal's Office
Teachers don't give detentions these days, because they don't want to sacrifice their time. So, if a kid is bad, we send him/her to the principal's office. I'm sure the principal can get quite scary and threaten to call the student's parents, but a lot of parents don't really care about their kids, or are too busy to deal with it. Woohoo.

I'm definitely not having children. Not because I think they'd turn out like this (with a person as cool as me for a mom, I mean, c'mon!), but because I don't want them to be surrounded by this...

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Glee and Gay Bullying

I've already "respectfully criticized" Glee a few times on this blog, although I really do love the show. I finally managed to watch Tuesday's episode tonight (I got a break from lesson planning for one night, oddly enough, because the class is apparently playing games for being "good" this week. They weren't "good.") I pretty much raised my hands to the sky and cried, "Thank you, Jesus!" after watching this episode, though.

This episode centers on Kurt -- the only out of the closet gay kid in his small Ohio school -- and the struggles he faces. We watch Kurt get pushed into the lockers, teased, and not taken seriously by his fellow Glee clubbers. This has happened occasionally throughout the series, but this episode in particular zooms in on Kurt's tears and the torment that he faces daily. I don't think I've ever seen a popular TV show portray homophobic bullying from the perspective of the victim so realistically.

Kurt, being pushed around in the hallways
Maybe it's because Ryan Murphy is gay, and being bullied in high school was one of the things he had to endure? Maybe it's because of all the media coverage of the suicides by gay teens lately? Maybe it's because it's an issue that affects everyone in some way? Whatever the reason, I'm so ecstatic that a hugely popular television show has chosen to address it. 

Furthermore, this episode showed a kiss between two males. Two males. Kissing on TV. Kids watch this show. Um, remember what happened to Adam Lambert when he kissed his band mate on television? Okay, in fairness, it was more of a makeout kiss (Kurt endured a peck). And in Glee, Kurt "gets" kissed, whereas Adam Lambert actively initiates the kiss. Anyways, many parents who watched Adam Lambert were outraged -- they complained because their children were watching the show -- the opposing argument was "you shouldn't be letting your kids stay up past 10PM to watch a live music awards show." Therefore, I can only guess at the astronomical number of parents who probably complained about their kids watching Glee --a show whose audience is comprised mostly of young people-- and is pre-scripted and pre-taped. So, really, Glee deserves a thousand thumbs up for portraying a same-sex kiss, knowing full well that many parents would most likely be outraged. I'm surprised that Fox allowed it, when saying "transsexual" (like I mentioned in an earlier post) is not allowed, and must be censored.

This episode also features a new character named Blaine, played by Darren Criss. I mentioned my love for Harry Potter in the beginning when I started this blog, in particular my love for A Very Potter Musical. It's an awesome & hilarious play performed by University of Michigan students, and is hugely popular with Harry Potter fans. Darren Criss wrote music for the play & its sequel, and also released an EP on iTunes. I love his music, and I thought he was fantastic playing Harry in the Harry Potter musicals. When I heard he was going to be on Glee, I was so excited. It was great watching an everyday guy in YouTube videos (who does covers of Disney songs on his guitar in his bedroom!) make it big & land a role in one of the most popular television shows today. The only problem I have is that I have to restrain myself from saying to every person I pass on the sidewalk, "I was a fan of Darren Criss before he was famous!!!"

Blaine is older than Kurt & attends an all-boys school with a rival glee club to Kurt's. He becomes a mentor to Kurt -- telling him that he too was bullied for being gay, and never stood up for himself, and now regrets it. He sends Kurt texts that say "courage" and even shows up to Kurt's school to talk to a kid who's been bullying Kurt. The best part about the Blaine character is that he is not stereotypically "gay." The show is actually demonstrating that being a gay male doesn't necessarily mean that you're like Kurt: flamboyant,  diva-esque, snobby, "feminine," and fashion obsessed. Blaine wears his generic black school uniform, and is not overly "girlish". Thanks Glee, for actually breaking one of your stereotypes.

Mr. Schue swooping in to restore heteronormativity!
At the same time, coach Beist -- the super-huge, butch-like football coach who I thought was a man in the first episode-- establishes to Will, the glee club teacher, that she's "not gay." This confession seemed irrelevant to me and made me go, "okay..." Really, is it important that we determine that? Is it important that the audience knows that she's never been kissed, and that she's not gay? I found that adding that little piece of info at the end was sending the message that Coach Beist isn't gay AND has never been kissed. This situation is dire. At least if she were gay, she might have a good reason, like Kurt. Also, I found it slightly disturbing that Will had to kiss her in the locker room to prove that she is "lovable." It's like one of the only strong, confident women in the show has to be validated by the attractive male to be shown that she is a "real" woman. Sound familiar? Oh wait! Yes, the other strong, confident, authority figure -- Sue Sylvester, the cheerleading coach -- was discovered last season to deep down, really want a man to love her and break her tough exterior. And again, Mr. Schuester saves the day. He pretends to seduce Sue, she falls for him and proves to the audience that she is really a soft woman underneath, who just wants to be loved. Thanks Mr. Schu, for coming in to save the day when these two characters cross the line just a bit too far, and get mistaken for being too "masculine." 

The last thing that made me tilt my head --like one of my former pygmy goats when hearing the sound of their food being dropped into a pail-- was the fact that the main bully who pushes around Kurt for the entire episode, is also suggested to be gay. Kurt, filled with the courage that Blaine gives him to stand up to his bullies, confronts the bully in the locker room and demand that he cease from tormenting him. An argument ensues, where Kurt says, "Hit me!" and the bully ends up kissing him instead. I said to my self, "Really?!?" It's a kind of twisted way of portraying gay bullying, by suggesting that Kurt was only being teased because the bully himself is having problems coming to terms with his own sexuality. In reality, most bullies who target gay teens probably are not gay themselves, but rather just homophobic, fearful, and ignorant. It would have been nice if Glee would have shown Kurt confronting a straight bully on his homophobia -- not a bully who is somewhat excused because, "oh, well he's gay himself, so that's why he's a bully. It's understandable."

A final note on this longwinded post is what I've noticed since I've been teaching in a high school for my placement. I've noticed that every week, the "boys club" and the "girls club" have their own meetings and activities. The boys club is a place where boys can "hang out," eat pizza and drink pop, play video games, and "be boys." In the girls club, they learn how to apply makeup, they make jewelry, and they gossip and read magazines. Although having clubs where kids feel like they belong and can make friendships is great, it made me wonder: What happens if you identify as neither boy or girl? What happens if the sex that's been assigned to you does not match the interests that you're supposed to inherently possess? What happens if I'm a girl who would rather play video games and eat pizza, or a boy who'd rather make jewelry and read magazines? The school I'm at does have Pride Central logos all over the place, and they constantly mention the gay-straight alliance events on the morning announcements, which is great. So, it's not all bad.

Thanks for bearing with me! I don't really care if nobody reads this -- I wrote it for myself. And if you still have no idea what Glee is and can't stand any more posts related to it...well go watch it, for crying out loud!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


AARRRGGGHH! is my life right now. I probably won't be blogging as often as I'd like to for the next few weeks (until this stint is done), because my life right now is NUTS.

My day goes like this:

1) Wake up at the crack of dawn.
2) Eat breakfast (if I don't, I will DIE during the school day), shower, make lunch, blowdry hair, etc. Curling/straightening hair and/or taking the time to properly apply makeup is out of the question.
3) Walk to school. Help with breakfast programs. Sit in a room where I'm to look busy for 45 mins before class starts, even though the classroom isn't free until 5 mins before the bell rings. If I don't come early and pretend to do shit, apparently I will look bad.
4) Photocopy shit that's copyrighted, because that's what I've been told to do. Teach kids ALL DAY who can't read, write, or sit still for thirty seconds. Yell at them for throwing shit at each other and kicking desks around.
5) Buy/bring in candy to give to hyperactive kids because nothing else will make them shut up.
6) Scarf down some lunch, do hall supervision or go help out at some club of some sort.
7) Tell myself that I can get through the day, and that the world will not come to an end.
8) Walk home, sit down, drink some water, and try not to fall asleep.
9) Stay up all night making lesson plans, and hopefully, try to sleep for at least 3 hours.
10) Repeat.

I would write more, but I've allotted myself only fifteen minutes to cook and eat dinner, and this blog entry is cutting into that. Sorry, kids. Cross your fingers for me and hope that I try to convince myself that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.....

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Smart Girl

I have an arch nemesis.

She was in a bunch of my classes in my undergrad, and I never forgot her. Why? Well, she was one of those keeners that answered questions all the time. I'm sure we've all had our fair share of keeners, but she was much different. Most keeners (I find) are mature students, who think they know shit because they've "experienced" life. I'll never forget the guy who gave a ten-minute long statement about his time in the war, while my professor stood with his arms folded and with a livid look on his face.

My friend and I nicknamed this girl "Smart Girl" (original, I know). At first we thought she was brilliant and didn't mind her answering all the time, but after she started talking soooo much, we thought she was very show-offish. We started resenting her even more, because well, she was smart. To top it all off, she was pretty too. We started asking ourselves, "who IS this girl?"

Throughout the time I had classes with her, I tried desperately to find a flaw with her. She can't possibly know everything, I told myself. How wrong I was. I found out that she knows everything about academia, music, art, culture...ah! She even mentioned her boyfriend during one of her responses once, and I thought, "Damn, somebody loves her too!"

Last year, I believe she moved away to do her masters. I was excited for my classes to be smart-girl-free. It was sheer bliss, let me tell you. My classmates and I didn't feel like such stupid morons anymore. We could actually answer questions and feel slightly intelligent, without the presence of Smart Girl. I could sit in class and not have the urge to strangle someone.

This year...she returned.

Thankfully, I only have one class with her, but the urge to throw pencil shavings at her head was still there (and I use a laptop, so that's saying something). She's still up to her old Smart Girl tricks, but of course, she's now more educated than before. No I'm not jealous (well, maybe just a little).

We had an activity in class where we had to partner up and do a drama activity. I tried with all my might to avoid partnering up with her, but alas, fate clearly wants her to appear as much as possible. She reached out her hand and said, "Hi, I'm Smart Girl." I half-smiled back to myself, thinking, I know who you are. And of course, you think you're so smart by wanting to shake my hand. Bitch. 

What's propelled me to write this post, however, is the fact that she's EVERYWHERE. She's all over Facebook making friends with people I've newly made friends with. She's posing in pictures for Halloween with them, looking all pleased with herself. She's attended shows/plays that I've attended. She talks about transvestite musicals in class. You all know how much I love transvestite musicals. This. Is. Not. Cool.

My friend pointed out the fact that I probably hate her so much because we're so similar and we have the same interests. Urrghh.

Now that she's all over Facebook, and making friends with my friends, perhaps it's time that I lay down my grudge and "try" to be friends with her?

We'll see...