Category Archives: etc

Music Monday: Cover songs!

I find cover songs, on the whole, super-interesting; many of them are slices of various musicians and bands at their worst or most outright bizarre (see Nickelback’s cover of “Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting” by Elton John) or their best (see below). Love ’em or hate ’em, covers seem to be a perennially-discussed topic amongst fans of music and popular culture. There is even a website devoted to covers.

This post collects just a few of my favorites, because a post of all of my favorite covers would be entirely too long. Lyrics for each song are linked via the song title.

Garbage did an absolutely stunning version of “Candy Says,” originally by the Velvet Underground, a while back:

Next up is Tori Amos, about whom I should probably just write a whole blog entry because she is so prolific with cover songs (TAKE NOTE, me). Anyway, she covered a bunch of songs written by men about women for her 2001 album Strange Little Girls, but two of the arguably best tracks from those recording sessions did not actually make it onto the album.

After All” (David Bowie):

Only Women Bleed” (Alice Cooper):

This doesn’t mean that Strange Little Girls was a bad album, however. Check out her piano and voice cover of Joe Jackson’s “Real Men” — a searing indictment of traditional masculinity that is still pretty damn relevant in the present moment, even though it was recorded in the early 1980s:

Covers have also been a unique part of Tori’s live shows. I would be remiss not to include her absolutely gorgeous organ-and-voice version of Prince’s “Purple Rain,” recorded in 1996:

Then there’s her version of Radiohead’s “Karma Police,” performed on tour in 2005:

Speaking of Radiohead covers, roots/Americana musician Gillian Welch has been known to cover “Black Star” in concert; in many ways, her version surpasses the original:

Again surpassing the original (which may equal blasphemy to some Dylan fans, I know): Nina Simone sings Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are A-Changin’“:

I am including Antony and the Johnsons’ b-sided take on Beyonce’s “Crazy in Love” because it is so radically different from the original song (check those string arrangements), but still awesome:

Patti Smith’s album Twelve is a collection of covers; if you’ve ever wanted to hear Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” interpreted as a folk tune WITH BANJO, this is an album worth picking up:

And lastly, recently-departed R.E.M. once recorded an amazing cover of the Velvet Underground’s “Femme Fatale.” Michael Stipe’s quiet falsetto is, in many ways, an intense counterpoint to original VU vocalist Nico’s monotone:

Feel free, as always, to link your favorites in the comments.

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Makeup post: Urban Decay 24/7 Eyeshadow Pencils

[Description: Photo of four eyeshadow pencils of various colors.]

I need to take a moment to rave about Urban Decay’s 24/7 Shadow Pencils ($20 US) and how fantastic they are. These are basically eyeshadows in pencil form, and I’ve found them extremely useful, but perhaps not for the reasons you’d imagine.

As most readers of this blog know, I have moderate to severe chronic pain and fatigue issues due to fibromyalgia. Cosmetics, for me, are usually not an “everyday” thing (save for lipgloss or lipstick, because those take about 15 seconds to apply if I’m not doing anything fancy) because of the time that it takes me to do a “nice” makeup job. More often than not, the time it takes for me to do “nice” makeup translates into lost energy and/or more pain. Pain due to repetitive motion is one of those things that is outside the realm of most abled peoples’ experience, but on my bad days, putting cosmetics on–and screwing it up, and more often than not having to start all over again–can be physically painful. And yes, some people may be thinking, “Yeah, RIGHT, putting on eyeshadow can’t be that painful!” For me, though, it can be, and I’m sure a lot of people with fibro would say something similar. Just try putting on makeup when your arm feels like it’s been weighted down with a huge piece of iron. After a certain point, it just doesn’t feel worth it anymore, particularly if you’re in a lot of pain and yet you keep making mistakes with makeup application because you are in pain. Parts of it seem very chicken/egg.

Enter the UD 24/7 pencils. One or two swipes of the pencil is all it takes, and the actual shadow component of the pencil is large enough that it’ll cover your entire lid (downside: can lead to some imprecision). Granted, these aren’t going to completely prevent pain from repetitive motion, but the one or two swipes and you’re done thing is a huge improvement over having to apply eyeshadow primer, then apply shadow with a brush, then do it again if you screw up, then clean the brush(es) after you use them, et cetera. I haven’t tried blending these yet (and once I do, I’ll write about the results), but I will probably end up getting a few of these because they are awesome. I have the one in Sin (a very shimmery pink champagne/beige shade), and would like to try Barracuda (black with silver shimmer), Delinquent (shimmery eggplant purple), and Mercury (gunmetal gray). If you have chemical sensitivity issues, I am not sure if these would be appropriate given the list of ingredients (scroll down the page for ingredient lists; each pencil may contain different pigments and such).

In short, these things are awesome, and I highly recommend that you give them a go, if you’re so inclined.

[A slightly different version of this post appeared on my Tumblr.]

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Blast From the Past: The Secret (and how much I loathe it)

[Introductory note: This was originally published on my old blog on March 10, 2007; because I am nothing if not a complete and total buzzkill, I think it’s worth re-archiving here, particularly since “new age” thought has a pretty strong foothold in Western–and particularly North American–culture. This sort of magical thinking still has a strong grip in many folks’ consciousness, even given the recent economic downturn; maybe I’m just naive, but I find the fact that some people can still be all ~*POSITIVE THINKING*~ and/or YOU GET BACK WHAT YOU PUT OUT even amidst widespread economic chaos and a brutal job market extremely surprising, and pretty sad.

Then again, realistic thinking has never been America’s strong suit, particularly amongst the privileged classes. The following post has been slightly edited for clarity. I have since written quite a bit on “positive thinking” as a means of social control, mostly at FWD: The Negative Side of Positive Thinking; Book Review: Bright-Sided; Just. For more information about precisely how harmful “positive thinking” can be when taken to the extreme, I highly recommend this blog post by Dr. David Gorski at Science-Based Medicine, which covers the Kim Tinkham case in detail (content warning for discussion of cancer).]

I just watched the latest and supposedly “greatest” in the self-help/marketing peoples’ insecurities back to them market, The Secret.

I sort of want that 90 minutes back. Now, before people start jumping on me and calling me negative, skeptical, bitchy, et cetera, let me assure you: I am, indeed, all three of those things. I tried to watch The Secret with an open mind. I really, truly did. But, I have to say, besides some of the stuff about visualization*–which I have thought of as a powerful tool for a while, and, at times, it has absolutely worked for me–I simply was unable to get on The Secret bandwagon.

I don’t know what it was that made me so hostile to the entire thing. Was it the overproduced “dramatic” re-enactments, some of which look very familiar to even a casual viewer of the History Channel? Was it “Dr.” Joe Vitale, Metaphysician,** who contends that ALL of the bad circumstances in your life come to you because of, well, you and your horrible, horrible negative thoughts? Was it Lisa Nichols, who was one of four women interviewed (out of 16-17 people) and one of two people of color interviewed? (She seemed to be the most sincere out of all of the “Teachers” interviewed, which endeared her to me quite a bit.) Was it the many shots of people from Other Lands, smiling and laughing, and getting fawned over by the “Teachers” due to their “natural” ability to Make Do With What They Have? Was it the completely oxymoronic focus on using The Secret to gain material things, money and houses (focused on after the many shots of our friends from other lands)? Was it the bizarre assumption that everyone watching the video wants the same damn things? Eeeek!

Then I reread this fantastic article, which outlines some of the problems with The Secret, and how Oprah, unfortunately, has basically adopted it as her credo and is trying to get her viewers to do the same. If it works for her, great. However, one thing that has bothered me about Oprah’s unquestioning acceptance of The Secret is this: It reinforces the great American trope of pulling oneself up by one’s bootstraps. AKA: If Oprah/some disadvantaged person has become successful, then you can, too! All you have to do is think positive thoughts!

There is, of course, a lot more to it than that. I’m all for thinking good thoughts, but it is the denial of reality and various systems of oppression that make this position worse. Racism, for example, is one thing that is consistently denied as to its very existence. I have news for you, folks: Racism still very much exists. I can certainly create a non-racist America in my own mind (and let me tell you, it is awesome), but to see it in front of me is going to take some major societal changes. And it’s the same with sexism. And homophobia. And ableism, and classism, and all of that other fun stuff. “Creating your own reality” only goes so far–eventually, you will run into a structure that is bigger than you, and oftentimes, these structures are oppressive and hurtful to many people. I’m sorry if that sounds “negative,” but it is true for a lot of us. Not many people can conveniently ignore these structures in order to “think positive.”

Bad things are going to happen. Bad feelings happen. That is part of life. One of the Noble Truths of Buddhism, after all, says that life is full of suffering. Of course it is, even though it is also full of Great Things. To deny this is to deny an actual, authentic life. And I have to say, I feel sorry for anyone who shies away from feeling the full spectrum of emotions because they think that “negative thoughts will attract bad things,” (one of the claims espoused in The Secret). Yes, negative thoughts suck. They make us feel bad. But trying to be aggressively “happy” is not only potentially dangerous, it’s Pollyanna-esque and annoying.

[*Visualization, however, is one tool that I really, really like, mostly because it forces me to use my imagination and is quite fun. It’s nothing new, however; various self-help gurus have been promoting this tool for years. Even if it doesn’t work, it’s still fun, and, unlike some of the professional bullies who harangue you for an hour and a half in The Secret, it (most likely) won’t make you feel bad about yourself.]

**I kid you not; this was listed as his actual professional title during the video. When I grow up, I wanna be a Metaphysician!

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Conundrum

[Image description: Line drawing of Annaham holding a hot heating pad in her hands and looking confused as question marks surround her. Text: “Chronic pain conundrum: Everything hurts — where to put the heating pad first?”]

 

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More makeup blogging, I guess

[Image of Annaham, a young white woman with dark blond hair (worn in a bun) and blue eyes, sitting on a couch, wearing bright blue/teal eyeshadow that is exaggeratedly painted above her eyelids, nude-pink lipstick, and an orange scarf with white polka dots. She is looking up at something above the frame with a bemused expression.]

YET ANOTHER RIDICULOUS PHOTO OF YOURS TRULY, WITH MAKEUP.

This time, it’s Urban Decay’s Painkiller eyeshadow, available in the Show Pony Shadow Box (an excellent palette that has some good neutrals AND some lovely brighter colors; review from Temptalia here); Peace (from the Deluxe Shadow line, of which there is an entire palette, which I highly recommend if you want to try a lot of bright colors but are on a budget) is a fairly close dupe, although it’s a little more true blue than Painkiller. Lipstick (not really visible in this photo, but oh well) is MAC’s Sheen Supreme in Impressive (reviews and swatches); it’s a nice pink-nude color with a texture that is quite moisturizing on the lips, if you go for that sort of thing. Many lipsticks tend to be too drying for my lips, which probably explains why I have a lip gloss collection in the double-digits and (maybe) five or six lipsticks in total.

There are some people who believe that bright eyeshadows draw too much attention to the wearer and so should not be used, or should be used sparingly. You can probably guess why I think that is a load of hooey. This isn’t true for everybody, of course, but if some jackass is going to stare at me because I am moving through the world while being disabled and a woman and such, I might as well go out on some days with my bright eyeshadow on because it enhances something that I like about my appearance (that would be my eyes, for the curious), and I am thus less likely to care if some douche thinks I shouldn’t be out in public, or wants to ask me about my cane, or something.

Does this work every time? Nope. But some days, it keeps me from going over the edge or down a spiral of awful self-esteem (which has been a problem ever since I can remember) and, at times, very actively disliking myself. Sometimes, it’s the little things that get you through. Not always, but sometimes. I have had issues with my appearance for a long time, and wearing colorful makeup every so often has (weirdly) helped me move past some of these issues, or at least has shown me that I can (and do, even when I’m not wearing makeup) look fabulous. I was convinced for a long time that my face was weird-looking. Thanks in part to experimenting with bright makeup, I don’t feel that way anymore. I may not be conventionally “attractive,” but that is totally cool with me.

I probably should be wearing eyeliner or mascara here to make things look more “finished,” but it was pretty hot outside and I wanted to minimize time spent getting the makeup off my face after I was finished wearing it (and when I wash makeup off, it tends to run down the side of my goddamn face as well. AWESOME).

[Originally posted on Tumblr]

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Wearing fuchsia lipstick: Not the apex of self-acceptance, but it helps

[Image of Annaham, a young woman with dark blond hair (worn in a bun) and blue eyes, sitting on a couch and pursing her lips in an exaggerated manner. She wears a black t-shirt and fuchsia lipstick.]

So, sometimes I like to wear makeup. This is not exactly news, I know.

In this photo, I am wearing Urban Decay’s Trainwreck lipstick, which is BRIGHT FUCHSIA, and it has glitter in it. I should note that I am not wearing any other makeup here, hence the wonky left eyebrow and skin unevenness. After I first bought this lipstick, I was kind of afraid to wear it in public because it is SO BRIGHT on my lips. I feel like someone, at some point, may come up to me and say, “That lipstick is too bright for your lips! Wear something more neutral.” (This may or may not be followed by an invasive question about my cane, because people commenting on someone’s appearance tend to pull that kind of shit, at least in my experience.)

To which I say: This is the only bright lipstick shade that I own, and I usually have issues with my lips in that I think they are too big and/or “out there.” That feeling seems to take a backseat when I wear this lipstick. Sometimes I just want to say, “MY LIPS ARE BIG AND THEY ARE COVERED IN BRIGHT FUCHSIA LIPSTICK, DAMMIT. OH, AND I WALK WITH A CANE BECAUSE I HAVE A DISABILITY, SO YOU CAN TAKE YOUR JUDGMENT AND SHOVE IT.”

I am not sure what walking with a cane and wearing bright lipstick have to do with each other. Maybe they have nothing to do with each other. But I will apologize for neither, and, in some way, I may be further inching toward accepting myself just a little more.

[Originally posted on my Tumblr]

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Winston’s greatest (recorded) hits, so far

So, my Yorkshire Terrier, Winston, is a critter about whom I have written before, most notably on FWD. I have described his odd habits before, but in order to get the true Winnie experience, it is best to view it for oneself. Below are some videos that my partner, Liam, recorded that feature Winston’s weirder behaviors. The first two are funnier in HD or in one of YouTube’s high-quality formats.

Here is one that features Winston panting (loudly!), after a lengthy walk on a warm day (the thing on the right is my foot):

Spinning his face into the carpet (exactly what it sounds like). The best part, I think, is at the end, when he realizes that someone is watching:

Rubbing himself on our couch and making bizarre noises for no discernible reason at all:

I’m sure Winston will have many more YouTube vids to come, but for now, the above will have to do!

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