In response to my Trailhead yesterday, below is my Penultimate Playlist and its corresponding commentary.
How do you define your life? How, in your twilight hours, would you like to look back on your past for one final sonic journey? I wrote Sunday about death, about the fear it causes many (including myself), about its necessity, about how it marks not a true end but a continuation. The transition from Life to Death is not an easy one, I know, but having some sort of ceremony must help.
In that spirit, I wanted to create a playlist, a set of songs that I could play in my second-to-last hour of life (assuming I knew or could pick the far-off moment I would die). But how do I select the songs? Do I choose the ones that highlight specific moments from my past and use the playlist to journey along the timeline of my life? Do I seek to shape a theme and, if so, what would that theme be? Do I want a somber reflection on existence? Do I want one last Perry Apartment-approved dance party?
I decided to pick the songs that are most significant to me, the ones that call out to me as I scan old radio playlists and my iPod. Some do have specific moments attached to them - a coffeehouse I went to as a high school kid in Delaware, the wintry streets of Elmira, New York - but many just appeared on this list because they are a part of my identity. They are the songs of Paul Riley. I don’t know why - I have no awareness of why these songs crop up so often in my still-short history. Perhaps it’s because of their melodic beauty. Or perhaps they represent something larger than any one moment or chord could say: resilience in the face of coldness, nostalgia, the bond between brothers and family.
This list will inevitably change as I grow older. Songs will mean different things to me then. But for now, I present to you my Penultimate Playlist.
Final tally: 17 songs, 60:02
(I wasn’t sure how best to share these songs. On the one hand, YouTube videos would be best - providing visuals to keep you focused as you listen, with a greater degree of permanence. But I figured that they ought to be best heard as a playlist - as much as I could make them into one. I hope you enjoy this.)
The unifying theme for this week’s Friday Tidbit is a bit loosely defined. I’ll describe it as a collision between two creations, producing something wholly different.
1) A fellow by the name of Alan (user name “lazyitis”) created a 8-bit version of The Smiths’ “This Charming Man.” It’s an homage to Super Mario Bros., so while you listen, imagine you’re stomping on some foolish Koopa. Barbarism begins at Mushroom Kingdom.
2) I will never respect The Family Circus. But I will always be thankful for its existence. It has provided years of laughter - only after falling into the hands of depraved individuals. Throw in the charming lads and lasses from Jersey Shore and you’ve got piles of wisdom. I present: Jersey Circus. From the mouths of babes, indeed.
3) You may have seen my comments about Dr. Michael Kiskis, an English professor from Elmira College, in earlier posts. He affected a few of us at The Compass quite deeply. Since I first took a class with him back in January 2007, I thought he looked like Gene Wilder. I’d like to think there was some commonality between the two men. I always thought Wilder was the only good thing to ever be connected with an anti-Semite like Roald Dahl.
4) They Might Be Giants have been around for thirty years. (Coincidentally, this is how long my parents have been married.) Here’s an article talking about how influential they’ve been, both on musicians and individuals. TMBG is part of my holy trinity of musical inspirations. While Barenaked Ladies have shaped my dedication to acoustic guitars and Bruce Springsteen showed me the exhilarating power of rock and roll, They Might Be Giants have most shaped my approach to music as a career. To be interesting, to be true to my vision of my songs - they’ve let me know that it’s okay if I don’t become famous. To constantly strive to create great art is a worthwhile way to spend one’s life.
5) I discovered Marc With A C from that article. Some of his music contains obscenities, but you’re an adult. Enjoy his songs.