Posts Tagged 'Death'

Deadman’s A-Z Guide to Living: Fear

I mulled over a lot of options while thinking about what to write about for the letter ‘F’. Faith, friends, family, fun, freedom, forgiveness, fatherhood are all topics I want to expand on at some point during this process, but in the end I chose ‘Fear’ because overcoming one’s fears is probably the single most important thing one must do to live the fullest, most productive life possible.

In small, rational amounts, fears are generally fine things, and certainly serve their evolutionary purpose, alerting us to possible threats and dangers, and preventing us from attempting feats which could prematurely end our lives.

Alas, fears don’t often come in modest doses; they prefer to go big, to expand into paralytic phobias, wiggling their way deep into our psyches, crippling us from doing things that could dramatically enrich our lives.

It’s fear that will prevent you from asking your high-school crush to the prom.

It’s fear that will keep you from majoring in theater.

Fear will have you settle for the first job offer thrown your way. Keep you stuck in your hometown.

It is why you won’t buy that stock, start that business, kiss that girl, write that novel, visit that city, join that group, forgive that enemy, fight that battle, take that leap.

It’ll convince you to avoid a confrontation and refuse a challenge, to shirk commitments and shrink from changes.

Fear is the bitter-tasting wellspring for jealousy and hate and cynicism and regret.

In the end, fear will only leave you wondering what might have been.

Overcoming one’s fears, however, is no simple task; I certainly have few answers. This is strictly a ‘do as I say, not as I do’ piece.

I mean, I know how silly most of my fears are, how freeing it would be to rid myself of them, yet they still cast a very strong shadow in my life.

I may have outgrown or pushed aside out of necessity certain of my fears, but mostly I have failed thus far to do something which I know is of utmost importance.

It’s all quite sad, and I’m sure you’ll find more useful assistance within modern psychiatry or on the shelves of your local bookstore’s self-help section. Or perhaps conquering one’s fears merely requires accessing a reservoir of inner fortitude I don’t have or haven’t yet been able to reach. I only hope you will be more successful.

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Now for your amusement and education, I’ll quickly rundown a small sampling some of my more prominent fears – rating them on their intensity, rationality and impactivity (not a word I don’t think but should be) – and hopefully you’ll be able to see how destructive fears can be. Remember, this is merely a small taste of my fears, plenty more where these came from.

FEAR OF SNAKES, SPIDERS and OTHER CREEPY CRAWLY THINGS

Intensity – Low. So ever since I can remember, I’ve always hated bugs. Could never watch nature shows about creepy things, certainly couldn’t stomach it when such creatures dared enter my childhood home, dismantling its aura of safety and security in one fell crawl. If I would see in my room a spider (they were the most prevalent threat in suburban St. Louis living), my plan was always the same: Immediately flee the scene in search of my mother or father to have them get rid of the offending creature. If neither parent were home, I would not return to the scene of the crime for many hours, at which point I would just pray that the bug had the decency to crawl to my brother’s adjoining room.

Thankfully, over time, this particular fear has dissipated. Granted, I still get the chills and make that crinkled-up face when I encounter a bug. And I still strongly believe that civilized man and creepy crawly things should keep to their own natural habitats (thus my aversion to almost all outdoorsy activities, most notably camping).

But I now have a wife of my own, who is at least as averse to creepy, crawly things as I am, and removal of such creatures now justifiably falls to me, the supposed man of the house. I generally succeed in the task, with only minimal shrieking.

Rationality – Medium. True, those creepy, crawly creatures generally mean no harm, and most couldn’t do harm even if they had the desire, but a small number can be poisonous and/or spread disease. And let’s face it, all of them are rather unhygienic.

Impact – Low. Even at the height of this fear, it was never particularly paralyzing. It did perhaps prevent me from pursuing my dreams of becoming an exterminator.

FEAR OF FLYING

Intensity – Medium. I am still not convinced man should ever leave terra firma. I’m not a fan of the ocean, spooked out by its sheer vastness and by all the unknown, unseen things living in the blackness below (the fact I am not a strong swimmer doesn’t help), but my fear of the water pales in comparison to my fear of flying.

This fear has actually intensified over the years – I never enjoyed flying, but now I dread the days I must travel the friendly skies. For me, the worst part is takeoff, as the process of fighting gravity and achieving flight just seems totally unnatural and full of hubris to me, like it’s doomed to fail because we’re somehow disturbing nature’s laws or god’s will.

I think I’ve just seen one too many disaster flicks, but I just cannot fathom a more dreadful way of dying: Being trapped for several minutes in a plummeting, shaking vessel with nothing but the sound of screams and chaos to keep you company as you wait for the inevitable crash and the horror that will surely follow. (Well, perhaps drowning would be worse, but with some flights you have the chance of a water crash landing, making it a 2-for-1 special in worst ways to die).

Rationality – Medium. Now I know the stats that say flying is by far the safest mode of transportation, but I still believe the absolute horrific nature of what goes down in a plane crash justifies my fears on some level.

Impact – Low. So far, I’ve been able to just bear down and deal with the white knuckles. I’ve pretty much gone everywhere I’ve needed to go, including a couple of long trips to Europe and China. But with a new daughter, I sure do wish at least one set of grandparents lived within train distance!

FEAR OF DYING

Intensity – High. I’m pretty sure I was like most kids, completely unconcerned with my mortality. But ever since my maternal grandfather got sick some 20+ years ago, I began to be consumed by thoughts of death. Despite the fact that my paternal grandfather was the only close relative who died relatively early (mid-5os), I was convinced that I was going to die young. I think what I fear the most is the process – I don’t know what it’s going to feel like to die, but I assume there is going to be a lot of pain and suffering involved (I imagine it being like the worst flu you’ve ever had and you just don’t get better – though obviously a sudden death would be much different). I saw both my grandmothers die and it was an awful process, one that I think as a modern, evolved society we could handle a lot better. Many nights I keep myself up with thoughts of death and dying, often with me as the main subject. Unpleasant stuff, to say the least.

Rationality – Medium. You would think that this would be one of the more rational fears to have. Everyone does, in fact, die at some point. It’s likely to be quite painful. You don’t know the where or when, so there’s a disconcerting lack of control over the matter. And unless you’re a person of deep faith (in religion or science), what happens afterward is more than a little frightening to ponder. But actually, and partly because of all these reasons, death is a highly irrational thing to be afraid of – and certainly not worth wasting the precious minutes of living worrying about death often involves. It’s going to happen – you don’t know when or how but it’s likely going to suck – and you won’t know what comes next until it does, so why not appreciate your life and good health while you have them.

Impact – Medium.  Here’s the crazy thing – while the pain of death is certainly a major reason for my fear of it, at least a part of what I fear is that I will die with unfinished business and view my life as a waste of time and energy. But it’s my fear of dying, along with all of my other fears, that often prevents me from fully living. How utterly asinine.

The solution isn’t to ignore our mortality, either, which is what I find myself – and a lot of other people – doing, maybe as a kind of survival tactic (I know it’s somewhat contradictory for a person who fears death as much as I do, but even today, when I read about someone near my age who dies – an alarmingly more frequent occurrence – I feel oddly detached from the news, as if death was this surreal concept that won’t ever affect me or those closest to me). Instead, I need to respect death, come to grips with its finality, its inevitability, and its ultimate meaning, and use that understanding to better take advantage of the finite, glorious blessing that is life. Respice finem.

FEAR OF REJECTION/FEAR OF FAILURE

Intensity – High. These are actually two different fears but they’re closely related enough (and this blog is way too long already) that I’m lumping them together. Being rejected means being dismissed out of hand, without even being given the shot to prove yourself – think of the woman at the bar looking for the escape route, or the potential employer tossing the cover letter in the trash. Failing is even worse; It means you are given a chance but fall short of people’s expectations. Think of the woman several months later dumping you, or the boss firing you. In the former case, you fear people think you’re a fraud. In the latter, you know people think you’re a fraud. And in my life, both fears are omnipresent, and hugely paralyzing.

Rationality – Low. The worst part is these fears make little sense. First of all, only the rejected can give rejection its power. Who cares what other people think of us, our looks, our personality, our talents? You will never please everyone so you shouldn’t take rejection personally. Dismiss it. Scoff at it. Reject rejection. And as far as failure is concerned, it’s virtually a prerequisite for success. I defy you to find a successful person who hasn’t been waylaid by a significant failure at one point in their lives. The only trick is not letting failure stop you, which is, of course, a trick much easier said than done.

Impact – High. No fears have done more damage to me than these two. And while I won’t ever know the full extent of the opportunities that I may have lost because I was too afraid of rejection and/or failure, I do strongly believe I never reached my full potential because of these fears. In the words of the Rev. Sydney Smith: “A great deal of talent is lost to the world for the want of a little courage.”

Lucky Dog: A Lesson on Living, Loving and Loss

My brother put his 18-year-old dog to sleep yesterday.

My sadness today is profound, almost overwhelming, and I am trying to figure out why.

Obviously, the dog himself, a terribly sweet, ridiculously cute cocker-beagle mix, is the primary reason. He was my brother’s dog –  there’s no denying that – but he was really my first pet as well, my roommate and companion for the eight-plus years I lived with my brother after college.

When I came home from my first real job, he would greet me with that wagging stub of a tail and the butt jerking uncontrollably from side to side. I would lie on the floor, and he would pin me down, licking my face til I could stand it no longer.

I took him for walks every day. I taught him roll over – a trick we had to retire several years ago when it became too demanding for his aging frame – and play dead – which he did pretty well, except for that dang wagging tail, which couldn’t help but anticipate the forthcoming treat.

Lucky gave my life joy and meaning, structure and responsibility.

However, I moved out on my own five years ago, and while I saw Lucky at least once a week and would occasionally watch him when my brother left town, I was no longer much of a caretaker for the dog.

It was my brother who really had to put up with Lucky’s growing eccentricities – like the way he would whimper for hours on end and his increasingly picky appetite (a sure sign of sickness as this was a dog, after all, that would once eat the grossest things the New York City streets had to offer) – and who near the end had to give him the daily injections of IV fluid and clean up all the household accidents as his kidneys started failing more rapidly.

So while some of my connection to Lucky might have been lost over the years, I’m sure some of my sadness also stems from how intensely I feel my brother’s loss. I was there with my brother as he made the correct but horribly final and painful decision to give Lucky a peaceful end, and as he held the dog’s body in his lap one last time. And at least some of my pain and sadness must stem from knowing how badly my brother is hurting right now.

And I think there is something else that is making me sad. Something a bit more esoteric, a bit more selfish, and yet just as deeply felt: Lucky’s death in a certain way marks the passage of an era for me. I first met that dog when my brother, who had adopted Lucky a few months earlier, picked me up at the San Francisco airport when I moved there after college, armed with nothing more than a suitcase full of clothing and a journalism degree from Northwestern University. It was such an exciting time. My life and all its wonderful possibilities seemed ahead of me.

And for the next decade and then some, from one coast to another, from one job to another, Lucky was a part of that growing-up experience. It’s been fascinating to see all the people who’ve been part of my life the past 14 years – high school and college friends who came to visit, new friends, co-workers and colleagues, family members I got to know for the first time – who met Lucky and felt compelled to express their own connection to him on Facebook.

All those people who have been in and out of my life, and all those days, it seems to have flown by in an instant, and I wonder sometimes if I’ve made the right decisions in my life, if I’ve taken full advantage of the opportunities given me, and whether i am happy with where I’ve ended up.

Yes, I am married with a great wife, have my own awesome dog and am expecting a baby daughter in the fall, and I know that challenging and exciting moments are ahead of me. But that special post-college time – when my life and its direction seemed a complete mystery, even to me – feels like it now has passed forever along with Lucky.

Yesterday, my brother, his girlfriend, her sister and I took Lucky to the park where he had spent so many happy moments. It was such a beautiful day, with a bright sun and mostly cloudless sky giving off the gentle warmth of early spring. Lucky seemed very happy, taking in the familiar smells, feeling the soft grass beneath his paws, enjoying all the extra attention he was getting (though I’m sure all of the petting was a bit uncomfortable on his sore body, he took it like a champ, there for others until the end.)

Keenly aware of how easily we can take time, and loved ones, for granted, I told myself repeatedly to appreciate these moments, absorb them fully, take it all in, the beauty of the day, the pain of the impending loss. We would never have it back. Not the dog, not the day, not the emotions. None of it.

Now, as I sit here less than 24 hours later trying to recapture those moments, the memories are already fading. Pictures are blurred, hazy, insufficient.

And if that isn’t a reason for profound sadness, I’m not sure what is.

Questions: The Regrets Edition (Part II)

Great answers to Part I of the regrets column. Here are my other 5 top regrets.

6) I regret being afraid of dying. In some ways, I feel my whole life’s purpose is to finally accept (at least on a Zen-like level) the inevitability of my death. Instead, the concept so terrifies me that it has clearly kept me from being as adventurous and/or productive as I could have been. A little caution can be a good thing, perhaps, but to live without fear of death sounds so freeing. (To be completely accurate, it’s more the pain of dying than the actual being dead part that scares me).

7) I regret being shy around girls. Ok, so it’s all good as I ended up finding this great awesome girl, but oh man, I cannot begin to tell you how many times I have caught the eye of a beautiful girl and wish I had gone up to her and introduced myself, make small chat, throw her a compliment, ask her on a date, etc. but instead only watched her walk away and out of my life forever. If I had chosen not to do any of those things because I thought it would be too forward and ungentlemanly or even creepy, that would be one thing. But me … I was mostly just scared, especially of rejection, and that’s just silly. Only the rejected can give rejection its power (Oh yeah, that’s like Tony Robbins good!)

8) I regret not being more serious about my writing. Even as a young kid, I fancied myself a writer. I remember creating a whole series of short stories, including a choose your own adventure (damn I loved those), about a porcupine named Kong. I had people who liked and encouraged my work, including a teacher I had in elementary school who took a bunch of my stories and compiled them in a pretty cool bound package and helped get one my tales published in a young children’s magazine (still one of my all-time great thrills).

I continued writing short stories and small pieces throughout college, but as time passed, I grew more discouraged. I would read stories by the masters, by authors I totally loved, and bemoan the fact I could never be as good as them. I experimented with longer forms of writing, including novels, but could never finish my projects. My imagination was lacking. My vocabulary was inadequate. My characters were cliched.

But if my writing was inadequate before, it’s only gotten worse. Writing is a skill that must be honed like any other and I unfortunately have written very little over the past five years – aside from these blog posts, of course. I think I convinced myself that writing was not as enjoyable as it used to be, but I wonder if maybe there’s something more going on here.

Because sometimes I think of how envious I am of the people who seem like they know what they’ve wanted to do since the day they were born, who have passion about something and pursue it with joy AND single-minded determination, a lethal combination for success. And then I think back to how I would spend hours as a young kid holed up in my room, composing stories, getting lost in the process, reveling in my own creations, and wonder if for me writing should have been that thing, and – note the emerging theme – I just was too afraid to pursue it. That my imagination was lacking, indeed.

9) I regret not doing more for my fellow man. This one is simple. I give to charity a decent amount, but not nearly enough. But more importantly, I should be more generous with my time. On this site, I’ve often complained about the lack of compassion certain members of society seem to have for their fellow humans, and yet I cannot honestly say I’ve done much to make a difference in this world. I talk a much better game than I do, and worry I just may be more selfish than I’d like to believe. Even when I try to do something charitable, I often do it begrudgingly and with the minimum effort, like the time several years back when I along with my brother mentored an inner-city student and helped sponsor his private Catholic school education. I did so little to really help that kid succeed, and embarrassingly, have since lost touch with him and his family.

10) I regret not going to California to watch the Northwestern Wildcats play in the Rose Bowl. OK, this is a small one, but when I was a senior in college, the Northwestern football team came out of nowhere – after decades of being the doormat of the Big Ten – to shock the world with a miraculous year for the ages. In one season, they beat Notre Dame, Michigan (in the Big House) and Penn State to win the Big Ten and earn their first appearance in the Rose Bowl in fifty years.

I saw every home game that year, and even a couple of away games, and that season easily stands as one of the top three sports fan experiences in my life. Many of my college friends went out to Pasadena during the Winter Break to cheer the team on, but I was a rather broke student and decided it would cost too much money. So I went home to St. Louis and watched the game on TV with some friends and family.

What a joke. You don’t get opportunities like that often, and when you do, money should hardly ever be the deciding factor. I know the advice to save and prepare for retirement or a rainy day has its merits – and especially sounds sage in tough economic times like the current ones – but money is merely a means to an end, nothing more. Be prudent, but have fun and take advantage of once-in-a-lifetime opportunities when they arise. Trust me, you won’t regret it.

Questions: The Regrets Edition (Part I)

In a post long ago, I talked about regrets and how I view them as a natural part of the examined life, something to be embraced, not feared. A person who claims he has no regrets is either a magnificent liar or an unreflective fool.

You can learn a lot from your regrets, and the only goal should be to minimize their occurrence as you grow older.

I didn’t go into much detail discussing the specifics of my actual regrets, but I’ve now decided to list the top 10 regrets of my life to date, thinking that it could actually be a useful exercise for me and an enjoyable, potentially educational, but very long read for others (so long in fact that I’ve decided to divide the column into two).

Over at dagblog.com, each regret will be accompanied by a related question in the comment section for you to answer.

Some of these regrets are small, some are huge. Some are in the past, where nothing can be done about them, and some persist today. All contribute to who I am, and as the new Senator from Minnesota was known to say in a previous life, “And that’s … OK.”

1) I regret not lifting weights when I was going through puberty. Let’s start off small. I think a bit of strength training – not a crazy amount, mind you, just a little weightlifting – is much more impactful when your body is developing and maturing. I’m not very body obsessed, but I think being stronger would have helped in a bunch of different ways. At the very least, it would have made me a better baseball player, which would have been nice as not making the high school baseball team is another regret of mine (although not worth a top 10 since I did try out 3 times, getting cut each year, and I give myself props for that).

2) I regret not making the top 10 of my high school graduating class. This is actually a bit of an anomaly because if anything, I think I cared too much about grades and schoolwork. But there’s a reason why this stands out as a regret. I remember going to my brother’s graduation as a junior high schooler and seeing the ten students with the top 10 GPAs get recognized for their efforts – they were asked to stand and the crowd gave each of them a significant round of appreciative applause.

For some reason, I decided there and then that that was something I wanted to accomplish. It became a goal – a ridiculous and nerdy one to be sure, but a goal nonetheless. And it was in my grasp til the very end, as I got all A’s until my final semester of high school. But I didn’t do the extra effort to sneak into the top 10, refusing to do the term papers that would have gotten me the ‘H’ honors (and 5.0) grades in history that would have put me over the hump. This sounds like a small, almost stupid thing but in many ways its indicative of a lack of single-minded determination, which I think the most successful in society seem to have and I clearly don’t (an issue that comes up later in this post). I had a goal, I should have worked just a bit harder to achieve it, plain and simple.

3) I regret not living an extended period of time in a foreign country. This is pretty self-explanatory and clearly, the easiest, best time to do this would have been in college, studying abroad for a semester or year. To me, it’s a sign of me living scared and nervous about trying new things.

As a side regret, though it isn’t necessarily my fault, I regret not learning a foreign language (or two) earlier in life. Like developing muscles, languages are so much easier to learn when you’re young, and I automatically give people an extra ten points of respect and IQ when I hear they’re fluent in multiple languages. Unfortunately, the arrogant American public education system didn’t include foreign languages as part of its early education curriculum back when I was a kid (I think it might now, but in any case at least American kids today have the bilingual Dora). In the end, I took 6 years of French in high school and college and still could barely communicate with the Frenchies when I was in Paris for a trip about ten years back.

4) I regret not being nicer to my mother through my teenage and young adult life. My mom is awesome. She’s funny and social and loving and sensitive and generous, and full of so many endearing quirks. Everyone loves her. I do, too, of course, but there was a time when she embarrassed me. OK, she still does, but there was a time when I was way too annoyed by my embarrassment and wasn’t always so nice to her.

Nothing major, just small cutting comments or a general lack of affection. I know where I was coming from and what I was doing – just trying to rebel a bit. Like all good Jewish mothers, my mom is a bit smothering and neurotic and for much of my pre-teen life I was a big mama’s boy, and I probably overcompensated in my attempt to shed that image. I can now fully embrace that I am and will always be a mama’s boy. But I know there were times I hurt her when she did nothing wrong, and for that I am sorry.

5) I regret giving up acting in college. In high school, I was in many of the plays, and had decent-sized parts in a lot of them, except for the musicals because I can’t sing or dance (We did Fiddler on the Roof, and I – one of the few Jews in the production – had to play a Russian because of my limited skills). I really enjoyed acting, and thought I was pretty good at it (I knew I had some talent when during a final exam in a freshman acting class I was able to cry during a scene in which I played a father who found out his wife had left him. The tears even surprised me.)

I wasn’t perfect,  by any means – watching old tapes, I cringe at some of the tics I brought to the stage,  but I would have liked to continue to pursue acting. Didn’t think that would be an issue seeing as I was, after all, going to Northwestern University, which was known for its theater department. Unfortunately, freshman year I got paired up with a roommate who was majoring in theater and it discouraged me when I saw his commitment to the profession. I thought about performing as a lark, not necessarily a career, and my roommate and his theater friends were approaching it on a much different level. So I chickened out and never pursued it further. I’ve taken a couple of acting and improv classes to try and rekindle the magic, but I’m afraid that dream may be dead.

Questions: The Michael Jackson Edition

Michael Jackson dead?? That’s what the LA Times and AP are reporting, anyway (CNN hasn’t yet confirmed). Unbelievable.

Earlier today, my brother was bemoaning Farrah Fawcett’s death, trying to come to grips with the loss of his most common inspiration for those special, intimate teenage moments. (I kind of remember Farrah as being a sexy icon, but she was a bit before my prime mastubatory years).

Michael Jackson, however, was kind of like my Beatles. So I’m in shock, and surprisingly sad to learn of his premature death.

Thriller may be the album (and I do mean ‘album’) I remember playing the most as a child. I remember ordering and breathlessly awaiting a Michael Jackson biography from one of those Scholastic book forms we used to get as kids (I think it was called Thriller).

And despite all his successes, to me he seemed like such a tragic figure.

To honor of the loss of the undisputed King of Pop, I present the Michael Jackson edition of Questions.

1) What’s the first word you think of when I say Michael Jackson?

2) What Michael Jackson songs/albums do you have on your IPod?

3) Which Michael Jackson song is your favorite? (Jackson 5 Tunes included)

4) What about your favorite Michael Jackson video?

5) Which non-musical Michael Jackson moment/situation do you think is most memorable (eg moonwalk dance, neverneverland, plastic surgery, pepsi ads, his kiss/marriage with Lisa Marie, his pedophile trials, his fatherhood (baby holding), etc.)

6) Did you think Michael Jackson was guilty of pedophilia? If you think he was, as I do, do you also think, as I do, that he in some ways was as much of a victim as perpetrator given his unusual upbringing? Or do you think there can be no excuses for that kind of crime (pointing out that none of his siblings have ever been accused of similar behavior)

7) In the entertainment world, whose death do you think would generate more international attention and sadness than Michael Jackson?

8) Give me the over/under on how long it takes for a book publisher to take advantage of his death by coming out with a new Michael Jackson title? Will the book come out before the first posthumous record album? Will it be written by a Jackson family member, and if so, which one?

9) Why do you think Michael Jackson got all those plastic surgeries? Do you really believe it was medically necessary as he asserted once on Oprah (I think)? Couldn’t he tell the damage he was doing?

10) Some dude on CNN just compared Michael Jackson to John Lennon? Whose death was the bigger shock? Which one was the better performer? More influential musician?

Questions: The Ipod Shuffle Edition …

Partly inspired by Prophet and his ongoing top 10 albums of 2008 series, and partly because I’m otherwise uninspired, I’ve decided to take a different tact for this week’s questions: I am going to press shuffle on my IPod Nano and create a question somehow related to each of the first 10 songs that come up. I will also be giving some very quick commentary on the songs.

I am uncertain how well this process will lend itself to thought-provoking questions, and I will certainly be risking great personal embarrassment by exposing my music collection to the dagworld at large, but I am game if you are.

I reserve the right to skip any song that has no lyrics, has nonsensical lyrics, or is just too damn mortifying (even for me, who may be the most shameless person I know). Power on … press shuffle … and here we go …

1) Gone Daddy Gone. Gnarles Barkley. A fine opener. Good, fun beat. Like almost all Gnarles songs, doesn’t overstay its welcome. My rating 8/10.

Lyric: Beautiful girl lovely dress. High school smiles oh yes. Beautiful girl lovely dress. Where she is now I can only guess?

Q: What percentage of former lovers have you kept in contact with?

2) Cry Baby, Janis Joplin. Has any singer been more fierce than Janis? Look at the lyrics alone, and it seems like she is playing the weak woman, basically begging a man to come back to her … and yet with that voice, you can’t help but also hear the implied threat – ‘You want something to cry about, I’ll give you something to cry about!’ 7/10.

Lyric: I know you got more tears to share babe,  so come on, come on, come on, come on, come on, and cry, cry baby.

Q:  How often do you cry.  When was the last time you cried?

3) Circle Game, Joni Mitchell. Kind of funny that Joni comes right after Janis. They both have such powerful instruments with their voices yet use them in such different ways. I love songs – or any art, for that matter – that inspire melancholic, nostalgic thoughts, and this one does that for me. It’s a simple, beautiful melody. The lyrics and metaphor are a bit cliched, perhaps, but it doesn’t bother me one whit. 8/10.

Lyric: Take your time, it won’t be long now ’til you drag your feet to slow the circles down.

Q: If you could pick one year to be forever, what age would you choose and why?

4) Handsome Devil, The Smiths. Some songs I’m not sure how they got on my IPod. The beat’s OK but doesn’t do much for me, and the lead singer’s voice is a bit grating. But damn, the lyrics are nasty, so I have to give it some props for that. 5/10.

Lyric: Let me get my hands on your mammary glands, and let me get your head on the conjugal bed.

Q: What was your first experience with porn? What were your thoughts about it?

5) Believe, Cher. OK, this is one that comes very close to being too mortifying, and if I had any real shame, I’d never admit I had this song on this IPod. I sure as hell wouldn’t admit that I can’t help but wanna dance when I hear this song or that this ain’t even close to being the only Cher song on my Ipod. The computerized voice vibrato effects on this number are particularly gratifying. Really. 6/10.

Lyric: Do you believe in life after love?

Q: Well, do you? More specifically, the last time someone broke up with you, did you ever, even for a moment, think you wouldn’t be able to deal? How long did it take for you to get over it?

6) Think I’m in Love, Beck. This may not be one of Beck’s best songs, but it’s definitely one of his more approachable, comprehensible ones. Good beat. Like the violin transition about halfway through and at the end. No one does awkward, desperate romance better than Beck. 7/10.

Lyric: I think I’m in love, but it makes me kinda nervous to say so …

Q: Have you ever had feelings for someone, a friend perhaps, and never told them? Do you regret it?

7) Knocking on Heaven’s Door. Guns n Roses. Axl & Co. do a fine job with their cover of this classic Dylan song, revving up the guitars and rockness factor while otherwise staying mostly true to the original. Could do without some of the bells and whistles, like the gun sound effects and answering machine message, but you gotta love the way Axl belts out ‘Door-oor-oooor.’ 6/10.

Lyric: It’s getting dark, too dark to see. I’m feeling like I’m knocking on Heaven’s door.

Q: Do you want to be conscious when you die, to feel life leave you, or would you rather be unaware?

8) What a Wonderful World. Louis Armstrong. OK, it’s treacly, and trite, and we know the world isn’t always wonderful, or maybe even usually. But like Obama and his soaring rhetoric of hope and optimism, I believe in what Louis is selling. Ooooohhhhhh, yeeaaaahhh. 7/10.

Lyric: I see friends shaking hands, saying how do you do? They’re really sayin’ ‘I love you’

Q: Do we as a general rule say I love you too often, sapping power from the phrase by using it too freely, or do we not say it enough, and by being so reserved not let people know how much they matter to us?

9) Let it be, Beatles. Just a beautiful song. Lovely piano playing, and god, Paul can sing. When I was in St. Louis for the Thanksgiving holiday, our family saw this Beatles retrospective at a local playhouse, and it was hilarious watching them try to recapture the Beatles’ magic. Beatles cover bands should be banned but Beatles cover bands with a fat and old Paul should be fined and/or jailed. 9/10.

Lyric: And when the broken-hearted people living in the world agree, There will be an answer, let it be.

Q: What’s your favorite Beatles song?

10) Black Acres, Elysian Fields. A sexy, sultry song to close it out. An entrancing bass beat, with beautiful violin and piano throughout. You can’t help but feel a little Randy (or in my case, a little Keri Wink) when the lead singer raspily declares, ‘Touch me now, Touch me, Black Acres are Claiming Me.” 8/10.

Lyric: He holds me up like a babe, pressing close. I can’t behave. I need to have this little death.

Q: If orgasms weren’t free, but could only be had by buying them on the open market, how much would you pay for one? How many would you buy in a week?

OK, this was fun, Will have to do it again sometime. Remember check out this post at dagblog.com for answers to these questions …

Yo Deadman, please don’t hurt ‘em …

Ring the bell, school’s back in, break it down … Stop. Question time!

10) Ok, several days have passed. Are you still smiling and dancing, or do you find yourself suffering a bit from some sort of post-partum-like depression?

9) Not that I would know anything about this, but which is a more important element of looking good on the dance floor: Rhythm or self-confidence?

8) So I turned 35 this week. Is it lame that one of the things that most annoys me about this age is that I can no longer check off the 18-34 age group in surveys?

7) My awesome girlfriend got me one of those comfy leather recliners for my birthday (we once got in a fight because she said she thought those chairs were ugly and didn’t want one in her apartment while I insisted they were one of man’s god-given rights), and I have now fallen asleep while watching TV on that chair each of the past several nights. Have I become my dad?

6) Why or how did humans evolve so that they crave and demand variety in their meals? Every day, my dog acts like a Democrat who just found out Obama has won the presidency (i.e. like a delirious nut bag) when I take a scoop into his jar of food, even though I’m preparing to give him the exact same crap I always do. It seems like it’d be so much easier and more efficient if we humans could also be content eating the same thing every day.

5) Which is worse: Sarah Palin’s ignorance; the McCain advisers who chose Palin despite her ignorance; or the fact that those same advisers are now just piling on, anonymously leaking to the press more examples of that ignorance and suggesting she torpedoed the campaign?

4) One of the ironies of the election was that the heavy black turnout caused by Obama’s candidacy contributed to the passage of Prop 8 in California, which outlaws gay marriages. Do you believe the civil rights struggle of homosexuals is equivalent to the African-American struggle. If not, what is the difference? (This is not a trick question; I think there can be legitimate debate here, though in the end I personally don’t think there’s a difference.)

3) If you could find out the exact date of your death, but couldn’t do anything to change it, would you want to know? If you found out you were going to die within the next 12 months, what would be the biggest change you’d make in your life?

2) I have plenty of regrets in my life. One of them I remember well is telling a childhood friend in first grade that there was no Santa Claus, which was a really crappy thing to do (especially so cuz I’m Jewish). Do you remember when you first found out there was no Santa Claus and what was your reaction? (My apologies if I have once again spilled the beans and destroyed any delusions you may harbor).

1) Please look at the attached map below. It’s a graphical display of the voting trends in Tuesday’s election compared to 2004. The blue sections are areas where people voted more heavily Democratic; the bluer the section, the bigger the change.

Which of the following facts does this map reveal (Choose all that apply): a) The Republican brand and agenda is dying b) The Democratic brand and agenda is ascending c) Barack Obama was a better candidate than John Kerry or d) Damn, the South is disturbingly full of racists, esp. Arkansas, Oklahoma and Tennessee.

2208 Voting Trends

November 2014
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