Put Your Paws Up

So I’ve moved back into my mom’s house and I’ve been here for about a week so far. Today is my 21st birthday and I’m feeling pretty low. That’s mainly because my mom is now back on the Christian train. Right now, I don’t have the energy to attack Christianity the way it’s attacked me and anyone else who has the courage to embrace who they are.

But in a rare act of serendipity, Lady Gaga’s new album, Born This Way, is released today, May 23, my 21st birthday. I’ve known this for a while, but it wasn’t until just now that I realized that I think the universe set this all up just for me.  I think the universe brought me back here to experience what I have in the past week, like having my 9-year old little sister tell me that I’m wrong for “choosing” to be gay, hearing my mother say that we’re not allowed to say the word “transgender” around my sister, and that I can’t talk about my sexuality because it would be detrimental to her.

This has been a heatbreaking experience for me, more so than it ever has before, because for the last few months I’ve been away from my mother, and I’ve been surrounded by acceptance and freedom, but now more than ever, this place has become a breeding ground of resentment and hatred. I’m not even mad. I’m just… sad. I’m truly sad, because my mother, who has within her the chance to be an incredible person, because she’s filled with love and compassion, is allowing herself to become a part of something that oppresses and hurts people, like me, her own son. I don’t hate her anymore. I feel sorry for her, because she can’t love herself enough to find happiness and peace within, but looks to some idea of a god in the sky to validate her. She believes these silly, fairytale lies, and she thinks she’s happy.

But she’ll never know for one moment the fulfillment that I have in being free, and loving who I am. She’ll never know what it’s like to embrace yourself, every part of yourself, all of the sticky, gooey, hot, dark, dirty, smelly places within yourself where your anger and your fear and your love and your compassion all exist, and you accept them all, because they’re all good, and they all of them make you whole.

And so, the Universe set this all up, not just for me, but for everyone who is surrounded by people trying to throw shame on them. Today, I embrace who I am, I put my paws up and I proudly declare, I was born this way baby. I’m sad, but that’s okay. I love myself. And I know that I experience life on a level she doesn’t, every day, because I love myself.

I still have resentment in me. I have a lot of resentment in me. That’s okay. I think I’m starting to understand that a large part of my resentment is just sadness. Sadness that I’ve been treated wrongly for who I am, and sadness that so many people have been pushed beyond what they can humanly abide, because the people around them wouldn’t accept them who they are. On this day, when I celebrate my life, I celebrate all of who I am.

I was Born This Way 🙂

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My New Decade

I’m ecstatic. Honestly, I am. I thought I would approach this birthday with fear and apprehension, and to my surprise I feel reborn. I know that it’s only a day, but it means so much. For some reason, I feel unfettered by my past self. I feel mature, I feel like I’ve risen above the petty things that used to hold me back. I really feel like a new person. I’m no longer a child, I no longer have the “teenage years” weighing my down. Life has begun afresh. I am 20.

And I’m also determined. I don’t feel weak anymore, nor do I feel apprehensive. I want life. I want to taste it, I want to feel it’s many fabrics, listen and be in tune with it’s layers of sound, stand and peer out over it’s valleys, and breathe it’s aromas. Finally, I feel young.

This has actually been a quiet day, however, and the overblown positivity you see above is probably due to a rush of endorphins, thanks to my first-day-of-my-twentieth-year-of-life work out. My boyfriend’s been at work today, but he’ll be off tomorrow and once I get home from work I’m hoping we can go out and celebrate. I really just want to go to Best Buy, hopefully I’ll have gathered enough money to afford a microphone, and then recording can begin! Of course, there is another obstacle, and like being bereft of a mic, it’s an obstacle I’ve had since I first inherited my piano: there’s a broken key. And it’s not the very bottom or very top key, it’s the high E. You might be surprised how many times you find yourself in need of a high E key, and as fate would have it, the keys I play best in usually involve an E natural.

I have an upright piano, I think I’ve mentioned before that it’s a Marcellus, which, as far as Google is concerned, doesn’t exist, so I’m going to assume that the makers were more of a mom-and-pop piano store than, say, Steinway and Sons. It’s a reliable piano, I don’t know if I ever would have made it to this point as a musician if I didn’t have it, but altogether I prefer the sound of most other models to my Marcellus. I enjoy Baldwin’s (particularly their higher octaves); I have limited experience with Steinway, but I believe the piano I often found myself playing in my high school auditorium was a Steinway. A piano I’ve never played, and that I can’t say for sure I’ve ever seen, is a Bosendorfer. These are Tori Amos’ weapon of choice, and they have a very specific sparkling sound to them; I’d like to have the oppurtunity to play one.

But back to my broken E key. I think everyone likes the high range, let’s face it just sounds really pretty, and that high E has been the main reason I don’t read sheet music very often. I’ll learn the first two pages of a song, or perhaps even less, but my hopes will be up, and I’ll find a spot in the music where I need that high E, and I either have to quit, or try to transpose the song down an octave. I once asked a piano tuner how much it would cost to have it fixed, and I believe he said it would be about a hundred dollars. So, in this situation, I need 90 dollars for a microphone, and I need about a hundred to have my piano fixed. I’m going to do them in that order, because I can live without my high E key for a while until I can have the piano fixed, but I’m tired of waiting on a decent recording device to come along.

This seems to be one of those days where I’m not as eloquent as others, don’t hold it against me.

It’s now time for a midnight pot roast dinner, because here at my boyfriend’s house our schedules of working, eating, and sleeping are all transposed up by about 4 hours. I’m really happy to be 20; I don’t feel like a child anymore. I feel like I’ve been given a chance to start living with determination, and success doesn’t feel so out of my grasp anymore. I feel free from the teen age, I feel new, and I feel successful already.

So I’ll wrap up my thoughts and leave you with a poem today. My high school chorus teacher sent me this in honor of my birthday, and while it’s actually not a very bright poem, he says it’s one of his favorites, and I can look on it thoughtfully rather than negaitvely.

Loveliest of Trees
by A.E. Housman

LOVELIEST of trees, the cherry now
Is hung with bloom along the bough,
And stands about the woodland ride
Wearing white for Eastertide.

Now, of my threescore years and ten,
Twenty will not come again,
And take from seventy springs a score,
It only leaves me fifty more.

And since to look at things in bloom
Fifty springs are little room,
About the woodlands I will go
To see the cherry hung with snow.

I’m glad to stand at the beginning of a new decade, I feel the weight of yesterday’s troubles has been lifted; I maturely and postiviely take my first steps into this new year, and this new era of my life. Have a good day everyone.

American Doll Posse, Boys For Pele, and Approaching the Big 2-0

I got American Doll Posse today! As you may remember if you’d read some earlier blogs, American Doll Posse is Tori’s 8th studio album, and is often described as being a “depature” for Tori. I enjoy that, because changing and evolving is always good, and this is also described as being her most rock-influenced album. I am a piano player, but I have to say I always find myself drawn more easily to songs with a rock feel. Luckily, Tori combines both on this album, and how successfully I can’t say for sure yet.

The album is 23 tracks long, some of which are “interlude” tracks, lasting only about a minute, like her 1996 album, Boys For Pele, which, by the way, has also come into my possession recently. I gave most of the album a good listen through earlier, and I think I need to hear it a few more times for it to start to sink in. That’s how I handle almost any music I come to really enjoy; I’ve almost never liked an artist the first time I heard them that I would later come to really enjoy. There’s quite a bit going on on this album, and like most of Tori’s music seems to be with me, it’s hit or miss. I think that most of her fans feel that way, because I’ve seen a lot of comments from her fans saying that a certain album was her last good one and then she changed for the worse, and I’ve seen people say that she’s not the old Tori, etc. But I’m going to give this album a good chance, and I’m happy to have it.

American Doll Posse is also a concept album. In the album, Tori plays five different personas, or “dolls.” Each are apparently derived from ancient archetypes, and heavily based on Greek goddesses. For example, the character of Pip is described as being a warrior woman, and is derived from the Greek goddess of war, Athena.

Did I also mention that this album is beautifully formatted? I’m such a geek for good formatting, and this album is just so fun to examine. I got the special edition (and if you’re going to get this album, I highly reccomend getting the special edition, it doesn’t cost too much more than the regular edition and, as I’ve mentioned, it’s gorgeous), which is paperback, and contains a bonus DVD with an extra song and some footage from the album art photo shoot, as well as give post cards featuring the five doll personas. The whole thing is printed on beautiful quality paper, and we haven’t even started on the content.

Clyde, currently my favorite member of the American Doll Posse

There are introductory statements from each doll persona, revealing some of the characteristics of each. My current favorite is Clyde, who says that she tries to see potential in people. While the posse may come off as seeming aggressive, Clyde seems to me to be the kindest of them. She looks a little scary though, and I think that may by the point: she’s so thoughtful and kind, but she doesn’t necessarily seem that way on the inside. It goes along with her message of seeing potential in others, don’t you think?

The songs on the album are sang by the doll personae. All have their own individual songs, but some of them sing backup on another dolls song, and there’s at least one duet: Body and Soul, featuring Santa and Pip, whose archetypical characteristics seem to be beauty and fierceness respectively. I think most fans of American Doll Posse can decipher their voices; I have not yet figured them all out.

Currently the only songs I’ve really heard more than once are Big Wheel, Programmable Soda, and Velvet Revolution, the latter two of which are “interlude” songs. There are a lot of different feels on this album, from the rockabilly Big Wheel to the heavy metal Teenage Hustling, to Velvet Revolution, which my boyfriend’s Dad compared to Cher’s older material (which, for the record, is my favorite material of Cher’s). There’s even a song that strikes me as being a little contemporary country, Secret Spell.

Altogether, American Doll Posse is contemporary, diverse (both of which I like), and a new direction for Tori Amos.

As I mentioned before, I also bought Boys For Pele, and it must be an older copy from 1996, because the album was later re-released. I was under the impression that there were only two releases: the original featuring two songs that would be remixed, Professional Widow and Talula, and the re-relase containing an added remix of Professional Widow immediately following the original, and the “tornado mix” of Talula. The final song of the album was also cut on the re-release. But I seem to have a combination of the two: my copy has the original Professional Widow with no remix, but the “tornado mix” of Talula. At any rate, I have an older copy of it I’m sure.

The album art is always the first thing to attract me to an album, because it’s simply the first thing you see. While you should never judge a book by it’s cover, I find that oftentimes, well-formatted albums spark my interest more than others. Another positive thing about good formatting is that when a listener has had their fill of an album and puts in the shelf, they’ll be more prompted to pick it back up if it has an appealing case. Formatting is really important to me, sometimes I think I might be well-suited to be a producer, or a person who’s in charge of formatting an album. What’s that job title, I wonder?

Something about this picture says "Stay off my lawn."

The albums cover is really cool, it’s Tori sitting on an old dirty porch of a run-down house in a rocking chair, a gun across her lap, a snake coiled by her dirt covered feet, and an expression on her face that reads “I dare you to test me.” There are dead chickens hanging beside her, and on the back cover she’s holding a pig close to her neck and smiling, as snakes slither across the porch. The artwork inside the album is pretty interesting as well, in one picture Tori suckles the piglet from within a carriage, wearing a yearning, somehow loving expression. In another photo she leans against the carriage with one leg up on the wheel, looking fierce (in both senses of the word).

Boys For Pele and American Doll Posse are similar albums in that they both seem to revolve around concepts, and both touch a great deal on religion. Boys For Pele is known to be Tori’s most lyrically obscure album, and indeed it’s lyrics are filled with nearly indecipherable images, but they seem mostly to be about the darker aspects both of people and especially women. Tori has described the album as being about the darker side of the feminine, and I’ve noticed a couple references to homosexuality too. I would wager to guess that when it comes to masculine versus feminine, the Tori we see on the cover, who figuratively “steals fire” from the men in her past, wouldn’t hold so much against we men of the homosexual persuasion. “Stealing fire” from men, and also finding her own fire as a woman, is the concept of the album, being inspired after Tori learned about the Hawaiian volcano goddess Pele.

This album, like American Doll Posse, is divided into four sections, or acts as I call them. I’ve mostly only heard songs from “act one,” but I like what I’ve heard so far. I was at first a little put off by the track titled Father Lucifer, immediately jumping to the idea of a ritualistic worship song (which would be unlike Tori, regardless of what religion), but of course being close-minded is never a good idea, and I have since learned that the song is about the darker side of one’s personality. She wrote the song about an experience in which she took drugs with a South American shaman, and subsequently claims to have visited the devil. I think that sounds like a pretty harrowing experience, but there you are. It’s actually a really pretty track, and during at least one live performance (this particular performance being on the David Letterman show in 1996) segways into the theme from The Excorcist, which I just realized has relevance to the subject of the song.

Caught a Lite Sneeze immediately struck me with it’s blend of what I believe is finger-style guitar and piano played together, creating a really unique sound. Also, and this has no real relevance to anything, but I feel like including it, the song feels very “blue” to me, and not in the sad sense. When I hear it, I just see the color blue for some reason.

So, those are my two new Tori Amos albums, and I’m excited about listening to them, American Doll Posse in particular; Boys For Pele seems to be a fan favorite for Tori, and so far I’m enjoying it as well.

In another matter, I will be turning 20 tomorrow, and I’m just really happy to be celebrating my 20th birthday with my boyfriend, whom I love very much. 🙂 I’m also hoping to get a ride to Best Buy, and maybe some money so that I can afford to buy a USB Microphone. Then I can finally start recording music, and who knows? Maybe I’ll even do a podcast.

So, you all have a blessed day, and the next time I post I will have completed my 19th year in this wonderful and peculiar world of ours, and have begun on my 20th, which I am confident will be the best yet!