Never Was A Cornflake Girl

My copy of Tales of a Librarian came in! I ordered the two disc edition of Tori Amos’s Tales of a Librarian, which if you remember is a collection of her work up to 2003, including songs from every album up to that point except for Strange Little Girls, and it also has 4 new previously unreleased tracks as well. The first thing that struck me when I opened up the packaging is that it’s a beautiful album. You know I’m a sucker for a well-formatted CD, and this was by far one of the best formatted CDs I own. I actually thought this was going to be in regular two-disc jewel case, but it’s actually paperback! It’s a digipack, which is my favorite, and it opens up, and then opens up again. So, when you first open it, you have the two folds facing down over the CD and DVD, and on these are some pictures of Tori on a beautiful pink and white background with the songs on the CD and DVD listed in order of the Dewey Decimal system (since the theme is librarian). Then you open it up, the CD is brown and the DVD is pink, and on the left side opening fold is a picture of Tori and a basic outline of the Dewey Decimal system. On the right fold is the CD booklet, and all of this is formatted on this beautiful pink and white case, the CD booklet is wonderfully formatted, it’s filled with all the lyrics of the songs and a ton of pictures of Tori Amos as a librarian in all stages: nice librarian, innoent librarian, sexy naughty librarian showing off her legs in heels, etc. It also has the Dewey Decimal classification for each song on a list falling from the left side (which is also shown on the front cover).

So far, I like every song I’ve heard, and it was nice to hear the original version of Precious Things, which I was afraid would be really 90’s and boring, but it wasn’t, and it’s surprising that her music sounds so current when a lot of it is from the early 90’s. I think she’s an artist who’s always way ahead of her time, and I’m really surprised that back in 1994, someone was making music that would sound like a lot of music does today, and she’s probably responsible for some of the music today, I know Amy Lee has been compared to her numerous times, and I’m sure she’s inspired plenty of musicians, including myself. Also, she has songbooks for all of her albums, including this one, and they’re not Hal-Leonard!

Quick explanation on that: the first songbook I ever got was Evanescence’s Anywhere But Home. If you’re a fan of Evanescence and particularly their first album Fallen, and want to learn to play their music, this is the book to get because it contains all the songs on Fallen except one (Hello, which is actually the one song on Fallen I would be interested in playing above all else if I were buying an Evanescence songbook, but I’d already learned how to play Hello from sheets I got on the internet, and a little piece of Jesse trivia: Hello is the first song I ever learned to play via sheet music, with no help from anyone), and it also has a Korn cover, two songs that were cut from Fallen, and Anywhere But Home’s previously unreleased studio track: Missing. I’d also suggest getting the album if you’re an Evanescence fan; Amy’s voice is a little unruly at times, but the new material and the live versions of some of the songs (Bring Me To Life has a pretty intro, Farther Away is like two minutes longer than usual) are worth getting if you’re a fan.

So, as I was saying, Tori Amos has songbooks for all of her albums, and none of them are done by Hal-Leonard! What do I have against Hal-Leonard, you ask? Good question. I currently own two songbooks, the first was Anywhere But Home, and the second I got was the Hal-Leonard songbook for Lady Gaga’s The Fame. It’s awful. First of all, I realize that it’s pop music and it doesn’t really include a lot of piano, but the songs are just watered down versions of the originals, with the right hand doubling the vocals of the singer have the time and the left hand playing some simple arpeggio that has nothing to do with the way the song sounds. On top of that, oftentimes in Hal-Leonard books, the songs are written in the wrong key! And they even admit to it, it says at the bottom that it’s recorded a half-step higher or a half-step lower. Why would we want sheet music that’s a half-step in the wrong direction? What purpose does it serve? Why couldn’t they just print the sheet music in the correct key? It doesn’t make any sense to me, and even in the sections of The Fame where piano is actually included (like Beautiful, Dirty, Rich), the piano part from the song is completely left out in the sheet music! It doesn’t make any sense.

So, that means that Amos’ songbooks are either done by she herself, or at least another company that knows what they’re doing. My Anywhere But Home songbook was not Hal-Leonard, and all the songs were in the correct key, and was essentially spot on. So basically, my view on songbooks now is that if it’s not Hal-Leonard, it’s probably a good songbook. Since Tori is a pianist, I assume she would want her fans to have the actual material and not a watered down version of it to play for no real reason other than to use as a guideline for your own version. The only reason I could think that she wouldn’t be directly involved in it is that she’s known for playing things by ear, before she was a solo artist she had a short-lived stint as lead singer and pianist of a band called Y Kan’t Tori Read, which I gather is not very impressive, and Tori’s said she has no interest in re-releasing the album. That makes sense, since most of the band members were studio players, the record company gave up on promoting the album after two months, and in the band’s only music video, Tori is the only member present. So, I think that the Tales of a Librarian songbook would probably be a very good investment.

A few weeks ago I found an old copy of Pink Floyd’s famous movie The Wall at the flea market, and we finally sat down and watched it. This movie gets a lot of criticism for being way too trippy and people often say that you have to be on drugs to understand it. While the movie was really spacey, confusing, and jumped around from timeline to timeline quite a bit, it still altogether made a little bit of sense, and wasn’t so unwatchable that you had to be on drugs to watch it. The movie was a combination of real-time acting and animation, usually switching back and forth between a real-time scene and an animated sequence. Only once during the movie two the two worlds mingle. Also, the main character, Pink, breaks a LOT of TV’s. Seriously, he must have 5 or 6 televisions in his house, because he breaks a new one every five minutes. Of course, the most fun part was when Happiest Days of Our Lives started, who wouldn’t be excited?

The most interesting parts of the film were the animated sequences, in every one of them there were things that morphed over and over, constantly changing into other things, and honestly I don’t remember many specific examples, but I know during the climax of the film, The Trial (a song which I used to listen to on my iPod, riding around town on my bike), some of the characters morph into one another when they speak. One animated sequence early on features two flowers engaging what is obviously a visual representation of intercourse, in which the “female” flower devours the male, a theme present in Pink’s life.

I was surprised to find out, though, that the film doesn’t feature all of the music from the album! That’s probably a good thing, because the movie would be about twice as long if that were so, but I was surprised that Hey You wasn’t included in the movie. That’s one of The Wall biggest singles!

I’ve also been listening to another famous concept album, Queen’s A Night at the Opera. I really like what I’m hearing so far, and until now, the only Queen songs I’ve really been familiar with are the ones featured on an the Queen Greatest Hits: We Will Rock You Edition I bought back in 2006. , which I until this point, I’ve pretty much only heard the Queen songs featured on a Greatest Hits album I bought around 2006. This was one of the first albums to really start inspiring a story from me, I was smack in the middle of my classic rock phase, and Queen was just right for me. I’d never really heard Another One Bites the Dust or We Are the Champions in their entirety, and I’d never even heard of Killer Queen before, but all of these songs inspired me and began to form a story in my head. Most of it was never written, but the characters it inspired are still there.

Speaking of Queen, I learned via the Biography channel’s special on Queen quite a while ago that Freddie Mercury made and album with Spanish opera singer Montserrat Caballe, who we really admired. It’s called Barcelona, and how could a collaboration between Freddie Mercury and an opera singer not be good?

Incidentally, The Wall and A Night at the Opera were said to be My Chemical Romance’s two biggest inspiration for their concept album The Black Parade.

Well, I have the new Rocket Summer album, but I haven’t listened to it yet. If you’re not familiar with this artist, The Rocket Summer is a musical project by musician Bryce Avery. He writes all the music, sings all the songs, and plays all of the instruments. I think that’s cool and I respect that. I’ve really only heard one of his albums, Do You Feel, and I like it. His song So Much Love was one of my favorite songs when I was 18. My only real problem with The Rocket Summer is that the music is sometimes unbelievably corny, and there are lots “Yeah”s and “Oh!”s and “Come on!”s thrown into every sentence. A lot of the lyrics are still really meaningful, but at other times it feels like he just couldn’t think of anything to include in the middle of a sentence so he stretched out the word “Oh” to be four syllables, or threw a few “Yeah yeah!”s to fill in space. While the songs can come off as being way too over the top and deliriously joyful, that’s not necessarily a bad thing, and a lot of the music is really uplifting, which the world needs more of.

I’m really a big fan of Italian dance/electronica group Flanders. The only problem is that they rarely ever release anything new! In the past 4 years, they’ve released three songs. But they’re good songs. They actually have a new single out called Time, and I can’t explain it, but their music just really hits me, I really like it. Their song Behind is a very special song for me, it always takes me back to when my boyfriend and I first met, and it just makes me fall in love with him over and over again.

I’ve been listening to musicals lately, not the least of which is Stephen Schwartz’ Wicked, a musical based on the novel by Gregory Maguire. Both the novel and the musical chronicle the life of Elphaba, a child born with completely green skin and a talent for sorcery, who aspires to become the Wizard of Oz’s grand visier, but faces opposition from a cruel world intolerant of those who are different, namely Oz’s Animals: animals in Oz who have the same level of consciousness and intelligence as humans. Elphaba works toward equal rights for Ozzians and Animals, but faces a lot of opposition, and faces the challenges that will lead to her being known as the Wicked Witch of the West. The story does manage to distance itself from The Wizard of Oz significantly; it chronicles the event leading up to the moment Dorothy arrives in Oz, during, and after, without ever showing Dorothy, an aspect which I think both preserves the integrity of the original and adds greatly to Shwartz’ musical.

Another of my favorite musicals is Repo! the Genetic Opera. Though the film was released in early 2009, Repo! was a stage show long before then, in production since 2002.  The movie quickly became a cult classic upon the release of the film soundtrack months before the movie ever went to theaters, but Repo! never gained any widespread commercial success. The film starred an unlikely cast: Spy Kids’ Alexa Vega, hotel heiress Paris Hilton, and even Phantom of the Opera heroine and pop recording artist Sarah Brightman. Repo, like most other musicals, has a lot of positive messages: there are heavy undertones both of self-acceptance and society’s reliance on industrialism and the desire to be perfect.

The basic plotline is that in the “not too distant future,” organ failure becomes a wordwide epedimic, killing off a large part of the worlds population, and scientist Rotti Largo discovers zydrate, a substance that comes from human organs that somehow or another is involved in surgery so that people can have their failing organs replaced with new ones. Organs are sold by Largo’s company, GeneCo, at a high price, and if buyers don’t make good on their payments, a “Repo man” is sent after them to collect the organs, in other words, assassinating the individual and taking the organs by force while they’re alive. The story chronicles Repo man Nathan Wallace and his daughter Shiloh, who is unable to live in the outside world due to a blood condition. Nathan’s deceased wife Marni is the central tie that binds all of the stories main characters together: former lover Rotti Largo, husband Nathan, daughter Shiloh, and close friend Bling Mag, who becomes the face of GeneCo and stars in their Genetic Opera. Repo probably deserved a lot more attention than it received, it was only shown in a few theaters throughout the country.

Here’s an interesting coincidence: there’s a movie being developed called Repo Men, that, you guessed it, has almost the exact same plot. But from what I can tell, it’s not produced by any of Repo!’s producers, it just completely steals the plot from the musical. That’s pretty pathetic, and it really sucks that the producers of Repo! worked for years to create a stage musiacl and film that’s really and truly about something, just to have the plotline stolen by a big company to make another action film that will garner millions of dollars. It’s kind of sick.

On another subject, I’ve also been giving thought to my future album, whenever I finally begin really seriously writing it. I really only have 2 or 3 songs I think will make it, and a few others that were kind of thrown together or I just don’t like as much. But what I’ve been thinking about today is the subject matter, I’m thinking it would be cool for the album to be called Male, and this is an idea I’ve had for a while now. I’d like to make an album that showcases what it is to be male, what is to be a man, but on the other hand, is really about being human.

The women’s rights movement is an important thing, and I wouldn’t want this album to seem cheuvanistic at all, in fact, it’s meant to be the opposite. I feel like sometimes men get a bad rep, both because throughout history women have been opressed and men have been exalted, and because men for some reason are always talked about in brute terms. When one in modern society thinks of men, there’s a connotation of being warlike and animalistic, and it’s just not true. Men are always considered to be the warriors, and with the modern women’s rights movement, men are often talked about in a non-flattering way, women like to make joke’s at men’s expense that we’re all devoid of the same intelligence they are, that we’re childish and rude, and that we only understand basic human needs like food and sex. I do not appreciate that at all, being male, and I think that society really has a warped view of what is to be male.

There are so many double standards when it comes to male and female, on both sides. Women have plenty of reason to accuse men of having a double standard when it comes to them, it’s been true for ages, but socially, there are a lot of double standards about men. I’m sure you’ve probably thought at some point that there are certain things girls do together than if guys were to do, they would automatically be considered gay or just socially unnaceptable. One time in school I remember having a discussion with a group of people who were telling me that there was an age at which it was no longer appropriate for guys to spend the night at each other’s houses. Female friends sleep in the same bed together, in their underwear, they paint each other’s nails and are very physical with one another, they model clothes for one another and change in front of one another, there are some situations in which women bathe together, but men could not do any of these with a friend without being shunned or assumed to be gay.

This also leads me to another point I’d like to make: the infamous “feminine side.” Men who, say, did any of the activities above, slept with one another in the same house, room, or bed, on a friendly basis, or cried in front of their friends, or changed in front of another man when it was entirely possible for him not to, would be considered to be doing things that were “feminine.” When men show emotion, it’s often said they’re “embracing their feminine side,” but perhaps there’s not really a “feminine side,” but just a human side. Human beings all feel the same emotions, be they male or female, but because women are known to oft express theirs more than men, men who do the same are said to be “feminine.”

Perhaps even men who are overtly flamboyant are not feminine either, but merely human. Flamboyance is a human trait, present in both men and women, but with women it’s considered acceptable, where with men it’s considered to be an indication that someone is feminine or homosexual. If a man does something that a woman does, it’s understandable to say that it’s a feminine behavior, but one cannot just attribute that activity solely to women.

There is of course a good counter argument against one of these observations, because the majority of men who are overtly flamboyant are homosexual, and therefore societies observations on this are correct. But being a homosexual does not make you a woman. Just because a man is gay doesn’t mean he’s female on the inside, it in fact means that he’s more male than any other men. Being gay is perhaps in some ways the purest form of being male.

A lot of this is very abstract, and I’m not specifically trying to push any one idea, but I think that people should still think, think about everything, and that there is no reason why society should shun people or put anyone down, be they man or woman.

The album would be a celebration of being male, and people would probably be surprised and hear a lot of things that they considered to be female. But I think that’s the point, men are so used to only showing one side in society, it’s not considered manly to be involved in the arts or to dance, or to sing soprano. But it is. It’s all part of being male. It’s not shameful, it’s beautiful, and it’s a part of being male that men and women should all embrace rather than reject.

If men are oppresive to women, and women are understandably bitter and become oppresive to men, then in another thousand years women will rule society and men will begin to become oppresive to women again, and it will continue forever. The opposite of masculism and feminism are not one another, but acceptance. Human should be happy to be human, and not have the walls of male and female dividing, because really, what behavior or emotion is not common to both genders? I think that’s why so many musicians try and express androgyny: Lady Gaga, Marilyn Manson, LaRoux, because it represents being human, rather than being one type of human or another.

The good thing is, we live in a time where people are all learning to accept one another as human beings. Not male or female human beings, not black or white human beings, not French human beings or Asian human beings, but humans, people. People are learning not to practice tolerance, but love and acceptance. Tolerance is it’s own form of discrimination: if you tolerate something, the connotation is that it’s negative and must be tolerated. But being a human being is not a negative thing, it’s a beautiful thing, and we should all forget about tolerance and learn acceptance and love. People have all sides, good and bad, but those sides and those feelings are common to all human beings, not just one group or another.

So, maybe it wouldn’t be a good idea for the album to be called Male, because then it would be focusing on the secondary message of defending males, rather than the central message of acceptance and love.

So, remember to love one another. Have a great day everyone. 🙂

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