Unchanged Melodies Insult My Intelligence

Dies Irae

(Photo credit: suyensedai)


This week’s Weekly Writing Challenge deals with how music has impacted or represents your life.  My regular readers already know to be afraid of this.  Very afraid.

Fortunately for you, those fears are well grounded.  Out of all the tunes ever written, you can probably guess what I’ll be writing about.  (Hint: it ain’t Wrecking Ball.)

Today’s post will discuss the Roman Catholic funerary hymn Dies Irae.  It just screams my personality, doesn’t it?

For those of you who don’t know the song, here’s a version that some monks performed:

Even though religion didn’t figure prominently in my home life, I attended Catholic schools growing up.  You might say that I absorbed more religion than vodka in school.  That’s vodka, not wine.  The Church endorses an occasional sip of wine from an early age.  So, I suppose I absorbed more alcohol than religion as a child and that’s why I became such an upstanding citizen.

Although the schools offered strong academics, the religious content droned on and on like the monks.  That’s not to say that the monks lack talent, but they, like theological instruction, don’t connect with listeners unless the listeners possess a preexisting desire to drink it in.  I didn’t have that.

Wine, on the other hand, connects whether you want it to or not.  That post will have to wait, though.

Back to the story: I graduated from high school and never attended church again except for weddings and funerals.  I no longer had to appear religion-friendly because I was no longer subject to religious expectations.  During these years, I picked up a CD with another version of Dies Irae… this time by a goth band called Mantus:

No, I never took on goth dress or anything like that.  In retrospect, though, I find it rather amusing that a goth band would choose to sing Catholic liturgical music, even if it was originally for funerals.  I suppose that means the band, much like myself, never became anti-religion in any real sense.  The updated hymn also makes for a more substantial listening experience than the mindless Satan worship that comes from so many cheap metal bands; I guess that’s why I’ve never gotten rid of my old goth-style music.  Goths appreciate the classics.

And then I reached graduate school, an experience that would suffice to send anyone into a greater depression than the average goth band depicts.  Fortunately, I stayed psychologically healthy and made it through to graduation.  And then I became unemployed.  Normally, unemployment is supposed to be depressing but I’ve somehow remained happy.  I guess it’s a lot easier to deal with new problems if you’re glad enough to be free of where you were.  Unfortunately, I can’t use that explanation in a job interview because it counts as badmouthing former employers.

I probably need not inform you that I discovered a more upbeat version of Dies Irae.    I may be in a morbid state of affairs but I’m still cheerful when my intelligence isn’t being insulted.  Anyway, here’s the song:

I presume you want me to finally explain the point of this whole post.  So, here we go: if your music doesn’t fit your life, change your playlist to something more suitable.  Change is liberating, and there’s something in the new tune that will hold an echo of the old… even if that echo is heresy to your earlier life.

Since I’m feeling generous, I’ll give you a second moral to the story: funerary music is much more enjoyable when it’s not being played at a funeral.

Inept Artists Insult My Intelligence

Kids can be really insightful and that’s what makes them challenging.

I took my niece shopping one day and we saw a children’s carousel with some of her favorite characters on it.  Winnie the Pooh had enchanted her for years and she yelped with joy when she saw the ride.

(Photo by Michelle Weber)

(Photo by Michelle Weber)

Unfortunately, her enthusiasm didn’t survive long.  Soon, she was crying.  And once I had calmed her she looked at me sternly and asked “Why didn’t you tell me that Pooh and Tigger aren’t real?”

Since I’m a good uncle, I understood that her parents ought to be the ones to break this kind of news to her.  Winnie the Pooh is as sacred as Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny and I did not want to interfere with my sister’s obligations; I’d rather deal with the fun uncle stuff like buying loud toys and tasty treats.

And so I reply “What makes you think Winnie the Pooh doesn’t exist?”

Her astute observation?  “Tigger’s butt doesn’t have a hole. He can’t poop, so he is fake.”

Okay, I can handle explaining this one…

Author’s note:  This didn’t really happen; the Weekly Writing Challenge was seeking stories to match the photo.  The story is true in spirit, though.  How often do our youngest relatives ask these difficult questions to family members who ought not be giving the answers? 

And why did the carousel designer make Tigger’s rear end so prominent?

Normal Childhoods Insult My Intelligence

English: Atari 7800 with cartridge and game pad

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was a weird kid.

When I was young (under 10 years old), I had an Atari and owned a game called “Tax Avoiders.”  And I chose this game myself.  I don’t know what was running through my head when I picked that game and I really can’t imagine what my parents must have thought.

BTW: If the IRS is reading this post, I’ve been a good boy.

By Atari standards, the game was silly but not horrible.  Although you couldn’t “win” the game, you aimed to get as much money as possible in one year by collecting dollar signs, not touching red tape, avoiding the tax man, and collecting tax shelters.

As a kid, I didn’t know what much of that was… except for the dollar signs.  The red tape is kind of cute, though… kind of like something out of Q-Bert.  You can jump through it and it won’t touch you.  It only affects you if your feet are on the ground.  The same goes for the dollar signs.

At the game’s conclusion, one was rewarded with an obnoxious beeping sound no matter how well one performed.  In retrospect, maybe that noise was supposed to be a police siren.  Or maybe it was a punishment for playing so one would feel the need to rush out and buy a different game.  After all, anyone playing “Tax Avoiders” should have some extra cash lying around.  (Because the game only cost three bucks, not because players were less than generous with Uncle Sam.  Don’t be so negative!)

Anyway, I found a video of the game on Youtube.  Try to enjoy it.  I dare you.  At least the disappearing elevator is entertaining…

Pen Pals Insult My Intelligence

A small United States Postal Service truck see...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

To make something unpalatable to a sixth grader, assign it as homework.

My teacher didn’t quite realize this and decided to match all of her students with pen pals from far far away… but not far enough away to make the exercise interesting.  This was back before email had caught on, so we were using good old fashioned pen and paper.  And the first letter or two counted towards our grade.

To make matters worse, we wrote the initial letter before knowing who we were being matched with.  So, technically, we weren’t even writing to anyone. That’s always a good start.

And then someone finally did the pairing.  I don’t know what logic they used but I ended up with a basketball player.  That’s all I remember about her because she sent pictures of herself in uniform.  (This was with her first letter.)  Brilliant idea.  I had a baseball card collection a long time back but I was no athlete and no fan of watching sports.  And, generally speaking, I probably would have never chosen to befriend this girl.   She just wasn’t my type.

I don’t remember whether my teacher required us to write a second letter.  However, I do remember that I never wrote again after the requirement ended.   My teacher’s attempt to inspire regular writing might have worked better if someone in charge had known how to match pen pals effectively.

It would never have occurred to me that the person on the other side was expecting another reply.  I don’t know what she and her classmates were told about this whole pen pal thing, but hopefully our level of excitement hadn’t been misrepresented.  In any case, she eventually sent me a “why haven’t you written?” letter.  I don’t remember any details but I didn’t respond.  No one ever asked me if I wanted a pen pal and, since I was twelve and only understood the exercise as a homework assignment, I couldn’t understand why someone would be so into interacting sporadically with someone they had never met, have nothing in common with, and likely would never meet.

And then I received another letter from her in 11th or 12th grade.  With another picture, again in basketball uniform and with enormous hair.  If she was insinuating “look at this hot woman you missed out on,” I didn’t catch it.  Perhaps it’s because she still wasn’t my type.

And then she finished high school and became a porn star.

Just kidding.  I never heard from or about her again and I can’t say I’m disappointed.  It probably helps that I don’t have a personal Facebook account.  And I would love to leave you with a warm and fuzzy moral to this story but I don’t feel like it today.  So here’s what I’ve got:

Once upon a time, you could ignore “friends” you had never met and get away with it without encountering much creepiness.  Those were the good old days.