I could write a rant about some truly ridiculous things I read on Facebook and watched on YouTube yesterday. I decided not to today, because that would take a lot of time and energy, and I spent most of the morning writing today’s travel blog post about our trip to Armenia. I may not be doing anything particularly heavy hitting on this blog until I’m done with that series. I want to do a good job with it, because Armenia is a very meaningful place to me.
Still, I did want to put something up on this blog today, so I decided today, it would be a music post. This afternoon, I decided to record the REM song, “Everybody Hurts.” I did so because yesterday, while I was practicing guitar, I happened upon that song and found that it wasn’t that hard to play. It’s also a great song for practicing fingerpicking, which I really suck at.
As I was playing it on my guitar yesterday, I realized that “Everybody Hurts” is very meaningful to me. In my life, I have suffered a lot from depression and anxiety. There have been times when it’s consumed my thoughts and made me behave in ways that were distressing, embarrassing, humiliating, and demoralizing. There have been many times when I’ve wondered why I’m here. I’ve thought I was worthless, and no one would miss me if I just gave up and slipped away somewhere. I know… to many people, listening to that kind of thinking is very tiresome, frustrating, and shitty. I have a friend from college who referred to that kind of self-pity as “brently”. I’ve written the story behind “brently” in my blog, and if you are the slightest bit curious, you can click here to read it.
Even though sometimes I get a little “brently”, I know it comes from depression… “stinkin’ thinkin'” that never leads to anywhere productive or positive. It used to be much worse, though. I was clinically depressed for many years before I finally did something about it, back in the late summer of 1998. It took a few months, but my psychiatrist found the right antidepressant for me, and it changed everything. I still get kind of blue and depressed sometimes, but not like I used to. I haven’t truly felt suicidal in many years. But, because I have experience with clinical depression, I understand where “Everybody Hurts” comes from. I also love the way The Corrs covered it. The key is nice for me, and their Celtic arrangement is lovely. I happened to have a backing track of their version of the song, so I decided to try it.
But there’s a different, much funnier reason why I decided to record this song today. It has to do with Armenia. Back in the summer of 1995, I was in Peace Corps training with 31 other people, many of whom were about my age. It was just a few years after REM’s album, Automatic For The People came out. Most of us were familiar with their work, and we were all pretty fed up with training.
Peace Corps training was 12 weeks long, and it was very grueling on many levels. It was extremely hot outside, and we had no air conditioning, because we usually had no power. We were doing our work on the ninth floor of a Soviet era building. We usually had to climb the stairs to get to our training sessions. The classrooms were uncomfortably warm and stuffy, and one person enjoyed removing their shoes during our afternoon sessions… It was one inspiration for learning how to say something “stinks” in Armenian.
One day during a training session, someone got a little snippy and cranky and snapped at someone else… I don’t even think it was me, although I definitely have a tendency to get snippy and cranky when the mood strikes. And one of my cohorts, a hilarious woman named Laurel quipped, “It’s the ninth week of training and ‘Everybody Hurts’.” That was all I needed to pull me out of the afternoon funk that often struck during those days in newly post Soviet Yerevan.
So, since I’ve been writing about Armenia this week, I decided today would be a good day to try “Everybody Hurts” and put the results on YouTube. I suspect it could be one of my more successful uploads. I’m not even much of an REM fan. I do like a lot of their songs, but I never worshiped them like some of my fellow Gen Xers did (and maybe still do). I think “Everybody Hurts” is a very consoling song, though… and there’s something moving about the vulnerable yet masculine way Michael Stipe sings it. However, I also love The Corrs’ more feminine styled version, and it probably suits me better than Stipe’s. So that’s the one I did…
Welcome to Friday, y’all. Ordinarily, I’d be delighted that it’s Friday, but this week it means that Bill will be gone in 48 hours. He has to go on another business trip to Bavaria. But the good news is, next week, we’re outta here for a little over a week. Granted, part of that trip will involve seeing our dentist, and that’s not always a good time. I suspect the dentist will give Bill a ration of shit because he’s got one less tooth than the last time they saw each other. Bill is going to have to explain to our regular dentist that a more local dentist will be installing an implant. But– hey– our dentist wasn’t available when the molar bit the dust. Something had to be done immediately.
I also got a message from the first hotel we’re going to. They said they don’t have enough staff to be open during the second and third nights of our three night stays. However, because I booked an apartment, it’s still possible to stay there. We’ll just be “self catering” guests. They said they’d be giving us a 20 percent discount for the inconvenience. That’s cool. We know the town pretty well, anyway, because when we lived near Stuttgart, we used to visit there all the time. Plus, during our first Germany stint, we lived very close.
I know I could be writing about the state of the world today. There’s actually a lot going on right now that is worthy of commentary… but I just don’t feel like going there right now. As much as I’d like to speculate about what’s going to happen to Donald Trump and his merry band of buffoons, I’m just not in the mood. Ditto to pontificating about Ex, complaining about people on the Internet with extreme cognitive dissonance, or upbraiding religious people. Today, I want to write about something I did on a whim yesterday.
As some of you know, I’ve been learning to play guitar. Because I’m using the Internet instead of a live teacher, it’s been kind of slow going. But I have gotten competent enough to play somewhat decent rhythm guitar on simple songs with open chords. I’m slowly getting the hang of barre chords, and I’ve been learning some less frequently used chords. My exploration has led to learning new songs and exploring different artists.
This week, I discovered Skeeter Davis. Actually, I didn’t really “discover” her per se. I had heard of her before. She had a hit song called “The End of the World”, which she didn’t write. However, she was also a good songwriter in her own right, and wrote a lot of hits in the 60s and 70s. That was a bit before my time.
I’ve been using Chordify to learn new songs, and one of the songs Chordify suggested was Skeeter Davis’s version of the old classic, “Smile”.
As I’ve been learning this song on guitar, I’ve also been watching a lot of YouTube videos. The other day, I was bored and found myself watching the 1989 made for TV movie, The Karen Carpenter Story, for the umpteenth time. It’s kind of a lame movie, but I actually watched it the day it premiered on television on January 1, 1989. I like The Carpenters’ music, sure– but I was also a fan of Cynthia Gibb’s. She played Karen, albeit while wearing really horrible and unconvincing wigs. But the wardrobe was legit. She actually wore Karen’s clothes and lost a lot of weight to be able to fit into them!
In that movie, Cynthia Gibb– who also played Holly Laird on the Fame TV show– sang “The End of the World”. It was one of the few songs she didn’t lip sync in that movie. Karen Carpenter was evidently a fan of Skeeter Davis’s version of that song, and her rendition of “The End of the World”, so Gibb was singing the song as teenaged Karen Carpenter.
I guess the combination of playing Skeeter Davis’s version of “Smile” on guitar, and watching The Karen Carpenter Story, complete with a rendition of a song Skeeter Davis made famous, made me feel like trying “The End of the World” myself. I did so yesterday, completely on a whim. I hadn’t expected to record anything yesterday and just tried the song to see what it would sound like. Before I knew it, I was committed to making a video… and below is the end result.
The interesting thing about this video is that originally, I was going to try to do The Carpenters’ version. But I decided I didn’t like their arrangement for myself. So I downloaded three other arrangements– Skeeter Davis’s, Vonda Shepard’s, and Susan Boyle’s! I didn’t like Skeeter’s version so much, because she talks in the song, which I don’t like doing. Vonda’s version is very lush and complex, and not really fitting in with the right mood for that song, in my opinion. “The End of the World” is a plaintive song, after all. I ended up doing Susan Boyle’s much simpler version, even though I have never heard her version with her singing it. I just have a recreated karaoke track. I thought of adding harmonies, but then pictured the singer alone and heartbroken. So I didn’t add anything other than my vocals.
I ended up changing the key, doing it in “A”, which is what Karen Carpenter did it in years ago. I was going to do it in a much higher key, but decided that it made me sound too girlish. Even though this is kind of a dramatic song that might echo the sentiments of a teenager, I’m a middle aged woman… and I think there’s something to be said for a middle aged woman singing the blues about no longer having the love she used to have. So that’s what I did… and it seems to be pretty well received.
I also did a version of “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers” by Barbra Streisand and Neil Diamond. I am not a big Streisand fan, even though she has an incredible voice. I like her better as an actress than a singer. But her famous 1978 duet with Neil Diamond is heartbreaking… So I gave it a whirl, using the generic Ukrainian male staff singer at Karaoke Version to provide the male vocals. He did a good job, in spite of his heavy accent! I could have tried it as a solo song, too. Maybe I’ll do it that way at some point in time.
Anyway, below is my version of that song…
I picked up five new subscribers this week, too. One of them was my husband, Bill. I asked him to subscribe so I could have 150 subscribers– a nice round number, like my ass. But then I got two more when I posted yesterday’s song.
It’s recently dawned on me that I seem to be more popular as a YouTuber than as a blogger, although I can’t say I’m really that popular in either realm. But my videos seem to do significantly better– in terms of hits– than most of my blog posts. They are also less contentious. Maybe I should just stick to recording cover songs from the 70s and 80s and bag my “writing career”. Former tenant thought I was a hack, after all. 😉
I think “The End of the World” turned out pretty well. It’s probably one of my better performances. I don’t actually like listening to myself sing, most of the time. I like to perform– and don’t mind hearing myself as I sing, especially on a mic. But I don’t like listening to my own recordings. I guess it’s like hearing yourself speak on a recording. It sounds weird when it’s not in your head. However, the act of singing is relaxing and helps alleviate depression. I focus on the music instead of things that are downers in the world. Some people needlepoint, take dance classes, or create paintings. I sing… and I write. I used to cook, but Bill took over that chore.
Speaking of painting… Yesterday, I stumbled across a video made by a YouTuber named Sue Sloan. She has a channel dedicated to painting Dot Mandala, something I’d never heard of until yesterday, when I found her channel and Bill explained the concept to me. Sue Sloan recently changed the name of her channel to her husband’s name, because she’s dying of cancer. Her goodbye video is the first one I’d ever seen by her.
I was curious about her channel, so I checked it out… and I can see why she had a lot of subscribers. I watched her video on how to paint Dot Mandala and it made me want to go buy some art supplies. But I’m really NOT good at this kind of thing. I have trouble deciding on colors, and I’m not very neat or precise. I watch her using a compass and a ruler to make precise designs and it stresses me out. My parents were both very good at this kind of thing– Mom is a master at needle crafts, and my dad framed pictures for a living after he left the Air Force. I did NOT inherit that gene at all. I’m too much of a slob.
I do admire Sue Sloan’s artistic talents, though… Wow. I’d love to have one of these hanging in my office.
Here’s another one she did.
Well, I suppose that about does it for the Friday edition of my blog. It’s already 10:00 AM. I don’t have any big chores planned for today, but I have a habit of being too long-winded. So I’m going to bring today’s post to a close… maybe watch more YouTube videos and see what inspires me. Maybe I’ll do another song today… or watch another movie… or get outraged by news about Trump and the rest of the GOP idiots who don’t seem to think the rules apply to them (I’m looking at YOU, Lauren “Hoebert”, theater crotch groper…).
Today’s featured photo is of the new Toilight I got for Bill as a stocking stuffer. It lights the toilet at night, which we both find very handy… it also makes the water look really cool as it gets flushed. We gotta have our fun wherever we can find it.
Yesterday’s post was surprisingly popular, for my blog, anyway. I think sometimes people love a good rant, even if it’s petty and kind of stupid. I actually had fun writing that post. It gave me a lot to think about. I ended up doing a few edits after the initial posting, because I spotted some things that needed clarification, along with the usual typos. But anyway… I do love it when someone gives me a topic for my blog by way of inspiration.
This morning, I’m somewhat less inspired. Yes, I could write about how Donald Trump’s legal woes are getting worse by the day, and he’s being exposed as the crook that he is. But I don’t feel like writing about that today. The end of the year is looming, and that means it’ll soon be 2023. I realize I’m getting older and certain things just don’t matter the way they used to.
I just started reading Paulina Porizkova’s latest book. So far, it’s kind of a page turner. I liked her when she was on America’s Next Top Model and was annoyed when Tyra Banks fired her from the show. That was about when it became unwatchable for me. I think I hung in there for a couple more “cycles”, but soon gave up on it. I though Paulina was awesome on that show. In fact, I think she should have her own show. She’s very intelligent, and I like how plain spoken she is… but not in an obnoxious, narcissistic way, like Tyra is. Tyra Banks, I’m afraid, went from being a relatively pleasant host to an over-the-top nightmare.
I woke up at about 3:00 AM, thanks to Arran’s need for a potty break and demands for food. Bill took care of that, while I took a bathroom break myself. By the time I got back in the bed, I was wide awake. My stomach was annoying me, too. So, since I wasn’t going back to sleep for at least another hour or so, I opened Paulina’s book and started reading. I predict (but can’t promise) I’ll finish it quickly, and will be ready to review it by the end of the week.
I also got an alert from my favorite backing tracks Web site that Shirley Horn’s luminous version of “Here’s to Life” was available for download. I love that song, and to date, have recorded it three times. I don’t expect people to know it, but I fell in love with it in 2005, just after Hurricane Katrina. The Jordan Family did a very poignant version of the song for a fundraiser. At the time of their performance, they were still missing their father from the storm. I would actually love to record their version of the song– with the same key and arrangement. Shirley Horn’s comes closer to that than either Barbra Streisand’s and Bob Stewart’s versions do. So that’s why I decided to do the song one more time, but in a different manner. I prefer the jazzier style to the more Broadway interpretations I did before.
I couldn’t think of a pressing topic for this morning, So I spent about two hours recording Shirley Horn’s “Here’s to Life” in two different keys. I tried her original key, then went a step up. I think the higher key is better for me, so that’s the one I put on YouTube. I think both turned out pretty well, although it’s kind of a challenge to get the video right. I’m struggling with coughing, a runny nose, and an itch, too… not from a viral illness, but probably more from allergies or my lack of attention to dusting.
When I last sang “Here’s to Life”, I wrote a post about it on this blog. I wrote a bit about who composed the song, as well as some personal philosophies and other assorted stuff. It’s not a super exciting post, because I also wrote about a Facebook argument I had some time back with a cop friend of mine, and Amy Duggar King, who had just given birth at the time. And I wrote about sweet Zane, who had, at that writing, been gone from our lives for a matter of weeks. I was missing him a lot then. I still miss him, especially when I see old pictures and videos that remind me of what a sweet soul he was. I truly do hope the Rainbow Bridge is a real thing, and I can see him again someday after I’ve departed the mortal coil myself. I noticed that I wrote that post on October 10, 2019, which also happened to be the 16th anniversary of the loss of our first rescue beagle mix, CuCullain, who had bright blue eyes. He was a special soul, too. Sometimes, he seems to visit us through Noyzi.
I don’t even have those things to write about today. My dogs are impatiently waiting for me to finish up and take them for a walk. They’ve learned that when I quit doing music, it’s walk time. Usually, I play guitar before we walk, but today it was singing… which I tend to do much better. I did learn to play the rhythm version of “Maggie May” by Rod Stewart yesterday. It was surprisingly easy, with open chords that are fairly easy to tease out, even with fingers as unpracticed as mine are.
I suppose I could write about the cop videos I watched yesterday, which were surprisingly outrageous. I never understand people who get loud and belligerent with cops and expect them to cut them a break. I’ve also noticed that American cops aren’t as professional as German cops appear to be. Here, you can get a huge fine if you cuss at the cops. In the United States, people say whatever… even threaten cops and their families. The lady in yesterday’s video told one cop she hoped his wife got raped. Horrible! And then she moaned and cried because she was in handcuffs and about to be charged with a felony.
The other video involved a very bellicose drunk driver who cussed non-stop. He actually made ME blush… and I cuss like a sailor! I feel sorry for the people in this man’s life. He’s a mess. He’s got a very foul mouth, too… and if I’m saying that, it means something.
But really, I think I just want to walk the dogs before they have a fit… and then maybe go back to reading my latest book. I wish I felt more inspired to write something compelling, but I think recording a song kind of took it out of me. Maybe I’ll be back later… but I probably won’t. So have a happy hump day.
This post also appears on the travel blog, since I have different readers there. The featured photo is of cookies the landlord brought us.
I’m getting a late post up today. I was actually thinking of taking off the last day of 2021. I didn’t have anything earth shattering on my mind that I felt compelled to write about. Bill had the day off, and we were both kind of tired. Bill was especially tired, since he never gets a full night’s sleep. So I worked on reading my book, and he took a nap. Later, he’ll fire up the fondue/raclette grill set I got him for Christmas, and we’ll try it out. He’s already used the new hot tea pot I got him. He’s drinking tea as I write this.
Arran took a nap with us, while Noyzi tried to steal my brand new fuzzy slippers. I think he thinks they’re small animals. I might let him take them, but he’s already eaten a couple of toys. The emergency vet is the last place we want to go tonight.
I managed to accomplish a couple of other chores, too. After I worked on trying to rid the toilet of lime scale and calcium stains, I went on Amazon.de and bought some citric acid, as well as cleaning soda and salt. Today, I tried the acid on a really terrible hard water stain in the shower that I’ve never been able to get rid of. I poured the acid on the stain and, wouldn’t you know it? That stain was gone in minutes! There’s no trace of it. I think it’s a wonder drug. It’s hard to believe it’s taken seven years to figure this out. Vinegar is good, but citric acid is the bomb! And it’s cheap, too!
I also climbed up on a stepladder in the shower and knocked the calcium off the shower head jets, so the nice rainfall spray won’t squirt all over the place anymore. Now, the new shower head is as nice as it was in September, when it was installed.
I heard that fireworks weren’t supposed to be sold in German stores again this year. Like last year, the government wants to discourage people from setting off fireworks, because they don’t want people getting hurt and needing to go to the hospital, thanks to COVID. I suspect there will be fireworks, anyway… Germans are law abiding people, but they love fireworks on New Year’s Eve. I think that’s pretty much the only day they are allowed to be set off, at least by the regular rank and file folks. I seem to remember that there were fireworks last year, despite the ban on them.
Our New Year’s celebrations are usually pretty boring affairs. We spend them much the same way we spend any night at home… listening to music, drinking wine, and talking.
I’m hoping 2022 will be a better year for everyone… although 2021 wasn’t, for me, a particularly bad year. I’ve had worse. But this COVID-19 shit needs to be fixed. Hopefully, 2022 will bring us some breakthroughs.
In any case… I want to offer sincere thanks to everyone who’s been reading my blogs. This site, in particular, has really taken off this year! In the past month or so, I’ve had an explosion in traffic. That really does my heart good, and makes writing this blog worth the time and effort.
The travel blog has been somewhat less trafficked this year, but I can understand why. I haven’t been traveling as much… nor have many other people! I’m sure the traveling we have done may even be a downer for some folks. I know some people suffer from FOMO (fear of missing out), and it can be depressing to look at other people’s travel posts when travel is so potentially risky and definitely stressful. I am very grateful, though, that we finally managed to go to Croatia. I hope we can visit again. There are more places I want to see. And with any luck and maybe God’s grace, if you’re into God, that is– maybe COVID-19 will be more under control by this time next year.
I’m still making music, too… Been getting better with my guitar skills and can even play some songs. There are some times when I find myself playing things completely spontaneously. I still have plenty of learning to do, which is a good thing. And I’ve also found someone to collaborate with on YouTube, too, which is very rewarding. Maybe I’ll put up a new song or two, now that I have new gear. Maybe I’ll try to learn bass guitar and banjo, too… if the virus continues to spread, I might have to do something else to pass the time.
Well… I don’t have much else to say, except…
I wish everyone a happy and healthy New Year’s Eve, and a very fortuitous New Year’s Day… and 2022!
This morning, I got a beautiful instrumental hymn stuck in my head, performed on guitar by Amy Grant and Vince Gill. I hadn’t heard it in a long time, but it’s one of those pieces I never get tired of listening to, even though I am not a particularly religious person at all. It’s just so pretty…
I downloaded the album this song came from, and every once in awhile, I decide I want to hear it. This morning, it was on the brain, so I played it. Then I looked at my guitar and wondered if I could play along…
I could have tried to figure out the chords myself, but I was in a lazy mood. I ended up on a site called Chordify, which had a very useful moving chord chart that scrolled as it also played the official recording of this song. Before I knew it, I had picked up my pretty blue guitar and was playing along quite well. I messed up in a couple of places, particularly with the Em7 chord, which is a new one for me. But sure as shit stinks, it sounded pretty damned good, if I do say so myself. I think if I practiced it a couple more times, I could probably play it quite passably… at least the rhythm part. And I could work on the riff, which is probably Vince’s work. I ended up subscribing to Chordify, because it’s a really cool tool.
The COVID-19 pandemic has mostly been a drag, but there have been some unexpected gifts, like finally learning guitar. For instance, Noyzi the rescue dog continues to bring us joy. I’ve gotten to spend a lot of time with Bill, and we still get along beautifully. I finally caught up on all the episodes of Glee and even discovered a few other series I probably never would have bothered with if not for the lockdown. Reading books is slower than usual, mainly because I fall asleep when I try to read and my eyes are not as good as they once were. I really need to visit the eye doctor for a new prescription. I think it’s time for bifocals. It’s also time for a dental cleaning.
I’ve been feeling kind of nervous and grumpy about a lot of things lately, but sometimes things get put in perspective when I get smacked in the face with reality. Every once in awhile, I watch a YouTube channel run by a mortician named Caitlin Doughty who lives in Los Angeles. She has a channel called Ask a Mortician, which is quirky and often very funny and informative. I don’t watch her channel religiously– I’m more of a casual viewer, I guess. But I happened to catch her most recent video, which really touched me. She presented the perspective of what it’s like to be a mortician in L.A. during the pandemic, particularly after the holidays. A lot of people decided to throw caution to the winds and see their friends and families. Sadly, that led to many people contracting COVID-19, getting very sick, and dying.
And now, Caitlin and her mortician colleagues are overwhelmed with business… and lots of people are finding out what it’s like to have a dead body waiting to be processed. At one point in this video, Caitlin is on the verge of tears as she describes the frustration and agony of having to deal with the constant and ever growing backlog of death, as well as the friends and family members who are left hanging when someone dies of COVID-19.
I have never not taken this pandemic seriously. In my case, it’s meant mostly staying in my house and trying not to go stir crazy. I haven’t been to downtown Wiesbaden in many months. I don’t even remember the last time Bill and I were there. I bitch about the face masks because I hate them, but make no mistake, this is a very real illness and a lot of people are not going to see the other side of the pandemic. So I sit here and hope for the best… and try to make the best out of this very strange time. I realize I’m very lucky because I’m in a living situation that allows for this. I probably have Bill to thank for it, too. If we weren’t together, I would probably not be able to hunker down so well.
Today, that means exploring Chordify, which turns out to be a really cool tool for learning songs. If you pay for a subscription, which at this writing is less than 36 euros for a year, you get access to tools that show you the easiest ways to play. In my case, that means extensive use of the capo until I get better at barre chords. I do need to practice them more, by the way. But considering the fact that I have learned just about everything I know from Fender Play, I feel pretty okay about my progress since last May, when I first started this journey. And maybe before too long, I might even make a video featuring myself on vocals AND guitar. In any case, it’s probably about time I popped the guitar video cherry. Maybe sometime soon.
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