(Top 101) #21. She Is His Only Need – Wynonna

August 3, 2011

Anybody else catch the season finale of the Bachelorette?  It was reality TV at its cheesiest, trashiest, yet vulnerably compelling best as Ashley and the bachelor with the shaved head got hot n’ heavy to the refrains of REO Speedwagon.  It didn’t bring me to tears or anything, but I had to admit, I let out the littlest of sighs.

But the happy, gooey ending wasn’t the most moving part of the show.  It was actually what happened when sweet, little Ashley had to break the heart of the Rafael Nadal-lookalike bachelor (sorry, the only guy whose name I can remember with certainty is… you guessed it, Bentley, aka the Evil Snake).  It was a must-see, trainwreck TV moment, and Rafael’s pain and anger reached poetic heights as he paraphrased a classic line from the oh-so-not-a-classic film “Cocktail”:  “Things don’t end unless they end badly.”  Well said, Rafa, well said.  I was honestly moved; oh, the power of words…

Anyhow, speaking of endings, it’s my last week here in California before I am to return to Korea (apparently, I chose a good time to come; according to one student who left a comment on my Cyworld page, it’s been raining for 23 days).  The last three weeks have pretty much floated on by, with me perpetually happy, hazy, and lazy, only coming out of my fluffy stupor for bike riding and trips to the gym.  My 3 goals for my American month were to work on my novel, set up lesson plans for next semester, and get back into shape.  Well…  Let’s just say my biceps have become nicely toned, and leave it at that.

In my (weak) defense, I should say that I find it hard to write my novel while outside of Korea.  And as for the lesson plans, I’ll still have 4 weeks left before the semester begins once I get back, so I’ll be working my behind off during that time.  I’ll have to.  I plan on actually having a life outside of work starting from this semester (choir, writing group, an actual social life), and that’s just not going to happen unless I get my lessons set up in advance.  Like they say, “Do you live to work, or do you work to live?”

Anyhow, let’s return to our Top 101 Countdown now, where we come to the highest-charting country song:  Wynonna Judd’s “She Is His Only Need.”  I first heard this song when Wynonna visited Rosie O’Donnell’s old daytime talk show, and Rosie specifically requested this song, saying that it made her cry every time.  It’s basically about a guy who loves a lass named Bonnie so much that he spends his whole life giving her everything she wants and loving her unconditionally without a single cross moment or a word of complaint.  In other words, a guy found only in a country song.  But, oh, what a song…

Every once in a while, you could see him get up

 and he’d head downtown

Cause he heard about something she wanted

and it just had to be found

21. She Is His Only Need – Wynonna

(Top 101) #22. Nothing Compares 2 U – Sinead O’ Connor

June 30, 2011

Well, I’m back.  How’ve you all been?

As for me, I’ve dedicated the last several months of my life to being the best university teacher (I don’t feel comfortable calling myself a professor without a ph.D) that I can be.  Ultimately, I’m proud to say that I can call my first semester a fairly roaring success.  I got to look at my students’ evaluations this week, and they were quite splendid, if I can say so myself, and it made all the hard work worthwhile.  Now I get two months off (paid, oh yeah!) to recharge my batteries, get back to work on my novel-to-be, return to the gym, and just decompress all around.

And of course, I now have some time to return to my Countdown.  And today’s return entry takes us back to 1990, a time when an Irish lass with a shaved head crashed into the pop culture landscape in a big, incendiary way.  That lass is of course the one and only Sinead O’ Connor.

Armed with an emotion-packed voice and a penchant for confrontation (the “enemies” she took on ranged from MC Hammer to Frank Sinatra to the Pope!!!), she caused a lot of trouble and brought on a hailstorm of criticism upon herself.  But now twenty years have gone by, and what remains more than anything is her music.  And no matter what you may have thought of her back then, I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got remains a timeless masterpiece, an album brimming with strength, pain, and intelligence, highlighted by “Nothing Compares 2 U,” a song that would have been kitschy by almost any other artist.  Miraculously, Sinead dug deep within her personal pain to turn Prince’s bordering-on-silly lyrics into a primal howl of pain.  It’s a song from a wounded animal, singing from a place of honesty where only those who have nothing left to lose roam.

I went to a doctor, and guess what he told me

He said, Girl you better try to have some fun

But he’s a fool

Cause nothing compares to you

22. Nothing Compares 2 U – Sinead O’Connor

(Top 101) #23. At This Moment –Billy Vera & the Beaters

April 17, 2011

One of my favorite novels is “The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter” by Carson McCullers.  No one did heartbreak and unreciprocated love better than Ms. McCullers.  But one of the most poignant passages in that book isn’t about romance at all.  It concerns a young girl who is precocious and talented and hears “music around her all the time” (I’m paraphrasing from memory) but has to go to work at a store to support her family and then with time, the music goes away for good.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t worried about this happening to me.  I’m not making big claims about my writing talent (although I do at the core believe in it), but my mind was always buzzing, and I was devoted to writing.  But now I’m not.  I’m working or thinking about work almost 24-7. 

But I have to keep believing in my talent and that it will be there waiting for me when I call out to it.  You’ve gotta have belief, no matter what the odds may be.  Like Billy Vera here pleading with the girl he loves, even though he knows she’s already gone.  He knows it’s pretty much hopeless, but he knows he’s gotta try…

If you stay, I’d subtract twenty years from my life

23. At This Moment – Billy Vera & the Beaters


(Top 101) #24. Push It – Garbage

April 17, 2011

Next week is Midterms Week at my university, which means I’ve just about reached the halfway mark of the semester.  It’s all been a blur and a whirlwind–blurwind?–of work, work, and more work.  But it’s all good.  I’m pushing through everything and seeing where it takes me.  So bring it on.  Make the beats go harder…

24. Push It – Garbage

Putting the ME in MENSA…

March 18, 2011

I may be a dumbass, but I’m also a genius.  It’s official:  I’m now a member of Mensa.   No, there’s no need to check your calendar; it’s not April 1st.  It’s true!!!

Okay, if you haven’t died from laughing yet, let me explain.  Some time ago, I read a book called The Know-It-All in which the author chronicled his thoughts as he read through all the volumes of the Encyclopedia Brittanica.  It was a pretty cool book, both irreverent and informative, but what really jumped out at me was the part in which the author joined Mensa and atteneded a member’s meeting to see if all his newly gained knowledge would allow him to hobnob with geniuses. 

The reason this part caught my attention so much is that he mentioned that you could get into Mensa using your old SAT scores.  Now I was pretty much a screw-up academically in high school (I wouldn’t get my act together until community college), but I still managed to do pretty well on the SATs, scoring a 1410 (620 Verbal, 790 Math).  Actually, even before that, I did even better on the PSATs, scoring 1420 (620 Verbal, a perfect 800 on Math), and so I got my picture in our high school newspaper with three other students as our scores all automatically qualified us to be National Merit Semifinalists.  It really was ridiculous, because there I was standing next to three honor students while I was rocking something like a 2.5 GPA.  The news came as such a shock to my accounting teacher, Mr. Berens, that he told another class (as one of my friends later told me) that he couldn’t even BELIEVE that I could’ve scored so high.  I remember feeling really down when I heard that and I still think it was unnecessarily mean, but in retrospect, I guess I couldn’t blame him TOO much, since I was getting a D in his class.

But anyhow, after I read the book, I looked up the Mensa website, and yup, my scores qualified me to become a member.  So I ordered a copy of my scores from the College Board, sent them off to Mensa along with a check for $100-plus for membership dues and score verification, and boom, now I’m an official card-carrying member of Mensa.

I can’t say that I didn’t have moral qualms about applying.  I mean, I’m not so self-deluded to think that I wanted to be a member “just for myself.”  If I had to swear a vow of secrecy and never reveal my memberhood to a single soul, you better believe I wouldn’t have signed that check.  People always go on about how you shouldn’t care what other people think, but the fact is, yeah, I DO care for the most part.  And maybe a part of it comes from living in Korea and some people here thinking that I’m not all that bright due to my limited Korean vocabulary.  I also have an abhorrence for talking “big” and self-aggrandizement (seriously, if I found the cure for cancer, I’d have to ask someone else to take the credit, because I’d never be able to say the words, “Oh, I have the cure for cancer”).  So it’s kind of nice to have the Mensa card just as a kind of assurance.  Right now, I’ll take any I can get!


March 18, 2011

I can’t believe it’s only been one month since my last post.  I was sure it was at least two, maybe even three.

A whole lot’s happened.  To make a long story short, my life’s become UNIVERSITIFIED, UNIVERSITALIZED, and UNIVERSITILICIOUS.  Yes, it’s been the comeback that everyone… okay, a few… all right, just me, and even me not all that much… has been waiting for:  TOMMYLAND, THE COLLEGE VERSION!!!

Yup, I’m teaching full-time again, this time at a Korean university, and it’s pretty much taken over all life.  In the last several weeks, my life has gone from “sleep, eat, nap, eat, do some writing, eat, and sleep” to “teach, prep, grade, counsel, and collapse in bed for a few Zs before that dreaded alarm clock sounds.” 

It’s been tough, I can’t lie.  I’m teaching 12-13 hours a week over four days (M-Th), which might sounds nice, but the lesson prepping’s been an absolute killer.  I really, desperately want to do a good job and do right by my classes (teach them something but also keep things enjoyable), and I’m giving my all here.   By the time I’m done with my last class on Thursday, I feel exhausted and pretty much numb.  And relieved, extremely relieved that everything’s gone okay.

And that’s the good side.  Things ARE rolling alone nicely.  As of now, three weeks into the semester, I have managed to find my rhythm.  I’ve developed a nice rapport with the students; I now know what I want to teach for each class; I’ve come up with my classroom rules and grading policies; the other teachers and I are getting along well; and as draining as the work has been, it’s also been incredibly rewarding.  Ultimately, hard work pays off in just about every situation.  I’ve been able to get the ball rolling.  Now I just have to keep pushing and make sure it stays rolling.  Right now is the toughest time for all of us new teachers since we’re all figuring things out as we’re going along and we’re all developing class materials and lesson plans completely from scratch.  It’s our pay-your-dues semester.

Bottom line:  Like the wise Tim Gunn says, I’ve just gotta make it work.  And the only way to make things to work is to work yourself.  And that’s what I’m doing.

Two Fireflies (For H.S.W.)…

February 17, 2011



Under the lamppost there now lies

Brittle remains of two fireflies

Their lights faded, their wings grown still

They do not move, they never will

But there in the previous night

You would have seen a golden light

They shone to see each other fly

Under the lamppost they now lie