(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

(Top 101) #25. Last Scene – Rollercoaster

January 24, 2011

After a Friday night of soju and karaoke, a Saturday of sleeping it off, and a Sunday of comebacks at my writing group’s workshop and choir practice, I feel like I’m back in the swing of things here in Korea.  It’s quite cold here–it snowed quite a bit yesterday–but I actually like it.  The cold is waking me up from the lethargic, calorie-filled haze I happily immersed my brain in while I was in the States.  Now that I’m back, it’s time for me to reclaim my crown as the Most Productive Unemployed Person in all of the Korean Peninsula.

I’ve actually just finished an important chapter in my novel-in-perpetual-progress.  It’s the one that takes place in the city of Gyeongju, and it marks a turning point in the story.  And having gotten through it, I can actually say for the first time that the end is–at least, kinda, sorta, maybe, keeping-my-fingers-crossed–somewhere in sight.  I’ve just prepared a chapter-by-chapter layout of everything I’ve written so far, and from the likes of it, I should be coming to the end three or four chapters from now.  Of course, there’s a whole lot of rewriting that will need to happen, but my overall vision of the narrative is starting to take shape.  I just need to make sure I don’t fuck it all up now.

I can’t even imagine what it will feel like when I put my final, finishing touches on the last scene.  Speaking of which, here’s the next song on our Top 101 Countdown–also slowly but surely approaching its inevitable end–“Last Scene” by the Korean jazz-electronic-pop band, Rollercoaster.  It’s my all-time favorite Korean song.

24. Last Scene – Rollercoaster

Thinking that it must be even harder for you than for me

Doesn’t help me at all…

(Top 101) #26. Islands in the Stream – Dolly Parton & Kenny Rogers

January 19, 2011

While I was in the States, I had a lot of talks with my older brother about God and the Bible.  He’s a born-again Christian, and I’m not.

Although we don’t agree on everything, I admire him for his faith and there’s definitely a sense of peace about him that wasn’t always there before.  As for me, I don’t know.  I’m just not keen on religion, especially with all the hateful crap you see fundamentalists spewing all in religion’s name.  (My brother had a prescient line about this:  “No one hurts Christianity more than Christians.”)

But still, I do believe in God.  I don’t know if God is a He or a She, white or black, has a beard or not, or whatever, but I’ve got to think there’s something out there that’s greater than all of us.  Otherwise, life would me so random, so meaningless.  And that would just… SUCK!  All of the world’s pain, all its suffering, all the sweat, all the running around and scrambling we have to do day after day, I’ve got to think that it’s all gotta add up to something once death comes and strikes.

Is it selfish of me to think that God’s gonna reward us in the afterlife?  And I’m not just talking about myself, I’m talking about everyone, maybe even murderers.  Why?  Well, if you check out the background stories of a lot of serial killers, they’ve had incredibly abusive and messed-up lives from the get-go and never really had a chance at normalcy.  I don’t really know, but I’d like to think Heaven is a grand old party where all our sins get forgiven–no matter how great–and we get to spend eternity by our loved ones talking about how we wouldn’t have stressed so much during our days on Earth if we’d known how cool the afterlife was going to be.  And of course, there’d be an endless supply of great food and great music to keep us happy (like Dolly and Kenny here).  A beach would be nice, too, with green water and white sand… 

25. Islands in the Stream – Dolly Parton & Kenny Rogers

And the message is clear

This could be the year for the real thing

(Top 101) #27. Don’t Wanna Try – Frankie J

January 19, 2011

The first person I met upon returning to Korea was D., my ex, who had asked me to bring back some vitamins (C & D).  We met and had a quick dinner together.  It was nice, comfortable.  But yeah, it’s strange to think that you would’ve died for this person at one time, but now, it’s ‘Hey, how’ve you been?  Here are your vitamins.’ 

Still, I’m glad we were able to remain friends.  D. asked me about the book I’m writing, and I was really tempted to say, “Much of it is about you.”  Maybe I will someday.  Maybe.

26. Don’t Wanna Try – Frankie J

Tell me what’s the use in holding on

When all we do is hurt our love?