Grover Got Elected Twice

When I was a teen, my mentor would occasionally sing a funny song with all the US presidents in order by first name.  I didn’t learn the song, but one particular line stuck with me.

“For some unknown reason, Grover got elected twice.”

This is a reference to Grover Cleveland, who was elected our 22nd president, lost to Benjamin Harrison (23) and was then re-elected to be our 24th president.  He is the only president to date to serve two non-consecutive terms.

It’s amazing how facts put to music stick in our brains more effectively than facts that aren’t sing-able.  I have now learned the presidents in order thanks to a rap from a great CD that was put together for this exact reason.  (I’ve also learned the state capitals and the first 50 digits of pi from the same set of songs!)  As a kid I learned a song with the states in alphabetical order, and I still use the Animaniacs’ song Nations of the World to get through quizzes on my favorite quiz website.

Fortunately, people have taken advantage of this quirk of our brains and put together many songs to teach kids (and adults) the things that they need or want to know.

Any good songs you’ve used to learn information?

Weird Associations

Have you ever had your brain create odd associations that don’t make sense?

Right now the weirdest one I’m having is a song and a movie that (as far as I can tell) have no relationship.  Every time I hear “Little Talks” by Of Monsters and Men on the radio, I think of the movie Warm Bodies.  There is no connection between the two – the song is not on the soundtrack and the lyrics and storyline are not particularly related.  I have no idea why my brain has decided those two things go together.

Typically for me, an odd link has some clear source.  For example, music that I listened to while reading a book plays in my head when I read it again, or the book comes to mind when I hear the music.

It’s interesting to think about links like this.  If I had to guess, I’d suspect that they are most commonly a link between two different senses – a smell brings back a visual memory, a taste and a sound are connected.  The reason for this would be that it is possible to have two simultaneous, unrelated experiences when using different senses, and if they were unique enough in your life, it would be logical that your brain might put the two together.

Of course, that still doesn’t explain why the movie pops in my head when I hear the song, but that’s okay.  I like them both, so I can’t really complain.

And why is this tonight’s blog post?  I heard the song on a commercial on TV, and it started the whole train of thought.  🙂

Changing the Words

When I have brain downtime around the holidays, I sometimes change the words to the classic songs of the season.  I have made work-related versions of “The Twelve Days of Christmas” on several occasions, and even created non-holiday versions of “Oh, Tannenbaum” and “Jingle Bells” in weird-mood moments.

Stuck driving 40 mph on the highway on my way home (courtesy of compacted snow and ice), I was struck by the line “in the lane, snow is glistening,” from “Winter Wonderland.”  My reaction was initially to reply that I didn’t want snow in my lane.  And thus a new version was born.

Instead of walking in my new version, we’re driving.  Slipping, sliding, and watching snow plows instead of frolicking, playing, and building snowmen.  It was funny enough to make my family laugh, although I will admit that their humor threshold is fairly low when it comes to me.

If you haven’t ever tried your hand at spoofing a favorite song, you should give it a try.  It will use your creativity in new and fun ways!

The Power of Music

I need specific music for certain situations.

When I’m writing, I rarely have music on.  I find it distracting most of the time.  If I have to have on headphones (like when writing in the airport) I’ll put on classical music, without words.  Usually, though, no music is best for writing.

I like to have on lighter music at work.  Typically, I have the Sarah Bareilles Pandora station on in the background at my desk.  If it’s too quiet at work, I can’t concentrate as well.

I have to have high energy music for cleaning, and it’s good for cooking, too.  Without something upbeat, my energy for getting things done is much lower.

The only requirement for driving, especially long drives, is something I can sing along with.

How do you use music in your life?

Winter Songs

I love holiday music, and listening to some in my car today brought me an interesting thought.

When it comes to Christmas music, there are three broad categories.  There are religious songs (God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, Silent Night, Hark the Herald Angels Sing), there are secular songs (Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Santa Claus is Coming to Town, Silver Bells), and there are the “Christmas” songs that are really winter songs.

This last category of songs intrigues me.  These are songs like Jingle Bells, Winter Wonderland, and Let It Snow that don’t mention a holiday at all.  Quick, think of the lyrics to Frosty the Snowman or Sleigh Ride.  Any Christmas, Hanukkah, or other holiday themes or words?  Nope, didn’t think so.  This leads me to the question: why do we stop listening to them after December?

For most of the country, snow and winter last at least until February.  Let It Snow and Baby It’s Cold Outside are very romantic and legitimately more appropriate for Valentine’s Day than for Christmas.  Sleigh Ride and Jingle Bells could honestly be played as long as there is snow on the ground.  And yet they get filed away with the Christmas songs every year.

Christmas is a big holiday and it has clearly commandeered snow and winter as part of its meme.  At this point I’m not sure that winter, as a season, could take back these songs or any of the other symbols of the season from the colossus that is Christmas.  Perhaps as a gloomy, cold season, its only fair for winter to take advantage of the light and joy of the holidays it encompasses.

Writing While Distracted

Some people can write with a million things going on around them.  Some people, like fellow blogger Ben, need music to write; quiet doesn’t suit them.  I am not these people.

I can develop story anywhere, at any time, with anything going on.  I cannot, however, get it on paper with any other distractions.  If I’m writing a novel or story, forget music and don’t even think about television.  It’s not going to happen.  Sometimes I can blog with other things going on, but not often.  At work I manage to tune out the people around me when I need to write, but a lot of that writing comes from the surface of my brain.  Creative writing comes deeper, and I need to be able to reach in there and hear myself.

That, I think, is what it comes down to.  I am an auditory person; when I write I hear the words in my head.  If I am hearing other things, focusing on the words inside is harder, if not impossible.


Words of Wisdom Wednesday

Look, I remembered!  🙂

Today I would like to combine a common writing technique (metaphor) with a popular form of entertainment (songs) for our words of wisdom.

Here is a quick review for those of you who don’t remember: metaphors are comparisons between two unrelated items without using “as” or “like.”  So “Max hung from the top of his cage like a bat” is not a metaphor (it’s a simile) but “Max was a bat tonight” is a metaphor.  The general idea is to use one thing to give a better image or description of the other.

Below are some fun metaphors from songs.  They are not necessarily good songs, just fun metaphors.  Read mine and share yours!

“The world’s your oyster shell./ So what’s that funny smell?/ You eat the bivalve anyway./ You’re sick with salmonella.”  – Never Is Enough by Barenaked Ladies

“Now his career [is] LeBron’s jersey in twenty years” – Lighters by Bad Meets Evil

“I am not a nomad/…/ I was born a house cat”  – Home Life by John Mayer

The last one is a case of an entire song being a funny extended metaphor, related to the concept of a fat lady singing opera means something is over.

“She’s putting on the helmet/ the one that makes her look like a cow./ And the big pointy chest thing./ I guess you’re leaving me now” – Fat Lady by Chapter 6

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