Culture 18

“The Kraken” by Squirrel Nut Zippers. A musical interlude that takes you on an epic mystical journey to the land of dreams. You think I’m exaggerating? You would think that, wouldn’t you?

I had a geometry teacher who used to say that. You’d make some sort of logical blunder and answer wrongly, and he would raise his eyebrows a little bit and nod encouragingly, and say in his distinct nasal voice, “You would _think_ that, wouldn’t you?” He was a bit unsettlingly intense, but I always appreciated the sentiment. Basically he was saying, “Yes, I understand the mistake you made, and you are not stupid.” Still, I bet it was really off-putting to some people. Armenti was his name. He was quite the character. But I digress.

Culture 17

“Magic Box” by the Laurie Berkner Band. Laurie Berkner was doing her thing when my child was the right age. Steph actually took Marnie to a Laurie Berkner concert back in the day. At home, we had a Laurie Berkner DVD that saw a lot of play. Laurie Berkner is an amazing performer with incredible energy, and her music is rocky, delightfully kid-like, without being saccharine and without dumbing it down. At the center of everything, it’s a woman singing while accompanying herself on acoustic guitar. What’s not to like? I mean, Suzanne Vega, right? The Indigo Girls? C’mon. But this is for kids, and my child loved it dearly. I just showed them the video and they went on a big nostalgia trip, one that was welcome and pleasant. This is “Magic Box”, which is fairly indicative of Berkner’s work. I hope you listen and enjoy.

Culture 16

“Two Knights and Maidens” by Crash Test Dummies. I posted this song in a post called Culture 15. You can check that out to listen to the song and read the lyrics. To me, this is a profoundly tragic song. But there are other ways to interpret it. I showed the song to Steph, and she said,

“Do you think they get eaten by the tigers? Maybe the maidens befriend the tigers and get them to eat the clueless knights so the maidens can wander the beautiful garden in peace with their rockin’ pet tigers.”

Steph isn’t the only one with this type of interpretation. In a YouTube comment, somebody going by Charlotte Webster said,

“Best track on the album with a brilliant story. No idea how near or completely far off the mark it is but I’ve always assumed the Maidens are lovers but couldn’t be openly, so having been pestered to death by the randy Knights, decided to do away with them in a way that nobody (including the Knights) would suspect anything other than a tragic accident. Have the best mental image of them both being a little dark and sinister in enjoying seeing the fate of the Knights unfold but at the same time feeling justified in at least having them trip balls and believe the tigers weren’t there at all.

“Touché Maidens…”

So before I made the Culture 15 post, I had no idea these interpretations were possible. I don’t like these interpretations though. I mean, of course I like them. They’re great. But they’re not how I experience the song. I think the maidens had the best of intentions with their potions. I always picture them fleeing the tigers and then watching in helpless horror from a balcony or something as the tigers maul the knights to death, and it’s sooo sad.

There’s an anti-drug sentiment you could come away with in the song too, but I don’t interpret it that way either. I see it as a tragic tale of incautious use of psychedelics. It’s tripping 101: don’t do it in a place where tigers can be. You want a safe and comfortable setting for your trip. Especially the first one. Nothing wrong with dreams and lights. Just don’t be stupid. But now, of course, it’s too late, and the maidens have to live with their mistake forever.

Well, I mean, until they die too. It’s a sad song for me, but I temper that sadness with these new, fun interpretations from Steph and Charlotte. That’s what I call a successful Culture post.

P.S. How does it change the song for you if you learn that it’s Tony the Tiger that shows up with a couple buddies? The knights share their potions, and they all eat Frosted Flakes out in the garden. The maidens watched them together.

Culture 15

This is one of the saddest songs I know. I’m not saying it’s like super ultra sad. It just gets to me. “The maidens watched them together.” The pain. It’s a dull ache in my chest. Meanwhile, the music is transcendent. This song is a complex emotional cocktail. It is not unchallenging for me, but I enjoy it profoundly. Full lyrics below.

Once there were two knights and maidens
They’d walk together
Out in the gardens
In all kinds of weather

The knights always pestered the maidens
To love them together
Out in the gardens
And they could watch each other

The maidens had other plans for the two knights
They’d give them potions
And make them see dreams and lights

The knights took the potions gladly
They laughed at their visions
But outside the garden
Tigers smelled them together

The knights only laughed at the tigers
They thought they were visions
Out in the garden
The maidens watched them together

Ah, but for the two knights
Ah, but for maidens
Who gave to them dreams and lights

— Crash Test Dummies, “Two Knights and Maidens” (1993)

Culture 14

Do you see the way that tree bends? Does it inspire?
Leaning out to catch the sun’s rays. A lesson to be applied
Are you getting something out of this all-encompassing trip?

You can spend your time alone re-digesting past regrets
Or you can come to terms and realize you’re the only one who can’t forgive yourself
Makes much more sense to live in the present tense

— Pearl Jam, “Present Tense” (1996)

Culture 13

With a purposeful grimace and a terrible sound
He pulls the spitting high-tension wires down

Helpless people on subway trains
Scream bug-eyed as he looks in on them

He picks up a bus and he throws it back down
As he wades through the buildings toward the center of town

Oh no, they say he’s got to go
Go go Godzilla, yeah
Oh no, there goes Tokyo
Go go Godzilla, yeah

History shows again and again
How nature points up the folly of man

— Blue Oyster Cult, “Godzilla” (1977)

Culture 12

I been caught stealing
Once, when I was five
I enjoy stealing
It’s just as simple as that
Well, it’s just a simple fact
When I want something, man
I don’t want to pay for it

I walk right
Through the door
Walk right through the door
Hey all right
If I get by
It’s mine
Mine all mine

— Jane’s Addiction, “Been Caught Stealing” (1990)

Culture 11

American woman, said get away
American woman, listen what I say
Don’t come a-hangin’ around my door
Don’t want to see your face no more
I don’t need your war machines
I don’t need your ghetto scenes
Colored lights can hypnotize
Sparkle someone else’s eyes
Now woman, get away from me
American woman, mama let me be

— The Guess Who, “American Woman” (1970). The Guess Who is a Canadian band.