Happy Holidays: A Very Melancholy Halloween Playlist!

I like sometimes to become a caricature of myself. So here’s a spooky playlist just in time for Halloween. But as you might have guessed with a decidedly melancholy twist! Exactly what you want… if you’re me.

1.) John Wayne Gacy, Jr. by Sufjan Stevens

Duh. I feel like I don’t really need to explain this one. “He dressed up like a clown for them” really does all the work of justifying this song for me. Think about this song when you’re walking around at night. Assured to bring shivers to the back of your neck.

2.) Shankill Butchers by The Decemberists

Another pretty obvious pick here. I could probably have put almost all any number of Decemberists songs here. It’s kind of their jam and why I love them so much. Combination of creepy narrative with melancholy folk music. Twanging vocals. Mmm. Can’t beat it. Shankill Butchers is the delightful warning of what might occur if you don’t mind your mother’s words. Everybody moan. Everybody shake.

3.) Carissa by Sun Kil Moon

What is Halloween about, but keeping away the dread of death one year longer? So what is more terrifying than realizing yet again that death is hiding in every corner, every bag of trash, every aerosol can? And what’s more eerie than coincidental freak accidents?

4.) Street Spirit (Fade Out) by Radiohead

We’re all slowly becoming ghosts. Dying by degrees in our little suburban houses. And what’s more, we’ve done this before. And are inevitably going to do it again. We’re destined by the karmic cycle to continue returning, fading, returning, and fading. If that’s not spooky, what is!

5.) Culling of the Fold by The Decemberists

You can never have too much Decemberists, people. Plus how often do you get to hear the phrase “Ply her heart with gold and silver”? Not enough is my guess.

6.) Watching The Planets by The Flaming Lips

Oh Flaming Lips. You do so much good things. We’ve got an amazing eerie use of chimes and distortion from the very beginning. And what I’m interpreting to be some sort of Satanic rituals. Burning the Bible, for example. Followed by watching the eagle fly. Plenty of Halloweenish things to dig out of it.

7.) Two Headed Boy by Neutral Milk Hotel

“I can hear as you tap on your jar”. Let’s be real. This song is terrifying. And sad. Very very sad. Take a moment and think about all the grotesque little creatures you’ve ever seen in science rooms or old-fashioned circus sideshows. Think about the bizarre. The pathetic. The genetic mutations too sad to survive. This is the song for all of them.

8.) Ghost Under Rocks by Ra Ra Riot

Strings. Also, this just reminds me of my freshman year at Carleton when we sang this a Capella and it was the best thing ever. And it can’t be Halloween without Ghosts!

9.) Damn These Vampires by The Mountain Goats

If you haven’t figured out my preference for weird male vocalists… you maybe should. We’re all sleeping like dead men, waking up like dead men. I don’t really feel like I need to work too hard to justify this one either.

10.) Demons by The National

Beyond the title, there’s a lot to recommend this song for the list. There’s the existential horror of combating and losing to the demons we carry around inside us. Not to mention the alligators in the sewers, the pythons and the limbs. The passing buzzards in the sky. We’re all destined to see the horror of our souls projected onto the world at large.

11.) Bonus Track: It’s Halloween by The Shaggs

I can’t not. Even Dracula will be there!

So put on a costume and head out into the streets to drown your ennui with candy and festivities! Happy early Halloween!


The Death of Literature

As a self-professed writer (and believe me I understand the pretentiousness of this title), I have given quite a bit of thought to what it means to be literate in the age of the internet. Even before the internet the world was inundated with writing. That’s the appeal of being a writer after all, leaving behind a record of your thoughts, your characters, your life. Achieving immortality and the thrills of creation.

But for we who are writing now this very phenomenon has thrown up an insurmountable barrier.

My older brother recently shared an article with me about this subject: you can read it here. And while I’m not nearly so pessimistic and I don’t name drop nearly as much, I have to say I agree with the bulk of this.

The world is saturated with literature and literature about literature and literature about literature about literature. The scraggly little words I type out daily or scratch across the bound pages of my notebooks mean less than nothing. There is no traction any longer. Nothing to be said that hasn’t been said and nothing new under the sun. And it tires me more than I can say. And there isn’t a word I type or write or dream up that doesn’t fill me with the great sickness of cliche.

So why do I still want to write? Why do I still want to be an Author? Why do I even think such things are still possible?

Because I still believe in human life. Despite my pessimism, my belief that the world would be better without us, my knowledge of the psychological, environmental, and genetic controls dictating our every movement. I still believe that each and every one of us homo sapiens on this planet is special. I drank the Kool-aid. I bought the dream. Whatever.

I believe in my own uniqueness and the inherent worthiness of this as a motivator for creation. And I believe in the worthiness of every other living being. And maybe this means the death of literature. And maybe this means that all I write will be one more dying scream in the cacophony of the apocalypse. I’m still going to do it.

Call me Sisyphus, but this is my damn rock and I’m going to roll it.

(Bonus points if you can tell me whether I’m a positive person trying to be negative or a negative person trying to be positive!)