According to Julie


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Anatomy of songs

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Don’t play hard to get

Remember when I wrote that I don’t think Blurred Lines is about rape? I included this still from the “Blurred Lines” video, and said there is a lot of social commentary inherent in it:

maybe stop

… but that is another more complex story, which deserves its own blog post.

At Feminspire, Rachael Kay Albers essentially wrote the blog post I intended to write: Why I never play hard to get. (She didn’t mention Robin Thicke).

“When we structure romantic relationships so that one party is considered a prize of conquest, won only by someone strong enough to fight past objections and overcome enough Nos to reach the Holy Grail of Yes, how can we expect that this blurred view of consent won’t bleed into our sexual relationships, as well? If No means Maybe, I don’t know, I mean… at a bar, in a text, or on a date, when does it starting meaning No again?”

From a young age, girls are taught that to get a guy to like you, you should dress to get attention, and then play hard to get so he won’t think you’re too into him. So not only are we teaching guys that girls are confusing and don’t mean what they say, but we are teaching girls that no means yes. And that’s stupid for so many reasons, but it can also be flat out dangerous. If you say No, Maybe or I really shouldn’t when you mean YES – what are you supposed to say when you mean No, Maybe or I really shouldn’t?

Related post: I don’t hate Blurred Lines


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I miss the boredom and the freedom and the time spent alone

I’m growing up, and I can relate to this one MGMT lyric, from a song I used to listen to at parties, so much more now:

Yeah, I’ll miss the boredom and the freedom and the time spent alone.

I like my life now. I don’t miss being single or broke and I definitely don’t miss the general insecurity (financial, emotional, mental) of being younger. But sometimes it feels like there is too much going on, too many people who depend on me, too many projects that would stop if I didn’t do the responsible thing all the time. I’ve tried to write about this, but nothing describes it better than that one line.

Does anyone know what I mean?

Somewhat related post about growing up: In an alternate universe, I’m American


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I don’t hate “Blurred Lines”–an imagined conversation with the internet

Can you relate to this scenario? You’ve been flirting with someone for weeks, but it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. They’re obviously interested, but for whatever reason, they don’t want to do anything about it. Yet they keep giving you just enough attention to stop you from giving up hope that the flirtation will lead to anything more.

Or what about this situation? You have a crush that doesn’t fit with your image, or your own sense of what or who you thought you liked. Actually hooking up with this person would change what everyone (including you) thinks about you, so you resist – but deep down, you know you want it, so to speak.

I always thought “Blurred Lines”, Robin Thicke’s catchy and controversial hit song,  was about this kind of situation. I interpreted his message as “Admit that you’re into me, because your mixed signals are confusing.” Kind of like this:

choose a side

But maybe I’m going deaf. Maybe I’m going blind. Maybe I’m out of my mind.

Because people really disagree with me. Apparently this song is “rapey”.

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The Dimes–and how they reached me

This morning, while taking the tram to work, I started listening to The Dimes’ album The King Can Drink the Harbour Dry using Spotify on my phone.

I did this because they were recommended to me in this blog post from the blog Confused of Calcutta, in which JP Rangaswami describes being followed by The Dimes on Twitter, and then being able to buy their album in any format he wanted – and to name his own price – from their website. He writes:

In 15 minutes before lunch, a band had managed to connect with me, let me check them out, get me to the point where I went and bought their music in my preferred vinyl (along with a free copy in the more “shareable” digital format). Every step of the way they ensured I only did what I wanted to do. Nothing forced. (…) Simplicity and convenience. At my pace, in my time. Where and when I wanted to. Giving me the free right to listen and not pay. If I chose to buy, to pay what I felt like paying. Thank you The Dimes.

In addition to all that, they’re on Spotify too, which is my preferred format, so to speak.

Furthermore, they have written an album about Boston history, and another one supposedly “based on stories singer–songwriter Johnny Clay read in Depression-era newspapers, which guitarist Pierre Kaiser found under the floorboards of his 1908 Portland home”. They also really do remind me of Iron & Wine.

So they got my attention this morning, but not just because they reach out to potential customers directly through social media – a lot of people are doing that. I started to think about why they got me to listen to their music when other bands who have followed me on Twitter have often been ignored.

I think it was because they reached me through a fairly lengthy blog post with time to quote other sources that referred to an album as a“sonic postcard to historic Boston”. That happened because they connected with a blogger who writes that he cares about both music and the spread of information. And they told him – in their Twitter bio – that their music is enjoyable to fans of Iron & Wine and Fleetwood Mac. So rather than yelling “Listen to us!” randomly, they told the right person why he should.

I generally don’t follow people who haven’t tweeted in a couple months, so Twitter isn’t the best way to reach me personally if you’re not actually tweeting. But my preferences are not always a good prediction for what works in general. As a consultant, it’s good to be reminded of that regularly. In this case, the lesson is that there are a lot of ways to use Twitter. But also, that old rules of communication are still true: Know your audience.

Related posts:


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Red wine in the snow

My dad posted Tim Minchin’s Christmas song White wine in the sun the other day, about atheist Christmas:

Some of the hymns that they sing have nice chords
Though the lyrics are dodgy
And yes I have all of the usual objections to miseducation
Of children forced into a cult institution and taught to externalise blame
And to feel ashamed and to judge things as plain right or wrong
But I quite like the songs

Just like Minchin, and just like my dad, I’m not religious, but I still love Christmas. I prefer the Christmas songs about parties in the winter to the ones about Jesus, because I like to relate to lyrics. But I think Norway would have a big feast centered around lighting candles with family members even if there wasn’t a single Christian Norwegian, if only to have something to look forward to when it starts to get cold and dark. Just like Minchin, I will be travelling to another continent to meet up with family this year, and that’s what I’m looking forward to, not the presents, and certainly not the church service – which I’ve skipped for the past few years to watch over the turkey and hang out with my dad.

For two years in a row, I attempted a Christmas-music-themed advent calendar (here’s the original, with links to the old blog), meaning I blogged about Christmas music every day in December. Both years, real life got in the way. This year, I am a busy grad student, and there is no way I am going through that blogging schedule again. But as I sit here in my living room, next to blinking colorful lights and a (plastic) Christmas tree, listening to a playlist of Christmas pop/rock music, that Christmassy feeling is pulling my focus away from my Economic History essay (this week’s topic: the role of technology and policy in global trade integration in the 19th century) and towards walking around in a winter wonderland while listening to jingle bell jazz songs.

So here’s a selection of blog posts about Christmas:


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I can’t take my eyes off of you… ’til I find somebody new

Closer opens with Natalie Portman and Jude Law in slow motion, to the sound of Damien Rice. You would think the scene were designed specifically to appeal to my senses – well, mine and most girls my age in 2004.

I saw this movie twice in the movie theater back then, and I bought Damien Rice’s album O because of this scene. Most of my friends found the movie depressing. My boss voiced vague concerns about my mental health* when I played O at work. But I don’t feel depressed when I hear sad music or see a sad story about four more or less messed up people. If you’re feeling blue and for some ridiculous reason want to drag yourself even further down, watch a romantic comedy. Wonder why your life doesn’t look like that. If you want to be feel better, seek catharsis. I find sad movies somewhat comforting in their brutal honesty – and in the way they remind me that at least I’m not a character in Closer.

And so, seven years and another Damien Rice album later, I’m still fascinated and impressed by how complex Closer manages to be, even though it’s just four characters interacting in a handful of scenes over a period of four years. The trailer tagline is “If you believe in love at first sight, you never stop looking.” It’s about dating, cheating, hurting people, but actually it’s about how even when we’re trying to be confident, rational and responsible, emotions and impulses can lead us to make decisions we know are stupid and hurtful.

Of course I identify with Natalie Portman’s character because she’s the one who plays a 24-year-old girl. But she’s also the one who tells her possessive, complicated writer boyfriend, when he’s just announced that although he loves her, he’s leaving her for someone he just helplessly fell in love with:

“Oh, as if you had no choice?!?! There’s a moment, there’s always a moment: I can do this, I can give into this, or I can resist it. And I don’t know when your moment was, but I bet you there was one.”

To her, the only way to leave is by saying: I don’t love you anymore. Good-bye. And if you still love someone, you don’t leave. Which means that while she seems to submit completely and love unconditionally, it’s with the knowledge that she has absolute unbreakable rules about how things are supposed to work. Like in her job as a stripper, she gives everything, up until a certain irrevocable limit.

And I think that’s the point of this story, which so many of my friends found pointless: How much control do we really have over our emotions? When do we stop acting rationally? When does the game suddenly become too real? Or as Roger Ebert writes in a review you really shouldn’t read until after you’ve seen the film:

There is the sense that their trusts and betrayals are not fundamentally important to them; “You’ve ruined my life,” one says, and then is told, “You’ll get over it.”

Yes, unless, fatally, true love does strike at just that point when all the lies have made it impossible. Is there anything more pathetic than a lover who realizes he (or she) really is in love, after all the trust has been lost, all the bridges burnt and all the reconciliations used up?

(Vaguely) related post: Love means not leaving

* I’m doing very well, thank you. If you’re not as happy as I am, here are 11 ways to feel better.