A twitter thread about Flood, by They Might Be Giants #
736435480636465152 Someday, I want to sit down and write the 100 page volume of gushing critical analysis that @tmbg’s album "Flood" deserves.
736435849403867137 In every song, there is always Yet Another Level: in lyrical poetry, in production, in musical arrangement, and in thematic sarcasm.
736436440205123585 It’s tempting on first listen to hear it as a pleasantly upbeat twee pop album
But that hides a profoundly deep darkness running throughout
736436782082838528 A darkness that both thumbs its nose at surface-focused social progress, while nihilistically accepting that life is essentially suffering.
theme from flood #
736437158391603201 Starting with the title and intro: "Why is the world in love again? Why are we marching hand in hand? Why are the ocean levels rising up?"
736437651109085185 As if to say, presciently: "No, love is not all you need. Humanity will die in the flood it has doomed itself to in its short-sightedness."
"Theme from Flood" also sets the standard for the rest of the album musically.
This will not be a jingle over 3 chords.
This is orchestral.
736438292103630849 Any of the vocal parts in "Theme from Flood", taken on their own, is a complex and interesting melody, and they weave together perfectly.
736438555514281984 Remember also, this was 1990. Music was still delivered on records and tapes that were generally always played start to finish.
736439208126992388 The year was not inconsequential. @tmbg break the fourth wall, declaring this work as emphatically NOT timeless:
736439396346429440 "It’s a brand new record, for 1990. They Might Be Giants’ brand new album, Flood."
736439735225176064 This is a flag planted in the ground of history, as if John and John wanted to be able to look back and say "We told you so."
736440751022739456 As the majesty and grandeur of that final choral crescendo fades out, we meet the contradictory opening lines of Birdhouse in Your Soul:
736440865279737856 "I’m your only friend, I’m not your only friend, but I’m a little glowing friend, but really, I’m not actually your friend, but I am"
736441344718045184 The self-contradiction is characteristicly cute wordsmithery, but also, it balances Theme’s crescendo with the deep insecurity of parenthood
736441587194986496 After the overwhelming chorus’s exit, John’s voice seems especially unsure of itself, tiptoeing into the song both musically and lyrically.
736441845786382337 The parent says to his child, "I am your friend", but also, "I must somehow be both less and more than your friend."
736441952187482113 The "little glowing friend" introduces the visual metaphor for this insecurity: a nightlight
736788849192378368 Via the nightlight metaphor, "Birdhouse" tackles a personal confrontation with mortality, love, and knowledge of one’s own insufficiency.
736789089739890688 The chorus is ambiguous:
736789275816005632 Reading 1, introducing the watcher: "Blue canary in the outlet by the light switch, who watches over you."
736789429231046657 Reading 2, addressing the canary: "Blue canary in the outlet by the light switch, who watches over you?"
736789727534141442 A nightlight has a single job: to provide comfort to a sleeping child. But it is ultimately powerless to protect from the darkness of life.
736789995411804160 This parent nightlight knows that it is not going to stick around. It asks the child to "make a little birdhouse in your soul"
As parents, we work tirelessly to instill our values and thus, a part of our SELF into our children.
This is the only immortality available.
736790645877018624 But the work is definitely not "tireless", even though, "like the Longines Symphonette, it doesn’t rest". It is draining, infinite.
736790942552723456 This infinite story is the story of all humanity, stretching back into prehistory and forward into the flood that threatens to end us.
736791152964165632 Each generation has one job, to ensure that some portion of the next generation does not crash upon the rocks of misfortune, and carries on.
The second verse drives this point home more clearly.
Across from the nightlight is a picture of a lighthouse.
736791703013597184 Looking back at our primitive ancestry, we see countless cases where those greater than ourselves overcame impossible challenges.
736792270645563392 Again, here, we see that in TMBG’s lexicon, the sea is tied to death, uncertainty, and the unknown.
736792329252544514 (See also: "I’ll Sink Manhattan", "Piece of Dirt", "My Man", and others)
736792824574709761 Were our filibustering blue canary given the respectable job of a lighthouse, Jason and the Argonauts would die gruesomely.
736793216276520960 Nevertheless, our inability to do the impossible tasks of history does not dissuade us from doing what we can in the here and now.
736793508879568896 The wish of a loving parent for their child: that no matter where they go in life, the echo of loving kindness will stay with them.
736793567843123201 Like guardian angel, the bluebird of friendliness is always there.
736794195239665664 At this point, the lyrical bulk of the song delivered, one might expect a repetitive outro. Birdhouse ends this way, but with a twist.
736794628549017600 The repetition is an increasingly layered fugue, where we first glimpse the depth of the chorus that was lying in wait all along.
736794999593934848 Anyone who’s tried to sing along to this song knows that it is impossible to do with a single voice, for that reason.
736796672366235648 None of the instruments are just banging away on chords. Everything is playing a different (compatible) melody.
736796815450771456 It’s also interesting to note the lack of a fade-out. Birdhouse ends on its own terms. It ends on purpose.
lucky ball and chain #
736797370017517568 This is primarily a country western genre-piece, but fits nicely with Flood’s theme of being an upbeat telling of a sad story.
736805136324911105 The story of Lucky Ball and Chain is not complicated. After the lyrical gymnastics of Birdhouse, it provides some needed rest.
736805302184480768 However, that’s not to say that it’s entirely straightforward. The complexity is shown, rather than told.
736806770669060096 The narrator first playfully refers to his departed ex-lover as a lucky ball and chain. He paints himself as confident, strong, happy.
736806965930643456 Yes, he lost her, but well, Whaddaya gonna do? Her loss. She threw away her baby doll, but I held onto my pride.
736807196252508160 The facade breaks down before it’s even fully completed. I was young and foolish then, but I’m old and foolish now.
736807468873846784 This poignantly drives home an important point. Enduring hardship does not guarantee learning or wisdom. Loss is sometimes just loss.
736807753214103552 Having told a story that at least partly cast himself as the strong one, the narrator leans in and gets real.
"Confidentially, she never called me baby doll.
Confidentially, I never had much pride."
Confidentially, I lack confidence.
736808373299990528 As if tearing down the facade of self-image was not enough, he digs even deeper, and we see the first reference to parenthood and family.
"Now I rock a bar-stool" (instead of rocking a baby)
"and I drink for two", a reference to a pregnant mother "eating for two"
736808749302583297 The time-bomb in his mind, then, is the realization that he didn’t just lose his lover.
He lost his child. His future.
736809654953508864 By referring to her as a ball and chain, mentioning her height, how she is sick of his rattling on, an interesting efficiency is achieved.
736809922860453888 This stanza stands in for and references all the ways that people characterize former partners as impossible to please, difficult, etc.
736810050254077953 But, all the same, 4 years later, he’s sitting in a bar telling some stranger this story.
736810289505570816 And we’re back to the self-preserving fiction. "She walked away from a happy man, I thought I was so cool"
736810821653651458 The next line introduces the first reference to "whistling" in the album. (More on that later, with "Whistling in the Dark")
736811234922663938 It’s also an explicit melodic and lyrical call out to Darlene Love’s "Today I Met the Boy I’m Gonna Marry"
"He smiled at me and then the music started playing
'Here comes the bride'
as he walked through the door"
736812676215537665 Imagining that scene, in the context of a relationship that started like Darlene Love sings about, the heartbreak deepens even further.
736813082270273536 Seeing this scene in our minds, we get there perhaps one step ahead of the narrator: "What a an asshole"
736813331927814144 But the narrator is us, and we are taken on this journey with him as he switches from remembering his denial to facing painful acceptance.
736813542007934979 "I could shake my tiny fists, and swear I wasn’t wrong, but what’s the sense in arguing when you’re all alone?"
736814260567711744 She took the fight away. Now all that’s left is his loss.
736814594081972224 Acceptance reached, the second "confidentially" verse dips back into depression. The facade of self-image is fully gone now.
736814784788594688 Confidentially, she was amazing. Even though we had nothing, I had her love, and that was perfect.
736815255741857794 The "railroad’ imagery serves partly to help establish the genre of a country-western piece, but it also highlights a recurrent theme: fate.
736815514865926144 As stages of grief go, depression can be hard to stay in. The narrator bargains for some semblance of avoiding blame by appealing to fate.
736815702275850240 He was fated to meet her, fated to fall in love, fated to lose her. A powerless (and thus blameless) creature in the universe’s hands.
736815740699836417 He is Person Man.
736816979915378692 Musically, though this song is shooting for a country-western vibe (and achieves it) the production is ridiculously layered for country.
Listen to it with headphones for optimum effect, and pay attention to the background vocals.
They move around.
736817475816284162 It’s as if 10 different melodies are all playing at once, and a poppy up-tempo western song just springs forth from the melee.
736817955468513281 When everything drops out for the chord-hits and a cappella start of "Confidentially", the sense of leaning in for a secret is palpable
736818951959646210 This song does end with a fade-out, but dropping parts one at a time so that the skeleton of the song is revealed on the way out
736820808421539840 Right before disappearing, you realize how much of the song was being carried by synth, horn, and accordion.
736821584007036928 After a pretty slow fade-out, we sit expectantly as the next song fades IN, an extremely unusual move in 1990s pop rock albums.
We hear something far away.
Down a long hall perhaps?
A tiny figure in the distance, playing a violin.
736822410029105158 Playing the HELL out of a violin, I should say. Wildly, impulsively, unconnected to anything or anyone.
736822616825036801 As if gently disturbed from their personal revery by our presence, the violinist transitions smoothly to a more orderly pace.
A drum starts
736823683918897153 Up next: Istanbul (Not Constantinople)
736823779385442304 This is the only cover on the album. If you’re not familiar with it, check out the 4 Lads version:
737151718450855936 The 4 Lads version is a bouncy playful rounded barbershop swing song. It’s light. It’s cute.
TMBG’s is… different.
737152028846084096 For starters, it’s sped up about 25%, which (given the dense tongue-twisting lyrics) makes it just on the edge of frenetic.
737152627364888576 Next, except for the violin, trumpet, and primary vocals, everything on this track is a sample.
737153007603703809 There are some truly bizarre sounds if you listen closely. The instrumentation is impossibly foreign, because it IS impossible.
737153384138964992 The thing that sounds like an accordion is a melodica that’s been sampled and played back via keyboard.
737153501323661313 The bass hits in the bridge are a coke bottle sampled and turned into a chord.
737155669921390592 The song’s lyrics are a quip about how a city changed names, and the 4 Lads’ treatment is hokey and playful.
737155942354034690 In TMBG’s recasting, in context of Flood, it’s a psychedelic paean to the fickleness and impermanence of human structures.
737156742920835072 (I forgot to mention: a bunch of the bass hits that AREN’T coke bottles are Linnell saying "Bull" sampled and pitch-shifted down.)
737157794353139716 It says a lot, I think, that the Giants were able to breathe new life into this 47-year-old song, and so thoroughly claim it as their own.
737158185006424064 Very few people today realize that this is even a cover.
Also, remember this?
737158510685736961 I don’t have much to say about this song from a critical point of view, but if you ever see @tmbg live, pray that they play Istanbul.
737158984998653953 I’d like to take a moment here to comment once again on the impeccable balance and poise in the song transitions on this album.
737159174123966465 Istanbul’s wild production is just yet another example of TMBG’s utter mastery of every technical aspect of their craft and moment.
737159315807559680 Flood is, first and foremost, a cassette tape, designed to be played in order, front then back, then repeated.
737159593042661380 When answering machines were invented, TMBG used them to get exposure, putting ads in the Village Voice for their Dial-A-Song service.
737159858739286016 On Apollo 18, the next after Flood, they created an album designed as a CD to be played on shuffle.
737160643912945664 The first album that I was able to pay money for and download (DRM-free!) was Long Tall Weekend, in 1999
737160992887472128 So, here on Flood, Istanbul isn’t just a cool song, or a weird song, or even a great redefining cover.
It’s setting us up for the next hit.
737161528315518977 The frenetic swirling harmonic-minor-flaunting violin party reaches a satisfying conclusion with one final delighted squeal.
IS TAN BULLL…
737162032537948161 What follows is a plodding series of chords on the piano, in 4/4 time, the pace of walking up stairs carrying groceries in each arm.
737163568810889216 This song doesn’t mess around.
Little on the nose. This is the song about death. (Well, explicitly.)
737163972231602177 Let’s start with the first bit first.
"I returned a bag of groceries accidentally taken off the shelf before the expiration date"
737164204461805568 It’s not that the groceries are expired. They’re fine. They were just accidentally taken off the shelf. They’re the wrong groceries.
737164350511677440 Their time had not come to be disposed of. It seemed like their purpose had been fulfilled.
But no. Accident.
737164765525463040 In an ironic reincarnation, the narrator comes back after an untimely death as a bag of groceries.
737165851535638534 The narrator wonders, knowing that he’ll never find out, if a large procession waved torches and danced on his grave.
737166148450455552 We get the impression that the narrator knows he was not well-liked. His "head falling in a basket" indicates his death was not natural.
737166533214887937 "Now it’s over, I’m dead, and I haven’t done anything that I want, or I’m still alive, and there’s nothing I want to do"
737166619810504708 There’s two ways to read this:
737166814489120769 Literally, the narrator is either dead and thus unable to fulfill his yet-unmet desires, or is now groceries, which do not have desires.
737167081704038402 But figuratively, this "damed if you do" construction inches close to being reminiscent of Hamlet’s "slings and arrows" soliloquy
737167245294469120 Either I die leaving stuff undone, or I stay alive, and don’t really want to do anything.
737167958607159296 (Note: don’t buy the bowlderized crap. Hamlet was contemplating suicide, there’s no other way to read it. He is extremely clear about this.)
737168256411176960 In "Dead", we plod step by step into the darkest of all possible themes, all the while wrapped in the emotional armor of absurdity.
737169043795251200 It asks: what, truly, is the difference between being reincarnated as groceries and being wracked by depression, without motivation or care?
737169352537972736 The middle section mourns the loss of what the narrator can never do, now that he has been reincarnated as groceries.
737169931595218944 "I will never say the word procrastinate again"
In life, he was unable to accomplish much, blocked by a lack of motivation.
737170085329010689 "I’ll never see myself in the mirror with my eyes closed"
737170254359461888 This is impossible, of course. But we see him, in private, trying to figure this out, instead of doing something else.
737170585294241792 "I didn’t apologize for when I was 8 and I made my younger brother have to be my personal slave"
737170735915896833 He regrets his narcissism, but only now that he can no longer make amends. He put this off until it was too late.
Fate comes for us all.
737171150929682432 In the refrain, listen to the slower background vocal.
"Did a large procession dance?
Now it’s over."
737171912615301120 In the context of Flood, Dead is a complete stripping away of the many layers built up in the songs thusfar.
737172541773512704 There are only three voices: John, John, and the piano. It’s extremely simple, and yet this serves to underscore the complexity of the story
737173257577598976 "So I won’t be around ever any more. I hope y’all enjoyed my execution. I’m groceries now."
737173335415480321 It’s as if he’s too weary from life to even muster a "fuck you all for killing me".
737174956006473728 I warned you that this was a particularly dark album if you look closely.
And that the darkness thumbs its nose at liberal hypocrisy.
737175471956185088 Dead cares so little about even the most existential crisis possible, ending as simply and casually as it began.
your racist friend #
737175739775090689 And we move on to Your Racist Friend, which is about caring too much to just sit by quietly and let things go.
737175997594750976 Of all the songs on this album so far, Racist Friend is the one that most feels like an early They Might Be Giants song.
737176272917303296 In many ways, Flood turned a corner for TMBG. But Racist Friend would’ve been at home on Lincoln, or the stand-out hit on Food Shelter Fun.
737176730272563201 ("Food Shelter Fun" is their first album, also sometimes referred to as "The Pink Album", officially named "They Might Be Giants")
738629228053168128 A fun thing writing long-ish form via Twitter is that there is only time to edit for a moment. It’s a high-wire rough draft in real time.
738629528231280640 Let’s back up to an important reference in Dead that somehow I skipped past, re: "I’ll never see myself in the mirror with my eyes closed"
738629878954622976 This line is a reference to Narcissus, so obsessed with himself that he chased after his reflection in the water, and drowned.
738630216575131648 In Dead, the narrator bemoans his inability to see himself in the mirror with eyes closed. Clearly, his "eyes are closed" because he is dead
738630776422424576 Sorry for the out of order critical analysis. Twitter, amirite?
"Your Racist Friend" starts with finality: "This is where the party ends"
738631720874868736 According to John Linnell, TMBG didn’t realize that there was already a similar song by this title:
738633068630528000 While Racist Friend is a very well crafted song, a lot of Flood fans consider it by far the least interesting on the album.
738633392896385025 However, unlike Birdhouse or Dead, which wrap a difficult theme under layers of absurdity, Racist Friend goes straight for the discomfort.
738633829166907392 I dig that. As a young socially awkward person who wanted to do the right thing, this song gave me permission to make it weird.
738634505284521984 He says, "I know that this is unpleasant for you that I’m enforcing my boundary. But I’m done here. Your friend is problematic. Bye."
Once the boundary is enforced, the friend chases us down trying to make amends.
"Out from the kitchen to the bedroom to the hallway"
738635694382321665 There are times when we have to go ahead and be negative, regardless of who might be bothered by "the negativity"
738636137573425152 The line "Can’t shake the devil’s hand, and say you’re only kidding" is a double reference
First, to the friend blaming their racism on being drunk.
Because that’s bullshit.
738636474594123776 Second, to the recipient of the song, who can’t hand-wave away their friend’s bad behavior.
738637158605414400 Musically, this song features a lot of rising-volume notes that build tension
738637587816943616 That rising tension all melts away in the chorus
738637931804385281 As if to capture the cognitive dissonance of wanting to both avoid conflict and maintain one’s values, and the calm once a decision is made
particle man #
738639961755246592 From the extremely relatable situation of conflicting with one’s friends’ friends, we plunge into multi-layered weirdness with Particle Man
738640597859196928 This was another song (along with Istanbul) that was put to a Tiny Toons video:
1055968817942130688 Particle Man is such a weird song to try to unpack, and in fact, I'm marking myself as a TMBG nerd by even considering it. According to The Johns, it has no meaning at all. It just is what it is.
1055969455539286016 In the words of Roland Barthes in La mort de l'auteur, "To give a text an author is to impose a limit on that text." The creator of a work of art is a collaborator and instigator of its meaning, but should not ever be seen as the final authority of that meaning.
1055970005685129216 The song is a bouncy play on the Spider-Man theme, and presents a few characters in brief vignettes.
Particle Man, the unknowably small
Triangle Man, the violent and hateful
Universe Man, the unknowably large
Person Man, the human condition
1055970598864642050 The words of the song fit into the overarching theme of Flood's nihilistic fixation with death (even for a TMBG album) and especially combined with Linnell's insistence that the song doesn't have any hidden meaning, is the most flippant and Dadaesque track on the album.
1055970858630434816 "When he's underwater, does he get wet? Or does the water get him instead? Nobody knows." There's no meaning here. No deep epiphanies. It just is what it is. Get over your damn self.
1055972038706257920 After introducing the other three characters, the wretch of Person Man is given a final sneer from the narrator. "Who came up with Person Man?" It evokes the image of an editors' room, going through ideas from a brainstorm and throwing out the trash. "The fuck is THIS shit?"
1055972762777341952 The song doesn't just "not have any deep meaning", as Linnell says. It actively thumbs its nose at the very idea of finding deep meaning in life. It toys playfully with the futility of life in a vast unknowable universe. In the end, you get beat up by a hateful triangle. So what?
1055975579218927616 In the context of the album, Particle Man's cosmic nihilism sits right between the local interpersonal dramas of Racist Friend and Twisting. As if to say that, in the grand scheme of things, our human preoccupations are ultimately petty and pointless.
"Twisting" is a deliciously tangled knot of cultural references, and in many ways, encapsulates the essence of Flood more than any other song on the album.
The opening bars are reminiscent of Twisting By The Pool by Dire Straits.
1058867440807948290 The song is explicitly influenced by the two bands mentioned, the dB's and the Young Fresh Fellows. (Both worth checking out if you dig TMBG.) Flans told Rolling Stone "Amplifier" was "a more melodramatic iteration of the same idea." (CW suicide if you look up that song.)
1058868089335373824 For me, the dB's "Neverland" has more in common with this song in terms of feel and concept.
As much as Intro's explicit reference to 1990, this song is rooted in the late-80s indie rock scene. Flood is, as mentioned above, of a specific time and place.
1058868631012929537 The reference to the dB's and Young Fresh Fellows also sets up the exact type of guy the narrator is addressing. A young cool indie-rocker on the make, surprised to find that a girl's life does not revolve around him. Complete with smoke machine and Marshall stack.
1058869020483436545 The song describes acts of casual cruelty that she did. Set your goldfish free, now she's sighing. Blew out your pilot light, and made a wish.
She doesn't need her records back. She doesn't generally take things back.
It's over, buddy.
1058869520889049088 This is the second song in the album explicitly about a breakup, and bears a striking similarity to Lucky Ball And Chain. A guy who thinks he's so cool, struggling to accept that it's over. This time, however, the point of view has shifted external. "She doesn't miss you."
1058870057780965378 There's a moment of hope, "She wants to see you again... she wants to see you again"
"slowly twisting, in the wind." She wants to see you at the end of a rope. Suffering inescapably.
Y'all had a fight, she won.
She is Triangle Man.
1058871486457380864 Musically, this is one of my favorite songs on the album. It's at first listen a straight down the middle rock song, but blends a ton of influences and references, with a timelessness of instrumentation and format. And it's just under 2 minutes. Gets the job done and gets out.
we want a rock #
1058871977522323456 I've always felt like the first few bars of We Want A Rock feel like maybe Twisting just had a bit more to say. The one song flows right into the other, but apart from that transition, they really couldn't be more different. This is a very well sequenced album.
1058872312693288960 And, indeed, We Want A Rock picks up mid-thought with more to say, in a conversation where we aren't given context, where context had been lost to the speaker. "Where was I? I forgot the point that I was making..."
1058873739897524224 This line captures the entire theme of the song, which is a metaphor for infinite regress in a chain of thought. To wind string, you need something to wind the string around. I was saying, if I were smart, I'd work out how to get a thing like that. "Everyone" knows you need one.
1058874438282706944 How can you ever get started? Life begins already in progress, and ends before it is completed. True stories start mid-stream.
1058874783838855168 John Linnell:
This sounds really abstract, but in order to begin wrapping a piece of string around itself, you need something to start with. Like a rock. I guess you can make a ball of string starting from nothing if you just make a tiny loop at the end of the string.
1058875141923364864 JL, contd:
But it seems theoretically impossible. It's a metaphor for getting started.
1058875627636318209 The idea that "everybody wants a rock to wind a piece of string around" is the classic TMBG Unreliable Narrator showing up. It's ludicrous. "Everyone" doesn't want this thing, YOU want this thing, you're just saying "everyone" wants it to justify your own desires.
1058876867141263360 The line "If I were a carpenter" is a reference to the 1967 Tim Hardin song about staying with a lover of humble means. The reference contrasts with the breakup anthems, while calling back to Lucky Ball and Chain's railroad apartment (the "perfect place")
1058877354057945089 The song's chorus has several references to infancy. Crib doors, crawl inside, the play-house. And the nameless oppressors who "want to burn the playhouse down", to stop the people who want big prosthetic foreheads on their real heads.
1058877776130797568 These are not, however, references to parenting (like we see in Lighthouse and with the "baby doll" in Lucky Ball and Chain). Childhood here is a reference to the paternalistic way in which the narrator is attempting to pitch his idea to a gullible audience by playing the victim.
1058878238368268288 In 2018, a charismatic person who tends to lose their train of thought, selling obviously garbage ideas to a mass audience by convincing them that he's the only one who can protect them and give them what "everybody" wants is... well, oddly prescient for 1990.
1058879300890329088 In a potentially accidental (plausible deniability) greatest terrible pun of all time, the two songs "Twisting" and "We Want A Rock" (to tie a string around) appear at the end of the first side of the cassette.
Then the listener winds the tape up to play the second side.
1058879840718282752 (For the yungins following along, MP3s used to be distributed as uncompressed audio content on magnetic tape media in plastic cassettes which could only be played end to end. When one side of the tape was done, you had to wind up the remaining, and flip it over to continue.)
1058880533369778176 For the sequencing, it means that We Want A Rock is the close of the first side. After which, throw the crib doors wide, and crawl inside for the second act. This album is optimized for its medium.
The second side gets weirder, darker, and even more magnificent. Stay tuned.
1082131096337145859 Side 2 starts with a trilogy of songs about the modern workplace, which increase in intensity as they progress. "Work is Hell" is kind of a thing for TMBG.
1082131134811561985 Someone Keeps Moving My Chair tells the story of the harried office worker Mr. Horrible, and the Ugliness Men who thought that their dreadfulness might be a thing to annoy him with.
1082131185101225985 But despite the horrible business left for him to attend to, as something unpleasant that has spilled on his brain, and so on, what bothers him is that someone keeps moving his chair.
1082131249018228737 In the face of increasingly horrible situations, we are reduced to being irrationally concerned about petty annoyances.
1082131285856808960 The song is ludicrously upbeat, full of late-80s synth-pop energy, and like so many TMBG songs, if you didn't listen to the lyrics, you'd think it was deliriously happy.
1082131395990806528 The repetitiveness of the message, with the "is it ok with you?" from someone who clearly doesn't care, perfectly captures the faux optimism and fake esteem of burned coffee and fluorescent lighting.
1082131430212128768 Things are bad, but we can't talk about it what's really bad, so we get upset about our chair being moved.
1082131488001290240 This song is a masterpiece of long sentences of lyrics that perfectly line up a rolling run-on melody.
1082131549888245761 "Would it be okay with you if we wrote a reminder of things we'll forget to do today otherwise, using a green magic marker, if it's alright, on the back of your head?"
1082131649813393409 The song ends with a bang, with pretty much the same energy level that it started. The next up greets us with a much more bizarre soundscape, starting with a sample of old-timey crooning, the first recognizable words being "your mercy".
hearing aid #
1082131689936019456 "Hearing Aid" dives more directly into the malaise and angst of working a soulless office job. Behind the opening chords, we hear unspecified machines cranking away. It goes a pretty long time before the lyrics start.
1082131740808728576 The lyrics are short gut-shot vignettes.
1082131789924098048 "Frosty the supervisor lives by himself. Sometimes I feel sorry for him. Usually I can't."
Yeah, me and the boss are in this together. But fuck him.
1082131829971243008 This line reminds me a bit of Puppet Head's "ads up in the subway are the work of someone trying to please his boss, and though the guy's a pig, we all know what he wants is just to please somebody else."
1082131892936175616 There are a few TMBG songs that reference hearing loss or hearing difficulty in some way. I've often wondered if there's a bit of "fear of becoming Beethoven" aspect to it.
1082131928948469760 In this case, the hearing aid serves as a metaphor for tuning in and giving a shit. It's already hard for me to hear, but you know what? I don't need to be hearing this.
1082131964688093184 The narrator is turning off their fucks given. They sarcastically ask for more coffee, because they're not as messed up as they want to be.
1082132025157402624 Apparently by accident, TMBG release another song, Glean, 25 years later, with an alto sax line that closely mimics Hearing Aid's melody.
1082132066022506496 Compared with Chair's manic energy, Hearing Aid is morose and croony. I love this song so much. There are literally vacuum sounds in the middle. It doesn't "end" so much as just "give up".
1082132119311212544 After the second "because", it's almost like the chords and melody expect another verse and then... oh, you're not coming back? Um. Ok.
Full minute of 16th note high-hats while Flans just abuses his amp a little
1082132180669685760 As the noise winds down, it leads right into Minimum Wage, the third act in the Flood Side 2 anti-work trilogy.
minimum wage #
1082132790232080384 The lyrics could hardly be more minimal. "Minimum wage, HYAH!" whipcrack
In terms of meaning-density, this song is a masterpiece (perhaps rivaled only by their cover of "The Lady Is A Tramp"), and serves as a foil to Chair's slew of bouncing iambs and meandering triplets.
1082132860847288320 This song is short and brutally to the point, but it feels theatrical, like something that might play over the opening credits in a 1960s western. Until I realized that the keys are synth voice "Ah" sounds, and then it seems just... well, creepy
1082133170605027328 Fun fact: no whips were used in the production of the whipcrack. The wind bit is a sample of a dying Moog synthesizer, and the crack is a wet towel.
1082136493760569346 The next song, Letterbox, is a palate cleanser mood-wise, and can be interpreted a lot of ways. The simplest, and probably closest to its authors' intent, is essentially just an extended tongue-twister with some callbacks to various cliches and sayings.
1082137085614612481 Letterbox was a regular part of their live shows for quite a long time before Flood. In 1988, Linnell commented that they wrote it "about 8 years ago, back when we were young and good". But in the context of Flood, the bird theme and some other elements take on new meaning.
1274232766410878977 The reference to the titular "letterbox" is future oriented, expressing a lack of knowledge regarding what will befall the song's recipient. The ostensible source of this information would be "a little bird", which doesn't provide the information one really wants to know.
1274233202597453824 The bird, we note, is "my best friend". This harkens back to Birdhouse's convoluted but eloquent explanation of parenthood: "I'm your only friend, I'm not your only friend, but I'm a little glowing friend, but really, I'm not actually your friend (but I am)".
1274234144424292352 The visual metaphor bears a reflected similarity as well, in that both a birdhouse and a letterbox are small wooden boxes outside one's home.
One for caretaking, the other for receiving from the world.
1274236385751269377 Where Birdhouse contemplates a tiny sleeping child, and the insecurity of a new parent wondering if they'll rise to the task, Letterbox is on the other side of the relationship, dealing with the loss of connection as a child differentiates and moves on into their own future.
1274236980990099456 In a way, the puns and cliches all serve to capture the change in nature of a parent as they move from deep unspeakable awe and wonder at a newborn, to a mature parent's jokey references and cliches. "If I had a X for every time you Y, ..."
1274238299599540224 With a newborn, a parent has a relationship with a potential future, and it's a common moment for contemplation of their place in the great chain of history and society. But once grown, there is a relationship with an actual specific person, and an established dynamic.
1274239191820296192 "too late or too soon to make noise about love, and there's no time for sorrow"
In the busyness of life with a child coming into their own full adult personhood, there just isn't a good time for that kind of deep connection. Their job is to grow up, our job is to gtfo of the way
1274239629999304704 So what do we do? "Run around with a hole in the head till tomorrow."
Letterbox offers no solace, no comfort, no solution. It is what it is. I don't get to know your life as you grow into an adult. The past does not have the luxury of knowing the future. That's how it works.
1274242334629130241 The instrumentation on Letterbox reinforces the point as well. It's dominated by acoustic guitar and accordion, about as "unplugged" as TMBG gets, but then there's this backwards snare at the start and after the bridge, like the song itself is taking trying to catch its breath.
1274245224617795588 Coming after the "work sucks" trilogy of Chair/Hearing Aid/Minimum Wage, and starts another set of 3 songs that fit together, all flirting with darkness, but just hinting at its presence before retreating to playfulness.
Up next, as on the nose as can be, "Whistling in the Dark"
1274246000136253440 Of course, the title "whistling in the dark" or "whistling past the graveyard" implies keeping one's spirits high, even though there is something scary. Sometimes that's the right thing to do, but it can also lead one astray if legitimate danger goes unnoticed.
1274248101180567557 Callback in the title to Lucky Ball and Chain, where the narrator "just stood there whistling 'there goes the bride' as she walked out the door". In Ball and Chain, the narrator comes to regret his bravado. The narrator in Whistling is much more comfortable with their nature.
1274249050619932673 Whistling presents two strange dreamlike scenes, where the narrator is confronted by someone. In the first, a woman offers to poison their mind with "wrong ideas that appeal to him". Written across her scalp are the words of the chorus. The narrator tries to scream (but can't?)
1274249476257935367 In the second, a man offers to change (not poison) their mind by hitting it with a rock. This short violent exchange is understood to be a joke, and zooming out, we see that they're both in jail together. And the narrator does hit their own head.
1274250265089077249 The chorus is one of my favorite bits of poetry in the TMBG canon, largely because of what it fixates on versus what it slides past.
The narrator is only good at one thing. That one thing is: be you, be what you're like, be like yourself. They're having a wonderful time.
1274250546971414528 But, even though they are having a wonderful time accepting themselves for who they are, and not being anything different, what they'd RATHER be doing is whistling in the dark.
This is a song about someone who cannot bring themself to stop staring directly into the void.
1274251416220172289 Given how the focus and repetition of the stanza works, it is easy to skip past the "but I'd rather be". Be yourself! Whistle in the dark if that's your thing!
But that's not the narrator's thing, and despite the joy of self-acceptance, there's always a longing to be different.
1274252182817083392 The narrator in this song is terrified at the prospect of giving up this inability to whistle in the dark, by poisoning their mind with wrong ideas that appeal to them. And yet, they would actually rather doing that, if it was something they could do well.
1274252501403877376 Whistling in the dark is, unfortunately, the one and only thing that they like.
1274253493377753089 In classic TMBG and Flood fashion, Whistling is a layer cake of darkness and frivolity. The imagery is strange in the way that only nightmares can be, but the overall mood is light enough to be a kids' song.
hot cha #
1274255344902893568 The third song in this sequence is Hot Cha, bringing us back onto the subject of wayward offspring.
The three form a neat line from Letterbox's steady march to Whistling's bassy weirdness to Hot Cha's jazzy syncopation.
1274256575364882432 It's debatable whether the wayward Hot Cha refers to a child or some other family member.
John Flansberg introduces this song live as "a song that's not about my brother".
Paxus Flansberg calls Hot Cha "the most clearly-about-me song my brother has written".
1274256816474427393 Paxus went on to say:
My brother and I often played the game Derby Day when we were little and Hot Cha was horse number two and my favorite. Despite his claims otherwise, I am clear that this song on the Flood album is about me. [...]
The song refers to the first time Hot Cha went away, a float[ing] island was his home. A pretty clear reference to the time I spent hitching on sailboats across the Pacific. [...]
My brother certainly feels some affinity for the prodigal son story in light of my disappearance, and we did eat fondue together when we were growing up, which is a bit of an odd food choice.
1274257543812923392 The purpose of this project, I hasten to clarify, is emphatically NOT to determine or make the case for any particular "actual" meaning behind these songs. Our goal is to explore the meaning that emerges from the artifact itself in context and in combination with a listener.
1274258267217121281 Like all great works of art, Flood is a hodgepodge of what was available, what seemed like a good idea at the time, kinda sorta felt like it fit, and what could be shipped with the resources at hand. It is what it is.
1274258636806602754 It is great because, by design or by accident, it touches deep fundamental human themes in a profound and elegant way. We needn't get inside Johns' heads in the late 80s to interrogate or understand how that happens. They surely didn't fully grok it themselves.
1274260727386140674 All that said, Hot Cha certainly sounds like it's from the point of view of someone experiencing a mixture of annoyance and loss at their sibling leaving home. Did actual John Flansberg intentionally write it about his actual brother? It hardly matters.
1274428883526279168 This is the second reference to sibling relationships in Flood, the first being making the narrator's brother have to be their personal slave in Dead. Even the most loving sibling relationships are inextricably tied to the inevitable jumbling trauma of growing up.
1274429522641711104 Another callback to Dead, we have the line "everybody's eyes are closed", a reference back to "I'll never see myself in the mirror with my eyes closed", from that same section of Dead where the narrator regrets how they treated their younger brother poorly as a child.
1274429831581556737 Perhaps the closed eyes is why the narrator "can't see why I miss you so".
We didn't even get along. I was happy you were getting out of my hair. And now you're gone and I... miss you? Wtf.
1274430303084269568 The verses play out in three acts. In the first, Hot Cha leaves to live on a floating island, but is summoned back when "the phone rang off the hook". In the second, we learn that in Hot Cha's second departure, they left without any regard for unfinished business.
1274430773278330880 "Second time he went away, left the bathtub running over, stereo on, and cooking bacon. Never came back to tell us why."
Departure is not pretty. Children and siblings leave, return, and then eventually leave and don't return. We don't get to know why.
1274431174543171584 The contents of their Letterbox is their own business, not ours. This song is another point of view on the creation and inevitable destruction of a family of origin. Families exist to create people, but the people created change and move on. The future gives nothing to the past.
1274431702782246912 The third act expresses the longing for the sibling's return most directly, but with a barb of filial resentment. If that honey would come back, we would throw such a party. Drink and cook the prodigal son.
1274432077270708225 The sibling who stays knows that, even though narrator was the good one, if Cha returns he'll be showered with welcome and celebration.
1274432857948094464 Like so much of Flood, the complicated emotions are presented obliquely, shown but not told. Of course I miss my brother, of course I can't stop thinking about him and wondering what adventures he's having. But also, fuck that guy, where's MY parade?
1274433633600696320 Hot Cha has a swinging feel to it, but the sound is so bizarre. They took samples of a door buzzer and hitting various things with mallets and drumsticks, and then keyed them to a drumpad. All the drums are programmed and the horns are recorded through a fuzz box.
1274433992125636610 The net effect is like a collection of childhood toys played at random, but somehow a song comes out of it. Jerky and half-formed, still trying to figure out how to get to a polished swing, like a child coming into their own adulthood in the shadow of a more dynamic brother.
1274435105038073858 After Hot Cha's decisive ending, we have another grand epic in Women And Men, similar in many ways to Theme From Flood. Women And Men is a bookmark that stands alone and resets the mood for the denouement trilogy of Sapphire Bullets, They Might Be Giants, and Road Movie To Berlin
women and men #
1274435456461975553 Women and Men can be seen as a celebration of the whole human expansion project. The ship runs out of ocean and runs aground. What's in the ship? Women and men, bringing with them messages of love, and everywhere they go, love will grow.
1274435724306116608 They enter the wilds of the new land, and set up shop. This stream of people gets wider, eventually becoming an ocean, which bears more ships of more women and men.
1274436194151985152 Like Theme From Flood, however, and taken as a reflection of that opening movement, this takes on a somewhat sinister tone. The "messages of love" are whistling in the dark, ignoring the apocalyptic (and in many cases genocidal) impacts of such expansion.
1274437031465107457 Again and again in the TMBG canon, "ocean" is death and destruction; it is tumultuous, full of fickle peril. It is the flood that threatens to end us. The ocean is what the mighty lighthouse stands guard over, which the meager nightlight could never hope to aspire to. It's SCARY.
1274437281307230208 The people who crossed the ocean are only trying to make a life for themselves. They're loving, they're kind, they just wanna have kids and families. But in so doing, what do they become?
1274438074932453376 As the beneficiaries of this expansion, rolling over and erasing what was before, what are we to do? Shall we accept the messages of love, and become an ocean carrying more ships?
Flood doesn't give us "ought". Only "is". And we probably will continue expanding and destroying.
1274438551426306048 Women And Men takes the pattern of retreating from darkness to absurdity, and makes it personal. WE are the darkness. WE are the danger. WE are the flood rising.
And overall, we're happy about it. Quite pleased with ourselves, in fact.
1274441103333158912 Next up: Sapphire Bullets Of Pure Love.
There is SO much to say about this song. If Birdhouse and Particle Man are the songs from Flood that everyone (or, at least, every GenX and Millennial) knows, Sapphire Bullets is the one that perhaps looms largest for TMBG superfans.
sapphire bullets #
1274441334724587520 The title is from this short weird piece by the same name, from the Mahavishnu Orchestra
1274441895884673025 "The Sapphire Bullets" is also the name of the best TMBG cover band.
Or, I should say, FAKE cover band.
"Fake" in the sense that they're actually TMBG pretending to be a TMBG cover band.
1274442502926295041 The other fake TMBG cover band is "Count Drinkalot", where John and John would open for themselves by doing an acoustic, set wearing vampire masks, and encouraging the audience to drink, with the intent of ensuring that their real set would have a receptive audience.
1274443045052624897 TMBG have a version of this song that they play backwards, note for note and syllable for syllable. I haven't ever caught a show where they performed Stilloob, but I hope to someday. It hasn't been recorded, that I'm aware of.
(Addendum: after this twitter thread, they did perform this a few times, and it got posted online. Check it out!)
1274443500784738304 Anyway, enough gushing in-jokes.
After the epic re-introduction in Women And Men, Bullets fades in slowly, bit by bit. It feels like a song out of the middle of a musical, where it can be assumed that we already have the context, so no more is provided.
1274443953924747264 The words are sparse.
Pistol shots. Gun shots. Bullets from a revolver. Bullets from a gun. Bullets through the atmosphere.
Here they come.
1274444245605052417 There is a resignation and acceptance of the narrator's fate. He's not trying to get away or save himself. He has decided to go ahead and suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, as it were. Or maybe he knows that escape is futile in this case.
1274444809294376960 At "Here they come", the organ comes in sounding a bit like an old timey movie, at the point when the vampire knows that all hope is lost. It carries us through the next verse.
John, I've been bad, and they're coming after me.
1274445375877730304 This takes an interesting turn on the next line: "Done someone wrong, and I fear that it was me."
I've hurt someone. The someone I hurt was myself.
After this, the spare lyrics become completely poetic and enigmatic.
Sapphire bullets. Bullets of pure love.
1274445614961442817 The beauty of this song is how its sparseness can be turned in almost any direction, but no matter where it's pointed, the result is excruciatingly poignant.
1274445880402165760 The visual metaphor presents something hideous and fatal, a sense of impending doom and resignation to it, but the ultimate nature of this destruction is pure love.
The love of the parent in Birdhouse for the child who they hope will keep them alive in some way.
The love of Lucky Ball And Chain's narrator which he himself turned his back on out of pride.
The love of the Women And Men mowing down everything in their path of consumption.
1274446477650087936 Even the love of the woman presenting Whistling's narrator with wrong ideas that appeal to them, or the resentful bittersweet love of Hot Cha's narrator for his wayward brother, or the love about which Letterbox's narrator can find no good time to make noise about.
1274446762812428288 In each of these cases throughout the album, we see love tied to destruction, annihilation (personal or global), and heartache.
Sapphire Bullets doesn't stipulate which one it is. It's just: "Here it is. Love and death. That's the song."
they might be giants #
(left) "Hang on"
(right) "--Hang on tight"
They Might Be Giants (the song) is a whirlwind merry-go-round that opens with this recommendation swirling around our head.
(If you have two working ears, listen with headphones. All of Flood, really, but especially this one.)
1274582000901357569 They Might Be Giants is a song that TMBG wrote and recorded originally way back in 1985, but it didn't feel like it was a fit for the pink album or Lincoln. Where Theme roots the album firmly in 1990, this song says even more confidently, "Here we are. This is us."
1274583828791611395 John and John have described this song as their "Hey hey, we're the monkeys" track. It is in many ways the epitome of a TMBG song. Obscure samples, off the shelf drum track, absurd layering, and lyrics that hint at something much deeper. A found framework, coated in richness.
1274584340584787968 In "Gigantic", they mentioned that the origin of the name "they might be giants" is not intended to be about themselves, but outward facing. It's a reference to Don Quixote tilting at windmills, but it's everyone out there in the world who might be giants.
1274585453996326914 John and John are not the windmills -- they are Don Quixote.
1274586527113216001 But anyway this song. There are so many layers it's amazing it doesn't sound like a muddy mess, but somehow it all fits together. If you listen carefully and focus on each individual part, you quickly lose track of all the different pieces. It's dizzying, but not cacophonous.
1274587797148430341 After each of the first few sections, the parts drift out, leaving a lonely horn or guitar swinging back and forth all alone before the rest of the parts come back in. It definitely feels like a large and well-coordinated orchestra, albeit one from a faery's fever dream.
1274588245561503744 And this was done by two guys with a 4-track, using an off the shelf drum track and a vocal sample from "a kinda fake, budget version of a self-improvement program that was on a cassette we bought for, probably, 10 cents in some junk store."
1274590364268023809 The lyrics carry this further, listing a variety of things that "they" might be. The items are goofy and playful, but fit with the characteristic foreboding and anxiety that is present in the rest of Flood.
First, they might be rain, heat, or frying up a stalk of wheat.
1274591533824540679 "Stalk of Wheat" is referenced again in the song by the same name on the album Spine, where the narrator went for a walk on a stalk of wheat, and ended up losing everything and being out of ideas.
1274591629601464320 (So out of ideas, in fact, that he plucked one from a song he wrote 28 years earlier.)
1274591963191193600 In the context of Flood, the "stalk of wheat" seems, along with "Dr. Spock's backup band", to be just an intentionally absurd way to say "they could be literally anything". But in the second verse, it starts getting a bit darker. They might be brain, they might be washed.
1274592369015287808 And then we get the full vocal sample, alternating between speakers, cutting itself off.
To make the merry-go-round go faster
--So that everyone needs to hang on tighter
----just to keep from being thrown to the wolves
1274592917785473024 Tabloid footprints everywhere. We are dragged along by the hype that we've created, and we can't stop creating it, because what are we going to do if it turns out to be false? What if these are really just windmills?
1274594659629588482 That the tabloid footprints are in your hair, and "they might be bald", is a reference to Purple Toupee, a metaphor for the way period revivals tend to be based on fiction and hypocrisy. What if these maybe-giants are devoid of artifice? What if they don't play our games?
1274595100333494272 But, they might be "snow" (ie, an undifferentiated part of the background of countless other similar artists), or they might be "something else in the snow". Something that truly stands out from the static.
1274595360648749057 Or they might be fake. Lies. Big big fake fake lies.
1274595957993136128 Along with Hey Mr. DJ, Piece of Dirt, Rhythm Section Want Ad, Puppet Head, Number 3, and many other early TMBG songs, this whole track is an ironic indictment of the entire enterprise of music, entertainment, and fame. And at the same time, it casually flaunts its brilliance.
1274596852562710529 In one breath, it says "fuck you and your bullshit party", and also casually, even playfully, displays such a shocking level of technical prowess that it's impossible to discount.
1274597378989805568 While there's a lot of tracks and parts (2 guitars, 2 trumpet tracks, an entire choral arrangement of vocals), none of them are just banging away on a chord. Every one of those tracks is a worthwhile melody in its own right, but they all support one another as a cohesive piece.
1274598139182198784 The song is thus working on several levels as well. From the point of view of TMBG's would-be critics in the music industry (and remember, prior to Flood, they were small potatoes), it says "Listen asshats, yes, we're legit. We're working on a whole different level."
1274598637251604481 At the same time, looking outward as an artist trying to break into the mainstream success that will allow one to keep creating, it says, "What if they really are giants out there? Do we have a chance?" but lays its strongest hand out on the table nonetheless. We can't be silent.
1274598896212180993 Ultimately, even if the world is full of fakers and liars, heads full of tabloid footprints, they might be giants. We can't be silent. And if they aren't? We'll figure that out when we get there.
1274599352858640384 Despite the somewhat pessimistic (some might say, realistic) view of business and culture, They Might Be Giants has an extremely encouraging message. It's the rallying cry to keep going in the face of tough odds and difficult challenges.
1349480276766801920 "They Might Be Giants" fades out for a long time. Each layer gradually peels back, leaving just the weird monster voice vocals and tweaky electronic sounds. A lesser band would have ended the album on that note. Flood would still be a classic if it had.
road movie #
1349480359478534144 But no. The main attraction finished, we get the most "old movie soundtrack" song on the album, and what is, to this day, my favorite TMBG song: Road Movie To Berlin.
1349480393947287552 Road Movie drips with film noir, alcohol and smoke and low light, set against the backdrop of East German communism and the Soviet bloc. "Can't drive out the way we drove in."
1349480441846194176 This song, and the story around it, is a fascinating comment on the impermanence of human edifice. They didn't intend it to be timely when they wrote this song, or when they recorded it. At the time, the Berlin Wall seemed as permanent as anything.
1349480475799109634 Between recording and release, the wall came down. So much for that. Flans said it's strangely dated, "like pulling out my vietnam war song".
1349480559119003649 The verses aren't long, and each feels like only half of the conversation, trailing off in a deeply unsatisfying way. A conversation where much is left unsaid, getting at many of the themes and messages in the rest of Flood.
1349480600411881474 The bookends, just the image of two people in a "road movie" (a genre of movie where the characters leave home and go on a long adventure) to Berlin. But, once there, they're stuck. Can't drive out the way we drove in.
1349480632057884673 So what's to do? Sneak out a drink, and let's go for it. Why not?
1349480679642333184 "We were once so close to Heaven, Peter came out and gave us medals, declaring us the nicest of the damned." Congratulations, you tried, but you failed. Thanks for playing the "life" game, better luck next time.
1349480713557430272 This song has a verse that was included in the liner notes, and typically performed live, but didn't make it onto the recording. It is:
"You said you were the King of Liars
And I believed you and called you sire
But I realize now that I have been deceived"
1349480952234344449 The second to last verse acts as a sort of bridge before the final closing, and sums up the overarching themes of Flood perfectly:
1349480992659050498 "Time won't find the lost. It'll sweep up our skeleton bones. So take the wheel, and I will take the pedals."
1349481022975401985 There is no satisfying ending, no final wrap-up. The losses are just lost, never to be seen again. All is impermanent, all goes to dust. Our lives and great struggles are fleeting and irrelevant in the fullness of time. But we go on, together.
1349481079011385344 I am always struck by the image of one person working the pedals of a car while the other steers, an awkward and yet intimate bonding as we attempt to work together and make progress, despite the ultimate irrelevance of it all.
1349481116495822849 We are stuck with this life. We cannot escape the same way we got here. There is no turning back. The only way out is through. So let's go.
1349481241565806596 When I started this thread, I was a brand new parent, just shy of two months into this phase of my adventure. Barack Obama was president. My startup had just raised its Series A.
1349481284125356032 Now that baby who slept on my chest as I wrote those early tweets is a thoughtful precocious kid, almost 5 years old. We are at the tail-end (hopefully!) of a period of disease discord and upheaval; some of it productive, much of it pointless and painful.
1349481323468005376 So many of our hopes have evaporated and fallen through our fingers. And several wonderful things have come into my life that I wouldn't have known to hope for.
1349481359874510848 I suppose I could feel some sense of accomplishment or finality at finishing this absurd and poignant homage to such an absurd and poignant piece of art.
1349481393571545088 But mostly, it's just another thing to be washed away by the rising tide of time. More skeleton bones to be swept up.
1349481451180331014 Nihilism can depress us and make progress and forward motion feel impossible and pointless. Or it can be a calling, a beckoning warning that there is no future written in the stars, no joy but that which we make for ourselves, no time to waste.
1349481483182854144 Will you be Person Man? Will you rock a barstool, making excuses for your past failures? Or will you rise to the challenge of that long road movie, sneaking out what small peasures you can?
1349481516624035840 The world is full of absurdity if you just think to look at it critically, all this pride and folly and attachment. None of this is essential. Nothing is above examination. All is impermanent and fleeting.
1349481908288118785 Carry these petty grievances and stresses lightly. You can't take them with you. In the end, you may just be groceries on the shelf, accidentally taken off the shelf before their expiration date.
1349481955516006401 Do your best, folks. Be kind to each other. Grab the life you have while you have it. Thanks for reading.