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  • Flannels are the best shirt

    If you know me, you probably know that I have some kind of sensory processing sensitivity, which means I like things to be the same way every time. I like it a lot– to a terrifying degree, sometimes. One of the things I like to be the same way every time is my clothes, and I have a great system, and I’m going to tell you about it.

    Everybody wears jackets in the winter. You do it, I do it, even people in Florida do it sometimes. But I live in northern Illinois, and it gets COLD. This means, that when it is wintertime, layers are your friend. It is just the tail end of winter here, and I am still fully in Jacket Land– I have yet to have a day I don’t wear my coat, let alone a lot more jackets under that. This, obviously, is great flannel weather. However, I think flannels are appropriate year-round, and I’ll tell you why.

    They fit under stuff

    When you are padding yourself up in dozens of layers, the key is to have one thinner insulating layer and one thicker removable layer, as you surely well know if you are from an area that gets moderately cold– think of a coat shell and the inner insulated lining. I am a big fan of zip-up jackets, and flannels work a similar way. You pop on your flannel over your graphic tee, and then your jacket, and boom, your beautiful design is still exposed, but you’ve got two layers on top to keep you warm.

    They also fit under hoodies, if you’re feeling crazy (or cold), and even fit under MORE T-SHIRTS if you’re looking to experiment. The world is your oyster.

    They don’t irritate my skin

    I am a sensitive person. You know this. That’s the whole point of the system. And one of the things that really bugs me is certain fabrics on my arms. I can’t wear button-downs without a long-sleeve shirt underneath, I don’t like athletic clothes, I’m very particular about my bedsheets… and one annoying feeling is the sensation of pilled-up fabric on the inner sleeves of a jacket or hoodie. Want to solve that problem? Boom. A flannel. They don’t pill. You’re welcome.

    They block the sun

    You know what else I’m sensitive to? SUNBURN. Wherever my genetics belong to, it isn’t here… I was not built for the bright, direct sunlight we get in the summers. I like warm, cloudy, or temperate weather… not hot weather. Ugh.

    Anyway, if my skin is burned, or if I just need to get the sun off my arms without the hassle of a full jacket, a flannel is the way to go. They’re just thick enough to not let too much heat through, but not thick enough to trap it on me. Chef’s kiss. I’m always sure to throw a flannel in my bag when I’m travelling somewhere if I think I may be subjected to direct sunlight. Plus, if you get sick of ’em, they’re light enough to just tie around your waist.

    They’re breathable.

    That’s the other great thing about a summer flannel… it doesn’t weigh you down. If there’s a breeze, you’ll still get some, but if there isn’t, you won’t be a puddle of your own sweat. And in the winter, they don’t keep so much heat in that it becomes uncomfortable, so you don’t have to worry about wearing them.

    They’re cute

    You know what pattern I think is nice? Buffalo plaid. It’s that red-and-black checkered look that lumberjacks wear, and my fondness for it started with my interest in the YouTuber Markiplier a few years ago, who was classically known to wear them in his prime. It’s pretty and sentimental and I’ve got a buffalo plaid jacket with a black back and hood that I wear with my red, black, and white Blurryface merch and it looks SO COOL. You can have your own favorite style of flannel, but that one’s mine.

    They’re formal

    I travel very, very light (and a bit chaotically), so sometimes I get into a pickle where I need a slightly more formal outfit than I’ve brought, especially because I literally don’t own more than two or three shirts that don’t have pictures or words on them (I like to show off my fandoms, okay?). You know what can solve that problem? A quick flannel. Just button that bad boy up over your t-shirt and you instantly go from “weird loser in a video game t-shirt” to “interesting and mysterious cowboy from out of town.” If the event wasn’t formal enough to think to pack something for it, it’s usually fine.

    That’s all I have to say for now about my weird closet hack. I hope you liked it. Sorry my posts are totally off-schedule, things have been totally out of whack since I missed a week last post, so hopefully we can get back on a schedule, and if not, you’re just along for the ride!

    Fully aware of how neurodivergent this post sounded,

    Jane Bird 🪶

    P.S. from Jane – My full short story Von Karma is up on Wattpad now!! You can read it, if you want to :D. It’s a story about Manfred von Karma, a character from the game Ace Attorney, but it is far enough removed from the game that anyone can enjoy it! It’s about friendship and grief and sacrifices and what makes people do terrifying things. If you like murder mysteries, this will probably be up your alley. Click here to check it out. Much appreciated!

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  • Creator Spotlight: Johnny Harris

    I recently watched a video by the creator Johnny Harris, who makes short video essays about history and global politics and anthropology and how and why things happen, and whom I’ve been enjoying for a while, about cryptocurrency. The content of the video wasn’t anything different from any of his other videos– well researched, thoughtfully presented journalism on an interesting topic– but it was the mindset he brought to making the video that really stuck with me.

    He spends the first half of the video talking about the blockchain, and the merge– crypto stuff, I guess; explaining how good the merge was and how much one company reduced their energy consumption by a huge margin, describing a euphoric utopia where the merge ended global warming… and then the second half of the video butts in.

    In the second half of the video, there’s a knock at his studio door, and two “alters” of Johnny show up and barge into his studio: Skeptic Johnny and Crypto Johnny. Skeptic Johnny, Crypto Johnny, and the “regular” Johnny filming the video all “sit down” together to have a conversation, each representing three different positions: Skeptic Johnny not buying a word of this crypto business, Crypto Johnny vehemently defending crypto, and regular Johnny mediating the discussion and hearing out the two positions. It is a fascinating segment, both writing-wise and cinematically.

    First off, the acting is incredibly convincing. It looks like a real conversation. There are scarcely fancy camera tricks or CGI trying to force them all to appear in the same shot; you never truly think there might be three people there– and you don’t need to. You might even be going, “All right, this is a little goofy; it’s a gimmick, I get it…” but somehow, it’s still compelling– even more so than CGI would have made it. All three Johnnys really seem to interact… it’s incredible. And then, on top of that, there’s the writing.

    The two alter Johnnys are stubborn– they don’t want to listen to each other, and rarely agree. Regular Johnny pings back and forth from side to side, hearing both alters out. As someone who enjoys a good video essay, I often watch videos that lean scornfully to one position or the other, and it frustrates me so much. Someone who makes a good point undermines themself by clearly being emotionally invested– and therefore betraying my trust in their logic. They aren’t unbiased. Both Crypto Johnny and Skeptic Johnny are so distinctly emotionally slanted in opposite ways– the writers of this video clearly sat down, understood both polarizing positions, wrote a compelling argument for both sides, and then Johnny Harris sat down and played it all out beautifully. He seems angry. He seems fed up with the alters. Neither position wants to listen. The arguments we have over dinner and Twitter and in our classrooms play out in his studio.

    Right after the two alters show up, regular Johnny says something that I think sums up the point of the video perfectly: “Oh gosh, why do crypto people always have to be so polarized? Can’t we just stay curious about this new technology and just see what happens?”

    Because that’s what happens. They fight. Regular Johnny listens. The viewer learns, firsthand, what people on both sides of the argument believe. The frustration and seriousness from all sides of the discussion give it a weight that almost no other video essays I’ve seen hold.

    And then, at the end of the video, without ever having agreed about crypto– in fact, having agreed that “[holding] hands and [being] friends” is stupid… the three of them go out for drinks together.

    Sorry for the late post, and hoping to see you again soon,

    Jane Bird🪶

    P.S. My new fanfiction Von Karma is coming to Wattpad March 1! It’s a story about grief and loss and family, and I think you’d really like it. Anyone can enjoy it, and you can save it here to be updated when I post the first chapter 🙂

  • The A Plot and the B Plot: Snap-Ending Stories

    I don’t always put a lot of my writing out into the world, so most of you reading this probably will not know this, but one of the characteristic traits of my writing is a snap ending: an event that draws all the threads of the story or novel together and ends things in a (hopefully) satisfying-but-thought-provoking way… that’s the goal, anyway. I spend almost no time on falling action; the climax and it’s direct aftermath are almost always the last or close to the last scenes, sometimes with a short epilogue of some kind.

    I like to write stories that are built on a lot of tension: mysteries; will-they, won’t-they romances, the works. And I like to resolve this tension all at once, usually with a sassy little pun or reference to the source material. The thing that makes this story trope “work” and feel satisfying is tangled up in one important concept: the A plot and the B plot.

    Almost all stories have an A plot and a B plot of some kind, to varying degrees, and often stories will have even more than just two plots. But I have a formula that makes my stories feel like my stories, so I will share it with you today.

    The first key is the substance of the two plots– generally speaking, the A plot is the one the novel revolves all around, the “meat” of the story, and the B plot is a subtler, more emotionally vulnerable worry to accompany it. I will break this down more closely in an example.

    In my novella The Cough-Up Queen, main character and criminal detective Angel Starr (of Ace Attorney fame) wrestles with a case of a stolen necklace in the A plot, and falls in love against her will in the B plot. There are also complexifying elements of taking care of her nephew because her sister is sick in the hospital, and various misfortunes in her life. (What makes something a plot vs a complexifying element? Complexifying elements don’t end when the story ends, and they don’t need to. The story isn’t about them. They serve as the stage upon which the plot can shine.)

    The A plot and the B plot should pull the reader in by asking questions that beg for an answer. There are slower questions along the way (will Angel figure out the case? Why is fellow detective Jake Marshall being so mean to her?), but revolve around one large idea. In The Cough-Up Queen, the A plot is mostly about where Angel fits in in her department, and every element pushes towards the resolution of this question. Her struggles with her boss are echoed in receiving his approval in the final scene; her failure to understand new equipment is offset by her incredible skill questioning suspects; and her accidental serving of lunches with food poisoning turns in her favor when she realizes a sick suspect may lead her to a valuable clue.

    The B plot joins elbows with the A plot, sharing some elements but not all: in the B plot, she falls in half-love with her coworker, Jake. The B plot can usually be resolved more simply, by answering one question– for example, Will they end up together?

    Now, in a peak snap-ending story, both plots would be resolved in one incident. For example, in my short story The Tricade, the main character’s romance in the A plot and fear of an upcoming medical even in the B plot resolve at once when her boyfriend ends up being her doctor and she sees his true colors). If you can’t manage that, two incidents in rapid succession, each relying on the emotion of the other, will do. In The Cough-Up Queen, Angel has a date/discussion with Jake directly sandwiched between investigations of her suspect, the anxiety and excitement of each ever complementing the other.

    While you are writing a snap-ending story, always be asking yourself the question, Does this push towards the ending? And if not, How can I get this to push toward the ending? If you’re not sure of your B plot, or if it feels flat, rework it to compliment the A plot– the character should discover something emotional in the B plot that mirrors their physical or social discoveries in the A plot. For example, the A plot of The Cough-Up Queen is about Angel’s confidence and place in the world, so the awkwardness of her romance and the decision to stay friends with Jake for the time being mirror that. The discomfort is good because it makes the ending feel good when she decides they would be better off not dating. It takes confidence and trust to stand up to him, and she realizes the good feeling she had around him could just as easily be friendship.

    If you are writing a snap-ending story, don’t waste time dallying around in long, flowery prose in the climax and post-climax scenes: go straight for the heart of the matter. Pack punch with your words, but mostly with your ideas. The snap-ending brings a surprise that you might have seen coming, but you didn’t believe the story would go there, or the fulfillment of a character’s goals or growth in an unexpected way. Everything that happens should be set up before hand, so that every shock you give the reader feels like it makes perfect sense. I often, in my final scenes, draw back from third person limited (hearing the main character’s thoughts) to third person objective, or to another person’s perspective altogether, so that there is a feeling of watching the main character do what they’re doing, instead of doing it with them, which helps draw the story to a close. Sometimes this is pleasant, with hopeful overtones; and sometimes it is sad, with helpless undertones. There is almost always a bittersweet sensation to the detached ending– the ripple effects of the final scene will be complex, long after the story ends– and it should give the satisfying sensation of bringing the whole story full-circle. Everything is being resolved, for better or for worse.

    This is uniquely delicious in a fanfiction; you know the character will go on to become the thing you love or hate or envy, somewhere between the ending of the fanfic and the canon. I love doing this, and have done it in almost all my works.

    Hopefully you enjoyed this little foray into my writing style, and maybe you picked up some useful tips 🙂

    Until next time,

    Jane Bird🪶

  • Why Twenty One Pilots’ “Blurryface” is a Masterpiece of Art

    If you know me well, you probably know that my favorite band is Twenty One Pilots, consisting of the amazing talent of singer/songwriter Tyler Joseph and drummer Josh Dun. Their music came into my life a year and a half ago and totally changed it. I’m sure you have your own creator that you love in a special way, too. Their 2015 album, Blurryface, as well as being their second album (and the third album EVER) to have every song go gold or platinum, has layers of depth and richness that I think need to be explored… and so that is what I will do here.

    Musicality

    Blurryface, both as an album and song-by-song, evades categorization. It has elements of pop, hip-hop, rap, indie, rock, electro pop, and reggae. There is singing, screaming, rapping, and all three at the same time. They use guitar, piano, drums, synth patches, and tracks, with touches of more exotic ukulele and steel drum sounds, plus sounds that aren’t quite music at all, such as wind (The Judge) and train bells (Heavydirtysoul).

    I’ve had music lessons my whole life— I’ve received twelve years of piano lessons (and counting), four years of middle and high school band, two years of marching band, and I play a bit of self taught ukulele and guitar. The sound of this album, the first time I listened to it, amazed me without ceasing. From the unusual harmonies in Lane Boy to the amazing rapping in Ride, I just love it to bits.

    Title and Recurring Themes

    Blurryface is somewhat unusual in that it is neither named after a single song on the album, nor after a simple sentiment, but after the lore surrounding the album. The name Blurryface appears in only two tracks— in the pre-chorus of the smash hit, Stressed Out (“My name’s Blurryface and I / care what you think”) and the last song, Goner (“I’ve got two faces / Blurry’s the one I’m not [x2]”).

    There are recurring themes of life vs death vs sleep, self doubt, biblical allegories, darkness vs light, the inevitability of struggles and finding freedom, what you say vs what you do, and exploration of self sacrifice.

    Lyrics

    Due to the nature of the songs— containing repeating choruses/pre-choruses and bridges, with a unique rap in one or both verses— songs on Blurryface tend to have a wider theme in the repeating parts, and a more narrow message explored in the rap(s).

    Heavydirtysoul – Heavydirtysoul is thick with rap, which therefore make it ripe with ideas to analyze. It sets the tone for the album with the idea of an “unclean” or “crazy” mind, and the album’s themes of life and death are in full gear by the second rap: “Nah, I didn’t / understand a thing you said. / If I didn’t know better, I’d guess you’re all already dead. Mindless zombies walkin’ around with a limp an’ a hunch, / sayin’ stuff like, “You only live once! / You’ve got one time to figure it out, / one time to twist and one time to shout! / One time to think,” and I say we start now! / sing it with me if you know what I’m talkin’ about!” Themes of fear are also already spinning up (“Death inspires me like a dog / inspires a rabbit”) in a terrifying and bizarre bridge.

    Stressed Out – Stressed Out follows hot on the heels of Heavydirtysoul, ringing in the idea of personal fear (fear of death) with a broader social fear (I was told, when I get older, all my fears would shrink, / but now I’m insecure, and I care what people think.”) There is wonderful wordplay in the first lines of the song that drives home the theme through contrast: “I wish I found some better sounds no one’s ever heard / I wish I had a better voice that sang some better words. / I wish I found some chords in an order that is new. / I wish I didn’t have to rhyme every time I sang.” The lack of end rhyme undermines the point, but the implied “but I do” leaves the listener thinking. Then, the first appearance of Blurryface (“My name’s Blurryface and I / care what you think”), followed up by a beautiful and sentimental mix of rap and singing as the rest of the song explores how we cannot get back to our childhood and how the world tells us we need to make money and stop being nostalgic. There is also a wordplay in the second verse, “Out of student loans and treehouse homes, we all would take the latter” (latter/ladder).

    Ride – Ride is a FUN and FUNKY song that eludes interpretation- the chorus (“I’m falling, so I’m taking my time on my ride) could possibly mean that he is falling away from faith, into doubt, or towards death, so he is trying to slow down. The first verse (“I just wanna stay in the sun where I find / [I know it’s hard sometimes] / pieces of peace in the sun’s peace of mind / [I know it’s hard sometimes]. / Yeah, I think about the end just way too much / but it’s fun to fantasize / on my enemies who wouldn’t wish who I was, / but it’s fun to fantasize”) has a double entendre- in their album Vessel, the daytime or the sun represents the times that he is free from depression, and although he wants to stay there, he thinks about what would happen if he did end things and what it would do to his enemies, but it could also be interpreted that he wants to stay with the “son” (a name for Jesus in the Bible), which is a place he can find peace, and he is waiting for the end of times when everyone gets what they deserve, but it’s hard.

    The second verse slams hard into both Biblical themes and themes of life and death: “‘I’d die for you,’ that’s easy to say; / we have a list of people that we would take / a bullet for them, a bullet for you, / a bullet for everybody in this room, / but I don’t seem to see many bullets comin’ through / (see many bullets comin’ through). / Metaphorically, I’m the man, / but literally, I don’t know what I’d do. / ‘I’d live for you,’ and that’s hard to do, even harder to say when you know it’s not true, even harder to write when you know that’s a lie. / There were people back home who tried talking to you, / but then you ignored them still. / All these questions they’re for real, / like, Who would you live for? Who would you die for? / and, Would you ever kill?

    Fairly Local – This song is the first on the album not to have a full unique rap in any of it’s verses. Fairly Local dives into the dual-nature theme explored in this (and their previous) album by having two raps, in parallel structure, discussing the two sides or “ideals” of Tyler’s mind. The chorus, (“Yo, this song will never be on the radio, / even if my clique were to pick and the people were to vote. / It’s the few, the proud, and the emotional. / Yo, you, bulletproof in black like a funeral. / The world around us is burnin’ but we’re so cold; / it’s the few, the proud, and the emotional.”) discusses how he feels that much of his “important” music is understood by his small group of loyal fans, but will not reach a wide audience.

    Tear in my Heart – Tear in my Heart follows the patterns of Twenty One Pilots’ three consecutive albums Vessel, Blurryface, and Trench, of having one song “dedicated” to his love for an important person in his life (House of Gold, Tear in my Heart, and Smithereens, respectively). It is a love song about how the pain of being in love is beautiful, and even desirable; that making sacrifices for someone else can be a joy; and how the person you love can break through your “shell” and get to your heart. The rap in the bridge provides unique perspective: “You fell asleep in my / car, I drove the whole time. / But that’s okay, I’ll just avoid the holes so you sleep fine. / I’m driving here I sit, / cursing my government / for not using my taxes to fill holes with more cement!” (I also really like that he calls it “his government” and not “the government” as we often do).

    Lane Boy – Lane Boy is one of two songs on the album whose title turns a phrase in the song into a name (along with Message Man). It is relatively clear that he is the “lane boy” in the song, which is derived from the chorus (“They say, ‘Stay in your lane boy, lane boy,’ / but we go where we want to. / They think this thing is a highway, highway / but will they be alive tomorrow?”).

    The first rap then dives further into the theme of having or not having “popular sounding” music from Fairly Local: “They think this thing is a highway/ if it was our way, we’d have a tempo change every other time change, / ’cause our minds’ change on what we think is good; / I wasn’t raised in the hood, / but I know a thing or two about pain, and darkness. / If it wasn’t for this music I don’t know how I would have fought this. / Regardless, all these songs I’m hearing are so heartless. / Don’t trust a perfect person and don’t trust a song that’s flawless. Honest, / there’s a few songs on this record that feel common; I’m in constant confrontation with what I want and what is poppin’ / in the industry. It seems to me that singles on the radio are currency. / My creativity’s only free when I’m playin’ shows.” He has to write music that sounds a certain way, and it brings him freedom to write and share and perform it- the music he hears, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to have any real feeling in it.

    In the second rap, he doubles back to the previous theme from Ride about living and dying for people: “They think this thing is a highway, highway, / but will they be alive tomorrow? / I’m sorry if that question I asked last / scared you a bit like a Hazmat, in a gas mask. If you ask Zack, / he’s my brother, he likes when I rap fast. / But let’s backtrack, back to this: Who would you live and die for on that list? / But the problem is, there’s another list that exists and no one really wants to think about this. / Forget sanity, forget salary, forget vanity, my morality. / if you get in between someone I love and me, / you’re gonna feel the heat of my cavalry. / All these songs I’m hearing are so heartless. Don’t trust a perfect person and don’t trust a song that’s flawless.” Bigger threads begin to come together. The thing he is sentimental for in Stressed Out- growing up, being at home with his brother- he is not allowed to do. He can’t have what he wants and put his heart in his music, can’t make his brother happy, because he has to please the industry and make money. Then, he backtracks to the three lists from Ride: who would you live for, who would you die for, and would you ever kill? No one wants to think about it, but there are people we would want to kill- the people who hurt those we love. Our government that doesn’t use our taxes to fill holes with more cement. He doesn’t care about his sanity, or his salary, or his vanity, or his morality- if you get in between him and someone he loves, he is going to throw the only thing at you he has: his calvary. Not his weaponry -his cavalry- which is sometimes mispronounced “calvary”, but his Calvary… the hill where Jesus died. Whether he is referring to the power of Jesus, or the power of his own “death to self” is unclear, but either way you interpret it, he is making a very strong point.

    The answer to the question, “Will they be alive tomorrow?” has a complex meaning: their music, their life, has no soul in it; they’re just out here to make money, and either in the second life, or if they cross him… they may be snuffed out, while he has the hope to keep living.

    The Judge – The Judge has a different sound than all the other tracks on the album… it begins with a sound like thunder or wind on a cliff, and then a ukulele melody picks up that carries the track. It is also similar to a number of other songs, especially Not Today, in that it has a dual nature- it’s lyrics can be read in two ways. The song follows the story of a person put in front of a “judge”, begging for freedom. In the bridge, Tyler sings, “I don’t know if this song / is a surrender or a revel. / I don’t know if this one / is about me or the devil,” implying that this can either be read as himself speaking to God (“the Judge” as opposed to “his government”… this judge is bigger than just his own scope) or as the devil speaking to God.

    The first verse, (“When the leader of the bad guys sang / something soft and soaked in pain, / I heard the echo from his secret hideaway. / He must’ve forgot to close his door / as he cranked out those dismal chords, / and his four walls declared him insane”) could be read as either Tyler overhearing the devil, and having sympathy for his pain; or as the devil overhearing God lamenting for Tyler, or hearing Tyler himself singing. Then, the chorus, “I found my way, / right time, wrong place, / as I pled my case. / You’re the judge, oh no. / Set me free. / You’re the judge, oh no. / Set me free. / I know my soul’s freezing; / hell’s hot for good reason, / so please, take me.” Tyler is either begging God to take him to Heaven even though he does not deserve it, or the devil is begging for God not to punish him like the Bible promises he will.

    In the bridge, Tyler is “trapped” in his own mind, where he cannot find life or inspiration, and thinks he is better off there. (“Three lights are lit, but the fourth one’s out,” possibly referring to the Father, the Son, and the Spirit, but his own hope and joy being snuffed out.) He also says he is “best friends with his doubt,” which leads into the next song.

    Doubt – In Doubt, Tyler feels that he is going insane or losing hope (“Temperature is dropping, / temperature is dropping. / I’m not sure if I can / see this ever stopping. / Shaking hands with the dark parts of my thoughts, no. / ‘You are all that I’ve got,’ no.”) From the first lines of the song, he begins to build on the themes of fear from Heavydirtysoul and Stressed Out. “Scared of my own image, scared of my own immaturity, / scared of my own ceiling, scared I’ll die of uncertainty. / Fear might be the death of me, fear leads to anxiety. / Don’t know what’s inside of me. / Don’t forget about me, / don’t forget about me. / Even when I doubt you, / I’m no good without you.” This is sung possibly to God, following up on themes from The Judge.

    Polarize – In Polarize, Tyler gives words to the theme of having two natures- his good side and his bad side, a surrender to doubt and a revel in God. “You know where I’m coming from; / though I am running to you, / all I feel is deny, deny, denial.” He then leans further into the themes from Stressed Out. “I wanted to be a better brother, better son; / wanted to be a better adversary to the evil I have done. / I have none to show to the one I love / but deny, deny, denial.” He has not leaned into his true self enough, has followed the money and the radio time… and there is a wonderful unexpected twist in the second line, since as someone who has listened to a lot of Christian music, I expected the line to end “wanted to be a better adversary to the evil one,” but he undermines that expectation by putting on display that this is a battle between himself.

    Everything that has been building up so far- the two selves, the three lists, Tyler vs God- has a breif starring in the second verse, (“Polarize is / taking your disguises; / Separating ’em, / splitting ’em up from wrong and right. It’s / deciding where to die and deciding where to fight / deny, deny, denial.”) and then in the bridge, he doubles down on the feelings of lostness. “Domingo en fuego*, / I think I lost my halo. / I don’t know where you are. / You’ll have to come and find me, find me [x2],” and then back into the chorus, “Help me polarize, help me polarize, help me out. / My friends and I have problems. / Help me polarize, help me polarize, help me out. / My friends and I have problems.”

    *Sunday is on fire

    We Don’t Believe What’s on TV – We Don’t Believe What’s on TV is similar to Tear in my Heart in that it seems to be a kind of love song, but it focuses more on Tyler’s insecurities than his love for the girl this time. It is the first song on the album to lack a rap altogether, although it’s verses are different from each other the way that the raps are. It is about fear of failure and being alone, but it has the same painful/hopeful tone that Tear in my Heart has. The chorus and chorus set the tone: “I need to know / that when I fail, / you’ll still be here, / oh, / ’cause if you stick around, / I’ll sing you pretty sounds, / and we’ll make money selling your hair. / But I don’t care what’s in your hair, / I just wanna know what’s on your mind. I used to say I wanna die before I’m old, but because of you, I might think twice.” The hair comments may be a reference to the 1905 short story Gift of the Magi, in which a man and woman do not know what to get each other for Christmas, because they are very poor, but they love each other very much and want to get something special. The man sells his favorite, splendid little watch to buy the woman a clip for her long, beautiful hair, and the woman sells her hair to buy the man a watch chain. They are both pleased with each other’s gifts, not because they can use them, but because they feel known and loved.

    The idea of sleep is first introduced in this song, in the second verse, as it builds on more of his social fears: “What if my dream does not happen? / Would I just change what I’ve told my friends? / I don’t want to know who I would be, / when I wake up from a dreamer’s sleep.” But this fear is again followed up by another chorus, reinforcing that his love is or has the potential to be overpowering his fear.

    Message Man – This song is somewhat confusing to me, and I think I have a unique interpretation of it, but I’ll give you the best I’ve got. This is the only song other than Lane Boy to create a name out of lyrics, and I think that it gives us a clue into the meaning of the song.

    The first and second verses share a theme. “A loser hides behind / a mask of my disguise. / And who I am today / is worse than other times. (OR in verse 2 “You don’t know my brain / the way you know my name. / You don’t know my heart/ the way you know my face.”) / You don’t know what I’ve done / I’m wanted and on the run. / I’m wanted and on the run, / so I’m takin’ this moment to live in the future.” I think that he may be on the run from God, and he feels that people do not know how awful he is on the inside. Then, the chorus (“Release me from the present, I’m obsessin’, all these questions. / Why I’m in denial that they tried the suicidal session. / Please use discretion when you’re messin’ with the message, man. / These lyrics aren’t for everyone, only few understand”) gives me SUCH a strong Biblical impression. I think that he wants to be released from his questions about why Jesus had to die (the “suicidal session”), and get to the future, where he will be with God. There are three possible readings of the second to last line that I can see. 1. Please use discretion when you’re messing with the message (of the song), man; 2. Use discretion when you’re messing with the message (the Bible); or 3. Please use discretion when you’re messing with the Message Man (Jesus). This is especially poignant because there is a translation of the Bible called The Message infamous for it’s… loose translation. This theme is similar to that of Matthew 13 in the Bible- that many will hear the words of Jesus, but only few will understand it. This also applies to his music- his songs have many meanings, and he does not want people messing around with them.

    Then, in the bridge, the idea of sleep makes a smashing return: “Hope you’re dead, ’cause how could you sleep at a time like this? / People, they rhyme like this, we’re all impressed by this. / They rip it, flip it, but these are just triplets, / wrote this in three minutes, three words to a line, / it’s just poetry divided. I’m the kind of guy who takes every moment he knows he confided in. / Music to lose it for others to use it. / You’re dead, ’cause how could you sleep at a time like this? / Life is up here but you comment below, / and the comments will always become common motivation to promote your show’s next episode / so your brain knows to keep going even though hope / is far from this moment, but you and I know it gets better when morning finally rears its head. / Together we’re losers, remember the future, remember the morning is when night is dead!” In this rap, he does that Twenty One Pilots thing that I love– he says, I’m not a loser, you’re not a loser, we’re losers, and that’s okay! We’re together! There’s hope! Morning is not when night is hiding… morning is when night is dead. Our enemy will be defeated. He hopes “you”‘re dead because if you’re sleeping through people just using their platform and empty words to gain likes and streams when hope is so far away… you’re missing something. It’s night, and it’s awful, and it’s painful, but morning is coming. Suddenly, wanting to escape to the future is hopeful instead of awful.

    Hometown – Hometown is another song that stands on the shoulders of the sun/son entendre. It also relies on Jeremiah 20:9: “…his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones.”

    At the beginning of the song, Tyler seems to have quietly and peacefully given in to the reality of his suffering. “A shadow tilts its head at me. / Spirits in the dark are waiting. I will let the wind go quietly. / I will let the wind go quietly.” The “wind” here may be a reference to the noise at the beginning of The Judge, the quiet rushing that starts out the song. This time, though he’s not fighting it.

    The chorus, “Where we’re from, there’s no sun, our hometown’s in the dark,” can be read as the “sun” being about peace or lack of mental illness, as it is in other songs, or the “son” being the gospel. This may be a reference to Luke 4:24: “Then [Jesus] added, “Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in his hometown.””

    Not Today – Not Today is an incredibly powerful song in which Tyler goes back and forth with his depression, trying to fight it off, but unable. There are moments similar to Fairly Local, where the same thing is sung multiple times from both sides of an issue, but this time, it is him discussing whether he can escape from his illness. The rap is incredibly short, just a few lines in the bridge, but the whole song is wonderful and I love it.

    Goner – Goner follows in the footsteps of their other albums of ending with more of a ballad- in the last song, he is giving in to his anguish at the end of an album, sometimes swearing to fight it off, but always with hope. (“I’m a goner. / Somebody catch my breath. / I want to be known / by you.”) The name Blurryface also makes it’s second appearance on the album in Goner’s second verse. (“I’ve got two faces, Blurry’s the one I’m not. / I need your help to take him out.”) He sings to God, “Though I’m weak, / and beaten down, / I’ll slip away / into this sound. / The ghost of you / is close to me. / I’m inside out, / you’re underneath. Don’t let me be gone!” The album ends with singing and screaming and desperation and hope… only God can help him get Blurry out, the journey he goes on through the next few albums.

    Well, that’s all I’ve got time to write now, but I hope you enjoyed my analysis of this album! I think Twenty One Pilots is a really cool band- I love listening to them (and thinking about their music), and it has given me language for some things I’ve previously found really hard to express, so maybe you will like their music to.

    Until next time,

    Jane Bird🪶

  • The Most Prayerful

    I grew up in a Christian household, and I spent my childhood being shuffled between Sunday school and youth group and church services— this, of course, meant starting in middle school: church camp.

    If you’re not religious, or if you’ve never been subjected to it, church camp is where they take teenagers and pack them into a bus and send them away for a random weekend, where they get preached at and play games, and then send them back. For a person like me, church camp was the worst.

    I have some kind of sensory processing sensitivity, and camp was everything I hated: weird food, people I didn’t know well enough to feel safe with, loud music and bright lights, standing outside against my will in incredibly hot weather to watch people play violent gamers; earlier on, teen drama, and later on, just not enough breaks. For a variety of reasons, I have developed an inability to eat and be sustained by “normal” food— I eat beans for every single meal… cold, with nothing on them. This is five times a day. Luckily, I had a small group kind enough to accommodate me bringing and eating them by the time this happened. But still, year after year, it was a sacrifice at best and I hated it at worst, and year after year, I was pressured into going.

    The summer after my senior year of high school, I was considered a “super-senior”, and I was, of course, talked into going. I did not want to, but I went. On the last day, when everyone was gathered together, they gave out little awards to each super-senior, the most something or the best something, like they might do in the yearbook. They would give a little blurb (“This person is always kind and prepared, and they never let someone go unnoticed…” etc.) and then say your name and your award. I was a quiet person, and I don’t think I talked much that weekend… again, I didn’t really want to be there, and no one really cared about that. When it was my turn, I was awarded “Most Prayerful”.

    This would have been fine… if I had prayed even once that weekend.

    But I hadn’t.

    Let me back up a bit. At that time, I was swirling in a state of spiritual confusion… I had made a pact with myself, albeit probably built on a wrongful belief, that if I did not want God’s will, it would be ridiculous of me to pray. The feeling was somewhere between not wanting to have a vending-machine mentality and not wanting to mess around with something I didn’t want to get caught up in. Anyway, I had made a specific, purposeful decision not to pray, and I hadn’t. And they had named me most prayerful.

    I hadn’t told anyone that I wasn’t praying— no one ever really asked about my spirituality— and I didn’t feel sure that they would understand. I had often expressed opinions of mine and had been either “talked down” by someone into not saying something so strong, not understood clearly, or almost… pitied? Certainly condescended. So I hadn’t said anything… but it made me realize how much they didn’t know me. They hadn’t seen a single prayer out of me… they had just… assumed, because I was quiet.

    I didn’t say anything in the moment, either… I was kind of numbed to it by that point. I just stood up, curtsied in a cute little way, and got on with my life. I still had habits from wearing a mask because of COVID, and I was reliant on body language to say the things I couldn’t… That curtsey said Thanks, now leave me alone 🥺. I miss that, a bit, wearing a mask… I got good at using my shoulders and hand and eyebrows to say a lot of things.

    Anyway, there’s probably a metaphor in there somewhere, about my lack of prayer and the cries of my soul to God without the formal address being a deeper form of prayer than anyone else was really having, and the layers of irony run strong, but I guess you could figure it out as well as I could.

    Anyway, thanks for reading, and I’ll see you again soon,

    Jane Bird 🪶

  • My First Post (and How to Beat a Bunch of Ten Year Olds at Solitaire)

    Hi! My name’s Jane. I’m a student, a writer, and an enjoyer of the arts. I was recently encouraged in a creative writing course to start a blog, to grow my audience and my skills, so I thought I would give it a try. To kick things off on a great note, I’m going to tell you about easy ways to crush kids at (relatively simple) games, and get the sweet serotonin your brain craves. But first, some background.

    One of the things I enjoy the most in this life is content made for middle-grade kids. I am, of course, well out of the intended age range of these products, but that doesn’t stop me! I like Disney movies, late grade-school or middle school level books, and games made for children. If it’s popular, it’s almost always well-made, thoughtful, sensible, and meaningful… kids are smarter than we give them credit for.

    One of the games I like the most is called Webkinz. It was founded in 2005 by the stuffed toy company Ganz. If you haven’t played it over the course of your childhood years, it is a “virtual world where plush Webkinz pets come to life.” Webkinz stuffed animals come with a unique “adoption code” that allows the user to play with a virtual version of their plush pet— naming it, feeding and grooming it, building its house, and playing games or completing quests. An account can also be created and a pet adopted for free.

    There are three main aspects to the game: the acquisition of in-game objects, the completion of quests, and the playing of games. There are many ways to go about these goals, from the Curio Shop to the Adventure Park to the Magical Forest, but most of the action happens at home, in the arcade, and at the W-Shop.

    Home is where you can play with your pet, place and use your furniture, cook recipes, view outfits, buy rooms, watch TV, and more. To buy items to use at home, you need Kinzcash— a form of virtual currency. The W-Shop is the main location where you can spend your Kinzcash. Most items can be sold for cash there, and a great number of items, such as furniture, food, books, games, decorations, and pet care items, can be bought with either Kinzcash or real money in the form of Ganz E-Store Points.

    The fastest and most reliable way to earn Kinzcash is through playing games at the Arcade. The Arcade is designed after a classic arcade machine, and contains dozens of classics and Webkinz original games. There are two main types of games: daily play games and unlimited games. Daily play games can be played only once a day unless an extra play is gained elsewhere. They include the Wheel of Wow, Wishing Well 2 (which replaced Wishing Well on July 12, 2007, possibly due to its predecessor’s resemblance to a slot machine), and Jumbleberry Fields (variant of Yahtzee). These games return Kinzcash or other prizes, sometimes only after a player has invested significant time into earning them. Unlimited games can be played any number of times, and return Kinzcash and, for especially good scores, small prizes or trophies.

    In the world of Webkinz, many young players are in pursuit of rare prizes, or quick ways to make Kinzcash… but not me. I want the ultimate honor. I am honing my skills to become a champion of childhood games, an Olympic over-player… I like to get the daily high score at games in the Arcade.

    Now, I hear you wondering, how hard can it be? They’re kids! Well, I tell you, it frankly depends on the game. But without further ado, I will explain my top five favorite Kinzcash-making, record-crushing-talent-gaining, mindlessly entertaining games.

    • #5: Lily Padz

    Lily Padz is a kind of platformer game where you are a frog leaping from lily pad to lily pad. You can control the force behind and direction of your jump— if you miss a lily pad or hit an obstacle, you fall into the water and lose the game. It consists of five levels, is beatable, and therefore has a theoretical maximum number of points gainable. It’s a pretty boring game, but I’ve held the high score of the day for it before, so my best advice is the fact that if you do perfectly at this game, you will not gain enough points. This is because using up a life means getting to start a level again and achieve more points. Always use all your lives. Fall intentionally into the water in a level you trust yourself to be able to repeat multiple times when you are as close to the end of the level as possible. This way, you can rack up more points. A good score is around 4,500.

    • #4 Webkinz Scrambled

    Webkinz Scrambled is a game that operates on similar mechanics to the Papa Louie games (a series I am very fond of), such as Papa’s Cupcakeria or Papa’s Pizzeria— you have to make orders for customers (in this case, omelettes) correctly and in a timely manner. Pizza Palace uses similar dynamics, but has less tight of a time limit and is more complex. I have held the high score of the day for this game before. My best advice? Don’t mess up. If you’re running short on time, skip an order. Don’t click on orders until you’re ready for them. A good score is just below 10,000 points.

    • #3: Triple Strike Solitaire

    All the games going forward, I have never gotten the daily high score on, Triple Strike Solitaire included. Triple Strike Solitare is a simple game in which cards are arranged in three triangles, and the player must take cards from one of the triangles that are either one higher or one lower in number than the card in play, and put it on top of the card in play— thus, it becomes the new current card. Cards can only be used if they are not blocked by another on top of them to either side. If no more cards that are one higher or one lower can be taken from the triangles, you flip over a new card from the deck. The level ends and you move on to the next one when you clear the board. If you cannot clear the board, you lose. The game is endless, but each level gets faster than the one before it. I find this makes it nearly impossible to get a good score on— around level four, the timer gets so short that any hesitation will cost you the game. My best advice? Practice. A good score is around 9,000-10,000 points.

    • #2: Cash Cow 2

    Cash Cow 2, unlike the original Cash Cow, is actually a fun game… there is no timer, which is part of what makes the original suck so much. The premise is that there is (what I think is) a vending machine full of bottles of milk, and you have to click on clusters of two or more bottles labeled with the same color to remove them. Bigger clusters mean more points, and a certain number of points must be scored to move on to the next level. Clearing the board means bonus points. More colors and unique effects are brought into play as the game advances (bottles that break and cannot be removed, bottles that make their entire cluster worth double points, soda cans that explode and take milk bottles with them). It gets increasingly complicated— and the number of points you need to accrue to move on gets higher and higher— as you progress. I actually enjoy this game a lot, from its soothing music to its simplicity, but it gets nearly impossible around level 7. A good score for this game is 1,800… a winning score is closer to 2,000.

    • #1 Stack ‘Em Up Solitaire

    Stack ‘Em Up Solitaire operates under almost exactly the same premise as Triple Strike Solitaire, except the cards are in rows instead of triangles, and there’s a much slower timer. It is both easier and more fun, but if you’re good at one, you’ll probably be good at the other. I have never gotten a daily high score, but I have had an all-time high score higher than the daily a number of times. My best advice for this game, because the cards on the board are stacked directly on top of each other and therefore one move can “unlock” a number of others, is to look ahead several moves when you place a card, especially if you are able place more than one, and you have to choose between them— which will be more beneficial to you down the road? Be sure to go for streaks of cards before dead-end cards, of course, and take a card that has cards below it before a card that has nothing below it whenever possible. A good score is between 8,000 and 10,000 points… after months of work, I recently scored more than 12,000.

    See you next time, and remember I’m never far,

    Jane Bird🪶