All of the men on the classic Western album Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs, ranked according to my own metrics that I refuse to explain

  1. The guy who is getting hanged TONIGHT

“They’re Hanging Me Tonight” is one of the songs that gets stuck in my head the most and it might be the prettiest ballad on the album. As for the narrator of this track…not so pretty. The way the story unfolds is clever – it throws you for a loop by starting out as a simple breakup song. This dude is sad because it’s raining and it reminds him of the night his girlfriend, Flo, left him for another man. That’s rough. It turns out this story is being told from the dude’s jail cell on the night of his execution because he straight up killed his ex and her new boyfriend. The twist of the line “they’ll bury Flo tomorrow/but they’re hanging me tonight” makes for good storytelling but this dude is still terrible and it rings too true to shit that is still being done. Flo was probably pretty smart for trying to leave.

  1. The guy who heard the Master’s Call

“The Master’s Call” is about a BAD DUDE who became an outlaw when he was only a teenager, grieving his parents to know that “their only boy was bad.” He repents from his sinful ways when he is saved from a lightning storm and a stampede by a barricade of already dead horses by what can only be a miracle from God and honestly it goes on kind of long and is hard to visualize. Point is, the narrator of this song converted and loves to talk about the time he almost died. He pulls out this story at every social event. He’s the speaker that comes to teen youth group events called, I don’t know – cRAVE in a jagged lime green font – and shares his edgy testimony about how he used to have sex and do drugs but now doesn’t and is still cool because see he has a printed t-shirt and jewelry on. What.

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Breaking the Waves

water affair

The Affair has relied heavily on drowning and ocean metaphors since its pilot in 2014. Its moody opening credit footage of crashing water fit the rustic landscape of Montauk and set the mood to think about the capricious and overwhelming nature of lust and love. In its four seasons, almost every character has cheated or imploded their relationships in some way, but When Fiona Apple sang “there’s only one thing I can do and that’s be the wave that I am/and then sink back into the ocean” I always had the sense that those lines, or maybe the song in general, were about Alison. Alison who starts the story defined by a literal drowning – the death of her toddler son. A woman who is afraid of the ocean, but is treated as a siren by most of the men in her life. I started watching The Affair to pass time, and because I’m drawn to stories and discussions of infidelity. I wasn’t expecting to be so moved or feel so seen by a character, but Alison has come to be very special to me.

**spoilers for the latest season of The Affair**

I just finished the fourth and latest season and while it expanded far beyond the actions of its original affair and into overly soapy territory, I couldn’t look away. Even at its worst the disastrous orbit of these characters – the “main” couple but also betrayed spouses, children, and new relationships – was bleakly addictive. Most importantly for me, Alison remained the emotional heart of the story. Her extreme choices and darkest turns never felt contrived and campy so much as tragic. No main character hated themselves more or tried harder to have a purpose; to be understood, loved, and chosen. As you may have seen in entertainment headlines lately, Ruth Wilson has left the cast. In the show, this meant the fourth season climaxed in Alison’s death. She never got to rewrite her narrative as she wanted. Her story, in her own words at least, is now over, but I imagine she’ll be on my mind for a long time.

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Some Needlessly Earnest Thoughts on NTR that I Wrote When I Was 2 Glasses in & It Became Something Else IDK

I have a habit of making an absurd joke, overthinking that joke, and finally realizing that the heart of the joke is some latent but unironic sentiment. This was the case when sometime last year, I turned to a co-worker and said, “if you had to describe one work in the canon of classic literature as NTR, what would it be?” And because this person entertains my whims way more than a normal person would or should, he helped me mull it over. For the purpose of a one-off joke I landed on Doctor Zhivago.

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