The "Friday Random Ten" phenomenon so popular among other bloggers never made sense to me. It seemed more a showcase for one's refined and eclectic taste than anything else. But as I read Jill's FRT on Feministe today, the appeal of it struck me.
An FRT is a mixtape. From no one. But to you. The first two entries on Jill's FRT are:
- Radiohead - "Life in a Glass House"
- Ani DiFranco - "32 Flavors"
As I read that I was immediately confused. The song which popped to mind was Ani DiFranco's "Glass House," off her compelling Little Plastic Castle. The structuring metaphor is nearly identical, being that there's little difference between an anthromorphized goldfish and a person living in a glass house. Like all lyricists who are too-clever-by-half, DiFranco hits the mark or embarasses herself. On both "Little Plastic Castle" and "Glass House" she hits the mark. She takes the conceit and plays with it:
They say goldfish, have no memory,
I guess their lives are just like mine.
And the little, plastic castle,
Is a surprise every time.
She refuses to let what could become a burdensome metaphor dominate the song. Same thing in "Glass House":
Sitting in my glass house,
While your ghost is sleeping down the hall.
Watching the little birds fly
Kamikaze missions into the walls.
Think I'm gonna stay in today,
Sit on my couch and watch them fall.
Trapped in my glass house,
Crowd has been gathering since dawn.
Make a pot of coffee
While catastrophe awaits me out on the lawn.
Think I'm going to stay in today,
Pretend like I don't know what's going on.
You wait the entire song for her to throw the first stone, but instead she insists on remaining passive. She refuses to throw the stone others are so sure she'll throw they've been gathering since dawn. As in "Little Plastic Castle," in which a woman claims amnesia when she clearly refuses to hold the grudge she's entitled to hold, in this song DiFranco refuses to throw the stone she's entitled and expected to throw. (She did once write a song whose devestating consisted of the single sentence "Everyone is a fucking Napoleon.")
The interesting fact about this discussion is that it doesn't have a damn thing to do with the actual song on Jill's FRT. It's a confused combination of a Radiohead title and some metaphorical continuity on an eight year old Ani DiFranco album. I had made a series of interpretive leaps and now I'll never be able to think of the DiFranco songs quite the same way. Why? Because they are now inhabited by the paranoia of the Radiohead. DiFranco's admirable passivity has been infected by the Thom Yorke's lyric about a friend who wants to paper the windows of her glass house:
Once again, I’m in trouble with my only friend.
She is papering the window panes.
She is putting on a smile.
Living in a glass house.
The futility of papering the windows of a glass house has always struck me as central to the song's creepiness. Papering the windows will provide you with no more privacy than you had before. The only way to achieve real privacy would be to paper the walls. Except:
Well of course I’d like to stay and chew the fat.
Well of course I’d like to sit around and chat.
But someone’s listening in.
Not only do you live in a glass house but someone bugged it. He doesn't specify whether those puppies are only wired for sound or if they can pick up video too—but what difference would that make? All of which is only to say that Yorke's deep paranoia is now intimately connected to DiFranco's postures of indifference. The power of the "Friday Random Ten" isn't dissimilar to that of found art. It relies on the reader's familarity with the materials accidentally cobbled together, on havinig an audience both familiar with the songs listed and who have already done a modicum of precognition.