Everyone is approaching the ‘Stranger Things’ song challenge incorrectly

Pick your favorite song.

No, not just your favorite song.

Pick a song that’s so good it can bring you out of a funk and restore your soul.

Pick a song that would drive out a demon and prevent you from being dragged to the Upside Down and devoured.

OK, the previous paragraph needs an explanation.

“Stranger Things” is a show on the streaming service Netflix about a bunch of teenage misfits who save the world by basically understanding Dungeons & Dragons and a little bit of high school science.

Many movies in the 1980s worked this way. Pre-adolescent children saved the world while clueless adults watched the news.

“Stranger Things” is in its fourth season. In one episode, the character Max is about to be dragged to the Upside Down — the show’s version of hell — but she’s saved at the last second by her ex-boyfriend remembering her favorite song is ”Running Up That Hill” by Kate Bush.

He plays the song on her Walkman cassette, and she avoids a trip to hell.

This is silly, but it tugs at the heartstrings of many people from my generation who were raised on movies, TV, and music.

This plot point inspired scores of columns and news stories about what song people would choose to prevent being dragged to hell by a vampire tree monster.

This is silly, too, but the larger the news outlet is, the sillier its stories are.

But I’ll play along.

Let’s say I buy into this premise that a pop song could save me from a demon.

My first instinct would be the Lord’s Prayer rather than a pop music song.

I was raised Methodist. I don’t practice, but with an actual demon dragging me to the Upside Down, I’ll start reciting the prayer with emphasis.

Alas, this is modern content on a streaming service.

The only way religion can be presented is to be totally ignored, as it is in “Stranger Things,” or alluded to with snide mockery, as it is far too many other places.

So, if religion is off the table, what song would I pick?

I used to have a CD collection that numbered in the high thousands.

Side note: Parents 2.0, the kindly couple who raised me after my parents died, gave me my first CD player and five CDs to fill up the 5-disc changer.

As my collection started to pile up around the house, Dad 2.0 offered a note on frugality that I wish I had considered earlier in my life.

“You can only listen to one at a time,” he said.

Anyway, back to the “Stranger Things” song challenge.

I thought about this for weeks and I don’t have a good answer.

Part of the problem is I’m a middle-aged man. Music doesn’t occupy the same space in my life that it did when I was an adolescent or college kid.

My friend Tracey Doyle always seemed to know about every band and their story before anyone else had heard them play a note.

She might take a while to answer this question because the breadth of her musical knowledge is so huge.

Me? I learned most of my favorite songs from movie soundtracks and commercial radio. The songs I’m fondest of are tied to specific memories.

“Lady in Red” by Chris De Burgh reminds me of my first girlfriend, my first kiss, and a lovely dance at the 12-B formal in 1992.

If the demon’s tendrils were around my ankle, I don’t think a love song that recalls a long-ago-ended relationship will be the thing to inspire me to kick free.

My favorite band is Creedence Clearwater Revival. I constantly play their greatest hits in my car.

Would “Fortunate Son” going to wrest me free from the demon?

I don’t know. I think of CCR as my chill music. I like to put on the headphones, close my eyes, and space out.

My favorite artist is Taylor Swift. I love “No Body, No Crime” from her “Evermore” album, but is a country noir murder ballad going to prevent my murder by demons?

I doubt it.

I think the only thing that would shake the demons out of me is a song I despise more than the idea of being eaten by a tree vampire.

Only one song fits that bill: “Ebony and Ivory,” by Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder.

Two of the greatest songwriters and artists combined to make this simplistic, sentimental pap.

I hate this song. I know others love it. It might even be some poor, lost soul’s favorite song.

That’s fine.

We’re all free to choose which things we love and hate in this world, especially unimportant things like pop music.

And I hate “Ebony and Ivory.”

Just a few notes of it pouring into my ears would have me fist-fighting the devil himself.

By the time they reach the chorus, I would be free of the demon and running down the road.

The only stop I’d make is at church, to say the Lord’s Prayer.

Middle school teacher Daniel P. Finney writes a column for the Marion County Gazette.


Daniel P. Finney writes columns for ParagraphStacker.com, a free, reader-supported website. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I continue writing while I pursue my master’s degree and teacher certification.
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Podcast: Russia’s McDonald’s knock-off; Tennessee Williams’ secret origin; Hidden ‘Lebowski’ references in ‘The Old Man;’ all that and SPAM recipes

Paul opens the show with sizzle. Dan reviews “Bonzo on the Road to Asguard.” Guests: Emma Thompson, Hunter S. Thompson, John “Tommy Gun” Thompson, and the hot physics major who invited Dan and Paul to a party freshman year at Drake. All that and live music from Cold Slither.

Summer cold: Paul plays hurt; Dan's drowsy after his big birthday party; The Brady Bunch intro; Who shoots worst: Stormtroopers or Cobra soldiers? Talking Paragraphs

Dan and Paul welcome Suzanne Sullivan, Gilbert and Sullivan, Sullivan and Son, Son of Bat Boy, and musical guest, Boy George. Our apologies to last week's guests, none of whom made it onto the program and some of whom we were later informed are deceased.  — Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/talkingparagraphs/message Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/talkingparagraphs/support
  1. Summer cold: Paul plays hurt; Dan's drowsy after his big birthday party; The Brady Bunch intro; Who shoots worst: Stormtroopers or Cobra soldiers?
  2. Podcast: Russia's McDonald's knock-off; Tennessee Williams' secret origin; Hidden 'Lebowski' references in 'The Old Man;' all that and SPAM recipes
  3. 47.2 is the unhappiest age
  4. Detoxing from Johnny Depp-Amber Heard trials; Online shopping for retro gear; In praise of Oklahoma softball; Revenge of the Mullet
  5. New format: Paul opens the show from Memphis; Dan goes to 'Bob's Burgers;' Paul buys a smoothie; 'Maverick' makes a lot of money

It’s my birthday and I know I don’t know anything

I turn 47 years old on Sunday.

Forty-seven is one of those ages between a five and a zero that people rarely think about.

School teachers assigned students to write about where the kids imagined themselves at 30.

Jennifer Garner made a lovely movie on that premise called “13 Going on 30.”

Paul McCartney sang “Will you still love me when I’m 64?” with the Beatles.

When McCartney was 64, he split with his second wife.

Sir Paul is 80 now with another wife.

If a teacher asked me to write where I thought I’d be when I was 47, I doubt I would have gotten a single detail right.

I remember writing a story about becoming a famous photographer in Mrs. Dietz’s freshman English class at Winterset High School.

I thought it was important I had a cool car and leather bomber jacket.

My car is cool, but it, like me, shows its age.

I got a bomber jacket. I bought it cheap and tore a hole next to the pocket the first day I owned it. It’s badly patched.

It hangs the closet to remind me how cool I could have looked in cold weather if I were more careful.

I never picked up photography. I couldn’t never figure out the light.

It takes patience, which is the better part of valor I’ve never picked up.

I don’t know what the other parts of valor are, but I probably don’t have those either.

When I was younger, I thought I would have it figured out by now, not 47 specifically, just an adult.

I cannot define “it.” I’m pretty sure I don’t have it. Logically, if I don’t know what “it” is, there’s no way to know if I have it.

But I’m insecure. Most humans are. People who cool and collected are the weirdos. Most of them are actors, which means they’re probably faking it.

Children are often unaware of the burdens of adulthood.

That’s why there are so many memes on the internet about how great childhood was.

The best part of childhood was the absence of responsibility.

Nobody expects you to knock out the rent or pick a good index fund for your retirement investment when you’re 11.

But I thought adults knew what they were doing by virtue of them being taller, knowing how to drive, and being allowed to use the sharp knives.

That turned out to be incorrect. It’s a trick adults play on young people, who don’t know what they don’t know.

Maybe that’s the biggest difference between childhood and adulthood: I know now how little I do know.

I know some things. I can tie a tie. I learned that in Cub Scouts.

I can tie my shoes, too, but I use these elastic laces, so I just slide my feet into my sneakers.

This invention would have saved Parents 1.0 a good deal of frustration.

I can drive, which I only do to join the national conversation of complaining about gas prices.

The truth is, at 47, I thought I would feel stronger and more settled.

Yet I’m still insecure, anxious, and sometimes depressed. I’m wistful and nostalgic, which isn’t all bad until you get into “what might’ve been” thoughts — especially when applied to old relationships.

I’m a needy to the point that I annoy myself.

I pester my friend Paul — who co-hosts our weekly podcast, “Talking Paragraphs” — with the constant suggestion he come visit each year.

There’s no reason why I should expect him to visit me every year, though he has often done so.

He’s not visiting this year. That’s fine. But there’s a bad circuit in my brain that tells me that means he doesn’t really like me, and he’s been faking our friendship for 30 years.

That sounds stupid when I type it out.

If I’ve learned anything in 47 years, most of our problems exist in the gap between emotional reaction and intellectual understanding.

I’ve learned other things, too, like iced tea tastes better out of a glass with cubed ice and no lemon.

I also learned that whenever you can, you should embrace quiet.

We live in a noisy world. Most of what’s being said, and often shouted, isn’t worth listening to.

But if you can find some quiet, that’s always worth your time.

Interrupt it only with the clinking of cubes in your glass of iced tea.

Middle school teacher Daniel P. Finney writes a column for the Marion County Express.


Daniel P. Finney writes columns for ParagraphStacker.com, a free, reader-supported website. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I continue writing while I pursue my master’s degree and teacher certification.
Post: 1217 24th St., Apt. 36, Des Moines, 50311.
Zelle: newsmanone@gmail.com.
Venmo@newsmanone.
PayPalpaypal.me/paragraphstacker.