A Decently Joyful Story

It’s an understatement to remark that ours is a perplexing species. Yes, most people might be pretty good at heart for the most part. But you’d hardly know that by the wars that have raged in one place or another throughout recorded and, I have zero doubt, prerecorded history. The latest nightmare, of course, is the Russian assault on Ukraine. It is only one of many post-Second World War examples of cruelty and of refusal, inability even, to live harmoniously. Horrible conflicts in Syria, Yemen, Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia are others. The Russia/Ukraine situation is by far the most worrisome, needless to say, because a f*cking asshole with nuclear weapons at his command, good ol’ Vladimir, is its lead villain.

Okay, I needed to get that off my chest. And seeing that I’m not in the mood to bum myself out any further, nor anyone else, I now will pivot sharply and head into my comfort zone. Sitting there patiently are a song I first heard in February and a television series that my wife Sandy and I watched earlier this month. I kind of have to write about them. Why? Well, they brought me joy. And I don’t take joy lightly. When I experience it I thank my lucky stars, because joy, though weightless and invisible, is a sweet substance that we require at least now and then. Joy helps us feel whole. It is one of the finest things in life.

First up is Broken Heart, a tune by The Fiestas, a New Jersey vocal quartet (and at times a quintet) that inhabited the worlds of doo wop and rhythm and blues. I’m certain that just about everyone knows this group, if not by name then by their song So Fine, which was released in late 1958 and which I love. So Fine became a smash hit a few months later and receives substantial airplay to this day.

Little did I know that The Fiestas were more than So Fine. Little did I know, that is, until one night last month when a SiriusXM radio channel delivered Broken Heart to our ears while Sandy and I were at home having dinner. Man, in an instant I was hooked. I stopped chewing to let the song give me some thrills. And, via YouTube, I’ve listened to Broken Heart a bunch of times since that evening.

Subsequent research taught me that The Fiestas, whose career lasted into the late 1970s, scored a medium-sized hit with Broken Heart in 1962. Which is why I’m surprised I’d never heard it before. Such a song! Sure, its exuberance belies the warnings about love that are embedded in the lyrics, but who cares about that incongruity? I mean, you don’t run across singing as majestic as this very often. Lead vocalist Tommy Bullock soars, hitting notes so fluidly, so gleefully, he almost brings tears to my eyes. And his partners wrap their voices around his with precision and power. I’m listening to Broken Heart as I type this sentence. Am I feeling joyful? Damn straight! Without further ado, here’s Broken Heart:

Let’s move on now, joyfully, to Anxious People, a Netflix mini-series (six episodes of about 30 minutes each) set and produced in Sweden and based on a novel of the same name by Fredrik Backman. Backman, by the way, is famous, having penned the international bestseller A Man Called Ove.

Sandy and I knew almost nothing about Anxious People before dialing it up, and are pleased as punch that we took the leap. It’s a whimsical tale centered around a group of folks who find themselves held hostage, in a loose sense, by an inept bank robber, and the police investigation that follows. I’m tempted to divulge a whole lot about Anxious People, multi-layered and fascinating as it is. For me to do so, though, would be a crime on my part, as telling too much would spoil the show for anyone interested in giving it a try.

So, I’ll add but a few more handfuls of words. To begin, are there flaws in the series? I, who can be picky to a fault, didn’t find any. The plot lines unfold and interweave deliciously, and the characters, nearly all of whom are laden with foibles and self-doubts, ring true. What we have here, then, is a gentle story that warmed the hell out of my heart. When the final episode reached its end I was filled with joy that carried over to the next day.

Boys and girls, that’s a wrap. I’d be happy to learn about who or what has given you joy of late. Till next time!

127 thoughts on “A Decently Joyful Story

  1. crowcityblog March 16, 2022 / 12:25 am

    The goodness of children and the evil of governments are impossible to reconcile. The times are never so bad as they seem, yet they are pretty fucking bad. Thank you for the music. We yearn for the classics in a world so topsy-turvy.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. gabychops March 16, 2022 / 1:39 am

    Thank you for this brilliant post!! I will have to listen to your songs later because here it is only 5.30 in the morning and I respect my neighbors.


    Liked by 2 people

  3. Lynette d'Arty-Cross March 16, 2022 / 1:56 am

    Thank you! I find your suggestions really great (ie Kominsky Method) and will definitely look up Anxious People. Thanks also for finding Broken Heart. I hadn’t heard it before, either.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. klmalcolm2014 March 16, 2022 / 2:30 am

    Thanks for the hot tips! I love Broken Heart, so classic, maybe a precursor to Mashed Potatoes. I will check out Anxious People.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Yeah, Another Blogger March 16, 2022 / 11:11 am

      Greetings, and thanks for stopping by. If you have SiriusXM, check out the channel called Carolina Shag. It’s great. I heard Broken Heart on that channel.


  5. Robert Parker March 16, 2022 / 6:41 am

    I liked “A Man called Ove” so glad to hear about this new series. And the doo wop song was fun to hear this morning (via headphones) I’d never heard of that group, nice harmonizing and some amazing high notes. And it’s supposed to hit a high of 61 here today 👍 so probably Philly area will be even warmer, yay Spring.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. tylerus March 16, 2022 / 6:49 am

    Nice tune. Thanks for an enlightening post. Who has brought me joy? Hmmm. I would have to say those few people who stuck by me thru the thick and thin (and insanity) these last few years. God bless ’em.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Denise Denton Thiery March 16, 2022 / 7:14 am

    OMG, I loved the song. I don’t recall hearing it back in its heydey. The lyrics were meaningful and the music just made me want to get up and dance. I didn’t because last time I did that my husband thought I must have stuck a fork in the light socket.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Laurie Graves March 16, 2022 / 7:59 am

    Chilling times. Hard to be optimistic about the outcome in Ukraine. Perhaps the best we can hope for are that there will be no nuclear weapons involved. On happier note…snappy music. I’m listening to it now. We have watched “Anxious People” and liked it very much. Yay, Netflix!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Debra March 16, 2022 / 8:34 am

    We definitely need to find all the joy we can these days.How come the Swedes are so much fun? I highly recommend The Little Old Lady Who Broke All the Rules by C. Ingelman-Sundberg. It’s one of the few books I’ve read that kept me grinning from ear to ear.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger March 16, 2022 / 11:20 am

      Interesting comment about Swedes. It very well might be. true. If it is, I’d like to visit Sweden!


  10. shoreacres March 16, 2022 / 9:10 am

    Both “So Fine” and “Broken Heart” were on the jukebox at the YMCA where we went for malts, fries, and dancing while I was in high school. Great memories! (Except now I want a chocolate malt and French fries for breakfast.) I just gave up my Netflix subscription, but I’ve got a couple of weeks left, so I’ll check out Anxious People.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Kim Smith March 16, 2022 / 9:37 am

    Oh yeah, I’ll add my praise for Anxious People…wonderful series! I love Backman’s books too. I normally don’t hold onto fiction books after I read them, but I’ve kept his to read again and again.

    And as often happens, your music recommendation has been added to my playlist. Joy, indeed. Thanks, Neil.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger March 16, 2022 / 11:23 am

      Hey, Kim. I’m really glad I discovered the Anxious People series. That’s meaningful entertainment!


  12. Paddy Tobin March 16, 2022 / 9:53 am

    The Fiestas’ Broken Heart has brighten our day and I may – for I go there very rarely – follow up with a visit to Netflix.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Paddy Tobin March 17, 2022 / 5:24 am

        By the way, I’ll be in the States this afternoon, believe it or not! I’ll be giving a talk to the Winchester Garden Club in Maryland via Zoom! Imagine that!

        Liked by 1 person

  13. Fictionophile March 16, 2022 / 10:09 am

    Thanks Neil. I share everyone’s concern about the crisis in Ukraine and the scenes depicted on television of the devastation would break even the coldest heart.
    On a happier note, I had never before heard this song, but it does emit a joyful vibe and we all need joy.
    Fredrik Backman is probably my favorite author, so I think he can do no wrong. Though I haven’t yet viewed the series for “Anxious People”, I did read the book. It was fabulous – therefore I’m glad they didn’t butcher it when they brought it to the screen.
    A great post altogether.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yeah, Another Blogger March 16, 2022 / 11:31 am

      Morning, Lynne. With all the reading you do, it’s cool that one author stands out for you above the others. Backman would be very pleased if he knew that he’s your fave.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. liliannemilgrom March 16, 2022 / 10:13 am

    You got me bopping around the kitchen! Thanks 🙂
    Re Anxious People, I read the book and was not overly impressed. Might give the series a go. But then again, might not!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger March 16, 2022 / 11:34 am

      Hi. One thing for sure is that there’s something for everyone on Netflix. The amount of content there is absolutely mind-blowing.


  15. Carolina Vann March 16, 2022 / 10:21 am

    So fine, yeah… “chills run up and down my spine” Broken Heart works for me…

    Ditto on your war comments. Putin must be stopped NOW. Afraid this could get really nasty, and too many people will die before he is brought down. If we survive this, and have a future, this war criminal must be prosecuted. He knows that, and it’s why he is so dangerous.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Jacqui Murray March 16, 2022 / 10:51 am

    I enjoyed this post with its upbeat music, and more. I did keep going back to what you said at the very beginning–I don’t take joy lightly. Me, too. I used to, like it would always be there, ready for me when I reached out. Not true, is it? None of us should take joy lightly.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Jane Sturgeon March 16, 2022 / 11:55 am

    Thank you, Neil, for your suggestions and the welcome distraction. We hadn’t heard this music or about the series. Hugs to you both. Xx

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Sandy March 16, 2022 / 12:00 pm

    Thanks for reminding me about Anxious People. I’d seen it & thought I’d go back to watch later. I’m a fan of Scandi movies & books, especially when it’s offbeat humor. Have you seen (or read) ‘The 100-year-old man who climbed out the window and disappeared” ?

    Liked by 1 person

  19. JOYCE HAMILTON March 16, 2022 / 12:05 pm

    Enjoyed Broken Heart. Don’t have cable so don’t watch the series.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. talebender March 16, 2022 / 12:50 pm

    Anything bringing joy in this day and age is welcome! Nice to see how open you are to those things.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. JT Twissel March 16, 2022 / 1:11 pm

    Thanks for the recommendation! The last Netflix show I saw was a documentary about Andy Warhol and it was depressing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger March 16, 2022 / 2:31 pm

      Anxious People is the opposite of depressing. And it’s not lightweight either. It’s a good one.


  22. Paula B March 16, 2022 / 2:29 pm

    I always appreciate how insightful and well written your musical recommendations are!

    Liked by 1 person

  23. annieasksyou March 16, 2022 / 3:53 pm

    Well, that record brought me joy bc it transported me back time-machine-like.

    We’ve been enJOYing All Creatures Great and Small, and Vanity Fair was fun in its way.

    Will definitely check out Anxious People—assuming it doesn’t add to the world’s anxiety level.

    Rumor has it there will be a new round of Borgen episodes. Hope that’s true!

    Liked by 1 person

  24. johnlmalone March 16, 2022 / 4:38 pm

    thanks for the record, Neil; I have an old ’45 of ‘So Fine’ in my collection somewhere; what brings me joy? being with my gal, good health and having a fine tale to spin, like the one about St, Francis; like they say, Neil: you can’t make that shit up 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  25. alhenry March 16, 2022 / 5:51 pm

    Hey Neil, enjoyed “Broken Heart.” I love all that do-wop, four guys/girls on a street corner singing harmony. Your overview of the Bachman series reminded me in its plot of one of my all-time feel-good movies “Dog Day Afternoon.” Who can forget Al Pacino out there on the sidewalk rousing the crowd to chant “Attica! Attica!” My joy buzz today was even simpler. A walk through the hood on a day that made it to 60 degrees–sunshine, and nary a shard of snow or ice to mar the return of Spring. If that don’t make you happy, nothing will.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger March 16, 2022 / 8:53 pm

      Hi. Speaking of doo wop: Dion, from Dion and the Belmonts, was a doo wop guy (for a while, anyway). He’s in his 80s, and will be at a theater near me in a few months. I need to get tickets for that show.


  26. tanjabrittonwriter March 16, 2022 / 8:12 pm

    Glad you are finding joy in music and film, Neil. I can only function by basically not watching any news. I’m absolutely devastated by yet another war on European soil that has the potential to escalate to the detriment of the entire world.
    To try to keep my mind from spiraling into despair, I either escape into books or nature.
    Take care,

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger March 16, 2022 / 8:55 pm

      Hi, Tanja. I know what you mean. It’s hard to watch the news very much. What a sad, dangerous, messed-up world this is.


      • tanjabrittonwriter March 16, 2022 / 9:31 pm

        I think all the messiness comes from messed-up people. For whatever reason, as a collective, we have failed on every level, throughout history.

        Liked by 1 person

  27. Ann Coleman March 16, 2022 / 11:03 pm

    I loved the book Anxious People, but had no idea it was a netflix mini-series. Honestly, I like all of Frederik Buekner’s (probably not spelled right) books!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger March 17, 2022 / 6:52 am

      Hi, Ann. I don’t know how faithful the series is to the book, but the series is a good one. Have a good day. Take care.

      Liked by 1 person

  28. sniderjerry March 17, 2022 / 7:33 am

    Hey ther Neil, Did you happen to see the footage of the little Ukranian girl in the bomb shelter singing “Let it go” from the movie Frozen. Peace and Love. Jerry

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger March 17, 2022 / 10:59 am

      I’ll take a look at the video, Jerry. It’s probably on YouTube. Thanks for letting me know about it. Enjoy the day! Neil


  29. Ally Bean March 17, 2022 / 10:46 am

    I’ve not heard of Anxious People but I loved A Man Called Ove. I’ll look for it. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

  30. mariezhuikov March 17, 2022 / 11:02 am

    Hi Neil – The Anxious People book is even better than the TV series. I would encourage you to check it out. We recently finished watching “The Great” series about Catherine the Great. It grew on us. It’s funny but also provides insights into the Russian psyche. It’s loosely based on Catherine’s life and takes a lot of liberties.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger March 17, 2022 / 2:34 pm

      Howdy, Marie. Thanks for the recommendation. If you like thrillers, here’s a Netflix series to consider: The Forest. It’s a French production. Six or so episodes. My wife and I enjoyed it a lot.

      Liked by 1 person

        • Yeah, Another Blogger March 17, 2022 / 4:12 pm

          Netflix also has a movie called The Forest. The one I’m referring to is the series of that name, not the movie. See ya!


  31. Alyson March 17, 2022 / 3:18 pm

    Thanks for the heads up about the Netflix series – Will give it a whirl. I enjoyed your clip as well – Yeah, the Fiestas. A trip back the the late ’60s (see what I did there) always brings me joy – Watching the Mamas & the Papas, Simon & Garfunkel and recently The Association always raises my spirits. Watched Once Upon A Time In Hollywood again on Saturday night and this cover by Jose is a joy.

    Liked by 1 person

  32. ellie894 March 17, 2022 / 10:04 pm

    I recently caught a couple episodes of Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom and boy did it bring some joy. I learned a little, laughed a little and thought how the times have changed since Perkins and Jim had their adventures so many years ago. Broken Heart is a great song, super up beat! Thanks!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yeah, Another Blogger March 18, 2022 / 6:51 am

      Hi. Ah yes, Wild Kingdom. A good show. It really expanded peoples’ minds! Thanks for adding your thoughts. See ya.

      Liked by 1 person

  33. Linda Pearce Griffin March 18, 2022 / 2:01 pm

    Thank you for sharing your joy!!! I had never heard that song before either! How have I missed such delight? The incongruence between the music and the lyrics gave me quite a chuckle. I’ll have to check out Anxious People. My husband and I are currently caught up in Resident Alien on the SyFy channel which is a real hoot. Keep spreading the joy!

    Liked by 2 people

  34. viewfromoverthehill March 19, 2022 / 6:37 pm

    I thought Covid:19 was bad, but Putin is much worse. Let’s hope he fails miserably.
    I’ll try watching your Netflix recommendation. Thanks, Muriel

    Liked by 2 people

  35. theburningheart March 20, 2022 / 12:59 am

    Thanks for the tip Neil, I may read Backman’s book, or watch the movie.

    Liked by 2 people

  36. Pam Lazos March 22, 2022 / 11:15 am

    Can’t wait to watch, Neil. A Man Called Ove was a favorite book and I also enjoyed the movie so thanks for the tip. As for the war — what is it good for? Absolutely nothing. Say it again! (Now you’ve got the earworm for that song, I’m sure.)💕

    Liked by 2 people

  37. rkrontheroad March 23, 2022 / 1:41 pm

    I have read most of Bachman’s books in English translation, including Anxious People. Many of the same characters flow through his stories and they all have that sense of warmth and humor. I’ll have to check out the tv/movie version, although I’m always a little reluctant after I’ve loved a book.

    Liked by 2 people

  38. Lisa at Micro of the Macro March 26, 2022 / 2:43 pm

    Thanks for sharing the things that warm your heart, Neil! I will check out the Netflix series you suggested. My kitty warms my heart multiple times a day. And many other times each day, she makes me laugh. You and I are blessed, my friend! 🌞

    Liked by 1 person

  39. ckennedy March 27, 2022 / 3:57 pm

    Such great recommendations! I’m always on the lookout for new things.

    Liked by 1 person

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