Friday, 30 October 2009

G6

Might write something I want to say to you someday
Might do something I'd be proud of someday
Mark my words, I might be something someday

For the first time in a long, long time I actually feel content. It is not that I wasn’t happy before, life was good, it was challenging, fulfilling, interesting, and complex, but rarely exciting. I have always had purpose, stubbornly so, but actually living life seems more important now. The goals have not diminished, but they are now part of a wider tapestry of life.

Following on from a few discussions I have had recently and the list I published a couple of weeks ago, I have decided that it is not enough to merely express my inner most thoughts nightly during the four or so hours I am trapped in bed waiting to fall asleep. It is not enough to wait for the ‘right moment’ to tell people how I feel, for it may never come.

So after talking to one of its members, I have dubbed a group of my most trusted friends ‘The Group of 6’. (G6) These six all know who they are: they are only 6 whom I trust with my life, my heart, and my soul. I also tell them how important they are to me every chance I get, but now it is time for others to know.

Late at night it is these people who I think about, I think about their hopes, their dreams, their goals, what drives them, but perhaps most importantly what binds us together. I think about the times we have spent together, and the future experiences we have yet to share. In my photographic overactive mind, I have written wedding toasts, eulogies, and other speeches for their most important moments. I have made ITunes play lists for all of them, which I listen to when they are going through a rough patch as my way of cosmically sending positive thoughts. Sometimes, I even give these play lists to them.

Yes it is intense, all of the best people are. They emote at every opportunity. It has now become such a part of our culture to denigrate people who wear their hearts on their sleeves. Being ‘emotional’ is short hand for categorising teenagers who wear too much eye make up and listen to music performed by skinny white boys. There’s nothing wrong with that. There’s nothing wrong with saying you’d die for a certain person, given that it was absolutely necessary. I can tell you now that I would die for everyone in the G6, without even having to think twice about it.

Some people think about a person’s funeral and they have nightmares. I write eulogies all of the time hoping never to give them, but using them as a tool to work out what I want to say to that person while they are alive. I don’t want the nicest words spoken about me to be when I am dead. And I don’t want my words spoken when they cannot hear them.

And so in the conversation mentioned above, I spoke the most honest words I had ever spoken to which they are claimed they did not feel worthy of. Funny that, because this person tells people on such a regular basis that they are amazing, and yet was complaining that these people never understood that it was meant with all sincerity. Sincerity its hard to come by these days.

Finally, to the most important member of the G6, who always reads this blog even when its complete drivel, even when it was in a different location, and always has done since the beginning. You are always number one on my call list, always will be no matter what happens. You deserve to be because you’ve put up with so much of my shit and still call me a friend. You are always there for me when I need you. That is why you are the G6's leading member.

Forget someday, someday is today.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

'I’ve Given All I Can, But We’re Still on the Payroll'

As promised I am drawing up my best albums of the decade list in my room at night when I cannot sleep. It is proving to be a tough job, so much so that I’ll probably have to extend the list to 30 albums rather than 20. I wish the media had this problem. So far I’ve read five best of the decade lists. Four of them have Radiohead’s Kid A at the top of the list while one of them has White Blood Cells by The White Stripes. Seriously? The White Stripes? What the hell was Uncut Magazine smoking?

However its Radiohead that are worth exploring. What the hell makes them critical darlings? To me, they are just a conventional Brit Pop band who evolved musically into a somewhat electronic sound, deliberately labelling themselves as ‘A look at me band’, all the while being smart enough to corner an uncharted market for just over a decade. Fans will probably lynch me for saying this, but they are the alternative version of Britney Spears.

There is no question that some of their songs are bordering on pure genius, but these are far too rare. 1997’s OK Computer remains unquestionably their strongest album with great songs such as Let Down, Exit Music (From a Film) with of course both Karma Police and Paranoid Android. I would argue that this was their creative peak. At the time this was hailed as the great work that it undoubtedly was, but comparisons about it being the modern version of Dark Side of the Moon were pure hyperbole.

Things started going downhill with the release of Kid A and Amnesiac. Radiohead starting crafting music that dared to be different, rather than focusing on the actual song craft. To be sure there were still a few good songs, but with each new album the quality dipped. In fact, out of all there 21st century output I have only liked about 8 songs. For every Morning Bell/Amnesiac there was a Like Spinning Plates and many other stinkers. Hail to the Thief arrived to critical raptures, but only had two decent songs. Then came the triumph of marketing over substance known as In Rainbows.

It didn’t matter that the record was a steaming pile of turd, the whole debate over getting users to choose their own price for the record, was outstandingly savvy, and probably the most genius marketing strategy ever. The anti marketing strategy. The hipster Pitchfork wankers of the world thought they were sticking it to the record company, when in fact they played right into their hands.

This confirmed for me that Radiohead are not revolutionary just patchy with excellent marketing strategies. I think I could write a thesis on how Radiohead use anti marketing techniques to position themselves as a universally admired band. They try to be provocative just as Britney Spears does. Instead of using sex/stupidity, they use anti-authoritarian publicity to whip the media up into frenzy, The marketing campaign for In Rainbows being a classic example. They get more publicity for this strategy then the music on the album. Their great material lives up to the hype, but that hype is carefully orchestrated. Most people who are looking to them as musical royalty have fallen for the marketing machine.

The day after In Rainbows was released I counted four newspaper articles and seven blogs discussing the concept of pay what you think its worth. At that stage I couldn’t comment on the content of the album, but neither did they. Fans suggest that Radiohead avoid attention and marketing. That’s just nonsense.

A quote from one of my favourite blogs Intensities In Ten Suburbs (by a Radiohead fan) sums up how they realised special edition box sets after the initial hype only to squeeze out every possible dollar from gullible fans.

Brilliant manoeuvre on Radiohead’s part pretty much now matter how you look at it, but naturally, it’s not quite as simple as all that. For those cheeky bastards have also set a snare trap for their more gullible fans in the form of a box set that costs 40 pounds, which comes out to over 80 bucks for you Yanks out there. The box set contains the album in CD form, an extra disc of new music, 2 LPs with the same content as the CDs, and some photos and art work. So essentially, assuming you would’ve gotten the download for free anwyay, you’re paying $80 for about eight songs worth of new music.

My relationship with Radiohead charts the course my young adulthood. When OK Computer was released my brother would listen to it in the car repeatedly while taking me out. They clearly weren’t my taste then so they dropped off my radar. About five years ago they emerged for me again in a whole new context. For a period of about 3 months I devoured every Radiohead album as I was getting to know the person who has probably had the most profound effect on my life to date. Then Radiohead dropped off my radar again, only briefly returning upon the release of In Rainbows.

And over the past week I find myself listening to the good songs again as I can feel myself going through another profound change. To be sure, most of the output I like is meant to sound depressing as shit, but their great work seems to have the opposite effect on me. It gives me optimism, it makes me feel creative and it gives me freedom. And so they might not be the greatest band of the past fifteen years, but if they can get rid of all the bullshit, they might just be a decent band.

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Sainthood & the Rise of Sara

Everybody reading this should know that I am a HUGE Tegan and Sara fan. So much so that I own all six albums, their EPs, remix albums, demo albums, plus 19 additional bootleg recordings. I’ve seen them live 5 times in 4 different Australian states. Needless to say, you probably won’t find a bigger fan boy in the Tegan and Sara universe. It is hard to quantify my adulation for both Quin sisters. They are my creative heroes, intellectual peers, and cultural icons. Listening to a brand new album from them the very first time is quite the experience. It takes on orgasmic proportions.

Today was such a day. Although their album Sainthood gets released next week, it leaked on the internet in the early hours of this morning. Naturally, I couldn’t wait to hear the finished product. Back in 2007 when Sainthood’s predecessor The Con was released, I wrote that it was quite possibly the album of my lifetime. Congratulations Sainthood because now we have a new champion.

Those who don’t know me that well would say this is a hasty judgment. In fact one friend and fellow Tegan and Sara fan said today that this was a decision based on adrenaline. I know this not to be the case, because the previous call was made on the first day I heard that record, and its only now just been replaced. Stylistically, where The Con was angsty, Sainthood is thought provoking. Vocals are pushed further up in the mix and while early reports suggesting the album would be electronic, Sainthood has a more 80s New Romantic vibe, particularly on the Tegan penned Don't Rush. The Girls’ gift for songwriting is more noticeable and the album seems more cohesive than The Con, there's not as big stylistic gap between the two songwriters now.

Any hardcore Tegan and Sara fan will tell you that their contingent is divided into two evenly distributed camps. The ‘T Teamers’ prefer Tegan’s more emotional brand of songwriting that generally favours a more poppy sound. Meanwhile, the ‘S Sidekicks’ prefer Sara’s more literate songwriting that combines with more quirky instrumentation. Although they are my two favourite songwriters, I was most definitely a ‘T Teamer’… until now

sainthoodcover

It is Sara’s songs that really shine on this record, and in particular the potential second single On Directing. Complete with lyrics like ‘Go steady with me, I know it turns you off when I get talking like a teen, talking like a teen’ this song is the worthy successor to The Con’s first single Back In Your Head in terms of Sara’s ability to capture intricate lyrics with an innate sense of melody. Arrow and Alligator continue this trend to demonstrate that Sara is the finest songwriter of her generation.

However, Tegan is not far behind. Tracks such as The Ocean, Someday and lead single Hell show Tegan’s ability to craft a catchy and powerful hook remained unparalleled. Tegan also branches out on this record with the song Northshore evoking Deborah Harry and Joan Jett with a straightforward thrashing punk number. Unfortunately for Tegan, Sara once again steals the spotlight from her, in this case with her wondrous backing vocals.

Once again Co-Produced by Death Cab for Cutie’s Christopher Walla, he continues to elevate his status as a latter day George Martin or Brian Wilson. He has produced nine classic albums this decade for three different artists. His stature as the pre-eminent musician of the 21st century cannot be questioned, as both a part of Death Cab and a producer in his own right.

But it is to Tegan and Sara who the credit must go to for Sainthood. They have proven why they are the best band in the world. Not only do they write and play classic songs, they continue to improve exponentially making each new album a revelation. Their maturity is on full display throughout Sainthood indicating that there will more Sidekicks and Teamers with each passing year.

Friday, 16 October 2009

An Inspired List

I feel this weird compulsion to write even though its all I’ve been doing for a few days now. Whether it be my thesis, several long winded emails to friends or that metaphorical red pen through the track changes of a Word document, I’m sick of the word processor. And yet I have so many pent up emotions, both good and bad that I need to channel this cacophony of feelings into some form, although I know I cannot say what I want to say at this point… but soon enough.

So what you’re getting is a list. I’ve just read an amazing ‘bucket list’ of things a person who I admire greatly hopes to achieve in their lifetime. As good as that bucket list was, I’ve come to the conclusion that those aren’t for me, so I decided on a variant, more of a list of affirmations that I hope will keep me focused in amongst the many joys and the many doubts that plague me.

1. I will try to remain balanced in all areas of my life
2. I will remain focused on my goals
3. I will get through my thesis in the allotted time period no matter how big the task may seem at any given moment
4. I will broaden my horizons
5. I now believe its possible for me to be happy, despite all the obstacles that confront me, obvious or otherwise
6. I believe I will change the world
7. I will not resort to self destructive behaviour when things don’t go my way
8. I will continue to maintain my sense of perspective
9. I will not become single minded, no matter how tempting that might be
10. The most important things in my life: are my family, my friends, my music, my political party, and my football team in that order
11. I will continue to fight for what I believe is right
12. I will continue to be thankful for my best friend, the greatest person on the face of the earth
13. I will continue to fight injustice in the world
14. I believe that the ALP is the greatest political party on earth. Sometimes I may disagree with policies or actions of a minor consequence, but in terms of the bigger picture, it’s the greatest vessel to espouse my social democratic values and will remain so
15. I will never apologise for who I am.
16. I will not compromise the core values, outlined in 10, for anyone
17. I believe that I know my purpose in life
18. I know some people will scoff at this list, and think its corny, and to them I say ‘You try it buddy, perhaps you might get inspired, and if not there is no place for you in my world’
19. I know that if I die tomorrow, I will remain unsatisfied
20. I believe that it truly sucks to be a cripple, but I wouldn’t have it any other way
21. I believe in Karma. What you give is what you get returned (See what I did there?)
22. One day I will write two books, one an autobiography, and one on music criticism, and I won’t care whether they get published
23. Despite what people tell me, I know myself better than anyone else
24. Sometimes its OK to be vulnerable, but I know that this vulnerability will only be exposed to a lucky few
25. Every important moment has a song attached it.
26. Sometimes the record may get scratched, but its important to play it for the first time
27. I know that I am lucky
28. Someday, I will not be insecure. When that day comes the world will know
29. This list is for me and no one else
30. I will always be open and honest with my feelings
31. I will tell the right people I love them
32. Sometimes its good to know that things can change, change is scary, but it is life

Friday, 9 October 2009

Resuming Normal Service

I'm working on the thesis, and behind on the proposed book reviews and watching the television shows in my rotation (9 shows to watch most likely tonight/tomorrow.) Sunday is ALP Regional conference (in of all places, the delightful Nambour) where I am seconding a motion that has already been submitted and bringing a motion up from the floor. After that, essays are due Monday and I start marking for a week or two in between thesis work. During which I have another two books to peruse and make copious notes, before submitting another draft of the conformation document to my supervisors.

Therefore I would like to reflect on the last couple of posts and set the record straight. The last few posts have taken on a decidedly negative tone focusing on things that it was never designed to. This place was never designed as an outlet for me to talk about my disability, or indeed to reflect the life of one who ‘suffers’ from a disability. Naturally sometimes the focus of discussion will inevitably drift towards the topic, but where possible I aim to avoid it directly henceforth. I may be in denial, but I am not disabled.

I am grateful for things as they currently stand. Reading another blog today reminded me of just how lucky I am. I don’t have to put up with drama, stupidity, nor pain. I am a smart guy who is well on the way to achieving his potential (always my greatest fear is that I will not), I have great friends and family, I am doing what I love. And I will make a difference in this world. When I have all of that, minor things like shitting on schedule or the ability to satisfy ones primal urges remain trivial.

And the ironic thing is that about 3 hours after posting my blog suggesting that no one will catch my eye, someone did. Like those who came before her it will never, never, ever happen, too many factors conspiring against it, including a few years. To paraphrase the previous post the record hasn’t even been put on yet, much less been bought from the shop. But I picked it up, put it back and shall think about purchasing it if the stars align, but for now it sits firmly on the shelf.

So how about that Malcolm Turnbull? ….

Sunday, 4 October 2009

The Urge

My idea for a perfect day is as follows. I get up late, I put on some music, read nine newspapers from cover to cover, then watch all the movies and television shows I’ve missed out on. I then put on some more music and read a book or finish some work. Repeat this routine where applicable. What do all these activities have in common? They require no social interaction whatsoever.

Most psychologists would say this kind of behaviour is abnormal, even troubling. I have grown up with society telling me this behaviour is frowned upon, even hazardous to a person’s mental health. It’s not like I can’t hold a conversation, I can, about many, many things. I just choose not to. When I want to have a conversation it has to mean something. Conversations that lead nowhere are not worth my time.

I can’t really pinpoint a reason why this is so. Conversations have to be on my terms or I have no patience for them. They inevitably turn into an intellectual pissing match because that’s how I operate. I overcompensate with intellectual prowess in order to mask my emotional and physical disabilities. If the conversation is not fixed on these terms I withdraw either physically or emotionally.

That occurs always, except with my immediate family and a notable exception. Outwardly, no outside observer could say that this exception is anything special. They would have to know them personally to discover this. Yet this is the only person I miss after not being in contact with them after long periods of time. They are the only person with whom I can have a conversation with hours on end and never run out of things to say. Why is this so? I couldn’t honestly say. We just understand each other. It isn’t as if I rely on them as my only form of contact with the wider world. At the time of writing we have spoken just once in three months. As the old saying goes, its quality not quantity that counts.

Yet I am totally happy, for the most part. Sometimes I bitch and moan about not having a girlfriend, but when living this kind of lifestyle, I won’t meet enough people to even have a girlfriend short list. I don’t even want a girlfriend. Theoretically speaking, having a girlfriend would be a disaster that would ruin my lifestyle and render those perfect days utterly extinct. Girlfriends would require engaging in conversation and activities that do not interest me. Girlfriends would require innumerable social activities, both to find one and to keep one. Girlfriends do not require intellectual pissing contests. Girlfriends require you to be vulnerable, attentive and empathetic and I am none of those.

I am curious to know what urge, be it biological or societal, draws us in and wants us to partner up in the first place. I don’t know how to explain that split second urge that starts those feelings and emotions, but that’s what it is, a split second, or not even a split second, maybe half a split second. It screams ‘I must have her NOW’. That half a second is all it takes to ruin, a month, a year or possibly decades of emotional well being. I had that urge I don’t anymore.

The wasted time in a relationship is an attempt to reclaim the split second urge one feels the first time around, although it is never, ever repeated again. It’s like putting on a great record for the first time, no matter how many times you play it nothing will ever match the joy upon hearing it for the first time. Eventually the record gets scratched to buggery and you can play it no longer. The eternal optimists of this world would say that this is no way to live one’s life. They would say that I will die a bitter, twisted, and lonely old man with absolutely no friends. They, I believe are incorrect. Yes I would more than likely end up alone, but I would not end up lonely. Loneliness implies that a person needs social contact in order to be validated.

The advent of the information age has highlighted how inept I am at relationships. I graduated from high school eight years ago and Facebook has reliably informed me that most of my classmates have either: married fellow classmates, had babies with fellow classmates, married outside our strangely incestuous class, or are in contented relationships. At the age of 25, one should just be growing out of the phase of developing STDs. I am doing none of these things; rather I am just sitting here listening to music writing about how I have never done these things.

Society tells me that at my age that I should want to do these things. Media parades coupledom as normalcy. Every single person that I respect as part of my popular culture tapestry is in a relationship or uses their notoriety to illustrate just how much they wish to be in one. However, given the choice I think I’d rather set my testicles on fire than happily commit to another person in the long term. A ‘night of fun’ perhaps yes, but then again, cripples weren’t built to have the occasional ‘night of fun’ too much work for the other person, you see. If they were to put in that much effort they’d want a long term commitment. I am not built for such extravagances.

Why not? Perhaps it is because I have been burnt so many times before. Those who think they know me would say so. I’d say that maturity has taught me this. I venture to guess that I do more self appraisal than most and I’ve come to the conclusion that I am willingly selfish. Selfish out of necessity even, because my life must be planned to within every inch of detail. Relationships throw such plans out of kilter, and quite frankly at this time I am repulsed by them.

Who knows one day the spitting image of Kristen Stewart, with a taste for quality music and a penchant for social democratic political activism might just wonder into my life rendering the above meaningless or at worst hypocritical. When that unlikely event emerges you can read this back to me, call me a hypocrite and laugh uncontrollably. Just don’t expect it to happen anytime soon.