Tuesday, 31 May 2011

The Peter Pan of Angst.

Today marks the release of Death Cab For Cutie’s seventh album Codes and Keys. Six years ago I would have been anticipating this day like no other.

In fact I was. In 2005 Plans was released and I was nervously biting my nails, jumping up and down anticipating what that first riff might sound like. When it eventually came my body tingled with delight, a release of tension that had been welling up inside my body for a good six months. One of my all time favourite bands had FINALLY released new material. Yet last week when I downloaded the leak of Codes and Keys, those first bars were met with a slight smile and a thought ‘This sounds nice’ This is not a particular criticism of the band itself, but rather the change they have gone through and I have not.

A friend often jokingly refers to me as a ‘teenage girl’ not only for my tastes in music and television but also for my tendency towards obsession. I consume everything to the point of saturation, often repeating the same songs on ITunes incessantly and constantly raving about my latest discoveries. There is a reason I do this.

I live an extremely sheltered life; sometimes because of my disability and more often through design. I live my life vicariously through pop culture. I was never invited to (or wanted to go to) high school or university parties, I never had to choose between two attractive girls who fought for my attention and I never got the chance to play the sports I wanted to play. So I am drawn to texts that reflect my idealised imaginary experience, often resenting the characters that play the parts I never got the chance to. No fictional work accurately reflects the experience of someone who is caught between my two communities: the crippled one who I often think I am too good for, and the able-bodied one, which I can never fully be apart of because the members of that community do not fully appreciate my internal struggles.

So what does leave me with? Angst. I don’t fit in. I crave the type of love that I struggle to receive, because I am not really capable of accepting it, or giving it. So it is only natural that I hold on to tales of adolescence and the music that reflect those moods. There is a reason that Death Cab for Cutie now fail to excite me. They are over thirty. Though I will hit that mark in the near future, the experience of Ben Gibbard’s fourth decade will in no way reflect mine. I won’t have a stable relationship. I will not be domesticated. And I won’t be content with my life.

Basically all that I will have are regrets. Future angst will be mixed with a nostalgic one, resenting both what I could never experience and what I will never get the chance to experience. I look back now realising that I will be forever caught in an infinite loop. In the words of Stable Song:

The gift of memory is an awful curse, with age it just gets much worse.

Monday, 30 May 2011

I Don't Believe Them

'My current state will cease to exist'. That is what everybody keeps telling me. I don't believe them.

At some point this week, my battle with depression will reach a wider audience. Only it will be disguised in disability theory because that was what was needed. Truthfully I could only expose less than 40% of my pain in that instance. I can describe even less of it here. People ask 'How you are, really'? and those who I have been game enough to tell the whole truth to have been hurt by my response.

A friend of mine went through (almost) the same circumstances that I went through at the same time I did. I found out a couple of days ago that they have successfully found a partner. I could not be happier for them. Yet thoughts of me making the same move, or at least attempting it, border on insane. I am emotionally neutered. In fact, I am even pondering whether I can even make that move in my lifetime.

'You will, you will.' That is everybody keeps telling me. I don't believe them.

Pleasure when it exists only does so in brief flickering instances. In each case it is masochistic, the pain overpowering the feelings of joy by an infinite power no calculator can measure.

'The pain will go away eventually' That is everybody keeps telling me. I don't believe them

Thursday, 26 May 2011

My Lost Youth

There are things of which I may not speak;     
There are dreams that cannot die; 
There are thoughts that make the strong heart weak,   
And bring a pallor into the cheek,     

And a mist before the eye.     
And the words of that fatal song     
Come over me like a chill:      
'A boy's will is the wind's will,   
And the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts.'

Extract by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Lindsay Tanner's Pointless and Hypocritical Sideshow

Lindsay Tanner, former Finance Minister in the Rudd Government has long been regarded as an intelligent politician. At times he seemed like he was more suited to the halls of academia, rather than the cut and thrust of the parliamentary chamber. This reputation has been cemented since Tanner left politics at last year’s election and the release of his book Sideshow, which examines the ‘…symbiotic relationship between politics and the media’. That last quote comes not from Tanner’s book but the ‘Politics and the Media’ textbook I used when teaching a university course last year.

The trouble with Sideshow is it acts as Tanner’s post political exercise in intellectual masturbation. For a politician hailed for his mental dexterity as well as his political and policy expertise, Tanner too heavily relies upon pithy insights that are easily digestible. When the book attempts to offer deep insight, the book reads like a second rate literature review of communication theories and their impact upon political discourse. Far from being ‘…the greatest leader the Australian Labor Party ever had’ Tanner has made himself into the politics tutor Melbourne University never asked for.

The structure of the book is overly simplistic in its execution. For example Tanner brings up a vaguely general point about the ‘celebrity culture’ of modern politics. Then he uses far too many academic texts to back up his initial points, like a diligent, incompetent and overconfident mature aged student. Finally he uses well known examples to extrapolate the theory. This would be good, but all the examples are incredibly innocuous, lest they be damaging to his former colleagues. As a result the reader is left with elemental constructions disguised as prophetic analysis.  
It is no wonder that the book has received near universal acclaim from the media because Sideshow is Tanner’s hypocritical diatribe. He claims that the media offers no substantial political or policy insight without offering any himself. Former Rudd economic adviser Andrew Charlton states in The Monthly that Sideshow is 
…thoughtful, wide ranging and intellectually adventurous. It was like nothing I’d ever read from an Australian politician. It was one of those books you want to read with a pen and a highlighter, to catch and preserve the ideas that fly off every page.
It is in fact the opposite of this; intellectually impotent. Whilst highlighting many basic problems with politics and the media, Sideshow offers no alternatives or remedies to the many faults that Tanner sees. If Tanner was caught in a ‘sideshow’ during his time in politics, why didn’t he attempt to circumvent the many problems of the Rudd Government’s media management strategy? As Bernard Keane notes in Crikey:
Tanner, while not suggesting it’s the fault of anyone in particular, singles out the media and politicians, and to a lesser extent voters themselves, for blame. Absent, though, are the political parties – and especially Labor – which have provided an institutional framework for the dumbing down of politics. It’s impossible to look at the debacle of the NSW Government, and the travails of Federal Labor over the last 13 months, without seeing the dead hand of the party machine helping steer its parliamentary wing to destruction.
Only sparingly in the last chapter does Tanner undertake some analysis, but even those attempts are feeble: choosing instead to blame a weak constituency, rather than point the finger at systemic institutional rot. It is easier to blame the disengaged, instead of providing the voting public with alternatives to become increasingly involved in the political process. Sideshow was Tanner’s chance to be brave, bold and live up to his reputation as a reformer who was not afraid to tackle big issues for the sake of the public interest. Instead he comes at the reader with a weak message that is diluted and ineffectual. His critics might say the same about his political career too.

Tanner missed far too many points that should have been included. Where was the mention of the ‘presidentialisation’ of politics? How about the trend of political parties marginalising their grass roots base in order to appease the media narrative? What about the fickle tendency of parties to get rid of leaders, rather than policies because the media prefers it that way? There was none. Instead of stopping the ‘sideshow’ Tanner has merely added to it. As a consequence the public, the media, and politics at large are none the wiser. They should feel aggrieved because all Sideshow does is illustrate the unfulfilled potential of one of Australia’s most under utilised political minds.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Upfronts, Finales & Television's Critical Culture

This last week was the biggest TV week of the year where two of the largest events in the American industry combined to the point of saturation. Somewhat bizarrely in the Australian context the third week of May is the last week of ratings in the States, meaning that the majority of shows air their last episodes of the season. Simultaneously the television networks also host their ‘Upfront’ presentations aimed at critics and advertisers where top network executives pitch their schedules for the next year. This includes previewing the new shows that will start in September. In essence the transition between the end of one television season and the beginning of another is almost instantaneous.

The dominant feature of this past television season is that not many shows that commenced last September survived for a second year. A personal favourite of mine The Chicago Code was a notable casualty, largely because the Fox network had used up the majority of its schedule with new shows including the new Simon Cowell reality competition The X Factor, and the Steven Speilberg produced Sci-Fi drama, Terra Nova. This is but one example of television industry politics at its finest, which Australian audiences have little knowledge of or interest in. If you are interested in a detailed analysis of the American television industry I would recommend both the TVOTI Podcast as well as the Firewall and Iceberg Podcast, both of which are thoroughly entertaining, are tremendously detailed, and are full of insightful knowledge.

This week I’ve watched the finales of 90210, Gossip Girl, Glee, Parenthood, One Tree Hill, Hellcats, Grey’s Anatomy and The Big Bang Theory plus episodes of The Secret Life of the American Teenager, Make It or Break It and The Chicago Code. Aside from all being made in the US the common theme with these television shows is that they are all yet to air in Australia, or the networks are several episodes behind the US schedule. Is it any wonder that I download these shows when the Australian networks treat viewers and their own schedules with such contempt?

Moreover the quality of critical analysis of television in this country is substandard compared with American journalists. Although TV Tonight is a wonderful Australian website that tackles industry news and scheduling insight, there is very little commentary. When compared with last week’s issue New York Magazine, specifically looking at the state of the television industry, there was no contest. In particular the thought provoking and controversial piece by Roseanne Barr is the kind of material that I as a discerning viewer of media crave. Why do we not have these types of pieces in Australia? Further, why are viewers subjected to superficial filth instead?

Australian society is constantly under criticism because of the increasing influence of the United States. Sure American culture is omnipresent, but maybe there is a reason for this. Contrary to popular belief perhaps American culture is not as superficial as the stereotype suggests. In between the crap, American critics are reflective and thoughtful despite being egocentric. Australian television audiences needs more of these qualities, not less.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

First Person

Sitting here in the dark late at night pondering my ill fated decisions is the quintessential motif of my life.

Hell, it is the reason for all of this: the creation of the blog. This blog was the genesis for the best day of my life, and the instigator for the worst day of my life just 20 days after. Consequently it seems the best place to ask:

What do I want out of life?

I want to be out of this wheelchair, this house, and most importantly I want to be over this mountainous life. I’m sick of climbing peaks guided by metaphorical and literal tour guides. Basically I want to be the person I was 6 months ago with a few provisos.

  1. No deceptions and lying
  2. Emotional independence
  3. Have strength and resilience.

I have determined that I have had my shot at any form of intimate long term relationship. I gave it my best shot, made lots of mistakes, and now I have decided to throw in the towel (at least until a I get all my shit together, which is probably never). The kind of feelings I felt were so intense, that I don't think it is possible for me to feel them again. I am not built that way. That was my chance and I messed it up. Should I come anywhere near close I will stop, revel in the once in a lifetime memories that were created and stop.

I have determined that I might make a good friend, but I am lousy boyfriend material.

Of course I will never be out of the wheelchair, although it seems I wish this to be the case more and more every single day. Don’t tell me not to. You can’t possibly imagine the combination of feelings associated with my particular brand of disability.

I want to be a downhill skier just for a while. I want something to come easy for once. Just one thing. I want to enjoy every aspect of my life, something I have not been able to do my entire life. I want to be proud of myself. The intellectual me is too easy to be proud of. I want to be the kind of person that my hero can be proud of. I have never been that person.

I want to use this time I have to reconstruct my life, not waste it, and not rush it to do all the things I have mentioned above.

I want the best day to provide me with strength and my worst to remind me of the things I constantly need to change.

Monday, 16 May 2011

Degrees of Pain

I dreamt of you again last night. And when I woke up it was as if you had died afresh. Every day I find it harder to bear. For what point is there in life now?… I look at our favourites, I try and read them, but without you they give me no pleasure… it is impossible to think that I shall never sit down with you again and hear you laugh. That every day for the rest of my life you will be away.

Dora Carrington

It has been almost five months since I began my passage of grief, almost eclipsing the period of time I am supposed to be grieving over. When examined in those terms it seems insignificant, but that passage of time was the most significant time in my life. That is scary because I feel I didn’t and do not deserve that time, as if I was not worthy of it. Its quick demise is the irrefutable proof of this fact.

These months of grief have been the most selfish period in what has been (up to this point) an extraordinarily selfish life. Life out of necessity has always been on my terms. My extreme anger and sadness has compounded this exponentially. I’m sorry world, but I just don’t have the energy to deal with anybody, anything or anyone right now. It may have been five months, but I am exhausted at just having to survive this. I don’t know how long this will last. It already feels like forever and it probably will continue on forever, because no matter how much I try nothing seems to make it any better.

It is a chore to venture outside the semi comfort of my room, where I constantly reside. In all honesty nothing feels comfortable anymore, it is simply degrees of pain: what I can tolerate and what I cannot. Experts say that I need some form of social interaction: those few around me are pushing for this particularly, and it is for them I try on a limited scale. For me though I am not and never will be a social person. If I had the choice I just want to hide with only my wits to keep me company, and become even more selfish if that is possible. I do not wish to add to my discomfort any further.

I’m sorry, I really am.

The only way I can treat this is like a death, even though it isn’t really. There’s no set textbook for what I have. I cannot label it, although I keep trying to because it is really the only way I can comprehend what is happening to me. I figure I am far more crippled emotionally than I am physically. The loss of the most meaningful relationship I have had outside my family has rendered me an emotional corpse.  I thought I had more strength than this, but this proves I do not. While life continues on around me, each day becomes harder and more painful like a knife stabbing into a fresh wound that never heals it just continues to grow larger.

Thursday, 12 May 2011

Classic Albums: The Con (2007)

This is the first in a series of blog posts that will explore my favourite albums. 

When the members of my favourite band, Tegan and Sara Quin announced they were releasing a new album in 2007, I was understandably ecstatic. The announcement was fuelled to musical orgasm status when Sara revealed that the girls had enlisted the lead guitarist from my second favourite band, Death Cab for Cutie to produce the record. Getting Christopher Walla to produce Tegan and Sara was like the musical gods coming down to greet me, giving me a slight knowing wink whilst I pee my pants in excited anticipation. Ladies and gents, this was my equivalent of Brian Wilson producing a Beatles record.

The Con Tegan and Sara’s 5th album was released on July 27th, 2007. However, being the dedicated fan boy that I am, I couldn’t wait, and I trawled through websites looking for a leak the only way I knew how. Finally on May 27th 2007, I found one, The 26 minutes it took me to download the leak were the longest of my life (Not least because my parents were watching David Koch and Melissa Doyle hosting Where Are They Now? The Show For Has Beens, Drug Addicts, & Lounge Singers). The big question was did The Con live up to my hype?


The album before The Con, So Jealous had the catchy tunes of Take Me Anywhere, Speak Slow, and You Wouldn’t Like Me but the girls songwriting for this album matured beyond belief. The songwriting is more introspective than previous efforts. The title track is in my top 5 of my all time favourites,  However, its others like the favourite for 2nd place in that contest Dark Come Soon, where she really showcases her skills.

As for Walla, what can you say about Walla? He is a genius!  Ignore Death Cab for just one second and you will soon realise that this was a golden period for him. He produced two classic albums in two years, with The Decemberists The Crane’s Wife in 2006. Not only did he played to the girls strengths of catchy, emotive songwriting, but he has also given the girls a much more polished and fuller sound. Gone are the heavy use of acoustic guitars of If It Was You in favour of the synths. Cynics would most likely cringe at the description, but it really does work. Walla evoked  Phil Spector, (Minus the homicidal rage) everything he does turns to gold. He could even make Rebecca Black sound good.

It covers all the bases for what constitues a great album, emotional depth, catchy tunes, and technical wizardry. These are the reasons its my favourite album of all time.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Dark, Seeing No Light

At some point this week I was going to write a confessional type posts. Though I am trying to avoid this I was inspired by this incredibly moving post dealing with alcoholism and another on the perils of online dating. However, I am not skilled in this area. In fact I have written two separate posts and then deleted them because the tone was not right.

I feel increasing isolated. Not the isolation that leads to loneliness. I don’t really care if I am alone for the rest of my life, although I realise I can't be. This is more an intellectual and emotional loneliness. Emotional in the sense that I have trouble communicating exactly what I am feeling. Depression it seems is a well worn cliché, where it only seems acceptable for a certain period of time. Then people expect you to be ‘over it’ like it is the flu or something: where if you will yourself to get better or think positive thoughts it shall be cured. I am not suggesting that I am the only person to go through this, but as hard as I try to explain it, no one can understand it. It is caused by things that are specific to me alone. It is even trickier when the depression is added to my existing physical disability, which acts as a constant reminder of things I am not capable of. This in turn forms a vicious cycle: I can not do the things I want to do to ease my melancholy and so I stay depressed.

Intellectually I cannot do anything. I am not motivated to do any thesis work, because it is a challenge just to get through the day unscathed. A day spent pushing down the pain, and waiting for the right time to express it is incredibly exhausting. Much more exhausting than writing 2,000 words a day that is for sure.

For this reason I missed the National Disability and Carers Congress (NDCC) in Melbourne this week. I was just too ‘sick’ to go. This was enormously frustrating for me. Reports from the conference suggest that it was an elongated rally for the NDIS, where the bastard concept was promoted and marketed within an inch of its life. Consequently conversations I have had with several attendees have indicated that no alternatives were suggested.  I doubt that my attendance would have changed this, but at least my opinion would have been heard, because I would have made sure it was. I have lost the fight that I needed to win. I give up.

I am stuck with a system I do not want, need or desire. When it does not work I will not get any satisfaction from saying ‘I told you so’. Instead it just reinforces my opinion that I am unable to control any aspect of my life whether I want to or not. This is so demoralising because up until this point in my life I have spent it trying to prove to myself that I can.

Either I am too weak, or I have failed. Which is worse?

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Lissie Outshines Washington

I was going to do a long form review of the Washington gig I went to last night at The Tivoli in Brisbane. However, Carly Findlay’s review of Washington's Melbourne show earlier this week pretty much takes care of things. Except for a few differences:
  • I don’t think Washington was drunk, she seemed to enjoy her the home town crowd. She was weird and quirky, but I think that’s just part of her personality
  • The live show was very different from the album experience. On the album I enjoy the fast tempo numbers like The Hardest Part, Cement, and Sunday Best, but the arrangements to those songs were poor, almost too fast and poorly composed. I think she was let down by her backing band in this respect. In contrast the slower numbers, I Believe You Liar, How to Tame Lions and Underground were the highlights of the set and worth the price of admission alone.
But Washington had a lot to live up to because her support act Lissie stole the show and put on one of the most memorable live sets I think I have ever seen. On stage she was like Lucinda Williams and Joan Jett's love child. The backing band were experienced and technically perfect. They even also managed to convince me to like a hip hop song, no small task.

Motto of the gig: Buy your ticket for Washington, stay for Lissie, not the other way around