Friday, December 06, 2013

In principle, I quite admire you, the informed contrarian. But in practice, it seems to invite a complete disregard for empathy, which I admire less. My every experience is reduced to the unremarkable result of some set of equations and principles that operated without me knowing. There's the implicit belief (and don't you try to deny it) that this diminishes the experience. Whether or not it is true, I simply don't care. Instead of trying to arrive at these dismal conclusions, how about relating to the person? Marvelling at the arc of their story? That's why, to me, you don't understand anything about the world at all, or at least not the one I occupy, and wish on others. Your universe, whose uninvitingness you mistake as a certificate of authenticity, is a wretched place. We all may be dirt in the ground at the end, I don't deny that. But you are not alone in feeling pity. Yours is based on a jaundiced view of the world. Mine is based on the belief that happiness is not something that needs to be justified.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Half year report card

By way of explaining, for the foreseeable future, I suspect time will be measured relative to the end of that experience. I wasn't in a mood to pin down any resolutions or concrete goals for myself at that time, but certainly decisions were made with internal harmony very much in mind. It seems worthwhile noting how things are going on that front, then.

Overall, not too bad. While I still suffer attacks from a swarm of overwhelming negativity (as earlier posts attest to), they're not nearly as frequent as they used to be. Certainly I no longer go through entire months of black. My attempt at curing the blues thus far has been to go quite overboard when it comes to consuming things I enjoy -- music, movies, etc. -- and attempt to put in place structures that facilitate positive interaction with people I spend most of my day with.

The former has been going swimmingly. With age comes throwing away the shackles of self-assumed responsibility, and so evenings have been largely devoted to rock 'n roll, rather than grinding away at calculations. This feels closer to what a balanced existence is probably like, and it has kept me quite satisfied. At some point I imagine I will add books to the list of things to obsess over, and dare I say it video games too. Some restraint will likely need to be exercised in future, to prevent a healthy balance from tipping into wastrelry.

The latter has been going well enough, and certainly the environment is much better than before. I do think there is more to be done socially, though, at least in my immediate surroundings. (Those from the past life don't really count, though of course I'm always pleased to know they are vaguely around.) I'm not sure how to go about doing this, exactly, though; once a critical threshold is reached, as I understand there is a strong feedback loop. So getting to that threshold is the key. It might help if I had hobbies that were best shared with other people, but that's pretty much the antithesis of carefully considering records in the twilight. So what's the way forward with this? Not open problem, I guess. If progress is made on this front, and everything else doesn't deviate too wildly, I will be quite pleased with the annual report.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

It's a pity
These words must end
Because this is all I know is true;
Each day
Repeats the lie
That life keeps going without you.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

I thought that there was hope that an odious trait I observed while on exile was endogenous to the area. I speak of my peers' tendency to casual, vile putdowns of anyone deemed not technical, intelligent, or accomplished enough to occupy the same planet as them. The fact that it was based on perhaps the most vapid of criteria -- the ability to crudely manipulate symbols -- was bad enough. What was more shocking was the callous disregard for the human on the other end. It's one thing to come up with an assessment of someone -- I think that's near unavoidable as the result of an interaction -- but another to convert that to a judgement, and yet another to confidently proclaim that to the rest of the world. I had hoped that this was a function of the environment they were in, the gag-worthy self-congratulation and deluded disconnect from the lives of everyday people. It manifest in for example the tendency to treat people from different fields as inferior beings, a laughable conclusion. Anyhow, today I realised that far from being an isolated issue, it seems to be a common ailment to anyone in this profession. It is the environment, but not the geographic one. The field seems to attract egomaniacs and sociopaths, who think their (undeniable) skills deign them elevated status over the roaches that populate this earth.

But, I've concluded that this is just the way a greater evil manifests itself. People as a general rule seem to seek power and control, and when they can't get it in the absolute (which is most people), most settle for the next best, which is getting it in the imagined. Any system or collective where human nature is involved invites, possibly encourages, abuse. From my perspective, as someone whose thwarted non-quest for power resulted in me deciding that giving up was the best option, I think that means that there is no utopia. What I've sometimes blamed on study choices and distance from familiar faces is likely instead me coming face to face with what they used to call the "real world", the one outside my precious books and records, the one I will have to inhabit by myself for the lonely years ahead. The journey has just begun. It is not one I am enjoying.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Her usually composed smile, never revealing what she really thought or felt, broke for a second. He was laughing at his jocular reply, clearly oblivious to how she was taking the moment of awkwardness. This was what I thought I wanted, as I imagined it was a sign of her being more honest, less emotionally distant. But I took a look again at that dumb grin on his face, and wondered what else one could do when putting up with fools all day.

I stared into the black mirror, and could foresee the countless times ahead when I would find myself here. No matter how difficult, any way out has to be better than this fate.

Friday, November 08, 2013

In His Diary

Every so often, I think about R, and wonder why it was so important for me to earn his respect. Part of it has to do with my difficulty in reading him. Part of it is how he used to hint at what he really thought of people like me, and it wasn't altogether pretty. He all but said the words I've been using to dismiss myself since inception, but having them spoken by another makes the failure real, makes the pain something that I then have to grapple with the rest of the world being able to see. He told me he keeps track of reality, as he sees it, in his own diary. Even if not in paper, I know I am there in spirit. How does it feel, now that you're on the inside looking out? Now that you're a character in someone else's reality?

When you read back those letters to yourself, what is it that you feel? Was that automatic writing fun for you? As you sank further into whatever perverse dream you had, wasn't it a strange way down? The harder it gets to separate illusion and reality, the easier it gets to write.

If I could've been someone else, maybe things would be different. But that's the simultaneously beautiful and tragic thing about this game. The storyteller casts no judgment on what unfolds. Its sole job is to explore all possible combinations of people and their personalities, which one can only assume is an amusing game to some greater being. Some flourish, some flounder. So while the experiment has failed for me personally, there are many others in waiting. This is not a loss that matters to anyone or anything.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

1) Elliott Smith, "Pitseleh". The narrator knows better than to think his personal devastation counts for anything -- the problem starts and ends with his inability to solve his internal puzzle. I'm sure I'll think of other examples after writing this, but the theme seems curiously under-explored in song; the one parallel that comes to mind is "Walk Away Renee", where self-pity is sidestepped by the conviction of the self-negation.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Halloween Parade

This Halloween is something to be sure
Especially to be here without you

Lou Reed just passed away. My emotional reaction to the news has been surprisingly heavy. Lou occupies a complex, but I've concluded integral, place in my emotional landscape. I can't honestly say that I was as flat-out obsessed with his music the way I am with some other songwriters. But statistically, I own more of his albums than most everyone else in my collection. (A consequence of his output being so prolific, and so consistently interesting.) While some of these albums aren't, I think, objectively great artistic achievements, there are none that I regret owning or spending time getting to know. (Although I got precariously close with The Bells -- see "Disco Mystic" -- but time reveals all.) That's not something I can say about many songwriters, even my favourites -- and why is that? Quite simply, I've concluded, because Lou never seemed to deviate from his deeply idiosyncratic and personal sense of what's good and what makes a suitable subject for a song -- a sense that sometimes happened to match with the winds of the time (the Velvet's early catalogue, Transformer, et cetera). In the consistent pursuit of this simple philosophy, he's left us with one of the most intriguing back catalogues in the rock songwriter canon. And it's not just nostalgia at play here -- I took it upon myself tonight to re-listen to some songs that have I've had an emotional connection to for some time. (It's always too late that one cherishes what one has, I know.) I finished one song, and then remembered another, and another, and...have concluded that, completely unbeknownst to me, Lou seems to have written as many classic songs as many songwriter peers I seem to more instinctively call favourites -- Simon, Prine, McComb, and any of the other new Dylans.

Given that we're talking about a songwriter here, knowing me, it should be no surprise that my emotional connection runs deep and has only only strengthened with time. In fact, Lou's music goes all the way back to my early days of infatuation with rock music. At some point when foraging through Starostin's site, I came across a blurb of this interesting sounding band, the Velvet Underground. It turned out that their lead singer did that "Walk on the Wild Side" song I had somehow heard, so I was intrigued. More research revealed Peel Slowly to be regarded a (once) underground classic, and so the budding elitist in me was even more on board. Excitedly purchasing the CD from Borders, I popped it in expected to be drowned in feedback and tales from the dark side of the tracks...and the speakers played "Sunday Morning". Weird! Perhaps it was all the training from my Dylan obsession, but I'm proud to say I had the foresight to recognise this song, and "I'll Be Your Mirror" as indicators of there being something different about this avant-garde band. Namely, that this Lou fellow who wrote the lyrics seemed remarkably diverse, incisive, and honest when he felt appropriate. Yes, "Heroin" and the rest were interesting from a historical perspective, but what I took out of "Venus in Furs" more than anything were the oddly resonant lines, like "I could sleep for a thousand years".

Spurred by this interest came further exploration of his early output, starting with the Velvet's self-titled third album. Amazingly, it turned out to be an album that more than matched all my unrealistic expectations, even if at the time I clearly over-praised it in my head. I was positively obsessed about this record, all the way from "Candy Says" to that unforgettable closer. At one point, I thought that playing "Jesus" on the guitar was the only way to get to the kingdom. And this reminds of the impact Lou had. Younger, more innocent times, set to a rowdy rock 'n roll soundtrack, with occasionally fantastic lyrics when you least expected other way. Yes, those were times when the world was young. Rock 'n roll was the only thing worth living for. Ten years on, I couldn't have been more right.

From thereon in, things progressed at not quite the pace I would have predicted -- while I devoured Transformer soon enough after the Velvets, I don't think I got to the later classics like The Blue Mask until quite a bit later. (It was an exciting time, with a lot of music to get through, you understand.) Oh, The Blue Mask, now that was the definitive proof that this was a pretty damn unique songwriter. I'd never heard anyone write songs like "My House" before. (Even if I did, none of them had as great a sonic feel to them.) Lou seemed to be able to marry his poetic and musical sensibilities in a very everyman sort of way -- the stuff he wanted to write about was what was happening in his life, very plainly and without any needless flourish or bombast. And unlike the attempts at confessional songwriting of some of his peers, it wasn't just because bad stuff had gone down in his life (Blood on the Tracks, Tonight's the Night, Plastic Ono Band, ...) This was just his everyday life, watching the Canadian geese go by as he thought fondly about an old friend. Or how his media profile said nothing about what he was like in his daily life ("Average Guy"). Or of course he much he cared for his wife at the time ("Heavenly Arms"). Lou introduced me to songwriting that was personal not to offload one's problems to the listener (a sometimes terrific aesthetic), but simply to work out in song the issues one faces and grapples with everyday.

And his permanence was sealed with New York. Lord what a record. The best way I could describe it at the time was adult album-rock, where the "adult" was a way of expressing that the emotions and ideas expressed here were non-trivial, subtle, and not always with resolution. (Take "Endless Cycle" for example.) It's still rather amazing he came up with such a consistent collection of songs in what is described as an offhand manner. I've already cited instances of idiosyncratic songwriting style, but one more -- "Last Great American Whale"! The setup is fantastically unexpected given the message, and the words never disappoint in their combination of specificities and absurdities. This record was the summer of '09 for me, and ever since I decided that there was no such thing as a perfunctory Lou record. I'll admit to having not thoroughly heard a couple of his more challenging efforts (I suppose I should add Lulu to that list), but I doubt my stance will change now. That's part of why I'm shocked -- I was always expecting there'd be another album, and another. Albums to grow old with, to remind you of the journey from waiting for the man to sitting by your bedside at 3AM.

Perhaps music means too much to me.  It may seem odd that I should be so affected by the mere passing of a musician. But this is stuff that gets so deep in your head, your consciousness, your soul. When you're all alone, by yourself, as the world is rallying around you, baying for your blood (or so it seems). The music is your only friend. These artists tell you that whatever emotion you're feeling, it has some root in another human's experience. You may be maladjusted, not the person you think you see in others, but that's nothing new. People have spent their whole lives thinking this way. In this sense, I find much more of a personal connection with songwriters compared to, say, authors, filmmakers, and the like. Not only am I hearing the songwriters' thoughts and feelings expressed, they're the ones speaking them to me directly.

I wonder if these guys know what power their music has. Through continents, decades, cultures, the mysteries of popular song affects someone -- someone who tunes out all the superficial details that speak nothing to him, such as drug use and other deviancy. Because that's exactly what it was, superficial. Reed's strength wasn't so much that he discussed these things, but that he discussed anything that happened in his life, in a casual, matter-of-fact style that gave off bewilderment that there should be anything wrong singing about the subject -- be it getting to the kingdom through substances ("Heroin"), remembering a mentor and friend ("My House"), or taking a good look at yourself and deciding that it's time for a change ("Set the Twilight Reeling").

Whatever vague picture of Lou I've painted in my head, and tried clumsily to pay homage to in this post, is probably not quite the truth. For all I know he thought songwriting was a joke and wrote lyrics like he did grocery lists. (Now that's a potential song subject I'd have loved to have heard him tackle.) But that's not the point. By virtue of being able to move me and so many others so deeply, for so many years, means that Lou is one of those rare immortals. Someone was able to create this complex body of work, was able to make his distinct voice heard, was able to pursue his own artistic vision consistently and courageously through the years, highs and lows and all. As much as one can apportion thanks and inspiration to an individual, I owe more than I can measure to Lou's music. The thought that he was out there, walking through the Village, off-handedly writing down new lyrics for songs made me smile. It gave me belief in the perseverance of the spirit. It's a different feeling that I've got today, to be sure, but with the music as a steady soundtrack to whatever adventures await, there might be hope yet.

The end of the last temptation
The end of a dime store mystery.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Sunrise comes
But I don't know why;
When it's day
I'd like to try
A number game
I've played for years;
It's six to stay,
And zero is near.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Haunted House

Locked away inside these crumbling remains are a story of a past and a life that I mostly look back on fondly, but sometimes wish I left behind -- it all depends on how forlorn the present finds me. Sometimes, the ghosts amongst the assorted junk I see all around say: now you remember when life was real. Whatever strides I imagine I have made, they seem to come undone in a few seconds amongst these inanimate reminders. I think back to days and nights spent in supplication for an escape out of the shell I had found myself in, and am forced to ask myself, what has really changed? Sometimes I think it better to leave these doors locked and just walk away. No matter how torrid the present may seem, at least it offers the illusion that the future is not fixed.

Paradoxically, this is also the site of what for the last several years has been my haven against arguably an even deeper hell. When I'm doing reminiscing on how awkward the past me was, I think about how happy he was too. All said and done, I found myself here, and while there were passing phases of sorrow, looking back on it now they seem like the golden years. I can't help but wonder what the person who lived here would say about the person who visits on occasion, going through roughly the same routines but with each action made a little heavier. It's the story of my life, hopping from one low to another.

Blessed now with the experiences that let me fully flesh out a host of regrets, I take pause to think as to what I wish I had done differently. Not much, truth be told. Perhaps I wish that I had the foresight to venture outside my room more, to realise there is a world outside the one contained in my head. But that's pique, because I know I was quite content most days. I console myself with the thought that there is really no guarantee that anything else I did would have seen me fare better. No, it seems that all roads lead to perdition.

Does all of this make up a life? I suppose it must, no matter what went on in them. There were good times, bad times, but mostly just time passing. What we look back on is what we choose to forget. Who would have thought that this is how it would end up? The threads that make up a life all scattered across the globe. A mind wrecked in the process. Whatever of myself that is left here are those pieces discarded along the trail we believed to be towards something better. Whether that is what stands here today, I cannot judge. What to make of it all? Never give yourself to a time that has passed.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

I haven't done one of these in a while. Now I remember why I stopped. Another addition to the endless catalogue of things that remind me of a specific incident, even though expressed embarrassingly poorly.

The last time
I lowered my eyes,
Shrugged my shoulders,
Muttered my thanks.
"It is nothing,"
I cried,
But the pride in their eyes

Yesterday was a long time
But I can still remember.

Because this time
It was not me
Who made their eyes glow.
"It is nothing,"
I whispered;
Either way,
I knew I was wrong.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Why march on?
Let's find a quiet place
To set up camp
Call it a day

Should I speak
Of better times ahead
Remind me if you please
Of all those times
I said those words before; yes,
The future is a disease.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

I found out I was really no one

Not that I ever thought I was worth anything, so I must clarify why I found this realisation upsetting. There's a difference between knowing that you are destined for anything great, and knowing that you are not going to get what minor slice of happiness you think everyone is owed. I thought there was space enough for me in some quiet corner of heaven, with a friend (or more) to keep company. It took me some time to realise that whatever stay I had there, it was just as a worthless tourist.

Friday, August 30, 2013


Whenever I caught wind of what was going on, I was torn. On the one hand, it seemed smartest to leave the phone turned off, go out perhaps, and generally pretend that I was totally oblivious to what was afoot. In the off-chance that things got really bad, I had to prepare beforehand as to what statements I would make. I would profess complete ignorance, of course, but admit my concerns that things would turn out this way. No one could accuse me of negligence, I told myself. But at the same time, I knew all this was only delaying the inevitable. Much better to get it over with, to see just how bad things were. I would turn on the phone with a minor tremble of my hands, and spend the next minute or so in the opposite end of the house, just hoping I would come back to a blank screen. When I returned, invariably I would it be as I feared: confirmation. My heart would sink and pulse quicken. Reading that missive would leave me with nothing to do but lie down, waiting in terror for the next installment. Once an hour or so had passed - the window of opportunity past - I would somehow get up and try to pretend the whole thing never happened. Until the next time.

Thinking on those times, I feel inclined to ask whoever cares to listen whether I'm owed some of those hours back. But if once I thought that was what a just world demanded, now I'm not so sure. Indeed, I think there was a lesson I had to learn the hard way: no one has the slightest plan on saving you from your own choices. "Wish that I knew what I know now..."

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

There is a shocking lack of beauty in my life. How do I correct this? There are many things that bring me pleasure. But I can't help but feel that without strong personal relationships, there is always going to be a hole gnawing away that no amount of steel pedal, comedy, or gaming bliss can fill.

The rule of the game is that a move, once played, cannot be overturned. As these things go, this seemingly arbitrary dictum is only a source of frustration to those who feel their winning hand was unfairly denied by a seemingly trivial misstep. Once the screaming and crying is over, it is worth asking whether the rule teaches one anything after all. Well, take no move for granted, most obviously. Perhaps as obviously, a game one can't lose doesn't deserve its name.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

1) The Triffids, "Wide Open Road". Sometimes I listen to a song after a long time, and I try to remember the initial thrill I had on first hearing it. In general, I find this impossible, even by my obsessive life-cataloguing standards. There is a class of songs for which I can do a bit better, which are ones that prompted me to write a response, or at least an acknowledgement to them on first listen. Here, that urge is not only remembered, but resurrected. It reminds me of how remarkable it is that we have have these catalysts for either germinating or awakening certain strands of thought and feeling within ourselves. The former is rarer, and the latter involves a complex marshalling of moods, ideas and emotions that would otherwise pass us by, drowned as they are in the sea of consciousness. Any form of art, but in this context lyric or song writing, is all the more remarkable in how the artist finds a way to capture these delicate, gilded things, and hold in their hands an artifact that stands firm against time and its servants, one which divines these same truths for anyone else privileged enough to get the chance to hold it.

Friday, June 28, 2013

The first sight of her pulled me into another world, one which I am still trying to escape from. At least, that's what I would like to say. In truth, it's not the world that has changed, just my place in it. While externally everything is as it should be, since she made her entrance, all that I used to perceive may as well have happened to another person. Skeptical as I am of a glorious reunion with that past life, I can't say that I have no hope altogether. But time is not on my side.

How could one person cause a person to break in two? All she did (with ease) was, through her presence, simply release from inside me a doppelganger that I never knew existed. While we share many things, a soul is not one of them. Each time I hear a call from the old world, this parasite tries to drain it too, desperate to compensate for its missing core. It is an ashamed admission that this husk has nonetheless managed to best all of my attempts to overthrow it.

On certain quiet nights, as I pause to reflect, I try to play back moments that left an impression on me, most of them likely only inhabiting my head and no one else's. But I deliberately avoid anything to do with her. Partly it is because of how she has seen me on the road to self-damnation. Yet there is also an element of me wishing to pretend that things are the same as they've always been, that it's still the same pair of eyes that sees and understands everything around him. If I were to concentrate really hard, I think, maybe I would be able to get back to familiar surroundings. On other not-so-quiet nights, though, the facade of all this seems quite clear to me. Whatever I may convince my mind of, there is no escaping from the universe with the secrets I hope to dream away.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Having found myself in a familiar state of happiness, thanks to a succession of fine albums that have made their way from my shelf to my head and heart, I tried to think back to how this purple patch started. I think it was sparked by two somewhat nondescript purchases that happened to occur around about the same time: Van Zandt's Our Mother the Mountain and Clark's Old No. 1. Both I now consider fine albums, the latter especially so, but at the time they were little more than curious explorations, obligatory fills in the gaps in my record collection. As I was in the process of absorbing these albums, I thought it fit to see the fine Van Zandt documentary Be Here To Love Me, which set me on an immersion of more of his work, and its siblings, amongst them Clark's Texas Cooking. At this stage I started to realize my palate had a particular taste for a particular strain of country and folk, which in hindsight should have been blindingly obvious the moment I first listened to John Prine many years ago now. Anyhow, this set about the aforementioned remarkably fruitful set of purchases, for which I am grateful. The only problem is that I find it hard to listen to anything without a steel pedal anymore.

Sunday, June 09, 2013

The moral thrust of this 2000 documentary, ostensbily on vinyl collectors hit somewhere close to home. The filmmaker's depressed excesses aside, it is at least partly concerned with a valid question I've grappled with as I fill the bricks in my nascent collection: aren't there better things I could be doing? (Only) Partially on the heels of such thinking, a few years ago I went so far as to give up on music for a little bit. While I've since more than redoubled my efforts in terms of collecting, the question still gnaws at me from time to time: where is all of this going, exactly?

I'm not sure I have anything new to offer as an answer, but I think the older answers seem as sensible as they ever did. First, collecting for its own sake -- making the focus something other than the music -- is the road to madness. I don't think my condition will reach the heights of some of the documentary's subjects, specifically in terms of buying albums I have no intention of listening to. I can't say that my buy-to-listen ratio is great, but I definitely do intend to get around to all the albums sometime or another. Some of them I've kept shelved for years, waiting for the right time to either revisit or listen for the first time. (This includes many classic rock releases that I should have memorized: Moby Grape, The Band,  et cetera. Matter of fact I feel shameful admitting that they've stayed relatively unlistened for so long.) It's been a perennial problem of mine, figuring out how exactly to fit in more music as time and mental bandwidth will allow. Yet I'm inclined to give myself a pass on this, since I have been trying to chip away at some of these semi-permanent fixtures in recent times.

Second, eccentricity is softened when it is shared. Part of my personal insecurity with my collection is the element of fantasy that's involved sometimes when stepping back and looking back at it -- the thought that if a fellow music aficionado should come across it, I should get a nod of approval. It's a pity that I've only had few such friendships, all with people from a very different musical upbringing. (The first of which may have sowed the seeds for a completely different musical obsession some years down the line, when I'm all cleaned up. But one problem at a time.) Being an esoteric discipline, of course, it's not easy to find other obsessives. But it would definitely validate the sense that all of this is not imagined happiness, that others think the music worth seeking out. And as I write this, it reminds me of the value of keeping such friendships active when they are formed.

These are not to suggest that I'm immune to the thrills of collection, though. Indeed, the seeds were sown when reading GS's site, I think, and seeing its encyclopaedic approach to rock music. Some part of me acquiescently responded to that, and took that knowledge as being something to aspire to. It's why I've never shook quite off the dream of writing music reviews, despite limited success in having anything to say at all when it comes to describing albums I really like. (The template for the music review site is in place, though, ready for a rainy day.) It's why a job application form that asked for my extra-curricular interests saw me filling in "budding record collector", even though this was back in the day when all I had was Grateful Dead and Neil Young albums. Neither of which I'm all that embarrassed by, because I would note that the reviewing obsession is quite different to the collecting obsession. Indeed, ten years on, and my respect for GS isn't diminished all that much, not least because he doesn't fall prey to the trap I mentioned earlier, namely, hoarding but not consuming. (Whether or not rating all the Kiss albums is a good use of time, though, is another story.) Maybe more importantly, when it counts, what you get from the reviews is a genuine sense of love and devotion to the music -- its emotional rather than symbolic impact. That is something that is questionable when the collection obsession becomes more extreme.

The above also doesn't address another question the documentary tries to probe at, namely, why go through this puzzling ritual? The easy answer is that obsessive is just the way I am. (Pity it's not in the things that matter, my unkind half feels forced to interject.) More instructive is the admission that there is definitely an element of compensation in the act -- loving music is so unconditional, so guaranteed, so clean. None of which is bad. Only that it's likely symptomatic of an psychological inability to feel entirely at ease in the real world and those who occupy it. Then again, I'm tempted to say, so what? I've known that for a long time. Could it just be something I have to live with? And if so, why not derive as much happiness as possible while I can; and if music is the doorway to that, so be it? The counter-argument is likely that this view deliberately ignores the reality that this is not how humans are wired, specifically, that it means an existence in slavish devotion to plastic (or to vibrations in the air) rather than flesh and blood, which will ultimately be an unsatisfying one. And yet, again, this is under the assumption that collection (or reviewing, or whatever) is the only thing going on in one's life. Which is likely a crucial point -- should one choose to spend one's free time collecting Dylan bootlegs (thankfully I took a pass on that life), that's one's own pejorative. But when the notion of what is free time encroaches upon the elements of a halfway "normal" life, perhaps that's cause for, if not concern, at least acknowledgement that there's a conscious choice going on here. If one looks straight in the mirror and decides that it's the right choice, what else is there to the say? In my case, I can't count the times I've hummed a tune to myself and decided that the Doors were right when they spoke of the unreserved friendship that only music can provide. But I can't claim them to be the only times that meant anything to me. Which, I think, means that while I'm not too dissatisfied with the choice I've made, I'm not above thinking that some obsessions can be displaced without shaking my sense of self too much.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Lime Tree

I always assumed that after my business here was completed, I would get the urge to sit down and reminisce about what it all meant, lament about how things might have been different, and engage in some keep-your-chin-up optimism. Instead, hosts of regrets come and find me empty. I just have nothing to say. I suppose it's all been said before these past few years, and given how downbeat the conclusions are, there's not much fun in repeating the process. (So far this post isn't giving me a lot of pleasure.) Indeed, what would I say to the person who wrote those hopeful things in '07? Turn back ship. Here be dragons, and far worse. But there's no sense in these fictional warnings. These past few years happened. With every step I took, my feet sank further into the ground. Now I don't even bother moving.

Where do I go now? The sentence is suspended, and in the past that would be cause for hope. I'm on my guard now, though, because I don't trust the rules of this world anymore. And yet, I persist in the seemingly in-erasable belief that time, that unending ocean of joy and sorrow, must have a stop. Thank God that old habits die hard, because I need something to hold onto.

Monday, March 04, 2013

After the last rites, my first thought: "Time is an ocean of endless tears".

1) Bright Eyes, "If the Brakeman Turns My Way". The only way I can judge rock poetry is how easily the lines resonate with me; invariably, many lines from many writers do, and I decree those the talented ones. This is necessarily then the only explanation that's needed as to why I find myself liking Oberst's work, even though there is a massive rebellion against him, one that I was once part of. In this particular song, even discounting the ever capable sense of  melody and delivery, just analyzing the words when the music stops unearths their inherent craftiness: friends and sedatives, dreams playing spoilsport, et cetera. After the third or so line that requests a smile, I put my hands up and admit that the man has impressed me again.

Monday, January 28, 2013

"Because I do not hope to turn again
Because I do not hope"

I used to try to believe in greater things, in the master's hand. But lately, these fanciful notions have been soundly beaten out of me. Not that I would deny the remarkable (laughable?) perseverance of hope, but I can say that it seems in short supply these days. Perhaps I would've found myself in this place no matter which road I had taken; I don't know. But in this, the only life I know, I have a pretty strong suspicion as to the decisions that precipitated such a remarkable fall from grace. Speaking of which, I'll soon be attempting an exit from this spiritual prison, and some people assume it's a cause for celebration. Hah. What's the sense in celebrating as you sit bereft of even a spark of life? Some say that all said and done, survival is by itself a great feat, one to be proud of. Perhaps for most, but not for me. You and I know how I managed to stay afloat for so long. By stopping to believe, and embracing the nihilist I once thought I had conquered. (As if!) Indeed, my victory has been so pyrrhic that one may conclude I take pleasure in watching myself fall. Not entirely true. But I think I did always expect heavenly arms to reach out and lift me away. I'm not saying I deserve it, or that I am surprised (in hindsight) that it is a dream that came to naught. Only that I have learned all too well the truth in the saying that it is challenges that bring out the real you. Yup, we've all seen what it is I'm made of. And what a terrifying sight it is.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Who am I kidding? I deserve nothing.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

1) Cockney Rebel, "Loretta's Tale". With time, I've become convinced that Harley's intonations are my favourite this side of Dylan, maybe McComb. At this stage, his first record is also edging out competing records by other marvellous weirdos - Sparks and Roxy Music - as my favourite from the early 70s. The protagonist of this song symbolizes something to Harley, but what exactly I haven't a clue. I do know that it's a show I haven't found myself tired of sitting through to find out. What to say except that it is the sort of music that speaks to my inner mirror freak, music whose strange tales seemed at first listen inescapably true, the mystery of the mind and its dreams put to song.