Wednesday, July 30, 2014

And so I join those great men
Who learned to mute their heart;
Silence, if you do not listen,
Sounds sweeter than any lark.

But theirs was a love forbidden
By laws of God or man;
And what's tragic when by a villain
Seems trite when by your hand.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Reactions to Moz's book have been mixed. (Personally, I think it's one of the best things he's ever done.) One line of criticism has hinged on the inherent inferiority of popular song, and the general deadening of culture that the respect afforded to Moz portends. This tripe again? There appear some chasms that will never be bridged. I've spent life perennially comforted and validated by (among others) Moz's words, melodies, sensibilities. I see no reason for this to change. Perhaps people like me really are crashing boors. What does it mean about life, and notions of art, that we spend it convinced otherwise, reaching what we see as the heights of exaltation through whatever little we manage to grasp at from an unkind world?

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Your smiling face
Did not make
The sun shine
Any brighter
The moon seem
Any bigger
The clouds hang
Any lighter.

But any happiness
Since that goodbye
Has been from memory
Not the sky.

So when the day
Finally comes
From my times
To pick just one
That I could live
And breathe again
It is the hour
You were my friend.

Friday, July 25, 2014

I have the luxury of carefully considering the discographies of songwriters I enjoy in any order I like. As a perennial songwriting hopeful, this offers access to an amazing source of inspiration. But the listener's illusion is such that it is hard to escape the feeling that I can never hope to reach the levels of even the most minor of efforts of one's idols. Why illusion rather than fact? Because it's rare that one does not find significant growth, or least sharpening of style in the songs as time goes by. So while I invariably measure myself against the best, that is usually not how things began for them. Which raises at least a couple of questions in my mind.

First, what really prevents us from getting things right the first time? Practice and maturity are often claimed to be essential to honing's one skill as a writer of any form. Both make perfect sense to me when it comes to technical writing; with artistic writing, less so. I assume that inspiration, and strength of feeling, are not things we can hope to control with any amount of practice on our part. It might partly help with channeling of these ingredients. but surely no more than partly? It is true, of course, that inspiration grows out of what we see and experience, and the general array of faces and ideas we are exposed to. Perhaps "maturity" just means the ability for us to process these things effectively. The unsettling alternative is that it is a confounding with sheer random chance, meaning that there are works of greatness lost to all time simply because an inopportune coin flip that prevents one's mind from being unlocked.

Second, it is likely apparent to writers themselves the flaws in their early works -- for songwriters, it is typically being too wordy or deliberately "poetic". As this is an area I have some expertise in, I am thus curious: what keeps them going through that time? Were they too close to the material and think it all good? Or did they feel there was still something inside that they hadn't explored to their satisfaction? As someone who has the further luxury of dispensing frightening doses of doggerel and general vapidity, it's always felt like the latter, but I'm not sure if it generalises. Personally, each time I've felt the need to express something, even upon trying and failing, there has remained the sense that perhaps with time, I will attain the means with which to capture what it is I am feeling. As a favourite songwriter put it, there's just something in my soul -- what can I do?

Progressively glum though I may find myself, there are still things that cause me to sigh in gratitude, and consider my fortune at having been born at precisely the right time. Here's one: the opportunity to periodically glimpse at Moz's life as it filters through to lyric and song, and to be able to project it onto my own, for enrichment, support, or simply auditory pleasure. Fated as it may be for my pointless life to end, there were good times in his company, his songs a remarkably prescient intersection of his public and my private life.

Having spent some time away from his world,  I am struck by many things upon returning. For one, he's given this shy sad-sack more moral support than likely any other songwriter. For another, how he represents a kind of ideal when it comes to expressing the dour -- while it's absolutely essential to acknowledge the insufferable, why let it envelop you? That's fun in its own way, but it's also easy, and the result invariably fades with the sorrow. The void is a humourless thing. So reporting the journey with with on your side, there's no fear of ever losing yourself.

Implicit in all of this is the unconditional empathy I get from his words. When he rallies against the carnivores and destructors, and threatens to slit their throats, you know that he has someone like you in mind. If you ever need someone on your side, you have a great heart in your arsenal.

I'm sure Lou would agree:

I found a reason
To keep living
And that reason
Dear is you.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The attentive reader will recall that I often question the point of continuing this exercise in therapy and egotism. I doubt it will ever cease as long as certain fracture points remain unresolved. (Having compiled the latest evidence, I have full faith that they are on track to provide several more years' worth of material -- lucky you.) But even accepting the personal value of these writings, of late I've thought about the apparent futility of their longevity. (You caught me -- to admit that this is painful is to also admit that, despite my protests to the contrary, there is (at times) effort and feeling put into these writings.) I don't know quite what I'm after in terms of long term rewards, but gathering dust until the singularity doesn't seem particularly inspiring. So where is any of this going?

The basic problem seems clear -- as long as this diary remains private in spirit if not execution, private these thoughts will remain. This by itself is the end of any initial discussion on the subject. But even if they were released to the world as an educational exercise, who would care? One of the few truths I have confidence in now is that, contrary to the wishful optimism of my writings from the decade prior, I am really no more or less than any of the others who cohabit this world at this point in time. My painstaking recording of thoughts and feelings does not afford me any special status. But again, even assuming a sect were devoted to studying the words of wisdom strewn about here, what would they really find? A consequence of having everything kept under wraps is the sadly solipsistic nature of what I've found comfortable to write about. While the byline of the diary is to record moments that mean more than they let on, a generous survey reveals perhaps a (stolen) turn of phrase or two that gives me pride -- which, personally pleasurable though they may be, I doubt they say anything about your life, or for that matter anyone else's.

About that wishful optimism -- I think if you pressed me to admit it then, there was always a dream that this diary was only a means to a grander end. I think I saw it as a testing ground, where I could sharpen my writing skills to the point of seriously pursuing the writing of a novel, poem, song, or anything of more lasting and broader value. Failed though my early exercises in this were, at least they put up a fight against reality, and in doing so yielded one or two things that still surprise me today. Any objective study of what has followed since must conclude that what followed since was essentially a very public admission of surrender.

Why did things change? Apart from the realisation that writing was harder than I gave it credit (!), there was a discovery that I have just too many unsaid thoughts and emotions which started to demand some outlet. Being unkind, one would say this was a betrayal of principle; being unkind back, I would say that one had best try living a month in my mind to understand why it dwarfs any sense of beauty in this world. For better or worse, then, I went down the path of focussing on the inner monologues. Finding a way to express them in words was challenge enough; further forging them into something more broadly palatable, that is work for another life. As these things go, it's sadly not one I will ever get to visit.

So. What I leave behind is not, as I once hoped, a collection of letters and poems that someone on Mars can one day read and marvel at. It is a gallery of daydreams and nightmares that happen to frequent my mind. There is no objective reason for any of this to be preserved. But I expect that through this channel, no more noisy than other common surrogates, you have a glimpse at the arc of a private life, from Oliver to Fagin. That this world will be forgotten seems no less tragic than the fact that my public one will fade twice as fast. What is one to do in the face of that truth? Perhaps step away from the quill from time to time and look for another way to trick myself into believing otherwise.

Monday, July 21, 2014

At times it seems truly impossibly that this life can continue. What am I trying to achieve with each increasingly gormless move? What plausible future exists where I am not forever drowned in shadow? I must be violating some basic laws of existence by even being here. Because whichever empty room I happen to physically inhabit, I know that my soul is still trapped, waiting at that station, in perpetual hope that the brakeman will turn my way. Someone tells me that was ten years ago -- I can process the words, and understand them rationally, but I see no competing explanation. My mind travels back to that place every day, but my aging body inches farther and farther away. Thus increases the gap, the pain at the sight of this, and then the gap once more; what life is this? Every future I can see is a desert that cannot be conquered. In the one I seem to be edging along by default, my only means of quenching thirst is by shedding an ocean of tears with each step forward.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

I've come to realise that I've always put too much faith in what people tell me. Much grief has been caused from the belief that words imply meaning, that statements reflect intention. Whether violations of these beliefs were from flippancy or a genuine ignorance, I don't know. But I know now to place no faith in assured proclamations that I'm told in utmost confidence.

When, as now, I reflect on alternate timelines, I am struck by the desire to bring up those words to the accused, and ask: did you ever really mean them? If not, I wish someone told me; I wouldn't have stayed up so many nights in worry, and could have done other things with my time. Maybe then I wouldn't have felt the need to escape, and seen false hope in a fresh start that took from me more than I thought I had. It's not the giving I take objection to -- it's the giving when there was no need, when there was no value placed on it, when there will never be any acknowledgement of a sacrifice of self. Knowing no that no arbiter takes note of one's selfless acts, except perhaps to damn you further should they be performed unquestioningly, I wonder just how much is owed to those youthful errors.

It's a cruel irony that others seem to have reached my epiphany much earlier, because in my own time of need, there's no one to listen to these words. Now that everyone's world is brighter, and the struggles deemed but memories of a past to be forgotten, I seem to be no longer needed. So I sit trying to sort through these memories and regrets, because I don't remember what else there is to do. As soon as the thought of reaching out surfaces, it is flattened by reality -- no one wants to go back to something they deliberately left behind. I didn't realise it at the time, but I now see what my station was -- a collector of nightmares, insecurities, and sorrows, one who relieved the sufferer of their malady by bravely wearing their problems on my own crown. It was only when I realised that the words of thanks were as hollow as those of torture that I started to feel the weight.

What use in saying more? That is how it is. Newly enlightened, I can only shake my fists at ghosts who will never haunt me again, no matter how much I taunt them.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Happiness is
An empty sky
To mirror not
Your eyes.
The very thought
And sleep no more
From moon to black

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Are You Ready To Be Heartbroken?

It feels slightly awkward to watch the watcher -- especially one who is good at his craft and whose observational skills are the result of years of tireless practice, rather than a common charlatan like yours truly. But I was struck by a certain sadness in his performance which seems worth exploring.

I was conditioned to feel so, I think, by his comments about how this could be his last attempt at reaching to an audience that the numbers say simply isn't there. It was halfway through the show, when he exhaled in earnest after another crowd-pleaser and looked kindly upon the few score of us who were very pleased indeed, that I started wondering to myself (yes, would that this endless chatter inside cease if only for a minute) -- how did it all come to this? Not that the place or the people were anything less than reputable, you understand, but simply that, one can't help but feel that he is owed more. Comparison is a dangerous beast, but sometimes a useful one -- my mind went back to seeing his compatriot in spirit only a few years prior, with an army of thousands of disciples hanging on every word. Sterner stuff though he may be made of, I dare say a similar thought must cross his mind some nights as he stares into the dark eyes, blankly processing the carefully crafted lyric from an album long after his brief glimpse at fame.

Living as we are in the age of perennial enlightenment, where the issue of what's good has been decided, it's easy to forget that not all who are worthy have been lucky. I've been raised on countless myths about the un-appreciated genius, but everytime I see them mentioned or, when possible, in person, it is as one face in a sea of others. By definition, I rarely see or hear about those who didn't make it into the public heart after a long struggle. Of course this is to be expected -- the heart can only accommodate so much. But it is a sobering reminder that there are likely countless other voices passing us by everyday, lost forever to the caprices of time while we convince ourselves that we have unearthed all that is worth consideration.

More cosmically, I suppose it is easy to argue that these superficial signs of success are fleeting, and needn't be paid any mind. True enough, and I do like to think that if he knew, for example, the many times I've brought his words to mind and nodded at their wisdom, that that would make his day or two. And I think of all those who lined up once the performance was ended, all eager to finally meet and talk to this person who has only been a name in their lives for so many years. Living halfway across the world, and coming to realise that for decades you have been in people's homes and hearts -- that must be something.

But the world itself could, should, have laid at your feet. And if you couldn't make it happen, what hope for the rest of us?

Saturday, July 05, 2014

The last year has seen an unusual rise in the amount of film and TV I've engaged with. The strongest link connecting my choices has been, roughly, things I've known and thought about for many years, but never got around to experiencing. Unsurprisingly, my mode of choice in this conquest has been the medium you're using to read this. As a longtime critic of said medium, especially when it comes to music, it's good to have been exposed to this way of doing business to update my beliefs. Which are: yes, it is convenient; yes, it is superior to having to trawl through VHS bins; no, I'm not convinced the current models are sustainable; and no, I still refuse to use this for music.

Why the different standard when it comes to music? Frankly, because I treat music with more reverence. It's more personal, more spiritual, and requires rapt attention and concentration. This is something mass consumption does not lend itself to. I don't claim that people haven't trained themselves to retain the best of the old world and new. For me, the finality of a record, not to mention the tangible history embodied in its physical form, seems pretty optimal. Convenience without moderation isn't axiomatically a good thing.

A corollary of my earlier post on art never aging is that, as a general rule, time is rarely kind on mediocrity. Of late, I've been revisiting an area of perennial fascination -- anime -- and have mostly been greeted with grand disappointments. Being raised in a community where people spoke glowingly of the complex stories and characters, it's a bit sad to see that in many instances, either they're fooling themselves or there are profound differences in culture and aesthetic that I will never learn to appreciate. My fascination still remains, largely based on hope -- it's one of the few mediums that explores fantasy really well, I think, and as a veteran BG2 player, this is something I have a significant soft spot for.