26 August 2016

Music Day - Hero

This song really hit me in my final semester (so far) of college.

I was in the midst of the worst year of my personal life (to that point). Two divorces, both completely out of the blue, came right on each other's heels -- one involved my favourite uncle leaving my favourite aunt. That was the first of two straws that broke me (the second was the death of my cousin). It was unfathomable -- that my uncle, who was so caring and affectionate, would turn his back on the woman he promised to love till death parted them and deliberately rend his children's lives in two.

Not long after that bomb broke, one of the chapel speakers at the college gave a talk that made me realise that my uncle had been one of my heroes. But, as Steve Taylor notes...

Heroes died
When the squealers bought 'em off
When the dealers got 'em off
Welcome to the in-for-the-money-as-an-idol show
When they ain't as big as life
When they ditch their second wife...

It's an incisive look at the despair of a little boy as he grows up and all his dreams are crushed... as he finds that the idol you thought you'd be... was just another zero.

And while I'm not a male in an increasingly feminist world, with all the double-standards and pressure that comes with it, that about sums up how I feel too.

I looked up to my uncle. He was cool, he was funny, he was smart, he was a fantastic storyteller, he was one of the few people who would actually talk to me during my teen years. He still does all these things, but now they reek of insincerity. How can I believe that you will always care for me, your mere niece, when you couldn't even muster up the will to care about the woman you professed to love and the children she gave you? And if I can't look up to my uncle, who else can't I look up to? Who can I trust? At first the obvious answer was 'God,' but then my cousin died -- in spite of our prayers for her -- and I realised even God will turn His back.

Title: Hero
Artist: Steve Taylor
Album: Meltdown
Year: 1984
Label: Sparrow Records
iTunes here; YouTube here.

Plus, it accurately sums up life as an artist: I want to be an artist -- someone who creates things and touches hearts. I want to be a hero.

But the practical side
Said the question was still,
'When you grow up, what will you be?'
...I want to be an artist.

But that's the wrong answer.

25 August 2016

(I don't really have a title for this.)

I'm so tired. Of life. Of fighting. Of trying to see hope when I know it will shatter -- just like the last hope, and the previous hope, and the hope before that.

I'm tired of being passed over and ignored and rejected. I'm tired by all the efforts I've made to prove myself worthy of attention and love. I'm tired of never being good enough.

I'm tired of praying and getting only static.

I just want somebody, anybody -- God, a human, I don't care -- to notice me, to tell me I don't need to fight anymore. Yes, I'm exhausted, but if I learnt nothing else at college, I learnt to keep going though my knees have turned to jelly from sheer fatigue.

I'm tired of waiting for God, waiting for you, waiting for the happy end which I doubt more and more is coming.

Stop this merry-go-round. Stop the madness. I want out.

19 August 2016

Music Day - Ping Pong

There is a lot of guitar in the world.

A lot of guitar players. A lot of guitar music. And after a while, it all sounds the same. Even across genres it starts to sound the same. It's hard to pick out a favourite or even a certain guitarist's distinctive style because there is such an overwhelming number of other guitar leads crowding our heads. I am very surprised that we as a culture have not reached saturation point, revolted, and went back to classical piano or something.

With all of that said, Michael Roe is the only person I have encountered in my musical forays across time whose guitar-playing style I not only recognise, but actually enjoy on its own merits. His music is the only music I buy specifically for the guitar work. Everyone else I listen to is judged on lyrics, vocals, and/or keyboards (usually in that order), but Michael Roe/77s alone is in my library because of the guitar work. That's how distinctive it is. And in my world, distinctive (in music) is a very, very good thing (that's literally the reason I am a Daniel Amos fan).

This song is my favourite from Michael Roe and his band, the 77s. The tap dancer in me shivers with delight every time I hear this song. Every single time. He plays with the rhythms so effortlessly (both in the music and the lyrics) and blends them together so fluidly. Keep in mind this was their debut album. He started his career here. Most of these hipster kids today won't get to this level if they live to be a hundred and seventeen. (Plus, this song is just darn good old-fashioned rock -- witness Roe's teen-rebel-esque vocal delivery -- and heaven knows the hipsters have no idea what that is.)

I would be remiss not to give a shout-out to the bass player (Jan Eric, according to BandCamp) for making a bassline that actually sounds like ping pong. Genius. And the perfect harmonic counterpart to Roe's guitar. I love this bassline. Yes, the guitar is fantastic, but without this bass work, the song is sunk. Further props to the drummer (Mark Proctor), for keeping up with and further accentuating the work of these two. And to Mark Tootle, who I assume is responsible for the other guitar line you hear in the interlude.

Title: Ping Pong Over The Abyss
Artist: 77s
Album: Ping Pong Over The Abyss
Year: 1982
Preview, read lyrics, and buy (CD or online) from the artist here.

Also, can we talk about the ending? This, kids, is how you do an ending. In music theory they told us that the longer you put off the final cadence, the more satisfying it is when you finally get there. This is exactly what Roe does here. There are about five false endings here -- you think it's ending, then he pivots and goes off on another melody line. Then just when you think it really is ending this time, he pivots again and charges off in another direction. I think he revisits every note he played in the song in the final fifteen seconds.

But -- lest you start telling me that Hillsong's Oceans doesn't end for forty-five minutes so that's the same thing -- Roe makes it interesting. He plays with several different -- but familiar to the song -- melody lines in about thirty seconds. He keeps the pace moving. It twists and turns and draws the listener in like Bm-G-D-A at a cassette tape's pace never could. It's a sonic maze, and it's full of delightful surprises. The whole song is, really, but Roe definitely saved the best for last in this case. (Take note, artists-who-fade-down-every-song-on-every-album.)

They don't make 'em like this anymore. Enjoy.

17 August 2016

Cybermen and Parallel Universes

So I'm slowly making my way through Season 2 of the new Doctor Who, and I just watched the Cybermen doubleheader (I don't think there should be spoilers in this post, but I make no guarantees. Proceed at your own risk).

The whole thing with the emotion inhibitor (look at me go, SPOILERS already). How nice does that sound? To not have to make any more decisions, to have no more passion to tear me to shreds because the world doesn't want it, to never love and lose again, to not have to pretend this tornado of emotions in my head 24/7 doesn't exist because apparently nobody else is tormented by all the pain in the world so I must be the strange one... Every time I've come close to contemplating suicide, this is my reason -- if I kill myself, I don't feel any of this anymore. The love for dance and art and people that both drives me and destroys me will itself be destroyed and the pain will stop. I won't have to wake up every single morning and decide -- again -- whether I'm going to earn money with my life or if I'm going to live broke because I want to actually enjoy my job. Having to make that decision once is bad enough. Having to face it every single morning of your existence is exhausting beyond words. I could take the easy path and choose money -- then everyone will be happy with me and I won't legitimately have to wonder how in the world I'm going to pay for dance this year -- because there will be no dance.

So why do I keep choosing dance? Every morning I choose dance, even though it's killing me financially, physically, emotionally, mentally. Why don't I give up? Why don't I pick the easy way out? Why do I still hang onto this thing that, by all accounts, is useless?

I don't know. And that makes my continual decision to keep it even more ridiculous. It makes me trust myself even less. If I have no good reason to keep it -- should I? Shouldn't the fact that I don't have a real reason be reason enough to drop it?

The Doctor, in his big saving-the-universe speech, focused on the creativity and imagination that comes from being human, with all emotions intact. He saw that as a good thing. He's one of the last remaining beings in the universe to think that. People here, now, today don't see it that way. Art is disposable. And in this eco-friendly world, disposable is a Bad Thing. Therefore, I am one of the last vestiges of an old-fashioned dying race ("and good riddance to 'em!").

Something in my head just said, 'so make them wish you weren't the last.'

But how? In a world that will not listen to artists anymore, how do you get their attention? How do you make an impact on their lives when they turn a blind eye, mock you, call you stupid -- for the umpteenth time? Mickey got to move to a parallel universe -- one where he was able to prove his worth and earn his place. I don't have that luxury.

Now I'm trying to picture a parallel universe -- one with me in it, but not as a dancer. One in which I was a normal, reasonable person who went into -- I don't even know, what do females my age do, anyway? Say nursing. No dance, no acting, no singing, no performing, no writing, just nursing. Anatomy and biology and all that stuff. If art weren't an option in that world, if it literally didn't exist -- could I enjoy nursing (or whatever else)? I can't even picture that. I can imagine a lot of things. Choreography literally is imagination projected outside of the mind's eye. I once imagined a huge dancing choir of angels -- seventeen of them -- comforting a scared little child in the night over the space of four minutes and then spent the next eight hours writing it all down, capturing all the details of the movements I had seen in those four minutes. But I can't imagine a world in which I wasn't drawn to art in some form. I can't picture myself as a 'normal,' 'reasonable' person.

The only way I could be 'normal and reasonable' would be to become a Cyberman. To inhibit all those emotions and passions. And despite the Doctor's passionate speech to the contrary, wouldn't it be so much easier if there were none? Those of us who are artists at heart wouldn't have to feel our very souls being ripped out of our bodies by taking desk jobs and never having hobbies. We would finally be some semblance of happy and we would never realise that we weren't fulfilled -- just content to exist to shuffle papers and computer files around.

We could finally stop fighting for our losing cause.

14 August 2016

On Losing Childhood and Imaginary Worlds

Over the past week or so I've started realising something. That despite all my vehement protests to the contrary, all the promises made to myself that it wouldn't happen, I grew up.

The other night -- my birthday -- I was watching my younger siblings play in the front yard. They were fully invested in their imaginary world, their story. And suddenly I realised that to them, I was not a playmate. I was not one of them. I was more like a second mother figure, constantly throwing cold water on their imaginations.

When was last time I was so fully invested in a story that everything around me served the story? My next-youngest sister and I had a fictional family living in darn near every tree on our yard, not to mention the trampoline and the playhouse our dad built and in every row of the garden and in the ditch... We could enter that world at the drop of a hat. It would take one second.

When was last time we entered that world? She and I hardly even speak to each other now -- our tastes are so different and it has divided us so deeply. It's a ridiculous thing, I know, but somehow our imaginary world was literally the only thing holding us together. When we stopped entering it -- and heaven knows why -- we stopped talking to each other. Could we find it again? Are either of us brave enough to try? Would we be able to get past the self-consciousness, the petty arguments, this silent gaping rift?

Suddenly I'm not a child anymore. I even made it through two years of college still sort of thinking that I was, or at the very least that the child in me wasn't that far away. That's how subtle it is. That's how slowly it happens. You don't notice it's gone until years after the last foray into the imaginary world. I think last time we were there I was fifteen -- admittedly, that's older than most are their last time -- and the only reason I remember that is because it was somehow a more conscious decision for me to enter that world that time. I pre-planned that day before it happened. I planned the night before that we would play our game. We got into it the same as we always had, but the preamble felt different to me. We didn't just jump in -- it was pre-meditated. It wasn't spontaneous.

What changed? I don't know. Certainly not self-consciousness -- at the time I had exactly zero friends and wasn't trying to impress anybody. I did get a job the next summer. I joined Facebook. I got my driver's license. I was diagnosed as severely anaemic. I went through the worst phase of my depression and nearly committed suicide. Was I really so wrapped up in numbing the pain I was feeling that I forgot about the most effective cure? Did I think it wouldn't work? Or did I truly forget it was available to me? Why did it never occur to me between then and now to try re-entering the story again?

I feel like I cheated her. She's younger than me, and so her last time entering the story was younger than mine.

Or maybe the reason I didn't notice was partly because I did keep connecting to characters -- but they were created by me, for me, not with her. I kept using different personas while writing, and now it's showing up as dancing and acting. Maybe that's why I cling so desperately to my performance dream -- because if I give that up, I have well and truly given up on the childhood I swore I would never completely lose.

If I were to try and join my siblings now, would they accept this new character? Would I accept their world? Do I still have the imagination to narrate myself out of a corner if need be?