Wednesday, August 26, 2009

For the First Time in My Life, I Think I'd Rather Take the C+

I had a lovely night. An unexpected impromptu dinner with a really lovely new friend, and one of his oldest friends. We're talking early childhood. Such a dynamic could have been awkward (third wheel, anyone?) but I've been feeling the void in male friendships lately, and it was really quite nice to spend time with two men who have such a strongly rooted friendship. And as those of you that know me know, I'm not someone that could be described as verbally reticent. But for several hours I really quite happy to mostly shut up and listen.

Now, this new friend, I'll admit to being at times a little in awe of him. He's beautiful, kind, involved in all the creative things that I am generally intimidated by, seemingly fearless - or maybe more accurately unaffected by my good friend self-doubt ...every time we hang out I find out an intriguing little nugget that makes me want to know more. About who his is, what he's done/doing - which is seemingly everything. I mean really, how many people do you know that can whip out a straightjacket and demo their escape maneuvers?

Anyhow, the straightjacket lead to a conversation about learning to do new things, and he asserted that 80% of people, with enough practice over about two years, have the aptitude to become adequate at almost anything - we're talking C+ level (the only rating system my overly academically geared mind understands). He said this like it was a good thing. A reason-to-try-new-things-type-thing. And my first reaction to that was 'eh ... two years for a C+? Why would I invest all that time and energy into something just to be mediocre at it?'

Which is of course the balls-est reaction possible.

And which I immediately had the common sense to be utterly horrified by.

I don't think it's exactly a national secret that my mid-life crisis started somewhere pre quarter-life. I've never felt like I've developed into the person I should be, or want to be. That person does not have a desk job. She spends her days making things and connecting with people. She is impulsive with her heart, not her wallet. She is more politically minded and civically active. She is less cynical and judgmental. She isn't dissuaded from taking classes or shaking her ass on a dance floor or picking up a guitar or mike because she might not be good at it (duh, that's what we call learning). She indulges and develops her creative proclivities. She looks different. She thinks different. She is, to quote Fight Club, free in all the ways I am not.

She is my Tyler Durden. Without the whole pissing in the soup thing.

Now, I'll concede that I've made a few small strides in some of these areas. I quit taking classes where I write about art with the assurance that I'll get an A+ (and then bitch about the 10% I lost, regardless of the fact that it wouldn't change the grade) in favor of taking art classes where I actually learn about and get my hands dirty with art ... and utterly suck at. I'm not being self-deprecating, I really do suck. I also really enjoy it. Mostly. I did six months of nasty ass, back agony inducing bootcamp, which I can't say I ever enjoyed, but I got through. Now, some of that has been undone by my good frenemy whiskey and his band of accomplices (French Fry, I'm calling you out!) but whatever, I did it despite the paralyzing knowledge that I indeed looked like the fatty at the gym. I'm warming up to the idea of the learning process being something to be enjoyed, not rushed through to meet the goal of Being. Awesome. At. Something.

But still, I feel like The Nothing is hovering behind me, ever urgently reminding me to move forward, move faster. And I feel like my feet are stuck in the quicksand. Like some stupid little synapse in my head keeps firing a message that I can't quit my job and start into something I'll actually, gulp, enjoy because I:
  • have dick all savings despite making decent money; and
  • despite being good at a lot of things I enjoy, I am not pay-the-bills good at anything.
Now a different person might look at these two things and say "ok, Sugartits, what we need here is a plan. You're going to have to make some compromises, and that's going to hurt, but a lot of people get through life without dozens of shoes and a bulldozer load of MAC. They don't exactly turn you into Zooey Deschanel anyways. Make yourself a schedule, chart out some goals, brush up on whatever your most marketable skill that you actually enjoy is *, and let's get to work on making that happen. And while you're at it, practice the damn guitar more, get your ass to karaoke, take the damn dance class, book a frigging tattoo appointment already and and generally get over your insufferably self-indulgent self-deprecation. It's almost come full circle to a point of a whole new depressing brand of narcissism."

Now, before you get your panties all tied in a knot because you love me and think I'm just swell (hi Mom!) be assured this isn't a woe-is-me-need-for-assurance thing. I know that in a lot of ways I'm a pretty excellent person. I'm smart, kind, warm, witty, considerate, generous, thoughtful, admirably skilled in many domestic pursuits and more creative than at least your average tree stump. On a really good hair day during a week that I haven't been worshiping at the alter of beer, burgers and sedentariness I'll allow for not hard to look at. These are all good things. Things I'd like the superior C+ version of me to also embody.

I guess the question is - would I rather be a comfortable and unchallenged A or A+ version (though I'd say I'm hovering around a B+) of the person I've defaulted to, or a C+ version of the person I want to be? Even knowing that it could take years to achieve it, if indeed it's even something with an end goal? I mean really, a person worth being is one that continues to be challenged, learn and change, right?

September is traditionally the toughest month for me. With my birthday on the last day of the month it usually marks 30 days of Oh shit. Another year gone, and I'm still the same me. Which is just as depressing and unproductive as it sounds. So I think this year, in partnership with (as of the 7th) Sober September, I am going to break with tradition and spend that time and mental energy launching the C+ version of me.

Because there's just no sense of accomplishment in striving for an A+ in the status quo.

* note, not troubleshooting things like CAP LOCK ON, cleaning up after other people, or bloody copyediting.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Mix Tape #5 - Songs for Stargazing

Here's a little hint for you, internets.

When you are seeing someone, even ever-so-casually, and they go really far out of their way (because they are awesome and also know that no one is really doing anything for your born day) to give you and awesome birthday with dinner, and wine/gifts/homemade cake and kite flying at the beach followed by hanging out at Esquimalt Lagoon stargazing and listening to your crafted-for-birthday-stargazing-mix-cd, do not, under any circumstances reward said awesomeness by telling them








a few days before but decided against because, well, those things are never as good an idea as they seem, and one of the girls seem a little nuts, and ended up drunk and crying anyways.

I mean really, it's just rude.

This mix starts with a birthday song and is on the relatively mellow side, so consider this a freebie from your mixtape pinch-hitter when you find yourself without a suitable soundtrack for that special someone's special day. Hope your plans play out better than mine. There's no cover because, well, my computer ballsed out awhile ago and ate it, and I can't be bothered to make another one. Besides, at least the crappy cover art should be personalized, non?

Track List:

1) Happy Birthday - Sufjan Stevens
2) I Miss You Like I Miss You - Chad VanGaalen
4) Why Do They Leave? - Ryan Adams
6) Seen It All Before - Amos Lee

7) Soft Shock (acoustic) - Yeah Yeah Yeahs

8) 20 Good Years - The Racoons
9) The Loneliness Of A Tower Crane Driver - Elbow
10) I Go To The Barn Because I Like - Band Of Horses
11) Who Will? - Patrick Wolf
13) Just a Spark - Songs: Ohia
14) Trouble - Ray LaMontagne
15) I Put a Spell on You - Nina Simone
16) Dream Job - The Dears
17) Consequence - Notwist
18) It's Summertime - The Flaming Lips
19) Lover's Spit - Broken Social Scene

Notes on the Tracks

1) Happy Birthday - It strikes me as a little ironic, given the circumstances, that words 'your birthday brings a pardoning' are part of the lyrics. Sigh. Sufjan and Cryptacize are embarking on an East-of-Lake-Minnentonka tour in the fall. Sadly this means no western dates, but you bastards in the east can see them October 1st in Toronto at Lee's Place October 2nd in Montreal, at Cabaret du Musee Juste Pour Rire.

2) I Miss You Like I Miss You - I spat beer an an girl for being a douchbag at the last Chad VanGaalen show. True story. I will not be repeating that rather graceless act October 14th at Alix Goolden in Victoria or October 15 at The Rio in Vancouver. Mostly because I won't be there.

3) Words - I have Dan to thank for this introduction. So thanks cracka'. He's touring with Ani DiFranco in September, only Canadian date so far looks to be The Peg Sept 19th, and he's not listed as opening the Victoria date, which fills me with sadness.

4) Why Do They Leave? - Despite his media douchebaggery I still sort of love Ryan Adams. He crafts a lovely song. 'Nuff said.

5) Bella - Awww, man.... I've said it before ... I sort of want to live in a Amos and Julia Stone video. This is what I imagine all the couples that post lovely morning-in-bed, dusty, lens flarey photos at Le Love Image are listening to as they coo soft words of adoration to each other.

6) Seen It All Before - I never get tired of this album, though I've never really cottoned on to any other Amos Lee. I love how pure and effortless his voice is though.

7) Soft Shock (acoustic) - I will probably end up using every one of the acoustic tracks on this album. I could not crush harder on Karen O. It's just not possible.

8) 20 Good Years - I'm so all over The Racoons. You should be too, and there is plenty of opportunity. They're part of a free outdoor show August 25th on Broad Street between Pandora and Johnston and are playing Sept 24 during Rifflandia. Also, they're looking for people for a video shoot on Sept. 5th.

9) The Loneliness Of A Tower Crane Driver - Yep. Still love Elbow. Don't see that changing.

10) I Go To The Barn Because I Like - What, Ben, what’s in the barn that you like? Horses? Just a guess. I'll be solving that mystery September 5th at The Royal followed by Japandroids at Lucky. Ladies night, holla!

11) Who Will? - Patrick Wolf is lanky and beautiful and I think I got some of his sweat on me at the last show. Which is right up there with being showered by unicorn tears.

12) If You Want Me - If you haven't seen Once do yourself a favour and rent it. If my Mom ever returns it I might lend it to you. And keep an eye out for Swell Season to announce some US dates in support of Strict Joy. Which I must remember to buy.

13) Just a Spark - I had a lovely chat with Mr. Molina after the Seattle show a few weeks ago and he said that he didn't

come to Canada this time because he 'wasn't invited'. Atomique, Sealed with a Kiss, what's up with that? He also referred to Nova Scotia as 'the Scotia' which was sort of adorable. Amazing songwriter, now with better hair.

14) Trouble - Mr. LaMontagne will be gracing US audiences with November dates, but there are none announced for Canada yet. Boo.

15) I Put a Spell on You - There are many versions of this song that I dig (yes, that includes Marilyn Manson's), but you just can't beat Nina.

16) Dream Job - The Dears have sort of been off my Radar for a few years. After a show a few months ago they are back on it. Oh, and Murray claims he didn't get seated at a restaurant other band members were eating at because he's black. In Victoria. I shudder to think. Some sushi place, I have no idea which one.

17) Consequence - This song came to me via my bestest blond bud when I was toiling under the fist of my sociopathic cousin in Montreal. It got me through some rough days. It still does and I still love it. Ditto that hot little blond.

18) It's Summertime - Ok, we all know that The Flaming Lips are fucking awesome. But did you know that they host their hometown's Hallowe'en Parade? Finally, a reason to go to Oklahoma City.

19) Lover's Spit - Another love 'em or hate 'em band. Love. Clearly.

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Monday, August 17, 2009

All they Wanted Was a Dance, You Gave Your Peace of Mind Instead

I've been absent again. It's been a busy few weeks. I have another podcast ripened and ready to post, I just haven't had the steam to do the written. So, in the meantime, a word about a little gem that would be on the mix if I could have bought the damn track digitally.

A few months back Sunset Rubdown played in Victoria. Now, I love me some Sunset Rubdown, but I recognize that Spencer Krug's voice is sort of divisive. People tend to either love or just totally can't stand it. I fall squarely on the love side. I also sort of crush on him as a lyricist. I hadn't heard much of Dragonslayer before the show, but the new songs I heard did it for me, and I took it home eager to dig in and give it a proper solo listen. In particularly a song that had sort of grabbed me in an I've never heard it before, how is it so familiar?? sort of way. Crushing disappointment upon discovering that the song I had briefly bonded with was not on the album.

I Googled the one little lyric snippet I'd retained:

obliterate your speech so you cannot ask forgiveness
for hanging with the vampires when there was no one to witness
the submission of the skin upon your neck

and found that the song, Coming to At Dawn, was only available on a picture-disk, which I'm pretty sure I'd seen for sale at the show.


I hemmed and hawed about ordering it from Agoo Records ... $10 is low beans, but with shipping and whatnot ... anywhoo, I finally, now months later, checked in with the good folks at Ditch Records and sure enough, they had it in stock, cheaper than what I would have spent to order it with shipping and Yankee dollar conversion.

As a quick aside, I'm a huge proponent of support local independent retailers, records stores in particular, and with A&B gone I'm spending more time and dollars at Ditch, which I should have been doing all the time, because the staff is amazing and helpful and generally float my boat. Shop local. Shop Ditch!

Right. So. It's a lot simpler and more piano-y than it was live, which I'm actually partial to as it serves the lyrics well. I love the image and feeling that this little bit conjures up.

obliterate the memory of coming to at dawn
knowing only that the night has gone
obliterate the grass stains from the cloth
you were only in the grassy fields to pick a hollyhock
you want to stick it to the stem again
by fusing up the atoms and then believe that it will live again
just from the power of your refusing to believe it cannot happen

We've all had that night right? Sort of drunk and brokenly determined your want alone can will something into being? Hell, I had a bit of that on Saturday night. Unfortunately, people are even harder to rebuild than flora. But I digress.

So, I'm embedding a video that's basically just the record playing, but hey, it's a picture disk, so at least there's something to look at!

I'm also popping in a video of the song performed live, because it is so different. I still dig it, I just diggity dig the album version better. You know, for angsty solo listening.

Crap. That's actually a different live version than the one I was intending to post, and now it's a draw. I sorta love it too. May need a few more listens.

So that's the what for now. I have a sewing project to bang out tonight and am hitting Fruit Bats tomorrow at Lucky, so at this rate it might be the weekend before I get the podcast up.

~ m

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