Soundtracks

Do you ever step out your front door and a soundtrack begins playing in your head, as though you’re in a film? I do it all the time. It happens sometimes when I slam the car door shut, the music starts, something’s beginning. Often I am actually hearing music through my earphones. I see a lot of my life as a film, like I’m an outside observer. It’s full of cliches; both my life perceived this way and the actual act of doing this. But whatever. Before I did that unit on scriptwriting I thought I’d be really good at it, but it was such a disaster. It was part of my Grad Dip in writing. I had this teacher whose experience seemed to revolve around having written Neighbours episodes and she was one of those people that I just clashed with. Not in an angry way, we just didn’t really get each other. I felt like everyone else in the course was cruising along and writing up all these great ideas and mine was just poo, awful story about nothing written like a kid, terrible. It was such a rude shock, that scriptwriting could be a total disaster. But that’s actually what writing was for me for a long time, a total disaster. I always had talent, and I’m good with languages and spelling and grammar, but I’ve always been very immature, a late developer.

Anyway, I digress. I actually wanted to write about the future, or the next steps. I am about to complete this MA and I really don’t know where it’s going to lead. Potentially nowhere, which is a bit freaky really. I think the reason that’s possible is because I’ve never done study with a view to getting work. I was explaining this to a Walmart lady the other day, when she badgered me about applying for a credit card and I explained that I’m not eligible for a credit card because not only am I not a permanent resident of Canada, I also don’t have an income. She asked what I was studying and I explained and she asked where that leads career-wise. When I told her I wasn’t sure and that I’d never done any of my study with a view to getting a job, she was shocked. It was like it had never occurred to her that people did this. When she realised it was about happiness, she calmed down a bit and seemed to understand where I was coming from. But when I walked away, I realised I truly didn’t know what the hell was going to come of this degree, and that was because it was never what I really wanted to do. And what I really wanted to do, writing, was not what I got into. Because I haven’t shown myself to be good enough at it to warrant doing an MA. Italian, yes, I’m good at it, and this degree has been incredibly enjoyable and rewarding from a personal perspective, but I don’t want to do further study in Italian. I never wanted to do any study in Italian! Gosh that’s a hard thing to admit openly. But it’s true.

Regrets are a waste of time and I refuse to entertain them for even a moment. All I can do is look to the future, to where I want to be, and work towards that. It’s not Italian, and it’s not writing. I’d like to continue my editorial career in a freelance capacity, which will take discipline, and I think my study this past year has helped with building that. So that’s something. But as for my long term career, I’m not sure. Will it be teaching? I’m told I am good at that. I did a presentation a few weeks ago on King Lear and my fellow students all commented on the way I read the Shakespeare, how I engaged my audience. And I really enjoyed it. But teaching, that means I’m more like my mum than I’d like. That freaks me out. And teaching requires energy, giving of oneself. I don’t know if I have what it takes.

For now, I have less than a month left of classes before I finish this MA. So I’ll keep walking to my soundtrack, writing my snippets of stories, my to-do lists, my goals. One thing is certain: I will write a book one day soon.

Hard

I’ve never heard this music before but my dad has recommended it and the artist is Italian so it’s fitting. I plug my free Apple earphones into my broken Samsung and hit shuffle. Within moments of hearing the opening bars there are tears in my eyes and for once I’m grateful for my vision being obscured by my child-scratched sunglasses. It’s piano, reminds me a bit of Michael Nyman and I remember the story my friend K told me about him propositioning her one late night in London.

This MA study, it’s hard, in all respects. It may even be one of the biggest challenges I’ve faced to date. The work is hard, the commute is long and complicated, and I feel totally conflicted about leaving my kids, neither of whom like being without me.

This music is my soundtrack now. Ludovico Enaudi. If I have another child, I think I’ll call him Ludo. Or maybe that’ll be a good name for a family dog. I won’t forget what this music has done for me. Although damn it, stop with the tears already!

I wrote this on the third day of my first week at uni. I was sitting on the bus at 8:15am having just forced my protesting 13-month-old into the arms of a lovely stranger while I put myself through the torture of a complex class conducted all in Italian. I think in those early days I understood about a quarter of what was said, if that, and what made it worse was that the other three members of the class understood everything.
At this point I’d been to five of my six classes and I was feeling overwhelmed. And to top it off, other than Thumper’s separation anxiety, the Dude was having huge meltdowns about catching the school bus and Mr Chewbacca had just messaged me saying he was almost in tears too at having to take Dude to school against his will because he’d point blank refused to get on the bus.
Looking back, yes, it was hard. But we’ve moved on now. That first week, wow, I’ll never forget it. And I’m glad I wrote this as it reminds me just how easy I have it now in comparison.

Dear Dave…

Dear Dave Matthews,

How’s it going? You don’t know me, but I felt I needed to write and explain something.

We’re about to move to Canada. I’ve never been there before. If you’d have told me five years ago that I’d move to Toronto in 2015 I’d have laughed in your face. Especially with no employment or income and two small children. It’s a crazy notion.
Aside from wondering who the hell I am, you’re probably wanting to know why we’re embarking on this insane adventure. Let me explain.

I’m Australian but I don’t feel very Aussie. I like winter, snow, ice skating, open fires, flushed cheeks, bright cold skies. I like snow at Christmas. I ikea deciduous trees and grass that stays green, great service in restaurants and an overabundance of celebration at various festive times during the year.

I also like your music, Dave, even though I’m pretty sure you’re high during most of your performances. It doesn’t detract. It kind of adds to it actually.

The first time I heard of you was about 15 years ago. I had a serendipitous connection with a guy I met through uni and early on in what would become a six-year relationship he played Crash for me. Just that one song. Over and over. It’s a great song and I very quickly came to love it. But I never got to listen to the whole album. Often he’d play a bit of Satellite, I think it’s called, and I heard those opening bars of Too Much so many times. Da da daaaaa! Never heard the whole song.

Fast forward about ten years, I was introduced to you again, this time by someone with musical taste as well as talent. My husband. I don’t really know how I came to love your music but I’m guessing it was him being pushy and just playing it all the time after having rudely dismissed whatever I was listening to at the time. Just playing entire albums no matter whether you liked them or not. Or playing Metallica. We also saw you live somewhere in London in about 2009 I think. That was the night Michael Jackson died. Totally irrelevant, but anyway, you were off your head on some kind of substance but still playing like a demon!

One evening some months ago my husband was out with friends having a few drinks and when he came home he put on some music and we danced. He wanted to dance with me. The songs he chose were not played at our wedding or when we first met. They were two of your songs. The first was Crush, something I’d previously have wrinkled my nose at having heard the first few plucky sax notes, branding it elevator music. It’s actually an extraordinarily sensual song, and the way you deliver the lyrics really give it depth. It’s kinda us. And the second song my husband played that night was #41. According to Wikipedia you wrote it following the messy dissolution of your relationship with a former manager, when he started claiming ownership of stuff you wrote. I can’t explain why but this song just connects us.

These two songs together mixed with snow in winter at Christmas and the rejection of various other northern hemisphere destinations mean Canada is right for us. Or at least it is a good option to explore.
I still can’t really explain why your music has been such an influence in our decision to check out Canada (you’re from California or something, right?) but somehow when my husband and I listen to your music we just look at each other and know. It evokes a feeling in both of us. There’s comfort, familiarity, excitement, home. Suffice it to say, we’ll never be able to listen to your awesome music again if we end up hating Canada. And that would be a shame.

image
Image credit http://www.dkngstudios.com/blog/2012/12/14/dave-matthews-band-toronto-poster

Edit: bloody hell, look at what popped up when I googled “Dave Mattews winter snow Canada tree”. What an amazing work of art! If we get our Canadian citizenship I’m totally getting this tattooed!

Fame

After accidentally watching Gaga by Gaultier, a documentary about Lady Gaga’s rise to fame with Jean Paul Gaultier asking campish, staged, sucky-up questions to a subdued yet immaculate Gaga, I realised something frightening: I don’t hate Lady Gaga. I don’t get her either.

A while back when I was bored on twitter I noticed a whole bunch of losers tweeting about how she was off on some tour and they hoped she’d have a safe flight. I tweeted how awesome it would be if her plane crashed and then I wouldn’t have to read idiotic tweets from losers. And I got a hate tweet from some die hard fan! It was kind of scary cool.

See, I’ve always considered Gaga a perfect example of why the mainstream audience is so clueless. Yeah okay so she does some funky stuff with style; she pushes style boundaries even. And yeah, the woman (yes she’s just a regular chick with a regular vagina, the whole hermaphrodite thing was an accidental yet profitable publicity stunt) can sing. But her music? Sucks balls. I know people will say it’s a matter of taste and the kind of people who listen to Gaga would also listen to Mariah Carey or Aqua or Delta Goodrem or that stupid crazy frog song from sometime in the late 90s. I agree, it IS a matter of taste: bad taste. There’s a difference between varying tastes and basic good versus bad. Personally I don’t listen to The Rolling Stones or Bob Dylan but I wouldn’t deny that both have made a significant impact on music and are amazing artists. But Mariah Carey? Okay so sometimes when any singing will chill my son out and for some bizarre reason Hero is dominating my brain, I belt it out ala Mariah. But I would be glad to live in a world where we were never subjected to any of her three impossible octaves; even All I Want For Christmas which, I’ll admit, became slightly appealing after I’d seen Love Actually for the eighth time.

But despite all that, I sat watching Jean Paul in his crazy little nautical shirt with its external shoulder pads perched like some 70s sci-fi starship outfit gone wrong, and I started to be drawn in. It shat me to tears how much crapping on there was about Gaga and the gays (I mean seriously, of course she is a gay icon, if by gay you mean men who like to remind everyone how gay they are every second minute while reminding you that all gay men are stereotypes without brains or taste). And I still think her music is an utter pile of poo. It’s unoriginal and catchy at best. But I realised she is clever, articulate and well-read. She’s also ridiculously creative. And she can sing. Her image? That’s her creation, her art. And I’m not walking about the outfits or hairstyles or makeup. That stuff is really just the media. As in what she has used to create. What I’m talking about is her very persona, all of those superficial things along with personality and catch phrases. It made me think of Boy George, as I recently caught the program about his rise to fame, Worried About The Boy. George O’Dowd had nothing but what he created. The whole image. He was no Gaga of course but he did the same thing, became known for his image, his art. I guess the big difference for George was that his upbringing was pretty fucked and he didn’t really feel worthy or ambitious. Gaga has always known she’d be famous. She probably felt frustrated that it didn’t happen sooner. In a way it’s as though she was born knowing fame was her destiny and it was just a matter of time. She must have been an intense and frustrating baby.

So in conclusion, while I’ll never be even remotely interested in listening to her music, and while I don’t particularly enjoy her art, I will give Gaga this: she is a creative force! Her fame is infuriating in the way that so many idiots love her and jump on the bandwagon. But I guess without those people without taste and class, she wouldn’t have made the impact she has. She appeals to a very broad spectrum of people and although I’m sure she loves that, it’s not something she can really control to an extent. Yes of course fame can be bought and the public can be manipulated but Gaga is on another level. That kind of fame is due to her brilliance as an artist. So kudos to you Gaga, I don’t like your music and your art isn’t my cup of tea, but that’s by the by because you really have done something amazing with your life. Respect.

A song for a thunderstorm

The Pacific Ocean up the road from my place
The Pacific Ocean up the road from my place

A massive storm just came in here, and because we’re up on the cliff tops looking over the Pacific Ocean, we bear the brunt of any stormy weather!  The rolls of thunder are frightening in their intensity and the lightening is incredible, as though it’s striking right outside my front window!  (which it probably is – last time there was a big storm like this it killed our Foxtel box and when the dude came to fix it he told me they are always out replacing boxes in this area when there’s a storm)

Anyway, as the thunder crashed and the Dude noticed it for the first time, I began spontaneously singing a song my mum used to sing to me when it stormed.

Now I know where it came from – and now I can learn all the lyrics, as I only ever knew the first verse and got many of the words wrong…

Phew! Books aren’t dead after all

Lately my son has begun actually ‘going down’ for sleeps during the day and I’m actually able to put him to bed like a regular little baby – it’s great!*  Gone are the days of pacing round the loungeroom with him in the Ergobaby trying to rock him to sleep, or waiting for him to pass out in my arms and then debating whether to sit still for two hours or try and transfer him to bed.  The latter was never a success!  Anyway, as I’m now feeding him in bed while he goes off to sleep, I have a lot of time to read blogs on my trusty iPhone.**

I’m absolutely loving keeping up to date with the latest news, and I’ve totally shunned my pregnancy/parenting/baby blogs now and I’m right into the books/reading/writing ones.  I especially enjoy the updates from the Guardian, and from the wonderful Allen & Unwin blog Alien Onion, all class.

So I’m happily reading away, getting all inspired, occasionally making little notes to myself about ideas for the books I’m writing (yes, there’s more than one), and all of a sudden I realise all may not be well in the land of publishing!  It seems the printed book as we know it is doomed.  Say what now?  Yes, that’s right.  When my son is at uni, he’ll be reading all his books on his hand-held device apparently, and they’ll all be e-books that have never been published in hard copy.  And he’ll probably not have to pay for them.  That scares the crap out of me!  Books are so important!

At first when I read a couple of articles about the demise of the printed word, I thought, meh, what do they know, it’s all speculation, just like the millennium bug or some such garbage.  But then I read this article from the Guardian and I really began to worry.  I began to believe it.  In 25 years there will be no more books.  No more bookshelves.  No more pages.  No more bookmarks.  No more margins to scribble in. No more folding and crinkling and spilling and bending and feeling all those chunky good words in the thickness of the leaves.  This is scary, not just because I intend to be a published novelist at some point, but because books are important to me.  I’m sentimental about books, and I think even if I didn’t like them much I’d have trouble throwing them out or giving them away.  My mum isn’t sentimental about books and there have been many occasions where I’ve ‘saved’ books from being given to charity for no particular reason.  Saved for no reason, that is… my mum constantly gives things to charity, on the premise of having ‘a clear out’, although she buys so much from second-hand shops that it all evens out in the end.

After reading all this doom and gloom about books, I began to imagine how that sentimentality about books will just dwindle.  Once we loved our records; we’d await the release of a new and wonderful album and look forward to seeing the image in its centre, holding that vinyl up to blow the dust off and squint across the grooves.  The joy of having the right touch, placing that needle at the right point, or watching the automatic turntable do it at the touch of a button.  I loved turning the record over on the little stories I had on records.  Tapes were so compact and seemed so efficient, and you could salvage one when the ribbon got caught in the tape player and you had to wind it back into the plastic case with a pencil.  Something satisfying about that.  My first tape was Roxette – Look Sharp.  Or actually I think it was Billy Joel – Glass Houses.  CDs were once exciting too.  I’d love to sit and listen to a new album, sometimes right through, but usually just the tracks I’d already heard, and then pore over the album artwork, the lyrics or imagery in the little booklet.  I got the best of The Eurythmics with my first CD player.  I remember the moment of surprise and delight when I was distracted for long enough to leave the CD playing and after a few minutes of nothing, Mystify began at the end of The CranberriesNo Need To Argue… a hidden track!  No such thing now really, is there?  Does dad download Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young and put it on his daughter’s iPod now?  Or does she never get to hear the brilliance because people don’t listen to albums any more?  Books will be going in the same direction, cheaply produced digital word fodder for consumption by a mass audience of average Joes who just want to skip to the ‘good’ bit.

Today I read this article which made me breathe a sigh of relief.  It was all just a bad dream.  At least I hope so.  Maybe I’m showing my age but I can’t imagine a world without books.

*Slight exaggeration – he does go to sleep, eventually, but it’s not for very long, and it takes just as long to actually get him to sleep and creep away without him stirring and waking! Ah the joys of new parenting.  Surely this gets easier.  I swear I have a really full on baby, they can’t all be this hard to calm down!

**Actually, it’s not that trusty.  It’s a 3G that I bought in October 2008, so it’s had a good run, but bloody hell is it slow!  And the latest update from Apple?  Nope, doesn’t apply to the 3G.  It seems Apple think no one owns one any more.  Or, more realistically, they think everyone has a spare thousand bucks to shell out for their latest product!  I’m so not buying another iPhone, I’m going with something generic next time…

Don’t cry for me little dude

The Eastern Suburbs Line passes over the Easte...
Image via Wikipedia

I’ve found myself making up songs for the little Dude, to distract him either while we’re driving or while I’m changing him.  They’re just regular songs and I modify the lyrics to suit the situation.  Here’s one I sang today:

(to the tune of ‘Don’t cry for me Argentina’, imagining Madonna singing from a balcony)

Don’t cry for me little Dude

The truth is I’ve never left you

All through this journey

Down to the airport

I’ve kept my promise

Wish it was cut short…

Today I sang this at the top of my voice over and over as the little man cried all the way from the Kings Cross tunnel to the airport because the stupid Eastern Distributor was jammed for no freaking reason.  Of course, because traffic jams in Sydney are never caused by anything.  It’s just like the government sends out some kind of subliminal mind control signal and suddenly everyone within 500 metres of a tunnel decides to go 20km per hour.  Either that or Sydney is the worst planned city in the universe.  Poor little Dude, he doesn’t deal with being in the car if it’s not going or if he’s hungry.  Today it was the former, but on the way home it was the latter, although recently, since his about-face at the beginning of the week, he cries just because he’s not being held or having attention paid to him.  As soon as I get him out of the car he stops.  It’s kind of nice that I can have that effect on him.