Those Were The Days

There’s this idea that chivalry is dead, or if not that dramatic, some sense that proper, polite, gentlemanly behavior has been left well in the past. But I hear this and, each time, ask myself, “When the hell are these people thinking about?” The ideal time period changes from person to person. The golden era, though, seems to be around the 1950s. When there were picture perfect little houses, with dress clad mothers and suit wearing fathers. Respectable people. The time of gentlemen. Hard work and proper values. But I read books. (It’s one of the few things I do well.) I read the autobiographical fiction from those eras. They all had mistresses. So, yes, maybe chivalry of some kind – car door opening, wingtip shoe wearing, saying ma’am, offering an arm – is dead, but culture changes and maybe part of the reason it’s dead is because it’s easier to keep track of each other. Phone calls and texts. Facebook and Twitter. Women with voices. Sure, things in the dating world have changed, but I have to imagine the number of married bosses fucking their unmarried secretaries has dropped dramatically. I’m not sure how well those sexual harassment lawsuits stuck 60 years ago (and I’m not sure how well they stick now, but certainly significantly better). The men wore suits and spoke well. Were polite, tipped hats and took time to court. The movies and tv shows from those times tell us that much. But there was still the seven year itch. And those guys is suits found women in less clothing as easily as they do now. Maybe even easier, since it was expected. Everyone just kept their mouths shut and smiled in front of their picket fences. You can reminisce on the chivalry, but some unsavory parts of the past are being ignored. So maybe things are better. Or at least not worse.

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Those Were The Days

My Eternal Struggle with Classical Music

I’ve loved music since I was an infant
My memories of childhood are filled with 60’s rock
Too loud to interact
I always needed sound around me to cut out the thoughts
Of a lonely 7 year old

I never learned how to listen to music that wasn’t played
By the people who wrote it
John wrote that song he’s belting out, Jimmy wrote that one
Later,
Chris wrote that song
Conor wrote an even sadder one
Then Tim beat them all

But Shostakovich wrote that entire piece
Who the hell is that on violin?

Principle-cellist, you’re my idol
But Paul has a face

Oh well, I pick up a pen
And listen to Shostakovich
Or whoever the hell is making this racket

My Eternal Struggle with Classical Music

Freestyle Writing Challenge

I was nominated for the freestyle writing challenge by threehandsoneheart. Exceedingly nice of her to do so. Thank you.

To summarize the rules, you have 5 or 10 minutes to write about the prompt given by the person who nominates you. My understanding is that you aren’t supposed to edit at all, which is shamefully typical for me. The full list of rules can be found at threehandsoneheart’s site, in the link above.

I don’t like nominating specific people for these things. I have complexes that make me uncomfortable when I try to be familiar with people when I’m unsure how they feel about me (assuming they feel anything at all). (It takes me a long time to feel comfortable using someone’s name to him/her.) So, like the last time I did one of these, I nominate anyone who feels like giving it a go. I’ll give you a topic to write about at the bottom of this post. You aren’t supposed to look at it until you’re ready to start the timer. I guess the point is you have no time to think about what to say and no chance to organize your thoughts.

Well, here’s my go.

The topic was:

Describe the perfect day.  Put in as many details as you can.  Make it a possible day, not a “dream day.”

alright, well I’ve sort of talked about this before, but it was more of a dream day than a, currently, possible day.

 

A possible perfect day is a topic I don’t have much to say about. I don’t mind most of my days. A single perfect one is unimaginable to me. It would look no different from an average day. My problem is stupid; short term happiness is essentially irrelevant to me. Short term happiness is fine, but it’s typical. It’s easy. It’s the small things that happen all the time. It requires nothing. I enjoy those moments, but all i have to do is let them happen. Imagining a hypothetical perfect day made of those moments is difficult. I have no concept of perfection, really. But less semantically, I don’t care for a perfect day. A perfect day shouldn’t be some idealized situation. Why not destroy the concept of a perfect day in order to appreciate the typical? Sure, there will be ups and downs in a non-perfect day, but I rather like that idea of that more than a day with superficial joys filling it.

For instance, a day spent with my niece is near perfect, but the day itself is a mess. She, being less than a year old, has little concern for my plans or desires. That I want her to roll me a ball, eat her brunch/lunch/afternoon pre-dinner is inconsequential to her. And I rather like that.
Same goes for any other hypthetical perfect day. There are lulls and annoying parts. Trying to eliminate those moments is a waste of time.

There’s also a difficult distinction to make between the perfect day in terms of pleasures and in terms of “higher” pursuits (anyone a hedonist?). Could a perfect day be perfect without hours spent reading some high falutin philosophy book? (anyone read about hedonists?) What about without spending time with your best friends? But what about family? What about a perfect date? No matter how perfect it tries to be the perfect day will be lacking something important. In my perfect day, do I wake up as early as possible to cram in the most activities or do I sleep in and enjoy the rest? Which is perfect? Either I’ll miss part of the day, or I won’t be fully rested.

I guess I’m just playing with meaning like an asshole. The most perfect possible day is something I can talk about, but maybe I just don’t like the idea. My perfect day doesn’t really exist. The truth is, this topic caught be at an inopportune time. I was just writing about tragedy in the world (because of Saul Williams*), thinking about the principle of equal consideration (again), and read Raymond Carver earlier today. Needless to say, the darker aspects of life are on my mind at the moment. That is to say, I’m putting a high value on meaning and less on happiness/joy, right now. I’m considering the uncomfortable thought of writing on a computer and listening to music in a temperature controlled apartment while genocides are occurring. While children and parents and love is dying. Passively dying off and actively being murdered.

Welcome to my mind. I’m sorry you had to visit. It’s not usually pleasant and I don’t know if I want to change that. (TIMES UP) I don’t think I do. I want to figure out how to fill life with meaning rather than moments.

 

 

Number of words: 551

 

Alright. There it was and I feel like an ass. It was a simple topic. I could have talked about waking up to donuts, hash browns, eggs and orange juice at my best friends apartment. Driving to see my niece and family. Going to the park, then out for lunch (though logistics do get in the way in terms of how this would work out in real time with napping and feeding schedules). I don’t know why I don’t just do it that way. For some reason talking about those activities in that way makes them undesirable. I really don’t know why. Maybe it’s because it somehow makes them less in tune with reality in my head. The bad parts of life have value, to me, and trying to eliminate those moments makes everything feel fake. I’m rambling.

 

 

If you feel like taking part in this – and how could you not after my joyous contribution? – I’ll give you a prompt here.

Ready the timer (or look at a clock) and your topic is…

Is there something you’ve dreamt of doing for a long time? Why haven’t you done it?**

 

* Here is a link to the song I was referring to when I mentioned Saul Williams.

http://www.vice.com/read/vice-exclusive-saul-williams-will-make-your-stupid-ass-think-about-important-stuff-141

 

** The question is taken from HERE

Freestyle Writing Challenge

Taylor Swift Can’t Sing?

I am fairly uneducated when it comes to Taylor Swift. I had heard one song in which she sings about waiting for a guy to get tired of dating some hot girl, so he’ll come date her (and I think the conceit of the song is that she is NOT a hot girl). That was the extent of my Taylor Swift awareness until last week when Screaming Females covered Shake It Off on The A.V. Club.

Just to clear things up. I don’t think I’m too cool to have heard many Taylor swift songs. It’s quite the opposite actually. I am so painfully lonely that I haven’t even been in the position to hear the songs in passing. No parties or clubs or bars or clothing stores (I don’t recall hearing pop music at the grocery store, but maybe I simply don’t notice). I don’t have enough friends to overhear it on the radio. There may have been a time or two I heard her music at a restaurant, but I wouldn’t be able to pick it out of a lineup, so I can’t say for sure. Now, I don’t usually look down on pop music as a source for entertainment (I heard the chorus of Shake it Off and it was pleasant enough), we just live in different worlds for the most part. I’ve also never worn a kilt. Nothing against either things, just different worlds.

Anyway, I did not know Taylor Swift can’t sing. The off-key stuff is bad enough but her voice is super weak in the video.

I know tons of alternative, indie (hipsters) love Taylor swift and I always assumed it was because she was actually a talented musician and singer. But that performance was terrible. So I clicked on another live version and it’s worse.

I actually thought it was a parody video, a la the Jessie J acoustic version of Bang Bang.

 

All that’s inconsequential to me. She’s very, very famous and makes music that I don’t know much about. My existence means nothing to her and I don’t pretend my opinion matters, either. But the Screaming Females version of Shake It Off is badass.

As I’ve talked about before, I don’t mind when people have odd voices, as long as they use them well. Marissa Paternoster has a super strong voice and she uses it to add to songs and play with expectations as well as anyone. It is strange, to me, that when you strip pop songs down to their basic elements (live guitars and drums) that they immediately sound better. This is, of course, just my opinion. I enjoy the sound of a live bass and live drums. I think about 98% of the time, they sound better than super produced or prerecorded instruments. The taped band has no punch. The dynamics are weak. There’s no skill and creativity in the form of improvisation. It’s almost glorified karaoke. It’s just disappointing.

I realize that about 100x the people who dislike Taylor Swift will dislike this version of it. It’s fairly off putting if you listen to mostly pop music. I get it. But even those who hate it have to admit that Marissa throws in a sweet guitar solo in place of the cringey chant.

Taylor Swift Can’t Sing?

Spider Friend

5SecondsApp

Back in early, early October (around the 1st or 2nd) I wrote about the daddy longleg looking spider that inhabits a corner in my living room. What usually happens is a little spider comes at lives in my apartment for a few months then disappears, either dying or retreating to a new place to live out of my view. This guy or gal has been here for at least 8 full months and maybe more. I’m wondering if this is one of those Disneyland duck situations in that the spider realizes how great he/she has it. She lives in this corner, away from the elements and zero risk of a giant human killing her. No rain will drown her. No heat will bake her. No feet will smash her. And no birds will eat her (assuming birds eat this species, if not, something must, so substitute that in). On top of that safety, food is abundant. That might be an indictment of my apartment but I’m hoping small little bugs inhabit other peoples houses as well. Plus, right now I have a fan set up that blows air right into this corner, probably funneling bugs right into her/his web. The other day, my spider friend was running to and fro wrapping up little bug after little bug before chowing down on a few. Really strange process if you’ve ever watched a spider eat up close. Spinning the bugs with his legs while he wraps them up is fun. A little sad for the bugs, assuming they had hopes and dreams that didn’t involve an entertaining death. Anyway, just surprised this spider is still alive and kicking. I have no idea how long they live, but they’ve only stayed a few months maximum in the past. Nice reminder that other things live in this world which is easy to forget with our human-centric concerns.

 

5SecondsApp (1)

Spider Friend

Moving Music

Sometimes music is simple and fun. It’s background noise or a soundtrack to dance along with. And sometimes it’s important. It says something very personal about life and the struggles (and occasionally the ease) that come along with being alive. It’s these sorts of songs I wish more people heard.

Sorority Noise has a new album coming out on June 16th and the songs they’ve released so far have been amazing. They just released another new song called Using and it’s the best of the lot.

On AltPress, the vocalist/rhythm guitarist, Cameron Boucher, said this about the song:

“In 2012, I saw a therapist for the first time. After fighting demons that expressed themselves in many forms, from suicidal thoughts to bottomless depression to pills, I found it was time to seek help. In 2012 I was diagnosed with manic depression. It took this moment in my life to realize that the thoughts that weighed me down since I was 14 weren’t just there because I induced them, they were there because of a mental illness I had finally discovered. This knowledge both terrified and comforted me because it made me realize what I was feeling would be with me the rest of my life; but in that it provided a reason for me to find a way to make sense of it all.

It took me three years to come to terms with my illness, learn how to cope, and ultimately make it a positive part of my life, through which creativity could be my sword and shield against the parts of my brain that told me there was nothing but darkness. At 22, I can firmly say that I haven’t defeated my depression, nor will I ever, but I have learned to come to terms with myself and make the best of what I have. I have realized that suicide is never the answer and that despite my trials, there is always a brighter end to things than the way I can typically imagine them.

Last week another one of my friends was overcome by their inner demons and committed suicide in New Haven, CT. Along with a number of things in my life, this prompted me to finally utilize the music I play to be a platform to let those who struggle with any mental illness and any drug problem know that it does get better. Death is a final question that should never require an answer, and there is so much of all of our lives left to help the world and help others that a simple leaving of this world is the opposite of what we should consider.

The song “Using” is the first song I’ve ever written that I felt took a positive focus on my life. It allowed me to look back into my life and realize every issue and every struggle I’ve faced and express my realization that no matter how unbelievably terrible things are and how low you feel as a person, there is no greater idea than accepting yourself for what you are and doing your best to make a positive impact on the world you live in. I’m going to continue to try and do my best, but I know that my past and present will continue to haunt me. I will continue to look for the positives and future that I might be able to experience that I didn’t think I would have three years ago.

Depression is not a trend. Depression is not cool. Depression is not hip. It is a serious mental illness that we should help others fight to better their lives as well as our own. Stop glorifying sorrow and start lending a helping hand to those that need it the most.”

The truth is, the lyrics can be the most insightful, moving words ever written, but if the music isn’t rad then who cares? (Of course some of us would care, but good music helps a lot.) And the song is awesome. I hope you all agree and feel the instant connection. There’s something wonderful about having an insight to the person writing the song. The lyrics and the music take on more meaning.

 

Moving Music

Book Review

The aforementioned “more book reviews” never turned up even though I’ve been reading like a man possessed, or like a man laid up in bed because he twisted his knee under himself while cutting down a massive tree (and holding a chainsaw that he somehow managed to put down without cutting an arm or leg off). Moments ago, I finished reading The Upside of Your Dark Side by Todd Kashdan and Robert Diener. The topic of the book is fairly easy to surmise from its name, but pretending we’re all idiots for a moment, it’s about the beneficial qualities of the emotions that are generally thought of as negative. This ranges from guilt to anger to mindlessness (intuition). This book is so refreshingly accessible while always taking the time to support the ideas they discuss by referring to specific research. Every problem I had with Happier – in regards to how it was written, not the content – was perfect in this book. It never drifts into the self-help platitudes, but doesn’t weigh itself down with overly scientific, dry analysis. It’s still a quick read even though all the materials are there if you feel like diving deeper into the concepts and research (and I do).
I don’t want to just summarize the book but I’ll give a few bullet points I found interesting.

Benefit of confusion – Students who were initially confused by the material but worked through their confusion did better on tests than peers who understood it right away.

Benefit of not forgiving – “Spouses who forgave physical or verbal aggression were likely to receive more of it, whereas those who were unforgiving enjoyed the precipitous decline in spousal aggression.”

Experiential avoidance. Attempting to bury unwanted thoughts or feelings.

Research by Kate Harkness “shows people prone to depressed moods also tend to notice more details.” Especially facial expressions. Better at seeing danger approaching and lying.

Benefits of guilt – June Tangney found criminals that felt guilty had much lower rates of recidivism. Also, people in general are less likely to drive drunk, steal, use illegal drugs, or assault another person.

Bad Happiness:
“1. Your happiness can interfere with long-term success.
2. The pursuit of happiness sometimes backfires, ending in unhappiness.”
Happy people are less persuasive, are too trusting and are lazy thinkers.

Lastly, there’s something called the wanting/liking bias. This bias was only briefly mentioned but I loved it. The example they used in the book was when someone might really want a dog, but not particularly like having the dog with all the less enjoyable jobs necessary to take care of it. Who can’t relate to the wanting/liking bias? How many times have you really, really wanted something, got it, and didn’t derive the joy you thought you would? Frequently the idea of something is a lot better than actually having it. It’s unfortunate we aren’t better at noticing this tendency naturally. It might take a lot of disappointing purchases before you start to consider the importance of the downsides, and some never do.

There’s much more in the book and all the claims are backed up with plenty of research. Loved it.

Book Review