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Rags Click Here To Comment!

In Grade 12, I wrote a paper on Scott Joplin for music class. I had to do a great deal of research on it and it is the first topic I remember getting seriously “hooked” on, from a research perspective, other than WWII.

I spent more time on that paper than anything else I did that year. I spent hours reading every book I could get my hands on that was remotely related to music in the US at the turn of the 19th/20th Century. And, of course, I read about Scott Joplin specifically. I have only the vaguest recollection now of the specific details of his story but I have clear and distinct memories of my emotional reaction to the tragedy of his story. The raw, clear expression of talent that would not be suppressed vs. extreme social forces working against that talent. At times, I wept while listening to multiple interpretations of almost every piece he wrote, the popular and the obscure. I disliked the “hot dog” speed demons who turned these gems into blurry races of music. To me, his compositions are not meant to be played even briskly – the subtlety is lost. Played slowly, to me, the pain and knife’s edge place between brilliance and subservience that Joplin lived in for most of his life just cry out.  Back in the day, I settled in on Joshua Rifkin as my favourite interpreter for his slower, contemplative tempos and his ability to pull the emotional centre out of the music.

I listened and I wept. I still have that paper somewhere and, to this day, a slow, careful interpretation of Joplin’s best can really get me. The guy wrote all this material, was famous, to a degree, yet died in relative poverty, pain and obscurity with much of his best work unseen and unstaged.

So I’m writing this big, completely unrelated, report for work and there are numbers, charts and graphs spinning around my head most of the day. It has been said that music without lyrics is best for concentration so I’ve turned back to one of my original research subjects, Master Joplin, for background music and, still, some interpretations catch me off guard, right in that soft spot. When that happens, I have to stop writing for a moment and just listen.

Researching that Scott Joplin paper would be so different now. There are so many online resources and oh so many options for listening and comparing versions of specific pieces. YouTube is a treasure trove. There are other Joplin aficionados out there, imagine that, and some have put together amazing playlists of a variety of performers and versions. It is mind boggling. There are different variations of his story out there and debates about what happened, when, to whom. I haven’t had time to read all this – I’ve just been listening as I attempt to piece together decidedly non-musical data, attempting to turn it into useful information.

Here is Rifkin’s rendition of Solace, complete with pops and crackles from the vinyl.

 

 

The Physician – Cole Porter Click Here To Comment!

Every so often, I’ll get an e-mail that goes something like this:

I have it in my head that Julie Andrews sang a crazy song about a doctor who loved every
obscure part of her body “but he never loved me”. Am I wrong? If not what is the song?

Love j

Oh, the burden of knowing more than I should about Julie Andrews … ok, yes, she sang this Cole Porter song, a very cute one, in the movie Star! This is a bio-pic about a stage diva named Gertrude Lawrence, a friend and cohort of Noel Coward who was insanely popular in throughout the mid-twentieth century. In truth, Gertrude Lawrence paved the way for modern-day Britney Spears and J Lo and others of that ilk. Talented, high-strung, terrible with financial matters, and quite enamoured with her own mythology. The movie was too long and badly timed in the marketplace, released when big budget musicals were no longer popular.

The song lyrics appear below, and here is a YouTube clip of the very scene and Jools herself singing this song.

Verse

Once I loved such a shattering physician,
Quite the best-looking doctor in the state.
He looked after my physical condition,
And his bedside manner was great.
When I’d gaze up and see him there above me,
Looking less like a doctor than a Turk,
I was tempted to whisper, “Do you love me,
Or do you merely love your work?”

Refrain 1

He said my bronchial tubes were entrancing,
My epiglottis filled him with glee,
He simply loved my larynx
And went wild about my pharynx,
But he never said he loved me.
He said my epidermis was darling,
And found my blood as blue as could be,
He went through wild ecstatics,
When I showed him my lymphatics,
But he never said he loved me.

And though, no doubt,
It was not very smart of me,
I kept on a-wracking my soul
To figure out
Why he loved ev’ry part of me,
And yet not me as a whole.
With my esophagus he was ravished,
Enthusiastic to a degree,
He said ’twas just enormous,
My appendix vermiformis,
But he never said he loved me.

Refrain 2

He said my cerebellum was brilliant,
And my cerebrum far from N.G.,
I know he thought a lotta
My medulla oblongata,
But he never said he loved me.
He said my maxillaries were marvels,
And found my sternum stunning to see,
He did a double hurdle
When I shook my pelvic girdle,
But he never said he loved me.

He seemed amused
When he first made a test of me
To further his medical art,
Yet he refused
When he’d fix up the rest of me,
To cure that ache in my heart.
I know he thought my pancreas perfect,
And for my spleen was keen as could be,
He said of all his sweeties,
I’d the sweetest diabetes,
But he never said he loved me.

Refrain 3

He said my vertebrae were “sehr schone,”
And called my coccyx “plus que gentil,”
He murmured “molto bella,”
When I sat on his patella,
But he never said he loved me.

He took a fleeting look at my thorax,
And started singing slightly off key,
He cried, “May Heaven strike us,”
When I played my umbilicus,
But he never said he loved me.

As it was dark,
I suggested we walk about
Before he returned to his post.
Once in the park, I induced him to talk about
The thing I wanted the most.
He lingered on with me until morning,
Yet when I tried to pay him his fee,
He said, “Why, don’t be funny, It is I who owe you money,”
But he never said he loved me.

Fixing A Hole 2 comments

One of my favourite Beatle songs is also one of their least known.

I’m fixing a hole where the rain gets in
And stops my mind from wandering
Where it will go

I’m filling the cracks that ran through the door
And kept my mind from wandering
Where it will go

And it really doesn’t matter if
I’m wrong I’m right
Where I belong I’m right
Where I belong
See the people standing there
Who disagree and never win
And wonder why they don’t get in my door

I’m painting my room in a colourful way
And when my mind is wandering
There I will go

And it really doesn’t matter if
I’m wrong I’m right
Where I belong I’m right
Where I belong
Silly people run around
They worry me and never ask me
Why they don’t get past my door

I’m taking the time for a number of things
That weren’t important yesterday
And I still go

I’m fixing a hole where the rain gets in
Stops my mind from wandering
Where it will go oh
Where it will go oh

I’m fixing a hole where the rain gets in
And stops my mind from wandering
Where it will go (fade out)

“LOVE” in the Desert Click Here To Comment!

Saw this in Vegas … finally. I’ve had the soundtrack for almost two years and have been curious/fascinated/drawn to the re-visioning of the music that George Martin, and his son Giles, created. They call it a “soundscape”. I call it “marvelous”.

This is easily the most complex thing I’ve ever seen done on a stage. Presented “in the round”, one would get a slightly different show depending on where one sat. Which means, of course, that I have to go see it again and sit somewhere new! The show is like a sensory overload and, fairly early on, you have to let go of the idea of actually taking in each element consciously. That would be frustrating and very hard work. You have to just let the music, colour, movement, interaction … you have to let it all wash over you and let your senses absorb it. At any given time, there are at least a dozen “focus” areas to look at. You can’t really “see” it all, but you can absorb the experience.

I kept wondering what John would think of this.  It is presumptuous of me to speculate, of course. It can be said that the Beatles were the first to include the visual in their music. The modern music video emerged from their experimentation with film and also with television. They were highly visual and absolutely not adverse to using commercial projects to get their work out before wider and wider audiences.  I think they weighed out any cynical response about commercialism against the positive impact of getting their work out to new pockets of listeners. John was right in there, experimenting always, breaking boundaries. Trying out acting. Trying out nudity. Leveraging classic commercialism (i.e. billboards) to spread a message of peace. Not following rules. Not always saying a kneejerk “no” from a gut cynical place which, we know, he certainly possessed.

My kneejerk gut cynical response to Vegas, as a rule, has been “no!”. As my friend Dry Ice points out in her post after she visited last year, everything is fake. I do not disagree with anything she write in her post. But I decided ahead of time to leverage her experience as a sort of starting place for me, as my emotional response to the place. We know it is all fake, a monument to excess. We know that the resources used – money, labour, water in particular – to construct and maintain this desert adult “mirage” would easily keep several third world countries in a higher quality of life than they are now. (This, I believe, is the real “sin” in the term “Sin City”.) I also know that holding onto my cynicism and anger about this utter waste of resources and energy will not enhance my ability to enjoy any elements of our short stay there that were “real”. The sun, blue sky, puffy clouds. Moments of kindness, humour and connection between strangers. Feeling giddy and playful and briefly “released” from commitments.  Being able to be continuously “in the moment” with my beautiful, and equally giddy and playful, travelling companion for almost five days consecutively.  Having, and seizing, the opportunity to experience one of the great natural wonders of the world – the Grand Canyon – oddly, so close to Vegas which could be deemed one of the great UNnatural wonders of the world.

So I think about what John might say, in his nasal Liverpudlian way, about “Love” being @ the Mirage, dead centre in Sin City. I imagine he’d shrug off the prerequisite cynical response, looking instead at the audience – young, not-so-young, wildly diverse – sitting, mesmerized by Beatles’ music and message of peace, awareness and, of course, love. I think he’d say “s’alright … “. He might take more of an opportunity to get people thinking about where they are in that moment. But, as we are often told, audiences are smarter, and more thoughtful, than they appear. Perhaps he would trust that next layer of thoughtfulness would come later, after the show, as it has for me.

Here is a link to the official “Love” website, by Cirque du Soleil. Interesting stuff, and the video at the top of the first page is more well lit than the one below.  This one, below, is a 10 minute series of teasers from various numbers within the show. I found the viewing slightly better in HQ, but the examples are rather dark.  Perhaps this is on purpose, in the hopes of truly “teasing” the viewer into making the journey to the centre of Sin.

Ain’t Life A Brook 1 comment

I was informed a short while ago that I’m soon to be spending some time with the person responsible for the greatest lesbian break-up song of all time.

Snippets of these lyrics go through my head with great regularlity and have since I first heard the songwriter perform them on a Live ’85 – the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival album – back when there was vinyl.  They are firm, direct and heart/gut-wrenching … depending on when you hear them in the cycle of a relationship.

I’m particularly fond of this part:

“… life don’t clickety-clack down a straight line track … it comes together and it comes apart.”

Do have a listen, someday, if you can manage.

Ain’t Life A Brook

I watch you reading a book
I get to thinking our love’s a polished stone
You give me a long drawn look
I know pretty soon you’re going to leave our home
And of course I mind,
especially when I’m thinking from my heart
But life don’t clickety clack down a straight line track
It comes together and it comes apart.
You say you hope I’m not the kind
To make you feel obliged
To go ticking through your time
With a pained look in your eyes
You give me the furniture, we’ll divide the photographs
Go out to dinner one more time
Have ourselves a bottle of wine
And a couple of laughs
And when first you left
I stayed so sad I wouldn’t sleep
I know that love’s a gift, I thought yours was mine
And something that I could keep
Now I realize that time is not the only compromise
But a bird in the hand could be an all night stand
Between a blazing fire and a pocket of skies
So I hope I’m not the kind
To make you feel obliged
To go ticking through your time
With a pained look in your eyes
I covered the furniture, I framed the photographs
Went out to dinner one more time
Had myself a bottle of wine and a couple of laughs
And just the other day
I got your letter in the mail
I’m happy for you, its been so long
You’ve been wanting a cabin and a backwoods trail
And I think that’s great…me…
I seem to find myself in school
It’s all Ok, I just want to say
I’m so relieved we didn’t do it cruel
But ain’t life a brook
Just when I get to feeling like a polished stone
I give me along drawn look
It’s kind of a drag to find yourself alone
And sometimes I mind
Especially when I’m waiting on your heart
But life don’t clickety clack down a straight line track
It comes together and it comes apart.
Cause I know you’re not the kind
To make me feel obliged
To go ticking through my time with a pained look
In my eyes
I sold the furniture, I put away the photographs
Went out to dinner one more time
Skipped the bottle of wine
Had a couple of laughs
And wasn’t it fine….

Playing With Playlists (2) 1 comment

I’ve got about six blog posts started and not yet finished. It has been that kind of month, I guess. I have all these big ideas that are in the cake decorating sleeve and no matter how hard I squeeze, the nozzle is plugged.

I’m going to try to unplug it by working on my second installment of “why I put this song on my birthday playlist”. We are in February and my birthday was in September. At this rate, it will take me until my next birthday to finish this! :-)

Closing Time (from Celebrate Canada) performed by Leonard Cohen): I’d call myself more of a Leonard Cohen admirer than a fan. I “get” why he is so revered and I do own a couple of Leonard Cohen tribute albums of other folks covering his work. The man can write. He just can’t sing. I’ll never forget the look of shock on his face in 1993 when he won Best Male Vocalist at the Junos and famously quipped “It’s only in a country like this that I could win Male Vocalist of the Year!” In any case, this song does not appear because of anything to do with Leonard Cohen. In the mid-90’s, J and I would often attend an aquafit class at the downtown Y and our favourite instructor used this song after the high energy cardio portion as a “warm down” and it has always sort of stuck with me, reminding me of splashing about in the pool like a three year old.

Come To My Window (from Greatest Hits), performed by Melissa Etheridge. Once again, Ms. Etheridge at her garment-rending best. The woman must have been a bodice-ripper in a former life.

Day Too Soon – Mock & Toof ReMix (From Some People Have Real Problems), performed by Sia: Still can’t find this actual edit anywhere on the Internet. Adore it. Apparently no one else feels as strongly.

DJ Play My Song (from Revival), performed by Jully Black: I have a friend who, until extremely recently, was a big time clubber. Every Friday, and most Saturdays, out she’d go to a variety of clubs. Lots of stories to tell, most of which prove to me that lesbians do not have a monopoly on drama. Straight gals got their fair share. Anyway, this song makes me think of my friend, the ex-clubber. Over the Christmas holidays, she travelled to Sri Lanka, met the man of her dreams, essentially got engaged, and will be moving there in the summer. Times change.

Donde Esta Yolanda (from Sympathique), performed by Pink Martini: I could be accused of thinking that EVERY Pink Martini song I hear is my FAVOURITE Pink Martini song. But, really, THIS is my fav. Honest.

Odd trivia – the aforementioned ex-clubber? She turned me on to Pink Martini oh so many years ago … sometime around 1998 I think, she handed me Sympathique and said, simply, “You MUST listen to this!” She was SO right, young and clever those Queen’s grads! She was about 23 at the time and I would have been about 35. The friendship, and the mutual adoration of Pink Martini, has endured. We went to their concert in March 2008 together and we both still agree it was the BEST concert either of us have ever been to, bar none.

Dreams (from Women & Songs 2), performed by The Corrs: Here is an example of a cover song that freshens up the original. Not many of those around.

Falling For The First Time (from Maroon), performed by Bare Naked Ladies: The album appeared right around the time that J and I were facing the beginning of the end of our relationship. This was also right about the time that I was nursing / fighting a massive crush on someone completely and ridiculously unavailable. This song reminds me of that time, in a good way.  The lyrics make me sit up and take notice, in particular these lines in the chorus:

Anyone perfect must be lying, anything easy has its cost
Anyone plain can be lovely, anyone loved can be lost

The video that I have linked to … it was the only one I could find that played the original tune as performed on the album.

Figure It Out (from It Won’t Be Soon Before Long), performed by Maroon 5: I’m a recent convert to Maroon 5. Love anything that leads with interesting layers of percussion, like this cut does.

Harder To Breathe (from Songs About Jane), performed by Maroon 5: The lyrics are … difficult for this feminist to get her head around. It really isn’t clear whether they are truly misogynistic or ironic or something else. Putting that aside for a moment, this song just rocks! I can’t believe that I entertain fantasies of singing lead on this Very Angry Song … it must touch my inner head-banger.

I’m Yours (from We Sing. We Dance. We Steal Things.), performed by Jason Mraz: What a cutie! The song is cute, the fella is cute and he has just about the cutest damn web site of any musician I’ve seen. Cute overload!!!

I Can’t Decide (from Ta-Dah!), performed by Scissor Sisters: This particular video includes the lyrics which are kinda R-rated. OK – confession time. January 08, I was gearing up to overcome major fears and quit the job I’d left teaching to do. The whole situation sucked. In order to get myself into the right mental space, I sang this song at the top of my lungs as I drove the 1.5 hours out there. To burn off the adrenalin after the conversation, I sang it at the top of my lungs all the way home. I especially love the lyrics in the bridge:

Oh I could throw you in the lake
Or feed you poisoned birthday cake
I wont deny I’m gonna miss you when you’re gone
Oh I could bury you alive
But you might crawl out with a knife
And kill me when I’m sleeping

I Don’t Feel Like Dancin’ (from Ta-Dah), performed by the Scissor Sisters: I have nothing to say other than I LOVE THIS SONG!!!! Best heard at extreme volumes.

I Feel Lucky (from Come On, Come On), performed by Mary-Chapin Carpenter: My friend SPL and I are recovering line dancers. We met on the dance-floor, each with a different jo-ann. This song has exactly the right beat and timing for a raucous little two-step or line dance of some kind. This song, actually this entire album, reminds me of very happy times kickin’ up our heels and getting very retro indeed.

I Wanna Be Like You (from This Beautiful Life), performed by Big Bad VooDoo Daddy: I am so sad that I can’t find a decent version of this online. It’s a bitchin’ big band cover of the Jungle Book tune. When it comes on in the car when I’m driving, I tend to dance around in my seat like a very silly person.  Come to think of it, the original is pretty darn good, too.

Asian Vibes (from Real World Music), performed by JOI: This is one of those songs that I crank up when it shows up on my car sound system.

Just Came Back (to Say GoodBye) (from Sudden Stop), performed by Colin James: Love how the song segues from the old style blues guitar to gritty rockin’ big band blues.

Just Keep Me Moving (from Lesbian Favourites), performed by k.d. lang: Yes, I actually DO own a CD called “Lesbian Favourites”. Hey, it is a no nonsense title, straight to the point. Kinda like wearing comfortable shoes.

Like The Way I Do (from Greatest Hits), performed by Melissa Etheridge: And yet, I own only ONE Melissa Etheridge CD. Good lord, check out the hair in this video!!! I suddenly don’t feel so bad about my hair now.

History Repeating (no idea where this is from), performed by The Propellerheads with Shirley Bassey:  Don’t know how old Ms. Bassey was when this was shot, but I wouldn’t mind being in as good a shape as she is when I reach that number. Whoa. Rowr. Purrrrr.

Littlest Birds (from Blue Horse), performed by The Be Good Tanyas: Although this is their original video, the music is stronger on the actual CD recording. Also, the CD doesn’t speed up towards the end like this version does.

Come to think of it, I have several bones to pick with the Be Goods. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all in favour of Canadian female artists. But this is yet another time this particular bunch has let me down. This song, as recorded on Blue Horse, is gorgeous. Totally gorgeous. Intricate. Some may recall this was used in a Zeller’s commercial a few years ago.  However, the audio on the video sounds like it was taken from a practice track. My other major bone to pick has to do with the one time I saw them in concert in Toronto, a cold January a few years ago. I’d snagged one of the last remaining single tickets and I was sick as a dog, but determined to hear them sing Just This One Song. Well, to my enduring disappointment, they arrived on stage half in the bag and carrying plastic tumblers of red wine. They performed this song mid-point through the show, always debating the playlist in low mumbling tones, never making eye contact with the audience or speaking to us or acknowledging us in any way. Honest to pete, it took until part way through the song for me to even recognize that it was THE SONG I’d come to hear.

In spite of my issues with the Be Goods, this song still is very high on my list of songs I’d love to perform with a small all-female vocal group someday. Maybe after I retire.

OK – I should stop now … only 19 more songs to go to wrap up the first of three giant playlists!!! :-)

You May Ask Yourself … Click Here To Comment!

There are times in my life in which the days are so very full. My head is full. There are lists everywhere. People wait … wait for me to do something, produce something, finish something, say something. Respond. Focus. In this state, I let people down. I get a lot done, but not as much as I imagine possible.  I am present, “in the moment”, and some odd combination of frustrated and excited. I learn yet I do not reflect.

And I ask myself why I let things get this way. Some inner voice pipes up with, “I don’t want to miss anything!” I remember one of my favourite truisms … “successful” people, self-starters, get involved in a lot of different things. Some of them work out.

There are times in my life when the days stretch out lengthwise, hollow and long, like a curved tunnel off a turnpike. Just the slightest of curves means you can’t see the end. Different things make me busy and fewer people are waiting. This feels good for a while, a relief, and then it makes me nervous, a bit.

And I ask myself why I let things cool off. Some inner voice pipes up with “I don’t want to miss anything!” Because, in the whirl of activity, I miss things. A gesture, a tone, a sentiment … meaning.

I just don’t want to miss anything. And I know I do.

And you may find yourself living in a shotgun shack
And you may find yourself in another part of the world
And you may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile
And you may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful
Wife
And you may ask yourself-well…how did I get here?

Letting the days go by/let the water hold me down
Letting the days go by/water flowing underground
Into the blue again/after the moneys gone
Once in a lifetime/water flowing underground.

And you may ask yourself
How do I work this?
And you may ask yourself
Where is that large automobile?
And you may tell yourself
This is not my beautiful house!
And you may tell yourself
This is not my beautiful wife!

Letting the days go by/let the water hold me down
Letting the days go by/water flowing underground
Into the blue again/after the moneys gone
Once in a lifetime/water flowing underground.

Same as it ever was…same as it ever was…same as it ever was…
Same as it ever was…same as it ever was…same as it ever was…
Same as it ever was…same as it ever was…

Water dissolving…and water removing
There is water at the bottom of the ocean
Carry the water at the bottom of the ocean
Remove the water at the bottom of the ocean!

Letting the days go by/let the water hold me down
Letting the days go by/water flowing underground
Into the blue again/in the silent water
Under the rocks and stones/there is water underground.

Letting the days go by/let the water hold me down
Letting the days go by/water flowing underground
Into the blue again/after the moneys gone
Once in a lifetime/water flowing underground.

And you may ask yourself
What is that beautiful house?
And you may ask yourself
Where does that highway go?
And you may ask yourself
Am I right? …am I wrong?
And you may tell yourself
My god!…what have I done?

Letting the days go by/let the water hold me down
Letting the days go by/water flowing underground
Into the blue again/in the silent water
Under the rocks and stones/there is water underground.

Letting the days go by/let the water hold me down
Letting the days go by/water flowing underground
Into the blue again/after the moneys gone
Once in a lifetime/water flowing underground.

Same as it ever was…same as it ever was…same as it ever was…
Same as it ever was…same as it ever was…same as it ever was…
Same as it ever was…same as it ever was…

Art – Tanya Davis Click Here To Comment!

Suzanne sent this link along in her annual New Year’s e-mail message. I think it is sweet and profound and definitely worth a few minutes of your time.  (Thanks, Suzanne!)

More Tanya Davis excerpts here. Enjoy!

2008 – Viva La Vida Click Here To Comment!

“Live the Life”, is the translation of the title of the Frida Kahlo painting “Viva La Vida”.  This is also the title of Coldplay’s big hit this year.  Here is a link to a YouTube version of the song with decent audio quality. And nice pictures.

“Viva La Vida” (Live the Life) seems to have been my theme song this year and, for some time now, I’ve been pondering why that is, planning to take a shot at discussing it here. I’m at that place where I’ve almost over-thought this … but I’m going to give it a go anyway.

I need to back up to mid-2007. Changes needed to be made. Primarily, major re-construction needed to happen from within. I was stuck on so many levels. Some might say burnt out. However, for changes to occur internally, things need to happen externally. I needed to shake things up on a grand scale – job, personal habits, relationship(s). For a time there, I contemplated new living space but, thankfully, I pulled my horns in from that decision.

Change, meaningful internal change, doesn’t happen overnight. Old habits don’t break and new ones form in their place in the blink of an eye. Change happens, as I’ve come to believe, with steady, small, incremental adjustments. It takes time. I needed the latter part of 2007 to get some momentum going. This was achieved by creating the environments for change and then monitoring and tweaking my responses. A job change. A romantic relationship ended. A commitment to new diet and, eventually, new exercise habits.

2008 has been a year of ups and downs, primarily ups, some dramatic downs and I have learned so much from all of it. Here is the primary learning for me:

I’m not in control of anything more than my responses to my external world. Even at that, I can choose only my behavioural response. I’m not even in control of my emotional response. Emotions just *are*. It is what I choose to do with them that constitutes active decision-making on my part. The harder I try to “control” the world around me, the more the world around me will resist.

This is a hard pill to swallow for someone who is not only a natural planner but a trained planner. An attempt to overly-manage one’s life is, really, an attempt to control the uncontrollable.

Here are some things I believe do fall within my locus of control:

  • how I spend my time
  • who I spend my time with
  • how I spend my money
  • where I focus my energy
  • what I ingest

If I spend my time well, with the right people, if I focus my energies on making good things happen – for me and for others – if I spend my money with wisdom and judiciousness, and if I eat properly consistently … on balance, this will keep me on track for an interesting and healthy life.

If I spend my time around people who are judgmental and cruel, if I waste time and energy working on projects that do not make good things happen, if I waste my money on frivolous things, if I eat badly consistently, I simply won’t feel well, I won’t think well of myself, and I will have failed to provide myself with the internal and external supports I need to feel whole and healthy.

In MBA-speak, this would be called “positioning”. Making the consistent day-to-day choices will, on balance, position me well – with the right people, the right personal and professional projects, the right sustenance.

Another way to think of this is that the right choices, the small consistent ones, create in me enough strength to tackle whatever “big stuff” the external world has to offer me, be it a tough emotional situation to resolve, or a fabulous new project to take on. Both will take time, energy and thought as investment. I need to be well-positioned and well-supported to “live the life” that is presented me.

Here is what I cannot control:

  • how others behave
  • how others feel
  • how others feel about or perceive me
  • how others make their decisions

How much time, measured likely in years, have I wasted worrying about what other people think, and then basing my own behaviours on my assumptions in this regard? Not having the opportunity to be present inside the unique psyches each individual possesses, I can’t possibly anticipate how another person will respond to me or my words.

The only “stuff” I can control is my own.

Which brings me back this fabulous song, Viva La Vida. The lyrics, almost Shakespearean in nature, just knock me over.

I used to rule the world
Seas would rise when I gave the word
Now in the morning I sleep alone
Sweep the streets I used to own

I used to roll the dice
Feel the fear in my enemy’s eyes
Listen as the crowd would sing
“Now the old king is dead! Long live the king!”

One minute I held the key
Next the walls were closed on me
And I discovered that my castles stand
Upon pillars of salt and pillars of sand

This first set of stanzas creates a picture, for me, of a person who created a life based on an illusion of control and, upon his/her illusions being challenged, found that his/her life was build on “pillars of salt and pillars of sand”. The thing is, you can get away with this for a while – you can imagine that you control enough of your world, and understand enough about the people around you, to manipulate yourself into a pretty solid looking castle. Until the walls close in, that is …

(Chorus)
I hear Jerusalem bells a ringing
Roman Cavalry choirs are singing
Be my mirror, my sword and shield
My missionaries in a foreign field

This part of the chorus is repeated intact several times and, to me, speaks of the level of ego required to imagine that one’s control is absolute … it is a form of megalomania.

For some reason I can’t explain
Once you’d gone there was never
Never an honest word
But that was when I ruled the world

This part of the chorus alters slightly when it is repeated. Here, the “controller” is abandoned either by his/her loved one, or by his/her sense of conscience and ethics, as symbolized by a persona. Without this element, either figuratively or symbolically, the “controller” has no reason to behave ethically, or to trust that what he/she is hearing represents truth, having surrounded him/herself with courtiers (one presumes).

It was a wicked and wild wind
Blew down the doors to let me in
Shattered windows and the sound of drums
People couldn’t believe what I’d become

Revolutionaries wait
For my head on a silver plate
Just a puppet on a lonely string
Oh who would ever want to be king?

It was a sudden and dramatic event that led to the “controller’s” downfall. Damage and mayhem everywhere and astonishment at the “controller’s” egocentric belief that he/she can, actually, control their world. Harsh judgment and loneliness follows, along with the ultimate question, “who would ever want to be this kind of person?”

(Chorus)

I hear Jerusalem bells a ringing
Roman Cavalry choirs are singing
Be my mirror, my sword and shield
My missionaries in a foreign field

For some reason I can’t explain
I know Saint Peter won’t call my name
Never an honest word
But that was when I ruled the world

Again with the judgment … as Saint Peter isn’t going to call his/her name.

But, for me, the song, or the story, ends at the beginning. “… sweep the streets I used to own”. The person survives the experience of a perceptual downfall, from “king” of their world to street-sweeper. And, yet, the song is upbeat, musically, and the title, Viva La Vida, is almost joyful. Has this person not been liberated from the shackles of control, micro-management, empire-building and decision-making?

Musically, the song begins with an almost militaristic, insistent, march-like beat. The beat itself, like a heart-beat, doesn’t disappear but it does get adorned, in layers, as the song progresses. The bridge between the first chorus and second verse is the first significant shift in the musical structure. The “heart-beat” sustains, but a new guitar motif starts sparkling along, almost asking the drums/violins if they should really be taking themselves so damn seriously. After the second verse/second chorus, there is another bridge in which the heart-beat stops, momentarily, and the violins themselves seem to question the wisdom of carrying on in the same manner, as if deciding which path to follow. Then, the heart-beat plunges back in, but is layered with the haunting vocal wailing of the lead singer, Chris Martin.  There is lots more going on at the end, as the chorus returns over the wailing. Then, suddenly, the song tapers off on “… never an honest word, that was when I ruled the world.”

To me, the ending is the kicker, suggesting that less is more. That you really only rule your world when you stop trying so damn hard.

What I want to say about this song, as it pertains to me, is this: the more I set my heart on specific external “needs” and expectations, the more I try to “control” things to make those outcomes occur. And the less happy I am, and the less happiness I bring to others in my world. When I set my sights on my own internal health and well-being, and sit back a bit to see what comes my way, the happier I am, and the more prepared I am to respond authentically to the people and events around me.

Living more “re-actively” than “pro-actively” goes well against my nature, as some kind readers may know. :-) It’s ok … I’m learning. :-) I’m a Libra, so maybe I’ll find some happy balance somewhere.

Here are some kids having fun with this song … this is by far my favourite rendition.

I spoke with my sister on the phone on Boxing Day and it was lovely to re-connect. It was so interesting to hear how she has, in her own way, come to this same place, at almost the same moment in time.  She too is a planner, list-maker, organizer, “controller”. She told me vignette after vignette, with each little story ending with her finally shrugging, smiling, and saying, “… and then I realized, it is what it is.”

It is what it is.

Live the Life.

Viva La Vida.

Live vs. Memorex 3 comments

I prefer music performed live. Such performances can be imperfect and revealing. If you catch the performer opening up a bit emotionally, a live rendition can be riveting.

Here is Annie Lennox (genuflect) last Sunday on the American Music Awards, performing one of my all-time favourite songs – Why.  Someone just posted this on Facebook … and now I’m a-gonna be late for work … :-) … at the end, she accepts her award of merit and we get to hear the lovely Scottish brogue that disappears when she sings, for the most part.

Yum.

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