Saturday, November 14, 2009

Like Trying to Catch A Falling Star

Worst Songs Wednesday (Sunday edition)

So, I finally decided on an appropriate segment for my blog with alliteration. It's called - as you've seen above - Worst Songs Wednesday. Here I shall uncover songs that should remain buried but like zombies from the grave, keep coming back. And yes, it is Sunday but this particular song haunts me at least one a week. The first entrant in Worst Songs Wednesday is one that screams '90s.

I work doing night fill at a department store. Let's call it "Large X". I have been working at Large X for three years now (I think. This may be my fourth). Up until recently the store radio would play a random array of songs ranging from terrible to pretty good (the occasional Bowie or Beth Orton springs to mind). For some reason they now play the exact same songs every day. You can time when your break and end of shift is due based on what song is playing. For instance: I know that when I hear "How Do You Talk to An Angel?" I know that when it is over, I have 2 minutes left before I go home (usually).

A co-worker of mine is convinced I love the song because of my excitement when it comes on. Okay, fair enough: I DO sing along with it. But this is because it is such a terrible song. And while it continues to be an indication of the highlight of my shift - going home - it has been taking up an awful lot more head space than I would ever wish upon even my worst nemesis.

Now, anyone who hears this song knows straight away that it's a terrible song with crisp, early 90s production; overly gushy lyrics no one in real life would even think, let alone say; a saxophone solo (yet again unashamedly early 90s); and just a general soft-rock ballad that conjures up images of denim, big hair and awful dark floral patterns.

Prior to doing my research for this blog, that is all I knew of that song. I have tonight discovered that How Do You Talk To An Angel was the theme song for a Fox "drama" in 1992 called "The Heights". But it doesn't end there. The Heights is yet another cruel joke inflicted upon the world by none other than Mr. Aaron Spelling (producer). The title is not only the name of the suburb a group of young adults lives in, it's also the name of the rock band they've set up. Each episode featuring a song by these too cool for school go-getter stereotypes. How Do You Talk to An Angel appears in the first episode.

Needless to say, I was elated at the sight of the lead guitarist's hair as well as the clothes and other hair styles these kids were sporting. The video is replete with montages of "band fun", not to mention longing looks between the singer and the saxophonist.

Surprisingly, the show was cancelled on November 14, 1992.* How Do You Talk to An Angel hit number one exactly one week later. There are some things in history that confound us and the success of this song is one of those. But, it goes deeper: in 1993 the song was nominated for an Emmy Award for (get this) "Outstanding Individual Achievement in Music and Lyrics"!!!** Thankfully, Ms. Liza Minnelli had the song "Sorry I Asked" to take the award.

Outstanding Individual Achievement in Music and Lyrics? Have you heard these lyrics?

I hear a voice in my mind
I know her face by heart
heaven and earth are moving in my soul
I don't know where to start
tell me, tell me, the words to define
the way I feel about someone so fine

How long was this guy*** sitting on the end of his bed with pen and pad in hand coming up with this gem? Then inspiration really hits:

how do you talk to an angel?
how do you hold her close to where you are?
how do you talk to an angel?
it's like trying to catch a falling star

Really, this was deserving of a nomination for the most Outstanding Individual Achievement in Music and Lyrics? I guess it doesn't specify whether that outstanding achievement is a positive or negative one. But for anyone reading this who writes: can you imagine yourself coming up with these lyrics and going "Oh yeah, that's the shit!" and scrawling it down excitedly? Any lyrics like that are discarded before they hit my page. I'd rather have a blank page than one that asks how one talks to an angel and likens the task to catching a falling star. Seriously.

Congratulations Steve Tyrell, Barry Coffing (composers) and Stephanie Tyrell (lyricist). You guys had the balls to do what any other self respecting musician/writer would dare to do: Write and push forward one of the worst songs of 1992, if not the decade.

*Although it's the 15th now, I did start writing this blog on the 17th anniversary of the shows cancellation.
**Gratuitous use of exclamation marks I know, but it was warranted
***Turn out it's not a guy but that ruins my flow

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Post-Semester Wasteland

So, as I'm sure no-one has noticed: it has been a while since my last blog. It seems that now that I have no pressing assignments or upcoming exams I suddenly have less material for writing blogs. A strange coincidence indeed.

When I was at work tonight - aside from being told that I looked very sad (heat does terrible things to my constitution) - Ank had found a great image that would have suited a previous blog entry:

Alas, like much on the Internet, the original creator is unknown. However, given that this is made in response to the mass marketing of Christ, I'm sure the creator doesn't mind and most probably wouldn't mind if we all used it to make stickers. I know I will be!

I was, in an attempt to get blog-writing again, going to start a regular section that other bloggers use. Things such as "Music Monday" or "Things I like Thursday". But seeing I couldn't come up with any suitable assonance for "Tuesday" (Titillating Tuesday, perhaps? I fear I would have many hits on my blog from teenagers and bogans searching google for 'tits'). So given this - and the intense heat from today - I am instead writing a few random ramblings for your boredom (inducing, not relieving).

Racism has again been rearing it's ugly head in my observations of this strange world. Actually, can something constant rear it's head? Hmm. Anyway, no doubt I will delight you all with a rant in the future about racism and racism in Australia in particular.

I will leave you now with an image that will melt any heart. I present Alyson Hannigan and Alexis Denisof with their bub:

And it gets better.....

Tomorrow had better be cooler. Good night

Sunday, October 18, 2009

We All Have The Potential to be Josh

Ank and I went to see the W-League Newcastle Jets play their first home game of the season today. Being a team that I follow meant a disappointing loss (I also follow the men's Newcastle Jets and West Ham United). I quite liked how Ank turned to me during the game and said: "Why do we always go for teams that lose?". I was going to write today about that, the pathos of following teams such as Newcastle Jets and West Ham, but it's something we saw leaving the game that got me thinking.

On the way out, we saw a kid - somewhere between the ages of 11 and 13 - standing there looking quite distressed and crying. Immediately, my heart sank and I put myself in his shoes. I got a little anxious and concerned for the little guy. I said to Ank: "Maybe he's lost his mum". As we walked passed I couldn't help but keep looking over at him, wondering if I should stop and see if he was okay and try and help him out.

He continued on towards the exit blubbering "I'm going home!". He was behind us the whole way to the gates where he was caught up to by the group of kids who were obviously with him for the day (similar ages, mostly girls). As he saw them he cried "No! Leave me alone! I'm going home!" to which his group of friends said: "We're sorry, Josh. We're sorry we were mean to you" and so on. At that point Ank and I had continued on our own way home.

We discussed the matter for some of the walk home and I told Ank about how every time I see stuff like that I get a pang of sadness. Here's Josh, the socially retarded kid who just doesn't quite fit in with the rest of the group. Ank reassured me he would probably hit high school, become a goth and come in to his own. True, and we can only hope. But still, the trauma that Josh and other kids that get picked on (for what ever reason) can be quite traumatic. The thing is, I'm probably too empathetic.

I wasn't picked on much as a kid (I am socially retarded, but like Dexter, I was able to hide it well enough to avoid any major attention), nor was I one of the kids that did the picking. But from a young age I seemed to have had this sense of empathy and had that sadness whenever I saw an injustice occur. I distinctly remember the one time when I was involved in 'an incident' and it has stayed with me to this day.

In primary school (about year 1 or 2), I somehow found myself in a group of kids who were on a mission to burst open the cubicle doors and expose some kid who was in there. Even now I am not sure why this was a pass time for some kids who took joy out of embarrassing other kids while they were taking a dump. 20-odd years on and I still feel uncomfortable taking a 'number 2' in a public toilet.

At any rate, I wasn't the instigator of this little event, I was one of "the pack". So, the ringleader of the group threw open the door and all I saw was this other kid, sitting on the toilet, screaming, embarrassed and wanting the world to swallow him up. The other kids were pointing and laughing. All I could do was stand there, shocked, thinking: "that could be me". I didn't hang around those kids anymore.

The thing is: why did I, a 7 or 8 year old, feel such empathy for this kid I didn't know? Is empathy taught, or learned? I remember my parents always teaching me to "respect" other people. But how do you learn the meaning of respect? There are so many interpretations of the word. I was (half)raised a Catholic and the "do unto others as you would have done unto you" rhetoric had always stuck with me. But that's taught to all Catholics (and other kids in varying ways) so it's not like it's a concept that was only available to me. (Religion has shown a great deal of difference between what is taught and what is done)

I guess it's one of those nature vs. nurture things. If it is a nature thing, then what is the point? Could I spend my whole life being concerned for the welfare of complete strangers only to have kids that are little shits that burst into cubicles while other kids are taking a crap? Or take part in taking the piss out of the "weak kid" in the group (pack)? I certainly hope not. I hope that my kids (whenever I have them) will have that ability to understand what someone else is going through and have sympathy or empathy with that person. Sure, it may mean that they end up going through life being conscious that they're living in a society that is full of injustices and blatantly crushes the self-confidence of individuals who "don't fit in" but: butterfly wings and all that shit, right?

Anyway, that kid we burst in on that day, where ever you are: I'm sincerely sorry about that day circa 1987. I hope you have some sort of faith in humanity still and can use public lavatories without fear.

And to those other kids who did that: I hope you felt like a piece of shit for doing it too. If not, I'm sure you're probably watching Rugby League somewhere.

Ultimately, we all have the potential to be Josh. Every time you see someone in distress just imagine: that could be me.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Jesus. All About Bollocks

So, in case you haven't noticed, Christians are at it again. We are being inundated by a full blown marketing campaign this time. Just as Kevin Smith predicted in Dogma. I was going to post an image of the logo they're using, but a) I didn't want to help spread it, and b) You'll probably see it soon enough. Here is a better version I found:

Why am I so opposed to Christians pushing their shit on me? Well, firstly: it's relentless. In a society where I'm supposedly free to live without religion, I have had it in my face in one form or another my entire life. And I'm all for freedom of religion. If you want to believe some sort of fairy tale to help you sleep better at night, by all means: go ahead! It's when it starts to affect the lives of others that I get crabby. Whether it be slaughtering thousands in pogroms during the crusades, to destroying families to "convert gays" or just trying to "save as many souls" as they can just so they can justify to themselves that have made the right decision.

This latest offering of Christianity has been done with the slickness of a professional marketing company. The television advertisement uses the same type of patronising tone to convey that Jesus is the answer to your life's woes. Just as say, the latest Holden, washing detergent or financial institution may.

You can see it here

Interesting because in the "Jesus. All About Life" flyer I had put in my letter box the other day says:

"Every day we are bombarded with message about how to have a great life. Do this, try that, buy this product, experience that event , but the 'great life' never seems to get any closer."

I'm sorry, Nameless, Faceless Christianity, but isn't that just what this campaign is? Of course those that profit from the "product" are convinced and so are all the hapless, lost people who are looking for answers. Jesus is no different than Coke or McDonald's: it'll never satisfy that hole, no matter what the ads say

I used to be a lot more silent in my anti-religiosity, but more and more I am convinced that religion is one of the things that is holding back human progression. The Enlightenment was around 300 years ago and we're STILL debating whether or not Creationism should be taught in schools. Isn't religion something we should have grown out of as humans?

"The only appropriate attitude for man to have about the big questions, is not the arrogant certitude that is the hallmark of religion, but doubt. Doubt is humble and that is what man needs to be, considering that human history is just a litany of getting shit dead wrong." - Bill Maher in Religulous.

Religion is a convenient tool of Capitalism in that it (like all those products) distracts people from the real issues that create that hole in their lives: inequality.

Bill Maher again in 'Religulous':
"Faith means making a virtue out of not thinking. It's nothing to brag about. And those who preach faith and enable and elevate it are intellectual slave holders, keeping mankind in a bondage to fantasy and nonsense that has spawned and justified so much lunacy and destruction."

And really, take out the religious aspects of those that are religious and there is a strong case for mental illness.

This is a topic I could go on about for ages, but it's 2.30 and I have a 2000 word history essay that was due last Friday, so I'll end it there. Basically: I'm an atheist, I will never accept your delusional religion into my life and I take great offence at you suggesting I should. And I (along with the likes of Richard Dawkins and Bill Maher) strongly advocate that atheists speak out and make yourselves heard. I know it's bad form to end on a quote, but it's a good one and I'm tired. Bill Maher again:

"Rational people, anti-religionists, must end their timidity and come out of the closet and assert themselves. And those who consider themselves only moderately religious really need to look in the mirror and realize [sic] that the solace and comfort that religion brings you actually comes at a terrible price. "

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

To Make Things Pretty

As you've no doubt noticed, dear reader, my blog is not particularly aesthetically pleasing. This is not through a lack of want. It may be through laziness. Maybe I could make things look nice if I spent hours figuring out how to do stuff, thinking of what I want, then putting it all together. But mainly it's due to many years of creative retardation. Externally, but mostly self created.

I always refer to a particular moment in my year 7 art class that I remember distinctly to this day. I was never in an environment to encourage creative outlet (visually) so I already knew I was no Francisco de Goya. I was, however, ready to try.

I had drawn something in the aforementioned art class. After I had finished, I looked at it. I knew it wasn't great compared to what anyone else could do, but knowing my limitations I knew I had done well - for me. Of course I didn't think it was fantastic, but I saw things in it that I didn't hate and could see a potential for improvement. I got this feeling inside. Something I rarely felt. It was felt in my chest but triggered in the back of my head...what was this feeling? Hang this...pride?!! Damn it, I had done something I was proud of!!

The teacher made her way around the class and eventually made her way to me. "Oh Cameron, that's not bad"
"I know" I thought
"But, maybe we could..." she picked up my pencil....

The rest of what she said was a blur as I saw her go over every one of my carefully placed pencil strokes with her own, patronising, accurate, artistically acceptable scrawlings. My head was a fog. I could see my own hard work fade under the opinions of a middle aged woman who had never been able to succeed with her own creativity so felt the need to crush and stifle the potential of 12 year old boys.

Can I pin my creative retardation on this one moment in my life? By the actions of one, pent up, washed-up-never-made-it-artist of a teacher? Of course not. Many people have very similar experiences of art teachers and we are all masters of our own destinies. But I do identify this moment as a catylist for my many years of lack of enthusiasm to further my visual creative abilities. It has only been in the last year or so - at the age of nearly 30 - to try to at least attempt it.

I have by no means been completely retarded creatively. From a very young age I have been writing. I have focused on music in the last few years, but writing has always been one of the few things I have known I can do. Stories, poetry, lyrics, scripts. The problem however: who wants to read? Particularly blogs? The internet is all about consuming what is in front of you as quickly as possible. Have you even read this far?

So, thank you, Mrs (or it may have been Ms) Ingham: thanks for nothing. Some of us don't have a natural ability to make things look nice and need to be encouraged and given time to bloom. I hope I can finally at least get a chance to bud.

P.S. I only just figure out how to edit the title of my blog. Just so I could change the typo from a capital 'i' to lower case in 'little'

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Blog

And so it begins...(again). I have felt the desire of late to re-attempt the blog. I'm not sure what I will use it for as of yet, but I feel as though I might as well get a start on it nonetheless.

I have just finished one of my two over-due essays. 3 days, not much sleep, too much coffee and I have 2000 words that one person will read and mark, never to be read again. I had this realisation about all that work for one person to read something when B said she had no interest in reading it. And I thought: 'fair enough, neither would I'. I mean, I found the topic interesting and I read (and wrote) a lot of interesting things about it. But when it comes down to it, it's just an essay in which I tear into Garrett Hardin's The Tragedy of the Commons. See? Now I've got your attention! I might try and find some way of posting it somewhere just so it's out there.

I joined up to Swap-Bot the other day and cheerily went about signing myself up to various swaps. What I didn't think about at the time was that I'd have all these swaps I have to make while trying to do 4000 words worth of assignments. Awesome! Anyway, my first swap was one that B was running in which you take the covers of crappy vinyls and turn them into postcards. I've already sent them so I can't scan them. I shall endeavour to do so in the future.

Anyway, blog number one. I hope I can maintain this level of mediocrity in future posts.

P.S. I have posted the essay here
No one will read it but at least the potential is there. And I licensed it. Ha! My first Creative Commons licensed work! Hmm, maybe I should do that for my songs...

Creative Commons License
Tragedy of the Tragedy of the Commons by Cameron Brown is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License