May 10th, 2013
I have come across (or remembered) a higher-than-average of quality stuff on the internet lately. Let me share it for your possible entertainment…
Allie Brosh, much-beloved blog artist behind Hyperbole and a Half, is back. She had this zany comic based on her life, illustrated in childish MSPaint drawings, for quite a while, and a lot of people loved it. She’s actually quite a good artist and her quasi-naif style is adorable but doesn’t really limit the range of emotions she can show (which is probably why I didn’t like Parenthood: Illustrated with Crappy Pictures, because those pictures are genuinely bad [though it's still a sweet little book]). Anyway, then she disappeared for a few months and came back with a post about depression that was so sad and wise and actually quite funny. Everyone was happy she was working through it. Then she disappeared for a year and half, and returned yesterday with Depression Part Two, which accounts for the past year, in which things apparently got much worse. Hilariously so, at least in retrospect. I love her style and humour, plus I’d been worried about her (genuinely–it’s amazing what feelings you can feel about internet people) so I was really happy to see this. The post also got 5000 comments in a day, which is lovely. As we all know, most comments people post on internet forums are deranged rubbish, but the majority of the comments I saw were more “yay!” and “I’m glad you’re still alive” and “thanks for writing this.” It actually got a bit boring after a few hundred of those, so I stopped reading–if things got mean and weird later, please don’t tell me. I prefer my illusions.
I rewatched Ferris Bueller’s Day Off recently, owing mainly to the fact that people without Netflick or Apple TV are now sorely limited in where they can obtain movies to watch at home, and whenever our local library has a DVD I think I might like that doesn’t look like it’s been dumped in a food processor, I bring it home. This film definitely has its charming moments, but I found it much harsher and more callous than I’d recalled. Poor taken-advantage-of, abused-child Cameron! And I guess that’s the difference between the 80s and now, but I found I couldn’t get too excited about an entitled, unemployed 17-year-old white boy spending his parents’ money in Chicago and whining about no one buying him a car. A few years ago, an enterprising film editor reworked some footage into a trailer for what looks like a much better film–as we watched the real one, I found myself wishing for the imaginary one. But I still loved Jennifer Grey and Charlie Sheen’s little moment!
My friend Suzanne Alyssa Andrew wrote a wonderful book called Circle of Stones, and excerpt of which has now been set to music by Menalon and made available on Soundcloud. Enjoy!
Kay, that should keep you busy for a while. Have a great weekend!
April 2nd, 2013
It took me a while to post this update because I got TONNES of responses for suggestions of rageful songs, and I wanted to listen to them all and post the links, etc. Man, these are great but you guys are so angry. At least you have a musical vent, I guess…
My original list is at the bottom–all the new stuff (with the suggesters) is up top! I was going to flag individual songs for swears in case of young readers–but seriously, most of these have rage-appropriate obscenities of some sort…
Listen up–but maybe not all at once, or rose-coloured readers might take to the streets…
From Jeff Bursey
“Nothing to Prove” by Jill Sobule (sorry, I couldn’t find a studio version of this, but actually the live version with singalong kicks so much ass I think it’s fine)
“I’m Not Angry” by Elvis Costello
“Guerilla Radio” by Rage against the Machine
From Jarrett Aubrey
“Bad Habit” by Offspring
“El Scorcho” by Weezer
“Mariner’s Revenge Song” by the Decemberists (I LOVE this song!)
“Bullet to the Head” by Rage against the Machine
“You Oughta Know” by Alanis Morissette
“Iron Mad” by Black Sabbath
“Rape Me” by Nirvana
“We’re Not Gonna Take It” by Twisted Sister (I’ve never seen this video–is anyone disturbed by the abusive parent?)
From Emily Dockrill Jones
“Killing in the Name of” by Rage against the Machine (again with the inappropriate adverts–this time for Oil of Olay!) [Also voted for by Stuart Lawler--popular song!]
“Platypus (I Hate You)” by Green Day
“Break Stuff” by Limp Bizkit
From A.G. Pasquella
From Lex Leslie
From Rachelle Boisjoli
From Elizabeth Ruth
From Lee Gowan
From C. Claudia Galego
From Rachel Lebowitz
From Amy Jones
From Medeine Tribinevicius
These are my originals
“Dull Tool” by Fiona Apple
“Destroyer” by The Stills
“Radio Radio” by Elvis Costello
“Bloody Motherfucking Asshole” by Martha Wainwright
“Desolation Row” by My Chemical Romance
“I Don’t Know Who You Are” by Garfunkel and Oates
“Positively 4th Street” by Bob Dylan
“Silent All These Years” by Tori Amos
And I’ll just end with another from me, one I can’t believe I didn’t include originally since it’s one my favourite songs ever, not even in the angry category but all categories. It also reminds of that thin thin line between rage and despair…
“Untouchable Face” by Ani Difranco (preceding commercial–anti-frizz hair product. Oy.)
Ok, that was too sad, let’s end with a non-rage song instead…more applicable to some of the above than others, but always encouraging…
“We Shall Overcome” by Pete Seeger
Huh, but what about all of us who are angry about trivial things, or at least trivial in comparison to what Seeger was singing about. Where is our song of inspiration? Oh, I know…“Shiny Happy People” by REM
Rage on, everybody!
March 15th, 2013
As we all know, I’m pretty cheerful (the nice thing about having a blog called Rose-coloured is there’s little doubt in even the newest reader about things like this). But like everyone, I become irate occasionally, and like most 21st people, I like to soundtrack my emotions.
I’ve been realizing my rage playlist is a little lacking, so I thought I’d share it and see if you guys might be able to help me expand it…
Here’s what I’ve got so far–some new, some old:
“Bloody Motherfucking Asshole” by Martha Wainwright (the yoghurt ad that I saw before it today was spectacularly inappropriate to immediately precede: “Poetry has no place for a heart that’s a whore.”)
“Desolation Row” by My Chemical Romance (for the purposes of this list, this cover is better than the original by Bob Dylan)
“Positively 4th Street” by Bob Dylan (because obviously there had to be some Dylan here–such an angry dude! Also, note interesting parallels/differences to previous song!)
March 5th, 2013
I came across these tips on how to have an awesome time at a concert on Alan Cross’s blog. It’s good, but extremely sparse to me, and probably to most people who don’t regularly attend concerts. Tips like “bring a friend or go alone” and “when to drink and where” might make some uncool people like myself think that this is a code keep the uncool out.
It’s not true! Just like how on the internet no one knows you’re a dog, in the dark no one knows you’re a dork: if you feel like going to hear live music, you should go. I went to a show last week with a kleenex in the sleeve of my cardigan, so if I can do it, anyone can.
If you’re like me, you probably used to go see bands semi-regularly in high school and university, whenever someone told you about a cool show and you could afford it. But then, after graduation, you (I) knew fewer people who went to stuff, and moved to a city where I didn’t know the venues, and gradually got really intimidated and started picturing every show I considered attending as a cross between a mosh pit and a grade 8 dance.
About 4 years ago, my brother and I realized that while we both finally had money to spend on each other, we could never think of anything we wanted for holiday or birthday gifts. We also realized we have similar taste in music and both regretted not taking part in Toronto’s vibrant musical offerings. So we buy each other show tickets for every gift now, and we attend together. It’s really fun, and not nearly as intimidating as I thought. So, after a few dozen shows, here’s some tips if you’re old-ish and looking get back to concert scene:
1) Listen to music. A friend said to me once, “It’s so sad how terrible music is these days. All I ever listen to is my old albums.” I barely stopped myself from screeching, “That is how you die!!” Music is not depreciating, it’s changing! It’s harder to find things you like when you don’t have whole evenings to spend listening to music and none of your friends suggest things to listen to. But try. Listen to the radio and google anything you hear that you like. Try one of those internet radio stations that takes a performer you like and suggests more. Ask your friends what they’re listening to. Most people in their thirties didn’t stop listening to music, they just stopped forming their identies around it. And it’s totally fine to stick to some bands you used to like in the 90s–they were great–but for goodness’s sakes, listen to their current albums. Bands evolve, and you don’t want to be disappointed at the show because it turns out you don’t like anything they’ve written in the past 15 years.
2) Pay the money. One thing I don’t do in my rock-and-roll renaissance is see random bands. I don’t just go sit in a bar and see who comes on, or go to free community shows, or anything where I don’t have at least a hopeful suspicion that I will like the band. If I’m that hopeful, I am also willing to pay whatever a ticket costs. Not usually that much–I don’t have Rolling Stones tastes–but I pay whatever it takes. I wish I could be out discovering the stuff that no one knows about yet, but really, to stay out late on a weeknight, I have to sorta know I’ll be happy.
3) Plot the logistics. In case you’re a real newbie at concerts, or have only been to those outdoor summer festivals, here’s the biggest logistical issue with concert attendance as a grown-up: you don’t get to sit down. There are no chairs in most venues, and in the few that some stools or whatnot, like Lee’s Palace, people hunch on them grimly as soon as the doors open. It’s not worth it–wear comfortable shoes and a bag you can hang on your shoulder, and come well-rested–you’ll still be tired at the end of the night, but it’s manageable.
Other logistical issues: There are coatchecks in most concert venues, but then you’re stuck in a giant line at the end of the night when you want to go home. I favour the “roll your coat into a ball and stick it between your feet” approach, but it’s up to you. Also, figure out how you’re getting to and fro, especially if it’s Sound Academy, which annoying to walk, transit, AND drive to. Basically, unless you have a jetpack or are willing to live there, only go to Sound Academy shows you *really* want to see. Lee’s Palace and the Phoenix are on the subway line and are awesome; the Opera House and the Mod Club aren’t, but at least have some reasonable transit options. I have no idea how to park anywhere, but if you’re going to try driving, best to look into it–might be challenging.
4) Embrace the experience. I sometimes skip the openers in favour of eating and sitting down for a little longer, but I’ve discovered some good music when I see the full show. Go to the merch table, buy a drink, crowd watch. Music is growing increasingly atomized–we listen alone, on our computers and ipods, and have little idea who our fellow fans are. It’s an amazing experience to assume this tiny bit of solidarity–I like a thing you like–with strangers. In the absence of knowledge, I assume everyone who likes a band I like is just like me. Imagine my surprise to discover teenagers in arm-warmers and eyelines at the Bright Eyes show and drunk university students at Hey Rosetta. My favourite crowd ever was at a The Wooden Sky. I think of them as a gentle roots-rock band, but the early twentysomethings at the show seemed ready for a kegger for some reason. Many were drunk upon arrival, including two beautiful young women who were so surprised to meet up in the lobby, they embraced so hard they fell down. A girl standing in front of me in the bathroom lineup asked me to tell her “honestly” if she had puke on the back of her shirt, and I sadly had to tell her that she did. Later in that same lineup, the girl behind me was having so much trouble waiting that I peeked around a corner and told her we were only a few people away from the door–she hugged me. It was a really really fun night.
5) The music is worth it. Not every time, of course–some bands suck live, and sometimes you just aren’t feeling it. But in general, I feel that the *being there* aspect improves the music by about 20% on average and if you liked it already, that’s amazing. It’s neat to see what people look like and how bandmates interact with each other. Hell, it’s cool to see how they hold their instruments. I’ve never tried to meet anyone or get an autograph or whatever, but just being in the same room is pretty cool.
February 14th, 2013
Dear Brooke Fraser,
I am writing to let you know that when my husband and I got married on August 11, 2012, your song Something in the Water was our recessional. We had a really hard time choosing wedding music, but as soon as I heard this song I knew it was perfect (my husband is a Brooke Fraser fan and introduced me to it). It’s such a joyous, celebratory, *rising* song that I felt it was perfect for the moment of finally being married, after all the solemn, ceremonial stuff was done.
For weeks before the wedding, I guess I was having a reoccurring dream about this song and the wedding, but for some reason I never quite processed it as a dream. It was just an image I had in my head that when we were pronounced husband and wife, we would turn to the guests, “Something in the Water” would come on, and everyone would start dancing. It’s a very dancable song!
I guess I was stressed before the wedding, because this image never came to the level of conscious thought, but instead just became my version of the plan. I never questioned how realistic it was to expect 80 people to spontaneously start dancing without me asking them to (or even if I did). I think in the moment, I realized that it had been a dream and no one knew about the dancing but me, but I had my heart set on it by that point–I danced anyway! One of the guests said I was the happiest bride she’d ever seen. Probably lots of brides get told that, but she is a professional wedding photographer and probably has been to a lot of weddings. And I was really really happy–still am!
Anyway, I just wanted to share that silly story to let me know how joyful and inspiring I found “Something in the Water” and to thank you for making it. And to wish you a happy Valentine’s Day!
PS–One of my new year’s resolutions was to write fan letters to artists I’m grateful to and thank them for their work. This is the first–hopefully more to come soon!
April 2nd, 2012
I’ve been doing a few things lately even *in addition* to swanning around the Maritime provinces and basking in the springtime sun here in Ontario. Today, for example, I ran *many* errands in the aforementioned springtime sun, which is somehow much better than the fraudulent summer sun of a few weeks ago. Today was one of those rare days for a 9-to-5-er, when I had time to prioritize those little errands like the library, the post office, the dry-cleaner–instead of cramming them on the tail-end of some more glamourous errand, they got to be centre stage. And I strolled between them listening to Belle and Sebastian (come on! anyone who doesn’t think Belle and Sebastian is the perfect soundtrack to a spring stroll is just a hipster too far). Lovely.
Ok, but also–some writing stuff. I contributed a line to Pass the Ghost Story, which is fun, creepy, and still in progress; I was interviewed by Grace O’Connell about Writers and Day Jobs, and I made the very long but very cool long-list for the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award. I’ve read enough of the books on the list to know what an honour this is, so I’m basking…just a bit!
And it’s only Monday!
August 4th, 2011
The Big Dream has music in it, but no lyrics. Music is ubiquitous in our culture–with the advent of iPods, less and less of our lives is unsoundtracked, and if you’re going to write real life, you need at least some ambient music popping up sometime. When I wrote Once, there were occasional snatches of whatever the characters were listening to. When I was finished, someone told me that you can’t use song lyrics, even just a few, even if they’re diegetic, even for atmosphere, without paying the artist who wrote them, and the licensing company and whatever-expensive-nightmare.
So I went through the whole book and took out all the direct quotations. I left some vague references and titles in–surely they can’t sue for that, and I guess most readers would be at least slightly familiar with the sorts of music I was writing about, so they’d be able to tune in inside their brains. And it’s not as if music is a huge aspect of my work–it’s just there, a part of things, a thread in the fabric… It was just frustrating, is all, to have to leave things out, even little things.
But since I found out the rules, I’ve been writing with them in mind. In Road Trips, when I wanted to show a character flipping through the radio stations and hearing a little snatch of rap, I wrote the lyrics myself (the joke was how bad it was, so it was ok that I that; I’m not planning an alternative career as a rap lyricist). And in *The Big Dream* I found other ways of describing music besides direct quotations. Sometimes it works better than others, but I think I was largely successful in creating the impression of certain music without using the lyrics. Again, this is a really small part of the book, but I worked hard on it.
Except…somehow I didn’t think all these rules applied to epigraphs. I have no idea why I believed this–probably just because I wanted to, as none of the fair use exceptions of study, review, criticism, etc. applied. I just found this really really perfect epigraph for TBD, and I wanted it and I couldn’t write my way around it–an epigraph is a direct quotation and only that.
So I’ve come to my senses, looked into the matter further, and finally deleted the epigraph. I am sad, because the song and the quotation I picked said the perfect thing, I felt, to introduce the book. So I’ll write this post, I figure, reviewing and critiquing all the music that meant a lot to me and the process of writing TBD, and then I’ll have an excuse to include the quotation here–not in the book, where I feel it belongs, but at least somewhere where people can read it and make the connection. And there’s actually a lot of other music to give credit to, here. I think a lot of writers have music they keep in mind as they write or think about their work, whether or not it’s on in the room where we’re actually tapping at the keys–see Dani Couture’s playlists series or Large Heart Boy’s Book Notes. So it’s a proud tradition of us song-listing authors that I join now–onwards.
Believe it or not, I had never ever heard Dolly Parton’s working-girl classic 9 to 5 until less than a year ago, when my friend K played a dance mix of it in the aerobics class she teaches. True! I don’t generally like the “they let you dream just to watch’em shatter” type of song–too reductive, too whingy. But this song is *very* catch, great for aerobics, and it has two great lines: “there’s a better life and you think about it / dontcha?” and “in the same boat with a lot of your friends / waiting for the day your ship will come in / the tide’s gonna turn and it’s all gonna roll you away.” Have *you* heard a better extended metaphor in a pop-song? A nice bit of solidarity, too! And I like “pour myself a cup of ambition,” too. Someday, I may write a story called, “A Cup of Ambition”–or is that not fair use? Oh, probably not. Sigh. (Query: I’ve still not seen the movie nor the stage show; should I?)
My background in songs about work is, well, work songs. I’m from that sort of family. So I was pleased to find a collection of our old favourites in Bruce Springsteen’s Seeger Sessions. A bit more modern than the original Seeger, and also easier to find on CD (oh, sigh, sacrilege), this album is delightful. I certainly realize that a lot of these songs are about work done by slaves, and that it’s grossly offensive to align office work with that history. I don’t do so–I just like songs about work in any form. My favourites are “Jacob’s Ladder,” (that’s actually a really wonderful video there, which I hadn’t seen before now), for the incredible line, “Every new rock just makes us stronger,” and “John Henry”, about the strongest man in the world. But no kidding, there’s everybody else and then there is Mr. Seeger–a singer for us all.
I’m a literalist, and I always felt that The New Pornographers’ The Crash Year is actually about a market crash–no idea if that’s true or not, although the album being released in 2010 would indicates so, as do lines like “you’re ruined like the rest of us” and “oh my child you’re not safe here.” And there’s a whistle-chorus!
You know you’re a serious Simon and Garfunkel fan when you are into the B sides–the tracks with a horn section, and more ribaldry, less tender reflection. One of my favourite all-time S&G works is Keep the Customer Satisfied. This is essentially a barstool plaint by a travelling salesman, exuberantly sung even when the lyrics are, “And I’m sooo tired / I’m oh-oh-oh so tired/I’m just trying to keep the customer satisfied.” You just don’t hear that line in rock’n'roll very often, and it makes me feel like these guys really know what it’s like to have a not-too-great job–though, as far as I know, they mainly didn’t. I mean, quirky musical icon isn’t a bad gig, right?
Of course, I like lots of music by folks who don’t work at job-jobs or write about them. In fact, I spent most of my time while writing this book listening to music by Vampire Weekend and The National, with a little Neil Diamond and Arcade Fire thrown in. And none of those artists give the impression of having done their time in the salt mine, but that’s ok–I really don’t theme my life by what I’m writing, I just shape it for posts like this.
And there’s Weezer. Silly, irreverent, possibly outdated Weezer, whose music is mainly about flirting and being awkward at parties–not that isn’t awesome, because it totally is. But sometimes, especially this one time, they manage to get right at the heart of things, and write the line that encapsulates not only my book but a chunk of my life’s philosophy. It was in the song Keep Fishin’ (yes, it’s the video with the Muppets–watch it if you haven’t, it’s brilliant). Note that throughout this post I have offered an evaluative judgement on all directly quoted material–it’s criticism, people, and therefore fair use. That *wonderful* line, which really should be my epigraph–fie on the greedy music industry and their selfish need to keep all their good lines for themselves, is:
You’ll never do
The things you want
If you don’t move
And get a job
June 14th, 2011
Please help me settle a debate (which I am having inside my head; no one else is involved):
Which song is better, Lou Gramm’s Midnight Blue or Icehouse’s Electric Blue (please minimize the video while you listen to the song, at least until after you’ve voted; it’ll taint your opinion of the song)??
Note: I’d like to keep this simple and not admit covers into the competition, but for bonus listening, I highly recommend the REM cover of “Midnight Blue” …but definitely not the Cranberries’s song called “Electric Blue,” which is a completely different song from Icehouse’s and which I am not linking to because it is so creepy it frightens me.
So–your opinions please??? I need to get this sorted!
March 7th, 2011
I can’t believe I forgot to mention that my brother did the album art for the new Zacht Automaat album, We Can’t Help You If We Can’t Find You. Go have a look–and if you’re a fan of instrumental jazz minimalist pop prog psych rock, a listen.
March 1st, 2011
I am into sending and receiving letters. I am actually into all forms of communication. Writing is (natch) a favourite–but the letter-love originates way before I ever anticipated an audience larger than one at a time. As a kid (and still), I had no family beyond parents/brother/pets in Canada. I wrote a newsletter for the household, but that did not satisfy my need to communicate–I wanted to contact with the outside world. My parents attempted to corral a few recalcitrant relatives into writing to me, and I would get the occasional note (I actually got more gifts than letters in the post, so I shouldn’t complain). By and large, though, I couldn’t get the long-form sustained letter-exchange that forms literary collections (I was, at this point, 7 or 8, so you can’t really blame them–often my letters consisted of descriptions of the houses on our road).
My most attentive relative, a step-uncle who, unsurprisingly, was a writer, used to call me “my faithful correspondant” because I usually responded to whatever he sent by return mail. He also once sent detailed instructions for folding a letter into thirds so that it would fit into a normal envelope–a trick I’d been having trouble with.
In grade school, a popular writing exercise was to pass out overseas penpal addresses to anyone who was interested. I signed up every time the program was offered, and quickly exhausted pals in Argentina, England, and Norway. These days, most people who want to keep up a long term correspondance do so by email, which is fine with me–old-fashioned as it is, I’m more concerned with the medium than the message. But I do *like* getting letters, when someone chooses to send me one. There are a few people in the world who send me mail, and it does make me very happy to see a penned address in the mailbox (unless it is my own handwriting on a self-addressed stamped envelope, signifying literary rejection).
The point of all this is that I was so charmed by Arcade Fire’s We Used to Wait when I realized it was about nostalgia for sending and receiving letters. It’s a strangely sweet song, I think, off the (I hear) Grammy-winning album *The Suburbs*. You can listen at the above link, and/or read the lyrics I will now attempt to transcribe for you below (yes, I still believe the exercise of listening closely enough to transcribe song lyrics is somehow helpful for my writing. I’m just not sure how.)
We Used to Wait/Arcade Fire
I used to write
I used to write letters
I used to sign my name
I used to sleep at night
Before the flashing lights settled deep in my brain
But by the time we met
By the time we met the times had already changed
So I never wrote a letter
I never took my true heart
I never wrote it down
So when the lights cut out
I was lost standing in the wilderness downtown
Now our lives are changing fast (repeat)
Hope that something pure could last (repeat)
It seemed strange
How we used to wait for letters to arrive
What was stranger still
Is how something so small could keep you alive
(We used to wait)
We used to waste hours just walking around
(We used to wait)
All those wasted lives in the wilderness downtown
(Ooo, we used to wait) (repeat 4x)
Sometimes they never came (repeat 2x)
Still movin through the pain
I’m gonna write a letter to my true love
I’m gonna sign my name
Like a patient on a table
I wanna walk again
Gotta move through the pain
Now our lives are changin fast (repeat)
Hope that something pure could last (repeat)
(We used to wait) (repeat x3)
Sometimes they never came (repeat)
Still moving through the pain
We used to wait (repeat)
We used to wait for it (repeat)
And now we’re screaming
Sing the chorus again
We used to wait for it (repeat)
And now we’re screaming
Sing the chorus again
I used to wait for it (repeat)
And now we’re screaming
Sing the chorus again
Wait for it (repeatx3)