Category: Music

The Music of Our Youth

The Music of Our Youth

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Often, the music of our youth speaks to us. Sometimes it has specific messages, and sometimes it just reminds us of what it was like when we were young. Sometimes both.

I didn’t do a lot of concerts as a teenager, and I really haven’t done that many as an adult, either, but I enjoy music and I enjoy live music, so there’s really no easy explanation for that, other than possibly budgetary concerns at the times when I’ve felt the desire to go see a particular group or artist live.

But Peterborough does a series of outdoor concerts every year, free to attend, and works to get some significant names to come to them beyond the usual high end tribute bands and lower level professional groups. I only found out about this series of concerts this year, though apparently it’s been a fixture of the Peterborough music scene for several decades.

I found out this year when my wife saw a post for the series on Facebook and sent it to me. Skimming through the list of performers, I was surprised to see Howard Jones there.

Image courtesy of IMDB.

I mostly consider myself a Prog Rock kind of guy. Music is to be experienced rather than danced to. But I’m a child of the 80s and some Synth Pop speaks straight to my heart. There are still four of Mr. Jones’ songs in the rotation on my phone in the middle of 2018, and several more I can still sing along to if they come on the radio.

Part of that is probably that his music was often about something. It still is, really. Synth Pop is often very easy for people to dismiss, but Howard Jones shouldn’t be dismissed easily. There’s a lot of depth in his music.

The New Song is about seeing things from more than just your preconceived biases and actually using your mind to figure things out.

Everlasting Love is about looking beyond the surface to see the real person and make a genuine connection.

No One Is To Blame is about how sometimes there’s nothing you can do to make things work out. To paraphrase Captain Picard, sometimes you can do everything right and still lose. It’s not fair, but it’s very human.

Things Can Only Get Better is about keeping a positive attitude when life sucks, which can be a critical survival trait in the modern world.

Your mileage may vary on any of these interpretations, but listen to the lyrics while you’re bouncing along to the song.

So, Howard Jones is playing in Peterborough, for free, and I live an hour and forty minutes (or so) away. What to do?

Well, it seems obvious, but didn’t used to. Road trip. The kids I still have living at home are entirely old enough to take care of themselves for the afternoon and evening, so we did a few chores in the morning (yeah, adulting sucks sometimes) and set out on a leisurely drive to Peterborough.

Road Trip!

On the way, we found a couple of geocaches,

No really, it’s a snake.

Decided we didn’t have enough time to go through a reptile museum, but stopped for a couple of photos,

Big scary dinosaur!
Who’s really just a big suck.

Watched an engineering marvel lift a tour boat and thousands of litres of water dozens of metres into the air from a spooky tunnel,

Where no one can see you.

Ate delicious, but probably not as healthy as it should be at my age, food,

Mmmm… tzatziki.

And bought t-shirts,

Of course we got t-shirts.

Just before watching the concert itself.

And enjoyed the concert immensely.

Audience participation is a big thing for Mr. Jones, and it was a lot of fun. The man gives good concert, and I’m very glad we went.

Spur of the moment road trips need to work their way into my life a little more often.

Be well, everyone. And do something spontaneous.

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I Should Be A Tragically Hip Fan

I Should Be A Tragically Hip Fan

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With thanks to the CBC for the image.

So, I’ve never really been a Tragically Hip fan.

There are plenty of reasons I should be, the least of which is that I’m related to one of the band members on my mother’s side, not that I’ve seen him since I was a little kid. As close as I’ll get to name-dropping.

Far more importantly, the tragically hip is a Canadian success story, on a similar level, although perhaps with a touch less longevity, as Rush or Neil Young. Their lyrics are intelligent, clever, often poetic. That’s right up my alley. The music is a blend of pop and some not quite identifiable sound that makes them distinctly Canadian. They’ve been successful commercially worldwide for three decades.

I should be a Tragically Hip fan, I’m just not.

I don’t dislike their music, and I can probably name a dozen of their songs, even sing along with a couple, but I don’t own a single album, I’ve never felt the urge to buy one, and it never would have bothered me to turn off the radio or TV while they were playing. Weird.

But it doesn’t matter if I’m not particularly a fan, because I can recognize the band as an iconic Canadian group. And I can recognize that their loss to the musical landscape is a tragedy. They have been a huge musical and cultural influence in the country, and beyond, projecting a Canadian sound to ears that would otherwise never have heard.

Some other artist or group will step up to fill the gap, I hope. It won’t be today, or tomorrow, or maybe even anytime soon. And really, the gap will be forever present in some way, because whoever does come forward to fill it will do so with a different sound and a different shape, and but they’ll be distinctly Canadian in their own way, or at least I hope so.

Be well, everyone.

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Change is Bad, Right?

Change is Bad, Right?

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Why is our first impulse for anything different ignore it or try to force it to meet our preconceptions?

It shouldn’t be, and I’m not sure why human nature resists change so much.

Let me give an example.

Earlier this week on Facebook, I came across an eye-rolling meme in my time stream, re-posted from some other source for the mumblety-thousandth time:

You can probably guess that most of the comments were just a flat-out agreement, with the occasional stronger agreement for emphasis or an extra word or two to display the importance of the opinion, and once in a while even, gasp, a whole sentence. There was, on this particular re-post, exactly one disagreement so far when I scrolled back through several pages worth of comments. Everyone else seemed to agree that it was an awesome idea.

So I decided to call shenanigans:

“Disagree. Far better move to integrate them into things. Taking them away is going to breed resentment and theft. Teach them that they’re tools for more than just amusement.”

I think I took a fairly gentle track. I didn’t talk about how the teacher has no rights over the property of the students, or how if a teach did do something like this they would assume responsibility for all the property and making sure it gets back to the original owners. Okay, maybe I did with the use of the word “theft”, but not strongly. But while Facebook is a bit more verbose than, say, Twitter, in many cases you’re not going to catch most people do with a comment very much longer than the one I left.

Still, I think I could have done better, even in the limited space. The heart of this meme says that since I couldn’t have a cell phone when I was in school, you shouldn’t be able to have one either. If we use similar logic, and people have, to since my father didn’t have calculators available when he was in high school, I shouldn’t have been allowed to use one when I was in high school. Since his father didn’t have access even to slide rules for the high school equivalent of the day in the old country, my father should have learned to memorize logarithmic tables just like his father did. And so on.

Screw technology. Change is bad.

And that’s the real heart of things, change can be scary, and therefore it’s bad. I don’t understand it, and so I need to protect other people from understanding it.

Wouldn’t it be better to adapt and integrate, as many teachers have already begun to do? Teach students that the powerful computer they carry around their pocket, and use to text her friends and play games on, is a gateway to every scrap of knowledge the human race has to offer. The fact that it’s also gateway to pseudoscience, fake news, and outright lies is a whole different set of lessons, but one they also need to learn.

Douglas Adams, a brilliant writer of bizarre science fiction whom we lost decades too soon, came up with a set of three rules to describe our reactions to technologies, but that really can be more generalized to change in general”

  1. Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works.
  2. Anything that’s invented between when you’re fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it.
  3. Anything invented after you’re thirty-five is against the natural order of things.

I’d argue the thirty-five is an average. Some people are much younger when they reach that stage and some never do.

It’s very easy to become set in your ways. It’s much harder to keep your mind open to new concepts, to actually investigate and judge them on their own merits and validity rather than just saying change is bad, that things should be like they were back in my day.

But back in my day is over, and while I agree it was probably awesome at the time, with the big, bright world filled with huge possibilities, it seems particularly clueless of me to use something that didn’t exist back then in order to protest against it existing now. Not to mention ironic.

So if you post something that says kids today have it too easy, that they should or shouldn’t have something because that’s not how it was when you were a kid, don’t be surprised if I disagree, don’t be surprised if I take the time to tell you I disagree, and, honestly, and don’t be surprised if I laugh openly and tell you you’re wrong.

This gently phrased opinion piece has been brought to you by the lyric fragment, “Constant change is here to stay”.

Be well, everyone.

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State of Graceland

State of Graceland

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Once upon a time, there was a teenager named Lance. Growing up in the pre-Internet era, Lance was still quite fond of media: TV, movies, and especially books and music. He read voraciously, started to figure out writing (though that would mostly come later), and always had the radio or a record or cassette playing in the background. This as the 1980s. There would eventually be CDs, but they were expensive in the early days and he didn’t have a CD player until the summer he was nineteen.

In the fall of 1986 he heard, “You Can Call Me Al” on the radio. Without knowing exactly why, he found it turning into one of his favourite songs and he bought Graceland on cassette as soon as his finances would allow.

And so it began.

It’s hard to say how many times I listened to Graceland, but I knew all the lyrics to every song within a week or two, and had my heart broken when the cassette got eaten a few years later. I immediately replaced it with a CD version, which I still have and from which I made MP3 versions of the songs for my iPod, and now in my phone. Yes, they’re all in my playlist.

In early July of 2009, listening to “The Boy In the Bubble”, I got the germ of an idea for the story that would eventually become “Miracles and Wonder”. Six months or so later, I wrote the first draft of “Pilgrimage” after something tickled the back of my brain listening to the title track, “Graceland”.

“Light Pressure” came near the end of 2010 with “Dancing in the Rain” following before too long. By then, I had an end goal in mind: there would be a story inspired by every song on the album. Perhaps, if they eventually proved worthy, they might become an e-book or a even, dare I contemplate, a podcast.

The rest of the stories were written across 2011, a strange and tumultuous time in my life, but they got written. In the first few months of 2012, I edited, polished, then edited some more until each of the 11 stories made me happy.

After which, I put them away for a few months. Letting things rest for a while helps me approach them with fresh eyes. When I read through them in October of 2012, I was still happy. Oh, I made some minor changes here and there, different word choices or alterations to punctuation, but nothing big. I started to think about what I should do with them.

But then, oddly, I put them away again. Yes, I had the intent to publish or perhaps submit them, but I never did. At this point, it’s been long enough that I felt the need to do another read through, and I’m glad I did. I made a few tiny tweaks here and there, some word choice changes, really but nothing big. The stories stayed the same.

Well, all but one which suffered a couple of structural alterations but kept the story intact. “Fingerprint Dreams”, the last story in the sequence, had a couple of odd POV shifts, with the main protagonist dropping into first person for what were essentially either interviews or flashbacks. I found this jarring when I read the story, and liked it less than I used to, so I changed them. As a result, the story got almost five hundred words longer, breaking over that magical 10k mark. It’s still the same story, but I think those scenes flow better now and the reader gets more out of them.

But I’m done reading, and that brings me back to what should I do with them? Try to find a publisher? Submit them to markets individually? Publish them myself? Publish them myself and send a copy to Paul Simon?

For the moment, I think I’ll go pop a certain CD in the player, but I’d welcome any thoughts or input.

Be well, everyone.

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Paul Simon Inspired SF

Paul Simon Inspired SF

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Once upon a time, there was a teenager named Lance.  Growing up in the pre-internet era, Lance was very fond of pre-digital media: TV, movies, and especially books and music.  He read voraciously, started to figure out writing (though that would mostly come later), chased girls, and always had the radio or a record or cassette playing in the background (yes, eventually CDs, but that took a little while–they were expensive in the early days and he didn’t have a CD player until the summer he was nineteen).

In the fall of 1986, he heard the song, “You Can Call Me Al” on the radio.  Without knowing exactly why, it became one of his favourite songs and he bought Graceland on cassette as soon as his finances would allow.

And so it began.

It’s hard to say how many times I listened to Graceland, but I knew all the lyrics to every song long before the cassette got eaten a few years later.  I immediately replaced it with a CD version, which I still have and I still play once in a while.  Not as often as in my youth, but it’s still in my playlist and I’ve ripped most of it to my I-pod, too.  Rhythm of the Saints didn’t speak to me in quite the same way.  It was good music, but it wasn’t Graceland.

Just about exactly two years ago, listening to “The Boy In the Bubble”, I got the germ of an idea for the story that would eventually become “Miracles and Wonder”.  Six months or so later, I wrote the first draft of “Pilgrimage” after something tickled the back of my brain listening to the title track, “Graceland”.

“Light Pressure” came near the end of last year.  “Dancing in the Rain” didn’t take too long after that and I had an end goal in mind by then.  There would be a story inspired by every song on the album.  Perhaps, if I and some beta readers agreed they were good, they might become an e-book or a podcast.

Life has intervened in 2011 (and in 2010, too).  There has been a lot going on and some of it keeps rearing up to get in the way of all of the projects I’m already supposed to be finished.  We survive and adapt, and sometimes we apologize profusely in the process.  But I still want to do “Graceland”, and I think it will be my personal writing goal for the rest of the year.  I’m slowly writing my way through “Hidden Songs”, inspired by “Diamonds On the Soles of Her Shoes”.  It’s one of those stories that keeps expanding—I originally thought it would be a 5 and then 6 thousand word story, but it looks like it might get close to 8k by the time it’s done.  “Hidden Songs” is the fifth of eleven stories in the Graceland set, and I’ve got at least the kernel of an idea for the rest.  None of them are in the least related other than by the theme.  I hope to be finished the first draft of the last one by the end of the year, but we’ll see.  There’s a lot of other commitments on my plate.

In the meantime, you’ll find a couple of progress indicators up top, just under the office hours.  One will let you know which story I’m currently working on and the other a total word count over what I’m projecting for the story in progress.  To get that started:

Hidden Songs (Graceland 5/11)

5824/8000 words

72.8% Complete

Oh, and they’ll all be Science Fiction stories, for most definitions of Science Fiction.

Now I think I’ll go pop a CD in, but in case you missed it at the time:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gHxSuzTOc5A]

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