Muddling through

As of this morning there are 13 drafts of incomplete posts in my WordPress dashboard’s storehouse of thoughts.  This is unusual since I’m generally pretty good with the follow-through and finishing stuff.  It may sometimes take a while- I have been known to procrastinate now and again when no established deadline is looming- but things do get done (this is, of course, excluding the novel(s) I’ve been working on for countless years).

I haven’t felt much like writing since my weekend rant about politics and politicos in this city.  My frustration quotient- on a number of fronts- has reached critical levels, and I’m finding that my thoughts have been running in too many directions at once to actually get anything of substance down on the (virtual) page.  Or sleep for more than a few hours at a time.

Need some quiet.  And real rest.  And not likely to have either in the near future.

So, in an attempt to make the brain shut the hell up for a time, and make it possible for me to drag myself out of bed in the morning, I spent part of last evening watching some of the new shows that are being offered for our consumption and potential edification.

James Spader is awesome.  He will always be Alan Shore to me, but I do have high hopes for The Blacklist.

The season premiere of HIMYM was good- and makes this, the last season, look promising.

There are a couple other new shows that are intriguing- namely David E. Kelley’s new one with Robin Williams and Sarah-Michelle-Gellar-the-Vampire-Slayer.  Boston Legal remains one of my favourite shows (Alan Shore and Denny Crane rule) and Kelley seems to know when to let his actors run with the characters and do what feels right.  I’m sure the directors have their hands full keeping Robin Williams under some semblance of control, but the result should be worth a look regardless.

It’s great to see him back on the small screen (I, unlike many younger viewers, well remember his original turn as Mork- on Happy Days).  And I have a definite soft spot for Buffy (which remains one of the best-written shows out there.  Joss Whedon does dialogue like no on else).  Given her past ability at handling Whedon’s scripts, I’m sure she will more than hold her own against the manic zaniness that is Robin Williams.

As mentioned, I’m cautiously interested in Sleepy Hollow– mainly because they’ve linked Washington Irving’s story (which was based on Germanic  folktales of ‘the Wild Huntsman’) with biblical apocalyptic mythology.  Neat twist- we’ll see how it plays out.

I look very forward to the return of Elementary.  I know I know.  The naysayers all say that Cumberbatch’s contemporary Holmes is the one worth watching, but I love Jonny Lee Miller.  Ever since he was Sick Boy, really, but he was really great in another underrated television role a few years ago.  With its modern take on prophecy and prophets, Eli Stone might well need its own post.  Anyway- I do like his take on Sherlock, and the supporting cast of Lucy Liu and Aidan Quinn has really come together.  This season Rhys Ifans will be showing up as Sherlock’s brother, Mycroft.  Lots of good acting chops in that mix.

Lest you think that my couch is about to swallow this potato whole, I have actually cracked a book in the past few days.  I’m rereading High Fidelity, Nick Hornby’s first novel that was made into the movie starring John Cusack.  The film was pretty good- Jack Black was pretty amusing, and Cusack is generally quite endearing- but the original story’s British-ness is somehow more resonant.

I get Rob Fleming’s association of life- and life events- with specific music.  The concept of the ‘mix tape’ as central to the romantic lives of people of a certain age is one that seems to be recurring in my general environment lately.  In addition to Jian Ghomeshi’s 1982, that was my cottage reading a couple of weeks back, I read Love is a Mix Tape- Rolling Stone Editor Rob Sheffield’s sad tale of the life- and sudden death- of his wife, the night the lights went out back in July.

Those books, and Sheffield’s Talking to Girls About Duran Duran, all play with the thought, sincerity and hard work that used to go into the making of a mix tape for someone special.

There is nothing comparable these days.  Making a playlist can be done in a matter of minutes- as one draws from 1000s of songs pulled out of iTunes or the like.  Sure, The Shuffle Daemon has thrown me for a loop a few times with its accurate matching of the music to the mood/ weather, but there is something incomparably innocent, nostalgic and loving about the process of choosing just the right songs and getting them all to both work well together and fit on the tape- without getting cut off part way through.

(I have sooooo many mix tapes with cut off songs.  Tapes I listened to so often that sometimes, when I hear those songs now, I expect them to just end at very specific places.  I remain surprised when the song plays all the way through.)

Anyway, all this thinking about song lists and the perfect mix tape inspired me to make one of my own.  Figuratively, anyway.  I still have lots and lots of cassette tapes in storage.  Unfortunately, I currently have nothing on which to play them.

So I made myself a playlist.  Not of songs of love or lost love or unrequited love, but songs that are upbeat and happy and determined (if songs can be determined- and I think they can) to drag me out of bed to face the day.

The implied rejection of the past while has, seemingly, become overt, and although I’m attempting to do my best to muddle through (‘to continue despite confusion and difficulties’) some days it’s harder than others.

So these are songs to help with the muddling.

Vampire Weekend.  There are few of their songs that don’t make me think of summertime and friends, but A-Punk is just so upbeat and catchy.  Can’t stay confused and difficult in the face of this.

I wrote about this James song before, but this is a different version- although just as uplifting.  And reassuring in its assertion that we all get thrown a little off kilter now and again.

The The.  This has to be one of my very favourite songs ever.  Matt Johnson is cooler than cool.  And he might be right.  This might be ‘the day when things fall into place.’

The Gaslight Anthem is another band that is just fun.  And high energy.  And lyrically sophisticated.  And did I mention fun?  They put on an awesome live show, too.

Talking Heads.  Not only were they one of the most avant-garde bands ever, but they remain fun as hell.  The world is moving and I’m trying to stay right there with it.

Sweet.  Glitter rock.  Ballroom blitzes.  This is self-explanatory.

And finally, a little Aztec Camera.  Because Roddy Frame and that guitar riff can make anyone feel better.

I’m in love with everything that breaks the grip of caution
On our getting up and leaving for a bigger day, still some say
That all you need is money to be free from what is poor
Well that’s the lie of looking up from somewhere down

Because the sun will show to testify that all the
Time between belongs to you and I, to be still on fire
And when the strongest words have all been used
And all the new ones sound confused, to be still on fire

Somewhere in the middle we could see through all the people
And be playing second fiddle and be feeling sore
Shown the door

To chase out all the child in you
Is throwing out the baby for the chance to make it easy to be more

Solid advice.

Muddling through.

‘I Sing Myself to Sleep…’

Insomnia.

Sucks.

Not a new thing, or even something that’s all that rare, but frustrating nonetheless.

Likely stems from the fact that I took a mental health personal day and spent it doing ‘me’ things.  I DID have an appointment in the morning, but I spent the bulk of the day doing little more than reading and writing.

Once upon a time that was how I spent pretty much every day- with time for social interaction and long walks in between.  It was a pretty ideal workday.

Reality (horrible, stinking reality) dictates that I don’t get to do that anymore.  While I still spend the bulk of each day reading and writing and interacting with people, it is no longer on my own terms and with subjects and people of my choosing.

I know- tiny violins of sympathy playing all around me.

Whining about days of yore isn’t actually what this post is about (although who doesn’t love a good whine every now and again?) so I’ll stop the wallowing tangential train and get back to the point.

I did a lot of reading.  Mainly online stuff; friends’ blogs (like this one, and this, and this one too), some articles of academic interest that I’d saved ages ago and never got around to- but I also picked up a novel that I’ve read a number of times before (I do like the re-read) for the TTC trip to the doc and got caught up in the story- even if I know it practically by heart by now.

I finally set that aside and got to some serious writing- work on this blog (hence the back-to-back posts), an academic article, and that book that somehow never seems to get finished.  Every time I look at it I hope against hope that the writing angels (or daemons- I’m not prejudiced) have completed it for me, but so far that hasn’t happened.  So far.

Regardless, it was a productive and highly enjoyable day.  Setting my own pace and moving from one thing to another at will is a wonderful luxury.  I know I have weekends in which to do that sort of thing- and some weekends I DO do that sort of thing- but there is something decadent about being able to be both dissolute and industrious on a weekday.

It felt like playing hooky.

Everyone else was at work.

It was as hella hot and steamy as Hades in the summertime outside, but the house was cool and quiet.

I ran all kinds of things through this ol’ brain o’ mine over the course of the day.  My reading brought me ideas for potential new writings and the writing reminded me of more things I’ve been wanting to read…  Not enough time.

Usually getting things on paper (figuratively- I have given up the ink and paper for the computer pretty much exclusively now) helps me sleep.  Once it is out of my head and preserved for posterity I no longer need to think about it.  All those ideas and issues that have been circulating for the past while have been swept out of the corners into which they were tucked when I had others things on my plate that were taking priority.

I sorted out a plot point that had been plaguing me for weeks, sketched out two additional chapters, linked a couple of draft posts together for further examination later, finally wrote out a dialogue that has been eluding me AND took on board some of the wisdom that other writers have had to offer- about the state of the world of late, the wonder of discovering new people, places and things… all kinds of good stuff that helped to quell some of the existential anxiety being fed by some of the world’s most current of events.

So the brain should have been all calm and ready for some rest.

Instead, I tossed.  And I turned.  I had that appropriate (and hilarious) ad for Tylenol PM for company (“Why is the word ‘abbreviation’ so long?  What if the hokey pokey really IS what it’s all about?”  That’s some GOOD copy!) as it cycled endlessly through my head over and over and over…

I resisted getting up and grabbing the Shuffle Daemon.  Listening to music actually keeps me awake (unless I’ve had a couple of beers.  THEN I’m usually out like a light before the first song has ended).  I can’t help paying attention to the lyrics I love so much and the words get in the way of drifting peacefully into slumber.

I’ve never been a big fan of the non-vocal music (despite many trips to Massey- and then Roy Thomson- Hall to see the TSO) so I don’t have much lyric-free music in my collection.

Except Mike Oldfield.  Who I love (Opening Ceremonies of England’s Summer Olympics?  Spectacular!).  But his symphonies alternate between the quiet and the bombastic (or spooky, as the case may be- Tubular Bells, anyone?) so the lulling is often interrupted by the demon voices and such.

As I lay there considering getting up to try the ‘couple of beers’ remedy, THAT song (up there ^^^^) popped into my busy brain.

James.

James.

Love them.  All their stuff.  This one reminds me of an old friend I haven’t seen in way too long and always makes me feel better about things as I run through my memories of him.

So I tried to take their advice and ‘sing myself to sleep’.  Then the words got in the way (why is Gloria Estefan sneaking in?  Can’t stop the musical infiltration- whether or not it’s something I actually like–  it seems).

They’re just SO GOOD.

As always, when I listen to James, I choose to ignore (editor’s prerogative) Tim Booth and Jim Glennie’s affiliation with the, um, sect (yes, let’s call them a sect.  Cult makes people squirmy.  Even if there is some reason to be squirmy in this case…) LifeWave.

Yes, this affiliation seems to make it into the songs (‘I believe this wave will bear my weight so let it flow’) but again, choosing to ignore…

As the lyrics chased themselves through my head I had to appreciate how well they suited my overall mood this week, and reflected some of the things I’d been thinking about and focusing on:  Letting go, feeling crazy/down/defeated- then okay again- then back to crazy/down/defeated, and, most of all, that no one is ever alone in feeling that they’ve been to ‘some far out places’.

Those who:

Feel the breath of sadness

Find they’re touched by madness

Find themselves ridiculous

(who are)

In love

In fear

In hate

In tears

Sit down next to me

We can all sit together in the awareness that we share these things in common.  All of us.

And when those ‘secrets I can’t keep’ and ‘insights of the day’ prevent me from sleeping, I can always hear some James in my head, telling me they’ve been there too.

At some point the words reassured me enough that I slept- and got up ready to meet the new day.  Even if it wasn’t a save my sanity personal day and I had to get to work.

James.

Love them.