Songs that can change a life #4

This IS kind of funny.  Especially the part about the Leafs…

Haven’t done one of these in too long…

I love music (in case you weren’t aware) and I have to admit that I sometimes over-gravitate to the same old songs (emphasis on old). This isn’t to say that I don’t listen to and appreciate new music- but there are certain songs that truly are like old friends.

The beauty of the Shuffle Daemon is that it brings these old friends back into my life when it’s been a while since we last hung out. The other day, as I waited for the metaphysical enigma that is the King streetcar, the SD reminded me that I hadn’t visited this old buddy in far too long.

Once upon a time a week wouldn’t have passed by without me giving it a listen. Seriously, some of my friends still hear this tune and think of me. It’s another of those story songs that I so adore. It tells the story- based in a particular time and place- of a town in economic collapse and the social conundrums that result.

And it’s The Jam.  N.B. The ‘posters’ in the video: “Anti Complacency League! Baby!” and “If we aint getting through to you- you obviously aint listening!”  I concur.  3 wonderful, jam- (and Jam-) packed minutes.

While I waited for that most elusive of streetcars (seriously- where do they go? At least 10 passed by in the other direction in the 20 (!) minutes I stood waiting. They have to turn around sometime. Don’t they?!?!  And who, exactly, decides that they should be short turning during rush hours when there are dozens of people fighting for standing room on the ONE car that is actually permitted to complete its route in its entirety? Yeah, we don’t need a better-functioning public transportation system downtown at all, do we Mayor McCheese? Useless subways in Scarborough are far more important…), those opening notes (in a live version I picked up somewhere) came over the headphones.

Not only is it peppy and catchy and undeniably well-constructed, it’s also experience-based recollection and social commentary that still rings authentic and important. Once again, more than 30 years after the fact (stuck in the 80’s this week.  Mea culpa).

The Jam were representative of the melding of punk, new wave, and mod revival that came out of the UK in the late 70s-early 80s. Based out of Woking, Surrey, they combined the anger that fueled punk rock with the stylish R&B and tailored appearance of 60s mods, and, like the Kinks (as I’ve said repeatedly) emphasized their Britishness through the subject matter of their songs.  They focused on issues that affected their working class backgrounds- in the community from which they hailed- and the social problems they saw in their travels across the UK as they played the clubs.

Paul Weller has crafted some of my veryvery favourite songs, ever.  (My Ever Changing Moods from his Style Council days, not to mention You’re the Best Thing… listen to them.  Seriously.)

Town Called Malice recalls his teenage years in Woking, part of the Greater London Urban Area.  The title of the song is a play on the 1950 novel by Nevil Shute, A Town Like Alice, although Paul had not read the book before writing the song.

The novel is, in part, about its heroine’s attempts to bring economic prosperity to a small town in the Australian outback, turning it into a ‘town like Alice (Springs)’.

Being an eminently talented wordsmith- and British to boot (the Brits are so wonderfully adept at word play- especially when it comes to ‘sounds like’ constructions and rhyming slang.  Sight tangent: I came up with the ‘subtitle’ of this little blog o’ mine- ‘Made of the Myth’- after having heard a news story about the ‘Maid of the Mist’- those tourist boats that take you up close and personal with the glory of Niagara Falls.  To this day, the ONE person who picked up on that is a British buddy of mine- who cottoned on immediately.  Such a way with the language, our British brothers and sisters…aaaaaand we’re back), Paul was more about connecting the rhythm of the book’s title with that of his creation- and the shared concept of towns facing hard economic times.

As a legal term, malice refers to intention- either expressed or implied- to do harm to another.  Now I’m no lawyer (understatement, that), but according to Wikipedia/Pythia: ‘In any statutory definition of a crime, malice must be taken… as requiring either: 1) an actual intention to do the particular kind of harm that in fact was done; or 2) recklessness as to whether such harm should occur or not (i.e. the accused has foreseen that the particular kind of harm might be done and yet has gone on to take the risk…).’

Recklessness.  Hmmm.

‘Better stop dreaming of the quiet life
‘Cause it’s the one we’ll never know
And quit running for that runaway bus
‘Cause those rosy days are few

And stop apologizing for the things you’ve never done
‘Cause time is short and life is cruel but it’s up to us to change
This town called Malice…

…The atmosphere’s a fine blend of ice I’m almost stone cold dead

…A whole street’s belief in Sunday’s roast beef
Gets dashed against the Co-op
To either cut down on beer or the kids’ new gear
It’s a big decision in a town called Malice.

The ghost of a steam train – echoes down my track
It’s at the moment bound for nowhere –
Just going round and round

Playground kids and creaking swings
Lost laughter in the breeze
I could go on for hours and I probably will
But I’d sooner put some joy back in this town called Malice’

Standing on that street corner in the freezing cold, waiting for the public transportation- a ‘hot button’ election topic- to show up, those lyrics echoed in ways they have never done before (and, as I’ve said, I’ve know the song by heart for over three decades).

Reckless malice.

Since Ford is determined to continue playing the Media Star, at least he is admitting that the new YouTube programme is nothing more than a glory-seeking, extended campaign ad.  Okay, maybe he didn’t say that exactly… He is welcoming questions from ‘all around the world’- and most of them are concerned with the sideshow that he has become, internationally.

Gotta say, I’d really prefer a mayor who is more concerned with the state of our city and its citizens than with shoring up his image and reinforcing his narcissistic need to ensure that the spotlight remains focused on him and his own deluded self-image and -importance.

The rights to Crazy Town: The Rob Ford Story, by Toronto Star reporter Robyn Doolittle (one of the three journalists to first view the ‘crack video’), have been sold and will likely be made into a film.  Setting aside what I may or may not think of Doolittle, I am outraged that it seems to be acceptable to be keeping this guy’s name and image in the media.

National ‘newspapers‘ are already casting the film.  We are continuing to reinforce his lack of judgement, self-serving and unsupported sound bites, and his knowingly reckless behaviour.  And I’m not just talking about the shit (yes, I said ‘shit’- I’m PISSED OFF) he pulls in his ‘private life’.  Believe me, waiting for the 504 streetcar on Sunday, I had a loooooong time to think about his ‘transit plan’ and the mess that he has made worse in the three years since he was elected to run the city.

He is at least as big a train wreck politically as he is personally.  THAT seems to be getting lost with the spotlight being continually shone upon his antics.  He is not a clown.  He is not a ‘celebrity’.  He is the elected leader of the largest city in Canada and he has repeatedly demonstrated his inability to uphold the responsibilities of that role.

If we are to be subjected to this buffoon on all varietals of media between now and October (and then, hopefully never again), how’s about we pay closer attention to the truth of the matter than the sensational circus of shame.

Expressed or implied intent to do harm.  Foreseeing that harm will be done, and recklessly charging ahead regardless.

Sounds like Malice to me.

We’re ‘at the moment bound for nowhere- just going round and round.’

‘It’s up to us to change this town called Malice.’

Listen up, fellow Torontonians.  Join the Anti-Complacency League.

Please.

PS-  From the ridiculous to the sublime… this is making headlines all over my news feeds- especially those that come from my beloved Royal Ontario Museum.  The discovery really has nothing to do with this post- nor with the stuff I usually talk about- except that it is demonstration (if further remains necessary) that destroying our natural wonders for the sake of economic expediency also leads to the destruction of all those things buried beneath the surface of this here world of ours- natural AND of human origin- that help to tell our stories.  Can’t wait to check out the previously unknown species!

There it is again…

I’m not really the type of person who looks for signs or stuff like that.  But I do try to listen to what the universe seems to be telling me.  Since I believe that we, as people, are interconnected in numerous ways, I do subscribe to the idea that synchronicity exists and is at work in our lives.  I’ve written about that before.  When things aren’t going all that great, it’s easy forget that these connections exist so sometimes we need a kick in the butt to get us paying attention again…

January/February is not my favourite time of the year.  In addition to the polar vortices (anyone else getting completely sick of the overuse of that particular hysterical buzz term, or is it just me?) of biblical proportions (it’s freakin’ cold out there again today) and a distinct lack of sunlight, I find that my brain tends to slow into hibernation mode- and likewise isn’t up for much in the way of social interaction or, to be frank, productivity.

Winter blahs to the nth degree.

So, given the usual late-January ick factor, yesterday was an unusual day.  I was productive at work- despite the fact that I needed those fingerless gloves (think Bob Cratchit at work in any theatrical/filmed version of A Christmas Carol) to effectively type the regular daily correspondence (wearing them today, too.  Polar vortex, you suuuuuuck) and feeling like was I getting somewhere with a few things on the new job-search front, so the fact that I have been feeling a little less-than-myself, and not particularly inclined to write stuff lately, was less wearing and seasonal-affective-disorder-triggering than it has been.

Before I left work I got an email from a dear friend regarding an in-the-works CBC radio story on a topic close to my heart.  The one I wrote about here.  This friend gave the producer my name to possibly have a chat about my experience with and perspective on the whole thing.  Interesting, indeed.

I headed home on the TTC, grabbing the first bus that showed up so as to not have to stand in the cold for long.  Mistake there.  That first bus took me not to a nice, warm subway station where I could get on a nice, warm subway, but to a streetcar line.  Which would be fine.  In reasonable weather.  But it seems as though the streetcar lines don’t play nicely with polar vortices, so the connecting streetcar (which was there right when I got off the bus- THAT never happens) was going nowhere.  Which also meant that all the streetcars that showed up after it were also going nowhere (given that they all use the same tracks).  There were lots and lots and lots of people exiting streetcars with nowhere really to go.  Instead of waiting around for shuttle buses to start arriving, I started walking.

Toronto is a great town for walking.  Normally.  The downtown wind tunnels when the wind chill is making it feel like -30+ degrees Celsius?  Nope.  Not fun.  Not great at ALL.

But, once I was committed, I walked.  The rest of the way home.  After a few blocks I could have hopped a subway but I have this stupid stubborn streak that, MetroPass notwithstanding, makes me feel lazy or something if I take public transportation for a minimal distance.  One subway stop?  Silly.  In January with brutal wind chill?  That might have been the more prudent option, actually.

Point of all this?  I was walking past things I wouldn’t normally be walking past- if I’d taken a more sensible route from here to there/there to here.  I stopped in for a coffee partway- it warmed my hands, even if it burned my tongue- that helped make the last few long city blocks survivable.  Liquid warmth clutched in mittened hands, I cut through the courtyards between buildings and found myself beside the venerable CBC MotherShip itself. 

Just as this song came on the Shuffle Daemon:

Followed by:

and then:

Once home and (somewhat) thawed out, I got to thinking about the opportunity to share my two cents (which is what I do hereabouts, after all), having my voice heard by some who might not otherwise hear it, and the potential positive outcomes that such an opportunity might bring.  I’m certainly not counting chickens- opportunities aren’t always realized, after all- but there seem to be some things moving in my little section of the universe.  And even the barest hint of a whisper can sometimes, if properly nurtured, lead to the necessary volume required to affect change.

I also realized that it was six years ago this week that I defended the thesis that earned me the title of PhD.  Achieving that designation has taken me down a number of paths- and none of them are the one on which I thought I’d be traveling.  This, I realized, is okay.  Knowledge and experiences are never wasteful- and should never be wasted.

Even with the lassitude that winter always seems to instill in me, I’ve started 2014 with the intent to bring about change.  For myself in my own life, and in matters that will contribute to changes in my wider community and world.  I’m still working out strategies.

But….

I’m on my way to City Hall tonight to attend a ‘how to become a candidate’ meeting in the Council Chamber (yes, that famous site of so much of the recent press attention our ‘mayor’ has brought upon us.  I can’t even think about the latest escapade.  Maybe tomorrow I’ll be ready to talk about it.  Although I’m sure it will be well-covered by Jon Stewart, so not sure I should bother).  Not because I’m thinking of running- at this time, anyway- but because I’m genuinely interested in learning about how the process works and the steps required to declare and then pursue candidacy for municipal office.

Basically, I’m doing things and looking forward.  Which, when it’s cold and dark and the News keeps getting on my nerves (there was that speech the PM gave in Israel too.  Was going to write about that… We’ll see.), is nothing to sneeze at (there is more than enough sneezing going around here, surrounded, as I am, by people who SHOULD be at home, in bed, with the flu).

Well, my soul checked out missing as I sat listening

To the hours and minutes tickin’ away

Yeah, just sittin’ around waitin’ for my life to begin

While it was all just slippin’ away

Well I’m tired of waitin’ for tomorrow to come

Or that train to come roarin’ ’round the bend…

There WILL be better days.  I’m doing what I can to expand the reach of my small voice.

Have to keep that in mind.