Wednesday, 19 August 2015

The Gymmening

The first time I went to the gym, I was walked around it and given a sales pitch about personal trainers and prices. 
The second time, I tried to give them money but got sent away because the person who could take my money wasn't there.
On the third visit, I gave them money and filled out multiple forms promising that I was totally healthy enough to start doing things to make me more healthy.
The fourth time, I was walked around the gym (again) and told how each of the machines worked, clearly with the assumption that a short demonstration of twenty different things would be easy to remember.
Today, I went back again and was reminded how to use a few of them, along with demonstrating that I could maybe do a pushup or two, so that the guy with the timer and the pen could figure out what he thought I should be trying to do.

I think I might have run out of delaying tactics now.  Next time, I will have to do The Exercising.

Monday, 17 August 2015

Songs Telling Stories

My friends on Facebook are making a valiant effort to keep communicating meaningfully and overthrow the algorithms promoting clickbait and advertisements.  People are throwing out conversation starters, random questions and crowdsourcing webcomic and song recommendations. 

One of today's requests was for songs with narratives.  Not 'just hinting', but straight out telling stories.  And...well, a good portion of my music is folk music / singer songwriter / indy whatever that means (I am bad with music genres, just go with it) so I was valiantly restraining myself from posting whole albums.  And then I started thinking about it more, and thinking about the types of stories different songs tell. 

[ I mean, I long ago faced up to the fact that much of the music I adore comes from a very specific background and tells the story of a particular person. 

Really, I have so many stories of the woes of white American men in declining industrial regions, harking back to the golden age of the American Dream and pretending it was a real place...
And then there's some of the British folk, which talks dreamily about soldiers or lords or labourers, and I don't think it's possible to love the music and the tales without implicitly giving it a pass on the things it doesn't talk about or the people who aren't quite counted as people enough to have their stories told or hardships remembered.  And then there's the damn gender politics...
- Which isn't to say that some contemporary folk singers aren't doing an awesome job of rebalancing that, through re-interpreting, rewriting and doing their own damn thing. ]

Anyway, that was mostly a lead-in to me linking to a whole lot of music, because I refrained from swamping the Facebook thread with my enthusiasm.  This may turn into more than one post on the subject.

First up - because he was the consummate story-teller, and I really can't think of any of his songs which aren't narratives - Harry Chapin.  Humanitarian, overworked campaigner, fundraiser and apparently infuriating when he got onto his pet subjects, Congressional Medal of Honor holder, and guy who sang about a very particular America - a combination of the one he lived in and the mythic 'America' that he felt it was a part of. 

Okay, he got linked on the original thread for 'Cats in the Cradle'.  And, well, that's nice and it went on to be the song he's really well known for, but I think there are better ones. 

I mean, the guy wrote a ten minute single based on shootings at the University of Texas.

 And sometimes he sang stories about people being ignorant about their oncoming destruction, despite plenty of warning.  (If he was still around, I think he would have been one of the people getting Very Angry about climate change deniers, and then he would have sung about it)

I do think that my affection for his stories is one of the reason my music tastes get called depressing.  There's a lot of songs where things go wrong, or people end up regretting past deeds and dreaming of what might have beens.  Actually, this one is more like a horror story involving a succubus, if your mind twists that way.

And there are less creepy love songs.  Some of which are autobiographical, and many of them include that same kind of wistful quality of wanting something and just missing.  This one even has a story within a story.

The sad thing is that I could have posted about five songs instead of one for each of those examples.

However, since his post was inspired by my friend SF, I will finish with a song which was written with the kind of poor taste that I think he would appreciate, taking a fatal crash and turning it into a comedy song.  A song about a truck, a town called Scranton, Pennsylvania and....30,000 Pounds of Bananas.

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Summer Developments

I know, I know, it;s been a long time since the last post.  I seem to have spent the Spring (and most of the Summer) in the grip of depression and anxiety.  On the plus side, I now have a therapist who was able to actually point out to me that I do actually fit diagnostic criteria for pretty severe anxiety.

(Me: But I don't really feel anxious unless I do something like try to work or talk to someone, and I don't get panic attacks.
Him: So, do you avoid doing any of this long list of things?
Me: Oh yeah, pretty much all of them. The thought of them is terrifying.
Him: Yeah. That's anxiety.
Me: *Lightbulb* Ooooooh, so I'm actually just so awesome at avoidance that I don't even notice I'm doing it any more? Wow, my brain fucks me over in some interesting ways...)

This has been...interesting and kind of awesome in that now I'm learning how to recognise feelings of anxiety instead of just...oh, I have an overwhelming desire not to do that thing that I was planning to. Unfortunately, the internet has provided no magic ways to get over this, except CBT and graduated exposure - which kind of condenses down to 'get the fuck up and get over it (but, you know, over time)  and you might just have to accept living in a degree of discomfort for ever. But hey, you'll notice it less as you go on to do even MORE uncomfortable things'. 

So, I've been trying to do more things, and notice what my brain is veering away from and seeing if I can redirect it.  Which is useful but also exhausting because it adds an extra level of fighting myself.

(Apparently one thing I need to get used to the discomfort of is letting myself exist in social situations. So I'll start with the internet, post a few things and then maybe actually tell more than one person that this blog exists.)

The other thing I need to get into is the habit of writing.  Expressing myself is one of the things that I've slowly let dwindle away - honestly, it's much easier to say nothing or focus on being utterly unremarkable than risk venturing an opinion or being creative...and that's a line of thought that I've been following for years.  And of course, because I rarely risk it, I never learn to get over that fear of exposure - putting myself out there (where ever that somewhere is) where another actual person could have an opinion about me or my words. 

Why yes, I do need to write a 100,000 word thesis in the next two years.  And publish papers in journals. And speak at conferences in front of people I would like to be able to consider as peers. 

These things cannot exist together.  So, either I suck it up, retrain my brain and fear reflexes and learn to live with discomfort, or the PhD I've been working towards for 5 years will turn out to be a pipedream.