Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Rainy Taxy

Last few weeks I have been ruminating on this here blog about men’s  stories, especially relationship narratives (not necessarily romantic in nature) and about self-perceived shortcomings that can be remodeled at will. Many posts are connected to song lyrics and all of them are things I think about when awake, and feel even when asleep. If you’re into this kind of tales go and see other posts with tag “On Relationships”.

And now, let’s continue.

Not all men’s relationship narratives are vanilla, like one would suspect from slew of fear centered stories in previous posts here. That’s because not all men are vanilla (what a boring world that would be).

Far away on the other end of the spectrum some men are rocky road… and they write entirely different stories. It is difficult and sometimes downright useless to try to differentiate between man and his narrator, between creator and character that speaks to the audience. One work of art is never enough to ponder upon where this line can be and sometimes a hundred are also too few. And then, some just keep on recreating same character in every story they write. It may also be that this one is not the creators' doppelganger or even kin, but this is a fact that speaks just as much information as creating a mirror image would.

However it might be I find this completely endearing - to see the consistency layout of some authors.

This is a man with astonishing quantity of wonderful, fierce and full-blooded consistency in lyrics he writes for himself, even when playing in different projects with different people, and yet… consistency does not diminish quality of his work nor it makes his stories predictable. To return to the topic of relationship narratives consider this list (just an example, not opus overview):

Believing Is Art (Girls Can Tell, 2001)
Stay Don’t Go (Kill The Moonlight, 2002)
I Turn My Camera On (Gimme Fiction, 2005)
The Ghost Of You Lingers (Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, 2007)
Got Nuffin (Transference, 2010)
Flaggin’ A Ride (A Thing Called Divine Fits, 2012)
Rainy Taxi (They Want My Soul, 2014)

All of those stories speak of affection and intimacy in such a way it is clear there are no rose-colored glasses anywhere in the scene (note: “Things everybody should know / The end will come slow / And love breaks your heart” in Believing is art back when Daniel was 29 yo) but that does not mean that protagonist does not dive quite passionately into full-blown, not only engaging but also commitment based relationships  (like:” When I'm with you, all my brothers, oh, I feel like a king, It feels like I'm dreaming / When that blood goes rattling through my veins, My ears start to ring, I notice what matters /And I got nothing to lose but darkness and shadows, Got nothing to lose but bitterness and patterns” from Got Nuffin’). There is a noticeable pattern of growth and maturing of the storyteller, but fundamentally - nothing changes. He takes bitter with the sweet and builds as much on his weaknesses as he does on his strengths.

Now, in 2014. 43-year-old Spoon frontman writes stories like Rainy Taxy, cornucopia of emotion, unyielding and luscious stage set for one person to come to all conclusions without even contacting the other side:

You catch everything I never could
You believed when I gave up for good
And when you stand beside me, I could tell I was stronger than I've ever been
But if you're gone, you know you don't come back

That other person is always existing, important and yet the song has a particular feel of trial in absentia. I do not say this as an accusation but more as a familiar, thoroughly and intimately known chain of events that I have seen (myself do) and have felt unfold a million times. I cannot sincerely say I feel any blame or resentment toward this modus operandi, even acknowledging there may be better ways of resolving real-life situations. That being said, in my humble opinion, not many better ways of narrating those situations exist.
I came home last night, I had no good news
I came home last night, I had no good news
And you've been sleeping through the brightest flash of apocalyptic ruin
And if you leave, I'll never sing another tune

There is always this passion, this sex under a thin veil of what “gentleman does not reveal” and this is what I love most in his lyrics; this promise that intimacy present does not stream out of purely spiritual connection. Fuck spiritual connections if there is no butt cheek to grasp behind that spirituality.
Put on your red shoes, sing it to me, lover-girl
When you do, my love, I forget the world
And if you say "run," I may run with you
I've got nothing else, I've got nowhere else

After this orgasmic climax, this promise-turned-carnal-gratification (because this is what both the lyrics and music tell us) story goes on to reemerge in real life, life of pros and cons, of floods and ebbs happening inside people as well as between them.
As the sun goes fading in the west
There's an army east that's rising still
And when you stand beside me, I feel something stronger than I ever could
But if you leave, you better run away for good
Leave, you better run away for good
Leave, you better run, run, run
Leave, you better run away for good
Ooh, run, run, run away
Ooh, run, run, run, run, run

They Want My Soul has a lot of truly excellent songs with great lyrics but I love Rainy Taxi best because it contains this essence of “another flavor” relationship narratives. It is at the same time restrained and passionate, desperate and hopeful, guided by reason and by hormones and it does not turn away from either gentleness or violence of passion. I like that. I like to think that emotion and experience is valuable and that sometimes getting hurt is fair payback for getting emotion and experience. Not putting yourself in a position of vulnerability, of possibility to get hurt, means not putting yourself in a position to be rewarded either.

And I do love my rewards.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

What Makes a Hero?

Last few weeks I have been ruminating on this here blog about men’s  stories, especially relationship narratives (not necessarily romantic in nature) and about self-perceived shortcomings that can be remodeled at will. Many posts are connected to song lyrics and all of them are things I think about when awake, and feel even when asleep. If you’re into this kind of tales go and see other posts with tag “On Relationships”.

And now, let’s continue.

Sometimes there is no need to invent the wheel again, so I can just share this wonderful story of how cool and simple is to be a hero.

With today's post so quickly out of the way let me just go back to dragonslaying ;)

Monday, November 17, 2014


Last few weeks I have been ruminating on this here blog about men’s  stories, especially relationship narratives (not necessarily romantic in nature) and about self-perceived shortcomings that can be remodeled at will. Many posts are connected to song lyrics and all of them are things I think about when awake, and feel even when asleep. If you’re into this kind of tales go and see other posts with tag “On Relationships”. 

And now, let’s continue.

My very favorite man’s story about fear of failure was written by Brad Arnold, one of my favorite lyricists and vocals of all times.

I first heard it long, long time ago, 3 short term partners and a husband ago, when it was released in 1999. I remember loving the beginning; the war drum and the ominous feel of something important about to happen. I remember pervasive feeling of doom I felt and still feel as he sings that first verse:

I took a walk around the world
To ease my troubled mind
I left my body lying somewhere
In the sands of time
But I watched the world float
To the dark side of the moon

I feel there is nothing I can do, yeah

Being both comic enthusiast and person quite fond of pop-cultural references I’ve always felt that I would love this song even if it did not draw out such intimate doubts. But it does. And those intimate doubts are perfectly interwoven with iconography so great and so male it would be completely understandable to go too far into theatrics and pathos. And yet it doesn’t.

If I go crazy then will you still
Call me Superman
If I’m alive and well, will you be
There a-holding my hand
I’ll keep you by my side
With my superhuman might

It is so rare to see mark of a true hero - humility - being a part of the western narration. Rarer still to see it presented as an understandable and everyday part of human relations.

You called me strong, you called me weak,
But still your secrets I will keep
You took for granted all the times
I never let you down
You stumbled in and bumped your head,
If not for me then you'd be dead
I picked you up and put you back on solid ground

I love how he shows commitment as strength and shows power as a tool, not an end in itself - and he does this through accepting vulnerability, through continuing and building his relationship with - no less than! - Kryptonite.

There’s a short quote on Wikipedia of Brad commenting the lyrics and he says:

"That song seems like it's really just kind of like asking a question. Its question is kind of a strange one. It's not just asking, “If I fall down, will you be there for me?” Because it's easy to be there for someone when they're down. But it's not always easy to be there for somebody when they're doing good. And that's the question it's asking. It's like, “If I go crazy, will you still call me Superman?” It's asking, “If I'm down, will you still be there for me?” But at the same time, “If I'm alive and well, will you be there holding my hand?”

There are a lot of unknowns in a man’s (not necessarily a male man) life - a lot of “dark side of the moon”s that present themselves with randomness we cannot exert our control over. Additionally, they are not always outside of ourselves either. Some unknowns even aren’t inherently bad things, but even they can introduce lot of disruption into relationships, sometimes much more than bad things.

To keep one’s head up and choose to be a hero against certainties and not odds, in my book that is what makes the difference between man and scenery. Person and still life.

And it’s never too late to become a hero.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Believing Makes It Easy

Jonathan Meiburg on KEXP

I love Jonathan Meiburg. I hate Jonathan Meiburg.

Of course, as I do not know the man, it is the idea of the man that I talk about. It is the familiar in the strange, jigsaw puzzle of accessible information and emotion. One would say one reacts most when confronted with close to mirror image of one’s own idiosyncrasy.

When Animal Joy was released I was not actually waiting for it eagerly. I have heard Rooks and The Golden Archipelago and they did not stink but they never spoke to me. Animal Joy, on the other hand, hit me straight in the plexus with strength of a beserker. Animal Joy, with its flare of renaissance fairs, visceral virility and unforgiving lyrics' paintbrush describing through images of emotion, moments frozen in time.

Even with Jonathan Meiburg’s notorious secrecy in the field of lyrics explanations there is some space for speculation of what’s really happening here.

We have here one J.M. (36) college graduate with English and Religion majors who went (on a grant) "to study daily life in remote human communities to Falkland Islands, Tierra del Fuego, the Aboriginal settlement of Kowanyama in Australia, the Chatham Islands of New Zealand, and the Inuit settlement of Kimmirut in Baffin Island, Canada”, geographer and bird enthusiast keen to express himself through music, seasoned traveler, scientist highly trained in perceiving his surroundings and person with the experience of marriage and its resent dissolution writing all lyrics for an album.

What (and how!) can it be about?

To me, this is a conceptual album. Storybook. Coming of age.

There are many reviews of this album noticing that something new is here, something not seen before. There are also many interviews with lots of chaff to go through.

There is this new both firm and pop sound, so differing from artsy disconnection of previous albums. There is this storytelling, this aura of beginning in the beginning (with Animal Life) and going through the moves, learning his way around (Breaking The Yearlings, Dread Sovereign, You As You Were), being suddenly confronted with the unexpected (Insolence) from an unexpected source (Immaculate) and forced to re-think and re-conceptualize (Open Your Houses, Run The Banner Down, Pushing The River), until some sense is introduced to hurt (Believing Makes It Easy) and new path opens to show that it is growth, rather than loss, that which is happening (Star of The Age).

“Yet no matter how personal Meiburg gets, he’ll still be a long way from truly confessional songwriting, the kind of let-it-all-hang-out lyrics that share (and sometimes over-share) life’s triumphs and disappointments. “Well, no, you’re never going to get me there, I don’t think. I have a distrust of confessional songwriting. It can seem so unsophisticated and dull,” he says. “But on the other hand, it can go that way if you go too far away from the personal also. You end up with the same problems.” , tells us one of the interviews.

I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say that this English professor is in no danger to become unsophisticated. I’m also suspecting he knows that there is no better way to hide personal than in plain sight.

Why Believing Makes It Easy? How did I single it out as my favorite on an album with 10 more excellent songs, with each song invariably contributing to make the story whole?

Because to understand that believing makes it easy is the single most important realization of any person’s life.  Realization that gets you through thick and thin, through conflict, through sorrow, through loss of trust, through everything.

Through everything.

I believe in the rush
I believe in the gathering radiance
I could walk alive
through a burning wall
believing makes it easy

And it comes from someone I see as an epitome of an escapist.

I love Jonathan Meiburg. I hate Jonathan Meiburg.

I am Jonathan Meiburg.

Friday, November 7, 2014

How To Get Rid of Fear of Failure?

I took this picture of cake top in one of Zagreb malls. I love how they look each other as if speaking without words :D

I had an interesting discussion yesterday about the issues of love and, more closely, issue why I see this question of fear of failure wrecking relationships so important.

“It is a question of expectations.”, my friend said. “It is a question of you being hurt by someone so it grows into resentment that makes you see men in an unflattering light.

Well, no.

I have been hurt by that at some point, but I have been hurt by other things too. And being bisexual I have been hurt also by girls, and I would say that I liked being hurt by girls far less than being hurt by men. But that is all just personal preference.

As I have already said before I like men’s stories more because I feel them more comparable to my own. It is not resentment, it is compassion that determines my emotional reaction to them. It is that I feel I can understand those experiences better because I too feel them firsthand; not at the receiving end of the hurt, but at the giving.

Even though I usually don’t give the impression of having fears of any kind (or so I am told) I do harbor a fear or two that could be classified as crippling fears that f%#k up performance. And they have cost me both gratification and relationships.

That I really did not like.

I did not like the losses, I did not like the consequences and I especially did not like being responsible for allowing the fear to control me.

That was just unacceptable.

I come from the long lineage of people who do not rock the boat and are perfectly content to live their whole life in unsatisfactory conditions all the while complaining about them, but not changing anything. I am in position to see firsthand what are the consequences of choice of that lifestyle and how my life would look, decades into the future, if no changes are made. As all men must make that choice for themselves - to proceed with life by inertia or to swim against the current - I made my choice and I’m living this choice now.

How do you get rid of fear of failure? And, even more - how do you get rid of fear of responsibility? (what used to be my biggest problem, and sometimes still is)

You start by baby steps;

1. Identify the behavior that causes the problem and admit that there is an emotion of hmm… unpleasantness that propels that behavior. Understand that emotion you may not be able to tackle directly, but behavior is completely in your power to control. You could carry that emotion with you for some time more, even after you change behavior, but this will not last forever. You should know this and should not let yourself be discouraged by this lingering feeling. Everything in life takes time (as it also took time for your fear to disrupt your daily life) so it is understandable that this does also.

2. Find example to emulate; someone who you would like to be like. Someone who shows consistent behavior that reflects values you would like yourself to reflect. It can be real person or character from a book, series, movie, game.

3. Imitate. Imitation is first stage of acquiring any new skill and it is also sincerest form of compliment. Mold your behavior to look like behavior you admire and grow closer to the person you wish to be.

4. Build on that. Be vigil to feedback, every some time ask yourself is there something else you wish to change or simply stop for a while and admire the good work you’ve done. Reward yourself with some experience you thought inaccessible to the person who you used to be.

Some people will not support the change and you will have to leave them behind. Don’t worry, everyone who really is your friend and not a parasite will welcome the improved you. Some parasites will also join you later, learning from your example (and showing you how excellent your quest really was). Some days will be easier than the others and some will stink and be boring and hard and “Why the fuck am I doing this?!” but they will grow fewer and fewer and further apart from each other and you just need to persevere.

Once or twice you will “fall of a wagon” and fuck up a situation or three but in time you will learn to enjoy those instances because they will show you how far you have come in your quest to be…