This Thing Called Self-consciousness

16 08 2020

Frequent visitors (are there any?) will recognise that my posts are often spurred by odd coincidences in my life – most usually in threes. We all perceive patterns that aren’t necessarily there (pareidolia anyone?), and in my case something flicks a switch when I at least perceive that I’ve noticed three related things pass through my consciousness.

The first item – a singleton of no particular note at the time – was my wife remarking that she was enjoying a Netflix series called “Love on the spectrum“. It’s an Australian 4-part reality show about various people on the autism spectrum trying to find life partners.

Netflix trailer: Love on the Spectrum

I admit to being pretty sceptical. It sounded like pure voyeurism and I suppose I anticipated something on the lines of the Bachelor or Love Island (neither of which I’ve actually watched so perhaps the comparison is even less meaningful!) I wandered into the lounge because my wife kept laughing out loud. I was prepared for producing a negative response, but I was actually very impressed.

The clip I saw involved a date at a restaurant. I was struck by the fact that the production team had obviously selected a quiet, reasonably isolated locations to reduce stress on the participants. Michael in the above clip, was one of the participants. Anyway, his date suddenly felt overwhelmed and stood up from the table. I was very impressed by how the film crew audibly asked how she was doing and made it clear she could move off camera and collect her thoughts in privacy and in her own time. Humane behaviour over “getting the shot”. Michael to his credit was most concerned for her well-being and it all felt respectful and compassionate whilst still being “real”.

Sure, they had some cheap caricatures of each participant’s likes and dislikes (i.e. potential behaviour triggers), but I thought the programme did an amazing job of showing humanity in all its shades. The clips of home life were well selected to show caring, supportive families going to great lengths to point out that their children’s “love issues” were the same for everyone – shown clearly in the above clip of Michael’s family dinner. These were family members to be supported like all others, not “projects” to be endured. Some class parenting on view here.

So anyway, this was the first as-yet unremarked corner of my triangle.

The second corner came last night when I was trouble-shooting why Spotify refused to play any music. It was bouncing rapidly down my playlists without actually playing anything and occasionally saying it couldn’t play that tune just now. Not in the mood?!

Eventually I figured out that when Windows put my HDMI-connected monitor into sleep mode, it was also turning off the connected speakers. No issue – it only powered it down after 30 minutes of disuse, to save power. Trouble was that when it re-woke the monitor, the PC was no longer able to reconnect to the monitor’s speakers. Only the directly connected headphones. Go figure. It knew they were still there, but somehow “out of reach”.

Anyway, once sorted, I randomly selected a Kate Nash playlist, and enjoyed remembering a very low key concert she gave in Vancouver a few years ago. Listening, as I do, to the lyrics, I noticed that a few of her more recent songs explicitly referred to mental health issues. She’s often blunt in her lyrics, but they’re raw and real and all the more powerful for that. I was particularly moved by “Don’t You Want to Share the Guilt?” with its lyrics:

The sun is going down now
And it’s been okay
You tell me all these things you did
While I was away
And this worries me somewhat

I don’t know how more people haven’t got mental health problems
Thinking is one of the most stressful things I’ve ever come across
And not being able to articulate what I want to say drives me crazy

I’m not sure about rivers, they scare me
But I love swimming, I’m good at it
And when I swim I think about numbers
And count the laps

It starts as a rational statement then spirals out into self-referential stressful thoughts which I think many of us experience to some degree on the way to anxiety. Rivers scare me, but I love swimming, but I zone out and count the laps in the pool, but… We over-think so many aspects of our experiences.

YouTube version of Don’t You Want to Share The Guilt?

Anyway, it struck me as a clever treatment of mental stress and how it isn’t a digital “normal/not normal” thing. There’s a whole spectrum of mental health issues and we travel up and down it (actually – in multiple dimensions) constantly. I’m not sure if Ms Nash was making a statement about her own mental health or just putting a spotlight on the general issue. Either way, it was very well done I thought.

Corner three was in the same sort of vein. Having figured out how to get Spotify to reliably play my “tunage”, I dipped into Mother Mother this morning.

One of their later songs “It’s Alright” from their “Dance and Cry” album really moved me.

Mother Mother: It’s Alright on Vevo

It has a simple message:

It’s alright, it’s okay, it’s alright, it’s okay
You’re not a monster, just a human
And you made a few mistakes
It’s alright, it’s okay, it’s alright, it’s okay
You’re not gruesome, just human
And you made a few mistakes
It’s alright

How many of us suffer in silence because we need to hear that our behaviours are not enough to label us as demons or monsters? Someone to take the time to listen to us share our thoughts, coupled with our own willingness to share those thoughts in the first place and listen when someone is kind enough to tell us that it’s alright – humans being. (sic)

My perception is that as a society we’re a lot more able to share our inner thoughts and fears than we were say 60 years ago. Mental health is no longer seen simply as an issue for the fringe, or an excuse for avoiding military service. We’re not “there” yet though, and depression is still often seen as weakness.

Mental health is important, and many of us are still unwilling to acknowledge it even within ourselves. We can all help though: ask someone how they’re doing, but really listen to their response. Don’t judge. If that seems too much, try simply smiling at someone that looks like they need it. It may well help them and it will definitely make you feel good about sharing some good vibes. Need some practice? Try this at Movember’s site.

I’m no psychologist but I know we’re social animals and when we feel emotionally isolated, especially when we’re physically not, it can be a strong driver towards depression and any number of negative behaviours.

November’s a way off yet, but don’t wait – consider supporting Movember or other mental health charities.

Nora Batty’s seriously wrinkled stockings

15 12 2012

So if you’ve no idea who Nora Batty is, firstly check out a few classic episodes of Last of the Summer Wine. It’s based in Holmfirth, a lovely little place in West Yorkshire.

Kathy Staff as Nora Batty. Source Jane, over on Noisy Shoes

Anyway, apart from the inherent value attributed to it simply because it’s a mention of Yorkshire, the reference is entirely irrelevant. If you’ve already been and checked out Last Of the Summer Wine – I apologise. It’s not very funny, is it? But the scenery is worth it. I have no idea how they found so many non-raining days to film the series!! I can attest that a great way of upsetting your spousal partner is to frequently interject with “I’ve been there”. It works wonders at whittling away marital stability it seems.

Anyway, now we’re safely back from that cul-de-sac (Literally “bag’s bum” in French), on to the real tale…

I often have lunch at Murchie’s in Richmond, near my office. It’s actually their distribution centre, but they have a little café on the side which sells lovely salads and of course their luxuriant range of tea. The lovely serving wenches there (I jest – no comments thank-you. I wouldn’t DARE call them wenches to their faces. Or bottoms, for that matter) are very friendly and pleasant. To the extent that the whole point of having a salad at lunch seems lost on them. I often have a serving so large that it cascades apologetically over the tub (designed to standardise the portions!) and onto the paper plate added to the ensemble for the purpose. I always have Russian Caravan to drink. I am reportedly the only person to have it, yet am teased frequently with questions of whether I’m having “my usual green tea” or the Earl Grey.

Anyway, where was I? Holmfirth, Murchie’s, tea, ah yes…

So Murchie’s often have the radio going just to add a little ambiance to the otherwise rather stark room. They’ve done their best with the addition of a (non-functional) pot-bellied stove and some half-hearted Welsh dresser thing as a display cabinet, but when all’s said and done… it’s an industrial unit. And it looks like it!

But the music helps. I’m normally trying to read some book or other, and the music helps set the mood. Usually it’s Sirius satellite radio (why do North Americans pronounce it “serious”?!) The time of day I’m there, it’s some acoustic programme, and they often have classic songs being re-imagined either by the original artist or someone covering it. There’s no commentary (cheap radio production), but thanks to Shazam, I can usually figure out who is singing any songs I like, and I can acquire a version when I get home.

There was one tune on pretty frequent rotation, and it really hooked me. I used Shazam, and it turned out to be Norah Jones – Say Goodbye, from her brand new album Little Broken Hearts.

Bring me back the good old days,
When you let me misbehave.
Always knew, it wouldn’t last,
But if you ask, I’d go again.
Yeah, I’d go again.

Here she is performing it live

So anyway, I duly ended up getting the whole album, which is moody and opulent. There’s some boppy yet thoughtful tunes like Happy Pills

And the downright creepy Miriam. Ms Jones is plainly not someone to cross in matters of love!

Anyway, I now listen to this album on rotation in my car, alongside Regina Spektor, Coldplay, Mother Mother, Lloyd Cole (who was VERY cool and personally messaged me the other day!) and a bunch of other equally eclectic tunesmiths. And then I hear the other day that Ravi Shankar has died.

Wikipedia: Ravi Shankar

I confess that I was only vaguely aware of his work, and that was strictly in the orbit of George Harrison and the Beatles. A tiny fraction of his work and influence. And those two threads might have stayed forever blowing independently in the breeze until this evening. This evening (after watching Life of Pi), Mrs E casually mentioned that Norah Jones was his daughter! Turns out her full name is Geethali Norah Jones Shankar. Her half-sister Anoushka Shankar took after their dad and is an accomplished sitar player too.

Music it seems really does flow through your blood!

On the connectedness of ideas

30 09 2012

There’s a theory that every person on the planet is “connected” via no more than 6 degrees of separation. i.e you know someone that knows someone that… well, you get the idea.

Ideas are the same. One idea leads to another, that in turn leads to another, and you end up pretty well at any idea you like. Tell me you’ve surfed the web and not had that demonstrated in spades. Or shovels. Or diamonds if you prefer card suits to garden implements. Or perhaps trowels if you’re only a small time surfer. See? We’re ever so good at grabbing connections out of the air and linking things. Edward de Bono wrote a whole book on it: Lateral Thinking.

Richard Dawkins had the concept of a “meme” – an idea that follows the evolutionary concepts laid down by Darwin. Good memes grow and prosper spawning better and better memes, lesser ones are driven out of the meme pool and shrivel up into the idea fossil record. Hm… I buy it in large part, but there are some really, really bad ideas out there that look pretty strong to me. But let’s leave politics and religion out of this post, shall we?

So how did I get here? Well – I was following up, reading blogs of those who have honoured me with following this quite irrelevant Quieter Elephant. In a comment to one recent posting, I read this unassuming line:

We only accept the love we feel we deserve.

It stopped my eyeballs in their metaphorical tracks, and I wasn’t sure why. Eventually I realised it was because it reminded me of another gem I’d heard in person.

We teach other people how to treat us.

Quite a powerful idea really. That we are in control of how other people behave towards us. The same is true of the earlier quote. That we are in control of how well we feel loved. Others may be gushing warm and fuzzies all over us, and we may simply be not recognising it because we don’t feel we deserve that love. Or perhaps that type of love. So I looked up the phrase (it seemed like it might have been a quote). It turns out that it is used in the book The Perks of Being a wallflower which is now a film, I believe. This was wry smile inducing because this book was suggested to me by the person who proposed the second thought – that we teach others how to treat us.

And then a song came into my head. A Mother Mother song from their new album The Sticks: Love it Dissipates. I’ve had the album on constant loop in my car since it was published a couple of weeks ago.

This song begins with the lines: “If you were a country, I’d be your flag”. Because Mother Mother are a bit quirky, the song continues a little non-standardly (I’m on a roll making up new words tonight! If Shakespeare can do it, why can’t I? Don’t answer that MM) on the imagery front, but still in the same vein: “If you were a smoke, I’d be your drag”.

By the end of the song though, we’re on “Oh baby, if you were a convict, I’d be your cell” and “If you were a housewife, I’d be your living hell”

We finish the song with the thought that “I mean what I say; When I say; Love it dissipates”, leaving us with the thought that love that was once close and mutual can become torture for at least one of the people involved.

Hm. Well, perhaps. But so can many things. Unless we value them enough to work at keeping them. I think that’s the crux – we take a lot of things we value for granted, and stop TRYING.

If we learn to value ourselves, we can more easily come to feel we deserve all the love that is offered. And that in turn can allow us to teach others to love us all the more.

There – that was a load of late-night bollocks wasn’t it? Thoughts anyone?

We’ll be glowing in the dark

22 04 2012

So you remember how I said the Mother Mother concert was beyond awesome? No? Then go read it here.

Well it’s not surprising that the somewhat larger budget of Coldplay lent itself to a correspondingly further step beyond awesomicity in Vancouver last night. They have so much sway that the Canucks/LA Kings playoff game was postponed to tonight just so Coldplay could take over Rogers’ Arena, cover the ice with some 8×4’s and rock the joint (I can attest to this latter part from all the heady fumes being wafted my way.) Hopefully the Canucks didn’t waste the extra day… we’re 3:1 down at the moment!

Though the concert was to support the Mylo Xyloto album, there were plenty of old favourites in the nearly two hour show. My favourite “Green Eyes” was not there to share in the mix though, sadly.

We arrived at around 7pm which was the “doors open” time, but there was already a support band in full swing. The Pierces. Meh. Wasn’t too upset we missed most of their set. A bit like a karaoke version of Fleetwood Mac. The sound mix was all to cock, and too distorted. On reflection maybe that was for the best. Anyway, as we entered the venue, we were all asked to take a wrist band. It seemed like a bit of a naff souvenir, but what the hell…

We made our way to our seats in the arena, caught the tail end of The Pierces, and watched the main support band, City and Colour. This is basically Dallas Green (City/Colour, geddit?) from Alexisonfire, and a bunch of rotating musicians. There was a most unlikely suit and tie clad slide guitarist in last night’s lineup. Kudos! I’d not heard any of his stuff before, but it it was interesting enough to track some down, though one or two of the offerings went on a bit…

So then the lights go down and the roadies get the stage together for the main event. During this time, the screens (which were bloody distracting – I had to keep forcing myself to watch the actual band. We are so conditioned to watch screens, George Orwell‘s Big Brother would cream himself) kept showing instructions on how to wear the boring looking bracelets and assuring us they were part of the show. OK – I’m convinced.

Then firstborn sends a text. She and beau have been forcibly ejected from their seats (all the way on the other side of the arena) due to a problem with their tickets! We’d all been barcode-scanned on entry, all the tickets (6 in total – 2 eldest plus their drooling beaus, Mrs Elephant and I: well away on the other side of the show) had been bought via TicketMaster… what could be the issue?

Anyway, it turns out that a Canucks season ticket holder had bought tickets to the Coldplay concert, and he had preferential access for HIS seats. No matter that TicketMaster had already sold them to us. With only 15 minutes to go before the show kicked off for real, and a sold out stadium, this was NOT good news. Thankfully my wife was off dealing with it, otherwise there might have been expletives and RCMP involvement (actually VPD, since Vancouver is too poncy to rely on the RCMP: they need their own police force.) Being Canada though, the lady dealing with seating was all polite and helpful, and firstborn and beau were quickly re-seated with the disabled people in a much superior viewing spot. The only slight downside being that she felt unable to get up and dance when the mood took her, out of consideration of her new permanently-seated neighbours.

So, disaster averted, Mrs E. returned in good time (with a small tub of Häagen-Dazs) to resettle before the show began, and all was well with the world once more. Until she couldn’t get the lid off the ice-cream. I’m ashamed to say that with two degrees and not a little engineering background between us, the removal of the lid took several minutes. No matter – the ice-cream wasn’t too slushy by the time we succeeded, and had returned the blowtorch and wire-cutters.

And then the lights went down and it began…

The wrist bands were actually strings of very bright LEDs – presumably triggered by some RF signal. The entire black stadium erupted into a sea of bright colours as the music began, and the fastest two hours of my life shot past. (Well, not counting those spent on Friday night over drinks).

Chris Martin is a great showman, and parodied the common airline spiel with: “We appreciate you have a choice of entertainment for your Saturday night and are grateful you chose to spend it with us.” At one point, air blowers threw out what appeared from up at the top in the cheap seats to be confetti, but looking at photos from closer in, I now see were tissue paper butterflies! (Oops – update… that was a photo from the Viva la Vida tour in 2009. This year there were a few different shapes.)

Flickr: by spacehindu

There were many visual elements to the show, with UV lighting picking out neon colours in the stage, on the instruments and the band’s casual clothing (no Sgt. Pepper-esque clothes for THIS album!) balloons of the globe were released from the ceiling and at one point large inflatable icons were produced in the galleries to add to the lights. These too included a giant butterfly.

During “God put a smile on your face”, Martin further endeared himself to the local crowd by tweaking the lyrics and assuring us we were going to beat the Kings 4:3 in the play-off series, which obviously went down a storm! There was one awkward moment when he threw his guitar into the air and let it smash down onto the stage. It made for a great slo-mo on the screens, but was very un-Canadian and a waste of an apparently perfectly good guitar!

Yellow was a great number, with the lights obviously being mainly, well, yellow…

Warning Sign had me closing my eyes to “be in the moment”, so I was glad to see someone had posted it to YouTube!

Charlie Brown was VERY colourful, with wristbands being a key part of the rendition, lasers everywhere, neon by the bucketful.

In the end, a very traditional close with a solid 20 minute plus encore beginning from within the crowd where they just suddenly appeared after a quick change into dry T-shirts, and the band eventually all lining up to take their final bow.

For more photos, go and check out Flickr!

The whole setlist is here if you missed it and want to recreate a local facsimile.

By the way, UK street artist “Paris” was key to the entire styling of this album. Read more here.

Fresh 102.7: Coldplay’s Resident Graffiti Artist, Paris – “It’s The Ultimate Dream Job”

Snow Patrol on 30th. Fiona Apple in July (if I can still get tickets and find someone to go with who appreciates her style).

Who says old people got no rhythm? (Don’t answer that…)

You too can look like Ryan Guldemond

23 01 2012

Recall my Beyond Awesome posting of 30th December 2011? Where I felt all smug for figuring out that Ryan Guldemond was wearing a T-shirt listing the J.J. Bean coffee-shop branches around Vancouver? Well, today I discovered that they’re available to Joe Public and elephants quiet and noisy alike from said coffee-selling establishments. Not cheap at $25 (including taxes), and it remains to be seen if they help your singing or guitar playing, but no more expensive than Mother Mother’s own T-shirts.

Let them drink coffee! (Or tea… but they didn’t sell it by the pot, at the corner of Bute. Philistines.)

Beyond Awesome!

30 12 2011

After a couple of months of waiting, I finally got to see Mother Mother play live today at the Commodore in Vancouver. A smaller venue than I’d imagined, but a great atmosphere.
Excellent setlist including all their well known tracks and one off the up-coming new album.
A few photos from my middle offspring who also attended…

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If you were wondering about the list on lead singer Ryan Guldemond’s T-shirt, they’re the locations of Vancouver’s J.J. Bean coffee-shops. Good places to get free WiFi if you’re close to the end of your monthly limit.

The encore finished with the great “Arms Tonite

I felt a lot younger leaving than I did entering… you knew I would!

Mother Mother

18 12 2011

Tick tock… can’t wait. Only 12 more days to go until I get to see Mother Mother live. My style councillor (who conveniently shares half my DNA and a large portion of my music tastes) put me on to them about a year ago with their song Arms Tonite from their O My Heart album. Quirky doesn’t come close. Turned out they were Vancouver based. Then turned out they’re actually from Quadra Island. (Could explain the poor spelling, I suppose.)

New album (Eureka) is awesome with Baby Don’t Dance and The Stand (below) standing out (no pun intended).

I especially love The Stand because of the senses being enumerated. Just sayin’…

(Oh… I forgot about handfuls!)

They’ve got three albums under their belt now, and I’m sure they’ll stay a while longer.

They’ve even got a free download of a Chrimbo tune on their web site.