Friday, March 31, 2006

Of course the music is a great difficulty. You see, if one plays good music, people don't listen, and if one plays bad music people don't talk.

TheBoy and I were discussing music and songs that we like and such the other day, and it got me to thinking about those songs, or lyrics, that reverberate throughout your life - always having meaning (even if that meaning shifts as you grow and change), or constantly evoking a stage in your life that has (generally thankfully) passed.

I'm passionate about music, and tend to get stuck in late '70s/early '80s punk/ska/new wave era. Anger and aggression and fun and the beginnings of goth music and it's all good. Well, mostly.

Bizarrely, however, that era isn't necessarily where I get my "memory trigger" songs from. I listen to that era for true enjoyment, to dance or sing along. Those songs that trigger a reverberation in me...they tend to be not so much for the dancing and singing along.

Because I'm a maudlin beyotch.

So, in some sort of bizarre order, but probably not really, here are some of the songs that really affect me, and the reasons(ish) why...

Novacaine for the Soul by The Eels

This is off the album Beautiful Freak, but I have never listened to any other Eels songs. I heard this on Triple J back in 1996, and it was on that year's Hottest 100, and I became seriously obsessed with the song. It's one of those incredibly angsty songs that goes so well with your early twenties, when you're trying to figure out the world, and doing incredibly stupid things as part of that learning process. Lyrics like "You'd better give me something To fill the hole Before I splutter out" reflect that sense of not being engaged in your life...Well, they do to me, anyway. Listening to this song is guarenteed to take me straight back to that time, the emotional landscape that I had, and generally I get into a bit of a funk when I listen to it. Which, of course, is kind of the point.

Pepper by Butthole Surfers

This is off the album Electric Larryland, but as above, I haven't really listened to that much else by the Butthole Surfers. I, again, heard this on Triple J back in 1996, and it was, again, on that year's Hottest 100, and, you guessed it, I became obsessed with the song. Must have been my age, or the time, or something. Anyone sensing a pattern here?

Anyhoo, the most reverberant thing for me about this song is the chorus:

"I don't mind the sun sometimes
The images it shows
I can taste you on my lips
And smell you in my clothes
Cinnamon and sugary
And softly spoken lies
You never know just how you look
Through other people's eyes"

And of the chorus, the most important part for me are those last two lines. That realisation that you eventually come to that you can never understand other people, and they'll probably never truly understand you, because nobody can get into someone else's head.

I really explored that a lot, and it is kind of the basis of my favourite episode of the The X Files: "Jose Chung's From Outer Space". Everyone sees, describes, remembers, the same situations from completely different perspectives - because what else can you do? It comes from your perception, your needs, your context - how could your description of any moment be anything like anybody's experience of that moment?

What other songs, hmmm? (Coming back to finish a piece almost two weeks after you started it is a little confusing...)

Anna by The Beatles

This is off the album Please Please Me (yes, I prefer the earlier pure pop Beatles. I will give in my Music Appreciation badge, and hang my head in shame.) I love this song, initially because it was on a mix tape that one of my mother's boyfriends gave her, and I always used to listen to the tape as a kid. It was only many years later that I realised a) Anna is an unusual song to put on a tape for your girlfriend (who shares the name) given the lyrics:

"All of my life,
I've been searchin' for a girl
To love me like I love you.
But every girl I've ever had,
Breaks my heart and leaves me sad.
What am I, what am I supposed to do?"

and the story behind it that Anna wants to leave the guy because she's in love with someone else, and b) that the whole mix tape was a poem to the relationship between my mother and her boyfriend - with songs like Anna, Suffragette City by David Bowie, and Eighteen by Alice Cooper. All of those years I'd been listening to it, and never realised that I was listening in to this private conversation within their relationship.

Weird. And maybe the wrong interpretation, but one that I stick with!

Man Overboard by Do-Re-Mi

Off the album Domestic Harmony, this song...this song used to (and sometimes still does) say to me everything I needed to know about heterosexual relationships. The song caused a bit of a stir upon release because it contained the line: "You talk about penis envy, Your friends applaud". The anger and passion with which Deborah Conway spits out the lyrics just opens me up every time I hear this song. And such wonderfully bleak and angry lyrics they are:

"I've tried to play it open handed
I've tried to make a fist of this
Even when the questions are candid
My arrows miss
I've heard about your fragile ego
Your shield, your sword
What am I expected to do?
Shout man overboard?"

Okay, I admit it. I am incredibly cynical about relationships. It's a thing. Even when in one (*waves at her beloved*), I'm hard pressed to be a true romantic (whatever that may be). So here goes with trying to explain the next song choice.

Rest In Peace
by Joss Whedon, from "Once More, With Feeling".
Performed by James Marsters

Not the whole song, mind. The most romantic lyrics I have ever heard, and that make me all gooey and sigh deep inside, are from the slow break in this song (the section which, I believe, actually began its life as part of another song):

"I know I should go
But I follow you like a man possessed
There's a traitor here beneath my breast
And it hurts me more than you've ever guessed
If my heart could beat
It would break my chest

And in bold is the line that makes me all choked up - because Spike's a vampire, and he has no heartbeat.

I'm taking a moment...And I'm done.

To borrow from Neil Gaiman - I don't ask you what romantic songs make you all gooey, do I?

So, on that note, I think I will away to dig out my singles collection and figure out some more songs that I can list the next time I can't think of anything useful to say.

Happy listening!!

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Thoughts on a funeral

Well, yesterday was Chocolate's funeral. There were two services, a Catholic one, and an Anglican one.

Chocolate was deeply spiritual, and that spirituality had found its expression through the Christian church. However, by the time that I knew him, he had found a different path for his spirituality, one that included only the good things about Christian doctrine (acceptance, faith, helping your fellow human, know, the real meat and bones of any belief system) and added little bits and pieces from elsewhere, like Buddhism and philosophy - and an awful lot from the Jossverse (Joss has an awful lot to say about the use of, the meaning behind, the reason for faith). Chocolate once said that he truly believed something that Joss said in an episode of Angel: If there is no grand plan, if nothing you do matters, then the only thing that matters is what you do.

I've long since given up calling myself a true athiest - I don't know what it is that I believe in, but I do feel the call of some form or another of spirituality. I had an amazing experience a few years ago, when I went to a teaching by the Dalai Lama, and if I was a true athiest, I don't think that would have affected me the way that it did. I do have some real problems with the expression of doctrine, and going to a series of religious services was going to be a difficulty for me - but I needed to go, to experience that formal set of ceremonies around mourning.

Knowing all of this, I understood that the Catholic service was for the benefit of his family, and his mother most particularly. Catholic services can be very moving, being as they are full of pomp and ceremony and very pagan like on occasion. And some parts of the mass were very moving, and healing, but...the priest (Father?) conducting the service did not help at all. He had not known Chocolate, and his homily truly reflected that, causing myself and some of the people I was with to feel uncomfortable and slightly lost.

There was a wonderful moment at the beginning of the mass - a picture of Chocolate had been placed upon his coffin. Now, Chocolate hated people taking photos of him, and even worse, posting them where they could be seen! And so, when the photo on his coffin suddenly fell face down during the mass, the first thing I thought was "Chocolate really doesn't want his photo seen, does he?" I could just see him tut-tutting about the fact that somebody had put his photo out there, tilting his head quizzically, and very seriously explaining why it wasn't necessary to have a photo of him at all.

Don't get me wrong - tears were shed, and plenty of them. I just found that I could not take comfort in the words that were being said - I took comfort, instead, in the Browncoats around me, and the knowledge that everyone who was in the church was there to mourn someone that they had loved deeply.

The Anglican service was a little better, a little more relaxed, if that were possible. There were almost half the number of people again at the Anglican service than had been at the Catholic service, so it was very packed. And again, some beautiful words were said by friends and family, and some lovely stories told about the Chocolate that I had not known, the Chocolate who was part of a church community for 20 years, who touched such a huge number of people.

It was an important part of the mourning process, this funeral and cremation. I do, however, look forward to the shindig that we're having today - the Browncoats are hosting a wake for friends and family, and then we're having a Browncoats only shindig, where we'll plant a tree, and say some words about Chocolate, and what he meant to us as a community. Then, there'll be food and drink and laughter and tears and reminiscing and tall stories and more drink and hugs and probably more tears. But I think the laughter will outweigh the tears by the end of the night, because if there was something that Chocolate was always good at, it was bringing a smile to your face.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Give me your hands if we be friends...

What is community? What is family? Who do we love, and why? Where do connections come from? And what the hell do we do when we lose part of that community?

These sorts of questions have been buzzing around in my head for a couple of days now. They've always been there, but are in sharp relief at the moment.

I'm involved in a very strong online community of Browncoats. We're spread out across Australia, across the world, and we are in each other's pockets and hearts all of the time. This is the first online community I've ever been a part of, and it's become more important to me than I could ever have imagined when I first registered onto one of the forums.

I've organised shindigs, I've met Browncoats from around Australia, I take part in a podcast about the Jossverse with other Browncoats, I've opened my heart and my mind to this most extended of extended family.

Nothing can quite describe the way that this family is formed. The first time I met Mim face to face, when we were looking at accomodation for a weekend we were organising together, we got on immediately. Different background, different lives, different everything...well, except, you know, female and stuff. But you get what I mean (I hope). And then, on the weekend, there were 10 or 15 people, all of whom had only just met - when they arranged to get lifts to the accomodation, or when they walked in the front door. And yet...instant bonding.

Is it because our love of Joss Whedon's work means that we identify with that idea of formed family? Is it because we are open to a different interpretation of community? Is it because the medium of forums and emails and PMs is such an intimate form of communication?

Or is it because we want to be part of an extended community, all of us humans everywhere, and when we find it, it just.feels.right?

Whatever makes the Browncoat community so damn strong, and makes me love all of my fellow Browncoats so damn much, I thank the Internets every day for putting me in touch with this family of mine.

The centre of the Australian Browncoats community is Serenity Oz, and the centre of Serenity Oz, and the patriarch of our family, was a Browncoat called Chocolate. And, yes, I said "was". Chocolate died last Friday night/early Saturday morning.

For some Browncoats, it's been really hard to describe to their offline friends and family why Chocolate was so important to us, and why his death has left so many of us hollow - even those who had not met him face to face. And this is where the internet community is perverse - his typed words touched people across Australia, and whilst only a couple of handfuls got to meet him over our time together, everyone on the boards felt his presence, and mourn the loss of his light in the world.

I was one of the lucky ones. I've known Chocolate offline since August of last year, and he was always there for me, and always happy to listen and advise me. He had a wicked sense of humour, a brilliant smile, and when his shyness fell away, he was the strongest and demonstrably the most loved of our Browncoats.

So what is a community? A group of people that loves together, supports each other, celebrates every member, and is there for each other when we mourn. Damn it, Chocolate was a community all on his own! And I, we, are all thankful that he chose to join ours, and shine brightly in the centre of our hearts.

...and Robin shall restore amends.

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