Masonic Boom

"Crazy" "Oversensitive" "Feminazi" "Bitch" bloggin' bout pop music, linguistics and mental health issues

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Look On My Works Ye Mighty And Despair

It's when I wake, that it's hardest. Yes, it's nice not having to be woken by the dull but insistent buzzing of my alarm, but as I drift to consciousness, out of that fuzzy warmth, into the cold light of day, the purposeless sets in. It does not matter if I wake up or drift in that dreamy half-state. I have nowhere to go and no one to miss me if I don't turn up. Freedom from responsibility also means, unfortunately, freedom from the entanglements that connect you to the world, to other people.

I should have gone away. Even in Broadstairs, I rose and went out every day, convinced that I would miss some sight of staggering beauty in the many moods of the sea if I stuck to my bed. Why did I cancel my trip to Istanbul? I woke up one morning and the fear, the sickening feeling in the pit of my stomach outweighed my curiosity. I read about riots in Ankara, hundreds of miles away, but after reading Orhan Pamuk's snow, my stomach turned at the thought of unrest. The weather - the snow and ice and the chaos in Eurostar and at the airports. I had a sudden glimpse of myself, stuck in an airport in a foreign country where I do not speak the language (apart from a few cliches gleaned from pop songs) - and memories of the three days I spent in Newark Airport after 9/11.

And the fear of depression. The idea of being by myself, a stranger in a strange land, during the darkest days of the year. I feared my own mind more than I feared riots or bomb toting terrorists or snow and ice and plane crashes.

And so I stayed.

Mostly, I have spent my time writing. I'm not sure this is good for me. Yes, I enjoy it - and so, apparently, do the few people who leave comments on my stories. It's intoxicating, slipping into that other world like a warm bath. A world where even the unhappiest endings have a silver lining. Where everyone gets what they deserve, even if it's not what they expected. And when I'm not writing, I've been drawing, giving faces to my characters, making them real, or as real as anime characters can be. It's a kind of a drug, addictive, habit-forming and ultimately isolating.

But what else would I be doing? I don't think that many people realise I didn't go to Istanbul after all. Being cut off from ILX has been like an amputation. Yes, it's just a messageboard. I know. But it was a window - or perhaps even a door - to many real life friends. And with that door gone, I feel like I'm trapped on the wrong side of one-way glass. I can watch, but I cannot engage. I haven't even asked if the ban has been lifted - even the rare times I drop in to lurk... I feel utterly unable to reengage. There's the annual FT pub crawl this afternoon, but I shan't be going. Pub socialising is hard enough for me, but with the added social dis-ease of sitting next to these people, wondering if any of them pushed the button, voted me out? If they didn't have to look me in the face, would they vote me out of the pub, as well?

I should reach out to my other IRL friends, but it's so hard. That nagging feeling that I'm a bother, an irritation. Using the social tools of the internet provokes strange sorts of dissonance. Social networking provides the illusion of intimacy without the substance. You can read someone's updates and believe that you are interacting with them in a meaningful way, but one-way conversation is ultimately empty. These technological spiderwebs are much more fragile than their real-world counterparts. Make the wrong step - have one friend move to Facebook and another to Twitter - and you can fall out of synch, as if the bonds never existed in the first place.

I've been reading old stories, Deep Field and Loving In A World Of Deisre - mainly because A has been asking about them. This whole universe that existed for a brief bubble and is now gone, archived only in bits and pieces on the WayBackMachine. Except the world of Entertain Me! was very much a collaborative world. We checked over, edited, guided, and even participated in each others' stories, in a way, like a sort of quilt-making. One of the writers noted, sadly, that although she had her grandmother's quilt proudly displayed at the end of her bed, the ephemeral nature of the web meant that these cobweb worlds we worked on would never be passed down to our children and grandchildren in the same way. (Is this true, though, I wonder as I send the manuscripts on to A, watching like a proud parent as she draws inspiration from my stories in her own work. Fathers are terrified that their own children will surpass them. Mothers hope and pray that they do.)

Impermanence, impermanence, all is transience, a friend of mine was in the habit of muttering when the world seemed too awful, though I was never sure if it was Buddhist philosophy or her Catholic childhood peeking through. To her, this brought comfort. "And this, too, will pass." Time wipes away everything - the good things and the bad. The double meaning of Shelley's Ozymandias - "Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair." It is both the threat of the all-powerful Pharaoh against rival demagogues and the ultimate triumph of time itself, ravaging all earthly kings' power until nothing remains but ruins.

In the end, nothing remains of ourselves but our descendants. And this is, yet again, where it hurts. I leave no descendants behind me. As I leave behind my last year of my 30s, and with it, the last of my unused fertility, I feel useless, superfluous, just another old, unwanted, excess woman. A weird evolutionary bubble, an artifact, like the appendix, with no biological reason to exist.

Life is long. I've got another 40-odd years of this, if the women of my family are anything to go by. That's a long time to go without a purpose. But as I look at my mum, my grannies, I realise that none of them actually found their raison d'être, their purpose in life until their 40s, when their kids had grown up, their husbands dead or run off. My grandmothers discovered Science, one became a professor of Botany, the other a writer of maths textbooks. My mother, in an act of rebellion, discovered Religion and became a priest.

I can only take comfort from the idea that I am in chrysalis form right now. I have not become what I will be in my final life stages just yet.

And so, at the end of the year, I count my blessings. I am comfortable - in fact, I am, at the moment, wealthy, which came as a shock when I checked my bank balance. I am, for the most part, healthy. It is only loneliness which cripples me, and not actually depression. I have much which excites me - at least in the world of music, my one true love.

I am disconnected, yes, isolated, lying dormant, waiting. But waiting for what? Looking for what?

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Celebrating Singletonia

Inspired by a random chat I read on a messageboard, a girl complaining how sick she was of reading facebook updates or twitters or whatever of other girls complaining about their rubbish boyfriend. I replied, the answer to that is simple: dispense with them entirely.

She thought I meant to dump said rubbish boyfriends and obtain a new one. No, I didn't mean that at all. I meant dispense entirely with boyfriends and the desperate need to obtain or keep one.

I was being frivolous of course. Having myself been celibate for... christ, 4 years coming up next March, it's not as if I don't *miss* sex. I filled out a LiveJournal survey and the answer to the "thing you would have liked to have had this year but didn't" or "hope you get next year" remains sex. It's not as if I don't get terribly, horribly soul lonely. (Though that, honestly, has less to do with not having a boyfriend and more to do with not having a "best friend".) And yes, I have caved in several times during the past few years and joined internet dating sites and even ::gasp:: gone on dates.

But the stark truth remains, I am single because I don't *want* a boyfriend. (Or, perhaps, to put that a bit more harshly - because I don't want to settle for the kind of boyfriend that seems to be available to someone like me.) Because I don't want all that stupid bloody hassle that seems to go with obtaining and keeping a boyfriend.

If I were in a more financial state of mind, I might go about estimating the amount of money I've saved. However, I can still do this as a mathematical analysis:

Since I have Officially Given Up Having Boyfriends:

-Amount of money I've spent on cosmetics, makeup etc: £20
(and granted, the great majority of that was buying nail varnish to refinish my bass guitar in)

-Number of professional haircuts I've had: 0

-Number of shitty movies I've had to sit through because BF wanted to see: 0

-Number of parties or gigs I've had to leave early because BF wasn't into it: 0

-Number of shitty parties or gigs I've not been able to leave because BF insisted it would be disloyal of me not to stay: 0

-Number of videogames I've had to watch someone play: 0

-Number of diets I've been on: 0

-Number of unsatisfactory sex acts I've had to participate in despite not being "in the mood": 0

-Number of pregnancy scares I've had: 0

-Number of early morning trips to the chemists for morning after pills: 0

-Number of nights I've been dragged out to pub with BF's mates when I wanted to stay in and read/write/sleep: 0

-Number of pointless, long-lasting IRL fights I've had over some stupid misunderstanding that turned out to be nothing: 3
(OK, despite not being in a relationship, these things still happen with bandmates)

-Number of uncomfortable shoes I've worn more than once: 0
(sometimes it takes wearing a pair of shoes once to find out how uncomfortable they are)

-Number of uncomfortable second dates I've been on, wondering what on earth I saw in bloke the first time around, if I'd simply had too much to drink and mistaken drunkenness for camaraderie: OK, 2

-Number of bad records I've been forced to endure in mine own home: 0

-Number of times I've been told, in mine own home, to "turn that bloody shit off": 1
(OK, I believe this was @GiaScala's reaction to Justice)

-Number of art openings/DJ sets/gigs etc. I've had to sit through, bored off my arse, simply to show "moral support": 0

-Number of times I've had to waste hours of my time listening to diatribes and complaints of BF who shrugs off mine own concerns: 0

-Number of times I've been:
-physically seized or otherwise assaulted during an argument: 0
-told I look "fat" (or otherwise unattractive) in that outfit: 0
-emotionally blackmailed or manipulated: 0
-cheated on: 0

OK, now this is starting to get depressing. But you kind of get the point.

It's really hard, sometimes, at the holidays, with the entire world seeming to conspire to shove this image of family and coupledom and the like down your throat, to make you feel as bad about your single status and lack of family as humanly possible. Sometimes it takes being really negative, and remembering all the awful, horrible, bad things about being in a relationship, in order to feel happy or at least content about being alone at this time of year.

So, in case, anyone wonders, I'll be spending Xmas day alone, in my flat, with the phone turned off, watching last season's episodes of Doctor Who and eating loads of junk food.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Some Things I Have Been Listening To In 2009

So this is really not going to be a Top 10 list because, quite frankly, I find the idea of "Top 10" lists absurd when it comes to music. Yes, I know, this is very unlike me. I have a mathsbrain and I just LOVE putting things in order, making lists, in fact half my job involves tabulating league tables. The problem is, my mathsbrain revolts at the idea of trying to quantify something which simply does not involve numbers. A proper Chart is one thing - I'm perfectly happy to discuss who has sold the most records or who has garnered the most plays, on radio or iTunes or Last.FM or wherever. These things are quantifiable and orderable.

But aesthetic quality? Emotional impact? "Importance" (either in one's own life or in general cultural terms)? These things are not quantifiable.

Also, what on earth is a year-end (or decade-end) list supposed to be tracking? "Best Of" - as in, representative of the finest musical offerings your culture has to offer? How on earth is one supposed to judge that, given that most of us can never even hope to listen to *every* record that comes out in a given year. (And that's not even getting into the complex layering of gender and race biases that dictate what is even released, let alone critically lionsised or Rated - and how those race and gender biases interplay with notions of "genre" and pidgeonholing and ghettoisation etc. etc.)

Or is it just "Favourite"? I'm going to try and go with favourite, and try only to worry about how the music I select is representative of *myself* rather than make some sweeping statement about What Music Was Great In 2009. (especially because there are quite a few records that I have *not* heard this year, which I am convinced might have been "best" had I got to hear them in time.)

Here are some albums I really loved this year, in alphabetical order.

Black Meteoric Star - Black Meteoric Star
Techno/dance music interpreted in a way that a dirty dronerock girl can understand.

Broadcast & The Focus Group - ...Investigate Witch Cults Of The Radio Age
Odd, warped radiophonic record about EVP. It doesn't sound like an album, it sounds like an artefact you discovered in a dusty library.

Electrik Red - How To Be A Lady Vol. 1
Super-joyous, sex-positive girl group singalongs with utterly lush production.

Fever Ray - Fever Ray
The creaky, claustrophobic sound of losing your mind from cabin fever in a deep Norwegian winter.

Lindstrom & Christabelle - Real Life Is No Cool
How could Linstrom's yummy kraut-drone-cosmic-disco possibly get any better? He could add a female singer and lashings of classic 80s girlpop.

Little Boots - Hands
Bouncy electro disco-pop with songs about maths. Come on, this was made for me.

Memory Tapes - Seek Magic
Like all those odd shoegaze-tronic 4-track tapes my sisX0r and I made in my bedroom, with a chorus pedal and a 505, only much, much, MUCH better.

Phantogram - Eyelid Movies
Nu-gazetronica that actually manages to both capture the woozy boy-girl vocals and textures that I love about shoegaze *and* still hold up as a decent electronic record.

St. Vincent - Actor
The most "grown up" record on this list, but still proof that being a grown up doesn't mean you have to become boring. A real sleeper of an album full of unexpected moments of beauty.

The xx - The xx
One of those landmark "important" records that actually seems to unite disparate groups of critics coming from completely different ends. How can so many people read so much into such minimal music?

There are other records that should have been on here, had I spent more time with them (Lightning Dust, the new Raveonettes). There are artists who were omitted simply because their record was too similar to a record I had already included (I could have tipped the Annie record over Little Boots - or ASDIG or the Telepathe record over Phantogram) There are whole genres missing - despite the education about say, R&B I've got from The Lex, and about dance... bobbins from the Erol forum - firstly because those are such single-oriented genres*, and secondly because I don't think I really *know* enough about them to make an informed choice. There are people who couldn't get it together in time to get a proper album out in this year (Aeroplane, Beyond The Wizards Sleeve, I'm looking at you.) This isn't supposed to be complete, or canonical. It's just some records I really loved.

*That's another list all together