Posted in Of Musicals

Of Having A Music Identity Crisis

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Bob Dylan and The Beatles : Obviously Photoshopped

I am feeling strange talking about this. It’s like going to the doctor about a weird ailment in a part of the body no one talks about, other than in the context of a joke to encourage adult camaraderie. You can say what you like about the pimples on my face, but we can’t ever refer to….

Now, just to be clear, I don’t actually have anything going on, covert or not, that needs a doctor’s appointment. I do have a tooth issue going on for months, but who has ever felt shame talking about their teeth? No, what I am going through, and it must have been about a year (strangely, coinciding with the duration of my tooth issue), is a music identity crisis. I can’t decide what I want to listen to.

Yes, I can’t decide what I want to listen to.

Yes, I can’t decide what I want to listen to, and I could keep on writing that confession sentence for the length of this blog post and you wouldn’t need repetition to feel concern and ask me, “What has happened to you, Amrita? How are you surviving?”

Usually, I go about a genre or an artist like this: I don’t always discover them. I sort of know about them because my eyes and ears are always peeled for any information relating to music. But, I get into them when the stars align, and by getting into I mean, listen to everything, watch everything, read everything, read+watch+listen relating to everything, get bored and move on. If I never get bored, then they have found a place in the Hall of Fame located in my head.

So you see, it’s a dual-paced thing. There’s some casual dabbling around, and phases going on simultaneously, with also a third strand of dependability on solid favourites. Now, most of you who’ve been reading this blog for a while will say, yeah Amrita, we know what your listening life is like: defending 80s artists people destroyed in the 90s but no one should feel sorry for them because they made a lot of money at the time. And Kate Bush.

Kate-Bush
Kate Bush

Now, that is true, but that is also 20% of the situation. I don’t use the word eclectic, because I don’t want to be one of those obnoxious music connoisseurs who judge you on your preference because it doesn’t match theirs. I also hate to use the word connoisseurs to describe them (though most of them would not have a problem with that), but they sell themselves off as experts because they’ve dabbled a lot, spread themselves widely, surveyed the seven seas with Google Maps and they think that is enough qualification to say what’s best. You can see I have a rather big chip on my shoulder about this.

The easiest attack on them, while we’re on this tangent here, is to say they’re not real musicians. They listen to their vinyl records in the living room with an acoustic guitar aesthetically placed, and serving mainly, as decoration. (I’m not criticising you if you a) listen to vinyl and b) have a guitar. As long as you don’t c) judge people on their taste, we’re cool.) Most real musicians, in fact, have quite limited interests, and perhaps that helps their musicianship. We’re always surprised if they profess to like someone from a different genre, but I can vaguely surmise that real musicians aren’t too concerned with whether they’re listening to a lot of different stuff or not.

And so aren’t most people. They’re happy listening to the Top 40, or the radio, or music they listened to as teenagers. There are contrasting studies that suggest music that you listen to at age thirteen OR music that you listen to in your late teens and early twenties is the music you prefer. Now, that puts me in a difficult position because music I listened to as a thirteen-year-old was very varied but also, mostly crap. And music I listened to in my late teens and early twenties was almost exclusively cool, but I’m not sure if I would like to stick to only that for the rest of my life. You don’t read five books and say, ‘Yeah, that is all that I’m ever going to read, again and again and again.’ You want fresh ideas, fresh sounds, things that challenge you, things that surprisingly fit with what you want for the moment.

Like they say about relationships, there’s plenty of fish in the sea.

I’ve tried everything. And you’d be surprised at the results. I played Beatles baby albums for my nephew. He didn’t get on with them (might have something to do with either being hungry or sleepy. Shouldn’t be anything to do with The Beatles.) but I have started to listen to them, no baby in sight. Rockabye Baby!’s “In My Life” is particularly brilliant. Just put them on, do some adult colouring books, and there you have a lovely, stress-busting session just before going to sleep. And way better that putting on generic ‘Music for Relaxation/Meditation/Sleep’ etc. I like Bach’s Preludes, especially on the cello, but I’d rather listen to Macca’s “Golden Slumbers” baby-album-style.

And the other artist I’ve been listening to is, drum roll please, Troye Sivan. My 30+ year old reading audience is mostly going, ‘Who?’ He’s my latest venture into contemporary pop, one of those dabbles that is slowly transitioning into a phase. I discovered him through his video for “Bloom” and if you watch it, you’ll understand why I like him:

And it’s not just because of all the androgyny and sincere vulnerability and perfect choruses, and competent pre-choruses. Sivan just has some cracking tunes like the one below which, among a sea of collabs that are often so full of striking images and ideas, is simple and effective, two traits that make a classic:

But, these are the only crests. Everything else I’ve tried are troughs. I go back to the solids, of course, for I do need to sustain myself. I’m not going to be King Lear, shirking salt. But, don’t you just want to try new cuisines? Or different flavours of the same thing?

But, who do you turn to? I stopped watching TV after I left school, so I no longer have something like VH1 to seek inspiration from. I could turn on the radio, but Sivan-like accidents don’t always happen. Everyday, I go through my catalogue of artists and genres I know of through space and time, trying to hit upon what I’m feeling. Today, as I had a half-hour of chores to do, I thought to myself, “Hmm, I want guitar, but not someone who’s trying too hard to prove themselves, or not someone who’s too much of their period…” until I zeroed in on Jimi Hendrix’s Are You Experienced? I’ve listened to this and his other albums several times over the years, but it has never been a bonafide phase. But who knows? This could be the start of something.

So, you see, music itself is not the problem. And we can’t trust my moods and feelings either. I’ve lately felt as though I’m “sinking” by which name and mood there is a Cure song, but usually I like to listen to the opposite of what I feel. Currently, I need something with life. And when there’s too much of that, I feel the need to listen to something that’s sobering. Often I’m scared of listening to something I might really love when I’m not feeling up to it. And especially listening to something I really love, because it might possibly have no impact. I’ve even put on ‘Music for Relaxation’ because I couldn’t bring myself to listen to David Bowie.

And you wonder why I call this an identity crisis?

What music makes up your identity? What music would you recommend me to get out of this funk?

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Posted in Of Writingly

Real Time Ramble: Writing and Creating

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Write

I attended a writing workshop after a long, long time yesterday. I haven’t spoken favourably about them in the past, but that has more to do with the way I am than the way writing classes are generally conducted. I was relieved that I wasn’t asked the question, “Why do you want to write?” But, that was probably because of lack of time. Instead, we focused on writing itself. Not a how-to-write, but a more direct – write.

I panicked. I haven’t written much this year. I think it has to do with the fact that I’m getting older and I equate that with being more mature and how-I-hate-that-compound-word grown-up, which translates into the writing world as “write a book, you idiot.” That is it. I haven’t written much at all in 2018 because I’ve only wanted to write a book.

But, you cannot write a book in two minutes, which is what we were told to do in the first exercise. We were given a prompt – “Eye Contact” – and told to write as many words as possible that we associated with it, and then to write as many lines as possible that connected at least a few of those words.

Here are my words:

Tension  blue-green  hold  release  catch  swerve  palpitation  spark  intense  grey  bewitch  connect  eyelashes  lift

And here are my sentences:

The hold of her blue-green diminished in power as her attention swerved to the lightning spark tattooed on my left wrist. ‘And this is?’ she spoke, lifting her lashes to illuminate the brilliance of her eyes even more. I was getting good at this game of tension and release. Catch, I whispered in my mind, as I told her, ‘To commemorate my time stuck in the …’

Now, future Amrita wants to change at least 40% of the above. But, past Amrita, who had to come up with most of this in the additional 30 seconds which was given to her because she had only written ‘The hold of her blue-green’ before, was exhilarated to have come up with anything at all. To be coming up with things in the first place.

We also wrote a short story as a group which was just as thrilling. It was nice to bounce ideas, focus on whether words, phrases and the minutest details worked for what we were all trying to do. Obviously, it needed further work, but just to writing so publicly, so openly, which I really haven’t done in a long time, not for something related to storytelling, was a feeling I could see myself getting addicted to. And as with all potential addictions, it makes me panic.

Predominantly, I’ve been a non-fiction writer. I also write short stories, plays, bits and pieces of novels but never completed ones. Now, a novel can be anything, a book can be more of an anything and if I put all these bits and pieces together, something of a thing might possibly emerge.

But, then my mind swerves, as we did with my character up there, and I feel I should be grown-up about this and write something that might actually get picked up by a publisher. You might say that’s stupid, just write what you want to write and stop caring, but I haven’t been able to avoid these thoughts. Maturity, I believe, has nothing to do with age and everything to do with responsibility. As long as you do everything in your capacity to make life for yourself and everyone around you easier, you’re being mature. And you can do all that when you’re eight years old.

It was such a pleasure and a relief to be free from these thoughts in the duration of the workshop. To just create – i.e. put stuff together to reach somewhere you have little idea of as yet. It wasn’t about polishing anything, or working towards a definite purpose. I didn’t have to be self-conscious, as I became after it was over and we started getting to know each other. I know all this sound terribly romantic and they have not enlightened me in any guaranteed way towards getting to that goal of being a full-time book writer person who doesn’t have to commute to work everyday and can occupy herself with living in her head for greater periods of time. I’m not against work, of course, but I just wish life allowed more of this and less of…I really haven’t got words to adequately describe the other without being overemotional about it.

Maybe writing about it once (and when.and if.) I have some distance from my current life will help.

What do you like to create? Any tips on creating?

Posted in Of Culturel

Of Rating Things

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Photo by Tookapic on Pexels.com

I just ordered (and ate) some fish and chips. I am Bengali, and so, as far as stereotypes go, I expect my deep-fried fish to be as good as Mitra Cafe’s or Apanjan’s. I know it cannot be as good, when it is not from either of those establishments, or from a Bengali eatery at all, for that matter. But, I can’t help it if my standards are high – the fish should be that fresh, that flavourful, that truly melt-in-the-mouth. There aren’t many things that can live up to advert-speak, but if you’ve already tasted heaven, you know you won’t be rating mere earthly morsels as highly.

But, I shall have to rate it. I ordered it on a food app, and my statistical dilemmas have already begun. And I’ve also gone through the profile of the restaurant, which posed yet another dialectical problem – they provide very detailed replies to your relatively casual critiques. Imagine trolls, but those that actually make sense. Normally, these are people I would not only support and stand by and possibly join, but champion with big fat tears in my eyes because they are hard to come by. We would be comrades, for I’ve written many a detailed letter to all manners of companies and people, using the power of language and my sense of civic duty and justice to improve the quality of life, and right wrongs, and reward rights and so on. But, I’m not ready to take it.

I’ve been rated before, of course. I know what it is like. So have we all. We’ve all let our scores in schoolwork or work or sport or hobbies or whatever it is we’ve ever had foisted our way that comes with an ABCDE or a 1*2**3***4****5***** tell us what we mean to the world, and how good we are for it. We all know that most of it isn’t fair, or accurate, or even useful. And yet, we continually find ourselves trapped in the system of handing out, or being handed, scores that possibly cannot reflect who or what it is.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I love statistical analysis and all those things that, like all other science-y stuff, claim to explain the world as close to the truth as possible. I, myself, am more of a humanities person, so I do appreciate the paragraphs of wordy analysis underneath. Words are able to enunciate all the microtones between A and B, and 2** and 3***, and thus, provide you with some explanation as to why you’ve scored so and so, and what you could possibly do to score some more. The thing is, most of the time, I cannot, as the fish-and-chips-loving Brits would say, be arsed.

I’m generally generous. I try to keep a tab of my reading on Goodreads. I used to write quite snarky reviews before, but I don’t take myself so seriously anymore. If I find something truly extraordinary and personally affecting, it gets a five-star. If I admire its ambition and also gain something from it, it gets a four. If I don’t enjoy it but understand how others could, and how it could potentially influence others, it also gets four. The last two sentences carry different arguments, but they amount to the same rating. For further reference, I give a three-star to something that is not as well-written or useful, but not totally disposable either. I’ve never given a one-star, and only once did I give a two – which was to Richard Bach’s Illusions. One star for the central theme, and the other for the flying lessons.

fried fish with chili pepper and mint
Photo by Kaboompics .com on Pexels.com

As you can tell, my method for rating books – the only thing I think about the most out of all the things in my life – isn’t very scientific. Writing a book is such a hard thing to do (I’ve never managed to finish one), that I feel compassion for the writer even when it is badly written. I can’t even begin to comprehend all the factors that go into making and delivering food. If it is too spicy for me (and yes, I am one of those rare Indians who cannot handle spice), do I give it a lower rating? If it is stale, if it contains dead cockroaches or other members of the animal kingdom that are not meant to be there, then shouldn’t there be the option for a zero or a negative rating, for what could justify the one-star?

Even when you get a description of the rating, like in most Psychology questionnaires where you get a ‘most likely’, ‘almost never’, ‘sometimes’ etc., it doesn’t provide you with a foolproof answer either. Is there anybody reading this who has never said words like “I wish I were dead” or “Kill me now”? Assuming that was a rhetorical question, how are you then supposed to answer “Have you ever considered suicide”? Life’s a bit of a b*tch you see, who doesn’t want to take a break from it sometimes? But, that doesn’t answer the question or provide useful data to analyse. Let me put it this way, on a scale of one to ten, with one being the lowest, how likely are you to wish you weren’t here?

What if I just ate the book? I mean, what if I just read the book, and ate the food, no questions asked? That’s the whole reason I ordered on an app, because I can’t be fucked with a phone call or going outside and sitting at a table with a menu, trying to engage with a waiter who’d probably find me way too nervous to be a customer who needs to be served pronto. You can’t have your choice between statistics and a short essay. Ideally, you should do both, rate the thing, and write why you rated it so. Or risk the chance of being berated, as the restaurant I ordered from does to its customers. If you don’t participate in either, because you’d rather be kind and not say anything than say something unpleasant, or because you’re too busy to think about the thing you’re consuming then, well, you aren’t living your life fully, are you?

But, how unfully are you living it? On a scale of one to ten…or one to five if that’s too much…a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ would do? No? Oh, as in no, you don’t want to tell me. I understand. It’s your democratic right not to share an opinion, of course….

Do you rate/review things? What’s your system? On a scale of one to two, how likely are you to not respond to these questions in the comments?

Posted in Of Bloggingly

Five Years

So, this happened today.

I never dig out this cliche because I generally don’t seem to have a concept of time or memory but…

It only seems like yesterday I signed up for this!

I wanted to blog about a very serious book I wanted to write about some very serious topics. Until, I gave up and cliche number two of the day, decided to go with the flow.

And we are here. Things have been better, but we’re still around. Some of you have even been here for a long, long time. Thanks for all the, what must now collectively be, hours you spent on this little corner of the internet. Thank you very much.

I wouldn’t ask you to leave a comment (because I’ve been crap with replying to those this year) or a like (because we’re all too liberal with our likes. We must only hand them out when we truly mean to). In my heart, I will appreciate your taking the time with this blog past and present, and hopefully the future. Thanks again and happy blogging!

Also, BIG thanks to WordPress for making everything possible.

Posted in Of Philosophy

For All Those Who Think They’re Stupid

This is a manifesto/confession I wrote in my first year of college whilst studying English literature. My natural response when it comes to reading old diaries is to cringe, but I pretty much feel the same now, as I did then. I was reading The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing last night, where she writes,

Why is their interpretation of the word critic always to find fault?…That valuable person who understands what you are doing, what you are aiming for, and can give you advice and real criticism, is nearly always someone right outside the literary machine, even outside the university system; it may be a student just beginning, and still in love with literature, or perhaps it may be a thoughtful person who reads a great deal, following his own instinct.

For anyone who’s ever felt they’re not clever enough, whether they’re part of the system or not, everytime they’ve interacted with a piece or art, be it literature or music, remember the point of education is to be able to think for yourself and to present your thoughts taking everything into account as much as possible. It’s not sufficient to say, if you are arguing about it, “I don’t like this character/song/….” Why? Bring other people’s opinions in only if they help present YOUR argument better, and not because they have a string of degrees and awards attached to their name.

Posted in Of Bloggingly

The Point of Blogging

blank paper with pen and coffee cup on wood table
Photo by Kaboompics .com on Pexels.com

I usually have a title before I start writing a blog post, but not today. I can feel the adrenaline kicking in, as I dangerously write a blog post on the LibreOffice Writer without saving it. If you asked me to choose between doing that and missing being hit  by a speeding motorcyclist by an inch while walking down the zebra crossing with the red traffic light on (an event that took place this past Wednesday), I’d pick the latter. Well, I’d normally pick the latter. But, today I don’t care.

Who is this? Who has replaced the Paranoid Humanoid Amrita we’ve all grown to love and worry about in equal measure? I do wonder sometimes, what you guys really think of the blog and blogger here. Like, if I only had a well-thought out feedback form and survey that claims to take a minute, but results in you putting in several hours of procrastination before you get it done. Does this product you put your time, energy and Wi-Fi package behind really worth, what is the most valuable commodity in the room at any time, your mind?

I saved the post as “Of The Point of Blogging” because those last two sentences were, if I may say so myself and I will have to because I’m the sole worker of this large enterprise, rather good. I’m surprised how well the two sides of my brain work sometimes. I’m not brilliant in maths or anything (though I do like the occasional bit of statistics), but I can sometimes switch from a particularly low thought and recognise if the phrasing of the thought is artistically appealing, record it, and either go back to feeling bad, or feel better by further developing that thought. Call that creative, or opportunistic.

But, you know my unimprovable tendency to meander and before I have any more paragraphs of that, let’s get to the point. The point of blogging, and why I find myself discussing it with you on a hot Sunday evening. Well, since one of my blog posts about writing diaries got featured on Discover, Of Opinions seems to have found a new lease of life. Like some new green shoots have sprung out of it despite no effort on my part. And I’ve not been around with a watering can either. I’m getting comments regularly, and yet I’m not capitalising on the situation. Especially when the blog had been semi-dormant for all of 2018, with only one or two blog posts a month, and if my occasional love of statistics are anything to go by, no views on several days of the months we’ve had so far. It’s been a month after that, and I haven’t blogged since.

Before, I would blog about any old thing. I’d just sit down and get it done, without caring too much about whether it makes sense, whether it is nice to read, or whether it is as perfect as I can make it. Now, and this has been in the making for a while, I just don’t do it, if I don’t have anything I want to say. Which is an absolutely new feeling for me. I distinguish myself by my tendency to talk too much. If I’m out, people aren’t satisfied by checking whether I have a pulse. They have to hear me use enough words until they’re bored to know that yep, I’m still hanging on to this life thing. Not saying anything if I can help it, is not something I do.

But, I’ve had so many comments about writing diaries – which essentially is talking to yourself – that I find I have to start doing what I preach myself. At some point I have to start talking again because, for better or for worse, that is who I am. Take it or leave it.

Another reason for my finally sitting down to talk to you again after a month is actually something that had already happened before. Like I discussed in my blog post on The Daily Post shutting down, I found myself in yet another web content development workshop this week. I was bored being stuck in this thing, where nothing was new to me apart from having to work with Google Sites instead of WordPress. In fact, I might have come across as rather arrogant to the instructor as I told him how to upload videos onto YouTube. Throughout, there was a part of me that wondered how I’d never had to formally learn any of this before, how I’d acquired all this knowledge simply by self-pitying on a regular basis on the internet.

I realised so much can happen to you by self-pitying on a regular basis on the internet.

I was almost motivated to start working on a social media career as I feel stagnant in my present one. But that’s just the opportunist on the left side of my brain talking. What I can do, is stop neglecting this blog and start developing it instead. I’ve had new readers coming in, there must be something about it still that makes it worthwhile. I could insert a form asking you what that is…but, let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

What is the point of blogging then, I hear all you new and old readers ask? Developing skills you might find useful elsewhere, without even realising it. How many people actually worry about the size of URLs when they’re working at their computers? But, you can show them how to do it. If, unlike me, you work with products, you can even build a side income with it. If you have a passion (I’m not going to dimunitize it by calling it a hobby) and always wanted to know if your songs are good or your art is, well, art, go ahead and blog about it. Don’t worry, the trolls are too busy harassing big, giant bloggers to bother you. You get it out there, even if it is something as uninteresting as cleaning routines (which I find immensely interesting myself) and see what happens.

As for me, I will continue to blog because…well, it’s just something I do, right? I can also pack lots of stuff into very small spaces, but let’s not start bragging.

You just tell me why you blog about what you blog down in the comments below.

Posted in Of Writingly

A Dose of Inspiration: Three Perspectives on Writing

https://wp.me/p3Ca1O-8V4

Yeah, so one of my blog posts has been featured on Discover, here at WordPress. I’m not sure how that happened, but it is one of the best things to have happened to me in weeks! I don’t think my bit was traditionally inspirational, but I suppose my brand of writing inspiration is writing about, uh, not-writing. Whatever it is, as always, it’s you lovely people who make all this happen. You give so much, with very little effort on my part. I’m lucky to have you.

Posted in Of Bloggingly

Of Ending Things

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WordPress (Courtesy: Pixabay)

As if things weren’t already a bit s**t, The Daily Post is closing down. For those of you who don’t know what that is, well, it is the best part of WordPress. It is what makes WordPress the best blogging website there ever was and will be, and it is the reason why WordPress has a true feeling of community.

I do not say these things lightly. Continue reading “Of Ending Things”