Thursday, 28 August 2014

The book of love. . .

This song request is for Lynda Miller :-)

Originally released by the Magnetic Fields as part of an epic three volume album set, The Book of Love was one of 69 love songs featured on this album, aptly entitled yes, 69 love songs.  
The rich and gravelly vocal tones of the lead singer is reminiscent of Johnny Cash and Nick Cave.
The lead singer is supported by a male background vocal in a call and response fashion.  The simple guitar accompaniment to me symbolises the simple beauty of love.  The song lists all of the attributes that are normally associated or commonly associated with love - experiencing love together from the same pages, through music and the usual exchange of material gifts such as flowers and chocolate.  The song culminates in the ultimate exchange of gifts - the formalisation of love in a public declaration of love with the exchange of wedding rings.

The book of love is long and boring
No one can lift the damn thing
It's full of charts, facts and figures and instructions for dancing

But I,
I love it when you read to me
And you,
You can read me anything

As a songwriter, you think about compositional devices to help make the song memorable and for people to enjoy, as well as having the autonomy for yourself to create music however you like.
The use of "I' and "you" in the chorus helps the listener to focus on the relationship between themselves and their significant other.  Songs that help to position yourself emphasises the feeling of empathy, creates understanding and bands people together.

The book of love has music in it
In fact it's where music comes from
Some of it is just transcendental
Some of it is just really dumb

But I,
I love it when you sing to me
And you,
You can sing me anything

I love this description in the lyrics about love being both transcendental and sometimes being really dumb.  Peter Gabriel's rendition of The Book of Love reveals a change of timbre with the inclusion of orchestral instrumentation and the female vocal which kicks in during the music-themed second verse.  I love the nuance of the syncopated quaver cello motif that is interspersed amongst the beautiful legato harmonies in the upper strings.  These harmonies are further explored when the violins and violas play their parts again but an octave higher to help heighten the tension before the final chorus hits.

The book of love is long and boring
And written very long ago
It's full of flowers and heart-shaped boxes
And things we're all too young to know

The way the lyrics are expressed show an almost child-like response to love, that sometimes it can be long and boring.  The focus on the objects of affection, the symbols of love that we have been taught to believe from very long ago continue to this very day.  This is epitomised in a hugely profitable and  commercial way during Valentine's Day with the overabundance of flowers and heart-shaped boxes.

But I wonder about the things that we are too young to know.
Do you wonder about the things we are too young to know?
Does this mean that even as we age, we will never be old enough to know everything about love?

It could be our own naive views of love, where we might choose to ignore the complexities that love has.  The book of love has so many chapters, people may read it from the beginning, but once they get impatient as the chapters progress, they might become bored, lose the fascination and wonder that love tries so hard for us to stay enamoured with - so we fall out of love.  In some tragic chapters of our love journey - we might lose love, when love dies with the physical body of those we love and we are left with memories of love.  There are also instances of "not even" love - on one hand, unrequited love where love is one-sided and wrong love where you are committed to someone but choose to love another and act on that love (depends whether you think that's wrong though!), and even bad love - where you love somebody so much, that even though they break your heart, spirit, mind (and sadly, even some body parts) but you STILL love them regardless.

It is no wonder that the book of love is heavy and hard to lift.
Everybody's story of love is different and extreme.

But I,
I love it when you give me things
And you,
You ought to give me wedding rings. . . 

Whoever you choose to love, I hope you love with all that there is in within you.
I hope your book of love sustains you throughout anything you face in your life.
I hope it becomes a favourite book to read with dog-eared pages, notes scribbled in the margin, highlighted keywords and page numbers circled with all of your decorative bookmarks - so that you know exactly where you are - in your book of love.

Monday, 25 August 2014

I believe I can fly. . .

I love the orchestral opening in I believe I can fly. It's every music teacher's dream for introducing the instruments of the orchestra to a reluctant class of teenagers.  I mean think about it.  There aren't many contemporary artists who use orchestral instruments in their music.  This was a very clever ploy to use in this song.  I personally believe that the epic nature of the lyrics made R Kelly think about the instrumentation and how he wanted to colour the song with more than just electronic instruments.
My favourite part is the glissando of the harp before the lyrics begin.

I used to think that I could not go on
And life was nothing but an awful song
But now I know the meaning of true love
I'm leaning on the everlasting arms

How bad would that be?  That would quite possibly be my idea of hell - the soundtrack of my life - an awful song stuck on repeat.  How would you snap out of that? How could you stop that awful song from being that broken record?  Believing in a higher power, holding onto hope would be one way of getting yourself out of that rut, that groundhog day of an existence.  Because you start to make some decisions about how to live your best life, you're only existing up to that point.

See I was on the verge of breaking down
Sometimes silence can seem so loud
There are miracles in life I must achieve
But first I know it starts inside of me

I am a firm believer in the power of visualisation, having a vision, having a purpose.
There is also no stronger belief in you than self-belief.  But in order to have such strong self-belief we need to have it fostered and nurtured within us by people around us who believe in us first.  

If I can see it, then I can do it
If I just believe it, there's nothing to it

The key change in the prechorus signals the entry of the choir and the foreshadowing of a climax.
There's something grandiose about a full chorus of singers and harmonies. It is extremely useful in providing musical variation, especially when using call and response and also to sustain the repetition of the melody while the lead vocalist can improvise over the top.

I believe I can fly, I believe I can touch the sky
I think about it every night and day
Spread my wings and fly away
I believe I can soar
I see me running through that open door,
I believe I can fly,  I believe I can fly, I believe I can fly

It's important to keep 'flying' everyday.
Can you imagine the different ways of flying styles, savouring each moment that you have in the air - soaring above the clouds and not being afraid to spread your wings.

Cos I believe in you. . . 

Thank you. . .

Today's blog post is a song request for a dear friend Phillip in Australia.

Thank you by Ray Boltz is Phillip's favourite childhood song growing up.  I remember this song quite vividly growing up as I would watch another childhood friend perform what we called then a "creative dance" and use the song as the music to tell the story.

I dreamed I went to heaven and you were there with me
We walked upon the streets of gold, beside the crystal sea
We heard the angels singing and someone called your name
I turned and saw this young man and he was smiling as he came

Heaven is probably something that a lot of people think about.
Does it exist, how will we know if we will get to go there, will we see other people we know there?
When I go to the airport to meet a relative at the arrival lounge, I often secretly think, is this what heaven is like?  When we die, do we have people eagerly awaiting our arrival in anticipation?
Do they sit around and wait anxiously for us, looking at the flight information board to see if our plane has landed, whether we are going through the processing stage before we enter through the pearly gates?

And he said "Friend, you may not know me now" and then said "but wait -
"You used to teach my Sunday School, and I was only eight,
And every week you would say a prayer before the class would start
And one day when you said that prayer, I asked Jesus in my heart".

The verses begin to tell us the story of people whose lives have been touched by the newly arrived individual.  It is easy to think of yourself as this individual because of the direct use of the personal pronoun 'you'.

Then another man stood before you and said"Remember the time?
A missionary came to your church, his pictures made you cry
He didn't have much money but you gave it anyway
Jesus took the gift you gave and that's why I'm here today

Feeling empathy for others and giving everything you have are qualities that are synonymous with the actions of Jesus in the New Testament of the Holy Bible.  Any chance that we can get in this lifetime to save someone else's life - surely that would be a fantastic thing.  Saving someone physically in the face of danger or conflict, and also figuratively, in more intangible ways than we can imagine.  It's the things that we can't see in our fellow man, but that which resonates so much within us, when we know how much of an impact we can have on helping each other, loving each other sincerely and giving so freely to others because we want to, now more than ever.

One by one they came, far as the eye could see
Each life somehow touched by your generosity
Little things that you had done, the sacrifices made
Unnoticed on the earth, in heaven now proclaimed

Do you think about how much people would value you and what you would bring to their lives?
I can't fathom people spending all of their time and energy deliberately harming others, aggressively doing so and not hiding it either.  I often wonder about their motivation and what drives them to act the way that they do.  None of us are exempt.  It is very simple to fall by the wayside and not follow our true calling.  Think about what little things that you can do to make the world a better place, and more importantly in the life beyond where you will spend your eternity - in whatever shape or form that happens to be.  You won't know until you die, and not many people have returned to tell the tale (well only a select few have, those that have endured near-death experiences).

I know up in heaven you're not supposed to cry
And I am almost sure there were tears in your eyes
As Jesus took your hand and you stood before the Lord
He said "My child, look around you, for great is your reward".

It is at this point in the song that I start to wonder, if all of these people whose lives you have touched, have now come to acknowledge you - who is the narrator?  Just when you thought it couldn't get even more overwhelming, Jesus appears to tell you what you have earned in His Kingdom.

Thank you, for giving to the Lord
I am a life that was changed
Thank you, for giving to the Lord
I am so glad you gave

I hope you get to thank someone in your life who has changed your life for the better.
Thanks everyone for over 17,000 pageviews so far.
I am so glad you gave. . . 

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Uninvited. . .

Alanis Morissette is one of my favourite artists, especially as a singer/songwriter/co-writer and performer.  The way that she marries how she sings the lyrics with the decisions about the placements of the pitches attached to it, makes the interpretation of this song particularly interesting (to my ears anyway).  I've always been a sucker for melody.

Uninvited featured on the movie soundtrack City of Angels starring Nicolas Cage and Meg Ryan.
There are so many great tracks associated with this movie and no doubt I will discuss them in later posts.

Like anyone would be
I am flattered by your fascination with me
Like any hot-blooded woman
I have simply wanted an object to crave
But you, you're not allowed
You're uninvited
An unfortunate slight. . . 

The piano signals a pendulum swinging in time.
In your time, have you ever had anyone fascinated with you?  Or have you been fascinated by someone?  Whether you have been on the giving or receiving of this fascination, it is a fairly high chance that you will agree, it's an intense experience.

Must be strangely exciting
To watch the stoic squirm
Must be somewhat heartening
To watch shepherd need shepherd
But you, you're not allowed
An unfortunate slight. . . 

The instrumental interlude has the timbral juxtaposition of orchestral strings and rock ensemble, which could symbolise the two figures in the song.  This interlude appears again at the end of the song.  I love the use of the tabla in the percussion section.  Its distinctive sound resonates quite well and adds a further dimension, especially in the interlude.  Her 2008 Brixton England performance I felt was dominated by the bass guitar.  I'm not saying that was a bad thing, it's a different thing.  With every live performance you feed off the energy of the band, the electricity of the crowd and incorporate that into your performance.

Like any uncharted territory
I must seem greatly intriguing
You speak of my love like
You have experienced love like mine before
But this is not allowed
You're uninvited
An unfortunate slight

There seems to be some assumptions that are rising to the surface here.
It is unclear why this fascination is not allowed, as you've been uninvited.
This seems funny to me, because if you're uninvited, it suggests that you must've been invited initially, and then someone's mind has changed - so you are now uninvited.  Is this some sort of mixed signals happening here?  Has someone been indecisive with you and not been completely honest about their intentions?  Why do people even assume that your love will be like all the others they have experienced?  Your love could be the love to last the ages.  It could transcend time and space.

It could be the love of their lifetime.

I don't think you unworthy
I need a moment to deliberate . . .

Thursday, 21 August 2014

It's not easy being green. . .

The Muppet Show was a huge part of my childhood.  I loved watching it every Saturday morning, it was a part of the weekend routine, even when its junior version The Muppet Babies would feature during after school programming.  There were a lot of memorable songs, artists and musicians that featured on the show.  My all-time favourite is Bein' Green as sung by Kermit The Frog (Jim Henson).

It's not easy being green
Having to spend each day the color of leaves
When I think it could be nicer being red, or yellow or gold
Or something much more colorful like that

Everybody has those days.
Those days when you doubt the purpose of your existence.
There might even be days where you think that the way that you feel, is because of the colour of your skin.  You might even think that life could be easier for you, if your skin was a different colour.
Would a different skin colour make you a more colourful person?
I guess it depended on what colour you wanted to be?
Would you think that defining yourself as a colour is a useful measure of your self-worth?

It's not easy being green
It seems you blend in with so many other ordinary things
And people tend to pass you over 
'Cause you're not standing out like flashy sparkles in the water
Or stars in the sky

You don't feel that being green is anything special, because you're just like everything else that is simple and not worthy of any particular attention.  There are other people who stand out more than you, are probably more driven than you to be successful in their chosen fields and it's because of the colour of your skin, that might be what is holding you back from achieving the same levels of success.

But green's the color of Spring
And green can be cool and friendly-like
And green can be big like a mountain
Or important like a river or tall like a tree 

But do you remember all of the good stuff that comes with being green?
There are other positive examples of bein' green that already exist.
There are other examples of people with the same skin colour as you, who have achieved superhuman feats and made a difference to the world with their inventions and discoveries that benefit mankind.
You can look to those people for inspiration.  If they can surely do it, then you can too.
There is nothing than cannot be achieved without sheer grit and determination.
You can shape, craft and embody whatever qualities you want.
You can be cool, friendly-like, big, important and tall.  I think it's more of a sense that you want the world to perceive you that way too.  So what are you going to do about it?  How are you going to make people sit up and take notice of your cool, friendly-like, big, important and tall self?

When green is all there is to be
It could make you wonder why
But why wonder, why wonder?
I'm green and it'll do fine
It's beautiful! 
And I think it's what I want to be

I think that whatever colour skin you have, the one that you are born with - it doesn't dictate who you are going to be, how you are meant to behave and the negative assumptions or stereotypes that are associated with your skin colour.

When I reflect  on the significance of this song for myself,  I think beyond the "I'm green and it'll do fine".  I think about "I'm green and it's mine".  I will own who I am.  I will be the best example of the colour of my skin that I can be - not because I want the world to see me that way, but because I think that the world won't have come across people like me before, the world hasn't seen the likes of me - a cool, friendly-like, big, important and tall brown woman.

It's beautiful
And I think it's what I want to be. . . 

You make my dreams come true. . .

What I want you've got
And it might be hard to handle
Like the flame that burns the candle
The candle feeds the flame yeah yeah

You will come across people in your life that will come to rely on you, for whatever reasons.
They might rely on you if they are family members, friends, work colleagues, students, neighbours, acquaintances, and disasters and emergencies in public - even strangers.

There will be sparks that fly when you have interactions with these people.
The sparks are a result of you having an impact on them and thereafter they require to keep in contact or close proximity to ensure that they continue to burn - because you have become the flame that has sparked the candle (those people) into action.  But of course once that happens, there is a reciprocity that ensues - the relationship becomes reciprocal, because in order for the flame to continue to burn, it must feed off the candle.

What I've gots full stock
Of thoughts and dreams that scatter
Then you pull them all together
And how I can't explain

In their deepest sincerity, these people will say things to you that will acknowledge exactly what it is that you do for them.  They struggle to articulate the thoughts and dreams in their mind - when they try to articulate it to the world, it doesn't make any sense.  You then start to pull these thoughts and dreams together - and this baffles the candle, because they never taught you their candle language, yet you understood perfectly - what their intentions are, where they would like to go but don't know how and when it might all even being for them - you have become an interpreter.

You speak fluent "candle burn" language.  You don't know how you learned it.
It happens at any given time when you talk to someone who lacks the vision to see.
It happens when you listen to someone and they don't know what signs to listen out for and what they need to hear in order to make some informed decisions.

I love the chorus of this song, the way in which the call and response manifests itself in the vocal banter between Hall and Oates.  The keys, electric guitar, bass and drums appeal to my sense of interlocking patterns: the texture of the guitar, the syncopated accents of the drums, the harmonies of the background vocals in the chorus.  It has nothing to do with the fact that this track has been focused on so many movie soundtracks it's not funny.  What is funny is seeing it during the wedding dress and cake shop scenes in The Wedding Singer with George trying on all of the dresses and the red headed woman waiting for her sample of wedding cakes with an open mouth.

On a night when bad dreams become a screamer
When they're messin' with the dreamer
I can laugh it in the face
Twist and shout my way out
And wrap yourself around me
'Cos I ain't the way you found me
And I'll never be the same

You might not know it - but you might mean the world to someone.
But you won't know that - until they tell you that :-)
They might have been those people who have "driven through a storm" to get to you and pulled you out of a situation that could have literally, ended your life.

I'm down on my daydream
Oh, that sleepwalk should be over by now
I know
Bout you
You make my dreams come true
I've waited, waited for you girl. . . 

So to all the candles out there, I hope that you tell those flames who mean the world to you, who have helped to shape the "best you" that you now are; go ahead and tell those flames who bring out your best, that they make your dreams come true.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

The impossible dream . . .

Some of my greatest memories of music making, growing up, was singing in my high school choir.
I attended an all-girls high school, a public school in Auckland's urban inner city where girls travelled from the four corners of the city to attend.  (Yes school pride is still there ha!)

One of the many songs that I remember singing was The Impossible Dream from The Man of La Mancha, music by Mitch Leigh, lyrics by Joe Darion.  There have been many cover versions of this song but my favourite rendition is by Luther Vandross 

To dream the impossible dream
To fight the unbeatable foe
To bear with unbearable sorrow
To run where the brave dare not go

To right the unrightable wrong
To love pure and chaste from afar
To try when your arms are too weary
To reach the unreachable star

If I reflect on my journey in life so far, if someone had told me 10 years all of the achievements I would have made, I wouldn't have believed them.  There have been many impossible dreams that I dreamed that have become a reality, and I have been truly thankful.   There have been many unbeatable foes that I have fought - and beaten, and I have been truly thankful.  I have had to bear with so much unbearable sorrow, this current month alone has been horrendous, the past year has been a definitive year of sorrow for me, and I have been truly thankful.  I have had to run where even the bravest people don't dare go - and gone there anyway to remind said brave people, that even the seemingly cowardly ones can go.

Righting unrightable wrongs is becoming more of a superpower but on a daily basis.
Loving pure and chaste from afar is something that you will always do - and you will probably laugh about when you did that more often as a youngster, when you trying to weigh up the options whether to pluck up the courage to turn that 'afar' into 'a-near'.  
The thing about weary arms, all you need is a good massage to fix those aching arms, stretching out those pangs of pain before you can use them again.  Maybe it might even help if you linked arms with other people to share the load, or why not lighten the load so your arms won't get as weary as often.  
This is my quest
To follow that star
No matter how hopeless
No matter how far

To fight for the right
Without question or pause
To be willing to march into Hell
For a heavenly cause

My last blog post looked at the same concept of a quest - and here we see it again with this song.
Normally when people see that something is not worth pursuing, they desert it like rats on a sinking ship.  Do you notice that not very many people have the stamina or the "stickability" anymore?
It's much easier to dissuade you from doing what you dare, even when it's such a humungous dream that people think you're crazy to pursue, they make snap judgements or think about themselves in your situation and can't even fathom doing what you're doing.  It sometimes seems like that "too hard" basket gets bigger and bigger on people's workstations, desks, cubicles, construction sites, shelves, window sills, work vehicles, operating tables, board rooms.

What is your heavenly cause?
I'm not necessarily talking about religion here.
I'm referring to - that one cause that you would be willing to march into hell for - even after in your time, you've told some people that you don't like, that they should go there.
Having high standards and high expectations like that - to be unrelenting and uncompromising - sticking to your guns and not backing down - how liberating is that?

And I know if I'll only be true
To this glorious quest
That my heart will lie peaceful and calm
When I'm laid to my rest

And the world will be better for this
That one man scorned and covered with scars
Still strove with his last ounce of courage
To reach the unreachable star. . . 

Surely this then is the purpose of life.
Your glorious quest is that thing that you embark on during your lifetime until it's time for you to rest.

Forget the futility and hopelessness.
Embrace your inner strength, your steely determination to accomplish it all by keeping your eyes on the prize.  There is nothing more satisfying than trying to achieve your glorious quest.

I can't wait to see yours.
I can't wait to see you reach your unreachable star :-)

Is the answer to a neverending story . . .

One of my all-time favourite move theme songs growing up was the Neverending Story performed by Limahl.  You probably remember how hard it was to make friends at school.  You were probably bullied at school (or you were the bully).  What did you do to escape being bullied?  You ran away and hid in a bookstore to avoid the bullies (at least you weren't thrown into that garbage bin again).

Turn around 
Look at what you see
In her face
The mirror of your dreams

Make believe I'm everywhere
Given in the light
Written on the pages
Is the answer to a neverending story

You instantly felt sorry for Bastian.  You could tell he was struggling to communicate with his father at home, because you knew that he was quite close to his mother.  She would have indulged his dreams and fantasies about the world, and would have even known about the bullying situation.

But enough about Bastian.
Every tweenie around the time that this movie was released in 1984 was hopelessly in love with Noah Hathaway who played the character of Atreyu.  When his beloved horse Artax died in that swamp of sadness, you could feel his pain.  

Reach the stars
Fly a fantasy
Dream a dream
And what you see will be

As an adult, when I think about the lengths that Atreyu travelled to try and combat the Nothing and save Fantasia, I think about our own trials that we face in our daily lives to complete a quest.  What is your quest?  What is your quest of epic proportions that only you can face, ultimately alone, even when you do collect a band of merry men along the way in your journey - ultimately you must face your nemesis alone (and most of the time - your nemesis is yourself).

Show no fear
For she may fade away
In your hand
The birth of a new day

One of the greatest lessons I think you can learn in life - is how much you can do.
I'm not talking about god-like proportions or superhuman feats.
I'm talking about how we sometimes have such low expectations of ourselves, low self-esteem that we don't trust in ourselves to do what we can.  I firmly believe that it is within you, to shape your happiness, to craft your destiny, but you need to take heed of the signs, opportunities and be willing to work damn hard to get to your destination.  The fun part about your epic journey is that you probably won't know that you've reached that destination - until you get there.  Because maybe somewhere along that epic journey, a greater purpose reveals itself to you that supersedes that goal which now pales in insignificance because you've discovered, uncovered and revealed why you were born.

That my friend, is YOUR neverending story :-)

Rhymes that keep their secrets
Will unfold behind the clouds
And there upon a rainbow
Is the answer to a neverending story. . . 
Neverending story. . . 

Monday, 18 August 2014

Fly away on my zephyr. . .

It's the 2nd year of Augusts since you've been gone Loma.

August is a particularly tough month.
4th is my birthday, 11th is our wedding anniversary and 19th is your birthday.
I guess it's timely that winter in Aotearoa falls during August.
After tomorrow I can look forward to Spring.

But until then, I have this song to remember you by - The Zephyr Song by The Red Hot Chili Peppers.

This was one of your favourite karaoke songs.
I used to laugh a lot when you sang it, because if you sang it at a karaoke bar, people never suspected that you could sing pitch perfect, with all of the right intonation, complete with facial expressions to boot.  It was one of your many signature songs. 

When I asked you how you came by learning it, you mentioned that it was one of the songs you learned in the 2XL band while working for FLEP (Family Life Education Pasifika).  You really loved working there.  I met nearly all of your former work colleagues over the years and they would confirm the stories that you shared together.  I think Tofiga's "Aunty Tala" had remnants of your character "Venus" in "Aue Whakapƍ" - one of the many plays that you and your colleagues wrote, played music for and acted in to teach young New Zealand about sexual health in your many tours around the country.  I would laugh when you reminisced about how school students would come up to you and hug you because you reminded them of one of their transgender aunties - and then they were surprised when you spoke, that you were actually acting.  You were definitely an undercover talented actor.

Pick it up
If not too strong for you
Take a piece
And pass it on

I remember all of the fond memories I had with you today.
You loved your birthday.  You were almost like a little kid.
It was a wonder that we didn't have children - because you were such a big baby yourself - you always wanted me to pamper you and I didn't mind.  It made me happy to know that you needed me.

I will pick up what you passed on to me.
It's not too strong.
If anything it's made me more strong.
I will pass on that strength to others now when they need it most.

Fly away on my zephyr, 
I feel it more than ever
And in this perfect weather, 
We'll find a place together

No matter how hectic the world gets and how much pressure, all I need to do is think about you and I'm transported to my zephyr, with you there making me laugh with all of your jokes and enjoying each other's company.  I think about how in my zephyr, you're anxious to show me all of the places you've explored without me, but keen to show me.  You always wanted to show me the new things you had discovered, you always wanted to be the first to know about things - before I even had a chance to explore it.  That was just your way and I loved that about you.

In the water where I center my emotion
All the world can pass me by
Fly away on a zephyr
We'll find a place together. . . 

We're gonna live forever. . . 

Thanks for the memories, they will live forever :-)

You learn. . .

Alanis Morissette was a huge influence in my younger years, at a time in my life when I was just starting to feel and understand what rebellion was - especially with the first release of You Oughta Know.  Alanis' transition from bubblegum pop to alternative rock coincided with my first year at college *sigh*.  The time for following the rules and doing what you were told because you had to respect authority was all thrown out the window, being taught how to think critically, knowing all the rules so that you knew how to break them and even questioning authority.  Student protests were on a weekly basis; there was always some cause that was worth fighting for - we felt the unjustness of it all at the time - because those people making all the rules in the seat of power - were making us pay for our tertiary education - while they studied FOR FREE.

So what are the greatest lessons that I've learned from studying at university?
Some of the greatest lessons were not taught to me - but I had to experience failure to know success.
This is why I love this particular track - You Learn.

I recommend getting your heart trampled on to anyone
I recommend walking around naked in your living room
Swallow it down (like a jagged little pill)
It feels so good (swimming in your stomach)
Wait until the dust settles. . .

The lessons are still ongoing - as I am in my first year as a doctoral candidate.
We have been told that even though this degree is the 'final frontier' for all degrees that you will ever study at university - it is only the beginning of your academic journey, where you must prove yourself in the research landscape of your chosen field - and publish articles that will make a difference, make some impact, put into practice all of the things that you had lofty aspirations of achieving as a lowly undergraduate student.

I recommend biting off more than you chew to anyone I certainly do
I recommend sticking your foot in your mouth at any time
Feel free
Throw it down (the caution blocks you from the wind)
Hold it up (to the rays)
You wait and see when the smoke clears

The academic pathway I have chosen has not been a straight one.
There have been people and things that have been obstacles in my journey - I have even blocked my own progress on some occasions, because I was too afraid to believe what my mentors in high school said that I could do.  Could I really play classical trumpet in an orchestra?  Could I really be a soprano and study voice abroad?  I was afraid to be the first because I am certain that there were others before me that had suffered the same fate - they too were afraid to be the first - so there were no role models for me to latch onto.

You live you learn
You love you learn
You cry you learn
You lose you learn
You bleed you learn
You scream you learn

A woman who my family had to say goodbye to on Saturday was Aiono Dr Fanaafi Le Tagaloa.
A distinguished Samoan scholar and educator who received a state funeral in Samoa.
Her passion for Samoan language and intolerance for low standards were her trademarks.
Aiono Fanaafi set the benchmark for her descendants, for her kin, for all Samoans who valued what Samoans should value - identity, language and culture.  Her shoes will be hard shoes to fill.
She has been a role model that my father has instilled in me to aspire to - the mark and measure of a woman who was not afraid to challenge, not afraid to be the first.

You grieve you learn
You choke you learn
You laugh you learn
You choose you learn
You pray you learn
You ask you learn
You live you learn

I credit my parents, my teachers and everybody who has been willing to share pieces of themselves with me - for helping me to appreciate and articulate my love for learning.

I hope that I never stop learning.
As an educator, as a consultant, as a student - heck, as a human being.
I know that if I lose the desire to learn - then my time on earth is over.

When you think about your own life - what do you need to learn?

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Ordinary human. . .

Ordinary human by One Republic is a recent release (as of last month) and features on the film The Giver.  I know I write about songs that I associate with my childhood or from films that I enjoy - this is one of those songs.  Ryan Tedder who is the frontman for the band wrote this song for the film.

Most of the songs that I like - need to hook me in from at least the first 10 seconds - otherwise it won't intrigue me enough to want to listen to the rest of the track.  Sometimes it will be the song lyrics that will speak to me - it could be a particular verse or the chorus.  This song has both of those features that tick my boxes for wanting to hear more of the song.  The pseudo-heartbeat nabs me in the opening bars.

Today I took a walk in the clouds
Today I took a walk in the clouds
Used to keep my eyes wide shut, but now I'm staring down

Today I felt a switch in my vein
Today I felt a switch in my vein
Used to be a shadow now
A shadow scream my name
And in the daylight I could swear
We're the same

Do you feel this way sometimes? When there's something that lies within you that you can't quite recognise, but it bubbles just beneath the surface.  The only time that you might know what it is - is when something happens that triggers it (no, not like it's your inner Hulk, but something that you know is transformational inside of you that's on some sort of time release, like it's attached to some inner clock inside you that will go off without you knowing).

But I'm just an ordinary human (ordinary ways)
I'm just an ordinary human
But I don't feel so ordinary today
I'm just a picture perfect nothing
Sometimes I medicate
I'll be a picture perfect human
Before the sun goes down today

This is what I'm talking about. You're going about your day as normal, minding your own business, doing what you normally do and then you no longer feel ordinary.  What happened?  Were you abducted by aliens?  Did you have some kind of eureka moment?  Has something that you wanted the answer to for so long - finally arrived?  Like you've finally solved the inner mysteries of your own mind, unlocked your true potential, figured out your divine purpose, you've moved from being an ordinary human to being a picture perfect human.  What does that even look like?  I bet it's fun to find out.

There'll be peace in the city tonight
Peace in the city tonight
But when I'm gone 
I hope they'll get it right
There'll be peace in the city tonight
Peace in the city tonight
For when I'm gone 
I hope they get it right

I often wonder when people die and leave this earth, whether their last thoughts are about - the rest of us not stuffing up what they had put in place.  I wonder if they hope that we will get things right now that they have gone.  Because I think it's important for us to at least consider - and start talking about now with our nearest and dearest - because we never know when we are going to go - what do you hope that they will get right?  What do you want your friends and family to do to honour your memory so that when they do that particular thing - they will be comforted by knowing that it makes you happy - and it should give them peace?

In any way that you can - I hope that you can provide peace in your city tonight.
In your own small way.
With whomever you come into contact with.
We can't have peace in our cities tonight - unless we make it a priority.

In any way that you can - I hope that you can contribute to providing peace in your city tonight.
Because in the daylight I could swear we are the same.

Keep on moving. . .

Keep on moving
Don't stop like the hands of time

Click clock
Find your own way to stay

The time will come one day
Why do people choose to live their lives this way?

Caron Wheeler sings the opening of the song Keep On Moving from Soul II Soul before the harmonies join in at "lives" in the last line above.  You can tell from the beginning of the song, that the melody line has been layered to ensure that the texture has some weight, some bearing to it that can hold it in place, like your favourite fridge magnets.

The song is very beautiful in its simplicity because I think there is a lot of scope to take it anywhere if you were to perform it.  I love the string countermelodies in the background, the chordal accompaniment provided by the keys and even during its own piano solo before the drumbeats kick in again.  

It's our time 
Our time today
The right time is here to stay

Stay in my life
My life always
Yellow is the colour of sunrays

I think about the colour of the sunrays but I think more about how those sunrays feel - the warmth that it provides (I'm not inclined to get sunburn or heat stroke, but it always pays to have sunscreen, as we are slowly moving into spring in the southern hemisphere).  You associate yellow as a colour of cowardice, but I think in this song, it is seen as a colour of joy and celebration - to spend quality time with friends, other kindred spirits, loved ones - as part of your healing process, as a way to enjoy how you spend time in your own lives.  What things or whom would you like to stay in your own lives?  Are there people or things that represent yellow for you with their sunny dispositions and warmth that you can't do without?

I hide myself from no one
I know the time will surely come when
You'll be in my life
My life
My life always
Yellow is the colour of sunrays

For me there is a certain element of excitement in not knowing the new people I will meet in my lifetime.  The universe decides who will get to cross your path, especially if you are meant to meet like minds and other souls who will help you to create cool things together.  I think it's exciting because it's when you are willing to no longer hide yourself from people and be genuine about who you are, what you're about - to be uncompromising and unrelenting in you doing you - then more sunrays will definitely come your way.

Keep on moving
Keep on moving 
don't stop no
Keep on moving . . . 

I hope that you keep on moving in whatever you are doing in your life.  Every chance or opportunity for success - go for it, give it your all and surround yourself with people and things that make you happy.  My challenge for you - is that you keep on moving away from the bad - and keep on moving towards the good.  Keep on moving towards people and things that are good for you :-)

Thursday, 14 August 2014

And that's the state of my mind. . .

I have read various blog posts from celebrities and everyday people like me - paying tribute to the now late, great, once in a lifetime Robin Williams.  It has been a struggle to come to terms with his death for so many reasons (he didn't know me, but I think we all felt like we knew pieces of him based on his portrayal of his characters in so many beloved films).  I think the struggle has also been difficult in terms of how much loss I have experienced personally in recent weeks as well as I guess, some residual effects from last year.  It's just been over a year.  People say time heals all wounds, I guess it does to some extent, but I think time helps you to shape new priorities in your life to help you cope with loss.  Time also helps you to take the best parts of what that person you have lost brought to your world - and keep their memories alive in the work that you carry out, in the conversations that you have with people and the values that you sustain, reflecting the best parts of you too.

This is the state of my mind
When you gonna let me out of the light?
'Cause these orange and yellows aren't making me mellow
Uptight. . .  is the state of my mind

Bright Grey is a track from the Happy Ending album by New Zealand band Phoenix Foundation.
The human mind is a interesting and complex organ.  We can never hope to understand the intricacies of it, as much as science tries (and it tries damn hard).  When the news broke of Williams' death, together with his state of depression, it made me think about how we can have inner struggles, suffer through them privately - and people are seemingly unaware of how you really think and feel.
I imagine that Williams wanted out of this light.  News and media reports will continue to plague us with conjecture - and I say conjecture, because Williams is not here to explain why he is no longer here.

And I never hear what the people say
Until over this river of thoughts they deliver uptight thoughts
Into my state of mind

A man with comic genius and brilliance like Williams, I now wonder, did he feel the pressure of his own stardom?  His daughter Zelda has decided to take a break from social media because of all the negativity that people have been sending her way.  I find it disgusting that some people have taken to pilfering her social media accounts and others in her family, even her father's - to create meme pages.  There is a fine line between the public persona and being the private individual.

The negative comments show how little those people know about depression as a disease.
The stigma attached to this very real disease - they probably need to talk about it in schools, have it as part of school curriculum to better inform students about the symptoms so that they are aware.  We need to encourage and foster as much positivity as well.  Is that hard to be nice to people or listen to what they're going through and offer support?  Has it come to this?  We're so self absorbed that we don't care until it's too late.

Oh when are you gonna let me unwind?
'Cause I'm born of thunder but stripped of my wonder

Robin Williams made an impact in everything he was involved in.  His "Nanu Nanu" catch phrase that I heard so often as a child always made me laugh, because it sounded so similar to my own name.
Did he think he wasn't as wonderful as the world thought he was?  I think he knew how much the world loved him, but it couldn't stop what he was thinking and feeling - where his thoughts took him, especially to those dark places in his mind.  Were those dark places like those found in the paintings of "What Dreams May Come" starring opposite Annabella Sciorra?  People have talked so much about the happy roles that he played, I was more interested in his darker roles as he played those with such intensity.  "One Hour Photo" springs to mind when I think about obsession and the mind of the character locked in the supposed normality of his behaviour.

Oh when are you gonna let me out of the light?
'Fore these orange and yellows aren't making me mellow no more
And it's a hell of a bore

It is my hope that we learn so much from the death of Robin Williams.
It is my hope that people respect the family - especially his wife and children.
It is my hope that if you feel like you may be in a similar situation and you feel like there is no other solution but to end your own life, hold onto hope.

Rest in peace Robin Williams.
The world is bright grey.

Ooh ooh
The world is bright grey
Ooh ooh
I must've fallen asleep that day
Ooh ooh 
The world is bright grey
Ooh ooh ooh ooh
And that's the state of my mind . . .

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

All in due time. . .

Gladys Knight is one of those perennial artists, certainly in my lifetime.  I remember her singing with The Pips on such tracks as Midnight Train to Georgia and Love Overboard.  She is also well known for her many collaborations with other artists.  Gladys is Motown's Empress of Soul.

It never depends on how long it takes
Just keep your focus on making your way
I used to waste my time procrastinating
Would I be rich or poor, before I'm done
Would I ever live out my vision? (will I ever?)

From her 2012 album, All in due time, helps us to reflect on our journey thus far.  Does it make you think about points in your life where people doubted your abilities?  Tried to squash your dreams?  But worse than that - you allowed them to squash your dreams because you were too afraid to believe in yourself? The first two lines of the opening verse summarise how we should approach what we do, when we come up against obstacles that we may inadvertently

People told me to put time limits on my goals
To try something new, if it don't happen by then just let it go
But never quit if it don't happen when you want it
It's about being ready when your time comes around
And it will. . . 

 It sometimes irked me when people would make suggestions about what I should or shouldn't do.  It is always easier to give advice than take it - one of the many life lessons that you might have to learn the hard way.  I have learned to be respectful when people offer their advice and words of wisdom.  I try to find the nuggets or gems in what they share.  If it's useful and practice I certainly take it on board.  If it isn't constructive and designed to hurt - it becomes water off a duck's back.

The hardest thing is to maintain, sustain and retain your goals and dreams - keep them intact, treasure them, guard them with sheer ferocity because they are your own and sadly there will be people who will try to ruin them for you.  I often think if only they spent constructive time reaching their own goals and dreams rather than trying to ruin theirs - they would be much happier people.

I firmly believe in things happening for you when your time comes around.  You just need to develop the patience for it.  How hard are you willing to work for what you want to accomplish?

I know it seems like we've heard these words a thousand times
But believe they're reserved for the most important decisions in our lives

We often can't make important decisions in our lives until we've not only heard the words we need to hear a thousand times, but we actually need to action them.  

Surround yourself with good people who will become your cheerleaders, your support system, but you can also trust to not only say words a thousand times, but can cut across the thousand times and tell you honestly - what you don't want to hear.

I hope you find what you're looking for in life.
You might not necessarily be looking for anything and you're quite content where you are.
If you're not happy - you best be getting that hustle on and make things happen.
Don't give up, work hard and keep your eyes on the prize.

Like I said yesterday - your only hope is you!

All in due time
One day you'll find
All things in time
All in due time. . .

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

I hope, I hope, I hope, I hope, I hope, I hope. . .

Today's song request is for +Rebbecca Sweeney.

Rebecca Ferguson first rose to fame a few years ago as a contestant on Britain's X Factor where she almost won the competition; she was runner up.  Her unique vocal sound reminds me of a blend of Adele and Heather Smalls, as I can hear similarities of both artists in the way she expresses herself.

I hope life treats you good
I hope life treats you good
I hope, I hope, I hope, I hope, I hope, I hope. . . 

The song is something that maybe jilted lovers would sing as their partners move on in life with someone new.  I like the fact that in the song, you experience the fury of a scorned woman and of course she is entitled to feel aggrieved (who knows what went on, but you get a sense that her partner found someone new during their relationship, which could account for the 'hate' that she sings about in the first verse).

'Cause after a time you realize that it ain't easy
'Cause after a time you realize that you should've believed me

The point of realisation is always a difficult one to contend with.  The point of awakening, like when you finally awaken from slumber and it seems like you've snapped out of the reverie you were in, the soft edges of what you were looking at has finally come into focus.  When he doesn't believe how hard it is, how hard it is for you?  When he doesn't realize that you were better for him all along and he wasn't strong enough to leave while you left yourself vulnerable to wait?  That's his loss, not yours.

Loving ourselves comes so easily
Forgiveness was like the biggest sin to me
And where there was war
I wouldn't walk away. . . 

This can be the danger zone but it also means that you've worked it through fast enough in your mind to know that you are worthy of love, even if he doesn't see it, doesn't love you in return, or he discarded your love along the way.  You were prepared to stand and fight for what you thought you had together.  Well, maybe he loved himself so easily that she was able to forgive him - isn't this why you see forgiveness as the biggest sin?  You wouldn't forgive so easily, until you had gone through all this pain for him.  All the while, the war was an internal one within yourself.  You can't physically walk away from yourself. It doesn't leave you with many choices - so what do you do?

But after a time
I realised that for me to grow
I've got to let go. . . 

The greatest hope that you have is - you.
The growth that you experience from letting go of the pain of that dance you dared to dance with love is essential, crucial to your personal growth and we all know - that from the pain, beauty emerges.
That even though you were never treated kindly in this love with him, because he didn't understand how to love, how to love you - this just means that there will someone else on your path who will eventually find you, and will love you as much as you love, if not more.

This is my hope for you. . .

I hope life treats you good
I hope life treats you good
I hope, I hope, I hope, I hope, I hope, I hope. . . 

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Love never felt so good. . .

If you follow my blog, you will know that I'm a huge Michael Jackson fan.  I remember meeting someone at a conference a couple of months ago and he said how much he loved what I had talked about that day in a presentation.  At the time of this conversation, we happened to be in the midst of a  group of people dancing on the dance floor.  (I know right - who has a conversation on the dance floor?)

I had mentioned in my speech that I had a blog based on what I wrote about songs.
He then proceeded to share with me the artists and bands that he was interested in.
When he mentioned that he was not a fan of Michael Jackson and didn't really like his music, I moonwalked away and the conversation ended.

Love never felt so good by Michael Jackson is the first single of his posthumously-released album XScape.  Justin Timberlake has released a duet/cover of the song.  I'm probably a purist at heart, but I prefer just to hear Michael's voice on the track.  Check out the Spotify "ManuScript" playlist to listen to my preferred version.  When Justin sings along with him, it is obvious to me why Michael is the King of Pop - I almost can't bear to hear Justin sing with him!  The way I feel about that is synthesised in the following lines:

Baby, love never felt so good
And I doubt if it ever could. . . 

My brother and I are in the same boat.  He recently lost his wife to breast cancer and I attended the funeral last week.  My husband passed away last year and today (NZ time anyway) is our wedding anniversary - 11th August.  I don't think that love never feels as good as it does on your wedding day.  That step you take to commit yourself to someone else in the presence of your friends, family, loved ones and you look forward to the years ahead together.

Love never felt so fine
And I doubt if it's ever mine. . . 

These lines remind me of the fleeting nature of love.  It can never truly be yours because there will come a time when you lose love and it was never yours to hold for long.  So you need to celebrate love when you have it, because you never know when it will disappear.  Enjoy and savour each moment as if it is your last - because it very well may be.

Every time I love
In and out my life
In and out baby
Tell me
If you really love me
In and out my life
Driving me crazy. . . 

As good as love feels, there are the crazy moments that love puts you through.
That cat and mouse power play that happens in a relationship - whether it is long term as a marriage is or something even less defined that can't be labelled - being driven crazy is sometimes what makes you realise that you wouldn't have it any other way.

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Who you are . . .

Before Jessie J released Who you are, she exploded onto the music scene via YouTube with her "bigger than herself" voice that won her legions of fans, top 10 hits and a place as a judge on a reality music show.  She reminds me of Pink when she first burst onto the scene, big voice, attitude and uncompromising in the content of her songs.

I stare at my reflection in the mirror
"Why am I doing this to myself?"
Losing my mind on a tiny error
I nearly left the real me on the shelf

You get to those moments in your life right?  You spend so much time taking on attributes, ways of acting to fit in with how others around you are doing things, and you forget to question the purpose.   Is it better to suppress or hide your true self that you hardly recognise who you are when you do look in the mirror?  You will also probably wonder what the tiny error is now, the significance of it in the bigger scheme of things and why it made you lose your mind the first place.  I hope you don't leave the real you on the shelf.

Brushing my hair - do I look perfect?
I forgot what to do to fit the mould - yeah
The more I try the less it's working
'Cause everything inside me screams
No, no, no, no, no . . . 

The transition phase, that transformation stage, when you are starting to now see how things are, starting to realise your place in the world and what you've been doing this entire team.  Are you trying to much in the wrong way?  What are you trying to make work?  Is being perfect your goal?  Why aren't you listening to your inner voice, I mean listen to it - it's starting to recognise that what you're doing to yourself is actually causing you harm. . .

Don't lose who you are in the blur of the stars
Seeing is deceiving, dreaming is believing
It's okay not to be okay
Sometimes it's hard to follow your heart

If you feel the need to fall apart, go ahead and do it in a gloriously spectacular fashion.
If you're going to not be okay - then make it the most out-of-it, never-okay-didn't-know-it-could-get-like-this situation.  If it's hard to follow your heart, what are you following instead?  Are you following your head and thinking about what to follow - rather than feeling it?

Yes, no, egos, fake shows, like whoa!
Just go and leave me alone?
Real talk, real life, good love, goodnight,
With a smile that's my home
That's my home, no. . . 

Time to push all the artificial, superficial layers aside and be honest with yourself, be honest with others, be honest with people that you want to be honest with but you're too afraid to try.  I almost think that you might be using that enigmatic Mona Lisa smile from time to time and that's ok.  You don't need to reveal everything, just enjoy being home.  That Mona Lisa smile will show the world that you have contentment and happiness that even though they wonder - did we cause that?  They don't need to know or shouldn't need to know where your contentment or happiness is coming from - just know that it is. Be still and know.

So cry it out, go for that release that you need.
Everybody hurts from time to time.
You never need to apologise for your weaknesses.
It's what makes us human.

Tears don't mean you're losing
Everybody's bruising
Just be true to be who you are. . . 

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Powerful people . . .

Look at the powerful people
Stealing the sun from the day
Wish I could do something about it
When all I can do is pray

Gino Vanelli and his track Powerful people gives us an opportunity to reflect on the state of the world.  When you are being asked to look at the powerful people in your lives - are you being asked to look at them because you aren't paying close enough attention to the destruction and havoc they are wreaking?

Who are the powerful people that you know who are stealing the sun from the day?  Taking its warmth for themselves and not allowing others to also bask in its warmth and also know comfort?  People use the sun to make money now.  We are moving away from harnessing the power of the sun for the greater good of all and commodifying everything in our path - yet again.

There is so much political and global unrest at the moment.  You see it often (when does it ever stop?) when you turn on the television to see what the latest progress is (or not) in conflicts around the world.  Conflicts motivated by power, greed, stances on religion, entitlement, history, money - anything that can have an opposing view - good and evil (depending on which side you stand for of course, and who has the power to decide how these opposing sides are portrayed?).

It's a lonely afternoon
With nowhere to go but my room
And Sunday when there's time
I think of these things on my mind
And I don't know
Where I will go . . .

The uncertainty about not knowing what you can do to help solve these problems is challenging.  Whether you believe that you don't have a place in the equation, how to solve the equation.  Are you part of the problem because of your apathy?  Is it enough to sit in your room and think about it? That's the futility of it I guess.  The powerful people seem to be the ones making all the decisions (well, unless you voted them into power as your government and you're unhappy with what they're doing - you can always change that in the next election).

Come on world won't you give a damn
Turn on some lights and see this garbage can
Time is the essence if we plan to stay
Death is in stride when filth is the pride in our home. . . .

This bridge section is quite chaotic (no doubt due to the abrupt change of time signature) and you sense Gino's frustration with the world and its apathy.  Are we really this bad now?  I mean this song was released in 1975, but thinking about the state of the world today, have we evolved since then?  Sometimes I think we keep caught up in a vicious cycle of history repeating, like the characters in a TV series that's been on air for so long - that even though the characters may change through the ages, the character traits resurface in the replacement characters.

Wish I could just stand up and shout it
Why can't they let goodness be

The instrumental interlude provides a sense of calm before the drums signal the return to the last chorus of the song.  The band is brilliant.  I love the fact that the band members are introduced in this clip.  Too often band members can be ignored and the focus remains solely on the vocalist.  We hear about Sunday again before this final coda below kicks in:

Oh and Monday there's no time
So I close both my eyes and I'm blind
And I don't care where oh where is my prayer. . . 

What hopes do you have for the world?  That if you don't perceive yourself to be amongst the powerful people in your world - what can you do?  Is it a just a matter of changing your perception so that you too can become one of these powerful people?  What kinds of power do these powerful people have anyway?

The abrupt ending of the song suggests to me that resurfacing of uncertainty again - we will never know what end there is to what the powerful people will do. . . it is up to you to decide. . . I will not focus on powerful people, but I do choose to empower people . . .