How to be successful (however you quantify that).

  1. Stop always being distracted. Focus on what’s in front of you.
  2. Stop only talking the talk. Don’t discuss goals, discuss steps already taken.
  3. Stop spending time with the wrong people. Create a supportive network.
  4. Stop always focusing on the negative. You can be realistically positive.
  5. Stop procrastinating. Do it now: only do it later if you will do it better later.
  6. Stop not listening to others. Ask, listen, care, repeat.
  7. Stop giving in to laziness. Get off your arse. Go out. Have new experiences.
  8. Stop not being curious. Ask questions, learn more.
  9. Stop not being nice.
  10. Stop giving up. You may only need to try once more.

Portents and Auspices

Rob Brezsny has this to say, directly to me:

A bottle of Chateau Cheval Blanc wine from 1947 sold for $304,000. Three bottles of Chateau Lafite-Rothschild 1869 went for $233,000 apiece. The mystique about aged wine provokes crazy behavior like that. But here’s a more mundane fact: Most wine deteriorates with age, and should be sold within a few years of being bottled. I’m thinking about these things as I meditate on your long-term future, Sagittarius. My guess is that your current labor of love will reach full maturity in the next 18 to 20 months. This will be a time to bring all your concentration and ingenuity to bear on making it as good as it can be. By September of 2017, you will have ripened it as much as it can be ripened.

And frankly, I like this. That I’ve finally begun writing music again seems to frame the above rather neatly.

Projections and forecasts

First this:

Dieterich Buxtehude (1637-1707) was a German composer whose organ music is still played today. He was a major influence on a far more famous German composer, Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750). When Bach was a young man, he decided it was crucial for him to experience Buxtehude’s music first-hand. He took a leave of absence from his job and walked over 250 miles to the town where Buxtehude lived. There he received the guidance and inspiration he sought. In 2015, I’d love to see you summon Bach’s determination as you go in quest of the teaching you want and need.

And then this:

“If you have built castles in the air,” said philosopher Henry David Thoreau, “your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.” That may seem like a backward way to approach the building process: erecting the top of the structure first, and later the bottom. But I think this approach is more likely to work for you than it is for any other sign of the zodiac. And now is an excellent time to attend to such a task.

Music Personality Quiz

I worked through this A/B test earlier, comparing a series of pairs musical excerpts. I didn’t know what the test was specifically reaching for until I got to the end so I was a bit stumped sometimes in that I’d get pairs of tracks both of which I disliked and pairs of that both intrigued me.

And this is the result I got:

You are quite a knowledgeable person who has an interest in the arts. Although you respect tradition, you will also happily try out new things from time to time. You have a wide spread of interests, both mainstream and unconventional. Others view you as an interesting but not alternative type of person. Overall, you are a reasonably tolerant individual.

It’s important to you that you complete the tasks that you begin. You are reasonably well organised but you’re probably not excessively tidy. You can be impulsive at times but you also recognise that you can’t always live for the moment. You follow rules and can be relied upon much of the time. You work towards goals but don’t strive for perfection.

You’re not really an extravert. But nor are you a typical introvert. You’re quite easy going. Extraverts need other people to recharge their batteries, introverts need time alone – you’re a bit of both. You’re able to immerse yourself into social situations quite easily, but you’re also quite happy with your own company. At times you will seek excitement and at other times you will happily stay home by yourself.

Soft hearted and sympathetic, you see the best in people and trust others easily. You avoid conflict and tend to agree with others in order to keep the peace. Helpful, honest and direct, others see you as warm and caring. You are a good team player who cooperates well.

You tend to become stressed pretty easily and will focus on the worst possible outcome in any situation. You are highly sensitive and easily upset. You see danger where others usually don’t and can be quite shy. You don’t like to wait for things and may have a quick temper. You worry about things you have said and done, and can be hard on yourself. The problems in the world make you sad.

The quiz/test is available here:

So here’s a thought.

If I get two days off a week and one of those days is a week day, what’s to stop me from going through the large sheaf of song ideas I have written down and recording one of those songs on that day?

Really, what’s to stop me?

Is it too late for a New Year’s Resolution or is it the perfect time?

Notes on the inevitable.

They’re one of those things, as men, we “don’t think about”.  Mirrors.  Especially bathroom mirrors.  We’re trained to use them only to check our ties are straight (so that’s once a year for me), to check for food stuck in our teeth and to avoid injuries while shaving.

The story we hear from women (well to be honest, it’s mostly regurgitated quotes from “women’s” magazines and the like, not from any of the women I actually know in real life. Strange, that.) is that mirrors are there to be avoided. That they’re evil and to look into one is to have yourself transported to centre stage on the Jeremy Kyle show, naked, in front of a howling audience. You must never catch your reflection in the eye.

I was thinking about that today while wondering if I could be bothered shaving.  I couldn’t be bothered, as it turns out, but I thought about looking in the mirror. I thought about peering into that awful reflection.

So once, when I was 39, I did.

And it seems that I now have double the number of grey hairs in my beard than I did before I last shaved in June.  Is this what the panic is about?  Is this the terrible promise of the mirror?  Maybe this is the slowly encroaching horror of the looking glass, and I’m being turned to stone one beard hair at a time.  Class.  Maybe by the time I’m 60 I will have a beard made entirely from stone.  People will come from miles around to see it.  I’ll be a famous local attraction.
But they’d better not look in my mirror.

From the recent archives…

First read this:
A man is accused of flashing at a 15 year old in a clothes shop.  He was denied bail.

Now read this:
A man is charged with raping a woman twice.  He is granted bail.

So much is badly wrong with our justice system.

Airline passenger conversations to be monitored under EU project – Telegraph

So Brussels is finally bending their knee to the USA in this too.
Flying is by a huge percentage less dangerous than twenty years ago, which was in turn a huge percentage less dangerous than twenty years before that, yet the culture of fear and dependence that the US Government, closely aped by the major EU powers, is insisting we live in would have us see the world in a state of deadly terror under constant but non-specific threat of annihilation.

“We are encouraging the world of social and behavioural science to share their ideas and expertise with us to do this. Academia and industry may be able to provide invaluable assistance and advice in helping to prevent terrorist attacks.”

We must learn from the software industry that this kind of knee-jerk, cure-all, attack-the-symptoms thinking simply forces those few would-be wrong-doers into more and more devious exploits, much like the ever-narrowing gaps between new anti-piracy measures being launched and cracked versions of new software appearing on torrent sites.
It’s like MRSA – hyperfocus on wiping out a threat and the threat develops immunity and becomes stronger.

Why don’t authorities see that dealing with terrorism effectively means dealing with root causes, like disaffection, isolation and demonisation?
Are there no obvious lessons to be learned from, for example, Northern Ireland? Is Politics so concerned with saving face that it cannot acknowledge that the foreign and domestic policies of sovereign governments can cause adverse reactions both within and outwith that country and that addressing this can only start with both admitting and ceasing to make mistakes?

I Won’t Be Happy Unless It All Ends In Tragedy.

I mean Tragedy in the sense of not an Epic or a Comedy.  Tragedies tend to be meditations on death, loss and suffering but without any final redemption, whereas Epics, though they touch on the same subjects, end with the protagonist learning an essential truth, becoming stronger for it, and experiencing some form of redemption.
Forgive me if I’m offering you a pre-sucked egg here.

Tragedies can be difficult to sit through and, forgive me for saying this, often seem to be taking themselves far more seriously than necessary.  To quote an esteemed colleague, movies that are hard-going for hard-going’s sake just seem to defeat the purpose…much the same [as] “earnest” movies.
Bill Murray, as one example, has an amazing knack for taking serious, “earnest”, complex roles and injecting both humanity and humour, allowing the viewer to watch and enjoy (because let’s be plain here, we’re not talking about documentaries, we’re talking about work that is designed, marketed and consumed primarily as entertainment) the movie, but which also serves the process of the art much better in that it communicates the human experience involved, adds extra levels of communication between actors and audience and forms connections, bonds, between actors and audience granting those unspoken dimensions a presence onscreen.

As another example I think Deer Hunter was more in the “hard-going for the sake of it” camp, although perhaps it was intended/received as a necessary catharsis for Americans from the Vietnam era, ‘cos heaven knows such a thing was necessary given what the vets experienced both in service and on their return home.

This is in stark contrast with another war movie, Apocalypse Now, which is one of my favourite movies (especially the 45 min longer Redux cut), and, y’know, it barely seems like a war movie at all to me.  I’m a bit of a Joseph Conrad fan, and I really really like the exploration & exposition of personality that his storytelling deals with, and I think Coppola reflected this brilliantly.  The war aspect was just a distracting device through which to explore the otherness of white guys going crackers in the jungle (amongst slightly more weighty topics ;> ).
Better than Romancing the Stone, anyway.

But here, if you fancy some luscious cinematography, find a Russian movie called The Return.  so good.  Also an Epic.  Or its successor, The Banishment, a Tragedy.