Friday, 25 February 2011

Fun video of a song I recorded and mixed for my brother-in-law's band

I mixed this song for my brother-in-law (the singer) and the other guys in his band.  Then my bro-in-law edited the bits of vintage dance moves into it.  I like the effect.

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Does Having British Ancestry Make It Harder To Take American Christianity Seriously?

This has been pointed out by many:  Americans and Brits dream different dreams.  Consider their science fiction:

American: Lost in Space, Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers, Star Trek, Star Wars.  
Good-looking, heroic people in amazing spaceships blast hither and thither across the universe, with gleaming technology which does amazing stuff.  Good people are good, and bad people are bad.  Good people are good-looking, and bad people are ugly and weird looking.

British: A Clockwork Orange, 1984, 2001:A Space Odyssey, Bladerunner, Alien (a British director's vision), Blake's 7, Doctor Who.
Weird people try to deal with a messed up world.  Robots break down or go rogue or turn evil.  Spaceships do not always work.  Heroes may turn evil.  What exactly needs to be done is usually complicated and solutions are imperfect.  Morality is ambiguous.  Heroes tend to be weirder than the villains, who are often handsome or ordinary-looking, bureaucrat types.

There seems to be a British inability to believe in good looking happy people uncomplicatedly doing good stuff, with political systems, vehicles and technology that tend to work quite well most of the time.  You have to put a bit of (imported from America) Terry Gilliam's Brazil into things.  You need some crazy old street people.  You need stuff that's dirty, or that breaks down when it's serious, rather than when it's cute or funny.  Stuff that can't be fixed by smacking it with the edge of one's hand, like Han Solo or the Fonz.

The book of Psalms, and most of the bible, has the two mixed together.  The transcendant with the nitty gritty.  The mount of transfiguration and the lepers.  The voice of God from on high, and the whores.  The holy spirit coming down in the form of a dove, and demon-possessed pigs leaping off a cliff into the sea.  

We know what reality is like.  Things could be good. God wants things to be good.  But there's bad stuff and bad people and it's not quite getting fixed right this second and we have to deal with that.  The good can be persecuted or asked to sacrifice themselves and never see a reward, while the evil can persecute, despoil, extort, exploit and desecrate, and never suffer a negative consequence.  (At least not right now, and we have to live right now.)

I grew up with a mother who was born in England, and a British grandmother in the house.  My father is a pessimist.  Maybe that's why I always prefer British stuff to American stuff.

So when I try to read an American Christian book, or hear American Christian music, or anything American which is all about how Life with Jesus is all great!, I don't buy it.  I need to feel reality in it, and I know right well what reality is like.  It's not magic.  I'm just not an American Christian, any more than I'm an American patriot or music fan.  My favourite music is British people getting inspired by the descendants of black slaves abducted and enslaved in America.  And Canadians appropriating those kind of influences and doing outsider's views of American stuff.  "Not Ready to Make Nice" is the Dixie Chicks responding as outsiders, having been sidelined in America for not being on board with the pep rally.  That's why it has heart.

I am a high school teacher, and when the Students Council concocts themes the kids are supposed to dress up according to, without consulting said kids, in a tired old parade of themes which changes but little from year to year, and kids don't care, and they set up a competition among the grades to see which grade has the most "school spirit," and they come around counting compliant students and get entire rooms with not a single kid who felt like wearing pyjamas to school in January in Canada, I feel like shouting "Wake up!  You're in Canada!  School spirit isn't real!  It's just you trying to wield power, and set your mark upon the masses in the form of arbitrarily decreeing conformity!" 

I like some Canadian music.  I don't like all of it, and I don't like much Canadian literature, though I am a Canadian English teacher.  To me, too much of Canadian literature has the same feeling to it.  It is the feeling we all get when we look out the window.  It is a feeling of cold, sterile, emptiness.  Not many people, nothing much going on.  A feeling of waiting, knowing that very little is likely going to happen, for good or for ill. Too much of Canadian literature is an all-too-accurate expression of that, all-too-familiar feeling. For me, literature is supposed to broaden me, to allow me to take trips to other places.  And not America.  I'm sick of it.  I'm sick of almost every movie and TV show in America being set in New York or L.A.  What about Memphis?  What about New Orleans?  What about Chicago?  What about Boston? (way to go "House" and "The Office."  You had to steal from England to get your show made, but it paid off.  That's why Simon Cowell and Sharon Osbourne and Russell Brand and Ricky Gervais work in America.  They're actually kind of real, genuine people who aren't nice to everyone all the time, not respecting the celebrities just because they're in the room and so on.  Or so my Mom says.)

Maybe the aboriginal people were right that if you film a person enough, you take their soul.  Because California is the most photogenic state, filled with some of the most photogenic people, and with all the filming going on, there seems to be a dearth of souls left to trade for celebrity.  They have to import people from Toronto, Kansas City and Minneapolis to devour. 

My cousin asked me today to listen to an inspiring song written to be inspiring during the Winter Olympics.  It really touched her.  Someone commented under it:

Being Canadian is believing, and no one can really understand the power and meaning behind this song unless you are true Canadian.

Vancouver 2010 was an unforgettable experience, for Canadians, for everyone around the world, for the volunteers on the scene, the families watching their daughters and sons. The athlete's heart racing in their hearts. The unforgettable, circumstantial faith in our Canadian athletes. This is what being Canadian is all about.

And I realized, that's NOT what being Canadian is all about. That's what being American is all about. That's what "not asking what exactly putting the words "circumstantial faith" together adds up to" is all about.  That's what losing track of your "one" and sliding it into a "you" is all about.  That's what writing in sentence fragments is all about.  That's what writing crap and then asking the reader if he's a true Canadian if it doesn't "inspire him" is all about.  It's an American attitude.  We Canadians just aren't into flowery, highflown rhetoric.  We are British enough that it either makes us cough uncomfortably and look solemn just to be polite, or it makes us sneer and snicker a bit at how tatty it is.  "Who do they think they are?" we want to know.

I mean, to me, the words of stuff like that just sounds like "Blah blah blah, so happy, blah blah proud, blah blah lovely, blah blah majestic" and so on.  Like crap, in other words.  Like propaganda selling its own empty self. 

And then I thought about another song which was sung at the winter Olympics.  The song "Hallelujah" by Leonard Cohen.  It's about the experience of cathartic ecstasy, whether achieved religiously or sexually.  And mixing those two together, and seeing the connection, and God's hand behind and heart in both equally?  Makes me able to believe in them.  In way that "lovely, lovely blah blah honour pride and majesty, blah we all feel it blah blah the world united as one"  doesn't.  I mean, John Lennon wrote a song about the world being one, too.  But his song "Imagine" was about imagining it, seeing it and trying to make it happen, not fantasizing over it and changing nothing.  I can feel "Hallelujah" and I can feel "Imagine."  So can a lot of people.