Cover Versions

IMG_3678

Adelaide street art — this is a fairly recent piece, and I love the incorporation of the windows in to the reimagining of this wall space.

So those of you who follow my side hustle at Blue Jai Creative will know that my word of the month for March is REIMAGINE.

I’ve selected the word reimagine quite deliberately — as writers are prone to doing — particularly after last month’s focus on connection, when I delved into the rich pickings that can be gleaned from connecting with people, with your inner voice, and with what inspires you, and then from connecting the dots between all those things to create something whole and meaningful. Hopefully, having spent some time making such connections, you have a stronger sense of what you want to achieve in your work or life.

The first thing that prompted me to select reimagine as the word of the month was a recent trip I took to Adelaide, South Australia. I’d never been there before, but was keen to check out the food and wine and, being a lover of street art, wanted to see some of the amazing work that has popped up all over the inner city in recent years — and I was not disappointed. Seeing the way that hidden nooks and crannies all around Adelaide had been transformed from grotty out of the way spots to beautiful, unexpected spaces was truly inspiring.

So this month, the word reimagine is designed to kickstart an examination of those things in your work or life that need reviewing. We all have pieces that don’t quite fit — procedures that don’t flow quite as smoothly as we’d like them to, systems that have pinch points or regular breakdowns, products that could do with a tweak, ideas that seem to resist attempts to realise them, all manner of things we know could be improved. Because let’s face it: we’re all human, which means none of us is perfect.

Reim hawking

Without wondering and reimagining, would Stephen Hawking’s work would have been impossible.

But the fact that we are human also means that we possess the greatest and most mind-blowing of gifts: we have the power to imagine and to reimagine — over and over again. For as long as we are capable of thinking, we can keep re-envisaging and reinvestigating.  The possibilities and permuations are limitless, endless, for as long as we are consciously able to imagine and reimagine them.

And that brings me to the second thing — or, more accurately, person — who inspired the reimagine theme for March: the brilliant theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, whose passing earlier this month reminded the world not only of his amazing work, but also of some of his more poignant words of advice to his fellow humans: that we need to retain our curiosity and keep wondering — or reimagining — our worlds, and that we don’t ever stop doing so.  In his own words, it matters that you don’t just give up.

I think it’s important, at this point, to draw a distinction between reimagining and reinventing, because I think part of what makes human beings tend to give up on things is that we become caught up in thinking we have to create something completely and entirely new in order to be successful — and it simply isn’t true. As far as I’m concerned, the old adage about not needing to reinvent the wheel is right on the money: the wheel is just fine, thank you, but hats off to the person who can imagine a way to make it faster, stronger, or perhaps even prettier.

So this month, I encourage you to reimagine the things in your work or life that you think could do with some renewal. What would it look like, if you did something differently? How would that feel? Does it really matter that something is not brand new, or is it more important that you’re willing to try doing something in a new way? Sure – it might be a bit scary, but what if it actually worked?

reim cilly

Some of the many reimaginings of Cillian Murphy…

Which brings me to my third and final inspriation for my March reimagine theme, which was a fantastic bunch of cover versions actor Cillian Murphy played during a recent broadcast on BBC Radio 6. I have a sneaking suspicion that, like me, Cillian Murphy thinks music is about as necessary to human life as oxygen, and as well as being one of my favourite actors (a job which, quite obviously, requires you to reimagine yourself all the time) his recent forays into broadcasting have cemented him in my mind as being one of the most awesome human beings on the planet. (It’s OK…relax, I’ve stopped fangirling now).

Returning to cover versions, though — which are, of course, one artist’s reimaginings of another artist’s work. Some cover versions are pretty much straightforward reproductions of the original song…and to my mind such works are more like tributes than anything else. Other times, however, cover versions take original songs to a whole other level.  They make you aware of a fresh layer of meaning in the original lyrics, or evoke an entirely different mood from the melody, or strip a song back to its essential elements and make you fall in love with it all over again, in a new and exciting way. I’d cite Neil Finn’s cover of Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” as being one such a track, and Nirvana’s version of David Bowie’s “Man Who Stole the World”, or even Northeast Party House’s recent rendition of Childish Gambino’s “Redbone” as others.

But there was one particular song Cillian Murphy played during his hour of favourite cover versions that he ventured to say was even better than the original — and even though it’s a big call, I’m inclined to agree with him. So I’m going to leave you with it, as a final piece of inspiration to look, and look hard, at what needs reimagining in your life and work.

Here is Stevie Wonder, playing a cover version of The Beatles’ “We Can Work it Out” — at the White House, in front of President Obama and his family, who are sitting right next to Paul McCartney…who wrote and performed the original song. Boom.

If you think you’re scared of reimagining something new, let wheelchair-bound scientist and a blind man show you the way. You might just work it out, too.

 

2017 in Review: The Final Countdown

OK folks, here it is: the last of my Top Fives for 2017.

Today I’m shining a light on the five songs that made an impression on me this year, but unlike the Reading and Viewing lists, the songs that made the grade here HAD to have been released this year.

So without any further mucking around, and in totally random order, here’s the list — with some favourite lines thrown in for good measure:

BLUE JAI’S TOP FIVE SONGS FOR 2017

1.  Your Time by Nick Murphy.

2017 Your Time

Nick Murphy

You know that your time is something that I need to have…

This is one dark, edgy track from Murphy’s Missing Link EP — and it hooks you right from the opening line. If you’ve been living under a rock somewhere for the past few years and haven’t already encountered Nick Murphy in his former guise, Chet Faker, you’re in for a treat with this one. And if you’re not dancing (or obsessing over someone) by the end of this song, I’m not sure we can be friends. Really. Nothing personal, it’s just that kind of music.

2. Private by Vera Blue.

2017 Private

Vera Blue

Subjects in my mind, running wild, images of a parallel life…

Vera Blue’s Perennial was nominated for Album of the Year at the 2017 J Awards — and rightly so, in my opinion. She’s a powerful and interesting vocalist (I loved her work on Slumberjack’s track Fracture as well), and this song taps right into the fantastically frustrating vibe of wanting someone you can’t have, no matter how vividly you imagine it. Totally worth a listen.

 

3. Everything Now by Arcade Fire.

2017 Everything now

Arcade Fire

Every song that I’ve ever heard
Is playing at the same time, it’s absurd
And it reminds me, we’ve got everything now…

I’ll be honest — Arcade Fire are one of my favourite bands. Ever. And this song has been the soundtrack to many a morning walk along the beachfront near my home this year. The lyrics are, admittedly, bleak, but the overall sound of the piece is overwhelmingly joyful — particularly towards the end, when there’s a real festival vibe going on. In an era of information overload and fake news, I’m grateful Arcade Fire is there to critique it and turn it into something uplifting and beautiful.

4. Cloud 9 and Marryuna by Baker Boy.

2017 Baker Boy

Baker Boy

You want to be as good as me boy you better practice: step back in the power of my blackness…

So this one is a tie — I couldn’t bring myself to choose between these two Baker Boy tracks, because they’re both absolutely brilliant. These raps are a blend of English and Yolngu Matha language, and Baker Boy does Arnhem Land more than proud representing his people. He’s as good live as he is in the recording studio, and at just 20 years of age I’m looking forward to hearing a whole lot more from this supremely talented rising star.

5. The Deepest Sighs, The Frankest Shadows by Gang of Youths

2017 GOYouths

Gang of Youths

In a crowd unfamiliar, I just wanna touch a familiar face
And make friends at the parties I’ve feared the likes of an age
To be wanted with truth and make formidable love
See light in myself that I see inside everyone else I know…

How good is this band? It was no surprise to me that they absolutely cleaned up at the ARIAs this year. Go Farther in Lightness is an album packed with David Le’aupepe’s mindbendingly well-written lyrics accompanied by the driving rhythms and soaring melodies all Gang of Youths fans have come to know and love. This is my favourite track from a great album. Check it out.

2017 The Man

See? He really is The Man.

Honourable mentions go to The Killers for The Man — a song I half expect to turn up on a Peaky Blinders episode in the future because it seems (to me, anyway) to capture Tommy Shelby’s strut and sass, not to mention his complete self-assuredness. And that’s not just because I’m a huge fan of anything Cillian Murhpy does…it’s a great song. This year I also think Nick Mulvey’s Myela deserves a mention, not least because it highlights the plight of refugees in a world prone to forgetting some of the planet’s most desperate people, and — on a much lighter note — Lorde’s Homemade Dynamite is also top flight listening.

So there we have it: the last of my Top Five’s for the year. Given that I’m a veritable magpie when it comes to music and that I listen to a wide range of stuff from all over the world, I was somewhat surprised that the majority of the artists I’ve highlighted here are Australian — but that’s where I’m from, and I believe in supporting the local music scene, so perhaps it’s logical even if it does reflect a certain Antipodean bias.

Anyway, I’d love to hear what your Top Five songs were this year. Feel free to use the Comments to let me know, and I’ll be sure to give them a spin.

Six Stack of Sunshine

Car ENVY

So The Bloke has new wheels…

So as I said in my last post, I started a new job not so long ago — and that has meant I have been spending more time in my car than I have in recent years. My car is silver, but is by no means flash. It’s safe and serviceable. It definitely has a lot more bells and whistles than other cars I’ve owned, though if you’d seen any of those, you’d know that wouldn’t be too hard.

The Bloke, on the other hand, acquired a new car late last year, a great white BEAST of a car. (Not quite a Beluga on wheels, but close enough.)

I can say, with certainty, that it’s the first brand new vehicle either of us has ever owned.  And I can also say that since he acquired it, my position on his Totem Pole of Great Loves may have slipped slightly…not to say that I’m out of the top spot, but…well, I’m watching this space.

I’m not jealous.  Not a bit.

Well…that may not be entirely true: I am a tiny bit green-eyed, but it’s not over the car itself.

Car STEREO

The Bloke’s old car stereo looked a bit like this…

What I will admit being ever-so-slightly covetous of is the sound system, with its touch-screen technology, its Bluetooth connectivity, its up to the minute compatibility with just about any other device that’s been invented already.

Now, I am well aware that I should not begrudge The Bloke his newfound sonic bliss — his last chariot (it wasn’t quite horse-drawn, but I’ll let you extrapolate from there) was so woefully ill-equipped in the musical department that when we headed off on holidays I resorted to taking our BOSE Bluetooth speaker, plonking it on the dashboard, and playing Spotify via my iPhone for as long as we were in range, then switching to whatever I had downloaded from iTunes. We may have had decent music for as long as the battery lasted, but clearly, the setup wasn’t ideal.

Even so, it was not without a twinge of envy that I slid behind the wheel of my own car the other day.  I may even have looked a little folornly at the stereo, before recalling that just about every self-help guru that ever was suggests that in such cirumstances, a little gratitude does not go astray. Even Benjamin Franklin, it seems, was on the old gratitude bandwagon (though given the fact that he has been dead for nearly 227 years he might even have been the bandwagon’s original driver):

We can complain that rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.

Thank you, Mr Franklin. Ever so ta.

My car stereo was already starting to look better.  In fact, I decided to have a good — and far more grateful — look at what I actually had: a fully functioning car stereo with six presets for radio stations, and capacity for not one, not two, but six CDs.

Bloody marvellous, really — though given I generally listen to indie rock-type radio stations most of the time I couldn’t remember for the life of me what half of the CDs I currently had in the car stereo were, despite strongly suspecting they were a rather, ummm….shall we say, eclectic mix? So I decided, on what turned into quite a slow commute work that morning, to find out exactly what I had on board.

Spolier alert…even I was surprised…

Car BONEY M

Boney M

CD 1, as it turned out, was none other than The Best of Boney M.

I kid you not.

But just in case your eyebrows have just shot skyhigh and you’re seriously concerned about whatever else I might have lurking in my car stereo, there is method to such madness — as this post I wrote about the Healing Power of Disco will reveal. Trust me: if you have a tendency to get a little cranky while in traffic, this might be just what you didn’t even know you needed.

Car SPEM IN ALIUM

Thomas Tallis

CD 2 was equally surprising: a compilation of medieval choral music that began with a sublime rendition of Thomas Tallis’ Spem In Alium, a 40 part Renaissance motet composed around 1570 for eight choirs of five voices each.

Some critics consider it to be the greatest piece of early English music. I just know it’s a piece of music that had a massively calming influence on my children (and, if I’m being totally honest, on me as well). Check it out on YouTube…you might be pleasantly surprised.

Car JAY KAY 2

Jay Kay of Jamiroquai

Not unexpectedly, having discovered music from the 1970s and the 1570s currently occupying two of the six slots in my car stereo, I appoached CD3 with some trepidation — and was relieved to find a bunch of funky tunes from Jamiroquai.

Hearing Jay Kay singing (not to mention imagining him dancing) immediately transports me to a happy, summery place in my head, full of golden light and good times. It’s great music to have in your car — particuarly given the unusual amount of grey skies and general downpour we’ve had in Sydneytown lately.

Car AWESOME MIX

Yeeha…mix tape!

Less perturbed now, I made my way to CD4 and discovered a mix tape (well, that should probably read mix disc?) of dance tracks I had thrown together at some point. Now, as everyone knows, the best bit about a mix tape is that you know — if you put it together — that you’re going to love ever last track on it.

This CD was about as far away from Thomas Tallis as you can get (it has songs from Sia, Robin Schulz, Watermät, The Weeknd, and all sorts of other stuff), but it was equally uplifting — and full of fun too.

Car SIGUR ROS 2

Jonsi of Sigur Rós

CD5 began quietly enough and built into the unmistakable wall of sound produced by Iceland’s Sigur Rós on their incredible Takk album.

I once read about how, while preparing for the final scenes in the 2007 movie Sunshine, Danny Boyle had Cillian Murphy listen to Sigur Rós at maximum volume, trying to create some sort of (obviously earthbound) impression of what it would be like to be in complete communion with the sun Murphy’s character was attempting to reignite.

I can readily understand the choice — the euphoria is clearly present in Sigur Rós’ music, along with positivity and a very real sense of power.

Car OK COMPUTER

Radiohead: OK Computer

And that brought me, finally, to CD6, which proved to be a rather battered and slightly skippy ripped copy of Radiohead’s OK Computer. Because it is a truth intergalactially acknowledged that no vehicle is roadworthy without a bit of Radiohead hanging around — I mean the first track is Airbag, so clearly no car is safe without a copy?

I’m not quite sure where I would be without songs like Let Down or No Surprises. And for me it is a strangely (OK, perhaps downright weirdly) comforting thought that cosmic forces aligned themselves in such a way that they not only produced life on this planet, but also contrived to bring the likes of Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood into existence in the same place at the same time, to form a once-in-a-generation band with such a distinctive sonic presence…but that, I suspect, is a whole other blogpost…

So anyway — that’s what was in my car stereo. A few surprises, even to myself, along with a few old faves. And while the sound system in The Bloke’s new car is very nice, I am quite content (for the moment) with my old school CDs and my six stack of sunshine.

Progress, not Perfection

coffee-catastrophe

I know this looks like a really good idea, but DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME…

One morning last week, having seen my children safely to school, I came into the serenity and silence of my kitchen and made a cup of freshly brewed coffee.  Black, no sugar, piping hot — just like my tea.

And then, eager to begin the day by emailing a fresh lead for a writing gig, I made my way — coffee in hand — over to my beautiful, still nearly brand new, beloved laptop.

You can see where this is going already, can’t you?

You might even be holding your breath…perhaps, hoping against hope, thinking “She didn’t…did she?  She couldn’t have…”

But I did.

Not on purpose, obviously. But it still happened.

As I set the coffee down beside my laptop, the cup tipped…and a warm wave of liquid overwhelmed the keyboard, sank down between the keys, and swamped the inner workings of my marvelous, magical machine.

Oh…the horror…

I’m not going to go into all that happened next, save to say that I was vacillating wildly between panicking that my little friend would not be able to be salvaged and berating myself repeatedly for my massive, monstrous stupidity.

Because that helps, obviously.

And once I’d managed to put the melodramatics aside — which took far longer than I’d like to admit because, believe me, I am more than capable of becoming completely histrionic when such a situation arises — I sucked in a several deep breaths. Then I went to my favourite yoga class and sucked in a few more.

(I may also have called my Dad…because adulting is hard, some days.)

And finally, when I got home from yoga and gingerly inserted the power cord back into the device and discovered that it still wasn’t working, I…

Sighed.  Deeply.

And followed that up with several more big, deep, sob-like sighs…

By this point, you may be wondering why on earth I am writing this? Why am I even admitting to this? Why would someone who prides herself on being organised, of paying attention to detail, of getting things right the first time — not to mention someone who, to earn a living, helps other people to become organised and precise — why would I write about what my kids would call a completely epic fail?

Well, for a couple of reasons, really.

First of all, accidents happen. We all experience setbacks.  We all, as Shakespeare far more elegantly put it, must “suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune”. But it’s what we do in response that counts.  As Victoria Erickson once said, of disappointment:

Don’t immediately brush it off. Feel it first, and it then it will leave you quicker. Here’s the thing about broken glass: it needs to be acknowledged and swept up so you don’t step on it later.

The same thing applies, I suspect, to broken laptops.

coffee-peaky

Monaghan Boy’s Magic Trick: while what I do is definitely not what Tommy Shelby does with the Peaky Blinders, the guy sure knows how to plan thoroughly and execute precisely — even if it is, sometimes, executing literally.

And that brings me to the second thing: planning. Which includes, of course, planning for potential catastrophes — and explains why I diligently followed my To Do List and backed up my laptop the afternoon before I tipped coffee all over it.

Procedures. Systems. Contingency Plans. They might sound (and frequently are) incredibly boring and mundane but believe me, they have their place. And while adhering to my regular backup procedure won’t replace my laptop, it does mean that all my data — and everything last thing I have been working on for my clients — is safe and accessible.

This life — whether it be at home, or at work — is not about achieving perfection. It’s not about managing to snatch a second or two upon a glittering pinnacle. It’s not about being flawless or faultless, because we’re human beings, after all.

Rather, I would argue that life is about striving for progress, not perfection, and about aiming to be our best and most consistent selves, each and every day. Because I would also suggest that our reaction to a situation can, quite literally, have the power to change the situation itself. And the plans we make and execute can leave us in a much better position than we might have been otherwise.

tea-instead

And, just for the record: Tommy would never tip coffee over his laptop because he, as we know, is a man who drinks tea.

Even when we tip hot coffee on our laptops.

Well, that’s what I think, anyway.

Blue Jai

PS: When did you last do a back up?

 

Blue Jai Creative – freelance writing and administration services for your home and business, servicing Sydney’s Northern Beaches and beyond.

© Blue Jai Creative 2016

 

Head Full of Elsewhere…

RB1

Oh, that Grey Cat…if I actually had a cat like this one, I would have to call it Cillian (for obvious reasons).

Restlessness.

The untamable bane of my existence.

I’m not talking about physical restlessness.

Generally speaking, I’m not the fidgety, twitchy, can’t-sit-still type — unless I’m having a Squirrel Week, of course, and then I’m virtually incapable of staying put for two seconds together.

No, my Restlessness (and it definitely has a capital letter) is the mental kind.

For as long as I can remember, I have been a day dreamer and a night thinker…a girl with a head full of Elsewhere.

It’s not that my life is boring, or incomplete, or something from which I am constantly seeking to escape.  And I am not always away with the pixies.

But it does creep in, my Restlessness, like a sleek grey cat prowling after its prey, sharp-clawed and stealthy, yet as insubstantial as smoke. And try as I might to capture this evasive creature, or to pinpoint the source from which it springs, it forever eludes me: just as I reach out to snatch its silken ruff it will suddenly vanish —  leaving me, at best, with a wisp of a glimpse of its silvery tailtip disappearing from the corner of my eye.

RB3

The Grey Cat appears when you least expect it, on paws as silent as smoke.

In the past I fought that Grey Cat, seeking to stem the restlessness by studying (literature, history, remedial massage, law — anything), because I was not comfortable with how unsettled it made me feel. But I found that filling my head with knowledge does not take away the all-pervading sense of Elsewhere, when its steps with soft paws into your mind — nor does it diminish its allure.

So I travelled, following in the footsteps of my veritable gypsy of a grandmother whose wanderings criss-crossed the globe as she flitted from this country to that continent, living one endless summer after another. But I discovered that I was as easy with that lifestyle as she was, as happy a traveller, as content with my own company, and as ready to roll with the rhythms of life on the road. Elsewhere, it seemed, was still Elsewhere.

And I also found that no matter where I went, the Grey Cat came too.

Ah, Restlessness.

How I wrestled with it, struggled to make sense of it. I tried to tame it by writing it out, knowing and longing for the clarity of thought I possessed when it wasn’t taunting me:

My mind is unfettered, my thoughts unchained,
springing fully formed from my head
like Pallas Athena,
soaring skyward into the boundless blue,
blessed and bountiful,
arrows searing, sure and true.

 

But the Grey Cat — like many things made of shadows — is a wild creature, and it won’t be tamed by words or wishes.

RB2

It’s all a matter of perspective, really…

So I learned to live with my Restlessness. And, over time, I made peace with that mysterious Grey Cat and all its slippery ways.

I learned that having a head full of Elsewhere is a valuable thing when you need to consider something from a wide variety of perspectives.

I learned that all that day dreaming and night thinking can be a veritable gift when it inspires you to create an entire fictional world, fill it with characters, and bring them to life on the page.

And the Grey Cat?

Yes, it still stalks me, and pounces when I least expect it. But lately I have found that when it does, that elusive creature sometimes let me sit with it, in silvery silence, and allows me to meet its luminous, blue-eyed gaze.