Summer 22-23

I laughed uncontrollably recently because I caught myself - while driving beneath blue skies - thinking that nothing bad had happened for the year yet. This was on the fifth of January. The fact that I considered this a milestone is a testament to what the last few years have been like for me. I'm trying to delay the period of my life that I'm addicted to painkillers, but occasionally I will relent and let myself swallow some codeine and twenty minutes later a layer of tension will be sheared off of me and I realise that I am constantly living like that. It's disconcerting.

So when I revisit Summer 22-23 and its soundtrack will I want it to remind me of the warm and also cloudy days that are starting to be consumed by chilly dawns that penetrate deeper into the mornings each week? I didn't hate my summer. I enjoyed the occasional submersion in the ocean, rounds of Chameleon, eating salads, walking up steep hills, reading books about Paris and eating a lot of passionfruit. The injuries and illnesses of myself, Vanessa and Nash only served to make me crave more of the good things that life offers. The adventure, the flavours, the photographs for later.

Music has always been important to me, but recently I've been using music as a link between the past and the present, a medium for nostalgia. This summer music has not been a channel as much as it has been a release. Like a milligram of codeine, a song can displace the tension and be a reminder of the perks of living. Just little moments during a day when my other senses are demoted by the vocal range of Caroline Polachek over smooth synths. Or the pulsing rhythm of Urban Funk. Dre-like piano paired with dubstep wobbles. French disco-house mixed on 2022 computers promising bonus summers of glossy sophistication. Simple, catchy melodies. Atmospheric trance. The lick of guitars and the memories of fully-intact summers of my youth. Keyboard pop and emotive vocals. The songs on this summer's playlist are not related to memories, but distractions from them. Music is one thing that hasn't been taken from me yet.

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The woman with the fake tan stepped into my office, sat across from my desk and lit a cigarette.
At least, she would, sometime in the next 20 minutes. Smelling the future has advantages, but precision isn’t one of them.

Count Sideways

What am I going to remember about today in twenty years? And if I don't remember it, will it have happened? I walked in the shallows at the beach this morning (barefoot), other than that the shoes I wore were a pair of Adidas Lite Racer 2.0 shoes. The same shoes I wore to multiple offices last week. My work shoes are still there in various drawers and amusingly numbered lockers...

I went to Green Who Shall Not Be Named twice today. I don't want to remember that, but I don't want to have to buy and install another toilet seat either. So that definitely happened.

I didn't listen to much of the Hottest 100 today. Why do I feel like I'll have more of an interest in this countdown when it gets replayed in 2043 on Double J? That's even assuming my biological age at that point won't be 21 thanks to age-reducing drugs.

Spring 22

This spring it was announced that recycling of soft plastics was suspended at the supermarkets - the only place soft plastics can be recycled...

To be horrifically honest, this has been a massive relief. Ever since the program was established I have faced the almost daily challenge of trying to follow soft plastic recycling ordinances in order to avoid the guilt of being 0.0000000125% responsible for destroying the planet. I've rinsed out frozen fruit packages. I've peeled off the unrecyclable packing tape attached to recyclable plastic packing material. I've collected up empty Zooper Doopers tubes. I've gone back and checked with people about the brand of cling wrap they used. At one point I set up a separate little container for milk lids and a second one for bread tags. I've saved and wrapped up the fraction of Zooper Dooper tops where I cut them off.

I feel like I did everything that could reasonably be expected of me, a human being, so that every microplastic particle in my life could be dumped in a bucket at Woolworths, driven across a continent, stored in a warehouse with a bunch of other bags of plastic and contaminants, shipped across a hemisphere, and then almost definitely maybe perhaps not be thrown in an incinerator.

Now, every time I consume something that comes packaged in plastic I throw the plastic in the bin with the rest of the trash. I don't have to think about it after that for a single second. I simply go on with my life. It may sound like I've given up, and that's because I have. It's just nice after the spring I've had to know you can do all the right things and then give up when it doesn't work out.

Anyway now that it's December here's my spring playlist. Short and underwhelming like the actual season. But some memory triggers for a weekend in Encounter Bay, a walk around Canberra, a book, a hangover, some moments of optimism, and so many no stress garbage experiences.

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This Is What it Sounded Like

This month I listened to the non-fiction book This Is What It Sounds Like by Dr. Susan Rogers and Ogi Ogas. The blurb pitches it as a neurological summary of how the brain interprets music and how individuals develop listener "profiles" across three conscious and four subconscious musical attributes.

I loved the concept of this book, because I enjoy both music of almost all varieties, as well as thinking about music. Ultimately the book was 30% neurology, 30% listening skills and 40% Susan Rogers biography. None of this was bad as it seems like Susan Rogers has lived an interesting life. Perhaps it's because I chose the audio book, some parts appealed to my book-listener profile and other parts felt unnecessary. I wish I had read this as a physical book where I could have seen the shape of the paragraphs before reading them, and been more easily able to pause and reflect/digest the fact I was just presented.

The seven facets of music I learned about were Authenticity, Realism, Novelty along with Melody, Rhythm, Lyrics and Timbre. Some of this was reminiscent of This Is Your Brain on Music which I enjoyed 13 years ago and which inspired several Rip It Up reviews (and which taught me the word "timbre") but which I've also forgotten a lot of. Perhaps that's part of why I'm recording the lessons here for future reference.

I most definitely would have got a dozen review structures out of this book a dozen years ago. I also confirmed my musical sweet spot is quite broad according to the quadrants prescribed by Dr Rogers. I enjoy personal ballads and swaggering hip hop. I dig an acoustic guitar and an 808. I'm drawn to new concepts and the classics. I'll groove to the downbeat, the backbeat or the high hat. Basically I'm like 19 year or Brad at the bar. If it comes in a bottle, I'm drinking it. There was a paragraph near the end talking about guilty pleasures and I was at a blank trying to identify my own. I don't feel any guilt about Creedence Clearwater Revival, JT featuring Timberland, Party Favor, Falling in Reverse, Taylor Swift, K-Pop hip hop, Diplo mash ups, or Kid Kenobi dropping Purple Funky Monkey. None of those will have the longevity of oral histories passed down for generations and stored across hemispheres, but they all work for me. Thanks to this book I can now also more accurately assess why they bring me pleasure.

The Hourglass Part 2

Rollover for last month.


Winter is over. Tomorrow will top out at springy 20 degrees and then there will be 20mm of springy rain. This is tolerable partly because the sun set at 6pm today and it won't be down earlier than that again until 2023.

All of this means it's time to finalise the Winter 2022 playlist.

Winter 2022 I will never forgive you. I mean, forget you. Three different employers. Six weeks in a cast. Countless hours trying to work out how to raise the temperature in my house. Zero football. Zero pumpkins. Constant covid paranoia. The occasional social occasion. Too many word puzzles. The bench. My feet aching from cold and my hands weak and desiccated. Everyone I know and love getting older. And then, right before it ended, two glorious weeks on the road to serve as a reminder that there's a whole world out there and a lot of it is sunny even in July.

At least there were some good tunes to discover.

Mega Road Trip 22

There may be claims that internet algorithms rule our lives, but after Vanessa and I curated the 26 hour, 45 minute Mega Road Trip 22 I clearly had too high expectations for the power of Shuffle.

It wasn't just that despite sixty hours of driving I don't think I heard a good chunk of these songs. But the thing that bothered me the most was Spotify's seemingly poor timing of random tracks. For instance, Home by Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros, as well as Good To Be On The Road Back Home Again by Cornershop both got played in the first five hour of the drive. Further, Snow (Hey Oh) came on a couple hours premature of our arrival on the Hay plain, and Go West by the Pet Shop Boys featured on a very eastern drive between Griffith and Young. Live's Lightning Crashes played on a sunny day. The Cure's Friday I'm In Love was the soundtrack to a Saturday morning, and The Wallflower's One Headlight came on the day after I successfully replaced a blown globe in Lower Beechmont.

Crowded House's Weather With You was at least appropriate, it played on the drive home and today in Adelaide it was sunny and warm.

Survive - Autumn 2022

Nineteen years ago I created my first seasonal playlist (the tracklist lost to time as I recorded it to cassette from my computer back when I drove an original-condition VK Commodore). Some time during the next fifty playlists I realised that these snapshots of musical preference, if curated expertly, could act as a time travel mechanism and transport me to the autumn of 2004 (in my VK Commodore) or the spring of 2016 when the simulation really started to fall apart at the seams.

Alas, I’m now reaching my brain’s tolerance to hear these same songs on a semi-regular basis and not instead be transported back half the distance to some other time between now and then when I listened to the playlist. Clearly I should never listen to these songs or playlists again after the season has passed and instead reserve them behind a panel of glass that says break in event of time-travel-requiring emergency.

Speaking of breaking and emergency, autumn 2022 was a season I hopefully never have to travel back to it again.

Many of these songs were enjoyed during periods of sitting in pain, or walking in pain, or just generally being in pain.

With the leaves nearly gone from the trees and a few weeks of post-op recovery coming up now is about the right moment to finalise the order and punt this one into the archives adjacent to the Summer 2022 soundtrack that I aborted like that fateful bike ride - halfway through.

Anyway that all reads a bit negative, but there is a vibe to this playlist that I noticed around the first morning my breath was visible. It was a theme of surviving, carrying on, persisting, and loving life.

It’ll be hard to finish a winter playlist if I need to keep finding songs that are upbeat and also cozy and atmospheric.

The other unintentional theme of autumn 2022 is the large amount of collaborations, features and duets. That’s a big part of how I survived autumn 2022 for sure.

2021 Winter -> Spring

A few weeks back my physical body had just returned home after a weekend road trip to Moonta. My head was still catching up. In that moment it occurred to me with some poignancy that life, and especially winter, had a distasteful velocity that unfortunately I had no control over. The mundane pattern - sleep, breakfast, walk, work, backyard, food shopping until death eventually takes me - made it feel like I had jumped off a cliff many, many years earlier and now I was simply hurtling towards the distant yet inevitable ground. But a simple weekend away, just a chance to see and do something different, was like I'd looked up from my freefall and seen something beautiful and I thought poetically that life was just like falling knowing you were going to die, and the only thing you could really control is how much you enjoyed the experience.

When my brain did catch up to my body later that afternoon I realised that this was the premise of a song by a pop-punk rock band that had been popular during my impressionable years and that I'd essentially plagiarised the entire sentiment.

Winter into Spring 2021. A lot of time in the backyard and watching the grass grow. Disappointing strawberries. Fingerless compression gloves. Drives to the hospital. Walks to the bakery. Trello todo lists. Working out in the garage. Actual springtime weather more often than not. More time in the backyard.

Bring on Summer.

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