Monday, December 29, 2008

How My Teenage Years Would’ve Been Better If I'd Had Access to Alternative Music

My life as a teenager pretty much sucked. Bad hair, bad skin, family issues (some things never change) and absolutely no idea where I belonged in the world. I was smart, but I had a distaste for the effort required to do well at school and preferred irritating teachers to listening to them; plus, I spent most of my spare time reading lackluster fantasy novels (fortunately, some things do change) and hanging out and playing similarly lackluster RPGs with my all-male group of friends.

I can imagine that, after reading that, words like ‘nerd’, ‘geek’, ‘dweeb’, ‘wonk’ and ‘spaz’ are coming to mind – all as precursors to the biggie: ‘loser’. And I can’t argue that it isn’t an apt description.

As you can imagine this didn’t make me a well-regarded figure at school – especially when you consider we’re talking about a small town in northern Queensland where not playing rugby league is considered sedition (or, at least, it would be if anyone in the local rugby league community knew what the word meant). I wasn’t exactly picked on - since there were people on lower rungs of the ‘loser ladder’ than myself - but it wasn’t exactly a fun time.

Thing is, it could have been so much different. I wasn’t really a role-player, or a fantasy-novel-reader. My laziness, antisocial tendencies and anti-authoritarian mindset would have made me completely at home with any number of the subgenres within the amazing world of alternative music.

But there wasn’t an amazing world of alternative music – at least not where I was. Instead we had the underwhelming world of mainstream music.

There were, if I remember correctly, two commercial stations, and up until 1995 both were AM and all-but identical in content. The music was the typical AM fare – bland, safe, pop-rock and top forty drivel with lots of oldies; nothing for the aspiring misunderstood teenager to relate to so much he'd constantly annoy his parents and siblings by playing it at obscene volumes at inappropriate hours of the night.

In the years between 1986 and 1991 I went from 13 to 18; in that time there were any number of bands who I could have fallen in love with – I mean, I was the target market for The Smiths. R.E.M. were churning out albums and what was I listening to? Def fucking Leppard. What about The Cure? I may well have braved the tropical climate (and the beatings) to look like Robert Smith. The Pixies, Dinosaur Jr, Sonic Youth and They Might Be Giants appeared, and all I had time for was Phil bloody Collins.

What is also important is that I was at least a little interested in performing music; I’d been forced into learning an instrument and had spent a few years playing the drums, but never been motivated to join or form a band. Why would I? Music was just something to have on. It didn’t drive me, it didn’t inspire me, it didn’t give me anyone I wanted to emulate - no idols or ideals; the things are musicians made of. I can’t imagine too many of today’s successful bands have members who took to their garages determined to play like Huey Lewis and The News.

Missed opportunities to be a mediocre drummer in the worst kind of derivative eighties alt-rock band aside, I think the major casualty of the absence of good music was my social life. A shared taste in music would have brought me into contact with people with whom the mainstream radio me never even knew the name of, and vice-versa. A band t-shirt would have been a uniform, a symbol of shared authenticity. We’d have saved our money to buy imported music magazines (rather than the execrable local rubbish, like Smash Hits) and absorbed the details for long, late-night discussions. Mix tapes would have been a form of currency and record stores our stomping grounds.

And maybe - just maybe - I’d have had an actual conversation with a girl before my eighteenth birthday...

Saturday, December 27, 2008

What Christmas means to me

Well, since it is the appropriate time of the year for such a topic, I’m going to write about what Christmas means to me – since it’s one of those things that is almost entirely idiosyncratic, I'm of the opinion it means just slightly different things to everyone.

First and foremost is that, for me, it’s not about Jesus – since I’m not a Christian, and never have been. Well, not in the sense of believing in the religious aspects; you could, I suppose, say I was a Christian (of sorts), because I went to church and Sunday School for a few years, and was also involved in some of the social groups attached to a church. But that was more for something to do, at my mother’s behest rather than out of any particular theological interest. I think she believed it might help make me a better person. I’m not sure that it did, but I guess we’ll never know. So, Christmas for me doesn’t involve any church services.

I’m also not so fond of pageantry. Nothing horrifies me more than the yearly parade they have in Adelaide. I just don’t see the point – for me, anyway. For people with kids I’m sure it’s a great day, but I don’t have any, and don’t seem likely to anytime in the near future.

Since pageantry also extends to decorations they aren’t high on my list either. So, no tinsel, fairy lights – and definitely no tree. Apart from anything else I live in a small unit, and what space I’ve got is taken up with things I need to be there the whole year ‘round. I guess I could get a small, token tree and put it on my dining room table, but as yet I haven’t felt the urge to do so.

Family, of course, is a big Christmas thing - which I also don’t do. Mainly because of geography; they all live in Queensland and I live in South Australia. Of course, one of the reasons I moved here was because I feared they’d be able to just show up for random, unannounced visits, and the very thought made me break out in hives – so it’s not exactly a coincidence I’m more than a thousand miles away.

But they don’t often meet up these days anyway. There are a lot of reasons for that, and it’s a topic worthy of its own post. So I’ll leave it at that.

Gifts and related retail insanity also doesn’t feature much. That’s another family thing; we’re cheap bastards because of genetics, apparently. So we don’t go to a great deal of effort or expense, except for the kids. Back when I went to Christmas with them the adults usually gave each other fairly minor things.

At this point you’re probably wondering what it is I do like about Christmas.

One thing I really enjoy is the time away from work. This is important, because I don’t tend to take holidays like normal people; I use my leave to help me cope with theatre productions. So not having to work and not having to rig lights, build sets or yell at actors (or be yelled at as an actor) is a novelty.

But most importantly I get to spend time with my friends. Despite my geographic isolation from my family I’ve never managed to spend a Christmas alone. Friends from University, friends from work, friends from theatre or flatmates – I’ve done Christmas day with them all. And it’s always great.

That’s what Christmas means to me.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Jamie joins the blogosphere!

Well, this is what happens when I've got nothing better to do on Christmas night than create a blog.

It's something that I've been meaning to do for some time now - for some months, if not years. I generally have a lot to say in regular conversation; I only hope I can manage to carry my proclivity for rambling into the e-world.

'What you going to write about, Jamie?' you might ask. Good question. Short answer: whatever's on my mind. Long answer: some combination of the things that interest me. Lots of popular culture commentary, musings about current events, digressions into past events, film reviews, thoughts on politics, maybe some of my short fiction writing, day-to-day minutiae and things I feel the need to get off my chest.

I probably should have thought of something interesting with which to start my blogging experience, but I didn't. So, this is all for now. If you're reading this and thinking that it's a very uninspiring beginning to a blog, well, you're probably right. But let me assure you it'll get better with time. I'll have a bit of a think and come up with something just a little more interesting over the next few days.