Thursday, 31 August 2017

Putting the Pop into Pop Music review in Quip Magazine

Just to let you know I am still writing, just nothing for Pop Culture lately. Soon though, I've been storing up a bunch of stories from spending the summer with the boys.

In the meantime, below is a music review I recently wrote in Quip Magazine.

Beast Epic by Iron and Wine

“Beast Epic”, the latest by Iron & Wine, is a smooth summer listen

Beast Epic, the sixth album by Iron & Wine, marks a self-described revisiting of the past. How so? First, it’s put out by Sub Pop, his first record label, and, secondly, in terms of sound. Recording everything live and employing minimal overdubbing gives the album a warm and intimate sound.
What does it sound like?

MORE

Monday, 15 May 2017

LIES, DAMNED LIES AND PARENTING


 
 
Recently I have been asked why I haven’t posted on Pop Culture in such a long time. There are lots of reasons, lack of time being the consistently underlying one. As a father of three boys, scrambling to pick up work, often working three different jobs and - with various home and community responsibilities on top of attempting to bootstrap creative projects of my own – I have no time. But that’s a lie.

The real reason, I have confessed in moments of vulnerability (often after a beer or three), was that I felt like a fraud writing about parenting since, recently, I have felt like a failure who doesn’t have any clue what he is doing.

“But that is what is so great about it!” people have consistently replied. “It’s awesome to see you don’t know what you’re doing. None of us do. And it’s funny.”

I have chosen to take that comment in a positive manner and so below follows another example of how I stumble through parenting.


***

I used to get lied to for a living. Or that’s how I described my former job to people at parties. As a prosecutor, I would be dealing with people who were lying to me all day long. I did get some pleasure from breaking down the lies people were telling me and then holding them responsible. But I got tired of it. The court system is adversarial, with people not at their best. It warps you – I started doubting what anyone said to me. I was skeptical of any story told me. So it’s Monday, huh? We’ll see about that.

So I quit. To become a stay at home parent.

I’m sure you see the irony.

Currently, my three boys are 14, nearly 12 and almost 10. And they lie to my face every day.

While I’ve improved my situation in that I now love the people I’m dealing with, the downsides are that I don’t get paid and I can’t put them in jail. And the relentless attempts to deceive me over the smallest issue are exhausting.

“Have you put away your laundry?”

“Yeesss.”

“Really?”

“Pretty much.”

“So, that means ‘no’. Get going.”

I have read that insisting on honesty from your children only results in them becoming better liars. I’m not sure what the alternative is, tell them, “Go ahead lie to me at will with no consequences”? Also, I’m ok with them being better liars. It’s a life skill and we all know that you need to be able to lie well at points in your life. Whole ethics courses have revolved around this.

So, I know they will lie to me. I know that nothing I do will stop it. But, by the same token, I totally lose my mind when I catch them lying to me. And if there is anything I hate more than being lied to, it’s being lied to incompetently. It’s damned insulting. Remember, I used to do that professionally.

So, when my nearly 12 year old comes home on Monday to tell me that the Tuesday night Spring concert, in which he plays viola, has been postponed because the music teacher will be away, I don’t challenge him immediately but it seems… weird – I have heard nothing from the school. Tuesday morning I call the school and the secretary she tells me no, it’s still going ahead. I hang up the phone and prepare my cross-exam.

Not surprisingly, under a withering inquisition, he coughs up that yes, he made it up, lied to me, because he didn’t want to go and that he sucks at viola and he’ll be terrible and embarrassed. Tears follow. I am gob-smacked – what was the plan here? Did he think I wouldn’t find out? What a terrible, terrible lie. Frankly, embarrassing.

If he was so worried about his performance why didn’t he actually practice? And he wants to just quit? Not show up on the day of the show? He has made a commitment to the group and he will honour it. He needs to learn he has to face challenges and sometimes he won’t come out looking so good. He created this situation and he will see it though. It is the mature, responsible thing to do.

“Well, then, I don’t want to do the mature, responsible thing.”

 Part of me wanted to laugh, part or me wanted to shake him like a dust mop.

“You’re going to anyway. I’m not going to let you be that guy. I care about you too much to let you do that.”

“But why, why do I have to do this?”

So, I pause for a moment. Do I tell him the truth? 


 
I opt for the truth.

“Because, otherwise, your life will be shit.”

His eyes widen.

“If you don’t try things that are hard or continue with something when it gets difficult or persist in putting yourself out there after you fail and fail and fail again – you will unlikely ever do anything worthwhile or satisfying or discover what makes you happy and feel alive. You might decide at the end that something isn’t for you but you can’t stop until you give it a real shot and take it to a natural end point.”

And then I told him another couple of truths:
  1. Most of these concerts are pretty bad and expectations are low. Very low;
  2. Parents are only watching their own kids anyway;
  3. In life people don’t pay that much attention to you, they’re concerned about themselves and so, if you put on a big smile and go into things looking confident, you’ll fool most of them;
  4. Someday, not for a long while maybe, you’ll be glad you finished this properly; and
  5. I won’t give up on you or let you give up on yourself and, if you go up there and try your best, I’ll respect you because I know how hard it is.
He went, not willingly or with grace but he went. And he did fine. I’m pretty sure he was faking a couple of the numbers, but, I couldn’t tell and neither could anyone else.
 
Hopefully he learned:
  1. The stuff I told him was true and it wasn’t nearly as bad as he feared; and
  2. To tell me a better damned lie next time.