Ignoring vacation and Celtic singing

The kid is supposedly 12 years old, but she sure can sing. 

Some time ago I came across this song on YouTube Music, and I thought it was beautiful. At the time, I did not see the video, and I did not know the lyrics. Not listening very closely, I assumed she was singing in Gaelic or some such Island Celtic language. I can’t tell what gave me that impression, maybe her accent, maybe the arrangement, but it was really hard for me to hear that it was English. (In my defense, it is my third language, and I use it mostly for reading and writing.) It was really only when she sang the last line, more slowly and clearly than the rest, that I realized that the song was at least partially in English.

I played it again, but still couldn’t make heads or tails of it, except for that recurring phrase, “away from the role of the sea”. (Roll, actually, but I can’t hear the difference.) There were other scattered words that sounded English, but they did not make sense in context. For instance, “ignoring vacation”? Why would someone ignore vacation in a sea of Gaelic? (Turns out it was “give no indication”, but I still today hear it as “ignoring vacation”, maybe because I have a tendency to do that myself.)

Anyway, it is a beautiful song. The fact that I can sense beauty to some degree gives me a modest hope that my soul is not entirely blackened and shriveled. Although I suppose my liberal friends may be right and I’m just a delusional ape. Eternity will show, or not as the case may be. But that can definitely wait. For now, I’m fine with this preview of the supposed nice version of eternity. Singing, harps, innocent kids. I can think of worse fates.

(Also, I should probably try to get some vacation before the year is over. I have something like 8 weeks left, I think.)

Singing to the Light, in the dark

You never know what you will find in a Chaos Node. As I booted up an old computer to test something, the browser came up with one window showing my Livejournal Friends page from a day in 2010, presumably when I last used the computer. That is why I know how long ago this was. Another tab was opened on one of my favorite Japanese songs from that time (This is my Road from Guin Saga). The next video queued up, which I had not played and never seen or heard before, was the song You are the Light by Kanon. A Japanese songstress, so I was completely unprepared for what I heard. And for the first time in many months, tears filled my eyes.

Every time I lose myself, you always guide my with your words;
give me the strength to power on.
That’s why I’m still standing now…
I wanna thank for all the things you have given me.
The light seems stronger every time you are here with me…
All my heart and soul belong to you… to You!

You are the Light, you are my hope,
I’m so secure ’cause with you now.

In this world we live today,
failing to achieve our goals,
our souls are left in deep despair.
But don’t let darkness fill your heart
’cause there will always be the Light, shining from Above.
Ah, draw me closer, hold me tighter, with your love:
all my heart and soul belong to you… to You.

You are the Light, you are my hope,
I’m so secure ’cause with you now.



I don’t really care for music

Screenshot anime ChuuRen

Growing older brings many changes. Some quite unexpected, even at my age, it seems?

I’ve heard there was a secret chord
that David played, and it pleased the Lord
-but you don’t really care for music, do ya?

-Leonard Cohen, Hallelujah.

When Opera Software introduced a built in server feature in their web browser, I was one of the early adopters, ripping the music from my several shopping bags of CDs to put it on my hard disk, so I could listen to any of my songs from work or wherever else I had Internet access. This is some years ago, and the feature became less and less reliable and was eventually abandoned. I got a home server (NAS – Network Attached Storage) which also promised to let me access my music, photos and video via the Internet. It is usually able to stream music without downloading it, although it does take a little time to buffer it in advance.

Then last month Google Music opened in Norway, and among its more attractive features was the ability to upload my entire music collection to their “cloud” of servers. There is a limit of 20 000 tracks, but I was never that much of a collector. After discarding a few albums I feel sure I never want to listen to again, I uploaded 2644 tracks. That seems kind of paltry compared to the limit. I get the same feeling as when rolling a huge cart through the supermarket with four boxes of yogurt and two bottles of soda. ^_^

Up until that point, I have felt like I actually bought a lot of music. After I got my first CD player, I bought CDs regularly for a while. Sometimes I just passed a shop and heard some likable music so I stopped and bought it. This was how I came across Chris de Burgh for instance, whose lyrics have featured heavily on these pages. Leonard Cohen, however, has been with me longer: I happened to record his song “If It Be Your Will” from radio back in the age of cassette tape, although this was the only song by him I knew for many years. The age of the CD fixed this as well.

Despite the crazy prices (even higher here in Norway than elsewhere), I continued to buy CDs for many years. Sometimes I guess I just took a chance. Often there was only one or two good tracks on a whole CD, but I did not give it much thought. I did not have much money back then – not that I have now, by Norwegian standards, but it was rather pitiful back then and I did not know how to manage it – so the CDs made a noticeable drain on my budget. After the turn of the century, I have almost exclusively bought Japanese pop, and less and less of that too. I don’t download music unless I have already bought it (the mail from Japan takes weeks). But a quiet dislike for the major recording companies and their behavior has grown to the point that I sincerely want them all dismantled and outlawed, so there is that too.

In any case, I uploaded these 2644 tracks eagerly. Now I can listen to them all, anywhere, and in any order. I set about testing the “radio” feature at Google Play Music. Basically I start with a song I like, and the software tries to find other songs that follow naturally. It was during these experiments, which lasted for several days, that I realized something I would not have believed if you told me:  I don’t really care for music.

I kind of knew already that most of the songs I had paid good money for, were just noise. There used to only be a couple good songs on each CD, unless it was Irish. Well, Cohen also had a higher rate, but I still only liked perhaps half his songs. But now I notice that many of the songs I used to like, no longer appeal to me. And those which do, that is not necessarily a good thing either.

The voices in my head, as I playfully call it, in this case the earworms, have a tendency to sing catchy tunes ALL DAY LONG. I am sure you are familiar with this phenomenon, of songs playing and replaying in your head and probably also trying to make you sing along. (That is certainly how it works for me.) It disturbs my other mental processes. I want an off switch. Well, unlike untrained minds, I do have a pause button, but it always comes back on. This is not a bug, it is a feature. After all, I am the one who feeds my soul this music, so it is perfectly natural that the soul takes it and runs with it. But when it does this with songs that are just catchy, without any depth, I kind of regret having listened to them in the first place.

I also rarely, if ever, feel the intense joy from some music like I used to. I am not sure if this is some spiritual development on my part (and if so, whether it is progress or backslide), or just my brain losing capabilities as I slowly transition into old age. I guess it is natural with the path I take that I can not lose myself in beauty the way I did? But given how easily I get distracted in daily life, how easily my thoughts stray, it seems a bit preposterous to think that I have become deeper than the music or some such.


Google Music is quite impressive, by the way. It took a few days for it to get used to me, and in the beginning it fed me some songs that really disagreed with me. But after a while it got quite good. For instance I use a Japanese song called “Coloring” as seed for a “radio” function, a random playlist of related tracks. At first it was quite random, but after a while it found out that it could give me Japanese songs with English titles (something that is quite popular in J-pop) and I would accept that. That is further than Spotify came, and I’ve had that since it was fairly new, long before it came to America.

I guess they deserve a better customer than me. Who would have thought I would ever say that. But I don’t really care for music, do I?

There for you? Who?

Screenshot music video for Bryan Rice's

You’ll find the truth in the mirror, waiting for you… In Japan, it has long been said that gods (kami) are found within mirrors (kagami). The mirror is the symbol of self-reflection, literally so.

I was playing The Sims 3, with a household consisting solely of one of the most important characters in my JulNoWriMo novel (which is certain to not be completed in July, for various reasons, but I think it still was worth it). I heard a song on the Sim Radio that I particularly liked, and hunted it down. Like many of them, it was a Simlish translation of a popular song in our world, but which I had never heard: There for you by Bryan Rice.

Listening to the English translation (I believe it is originally in Danish, but it could be the other way around) I was once again struck by how alike … no, how equal love songs can be to religion. My theory is that with the decline of religion, people have projected the divine onto mortals. This is not really new, it has probably happened for millennia, but I would not be surprised if there is a lot more of it now. You never see arranged marriages in the secular parts of the world, for instance. Everyone is supposed to be madly in love (although some really just shack up, and some lucky souls marry their best friend.)

Huston Smith mentions a parable in which the sun shines on some broken glass on the ground, and we see the reflection as if the glass itself is shining with the light of the sun. This is when we adore or desire anything on Earth: We do so because it is a reflection of God, the source of all beauty and the giver and upholder of life. What we truly adore or desire is always God, but because we have our eyes on the ground, we see the reflections and mistake them for the real thing. Well, mistake … some things surely are more reflective than others. Not all things, and not all people, equally convey they beauty and the necessity of Heaven. But to some degree it also depends on being in the right place, at the right time, seeing things from a particular angle.

Now seems a good time to actually listen to the song, if you’re not at work. It’s pretty. Here on Spotify.  Or, if that fails, on YouTube, although I dislike the ending of the promotion video. It is OK up to the point of my screenshot, though.

With no one to hold on to, you hit the ground
Searching for some place to run to.
You fell out of existence, you got lost in the crowd;
Always your back against the wall.

I’ll turn your life around into something good.

Don’t face this world alone!
Cause I’m there for you my love.
You’ll find me in the mirror, waiting for you…
Oh baby, hold on, we’ll make it!

You’ll find me in the mirror. That’s where the shell of the human love song breaks down and reveals the true identity of the speaker as a Heavenly spirit, such as her guardian angel speaking on behalf of God, Heaven, the Light or whatever approximation you can grasp of the Infinite. The video, for its flaws, actually executes this part flawlessly in one of the later repeats of the choir: The woman has seen the singer in the mirror repeatedly, but at the decisive moment there is a flash of light passing across the picture, and the mirror shows herself in her present environment, not a man in a different place. That’s the moment of realization: The Kingdom of Heaven is within. What we have looked for in other people were always with us, waiting to help us. Always there for us.

You cover the bruises the best way you can,
Hiding your flaws in the dark.
Desperately seeking to understand
Why everything’s falling apart.

But don’t you worry now,
I’ll do anything to pull you out;
I’ll turn your life around into something good.

It is sad to watch when people cover their bruises and hide their flaws in the dark. In such a situation, even a good human — good either by a benign temperament or life experience, or being authorized to do good — is a great help. Hiding in the dark all one’s life is a terrible fate, and I am not even entirely sure that it will even end when life does, if this is one’s habit. So in that respect, a fellow human can be of great help.

Whether you are in Heaven or Hell (figuratively speaking, or rather, speaking about your mind rather than your body), conversations with those on Earth can bring you closer to Earth. Obviously this makes the option far more attractive for those in Hell, but their problem is the bruises and flaws that they are afraid to reveal. For those in Heaven, they have no wish to take anything from those on Earth, only to give. Their greatest joy is to meet someone who accepts gifts without suspicion. Unfortunately those who hide in the dark are the last to do that, so a direct contact is hard to achieve.

This is why, as in the music video, you may have to climb a little before you see the mirror for what it is. Before you realize that the light you saw in that man was the light of Heaven reflected in him. And even when he is gone, the eternal Sun still shines, and everything you seem to have lost is still there waiting for you. In fact, it is always with you. “In the mirror, waiting for you.”

Don’t face this world alone!
Cause I’m there for you my love.
You’ll find me in the mirror, waiting for you…
Oh baby, hold on, we’ll make it!

Well, this song is pretty much something the Voice in my heart could have said to me, and it seems reasonably for me to share it. Even I shall not be forever in this world, though I sure hope it will still be a while. But whether I disappear in one way or another from your circles…

You’ll find me in the mirror. You’ll recognize the gentle voice that whispers to you, as it whispered to me. Hold on, we’ll make it!

“Into the West”

“What can you see on the horizon? Why do the white gulls call? Across the sea, a pale moon rises; the ships have come, to carry you home. And all will turn to silver glass; light on the water, all souls pass.”

For about two days, this song has kept playing in my mind. Not quite continually, but pretty much at any time when I was not concentrating enough on something else to crowd it out. I found myself humming it at various times and places, albeit softly (because after rarely ever speaking for two decades, my vocal cords cannot speak or sing except softly and briefly, for which I am mostly thankful.)

What is particularly bothersome about this song, unlike others that may have a special promotion weekend on my brain at other times, is that it is about death. It is all phrased very poetically, and so that a young child hearing the song will mistake it for a lullaby. But to the adult (and older child, probably) it is clearly about the immediate passing away of a loved one. As such, I hope with all my heart that it is not an omen in any way for anyone. Personally I like to think that it suddenly came before me because of the surge of interest in the Hobbit movie, which also has shown up in my Google+ stream. Thus my memory of the previous Tolkien blockbuster and the departure of the hobbit main character into the West.

Yet in Tolkien’s story, the hobbit leaves across the sea to live forever with the elves and their demigods; but to those left behind, hobbits and men, they had only the words of the elves for this, if even that. It was only a hope, whereas his parting from them was definite and final. “To part is to die a bit” say the French, and with a parting such as this, it was very much so. It was to die completely from everyone and everything he had held dear in his old life, if he had not already done so in his heart.

I wonder if I would have been able to do that.

When my great-grandfather was young, many people sailed here from Norway into the west to seek a new life in America. They had no illusion of living forever, but they hoped for a better life. They also left behind most of what they knew and had relied on until that day. But unlike our hobbit friend, they knew it was physically possible to return. The ships sailing back were as many as those who sailed over in the first place, although they had fewer passengers. If I remember correctly, one of my ancestors (great-grandfather or great-great grandfather, I can’t remember) actually went to America, but returned after some years. If not, I would have been an American. (Actually, I would not have existed in anything like my current form, but there might have been another descendant around my age instead.)

But when the time comes to cross The River, it will be a final journey, to an unimaginably distant shore, if we reach it at all – it is a journey we cannot watch on a documentary in advance or travel in the comforting company of relatives or neighbors. I hope to board together with my Invisible Friend when the time comes, but to be honest, I am in no hurry. No hurry at all.

“Into the West” – Annie Lennox – Spotify. And on YouTube, complete with heart-tugging comments, until the appropriate corporation sees fit to remove it.

Snoopy’s Christmas

My childhood hero. This explains so much about me, doesn’t it? ^_^

When I was still a boy on a small farm in western Norway and had not yet learned English, this song must have appeared on radio, for my brother had captured it on his tape recorder. I think this was our first tape recorder, before my second brother got his hands on one of those newfangled cassette recorders. So yeah, back in the days.

I loved the song obsessively, but I was too young to understand the lyrics except a few words here and there. My brother claimed the song said Snoopy was dead, but I defiantly refused to believe it. My hero could not die that casually. (Besides, my brother did not exactly have a sterling reputation for upholding the truth…) I assumed he was just trying to torment me, but now that I have access to the lyrics, I realize that my brother, although older than me, might not have been familiar with the idiom of having someone “dead in their sight”, meaning aiming straight at them. Still, the context should have given it away.

I played the melody of the chorus over and over on my toy xylophone, quite probably driving the rest of the family nuts. I still remember the melody now decades later, and I would not be surprised if the surviving members of my birth family remember it too, although less fondly. ^_^

We named our next dog Snoopy, with quite a bit of input from my side, I’m afraid. He wasn’t even a beagle, but he was the smartest dog I’ve met so far. How much this song contributed to that event, I am not sure. But the Norwegian translation of Peanuts has another name for the dog, so it is likely that the name came from this song or another.

Months became years, and the song was lost to me. Years became decades, and I occasionally whistled the melody to myself during happy moments, in this way keeping it alive as one generation of Peanuts fans gave birth to the next. But knowing nothing of the lyrics except “Snoopy” and “Red Baron”, I had no hope of finding it again.

Today, I took the time to look through my “stream” in Google+, the social network for Google users. I have only a few people there who could reasonably be called friends, and who I try to keep updated on. But sometimes I have the time to read acquaintances with similar interests (many of them writers, published or otherwise). One of these semi-friends happened to post, on this particular day and time, a link to a YouTube video with the song: Snoopy’s Christmas.

I thanked her profusely, of course. I was kind of touched by this unexpected reunion between a boy and his favorite song after decades of separation. The truth is that I remember very little from my childhood, only a few glints here and there like fireflies in a dark valley. So I kind of value the remaining memories. My family may disagree, but I will happily promise not to play this song for them on a cheap xylophone ever again. ^_^


A macabre reminder about the opposite of freedom, from the ever helpful cult “Happy Science”. 

After some months, I happened to hear that song again, “Free” performed by Sarah Brightman. It is a beautiful melody, and she has a beautiful voice (and name). But I still remember the shock of the first time I heard the chorus and recognized the words. There was someone else who had thought like that? And a woman at that. I could kind of imagine a man saying this. Well, I could imagine myself saying it, at least.

I had to be free,
had to be free,
it’s all that I wanted…
I wanted to see,
wanted to be
alone if I needed.
I had to be free,
had to be free
from feelings that haunted.
I wanted to see,
wanted to be

Judging from the rest of the song, that did not work quite as well as the character hoped. Freedom is an elusive thing when there is something one wants. Attachment and freedom don’t go together. I guess what she describes is a kind of compromise.

Spotify link, while it lasts.

After I was no longer a child, my mother told me that when I had been a toddler, I didn’t like to sit on her lap like the other children had, but insisted on standing on my own little feet. I don’t have any strong theories about why this was, but there has been no lap that I preferred over standing on my own later either. So I can relate to this. And yet there is so much more freedom left to gain. Mostly from myself though.

I have to be free. Have to be free…

Music, recently

Girl singing

Female vocals is one of those things Pandora has learned to give me. It doesn’t get much better than that, does it?

Music is not a big part of my life. By contemporary standards it probably never was – a lot of people seem to be really into music and consider it an important part of their life. Some have music running almost all the time, but this may be to drown the sound of the voices in their head (or heart). With me, it is more like the voices are already singing, so I don’t need exterior music. I know I played a lot more before, but it has tapered off gradually. I am not sure when and how this began.

But sometimes I have bouts of listening to music anyway. It could be to flush out an earworm, or to set the mood for a particular piece of writing. Music is great for setting moods. Often then my listening is playing the same song over and over several times, sometimes for hours.

As such, I appreciate the music streaming service Spotify. It lets me listen to a dozen different versions of Carrickfergus without having to buy a dozen CDs where I’d listen to only one of the tracks, and then put them in a plastic bag for the next 20 years. That’s not quite what I did before, but pretty close. There were many CDs that I bought for only one or two tracks. I have thrown away almost all my CDs now, as previously reported, keeping the Japanese but ridding myself of the American and European. I hope one day I will be able to stream Japanese (and preferably also Thai) music. Until then, there is YouTube.

Oh, and I am not kidding about Carrickfergus. It is not an exact representation of how I feel personally, obviously! But the nostalgia is very beautiful to me. I particularly love the version by Orla Fallon. Her beautiful voice soothes the pain in the lyrics. If you have Spotify, you can hear it here.

That was actually the version I discovered when listening to my Enya station on Pandora once. Pandora is far superior when it comes to find good songs for me. It seems that all the other “radio” style streaming services (where you can’t pick your own songs) uses association by crowdsourcing: “People who liked X, also liked Y”. This probably works fine for most humans, who are not very unique. But I am no longer like that. As Confucius said: “By nature, men are nearly alike; by practice, they get to be wide apart.” That is to say, very different. As you can see, that has certainly happened to me. My tastes are, as they say these days, eclectic. Pandora instead uses qualities of the actual song: The type of harmonies, vocals, degrees of variation in pitch or loudness, speed. Therefore, since my brain is pretty much the same from day to day, I am likely to like the same type of music. (Although bad lyrics can ruin it and good lyrics can make it fantastic.)


Another song I discovered in the exact same way, listening to Pandora, has also seen a lot of playing over the last few days. As it happens, it is also kind of sad, or perhaps that is just in my mind. The lyrics certainly seem very optimistic, but there is just something about it that tells me “that is not how it actually ended”. Probably because the song supposedly was from the end of the movie Prince Caspian. Yes, The Call by Regina Spektor. Here it is on Spotify. Or you could watch it illegally on YouTube, I guess.

When I heard this song, I immediately thought not of Prince Caspian but of Dog Days, the anime I mentioned recently. It is about a boy who is summoned as a hero to a magical world where people have animal traits (dogs in the country he arrives in, thus the title). After he has become good friends (and perhaps a little more) with several of the people there, it is discovered that once he returns to Earth, he can never come back. In the end, however, a way is found around this because of his extraordinary generosity, that caused him to give away various of his belongings before leaving.

But as I listened to the song repeatedly, it grew into a story of its own, with only the most tangential similarity to Dog Days. The story turned out to be my second novel about Oktagonien, the imaginary “niece world” from last year’s NaNoWriMo. Well, I actually only wrote a few thousand words of it, since 1) I am writing a very different novel for JulNoWriMo, and 2) the squirrel was too sexy. (Don’t think too much about that.)

Anyway, that’s some of my music recently. It probably says something profound about me. Although I don’t feel as sad as these songs. That would be pretty sad, I guess. But they are still beautiful.


“Come a little closer”

“You can come a little closer.” Look at his face! I know that feeling. ^_^ 

On the commute bus in the morning, the radio was playing, distracting me from my hagiography reading off and on. Toward the end of the trip, it played a love song which sounded like it was performed by an underage girl. This tends to creep me out, knowing human nature as well as I do now. Luckily (thanks to the miracle of Google and catching some of the words) I now know that the girl was Frida Amundsen, and definitely not as underage as she sounded, even back then. Finding the song was a bit of a challenge, because there sure are a lot of songs asking someone to come closer, closer to me.

I guess this is one of the most common human emotions. I can kind of understand it, even if I don’t feel it myself. During my attempt to regain my humanity, in my late 30es and early 40es, I learned a lot about human emotions. I should use this more in my writing.

I have always been in love with you,
But, you are unable to see that
I have felt this way, every night and day
Wishing that you would just come
A little closer
Come a little closer
Come a little closer
Closer to me.

Already when I heard it on the radio (and only caught a few words), it reminded me of a favorite Japanese song that I bought some years ago, after hearing it in the anime Midori no Hibi. The song Mou Sukoshi (“just a little more”) is also sung by a girl who sounds a bit childlike, and in fact expresses a wish to get a little closer to your heart. Just a little more, just a little more…

I have however never understood why people keep thinking and feeling this and never say it. In Heaven everyone may know what you think, but not on Earth. Men in particular Really Are That Dense. This is a scientific fact. We are not studiously ignoring you. Well, I might have been anyway, but it wasn’t necessary, back then.

Understanding humans is new and fascinating to me. I was not born like that. I thought humans were like me, and misunderstood you constantly. This upset me greatly. But as I grow, even as I become more aware of how different I am, I also come aware of how you really think and feel. And that lets me come a little closer. Just a little more.

Rose and Butterfly

screenshot anime Goshuushou-sama Ninomiya-kun

But if you hesitate with your choices, another chance may not come again.” That is one interpretation of it, I guess. Or two.

Listening to a collection of popular songs in Norway from 1955, I heard one I remember from my childhood (some ten years later). It begins with a rose speaking to a butterfly: “Soon the summer is over” she says to him, “and my beauty will be scattered by the winds. Come stay with me, and you will find shelter for the autumn storms.” But the butterfly disregarded this, and fluttered by. Eventually, however, he regretted his decision and came back. Too late, too late! Now the rose was dead, and only thistles offered him rest. And that’s why, with the rise of the dawn, a butterfly was found among thistles.

As a kid, I remember mangling this song to make one about tractors. OK, I may have been a pretty big kid, I was always childish for my age. But I definitely knew that the song was allegorical. It was not really about roses and butterflies. My suspicion was that it was about men with fear of commitment, and the vengeance that the natural order would wreak upon them.  (The unnecessary use of gendered pronouns in the song certainly made it clear who was the rose and who was the butterfly.)

Listening to it again, I am not absolutely sure. It may be a more generic message to not let good things pass you by. But I still think my first impression was mostly right. Little did I know back then that I would listen to this for the first time in decades, alone in a family apartment, at a time when the summer of my life was ending.

Of course, back then, I did not expect to live this long, what with the illness that harried me since I was a toddler.