Friday, February 23, 2007


Jaysus, I was upstairs in our house 5 minutes ago and the whole place shook. It was a pronounced shake. I went downstairs and my wife and parents in law, who were being very civilised and drinking afternoon tea, hadn't felt a thing! I guess the earthquake proofing we put in when we bought the house worked.

4:30pm update 3.4 on the Richter scale

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Carmelita Street

Tash and I have never really made a big deal about Valentine's day. Flowers maybe, dinner every other year. We really should be more romantic! We did promise each other to make some sort of effort this year - and this is part of my effort.

An early acoustic version of this song was a birthday present for Tash's 26th birthday. She used to live on a cool little cul de sac called Carmelita Street. Creating the song was one of those rare and delightful occasions where a song presents itself from my sub conscious, whole and complete. I was walking over to her apartment one evening, and the first verse and chorus popped into my head; the second one arrived, just as complete, later in the night. The next day, I picked up my guitar (which happened to be tuned to dropped D tuning), and my fingers just picked out a little pattern which perfectly suited the lyrics (ah yes, only if it were so easy with every song...)
I recorded a rough version, just me and a guitar, and stuck it in her tape machine (anyone remember those), on the morning of her birthday. I made her cry! - and for once it was with happiness, as opposed to complete frustration and annoyance :)

I like the song - instead of being about the melodrama that precedes the death of a relationship, or the altered state of bliss that occurs at the start (standard love song fare), this is about the comfort and security that a good relationship brings. It's about that moment when you realise that you have moved beyond the initial heady romance, and you know that someone fits you like a comfortable piece of clothing, and makes you happy.

Click the link to play, right click and select "save" as to download.

Carmelita Street

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Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The Right to Die

Over at her place, Fatmammycat posted on whether assisted suicide should be allowed under law. I was going to comment, but decided to write my own post on the issue. I've been interested in this debate for years, and I feel this is one of the personal liberty issues that will be debated inside and out over the coming years. In 1997, one of my closest friends died from cystic fibrosis. In many cases, CF is a death sentence, though less so today than when my friend was born; however, the outlook is still grim. My friend died suddenly at 27, and as much as it hurt at the time, I am so glad that his fabulous brain and brilliant personality didn’t decline slowly - this is not the case, of course, for everyone with a fatal illness.

I cannot see any reason for death to be illegal. It's your life. As long as you are a sane, rational person, do with it what you will. Obviously, we need to understand and help those who are suicidal, as this is a psychological and psychiatric issue. As a result, most countries have decriminalized suicide (anyhow the criminalization of suicide stems from religion more than criminal law). Although there is plenty of room for improvement, attitudes to mental illness and depression have changed. Most people have a greater understanding of this as a medical issue, and many have been affected by, or know someone, who has been affected by depression. Hopefully our greater awareness as a society will help prevent suicides related to mental illness. Dervala* has talked eloquently about both depression,** the available medicines to treat this, and suicide prevention over at her blog.

The desire to commit suicide, not because you have a mental illness, but because you have a terminal physical one, makes a lot of common sense. What sane person would want to die slowly and painfully? We have a close family friend who has had MS for over three decades. The last decade has been awful. Her body has absoluely shut down. She has no way of communicating and has been under hospice care for at least 10 years. That has to be the seventh ring of hell. What is served by prolonging her life? My guess is her death, when it comes, will be a great relief to all who love her. I say this with no knowledge of her family’s position on this, but from a personal perspective. I would never want to watch a loved one suffer like this, nor suffer it myself.

Now, obviously there has to be safeguards to avoid real criminal activity. There will always be someone willing to knock off mammy to get their greedy little hands on the family fortune. But that is murder and we already have laws against that. Everyone knows they will get old and die, and these days, most people get advance warning about death due to illness. The use of legal documents like living wills and family trusts enable us to detail what treatment we would like at every stage of the way. My wife and I recently created a family trust (added benefit of decreasing the tax burden on your loved ones should you die!), wherein we detailed what becomes of our property, who cares for our kids, and most importantly, what happens should we end up terminally ill and unable to make decisions for ourselves, or become brain dead and on life support. Shane, Maya, and Cian will find it difficult should they turn out to be patricidal or matricidal...

The rub is allowing medical staff to assist you. They administer potentially lethal levels of drugs to relieve pain for those on deaths door anyhow. My guess is most are around suffering so much that they would probably not have objections in terminal cases. However this is illegal today, no matter how awful the alternative means of death is, and make no mistake, many illness cause much greater suffering to the person involved and to their family and friends than helping them on their way. Assisted suicide would be a much kinder and gentler option.

The most difficult case is that of the elderly. How about wanting to commit suicide just because you are heading into senescence, and do not want to suffer? This is an issue that will become more prominent as people live longer. It is likely our generation may live in their nineties and hundreds. Maybe even older. Fifty years ago, people died younger and more suddenly. Not many people drop dead of a heart attack these days. The cost of life insurance in the U.S. has dropped significantly, and one of the main reasons is that we are less likely to die suddenly in a car crash, or of an undiagnosed medical issue. Not to mention that many people have a much better diet than our grandparents had, and smoking is declining in much if the western world. The net result is a lot more really old people. Hopefully this means that our golden years will be as fulfilling and has healthy as possible, but it also means that many people will have four or five years during which they will see dramatically decreased mental and physical ability and will require full time care. If you have had a long life, and know death is coming, shouldn’t you have the right to choose the time, method, and place?

I watched a segment on 60 minutes (I think it was 60 minutes), some time back where a woman who had a terminal illness decided while she was healthy that she wanted to end her life. She threw a party, and then self-administered an overdose, and seemed to die very peacefully with all her friends and family in attendance. Of course her friends and family grieved but it was a celebration of her life and much of the grueling awfulness of death through illness was excised.

Tradition and ceremony are an integral part of our humanity. Could choosing the time and place of our death, and creating ceremony around that be the next evolution of our society?

* With no offense meant to the many excellent nominees at The Irish Blog Awards, it's not a good sign that Dervala got only one nomination for what is patently the one of the best personal blogs out there – and not just by an Irish person, but by anyone.

** Dooce, who suffered from post partum depression, recently linked to this post

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Monday, February 12, 2007

Light String

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Monday, February 05, 2007


Another song

This started out as a pattern on a drum machine, to which I added the basic piano chords. I then added guitar, organ, and bass. The last part was writing the lyrics, and to be honest, they were something of an after thought. This is the opposite of the way I normally write. Usually I have either some lyrics, a guitar riff, or harmonic progression to work with - I rarely just flick on the studio and see what happens. I added some more guitars, and a guitar solo, and then some aural candy. The reverse part at the start is the "real" beginning - cut, reversed, and digitally mangled.

Once I had a decent demo, I submitted it to the John Lennon Songwriting Contest. To my delight, it won an honorable mention. Basically this means that I didn't win anything, but of the thousands of songs submitted, they felt mine was worth singling out. After this, I left the song alone for about a year or so, and as my other songs neared completion, I picked it up again. We added real drums, sampled strings, and my friend Claire did the gospel-style vocals over the last chorus. I took it to my friend Paul's studio, Duff Studios, to be mixed. And here it is - Collide

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Saturday, February 03, 2007