Posts Tagged ‘inspiration’

Dear Robyn,

I did a naughty thing this week. I splurged some cash on a CD. Not sure if you have ever heard Crowded House or Muse before but being two of my favourite acts (and Neil Finn and Matt Bellamy my favourite songwriters), I thought it about time I bothered to review their latest albums. This year has seen new releases from both of them – “Intriguer” from the House and “The Resistance” from Muse.

The albums have a few similarities. Both Matt and Neil own recording studios and the albums were recorded therein, releases came with great DVDs, both have stunning artwork and both are written by excellent songwriters who are articulate, intelligent and have a knack for extracting emotions from the dark fringes of your imagination that you didn’t know resided in you (the whole point of writing songs in my opinion). Being a recording nut of course I have to have a serious drool over any studios… I like Matt’s the most being all neat and tidy and seriously “pwoper” and all but Neil’s looks very “intriguing” with an oddball artsy touch you don’t expect in a studio. I hear it’s world class and the website is super cool.

Years ago when Crowded House didn’t even exist, I was a teenager in highschool and Neil Finn had only just taken over at the helm of Split Enz, I somehow accurately predicted that he was going to leave and do something big with his next band – whoever the hell they were. And I turned out to be right – which is just as well because I went on and on and on and on about it in our music dept ad nauseam and drove all the teachers bonkers. I have to say when I saw Neil Finn recently and that he had apparently grown a small rodent on his top lip (is he competing with son Liam for a prize in facial hair pet growing?) I started wondering about my judgement. And then he started on about the Intriguer;

“a mythical character that we have felt his presence for quite a number of years now whenever life has become difficult and problematical but strangely fascinating, you sense the Intriguer’s presence and you only catch little glimpses of  him, in fact it’s very hard to say who or where or what he is but when he’s not there life becomes boring, predictable and plain.”

I did start to think that perhaps Crowded House had lost the plot. My intuition about musicians is usually spot on but thankfully for once I am completely wrong. Crowded House have not lost it even if the musings of their frontman are a little out there. The album is brilliant.

Neil Finn’s lyrics are always a mesmerizing encounter – like sitting out in the sun beside a river and watching the water gently flow past in an endless stream of fascinating reflections and shapes. They are gorgeously crafted and lack the jerkiness of poetry with lines that jarringly rhyme at the end of every cadence and break your reverie. I’ve always been fascinated how he can make words appear to flow together with a circularity that simultaneously remains coherent and structured whilst painting the vision of something distinctly ethereal and formless. But the most fun about them is they lead you off on a journey of blissful random imagery and just when you get comfortable jolt you back to reality with some poignantly personal line that Paul Hester remarked once would always make the band say to him “Neil, do you really want to say that?!” upon first hearing it at rehearsal. I love those moments.

You arrive like a dragonfly
Float above the grass
Trembling still
Think you might
Open up your heart
One day you will
There’s always a way
To end this isolation

The music is great too. It doesn’t exactly smack you in the face with some wild revelation that leaves you dazed for six months, but it is charmingly magical and addictive to listen to. If you don’t care about having your mind wander absentmindedly off into la la land (not looking at anyone in particular) then this is the album for you. The most intriguing thing comes in the song Isolation, most pointedly in the video of the live version at the Auckland Town Hall (my favourite local haunt for gigs). All is going swimmingly fine in the usual Crowded House way until the second verse when suddenly the voice of a Goddess appears out of nowhere and immerses the hall in wonder. This is Sharon, Neil’s wife who is shyly hiding behind a speaker cabinet on the side of the stage like a session musician who has been hired by a small band to fill out their sound live while remaining firmly sequestered in an unlit portion of the stage! What a pleasant surprise. She has a youthful and unique voice which seemlessly melts together with Neil’s. In my opinion this is the prize moment on the album. Perhaps if we are lucky there will be a Mr and Mrs Finn album sometime.

While Neil Finn will take you on a journey akin to floating down a river made of elegantly constructed poetry and tangental hook lines, Matt Bellamy will remind you there is every reason to believe you should be feeling paranoid and looking sideways at everyone above you. Muse’s new album “The Resistance” comes from a guy who has two years supply of freeze dried lasagne, 50 cans of beans and an axe stored in his basement for that “just in case” moment when “THEY” – the upper echelon, or chosen few who are plotting to suppress the masses, take over. And his preparedness even extends to killing his own chickens. (But at least they can be comforted by the thought that when he executes them it will be with the same talented hands that created masterpieces on the guitar like the riff from Plug in Baby he is so famous for. So they will be honoured chooks). It’s easy to scoff but when the universe collapses down a super massive black hole, or there is a carefully constructed zapping of half the world’s population from the HAARP site we will all descend upon him in a starving heap – the guy who planned so efficiently for every imagined eventuality (See – must be another paranoid INTJ with a wild imagination…).

The Resistance is an album about Romeo and Juliet quality love, liberation and sticking up for the right thing with a vengence. I give this guy full credit for alleviating the nagging, apathetic feeling induced by reading 1984 (which he read as part of the inspiration for The Resistance). I am sure there are many other people like me who have read 1984 and gotten excited at the moment Julia and Winston discover each other and make passionate plans to overthrow Big Brother’s hold on them. I remember reading that as a teenager and being excited by the idea that they were going to win big time and the book would have a liberating, driven ending. Instead it ended depressingly with Winston spinelessly screaming “Do it to Julia, Not me! I don’t care what you do to her. Tear her face off, strip her to the bones. Not me!”. A reminder that when the moments like this come many of us are spineless wimps and will abandon each other – at least according to George Orwell. Apparently this is not good enough for Matt Bellamy and the album boasts of a neverending commitment and loyaty – and with the idea that love is the most powerful force in the universe, ascends in a neverending conquer the world vibe instead….

They will not force us
They will stop degrading us
They will not control us
We will be victorious!

Well, it does end with sending a lone guy off into space who will never be able to return and who must rescue humanity from a dying planet … but that guy is victorious also. Unlike Crowded House this album has more of an epic quality complete with Floydish sci-fi cover art, a conquer anything plot and Dr Who synth sounds. The nice thing is that for all the seriousness on there, Muse are also adept at taking the piss and there are lots of hilarious moments embedded in the song too – like their screaming Queen harmonies for one.

Adam Clayton from U2 recently remarked that Muse are a tight operation and would give them a run for their money at Glastonbury. That’s true. I thought many bands were superb until I heard Muse. And then I realised those bands actually are superb – but Muse really needs a word invented of it’s own for “way the hell above everyone else”. You don’t really notice this until you listen to them for a while and then go back to something you thought was excellent previously and discover the gaping chasm. This is their best recorded album and remarkably they did this one completely themselves, learning about much of the technical process on the way. Add to this feat a symphony recorded with a real orchestra and the last 3 tracks of Resistance (Overture, Cross-Pollination and Redemption) become a vast expanse of inspiration that soars off into the future, sending Mr Man off on his mission to save us all…. may he win.

In short, both these albums are fantastic and deserve an 11 out of 10.

Morgan 🙂
To listen to or watch either band;

Muse: www.muse.mu
Crowded House: www.crowdedhouse.com

Dear Robyn,

(Read in Monty Python voice) And now for something completely different!

Today I want to post a speech made by our friend Lia because she is a truly remarkable person. Not only does she have a knack for setting seemingly impossible goals and then achieving them despite any obstacles in her way (and she says how she does that in her speech) but she is also a very kind hearted person who goes the extra mile to help out other people and is pretty creative about how she goes about it. She is proof that one person can make a huge difference in the world.

This year she has single-handedly instigated “Swim 10,000”, a fundraiser to raise money for the Leukaemia and Blood Foundation and support the 10,000 people in NZ living with a blood cancer or condition. So for the next year she is swimming 10,000 lengths of the Millenium Institute Pool – and if that’s not challenging enough, she is doing it using only her arms (as she explains below, this is due to her Cerebral Palsy). Quite frankly, just thinking about swimming that makes me tired. But as she puts it:

“The challenge of the 10,000 lengths and year-long commitment pales in comparison to the challenge and struggle that people with cancer face on a daily basis. I am extremely proud in the knowledge that the money I raise will help people like Rangi (who has Leukaemia), as they are an inspiration to me.”

The LBF were so impressed with her Swim 10,000 that they have made it their main campaign for the year! And they are right to be impressed because only a few weeks in she has already completed her first 1,000 lengths and raised a reasonable amount of money for them.

This week she was invited by Long Bay College to be the guest speaker at their awards ceremony for young people who have done inspirational things, give out the awards and tell her own story. The thing is Lia HATES public speaking (something I can totally relate to!) so she read her speech to me over the phone many times as a trial run. No matter how often I hear or read this it inspires me every time so I thought it would be great to share with everyone.

If anyone would like to donate or help out with Swim 10,000 details are at the bottom of Lia’s post.

Morgan 🙂

LIA’s SPEECH:

“What, you’re swimming 10,000 kilometres?”

Okay, so mum got it slightly wrong.

Hi, I’m Lia, and I am doing a fundraiser “Swim 10,000” where I am swimming 10,000 lengths of the pool at the Millennium Institute of Sport and Health in Mairangi Bay, over the course of a year to raise money for the Leukaemia & Blood Foundation.

Whilst I admit, 10,000 kilometres does sound amazing, at 27.3 kilometres per day (546 lengths) every day, for a year, it is a tad unrealistic even for an olympic athlete, let alone for a 34 year old mother of one with Cerebral Palsy!

Cerebral Palsy affects people in different ways. In some people it affects their arms and legs, and even their speech. Some can walk, others cannot. I have Cerebral Palsy diplegia, which means both my legs are affected. As a baby I started going to Wilson Home for physiotherapy, and would continue going there for physio for many years. The physio strengthened my muscles and “retrained” my brain to learn how to walk. My mother said she wanted me to be walking by the time I went to school as she didn’t want me to go to a “special” school for the disabled, and wanted mainstream education for me. At 4 years old just before starting school, I took my first, rather wobbly steps.

The typical gait for someone with Cerebral Palsy is knock kneed and walking on their toes. This is how I walked for 4 years. At age 9 my parents had the opportunity through Wilson Home, for me to see an orthopaedic specialist who offered the option of surgery. I remember the doctor asking me if I wanted the surgery, and all I wanted to know was “would it make me walk like my sisters”. He told me “close”, and I was sold.

This would be the beginning of a long road of surgeries and physiotherapy to correct my walk. With each surgery I had to re-learn to walk. Due to my limited mobility, my parents got me into a swimming club as a form of exercise. I remember trying very hard to swim freestyle, moving my arms one after the other and wondering how far I had progressed down the pool, only to find that through all that effort I had moved very little if at all. I have come a long way since I was a kid. Luckily now, I actually move forward! (or backwards in the case of backstroke!)

Whilst I am not a fast swimmer, I can swim a reasonable distance. At about 14 years old I got stress fractures in both my feet. About a dozen fractures in each foot that would require numerous surgeries to fix. My gait puts added pressure on my joints and as a result I have a problem similar to arthritis in my feet which often causes severe pain .

Swimming is good as it doesn’t put any stress on my joints or feet.

I used to swim a lot. But to be honest, before starting Swim 10,000, I hadn’t been swimming for about 5 years. After having my son (who turns three next month) I often thought about getting back into swimming. The problem was there was too much thinking and not enough action. So I decided, right, I’m going to get a membership and go swimming every day I can. I have heard that a lot of people get memberships and for whatever reason lose interest after a while and stop going to the gym or the pool. It was then that I decided to incorporate my year-long swim into a fundraiser.

I calculated the number of lengths I thought I could do over the course of a year and, at 30 lengths (1.5km) a day it came to 10,950. I capped it at 10,000 to allow for days when the pool may be shut and sick days. It was quite coincidental, when deciding to support the Leukaemia & Blood Foundation, that I had read that there are an estimated 10,000 New Zealanders living with a blood cancer or condition. I have always wanted to support the Leukaemia & Blood Foundation. I have seen many people who have joined in the “Shave for a Cure” campaign, and thought I would participate, so when deciding on which charity to support I thought, perfect, I can swim 10,000 for the 10,000 people living with a blood cancer or condition.

I wanted my fundraiser to really help those in immediate need. Like many people, perhaps even some of you, I have known people who have gone their own battle with cancer. Some who have won, some who have not. So, the Leukaemia & Blood Foundation is a charity close to my heart.

Through this fundraiser I want to show that anyone can make a difference regardless of their personal circumstances. Many people who look at me may see me as disabled, a person with special needs, or physically challenged. I have always challenged those labels, as I believe the only real restrictions we face are those we put on ourselves. Sure there are things that I find difficult, and yes, some things that I am unable to do, at least how someone “able-bodied” might do them. But, if I want to do something badly enough, I have found there is usually a way.

When I was a baby my mother was told it was unlikely that I would ever walk, or talk, and would go to a “special” school. Luckily for me, I have a very determined mother who was not going to take “no” for an answer. And again, luckily for me, I have inherited her stubbornness and determination.

It is with this same determination that I began planning Swim 10,000. Upon telling some people of my goal I was told “you won’t do that”, and it made me even more determined to prove them wrong, but the real sense of achievement I will get is in knowing that I have proven it to myself.

I have, however, been told “you can’t do that” many times in my life. Many times been subjected to the stares and pointing from strangers. Growing up with a disability you develop a thick skin to such things. I remember being 4 years old (unable to walk at that stage and being pushed in a chair similar to an oversized pushchair by my mother. A woman approached us, and said rather rudely to my mother “what’s wrong with your daughter she shouldn’t still be in a pushchair, she’s far too old for that”, and my response, “you don’t see me coming up to you asking you what’s wrong with you and why are you wearing those ugly glasses, and kicking her in the shins. Looking back, I’m not proud of kicking her in the shins, nor, I am sure was my mother, however, she and I are both proud that I felt able to defend myself, and not have to be spoken for.

But then, sometimes the reaction was just for fun. At age 9 after having my first surgery, I was in a wheelchair with casts on both legs and bandages on both thighs, on a day out shopping with my mother, who was pushing me in the wheelchair. A couple approached us and asked what had happened to me. My mother always hated this, as she never knew what I was going to say! I then turned to the couple and said “see this woman pushing me in the wheelchair” They nodded “We’ll she’s my mother, and she pushed me down the stairs!”. To which the horrified couple gave mum a quick glance and went about their business as my mother and I continued on our shopping trip, my mum red with embarrassment but the two of us laughing.

Humour, was the way I dealt with the staring, pointing and questions from strangers. I have learnt not to take things too seriously, and that laughter can dispel those awkward moments where you’d otherwise be inclined to run and hide, when you know that running is not an option.

As I have grown I have become more confident and less inclined to take offence at the sometimes blatant prejudice from others. The aim of Swim 10,000 is to help the Leukaemia & Blood Foundation. But Swim 10,000 is also helping me. It is helping me complete one of the biggest goals I have set, but much more than that.

I am a very shy person. My shyness has often stopped me from doing things. I’m the sort of person who feels alone in a crowd. I am more comfortable around people I already know, and familiar surroundings. I want Swim 10,000 to be a success, and raise much needed funds for the Leukaemia & Blood Foundation who receives no government funding. To do this, I realise that I need to get the word out about Swim 10,000 to as many people as possible in the most effective ways.

I have written letters, emails, and made phone calls to companies, sent friend requests to strangers who have heard about my swim and asked for their support in helping to spread the word. I have been interviewed and photographed for an article in the North Shore Times Advertiser, and there may be other media interest by way of radio, TV, newspapers, and magazines. And, here I am speaking to you. Public speaking. The thought of which leaves me with more butterflies in my stomach than you’d see at Butterfly Creek. But I’m here. And I find with each new thing I try, once completed, the fear goes with it.

I have met many people through doing my swim. One friend I have made is Rangi. Rangi heard about Swim 10,000 on the Leukaemia & Blood Foundation’s facebook page. Rangi has Leukaemia.

He told me he is proud of what I am doing, and continues to follow my progress and give me his support. Some people may be inspired by what I am doing, and I’m glad, if that “inspiration” leads them to action. But really, I don’t see what I’m doing as amazing. I am simply a regular person who was inspired by others, and decided to take action. Many people don’t act, as they say to themselves, “what difference can I really make?” Challenge the norm. What difference can you really make? Challenge those who say that one person can’t make a difference. They can. You can. And only you can decide how. The action I chose to take in completing Swim 10,000 is a physical challenge, as I wanted the challenge to be something from which I will gain a real sense of achievement. Without it, what’s the point? I see it as a challenge which I am enjoying. It’s my goal.

You can achieve any goal you set. Just break it down into small steps, and take one step (or in my case, length) at a time. On Tuesday I passed my first thousand lengths, and am now on my way to my second. The challenge of the 10,000 lengths and year-long commitment pales in comparison to the challenge and struggle that people with cancer face on a daily basis. I am extremely proud in the knowledge that the money I raise will help people like Rangi, as they are an inspiration to me.

Please join me in making a splash. To donate to Swim 10,000, and go in the draw to win an aquamarine and diamond ring from Diamond & Time Jewellers valued at $920 go to www.leukaemia.org.nz 10,000 thank yous.

Lia in the North Shore Times
Lia’s journal of her year long swim
To donate

Photo by Ben Watson, North Shore Times

Dear Robyn,

Unless you are like me and have the memory of a goldfish (ooh! never been here before, ooh! never been here before…) you’ll remember a short tad ago I wrote a post on The #1 Purpose of a Website in which I bleated on about Narnia and mothballs and inspiration. Afterwards Blair Stevenson (who has his own cool blog on leadership) pasted up this comment:

“While inspiration is good, as is creating something people truly believe in, I’m not sure that they are necessary to make a sale. I’m not sure that manufacturers of toilet tissue or socks, or providers of legal services or petrol ever truly inspired anyone but they seem to make a reasonable living. It seems better to actually fulfill/address a need your target audience actually has.”

This reminded me of something funny that happened to me recently. I needed to go to the supermarket to buy *bog rolls and a toothbrush. Uninspiring items. Now, this is a bit of a mission for me because I am one of those people who is a disappointment to Market Researchers:

“Are you the main household shopper?”

Nope! Not a chance. I hate supermarket shopping with a vengence. It bores me rigid. The faster I can go into a Foodtown and come out the other side with only the things I planned to buy (ahem!) the better. Preferably at midnight also when there are no mass queues of people or trolley jams to negotiate. There’s something strangely megalomaniacal about having a whole supermarket to yourself too, as if they especially cleared out the whole place just for you.

Anyway, I don’t really like supermarkets and don’t spend much time in them so I also unsurprisingly have no idea what is in them either. The other day I decided I wanted to get a new toothbrush. So I went to what I thought was the appropriate isle and wandered up and down looking for them.

Razors… soap… shampoo… face wash… Christmas decorations (wtf? it’s a bit early for Xmas isn’t it?)… cotton wool…

That’s weird. No toothbrushes. Bit strange in the bathroom isle. So I looked again.

Razors… soap… shampoo… face wash… Christmas decorations… cotton wool…

Definitely not there. Hmmm. So I asked someone to point them out. OK so those aren’t decorations! Clearly I had been looking for the wrong thing. A toothbrush by my definition is a plastic stick with some bristles bunged unceremoniously in one end. It does a pretty good job of keeping your teeth clean despite it’s uninspired mundanity and once it’s retired from duty it does a not bad job of cleaning soap scum off the basin taps.

Well, how uneducated I am! That’s not what a toothbrush is anymore. No. A toothbrush, apparently is a vehicle into the 11th dimension, and it has the flashing spaceship lights to prove it.  No wonder I thought Christmas had come early. Toothbrushes are sparkling things designed by aliens. You get an infinite array to pick from –  ones with 390 degree revolving heads that have handles that bend like a slinky,  battery powered vibrating ones with bristles pointing everywhere at mathematically impossible angles, every possible combination of psychodelic fluorescent colours combined in swirly patterns and embedded with more glitter and bling than Lady Gaga has costume changes. Some come with alarm clocks. Others with backing lights. You can even get toothbrushes for toddlers that come with training wheels or scary talking monster heads. And they don’t appear to be made from plastic anymore but some sort of space age coagulated extraterrestrial ectoplasm. The best thing of all – they come with a write up on the packaging that promises that if you buy one it will solve all your life problems for you. Don’t believe me? Well go stand in front of the toothbrush stand and see for yourself – just don’t forget your sunglasses.

And that is not all. After being blinded by the toothbrushes I had to go get some bog rolls. Now surely these would truly be boring and uninspired. Wrong again. All I wanted was a classic roll of toilet tissue. How hard can that be? But they don’t seem to exist anymore.

First off you have to identify the packaging. You know, on nappy packets they put a picture of a cutesy baby. On bogs rolls they put pictures of cutesy puppies. Eh? You could be well forgiven for thinking they are a product designed especially for dealing with puppy poop! Once you figure out it is actually toilet paper and not a pet product you have the same mind bending variety to decide on. What do you want to do today?  Visit a perfumery in France? Take a trip to the beach with the blue starfishies and dolphins? Teach your kid to count out bits of bog roll with doggy footprints? Play Sudoku? Read your starsign? Admire the new softness of the latest breathable, micro-weave, quilted paper? Your bog roll will deliver. What will come out next? Bog rolls for the old and senile with instructions for use on every single sheet or the days of the week? (“Today is Monday, perforation, Today is Tuesday, perforation, Today is Wed… oh for Pete’s sake just pick one, they’re all the same these days anyway!”)

So getting back to Blair’s original comment, it is true that many manufacturers never inspire anyone and still make a profit. But it’s kind of cool when they do otherwise life would be pretty bland and it’s far to short not to have fun. Inspiration isn’t necessary to make a sale – but someone sure as hell forgot to tell the toothbrush and bog roll people that!

Morgan 🙂

PS: Oh, and am I inspired by my new toothbrush? Well, yes I am actually. It’s pretty superduper and  I like it so much I’m considering buying a whole box of them now before they go out of fashion in a week’s time to make room for the next model – a multi-dimensional space wonder with warp speed hyperdrive, 16GB hard drive and beam me up Scotty functionality.

*bog rolls = rolls of toilet paper

Image by Andrej Troha