Living in the overlap

Everyone knows the Smoky Robinson song “Tears Of A

But did you know who wrote it?

Turns out it was Stevie Wonder.

Apparently he was only about 13 at the time.

But that’s not what fascinated me about it.

There’s a line in it: “Just like Pagliacci did, I’ll try
to keep my sadness hid.”

Now a lot of middle class English people hear that and
scoff at the grammar.

Because of course, the last word shouldn’t be “hid”, it
should be “hidden”.

But that wouldn’t rhyme, so he went with what was good
rather than what was correct.

The interesting thing for me is that the same people who
scoff at the grammar usually don’t know who Pagliacci was.

Or what he’s got to do with that song.

And yet a 13 year old black kid from Detroit took it for
granted that Pagliacci’s story was so well known he could use him in a pop

The opera about a clown whose heart is breaking behind a
painted-on smile.

I think that’s brilliant.

Think of it as a Venn diagram, two overlapping circles.

The circle on the left is people who only ever listen to
pop music, watch football, read The Sun, drink beer, and watch TV.

The circle on the right is people who only ever listen to
classical music, watch ballet, read The Guardian or Telegraph, drink wine, and
read books.

And the part where Stevie Wonder lives, like all truly
creative people, is in the bit where they overlap.

The part where new and surprising connections can happen.

The part Faris Yakob calls ‘recombinant thinking’.

Faris Yakob is a new-media guru, and he makes the point
that all new ideas are actually just new combinations of existing things.

If we accept that, then what we should be doing is making
sure we experience as many different things as possible.

We should make an effort to experience things that don’t
go together.

So we can make new combinations happen.

This happened in America’s big cities naturally.

Because they didn’t grow gradually over centuries, like
the rest of the world.

They were thrown together, and grew rapidly due to

So previously incompatible things were constantly

But a growing boy didn’t know they were supposed to be
mutually exclusive.

He’d just experience it all as natural and put it all

He’d hear Italian immigrants playing opera from their
windows, and on the next street rhythm and blues, or boogie woogie.

Martin Scorcese makes the same point about his childhood
in New York.

He would watch from his window and see fights in the
streets below.

At the same time opera was playing from the open windows above.

If you’ve seen “Raging Bull” you’ll recognise this use of
that unexpected combination.

I once read a book on mathematics by an Indian professor.

One point she made resonated with me.

She said we need to study ourselves.

To find out what side of the brain we are dominant in.

(Left brain
being the rational side, right brain being the emotional.)

Then we need to spend as much time as we can exposing
ourself to influences from the other side.

Because whatever side is dominant is our comfort zone.

We’ll naturally gravitate to that.

But anything we learn in our comfort zone won’t give us
any new combinations.

Whereas whatever we learn on the other side of the brain
gives us a completely new set of possible links to our existing side.

So we should force ourselves to experience whatever we’re
not comfortable with.

If you’re a numeric person, force yourself to experience
art and music.

If you’re a visual person, force yourself to read more

If you like fiction, make yourself to read non-fiction.

If you like rock music make yourself listen to Classic


While we’re in our comfort zone we’re on auto pilot.

We’re relaxing and letting it wash over us.

But when we move out of our comfort zone our mind is
forced to think.

Forced to try to find something good in what we don’t

Staying in our comfort zone just means staying with what
we already know.

There’s no growth there.

No possibilities for new combinations.

Paul Arden used to say, “It’s good to feel

We shouldn’t be frightened to feel uncomfortable.

We don’t need to live in either of the two big
comfortable, predictable circles.

We can live in the overlap.

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    “The opera about a clown whose heart is breaking behind a painted-on smile”.

    does this mean Pagliacci influenced the Isley Brothers as well? Quite frankly all Motown lyrics are great from the Golden period. Particularly “What Becomes of the Broken-Hearted?” – heart wrenchingly bleak, but in a 3 minute pop song. Genius

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    couldn’t resist it, I make no apologies – the ultimate broken up song of all time:

    As I walk this land with broken dreams
    I have visions of many things
    Love’s happiness is just an illusion
    Filled with sadness and confusion,
    What becomes of the broken hearted
    Who had love that’s now departed?
    I know I’ve got to find
    Some kind of peace of mind
    The fruits of love grow all around
    But for me they come a tumblin’ down.
    Every day heartaches grow a little stronger
    I can’t stand this pain much longer
    I walk in shadows
    Searching for light
    Cold and alone
    No comfort in sight,
    Hoping and praying for someone to care
    Always moving and goin to where
    What becomes of the broken hearted
    Who had love that’s now departed?
    I know I’ve got to find
    Some kind of peace of mind
    I’m searching though I don’t succeed,
    But someone look, there’s a growing need.
    Oh, he is lost, there’s no place for beginning,
    All that’s left is an unhappy ending.
    Now what’s become of the broken-hearted
    Who had love that’s now departed?
    I know I’ve got to find
    Some kind of peace of mind
    I’ll be searching everywhere
    Just to find someone to care.
    I’ll be looking everyday
    I know I’m gonna find a way
    Nothings gonna stop me now
    I’ll find a way somehow
    I’ll be searching everywhere

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    Swap you Chris, “Tracks of My Tears”:

    People say I’m the life of the party
    Because I tell a joke or two
    Although I might be laughing loud and hearty
    Deep inside I’m blue
    So take a good look at my face
    You’ll see my smile looks out of place
    If you look closer, it’s easy to trace
    The tracks of my tears..
    I need you, need you
    Since you left me if you see me with another girl
    Seeming like I’m having fun
    Although she may be cute
    She’s just a substitute
    Because you’re the permanent one..
    So take a good look at my face
    You’ll see my smile looks out of place
    If you look closer, it’s easy to trace
    The tracks of my tears..
    I need you, need you
    Outside I’m masquerading
    Inside my hope is fading
    Just a clown oh yeah
    Since you put me down
    My smile is my make up
    I wear since my break up with you..
    So take a good look at my face
    You’ll see my smile looks out of place
    If you look closer, it’s easy to trace
    The tracks of my tears

  • Da da da daaaa

    Da da da daaaa

    Beethoven – now there’s a guy who could write a great lyric and tune.

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    Beethoven? Don’t make me laugh.

    Ha Ha Ha Haaaaaa

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    yes Dave, another 2 min 20 sec classic. I just checked the name of John Cage’s most famous ‘tune’ – Interestingly there are 2 youtube clips of it (4.33 by the way). One is 9 minutes long, the other is 6. Perhaps he did encores? The more you think about that, the more philosophical it becomes. Well, to me anyway.

  • Grilla & Dave – we’d have more rabbit than Sainsbury, have ’em dancing in the aisles daaaaaahn in Margate, no mistake.

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    Hi Dave,

    Comforting to know I’m in the discomfort zone.
    Being out of work forced me to do something new.
    This time it’s being a care worker for people with Cerebal Palsy.
    I never knew when these guys scratch you what it was like.
    Unimaginable pain. it’s like being stabbed with a chisel.

    The upside is just getting a laugh out of them.
    I now understand why God gave us the disabled.
    These guys give me tons of gratitude.
    I mean, I can go home at night. they can’t.

    Working shifts at the moment.
    I’ll be working all weekend.
    So now I know what it’s like to be a carer.
    XXXXXXX Awful.

    You get up, you see no ads.
    You go to bed, you see no ads,
    The only ads you see are on…
    ta ta ta, ta ta ta, taaaaaaaa….

    YES! You’ve got it! TV !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Nobody gives a toss about online or all
    the arguments and debates that cover the ad world.
    this is the real world…and I’m loving it.

    Right now I’m thinking about new scripts.
    If we live long enough,
    we may all have to wear one!

    What goes around comes around.
    But it’s best to make good use of the spare time
    whilst waiting in the corridor of life.

    Must go, he’s just filled his pants again….

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    Testing 1 2 3

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    Copy that

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    Just bought mater for her birthday Easter Parade and Fahrenheit 9/11 dvd’s so she can experience the overlap.

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    It is one of the great sidelights of cosmopolitan living – even in an homogeneous culture like Tokyo, but definitely in your average melting pot-like American city, or Toronto (particularly), or London – the mash-ups. So I’m not surprised to see the Martin Scorcese example. It is very apt, the example of juxtaposition, the conflation of high-brow and low-brow culture in the city. But the mix of economic classes is especially stimulating; the money to fund the theatre and the groundlings near the stage. Side by side on the street corner you have the homeless schizophrenic and the salaryman talking into his Bluetooth phone. At the airport you have that guy out front who plays a strong beat on plastic buckets and spare refrigerator grating, competing for your ears with the international news and haute couture up on the flat display panels. Gotta love the city. The choreography is already all there, we’re just have to take notes.


  • Dave, I’d like to ask a question. Is the overlap growing or shrinking? You see, I’ve been noticing how gaps are closing. Between the worst car in the world and the best. One political party and another. Ideologies are drifting into the middle ground. The Pope will be number 1 in the charts this Christmas. And one area that disturbs me much more is it’s getting harder to spot a racist, homophobe, xenophobe. They are now mingling in the overlap. As opposing poles converge, the overlap becomes the common ground. That definitely makes me uncomfortable. Am I imagining this?

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    Hi Bob,
    There’s always an overlap, but it shifts all the time.
    We just have to find it.
    My brother-in-law from Indiana said to me he used to be left of centre now he’s right of centre, “I stayed where I am bit the godamn centre shifted.”
    If you think of it in political terms, two circles right and left.
    At the centre of each circle are core users and core non-users.
    They will only ever vote for their own party.
    They will never vote for the other party no matter what.
    There’s no point in talking to either of these groups, they can’t be shifted.
    But where the two circles overlap is what decides elections.
    These can be shifteed.
    That’s the overlap.
    Changes all the time, but we have to find it.

  • Dave, From my perspective, the overlap is no longer hard to find. It’s growing. It’s like one of those big so-called ‘free-range’ chicken sheds. 20,000 chooks cooped up under lights. Around the periphery there are a few statutory holes in the wall where a handful of marginalized chickens get to go outside, to stand back and gain a perspective on what a hell hole they live in. The rest of the chickens don’t even know what a hole in the wall looks like. They are stuck in the middle ground. The guys who’ve been outside would love to tell the ones in the middle what it’s like outside but they can’t be heard in the roar of the overlap.

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    Perhaps they dont live in the overlap at all.
    That is just where they are percieved to be.
    Perhaps they live outside the Venn diagram altogether.
    but to make sense of them
    both sides draw them in then reject them
    forcing them to inhabit a common space shared by both views.
    Of course, there are not only two views.
    There is a multiplicicty of views.

    In psychology there’s an interesting thing called transference.

    Man and woman have row in the street
    they don’t want to row
    but they can’t help themselves
    a stranger intervenes
    now the couple join forces to
    expel the stranger
    Who is in the overlap now?