I Can’t Change The Channel, from Watch The Birdie (Day 55)

Happy Ruckusmaker Day! I find Seth Godin’s posts inspiring nearly every day, but today, I was particularly stirred by Seth’s words as he commemorated 60th birthday of Steve Jobs.

Steve’s contribution wasn’t invention. Technology breakthroughs didn’t come out of his basement the way they did from Land or Tesla. Instead, his contribution was to have a point of view. To see something and say ‘yes’ or ‘no’. To not only have a point of view, but to change it when the times demanded.

Most of all, to express that point of view, to act on it, to live with it.

This explains the essence of what makes a ruckusmaker, and the world needs them. My new boss, Joanna Settle, is definitely a ruckusmaker, and deserves mad props for it. But when it comes to making ruckuses, the record will show that I’ve also made my share, and as I approach my sixtieth birthday, I feel like I’ve still got game.


Just like yesterday’s song, I Can’t Change The Channel made its first appearance in my 1979 musical Assassins, and together they tell a story of memory, regret and obsession.

The young man who has been watching TV during the previous song begins to sing:
I try not to recall when I was little
Or I start feeling small again.
I’m crowded into my old lady’s bed
And it stinks of tobacco and other men.
She hires different people to watch me,
A nasty couple from next door,
And she runs around with bud, the milkman,
And I never see my father anymore.

She leaves me at home with the TV
And an undercover spy
Lives inside it, watching me
Behind its smoky eye.
I’m sure that I don’t fantasize
These spies who try to oversee my fantasy!
My mother and the television
Teach me what to be.

She mostly ignores me, but sometimes she cares
Despite the abuse and the endless affairs
And the nights I get pushed to the edge of the bed.
No room in my house,
No room in my head.
I tell other people my mother is dead
Or I make up another story instead

And I wish she didn’t matter
But she does, and she did.
There’s no getting back at her
For when I was a kid.
When I lie awake in bed,
There’s a TV in my head
And I can’t change the channel!

I’ll let Seth take it from here:

The worst troll is in your head.

Internet trolls are the commenters begging for a fight, the anonymous critics eager to tear you down, the hateful packs of roving evil dwarves, out for amusement.

But the one in your head, that voice of insecurity and self-criticism, that’s the one you need to be the most vigilant about.

Do not feed the troll.

Do not reason with the troll.

Do not argue with the troll.

Most of all, don’t litigate. Don’t make your case, call your witnesses, prove you are right. Because the troll knows how to sway a jury even better than you do.

Get off the troll train. Turn your back, walk away, ship the work.

The poor schmuck who sings this song couldn’t escape the troll in his head. Eventually, in his anguish, he does something incredibly stupid: he pulls a trigger and instigates a catastrophe.

Me, I’m gonna click “publish” and ship this post. And do it again tomorrow. And again. And again.

If you missed them, these are the songs already posted on Project 194; the links on the right are songs chosen at random from previous posts. Want to contribute to my interactive composition, “Hear My Song?” Read more here. Want to receive daily songs delivered direct to your inbox? Sign up here!

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