Tuesday, January 31, 2012

what they sang decades ago

One of the many changes having a child in the house has caused is the conscious effort I have to make to not have a television playing. Lest you get the idea that I ever had an array of "afternoon programs," let me assure you I did not. But background noise is good. And I usually try to avoid music as background noise...because I just end up listening to the music instead of doing my work. I understand people who listen to tunes as they write not at all.

But while I am not one of those people who think of television as evil (I used to be a media scholar, after all), I don't want my daughter too overwhelmed by television. My wife has caught her staring at it several times...even when it's turned off. On the other hand, the sound of an empty house has always struck me as kind of creepy. My compromise? I have the tv on the 60s Digital Music channel a lot. But as always, my mind refuses to shut off completely when it's on...so I now have a list of things I know beyond a shadow of a doubt about the sixties...at least in terms of music.

  • A huge portion of the music made by whites (particularly in the beginning of the decade) is horrific. Frankie Avalon? Frankie Valli? Gawdawful. People who think today's pop is bland and generic should listen to the pop of the past. Pop music has always been bland and generic.
  • On the other hand, the more I listen to this channel, the larger my appreciation for The Funk Brothers (the awesome backing group of Motown) grows. Is everything Motown awesome? Of course not, but this band might have the best arrangements of anyone. Whenever I hear Jack Ashford's tambourine play, I get happy.
  • There is a huge difference between The Beach Boys when they were really firing on all cylinders ("Sloop John B." or "Wouldn't It Be Nice?") and when they were playing half-heartedly (their awful cover of "Rock and Roll Music"). They really could've been one of the best bands in the world (if you doubt this, you should go now to listen to "Help Me, Rhonda"), but drugs? egos? something stopped them from being at all consistent.
  • I often wish I would've been a musician back during this time...because the state of the art (particularly in the beginning of the decade) was not all that good and I would look like a genius by comparison. Early rock and roll guitar solos were often (if not regularly) just the song's melody line. Anyone nowadays could do better. Hey, maybe that's why people used to think Clapton was good.
  • The state of the art, though, really did improve as the decade came to an end. While they weren't all brilliant, I will argue that drummers were generally better at the end of the sixties (particularly in heavy blues rock) than they are now. Really: John Bonham, Mitch Mitchell, Bill Ward, Keith Moon, and so forth. What the hell happened to drummers? Why have they become in general so unadventuresome?
  • I've realized that although I prefer the later Beatles, I still kinda like their early bubblegum stuff. The early work of the Rolling Stones, though...much less convincing. They don't do good hippie stuff. Their 70s material more than makes up for it, though.
  • One final certainty: Vanilla Fudge's version of "You Keep Me Hanging On" is the heaviest object in existence.

As usual, I will probably fight to the death defending any of these claims...particularly if you catch me in a bar.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Another Damn Monday

Tired after sending tons of "you haven't done any work in three weeks so you probably won't pass" e-mails? Wondering if anyone will ever call you and ask you to go to a bar? Feeling sorry for yourself? Fearful of how much your daughter will turn into a demon child from the netherworld throughout the night? It's time for a new drink! I call this one the "Another Damn Monday":

  • Place some ice in a pint glass
  • Fill the glass 1/4 up with vodka
  • Fill to the halfway mark with white grape juice
  • Top off the glass with ginger beer
  • Try not to think of it only being the beginning of the week

Thursday, January 26, 2012

on genocide and dry eyes

Today, I spent entirely too much time in front of the computer, and as a result, my eyes got a little bloodshot. I tore the house apart, but I couldn't find the eye drops anywhere...so although I was in utterly no pain, I had no choice but to go around looking like I either had pink eye or had consumed a large amount of various illegal substances.

Later in the night, I found watching television on the couch with my wife when the following conversation occurred more or less verbatim:

"You know, I think I have a solution."

"To your ugly eye?"

"Yeah. It just occurred to me that I have a kitchen...and a knife...and an onion."

"Oh, no, Mike, you don't want to do that."

"Why not? It would make me cry."

"Yes, but it would inflame the membranes."


"You should just try and think of something sad...like the Holocaust."

This is why, by the way, my life is completely awesome.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

an anniversary tale

Me and my beautiful spousal unit got married in January of 2003. We met at the mayor's office and were officially hitched in the city counsel chambers. Actually, I sat outside the mayor's office waiting for her to show up, and she waited outside in her car for me to show up. There was a tense few minutes there where I worried she might've returned to her senses and taken off for North Dakota or parts unknown.

But she came in and, against all logic, married me anyway. While I don't understand this, I am eternally grateful...particularly every January 24th. While we try to do something nice, we suffer the setback of being dead-ass broke, so rather than the traditional gifts, we just settle on a modest meal somewhere. This year, though, I mad a serious effort to do things properly.

First, I went and opened our firebox to look at the certificate...and with a quick glance at the form, I saw "2002." Hah, I thought, I could've sworn we were at nine years...not ten. I was happy I discovered the mistake in advance, though...nothing like avoiding looking like an idiot, particularly when anniversary dates are concerned.

I really had no idea what the standard gifts were for the tenth year. So I did what people in the 21st century: I googled it. The traditional gift was aluminum. This didn't really help. They offered gift suggestions, but I didn't think an anodized saute pan would really say "thanks for being married to me"...particularly as I'm the one who does the cooking.

They did list a modern gift equivalent, though, and it was...pewter. This didn't really help; I live in a small town where House of Pewter has yet to open up a franchise. I sent an e-mail to a local jeweler asking for suggestions. They wrote back, saying they didn't have any pewter jewelry, but (of course) diamonds were a perfectly acceptable substitute! I did some browsing online, and I did find a diamond ring I could afford...which had a genuine 1/20th of a carat rock. I could afford the ring, but the magnifying glass it would require to see the thing would put me over budget. I wrote and explained this to my wife, but she rejected my alternative offer to do origami out of aluminum foil.

When I recounted the full story to my wife after she returned from work, she told me we had in fact been married in 2003, not 2002. I went back to the form, and the "2002" I was was when we got our marriage application. I then googled the ninth anniversary, and the appropriate gift was leather. That I could've done.

However, I would've felt weird giving her a leather gift in front of our 7 month old.

Monday, January 23, 2012

my changing relationship to music

(first in a series)

I've been trying (in some respects) to be a proactive parent. So, not too long after we learned my wife was preggers, I realized I was going to have to rethink my relationship to music.

Bear with me. While like most parents I had no true idea what I was getting myself into, I did know that we were going to have a little person roaming around the house. This naturally means baby-proofing. I knew I would have to move electrical cords and lock up household chemicals (which we used to just keep in the liquor cabinet). What scared me, though, was learning the DuBose-to-be would be mobile at some point...and while I really couldn't picture my child at the time, I would picture this potential infant learning to crawl, heading over to my wall of cd cabinets, pulling cds out at random, pulling the disks out of the cases, and hurling them all into a giant, jagged pile.

I didn't want to have to decide between my love for my child-to-be and my love for music, so I spent hours online searching for good storage options. New cd shelves with doors, though, were quite costly...and since we can't even afford to move out of our two room wooden shack with dirt floors, I realized quickly that purchasing expensive storage shelves with doors was not the solution. I considered then rejected making my own doors, because I really didn't want to count myself among the ranks of those home repair and woodworking enthusiasts who have lopped off fingers. I briefly thought about rigging up some kind of strap system to lash the cds into place but rejected each plan as being too Goldbergian.

It was clear there were no other options. I had to get rid of my cds.

I spent about two months sorting cds and ripping them to mp3. I would take my time, gazing at the prisms of light reflecting off the disk as I poured over the packaging for the last time, all while trying to remember where I bought the disk in the first place. Music ripped, I would then file the disk away in a big plastic tub for easy transport to a relative for safe-keeping.

It all seemed too big to me, the end-of-an-era-type event. I remembered getting my first cd player...one of those portable units which skipped whenever you tripped or stumbled. I found my way to a pawn shop and bought a dozen used disks, two dollars apiece. I then joined one of those music clubs to jump-start my collection. They outgrew my shelf. Then my collection outgrew the carousel storage unit. Then I bought my first shelf...then another...then another...until I had seven shelves and a few thousand disks. Now, though, I would have an empty wall and a number of used bytes on my computer. It seemed...inadequate.

Moreover, it was unprecedented. I never really liked cassettes all that much...they were too disposable of a medium, and if a tape was of an album I really enjoyed, I would most certainly go through three or four copies...so getting rid of them was no big deal. I liked records, particularly because of the artwork, but my stereo receiver died a few years before I finally divested myself of all my vinyl. Besides, all of these were a move from one media to another. The end of cds was a larger event in that it meant the end of artifacts. Yeah, I still had the songs, but there was no "thing" attached to them. For the first time in my music-consuming life, it was impossible for me to sit and hold my favorite album.

I moped for a while. Abandoning my cds was a move I had to make. I knew that. A child, my very own child, was much more important. I knew that. I couldn't, however, stop myself from being a little sad from thinking of the empty spaces where my racks of cds once stood as standing for something more...a hole within me, perhaps.

Then my daughter came...and I found myself not thinking very much of my cds at all.

Christmastime came. Me and my wife knew we wouldn't really need to buy each other piles of gifts. We were broke, yes, but my wife has long insisted on having at least some level of presents, so she could tear open wrapping paper with her hands...because she is, as she feels free to tell you, a little kid. Christmas is (and will increasingly become) all about our daughter. But we agreed to still give each other at least a token gift.

We decided on on the massively sentimental and romantic present of gift cards...and, as the actual holiday hour approached and our lives as a result became more frazzled, we didn't even put them in envelopes.

I got a gift card to Amazon. First thing I did was buy a couple of albums I'd been wanting...but as I had no more cds, as there were no more artifacts of music, I found the downloads to be cheaper...so instead of two cds, I could get five albums! Furthermore, as I wasn't getting anything physical, I didn't have to wait to get my music. In five minutes, all of my new albums were sitting on my hard drive, ready for consumption.

Yes, I no longer had the artifacts. I did, however, have increased access to the music.

Realizing this is a bit of a game-changer for me. How long before my Kindle renders my bookshelves moot? Should I get a streaming service and do away with my dvds? What is next? I dream of a future where I buy a fiber optic tee shirt and download its graphics directly from the bands.

Why not? It's the end of the artifact. Let's hope it makes content more important.

envoi to silence

There were parental and in-law visits. There was the crush of holiday planning. There was an urchin in the midst of a perfect storm of cold, then unexpectedly early teething, then a growth spurt. There was class prep (after way too long away from work). There was a mild case of seasonal affective disorder. There was playoff football. There was a long-delayed and ultimately surprisingly inconsequential visit to a mental health professional. There were new albums to digest. And then, just as everything seemed to clear, there was a computer unexpectedly dying...which of course necessitated pulling all the data from the old computer, shopping for a new computer, purchasing a new computer, trying to figure out how to afford a new computer, removing bloatware from the new computer, installing needed software onto the new computer, and transferring all my files over from the old to the new computer. And then was my quite successful attempt at making mushroom and onion soup.

Suffice to say: I'm back...and I got a lot of stuff to say.