Saturday, March 29, 2008

Support yours

Slick just sent me this article about the demise of record stores in college towns. The fact that the article calls them "record" stores shows the audience its geared towards: Me. And you? Do any of you still go shopping at the "record shop" "on the corner" or "downtown?" I was never able to figure out how to download a song onto my Zen Ultra Mp3 and haven't touched the thing for at least two years. I've never used iTunes (though when I wanted to watch that prequel to Darjeeling Limited Apple made me download it...only to tell me afterwards that it was no longer available). I did try N*p*s*e* back in the illegal dial-up days, but I never figured out how to burn anything onto CD and I hate listening to music sitting at the computer so I never got too far with it (in fact, the only song I really remember was Moby Grape's Omaha--at that time I couldn't find the CD). Do people who download music listen to it on the stereo in the living room with their friends? I know music is thriving on-line and their are more bands than ever, but what's happening to the communal aspect? What percentage of young people have been to a live concert? The Salon article says a lot of new college students have never bought a CD, meaning they've never had the pleasure of going into a--alright, alright--CD store (The fact that I'm finally calling it that reminds me of a story. My Irish immigrant grandfather was talking to a Norwegian man about adjusting to the New World. The Norwegian shook his head sadly and said, "It took me years to learn to say yam and now they call it yelly." I love that) . There are certainly lots of great reviewing sites on-line, but, to use my favorite, Pitchfork, as an example, they're pretty specialized: You won't read about a classical album or an album of sitar music on Pitchfork. And those suggestions ("people who bought Tom Waits also bought Leonard Cohen") can be downright scary in their accuracy and really make you feel like a simple machine...this is good and bad. And KEXP is an institution and a godsend, but it's frustratingly limited in the scope of music it plays. I miss the free-form days of college radio of yore.
The only thing you knew about WHUS or WMUR was you'd better listen hard because you weren't likely to hear any song on that station twice. Knowing that I only had to hear a song once kept me from jumping to the dial when there was something I didn't like--this was my musical education. Pandora, the future of Internet radio, brags that it'll only play music YOU like (using some brilliant computer program). Well, I don't know what I like till I hear it. I heard Jill Scott the other day and loved it. No sane computer program would have chosen that for me knowing that my most recent music purchases include Kollectiv, Richard Youngs, Avarus, Robyn Hitchcock, and the Black Keys. I want surprises, damn it. I want the communal experience of the record store. I want the art of the CD case or record sleeve, the liner notes. I want the record store owner to say, as Jeffrey at Wall of Sound does now, when I walk in, "Hey, I got just the thing for you!" Maybe the Internet is a collective genius but it's no Jeffrey. I want to have to leave my house and make a decision with my hard earned money. I want to listen to a whole CD and not just the two or three tracks that some blogger (hm mm) said were worth downloading. I want to grow to sort of like that weird ninth track and know that the $18 I dropped was worth it, and worry about this disintegration of CDs I hear about occasionally. The biggest scam ever, those CDs. But a better scam than a future without neighborhood CD shops.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008


Have I ever felt so inspired by a politician? No, I have not. Obama's "race" speech is the best speech I've heard from a public figure in years. My only fear is that it was too willing to embrace
complex issues in a complex way, that its points can't be boiled down to a simple paragraph. Hopefully people will take some time with it and not just listen to the inevitable ads that say "Barack Hussein Obama refuses to condemn this man:" queue clip of Rev. Wright. No matter what happens in this election, it gives me hope knowing that intelligent rhetoric still has a place in this culture.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Word Nerd

Today at work I got to wondering about the etymology of nerd. It is interesting.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Someone you know?

The League of Citizens Concerned about Literature has announced the winner of their first poetry contest.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Oh Oprah

I've never watched Oprah but I've picked up enough to know that she's a mixed bag. Dr. Phil? "The Secret?" (Blade and I watched it last night and rarely have I felt more embarrassed for a movie) The car giveaway? Steadman? Questionable. But there's another side to Oprah, the Oprah that picks Cormac McCarthy's "The Road" for her book club. The Oprah that campaigns for my man Obama. And, most importantly, the Oprah that's doing a ten week long webcast series with Eckhart Tolle. His book "A New Earth" is her latest club selection and it's already broken all kinds of sales record since it was announced. I had the true pleasure of seeing Eckhart Tolle speak last week at Benaroya Hall (third row center!) and have nothing but praise for his message. There's no way to express enough the impact of his teachings on my life without using such hyperbolic statements as "there's no way to express enough the impact of his teachings on my life." With the size of Oprah's usual audience multiplied by the world wide web, and the length of time she's devoting to the discussions, this could be an extremely beneficial event for this planet. Let's hope so. I know I'll be watching. Starts Monday.