I’m not a traditional “Christmas music” guy. In fact just about the only time I intentionally listen to Christmas music at all is during the holiday migration to Western Maryland from wherever in the country I happen to be living at the time. My Christmas playlist is approximately one hour and four minutes in length and features such luminary artists as Blink 182, Reliant K, Bad Religion, and The Pogues.
The only reason I mention it is that this morning I saw a Twitter post opining that “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” in all its variations should be cancelled this year due to the Great Plague.
I’m pretty sure our friendly twitter poster was going for the quick laugh, but missed the entire point of this particular song. Bing Crosby recorded the original version in 1943 at the height of World War II. American soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines were posted up around the globe, and most assuredly dreaming of being home for Christmas, as democracy waged its desperate, existential battle with the forces of fascism.
According to the Library of Congress, “It touched a tender place in the hearts of Americans, both soldiers and civilians, who were then in the depths of World War II, and it earned Crosby his fifth gold record. “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” became the most requested song at Christmas U.S.O. shows in both Europe and the Pacific and Yank, the GI magazine, said Crosby accomplished more for military morale than anyone else of that era.”
If ever there was a song fitting for Christmas in a plague year, this would be the one.
So, in conclusion, cancel culture really is stupid on its face.
The right wing is charging her with being overtly political. The left wing is accusing her of cashing in on the latest cause.
Maybe they’re both right… but they’re most assuredly both wrong too.
I’m old enough to remember the early days of music videos. The good ones were always edgy or outrageous. The best of them were incredibly controversial.
It seems to me that art in its many forms probably should be controversial. It should make you think. It should take your breath away. It should drive you to consider uncomfortable ideas.
Here’s the important part of today’s message, though… if people saying words makes you too uncomfortable, you always have the option of changing the station. In all my many years of life, no one has ever walked up to me, forced my eyes or ears open, and made me an unwilling participant in art. The artist chooses what to do, and I choose whether I’m going to engage with it.
Having a hissy fit because you don’t like a video makes you look and sound like a complete raving lunatic and guarantees that I can’t take you seriously as an adult human being.
I guess you can say I got to have the real fanboy experience this past Friday. Now, I can sit comfortably and interact with generals, political appointees, and elected officials all day long without being the least bit impressed, but put me in front of seven random guys from California and I’m a mumble mouthed mess who can barely bring himself to make eye contact with the god of his own making. It’s good to know that I can still feel over-awed by something, I suppose.
A quick photo op and a few mumbled words would have been plenty enough to make my day, but with my 40th just passed, I wanted to do something a little more out of the ordinary. I’ll say without reservation that sitting fifteen feet above the stage watching your favorite band belt out the songs that have become the staple soundtrack to your life was really one one those thrill of a lifetime moments. I’m still trying to get the dumb grin off my face.
Sitting behind the main speakers, the sound is a little muddled and some of the site-lines are better from the front row, but for seeing the “whole picture” there’s really nothing better. You get to see the organized chaos of on the fly equipment swaps when earpieces stop working and the interplay between shadowed band mates when someone else is taking their moment under the spotlight. You get to see the massive human effort involved in making the seven guys on stage look like they don’t have a care in the world beyond being there making music.
I wanted an experience, bought my ticket, and saw the show. It would have been an absolute steal at twice the price.
I’m going to see my favorite band again in concert on Friday night. This will be the 5th or 6th time I’ve seen them over the last decade, although the music of Counting Crows has been stuck in my head far longer than that. I knew their songs in high school, but it took a girl with a guitar on the 5th floor of Cambridge Hall to secure their place permanently at the apex of just about every playlist I’ve ever made. Most music seems to wash past me like a stream, but these guys, well, they get in my head and just rattle around.
I wish I could tell you exactly what it is that makes this band speak to me particularly, but I’m sure it isn’t just one thing. Their music is sweet and sad and funny and has this timeless quality that I can’t quite explain. I’m also going to just sit here and pretend it’s in absolutely no way an effort to stay in touch with the version of me that’s still half my age. It’s definitely not that.
So off I’ll go again to willingly wade into a crowd that under just about any other circumstance would agitate every single nerve I have. For this one night only I’ll not just endure it, but embrace it. I suppose that’s how you know I’m a real fan. Of course it also helps knowing you have a seat away from the rabble and there’s a very comfortable shuttle waiting to expedite your exit from the venue and back to a delightful old hotel. Just because you’re going out into the crowd doesn’t mean you have to be part of them, after all.
Sigh. These next three days are going to be interminable.
Let me start off by saying I had no idea that the Grammys were handed out last night until I woke up this morning and my various news feeds were cluttered with stories about artists of whom I’ve never heard. That’s not an aspersion, by the way. I’m not in any way making a judgement about the worth of any of the award winners. I am, however, saying that I recognize virtually none of them by name and in all likelihood could not identify them correctly if their music was played for me or if they walked into my living room right this very minute.
Take a tour through my iTunes library and you’ll notice that it includes a fairly wide cross section of genres and historical periods. You’ll also notice that for all practical purposes, it stops sometime around the middle of the last decade.
I’m not the guy who’s saying the haven’t made a good song since the year I graduated college, but I am admitting that I’ve mostly given up seeking out new music that I might actually like. I tend to like my music a little poppy, maybe with a screaming lead guitar and 50-piece drum kit backing it up, or that tells some kind of story (no, repeating the same five words for three minutes and five seconds doesn’t count as telling a story). The simple matter is, most of the popular groups don’t make music that I find particularly appealing these days. They’re ok with that. I’m ok with that. I just means that I’m a little out of touch with what passes for award-worthy these days.
The up side to being blissfully unaware of the continuing sweep of the music industry is I continue to find songs from old favorite bands and artists that I missed somehow when I first came to know and love them. Given that everyone has a back catalog that seems to be mountainous, I’m never really at a loss when I want to listen to something new… even when that something new first came out in 1972.
1. Christmas Music. I leave the radio on for the dogs when I go to work. I came home one day recently to find that the station had transitioned to a 45-days of Christmas music format and nearly lost my shit. I’m sorry but I just don’t need to be told to have a holly, jolly Christmas ten days before Thanksgiving. For that matter I don’t need to be directed to have one ten days after Thanksgiving. Christmas music makes its appearance on my playlist only one day a year… that’s on whatever day I happen to be driving, like a swallow back to Capistrano, back to my native land a day or two before the actual holiday. Even then, it’s not exactly traditional Christmas songs that bleat from my speakers. My carols tend to come from the likes of Blink-182, Reliant K, Bad Religion, and a few others. I just can’t even with the other stuff this early in the year.
2. The damned darkness. I have a fundamental loathing for this time of year, not because I hate the holidays, but because every time I see the outside it looks like the middle of the damned night. It’s dark when I get to work. It’s dark when I get home. Five days a week, there isn’t a lick of actual daylight to be seen since my desk sits in what might as well be a giant shoebox wrapped in tin foil. It might be enough to drive a lesser man off the rails… fortunately it only drives me to drink.
3. Meetings after the end of the day. This seems to be a perennial topic. I guess that’s so for a reason. By the time close of business rolls around, every ounce of mental energy I can muster is being pushed towards getting the hell out of the building. When suddenly a meeting appears that will frustrate that which is my heart’s desire, I can’t guarantee that you’re not getting my best effort. You’re not even getting a half-assed effort. More likely you’ll end up getting what I generously call “I’m here under protest” face. Sure, I can smile, be polite, and even accommodating, but my brain is already 20 miles away. I’m sure it shows and that isn’t good for any of us.
One of the many wonderful things I’ve found myself able to do while working from home is to set up my personal computer to do some of the tedious update activities so that I can click “next” and “ok” in the background while hammering out the next great PowerPoint briefing or staff memo on my work laptop. It’s become an awfully convenient method of making sure I’m running the latest version of applications, everything is backed up, and my tired old Mac Mini is in as good an operational condition as possible. Up until today the process had been a happy and productive one.
Today, though, some combination of changes in iTunes and on my phone conspired to delete all of my hard built playlists from both the computer and the phone simultaneously. The music files are still sitting safely in iTunes, thank God, but such playlists as “Angry,” “V. Angry,” “Sleepy,” and “Depress me,” are nowhere to be found. I’m left with just the main list of everything from Music for the Royal Fireworks to songs that are so filled with pop goodness that I’m not even going to mention their names here.
I know I should just get with the program and stream my music like a normal person. You see, although I live among the millennials, I’ll never quite be one of them. My music habits were formed at a time when you went to a store for your music – and you came home with a shiny new jewel case filled with liner notes (and you got the privilege of slicing the hell out of your finger trying to get all of the security packaging off the product). Even though I don’t buy music on physical media much anymore, I do like the idea of knowing that I have all the correct files sitting on my hard drive waiting to be served up to me instead of just expecting them to live forever on someone else’s cloud. Maybe it’s the last vestigial piece of my analog self in the digital age.
So now I need to rebuild my playlists. It’s daunting, but perhaps guided by the spirit of WinAMP it won’t take five years to get things sorted and back in service just the way I like them. I know listening to music doesn’t need to be this hard… it’s just another fine example of liking what I like with all logic and simplicity cast aside. If that doesn’t give you a deep look into who I am as a person, I don’t know what will.
I learned something new today. Well, it wasn’t really new, but it’s something I had completely forgotten. It seems if you play really pretty bad music from the early 1990s at as high a level as your radio will manage, and keep just the right pace to maintain a healthy dose of highway noise, you can reach a kind of nirvana. Just before your ears start bleeding there will be such a clash of sound flooding into your head that it will push out every other coherent though. More importantly it will silence, at least temporarily, that part of your brain that keeps telling you to cash it all in, sell it all off, drive to nowhere, get a shit job that requires no skill or independent though, and spend the rest of your days reading every book in the public library of whatever small town you end up in.
The only side effect is a blinding headache and inability to hear anything below a dull roar. Whatever it takes to stave off the madness one more day, I suppose.e
1. Coat blowing. I dearly love my ever-loyal, if somewhat ditzy, chocolate labrador. She is the operative definition of a kind and loving soul. But honest to whatever God there is in heaven if she doesn’t stop blowing her winter coat soon I’m going to lose what small slivers of sanity I have managed to hang on to lo these many years. It’s like the whole bleeding house is covered in a fine, slightly fluffy film of dog.
2. The other email. Without delving into any specific details, I have an alternate email address that occasionally gets used for work. In part it’s annoying because I can’t access this account from my desk. Fortunately, almost no one ever uses that address so it’s not completely inconvenient. That being said, if you don’t log into the damned thing about once a week, you start getting nasty messages from the Great Email Monitor threatening to cut off your access. Once they do that you’ve got to start from scratch setting up a new account, which could take as long as 247 work days to complete. Since I really do need this account for about one message ever 8-10 weeks it effectively just creates a barely essential pain in the ass that requires me to set up a calendar reminder to schlep next door once a week to log in, look at an empty inbox, and ensure that the account stays active for another week. You’ll forgive me, I hope, for being only slightly vexed (but not at all surprised) by such a patently inefficient process.
3. Acting surprised. A major musician has died under unclear or suspicious circumstances. I’m not sure why anyone would be surprised that a music superstar might have succumbed to the effects of legal and/or illegal medications. It’s not like this is the first time music and drugs march down the same road. It’s the fact that anyone from fans to media pontificators can pretend such events are anything other than “as expected” that’s farcical. A man is dead and that’s sad enough in its own right, but when it’s self-inflicted I have a hard time finding it an outright tragedy.
A few days ago, I went digging thought iTunes for a few songs that I hadn’t heard in a while. After years of being transferred from computer to computer, to external hard drives, and being tweaked, curated, and edited to the extreme, it seems that iTunes has been slowly leaking. Some of my favorite albums, carefully imported from CD seven or eight years ago before all my shiny plastic disks went to live in a couple of large cardboard boxes, were nowhere to be seen. Some had just one or two songs. I’m guessing that I “lost” half my music collection before I really started to notice it… as much a fan as I am of going all electronic, I’m suddenly glad that I didn’t sell those disks off for a buck or two a piece years ago.
So now, while I had planned on spending a good part of the day getting mt tax stuff together, I’m most likely going to be sitting here swapping out disks every two minutes until balance is restored. It’s ok. Once it’s done, the music will end up being saved as part of my ridiculously over complicated double redundant back up scheme. Then again, if I don’t have to do this again in seven years, it’s probably worth the effort.