The site is running slow right now (which I suppose is a good thing, as it hopefully means lots of people are going there), but please think about giving to The Red Cross if you can spare it.
Although the feeling is somewhat different, I'm starting to have the same sort of sadness that I felt after 9/11, when I would read report after report of what was happening and yet felt helpless to do much of anything on a personal level. Tonight when I got off the bus and walked home in the sun, I tried to imagine my neighborhood under 5 feet, 10 feet, even 20 feet of water. I feel a general lethargy in my system knowing what's going on after the hurricane. Again, if you have the means, The Red Cross is probably the best suited for distributing relief aid.
Today I was at work and someone wondered aloud how many days August had without having a calendar close. I immediately started counting my knuckles and the valleys between them, then quickly answered 31, which is correct. I can't remember who taught me the knuckle trick for remembering how many days are in a month, but basically if you hold your two hands together, you can label each month in order, and each knuckle will be a month with 31 days, while each valley between a knuckle represents a month with only 30 (or in the case of February, 28 (or 29)). About once a year or so, I end up using this little trick, and people always wonder what I'm doing.
A funny story from today involves me walking to the used bookstore that I frequent downtown over lunch. I went in with a bag of books to trade and a very specific book in mind to look for (I tend to get on a one-track mind when I get an idea of something I want to read). Upon enquiring about this book, I was told that it wasn't in stock, so I went next door to the music store to trade in some things there as well and look around a bit. After spending roughly 10-15 minutes there, I made my way back to the book store. Upon entering the book store, the employee I know well smiled and held up the book that I was looking for earlier when I stopped in, exclaiming that someone had come into the shop just after I'd left and traded it in along with a couple other things. Totally weird. I bought it, of course.
The past 7 days absolutely flew by and this past weekend was one of those ones that seemed like it didn't even exist. Last week, TG went on a little vacation, and on the day that I was supposed to go get her from the airport, our car mysteriously wouldn't start. Because I was on a fairly tight schedule, I pushed it out of the driveway and down into the street, then drove the pickup to pick her up in a neighboring city. Ah, such a great way to start the morning. Of course, having TG back made up for any frustration on my part.
This last weekend, we had a garage sale on Saturday, which relieved us of a lot of junk that was somehow piling up in our basement. We didn't sell as much as we would have liked to, but that's how it goes sometimes I guess. I managed to pick up both a tambourine and a recorder for cheap at neighboring sales, so that was fine by me.
I've watched a ton of movies in the past 10 days, but other than the super trippy Susperia by Dario Argento, none of them hardly seems worth commenting on. TG and I even rented The Aviator this past weekend and despite a great performance from Leo DiCaprio, it was simply way too long. It's a bit unfortunate, because there were several places in the film that really got my attention and had me a bit riveted, then it would go off on yet another long passage about the OCD tendencies of Howard Hughes and I would think in my head, "yeah, I've got it already, he had some paranoid/delusional/OCD isssues" and it would completely drag out. Anyway, see Susperia for the hyper colors and crazy freaked-out art deco designed set pieces. Not a great film, but a visual treat.
Other than having a near heatstroke episode yesterday while mowing the lawn and pulling weeds in some massive heat and humidity, the other interesting thing of note is that I finished another book. This one was Stranger Than Fiction by Chuck Palahniuk and I must say that I really enjoyed it a lot. Basically a collection of non-fiction pieces that he'd written for other publications or himself, it was a quick little read that I found mostly enjoyable. His observations on different people and locations were my favorite of the book, and even his introspective pieces about writing and the creative process were quite good. I could have done without the two celebrity pieces (on Marylin Manson, and the completely yawn-inducing one on Juliette Lewis), but otherwise it was a great read that was well worth my time. I'm not completely convinced that I'll enjoy his fiction work (which I've never read any of), but I might take a chance here in the near future. Hell, if he has two Boston Terriers, he has to be a pretty decent guy... Heh.
So, I was at the thrift store the other day scanning through the CDs when I ran across a copy of Marianas - Onward+Upward. I pulled it out and looked at it and was a bit sad. In my years of thrifting, I sometimes run across copies of local band CDs and wonder how they got there, but I guess I didn't think it would happen to the CD that my band released.
Then, I continued scanning through the CDs that were there and saw My Bloody Valentive (Loveless), Flaming Lips (The Soft Bulletin, Transmissions...), White Stripes (White Blood Cells), Bjork (Selmasongs, Post), The Cure (Boys Don't Cry), Sonic Youth (Dirty), and some other random things (including the Trash Can Sinatras and several Nirvana discs). When I saw the good company we were in, it made me a little less sad, but then I started to wonder how all of the CDs actually got there in the first place? Did some person in town with a decent music collection die and their parents or someone else donate all their stuff or was there some sort of other less-tragic reason for them being there?
For a moment, I thought about buying the copy of our CD, but we still have a handfull of them left anyway and I figured I'd give someone the chance to find it and in the off chance buy it and enjoy it (hopefully). I still haven't seen a copy of our CD on Ebay, but I suppose it's only a matter of time...
This past week, I finally finished a book that I'd started some time ago. I didn't put it aside because I'd gotten bored with it, but simply because my thoughts had been occupied by other subjects, so it was good to get back into some non-fiction that was at the same time somewhat cut off from modern day. Anyway, the book that I finished this past week was Scrambles Amongst The Alps by Edward Whymper, which basically describes exactly as the title states. Whymper was a young wood engraver who discovered that he really enjoyed the sport of climbing in the mid 1800s and the book is full of his accounts of different ascents that he made.
If you're a casual reader looking for a lot of grist, this is probably not the book for you as Whymper takes a lot of detours (sometimes very odd ones) in his writing. Just before his account of being one of the first people to climb to the summit of the Matterhorn (and the subsequent tragic descent), he goes on a long tangent regarding the geology of glaciers themselves. At one point, he also spends several pages trying to figure out why "cretins" only inhabit certain places in the mountains.
This book was written well over 100 years before Into Thin Air and it was interesting for me to compare the two. Obviously, the Krakauer book was written in a certain way to tell the story in the most dramatic way possible (and succeeded in doing so), but there are places in the Whymper book that are at least as thrilling. It sometimes takes a little while to get to them, but considering how primitive the equipment and clothing was when he wrote his book, it adds to the drama. Oh, how he would have loved Goretex and North Face. Reading about the mountains and the snow also seemed to be a nice way to at least mentally escape from the heat of the past couple weeks as well.
There's something I've been thinking for some time now, but there's really no way that I can express it without coming across as pretentious or hypocritical. It's sort of a tricky opinion, yet it's one that I think may be partially unique to my personal situation. Because my last entry was largely about music reviews, I sort of hate to bring it up again, but its the doing music reviews themselves that might be some sort of a contributing factor in my opinion so you'll just have to bear with me.
First, I feel like I need to give a little bit of background before I really get to the crux of the matter. Back in 1992, I bought my very first CD. It was a copy of Elvis Costello And The Brodsky Quartet - The Juliet Letters. There wasn't a particularly good reason that I had for buying it, but I did nonetheless and it started me on my way. Incidentally, I still own and enjoy the CD.
At any rate, I bought some more CDs through high school and then in college I worked for the newspaper there. I started out as a music reviewer and thought it was some sort of minor miracle that I could get free music just for writing reviews. As I moved up at the paper, I aggressively pursued labels and by the time I was a junior (and A&E editor), approximately 20-30 CDs were arriving at the newspaper office every week to be reviewed (nevermind that we only actually reviewed 2-4 things per week). At this same time, I was also a DJ on our campus radio station, where I would check CDs out and listen to them as I had time. Meanwhile, all those four years I was still buying things on my own, getting deeper into different genres and spending money that would have been better-spent elsewhere.
After college, I went through a short dry spell where I wasn't receiving any free CDs at all, nor buying as many simply because my income wouldn't allow it. It forced me to re-listen to a lot of my collection and forced me to be more choosy about what I did purchase (which usually made for more enjoyable listening of the things I did buy). Eventually, I started writing for a local weekly newspaper, and then again on my own website. After several years of doing this, I was again receiving free CDs to review, which brings me to my point that will no doubt be completely hypocritical and annoying.
There are simply way too many musicians putting out CDs these days.
It is true that I am/was in a band and that we put out a CD ourselves, so I'm guilty of adding to the clutter myself, but at the same time I sit at my desk and sometimes feel a little bit skeptical at the ease with which CDs are produced and then sent out into the world. Although I'm not getting 20-30 CDs a week like I was in college, I do receive more than I can review at the current time on my site and I could honestly make large stacks of all the shoegaze/dreampop releases I've gotten in the past year, along with a slew of other genres. I'm not trying to pick on any certain style of music in general, but to express an unfortunate apathy that has slowly creeped into my consciousness.
To go back just a little ways, I would estimate that in the past 12 years (roughly the amount of time that I've been listening to and buying music on a pretty regular basis), I've listened to roughly 8500 different albums. That's about 2 different albums per day, and while that may seem like a stretch, the days that I listen to 3 or 4 different things (new things, not recycled from the current collection) is easily the same as those days that I only listen to 1 or 2. This includes all those albums I mentioned above, from free things that were sent to me to review (some of which I kept, some of which I listened to and didn't) to things that I listened to while DJing, to $1 CDs I bought at sales and then got rid of, to things I downloaded when I was into that more heavily.
Although I'm not a huge music downloader anymore, I think that my affliction (if you can call it that) largely mirrors some of the burnout that people who download lots and lots of music have when they start running into a feeling of general apathy about certain kinds of music. If I've heard (to keep things referenced to the above) 100 albums that could be classified as "shoegaze" music, it takes something that much more unique to stand out in that genre than someone who has only listened to 5 or even 25.
I didn't write the above to make that point that I'm no longer excited by music, because there are lots of things that come out which still completely surprise and excite me (as well as releases from the past that I'm just discovering). At the same time, though, I think it takes a lot more to get me excited about something than perhaps it does a person who isn't quite as obsessive about listening to different things. At times it's sort of annoying, and at others it makes the things that stick out as great sound even more enlightening because they do just that. It's not that I have a more finely-honed ear or anything like that, but speaking in a strictly numerical sense, there's a greater chance I will have heard certain types of things before simply because of the large amounts of sounds that have gone through my ears.
In saying the above, I'm not even speaking about new styles of music, because in this day and age I venture to say that other than minor permutations, a good majority of things have already been done. Then again, having said the previous sentence, I suppose that every single thing I've written above could be complete crap, and it all again comes back to completely subjective choices that keep everyone from liking different things anyway.
I suppose that's as good of a place to end as anywhere, I promise that whatever I write next will not be about music.
There for awhile, it seems that with every new post, I had something to say about a book that I'd just finished, but it will probably be at least a little while before I'm talking about that again as all the books I'm currently reading are well over 500 pages each. Did I mention that one of them is the bible? It is true. I've never read the whole thing, and I thought that I would slowly tackle it in small doses, eventually making it through. As it stands, it will most likely take me at least a year given how slowly I'm progressing, but I've waited this long so a little longer won't hurt I suppose.
In other news, the music review site redesign is getting much closer to completion. I've pushed back the deadline to actually completing it several times, but hopefully (knock on wood) things will be unveiled before the end of this month. With the help of a friend and co-worker, all 1500+ reviews have been moved over into a MySQL database and there is much dynamic PHP and lots of other neat little things that are being incorporated into the site (and it's CSS now, standards compliant, bla bla) that I think are pretty neat. At any rate, I feel like I've learned a lot going through the whole massive process, and I already have other projects in mind that involve both PHP and MySQL that I want to work on in the near future. That said, near future will probably end up being not-so-near future, but that's the way it goes.
One thing that really made my numbers-loving mind flip out was when some particular PHP scripting was run (in order to fix all the old intra-review links to ones that now point the right direction within the current database structure) and every single one of my reviews was parsed out into a single, massive html file. I'd been wanting to do something of that nature for some time, so the huge file was sort of a happy by-product that I was able to look at and run some basic figures on. The basic numbers in regards to the music review section of my site are as follows:
In the short period of time that I saw those numbers, I had several flash thoughts go through my head. The first was, "Holy crap! That's a lot of words! Excellent!" Within a few seconds, though, my more pragmatic (and negative, to be honest) side quickly thought, "Sheesh, that's a lot of words spilled about music. Is it worth it or is it a waste of time?"
- rough word count: 723,000
- rough page count: 1722
- file size when saved as an html document: 4.3mb
I never quite answered that last question, and it's one that I've pondered several times over the course of the past five years or so. I have a fight within my head based around whether my time would be better spent writing something more original, like fiction or non-fiction and trying to get published. 1700 pages is several books worth of material, yet there's no chance in hell that my music reviews would be published. On the other hand, I have ideas for stories that I've never written, as well as roughly 750 pages of other writing that I've done semi-seriously (just look around on the site) that at least some of could be harvested and honed for something better.
In all honestly, I really do enjoy writing music reviews about 95 percent of the time. Due to the sheer regularity and bulk of it, there are some times when it does seem more like a chore than it should, but then I hear one (or more) things that really strike me and I'm soon out of the slog. Looking back, this entry started with excitement about music reviews, then quickly turned to self-doubt and then back around to something resembling satisfaction. Yes, that seems about par for the course.