Saturday, July 30, 2005

Life in Tunes

Today’s topics are the letters i and x, the number infinity, and the painfully obvious notion that technology revolutionizes music.

I’m amazed that the digital revolution is continuing to spin crazily, further and further from its groundbreaking introduction of the compact disc.

The Apple music universe, with the i-everything, still seems to be the realm of fantasy. How some little gizmo can be a personal jukebox holding entire record collections still seems like somebody’s great-but-impossible idea. Throw in the podcasting, the ability to buy any song and it seems too good to be true.

I remember being blown away by my old roommate’s 60-disc changer, with its full random function and incredible accessibility. And this isn’t ancient technology, he still uses the thing. But the ipod bests that by a factor of 100,000 or so: it’s roughly one percent the size, with roughly 100 times the storage. Incredible.

And one of these days I’ll buy one of the damn things.

Then there’s the all-everything, all-the-time satellite radio. On a 20-hour cross-country U-Haul drive, I got hooked. The programming is nothing short of genius, from the formulating of the individual genre stations to the playlists, track-by-track. Satellite radio and podcasting are a year or two away from being universal. They’re just that good.

The access to great new music is mind-blowing. It’s leaps and bounds beyond the near-yesteryear of Napster and cd burners.

Then there’s the opposite side of the coin – digital failure driving me to the most fundamental analog medium: radio.

My car’s cd player crapped out on me a month or so ago, and since I’ve been glued to KXCI, the community radio station. It’s not always great, but the variety and quality of music overall is stunning. I’ve heard an incredible amount of new stuff on the dial and been frequently thrilled when one of my more obscure favorites came on the radio. The “real people, real radio” tag truly fits.

The last component of this is the oldest of them all – live performance. Through these new technologies, touring bands of all levels are reaching new audiences and fans of all stripes are finding new favorites, a perfect marriage.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005


July is on fire. It burns. It burns freely, wildly, nothing to stop it but some far off hope, a coming rainstorm or a blast of change.

July tries to make you think it’s slow; it lulls with empty hours and searing heat.

July is the middle of the year. It celebrates independence; it has to. The ideal of July is a fiery individualism, seldom reached but celebrated as though it’s universal.

July is just waiting to turn a corner, dulled and slowed, looking for the next adventure. July is a cradle, a set of bookends looking back and forth for something to hold.

July is a rickety footbridge crossing a dry creek and though I’ve marched more than halfway across already, I’d still like to turn back. I’m not ready for those August banks.

I’ve done my best to embrace July – its heat, its oppression, its long days and nights indistinguishable from one another – because if I don’t there’s a good chance it’ll kick my ass. Surviving July is like running with the toughs, just for a while, just to get to the next part of town, to hitch along ‘cause there’s nothing else to do.

July can’t help but bring thoughts of January, but they’re vague, the shadows of good memories, with none of the bad.

July is an adolescent who steals smokes and flicks the butts at people’s heads, laughing like he’d invented the whole gig.

July is a desert acting like a peacock, flexing his muscles in a big-time show of dominance and power.

July almost – almost – shouldn’t be natural, or legal.

Just try to shepherd yourself all the way through July without getting cut or lost somehow, floundering drunk-like in the heat or the storms or the hours that have stacked up when you weren’t looking.

July isn’t big on alternatives.

July shouldn’t have four letters, it should have 17, all spiky and thorny, filled with Ys, Ks, Ms, Vs and at least three Ws. YVKWWMMYYMMWWKVVK – that’s more like it.

July sure as hell ain’t gonna take you seriously.

Friday, July 15, 2005


It's a bummer I quit writing about politics...
So anyway, the days here are long and hotter than hell and the sweet sweet thunderheads haven't rumbled in yet.
There's summer pro league basketball to watch on the weekends.
I can't wait to see this movie called The Aristocrats. It better come play here.
For fellow Okkervil fans and friends, here's another great press clipping.
Then there's the most despicable thing I've ever heard of:
Coach paid player to hit boy
The Associated Press
PITTSBURGH -- A T-ball coach allegedly paid one of his players $25 to hurt an 8-year-old mentally disabled teammate so he wouldn't have to put the boy in the game, police said Friday.
Mark R. Downs Jr., 27, of Dunbar, is accused of offering one of his players the money to hit the boy in the head with a baseball, police said. Witnesses told police Downs didn't want the boy to play in the game because of his disability.

Police said the boy was hit in the head and in the groin with a baseball just before a game, and didn't play, police said.

"The coach was very competitive," state police Trooper Thomas B. Broadwater said. "He wanted to win."

Good lord, this is T-ball! That's surely going to be the next Sports Illustrated sign of the apocalypse.

Make sure you're keeping up on Mr. Chair's travels. And Mister Arnie's Year Following the Break Up.

In the coffee shop here, Brenton Wood just came on the radio. For my money, he's got to be the most underrated Motown/soul singer there is.

One of these days I'll lay out my athiest/panthiest/Jedi theology on y'all...

Anybody seen Charlie and the Chocolate Factory? Or Wedding Crashers?

Wednesday, July 06, 2005


Every city and town has it – the claim to fame, the world’s biggest, oldest or best whatever, the birthplace of whomever, the unique mundane bit of trivia some chamber of commerce so thoughtfully applied to the town’s name as an official title.
And without fail, the more lame the designation, the more lame the town – the more lame the destination, the more lame the moniker.
So where does the World’s Oldest Rodeo fit? Pretty near the bottom. It’s not as bad as the world’s tallest cross, as a friend recently described the site of her family reunion. And it ain’t the Town Too Tough To Die, like that lame-ass place down the road that annually celebrates a 120-year-old murder by getting all dressed up in period costume and fake killing each other for a weekend.
But I was born in the town that boasts the World’s Oldest Rodeo, grew up there in the cool pines and the downtown of quaint shops, and never once went to the rodeo. I never gave a shit.
Once again I found myself in the middle of the madness, out and about on Whiskey Row on rodeo weekend, watching the cowboys drink and carouse.
Maybe it’s strictly a cowboy thing, or maybe any sort of celebratory crowd acts the same, but there was a seriousness they applied to the revelry that I don’t see on the average weeknight trip to my favorite haunts. They were geared up and gassed up, two-ton pickups unloading clean-shaven cowboys with new, perfects hats and perfumed cowgirls, asses nearly bursting out of Wranglers.
In the middle of that you had the Valley folk, the Phoenix and Scottsdale weekend get-away-ers looking for cool weather and some “authentic” small-town Arizona experience for their Independence Day.
And there, plain as the dust on the ground, is the paradox of every town’s claim to fame: that same dumbass thing that attracts all the folks to come see it, to see “real” sites, history and festivals, is what turns the town into a goddamned Disneyland façade of what it’s supposed to be. Americans don’t like zoos nearly as much as they like marveling at people slightly different from themselves. City folk like quaint heartland bullshit and country folk go nuts for the city’s manufactured glamour.
And when it’s your own hometown and you see through every bit of smoke and spin applied to everything it’s all the more maddening. I feel an amazing disconnect with the hick town that spawned me.
But for some reason those rare return trips home are increasingly interesting. I can peek through a kaleidoscope of different perspectives. Some close friends actually love it there; some are counting the days until they can get out; some will always hate it but never leave.
Real life has hit most of them and that’s the most fascinating of all. Some of my oldest childhood friends have families and honest-to-god careers. And not for the life of me does that seem the slightest bit attractive. It’s not a matter of arrogance or snottiness. Sitting on a porch with a couple beers, talking life and everything else, I can almost carve out in my mind an existence there for myself. It’s vague, ill-defined notions really, but it reinforces the connections that are the strongest roots in my life. But roots are just a support system, a delivery method for the ability and the opportunity to do so much more.
One day maybe I’ll settle on a place that defines itself in much grander terms. Or more likely, I’ll try out a few places, cities that can’t quite settle on a single claim to fame and offer up several possibilities. When you climb the ladder to the top, cities don’t have claims so much as nicknames: the Big Apple, the Windy City. And it’s all still for the tourists.