Monday, April 21, 2008
Records, I'm told, are cool again.
So I am informed by my musically-inclined teenage son. As young men are wont to do, he occasionally hangs out with a group of other musically-inclined youths who, hilariously, refer to themselves as a "band", despite having no name, repertoire, rehearsal schedule or adequate equipment.
Lately, the "band" members seem to be on a grumpy-old-men style quest to out-retro each other. First, they reached a consensus that they would ditch their MP3 players and switch to portable CD players because MP3s are "anti-artist". Next, one of the gang lit on that tired, old, highly illogical refrain that the vinyl format is "way better." Doods, it's a chunk of plastic with scratches on it!
Anyway, now my son wants to listen to all my old LPs and no father in his right mind would pass on an opportunity to have his son regard his old junk as cool. So, this past weekend I hooked up my old turntable.
Let me take a moment to reinforce the old saw that you get what you pay for. Back in the 80s, when I went off to college, I wanted to distance myself from my parents' crappy old sound equipment and compete with my snooty older brother's system. I ended up blowing far more of my summer-job savings than I could really afford on a kick-ass, nothing-but-the-best system: Bang & Olufsen tuner, Technics turntable, Mission speakers, etc. Every piece of that system delivered high quality until it had to be retired; the Mission speakers are still in use. And even after more than a decade in cold storage, the turntable is in perfect working order.
Another surprise for me was the physical condition of my records. I've never claimed to be an audiophile and, back in the day, I remember often reproving myself for not looking after my records well enough. In the clouded lens of my memory, all my records were dirty, scratchy messes. Yet, this weekend my son and I pulled out one well-loved album after another and found them all to be in totally pristine condition.
Once we got everything hooked up, I had to give sonny boy a quick lesson on how to use the antique.
"Remember to use the Cue switch before moving the needle to the next track," I instructed.
"How can you tell the tracks?" he asked.
I blinked in astonishment until I realized he would have no frame of reference on even this simple matter. "Uh, they're separated by lighter, smooth areas on the record."
He peered at George Thorogood album we had loaded up. "Whoa, you mean they could only get six tracks on an album back then?"
"Um, then you flip it over and there's another six tracks."
"Double sided? Cool!"
Fine, whatever he wants to think. It's hard enough for fathers to connect to teenage boys, so I'm going to milk this schtick for all its worth. But really, seriously: records aren't cool. They're silly, in this day and age. MP3 players are cool and a million times more practical. Personally, I feel no desire to switch back to some obsolete technology.
What do you think?
posted by Mentok @ 9:10 AM, ,
Monday, April 14, 2008
Well, that "Hypocrisy" business was fun, wasn't it? Makes me almost wish I had a politics blog going somewhere.
A couple of assorted notes from the weekend: first, for those of you who have been following along, I finally captured Rasputin the evil Russian squirrel. Except I have now renamed the creature: Katherine the Great, as in great with child; a pregnant female, as it turns out. We finally set out a big cage trap and had her snagged within a couple of hours.
Dealing with her afterwards was a poser. Ethically, I couldn't kill her or countenance her being killed, but squirrels are so fiercely territorial that, if released into the wild, they can find their way back to their home neighbourhood over great distances.
I finally opted to release her to the care of a teenager we know who is said to have an "interest" in wildlife. The nature of this interest sounds ominous but I opted to take a 'don't ask - don't tell' attitude to it. I only asked that the animal be treated in a humane manner, and left it at that.
On another topic, I got a good laugh out of this story from the weekend papers:
"British physicist Peter Higgs said on Monday it should soon be possible to prove the existence of a force which gives mass to the universe and makes life possible -- as he first argued 40 years ago.
Higgs said he believes a particle named the "Higgs boson", which originates from the force, will be found when a vast particle collider at the CERN research centre on the Franco-Swiss border begins operating fully early next year....
Scientists at the centre hope the process will produce clear signs of the boson, dubbed the "God particle" by some, to the displeasure of Higgs, an atheist."
Source: Reuters, April 7, 2008
No matter what your definition of irony, you have to find it ironic that an atheist could end up discovering an all-pervasive cosmic force that makes life possible. It's like a teetotaler discovering wine is good for you.
posted by Mentok @ 9:45 AM, ,
Wednesday, April 09, 2008
I've been trying to think of something new to write - something happy and positive - but lately my mind has been too preoccupied by this news story.
Canadian readers will already be familiar with it. A brief summary for American readers: a recently uncovered tape from 1991 that shows a night of partying at a campaign headquarters also catches a future politician using that derogatory "f" word about gays and lesbians. This politician's opponents are, of course, calling for blood.
First, I have to declare a bias. The politician in question is a friend of mine and a former colleague, so I know him as a whole person and not just as a two-dimensional character on some grainy old tape.
I know that he's a guy who's is steadfastly loyal to his friends, moderate and compassionate in his policy views and an active community volunteer who has raised tens of thousands, maybe even hundreds of thousands of dollars for worthy causes over his life. I know that he is a diligent politician who makes probably ten times as much effort as most of his peers to keep in touch with his constituents. In fact, when people in other nearby constituencies can't get action from their own MP, they often turn to Tom, who always tries to help no matter what the situation.
He is, in short, one of the best politicians I know. That he is being subjected to this ongoing humiliation is a complete travesty.
What chokes me most about this situation is how blithely the media, opposition parties and interest groups ignore some of the most elementary basics of civil society, things like "there but for the grace of god go I", or "let he who is without sin cast the first stone" or "people in glass houses shouldn't throw stones".
I've been at long, late, drunken parties with members of the media and NDP and Liberal politicians. There is a rather chummy, all-party, old boys club type piss-up held every year at the provincial legislature at the end of the legislative sitting. I can tell you for a fact that every single one of those bastards have said and done things as bad if not worse when liquored up. The only difference is that no one (yet) has found a tape of them. The hypocrisy of this group, descending on Tom like a pack of hyenas, really is too much to bear.
Watching the tape, knowing Tom, it's clear to me that he was just making a very lame attempt at shock-jock style humour. He was trying to get a laugh out of listeners by saying something he knew was wildly inappropriate. I don't think he meant it then and I know for sure he wouldn't say or even think such a thing now.
None of this of course justifies his long-ago comment, and Tom hasn't sought to justify or make excuses. But, finally, there must come a point where we have to allow our politicians to be humans, who can make mistakes, recognize them and apologize for them without being drawn and quartered in the public forum.
Ultimately, this matter damages all political parties. How much harder will it be now to recruit good candidates in Canada, for any party? Any potential candidate now has to sit back and think "Have I ever said anything inappropriate? Was anyone taping it? Did anyone overhear it who might have an axe to grind with me?" What sort of ridiculous standard of perfection are we setting?
OK, there, I've vented. Enough now. I promise to have something more cheerful to talk about next week.
posted by Mentok @ 10:00 AM, ,