Monday, August 29, 2005


Try to keep this on the DL, will you?

Dear Boss,

In case you have been wondering about my productivity of late, I gift you with this:

Click here to play Make-A-Word word game, and TRY to score better!

That should count for something, shouldn't it?


Friday, August 26, 2005

Have you got anything without spam?

Forgive temporary blocking of comments. I'm getting rather a lot of comment spam at the moment.

All that's left behind.

A friend of mine has said, “I think that mix tapes create a network of influence and obligation. The better the mix tape, the greater the chance it will change your life.”

Interestingly enough, I have four tapes from that friend, and one changed life. In fact, that life has been pulled and pushed and tweaked and twisted, just by those tapes.

These are tapes that know how to build a world, wrench it out from under you with a brilliant segue, then put you right back into it so that you could understand it for real this time, just in time to have it altered again.

Sometimes they would give you a song that let you know how incomplete the world you knew was, how much you were starving for this wilder, richer, sometimes quieter world, where there was room for your head to spread out and consider things you were mostly ignoring before.

Or sometimes they would give you a song you thought you knew, but sandwiched in a place that made you realize you had missed the whole point, but now you could see it.

The world they made is not one that anyone would want to leave, and yet it was a world that for years I could not bear to visit, because when I stepped into it I could not but remember how I had tainted that world by not knowing how to live in it.

It was a world of gifts, where every little piece, every relationship, every melody or dissonance, every call to arms, every musical joke, every repetition or resonance or version--“every scratch, every click, every heartbeat”--every sound matters, every one gives you an insight, or represents an invitation, an evocation.

Now, years hence, these tapes each represent a different world, and really a different me who could listen to them differently than I can listen to music now, with a sense that I was capable of accepting invitations.

And where would I be now without them? Not just without the music, which I do not say lightly, because these tapes let me really hear jazz for the first time, and they showed me how jazz and classical and pop and whatever we were calling alternative then spoke to one another, and they gave me pieces that have become a profound part of my psyche. And not just without having had my curatorial sense enriched by what someone could do with music he loves, or my taste influenced by what is amassed on these magnetic strips, or my sensory networks shaped by how these songs sing to the music in my head. But where would I be without being able to go back into that created world, and that distant time, and that earlier version of me? What if this whole sense of what it felt like to be alive then were no longer available? What if I were no longer obligated to this very real and crucial piece of my past?

Thanks, Tim, for four amazing tapes. Thanks for kicking my musical ass with the back-and-forth of Sonic Youth and Hilliard Ensemble on "Polyphonic Youth." Thanks for insisting that I get a copy of Górecki’s third symphony. Thanks for letting me in on what you have heard. And thanks especially for the worlds that “The Skies and A Sweet Caress” and “The Knotted Chord” let me live in for a time and still allow me to visit.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Unrealized potential.

I am sad to report that the Weather Channel Blog has not reached its full potential. Yes, there are entries from a variety of weather experts, and yes I am pleased to see that Jim Cantore has on his Weather-Is-Serious face.

And really I was downright thrilled to see that the most recent entry is from none other than my meteorological hero, Stephanie Abrams.

But all that said, I just don't think the Weather Channel understands what blogging is about.

Blogging really is not just a feeder for your website or your TV channel: unlike the new Barbie movie, it should not be about just another product tie-in.

Tony Pierce has noted that you really should not blog about the weather unless it is something serious or part of a good story or a a lead up to really hot sex.

But the Weather Channel is still figuring out their potential, even though the station came on the air for 23 years.

Mark Strand knows that the weather matters. "That's all / There was to it. No more than a solemn waking / To brevity, to the lifting and falling away of attention, swiftly, / A time between times, a flowerless funeral," he wrote in "A Piece of the Storm."

Mrs. Dalloway opens her day wondering whether it will be fine for her party. Weather is about the passing of time and the fading (weathering) of things. It is also something we talk about to pass the time. It is beyond our control but flavors the happenings of our days. It is the way that the present and the future interact, although it is rarely mentioned when unturbulent.

The best blogs give you a flavor of a life, regardless of whether you know the person writing or don't, and regardless of whether that blog is, as Jarrett has said, an "I brushed my teeth today" blog, a political or economic blog, a series of musings on various topics, a blog obsessed with music or cooking or movies or babies or houseplants. Weather should be no exception. Surely we could get some flavor on that blog, couldn't we?

Here are just a few ideas for future entries:
1. A list of suggestions for what to do with your sinuses when a low pressure rolls in.
2. True rants of the househusband plagued by mildew and mold after the most humid summer on record.
3. Exclusive Insight for Southerners: what it feels like when your nostrils freeze--and when they thaw out.
4. Why it is not a good idea to go surfing when a tropical storm is rolling in, even though you see people doing just that in the background of the Florida footage.
5. What Landslides Mean for You, and Your Pets.
6. My Obsession with Tracking Hurricanes, even though I don't live on the coast (A True Story).

Are you listening Weather Channel? I've already got my very own Weather Channel mug, and I would kill for one of those jackets.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Truly Fine Compilations.

The first tape I got from my main homey Mike D. (a special individual) was called "Tunes from Clemmons," because that was where he lived, and he sent me the tape from home while we were all on summer break, after my freshman year in college. After the intense social interaction of college, which in itself was a revelation after the doldrums of high school, summertime was dull, lonely, filled mostly with a summer job that I hated and a commute to said job that I hated even more.

So Mike's tape, with the multi-page handwritten explanatory notes was an amazing break from that boredom. I suppose any letter from a friend would have been, but Mike's tapes, as I would continue to learn over the years, were themselves a blast from a richer and more complicated world than I had imagined in my pop-music listening.

I still have never been to Clemmons, but he insisted that it was near Winston-Salem. Singing lyrics by Woody Guthrie, Wilco insisted that everything in Winston-Salem is against the law, and given what I now know if it, I don't doubt that, but because of "Tunes from Clemmons," my first impression of the place was that while all I could get my hands on in my hometown was a tape of Velvet Underground rarities, or Peter Gabriel singing in German, or Brian Eno ambience, or some of David Byrne's music for stage plays, Clemmons seemed to hold Pere Ubu, and They Might Be Giants, Mary's Danish, Michelle Shocked, and Brave Combo.

Clemmons sounded pretty good to me.

Now I can't find those liner notes: I bet they are in my vast archive of letters, but that lives at my parents' house, so I am not going to lay my hands on it soon. But listening to that tape brings me back to that summer, and the moment where I realized that I had no idea how to find all the cool music in the world, unless I could keep Mike convinced that he should send me more tapes.

Lucky for me he did. Mike D. introduced me to Lyle Lovett, now a personal fave, on the only tape that could not be abbreviated TFC. I remember there was some joke that we got going about that abbreviation, and so from then on every compilation we sent each other had those initials.

Alas, Mike never listed the artists on his tape inserts, and none of his tapes have dates, so now it is almost impossible for me to reconstruct the exact sequence. But somewhere along the line he sent me "Tremendous Flying Carbuncles (Twenty-Four Canciones)," "Truly Funky Cows," "Trendy Feldspar Christmas" (which included Christmas tunes the likes of which I had not previously heard), "Truly Fine Covers" (including the Kronos Quartet doing "Lonely Woman" and Big Joe Williams' version of "Baby Please Don't Go," not to mention a bevy of songs whose originality or coverage I could not assess then or now), and "Talk, Funk, and one more Cover" (Mike speaks!).

Along the way in college, Mike and I each got radio shows, and the highlight in my book was when we did the New Orleans Mardi Gras theme show together, which featured music from and about New Orleans, not to mention Mike's linguistic factoids about creoles and such.

And because Mike studied abroad in Mexico, I got a distinctively Mexi-flavored compilation, and then, when he and his wife moved to Nijmegen, "The Netherlands: The Friendly Country," with some very fine El General, Soul Coughing, Spearhead and Zap Mama, Xavier Cugat, and Peter Tosh.

Mike is one of those people who I have not seen in years, but each time I have seen him (and his immensely cool and beautiful wife Laura), I have remembered why he was one of my very favorite college friends. I wrote to him recently to tell him that I would be visiting his fair city and that I wanted to see him and Laura and their 2 kids (who I've never met, but for the birth of the first one I sent them "Tunes for Children"). "Holy dookey!" Mike wrote back, and now the plans are laid. I can hardly wait.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Heavy cloud, also some rain.

Just now a cable repair guy drove down our street in his van, scoping out the damage. I think he was especially admiring the PP’s work propping up the part of the cable that had been drooping across our driveway.

I know the exact moment the tree fell across our street, because it was the very moment the cable TV went out. It is no surprise that I was watching the Weather Channel, checking up on the severe thunderstorm warning that was ticking its way across the bottom of the screen.

"Who are they warning?" the PP asked, because at that moment there was more rain and wind than I had seen since Ivan blew through last summer. Just about the time they were telling us to look out for nickel-sized hail and reminding us that lightning is a killer and we should get inside NOW, all was static.

Here is why:

We spent most of the storm standing in the carport trying to keep our sad drainage system draining. The little grates tend to get blocked up with pine needles and leaves and twigs, and then the water pools up. But this time, even after the PP had pulled the grate off, the water could not drain because the pvc pipe that runs under our sidewalk and dumps the driveway water into the backyard was at capacity.

Between that drainage, and the less engineered drainage from our neighbors behind us, it was not long before our backyard was a stream bed. Luckily it flows around the compost pile, so all the rotting goodies stayed put.

There was enough wind that you could see the rain being driven over the hood of our parked car, and over the peak of our gardening shed.

The good thing is that it was only the cable TV that went out, because there was a cable drooping low across our driveway, and as we were walking back toward the house, the PP hit it with his head.

His head!

But no one will hit the cable with their head now!

Of course by that time the power was out, too, which turned the evening into a real neighborhood social event, with everyone in the streets and in their yards clearing branches, chainsaws a-revvin’.

But I don't think the cable is coming back soon. Maybe this will cure us of our recent Law & Order binge.

Cindy tells me.

It will be no surprise to readers of this blog that I spend too much time thinking about pop music. Or that I have spent too much money on same.

But now that I have hooked into one of the vast ethereal jukeboxes, and I am deep in the midst of digitally reconstructing many of the wonderful mixtapes that I have received from friends over the years, and that are only a play or two away from self-destruction, I want to pay tribute to those friends.

I'll start with Cindy, because there are more of her tapes on my shelves than anyone else's.

Only Cindy would give me a tape titled "More Music You Probably Already Have or Couldn't Care Less About Anyway." She gave me that tape in 1988, and it may single-handedly have been responsible for setting me on the path of alternative music. Maybe even though you know me well, you don't know her well enough to know that I did not already have any of the tracks on there, and that I have listened to the tape so many times that those tracks have etched their way into my brain. Those are the lyrics that pop into my head to help me understand confusing behavior on the part of colleagues, boyfriends, girlfriends, teachers, parents. I am talking about Boomtown Rats, James Brown, Dead Milkmen, OMD, Cheap Trick, Monty Python.

I may owe Cindy a huge debt for building my camp sensibility. I am thinking here about "Better than K-tel, it's HITS OF THE 70s" and "Cindy's 70s Favorites, vol. 2." Mind you, she made these tapes before disco was cool again. Wait, was disco ever cool again? Regardless, thanks to Cindy, "Ring My Bell" is one of my all-time favs, and the first song I wanted to hear after I decided to get married was "Wedding Bell Blues." Not to mention that stupid melting cake in "MacArthur Park" and the sheer oddness of Rod Stewart's "Da Ya Think I'm Sexy," when you think about it.

I have some fabulous birthday tapes from Cindy, the first of which was "Oh, You're Going to Hate Me for This One," whose homemade jacket featured a clipped out picture of the Rocky Horror cast asking me not to look at the track listing until I had listened to the thing. Side One was Sex & Violence (several years before the Talking Heads tune) and Side Two "Love and Other Silly Stuff." Iggy Pop, Love and Rockets, Kate Bush, Squeeze, Oingo Boingo, with a little David Lee Roth and Cyndi Lauper thrown in for grins.

Cindy introduced me to early-90s dance music before I had any idea it was there--Black Box, Deeee-Lite, Monie Love, mixed in with King Missile for contrast.

Cindy and I went to about a million concerts together. We were sure that Michael Hutchence was singing to us, and very amused with ourselves for being such idiots. We edged our way to the front of B-52s and Indigo Girls shows, danced like crazy during They Might Be Giants and Dead Milkmen shows, and generally acted like idiots for the Tom Tom Club.

Thinking about Cindy convinces me that all those people who say only boys were into making mixtapes and coming up with lists of theme songs had no idea what was going on. But who cares, ultimately. I can thank Cindy for much of the best music in my life (and the worst--heh).

After a while Cindy and I fell out of touch. Then a few years later she wrote to me, from out of the blue, and sent me an mp3 of "Free Me From My Freedom," a song that had featured highly in a million jokes, although I don't remember how any of that started. I wrote to her, because I was thrilled to hear from her, but then I dropped the e-ball. I feel like a shmuck for that.

So I suppose in this post I am working up my nerve to write to her again.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Friday, August 12, 2005

And my LP records, and they're all scratched.

I know you would want to know that how I spend my spare time these days is making mixes. You know, the problem with digital music is that the mix making goes so much FASTER than it did, back in the day of tape decks and stops and starts and trying to make sure you didn't accidentally get a snippet of the beginning of the next song in there.

Yes, it is a problem, because making a mix used to be a real labor of love, emphasis on labor. To make a tape for someone meant, assuming a 90-minute tape, that you spent at least a couple of hours ont eh venture, not counting the time you spent searching through your CDs or tapes or records or all three for just the right songs and, more importantly, the good segues. Now you can try and retry with a drag and drop. If a transition doesn't work, just cut the song and try another--no rewinding of the tape, trying not to get too much space left in there or leftover noise.

But fuck it, it is still fun.

Here is the latest. At the request of another Art of the Mix patron, "Well, can you or can't you?"

How can you say no to someone who made a mix called "A Ukelele Interlude"?

Buon appetito.

Thursday, August 11, 2005


OK, so not so complete after all. I got a new Pietra Montecorvino CD in the mail today, and I discovered a few discs I had missed, including More Songs About Buildings and Food, hiding out in my glove compartment, and Paul's Boutique, which I was sure I had lost.

New totals: 10,266 tracks and 38.2 GB.

(And don't worry: I will not post an APB every time I buy a new CD.)

Adventures in playlists, pt. 1.

I absolutely love the playlist feature in my now digital music collection. I have been playing with relationships between songs. So far I have not made it any further than being amused by what I can find in alphabetical order.

So the first results of my playing, "Attenzione: A Few Do's and Don'ts," is up at Art of the Mix.

I will note right now that the mix I posted there is an attempt at hitting the true CD length. I have a supersonic bonus mix that would go way further, and that still cannot encompass all the Don'ts, which far outnumber the Do's. Hmmmm.


When I say "finito," I do not mean it in the sense that Italian restaurant proprietors use it, to say that, for instance, the porcini mushrooms are finished, meaning gone, whether for the night or the season.

Rather, I mean to say that it is official: I have ripped all my CDs onto my computer. I suppose I should clarify and say that about a half-dozen did not allow ripping--annoying, of course.

As expected, the classical discs went much more slowly than the others because I had a lot of tinkering to do with the fields that appear in the track list on my screen. I decided to skip the advanced tagging at this point, although at some later point I may go back and add more detailed information about record label, conductors, performers, nature of ensembles, etc. For now I tried to get as much as possible into the tags that are visible on screen. This means using the "artist" track to give information about performers (including soloists, conductors, and ensembles--but within reason), the "album" field to say who the composer is (except for on CDs featuring music of many composers, where I had to give the composer at the beginning of the track name), and the "title" field to name the piece, the movement, and usually the tempo.

According to the Creative MediaSource Organizer, I have 10,212 tracks. This does not include the 700+ digital files on my work computer that I need to bring home gradually. According to Microsoft Explorer, I have 38.1 GB in my "My Music" folder. I will be eager to see whether all that can fit on my Zen Touch.

Now to play with the music! I am very excited about the possibilities for playlist creation, and also to have everything in one place.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Le otto stagioni

I am realizing in ripping my classical CDs, that I have been even more guilty with them than with my non-classical of listening to only a few, forgetting the rest.

I think this is forgivable with the pieces that we all hear too frequently. I think this is also somewhat forgivable since I have determined that I work better while listening to baroque music than to the big romantics. Must be the Bach Effect.

But there are others that I really love, and that I realize I have really missed, now that I see them again. I am not just talking about my several different Misse L'Homme Arme, that I collected in college, or the soundtrack to Henry V, but also to versions of pieces that had slipped out of mind.

When I blogged a while back about recordings of Vivaldi's music, I overlooked one of the coolest things I have come across: the record is called Eight Seasons, and the performers are the Latvian violinist Gidon Kremer and the Kremerata Baltica. The recording intersperses the four concerti of Vivaldi's famous seasons with the sections of the lesser known Cuatro estaciones porteñas of Astor Piazzolla, the Argentinian composer and master of bandoneon and tango nuevo. Kremer explains the title of the recording this way:
The globe, being round, implies two hemispheres. This makes the seasons (except places with infinite sunshine or those with a constant shortage of light) double themselves. That is how we get 2 times 4 seasons (or simply put--8 seasons). Admitting the global irrelevance of up and down, of North and South, of day and night--in a virtual reality it all takes place simultaneously--we also have to admit the irrelevance of any classification.

By interspersing the two compositions, and the two hemispheres with their respective cycles of seasons, Kremer et al. acknowledge Piazzolla's clear playing on Vivaldi, and throw into question which piece to listen to first. Yes, the first tracks are Vivaldi's Spring concerto, but they are followed not by Piazzola's "Spring in Buenos Aires" but by his "Summer," which itself therefore precedes Vivaldi's summer. Only if the disc were played continuously could a listener hear the two springs together, and by then all the seasons are cycling eternally.

The Mahler Effect.

If you were titilated by the joke to which Tim referred in an earlier comment, then you'll want to check out his retrieval of the whole joke.

Monday, August 08, 2005

The joy and the majesty.

Last weekend the PP and I went to visit a friend who has just had a baby, mostly so I could see the little tyke while he still is. He is, and is also cute, until he starts screaming because we woke him up from the nice nap he was having in his little rocking contraption while listening to Baby Bach.

Our friend explained to us that Baby Bach, which was really quite relaxing, is all the rage, and that they also have Baby Mozart and Baby Beethoven. Here is what the web will tell you about Baby Bach:
BABY BACH™ is a captivating experience that exposes babies and toddlers to the joy and majesty of classical music while mesmerizing them with stimulating, colorful images. Both you and your little one will love these award-winning versions of classic compositions by Johann Sebastian Bach.

My friend was not playing the colorful images, but her wee one did look mesmerized, though not captivated. Or I suppose he was captivated the way that I so frequently was during my freshman-year-in-college astronomy planetarium lab: just lean your head back and listen to the nice lady tell you about star formation in the dark.

Listening to the music was peaceful. What struck me about these versions is that they keep the classical pieces from being too stimulating, such that Baby would wake from his nice nap and start screaming on his own.

Now I understand that the going thought is that listening to classical music as a tot will make a kid smarter, and I am very much in favor of this. But I wonder why a kid could not benefit from listening to the real deal? I mean, if you want a smart kid, give him the 2- and 3-Part Inventions, for goodness sake! Or perhaps treat the little tyke to the full 6-CD box set of Keith Jarrett's Blue Note sessions, and let Junior appreciate what it takes to improvise around a standard theme. Of course you do run the risk that he will be a hummer.

But where is Baby Bartok? And the PP was imagining the Baby Tchaikovsky, complete with the pipe organs and canons. Now that would mesmerize and captivate.

Statistical details.

I had resisted posting stats on the size of my collection, because I don't want to get all embarassed that it is not as bad-ass as I wish it were. Plus, there is this tendency to believe that women don't obsess about music. Yes they do.

But then I got some spec type questions from Tim, so here goes.

Stats? How many CDs are you ripping, and how much hard disk space have you consumed doing so?

As of right now (9:46 am EDT on Monday, 8 August 2005 CE), I have ripped 8287 tracks, which has filled 30.3 GB when ripped in mp3 format. I estimate that I have about 900 CDs total, and that I have 150 to go. I will give a final figure when I have ripped everything. [ADDENDUM: I am ripping at 128 kbps. Not the highest quality, but a reasonable compromise.]

What are you planning to do about liner notes? I have taken to annotating my jazz tracks with the list of personnel and recording dates, when I can get them, but classical recordings have a whole nother level of complexity. What's your solution for managing that data?

I have sooooooo not solved this problem yet. There are places embedded within the tags for detailed information, but then you have to hunt for it. And how long do you want your "artist" tag to run, when you have a large number of personnel? I just don't know how to handle this.

And I am finding that classical music presents yet another dilemma, in that rarely is a piece performed by its composer. So then where do you list the composer? As far as I have discovered, there is no separate composer tag, so one is left to list the composer elsewhere. For the most part it works to list the composer's name at the front of an album title, because then an album search would give you the capacity to see all your Brahms together. But right now I am ripping a CD of three concerti by three separate composers, all performed by Jascha Heifitz with various second soloists and orchestras. So what do I do there? I entered the composer names in the title tag, but nowhere else have I done that, which will get confusing.

And there is the other liner-note problem of people like Matthew Herbert. Because of the way he constructs his electronic music, it is often of interest whether a song features the sounds made by the contents of Dani's bag on the day of recording or of newspaper clippings about Iraq from around the world shaped into instruments and filled with popcorn, rice and foreign coins. Where is the tag for that?

It all leads me to believe that although a digital database provides me with new ways of listening to my music (about which more soon), it cannot eliminate my need for my CDs.

First, The Dog Faced Hermans

Tim asked,

Where do I find a copy of the Dog Faced Hermans "Every Day Timebomb" on CD? It's not available in online downloadable form anywhere that I can find... (That last is because I'm trying to reconstruct a 12-year-old tape I got from you, and that song and the ee cummings spoken word stuff are the last standouts that I haven't found in digital form.)

Oh, I am sorry to read this, because my one hope for the Dog Faced Hermans was online downloadable sources, like the Indy one you referred to a few months back. I have been looking for the Dog Faced Hermans on CD since about 1995, when I realized that the only copy I had of their music was a quickly wearing out tape, where I had copied some songs from the CD collection at WXYC, source of so many delicious things. And I have had no success. I see there is a web source for some of their albums, but I don't see that title, and despite a little preliminary hunting on the web, I have had no luck.

As for the e.e.cummings, that came from a record in my parents' collection, and when I get teched-up enough to copy records to my computer (the day is not far off), I'd be happy to digitize that for you, because I bet it is oop, as we used to say in the book business.

When the generals talk.

(click on image if you want to actually read it.)

So I made it through the main part of my collection. By "main part," I mean the non-classical recordings, excluding compilations with music by various artists. Those are filed separately. And I keep the classical separate, too, as much as that makes sense to do, because I listen to it differently, at different times.

But genre is no doubt a confusing thing, which is why the "main part" is all the non-classical (as much as possible). Is Matthew Herbert jazz or electronica? And where is the line between world and jazz? Or pop and world? Or O Forget it, let's just put it all together.

Which is where I am getting a little hung up in my digital collection of ripped songs, because I do not yet know how I want things classified. Would it make more sense to keep distinctions among different kinds of jazz, for instance, or just call it all jazz? Do I want to file my Hindi songs separate from "World," or just call everything non-American World? Do my gains from lumping Enzo Jannacci, Giorgio Gaber, and Tiromancino together as "Italian" outweigh the losses that come from not calling them "pop" or "traditional" or "folk"?

And while much of the information that I get from this Gracenote database is pretty good (apart from the occasional typo), the information about genre is spotty. For instance, someone came up with such categories as "General Alternative," and "General Country," and "General World." That means, of course, that when you sort by genre, all these "Generals" get alphabetized under G, instead of A, or C, or W.

Not to mention that there is "General Hip Hop," "Hip Hop," "Hip-Hop," "Rap/Hip Hop," "Old School Hip Hop" and on and on. And I, for one, am willing finally to admit that I still do not understand the difference between rap and hip hop, let alone between hip hop and hip-hop.

And it is not as though there are clear standards for the assigning of genres. I noticed as I was ripping the (FABULOUS!) 6-CD box set of Keith Jarrett at the Blue Note, that while the Gracenote information for, say, Disc 2 called the genre "Free/Avant Jazz," Disc 4 was just called "Jazz." Wow, Keith, you really dropped off on your freedom there on Disc 4.

And then there are the just plain dumb moments. For instance this morning I ripped one of my Various Artists CDs called This Is Soul, a compilation that I bought back in the pre-download days, just for the Eddie Floyd recording of "Knock on Wood," although the collection has also given me "Rainy Night in Georgia," "Patches," and "Rescue Me." So what genre does the database offer up? Classic Rock.

This Various Artists part of the ripping is taking much longer than the main part of the collection, because I am trying to keep "The" and "A" off the front of band names, and then in a feat of sheer analness I reordered everybody's name to Last Name, First Name. Before you get in my face about that choice, I will give you the justification. Back in my Ann Arbor days I bought several CDs at my favorite used CD store, and the clerk, upon looking at my selections, said, "Ahhhhh. The Pet Shop Boys and Pere Ubu--reunited at last." I have always loved it that nothing on my CD shelf gets between these long-lost friends, but there in my big digital collection, things would get all messed up.

So three of these Various Artists do-dads to go, and then it is on to the Classical--a prospect I do not relish, because the people labeling tracks do not seem to realize that it is nice to attach the name of the piece before you say what the tempo marking for the movement is.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Finally stumped the database.

As I have been ripping all my CDs (People, this is a BORING task), I have been really impressed by the capabilities of the Gracenote music database that the Creative MediaSource Organizer uses to get information about a particular CD so that you don't have to type it all in yourself. And you do not want to type this information in yourself, particularly since, on the Creative software, the tab key does not move you from field to field.

Anyway, I kept thinking I would stump the database. Surely some of my obscure Italian CDs would get it, I thought. Wrong. Or how about some of those albums of electronica that I bought in the little music store in Birmingham (not Alabama) where most of the stuff was sold on vinyl and, true to the cliches of High Fidelity, I was the only female in the store? Nope--it has those too. OK, now this one would have to get it: the CD of Traveling Wilburys , Volume 1 that one of my colleagues put together from all the individual tracks, downloaded illegally after we all discovered to our horror that the CD is out of print and for sale for something like $100 used? Shazam, it figured that one out too.

Did I just say shazam? I'm so sorry.

So it took me until the Ws to get it, but finally I got it. The sad thing is, I stumped it when I needed its helpt the most.

You see, several years ago, before the Hong Kong handover, I was sitting in a hotel room in Seoul, watching television. I do not speak Korean, so I settled on an Asian Pacific version of MTV, where I discovered Faye Wang, queen of Cantonese pop, singing a rendition of a Tori Amos song. During the weeks I spent in Hong Kong, I heard this song again and again, and I got completely addicted to the sound of Faye's lovely voice, and I loved the way she turned a completely familiar song strange by singing it in yet another language that I do not speak.

So when I got home, I looked for albums of hers, with no luck of course. Then I became even more captivated by her in Chungking Express. Then finally, I stopped in an Asian video store, next door to one of my favorite Asian grocery stores in Ann Arbor. There she was! So I bought a CD. It does not have the Tori Amos song on it, but it does have "Here's Where the Story Ends" and "Dreams," hauntingly like and unlike the Sundays and the Cranberries.

The trick is, all the text on the CD jacket is in Chinese, and despite my attempt to learn to read Chinese in two years of study, I just can't hack it. So I thought, help me Gracenote CDDB, you are my only hope.

But no, that is where I stumped them. Figures.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Could not have said it better.

Today began with H.

Those of you who have devoted as much time (and money) as I have to listening to music will know what I mean when I say that digitizing my CD collection has been a ramshackle revisiting of my life, or at least of those years when I have had a CD player.

I see that my eye skips over certain CDs as if they weren't there, and when I am looking through my shelves for something to play, I don't notice Lightnin' Hopkins these days, or even Buddy Guy, even though those have been favorites in the past. And even though albums like k.d.lang's Absolute Torch and Twang used to make it into my player several times a month, and before that it never ever left it, I have not played it in months. Same thing with Dead Can Dance, and several Bob Dylan albums, all 10 bajillion of my Ani DiFranco CDs and also Talking Heads.

Coming to Baaba Maal reminded me of the guy who used to manage the textbook section of the independent bookstore I used to work for while in graduate school, back when it was everything I could do to buy dried beef and bread for sandwiches. It was the beef that was the real splurge, and working for about 2 months of "bookrush," enduring horrible upstairs un-air-conditioned heat and being part of the human chain bringing boxes up the stairs when the day's shipment arrived, and lugging stacks of textbooks to their designated location, and tolerating grouchy students and sometimes faculty--all that comes back with Firin' in Fouta. Marty was the manager, and he had this great lowkey manner that made him the perfect man to endure the stress of the start of school and push a vacuum cleaner around when everyone else had gone home. I still remember the first time he put that Baaba Maal CD in the store's player: it's that feeling when you first hear something that has to become a part of your life in a much more serious way.

And my graduate school roommate owned a copy of Janet, one of those albums that got entirely too carried away with little talking interludes. I'm not just talking about when she says in that sexy little voice, "Like a moth to a flame, burned by the fire," although it is such cliches that give albums like Janey their charm. You don't listen to pop like this for insights, but to hear what you already know said in such a comforting or ass-shaking way. It's fun when Janet's doorbell rings, and then she has to shut the door before she tells you what you already know, and, it turns out, she knows too, that you want her. And even though it may not have been this album that had an interlude that my roommate called "Janet goes online," it might as well have, because that is where I remember the absurd recorded sound of the modem.

Or there is Madonna's I'm Breathless, which became the prime listening material of an entire group of my college friends for a summer, even though every one of us was deeply embarassed to admit it. Madonna? Not cool at that time, but we were completely smitten with the vaguely swingtime sound of the mood she was trying to create, or even occupy. "But 'More' and 'Sooner or Later' were written by Stephen Sondheim," I would proclaim, trying to justify this smittitude. "But what about 'I'm Going Bananas'?" Richard would ask. "Just skip that one," Mike concluded, and we did, and vaguely howled if we didn't catch the CD in time when that song started, and it played more than a second or two.

And speaking of strange purchases, Information Society's Hack. I bought it exclusively for one song that happened to sound good in one particular car stereo on one particular day. The car stereo belonged to Patrick, who lived down the street from me and who I had grown up with. We spent many an afternoon blowing up plastic army men, or watching cars go around and around a magnetic racetrack, or playing with Star Wars people, or playing that dumb hockey game that does not really involve any skill but may also have been magnetic and all you did was watch your team shuffle around the board and maybe make a goal. And I am not sure how many times we listened to "Flash Gordon" on 45 instead of 33, laughing our asses off at the part where Freddy Mercury sang (fast), "He saved every one of us, he saved every man every woman every child, every body--Flash." You may not know how funny that is on 45. Anyway, Patrick took me boogie-boarding at Virginia Beach, which was a blast, and how much do I wish I had lived a teeny bit closer to the beach so I could bodysurf all the live-long day? And he had some kind of fancy little fast car with a great stereo, and he liked Information Society, and nothing could have sounded better than "Hack" on that particular day in that particular sunshine, and during that particular fantasy that I was a surfer girl. So now I own the entire CD.

Sometime in there, during the poor student years, I got too invested in used CD stores, and being able to sell things back and buy new things for cheap. Sure, it meant that I got rid of some real shlock that probably would not even have nostalgia value. But I wonder what else is gone from my collection, and my memory.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Can I get a witness?

I am sure you have long been waiting for more furious reflections on the results of my site meter.

I thought I had the winner when I found that someone had been led to my blog by searching for "swim phlegm." The good news is that the posting on that topic has been so heavily of late that my dear blog no longer appears among the top ten Yahoo hits for swim phlegm. Swim phlegm, swim phlegm, swim phlegm. There. That ought to bring it back up to the top.

And before we move on, don't forget to take This Fun Lungs Quiz!

But "swim phlegm" (can I say it again?) was not the real winner. Behold the real winner.

Sure, sure, sure I can see from that page why my blog came up based on the search, "What is Allen Iverson's cellphone number?" But can someone help me understand what chumpola would believe that that information would be readily available on the internet, a mere Ask Jeeves away?

Bring on the E's

I hope that my two readers (readers? are you still there?) will forgive the recent silence. You see, I have recently upgraded my computer to one with oodlewhops of hard drive space, and I am deep in the process of ripping my entire CD collection. I started out kind of scattershot, uncertain of whether I could fit much on my new machine. O, New Machine, forgive me for my lack of faith! Now I am proceeding alphabetically. We are, as I type, finishing the D's.

All to say, the recent silence may not end immediately.

But in the meantime, I point you to The Gurgling Cod's challenge to food-inclined people of America: an appropriate response to The Guardian's list of top 50 things every foodie should do. I will be the first to confess, apropos the list, that I have ever only done one of them, and I concur with the Cod's general doubts. Which one, you're asking? Well, given that I was following in the footsteps of everyone's favorite American fascist poet, here is a clue:

True, it was Venice,
And at Florian’s and under the north arcade
I have seen other faces, and had my rolls for breakfast, for that matter;
So, for what it’s worth, I have the background.

And will someone please offer an alternative to "foodie" so the Cod will settle his scales?