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Living in Chicago, by way of Dayton, OH and Havertown, PA. Contact me at atozpod@gmail.com.



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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

from Indonesian Wine to Infinite Tamboura

Day 913, Session 150:
Friday December 26th - 36,000 feet over somewhere.
First song: Indonesian Wine by SNMNMNM
Last full song: Infinite Tamboura by Rusted Root
Progress: 2111-2112 of 6078
Total Songs Heard: 1937

"Why on earth are you writing an entry on only two songs?" you may ask.

I didn't want 2008 to end without squeezing out one more entry, and I wanted to tell the story of my flight to Vegas and then you can judge whether it's a metaphor for anything else (like my entire year.)

The annual post-Christmas pilgrimage to Las Vegas started off not so great. Our 2:45 flight became a 6:30 flight due to weather problems in sweet home Chicago. Once we got on the plane however, things were looking up. The Wife and I were able to snag seats in the exit row which of course meant greatly enhanced leg room for the duration of the now 5.5 hour (usually about 4.5, but again, the weather) flight. I realize I'm not particularly tall and so taking the exit row seats when there was an entire basketball team getting on the plane after us (go Ohio Northern Fighting Northerners!) seems like something of a dick move, but my knee tends to go a bit wacky when I'm forced into cramped seating for an extended period and I have to constantly get up to stretch it. With the exit row, there's no need for getting up. (Plus, it's not like the entire basketball team could have fit in the exit row anyhow and if they really wanted that row, they should have checked in exactly 24 hours before the flight like we did.)

As the rest of the passengers filed on, I noticed a kid (probably 2 or 3 years old) getting into the row behind us.

"Uh, oh." I whispered to The Wife, but she assured me that she had seen this kid in the waiting area and that he had quiet, if a little rambunctious. (I found out later from my mom that he had been trying to tip over one of the big airport trashcans.)

4 hours later I wanted to strangle the kid and both of his adult "guardians." The child in the row behind us began wailing approximately 8 seconds after take off. He continued to scream without stop for the entire duration of the flight. I think it might have been a world record. As an added bonus, I was sitting directly in front of him and he was keeping the beat to his cry-fest by drumming what I was assuming were his feet against the back of my seat.

I assumed it was his feet, but for all I know it could have been his head. Unlike everyone else around me, I refused to turn around and look at the sorry group of adults who were responsible for this child. I was so filled with loathing for their existence that I feared if I turned around and stared them down the power of my furious glare would reduce them all to ash. I didn't want the death of 3 more people on my conscience.

I attempted to self medicate my way out of this sonic filabuster with enough drink to put me to sleep (free as a peace offering for the lateness of our flight, thanks Southwest!) but the screaming was too much. I attempted to drown it out by finding the loudest music on my iPod and playing it at full blast. This worked to an extent, but I'm not a person who really enjoys blasting music directly into my brain via headphone, so it was not an ideal solution.

Then... I took out a pen to put the memories of this experience down on paper. I wrote exactly one sentence before discovering that the pen couldn't take the screaming anymore and decided to end it all in the most dramatic way a pen can... by exploding. Black pen blood coated my hand. Adjusting the pen to see where the fatal wound was only made things worse. So now I've got a screaming, kicking kid and blood... er, ink on my hands. I'm seriously considering throttling the kid, the kid's parents, and myself at this point, so I have to wash the ink off so as to leave less evidence.

I headed to the plane bathroom, and since I had had a couple of drinks, I decided to kill a second bird while washing my hands. I'm siting there returning a portion of my rented drinks (sitting because of a previous plane/turbulence/restroom experience) and I decide I'll wash my hands at the same time. Yeah, that was a mistake. It turns out those airplane sinks pack a surprising amount of water pressure. So now I'm covered in water, and ink (and luckily that's all.)

I get back to my seat and decide that I might as well spend the remaining tortuous time of the flight working on this here project and of course, just as I get through the second song they make the announcement that we're making our final approach. Five minutes after that the kid's mother finally wakes up (she somehow has been sleeping almost the entire flight!) and holds the kid, at which point the kid finally stops crying.

This is not the kind of luck you want on your side as you begin a trip to Vegas.

I promise you this, if two years from now my 18-month kid (codename: Gummy) is causing that sort of misery to my fellow passengers, you can bet that we'll be solving that problem with children's Benadryl and airplane bottle sized doses of liquor.

So that's it for 2008. It was a bad year for one reason (no job) outweighed by the many reasons it was a good year: Phillies' World Series Title, Obama victory, success for the wife at her job, financial stability, continued good health for me and my family, and, last but certainly not least, the news of impending Gummy.

Of course there's no reason 2009 can't be even better. I hope it is for you too.

Happy New Year.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

from Incident On 57th Street to Indian War Whoop

Day 907, Session 149:
Saturday December 20th - Pre-travel cleaning and laundry.
First song: Incident On 57th Street by Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band
Last full song: Indian War Whoop by John Hartford
Progress: 2108-2115 of 6090
Total Songs Heard: 1935

Actual writing to come, but in case I don't finish before then (which I probably won't seeing as how Christmas Eve starts in earnest momentarily:)

Merry Christmas!

If you're not a Christmas person, well then:

Happy Hanukkah!

Even if you don't necessarily celebrate these particular holidays I offer you:

Good Health and Happiness on this nondescript Thursday!

That should cover it.

Friday, December 19, 2008

from In The Days... to Inbetweener

Day 903, Session 148:
Tuesday December 16th - Music to shovel snow by.
First song: In The Days Of The Caveman by Crash Test Dummies
Last full song: Inbetweener by Sleeper
Progress: 2090-2103 of 6082
Total Songs Heard: 1927

There's a reason the tag i got nothin' exists. Good songs today, but nothing that jarred loose a particularly strong sentiment to write on.

I heard this particular group while shoveling the first substantial snowfall of the season. It was the perfect snow. About 5 inches of dry light powder. It brushed easily off the car and really wasn't much of a big deal to shovel.
It probably took me all of 15 minutes to shovel. Sure it wouldn't have made very good snowballs, but it was exactly the sort of snow that is wonderful to look at assuming you don't hate everything winter. We're supposed to be getting the first 'big one' of the season tonight from the same storm that left 3 inches of snow in Vegas (hope the snow's still there when I get to Vegas next week.)

I like snowfall because it means I finally get to be a contributing member of our "condo association." It gets quotes because there's only three units in our association, so all of the grounds maintenance is the responsibility of everyone who lives here. The upstairs neighbors do all of the planting and gardening, the back yard neighbor did most of the lawn mowing, and I generally avoid outside all spring/summer/fall so I don't feel guilty seeing them work. Once winter rolls around it's a different story! I like the cold! I like shoveling! I contribute!

The bad news: despite the ease with which the shoveling went, I woke up the next morning to the unpleasant surprise of a sore lower back. Like, really sore. Sore to the point where I actually broke out the heating pad to try to get the damned thing to loosen up. I am 1000 years old. (<-- hidden song lyric.) So yeah, I've got nothing here, outside of the standard "my body is breaking down at an alarming rate" complaints. Instead of dragging us both through my lack of creative process I instead leave you with this flashback to 1995. If you were around college age and listened to the station in your town that was called "The Edge" or "The X" surely you'll be magically transported. If you're like me, you'll also wonder... Whatever happened to Spacehog?

In The Meantime - Spacehog

Thursday, December 11, 2008

from In A Future Age to In the Curve

Day 895, Session 147:
Monday December 8th - Hanging around the house
First song: In A Future Age by Wilco
Last full song: In the Curve by The Avett Brothers
Progress: 2053-2072 of 6037
Total Songs Heard: 1913

Haven't deleted anything in a while, so let's do that now. Goodbye, In Deux Time by Deux Process.
I just couldn't get over their constant pronunciation of the world deux like it was the word dew. It was one of those iTunes free singles of the week, so it's not like I had any real attachment to the thing.

The Wife has recently given up the coaching of the basketball dance team at her high school to concentrate full-time (well, you know, full-time after her day full of teaching) on the school flag team. For those of you who weren't nerds in high school and thus didn't spend much time around the marching band, in the fall, the flag team performs with the band at football games, but apparently in the winter, the flag team performs on their own at competitions. (I would like to note here that The Wife's school didn't even have a winter flag team until last year when she started the program by volunteering to coach it. The Wife is pretty awesome.)

Since there's no band playing with the winter team, they have to choose a piece of music to perform with. Monday night The Wife asked if I had any suggestions for songs they could use. Asking me for a musical suggestion is no simple feat. What I'm sure she was hoping would be a 10-minute conversation became a 2-hour effort to find the perfect song.

There were 2 primary criteria, the song had to be 3-4 minutes long and not too slow, and one secondary, it helped if the song told a story. Here was my tertiary criteria, the song should be pretty awesome.

After much deliberation, here are the two suggestions I came up with:
In The Aeroplane Over The Sea - Neutral Milk Hotel
When I heard this song earlier in the day I just took note of how much I love it. When the flag team discussion came up I immediately thought of it. It's fast AND I'm pretty sure it's in 6/8 time. How many other flag teams are going to be performing in 6/8? Musically it's a great jumble of buzzing bass, trumpet, AND people playing SAWS! It tells an interpretive version of the journey of life. It weighs in nicely at 3:22.

Underground - Ben Folds Five
Tempo-rific, plus there are shifts that could be used to break up different sections of the routine. The song itself is about the alienation of high school and finding a place where that alienated feeling goes away. What could be more perfect for a high school flag team?!? Just slightly long at 4:11, but the last 15 seconds or so are vampy piano bits which could be faded on.

Here is what the girls decided to go with:
Uptown Girl - Billy Joel
Don't get me wrong, I love Billy Joel and while this particular song isn't a favorite of mine, it did help him score Christy Brinkley, so it can't be all bad. But really? This is the song they wanted to go with over the other two? Bah, kids today! I just don't understand them. (Confession time: Part of the reason this picks disturbs me is because I think high schoolers today would pick this song because they find it campy and amusing. Granted, this particular song probably is, but campy and amusing aren't two words I use to describe Billy Joel in general. I fear Billy Joel is to kids today what my enjoyment of say, ELO or Styx is to me. Yeah, I like them, but I kind of view them as relics of a bygone era (as opposed to say The Beatles whose music is timeless.) Just another sign of how out of touch I am with the young.)

There's a chance I'm wrong about this, but I don't think so. Please consider all three songs and vote for which one would be best for a high school flag routine. If you've got something that will work even better, leave it in the comments.

In The Curve from The Avett Brothers was also in the ears today. This is currently my favorite sing-along-with-really-loudly-every-time-I-hear-it song. It's one of those songs that makes me think, "If I could just figure out how to play guitar, I could actually perform this one." It also speaks to the self destructive streak that runs through me. Sure I haven't finished a bottle of bourbon and then gone out for a drive, but I have finished a bottle of bourbon, which is a terrible idea by itself. I do stupid things. I make bad decisions (*cough*quitting my job with nothing else lined up*cough*) but I will walk away. Sure, right now it feels like I've been hitchhiking along the road forever, but I'm sure I'll make it Concord. Hope to see you there.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

This. This is why I love the internets.

Proper post coming later, but this needed posting immediately. One of the perks of this project is occasionally hearing from folks who enjoy the same music that I do. I've gotten a couple of e-mails from people who read about my acquisition of Projector Head, one of the two (I thought) early Josh Joplin Band cds. Since Josh himself (I always like mentioning that part) told me that the best way to acquire his old stuff was to try to find it through file sharing, I had no problem sharing the songs in mp3 form.

Well last night, I had the sharing repaid to me twice over. I got an e-mail from Ryan who just happened to find all three Josh Joplin Band cds at a reasonable price (as opposed to the $40+ each they usually go for.) Three Josh Joplin Band cds? I didn't even know there were three! From Ryan's awesome e-mail:

You obviously know about Projector Head and Boxing Nostalgic, but what you may not know is that Useful Music was originally released as a Josh Joplin Band album. It was then re-released under the Josh Joplin Group name. Surprisingly, this fact isn't well documented on the internet. If you already knew this, then please feel free to ignore the following wall o' text and skip to the end.

Here is a quick list of the differences in the JJB release of Useful Music vs. the later JJG version:
-It does not contain Camera One or I've Changed [Alternate].
-It has the song Far Away.
-Matter is radically different.
-Phil Ochs is somewhat different.
-Superstar is mainly spoken word rather than singing.
-Gravity, Here I Am, and Trailways have subtle, but noticeable differences.

As far as I can tell, Undone, I've Changed, Who's Afraid of Thomas Wolfe?, Human, and Dutch Wonderland are the same on both releases, or the differences are extremely minor...

...Okay, enough of my rambling. I ripped the Boxing Nostalgic and original Useful Music albums to mp3 format and uploaded them here:http://www.sendspace.com/file/chuifj


Holy carp! The elusive Boxing Nostalgic and the heretofore unknown earlier version of Useful Music just dropped into my lap! The Internets is awesome. Thanks so much Ryan!

If you are a Josh Joplin fan, or would like to be, here are links to the collected (and no longer commercially available) Josh Joplin Band cds:

Boxing Nostalgic (1998) and Useful Music (1999)
Projector Head (1998) (This file also includes a few songs from Boxing Nostalgic, which, thanks to Ryan, you'll no longer need to squirrel away.)

If you'd like to know more about Josh Joplin music you can check out, his personal site, or the website for his new project (with Garrison Starr) Among The Oak & Ash.

Finally, if you'd like to purchase any of the Josh Joplin Group or Josh Joplin solo cds that are still available, you can click here.