Owning Music: The Audio Equivalent of the Steam Locomotive

Preface

One of the unfortunate things about having a blog is the tendency to get locked in, a little bit, topic-wise. I have two that I maintain, more or less. One is my gracefully aging humor blog, and the other is the SJV-Author site, established, ostensibly, to talk about writing.

But making people laugh and talking about the books I pen are not the only things that crawl through the twisted cavern that is my mind. Sometimes I think about other things! Sometimes it’s twisted caverns!

So, what do I do? I know I’m probably going to crack wise at least a little. Do I post it on the humor blog? I’m writing it, so is it out of place on the author’s blog? Do I launch a third blog called “Stuff That Doesn’t Fit Thematically with My Other Two Blogs?” This last is tempting, but no.

I’ve decided to solve this high moral dilemma by posting it to both blogs, knowing in advance that my Facebook followers are going to call me bad names, because they’ll get a notification about each and they’ll say, “Dude, how many times are you going to tell us about the same thing?”

Twice, I guess.

The Meat

Alright, here we go, kids.

I say “kids,” because anyone younger than 30 or so may have a little trouble relating, because I’m going to talk about music. And no, I’m not going to launch into a tirade about my music vs. your music. That was my dad’s gig. He pretty much thought everything after Benny Goodman was crap. To make a point, in the 1970’s I started listening to Benny, though he refused to listen to the Beatles. He did bring me home a Monkee’s album from the thrift store once, though, so that was progress I suppose.

What I’m talking about today is a little more ethereal: the concept of “owning” music.

mist
Passing Into The Mist

With the advent of subscription music services and streaming music services and services that bring you to services that stream and/or subscribe you, the need for owning a physical copy of an artist’s music is passing into the mist. I heard someone say on TV that our kids and grand-kids will think the fact that we owned music will be insane. My daughter, for example, subscribes to Apple Music. When she wants to hear something, just about anything, she types in an artist or an album title, and wham! She has it. Sometimes to delightful comic effect, such as when we took my six-year-old niece to see the Trolls movie, and upon getting back in the car, my daughter downloaded the soundtrack, so that every song that came out of her “radio” for the duration of the ride was from that movie, much to my niece’s amazement. “Your radio is broken on Trolls!” was her reaction. “This is crazy!”

It is, a little.

I suppose there is a liberating experience in knowing you can listen to whatever you want whenever you want to do it.

But I grew up holding my music in my hands.

Originally, we held big old vinyl record albums, their dark black flesh beautiful to behold, their cover art large and legible, a whopping 12″ x 12″! If there was a lyric sheet insert or liner notes you didn’t need a magnifying glass. New records had a distinctive scent, like new car smell only completely different and for a lot less money.

The first album I ever bought for myself was “The Sounds of Silence” by Simon and Garfunkel. It was followed by a couple thousand others. I think the last album I bought was “So” by Peter Gabriel. By then albums were already passé, as the compact disc had arrived.

I have always considered myself something of an audiophile, which is just a nice word for “music snob.” It mattered to me that the music not only was good, but sounded good when I listened to it. To that end, the CD was a godsend. Sound quality was head and shoulders above vinyl, even the special edition discs that were touted as being sonically superior. I actually only sprang for one of those. It was “Abbey Road” by the Beatles, and when I dropped the needle on it I convinced myself that I could tell the difference from my old copy, which had cost me about ten dollars less.

Then I got the CD and realized I’d never really heard the album before.

The first compact disc I ever bought was [gulp] Journey’s greatest hits. I was married by then and was not the sole arbiter of musical taste in the household anymore, so… compromise.

The SECOND CD I bought was “Dark Side of the Moon.” I still have this disc, and whenever we’ve moved and I’ve set up my sound system, this is always the first album that gets played. It’s tradition. Like Benny Goodman. The Journey CD got lost, and has not been replaced.

As so often is the case when one begins to attain a significant collection of years, I tend, in certain areas anyhow, to like things my way. So, I still like compact discs, and I do not subscribe to any music services. I like taking the disc out of the jewel case, or with your more environmentally conscious performers the 100% biodegradable cardboard container, which will decompose one day, leaving the 100% chemical CD behind. I like pulling out the little booklet and straining to read the liner notes and the lyrics.

I liked records even better for everything except the sound. They used to even come with posters sometimes. The aforementioned “Dark Side” had something like fifty of them. I had a copy of “Chicago at Carnegie Hall” that had a poster so huge it covered almost all of one of my bedroom walls. We’ve lost that with CD’s, and no streaming music gives you posters or liner notes or lyrics or even cover art. Well, okay, maybe cover art in a one-inch square rendering on your device’s screen, but dude! It’s not the same.

Sadly, when Kim and I moved into our apartment, after seventeen years in a three-bedroom house, I had to finally let go of my record collection. There was no room to store it at the new place, and although I still own a turntable I don’t really own an honest-to-Pete stereo system anymore. I listen to CD’s in the living room through our Blu-ray player, which gives me the added dimension of surround sound, or in my office on a self-contained RCA stereo that was my mom’s then my bro’s and eventually mine. It has an aux input, but the turntable needs a pre-amp to be heard, so, ultimately, it was a lost cause.

wall art
Both great albums, both great covers

The good news is I gave the entire collection (minus a handful of albums that I just could not let go, two of which are now wall art), to my brother-in-law who does have a sound system which allows him to enjoy them. Sadly, however, he’s sold off, or attempted to sell off, a significant portion of the collection. I didn’t put any stipulations on his ownership of the records, so they’re his to do with as he see fit, but I’ve been to two garage sales where he’s had several hundred offered for sale, and I always want to wrap my arms around them and bring them back home.

But I stay strong.

There is probably something inherently wrong with wanting to possess so much music. My CD collection is far larger than my album collection was. It probably speaks to a deeply ingrained Capitalist running-dog mentality, which while once again in vogue is nonetheless unsavory. There are children in war-torn nations who probably own no more than a handful of CD’s. As my kids used to say when they were little and still functionally illiterate, I have these many:

rock

That’s just the rock music collection. This is the jazz collection:

cds

The classical music collection is currently in six plastic totes waiting for me to build them their own rack.

classical
Pay no attention to the Temptations peeking out of the bin on the right. The bulk of this is classical music.

My daughter’s music collection takes up considerably less real estate. In fact she can fit it in her purse.

As owned music passes into the same mist that claimed the vinyl album [ed. Note: vinyl is making something of a comeback, but in a way that makes my former audiophile snootiness seem boorish, they actually advertise the weight of the album now, as if more grams means better music!] and the remotely-housed digital file becomes the gold standard, I wonder what will become of the music I’ve collected when I pass, in two hundred years. Will my kids have to go to garage sales and thrift stores to locate a CD player in order to listen? Or will they just rent a couple of dumpsters and toss them?

I think at my funeral I’m going to be a pain in the rear and request that someone track down a high-quality turntable, an ass-kicking amplifier, and a set of gigantic, liquid-cooled speakers, and play a record over my lifeless hulk. And since, technically, it will be the first music played at my new home, it will have to be “Dark Side of the Moon.”

Got. To. Be.

Another Chance to Learn from Mr. Science!

 

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brick-genericSince our first post with Mr. Science, we’ve received sevens of email questions, snail mail questions, and questions written using words cut out of magazines, glued onto napkins from Denny’s and tied to bricks, much like the one shown here, which were then thrown through our expensive plate glass windows. Out of excitement over the enthusiastic response, mixed with a healthy dose of fear, we’ve decided to answer a couple.

Dear Mr. Science,

My brother says babies come from the stork, but I believe they are the product of sexual reproduction. Who’s right?

Signed,
Precocious Three-Year-Old

Dear Precocious,

You’re both wrong. Babies come from Overstock.com.

Your Pal,
Mr. Science

Dear Mr. Science,

I recently watched a giraffe cam on the internet for, like, three months waiting for some stupid giraffe to have a baby before I gave up on the whole thing. Did she ever drop her kid or what?

Signed,
Bored With Giraffes Forever

Dear Bored,

I believe you’re referring to April the Giraffe, who thrilled millions with months of not having a baby. To answer your question, it all turned out very awkwardly, as she finally had to fess up to her alleged “baby-daddy” that the whole thing was a ploy to keep him from moving to Milwaukee. She had to return all the shower gifts as well.

Delivering the hard facts,
Mr. Science

And this final, brick-borne query:

Yo, Mr. Science,

If a train is traveling west at 75 mph, and another train is traveling east on the same track at 80 mph, how much money will you pay me to make sure you’re not tied to the tracks at the exact point where they meet in a fiery collision?

Signed,
Guido “The Knuckle-Breaker”

Dear Guido,

Mr. Science doesn’t live here anymore.

Signed,
Not Mr. Science, that’s for sure.

As Doctors See Benefits of Medical Marijuana Treatments for Seniors, Calls for Changes in Policy

SAT, MAR 11

Doctors across the country are calling for a re-think of current government policies, in terms of allowing medical research on medical cannabis, as elderly patients see dramatic results to treat pain.

Recently NBC News visited a “senior living facility” (i.e. reefer flop house), where correspondent Harry Smith interviewed 95-year-old Edith “Burner” Hepwilder. Below is an excerpt from the interview, which presents the unedited conversation, as opposed to what was shown on television:

old doobieHarry Smith: Do you feel any benefits from the medical marijuana?

Edith Hepwilder: It’s reduced my pain, and I’m more relaxed.

HS: I see, that’s very good. Have you noticed anything else?

EH: Yes. I’m hungry all the damn time. If there is a box of Bugles in the room, I need it in me. Immediately. Pizza too. Slab after greasy slab. You don’t have any on you, do ya?

HS: Um. No, but I could order some.

EH: Hell yeah. [Turns to orderly] Tyrone, lend a bitch your cell phone. [Hands phone to Harry]. Pies Guys is the best. Call them. Get the Deluxe. It will change your life.

[Harry gets on the phone, orders a pie, and returns the phone to orderly].

EH: We should blaze up before it gets here. [Reaches into knit bag hanging from her wheelchair and extracts a bong shaped like a snarling dragon]. This is Nidhogg. Don’t worry he doesn’t bite. [Lights bong, takes long, long hit, then passes it to Harry].

HS: Has anything else changed for you since you’ve begun your treatment?

EH: I listen to the Dead a lot more.

HS: The Grateful Dead?

EH: Day. And. Night. Every damn day. [Turns to orderly] Tyrone! My tunes! [Orderly points remote at the stereo. “Mars Hotel” begins playing.]

HS: Have you noticed any side effects at all?

EH: Not really, except I can smell colors now. Does that count?

HS: It might. I’m not a doctor.

EH: [Singing] I’m Uncle Sam, that’s who I am, been hiding out in a rock and roll band.

HS: Mrs. Hepwilder…

EH: Call me “Burner.” Everyone does. [Points to bong]. You gonna hit that? Otherwise, pass it back, Bogart.

HS: Burner, how do you feel about the federal restrictions on the use of marijuana.

EH: Fuck the man! Goddamn Nixon!

HS: Um, Mrs. Hep… Burner, Nixon’s been dead since 1994.

EH: Good! Goddamn narc punk bitch! He’d still be alive if he’d been hittin’ this! [Lights bong, takes even longer hit than the first time].

HS: So is it fair to say you favor less regulation?

EH: [Hear’s knock at the door] I favor some slabs! Tyrone! Pizza’s here!

HS: This is Harry Smith, reporting from Burner Hepwilder’s room.

 

There’s Things Goin’ On

This blog is old. I started it in 2014, and it’s now 2017. That’s four years, (I know, I thought that was wrong mathematically, but check it out: with posts in 2014, 2015, 2016 AND 2017 that’s four years). In internet years that’s something like 432 years. In fact, there is only one website on the internet that is older than Things To Laugh About, and that’s the transcript of the Proceedings of The Roman Forum, which dates to around 179 B.C., which is the year that Al Gore invented the internet.

Despite its advanced age, and it’s numerous sophomoric entries, I still love it. I like to come back every now and then and post something new just because it makes me feel like a kid again, (when I founded it in 2014 I was only six years old… this year I’m going to be 57… SCIENCE!)

But this post is a little different. Because in it I’m announcing some other places I’d like you to visit.

For you see, I’ve written a couple of books.

 

There is a book of short fiction called Welcome Home, and a novel called A Dark Clock. If you click on either of those links, you will be magically transported to Amazon.com, which is yet another website, not quite as old as mine, I think, but it’s nifty, and you can purchase the aforementioned books there. I wish that you would.

When you publish a book on Amazon.com, they allow you to create an author’s page. This I have done, and if you’d like to you can see that as well. To get there you need to go to S.J. Varengo’s Author Page,  which will also magically transport you if you click those prettily colored words.

In order to really talk about this writing stuff, I decided to put together my own website, dedicated to writing and writing accessories. It’s called S.J. Varengo – Author, a title that I spent a long time pondering. I finally went with it because it contains my name and my occupation, in case I ever forgot one or both and needed to be reminded. You may have already guessed this, but if you click on the highlighted words (they call it a “link,”) you’ll be taken to the website. Go, look around, have fun!

When you go to the site, you’ll want to sign up for my email mailing list. Why will you want to do this? Because these aren’t the droids you’re looking for. (Yes, I’m using Jedi mind tricks on you!) No, the real reason is that the list subscribers get the skinny on anything new and exciting before everyone else in the world even has an inkling that something might be happening. For example, is there a new book coming out in the future? Have I added a new feature to the website? Did I have beans for dinner again? The list subscribers know the answers to all of these questions, and you can too. In fact, because I am a benevolent overlord, I’ll let you click on this link, which will take you directly to the email signup page: Mailing List Signup. Do it! You won’t regret it much at all! [LEGAL DISCLAIMER: I WILL NOT SELL YOU INFORMATION TO ANYONE AT ANYTIME FOR ANY PURPOSE, OTHER THAN FOR MONEY. NO, WAIT, NOT EVEN FOR MONEY. MAYBE FOR A NICE JELLY DONUT. NO! NOT EVEN THEN.] 

Is this all that’s going on you ask? This is a lot of stuff to be going on. Surely this is everything that is going on.

WRONG. I also want to give you one more link. I’ve also been publishing my poetry online for a while now, and since I’m handing out links like Oprah giving away cars or houses or blue whales, here is the link to read some lovely poems.

OK, come on, you’re saying now. There couldn’t possibly be anymore.

Well for the time being, at least, there is not. Except for a visit from our mascot, the Things To Laugh About stoned puppy.

smiling dog
This dog has a better sense of humor than some of you!

Ask Mr. Science

paul_science

Q. Mr. Science, why does the moon look so much bigger when it is close to the horizon?
– Anonymous (Actual name  Anna Jean Lumpkin, E. Garfield Ave, Decater, IL)

A. I’m glad you asked that. So glad, in fact, that I’ve decided to answer you.When you look at ing-butternut-squash_sqlthe moon when it’s high in the sky, it appears to be roughly the size of a dime. When it is closer to the horizon, it appears to be closer to the size of a quarter. Ha, ha, ha. You’re ignorant! In reality it’s neither. The moon is actually the size of a regulation NBA basketball. It is also the color of a basketball, complete with the little lines and Adam Silver’s signature and stuff. (Forgive me for dropping that last word on you. I know it’s pretty technical.) But, here’s the kicker. It is not really shaped like a basketball, or a dime or a quarter. It is roughly the shape of a butternut squash. Fascinating, yes? Well you ain’t heard nothing yet because listen to this: it doesn’t taste like butternut squash! It actually tastes like a Jell-o Pudding Pop. Which unfortunately brings this butthole into the picture.pud-pops

But wait. Wasn’t there a question asked at some point? Oh yes. Why does the moon look bigger when it’s low in the sky.To find the answer, we need to do some simple mathematics.

brick-genericThe moon is approximately fifteen feet from the Earth. [citation needed]. When it is close to the horizon, it is actually a full foot and a half closer, because of the gravitational pull of Donald Trump’s hair. Try this experiment. Hold a brick a foot and a half from your face. Now, as fast as you can, smash the brick into your face. You will see stars, not the moon. This really doesn’t come into play with regard to the question. I just thought it would be funny if you did that.

Actually, if you had your eyes open as the brick approached your face, it may have appeared to be getting bigger right before things started hurting real bad. So there’s that. I guess it’s not totally unrelated after all. God, I’m a great scientist!

By the way, if you ask the Google this question, you may get a vastly different answer. That’s because “mainstream” science has an “agenda.” They want you to “learn” about things like the effect of the “atmosphere” on viewing “celestial” “bodies.” Don’t buy into this nonsense. Knowledge is rigged.

As it turns out, I have an agenda also. And according to my agenda it’s time for me to eat a Jell-o Pudding Pop. I hope it doesn’t lead me down a slippery slope.

Things We Do For Love

I love my wife. I truly do. I like to do things that make her happy. I like to do a little more than she expects, so that when she comes across the little thing I’ve done she’ll think, “He must really love me.”

And so today, I decided to iron the dust ruffle she has owned for a few years and never used, so that I could then put it on the bed and, you guessed it, surprise her pleasantly.

photo (13)
Evil, wrong, and ooooh so wrinkled. Curse you dust ruffle nation!

There’s the problem with that: ironing a dust ruffle is a hellish, evil task which takes a very long time to do. What’s more this particular dust ruffle has little pleats in it which I suppose was some black-hearted designer’s idea of a “nice touch.” I am hereby offering a hit contract on that designer. (I do not know his/her identity, so just go ahead and start taking them all out. You know, to be safe.)

I don’t know if my decision to iron this demon’s hanky was my first mistake. I think my first mistake may have been to allow myself to get sucked into the dust ruffle subculture in the first place. I mean, so what! Some dust get’s under the bed. Better there than, say, in my tuna sandwich. Let the dust have a party under there! Let it host the 2016 Dust Party National Convention. Anything is preferable to spending an hour fighting with each ungodly inch of this foul creation.

Alright, I’ll concede that there are only three sides to iron. The top is mercifully devoid of any visible protuberance. But three are like…three too many, in my opinion. If it weren’t for my corn chip and Coke breaks every fifteen seconds or so, I would have surely lost what little remains of my mind by now.

But I love my wife. (Did I mention that?) So I guess I’ll get off the computer and go tackle the remaining two sides. (Yes, I did all this whining after only de-wrinkling one panel). Because I love my wife.

Oh, and I love my wife.

**Sigh**