Monthly Archives: February 2006

My parents’ earworms

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From time to time I think how odd it is that my children listen to and enjoy my music, that their primary radio source (Radio Disney) consists primarily of remakes of songs from my early 20s, and that they have a strong appreciation for The Beatles, The Who and the Ramones. It’s part of what Bill Griffith long ago called “The Rock’n’Rollization of Everything” — although hip-hop has taken a stronghold in our culture, nothing has defined the last 50 years like rock’n’roll, and its vocabulary is as familiar to my kids as it was to me.

Not so my parents, despite their having been in their 20s during the ’60s. Mom proclaimed loudly and often at the time that she couldn’t stand noise and spent most of her driving time turning down the radio (while I spent most of her driving time turning it up). What little she did listen to was on the easy listening station (and I don’t think they’d even named it that yet.) There were some Johnny Mathis records. There was an affection for “Up Up and Away (In My Beautiful Balloon).” There was some unspeakably awful music from the other side of the Elvis gap played in our house.

My father expressed no musical preferences at all. There were some times when some country music came on the jukebox at the bar and he at least seemed to know it, and when I was older I introduced him to The Stones’ “Far Away Eyes,” available on jukeboxes as the flip side of “Miss You.”

But, in general, to get either of my parents to listen to anything I was interested in? Like pulling teeth, and even when they heard it, they weren’t listening. And the music of their generation? Hopeless. Like, for instance, Burt Bacharach, creator of some of the stickiest earworms of all time, and whose songs were among the few that I can actually remember my mother singing to herself.

Of course, time has proven me wrong on Mr. Bacharach, and the reason those songs stuck with me so often and so long was that they were so very perfect. Complete, musically interesting, lyrically just a little offbeat. They seemed so very much a part of their time, the late ’60s, and yet at the same time had nothing whatsoever to do with what was going on in the rest of the culture. (In fact, there were at least two different ’60s happening at the same time, perhaps more. Not everyone joined the revolution, and some, like my parents, were barely aware it was going on.)

Of course, there was the collaboration with Elvis Costello a couple of years back that really put Bacharach into perspective, and a couple of Aimee Mann songs that were clearly and openly meant to bring Burt to mind. And then the other night, in the middle of one of the Austin Powers movies and apropos of nothing, there were Elvis and Burt doing the sweetest version of “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again” I’ve ever heard. Unbelievable.

So maybe Mom knew something after all. And my daughter recognizes that Britney Spears’s music is crap, so my work is done.

More earworms

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Only in my brain, I think, would it be possible to have these earworms all in my head at the same time:

  • A Richard Thompson remake of, of all things, a Britney Spears song that I barely knew until I heard him sing it twice on repeats of “Fresh Air” this weekend. (And I’m not a Richard Thompson fan, either.)
  • “Thank You For The Music,” not because he played it, but because in speaking about the Britney Spears song, Thompson likened it to Swedish pop, very much in the vein of “Abber,” as he pronounced it (and now he’s got my wife doing the same, just to annoy me). An ABBA earworm is never a bad thing, for me, but that one is very odd and I’m not sure how I got to it. (Along with this earworm, I keep having to try to work out in my head whether it was Frida or Agnetha who skipped the big ABBA reunion at a staging of “Mamma Mia” in the Ovation TV special. There could be almost no information that I need less, and yet here I am, trying desperately to remember it so I can put the question out of my head.)
  • “My Baby Loves Sad Songs,” a relatively obscure Boyce & Hart number, but at least I know how I got there: flipped from the awful Richard Thompson song to the ’60s channel and got caught up in The Monkees’ “Valleri,” a perfect little Boyce & Hart confection that for reasons I’m not musically astute enough to explain reminded me of “Sad Songs.” Which one’s Boyce and which one’s Hart?

Olympics and weather

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I mean, really. 55, balmy, the actual smell of spring in the air on Thursday night and through Friday. Then 70 mph winds (clocked at 146 mph at Stratton Mountain), driving rain, skies the color of the Apocalypse, lightning — needless to say, I didn’t do Ski Day on Friday. Then bone-chilling, wind-whipped cold accompanied by brilliant sun. Tomorrow: rain of frogs.

TV life is an Olympic blur these days — and I must say, for what little coverage they’re giving it (try seeing an entire event that isn’t hockey or curling (curling!), NBC is finally trimming down the troubledhome / deadfather / grimdetermination / badbatchofbrownies stories on the athletes and actually showing them performing in their sports. They have long approached the Olympics with a completely cynical attitude toward their viewers, the presumption that since these are sports that aren’t usually televised, and they need a bigger audience than sports get anyway, they have to tell their stories. Listen, I can be as inspired by an amazing athlete as anyone, and it’s true that these people make some tremendous sacrifices to get where they are (or, perhaps, they’re clinically obsessed — take your pick). But add that up by the 146 or so athletes they feel the need to profile, and it gets to be way too much, and they have stretched the meme more than a bit thin (“And it’s the memory of that hangnail, which cost him the red ribbon at third grade field day, that drives him every time he puts on his skates.”). But this year they have been showing actual sports from time to time. They’ve even showed the runs of some non-medal contenders (though not too many). And as previously noted, the improvements in figure skating (even ice dancing) make it much more of an athletic competition.

Even so, I could go more than another four years without hearing any of the following phrases:

  • “You can’t win a gold medal in this section, but you can certainly lose one.” Even when it’s true, I’m sick of hearing this banal observation.
  • “And her family came all the way from . . . to be here.” Well, no shit. So did you. So did everyone there. Like New Hampshire doesn’t have an airport.
  • “He has no program, he’s just going from jump to jump.”
  • “And now Bode Miller has gone off the course . . .”
  • “And now it appears that Bode Miller has been shot by the Vice President.” Oh, wait. I’m getting my sports mixed up.

A moment of silence, please

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My iPod has died. It was second-generation, touch-wheel, and, at the time of its birth, the coolest electronic device I had ever seen. (Now, of course, it’s old skool.) It had started making a couple of funny little noises the last few days — a wheeze, a little cough, a sputter — but nothing that would have led me to think the end was near. Then yesterday at the Starbucks, right in the middle of a great Pandoras set — nothing. CPR has been applied many times, to no avail. All I can do is change which Icon of Death I get on the screen.

I won’t replace it for a while. You shouldn’t rush into these things, and you can’t really replace something like this, anyway. Just as I still miss and fondly remember my first Walkman, I’ll be a long time getting over my first iPod.

Olympic Fever!

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We’ve got it. I kinda come from the school of belief that says the Winter Olympics are the only Olympics — and I’m not even that much of a figure-skating fan. Random thoughts on Torino so far:

  • Our uniforms, our sportswear, our Opening Ceremonies berets — these always look awful. The Canadians’ clothing always looks hella-cool. Both are done by a Canadian company, Roots. But I’m sure they’re not making our neighbors to the north look better on purpose.
  • You know what’s a good idea just before a major downhill race? NOT trying out new skis. I mean, really.
  • Pairs figure skating has been massively improved by the new (scandal-free!) scoring system and required elements. It’s about 50% less, shall we say, fruity — and when each pair is required to run through essentially the same moves, you can really judge the differences in athleticism, talent, and grace much more easily. Plus, they’ve added some kind of mandatory leg-humping move that is just about the most bizarre-looking thing in all of sport.
  • Short-track speed skating is a lot like single-day bike racing — huge strategy, and anything can happen at the end. Why do we only get to see this sport every four years?
  • Curling? Hey, I’m from the Electric City, where the movers and shakers (back when they had some) were all about the curling. But I would sooner gnaw off my arm than watch curling.
  • On the other hand, skeleton? Luge? Crazy people flying down ice at more than 70 miles per hour? I could watch that all night. (Discovery Channel had a special on the building of that track — you should have seen how dangerous it was before they fixed it.)
  • Al Trautwig has been relegated to announcing cross-country skiing. Only. That’s still too much for my tastes, but it’s an improvement. Please please please keep him away from cycling.
  • We will have to interrupt Olympic fever next week, however — although they’re running it at 1 in the morning here on the East Coast, I have to give ESPN2 mad props for televising the Tour of California.

At last, skiing

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Took a day off yesterday and headed over to Mount Snow yesterday. I thought I was being an awfully big baby for being cold — I never get cold skiing — and the forecast had said it was going to get into the 20s, so I really couldn’t understand it, but I had to resort to using little handwarmers, which I have never used before. (I buy them almost reflexively, I just never use them.) The snow was hard but not sketchy, I went hard on a couple of diamonds, including one I hadn’t done before, and generally had a good day. As I was leaving, the thermometer said it was 14 degrees, so I felt a little vindicated in that it was 10 degrees colder than I had thought it was. Still: using handwarmers. What a wimp. Tomorrow, they’re supposed to have received some natural snow, but it’s going to be cold again. We’re going anyway. MUST SKI!

Stuck in the Matrix

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CJ in elevator

So here’s the deal — my webhost did a big migration this weekend. Went without too much of a hitch, except for the part where one of my email accounts simply disappeared — and the part where a couple of directories suddenly thought their owner was “Root,” rather than little old me. I don’t know what kind of weight “Root” threw around in the old country, but here in the cyber-world, you may not screw with “Root.” The power of “Root” will not be denied. You may not make graven images of “Root.” So, suddenly, I was unable to change or update my blog. In fact, this page was originally toast, but I got lucky and was able to delete the old index file, at least for now. But they do tech support up close and personal and fixed my problem pronto (I’m not thinking they’ve got ALL that many sites, though I was turned on to them by Wil Wheaton, having asked myself, “What would Wil Wheaton do?” and you would think others might have bitten at that hook, too).

Anyway, seems like all is back to normal. There are at least two healthy people in the house, x-rays have not been made in days, my hair almost couldn’t be any shorter (the pic is pre-haircut), and if I sit here any longer you’re going to get another sermon about Sirius satellite radio. So, bye!

Counterprogramming: Path to Treason?

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For the next couple of days, I know that I am going to be called on, by both colleagues and strangers on the street, to know the name of the team that wins the SuperBowl today. And there are years when I am actually able to do that. But it’s a challenge for me, and in fact at this moment, with the game theoretically underway, I am only able to name one of the teams, and none of the players. Which, as we all know, makes me something just below “enemy of the state.” That I have been following with great expectation the upcoming cycling season and the tremendous number of team changes going on makes me even more suspect, I know.

Anyone who knows me even slightly would not be surprised to learn that there could hardly be a less important sporting event in my pantheon than the SuperBowl. I have nothing against football or those who watch it, though I have nothing for it, either. I have enjoyed any number of games live, but it’s really not my thing. Giant steroid cases bashing into each other, a couple of hours a week for a few weeks — something less than I expect from my sports. And so for a number of years I’ve found something wonderful about this supposed national holiday, which is that grocery shopping is just amazingly improved when there is no one else in the grocery store. In years with snow, we have even specially enjoyed skiing, because many people seem to find themselves so hopped up with anticipation they are unable to go skiing that day.

Not feeling up for grocery shopping tonight, so here I sit before the television, and have decided to go with the strongest counterprogramming I can find — “Le Divorce,” as chicky a chick flick as one can find. And I’m enjoying it just fine. Call me un-American if you will — there’s even French all through it!

I’m just a rebel.

Winter? Humbug!

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As you know if you live in these parts, there has just been no winter here. While the extended stretches with days reaching in to the 50s (!) have been great for the heating oil bills (which are still outrageous this year), those of us who have spent a billion dollars on skis (and snowshoes, and ice skates, and sleds) are feeling ill-used by this rainy, warm, snowless winter. I’ve been skiing all of four times (two of which were before Christmas). Mount Snow does a great job keeping their terrain covered and in good shape, but it’s still not the same as having a few big dumps of white stuff to cover everything up nicely. Doesn’t seem like it’s going to change anytime soon. On the plus side, I really could have gotten out on my bike yesterday — but I opted to stay on the rollers instead. We’ve got a sick girl so it’s been a lazy weekend anyway. Last night we watched the DVD of “The Adventures of Baron Munchausen,” which was every bit as brilliant as it seemed to be years ago.

My writing, like the day, lacks brilliance and lustre, so I’m off.