Monthly Archives: December 2008

Smells like what, now?

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If you didn’t doubt me when I declared that Small Faces have not one, but two of the top 10 rock ‘n’ roll songs of all time (“Tin Soldier” and “Afterglow,” an assertion I’ve stood by for more than 25 years), then you should not doubt me when I tell you that you NEED to listen to Los Straitjackets’ new single release, “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” Years ago, these mostly instrumental heirs to The Ventures’ throne – just as skilled musically and even a bit wittier than their forebears – performed the miracle of transforming the Celine Dion dreck “Titanic” theme into an unforgettable instrumental romp. Here, years later and just in time, they have transformed Cobain’s anthem of angst into . . . well, I’m really not sure what they’ve transformed it into. But it’s a great listen.

If you’re unfamiliar with Los Straitjackets, I highly recommend a visit to the Yep Roc Records site, where you can find them along with The Fleshtones, Nick Lowe, and other brilliant visionary musicians. And if you’re unfamiliar with The Ventures, I can’t be seen talking to you.

The cruellest month

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It ain’t April. It’s December. Here’s what we have to do in December, besides the usual work and school and ballet and piano lessons:

  • Seventh-grade band/chorus concert
  • High school orchestra concert
  • Dance performance in Hudson
  • Many Nutcracker rehearsals, two Nutcracker shows
  • Various Girl Scout events
  • Two birthday parties, including a sleepover
  • First Night performance
  • A holiday pops concert
  • Christmas, twice, because it falls on Thursday this year and the extended family wants to push it off to the weekend.
  • Shopping, which is nearly entirely on-line.
  • Killing mice that have come in to get warm (but that’s just a bonus).

Can you hear me now?

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Now and then I think about how much the way we communicate has changed in just a relatively short time, and it really came home to me last night as I sat here trying to organize no fewer than three cellphones, syncing their address books and calendars with two computers, and also had two “dumb” phones (or “landlines,” as the retronym has it) out on the table. Something started ringing, and I had no idea which one it was. Well, as Ellis Weiner once wrote, “To create a world in which one’s forebears would be lost, confused and terrified – that is the meaning of progress.” (Almost misattributed that to P.J. O’Rourke, but I should have known he didn’t carry quite that level of insight.) So now we have created that world for ourselves. I can just about manage the information age (I was a computer programmer back in the days of paper tape, for crying out loud), and I’ve mastered the Bluetooth synchronization thing, but I’ll admit I don’t know what 3G is or why my phone should have it. It just gets to be too much.

Things were certainly different when we were kids. Of course, no one had cellphones, and I knew no one who had their own phone line. The whole house had one phone. Our parents only had the vaguest idea of where we were at any given moment, and if they didn’t express enough interest to find out, we weren’t going out of our way to tell them. If something came up and you couldn’t borrow the use of a phone at a friend’s house, there were payphones everywhere. Now on the occasion when we’re short a cellphone for our disjointed family activities, you can’t count on somebody getting to a payphone; they’ve disappeared.

It’s not even that long ago that computers didn’t have wireless, and the only way to get in touch with the world when you were traveling was to carry phone cords and plug your laptop into a telephone somewhere. Since webmail hadn’t been mastered yet, I remember anxious minutes sitting at a particular kiosk of payphones at National Airport, the ones that had data ports, waiting for my laptop to dial the home office and download, at excruciatingly slow speed, my email. Then I would have to sift through it, write quick responses, and then reconnect to send it all. The whole system worked about, I’d say, 13% of the time (which created great frustration at carrying around a 7-pound electronic brick) so I’m not complaining about progress, mind you. I’m just saying I can see the day when I turn into the elder generation and stop trying to figure it all out, and just start slamming buttons and yelling at devices before going on a rant about how in the old days a call cost a dime and you could actually hear the person on the other end. And that day is coming soon.