Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Outdated Physical Media

Recently an article on Buzzfeed touched on a very real experience for me: being in your 30s and holding onto your compact disc collection.

I will not dispute any of the contents of the article, as I believe it is factual and correct, but I do object to calling CDs "outdated physical media." Maybe it was a way to bait me into reading the article. Well, sometimes, you have to let the internet win and give the article a click.

When I'm at home, I listen to music either on my turntable, my Spotify account on my phone or desktop, or my iTunes library on my desktop. Near my turntable is a multi-disc CD player that I have never turned on since I've lived in my current residence. The last time I used it was about 10 years ago when I would co-host theme parties and burn mix CD-Rs for them. I'm not even sure the player is set up correctly through the receiver. All it does is collect dust, but I'm not about to get rid of it.

While they aren't getting a lot of play in my house, I prefer to listen to CDs in my car for many reasons. Apparently after this year, more and more car manufacturers will cease installing CD players in their vehicles. When Hope bought a new Jeep a couple of years ago, she was sad that a player was not included. That served as a heads up that one day, we'll all have either streaming or terrestrial radio to entertain us in a vehicle.

Instead of fighting this change, I will slowly embrace it. In the meantime, let me explain why I have held onto my CDs. And it's not just for nostalgic reasons. I challenge people to think about what's more "convenient" when it comes to listening to music in a vehicle.

Here are two options.

(Option A) Slipping a CD into the player and letting the music play. Since there are only a dozen or so songs on the disc, the limited amount of songs I can hear allows me to not be distracted from wanting to hear dozens more. If I'm in a hurry, the amount of time between getting in my car and hearing the music I want to hear is a matter of seconds.

(Option B) Making sure my vehicle is stopped, hoping my Bluetooth connection is set to my phone, and hoping my Spotify app will load in a timely manner. Add in the hope the artist or album I want to hear is still available on Spotify. Plus, there is no end of music to listen to. And I have to be mindful of how much data I use on my current plan. If I'm in a hurry and all of these seem like obstacles I don't want to deal with, I will listen to the radio or silence instead.

If you think Option B is more convenient for modern times, I beg to differ. Just because something is more commonly done in the modern sense doesn't mean it's the best experience.

There is another thing at play as to why I hold onto my CDs.

Last year, I finally upgraded my desktop to a newer version of Windows. (You don't need the latest version of Windows to write articles or emails properly.) When I imported my old iTunes library to the current edition, I noticed a lot of songs were missing. As in, 15 gigs worth. Turns out the music I used to listen to the most didn't make the journey to the new hard drive. Slowly, I have gone back to my CDs to rip the songs into my iTunes library again. It reminds me that I'm glad I didn't toss those CDs out with the times.

Someday, my iTunes library will be back up to date, but the chances of having to upgrade to another version of Windows will be high. Having a physical copy to back up something that really matters to me is vital. Sure would hate to see all those great songs disappear again because of a hard drive flaw.

As I think about the future of CDs, I think there will be some sort of revival of their importance to a mass audience. Maybe not to the extent of what vinyl has experienced in the past 10 years, but I don't believe CDs will fully disappear. Cassettes seemed to come back into vogue when the chances of finding a cassette player grew small. Now you have a lot of young bands pressing vinyl, CDs, and tapes to get their music to the most amount of people. If CD players continue to grow harder to find, the chances of a revival will grow. It's the way trends often happen.

While the argument of convenience is a little out of step with the times, I don't believe I should give up on what has brought me much joy for most of my life and continues to this day.

Wednesday, March 01, 2017


In life, we make choices. We have to. You can avoid making them for as long as you want, but life is always moving forward whether you like it or not. The past can seem very vivid because you've lived it, seeming like the basis of what's to come.

No matter how long we've lived, where we come from is all prologue to today. With my life, I look forward to spending the rest of it with Hope Harrell.

We had talked about marriage for months, not in the superficial, but the actual reality of being husband and wife. Where we would live, how would we like to live with children, and how to grow together with age instead of apart. This past Monday, I asked her to marry me, and she said yes.

Hope and I are not without flaws. But thanks to her, I have really understood my flaws and realized how to live with another person's flaws, too. She brings the absolute best out of me. I have so many more reasons to live a fulfilling life thanks to her. 

Sometimes we don't say or do the right things to each other. Many other times we do. She's shown what love can do, and with her in my life, it's limitless.

We came together because of a mutual appreciation of Kevin Smith's wisdom and horror movies. But when the two of us met for the first time, we realized there was more to each other than what we thought of Clerks and Suspiria. It was close to love at first sight, and it has continued to blossom all these months later.

When I was younger, I was afraid marriage meant the end of doing what you wanted to do in life. Trips to record stores were replaced by endless honey-do lists. With Hope, I've realized I can still be me and she can still be her. Hope has never dissuaded me from doing the things I love, and I have (and will never) dissuade her from doing the things she loves to do. We want each other to succeed, and it's a wonderful feeling to do this together.

For years, I thought I could fill the lack of a life companion with books, movies, and records. Slowly I learned that I cannot replace a living, breathing person with a one-sided experience. I'm glad I realized this before it was too late in life. Hope and I have many more movies to watch, records to listen to, and books to read, all while living a fulfilling life together. 

I've often said that I hoped someone like Hope existed. As twisted and as bumpy the road prior to her was (especially when I realized there were a lot of issues with myself I needed to sort out), I'm happy we found each other when we did. I really would not have had it any other way. 

There is a lot to look forward to, when only a couple of years ago, I had nothing really to look forward to. Spending my life with the right person is the freedom I always wished for. The concept of hope really did help me get through the life I had before Hope came into it. 

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Talking in the Dark

Something I left out of recent concert reviews was the topic of the audience talking during the whole performance. I'm asked to write a review of a performance by an artist, not of the people watching the performance. So that armchair sociology has to be addressed somewhere else, like this blog.

Talking comes with the territory, as most shows I've been to have had that white noise. But usually that is relegated to the area right in front of the bar. People buy drinks, talk with friends, or try to make new connections. I get that.

But when I watched Explosions in the Sky play at the Bomb Factory last summer, I couldn't help noticing how many people chatted away while the band put on an incredible show. Hope and I were seated upstairs in a spot where we could see the stage and the crowd quite well. As the band played one great tune after another, I kept hearing people talking down below. It was not a small group of people. It was a lot of people. And they weren't anywhere near a bar.

I started to wonder, why should you pay good money to get into a venue to talk to people constantly? You paid to see this band, right? You can talk to people for hours at any bar where there is no admission, so why the need?

I've heard this is a Dallas thing, but that's not true with every large show in town. The shows I've seen at the American Airlines Center did not have thousands of Chatty Cathys while Rush, Muse, or Alice Cooper played. Those people paid quite a bit of dough to see a show of this magnitude. It made a lot of sense to keep the talking to a minimum.

Venues that can hold almost one thousand or a little more seem to have this problem. Tickets are not cheap, like seeing your friends play for $10 in a room that can hold 200 people. But the general admission tickets are not near the three figure mark. There's a buffer of $30-$55 in the price. And for whatever reason, that's the price where people think it's OK to treat a venue like it is a small bar.

At the shows Hope and I see, we briefly talk to each other here and there about the show, but privately, talking into an ear. We're not carrying on a long conversation. We have all the time in the world to talk about the show afterwards. And not at a volume that tests the strength of our vocal cords. During the most recent show we saw together, a three-hour tribute to the music of Neil Young at the Granada Theater, I saw quite a few couples around us talking constantly. Tickets for this were $50 each. I'm talking money that could be well spent on groceries, gasoline, or records. To simply blow that money off like it's nothing does not compute with my budget-minded ways.

Maybe it's a way of expressing boredom with the performance. Maybe it's a way of showing entitlement of some kind. For whatever reason, I'm not about to fall in with the crowd thinking this is OK. Seeing bands has made an indelible mark on me, and I'm not about to let a trend of short attention spans stop me from seeing what I want to see.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Selling the Drama

Last week, there was a thread floating around Facebook about albums you listened to in high school. It was a fun rundown of records that made a significant impact on you, but there was another side to it.

Some Facebook friends rhetorically criticized selections on people's lists. They sarcastically thought a lot of people lied. "All these dudes my age trying to act like they didn't like Korn in their formative years," wrote the singer of a doom metal band I admire. I agreed with him, and I saw how the conversation turned deeper. There's a good question of, are you exaggerating the importance of these records, or are you being highly selective in your choices for fear of not being accepted?  

I do not claim to having some sort of credibility 20 years ago when I was in high school. I did not try to be the cool older brother or a know-it-all music critic to anyone. I would correct people on things from time to time, but my music listening was mostly a private matter. I was a budding music fan, finding my way through anything that came into my life. (I was still that way in college, but when I worked at Best Buy, I was the guy who didn't get why so many people liked the Titanic soundtrack, but I was not going to stop anyone from buying a copy of it.) My high school years were this: I liked Hootie and the Blowfish and Nirvana. I liked Pavement and Snoop Doggy Dogg. I liked Weezer and Metallica. 

Even though the CD was the format for owning music between 1993 and 1997, I spent more time listening to singles on the radio and seeing videos on MTV. (It sure was enjoyable to have my cousin share what he thought about songs I liked in high school.) I wasn't pulled into picking up Cracked Rear View, as I heard half of that record on a regular basis for about a year and a half. I was drawn more to the stuff that wasn't constantly on the radio or MTV. 

In writing my list on Facebook, I thought about albums I genuinely listened to many times on dubbed tapes in my 1977 Pontiac Catalina. Driving around Kingwood, I rarely turned on the radio in my car, preferring to focus on albums. All of these records stood out and resonated with me, and I'm happy to say they still hold up today. Here's the list.

face to face, Big Choice
Smashing Pumpkins, Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness
Everclear, Sparkle and Fade
Sunny Day Real Estate, Diary
Foo Fighters, s/t
Ben Folds Five, Whatever and Ever Amen
Jawbox, s/t
Ash, 1977
Therapy?, Infernal Love
Oasis, (What's the Story) Morning Glory?

Did I own Bush's Sixteen Stone and Korn's first album, as well as Dream Theater's Awake and 311's self-titled album and Live's first three albums? Absolutely. Yet when it came down to impact then and now, those albums didn't make the list.

I wonder why people hide what they loved when they were younger. Is it the fear of being less of a music fan because your tastes were not ready for Neutral Milk Hotel or Chavez in the '90s? You have to look at the present. The people we are now (who have a pretty good idea of what we like and don't like) versus the people we were then. 

Why is it whenever we talk about our high school years, we get a little testy and defensive about what we liked? Moreover, who we were? I still struggle with this, but it is a lot easier now compared to a few years ago. I like to joke, if you think I'm emo now, it was even worse in high school.

I think it comes down to how honest one wants to be to an audience. Do you tell a version of yourself that is filled with context or without? Do you want to be selective, focusing on what matters instead of what all happened? Neither is wrong, but I have to wonder, especially if high school was many years ago, have you come to accept what it was?