Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Music Downloads and Latenight Driving

I live in a world… correction, I am my own world, and perhaps there is a possibility that we share the same one. It is a world where music cannot only be acquired in LP’s, cellophane rapped CD’s, or internet downloads but in massive back ally downloads. Skreemr, Limewire, Filetube, BeeMP3, and grooveshark just to name a few provide not only streaming music, singles, albums, but also whole catalogs of music. I started to consider the value of this limitless supply of free music last night when I went for drive.
I won’t claim innocence when it comes to illegitimate downloads. I will say that I have far more legitimately paid for music then ever before on my laptop and iPod. Yes I am one of those iPod junkies. The click of the wheel, the endless album covers flipping past on the bright LCD screen, the little addictive games, and the endless shuffle of tunes that flow out through my head phones when I go jogging or for a late night drive. I love music so I love my iPod. Music is what saves us from ourselves; it’s what holds the night at bay. Enough with generalities for the moment, let’s return to my car ride.
I had just purchased The Hold Steady’s new album Heaven is Whenever, I was driving and lessoning and a set of lyrics hit home.
You can’t get every girl.
You’ll get the ones you love the best.
You won’t get every girl.  
You’ll love the ones you get the best.

I don’t think I could have ever written it so well. I don’t believe I could have ever summed up so much of my life in a single verse. I don’t know if it’s even true or not. I do know how corny it sounds coming off your computer screen right now. Or at least I know how corny it is coming off mine. That on a back road somewhere in rural Ohio I single verse of a song could do all that. Well it did.
                It makes me think of another song by Elvis Costello and Allen Toussaint called The River in Reverse. There is a great verse there that also helps bring the world into focus for me:
So count your blessings when they ask permission
To govern with money and superstition
They tell you it's all for your own protection
'Til you fear your own reflection
But the times are passing from illumination
Like bodies falling from a constellation
An uncivil war divides the nation
So erase the tape on that final ape running down creation
Running down creation

I won’t try to come close to quoting Costello, I know better than that, but I remember hear him speak about what drove him to create music with a political tilt. He said something to the effect that he knew all the wrong people where lessoning and that nothing he said could change how the world was or even is. But that in light of it all he just felt the need to create, the need to push back.

It is music that drives me to push back. I know no one may ever read this blog. I don’t care. I create anyway. Music for so many seems to have become a commodity with little to no value. The idea of paying for music has become inconceivable for them. It’s not for me. Because I know that last night I paid nine dollars and ninety nine cents for an album. Then I waited and hour for it to download and went for a drive. And after all of that I found a single moment on back road in rural Ohio where everything finally made sense. That was worth a lot more then what I paid. The point you ask? Well maybe music is something that’s worth paying for, maybe when you have to work for it actually means something. Or maybe I’m full of shit. Take your pick…

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


When I was a very small child I can still remember visiting my great-great-grandmother in her nursing home. These sporadic events are, years later, only hazy illusions of memories augmented by the stories my family still tells today. I remember the hall ways of the nursing room and her hospital bed but not a single sliver of her face. Only the small plastic soap dish full of change she kept in her bed side drawer stands out in vivid clarity. She used to call me over, at the time she had very little memory left for names, so I was typically addressed as Bert. Comical illusions to the children’s programming of my childhood could be made here (Which are no longer safe for children?  http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=16314549), but I will leave such things aside for the time being. Out of that small dish she would always give me a hand full of coins along with a quick lecture on behaving my mother.
I still have a strange feeling she was very much disliked by my family. My Grandfather left me only one story about her; it simply involved a large collection pewter solders, tanks, and ships which she got rid of without his knowledge. This along with her chain smoking and poor attitude in no way deterred my family from caring for her for a number of years. Nothing really would have changed their simple notion that family is family. In our changing society staying with one’s family beyond your early twenties is looked down upon. Independence has taken on a new meaning, demanding that we all flee our families and scratch out a completely new existence for our self. My family has not changed with the times. This fact has caused me to be the object of scorn among my own society, with a simple exception to be made for my new friend and conversation partner Faisal.
Faisal is from Saudi Arabia, and as an Arab finds the idea of breaking from ones family so early in life particularly odd. Not only for young women living suddenly on their own, but even more so for young men. Leaving ones family behind to struggle on your own is certainly illogical. But it seems for Americans to be the primary object of raising their children. In this way a child becomes less like a permanent expansion of one’s family and more like an eighteen year long financial burden. In this way my greatest fear has become seeing my own children in this way.
But for the moment let’s return to that change dish. The easiest metaphor to draw for a soap dish full of change would be that of change as source of cleaning away the grim problems of the past. I would have no such illusion drawn here. Change brings chaos. Change always makes a mess. Change is to be judged in the moment and beyond and should never be the single goal of any family or society. Sometimes it is simply better to keep to what works; always taking our change in small handfuls.
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