You Don’t Want To Read My Opinions on Music, #1

The office i’ve been spending my last couple months’ days in has a commendable policy of always having a radio on in the studio. Noise is good, and what’s more, it can help people keep their earbuds out and collaborate. Until it doesn’t.

Up to now, it had been a fairly regular pattern of NPR in the morning and Emerson’s college radio station in the afternoons. The latter definitely had its rotation, but also a commendable and eclectic taste in about 40 years’ worth of older stuff.

Enter a new guy and a new radio station which shall remain nameless. It has a smaller cross-section of more recent stuff in a heavier (read: twice-a-workday or more) rotation, and another rotation which seems to consist mostly of maybe thirty albums issued in the 1990’s. It has the same peculiar fascination with Soundgarden’s Down on the Upside that caused me to switch off music radio in 1998. Live’s Throwing Copper is heard from probably twice a day. Plenty of Offspring, Stone Temple Pilots, and Third Eye Blind, don’t you worry. Something’s wrong with any station that claims any degree of currency, yet plays Marcy Playground more often than Passion Pit.

Never mind the fact that the late 90’s, so well represented here, was the time when the music i came of age to was eating itself and dying a gruesome death. This isn’t a question of taste; i’ve no more right to lecture anyone about taste than they do me. Hell, i’d be just as sick of Underworld’s Dubnobasswithmyheadman if i heard half of it every day, too. This is about the fossilizing instinct that dooms us to only remember old times in old places with old tunes, and robs us of the chance, even the inclination, to discover a new song in a new place at a new time.

Quite simply, this is what makes us old, what turns us into our parents. This is what will cause our kids to curse us out as a 64-year-old Eddie Vedder plays the Super Bowl halftime show because none of us ever learned to like anything new.

So i’ve got my earbuds at the ready, and hit shuffle when the radio makes me flash back to my fraternity’s basement. Not because i didn’t love the basement, or Pearl Jam, or the Offspring, but because even if i am old, i don’t have to act like it.

Next time on You Don’t Want To Read My Opinions on Music: “Mumford & Sons: Threat or Menace?”

On Resilience

There’s something uplifting about watching your city endure a challenge like this past weekend’s storm, or last year’s blackout.  To me, it comes from the same place as does the urge to root for the home team, except in this case i’m rooting for me. And my neighbors that i mostly don’t ever see or talk to.  And the jerk that on most days would right-hook me into oblivion in the bike lane.  On days like Friday, i’m rooting for us all to be on the side of civilization.

On Friday, we all (okay, most of us) got off the roads and went home like we were asked.  We stocked up on groceries and booze (did we ever) and stayed in and cooked all sorts of elaborate things like the yuppie assholes we all were.  Some holed up in skyscraper apartments and had the Prudential mall all to themselves.  Others went outside on snowboards, skis, or bicycles. My sister and brother-in-law went and kept my mom company, knowing that the power would go out, because they’re better people than i am.  Obviously the girl and i went out and drank, but we made friends and applauded strangers for walking into the bar and out of the snow, and left crazy big tips for the wonderful people who poured us beer and made us food.  But the important thing is, we all stayed the hell off the streets and let the first-responders and plows do their thing.

And our reward on Saturday was a giant, bounteous fluffy coating of snow.  And even though it was cold as heck and extremely windy, people were out.  It seemed like everybody was out.  First, a few organized souls attacked sidewalks and cars.  A few were out driving before Deval said it was okay.  No one could really figure out why.  We shoveled the girl’s aged landlord’s sidewalk, i pushed a minivan down a thickly coated North End street, and everybody gawped at the sheer volume of it all, the unreality of it.

Piles of snow taller than i am, some not even from plows.  Minor streets completely untouched under two feet.  Major streets perfectly driveable, but utterly empty but for pedestrians.  Hanover Street with almost everything closed.  Walking into snowdrifted Big Dig tunnels.  Few cars, but people, people everywhere, in awe of it.  A snow day for everyone, liberated from the need, indeed the ability, to do anything but go out and enjoy it.  The Common was completely inundated with rosy-faced citizens, with sleds, skis, snowboards, and whatever careening down the hill up and over ramps and across sidewalks.  Nowhere to get hot chocolate, even, even as a 10˚ wind chill attempted to you it wasn’t really playtime weather.

And of course it’s sad that a couple people died from CO poisoning, something seemingly so preventable by comparison with a monumental snowstorm.  And it sucks that the T struggled to get back up and running.  And it sucks that some of those inundated streets are still not plowed yet.

But what warms the cockles of my heart is that we reasonable people all managed to handle something challenging in a reasonable way, and in most respects succeeded.  Not to say things are put back right yet, and not to say it doesn’t highlight things we wish could be improved, but generally speaking, even though we’re big drama queens about it, maybe the old New England resolve isn’t dead after all.

2012, The Year In Review

It’s hard to explain sometimes, why i like to keep track of mundane details like what populates this festival of trivialities.  i suppose it’s best summed up by the idea that from thirty seconds of thinking about what i did each day springs a vivid picture of the rhythm of an entire year.  Things i did well, things i did a lot of, things that, in retrospect, i wish i did more of, or less of.  And of course, how many times i went to McDonald’s.

Click the image for more.

Click here for the 2012 Year In Review

As always, i mostly do this for my own amusement, but also to serve as an inspiration.  Or warning.  To myself and others.

Some thoughts:

  • Wow, beer adds up fast.   i blame this on the Red Sox being terrible.
  • i need more road trips this year; especially if i still have a bike commute.  or no job.
  • Need to take the bike west this year, to train for the Dirty Dozen.
  • More frequent-flier miles are desperately needed this year.  Since the US national team looks like they’ve sorted out their left-back situation, i’m still like 50k short of a ticket to Brazil in 2014.  Hey Delta, throw me a cheap fare somewhere good.
  • i need to get back to playing two soccer games a week more often.  And i need to shoot more.
  • Obviously, i need to eat more McDonald’s.  But don’t we all.
  • It’s interesting how much it takes to actually impact your routine throughout the year.  It pretty much takes something on the scale of quitting your job or driving to Arkansas to spike your bar graphs.
  • It’s possible that i wasted the entire month of November.
  • Yes, i have made navel-gazing a science.
  • Also, this is why i like Numbers better than Excel these days.

On Funemployment

Before i left for Paris and Amsterdam in September, i quit my job. No need to belabor why here, other than to say i just wasn’t happy with the work. Since then, i’ve been either traveling or slacking off, with a couple of interviews and a week or so of finishing up some grueling contract work.

Needless to say, i’ve been granted a lot of time to spend with my thoughts, so it’s fortunate that i’ve been able to do such a good job of drowning them out by building Legos, watching Champions League games (at home! during the day!), and playing a lot of Fieldrunners 2 and FIFA 13. But all this doesn’t add up to much, merely ways of passing the day until i can hang out with people in the evenings, or go play soccer. It’s all desperately uncreative, in the sense that i have nothing to show for most of my days.  The Legos will be taken apart at some point, and Xbox achievements do not count.

By the same token, i’m resolved not to jump back into work that maybe isn’t a great fit, so for now, the plan is to line up contract work that lets me do interesting things, and then bugger off and go interesting places. It’s not even that i need the money—i didn’t undertake this plan without having a cushion built up that will last many months longer.  In theory.

Despite that, though, it’s been an interesting opportunity to think about my relationship to money, in that no matter how cavalier i am about it (and rest assured, i am), there is still that bit of nervousness when the spigot that fills up your finances is gently turned off. There’s a tendency to want to put your foot over the drain, to have it flow out more slowly, more deliberately. My attitude changes from day to day; some days i feel fine about it and go out and drink with my customary abandon, some days i feel like eating ramen with the blinds drawn.

And it’s interesting to think about money in the sense of a flow, particularly to recognize how many things we interact with on a daily basis are founded on the principle of having everyone be spending money, directly or indirectly in some way for as much of the day as is possible. Subscriptions for this, a fare for that, a fee here, and a bill there. You wake up and you’re not only using things, ideally, you’re using things up. It’s not in my nature to curtail this lifestyle. In the same way i eat an appalling diet and offset it by being highly active, i’m far more comfortable being a hardworking spendthrift.

Still, just the other day, i was thinking about how the act of buying a thing (or at least appearing like you could) lets you into the club, admits you to the civilization of niceness. Buy a cheeseburger, use our bathroom. Gawk at a computer in a warm, modern store.  $6 for a beer gets you a nice place to sit. $9 a month lets you compare yourself to the downtrodden Michael Keaton and watch Mr. Mom whenever you want.  It’s informative then, when faced with those as identified expenses, items to consider the value of instead of ‘oh, whatever’, to gain some perspective and realize that i’m lucky to have whatever option this is that i’ve chosen, and that nothing going on right now constitutes a problem.

After all, i’m writing this from the Charles River boat docks watching the sun set while you’re still at work.

An Unholy Alliance

When you sit there and watch Mitt Romney’s contortions, you’re instantly reminded of how many different ways he’s had to stretch to obtain and maintain the support he has.  The strain on the machine is immediately evident; you can hear it grind and squeal and creak under the stress.  The only question is, does it spin out of control and tear itself apart now or later?  Eventually, the Republican party as we know it is doomed.  There are just not enough of these parts to keep putting it back together.

So it’s instructive to think about all the awful things that Mitt Romney’s candidacy is made out of.

  • Herald readers.  Back in the day, these are the people who put him on Beacon Hill.  People who’ve become convinced that 90¢ on every government dollar is intrinsically wasted, gone to the type of people that Fox 25 runs exposés on, that corruption is the rule, not the exception, that it’s all somehow Larry Lucchino’s fault.
  • Small government nutbags.  Like the crazy lady who wanted to arbitrarily cut the Massachusetts income tax in half two years ago.  They’re not happy with Mittens, but they’ll be voting for him too.  These people at least have an ethos, an internally consistent worldview, even if they seek it out in irresponsible ways, such as hitching their wagon to a guy who might be less qualified as a help to their cause than the Democrat.  At any rate, Mitt Romney would be a rubber stamp to the worst of these elements in Congress, the people that will strip-mine our country’s most successful, most bedrock services and declare them better done by the private sector.  Or at least more profitably done.
  • Greedy people.  The “I got mine, everybody else can go screw” crowd.  People who cling to every last cent, spiting every school, every bridge, every park.  People who can’t make the connection between things that are immediately good for them, and the good (and i mean financial good, not touchy-feely good) that comes to every last one of us from helping everybody.
  • End-of-the-world loons.  Let’s not forget that Bush himself was said to believe in the idea that war in the Middle East, specifically in Israel wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.  In fact it was a good thing, something that meant the Second Coming was at hand.  Romney’s saber-rattling in the direction of Iran (tempered or not, last night) wins these peoples’ vote.
  • Normal religious people.  Even though i couldn’t disagree more with them, honest, decent people believe enough in their religion that they will vote for people who they think will drive that into everyone else’s lives.  Me, i think this is revolting, but these people are well-intentioned, and will vote for Mittens overwhelmingly (even if they think his is the wrong Jesus).
  • Crazy religious people.  Here, i’m talking about the cavemen-and-dinosaurs crowd, the ones who write textbooks in Texas and speak in tongues and heal people with their sportcoats.  These people will vote for Mitt Romney.
  • Racists.  Everyone from proud Klansmen to my dumbass grandfather who forwards emails with .gifs of Obama as a monkey.  You could say that this isn’t Romney’s fault, and certainly he has plausible deniability, just as every Republican has for the last fifteen years.  But that deniability is achieved through the oft-mentioned racist ‘code words‘.  Words like ‘welfare’, which i think we’ve heard a bit, which make nice suburbanite white folks think of inner-city Americans who make them nervous and say, “well, I’m not for that” without admitting to themselves why.  These aren’t even mostly bad people, but the key here is that Republicans and Romney are appealing to our worst angels, sides of us that we’d embarrassed to face up to.
  • Warmongers.  The military-industrial complex that Eisenhower warned us about.  They did well when we invaded Iraq and Afghanistan and want us to keep that up.  To buy ships we don’t need and planes that don’t work.  These people will vote for Mitt Romney.
  • Rich People.  The assholes who create nothing but money for themselves and try to tell us all it is a virtue unto itself even as they crashed our entire damn country.  People who can pay legions of accountants and lawyers and lobbyists (they’re job creators, duh!), because the taxes these people help them escape more than pay for themselves.  Mitt Romney will help these people keep what they have and give as little as possible back to the country that enables them to be so successful.  Mitt Romney isn’t just their enabler, he is one of them, through and through.

Fortunately, we’re breeding out some of these people.  We won’t have the money for a mega-military forever.  Racists will die off.  Younger people are less and less religious.  The window for a Republican coalition of assholes and idiots is closing, and i desperately hope it closes now.

If you’re on the fence, ask yourself if you want to be counted with these people.

Cheering for laundry

The other day, i had to have an honest conversation with myself.  A conversation about how to justify my laughter at Derek Jeter’s season-ending injury.  It’s customary to admit that it’s wrong, 100% wrong to cheer for opposing players’ injury, but i think that most of us  here did not have that reaction at first.  Laughing at the Yankees was wrong, distasteful, childish… but honest.

Thing is, i don’t think any of us wish the person harm.  Baseball players are held to a high standard of civic responsibility by virtue of being on TV every day for six months, and by all accounts he meets and exceeds this.  The difference is the uniform.  In the pinstripes, he becomes that smug fuck with no range and a closet full of Gold Gloves who’s never taken a called strike.  A hated enemy.  So i laughed at the player’s injury, and ultimately, i’m fine with that.

But i find an interesting parallel with the reaction to the monthly report of the unemployment numbers, in particular this most recent one.  Goodness knows, i’ve anxiously hoped they’d be good.  Not because they exactly affect me (heck, recently i suppose i just made them worse by one), but because good numbers are good for the person i want to be the next President.  But the crucial question is, if the reverse were true, if i were pulling to unseat the guy, would i then be cheering for bad things to happen?

It’s fairly clear that plenty of us in this country are doing just that.  Yet another obvious manifestation of Mitch McConnell’s repugnant rallying cry.  Of all the disheartening things that have happened to this country in the last twelve years, it’s possibly the worst.  At best, an open admission that the opposition party wants the government to fail utterly, at worst, a brazen exhortation to partisans to impede anything which might reflect well on the administration.  And no matter how cynical and how partisan you are, there’s strong correlation that runs in opposition to that idea—a successful president must by definition be bringing some of that success to the citizens of the country.  Therefore, Republicans are cheering against us all.

So if fewer people are unemployed, they’re disappointed (or sadder still, in denial).  Because they’ve tried so hard to eliminate public jobs that might’ve helped that number, but also put money in the hands of middle-class pockets, who might’ve spent it and helped other Americans make a living. Wouldn’t want to help that along.

It’s laundry.  For four years, Republicans’ loyalty has been to laundry alone.  Red versus Blue.  Awkwardly, my metaphor means that i am exactly the person i started out mocking.  Indeed, we’re all (gulp) Derek Jeter, lying on the field.  Except, to continue abusing the metaphor, the Republicans aren’t the cackling Sox fan at home on the couch.  They’re more like the maniac that ran on the field and kneecapped him with a tire iron at shortstop.

And i don’t think any part of me would be cheering for that.

Revolution 0:1 Impact de Montréal

Because they’re pissing me off, and i don’t write enough here, i’m going to start writing up match reports of the Revolution matches.  The number one rule of this site is to write about whatever you please, after all.

So yet again, the Revolution found a way to lose a game in which they had all of the attacking possession, and all but one of the actual serious chances.  Never mind crossbars, posts, or penalties not given, the promise of the earlier part of the season has well and truly slipped away.  Players who were having palpable fun on the field are now frustrated and sulking, and the crankiness in the stands is well and truly back.

What’s the problem as far as my inexpert opinion is concerned?  1. The shortcomings against physical sides like Kansas City and Toronto were obvious; the skill players such as Nguyen and Feilhaber were getting clobbered, the refs didn’t call it often enough, and even when they did… 2. They can’t score a set piece to save their lives.  McCarthy got his head to a couple late tonight, but he’s really the only big body you can throw in the mixer, and is not who you’d want to rely on anyway.  3. Their patience is gone.  For all the talk of playing the game the right way, of passing the ball, playing possession and building from the back, they resort to blasting it far too often.  Finally, 4. the personnel is not right anymore; earlier in the season, it seemed Heaps could do no wrong with his substitutes, and the 11 were more up to the task.  Now, we’re back to seeing useless, clanking mismatched parts out there, waiting for them to be belatedly subbed out.   Seeing players get pushed around with no steel to strengthen the formation, and others being asked to do things they’re just not suited for.

If they put away one or two chances tonight, then we’re probably talking about a good performance, but they didn’t, so we’re not.  It’s not fair, but perhaps it’s more useful to not have continued shortcomings sugar-coated.

Player Ratings (per the typical 1-10 scale with its glorious shortcomings; 10 is perfect, 1 is dreadful, 5 is average):

Reis: 5.  Only save he had to make was one he really couldn’t be expected to.  Still nearly got a palm to it.  Calm as ever with the ball at his feet, but the long distribution still mediocre at best.

Tierney: 4.  Burned for speed only once, still tenacious going forward.  Even if you look at him as the offensive outside back and Alston as the defensive one, it’s not a good enough trade.  He dribbles the ball well, but the quality of his passes has been inadequate this year; he’s left Soares, Benny, Simms, Nguyen, amongst others way, way too short too many times and rolled too many balls to the opposition too often.  Time to give the rookie a shot.

Soares: 5.5.  ‘Megged on the goal, which i suppose should count against him, but it’s awfully unfair considering he’s running full stride to match a much faster player.  Calm and collected as always, with the usual well-timed steps to nip attacks in the bud.  The yellow card was the product of an excellent dive, not any sort of foul.

McCarthy: 6.  An excellent offensive header across goal from the post on a corner probably would have been put away if a certain dreadlocked guy was still around.  Good positioning all night. Both center-backs were very steady tonight.

Alston: 6.  Made good runs, was constantly open out wide, put in one excellent cross, one lousy up-the-line ball.  Completely untroubled on defense except when Felipe tried to win a penalty against him the same way Philadelphia did two weeks ago.

Nguyen: 5.5. His work is very commendable, and for a good ten minutes, he’d actually taken control of the middle of the field, which the Revs seemingly hadn’t done for weeks.  Having said that, his effectiveness is less than what it once was; he can’t dribble around everyone all the time, and now he’s double-teamed and roughed-up constantly.  Couple this with the loss of the close-quarters triangle passing and lack of off-the-ball movement, and he’s having to reach too deep into his bag of tricks too often.

Feilhaber: 4. Simply needs to do more.  It doesn’t help that he’s being asked to sit really far back.  The problem with this is that when he makes a loose pass or tries something opportunistic (read:reckless), there are fewer people behind him.  Maybe it’s harsh to hold his (terrible) giveaway accountable for the goal, considering it was in the offensive half of the field, but the trouble was, it put a fast runner right on your two centerbacks. Never mind the fact that for every nifty play that comes off, for every impeccably slotted through ball, there are five failed ones that end with him dribbling at people, leaving it for no one, or passing optimistically into traffic.  Not effective.

Simms: 5.  Better tonight than he has been lately, more active.  But the Revs were at their best when he, Benny, and Nguyen were constantly running off the ball and completing triangles.  It’s not happening anymore, and since Simms seems to have so many fewer touches of late, and the skill players are getting whacked, i feel like there’s some causation here.

Guy: 5.5.  It’s unfair to give him less than this, because he did everything he was asked to do.  The fact of the matter is, he’s a tiny player without the speed or the skills to compensate.  No idea why he keeps having to do so much work with his back to net.

Sène: 6.5. Maybe it’s a bit fashionable to bag on Saer Sène right now.  While he has missed some chances of late that would have changed results, you simply can’t ignore the fact that the dude is doing pretty much everything right now.  He drops back, he shepherds the ball through the midfield, he is distributor, provider, and finisher all in one.  There’s no way i fault him for having not everything work, considering that at least he’s trying.  He’s trying everything.

Bengtson: 5. Sorta on an island up there, unfortunately.  Was badly offside one time when it’d have been nice if he wasn’t.

Subs: Cardenas: 5.5.  Very bright start, good enthusiasm and fresh legs, but petered out after the first five minutes in.  Rowe: 5.5.  Same thing i said about Cardenas.  Fagundez: No rating.