Hey, little blog! Happy eighth birthday!
It’s hard to believe that you now have 970 posts and over 1400 comments. We sure have been a lot of places since you were born right before we went to India, eh? What will the next eight years bring?
Hey, little blog! Happy eighth birthday!
It’s hard to believe that you now have 970 posts and over 1400 comments. We sure have been a lot of places since you were born right before we went to India, eh? What will the next eight years bring?
I’m trying to help a coworker come up with a presentation title for a conference later in the year. We want a fun title which is also relevant to image processing. Part of me wants to work in the phrase “256 Shades of Grey.” We shall see.
I don’t want to inject myself into today’s events, but I can’t ignore them either.
Like every year, I had been looking forward to the Boston Marathon for quite a while. Patriots Day (a.k.a., Marathon Monday) is my favorite day of the year, and for good reason. It’s the day that I go to work and am largely allowed to shirk a good deal of it. Walking from my office to the center of town through idyllic suburban neighborhoods is refreshing and often full of cheery conversation with coworkers. The weather in mid-April is usually beautiful, and—at 10 miles into the race—Natick Common is early enough that the lead runners are still together, and most runners are looking strong and fresh. I try to arrive early so that, before the elite women and men run through, I can watch most of the push-rim wheelchair, handchair, and mobility impaired athletes. Each year, my appreciation for what they’re doing deepens a little bit more, even as I simultaneously become more certain that, for a true athlete, it’s far more unnatural not to do the thing you love no matter how great the challenge.
This year, like previous ones, I left the marathon feeling inspired and eager to do something. In 2010, even though I had been running for about a year, I knew I needed to start racing again. In the three years that followed, I’ve had events events to look forward to, and the marathon gets my competitive juices flowing. Over the last few years there’s been a growing feeling inside of me that I want to run this race—my race, the one I’ve been watching for fifteen years, the one that everyone loves whether they run or not. Sometime last year while running the course, I started to say “yes” to the thought of a marathon as long as I someday qualified for and ran Boston. Today, as I walked back to the office, I was really eager to put my lingering cold behind me and get outdoors, to have a good run, and to get back to training.
Like last year and most of the rest, I counted the number of buses on the Mass Pike between the I-495 and Natick exits on my way to work. There were 95, including the police-escorted VIP bus. I like seeing those flashing lights, because I love the idea that (for at least one day) elite athletes are treated like the extraordinarily talented, hard-working people that they are.
Like last year, I had some great conversations while waiting for the elite runners to arrive. This year, instead of being with complete strangers, I hung out with some of my coworkers. Five people from my group showed up, including Mr. 2:22 himself, who decided it would be nice to be with us this year instead of right downtown in the midst of the action. I learned that one of my coworkers got a Southern Baptist education from pre-K to 12th grade because there were a lot of bomb threats in her part of Florida at the public schools, and her parents (both Buddhists) felt better about the odds of giving her a culture shock instead of an actual jolt.
Like most years I watched the finish of the race online at my desk since the office cafeteria crowd was deep into the Red Sox baseball game, and I’ve fought the battle before to switch from the Sox game to the marathon and just barely made it out alive.
But this year, as we all know, was a little different.
Around 1:00 a coworker from another group called to ask if one of my peeps was running Boston this year. He had taken the day off to go down to the finish and hadn’t seen him come through yet. No, I said, he watched the race with us from Natick.
Later in the afternoon, a couple of coworkers stopped by, interrupting a code review, and nervously asked if I had heard about the “explosion at the marathon finish.” Surely it was just an electrical explosion in a manhole or something like that, I thought, and went back to my work. After finishing the code review, I checked a slow-loading news site, and couldn’t believe what I was seeing. When Lisa called a bit later and asked if all my coworkers were okay, I got choked up for the first time, thinking about what might have happened to them and to the other people I know who watched the marathon at different places on the route or were running it (including Pat, my swim peep).
On the commute home I watched all of the unmarked cars and special detail units with their flashing blue lights speed down the turnpike toward Boston in a bizarro inversion of my drive into the office nine hours earlier.
I really needed to go for a bike ride or a run when I got home. Even if it couldn’t help me make sense of what happened, it would at least clear my head or wear me out enough to not think about it for a while. But I knew that getting “worn out” was exactly what I didn’t need to do while recovering from this cold, which seems to be about 80% better, so I took it easy and got to work downloading and editing my photos from the race.
As I was looking at the photographs I realized something quite vividly. Regardless of who did this and why, it won’t change a thing about how deeply marathon fans love this race. Even though most of us will probably never run it, it’s our race. It’s my race.
Seeing the vans full of SWAT police in the past hasn’t ever made think twice about why they’re part of the event preparations and decide that I want to stay indoors on a glorious spring day (or even a miserably cold and drizzly one for that matter) to watch the race. And today, when I saw the SUV full of bomb squad officers drive by ahead of the elite runners, it didn’t change an iota about how much I loved the race or whether I want to be part of it some day. Just as I’m sure that, despite the actual bombings, there will be just as many people working their hardest to attain a coveted Boston qualifying time or raising as much money as they can to justify their charity entry.
This race—the oldest marathon in North America—has been run 117 times and will be run again. We love this race because of its history and because it tells us something about ourselves. New Englanders are flinty, contrarian, history-bound, and stubborn. This is probably the surest way to make sure that the marathon will be held long after humanity has given up on the idea of competitive road running. I mean, just think about it: The marathon happens on the Monday closest to the anniversary of the Battle of Lexington and Concord, an event steeped in the notion that a free people choose not to live under threat of coercion or fear and the belief that our nation is what we actively make it.
Someday, hopefully soon, we’ll know more about what happened today and why. As a result, we will grow and adapt. But our love for this race and this day will never be diminished.
(Image from Eknath Gomphotherium)
This post is for the hypochondriacs out there. You’re welcome.
Lisa says the high-pitched, continuous ringing in my ears that I mostly hear in quiet environments (or like right now when I listen for it) isn’t normal. She says it’s tinnitus.
I had always assumed everyone filled the usual background with some sound, but evidently that’s just something that I do. Well, me and 50 million other Americans. It’s not like it’s new—it’s just new to Lisa. As long as I can remember, that’s the way the world has been, and (thankfully) it doesn’t really bother me. I hear perfectly well—touch wood—although it is a really unfortunate pitch.
What causes tinnitus? WebMD gives a laundry list of causes that range from the obvious to the mundane: everything from having a loud profession, listening to loud music, aging, and head trauma to aspirin, ear infections or blockages, and something called “ostosclerosis,” which I can only assume is caused by putting fatty, cholesterol-rich foods in your ears.
Oh, and it’s associated with a whole host of other medical conditions, including a couple that I have: allergies, anemia, and (you guessed it) diabetes.
What a crazy thing is this human body.
p.s. — I promise I’ll tell you about the half-marathon I ran a week ago really, really soon. Promise.
We can close the books on January:
Plus, one shoulder injury that had me away from the pool for a week. (More about that later.)
This “48 Questions” thing is making the rounds. I saw it over at Scully’s place and thought I’d get in on the action. Because I just wanted to copy and paste and do this over my lunch hour, I left all of the cute Canadian spellings and KANYE-STYLE ALL CAPS in place.
Away we go!
1. WERE YOU NAMED AFTER ANYONE?
Yes. I was named after one of the 12 apostles. (My brother was merely named after a saint, but his guy would have totally been an apostle if he hadn’t been martyred too soon. All that’s moot, though, since my evangelic father thought sainthood was heretical.) My mom liked my middle name better, so they officially changed my name when I was very young.
2. WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU CRIED?
After the Sandyhook school shooting, I think.
3. DO YOU LIKE YOUR HANDWRITING?
When I try to write nicely I do, but not most of the time. My Greek is very pretty.
4. WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE LUNCH MEAT?
5. DO YOU HAVE KIDS?
I have a cat…
6. IF YOU WERE ANOTHER PERSON, WOULD YOU BE FRIENDS WITH YOU?
I dunno. That Jeff Mather fellow doesn’t make friends easily.
7. DO YOU USE SARCASM A LOT?
Pfft. No. Never. Seriously.
8. DO YOU STILL HAVE YOUR TONSILS?
Yes . . . dammit.
9. WOULD YOU BUNGEE JUMP?
Yes, but only from a bridge . . . in Africa . . . over Victoria Falls.
10. WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE CEREAL?
Kellogg’s Fiber+Antioxidants Berry Yogurt Crunch.
11. DO YOU UNTIE YOUR SHOES WHEN YOU TAKE THEM OFF?
Yes, almost always.
12. DO YOU THINK YOU ARE STRONG?
Yes. Not super strong, but strong enough.
13. WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE ICE CREAM?
J.P. Licks makes a fantastic cranberry white chocolate cheesecake ice cream flavor every December. I would
kill unintentionally wound for some right now.
14. WHAT IS THE FIRST THING YOU NOTICE ABOUT PEOPLE?
Whether they seem happy.
15. RED OR PINK?
16. WHAT IS THE LEAST FAVOURITE THING ABOUT YOURSELF?
17. WHO DO YOU MISS THE MOST?
Lisa, when she’s not around, and my mom the rest of the time. Also my DBFF and my favorite coworker who moved to California a year ago.
18. WHAT IS THE TECHNIQUE THAT YOU NEED TO WORK ON THE MOST?
Getting shit done.
19. WHAT COLOUR SHOES ARE YOU WEARING?
20. WHAT WAS THE LAST THING YOU ATE?
A pastrami sandwich, Greek yoghurt, and a Jazz apple. (75 carbs)
21. WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO RIGHT NOW?
A (recorded) live set of three songs by Bomba Estéreo: “Feelin,’” “Huepajé,” and “Juana.”
22. IF YOU WERE A CRAYON, WHAT COLOUR WOULD YOU BE?
23. FAVOURITE SMELLS?
The Ashland Reservoir.
24. HOW IMPORTANT ARE YOUR POLITICAL VIEWS TO YOU?
They’re an integral part of who I am. I don’t like imposing them on other people, but I hate it when people try to marginalize or dismiss them.
25. MOUNTAIN HIDEAWAY OR BEACH HOUSE?
Beach house, probably, but I like that Cairns in Australia had both.
26. FAVOURITE SPORTS TO WATCH?
Cycling, triathlon, track and field, road running, swimming, ice hockey, and . . . cycling. Did I mention cycling?
27. HAIR COLOUR?
Brown with red and grey highlights.
28. EYE COLOUR?
One is blue; the other is hazel.
29. DO YOU WEAR CONTACTS?
Not since third grade.
30. FAVOURITE FOOD?
Cheesecake or Comte cheese.
31. SCARY MOVIES OR HAPPY ENDINGS?
None of the above. Give me a non-scary movie with a complicated ending.
32. LAST MOVIE YOU WATCHED?
In the theatre: “Zero Dark Thirty,” which I think would make a really good book. At home: the original version of “Red Dawn,” which probably sucked in 1984, too.
33. WHAT COLOUR SHIRT ARE YOU WEARING?
Beige shirt, red argyle sweater.
34. SUMMER OR WINTER?
Summer, for sure. Long days, warm temperatures, snow-free roads, 6-hour bike rides . . . what’s not to love?
35. FAVOURITE DESSERT?
See #13 and #30 above.
36. STRENGTH TRAINING OR CARDIO?
I prefer cardio/endurance workouts, but I love the sense of accomplishment I get after strength-focused interval running or swimming.
37. COMPUTER OR TELEVISION?
Both! I like to maximize my time-wasting potential. See #18 above.
38. WHAT BOOK ARE YOU READING NOW?
Phil Southerland’s Not Dead Yet, which I have subtitled “Fuck you, Lance! This is what a truly inspiring cyclist looks like.” I’m also working my way through The Ultimate French Grammar Review and Practice.
39. WHAT IS ON YOUR MOUSE PAD?
40. FAVOURITE SOUND?
41. FAVOURITE GENRE OF MUSIC?
There’s too much music to pick one kind, so I pick ALL of them (except praise/contemporary Christian).
42. WHAT IS THE FARTHEST YOU HAVE BEEN FROM HOME?
Alice Springs, Australia. You can only get a couple thousand miles farther away from where I live and still be on this Earth.
43. DO YOU HAVE A SPECIAL TALENT?
I’ll let people who are more objective about me answer that question.
44. WHERE WERE YOU BORN?
Des Moines, Iowa
45. WHERE ARE YOU LIVING NOW?
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts
46. WHAT COLOUR IS YOUR HOUSE?
47. WHAT COLOUR IS YOUR CAR?
One car is black. The other is grey. The one I’m driving is the one that’s closer to the street in our driveway.
48. DO YOU LIKE ANSWERING 48 QUESTIONS?
Yes, but why not add a couple more and go for a nice round 50?
As you probably already know, I’m a big fan of francophone music. It’s my guilty indulgence. When I discovered that Victoria also is a fan, I knew I had to bring her a few CDs. I started making them after Lisa and my first trip to Paris to give myself something extra to listen to in the car.
Victoria has been waiting patiently since the JDRF ride for the track listings. Well, here they are! (BTW, I accidentally swapped the titles on two of them, and I think the listings here match them, but if something seems wrong, it probably is.)
Paris, Je t’aime
Je Me Souviens
La coupe de feu
Intoxiqué par chocolat
De Vegas à Reno
I originally wrote this post last Friday night and then, in a moment of doubt on Saturday morning, unpublished it. It wasn’t that I didn’t completely believe in the argument; I just wanted to make sure that it was the kind of thing I wanted to appear on this site. It is.
I try not to get political here very often.  But I cannot contain myself today. I am angry and heartbroken by the massacre of twenty schoolchildren and six adults in Connecticut. I think about the topic of gun violence every time there’s a gun-related mass-casualty incident, and it feels like I’ve been thinking about it a lot in recent years. Today, though . . . I just do not understand how it’s possible to perpetrate such a horrific act on such a scale. However, I do know that it would not have happened without a gun as part of the equation, and I think it’s about time we did something radical with guns.
Before you dismiss me as a knee-jerk, Eastern liberal, you should know that there were handguns in my house when I was a teenager. I shot one of them twice with my stepfather, as part of a “there are now guns in the house, and this is why you should leave them alone” campaign. After the first shot we realized that I had really good aim, despite only having one good eye. The second shot took me completely by surprise, and I dropped the gun out of fright. I can still see the damage done from the first shot, and I won’t ever forget the fear-turned-embarassment of the second. Of course, on one other occasion the same gun almost featured tragically in a situation I would rather forget.
Despite all that, in the past I was deeply opposed to gun control. In fact, on my college debate team, I twice argued passionately in favor of a right to keep guns and use them for hunting and self-defense and as a means of preventing tyranny. (Yes, I actually bought into that paranoid, militia-esque belief that a well-armed citizenry was all that kept us from a totalitarian hell state. That was a long time ago.) I believed that private gun ownership made sense in sparsely populated rural areas (like Wyoming) where everyone was a law unto himself as well as in crime-riddled urban areas (i.e., everywhere that wasn’t Wyoming).
Time has passed and now I can only see those beliefs as outdated and immature. Sure, guns can prevent some crime—and hunting, however you feel about it, is a different beast altogether—but firearms contribute to so many deaths and violent crimes. They are fundamentally different from other kinds of weapons in their ability to indiscriminately cause damage from a distance. I find it hard to justify handgun possession, since in my mind they are scaled down weapons of mass destruction. With the carnage they caused today, how can they not be thought of in the same class as WMDs?
I am tired of gun violence apologists—and let’s face it, that’s what they are—saying, “Oh, well, it’s just an isolated incident and the act of a deranged mind. We can’t prevent against this kind of event.” Not so. All of these tragedies may be uncoordinated, but there is a sine qua none that binds them together: the gun. How many repeats of the same tragedy must we have before we do something about guns? How many murders, attempted murders, and assaults do gun (ab)users have to commit before we say the consequences outweigh the supposed “benefits” of private gun ownership?
Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not suggesting that most (or even a small percentage) of gun owners are just a hair’s breadth away from homicide. But I do think most guns have only two purposes: either to project the intimidating possibility of violence to all within the bullet’s range or to actually inflict harm on another person. It’s perfectly possible to own a gun responsibly and never use it, and it’s possible to use a gun in order to prevent harm to others, but this is not how most guns in this country (when used) are used. Moreover, the magnitude of gun ownership in this country has a corrosive effect on the overall safety and well-being of everyone in the US, as we saw from today’s events.
I’m not an originalist when it comes to Constitutional interpretation—nor am I a judge—but I understand the late 18th century point of view on this issue. Guns were in the culture in post-Revolutionary America and were used during Shay’s Rebellion out in western Massachusetts (1787) and the Whiskey Rebellion of 1791 by both the groups seeking to oppose tyranny/taxation and the militias that were used to put down the anti-state insurrections. Frontier violence was a fact of life, even though the presence of guns contributed to its worst abuses. (Well, guns and liquor together really.) Hunting was also a part of life for a large number of people. (And don’t forget the fear of slave revolts.)
Times are different now. The Civil War pretty much settled the issue of how dangerous state militias can be, and the idea of private gun ownership preventing a tyrannical government with a well-trained standing army from taking away our liberties—given some far-fetched dystopian scenario where it actually wanted to—is laughable. Furthermore, handguns and assault-style weapons create a much different gun environment than even 100 years ago.
The second amendment no longer protects American citizens by providing a framework for well-regulated gun ownership and/or militias. It provides a cudgel to prevent responsible regulation of firearms. The amendment has outlived its usefulness.
It’s time to repeal the second amendment. Remove the pretext of gun ownership and/or citizen militias as a Constitutional necessity for the preservation of individual liberties and happiness, and in its absence let the people decide how much and what kind of gun restrictions we really want. I will likely come down differently than you do, but in a democracy we should all have a voice in the decisions about the kind of society we live in. Different jurisdictions should be able to tailor gun laws to the needs of their populations.
The current Supreme Court has shown that there cannot be meaningful gun control in this country while the second amendment is in force and while Congress has a pathological inability to enact sensible regulation on its own. If, after a horrific tragedy like what occurred in Connecticut today, we can’t figure out a way to change the gun culture that exists in the United States so that it protects people, we never will. Something has to give on the second amendment; either we abandon our fetishistic attachment to it as an idea that prevents any meaningful gun regulation, or the entire amendment has to go. The blood of those killed in the next “isolated incident” will be on our hands.
1 — I occasionally write about healthcare economics here. It’s an issue that I don’t feel should be politicized, but sadly it is. Affordable healthcare is important to me, and I feel the problems about access to it are totally solvable, even if it’s going to be difficult to do. [back . . .]
Some time ago I heard a lecture that touched on language a bit. Timothy Ferriss stated that you need to be comfortable with about 1,200 words of vocabulary to have conversational fluency. (This isn’t just conjecture. There’s some evidence that if you know 1,000 lexemes in Spanish, you can understand almost 90% of spoken conversation.)
Ferriss also said that the Rosetta Stone model of pretending that you don’t know anything about a language or “language” in general—learning like a child does—is crap. We have a lot of linguistic context to draw on as people who possess one or more languages already, and we should use that knowledge to accelerate learning a new language. This rings true to me; I’ve had some success with a Rosetta Stone course, but I find the process of learning how to put sentences together with its method so slow. He suggests learning a new language with explicit reference to one that you already know. Obviously you need to leave enough wiggle room for idioms and the ideas behind expressions, but most language isn’t very complicated.
One other very intriguing suggestion was to use the acquisition of a new language to strengthen another language that you previously learned (but which isn’t your native tongue). I decided to try this with my Spanish class and have been taking my notes, which are mostly just vocabulary lists, in French.
The instructor holds most of the lecture in Spanish, although lately more English has been seeping in as the concepts are getting a little more complicated. (And several people still have trouble with one of the first verbs we learned). At first, it was very difficult to hear the Spanish word and an English translation or explanation and then write down a French phrase. One of my notes from the first day said exactly that: «C’est assez difficile d’écrire en français, écouter l’anglais, et étudier l’espagnol.» Gradually that’s getting easier, too.
I’m kind of amazed at how well it’s working out. For the most part I can make a very accurate translation of this intro-level Spanish vocabulary in French. It probably helps that Spanish and French share so many words. (It almost feels like cheating.) Writing out sentences about grammar is a little trickier, since my French is better at describing things and events than abstract concepts, but eventually I get there, too. On just a few occasions, I’ve had to write an English word or phrase [in brackets] as a placeholder until I could get an answer from Google Translate about a proper Spanish to French translation.
Two words that surprised me that I didn’t know? The color-modifying adjectives “oscuro” and “claro.” It turns out the words for “dark” and “light” are “sombre” and “claire,” which I could have totally gotten in the context of a sentence . . . clearly just not from the dark recess of my mind.
That and “lazy.” Perhaps it’s good that my high school French classmates and I didn’t hear the word “paresseux” often enough from our teacher to know instantly that it was the proper translation for “perezoso.”
This post has been sitting in my “Drafts” folder for a very long time. Today seems like a good day to dust it off and finish it, since I want to post something but lack the mental energy to actually write anything new. More tomorrow. . . .
I was talking to a friend
recently a while back about “In the Mood for Love,” my favorite film. Set in Hong Kong in the 60s, it’s the story of two neighbors—played by Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung—whose lives intersect in complicated ways. While there’s not a lot of dialogue or plot, the film unfolds slowly and beautifully. By the end of the film, you feel as though you fully understand what the characters are thinking and feeling and the kind of choices that they will or won’t make. Perhaps it’s most accurate to say it’s part of a lifetime of artistic work by Wong Kar-Wai on the theme of memory and choices.
There’s an important scene in the film about secrets where one of the lead characters whispers a secret into the knot of a tree and then covers it over with mud. We’re left to wonder what the secret was (in the film it could be one of a couple choices based on your outlook on life and hopes for the characters) and whether telling it (but to no one in particular) actually frees the character from the burden.
As a man with few secrets, it’s an intriguing question: Is it really possible to unburden yourself by telling a secret into a black hole? (BTW, when I saw Kerri’s post about a diabetes version of PostSecret, I immediately thought of this scene from the film.)
Supposing that you liked that, but still aren’t sure whether you want to sit through two-plus hours of some of the most beautiful filmmaking ever, here are a pair of compilations of scenes from the film—a sort of art-house musical montage/homage, if you will.
Have any of you, my dear readers, seen this film? Any Wong Kar-Wai fans out there? Let me know what you think. And what are your thoughts about secrets. If a secret is something you tell another person, is it as liberating if you anonymously tell the universe or no one in particular?
There’s been a lot going on in my life, but little of it is important enough on its own to warrant a full post. And the big stuff is all really big. Perhaps if I write about all of the small stuff at once . . .
Insulin: I got a phone call earlier today from my mother-in-law who is helping clean up her late father‘s and step-mother’s house. Turns out, he had type-2 diabetes (which I knew) and was on insulin (which no one seemed to know). The phone call I got was to answer the question, “How do you dispose of insulin?”
I had to think about it for a moment because my normal way of disposing of insulin is to use it all up in my pump. And when the vial is empty, I just add it to my ever-growing hoarding / art project. I had to think back to what I did on the rare times when a vial wasn’t empty before I started keeping them all, and I couldn’t really remember. So what to do? It’s not a control substance. It’s not something people abuse. It has a short shelf life. It’s not going to pollute the groundwater or landfill. The containers aren’t dangerous.
A quick check of Google supported my suspicions: “I think it’s okay to just throw the open vials away. It’s just kind of a foreign concept to me.”
Español: Tonight, I’m starting an eight-week “Introduction to Spanish” community education class. “¿Por qué?” you might ask. Well, several reasons:
A Brand New Car: In tangentially related news, we bought a new car last weekend. The 2013 Hyundai Elantra is our first car purchase in almost eight years, and it replaces our 2003 Honda Civic Hybrid. It was the only car in the intersection of all our requirements:
It turns out those last two were difficult to satisfy. It’s possible to find lots of cars with more amenities and extras than our Civic; just don’t ask for anything better than 25-30 MPG without going super-compact. The Elantra certainly isn’t going to be mistaken for an Audi or BMW, but it has nice styling, leather seats, a sunroof, iPod/iPhone integration, Bluetooth, and XM radio.
Which brings me to this morning’s commute, my first with the new car. I spent the whole drizzly, slow drive listening to the top 40 countdown of Canadian francophone music. It was pretty awesome, but I think it—along with the iPod integration—is going to slow down my CD project.
A-Z backwards: Since the end of last year, I’ve been working my way backward through our CD collection, from Zydeco to Abba. It’s taken slightly longer than I’d expected, and I blame U2 and Bruce Springsteen for that. Turns out, we didn’t have many of the early Springsteen or U2 CDs. So I kind of (accidentally) doubled the number that we had of each. Oops!
(Of course, I spent a couple of weeks not listening to Van Halen’s greatest hits album, “Best of Both Worlds.” I eventually summoned the courage to do it, but it almost made me quit. Part of what I wanted to do with the project was find the hidden treasures that aren’t on my iPod, to enjoy what I already own, and to listen really closely to the lyrics and styles of the artists in our collection. Let me just say that we while Lisa and I have a lot of overlap in our tastes, we’re definitely two different music lovers. And there’s no double-entendre worse than an 80s hair-band double-entendre.)
But I did make it through all of the Springsteen and U2 albums (and a whole lot of others) and am currently hanging out with my (previously mentioned) Lebanese-Colombian girl, who until recently held the distinction of having more concert albums in our collection than studio recordings. That’s no longer the case. Anyway . . .
I noticed some interesting things about Springsteen. His earliest work is not to my liking at all. It was all knock-off Dylan with blue-collar lyrics about girls and cars and beaches. There were some gems in there, especially when the E Street Band got really rocking, but it wasn’t until Reagan came along and he got introspective or righteously angry about the working man’s plight and sufferings in love that I started to really like him. To my tastes, he alternates between some of the most soulful music ever made and the most banal. Oh, you can say whatever you want about my fastidiousness, but Bruce had some real duds after “The Rising.” (For example, “Devils & Dust” and “Working on a Dream” were not my cup of tea. Not at all.) But, taken as a whole he’s just an amazing songwriter and band leader.
The Beatles: Eventually I’ll get to The Beatles and probably make Sir Paul McCartney a bit of extra cash, but I listened to my first two Beatles albums a few months ago. Ever. I know, I know. It’s like admitting illiteracy. And I knew I was culturally slacking for several years beforehand, but I just couldn’t figure out where to start. Somehow when it came time to pick an initial foray, I started at the end with “Let It Be” and “Abbey Road.” This wasn’t intentional, but it was enlightening. The group broke up before I was born, and I know that a lot of people (including my father) blamed Yoko for it, but I’ve always thought that sounded like a convenient bit of misogyny. If you listen to their later albums—which have some really good songs on them—they are all over the place. Four songs, four writers/arrangers, and four different sounds. In my mind they were a Liverpudlian Wu-Tang Clan, getting together to make music between solo gigs; they just didn’t know they’d broken up yet.
Apples: I’ve been eating a lot of apples lately. (This is a very random post, isn’t it?) I’m not sure why, except that one day I was picking up something at Stop and Shop on the way home from work, and I could tell that I was going to have low blood sugar soon if I didn’t eat. An apple sounded just right, and I felt adventurous, so I bought a Honeycrisp, and (to paraphrase Robert Frost) that has made all the difference. This was a big gamble, since I dislike certain varieties, but I can say without a doubt that Honeycrisp has joined Granny Smith in the apple pantheon. Also delicious are Cortland, Braeburn, and Empire. I found Royal Joburn and McIntosh a little disappointing. The jury is still out on Fuji and Gala.
How about you? What is your favorite apple variety?