“Enough about me – what do you think about me”

So a few complicated points I have to make in regards to Hurricane Katrina and the reaction and coverage of it.

How come every local news report has to have the local spin of the hurricane? “How will it affect our weather?” or local people trapped type of coverage. Are we so self-absorbed that we cannot comprehend human tragedy and suffering without it directly relating to ourselves? This is why I can’t stand the local news in the United States (I’m assuming that elsewhere it’s better, but who cares – here it stinks). They are not worried about the news just the ratings, and all their stories are designed to grab ratings.

If you do decide to watch the local news – you will surely see stories about the gas prices and the spike. (Again, we must do stories on how it affects everyone else). I am disgusted with speculation and profiteering. The stories say that the oil companies are “worried”; this is corporate speak for “time to make more money”. Nothing sells like crisis and fear especially in corporate America. The cost of gas that is currently at your gas station shouldn’t cost anymore than it did yesterday but yet the cost did go up drastically overnight as if it is pumped directly from New Orleans . I’m sure there is a relationship, but for gas that will get to our pumps in a month. Of course this is true about all of gas prices ever since 9/11. The oil companies have found the best marketing tool ever.

All this takes away though from what everyone in the affected area is experiencing. The man to the left is not upset at the loss of life in the south – no he’s angry at the loss of dollars in his account. (I love seeing the pictures of the angry stock traders in their $1,000 suits until I realize that their only recourse to replace the money lost this week is to screw the normal person).

How about this? If the extra money that is being charged this week finds its way to the people that have lost their lives, homes, possessions, or jobs – I won’t complain. Something tells me that isn’t going to happen.

Music snobs unite

I am a self-professed music snob. My girlfriend Kristen accuses me of this all the time (generally when I cringe at something playing on her iPod). So when a friend sent me this article I sat reading it and nodding my head. It’s a long read, but worth it.

by Michael Crowley
Post date: 08.24.05
Issue date: 09.05.05

Since the dawn of rock, there have been individuals, usually young men, of argumentative tendencies who have lorded their encyclopedic musical knowledge over others.” So states the introduction of the recent Rock Snob’s Dictionary, compiled by David Kamp and Steven Daly. I like to believe I’m not the insufferable dweeb suggested by this definition. Certainly, much of the dictionary’s obscure trivia (former Television bassist Richard Hell is now a novelist; Norwegian death metal stars actually murder one another) is news to me. But I do place an unusual, perhaps irrational, value on rock music. I take considerable pride in my huge collection and carefully refined taste. And I consider bad rock taste–or, worse, no rock taste at all–clear evidence of a fallow soul. I am, in other words, a certified Rock Snob. But I fear that Rock Snobs are in grave danger. We are being ruined by the iPod.

While the term “Rock Snob” has a pejorative ring, the label also implies real social advantages. The Rock Snob presides as a musical wise man to whom friends and relatives turn for opinions and recommendations; he can judiciously distribute access to various rare and exotic prizes in his collection. “Oh my God, where did you find this?” are a Rock Snob’s favorite words to hear. His highest calling is the creation of lovingly compiled mix CDs designed to dazzle their recipients with a blend of erudition, obscurity, and pure melodic dolomite. Recently, I unearthed a little-known cover of the gentle Gram Parsons country classic “Hickory Wind,” bellowed out by Bob Mould and Vic Chestnutt, which moved two different friends to tears. It was Rock Snob bliss.

In some ways, then, the iPod revolution is a Rock Snob’s dream. Now, nearly all rock music is easily and almost instantly attainable, either via our friends’ computers or through online file-sharing networks. “Music swapping” on a mass scale allows my music collection to grow larger and faster than I’d ever imagined. And I can now summon any rare track from the online ether.

But there’s a dark side to the iPod era. Snobbery subsists on exclusivity. And the ownership of a huge and eclectic music collection has become ordinary. Thanks to the iPod, and digital music generally, anyone can milk various friends, acquaintances, and the Internet to quickly build a glorious 10,000-song collection. Adding insult to injury, this process often comes directly at the Rock Snob’s expense. We are suddenly plagued by musical parasites. For instance, a friend of middling taste recently leeched 700 songs from my computer. He offered his own library in return, but it wasn’t much. Never mind my vague sense that he should pay me some money. In Rock Snob terms, I was a Boston Brahmin and he was a Beverly Hillbilly–one who certainly hadn’t earned that highly obscure album of AC/DC songs performed as tender acoustic ballads but was sure to go bragging to all his friends about it. Even worse was the girlfriend to whom I gave an iPod. She promptly plugged it into my computer and was soon holding in her hand a duplicate version of my 5,000-song library–a library that had taken some 20 years, thousands of dollars, and about as many hours to accumulate. She’d downloaded it all within five minutes. And, a few months later, she was gone, taking my intimate musical DNA with her.

I’m not alone in these frustrations. “Even for a recovering Rock Snob, such as myself,” Steven Daly told me, “it’s a little disturbing to hear a civilian music fan boast that he has the complete set of Trojan reggae box-sets on his iPod sitting alongside 9,000 other tracks that he probably neither needs nor deserves.” It’s true: Even if music leeches don’t fully appreciate, or even listen to, some of the gems they so effortlessly acquire, we resent them anyway. One friend even confessed to me in an e-mail that “I have been known to strip the iTunes song information off mix CDs just to keep the Knowledge secret.”

But resistance is futile. Even the Rock Snob’s habitat, the record shop, is under siege. Say farewell to places like Championship Vinyl, the archetypal record store featured in Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity. “The shop smells of stale smoke, damp, and plastic dust-covers, and it’s narrow and dingy and overcrowded, partly because that’s what I wanted–this is what record shops should look like,” explains Hornby’s proprietor, Rob. Like great used bookstores, the Championship Vinyls of the world are destinations where the browsing and people-watching is half the fun. (A certain kind of young man will forever cling to the fantasy of meeting his soul mate as they simultaneously reach for the same early-era Superchunk disc.) Equally gratifying is the hunt for elusive albums in a store’s musty bins, a quest that demands time, persistence, and cunning, and whose serendipitous payoffs are nearly as rewarding as the music itself. Speaking of book-collecting, the philosopher Walter Benjamin spoke of “the thrill of acquisition.” But, when everything’s instantly available online, the thrill is gone.

Benjamin also savored the physical element of building a collection–gazing at his trophies, reminiscing about where he acquired them, unfurling memories from his ownership. “The most profound enchantment for the collector is the locking of individual items within a magic circle in which they are fixed,” he said. But there’s nothing magic about a formless digital file. I even find myself nostalgic for the tape-trading culture of Grateful Dead fans–generally scorned in the Rock Snob world–who used to drive for hours in their VW vans to swap bootleg concert tapes. My older brother still has a set of bootleg tapes he copied from a friend some 20 years ago during a California bike trip. Having survived global travels from Thailand to Mexico, the tapes have acquired an almost totemic quality in his mind. I feel the same way about certain old CDs, whose cases have become pleasantly scuffed and weathered during travels through multiple dorm rooms and city apartments but still smile out at me from their shelves like old friends. Soon our collections will be all ones and zeroes stored deep in hard drives, instantly transferable and completely unsatisfying as possessions. And we Rock Snobs will have become as obsolete as CDs themselves.

Michael Crowley is a senior editor at TNR.

Milk does a wallet bad

This from the misplaced priorities department: the Florida Marlins baseball team has suspended a batboy for 6 games because he accepted a dare from pitcher Brad Penny to drink a gallon of milk in under an hour without throwing up. This in a league where Rafael Palmeiro just received a 10 game suspension for steriods.

It’s about time that baseball address the serious backroom milk chugging going on in its league.

New Music August 2005

So many morons running their mouths this month, I’ve forgotten to actually post about music. Here’s what I’ve been listening to this month with initial impressions.

Bob Mould – Body of Song (3 out 5) Kind of an incomplete CD for me. Some of the songs work well, where too many fall flat. Some of the songs are just too produced. That said – still some killer songs. (emusic)

John Doe – Forever Hasn’t Happened Yet (3.5 stars) I’m not familiar with Doe’s work from X so forgive me. This CD was a pleasant surprise. Lots of great guest appearances (Neko Case and Kristin Hersh among others). Bluesy and rocking. (emusic)

Juliana Hatfield – Made In China (TBD) Just got this one. (emusic)

Laura Cantrall – Humming by the Flowered Vine (1 star) I’m still trying to give this one more of a chance. But I keep falling asleep. (emusic)

Martha Wainwright – Martha Wainwright (TBD) So far so good (iTunes)

My Bloody Valentine – Loveless (2 stars) – Well it’s not horrible…

New Pornographers – Twin Cinema (5 stars) – This could change as I just got this yesterday. But it’s one of those rare cds that hits it right away. I have yet to hear a bad song and most are just fucking awesome. (emusic)

Surfjan Stevens – Illinoise (4 stars) – Another rating that could change. I need to sit and listen to this one. But I’m very impressed so far. (emusic)

Sundayrunners – Sundayrunners (3.5 stars) – I want to give it more, but I need to listen more. They remind me of Turin Brakes. The songs are very catchy – I hope not too much so. Ask me again in a month.

The Von Bondies – Lack of Communication (4 stars) – So much better than the White Stripes. Maybe that’s why Jack White kicked lead singer Jason Stollsteimer’s ass. Fun, old school, bluesy rock. (emusic)

As you can see, a very good month for eMusic. The New Pornographers, Surfjan Stevens, and Von Bondies cds would be worth signing up for. If you click the banner to the left and do so, I get paid. No pressure, but I haven’t bought shoes in weeks.

Your poor, tired, and crazies

So I keep thinking about this Pat Robertson thing and have one more thing to say: if there’s any doubt why the rest of the world hates us, it’s found here. This is a man that owns his own network. Millions of people listen to him. He has hundreds of millions of dollars at his disposal, yet he’s one house short of a block. People outside of the U.S. must look at us and laugh.

Of course we elect the village idiot as president and listen to the court jester.

Maybe Pat Robertson should die

I can say that because honestly, I’m not religious. But when a so-called religious leader such as Pat Robertson calls for an assassination of another human being it is so hypocritical that I just laugh. These “people” have being essentially praying for liberal Supreme Court justices to die so that they can be filled with fascists like themselves.

(Apply these comments to the death penalty)