Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Records and CDs

I am in the middle (well, closer to the end, thank God) of moving across town right now. Today was my big day of going through all my records and CDs and deciding what to do with them all. I was struck by something I never really thought through. CDs suck. They are a horrible product. The shitty plastic cases break. I'd say 70% of my CD cases were broke. No matter, I just put them all in one of those binder things anyhow. Which now seems just about out of date, cuz I could as easily rip them all onto a hard drive. What would make me want to keep them would be the art, but since all the shitty ass plastic cases are broken and infuriate me every time I open them and they fall apart, I just stuck them all in a box that will go to the basement and probably never again see the light of day.

I paid probably an average of $7 each for all those CDs-- lots of new, lots of used, lots accidentally stolen but balanced out by those accidentally stolen from me.

Then my records. My records had to be winnowed. I have limited shelf space and tons of good rock, classical, and a few jazz records. I mean for real good, not just tons of Sergio Mendez or 101 Strings or stuff. These records look beautiful. The sleeves, even when worn, are often things you could hang up or frame. The most broken ones just need a little tape to keep the discs from falling out when you pick them up. The older ones have a circular halo around the record, like the back jeans pocket of a seasoned tobacco chewer or the wallet of a wishfully thinking horny young teenage boy.

I paid probably an average of $3 each for all these records-- lots of used, a few new, a few in bulk, a few individually ordered or sought after.

I'm not sure where I'm going with this. I hate to be one of those people who thinks newer stuff is shitty and older stuff is awesome. But in this case it is true. CDs are just a piece-of-shit product that got sold for way too much money and used shitty plastics that are probably filling landfills right now. When the shitty plastic cases break, the shitty plastic discs with the thin metal coat are bared to the elements, like cold, or heat, or friction, or, I don't know, air, and now lots of them won't play unless you play them on a super quick drive. Where's the super quick drive but in a computer, where you could just rip them and not have to get infuriated with the broken case in the first place.

Whereas records, you can hold them and feel the weight, you can look at the art at a reasonable size. Having to flip them engages you in the music, if you are paying close attention, or encourages multiple listens if, say, there are lots of people hanging out and someone just keeps flipping the record when it runs out. They are hard to break, hard to lose, and easy to love. I'm sure the markup on records was astronomical too, but at least the product was worth a shit. Plus isn't it true that they sent out that stuff to space for aliens to hear and they decided they better use a record since a CD might be hard to figure out? Um, plus, don't those crazy audiophiles say there is like a 7 micro-hertz band that CDs cut out but you can hear on a record, if you have a titanium needle and vacuum-sealed superconductor speaker cables?

So I guess I'm saying that, in my opinion, records are a superior product to CDs. That's all. And just to be clear that this isn't one of those knee-jerk older-is-better sort of things, let me say that I prefer DVD to VHS, and maybe even laser discs to DVD. Then again, film and projectors aren't quite as affordable and available as records and record players...

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Alaska: Fact or Fiction

It has recently come to my attention that there are those among us who don't believe in the existence of Alaska. I am outraged and propose in this modest post to prove, using the latest scientific and philosophical methods, beyond any shadow of any doubt, that this majestic state does indeed exist. The argument is circuitous and involves eyewitness accounts, false steps, red herrings, and logical brain-teasers, so bear with me, non-believers.

Postulate 12: Alaska is huge
You could fit like seven Texases in Alaska. Three of them could fit on Denali (aka Mt. McKinley) itself.

  • In the literature and maps I read about climbing "the big one," there seemed to be an almost obsessive focus on when and where to dispose of one's shit. Latrines and crevasses mostly. Each day is a struggle to get to the next place to put your shit. If you fall down a certain crevass, you will plummet into one thousand and one explorer's shits.
  • Caribou sausage tastes like kilbossa.
  • Mosquitoes have no known predators and so rule the wild. But their bites itch less than mosquitoes in the lower 48.

Sub-Argument 12b: The Tundra
Tundra comes in three exciting flavors: bog tundra, high alpine tundra, and original tundra. They say walking on tundra is like walking on bowling balls covered in something squishy which I can't remember. I found it to be like walking on circus peanuts.
  • Did you know that high alpine tundra has twice the potassium content as original tundra?
  • There is also something called the "taiga," which I can't remember what it is.
  • If you were to lay motionless in the tundra for 24 hours in the summer, you would wake up covered in lichens and mosses. These are said to give you Powers.

Philosophical interlude: The Kenai Peninsula
Kenai is an Atabaskan word that means "tons of dudes fishing." The Kenai peninsula is peninsula'd from the north by the Turnagain Arm of the Cook Inlet, so called because left turns are illegal in these waters, so if you want to turn left, you have to turn right, then turn backwards, then turn again. Perhaps it is the dizziness brought on by this local custom that first drove men south to the Homer Spit to dwell in broken old ships and discarded spires from long-closed Chldren's Palace locations along the Western seaboard. It was here that man first invented a string long enough to catch the locally preferred gigantic sea-catfish, dwelling at the bottom of the ocean where it thought it was safe.
  • My understanding is that salmon are basically trout that went out to sea and didn't come back. Except for their patented sexual perversion of swimming up a river and auto-asphyxiating in freshwater.
  • Beginners are often taken in by the so-called "Fool's Halibut," actually not a fish at all but a member of the marsupial family.

"Alaska's Playground"
Alaska bought it off craigslist for $50 from some dude in Wasilla. It was hardly used at all and would cost $69.99 new, so it is widely considered a pretty good deal.

N.B. For the purposes of this argument, the following shall be taken as axiomatic:
  • Each one of us was born with a certain form of "Fool's Bear," which we forgot when we turned one year of age, but which we can once again remember. What is your Fool's Bear? Mine is the tree stump. For many it is the rock. For others, the bush. For a few of the most unlucky, their Fool's Bear is the Bear itself, which confusion has led to not a few maulings.
  • Bears in southern Alaska come in three exciting flavors: Brown, Black, and Fool's.
  • The Fool's Bear is not a bear, even to a dyed-in-the-wool phenomenologist.
  • If a Black bear charges, you are to stand your ground and fight back, going for the eyes and nose.
  • If a Brown bear charges, you are to stand your ground, but play dead, and only fight back if it does more than just flop you around.
  • The Brown bear is also known as the Grizzly Bear, after the Brooklyn-based indie folk band.

The Muskeg
Do you like sphagnum moss? Then you'll love the Muskeg. I don't know about you, but I like my water tables high. I like decomposing muck. I love tiny little trees. I love beavers, and I love agaric mushrooms. Who am I? I am Muskeg. Hear me decompose.

Into the Wild
I liked this movie. I read a little about it, and it is a real mystery. I went with my family out to the end of the driveable part of the Stampede Trail, same place some dude dropped the main guy off and gave him some boots. It is about a ten-hour hike to the bus where this guy stayed, which I understand is still there, with a journal in there and all kinds of things left/brought by visitors. I gather that a lot of Alaskans think of it as a suicide. After all, what the dude didn't know because he didn't consult a map or anything is that the river that hemmed him in when it rose had a hand-winch crossing about a quarter of a mile from where he left that hat (in the movie), and that there were several well-stocked sort of emergency hunting cabins in the nearby woods. What I like in the movie is this new idea of how to be an explorer by forced ignorance. Since everywhere is pretty well mapped, the only way to get lost is to avoid maps. You could think of worse ways to accidentally die.

Beer and Coffee
Like the Pacific Not-As-North-and-Not-as-West, Alaska loves their nice coffee and nice beer. Even pretty far out from any bigger town, there will be drive-up little coffee huts with espresso and stuff, and every store or gas station seemed stocked with all those crazy-ass hoppy ales from Montana and Oregon. Plus there are like twelve breweries in Alaska, such as:
  • Alaska Brewing and Bottling Co in Juneau (diggin' the stout)
  • Homer Brewing Co in Homer (diggin' the bitter)
  • Silver Gulch in Fairbanks (didn't get there or taste the beer)
  • etc.

Resurrection Bay
There were some Russians out in the greater Pacific back in the day, and their boat broke, so they came down a fjord-lined inlet to the site of present day Seward. Then they fixed their boats, and it was Easter, so they called it Resurrection Bay. We went out there on a boat and it was where I saw sea lions, orcas, mountain goats, puffins, seals, a really far away humpback whale, a shitload of bald eagles, and a sea captain with TWO hooks. Seriously.

Sub-Argument 12c: Concerning the Leading Cause of Death for Mountain Goats and Dall's Sheep
It is commonly held, or at the very least held by the aforementioned two-hooked captain as well as the hippie bus driver at Polychrome Pass, that the leading cause of death for these creatures is falling off the dang mountain.

* * *


Alaska does exist, Q.E.D. So suck it, non-believers.