Spying on People with Guns

Classical Music Experiement

December 14, 2022 · File under Apropos of nothing

I performed an experiment for over a month. I’m not sure when I started but from some time in September or October through the end of November, 2022, the only thing I listened to in the car was XM station 76, Symphony Hall. The main idea was to see if I developed an appreciation.

Historically, I generally find classical music annoying. (Get a fucking drum kit.) I especially hated Mozart, so fucking twee. So at first I kept having to repress a reflex to change the station and I kept catching my hand moving on its own towards the station selector knob.

Really, there is some classical I like. I like playing pieces on guitar for example. I like Carmina Burana. I like some Satie a few few other familiar pieces. I remember someone in my college days had a cassette tape of familiar classical pieces and I kind of enjoyed that when he put it on.

Also in my college days, I tuned my clock radio to Magic 61 at 610 AM, which was a big band / vocal oldies sort of station, thinking that since I hated that shit, especially Sinatra, it’d get me out of bed. What happened though, was that I learned to really like that shit, especially Sinatra. (He was so central to the station’s programming that they had no end of sobriquettes for the guy. Francis A. Sinatra. Francis Albert. And so forth.)

So, I figured the same might occur with classical.

Classical had an uphill battle ahead of it. For one thing, I don’t drive that much. Mostly just 20 minute jaunts, a couple times a day on average, I’m guessing. These are symphonic pieces so you pretty much never hear a whole one. Also, my wife had no interest in this experiment and refused to hear that shit on longer drives.

Some stuff sounds like Bugs Bunny, some doesn’t, all of it sounds like movies. I guess what you need in movies is no drum kit.

So how did it go? Did I learn to appreciate classical music?

Yes, I did. I even think some of the Mozart is quite excellent. Now I put the station on occasionally and I have to resist the temptation to put on Symphony Hall sometimes (like to avoid subjecting other people to it). I still don’t identify as a fan of classical, and I think most of the DJs on Symphony Hall, and anyone else talking about classical, sound pretentious and irritating, and I dislike them far beyond, I’m sure, what they deserve.

I’m also embarassed to be caught listening to it, say, at the gas station. What an asshole I must seem. But I’m glad to have it added to my arsenal, along with other genres I once hated: disco, soul, big band, pop. What’s next? Modern country? Smooth jazz?


May 21, 2022 · File under Apropos of nothing

Do you remember how bad tomatoes were in the 90’s? I think they’d bred tomatoes to last longer in trucks without any regard to how they tasted. If I recall correctly, in order to make it possible to sell tomatoes all year, and survive in trucks, they would harvest them while still green and hard and flavorless. I think I remember hearing about that. Maybe there were places and situations that still had good tomatoes but they only one I knew about was growing your own.

Back in the 90’s, I used to not get tomatoes on my sandwiches and whatever because if they weren’t canned, they were bad. My wife-to-be thought I didn’t like tomatoes, but it was the opposite. I love tomatoes. Besides the fact that they weren’t worth eating in any case, I couldn’t tolerate such a travesty of what I loved so much, mealy and flavorless.

Now they’ve solved the tomato problem somehow, and you can get plenty of good ones. I’m sure there’s a podcast about it somewhere.

I started thinking about this because of an analogous situation that I forgot about while thinking about tomatoes.


March 22, 2022 · File under Apropos of nothing

I had a big night with my brother last Friday, and when I got home in the wee hours I rewatched most of Arthur (1981) (and finished up in the morning). My siblings and I quote the movie regularly and have seen it countless times, but me the fewest (I presume) because it used to be that I craved novelty in all things. Then covid and/or old age hit and now it’s all about the comfort of the familiar.

I laughed out loud, still, several times. Here’s some things I noticed this time around; spoilers, but please don’t tell me you’ve never seen it.

As everyone knows, in the latter part of the movie Dudley Moore as Arthur plays and sings Santa Claus Is Coming to Town but I was surprised to note that he also does a line or two of it earlier in the movie. I can’t remember which scene though because like I say it was the wee hours after a big night.

I like the editing; it’s tight. The scenes end when they’ve outlived their expository or entertainment value, and no need for lots of transitions that you can figure out yourself. There’s no drudgery.

It hard to credit how well Dudley Moore plays a drunk guy. Also I had the idea someone should do an amateur remake with the lead actor actually deeply drunk.

That scene at the end where Arthur walks to grandma’s car after she climbs in saying “I will never offer you this money again”. It’s a nail biter every time for me, even though I obviously know what will happen. But she’s in the car, her chauffeur has already climbed in, and there’s nothing stopping them from driving away while Arther casually staggers up through the blind spot, yet there it waits.

And the “Bitterman, do you want to double your salary?” bit makes me a little uncomfortable too. How many times has he drunkenly said that? Like the king giving a grain of wheat on the first square of the chessboard, doubling on each subsequent square, I worry both that Arther will have given away his entire $750,000,000 inheritance, and simultaneously that he’ll actually never speak to HR and effect the salary increase. If it’s one or the other, Bitterman is much more deserving of the former.

Keanu Reeves

March 1, 2022 · File under Apropos of nothing

I was thinking about Keanu Reeves as I was taking my walk today. I don’t know why I was thinking about Keanu Reeves as I was taking my walk today, but today, as I was taking my walk, I was.

I consider it a settled fact that he is not a good actor. Most of his appearances look like Keanu Reeves saying words, as opposed to an “F! B! I! Agent!” or a Victorian era person.

But then he gets cast a lot. Or did. (Does he still?) And I was thinking, today, that maybe the reason is because he’s so nice.

That also seems to be a settled fact. I’ve seen the anecdotes. He’s a very nice, thoughtful guy. Maybe he recognizes he’s not a good actor so he has an easy time keeping it real. I dunno, but when he sat on a bench and looked sad, a whole bunch of redditors felt bad for him. And can you point me to a bigger pack of general-purpose assholes than redditors?

So I’m thinking, if you’re making a movie, do you want to spend months working with Keanu Reeves, or, say, Christian Bale? Or Johnny Depp’s crazy shit? I’ll bet Timothee Chalamet is a way bigger asshole than Keanu, even if maybe he’s a nice guy on absolute terms.

Song Mysteries

October 31, 2021 · File under Apropos of nothing

I have several mostly long-standing song mysteries – songs I remember hearing, want to hear again, but that I haven’t been able to track down.

  1. Around, I’d say 2013-2015 there was an indie song by a band whose name was a list of four names, a la Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, but I don’t remember if there was an “and”, or whether there were commas. It starts (and maybe has throughout) a fast-fingered repeating guitar part. Also at least one of the names was kind of awkward, best explained by this seeming dead end: I just heard Virginia Beach by Hamilton Leithauser. It has the same sort of … wait, oh shit it’s In a Black Out by Hammilton Leithauser and Rostam. Well I’m pretty sure that was it, or anyway I’m 99% percent sure. Some of the clues I wrote and was about to write were a bit off the mark. (E.g. this was released in 2016, and I thought it was three or four different dudes’ last names) Status: Solved.

  2. Sometime between 2000 and 2005 when I was commuting a lot I heard a Spanish language rock song on the radio. I have the impression it was a Mexican or maybe Mexican-American band but not a lot of confidence in that. I don’t remember how it goes, but it rocked. It moved along in a cool way, and was fairly low-fi, and underproduced. I probably wouldn’t recognize it if I heard it again but I might appreciate it just as much and wonder if that was it. Status: Hopeless.

  3. Way back when the Cult became popular after Love (1985) was released, I heard a song by them, and it was good. I perceived it to be older than the Love album, and I assumed at the time it was from Dreamtime (1983), but it was not to be found on that album. They have older more obscure releases and I actually bought an eponymous album (1983) from when they (or just Ian Asbury and other dudes) were known as the Southern Death Cult, but it was not there either(and the production wasn’t up to the level I’d heard in the mystery song). It could be a track that didn’t make the Love album so I’m off to listen to Love (Expanded Edition) from 2009 shortly. Astbury was also in Death Cult as the words fell off the front of his band names so it’s also a todo item to listen to those tracks from 1983. I’m not at all sure it’s the song I’m looking for but if I hear something good that I don’t already know well from those sources, that’s got to be it. Status: Unsolved.

  4. Back in 1989 or 1990 I heard a song by Big Black, or maybe Rapeman, or anyway by Steve Albini, that I can still hear a piece of in my head. It’d be hard to describe in words though. I bought or heard a number of Big Black albums over the years looking for it, and never found it. I feel sure I’ll recognize it if I hear it, but perhaps I invented the whole thing in my head somehow and it doesn’t exist. I need to put in the legwork to comprehensively listen to everything on Spotify by Big Black and also see if there’s some alias I should consider. Status: Unsolved.

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