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October 15, 2013 — 1 Comment

Today I did something I hardly ever get to do anymore: I went to a store and bought physical music. Not at an actual record store, because I don’t think those really exist. But I wanted to do something enjoyable and real, and so I wanted to buy a couple of CDs and take them home and unwrap them and look at the liner notes and place the CD into the tray and then hit play and turn the music up loud.

I made it about halfway through Paul McCartney’s new album before I fell asleep. That’s not a knock on the new songs; it’s pretty good, actually. No, I was just exhausted. All I did last night was violently toss and turn in my bed, and only had a few hours of uninterrupted sleep, if that. So I had a short nap after work, if you can even call it that. I still remember listening to the whole album, and even noted when a new song came on, but all I did was sleepily wonder, “Is that the nostalgic song he wrote about being a kid in Liverpool?”

(I love Paul, but you can’t swing a dead cat around one of his albums without coming across a song describing his early days, more often than not “with John,” because he seems to feel people will turn on him if he doesn’t constantly look back and make semi-fond recollections about life with John. But hardly ever George, which is a darn shame. George was the best.)

But now here I go waxing nostalgic about buying physical music and about how it’s all changing and nothing’s the same. Well, yes and no. I probably buy most of my music off iTunes now (legally, I might add, to any students out there who think it’s okay to just steal it off the Internet.) Due to budget reasons, I’ve spent most of the past year listening to music on Spotify. I at least pay for the premium service, but I know barely any money goes to the artists. Maybe Sir Paul doesn’t have to worry about new money coming in, but other, smaller bands do, if they want to survive. So listen up, members of The Head and the Heart: I bought your CD too.

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I felt like honoring ritual today, knowing that I won’t have much time left to enjoy it. We’ve gotta be in the final years of buying physical CDs, right? Or will they (and vinyl, and cassettes, even) trudge along, available for those who want them? The days of browsing record stores are long dead, and even places like Best Buy are down to barely anything decent. And it’s the same with bookstores, and I know I’m not saying anything original or revelatory. They’re just rituals that I enjoyed, and it’s something enjoyable from my younger days. Back when a drive from Peoria to Madison, Wisconsin, just to look for Pogues or Smiths imports was a day of fun. Now it’s all on the internet, everything you could ever want to listen to, and none of it has the meaning like something sought for long and hard, and then found. No. It’s just not the same.

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I’m tired, folks. I’m tired of having this cough for the fourth week now, tired of being unable to sleep like a real person. Tired of only wanting to stay home and surround myself with those hunted-down books and movies because I’m too worn-out and broke to do anything else. Tired of not feeling like I’m alive. Which is an awful thing to say, as too many people I know are in real fights for their lives. Too, too many people.

*   *   *

The new album by The Head and the Heart is great, though.

Time to grade a Math test.

UPDATED: I’ve listened to this whole album now, and I’m a bit underwhelmed. Maybe I just need to give it a few more listens…

ANOTHER UPDATE: My copy, courtesy of Target, had three extra songs on it that Target didn’t, for only a dollar more than iTunes. Physical media!

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Passengers

August 16, 2012 — 4 Comments

One of the first things I did after arriving in Ireland was head out to Galway, one of my favorite cities. I first visited Ireland exactly ten years ago, and Galway was the city that made me fall in love with this place.

I had a ticket to see Sigur Ros play as part of the Galway Arts Fest, but unfortunately, they canceled at the last minute to continue work on their () album. I still had a fine time in Galway, and it’s a city I return to again and again. It’s a big “small town”, easily navigable, full of great restaurants and pubs, and you can waste a day just walking along the bay.

So after a miserable week in my (first) apartment in Dublin, I decided I needed to get out of town and be a tourist again. (I’ll tell the whole story of that disastrous first place another time.) I wanted to ride a train for a few hours, and I wanted a nice hotel room with decent wifi, and I wanted to catch some of the theatre going on at the 2012 Galway Arts Fest, to remind myself why I was here.

I also wanted to see Lisa Hannigan live.

My students may remember me playing her in class this past spring. A LOT. She’s been my latest musical obsession for the past nine months or so, and I had missed her three times up to this point.

So after wandering around Galway and Salthill for a few days, watching street performers and fringe theatre from college kids, and eating at my favorite restaurants, I caught the lovely Irish singer Lisa Hannigan on a warm summer evening in July. And the lyrics to “Passenger” once again gave me something to think about:

Walking round Chicago,
I have smuggled you as cargo,
though you are far away unknowing.
By the time we get to Salt Lake
I have packed you in my suitcase,
ironed the creases from my own remembering.

It’s a song about the things you can’t leave behind as you move from one thing to another. And while it’s exciting and different and (most of the time) a lot of fun being here in Dublin, I haven’t left everything and everyone behind. My friends and family, my students and my performers. They are with me in spirit, and I keep them close. You were all passengers in my suitcase.