Icky Thump

I once told this girl in a bar that I was sav­ing the White Stripes’ final album, 2007’s Icky Thump, to lis­ten to at some point in the future just so I could have the plea­sure of lis­ten­ing to a new White Stripes album when there were no new ones. This was a bunch of years ago, it was true, and she said she was impressed with my self‐control.

Late last year I found myself in the driver’s seat in Texas late at night with a long way to go. By then I had bought the album and kept a copy stored up in the cloud, always avail­able but nev­er played and just kind of hang­ing out. I had avoid­ed even mere­ly read­ing reviews for almost a decade, but these unfa­mil­iar roads kin­da seemed like the right time, and this night the right place to pull Icky Thump down from the sky and out through the rental car speak­ers.

You know, I’ve got this playlist for songs that are not nec­es­sar­i­ly great, but when I first heard them made me go “whoa—what world did this thing come from?” (The playlist is actu­al­ly, lit­er­al­ly, titled “What world…?”) Ramm­stein, Goril­laz, Eminem, Black Flag, Mind­less Self Indul­gence, and a few oth­ers, have a track apiece on the playlist. None of the songs have that effect on me any­more, but every track was once mind‐melting stuff.

Would adding an entire album be vio­lat­ing the spir­it of the playlist?

Winamp — “feel the love”

Winamp 2.95I prob­a­bly haven’t used Winamp in a decade, but learn­ing that it’s final­ly going away for good brought it back to the top of my mind this week.

Winamp wasn’t just my pri­ma­ry digital‐music‐playing‐thing1 — like many peo­ple, it was the first thing I ever used to play MP3s.

Yes Junior, back then Win­dows Media Play­er was for CDs and WAV files, and iTunes didn’t exist yet.2

What made Winamp so awe­some? I could devote a whole post3  to the genius of Winamp skins, and things I’ve been read­ing (1, 2, 3) over­whelm­ing­ly ref­er­ence the clas­sic “whip the llama’s ass” sound clip — which, in addi­tion to being a neat lit­tle brand­ing thing, was per­ma­nent­ly imprint­ed on everyone’s mem­o­ry by being the first thing that would play after instal­la­tion.

Those were cool, but my favorite Winamp mem­o­ry is some­thing a lit­tle less… super­fi­cial, per­haps? It’s a short piece of writ­ing that long ago was fea­tured on the “About” page of winamp.com:

Con­tin­ue read­ing “Winamp — “feel the love””

  1. Until iTunes for Win­dows showed me the val­ue in hav­ing a library of files. Yeah, I know Winamp has a library fea­ture, but I nev­er used it.
  2. Oh, and by the way, MP3s were these things peo­ple used to lis­ten to before there was YouTube.
  3. And, shit, I may — Winamp was doing skeu­mor­phics before Apple did skeu­mor­phics before Apple stopped doing skeu­mor­phics.

On wishing for boredom

This is not a post about Steve Jobs. I read enough of them in the days and weeks after his death. I read in these a lot of what I already knew and learned some new stuff for sure, but one Steve quote stood out to me in Wired’s obit­u­ary:

I’m a big believ­er in bore­dom,” he told me. Bore­dom allows one to indulge in curios­i­ty, he explained, and “out of curios­i­ty comes every­thing.”

I’m not sure if I’d head this quote from him before, but it put into words some­thing that has been trou­bling me for some time: I haven’t been bored in years.

The first time I noticed this was in the mid‐2000s, and  I only real­ized part of it, and I saw it through the lens of my Inter­net usage, par­tic­u­lar­ly RSS. Even today, as the cool kids have moved on to fol­low­ing Twit­ter feeds (real­ly, talk about a step back­wards) of web­sites and blogs they find inter­est­ing, I’m still a huge fan of the no‐bullshit, user‐in‐control, decen­tral­ized pow­er of RSS.1

What occurred to me back then was that hav­ing posts pushed to me dai­ly gave me more read­ing mate­r­i­al than I need­ed. And since I could nev­er get all the way through the unread glut of posts from blogs I’d sub­scribed to, my need to ever go for­ag­ing for inter­est­ing things to read basi­cal­ly dis­ap­peared. RSS gave me tons of serendip­i­ty (thank you, linkblogs!)… and at the same time, prac­ti­cal­ly none at all. I miss the old days — some would say the bad old days — when I’d get my online enter­tain­ment and ran­dom bits of enlight­en­ment by brows­ing aim­less­ly from link to link, being per­son­al­ly point­ed to inter­est­ing things by friends on AIM, fol­low­ing lat­est links post­ed to proto‐blogs like Pix­el­sur­geon, and… I don’t know, how­ev­er else we found cool shit back then.

The sec­ond time I felt this effect of this was at some point over the last few years, but this time in a more gen­er­al sense. This time it was big­ger than RSS; this time it was about every­thing in my life.

I real­ized I have far too many options for enter­tain­ment. There are two rea­sons for this: mas­sive dig­i­tal stor­age devices and the fact that, being employed gives me an actu­al enter­tain­ment bud­get for pur­chas­ing paid media and fan­cy devices on which to expe­ri­ence it. Between a pile of unread books and bunch of e‐books; more unwatched movies, sea­sons of old TV shows and ani­me series than I can name; and games galore that I’ll nev­er fin­ish (thank you Nin­ten­do Wii and DS, Android phone and a still‐kickin’ Atari 2600), I’m pret­ty much set for… for­ev­er.2 Even if I don’t seek out any­thing new, it’ll be years and years before I get through all of this. And it’s not like I can just ignore new releas­es and stuff I become aware of in the mean­time!

I might be able to enjoy this world o’ plen­ty, if I could for­get about what life was like when I was grow­ing up, before we had the com­put­ing pow­er, stor­age and net­work capac­i­ty to expe­ri­ence all the dig­i­tal rich­es of more enter­tain­ment than we’ll ever need. I spent so much time being bored grow­ing up, aim­less­ly think­ing and day­dream­ing and such. This was before my first com­put­er; I had tons of books and had prob­a­bly read almost all of them, made good use of the pub­lic library, played with toys, action fig­ures and stuff a whole lot and still found time to be bored and day­dream because it seemed like I had run out of things to do.

If you live a sim­i­lar­ly full, media‐rich and employed first‐world life, and can still ever find your­self so lux­u­ri­ous­ly bored, how do you man­age? And can you teach me?

  1. Google Read­er, please don’t die.
  2. I didn’t men­tion music here, because the way I con­sume music is a lit­tle dif­fer­ent. I still clear­ly have more than I “need,” but I don’t feel the same sort of pres­sure to get through it all, thanks to shuf­fle mode.

Uncommon Knowledge: Songs about “you”

Every so often I real­ize that some­thing I believe to be com­mon knowl­edge actu­al­ly isn’t, sim­ply because not every­one has the same life expe­ri­ences as I do. I’m try­ing to doc­u­ment such things that I know, for the bet­ter­ment of soci­ety as a whole. This blog seems to be the per­fect place to do this.

Here’s today’s bit of very impor­tant, uncom­mon knowl­edge:

If you’re not in a com­mit­ted rela­tion­ship, per­haps the great­est thing you can do for your­self is begin one with a per­son whose name — or a rea­son­able nick­name for their name — ends in the let­ter “u” (IPA: u: — MWCD: ü — NOAD: o͞o) or oth­er­wise rhymes with the Eng­lish word you.

Why would you want to do this, you may won­der. What you lose being in a rela­tion­ship for an admit­ted­ly piss‐poor rea­son, you gain in being able to fill the individual’s name into all sorts of pop­u­lar music from at least the last 60 years or so. This will help you bet­ter put your feel­ings for them into words, and not sound entire­ly ridicu­lous in the process.

Seri­ous­ly, have you ever noticed how many songs address some­one in the second‐person, where the singer sings words of love, hate or some oth­er emo­tion to an unnamed some­one? It’s true! You prob­a­bly don’t notice just how use­ful this is until you find your­self in a rela­tion­ship where you want to express some emo­tion or anoth­er for an indi­vid­ual who is named in that cer­tain way. But once you do, this sim­ple thing becomes very use­ful, indeed.

So go and find some­body with a com­pat­i­ble name. I sup­pose you could nick­name pret­ty much any­one “Boo,” but that’s sort of lame. Unless that’s their giv­en name, in which case they’re nat­u­ral­ly a keep­er.

Here are some exam­ple songs to get you start­ed, and names to help nar­row the field:

  • You’re just too good to be true/Can’t take my eyes off Stu #
  • I don’t believe that anybody/feels the way I do about Lulu now #
  • Hello/I love Drew/Won’t you tell me your name? #
  • I know I’ve got noth­ing on Lou/I know there’s noth­ing to do #
  • It’s Matthew that I adore/You’ll always be my whore #
  • Colour my world/with hope/of lov­ing Jew­el #
  • You prob­a­bly think this song is about Mary­lou. #
  • An Eski­mo showed me a movie/He had recent­ly tak­en of Pikachu #
  • If only I’d thought of the right words/I wouldn’t be break­ing apart/All my pic­tures of Sue #
  • If I leave here tomorrow/Would Kooh still remem­ber me? #

Most pet names count, and of course, this works best with names of few­er syl­la­bles. Find the right per­son and the musi­cal world is your pho­net­ic oys­ter.

Quiet Loudly and the awesome customer experience

Today I bring you an exam­ple of an inde­pen­dent band that seems to be Doing Things Right.™

The band is Brooklyn’s Qui­et Loud­ly.

I first became aware of the band from the mostly‐excellent, but not often released, Cac­tus Killer Radio pod­cast. While the stuff CKR plays is var­ied, the com­mon thread that ties it all togeth­er is that, for the most part, it makes an excel­lent driving‐at‐night sound­track. I would often wait months to lis­ten to an episode, until find­ing myself alone in the car at night with a long dri­ve ahead of me.

When I lis­ten to an episode of CKR, I almost with­out fail need to make one or two men­tal notes to find out more about a band, or at the very least, find an MP3 of the song that caught my ear. (Oth­er bands I’ve found this way include My Teenage Stride, Spike, and Sing‐Sing.) Episode 52, which fea­tured Qui­et Loudly’s “Over the Bal­cony,” had me rewind­ing to hear it again, mul­ti­ple times. I ulti­mate­ly shut off my MP3 play­er at the point in the pod­cast where the song began, so I could hear it again the next day.

I tracked the band down to their MySpace page, where I came across a blog entry promis­ing a copy of their never‐to‐be‐released debut album Destroy All Mon­sters to “any­one that asks nice enough.” I went ahead and did that, and before long found a CD‐R and nice hand­writ­ten note in my mail­box. The disc had unfor­tu­nate­ly cracked in tran­sit, but on the strength of “Over the Bal­cony” and the kind ges­ture, I made a men­tal note to buy their soon‐to‐be‐released (sec­ond) debut album, Soul­gaz­er.

The release date must have slipped a bit, because I checked their MySpace a few times in mid‐2009 and found no sign of the album. Then it slipped my mind for a num­ber of months before, lo and behold, I checked in and found Soul­gaz­er had been released!

I knew I want­ed it on CD (I like mak­ing my own MP3s, and when disk space gets even cheap­er, FLACs), but the disc was only avail­able from this not‐very‐reassuring page. I bought it there any­way. I didn’t get any e‐mails acknowl­edg­ing my pur­chase (aside from the usu­al Pay­Pal receipt), so I was a lit­tle wor­ried, and made a men­tal note to try to find some­one to con­tact if a few days passed with­out word.

What I end­ed up get­ting instead, seem­ing­ly out of the blue, was a ‘fol­low’ noti­fi­ca­tion from qui­et­loud­ly on Twit­ter! I didn’t real­ize that I had pur­chased the album direct­ly from them. That they take the time to stalk track down their fans online is, well, com­plete­ly fuck­ing awe­some. While it’s typ­i­cal­ly my pol­i­cy to use social net­work­ing ser­vices for only keep­ing up with peo­ple I know, I was glad to make an excep­tion for them (even if most every tweet they tweet is about shows they’re play­ing in New York).

I took the ‘fol­low’ as my receipt and eager­ly await­ed the album’s arrival. It came a week lat­er, but I hadn’t tak­en into account that my only CD play­er was the one in my car, so I spun the disc for the next few dri­ves, wait­ing until I found a com­put­er with an opti­cal dri­ve, on which I could LAME up some MP3s.

I guess I didn’t give the enve­lope a thor­ough enough look‐through at first — and it’s a good thing I didn’t throw it out — because I had missed some­thing else inside.

See right.

Seri­ous­ly. How awe­some are these guys?

I hope there’s some New York in my future, because I must see Qui­et Loud­ly live, per­haps many times.