Dinosaurland (Side B)

[Click here to read Side A – Dear Science]

In this post, I’m not going to argue the relative fidelity of vinyl LPs in comparison to CDs, MP3s, or any other medium.  I’m not going to posit what I see as the multifarious positives to vinyl records.  (If you wish to discuss these things, by all means feel free to leave a comment or call me or something.  Or maybe not; it turns out that despite getting Virginia to marry me I am still anti-social.)  This post simply describes some observations I have made in the past few months, and a couple of the thought processes that ultimately led to the decision to begin purchasing music (yes, even new music) on vinyl records, and buy a nice turntable on which to play them.

It all began a few months ago.  Virginia and I received coupons entitling us to 40% off any and all CDs at Borders for one weekend only.  Being an enthusiast of recorded music I was pretty excited about this, as was Virginia, who had not shopped for CDs in a long time.  Finding ourselves in the Salt Lake area that Saturday evening, we dutifully went to the Borders located in Murray near Fashion Place Mall. I remembered from visits in past years that this store had quite an extensive music selection, unlike our nearby Provo Borders location.  With great anticipation we climbed the stairs to the second floor, skipping the books entirely (unusual behavior, especially for Virginia).  And, where I had distinctly remembered a rack upon rack expanse of CDs in almost every conceivable musical genre, we saw only two or three pitiful racks. They were being perused on this special weekend sale night by only two other customers besides ourselves, both men in their sixties.  Virginia and I both found some CDs that we wanted to buy, and although we had fun, we thought it was rather strange and sad.  Virginia declared the place Dinosaurland.  I guessed that all the cool kids were somewhere downloading Lil’ Wayne tracks onto their phones, or something, and it made me feel stupid.  However, that idea didn’t seem any more appealing to me than shopping for CDs in an empty store.  I had the distinct feeling that something was missing, or that something had gone terribly awry with music consumption.

Since about 1993 I have been ensconced in the collection of CDs.  During that time I did occasionally buy old records for their cheapness and quaintness, but for the most part I bought CDs.  In recent times I would occasionally buy mp3s online (I have an eMusic subscription because it’s a great way to get a lot of indie music on the cheap and be legal about it), but for the most part I have been very resistant to iTunes because of DRM and the fact that you can purchase hard CD copies of albums, which have liner notes and superior sound quality, for the same or similar prices as the iTunes editions.  I mostly listen to artists who craft albums, rather than collections of singles and filler, so that makes a difference in my buying choice as well.  In the interest of full disclosure of my history of music consumption, I also confess that in my superpoor college days (2002-2004) I downloaded a large amount of music through file sharing, and I admit I still occasionally do this for evaluation purposes:  I listen once and if I like it, I end up buying it; otherwise, I delete it.

A remark made in an interview by a member of one of my favorite bands made the “CD problem” I had been ignoring for several years kind of blaring.  Referring to the large amount of album art inserts featured with their new CD At Mount Zoomer, the Wolf Parade bandmember (I think it was Dan Boeckner and I wish I could find this interview again) said they wanted to include a lot of art in it as sort of a bonus or reward for the few people who still buy albums.  With one my own bands acknowledging the demise of the CD, I quit kidding myself.  I came to the realization that almost all of my music shopping experiences at various stores for the past year or two had been “dinosaurland” type experiences.  I quit pretending that I hadn’t noticed the increasingly unaesthetic qualities of CD packaging.  I am referring to things such as the security tags that block the inner album art and that, even after you have successfully taken apart the jewel case without cracking any plastic, often cannot be removed without major damage; the increasingly large “FBI Warning” badges and banners that cover the back of the CD case and often ring the actual CD itself; the smallness of the album artwork; the gunk from the sometimes impossible to fully remove stickers on the CD cases; the ease with which the cases crack or get scuffed up, occasionally coming that way out of the package.

I began to think longingly of my old vinyl, and of the vinyl I saw being sold anew at a few good music stores.  I began to remember the warmth and ambiance of the analog sound (I know that the “warmth” is technically a “distortion,” but it’s a pleasant distortion that many musical artists seek after and consider a part of the ideal listening experience of their work.)  I remembered the pleasure of gatefold sleeves and large album covers that could be put on display in the real world, not only as a 50 pixel wide icon on an iPod screen.  Although LP sleeves are by no means infallible, they eschew many of the gunky, patronizing and ugly problems of CD packaging mentioned above, providing a far superior aesthetic package.  I realized that my CDs, despite sounding better than mp3s played through an ipod, gave me none of the pleasures of vinyl.  I noted that many new vinyl LPs include coupons for free mp3 downloads of the albums, and that even in the case of those that do not, I still have the right to digitize them myself for a backup copy.  With mp3s providing far more portability and LPs providing the most enjoyable listening experience, my beloved CD had indeed become the true antiquated relic.

Okay, so I guess I lied at the beginning when I said I would not be enumerating the virtues of vinyl.  I will end with this observation.  Recently, I’ve begun frequenting actual record stores on a regular basis.  It is very interesting and heartening to note that the experience at these stores is far from the dinosaurland feeling of Border’s CD section, or the CD sections at Best Buy, or FYE, or Circuit City, or pretty much any store.  Walking into local Salt Lake store Randy’s Records (900 South between State and 200 East) or even, on one occasion, the rather fusty and incense-filled Record Collector (2100 South in Sugarhouse) on a random Wednesday or Thursday afternoon, as I have a few times recently, I fought for browsing room with numerous customers of all ages, sexes, and ethnicities, from teenage girls to guys in their sixties.  The majority of them are, like myself, flipping through the new and old vinyl, while the CDs are pretty much ignored.  This is not just a one store fluke phenomenon: Smith’s Marketplace/Fred Meyer, FYE, and some Best Buy locations have started carrying vinyl again in 2008.  (Here is a funny article about the means by which Fred Meyer came to be selling vinyl again.)  I just prefer places like Randy’s and Slowtrain because they have far deeper selections and I like to give my money to local businesses as much as I can.

In 1993, when I felt I had finally entered the pinnacle of music consumption when I received my first CD player as a birthday present, I never envisioned that nearly sixteen years later I would find myself buying brand new albums on vinyl.

Spamming for Jesus

Question: Is spamming okay if you are spamming for Jesus?

A couple of weeks ago, I noticed I had a new person following me on Twitter. Her username was daretobelieve08. Her picture depicted her as a normal looking black woman. There wasn’t really anything suggestive or inappropriate about her name or appearance.  (There are occasionally spam users on Twitter — they go around following tons and tons of other users in an attempt to get attention to their own Twitter feed, which of course has some picture of a scantily clad woman and is of course full of links to their shady business.)  Because of the normalness of this name and picture, I decided to look at her recent comments, and they were rather regular, innocuous types of things. If I remember right, she said she was watching a movie with her family, taking her kids somewhere, thanking God for her blessed life despite having a bad day, stuff like that. Some of them had an inspirational Christian type of message. It was all very normal. As far as I could tell there were no links of any kind in her updates. There was nothing to indicate in any way that she was a spammer or had some nefarious motive, other than the fact that she was following over 700 different Twitter accounts.  Was she a spammer?  If so, she was taking her time to make a commercial connection.  Was her motive an attempt to spread the Good Word through Twitter?  To let her light so shine?  If not, and she was just a regular new user, which most appearances said that she was, I thought it was curious that she had added so many people.  Was it possible that, being new to Twitter, she was just ignorant of etiquette and thought that it would be normal or fun to start following a lot of random people and see what they said?  I can relate to this because sometimes I myself am ignorant, as a lot of people are; other times I’m not ignorant of etiquette, I just don’t like it and choose not to follow it.  When I first encountered blogging several years ago I mistakenly thought it was okay to find all sorts of random blogs of strangers and start following them and commenting on them.  If they published it on the Internet they must want everyone to read it, right?  Turns out I was wrong.  Oh well.

No matter what her motive was for following me and 700 other people, it didn’t really bother me. I didn’t start following her, but I didn’t block her from following me, either.  I totally forgot about her until today, when I was looking through my Twitter account and again saw her listed as one of my followers. I clicked on her account to see what she was twittering about these days and if she had turned out to be a spammer or a weirdo or missionary or something, and what I encountered was this. (You really should click on the word “this” in the last sentence; there’s a cute picture of an owl.)

I don’t know whether she turned to the dark side and revealed her twisted spamming motive in the week or two since I first looked at her account, or if she was simply suspended for following so many people: Twitter won’t let me read her updates now.  But it brought me to the question I posed at the beginning of this writing.  What if she really was “spamming” people on Twitter in an attempt to witness for Christ or inspire hope and faith?  Is that a problem?  Is this really any different than what many missionaries do in public, and what I did as a missionary for two years?  Is knocking on someone’s door or having a conversation with a random person in the street “spamming?”  I know as missionaries we certainly made some people as mad as people get when they get spam, just by standing on their doorstep, or by walking down the street or shopping in the grocery store, or by just existing.  On the other hand, some people changed their lives for the better in part because of our spamming, which in my mind makes it more than worth it.

Too often these days I am so afraid to bother people that I don’t say or do things that I really should be saying and doing.  I am afraid I will do something the wrong way, or at the wrong time.  I am afraid people will think that I have the wrong motives.  Sometimes I am afraid that I do have the wrong motives.  I get overwhelmed and frustrated and I give up or put it off.  I  think to myself that if it hasn’t been said or done yet it’s always still a possibility, but once it’s been tried, if it’s tried in the wrong way, that’s the end.  Account suspended for unusual activity.  But I realize that this is the wrong way to think.  Some people will take things negatively no matter what you do or how hard you try to do it in a good way.  On the other hand, no good can really come from doing nothing.  I am speaking of things both temporal and spiritual here.

Conclusion: Basically what I am saying is that spamming is not necessarily a bad thing, particularly if you are spamming for Jesus.  I should probably start doing that.

Notice of Changes in Service

To serve you better, and after much debate (some external, but mostly internal) I’ve decided to stop importing my twitter updates straight into this blog. They will still show up on the sidebar, under the heading Fresh from the Kitchen, but they won’t get their own posts. The fact that they always showed up as posts was starting to irritate even me.

Sometime soon I will get around to catching up on all the posts I’ve been wanting to catch up on. Photos and possibly a “mixtape” or two are also in the works.

p.s. I totally failed at that NaNoWriMo thing, but it wasn’t a complete failure because I came up with some new ideas and figured out some things about my own writing. Now I just need to put them into practice.

So long, and thanks for watching.

Dear Science (Side A)

As I type these words, I am listening to a 180 gram vinyl pressing of the recently released TV on the Radio album Dear Science.  I am, of course, listening to it on my brand new Pro-Ject Debut III turntable.

O tender reader, the questions you may have!  Have I made a confusing, retrograde move to technology that is now twenty-five years obsolete?  Have I made yet another vain bid for “hipness?” Am I finally indulging a long-suppressed desire to earnestly collect vinyl, an inclination that perhaps should have been suppressed forever?  Have I chosen an aesthetically pleasing product over a convenient product?   Am I just another datum for marketing analysis, the latest trend-follower in a notable consumer buying shift that has been several years in the making?  Have I inched further down the path towards audiophilia? (Please note I’m far too cheap to ever succumb to true audiophilia.)  Have I just thrown a fit of nostalgia and sentimentality to the tune of several hundred dollars?  Will your judgment of these revelations be tempered by my assertion that I have listened to vinyl records for most of my life?  Will you believe that even from the age of five I loved vinyl, playing actual 45s on my Sesame Street Fisher Price portable record player (the cartridge at the end of the tonearm is shaped like Big Bird’s head). Will you believe that I only stopped listening to my records for the past couple of years because my turntable needed a new cartridge and the cover was busted (not the Sesame Street one — it still works great and just needs a couple of new “C” size batteries).  Will you forgive my confession that the ease of MP3 and iPod usage caused me to temporarily forget my love of analog?  Did I always look longingly from the CD section toward the vinyl bins at Slowtrain, but never dared to walk over and flip through them?  The answer to all of these questions is, of course, YES.  However, one statement is no longer accurate; not only do I now flip through the vinyl records at my favorite stores, but I also dare to take my selections up to the counter and purchase them from an actual human.

[Click here to flipover to Side B – Dinosaurland.]

Why Twitter is Awesome and Everyone Should Use It

Also In This Issue: Why My Twitter Updates Show Up Here As Entries On My Blog

A couple of months ago I jumped into twitter, and I liked it so much that I soon began looking for a way to incorporate it into this blog, which at the time was still unknown and in the process of being built.  Unlike, um, now?  I’ve had a couple of friends and would-be readers of this blog tell me they didn’t know what the deal was with twitter and didn’t understand why I have twitter updates on my blog.  So here are my best answers.

For those who don’t know, twitter is a little web 2.0 service that lets users publish brief comments, often referred to as microblogs.  There are numerous other microblogging formats, but twitter is a nice clean and simple one that works well, and as far as I know it was also one of the first.  Ostensibly, every twitter update is supposed to answer the question “What am I doing?,” but most people, including me, do not slavishly answer that question with every update.  An update has a maximum limit of 140 characters, which usually works out to a couple of sentences if you push it. This forces a concise brevity.  It helps comedic timing.  It forces others to read between the lines.  It usually just enough to get you intrigued.

You can and would want, of course, to follow the twitter updates of others, and when you log in to your twitter page, your updates and their updates are all racked up there together, with the most recent updates on top.  So you can visit twitter once every day or two, or every week or two, and quickly see some of the things that your friends and family members have been doing and thinking in the past little while.  I like it because I feel like the friends I follow are around and I kind of know what’s going on with them, even if I don’t see them very often or talk to them on the phone every day.  All the time I am thinking of other friends and family members that I wish were on twitter because I want to know what’s going on with them and I know they would have funny and interesting little comments to make.  A random blog entry that I happened upon one time compared twitter updates (as well as chat, to which I’ve never really been converted) to the kind of quick, useful and/or fun interactions that happen in an office of cubicles (like where I work), in which people pop their heads up or around for a minute to say hi or ask a question or just spaz out for a minute, and then after a moment everyone gets back to work.  That’s twitter.  It’s brief and informal, yet somehow intimate.  It doesn’t take more than thirty seconds to write an update, and it doesn’t take more than a minute or two to catch up on all your friends’ updates.  Much easier than reading or writing massive blog entries, like this one.

I do admit that twitter is not entirely unlike Facebook’s status updates, but it is a more pure and direct service for making concise or pithy statements about your thoughts and doings in the world, and it is much easier to find out what is really truly up with your friends, rather than how many Ghostbusters II movie quizzes they took yesterday or who gave them a virtual Dwight Shrute bobblehead.  No one on twitter will invite you twenty times to become a vampire ninja and join them in the fight against the pirate werewolves.

So, I think I’ve shown why I feel that twitter is awesome; but why is twitter on my blog?  Well, I started to  address that in a prior entry, but basically it is here because I like my twitter updates and thought they would make nice little breaks between the longer, more essay-like blog entries here at the Froz-T-Freez.  I also thought I would use them as springboards for longer entries, but so far that has only happened once or twice.  I thought it would make for a more steady stream of content, as I’m really irregular with keeping up on things here.  I thought it would be fun to practice some verbal brevity, as twitter has reminded me that you don’t always need to write paragraphs to express something well.

And with that, I’m going to sleep now.  Goodnight.


Wow.  This has certainly been a week.  This week I started writing a novel, voted and had part in the somewhat collective feeling of hopeful euphoria at the election of our new President, acquired two fun new toys, failed at continuing to write the novel that I began, stood on the sidelines of a weirdness and meltdown in my once happy fun office workplace that I still don’t quite understand, and cooked a couple of genuine dinners right here in our little home.  This is a week that should be recorded, and yet all I have to show for it are several half-written blog entries and eight pages of nonsense that were supposed to be the start of a novel that was/is to be drafted entirely in the month of November.  So, for lack of any other, more-fully-realized expressions of my thoughts and feelings of this week, I begin with this post, which is now almost at its end.  Hopefully I will finish up those other fabled posts soon.

p.s. I’ve been trying to write about the San Rafael Swell for a month now, and I won’t let myself post pictures unless I’ve written about it first.  Sorry.  The apocryphal promises of posts continue.