Friday, July 27, 2007

NPR - it's not just for flaming liberals anymore...

...okay, maybe it still is.

Nevertheless, my appreciation of public radio has been growing over the past several years. It started in high school when Lorraine introduced me to Garrison Keillor during our frosty morning commute. We would navigate the dark streets in Lorraine’s red Subaru heading to school (for me) and work (for her), and listen to the reedy whisper-performance of GK as he told us about Lake Woebegone and the residents of that wintry Minnesotan town.

It wasn’t until years later that I learned that the Lake Woebegone stories were only a small part of Keillor’s weekly radio program, A Prairie Home Companion. The show is on every Saturday and features musical guests, sketches, stories, and even a sound-effect guy. It’s pretty great.

After becoming a PHC fan, I found my radio tuned to NPR throughout the week. There I was able to listen to programs like All Things Considered, Fresh Air, and Calling all Pets. I really like them all, although I have to say that my favorite is Marketplace.

I have a baby crush on Kai Ryssdal.

Anyway, to the point! This week I found a new program that is absolutely great. It’s called Radio Lab and it’s a science show meets This American Life meets CSI. It’s great. If you have an iPod, download a couple of podcasts. You'll see what I mean. The best ones that I’ve heard so far feature sleep and (my favorite topic) the placebo effect.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Music to my ears.

Unless my favorite song really was “Track 1” by the Unknown Artists, it would be difficult to assess my musical tastes by scrolling through my iPod.

Here are some truths about me and music:
1. I’m very loyal to the songs that I like and will go months – nay years – listening to the same cds over and over and over again.
2. My musical repertoire is scattered at best – there’s no primary genre or pattern that may be discerned from an inventory of my musical library.
3. If you had a gun to my head, I would have a hard time listing off my favorite bands and/or songs. Although, come to think of it, if you had a gun to my head it would be difficult to do a great many things – like have a conversation with my grandmother, or make my bed.
4. I don’t go looking for music. I let the music come to me.

I was over at JR and Rachel’s last night, hanging out with the wonderful visiting duo, Ken and Beth. As per usual, the evening had degenerated into a debacle of movie quotations, catchphrases involving “your mom,” and singing our favorite hits from the nineties and now – well, actually just the nineties.

Here’s what I like about music. The more you listen to it, the better it gets. Unlike a book or a conversation or an adventure into the bowels of the earth, my enjoyment of a song increases as I grow more familiar with it.

This is why I always get a cold feeling in my stomach at the words, “listen to this, this is my favorite.”

Ohh the pressure to appreciate the favorites of others. No thank you. I can’t do it. I don’t usually like songs the first time that I hear them because I’m too busy trying to understand the words or hear past the pulsing repetitive bass line. Plus I don’t want to disappoint the doe-eyed distributor of said “favorite song.” So I panic and overreact:

“This song is fantastic!” I yell over the guitar solo. “Oh, I really like that line. What a great harmony there.” I say, trying to avoid their eager eye contact.

Much better to just give me a mix tape*.

Mix tapes (although I believe kids nowadays are calling them “playlists”) are the ideal way to share your music with your friends and acquaintances. Mix tapes not only provide a window into the soul of the giver, but they grant the receiver the opportunity to enjoy, process, and opine on the music in the comfort of their own car or home.

True, mix tapes are not without their “stigma.” And also true, the first one I received was in the eighth grade from Adam Oches right before he asked me to go see The Fugitive with him. It featured “A Whole New World,” if I remember correctly.

Mix tapes are stereotypically man’s way of communicating to wo-man, “I dig thee.”

This can be very effective, as the wo-man is afforded a glimpse into the world of the man (or at least the world that he’s trying to convey). In addition, she receives a gift that is the true embodiment of the thought counting at very little expense to the dude.

But I think allowing mix tapes to be relegated to pre-date wooing is an underutilization of their true and lasting value.

Share your music!** Let people enjoy the songs that you enjoy! Spread the glories of a new-found band in a low-pressure way.

Send me a mix tape. I won’t read anything into it.
* Mix tapes nowadays can be tapes (although only if you’re really broke), cds, or even electronic playlists.

**Legally, responsibly, and with a designated driver.

The title of my yet-to-be-developed diet supplement:

Weigh to Go Kevin!

why, Why, WHY am I such a nerd!?!

The title of my yet-to-be-developed non-dairy creamer:

Whey to Go Kevin!

See? There again.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Sweet Piper

So in my parent's quest to become ever more agrarian, they have made a major and much anticipated purchase.

A horse.

Yes, we're becoming those kind of people.

So now the Gates farm consists of the following:
Houses 3
Horse 1
Barn 0

Although the barn is still in the works, Bud the Builder (not to be confused with Bud the Sister) saw an advertisement for a small, 3 year-old quarter horse. Of course my mother and sister went to check her out, and of course they loved her. A horse is a horse, after all.

After the purchase, I drove out to Palmer to see her, and I gotta admit that I like her a lot, too. She's little, but that just makes it easier to shove her around as the Bud and I learn how to be horse people.

I've only got two months left in AK, so I'm trying to not get too attached.

Mom, Bud, Piper and me
Sorry about the zombie eye. I don't have photoshop on this computer.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Recommendations (for what they're worth):

So everyone should watch The Sting. Starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford, this movie is like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid without the sweat. Also without the incongruent rendition of “Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head.”

What makes it great:
1. Believable and tricky plot
2. It’s about con artists (cross reference: Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, My Blue Heaven, Grifters)
3. Great soundtrack
4. Paul Newman

So everyone should watch The King of Comedy.
Recommended by greeneggsandsam, I thought a movie called The King of Comedy would be, you know, a comedy.
It is instead a sad story about a man who has wrapped his worth around achieving fame. His life is a fantasy of autograph books, name dropping, and imagined conversations. The movie follows Rupert Pupkin on his obsessive claw up the ladder of celebrity, dragging his nominal talent behind him. Imposition, deception, and finally all out felony are his tools as he seeks his worth in the applause of an unearned audience.

What makes it great:
1. A sympathetic and detestable protagonist
2. Jerry Lewis as a haggard, pursued celebrity
3. 1983 fashion – can you beat it?
4. Sandra Bernhard – just the right amount of crazy

So everyone should watch Braveheart.
I know you’ve seen it. It’s time to see it again.