My Gift To David (via Calluna)

When I wrote about a month ago about getting a preview of the upcoming Lori McKenna album, I mentioned that it was setting the bar high for the Christmas season. Heather took that challenge, and came back with a gift that was a definite Christmas highlight for me — that perfect combination of something that’s a great item in and of itself, but that also involved a lot of thought and time and effort and showed that she knows me and cares.

My Gift To David David introduced me to Lori McKenna music Feb. 25, 2008. At least that’s the date I added to my iTunes “Heather Stuff,” a CD of music David gave to me. On the CD were the first four Lori McKenna songs I ever heard: Witness to Your Life, What’s One More Time, Your Next Lover and Unglamorous. I had actually heard Lori before on Oprah when she performed Fireflies, which she wrote, with Faith Hill, who recorded it. But I didn’t know she wrote more or … Read More

via Calluna

Journal of Record

When I upgraded my iPhone this summer to the new 3GS, one of the benefits was that it gave me the ability to buy songs from iTunes anywhere from my phone. This is, of course, a mixed blessing — one the one hand, it’s terribly convenient, but on the other hand, well, it’s terribly convenient. It’s resulted in quite a few impulse purchases of songs that have come to mind, most recently on my morning walk today. It’s made worse in combination with the Shazam app; I can go seamlessly from hearing an unfamiliar song to knowing what it is to owning it in seconds.

Point being, I’ve been buying a lot of individual tracks since getting my new phone in June. Lately, though, I’ve gotten into a kick of buying albums. I go through music-buying phases, but the last two or three weeks have marked, for me, a high-water mark for album purchases.

The picture at the top of this post is a subset of that — weekend before last, there was a record and CD sale at a local radio station. These weren’t serious music purchases, they were just fun. I have a pretty thorough collection of Paul Simon on CD and iTunes, but I’ve also collected a bit on vinyl, just for the sake of it. The Mary Poppins soundtrack was just fun, and Richard Marx was solely because I thought it would be cool to listen to “Hold On To The Nights” on LP. And The Jazz Singer … ah, The Jazz Singer. One of the great guilty pleasure albums of all time, and one I remember being played on eight-track in my house growing up.

Also at the sale, I bought some CDs, as part of my efforts to expand my musical horizons. To wit, I picked up some Lonestar, Faith Hill and Carrie Underwood. The Lonestar had one song that I know and like, “What About Now,” which I actually had already bought on my phone, but I figured that meant there was at least a possibility that I would like other songs on it. Faith Hill is a little borderline for my taste in country, but I had bought Breathe recently on my phone, and figured I would give the album it came from a chance. The Carrie Underwood CD I bought, Some Hearts, had nothing that I was really familiar with, though I’d heard a couple of them, but she’s somebody I’ve enjoyed other stuff by, so, again, figured I’d give it a shot.

Around the same time, I made a trip to Best Buy that drove home just how much other people have contributed to my musical tastes lately. The purpose for the trip was to pick up an EP they were advertising by Miranda Lambert, who was recommended to me earlier this year by someone who has introduced me to some great stuff. I’d bought a couple of Miranda Lambert songs earlier in the year, tracks that this friend would have described as “attitude” songs — “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” “Gunpowder and Lead” — and really enjoyed them. This CD was a little slower, but still decent stuff. At the same time, I also bought an Aerosmith Greatest Hits CD, not one of my favorite bands, but one that I was exposed to some and figured there was enough stuff I liked to make the (cheap) purchase worthwhile.

About a week later, I returned to Best Buy for another CD that I had seen for sale on that trip and had debated buying, Lady Antebellum’s eponymous album, from which I already had “I Run To You,” which I blogged about a while back.

I ordered a Goo Goo Dolls CD after a recent trip to the theater; their song “Better Days” played during the trailer for “Love Happens,” and from that clip of the song — “So take these words / And sing out loud / ‘Cause everyone is forgiven now / ‘Cause tonight’s the night the world begins again” — I had to get it. It was almost an iPhone song purchase, but I saw a greatest hits CD cheap enough that it was worth getting. (Though I remain to this day troubled by the fact that baby’s black balloon doesn’t simply let her fly.)

iTunes ran a sale on country albums, from which I bought Dierks Bentley’s Feel That Fire, largely for the title track. I was also familiar with Sideways, and, while it’s not one of my favorite songs, I do like the sound, which I figured was a decent indicator I would like other songs on the album. That said, I haven’t had a chance to listen to it enough to really find out, what with all the albums I’ve been buying lately.

A friend introduced me to Elbow with The Seldom Seen Kid. Just got it Monday, so haven’t had the chance to really explore it, but I do like the sound.

As I mentioned Monday, at Big Spring Jam, I picked up Heidi Newfield’s CD “What Am I Waiting For.” Again, I’m still exploring it, but am very much digging “Johnny & June,” which I’ve played multiple times a day since getting it; the Lori-McKenna-penned “Wreck You,” which strikes some familiar chords for me; and “Nothin’ Burns LIke A Memory,” which is just fun. Also after Big Spring Jam I ordered Trace Adkins’ second greatest hits compilation, which I’m waiting to arrive.

Also in the mail is Garbage’s debut album, which I had on tape back in the day. My two favorite tracks, “Stupid Girl,” and “I’m Only Happy When It Rains,” I’ve had in iTunes for a while, but the other day, I had Real Life’s Send Me An Angel in my head for some reason, which in turned morphed into Garbage’s “My Lover’s Box” (“Send me an angel — piece by piece.”) and made me decide it would be worth the four bucks or so it cost me to get the CD so I could listen to the whole thing again.

And, thankfully, the fact that I’m limiting this to the deluge of albums I’ve bought in the last two or three weeks means that I don’t have to disclose the fact that last month I finally broke down and bought Britney Spears’ Circus from iTunes, because that would just be embarassing.


OK, catching up on a variety of things that got dropped in the slightly more topical posts the last couple of weeks, and the more sporadic blogging last week. (And someday I’ll get back to posting actual content, instead of just “here’s what I’ve done lately.”)

— I wrote the other day about my visit with Lain and Liz this past weekend; I neglected to mention that I now live in a world in which the fact that I hung out over the weekend with a couple of friends from college now merits notice by a nationally known columnist and random strangers. Liz tweeted a picture of the three of us with our books to David Pogue, who posted his own tweet about it, and then complete strangers retweeted Pogue’s post with the pic. Even yesterday, three days later, somebody tweeted the picture of me with Lain and Liz. How insane is that?

— Also in the “neglected to mention” category, I meant to say in yesterday’s fall post, but didn’t, that to mark the fact that it was officiallly fall, I switched yesterday to using the pumpkin spice creamer I’d bought for my coffee.

— I gave my Homesteading Space lecture over the weekend at the Con*Stellation science-fiction convention. By definition, any time you do anything more than once, there will be a best time and a worst time, so saying that this past Sunday was the worst doesn’t necessarily mean it was that bad, just that it wasn’t as good as the others. I’ve never actually succesfully given my hour-long lecture in an hour, and felt more pressure this time to try to keep it to the proper length, and I think that hurt me. My benchmark is one joke halfway through the presentation — it got a tepid result the first time, was hilarious the second time, and wasn’t even recognized as a joke this time. Alas. Plus, there was the guy that came up to my afterwards in the hall, put his arm around my shoulders, and said, “You don’t do a lot of public speaking, do you?” Thanks, dude.

— So what if I were ever actually completely honest on here? I mean, not that the things I write on this blog aren’t true; this blog is probably the most open I’ve ever really been publically. But, generally speaking, I don’t mention things like the fact that it really sucked doing a book event, having a book milestone, for the first time without her. But, to be honest, it did. So there you go.

— The weekend before last, I went to Chuck E. Cheese. It wasn’t the first time in my adult life; my family took my brother there for his birthday the year he got married. He had loved it as a kid, and it was just a fun thing to do. This was the first time in years, though, and was the first time I ever bought Chuck E. Cheese pizza for myself. Going with a friend of mine, a contemporary, and watching her daughter go play games was a weird experience. I’m not as young as I once was.

— This past weekend, I went to an LP and CD sale at a local radio station. I bought several vinyl LPs, which makes me happy. I also bought three CDs, all of which were country music, which sort of amuses me.

— OK, I know I’m leaving stuff out again, but I need to wrap this up. Later, folks.

Recent Random Photos

Blu Vinyl

My mighty home entertainment center

My mighty home entertainment center

One of my favorite mental exercises is finding answers to the question, “OK, we know David’s a geek, but exactly what sort of a geek is he?”

Post-Christmas, my home entertainment system definitely answers that question. I’m quite proud of the fact that the stack now includes everything from a Blu-Ray player (center shelf, top) to a LP turntable (very top). I don’t think the VHS player still works, but, even if not, I can still play vinyl records, audio tapes, CDs, DVDs, Blu-Ray discs, and Playstation games, along with whatever other formats those players support (mp3s? VCDs? jpg? Who knows.)

I’ve not had too much opportunity to play with the Blu-Ray player yet, but — so far, so good. I’ve been watching the copy of Independence Day my youngest brother gave me, and, yeah, with the surround sound turned up, it’s a rather enjoyable experience. I’m noticing, though, that Independence Day is probably the best movie in my collection right now for really showing off what the set-up is capable off. I can’t wait for Star Wars or Lord of the Rings to be released on Blu-Ray. I’d be tempted to get the Matrix set, but even on a good DVD player the flaws of the special effects, especially in Reloaded, begin to be apparent.

And let me just say, I’m enjoying having my turntable set up again. It’s completely a pointless indulgence; having to get up every three songs and flip the thing over is archaic in the day of the plays-for-days-without-repeating iPod. But I’m loving it just for the sake of doing it. And, you know, despite having heard about it, I wasn’t really expecting music to sound much different on vinyl. I used to listen to vinyl, and didn’t remember it sounding any different, or remember noticing music sounding different when I started listening to tapes or CDs or mp3s.

But one of the first times I listened to a record — my new copy of Joshua Tree, to be specific — it just sounded kind of weird. I thought maybe something was wrong with the record or player, but it wasn’t really wrong, just … different. Almost like there were sounds that were somehow outside the song, if that makes sense. And I think that’s basically what it is. I’m used to highly compressed music, with very little audio range. Freed from that constraint, the music takes on greater depth, and, indeed, there are sounds outside the relatively flat range I’m accustomed to. Right now, it’s still just a trifle for me, but I’m enjoying it. And when I was at Barnes & Noble the other day (along with Best Buy, one of two chain stores that I’ve discovered have started stocking records again) I noticed that they have some records that come with free mp3 downloads of the songs. If I could buy vinyl without missing out on the option of ripping the album to my iPod, that suddenly becomes very tempting, and makes LPs competitive with CDs. Interesting …