Pop Song 89

R.E.M. – Pop Song 89

Between the first big snow storm of 2016 and the impending Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary, I’ve heard nothing but talk about the weather and the government for the last few days. Unsurprisingly, I’ve had this song stuck in my head on repeat. See also, this New Yorker cartoon.

The snow is coming down now, after a late start, and we even received a robo-call from the electric company telling us to be prepared for power outages. You all know I really hate snow but it’s only supposed to be 4-8″ this time around, a manageable amount. But the power outages are what I really worry about. Having lived through a power outage caused by a blizzard once before, I am scarred. I get nervous and make sure every available source of power is fully charged. This morning, before the snow started, I went to the grocery store and bought, not milk and bread, but a 9-volt battery for a hallway nightlight and some sterno cans. Mostly I am worried about our fish. My husband is allergic to all furry or hairy animals so we have a few fish that require water between 70-80 degrees. Based on our prior experience of being in this house without heat in the winter, they will not survive if the power goes out. I’m kind of hoping I could rig something up with the sterno cans in a pinch but I’m mostly just hoping we don’t lose power.

As for the politics, it’s just getting crazier by the day. I should probably disengage because I thought to myself the other day, this Republican field is so disastrous I wonder why there isn’t some independent candidate like Bloomberg looking to get into the race. And now look what’s happened. With 28-year-old songs* being as relevant today as they ever were, it’s not likely that I’ll be able to do that though.

*I did the math. Though titled “Pop Song 89”, it’s on Green, which was released on Election Day, 1988. My first presidential election. A dark day.

Oh! You Pretty Things

David Bowie – Oh! You Pretty Things

When I picked up my phone this morning and casually opened Instagram to see if any of my friends had been at any great shows last night, I scrolled and thought, wait, what is going on here?! I frantically clicked over to Twitter to find some context, something confirming what seemed impossible. My brain couldn’t process what I was seeing. Days after his 69th birthday, after his latest album’s release and the video for the song Lazarus, without warning, David Bowie was dead.

A Monday morning doesn’t grant you the time to sit and absorb that kind of information. I jumped in the car to drive my daughter to school and fumbled for some kind of explanation to give her for who was David Bowie and how monumental his work and life were and god, how could he have possibly died!?

I got to work and settled into a non-stop Bowie marathon, starting with Hunky Dory. That’s the album that is my starting point for all things Bowie. As I’ve mentioned before, my older brother was a huge David Bowie fan and that’s the first one I remember being immersed in as a pre-teen while my brother ruled the turntable. Next up, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. It wasn’t until college, probably, that I stopped to listen to what I was singing when “Suffragette City” would come on, and realized oh, hey, maybe now I get what my mom objected to about David Bowie. I was too young to really understand most of what she found offensive and she didn’t come right out and say it either, probably not wanting to acknowledge what had flown over our heads in case we hadn’t picked up on it the first time around. I just loved the songs and soaked them up like a sponge.

On through Diamond Dogs and Young Americans making my way into the Berlin trilogy, hitting Scary Monsters for the drive home. One of the great benefits of having been exposed to David Bowie before I could fully appreciate everything he was doing is that I just accepted it. Sure, I didn’t get what all the songs were really about but if my brother thought he was cool, then so did I. Having that kind of introduction to not just music but art, fashion, sexuality, film, theater, was truly a gift. If you had seen one of his more avant garde performances, even if you thought to yourself, what did I just watch?, it stretched you and your ideas of what was acceptable.

There will never be another person like David Bowie. Someone who never stopped creating and innovating, right to the end. Have you seen the videos for “Blackstar” and “Lazarus“? And I loved this one for The Stars (Are Out Tonight) from The Next Day back in 2013. He was a genius, an artist, and an inspiration. We are lucky to have been alive during his lifetime.


Catfish and the Bottlemen – Hourglass

Another NaBloPoMo completed. It was definitely easier this time around, though I still feel like I had a number of lame entries. Maybe there weren’t as many this year though or maybe my standards have just slipped.

I have read accounts from other people who participated in NaBloPoMo that they really feel like they develop their writing through this exercise but I don’t feel like I ever devoted the time (or had it to devote) to hitting a stride as far as that goes. There are only so many hours in the day and you have to spend a couple of minutes here and there doing things like watching Ewan McGregor.

Don’t You (Forget About Me)

Simple Minds – Don’t You (Forget About Me)

On Saturday, my high school class in New York held their 30th reunion. I wasn’t there, we were up in Maine for Thanksgiving with my mother. One of my former classmates had added me to the Facebook group earlier in the fall and I was halfway tempted to go but logistically, it just didn’t make sense. Plus, I didn’t graduate from there, as we moved the summer after 10th grade, and I’m not at all sure people that hadn’t also been in elementary school with me would have remembered me.

Today there have been lots of pictures from the reunion posted to the FB group. I am silently sitting here looking at them all and wishing someone would get busy tagging everyone because, hey, not everyone looks the same as they did 30 years ago. To be sure, some people I could easily identify and for the most part, everyone looks really great for our age. They fared much better than the Maine high school reunion pictures I saw from their get together this summer.

I could have attended either or both of those reunions but one of the consequences of having split my high school years between two places is that I didn’t have enough time in either to really have a close group of friends. Typically after you graduate from high school and people go off to college in different places, you at least see your old friends when you’re all home for summer or Christmas. We did go back to New York a lot that first year but even then I could already see that the dynamics of the social scene in my class were shifting and I wasn’t going to be a part of it. It’s hard to know if we hadn’t moved if I would have been hanging with the cool kids or not. I’d like to think so but I remember feeling like I was losing my friends to the other kids who were still there. The only way for me to keep in touch was through writing letters (because long-distance phone calls were really expensive) and how many teenagers are going to do that? Not many, I can tell you. Out of sight, out of mind.

As I drive my daughter to her high school every morning, I sometimes get a little peak into what her life is like. She’ll tell me she’s got a quiz in a class that day or she’ll see someone she knows as we wait in the drop off line and tell me a little something about them. One morning she complained that high school wasn’t what she expected it to be and that “all the movies lied” because she felt they hadn’t portrayed the reality of what a slog it was. I told her she had just been watching the wrong movies because all of the high school movies from my teenage years were 100% accurate. Fast Times at Ridgemont High (’82), Sixteen Candles (’84), The Breakfast Club (’85). Am I right? Anyone? Anyone?

I think a John Hughes marathon may be in order. Which one do you think I should have her watch her first?

After the Disco

Broken Bells – After the Disco

Man, I am so tired. It’s not like I did anything today to account for being tired either. When I have a couple of days off, I find I immediately start staying up later and sleeping later in the morning. Ever since the start of the school year I’ve been getting up really early to take my daughter to school. Maybe those early days and lack of sleep is finally just catching up with me.

Naked Eye

Luscious Jackson – Naked Eye

I ran out of contact lenses back in May and just started wearing my glasses full-time until I could manage to get in to see an eye doctor. Part of the problem was that we switched health insurance providers last year and the eye doctor I’d been going to was no longer in network. I wasn’t really happy with the former eye doctor so I didn’t mind needing to see someone else but it’s such a hassle. I didn’t want to be charged a new patient fee or a contact lens fitting fee and I hate feeling like I’m being pushed into the latest and greatest (most expensive) lenses.

But I finally made a call and today was my appointment. The eye doctor initially said he thought I should move to multi-focal lenses, which sounded suspiciously … old. As the exam progressed, however, he thought maybe I didn’t need them. He made all the adjustments to the lenses and then asked me to read a card with tiny letters on it first at a normal distance and then up close. That was no problem. He then flipped another lens in front and told me that was what a pair of the over-the-counter reading glasses would do for me. Could I tell the difference? Not in the slightest. In the end he decided I didn’t need the multi-focal lenses because my ability to focus up close was still very good. He was really impressed and told me I should brag about my eyes because normally people my age need some help to see things up close.  You heard it here first.

It’s so nice to have the full range of vision again. My glasses don’t bother me really, but they give me a double blind spot when I’m driving and soon it will be cold enough outside to make my glasses fog up when I go from outside to inside. Plus I’ve been without sunglasses this whole time, which has been a real drag. I might just need a new pair to celebrate.

Radio, Radio

Elvis Costello – Radio, Radio

I finally got the email I’ve been waiting for this evening, telling me that Rdio is folding. I’d read that they’d been bought by Pandora and would be filing for bankruptcy protection and that Pandora was going to take the parts of Rdio they liked and graft them on to Pandora but Rdio hadn’t said anything official to its users before now. Sigh.

It’s because I just admitted that I was at peace with my streaming music app. I am the kiss of death for online music services. Do you have one you want to go under? I’ll join it and become a regular user and then it is doomed to failure. I’ve lost count now how many music sites/apps I’ve been a fan of that have closed up shop.

I’ve got a Pandora account but I haven’t used it in years. I’ve got a Spotify account that I only use if I wanted to have a friend listen to a song and there was no other way to get them to hear it. I have the Amazon music and Google Play music apps on my phone, plus the Bandcamp app, TuneIn Radio, Soundcloud, not to mention the other ones that came pre-loaded on my phone that I never use. I’m not lacking in ways to listen to music online, I just don’t like any of them.

Here’s what I liked about Rdio. It was integrated with Shazam and Songkick. I am more of a Bandsintown user but just the fact that it would give me a heads up if the band I was listening to was going to playing nearby was a great feature. If I Shazamed a song, it would automatically add it to an Rdio playlist so I could check out the band more when I was at the computer. They had good, mostly accurate suggestions of other bands in the same vein as what you were listening to and they made it easy to find new music. They didn’t have everything but it was as close as a streaming music service could get to browsing through your local record store with your friends. And it was easy on the eyes.

When my car’s tape deck died I bit the bullet and paid the $10 a month so that I could have full functionality on the app instead of the web version only. I didn’t use it all the time but if I wanted to listen to particular things, it was the best solution.

Spotify is ugly and feels like the bully of the streaming services. I hate the free version, with its ads for itself constantly interrupting and the scroll bar forever shifting location so you are always clicking on the ad space when you’re just trying to move down the screen. I don’t like the way it always wants to load the app instead of just using a web version when I’m on the computer. It drives me nuts when I encounter a Spotify embed someplace while I’m surfing on my desktop because you can’t just click and have it play in place, it has to boot up the app and get you to login, blah, blah, blah.

The email made it sound like we have a couple more weeks before they shut the whole thing down. I’ll probably end up using Spotify but if anyone has a different music app they like (besides iTunes, this has to work on my Android phone), let me know.