I am ashamed to admit that my bandwidth to enable juggling 25 things at once has diminished. I have so far avoided1 the dreaded COVID-19, but cannot seem to muster energy to live, and work on my photography/art, and feed the ravenous maw of this blog. The news of our planet is entirely dreadful, each and every day, perhaps that is a factor.
As an update to my vinyl LP project, previously mentioned, I’m approaching the end of my first phase. As of tonight, I have added 581 LPs to my Delicious Library 3 catalog, with maybe another 75 LPs to go, or close to that number. I haven’t counted them. Not a huge collection obviously, but one that is important to me.
I’m still compelled to add new physical media to my shared space, but luckily, Covid-19 has stopped me from visiting local record stores and paying their rent by buying everything interesting. So far, only Discogs, and Ernie’s Millions Of Records have benefited from my renewed interest in vinyl.
By now, my routine is fairly well polished, and occurs in roughly this order. The analog universe has its own rules.
1. Pull an LP off the shelf. Take it out of the plastic sleeve, if it has one. If it doesn’t1, give it one. Take a photo with my iPhone2 of the cover, back cover, and any interesting details, including the inner sleeve, or inner gatefold, or the vinyl label. If the LP doesn’t have a good inner sleeve, replace it.
2. Look at the etched runout markings. If I have my reading glasses on, I will note those and search Discogs for the proper edition. If I can’t make them out, I will guess based on year of purchase3 or on other unique identifiers on the spine or cover. Some LPs have had hundreds of pressings, thus I will admit that I am not always successful, some of my Discogs IDs are no doubt incorrect. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
I have yet to look up an LP that was not listed at Discogs fwiw. I have only had to contribute 2 or 3 additions/corrections, a great ratio. Crowd-sourced data and the “old school” internet is good when it works!
3. Look up the LP in the Delicious Library 3 interface. This is often harder than it could be, especially for older LPs. It works well when there is a barcode on the LP, a barcode that still exists, that is. About 20% of the barcode lookups fail because the LP is not in Amazon.com’s database. Also, the Delicious Library 3 text search bar is ludicrously small, and once you type, “vinyl”, you can only see the next couple of words. Better to copy and paste from the Discogs site, but of course I don’t always remember to do this. Besides, the Amazon 3rd Party Marketplace is hit/miss with titles. A large percentage of my library doesn’t have a barcode – I’m guessing late ’80s was when the barcode became standard on album covers.
If this process works well, the Amazon lookup populates my Delicious Library catalog with accurate info about title, artist, label, release date, current retail value, and even nice artwork. If the process works partially, I still save myself some typing, but I may have to use my own photo of cover art, correct label info, and so forth. I would estimate I’ve had to hand-type about 50 LPs so far.
Because I’m sorta nutty, I then copy track info, and other credits from Discogs into the Delicious Library entry. Not nutty, maybe a better epithet is data enthusiast. I don’t always care, but sometimes I’m curious who the guest guitarist was on the 3rd track, or who wrote this song on Side 2, yadda yadda…
4. Look at the physical disc, make sure it isn’t warped, or has big scratches visible on the vinyl. I’ve been lucky and only ten or less of these LPs have been too physically damaged to play. I’ve always tried to take good care of my LPs, but ya know, other humans live on this planet. Plus the universe tends towards entropy.
5. Put the LP into my Record Washer MKII. This is a crucial step, but I didn’t always use it early on in my process. I do now though, with a bath of distilled water and a capful of Spin-Clean Washer Fluid4. I try to switch out the bath every week, or when it begins to smell a bit “off”. While I spin the LP 3 times counter-clockwise, I cogitate; when I subsequently spin the LP 3 times clockwise, I count down in my best Casey Kasem voice, “3, 2, 1, play…”
6. I have about 7 or 8 microfiber cloths that I use in a rotation to clean the MKII solution and schmutz off the LP. I prefer to do this during the day so I can stand by my office window and use natural light to ascertain if there are finger smudges or whatever that I can remove. If I didn’t like the album art photo I took previously, I’ll try again.
7. The best part! Playing the damn thing! Drop the needle down, and dance where appropriate! Or play air guitar! or air bass! Whatever! To be truthful, not every record demands full attention from my ears. Sometimes I’ll be working on other records, preparing them with the above mentioned steps until they are ready to play. In other words, at any time, there are several LPs in each of the above steps. For instance, right now I have 8 LPs that are ready to play as soon as I queue them up, another 10 that still need to be cleaned and dried, another 20 or so that I haven’t looked up in Discogs.com yet, plus those other ~75 that I haven’t even started on.
8. Depending upon circumstances, I may research the album at Wikipedia and/or Allmusic.com to get a feel for critical response. Depending upon the artist, there can be quite a lot of history about a particular album. Most of these albums I acquired before the public internet even existed, I might not have realized what a particular artist was all about, or why a song swerves in this particular way, or who knows what weirdness I’ll stumble upon on the internet. Factoids are a certain kind of brain candy.
What’s next? After I finish my journey through all these albums, I plan to alphabetize them. I haven’t yet decided to do a straight ABC alphabetization, or a genre/alpha sort.5 I might need a couple more shelves actually.
Next I want to digitize the albums I don’t have already in my music library. I’m a bit leery of this step; I tried to digitize a John Lee Hooker LP and it sounded like absolute shit. Not sure if my needle was bad, the LP itself was too worn6 or other factors. I will try again though, there is too much gold on these shelves.
something like 20% didn’t have an outer plastic sleeve, or was corroded in some way [↩]
My cousin drove to Toronto to spend the summer with his mom, and stopped in to visit for a few days. He was kind enough to bring up 5 crates of LPs that I had never managed to cart back with me from Austin. I have always collected music since I was a teen, and didn’t start buying CDs until the mid 1990s. In Austin during my interminable college years, there was a glut of quality, used LPs available at the record shops (probably as students passed through, or replaced vinyl with CDs), I bought several a week for a long time. As far as obsessive behavior goes, not a bad one…
I’ve been methodically playing each record, adding them to my Delicious Library database, looking up information in Wikipedia, Allmusic, and Discogs, and in general immersing my ears and brain into this time capsule from 1993. I have an audio-technica AT-LP120 USB turntable; my plan is that once I go through the 600 or so LPs once, I’ll start digitizing the ones that are unusual, or I don’t have CD versions of, or that are simply unavailable currently. My tastes in music are basically the same as then, which is way to say I haven’t found any horrible, cringe records, yet. Lots of blues, music from various African regions, Brazilian, classic rock, European classical, Indie & Alternative rock, jazz, and so on.
I initially have been working on the box of “A-C”, and “H-J”, loosely alphabetized by a prior self, and altered by other people’s explorations no doubt.
Playing an LP is a different mindset: deciding what to listen to, opening the album up, choosing a side to play, queuing up, holding the cover sleeve, reading liner notes, admiring the art, yadda yadda. An analog modality.
I drove out to Lombard twice, the second time stopping to smell the flowers at Lilacia Park, literally and figuratively. Lilacs only bloom for a short span of time each year; inhaling their delicious springtime aroma is one of the bonuses of living on this planet.
I realize I am not the only resident of America still in need of a COVID-19 vaccine shot, but I wish it wasn’t so frustrating and tedious to get an actual appointment to do so. I mean, if I could book out the appointment 6 weeks from now, I’d be ok with that, at least I’d have a target date to look forward to.
Zocdoc.com, Walgreens.com and Albertsons.com all offer vaccine appointments within 25 miles, but they all require a lot of hoop-jumping for each check. Why can’t they keep track of me so I don’t have to click all the damn radio buttons each time?
Also, why is ZocDoc.com having such technical problems? Last night in the wee hours, I was able to book an appointment for Sunday afternoon at the city’s mass-vax FEMA-run site at United Center. This morning, I woke to the appointment being cancelled.
I have not yet been successful in getting an appointment to receive my Covid vax, not for lack of trying, but because there are not1 enough appointments available. I assume as more doses are made available due to President Biden’s team pushing, I’ll get one in a month or so.
Last weekend, the City contracted ZocDoc.com to handle the appointments available at a FEMA run site at United Center. It did not go smoothly. One would think ZocDoc would have scaled up their infrastructure in anticipation, but you would be wrong. 110,000 people were able to get appointments, but many were not, including me.
For me, I was able to select a time, date and could see the magic button that said, “Book appointment”, but there was a last part, required by ZocDoc.com, where they needed to verify my phone number by sending me a PIN. I was stuck on this last step for about 30 minutes, waiting for a PIN that never came. After a moment, ZocDoc.com would give an error code, and I would re-enter my cell number, and so on and so on. After 30 minutes, I accidentally typed the wrong area code, and went to the final step, but of course, I didn’t get the PIN, someone in Detroit did. I then thought to use my Google Voice number that has a different area code, and this worked, but it was too late. I lost my appointment. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
I have confidence that I’ll be able to book an appointment, eventually, before the spring is over.
For over 25 years, I have saved various bits of the web on my local computer. Vintage ads, cool graphics, first edition book covers, images of paintings by the old masters and of sculptures, funny cartoons, comic book covers, pulp novel covers, photographs of famous musicians. A version of Pinterest, I guess, but for my own visual education, not the world’s.
For the most part, I have moved all these files into a folder called Odds And Sods, and I use it as the basis for my desktop image on a randomized basis. In the MacOS, one can point the system to a folder full of images, and every 15 minutes (or some other time frame), the desktop image will change to something else in that folder.
However, the files themselves are named haphazardly. Many of them are named something like 2004-1–20-14.38.jpg
This means the image is hard to search for. On my Family Sunday Zoom™, someone suggested using Reverse Image Search, and while that is an excellent suggestion, I feel it is unpractical for the thousands of images in my Odds and Sods folder.
I wonder if there is an automated solution? A software that does the hard work of uploading and renaming images? Especially since when I tried to reverse image search the above poster from the Fraser Label Company, my browser crashed.
Merits further investigation…
By the way, this is the image that I used on my Family Sunday Zoom™, named on my computer: Screen Shot 2020-09-18 at 5.06.18 PM.png
After I switched browsers1 I was able to use the Google Reverse Image tool on this painting – turns out to be painted by Pieter Bruegel The Elder and is called “The Battle Between Carnival and Lent,” ca 1559. I had read an article in the Smithsonian about him recently, I think because I was looking for images about the plague in the European Middle Ages.
I still want to be able to do this for all the poorly or obscurely named images saved on my computer.
Ran errands yesterday (food, pet food, booze), and I’d estimate 10%-20% of people I encountered in stores or walking on the street were wearing masks. I thought there would be more. I don’t have a quality mask, but at least it is something, and helps against touching my nose/mouth/eyes.
The hardest part for me was that my sunglasses kept fogging up.
I ran errands today1 – going to the pet store for cat food, and so on. For groceries, I first went to Local Foods to pick up what I could – they usually have excellent locally sourced produce and foods – and while some shelves were empty, I was able to pick up a bags worth of food, arugula, shiitake mushrooms, and some other items. The cashier said that Sunday was worse than Thanksgiving as far as store traffic, I believed her.
Then I went to the regional Whole Foods flagship store. Aiee caramba! I guess yesterday was bad, but today was still as busy as I’ve ever seen it, and I’ve been shopping at Whole Foods on and off since 1982. Amazingly empty of food, and full of people!
I was able to pick up some items, but they were flat out of many entire categories of food. After awhile, I started taking snapshots with my cellphone…
My cart, while I was waiting in line. I was looking for some stewed tomatoes or similar (preferably San Marzano, those are the best, Jerry), but had to settle for pre-made tomato sauce. The beer, wine and booze section was well stocked, so I did pick up some Armagnac, and a few bottles of wine, and some Guinness Stout. I don’t plan on dying it green.2
Another shot of my shopping cart while bored waiting in line. Fire roasted corn is a good soup addition.
I bought (some of) those pastas, and actually, they are my favorite brand, not sure why they were left behind. Montebello is an Italian pasta maker from 1388! Isola del Piano, Italy: they make damn fine macaroni product! I guess I should have taken a photo after I took these…
A couple sad containers of 365 brand (Whole Foods store brand) oatmeal. I didn’t see what I was looking for, so didn’t take a chance on these (though they probably are fine). I was looking for that Irish brand of steel cut oatmeal that comes in the metal tin, but I have a little bit left still.
There were some items left in this section (nothing that I bought, fwiw)
I guess these bottles of Izze were in the back or something. Or else this is a horrible flavor? I’m not familiar with it.
A nearly empty shelf. Looks like 365 (Whole Foods house brand) Macaroni and Cheese was the least favorite. I didn’t buy it either, I have standards.
One brand of Amylu Chicken sausage was the only one left. Apple & Gouda didn’t sound good to me either.
Forget about getting chicken or turkey, unless you want gizzards, or there were a few sad packages of drumsticks.
Nearly all individual servings of yogurt were gone, but there were some tubs left.
Maybe not all employees showed up? Or some other glitch? Not all cash registers were open, and the line was excrutiationly slow. At the time I took this photo, my line had 12 people in front of me (typically 3 or 4 on a busy day)
ewwww) Most beans were gone from the bulk section, but for some reason there were plenty of kidney beans. Not sure why kidney beans were so unpopular, but I got some. Also some Cannellini beans ((though I much prefer pre-cooked, there was nary a can of bean to be found [↩]
Starting somewhere around the age of 16, I started making numbered mix tapes. I’d make a few a year, first for playing in my car, then later for playing during my Magnolia Cafe South shifts. This was before I switched to CDs, so these were composed by placing the needle on a track I liked. I wish I had all these cassettes still, with the songs on them listed as well. I bet I would recognize the playlist order if I heard one of them now, I played them so many times.
I don’t have a working cassette player at the moment, which means I only know 3 songs that are for sure on this particular mixtape: I always made the title out of various songs on the mix.
Lou Reed’s Vicious The Clash – Junkie Slip Yo La Tengo – Lost In Bessemer
Also, based on the Yo La Tengo, this tape was probably made in 1990-91 (when I bought New Wave Hot Dogs).
So there was probably a Bob Dylan song, a Rolling Stones song, Velvet Underground and/or Lou Reed, for sure a song from either Peter Tosh or Bob Marley, probably a couple of Chicago blues tracks, probably a couple Afro-Pop songs, like by Fela Kuti or similar. Those David Byrne Brazilian compilations, Charlie Parker, acoustic Led Zeppelin, David Bowie, Talking Heads, Jimi Hendrix, R.E.M., Syd Barrett, James Brown, Smiths, The Clash, Meat Puppets, Neil Young, Camper Van Beethoven, Elvis Costello, Joy Division, Pogues, Parliament/Funkadelic, Neville Brothers, obscure folk songs, local Austin musicians like Timbuk 3, Glass Eye, Poi Dog Pondering, The Horsies and others got some attention, i.e. not much different from my tastes today, just less depth as I didn’t know as much about music history.
Usually the last song on either side was an instrumental, so that it could flip to play the other side without being cut off mid-sentence. At home I listened to a lot of heavier stuff – punk rock, heavy bebop and so on, I didn’t put these on the mixes as often someone would complain1 and then I’d lose my control of the music flow. Maybe once in a while, I’d slip in a bit of something like the Butthole Surfers, or Public Enemy, but it was a risk.
I don’t recall if this particular one had any sound collages of snippets of several songs, but I recall creating some of those before I knew much about mixing. All done by hand with a turntable and a cassette deck, and inebriant of choice. I did sometimes check out vinyl records from the public library, and added a song or two even if I didn’t love it just to have something new.
Some mix tapes were thematic, some were just collections of songs I liked. I think I got up to #71 or #72 before I started making CD versions, and then just playlists on an iPod/iPhone.
Sometimes my system of “mad libbing” my poems1 into photo titles works, and sometimes it doesn’t. Maybe then I should reshuffle somehow, and rename images with the better name. Nobody would even notice but me.
and let’s be honest, borrowing other people’s lines too [↩]
Frank Bruni of The New York Times, writes about a point that has irritated me for for a while, namely that Republicans shirk their duty to their constituents by claiming they can’t work in an election year:
Once the Senate concludes its trial of President Trump, it should go into recess. Until next January. The House, too. Lawmakers shouldn’t pass legislation, consider nominations or make any important decisions whatsoever: This is an election year, and the voters will soon weigh in on the direction of America. The nation’s business should await that judgment, lest members of Congress contradict it.
A ludicrous proposal? Indeed. But it’s in line with — and an extrapolation of — a favorite argument against Trump’s conviction and removal from office. His Republican supporters say that lawmakers shouldn’t speak for voters on such a crucial issue. To pre-empt the verdict at the ballot box, they say, is to subvert the people’s will.
Nice try. Lawmakers are elected specifically to speak for voters on crucial issues. That’s the system. That’s their job. American government doesn’t operate by daily, hourly or issue-by-issue polls (at least not overtly). Congress doesn’t have exponentially more power one week after Election Day than it does one year later (though it may indeed have more political currency).
Republicans have decided to sing a different tune. If it sounds familiar, that’s because they turned to the same music when the Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia died, President Barack Obama nominated Merrick Garland to replace him and the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, declared that a presidential election about eight months in the offing prevented the Senate from taking any action. It was a song not of principle but of political convenience. The same holds true now.
the framers of the Constitution, who established the impeachment process to do essentially that and declined to add any asterisks about the next election’s imminence? “If the framers thought impeachment in an election year was a bad idea, they could have set things up differently,” noted Jill Lepore, a Harvard history professor and the author of the 2018 book “These Truths: A History of the United States.”
“They could have instituted a mechanism for an interim election, for instance,” Lepore told me. “They did not. They could have said, ‘Except not in an election year.’ They did not. You want there to be no impeachments allowed in an election year, ever? You have to get a constitutional amendment ratified.” And that would never happen, because it would be license for a president to do anything he or she wanted, fearlessly, if it synced with the calendar just so.
The next Democratic president ought to seriously consider packing the courts to make up for McConnell’s scheme to keep the Supreme Court with a conservative majority, and shorten the term of President Obama to 7 years.
Furthermore, as Mr. Bruni recounts, the voters did speak their mind about Trumpism – the 2018 election was a landslide for not-Trump!
What’s happening to Trump isn’t muscling voters out of the process but, rather, taking into account what voters recently did. “You only get an impeachment vote when people have changed their minds,” she [Alison LaCroix, a University of Chicago professor who teaches constitutional law and American history] said, referring to their opinions about a sitting president. “The votes comes from the House, and we know, from things like the midterm elections, that some amount of people have changed their minds. Another party has gained control of the House. That has to be telling us something.”
I keep a file on my iPad of dreams that I recall or that wake me up so that I don’t have to recount them publicly to you my remaining readers. I’m making an exception because this particular dream yielded some art that I am proud of. Sunday morning at 4 AM I woke up, thirsty, and in the middle of a dream.
I was welcoming family to an art opening of my work (shown in a gallery with some other people). Bigger than Marty’s gallery. And it didn’t seem like photos, seemed like oil paint. One was a study of a man’s face in variations of white – painting was 8 feet tall. Another was a bunch of heads floating on a doorway. “Used real canvas this time” I told George (?). Another had a three dimension component sticking out. Then there was a portrait of a young boy, covered in gold specks. “Not one of mine, but it’s cool”.
I didn’t finish the post in 2018, nor keep my complete thought. I’m pretty sure the art I came up with was this self-portrait collage: