Archive for December, 2016

The Don’t Playlist

Good morning, everyone!  I have a problem. It’s not even close to a “big” problem in any sense at all, but it’s still something that affects my life, and I have the keyboard and you don’t so there.

I really enjoy music, and one of my greatest joys in life has been watching my kids learn, like, and ask for music that I’ve shared with them.  Seriously, hearing my daughter ask me to put on Weezer’s “Blue Album” (or “al-blum” as she says it) because they like all ten songs on it warms my heart.  They’re old enough now that we rock out together, discuss lyrics, etc., and it’s awesome.

But…sometimes the artists I like make it hard for me to share their music.  I get it, I really do – they’re not making music for 6 year olds, so there’s no reason for them to think about which songs would be off limits for my kids.  But when Weezer’s second al-blum starts with a song called “Tired of Sex” and the fist-pumping “Why Bother” says, “But it’s just sexual attraction/not something real, so I’d rather keep wackin’,” those songs go on my Don’t Playlist.  And then the fun singalong “El Scorcho” starts off with “God damn” as the first two words, “Across the Sea” references someone touching themselves, and “Butterfly” says “bitch” in it.  So yeah, I can skip around and maybe cough at strategic times, but there’s enough going on with that al-blum that I just skip it all together.  Why bother, indeed.

(For the record, the cough method or slightly changing a word here and there works pretty well.  “Dicks” becomes “chicks” in a song by They Might Be Giants, and “tits” becomes “hips” in “Norgaard” by The Vaccines without any problem.)

I have a similar problem with a group I really like, because they rock my fucking face off (in a good way).  They’re called (ahem) The Front Bottoms.  Now, you might be wondering what a front “bottom” is, and that’s good, because it’s inexplicit enough to slide by and just sound funny.  (Good thing I’m not a fan of the band Pussy Riot).  The Front Bottoms are punky, rocky, and just downright awesome.  They swear and have inappropriate lyrics in most of their songs, and that’s part of the appeal for me as a listener because it’s punk rock, after all.  There are a few songs that are clean throughout that my kids really like, so I play them fairly often (“Flying Model Rockets,” “Summer Shandy,” and “Laugh Til I Cry” if you’re interested).  I know enough to stop the album before the band starts singing about getting high or before the song “Help” comes on, with it’s catchy refrain of, “This is what I want, motherfucker, make it happen for me.”  So it’s more of a song-by-song basis, and that’s great; I love being able to share a band I like with the kids.

The problem is when songs are sooooo close to being ok for the kids.  “Plastic Flowers” is a really good song, with a fun singalong part at the end that I know my kids would love.  But right before that part, lead singer Brian Sella says “Ok, everyone shut the fuck up for a minute.”  Annnnnd, onto the Don’t Playlist.  Damn.  That was a good one.  Same thing with a song they just released called “Joanie.”  Great song, he just happens to throw in a cool but unnecessary “fuckin'” in the middle of a line.  Again – I’m not at all against swearing in songs, and I actually love singing along with both of the parts of the songs I mentioned in this paragraph.  It’s just a little disappointing when I realize that one or two syllables will keep the songs off limits (at least for a couple more years, right?).

The kids will hear, know, and use “fuck” eventually (and often if they’re like their parents…or Grandma), but I’ll let that happen the way it naturally should: from friends at school I’ll think are a bad influence.  And then, my friends, I’ll open up a whole new world of music for them and we can collectively have our faces rocked the fuck off.

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Out of the loop

Hello, and happy Boxing Day 2016, everyone.  It’s been way, way too long but I’m kinda making a pre-New Year’s Resolution to write more.  I’ve been prioritizing steps on my Fitbit over the mental exercise of writing I suppose, and I’d like to find a better balance with that.  So here I go – could be the only post or the first in a new string of somewhat-regular ones.  Who knows?

Those who know me know that I have a horrible – absolutely abysmal – sense of direction.  I really don’t know how to get anywhere from anywhere.  My friend Greg once asked me a very good question about this: “You have such a good memory for other things; why can’t you remember directions?”  I have no idea why it’s any different, but I guess it is different in my head.

Either way, the invention of GPS has forever changed my life for the better.  Much, much better.  Gone are the times of writing down directions or even printing out step-by-step ones from Google Maps.  I’d get so stressed out trying to follow them, wondering how long 0.8 miles is supposed to take, not knowing if I missed something, etc.  Having live directions – first from a standalone Garmin (which I affectionately named HoBot 5000 for reasons I’ve since forgotten) and now on my phone – has given me a sense of comfort much greater than most people could imagine.

That said, it’s not perfect.  Many of us know the plight of having Google Maps or Waze tell us to turn left on a major street without a stoplight, for example.  But there’s one oddity that I haven’t heard other people talk about that amuses and confuses me.  (Amfuses me?)  I’ll be driving somewhere on the path the GPS gods chose for me, and it’ll show a couple of other options.  Most often it’s something telling me that heading toward the freeway would add 3 minutes to the drive or staying on a street instead of turning where the original plan said to will save 2 minutes.  But every once in a while, I see the amfusing thing: it basically says by way of highlighted route option, “If you turn on this random side street and go in a loop for no reason whatsoever, it’ll add 15 minutes to your drive.”  Have you seen this?  It’ll present some option that makes absolutely zero sense and then suggest that it’s a bad idea.  Of course it’s a bad idea!  It’s almost always a loop that would spit me back out in the same exact place, except just later and for no reason.  “If you make a u-turn and head to Magic Mountain, go on a few rides, grab some t-shirts for the kids, and stop at the restroom on the way back to the car, that would add 167 minutes to your drive.”

I’m sure it’ll stop doing that in future versions, but it always catches my eye and makes me wonder what causes it to offer that alternate route.  Is it particularly beautiful and I should slow down and enjoy a little nature on the way?  Does some enemy of Google live on that street and the machine is trying to annoy them by sending cars past the house?  I don’t know, but I’m just glad it presents it as an option and not the actual way to go.  If it were the latter, I’d absolutely trust it, follow the directions to a T, arrive at my destination later than expected, and promptly forget every turn that got me there.

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