Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Thank You for the Music

Here are a few thoughts for all those people who say that depending on streaming from Spotify, Pandora, and Apple Music is so much better than actually owning the music and having it take up valuable space on your hard drive and/or mobile device...

I'm old. I remember having a stereo system with lots of components. First it was the receiver and turntable. Then the cassette deck. Then the double cassette deck. Then the CD player. Then the five-CD player. That's a lot of equipment to have in your living room all wired together.

I also remember records...over 1000 45s and 300 albums also taking up space in my living room. I remember the cassette mixtapes I made from them. And then there were the CDs.

Oh yes, and I remember buying records...and the fact that for the 79¢ you paid for a 45, you got one song you wanted and one song you probably didn’t. That meant about 40¢ a song...in 1966 money. I’ll let you calculate the adjustment to 2017 dollars.

And as much as I tried (and I tried really hard), I could never come up with a good, easy to use, cataloging and filing system for all those records. And even when I did, there was no guarantee that I’d put the records right back where they belonged when I was done playing them.

Between the equipment and the media, I was begging for someone to invent something that would allow me to put all the music I owned into one small place so I could get my living room back.

And in 2001 it happened, with the introduction of the iPod. “1000 songs in your pocket” they said. That was pretty much the equivalent of the “A side” of all the singles I owned. But soon the capacity went up to more and more and more. My 64gb iPod Touch could theoretically hold 15,000 songs.

Better yet, though, came the ability to store even more music on the hard drive of my computer...provided I had a large enough hard drive. I didn’t have to keep all the music on my iPod, just my favorites. It took a while for me to replace all my vinyl with digital versions, and yes, in many cases it meant buying again; but I got my living room back, and my stereo now consisted of an iPod and a portable set of speakers.

But my point, my real point, is that all you people who complain about how much disk space it takes and how much it costs to buy music as opposed to renting it through streaming is this: It’s still less physical space, even if I buy an extra external hard drive for it, to own all that music digitally than to have all that vinyl sitting around the house...uncataloged and unorganized. And it’s still cheaper, at $1.29 per song that I want in 2017 money than it was for a double-sided single at 79¢ in 1966.

So from my aged perspective, that hard drive full of music that I’ve paid for is a vast improvement over that living room full of equipment, records, cassettes, and CDs.

And...I’ll always have the music because I own it. The day won’t come when some record label or artist decides that they don’t want me to be able to play it anymore...as they might with Spotify or Pandora.

Now don’t get me wrong…there are some great things about those streaming services. In an era when radio is increasingly specialized and you can no longer find a station that plays a little of everything, I use Pandora for discovery by creating a bunch of stations with different genres, and then shuffling them so that a song by Ingrid Michaelson could be followed by one by Ray Charles, Bert Kaempfert, the Beatles, Benny Goodman, Kathy Mattea or some artist I haven’t heard of yet.

And then…when I hear something new that I like…I’ll buy it.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Are Some of Us Part of the Problem?

I’m going to ask my fellow liberals a question which may seem downright unthinkable, but which needs to be asked. After all, if we expect “them” to do some serious self-examination, then we really ought to do some too. And here’s the question:

Have some of us been part of the problem?

In other words, have some of us pushed so hard, so fast, and so obnoxiously that we caused the cultural backlash that helped put Trump in office?

I know...heresy, isn’t it? How is it possible to push too hard, too fast, and too obnoxiously for things that we believe are right?

Well, first of all, imagine hearing those words coming from “them”, because they believe that they’re right too; and they’re pushing just as hard. But more to the point, I want to tell you about something that happened to a friend of mine.

He recently had a woman who “identified herself, rather loudly, as a feminist” go ballistic on him for holding the door for her. What he saw as simply being polite, and not letting the door slam in the face of the person...male or female...behind him, she took as him trying to assert his masculinity and dominance over her.

And I can sadly say that this is not an isolated incident. I’ve heard of this happening to countless guys before, and I have to ask myself is it this type of loud, obnoxious “feminist” that causes certain conservative pundits to use the term “feminazi”?

Have they pushed things just a little too far, and destroyed any goodwill that the women’s movement might have had among some people?

I told my friend that this woman was not a feminist, but a bully and a jerk. I also reminded him that about 5% of any group is likely to be made up of bullies and jerks, and he just happened to have run into one of them.

But let’s look at this from the larger perspective. Have some of us on the extreme liberal end of things pushed too far, too hard, too fast...and too obnoxiously, thus setting the stage for the Trump backlash?

It’s a definite possibility.

Recently, I read a great book, Why Liberals Win (Even when They Lose Elections). At the end of the book, after the author has made his point from episodes in American history, he brings up a question...the same question I’m bringing up here: Are we sometimes our own worst enemies by pushing too hard?

Sometimes we’re too strident about everyone being “accepting”, so strident that we can’t accept other people’s honest differences of conscience, and we end up trying to bully them into doing things our way…which is, of course, the right way.

Really…can’t we be flexible as some major cultural changes are happening…changes that are happening way too fast for some people to easily assimilate, but that will happen nonetheless, no matter how much pushback we see at the moment?

Do Adam and Steve really have to have that bakery make the cake for their wedding? Or more to the point, do they really have to have that bakery decorate the cake in a way that is in total opposition to their beliefs? Can we consider for a moment that this might be like going to the kosher bakery and not just asking them to make a cake that we’ll be using on Easter Sunday, but to decorate it with “He is Risen”?

And…with all the other qualified people in the County Clerk’s office who could do the job, is it really necessary for them to insist on that clerk signing their marriage license? Is that asserting their rights, or is it bullying?

This brings us back to my friend and the self-proclaimed “feminist.” Are we, in our “damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead” push for social change, behaving like that woman and others like her, and losing any goodwill that we might have gained by taking a more measured and thoughtful approach?

It’s definitely a question worth considering.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Chocolate, Milk, and Sex Maniacs

Three years ago, in response to a disastrous Facebook conversation where I tried to explain that men’s feelings about sex are more nuanced than many women seem to think, and in which one of the women involved said, “Not all women are sex maniacs” (thereby implying that all men are), I wrote the blog piece Sex and the Third Rail.

Funny thing is, though, that I never really got the chance to explain how nuanced guys’ feelings about sex are. I simply wrote about the experience that led up to the blow up.

I’m going to try to do that now, using the example of chocolate milk.

Really…chocolate milk.

But before I start, let’s remember that all analogies are faulty in one way or another, so I don’t want you to start picking this apart. Just look at it as a chance to go, “Oh…I never thought of it that way before.”

OK, now that we’ve got that settled, let me ask you this question: Is chocolate milk all chocolate, all milk, or some combination of both?

OK, assuming that you’re not either stupid or trolling me, you answered that it’s some combination of both. Well, using the standard formula for making a glass of chocolate milk at home, I’ve figured that it’s 84% milk and 16% chocolate. That still means that it’s mostly milk…in fact, it’s overwhelmingly milk…but that little bit of chocolate you add, which is spread out all through the milk now, has a huge effect on the color and flavor. And…unless you have a centrifuge, it’s pretty much impossible to separate the chocolate from the milk.

Now let’s do a little substitution here, and say that the milk represents emotions and the chocolate represents sexual desire. If we do that, then I think we can say that guys are pretty much represented by chocolate milk. By pre-packaged chocolate milk. Sex isn’t the only thing we think about, we are emotional creatures, we are very emotional creatures; but sexual desire, like the chocolate in the milk, is all wound up in the emotions, and can’t easily be separated out.

It’s not all we think of, but it’s in everything we think about. And even then, it’s only a small part of what’s in what we’re thinking about. But it’s inseparable from the rest.

And we not only love chocolate milk, but we have a warehouse of it to give.

Now let’s consider women. Women seem to be more like a gallon of plain milk sitting next to a bottle of Hershey’s syrup. They can pour themselves out plain, and then add some chocolate to themselves if they wish. But the chocolate’s not there all the time, it’s not an intrinsic part of their makeup…it’s just an option that’s available to them should they want it.

And women have a warehouse that stores a lot of plain milk and some Hershey’s syrup.

The problem is that when a woman asks for a glass of milk, and keeps being presented with chocolate milk by her guy, he looks like a “sex maniac.” Similarly, when the guy asks for a glass of milk, and gets plain 2%, he’s wondering why it’s so bland, why there can’t be a little chocolate to it, and why she gets so mad when he tries to go get the bottle of Hershey’s syrup.

But…he’s not 100% chocolate syrup. That’s the definition of a sex maniac here…a person who wants to drink an entire 8-ounce glass of that stuff all the time. And I don’t think anyone could do that.

Although…there does seem to be a stereotype about women loving chocolate.