Sep 23

Things that stick on you

I heard my alarm, both times this morning. And I pulled up the cover and closed my eyes tight and smiled and stayed halfway-conscious because I had to get up and get ready for the day. Then my lovely bride came back into the room and touched my shoulder. She said “You need to get up.”

I did need to get up. I needed to get up about 75 minutes prior to that, but that’s OK, because the day starts late so I’m not behind, except that mentally I am. When you set an alarm and overshoot it, that sensation can stick with you. For me, it is on my mind for the rest of the day. No matter how accomplished, how full or how complete the schedule, it’s just sitting there: You were late, and so you are late. It clings.

I had an apple and some peanut butter for breakfast*. I got ready to head to campus. And then the cat escaped through the laundry room and into the garage. He then goes under a car and just sits there, feeling like he’s achieved a great deal, I assume.

We’d even made it into the garage on time this morning — this is often my fault — but now the cat kept us from getting into the car on time because he is an ordeal.

But we made it to campus on time, fortunately. And it was only marginally my fault this time that we felt pressed for time.

I stood in the hallway and talked with two of my students while the class taking place in our room wrapped up. Eventually they all filed out, an entirely predictable and uneventful arrangement, and we walked in. Over the course of the next several minutes a dozen more students came in. Today we reviewed their first video assignments. The work concentrated on asking them to achieve certain camera shots and motions. You are put with a partner, who is your video subject, and you show the basics. Some people keep this simple. “My subject is just standing there, and this is a low angle. Here is a shot of my subject from a high angle,” and so on. This gets the job done. One group got very involved, overly so, and tried to create something of a narrative. Kudos for originality, though it doesn’t figure into this grade. One of my favorites video sequences came from two women who clearly enjoyed this way too much. There was a lot of acting, the best unselfconscious, purely hammy, scene chewing kind. They were delightful. I also had three slide decks to work through with them. I managed to work through two of those and the class still went long.

On Thursdays I teach two sections of the same class, back-to-back, in the same room. There’s only a 15-minute break between them, at about 3:15, and that’s lunch. But if I go long, that sneaks into my lunch time. So I had a handful of grapes* while the second class filtered into the room.

Fortunately, the two classes are in synch, so the second section feels like a second try, albeit with a group of an entirely different personality. We reviewed the shots from their first video assignment, as well. And one of the best parts are the shots when someone chooses an extreme closeup. I will play those clips over and over until I can get the class to talk about the emotions they’re seeing in the shots. Getting them going is the key to the whole puzzle, I think. I had three slide decks for the second class as well. I got through all three. We finished with 10 minutes to spare.

I’m not sure how that happened, but I have a few guesses.

After that, it was email, and staring at this pile of things to grade, and then we hopped in the car and drove back to the house. Thursdays are busy, then, and everything piles up. Email, the things to grade, the daily dose of news, whatever else you’re doing. And that 20 minute drive always feels a bit off when you’re aware of all of those things you’d like to get done tonight, or at least started.

Being behind is purely a mental construct, one that should have little to no power, but somehow it can hold a lot of sway over you, draped right over your shoulders, trying to hold you down. So you start ticking things off the list. What else could you do, anyway?

*I had a delicious and full dinner.

Let’s take a quick look at the Re-Listening project, where I am playing all of my old CDs in the car, in the order in which I acquired them. After this entry I’ll only be three discs behind!

Josh Joplin Group’s “Useful Music” was already an artifact by the time I picked it up at a used record shop. They’d originally released it in 1999 as Josh Joplin Band under the SMG Records label, and then again, with some new members, in 2001 by way of Artemis Records under their final name, Josh Joplin Group. (Big shakeups in nomenclature were an artistic signature around the turn of the century, you see.) This was Joplin’s sixth record, and so he was to become a nine-year overnight success.

It’s a radio friendly record, but didn’t get a lot of commercial support. Despite that, “Useful Music” hit number 22 on the Billboard Independent Albums chart. Three singles were rolled off, including the moderately successful, and altogether enjoyable, “Camera One.”

Odds are, if you ran across this Atlanta-based band, this was your first exposure. It quickly scooted to the top spot of the Triple A chart, which, at that time, was the most successful independent release ever. Soon after, that song was featured in an episode of Scrubs.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen that video, though. He looks like an angry singer, which is a shame for what was ultimately an incredible AOR friendly record.

If you picked up this disc because you heard that song on the radio, this was the first track you heard when you loaded it in your player.

The second single got a lot of spins on what still passed for alt radio in the summer of 2001. And we were still referencing it this summer, which is pretty great good for a pop tune.

This is a perfectly little encapsulated post-grunge pop song, if you ask me. It is one of several songs on here I never really gave it’s due when I was listening to this a lot.

But then there’s this, which should have never been attempted. Nevertheless, it’s catchy in ways that defy convention. I was on a long straight country road on a sunny day when I heard this recently, and it stuck with me for days.

They released one more single, in December of 2001. And on the re-release, which is the disc I have, there’s an alternate version of the song featuring some new instrumentation and an orchestral accompaniment. And it changes the song, except for all of the places where it doesn’t. It was, and remains, intriguing. The thing is, I listen to this so rarely that I forget that this track closes the record, and so it’s a pleasant surprise almost every time.

The Wikipedia page tells me the Josh Joplin Group disbanded in 2002, which was before I picked this up (I’m contextually assuming I got this in the summer or fall of 2003) but that live performance above was from 2019. All told, Joplin has released 11 albums, most recently with the band Among the Oak & Ash, which also featured the great Garrison Starr. Here’s the newest thing he’s published on his YouTube channel, just four months ago.

It’s always nice to see people continuing to do what they love.

Like this grading I have to do now, for example.

Sep 23

Starts, and ends, all classy-like

I was very classy today, which is to say I was full of class. Which is to say I was in class all day. If six hours is close enough to “all day” for you.

It was close enough for me.

It was a fun class, we discussed shot compositions and camera movements. I did this twice in different classes. And then I set the eager young people out to shoot video of some things. Next week we’ll look at all of their work, and then the class will get just a bit more technical.

My lovely bride had an afternoon full of classes, as well, similar schedule, but in a different building. So we share the Thursday drive, and this evening we had a nice sunset.

I have to grade some things for a while, so please take in the grandeur of this photograph. I call it “A Meditation On Being Near Corn.” It is a profound statement on how we let the world beyond us impact us, and the ways that, perhaps, it should and should not. It is a commentary on the environment closer to you, and the passage of time you might not see up close if you look too far afield.

It’s certainly provocative, no? I thought so, too. I hope you enjoyed that while I finished today’s grading. I got all of that in just after dinner, and now I can take a day or so and re-calibrate the ol’ noggin for a different sort of class on Monday. We won’t be talking about camera motion, but McLuhan, not composition but Kendi. I’m sure it will be a lot of fun.

We’re back to the Re-Listening project, and my trip back in time is going even farther back in time. I’m listening to all of my old CDs in the car, as you might know, and I am doing so in the order in which I acquired them. From what’s surrounding them in this particular CD book, I know we are somewhere between June of 2003 and February of 2004. What we’re looking at today, however, is older still. The product of visiting a used record store or two.

Why buy things when they are released, after all, when you can wait 10 year or so and get them much, much cheaper, when you the songs you liked might feel fresh again, or you won’t mind if you pick up something and only really like the single?

And that’s exactly what we’re dealing with here, 1991’s “Pocket Full of Kryptonite” got so out of hand that the band came to resent it for a while. They organically sold some 60,000 copies before radio ever put it on the air, but then “Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong” and “Two Princes” went to the top spot of the Billboard Heatseekers chart, and number three on the Billboard 200 charts. Those singles helped the record go platinum five times in the U.S. Everything got a little crazy for a while somewhere in there. Chris Barron, the Spin Doctors’ lead singer, said it got to the point where he couldn’t go to the mall to buy new socks without being swarmed by people.

And despite all of that air play and success, “Pocket Full of Kryptonite” still finished 1993 ranked number seven on the end of year Billboard 200. (Incidentally, I wrote about their third album, “You’ve Got To Believe in Something,” last year.)

How, you might ask yourself, could six other records have landed higher than that one? And what, you might naturally continue, were they? So glad you asked.

1. Whitney Houston – The Bodyguard
2. Kenny G – Breathless
3. Eric Clapton – Unplugged
4. Janet Jackson – Janet.
5. Billy Ray Cyrus – Some Gave All
6. Dr. Dre – The Chronic
7. Spin Doctors – Pocket Full of Kryptonite
8. Pearl Jam – Ten
9. Garth Brooks – The Chase
10. Stone Temple Pilots – Core

You did ask, didn’t you?

I suppose you could say it most years with the lever of time as perspective, but if you peer into that top 10 long enough, you can almost see an event horizon of our most mainstream music. Cyrus was the last male country singer, aside from Brooks, to finish a year in the top 10 of record sales for a decade. Shania Twain and The Dixie Chicks show up a few times. Rap and hip hop, having become hugely successful genres already, were clearly in an ascendancy. Janet Jackson and Whitney Houston held the door open, too. Women — solo artists, groups or groups fronted by women — would occupy almost 40 of the top spots over the coming decade.

But I digress.

“Pocket Full of Kryptonite” comes from a lyric found in the first track, “Jimmy Olsen’s Blues.” And here’s the band playing that song, via Zoom, in 2020.

And though we’re shunning the smash hits, there was a surprisingly poignant ballad that they released late in the album’s first life cycle. And dig that classic early 1990s music video style.

Spin Doctors were a jam band that enjoyed some monstrous pop success. And there’s no greater indicator than the last track, a 12-minute almost-epic that also features John Popper.

In 2011 they released a two-disc anniversary edition, marking 20 years since their debut record. And they’re touring the United States right now. It’s been a decade since they last recorded a record, but their fans still come out.

The next album up in the Re-Listening Project is another used store find. I probably paid two or three bucks for it, thinking the single was worth it. It was and is, though the rest of Jon Secada’s “Heart, Soul & a Voice” doesn’t do much for me. It was his second English-language record, it went platinum largely on the strength of “If You Go.” The song holds up, the video feels a compelling 1994 argument for the silliness of music videos as a genre.

It peaked at number 10 on the US Billboard Hot 100, Secada’s last top-10 single in the U.S. This track topped the charts in Canada. He released “Si Te Vas,” that same year, most of the same songs as this record, in Spanish. So these were his third and fourth records. He’s put out 15 records, all told, the most recent in 2017. He’s sold 20 million records, has three Grammy awards and worked Broadway and is a noted humanitarian. He’s doing the occasional “intimate evening” venues lately. Pretty great career.

And that’s a good place to finish the day.

Sep 23

Ready to just do it already

First classes are tomorrow. Last minute dashes to be prepared are today. I got a decent haircut, learned things about cowlicks, and ironed some clothes. When it’s open-the-ironing-board official you know it is getting real.

I’ve also semi-prepared the things I’m going to discuss in class so much that they now seem less interesting to me. And some of these things are interesting! Some of them are about the syllabus. And everyone loves syllabus day. So tomorrow is the first first day for two classes. My last first day is Monday night. I’ll start finishing that class prep on Saturday.

Tomorrow, it is two afternoon classes, and I know most of their pros and cons, schedule-wise. But Monday, it is a night class, that’s new to me. And it’s the last schedule block of the day. Because of Memorial Day, that means the 6 p.m. Monday night class will be the last first day of the semester. I’m sure all of the students in there will be over ice breakers. No pressure whatsoever.

But before that, there’s tomorrow. (It’ll be fine.)

This is the sixth installment of my tracking down the local historical markers. I’m doing this by bike, by the way, which is one good way to go a little slower, sometimes, and learn some roads I wouldn’t otherwise try. Counting today’s installment, I’ll have seen 13 of the 115 markers found in the Historical Marker Database. What will we learn a bit about today? Something that doesn’t exist anymore!

Here’s the first marker.

The fire ring isn’t there anymore. And I had this wrong. I thought this footprint would have been where it went. And I figured it was some sort of bell. Ring! Ring! Fire! Fire! Come out and fight the fire! Ring! Ring!

But this is what it looked like, and it was installed right next to that marker. This is a Google Maps image from the summer of 2016.

By the next time the Google car through, in 2019, the fire ring was gone. And you can see that the other spot, where I thought the fire ring would have been, had some other sort of monument or marker. It was also removed before September of 2019.

There’s another marker, elsewhere, for another fire ring. It’s next on the list to visit. Maybe, if it still there, we can figure out more about the mysteries of the fire ring.

But, for right now, if you look just past the marker above, you’ll see another one. And this wordy little document has been sitting here for generations.

And here’s the bridge the old timers were celebrating.

Now, I don’t know if that’s fertilizer runoff or some sort of punk rock algae bloom, but I’m not swimming in that lake, or fishing it, anytime soon. There were some people fishing in the lake the day I took this photo.

The marker says in some places the flood was 20 feet above normal and, in this location, it reached the top of the current bridge. That’s difficult to imagine, given the flatness of the surrounding flat terrain. (That’s how flat it is. Flat flat flat.) That sounds like a lot of water spreading out, and so it was. A tropical storm dumped 24 inches of rain in half a day at a gauge just 13 miles away. Dams failed, and a railway bridge that ran over this lake … well, here’s a thousand words on that from The Times.

But that date, the dedication date of the new bridge? That was 15 months after the flood. That’s not what stands out. Sure, it is 981 months, to the day, from me writing this, but that’s not it either.

December 6th, 1941, a Saturday. Imagine, the next day the members of the Board of Freeholders (a term no longer in use, having rebranded as county commissioners just a few years ago) woke up, all proud of their efforts, saw their neighbors, went to church, or whatever else their normal habits might have been. And, by dinnertime that night war was no longer a looming shadow. What everyone had feared had come at last. That bridge may have been the last thing built around here for a while.

If you’ve missed some of the early markers, look under the blog category We Learn Wednesdays. What will we learn next week? Come back and see.

We also return to the Re-Listening project, which is aptly named. I’m listening to all of my old CDs in the car, in the order in which I acquired them. I’m writing a bit about them all here, to play some music, to see if I can scour up a memory and, sometimes, like today, pad the place with some extra content. These aren’t reviews — because who cares? — but they’re sometimes fun.

And this time, we’re in the early summer of 2003. Train’s “My Private Nation” was released, their third studio album, and I liked Train. I liked Train three albums worth, and this was the third one I purchased. (They’ve released seven more records since then, the most recent being in May of last year.) This record went platinum, their fifth platinum certification, and ended 2003 at number six on the Billboard 200. A lot of people liked this record. (And five of their subsequent records have ended a year in the top 20. A lot of people like Train. Go give them some grief.)

They released four singles in support of the record. “Calling All Angels,” you’ll remember, was a big hit. “When I Look to the Sky” was moderately successful and, I think, the place where I’d almost had enough. “Get to Me” made it to number six on the Billboard Hot Adult Top 40 Tracks, and is still catchy two decades later. Though I’m not sure if I ever listened to that in the company of another human being.

That could have been a function of 2003. Early morning shifts — my first hit was at 4:30 a.m., which meant I was going into the studio before 4 a.m. most days, which meant my first alarm went off at 2:30 a.m., — shape your social life.

This was not an early morning listen, though. I was singing along in the car to people with a deeper register than Pat Monahan has. Also, right about here on the CD, I think I was starting to discover the Train formula.

Despite that, though, there’s still charming little imagery sprinkled throughout.

For my money, the last track on the album is the best one. And one of the best in their catalog.

Five years later a guy named David Nail covered it and had a moderate success on the country charts. What does that sound like?

It’s a cover.

Anyway. The first time I saw Train was on a small festival stage about 45 seconds before they became a supernova. And then I saw them in the now demolished Five Points Music Hall. I think I caught them once or twice more in bigger places. Then one morning I finished an early morning shift and bumped into them at a breakfast place. They didn’t look prepared for breakfast. This would have been 2001 or 2002. I didn’t see them, I don’t think, when they toured this record. And soon after this members of the band started changing and it would feel like an entirely different show if you went these days I bet. Monahan is the only original member left.

If you want to find out, Train is on tour right now. Let me know if they’re still doing the Zeppelin covers.

Sep 23

Some things were accomplished

This is how the day went —

You shouldn’t begin a daily post generally grounded in the day-to-day events and notes of interest to the author; it is implied.

You’re right. Should I try again?

I think you should. No one has started a post like that since the days of the burrrrrr-krrrrrr-beeeeep—whiiiiii modems.

You’re probably right.

I think that I am, yes.

This is how the day went. I got a later start than I wanted, but that was fine. I did a little prep work for this week’s classes. Then I took a trip to the convenience center to drop off a good 10 days worth of garbage and recycling. Eventually, the novelty of that little chore will wear off and we’re going to want some actual curbside service, like most people from the later part of the 20th century.

The garbage haul was two bags from the house. I also moved four bags of weeds and one tub full of recycling. This took, I dunno, three minutes to load up, probably less time to unload and 25 minutes of driving, round trip.

Which meant it was lunch time, and so I had a nice bowl of chicken noodle soup on a day when the heat index will hit 100 degrees. After that, I did a a bit more work, and then set out for a haircut. The place I visited offered me a 145 minute wait. Not two hours and 25 minutes, but 145 minutes. There was a small circus worth of children in there, so I shared my thanks and departed. There was another place not too far away, I went there. Equally crowded. Did not go in. I’ll try again tomorrow. Maybe I’ll make an appointment, which carries the hefty cost of, for some reason, having to share my cell phone number with a company.

With my still shaggy and unkempt hair, I went to the grocery store. Potatoes for dinner, check. Soups for lunch, check. Cheez It because we eat it, check. Grapes as an impulse purchase’s sake, no dice.

Back in the home office, another few hours of prep work and it’s possible that I’m over-prepared. The spontaneity, I fear, is going from my best speeches and jokes. Or, I could be kidding myself about my level of preparation. The good news: I have all day tomorrow. So I’ll re-read this stuff for the 15th or 16th time in the last week.

So I called it and went for a swim.

And, this evening, I set a personal best. Longest swim of all time, 3,520 yards. I do not know what is happening. My lovely bride went for a run and caught the last of my swim, or the part near the end, the part where I was tired. I could feel it, of course. From about 2,700 to 3,000 felt different. Not desperate, but not good. Not haunting, but a distracted. My good shoulder was a bit achy, but I figured it would pass and it didn’t seem like something to stop over, so I kept on.

Then it all got better for most of the last 500 yards. And for the last 100 or so I sprinted it out, because that always seems like a good thing to do.

After I got my breath, she gave me a few pointers about what was going on with my form during that struggling portion. It seems my usual poor form deteriorated for a while, and that’s bad and can lead to injury. I’m not injured, but I am sore. I also swam two miles, so that stands to reason.

She said I should break up my swim into smaller segments if I was getting tired. And I was getting tired. This weekend I swam 3,080 yards and so I know about the point where I’d get tired. She said, with the wisdom of a real swimmer, that she’d rather see me swim 35 100s, with some rest breaks in there, so that I don’t get so tired that me and my sloppy form don’t swim myself into an injury.

I said that sounds like a good idea, and really good advice. But I had to find out if I could swim two miles.

You know, for shipwreck purposes.

And then I went to upload my swim into Strava, and found that the highest data point they allow for a swim is …

So I have a new goal. I just have to prove I can swim 100,000 yards. (I’ll take breaks.)

That’s 56.8 miles, almost three trips across the English Channel. (I’m never doing this, of course.)

Let’s wrap this up with a bit of the Re-Listening project. Though it hasn’t appeared here in a few weeks now, you’re accustomed to the concept: I’m listening to all of my old CDs in the car, and in the order in which I acquired them. These aren’t music reviews, just good music, occasionally a fun memory and, mostly, a bit of whimsy, which is always important in music.

And we’re up to late 2003 here, when Robinella and the CCstringband released the self-titled major label debut with this single.

They’d been a huge regional bluegrass sensation, which eventually brought them to the attention of the Columbia label. They’d released two smaller CDs, but this one, which included a bit of that earlier work, also got them some mainstream airplay.

You could best call the group progressive bluegrass and jazz blues. Which is great, because before I saw someone shoehorn the band into those genres, I thought, while listening to this record again, “This is one of the things bluegrass could have become.” You can hear some of that here, I think.

The musical version of that argument is sprinkled all over the record. It was one of those things that bluegrass could have become, but it wasn’t too be, for whatever reason. The next album had some pop and funk. Maybe that’s why.

I didn’t listen to this much in 2003 when it came out, for whatever reason. I liked the single, which was enough of a reason to pick this up, but it took me a while for the rest to grow on me, which is more about my musical shortcomings than anything to do with this band, which could put 12 good tracks on you and make you listen to all of them — if you’re ready for it.

Robinella and the CCstringband was Robin Ella Bailey and her then-husband, Cruz Contreras. They met in college, and shorted the band name to simply Robinella after this record. Somewhere after that the couple divorced and the band was dissolved.

While that song plays us out, let’s see if we can find out where everyone wound up. Robin Bailey is still playing locally, in Tennessee, as Robinella, having put out records in 2010, 2013 and 2018. She also makes art. Her Instagram suggests she plays a lot of unconventional, interesting places, which looks fun. Contreras is touring as well. I listened to the sample song on his site. I liked it. Cruz’s brother Billy Contreras played the fiddle on that record. When he was 12 years old he won the National Oldtime Fiddlers’ Contest and has played with everyone and everywhere since then. Everyone: Lionel Hampton, George Jones, Doc Severinsen, Crystal Gayle, Charlie Louvin, Ray Price, Ricky Skaggs and more. He also taught at Belmont for a time. Steve Kovalcheck has also played with many of the greats, he’s the guitarist on this record and he’s an associate professor of jazz guitar at the University of Northern Colorado. Taylor Coker plays the upright, and he toured with Cruz for what looks like most of the teens. He’s still plucking strings, now with the biggest jazz band in eastern Tennessee.

Twenty years later, everybody is still playing. Doing what you love all that time, it’s a great thing.

The liner notes on this CD had some extra content on it. The instructions:

With this CD and a connection to the internet, you will have access to special “Behind The Scenes” footage and more:

1. Inset this disc into a computer connected to the internet
2. Log onto
3. Click Sign In

— ConnecteD May Not Work With All Computers —

Two decades ago, things really did seem limitless. You just had to remember to connect your dial up modem.

Aug 23

Yes, the world’s best hobo song is included here

Last night I swam a mile. I didn’t know how much I would do, but it started raining on me at about 800 yards and I didn’t want to get wet, so I just stayed in the pool. Before you know it, that’s 1,650 yards and my shoulders felt like it.

The getting wet joke is a lame family joke. We’d gone on a vacation, a dive trip, and my step-father and his kids had just been certified for open water diving. Now, some of us had been diving for a long time, and some of us took to water naturally, and a lot of us had learned from different companies and through evolving teaching methodologies. So I got to be the stick in the mud who demanded the safety meeting the night before our first dives.

Good thing, too, because we learned that my step-sister thought that giving the Heimlich maneuver was delivering CPR. (To be fair, she was young.) Anyway, she wanted to go to the pool, but I wanted to go over hand signals and hypothetical situations. It seemed a good idea. She hated every moment of it. Finally, after a refresher on rescue breathing, and a run through of the basic Caribbean fish signals, we decided we were all at least in the same chapter of the book. So it was time to hit the pool. But it was raining, you see, and so she wasn’t enthused by that. (She was young.) So the rest of us went to the pool. I stayed underwater so I would not get wet.

But last night, I swam that mile and then I floated in the water listening to the raindrops until I got cold. It was delightful in every way.

I swam a mile and I … liked … it?

I do not know what is happening.

Maybe I’ll go for another swim on Thursday.

My laps have been pretty decent, by my standards. My riding has been OK, but light. My running, lousy as ever. Now I just need to put them all in a consistent routine. That’s the part that always gets me.

Today, just more peaches. We tried the new blender. (It blends!) We had peach smoothies. And then we blanched peaches to freeze. Our freezer has a lot of peaches in it now. A new colleague came over and took some off our hands. I brought in three more baskets from the tree. I made myself another smoothie.

We goofed off in the pool until dinner time. It was a fine day. Just peachy.

So let us turn our attention to the Tuesday Tabs feature. This is for all of those extra browser windows I have open. Some of these are worth keeping, somewhere, but perhaps not worth a bookmark at this time. So I’m simply memorializing them here, so I can finally close a few more tabs. (There are so many tabs.)

This is a relatively new one, and I must say, not really, but I have to start somewhere. 10 Alternatives to bi-fold closet doors (you’ll absolutely love):

The most common alternatives to bi-fold closet doors include barn doors, sliding doors, pocket doors, French doors, and curtains. If you want a more unique option, consider swinging doors, a room divider, mirrors, bookcase doors, and industrial doors …

If you’re tired of the same old bi-fold doors, choosing an alternative comes down to the overall look you want. Ready to try something new? Give these different looks a chance when you’re ready to close the door to your closet.

My home office has a bifolding door set. Not a fan.

Here are some nice places to explore here. Maybe I’ll get to one or two this fall. 8 Adorable small towns in Delaware

“The First State” is an amazing state along the Atlantic Ocean, Delaware Bay and Delaware River. This peninsula location means it is full of beautiful sandy beaches, riverfront views and gorgeous parks. The state also has a rich history dating back to it being the first of the original 13 states to ratify the constitution in 1787 (hence its ‘first’ nickname). Among the big cities and prominent attractions are a number of adorable small towns full of charm, history, and opportunity. From the Dutch colony of Lewes to maritime villages or the scenic beaches of Bethany Beach, Delaware is a beautiful and friendly state worth exploring.

I wonder how long we’ll see stories like this, before they all feel inevitable, I mean. AI comes for YouTube’s thumbnail industry:

This March, when U.S.-based AI researcher Anand Ahuja launched CTRHero, “an AI to replace Thumbnail Artists,” he called it “his life’s work.” Trained on millions of successful thumbnails from various social media platforms, CTRHero could create thumbnails within minutes, reproducing faces with 99% accuracy, according to Ahuja. The tool outraged designers who felt their livelihoods were suddenly at stake: some threatened Ahuja with physical violence. Soon after its launch, Ahuja sold off the core technology for CTRHero.

For YouTubers, thumbnails are serious business, as they can make or break a videos’ reach. Top creators such as MrBeast test up to 20 different thumbnail variations on a single video, paying designers a reported $10,000 for a single video. This has spawned a microeconomy of freelance YouTube thumbnails artists around the world, who hone their design skills to attract clicks.

Stop me when it feels like everything is Ready Player One. How AI will turbocharge misinformation — and what we can do about it:

By some estimates, AI-generated content could soon account for 99% or more of all information on the internet, further straining already overwhelmed content moderation systems.

Dozens of “news sites” filled with machine generated content of dubious quality have already cropped up, with far more likely to follow — and some media sites are helping blur the lines.

Without sufficient care, generative AI systems can also recycle conspiracy theories and other misinformation found on the open web.

University of Washington professor Kate Starbird, an expert in the field, told Axios that generative AI will deepen the misinformation problem in three key ways.

Starbird is a brilliant scholar and one of the leading researchers in this field. Check out her work.

As you read this, I am eight CDs behind in the Re-Listening project. That’s the one where I’m listening to all of my CDs in the car, in the order in which I acquired them. I am writing about them here because, it’s a good excuse to post videos of good music. Also, sometimes there are memories attached to these things, but mostly it’s padded content. And all of it’s fun. Except when you run across that bad CD, sorta like the bad grape you weren’t expecting. There’s one in every bunch, and it all comes down to taste.

Someone else bought Sister Hazel’s third studio album so I didn’t have to. I’m not sure who gave it to me, because I did not write it on the CD and it has been at least 23 years and two months since it happened. My memory is good, but there’s a lot of stuff in my memory, ya dig?

“Fortress” featured three singles, “Change Your Mind” peaked at number five on the US Adult 40. “Champagne High,” one of the album’s better songs, reached number 22. “Beautiful Thing” did not chart, which, in retrospect, was probably a signal that the moment of success brought on by Sister Hazel formula had somehow passed them by. It’s a mystery to me, really, because it’s the same as what we were all used to from the boys from Florida.

They are rhyming the word “thing” with the word “thing,” though. Maybe people noticed.

But, look, the formula works. If you want a fun sweaty party band, Sister Hazel can take the stage and keep you happy.

As an album, “Fortress” was a minor hit, settling at 63 on the Billboard 200. The record you remember, “Somewhere More Familiar” made it to 47 in 1997. Nine years and four albums later they cracked the top 50 again. Maybe tastes change around them, but the syrupy, twangy Southern rock guitar and the upbeat harmonies stayed with the band. And you can hear it still, Sister Hazel is touring all over the eastern US for the rest of the year.

Next up is one of those albums you regret. It was released in 1997 and I got it in 2000 and I can only blame myself. The world wide web was out there, and I had three solid years to find out “Deconstructed,” a remix album, is just a bad project. Even if you like electronic music, you didn’t want this. There are no new tracks, and no real reason to listen to this. I have probably played it four or five times, total, and two of those were for the Re-Listening project. Anyway, Bush worked with DJs from the electronic genre of music to remix some of the band’s previously released songs. The first one is probably the best track … but … still … electronic, British or of any other nationality, just wasn’t for me.

Hey, it was a fusion idea that went gold, and settled at number 36 on the Billboard 200 in 1997. I didn’t like it in 2000. I don’t like it today. I never understood it on my few tries in between. Maybe it’s just me. (It can’t be just me.)

Let’s wrap up this post with a better one. Up next in the Re-Listening project was a 2002 purchase, something I no doubt got at a discount bin. Something Sony licensed for a few suckers just like me. But that’s not a problem, because “The Sound Of Country was a 2 CD sampler set full of important tracks. It grabs you right away, with some classic Roy Acuff.

That’s the more famous Acuff version, of course, but his 1946 original is something to behold. It’s not o this CD, but I have included it for you here.

One of the greatest songs ever recorded in the English language is also included here.

It’s a fundamentally perfect song. Chet Atkins is in there. The background vocals are none other than the Jordanaires. That song topped the country chart for eight weeks in 1958 and climbed to number seven on the predecessor of the Billboard Hot 100. At least three covers of that song have charted over the years.

I am pretty sure I bought this double CD, which was, no doubt, very cheap, for this one song. It was the correct choice.

I was going through a Roger Miller phase. I’d find reasons to play that song. I wasn’t the only one who fell in love with that. It won five Grammys in 1966. It should have become a Broadway show and a network miniseries. If it had come out a few decades later it would have been embossed on mudflaps. The legendary Buddy Killen played guitar on that song. His people knew my people. Maybe that’s it.

You get into some important later hits, too. This topped the charts in 1984, presaging what would become of country music a generation later.

Also atop the charts in 1984, was The Kendalls last number one.

The father-daughter act released 16 albums, seeing 22 singles making the top 40, and 11 climbing into the top 10, including three at the top of the chart. Royce died in 1998 (this CD was published in 2002), but Jeannie Kendall, who started performing at 15, is still strong more than a half-century radio.

The whole double CD:

Blue Eyes Crying in The Rain – Roy Acuff
Walking After Midnight – Patsy Cline
Oh, Lonesome Me – Don Gibson
Mama Tried – Merle Haggard
King Of The Road – Roger Miller
Big Midnight Special – Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper
When I Stop Dreaming – Leona Williams
No Help Wanted – Bill Carlisle
Sweet Memories – Frank Ifield
It’s Only Make Believe – Conway Twitty
I Love You Because – Bob Luman
All My Ex’s Live In Texas – Whitey Shafer
Louisiana Man – Rusty & Doug Kershaw
Does Fort Worth Ever Cross Your Mind – Whitey Shafer
Okie From Muskogee – Merle Haggard
I Got Mexico – Eddy Raven
The First Few Days Of Love – Lorrie Morgan
Sweet Dreams – Don Gibson
Tennessee Waltz – Redd Stewart
Honky Tonk Merry Go Round – Patsy Cline
Night Train To Memphis – Roy Acuff
Tortrue – Kris Jensen
Thank God For The Radio – The Kendalls
God Bless The U.S.A. – Lee Greenwood

And with that, we’re only four CDs behind. The next installment of the Re-Listening project will feature an act that shows us what turn-of-the-century country and bluegrass music should have done.