Wednesday


25
Jan 23

These aren’t snowtunes

It snowed overnight, and most of the morning. This is the first substantial snow we’ve received since last February. We got about four or five inches. On the drive into the office there were two nervous moments. I got into a bit of a fishtail at a roundabout. And then, at a red light, I wasn’t sure how and when the car would stop.

But at least this guy got to sleep in.

And two of his buddies were driving around, with their snow plows up off the ground.

That might be unfair for one of a few reasons, but, then again, the roads were a mess.

Somewhere approaching 11 a.m., well after the morning rush, they got around to clearing the roads, as you will see. And they didn’t even wait until the snow had stopped falling. Just before it ended, the great big flakes, one last bit of winter defiance, came down. Here’s the tail end of that.

But those first few hours after, it was quite lovely.

It is the wrong kind of snow, however, in that it didn’t melt right away. It won’t melt until the weekend, if the weather forecasts are accurate and it won’t look that lovely in a day or so. But that’s for Thursday or Friday. For now, we listen to music.

It is time, once again, to dive back into musical memories, with the Re-Listening project. I’m going through all of my CDs, in order of acquisition and listening to them in the car. It’s about memories, rather than music reviews. No one is asking for another review of quarter-century-old songs, after all.

In the fall of 1996, a buddy of mine told me to look for a particular band. They’ll be big, he said. You’ll like them, he said. At the same time, there was always a stack of CDs on the giveaway table at my station. And one day, there they were.

This is one of the two things I remember about the Matchbox 20 debut. It sold something like 12 million copies in the United States, and 15 million worldwide. People liked it. It got a lot of airplay. This is the other thing I remember. The wrong single got all the attention.

This was the debut single, and the best bit of the record, by far.

The rest of it is a bit aggravating to me. Maybe it got overplayed. Maybe it wasn’t something we played in crowds. It definitely sounds whiny today. And, oddly, I have no other recollections associated with the album.

Similarly, I don’t have a lot of memory attached to “To the Faithful Departed.” Seems odd, but I don’t recall picking this up, either. I knew I had it, but I am slightly dismayed that I don’t recall what came behind it. And, yes, I think I should remember how and where and why I bought a circular piece of plastic in 1996. I probably barely listened to it, which is a shame. It seems, at times, conceptually and lyrically repetitive. At the same time, the instrumentation is there, and Dolores O’Riordan’s talent is fully on display.

This song struck me tonight, and I was surprised to learn, or re-learn, that this was one of the singles. (This is how closely I was paying attention to The Cranberries, I guess.) It also figured prominently in O’Riordan’s funeral in 2018. Beautiful song.

Two other singles were released. A fourth was canceled when the tour ended and the Irish rockers went home after O’Riordan had some health problems. In retrospect, that the fourth single wasn’t released might have been a good idea. It is hard to listen to that song in the context of the album and airplay at the time and think it would be as successful as the songs that came before it.

Why they didn’t release this as a single though is an enduring mystery. It’s U2, The Cure and Depeche Mode all in one. It would have been a big alt hit.

There was a well-packaged ballad just waiting to be called upon, too. And there’s an all too obvious Doc Martens reference in there, just waiting for sponsorship.

The contemporary reviews suggest this wasn’t The Cranberries’ best album, but “To the Faithful Departed” didn’t top charts in four countries and climb to number four in the United States by mistake. Maybe it was my mistake to overlook it.

A wise man said you should never end a post by admitting a mistake, so … a joke.

What is a snow man’s favorite song?

“Freeze A Jolly Good Fellow.”


18
Jan 23

I’m out of steam

Extra-long day today. Second long day in a row. And a lot taking place at once, besides. I feel not one bit bad for having nothing here. It is 9 p.m. and I’m already thinking about going to sleep. So I’m playing the nightly word games and …

Have you played Redactle? This is difficult. I think I should quit while I’m ahead.

If you have some more time to kill right now, however, there’s always more on Mastodon.


11
Jan 23

We almost nailed the timing

On the subject of time, what part of day is this, even? I ask because it basically looked like this, a proper Bloomington winter day, all day. Just the faintest variations of this.

In the morning there was a fog advisory, which gave way to a gloomy bank of fog in the midday. In the afternoon the fog was relieved by a grim rain, which, in turn, yielded to a foggy devil-may-care mood. In the early evening it was an attitude of You’re still looking for a change?

And that was the day. It didn’t last forever, but it held a different sort of stasis. If you were romantic about it, you could say it had a certain mysteriousness. I wouldn’t say that. We’re entering mid-January, when a boy’s thoughts turn to mid-February, when he knows, in his heart, this should be ending and spring beginning. But, then, this is a proper Bloomington winter day. There’s 95 more days of this.

Back to the Re-Listening project, where we’re just moving through all of my old CDs in the car, because why not. Some of these come with memories and stories. These aren’t reviews, but whimsy, as most music should be.

I think this was another cassette-to-CD replacement, given where this lands in my CD books, when it was released and all of that. I have a vague memory of the cassette version, anyway. Anyway, Bush’s debut was 1994, this is about 1996 for me, and I didn’t come to it late.

But what I found on this listen is that post-grunge arrived at just the right time for me to find it interesting. Sometimes music is entirely about timing, is what the Re-Listening project teaches us. And this is a good example of that. This record saw three singles go into the charts, and it went platinum six times, but this week I’ve just been “Meh.” It feels a bit more hollow this time around.

Still like Alien, though. That’s a neat little sound.

We saw them one February when I was in college. I think I might still have the tour shirt. No Doubt, Goo Goo Dolls and Bush. No Doubt had just begun to enjoy that mainstream moment of introducing most of us to ska music and selling a lot of records. Goo Goo Dolls, having not yet discovered the secret to making money doing pop ballads, were still experimenting with their punk-grunge crossover and were pretty bad, actually. Then Gavin and Bush came out and played a lot of distortion and did rock ‘n’ roll things. It isn’t on that record, but they closed the show with their cover of “The One I Love.”

And, uhhhh, that’s not what that song is about.

More Bush later, maybe future records will appeal to me differently.

Which brings us to a single I don’t remember having ever owned. And I’m trying to make sense of this. It was August. I was alone at school, waiting on my roommate to come back. I’d probably just finished classes. (Made dean’s list that term as I recall.) I wasn’t dating anyone at the moment, which would be an easy way to explain this, but, I can’t explain it.

The video is well-lit, isn’t it? Bryan Adams took this 1980s pastiche to 24 on the Hot 100 and Mainstream Top 40. It peaked at sixth on the AC chart. Other than it is a two-song single, I don’t know why I would have picked this up. I guess we’ll have to invent a story.

Let’s invent a bad story. It was a late night at Wal-Mart and I was buying snacks and this was an impulse by to justify buying anything. And, also, they didn’t have the thing I actually wanted, but this song was OK, so why not. And maybe someone will like it — because when you’re that age that can sometimes matter.

That story probably has some truth to it.

This story is certain. I bought this single because the lyrics made a heavy reference to Birmingham, and that’s what one does some time. Also, the director of the video went the extra mile to make it seem real.

Did you see the Auburn bumper sticker? Did you catch Fob James on the front page of The Birmingham News? That’s Amanda Marshall’s most successful Canadian single. While it went to number three on the RPM chart there, it peaked at 43 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the U.S. (Canadians like us! And songs about moving on, second chances, and leaving guys like Virgil, who are just real gems, we’re all sure.)

I looked for that paper. There doesn’t seem to be an image capture of the front page. (Imagine the three paragraph aside I wrote about digitized newspaper archives and the search I undertook.)

I did find the two above-the-fold stories. The one on the left is headlined “Insurers’ legal luck may rise dramatically under lawsuit reform.”

Insurance companies that have been losers in the state’s courtrooms could reverse their misfortunes if lawmakers approve business-backed proposals aimed at overhauling Alabama’s civil justice system, legal scholars said.

The proposals, advanced by the Business Council of Alabama and passed last week by the state House of Representatives, would establish laws at least as harsh as the sweeping changes adopted in Illinois and Texas last year, legal experts in those states said.

While most debate in Alabama has focused on limiting punitive damage awards, the businessbacked proposals contain subtle wordings that would give companies _ especially insurers – a strong shield in the courtroom.

“These insurance ‘reforms’ are little more than a subsidy for the industry,” said Michael Rustad, a professor at Boston’s Suffolk University who has studied court verdicts from Alabama since 1985.

Jerry Underwood wrote that story. He stayed with The Birmingham news until 2012 or so. Then the business editor, he went into public relations, and is now writing in the blurry lines in between, best I can tell.

The lead story in that newspaper was about the governor. Fob James was wrapping up the first year of his second term.

With the nation’s capital in the clutches of political hard-liners, Alabama’s Gov. Fob James is, by contrast, generating less emotional heat.

The Republican governor, who on Tuesday completes the first year of his second term in the state’s highest office, is accessible – he’ll talk to almost anyone on his weekly call-in radio show.

And he’s seemingly mellowed since he last occupied the governor’s chair from 1979 to 1983. In December, for instance, he agreed with a caller to his show and overturned a ban on visits to members of prison chain gangs on Christmas.

Yep. Chain gangs. And that the prisoners that were one part chained work crews and, no kidding, one part tourist attraction, could now receive visitors on Christmas day was a sign of the governor going “mellow,” wrote Robin DeMonia, who is now doing strategic communication.

James also resisted federal funds for grade schools and gutted a lot of higher education. But he mellowed, see, because he dropped a costly and long running lawsuit.

Alabama has ended its fight against a college-desegregation lawsuit after spending 15 years and $25-million on it.

Gov. Fob James, Jr., last month withdrew his appeal of a federal judge’s ruling that required Alabama to enhance its two historically black public universities with new academic programs and bigger endowments.

The Governor, who called the ruling “out of sync with reality,” questioned whether Alabama A&M and Alabama State Universities were worth the extra money. But after critics blasted him for prolonging the suit, the Governor dropped the appeal.

The 1990s were a heck of a time in Alabama, basically.

I’m not sure what party James is in these days. He started out, as most people of his time and place, as a Democrat. He became a Republican and then a “born-again Democrat” when he ran for, and won, the governor’s office in 1978. Ever the opportunist, in 1994, he became a Republican once more and won the governor’s office again. These days he’s retired in Florida. A few years ago he sued one of his sons for fraud. But we’ve gotten way, waaay, off track here.

A guy named Jeth Weinrich directed that video, and I would like to compliment his choice, decades ago, of authenticity. The woman drives that car north, crosses into Tennessee and then, apparently, abandons the car in Seattle. I put this in a map, that’s one of the two ways you’d go on that 38-hour drive. But most of all, the Auburn bumper sticker was a nice touch. Good eye by the Canadians.

As for the rest of the record, there are other songs like “Let It Rain” and “Last Exit to Eden” which are overstrung power ballads. There are a couple, like “Fall From Grace” which always seemed destined for a rom-com.

And there’s this song that was surprisingly good, and still holds up well.

“Sitting On Top of the World” just missed its calling as a montage in that rom-com. I imagine something comical about painting or gardening and … maybe water skiing.

And when the too-cute couple finally get to smooching, this would be the song underneath.

I can only assume that this didn’t happen because no directors or music supervisors bought this record. And we are all the less for it.

Have you noticed the boots she’s wearing in that photoshoot yet? The 1990s were a heck of a time everywhere.

Amanda Marshall released two more studio albums after that, in 1999 and 2001. Each of them had hits in her native Canada. And then, somehow, she released three greatest hits records. There were some legal difficulties with her label, which might explain both the lack of output and mess of greatest hits. She’s been fairly private and quiet since.

But one final note. That newspaper that got us all distracted? It was published on Jan. 14, 1996. Twenty-seven years ago, Saturday. We almost nailed the timing.


4
Jan 23

That’s embarrassing

It is remarkable to me how light things get when it is time to go back to work. It seems having a normal schedule prevents me from finding and doing fun things to tell you about here. The nerve of the real world, no?

So this is my day, today, be it ever so humble.

I did 16 miles in about 45 minutes and then quit. Everything was wrong. It was just immediately fast and hard and not at all what I was hoping for, which was a ride that would have lasted about twice as long. Instead, I had a bit of mild-to-medium nausea, there was no more energy, and I was threatening to overheat.

I bonked. Bonked like a rookie who knows nothing about nutrition, and did it in under an hour. Very weird. But, I guess, lunch had been some time back and maybe there hadn’t been enough carbs. There certainly wasn’t enough glycogen.

I felt a bit better after dinner, at least. But by then I was just … tired. So the rest of this isn’t terribly substantial, sorry.

But, hey, I set five PRs on Strava segments. And I finished 8th out of 460 on one of the sprints. I did the math and I managed to hold 30 mph through that segment with no virtual draft, or even a real awareness that I was about to enter a sprint. (Also, I am in no way a sprinter. Or anything else, really.)

Here’s a quick update to the Re-Listening project. I know, I just put two pieces in this same space yesterday. But those were to get caught up from before the holidays. Since I drove to two places in town yesterday to run errands I spent more time in the car. It’s an odd thing about temporal mechanics around here, but it takes 27 minutes to drive nine miles. Between that and waiting in line at the car wash, I managed to listen all the way through another CD.

I actually skipped one CD yesterday, because life is too short to listen to awful music. A record promoter gave me this disc, and I couldn’t get out of it. I should have tried harder, I know. I knew it then, too, when he compared the lead singer to “an off-key Kurt Cobain.” This was, mind you, a silly one-off conversation 26 years ago and I remember that comment. How out of place. How weird. How wrong. But at least the guy got to drop a name, I guess.

Anyway, the guy singing on that CD wasn’t Kurt Cobain, but closer to Chris Cornell. He didn’t have all of the tricks, and he sounds simultaneously bored and impressed with himself. The guitarist is noodling around, seemingly aware of the limitations by his chord structure or what he had to play around, gamely looking for something new and different. But there’s not much variation, and life is too short for awful music.

I wanted, here, to do the thing where I look all of those guys up and say they all went on to be successful restauranteur, fire fighters or boat charter captains. All four guys have incredibly common names, though. So one of them could be a judge. Another might be an auctioneer. One is probably just really good at D&D. The guy that did the cover photos has had a good run as a photojournalist. Seems to be in Florida now.

Anyway, after that came my 1996 cassettee-to-CD upgrade for the Hootie and the Blowfish debut. Probably you’ve heard of it. It finished seventh on Billboard’s 1990s pop list. Only Alanis Morissette, Whitney Houston, Shania Twain, Garth Brooks, the Titanic soundtrack and Celine Dion, respectively, fared better. They won a Grammy and were certified platinum 21 times in the United States. So, yeah, I needed to get an updated copy, I guess. Because you never heard this stuff on the radio.

(Aside: Lilly Haydn was, is, and likely always will be, incredible.)

Anyway, I really dug the band (last August their second album, Fairweather Johnson appeared on the Re-Listening project)
and I still do. Something about the Carolina yelling appeals to me.

Oh, there was a 25th anniversary edition released in 2019? Guess I should pick up a copy of that.

But, first, I’m going to sleep off the bleh feeling.


28
Dec 22

The last travel day of the holiday season

Today we said goodbye to our Christmas on the Gold Coast coast. It’s always lovely to be there and to spend a little quiet time at the cottage.

It’s always difficult to leave.

But we had a plane to catch. A direct flight. A short flight. And yet it still, somehow, dominated the day. Weird.

So here are a few extra photos to pad this out. Some of the winter berries we saw at the New York Botanical Garden on Monday.

(Did you see all of those posts, by the way? Part one is here. Here is part two. See part three here. The fourth and final installment is here.)

We saw this painting along the way in our trip. The placard said it is titled “Hurricane” and was a gift from the artist, Theodosia Tamborlane.

When the guy on your Delta flight says goodbye at the end of your trip.

And when you realize you’re only one trip to baggage claim and an hour’s drive from wrapping up two great weeks of travel.

I unpack as soon as I get home. I essentially lived out of a suitcase for the better part of six years, and I see no reason to leave them sitting around. Tonight that meant unloading the car, eating a quick sandwich, and then carrying everything upstairs to be unpacked. Four minutes later my suitcase was empty and my backpack was lighter. The suitcase, if not every stitch of clothing, gets put away almost immediately.

This afternoon my mother-in-law said we shouldn’t feel pressured to be there on Christmas day. We rotate alternate years to keep it fair between our families but, I said, “There’s never any pressure. We are blessed to have the time and ability to be able to see everyone.”

The only demanding part, then, is the travel. I added it up. Assuming our two planes had a very basic flight path, we’ve covered approximately 2,547 miles in the last 13-or-so days. Only half of that was in the air.

So, yeah, I guess I can see how Santa does it.