Currently Reading: The Pushcart Prize anthology.

I didn't get many books for Christmas so I'm planning a lunchtime walk to Barnes and Noble tomorrow to pick up a few things I've been wanting to read. So I hope this little section won't be so goddamn boring next time you look.

Currently Listening To: Heh. See the main entry.

Current Christmas Loot: The Twin Peaks DVD set; a Starbucks gift card (yay -- my mother and I ended up buying these for each other and even got them in the same amount); lots of Burt's Bees sample-size facial kits; and see main entry. I didn't even list everything because then you guys would know how grossly spoiled I truly am.

Currently Watching : A record number of web forums I read suffer from Meltdown Syndrome: posters get pissy and passive-aggressive with other posters they don't like until the whole thing explodes into open warfare and multi-screen tirades and everybody hates everyone else and the owners declare that they Aren't Putting Up With This Shit Anymore and the list/board splits off into little splinter factions that devote 95% of the new space to smack-talk about how much they hate all those awful insensitive humorless jackbooted Nazi thugs at the old place and they'll never ever read there again (but did you SEE what that person over there said about us? The NERVE, man!).

This almost invariably happens on forums devoted to laughably trivial subjects like Barbies or figure skating. (Not that I read any "Life Changing Stuff That Will Save Humanity" forums, but still...) I can't decide if it's hilarious or pathetic. Probably both.




Same As It Ever Was.

iTunes has a little button you can click to get a "visual" of the song that's playing. The Apple logo and the song title go away pretty quickly and you get lots of groovy and colorful patterns that remind me of a cross between the really old "Dr. Who" opening sequence and Dave's trip through the stargate in "2001". (Jeez -- did I just fly my geek flag there or what?) It's an absolutely pointless feature, and yet it's oddly hypnotic. I think Apple uses it to beam subliminal messages into the brains of the devoted. "Buy more Mac stuff ... buy more Mac stuff ... it is NOT too expensive, dammit. You need it. You do. You do."

The problem with keeping an online journal for a couple of years is that I start to feel like those of you who've been reading for a while have heard it all before.

I could start in with my standard whine about how much I hate early January. There's the big shiny sparkly birthday/party/Christmas/New Year's month of December and it's wonderful and happy and fun -- and then it's gone. Everyone whisks the decorations and the lights out of sight. Vacations end and everyone comes back to the office, and they're all grumpy and impatient as they try to crank out the stuff that got neglected in late December. It's dark and cold outside. It's hell.

But I write about that every damn year. Even I'm sick of it by now.

So, the cheerful stuff: I really wanted a happy, fun, low-stress holiday season and for the most part that's exactly what I got. Bill and I attended both our office Christmas parties (a first in our relationship) and saw friends and relatives and interacted with actual people. I baked a truckload of cookies and brownies.

And we did something else that I've never done despite living in this area almost my entire life: we went to see the White House Christmas tree on the Friday night before Christmas. And I loved it. It was tall and gorgeous with blue lights stretching to the top and little red-and-white ornaments all over, with several toy railroads running all around the bottom. I looked up at it and then down at all the hyper kids running around, and I was hit with a really powerful longing: God, I want to be a little kid again.

Of course, in most ordinary seasons I don't want any such thing. Little kids can't get away with a dinner of fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies and White Zinfandel, which I almost did one night during my baking frenzy. (Don't worry, Mom -- I forced down some soup just to make it resemble an actual meal.) But during Christmas I miss that feeling of excitement, the gift anticipation, the automatic time off from school, the sense that you will never, ever be able to wait until the big day.

I think that's why A Christmas Story is possibly the only holiday movie I can stomach. If our relatives would allow it (which they don't, of course, being normal human beings), Bill and I would probably watch the entire 24 hours that TNT plays it on Christmas Eve and Christmas. I've never seen any other movie that so perfectly nails what it feels like to be a kid during the holidays.

I didn't get a Red Ryder BB gun, but I did get an iPod. And I love it. I love it so much I think I want to have its children. It's tiny and cute, and I've already got over 200 songs in there with room for hundreds more. I love being able to dial up a Tom Waits album or a Smashing Pumpkins album or a Rasputina album without having to dig around on my desk under the papers and the moldering coffee cups to find the damn CD. I even like the little monochromatic Breakout game hidden in the "About" screen.

It's strange -- I've never before had much interest in an MP3 player. I never downloaded MP3s from the Web; I tried a few times and ran out of patience. I'd burn an occasional compilation CD with Bill's computer, but that was as far as my interest went.

Now I've got the iPod and I don't know how I ever made it through a workday without it. Sure I could have gotten a Walkman, but then I'd have to limit myself to ... gasp ... one CD or cassette at a time. How old-fashioned can you get? And don't even get me started on the heinous CD player that came with Windows 2000 -- the one that arbitrarily puts unwanted songs on my playlists or crashes my computer if I use its "Eject" button. Gah. Ick. The built-in CD player on my iMac is better, but iTunes 2 crushes them both.

I spent most of my vacation plundering Bill's enormous CD collection and using iTunes to rip hundreds of songs to stuff in the iPod. And from the sound of things I'd better hurry, because the music industry seems determined to make it impossible for me to do this without paying even more money than I coughed up for the original CD.

Should I add my complaints about this to the millions already out there? I really don't get this one. Sure, I can understand why record execs don't want me uploading all those MP3s for everyone to snag without paying for the product. I'm not sure I believe that this practice is what's killing the music industry, but just for the sake of argument I'll play along. Even so, I'm not putting the stuff online. If I've already paid damn near $20 for the CD I think I should be able to play it in my computer, for God's sake. Can the music industry really not go after online pirating without ruining it for everyone?

(Side rant: I cannot fucking believe what some places charge for a new CD. Last month I went to a little CD shop in Georgetown to look for something that interested me, and when I found it the sticker read "$17.99." Good lord -- import albums used to cost $18 when I was a kid, and that price for an album seemed exorbitant then and it seems exorbitant even now when I don't have to whine at my dad until he gives me the money. And this for an extremely common, widely available CD. Un-freaking-believable. Say, could this possibly be why new stuff isn't selling as well as it used to? Ya think?)

I guess if certain companies carry through with their threats to make CDs unplayable in a computer's CD drive until you've paid a "subscription fee," I'll just stop buying new stuff. While I was doing all that ripping and copying, I realized something: My musical taste has not evolved at all since I was a kid. And I mean not at all. I basically listened to noisy crap as a kid, and I basically listen to noisy crap now. Marilyn Manson. The Pixies. Smashing Pumpkins. Judas Priest. Rammstein. Tom Waits is about as adult as I get. I even made a special iTunes playlist titled "Eighties Pop Crap," so in some cases I'm actually listening to the very same stuff I listened to as a kid.

So. If I have to swear off of new stuff, I think I'll be just fine.


The next entry.

Previously, in Insomniaville...

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