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Charlie Hatton
Brookline, MA

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Howdy, friendly reading person!
I'm on a bit of a hiatus right now, but only to work on other projects -- one incredibly exciting example being the newly-released kids' science book series Things That Make You Go Yuck!
If you're a science and/or silliness fan, give it a gander! See you soon!

And Now, for Your Non-Listening Probably-Not-Pleasure…

As you go through life,

two rules should never bend;

never blog about yourself,

or pee into the wind.

I bought CDs today. I was supposed to be buying shoes for an interview tomorrow, but I bought CDs instead. It’s kind of a long story, and involves there not being a shoe store where I was, but there being a CD store instead, and me deciding that the pair of shoes I already have would be fine, anyway, and then deciding that I wanted to look for some CDs. Hum. I suppose that wasn’t such a long story after all. My life just got marginally less interesting. Drat.

Anyway, I’ve been buying a lot of CDs lately, I’ve found. Not when I’m supposed to be buying shoes, necessarily, but still buying rather a lot of CDs. A few weeks ago, I bought a whole slew of CDs when I meant to be buying sushi. Now it seems like that might be a long sort of story, but I suspect that it’s probably a lot like the last story. Quite a lot, in fact, and since my life Interesting-O-Meter™ is in danger of dipping into the red as it is, I think I’m just going to move on, and let you believe there’s a quirky, whimsical, interesting story behind ‘The Day I Bought CDs Instead of Sushi’. Even though I know better. Oh, and I still went and bought sushi later, so it’s not even a very good title. Double drat.

Back to the CDs, then. My mood recently has been a creamy swirl of nostalgic and adventurous.

(Think of one of those combo soft ice cream cones, with French Vanilla, just like you had as a kid (or Strawberry, or Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, or whatver scoop you poop), mixed together with brand new Banana Tofu. Or Broccoli Ice. Or Skunky Monkey. You know, something new and titillating. Or new and nauseating.

(Are the two really so different?)

Where was I, then? CBs? That doesn’t sound right; what the hell do I know about CBs? Oh, CDs. CDs. Ah, right you are.

So, getting vaguely back on track, I’m thinking that the combination of nostalgia, experimentation and nausea are appropriate. They’re the Three Musketeers of Getting Old. You long for the old days, seek out new adventure to console your aging self, and then are sickened by how poorly your withering body is able to handle it. Fun for the whole family! At least with music, the effects are relatively mild. Finding old crap that I used to listen to isn’t always easy, but I pick up bits and pieces occasionally. The adventure comes in branching out into whatever ‘all the kids’ are listening to these days, or at least what they were listening to three or four years ago. (Hey, I was old then, too. Baby steps, people.) The only time I actually get nauseous in this scenario is when I try dancing to any of it.

(For the record, that pretty well turns the stomachs of anyone watching, too, so I have to be careful. On my way home tonight, I was in my car head-bopping to the Propellerheads CD I’d just bought.

(That would fall under ‘adventurous’, thanks.)

I stopped at a light, and a girl at the bus stop saw me shimmying my shoulders, and started heaving over the trash can. Humph. To be fair, I can’t tell whether she was hurling or hee-hawing at me, but neither could be construed as good where I come from, you know? Or where you come from, for that matter. I checked.)

So my recent music purchases have ranged from the ‘old-skool’ semi-mainstream (an old Police CD, the Call, the Cure’s greatest hits, and a Big Country compilation) to no-one-heard-of-them-then-and-sure-as-hell-don’t-know-them-now alterna-rockers (the dBs, Billy Bragg, XTC) to more modern (or more, ahem, ‘rump-shaking’) selections (Primus, Porno for Pyros, the aforementioned Propellerheads). Okay, so even the ‘new’ CDs are relatively old. If I can’t listen to what the ‘kids’ are into, though, I ought to at least tap into what the snotty, angst-ridden college kids used to listen to, right? Um, right?

So, anyway, my whole collection is setting up into factions, and — more often than not — facing off against each other to compete for my attention. It’s ‘Where Do You Want to Go Today, the Musical‘, for thirtysomethings, by thirtysomethings, and with thirtysomethings. Do you want to pretend you’re sixteen again today? Or twenty-two? Or twenty-six, perhaps?

(It’s really the difference between when you had the energy to really care about the music, or the liver to really drink during the concerts, or the ear to really appreciate the craft, then, isn’t it? And any of those is better than my current aged state: I really don’t give a damn, the hangover’s not worth the trouble any more, and my hearing isn’t what it used to be. ‘It has a good beat, and I can dance to it‘ has turned into ‘Leave me the hell alone, and turn down that crap that’s making my sternum vibrate‘.)

At least I haven’t completely gone the way of the old fart, and decided that all the new stuff is ‘noise’ and ‘crap’. (I’m not quite ready for dentures and applesauce just yet, no matter what my wife might lead you to believe.) And I do have some semi-current music in my rotation — Disturbed, for one. *Pause* I’m sure there are others, dammit! I’m not gonna try too hard to think of more, though, ’cause if I can’t, then I’ll realize that I only listen to ten- and twenty-year-old crap, and that’ll make me just like those Beatlemania crackpots and Monkees freak jobs that I taunted when I was a kid. I don’t want to be those people. Please, mommy, make me not be those people. Okay. Thank you, mommy. I think I need a nappy-bye. Or a timeout, with graham crackers and milk. Graham crackers makes everything better.

Ah, well. So I’m old. I knew that already.

(And one day soon, I’ll tell you the story of just how I found out.)

But I’ll console myself by believing that I’m only listening to old stuff because it kicked major ass, and there’s just not that much good shit out there, in any era. Hey, the eighties gave me Husker Du and the Alarm and the Beat Farmers, and the nineties contributed Soul Coughing and the Smashing Pumpkins and Rusted Root, but they had their Britneys and Justins and American Idolers, too. They were called Menudo, and Tiffany, and George Michael, though not necessarily in that order. Every generation is inundated with unlistenable talentless hacks, and I think the trick is to learn to separate the wheat from the chaff and hold on to those kernels of goodness for all they’re worth. But there’s no reason to just lightly dismiss any generation, new or old.

(Though the seventies makes a strong case to be the exception to the rule. What the hell were those post-hippie disco dickheads thinking, anyway?)

The point is to get the good stuff from that era, and move on to the next one. The problem with going back as far as the eighties, of course, is that you can’t get everything you want on CD, unless it was popular enough to have made the conversion. And as we’ve seen, much of the popular ‘pop’ music from the eighties (Thompson Twins, anyone? Huey Lewis?) was unadulterated drivel, so it’s not worth having in any format. One of these days, I’ll actually get around to figuring out how to transfer my small vinyl collection (of cherished shit that you’ve really never heard of) onto CD. I suppose that’s going to necessitate actually buying a turntable, if such things exist any more. I guess that’s what eBay is for.

(And is there anything eBay isn’t for these days? You can buy a car, a house, mail-order brides. What’s left? I saw somewhere that ‘peace of mind’ was listed for sale on eBay. That’s a useful thing to have, I suppose, but I wonder if it comes with installation instructions. I mean, do you just pour the contents of the envelope into your ear when you get it? Or eat the package itself?

(That might give you ‘peace’ of ‘mind’, but also ‘acid’ of ‘reflux’. Caveat emptor.)

I’d be worried that I’d get peace of mind, and then bend it or break it or something trying to jam it into my head with all the other crap that’s in there. And if I’m worried about that, then I don’t really have ‘peace of mind’ in the first place, now do i? Dammit, I hate false advertisting!)

What was I saying? Oh, yeah, I was getting to my point.

So, I gotta tell you — I don’t think I really had a point. Other than I was all excited about my new CDs, but dimly aware that I’m trying to live vicariously through them back to a happier time. A simpler time, without layoffs and mortgages; a time with sunny afternoons and frothy beers enjoyed while skipping class. So, that point’s not all that interesting, though it does make me rather thirsty.

Oh, the Propellerheads CD is quite good, if that sort of thing interests you. And the music from the ‘Death Death Kill Maim Shoot’ scene in the original Matrix is on the album, which always makes me smile.

(You know, the ‘lobby scene’ where Neo and Trinity come storming back to get Morpheus the hell outta danger.)

So at least now I’m yearning back for a me that’s only a couple of years old, the ‘me’ who was watching that movie in the theater and ‘ooh’ing and ‘aah’ing over the special effects. Yeah, and the soundtrack. And now I’ve got a little piece of it at my fingertips, on CD (and now MP3, natch). Not to mention the ‘lobby scene’ MPEG clip I snaked off of a peer-to-peer site a few months back. ‘Morpheus‘, I think the service was called.

Hey, there’s a full-circle moment! The ‘saving Morpheus’ scene downloaded from Morpheus, the P2P thingamahicky. Which itself is now old, tired, and pretty much dead. Just like me! I’d better end things here, then — there’s little chance I’ll wander into a higher note than this to end on, the way this one’s been going. So I’m off to bed — I’d like to thank all of you in the studio audience this evening, and a special thanks to my guests tonight. We’ll see you next time, folks. Our current house band, the Propellerheads, will play us out. Take it away, boys!

CRAP (see this post for the CRAP 411):

Hey, speaking of ice cream — And I was! Up there! Look at that! — my most favoritest flavor ever, ’cause I know you’re just gonna sit there and wet yourself if I don’t tell ya, was Baskin Robbins‘ Chocolate Raspberry Truffle. It was dark, and rich, and musky, and thick, and tangy, and delicious.

(And no, I don’t ‘likes my women like I likes my ice cream’. Though now that you mention it… they could have just called it Foxy Brown, and we’d have all known what to expect. Might’ve brought them in some more business, too. How come nobody asks me about these things until it’s too late?! ‘Foxy Brown ice cream. Too hot to touch, just cool enough to run your tongue around. Let’s get Foxy, baby!

Anyway, it occurs to me these days to wonder what the hell was actually in that ice cream. I mean, at the time, I thought they were actually using truffles — you know, that pigs dig up and cost a Donald Trump gold ashtray to buy. Now obviously, that wasn’t the case; Baskin-Robbins wasn’t distributing expensive French delicacies by the scoopful, no matter how much we loved them.

(I even hear that it was the Belgians who came up with ‘French’ Vanilla. But nobody would buy ‘Belgian Vanilla’ anything, so the French took it over. Their lone successful coup. Mon dieu!)

Now, I also know that there’s such a thing as a chocolate truffle, but I don’t think that’s what it was, either. First of all, the stuff already had chocolate in it, and even in the name of the flavor. Or flavour, if I haven’t pissed off all you European-style readers with the French Vanilla bit. Anyway, they also chose to separate ‘chocolate’ and ‘truffle’ in the name, so I think they must have been separate entities. Besides, I ate the stuff, many times, and I can tell you — there were chunks of something in there among the chocolicious bits and the raspberritality, and it wasn’t more chocolate. No way. ‘I know chocolate, and you sir, are no chocolate.

Still, what would make a good, frugal truffle surrogate for them to use? I mean, sure, it only had to fool twelve-year-old kids, but it had to be something different, too, or we’d have recognized it. So it should be something similar to real truffles, I would think. So let’s see — what do we know about truffles? Well, they’re a fungus — a pungent, musky fungus that grows on tree roots, and that farmers use pigs to root out and dig up. Sounds tasty, huh? Underground funky-ass mushrooms covered in swine spit. What do you substitute for that? Slivers of old gym socks? Chopped-up just-worn panties? Randy moose niblets? Ugh. No wonder I could never pick up girls, with that crap on my breath all the time.

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