Getting a bit blue in the tooth

Hey, it’s me. I’m writing on a train.

It’s snowing, and I made the last minute decision to skip that nonsense and transit to work. I had a hidden motivation: I wanted to try out my new mp3 player. After humming and hawing for months, I finally bit the bullet and bought one. First impressions, it plays mp3s. I guess that’s good enough. The turning point in actually sitting on my arse and buying one online was realising that I’d never be truly satisfied. Or rather, I realised I’d probably be fine with a much wider range of players than my narrow desires expected. I wanted a dumb machine. Something that played music without a stack of extra features and apps. I wanted something weighty enough that it felt sturdy and safe. Definitely no internet. I was against Bluetooth and FM radio. I just wanted a simple player, nothing more. It’s weird, I’ve been obsessed with having hardwired things for some time. I think there was some fear founded on the idea that this technology is fickle. Thing is, Bluetooth has been around for 10+ years. I think it works just fine. In fact, I decided to road test some average earplugs I had lying around for my commute. Turns out Bluetooth works. Who’d have thought? I’ve been clinging to outmoded notions. I’ve been jogging and working out with studio sized monitor headphones for years, when I could’ve had a far more lightweight option. Based on today’s performance, I might even get some new Bluetooth headphones for active stuff. I’m not an old enough dog that I can’t learn a few tricks.

It’s rad having 100 or so gigs of portable music on the go. Over the past few months I’ve gotten by with podcasts and DJ mix sets. When I’ve been at a computer, I’ve streamed from Deezer. It’s mostly been working. What I’ve realised though, is that having nigh endless access to music from across history is somewhat stifling. There’s so much of it, and it doesn’t pop right out to you. You need to search up what to listen to, and without a bunch of curating, I found myself listening to roughly the same 40 or so albums most of the time. When I use a portable player, I have a long list of artists to choose from. I can continue getting new music and adding it, while still remembering old favourites. Not to fall into an adage, but what’s old is new again. I’m discovering all these bands I love, but had forgotten about. It’s kind of a gift, and today’s commute has been spent reacquainting myself with Dan Deacon.

And like, cramming into a bus with some dude’s bag pressed against my face. But mostly Dan Deacon.

No Wayans, bro

Wow, it’s been an age since I wrote from the TTC. Say hello to the day shift.

I did DV for Scary Movie today. I had a script. Having watched the film many times in my teens made the process easier. Look, comedy has shifted a bunch since it came out. A ton of it was base level punching down shit. It’s fine, our standards were a lot lower back then, and we hadn’t yet dealt with a cavalcade of Wayans Brothers films. It felt fresh at the time. These days, egads it was stale. The Matrix references, the gratuitous gay jokes. I don’t even know if I’m judging here. It was probably what we were asking for at the time. I totally chuckled at the stupid Wazzuuup scene, and some of the physical comedy made it hard to describe with a straight face. Not a good movie, just Scary Movie.

Being an adult for me primarily seems to be coming to terms with the fact that most of the stuff I loved doesn’t hold up. It doesn’t need to, but I think there’s part of me that vainly hopes I always had good tastes. I didn’t, obviously, and don’t. I know for certain that it doesn’t matter, and whatever appeals to you, if it doesn’t harm anyone else or encourage harmful behaviour, is fine. Just enjoy stuff. It should be so easy. I dunno, it isn’t. If I’m honest, I think there’s something I’ve always liked about being an opinion leader, and that fits my motive. I want to be able to recommend experiences to others, sure that I’m adding goodness to their lives. On some level, I know I feel valued when I do. It doesn’t mean by any stretch that I don’t take others’ recommendations. Of course I do. It’s not such a one way street that I don’t watch things for my own pleasure, and trust the judgement of my friends. It’s just that when I see, hear or read something that moves me, I really want to share that feeling with others. That makes sense, right?

Who knows? Maybe one day these suggestion algorithms will actually become accurate. Netflix could start to understand why I enjoy the this i enjoy, rather than assuming a thumbs up or down means anything emphatically. Perhaps it’ll stop suggesting kids talking animal movies because I happened to watch an Air Bud or two while recording a Pawdcast. Look, I certainly didn’t thumbs up any of them. I wasn’t watching those films because they were cinematic dynamite. A lot of the Netflix stuff I view is based on specific criteria, filtered through an unfathomably complicated series of reasons. It could be because I like a certain actor, director or writer. Maybe it’s nostalgic viewing. Maybe there’s a joke I want to understand that’s predicated on having seen a certain show. Perhaps I heard a podcast and someone mentioned a scene. A song from a movie may have randomly popped into my head. I could’ve seen something entirely unrelated, then thought about a trope, gone to tvtropes.com and looked the trope up, then found reference to a film that harnesses the trope in a certain fashion. It’s entirely possible that it’d be a hate watch. Too much for any simple algorithm to unpack. Until Google starts recording our brains as well as our conversations, that is.

Are they already doing this? I guess I’ll know for sure if Scary Movie 2 pops up on my Netflix recos today.

Here’s today’s slice of life

I’m feeling a little loopy, and that’s okay.

My sleep patterns have been a bit iffy lately, and it’s translated into a strange and addled state of mind. Yesterday I had a nap around 4pm. Later, I got a little high and cut some cheese. I looked down at the knife, and started singing an improvised song about a “cheese knife”. I’ve never been great at riffing lyrics on the fly, but for some reason I kept going as I prepped to head out for the evening. For maybe ten minutes straight, I kept up with this ditty, going through all sorts of stanzas and iterations. At some point it became a funeral dirge, the same weird little tune, but slower. The lyrics were inane, something like:

Cheeeeese kniife
No matter what, we stood together
Cheeeeese kniife
Through thick and thin, through stormy weather
You’ve been so present in my life
Taken my hand in all this strife
You’ve
Been
My
Cheeeeese kniife…

And so on. It was fun. There was something to be said for disregarding a fear of failure. Not worrying about the outcome, but relaxing into it and keeping up momentum. It reminded me of teaching kids to do back tucks in gymnastics. The thing about a back tuck that will get in your way is hesitation. There’s a point at which you just have to push it, elsewise you’ll get stuck in the wrong position. If you hesitate, you’ll hurt yourself. If you push hard, you’ll land the right way up. Riffing this dumb cheese knife song was similar, in that I just had to go with it and have faith that I’d stick the landing. I stumbled a bunch of times, but I was surprised at how often I managed to come up with a legit rhyme. At times if I thought far enough ahead, I’d get a word into my brain that would be great for the following line, and try to come up with a rhyming word for the line I was currently saying. It made my mind reel at the mental gymnastics that prolific freestyle rappers must do on a regular basis. There’s so much to consider, but someone like Black Thought makes it seem effortless. I can only wonder what he’d rap about a cheese knife.

I realised today that there are a couple of things I’ve had wrong for a while. For instance, I thought that the saying went “Fear is in the eye of the beholder”. Apparently that’s quite not it. I only found out, because I made a pun that I thought was decent about it. It would’ve been, if that was the saying. I also thought that the line in Nirvana’s “In Bloom” was “But he don’t know what it means/Don’t know what it means to matter”. In my head it made sense. Nirvana was all about connecting with the disaffected youth. Big time Gen X energy. Saying that the dude likes to sing along, likes to shoot his gun, but lacks purpose, it all seems on the mark. I kinda want to retcon the lyrics and change them to mine. I’m sure Kurt would be up for it, if he were still around.

I know the sentiment of what would Cobain have become if he lived? isn’t new, but I was thinking about it today. Not in a musical sense, but socially. Nirvana were kind of a beacon for the weird and unwanted. Queer culture wasn’t as mainstream as it is these days. I wonder if Kurt would’ve been a good ally or not. Maybe it’s wishful thinking, but I feel like he’d be supportive of LGBTQ+ peeps. I know he idolised Bowie, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see him follow in Bowie’s footsteps. As far as I know, Bowie was normally on the right side of history (like calling out 90s MTV for not playing enough black artists). Would Cobain have gone down a similar route? Of course we have no idea. I’m not gonna break any ground here. It also doesn’t serve any of us to imagine would could have been, when it easily could not have happened that way at all. Kurt was frequently unwell, and fame sorta fucked with him a bunch. If he didn’t take his life, would something else have done it for him? Sad. It’s been a while since I listened to Nirvana. Maybe I should go do that now.

Maybe I’ll cut some cheese, and have a listening party.

May as well say the same for the rest of the world

I’m seeing AC/DC on Friday.

Well, an AC/DC cover band, at the Norfolk County Fair and Horse Show. I’m taking a day trip with a friend. I’ll jump on most any excuse to go exploring, and our last trip there was tons of fun. Then the next day, I get to have Thanksgiving lunch with her family. Bonus. I remember when I arrived in Toronto, I had these grand designs of travelling all over Canada. I made it as far as a few cottage trips with friends, and one or two day trips. Having access to a car would make this all the more accessible, but I can’t afford the cost of owning a car in Toronto. Insurance alone is upwards of $2.5K per year. Owning a bike is quite frankly enough responsibility for me right now. So the GO train it is!

In coincidental preparation for Friday, I watched Detroit Rock City with friends. They used the excuse to psyche themselves up for an impending Detroit trip. My plans were somewhat less thrilling. The film was fun and dumb. Set in 1978, it followed four boys on a road trip, desperate to see their favourite band Kiss perform in Detroit. It was ludicrous, totally over the top. At the same time, if I’d discovered it at age 16 it would’ve been my absolute favourite thing. It has not aged well (especially considering it was released in 1999 “the same year as The Matrix” a fellow viewer kept repeating). It’s equally homophobic and sexist, filmed entirely through the male gaze. The kids get into some serious shit, and the last third of the movie grows pretty damn dark. The depths to which the kids sink in order to get to their concert defy reason. At the same time, it was a neat, forgettable movie to watch on a lazy night. We all snuggled up and passed bowls of home flavoured popcorn. Not a bad way to spend a Tuesday.

After most people left, a few of us stuck around awaiting a second movie. As we tried to figure out what to watch next, I noticed two attendees stretching deeply. One did a lotus pose, and folded their legs into their chest. The flexibility was unreal. We all tried, but few of us succeeded. Someone ran me through the motions, then pointed out how tight my left glute was. So I stretched as we waited. I spent the next half hour, under their advice, stretching my glute out. They told me to pulse: Push the stretch with medium strength for seven seconds, then release, wait, and repeat. I tried this off and on, and couldn’t believe how much extra flexibility I gained. I tried stretching my posterior chain. One of the attendees helped me with my stretch. They were a shiatsu practitioner, and guided the flow of my back, neck, and hips. I felt the strain slowly drift away. By the end of it, I was doubled over neatly, hands wrapped around the backs of my ankles. I felt so fucking good. It made me realise just how tight I’m normally wound. How it’s possible to stretch passively while watching a show, or waiting. I understood the capacity I held to feel so much better in my body, if I just spent the time. I considered how a more robust stretching schedule would fit into my life. I went home feeling great, passing out soon after my head hit the pillow.

Then this morning I biked hard, tightening my posterior chain all the more. There goes progress.

Fiio fo fum

Hi there. Welcome to my day off.

It’s a marvellous thing. My only problem right now is that I’m wearing my trusty lion onesie, but I’ve also loaded up on coffee. I have no problem being a perky so and so, but I’m engaged in a constant battle between robing and disrobing. Back and forth, to and fro, from one seat to another. At worst, I guess I’m keeping active. I have a bunch of days off ahead of me, and very few plans set in stone. It’s understandable that I’m fidgety, and caffeine certainly hasn’t helped.

Sorry, I just got distracted looking up mp3 players for an hour. Oh, and now I need to bathroom again. I guess that’s my day.

It’s 2019. I can’t believe that I’ve spent months trying to find an mp3 player. I know we’re in the darkest timeline, where the nail in Trump’s coffin might be a Nickelback meme he made. Still, this mp3 player thing is bonkers. WHAT IS MY PROBLEM? Honestly, it’s analysis paralysis. I want to make a good investment in something that will last, but I also have preconceived ideas of what an mp3 player should be, likely based on owning many iPods. I want something sturdy with physical buttons. I don’t love touchscreen stuff. It feels more vulnerable, and I hate the idea of a screen sapping my battery life. I want a large capacity (at the very least, iPod size), and decent battery life. At the very least, 10+ hours. I want good sound quality, but I also realise that I’m gonna be loading it with 320kbps mp3s, not FLAC. So midrange will be fine. I have very specific tastes, and I’m sure that the ideal player for me is out there.

But here’s the thing, I have too many options. I made an excel spreadsheet with pros and cons, features, etc. It’s not comprehensive, so when I get the gusto back up to start searching for mp3 players again, I forget all the stuff I’ve left out. Then I’ll be like “oh I like this one. I should buy it”. I’ll read a review or two and realise I don’t like its battery life. Or it has a weird, unintuitive UI, or it’s touchscreen, or has wifi. I’ll dive down the rabbit hole of alternative options, and after an hour I’ll bury my head in my hands and close my browser. Lather, rinse, repeat. It’s not getting me any closer to buying a new player.

I know what the answer is. I just need to find something that ticks off enough boxes, and not worry about it being perfect. But I waaaaant something perfect. If I’m spending $400+ on a new device, I don’t want it to ship along with mild disappointment. That’s a pretty hefty investment for me, in something that I’ll use daily for several years. It feels like there’s a lot of pressure to make the right call, but that’s all in my head. Just because I know it’s not as big a deal as it seems, that hasn’t cognitively helped me to look past my preconceptions and biases to find something suitable. So it’s back to square one every time.

I know I should just buy the Fiio X5 Mark ii, but what if there’s a better option?

I guess we’ll find out six months down the line, when I finally make my choice.

Or maybe the song’s about tumours. Who knows?

I miss my iPod. Not having a good portable media device is doing weird things to my already weird brain.

I’ve had a cavalcade of odd songs stuck in my head. For going on two weeks, I’ve had will i am’s verse from “My Humps” popping in and out of my subconsciousness. For those fortunate enough to have skipped it, check out my very real nightmare:

“I met a girl down at the disco
She said hey hey hey ya lets go
I can be ya baby, you could be my honey
Let’s spend time not money
And mix your milk with my coco puff
Milky milky coco
Mix your milk with my coco puff
Milky milky
Right”

It’s quite not good. The whole song is, truly. I’m way past the intentionally contrarian music tastes of my early 20s, but that song still sucks a big one. Anyway, I was biking home last night at about 1am, and the rest of the song was playing through my head. I got confused about Fergie’s nomenclature for her bits. While the song is called “My Humps”, in the chorus she repeatedly sings “my hump my hump my hump”. Singular, not plural. But then she also refers to her “lovely lady lumps in the back and in the front”. I’m guessing that means boobs and butt, but then what’s the hump? Singular? Does she have one fused buttock/boob? Or some kind of bony growth on her spine? Like, extreme scoliosis? If that’s the case and the song is all about her owning particular unconventional body growths, I might be slightly more on board. Somehow, I doubt it.

Since it was announced that Swamp Thing was making a prime time comeback, I’ve had the theme from the animated show moving in and out of my brain lobes. Unlike “My Humps”, it’s a goddamn delight. The whole thing is a rad as fuck riff on “Wild Thing” by The Troggs. Listen to this: Greasy 80s guitars, weird cartoony sfx, and a significant cheesy quotient (reminder, I’m into the Oxford comma now). It’s been kind of a blessing. I find myself singing it as I grind coffee in the mornings, or occasionally bursting into laughter in public because it’s still in my head, two months down the line.

“Down to the River to Pray” is another one. From the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack. I know it’s weird not to have “Man of Constant Sorrow” tucked in there. It’s still a bop. Weirdly, I’ve been singing it with a closed mouth. I don’t know why. It’s this thing I’ve been doing for goofs lately. Like, I’ll have my mouth mostly closed save for a thin parting of the lips, and I’ll sing. Full articulation within my mouth. Actually pronouncing the words and everything, but muffled. It’s funny, sounds like you’re hearing singing from another room. I told my girlfriend and she was unimpressed. “They already have that. It’s called humming.” She’s wrong, I’m right and it’s funny. Or I’m just a goof, but I’m okay with that. In any case, I’ve been doing it with “Down to the River”.

Anyway, I need a new mp3 player. I sure can’t wait to get paid. But I will. Because I have to. In the meantime, at least I’ve got stuff to listen to in my head.

Like “In the Meantime“.

iPod, iSaw, iCompared

It’s 2019. I did not expect that I’d be struggling to buy an mp3 player.

My ipod classic shat the bed, and it’s gonna cost $450 to fix. It cost $350 to buy, so this seems like a big stretch. It’s probably the fourth ipod I’ve owned in the past 15 years. I use them all the time, 1-2 hours daily. I’m not kind to my electronic devices, and that’s clearly shown in the life expectancy of my gadgets. With an ipod, there was so much I didn’t need to think about. Since it was the market leader, the proof was on them to make a solid product that was easy to use. I didn’t love going through itunes, but it worked. Everything was categorised and simple to scroll through. I liked the tactile, physical nature of the product without touchscreen. I could operate it without looking. It sounded good, and was surprisingly robust. I could take it to the gym, and it weighed enough to not constantly bounce around. The UI was excellent, and while I didn’t use most of the features, I didn’t have to. It just worked.

With my ipod dead, I’ve had to do my research on figuring out what to buy next. For the past few months I’ve been using my phone. I hate it. It’s too bulky, and fits awkwardly in workout clothing pockets. I don’t have an online music subscription, primarily because my internet connection isn’t reliable. I want something with a huge storage capacity, so I can curate what I want on there, but also don’t have to worry about filling up any time soon. I’ve had so many issues with my ipod over the years, and it’d be kind of cool to have removable stuff so I don’t need to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Removable batteries, storage, etc. That way I can just get a new microSD card instead of having the whole unit repaired for hundreds of bucks. I want something sturdy and rugged, physical controls rather than touchscreen. I want a decent battery life of around 10-15 hours per charge. I want 200+ gigs of storage. I want a UI that’s functional, easy, categorises by artist, album and whatnot, taking ID3 tags into account. If I’m stuck with a file tree to navigate, that’d feel clunky and undesirable. I want a player that sounds good. I’ll most likely just be using mp3 320kbps. It’d be too much work to start getting FLAC by this point. Still, to my untrained ears 320kbps plus my M50x headphones should be good enough. Who knows, maybe I actually try buying a good pair of earbuds for active work like running or gym stuff. I don’t want apps, internet connectivity or wifi. I want something that runs as a self-contained unit, that just plays music and does it well. I’m sure that’s not too much to ask.

And yet, holy hell it’s a lot of work navigating the landscape. There are things like the Sandisk Clip that would be perfect if only it had expandable storage. The FiiO III Mark 2 looks like exactly what I want, but it only supports storage up to 120 gigs. The FiiO III Mark 3 doesn’t have the same weight or size as the Mark 2, which is disappointing. But at the same time it’s still an all tactile, non touchscreen unit, plus it handles larger expandable memory. The UI is apparently a little slow. The HIDIZ AP80 has so many features that I like. It can hold up to 1 TB of expandable storage. It’s a little smaller and dinky than I’d like though. Apparently the UI is functional, but it’s all touchscreen with tiny onscreen buttons. My fingers are not diminutive. Then there’s the Ibasso DX50, which looks like it mostly has everything I want. It’s a tactile unit with decent weight. It has up to 2TB expandable storage. The battery is user replaceable. But I can’t find any in Canadian stores. It’s gonna cost a mint to import from the USA. Apparently the software is a little sluggish, but if I can find one that works, maybe that’ll be the go. I spent hours last night looking up models, comparing specs, figuring out how one of these units would fit into my life. I even made an excel spreadsheet to help make my decision.

It’s almost enough to make me want to resurrect my dead ipod once more.