Wednesday, January 02, 2008

David's Favorite Things From 2007

This is kind of like a Ten-Best List. The things on this list were not new to the world in 2007, they were only new to me - which is good enough for this blog.

David Ocker Self Portrait After Escher (c) David Ocker
1. iPod (number one with a tag)

I bought the thing to avoid the ugly surfeit of Willie Nelson songs at Starbucks. What I've discovered is that the iPod enhanced my enjoyment of music all around by taking the music I want to situations where I want it. Waiting for a train. Sitting on the beach. Taking a walk at 5 a.m. It's now definitely my favorite way to listen.

Certain music seems to fit my iPod habits - for example Terry Riley's A Rainbow in Curved Air, Bach English Suites and Scarlatti Sonatas. Morton Feldman and Conlon Nancarrow got deleted quickly.

Shuffle play is a wonderful thing. Since the iPod is filled only with music I like, random order turns it into a radio station that plays only my favorite tunes. Some of the segues are truly transcendent and compositionally inspiring..

Alas, nothing is perfect:
  • iTunes sucks (a marketing device designed to tether you to digital rights management; I stopped using it almost immediately)
  • Headphones are the weak link- if only someone could design a set of headphones as well as someone designed the iPod - with cables that adjust in length, don't tangle and don't catch on anything.
  • mp3 tags are an unmitigated disaster. You ought to be able to mark your files for easy, flexible and universal access. But I can't. Maybe if you only listen to pop songs you can; but you probably can't.
Plant growing inside a street light (c) David Ocker
2. The New Point and Shoot in My Pocket (number two with a zoom)

I blogged about the new camera here. Since then I've been nothing but pleased with it. Just where do you think all these pictures come from? You can see hundreds of my pictures (mostly taken with the new and old Pocket Point and Shoots) here.

Caution Hot - Deli Warmer (c) David Ocker
3. Chowderhead, our dog (number three with a tail)

Chowderhead, also known as "Mister Big Nose", has become a permanent fixture in our back yard. He's in charge of barking at small animals, chasing balls (especially the one that sounds like a wounded hamster when he bites down on it), chewing things beyond recognition and ripping out the grass.

No human, even a cynical old fart like me, could possibly be immune to the tidal wave of enthusiasm of this dog. Watching this passionate puppy is enough to make me feel good. Here and here are the two principal blog posts about Chowder.

They say people tend to look like their pets. Not true for us, but I think Leslie and I share a psychological profile with Chowderhead: we're all stubborn and obstinate. Training him has become an uphill battle. If he would only come when he was called. Is that so hard?

Colored Toy Bowling Pins in Package (c) David Ocker
4. Rhapsody in Blue performed by Marcus Roberts (Number four with an altered chord.)

I actually blogged about this. Go here.

Blue Pillar of Joy (c) David Ocker
5. Firefly (Number five with Chinese obscenities)

Although I'm a musician, the only kind of opera I really like is Space Opera. The movie Serenity made last years list. Firefly is the television series which begat that movie. We watched all the episodes on DVD and we were disappoint how few there are. More please.

Red Face on Wooden Telephone Pole (c) David Ocker
6. The Great Black Way by R.J. Smith (Number six-a-roonie)

The Great Black Way is a book about the vibrant black community around Central Avenue (it goes south from downtown Los Angeles) in the '40s. I thought it would be mostly about music - but Smith managed to relate the music to the politics and social movements of the period. Fascinating. Imagine, a time not too far gone and a place very close by where music was actually relevant to society. The book tells about dozens and dozens of cover versions of the song Open The Door, Richard. I'd like to find a compendium of those.

Black on Yellow on Gray (c) David Ocker
7. The Third Reich in Power by Richard J. Evans (number seven with an armband)

I blogged about this recently. Go here.

Missing Sign - Comedy & Tragedy (c) David Ocker
8. TMZ (number eight with shadenfreude)

There's a pandemic of television tabloid "news" shows. I've heard this called "hypertabloidization". TMZ is such a show. TMZ stands for "Thirty Mile Zone". Why? I have no clue. Click here for the TMZ website.

There are a lot of competing television tabloids. This one is presented by real looking people, instead of wanna-be beautiful people. Of course it doesn't hurt that it comes on right after The Simpsons, and I undergo a kind of lethargic non-kinetization after watching television for a while.

But mostly the shambles that famous people make of their real lives is far more interesting than any performances any of them are capable of. Television is providing anti-role models - although I'm not sure whether anyone realizes it yet.

Two Train Track Fences (c) David Ocker
9. Ma Meeshka Mow Skwoz by Mr. Bungle (number nine with an organ and a scream)

An acquaintance from Starbucks suggested I might like the music by the group Mister Bungle. He was wrong, I didn't much care for it. Too heavy. Too punky. Too rock 'n roll.

But one tune out of three albums I purchased captured my fancy. From the album Disco Volante. It's kind of a gothic horror sound track with trad jazz influences, disconcerting silences, incomprehensible lyrics (the best kind) and lots and lots of noises, including the greatest moment of pure musical static in the history of the world. It only lasts about 2 seconds but in rhythm. The tune has many mixed meters as well, whatever they are.

Shadows of something (c) David Ocker
10. Katra Turana (number ten from the '80s)

I don't know where I got these mp3s but they're a permanent feature on my iPod now. I don't know much else about this group either. Katra Turana was a Japanese trio in the 80s. Their music fascinates me because of it bizarrely combines sometimes wistful, sometimes dippy pop style melodies with avant-garde free improvisation, carefully worked out arrangements, strange vocal techniques from a soprano with a range beyond human hearing, and a manic, minimalist sense. Or something like that.

Stairway Sign at LAX (c) David Ocker

That's ten things. The list begins with two pocketable portable electronic devices followed by a large red dog with obedience issues. The rest of the list includes two television shows (one cancelled years ago), two books (one about the '30s the other about the '40s) and three musical selections (2 over 10 years old and the last over 20.). These are just some of my favorite things. Go figure. Maybe it makes more sense to you.

2007 Favorite Tags: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

1 comment :

ericnp said...

Regarding iPod "headphones are the weak link"

Give it another year and the bluetooth doo-dad will be half that size (or less.)