Happy Songs

I don't know about y'all, but there are some songs that make me happy when I hear them. I like and love many many songs, but there are only some that I call my "Happy Songs." I will likely append to the list as they come to mind. And without further ado here they are:

Mmmbop - Hanson (I catch hell for this one all the time, but I don't care)
Mr. Blue Sky - ELO
Here Comes the Sun - The Beatles
Heads Carolina, Tails California - Jo Dee Messina
It's Raining Again - Supertramp
1,2,3,4 - Plain White T's
The Only Living Boy in New York - Simon & Garfunkel

Created: 9/18/2009

Gone Country Times Gone By

It started without a doubt upon my arrival at Clemson. It may not have been until my second semester there that I started watching CMT, the country music VH1 or MTV, every now and then. My musical tastes were expanding. I had not been exposed to this type of music back home and I found a lot of it pretty good. Before I knew it, I was buying CDs. First came Alan Jackson. Later Blackhawk, The Mavericks, and Jo Dee Messina. There was also Dwight Yoakam who turned out not only to be a great singer, but a good actor.

I had a newly-found appreciation for the form and content of country music. After all, I was in South Carolina and no one does "When in Rome" like I do. I took to it like a duck to water and enjoyed every minute of it. Some of my favorites were great tunes – fun to sing-a-long to and blast on the car stereo. I did a lot of driving from Clemson to Columbia and to Atlanta and to Florida and thus I had a good bit of time to listen to the mounting stack of purchased country CDs often. As I moved out of college, the brief and intense love affair with the genre ended.

Shania Twain closed the door. Right before she "crossed over" and became the pop queen du jour, she had a song I loved called "Don't be stupid." I purchased the single on my way home (my new rented apartment home in Atlanta) from graduation. I believe this was the last country CD I ever bought. This song carries great meaning in my life for things unrelated to country music.

As quickly as it started, developed and peaked, my devotion to country music faded. Out of college, working, and with much less TV time to my disposal, CMT became a thing of the past; in my casual flipping through the channels, it was not even a pit stop. I didn't listen on the radio either. For me, as previously stated, it was either CDs or talk radio. I don't think I have ever had a country station as part of my car stereo FM presets.

Every now and then, in random instances, I am exposed to it. It's through those occurrences that I have had the chance to listen to Toby Keith and others. Also, the advent of the MP3, file share sites of the time like Napster and the subsequent sale sites, I have been able to gather hits of then and now without the previous necessary commitment to a whole album. Among the already mentioned, my collection now includes George Straight, Garth Brooks, Mandy Barnett,Billy Gilman and many more. So although diminished greatly by an unintended underexposure, my appreciation for some things country continues. Born and bred in Clemson, it lives on… even if only in life support and nurtured by memories of my college years.

Created: 2/27/2009

Howie Day, will you mod my Xbox?

It was 2003. Fall was turning into Winter and I was hard at work finding out the intricacies of Xbox modding. If you don't know what modding means, then you need not worry about it. That's what I should've told myself to tell others. I have a big mouth and every now and then feel the need to share my vast expertise on all things interesting. And thus, as things often happen, after successfully modding my own box and getting all things to work properly and loving what I had done and being so proud of my achievement, I found myself doing it for someone else… and doing it for free.

I will spare the gory details of all the things that went wrong and how I had to take out functioning parts of my own Xbox to fix the other one I had not-as-successfully attempted to mod. It was messy. It took a long time. It was a thankless job – especially since I had boasted how easy my mod had been. There is no telling how many hours I spent trying to replicate my initial (and perhaps incredibly lucky) success. If there is a soundtrack to that stressful time, it was most definitely Howie Day's Australia album. Every time I hear any of the songs from that album I am transported to that time. To be fair, the song that hits me the hardest is a live bootleg of Ghost mixed with Beams of Light from a show in Boston College and that was not part of the album – just some random download. When I hear that puppy, I am in my dining room with a cracked open Xbox and pissed off beyond belief. "BC, [expletive], what's going on?"

This was one of those painfully learned lessons on how sometimes keeping one's mouth shut should be the best policy. This is, unfortunately, a lesson that has taken me a long time to learn. Now, more than five years later, I'm a lot wiser and a lot quieter. Still, just the other day… well… let me just mention the word "torrent."

Created: 1/23/2009

The Madness Revisited

I have 22,650 songs occupying 107 gigabytes of HDD space – a sick pile of raw, unedited, duplicate-filled madness. With my iPod purchased, I began the laborious task to clean this mess up into a usable catalogue of songs. First, clean them up – identify, label, categorize, etc. Then, segregate the ones that I would want on my device. These are two steps which sound pretty simple to accomplish.

Simple turned into a very time-consuming activity. By time consuming I mean a month later and dozens of man-hours, I'm still at it. The original 22k have dwindled to a clean list of over 16k. This means about 4,000 songs were unusable or unrecognizable. The much more manageable 16k contain tons of stuff I would never listen to – a lot of rap and hip-hop, hardcore heavy metal, way too old oldies, etc. Although I can dump all 78 gigabytes of music into my device, I'm not about to clog it full of garbage.

From this list I've been able to start filtering songs to my iPod. After meticulous selection, and acknowledging that I'm not done, so far I've selected about 6,800 songs. A mere 31Gb of music are in my iPod now. Although I've been careful, I'm taking chances with bands/artists that I may end up liking based solely on the sound of randomly selected songs. I'm also bringing into the fold the full available catalogue of others of which I only like/know a few songs. I know I'll be hitting the "Next" button quite often in my iPod, although experience has already shown it's a lot less than I expected – I like that many songs and I have so many good ones.

In reality, I might never finish trimming out the clipped songs, including the best ones, and excluding the trash. Right now, I'm just fine tuning and I think that'll be enough. Seems like after all this work, the madness has most likely been contained. There is a light at the end of the tunnel... somewhere down there.

Created: 5/15/2008

Biting the iBullet

Before I say what I've done, I want to explain why. I have decided to keep my Ford Explorer SUV for the duration. My plan is to buy a new car after I graduate – a sedan. There is a need for a large utility vehicle in my household and therefore I'm not trading in my well-kept, one-owner, high-mileage, a little scratched and mildly dented SUV. I'd never get what it's really worth from a dealer and selling cars to the general populus is a pain in the butt.

So I'm keeping my SUV until the wheels fall off. One of the things that suck the most about my car is its radio - the original 2002 factory installed CD player. Back then, there was no MP3 compatibility feature or auxiliary input jacks that came standard. So for the past 6 years I've been burning mix CDs. When the pile gets too big, the disks get scratched, or the music gets old, I throw them out and start over. This has proved inefficient and frustrating at times. I have too much music to have to come up with periodical mixes at an average of 20 songs per CD. It's an absolute pain.

The search began for a replacement radio a few months ago. I didn't care about output power, just about the inputs. First, I researched radios with USB inputs. Playing gigabytes of music directly from a USB drive was certainly the idea in my head. In theory it sounded good. In practice the reports I read showed that most radios only supported thumb-drives or micro-USB drives, not the standard/cheap USB hard drives. This threw a wrench into that option because it not only did it increase the total cost of the project, it also brought to question that the whole thing would work. Moving on, I focused on stereos that could play DVDs – not video, just audio. A DVD with 5Gb of storage space could pack quite a few MP3s. Of course, that sent me back to the multiple-disk scenario. Furthermore, these types of audio decks are impossible to find in a regular store. I could only find them online. All other DVD radios came with a screen – the fancier ones with a hefty price tag. I wasn't interested in all that.

As things would have it, a piece of hardware I'd never had came into the picture. I have always been one to give MP3 players as gifts. I remember sinking more than $300 into a Creative Labs Nomad with an internal memory of 64MB back in the day. It was a piece of crap. The parallel connection docking station worked when it wanted to. One day, it decided to retire and that was the end of the device. Years later I bought an iPod Nano as a gift. I had played around with iTunes and although I never purchased music through its services, I didn't mind the interface. Despite an inherent apprehension to own anything Apple, I crossed the threshold and decided I should get an iPod.

Instead of buying retail, I decided first to journey into the nether regions of Craigslist to find a "new in box" unit or one "almost brand new." Let's just say that after wasting hours searching and actually meeting someone with a said "just purchased/virtually new" iPod that looked like it'd been dragged behind a car for twenty miles, I called this method off. Instead, I found an internet deal with Best Buy and purchased an 80Gb Classic – function over form – I like the bigger device anyway. It was a bit more than I was willing to spend on Craigslist, but it saved me tons in the form of time searching, aggravation, and gas.

So one piece down and one to go, I focused on the radio. The task of finding a car stereo with iPod integration in a regular store was easy – that became the problem. There were too many radios that touted iPod integration/compatibility, but few that delivered exactly what I wanted. I read and read and narrowed down the search, but it was impossible to make a decision without testing real-time. So I walked into Best Buy with my loaded iPod in an attempt to put their systems to the test. Upon noticing most the stereos on their display touted the sought-after feature, I noticed only one, the lowest-end one, an old Sony model, had the cable sticking out for testing. So I plugged my unit in and quickly noticed this device was not quite up to my expectations. I asked one of their mouth-breathers for help and he told me there was no way to test any of the other radios. They weren't set up for that. I'd have to go on faith or pick the $400 Alpine. That wasn't happening.

God Bless America and its free entrepreneurship. I crossed the street to Circuit City. Their display was a third the size of Best Buy's. Again, no one had given much thought to testing when they created their radio display. Only one radio had the cable sticking out. This was a much better radio, a JVC. I played around with it and liked it. A few things still were not perfect. I wanted more. Beneath it, for a few more dollars was a 2008 model Sony, a CDX-GT820IP to be exact. Same problem as with Best Buy, the iPod cable was not accessible for testing. This time around, I got helped. The attendant took my iPod, went behind the display and plugged it in. I played with all the features and once I was done, the unit had sold itself. This one was the one for me and instead of walking out and shopping for a better price online, I rewarded the service I'd received with the purchase.

Not only was the purchasing of the unit a better experience, they could install it (for free – labor only) the same day. I recall asking about installation at Best Buy at another time and not only did they charge for it ($50), but they couldn't fit me in for days. I figured they were so busy they didn't need my business anyway.

Neatly tucked out of sight, my iPod has made a permanent residence out of my glove compartment. I've had the radio for a couple of weeks now and I couldn't be happier. I've started listening to more music that I used to. For the most part I play the device on shuffle, but have played by artist and playlist. Which takes me to the next cube…. The Madness Revisited.

Created: 5/15/2008

New Adventures in College

R.E.M. has been with me for a long time. This trailblazing alternative band has played soundtrack to many stages in my adult life. When I remember my time in Clemson, one album in particular comes to mind: New Adventures in Hi-Fi. The record came out in the fall of 1996 and I purchased as soon as it hit the stores. I bought mine at a Manifest Records in downtown Clemson.

This was a very exciting time for me. I'd started driving to Atlanta on most weekends to hang out with new friends. I was well on my way to starting a new life and this is what was playing on my car CD player while that was all going on. I remember doodling lines from some of my favorite songs on the fringes of my notebooks while I paid attention in class. I have some of those notebooks in storage – I have to get those out and scan some of my artwork. One song that got a lot of my art attention was "Electrolite," the last one in the album. I like the lyrics a lot. "Twentieth Century go to sleep… really deep… we won't blink."

Despite liking the vast majority of tracks, it is the first single that reminds me the most of a specific moment. "E-Bow Letter," number five in the CD, was the first and only song that I remember hearing on the radio (and that may be because I hardly ever listen to the radio for music). When I play this song, I remember a crisp, cool fall morning on the corner of Calhoun Drive and Fernow Street – Riggs Hall to my left, Sirrine Hall in front of me, and trees to my right. The sun is shinning down creating long but shrinking shadows. The song is playing in my head. I am in motion; on my way somewhere – likely class. It is incredibly vivid image frozen in time.

I didn't have a portable CD player and I never drove to class – parking for students in Clemson is not the best. I walked from my dorm to class every day. For about six months I had a bike. This was extremely convenient while I lived in Lightsey Bridge since it's the farthest dorm from campus. As luck would have it, I left the thing locked down over a summer break and found it missing when I got back. The time this event took place would correspond to my stint at Lightsey, but I don't think I had my bike at that time. I'm pretty sure I was walking. The point is there is little chance I was actually listening to the song when this moment-song connection was tattooed into my brain. The only thing I can imagine was that it was still playing loudly in my head when I was making my way to class – likely around the corner in Freeman Hall. It's funny how these things happen.

Anyway, like in so many instances, when I hear that song, I am carried to that place in time and space. So many things were happening in my life, all at the same time, and along came this record, this song, to frame it all in a moment, in a scene, in a memory.

Created: 4/18/2008

440 and Nelson during Tenth Grade Trip

The year was either 1989 or 1990. I was in the tenth grade. My high school had a yearly newspaper drive with a class trip as the grand prize for the winning group. Whichever class was in the tenth grade traditionally won mostly due to the leadership of our English teacher – I forget her name. There'd be nothing different this time around. We won and the whole class won a weekend trip to a warm retreat a couple of hours away from Bogotα.

Now picture about one hundred 15-17 year old kids running around in a resort virtually unsupervised in a country where drinking alcohol is not frowned upon or (in all practicality) even forbidden. Exactly – it was loads of fun. The teachers came along too, but this was a little holiday for them as well. They were good to keep their eye on us while looking the other way on minor things. These were simpler times in a simpler country, with more carefree people. I look back at all that happened and wonder how in the US this would've been grounds for a massive coverage investigative report and mass layoffs. The bottom line is clear: nothing bad happened and no one got hurt. Better yet, everybody had fun.

Each cabin could house about 8 people. Boys and girls were separated. I don't remember if they policed our sleeping arrangements after checking in. I'm sure they did. Most of us slept wherever we passed out if that tells you anything. I'm pretty sure I slept in my room every night. One morning I remember waking up to one of my buddy's cough. I though he had caught a cold or something. I came to find out shortly after he was puking his guts out.

I remember a lot of drinking… a lot of drinking. We mostly imbibed aguardiente (fire water) because it was cheap and effective. We played drinking games - siete pum (seven “pum”) comes to mind. In this one, every player says a number in ascending order and every number that has a seven in it or is a multiple of seven must be replaced by the word “pum” and the order of the count is then reversed. Whoever messes up has to down a shot. This game can be complicated for some while sober. And for the record, I hate aguardiente - it is the most disgusting hard liquor. But while there, and for years, I drank that poison like it was going out of style. Those were the days of peer pressure and compliance above individuality. That's the teenager's cross to bear – always been always will be.

The resort (sounds a lot more luxurious than it was) had a ton of different pools. I remember drinking in every single one of them. Mornings were painfully hung over. I saw more girls puke than I'd ever want to see – I remember one in particular. In my room, after playing cards or a drinking game or whatever, this friend pukes everything in her and the only thing to come out other than clear liquids was a chewed up gum. Disgusting. This story would live in lore because of the gum. The puking was certainly not uncommon. I don't remember eating much – just drinking. Oh, and I don't remember drinking beer – only the hard stuff.

In a drunken stupor I also participated in an incident that would live in the minds of witnesses after the trip was long over. This place was riddled some very particular trash cans. Imagine a big can - an open barrel – and then atop the opening would be a clown's head. So the mouth of the clown – upright, open and smiling – served as the opening for trash. These were the tackiest, most disturbing things ever. What's worse, they were not uncommon. I remember these being popular in parks all over the place. So, drunk (yet lucid), and in front of a ton of people, I went to town with one of these trash can clowns. To be more specific, I lined up my midsection (clothed) with the clown's mouth and proceeded to get imaginarily fellated. Pure gold.

After all was said and done, we had nearly destroyed the resort. A friend of mine cracked a bed. The rooms were left in complete disarray. I don't think our school was allowed back the following year. When we moved on to eleventh grade, the new tenth grade class ended up going somewhere else if memory serves me right. Pictures of the trip were a dangerous and hot item once we got back. I've never seen so many mooning pictures in my life (shame on me, I participated in some). Speaking of pictures, one of the least revealing made it onto Facebook. It shows me shirtless and sporting a pair of glasses that I probably borrowed from someone (I don't have nor had glasses). With me are a couple of my classmates/friends playing cards. I do not remember this instance, but the picture is hilarious. Ignore the timestamp - there's no way it's accurate.

Anyway, I tell the story of this trip because there's a soundtrack to it. Every time I hear a couple of these songs, I can remember some (whatever part I was lucid) of what happened during that weekend. An album, Bachata Rosa by Juan Luis Guerra y 440 was being played a lot on the radio and it got very popular. This was my introduction to palatable Merengue music. Two songs from that album come to mind primarily:La Bilirubina and Burbujas de Amor. The other song that reminds me of this trip, in the opposite end of the musical spectrum, is Love and Affection by Nelson. These three songs stuck out of the plethora of tunes pumping out of the boom-boxes we'd brought with us. While there, on the trip back, after the trip was over but its memory was still fresh in our minds - these songs lingered. Still today, I cannot break the connection.

Created: 4/8/2008

Water Under the Bridge? Painfully no.

The year was 1992. It was fall although this is nothing more than a toothless descriptor. It was my first semester in college – Universidad de los Andes. For the first time in more than a decade I'd been thrown in a foreign environment. The comforts of private school were all but gone. Some friends carried over – the closest ones anyway.

This uninviting setting brought with it hard realities. I'd been coasting for too long and that wasn't going to cut it there. Skipping class wasn't to fare well in the end either. I'd live to fight another day. Some of my friends wouldn't. College hit hard and not all of us were able to come back after a semester of tough love. I hung on by the skin of my teeth. Still, I hated every single thing about it. Well, almost everything.

Among the turmoil, one thing was clear and evident. While many of my friends dealt with their struggles by switching majors or doubting their choice, I never did. I was born to be an Industrial Engineer (IE), to have that as the foundation to build my career upon – there was never any doubt in my mind.

There was one lonely IE class in my first semester's schedule – Introduction to IE (big surprise). There were about one hundred people in the lecture class. The main goal for the class was to create a business from the bottom up. The professor formed groups. I was bundled with three other guys and a girl. The five of us had to come up with an idea, a proposal, and present it for approval in front of a smaller breakout section of the class. That didn't work out too well.

While all the other groups had actually come up with good ideas and had put together presentations, we had nothing. We got up and just verbally delivered our half-baked idea. And that it was – as half-baked as you can get. We proposed making, marketing, and selling CD storage units. Yes. That's right. CD storage units. That's perhaps one of the stupidest things ever imagined because of so many different things; but at the time and lacking any team cohesion, while our collective common sense took a break, we decided to step forth and present that mess as our idea. Needless to say we were bowled over. Had we come pseudo-prepared we might have avoided the assault. Had we attempted to be pseudo-prepared we would've certainly recognized the idiocy of our idea. Instead, we were exposed in front of our peers. It was a truly embarrassing moment.

So what happened next? Did we do our CD storage cases or whatever the heck they were supposed to be? No. As punishment, we were turned into guinea pigs. The IE department had been discussing piloting a social side to this project. While most groups focused on businesses that would generate revenues (and profits), the university considered there was some social welfare that could be extracted from the fruits of freshmen labor. That was us.

Long story short, we helped a small entrepreneur with very few resources organize his dried flower business. We helped him with his finances and costs. We hooked him up with a large florist chain. We helped his business succeed – at least that's what it seemed like then. I cannot comment on the sustainability of our improvements and if he actually achieved success in his business. We never cared to follow up once the semester was over.

The story doesn't end there. Near the end of the semester, the freshman IE class presents their projects to the whole university in a fair-like expo. Most groups sell their products there. We presented our results – pictures, samples of the products our beneficiary produced, etc. At the end of the semester there was a department-sponsored party where the best group (as elected by the professors) would win a prize (two round-trip tickets to the Caribbean). Buzz around school was that our project had rocked out, exceeding all expectations. From our initial unraveling had grown a necessity to outperform. Amongst us, were another two or three teams that had done really well – coming up with some pretty ingenious ideas that had generated some money.

The night of the awards I was in rare form. I remember very little. A minute ago I typed that I was drinking quite heavily, but had to delete that. I don't really remember being drunk. It's all a bit fuzzy right now. What I do remember is the moment the awards were being handed out. As the groups started getting called out, our chances increased. When the runner-up group's name was called out I went into a frenzy. I knew we'd won even though there was still a possibility of not even being in the top four groups. We did win though. The taste of victory was the sweetest redemption. Now what ever happened to those tickets, I'll never know. We talked about selling them, but never did. I bet one of my group members had himself a little vacation when the rest of us moved on.

So we went from zeroes to heroes in the department in a semester's span. That was just one of the things that happened that semester. A lot of things happened this semester. The adjustment to college was really tough and memories of that time bring back some very mixed feelings. That semester was definitely a low point. So why mention it? Why in this cube?

Earlier today I was listening to random 90's songs and Under the Bridge by the Red Hot Chili Peppers came on. That song takes me back to those days. I can remember playing the song in my head (likely after heavy hearing) while walking up and down the steep hills of Andes during that first semester. Whenever I hear that song it is impossible to think of anything else. Much like the pain and glory of that first semester, the song is burned into my mind, more branded and scarred than fondly remembered.

Created: 4/4/2008

Mississippi-bound with Matt Nathanson

My introduction to Matt Nathanson coincided with the start of a new position in the company in which I was working at the time. These were exciting times. I had gone with a couple of friends to a Howie Day concert in Little Five Points and Nathanson was the opener. As much as I like Howie Day, Nathanson stole the show. He gave an awesome live performance and I really enjoyed his songs. Day was a bit dry and disconnected from the audience – a long ways from the concert where I'd first seen him perform as he opened for Tori Amos. The people that came with me might remember that night a bit differently. I was not really very engaging and fun to be around. The following day I was going on a two-week business trip to Europe and needless to say I was a bit nervous and anxious. Anyway, that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

A couple of months later I was pleasantly surprised when I opened a Christmas present to see Nathanson's latest CD (at the time), Beneath these Fireworks. Although it's extremely seldom, I sometimes can enjoy every single song in an album. This one didn't have a single miss. Angel, Suspended, Sad Songs, I Saw, Bare, Little Victories, Pretty The World, Curve of the Earth, Bent, Lucky Boy, Weight of It All, and Sing Me Sweet are all incredible tunes. I couldn't stop listening to them. The CD didn't leave my car for years (I just took it out a few weeks ago – five years after it first hopped on board). It also held the distinction of being the only original CD in my car – all others were burnt mixes.

Fresh memories of one of many drives to Mississippi come back when I listen to that any of those songs. During that time I spent a lot of my time traveling – sometimes riding with salespeople, sometimes flying, sometimes driving myself around. I went everywhere – Europe, Mexico, Canada, but mostly the Southeastern U.S. It was a particular spring drive to the Southern state that always pops up. I'm pretty sure it happened during the spring although it could've been fall. I remember it was mid afternoon on an extremely pleasant sunny day. The weather was perfect. I drove part of the way with my windows open taking everything in – music blasting of course - heading west towards Laurel.

Another thing happened that day (if my brain hasn't managed to tangle together two different trips, which is quite possible). I had a very personal, very grown-up conversation with my little brother. Long overdue, we spoke about some things that needed to be brought up. When I was on the road, there was no better way to kill time than being on the phone. This call in particular might have chewed up an hour or so. It was good to be able to have a serious conversation with someone who, in my "big brother" mind, will always be a kid.

Those were good times, different times. These songs take me back to that time and place. I cannot forget driving down I-20, sun blazing, wind blowing, with Matt Nathanson singing the soundtrack to my journey.

Created: 2/19/2008

Monday night King to the sounds of Pink Floyd

My second year in college (while I was still at Andes), a couple of high school buddies and I met weekly to play King. We often gathered on Monday nights from around 7:30 until no later than midnight. Three of us were pretty regularly there week to week. We often alternated the fourth player from a pool of friends that knew the game.

We always played for money – not much though – not enough to significantly dent our half-empty student pockets anyway. I recall that overall, after months – even years of playing, I came out a good bit ahead. That's always good and made it even more fun.

King is a pretty cool card game based off of Bridge and including variations of games like Hearts and Spades. I will elaborate this game in a separate cube later – it's definitely worth it. I haven't played much since then and I really miss doing so. It was a great way to spend a few hours with friends, cutting up and carrying on.

More so than to mention the actual card game, I reminisce about playing those Monday nights because it was then, and in particular because of one of those friends, that I acquired a taste for Pink Floyd. He was a big fan of the band and a disproportionate amount of evenings we listened mostly to The Wall and the Dark Side of the Moon albums – both Pink Floyd staples.

I already owned The Wall - I'd taken it from my dad really. Around that time I began listening to it much more intently. I found myself really enjoying its dark undertones, but mostly the lyrics and the music. I'd long made a mental connection between Pink Floyd and stoners. I didn't want to be pegged as a Pink Floyd fan for a fear of a similar association, but I just couldn't help turning away. Their music was that good.

Shortly after I'd arrived in Clemson and mostly as an impulse buy, I purchased their boxed set Shine On – which alongside a coffee table book included 8 albums: Relics, A Saucerful of Secrets, Meddle, Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here, Animals, The Wall, and A Momentary Lapse of Reason. If I'd been just an admirer of just a couple of their albums until then, I became a full-fledged fan soon after.

That purchase cemented my devotion to the group. Subsequently over a period of years I purchased The Divison Bell, Pulse, The Final Cut, Atom Heart Mother, and Piper at the Gates of Dawn. Many years later, I received as a gift Echoes: The Best of Pink Floyd. I also purchased the DVD of Pulse and The Wall movie.

Unlike many of their hardcore fans, I favor the David Gilmour era rather than Roger "Syd" Barrett's. The band was certainly more heavily involved in psychedelic musical experimentation during that period. As time progressed, they became more mainstream although without losing their edge and musical creativity, their particularly unmistakable sound.

It is truly a shame that the band broke up (mainly Roger Waters left the group due to irreconcilable differences). Even after he'd gone, the remaining band members - David Gilmour, Nick Mason and Richard Wright - put out some good albums and some great songs. There is no doubt a large part of the band's collective creative engine left with Waters, but there was still enough talent to produce good music.

My love for the band and their music was such at the time that while learning HTML in Clemson (on my own out of pure love for technology), the first webpage I created was a tribute to Pink Floyd (this was mostly to test my programming aptitude). I included a discography, lyrics, and other band facts. I also did one for R.E.M. The page was hosted on the university server and there's probably not one bit or bite left by now some 12 years later. I wrote the whole thing on a UNIX editor. Talk about pain.

Later, I found out that just a couple of months before I set foot in Clemson, Pink Floyd had played in Death Valley (our football stadium) during their Pulse tour. This was the last time the band toured. A connection between my Alma Mater and the band was unexpected. Somehow it almost felt as if this link between all of us was meant to be. "Pink Floyd playing Clemson of all places", I thought. A legendary band playing in one of college football's most hollowed grounds – musical idols in a sports temple: a marriage of two of my greatest passions.

I always find it quite remarkable that my interest and subsequent admiration of this great band stemmed primarily from those nights playing cards with friends. Like a spark setting off a dried forest brush into a wild fire, their music took over me instantly. Although I don't listen to them as much as I used to in college, when the mood is just right, there's nothing better than a heavy dose of Pink Floyd to make all things good.

Created: 9/12/2007

Your Memory Will Carry On

Okay, I admit it – I'm on a weird kick, getting hooked on "Green Day-esque" bands hitting the popular music outlets. Fall Out Boy and Plain White T's are still favorites in my car CD rotation – all with a plentitude of songs worthy of lyric memorization – both bands huge discoveries as far as I'm concerned. Like everything in life, we all go through phases. This one is no different than so many others. I know that in the future I will remember this stage in my life by playing these songs. And now a new addition…

Riding in the car to a meeting with my boss, a song came on his sat radio. He upped the volume after saying, "You gotta listen to this." The song started mildly enough with a piano, then a marching band drum roll builds it up into an explosion. After a musical climax, it dies down in the end. "Whoa," I thought – this is awesome.

It was My Chemical Romance's "Welcome to the Black Parade." With known potential heresy looming from this comment, I dare say this is a modern day "Bohemian Rhapsody." The song is dramatic, theatrical – the video is very surreal, good. I have been playing it virtually non-stop.

In line with the other mentioned "discovered" bands, I downloaded whatever I could find by these guys. Although after listening a bit I haven't found as many hidden gems as I did with the Plain White T's, they do have a couple of good tunes. Worth mentioning are "Teenagers" and, due to its amazing lyrics and good music, "Cancer" (a truly inspired song in my opinion). And just because I think it's such a touching song, I'm throwing in the lyrics:


Turn away
If you could get me a drink
Of water cause my lips are chapped and faded
Call my Aunt Marie
Help her gather all my things
And bury me
In all my favorite colors,
My sisters and my brothers, still,
I will not kiss you,
Cause the hardest part of this,
Is leaving you.

Now turn away,
Cause I'm awful just to see
Cause all my hair's abandoned all my body,
All my agony,
Know that I will never marry,
Baby, I'm just soggy from the chemo,
But counting down the days to go.
It just ain't livin'
And I just hope you know,
That if you say,
Good-bye today,
I'd ask you to be true,
Cause the hardest part of this,
Is leaving you...

Cause the hardest part of this,
Is leaving you...

Created: 8/20/2007
Last Edited: 8/23/2007

Hey There Plain White T's

I don't know what it is about it, but the song "Hey there Delilah" by the Plain White T's song tugs hard at my heart. I don't know if it's the time, the moment I'm going through; maybe it's my frame of mind right now. I cannot stop listening to it today and every time I do, I feel my heart crack just a bit, beat a bit harder against my chest. There is so much feeling in the words and they flow so smoothly in a simple yet powerful melody. There is incredible beauty in its simplicity. The delivery and the message make it an awesome song. The video is pretty sweet too. Dang this is too sappy - I know.


Mostly prompted by this song, I proceeded to acquire the rest of their songs. I was very surpised. They have a great rock/alternative sound much like Fall Out Boy and a few other contemporary bands. For a couple of weeks now they have been a permanent fixture on my car CD player.

Created: 7/17/2007
Last Edited: 8/2/2007

Animals in the Rain

I can remember listening to the Animals Pink Floyd CD in my dorm room my first year at Clemson as if it were yesterday. It was certainly a weekend afternoon – likely a Saturday. It had to be sometime during the spring of 2006 because I purchased their boxed set during our spring break (which in itself is a separate and bizarre cube to write some other time). More than anything, I remember the rain. My room was dark, cool. My roommate at that time was gone for the weekend – he lived close by in Easley, SC. I can feel myself lying in the top bunk – in boxers and a t-shirt, wrapped in those rented sheets – trying to nap, but knowing I wouldn't be able to. In the background, unmistakable to the knowledgeable listener, Pink Floyd softly poured into the room out of my portable Sony speakers.

It's not a CD I listen to often. It contains no significantly recognizable singles and although the tunes are pure Pink Floyd, I don't necessarily crave them like some of their others. Perhaps this is why when I hear any one of its five (that's right, five) songs I get immediately transported to that time and place – a lazy, rainy, and dark spring Saturday in Clemson, a million thoughts flying through my mind. Those were special times. This album takes me to them so vividly it's eerie, fantastic.

Created: 7/12/2007

Out of Time - My Gateway to R.E.M.

The year was 1991 and I was a high school senior. The R.E.M. song "Losing My Religion" was tearing up the charts. It was a force hard to avoid. The video was awesome and getting serious play on MTV. In one of those impulse buying frenzies I went to a music shop and bought the CD "Out of Time" just for that one song. Although I had heard some of the Athens, GA band's more recognizable pop hits from the past ("Stand", "The One I Love", etc), I'd never owned any of their other records. Needless to say, I loved this album - every song. Their sound was so refreshing. I played it non-stop for a long while.

It was not until a visit from my cousin that I even pondered broadening my collection. After I began playing the CD, I remember him saying their best stuff was their older stuff. After he'd listened to the whole album he actually agreed it was good, but didn't back away from his original statement. "If this is not their best, I need to get the others," I remember thinking to myself. And after many years of collecting, I did.

My dad was member of one of those Columbia House CD clubs at the time, and I utilized this medium to acquire a lot of their older more popular albums for "pennies." I remember getting "Green" and "Document" at the same time. As soon as it came out I purchased "Automatic for the People." "Fables of the Reconstruction", "Dead Letter Office", and "Eponymous" came later. I got "Murmur", "Reckoning", and "Life's Rich Pageant" later still. Subsequently, as more new ones came out, I got them – every single one of them. I have every R.E.M. original album. I also own some compilations, but not all and I really have no need for the rest.

Although it's hard to say if I agree with the statement my cousin made at the time, I certainly found a lot of great music from their earlier work, which fueled my need to want more and more. This is undoubtedly one of my favorite bands of all time, and I'm cubing about them first because they hold a special place in mind. My senior year of high school and the following college years were an extremely important part of my life, certainly formative and deeply significant - my life drastically changed in many ways. If I could attach a soundtrack to this period it'd be sung almost in its entirety by R.E.M. - no doubt about that. Listening to some of their songs takes me back to particular instances and moments from that time in my life very vividly - times I mostly remember with great fondness.

Created: 6/22/2007

I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For

The biggest reason for not wanting to delete a lot of the stuff I have now (AE), is because there's a lot of music I have not been exposed to. There's a lot of lesser known music that doesn't flood the mainstream and hardly ever reaches me. There are a lot of oldies and classics that I never knew. For instance, recently in random play, I "discovered" the bands Bowling for Soup and The Ataris. Since, I have listened to a few of their tunes and have been pleasantly surprised by a good sound and some enjoyable songs. This "discovery" process is fun – it's like finding a new toy to play with and to add to my toy collection.

More importantly, many of my favorite artists and bands have been discovered by accident, so it would be absolutely counterproductive and insane to delete unknown music. Previously mentioned REM, Pink Floyd, Tori Amos and Howie Day have all been discovered casually. I think it'd be unfair to mention these instances haphazardly because each are stories amongst themselves, so I may write some cubes about them soon – maybe right after this one while the memories are fresh. I can certainly mention as an example that after discovering Tori, attending one of her concerts led me to Howie Day before he had a hit. Subsequently attending a Howie Day concert led me to Matt Nathanson – who is still virtually unknown and certainly awesome. The interesting thing is I'm not usually a concert goer at all and yet two concerts yielded two favorites.

As far as music is concerned, I don't think my search for more will ever be over. I will never be satisfied with what I have. I will always want more. I'll never find what I am looking for because what I'm looking for is more good music. More is unquantifiable, never-ending; good is relative, subjective.

Created: 6/22/2007

Radio Free Me

Whenever I can, I avoid listening to music on the radio. Ever since I got my first car (back in the eleventh grade) I have forced myself to listen to my own CDs versus what the radio stations are playing. Radio stations (some more than others) have been committing the same crime since as far as I can remember – overplaying a song to death. They seem not to be able to play a song often enough sometimes. When saturation is reached, the song turns almost repulsive to the listeners. Many good songs die a gruesome death this way, only to be resurrected years later in retro play. This is not healthy. Listeners like the song originally because it's good or enjoyable. They grow to hate it not because the song becomes less good or enjoyable, but because they are sick of hearing it. This is a vicious cycle I try my best to avoid. As an example, I can still enjoy Hootie and the Blowfish.

There is an apparent problem with avoiding music played on the radio: it's hard to find good new things to like. You'd be surprised how much we're bombarded with information every day. Although this is a much bigger topic, I mention this because within the information we're hit with every day there's a lot of current music. I can very quickly determine whether I like a song or not. I often recall the song "Two Princes" by the infamous Spin Doctors. I heard the tail end of it one Saturday morning and immediately knew I liked it – at the time I didn't know that it was busting through the charts. I bought the CD within days. I still love that song and the album yielded another couple good tunes. I feel like I almost unintentionally get a taste of the current stuff without radio. If I miss some average stuff, so be it. If it was meant to make my list, it'll make it in eventually.

Created: 6/22/2007

It's the End of the World as I Know It (And I Feel Conflicted)

When you get down to it, my all time favorites range from REM and Pink Floyd to Tori Amos and Howie Day. I have loads of 80s stuff, classic rock, sixties hippie folk, hair band essentials, embarrassing retros, classical masterpieces, Broadway musical scores, latin merengue and salsa, even some mild rap. All and all, BE (before expansion) I had a total of around 3,000 songs digitally – all good, no crap or fillers. All these tunes had been selected individually to make this list – it was clean and good and any given day a random shuffle playing of the whole list would be acceptable and enjoyable.

And then came the AE (after expansion) era. My digital library exploded to an unmanageable size. A list of 3,000 turned into 20,000 songs overnight. Imagine it as having a nice pile of gold and then having someone dump two tons of junk on top of it. Mixed in with the junk there's gold and gems. Imagine in the junk there's also some stuff that could be useful if you kept it around long enough. There's also a lot of stuff that you know you'll never use. Imagine you it doesn't cost you a thing to store it all – you don't need to get rid of any of it. What do you do? Do you do anything? Isn't it cool to have a large pile of stuff you can show off (even if you don't care for a lot of it)?

It may take me an eternity, but I am hell-bent on organizing this list of newly obtained music. I will scrub file names, correctly catalogue, discard duplicates, and segregate – in essence "clean" this whole list until I'm done with the last one. I have had a real struggle deleting songs. I have tons of space so it's definitely not a capacity issue. Of course, I know for a fact that I won't start liking the Insane Clown Posse. Yet there's a little voice inside that says, "Don't do it. You might need it for something… sometime." I doubt it, but I still can't see myself deleting anything that is not a duplicate or corrupt.

I guess the best thing I can do is move those to a mega folder called "Crap." At least I'll know where to go look when I'm looking for garbage. Keeping them separate will ensure my good music remains untarnished by that other stuff. Some would suggest to use playlists to segregate and forget about the physical location of the files. I'm not an iTunes or Media Player advocate or junkie, and although I will begin using playlists more often in the future (to manage the bulk), there's a lot to be said about having a clean list of music in an easily accessible folder with meaningful and standardized file names.

Yep, there's the regimented side of me stepping in and taking control. I can't help it. Disorder can drive me up the wall.

Created: 6/22/2007
Last Edited: 6/22/2007

Talk About the Passion

I've been really struggling to figure out what first to write about music. I love music - short and to the point. I think it is a significantly important part of the human experience. Music can evoke feelings or memories, spark happiness or sadness, pump up adrenaline or soothe. There's so much of it, so different, so timeless – there's music out there for everyone, for every age and stage of life. There's some music out there for you and there's definitely a bunch of music out there for me.

I am lucky enough to have a wide and diverse taste for music. I'm not sure if it's an innate acceptance of many things musical, a genetic predisposition to enjoying a wide spectrum of sounds and rhythms, or something I picked up from my parents' enjoyment of different types of music. Whether inherent or learned, I'm sure glad I have it. Music can often open a window to different cultures, struggles, feelings, and messages often otherwise ignored.

There's also the power of random memory associations to songs. Hearing a song often takes me to a time and place in the past. Some memories are significant, some are not. Reminiscing automatically through songs is subconsciously entertaining. It is like certain songs can reach into the darkest, deepest, least accessed corners of my mind effortlessly. If anything and at the very least, I'm sure it keeps my brain sharply tuned.

Music is all this and so much more to me. I love to sing (although realize I'm not that good at it). My head is chockfull of lyrics. I used to play the piano and hate that I never followed-through with it. The lack of musical aptitude is perhaps one of my greatest frustrations. Having a "good ear" unfortunately does not automatically yield a good voice or instrument ability. Regardless, I do the best alternative - I enjoy music and privately pretend I can sing and play. Yes, I'm that guy.

Created: 6/22/2007