Monday, February 21, 2005

Wrong Eyed Jesus

Words don't suffice. They may have once but that stopped at some point, at some time that I don't even remember. I've been feeling dead inside since right around the time Buffy's mom died. A series of events both real and imagined left me overwhelmed and the end result is you don't feel way too much to handle as you might expect after some big life events, but rather as a necessity you don't feel anything at all.

And I don't think I'm alone in this. As you get older and life beats down on you there are times you just have to shut down and let your defenses take over. Living in a time when no one seems to get upset that our news media has fallen in such a state of disrepair that phony news is now accepted as being OK and that phony reporters who ask phony questions at White House press conferences don't set off any more alarms than news columnists paid off to shill a political agenda. Hopefully this is a temporary state of affairs and the bone deep cut doesn't end up as an I've fallen scar.

And you know what I've found? That the little things I might have once taken for granted now mean a little bit more to me. A couple of weeks ago the coffee place across the street from my house began selling sushi. Of course it's not the stuff you can get at a good Japanese restaurant- it's mostly fake crab meat or tofu wrapped in tasteless rice served with mild wasabi and stale ginger. Still I find myself wandering over there quite a bit more than I used to and whenever I do I end up happily purchasing the new product. One package doesn't quite make a meal for me so I eat it with a serving of those really cheap ramen noodles you can buy at any chain grocery store.

Maybe it's my feeble attempt to feel just a little bit more Japanese but I'm quite enjoying my new diet. There's little raw fish (an occasional piece of the coffee shop sushi has a little piece of raw tuna in it) and my favorite pieces contain cream cheese so along with the cookie cutter (probably really bad for you) grocery store ramen it's not like I'm going to authentically turn Japanese any time soon. But nonetheless it sure beats a Big Mac or a Arby's roast beef sandwich any day of the week.

The other thing going on in my life that makes me more aware of the soulless funk I've been in (and being way too aware of the state of things) is that I think I may be falling in love with music all over again.

It started when my family bought me an iPod for my 40th birthday last fall. Yes I've heard all the criticisms of the device- that it steals your soul, that owning one is giving in to the corporate sellout to the almighty Apple god, but I don't care. I've loaded most of my favorite CDs and all of my favorite songs and I hit the shuffle button and am in an all day "I love this music" atmosphere. How wonderful is it to be at work and have a Sarah Vaughn song come up next to a Liz Phair song right after Willie Nelson segues into Outkast?

That said, with the unveiling of Minnesota Public Radio's 89.3- The Current!- I must admit I'm just about ready to say that my iPod is so yesterday. Those same wacky juxtapositions of a variety of eclectic artists has become the station's greatest quality (among many to choose from). In my stupor state of mind I have noticed a couple of politically related things: that people with John Kerry bumper stickers are some of the worst drivers and; that most of MPR's attempts at being funny are really annoying. (With the occasional exception of Garrison Keillor and the all the time exemption of This American Life). The network's quiz show Wait Wait Don't Tell is an excellent example of this. It is perhaps the least funny thing I've heard in my life as hard as they try.

Thus I wasn't holding out much hope when MPR announced that they were going to be changing one of their classical music stations to an "alternative music" format. I feared an attempt at being hip would fall equally on its face as the awful attempts they make at humor. But the station plays all the time in my car now. The best thing I can say about 89.3 The Current! is not that it's great that they play Devandra Banhart, but it's great that I'm not surprised that they play Devandra Banhart.

So I've stopped listening to the news and rediscovered how great a great song can be. This may mean I will become temporarily less aware of what is going on in the world but it also means I will likely become more aware of what is going on inside of me and I think that for awhile that is a tradeoff I'm willing to make.

Addendum: I've even started playing the piano again on a regular basis. The newcomer to these premises, Theo the Third Cat has quickly let me know what he thinks of my piano playing. Every time I bang out a Barry Manilow song Theo climbs inside the piano and sits on the hammers so the felt covered devices can't rise and fall upon the dreadfully out of tune piano strings. This effectively brings a quick end to the cacophony and my impromptu midnight performances.

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