Saturday, June 25, 2011

Preface To Remember...: You Remember Wrong

It's touching how much humans rely upon their memories, but it's sad how memories betray us. I recently counseled my sister, who was feeling old & thinking she couldn't remember dumb shit from her past, that it didn't really matter, since she probably didn't remember them the way they actually happened anyway. It still seems a little strange for me to feel this way, since I used to worry in my youth about forgetting everything that happened to me, & kept a kind of diary for some time in early adulthood. (The diary is totally boring & useless now, by the way, since I often will refer to people that I honestly can't remember, & usually by their first names, which is maddeningly unhelpful.)

I don't worry about forgetting thing so much anymore. Everything I read about the human brain suggests that when we do remember, we remember a lot of our lives incorrectly. We remember, mostly, to protect ourselves. I recently became reacquainted with someone from my past & was honestly surprised that he had completely remade his past, when he had done some awful things, into a sort of sad tableau wherein people had hurt him for indiscriminate reasons. I don't think he was lying, I think he was utterly sincere. & he seemed downright puzzled that some folks from that time had any hostility toward him.

I flatter myself that I am somewhat self-aware, & so I imagine that I do the same things. In fact, I completely understand that it's not even a conscious choice, that our brains have evolved in such a way to try, at the very least, to make sure we're the heroes of our lives or, failing that, that we at least hold on to some modicum of sanity in a narrative that doesn't make fill us with complete self-loathing. How else could we live with some of the things we know we're capable of?

There are other ways our brain fucks with us of course, but the way our memory betrays us seems especially poignant to me.

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Self Help Radio iPhone App

Does not exist.

But if it did, what would it do?

I'd imagine it would be connected with some over-the-top database - requiring me to pay exorbitant fees to hated record companies - that would match your idea for a "theme" to a series of songs that you could download &/or play.

I think I would probably try to block more mainstream songs, not because I would not necessarily play them on the show, but just out of spite. Does Sony really need more money? Really?

I'd probably also have to record lots of meaningless factoids so you could enter a "theme" into the app &, when available, there'd be my tired voice saying something like, "It's a fungus so it's not really a plant or an animal."

(I've actually done a Self Help Radio about mushrooms, so I got to play songs about fungus. Push the button & hear "Slender Fungus" by Tones On Tail!)

What else? I'm new to the whole "app" thing, having no iPhone & only recently getting a secondhand iPad from my wife, who had no use for it.

I suppose there'd be the obligatory pictures of beagles. There can never been enough pictures of beagles.

But what else? Would there be no other options for the Self Help Radio iPhone app?

Then it's a good thing it doesn't exist.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

A Joke A Day A Week, Episode One

I've written a few times on this blog about the inane "A Joke A Day" email service (I'm sure there's more than one) which I would often subscribe to for email accounts that, back in the day, were free but which I never used. Often those email accounts would expire if you didn't have email coming to them, but because I thought it was (at least initially) funny to have email accounts at & (both sites, & my email addresses, are long defunct), I'd sign up for an account & then subscribe to the A Joke A Day service. One account I use still gets them, & I rarely read them, but am too lazy to unsubscribe. I recently thought, what if I actually saved them, then featured what I consider the best, or funniest, or worst, or most notable, or simply something to talk about once a week? & so I shall.

The most common A Joke A Day is pretty lame. You've probably heard it before, & I confess to never actually laughing at any A Joke A Day. But this A Joke A Day, from Wednesday the 22nd, is based on a pretty funny pun, but seemed exceptionally clumsy in its execution - & it was familiar:

"When Mozart passed away, he was buried in a churchyard.

"A couple days later, the town drunk was walking through the cemetery & heard some strange noises coming from the area where Mozart was buried. Terrified, the drunk ran & got the priest to come & listen to it. The priest bent close to the grave & heard some faint, unrecognizable music coming from the grave. Frightened, the priest ran & got the town magistrate.

"When the magistrate arrived, he bent his ear to the grave, listened for a moment, & said, 'Ah, yes, that's Mozart's Ninth Symphony, being played backwards.'

"He listened a while longer, & said, 'There's the Eighth Symphony, And it's backwards, too. Most puzzling.'

"So the magistrate kept listening; 'There's the Seventh... the Sixth...the Fifth...'

"Suddenly the realization of what was happening dawned on the magistrate; he stood up & announced to the crowd that had gathered in the cemetery. 'My fellow citizens, there's nothing to worry about. It's just Mozart decomposing.'"

I'm not a classical music maven but I do know that the composer most associated with nine symphonies isn't Mozart (who actually composed over forty of them) but Beethoven. I know for the sake of the joke it's just important it's a classical music composer that you recognize, but this does seem especially lazy.

The other thing is, I laughed at this joke the first time I saw it, which happened to be in a The Far Side cartoon by Gary Larson:

Suffice it to say, the economy of style Larson had to use makes the pun more impressive, & doesn't require the lengthy set-up. It also doesn't require the weird notion that music played backwards is somehow music returning to its source - & you know, symphonies are played with full orchestras, so you had an prodigious amount of sound returning into the dead composer's head.

(Or so I assume. The joke suggests the music is faint, but I can't imagine it was coming from dead Mozart.)

I am over-analyzing but I'll be doing that on Thursdays from now on. It's fun (for me) to pick apart why something isn't terribly funny. This joke, which probably predates the The Far Side cartoon, is as crumbly & decaying as Mozart in his grave, but there's something I will say at the very end which I find interesting, since many of the A Joke A Day jokes have, like their audience, I suppose, a vague American religiosity & positivity that undermines the best humor's cynical, sarcastic & antisocial punch, & it's this:

You've got a dead dude, & music's coming from his grave, but the town's paid expert on spiritual matters, the priest, is not only "frightened" by the noise coming from the grave - his area of expertise - but he actually runs to the town's secular authority, the magistrate - who handily solves the problem after "listening for a moment." Is this supposed to be a mild criticism of the uselessness of religious folks, who really don't (& frankly can't) know more about death than anyone else? Or maybe it was subconscious?

Even if it's the latter, it makes the joke (for me) better than your average A Joke A Day.

Monday, June 20, 2011

A Trip To The Suburbs

elf Help Radio left the big city to visit the suburbs this week, & got a little lost. All the houses look the same! I went to the same convenience store THREE TIMES! I forgot that I grew up in the suburbs. Or maybe I'm pretending I forgot?

The suburbs have their charms, but mostly the music I found was somewhat critical. You can be the judge. The entire suburban show exists in the exurbs called the Self Help Radio website. I have divided the show in half, like a classic two-car garage, & part one is here under all this crap from last Christmas while part two is over near the lawnmower I think. If you forget to close the garage doors before you leave, don't worry - a nice police officer will come to the door to tell us late at night.

The songs in each part are below. Thanks for listening! I have to drive back to the city now.

(part one)
"Sweet Suburbia" Skids _Dunfermline_
"The Sounds Of The Suburbs" The Members _Sound Of The Suburbs: A Collection Of The Members' Finest Moments_

"Surburbia" Pet Shop Boys _Please_
"Suburban Homeboy" Sparks _Lil' Beethoven_
"City & Suburban" Always _Looking For Mr. Wright_
"The Suburb In Between" The Mabels _The Closest People_
"If Not Now..." The Guild League _Speak Up_

"Rockin' The Suburbs (feat. William Shatner)" Ben Folds _Over The Hedge_
"In The Suburbs" Let's Wrestle _Nursing Home_
"Suburban Home" Descendents _Milo Goes To College_

(part two)
"Suburbs" Junior Achiever _All The Little Letdowns_
"Suburban Rock Dolls" The Chubbies _Your Favourite Everything_

"The Suburbs Are Killing Us" My Favorite _The Happiest Days Of Our Lives_
"Suburban Relapse (John Peel Session)" Siouxsie & The Banshees _The Scream_
"Suburban Family Lament" Ruth Copeland _Invictus/Hot Wax Grooves & Breaks_
"Lost In The Supermarket" The Clash _Lost In The Supermarket_
"Suburban Dogs" Real Estate _Real Estate_

"Suburban Girls" The Commercials _Compare & Decide_
"Death In The Suburbs" The Diodes _Tired Of Waking Up Tired_
"Suburban Life" The Novas _Trip In Tyme Vol. 5_

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Whither The Suburbs?

Suburbs may require their own haikus.

Suburbs have their own ideas of cheese.

Suburban living has its own special brand of angst.

& of course there's husband- & wife-swapping.

It took a while, but eventually there was even suburban rock music.

Whatever is happening with suburban (aka "white") flight?

An online rhyming dictionary found "no perfect rhymes" for suburb, although some fine imperfect ones exist. For example, this, from the Lucksmiths:

"A storm rolls across the suburbs
& the streets are as empty as the cupboards."