Tag Archives: entertainment

Some Things Change, Some Stay The Same

Many nights, I perform a wind-down ritual with the cats, just chilling in the living room with the music going.  Recently, that had transitioned to watching some TV on DVD – Simpsons, Futurama, and most recently, Frasier.  But I even more recently found myself hooked on an old TV show called The Rockford Files.  This show ran from 1974-1980 and was about a private investigator.  In 1980, that mantle was passed to Magnum PI.  Maybe I’ll make it there, but there’s like 125 episodes of Rockford Files to get through.

The 70’s.  I grew up in it.  I can’t say I was really old enough to appreciate much of what was going on, but to watch TV shows set in that time now is like watching Little House On The Prairie back in the 80’s.  Watching a 70’s show is slightly nostalgic to me, but Rockford Files was an adult TV show, so I couldn’t really relate to what was going on if I think of myself back in the 70’s.

However, I am an adult now and I can compare being an adult now to being an adult back then.  And it’s with reluctance that I say some things were better back then.  But of course, some things are better now.  Let’s do some pros and cons.

I’ll start with the biggest thing I love about how things were back then.  No people.  Imagine the population cut in half, or even more so.  Imagine roads that weren’t packed with cars – 2-lane roads at that!  Imagine going to Las Vegas and going to the pool and only about a dozen people there.  If there’s one thing I hate about modern times, it’s all the fucking people.

Ok, now a con.  No 911.  No cell phones.  Maybe this is really a pro, but it’s crazy in this police drama show that someone gets shot or hit by a car and people run to a pay phone, put money in it and call the operator to contact the police.  That’s really how things were back then.  And the reliance on pay phones, the lack of caller ID, the existence of pay toilets, it gives you a real shock to see people functioning like that.  I can’t imagine not having my cell phone with me.  If my car breaks down, what am I going to do?  Go to someone’s house and ask for help?  Flag down another car for help?  Good luck getting any help or even not getting yelled at or assaulted.

Another con – smoking.  It was big in the 70’s.  It’s going to be a century before it finally goes away.  Drinking was pretty acceptable, too.

A dual pro/con is the cars.  They sure looked nice back then, but they were fucking massive and handled like shit.  Car chases in the 70’s are a joke.  And in a police drama, there’s at least one car chase EVERY episode.  It’s interesting to consider how modern shows limit the outdoor scenes and mostly deal inside, where 70’s shows are like 80% outdoors scenes.

Then there’s the equal rights stuff.  And I’ll give Rockford some kudos here.  They show women and black people in positions of power.  I am pretty sure it was still considered progressive at the time.  But the show does suffer from the trope of the helpless, emotional woman who gets seduced by Rockford in many episodes.  The dude lays his clients a lot – he gets paid to fuck.  Glad to see this concept retired.  However, speaking of progressive, the theme song has some 70’s Minimoog synthesizer lead lines – 10 points for that.

Ok, and to finish up the bullet points, the part that has gone unchanged.  The police haven’t changed much at all.  One line by a cop who was demanding Rockford get out of town sounded like it could be said today.  To paraphrase, because I don’t remember enough to quote: "If we see you here again, we’re going to pull you over and while you’re reaching for your ID, we see you’re reaching for a gun, and it’s all over before anyone realizes a mistake was made."  This is in 1974.

I’ll summarize my enjoyment of the show.  The Rockford character constantly gets himself into bigger and bigger trouble throughout every episode.  All the police hate him, doesn’t matter if they’re local, in the state, or across the country.  He gets beat up a lot and throws a lot of punches himself.  Aside from the necessity of keeping him alive for the show, that just wouldn’t happen today.  He’d be dead in a drive-by shooting with no physical contact.  Or simply shot with no chance to talk his way out of anything.

As you’re watching the show, you think, get your phone and take a picture – oh you can’t.  Call the cops – oh you have to find a pay phone.  Just text them really quick – oh you have to call and hopefully they’re home.  Check the map – is there one for the current town in your glovebox?  Wait, you can just walk into a business and talk to someone?  You call a business, ask an actual person for a person that works there, and you get to talk to that person?  You can walk through an airport?  Hailing cabs?  Going to a nice restaurant without a reservation?  Walking on the sidewalk?  "Computers" are esoteric devices used by massive companies and are shown as serious high technology.

It’s just everything that you do normally today that’s not available back then, and seeing things that stymie you today were a piece of cake back then.  That’s the real wonder of the show, for me.  It’s within my lifetime all this change happened.  And yet, nothing in law enforcement has changed.

Self-Hosted Album Art

I have an extensive music collection on CD, which shouldn’t be news to anyone who’s visited this blog.  I rip all my CDs to my local Plex server.  I’m a little particular about the album art for the albums.  I want it to be an exact representation of what is on the shelf and I want it to be in good quality.

For multiple varied reasons, I sometimes can’t find suitable album art online and in that case, I do it myself, scanning and cleaning up the cover art.  The result is something unique.  Duh, since I wasn’t able to find it elsewhere.  And I think it would be a shame to keep it to myself if someone else had a need for that artwork.

Up until now, I’ve been storing these files on Flickr.  It’s not been bad.  Even with their recent restrictions on free accounts, I don’t really have any worries of exceeding their limits.  But, as mentioned in past posts, I’ve been wanting to be more independent, so I made the move of the files to my own server.

And now you can get the cover art files from https://anachostic.700cb.net/AlbumArt.  It’s a little gallery that took all of about 45 mins to code up.  It displays smaller images and when you click one, it shows a larger image in a new window.  The small size is 500×500 and the large is 1500×1500.  These should be usable for anyone’s general usage.  You can save some time by right-clicking a small image and choosing Save Target As.

And now, when I add new stuff, I don’t have to go to a browser, open Flickr, log in, do the upload, and blah blah.  It’s a simple file copy for me on my network.  Easier all around.

Fiction Never More Real

One of my guilty pleasures is comic strips.  I like quite a few, from the daily ones, to the political ones, to the ones that are multi-page in scope.  But, oddly, I don’t like comic books (or graphic novels as they prefer to be called).  Anyway, I have some comics that I follow pretty regularly.  The political ones bring me down and the others lift me back up, so I maintain equilibrium. 

One of the comics that I follow, though, has somewhat become like a stone in my shoe.  It just bugs me.  The strip is Adam @ Home and is about a work-at-home dad and his family.  When I came into the strip, the topic was primarily about Adam’s issues with technology.  But lately, the strips are really focused on his kids.  It’s probably obvious those two topics are the two polar extremes of my entertainment.  And while that irked me, I know that themes can come and go in a long-running strip.  When I go back to earlier strips, there are runs of other topics that take over as well.  I can deal.

But one day, I found out that the entirety of the series was online.  Highly interested, I went and started reading from the beginning.  And you know, considering themes and topics and changes and all, it was a totally different comic strip in the beginning.  It was a strip about a husband and wife and their (then smaller) family.  While Adam was still working at home, it had a lot of Mr. Mom kind of things in it as well as a lot of honest friction where Adam’s wife would come home from work exhausted and Adam didn’t do any housework.  It was turning the whole "stay-at-home mom’s don’t do anything" on the guys.  To be honest, Adam was really being a selfish asshole.  And there was more than a few mentions of his wife being too tired for sex.  Despite that, there was a strip where his wife left work early to get back home and have sex while the kids were at school.  What the fuck?  Is this the same comic strip?

I actually stopped reading the historical strips shortly after the mid-day sex strip because I couldn’t reconcile was then and what was now.  In the present, there is zero, and I mean zero affection between Adam and his wife.  They are never shown embracing or even interacting beyond discussing random, neutral topics, or their kids.  It’s almost always Adam talking to his kids or sometimes the wife talking to the kids.  If I had to read all the strips between then and now, knowing what they would become, it would be more depressing than the political strips I read on occasion.  What the hell happened to this couple?

What actually spurred me to write this post was something so outrageous it just infuriated me.  So, Adam works at home, right.  In the present, he’s a freelance writer taking small jobs here and there.  When not on a job, he’s trying to write something.  A novel, a play, a screenplay, anything.  He’s consistently unsuccessful.  His wife works at a bookstore, but I don’t exactly know what’s been going on during the pandemic, whether the store has been open or not.  I have to assume they have some steady income somehow.

So, the other day, the wife and Adam have a rare conversation together.  The wife wants to confess something to Adam and is unsure how he’ll take it.  What’s the bombshell?  She says she’s written a novel.  So, you know, Adam, being a writer by trade, and yet very unsuccessful at writing, reacts as you would expect.

My reaction is completely different.  This is your fucking wife, your life partner, and you had no idea she was writing a novel?  Do you even communicate?  Do you even pay attention to her?  From participating in NaNoWriMo myself, I was able to crank out a 50k word story in a month, but that was multiple hours night after night doing nothing but writing.  And that’s after many years of blogging and writing in general, so I wasn’t exactly starting from scratch.  One of my friends is a real writer, like published and shit.  Writing is her full-time job.  For Adam’s wife to write a novel from nothing is not exactly trivial.  I’m not saying that can’t be done, I’m saying it should not have gone unnoticed by her husband and her kids.  And if it did go unnoticed, what a fucking sad sack of a family that is.

But it’s just another devastating blow to a fictional family.  You know, as a writer, of words or comics, your goal is to get people invested in the characters.  And it’s painful when your emotional investment in them is discarded for cheap.  Oh, Dilbert of old, where have you gone?  (Off to the land of Narcissism, you cuck!!)  But anyway, to wrap it up, I’m just a little hurt that a comic that started out trying to discuss real relationship issues between a working mom and stay at home dad, and the dad’s continuing difficulties in adapting, has turned into an emotionless cast of characters just moving from one day to the next with no continuity or persistence.

Old And Desirable

Today, out thrift shopping, I happened across a couple of pieces of stereo equipment.  You know, that’s exactly what I need is more stereo stuff.  I must have a third stereo in my house.  Maybe it will go in the guest bathroom.

That’s not what I was thinking, exactly.  The thought I had was, “I’ve seen this before.”  I’d seen pictures of it in forum posts of people bragging about their systems and others drooling and praising those people’s stereos.  This was one of those stereos.  It was old, like older than me, old.  And it was neat looking in that retro way.  From pictures I’d seen, I knew what it would look like powered up.  The power level meters would have a beautiful, soft aqua glow.  But on the whole, it’s not my aesthetic.

BUT, it is one of those impossibly rare finds, and the price was reasonable.  Only $20 per piece, $40 out the door.  This is the same thrift shop at which I bought my other retro stereo.  That stereo only cost me $18.  So I walked swiftly back up front to get a shopping cart (because these components are easily 60 pounds together) and made off with my spoils.

Back at work and back online, I do a quick search on the eBay for the components.  Each one is selling for about $1000.  So, assuming these pieces work, I have a $2000 stereo for the price of $40.  But again, it’s not really my thing.  There seems something sacrilegious about running a CD player through a 60’s era stereo.  This system was made for vinyl, and that’s not what I do.

In fact, to give an idea of what the preamp is capable of, it has inputs for two turntables, three (3!) tape decks, radio tuner, and another input.  You can output to three different destinations including a monitor output.  It almost seems like a piece of equipment you’d find in a broadcasting studio.  It has a function called “expansion” that is supposed to work the opposite of a compressor: make quiet parts more quiet and loud parts louder.  Crazy.

So my initial plan is just to clean it up and flip it, assuming it works well.  Even if it doesn’t work well, the place I plan to sell to is a repair shop.

The MegaBenno

I’ve had a plan for a long time to display my CD collection in a large shelving rack.  When I last had my CDs organized, they were in rotating towers.  First one tower, then a larger one, then, because of growth, both towers at the same time.  I currently have about 1500 CDs and I should be planning for many more.

Early in my collecting days, I used the Ikea Benno shelves.  I still have the three that I used (capacity 540, for reference).  I still think they are the best for display and storage, so I gave consideration to getting more.  Now, the Benno is called Gnedby, but most Ikea fans know both names.

Because I would be having so many towers to hold my large collection, I studied the hack to eliminate one of the side panels to reclaim some horizontal space.  The result of the hack was pretty good, but the more I considered it, I was still turned off by having a grid of squares repeating over and over.  The Benno was designed to be a vertical storage unit, which is how I laid it out when I used it.  A-Z from top to bottom in the first tower, then top to bottom in the second tower and on and on.  That’s not how I wanted my new shelves to be.  I wanted a horizontal orientation.

My first idea was to stack the Bennos horizontally, which has been done already in the Ikea Hacks archive.  That’s ok, but you still have the issue of doubled side panels.  So I considered a means of stacking the Bennos and only using one side panel between each tier.  I designed it to use short legs that would keep it up off the ground.  My sketch was something like:


The problem with this is that I would have to buy 10 towers and I would end up with a bunch of leftover side panels.  So I reconsidered the design.  What if I used side panels for the sides and side panels as the shelves.  That eliminates the two vertical end pieces, which can then be repurposed as center vertical pieces.  That works out to 7 towers, a savings of $150.

My original design was for 10 shelves – 10 Bennos stacked on top of each other.  However, if I’m using the side panels as designed, a Benno has 12 shelves per tower.  That’s a CD capacity increase from 1,800 to 2,160.  That’s almost an extra year of growth at my current pace.  However, that now requires 8 towers, so that’s an extra $50.  With shipping and taxes, the whole purchase was $468.


The first step after unpacking all the Bennos is converting side panels to shelves.  This is accomplished by sawing off the base of the side panel where the floor trim cutout is.  This needs to be done on all but two side panels.  When we’re done, one of the cut off bases will be used in the center for support.


The next thing I did was lay out the two side panels and position the bottom shelf.  I drilled some holes from the inside out for the bottom shelf, then screwed the shelf to the side panels.  Then I drilled holes and attached the center support to the bottom shelf.


When I attached the center support, I planned to have one screw up from the bottom and another down from the top of each shelf.  So I attached the shelf’s bottom screw first, then once the shelves are attached to the side panels, the screw down from the top will be attached.  This is a cross section of five shelves.



I brought in a group of shelves and center supports and attached the center supports to each (one screw from the bottom).  With enough shelves to fill up half the unit, I marked which holes I would need to drill out to fasten each shelf to the side panels.

The next step is drilling holes through the side panels for each shelf.  These don’t have to be large holes, just large enough so the wood won’t crack when putting screws through.


For the shelf that will be on the bottom, take one of the cut off bases from the shelves and position it where the center support will be.  Screw the base to the bottom shelf for support between the bottom shelf and the floor.

The fastening of the center supports is a little convoluted because we’ve eliminated the two side panels in favor of one.  So where normally, each shelf panel would screw into the center support, we have to connect each vertical support to the upper and lower shelf.  Screw the front of each shelf up into the center support and the back of each shelf down into the lower center support.  You can use the included Ikea screws for this.  Finally, attach the side panels to the twelve shelves.  The holes have already been drilled, so it’s just a matter of lining up the shelves with the holes.  You should have enough Ikea screws to get through this as well.

Stand the shelf up and attach the backing.  Because some shelves with be left hand panels and some will be right hand, you can attach the backing in a louver fashion either upper or lower facing.


Then the fun part, filling the shelving.  The whole purpose of wanting to have horizontal shelves is so the collection goes from A-Z from left to right, top to bottom.  One of the appealing design considerations for organizing this way is something I saw in a picture of someone else’s collection.  That element was having small letters indicating the alphabetical progression through the collection.  My research has shown that really nice crafted letters to divide the collection are not cheap.  Cheap if you want your initials.  Not cheap if you want the whole alphabet.  While I was disappointed by that, I pondered how else I could have alphabetical dividers in my collection.  One idea that came to me was alphabet blocks.  But I think the bright multi-colors would be too whimsical.  I found a modern set of blocks, but beyond their size being too small, 1.5”, they were also $85.

My solution was to repurpose all the shelves that would not get used with my redesign.  I could glue two together for visual weight, then stick a large letter sticker on the front.  Alphabet stickers can be bought in any craft shop for very little money.  Less than a single fancy letter figure.


Florida, The Bakery

I’ve been seeing a lot of billboards lately with a new slogan: “Drive Baked, Get Busted”.  It just kind of appeared out of nowhere and suddenly, it was everywhere.  Ok, yeah, police want (stupid) people to know that driving after getting high is a bad thing. 

I looked this promo campaign up and yes, it is new this year.  Supposedly, it’s because of the new medical pot law in Florida.  If we’re going to have medical pot, we need to let people know that you can’t take your “medication” and go for a drive.  Here’s the funny part.  The ad campaign is primarily targeted to 18-34 year olds.  Exactly the ones that would need medical stoning plants.  Secondarily, the ads target 55-74 year olds.  You know, the ones that smoked pot all the time when they were… 18-34.  But anyway, fuck yeah, Gen-X!  You’re not targeted as pot smokers.  And I find that really dumb, because everyone I knew growing up was perpetually high.

It kind of got me thinking about the whole PSA campaigns for any sort of impaired driving.  First of all, what idiot doesn’t know that driving under the influence of anything is bad? (Anything but driving under the influence of Jesus)  Second, if the person doesn’t know naturally that it’s bad, is a billboard really going to educate them?  Sometimes, I see messages on the traffic warning signs that say, “DUI – Decide before you drive” and I think a lot of people are like, “Already done.”

You just wouldn’t believe the frequency I see impaired drivers on the highways.  If it’s not some drug, then it’s probably tiredness.  Tiredness is an impairment that doesn’t get enough attention.  Maybe a billboard or two would help: “WAKE UP, MOTHERFUCKER!”

Lack Of Drive

The other morning, I was in RaceTrac getting my usual breakfast and there were a couple of kids in the store.  I say kids, but I don’t mean like little kids.  Probably teens, probably 16.  They were milling around and eventually bought some stuff, then milled around a bit more.  A few things struck me as kind of odd about that.

First, there weren’t any parents with them.  I’m not sure why I thought this, since they’re old enough to be out and about on their own.  But the idea that they didn’t just go in the store, buy stuff, then leave made me think they were chaperoned.

When I was growing up, when you got to your teens, you wanted to be independent.  You demanded independence.  Because I lived in such a tiny town, I would drive almost 45 minutes just to eat at Wendy’s.  I would drive over an hour to go to a decent mall.  Even today, I still don’t see any problem driving half an hour for food.

As a completely-unrelated aside, this current era is nothing like my youth.  I distinctly remember standing alone in a checkout line and the cashier wouldn’t even acknowledge my existence because I didn’t look old enough to buy anything on my own.  Kids now have purchasing power and don’t get ignored if they want to buy something.

But back to these teens, when they made their purchase, I expected them to head right outside and leave.  One probably just got his or her driver’s license.  But, because they remained in the building and just hung out, it was pretty clear they didn’t have their own vehicle, which is another oddity to me.

I’ve read plenty of articles saying that the new youth have little care for cars, which completely boggles my mind.  Having a vehicle is freedom.  It lets you get out and see more things, on your own terms.  I must assume that because so much entertainment is at hand via phones and TV, there is less desire to find entertainment through exploration.  Also, since everyone is so isolated in their virtual worlds, there is also little desire to get away – because they are always “away”.

The GF is the same way.  Maybe it also has to do with growing up in a small town, where you had to have transportation to do anything or see anything interesting.  But that desire to see and explore continued long into our lives.  On a vacation a while ago, while driving on some random highway, I observed that unlike other couples that sit at home and watch TV, this (identifying the car seats) was our couch, and this (identifying the windshield) was our television.  It’s not like we couldn’t see other places and other things by sitting home on the Internet, but that’s unsatisfying for us.

Recently, we wanted to go to touristville, which ended up with a crazy meal at a steakhouse.  Instead of taking the interstate, which would have been a minimum trip time of an hour (with no defined maximum due to traffic), we chose to take all back roads, which gave us a more predictable, although longer trip time.  But more importantly, it gave us something to experience other than stopped traffic.

Similarly, when I moved from the wasteland across the great commonwealth, I would sometimes return home to visit friends.  The first (or last depending on direction) leg of the return trip, I had a choice to take an interstate or take a smaller, alternate route.  Without fail, whenever I chose the interstate for time concerns, I always regretted it because the drive was so uninteresting and fatiguing.

Driving is embedded in my being.  If I lost the ability to drive, I think I would have a very difficult remainder of my life.  Driving is freedom; driving is experience; driving is risk and reward.  America is a big country and deserves to be seen down low, not from far above.

A Good Time, Spoiled By An Explosion

During the holidays, you are supposed to be reflecting on how your year has gone, for better or worse.  Then I suppose you make future plans based on that evaluation.  It’s like how it is at work for me, with my annual review being in December.  I don’t really have much to worry about in my professional life, and my personal life has been pretty good for a solid number of years.

The GF and I have pretty much been loners throughout our coupledom.  We share a friend here or there, but this year, we are both very grateful for new friendships.  Well, one is new this year, and one was budding almost a year ago.  It’s really weird to actually analyze how friendships form as adults, especially when you’re not really a person, you’re a collection of you and your partner.  But suffice to say, the GF and I have been very fortunate this year.

And, like so many of my posts, that’s not even what I want to talk about.  I want to talk about the time where there was a lot of promise and it just blew up in our faces.  Literally.  This couple was neighbors with the GF, and there was a huge falling out over an incident (not this incident) that is not my story to tell and these neighbors have since moved away, blah, blah, blah.

Now, it was a fall or winter evening, a cold night, and they had invited us over for a evening around a fire pit.  It’s an activity I never really understood – staring at a fire and getting smoke in your eyes – but I know people love doing it, so I’m not opposed.  And so we went over and hung out with them in their driveway, with what I assume was a brand new fire pit.

The pit was metal and round and was pretty ornate.  It sat on the ground and had the decorative cut outs in the upper portion of the flat-bottomed bowl.  The neighbors had built up a good fire by the time we got there and some drinking was involved.  It was cold enough for jackets, despite the fire.  (Another thing about fire hangouts – one side of you roasts and the other freezes.  Fun!)

The night wore on and nothing was terrible at all.  We got along pretty well.  But, without warning, the fire pit exploded.  Yeah, nothing more to say.  It just blew up.  The thing launched probably about 5 feet in the air and it began raining fire and ash down on all of us.  No big deal, really.  That doesn’t happen often to me, if ever, but in this specific case, my jacket bore the brunt of the cinders, melting holes in multiple places.  The GF took some cinders to the hair, which lit on fire.  It was fine, we got the hair put out without any disfiguration.  And after the panic subsided and some neighbors came out to find out who dropped a bomb on the area, we took note of the damage.

There is a lesson to be learned here, and that lesson is, don’t put a flat-bottomed fire pit on the ground and especially do not put it on a concrete surface, like a driveway.  Elevate that fucker.  I deduced what had happened pretty quickly and it was confirmed later.  The fire pit, resting flat on the concrete, heated up moisture and air that was trapped inside the concrete.  With nowhere for the heated pressure to escape, it eventually exploded like a cheap pressure cooker.  This is actually what launched the fire pit into the air.  And underneath, where the fire pit had been, was a substantial hole in the driveway.

Fortunately, we have had no explosions with our new friends and as for those old friends, it was probably prophetic as to how it would turn out in the long run.

New To Me Old School

I am literally 10 years behind the times.  But on the plus side, I’m saving lots of money by doing so.

As I’ve mentioned, I have two new idiot boxes in my house.  I still don’t watch a lot of TV, so I needed to find a use for them.  The obvious consideration was to get a video game system.  On top of the entertainment value, it could work for some social interaction as well.  You know, for all the guests I have over…

But what game system to get?  I haven’t played video games seriously for 20 years, when the controls became so complicated and all in 360 degree, 3D style (if you want to know precisely when I quit, it was ID Software’s Quake that put me over the edge).  So, looking at XBox/PlayStation nonsense was more of a detraction than a motivator.  But there exists a game system for people like me, the casual gamer.  The Nintendo Wii.  Yup, it’s 10 years old now.

I’d played Wii at a friends house only a couple of times.  I found it very curious, since it relied on motion input instead of traditional directional controllers.  Moreover, the gameplay wasn’t hyper-competitive, just fun.  That was right up my alley.  So where do you go to buy a 10-yr old game system?  To me, it was just like buying a 10 yr old music keyboard or guitar or effect unit – the pawn shop.

I’m definitely no stranger to pawn shops, and I have a pretty good sense as to what to buy and what to avoid there.  I had a pretty good feeling about getting a Wii.  At the very least, you could look it over for damage and whatnot.  So, I made my rounds of the local shops, seeing who had what available in the best condition.

I ended up getting a system and some games on new year’s eve for $52.  The next week, I bought some more controllers, some games, and a balance board for $48.  So I had a full system for $100.  That’s pretty good.  When the Wii first came out, it was $250 for the base system, $40 for an extra controller, and $20 for the nunchuk. The balance board was $90 at launch.

And it’s been a good system.  It’s fun and doesn’t require a ton of dedication or effort to use.  It’s been enough fun that the GF has been considering getting one for her house.  So today, I went on the hunt again.

The pawn shops around my workplace have historically been excellent for finding good deals on whatever I’m looking for (or something I wasn’t looking for).  Today, with a planned purchase, I wasn’t disappointed.  I got a Wii with one controller and nunchuk for $35, plus another controller/nunchuk for $12 – similar to what I spent last time.  I figured we could share the balance board for a while.  On a whim, I stopped at another pawn shop and was surprised to see a balance board sitting all by itself.  Originally $10, it was marked down to $7.  That was an immediate cash purchase and out the door.  The only thing I regret is not buying the $2 copy of Wii Fit to go along with it.  I’ll get that next week for myself.

So now we have Wii’s.  Whee.

Music In The Valley

Last weekend, I had a pretty productive CD run.  I think I picked up a dozen new ones.  One of the “why not” buys was a disc called “The Best of Starship”.  It was a cheap-looking CD.  Really cheap.  Like one of those compilation CDs that companies make just for some quick bucks.  It turned out to be something really different, though.

I don’t own any Starship albums, but I do know the songs pretty well from the radio.  When I put the CD in and played it, I didn’t immediately recognize the music.  After the song played a little longer, I recognized it, but something was still off.  The singer’s voice was familiar and all the notes were right, but the production of the track was different.

I looked at the album cover for clues.  In small type at the bottom was “New Recordings by the Original Artist.”  How strange.  What I was experiencing was the Uncanny Valley effect.  That effect is typically associated with robots, how people’s perception of them rises as their realism improves, then suddenly drops off as people get really creeped out by the tiny inconsistencies.  I’ve also had the same thing with software, where if the replication of an application isn’t exact, the little differences drive you crazy.  You notice all the little things.  At that point it’s better to create something entirely different.

And that was the case with this album.  It wasn’t a live album.  You know you’re getting a different sound when buying a live album.  It was a studio album, but it wasn’t like studio outtakes or demos or alternate takes.  It was just doing it again.  And it wasn’t like redoing it with the intent to improve on it, it was trying to remain faithful to the original.  But it wasn’t.  The production was much more sparse – less overdubs, less polish.  It almost sounded like a MIDI sequence plus guitars, plus the original vocalists.  It was good enough to be recognizable.

I have to say, it’s the strangest CD I’ve ever come across.  I’m torn between throwing it away because of (to borrow the uncanny valley’s terminology) the revulsion at what I was hearing or keeping it because it’s such an oddball recording.