Arcade Fire + Calexico at the Greek Theater

By , October 3, 2010

For awhile, I went to concerts all the time– at least weekly I saw some band somewhere. I don’t go nearly that often anymore, but I promised myself I’d see the Arcade Fire when they next came to town. Too often in the past a band I adored would come through town and I’d not bother to see them, telling myself, “I’ll see them next time they tour.” Unfortunately, too many of my favorite bands have either disbanded or stopped touring, and I now regret missing the chance to see them perform.

The Arcade Fire are pretty much my favorite active band, so yesterday I showed up at Berkeley’s Greek Theater without a ticket and planted myself on queue. Many times in the past I’ve had spare tickets to a show, and turned down large amounts of cash from scalpers to instead sell them at face value to regular folks. I once sold two tickets to see Hot Chip for $35 each, right in front of a scalper offering me $80 per ticket. It seemed the right thing to do, and yesterday that good will came back my way, for I had not been in line but ten minutes when a girl lined up a few spots behind me and indicated that she had a ticket to sell. She sold it to me for the face value of $46. Had I bought one online when they went on sale I’d have paid $60 due to the additional service fees, so I really made out well.

While waiting the 90 minutes for the gates to open, I befriended a few people in line near me. We played hearts to pass the time. Meanwhile, I tried to get in touch with my friend Mike, whom I knew was going to be at the show, but he was incommunicado; I think he was drunk in San Francisco at the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival, and barely made it out to Berkeley in time for the show; but I had made new friends, so I watched with them.

I found a great spot, dead center, about 10 people back from the stage. Calexico came on and were great– I like them enough that I’d have paid to see them by themselves, so it was an unexpected bonus to find that they were the support act. It was like the time I showed up to see Belle & Sebastian and unbeknownst to me New Pornographers were the support act. Two great bands for the price of one!

Somethin’ filled up
My heart with nothin’,
Someone told me not to cry.

Arcade Fire put on an outstanding show. They enjoyed what they were doing and it showed. By this point into their career they have four albums to draw from for material, and they pulled the greatest bits from each of them. They pieced together a set that built to a crescendo, and at times I felt as if I were at an opera rather than a rock concert. When they played “Ocean of Noise” I could feel something welling up inside me, which only built when the Calexico trumpeters joined them on stage for the songs finale. When they followed it up with “Tunnels,” my personal favorite song of theirs, I will not lie– a tear or two rolled down my cheek. Something about hearing that song brought me back to 2005, and losing Mom, and losing Sue, and what pretty much amounted to the beginning of the end of my life as I knew it then.

And since there’s no one else around,
We let our hair grow long
And forget all we used to know.
Then our skin gets thicker
From living out in the snow.

Later, as the band blended seamlessly from “Power’s Out” into “Rebellion (Lies),” I think I was the first person in the pit to recognize what song was coming on. Leave it to a DJ to identify what song is showing up next in a mix. Soon enough everyone else caught on and the entire crowd lost it.

I left the Greek in a state of hyper-aware elation, feeling spiritually moved in a way I’d expected and hoped church experiences would affect me in my younger, god-fearing, days, though they invariably failed to do so. There’s a deep sense of the real in the message of the Arcade Fire’s lyrics, and coupled with their epic and catchy music, I don’t think anyone walked out of last night’s show unmoved.

To sum it all up in layman’s terms, I had about as much fun at a concert as I have had in recent memory; I almost want to go see their encore performance tonight at the Greek.

Lastly, for are curious, here to the best of my memory is the setlist for the show:

Ready to Start
Month of May
Keep the Car Running
Laika
No Cars Go
Haiti
Sprawl II
Modern Man
Rococo
The Suburbs
Ocean of Noise
Tunnels
We Used to Wait
Powers Out
Rebellion (Lies)
-encore-
Intervention
Wake Up

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Dateline – Las Vegas

By , August 29, 2010

(I wrote this last month while in Las Vegas, but never got around to posting it until now.)

Every time I visit Las Vegas I feel disappointed in the human race. Of all American cities, Las Vegas is the one that offers the closest to an “anything goes” existence, so this is apparently what humans create when allowed to do anything they wish. :(

Bad Bets

This town is full of slot machines– everywhere you go you find them. I can understand the fun of inserting a few coins so as to watch the bright lights and hear the fun noises, but the likelihood of winning a substantial amount of money is on par with having one’s leg bit off by a shark while simultaneously being struck by lightning. In fact, that is probably more likely to happen than a slot machine jackpot, yet there is never a shortage of slot players. People pour millions, if not billions, of dollars into the things every year, forever thinking they are on the fast-track to wealth.

All Boobs, All the Time

At least for females, the only requirement for being hired to work anywhere in Las Vegas seems to be “big boobs.” Everywhere you turn, there are women old and young, fat and skinny, ugly and pretty, wearing the standard-issue pushup bra and hot pants uniform of whatever casino you happen to be in at the time. They scatter these employees everywhere; one girl’s job is apparently to sit on the bartop and look cute, and another is paid to dance in front of a miniature stripper pole behind some blackjack tables. Las Vegas amplifies every bad aspect of mankind.

You Can’t Beat Arithmetic

Or can you? I’ve been splitting my time between the poker tables and the craps tables. Normally poker is where I win most of my money. Two days into this trip, I have won a satanic $666 playing craps, and merely $304 playing poker. One should not be able to win at craps, right? The mathematical odds are against it, or at least I think they are. I play a very conservative strategy, but still– human vs. math, math usually wins. And speaking of which,

We Aren’t Teaching Our Kids Math Anymore

For all the free and cheap conveniences one can find in Las Vegas, wireless internet is not one of them. The last thing a casino wants are its guests holed up in their rooms, online. They want us at the slot machines and gaming tables, so wireless internet is sold in 24-hour blocks for $8.99. I don’t mind a week without wifi, but I did have to send a few emails to clients, as well as post this blog, so I went in search of a more affordable option than what my hotel had to offer.

I told the young girl at the front desk that I only needed about an hour to an hour and a half online, so $8.99 for 24 hours would be overkill, and asked if she knew a cafe or other nearby place where I could find free or cheap wifi. She bit her lip and scrunched up her eyes, spent a moment deep in concentration, then her face lit up and she proudly gestured towards a computer in the lobby. “You can buy 90 minutes on that one” she explained, “and it only costs $5 for each 20 minutes you use it.” She was so obviously delighted with her cleverness that I didn’t have the heart to press the matter any further.

Arithmetical illiteracy apparently is not limited to front desk clerks in this town. I saw a sign advertising the “World’s Biggest 64 oz. Beer.”

Coffee, the Mysterious Beverage

I ordered coffee with my lunch. The cashier took my order, then turned to her manager in the back and asked her, “how do you make coffee?” The manager came up front and together they tried to puzzle out the methodology behind brewing a pot of coffee. They poked at the long-dormant machine, hoping it might spring to life on its own. I was only paying partial attention to them, but snapped to attention at the point I saw the cashier using paper towels in lieu of a coffee filter.

“You don’t get much call for coffee here, do you?” I asked the cashier.

“Not really.” She replied, still layering paper towels into the coffee machine.

“I’ll switch to Coke.”

“Thanks.”

(And there you have it, my belated report from sunny Las Vegas, Nevada. For those keeping score at home, the dice continued to defy the odds and I left with $952 in craps winnings, on top of what I won at poker. dub tee eff?)

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Let’s Get Mo’Tarded in Here

By , June 2, 2010

Look what I bought! If you click the picture, it will get bigger. If you still cannot tell exactly what that is, well, it is a moped. That is sort of like a scooter, but not quite. Imagine a motorcycle and a bicycle mating, and the resulting offspring would be a moped. I can zoom around on it as I would a scooter, but if I am out of gas, or in stealth mode, I can pedal it like a bike. Unlike a motorcycle or scooter, I can park it on a sidewalk with a U-lock, just as I would a bicycle; and I don’t need a special driver’s license to operate it.

Why did I buy it? Well, I have talked for years of buying a scooter, but never got around to it, but recently my friend Candice bought a moped and that reignited my desire to own such a contraption. She explained the neat benefits of a moped over a scooter, as well as the intriguing culture that exists around the things, and I was sold. Now we both have mopeds! Even better, we have started a moped gang, the Mo’Tards. Candice is the president, and I am Vice President. We’re doing our best to recruit members. Our friend Holly said she might buy one, so maybe she’ll be in the gang, too.

I had an interesting time of things the night I bought the moped. First, while sitting next to my new bike on the sidewalk in front of a mini-mart, I had a funny exchange with an old man:

Salty Old Man: Nice old moped, kid.
Me: Thanks!
Man: How long ya’ had it?
Me: Oh, about four hours.

Later, I had my first adventure!

I bought the moped in San Jose from two really cool guys who rebuild them. They were helpful and generous, and gave me some free tools and parts. Coincidentally, one of them had JUST sold a 1957 Chrysler Windsor, a super-rare car that happens to be what I drive, and he gave me some spare body parts he had for the car. Anyway, kind and helpful though they were, they underestimated something important– I asked how far I could expect to get on a tank of gas, and was told I could go 60-70 miles. As Oakland is only 47 miles from San Jose, I was confident I could make it home on the then-full tank.

I did zoom about San Jose a tiny bit– I met my friend Jessica for food and drinks, then later rode her home on the back of it– but I definitely did not go more than 5 or 6 miles before embarking for home. As mopeds are not freeway-legal, I was zooming along the backroads to get home. Just as I hit E. 14th St., still more than 10 miles from home, I ran out of gas! At midnight, at the far end of the most crime-ridden and dangerous part of Oakland!

While they run on regular gasoline, one cannot add just gas to a moped’s tank. One must add two-stroke racing oil in proportion to the gas– mine needs 3.2 ounces of oil per gallon of gas. No gas station sells that oil, so I was forced to shift to pedal mode and bike the last stretch. Mind you, a moped has only one gear, so it was arduous pedaling, and the thing weighs, ummm, I don’t know how much it weighs, but it is very heavy.

For the next two hours, between midnight and 2:00 am, I slowly pedaled my way home from E. 14th St. & 159th Ave. I was cat-called by at least half a dozen “Ladies of the Night,” and explained what a moped is to someone at nearly every red light. Boy howdy, by the time I made it back to the Port of Oakland I was plumb tuckered out. The end.

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Remembering Ian Curtis

By , May 18, 2010

I attended public school until the end of junior high, but once I hit the 9th grade, my parents enrolled me into the nearest Catholic high school. I found myself thrust into a brand new school, populated mainly by children from wealthy families, nearly all of whom had grown up together and gone through the same private school system since preschool. I was a 13-year old kid, already feeling the uncertainty and disorientation that comes with that age and the leap to high school, and I was completely out of my element. I was surrounded by kids from an utterly different background, all of whom were ensconced in long-formed cliques. I had little in common with anyone at the school, and as the school was an hour’s bus ride from my home, I didn’t even have any friends in the area to whom I could turn. I could not have been any more lost or alone.

Had my life been a Hollywood teen film, I would have accidentally befriended a popular and wealthy student who would have been enamored of my lower-class upbringing. After some humorous early false-starts, our friendship would have cemented over some exciting incident, and by the final reel, he would have introduced me into high society and I would have spent my remaining high school years enjoying friendship and popularity. I’d like to think I would have dated a cheerleader. However, as I actually dwell in the real world, I made no such friend. Instead, I drifted from one awkward false start to the next, and didn’t form close bonds with anyone; I was too athletic and tough to be a geek, but too poor and punk rock to be popular. I ended up a loner.

I cut class one day early in the school year, and ended up at a nearby record shop. At the shop, I purchased Unknown Pleasures, Joy Division’s first album. I was mesmerized by its iconic Peter Saville pulsar cover; that somber image summed up my mood so precisely that I bought the record without even being fully aware of who the band were. I carted the record around town with me for the remainder of the day, not quite sure what I had, but hoping it would live up to its promise. How could it not? Those stark, white lines radiating from the all-black background promised something foreboding and otherworldly; that night at home, I was at last able to play the record. From the opening line, I was entranced.

I’ve been waiting for a guide to come and take me by the hand.

I played the record over and over that night; as soon as side B finished I would flip it back over and play it from the beginning. In the voice of Ian Curtis, I had found poetry that spoke directly to my sense of isolation, and thus began a long-lasting fascination with not only the band’s music, but the singer and his life. When I learned shortly thereafter that Ian Curtis had committed suicide, the bond only grew tighter. Perhaps paradoxically, even though his lyrics were so often grim, and spoke of fear, disillusionment, and helplessness, I found something life-affirming in them. This man, who had felt so deeply the sorrows about which had sung that he had killed himself, somehow came to represent hopefulness to me. My fascination with Curtis and his music lasted well past my awkward adolescent years; just look at the title I chose for my blog.

Today marks the 30th anniversary of Ian Curtis’ death. In the three decades since his departure, his influence and legend have only grown. Joy Division, a band virtually unknown when I was in high school, today enjoys huge popularity. Movies have been made about the band, and about Curtis’ life, and it would not be a stretch to say that the band today enjoys more popularity than ever before. Yet to me, Ian Curtis and Joy Division remain a very personal facet of my life. When I had nothing of substance, Ian Curtis gave me something of depth in which to immerse myself, and offered a beacon of hopeful light at the end of what had once been Stygian emptiness.

Oh, I’ve walked on water, run through fire
Can’t seem to feel it anymore
It was me, waiting for me
Hoping for something more
Me, seeing me this time, hoping for something else.

Ian Curtis
Ian Curtis (15 July 1956 – 18 May 1980)
Love Will Tear Us Apart

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Games of Nonchalance

By , May 13, 2010

The pay phone is ringing as you reach it, so you quickly answer. The voice on the other end is instantly recognizable as that of Commander 14. He instructs you to begin dancing, and so you dance. From nowhere a breakdancer appears, boom box in hand, and dances with you. Things get really weird when Bigfoot turns the corner and joins the dance. After a few moments, Bigfoot hands you your next clue and he, and the breakdancer, quickly saunter away.

What just happened? How did you end up here? Who is Eva, and where has she gone? Is Octavio Coleman, esq. behind her disappearance? And just where *does* one acquire hobo coinage??? Your quest begins on the 16th floor of 580 California Street in San Francisco.

I want to say so much more, but I cannot. I’ll simply tell you that some time ago a mysterious cult invited me to a free orientation session. Once inducted, I began to notice the divine occurring all around me in a thousand miniscule ways. Soon thereafter, via encoded transmissions from another realm, the Elsewhere Public Works Agency enlisted my help in their ongoing battle against the Jejune Institute, perpetrators of “False Nonchalance.”

If this sounds amazing to you (and believe me, it is amazing), and you are in the Bay Area, visit the Jejune Institute and begin your journey down the rabbit hole.

Whatever you do, and no matter how difficult it may be to resist, do not search for details about any of this. This is probably the funnest way a person can spend an afternoon (or three) San Francisco, for free by the way, and knowing what is coming ahead of time will ruin the entire experience. Googling it before doing it is akin to working a crossword puzzle with the solution in front of you– boring and pointless. Trust me on this. Now go have some fun.

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Just Add Wine

By , April 22, 2010

If you are like me, you pay pretty close attention to the myriad ingredients you purchase in order to cook a meal. I go out of my way to shop at specific markets that I know have better produce, or butchers that offer better cuts of meat. I sift through bins to find the best piece of fruit, or the freshest, crispest vegetables. I buy bread from one or two particular bakeries.

I often cook from recipes; they are usually fairly specific, and I go out of my way to locate each ingredient in the best and freshest form available to me. If a recipe calls for sugar, I use natural raw cane sugar. When it wants oregano, I have fresh, organic oregano that I’ve dried myself. I make my own maraschino cherries and grenadine for cocktails, and I even have homemade bacon in my refrigerator right now.

I put forth all this effort in an attempt to cook something fabulous each time I step into my kitchen, yet when a recipe calls for wine, and many do, I am at a loss. Everyone seems to be– even friends with a firm grasp of what wines to drink with a given dish are puzzled when asked to recommend an appropriate wine for cooking. Recipes *never* tell you what kind of wine to use! So, like most people, after spending an afternoon at farmer’s markets, bakeries, butchers, and grocery stores, almost as an afterthought I grab the cheapest wine I can find. Red or white is about the only decision I make, and often, when recipes don’t specify, I don’t even take that into consideration.

Enter my newest discovery: Académie Wines. This is one of the most clever ideas I’ve heard of in years, and frankly I’m baffled as to why no company has done this before. Académie sells four different wines specifically designed for cooking. I’ve tried all four, and they are uniformly good. The label says it all– each wine is blended for usage in cooking certain dishes. So far I’ve tried the wines with beef, chicken breast, lamb chops, salmon, and scallops, and have yet to be disappointed. The difference in the finished product is sometimes subtle, but always noticeable. Each wine brings out elements in the dish that were otherwise muted when using randomly chosen wines.

The other thing I like about these wines is that they come in bottles half the size of a traditional wine bottle. That leaves me just enough leftover wine for a glass to drink whilst cooking (it’s also tasty drinking wine). No more leftover bottles that gradually go bad.

Chef Cooks with Wine

It’s rare that I extol the virtues of a specific brand or product in this blog, and in fact this may be the first time I have ever done so, but I think this is a very useful and unique product, and most of my readers will be glad to know about it. I should add– I don’t really know if it is available outside Northern California. The Académie Wines web page can probably tell you, and answer any other questions you have. If you buy some and like it, let me know– I am actually really curious to get feedback from people about this stuff.

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It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane! It’s a Potty-Mouthed 11 Year-Old Girl Slaughtering Criminals!

By , April 16, 2010

Kick-Ass gets the star billing, because this is a movie about someone without super powers (Dave Lizewski, a.k.a. Kick-Ass) donning a costume and embarking on a career as a super-hero, but a better name for Kick-Ass may very well have been Hit-Girl, for she truly steals the show. She, and her father/partner Big Daddy, are actual super-heroes inserted into a world in which they ostensibly don’t exist.

Kick-Ass

Kick-Ass saving the day as only he can.

As every previous film adaptation of a comic book has, in my eyes, fallen short of the comic, I went into this movie with mixed expectations, especially since, while I enjoyed the comic book, I didn’t *love* it the way many fans did. I didn’t expect anything amazing; what I saw was quite possibly the best comic book movie I’ve ever seen.

So much will be made of the violence, especially since much of it is being perpetrated by an 11-year-old actress, but to me, that’s beside the point. The movie got everything right that most other super-hero films get wrong. Take Iron Man– I enjoyed that film, and I found the portrayal of Tony Stark as a complex individual who is part alcoholic playboy and part torn humanitarian to be quite gripping. Had the movie been called Tony Stark it would have been a fine character study, but it had no place in a movie called Iron Man. In my mind, the ideal super-hero film is Die Hard with a guy in tights replacing Bruce Willis. Take a few minutes of screen time to introduce us to Peter Parker/Bruce Banner/Steve Rogers/Whoever, then pit him up against someone or something seemingly unbeatable. After about 90 minutes of epic battling, engineer an unexpected method of victory for the seemingly out-matched hero, then roll the credits.

Kick-Ass does exactly that, in spades. There are just enough civilian-identity shenanigans to flesh out the characters, and a couple genuinely tender scenes that never drift into the maudlin. The rest is Hit-Girl kicking ass, Kick-Ass futilely trying to keep up with her, and McLovin’ showing us what the well-to-do super-hero is driving this season.

Hit-Girl

Sure she’s only 11, but she can beat you up.

Don’t get me wrong– Kick-Ass is not populated by one-dimensional characters and stereotypes. You understand why Dave dons his costume, and when he wins the fight that launches him to fame, he does so in a way that is simultaneously heroic and believable. That scene more than any other illustrates why he ultimately is the star of a film that at times seems to focus far more on Big Daddy and Hit-Girl. He is in many ways the Jack Benny of the super-hero set– the guy in a costume surrounded by heros and villains, not grasping the full gravity of any of it, but somehow stumbling through to the final reel. By that time he has come to terms with what ought to be his mantra, with no power comes no responsibility, and he does what he ought to have done all along: get out of the way and let Hit-Girl go to town, while still managing to do a bit of day-saving of his own.

I don’t think I’m alone in my love of this film, or my belief that it is better than its source material. A row of ten über-geeks seated directly in front of us last night all left the theater proclaiming likewise, and I overheard many comments to the effect of “best movie ever,” “way better than the comic” as I exited the cinema. If I didn’t have tickets to see Hot Chip, I’d go see this again tonight; I’ll almost certainly be back in a theater this weekend to watch it once more.

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My Fake Plastic Girl

By , February 27, 2010

She looks like the real thing
She tastes like the real thing
My fake plastic love

For the most part, I’ve not read any of my old blogs since I wrote them, but as I move each one from the old url to this new one, I am more or less forced to do so while fixing links, updating the format, categorizing, tagging, summarizing and so forth. It is not easy. Sometimes I’m more than a little chagrined by the less than gripping writing or the trite choices of topics, but the hardest ones to reread are those like the Dreaming post. Reading that again evoked a complicated mixture of emotions within me, from the bittersweet to the embarrassing, and for more reasons than I can list, I want to travel back into time and smack myself over the head.

I was so unabashedly open about how in love I was. Which is fine, except that I can’t help but feel foolish in retrospect that I was going on and on about how wonderful our love was, and how amazing she was, when it was all a big joke at my expense. It isn’t as if she became a different person the day she up and disappeared; she was always that person and I was too blinded by love to see it. I realize that now, and so I look back at what I wrote I can’t help but feel awfully stupid.

The saddest thing I ever did see
Was a woodpecker peckin’ at a plastic tree.
He looks at me, and “Friend,” says he,

“Things ain’t as sweet as they used to be.”

I think the crux of what I feel when revisiting the old entries stems from the fact that I know what is to come. Just as each time I reread The Great Gatsby, I futilely hope for a happy ending, yet know all along that Gatsby is going to die, no amount of hindsight can change what I know came next in my life. If I could rewrite history by rewriting those old journal entries– if only it were that easy– I would do just that. Gone would be gushy blogs about true and perfect loves with best friends. No more would be the maudlin posts about future weddings, nor would there be any extolling the virtues of dream girls, and there most definitely would be none of these. In their place, I would write of my fake plastic girl: emotionless, selfish, dishonest, and uncaring.

If it seems like I still care, I don’t. If it seems like I am still hung up on her, I’m not. I’m past it all, and I’m again ensconced in a happy, productive life in which I am the master of my own heart and destiny. I wrote this in part because the old blogs have dredged up memories which seemed worth exploring, but mostly because amidst all the previous blogs devoted to my love for her, and later those of heartbreak for losing her, there needed to be at least one entry here that named her for what she really was– my fake plastic love.

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Stardust

By , February 7, 2010

Astronomer Geoffrey Burbidge died recently. I must confess that I’d never heard of him until I read his obituary in today’s paper. His renown came from a 1957 paper in which he put forth the notion that all life can be traced to stardust.

Currently Playing: Artie Shaw – Stardust

I really, really like this idea. I can’t pretend to understand a word of it, but it has something to do with ancient stars burning hydrogen, helium, and lithium, producing heavier elements like oxygen and carbon, then exploding these newly minted atoms into space where they mixed with cosmic dust, and formed new stars. Those new stars became old stars, exploded, seeded the universe further, and eventually the universe became enriched with heavier elements that ended up on planets and inside people like you and me.

Burbidges longtime friend, Allan Sandage of Carnegie Observatories, explained it in a far more poetic fashion: “Every one of our chemical elements was once inside a star. The same star. You and I are brothers. We came from the same supernova.”

I feel better about myself already. I’m made of stardust? Wow! Today will definitely be a good day. Dare I say it will be… stellar? How can’t it be? I woke up thinking I was a combination of gin, coffee, and Cesar’s tapas; we are what we eat, after all. Now I’m about to take a shower and face the world armed with the knowledge that I’m powered by the remnants of a supernova.

Hell yeah. Bring it on, world…

.

Even Galactus is only made of planets.

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An iPad in My Pad? Not Likely.

By , January 27, 2010

Although I moved last June, work and personal concerns delayed the process of turning my (ware)house into a home. Only recently have I accomplished such basic tasks as setting up the kitchen, and am still unpacking some boxes. One thing I finally got around to doing was subscribing to a newspaper. Today my subscription to the New York Times began. Coincidentally, Apple today introduced their latest device, the iPad, which is meant to replace, among other things, the daily printed newspaper.

As I was enjoying the tranquility of reading a home-delivered newspaper for the first time in years (I haven’t had such service since my pre-homeless days), my temporary roommate/ long-term couch resident Chris was watching online videos touting the iPad. At that moment, it struck me– the experience of reading a paper online, be it via laptop, mobile phone, or, now, iPad, will never, in my mind, come remotely close to that of reading a physical newspaper. I can only speak for myself in this regard, and perhaps today is the day I officially became “old,” but when I read news online, I spend perhaps three to five minutes skimming one or two articles, then stop. I don’t enjoy the experience very much, I don’t absorb very much information, and I don’t find the format at all conducive to fostering meaningful thought or deep interest in any of the reported topics.

Conversely, when I read a physical newspaper, I do so with undistracted focus. That 30 minutes to an hour, the amount of time I typically spend engrossed in a printed copy of the New York Times, culminates not only in edification, but in a desire on my part to learn further, or to take action regarding a matter that concerns me. As an added plus, after reading the paper, I solve the crossword puzzle. Depending upon the day of the week that can take anywhere from an additional five minutes (on Monday) to an hour (Saturday) to do, and is hands down the highlight of the newspaper experience for me. I have tried working online crossword puzzles, but don’t enjoy them. Unless I can put pen (yes, I’m on of those) to paper, I lose interest; also, I like to carry the folded puzzle around with me, especially a Saturday or Sunday puzzle, and solve it in bits and pieces throughout the day.

Friends argue that online you can get news immediately. I counter with, who cares? I’m not insensitive to the plight of the people of Haiti, to take a current news story, but I don’t really care enough to need a constant stream of information regarding the aftermath of the earthquake there. If I had friends or family there, sure I’d care deeply– and I could follow that particular story closely via radio news or the internet. For the most part, I’m content to read the news each morning, and don’t care that it is not up-to-the-minute current. When Al-Qaeda blows up Mount Rushmore, sure, I’ll be glued to my computer screen like everyone else, but until then I’m content to wait a day to learn what is happening around the world.

I am of the opinion that age is a mere number, virtually meaningless in describing a person. I’ve known 20 year-olds who looked and acted as if they were in their late 30s, and 40 year-olds who were as active and vibrant as teens. Perhaps my lack of interest in the iPad, and conviction that a “real” newspaper is irreplaceable by any digital counterpart, is a sign that I have, at least in some regard, leapt from my mental 20s directly into my mental 60s. It is not the first time in my life I have eschewed some technological advancement, and instead preferred a medium deemed archaic (records v. CDs, for example), but it’s definitely the first time I’ve found the modern incarnation to be of utterly no use to me. I may not be at curmudgeon status yet, but I am starting to feel I’m a hair’s breadth and a cocktail away from becoming a latter day W.C. Fields. I acknowledge that the day is coming when a printed newspaper will be no more, and have already seen signs in the degradation of the quality of information contained therein, but until that day comes, I’ll start each day in my kitchen, with a cup of coffee and a black and white newsprint hardcopy of the New York Times.

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