What I Don’t Have Time For

Mystic River
Clint Eastwood, Director

Well, not the feel-good movie of the year, but a great story well told and with some great acting.

Sean Penn and Tim Robbins both grabbed Oscars for their (very different) portrayals of of individuals on the fringe and on the edge.

Between this movie and Good Will Hunting, I really don’t have a burning desire to move to Boston…

All movies

It’s frustrating, but reality.

There just isn’t enough time for the things worth doing. And – at the same time (pun intended) – I end up doing things that suck up time and don’t need doing (like writing this/other/all entries??? History will judge.)

A short list of what I haven’t had time for lately:

  • Watching TV – This is a good thing, to me
  • Read more fiction – I’ve been in a fiction slump over the last few years, and I miss it. But I like to read books in big chunks (100 or so pages at a sitting), and the large chunks ‘o time just are not there.
  • Catching up on new trends – By this, I mean tech trends. I just can’t get up to speed on OO programming or XML/SOAP and so on. I’ve done brief bits of those (and a million others) over the last couple years, but I still want to immerse myself there. Not happening. Good example: I’ve been doing some data loads lately. I suck at dataloads. I chaff at doing them because I suck, but I enjoy doing them, because they are so necessary and the payoff is so great – press “enter” and suddenly files are downloaded, opened, parsed, passed into databases, files written. It’s a form of alchemy.
  • Just enjoying the damn moment – Hard to do; easy to overlook; essential for sanity. But – hey – sanity’s overrated, right?

Musical Taste

I don’t know if my musical taste has changed considerably over the last couple of years or if the music I normally listen to is – for lack of a better term – crap today, but the music I’ve been buying (new and old) and enjoying is a departure from my earlier tastes.

While my musical taste is somewhat eclectic – I like the Blues, classical, opera and other music – the music I listen to most of the time is (I guess) alternative rock, with a singer/songwriter bent. Think groups like U2 and REM, individuals like Bruce Springsteen, Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan and Van (“the man”) Morrison.

In other words, not the stuff that wins Grammy awards, for the most part.

But I’m just not buying this stuff today, because “today’s” alternative rockers – Counting Crows, Googoo Dolls (spelling?), John Mayer and so on…they’re all going to be on MTV’s “Where are they today?” show in about five years.

Or singing in some shopping mall somewhere. (Sidebar: I actually saw Michael Lindsey – of Paul Revere and the Raiders and solo “Silverbird” and “Arizona” fame – perform in a shopping center in downtown Indianapolis sometime in the late ’80s. Sad.)

Anyway, what I have been buying – and enjoying immensely lately – are overwhlemingly women singers and a lot of CDs with a country flavor, and I’m not a country music fan.

Some recent purchases and impressions:

EmmyLou Harris, Red Dirt Girl

Hands down the finest CD I’ve purchased in the last couple of years. It came out in 2000, I believe – and I heard cuts from it and liked it, but never was motivated to purchase. I got it a week or two ago and I’ve probably listened to it two dozen times. Easily.

A remarkable album. Purchase. Immediately.

EmmyLou Harris, Stumble Into Grace

The follow-up to Red Dirt Girl is weak in comparison but still an enjoyable CD. The lead song – “Here I Am” is the disc’s strongest song. I saw her perform it on Letterman when the CD first came out; a powerful performance. She reminds me of Van Morrison, the soulful honesty.

Johnny Cash, The Essential Johnny Cash 1955-1983

Yes, I’ve known of – and heard this and that of – Johnny Cash for my entire life. How could anyone miss being exposed to him? Yet I never really “got into him” or whatever.

Yet this compilation (three discs) is unbelieveably listenable. Strong, honest songs. Cash is one of figures who will never fade away – again, he is a Van Morrison type singer/songwriter: Honest, humorous, brutal.

This collection has a lot going for it, but the one (delightful) surprise to me was Cash’s cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “Highway Patrolman.” Springsteen first offered this on his hugely-underrated, brilliant Nebraska album; Cash’s cover virtually makes the song his own. It’s a wicked little song if you pay attention to it.

Loretta Lynn, Van Lear Rose

Actually, this one was kind of a disappointment, as the two songs I purchased it for – the strong title track and the one-of-my-current-all-time-favorites “Portland, Oregon” – are the only songs I really enjoy.

The others are too “country” for me, even with my recent country leanings.

But “Portland, Oregon” – a collaborative effort with Jack White (of the White Stripes; how surreal is that?) – is brilliant. Let’s toast this song with a pitcher of Sloe Gin Fizz…

Beth Orton (various)

Beth Orton is someone who is never really on the radar. I know few people who know of her, yet her music is frequently used in soundtracks (I think that CBS show “Cold Case” used one of her songs for an episode). Like her music, Orton seems to keep a pretty low profile. Again, this is music that won’t win a Grammy (that does not mean it doesn’t deserve awards; more of a Grammy slam…).

If you don’t know Orton, she is cut from the same cloth as Joni Mitchell, Michelle Shocked and – especially – Sandy Denny. She has a great soothing voice and a casual but direct delivery. I’d love to see her live in a small club.

I don’t think she’ll ever make it big – her shtick (sp?) just isn’t that commercial, which seems fine to her – but I can’t imagine seeing her or buying a CD of hers and being disappointed.

Other women and/or country (flavored) types I currently like include Sheryl Crowe, Liz Phair (not her most recent; blech; bubblegum), Son Volt (led by Jay Farrar, formerly of Uncle Tupelo) and John Hiatt.

What does this all mean?

Who cares! Enjoy the music, regardless of it’s source, age or classification.

It’s like art: I can’t define it, but I know what I like when I see it. Ditto with aural art. Immerse yourself in it.

Missed Anniversary

Hey, I didn’t even notice – this site, littleghost.com – turned seven years old yesterday.

Seven isn’t that old, but it’s pretty well-seasoned in Internet years. The Web itself is only about 11 years old, if I recall correctly.

Wow. Happy Birthday to (my Web site…)

Now More Than Ever

Here I am on the anniversary of our nation’s birth (“…conceived in liberty…” – Abe Lincoln) working on a Web site.

And listing to Phil Ochs.

More than a quarter century after his death (suicide), Ochs’ music is still fresh and very applicable to the politics of today.

Don’t think so? How’s about a couple of his song titles:

“I Ain’t Marching Anymore”

“Cops of the World” (referring to U.S.)

“We Seek No Wider War”

These songs were written during the Vietnam Era, but ring true now, as well.

Happy 4th. Don’t blow off your fingers with firecrackers…

John Ashcroft Flips and Flops

In these post-9/11 days, U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft has been one of the staunchest supporters of Big Brother type initiates: Homeland Security, expanded phone and Intenet taps support, the Patriot Act and so on.

He didn’t always feel that way.

Back in 1997, when he was then a Senator from Missouri, he penned a position paper decrying the Clinton administration’s position on encryption and such.

The paper, ironically enough (given his current inclinations), was titled “Keep Big Brother’s Hands Off the Internet”.

An excerpt:

There is a concern that the Internet could be used to commit crimes and that advanced encryption could disguise such activity. However, we do not provide the government with phone jacks outside our homes for unlimited wiretaps. Why, then, should we grant government the Orwellian capability to listen at will and in real time to our communications across the Web?

The protections of the Fourth Amendment are clear. The right to protection from unlawful searches is an indivisible American value. Two hundred years of court decisions have stood in defense of this fundamental right. The state’s interest in effective crime-fighting should never vitiate the citizens’ Bill of Rights.

Is this the same John Ashcroft we’re all familiar with?

Thanks to Kottke for the pointer.