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Writer's Block: Your First Record

What was the first music album you ever bought or owned? Do you still listen to it or have you moved on?

The first I owned was from Herman's Hermits and I was a little kid. It vanished along the way before I was even legal age, due to some of the adventures of my youth. I never replaced it, later albums were much more important to me. It became way too cute and shallow, as I discovered heavier rock. Though I liked the guys' costumes, they were doing something great with those at a time when even rock musicians were wearing short haircuts, shirts and ties while performing. That mattered a lot at that age.

I hated conformity, and it seemed as if everyone had to dress alike. Nonuniform clothing was as dull and repetitive as a uniform. I associate that fifties clothing with a relentless pressure to hide anything that's at all different from anyone else's tastes, to pretend to enjoy dull things you hate and listen to people deride anything you actually enjoy or stand for. The catchphrase was "My country right or wrong" and I couldn't dare say anything about history, or reality, without getting into trouble.

Some things besides the causes that have become common custom, besides the racism, sexism, homophobia and religious prejudice, there was this weird pressure on esthetics and art to ignore anything that was decorative or representational. Any mythological or imaginative content was not only frowned on but treated as subversive. You did not see fairies in art, or dragons, in the sixties it opened up with Lord of the Rings but even then there was a lot of pressure against it. Buildings were concrete milk crates, and supposed to be lauded as more beautiful than any gracious, ornamented older building. Furnishings were minimalist Modern, fragile, uncomfortable, often upholstered in plastic, and supposed to be better than anything hand carved or ornamented with any design. Random splashes were what got presented as "patterned," not knotwork or curlicues or swashes or intricate borders.

The esthetic result was a gray concrete "rat race" look to architecture and dingy uniformity in clothing and artifacts, and it made me sick that this cheap crap produced in factories and oversimplified to save money, got priced up and called luxury -- that real luxury could not be had anywhere, it was all reduced to absolute minimal basics.

It has always seemed to me that what gets simplified away are the enjoyable things in life, and it all gets streamlined in favor of productivity, mindless ant-work, overtime to pay for more overpriced junk, a pattern of culture that was roaring then but has deepened as an addiction till it's become an insane level of debt for most working people.

Kitten has pointed out something about our way of life as opposed to the mainstream. To the mainstream, the home is the center of consuming and the workplace the center of production, which puts the esthetics of your workplace and its ergonomics and your comforts in the hands of someone who wants to squeeze as much out of you as possible for the least money. People don't care much about the quality of what they do by and large, because the situation of the workplace is impersonal and you work for someone who's looking to make a profit off you, the money comes ahead of anything. If they want you to do a good job it's only in relation to competing with someone else and a varying amount of butt-kissing depending on the organization.

But we're self employed and like a lot of people elsewhere on the planet, the home is the place of production as well as consumption. It gets streamlined in a different way and everything in the work environment is personal, individual, chosen for comfort or pleasure and convenience in doing things that we love to do or we'd be doing something else for a living. The difference is astonishing. Our house is a bit ripped up right now because Karl is doing some needed repairs, he got the paneling off some of the walls and discovered unmended giant holes under them, plus a pipe that got paneling nailed practically right into it so when nailing something up, sploosh, it pierced the pipe and we needed the pagan plumber. We lucked and got a pagan plumber, who not only did the fix but explained it in case we need to fix anything like that again. That's the kind of attitude I appreciate from experts.

I'm not saying everyone that works for someone else gets numbed out and just does what they're told without caring or thinking about it. But to hold a good attitude in that business atmosphere takes a lot of effort and energy. It varies with the job and each job has its own conditions, but I've got an extreme aversion to "business culture." It leaves me feeling as if things I use or services I need are being performed by slave labor and I'm colluding in oppression if I patronize companies that treat their employees that way. There are massive exceptions and what I suspect is that good business practices and good sane working environment go hand in hand -- because you then don't have resentful bored employees also just looking to get whatever dollar they can, who are as happy to rip off the company as the consumers.
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( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 19th, 2008 02:35 am (UTC)
Hmmm... I think you need to keep going until you bring it back around to first records. ;)
Jul. 19th, 2008 02:46 am (UTC)
I think what happened to this entry is what happened to my life. Buying albums wasn't a big thing for me after high school. I wanted them very much back then. I did not have the resources to get a tenth of the ones I really loved, and then over time it got less important but my habits were set by the situation I lived in with my grandparents.

A big music collection was one of many things other kids had that I didn't and envied... and like about half of them, the habit of doing without stuck and deepened. Eventually I stopped listening to the radio either because of that, if I heard something I really liked I wasn't going to be able to get the album anyway. Then over time I just got out of listening to music and don't make time for it or do it in background. I came to appreciate the silence.

I'm not sure how I feel about it now, or whether I want to try to change the habit. But it would be overwhelming to try to collect all the music that I really like, there are too many that I miss and others that I used to want but their context has changed. It would be a massive expense to get caught up on it to a point where I was happy with the collection, and worse, it would take so much time wading through music I don't like to find the music I do. I lightened up about it and started occasionally buying music a decade ago, but what happens is that the recordings get broken or lost in moves and then it's gone, I'm more likely to lose albums than art supplies or things I can use to make things.
Jul. 19th, 2008 02:47 am (UTC)
It is also way, way too social. Music defines group identity in ways that I don't participate.

It hurt when I was young, but I wound up not hurting any more when I discovered how much I'd found off the beaten path.
Jul. 19th, 2008 08:06 am (UTC)
Oh well. I'll just keep passing you songs that I think you might like. ;)
Jul. 19th, 2008 08:42 pm (UTC)
Thanks! You've turned me on to some great ones and inspired an entire novel that way. It's something that if I can raise my income a bit, I may actually change pattern on -- and start systematically collecting the music I like in some form that it doesn't get lost. I had a lot of it in Mp3s for a while... but then changing computers it gets lost sometimes.

Maybe I should get iTunes and an MP3player and try dealing with it that way, or an external HD to store music and videos so if I upgrade my computer I don't ignore and not transfer all those files or suffer a crash and lose them. A big external HD may not be that expensive, I saw one cheapish on Tiger Direct.
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )


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Robert A. Sloan, author of Raven Dance

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