This morning I surfed Last.fm. I've been a member there for years, but I've not made full use of its functionality. One of its features is an "audio scrobbler", which tracks what members are listening to via relay from their computer media players, to keep a running count on who listens to what when and where. I used to use Media Monkey as my key media player, and I never could get the last.fm audio scrobbler to work with that software (despite the website providing handy, clear and seemingly helpful instructions). I did check the site periodically, as the search engine lets me enter the term "Gurdonark", and see, for example, that this fellow in Scotland or that woman in Poland was listening to one of my songs. The country-of-origin tags were not always accurate, as with the soul who put Liberia as the country of origin but writes all the shouts in Czech, but it still is a great resource to release a song and see if pop up across the world a few days later.
One of my friends added last.fm lately, which motivated me to focus on getting the audioscrobbler hooked up. I had already switched back to Windows Media Player, though in some ways I prefer Media Monkey, fubar, or winamp to that player. It was the work of a moment to figure out which program needed a more thorough installation, and now the audio scrobbler works--not 100% of the time, which puzzles me, but most of the time. I listen to most of my music via non-Apple mp3 player, which does not sync with my computer, so that the last.fm scrobbler does not "capture" all of my listening habits. But it is good, still, to be able to "share" with the niche artists I fancy that I count among each one's listeners.
This morning I found myself surfing classical music artists on the last.fm site, and finding an impressive amount of really solid works available for free listen at the site in their entirety. Then I listened to a bit of DeBussy from a concert at the CC-friendly Isabella Stewart Gardner museum. DeBussy is such an influence upon musical styles I love so well--although the way that musical pieces influence one another is such a fascinating topic I'll save most of my thoughts on it for a different post. The prescience of a piece of music delights me, sometimes, however--I was listening to a Shostakovich (I believe the Fugue No. 21 in B Flat, though I am a Spoonerist and a Malaprop about such matters), and I was in awe on how it resonated with electro-acoustic minimalist ideas of a later generation.
I've been attracted this week, by the way, by the music of netlabel artist Pam, a fellow who makes the simplest minimalist synth melodies, with the intention of gentle fun. This resonates well with where I am these days, in my own musical intentions. On the other hand, I listened to a new netabel release by a German chiptune-ish techno artist, and though I would declare myself a fan of both chiptune (i.e., the music that sounds like it was made on an early computer) and of minimalist techno (an instrumental dance form invented in Detroit, then cloned into Berlin and London, which emphasizes sound-and-beat over many traditional "dance" elements), I found myself left entirely cold by the song.
I am always impressed by people who are multi-talented. Artist Krazydad (actually Jim B.) invented the flash kaleidscope-maker I use often, but at his weblog he also posted some solo piano compositions I found lively and fun. The same weblog announced that this weekend begins an art exhibition in Pasadena, along with another artist who displays color elecron microscope images.
I met up with a fellow who sold me a very cheap eBay thing which was missing one part. He was local, so we met up so he could give me the part. It turned out that the part was not missing, but required some instructions, so he read to me what the manual, which inconveniently for me (but conveniently for 1/4th of the world's population) written in Mandarin. He guided me through what I needed. What a delight!
In less positive news, an eBay camera I bought as new arrived as "reconditioned". My seller graciously agreed to take the return but then suggested I must be the cost of shipping the camera. I am waiting to see now if my polite but firm message back will net results. I make it a point to never buy anything that costs any money I care about on eBay, and I can count poor experiences on eBay on one or two fingers. But I am eager to see if this one turns out all right. On brighter news, a camera my sister had given me some time ago had seemed not to work, but with some new attention to the manual I figured out what I was missing. I still want to find a point-and-shoot with a bit more heft than my current Vivitar 5.0 (which I got from my brother and have loved, though some people do not "love" Vivitars). eBay, overall, does show me that most people are fine and dandy. The one time I relaxed my rule about making a major purchase on eBay was my expenditure of a few hundred dollars to a music store in DC for an auction of a mountain dulcimer--and I could not be more happy with that dulcimer I received.
The cold weather today meant we needed to get our exercise indoors, so we headed to Dallas' Galleria Mall to walk around. The Galleria is in the northern part of the city, and is a mall of stylish stores and a huge ice rink. We got out with only one purchase, something useful for my wife, and we had a great bit of walking and window-shopping. I wished we could have stayed for the puppet show at Slappy's Puppet Playhouse, but we had a movie to attend.
We saw the Zwick film "Defiance", which we both liked very much. The film dealt with the harsh realities of fighting for one's life. I found the film very moving--but I also found myself thinking about how we must learn ways to head off problems before madmen take over in desperate times. As I read of the Taliban in Pakistan, bombing schools for educating girls and buses for showing movies, or the Mexican cities which border the US, in which drug gangs are at war with each other and with the local police, creating a bloodbath, I think that pre-emptive peace-making is just as important as self-preservation in the wake of belligerence. I'm also reading a story of the Battle of Britain, another instance in which sober-eyed self-defense was essential, because starry-eyed people did not appreciate the threat in time. But what if the treaty of Versailles had not been so punitive? What if a Marshall-plan type effort had rebuilt all of Europer after WW I? Would the evils that overtook Germany have been consigned to powerless nut status, and democracy prevailed? Who can say? I can only say that my very limited understanding of the world is that desperate times breed despots and deranged solutions. "Defiance" makes the point well, though, that when the madness is unleashed, half-measures no longer suffice.
I was heart-broken by the story of the stabbings of children and workers at a day care in Belgium. I thought to myself when I read the news that this sounded so much like a product of our own anomie-and-violence-drenched culture rather than something that happens in Belgium. I feel so badly for all the families and especially children involved. Identifying and avoiding these outbreaks of madness is a challenge that people must undertake.
We went after the movie to Legacy Books, a wonderful, huge new independent bookstore in Plano. I admire the investors in that business, who have built a marquee-quality indie bookstore. I try to avoid buying new books in a thrift/green theory of focusing on library books and used books--but I did not hesitate to buy 3 books of poetry, a book about birds and the novel "Gilead" there.
Then we went to a Fox Sports grill, which I had a great salmon and my wife had a great salad, before calling it an early day home. The temperature today barely rose above freezing, but it was a warm day, somehow, anyway.