The Garden

A squash-friendly blog for our times

Sunday, November 14, 2004


The Estrangement

Music and I had drifted apart.

It wasn't that I'd stopped caring, I swear. I just couldn't seem to find ways to be actively in touch anymore. On my lengthy morning and evening rail commutes, I couldn't get radio reception. Long ago, too, I'd given up on trying to carry a portable CD player in my already-heavy messenger bag; the player, not to mention the CDs, just took up too much space.

At work, I have a nice stereo, but I'm busy there (duh!) and am never able to focus on music. Plus, I only have a couple of dozen CDs in my office, and I rarely thought to exchange them for CDs kept at home. Consequently, when I played music at work, it was usually the very same CD—which I started to think of as background music to typing.

The problems at home were much different. I own somewhere in the neighborhood of 1000 CDs, and they're in a state of semi-disarray. I don't want to give you the wrong impression: I'm basically a perfectionist at heart. Originally, I kept the CDs organized, alphabetically, in a couple of snazzy wooden boxes. When the boxes were full, I started filling a CD rack. When that was full, I had two separate, if organized, sets of CDs. At that point, when I needed something, it wasn't much of a trick to remember whether the CD was in the rack or the boxes. After that point, however, things got out of hand. While I was looking for the much-larger CD storage system of my dreams, new CDs ended up in various, unalphabetized (gasp!) stacks around the apartment. About 400 CDs later, I realized I was in trouble. Once a new CD—say, the recent Everlast album—wound up in some stack or another, it might take me 20 minutes to find it.

I kept telling myself that I'd take an entire weekend and just alphabetize everything into a single system. I even bought a new wall unit to hold CDs. Eventually, in order to restore some sense of order to things, I just started yet another separate (but basically organized) set of CDs in the wall unit. Unfortunately, there are still a few piles of CDs here and there....

For several years, I've owned a Sony CD player that holds 400 CDs. When I bought it in 2000, I loved it. I filled it almost immediately. As soon as I got home, I'd turn it on and set it to play on shuffle. It would move from song to song in a randomness that I found completely appealing. It'd move from Dar Williams to Bad Religion to Alison Krauss to Cheb Mami. I loved the resulting mix, which seemed, somehow, to express my personality better than just about anything else.

During my last move, however, I emptied the Sony player so it would be easier to carry. It never got refilled. When I thought about refilling it, I didn't know where to start. How would I choose the 400 CDs that would constitute my mix? How could I choose any CDs when the entire collection was in disarray—ok, semi-disarray? In other words, how could I choose intelligently when I couldn't even get a sense anymore of what I owned? I kept telling myself that it would be easier to choose as soon as I got the entire collection into order. That didn't happen, and the Sony player remained empty. There was silence in my life.

Estranged from music, I bought fewer and fewer CDs, attended fewer live events, and even listened less to the radio. I simply didn't know as well anymore what was going on. You can read all the music reviews you can (and I did), and you can subscribe to your favorite music magazines (and I did), but you actually have to listen to music to be a music freak. And I was no longer a music freak.

I was no longer a music freak, that is, until the iPod came into my life.

(More later.)

Friday, November 12, 2004


I've just been pretending to be cool.

The new Entertainment Weekly arrived today, and it contains EW's list of the best 25 rap albums of all time. Shockingly, for a music fiend like me who has 1000+ CDs within reach, I find that I actually own only one of the top 25. Gosh, am I absolutely out of it or what?

Anyway, here's a little quiz for you—a quiz on my favorite topic, me. Which of the following five of the Top 25 rap albums is the only one I own?If you guess, be sure to explain the logic behind your choice. And if you guess right, I'll buy the one of the remaining four that you think I ought to own.

It's a good time to be a minimalist—well, except for the migraines.

I still can't wait to catch the National Gallery's Dan Flavin retrospective, which closes January 9. It may be a good thing, though, that I don't have to work around Flavin's fluorescents: Guards at the exhibition are donning shades after several staffers complained about migraines, nervousness, and anxiety (link via AJ's Daily Art News). One gallery staffer allegedly passed out.

In related(?) news, also via AJ's Daily Art News, the Museum of Modern Art—which reopens on November 20 in its bigger digs—has a new Donald Judd ("Untitled," naturally enough) sculpture. I didn't really need an excuse to head to MoMA, but I've got one now....

Wednesday, November 10, 2004


Send cake!

Today is my blogiversary. Two years ago today, I began GreenGourd's Garden with this mundane first post. If Blogger can be trusted to keep count accurately, I've since posted 1,111 times, using over 132,000 words and nearly 4,500 outbound links. Egad. Who knew I had so much, and yet so little, to say?

In the two year that I've been blogging here, I've gone through several streaks: There were times when I posted more than 20 times a week, and there were other times—just twice, I think!—when I let more than a month pass between posts. Obviously, neither pattern is ideal. The former is too much for the weary blogger, and the latter is too little for my four-and-one-half regular-ish readers.

I have to pretend I'm Goldilocks, I guess, and decide exactly what level of blogging is ideal (i.e., not too soft, not too hard, but just right)? Let's call it the search for blogging-prime. For the reader, it's probably simple: Generally, more is better. As a recent post by Will Baude at Crescat Sententia suggests, however, the correct answer for the blogger isn't so obvious. Like Tyler Cowen, whom Baude quoted, I find that some level of blogging helps me stay productive in other areas of my life. When it's going well, my blogging helps keep my writing skills sharp and my mind engaged. On the other hand, when I've taken breaks from blogging, I've found that I immediately experienced a surge in productivity. When my "breaks" have gone on too long, though, the surge passes, and I'm back to my normal, only-semi-productive self.

What I have to figure out, then, is what level of blogging will keep my head disciplined and my writing skills sharp while, quite frankly, not being just another cause for exhaustion. For now, I think blogging-prime requires that I post (and, yes, I'm talking about five legitimate, "meaty" posts) about four or five times per week. Let's see if I can achieve and maintain that level for awhile.

Anyway, to the readers who've kept me going for two years, I've enjoyed your interest and, more importantly, your feedback. Thanks for making this fun.

P.S. Do you remember the story of the Green Gourd?

Monday, November 08, 2004



  • Among the things I didn't know: That "get brain" is a euphemism for oral sex. I really have to get out more often.

  • Cosmetic neurology, anyone? According to an article in today's Philadelphia Inquirer (link via AJ's Daily Art News):
    The idea is not all fantasy. Some neurologists have recently wondered whether their field is the next frontier in elective medicine. The specialty now tries to protect ailing brains from conditions such as Parkinson's disease or migraine headaches. But doctors' efforts may one day extend to improving normal brains.
    I'm thinking that a little touch-up to my short-term memory might be nice....

  • Here's one way to better your verbal skills: Researchers at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke found that verbal performance could be improved by passing a weak electrical current through subjects' heads (link via AJ's Daily Art News). One side effect was reported; subjects experienced a fizzing sensation near the electrodes.

  • I'm not watching Fox's My Big Fat Obnoxious Boss, but, unexpectedly enough, my Blogistan buddy Waddling Thunder caught the first episode. As you probably know, the show has 12 well-credentialed contestants competing for a job with a fake billionaire whose real goal is to make the contestants look foolish. According to WT:
    [T]he show started by feeding the 'lucky' contestants five dollar sparkling wine and 'foie gras' made of food processed bologna and cream cheese. The unsuspecting stars of the show couldn't contain themselves - 'the liver just melts in my mouth', one noted, and another couldn't stop talking about how wonderful the aged champagne was.
    WT hopes he would've realized the foie gras was phony, but he wisely notes that the surroundings might've helped fool him. So true. After all, it's our perception of reality, and not necessarily actual, um, reality, that structures our lives. Some days, I wonder if we'd like anything "sophisticated"—from Jackson Pollock to sweetbreads to Schönberg—if the "right" labels hadn't already been socially attached to them.
  • Sunday, November 07, 2004


    I have a question.

    Is there some kind of theme to these observations? Or am I hopelessly, and enduringly, theme-less?
  • I doubt you'd have to be from Oklahoma to think this Overcompensating strip is sheer genius, but it probably helps.

  • Add this to the list of jobs I don't want: Teaching sex-ed to seventh graders. Ms. Frizzle seems to be coping, though.

  • Jonny Angel got a taste of Googie architecture and signage on a trip to Phoenix. If JA's nice pics pique your curiosity, check out Roadside Peek's enjoyable Googie Central page, too.

  • It's absolutely ok not to enjoy an exhibit—in this case, the Guggenheim Museum's The Aztec Empire. But I wonder if it was really necessary to describe an artifact of one of history's great civilizations, as Crescat's Will Baude did, as just some "stone junk." That kind of dismissive language makes me wonder if the problem was with the museum-goer, not the museum. That said, I usually think Will B. is a reasonable man, so maybe the problems do lie with the Guggenheim.... Anyway, I should be able to pass judgment on the exhibit itself before it closes on February 13.

    Another exhibit that I can't miss: The Dan Flavin retrospective at the National Gallery of Art. It closes on January 9.

  • Friday, November 05, 2004


    At last, there are a few things on my mind.

    How about an out-of-the-blue post? Ok? Ok.
  • It's figure-skating season, and—as you probably know—I'm game for that. Darren Barefoot asks whether the sport's new judging system will kill the quadruple jump. At this point, anyway, it sure seems like fewer skaters are attempting the quad, and that's definitely not a bad thing. For nearly everyone, the jump is risky. When half a dozen skaters attempt it at a competition, the spectator is apt to see five, or even all six, skaters end up horizontal. Messy competitions sure aren't fun to watch.

    Still, I'm pretty sure the quad isn't dead. We're just not going to see attempts as often as we might've—until skaters have mastered the jump. And isn't that when we should've seen it, anyway?

  • Forget red and blue states. This map shows that the post-election nation is actually purple (link via Kottke). Somehow or other, isn't that a healthier perspective for everyone?

  • Yoko Ono has a No. 1 song, and I haven't heard it yet? Where's my iPod?
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