Slow Music For Fast Times

Lately I’ve found myself spending that last few hours of my Sundays listening to Hearts of Space on WKMS-FM, our local public radio station. If you’ve never heard of HoS, here is an excerpt from the Wikipedia entry:

1474-1-hearts-of-spaceHearts of Space is a United States weekly syndicated public radio show featuring music of a contemplative nature drawn largely from the ambient, New Age and electronic genres, while also including classical, world, Celtic, experimental, and other music selections. For many years, the show’s producer and presenter, Stephen Hill, has applied the term “space music” to the music broadcast on the show, irrespective of genre. It is the longest-running radio program of its type in the world.

I vaguely remember hearing a few programs of HoS when I was in high school, before I had really discovered my affinity toward electronic music. I don’t remember why I stopped listening to it, but HoS eventually drifted from my awareness and was forgotten.

So, you can imagine my surprise when I was spending a late Sunday evening cleaning out my garage with the radio on and rediscovered it! Now I can’t seem to stop listening to it!

This marks the first radio program I have listened to on a consistent basis.

I think this also marks a subtle shift in my musical tastes. Where I used to favor powerful, driven electronic music when I was working, I’ve lately found myself settling more into slower ambient textures. Through Hearts of Space, I’ve discovered music that has been around for decades, right under my nose. It’s all been really exciting!

I’ll leave you with music from one of the recent programs, entitled “Cloud of Promise”:

Interestingly enough, I also found a totally unrelated but equally awesome song when searching for “forest for the trees”:

Trucks Bring It

I think I’ve finally come to a startling conclusion – something I never thought I’d say since I was first issued my first driver’s license: I really dislike driving. I love the freedom of being able to go where I wish without worrying about someone else’s schedule, but the actual act of operating a vehicle is really wearing on me lately.

My job has me logging an average of 200 to 250 miles per day. I know for professional drivers, 200 a day is just a drop in the bucket. The difference is that I’m not paid to be a professional driver, though I harbor a tremendous respect for those who are. I admire the unsung long-haul drivers of America not only because they are the mistreated and unappreciated backbone of the economy, but because I have no idea how they are able to operate their vehicles safely for such long periods of time, under such strenuous conditions.

Trucks bring it

My biggest shortcoming is that driving by myself gets really boring really quickly. No amount of custom-burned music CDs, audiobooks, radio programs, or mental gymnastics stand against the relentlessness of endless stretches of asphalt for very long. I do enjoy the time I get to spend thinking about things (something I also enjoyed when I worked in a factory), but I find myself drifting in and out of flow, which is actually a very dangerous state of mind for a driver.

So after a while, I start amusing yourself with the finer details. Like the license plates that read things like “404 HTM” and “133 BPM,” which technically aren’t vanity plates, but carry meaning to some, nonetheless. I start to count the animal corpses, viewing their steady decay in a day-by-day time lapse. I start to notice that after a while, those 5 dead skunks on Highway 94 smell almost like a cup of fresh dark roast coffee straight out of the grinder (or maybe that’s just a personal coping mechanism of mine).

coffee poster

Unfortunately, another thing I notice is all the trash lining every highway. As I’ve said before on this blog, you’re never gonna catch me sailing with Greenpeace, but I respect this beautiful planet that God gave us, and do the best I can to take care of it without going to extremes like trying to recycle my fingernails. The trash itself, however, is not what I find so remarkable. It’s the composition of it.

It has been said countless times that the human brain is a relentless pattern recognition device. I imagine this functionality is amplified when boredom sets in. I don’t know if I’m the only one that catches this, but my brain recognizes over and over again that most of the fast food trash is generally from one source: McDonald’s. I’ve even formulated a few theories as to why this might be.

Theory One: Sheer Volume

This theory hinges on the possibility that McDonald’s serves more take-out customers per day than any other restaurant. Due to the sheer volume of food that goes out the window each day versus other restaurants, the McDonald’s litter is a testament to their sales. This theory assumes that McDonald’s customers tend to litter just as much as other restaurant customers. This leads us to Theory Two.

Theory Two: Littering Patrons

This theory hinges on the possibility that a higher percentage of McDonald’s customers versus customers of other restaurants tend to throw their garbage onto the highway rather than a proper receptacle. I won’t go into particulars on this theory, because it can lead to to stereotyping, prejudice, and unfair assumptions. Kinda like how people think of truck drivers. Let’s just say that this is likely another case where a few bad apples spoil the bunch.

Theory Three: Conspicuousness

McDonald’s packaging is quite distinct from most other chains. It is quite possible that the only reason I’m noticing more McDonald’s litter is because the litter itself is more noticeable. Maybe I’m only seeing what I want to see so that I have a reason to post some more inane drivel on here so you guys won’t yell at me anymore to write something.

Who knows, maybe it’s all three theories combined, or maybe I’m just making a big deal out of nothing. I’m just curious if anyone else notices similarly irrelevant patterns in their daily lives. They tell me it’s a good thing to notice small stuff such as this. Maybe they’re right, or maybe they’re just agreeing with me out of fear. They never know what this crazy guy is gonna do next.

I will close with one more pet peeve of mine relating to all this. More of a PSA.

Your truck bed is not a trash receptacle.

It’s funny how people never make the connection of how they can throw all kinds of garbage in the back of their truck, yet they rarely have to clean it out. It’s like it empties itself! I wonder where it all goes? It’s still littering, whether they mean for it to blow out or not. Seriously, what did they think was going to happen once they got up to 60MPH?

[18-Jun-2009 Edit:  I followed a SUV into New Concord today that sums up the first part of this post nicely: “641 FML.” Almost poetic.]

Goodbye, EGM

I just read and confirmed from multiple sources that Electronic Gaming Monthly, a veteran gaming magazine published since 1989, has been canceled. It seems EGM’s parent company, 1Up, has been sold off to UGO and almost immediately, the decision was made to scrap EGM and lay off several senior staff members. The January 2009 issue will be EGM’s last.

I’ve read EGM on and off since the early 90s, back when gaming was just for us nerds and didn’t command near the popularity and respect that it does these days. I remember the bold sense of humor and no-nonsense reviews were traits that really made the magazine stand out from its competitors.

But alas, as video games have evolved and shifted into mainstream popular culture, so too has journalism evolved away from print media such as newspapers and magazines toward interactive, cheaply-distributed websites. Magazines and local newspapers are going to have some tough choices to make as the years go by. Even the ones that survive may not remain in the same forms we recognize today.

I knew the day was coming when most of my favorite print magazines would disappear in favor of an online presence, but I didn’t expect it to feel like suddenly losing several old friends. I hope all of the recently unemployed staffers find alternate work quickly. For all the laughs they have provided over the years, it’s the least I can hope for.