Saturday, December 19, 2009


I'm a little behind the times when it comes to technology. Gadgets and software just don't excite me that much. When I was a kid, as part of the gifted and talented program in elementary school, we would be rewarded each week with an hour of "computer time" which consisted of shuffling down the hall to the "computer room" (a glorified broom closet) and playing Oregon Trail. The computer was the size of a Ford Pinto (but slightly safer) and the modem was a box with two circular indentations that you actually shoved the receiver of the phone into. Of course, this was back when phones actually had "receivers" and "cords." It made all sorts of beeping and whurring noises, as well as some metallic crunching noises every once in awhile. We would type our commands into a gigantic keyboard with huge circular keys that were really deep. It was like typing on a big set of metal molars with letters on top of them. Then you'd wait for the computers response, which would eventually be typed out onto a huge roll of paper in cheap purple ink with one of those balls like in the old electric typewriters. Oregon Trail was the cutting edge of computer and role playing games (this was the 70's after all, pre D&D). You'd get scenarios like "The wagon wheel breaks. What do you do?" or "Your wife contracts syphilis, which Indian medicine man do you want to kidnap?" That one might be a slight exaggeration (but it was the 70's after all, pre political correctness). Later in high school computers had progressed to the AppleIIE, with it's green letters and no images a la War Games style. To think I could've gotten in on the ground level of the computer boom. But I just wasn't that into it. I had a friend who developed one of the first rudimentary voice recognition systems to help special ed kids. He's probably sipping a Mai Tai on his own Polynesian island right now. Where is this going? Ohh, yeah, so as usual I was a little late in discovering Pandora. My friend Carolyn was raving about it on facebook, so I checked it out. It is freakin' incredible! I typed in some bands from my misguided 20's, and there they were. It's amazing to see some groups that you'd forgotten about pop up on stations of similar styles or time periods. I've got a Richard Cheese station that I'm very fond of, and of course a Nick Cave station. My guilty pleasures are my Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass station, and my Alphaville station (you know, Forever Young). Pandora is the perfect thing to listen to while roasting some Kush Royale and playing online poker. I've discovered a great band named Kinski that is absolutely perfect to listen to while zoning out stoned and playing poker. It's funny how certain songs come on when things are going well, but god help the song that is on when you take a bad beat! It clearly must be the song that caused your bad luck and it gets a swift "I don't like this song" check mark on it's profile. The beauty of Pandora is discovering new music based on your preferences, and rediscovering bands you had forgotten about. Sometimes I'll be playing poker and a song will come on that I really like. I'll check to see who it is, only to find out it is a band I have professed to hating! Keeps you honest and keeps your musical hipster snobbishness in check. Another delight is being positive that you are listening to a particular band with a distinctive style like say, the Brian Jonestown Massacre, and when you double check it turns out to be an earlier band like the Velvet Underground. The Music Genome Project that Pandora is based on is an enlightening way to track the evolution of popular music. Now if there was only a way to make it portable so I could listen while I'm at a casino poker table.....My friend Ben told me about this contraption called an ipod, but I don't think it's going to catch on. I'll stick with my trusty walkman.

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