Natural Blues

Christina Ricci and Moby

2014 marks some the anniversary for some absolutely fantastic albums, so I thought it would be fun to write about some of my favorite albums that came out a gulp long time ago. This is the first post of a multi-part series.

Eminem may have been right that no one listens to techno anymore, but for one glorious moment in 1999, a bald headed vegan techno DJ became a big deal in the music world, almost by accident. If you think about it, it’s kind of amazing that Moby had such a blip of success. When Play came out in May of 1999, he was a has-been DJ. After getting a major label deal in the mid 90s, he put out Animal Rights, a punk record that turned off both critic and fan alike. There were low expectations for Play, and it was slow to take off once it was released. Yet, history has a funny way of making something of nothing, and now we regard Play as the high point of Moby’s career, exactly at the point he thought he was washed up and was ready to get out of the music business all together.

It’s funny how it happens too, because Play is an album that’s really all over the place. Everyone remembers the Alan Lomax stuff, and for good reasons. “Honey”, “Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad?”, “Run On”, and “Natural Blues” are all phenomenal songs. To be frank, “Natural Blues” is still my all time favorite Moby song. Yet, there’s a lot more going on here. There’s a lot of wonderfully ambient stuff on this album. Most people remember “Porcelain”, which while not being one of the best ambient songs Moby’s ever done, is quite good. There’s even some more rock sounding stuff on here. If there’s one thing people really remember, it’s the video from “South Side”, and mostly because Gwen Stefani was in it. She wasn’t even on the album version of the song. Apparently, she was supposed to be, but something happened and they couldn’t get her on it, but she’s in the video (and in subsequent pressings of the CD, they include the version with her in it, so you’re something of a fan if you have the original one with just Moby singing on it). That was the thing that really launched Moby out there.

Well, that, and the fact that Play was the first album that had every single one of its tracks licensed for a commercial, movie, or TV show (this is a pretty good telling of just how that happened. Tanking your career with an album that everyone hates makes for some interesting ideas on how to market your next work). It’s only happened twice since apparently. You may not remember hearing that song on the radio, but you sure heard it on every other commercial you saw on TV between 1999 and 2002 or so. It’s one of those fantastic things that happens to come together and serendipitously make an album that was expected to do nothing in sales actually do several million sales and become the album everyone remembers you for.

Of course, what goes up must come down, and it didn’t really take Moby all that long to come back down. The albums that followed have never generated the same level of buzz and Moby has retreated to being a niche artist these days, but I still love him. And for a brief moment 15 years ago, so did everyone else.

I Can’t Drive 55

Photo Credit: https://flic.kr/p/aDKLBS

So let me explain something about driving on roads in the great state of New Jersey. If your license plate looks like this:

NY License Plate

Or this:

PA License Plate

You need to understand a key concept about driving on our highways. Do not just sit in the left lane and go at or under the speed limit. It’s that simple. First of all, doing that is actually illegal. Maybe you’ve never noticed these signs on the highway, but they have an important meaning:

keep right except to pass

It means don’t get in the left lane and just drive 65. People want to get by you. You can get a ticket for that shit. Yet none of you goddamn out of state drivers learn this shit. Maybe it’s the third lane most of our highways have. Maybe it’s the fact that our roads actually move, unlike any highway in the City. I don’t know. Either way, get out of the left lane and let the rest of us go by.

(Header photo credit: Dougtone on Flickr. Licensed under a CC by-sa license)

What Does the Fox Say?

doinggood

I’m a stalwart Firefox user (I roll with their cutting edge Aurora build, which is a beta to the beta of forthcoming versions of Firefox). I’ve used Firefox for years. Hell, I was using it even before it was called Firefox. I feel kind of old school about it. I’m not a huge fan of Chrome. I don’t think it’s the best browser out there and I hate that as time has gone on, the heads who make Firefox have tried to make it look more and more like Chrome. Firefox has become, in some ways, such an afterthought in the browser world, that it’s almost crazy to see the level of press that Mozilla, the people who make Firefox, has gotten recently.

All of this stems from the fact that they promoted Brendan Eich, a guy who gave a fair amount of money in support of Prop 8, to be their CEO. This naturally caused a lot of blow-back, because Americans are finally waking up and realizing that it’s not exactly cool to deny people rights because they’re not the exact same as you. This continued to build for a few days until the guy resigned. Then the blow-back started the other way, about how the hell could they do that, it was his personal opinion, and etc. I’m happy that this was the final decision, and this is why.

It doesn’t take a lot of looking around to see just how much influence corporations and CEOs now have over our nation’s policies and politics. Supported by a legislature that bows before the corporate altar and a judiciary that is inclined to allow corporate rights to run amok, we’re at an interesting place these days. You don’t have to look much further than the Hobby Lobby case that was argued in front of the Supreme Court recently. At stake here? Essentially, the rights of a corporation to deny rights to a class of employees because of what they believe in. Supporters of the Hobby Lobby folks will try to offer a more narrow interpretation of this, but that’s what it comes down to (well, that, and the fact that conservatives hate vaginas). If the Court sides with them, it could open the door for all kinds of companies to deny rights about things to all sorts of people because they don’t agree with them. Sure, a small non-profit foundation that makes a free internet browser isn’t going to make as many waves as that, but you have to draw a line at some point.

In some ways, of course, this is an exaggerated comparison, but the fact stands that when a CEO is appointed, what they believe in matters greatly to the world around them. In a world where CEOs wield such influence (and a judiciary that continues to say that money talks… loudly), our rights can disappear just like that. If they go in believing that certain kinds of people don’t deserve rights, what’s to stop them from pushing their political agenda?

In Mozilla’s tag line on their homepage, they say that doing good is a part of their code. They’ve maintained policies that sacrifice usability in the name of higher standards (like holding out on h.264 for so long). Having a CEO who believes that a whole class of people don’t deserve the same rights that he enjoys and likely takes for granted is doing the exact opposite of that. No matter what his supporters think, firing Brendan Eich was the only possible outcome for Mozilla. You can’t do the most good otherwise. Kudos to Mozilla for getting this one as right as they could.

Fly Like An Eagle

christmas 1999

It’s hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that this year marks fifteen years since I graduated from high school. Fifteen. I’m really old enough to say something like that. It’s just one of the many things that are falling into the “it’s been that long?” category for me these days. Movies, TV shows, music I like, all sorts of stuff. It’s crazy to hear a song I like and realize that it’s twenty fucking years old. It’s crazy because it’s one of those things where you wake up one day and realize that it’s fifteen, twenty years later. I remember going to so many movies with my best friend when we were in high school, and that was over fifteen years ago. I woke up one day and I was in my thirties. How did that happen? I don’t always feel that grown up, but here I am, a month or so from turning 33 and paying bills and rent and a car payment and such. You’re right where your parents were when you were a teenager going “I remember when I was your age and the Beatles and the Rolling Stones were brand new”. It’s mind blowing really. Blink and you miss it. All of it. Then you realize that time keeps on slippin… slippin… and, well, you know how that story goes.

PS – enjoy the trip in the wayback machine that my friend Jen found for me a few months back and shared with me on Facebook in the featured image for this post. The fun part (or is it sad? I’m not sure) is that I look pretty much the same. Bit older, bit fatter, but that’s still me. Seriously, mind blowing.

(Honest truth: I don’t think I’ll be going all Grey’s Anatomy on you and naming every post after a song when I write a post like they name every episode after a song.  Thing is, when I was thinking about the general theme to this post, that stupid line from that Steve Miller Band song kept playing in my head, so I had to roll with it)