Friday, September 26 2003
The other day I was listening to public radio (either All Things Considered or Fresh Air) and I heard a piece about a Danish band called the Raveonettes (as in "Rave On"). It's rare that I'm intrigued by music I hear on a show like this, but there was something uniquely compelling about this music, particularly surprising given its roots in a form of music I don't especially like: surf-influenced 50s-era Rockabilly. But in a short fraction of one of the songs played, "Attack of the Ghost Riders," I heard one of the most unexpected changes I've ever heard in any kind of music. The twangy guitar was executing a dall-dall-daddle-daddle-dall riff in a classic early-60s surf rock style, while compatibly-echoing vocals chanted over them. It could have been a relic from the days of turquois refrigerators and tail fins. But then the chanting vocals cautioned, "It goes something like this..." That was where it happened, the most unexpected change in music ever. The guitars changed to a terrifyingly dissonant chord, the sort one never heard in pop music until Sonic Youth and Slayer came along. It was the kind of aural mindfuck for which I am always on the lookout. Mind you, I hate music that consists of nothing but unexpected changes. That's tiresome. What I want is the perfect change, the one whose singularity and uniqueness stands alone. This was it.
Naturally, I immediately downloaded all the Raveonettes song files I found on KaZaA Lite. They must be a more popular band than I figured, because a fair number of the MP3s I downloaded were fucked-up files containing long silences, the sort the RIAA uses to poison file sharing networks in the futile (and juvenile - for a major industry) hope of closing them down. The only other time I ever experienced such problematic downloads was when I wanted to listen to the latest Radiohead album (Hail to the Thief); most of the bands I like are not signed to RIAA labels or else their songs are considered too marginal (or old) to bother protecting. (Sorry Johnny Cash, but when I went on a downloading spree of your music after your death, all the files turned out good.)
Actually, I don't much like the songs on the second (major-label) Raveonettes album, Chain Gang of Love. My preference is for the snappier, spookier songs on Whip It On (released on the independent label Red Ink). After "Attack of the Ghost Riders," my favorite songs are "Do You Believe Her?" and "Chains."
I had a housecall in Bearsville (just west of Woodstock) this afternoon. A young woman living in a small cottage beside a roaring river was having trouble with her iMac. I fired it up and heard horrible clunking sounds coming from inside it. At first I thought she'd set it up to have weird mechanical noises playing while she worked (I've experienced more distracting setups than that!) - but then I realized the noises were coming from her hard drive, which clearly needed to be replaced. I couldn't recover any data from it, at least not then. So I took the iMac home with me to attack using the tools I have in my laboratory.
Since the hard drive seemed to work best when it was cold, I put it in the freezer for an hour or so before attempting to recover the data. This didn't work, possibly because of all the beads of condensation that immediately formed on it when I brought it out into the humid air of a late September in the Catskills.
From there on, the hard drive fought with me every step of the way, usually refusing to spin up for me at all, or when it did, it made a few loud clunks and then powered down. I suspected perhaps there were connection difficulties in the flaky connectors (this was a late-model Quantum Dragonball and disturbing evidence of cost-cutting was everywhere), so I applied fresh beads of solder to a series of contacts that were - well - just beads of solder. This didn't help, but it didn't seem to hurt either. I also tried operating the hard drive while it lay upon a piece of bluestone I'd had in the freezer.
By blowing on it with a fan and holding it at certain angles, I found I was able to get the hard drive to work long enough to boot the Mac, but even then it was rare for me to have enough time to recover anything from it.
Then, freakishly, the hard drive managed to come up and stay alive indefinitely, allowing me to get everything I wanted. Perhaps it was the fan, perhaps it was the orientation, who knows. But I took while the taking was good, feeling very relieved that my mission wasn't going to wind up a failure.
In the past week or so there has been a sudden bloom in houseflies. They mostly swarm around in the laundry room, where they are attracted by wet food put out for Mavis. But they also hang out in the kitchen and even the first floor office, where they are a continual nuissance. Today I decided to try an age-old remedy. So I harvesting some Amanita muscaria mushrooms in the forest, cut them into slices, and set them out in a bowl of milk. Supposedly the flies would drink the milk and die from the toxins in the mushroom. Unfortunately, after hours of operation, my vintage fly trap had yet to claim a single victim. Similarly, a funnel made from an old vodka bottle and a bag containing a trace of wet food also failed to catch any flies. Those little fuckers are much smarter than we think.
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