Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Music was better in the '90s.


In Rolling Stone every week, there's a "From the Vault" section beside the charts on the back page, showing the top 10 singles from some era in the magazine's history. They started publishing the thing in the late '60s, so this goes back some time, but on occasion they have something from only a few years ago.

This week's chart is from August 6, 1992.
  1. Madonna — "This Used To Be My Playground"
  2. Sir Mix-A-Lot — "Baby Got Back"
  3. TLC — "Baby-Baby-Baby"
  4. Boys II Men — "End Of The Road"
  5. Guns N' Roses — "November Rain"
  6. Billy Ray Cyrus — "Achy Breaky Heart"
  7. Jon Secada — "Just Another Day"
  8. Tom Cochrane — "Life Is A Highway"
  9. En Vogue — "Giving Him Something He Can Feel"
  10. George Michael — "Too Funky"

Don't be.

The biggest-selling single of 1969 was "Sugar, Sugar" by a fake group, The Archies. Singles also released in 1969 include:
  • Led Zeppelin — "Whole Lotta Love"
  • Creedence Clearwater Revival — "Bad Moon Rising", "Fortunate Son", and a couple others
  • The Beatles — "Come Together"
  • The Who — "Pinball Wizard"
  • David Bowie — "Space Oddity"
  • Santana — "Evil Ways"
  • Sly & the Family Stone — "Hot Fun In The Summertime"
  • Shocking Blue — "Venus"
...and "Sugar, Sugar" wiped the floor with all of them.

Yeah, when I initially saw the chart from 1992 I was surprised there wasn't anything by Nirvana, Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam... nothing from your favourite alt-rock stalwarts. But then I realized that, above the notion that "music" is either better or worse at a particular point in history than it is now, is that most people have really, really shitty taste in music.

(You, on the other hand, Dear Reader, have immaculate taste in music.)

Friday, August 17, 2012

Five things about aging.

Warning: This blog post "keeps it real."

Look, I'm not getting any younger. (And neither are you; that's just how time works. It goes forwards. Every single thing is getting older, one day per day.)

There are certain things about getting older that nobody seems to mention. I know I've never seen a "60 Minutes" exposé on any of these things, either singly or together. So, consider this a public service.

(Please note that some, or all, or none of the following may apply to you. All I can say is these things have happened to me.)

#1: My taste in women has changed.

When I was a young buck of 19, I was in this weirdo program that UW and Queen's had together, where I did teacher's college in my third year of my undergrad program. This meant that I was around women who were 22-24 for a good long while... and they were fascinating, alluring, intelligent creatures.

You know the "half your age plus seven" rule, right? Well, I'm 34, so (34/2) + 7 = 24, which seems reeeeeeally young for a woman I'd consider dating. Don't get me wrong, 24-year-olds are a hell of a lot of fun to be around and look at, but... crikey, that's a child. A sexy, sexy child.

Obviously, it comes down to a case-by-case basis, but I think 27 would be an appropriate age-floor for me these days. I wouldn't rule a 25-year-old out, but she's gotta be pretty extraordinary.

#2: Hair starts disappearing.

This doesn't apply to everyone, of course. And while I had a little early retreat in my 20s, I think we're pretty much in a holding pattern these days. Of course, with hair this fair, it can be tough to nail down exactly where it is and where it isn't, but yeah, some of it has made its way to the exits.

And you know what? I don't really care that much. I feel like I should care a lot, and I do care some, but... well, here's the deal. Every single person you know has some sort of physical imperfection. You probably noticed it right away when you met them, but after a while it just becomes part of who they are. Some people have funny noses, some people have odd fingernails, some people have flat butts. And some people have lost a little hair.

Really, what good does a full head of hair do? In some anthropological way, it probably signifies to a female mate that you're young, can get it up pretty well, and you're virile and can thus father children. And I know that our brains do work on that level, to an extent, either consciously or subconsciously. In the end, though, once I club a woman and drag her back to the cave to be mine (or, y'know, do that whole "romance" thing instead), does it matter? Not really. So suck it, Rogaine.

#3: Hair starts appearing.

Oh, but it shifts around, it does.

I'll be checking myself out in the mirror and I'll notice one lonely (but prominent) hair sticking out of my skin near, say, my shoulder — absolutely nowhere near my chest hair. But it's there.

How? Why? What the hell is going on? Did a rogue follicle make its way south from my skull and decide to set up camp near my shoulder? I didn't think they could migrate, but there it is.

Do other people get this too?

#4: I hurt a little, but not much.

Once upon a time, after the first baseball game I'd play in a season, I'd hurt a little the morning after, but it'd be gone pretty quickly.

These days, my hurting takes on a different but reliable pattern, and it lasts the first two or three weeks:
  • play baseball on a Sunday night
  • feel absolutely fine Monday morning
  • start hurting Monday evening, through Tuesday morning
  • be fine by Tuesday afternoon
There's a delayed-reaction thing going on, and I don't know why. At least I can plan for it.

#5: I actually like aging, all in all.

If you, and your life, stayed exactly the same... wouldn't that get boring after a while? Doing the same thing, going the same places, seeing the same people. Hrmmpphhh.

Don't get me wrong; obviously there are people and places that have stayed near-and-dear to me for a long time. But I like seeing new things, meeting new folks, going here-and-there and finding new stuff out, discovering new bands (or just new songs from bands I already knew)... which brings me to a bigger point.

I have friends and relatives who got married young and had kids and bought a house and have the whole thing seemingly salted-away... which is fine — believe me, there's a whole lotta stupid stuff they don't have to deal with anymore (e.g. dating), and I'm a little envious of that, I'm not gonna lie.

But at the same time, I can't help but notice the things they don't do anymore, because they have those responsibilities I don't — randomly going on 12-day solo baseball-centered roadtrips to the US midwest, for one — and since I like doing things like that, it makes me a little wary to "settle down."

I think, right now, I'm in this sweet spot where I'm old enough to appreciate things like baseball roadtrips, but still young enough to have a future ahead of me which includes all those great things most of us want out of life (spouse, kids, house, comfort, etc.). But at the same time... y'know, I'm turning 35 in a couple of months, so how long does this extended-adolescence window stay open?

Getting older has agreed with me pretty well so far. It might turn ugly soon, though — or it might not. I'm in a good spot right now, though, and that's about all a fella can hope for, isn't it?

Friday, August 03, 2012

On the Chinese.

It's hard not to think, as I watch a ton of Chinese athletes win gold medals all over the place at the Olympics, it's only a matter of time before they take over the world (and probably enslave the rest of us in the process). Consider:
  • there's 1,339,724,852 of them
  • they're loaded-up on US debt
  • their government does extremely bold things
To me, that's a pretty volatile combination. But as it applies to sports, consider each of the poins:

The Numbers
If you have that many people, odds are that you're going to have someone who has just the right build and mental temperament to excel at pretty much anything. (You can make cracks about how short they are, but consider that (a.) you're probably thinking about Hong Kongers as opposed to mainland Chinese, and (b.) Yao Ming is 7'6".)

The Money
In case you haven't noticed, they have a lot of it, and a lot of that comes from the US because the US is in a lot of debt and a lot of that is owed to China. You can talk about GDP and whatnot, but that doesn't include the amount of money in business/government that doesn't circulate out to the average-folk.

The Government
This is perhaps the most interesting/formidable piece of the puzzle. Remember the Beijing olympics? The government did such things as (a.) build huge/expensive/crazy buildings for all the events, (b.) bulldoze entire neighbourhoods to build things, (c.) ordered industries to shut down for a few weeks to clear the air pollution around the city, and most crazily (d.) seeded the clouds before they got to Beijing, ensuring sunny skies for outdoor events.

But what concerns me the most are the stories about how they train athletes. You know the script: at age 6, someone sees that some kid has a real aptitude for, say, gymnastics. Kid gets yanked from the family and gets put in some special school for athletes halfway across the country. Kid spends all day, every day, training for their event. So, when they finally win that gold medal, of course it's a huge sigh of relief; there's so much invested in them, for decades — not just with themselves and their coaches, but the whole government apparatus as well.

The only thing I can think of which comes close in this country is kids who are trying to climb the ladder to play professional hockey — there are endless tournaments, games, leagues, camps and such, and if you play in the OHL in a team away from home, that can involve a lot of separation from your family, friends and otherwise "normal" life (although I think there are rules that keep kids under 16 in their hometown, or close to it).

I dunno, man. In the end, sure, China may end up kicking all our asses on the medal count. But if the kids-turned-adults have to pay that high a price in order to win everything... they can just keep those medals, thanks, and I'll take kids with normal childhoods instead.