Culture vulture

Is that a poll in your pocket?
Some newspaper humorist wrote recently that America’s pastime is not baseball but poll-taking. What do you think?

I was talking this dubious insight over with a couple of very politically informed activist friends during intermission at the Blue Room last weekend, and we came to the conclusions that in regard to state or national politics a) none of us had ever been polled, b) none of us knew anyone who had ever been polled, and c) none of us had ever agreed with the reported results of a poll. Being staunch believers in empirical data as opposed to Imperial Declarations, we decided to conduct a poll of our own on the upcoming gubernatorial recall. Results follow.

Of the 10 or so randomly selected strangers we talked to on the streets and in the taverns of downtown Chico, not one had participated in a poll before or watched the most recent recall debate. Two had “probably” agreed with the reported results of a poll at sometime in their life. Five said they were voting against the recall, and two said they were voting for it. There were two Schwarzenegger supporters, one for Mary Carey, two who voted to have another cocktail and three who thought the recall was either illegal or “didn’t care.” As you can see, statistics are a slippery thing. Hold fast to your opinions but bolster your grip by fortifying it with facts, or everything you believe in might slip through your hands like a fingerling trout in a glacier-fed stream.

Burning in Radio Hell
Somehow I managed, by choice, to live from about 1978 to 2001 without ever being exposed to more than a few minutes of radio on any given day. And that was just dandy with me. Beginning in the early ‘70s, one of my main criteria for buying records was that I’d never heard them on the radio. And they had to have cool cover art. This policy led me to discover Gentle Giant, Tangerine Dream, the Patti Smith group, Kate Bush, the Ramones, Captain Beyond, Amon Duul II, Robyn Hitchcock & the Egyptians, Plan 9, Tom Waits, Emmylou Harris, Hawkwind, Shonen Knife, Joe Ely and countless others whose old vinyl I still spin on a fairly regular basis and whose new releases I usually buy. Bless all their hearts.

But a few years back I took a job at an office where I spend the day serenaded for eight hours a day by FM radio. And I don’t mean freeform radio, even though one of the stations claims to be “alternative,” but old-school classic rock on one hand, and adult contemporary “alternative rock” on the other. What’s the point of calling yourself alternative, I ask, if you play the same dozen or so songs over and over all day long? And did the entire classic-rock era really encompass only 10 years (the ‘70s) and 20 songs, most of them by AC/DC?

I suppose it would disrupt the workplace if the music was actually interesting enough to make you pause and look up from your desk and pay attention and admire the craftsmanship of the musicians instead of just supplying a background drone that muffles the hum of the machines surrounding us.

Songs worth working for
1) “The Perfect World,” Shonen Knife

2) “Eggs and Sausage,” Tom Waits

3) “Firefly,” Southern Culture on the Skids

4) "On Some Faraway Beach," Brian Eno