Saturday, June 25, 2011

Happy Birthday To My Favorite Waste Of Time

It was Marshall Crenshaw who was stuck in my head at that time.  The song was a demo called “You’re My Favorite Waste Of Time” and was never really meant for public consumption.  Don’t ask me how it got stuck in my head because I’m not sure.  I don’t get to choose what gets stuck in my head.  It is often the case that I don’t even get to select the soundtrack for my life.  Marina’s birth is one such instance.

“Your My Favorite Waste Of Time” was a perfect expression of my time with this little gal.  She is one of the most beautiful, calm creatures I have ever seen.  When we were able to bring her home from the hospital, I’d find myself in our big, comfy chair just holding her.  No TV.  No radio.  No Internet - no distractions.  Just me and her spending time together.  I wanted the world to stop when I was holding her because having her sleeping in my lap brought me such peace and profound happiness.  At some point, “You’re My Favorite Waste Of Time” would materialize in my head, playing through in it’s entirety and I got it:  Marina was my “favorite waste of time”.

And after a year, her charm hasn’t worn off one bit.  She’s a lot squirmier, so we don’t waste time when we’re together:  we play together, take walks together, and eat together.  She has me hustling a lot more than she used to, and I couldn’t be happier - happy first birthday to my precious baby girl.
"Marina Come Home" - The Cosby Sweaters by mattzink

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Audio Scratch Pad: Microsoft Excel 2007 Startup

I forget how I did it, but there is a way you can record the sound of software starting up on your computer using Audacity.  This is what Microsoft Excel 2007 sounds like when it starts up on my computer.
Microsoft Excel Startup by mattzink
Recommended Uses:  sample sounds to create your own Wilco tune or abstract music.

I wonder if I'll get a "cease and desist" from the RIAA on behalf of Microsoft?

Monday, June 20, 2011

Comfort Sounds

As stated in the header, the primary purpose of this blog is to give the sounds and songs of my life a bit more attention to extract some meaning from them.  This article explores similar territory.  It's an incredibly fascinating look at how items are designed to elicit a certain human response.  Check it out if you get a chance.

Audio Scratch Pad: Lake Leelanau Access Ramp

Imma put in for my vacation today - yee haw!  Have already started fantasizing about how awesome it will be. Lake Leelanau, Public Access Site - 2:17 PM by mattzink
About:  Recorded in August of 2010 at a boat ramp on northern Lake Leelanau. If you listen closely, you might be able to hear some boats, which I didn't think I'd like, but kinda do.  The boats are the reason the waves get real intense in the recording as the waves from their wake reach the shore.
Recommended uses:   If you work in a dark, windowless office like I do, I recommend this for a mini-vacation.  Also good for:  laying awake in bed with eyes closed, sitting in your kids' pool with a Corona, psyching yourself up for your own vacation, and - this is probably the best use, at least for me - listen to this in the winter when it seems like winter will never end.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Rest Stop In Charlotte: Music Of The Zink Family Vacations

One thing you can say about the Zink family:  we can mobilize. On Sunday mornings our commanding officers (mom and dad) could have the whole family en route to 7:30 am mass by 7:05 am. From wake up call to the rendezvous point in the van, it typically took most of us between thirty and forty minutes to be ready, leather shoes, wet hair and all.  No small task for a family of ten in a household of 3 showers.

When it came to vacation, we were a resort town strike force ready to deploy as soon as dad got home from work and changed his clothes.  Usually by 6 pm and usually on a Friday, we found ourselves rifling down the highway in a meticulously packed vehicle, stopping only once at a Shell station in Charlotte, Michigan for gas and a restroom break.  (The discovery of a faster route later on changed our refueling point to Ionia, Michigan.)  Meals were taken on the road and were usually leftovers like cold roast beef sandwiches and ice water, which was doled out from an Igloo cooler operated by my mom and held in place on the van’s center console by my dad while drove.

The trip from north central Indiana to Lake Leelanau, Michigan typically took about six hours.  We learned early that the trip went faster with a stack of magazines and books.  We alternated between reading and sleep; sleep becoming the main option once it was too dark to read.  We spread ourselves out on the bench seats and on the floor between the seats, the metronomic “thump thump thump” of the seams in the road lulling us to sleep.  When we arrived at our destination in the wee small hours of the morning, I suspect we might have looked something like the Jonestown massacre on wheels.

Most of these trips were done in an era that preceded personal music players like the Walkman and the iPod.  Even when that technology was available, for whatever reason, I don’t recall my siblings and I listening to music on personal electronics of any sort.  But there was no shortage of music in the car.  Mom and Dad played all the music - usually 8 track compilations that you received when you bought a new GM car.  Actually, a lot more than that, but one thing was clear:  this is not a democracy.  Mom and dad controlled the tape player.  Sure, my older siblings got to play one of their tapes, but that usually happened when we were about fifteen minutes from the lake and when us younger kids were deep in sleep.  “Eagles Greatest Hits, Vol. 1” usually only made it through a few of songs before we pulled in the drive and unpacked the car.

Because we were all listening to the same thing music was a shared experience for us.  We all got the same input.  And really, I think I’m grateful for that.

That might seem like a lukewarm endorsement for this communal experience. Just play through some of the tracks in the player accompanying this article to see why.  But here’s the thing:  I wouldn’t change a thing.  You don’t really get to choose the soundtrack for your life; it often chooses you.  These tracks were the soundtrack for the much cherished Zink family vacations - for all of us.  I can prove it:  if you’re a Zink, and you’re reading this, complete the following lyric in the comments section of this blog entry:
My name is Michael
I’ve got a nickel
I’ve got a nickel shiny and new*

It’s funny to think that I can get warm feelings from hearing a Jerry Vale song or a cover by the Ray Coniff Singers.  And time does nothing to erode the evocative memories attached to songs like “The Gambler”.  They’re all still there.  Mom and dad stuck the memories and the music in my head.  I didn’t stand a chance.  Maybe I wouldn’t want too many people knowing that rocking out to Jerry Vale’s version of “Strangers in the Night” brings me comfort; but it’s comfort, so I’ll take it.

* - If you’re curious about the lyrics, here you go.
P.S. If it is taking a long time for the embedded player to load, click here and see if it loads faster.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Obscure, Not-So-Great Songs I've Tracked Down Online

Twas an era of custom vans, pet rocks and those Dr. Scholls sandals that everyone’s sister was wearing.  It was the time when punk rock put arena rock on its ass, even if no one realized it until years later.  It was the decade of thoroughly forgettable artists.  How many Paul Davis cds are your rocking out to?  None?  What about Robbie Dupree?  Yeah, I don’t remember him either.  (You remember 10cc, but you never got a chance to replace the 8-track that melted in the back seat of the Monte Carlo.)  

Because there was always a radio on at my house, fragments of songs buried themselves deep within the wrinkles of my brain, only to resurface enough to be annoying.  Amazingly, I’ve been able to track down most of them even though I might only know two or three words from a given song.  I was beginning to think I imagined these songs.  Phew - I’m not losing my mind yet.  And just to prove that the seventies didn’t corner the market on awful songs, I included a few from the eighties.  Enjoy!
P.S.  If it is taking a long time for the embedded player to load, click here and see if it works better.

Audio Scratch Pad: Summer Thunderstorm

Thunderstorm, 2:47 AM by mattzink
About:  Recorded in 2010 in Brown County, Indiana, as a storm roared through the valley.
Recommended Uses:  Use with headphones or play loudly through speakers.  Goes well with ghost stories.

A Tribute To Quack's Cassette Collection

Fucking Quack, man - that guy doesn’t throw anything out. If you look in his family room in one of those Rubbermaid cabinets, I think they’re still there: 3 or 4 cases of cassettes, each meticulously labelled in red ink in that all caps printing he learned in high school drafting class.  Each cassette was numbered, with the bands’ names on the binding of the cassette; the band and LP name on the cassette itself.  The organization would make a librarian shed tears of joy.  All most all of those fuckers were TDK SA-90 High Bias cassettes, (He later switched to Maxell XII) the VU levels carefully set before vinyl was transferred to tape.  

But let me be clear: this collection - this archive - informed my tastes in music more than perhaps anything else in my life.  It opened my eyes and blew apart my brain.  First, there’s the diversity:  Dire Straits cassettes rest peacefully along with Dow Jones and the Industrials cassettes.  Wait - what’s that next to the Sex Pistols?  Mojo Nixon and Skid Roper?  Maybe the Tubes?  Is there a better way to enjoy Rush than with a Minutemen chaser?  So many genres and geographical regions covered.  So much rock n’ roll/Celtic folk/local music/hardcore/Tom Burris/sounds from the hearts of space to digest.

This is before the Internet - you weren’t getting recommendations from an algorithm. There was no “All Songs Considered” and no one was quoting lyrics on Facebook that made you curious to look into the quoted artist more.  (I’m just kidding.  That doesn’t happen anyway.)   You had to work really hard to amass the crazy shit in this collection.  You had to be open minded.  You had to have an older brother in college pipe lining this stuff back to you (check!).  You had to have a fiercely independent local record store with talkative but knowledgeable clerks manning the cash register (check!).  You had to have a yearning to know the world outside of Anderson - and Quack had all of these things- check, check and check.

The quest for new music can backfire for sure.  Quack’s cassette collection houses such duds as Todd Rundren’s band Utopia, as well as Rick Derringer and Carmine Appice’s band DNA.  (Get it?  “Derringer ‘n Appice”?  DnA?)  Say what you want about Sham 69, but I think there’s a great reason they never really caught on in the U.S.  (They suck.)  I should probably mention the Vapors and Big Country, but the fact of the matter is that I kinda like both of them. Quack can be forgiven that his cosmopolitan musical tastes lead to such lapses in judgement -  we all know hindsight is 20/20.  

Indeed, Quack’s cassette collection is party tested, surviving many vacation trips and late night benders.  Heck, it’s even been puked on and survives to this day.  And because Quack had a pretty good handle on local bands, we took our party and our money to their gigs.  We bought their cassettes at shows, we mingled with like minded folks.  We were the fucking corndogs of most gigs, but we were openly accepted in what was then an underground culture, even if we didn’t look the part.  That was important to me as I often didn’t feel like I fit in anywhere else outside of my family.  

My brother Quack and I have listened to those tapes countless times.  Even music I didn’t like at first sank in after multiple listenings.  It’s hard to believe now there was a time when I hated the Minutemen.  I owe it to Quack (and by extension, Bill) for laying my musical foundation.  I hope that he will accept this tribute as a sincere, heartfelt “thanks”.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

A Short List Of Some Favorite You Tube Performances

"Daddy Yar" by The Pallidans.  Probably my favorite You Tube video of all time.  This has killer energy.

"Won't Get Fooled Again (Isolated Bass)" by John Entwistle.  Behold the greatness that is John Entwistle.  Fucking guy makes it look easy. 

"Radio Radio" by Elvis Costello and the Attractions.  I'm not sure about the back story on this one, but NBC didn't want them to do this song.  Not only did they do it, they rocked it.  I love this spontaneity.  In searching for this one (which is hard to find and technically not a You Tube video), I found a sort of bad ass redux with one of my favorite bands - click here.

The James Gang - Walk Away by spacy2
"Walk Away" by The James Gang.  This.  Shreds.  Super. Hard.  I can't get enough of it.  It's too loud and the performance isn't totally clean.  Which means it's very rock n' roll.  (For those who might care, this one is no longer on You Tube thanks to a cease and desist to the dude who posted it.)  Thanks for the tip, Bill!

Welcome To The Welcome Message

Yo Holmes.  Welcome to History Lesson Pt. II.  Like the song after which it was named, this blog will serve as a meditation on role that all things sonic play in my life.  You can expect plenty of lists, occasional off topic rants, some self promotion, some sound files, and now and again some photos.  What you probably won’t be exposed to is a lot of new music, record reviews, or fashion tips.  Be warned it’s not always a child appropriate blog (in other words, suggested for mostly mature readers), but I hope you’ll enjoy and leave comments.  If you like it, spread the word; if you hate it, spread the word anyway.