Why All The Music?

By now you probably noticed that I seem to end each entry with yet another video, but to anybody who knows me it probably isn’t too much of a surprise.  Many of my earliest memories are attached to Radio, which has always been within reach.

In the early fifties (yes, before Rock and Roll) my parents would put me to bed with the sounds of the Make Believe Ballroom coming out of a huge radio.  The music was hit records from the late forties and the early fifties, and being too young to know any better the host of the show had me totally convinced that the big bands and singers were actually there in the studio.  I can vividly remember the night I changed the dial around, found Little Richard screaming about Molly, and got up and danced around the room.  Shortly thereafter I was put to bed downstairs without a radio.  Within a year WMCA and WABC were playing that new Rock and Roll, and I was there with them.  Throughout elementary and high school I used the radio to drown out my brothers while I did homework or read books, and when I went off to Nashville to go to college I ended up as a disk jockey doing a Saturday night oldies show.  Over the next decade, while I was busy learning to program computers, I also spent time helping program various radio show playlists.

And then the fun was over, but the radio was still there.  Even better, we had a show called Popclips on fledgling cable TV and later I got to go to a local bar when I watched the birth of MTV.

We can all think back and remember songs that were playing at specific events, or the time we heard some songs for the first time, but I think our memories are even stronger than that.  I can’t name all the small countries around the Horn of Africa anymore, but I can recite all the lyrics to Toto’s Africa.  I’m not sure about the names of all the rivers in Europe, but it appears I know the words to Emotion better than Mariah.  I don’t remember the main export of Argentina, but I tap along with most of the drum solo in Ina-Gadda-Da-Vida on the table in front of me without missing too many notes.  Somehow our brains seem to permanently store music-related information better than other information and we get better recall as well.

And sometimes I find myself humming or singing a song that has lyrics that reveal something about how I’m feeling or what I should do when I’m not paying enough attention to some part of my mind that has answers I don’t even know I’m looking for yet.

We really don’t understand how music fits into our minds, but I’m glad it does.

Today’s music clip is a live version of a song that I never heard on the radio, but certainly remember from the live version I found years after it came and went:

What We Hold On To

Habits.  We take them for granted, but there are valid reasons for them.

Some don’t seem very important: I make the bed every morning, but I’m sure the bed and bedding will all be there when I get home again.

Some seem very  important: I take my blood pressure pills (almost) every morning when I finish eating a banana that I share with our bunny.

Some may or may not seem important: I usually park in the same space when I get to the store in the morning – a space that’s not too close to the building (I don’t want a bunch of bozos parking near my car and smacking it when they open their doors)  but still close enough that I can see the car from my desk (it’s right over there =>).  [wow, four punctuation characters in a row, a new record!]  Makes it easier to find my car when it’s time to leave, so that’s an important habit once a day when it gets dark and it’s time to go home.

Some seem to be tied into our very being and we can’t give them up: two spaces after a period at the end of a sentence when publishers want only one.

Some don’t seem very important, but save us from annoying disruptions, and usually they become so ingrained that we take them for granted.  Until there’s another disruption.

Yesterday morning I was eating a blueberry muffin, and while I was chewing I sensed something solid in my mouth that was not munching the way a muffin should.  I spit out the mass of half-eaten muffiney goodness and found one of my crowns had some off.  Since it was Monday, January second, pretty much everybody was taking the day off, especially dentists.  A few quick calls revealed my local dentist office was opening up at 8 am Tuesday, so I closed the drain in the sink and washed the crown off, placed it in a large baggie and put it on a plate on my desk (no need to risk the cost, delay, and misery of replacing a crown).

Normally I get up somewhere between 8:30 and 9:00 (or 9:30 or…) but last night I set the alarm for 7 am, and then this morning after it went off I half-listened to the television news for twenty minutes (hey, I knew I would, that’s why I didn’t set the alarm for 7:15) and finally got up.  As usual I ate something and took my pills (check!), although I drank breakfast instead of eating a banana…the bunny looked very disappointed.  Halfway through my nutritious, allegedly delicious protein shake I took my pills (check!), made the bed (check!), brushed my teeth (check!) and put on deodorant (check!), got dressed and headed out to the car to drive to the store and pick up the crown.  Halfway to my next stop, it hit me – um, shouldn’t I have shaved?   Too late now.  That should have been a warning that it was a disruptive morning.

Next stop, gas for the car.  Thanks to a few gift cards that I bought as Christmas gifts I was looking at 70 cents per gallon discount on gas at our local grocery store, and I had passed up the chance to fill up the night before so that I could use up more gas and save as much as possible on a fill-up.  Pulled in, ran my card through, filled up, and drove off.  I picked up the crown and headed to the dentist’s office, arriving a miraculous two minutes before eight, just as I had planned (instead of being late as usual).

They promised to fit me in at 9, and I headed back to the car so I could get back to the store, completely convinced that I could pick out a topic and knock out a blog entry before the appointment.

And discovered that I had left the gas cap somewhere on the road.  Sigh.  I hadn’t done that since I started driving my pinto in 1971 and learned the hard way that the new concept of self service at gas stations required a little more work than I had imagined.  I stopped at an auto parts store and picked up a replacement gas cap (after first answering about a half-dozen questions about my car so they could pick out the right cap…wouldn’t it make more sense that one size fits all?  Apparently not.

So no matter how hard we work at habits, it turns out that just a little disruption can throw our patterns off, and there’s no telling how much work it will take to make up for even a single change.  If only we could find small disruptions that would make it easier to drop bad habits!

Here’s Chicago, hoping that some habits would just go away without any work:

A Non-Spoiler Spoiler

Admit it: there have been times you went searching for spoilers, and there have been times where you did everything you could to avoid spoilers (and got royally annoyed when somebody posted one and ruined a surprise for you).

Some spoilers are no big deal (the star on a top-rated television show isn’t going to die from that bullet) while others are major events (“Rosebud”  ‘Nuff Said).  In polite company it’s now expected that spoilers will be announced ahead of time so that people can avoid them…today we have a spoiler that’s major, but at the same time won’t spoil any specific comic (although you may start searching for it!)

This year both DC Comics and Marvel Comics have been turning their universes upside down, with mixed results.  Marvel has been hit with a diversity bat that keeps swinging at old characters and replacing them with new, modern versions.  This didn’t work too well with Civil War because the final issue (number 8) with the apparent death of Tony Stark didn’t come out until after readers had read five or more other comics over the past few months that dealt with the aftermath of his “death” and several replacements for the old man (specifically a teen-aged girl who somehow built her own suit).  On the other hand, the identity of the Jackal in the Clone Conspiracy was a great surprise, and wasn’t telegraphed elsewhere.

DC, meanwhile, simply threw away the misery that the New 52 had descended into and launched Rebirth, completely retconning their entire block of history again.  The biggest spoiler of the year was the reveal that Dr. Manhattan (from Watchmen) was to blame for launching the New 52.  Here’s a link to an article that discusses that:


In a nutshell, back in 2013 DC published a series of comics set in the Watchmen universe that was dubbed “Before Watchmen” even though some of the storylines progressed past Watchmen.  In particular, at the end of the Dr. Manhattan mini-series we see the Dr. using lightning bolts to play with a universe of his own making — a scene that looks a lot like the cover to DC Rebirth #1.  On the last page of the comic we see Batman in his cave handling a smiley button that looks like the one Comedian wore and musing that he feels like they’re all being watched.

So, is the Rebirth Universe somehow connected to the Watchmen Universe?  Fans have debated that, but not much evidence for it has appeared.  Until this week.  One of the comics ends with the heroes musing about the thoughts in a villain’s mind during their encounter.   The thought they overheard was just one word: Manhattan.  It would appear that we are now going to start tying the universes together.

Which comic?  Which heroes?  Which villain?  Come now, that would be a spoiler, and I promised I wouldn’t spoil it.

After a few days thinking about this post, I woke up in the middle of the night with the perfect song for today.  Sha Na Na is known for covering fifties music in late sixties and seventies, but they never got a hit single themselves in spite of making lots of appearances and even having their own television show.  They did release at least one single that was new music, and it contained a tie-in lyric:

only one word on my mind
all the words are the same
all the words speak your name

So here’s Sha Na Na singing Only One Song:

The Annual Great Escape

Weather in central Indiana is, at best, unpredictable.  Last week it hit about minus two degrees and there was snow on the ground, and Tuesday it was 60 degrees at 9 am.  We’re back in the thirties again, but while driving to the store this morning I was surprised to see a small flock of birds gathering on a clump of trees.  Shouldn’t they already have flown South for the Winter?

Imagine my surprise a few miles later to see another flock of birds gathering off trees and clumping together to head South.  Did they not get the memo either?  While I sat here munching on breakfast (a blueberry muffin and some cocoa with mini-marshmallows) I snooped around on the web looking for dets on bird migration.

My main conclusion?  We don’t understand it at all.

Birds seem to migrate when food gets scarce, or when the weather gets cold, or when evolutionary pressure tells them it’s time.  Or maybe when they get bored?

I hadn’t given much thought to hummingbirds migrating, but apparently they do, with an airspeed of about 27.5 miles per hour.

[insert your own joke about swallow air speeds here]

I can understand birds moving when food gets scarce, or when it gets too cold, but the evidence for evolutionary pressure is supported by indoor birds in cages that apparently try flying against their cages to head South or North at specific times during the year.

Birds gathering somewhere and moving in flocks I totally get – we have birds in the house, some of which even get to fly around the house at times.  When some show had a flock of birds flying together across the screen one of the birds flew towards the television and tried to fly in the direction the other birds were flying…fortunately for all involved the bird stopped before it smashed into the wall.

Nobody has much evidence for any theories about how birds navigate…built-in GPS seems to be a common assumption.  `Maybe we can eventually figure out how to genetically modify our DNA to have a built-in GPS ourselves -clearly some people who don’t get lost in the woods have at least some ability in that direction already … probably an affinity to magnetic fields.  A simple story would then propose an evil villain of some sort will generate a massive electro-magnetic field, leaving people lost and confused until they pay ransom to get it turned off…

Carrie Fisher died two days ago, and the next day her mother died.  While Carrie’s death was a shock to us all, Debbie Reynold’s death was far more disturbing to me: can people really die from a broken heart?  It’s probably difficult for most people to understand how Debbie was a major star at 23, and how her marriage and divorce from Eddie Fisher was big enough news to end up on the front page of nearly every newspaper (and don’t ask, “What’s a newspaper?”  They should be around for at least another ten years or so).

Here’s Debbie five years after she was in Singing In the Rain, singing Tammy’s In Love:

Rembert’s Blog Origin Story

An origin story!

Like most good ideas, setting up this blog started to seem like a good idea while I was taking a shower.  I wasn’t even thinking about setting up a blog, but clearly my sleepy mind was connecting to some part of my brain that works best when I’m sleeping, and a line of music crept into my mind:

  “What to leave in, what to leave out”

The line is from an old Bob Seger tune (“Against the Wind”) and probably had to do with a problem faced by truly successful artists: when planning a concert, which songs will you probably include and which songs will you will definitely not include.  When writing a daily blog (daily?  really?) there are usually things you really want to include, stuff you really don’t want anybody else to know about, and lots of topics that fall somewhere in between.

When I was in fourth grade we  were dropped into the library for an hour from time to time, and I used to spend some of my time with the encyclopedias – I would pick a random volume, open to a random page, and just start reading.  The web in some ways resembles a cross between that and a stack of old daily newspapers, but that suits me fine.  I love scanning news articles, catching a name or phrase that isn’t familiar to me and running after it.  Each website usually leads to more searches and more websites; sometimes I close the pages and get back to where I started, but sometimes I simply delve deeper and deeper until it’s time to go.  What I like most is finding something to read that is new to me, and that’s where I hope this blog will take readers – into an unstructured series of topics that may or may not be related to each other.

With any luck, each day will bring something new.  I’ve already started a list of topics for the next week or two, and I’ll see what I can do to keep that going.

For now, here’s Bob and the band singing  Against the Wind with the lyrics.