Collectorism

I am beat. This weekend, I rented a moving truck and we hauled over everything that I’m going to keep from the Astoria apartment to my new place. I got the truck for the whole weekend, and envisioned lap after lap between the two boroughs. But on Friday, we got everything loaded into a single, densely-packed truckload, then parked the car overnight in a locked lot and spent most of Saturday afternoon hauling everything in. I think we were back at the Budget lot and done with it by maybe three. I spent the rest of the night and some of today unloading boxes, packing away things, and hooking up electronics. It’s not done, but it’s really getting there.

As far as what fits in a ten foot moving truck, this load included five bookcases, a wood and glass TV pedestal, a 27″ TV, a surround sound receiver, DVD player, CD player, tape player, VCR, 12″ 3-way speakers, five surround speakers, a powered subwoofer, a bass amp, my keyboard, a bunch of bike parts, my tools, all of my dishes, papers, fans, an air conditioner, a ton of old cassettes and VHS tapes, and probably a thousand pounds of books. I wish I was joking about the book thing, but I’m not; I had about 20 boxes of books, each one weighing about 40 or 50 pounds. That’s why I feel completely devastated today. I never want to move again. I know we will move, but I don’t want to be the one doing it. It’s much easier for me to write a check than it is to unload boxes of books. I know I’m out of shape and everything, but this was a true affirmation that I am getting old. When I was 22 years old, I unloaded a 40-foot semi truck full of furniture, lawn tractors, refrigerators, and boxes of consumer crap every morning for a summer. Now I’m tired just typing that sentence.

This move has also created an entire phase-shift in my relationship to Stuff. I used to, for some reason unknown to me because I was in the center of things, like to accumulate Stuff. When I was single, I would buy Stuff. To me, Stuff consisted mostly of DVDs, CDs, and books, but once you get locked into those things, your collection of Stuff also grows to things like magazines or ticket stubs or photos or clippings about the creators of your Stuff. I’ve also gone through various other collectorial phases, collecting Stuff like gadgets and electronics. I’ve never gone over the edge as far as comics or toys or japanimation or any of that. But I’ve bought a lot of Stuff. And maybe I bought Stuff because I was unhappy, and I thought it would make me happy. But it never really did. All it did was take up space.

If you divide the world into people who are all about collecting Stuff and those who think it’s disgusting to collect Stuff, it’s funny, because one side will never understand the other. People with no food on their table but their entire house swarming with unopened Beanie Babies from eBay will recoil in horror at the thought of a nice apartment with nothing on the shelves. People with tens of thousands of records in their collection immediately pounce on someone’s 40-CD collection when they visit in the most mocking of tones. And hey, I’ve been there. But I’ve never taken a big step back to think about what all of this Stuff really gets me in life, how much I really need it, and how it really impacts me.

One of the big things in this move is that I’ve tried to shed some Stuff. A lot of stuff that I’d never really need again went in the garbage. Lots of papers, little tchotchkis, unneeded cables and adapters (no need for all of those 9-to-7-to-male-to-female-to-usb-to-printer cables with the new Mac) and other crap. Any time in the past when I said “hey, I might need this later” led to something in a closet that went. And I did save some stuff, but a lot of it went. The same philosophy went to the DVDs, tapes, CDs, and other media. And I shed a few hundred books before I left.

I’ve pretty much stopped buying DVDs, oddly enough. Part of that is Netflix, part is that I’ve been introducing Sarah to a lot of the old stuff I have in my collection, and part is that we simply don’t sit around and watch that many movies. All of the DVDs went into leather binders with plastic binder pages inside. This turned a giant wall of a collection into three small binders that hide away nicely. And now the notion of buying DVDs seems silly, since for the most part I only watch them once, if that, and then they take up space. I used to think it was ultra-important to have every DVD that I personally liked on-hand so if I woke up at three in the morning and absolutely had to watch Blade Runner, I could. But you know what? That doesn’t really happen that much. And the more DVDs you get, the more you need.

I still get the occasional CD. But I listen to CDs (or the derived MP3s, anyway) on my iPod or at home or work a lot. I might listen to a CD five times in a week, and I never do that with a DVD (except maybe Platoon.) But now that I use iTunes and the iPod for everything now, I don’t really need the CDs around. Those got banished to the closet, in some cardboard boxes I bought especially for that purpose.

At some point, I used to think it was great being surrounded by all of this media, the CDs and DVDs sitting spine-out on shelf after endless shelf. I think it was part of the mental sickness of whatever disease creates completeists, the people who live for Stuff. I guess I struggled with this as a writer for a while, because sometimes I wanted to just buy Stuff, and hunt down that long-missing, elusive Stuff on eBay that would somehow make life better. But then part of me thought instead of getting or buying this stuff, I should be making it. And my most creative periods were when I was so broke, I could barely afford food let alone Stuff, but typing into an emacs buffer is always free. Okay, of course you have to pay the power bill. And maybe you always wanted the latest computer, which is also Stuff-ism, or maybe you need some CDs to play while you write – that’s how you start to justify buying more Stuff instead of writing, which is what kills the muse.

Books are still a problem. I’m paring them down, but I have much more of a connection to the books I read, and this will be a harder bug to kill. But it’s getting there.

P.S.: No more trip to Cancun. We rebooked, and will be going to Amsterdam on the 9th. I realize it will be a bit cold, but at least it’s not underwater. (knock wood.)

Upstate

I just got back a few hours ago from a nice little weekend in upstate New York with Sarah and her friends Guy and Scott. They have a place in High Falls. It’s hard to explain directions and locations upstate to people, because to some, upstate means Lake Placid, and to others, it means everything above 125th Street. This is, for lack of a link to google maps, in the same general ball park as Woodstock. (The actual city, not the location of any of the concerts.) Guy has a fabulous place up there, and we spent part of the time driving around the country, looking at the leaves that have turned, buying apple cider at the roadside stands, and all of that nature-y jazz. We also spent part of the time shopping.

As far as the nature, it sure is wonderful to be in a place where everything is spread out, with lots of winding roads and hills, and trees in every color of the rainbow, but mostly gravitating to the reds and yellows and oranges. It was cold up there, not freezing, but enough that you really needed a coat. I especially liked, though, that at night, you could hear absolutely NOTHING. And it was so damn dark. I got up in the middle of the night to get some water, and I was shocked that I actually had my night vision. A small part of that was the 10000% RDA of vitamin A I’ve taken in the last few weeks to fight colds, but I just never get to be in a place this devoid of light pollution, unless I’m in a Vegas suite with the bomb shelter blackout drapes.

The other part of the equation, of course, was driving into Kingston and shopping at the mall. I love my malls, and since there are none in Manhattan, that further fuels my need to go to suburban shopping centers. We went to a huge Target for a round of buying stuff, then walked through the small connected mall, mostly to see what stores were there and what was new. There were a few places selling Halloween gear, but most of the retailers were bracing themselves for a huge holiday season. We finished off the trip with some lunch at an Applebee’s, and then the crown jewel, a trip to Hannaford’s, the local grocery. That place was about as big as an old Indiana Marsh store from my college years, with a produce department bigger than most New York grocery stores, and a cereal aisle with stuff that I didn’t even know existed. The frozen section also contained a deluge of products I wish I could have at my convenience on a regular basis, except that it would eventually involve me getting cut out of my apartment by paramedics. But overall, the shopping really hit the spot.

Another strange thing about the area is that I’ve been up there before, and it was a weird sort of worlds-collide thing for me. Back when I was 17, my dad and stepmom Diane took me and my sisters to upstate New York for two weeks. Diane’s family in “the city” vacationed up there in the summer, at one of these little resort-camp things that has a bunch of little bungalows and a center building with a kitchen facility that cooked everyone three meals a day and had some AC and a TV room and whatnot, in case you got bored of bocci ball and complaining about your various nephews and grandkids and medical ailments. We did not stay at the main compound, but rather at a motel that was made of a bunch of cabin-type rooms. That was just west of Cairo, which is a bit west of the actual city of Catskill.

I distinctly remember hating about 80% of the vacation at the time; hating is actually a pretty strong word, but if you can imagine being 17 and not having your car, your CDs, your job that lets you buy CDs, your phone, and everything else, and then being in this weird land that’s mostly the same as Indiana and isn’t some monumental scene-change, like going to a desert or an island in the Bahamas or whatever, and that sort of sucked. And my dad’s cool and all, but every morning, we’d pile into the truck and drive an hour to some random thing and look at the historical plaque or whatever and then turn back around. At the time, I did not appreciate that sort of thing, but now, 20 years later, it’s the kind of thing that’s totally stuck in my head, and it’s also the kind of thing I’d pay thousands of dollars to do. And we did some neat stuff, like going to downtown Woodstock, and going swimming a lot, and cruising through these little one-horse towns in the mountains and sort of absorbing in as much of it as I could at the time. I remember we went to Hunter Mountain and rode up the lifts and looked at the bare August mountains on the way up and then back down. And then we went into these huge lounges that were built for thousands of people during the height of ski season, except the place was totally empty except for us, and it totally made me feel like I was in The Shining or something. And the first time I ever flew was up there, at this little podunk airport that advertised 15 minutes for twenty bucks or something, so me and my sisters went up in a Cessna and did a loop or two over the hotel and above the Catskill Creek. So in the end, I did like our time up there.

And so it was weird driving around the hills and valleys, looking at the trees, and knowing that I probably drove around some of the same roads with my dad two decades before, and those kind of weird worlds-colliding moments always get me in a good sort of way. And at some point, I’ll have to drive around up there a bit more, and find the old swimming holes, or maybe the diner we always went to for lunch, and maybe even see if that pilot’s got his plane going up there so I can put down a few more twenties and get some good pictures from up there.

A few other things – yes, we are supposed to go on vacation in Cancun on the 9th of next month. Yes, we’re aware of the hurricane. We’ve gotta call back in a few days and see if the hotel is still standing, and if not, we get to plan the vacation a third time. This time, I’m not announcing where we’re going, even though we have decided, just in case one of you is fucking with the weather somehow. And on Friday, I pick up a ten-foot moving truck and we begin the heavy lifting to get the books, AV gear, and bookcases into the new place. So that will be fun. Okay, that’s all.

Crossing the river East

First things first: I’ve moved. It’s just across the river to Manhattan, and it’s not 100% done. But I’m in the new place 100% of the time. So if you have need for my phone or postal address, please drop a line. (It’s at the username jkonrath plus this domain name, if you don’t know already.) Also, please drop a line with your current contact info, as I’m trying to get all of this stuff organized so I can sent out another holiday card this year.

I’ve had a back-breaking long weekend here. Sarah is in LA, so I’ve been trying to get the last of the worst stuff done in the old place. I hauled the last of my CDs here, and boxed up all of my books. I also went through a lot of old stuff, recycling papers and junking things that won’t make the move. I also did a lot of cleaning, although you can’t tell from the look of the place. Being on the first floor of a New York apartment means a constant layer of dust and smog, and it accumulated all under every piece of furniture. It’s a horrible thing. Now I am nervously trying to plan how I will move 21 boxes of books plus four huge bookshelves and all of my AV gear, plus how I will give away, sell, throw out, or burn a bunch of half-assed furniture that did not make the cut.

I’ve been thinking about the past too much lately, which is dangerous. I have this huge stack next to my desk that contains probably 20 or 30 spiral notebooks dating back to 1993, filled from cover to cover with daily notes about my aspirations, conquests, fears, and failures. And since all of my other books are in transit, I’ve found myself pulling out a random journal and paging through it in my downtime. What amazes me is how much I used to write, and how varied each entry was. And it also boggles me to see how great my dreams were ten years ago, when I was fresh out of school and had nowhere to go but up. You would not believe all of the wacky future plans I sketched out on Mead college rule while waiting for my food at a Seattle Dennys. I found academic plans on attaining PhDs, house layouts, book outlines, magazine pitches, movie script pieces, just about everything. It’s weird to me now, because my current future goals pretty much have to do with getting a Ryder truck to move all of these fucking books.

I found more of this stuff when cleaning today, pieces of printer paper with outlines or paragraphs scribbled on them, pieces that don’t make a complete puzzle, but are filled with ideas that I never get now. And I try to think of what would someone swing this back in my direction, like saying “yeah, well, I wasn’t planning for retirement back then” or something, that somehow justifies why I’m not doing stuff like that anymore. But I can’t really find a reason. I don’t have kids or commitments or anything else eating up my time. The only thing I can think of is that I used to have all of these great ideas, but they were just that – ideas. I was never able to take any of those wild thoughts and turn it into a concrete book or degree or story or whatever. Through experience, I learned what could and couldn’t fly, and I stopped chasing the things that would end up dead on the vine. And while it has saved me a lot of time, it’s also made life a lot more boring. And that’s the one thing I really miss when I go through old journals or old writing, is that it always seems much more interesting than where I’m at right now.

The stupid part of all of this is that at some point N years in the future, I will be reading this entry and saying “man, things were so much more happening back in 2005.”

As I was getting ready to head out of the apartment tonight, the dimwits that live in the back apartment started some sort of altercation with each other, with the usual screaming and yelling and door slamming and other bullshit. Normally, this would bug the fuck out of me, but it was so nice knowing I wouldn’t have to hear it anymore. I’ve had real mixed emotions leaving this place – I mean, I’ve been there for six years now. I’ve seen some good times there, and despite all of the problems, it’s been a good place to hole up and hide out. There are times when the neighborhood is quiet, the drug addict neighbors are passed out, the car alarms aren’t going off, and all is peaceful, when I’ve really enjoyed myself there. I will miss the place. I won’t miss the ceiling collapsing in the bathroom, the hot water going out, the heat not working in the coldest winter ever, my mail being stolen, my phone line going out at the drop of a hat, my power lines blowing out when you turn on three lamps, the insane neighbors, the heat, the bars on the windows, the wiggers dealing drugs below my windows, or the biggest bugs I’ve ever seen outside of a David Cronenberg movie. But you always miss an old place. Hell, I still miss my old place on Mitchell Street.

Okay, I’m dead tired….

New iPod

I bought a new iPod yesterday, to replace the second-gen 20 Gig one that I’ve had for a few years now. The battery was starting to go, and it’s on the second battery, plus I wanted more space and all of the new features, so I went to the Apple store and ponied up the plastic for the new one. They are really starting to nickel and dime you, though; I had to pay an extra $39 for a dock, and it didn’t come with a cable. I also had to pay $39 more dollars for a cabled remote. You’d think at least one of those two would be included on the highest-end model, but then you’d think people would want a model that held more than 100 songs, and I guess nobody does.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that iTunes (at least on the Mac) properly behaves when given a new iPod. I assumed that there was a direct iTunes to iPod relationship, and I would go through sheer hell getting all of the old tunes onto the new guy. But it turns out that there is a profile for each iPod, and the profile does the library to iPod mapping. So I could have one iPod only sync a subset of my library, or something weird like that, and it’s no problem. My old iPod will go to the Konrath Museum of Old Technical Devices, to be forgotten about for a decade or two, until people are like “What’s an iPod?”. Or something.

The new color iPod display is incredible! I have not messed with the photo features, which are kindof useless to me. (The iPod “Photo” model was rolled into all of the models as of the last rev.) But the screen is incredibly readable, very crisp and smooth. It’s also nice to see a few new features in the BIOS (or is it OS? whatever.) You can enable and disable the items shown on the menu, so I can finally make that stupid podcast link go away.

One of the coolest non-features is that a little thumbnail icon of an album is shown when you are playing a song. The JPEGs are put into the MP3 tags by iTunes, sort of. The pain in the ass is, there isn’t a “go find every single album cover” button or script. The closest I’ve found is that Konfabulator has an “iTunes buddy” that shows the album cover in a little widget. It hunts all of the Amazon sites and finds the image for you, and then shoots it into iTunes, which then gets it into the MP3s and onto your iPod. But this would only really work if I sat and listened to every single song in my playlist to get the tags fixed up, and that would take about 7 years. If you know of any other solution for this, let me know.

I’ve been pulling albums to add albums and stay under 20 gigs for about a year now, so it sure is nice having about 2.5 times as much space to add more stuff. (You don’t really get 60 gigs; it’s more like 55 after formatting and that crap.) I’m now on a mad rampage to rip all of the b-string CDs that I previously didn’t add to iTunes. Because I’m in the middle of moving, I have a third of my CDs in the new place and the rest back in Astoria. I think most of this weekend will involve shuffling CDs around. And I’ve decided that the days of having CDs out on shelves and racks is over. With most of my stuff being retired to “backup” status, I am planning to pack away things in corrugated plastic boxes. Each box holds a hundred discs, and those will go on a shelf or in a closet or something. I don’t really feel a need to have my house look like the back storage room of a store in the mall. My DVDs are now put in binders, which massively saved space. (About 99% of a packaged DVD is air.) And the CDs will now be hidden. The books – that’s still a big issue.

I have been at war with IKEA over trying to get a new desk. I ordered a $100 desk about three weeks ago, and they sent a vague response basically saying “don’t call us, we’ll call you”. Today, they responded, saying that shipping would be… another $100 bucks, plus about $40 of tax. (And to be fair, Sarah handled war-dialing them and trying to keep track of the order, so most of the credit for dealing with these idiots goes to her.) I just ordered another desk from Staples. Maybe I’ll get that by the end of the year. I’m currently working off of a small folding card table that sort of freaks me out, because it’s the type with legs coming out of the middle, and it sometimes makes a little creak and changes height by a couple of millimeters. I have fears of the Mac and giant monitor falling to the floor when I get up to move my chair or something. It’s a brand new table, and very nice for the occasional dinner party, but I don’t think it’s suited for all of my computer gear.

Oh, I now have three pair of those white iPod headphones, and I don’t use any of them. I guess I could “look cool” and/or get targeted by thieves, but I really hate those in-ear things. I’d sell them on eBay, except anyone can buy them new for $12 or something. Oh well.

Music review slowdown, Prozac Nation

Okay, so I’ve given up on writing music reviews. I wrote I think 53 reviews totalling about 25,000 words, which isn’t bad if I could do that every week for like the next five years, but I just got sick of it. First of all, it’s not my voice, and I know I could go all gonzo to break down the fourth wall or whatever, but in general, record reviews have a sort of set format, because records have a sort of set format. There’s also the issue that nobody reads record reviews except people who have the record already and want to break your balls over some certain point. And the worst two audiences for that are prog-rock and metal, and that’s pretty much all I’m reviewing. The last thing I need is a bunch of idiots firebombing my web site because I said their favorite Helloween EP, which was a piece of shit, was actually a piece of shit. I’d have to set my mail filter to delete anything containing the phrase “support the scene”, and also remember to add it in all caps, since 90% of metal fans still haven’t found out how to shut off their Caps Lock. (Or maybe it’s more BRUTAL and OLD-SCHOOL to TYPE EVERYTHING IN CAPS.)

One of the main reasons I lost steam on the project, other than the fact that it would take me roughly two years to review half of my CD collection, is that it suddenly struck me that it’s completely useless to be writing ABOUT something that is actually SOMETHING. I mean, people making records are MAKING something. Reviewing their record, you’re just the smaller animal in the food chain that pokes through their shit for food. Record reviews aren’t a product; they’re a parasite of a product. And maybe music crap does draw hits in the greater web sense, because for some reason, people want to know what other people think about their favorite Rush album, but for some reason, it just doesn’t seem like creating. The glossary seemed the same way to me. It wasn’t even reporting. It was maybe collating, and along the way I got to put in a few inside jokes, but it wasn’t a work of art. Novels are. Novels are still broken in the sense that someone will listen to ten seconds of your album and say “wow, nice guitar!” or whatever, whereas people will be handed your 300-page book and say “sorry, I don’t read. Except maybe Harry Potter.” Books have their problems. But at least a book is more real than a bunch of reviews.

I don’t know what’s next. One of the problems as of late is that I am walking or biking to work every day, and that kills reading. (And please don’t say “podcast”, because that’s a huge crock of shit.) It’s good that I get to think a little on the way to work, and I am getting in some exercise (and even sortof losing a tiny bit of weight) but as far as finding the next project or whatever, I’m still wavering. Maybe I should spend some more time writing on here until I get a fragment or two that could be turned into a real short story or book or something.

I saw the movie Prozac Nation last night, and it is probably the worst, stupidest movie I’ve ever seen in my life. Even the fact that Christina Ricci was naked in it couldn’t save it. I haven’t read any Wurtzel books, and I don’t really feel that I need to. (I know, I know, “how do you know if you don’t like if if you don’t read it?” Well, I have never eaten a piece of shit and I’m pretty sure I don’t like it.) Anyway the movie was mostly about this self-absorbed chick with a daddy complex who gets a free ride to Harvard and then completely goes psycho. The movie was cliche after cliche, which probably means lot of people watched it and said “oh wow, that’s just like my life!” The funny thing is, the movie almost totally says nothing about Prozac, except at the last second, she starts taking it, and then she’s probably in the best shape of the whole movie, and almost as an afterthought, has this little freakout with her shrink and does this whole “I don’t know who I am anymore!” rant. Then close with Michael Moore text on screen saying seventy billion people take Prozac, oh that’s horrible. If the medicine turned the stupid bitch from the entire movie into a regular person again, it’s a fucking miracle cure and should be immediately added to every water supply in the world. But we’re supposed to think that it’s bad, because… um, I don’t know why. Maybe the book explains it. Anyway, Ricci played the most unsympathetic character, and through most of the movie, you think she just needs a good slap in the face, like those old 30s movies where the woman gets all wacky and frentic and the guy just belts her across the mouth. Okay, maybe it’s bad to say that, but it was a really bad movie.

related link from the alt.tasteless archives.

That’s all for now. Gotta go clean my apartment.