"Longing For Oblivion"

Giving My Bones to the Western LandsThe fall is coming. What could be more appropriate than a new album with Lonesome Wyatt, frontfigure of the magnificent Those Poor Bastards? The pre-order for "Longing For Oblivion" began on Friday September 8th. The formats needs its own chapter. There are three different colours of limited edition 180 gram vinyl: 1. white with black bat wings (100 copies), 2. green with a black blob emerging from the center (200 copies), 3. orange with black splatter (200 copies). There will also be 10 signed and hand numbered test pressings. No vinylmania for me. I ordered a cd. The pre-order will ship on or before September 22, 2023. From the album description "That old, painful feeling of nostalgia drops like a funeral shroud when autumn leaves begin to fall. All that was familiar suddenly becomes mysterious and unknowable. Here are ten songs that wallow in that fleeting, wearisome ache." This sound promising. In fact, this claim is backed up by short sound clips on the website. However, I'm looking forward to listening to the whole album. Lonesome Wyatt himself puts it like this. "This is a dark folk album full of all those fine feelings of loss, death and heartache that you know so well. It features the backing vocals of gloomster Eva Mikhailovna as well as a cover of Phil Ochs' mighty dirge of hopelessness "No More Songs." Beware! The time of doom is nearly upon us." On the upside: the affordable cd price, $12. On the downside: the sick shipping cost, $20. You almost get two cds for the price of the international shipping cost. Adding to this, another $10 for import taxes and administrative fees. This can't be the right.   

"Magnavox Laser Disc Player VH 8000"

Giving My Bones to the Western LandsLet me introduce you to the Magnavox Laser Disc Player VH 8000, hereafter just Magnavox. This was the first laser disc player. It's huge and looks more like a first-generation VCR than a laser disc player. CD players were first sold to consumers in 1982. Sony was first out of the gates with its CDP-101. The Magnavox (which means great voice in Latin) was first shown in prototype form in 1976. The idea was to produce them entirely in the U.S, but delays in building and debugging meant that for the first year the players were built overseas and then sent back to the U.S., in kit-form, to be assembled and aligned. There was no production line. It was assembled by a single person. I like this old-school craftmanship. My old high-end Linn system has small name-tags attached underneath the devices, like "Trevor". However, the work-intense assembling made them expensive which added to the already high cost of the player (the laser assembly alone cost over $300). Moreover, once a player was built, it had to then be modified to play CLV (constant linear velocity) discs. This player had compatible problems. The problem was to be temporary, but was never fixed. The teething problems weren't over. The player required frequent design changes and re-engineering. It wasn't until the early 1980 that a player that was fully compatible was launched. By this time, the competitors had developed new laser disc products with better performance and features. The Magnavox had serious problems. It was very sensitive to misalignment. Laser disc players would leave the production plant in perfect condition only to arrive at the dealers already out of alignment, causing skipping, sticking and refusal to play discs. Moreover, the lens focus mechanism and the lens could come into contact with the spinning disc and damage it. The player wasn't easy to service if you, at all, managed to open it. You will need a civil engineering degree to understand how it works. If it works. Doesn't matter. The Magnavox deserves its place on the shelf for obsolote products.

"Factory settings"

Giving My Bones to the Western LandsFactory settings means the original setting for a device when it was first delivered from the factory. A factory reset is a process that clears all data and settings from a device and returns it to its default settings, meaning that the device is reset to the point where it is in the same state it was in when it was first taken out of the box. Factory settings can be applied to other areas in life. It could refer to the default beliefs installed when you were a child or a position you absorbed from your environment growing up. Sometimes factory settings have a very funny edge. For example, removing your make-up or when an employee gets too drunk and runs amok at an office party, or when a boss lose control, and chastise all employees. They all showed their factory settings. The concept of factory settings could be extended to your taste in music. Your taste may change over time. This is only natural progression. There's a quote in "High Fidelity" by Nick Hornby of how the protagonist's music taste evolved "I can tell you how I got from Deep Purple to Howling Wolf in just 25 moves". To paraphrase the quote, "I can tell you how I got from Slade to gothic country in just 25 moves". Scientists have found that the music you grew up with leave a lasting imprint. What would happen if yours truly was reset to factory settings? Then "Old New Borrowed and Blue" with Slade would come from the loud speakers. Actually, it's spinning right now in the cd player. But, don't worry. My settings have been upgraded several times.  

"Death is not the end"

Giving My Bones to the Western LandsJust because you're dead doesn't mean that you should stop being well dressed. A part of being well dressed in life is being dressed appropriately for the occasion. If you belong(ed) to the elite levels of the social hierarchy, you will also like to be well dressed in death. Gerhard Altzenbach's copper engraving "Der Tod als Edelfrau" (1630) is a good example of how to leave this world in style. Particularly note the bouquet of dead flowers. In our world, appearance is everything and quite absolute. Well, not entirely absolute since reality is context-dependent. Dressing badly can be a useful signalling device. It could send the signal: I have better things to do than thinking of what I'm wearing. Or, I'm part of a subculture where dressing badly is normative and used for identification and/or affiliation. In an episode of Seinfeld, Jerry explains to George "You know the message you're sending out to the world with these sweatpants? You're telling the world, 'I give up. I can't compete in normal society. I'm miserable, so I might as well be comfortable." If you decide to start dressing well you're giving up the possibilty to imply that nobody taught you how to dress well and you haven't thought of learning it yourself. Or implying that you don't have the necessary resources to keep up. A lot of signaling depends on what your people already know about you. Showing up in sweatpants is a low point. You have to preserve your last scrap of dignity. Wearing sweatpants at home and alone should be allowed. But never in any other cases. This should provide a good working strategy, and also ensure a sufficiently high minimum level. Death is not the end, but wearing sweatpants in public is. If the dead are more concerned than you are about how they are dressed, you need to reevaluate your life choices. 

"Heartworn Highways"

Giving My Bones to the Western LandsTownes van Zandt said "I never envisioned a very long life for myself. I believe my life will run out before my work does. I planned it that way." He knew what he was talking about. Townes van Zandt struggled with drug addictions and alcoholism, and was given a psychiatric diagnosis of bipolar disorder. Adding to this, insulin shock therapy erased much of his long-term memory. Heartworn Highways is a documentary film by James Szalapski whose vision captured some of the founders of the Outlaw Country movement. It features performers like Guy Clark, Townes Van Zandt, Steve Earle, David Allan Coe, Rodney Crowell, Gamble Rogers, Steve Young, and The Charlie Daniels Band. The film was shot in 1975 and 1976, but not released theatrically until 1981. Outlaw country has a nice ring to it, but I'm sceptic to the whole concept. Being an artist outside the Nashville hegemony of country music isn't really the same as being a lawless person or a fugitive from the law. I also find the documentary unstructured and unfocused. The only thing worth watching is Townes Van Zandt. There's a memorable scene where Townes Van Zandt plays "Waitin' Around To Die" in the presence of Kathy Tenell (his then girlfriend) and Uncle Seymour Washington, a travelling blacksmith. Uncle Seymour is immortalized as the man in the documentary with tears streaming down his face as he listens to Townes sing the song. "Waitin' Around To Die" was Townes van Zandt's first composition and has been covered by many artists, read my list of the 10 best versions here (opens in a new window). Another highlight is "Pancho and Lefty" (a bonus song on the DVD). The song tells the tale of two partners in crime – Pancho and Lefty. Pancho is a Mexican bandit boy who "wore his gun outside his pants", while Lefty is a restless young soul who left home and his adoring mother for a greener pasture. While the two began as an accomplice, the lyrics tell the story of how Lefty crossed Pancho, which led to his untimely death at the hands of the federals. He died alone in "the deserts down in Mexico" while Lefty left for Ohio with a load of cash. It’s said that the character of Lefty was based on his touring friend, Daniel Antopolsky. "Pancho and Lefty" is one of the most covered among Townes Van Zandt songs. Executive summary: Heartworn Highways wouldn't be anything without Townes van Zandt.

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