Tuesday, November 25, 2008

For as long as I can remember, I've been seeking out a supposedly great book on the Riemann Hypothesis: John Derbyshire's Prime Obsession. Reviews from various sources have me all but convinced that it is the book on the topic, something that isn't afraid to go into details about the towering problem of our time. A few days ago, I had the most unexpected revelation relating to the book. The author, it turns out, isn't just another pleasant fellow who likes his maths and science. No, it turns out that Derbyshire has very..."conservative" views on social issues; race and immigration, for example. Suffice to say, they gave me a most unexpected jolt. Now, I don't mean to judge Derbyshire; although I won't pretend like I wasn't shocked at finding out these things, he is certainly entitled to believe whatever he wants. But why I found it hard to come to terms to with the information is a really naive preconception on my part: that people with similar passions as me might not share my world view, and might even actively reject it! Conflating intellectual interests and societal/world views is much more erroneous than I initially thought.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

When she sat beside me, a gentle waft of moth balls filled the air. After the initial surprise wore off, I wondered whether my search was officially over.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

1) Ween, "The Argus". Every time I start to question the worth of the wondrous duo, I revisit or discover one of their songs and have to admit that at the very least they are ridiculously talented, and that when they feel like it, they can come up songs worthy of a place in their idols' catalogues. At the risk of setting myself up for future embarassement, I'll posit that this song is perfect.

2) Warren Zevon, "Desperadoes Under The Eaves". Featuring the finest quatrain of the album, and possibly the finest melody too - but somehow it still isn't the best song (not without a tie, anyway)!

3) John Prine, "The Late John Garfield Blues". It reminds me of early Dylan - I don't quite understand it, but lines oddly resonate in a way that convinces me that he's upto something.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Apparently the last Dirt Cheap CDs store in Sydney closed down last week, which despite my geographic isolation from the scene is cause for some reflection. While I was surprised, I can't say that this came out of the blue, as funnily enough my departure from the city seemed to coincide with a few signs that the store was not doing so well. Something about the newsletters they sent out suggested trouble, not to mention the steady increase in prices to around $17 a CD - still "cheap", but a far cry from the wonderful $10 heyday. But I didn't realize that it was bad enough for the store to close down.

Honestly, my visits during the last year weren't as frequent as the period following my initial discovery, but I did keep alive the tradition of a visit every holiday. I will not forget the opportunities it offered for "experimentation" - of those that succeeded, I can recall Paul Simon and, my lord, Ram (!!!). Along with its cousin RockBottom (which disappeared a couple of years ago, I think), it has constituted a not-inconsequential portion of my CD collection. I can't help but associate it with the wonderful period of building my collection from scratch, where it seemed that the possibilities were limitless, and that there was scope to be taught a lot of important things through music. Nowadays, the horizon still seems never-ending, but the sense of excitement has settled a little. I think I've grown more reflective and critical over the years, which is a good thing, but I also find that I'm rarely surprised with music. Excited, definitely, but the thrill of the early days, where buying a CD was a big event that required careful selection, has subsided. Whatever road my musical tastes travel nowadays, I owe a lot to the young & free days now past.

At least JB seems as strong as ever; I was slightly worried during a recent visit to see a larger number of import CDs, but I am assured that its range of $10 buys is as good as ever. And I hope the independents manage to stay alive - I will be distraught if something like Mojo goes under! I suppose DC was quite a "commercial" store, but I will miss the feeling of it nonetheless. At the very least, it still has an online presence. Not the same as browsing through the store for Smiths and Cure albums, but at least it's a reminder of better times.