Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Whining in the heat

The English are fond of complaining that their fellow countrymen are fond of complaining about the weather. They should come to Prague sometime. Few varieties of human being in the world beat Praguers at bitching about the temperature and conditions outside.

Like most weather-whining nations, Czechs have solid reasons for being annoyed about what Mother Nature serves up. Our typical winter is six months or even longer, meaning it eats up half the year in the best instances. Otherwise, the damn thing can grind on straight through the early growing season. Adding to this woe is the near-absence of spring and fall, easily the most atmospheric times of the year.

So that leaves us effectively whip-sawing from the bite of winter to the lethargy of summer and back again. Nobody likes gray, dark cold and fewer enjoy the heavy and damp summers we get almost immediately after. So for many, they never get the porridge at exactly the right temperature. That'll make a person bitch, oh yes it will.

Nevertheless, it always gets wearying to hear, yet again, in early April people moaning miserably about how cold they are and how much time they've been forced to spend inside since September. Relief comes in the form of spring/summer a few weeks later, when they get exactly the weather they're dreaming of...but they squander this by complaining for the rest of the season how oppressively hot it is. The October freeze comes, and they switch to I Hate Bastard Winter mode again.

I can take or leave 'em both, really. The older I get, the more of a stay-at-home I become, so six+ months burrowing inside is not going to make me feel deprived. My body temperature seems to be higher than that of normal people, so even the muggiest of summers don't bother me. The only weather-bitching I'm tempted to do is about that shoulder season problem - but hey, it's a free country and no one's stopping me from hopping over to say, France, to take advantage of the Paris au printemps one of these springs.

Besides, unlike many people in this city, I don't feel compelled to take advantage of the rare and limited hours of heat and sunshine. A handful of outdoor days and the occasional trip to mountains/woods/beach is enough for me to feel I've done enough to properly capture the season. Traditional Praguers, on the other hand, seem to feel obligated to hang out in the beer garden or spend yet another weekend at the chata every time the sun pops through the clouds and the mercury crosses 20C.

But at least they're going somewhere and doing something...and not complaining about how much they hate the weather.

Until the next round of cold and wet, that is.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The local jukebox

I like computers. A lot. Think of the many tools I use on the machine these words have been written on. My main email connection to the rest of the world. A word processor I've written at least 60% of my freelance articles on. A specialist word processor through which I produced half a dozen screenplays (but never managed to sell a single one, ha ha). Fully loaded Skype should I need to call someone in Tucson (I won't, but it's nice to know I have the option). Various flavors of video players for the TV shows I...eh...borrow from the Internet.

I have to say, though, that the most consistent use I get from the thing must be as a jukebox. Computers make the best music machines. Think of it - even a limited-space hard drive these days gives you 40 gigs. That's something like, ah I dunno, 5,000 songs. Correct me if I'm wrong.

I'm nowhere near that. At the moment, I'm at something like - let me check...

...shee-it, nearly 1,200 songs. There's Bad Religion and Buzzcocks and (but why?) Pat frickin' Boone, early Led Zeppelin, late Nirvana, Neil Young from all eras. The complete Police, including predecessor Strontium 90 (worth checking out). There are a few unknown classics ("Homosapien," Pete Shelley. "That's Too Bad," Gary Numan - now playing as I write this. "Don't Talk to Me," G.G. Allin before the mental illness set in). There are survivors like Pop, Iggy and Deep Purple. One or two of the recently deceased - hello, or, uh, goodbye, Desmond Dekker. A couple of long-dead favorites long moldering in their coffins: Presley, Elvis, Thunders, Johnny/Heartbreakers for example. Many obscurities. Songs that fall under the "guilty pleasure" category that I'd NEVER admit to listening to. Okay, maybe I would - "Kids in America," Kim Wilde, "Hungry Like the Wolf," Duran Duran, far too much Donovan and...ah, that's enough for now. Music that I actually helped make. Stuff I was never able to play and probably won't figure out anytime soon ("Wrathchild", Iron Maiden, "Come on Baby, Let's Go Downtown," Neil Young and Crazy Horse). There's a traditional American folk song in there somewhere ("A Man of Constant Sorrow"), a Baroque German classical piece (Pachelbel's Canon) and naturally, a Finnish string quartet covering a Metallica song. I even spent the time and effort to compile a folder named "The Best of Hey Joe" which contains 33 - yes, 33, that's not a typo - versions of the title song (the best: Willy DeVille's bizarre mutant combination of HJ and Cuban standby "Guantanamera").

Where am I going with that gun in my hand? Ha. The problem with any music collection, of course, is that no matter how big it is, the owner always gets bored with listening to the same stuff. I usually find myself hunting for some song, any song, I haven't listened to at least forty times since I planted it on the hard drive. Theoretically, since I have more songs than number of days in three or so years, that shouldn't be a challenge. But I never seem to find something fresh enough.

Luckily, if I have the time, patience and nothing more important to do, I can find something good, interesting and new by popping open the browser and hunting for a few minutes/hours. While listening, of course, to something already on the PC. Hmmm, what to play? There's Blacks Flag and Sabbath, Specials and Special AKA, The Dead Kennedys and Live, The Big Bopper and Little Richard...