Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Cornbread Chords Appeal To Me, I Like Rustic Harmony.

There are a million and one reasons for me to hand in my Man Card at reception. I cry at non-sporting movies (and don't especially like sport movies) I'm not fascinated by cars and what makes them go and I don't think Cameron Diaz is attractive. But today, the main reason for my expulsion from the He-Man Woman Haters Club is the playlist on my MP3 player. It's not packed to the gills with hot, loud 'rawk' or so-called classics like Zeppelin and the Stones. No, my player (not an ipod, and I feel uncomfortable using that as the catch-all name for them) contains not just the hits, but the album tracks of The Carpenters.

So now that you're done throwing things at the monitor and questioning my sexuality, let me explain. Karen Carpenter is, for me, everything a female singer should be. Now, whilst certain vocal styles have their place, I find that you can't go wrong with KC. There's a purity to the voice, it's uncynical and seemingly untouched by the ravages of drugs and alcohol. The reason that made Janis Joplin so interesting is that it sounded like this spastic midget had lived a hard life, and you could hear it in her voice. The same in negative is true for Karen Carpenter, with her smooth and untarnished pipes. But it's not just the voice, it's the delivery. There is no point in any Carpenters song - love songs especially - that I don't believe she means what she's singing. Citing the most familiar example, could you ever imagine anyone else singing "Close To You" with as much sincerity? Some have tried, all have failed. If anyone else tries it, it just seems to come out sounding sarcastic.

So what, you may ask, is a grown man doing listening to love songs and elevator music? Well, if I were an emotionally stunted buffoon with no appreciation of good music or a job well done, I would probably ask the same question. There are two ways to look at the music of The Carpenters (or indeed any outfit tarred with the 'elevator music' brush); there is the easy shot of 'it's calming to listen to and inoffensive, therefore worthless' and then there's slightly more trend-bucking 'it's calming to listen to, it's been produced by people who believe in the product and have real talent and is therefore priceless.'

I'm well aware that arguing the value and merits of the music of The Carpenters to an unbelieving world is like farting against thunder. But if it makes you feel any better I put some Ice Cube in my MP3 player too.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Keep Your Hands Away From My Shoulders

Growing up in west central Scotland means that the sun is sort of like those images of the virgin Mary. You hear stories of it appearing, but you've never seen it yourself. When I came over here to a place that has hot summers and clear skies, my pale-blue Scottish skin was totally unprepared for the onslaught of UV unfiltered by rainclouds and, sometimes, frost. Put it this way, if you see someone sunburnt in Scotland, the first question one would ask would be "where did you go on your holiday?"

So I have consistantly turned from pale blue to bright red when the sun comes out at least twice each summer I have lived here - I think it's because there is no sunblocking instinct. Whereas most people here see the sun, feel the heat or turn the calendar past April and instinctively run to WalMart to get some SPF 4 Banana Boat. I see the sun and, even after 6 years of living here, I stand outside and stare at this weird ball of fire in the sky wondering what it is, why the sky isn't its usual shade of grey or where the rain is.

Thus, I get burned. A lot. I'm getting better, I apply the sunscreen when I'm going to be outside for a while now... the problem is, I don't remember to re-apply. This weekend was yet another example of why I should just stay in and enjoy the air conditioning rather than go outside and be fascinated by the fact that I don't need a coat.