Thursday, October 17, 2013


I have long hated Pandora Radio because it will not allow listeners to shut off its “you might also like” algorithms, which for me are (as with all such suggestion-generating applications) a terrible failure.  I’m a contrarian by nature, and so have a ready supply of impatience for missteps in these intrusive little marketing devices, as well as a hearty disdain when a suggestion goes really wrong – so Pandora is just not the option for me, never has been.  Slacker Radio’s “suggestiveness” can be pretty tightly minimized (and, for a fee, turned entirely off), and even when it’s on, it doesn’t seem to be quite so bewilderingly miscalculated as, say, Blockbuster or Pandora or my grocery store’s coupon-generating printers are.

Let it be said that, in addition to the contrarianness, I am old enough and private enough that these things continue to wig me out even something like eighteen years or so since their advent in earlier, rather less insinuatingly personal and scary forms.  The fact is, I’ve ALWAYS found this type of marketing frightening, and always will.  It icks me out, sets my teeth against certain brands, standards, and manifestations – and keeps my jaw on the ground, that so many people don’t seem to mind this insidious searching of their personal preferences.

All of which is beside the point.

The point is that, today at work, Slacker was still showing its autonomy at me, and it worked out.  I’ve only crafted one station for myself, and it contains all my moods, from Apoptygma Berzerk to Priest to Adele and the Beatles and Type O Negative.  Most days, in the office, Slacker stays in a somewhat electro/industrial vein, with some pop and what we once amusingly called “Alternative” thrown in.  There are days, though, when I start off with Judas Priest’s “Alone” and then follows up with Metallica, and I stop and go “hm” for a moment, and decide – yes, that’s just about right, thank you, Slacker.  Today, obviously, was one of those days, and it reminded me how much I like metal, enjoy Zeppelin, and old school hard rock.  As much momentum as dance tunes can give to a day, there’s no arguing that Iron Maiden particularly slows me down.  And then, because it’s sort of a funny diet I’ve fed the little beast, it’ll drop Duran Duran’s “The Chauffer” down in the middle of these things, and my odd little brain thinks, “that goes together better than you’d think” and then go on to whatever I’ve got to finish on the desk.

I once bought a Priest CD, along with a Leonard Cohen and a Billie Holiday.  The clerk at the store (I was in California) gave me the smiling eyebrow and said, “Shopping for gifts?”  I was a tad confused and said no, it was driving music (I was in California driving between SF and LA, and my rental had a CD in dash; at the time, this was pretty state of the art), all for me.  It was clear I’d made something of a conquest just by failing to fit in a musical box, and I got to muse a bit about what it must be like, the parade of individual tastes one must serve selling music all day every day.  Obviously, given that that was something like 15 years ago, I was pretty pleased with myself for my little toppling of expectations – and, equally obviously, I still revel, as I always have, in gravitating to what genuinely appeals to me, rather than to what is served to me (lord, just trying to imagine what my life would be like populated only with that music made for women such as myself is stifling).  Just think what an eyebrow I might have gotten if I’d had Ice T in that little stack of CDs.

To our culture and society, there are aspects of my nonconformity which speak to an inherent immaturity:  I refused to cut my hair when it became age-appropriate by those standards I consider to be utterly superfluous.  I never stopped going out dancing – and I am forty-five.  Being unmarried and not a parent, I have held on to habits generally reserved for “the young” (if not to say ‘those who are fifty pounds slimmer and fifty miles more currently fashionable’ than I am).  Being a relic of the 80s and 90s, I still admit to listening to Judas Priest and yet also pretend to be conversant in Deadmaus and even FGFC820, which should be so far outside the frame of reference of a person such as myself as to be almost anger-inducingly alien to me.

To be sure, I sneer like the old broad I earned every second of being, at the names of twentysomething celebs and performers I’ve never heard of.  It gives a special pleasure to indulge in this privilege of age, this frank indulgence of chrono-bigotry, even as I know precisely how irrelevant and, indeed, stupid it is.  But it is as much a joy to ignore expectations as it is to play into and play with them ... and I get to listen to good music, at that.


TCW said...

I spend a lot of time with street skaters in London. When I started, they were mostly twenty and thirty-somethings and definitely came over as the cool kids. Now there seem to be an awful lot of 40th birthday parties. 45 really doesn't mean you have to stop having fun.


DLM said...


Where I live ... ? It's no London. I love the red clay earth of my home, but it does come with a lot of conservative, "it isn't done" sort of expectations, and the way I have fun just isn't done at my age. Heh.