Author: Kevin Carr

My number is up. I blog @ www.TheNumberKevin.com

In defense of vinyl-loving hipsters (Or, Record Store Day 2016)

There’s a lot to hate about hipsters — I get it. The coffee is never good enough, the beer selection is lacking, we’re poor but always wearing expensive clothing.

Also, we love vinyl records.

Get out of here with your Spotify, Apple Music, MP3s and compact discs. That’s all dirty, digital dope. We want the pure stuff.

Side Note: Yes, I used “we” in the above sentences. Results are in — I’m a hipster. I know it, I can’t help it, it’s what it is. I’m 29 now. The theory is once I turn 30 I’ll graduate to adulthood and can forget about all these silly labels.

Anyway, today is Record Store Day (RSD). Find your favorite local record shop and go buy a few things. They’ll probably have free coffee. You’ll love it. Personally, I have a love/hate relationship with RSD. I always go. But to engage an overused cliche, RSD was great before it went “mainstream.” Typical hipster drama. Let’s just say the romance left once 14 year-old girls started stealing records out of my hands (long story for another time).

This year, however, was fun. The lines weren’t too long, everyone was friendly. And best of all, I got mostly what I set out for. As my friend Jake says, “The wax gods were in my favor.”

Here’s the loot:

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  • The Vandals — Sweatin to the Oldies (Live)
  • The Get Up Kids — Red Letter Day Ep
  • Robert Johnson — 10 inch repress (1936)
  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens — Picture Disc 10 inch
  • Violent Femmes — Memory/You Move Me (single)
  • Death Cab for Cutie — Tractor Rape Chain/Black Sun (live)

Back to the Quick Defense

I admit it: there’s a lot of showyness about vinyl collecting. It’s great to showcase your collection with a fancy shelf and brag on social media. For me, however, being a vinyl lover (there’s got to be a better name for it?) is about more than just pretension and affectation.

Vinyl records are a treasure hunt. You find the one you want, say an old record you used to love, and it’s like striking gold. In some cases, the prices are so high, you might as well just buy gold, but I digress. Record hunting is also a great way to discover old (but new-to-you) music. I’ve gambled on many dusty, used LPs at yard sales that have later become personal favorites.  (more…)

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The X-Files Revival Review: Paranormally Normal Expectations

Let’s get this out of the way: I’m an X-Phile, through and through.

As the name would suggest, X-Philes are a rare breed of entertainment consumers who swear allegiance to the TV show The X-Files. With 201 episodes, we have spent at least 201 hours of our lives watching Mulder and Scully ask the big questions and chase the big, scary monsters. Personally, I’ve seen the original series three-times through, with favorite episodes re-watched here or there, and of course, multiple viewings of the two movies. Realistically, let’s call it 700 hours of my life dedicated to finding Mulder’s stupid sister. Let us not mention The Philosophy of The X-Files book, or the Season 10 comic book series. I also bought the IDM board game.

There’s a simpler word for what I am. It’s called a nerd, and I understand that.

The truth… is that we X-Philes absorbed any and all X-Files we could get, because when the series ended in 2001, the show was over. That was it. Gone. Dunzo. Poof. Like the proof Mulder could never quite attain, The X-Files disappeared, almost as if it were never really there. And remember, TV shows didn’t come back from the dead back then. When they ended, they ended. When they were cancelled, they cancelled. So, we X-Philes became our special class of nerds, quietly holding onto the spooky, nostalgic memories of something that would never exist again.

Until it existed again.

And The X-Files came back. And now my board game, comics and books look less like collector’s items, and more like an obvious case of dork.

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Read my full review on The Farsighted blog: Part One and Part Two

Fiction Prediction: How Crichton Prophesied Our Awful Internet Age

The past two or three years, in my late twenties, I’ve almost exclusively read fiction. Call it escapism, call it the consequences of a creative writing college program, call it what you want — but after years of reading memoirs, business biographies and spiritual poetry, I’ve sunk my brainteeth into something else. I read fiction because I believe that is where the truth lies.

The author, or the voice, or narrator — whatever — through the guise of fiction is freer to speak.

As original hipster Sir Philip Sidney famously wrote:

Now for the poet, he nothing affirmeth, and therefore never lieth. For, as I take it, to lie is to affirm that to be true which is false; so as the other artists, and especially the historian, affirming many things, can, in the cloudy knowledge of mankind, hardly escape from many lies. The poet, as I said before, never affirmeth… He citeth not authorities of other histories, but even for his entry calleth the sweet Muses to inspire into him a good invention; in troth, not laboring to tell you what is or is not, but what should or should not be. And therefore though he recount things not true, yet because he telleth them not for true he lieth not.”

-The Defense of Poesy (1595)

Kevin, why are you quoting poetry? You don’t even like poetry.

Because I’m about to quote a Jurassic Park book, and I want to seem smart before I do.

What Sidney is saying is that the poet (or the author) has more power to tell the truth than anyone else, because storytelling taps into something that arguments, facts, and heavy rhetoric cannot. It taps into the human experience, which, of course, is truth. The reader is not agreeing or liking characters, but absorbing and experiencing, seeking to understand and further enrich his or her life. We might not agree with Ahab, for instance, on his search for the white whale, and we’re certainly not rooting for Kurtz in the African jungle, but we understand their quests and motives, and it teaches us something about ourselves, even if it’s dark and ugly.  

Whew. Okay, that took too much brain power.

A few months ago I read the sequel to Michael Crichton’s mega-famous novel, Jurassic Park, called The Lost World, and there was a passage in a stretch of dialogue that metaphorically punched me in the proverbial stomach.

Those who have read Crichton’s novels know the man was a genius. Agree or disagree with his logic, the guy had brains. As it turns out, the late science fiction author (that is, science with a sprinkle of fiction) of The Andromeda Strain, Jurassic Park, Sphere, and a bunch of other fantastic tales, was also a passive-aggressive Internet prophet.

In Crichton’s 1995 novel, The Lost World, his protagonist — the chaos-theory-mathematician Ian Malcolm (played brilliantly by Jeff Goldblum in the movies) — aptly predicts our modern, ultra-aware, internet-addicted, hyper-connected population. His outlook, however, is bleak.

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Our Lost World

“I think cyberspace means the end of our species.”

Say what now? (more…)

Best of 2015: Music, Film, Literature

Oh hey there. Let’s jump right in.

Music

2015 was a fantastic year for music. Adele and Taylor Swift reminded us that people still buy music and that pop stars still exist. Apple Music, Spotify, Tidal and a host of other streaming services pushed the discussion of “music as a commodity” centerstage. Despite where opinions settle, I think we can all agree that our streaming discussions were well overdue (and on two fronts: people paying for their music again and artists getting fairly paid for streaming).

NOTE: Amazon Prime’s streaming service (Amazon Music) is the industry’s best kept secret. It’s by far the best streaming service. Comes with your Prime account, you can download thousands of records, listen to them offline. Why is no one talking about this?

Every year I have artists and their releases that I look forward to, but this year there were some out-of-left-field albums that no one saw coming. Leon Bridges and Sufjan Stevens’ masterpiece, for instance, rocked (and rolled) almost my entire musical year.

Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell

Someone once told me that art should look different every time you see it. I think the same can be true for music, where you hear something different every time you play it. Stevens’ latest hits the proverbial mark. Borrowing from Gregorian chants, from 70’s folk, from his own catalogue — Carrie & Lowell is lyrically transparent, musically restrained, and almost perfect. Make no mistake, people: Sufjan Stevens made a masterpiece.

There are instances, such as in “The Only Thing“, where the track is just begging for a rhythm section (i.e., bass & drums), but we don’t get it, and it’s the right choice. “The Only Thing” is about despair, about barely holding on with just a glimmer of hope. Sure, you can sing about depression with a backing band, but it wouldn’t fit here. Stevens isn’t trying to be flashy, and he’s not making anthems, what Stevens is doing is splitting open his chest and singing therapy.

As someone who’s had a similar (not exact, but similar) upbringing as Stevens, I latched onto this record like a child to his mother, and it brought me comfort many times over. Can someone with a glossy childhood enjoy this album? Of course. But who actually had a glossy childhood? (more…)

My Bill Maher Q&A: Fall, 2015

Forget Barack Obama and Donald Trump, Bill Maher is America’s most politically polarizing living figure. Whether you like him or not, Maher is one of those people you see on TV and go, “I wish I could talk to that guy, just for 15 minutes.” Not because of aligned political ideals, or because of simple celebrity, but rather, because Bill Maher is informed, convicted and unafraid to talk about his beliefs. I got my 15 minutes, thanks to Spokane Coeur d’Alene Living magazine, and those minutes were enthralling. To be honest, I could barely keep up. 

Say what you want about Mr. Maher, but you have to hand it to him: the guy is an entertainer — always on and ready to talk. Speaking of that, Warning: Explicit language!

Between Real Time with Bill Maher, HBO’s Vice, and a national stand-up tour, I’m curious: Are you so busy that you have to stop through Spokane just to pick up some legal weed?

[Laughs] Believe it or not, it’s actually legal where I live in Los Angeles. See, I have a medical marijuana card to treat my infirmity. I don’t remember what that infirmity was, but I do know that marijuana is very helpful in treating it.

Being an outspoken proponent for drug legalization, do you see Washington and Colorado as the first dominoes to fall?

We’re hopeful of that. There are some unfortunate rearguard people. Chris Christie is very much against any sort of legalized marijuana. Because, you know, he’s very disciplined about what he puts in his mouth. [Drug legalization proponents] have waited. Obama fixed the economy, healthcare, gay marriage, he opened up Cuba, he made a climate deal with China, and a nuclear deal with Iran. I’m hopeful his last thing out the door will be … Weed! “Weed, bitches!”

Turning to the 2016 presidential race, it seems like both a comedian’s goldmine and low hanging fruit. How do you maintain a balance when writing? (more…)

29

At 29 years old, I’ve discovered the truth.

Everyone is lying to me.

It’s not so much a realization, but a confirmation. The truth is that getting old isn’t all that bad.

Sure, there’s the aches and pains. That much is true. The other night I got off the couch and proceeded to the bed and upon lying, realized that, somewhere along the way, I tweaked a back muscle. Lift, turn, walk, lie and… my back is destroyed? Guess I’m not as spry as I used to be.

And sure. The mind starts to go. I’m more forgetful than I’ve ever been. Words are becoming harder to recall, and I’ve never been a worse speller. This became all too apparent at work the other day when I created a flyer for a football-themed event, misspelling Cincinnati in big, beautiful bold letters.

And okay. I’m taking medication. Dermatology stuff, but still — medication. At the onset I experienced side-effects. Nothing drastic, just irregular doses of dizziness accompanied by brilliant flashes of drowsiness, like some ill-fated celebrity duo tromping down a red carpet determined to prove the world wrong only to wake up six months later in rehab. I lowered the dosage.

And yes. I can no longer fit inside my own clothes. My pants have shrunk like raisins, my shirts like voodoo heads. But it’s not the clothes! It’s me! You see, I didn’t know I could gain weight. But then 29 happened. That magical time in my life when everyone said, “You’ll fill out one day.”

That day is today. (more…)