I did it. Years of consideration and planning, a few false starts, some timid attempts to find an alternative. Nothing was working. I took a deep breath . . . and deleted my entire music library.

Of course I have six backups, so it’s not as if I lost anything. But now I had the chance to judge things by whether I wanted to add them, not whether I want to delete them. Makes more of a difference than you’d think. If you have great open sectors of empty gigabytes on your hard drive, why delete? You may want to hear it RIGHT NOW some day. You may consider a moment when you’ve set the music to shuffle, and Bill Haley’s “Thirteen Women” comes up. Or some odd prog you haven’t heard in ten years. Or a deep, deep, deep track from the third CD of an Eno box set.

Then you think: no. That’s how I imagine I will listen to music some day. It’s not how I listen to music at all. Shuffle play means “click next until you find something you like.”

It’s the boon and curse of the digital music library: 99.97% of the stuff in your library you don’t want to hear now. A slightly smaller percentage is stuff you don’t want to hear most of the time. There’s a core selection you want to keep, a few tunes you’ll get sick of eventually, and hundreds of files that reflect interests and vogues you no longer feel with the same intensity. Empty it all out and add what you want.

I’m only part-ways through, up to D. I find I am adding about one out of every forty songs. After I add a letter’s worth, I go back and click on the songs to make an instant judgment, and that means I toss out another third. Oh, but I lost play count. Who cares? Did I ever make a hashmark on the wall when I put an album on? Oh, but I lost my ratings. Who cares? If it’s in the collection, it’s good. Why would I have a collection that included lots of two-star-rated songs?

Time to face it: I have an awesome, wide-ranging collection, and I don’t care about most of it. Just calling up iTunes is a lesson in the encumbrances that accumulate in the digital world; endless scrolling lists of music from which I must choose, as opposed to just turning on the radio and discovering something new, or hearing a forgotten piece pop up and wave hallo from across the decades.

It’s liberating. It also tells me what I really like. Which turns out to be no surprise at all: most of the 1980s / 90s Pat Metheny, first half of Elvis Costello’s career, my favorite Classical composers (a predictable lot, but there’s a reason I don’t want, say, all of Stanford’s symphonies; they’re dull) and a heap of Lounge when I’m upbeat and Ambient when I want to sleep on the plane. Oh: the complete Jackie Gleason Orchestra collection, because it’s damned swank.

In other words: 45 GB of music I told myself I needed at hand is out, and everything fits on a tiny iPod.

It’s also instructive, and sometimes in a dismaying way. Had hours of 40s music, but in the end . . . most of it didn’t click anymore. Take all the greats - Benny, Glenn, Tommy, Jimmy, Harry - and I can make do with a dozen from each. I don’t know if the kinship I felt for the rest of the music evaporated, or because the 40s have lately seemed much more distant and unknowable than they did before. You think a decade can be understood in general terms, by the sloppy parameters of the 00-09 years, and you think that they’re so far away it doesn’t matter whether you’re six decades past or seven, but I think it does. Perhaps it’s because I’m spending so much time these days researching the early 60s - twenty years past, but it might as well be fifty.

So: what are your Desert Island Discs? I believe you have to choose ten.

Turn Left, Pat Metheny Group
This Year’s Model, Elvis Costello
The Planets, Holst
The Best of Harold Budd
Mahler’s First
Bruckner’s Ninth
Grieg & Schumann Piano Concertos (always on one disk; always)
Pennies from Heaven: Soundtrack (British or BBC version)
Sibelius’ 2nd and 5th

If you don’t know either, Sibelius does something in the fourth movement of the 5th that always takes my breath away. It starts at 1:30 and builds to 2:30 and it is the most glorious thing in the world. This is music for jumping off a mountain in wingsuit, or watching an interplanetary mission blast off the pad, or just a dozen swans take flight. It’s one of the reasons I hate misanthropy - imagine if, horrors of horrors, we are the only sentient beings in the entire universe, and it would all be meaningless static and mindless fire . . . except for the creatures who looked up and made this.

It starts at 1:30 and builds to 2:30 and it is the most glorious thing in the world.

(BTW, this recording is the only one that comes close to making sense of the ending, which has to be one of the most authoritative, conclusive, and unsatisfying finales of any major symphony. Great slashing strokes, dramatic pauses, then the one-two punch at the end that never, ever feels satisfying.)

If you listened to the first four minutes, you’re about to be repaid. Want to be horrified? Okay. Here. There was just no excuse for this. Took me about forty years to put it together.

Wait for it, as they say. Or just go to about 2:24. Bastards. ;

As I said: desert island discs. And you?


And now . . .

We really seem to be straying from the idea of "Movies that incorporate cardboard boxes," Hindy. And this strains credibility.

Then again, maybe not; he was dead by now, and if they put his bones in a cardboard box and sealed it up, that might well impress customers with the strength of their corrugated material.





This makes me feel as if it was 1975 all over again.


The smaller building with the metal facade and severe awning; the big new bank with its tower on the base, elevated and disconnected; the trees. Why, downtown's on the way back!

Let's see if that turned out to be so.

Whoa: a bit larger than most of our Main Street buildings.

At the time this was a good idea.

Let's play: what was the architect thinking?

The eyebrow arches are there to indicate . . . What? Just to provide some rhythm, perhaps. They split once it gets to the second floor, giving the building a little lift.

Preservation at its finest. Almost:

I wouldn't be surprised if they'd painted over the stone to give it a neutral look. Buildings of that era often played with different hues, and this beige-brown look doesn't look original.

But. Who cares?

Then there's this fascinating mess. An old metal screen with stylized wheat: ultra cool, especially with that big black window. But it's all in ruins now. You can see the old building, its windwos crudely bricked, the cornice stripped.

Maybe not the best bargain in the end.

It had to have been a hotel. It's a landmark now - says so on that little sign on the corner.

Literally a landmark. It's named the Landmark. It was converted to residences - for seniors, of course - but fell on the usual hard times, and the owner listed it for sale. On eBay.

It used to be the Stamey Hotel.


The obligatory small-town theater:

Originally the State, it's now a children's theater. Among other things. People in Kansas do not freak out when a children's theater is next to a gun store. They just don't. Yet.


And heres a true beaut. A Kress store.

That company did more for small-town Main streets than any other company. Did Woolworth leave behind buildings like this? Did Penneys? And Kress had its in-house architects, I believe. They played with every design. I don't think there's one store that's identical to another.

If you know your old theaters, you know STRAND is a giveaway.

According to Cinema Treasures: opened as the Martin in 1913. Renamed the Deluxe ten years later and the Strand in 1930. You know how this ended:

. . . the Strand Theatre closed on July 5, 1960, with its waning days filled with 3rd run, horror, sci-fi, and exploitation films. One notable double bill in May was “Nude in a White Car” and “Woman Bait."

The former was actually a respectable movie, but you can see where things were headed.


At one point Fox had all the theaters. The third one's impressive.

Its interior seems underrepresented on the web, but you're welcome to look around.

Here's the town: have a stroll. Lots more interesting things to see.



I think I only listened 9 Desert Island Discs. The 10th I am ashamed of. Any guesses?

See you around.


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