I hate going to weddings.

Fair warning: this is a narcissistic, depression-soaked and introspective node. Move on immediately unless this doesn't bother you.

The problem, though, is that I keep getting invited to the weddings of people I love, and what do I do then? Other than those few times where I can legitimately claim it's a physical impossibility for me to be there (Um, er, I'm going to be in Scotland that week and I've already bought tickets and it's a trip with four other people) then there's not much choice. I have to go.

Then I have to face The Question. The card is usually simple and neat, and asks the question for purely logistical reasons. Will you be bringing a guest? The words vary, naturally. Sometimes it's politely done with checkboxes or blank lines to fill out, but it's there. In that moment, the form becomes every hideous parody of (some of my) older Jewish relatives, down to vulture-toned cigarette voices and too-eager faces: Have you found a nice girl yet? Do we get to meet her?

Every time, I sigh and check the box. I would be delighted to attend. No, I will be attending alone. I'd like the beef entree, thank you so very much.

Once, I could almost buy into the whole story that "Oh, weddings are where you want to go to find a nice girl!" Yeah. Really? The problem is that I'm of an age where I'm having to look long and far to find other single people at the tables around me, and those that I do see are many years younger if they're there at all. If there are one or two people there, then the second act of the danse macabre begins.

I don't dance.

There are a myriad reasons for this. There are technical ones, which make the best excuses when I'm pressed (and have the advantage of being perfectly true). Top of that list: I have a reconstructed left ankle, and weigh a fair amount; if I try to perform physical activity that involves lateral ankle stresses when I'm not wearing very supportive, tightly-laced footwear - such as dancing in dress shoes - then, while I might be able to do it, I will certainly spend many hours the next day icing the ankle, or (if I don't) many many more hours wishing I had. Given how much time I seem to spend on airplanes and trains these days, that's suboptimal.

There are the less technical reasons, which I don't trot out except in self-loathing little critiques like this. I have a horrible self-image; I suffer from having less self-confidence in and acceptance of my physical form than Helen Keller would in her ability to drive Formula 1, and by the time the dancing has rolled around I'm usually sunk fairly far down into my Wedding Depressive Mode anyway.

So what to do?

It takes an enormous amount of energy to attend these events and not be a psychic anvil in the emotional waterbed. I have discovered there is very little that is more work than feigning ease or relative happiness well enough to avoid triggering a response in people around me who really want (and deserve) nothing more than to have a good time at an event that many people seem to think exists to serve that purpose.

I did warn you this was a snivelling writeup.

So I don't know. I feel it's my duty as a friend to help those I care for celebrate a day which, after all, should be theirs to craft and remember. On the other hand, I have come to realize I have to be careful, very careful, about the associations and moods I carry into these things. I'm not really in wonderful shape, and holding up that facade - threadbare though it might be to those who know me - brings this home all too clearly.

Mama needs a new bus.

As a long (long) time fan of Kristin Hersh I found the news of her recent tour troubles very sad, considering not only what it means for her and her family, but what it means for music in general.

What I mean is this, all great artists do their thing, whatever that thing is, from a place within their soul. If they are feeling it and they are talented and they know how to translate that into music or art or architecture, then we all benefit. If the artists who are true to their form, who create brand new and influential STUFF are forced to get a day job to make ends meet it leaves all of the rest of us in a bleak landscape of bogus pop art, pop tarts and pop music.

Please read this and consider tossing some money into the tip jar, because if Kristin Hersh was able to make it to your town she could trip your ass back to college with some math rock, sing your baby to sleep with Appalachian folk tunes, heal your heart with a few notes or peel your scull back with some balls out in your face punk action. You know if you saw that in the park you would toss some dollars in the guitar case. SO go ahead, the time is now.


free music and tip jar:

C'mon, I did it and it was so great I want everyone to have the same uplifted, fist pumpin' feeling of sticking it to the man.

What is it about a record I absolutely adore? There should be nothing about the format to like; impracticably large, difficult to rip, hardly portable, degrading over time, susceptible to damage - the list of flaws sounds worryingly like the first adverts for compact discs. A boy raised in that embarrassing phrase "the digital age", who first began to appreciate music during vinyl's darkest hour, I should be totally shunning the old black discs in search of optical media instead.

And indeed I do own a growing CD collection. But I hold no love for them; any I particularly treasure I only feel for due to other attached memories, like being the first I ever owned, or being given to me by certain beloved individuals. My CDs feel sterile and unloved, sitting glistening on the shelves but attracting attention only when played. Today upon purchasing a CD album I put it in my laptop, import it into iTunes, then slide the case onto the shelf to sit imperiously overlooking the room. I insist on CDs for their lossless nature and the inherent backup they offer me - one can always re-rip should hard drive failure strike. (Not the perfect solution but it works for me.)

Ah... but vinyl. Now this is a format I simply adore. Its large size offers a sense of ownership to me, as if I've actually bought something with my precious few pounds. They're abundant, popping up in charity shops nationwide, with new records appearing in my local music stores, sitting within their shrink wrap just waiting to be opened and gazed upon. Their large covers can hold wonderful artwork - ask any fan of Peter Saville's work, or look at any sleeve designed by Morrissey, or the legendary work of Hipgnosis. While the work can be replicated on a 5-inch CD sleeve it can't ever be the same.

Even the size of the record feels impressive - one can see the music etched into its surface, and read the occasional comments scratched into the runoff. Popping it onto the turntable and lowering the needle feels almost like a ritual. You can envision yourself sitting down with a friend, smiling to them as the initial pops and clicks crackle over the speakers, grinning, "this is going to be good," before the music flows out into your ears.

As I write this, I've been spending the past few minutes frantically refreshing eBay, celebrating the successful acquisition of a few more records to add to the collection. The fact that I already own a couple of them in some other shape or form is irrelevant; to have them on LP feels uniquely special.

Life, as John Peel once said, has surface noise.

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