Underestimating Our Age, or: Why Kids Today Don’t Need to Know Metallica

Every other month, I drive some kids in my area to church for early morning seminary. It’s typically a pretty silent car ride, since who wants to be up at 6am, right? To try and make it more entertaining, I’ve taken to playing a rotating “Music Appreciation” playlist, where each morning I choose a new artist or group and play a few of their best songs. I then ask my carpoolees to rate the group on a scale of 1-10. (Before that happens, I also check to see if any of them already recognize the group and, if so, the song in question.)

Typically, they don’t recognize the group or the song. Sometimes they really dislike a group that I thought everyone would like. It’s often surprising to me, sometimes disappointing, but a pretty entertaining way for me to pass the time, regardless. (Not sure what the students think of it, but I’m driving, so . . . my car, my songs.)

I share these experiences on Facebook, and I’ve been a bit surprised by the reactions. A fair number of people are disappointed at some of the groups that aren’t recognized. The Beatles, for example. And . . . Metallica? Metallica got a number of people upset when they went unrecognized. The words “parenting fail” were used a few times, in a (I hope) tongue-in-cheek way of saying it’s the responsibility of parents to expose kids to a wide range of music.

(Side note: one of the carpoolees is Tomas. I’m his parent. I’m exposing him to new music every morning as part of this activity. Is the fail that I didn’t do it early enough? Was I supposed to start playing Metallica for him when he was . . . five? I’m a bit baffled. Either way, I’ve played a variety of music for my kids over the years. True, I haven’t quizzed them on who sang what each time, but I’ve got this zany idea that people should listen to what they like and listen to enjoy, plain and simple.)

But what I really wanted to bring up was a bit of a rebuttal to people who think Metallica or the Beatles MUST BE KNOWN by the rising generation. I think a lot of this mindset might come from a misunderstanding of just how old we are. Allow me to disabuse you all of that right now

Metallica’s best known album (to me) is the self-titled Metallica, featuring its best known (to me) song, Enter Sandman. It was released in 1991, a year many of you might think wasn’t that long ago. I was 13. That’s 28 years ago. I listen to a wide variety of songs, but I can’t easily name another Metallica album other than that first one. If you played other Metallica songs for me that are from different albums, I’d have a shot recognizing the group, but not the song.

The Beatles first burst on the scene (more or less) in 1963 with their album Please Please Me, so the group predates me by 15 years, though their last album, Let It Be, was released in 1970 and still enormously popular, so that predates me by just 8 years.

Let’s put those two groups into context for a freshman in high school today. Born in 2004, Metallica’s popularity predates them by thirteen years, and (no matter what some metal heads might claim), Metallica was far less influential and popular than the Beatles. Try the following exercise:

  • Take your birthdate year and subtract 13
  • Go to Google and enter “[that year] in music”
  • Look over the hit songs that played then. How many of them could you recognize? How many of them would you know the group off the top of your head?

For me, there are some songs on there I’d have no problem with. Mr. Tamourine Man, Yesterday, My Girl, no problem. Eve of Destruction? I’ll Be Doggone? Get Off of My Cloud? (Yes, I know the Stones. Yes, I’ve heard that song. But I wouldn’t have been able to give the title of it, and I wouldn’t have been sure the Stones recorded it.)

Let’s try another exercise. You can go to Billboard and see the performance of pretty much any song. Enter Sandman peaked at #16 on the top 100 Billboard chart for 1991. You can enter any date and see the top 100 songs for that week. For 1963, the #16 song was Hey Girl, by Freddie Scott. I recognized it once I found it on YouTube, but I’d never be able to ID Freddie Scott. And looking at the songs even more popular than that one that week, there are a slew I don’t know.

Metallica didn’t have a single song to crack Billboard’s top 100 singles for 1991.

For the Beatles, the group is 41 years older than today’s freshmen. For me, that would be groups that started in 1937. We’re talking Big Band and Bing Crosby territory.

I think I’ve made my point, which is this: music we loved when we were kids is now OLD MUSIC, especially music that was already old when we loved it. A lot of what we think of as foundational for us is just alternative for most. And taste in music varies wildly.

I’m all for introducing people to new genres and groups and songs (hence my carpool challenge), but I don’t mind at all that the songs and groups I like are unknown to my carpoolees. Sure, it may be disappointing and surprising, but I just try to keep in mind:

I am getting older every day.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve been posting my book ICHABOD in installments, as well as chapters from UTOPIA. Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

A Very Elven Birthday

I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone go from 0 to Superfan as quickly as DC did with Lord of the Rings. As I blogged about a while ago, I decided this Christmas would be a fun time to watch all six Hobbit and Lord of the Rings movies back to back, and I wanted to include Tomas and DC in the activity.

Now, less than two months later, DC just celebrated her eleventh birthday. For presents, she got a scarf with a map of Middle Earth on it, an Arwen necklace, elf ears, and Denisa and she will be working on making an elven tiara together. For dinner, DC requested “lembas waffles,” which turned out to be these vegan waffles Denisa had made before. DC liked them and thought they looked like lembas bread.

After we were done with the festivities, we went upstairs and watched the last bit of the special features of Return of the King, and then started in on the special features of An Unexpected Journey. That means we’ve watched all the special features of the original trilogy now, in addition to the extended editions of all the movies. That’s over 40 hours of film. The special features on the Hobbit extended editions are even longer. I’d say we have around 27 hours to go.

And through it all, DC is still front and center. She’s memorized how to say things in Quenya. She’s writing her name in Tengwar. She was excited to find out I have the original Lord of the Rings Trivial Pursuit game (though she was sad when I beat her. Mwa ha ha!) She’s teaching herself to play all the songs on cello. She’s started quoting the movies, and when she’s not watching the special features with me, she’s watching the movies by herself.

I’m not sure if I’ve ever reached that level of fandom personally. (Well, if you don’t count Groundhog Day, I suppose . . .) I read the Hobbit in second grade, and I read the Lord of the Rings soon after that. I thought they were great, and I read the multiple times, but that’s where things ended for me. Then again, I also didn’t have the spectacular adaptation of Peter Jackson to inspire me. (Watching those making of documentaries brings an even greater appreciation for just what they pulled off. It also makes me like the Hobbit trilogy even more. I know it’s stylish to say the Hobbit is bad, but I continue to love it, so there.)

Anyway, if you see DC around, ask her something about Lord of the Rings. She’d be more than happy to talk to you about it. Happy birthday, DC!

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve been posting my book ICHABOD in installments, as well as chapters from UTOPIA. Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Choosing Television Shows to Watch

It’s always a big debate. You find a show you like, and it’s all fun and games while it lasts. But sooner or later the show comes to an end, and you’ve got to find something else to watch. And let’s face it; it’s not like tv shows are being made at a rate that keeps up with the rate we can binge them. Not good ones, at least. When you finish watching an excellent series, you don’t want to leave it and go to something that’s just sort of okay. You want something excellent.

So I’ve taken some time to try and get a list of shows I want to watch, so I can have one ready the next time I finish a series. (We’re currently working our way through The Americans, which I mostly really enjoy. It seems to be getting progressively better, which helps a lot as well.) To try and see what I’ve been missing, I went through all the shows that were nominated for an Emmy for Best Drama from 1990 to today. It was an interesting look into some TV history I hadn’t always paid much attention to.

You see certain patterns develop. Some shows lodge themselves into the nominations and just don’t let up. Game of Thrones. Mad Men. Downton Abbey. But beyond that, the type of show has changed and evolved over the years. At first I’d planned on going much further back than 1990, but the shows that were getting nominations in the 90s were already ones I’m not too interested in bingeing today.

Compare some of the popular shows (nomination-wise) of the last few years with the ones in the 90s. Today we have Westworld, Game of Thrones, Stranger Things, and more. In the 90s it was shows like Law & Order, NYPD Blue, and ER. I haven’t seen the latter two, but I’ve seen my fair share of Law & Order. It’s a show that worked well when you were just watching it once a week, but I’m not sure how much I want to try bingeing a show like that.

As I looked through the shows, I realized I don’t just want a drama. I want a drama with a long, sweeping arc. With real character development over time and intersecting stories as one of the prime features of the show. Then again, I loved West Wing, and it was a great show to binge, and it was much more a “flavor of the week” show, where each episode generally dealt with something specific.

I suppose the trick is I’m never quite sure what I’ll think of a show until I’m in the middle of it. The other trick is that you can’t really compare a show you’ve just finished multiple seasons of to a show you’re just starting on. Of course the characters aren’t as deep and ingrained with you yet. They haven’t had time to really develop. The same is often true of the first season of a show. It can take time for it to really get its feet under it, even though that might be frustrating for the first while of a show.

One other thing I noticed is how some excellent shows just don’t get recognized at all. (Note the complete lack of a single nomination for the Wire. That’s just criminal.)

Anyway. I thought I’d share my findings with you, in case it’s useful for others. After going through the exercise, a few shows I’m eyeing next are The Handmaid’s Tale and a return to Breaking Bad. We’ll see what I actually go to.

Show NameBest Drama NominationsBest Drama Wins
Westworld20
This Is Us20
Stranger Things20
Handmaid’s Tale21
Crown20
Americans20
Game of Thrones73
House of Cards50
Better Call Saul30
Mr. Robot10
Homeland41
Downton Abbey50
Orange is the New Black10
Mad Men84
True Detective10
Breaking Bad52
Boardwalk Empire20
Good Wife20
Friday Night Lights10
Dexter40
True Blood10
Lost41
House40
Damages20
Big Love10
Boston Legal20
Heroes10
Grey’s Anatomy20
Sopranos72
West Wing74
2451
Six Feet Under30
Deadwood10
Joan of Arcadia10
CSI30
Law & Order111
Practice42
ER71
NYPD Blue61
X-Files40
Chicago Hope30
Star Trek TNG10
Northern Exposure41
Picket Fences22
I’ll Fly Away20
Homefront10
Quantum Leap30
LA Law32
Thirtysomething20
China Beach20
Twin Peaks10

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve been posting my book ICHABOD in installments, as well as chapters from UTOPIA. Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

How to Use Reviews of Products

I’ve always been a firm believer in the power of product reviews. I don’t write too many myself, but I love looking at what other people say about something before I buy it. If there’s something I need to buy, I’ll scour the Amazon reviews before I pick the thing that looks Just Right.

At least, that’s what I’ve done in the past. Over the last few months, however, my faith in those Amazon reviews has really been shaken. Right now, I’m at the point where I no longer firmly believe a product with a ton of great reviews must, by default, be good. Why not?

First of all, it’s clear to me that companies are gaming the system somewhat. More and more after I buy a thing through Amazon, I get a follow up email from the company begging me to review their product. (In so many words.) It’s disguised to be “helpful.” They just want to make sure I know how to properly use the microfiber dust cloth I bought. (Really? If I need directions on how to use a dust cloth, maybe I’m not qualified to write a review. Have you considered that?) But then they also say how important reviews are to them, and how they’re a small company and blah blah blah.

Fact. If you send out emails to everyone asking for reviews, you will inevitably get more reviews than otherwise. If you include “helpful tips” and a good reason why you need a review, you’ll get even more. Not because your product is any better than another, but just because you asked. At that point, Amazon pushes your product more than others. People see all the reviews and assume it’s superior, and you’re off and running, with no real need to even pay for extra reviews. (Though I do think that happens as well.)

It used to be fairly easy to identify the shills in Amazon reviews. Poorly written smear pieces or praises. It was easy to discount them and just focus on the ones that seemed to have merit. These days, it feels to me more and more like companies have caught on to that. The shills write better, if that makes sense. I also feel like companies pay people to write poor reviews of other products. The “complaints” that show up are just bizarre and non-sensical, and (more importantly) hard to prove.

Case in point? I’ve been looking at bluetooth headphones. I went to Amazon, and some products received glowing reviews. Others, not so much. But when I went to actual paid sources like PC Magazine (that review those products) the ones they rated highest are middle-of-the road on Amazon when it comes to reviews. Complaints are “quality control” and “doesn’t hold a charge.” Things that might theoretically get by a professional reviewer. Maybe. But which *might* show up after people have used a product for months.

Except I really don’t believe professional reviewers wouldn’t catch a lot of those things. I’m much more inclined to trust a professional review than I am to trust a random Amazon review. (Especially now that my overall trust of Amazon reviews is becoming shaken.)

So what are your thoughts? How are you using reviews these days? Do you still trust Amazon? Where do you go to decide what you want to buy? I love using reviews, but I want to make sure I use the right ones. Ones I can trust and believe in.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve been posting my book ICHABOD in installments, as well as chapters from UTOPIA. Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Gifts that Keep on Giving

As I’ve been thinking over my latest decluttering efforts, I’ve also been reflecting back on the whole practice of gift-giving. Specifically, the tradition that birthdays and Christmas are celebrated with gifts, and that you have to give a “really cool gift” to ensure the birthday and Christmas is successful.

I’m not against giving gifts at all, but I’m thinking I’m becoming more and more against giving something just to have given something. Each year, people ask me what I want for my birthday and Christmas. Each year, I ask people what they want for their birthday and Christmas. And a fair bit of the time, I think we end up thinking a lot about what we want, even though we don’t really want anything (let alone *need* anything). But we still ask for things, just to make the gift giving easier.

Giving money is okay. Yes, it’s not something that takes a long time to come up with, but it’s definitely better than giving a thing that won’t be used.

Of course, in an ideal world, you find a gift that’s perfect. That ends up getting used over and over again. That’s what this blog post is about. I decided to think back over the gifts I’ve gotten and given to see the ones that have been the best of the best.

Blendtec Blender: My family uses this high-end blender at least three or four times a day. There’s a counter on it that tracks how many uses it’s had, and ours is up to around 2,000. It makes smoothies, hummus, milk shakes, and more. It doesn’t have sharp blades, so you don’t have to worry about cutting yourself, and the end results are smooth and wonderful. When this breaks, I’ll replace it in a heartbeat.

Boot/Glove Dryer: If your family is outdoors in the snow a lot, this is a must. For my family of skiers, this gets used constantly in the winter. It lets you properly dry out boots and gloves without having to remove linings or wait for hours. Denisa frequently talks about how handy it is. Score!

Nintendo Switch: It’s gone with us to Europe. It sees constant use in the house by my 14 year old, 10 year old, and 5 year old. It’s family-friendly and easy to use. Games that are favorites are Breath of the Wild, MarioKart, Smash, Rabbids, Mario Odyssey. The Pro controllers were also great gifts for it, as was the carrying case and screen protector.

Oculus Rift: Yes, you need a high-end computer to be able to use it, but this has been a continued highlight for Tomas and DC at times as well. It’s a hit at parties, and the computer itself has come in very handy as well. It was expensive, but I’ve never regretted the purchase.

Board games are big at my house, but not all board games end up being played. Ones that have been played many times by my family in the last few years include Splendor, Seven Wonders, Sushi Go, Hanabi, Azul, Kingdom Builder, Seven Wonders Duel, and Codenames.

Kindle Fires: I bought the cheaper ones for the kids when they were on sale. In hindsight, I wish I had paid a bit more money for the slightly higher end ones. They’re inexpensive (relatively), and it lets each kid have their own device. Way less arguing, and they get used constantly. (Except when they inevitably run out of batteries . . .)

Amazon Echo and Dot: I wasn’t sold on these when I first read about them, but we use them all the time in our house now. Even the five year old loves them. We’ve got them hooked up to work as an intercom system in our house as well, which is really useful. (Even if you can’t help wondering who might be listening to you from time to time . . .)

Stove Fan: It runs even when there’s no power, and it does a great job distributing the heat more evenly throughout the room and house. I got the higher end one, and I’m glad I did. I would recommend these to anyone who uses a wood stove.

Snow Blower: For that matter, I have no idea what I’d do without a snow blower. (Actually, I do. I remember the first year in Maine without one. It wasn’t pretty.) If you live in a place with a lot of snow, and you don’t want to pay or rely on someone to plow your driveway, a high quality snow blower is a must. My Honda has been dependable and a life saver, year after year. 11 years and counting now! (For that matter, don’t forget a roof rake, either.)

High-end Rechargeable Batteries: I love my Eneloops. I bought a few to see if I’d like them and they were reliable. I’ve bought a ton more. These are so much better than the old style that you never could rely on to actually be charged.

Home Theater Projector: It’s been a bit since I got mine, so I’m not sure what the latest and greatest is these days, but getting a projector (and an actual screen) has been so much easier than I thought it would be, and I love mine. When it comes to controlling the system, my favorite remote is definitely the Harmony. It’s basic, and it takes some setting up to work, but it controls just about anything, and you don’t even need to point the controller in the right direction.

Apple TV: Who needs cable when you’ve got Apple TV? I especially love how it feeds in my pictures for a screen saver, so we can see all our favorite pics from over the years whenever there’s a lull in using the TV.

Electronic Sketch Pad: One of the five year old’s favorite things. Great for quiet time.

And of course, my favorite mop. (Read my review here.)

That rounds it out. Having gone through all my Amazon purchases for the last few years, it’s a bit depressing how many things are on there that were just so-so. I can definitely do better in not buying as much stuff. (It’s saved money, and it’s tax free!) But when you find just the right present, that’s a wonderful thing. Any gifts that you’ve gotten over the years that have been great?

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve been posting my book ICHABOD in installments, as well as chapters from UTOPIA. Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

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