25 November 2004

favorites are for pickers

I'm not generally one to pick favorites. You can look at it as a sign of great integrity or great insecurity, but either way I just can't consistently a shortlist of the entertainment greats (or colors or foods or anything else for that matter). That said, to claim to be "not generally one to pick favorites" often leads to explanations longer than this one and after that, bewildered expressions. To save people the trouble, I often pluck titles out of the air as "favorites" just to grease the wheels of polite conversation and discourse.

Movies-wise I generally champion 1997's science-fiction/anti-fascism epic/spoof/actioner Starship troopers, more for the reactions it gets than for any actual affinity I have for the misunderstood gem.

That said, I do love the film.

I've never settled on a token favorite music group or album, however. Mostly when I'm pressed I just mention the ones I'm borrowing from the library, at long as they're moderately well known. Other times I just think back upon my collection and name names that pop up more than a couple times. In doing either I often omit the discs that I really do enjoy, oftentimes much more than the recent ones or the multiples.

After all, the Crash test dummies have been trying out a lot of new things on their more recent albums, but they're leaving out the stuff that makes it worth hearing.

But I digress. Today when I was walking around I was happy to be listening to Visual Audio Sensory Theater by VAST, which you've discovered if you're lucky and which you like if your tastes run parallel to mine.

Well, Lars Ulrich likes VAST too, but don't hold that against either of us.

I really like this album, and all the more so for having discovered it all on my own. Way back when I worked a pair of jobs for a summer, one of which saw me clocking in at midnight and out just around dawn. My commute, as it were, was about a twenty five minute drive, several miles of which was through Sand Run Park, a two-lane blacktop path through some of the most scenic bits of the Cuyahoga River valley.

At one point the road dipped through a river. I usually slowed down for that bit.

I knew those roads very, very well. By the end (and once I knew the way traffic and the deer worked) I was able to drive through the park with only my parking lights lit, and occasionally did so without incident. Being a foolish teenager I sometimes would do the same whilst steering with my knees, employing equal amounts of leverage and stupidity. But none of this matters. It was when I put aforementioned album into my player today that I recalled the first time I played it, moving stealthily through the park.

The disc, for those who don't know it, starts slowly and quietly with some strings that build up a sweet theme until abruptly switching over to a crunchy electric guitar riff. Then it starts to rock, and with great samples and instrumentation thrown in for the ride it makes for a good album all the way through. It hit me hard the first time I heard it and it sounds no worse these so many years later.

That isn't the part that matter so much either. The greatest part is the fact that it was a complete surprise to me. Back in my hometown there was this little shop called The Record Exchange that had two great bins of discs priced twenty five cents to two fifty, and I looted it often in those days. By now I have probably fifty or sixty such CDs littering my collection, and to be sure many of them are trash.

The occasional one does stand out, and such was the case with VAST's debut disc, which found its way into my hands as a four-for-a-dollar promo disc in a barely-labeled envelope.

Sometime since I've given that one away and replaced it with the genuine issue, and that was the one to which I was listening today. Today when all of this came back to me and I decided to write it down.

So, well, thanks, Record Exchange.

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