May 11

Those Damn Ads

I’ve been on the Internet in some form for nearly 20 years. Back then the World Wide Web looked like this:

800px-Lynx_(web_browser)

“Graphics? Are you mad? You’ll crash the entire campus with those!”
Image credit: Russell Boltz

I often miss those days. Everything (and I mean EVERYTHING) was in ASCII text. Social networking? That’s what a Telnet-based BBS was for. I still have an account at one. You should go visit them. They’re lonely.

Before 1996 or so there was a definite Wild West feel to being online, especially if you didn’t tie yourself down to some heinous monstrosity like AOL. If you knew what you were doing there were plenty of ways to interact with interesting people worldwide on a completely noncommercial basis.

aolcds

And you were never, ever short on coasters.
Image credit: techfun

Sadly, those days are long gone. While I’m all for making a buck online, I find it amazing that corporate America is still so bloody clueless about it all these years later. Banner ads? No one looks at those anymore. Pop-ups? Just about any decent web browser can block those. Video spots? Better keep those under 15 seconds, or we’re outta there.

Take YouTube as an example. Given that approximately 99.97 percent of the population clicks that “Skip Ad” button as soon as they see it, I wonder why people bother paying to put up ads upwards of two minutes long, knowing damn well virtually no one will watch more than the first five seconds.

youtubeskipad

“What were they selling? Who knows? Who cares? Play ‘Gangnam Style’ dammit!”

Some advertisers have grown wise to this and (I assume) plunk down more cash so YouTube will run their entire 15-second ad without a skip option. To YouTube’s credit I haven’t seen them force anything longer, at least not yet. Fifteen seconds is at the upper end of my tolerance, I’ll say that.

If you want something really irritating, check out those sites linked at Cracked and elsewhere which feature articles such as “15 Celebrities Who Are Living with Serious Medical Conditions.” You know, those sites so chock full of ads they take forever to load only to provide you with an absolute bare minimum of content? I had to sit through an entire Wendy’s commercial today, just to find out Kim Kardashian has psoriasis.

Kim_Kardashian_portrait_2009

Sneferu has more fulfilling moments when he’s licking my hair out of the bathtub.
Image credit: David Shankbone

I keep hoping technology will eventually allow us live in more enlightened times and that we’re just in a state of transition now. But damn, it’s a painful transition.

Mar 21

Riding the Thunder Broom

I recently bought a bass guitar. I figured at this point in my life it would be a good idea for me to take up a new hobby or two. Beachy also wants me to be a “rock star” when I grow up. She approves of this purchase.

Music is not an entirely new thing to me. Dad was a guitarist in a few local bands in the 60s. I took piano lessons when I was in elementary school, although my passion for that was halfhearted at best. Most of my friends in high school were band geeks.

Strongly influenced by said band geeks, I acquainted myself with the works of Mike Watt, Geddy Lee, Les Claypool and others as a teenager. I’ve been interested in taking up bass for a good 20 years. Bass should be a good instrument for me. I fancy myself loud and low, and I think in terms of single notes rather than chords.

There were two main obstacles to that though. First, I’m left-handed. VERY left-handed. Dad tried to teach me guitar on a standard right-handed model, but I just wasn’t picking it up. Everything seemed upside down to me. What’s more, locating an affordable left-handed instrument in the pre-World Wide Web days was about as easy as picking up a bottle of Bacardi 151 in Riyadh. It just wasn’t happening.

The second obstacle – and probably the more important one – was my strong tendency to set the bar unrealistically high for myself when undertaking any new endeavor. If I wasn’t able to be a virtuoso in a relatively short period of time, it wasn’t worth it to me.

220px-LesClaypool

And when I say “set the bar high,” I’m not dicking around here.

I’m a perfectionist by nature. It wasn’t until quite recently that I became somewhat comfortable with the concept of not having to be a world-beater in absolutely everything I did. Having your ass handed to you by bipolar type II will do that to you. That and the miracle of e-commerce finally convinced me to take the next step.

So despite being 39, well past the age many people take up these sorts of things, over Christmas I found a left-handed bass online and had it shipped to the local Guitar Center. Of course, not wanting to drop a ton of money on something I wasn’t entirely sure I’d take up in the long term, I went for – shall we say – a low-end model. It’s made by an outfit called Main Street Guitar Company.

EXIF_JPEG_T422

The Chinese call it quality!

Over the next couple months I picked up other necessary items, such as an amp, a cord, a shoulder strap and a gig bag. I’m ready to RAWK!

Well, I would be if I had anything resembling dedication. Everyone tells me, “Man, you need to practice every day or you lose your touch.” I have no reason to disagree with that. However, I play maybe twice a week at the moment. Never mind CORRECT notes. At this point I’m happy with CLEAN notes which don’t sound like hitting a metal coil with a sledgehammer.

I can play the bass line from “Once in a Lifetime” fairly well, but that’s about it right now.

A couple days ago I compared learning the bass to learning to type. Honestly I don’t know how valid that comparison is, but as a writer it seems logical to me. Music theory as traditionally presented has never been one of my strengths. I get the basic concept of such things as notation and time signatures, but I’ve always found anything but the simplest sheet music absolutely confounding.

800px-Bass_ghost_note_groove

Yeah, this does nothing for me.
Image credit: Hyacinth

It seems to me it would be easier to think of notes as “letters” and bass lines as “words.” One needs to learn where the various notes are on the bass. After that it’s a relatively simple matter of constructing the line in much the same way one types a word on a keyboard. I understand this theory doesn’t take into account important things like tempo. I tend to view that as something one picks up innately.

Perhaps I’m over-thinking this and trying to unnecessarily re-invent the wheel. That’s another thing I’m notorious for.