Monday, September 14, 2009

COLUMN: Beatles...

Otherwise known as

Dear world, please help. Earlier this week I was robbed of my life's savings by a gang of thugs. Penniless and hungry. Love, Shane.

Or maybe, just maybe, I'm a sucker and an idiot. Either way, I'm officially broke, and I swear to you all that it's not my fault one bit. I was simply the victim of a nefarious marketing scheme designed to suck the last penny out of every music nerd on the planet. And it's all due to a wily group of thugs whose gang-related activities have infiltrated our culture, corrupted our judgement, and shaken us down for untold amounts of loot.

What gang could do such a heinous act? The Crips? The Bloods? Nope.


I've known this week was coming for ages. I knew the size of the dent this week would put in my pocketbook. I should have been prepared. But it's one thing to have knowledge of your impending fiscal doom, and it's another altogether to see the reality of your credit card getting swiped for amounts of money that are clearly unwise to be spending. But I can't help myself. O God of Music Nerds, thy will is done.

Wednesday was 9/9/09 -- "Revolution #9," indeed. To commemorate such a monumental date, and/or to commemorate Paul McCartney's need for a few more million pound notes, we are officially experiencing Beatlemania Revisited. But instead of girls screaming in delight, this time it's chubby loser music geeks like me screaming at the holes in our wallets.

It's a project that's had music nerds salivating for a loooong time: the Beatles went and got themselves a facelift. For the past four years, a team of sound engineers have been hard at work painstakingly remastering every song the band committed to tape. Using the newest in recording technologies alongside the same vintage gear that the Fab Four themselves used, the end result is a sound that's brighter, wider, and more visceral than any Beatles record you've ever heard in your life.

For a music geek like me, the remasters are must-owns. Sadly, though, they're not free.

The Beatles put out 12 albums in their day. At a suggested retail price of $18.99, that's $227.88. Then don't forget the "Magical Mystery Tour" soundtrack, because a Beatles collection without "Penny Lane" and "Strawberry Fields Forever" should be punishable by flogging, so there's another $18.99. Oh, and the Past Masters discs of rarities, because hey, a fella can't live without having immediate access to such vital gems as the German-language version of "She Loves You" (Sie Liebt Dich! Ja! Ja! Ja!) That's a double record, so that's $24.98. Come to think of it, the White Album's a double, too, so change that $18.99 to a $24.98 Which brings our total to (gulp) $277.84.

"But Shane," you say, "Why buy all 14 at once? That makes no sense. Why not pick them up one by one when you can afford it?"

Someone must have asked the same thing to the marketing executives at Capitol Records, because they had an answer: the limited edition collectible box set. Okay, sure, there's no extra content or any advantage to buying the set en masse, except it's in a box. I like boxes. And it's limited edition. And it's collectible (it says so right on the sticker.) Therefore, it had to be mine -- for the low price of $269.

Now, there's one big argument amongst we hardcore music nerds when it comes to The Beatles: mono vs. stereo. See, the first ten Beatles albums were originally recorded in then-standard mono and later remixed for the stereo format. Some folk believe that the stereo remix is the way to go, while some purists prefer to hear the music the way the band originally intended: in exciting low-fi monophonic sound. Capitol, in all their kindness, figured out a solution: an even-more-limited-edition, even-more-collectible box set of the first ten albums in restored and remastered mono. So there's another $224.

I know what you're thinking. "Okay, sure, Shane -- listening to the Beatles in both mono and stereo formats is pretty sweet. But what's the point if you can't hear the tunes without being able to press multi-colored buttons in time with the music?" And you would be absolutely correct.

That's why this week was ALSO the release of Rock Band: Beatles, a Fab Four addition to the pantheon of insipid video games that have ruled/ruined my life for the past three years. I've been concerned for years now about the amount of time I waste playing a game clearly designed for 12-year-olds, so at least a Beatles edition means that it's cool to be an old fogey AND addicted to a video game.

So there's $60 more dollars to the Buy-Ringo-Some-More-Jewelry fund. But wait, no. If you're going to play a fake game where you pretend to be the Beatles, you better have the fake instruments. That's why you can buy a fake Rickenbacker so you can be fake John, a fake Hofner bass so you can be fake Paul, a fake Gretsch Duo Jet to be fake George, and a fake black oyster logo'ed drum set to be fake Ringo. The fake ensemble is yours for a very real $249.

And if you're mortgaging your house to show your love for the Beatles, you'd better be able to answer some questions about 'em. That's why you need the piece de resistance, Beatles Trivial Pursuit ($34.95.)

So I am officially pimped out in Beatles gear while Yoko presumably is having a bed-in with piles and piles of my money. And while my music nerd street cred survives yet another fiscal challenge, I know that some of you must think I'm ridiculous and insane. To that, all I can say is that my nerd-dom keeps me happy and that the remasters sound so good they're worth every penny. At least they must be. I'll find out for sure when I've saved up enough cash to get my power turned back on.

COLUMN: Objectum

Recently I became aware of the fact that I'm kind of a weirdo. Happily, as it turns out, there's always someone weirder out there.

This hasn't been the best month for me. To say that my fledgling relationship with the girlfriend has hit a bumpy patch is like saying that the economy has been a tad bit iffy. In the past month, we've split up and reconciled... oh, man, I've truly lost count now. 3 times? 4? All I know is that she's worth fighting for, and I'm not giving up on it yet, so hush.

But if the relationship's taken a toll on me, please take a moment to pity those most affected by all the drama: our Facebook friends.

If there's one thing I'm good at in life, it's milking sympathy from friends and family. So when we have one of these epic breakups, within hours I'm on Facebook updating my status to some kind of "woe is me" business while 20-30 friends send comments of support. But I've noticed that the comments lately have been a little less "I'm here for you, call me right away" and a little more "Dude. Again? Seriously." I'm wearing out the patience of Facebook Nation. I'm turning into The Boy Who Cried Break-Up.

But it was a Facebook post from a friend that made me realize just how un-weird I really am. The post was a link to a website about something I'd never heard of before: "Objectum-Sexuality."

Hmm, I can relate. Clearly, as a beloved and much-adored local writer, I spend most of my day-to-day time as a sexual object. Ladies, I can't help it that I'm so macho and dreamy. Trust me, it's as much torture for me as it is for you. But I vow one day women will respect me for more than my hot bod. Until then, I'll go to a website with empathy for sex objects.

But, it turns out, that's not what Objectum-Sexuality refers to. It's not so much to do with sex objects as it is with, umm, finding objects sexy.

Let's try to put it in layman's terms. You know the Centennial Bridge? It's a grand structure that serves as a centerpiece to the Quad Cities, a triumph of form and function that symbolizes community pride. It's fair to say that you might even one day pass its friendly visage and say, "Gee, I love this bridge."

Well, if you were an objectum-sexual, you might not love the bridge. You might loooooove the bridge. Objectum-Sexuality is an alleged orientation to love inanimate objects.

The internet home for Objectum-Sexuality was founded by a Swedish woman named Eija-Riitta Eklof. Eija loves the Berlin Wall. So much so, in fact, that in June of 1979, she married the Berlin Wall, complete with ceremony and taking the new name Eija-Riitta Berliner-Mauer. Yes, she is now Mrs. Berlin Wall. And no, I have no idea what their first dance as wall and wife were.

Through the internet, Mrs. Berlin Wall made acquaintance with Erika Naisho, or as she is now, Mrs. Erika Eiffel. Because she married the Eiffel Tower. Together, they host a network of websites to educate the rest of the world about what they have dubbed Objectum-Sexuality.

According to Mrs. Berlin Wall's website, they "love objects in an intimate way and this feeling is innate... objectum-sexuals feel a strong attraction towards objects possessing, in particular, certain geometry/function." Shockingly, it goes on to add that this attraction often "provokes criticism."

You don't say. I mean, just because you're married to a building and all? People might think you were a bit... odd?

I'm sounding a bit mean-spirited, I know. I don't get my jollies making fun of people, and as far as topics like gay marriage go, I'm an ardent supporter of "love whoever you want." Or is it "whoMever you want?" I never know. But I DO know that it's NOT "love WHATever you want." I'm all for your right to find happiness in the world. But when the object of your desire can't reciprocate the feeling because, oh, it's a WALL? That's a tough leap for even this liberal to make.

Modern psychology has yet to recognize or classify Objectum-Sexuality as either a disorder or a new sexual orientation, so for now it's simply a curiosity and a seriously weird website. But it leads to a few thoughts.

For one, how depressing would it be to be in love with the Berlin Wall? And how must she have felt when the Wall came down? Imagine the entire world cheering with jubilation at the thought of your husband being hacked into a million pieces? But, as it turns out, perhaps the Wall had it coming to it. Upon further investigation, I went to Erika Eiffel's homepage, wherein she admits, "It is also true that I have a longstanding relationship with the Berlin Wall. To my chagrin, this has drudged up criticism of my polyamorous relationship."

So what we're saying here, then, is that the Berlin Wall is nothing more than a cheating rat fink so-and-so, and if the Eiffel Tower ever catches wind of this, there's gonna be heck to pay.

There's part of me that feels really sympathetic towards these women. Clearly something's gone really wrong somewhere. And I dunno, maybe I KINDA understand? I mean, Wrigley Field is pretty sweet. And I don't know any NASCAR fan who doesn't have a SLIGHT fetish for Bristol Motor Speedway.

And I'd better not kid around, because the moment I do, karma will lead me to my unknown Objectum-Sexual self. But with MY luck, I won't be in love with anything as cool as the Eiffel Tower. No, I'll be the guy professing his undying love to a piece of Tupperware. Or a bath sponge. Or any of the random things in the litterbox, if not the litterbox itself.

So I'll shut up, To each their own, I guess. Just please don't be consummating your marriage on the day I decide to visit your betrothed landmark and we'll get along fine. After all, what do I know? I'm just a weirdo.