Tuesday, December 28, 2010


This week's column might be a tough one. I fear I've lost my grip on the English language this week. I've been sitting here in front of this laptop waiting for wisdom to come pouring out of my fingers, but the only thing that my brain has emitted thus far is an off-tune "ABCDEFG." I fear I may be suffering from Post Traumatic Alphabetization Disorder. To fully understand the malady, you need to go on a brief yet fascinating ride into the mind of a self-confessed music nerd.

As I've written before, my project since summer began has been the transformation of my basement into a fully functional man-cave/media center, and we've finally reached a crucial stage. I'm proud to report that, over the past week, the shelving units for my music collection have been installed. The next step? Getting said music collection out of the mountain of cardboard boxes in my basement and into some semblance of alphabetical order. This is no easy task.

I have to own up here. I own a LOT of music. I mean, a LOT of music. There's a fine line between "wow-your-collection-is-quite-impressive" and "wow-someone-from-TLC-needs-to-come-document-your-life-as-a-hoarder," and I fear I may have crossed that line about a decade back. My music collection outgrew my first apartment, then it outgrew my second apartment, and now it barely fits snugly into my house. It is an unwieldly, impressive beast, and, depending on who you ask, is referred to as either "my life's greatest achievement" or "what the hell are we gonna do with this junk after you die?"

Now, I need to interject for a second here, as one of my co-workers just reminded me that it might not be the smartest move to mention one's massive music collection in a public newspaper column if one doesn't want one's house robbed... which brings me to an important sidebar entitled:

Reasons Why I Would Really Prefer It If You Didn't Rob Me
by Shane

(1) As such a goodly portion of my annual income goes directly into the hands of area record store owners, the result is that I have an impressive collection of near-worthless music, but live on the poverty line as a result. If you're looking for high-ticket items to steal, there's far better houses to case, trust me.

(2) Music is quite possibly the most ridiculous of all collectibles. Its resale value is slim to none. The minute you unwrap the plastic off an $18 CD from Best Buy, you've devalued your purchase to about 50 cents. If you're looking for a get-rich-quick haul, used CDs are NOT the way to go.

(3) Besides, what I'm REALLY into collecting are albums and CDs of, as my girlfriend puts it, "whiny British garbage." Most of my favorite bands are UK indie acts never heard of in America, so you should REALLY only rob me if you're a big Britpop fan -- and if that's the case, we should probably be friends instead of the traditional robber-victim relationship.

(4) As I've recently discovered, vinyl records en masse weigh A LOT. Just shuffling those boxes around from point A to point B in my basement is enough to do my back in. Trust me, it's not worth getting them up the stairs. I'm no expert on thievery, but if I were looking towards a career in professional pilfering, I'd specialize in more weightless pursuits, like, say, small diamonds or perhaps rare feathers.

(5) You could totally mess up my alphabetization. Then I'd get seriously mad.

The truth of the matter is, your average hoarding music nerd is often too busy alphabetizing their collection to bother listening to any of it. And now I get to start the organization process over completely from scratch, as all of my precious music was thrown in boxes rather haphazardly when I moved in.

You'd think that alphabetization would come easy for me. After all, I'm a professional journalisty-type dude, right? We're supposed to be known for our amazing grasp of grammar and the English language. When I took my first journalism class in high school, I was handed the ultimate guide to the English language: Strunk & White's "The Elements of Style," whose weather-worn cover still sits on my desk to this day. We know it is the ultimate grammatical resource because it was co-authored by the guy who wrote "Charlotte's Web," ergo I like to think that every time we make a grammatical error in print, a spider dies. Thankfully, as a resident of the Arts & Living section, I'm not quite chained to S&W's non-flinching rules. I don't have to have perfect sentence structure with nouns and verbs. I can write fragmented sentences for effect. Like this one. Or this. Cool, eh?

Too bad Strunk, White, or Charlotte can't help when it comes to alphabetization drama. And oh, is there drama. I kid you not, when I used to work at Co-Op Records fresh out of college, my fellow music nerds and I would have fights - and I mean raised-voice, clenched-fist fights - over where to file certain records.

Take, for instance, The Dave Matthews Band. Where's it get alphabetized, D or M? Since it's a singular band name, tradition says "D." I vote "M," only because Dave has band-less solo records out as well, and it'd be weird to have some of his stuff under D and some under M, no? But if that's the case, shouldn't it follow to put the Dave Clark Five under "C"? That seems weird.

Rappers are a particular headache. Do you ignore the prefixes of "MC" and "DJ"? What about "Dr." and "Li'l"? Kanye West goes under W, but Fat Joe goes under F. Sean "Puff Daddy" Combs changes his name so much his CD's are in, like, 4 different places. Ron C goes under C, but does that mean Jay-Z should go under Z? Missy Elliott gets filed under E, but does that mean Joe Sinister gets sorted as "Sinister, Joe"? It's a slippery slope until Meat Loaf becomes "Loaf, Meat."

These are the things that keep me up late at night. You can worry about the economy and rising Korean tensions and the situation in Darfur all you like. I'm a little busy trying to figure out whether Big Daddy Kane gets filed under B, D, or K.

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