The Guilty Party

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Greasing the Wheels of Commerce With Sound

Or tossing a woodwind in the spokes.

"Hello sir! Welcome to The Emporium!"

The perky young woman greeted me as I entered The Emporium of All That Is Really Swell and Desirable.

"Hi," I said, and kept moving. Or at least I tried to. She stepped in front of me and put a large plastic cup in my hand. It was full, almost overflowing, with a darkish, suspicious smelling liquid.

"That's okay," I said, trying to hand back the cup, which she didn't take.

"It's for you," she said, perkily.

"What is it?"

"Our own specially formulated blend," she said, still perkily.

"Of what?" I held the cup up to my nose and sniffed. An almost visible haze of alcohol cleared my sinuses and fogged my vision.

"Prune juice and the finest California whiskey," she said. "Enjoy it while you shop! Compliments of The Emporium!"

"No thanks," I said and tried once again to hand it back. Once again she didn't take it. I looked for a place to set it down, but there were no available flat surfaces.

"It's our exclusive blend," she repeated. "Enjoy it while you shop."

"I don't think so," I said. "I have problems enough remembering what I came for without that double whammy of concentration busters. You take it."

"Oh, I've had a lot already," she said. And I did notice that her eyes were a bit bloodshot, her expression a bit desperate. "This is for you."

"But I don't want it."

"Have a good day," she said. "Come see us again soon!" She took the cup, drank it down, and turned me around to face the door.

"But I haven't done my shopping," I said. Her grip wasn't all that tight, nor her stance all that steady, so it was pretty easy to turn myself back around.

"Welcome to The Emporium!" she said, swaying slightly. In her hand was another cup, just as big and just as full. "This is yours!"

"You mean I can't shop here unless I drink it?"


"Even though I don't want any?"


"And all it will do is make me cranky and have to use the bathroom?"

"That's the deal. We cut out the piped in music at ear splitting, concentration obliterating levels so we had to do something. Hic!"

"No music?"

"Nope. No music."

"And all I have to do is drink this poison?"

"Thas all!"

"It's a deal!" I took the cup.

Anyway, my question of the day is this: Is there any real reason all of our shopping experiences have to be accompanied by a musical soundtrack? A loud one? And often one consisting of selections I do not care for? Do retailers really have some sort of concrete data that tells them this is good for business?

Just wondering.

Go Ye Forth and Do Likewise.

Monday, January 19, 2009

I Believe This

January 19, 2009

There is a terrific series that has been running on NPR for a while called "This I Believe". I don't think I could do a better job of describing it than this paragraph taken from the ThisIBelieve website:

This I Believe is an international project engaging people in writing, sharing, and discussing the core values that guide their daily lives. These short statements of belief, written by people from all walks of life, are archived here and featured on public radio in the United States and Canada, as well as in regular broadcasts on NPR. The project is based on the popular 1950s radio series of the same name hosted by Edward R. Murrow.

The other day I was able to listen to the latest essay as I was driving to work. Like just about all of the essays I have heard or read (just a small percentage of the submitted essays are selected for radio broadcast but there are a lot of the other ones available to be read on the website) this latest one was compelling, well thought out, thought provoking and inspirational. Unlike all of the other submissions, this one was written not as an essay but as a list. And it was written by a six year old. When kindergartener Tarak McLain was given an assignment to bring in one hundred of something to mark the one hundredth day of school, he did not bring a bag of one hundred Tootsie Rolls or cotton balls like most of his classmates, instead he spent time over three days to write a list of one hundred beliefs. For the broadcast he read thirty of them. They are all, in my opinion, choice.

Here is the link to hear and read Tarak's contribution to this excellent radio series. Tarak McLain's This I Believe.

For myself I have been inspired to try to put into words something that defines my own beliefs. Here is what I have come up with so far. It may change with time or additional reflection, but with something of this nature I do believe (there's one!) that what comes to mind first is often as not the closest to the truth.

I believe we are all God's children.

I believe some of God's children are foolish, selfish, mean and just plain old nasty and should be sent to time-out.

I believe there are always going to be circumstances over which we have no control.

I believe we have control over how we respond to our circumstances.

I believe love is difficult.

I believe it's the difficult stuff that matters.

I believe the best way to relax is to do something.

I believe that having friends is about as good as it gets.

I believe that listening to music can be one of life's great joys, consolations and all around human experiences.

I believe making music is even better.

I believe that words have power.

I believe those who recognize and try to use this power intelligently, generously and most of all truthfully are valuable beyond words.

I believe Italian food is the best cuisine in the world, with a whole bunch of very close runners-up.

I believe everyone should have good food to eat and clean water to drink. Wine would be good too.

I believe that when everyone has food and water the prospects for peace will skyrocket. The wine should be rationed for maximum effectiveness.

I belief that avarice is deadly and very attractive.

I belief there are heroes everywhere, the journalists are just too busy reporting on the villians.

I believe willful ignorance is dumb beyond belief.

I believe too many people choose to stop learning.

I believe more people than one would think are trying and trying hard to grow and learn.

I believe it is possible to learn about something without allowing it to shape me.

I believe dogs are essential to my happiness.

I believe dogs can be a royal pain in the ass sometimes.

I believe the previous two beliefs can be applied to just about everything worthwhile.

I believe every person can talk to God.

I believe we can also listen to God and maybe that would be a better use of our time.

I believe it can be done.

I believe it will be a damned bother to do it.

I believe that shouldn't stop us.

Go Ye Forth and Do Likewise

Friday, January 9, 2009

And LPs are making a comeback too.....

There is an article in the Mesa section of the Arizona Republic by reporter Art Thomason about a small shop in downtown Mesa called Mesa Typewriter Exchange where one can still purchase ribbon spools and even vintage typewriters. A big part of the business is typewriter repair. The third generation proprietor, Mr. Ray Wahl, allows that business is slower than it was twenty years ago, but he is quoted as saying "The last two years have seemed to maintain a steady course as other shops close." and "The young people that come in say they would rather type. I sold a half a dozen machines before Christmas to people who said they would give them to writers as gifts. And I'm talking about customers who were all in their 20s."

Several months ago, when it was becoming apparent to me that I was having a real problem just sitting down and writing, I took down the Royal typewriter that for the past couple of decades has served solely as a decoration but which in high school and even into college saw a lot of use, both for school work and my own writing, and thought perhaps I would try to put it back in the harness. Two problems came up right away. I had no fresh ribbons and the times when I was able to write were most often when others in the house were trying to sleep. The place isn't big enough to shut out the clattering and impact of the keys as they swing up and stamp their assigned letters on the paper. Lately my writing opportunities have come at more reasonable hours, but I had already put the Royal back on the bookcase next to the Brownie camera (620 film anyone?) and I just didn't think about it.

It is likely just a case of nostalgia, but there is something quite attractive to me about any tool that is decidedly not multifunctional. I do like my Compaq laptop and marvel at what I can accomplish with it. Without it there is so much I wouldn't know and so many people I would never have met. But sometimes it just seems like having that many options at ones fingertips is just too damned distracting.

So will I convert back to the clack, clack of the Royal? Probably not. It will be more satisfying to conquer my self-induced attention deficit disorder and retain the splendid conveniences of spellcheck and cut and paste. But I do think that next time I am in downtown Mesa I will stop by Mesa Typewriter Exchange and purchase a ribbon for the old Royal. I think the fingers would like the exercise and I know the ears would like the music.

Go Ye Forth and Do Likewise.

A Bit About Me

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I am a writer with a longtime interest in photography. I'm a dad, husband, photographer, and not very good guitarist. My first novel, Boomerang, is available in both paperback and ebook form at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and As a matter of fact, my second novel, The Baer Boys, can be found at exactly the same places.