Omphaloskepsis of the day: what have I been listening to?

There’s no surer way of driving away visitors than to spend too much time contemplating one’s navel. And yet, here I go…

I realized a few minutes ago that I had left iTunes turned on most of the day, even though I wasn’t around, playing through four “Rhino Hi-Five” greatest hits EPs, including three I had just purchased today: Gordon Lightfoot, Christopher Cross, Seals and Crofts, and the one I already owned, The Cars. (One of these things is not like the others.) Yes, that’s a triple dose of yacht rock. And I missed it.

Anyway, that realization led to another: that all of these excess plays that I hadn’t actually been listening to have ticked up both the songs’ play count in iTunes and their “scrobbled” totals on my profile. Oops. But contemplating that, I became interested in checking out a little bit more of the data has been compiling about my listening habits. In the beginning I only signed up with to handle automatic scrobbling, so my playlist could show up in real-time on this site. Cool, but the details you can dig up on the site itself go way beyond that.

The statistic I found the most interesting was the total number of plays of a given artist over various periods of time. And so, with that thrilling introduction, here are screenshots of my personal listening charts for the past 12 months, the past 3 months, and the past week.

Last 12 Months

Scrobbles - 12 months
What did I say about navel gazing? I’ve listened to my own music more than I’ve listened to artists #2 through #8 put together. Granted, that’s in large part because when I’m working on new music I tend to listen to the rough mixes over and over and over again, making adjustments, making new mixdowns, lather, rinse, repeat. But still… I listen to myself a lot. The rest of the list… yeah… those are the bands I thought I’d listened to the most, although I’m a bit surprised Genesis is so high up there.

Last 3 Months

Scrobbles - 3 months

And The Beatles take the lead! Not entirely surprising, given the intense interest generated by the new boxed set. I’ve listened to Beatles tracks 757 times in the past 3 months, but had only listened to them 17 times in the 9 months prior. The boxed set came out two months ago.

Then, of course, there’s good ol’ #14: Bobby (Boris) Pickett. The one-hit wonder who produced “Monster Mash” and an album full of other songs that all sound exactly like “Monster Mash.” I picked up that album for Halloween. I’m pretty sure all 48 of those scrobbles are from a 48-hour time period. No, I didn’t listen to a song an hour.

Also surprising on this list is #17: The Most Serene Republic. Surprising mainly because I had forgotten I even owned anything by them. This is one of the biggest downsides for me about digitally distributed music: it’s incredibly easy to acquire, and even easier to forget. I’m just lucky I haven’t accidentally double-purchased music this way. (That is, I assume I haven’t.)

And the last one worth noting: #20: Vince Guaraldi. The only album I have by him is A Charlie Brown Christmas. Is it too early?

Last 7 Days

Scrobbles - 7 days

It’s a shorter list, because apparently I’ve only listened to 17 different artists in the past week. And now, a realization, or more accurately, a recollection: scrobbles TV shows watched in iTunes or on the iPod/iPhone just like it scrobbles music. Hence The Venture Bros. tied for 15th place.

I’ve been on a Yes kick this week. I have not, however, been on a The Cars, Gordon Lightfoot, Seals & Crofts, or Christopher Cross kick. I did purchase those EPs today, but I haven’t even listened to each of them once. The scrobbles lie! iTunes was running all afternoon and early evening, but my speakers were turned off, and for much of that time I wasn’t even in the house.


Yes, there is a point! Internet log data does not equal the truth. Just because says I listened to this music, that doesn’t mean I listened to this music. What it really says is that my computer was turned on, iTunes was running, and it was processing these MP3s. Sending the music to speakers that weren’t turned on, for the benefit of ears that weren’t even in the room.

And if logs can be wrong about this, what else might they be wrong about?

A Room 34 Christmas

No, I will not be donning my Santa hat whilst crooning over a cup of eggnog by the hearthside. For one thing, I hate eggnog. For another, anyone within earshot would hate my crooning even more than I hate eggnog.

That said, when Jw threw down the gauntlet for an RPM Holiday Challenge, I knew I was on board, and I knew almost as quickly which song I would butcher lovingly render in my own inimitable style. “Greensleeves” has been a standard of jazz musicians for decades (my favorite renditions being John Coltrane’s classic take along with Vince Guaraldi’s treatment for A Charlie Brown Christmas), and perfectly bridges the gap between a straight-ahead jazz treatment and holiday schmaltz. Since my solo music has been drifting in a jazz-ward direction lately anyway, it seemed a perfect fit.

It’s still in an extremely embryonic stage right now, but since I’ve made some progress despite the overwhelming odds of my “lifeload” (“workload” doesn’t cut it) in November in general and this November in particular, I just wanted there to be publicly documented evidence that I’ve made it this far, just in case I fail to stagger across the finish line.

So, here you go…


Speaking of hell freezing over…

Yes, for the record, I was speaking of hell freezing over.

I’ve never really been a big Guns N’ Roses fan. I didn’t care for them at all, frankly, when they were around, although I’ve come to appreciate some of their earlier (less self-important) work as the years have gone on. “Sweet Child of Mine” is a superbly crafted pop hit, not to mention a real rocker. “Welcome to the Jungle” is legendary. I can take or leave the rest of their oeuvre, especially the overblown covers of “Live and Let Die” and “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door,” and I really can’t stand “November Rain.”

But I digress (as is my wont, a phrase that encourages further digression, but I will refrain, for once). Chinese Democracy is now second only in the annals of legendary, doomed, never-to-be-released rock albums to the Beach Boys’ Smile. (Personally I’d put Captain Beefheart’s Bat Chain Puller in there too, but well, that’s me.) But, hey… Brian Wilson finally finished the damn thing and released it four decades later. Axl couldn’t wait quite that long, but apparently now this new GNR album has been 17 years in the making. Not bad. It’s more of a joke, now, than anything else, but there has been growing buzz lately that the album does exist and is actually coming out this month.

I didn’t believe it at first, but then I opened up the iTunes Store and found they’re selling the title track as a single now, and accepting album pre-orders. It really is real, really! Of course, the page says “Expected Release Date,” not just “Release Date,” so retailers still appear to be hedging their bets.

And, there’s also the matter that Axl is the only “classic” GNR member on the album. So is it really Guns N’ Roses at all? And has Axl gotten himself in better shape than he was in for his appallingly breathless performance on that MTV awards show a few years back? Here’s hoping, and I’m not even someone who cares.

Caribou vs. Starbucks: The Gingerbread Latte Smackdown

OK, there wasn’t really a smackdown. But if you are an aficionado of the overpriced chain coffeehouses, you probably know that each year between Halloween and New Year’s Day they both offer a trio of “holiday” beverages. The names may vary, but for the last few years I believe they’ve both offered the same three options: an eggnog-flavored latte, a peppermint mocha, and a gingerbread-flavored latte.

Last year they actually both called their gingerbread latte the “Gingerbread Latte.” As I said to SLP (and I think she was somewhat surprised that I chose the analogy, though I think it is apt), it’s like they both wore the same dress to the party. This year they seem determined not to repeat the same mistake: Starbucks has renamed theirs the “Gingersnap Latte” and Caribou has dropped it altogether!

Well, I’m not happy about it! I generally prefer Caribou over Starbucks for three reasons: 1) they’re based in the Twin Cities, 2) I (somewhat pathetically, I suppose) enjoy the ego boost from correctly answering their daily trivia question, and most importantly 3) they have free wifi. I can’t believe Starbucks still charges for wifi, but I suppose ultimately it comes down to the simple fact that they can.

The only thing Starbucks had going for itself with me was that its coffee is marginally better (especially the Pike Place Roast), but all things considered it wasn’t enough to make a difference for me, especially since there are two Caribous closer to me than the nearest Starbucks, and one of them is a drive-thru.

But now in order to get my gingerbread latte fix I’ll have to head to Starbucks… and call it a “Gingersnap Latte,” no less. Drat!

What’s worse, I’ve had two “Gingersnap Lattes” so far this year. The first one had some chunks of… something… in the bottom. They looked almost like pieces of real ginger, but I find that hard to believe, and didn’t bother to investigate them too closely. And the second one tasted more to me like red Plax than gingerbread. Yum!