Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Would the Beatles have stayed together in today's music biz?

That's a broad question, but here's the part I've been thinking about. Even when their recording pace slowed in the late 1960s*, the Beatles spent an awful lot of time together in the studio. They'd spend 2-3 months making an album, and they'd be back in the studio again a few months later. These days, most popular bands only put out an album every two or three years. Of course, the Beatles fell apart for myriad reasons (management issues, Apple problems, Yoko, etc.), but spending so much time together in the studio couldn't have helped their situation.

A related question: would modern long-lived bands like U2 and REM still be together if their record companies required them to make records as frequently as the Beatles did?


* How prolific were the Beatles? They released over 200 of their own songs (plus some cover versions in the early days), and yet their recording career lasted only about seven years (1963-1969).

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Life I Could Have Had

Strange coincidence today: First I read an article about Ron Wayne, the third partner in Apple Computer who sold his 10% share for $800; today it would be worth billions. Then I got an e-mail from an old friend/business associate asking whether I had contact info for another old friend/business associate. I did not, but I love hunting that sort of thing down on the Internet. In the process, I found out that five years ago our old friend, described in the press as a "serial entrepreneur," sold one of his companies for over$2 million.

The connection? Way back when I was a neophyte computer consultant, I was paired with a seasoned veteran (he often joked that he had "25 years of information technology experience" although he had just turned 30 -- in truth, he had started teaching computer classes at age 18 and had founded three computer businesses by the time we met). Peter was a Chicago native who had moved to Hawaii. He returned here for a short time with his Hawaiian wife to show her his roots and took this consulting gig to keep himself busy (unsurprisingly, once the novelty of snow had worn off, his wife was not fond of Chicago winters and flew back to Honolulu ahead of schedule).

Although we only worked together for about six months, we developed a close relationship. In some ways, Peter was the big brother I never had. When he was leaving, Peter told me I should come out to Hawaii, and he offered me an unspecified job in his next start-up venture. Obviously, I didn't do it. I could give all sorts of reasons, but the bottom line is that I didn't have the guts to make such a move. After what I read today, I can't help wondering how different my life could be.

To be fair, things haven't turned out so badly here in Chicago. Careerwise, I hitched my wagon to a different rising star and fared pretty well in the late 1990s. I met my wife, bought a house, acquired (too) many pets, rode my bike across the country, wrote a book, and so forth.

But what if I had moved to Hawaii? Would I still be working in the computer field? I probably wouldn't have met my wife, but would I have met someone else? (I don't believe that bullshit about there being only one person for each of us, especially when people use that nauseating term soul mate.) I probably wouldn't have as close of a relationship with my family, but maybe after being separated I would appreciate them more. Of course, I wouldn't have written a book about bicycling in Illinois, although I cannot imagine taking up surfing instead. Or maybe Peter would have talked me into it (he's a great talker), and I would have drowned in the Pacific ten years ago.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Near-Death Experience

Certain stories are extremely amusing as long as nobody dies:
A 22-year-old man was injured when he fell 60 feet from a cliff after wandering off the trail at Starved Rock State Park to urinate, officials said today.
Naturally, alcohol was involved. Did you really need to ask?

Monday, June 07, 2010

Cheese

Today at Ruby Tuesday's I ordered fried mozzarella cheese sticks. It tasted like grease-laden breading -- no cheese flavor whatsoever. I remember a time when that was a tasty appetizer, but lately everywhere I go it sucks. What happened? Is everyone using some lame cheese, like maybe fat-free mozzarella? That would be pretty silly considering that the cheese is the least of one's dietetic concerns in fried mozzarella sticks!

Actually, many of the cheese sticks I've sampled over the past year have suffered from a dearth of cheese. It's as if the goal is to include just enough to hold the breading together. No wonder I can't taste the cheese anymore.

And yet today's cheese sticks are nowhere near the worst I've ever had. That prize goes to the sticks I ordered one Friday night at the same time my friend ordered fried calamari. I think you can guess where this is leading. Even if you like fried calamari -- and I have to be pretty smashed to eat that stuff -- I think you would agree that frying the cheese and the calamari in the same oil is not a good plan. Fishy cheese. Yum. We sent that back to the kitchen.

Speaking of cheese, last night we went to Jury's, a Lincoln Square bar & grill, for burgers, and I got the most pathetic slice of cheddar. I got a slice so thin that I could see the burger through it. It would have to be mighty sharp for so little to have any flavor, and it was not. Worst of all, the bastards charged me an extra 75 cents for it. I have so much good cheddar cheese at home, I told my wife that next time I'm going to sneak a thick slice into Jury's in my pocket! They make great burgers, but the cheese isn't worth it.

Well, I guess turning 40 didn't inspire any positive changes in my diet.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Music, Books, and Waffles

I'm back from a spontaneous 3-day road trip to mark the beginning of my fifth decade on the planet. I kept a journal of sorts, which I will probably post to DavidJohnsen.com to learn how to use KompoZer. Here's the executive summary:

On Tuesday, I drove down to Indianapolis to eat at the nearest Waffle House. I listened to CDs along the way and shopped for books while I was down there. Since I didn't want to come straight home the next day (my birthday), I went to Champaign instead. While searching the phone book for a restaurant, I noticed Papa Del's Pizza "since 1970." So on my birthday I had dinner at a restaurant as old as I am that was about 1.5 miles from where I was born. Then I drove home today.

Note: I have decided to spare everyone most of the navel-gazing posts that I alluded to a few weeks ago. I wrote them longhand, but they aren't worth typing into the computer for the world to read. Some things are better left unshared.