The Lost Art of the Mixtape


I never know why I mention this or what kind of importance it has but I’d like to say that I’m composing this post from my phone via the WordPress app. I think it’s because there are photos on my phone I want to use and reclining in the lounge chair is much more comfortable than sitting at the computer.

Anyway.

Now that I’m feeling better, I decided that I would be up at the crack of dawn to go for a nice run/walk. These days I’m not even concerned with my pace anymore; a reasonable distance makes me happy. (My goal was 9 miles but I ended up at 7.25 miles. Meh. Close enough.)

My usual route takes me down the block and around to the street that leads me to the park. Today was no exception. This route is my there’s-no-turning-back route; once I turn that corner I’ve committed to at least 6 miles.

But before I reached the Point of No Return, I came across a box of stuff that read “FREE” on the side. I gave it a quick gander and discovered it had some good stuff inside.

Hey, it’s not as bad as it sounds. We’ve scored some major goods that people were getting rid of: furniture, home decor, etc. And on the top of the box was a set of DaKine rack pads that are used for a car’s surfboard rack. A great find but I gave them to my neighbor down the street who is an avid surfer.

Once I saw there were more goodies inside, I sent a text to Ann to come pick it up. I had already started my run and was in the groove.

When I got home I had a chance to look in the box. There were some nice items but I, being the music lover, was more delighted by this:

  

A whole bunch of cassette tapes from a bygone era, some of them actually good. 

Come on. You know you love “Rush, Rush” by Paula Abdul. I didn’t care about her opinions regarding cold-hearted snakes or how opposites attracted but this song…this one I like. It took me back to the days when MTV still played music videos, and the one for this song featured a very young Keanu Reeves.

Funny thing about “My Heart Will Go On.” I told Ann yesterday that I wanted to take her to the local Titanic exhibit before it closes sometime next month. Talk about timing.

(The exhibit was really interesting but not as good as the one we saw at the Queen Mary years ago.)

Anyway, mixed in with those tapes was this one:

  
A TDK normal bias tape. Not even chrome. Oh man. If you grew up in the era of cassettes, you know your Case Logic cassette case was about 50% purchased music and 50% “Various” or mixtapes. Mine was more like 75% mixtape.

Being that I still often find myself stuck in the ’80s, I still have two functioning Sony Walkman players. Once I saw this tape I knew what I had to do: listen to it.

And while it wasn’t really much of a mix, I enjoyed just the same.

Most of the songs were Janet Jackson tracks like “Control,” “Nasty Boys,” “What Have You Done for Me Lately,” and “Let’s Wait Awhile.”

But interspersed with Ms. Jackson’s* songs were some by The Jets, everybody’s favorite pop band from Minnesota.

Boy, did those take me back. This song in particular which I listened to in its entirety and, yes, sang along with — loudly.

Ugh. My awkward teenage years. The outfits, the music, the prom, the fun we had without smartphones. You kids these days have absolutely no idea.

In listening to the tape I discovered a few things.

First, kids today will never know the joy of throwing together a mixtape. Making a playlist on your iPhone pales in comparison because there’s no work involved, just dragging and dropping. Plus your music is already on your device.

When we made tapes, we had to take into consideration the total time we had to work with. A 90-minute Maxell? That’s 45 minutes per side. Better make it good.  Then we had to collect which songs wanted on the tape, whether LP or CD (or in some cases, dubbed from the cassette single). Sure, we had that stupid three-digit counter on the cassette deck but it never gave us much help. We had to stare at the tape as it was recording the music and hope it didn’t run out.

Sometimes it did, and your tape was ruined. You had to go without that last song, the one that really tied the theme together. Madness, I tell you.

All of this, by the way, in real time. And if the song skipped? Gotta start it over again at the end of the previous song.

Also while listening to this stranger’s hard work, I heard hisses and pops. This mixtape was recorded from vinyl sources and I have to tell you that it sounded absolutely beautiful on a normal-bias cassette. 

Mixtapes were a lot of work. They were a test of patience but based on the sheer number of tapes we bought back then, it made no difference because they were more of a labor of love. I never found myself without blank tapes, usually 90-minute Maxell XL II, because I never knew when the urge to throw together a tape would hit me.

But when it did, it was pure magic.

*Does this mean I’m a nasty boy?

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Blogging 365, Day 31: Free Birthday Crap, Part I


With the Big 44 a mere two weeks away, my inbox is starting to get inundated with all kids of worthless free birthday offers that I may or may not use. As was the case last year, I will share them with you to see how cheap retailers and restaurateurs have gotten. I will post them as I get them so in today’s case, you get two.

First up is Best Buy with this offer:

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Not only is this a step down from their former offers of a $10 store certificate, it’s also a cheap step back from last year. You see, that’s when they offered 4x bonus points with no strings attached. This year I have to use the Reward Zone credit card – I don’t have a single credit card to my name, let alone theirs – to earn 4x the points. But as you can see by my point total at the top, I haven’t been using my rewards lately. Frankly, I don’t really care since I’m no longer shopping there anyway.

Now this one I may actually use:

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As overpriced as they may be, I do like perusing the used game selection at Gamestop because chances are if I don’t find anything, Anthony will. And it’s not like I’m looking to get something new like Halo Whatever or some other well-known franchise. I don’t do those games. I prefer mine with a gas pedal or a Mario character or a combination of both. And a 20% discount isn’t all that bad of a deal when the games I usually buy are less than $20.

So there we go. Another two weeks of inbox offers to go! What’ll I get next?

We Survived Coffeegeddon!


thumbnailThere have been a few scenarios in my life that couldn’t have been predicted by a psychic.

The first scenario involved me being in a white Ford Econoline van with two practically complete strangers, driving up Highway 71 from Arkansas into Missouri looking for alcoholic beverages and girly magazines.

Sound outlandish? Believe it or not, it happened in December 1993 when I was working for Wal-Mart and spent two lovely weeks in Bentonville – a dry county in the middle of the Bible Belt. I’ll tell you about it sometime.

The second scenario was when I found myself jogging up Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood in the morning with a used coffee maker in my hands.

But that’s exactly what I did today.

Today is National Coffee Day and to celebrate, The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf was offering consumers the opportunity to exchange their old coffee maker for one of their brand-new single-cup Kaldi machines (retail value of $179.95). The only stipulation was the your exchange had to have the cord still attached and there was a limit of one Kaldi per person.

When Ann saw this on Facebook she couldn’t decide if she wanted to go for a number of reasons. It wasn’t until late last night when she decided that it might be worth the risk of braving the heat and crowds to get close to $400 worth of coffee makers. And with a limit of 2,500 to give out between 11 am – 5 pm, we chose to leave the house about 8:45 this morning.

Driving through the Hollywood area is no big deal to me. I spent many days there as a teenager and know the place well enough to get anywhere. I knew exactly where the event was.

When we arrived in West Hollywood, we saw that the line was already curling about four blocks. To avoid the hassle of parking on the streets and putting money in a meter, we ended up paying $10 to park in the parking lot of The Viper Room. You know The Viper Room, right? Where River Phoenix OD’d? That’s the place.

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Once we parked, we had to lug both of Ann’s coffee makers up Sunset Boulevard and that’s when my surreal scenario took place. In order to get a new Kaldi, you had to get a wristband from one of the event organizers so Ann told me to go ahead of her and Anthony and reserve my place in line.

That’s when I left them behind and jogged up Sunset, fulfilling my surreal experience. I then crossed the street, got my wristband and held our place in line. This was the view looking west down Sunset Boulevard.

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There were still plenty of wristbands by the time I was in line so I called Ann and told her to take their time. They did. Ann got her wristband and we were both guaranteed a Kaldi machine.

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Then the wait began. And it was very hot with spots of shade but nothing we stayed in for an extended period of time. Also, for those who didn’t plan properly (like us), you had to stand or worse, sit on the sidewalks – not really recommended in Los Angeles. Fortunately, the woman in line behind us was nice enough to Ann borrow one of the two chairs she had packed. I stood the entire time. We chatted with her and her family the entire time in line and they were such great people.

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About the only things we brought with us were bottles of water and Gatorade and believe me, they came in handy in that heat. I later ran into a pizza place to grab a few slices to eat while we waited. It hit the spot but again, standing in the heat takes more out of you than what you can put into you. I kept the pizza box and used it to fan us down when we couldn’t find the shelter of shade. And when you can’t, you improvise.

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When the line finally started to move, we saw plenty of interesting things like Mel’s Drive-In

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…a heavily disguised Ford Escape test vehicle (the ovals gave it away)…

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…the KTLA news van since they were covering the event…

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…and then this, which happened right in front of us.

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A woman – sitting on the right in the light blue shirt – apparently had a case of heat exhaustion and needed the aid of Los Angeles’ finest. She was eventually taken away in an ambulance and the situation held up the line for about 15 minutes. The poor woman waited all that time and won’t have a thing to show for it. I hope the Coffee Bean folks can track her down and give her what she was waiting for.

After about three hours in line, we were inching closer to getting our Kaldi machines. Then we finally crossed the final street and saw the light at the end of the tunnel.

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We had finally made it. High-fives from the CBTL workers. Once we crossed the threshold we were directed to a table where we turned in our old coffee makers and were given a certificate for the new one.

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We then walked over to what looked like a wall of brand new Kaldi machines, gave our color preference (red, blue or silver), and turned in our certificate.

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And with that, we had our new machines and the wait was over. I tweeted when we got our machines and CBTL responded.

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Ann took the red one and we are saving the blue for a Christmas gift for some lucky person. Despite the heat, it was definitely worth the drive and wait to get something totally free – okay, in exchange for something old. The value of the machines also made it worth the trouble.

Whew, what a day! We’d like to thank The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf for offering such a fantastic deal. You put a smile on Ann’s face and no doubt will make another coffee lover’s face light up on Christmas morning. And in this tough economy where there’d be no other way we could even dream of buying, let alone giving, one of these machines, your generosity is greatly appreciated. You have definitely earned our loyalty!

More Major Awards!


Many posts ago, I mentioned how I had been rewarded for correcting a certain billboard flub.

Well, today the FedEx man showed up with another surprise for me. And being that I had no idea what it was, I decided to shoot a video of the unboxing for all the world to see. What could it be? A bowling alley, perhaps?

Wonder no more! Here’s the video:

Holy shit, he is a real, carbon-based life form and not just some key-clacking blogger! Who knew? But hey, how about that prize? Pretty nice, eh?

It turns out that this was a long-forgotten prize for winning a contest at a certain training Web site. Seriously, I had taken and passed those quizzes so long ago that I had completely forgotten about my reward. So yeah, cool stuff.

But in addition to this, last week I was also awarded the download code for an exclusive cool Xbox VIP hoodie for my Xbox LIVE avatar, seen here (along with Ann’s avatar):

Only 5,000 were awarded. Bow to its magnificence.

And if that’s not enough, the mailman showed up today with my fourth $25 GameStop gift card of the year! This would have came in handy yesterday when I bought Anthony his Christmas present…but now I can buy myself something.

Does the free shit end there? Hell no, I say! When I went to the Los Angeles Auto Show a few weeks back I signed up to test-drive a new Ford vehicle and get a $50 Visa gift card. So last week I went to my not-so-local Ford dealership where I have purchased 5 vehicles and spoke to the salesman that sold me all of them. He gladly signed the voucher and then I went home, registered online, printed out the receipt and now am just waiting for the gift card to arrive. (During my visit I also informed my favorite salesman of the vehicle I may be in the market for once my current lease is up in a year–either a used Explorer or an Escape Hybrid.)

But that wasn’t Ford’s only generous offering at the car show. If you went to all of their displays and had your booklet stamped, you got a $5 Best Buy gift card! No, it’s not much but it’s definitely better than that Mazda2 Energy Drink–which I also took home from the show but have yet to try. Because, as you know, I don’t drink that shit.

Oh, and I also got a $10 certificate from Sport Chalet as their way of telling me “thank you” for being a loyal customer throughout 2009.

So the free stuff keeps on coming. Bring it on!