Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Funny How Things Work...

A few years back I wrote a blog post that was ostensibly about Dr. Demento, but wherein I used the demise of the good Dr.'s program as a vehicle to opine, crankily and with more than a whiff of the geezer about me, that "today's kids" with all the world's knowledge (or at least that knowledge which can be digitized) at their fingertips, are, in some ways, being ill-served by that unbelievable convenience.

...It's always hard when the magic dust of cherished childhood icons finally bite the cold, hard dust of reality, even when you haven't thought about them in years. So when I saw this story (about the end, after 40 years on-air, of the Dr. Demento radio program...) on Salon yesterday, I mourned even as I realized that I hadn't heard nor even really thought of that distinctive voice in a long time. This despite the fact that from about 1988 when I was a junior in high school until well into my college years, many of my Sunday evenings involved sitting around a radio tuned to KRXO in Oklahoma City, drinking beer, shooting the shit and listening to Dr. Demento with friends.

Yes, I really was that much of a raging geek...  

Count me among those who were surprised to learn Dr. Demento was even still around. His show went off the air in the OKC market sometime around the mid-90s, and by that time I had pretty much stopped listening on a regular basis anyway. But even though my musical tastes (always weird and eclectic in the extreme) gradually changed, I credit that adolescent exposure to things like Dr. Demento for shaping my skewed sense of humor and my uhhh...unique worldview.

Where else - in that innocent time before the Internet and satellite radio and iPods and the perpetually plugged-in culture we now take for granted - could a kid from Oklahoma be exposed to the work of guys like Spike Jones, Frank Zappa and Tom Lehrer?

Much like print, Demento's influence waned with the rise of the Internet, and even though there's still a vibrant comedy song culture out there (Flight of the Conchords are particularly hilarious) I can't help but feel as if today's kids are somehow being cheated a bit by so much choice and so much convenience.

For better and worse, tasting the different in life is an important part of growing up, and having to work for and seek out subversiveness (even mild subversiveness like Demento) I believe fosters a sense of shared identity that kids who literally have the world at their keyboards, kids who are used to and indeed demand instant gratification, can't begin to understand, much less appreciate.

Of course, (to twist and butcher a little of the Bard) I come to mourn Dr. Demento, not bury him. The irony is Demento won't be going away. Indeed, he'll be producing a show for the very medium that killed his radio show. Not to mention the fact that there are legion websites and Youtube videos dedicated to the show.

And that's all well and good, of course, but I maintain the notion that there should be a magic to the process of seeking out and discovering something new and exciting that - in the end - is just as important as the information itself.

Or maybe I'm just showing my quaintness. Whatever the case, rock on Dr. Demento. I for one will keep on Star Trekkin' and looking out for those Klingons on the starboard bow... 

So I wrote that way back in 2010, and damn it, I do still feel that today's kids have it just a little too easy when it comes to discovery (Just call me Gramps. I will now go swill a glass of Metamucil, pull on a fresh pair of Depends and check out the new issue of Reader's Digest that just came in the mail).

However... last night I noticed a comment on the blog from a reader (I have readers?) named Paul, who wrote...

Chad, I love the blog, particularly the writing. I wish it was updated more often though. You should check out the song "At the Hundredth Meridian" by the Tragically Hip (Canadian band). Good song. A lot of road trip music by the Hip.

So what the hell does this have to do with today's spoiled kids, Dr. Demento or the joys of discovery? OK, here goes...when Paul mentioned the Tragically Hip, that band's name kept ringing a bell in my head. Rusty gears were turning. I knew I had heard them, or heard of them, but kept coming up a complete blank. So of course I Googled them, and within - literally - sixty seconds, had it all figured out.

Back in the 1989-1990 timeframe the Tragically Hip, which are apparently still a big thing in the frozen northlands, had a minor hit on American college radio (no "alternative" back then) with a song called "New Orleans is Sinking." It was a cool song, I liked it, and remember telling myself I needed to check out the local record store, because back in 1989, it goes without saying, researching and buying music involved a bit more than it does now. But for whatever reason, I never did go see if I could find the Tragically Hip at our local record shop, or perhaps I did try and they didn't have it, who knows? At any rate, the Tragically Hip faded into distant, one-hit wonder memory, and I literally hadn't thought of them in, hell, 24 years, until Paul's comment popped up on the blog last night (and Paul, I've been listening to them on Youtube all night. You're right, they're a damn good band. Don't know how I managed to go so long without hearing of them again)

But thanks to the evil, seductive convenience and all-knowing arc of the Internet, it took me less than a minute to find the band, find the song, and connect them to my memory, a task that, had I not had the horrible, soul-deadening Internet to help me, would have been impossible.

So I guess the point is, maybe I should just shut the hell up and stop whining about how great things used to be and how bad we have it nowadays, eh? I won't, of course, because I like to bitch and I'm a hypocrite. But I'm an honest hypocrite.


  1. Honest hypocrisy is better than no hypocrisy.

    Or something.

    As to the "ease" with which the Interwebz allow the gratification of the experience-hungry spirit, all I can say is that it allowed me to find and explore music well beyond anything my North Carolina record stores could provide. There is good with that great evil.

    Or something like that.

  2. Yep, Phillip. There's no doubt the Internet has been good (or bad, i suppose, depending on perspective) for my creative growth, especially as I've gotten older. It helps keep me young(ish).