Adventures in judging CDs by their covers

I went to Borders the other day, to replenish my stock of commute music. I get restless when I have to rotate the same few discs more than a few times when driving up and down the Peninsula, and NPR is currently so focused on election politics that I can’t listen. Oliver Sacks had a wonderful vignette in The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat about a roomful of aphasics laughing at what, to them, were the obvious lies in a Ronald Reagan speech (even though they couldn’t understand the words); I have a similar reaction to every word from Bush’s mouth, save that his words turn my stomach.

The South Bay (where I work) has exactly and precisely nothing to match San Francisco’s Aquarius or Amoeba record stores, and since perusing San Francisco record stores requires time that I don’t often have to spare, I make do with the occasional visit to the nearest Borders.

Said Borders, by the way, is in a mall named the “Cherry Orchard,” which used to contain actual cherry trees until not too long in the past. I find the American enthusiasm for razing, grading and paving an area, then renaming it to reflect what it used to be (or what they wish it was) disturbing, as it lacks any sense of deliberate irony.

So to Borders I went. Borders has a notionally nifty in-store preview system whereby one can scan a CD at a listening station, then listen to about 30 seconds off each track on the CD. This system is only notionally nifty, since my my estimation Borders has only ripped about 5% of their CD collection. Most CDs, when scanned, cause the station to chirp and say “Selection not in database.” Some team of people must have worked hard on this almost entirely useless feature. Builders of Borders’s useless CD preview service, I salute your heroic failure!

Hence the title of this post; I was reduced to looking at CD covers and trying to figure out which ones might appeal. I hate doing this, because Sturgeon’s law is overly cautious when it comes to music; way more than 90% of everything on the shelves of the music section at Borders is crap, even to the most eclectially-inclined generous soul.

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