The venerable LP just keeps on playing

I posted this photo on Facebook showing my copy of the new Rolling Stones album, Hackney Diamonds, and with the caption, “Oh yes, music reproduced the way it is supposed to be.”

A friend challenged that statement, saying she’s never been able tell any difference in audio quality between vinyl long-playing records and CDs, for example. That made me realize that my love for the LP is not necessarily just its ability to preserve good music, at which it of course excels.

I began my response, “I hear you, but somehow the vinyl album I bought in 1968 has survived and plays just fine 55 years later.” 

The music industry has tried to replace the LP with cassette tapes, which can be accidentally erased or get tangled or just wear out, and more quickly than LPs, especially if you take good care of them. Then came CDs, which can malfunction out of the blue, and iPods, which aren’t supported anymore, and now streaming services — but we’ve seen that a streaming service can decide not to carry what we want anymore.

I thought about one of my favorite rock and roll songs, “Devil With a Blue Dress/Good Golly Miss Molly” by Mitch Ryder, which has an awkward edit toward the end of its stereo version that eliminates the first half of the last verse. I hate it! The only way I can listen to the original song as I heard it on the radio is to put the old 45 rpm disc on my turntable.

One of the albums that frequently occupies that turntable is Portfolio of Ahmad Jamal, a 1959 two-record set featuring the jazz pianist’s trio in performance. I have played the album so many times that the gatefold cover recently disintegrated, but treated properly, the records reproduce those performances almost flawlessly after 64 years.

In recent days I’ve been playing new records by the Stones, Daisy Jones and the Six, Merry Clayton, and a very talented pair of sisters from Sweden who record as First Aid Kit. I’ve also listened to the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band that I got for Christmas in 1967 and the three-record set Will the Circle Be Unbroken that I bought in 1972. Except for the occasional, barely discernible ticks accumulated over a half-century of wear, you can’t really tell which recordings are brand new and which are decades old.

That’s why I concluded my defense of vinyl, “The quality of the audio is only part of it — as a music storage medium, it’s unparalleled.” The evidence of the last few decades can’t be disputed: As alternate formats have come and gone, the LP is still standing and, if anything, is seeing a renaissance.

The main disadvantage my beloved turntable has to the other formats is the inconvenience of getting up from my easy chair every 15 to 20 minutes — or 3 to 5 minutes if I’m listening to singles — to change records. But at 70 years and six months old, getting up from my chair on a fairly frequent basis is good for my health anyway.


Yesterday I wrote about my breakthrough Friday morning, when I skipped the part in the middle where I was stuck and wrote the ending to my novelette. (It’s a little more than 9,000 words, so it’s longer than a short story and shorter than a novella, so …)

I’m here to tell you that on Saturday morning, I sat down and wrote the part in the middle where I had been stuck. Except for the inevitable last-minute pre-publication tweaks, the story is finished.

It is the longest bit of fiction to cross my finish line since Talons of Justice, the last Myke Phoenix novelette, in 2014. Yes, I’ve written three times as many words for Jeep Thompson and the Lost Prince of Venus, but my long-suffering novel is not finished yet.

 Saturday was actually a very remarkable day. The mail brought my vinyl copy of Hackney Diamonds, the new Rolling Stones album, which taught me that 80-year-old men can rock and roll just fine. And in the evening I decided to watch Barbie and see what the fuss is all about, and I was blown away the same way I was blown away last year by Everything Everywhere All At Once. Until I can piece my exploded brain back together and process my thoughts, all I can offer there is OMFG.

How I feel about finishing the story is hard to explain. You’d think after a nine-year drought there would be some exhilaration, but it’s more like an exhausted relief. Maybe this is what a runner feels like at the end of their first 5k — I was going to say “marathon,” and then I was going to say “half marathon,” but face it, I just finished a 9,300-word novelette so it’s not like running 13 miles. On the other hand, maybe it’s how a runner feels after coming back from a long hiatus.

I’m dying to tell you more about the story, and no doubt I will in a few days. First I want to make sure this little Christmas present is wrapped up properly in an appropriate package. As Margaret Hamilton memorably said in a different context, these things must be done delicately.

But I’m pleased to report I behaved the way an author is supposed to behave when a project is completed. Young Jeep, who has been rattling around in my brain for several years now, walked up to me after I finished the story and said, “Congratulations, Warren, nicely done. Now me. Right? Now me.”


I knew it: I just had to execute. 

One of my ongoing projects is a long short story, or a novella, or maybe a novelette. In any case, it has five chapters. Last winter I made it almost exactly halfway through — finished the first two chapters in no time flat — and stalled midway through the third chapter.

About a month ago it occurred to me that I know how the thing ends, so maybe if I skipped over the third chapter for now, I could break the logjam.

A week went by, and two weeks, and then three, and I kept thinking if I would just jump to the fourth chapter … but you know me by now. It wasn’t happening.

Thursday night, I made a pledge: I would sit down Friday morning and plunge into the fourth chapter, and I wouldn’t get up against until I finished — the chapters are about 2,000 words each.

For once, I did what I said I was going to do. I started the fourth chapter and breezed right through it in a couple of hours.

I was having so much fun, I went ahead and wrote the fifth chapter, too.

Yes, you heard right. After writing almost nothing for months, I banged out nearly 4,000 words in one day.

So all of a sudden, I’ve completed the first two chapters, the last two chapters, and half of the middle chapter.

And all I had to do was sit down and commit myself to doing it. How hard was that?

Now, let’s set my sights on getting the rest of Chapter 3 done, and I will have completed my first longer-form fiction project in nine years. It’s barely a novella, not a novel at all, but baby steps, right?

What’s it about? Watch this space for some shameless self-promotion. I have to finish that middle chapter first.

The bartender and the talking dog: A dad joke

It’s a tale as old as time, but I still love it.

“Hey buddy, you can’t bring that dog in here, this is a tavern, not a kennel,” the bartender cries.

“Come on, Moe, I gotta show you this,” the guy says, turning to his golden retriever. “This dog talks.”

“I don’t care if he sings the national anthem. He can’t come in here.”

“Just gimme a minute and see if it ain’t the greatest thing you ever saw,” the guy says.

“One minute,” says the bartender at last.

“OK, OK,” says the guy. “OK, Oscar, what do you call the outside of a tree?”

“Bark,” says the dog.

“Good boy, good boy,” the guy says. “Now, what’s on top of a house?”

“Roof,” says the dog.

“All right, get outta here,” the bartender says.

“Wait, wait, wait, give him one more chance,” the guy says, lifting himself up triumphantly. “Oscar, who’s the greatest Yankee of all time?”

The dog thinks for a moment and says, “Ruth.”

The bartender physically ejects the man and his dog from the bar.

As the forlorn pair walks along the sidewalk, the guy says to the dog, “What the heck were you thinking?”

“Come on, man, no matter how much you want me to, I’m not going to say DiMaggio,” the dog replies.


If I added up all the words I have spent through the years bemoaning my seeming pathological inability to finish fiction projects, I would probably have enough words for several novels.

Shall I pledge to never voice this frustration again? I’m sure that would be a relief to my friends and my handful of followers.

Better: I pledge that, whenever I am tempted to write about how frustrated I am with myself, I will instead open an unfinished manuscript and write, and write, and keep writing until I am no longer frustrated.

I would continue, but I think instead I’ll open an unfinished manuscript.

when the day job calls

Product for the day job

I spend half an hour in the thrall of the Muse, but then promises made in exchange for a coin start to creep in on the edges of my consciousness — yes, I must write up the news and go through the photos and put in my time — “put in my time” like a felon paying for his crime, trying not to be surly because the real crime was wasting the time that could have lifted me from the prison long ago.

And is it really a punishment to spend a sunny autumn day seeking out beauty to share with the world? The “prison” was completely unlike the jailers’ gray locked room; I will be compensated for walking and driving through the forest in search of lovely images.

Yes, I will also be compensated for sitting in a room taking notes while long conversations take place that few will remember or value in years to come — but even that room was not a prison — in fact, what is a prison but a figment of imagination?

No prison can hold a free human. Though the body may be confined, the mind is still free, confounding the jailers.

when the poetry bursts

Photo by Carol Jean Townsend

When the poetry bursts, 

why then the poetry bursts 

and the rhythm takes over and the words start to flow 

and the words have no commas or pauses at all 

they just come they just come like inevitable fall 

and never mind winter and never mind spring 

just mind the words’ rhythm and start you to sing