Amazon Advent Calendar 2012: The Preamble

This can’t possibly be the first day of my annual Musical Advent Calendar, can it?

First objection: “The Advent season doesn’t begin until Sunday, December 2.” I’m not sure why this is your first objection.

If you’ve been sent here expecting additional guidance and insight about how to prepare yourself and your family for Celebration of the Nativity…wow, you have a terrible, terrible pastor. Does he drink? Or did you happen to hit him up for a recommendation just as he was about to hit up a recently widowed and always turbo-hot Zumba instructor?

Second objection: “You normally don’t start this until a few days before or after Thanksgiving.”

I suppose that’s true enough. I try very hard to maintain the illusion that this is all about offering you, the reader, a daily piece of music that’s eminently worth your attention, a glimmer of unexpected tonal beauty in what might otherwise be a dreary winter day. I’m so very eager to distract you from the realization that this is all about tricking you into clicking one of my Amazon affiliate links just before you were about to do some high-ticket holiday shopping. So eager, in fact, that some years I’m even willing to start the Advent Calendar several days after the highest-volume shopping period is long-gone.

And with that previous explanation, I’m trying to distract you from the realization that I often start the Advent Calendar late because other work gets in the way, and/or I skip a few days because I’m distracted by bright, shiny objects.

So this year, I’m trying something new: instead of tackling the Advent Calendar as a daily diary, I’ve started writing these entries months in advance. It’s August and I’m sitting in a Dunkin Donuts. As I write this, I can look across the store towards the racks of baked goods and I don’t see any novelty donuts frosted in autumn oranges or yellows, let alone holiday tones of bright red and green. All I can see are a lone rack that’s been topped with crumbled Oreo cookies. Does that ring a bell with any of you?

Yes, instead of tackling the Advent Calendar as a daily diary, I’ve decided to tackle it as…a daily diary.

I’m using Bloom Built’s rather awesome calendar-based journaling app “Day One” as my writing tool. It’s brilliant for this kind of thing. I pull up the calendar (which at the moment is a canvas of blank tiles), then I click on a date on the calendar, and then I start typing. When I go back to the calendar, that date has been colored in. Which means that I’ve completed my duty to God, country, and readership for that day.

(Excuse me, please. I’ve been thinking about those Oreo donuts nonstop for the past five sentences.)

(YUM. I very much recommend talking Superman into spinning the Earth backwards a couple of months and picking up a half dozen of these for you.)

(Licking fingers.)

(Continuing.)

This might be your first exposure to my annual Musical Advent Calendar, so I’ll kick things off with some background. Every day until Christmas, I select a different track and write about it. Most of these will be songs available from the Amazon MP3 Store, but I’ll also salt and pepper the list with some choice freebies. There isn’t much of a rhyme or reason to these picks. Each one is just something I really like, or at least something that can inspire a few hundred words of typing.

The Advent Calendar is my annual audit of the music I’d discovered during the previous year. It’s a form of archaeology and personal anthropology. I start by examining the three or four manually-assembled playlists that feed most of my casual listening. A couple of clicks quickly narrows it down to the songs that I added in 2012. Another sort of the list, based on number of plays and the number of times I skipped past the track during playback, identifies the true stars among this list of favorites.

It’s also the time when I try to spot obvious trends in my buying, and the obvious gaps in my musical tastes. I sure bought a lot of Old Country this year. Why did I only bought two or three tracks that anybody would broadly call “current”? I make a note to try to be a little more adventuresome, and try to buy some music that was released this decade.

(Let’s not go crazy. Let’s start with “this millennium” and see how that goes.)

Part of this archaeology project is the challenge of explaining and defending my choices. I don’t actually need to do either, of course. All one ever needs to do is love something sincerely.

But…well, take this track from the “Saturday Night Fever” soundtrack. Why am I slightly ashamed to have it in my library? Hmm. This hesitance points out a disconnect between the person I am and the person I want everyone to perceive me to be. An Elevated individual tries to keep those two things closely synced. When the second gets irresponsibly ahead of the first, it only leads to stress, lies, bad decisions, and overall unhappiness.

Here we are at the end of Day One and Musical Advent Calendar 2012 is already a roaring success. In the sense that I’ve had a Diet Pepsi, a donut that was thoroughly shrapneled with jagged Oreo bits, and now I have a blue box over the first day in the calendar. Excellent, excellent.

The only thing missing today is an actual song recommendation. This would usually be the spot in the proceedings where I’d paste in a link to the track on the Amazon MP3 Store. These links (including that one) are embedded with my affiliate code and any purchases of any kind that you make after you click it will result in my receiving a small kickback in the form of Amazon store credits.

I often spend these credits on things that help me with a column. When I reviewed the Google Nexus 7 tablet over the summer, for example, I bought nearly a hundred bucks’ worth of different USB accessories, trying to see exactly how far I could go in treating this little pocket-sized tablet like a full PC. The answer: very far! Keyboards, mouses, Ethernet adapters, USB adapters, everything. Cool. It’s always nice when I can do that without going deeply out-of-pocket.

I also use those credits to buy silly things that please me. The other day I wondered what I’d look like in a bowler hat. I checked Amazon. They sell bowler hats and they aren’t even all that expensive.

No, I didn’t buy myself a bowler hat. But I could have. And if I had, I would have had you people to thank for it.

(Now I’m thinking about that hat again.)

(Would it make me look interesting and dashing? You know, if I had a bowler hat, I could answer the door as the Mad Painter from “Sesame Street” this Halloween.)

I should probably end this and distract myself with a different project before I do something impulsive. See you tomorrow. In the meantime, check out previous years’ Advent Calendars:

2011

2010

2009

2008

And hey…Happy Labor Day!

7 replies
  1. Dave McGuire
    Dave McGuire says:

    I’d like to state that you are merely warming us up for the Holidays… but you are either yanking our collective chains or have succumbed to MTEHR syndrome. (MTEHR is Much Too Early Holiday Retail)

    Please return to your last minute methods for columns ESPECIALLY for Holidays inspired ones. Starting in August at a Dunkin Donuts is unfair (since I can’t purchase an Oreo donut now) and cruel. Your efforts against procrastination are admirable but misguided. This is how we end up with Winter Wondeland playing immediately after The Monster Mash at 10PM on October 31st. Please think for the children who work Retail!

    Happy Labor Day to you too,

    Dave

  2. Guy McLimore
    Guy McLimore says:

    Considering you almost never recommend something actually recorded in the last year, I don’t see that it hurts anything to plan this well in advance. I loo forward to your Advent Calendar every year (though my wallet usually protests mightily when I buy a lot of the things you link to).
    I’ll try to remember to click on one of your links first when I’m doing my Amazon Christmas shopping this year. I’d just as soon you get the bucks, considering how much entertainment and information your columns, blog entries, tweets and podcasts give me all year ’round!
    But since you will have all this advent free time on your hands now how about comics and graphic novel recommendations as well as music?

  3. Timothy Rezendes
    Timothy Rezendes says:

    I would just like to say that I am very glad to see that an internationally beloved technology pundit like yourself also renders the plural form of [computer] mouse as “mouses” as I do.

  4. Tim L
    Tim L says:

    Oh, Andy. If you want a *real* bowler hat, and not, you know, an excuse to fritter away your Amazon credits, then the next time you’re in Seattle, I’ll take you to Byrnie Utz Hats. Which is where I got my bowler. And it does make me look interesting and dashing, so it will most certainly make you look mesmerizing and rakish.

  5. John Holderried
    John Holderried says:

    I hope you can save me a slot in your Advent Calendar. This year’s mix CD is in the works. A theme has been selected, and songs are undergoing review. I’m listening to the mix now to make sure the overall mix flows from track to track.

    I’m waiting for one final CD that fits the theme to arrive by mail, old-school style. Once I check that one I can sign off on the mix.

    I’m often surprised by WHICH of the tracks from my mix pleases and impresses you, and glad that it does.

    No spoilers – but the process is akin (I imagine) to creating a haiku. Right now there are 25 songs, which is often the goal (Dec. 25 and all that). Sometimes there are more, sometimes less. But the whole thing’s running about 90 seconds too long, so something’s either got to be cut or replaced with a shorter version.

    But figuring out which song to cut from a mix is a delicate proposition. Remove the wrong one, and the entire structure could fall apart.

    Hopefully dubbing and labelling can take place over the Thanksgiving weekend. Then it’s on to packaging and mailing. This is why MY blog is on hiatus…

  6. Drew
    Drew says:

    I’m confused. If you’re using Day One, shouldn’t you have set the launch date to, well, day one?

    Was this a scheduling mistake or a bug with Day One?

  7. Rich
    Rich says:

    In my household, we really, REALLY miss the crumbled Oreo cookie donut. However, we now have pumpkin muffins, so there are compensations, for the time being at least.

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