Thursday, January 05, 2006



Last September, the hard drive on our year-old computer got erased. Actually, that's the wrong way to put it; we erased the hard drive ourselves by reinstalling Windows upon the recommendation of a Dell customer service rep. This turned out to be a really boneheaded move. There wasn't anything wrong with the drive --our video card had been corrupted, probably from me watching so many rap videos on Launch.

I didn't lose anything from the Tris McCall Report, since I've got the website backed up from here to Indiana. My bright-eyed optimism about the historic preservation ordinance of '04 is still preserved for eternity, or at least until the next big computer virus knocks out the entire grid. But foolishly, I'd never bothered to save a copy of my e-mail list. So in one moment, my preferred means of contact with the outside world evaporated.

I hate phones, see. I hardly ever use my land-line, and I don't have a cellphone. As far as I can tell, the entire purpose of cellphones is to enable people to call you and tell you they're going to be late. I'm not going to participate in that; if you tell me you're going to be somewhere at noon, you'd better be there at noon. If it hadn't been for the Internet and e-mail, I would now be a grouchy hermit living in a cave, rather than what I am today: a grouchy semi-public figure who feigns interest in the world outside the cave.

No, seriously, folks, I love you all; I just don't want to have to talk to you on the phone. Consequently, I built that e-mail list up into a monster: at the time of the crash, it was over a thousand names. And I don't harvest e-mail addresses at gigs, or put people in the database whose full names I don't know. Moreover, I never automated it; when I sent out a mass mailing, I took an hour to scroll through the entire thousand entries and consider to myself whether an argument could be made that the person whose box I was clicking was interested in what I was sending.

In the late Nineties, I used to memorize e-mail addresses; chances are, I still remember a few defunct ones of yours. But ever since I switched over to Outlook Express, I started counting on the computer to do the memorizing for me. This meant that when I was forced to reconstitute my list from memory, I ended up spitting the bit: I blanked even on people with whom I corresponded regularly. Of the thousand addresses I lost, I was only able to recall fifty or sixty off the top of my head. I felt like an idiot.

Our annual Critics Poll has always been great fun for me. After erasing our hard drive, the votes you cast were also incredibly useful. Because 95% of all Critics Poll ballots are submitted through the Internet, I had a record of e-mail addresses dating back to the mid-Nineties. Last year, I complained privately that the poll had gotten too big, and had become more ordinary than contrary; but this year, for selfish reasons, I was super-grateful that so many of you had voted.

Looking back at seventeen years of submissions makes me realize how cool it is that we've been at this game since we were teenagers. It also helps me get some historical perspective. So to hype the poll a little (I am pretty sure it's going to be simulcast on Jersey City Vibe this year), but mostly for my own ill amusement and for yours, I've decided to make some charts of winners and losers over the years. I've started with singers and rappers, but tomorrow, I'm going to make a chart for "most overrated", and continue from there. Poll date has been moved up to the 28th of January, but unless you really want to fill out the five-page torture test ballot, go ahead and submit the online form EZ any old time. I'll be waiting.

Sorry about the meltdown.

the entire purpose of cellphones is to enable people to call you and tell you they're going to be late

Ha, that is accurate. Cell phones have also changedd the way people leave phone messages: they just ramble on and on, as they walk down the street.

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