Monday, June 7, 2010

Golden Shelf: Familiarity Breeds Fondness

Yesterday in the car we kept flipping the radio between three stations. Why? Because there is no radio station that plays only 80s music in our city (and we can't afford special satellite radios). Instead we have three stations which often play some 80s music and we just change the channel often.

As you might imagine this can be frustrating because you end up with times when none of the stations have a song we like or more than one are in commercials.

We were sitting at a light listening to Rio by Duran Duran (yes, I was a big fan of Duran Duran in the 80s) and I started thinking about when I was a child and my mom insisted that I must like the Beatles. She is, of course, a huge fan of the Beatles. They were big when she was a teenager. I, however, as a teen thought that they were only so-so and she was upset, making me spend a whole afternoon while she played song after song to prove to me the superiority of her music. I can remember arguing with her about how weird the lyrics are and how they don't make sense.

Today I was listening to Duran Duran's Rio and realized, the lyrics to songs I love don't make a whole lot of sense either.

I've seen you on the beach and I've seen you on TV
Two of a billion stars it means so much to me
Like a birthday or a pretty view
But then I'm sure that you know it's just for you

Her name is Rio and she dances on the sand
Just like that river twisting through a dusty land
And when she shines she really shows you all she can
Oh Rio, Rio dance across the Rio Grande

Hey now woo look at that did she nearly run you down
At the end of the drive the lawmen arrive
You make me feel alive, alive alive
I'll take my chance cause luck is on my side or something
I know what you're thinking I tell you something I know what you're thinking

Really? What is that anyways? It sure sounds cool to me when I hear the song, but I honestly am not sure what sort of picture that paints in my head. Apparently a really pretty girl dances and there is a car chase and the guy feels really lucky? I'm not sure.

I heard at a book signing once, Eoin Colfer said that there is a golden shelf that we each have where we place the music, books, movies, etc. of our childhood/teenage years and these will have a special place in our hearts.

I guess it is nostalgia or a golden glow of memory, but I still love 80s music.

Some people are concerned that our ability to select what we see or hear all of the time, to have only music we like (on an ipod or special radio station) or ideas we like (by finding specialized forums or news for like-minded people), etc. creates a sort of echo chamber whereby people are not exposed to new ideas and don't hear opposing ideas. I worry about this myself sometimes. I certainly know that I am affected by the blogs and forums which I frequent. They affect the pop culture references I am familiar with, the sort of language I use, the way I think about things.

When I was younger, you had no choice but to hear new things. There was less opportunity to filter what we were exposed to. Now I can program 36 hours of music to carry in a thing the size of a stamp (when I haven't misplaced it--which I keep doing).

I'm not sure why my husband and I prefer to listen to music which we already know and like rather than experience new songs. I just know that my mind clicks into positive feelings when an 80s song I know and like comes on. My Golden Shelf, full of 80s music, great children's books, and the movie The Princess Bride, is something to which I return again and again.

While I do think we need to be aware of the negative effects which filtering can have on us and the narrowing of our experiences which may come from it, I will continue to spend time with my Golden Shelf and enjoy these things which are familiar to me, because I am fond of them.

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