These Hamsters Welcome You to Princeton, NJ

Not really, but had the store been open I might have been tempted to purchase them.

It turns out my flu-like bug was strep throat and the fever was my body fighting the bacteria. Or at least that’s what it had turned in to by the time I went to the CSLC. As usual, that trip was quick and successful and cheap compared with its American counterpart. Within two hours I’d been dianosed, gotten the prescriptions and purchased the relevant drugs for a fraction of what they would have cost in the U.S. Apart from a slightly runny nose, I am now pretty much 100% and digging out of the hole I fell into while ill.

All this was made more complicated by the fact that I was supposed to get on a plane Wednesday afternoon to go give a talk. I’m not sure what the standard thing to do is when a guest speaker gets ill. Do you bail on the talk even though the institution has paid for your trip already and everything is already scheduled? I mean, I know of tons of cases where people have bailed, but always thought of it as horribly rude. Anyway, for my part the doctor cleared me to get on a plane and I had some high-octane decongestant to go with my penicillin so it was relatively painless.

Princeton, at least the part I was in, strikes me as a sleepy little college town. The place feels more high-end liberal arts college than “university” in terms of its architecture and layout and emphasis on undergraduates. The undergraduates seem to rule the place and one even told me that there is a whole series of jokes about the graduate students there because they are so marginalized. Anyway, the people I met were very nice and my trip was lovely and everything was very posh. I stayed in a converted mansion that was donated to the university by “a rich professor.” (The phrase “rich professor” is not one I can say I’ve really ever heard before, but it was used a couple times on my stay.) The room was great, and directly downstairs was a library where they put out drinks for the guests each night (pardon the poor camera phone picture). Fancy fancy.

Among the highlights of my trip was a trip to the Princeton Record Exchange, which is supposedly the model for the store in High Fidelity — complete with incredibly socially awkward clerks, as this conversation illustrates (imagine their voices as slightly shaky, or a less assured version of the uptalking one finds among the average anglo Canadian male under a certain age):

“So, I was like ‘there’s only one copy of this disc left’ and these two girls were like ‘we’ll just have to fight over it’ and I was like ‘I’d like to see that.'”

“Dude, you said that? You really said that?”

“Huhhuh. Yeah. I guess I shouldn’t have.”

Anyway, I did pick up some recordings, and somehow a few capsule reviews seems like the way to end this entry:

Sufjan Stephens, Illinois — I know, I’m late, but it’s a very nice album. Now will someone please tell me why this isn’t the same thing as progressive rock?

Goldfrapp Supernature — Extremely catchy. Carrie really likes it too.

Prefuse 73 Reads the books — two great tastes in one. How did I not hear about this when it came out?

For Squirrels, Example — it was in the bargain bin, and it was a rock band with “squirrel” in their name. How could I resist. Unfortunately, it’s not that awesome. They’re not terrible or anything, just not terribly interesting.

6 replies on “These Hamsters Welcome You to Princeton, NJ”

  1. Glad you’re better, Jon. Photos now appearing properly in NetNewsWire — good work! Not sure I buy the idea that the record shop in _High Fidelity_ is based on anywhere real — but even if it was, since the film was an adaptation of the novel by Nick Hornby, it’d have to be somewhere in North London, not New Jersey.

  2. Thanks Nick. I’m just reporting the local lore. I’ve never actually read High Fidelity. But that’s a subject for another post.

  3. For some reason, I think For Squirrels had a minor hit in the ’90s. All I remember was that I didn’t like it, which seems to match up with your take.

    Props on the Sufjan Stevens. Kembrew hipped me to him a while ago. I hope he follows through and makes an album for each state, for the sheer novelty of it.

  4. Illinois is probably one of my favorite records of 2005. I’m not sure that I can tell you how or why it is different than prog, but it certainly takes a lot of cues from prog and turns it into pure pop bliss. Even moreso on the Michigan record, half of which sounds like a marching band playing indie pop songs.

  5. Ok. I was just listening to illinoise all the way down the 401 trying to figure out what is different from prog. Unfortunately, I don’t think I know enough about prog to be intelligent about it, but I’ll try. Prog, to me, has always been a bit more psychedelic (to use a fraught term). Like radiohead, at points, seems kinda proggy. Illinoise is orchestral and symphonic but seems rooted in folk. Same ideas, different departure point.

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