Sunday, January 21, 2007

The Sounds of Discomfort.

In the basement of the house where I grew up, when I was about nine years old, I discovered a reel-to-reel tape recorder. It became a favorite pastime to use that recorder, and later cassette machines, to document my life at home.

Something about sound recordings of people -- especially when they don't realize or care that they're being recorded -- makes them more compelling to me than video, photos, text or any other method of documentation.

A bonus about these childhood tapes is that all the interactions are enhanced by the background sounds I would have otherwise forgotten -- songs on the radio, TV commercials, a real-bell phone ringing, the vacuum. But the main value is being able to hear just the voices, with no visual distraction: my mom when she was still in charge of us, my brother before his voice changed.

The first time I remember being melancholy about the passage of time, and the change that comes with it, is age eight. It was the last day of third grade. When the bell rang, all the kids poured outside, jubilant that summer was here. I remember moping down the hall, not understanding why no one else was sad. Third grade was over. We would never be third graders again, never have the same teacher, whom I loved. Everything was going to become different again, and harder.

This is pretty much the attitude I've battled with every single transition in my life since then. The only way I knew to combat it was to save everything I could -- keep a daily diary, archive everything, capture it as well as I could. If I couldn't stay in the same place, I was going to make damn sure I could go back if I wanted to.*

All this is to say that I was pretty happy when my generous brother gave me a Sony voice recorder for Christmas. There are a lot of aural UMs I want to share.

So the recording I offer you today is of Dusty, the cat I live with, having his nails clipped. Dusty hates his manicures, and makes his feelings known by emitting a moan that sounds unlike anything I have ever heard from a cat before. He makes this same sound when he is being screwed around with by his owner, which happens regularly. It's simultaneously difficult and fascinating to hear, which is why I am posting it to this blog.

Dusty Gets a Claw-Clipping

Sounds grave, huh? This cat is the biggest and best bitcher-and-moaner I have ever heard, not including myself, hands down. He deserves to be immortalized, to the extent that he can be.

* I also at one point saved in a drawer the wrappers from each type of candy that I ate; wouldn't use my toys that were battery-operated, no matter how many times my mom explained to me that when the batteries ran out we could get new ones; and made a habit of trying to typewrite the dialogue that was going on around me in the room as if I were a stenographer. I guess today, I'd have been treated with Relaxtra or whatever pharmaceutical was in vogue. Back then, all I had was one series of visits to a child psychologist, who determined that I was just a serious kid.


  1. Anonymous2:54 AM

    poor dusty

  2. Anonymous8:29 AM

    I played that noise and my cat left the room. Normally she runs in when cat noises are being played. The best part of that audio is the heavy human breathing -- don't let PETA get a hold of that one!

  3. Anonymous9:57 AM

    My brothers and I were big on making sound recordings with our monstrous "portable" Panasonic tape recorder. I remember doing take after take (until we got it just right) of the sound of the first bite of an apple. The subsequent bites just don't sound as good, so we had to go through about half a dozen apples, until we got just the right crunch. I think we thought we were the Neil freakin' Armstrongs of sound recording. We also made an audio recording of a broadcast of a made-up local news channel (not realizing the absurdity of making an audio tape of something that was supposed to be on TV), complete with generic news show theme song played haltingly on guitar by my brother.

  4. Anonymous1:52 PM

    i just read your article on buying a wedding dress on some wedding site which scared me. it was great. very funny. i wish i had had it to read in 1993. i didnt know how to exactly express my appreciation for that article so i have hijacked this thread. i'm sure the cat sounds are good too, though I may not listen to them. no, i probably will not. cheers.

  5. Anonymous2:32 AM

    OMG -- O M freakin' G!!! That almost killed me -- that was so freakin' hillarious. That was the sound of angry but patient feline indignation that could easily tip to violence.


  6. Anonymous10:29 AM

    subclinical hording. be careful.

    sike. you're on a roll. i think it's strange how uncmo and verbungle are currently flowing while other web sites are in a low ebb, incapable of anything save a few low grade nfl musings.

    i can't listen to the cat.

  7. I'm all about low-grade NFL musings. Here's one: what does Ctina think about Prince playing the Superbowl halftime? Sell-out or sign me up?

    And Christina: indeed, you are a serious kid.

  8. I have mixed feelings about Prince playing the halftime show, but in general it should be fun to watch. Long ago I had to accept that once he converted to Jehovah's Witness, things just weren't going to be the same.

    Love the comments. Keep 'em comin! There are always spirited and smart sports discussions on pbdotc and verbungle, though any kind of musings are welcome here.


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