An Old Rant Resurrected
I’ve got nothing today, so I thought I’d bring an old temper tantrum I had a while back from the grave. Please to enjoy.
There’s revolution in the air, I can feel it. Not a political revolution, per se, although I suppose one could make the connection. No, it shall be a revolution against all things digital and unsubstantial.
People like me, in their early to mid 40’s; we embraced digital downloads as the future, we marveled at the convenience of downloading our entire cd library to a device the size of a credit card. We held up the inventors of this device, the iPod, as Gods. We sat down in front of our computers with stacks and stacks of our beloved cd’s and spent countless hours popping them in and out of that little tray, patiently watching that little “completion bar” inch it’s way to the next song. Days, and sometimes even weeks later we patted ourselves on the back for having the patience and tenacity to download all 15,000 songs.
We bought FM transmitters, at $50+ a pop because our beat up old cars didn’t have an MP3 jack. Sure the sound was shitty, and each time you passed over some power cables your music would be interrupted by some maniacal Spanish preacher yelling about the “Hija de Dios” or some dang thing. And if you were lucky and bought the model with the Smart Search button you could sometimes find a channel that contained just a little static.
But you didn’t care, ‘cause you had your entire music library at your fingertips and were willing to sacrifice quality for convenience.
Or so you thought.
Something changed right after you accidently dropped your ipod, which had been resting in your breast pocket, into a puddle. Freaking out, you fish the device out of the murky water and desperately try to dry it off by any means necessary, even if that means standing in the gutter as cars drive by blowing on the little machine like some deranged lunatic. It was no use, of course. Your device was gone. In a desperate move you bring your defunct iPod to work and hand it to the I.T. guy, who says he can maybe fix it. Two horrible days later he tells you he cannot. Your heart sinks, but you know what you have to do.
Buy another iPod, of course. A refurbished one, naturally, because you are not a stupid man. Just as good as a new one, even comes with a warranty, and only $300. What a steal! A device the size of a pack of ORBIT gum that costs as much as a decent amplifier. But you can’t think like that, won’t allow yourself to think like that. No, this is the future, your future, and you’ll be damned if you’re gonna go back to the “old ways”. Besides, you’ve invested so much money in downloaded music that it would be counterproductive, not to mention downright stupid, to walk away at this point.
And the process starts over again. Stacks of cd’s (although you’ve sold a bunch since, some you regret and some you don’t) by the computer, more days wasted downloading.
But it’s all for a good cause.
“Right”, you tell yourself and continue marching on. You even have the prescience to back up all 15,000 songs to DVD’s, and you’re feeling pretty good about yourself, pretty safe. So you complete your mighty task and life goes on. You continue, like a fool, to LEGALLY download songs and update your iPod on a regular basis. You organize your library into playlists, change the genre column because the stupid record company thinks that early Roxy Music should be categorized as “Country/Western” and spend hours pretend-shopping England’s iTunes store because they’ve got a better collection of albums, all of which, frustratingly, you cannot buy for some damned corporate reason.
Your listening habits start to change, too. A self proclaimed “album guy” all your life, you now pretty much solely use the shuffle option, and since your commute is only 15 minutes you spend half of that time hitting “next”. You justify it by telling yourself it’s the coolest radio station EVER, with no commercials. Way better than satellite radio, except the sound is still pretty shitty, of course.
A good year and a half passes. You change jobs, towns, and the economy just keeps getting worse. Record stores have all but gone the way of the Dodo in your neck of the woods, but you search out and eventually find a pretty decent one, near Folsom prison, which is pretty cool, like a musical oasis in a digital desert. You can’t really afford to buy any new cd’s so you scrounge through your collection, make some hard decisions, load up a couple of Safeway bags with about 150 once treasured plastic discs and trade them in. You know you’ll be getting about 1/10th of the money you initially invested should you choose the cash, and 2/10ths if you choose “trade”. It’s an easy decision for an obsessive like you. Once again, as you leave the store with the shiny new 15 cd’s under your arm, you find yourself giving yourself a mental pat on the old back for a job well done. You’ve got some new tunes, you’ve got some more storage in the cabinet AND you’ve still got the songs from the traded in cd’s in your iTunes library. You’re certainly a clever little bastard, aren’t you?
About 3 months later you do it all again, carefully choosing old cd’s that you think are more disposable than others. You get 10 new cd’s this time, and this time you feel really good because you’ve scored the new Beatles remasters. Whoo-hoo!
You do it one more time, about 2 months later, and this time you realize two things. One, it’s getting harder to choose. All that’s left are “classics”. And two, you’re trading in things you just got from the previous trade in. Bye-bye Delphic. So long, MGMT.
Now you leave the record store with a mere 5 albums. You bring them home with the intent of downloading them to your computer. You push the “power” button on your computer and…nothing. You try again. Still nothing. You start to get frustrated and start pushing the button in and out, in and out, in and out. Panic sets in. You unplug the machine. You plug it back in. Push the button again, and again and yet again. Nothing. So you start kicking the machine, hitting the side, wait an hour and try again, and still nothing but a sickening silence. You wait a day, two days, and it still doesn’t work. You resign yourself to the fact that it’s dead and your songs are gone, lost forever and stuck inside a useless machine.
An inanimate object has just ruined your life and there’s nothing you can do about it. You let it eat away at you for weeks and then, like an alcoholic lying in the gutter you have a moment of clarity. 15,000 songs are gone, yes, but how many of those did you really listen to? How many have you EVER listened to? And the stuff that you really cherish, that you actually covet, are still in their plastic cases waiting for you in the entertainment center in the living room. They’re happy about this disaster, aren’t they? Like the toys in Pixar’s Toy Story, they’ve been patiently waiting for the day when you’ll pick them up, open the little booklet, read their tiny little liner notes, play their music and love them again.
I have arrived at the point where I will probably never download another MP3 file and I feel really good about that. I’m getting back to basics, and when things get better I may even invest in an actual record player and start searching out some old vinyl. Become some sort of bizarre, modern day musical luddite. Because I realize that I still love, and need, that physical product. Music is more than just “music”. It’s something more, and the actual packaging, the real-ness of a cd or vinyl record, is part of the enjoyment. The art, the liner notes, the photos, the smell, all of it. It’s also, of course, a security thing, knowing that my little friends are there just a few short steps away and cannot simply crash and burn out in a nanosecond the way computer files do. Oh sure, I could back up what I have left to an external hard drive, start the whole process over again. But I’m tired and a little weary from the whole experience. I don’t want to go back. I want to go REALLY FAR back. Back to a time when listening to an album was an absorbing, and sometimes life altering, experience. Back to a time before corporations sued single moms for downloading 24 songs and a jury of her “peers” awards the record company $1.2 Million dollars in so-called damages. It makes me sick to my stomach.
Will I get there? Yup, I know I will. But I’m through with iTunes and the so-called “digital revolution”. Screw ‘em.
Resistance is absolutely not futile. As a matter of fact it’s downright neccessary.