Wednesday, July 2, 2008

If music be the food of love…

Play on.

I can’t live without my iPod.

I know that seems like an extreme statement, but at this point in my life, I don’t think I can. I use my iPod every single day. I listen to it on the way to work, at my desk and on the way home. Sometimes at home, I turn it on and listen while I do my homework or write or draw or just sitting around with a beer and a cigarette. If something ever happened to this little four inch device, I would be lost. Absolutely lost.

First of all it saves my life at work. You see, I have a very annoying co-worker who doesn’t seem to take a breath while letting loose her tongue. It doesn’t help that to me her voice is akin to nails scraping across a black-board. All day, every day those of us around her are forced to suffer a barrage of complaints ranging from her unfaithful boyfriend to how unfair the banking system is to the state of her mental health. All day. I wish I was exaggerating.

Luckily, though, I have my trusty iPod. When the grating sound of her voice hitting the upper registers of human hearing gets to be too much for me, I slip on my ear buds and escape into a world of my own making. Normally, I put on some loud metal or nasty hip hop, just to drown her out. Sometimes, I need to calm down, so I opt for something with a more calming quality. Ah, Debussy. I can listen to La Mer and imagine that I am sitting on a moonlit beach someplace, watching the waves come in. Believe me this is preferable to the reality of sitting at my desk.

The beautiful part is, I don’t need to flip through a box of cassettes (how old am I?) or a book of CDs looking for the perfect song. All I have to do is locate the right play list, and voila! Heaven.

In the car, I have found that my iPod saves me from the radio. I used to be the biggest fan of morning drive radio and the afternoon shows on our local stations. In the morning, I would listen to either Hip Hop or Indie Rock, and in the afternoon, I usually felt like Pop. I knew the DJs and their styles, and I actually found myself looking forward to the five o’clock question on my ride home. Then I noticed something start to change. It seemed like my Indie rock station was more closely mirroring the pop station which was starting to meld into the hip-hop station. Before I knew it, no matter what station I turned to, I was guaranteed to hear at least two songs twice in my commute, and at least one Beyonce number. I have nothing against Beyonce, I even have a few of her hits on my iPod, but I seriously don’t need to hear her every day at precisely 7:14am and the same song again at 5:07. It got to the point that I could time which song would play at which time and on which station. Then I noticed that they let the DJs talk less and less. What used to be twenty minutes worth of Joking around followed by a couple of songs followed by a commercial break has some how turned into five minutes of hilarity followed by seven songs from play list number 2 followed by ten to fifteen minutes of commercials and back to more songs from that same play list. The songs never change. Every morning they are the exact same – unless someone is promoting a new album, in which case you might get one new song. And the commercial breaks? Forget about it. I can’t stand radio commercials. They are loud, obnoxious, and never seem to advertise a product that one could actually use in traffic (like a cup of coffee). Instead, they give you WAAAAY too much information regarding how to get your gutters cleaned and then follow up with a phone number that some really loud individual repeats five hundred times.


Not only do I have no desire to call, but by the end of the commercial, I actually want to go looking for Steve and everyone affiliated with Steve’s Super Gutter Busters and beat them about the head until I have exacted revenge for me and every other annoyed commuter.

And they are all the same. Every single radio commercial. They repeat the number ad nauseam (pun intended) because they know you aren’t going to write it down, because they know you are driving. I can’t remember the last time I was driving down the road and thought to myself: Gee, if only I knew where to go and get my blinds cleaned – wait a sec! A commercial for Bonnie’s Blindingly Clean Blind Service! Too bad I am driving and cannot get the number. Oh! Excellent! Apparently someone very excited for Bonnie is going to shout the number seventeen times so that I take it with me to my grave. What great luck!

I hate these fucking commercials.

Only slightly less annoying are the “fake interview” commercials. You know the ones where your favorite DJ or talk show host is trying very hard to sound like they are actually interviewing some minor celebrity who is really excited about a new “resort” and wants to give you a free vacation… as long as you listen to the time share presentation that should only last 70 of your 72 hours in Hawaii or Vegas or Tahiti or Pigs Knuckle. Hurry and call now! Then you change the station, and enter the twilight zone because another DJ is conducting the exact same interview! Heavens and ministers of grace defend us! What is going on???

So, I got tired of that barrage of useless information and the no-variety of music that is left to the average radio consumer. Now, I just plug in my iPod and I have thousands of songs at my finger tips. I can move my songs into play lists based on genre, length, artist, or mood. I can listen to angry music, happy music, sad music, intense music and light-hearted music in the course of an afternoon without doing a darned thing. I can listen alphabetically by song title, artist or album. If I am in the mood, I can listen to all of The White Album from start to finish without interruption. If I feel like following up the Fab Four with Kanye West and then move into some Dean Martin, I am free to do so. If I want my Bach to play right before I hear Ludacris, no one can stop me. The world is my musical oyster, and I couldn’t be happier.

I have music, Photos, Games and Movies on my iPod. I have every episode of Robot Chicken, most of my favorite South Parks, Star Trek, Battle Star Gallactica, Looney Tunes, and various Movies. Sometimes, when I want to escape completely, I sit in my car at lunch and watch cartoons. How cool is that?

My iPod is well loved and well worn. It looks like a group of angry cats got together and had a wild orgy on my screen. There are tiny scratches and it always seems to be smudged. Sometimes, the little click-wheel gets stuck. The original ear-buds died a horrible death and I have gone through seven pairs since. Compared to the new models it is big and bulky. Now, the battery is slowly dying. I know that soon, I will have to say good bye to my old friend and though it will be hard, I will have to replace her.

Now they have iPods that have touch screens – although given the wear on mine, I am hesitant to purchase something that requires constant touching and smudging. There are also iPods that have enough memory to hold half a million songs. Think about that for a minute. 500,000 songs at an average of 4 minutes a song is two million minutes of music – that’s about 33,333 hours, a little less than 1,389 days, and almost four years if you did nothing but listen to music 24-7. Four years worth of music in your back pocket. By the time you got back around to the number one hit you downloaded when you bought the iPod, it will be obsolete. And that band? They might have been a one hit wonder. And you have their only hit on your trusty iPod. Along with 499,999 other songs that you never get to hear because you always come back around to listen to your favorites. You have heard “Paint It Black” nine thousand times, but you never got a chance to really listen to that new Panic! At the Disco CD that you painstaking ripped months ago.

And of course, it took hours to fill the iPod, because I don’t know about you, but my computer is no where near as fast as my iPod is. It takes me 10 – 15 minutes per CD on my ancient computer. Average of 14 tracks per disc, that’s 35,714 CDs worth of music on the new behemoths. Forget that I don’t have quite that much music (and we have a ton of music, Michael and I). If I had to rip 35,000 CDs, at ten minutes each, it would take about 5800 hours or almost a year if I did nothing but rip music into my computer. Let’s assume that I only need to do half of that and that I already have the other half on my hard drive in the form of previously ripped music, MP3s etc… that would be 6 months. Let’s say I bought a new computer that can rip the disc in half of that time – or even in a minute. One minute a disc is still 35,000 minutes, 583 hours, 24 days of non-stop ripping. And how much of that music is really great music? How much would I really want to carry around with me day and night? Of course, you could purchase each song from iTunes or a similar site at a buck a song – half a million dollars worth of music? No way. I don’t earn enough to spend that kind of money. Even if I won the lottery, I wouldn’t spend that much.

And then there is the issue of finding the song. I have about 4,000 songs right now on my iPod. It is ridiculously hard to search for one specific track. Either I scroll too fast, or it takes too long. I always miss it and have to scroll back, only to miss it the other way. I can’t even begin to imagine trying to locate one tiny song in a sea of half a million of them. Talk about a needle in a haystack. I can imagine myself breaking into tears because all I wanted to hear was something by The Roots before I got home, and couldn’t find it. Building a play list would be hard too. To do that, you need to highlight each track and drag it to your play list. I have a dozen incomplete play lists that I keep meaning to fix, but never get around to because inevitably I have something more productive to do with my time. And there is a danger of building too many play lists. If you build too many, you can’t find the one you want. Too few and you don’t have enough variety. Then there are the duplicates… Sometimes you end up with the same song on four different discs. You have the original recording, the definitive collection, the best of and the live album. Do you really need to go through and delete the duplicates, or should you leave them there taking up precious space. How many duplicates could you really have? 1%? 2%? When you are talking about a few songs, that’s not much. One percent of half a million is five thousand songs. Do you mean I could have five thousand duplicates? That’s more songs than I currently have on my iPod now. Is it then possible that on shuffle, you could conceivably hear the same ten songs duplicated several times? How annoying would that be?

Of course, then there’s the cost. A new iPod can be really pricey for most people. Five hundred smackeroos. That’s a lot of smackeroos. Then I would definitely need a faster computer. Another thousand – then a new hard drive to store all of this music – another couple hundred. By the time I am done, I could spend two grand just to have all of my music at my fingertips.


Is it possible that there really can be too much of a good thing?

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