Friday, 21 November 2008

Welcome to 2001, a musical oddity

I have an i-pod.

Not ony do I have an i-pod, but I resist calling it an ipod (short 'eye') like some sort of pseudo-greek heroic tale, despite the urge to appear like some sort of High Court Judge saying "The Beatles?".

Apparently, it's a '4 gig nano'. I know this, because:

(a) It said so on the very neat and beautifully formed plastic box. Why is it that Apple can make money, despite spending more on designing small plastic boxes for their gadgets than Microsoft spent on designing Vista?

Oh, of course. Doh.


(b) I have teenagers. They fill in the gaps on a number of aspects of technology for me. Not the technical aspects - oddly, I can manage those - but the more important things, such as that wearing your headphones outside your clothes is really not on and you need to thread them like some sort of FBI sting inside your clothing, making the act of replying when spoken to a circus act of contortion. They tell me which gadgets are cool (Fonzie must be thrilled to still hear kids saying 'cool'. Or would be, except like me, he's probably going deaf).

Probably explains why I can't seem to get my i-pod loud enough.

However, after years of picking up i-pods in shops, turning them lovingly over and over in my hands, musing, then replacing them. After hours spent reading reviews of alternatives and deciding that they offered far better value for money, could play alternative formats, probably had greater longevity, as money was spent on function rather than form, I finally have an i-pod.

It was, of course, a gift.

You didn't think I would have ever made an actual DECISION about it, did you?

One of the factors that made me hesitate was music. I listen to music mostly in the car, which is where I seem to spend an inordinate amount of my life. I have a CD player in there, together with a wonderful device that plays random music, often things I've never heard before by artists I hope to never hear again. I have no control over the playing order, which is oddly satisfying, as it removes one decision-making requirement from the life of the man who defines procrastination. So for me, this 'radio' thingy is great.

However, in truth, most of what I listen to on the radio is actually speech, rather than music. Drama, comedy, discussion, education, phone-in's (why do I feel the need for an apostrophe there I wonder?).

So one of the hesitations over the i-pod issue was simply "would I have enough music to FILL four 'gigs'?

Incidentally, when was the crossover age? What was the year of birth for people who think a 'gig' is a measure of storage rather than a performance by a rather dodgy band in the back room of a pub?

I digress.

I do that a lot. Sorry.

So, there I was with this beautifully formed little sliver of metal and plastic, design screaming from every millimeter of brushed aluminium and carefully calculated curve, wondering what to put on it and when I would use it? The obvious answers were of course, everything I could find and at the gym.

Yes, well. It seems I can't find half of what I thought I had musically and I cancelled my Gym membership when they sent me a 'most profitable member' award for the third year running.

Then I was introduced to i-tunes.

I've had this thing on my pc for ages, but have always switched back to other media players, partly from a stiff-necked resistence to being part of the Apple 'crowd'. A technological version of Groucho Marx's comment about being a member of any club that would have him as a member perhaps, or maybe just a desire to cultivate an air of pseudo-luddite.

I really should have been a High Court Judge.

But with an i-pod, you have no choice. It is the only way to load the little bugger with the tunes that you haven't listened to for years but which, oddly, suddenly make it onto your 'Desert Island' list.

And no, I haven't forgotten....

And herein lies the problem, or rather, one of them.

Because i-tunes allows you to sort your tunes into 'playlists'. Songs can be grouped by artist, genre, album, category, year, style, composer, drummer, recording studio and roadie's inside leg amongst others.

For some people, this would be heaven. People who file papers. People who have tabs in their ring binders. People who sort their clothes by colour in the wardrobe.

People who know where their car keys are.

You know who you are.

For people like that, i-tunes and it's organisational capabilities are wonderful, ensuring the right tune is always on hand for a given mood or moment.

For people like me, it's merely another stress. Another element of decision making. Another thing on the 'list'.

Or would be, if I was organised enough to make a list.

And then it starts asking me if I want to sign on to download an album cover. Why would I want to do that? Is it that some people are simply unable to remember a track without the visual cue of an album that they've probably never owned, having downloaded the track, either legally or illegally? And I have to PAY for it too? Thank you, but no thank you.

Which, brings me to the issue of downloads. I seem to remember the days when people would be excited by the promise of the internet. It was going to liberate us, provide equality of information and knowledge, provide us with the leisure time to live, rather than exist. Now, listening to most people, it seems to revolve around the best way to breach copyright and download tunes either free or for a fraction of a dollar (it seems the dollar has become the default currency of intellectual property theft).

Well, that and porn of course.


On top of all this, I have to learn not to cringe every time I write 'i-pod' or 'i-tunes' without capitalisation, as only then will I be a fully paid-up member of the modern age.

It's not going to happpen.

And then I discovered pod-casts. It seems I can download all sorts of content, free of charge. I can download speech, rather than music. Drama, comedy, discussion, education, phone-in's (why do I feel the need for an apostrophe there I wonder?).

So now, I can listen to the things I listen to in my car anywhere (well, anywhere except the Gym). My i-pod has liberated me from my car, in the sense that now, no matter where I am, I can feel as if I am driving somewhere. Now, truly, all my waking hours (and, thanks to the tiny earphones, many of my sleeping ones), can feel like my working life.

That's progress.