Tuesday, April 2, 2013

iTunes: Macspeak For " Ain't Right In The Head"

It may seem strange to start a sentence with a lower case letter, but when dealing with Macspeak, one has no choice. iTunes has become the de facto music source in the age of mind-numbingly complex electronic doo-dads. In fact, it has become so ubiquitous that it has become part of every day vernacular and is universally understood that this is where your music lives.

Unless one lives in the far reaches of Outer Mongolia, it has been commonly accepted that the CD store has long since found its demise. One might still find a small and useless selection at Wal-Mart, but when was the last time that you headed down to the Virgin store to browse through CD's on a Saturday afternoon?

The alternative is iTunes. The only alternative that is. I am not a Luddite by any means, but I was thrust into this brave new world of non-physical music without me having much to say about it. The last time I walked around with a Discman all the neighborhood kids were making fun of me. Might as well be walking around with a gigantic ghetto blaster that uses 24 D cells. It soon dawned on me that  an iPod purchase was imminent and inevitable. " How hard can it be ? " I asked myself. A rhetorical question asked many times over the years by computer geeks. this probably explains why the world's first computer was the size of two houses and ran on 64,000 vacuum tubes. If just one of the tubes blew, the whole computer would go nutso. Kinda like what happened to me when I first fired up the ole iPod ( fried more brain cells than 5 gallons of whisky ever could).

Forgetting for a sec that a lot of mp3's sound like absolute shit or like flies buzzing under water, an iPod and iTunes are a technological marvel. 20 years ago it was inconceivable to carry 40,000 songs around in your pocket. That's roughly equivalent to 4000 cd's. About the same size and weight as a converted hippie school bus. The batteries required for your Discman alone would cost more than a couple of Cadillacs or the annual Patchouli budget for an entire hippie colony.

Personally, I did not lament the demise of vinyl or CD's. Records were a pain in the ass. Nothing could be more nerve-wracking than hovering an expensive needle over a record with hangover- induced shakes ( I speak from experience as one particular shaky move ended up costing me $300).
They required constant cleaning, took up enormous amounts of space and made the IKEA company rich selling millions of Grubenschnaben ( whatever they were called) record shelves and tiny meatballs to customers who couldn't find the exit.

Then there was the mixed tape. Nothing could induce panic more than someone asking you to make a mixed tape. It was a grueling 3 hour process just to make a 60 minute tape and you couldn't take your eyes off the stereo, not even to go the can. It was sometimes difficult to refuse the request especially when you were trying to impress some gal and your hormones ran the show.

 Records did have one advantage. If one of them sucked, you could whip it out the door like a Frisbee. A short, but immensely satisfying experience. Another advantage was that no thief in his right mind would break into your house and steal your records. That dirty thief probably gave himself a hernia stealing your 36 inch tube TV, so he wasn't about to steal 5000 lbs of vinyl. If he did, who the hell would buy used records? Used record stores were considered an oddity back in the day and they always smelled of incense, hippie body odor and cat piss. The hippies that ran them were often so stoned that they couldn't even read the covers (that were 12 inches by 12 inches), much less direct you to the proper section.

When CD's came about I eyed them with suspicion at first. They only seemed to issue classical music and the people browsing the CD section seemed deranged. I soon embraced them and was only to glad to get rid of my vinyl. CD players were expensive at first but soon became affordable.

It took a few years but I eventually came to the conclusion that music corporations were sticking things up our butt while we slept. The first indication was in the early generation CD's. They had a tendency to freeze up if they had even the slightest scratch on them. I think we all remember those hilarious moments on the radio when the song being played froze up and started doing that robot-like "yagayagayagayaga" sound. CD's had promised "perfect sound forever" but I also eventually found out that if you so much as cough or fart within a 20 foot radius of a CD, it will get scratched to the point of making it virtually unusable. This is why, to this day, CD's are hung on strings from the ceiling in seedy bars. Nothing says 'I've hit rock bottom" like drinking in a bar while twinkling CD's dangle over your head.

Eventually CD's became prohibitively expensive and the writing was one the wall for big corporations. It soon became apparent that a friend with CD burner could make you a copy for free. They were also very attractive to thieves, who could easily break in to a car and steal $2000 worth of music in a heartbeat. Soon pawnshops were filled to the brim with "used" CD's . Even though everyone knew that most of those were stolen, it was still amusing to see what horrendously bad taste some people had in music.

Alright, 160 Gb Ipod, a computer with a Terabyte of memory; now what? Get to know that Machiavellian application known as iTunes. Woe is you if you don't own a Mac because Windows adds a whole other dimension of brain searing anguish to the process.

Along with losing an expensive iPhone, someone hacking your bank account to buy rapper clothes, and cops being able to track you via GPS after you busted the headlights on a BMW with a hammer in a traffic altercation, there is one more cyber-problem causing inordinate amounts of stress. The fact you could easily wipe out your entire music collection in a fraction of a second a never know how it happened. One would think that the level of technological sophistication in current computer technology would make this impossible, but think again. It would be akin to an airline pilot eating a bagel that would somehow make the plane crash. I also found out that iTunes has a function that is called " doesn't work after 9 beers". This somehow makes songs disappear into some dark abyss on a server somewhere in North Carolina or end up in the trash reconfigured as Nickelback and Justin Bieber songs.

Your songs eventually will disappear because all hard drives eventually fail. You can make a back up but that too is a hard drive. Your iPod classic is a hard drive, but you can't use that as back up because it only goes one way. Sounds like the circular type of logic found only in mental institutions for the criminally insane.

Loading your iTunes with music is infinitely more difficult than making mixed tapes. Loading a CD that you own into iTunes is slow and about as exciting (and infuriating) as watching a mime on the sidewalk. I don't want enter into an ethical debate about downloading music that has been " creatively acquired" but let's just say that that is about as complicated and convoluted as tax law or hippie logic.

Managing the music is equally as convoluted and quite tedious. I just said "fuck it" and piled all my music into one Genre called Rockabilly and I now sleep better at night. It is so counter-intuitive that I downloaded a book called " iTunes and iPods for Dummies" (just never you mind where I downloaded it from). The book is three hundred and sixty freakin' five pages long. I've read it and I can safely say that I don't feel any smarter whatsoever.

I still love my music and I won't let the daunting task of mastering iTunes stop me or stress me out. I don't recall having to worry about my music collection, it's like owning a dog that likes to pee on people's feet, crap on their carpet or eat their dogs. It's like having a friend who picks fights with bikers in bars and tells the bikers that you started it. Sometimes it's like owning a temperamental car knowing that engine could blow up at anytime and possibly kill you ( or maybe the car just hates you and wants to kill you anyway). Or maybe Satan is a majority stock holder at Apple.

I'll figure it out, but just in case I saw a used cassette player on craigslist. Now where am I gonna find 4000 blank cassettes?

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