My friends, I write these words with a deep sense of guilt and shame, disapprobation and yes, even opprobrium. I have sold out. I have betrayed my most dearly held beliefs and sacrificed what I once thought were the strongest of principles. I am a whore, a slut, a trollop. I feel so dirty, so cheapened, I cannot even look myself in the eye when I behold my unworthy visage in the mirror.
I have purchased my first iPod.
Those of you who might say, “What’s the big deal? You need to get over yourself, Smith” obviously don’t know me, either in person or from this blog. Those who do know me understand that I am an avowed antediluvian. I smoke a pipe, wear a pocket watch, and write with a fountain pen. My favorite composers are Thomas Tallis, John Dunstable, and Johannes Brahms. And the important thing here is that those are not the mere affectations of someone who misses the Victorian era. I genuinely enjoy those things. Hell, I didn’t buy my first Walkman until two years ago.
It’s Murphy’s fault, of course. These things usually are. Although a bit of an antiquarian himself, he seems to have adapted to the twenty first century far better than your humble scribe. I don’t know why he does this to me. Maybe he thinks it’s for my own good. Maybe he’s afraid that he’ll be lonely in the new century without me. But for whatever strange reasons of his own, he has this insatiable need to meet the new century by dragging me along with him. This very blog owes it existence to his relentless nagging.
At his insistence, I opened an iTunes account. Now I have to admit, iTunes is pretty cool. I have a taste for the sort of music that one just doesn’t hear on the radio much these days. I have now collected several hours of music I never thought I would hear again. The Flying Burrito Brothers, obscure Byrds and Gene Clark tunes, Fairport Convention, and Pentangle are among the out of the way things you’ll find on my playlist. For those of you who thought The Monkees were only a “prefab four”, download “The Door Into Summer” (alternate mix). Prepare to change your mind.
But was this enough for Murphy? No, of course not. He insisted that the next logical step was my own iPod. This, however, he could not make me do. I was adamant in my refusal.
My loathing of the iPod is well documented. To me, it represents everything I dislike about our society: the blind consumerism, the self absorption, the obsession with owning something just because it’s “new” and “cool”, and the belief that we’re somehow entitled to be entertained on demand, 24/7. I also deeply resent Apple’s relentless marketing which is designed to make me feel like a lower form of life if I don’t own one.
Another major problem I have is with the whole concept of downloaded music. Remember, I come from the generation that grew up with 12″ vinyl albums. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about here, you’re probably up past your bedtime.) Albums were the best, because you not only got music, but you got the album cover, complete with artwork and liner notes. In short, you got “stuff”.
The CD, (which I also viewed with deep suspicion for many years), at least continued this tradition, although in miniaturized form.
But the MP3? Somehow, it seemed so artificial, so electronic, so virtual. Virtual, as in not real. No album art, no liner notes, just a stream of data. I overcame this hangup enough to sign up for iTunes, but I still prefer to have my classical music (as opposed to pop songs) in CD format.
And so, in spite of my love of music, I have resisted owning one of these devil’s playthings.
I have a co-worker name Bill, although everyone knows him as “Bunny”. I won’t go into why, let’s just say I have never seen a nickname stick to someone like this one has. But Satan, Prince of Temptation would have been a better name. Bunny is a gadget guy, and like all gadget guys, he simply can’t be happy with just one iPod Classic. Oh, no, he has to have the iPod Nano, and the iPod Shuffle, and the iPod WipeYourAssForYou. He’s like a human magpie. If it’s shiny, he has to have it.
He was genuinely dumbfounded to learn I didn’t own one. “Steve, iPods are great. I can’t believe someone who loves music as much as you do doesn’t have one”. So I proceeded to tell him of my immovable philosophical opposition the iPod and my deeply felt revulsion at the very idea of owning one. I told him I would never own one, on principle. Never.
“You can have my Classic for $50”.
And so, I did it. I have allowed myself to be seduced. I comforted myself a little by reminding myself that it was, at least, an iPod “Classic”. I suppose if one is going to play Brahms and Tallis on an iPod, the “Classic” is only appropriate. But learning to live with myself was only the second most difficult part of the ordeal. The most difficult was figuring out how to turn the fucking thing on. I stared at my new toy when I got it home. And stared. And stared. It is beautiful, in it’s own way, a smooth, shiny obelisk. I begin to suspect that I may be in over my head when I discover, to my dismay, that there is no “on” switch. Just a circular control panel. With a button in the middle.
I push the button. The shiny silver surface comes alive, showing a perfect little color screen. Amazing.
Now what do I do?
I remember seeing someone stroke the screen, so I try that. Nothing happens. Oh, wait, that was the I-PHONE. Shit.
I eventually figure out that pushing the arrows and buttons brings one to the menu, but then what? I notice how the cursor moves when I stroke the control panel. Ah, so you DO like to be stroked, after all. Now I get it. But why does the cursor move in the opposite direction of my finger? Strange, Apple seems to have screwed that one up.
It finally occurs to me that you’re supposed to stroke it in a circular manner (I’ll leave the obvious joke alone). Now we’re getting somewhere. I plug it into my computer, and my iTunes program comes to life. At least here I’m on familiar ground. The two machines sync with each other, and I’m ready to go.
I plug in my headphones. They’re a pair of Koss cans. Yes, I wear cans. Even on the airplane. Especially on the airplane. I don’t like buds. Only a full size can can cancel out the sound of the little bastard wailing in the seat behind me, beside providing full surround sound. I wear cans.
But I digress.
I plug in the headphones. I play a song. I am amazed.
Now you have to bear in mind that I have only heard a lot of the songs on my iTunes through the tinny speakers that the computer came with. I’ve been meaning to get better speakers, but blogging isn’t the only thing I’m a slacker about. But now, with the sound being pumped into my head through a decent set of headphones, the experience borders on an epiphany. I spent most of today with the silly thing in my back pocket and the cans glued to my ears.
My downfall is complete. I am now a confirmed iPod whore.
But I will never wear it in a thunderstorm.