Ugh. Worst blog title ever. Don’t hold it against me. Moving on.
I did shitty thing the other day. Well, only semi-shitty, really. It felt shittier than it actually was, I’m sure. What happened was, I slipped on quite a substantial puddle of rum and tumbled down a YouTube rabbithole of Heart, Led Zeppelin, and Aerosmith videos, only to land at the bottom on a pillowy cushion of sadness. Sad because, once again, I missed my records. It’s dumb that I was sad about it, but you know, rum. Then, knowing that my folks were planning a garage sale for that weekend, I sent my stepdad a lengthy, weepy message begging him not to sell any of their records. That was the shitty part, in case you missed it, if only because I felt bad for being dumb and sad and weepy at him. The good news is they didn’t sell their records. The bad news is I still miss mine.
We’ve talked about how much I love vinyl already, but I’m bringing it up again because I just got my very first iPod. (Welcome to the future, Vanessa. Thank you, self, it’s nice to be here. Can you point me towards the hoverboards?) First of all, let me say that I do not like Apple products. I don’t like their closed garden of programming, I don’t like their UI, I don’t like their systematic implementation of planned obsolescence in an industry that’s already extremely wasteful. Having said that, as far as non-phone, pocket-sized gadgets go, they are lightyears ahead of anyone else and their competition has straight given up. Because people like me who don’t use cell phones are few and far between. I get it. I understand that there’s not much of a market for non-phone gadgetry, and that most people don’t hate Apple enough to care about iPod being their only option. Seriously, it was the only mp3 player in the entire store. My country for a Best Buy! Steve Jobs, may the circuit-driven overlords rest his soul, really nailed down a niche market that will continue to get niche-ier and niche-ier as time drones on.
It’s a weird gadget limbo to be in, actually. I do own a cellular telephone, but it’s a cheap, prepaid, basic thing that I use maybe once or twice a month at the most (and the Verizon prepaid service is another whole load of bullshit that I can rant about later, but for now let me just say that it does contribute to my crushing feeling of being marginalized by society in a first world problems kind of way). I have no cell service, but I do have wifi. So I could use a smartphone like a gadget, were I willing to throw money down a hole for a cell plan, even though I would never actually use the thing as a phone. It’s ridiculous. I refuse. Perhaps that makes me stubborn or a Luddite or whatever, and perhaps one day I’ll change my mind (read: break down, give in, stop standing on principle). I shall keep you posted.
The point of this whole oddly pro- and anti-technology rant, though, is the music. I love vinyl. I also love being able to carry thousands of songs around in my pocket, despite the aesthetics of those two formats being wildly different. They are distinct musical experiences. Dancing around like an idiot in my kitchen to tunes that both the roommate and The Husband can’t stand but miraculously don’t have to be subjected to? Awesome. And it wouldn’t have been possible in the age of vinyl. Not without some inevitable headphone cord and boiling water related injuries. I consider this progress, on the whole, and appreciate that I can do it every day, even if the music doesn’t sound as good. Because, man, do those guys hate Marilyn Manson.
At the same time, though, I feel like there’s a generation gap inherent in our acquisition and enjoyment of music because of this kind of technology. Since the advent of Napster back in the 1900s, I’ve been able to hear a song, like it, look it up, and own it in a matter of seconds. That’s fucking weird, right? Weirder still, I’m not obligated to purchase/download or even think about the rest of the album. It’s like being allowed, suddenly, to buy only one page of a novel. Do people who make music even think about albums as a whole, continuous piece of art anymore? And if so, is that artistic instinct undermined by the knowledge that the listeners most likely won’t experience it that way? (I’m honestly curious. Musician friends, leave your thoughts in the comments.) This was probably a consideration during the heyday of radio, as well, it’s just that now one radio single won’t make people run out and buy the record to hear where that song fits in. It doesn’t have to fit anywhere and no one expects it to. It’s the change in what people anticipate from their audience that I find most interesting.
And the technology itself has to be another factor for the artist, right? Does a particular song sound best live? Played on speakers? Digitally equalized? Through earbuds? Through cheap earbuds? How to distribute it? On CD? On vinyl? On the band’s website? Via iTunes? Via any other site that tries in vain to compete with iTunes (I’m looking at you, Bandcamp)? It seems to me, as a lowly music lover who’s scrabbling to keep up, to be getting more complicated. But again, it’s way easier when one embraces Apple. That’s fucked up, that an entire industry has veered so completely toward one company’s system. It’s not unique, though. I suppose everyone’s already done the same thing with Google and all the social media sites.
To make a slight, but relevant, right turn here: I recently got filled with hate and rage over a court case concerning alleged patent infringement on podcasting technology. Basically, a group of dicksmacks are suing Adam Carolla for using a particular sequencer, the thing that plays the episodes in the right order when listeners access the show’s archive. To my understanding, Carolla himself has absolutely nothing to do with how his show uses this niblet of programming. He’s just the extra-annoying comedian who records the show. And the dicksmacks are coming after him because he’s the most prominent of the non-radio-affiliated podcasters. His show is (inexplicably) hugely popular, so if he folds it will set a precedent that all the little guys will be forced to abide by. To go one step further, this could lead to problems with services like Stitcher or, horror of horrors, Netflix. Everyone uses this sequencer. There’s a lot of money to be made off of big companies if this case gets that far, which is the only reason the dicksmacks are making this a thing. The more reliant we become on technology to get through our everyday lives, the more of these kinds of lawsuits we’re going to see because every little piece of programming depends on all the ones that came before it. Until we can find the dude who owns the patent on Putting Things in Their Proper Order or, you know, Chronology, we cannot let the dicksmacks win. Their case is bogus and I don’t want to pay for podcasts, is what I’m saying. You can (and should) donate to Carolla’s defense fund here. I know you’re thinking he doesn’t need our money, but this is going to cost millions to litigate. You can spare the ten bucks. You really can. Because you don’t want to pay for podcasts, either.
Anyway. I don’t know why I felt like I had to blog about this. I’ve just been thinking about music and technology and their increasingly symbiotic existence a lot since I got my iPod. Well, since I’ve been trying to figure out how to use my damn iPod, really. I’m both happy and agro about it. There should be a word for that emotion. I bet the Germans have one. And as soon as I retrieve my turntable and my records from their purgatorial basement on the other side of the country, I promise I won’t write any more whiny blogs about this. Or drunken Facebook messages. Urm, probably. I mean, what are the odds?