Love and Hate and a CD

Due to a clerical oversight (related to the transition between the Bush and Obama administrations; just a guess), there are some albums that can only be purchased on CD. This is the brief tale of one such CD, and the two opposing emotions that it inspired.

 

“I love technology and all it stands for.”

My music library is managed by a specific Mac in my house: a 15″ MacBook that fulfills the roles of Desktop Machine and Hub Of The Whole Works. Because this Mac is gracious and accommodating (and because I’ve configured it to work this way), any music that I add to its iTunes library becomes available to me everywhere. And I mean everywhere. Everywhere in the house, because this library is linked to wireless speakers, Rokus, Apple TVs, home media servers, and Plex servers. And! Everywhere in the world, because I’ve got iTunes Match and Google Music set up on this Mac. My iPad, my iPhone, my Android phone, or any machine with a working web browser can get access to damn-near the whole works whenever I want, right from the cloud.

(This is why I buy my music from the Amazon MP3 store. The track’s a 99 cent, high-bitrate unlocked file no matter where you buy it…so buying it from Amazon puts it into three cloud music libraries with the same single mouse click. One copy in Amazon Cloud Player, one copy via iTunes Match, one copy uploaded to Google Music. All thanks to the helper app that automatically downloads my purchases and puts them in my iTunes library.)

It’s a swell system and I’m regularly reminded how cool it is to be living in 2014. I was tidying the living room and came across my “Unsung Sondheim” CD. I almost forgot I had this! I wanted to listen to it right away. But it wasn’t in my library; for some reason, I’d never ripped it.

I could have spun the disc on my DVD player, but this wouldn’t have solved my “Sondheim CD is not in my iTunes library” problem. I could have ripped it on the 13″ MacBook that I was using in the living room, but then I’d need to move the files into the other library eventually. I could have moved into the office and done my work there…but then it wouldn’t have felt like Sunday, would it?

But the system works great. I took the CD into the office, started the rip, and then went back to my lazy (but hopefully still productive) Sunday in the living room. In roughly the time it’s taken me to write these few paragraphs, the files appeared — everywhere — and I started listening to it through my wireless speakers.

I did take a moment today to reflect on how cool all of that was. I hadn’t been able to listen to this album because it was physically locked onto this one physical object, which I’d obviously misplaced shortly after it arrived in the mail. Ripping a disc hasn’t really changed much since 1998. Modern music management makes you realize that music files tied down to one music library isn’t that much of an improvement over their being tied down to a disc.

Today? Ripping it into this one library makes it available to me anywhere and everywhere, without any further action. This is exactly the way I want things to happen and it’s magically simple.

love technology.

 

“I hate technology and all it stands for.”

But I only have two external USB CD/DVD drives in the house and I knew that neither of them were attached to the office MacBook. I fetched one of them and went into my office.

Bloody drive wouldn’t mount the CD, for some reason. I could hear the motors struggling to pull the disc in, and it sounded like the device wasn’t getting enough power. Damn.

Try another USB port? Damn.

Well. My brain was set to “listen to Sondheim” mode, not “troubleshoot a problem” mode. Switching modes requires a soft reboot, so instead of trying to make this drive work I muttered a Level 2 curse (of the five intensities available) and prepared to get up and grab the other drive.

Then I remembered that this is a 2011 MacBook Pro.

It has an internal optical drive.

Goddamn Apple. It has beaten my spirit and forced me to accept their bizarre reality that people shouldn’t ever expect to find an optical drive in a laptop, because that would be insane who would ever want a laptop with an optical drive aren’t you embarrassed I know I’m embarrassed for you honey let’s just forget you said that.

I slid in the CD. My MacBook made a mechanical internal sound that I dearly miss from every other Mac I own. Remember when computers reassured you that it was working by making soothing, reassuring mechanical noises? My first computer was an Apple II. Every day I’d start it up and the CHUGGACHUGGACHUGGA swisshhh…swissshhhh…thip-thip-swisshhh told me that magic was about to happen. iTunes started crunching the music without any fuss.

I had forgotten how much I enjoy that sort of thing. Electrons only make noise when they’re very, very upset with you.

I know I’m not mad at Apple. I’m mad at myself for allowing Apple to brainwash me.

At least there’s hope: I did catch myself before I left the office to get the other drive. Still: goddamn it. I hate technology sometimes.

 

“I hate technology and all it stands for.” (postscript)

…And for some damn reason, WordPress stripped all of the paragraph breaks from this post after I made a quick edit and clicked “Update.” You wouldn’t think that restoring them by hand would be a chore, but yeah. When your attitude towards formal structure is as lighthearted as mine, however, you can become your own worst editor.

(“I did the best I could. Could you check this copy and make sure it still makes sense? To you, I mean?”)

It could have been worse. Remember the days before autosave? It’s rare when something you’ve written just flat-out disappears to the land of ghosts and winds. Still, it happens sometimes.

I marvel at how upset I get when a glitchy piece of software eats something I’ve written. It’s usually something short and eminently disposable, like an extended comment on someone’s blog post. But the fact remains that it’s three or five hundred words that I thought about, wrote, and edited, and when I got to the very end and clicked “Send,” some goddamn app said “Ha ha! No you didn’t write anything! What? Oh, really? Well, its your word against mine now, jerkface!!!”

The thing I wrote is still fresh in my mind. I could re-type it in a fraction of the time it took to write it originally (and truth be told, it’ll probably be stronger than the first version). But it’s so hard to make myself do it all over again. It feels like something was stolen from me. Words? Time? I don’t know, but that’s the mindset.

Also, I somehow bristle at the very thought that I need to put that time in all over again. It’s like walking up to the takeout counter at a sandwich shop, paying $8 for a sub, and then when they finish making it they say “That’ll be $8.” No. Go to hell! I already paid for this once and if I pay for it again, it’s like I’m telling you it’s okay for you to behave this way!

I don’t have kids and I can only imagine the level of eye-rolling that would ensue if I said “If I lost a child, would I just shrug and make another one? This is something special I took pride in and cared about. I don’t just cynically crank these things out because it’s part of a business plan or something!”

I’m a pro, so I’d probably try to take the edge off by ending it with “Who do you think I am…Kris Jenner?” Even so, I know that people without children shouldn’t compare anything in their lives to having children.

Instead, I’ll say that having to redo something I’ve written due to a software glitch is maddening and upsetting in a way that few other simple problems can madden and upset me. The closest I ever came to actually throwing a computer against a wall and jumping up and down on whatever remained was when Word ate an entire 12,000 word book chapter that I’d written in a long, joyous and grateful single day of totally-in-the-zone productivity.

I was exactly as upset as George Brett was, when his ninth inning home run was declared an out, to end and lose the game for the Royals. And for the same reasons.

 

 

But I didn’t throw anything against anything. I remembered this Mister Rogers song, or at least the message. You’re entitled to your anger sometimes, and sometimes you can’t even choose to not be angry. But you can choose what to do with your anger.

 

 

I chose to yell a whole hell of a lot and wave my arms around until my throat and my arms were a little sore, just to open up a relief valve (note that I was alone in my house). Then, I chose to take the next day off.

When I reviewed Microsoft’s first music player, my leadoff paragraph stated that using the Zune was about as pleasant as having an airbag deploy in your face. The line was so widely-quoted that it became a question on “Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me.”

I’m not saying that this was my revenge for what Microsoft Word had done to my book chapter. I take my work too seriously to let that happen. But the book author from a few years earlier (unshaven and a little smelly after a sixteen hour workday, and still wearing the same shorts and tee shirt he’d slept in the night before) pumped his fists and cheered and promised to take me out to lunch the next day.

It wasn’t much of a gesture. We had joint bank accounts. But it was nice of him, anyway.

I am now doing a “select-all” and “copy” on this blog post so that if WordPress screws up again, I can sigh and shake my head and fix things with a simple “paste.” We live, we learn.

Push the button, Frank…