Thursday, December 26, 2013

One Thing at a Time, Never Enough

I've been perennially late to the party when it comes to tech. Mostly out of financial woe, but sometimes because the newest, cleanest thing didn't serve my ragtag needs. I held cassettes dear way past their expiration date, but I'd be damned if I wasn't going to take my music with me and the walkman ruled the day (until the batteries started draining, but that's showbiz). Most important thing about cassettes: I could make my own. People soon will hardly remember cd's, or that computers even had cd burners. (I even had a disastrous playtime with mini disc that I can't talk about anymore). I suppose I could gift someone with a playlist on a usb drive, but, who even has a usb port anymore? My personalization angst has a body count.

I recently read through the results of a survey Google ran discussing folks' digital device habits. Apparently, the word of the day is: multitask. Our digital world: where only one thing is not enough. As someone who actually tries to concentrate on one thing at a time, I have difficulty  envisioning folks jumping from phone to tablet all while watching TV and possible driving or baking bread at the same time. 

There were many scenarios assumed by this survey, mostly grouped by: phone+TV, tablet+TV, PC+TV  which just shows how dull TV is that no one wants to pay attention to it anymore. Not as surprising, but more entertaining, was one respondent using the term "life time management" to express how he can be online while actually waiting in line. Sure, I suffered a long, slow line recently, but everyone was orderly, quiet and calm because they were all staring at their mobiles. You say "life time management", I say "crowd control". Are we all now happy to be waiting for our chai lattes, appointed court times and dentist visits as long as we can continuously suck at the 4G teat? 

Don't label me a luddite just because I am wielding tech from 2009. But if I won the lottery and could construct the ultimate tricked out digital den, would I have iPads built into the toilet paper holder and google glass in the defogged bathroom mirror? I enjoy getting answers to my questions anywhere wifi flies free, but I cant imagine needing to rearrange my Netflix queue while walking from my house to my car. (Not yet, you say, but just wait. People used to have to drop a bucket into a hole in the ground to get their water once upon a time.)

I've fetished old tech into art, just like everybody else: floppy discs, flash bulbs, 8mm film lacquered into sculpture, vinyl 45's melted into herb planters. And this year, apparently, I have fetished new tech into a blog of sorts. I started my online diatribes a year ago promising equal-opportunity derision, but the conversation somehow kept pointing to my skewed digital life (I maintain 3 iPods with different playlists, but won't join Facebook). I'm all for the organic and holistic in art and life: go where the vitriol takes you, keep an ear to the ground for the most enlightening discourse and try not to tell too many jokes that show your age (in my day, a selfie meant something else entirely…)

It's the end of 2013 and I still don't live in a minimalist white room with a single small device that holds all my music, books, movies, memories, hopes and dreams. Maybe next year it'll pop up on my amazon wishlist.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Fair, Balanced by Choice

For most of the 20th century, magazine publishers and their advertisers made big money  putting out movie magazines for the (mostly) women of the world. The idea of escaping a dull existence by reading about fabulous celebrity lives always left me kind of cold. If all I read about was people who seemed to have better lives than I do, wouldn't I always feel bereft about my own existance? There were only a handful of magazines - Life, National Geographic among them - along with the local and national newspapers that could always tell the other side of the story. And it's important, I believe, to feed ourselves equal parts of news - good and bad - to help level out our own existence.

We have the opportunity, in the digital age, to have access to such a wide range of news. Unfortunately, the government seems bent on trying to define a journalist in order to reign in who can and cannot present their opinions online; but until then, it's caveat lector and we're each responsible to vet our own resources.

Websites like Netvibes, Flipboard, and my personal choice, Feedly, allow you to bring in blogs and newsfeeds to create a self-curated collection of news and commentary from all over the globe, from all manner of sources. Certainly the combinations are endless, but my appeal to you is to take a moment and find ways to receive information on a wide variety of challenges facing our planet, our population, our country and the many components that make up a civilization. Yes, it takes time and attention to detail as well as rifling through a lot of bad prose, questionable facts and downright corporate-controlled propaganda. To get a better idea of how your neighbors are thinking, always skim through the replies. Better the devil you know is sometimes the best defense against rose-colored glasses.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Oh, CD

Managing my music collection has always been more about avoiding pain than it has been about instant retrieval at my fingertips. I have lived with people whose entire music world consisted of cassettes (with no cases!) dumped into a shopping bag. I consider myself lucky to have once rescued a sturdy wooden tri-level wine display off the streets of Manhattan back in the '80s. The slight incline of the actual shelves made for excellent (alphabetical, of course) cassette perusal.

Of course, this wasn't an extremely portable solution. Because I moved around endlessly in those years, it's no surprise the wine display didn't survive all of my many pads and gaffs. I began my music collecting life with 45s (because I swore to everyone that one day I'd be able to afford a jukebox; thankfully some dreams remain filthy shards of disappointment). Back in the small vinyl days, I kept a cache of footlong "crates" culled from places like Peaches (remember how the stores always smelled like sweet hippie incense?).  The crates were a godsend for many years: easy to transport, easy to display and today they serve time as organizers for tools and bathroom items, so I am an upstanding citizen of sustainability as well.

A small-ish music collection is easy to maintain when everything is laid out in one glance; however, when several different genres are scattered throughout a residence, organization becomes less about the storefront and more about the database. Who wants to run out and buy another copy of Beaucoup Fish or Dubnobasswithmyheadman just because you don't remember if it's under the sofa or you sold it on Amazon for cocktail money? And who among us, unable to memorize every track on every CD, purchased a greatest hits compilation never realizing you owned all the songs already? 

By the time I'd converted to compact disc and invested a sizable chunk into funky art installations to house all that plastic, I'd long since discovered a manic way of keeping a database of my music, no matter how time consuming and life draining. It wasn't just album tracks, it was the endless compilations and "samplers" I'd picked up along the way, the CD singles and CD maxi singles and CD ultra maxi singles with amazing rarer-than-rare b-sides and 15 remixed versions (at least 3 being dubs) of the latest techno/electronica/trip-hop track that I snagged just in case I was ever asked to deejay (I was never asked). Seriously, who needs to spend the time upending an entire room's contents as if the FBI had mounted a drug raid when you can consult a handy, gratutiously-updated list-to-end-all-lists?

Of course, those days are a distant memory, I am pleased to say. My digital life allows a piece of software like iTunes to literally assault me with libraries and playlists complete with an endless array of iterations for viewing "The Collection". It will even back up the monstrosity to some ethereal otherworldly cloud if I choose. The fact that I can make an on-the-fly mix of any songs that contain the word "kittens" or "mmmm" never fails to delight.

It goes without saying, but I'm saying it anyway, that all the time I save not worrying about my music collection I still have to waste with all those books and dvd/blu-rays. Scanning barcodes with my iPod is still terribly time consuming and the severe lack of vital information -  like who catered each film's food truck or in what typeface each book edition was set in - makes the whole database app enterprise ripe for competing developers to sweep in and take the marketshare.  One day soon an algorithm will select the perfect track to match every situation of my day. My music will follow me everywhere, a soundtrack uploaded, shared, blogged about, commented on and then quietly archived by the NSA.

Monday, September 16, 2013

gecko, behind the Dali

I'm not trying to be surreal; this is just what happens when you live in the subtropics through a long sticky summer: things hide behind other things that shouldn't be there but they are. I have a lot of Dali posters scattered throughout my house. Absolutely none can match the thrill of seeing the original in person, but we try to reproduce life as we can – it's human nature.

Besides, in my neck of the woods it is possible to see some of Salvador Dali's 2-story tall paintings live. Now, art museum etiquette frowns on folks taking photos of masterpieces, but in our ubiquitous digital world, there's no longer any real vigilance against this practice. I saw plenty of iPhones snapping in the museum, trying in vain to capture the enormity, the textures, the details, but it can't happen. Even my reproductions barely scratch the surface - I sometimes wonder why I bother. There are art gallery websites, of course, that allow us to magnify each sector of the world's art output, but it's all still web resolution artifacts and device-dependent pixels. Maybe that's why the Dali doesn't truly police their no-photo law: they know nothing can replace the experience of eyes-on-canvas.

The live music world has long ago lost that battle as well; but I believe they now actively court an audience that comes armed with their tech, so the next day I can see the whole event replayed on YouTube. (Was that me in that crowd shot?) Seriously, sitting in the balcony at the Pet Shop Boys show, I beheld the sweaty swath of audience below me, hundreds of phone screens shining brightly at me, hundreds of phone screens instagramming, facebooking, probably YouTubing. In fact, while sitting in a mezzanine lounge before the concert, I gazed down at 2 couples at a table directly below me. All were animated in conversation, all were manhandling their phones, texting, swiping through photo galleries and who knows what else at the same time - and these were people my age, not tweens.

I had the thrill of attending two concerts in one weekend and my digital life allowed me to not only preview the set lists from previous tour stops, but also scope out fan photos of the swag booths. (which makes sense, because at the swag booths, there were more people snapping pix of the merchandise than standing in line to purchase.) And sure, the kid in front of me was pulling up the Depeche Mode setlist so he knew what was happening before it was happening, but I swear I saw him go to iTunes to search for which song being played was on what album and he might have even purchased it right then and there. Internet advertisers, take note: this is interactive marketing at its most immediate and sublime. 

As an aside, I also truly believe that very soon there will be a whole explosion in augmenting our appendages via plastic surgery. Right now there is no defense against "zombie thumbs" as devices get smaller. The only solution: shave off most of our thumbs in order to be more stylus-like. No matter, the kid at the concert thumb-typed at least 85+ wpm (although I hope he isn't using autocorrect, one of the true scourges of the digital world).

So, my only digital question left is: no one raises their lighters anymore in our nanny-state during ballads. Is there an app for that yet?

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Something borrowed, something used

The sheer glut of used media (books, CDs, DVDs) has been threatening to overwhelm our society for a few years now. In fact, selling used is apparently not a sound business model (all those CD Warehouses went out of business even before the heyday of digital). Even the thrift stores don't have the room for all the VHS cassettes and Readers Digest condensed volumes dumped into their bins; they still make their bucks turning over clothes and handmade holiday macrame. Is there a better model?

There are still some independent retailers in my area who are sticking to the "mostly-used, some new" model, but many were forced out of business by a public obsessed with purely digital entertainment.  One former community favorite - Vinyl Fever - ended up splitting their new and used music sections 50/50, but I don't think it could sustain itself on meager 99 cent used CD sales. Up by USF, Mojo Books and Music is rocking a cavernous, well-stocked used book selection (and selling coffee and being a community hangout), while in Pinellas Park, SoundExchange is so overrun with used DVDs, they are pushing most off at 3/$5 (but being smart by organizing them by lead actor rather than alphabetically for easier binge watching). The venerable local institution that is Bananas will invite you to their voluminous warehouse, but their retail presence serves up a rather generic catalog of used CDs, sure to please the passer-by looking for a bargain.

So, juggling new and used media in brick & mortar is probably not a good business model at all. (I can't see Barnes and Noble doing it, no matter how quickly I am contributing to their demise.) Books and CDs are, unfortunately, destined to clog up the landfills; DVDs probably even faster due to the realization that you don't have to own a movie in order to have access to it whenever you want thanks to streaming subscription services and several robust rental schemes like Amazon and iTunes.

But folks don't stream CDs, they still rely on glorified radio stations like Pandora (and the upcoming iTunes Radio) to curate for them. As for books, is there really a more sustainable idea than the public library? Thanks to places like Better Worlds Books, it's gotten easier. I can buy a used book for a penny from Better Worlds Books via Amazon, read it, and then deposit it in one of the many green Better Worlds drop boxes in my community. It seems like borrowing to me, verging on recycling  (the tree's already been felled, the presses already run). Unlike the public library, it isn't exactly free - but most of the price goes to keeping the U.S. Postal Service alive - so that's almost being patriotic, right?

I have attempted to set up the same sort of cycle for CDs, but it's a bit more complicated. Sure, I get 99.9% of my music digitally (not just iTunes, elitists, I actually make the trip to to pay my favorite artists directly), but you know how iTunes and Amazon will make the best song on a soundtrack "album only" just to piss you off? I'll by the CD used and within minutes of it showing up in my p.o. box, I've digitized the track and re-listed it to sell on Amazon. The circle of life to be surel I may even make a profit.

Speaking of supporting artists directly, one fantastic arena rocking my online world is original art t-shirts. Instead of rolling down to Hot Topic (at my age, please!), I find amazing art to wear on websites such as Zazzle and Threadless and – since I have a New Orleans bent – Dirty Coast. The original t-shirt world is bright, shiny and booming while allowing me to spread my bucks around big business directly to the folks who deserve it.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Pomo, for my boho

As an aside to my regularly-scheduled digital misadventures, I am compelled to include a recent episode I'd always imagined would be a life-altering event. As I fast approach my half-century mark, this event falls squarely under the "I never thought I'd see this in my lifetime" menu item. Like avoiding the grim reaper, I've dreaded this moment, but also been a bit curious to see what the old boy's like under his hoodie.

My event, oddly enough, concerns the recent film adaption of Jack Kerouac's On the Road. Having not only read the book several times, I also studied numerous biographies, many of Kerouac's letters, as well as dozens of scholarly riffs on this piece of mid-last-century lit. I know all the real-life scenes, understand the whole myth behind Kerouac's supposed benny-induced nonstop typing of the novel. I know how long it took him to find a publisher, as well as the damaging effects its success had on him. Hell, I even bought a Dutch-language version of the book when in Amsterdam (it's called Onderweg).

But this isn't just a film culled from a book. It's a film culled from a book that was largely autobiographical, whose characters are now, 50+ years later, virtually indistinguishable from their real life counterparts - something Brazilian filmmaker Walter Salles capitalized on. In our post-modern world, personal works of art are often readjusted, re-aligned and re-maligned over the course of generations. Fellini's 8 1/2, back in '63, was also this type of artwork: a film about a film director having trouble making a film. Twenty years later, a Broadway musical based itself on the same material, but Nine seemed like less like a rework and more like an alternate take. However, when Rob Marshall decided to make a film of that Broadway show, he set it back in 1963 in order to emphasize we were watching a film based on the real life drama of Federico Fellini, not the character played by Daniel Day-Lewis. (I am surprised Marshall didn't shoot in black and white, as 8 1/2 was originally presented, but you really can't sell a glitzy movie musical without all that color.)

Still, watching On the Road was an intensely personal experience. I waited for Netflix so I could screen it alone, under the covers with two dogs fast asleep beside me. I won't review the film here except to say that it was faithful to the material for the most part and didn't ramble on as much as you'd think a rambling first-person series of roadtrips would. This is one of the reasons the book was thought to be "unfilmmable". But Kerouac gifted us with more than just hip narration and cool dialogue; as any good chronicler does, he gave us indelible images to play with.

The trouble most people like me have with film novelizations is that I envision characters and events in a totally different way than a screenwriter and filmmaker. In fact, like a lot of people, I will inevitably "cast" an actor in a role, hear their voice while reading dialogue. Action tends to be less adventurous in novels and this is where movies are able to take the visual to loftier extremes. I read the Percy Jackson novels before the films came out and there is no way what I conjured in my mind while reading can match the awesome action sequences onscreen. Uma Thurman aside, my imagination is not as good as CGI in 2013.

Back in the 90's David Cronenberg attempted to film William Burroughs' Naked Lunch. A scatalogical, drug-induced web of cautionary tales, there was only one way to connect them: introduce Burroughs' actual life story into the script in order to ground and focus the rest of the plot. If you already knew the source material, I think the film worked just fine - but if you were unfamiliar with either Burroughs or the Beats, you might as well have been sitting through Existenz.

So I was pleased the film version of On the Road didn't try to go all "meta" on me. It did not try to distill all of Kerouac and Beat Literature into its manifest. The novel emerged from notebooks Kerouac kept while just living his life. His iconic style sprang largely from the bebop jazz he loved so much, matching its relentless syncopation and improvisation. However, the main problem I have with this film is I wasn't watching On the Road, the misadventures of purehearted Sal and wildhearted Dean, I was watching a Jack Kerouac/Neal Cassady bio pic. The differences between real life and art can be small, but significant. Kerouac wasn't as much a radical as his p.r. machine tries to sell. He spent his time doing what his friends did: party, listen to music, try to score with chicks, argue with his mom. The most wild thing his clique did was drop benzedrine inhalers in their coffee. Salles' film doesn't show us a lot of moments where there isn't drug use and wild sex, giving the audience the impression that's all these characters were about. 

A good simple example has to do with underwear. In the book, when Sal first meets Dean, it's a shocker because Dean opens up his front door wearing only his underwear. In real life, when Kerouac first met Neal, Neal opened up his front door bareass naked. Conservative Kerouac didn't feel the need to relate these exact details in his book, (or maybe his publisher insisted), but the film relies on reallife facts and not the novel for this introductory scene. I found a lot of that in the movie: when Old Bull Lee shows up in the middle of the plot, we all know it's William Burroughs and there's no attempt to differentiate character from real legend. Carlo Marx, based on Allen Ginsberg, shows up in the last part of the movie sporting a full beard. Was that in the book? Maybe not, but in real life Ginsberg had this look at the time, so the movie faithfully reports it like it's a mini-documentary instead of a filmed version of literature.

There are a few remaining items on my bucket list: I've been both mortified and wistful while daydreaming about a big screen adaption of Catcher in the Rye. Yes, the novel deserves to be brought to a new generation through film. No, I don't want another bout of Cider House Rules hanging over my memory (I will never be able to reread John Irving's novel now that I've seen the film). There are remaining a handful of cherished novels that haven't made it to film (Poppy Z. Brite's Drawing Blood, Hemingway's Moveable Feast, Grant Morrison's Invisibles), while there are others I cringe for/long for currently in production (Neil Gaiman's Sandman series, Faulkner's As I Lay Dying).

Cinema will mine what it needs in order to survive; I accept this. I don't believe there are any sacred cows in art. Art is meant to be interpreted, and, if need be, reinterpreted. There are hundreds of years of amazing work that have been lost to the ashtrays of time, just as there are too many "new" stories that have been told several times over millennia. In the end, the novel is the novel and the film is the film and where the two meet is just a movie studio decision, an editor's point-of-view, an auteur's grasp of the material, sometimes the author's contractual agreement. In my digital world, images and words collide and coalesce. Somewhere, always, there's a kid with a notebook (or an iPad) writing down the utter crap he and his wild friends are up to that will become "a voice of a generation", and then the machine starts churning again.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

I Scan Barcodes, Tearfully

A visit to my local Barnes & Noble is still a special occasion. There is something comfortingly old-school about circumnavigating the maze of aisles, the espresso aroma of the embedded Starbucks, the awe-inspiring wall of magazines from all over the globe, the crazed half-cocked lean that everyone stands at while perusing the shelves. I appreciate the depth of the selection and the chance that I will happenstance upon something completely unplanned and amazing.

And then I scan the barcode with my iPod, visit thanks to B&N's free wifi and purchase the book at a discount. Right in front of a B&N employee, no less.

It wasn't supposed to be like this. And, make no mistake, I don't want B&N to go away.

When I was a kid growing up in generic subtropic suburbia, there were no big box stores, especially for books. I could brag that the local stripmall bookstore was "independent", but that implies something funky, something dangerous. It appeared that generic subtropic suburban bookstore had a wide selection, but what did I know? It wasn't until I moved to New York City that I discovered small bookstores that catered to specific tastes, like Rizzoli with their gorgeous, out-of-my-price-range, hardcover coffeetable art books, the loft on Broadway that sold nothing but theatre scripts, the Spring Street eclectic bookstore with the expansive worldview – not for people who read romance novels.

By the time I settled back in Tampa Bay, I was all about the independent bookseller, especially in what was then the "bohemian" quarter in Ybor City. Friends had opened the Three Birds Bookstore, complete with poetry readings, subversive literature and a surly barrista. It wasn't until I moved on to Atlanta that I first beheld a two-story Borders and ascended to heaven (or at least up to a graphic novel paradise).

I hear Barnes & Noble isn't doing so well. Whether their online presence is profitable or their digital reader is popular is not my concern; I need their brick-and-mortar to stay in tact. Am I worried there will be less choices without a B&N? Not really. There are already less choices in my digital shopping mall. The small collection of streaming film I list on Netflix is the exact same one streaming for free with my prime account. Music that is maddeningly available "album only" on iTunes is served up the exact same way on The vendors change; the product does not.

I know I can seek out the digital equivalent of "boutique" stores, spread my e-dollars out, go right to the author and bypass the publishing company as much as I can go to Bandcamp to buy music directly from the artist. I have to admit I am afflicted by the same one-stop-shopping laziness that makes folks go to WalMart. Voting with my wallet has never been more important in this world economy, but I don't feel I can really do anything to support local businesses. 

I once again find myself living in a generic subtropic suburbia, but this time around I don't feel I will miss out on the latest German import or out-of-print first edition. As long as I have a good cable connection and an efficient postal system, I am golden. But I am also isolated and not part of the solution (but my espresso skills ain't half bad).

Thursday, June 13, 2013

the Internet, on my face

So, I've been streaming the scifi show Continuum, about a cop chick from the future forced to do her thing in our own dark times. But she's not only equipped with a wearable computer, but also a chip in her head that lets her see people's heart rates when she speaks to them, etc. Basically, Google glass in her head. It's inevitable that someone, like me, watching a show, like that, would invariably muse: "gee, I wonder what she'd see if she looked at me."

My life has been fairly driven by the whole "what-people-think-I-am-at-first-glance". On the upside, it got me laid alot, people foolishly thinking I was more dark and dangerous than I actually ever was; on the downside, I probably lost a lot of good jobs because people can't separate their idiotic first impressions from my well-stacked resume. So, it's a slippery conundrum. In the coming age where people will look at me and get a whole lot more than just "a weird feeling", well, let's just say i will be effectively wearing my Linkedin profile. And so will we all.

I don't think they'll be much choice in the matter. It's not like we'll get ready to go out for a night of clubbing and stress over whether we'll wear our Google+ profile or our Add-Dating-Site-Here profile. It might be zen to say "we are who we are", but now it's literal. And to those people with different levels of access (or those who just hack well enough to pretend to be someone with a higher level of access), we'll be literally wearing our medical data, our criminal record, our tax record. When people squint at us or do a double take, it might be because they've discovered that awkward online photo before we have, superimposed over our faces.

Now, I don't want to get all dystopian like some old guy about the rise of the robots or anything. I'm Mister Cautious Tech Geek after all. I dream about the day when I only need Siri as a friend and confidante (but with Helen Mirren's voice). I have been well aware for quite a while that my shrouds of privacy would soon become a thing of the past. What I didn't realize was that I would also have to say goodbye to my air of mystery.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Middle-aged scifi geek, reflecting

When I imagine earlier generations of kids immersed in the fantasy worlds available to them, their dreams seem so damned honorable and American: exploration of far-flung planets, staving off the Martian problem and generally saving the Earth. Out of those honorable, fertile imaginations we got both the Apollo space program and Trek '66, so all those hours gazing at one of those hand-cranked solar system models eventually paid off for our civilization.

For those of my generation and beyond, however, we've seen so much, read so much, we should easily be making fantasy into reality at a pace much faster than the latest iPad app. But I think that's because we're not actually 100% certain what tech exists and what doesn't. We may have a suspicion that transporting technology isn't quite happening and that communicators easily became cellphones, but I'm fuzzy on whether we still make rockets that only run on massive amounts of fossil fuels or have we figured out that whole warp core thing yet.

While my father and his generation may have gazed out of their bedroom windows up to the Milky Way (well, my dad grew up in east Harlem, so probably not) and wonder what was out there, I never had to. I was neither curious nor overwhelmed by the possibilities. Disappointed perhaps that I would have to find a mountain in Patagonia in order to sneak a peek at our galaxy because of our overly-bright western civilization, but there was always the Pink Floyd laser show at the planetarium to give me an easy simulation.

Have I borne witness to so many versions of dystopia, with and without Pamela Anderson, to imagine I will ever actually experience one in my lifetime? (Or am I actually living in a slo-mo po-mo version right now?) Apparently whatever bleak rendition of the future we'll get, there will still be great rock n' roll - Tank Girl notwithstanding - and brothels will have to make a comeback. Evil computers? My iPod already thinks it knows what's best for me and I don't even have the one with Siri. Hell, my inkjet printer has a tainted, damned soul if you ask me.

Has all of my science fact or fiction repertoire a) been utterly useless to me as a human being or b) subtly formulated my outlook on life and its expectations? I mean, I already have a decent grasp on the theories of alt universes and time travel and understand why temporal mechanics gave Janeway a headache, so the idea that another version of myself is living the highlife on the other side of the world wouldn't surprise me in the least. Travel back to the year of my birth and vow not to do anything to upset the timeline? Yeah, I didn't need to go to university to figure out how that all will end badly.

My mother's generation may or may not have dreamed of landing on all those alien planets that look suspiciously like our California desert, but I suspect sadly that space travel will be less Voyager or Moya or even Serenity and more Nostromo, only with meals catered by Monsanto.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

My atlas, in the cloud

Very, very soon - we'll all be fairly device agnostic - carrying our interfaces around with us - tablet or phone (or goggle) sized. There will be a dock in our cars, a dock at home on our desks (with a sensible keyboard). Perhaps the only other main tech in the house will be the ginormous television that we'll surf the web on, stream movies and TV, skype our families. What was once called our "computer" will no longer need to be bulky enough to hold all our "stuff", just powerful enough to reach it.

I imagine the cloud to be the great steamer trunk in the sky. For those who are new to this world, or haven't seen Titanic, steamer trunks were these intricate traveling wardrobes - much more than a suitcase - it was full of tiny drawers and hidden spaces and when it opened up, looked like a modern entertainment center. I am a compartment fanatic; I like everything in its place.

Unfortunately for control freaks like me, the new digital "imperative" is not a trend - it's the new reality. Computers no longer have CD drives because manufacturers say no one burns cds. Why bother when all your music is available remotely and you can time capsule all your important stuff into the wireless ether. I hear even USB drives will be an early 21st century relic soon. Why carry around info when you are supposed to access it everywhere and anywhere.

So, yes, I will be the last man who still backs up to CD and external hard drive. I will be smart (or paranoid) enough to eventually choose two cloud solutions - just in case one goes all karfluffle.

Or, when the solar flares hit, they all will.

I'm sure no one likes being dragged kicking and screaming into the future. I remember the uproar in my house when I was a kid and VCRs were suddenly no longer top-loading.

One of my biggest beefs with this whole process is how it's being advertised - just to the folks who want access to their movies while waiting in line at the movie theatre, or who want to listen to their tunes while waiting for a concert to begin. Some of us, the artists, the professional designers, need more hand-holding and soothing assurances.

But technology marketing has become american-idoled for awhile now - appealing to the most common consumer. Wordpress, for instance, a robust website builder, is still advertised (by its own company) as being a great tool for your blog. Flash player wants me to update so I can enjoy Facebook better (huh?). And cloud proponents are always going on about that collosal mp3 collection I have that I just need to beam to whenever I have a little more time at the grocer or need to share all those photos of grandma falling into the creek while in the dentist waiting room. 

First big thing: the whole world better have one hell of a broadband connection. At home, at work, at the gas station, at Disney World. And not just "free wifi" that barely spins up. For the cloud to really become the standard, you can't have people crying in the streets because their bars disappear on their smartphones. It'll be like snatching smack away from a junkie, but then standing in front of them dangling the pipe. Chaos will be the norm of the day.

Second huge concern: who gets your steamer trunk in the sky when you die? It becomes the great safe deposit box in the sky - sealed for eternity, but no one has the key.  Expect an entire business model to populate over this (I see a few seeds of this already, but nothing mainstream, no matter what Google (the monarchy, not the search tool) tells you).

Your head may be in the cloud, but not mine. I am a hardwired relic.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Timeless classics, no mildew

I worry about books being burned. Not in some sort of orwellian dystopic sense - although the whole censorship conundrum requires constant vigilance - but I worry about the glut of analog material being tossed aside in the big push to digitize. Books are only the most flammable. 

Not that this is new, it's just all of the sudden so ubiquitous. In olden times, that box of eight tracks found in the back of your uncle's shed would be an oddity - but it's not like it had a chance to end up at the antiques mall. After a few quick clicks and a post to your Google+ page for your friends to get a good laugh at, the bulky plastic would end up in the trash - I mean, no one's getting any money for this.

We were spoiled by vinyl. It had its day and then it became a precious commodity among the musicphile elite - the ones who made sure they had a reliable source for turntable needles. Recently, "collectors" editions of heavy grade vinyl started being offered; but record companies know who their audience is and cater to them as if sending packages of food to war torn countries. 

Back in the early '90s it was obvious used record stores were literally stocked to the ceiling with unloved vinyl; they couldn't give them away fast enough. I confess, we figured out a way to abuse these rejects into art. I hung mobiles made from 45's, some artists took out their mini welders and figured out how to melt vinyl into fantastic new shapes (check out the amazement for vinyl here and cds here.)

This probably isn't going to happen with dvd's, just as it didn't happen to cassette or VCR tapes. And it certainly doesn't bode well for the trillions upon trillions of paperbacks heading for the landfill (although there a few who are touched by brilliance or madness who can do this.)

I've had good luck selling my cds, my hardcovers, my dvds - but the glut of product on has forced prices down to the literal penny. As more and more people digitize, it will no longer be profitable to spend the money to package and mail something that you're only getting 1 cent in return. Then the boxes go to the thrift stores because, if you haven't noticed, used record stores and used bookstores have evaporated like rain on a hot sidewalk. Those who still believe they have a buying public have been relegated to dusty, musty stalls at the flea market, but only for the buying public who like lifting crates and perusing un-alphabetized effluvia.

When I was a kid, in my hometown, there was one of those ex-military rounded un-air-conditioned metal buildings (Nissen huts...) called "Paperback Palace" or some such. I remember endless bins of mostly romance novels; the place seemed cavernous and unending, full of every book imaginable (and this was in the late '70s: how many books could there have been in the world?). A paperbag full of moldy-smelling paperbacks was a good catch on a hot Saturday afternoon. (I had a collector's tendency at an early age; I was determined to buy every Agatha Christie novel - even if I had no intention of reading any of them). The bins of vinyl at many late-lamented used record stores had the same distinct sweet and dusty air to them.

I don't believe there are special landfills for books and cds. I don't imagine we can power whole cities based on burning album covers for fuel. I don't believe most people can go through a stack of media and know what is valuable and what is not, so it will all find its inevitable way down to the curb for the trashman's joy.  Ultimately, if this art is something that can and will be digitized, we're just talking about copies which shouldn't be eulogized like fallen heroes, right? And in the digital realm, all will eventually be reconstituted - except for the wonderful mildew smell.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Imagination, with Retina Display

I was in that last refuge of civilization, Barnes and Noble, over the weekend when I overheard 2 teenage girls grousing at a boy in their group that he was a loser if all he wanted to do was hang out and read comics. Mind you I am the only person actually standing in front of the graphic novel section when this happened. I suppose this wouldn't have happened to me if I had squeezed myself into one of the few remaining actual comic book stores in my area, but I always get claustrophobic amid those tiny aisles and overflowing racks. There's always too much product and never enough room to organize properly.

As an artist, my brain is fine-tuned to the visual. Gorgeous art and a compelling storyline are as looked down in the literary world as movie tie-in books. It should be enough to enjoy the written word and let your imagination fill in the blanks, say Those Who Know. Illustrated stories are for immature minds who can't make that leap. Frack 'n frell on that, I say to Those Who Know.

If I had one of those Edwardian-era libraries in my house, mahogany bookcases lining each wall, I would most likely have a side solely dedicated to graphic novels. Please make the distinction between graphic novels and comic books. One is not a highbrow synonym for more sensitive souls. Graphic novels are comic books, just longer. Known in my circles as TPB (or trade paperbacks) - a graphic novel will usually collect a story that has been broken down into bite-sized chapters. They are collected after all the comic books have been released and look much better on a bookshelf. My collection of Angel: After the Fall series by IDW is even hardbound with one of those silk bookmarks.

I grew up a DC boy - entranced with the Justice League of America and Teen Titans. Individual stories never enthused me; I had to be involved with a team, with all the interaction and headbutting as personalities clashed (This was years before Dynasty would fulfill that need). Later in life, I was comic book reborn when DC released their Vertigo series and I discovered Neil Gaiman's Sandman and Death, as well as seriously mindbending dark stories like Shade the Changing Man and Grant Morrison's The Invisibles. Separate comic book issues became collected TPB Graphic Novels, and if very popular, something called an "omnibus", which is a big hulking collection of all of the graphic novels in a series, lovingly bound and accordingly priced.

During the late-90s resurgence of genre TV like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, graphic novels appeared that filled in the blanks: stories not told during the series run, showing events and creatures a low-budget CGI-starved television show could never. (Thanks, Dark Horse!) Later, after those shows had run their course, along with Firefly, Dollhouse and Farscape - the graphic novels took over the story, taking it to amazing places (and using actors' likenesses to boot).

So how does this all fit in with my 2013 simplification act? While I am hesitant to jump on the Kindle wagon, I may demur when it comes to digital graphic novels on, say, an iPad. With retina display, I can see a whole new world for my favorite tales. In fact, I may have no choice. Farscape creator Rockne S. O'Bannon apparently lost his way with the publishing company keeping his franchise going and had to pull it mid-series. The story continues as digital download only. And with my imagination (to fill in the blanks).

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Archiving, in hardcover

Part of the 2013 downsize and reorganization is being able to say farewell old art projects, both physically and emotionally. Back in the 80's I wrote plays and novels, now interred in a drawer somewhere. They have a digital life, but no digital after-life. (someday I may try to self-publish, who knows.) My artwork and photography, however, has a much richer life. They were born digital and live, in many incarnations, in many versions, on various compact discs, flash drives, and on my portfolio website(s). I also use Shutterfly for archiving purposes, not just for creating photobooks and making posters. But sometimes having a "hard" version of artwork can - besides weathering a post-apoco scenario involving the power grid - provide another avenue for presentation. Sometimes whipping out an iPad and linking to my Behance or Coroflot portfolio doesn't have the same panache as ink on paper.

Of equal importance for this year's downsizing is saying goodbye to old projects. Not just because I've moved on, gotten better, switched my style. Older artwork no longer best represents my talent and experience, so it needs to be curated, much like I change the artwork on the walls of my house. I am by no means giving this art an interment, merely a retirement from the limelight. Current portfolio website wisdom claims that having too much "product" can overwhelm those sensitive viewers, much like shoppers who cannot wrap their minds around too many choices. So, much as I switch out old for new on Refrakted's website, I can give an older era of creation the eulogy and memorial it deserves.

Click here to view this photo book larger

You'll love Shutterfly's award-winning photo books. Try it today.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Dead tree media, eulogized

Part of my 2013 reconstruction is to thin out the herd of space and mind-controlling media. Not just to supplement my pea-sized income, but to curb my enthusiasm for acquisition for acquisition's sake. I just listed my entire collection of Disney's commemorative D23 magazines on If you haven't seen them, they're these ultra-ultra-glossy 11-something by 12-something delicacies with "Life"-sized photos all Laura-Palmered in cellophane (the super-strong print ink smell that makes me swoon is hopefully disney-fied non-toxic). The mag is a treasure for collectors: one part history, one part sell-the-parks, one part sell-the-new-movies. Compared to trolling for news on the internet, the magazine experience, for me, was always more intoxicating.

I didn't start subscribing to magazines until I returned to Tampa Bay back in '98. Before that, magazines were the little stacks of love that I scooped up during my weekly excursions to book and record stores. Barnes & Noble remains the last vestige of the awe-inspiring wall of magazines - but  I accept they are but a dim reflection of what they used to be. Back in the day, even Borders could sometimes be counted on, in some cities, to provide a cornucopia, a cavalcade of glossy goodness from all over the world, for every stereotype and inclination. Quasi-counterculture digs like Tower Records always had such interesting and controversial rags in their stacks, some looking like they'd been mimeographed in the backroom earlier in the day. 

As a grand aside: one of the perks of being in New York City in the '80s was the ever-present newsstands that sat like sentinels on many major thoroughfares. Just like in the movies, the newsstand guy never claimed to be a library and gave you the stinkeye if you perused for too long. Melody Maker, NME and all those cool Brit music rags were hysterically expensive, but mine for the peeking.

Ultimately, sadly, with the advent of digitized media, the allure of magazines has certainly diminished. It has helped, of course, that 99% of them have folded up or reinvented themselves online, where - arguably - it is function over form and the eye candy has been sorely neglected due to concerns about downloading speeds and how much of one's dataplan is being sucked up. Stupid internet.

The last two journals I subscribed to filled a specific niche, allowing me to lull myself to sleep over their instructive but beautiful photos: Coral Magazine, for the days when I intensely cultivated a saltwater reef tank and a late lamented curated enclave called Backyard Living with great recipes for tropical container gardens and pond fountains with koi. When it blew out of existence in the middle of my subscription, the publisher gamely tried to soften the blow by replacing the magazine with their apparently more successful birds-and-birdbath mag. I declined just as softly.

So here's the cortege of dead tree media, my elegy to days at the racks:

Like most hip youths, I quickly figured out how Rolling Stone was pandering to a wide range top40 audience, and although I admired their political reportage, I spent most of the '90s hunkered down with Spin, reading Dennis Cooper interviews and believing I was alternative...but not as alternative as dumping Spin for being too mainstream and hooking up with Alternative Press, until they, too, covered too many "radio" acts and I ended the '90s devoted to Outburn (when they were goth/synth friendly, not death metal as they eventually evolved). Ravaged as I was to get the latest new music releases, I admit I did sometimes empty my pockets for issues of Billboard and Ice.

Honorable memoriam: CMJ New Music Magazine - with a sampler cd! I was loyal for at least a decade and wish there was a way to discover cool to music like that again. (Yes, I have diddled with Pitchfork, whose attempt at pushing mainly independent singer/songwriters with guitars got way too predictable. Where's the electronica!? Where's the industrial?!)

As a film-o-philiac, I was less interested in celebrity gob than interviews with directors and FX guys. Premiere and Movieline satisfied those needs for a good long while, along with the occasional free Entertainment Weekly year subscription. The real artistry came when I was able to dive deeply into genre with jewels like Cinemascape and the great experiment that was the encyclopedic Star Trek magazine.

Finally, there were a few design magazines worth mentioning because I enjoy step-by-step tutorials much more than annoying how-to youtubes: Photoshop User, Layers, maybe Print (never How or Comm. Arts, unless it was an office subscription).

I currently subscribe to only one magazine, both for the utter joy of discovering it rolled into my p.o. box a few times a year and its distinction of being "the Southern magazine of Good Writing": The Oxford American. I can't praise it highly enough.

Color me an adult with a tiny, defiantly analog, streak.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Discovery, now in my underwear

Less than 2 months into my diatribous blog about this sure-to-be lifebranding year and I'm already re-riffing on riffs already riffed upon. But once again, I find myself mourning over a local small business closing: not just an indie record or bookstore but the mom & pop diners that are evaporating at an alarming place (there's nowhere to nosh after last call anymore except for drivethru fastfood) and now the big army/navy store in Tampa Bay is no more.

But is the army/navy just a holdover of my formerly alterno funky DIY vibe? Finding a decent pair of combat boots in any new city I moved to was always the top of my to-do, whether it was in an innocuous Tampa Bay stripmall or a rundown part of downtown Atlanta. New York City used to be lousy with army/navys and thrift shops - I still have a canvas military camera bag that was dyed a wild blue (everything was dyed back in the '80s. That's how we recycled and marked up).

I understand the concept around military surplus and how the plan to sell reasonably wellmade items to the general public has probably lost its curb appeal. Thrift stores continue to prosper, as everyone has more crap to unload than they can hoard. And, of course, their sad evil cousins -  pawn shops - are popping up like Amscots and We Buy Gold on every corner. Why does this sting so much more than it should, since the de-evolution of retail really shouldn't bother a postmodern guy like me, but I miss the days I would wander aimlessly on a Saturday, discovering new and exciting corners of a city. Rolling down to the Target through miles of endlessly under-construction Pinellas County roads does not suffice.

In the '80s I lived for a time across the East River from Manhattan in Astoria, Queens. The elevated subway ride was short and I'd look forward to solitary Saturdays exploring the city beyond (after thorough research through the arts section of that week's Village Voice). My train would plunge underneath the river and I'd find myself in a maze of steamy passageways until emerging into the bright light somewhere around Central Park South. I'd spend the entire day straddling Broadway block after block, numbered streets counting down to historic names by sunset. Along the way, I'd enjoy a huge bookstore or two (one off of Times Square specialized in nothing but plays and theatre books), sometimes standing in the discount theatre ticket line for a matinee that had no stars, just enthusiastic understudies. If not, I'd settle on an art film or - before the happiness of home video - what was known as a revival movie house. This was in the days before Disney gentrified 42nd Street, so I stayed away from the more sticky moviehouses until I got down to the Village later on in the day. In the meantime, there were little record shops on Carmine St. to explore and the holy mecca of Tower Records to wile away the time. A bookstore on 8th St near a Haagan-Dazs, a respite in Washington Square watching the skateboarders, another bookstore on Spring Street, maybe the endless shelves of the Strand. Along the way I got to partake the bounty of tiny Chinese kitchens, pizza by the slice, stalls on St. Mark's selling jewelry and sunglasses until ultimately joining a sleepy crowd and pool game at my favorite bar.

By the mid '90s I found myself living in Atlanta without a car, but easily finding a way to reinvent solitary Saturdays - although now with less independent stores and more chains. I still remained discerning, still experienced the excitement of the possibility of discovery. A Waxtree records, indie bookstore, and Junkman's Daughter in Little Five Points was an exotic destination some weeks; the MARTA up to Lenox Mall in Buckhead to catch a movie, hit the Tower Records, HMV, two-story Borders, and a veggie sandwich at California Pizza Kitchen on others. 

Today I spend solitary Saturdays right here in front of my Mac mini, perusing used books on Amazon, rediscovering old music on iTunes, streaming forgotten film on Netflix. It's not the same, certainly -  not by a longshot. Not merely the lack of exercise or a chance meeting when you turn the corner at just the right moment. There's nothing remotely romantic nor cutting edge about shopping in your underwear. I don't know what Saturdays were supposed to be when this time of my life rolled around. I do not know what everyone else does. I know something's lost when there's less reason to leave the house and find adventure. 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Realism, post-produced

"Everywhere tiny hands of terrorists Begin the beguine. In the year 2013 it has been estimated that world population will be doubled. And then? We do not wish to destroy. We are powerless to prevent."
-Tennessee Williams, 1978

Artists, certainly more sensitive, perhaps more perceptive, have often been the canaries in the coalmine for the human condition. They are compelled to re-enforce their perceptions of the wrongs of their civilization. It needn't be a radical surreal vista like Dali's, or a film of dire warning a la Kubrick, or any dystopian sci fi purged from the minds of Gibson or P.K. Dick. What the artistic soul sees, the rest of world can either ignore or let gradually seep into their consciousness. 

I know the planet is filling up, resources are dwindling; that there are barely enough jobs for everyone, enough food and water. In my mind the chances of the earth self-course correcting (thank you, Lost, for lodging that term in my head) with a more harsh environment, or a corporation-controlled government unleashing a plague that only the 1% has the antidote for (but who will be around to do their dry cleaning?) - they are both equally plausible.

In my own tiny corner of the globe, I toil in a basically unsustainable, vehicle-hungry suburb, where most businesses still can't wrap their heads around allowing their employees to work at home. Sure, everyone brandishes colorful, branded, reusable shopping bags, but the mall parking lots are full - so, that famous recession seems not to have made much visible impact.

I vacillate between relocating to a big city in order to live small and vehicle free, or move to a smalltown to do the same. Each comes with its own price; but, with a broadband connection, I'm good with either. My parents' generation moved into "gated" communities in droves, to stave off the crime and the poor, to recreate their bucolic post-war paradises (although my folks grew up in East Harlem, so I have no clue what the hell they think they're recreating). I get it; I sometimes dream about some sort of clean, safe Disney World-meets-Amsterdam scenario. I grew up watching Fantasy Island - I know these places can be made-to-order.

"This is not escapism; it is super realism, so gritty and detailed and authentic and goddam convincing that…I found my normal present-day 'reality' pallid by comparison."
Philip K. Dick on the impact of Blade Runner, 1981

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Digital choice, the myth

In my quest for a less hardcopy world, i have made some firm resolutions: 

1. my entire music collection will be digital, selling what cds I can get money for through, donating the majority of what-are-now worth $.01 to thrift stores. 

2. I am also attempting to wrap my head around not owning movies/tv, but "renting" them - preferably free. (I'm still working on what to do with books, so don't expect that discussion here).

One thing, however, hasn't changed - I am a voracious music and film collector. Should I just fashion playlists on Spotify and listen to their music instead of mine - possibly. Is Google Play a good place to find obscure-ish music (that was the eMusic promise, if I recall, that fell flat for me real fast)? But at least I have two stellar options for purchasing music: iTunes and Amazon. But, really? I am convinced that they both share pretty much the same music library. 99% of the time, music I can't find on iTunes can't be found on Amazon either. I have to realize they are merely the distributor and can't sell what is not available, or…what is no longer available.

This part really sucks: Both music distributors boast how large their music collections are getting, but neither let us know when music disappears from their ranks (as they are selling us "copies", it's not like a book that sells out). I found this out recently when I went to iTunes to search for the latest Sleepthief single, only to discover their entire catalog was no longer on iTunes.

The resolution here is to go directly to each artist and buy direct. Sleepthief's website has his music for sale; all I need to do is create yet another digital account (on Paypal) to handle this sort of transaction. This may be the wave of the future - cutting out the distributor entirely, leaving convenience in the dust.

I found the exact same experience trying to stream free video. Shunning Hulu's increasingly sad offering of non-premium shows aside, I have a lengthy Netflix streaming list. Sure, they give you a slight heads up that some movies will be "expiring" soon, but if you're in the middle of a 8 year TV show run, you're going to be pissed. I just signed up for Amazon's "Prime" deal in order to get some free streaming - and the inevitable happened: the only "free" offerings were the exact same movies I can stream for free on Netflix.

Digital choice is a sad illusion and I am its willing slave.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Future of Our Society, autocorrected

During my job search today I came across this on craigslist:

"graphic tudor wanted"

I wanted to ask of the requirements: do i need to suffer from gout? have had several wives beheaded?

But here's the thing:

The person who posted this ad up probably doesn't care about spelling - it's next to grammar as an antiquated function in our society. During the reign of "i know there's spellcheck somewhere but I always forget to use it" I thought we were on the road to more pristine communication. Then texting brought in the great devolution of communication; however, while in school, I noticed few of my fellow students could arrange a complete sentence. So, now, in our technological nanny state, we put in the hands of these same people, software that "autocorrects" bad spelling, usually with hilarious and unpredictable results.

But the biggest result: people no longer have to feel the social stigma of being a bad speller - they just have to add the disclaimer ("stupid autocorrect") to the bottom of every post, every text, every email and they are automagically saved by the very technology that mocked them to begin with.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Advice, virtually

I noticed in the last round of 2013 predictions that this would be the year there will be no more "guessing". Have a question, look it up. Speculation is unnecessary; you have the capability to find any answer at your fingertips (unless you're on wifi, like me). 

Throw Google a juicy question and many search results will turn out to be forums: other people worrying about the same thing I am. Advice, like anything on the web, is ubiquitous - and you have to be vigilante about whose to take. Posting on forums is a good practice, but like any conversation in which you try to engage strangers (or know-it-alls), prepare to be trashed or ignored.

Apple's forums are a good example. The unspoken rule is never to ask anything without laying out the exact specifications of your computer or device, its OS, its RAM, maybe even its color. It saves a lot of time and stupid quips; however, more often than not, most of my questions on Apple's forums go mysteriously unanswered. Understandably, the database is huge, possibly hundreds of questions are posted every hour and the chances that mine will snag an expert's attention can be dim. Still, it's an epic fail if I'm in dire need of some virtual I.T.

It's also prudent to be wary of multi-paged discussions. Usually these are filled with folks raking back and forth over the same territory, throwing in their $.03, contradicting each other. I spent an entire evening this week reading through an Apple forum about why Netflix doesn't stream well with AppleTV. Hours later, I still had no good answer, and streaming Netflix over my AppleTV still sucks. 

Perhaps the only thing more satisfying than posing personal needy questions online is to incite fervent opinion. I use one of LinkedIn's graphic design forums to get other professionals' takes on current working conditions. This is one of the best functions of a social network like LinkedIn - introducing yourself to your community by delving into current issues, and in the course, revealing bits of yourself as well. Opinions seem to flow easier than answers in the virtual world.

iPod resetting instructions, how best to clean my saltwater aquarium, what's the latest rumor coming out of Walt Disney World, how to treat shoulder bursitis naturally, how many times has T'Pau shown up on Star Trek…my google search inquiries are all being filed somewhere in order to directly market to me. A blessing? A curse? Privacy invasion? It's still a flawed system. A few months ago I searched for natural answers to sciatica relief. Now every banner ad on mostly every website is about, yes, sciatica relief. Good thing I didn't search for reasons why genital parasites are on the verge of extinction because of all this excessive manscaping.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Apologizing, digitally

The fact that this apology does not exist anywhere on paper, that it was created in TextEdit on my MacMini, then copy-and-pasted onto Blogspot, is in a major way the reason why I need to say how sorry I am it has gotten to this.

I apologize to Borders and many small, independent bookstores (except the tiny B Dalton's that used to be in all the malls, which were - let's be honest - more of an irritation for serious booklovers) for purchasing my books on True, most of them were used, and the inventory impeccable. I grew up trolling the literally dust-filled bins of used paperback palaces, some maddeningly unorganized, most with 100 copies of crap romance novels and nothing close to what I was looking for. But now they're mostly gone because of me. The fact that Barnes & Noble might not survive 2013 is my fault as well.

I apologize to now-defunct record stores - large and small. Tower Records was closing its doors in New Orleans soon after Katrina recovery was in full swing, and I was there, scouring the shelves for deep, deep, discounts, fingering the bullet holes in the corpse. I often stopped by the Virgin Megastore in Downtown Disney before it went away, more to see what new chill compilations were out, but never to buy. In hometown Tampa Bay, after following Vinyl Fever through three locations, I even stopped trolling the 99 cent used disc bins. And all of this because iTunes allows me to purchase just one beautiful track out of an entire cd that might contain utter shite.

I apologize to all of those amazing independent cinemas that have had to close their doors. The real historic movie houses, like Tampa Theatre, only hang on due to intense corporate funding. Less glamourous palaces, like the just-shuttered Beach Theatre in St. Petersburg, were snuffed out by me, cacooned at home thanks to Netflix, who slide luscious indie and foreign film into my post office box every week.

I am deeply sorry for all the many businesses that I have abandoned in my quest for efficiency, low prices, high tech and customer satisfaction. And for my sins I now live in an area where every where I look is an Amscot, a Dollar Store, a place that will pay cash for my gold (if I had any). This is the barren landscape I deserve.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Music outlook, cloudy

This week, emailed me to let me know that they uploaded music I'd purchased from 3 years of cd purchases onto my cloud player. For the 3 people in the world who don't use iTunes, this is probably a good thing.

I've bought a handful of mp3s from amazon over the past few years - mostly as lagniappe after spreading my cashflow around their hallways with large payloads like my Criterion Collection fetish. There once was a myth that amazon sold mp3s unavailable on itunes, but I haven't had any luck tracking down anything rare and beautiful; if it's not with one music service, it probably isn't on any other.

Since mp3s have become widely available, my cd purchasing has lived a rare and fragile existence, left to the odd deluxe repackaging (REM has been releasing 25th anniversary editions, as if I weren't old enough) so I only have about 925 songs in my cloud player.

Will amazon give me digital kindle versions of all the books I've purchased from them? Not in time for any of this year's apocalypses, apparently. Ditto for all those Criterion Collections that line my crypt, so I will remain cautiously grateful of having another way to hear my music in case the cd players fail, my ipods (all 3) crap out and Pandora gets dangerously dull and repetitious (and not very intuitive, but that's another post).

I won't advocate my fogey whine. I can look forward to a day (as some have already realized) where I will not be crowding my space with books, cds or dvds. Some modern folk don't seem to need anything more than a tablet because all their files and their software are in the cloud. As long as the solar flare/electromagnetic bomb doesn't ruin things and we'll be wishing we'd kept that ragged old paperback of On the Road to wile away the hours by candlelight, we'll all be fine and sublime.