Monday, January 19, 2009

Re-make, re-model: my iPod's update needs a road test

Playing the old favorite début by Roxy Music, one of my top-twenty-ever discs, I tried to rally myself. Fearing collapse of my music library, I had shuffled through to the end of nearly 12,000 tracks stored on this aging home computer to get rid of my son's hip-hop and rap and comedy and junk that old fuddy-duddy greying psychedelic-punk-folk-prof dad wanted instead, my sixteen-year-old blew it. At the gain of jettisoning a couple thousand tracks, and a measly 5gb or so stuffed in the recycle bin, I lost all of my songs, at least as organized painstakingly. My iPod's empty, and iTunes would not even update my very old version! I confess bewilderment. As if a "real" library's volumes had been arranged, still intact on this tired drive, but alphabetically stacked overnight!

My digital native, the son born in this generation raised on keyboards and filesharing, erased, for a second time in the past six months, my entire iPod's contents. Luckily, I don't download music and nearly all I have is backed up with CDs, and this creaky hard drive still had the vast majority of my songs there. Although the storage drive we bought for all our computers unfortunately, despite our techie friends' assurances, cannot work with PCs, only my son's old Mac he got for $50!

So, what I thought would be a simple action of backing up the music on that device, or secondarily popping a few playlists in and out, failed. I took the task of a day and a half, sifting through the 12,000 tracks to find what's just over 5,000 for my smaller 30gb (that is, 27gb!) ancient ((c) 2005!) iPod, the thick kind not even the junior high kids from Watts have when they shuffle past me on the Blue Line. I have about 20gb filled, but iTunes refuses to play with my RTÉ radio play of "Ulysses" that I had transferred from its mp3 CDs, and I am also confused why it played the Uncle Tupelo show Chris kindly copied onto a CD but now will not upload it to iTunes at all.

I suppose Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, it seems, are to blame, to paraphrase another teacher, a century ago in Joyce's Dublin. Our gadgets keep us edgy. My wife's commented on the frustration her father and our son share in their obsession with electronics meant to bring us only pleasure, if at the profit of the media.

As for me, my patient spouse rather ingeniously remarked it made her happy that music made me so sad to lose, for this connected me with her own love of songs, for that's what first brought us together over twenty years ago, when I made her cassette mix-tapes of what she'd like on our first ride north, when we drove up 101 past Spreckels towards Salinas. I wonder what Bob sees as he navigates his silent, Spanish-speaking (one of three languages he's chosen for its readout in this truly continental car) Prius past Prunedale and Freedom, Moss Harbor and Aptos?

We did not know then that such a journey would become such a favorite. The eucalyptus near my house in the Inland Empire way back, and my boyhood love of Steinbeck return to enrich my memories, mingled with the music I hear as I now pass those welcome expanses of green and brown, the vast and repetitive and rawer rural scenes up North. For now, our loved ones new and old, but then never known there, live nearer there now. And, even if Leo's plugged in to his gadget, me to mine, Niall to his, and nearly deaf (worse than me as that hands-on Exploratorium display clocked me under 15k hz high and her far less, alas) Layne blasting her radio, we all love music and bond over the ancient yearnings packaged in modern plastic and shiny metal.

Caption: I cannot find a snapshot of the northbound road south of Spreckels except a Target sign-- mark of progress (sic). This from Amayu at Flickr will have to do: "Thick black smoke blanketed the Salinas Valley after an oil fire at the Moss Landing Power Plant."

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