Thursday, August 7, 2014

Computer Blue

I have a love/hate relationship with technology. I love that I can track down and download a song from some obscure band's 7" I heard once in 1986. I love the fact that I can find the answer to whatever question has been bugging me in a matter of seconds.

However, I have the tech skills of your grandma. I had to buy a replacement for my five year old phone recently and I had to listen to all sorts of stuff about coverage and 4G and 5G and Warren G and holy crap, I don't care anymore, here's my credit card just give me a phone.

That's how most technical conversations go with me. Just like when someone's giving me directions, after about the second sentence my mind checks out, except for a nagging thought saying, "Hey, dummy, you better pay attention to this, it's important," which luckily I can distract pretty easily.

Not only am I barely functional, technology-wise, but I have a deep distrust of our robot overlords, probably formed through my childhood exposure to science fiction stories where whatever it was that promised to make our lives easier was really going to enslave or eat us.

I don't think technology is going to enslave me, but I do think that my devices and websites have somehow learned just enough about my personality to understand how to send me over the edge.

Last month I was looking through my Ipod. Somehow I noticed that I was missing two songs, "You Got to Move" by the Rolling Stones, and everything but one song off that second Arcwelder album. This kept me searching for hours, wondering what else had disappeared. And these were songs I ripped from CDs I owned, not borrowed from work or ̶s̶t̶o̶l̶e̶ ̶o̶f̶f̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶i̶n̶t̶e̶r̶n̶e̶t̶  totally paid for. Luckily, I still have the physical CDs, so I was able to rip them, and probably go months without thinking about them again.

I've also been having problems with Shelfari, this page that keeps track of the books you read. Since I read pretty fast and have a terrible memory, it's a good way to keep track of what I've read so that I don't pick up something interesting at work, take it home, then realize I've already read it. When entering what I've read, it also hipped me to the fact that I'll read just about anything about shipwrecks or people having to survive in shitty conditions, which I had never really noticed before.

However, Shelfari will occasionally drop books from my list for no real reason. To me, this means that if I caught one or two, there's probably more that I've missed. So I'll think of authors or titles, and spend hours trying to fix my list.

Then recently Facebook decided to drop people off my friends list. I had no beef with these people, but after I noticed we weren't friends any more, I figured the problem was with me. I understand I'm sort of an acquired taste, and some squares just can't handle my telling it like it is.

Once again, I spent hours entering friends' names, wondering who else got dropped, only this time having to deal with the anxiety of wondering if they think I hate them now.

Look, I realize that we're moving into a post-ownership world, where everything is going to be on the cloud, and the simple joys of looking through a friend's music, movie, and book collection to silently or not so silently) judge them will soon be a thing of the past. That's probably a good thing, in that it cuts down on plastics and hurt feelings.

But for those of us with just a tetch of the OCD and who like repeated assurances that our stuff (or data) is still there, it can be a trying time.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Echo and the Bunnymen

When I started this foolishness, I had a simple goal. I wanted to document some of the stories that had been getting laughs or gasps from astounded listeners for years before the ravages of time left me unable to pass these tales on to the next generation.

Along the way I discovered my destiny - to bring a divided nation together through the power of story. While you might not have had the same exact experiences, you likely had something similar happen, and through that we can drop our differences, mellow out and groove together, discarding our hangups like I threw away my suit and tie from my square, plastic nine-to-five gig.

Which is why it always feels so strange when I find what I thought were universal experiences are anything but.

For example, for years I've thought that everyone had the same experiences falling asleep in the car as a kid. You'd be in the backseat, fighting to stay awake, and as you get sleepier and sleepier, the songs from the radio would get bassier and more echoey. Certain songs can still recall that feeling, like "Life's Been Good" by Joe Walsh, "American Trilogy" by Elvis, or "Sultans of Swing" by Dire Straits. Apparently my parents' car had a faulty bass speaker or I was making my own dub versions, because every time I try to explain this phenomenon, people just look at me weird and walk away puzzled.

It wasn't just the songs, although those were the main catalysts. Sometimes it would be my parents gossiping on the way home from a family event or the TV set from the other room. Either way, things would get all deep echoey and bassy and I'd slowly fall asleep. Just like Dire Straits, the theme from "The Bob Newhart Show" will get me feeling sort of sleepy and spacey, especially there in the little breakdown when the organ starts. Hey, for a square psychologist, Bob Newhart had a pretty funky theme song, huh?

While this was a pretty cool effect for the few minutes I could keep consciousness, it's one of the reasons I don't like falling asleep to music or TV now. My dub versions are relaxing, but in the back of my head I feel the struggle to stay awake which can be distracting and a little stressful.

So I put the question to you, loyal readers. Was this the universal experience I thought it was, or was this just a weird little kid who was somehow channeling Jamaican record producers, and if so, why didn't I make any money off this phenomenon?