Tuesday, April 26, 2011

How We Walk - Part I

Alma's birthday was earlier this month and I got her a Sony Walkman MP3 Player. I remember when Walkmans were all the rage because, suddenly, you could jog and listen to a cassette tape or FM radio. Now I know some of my readership will ask, "What is a 'cassette tape'?" Well, you see, back after man had just left the caves, he chose to record his sounds onto magnetic tapes that came on plastic cartridges. Those cartridges could be placed inside a Sony Walkman to replay the sounds through a pair of headphones or earphones.

Yeah, I know. I'm an old fart. IPods and MP3 players -- it's like a foreign language to me. An IPod sounds like something from Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Frankly, I've been around since the days of LPs, 45s, 78s and record players. While I never had one of those wind-up Victrolas, I feel like I'm old enough I should have. I've seen records replaced first by 8-Track tapes, next by cassettes, then by compact discs and now these digital formats. Just makes me feel old, I tell you.

But I try to avoid the 'Hey kids, get off of my lawn!" mentality. And it does seem like digital music is all the rage now. I have to admit to being impressed a bit at how well the technology works.

First, a public service announcement: beware of Napster and its so-called 'free trial offer' included with Sony Walkman MP3 players. What happens is that Napster includes a promo for a 14-day free trial after which one is placed on a $15/month subscription that allows unlimited music downloads. All well and good. But what Napster doesn't tell you and what you will be at pains to learn from reading the 'fine print' of the 'free' offer is that if you download songs during the free trial period but decide you don't want to continue with Napster, all the song files you downloaded suddenly become inoperable. Thereby proving the adage that there's no such thing as 'something for nothing'. However, what makes this particularly obnoxious is that you have to spend a lot of time downloading Napster's software and then downloading the music itself. In Alma's case, she estimates conservatively that she invested at least 10 hours of time downloading software and songs only to have all that time wasted after the 14 days were up because we did not want to continue our subscription. And Napster just shined us on when Alma emailed to complain about their deceptive business practices. The customer service at Sony was a bit more receptive and promised to convey our complaint about Napster through appropriate channels.

Better in my opinion to go with ITunes and its simple fee per download business model. We downloaded some tracks for as little as $0.69/track. Once you download and pay for an individual song from ITunes, you never have to worry that the song will expire because you choose not to continue a subscription. Alma has downloaded tracks from the 80s (when she grew into adulthood) and 90s that we did not already own on CD. I had a lot of music on CD that Alma was able to copy directly to the Sony Walkman.

And, old fart I may be, but I am proud to report that Alma's Walkman has more tracks by me (from my CD "Living in the Shadows") than any other artist. Actually, I'm tied with Duran Duran. Each of us have 11 tracks on Alma's Walkman currently. (Sad note: I don't really follow Duran Duran, so I don't know much about them or their music.)

So now when we walk the beach, you will likely see Alma grooving to tunes on her Walkman while I walk behind or beside her in silence. I do not care to listen to music as I walk, preferring instead to listen to  the music of the waves and sea life, punctuated by the occasional distant cry of joy from a child in the water. I never picked up the habit of listening to music through earphones. When I recorded the CD of my songs in the recording studio, I of course used headphones when listening so that I could block out all extraneous noise. But when I listen to music for pleasure, I like to let it fill the air around me. Just a personal preference I suppose.

But Alma really likes the Walkman and has taken to it like a duck (or seagull) takes to water. In fact, as I write this, Alma is sitting in the chair next to me with earphones on downloading more tunes from ITunes. Will our credit card survive Alma's discovery of digital music downloads? Only our hairdresser knows for sure (and she ain't talking).

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