I have the enthusiast’s remorse

I am an absolute technophile.  I love seeing all the new gadgets that come out and what they can do for me.  I love to think about how I can then modify those gadgets to do even more for me without me having to pay anything more.  I’m a cheapskate, and an enthusiast.

The term “enthusiast” is not one I’ve used all that often to describe myself.  If there were a scale to describe how much of an enthusiast a person could be, I’d imagine I’d be rather low on the scale.  But the fact is, I’m still ON the scale.  There is a very sad down side to being an enthusiast (well, there are probably a few); those same devices that you find you can’t live without aren’t usually everywhere you might need them.

Case in point (and most relatable example I can think of):  you have standard, run of the mill broadband internet.  It doesn’t need to be the fastest thing on the planet for this example to work, but it’s better than a 256k ISDN.  You use it at home to browse, do email, read blogs, whatever.  You then go over to your parents/friends house, and while there you try to show them something you found online (like our awesome website here) . . . only they are on dial-up.  And slow dial-up at that.

That’s the downside I’m talking about here.  To point back to Schmidty’s announcement of Chrome; it’s so fast and nice that it’s all I use . . . except at work where I have to use IE to work with Oracle and I nearly scream every time it takes 5 minutes to load a page simply because the browser is so bloated.

Well, there’s another device that’s in this category; the DVR.  Call it a TiVo, an HTPC, a DVR, or whatever else you want, these little babies will change your life.  Anyone who owns and regularly uses them will testify to you just how much they will change your life in regards to TV.  I’m not trying to make them out to be like a religious experience or anything, but they really are that pivotal.

Your spouse wants to talk to you during the game?  Just pause the show.  Your show is only on at 1:00 AM? Set it to record!  There’s an interesting documentary on squid that you know you’d be interested in but just don’t feel like watching it right now?  Record it for later!  Kids are killing each other?  Dinner is on the table NOW? Don’t like commercials?  Guests come over unannounced?  You get the idea.  Our favorite use is to record a whole bunch of shows the kids like and have them at our fingertips whenever we want to reward them.

Screenshot of Vista Media Center from MSDN blog

Screenshot of Vista Media Center from MSDN blog

The down side is that not everything is hooked into a DVR.  We don’t have one in our bedroom, so when I miss something important that was said I can’t jump back to hear it again.  If there’s something interesting I want my wife to see, I can’t pause it and wait for her to get in the room.  I find myself listening to the radio on my way to work in the morning and habitually reaching for a remote that doesn’t exist to jump back 15 seconds or so to re listen to something that was said!  That’s how messed up I’ve become.

If your computer can barely run Windows XP SP2, I don’t want to touch it (sadly, that’s my computer at work).  If you have a whole 5 channels on your TV, please don’t ask me if I want to watch anything (everything I’d want to watch is already recorded at home anyway).  I know this makes me look like a snob, and to a degree I am one.  But the secret fact of the matter is it’s just painful for myself and other enthusiasts at times.

Sure, we’re in a 1st world nation, with access to some of the best technology in the world (not counting cell phones where we seem to be permanently stuck in 2002), but I’m not interested in what technology could do for me five years ago; I’m interested in what it can do for me tomorrow.

Whatever Happened to Suburban Rhythm?

The old song goes “Video Killed The Radio Star”.  It was the very first music video shown by MTV in 1981, and it’s a classic.  But it’s inaccurate.

I submit to you the following question: When did modern pop music turn to crap?

Now, of course the answer is going to vary from person to person depending, in large, to personal musical preferences.  But I’d like to say that pop music died as soon as music label companies thought they could get us to like whatever they thought we should, instead of finding what we DID like and just making it more accessible.

This post was supposed to go in a different direction entirely.  I was going to write about how I missed all the great suburban rap artists that I grew up with as a kid and how catchy their music was.  These guys made music for white kids selling lemonade to enjoy.  It wasn’t hard core gangster rap, and that was OK; at the time the “harder” artists had their own niche to fill and they did well, too.

I was going to write about how I missed those days of laid back hip hop and the good feeling that listening to music would give you.  That was the plan, right up until I was driving back to work from lunch and tried listening to the radio.  In all my presets, only one station was playing a song.  I didn’t know what the song was (the voice wasn’t familiar), but it filled me with rage.  It’s now on my list of “most annoying songs”.  I have no idea what the girl was yelling about (calling it singing would be a bit of a stretch), but evidently she wanted people to know that wasn’t her name.

Maybe she thought singing about her name would garner positive results.  It doesn’t work for everyone, since not all of us are lyrical geniuses.

Somewhere along the lines, a person was put in charge of finding the next big thing that everyone would be groomed to love and bring them into the spotlight.  This worked for a time, and we found new artists and loved them.  But then it kept growing, and growing, and growing until we were expected to love them before we’d even heard what they are capable of.  If we don’t love them immediately, they are thrown by the wayside.

Case in point; ever watch the WB?  Neither did I.  If you did, you’d note that every other episode of nearly every show had a special appearance by some band-of-the-month.  Few of these were well established bands.  Typically a music scout would find some band who was supposed to be the next big thing, sign them into contract, put together 4-5 songs, play the crap out of them on the radio, and book them on the show.

Since the studio who made the show also owned the record label, no extra money was paid to the artist and no extra expenses were ever used to promote the song.  Win-win from an exec’s standpoint.

Shortpacked.com by David Willis

Shortpacked.com by David Willis

Now, I know that my favorite band in the world (The Barenaked Ladies) got their big break into the US scene with “The Old Apartment” and played it on 90210 back in the day.  Believe it or not, that was unusual at the time and was considered fresh and unique.  The first sign that it shouldn’t be done too often is that Fox Network pioneered it.

For the record, Barenaked Ladies lived on past that initial showing on 90210 by doing things their own way and not following the record label’s every order.  So much so, that they split off from the label and created their own.

The worst part of all this is that I’m no longer the target audience for pop music.  Even when I was the target audience, I was older than the current target.  Young ‘tweens have somehow become the spending force in our economy and we bow down to their mentally defunct tastes.