Tag Archives: iPod

A change has gotta come

4 Jul

It’s been hard to post lately. My get up and go … got up and went.

I kind of ran out of gas when confronted by mounting evidence that rock and roll is becoming a dead language. Sure, I can listen to Greta Van Fleet and marvel at how much those kids from Frankenmuth, Michigan sound just like Led Zeppelin, but that isn’t moving the genre forward. My idols were back in the news for the wrong reasons. Prince and Tom Petty had more in common than that glorious version of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony: both were felled by fentanyl taken to ease the pain of their screwed-up hips after decades on the road. Plus, my iPod – the power source for my astoundingly superior musical taste – is spinning its last. Its obsolescence is a gloomy metaphor for the state of the art form.

Jonathan Van Ness kitty pic

The real Kleenex moment this episode: Jonathan petting baby kitties! SQUEE!

I’ve tried to assuage my ennui by binge-watching Queer Eye and slowly paging through The Sun and the Moon and the Rolling Stones, by Rich Cohen … both well worth the time, both modern takes on nostalgic favorites.

Fact is, I’ve had to turn my attentions elsewhere. In case you haven’t noticed, America’s public institutions are being threatened, vandalized and outright incinerated right now. It’s so dire, I have been driven to do something I never thought I’d do: become politically active.

While I have long had a strong interest in current events, and I turn out to vote in every election (you’re welcome), I have never put my money where my mouth is until this year. It’s not simply that I am a Democrat in a Republican era. This administration’s brute ignorance, blithe corruption and sinister disregard for the humanity of others leaves me no choice but call, and write, and argue, and donate and march, chanting, “This is what democracy looks like!”

My first political rally was the Women’s March in Lansing last January. Clever, biting protest signs are the price of admission to these events, and I didn’tWomen's March 2018 want to disappoint. I wanted it to convey who I am and what I stand for. I wanted to promote positivity rather than spew insults. I wanted it to be so awesome that perfect strangers would take photos of my sign to share with their broad-based social media platforms.

As you can see from the far more awesome signs created by my daughters, for any of that to happen, my pop culture references need to crawl into the 21st century. (There was a moment when I got a tap on the shoulder from a gal with her phone ready to take a photo. As I was prepping for my closeup, she said tersely, “Could you move your sign out of the way? I want to take a picture of the Beyoncé poster.”)

Concerned Citizen 3

I. Mean. Business.

Since then, I’ve attended candidate forums and signed petitions. I’ve written postcards encouraging people to register and vote in the primaries. I was even featured asking a question at a televised town hall focused on reducing gun violence in schools. I’ve coached my younger daughter as she led the walkout at her school after Parkland, and I’ve ensured my older one registered in her new Brooklyn precinct.

Families Belong Together MarchAnd yet, it often feels like it doesn’t add up to much. Each day brings more to be angry about; each news item piles on disgust and despair. I never had to worry about the safety of my nearly 30-year relationship with my female partner before now. I never imagined tearing children away from their asylum-seeking families and incarcerating them would be considered okay by anyone, much less Americans. I am astonished by how fear and greed have overwhelmed common sense and compassion. And I feel helpless.

I hate feeling helpless.

So I continue to call, and write, and argue, and donate and march, believing that by showing up again and again, I and millions of others will break through the bullshit and make the world a better place – for I do not intend to let democracy die on my watch.

See you on the flip side … and at the polls!

Beats Music: does it beat iTunes?

30 Jan

My blood pressure has equalized and my breathing is back to normal. The pounding in my head has stopped and my optimism has returned. All is right with the world once more.

In short, I’ve fixed my iTunes account.

Anytime I get an update message from Apple, I wince. I am a technological dinosaur, dependent on an 160GB iPod and an aging PC to protect and play my substantial library of songs. I don’t store my music in the cloud, my iPhone has maybe two songs on it, and I still mourn iTunes’ original, virtual brushed steel design. I’m terrified that I might delete my entire library with one misplaced click of the mouse.

My worst fears were realized when I restarted after the most recent upgrade – and this little box popped up six times in quick succession:

iTunes error messag

To fix this I had to uninstall every whiff of Apple technology and reinstall iTunes from scratch. (Luckily I had an open bottle of pinot noir to steady my nerves.)

I gotta say, Beats Music is looking real good right now.

Debuting last week, this streaming service is backed by Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre, the legendary music producers who created the best reason to spend a car payment on headphones. Trent Reznor is the outfit’s chief creative officer. As you can see from the “vision” video he narrates, Mr. Nine Inch Nails/Oscar-winning composer/Grammy ranter can’t wait to get in between our ears to burrow into our very souls:

The press has been considerable (with feature articles in Time, Rolling Stone and New York Times to name a few) and overwhelmingly positive. This is because in addition to offering access to pretty much any song ever recorded, the killer app of Beats Music is human beings. The recommendations and playlists rely on curators rather than algorithms  It sounds like being an eighth grader hanging out with your older brother’s cool high school friends: they flip through LPs or tap into SoundCloud to expand your horizons without rolling their eyes at your limited taste. (I can’t imagine how this actually works: do they employ armies of crate-digging hipsters or is Reznor chained to a laptop somewhere?)

At the moment you can only subscribe through AT&T, but I’m sure they’ll branch out to other carriers very soon so that world domination can follow. At that point I may switch to a streaming service and for the first time pony up a monthly fee to discover new tunes and revisit old favorites … leaving iTunes collecting virtual dust. So now, your opinions, please: 


See you on the flip side …

P.S. Want to read some good rock and roll? My first novel, Love and Other B-Sides, is on the e-bookshelves now – and Amazon Prime members can read it for free!

Pirated Booty

20 Sep

Now Johnny Depp can see what he’ll look like if he doesn’t quit smoking

September 19 is Talk Like a Pirate Day. In honor of this year’s celebration, here’s my one – and only – contribution:

Q: What’s a pirate’s favorite alternative band?


(Sorry … )

Of course, pirates in the music industry are a totally different scalawag, as far as the labels and many artists are concerned. I’ve seen statistics as high as 95% when it comes to the amount of downloaded music that was obtained illegally. This distresses me. I was a stage actor with an MFA and it took me years of training and practice to get paid for my work in a profession that many people would gladly do for free.  At least I did live musical theater, a type of performing arts you can’t download.

And yet … music seems different. It’s everywhere already – elevators, grocery stores, ring tones, beer commercials. When I take a CD out of the library and download it, it’s as if I copied a page out of a library-owned magazine. No harm, no foul: I’m not selling it or playing it a public venue that ought to have a license from BMI or ASCAP. It’s personal use on my personal computer or personal .mp3 player.


My older daughter thinks it’s ridiculous that I turn myself into an ethical pretzel over this. She considers songs to be a band’s promotional tools to get us to go to concerts and buy t-shirts, and some bands do, too. Plus, she has proof I’m a total hypocrite because I’ve asked her to rip songs off of YouTube for me to download. I can tell myself it’s justified because they weren’t available to download any other way–the tribute to George Harrison at his induction to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame featuring Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne and an achingly gorgeous guitar solo by Prince, for example:

Now it’s legally available on iTunes, and I bought it … trying to prove I’m only slightly hypocritical.

Of course, being slightly hypocritical is as impossible as being slightly pregnant. There are so many ways to hear a song for free that are legal – YouTube, Pandora, Grooveshark – that I don’t have to go the extra dubious step by downloading it. And yet, I want to havethe song, to possess it and play it at will, as I did when I had crates of LPs, shoe boxes full of tapes and racks of CDs. I want tangible evidence that I have great taste.

Jon Mitchell of ReadWriteWeb agrees with me. He says the biggest problem with the new iPods is that it is designed to focus more on accessing music in the cloud – renting it, essentially – instead of downloading it to the device. “If we’re going to keep deep music appreciation around, we need to completely own our collections,” he says.

So now I’m lusting after a song I cannot find on iTunes: the tribute to Joe Strummer from the 2003 Grammys, featuring Elvis Costello, Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Van Zandt and Dave Grohl:

I ask you: should I add it to my treasure chest?

See you on the flip side … matey!

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