I am a consumer of digital media — movies, TV shows, books, music, games, magazines, etc. But, there was a time when I was stubbornly resistant to such a changeover.
Believe it or not, I was a tad slow to move from vinyl albums to their then-new CD counterparts. In the mid- to late-1980s, it was unimaginable for me to want to pay more than $7.99 for an album and also lose out on album art size. Plus, there might have been some tactile appeal in there gained over the span of my largely analog childhood, as the medium involves a bit of interaction: dust cover out of sleeve, record out of dust cover, record on turntable, needle on record, etc. Even as a college DJ, I thought vinyl would stay around forever. But then I heard CDs, enjoyed not having to flip the darn things over to hear the second half, and, hoo boy, were they tiny! So, those little plastic disks (or, discs, if you prefer) found a way into my heart, and then my library.
And now, they collect dust and take up wall space in my living room. A relationship ends.
That’s because I moved on to digital music. Now, yes, I’m very aware of many folks around my age (and a little younger) who bemoan the waning popularity of physical music media, not to mention the young folks who all sing the same refrain of “you actually PAY for music?” (And I hear that a LOT from you under-30 types.) Regarding the former, I respect the fact that there is value in revisiting the past and, if that brings you joy, then do it. There will always be some nostalgia for me in putting on a crackly old vinyl copy of a classic album — in some cases, its otherwise non-availability makes it a necessity — but I’m not one of the devout, who often cling to older things as if some morbid security blanket. There’s a difference between enjoying the past and being held captive by it. Which one are you?
Of course, having reached middle-age, music really doesn’t hold anywhere near as much importance for me. I grew bored of cheap fandom, subculture costumes, and impersonal social politics a long time ago. Despite the transparent fear many 30- and 40-somethings exhibit towards any signs of maturity these days, I fully embrace the fact that I’m a grown-up. A grown-up who plays video games and loves candy and finds the Flintstones to be a grand achievement of American culture… but a grown-up, nevertheless. Again, I don’t possess the need to perversely chase down my expired youth in order to feel something good about myself, but nor do I need to put down the legitimately young and “their” technological trends to also feel something good about myself.
Jumping off soapbox now…
Digital media certainly has solved one big problem in my life. In fact, the word “big” almost says it all. I simply have too much physical media — particularly, but not limited to, magazines. Oh, I’ve collected reams and reams of publications over the years: skin mags, gun mags, computer mags, video production mags, tech mags, etc. And while the worthwhile ones remain in storage, I can hoard no longer. Time to let go a little. So, I’ve entered the world of digital magazine subscription and I’m here to say that I am quite happy with it. My first digital issue of Macworld arrived in my iPad last week through the Zinio app, and the versatility of navigation, clarity of images, pre-print release times, active Web links in text, and total convenience really make it great. Zinio’s selection still has a way to go, but at current, it’s not too bad. Looking forward to seeing this market grow.
So, you might be thinking that since I’m a purveyor of modern tech so much, I’ve dived headlong into the Blu-ray pool. For now, you are wrong. Seen a few examples of it thus far and, even as a video guy, I’m not impressed anywhere near enough to re-buy my collection and retire their DVD versions just yet. That, and I just don’t see what all of the hype is about, no matter how many of its faithful flock give me their true-believer conversion speeches. Truth be known, some of you are downright creepy with that. So, no thanks. DVD movies work out fine for me. For now.
One video content type I much prefer in a purely digital format is TV. For me, that means old TV, generally that of the 1960s and 1970s. After having to swap endless disks out of my player, night after night, just to watch one season of something, I said enough is enough. Now, through the magic of the iTunes Store, I own seasons of shows that can be called up instantly and without having to figure out if I finished Disc 5, or started Disc 6, or missed something on Disc 1, 2, 3 or 4, and which episodes of which discs. Apple TV handles bookmarking of episodes and easy switching between shows, not to mention if, at a moment’s notice, I want to watch a podcast, listen to an album, see a movie trailer, flip through Flickr, browse the schadenfreude on YouTube, stream any number of movies and other vintage television via Netflix, or peruse the mass of other content I have on hard drive and linked through my iTunes player from the comfort of my ratty but oddly lovable couch. Rejecting the network gods, I have become my own programmer.
And don’t even get me started about Playstation Network. Free downloadable demos of incredible games? Yes, please!
“But, MGP… don’t you know that one crashed hard drive could destroy all of that precious digital media of yours?” Well, maybe, but since I back-up everything in at least two (and often three) places — hard disk, optical, and cloud — I’m in much better shape than most of you lazy hooligans. I like my data and wish to keep it.
While I see a lot of beauty in the past, I don’t shut my eyes to what the present (and future) offers in terms of entertainment and pleasure. As an unrepentant epicurean, I pick and choose those rare items of interest from the dominant culture, now made easier and less time-consuming in so many ways by modern technology. Acquiring media is only one of those benefits, but it’s a big one. That, and I don’t have to endure the tedious and cacophonous human pollution run amok in shopping malls. Egads!
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