My Life on a Hard Drive

I wanted to call this essay, “My Life on a Terabyte Drive” because it sounded cooler and more specific, but then I’m thinking about buying a netbook and they only come with 160 gigabytes of hard drive space, something less glamorous to say in a title.  I can’t even fit my music collection on that, so it wouldn’t be true either.  If you read to the end of this essay, you’ll see I could have called it, “My Memory Book,” but that title wouldn’t mean anything to you until I explained it all. 

Either at work, or with friends, I’ve had to help many people move their personal data from one computer to another.  When I started this kind of support years ago, all I needed was one floppy.  The last time I moved my stuff to a new machine, I bought a 750gb USB drive.  No, I didn’t need to fill it up, at least not then.  My Mozy.com account says I have 193.3gb backed up with them, but that’s only my life from one of three home computers, and I’ve yet to complete the epic task of scanning all my family photos.

When I contemplate putting my life on a hard disk many fanciful ideas come to mind.  I like to compare this goal to mind uploading, a science fictional concept that deals with transferring a person’s personality to a computer.  I first wrote about this idea in “My Life in 75 Megabytes,” which lets you know how long I’ve been thinking about this concept.  Back then my own expanding universe was much smaller, and could fit on a zip disk.

I find I have seven discrete concepts I’d like to explore in this essay:

  1. What goes into a digitized life?
  2. How is a digital life organized?
  3. How do we synced ourselves across many machines?
  4. What role does the media player play?
  5. How to we span living across local and network drives?
  6. What do we need to protect our digital memory?
  7. And do our files define our personality?

Thinking about buying a netbook that will be my carry-around auxiliary mind, a Mini-Me, so to say, I’d like to think about it’s full theoretical potential.  Let’s just play with the idea of what we’d like to have on a computer if one day we found ourselves orphaned from home with only the clothes on our back and a computer in our hand.

What Goes Into a Digitized Life?

Photographs have been the primary artifact that people want to protect and preserve.  Photographs are what people cry over the most when their CPU bytes the big one.  Next up is music files, either ripped, stolen or DRMed.  Few people stuff their machines with essays and fiction like me, but many folks like to maintain a wordy autobiography in the form of an email archive.  A few $-minded souls, horde tax records like misers.  And I’m starting to see hard drives become the new shoebox for home videos.  I myself, have hundreds of audio books that I’ve tediously ripped from cassette tapes and CDs that I’d hate to lose.  My wife wants to preserve video games, and their activation codes.  I’ve met a few people who maintain databases of things they love to collect.  When it comes down to it, there’s an almost endless variety of things people junk up their hard drives with and want to save forever.

All this digital junk can be broken down into two extremely distinct types:  Unique, owner created data, that can’t be found anywhere else, and copies of stuff other people created, either received free, stolen or bought.  It’s far more painful to have a laptop stolen with five years of digital snapshots than one with hundreds of dollars worth of songs bought from iTunes.

For the purpose of this essay, let’s not worry about the actual size of the hard drive on your buddy computer, but instead imagine this device will contain everything you want to save that can be digitized and if found in 30 years by your grandchildren, or 300 years by a scholar of the 21st century history, would make a statement about who you are.  Think about this super-netbook as your library of personally created data, plus copies of your favorite songs, books, audiobooks, movies, TV shows, paintings, poems, short stories, novels, etc.  Just think of it as the memory you wished your neurons could records.

The File Structure of Our Lives

I don’t know if you’ve ever gone into someone else’s computer and tried to extract what they desperately want to save, but it’s a fascinating task.  Microsoft, Apple and Linus all make provisions for storing user documents in a specified place, but users do their damnedest to squirrel important files all over their drives.  And even when they stick to the Home directory concept, everyone creates their own folder structure and naming system.  In recent years the idea of standard music and photo folders have emerged, which is great, but I think we need to convene a panel of Nobel prize winning eggheads to develop a worldwide standard, to be used across all OS systems, so future archeologists poking through our private digital junkyards can easily find our treasured entombed memories, and make sense of them.

We need to organize our auxiliary brains and keep them tidy for ourselves too, because as we toss more stuff into our net noggins, finding what we want becomes harder and annoying.  I love the fact that most applications in Windows now open My Documents as default when you mouse click Open File.  It drives me nuts that people want to override this and put their crap all over the desktop or in folders they created off of the root drive. 

I’m also glad Microsoft simplified “My Documents,” “My Music,” and “My Pictures” into Documents, Music and Pictures.  But now we need to expand on that to include Videos, Movies, Books and other categories.  This is where things get tricky, where arguments start, and OS turf wars begin.  Under “Jim” on my Vista machine I have:

  • Desktop
  • Downloads
  • Links
  • Pictures
  • Searches
  • Documents – Shortcut
  • Contacts
  • Documents
  • Favorites
  • Music
  • Saved Games
  • Videos

This is how Microsoft divides my life, and they’ve made some mysterious choices to me.  I wish I had a Mac so I could see how Steve Jobs wants the same job accomplished.  Ubuntu just gives me a home folder, leaving me free to make my own decisions from there   Since our computer will define our personality and I said we could save anything digital document that defines us, this means the home folder will become a library of digital files.  I’m not sure if the structure set out by Microsoft is a workable Dewey Decimal system for this task though.

What folder do I file my digital audio books?  Where do I put my ebooks or .pdf files for magazines and articles?  And should I save Gattaca, my favorite science fiction movie under Videos, the same place where I would store my home made clips?  And if I collected favorite YouTube videos, should they also be filed with my personal videos?

I think we need to rethink the \Home\ folder concept.  \Jim\ should be just for documents I created, and another folder called \Library\ should be used for all files I collect that were created by other people.  And the two might even have sub-folders with the same titles, like \Videos\,  \Photos\ and \Music\.  (That’s assuming I become more creative than I am now.)  Thus the new \Jim\ might contain these sub-folders:

  • Audioclips
  • Banking
  • Blogs
  • Bookmarks
  • Data
  • Diary
  • Emails
  • Essays
  • Fiction
  • HTML
  • Lists
  • Medical
  • Numbers
  • Photos
  • Timeline
  • Video

This isn’t perfect yet, but I hope you see where I’m going.  Under \Library\ I might have these sub-folders:

  • Art
  • Audiobooks
  • Books
  • Lectures
  • Magazines
  • Movies
  • Music
  • Photographs
  • Podcasts
  • Television
  • Video

In my personal folder, I have Photos, for those I take, but Photographs under Library, for pictures I buy.  Art would be for digitized artwork I like.  My desktop gallery program could be set to pull from Art, Photos and Photographs.

How to Keep our Digital Life Synced?

I have two desktop machines and laptop at home, and various iPod and MP3 players, including a iPod touch, and I’m planning to buy a netbook.  Plus I have several computers at work with years of programming code I created that I never want to loose.  At work I have USB drive I brought from home that has a backup of all my home files, but in particularly, my music library so I can play songs at work.  At times I also bring USB drives home, so my work is backed up.

The absolute ideal file storage solution would a 100% reliable gigabit network to a federally protected online databank with all my computers accessing one file system library that was perfectly safe until the Sun goes nova.  Plus, my data would be preserved for ever and ever, even after I died, for historical researchers.  I’m watching The Tudors – don’t you wish the producers of the show had access to Henry’s and Anne’s home directories?

Unfortunately, we don’t have such an ideal solution.  The trend is toward owning multiple computers, and by computer I also mean cell phone, iPod, and even video game units, anything that processes and stores digital data you create.   And we’re already seeing syncing solutions.  You can backup cell phone directories to your home computer, or if you have an iPhone, you can get your email, contacts and calendar from an Exchange server at work, thus syncing your phone numbers in one database.

In fact, the iPhone is a marvelous device, in that it can sync songs, photos, audiobooks, television shows, movies and other files from your mothership desktop to your lifeboat phone.  Apple doesn’t seem to like the concepts of netbooks, hoping you will use an iPhone/touch instead.  However, I find their amazing little screen too small to be my carry-around computer companion.

The Role of the Media Player

iTunes is also a fascinating program and concept.  It’s a program that attempts to manage the \Library\ portion of your file system, and a media player for playing songs, television shows, movies and audiobooks from your library.  With a bit of tweaking from Apple, it theoretically could handle my Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access, Publisher and PDF documents too, if we wanted one file librarian to manage all my computer files, including the personally created \Jim\ files too.  Wouldn’t that be cool?

Right now we generally have one program that creates each kind of content, such as a word processer for writing, a spreadsheet for playing with numbers, a database for handling data in tables, a publishing program for making magazine content, web editors for creating web pages, audio programs for recording voice, and so on.  But on the other hand, there are two classes of programs emerging that show us the results of what these other programs produce.  The first general class of file viewers is the web browser for looking at data files on the net, and the second program is the media librarian for looking at files on your computer.

I’m not sure if media librarians are a good idea or not.  They are designed to make life easier for the user and isolate the user from knowing about the file system.  The entire Macintosh philosophy seems to follow this belief too, that things are easier if you keep the user from needing to know too much about the file system.  I’m not sure that’s a good educational goal.  Both the web browser and media librarian work to replace the operating system.  An emerging class of Linux netbooks work to create an easy-to-use visual menu that sits on top of the OS and hides things from the user too.

The trouble is, if users work directly with the file system and double clicks on one, whether word processor document, or mp3 music file, those files will be launched into an editor program, rather than a player program, assuming the user created the files.  Media librarians like iTunes, Windows Media Player, Rhapsody, Audible Manager are great for organizing and playing certain kinds of files, producing playlists, sharing media with other users, etc.  The trouble is to select one universal media library program that does everything perfectly.

When I download an audiobook from Audible.com, it goes into my iTunes and Audible Manager, and I can have it also go into my Windows Media Player.  Sometimes the download gets messed up and the audiobook doesn’t get filed in one of the players.  So I have to find the file and manually add it to the library.  iTunes files all MP3 files under Music, so songs and ripped audio books get mixed together.  That annoys me.

Plus iTunes only wants to work with iPods, so it doesn’t help me when I use my Zune.  But then my Zune Media player won’t have anything to do with my iPods.  And all my media librarians fight to own my MP3 collection of 18,000+ songs.  It’s a huge pain.  I also have multiple programs willing to play my videos too, but none are universal, thus I have to have specialty programs like Amazon Unbox to view videos bought from Amazon.

Right now you can set Windows to launch any program you choose for a particular file extension.  Thus if I have Rhapsody set for .mp3, it will launch when I click on a song or an audiobook or a podcast, all of which share the .mp3 extension.  I wish Windows would allow a folder override to this system, so for \Audiobooks\ I could set Audible Manager as a my player, and for \Music\ I could set Windows Media Player, and for \Podcasts\ I could set iTunes.

Now that we’re slowly moving away from DRM enslaved files, we will be less reliant on media librarian programs like iTunes.  Also, why does your favorite program to play songs also have to be your program to load songs onto a MP3 player?  And why can’t I have one librarian for all my devices, including iPods, Creative MP3 players, Zune, phone and netbooks?  Every portable device has a limited amount of storage space, so wouldn’t it be great to have a librarian on my largest computer that could talk to all my lesser computers and help me manage a subset of files I want to maintain on each?

I would love a librarian where I could rate my content 1-10, whether songs, movies or word documents, and then when I plug in a portable device, the librarian would show me how much that device can handle by telling me, “This device can hold all content rated 8 and above, would you like me to load it?”  Or I could set it to always load personally created data first, then songs as a second priority, and only sync television marked unseen, and to manually sync movies.

Even still, I’m not sure I like one program to do everything for me.  I like choice.  I like the Unix philosophy of having a tool for each job.  I think I’d prefer to pick each app that played each kind of file.  That way I could have the perfect ebook reader for me that might be different from my perfect music player.   Hell, I might like one kind of MP3 player for playing albums, another for playing playlists, another for random playing of songs, and even another program where I play and manage my all-time favorite 1,001 tunes.  And all of these would work from the same \Music\ folder structure.  I’d also like a program that would generate reports on the \Music\ folder by listing all albums, artists and tracks, and keep statistics on each.  I have no idea how many albums I own, even though they are all on a computer.

Hard Disk Driving versus Network Driving

As the Internet get better, meaning faster and with more features, space on our local hard drives will be needed less, until we only need to store personally created data.  If Rhapsody’s library had every song my personal music library did, I’d never mess with a \Music\ folder again.  If the network was fast and always dependable, I wouldn’t even worry about putting songs, television and movies on my devices because I’d just stream them from Lala, Rhapsody, Pandora, Zune, Netflix and Amazon.  A netbook with a 160gb hard drive would be fine and dandy as my auxiliary brain until I took too many photos or videos.  And if I could store unlimited photos and videos reliably online, I’d again be free of hard drive space limitations.

If the the broadband and the network were that great I wouldn’t even need a \Library\ file system at all.  However, any experience with flaky network connections will make you horde your favorite content locally.

There’s a reason why they call these cute little computers netbooks.  They are gadgets designed to depend on the Internet for their content.  I’ve never wanted a smartphone because I’ve never wanted to pay a broadband cell phone bill, but I’d be much more likely to want broadband service with a netbook.  And all the cell phone providers are quickly ramping up to sell netbooks with two-year broadband contracts. 

Laptops were supposed to be on-the-go computing, but they have been too big, too expensive and don’t last long enough on a charge, to be the always on-the-go computers.  I just don’t want to carry an expensive laptop everywhere, afraid I might break it, lose it, or have it stolen, but I might carry a $350 machine everywhere I went, especially if it’s charge would last all day like a cell phone, and I could get access to the net.

I’ve set up a half-dozen netbooks so far, all for women who want these purse size computers.  I’ve had several grown women in my office all squealing like girls over purple and pinkness.  They don’t even understand the potential of netbooks, all they see is pretty and purse-able.  They even buy netbooks with their own money for work use.  I’ve talked to other women that bought them for home use at Walmart or from the Home Shopping Channel, and they tell me their kids are buying them too.  Netbooks are hot.  $250-$400 seems to be the right price for portable computing.

I’m waiting for 8 hours of battery life, which many models have now, and better video processing, which is coming this fall.  I’d also like faster processing and I’m torn on deciding between a 10” or 12” screen, and what resolution it should have.  I’ve set up a Dell Mini 10 with 1366×768 resolution that’s super sharp but teeny tiny  But the Dell’s was properly proportioned at the resolution, something not true of all netbook screens I’ve seen.  I hate squashed or stretched fonts!  

Netbooks are getting very close to showing 1080p video, so they will make great on-the-road theaters that can replace portable DVD players and iPods, plus they make great Skype video phones.  Combined with broadband and Bluetooth headsets, they can be cell phones too.  The implications for this auxiliary brain as a communications tool is immense.

Backing Up is Hard To Do

As we put more of our life on our netbooks, or should we steal a trademark, our Lifebooks, it will be vital to back them up.  If netbooks are synced with desktop computers, that’s one level of backup.  Asus even sells their netbooks with 10gb of online storage.  And there is always services like Mozy.com that backup files to Internet servers.  But the main thing to remember, these devices will become our heads we can lose, and we’ll hate the day we experience a digital lobotomy.  I’ve always said the Internet is our real sixth sense, and netbooks will only reinforce this belief.  Once we all got addicted to electrical devices like computers and televisions, we’d get pissed when electricity went off.  After I became dependent on the net, I actually get jumpy and depressed when the net goes down.  If we become addicted to our little buddy computers we carry everywhere, losing one will be painful indeed.  Like losing part of ourselves.  Being able to quickly replicate our digital life onto a replacement netbook will be extremely important.

Do Our Files Reflect Our Personality?

If a team of psychologists with AI tools, found my future netbook with all my writing and all my favorite photos, art, books, movies, television shows, songs, on it, could they analyze the content and produce a description of my personality?  If netbooks had been around for hundreds of years, and we could study the content of our ancestors, how much would we know about them?  My father died when I was 19, and there has always been so much I’ve wondered about him.  I would love to have a copy of his auxiliary brain.

Also, imagine kids starting school with netbooks and keeping all their schoolwork, photos and videos they make throughout their K-12 careers.  Boy, I wished I had such a childhood treasure.  I wished I had taken photos of all my classmates, all my classrooms, hallways, schools and teachers.  I wish I had taken photos of all the homes I lived in, with photos of all the rooms, furniture and the streets I walked.  We always focused our cameras on families and friends, but I wished I had also taken photos of objects, like houses, rooms, streets, cars of my life, to aid my memory.  I’ve forgotten so much that I’d love to recall.  Maybe it has little true value, because I did forget all that stuff, but now I wish I had more evidence of my earlier life.  I wish I had photos of every dog and cat I owned.  I can barely picture my furry friends now, mostly just recall their names, like Blacky, Chief or Mike, and some I can’t even remember, which is sad.

I seriously doubt there is much real detail to download from our brains, if such a science fictional reality is ever possible.  I don’t know if personality profiles can be resurrected from netbooks, but I think my sense of personal history would be much stronger, and my self awareness, far more vivid, if my poor old brain had more solid evidence.

The Future of Netbooks

Thinking about these seven concepts of how we could store our life digitally and have it readily at hand, to help us with day-to-day activities, makes me picture all kinds of possibilities for netbooks.  I doubt our futures will include jacks in the back of our skulls like the people in the movie, The Matrix, but the netbook could become the mind-computer interface between ourselves and the net. 

With Bluetooth, we could have cell phone like headsets, so we could make calls, but also use our netbooks for dictating voice recordings, to aid our memory with verbal annotations.  Photo and video cameras could be combined with Bluetooth so anything we snap or video is immediately recorded to our external brains.  Medical monitoring devices could be combined with Bluetooth, netbooks and broadband for new kinds of health tracking and assessment.  Netbooks will only expand social networking, and if our youthful population is so close now because of cell phones, think what constant video phoning will do to their generation.

Netbooks might finally bring us into the age of videophone that’s been predicted by science fiction since Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon entertained tykes in the 1930s in the Sunday funnies.  Computer pundits thought we’d all be wearing computers by now, but maybe a good device that’s easy to carry will do instead.  This makes me predict purses will become common for men, at least leather over-the-shoulder pouches, or we’ll see more men with messenger bags.  But netbooks are so easy to carry, they may never get to far from our hands.

If netbooks had reversible LCD touch screens as a standard feature, so they could function like Tablet PCs, netbooks could replace the emerging ebooks devices like the Kindle and Sony Reader.  Right now I find it easiest to carry a cell phone in my pants pocket and a Zune in my shirt pocket, one for phone service the other for audiobooks.  But if I have a netbook with me wherever I go, or nearby, then all I would need to carry on my person is a Bluetooth headset.  Should I predict the demise of the iPhone and iPod?

The deciding factors on buying a netbook is how big the screen and keyboard, and whether or not they are useable for long periods of typing and reading.  I bought an iPod touch to be my carry around computer, but I didn’t like typing with a single finger, and the screen was too small for browsing the web.  It’s pretty nice for reading text email, terrible for HTML email, very nice for checking movie times and looking at previews, pleasant for reading ebooks, although I might like a slightly larger screen, and very nice for Pandora and Wolfgang’s Vault. 

When netbooks first burst on the scene in 2007, their appeal included solid state storage over spinning hard drives, so, “My Life on a Hard Drive” might be a poor title soon, but if spinning drives disappear, I predict we’ll still call solid state devices hard drives too.  Technology is evolving away from moving parts, so we might eventually call netbooks, memory books, the name I want to use for them.  If the right technology pans out, and the right pricing for broadband emerges, memory books might be very common indeed. 

What will you put on your memory book?  How will you organize it.  How can a memory book improve your life?  A good portion of our population has been able to avoid the computer revolution, but if a memory book becomes so personally useful, will anyone choose to be a Luddite in this revolution?  As I age, and my memory falters and skips, being able to query a memory book becomes a very useful mental crutch.  I don’t know if that’s good or bad.  Will it make me weaker or stronger?

I do know organizing my thoughts for this blog helps me retain words, and even learn to use new words.  Writing these blogs help me refine and distinguish discrete ideas and concepts.  In the past year I’ve met a number of people, usually young, who have asked me what my favorite movies, books and songs are, and I had a hard time making a quick list.  That disturbs me.  Maybe if I constantly worked to maintain a library of favorites on my memory book, or even just keep my memory book handy and constantly annotated a list of favorites, I would feel better.  Who knows, I might not even need to open my memory book, but my real memory of such lists would be fresh enough to have something to say in casual conversations.

I don’t know if my memory weakness is normal for someone my age, or if it portends Alzheimer’s in future years.  My wife already gets impatient with my slowness to respond, and hates when I tell her she better start acquiring more patience in case I get worse.  “You better not,” she warns me.  Having a memory book might become the glasses of my memories someday.  Or my memory book might become a very large hand to write notes on.  Or it my memory book might become a gym to exercise my neurons.   This is all fascinating to consider, and I can’t wait to test out these ideas.  I’m just not ready to buy a netbook yet.

JWH – 6/28/9

New to Me, Old to You?

I discovered popular music as a kiddo while riding around in my Daddy’s 1955 Pontiac, playing with the AM radio push-buttons.  This was around 1958, and I was seven.  For some reason my parents didn’t have a radio in the house, nor did they own a record player and records.  Music wasn’t important in their life, but they seemed to love the music on TV, on the variety shows, where my Dad dug Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra and my mother would tell us kids to shut up so she could listen to Nat King Cole or Perry Como.  Those crooners were so damn old, even then.

My parents would get especially excited if music clips of Benny Goodman or Glenn Miller played in an old movie.  They’d tell my sister and I how that was their music.  Big bands, with trumpets and clarinets, it seemed as ancient as Egypt.  Music that felt new was the rock and roll music I found on the AM radio in the car.  That music made my Dad turn red and shout, “Turn off that goddamn noise.”

I’m listening to Quicksilver Messenger Service, a San Francisco rock band from the late 1960s.  Quicksilver still feels out of the womb new to me.  Even though it’s forty years later, a much greater span of time than from Benny Goodman of the late 1930s to the late 1950s, Quicksilver didn’t get old to me.  Why?  Would kids hearing my music today feel it had been dug up by archeologists?

Is my music new to me, but old to you?

Listening to current pop music makes me feel old.  It’s all made by teenagers, or over-the-hill burnouts in their twenties, but then the rock and roll of the 1950s was made by teenagers too.  Time is doing a number on my head.  Time is more than relative.  I can feel young and old, both at the same time, just by listening to music.

JWH – 6/16/9

Fuel For Writing

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted anything on Auxiliary Memory.  I’ve started several essays but never finished any.  I also started a diet. I’ve notice over the years that there’s a relationship between calories and the number of words I produce.  Cookies, cokes, cakes and candy fuel my mind for writing.  Dieting leaves my brain lethargic, suitable only for watching TV.  And man have I been watching TV this past two weeks!  I’ve seen 33 episodes of Battlestar Galactica.  I had to boost my Netflix from 1 disc at a time to 3 to keep up with my hunger for more shows, watching up to 4 episodes a night.

The difference between being active and passive is junk food.  But since I’ve ballooned to 237 pounds I can’t keep feeding my creative drive.  And those healthy fruits and vegetables just don’t stoke the fire to crank out words.  I’ve got to find some kind of discipline to get back into writing.  Without sweet calories, I guess I need to learn how to push myself by will-power alone.

Of course, I’ve got to ask myself why write at all?  Not to mention the fact that I’ve been mentally beating myself up for the last couple years for writing on the blog instead of working on fiction.  Blog writing is like practicing the piano.  It’s very good for mental health.  For the last decade I’ve been forgetting more and more words, and even how to pronounce them.  When I started blog writing that boosted my ability to remember.

Getting old has other side affects besides the slowing of brain access speeds.  There is a tendency to solidify thoughts in old age, so if you’re not careful you’ll parrot your frozen opinions whenever a response is needed.  Exploring concepts in a blog helps break down comfortable old opinions into their basic parts so you can start over and remodel the rooms in your brain.

All this new thinking requires energy and time.  My best time to write is mornings, but Monday through Friday I have work, and often on the weekends I have personal obligations.  Writing at night requires lots of extra calories.  The obvious solution is to get up at 4 or 5 in the morning and write before work, but right now I don’t have that kind of discipline.  My body naturally wants to sleep until 6:30 am when the cats start meowing for their breakfast.

There are alternative fuels for writing.  Sometimes playing loud music can stimulate my brain cells.  Other times reading an inspiring article and taking a short nap to digest the thoughts will get me to jump up and start writing.  I’ve never had the mental energy to write like a professional writer, that is to stick to writing like working a 9 to 5.  Real writers can write when they’re not in the mood, or when they lack the energy.  Real writers can’t not write, but I don’t have that demon.

One way or another I’ve got to find the energy to write.  I would be tempted by artificial stimulants, but my old body can’t even handle caffeine anymore.  I know I can’t stop writing because my mind would quickly start sliding downhill again.

JWH – 3/29/9

Blogging, WordPress and the Future

I’ve been blogging for awhile.  I started with LiveJournal, and then moved to WordPress on my hosted site, and finally to WordPress.com.  I like the convenience of WordPress.com maintaining everything, and I’m developing a wish-list of desired features I hope they will roll out in the near future.

First, let’s think about blogging in general.  The basic idea is to write a post and get comments.  Older posts are pushed down and stored away, and the general method used to find these older stories is either by categories, search box or calendar grouping.  It’s pretty effective for what it does, but I wonder if other methods might be developed to organize the overall site and expand the theoretically limits of what it means to blog.  WordPress is constantly adding new widgets, so their structure is built around adding features, so this post is going to suggest some features I want and imagine where I’d like blogging to evolve in the future.

Paid For Feature Modules

I don’t know if I can expect all my desired features for free, but what if each module was a paid add-on or part of a plus service?  I have no idea how WordPress makes its money.  It’s a great free service that doesn’t appear to use ads and what few add-on features they do sell don’t look like big revenue generators.

Some of the features I’m wishing for could be part of a $49.95/year plus package.  I’ve invested a lot of time in WordPress, so I don’t mind paying.  I don’t want them to go bust – I want WordPress to be around for generations to come.  I assume WordPress wants to maintain their current marketing plan of offering a free service, but I can picture my blogging needs expanding, and I imagine so do others.

Right now there are too many Web 2.0 services.  I can share my thoughts on WordPress, my photos on Picasa, computer work on Zoho.com, friendships on Facebook.com, genealogy on Ancestry.com, my book lists on LibraryThing.com, and so on. 

What I’d like is one place to present the digital me.  MySpace and Facebook want that place to be their services, but I’m not happy with those sites.  They are too restricting.  What I want is one place to combine all the features, and for now I’m thinking my blogging home at WordPress.com is the place to start.  I have no idea if the people who produce WordPress want to be such an enterprise, but I’m guessing my desires are just part of an evolutionary process on the web and somebody will offer them.

The Digital Me 

Let’s think of a blog as an analog for a person’s life.  Right now blogs model people with the diary format.  Before computers, memoirs and autobiographies were two ways to convey a person’s life.  However, those formats depend on linear progress and some random discovery.  When you meet someone at a party you don’t get to know them in a start at the beginning, end at the end, fashion.  Generally you start talking about a subject, and this is covered by blogging with categories.  But if you’ve ever been to a blog site of someone you like to read and they have a long list of categories it’s not very inviting.  And if their current three posts are all boring then you’ll get the wrong idea, even if they wrote a brilliant post just before that.

Science fiction has for years imagined artificial beings or speculated on machines recording people’s minds and converting them into computer beings in artificial worlds.  I’m thinking a blog could be something like that – a download of your personality.  But you need a face to represent the whole of your being.

Table of Contents

Magazines use their covers and table of contents to promote their top stories, hoping an eye catching headline will get you to buy a whole magazine and read the rest of the issue.  However, magazines are not good structures to model a person’s complete life, but the TOC could be a good format to use for an introduction, or your face.  Home pages on blogs take you to the latest post.  I’m wondering if WordPress could create a Table of Contents page to use as the default home page, something that would combine the features of the About page and table of contents, to welcome blog visitors and help bloggers introduce themselves, giving guests a bigger picture of what you are like.  Also, let this page have more layout options, use a 2-3 column HTML table to organize the structure, and allow the maximum customization. 

Since the word categories is already used, have an organizing unit called “Projects” to be a super-group above categories.  I like the word “projects” because I like to think of organizing my life into projects.  Marketing people might come up with a better word.  Maybe tie it in with major personality traits.   Here’s an example of what I mean.  For the Table of Contents page have several user-created Topics or Projects called Family, Friends, Work, Hobbies, Travel, and Reviews.  Under Reviews I might have category listings for Audio Books, Books, Movies, Television Shows, Music, etc.  Under Family I might have categories for Parents, Wife, Kids, Genealogy, etc.  Then allow each Topic/Project to have an icon or small photo in the layout, so visitors at a glance can see how the blog writer organizes his or her life.

TimeLine

Another fun format to add would be the TimeLine – something to help people remember when and were things happened.  Since people have imprecise memories, you’d have to have a Date field that could handle  years, months, seasons, and days.  I don’t think hours and seconds would be needed.  (Fall 1949, 12/7/82, January 1971, 1963.)  Users could enter birthdays for family, and then school years and schools.  That way people could quickly know how old they were in a during a particular school year, or what years they worked as a bag boy.  Bloggers could enter dates for when they met people, got jobs, saw concerts, had children, went on vacations, etc.  Additional fun features would be hyperlinks to web sites that show the TV schedules, top news, best selling books, big movies, etc. for each year to help prompt memories.

Lists

I like keeping a list of the books I’ve read, my favorites, the ones I own, favorite songs, my CD library, favorite movies, DVDs, movies seen, etc.  Lots of people are list makers, and so having a list making module would be awful cool.  Like the TimeLine module above, this would force WordPress to get into the database business, which moves them more into the Zoho.com type service.  WordPress could offer both custom database applications and do-it-yourself kits.

Genealogy

Blogs are about people.  I use my blog to help remember things.  One of the things I’ve always meant to get into is genealogy – but not in a big way.  What would be amusing for blogging is to enter enough information so it links to other genealogy sites and to other bloggers, so when you meet people you can glance at their ancestry and maybe check if you’re related.  If this linkage grew eventually we’d be able to say to our blogs, “show a family blogging tree.”

Who Is Your Blog For?

When you’re typing away at your blog posts do you do it for friends, strangers, or yourself?  I call my blog Auxiliary Memory because I’m getting more forgetful all the time.  I really would like to use my blog as a supplemental brain.  If WordPress had the security, I’d even like to save private information on my blog.  Not bank account numbers, but just data only I would want to see when I’m trying to remember something, maybe something personal like address books, Christmas card lists, work and home To-Do lists, etc.  I’d also like to keep my last will and testament and parting thoughts, so when I die, especially unexpected, I can leave some last messages.

Now do you see what I mean when I think of a blog as a digital analog of myself?  Right now blogs are a collection basket for thoughts, but it could collect other personal items, like photographs.

Photos and Time and Place

There are plenty of online photo galleries for people to share their pictures, but I’d like one integrated into WordPress.  Why separate thoughts from images.  I’d like to tie photographs to the TimeLine and to the Genealogy.  Currently we enter posts by today’s date and time, but I’d like to be offered a field that would let me enter posts for past dates and time, that way I could organize my photographs chronologically, and work to remember the past.

It’s quite obvious what would happen if you could link photos to genealogies.  I’d also like to link photos to streets and cities, and I would like to connect to other people to share photos linked by time and place.  I moved around a lot when I was a kid.  Imagine putting all my photos from Maine Avenue when I lived at Homestead Air Force Base from 1962-63 into the system and someday getting a message from long lost friends who went to Air Base Elementary with me?

Photo Rotation and Linking

Right now we get one photo for our header to represent our personality.  It would be great to draw from a pool, so on some pages visitors would see images from a random rotation from the pool of personal or stock photos and for other pages, specific photos to go with the content of the post.

This would be a nightmare to roll out for WordPress.  It’s much easier to manage the system when there’s a limited number of templates for users to build their sites.  For this to be practical, WordPress needs to designate certain sized photographs – so all header photos would be the same size for a particular template, as they do now, but offer you the system to switch photos on the fly.  When you create a new post you’d have the opportunity to link to a photo pool folder or link to an individual photo.  This wouldn’t require a major programming change, and WordPress would sell a lot more space.  Of course, it would be nice to link to Flash videos and animations too.

I’m Sure You Get My Point By Now

By now you should see the trend.  I supposed with XML and web services many of these features could originate on companies outside of WordPress, or allow these features to work across all blogging sites.  I love the idea of OpenID and that needs to be expanded.  Selecting a blogging service like WordPress, Blogger, LiveJournal is like selecting a nationality, but we shouldn’t have language barriers to keep us from communicating across borders.

It may even be possible that various blogging services could work together so you’d have memberships on more than one service and combine the results.  I see people trying to do this now but the results are disjointed, like they have multiple personalities, or they want to have separate public identities.  I hate when I leave a reply on a Blogger site and it wants to send people to my Google identity rather than my WordPress identity.  My FaceBook page should just have a widget that displays my WordPress blog instead of trying to duplicate a blogging feature.

Has anyone thought about the ramifications for blogging for decades?  Or generations?  Permanent storage needs to be addressed for historical purposes.  I always like to ask people, “What would the world be like if Jesus had a blog and we could read it today.”  Whose blog would you want to read from history?  File and data formats are going to have to become standard if they are going to be readable in a thousand years.  And if you spend a lifetime crafting your blog so it represents who you are, do you want it to die just because your body can’t go on?

These are just some idle thoughts on my part.  Start thinking about what blogs could really become.  Just wait a few years for when WordPress rolls out its AI widget that allows you to program a talking personality to go with your blog.  All it’s personality will be based on your past blog entries.  Eventually, we’ll be able to talk to our AI and it will automatically create our posts just from interviewing us.

Jim

Pulp Fiction

Long ago, before Quentin Tarantino’s great film, before I was born in 1951, before television, there was pulp fiction.  It was called pulp fiction because of the grade of paper the stories were printed on was called pulp, and a whole entertainment industry was built around selling magazines with short stories and serialized novels wrapped in crude color reproductions of what is now called pulp art.

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When I was young I often met older science fiction fans that collected these magazines, but surely, most of the kids of the generation before me, who grew up loving to read pulp fiction, must be very old, if still living, and the pulp fiction generation surely must be dying out.  Yet, over at Fantasy & Science Fiction they are running an article, “The New Nostalgia: The Classic Pulp Story Revival” by Dave Truesdale that chronicles how several small press publishers are keeping the pulp fiction tradition alive with quality hardbound reprints.  This article is well worth reading on many levels because it renews memories of a few old authors and their best stories and informs about the sub-culture of the small press publishing.

Pulp fiction has also been kept alive by the legacy of comic books and their impact on the movies with all the classic super heroes being reinvented every year, and reoccurring pulp action films like the Indiana Jones series or the remake of King Kong.  Comics are the direct descendants of pulp magazines that featured cruder art and stories for the younger readers on the same pulp paper.  Pulp fiction was never literary but a few fine writers like Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler came out of the tradition.  Most of the prose was purple and all action, and aimed at the poorly educated, often featuring very politically incorrect attitudes about race, gender, ethnic groups, and foreigners.  Society and the well bred looked down on the lowly pulp fiction fan.

Evidently, old pulp fiction is finding new younger readers through the popularity of action movies, reprints and inherited nostalgia.  When I was growing up in the 1950s and 1960s much of the best pulp fiction, including mysteries, westerns, science fiction, adventure, spy, thrillers and other genres were reprinted as cheap paperbacks for 25 and 35 cents, but now the buy-in price are $40 deluxe volumes.

There was always a tremendous vitality to pulp fiction, which explained why titles included words like astounding, thrilling, amazing, wonder, adventure, fantastic, and that wink-wink keyword, spicy.  Science fiction really is a child of pulp fiction, and I think many readers hated the change that the New Wave brought to the genre during the 1960s, where emerging writers tried to force science fiction out of the gutter and into the classroom where the revolutionaries wanted it to wear literary robes.  Today science fiction is often represented in the minds of the public at large by Star Trek and Star Wars, but those stories owe a lot to two pulp fiction superstars:  E. E. “Doc” Smith and Edward Hamilton.

If you want to sample classic science fiction pulp stories, and not spend too much money, I recommend tracking down copies of two anthologies:  Before the Golden Age edited by Isaac Asimov and Adventures in Time and Space edited by Raymond J. Healy and J. Francis McComas.   These books collect some of the best SF short stories from 1931-1945.  You can find both at ABEBooks.com, but watch out, both fat original hardback anthologies were often reprinted as multi-volume paperback books, and it would be worth your while to use the advance search and specify hardback editions, thus saving you on total costs and postage.  These two books will give you a great education about the foundation of science fiction.

The URLs linked to these titles also give you table of contents for the stories which if you are really hoarding your gasoline dollars might find on the web for free.   Now, as you read the stories, consider these issues:

One, are they still fun to read?  Are they as fun as reading Harry Potter or any of your other current favorite writers?  Second, do the ideas seem stupid, in the light of modern knowledge?  Third, do you notice why I call them politically incorrect?  Fourth, can you tell the difference between pulp fiction writing and modern MFA writing (The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao), or even modern genre writing (Charlie Stross and John Scalzi)?  Fifth, are these stories worth preserving?  Sixth, are they worth your reading time over reading newer stories?

All fiction from 1900-1950 is thinning out fast in our collective memories, and few stories from that era get reprinted.  I’m not just talking about pulp fiction.  If you can, find a copy of Best American Short Stories from before 1950 and some original pulp magazines.  Most of the contents from either will never have seen print since the original publications.  The small presses that are reprinting classic pulp fiction stories, are really just rescuing one story in a thousand, maybe one in ten thousand.

Looking at the periods 1800-1850 and 1850-1900, only the rarest of stories are still read by modern readers.  Baby boomers can remember the famous books they read from 1950-2000, but how many of the following generations know about those best selling titles?  My guess is the pulp fiction nostalgia is for the boomers who can remember reading pulp fiction from its first generation of reprints.  I would imagine, out of all the genres only a handful of novels will become classics, like The Maltese Falcon, Tarzan of the Apes, Conan the Barbarian, and Riders of the Purple Sage.  But how many kids under 16 discover these tales?

I occasionally enjoy reading an old pulp story and appreciate these small press publishers bringing back old favorites by Leigh Brackett, C. L. Moore, Robert E. Howard and Jack Williamson that I first discovered in used editions of Ace Doubles.  I think my identity is partly based on pulp fiction, and I feel I help keep these old friends alive by continuing to read them.  I know all of my generation and the stories we loved will soon pass on and be forgotten, but it’s pleasant to think a few of the stories will survive and future generations will enjoy them and wonder about their fans.

Jim

1965

Yesterday I discovered Playa Cofi Jukebox, an Internet radio station that lets listeners time travel back to any year from 1950-1982 to hear a rotation of the top 100 songs from that year.  I immediately jumped to 1965 and was transported to my all-time favorite musical year.  Go look at that link and see if you can think of any year that has more fantastic hits.  What year do you most identify with musically?  While I natter away about 1965 always substitute your favorite year and remember your songs.

I’ve been wishing for such an invention for a long time now.  Actually, I’d even like to pick the month and year, but I’m overjoyed to have a by year destination for now.  I’ve often daydreamed of collecting music with an idea of creating playlists on my computer so I could fake late night radio shows I heard in my kid days while discovering science fiction books.

I’d love to hear the old WQAM and WFUN AM stations from 1961-1967 Miami – and poking around the Internet shows that other people remember those stations with lots of fond nostalgia too.  I’m guessing there is something in our biochemistry that burns the pop culture of our teen years into our brains so nothing else ever seems as exciting.

I often reread the books I discovered in 1965 – mostly the twelve Heinlein juveniles that were first published in the 1950s.  The books still move me as much as the music.  But I have discovered when I see TV shows from that year like Lost in Space, Green Acres, I Dream of Jeannie, The Wild Wild West and Get Smart I have to wonder if I wasn’t simple-minded back then.  I know that science fiction and rock music back then wasn’t that sophisticated either, but they feel like art today whereas the television shows seem silly.

I have to wonder how much of the 1965 me is still stored in my brain?  Physicists still grapple with the concept of time, some even theorize that time doesn’t exist – suggesting that we live in a continual succession of nows.  I know my old brain now is much different from my young brain then, but I’m guessing much of the same programming and circuitry still exist.  If I put on 1965 on the Playa Cofi jukebox and start reading Starman Jones by Robert A. Heinlein how close can I get to the original experience?  Time appears to be change, but what is changing?

What if I had a brain injury or Alzheimer’s and did this experiment?  What if I could move back to my old house in Miami.  Would it feel like 1965?  Would I feel like I’m 13 and something really bad happened to my body?

Why do science fiction writers and readers love the concept of time travel?  Wouldn’t time travel also involve space travel?  Wouldn’t we have to jump in a space ship and go back to the coordinates of where Earth was forty-three years ago?  (Oddly The Shangri-Las was singing “I Can Never Go Home Anymore,”  And “Turn! Turn! Turn!” by the Byrds just started playing.  Very appropriate songs for this essay.  What synergy with 1965.)

The Earth has gone around the Sun forty-three times, and the solar system has moved around the galaxy, and the Milky Way has moved in whatever direction it is heading, and the Universe is expanding.  It’s damn hard to believe that time travel will ever be possible, but it’s also hard to imagine that time does not exist either.

The question I really should ask myself:  Why would I want to time travel to 1965?  Is it because I had so much fun listening to WQAM and reading Heinlein and watching The Man From U.N.C.L.E. on television?  Don’t we all time travel every day when we turn on our TVs and watch movies from the past hundred years?

What is something I couldn’t do now, that I could do then?  For one thing, I could go see Bob Dylan perform during the height of his talent.  (“Mr. Tambourine Man” just started playing after I typed the words Bob Dylan – this is getting spooky.)  How important is that?  What does it tell me?  I guess I’d like to do all the things back in 1965 that I didn’t do the first time around but wanted to so badly.  (The Animals just started singing “We Gotta Get Out of this Place.”)

And I think the Animals song is informative.  I think one of the basic urges for time travel is the same as space travel, we just want to go somewhere in space-time where we think it’s better.  Was 1965 really a better place?  (Jesus, this is starting to weird me out, Sonny and Cher just started singing, “Baby Don’t Go.”)  Maybe they’re right, now is the only place that counts.

This makes me wonder how many science fiction fans would jump at a chance to go somewhere fantastic.  If a powerful being suddenly appeared in your room right now and commanded:  “Name a destination in the universe – any time, anywhere, and I’ll send you there right now” would you jump at the chance?  (The Shangri-Las are back and singing, “The Leader of the Pack.”  – Umm)

Let’s imagine I say, “Miami, 1965” – and pop I’m there.  What would I do then?  (I wished I had written “and clap I’m there,” because Shirley Ellis just started singing “The Clapping Song.”)  The first thing I’d have to do is get out of my old house because my parents, who would be younger than me now, would find a stranger invading their house very scary.  I’d be out on the streets and homeless.

(The Moody Blues just started singing “Go Now.” – I’m not making this up.  If you could hear the song like I hear it, it has mystical thrills.  It always had.)

The job of a time traveler is a tough one.  At least in 1965 Miami, everyone speaks my language, but walking the streets with only the clothes on my back and a wallet full of funny money wouldn’t be an easy start to a new life.  (I hear Joe Tex telling me to hold on to what I’ve got.)

A lot of science fiction stories starts with this very problem, remember John Carter arriving on Mars.  But how many of us would buy a ticket to another city and start an adventure by being homeless.  (The Four Seasons sings “Let’s Hang On” repeating and emphasizing the wisdom of Joe Tex “Let’s hang on to what we’ve got”)

I guess 1965 is telling me to stay home in 2008.  What if I never owned a radio or discovered Heinlein in 1965?  What if I had taken up sports instead and all my memories of 1965 would be about ball games – this essay would be about how I remember seeing some great games.  Time is always something we did.  The year 1965 is just a label I put on a period of my life when pop culture was very impressionable on my mind.  For other people that might be 1983 or 1942, and all my fond memories would be meaningless to them.  In forty-three years some guy is going to be writing about 2008 and his nostalgic memories of Rap music.

Last night my wife and I had a party at our house celebrating our 30th wedding anniversary and everyone sat around trying to remember 1978.  Our wedding reception had been at my wife’s parent’s house, the house where we live now.  And a number of people who had been there thirty years ago sat around looking at photos of the 1978 event.  We sure do love to time travel.  In 1965 I was terribly anxious to live in the 21st century.  I wonder if I’ll ever live in a year that is the one I want to be living in?

The Four Seasons just started singing, “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right (The Wonder Who).”  I think I spend too much time thinking twice.  I can’t go home to 1965, but along the way time has eroded my desire to live in the future.  I think reality has overtaken science fiction.

I keep waiting for The Rolling Stones to sing, “Time is On My Side,” which came out in late 64 and was popular in 1965.  I need to get over looking backwards.  What I really want from 1965 is a way to live looking forward again.  I need to stop thinking about 1965, and start planning for 2065.  Having a grand distant future inside of you waiting to unfold is the way to feel young again.

Jim

R.I.P. – The Good Ole Days

Let me start out by saying I don’t want this essay to be doom and gloom.  Also let me just remind you about the Yin and Yang nature of the world.  Creation also means something gets destroyed.  Old folks are always crying about how things aren’t the way they were when they were growing up at the same time the young’uns run wild, gleeful embracing every new fad coming down the expressway.  I’m a glass half-full kind of guy who enjoys wearing rose colored specs while examining the philosophies of those dark clouded guys proposing the half-empty theories.

As I mentioned previously, I’m listening to The Cult of the Amateur by Andrew Keen.  I just finished his eulogy for the music store and I just can’t help tossing out my two pennies worth of monkey typing.  I know most bloggers pretend to barf when they hear the name Andrew Keen, but I actually think his book should be read by everyone.  He’s done much cogitating and turned up a lot of ideas to think about.  Only I’m not sure I’m thinking about his vital issues in the same way he does.

When Keen started lamenting the demise of the record store I was reminded how I used to love record shopping.  From 1965 through 1998 I bought a damn lot of LPs and CDs.  I averaged buying two to four albums while shopping in two or more records stores each week.  I loved record stores.  Hell, it was a stab to the heart when LPs disappeared, with their great 12″ venues for fantastic cover art.  To me the good ole days of record stores was from 1965-1975 – from Byrds to Bruce.  Okay I do love those little dinky little CD albums, but never as much as the big beautiful LPs.

Now Andrew Keen wants us to believe that the Internet is murdering the music business.  And that is true for the old way of business.  I believe stealing music is stealing, and P2P does cause lost sales.  However, I’m not sure that music thieves are the only suspect holding a smoking MAC-10.  I never stole music when it became a fad, but around 1998 I stopped buying CDs by the handful – so I’m sure my kind hurt the industry too.  I don’t know how many baby boomers are like me but the damn music industry just stopped selling music I wanted to own.

There are other factors.  I’d say part of the music boom of the 1980s and early 1990s was us old guys re-buying all our favorite LPs on CDs, as well as trying to discover everything great back to the 1910s as we got older.  As the price of CDs reached the point of kissing an Andrew Jackson good-bye I got wary of buying CDs just because of one good tune – or even no good tunes at all.  For years I kept buying all my favorite artists whenever they churned out a new CD and it took awhile to learn that great music often is created by the wild at heart – a state of being hurt by age and success.

Mr. Keen, I’d love to have the good ole record store days back again, but for me that means recreating 1965 and not 1995.  I think Andrew Keen’s ethical issues are spot on and pointing out the music industry has a long history of being unethical is no rationalization to steal by.  His theory about big music companies are the patrons of great artists and without real investment great music in the future might not get made as well, does have some merits, but that is a hard case to make.  Would I have discovered Bruce Springsteen if Columbia Records hadn’t promoted him?  I don’t know.  Would his first five albums been as fantastic if the Boss had made them on a computer as MP3 files?  I don’t think so, but I really don’t know either.

I also agree that the music business is hurting and hurting bad, but so did the buggy whip makers when people started buying cars.  And I strongly believe all those ethical issues Mr. Keen brings up regarding the Internet are happening and they are critical issues we need to work on.  But even if we fix those problems we’re not going to bring back the record store or see CD albums sell in the tens of millions.  Those good ole days are gone.

When Fleetwood Mac sold albums in the kazillions, kids didn’t have to choose between buying cell phones, $60 video games, computers, iPods and so on.  Junk food was still budgeted with pocket change and you could see a major rock band live for $7.50.  If I was in the lamenting business like Mr. Keen, and I often am, I’d wail about what happened to those days when several touring bands came to town every week.  I’m also desponded that sharing music isn’t like it used to be – see my “Why Has Listening to Music Become as Solitary as Masturbation?”

I’ve spent many words on crying over the dwindling subscriptions of my favorite SF magazines.  And there are numerous hobbies that are fading from existence because kids have new interests, and there are lots of Dads sad to see cherished pastimes of old ignored by their sprouts.  Things change and that’s tough.  I actually love Rhapsody.com and having millions of albums to listen to for $10 a month.  Sure, it ain’t as fun as shopping for LPs, but I can live with instant gratification.

Someday, some kid who read this blog will write a blog, but it won’t be called a blog, about how sad it is that iTunes is going out of business, and he’ll have a lot of teary feelings to try and put into words.  Maybe he will even remember reading this essay and note the kids of his time have found something exciting to move on to.  As long as there are people there’s going to be music.  The creation of a new system to promote music will always destroy the previous system.  BFD.  Move with the times or rust, because Neil told us that decades ago.  I bet there are plenty of people out there still crying over the 78 era.

I’m writing to myself as much as you Mr. Keen.  Yes, Andrew, it is a dirty rotten shame that the way we bought music is fading into our dim memories.  Sure, these young whippersnappers won’t know what their missing, but then I haven’t a clue as to what they are jamming on now.  I’m sure it’s something hot, maybe as hot as the Beatles, but I’ll never now.  That’s just the way things are.  I admit I don’t get Rap or Brittany Spears – but I assume that’s just payback for forcing my Dad to listen to rock and roll when he kept screaming for me to shut off that goddamn noise.

Mr. Keen, the good ole days are always passing.

Jim