08 January 2008

act of contrition

The 160 gig video iPod is pretty badass, and I imagine that in a few weeks, I not only will be unable to imagine how I lived without it, but I won't even want to.

A fairly dramatic change of tone from someone who spent several miserable years decrying the white Apple monolith to anyone within earshot, not to mention spent several thousand dollars of his own money to make a short film that no one will ever see (stupid music rights) lambasting iCulture [it was called iPlot, and I will forever be in Chantel's debt for that name (a good sight better than iConspiracy, for sure)], I know. But hear me out on this.

I still hate this thing that's infiltrated society, where everyone's now more than ever wrapped up in their ridiculous personal bubble that no one can penetrate for more than a second. Scads of people walking around with all manner of speakers strapped to their ears, many going deaf by virtue of the fact that they're too stupid to either a) purchase good headphones that don't necessitate jacking up the volume to the maximum level or b) even briefly consider the fact that you don't want your ears ringing all the time after you take your headphones off. Nobody talks to each other, nobody even makes fucking eye contact, and the most infuriating part of the whole messy business is the fact that fewer and fewer people take the pair of moments it requires to remove their headphones during a conversation.

Speaking as a person who's still convinced that the Creative Zen Xtra is the best MP3 player ever devised, I'm going to restate my point that the 160 gig iPod Classic is pretty badass. I was still on the "I hate Apple, I hate Apple" kick (which I'm still on, by the way. I may buy a iPod, but I will never buy a Mac. I have too many years invested in the PC to ever be interested in switching) when I bought the first generation 30 gig Zune (my introduction to the awesomeness of portable video), I didn't entirely know what I was getting myself into.

The Zune wasn't bad; sure, the software was pretty crummy, and encoding video to put on it was a total bitch, but the screen was great, the material it was constructed out of was sturdy, and it allowed me to do something that I'd only dreamed about up until that point: have every episode of "The Office" with me at all times. Plus most of my good music.

The Achilles' heel of the device was definitely its storage capacity. 30 gigabytes for video and music? Come on. Despite the inherent awesomeness of the Zune, the potential just wasn't realized. I place a good deal of the blame on Microsoft's shoulders for not advertising it correctly and for failing to really target the audience it needs to steal, which is not the iLifers so much as it is the Creative-philes, who prefer serious tweakability over Apple's much vaunted accessibility and ease of use.

And that, I suppose, brings us to the movie, iPlot, which, if nothing else, enabled me to get most of my Apple rage out in the open and allow me to finally get over it (a tack I'm attempting to apply to a new script that's still in the divining stages, seeing as how it worked so well the first time). I realized it was not so much the technology I despised as the way in which culture had mutated to include it. I'm as guilty as anyone else for walking around with headphones strapped on and ignoring everyone that crosses my way. The iPod was still the device of choice for the mind-controlled slaves that threatened to take over the world, mostly because of its ubiquity, and the fact that those white earbud headphones showed up nicely on film.

I bit the bullet several days ago. 160 gigabytes. More storage space than I could reasonably need, which is perfect. "The Office." Serenity. "30 Rock." Dick Tracy. "Firefly." "Arrested Development." The 40-Year-Old Virgin. "Angel." All available at the spin of a finger; rip- and encodable in the span of minutes, rather than hours. A ridiculous amount of music, searchable by the ambitiously flawed (and therefore lovable) Cover Flow feature. The WALL-E trailer, whenever I want to watch it. A calendar. Importable, viewable notes. Tetris, a game that should be playable on every screen-based electronic device made from the original Game Boy until the end of time (or whenever society totally collapses, whichever comes first). Another portable hard drive. Less shitty headphones (decent, in fact). And what for me is the biggest selling point: simulated dial-based volume control.

That's been my biggest complaint with every MP3 player I've ever owned: the volume controls were never quite right. I always wanted to set the Zune at a volume somewhere between 4 and 5, or the Nomad somewhere between 6 and 7. The iPod lets me set the volume at precisely (or nearly enough) at what I want. I'm also a big proponent of the volume lock.

In short, despite its notable flaws (Cover Flow can take for-fucking-ever to start up, it's still an Apple cult product), I've never been more ecstatic with an electronics purchase. Were I stranded on a desert island, I'd only ask for a USB port into which to plug my iPod, so that I could let it recharge.

I figure I could learn to hunt, if I had to.

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