31 March, 2007

Once there was a way to get back homewards...

So it's been a while since I last blogged. Much has been happening. I discovered gingko biloba, which helps some in the recovery of my lost intellect. I've finished one term and am preparing to begin another. I've begun to question some positions I'd taken on unexplained phenomena (such as belief in God, the reality of UFO's, the existence of ghosts). I'm about to commence an Introductory Screenwriting class (though I've written five complete scripts, I feel I need a better grasp of current narrative theory to move to the next level -- plus, I need the catalyst of a deadline to stir me off my fat ass). But first and foremost, I've discovered iLike.

What is iLike? Well, it's in beta right now, so it will probably be quite different once you start hearing much about it. As it stands, it's a little app that piggy-backs on iTunes to send a record of what music you're playing at any given time to a central server. The server retains a list of the last hundred or so songs in a "Recently Played" RSS feed which is available for any iLike member to view. It also compiles a list of "Favorite songs" spuriously based on iTunes' "play counts." I spent hours trying to fix the pentimento of a loop I used for a class recently which, in iLike, informed the world that my favorite audio was Bigfoot screams.

But what I find indispensibly addictive about iLike is its notion of "Friends." To create an iLike account, you first go through a long selection process wherein you choose bands "I Like." It can take a while, and many of the more obscure groups I happen to favor never appear. In this case, you can simply enter the name in a search window. If anyone else has ever expressed an affection for them in the past, a page will appear listing their albums, top songs and admirers; if not, you get to pop their cherry). Once you've created an account, you begin playing your music and fishing through the multitude of other users for Friends: people with similar or complementary tastes, based on their own recorded preferences. If someone likes Movietone (which thins the herd dramatically, let me tell you) they will show up as "Highly Compatible" to yours truly. If they prefer Akon, 50 Cent and Shakira, the app will gently steer me elsewhere ("Compatibility: LOW").

If this was all iLike did, we'd be looking at a rather grandiose Mutual Admiration Society. But remember that you can see what your Friends are playing -- this appears in what's called the iLike "sidebar" which attaches itself like a barnacle to the right side of your main iTunes window. And the website includes a rather rudimentary Chat function which allows users to send instant messages and emails to their Friends (or, indeed, to any other user, friend or foe). So, when my friend Annie recently decided to bail on her eMusic membership and donated her remaining 80 downloads to me, I solicited suggestions from most of the 26 members of my Friends List. What a treasure trove of arcana I received! Amazing suggestions for bands new, old, famous and obscure. I managed to run through my 80 selections in less than a day and was tempted to re-up my old subscription, just to complete my fishing junket.

Some of these folks must have the most incredible record collections: JenaSuperMoxie!, a retired drummer from Seattle, has not repeated a song (at least while I was online) in two weeks, and of all her stuff the only name familiar to me was "Bowie, David." I've been watching what she listens to, sampling it (iLike has ten- to twenty-second samples of most widely-available music) then buying the stuff I could actually discover at any of my multifarious online resources. Zak Shooster and I have discovered a mutual idolatry for Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground. Kazuya T., a Kyoto DJ, mixes Todd Rundgren and Sergio Mendes with the Reindeer Section, I'm From Barcelona and Ninja High School. It can get a little daunting, trying to keep up. But if you like to stay abreast of the latest scene, iLike is the place to hang out.

So why is this guy, about to enter his second half-century, so involved in the fringes of popular musical culture? For the same reason I ride a scooter (oh yeah, i forgot to mention that - for some later post, perhaps). I guess I haven't yet given up on that idea which possessed and chagrined me from my earliest youth. One summer evening in the late sixties, I lay on the front lawn of our house in Riverside, Connecticut and gazed up into the starflecked sky. Then I started to cry. In part, it was out of fear: there were so many stars out there I felt impossibly small in my particularity. But also because I realized that I would never know everything -- and I wanted to. Something in me, in this rational adult being, still longs to know everything there is to know: every band, every singer, every new genre. It's not a dangerous curiosity, at least I don't think it is. And given the sullen, self-pitying tone of my previous posts, maybe it's a very healthy one. So thanks, JenaSuperMoxie! and Kazuya and Zak and Fish and Bugg and anjuli and Burko and SARAH i and snob and one thousand one and Manda and allie and Whirly Wombat and ki and Jessi of Asher, are you drawing pretty things and Nikka and TMB and Clara and Substandard Vixen and Ambure and sonic meow and Sue Merchant and la-underground and Oenodog and Tracy and Thomas S. You've made my world bigger... and smaller.

With love,

Servant Severin