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When software crowds out living space

by Mark Fleischmann

July 2000 -- I had a dream last night.

Hey, this is a family website.

Not *that* kind. I dreamt that my apartment had become fashionably sparse. In the bedroom, just a bed and a micro-system. In the livingroom, a sofa, an armchair, a table, a flat-panel display, and in-wall speakers. And no software to be seen anywhere.

Never happen! First of all, you collect entire systems. The idea of a performance snob like you living without at least one rack of components is laughable. And second, you're as big a software pig as you are a hardware pig.

Granted, this won't be happening anytime soon.

CD madness

If ever. Just look around this place. You've got a shelf of CDs that reaches to your nine-foot ceiling, plus more discs nesting on the video furniture and even in the kitchen.

Jewelboxes have never been a very efficient storage medium. They're much wider than the discs themselves. Plus I'm always breaking the hinges and cannibalizing junk CDs for jewelbox parts.

Have you ever considered storing them more efficiently? Bernard Holland wrote about a novel approach years ago in The New York Times. He trashed all his jewelboxes, wrapped his discs in their booklets, and put them in little filing cabinets.

As a matter of fact, the accessories editor has just handed me enough CD storage units to hold hundreds of discs. I could put them all in black briefcases, with handles, and store the cases on bookshelves, stuff 'em in closets, whatever.

Cassette madness

Sounds like a plan -- those 200 cellophane-wrapped CD blanks you just bought from CompUSA are scaring me. Then there are those 29 boxes of audiocassettes in the hallway, at least six of them devoted to Richard Thompson alone.

I used to sit in clubs with a Sony Walkman Professional in my lap and a mic wrapped in a scarf on the table -- just couldn't help myself, I was young and passionate. Don't forget the four boxes of tapes on the bedroom bookshelves.

You're just insane.

Yeah? You'll sing a different tune 10 years from now when all non-copy-protected recording formats have been outlawed. Plus I'm the only guy you know with a recording of Thompson singing Dusty Springfield's "The Island of Dreams" at the original Towne Crier Cafe in Hopewell Junction, New York, recorded in 1983 with a mic hand-built by Lancelot Braithwaite from Radio Shack parts. You can hear the creak of the old farmhouse's wooden floors, the clink of beer bottles, the squeak of the ceiling fan over my table.

LP madness

Get a life. What amazes me most are the LPs. I count a stack five levels high by the door to the bathroom -- which looks really scary, by the way, thank heaven this is a steel-reinforced concrete building -- plus two more storage locations in the bedroom, three in the livingroom, and one in the hallway. And you're still collecting them.

Just a few used classical LPs at the Tower Annex.

Yeah, as much dead-white-boy music as you can carry to the bus. Is the word "storage" even part of your vocabulary?

What's the point of having a music library if you can't roam through it? I've reached the point where every trip to the shelves ...

... or at least the ones that don't have stuff stacked in front of them ...

... has a pleasant surprise in store. I buy things, I forget I own them, then I rediscover them.

The final listening room

Ah, the joys of multiple substance abuse. Speaking of memory lapses, what're you going to do when you're 80 and you have to check into a nursing home?

Well, that won't be happening anytime soon, either.

You'll show up with your collection in boxes and hear the nurses say, "Do you really think you're bringing all that stuff in here?" Your fellow patients will go HAW, HAW, HAW! Oh, you'll end up in sparse living quarters, all right.

My music library will make me the most popular guy in the place.

Or the biggest laughingstock. The nursing home will have an audio server with the complete works of Duke Ellington and 12 different versions of the entire Beethoven symphony cycle. The cute 70-year-olds down the hall will be wearing vast accumulations of music on their wrists, in solid-state devices. Digitize, young man, while there's still time.

Harrumph. Servers crash. Data gets corrupted. Did you ever own a laptop PC that lasted more than 18 months before going senile? I have LPs I bought in 1970 and I'm amazed at how robust they are.

The final word

I'm amazed at how deluded you are. If that's your attitude, you'll never have that neat, clean living space you dream about.

Sigh. I suppose you're right.

Hey, don't look so glum. How about some music while we cook dinner?

Sure, why not? I'll turn on the Tivoli.

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