Wednesday, April 06, 2005

We're Living In A Virtual World And I Am A Virtual Girl

Nothing is quite like the first really nice day after a dreary onslaught of winter weather. Today in midtown NYC was no exception. Aside from the fact that it hit 76 this afternoon, it was sunnyish and people were walking around in shorts, short sleeves, and the requisite spray-on spandex, jiggly thighs be damned.

But since I spent most of my day inside looking at the world through my PC monitor, I didn't have much time to enjoy anything but finishing up a shitload of work. So aside from enjoying the weather and today's efficiency, there were a few other observations which sparked neurons in the gray matter between my ears (I never said there was none, just not very much).

I've been using a P2P client called Ares at home. Ares is a file-sharing service, much like Napster was and Limewire and Kazaa are; whereas Napster was strictly a music-sharing concern, Ares, like Limewire and Kazaa, are programs which seek out other PC's running the same software and connect. Once connected, one user in New York can search for a file -- say, "Dancing Queen" by Abba or "Welcome to Planet Motherfucker" by White Zombie -- and a list of appropriate titles will pop up. The user then points his or her mouse at what he/she wants and clicks download -- and that's basically it.

"It," as indicated above, means you'll be waiting for a week to download a three-minute song unless said song is really popular, like "Lose Yourself" by Enimem, Gwen Stefani's "Gangsta Love," the Prodigy's "Smack My Bitch Up" (Kaia's favorite) or anything off U2's newest album, "How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb."

Even if your Internet connection is blazingly fast, like mine is, any P2P client (the acronym for peer-to-peer) will slow you down. It will do so on a number of levels, but, mainly, it sucks out bandwidth in connecting to whoever has the stuff you're downloading, as well as the stuff that other people are downloading from you. Sharing means you not only get goodies from other people but they can get your goodies too. For the most part, it's "illegal" and I don't advocate it -- except for the simple fact that I only listen and/or view the booty before I either decide to buy legit copies thereof or delete it from my system. What's most interesting is that stuff that you can't go out and buy -- like recordings of Dave Matthews at Madison Square Garden on 12/17/03 doing Led Zeppelin's Fool In The Rain -- are ripe for plucking. So for all the hype and the paranoia surrounding the MPAA/RIAA going after illegal downloaders, the stuff that makes the entire practice worthwhile is the stuff over which they have no control, jurisdiction or legal rights.

My CD collection these days is roughly, give or take, at 8,000 and counting, but a lot of those have been ripped, boxed up and stored virtually on a hard drive or an iPod and literally in a box somewhere. I'm a music person (duh) and I have a varied, eclectic collection, and as my girlfriend has pointed out, how can a person listen to that much music? I think that, for the most part, I've pretty much nixed watching TV aside from a select few shows and lots of Yankee, NY Giants and NY Ranger telecasts (when they're actually playing). So what becomes of all those little silver discs once their treasures have been ripped (digitally copied onto a hard drive) and stored for playback elsewhere? They either get sold, old, or packed away.

So where does that leave me, and why the hell did I take you here? Well...if PC's are increasingly our link to the outside world, then anything that grinds their speed to a halt is clearly a problem. And based on what I've been seeing and hearing from other users of P2P clients (not just Ares), this phenomenon is increasing rapidly. Despite the threats of lawsuits and technology and copyright infringement, people are sharing all kinds of stuff. I downloaded a clip of Cameron Diaz on SNL in the "Ladies Man" skit (nothing wrong with a little Courvosier -- ask my woman if you need verification). However, when I returned to find the clip had been fully downloaded, it turned out to be a couple of Asian people doing things that were at best entertaining and at worst illegal. I won't go into more specifics, but I'll never look at oak trees, salad tongs or a alligator clips in quite the same way.

Where's my point in all this? I think, for the most part, that when the entire world -- virtually speaking -- is available at the click of a mouse, the price -- essentially the slowing down of your virtual existence -- isn't worth it. Granted, I'd really love to be able to get an advance release copy of Robert Plant's new album, "Mighty Rearranger" -- it's not due out until mid-May but I can go get a copy of it and will have the entire thing on my drive in about a half hour -- but by doing so, I'll be forgoing any other function my PC could serve, including letting me complete a spreadsheet I started this afternoon for a new Application, doing some advance research at the Department of Buildings, and, most importantly, sending my other half some pictures I took. Yeah, I know...most of these issues are relegated to a little memory upgrade; but if God really wanted us to be able to download stuff, he wouldn't let people badge tree-porn with the names of legitimate stuff.

What I've found is that more and more of life is being lived via little devices -- cell-phones, iPods, Palms, pagers, PSP's, etc. -- and it's interesting how the generation after mine -- which grew up under the umbrella of the established Internet -- will react as virtual life evolves, devolves and corrupts itself as the framework on which its built can't keep up.

Meanwhile, right this second, I'm relieved knowing there's some guy sitting on his porch, smoking a pipe and drinking some cheap bourbon, admiring a sunset, talking with his wife...

On a cellphone. ;-)

1 comment:

Kaia said...

Smack my bitch up - god i love that song!