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Borges on iTunes. Sort of.

For one of those gnostics, the visible universe was an illusion or, more precisely, a sophism. Mirrors and fatherhood are abominable because they multiply it and extend it.
- Jorge Luis Borges, "Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius," 1967.

For Christmas, I was quite pleased to get a Zen Stone Plus in my stocking. I'm one of those people - the ones who exist between platforms. (I lost my true allegiance decades ago, and have been a switch-hitter ever since.) One of the things this means is that I do some things by hand that other people - the loyalists - are used to having done automatically.

So there I was, Christmas afternoon, moving playlists from the iTunes on our Windows machine onto the cute little non-iPod. Grab, drag, copy.

The process immediately reminded me of Jorge Luis Borges' riffs on mirrors. He was simultaneously fascinated and repelled by them because they duplicated the world. There's something obscene about acts of reproduction.

It didn't help that I was, at the time, staring at a particularly large chunk of clutter that wound up in the middle of my dining room. It was a rack large enough to hold all of the family's CDs. We have quite a lot of them. A friend was getting rid of it. The problem is, though the storage would (will?) be vitally useful, we haven't been able to find a place where the rack actually fits.

And I like looking at CDs. The covers contain lots of visual information - each one reminding me of something I liked about that album (or single, or mix) in a way that the plain text of mp3 file names doesn't do. Sometimes, I can't search for that song I need - sometimes, I have to be reminded.

So, there I was, copying files from one drive onto another, portable, drive while looking at, well, another, much larger, kind of drive, and it struck me that I was doomed. Here I was, duplicating duplicates of songs most of which I had on disc, in the middle of trying to de-clutter my life. I was replicating more items. I was filling more space.

Mirrors are monstrous because they duplicate images of things. And iTunes - and any other mp3 ripper/filer/CD burner - is a kind of mirror.

What I need is a protocol for deleting mp3s. Not just minimizing the footprint of the collection (erasing artwork is just the beginning) but actually putting the music back on the discs. Where I can see it.

Oh, I thought. That's it. Instead of thinking of iTunes like a library, maybe if I thought of it more like a mirror - that doesn't display an image after I'm done with it. I'll still use it to burn mixes and load things onto the player. But if it's on a disc that fits on the rack - or if it can be burned onto one - then it's leaving my hard drive.

Now, if only I could find a wall where the rack will fit.

jorge_luis_borges.jpg7.86 KB
Cptnrandy's picture

The Map is not the Thing

I cannot accept your assertion that the act of reproduction is obscene. I think, once again, we have a problem with framing.

The physical object, the CD, is not the thing. Paper, plastic and metal - all media that holds a reproduction of the image, audio, and perhaps video. All of these are not simple things themselves. They are just the container of the captured, manipulated, altered items, created to meet the desired end result of the producer.

I agree, a simple text and file listing is unsatisfying, but that's simply an interface issue. And if clutter is the real issue, the CDs are the things that must go, not the file copies, which can be stored in virtually no space at all.

I find that iTunes Coverflow is an excellent improvement in the browsable interface - and it will be even better when it extends to the entire liner notes and web connectible information. In much the same way that the PDF recreates the full page layout of the printed item, an interface that allows me to see, manipulate, and sort thru music and video in a comforting physical analog seems ideal.




An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


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