Tuesday, February 26, 2008


I make no bones about being a geek. I am, I love it and I don't care what anyone thinks about it. I'm positively geekish about music, about all things personal computer-y, about knitting and probably some other stuff. This music, techie stuff, though; it goes way way back...

At the tender age of about 7 (that would be 1970) my Brownie troop took a field trip to a local radio station in Ft. Walton Beach, Florida. I was overwhelmed---and I knew what my life, if not my career, was going to be about. I wanted to be a radio jock. I wanted to spin those tunes, I was going to queue up those turntables, pre-amps and equalizers. I was going to share my endless joy in music and growing musical trivia with the world. So many things moved to the center of my universe at that very moment: music, equipment, me on the mic. Sheeeeeeit. Nirvana at 7 years; I don't think so many people have that clarity of vision so early. Over the years I nurtured the dream by listening and listening and mastering every piece of audio/video equipment I could get my hands on. I believe somewhere in my mother's house there is still the 45-rpm demo of the Coca-Cola ad "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing" that we were given as souveneirs of that visit.

Well, you know what happens to the dreams of children, right? Dashed, broken, swept away. FM pushed AM to the back row with its Album Oriented Rock programming, something that only cemented my intention to join that crowd, and was so successful that corporations bought up every station and proceeded to standardize programming, creating their "brands" and essentially removing the artistic (?!) contribution of the radio jock. Left in its place was the tedium of mid-day and evening set lists with scripted intros and god help us all, morning "personality" talk crap with very little music as the reward for suffering with that shit. Terrestrial radio is almost dead now and I say let's put it out of our misery---corporatization of the medium killed it as it does so many things and definitely made the profession undesirable.

Growing up in the late-70's, early 80's, though, FM radio was some seriously good stuff---good music, good info, worth the listening through the tracks that make you want to hurl. I'm a radio girl. And here we are: FM radio is worse than awful; its straight up unbearable with the exception of the public radio stations way down on the left side of spectrum. Once, many years ago, by virtue of a generous monetary contribution to my then public radio station, I was given the opportunity to host a 2-hour segment of their weekly blues broadcast. It was such an amazing surge of adrenaline, I nearly had to be hospitalized. I mean, I didn't sleep for DAYS.

So what's a girl to do? The power of radio WAS its ability to ignite the imagination, to provide the groove and to point the way towards the next greatest thing ever. I want some spontaneous musical joy! I want some playlists I didn't tweak. Along with new tunes, I want to be reminded of some music linked to a moment in my youth long forgotten. Well, there's XM radio and that's good, if a bit too segmented. Rob has an XM receiver in his car but not I and we don't have any in the house. Oh, what to do?

Gadget girl knows! Using very low cost/free software, I've been streaming XM Radio stations over my pc for a couple of hours at a time, grabbing the wave files all the while and converting them to nice little mp3 packages of surprise to listen to later on my iPod. So---well, I'm not in charge of it, that's actually kind of nice, and I lose the metadata that XM provides but I'm grabbing my own legal stream and using it for strictly my own personal use...nicely done!

I think now what I need is another cpu to capture all the streams I'm interested in to make sure I don't run short of little delightful music streams. That seems reasonable, right? And a scheduler to take me out of the loop. I used to have one of those....hmmm. Gotta go check it out!


Special K said...

Yeah, commercial radio blows. I used to love listening to the radio when I was a kid, but now it's unbearable. Although... there is KCRW - do you ever listen to that online? You can get a couple of podcasts on itunes. They have some cool shows.

Kathy said...

Yes! Internet radio has some great options---KCRW is one of the best. I also REALLY love WBGO for "real" jazz. And I do grab some of their streams from time to time; I prefer that over their podcast offerings.

I'm serious---its a great way to get sets of music. Because its not EVERY friend who will keep supplying you with mixes/playlists.

I keep thinking there ought to be a web source (or two) of playlists---not for purchase (a la iMixes) but track/artist listings that would allow folks to pull from their own collections. Surprisingly, I've never found that.

iLike provides something close---if users allow iLike to interact with their iTunes Library then playlists can be shared at the owner's discretion. I've found some stuff that way. Unfortunately I don't think its really catching on as much as I'd like...haha i'dLike....