Saturday, November 24, 2007

"Twin high-maintenance machines"

Again, I'm back to the Mountain Goats. When there is no one to talk to you can always write...

Anyway, I'm listening to "This Year" now. I've heard it before and knew I liked it, but the perfection of the phrasing is blowing me away this time. "Twin high-maintenance machines"? So simple, so perfect describing... actually everyone in every relationship ever. I was going to say teen love or some shit like that, but let's get a grip: we are all high-maintenance machines on some level when we get in a relationship. I kind of like to pretend that I am low-maintenance as far as dating goes but that is a complete lie. I am patient and calm and don't like drama, but just because the engine don't whine and blow smoke doesn't mean it don't need to be checked from time to time. (I know I misused 'don't' in that sentence and just couldn't care less right now)

I was asked once by someone I was dating if I thought they were high-maintenance, so of course I said yes, because they were and I figured that anyone asking that question had to know that simply asking it makes them so. As I've said before, I often don't understand people so I missed the mark by a mile, since anyone besides me would know that anyone asking that wants to be told that they aren't, even if -especially if- they are (which I've already said we all are). I always say just the wrong thing with people I love and usually at just the wrong time, so I'm in a constant state of trying to figure out how to not sound like an ass the next time a friend or family member or bf asks some seemingly innocent question. I usually fail, but at least I know that if I can't run them off with my normal idiotic responses then they must be tough enough to enjoy having around.

This is off course, not what I originally was planning on writing about when I started this. I really did just need to share how much I'm loving this song and that line in particular (again, wow!), but I've just gotten back to sea after going and visiting my friends and basically spending three months on the move with my foot firmly in my mouth.

Not really that I said anything terribly horrible. I just always managed to just not quite hit the right tone and felt seriously disconnected around people. Of course, I've kind of always felt this way around people; that's part of why I hang out with fish. But this time was remarkable in how on the move I was and how many different people from how many different places and times I was around and seeing. I guess it is more remarkable how connected I still felt with so many of these people who I haven't seen in so long.

Particularly in New York, I really felt a disconnect. The time flew by faster than I expected and it was harder to find time with people like I wanted. I spun around like a top on fire (not that kind of top, you perv) and found it hard to slow down. And I was so excited to see everyone that I just talked non-stop or couldn't find anything to say, and with some of my closest friends I didn't get to just sit and hang out or spend time like I wanted to outside of bars and parties.

I did get to see perhaps the one person who knows exactly what I am talking about as far as saying the exact wrong thing at the exact wrong time: Brock. We met at a time when both of us were kind of in a limbo and soon realized that we complemented each other well, partially because we both had a bluntness that often got us into trouble. He was the king of answering honestly questions that weren't asked because the person (usually a girl) asking wanted an honest answer. I would coach him on things not to say or things that needed to be said, and he would coach me on the same. We couldn't see our own blind spots but were pretty good at catching each other, either pointing out and laughing after the fact or, as time went on, warning the other ahead of time that the other was about to say something stupid.

I guess most of my problem is that when I ask a question, I usually don't have an answer that I want to hear ahead of time or I at least don't expect to get the answer I want. If I don't think I would want to hear the wrong answer, then I don't think a question should be asked. Granted, half of my problem comes from me volunteering random information that no one else in the world remembers. I can't remember names to save my life, but I have this uncanny talent for remembering sorid and amusing details from my and all my friends' dating/social/family histories, which I have a tendency to blurt out when something reminds me of it. I, of course, love it when people blurt stuff like this out. I'm always interested in who slept with who and what weird habit drove someone mad or what kind of weird quirk you'd never guess so-and-so has. Unless someone is saying it maliciously, I'm all ears. I figure we all have our excentricities that someone somewhere remembers and still laughs at (with me, it is usually my friends laughing at mine, usually somewhere in the vicinity of right in my face), so I don't find it exceptional or cruel to discuss other folks weirdnesses and histories. Other people do, and this I always forget. It is part of my charm.

Maybe this is why I like this line in this song, the acknowledgement of being a needy, difficult thing right in tandem with the one beside you doesn't happen near often enough or sincerely enough.

"I felt free and I felt lonely and I felt scared."

Ok, so maybe I shouldn't dwell on one thing, but I'm in the ocean and on a boat where I am pretty much working around the clock (seriously, writing this now means that if I sleep today at all before the sun comes up tomorrow it will be one or two hour) so I'll dwell if I feel like it. So I'm back to the Mountain Goats.

I'm listening to "Woke Up New" for the first time (ok, now I'm listening to it for the third time on repeat, but you know what I mean). This one I don't want to talk about because of the poetry of it, because he makes you understand how he feels. This one makes you feel like he understands how you've felt.

Perhaps no one who has ever dated me believes that I know how to sing this song. My heart is made of bricks, built for storms and anticipating them, not so moved except by earthquakes or sometimes hurricanes that really mean it, so I can't blame them for thinking that. But there is life inside the damn thing, and if ever there was a song that I know how to sing, this is it.

Sometimes hearing something put into words like this is too much. It isn't just sad. It isn't weepy. "I felt free and I felt lonely and I felt scared," says it. There isn't this wild sadness or woe is me about it, just this honest terror and emptiness and loss tinged with openness and newness. It is too soon for the openness and newness to not hurt, to not scream, but there is this blank hope in the song, in that moment, in those feelings. This song isn't about that hope though. This is all what-now? howling into the vacuum. You know the hope is there, is going to matter one day, but right at the moment this is sing, it is all "What do I do?"

Ok, I promise I'll listen to something less melencholic (it is fall, so this is probably a lie).

I'm an idiot

(I didn't realize that "I Was Meant for the Stage" was originally written by the Decemberists. and so I sounded like an ass. Thank you to the kind commentor who so politely pointed out my error. I still think the song sounds flat, but do love it. I'll have to think about who I'd like to cover it most...)

Seems to be all songs all the time right now. I'm sick of writing about politics and can't keep up with them anyway being cut off from everything like this, so songs and books and fish and the weather are all that I've got an opinion about these days.

Anyway, I was excited to see that The Decemberists had covered "I Was Meant For the Stage", thinking that since I liked the song and the band that I would like them combined and we all know how I like my covers. Wrong wrong wrong.

I am only just hearing this for the first time these last couple of times and I keep trying to tell myself that I am going to like it, that I just need to listen to it one more time. Nope, it just isn't good. Dull, flat, boring. They fall for the silly indie trap that if you just slow a song down and try to make it sound dramatic it will be something special. It takes more than that for it to be an interesting cover.

I've tried telling myself that I am being unfair because the only other version of this song that I have at my disposal now is the Kiki & Herb version, which is heavy company to compete against. It isn't just in contrast though; the Decemberist version straight up sucks.

Sparkle and Shine

Sparkle and Shine is the most beautiful love song ever. No one can write them like Steve Earle. Really, this man may be one of outlaw country's grumpiest rebel children, but when the man decides to write a love song, holy fucking shit! Simple and pretty, but oh boy what he says when he says it.

I'm a grumpy fuddy-duddy when it comes to love and romance; most sappy shit makes me kind of want to puke. Most of it is obnoxious and more manufactured and fakey-flakey undigestable than Peeps, and I feel like it is sort of fanciful showboating. All the saccarine sentiment is theatrical: acting out and pantomiming love or some facsimile thereof for the sake of having that thing we are all supposed to want. All the supposed-to-be's and crap like that which people check off in a little notebook to see if they are lovey-dovey enough is enough to make you want to shit on a wedding cake.

Point being, sappy though I may be, I'm selective about my sappiness. The curmudgeon in me wants to just hate all love songs and such, but there is that certain tone that can be hit just right that is the only kind of love to ever tolerate being around for even a moment; it is that kind of love where no matter how you fight it or how grumpy you may be there is this other person that turns things upside down. I don't think every love story should follow a happily ever after trajectory, I just want that sentiment of helpless disarm caused by this other person who for whatever reason, in whatever way sends you haywire. I like sloppy love and the ridiculous and of course the tragic when the love is so there that the tragedy is completely lost in the love part (think Richard Thompson's "1952 Vincent Black Lightning" or Robert Earl Keen, Jr.'s "Billy Grey") or the fleeting but indelible ( Steve Earle's "Galway Gal").

"Sparkle and Shine" isn't so complicated. It is such simple enthusiasm and such a magnificent celebration of another person. It just describes the way this person makes him feel and looking out of his eyes at this vision, at this illumination brightening up his life, you can't help but feel this little swell of joy and peace, the quiet simmering ecstacy that you can only feel in those moments when you can still viscerally remember and feel that dizzy way another person can make you feel. That wasn't meant to mean just post coital feelings. The song does enough to explain it. "My baby sparkle and shine..." Ok, a little goofy, but if ever there was something I wanted someone to think about me or a way I want someone to make me feel, this song describes it.

"I am under no illusion..."

(warning: I've been obsessed with the Mountain Goats lately; this is only going to get worse.)

I like sad songs. I generally don't like horror flick or scary movies. I can appreciate them in their place, but I love sad, sad, sad songs and stories (not that horror and sad stuff are really naturally comparable things, but it somehow made sense to me in the middle of the night in the middle of the ocean). Believe me, I love a happy ending, but I can really get into those rip your heart out kind of stories and songs. This is not the same as the stomp-on-your-soul stories like Faulkner's _Sanctuary_ (this is not one of those dont'-read-it warnings that is meant as a challenge to your honor anticipating that you would pick it up, this is a warning against something no one should ever go through, trust me), but the tragic beautiful. _Giovanni's Room_ by James Baldwin is perhaps my single favorite piece of fiction ever. Tragic books and tragic songs have one big difference: the scope of the story they can share. A book can end tragic or have little tragic bits all along and still give you enough to buoy you up, which is generally how I feel about most sad stories. They only get to be tragic because the other parts are so beautiful. If anyone ever described _Giovanni's Room_ as a story about an execution, I'd be torn between punching them and having them committed and probably settle on giving them a look piled with so much indignation that I wouldn't have any room left for the scorn they deserved. Point being, the tragic in them is contrasted. In so much space, you've got to tell of more than just the pain.

Songs are different. They are shorter; only so much can fit in there. A sad song has to reflect enough of what ever it was that was so beautiful that you can relate to the sadness. The lyrics have to make you care and the music has to hit you just right to take you there. But they have to do it while usually really only telling you the tragedy. The beauty is hinted at, alluded to, mentioned but you only know how bright it was by how dark the song is without it.

I don't know why I love sad songs so much, but I do. I guess my whole thing is that for something to really be sad, you've got to really care about it, someone has to care about it and if someone can really communicate that caring and that pain, then I've got to be able to celebrate it. Often times, it is the sad songs which communicate more love and caring and hope (even if it has already been crushed) than the flat out love songs. "Some one loves me and I'm so happy," well, whoopty friggin' do. Lucky you (this isn't fair at all since I've been writing about how much I love some love songs, but whatev). "Somebody left me but I still love them," whoa, they mean it.

This of course is in stark contrast with my general view of the world and romance, but not really. As a general rule, whenever someone gives me crap about being lost without someone else, my response is only slightly more sympathetic than, "Oh, get a grip. You are better off without them." If I'm close friends with them, I know that if they were expecting sympathy they would have called Mason or Lisa, so I can be even more blunt. This isn't because I am down on love, just I'm don't care to call other things love and have no sympathy for codependence or fear of being alone or whatever other wretched, but oh so human, response to break-ups and such people so commonly have and call love. My curmudgeonliness comes from a tender place, though, so when I listen to sad songs, I let them totally get to me. Of course, this is only if they are well written and well played/sung. If they are just stupid and cheesy (how did we get back to Kenny Chesney again?), they get the same sympathy that most real life break-ups get. Ok, I'll leave K-Che alone for a minute (not because I've suddenly stumbled upon some sympathetic kindness, I just only have a few of his upbeat songs on my computer and figure that if I am going to write about how lame someone's sad song is, then I should at least be listening to it at the time). Luckily, there is always Brad Paisley pick on.

All my music is still in Alabama, so I'm slowly piecing together a music collection from what friends have so i have some random shit on here, including a fairly eclectic country mix. I've got nothing in particular against Bran Paisley, just normally wouldn't include him in my collection, but since he is here, let's talk for a minute about "Who needs pictures?" It is decently written, even if a little to kitschy, but only decently written. With just the right voice, it could be a sad song. When George Jones is in the right mood, he has a voice that was meant to rip your heart out and he isn't afraid to do it. Patty Loveless can do it with her hands tied behind her back and blindfolded. Bran Paisley can't. With a sad enough song, his voice might not pull down the lyrics, but with decent lyrics that need someone to make them sympathetic, no way. I know he has won a hundred thousand awards in country music and I know that he seems to be a likeable new country guy who actually loves and appreciates old country and cares about respecting those that made country something special. And sometimes he picks some good music and is a good singer and a good guitar player and... flat as a pancake. The man can feel the music, you can see it when he sings, but damn if he doesn't sing like a kareoke star. His voice has no soul. It is the soul of a cardboard cut out, not a soul musician. And his musicians are technically great, I am sure they are the best of the current "Nashville sound" session musicians, but the end effect is boring as dirt. Blank music doing exactly what it is supposed to do, blank singer doing exactly what he is supposed to do, decent lyrics having to carry it all and you feel exactly the sympathy you would feel for any other whiney-ass bachelor who wanted to tell you about how a camera reminded him about the girl who dumped him. In some people that might rustle up some sympathy; I just change the station.

This wasn't originally about how sad songs can suck. Griping gets as boring as Brad Paisley's music. I was inspired to write because I listened to The Mountain Goats' "I Still Feel The Bruise".

Holy shit.

As sad songs go, this is a whole 'nother ball-game. Right from the start, the music gets you. There is enough placid kindness in the notes to not just sound miserable, but before you hear the first word you feel the pain. Then he starts singing.

The same thing that was in the music is in his voice, in spades. He doesn't have to push it; these aren't lyrics that could be pushed. And what fucking lyrics they are! The first verse is sad enough; there is plenty of plainly stated sadness for you to know how he feels. Then the chorus slips in and knocks the breath out of you and leaves you sitting there with chills wondering if there is any way you could turn the song off now, knowing that you are going to play it on repeat. "I'm under no illusion, as to what I meant to you. But you made an impression, sometimes I still feel the bruise, sometimes I still feel the bruise..."

I can't remember the guy's name who is The Mountain Goats. I should, but I can't and I'm in the middle of the ocean and don't have the benefit of Google so you will have to google it yourself (which you have to have if you are reading this at this moment). Anyway, my first introduction to him was listening to "Korean Bird Paintings" on some music blog (maybe Thus Spake the Grammophone or Fluxblog). Of course this was right at the moment that he was appearing on the radar of everyone I knew, so I wasn't any ahead of the curve but I wasn't behind it (keep in mind this was in music nerd Brooklyn land, so not being the last to know about a musician like this took some doing). KBP was upbeat and cheerful, this pleasant love song rolls in and sounds so wonderful and you listen to the lyrics and this joy and wonder isn't just happy inloveness, it is past the breaking point desperation/ idon'tgiveafuckness. I had to listen to it a few times over and over again. Here is this crisp little cut-out from this bigger picture, so detailed in its description telling so much about the story surrounding it while kind of telling you nothing about it except that this is where the story has gotten to, leaving you to wonder how it got there and where can it go from here.

Then I got home and as with all new music I ran it past Mason. Suddenly I'm listening to "Going to Georgia", which quickly became a home hootenany staple. Mr. Mountain Goat can write like a motherfucker. He can sing like one too, and plays like he sings, but his lyrics are poetry. Phrased slightly differently, sung/played slightly differently and these songs would be straight up obnoxious, but they aren't phrased differently or sung/played differently: they blow the top off your head. I'm sure there are times he doesn't hit it just right, but damn when he does.

He followed this with "The Best Ever Death Metal Band Out of Denton". That is one of those titles that you want to both hate and love so you wait for the song to see which it is going to be. And it starts as just silly enough to laugh and like, it is just a song about some kids putting together what was probably a wretched obnoxious band and adults reacting the stupid way they so often do to such things. But it takes a turn. There is this dark moment calling this parental/authority reaction for exactly what it is and it makes you love all sincere punk forever. I can't remember the line verbatim so rather than sharing a butchered remembrance, I'll leave it to you find it and listen to it.

I saw him play live once. He played a sort of coffee house tour and played at Fix in Williamsburg. It was insanely crowded and way too hot, but he sang like a manic angel. Don't go hear him hoping to hear some song of his you want to hear live. He informed us that he hates playing old stuff so he only plays things live that aren't on any album yet. At first this made me cringe and fear for what I was in for; my fears were quickly assuaged. Given the chance, go see him live, especially if you are somewhere out of the way enough that he will be in a small uncrowded venue. I'd kill to see him in the coffee shop/bar at the Princess theater in Columbus, MS.

"Sometimes I Still Feel the Bruise", like all the best Mountain Goats songs, takes you to exactly where the narrator in the song is. In my mind, this song is exactly the message. I imagine it not as the song version of some conversation, but as written to be a song, to be heard or not by someone who may be or not be in the audience. Sort of hopeful that they are, but assuming that they wouldn't be and that even if they are, not singing in hopes that it would bring them back, just singing it because it had to be let out.

This is the kind of song writing that makes me want to hole away and just pour everything into writing songs. Not because I think I could write like that, although he is the kind of writer who makes you wish you could, but because he is the kind of prolific writer pouring so much in to it that it makes the action of it, the effort itself into a work of art. The lifestyle when well done makes it seem like something worth doing; the few people who do it so well forgives all those who do it poorly by showing the world why they are trying and asks the rest of us why we aren't.

Kenny Chesney is annoying

I like country music. I really like country music and always have. And I can even like some of the awful new country crap that they play on the radio now. This isn't to say that the powers that be in country radio programming don't have their heads up their ass and that they've outdone themselves in shoving horrid tripe down our throats while ignoring most of the good stuff going on all around us. They have, in spades.

But, I like the occasional bad country kitsch. I like silly hooks and punny songs and clever, silly word games. I like fun songs and sometimes even over-sincere, over-melodramatic songs. I totally own that. But can we at least ask that it be done well and can it not be the only thing they put on the damn radio? Travis Tritt and Toby Keith do both extremes well. Melodrama or fun puns, they both excel and can sing and write a fucking song, and do them well enough that we can forgive the way they dress and, if in a generous mood, perhaps even their haircuts.

Kenny Chesney I can't forgive.

Had he been a one hit wonder, then you could not hate him and wouldn't have to be baffled at his inexplicable celebrity, but really, who buys his albums and why? Ok, we know it is marketing and music execs who want the blandest most broadly sellable moron with the greatest minimum of talent to tell adolescents they should listen to and purchase, and someone sold on something bland at twelve often continues into adulthood on such whitebread diets that these stale toast 'talents' can continue on into something one might call a career (I call it a plague). But come on people, he looks like a twelve year-old tomboy in unimaginative JC Penny's cowboy drag and sings like a youth pastor. If he had pigtails and more testosterone, freckles, and attitude, he'd be Pippy Longstockings. He started off interesting enough and had a few likable songs, but instead of progressing into something of a mature artist, his songs have become more innane and vapid as he has gone and his image has taken a similar trajectory. When your fashion has progressed from dressed up for a 4-H dance to metrosexual lesbian cowboy, how far have you gone really?

Ok, so maybe I am being mean here. Kenny Chesney has had a few ok songs and deserves a level of fame, but not as much as exposure as he has been given. I had to listen to mostly crappy new country junk played off scratched cd's for twelve hours straight while working, so I got a little grumpy.

what was I thinking...

(originally written back in the summer)

...when I picked up Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking? I know I liked the title, had vague remonitions of having read reviews that made me want to read it, had seen it praised in every publication I had seen mention it. But I also knew it is about grief and her experiences following her husband's death. This is certainly a worthy subject for a book and something to be read sometime, but why would I choose now to read it? Why was it in paperback and on sale at Borders? These days I do most of my reading on a small boat as far from anything as you can get in the middle of the Pacific, completely cut off from friends and family for weeks at a time, so books about loss and separation aren't exactly at the top of the list of things that one would prescribe for keeping my head on straight. I'm surrounded by people who don't speak English (or speak it poorly) and live inside my head like I haven't done since high school.

But perhaps there is something soothing in Ms. Didion's book. That she is an excellent writer doesn't need to be said, and that this is an excellent book has already been said (and said better) by so many others that I won't bother. The horrible truth upon reading about her loss is that it in a way reminds me that those people I feel ripped away from right now will be there when I get back. Of course that is only comforting so far as it also reminds that this won't always be true.

I'm only about 80 pages in right now, but the portrait of her and her husband and their life and their friends is compelling and challenging. In someways, the depth at which they comingle, inhabit the same space, so deeply intertwine with one another is something that I have always been both drawn to and repulsed by. The repulsion, by the way, comes from a place of being resistant to not being fully self-reliant and an aversion to attachments to things or people which I can't let go of, not from finding it repulsive. This is an aside, but the inevitable irony is that I attach to people and places and things deeply and intensely and faster than anything you have ever seen. If I'm going to go there at all, I'm already there before you blink. A head full of wanderlust and a heart full of homebody; God was laughing when he made me.

I should be reading the new Harry Potter, but wasn't able to get it before I got on the boat. And maybe in the middle of the ocean, away from a reality where people exist and live, instead in a place where we just work and look at the horizon, is exactly the place to read such an intimate book. As I actually read through the book, the fact of the loss and the time spent struggling with the grief get lost in the beauty of the life they lived together and the people who surrounded them. The last few years have been a whirlwind for me, trying to get my bearing and start moving in directions which can sustain me, and reading someone's reflections looking back on a life lived as well as anyone could set out to live one is comforting. The book isn't so spectacular because Ms. Didion shares how she handled the death, but rather because through speaking to all the details surrounding her experience with grief, her voice comes through saying, "I have lost this much."

I hate sonicstage

(this was originally written back in the summer. my opinion of sonicstage has not improved since then)

I'm listening to The Ballet as I relax in the afternoon lull between setting out the gear and hauling in the catch. I'm listening to them now because I can't listen to them while I work, which at just this moment has me pissed off. Let me explain.

After my first trip, the one where I had no medicine, no extra food, and a bobo walkman that ate batteries like I would have eaten potato chips if I had been within five hundred miles of any, I went on a shopping spree to try to make life at sea livable so what had seemed like the best idea ever ("Why don't I quit my job and leave my life and friends and go be a biologist on fishing boats?") didn't prove itself to be the worst idea ever as I had been forced to contemplate the possibility of while puking repeatedly over the side of the boat. On the second boat, I wasn't reduced to hiding corndogs in the back of the freezer to keep from wasting away, so some of this spending spree went unneeded, like the innumerable packs of ramen and cans of soup, but the electronics portion of purchasing has brought nothing but joy. I got a laptop (which I am using at the moment) which has a thousand and one functions which prove handy when cut way off like I am most of the time now, and an Ipod.

I wasn't going to get an Ipod. I was going to get some other kind of mp3 player. I'd spent enough time in Brooklyn surrounded by those damn white earphones and self-absorbed hipstards comparing playlists to have a reflexive revulsion to this little electronic plague. Surely I could get something else that was just as good. Uh, not quite. The Zune seemed cool and almost made the cut, but the online reviews I read had the big complaint of the battery time not being near what was advertised. I needed the little beast to be able to keep up with at least 12 hour work shifts and often longer, so this, along with size ended up being the breaking point. I got the Ipod, and against all my instincts I loved it. I only ever used it on a boat in the middle of the ocean and even then it spent most of its time wrapped up in a zip-lock bag inside my useful (and hideous) fanny pack, underneath my foul-weather gear. I could love it and not think about the fashion ramifications; I'd put it inside a pink carrying case and kept it in a peach fanny pack, for heaven's sake!

Anyway, I loved it. Itunes is great and easy to use software, the ipod held 30gigs, cost way less than I expected and only once did its battery run out on me and that was a hell of a marathon stretch and I can't blame it. I went out and got Pimsleur language cds for French and Spanish (hello Montreal and Puerto Rico this fall) and was all set to go when tragedy hit. Packing for my last trip before this one, I couldn't find my little Ipod! It was nowhere. I'm still secretly hoping I just haven't asked the right person yet and it will rematerialize soon, but I did one trip with no music and my language disks taunting my and I wasn't going back out without a solution again. I was just going to get another Ipod and even flirted briefly with the idea of buying a fucking Iphone, but I, perhaps thankfully, lost my atm card. I was stuck with just a bit of cash for the next few days before going to sea again.

Enter the walkman (I know that should be capitalized, but I dont' feel like capitalizing it these days). I discovered a great store in Honolulu that sells all kinds of Japanese imports, including sony products. I normally love sony. Their computers are awesome, I had (currently missing just like the Ipod) a Cybershot digital camera which was spectactular. Now, in my time of need, here was a walkman mp3 player on sale! Just $99! I had seen a friend's walkman last year when she got it for her birthday and remember thinking it was a beautiful little piece of machinery. They are, as far as looks go. Hers was silver, but they naturally only had them in pink when I decided to grab one. It is shiny and pretty and pink; why am I griping?
Because I've used it.

The controls are ok and as a just a music playback device, I can dig it. The size is right, the audio playback is good. BUT.....

sony sonicstage is the biggest piece of crap fucking software I can remember being stuck with using. First it was a pain in the ass getting it to work with Windows vista, which I'll concede is because vista is new and sucks. But now that I have it working, I completely hate it. It took a couple of days and some finagling before it would recongnize the device it was designed to work with. It slows the whole computer down and balks if anything else is running. It doesn't seem to like letting me listen to music while managing the files in it. The interface is clunky and when you change anything it refreshes the library and plunks you back at the top of the list of your library's contents, not where you were before you deleted or moved a file. Making a playlist is obnoxious, as is managing files on the walkman.

I really, really hate it. And the walkman being an mp3 player, I thought surely I could get around having to use it and just drop mp3 files on it like moving them to a new hard drive and play them that way. you can drop them there, but it won't recognize them until sonicstage has junked them up into a new file type. And I don't have that much music on this computer, but somehow it just won't fit on this little device. According to Itunes I have 6.3GB of music here. This won't all fit on an 8GB device? Apparently, no. So I've been having to go through and figure out what is necessary and what I can cut. And I can't, no matter how I try, get it to play The Ballet. I'll blame this one on Itunes, since I downloaded the album and am sure that is why it won't work, but that does nothing to assuage my feelings of hate towards sonicstage and because of it towards the walkman. If it was compatible with other programs, like Itunes or even Windows Media, I might not hate it. As it is, I can't fit all of my music on it (which is less that the advertised limit), I can't listen to some of my favorite work music (Mattachine!, strangely enough, is the perfect album to listen to while trying to stay awake in the middle of the night counting fish while waves splash in your face), it won't recognize any of my old playlists and the program I am expected to recompile them on makes it a pain in the ass and the program is stupidly slow and slows down my whole computer as it sulks along.

Anyway, sony sonicstage can go straight to hell. If they hope that the re-envisioned walkman mp3 plays don't get dragged down with it, they need to unyoke them from that program or make the program so much better and less painful to use. Detached from sonicstage, at a reasonable cost (this one was just 99 bucks, though granted that was on sale at an importer and after using it I would consider that at the high end of what I would say it is worth), able to function with other programs, and available with more memory; I would then say they had an excellent product that could likely make a serious dent in the market. As it is, I'm not in the least surprised that I've only seen one in use prior to this.