Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Internet Changed Everything

I've only been a serious music fan since about 1990. Although I waited until I was 14 to start paying real attention to music, I made up for that delay with sheer voracity.
It didn't take long for my interest in music to reach a level that could almost be called obsessive. If there was a music store nearby, I'd always have to go in, even if it was just for a look. If I was in a department store, I'd have to go over to the electronics department, to check out their music selection. I even located a few great "little" stores - the kind that carry the more obscure stuff.
Since then, the whole music market has changed. The Internet has indeed changed everything. For example...

B-sides (singles in general, actually)

Nowadays, if you hear a song that you like, you can just go to Amazon or iTunes and download an MP3 for about a dollar. This wasn't always the case.
Back in the day, a single meant that you could go to your local music store and buy a CD (or cassette) featuring that song and possibly a few others. You forked over less than the cost of an entire album, and you got a handful of good songs.
For collectors such as me, the real plus side of singles was the b-sides. Few people are willing to buy a CD with only one song on it, so additional songs were included on the singles. Often, these songs were alternate versions of the "main" song, live tracks, even new, unreleased tracks. From a marketing standpoint, this was a great idea - it got people who already owned the album to buy the single as well.

The Hunt

Sometimes, albums go out of print. Other times, several different versions of the same album are released (usually in different countries). Then there are the underground acts - bands who have received little or no exposure via mainstream outlets. Their albums can be difficult to track down.
Hunting down these gems was actually pretty fun. Finding the best local stores, making connections with those "in the know"... it was like a bad spy novel.
These days, there are fewer rarities. Only the most underground musicians are still hard to find online, and with the existence of BitTorrents, even these bands' music can be surprisingly easy (if shady) to acquire.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining. I like the fact that the internet has made it easier to get the music that you want, and only the music that you want. Never again will you need to buy a whole album full of garbage to get one enjoyable song (Remember Right Said Fred? Green Jello?). No longer do I need to know a guy who knows a guy in order to get my hands on, for example, Corpus Delicti.
No, I'm not complaining like a crotchety old man...rather, I'm reminiscing like a wistful old man. Things have changed for the better, but the old times were still pretty fun.

Friday, February 5, 2010

I Won the Lottery!!!

Today, something very unusual happened. A piece of spam got through Google's spam filters and landed in my inbox. Not just any spam, either - this was one of the more obvious types.
Normally, Gmail's spam filters are pretty good - It's been a long time since I've seen spam in my main account. As such, I was very surprised when I received an e-mail from "SWISS LOTTO ENGLAND" with the subject "YOU HAVE BEEN SELECTED !!!" Yes, the sender's name and the subject were all in caps.
The body of the e-mail was fairly short, but no less amusing (at least, to a cynic like me):

Attn: Winner We wish to announce to you the release of your 750.000 POUNDS on the Swiss Lotto England in collaboration with European Union (EU). For further enquiries, please contact our payment department. Mr. Silva Morelli Email: claims_silvamorelli-2009@live.com Tel: +44-702-401-7798 with the following details: 1.full names 2.occupation 3.Mobile Number 4.country 5.Age/sex 6.nationality Yours Sincerely

Let's start at the beginning, shall we?
First, the obvious: I never entered the "Swiss Lotto England." I've never even heard of the Swiss Lotto England. Two minutes' searching on Google confirmed that the Swiss Lotto England doesn't even exist. So, I've won seven hundred fifty pounds in a non-existent lottery that I've never entered.
Mister Morelli's e-mail address is also suspicious. One would expect a multinational organization such as Swiss Lotto England to have their own e-mail domain. Then again, perhaps their use of Windows Live e-mail addresses is just a clever money saving strategy.
Lastly, we come to the request for personal details. Even if I was credulous enough to have read this far and still believe that I might be a winner, this section would certainly trigger my rectal smoke alarm (which warns me when somebody's blowing smoke up my ass).
"So," credulous Ron says, "I've won the Swiss Lotto England. I don't remember entering the lottery or buying a ticket, but then again, my memory isn't all that good. I'm glad they were able to track me down to let me know...Waaaait a minute....How come they don't seem to know anything about me? They know that I'm the winner, they know my e-mail address, and that's it?"

So, how does it feel to win a non-existent lottery that, due to clever cost cutting techniques, is able to hire a semi-competent investigator who was only able to locate my e-mail address? My inner cynic is laughing derisively.