Molt Be Blog

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Hooray for Consumption

I bought one of these today. It's a video iPod. Look at it there. Sitting atop my mini. All expensive and wasteful. Who in their right mind spends $400 on a portable jukebox when there are people in Kashmir that are dying because they don't have a tent to sleep in for the winter after their house crumbled in an earthquake? Apparently I do and I don't feel any better about it just because I thought of others suffering as I hung my head and made my way to the mall. I don't think I looked up very much between entering and exiting the mall. I whispered quietly, "I'm interested in buying a 60GB video iPod." to an Apple store employee with "genius" written on his shirt and he directed me to the checkout counter where all of the little expensive things are kept.
Is it something in my Catholic upbringing that forces me to feel guilty for mild indulgences and then something in my American upbringing that gives into stupidity and allows me to just indulge myself anyway?
Speaking of stupid Americans, I was reading Harper's on the Metro back from my binge buying and ran across this gem:
lifted from Harper's without permission
The Package Tour
From The Journals: Volume 2, by John Fowles, published in England this month by Jonathan Cape and forthcoming from Alfred A. Knopf in fall 2006. Fowles, the author of The French Lieutenant's Woman, The Magus, and several other novels, died in November
18 January, [1966]
Getting drunk with Arnold Ehrlich in the evening. He is as good a New Yorker as Ned Bradford is a New Englander: salt and cynical, savage about America. I told him I wanted to write a book about America, and I needed a question that would also be a quest. He said: "Who wants to think? Why is this a country where practically no one ever wants to think? Where everyone wants just to live and have fun? Why is this the only country in the world where you can go on retaining your most stupid national characteristics? Is that freedom-to be so stupid?" It is a good question, and touches on what I feel more and more here: that the American way of life is a shorthand, a digest, a synopsis, a package tour . . . not the real thing. I mean a driving past certain gates and interstices that to the American seem perhaps unimportant, insignificant . . . but that lead to great fields, beautiful fertile landscapes of experience. Instant existing, like instant coffee. It's almost as good as real coffee and easier to use. but it presupposes that quality is far less important than consumption.

I'd expand on the presupposition of quality being less important than consumption and say that Fowles' journal entry hints that, at least here in America, thought is far less important than consumption.
Then again, this iPod is pretty sweet.
My first task was to figure out how the hell to get movies that weren't purchased from iTunes onto the thing. It's a bit of a hassle. In anticipation, I'd purchased the full version of QuickTime, which is a huge scam for a few reasons:
  • If they ever make a new version of QuickTime (they're on QuickTime 7 now), you have to buy the program all over again. You can't pay a little fee for an upgrade, oh no.
  • The program suffers like so many other Mac programs in that it doesn't offer enough advanced options for the nerdier people among us. If you want to Export to a different video format (ie one that will play on your new video iPod) and you're exporting from an avi file that you downloaded that is a Divx rip (have I lost you yet), it doesn't necessarily record the sound to the new video. Videos suck without sound. That's why there are so very few silent films these days. And even silent films had musical accompaniment.
  • No PLAYLISTS. God forbid you should want to watch three videos in a row without getting up to double-click.

Luckily, there's a great solution to all of this. It's called VLC Player and is available here for Mac, Windows and Linux based systems.
VideoLAN Client (VLC) is a media player for Unix, Windows, Mac OS X, BeOS, QNX, and PocketPC. It can play most audio and video codecs (MPEG 1/2/4, DivX, WMV, Vorbis, AC3, AAC, etc.), has support for VCD, SVCD, and DVD (with menus), and can read or dump streams from a network source (HTTP, UDP, DVB, MMS, etc.). It can also act as a server and send streams through the network, with optional support for audio and video transcoding.

I'd been using this nifty little devil for its playlist capabilities for a while, but it turns out it's also great for converting divx avi files to .mp4 files even more quickly that QuickTime 7, with sound and with more options.
The next step is figuring out a way to hook this into OS X automator to have it automatically convert all of the files in a given directory while I'm sleeping and then upload them to the iPod.
Tonight it's time to spend my gift card for Morton's Steakhouse by hitting the bar therein with R, KM and SV for a spell. I'll likely regale them with my tales of iPod buying and how horrible of a person I am for not sending tents to Pakistan.

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