Dead Letter Office
The Burner



dead Letter Office is a column of letters written by Todd Hutlock to a friend named Jimmy, who may or may not exist. The column details real-life experiences regarding work, life, and how Hutlock's obsession with music runs them both.


Jimmy:

Hey, good news! I finally went ahead and bought the computer! No more having to email and write everything on my lunch break from work! And I went with that Apple iBook G4, so not only can I write all over my apartment if I want to, I can now become one of those annoying guys who sits in WiFi coffee shops with his laptop all day, pretending that I don’t want people to notice me when I’m obviously at a coffee shop because I want to be noticed. Whee!

The post-divorce period when I haven’t had a computer has been fairly difficult for me. Writing about music and other things, as well as my email correspondence, has really suffered and I’m anxious to get some of the junk out of my head and onto the screen as fast as I can do it. And it has a DVD player, so I can now watch movies in bed or in my kitchen or in boring hotel rooms when I’m on business trips. But the one feature of my new computer that has taken me the most by surprise is the CD burner.

I'm sure you recall that I am a bit of an old-schooler when it comes to technology—I prefer the sound and look of original vinyl, shun downloading even though I'm pretty sure it costs me thousands of dollars a year, and until very recently, had an almost irrational attachment to making mix tapes. Never mind that some people couldn't even play the tapes I wanted to make for them (Ian Mathers comes to mind), or that the sound quality is usually piss-poor, or that there is no way to prevent a medium made of (literally) particles of rusted metal stuck to plastic tape from eventually dissolving, as rusted metal is contractually bound with the laws of the universe to do. It was what I was used to, what I was raised on, and I came up with a million lame-ass justifications why I "preferred" to stick with it.

Now, some of those reasons might have actually been true--for instance, the fact that I like to have "sides" to work with for sequencing purposes—but for the most part it all boiled down to one thing. Which was, of course, that I didn't own the equipment to actually burn CDs on, and it made me feel very much like an old square. So I figured it would be better to embrace my retro than to be like everyone else. It became a very stubborn point of pride, born of my own unwillingness to change things in my life (a theme I'm sure you're familiar with on many levels).

I am now prepared to admit that I was wrong about all of this. What the fuck was I thinking? Cassettes are clearly the lamest of all formats. CDs sound good and are convenient. No contest.

Anyway, now that I've embraced my inner CD burner, I'm totally addicted. I'm still not downloading junk from the 'net (not sure that I'm ever going to, but you never know), but I am making lots of people I know mix CDs, whether they want them or not. The first CD was for Mel, of course, and I even spent a few hours with glue and an exact-o knife designing a totally stupid-ass cover for it, something I never did with tapes. I made a CD for Ian of my favorite punk/post-punk/new wave cuts (well, not all of them, but as many as I could fit on a single CD while avoiding as many "big names" as I could, i.e. Sex Pistols, Clash, etc.) I made a couple for myself, just for the car or office or whatever. I made one of my favorite songs from a box set because I hated having to load all the discs in the changer and programming it all to get through the shit I didn't like. I'm currently trying to find some new friends even, so I can have an excuse to make more and expose them to "The Sound Of Young Scotland" or "All The Best Detroit Techno" or "Song Titles That Are People's Names." The themes just keep on coming. I really am starting to feel—dare I say it—decadent.

I wonder if kids today have any concept of what life was like before you could do this? Probably not. Yet another thing for me to rant about and garner stares and snorts from today’s youth, I guess.

Yours is finished, by the way, so look for it in the mail shortly. And for the record, that Rolling Stones tape I sent you a short while back was the last of its breed, I have a feeling. Drop me a line and let me know what you think, okay?

Anyway, I thought you'd be happy that this old stuck-in-his-ways dog finally learned a new trick and is prepared to admit that you were right about it the whole time. And really, feel free to gloat now. I embrace it. This doesn't mean you are right about anything else...

And of course if I ever do get that vinyl lathe to cut my own acetates, I take all of this back.

Your man in the Midwest,
Hutlock


By: Todd Hutlock
Published on: 2005-01-24
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