Monday, July 09, 2007

Consuming Music - Starbucks, Apple and Old Pasadena


Over the years I've had surprisingly few issues with the music selection in my local Starbucks. Except at Christmas time, of course. Here's an early MM post about that. And another. And here's my own vaguely Christmas-related music.

Recently, however, there seems to be a New Starbucks Music Selection Policy. This began about the time they played one perfectly execrable Paul McCartney album and nothing else for an entire day, Instead of playing a different artist every song for a period of time (usually in related genres) they now play a few songs by one artist in a fixed sequence. And they play the sequence over and over.

Guess what! Those very songs are on albums for sale right there in Starbucks- what a surprise! Starbucks has to make a buck.

Starbucks Coffee, $2.55; Apple iPod, $249; our dog Chowderhead, priceless
One artist in current rotation is Willie Nelson - never one of my faves - but I can tolerate a few tracks every year or so. After several dozen hearings in just weeks I made up my mind to get an iPod of my own. I borrowed Leslie's for a few days to test the idea. I settled on a 8-gig Nano. I'm not an early adopter of tech items but iPod is entrenched enough for even non-trendy people like me.


On Monday I set out for the official Apple Store in the trendy part of town, OLD PASADENA (usually referred to by us locals as OLD TOWN).

Old Pasadena CA
Any capitalist would regard Old Town as a huge success. Years ago it was:
  • dilapidated old buildings,
  • interesting funky shops,
  • cheap restaurants,
  • too few parking places
  • plus a pawn shop and an adult bookstore.
Now it has become
  • elegantly refurbished old buildings,
  • expensive, upscale shops (Tiffanys is the highest note on the scale at the moment),
  • countless trendy restaurants (mostly Italian),
  • too few parking places
  • plus a pawn shop and an adult bookstore.
(Why the pawn shop and adult bookstore have survived while most other businesses have moved out is something I don't understand.)

smoking section - Old Pasadena CA
A few doors down from Tiffany's the Apple Store was a-hoppin' on a Monday morning. There was a line at the counter and activity everywhere in the store. Of course there was a "how to use your iPhone" class in the back.

When I got to the front of the line I told the chipper young lady that I wanted an 8-gig Nano. I handed over my card, told her I preferred a red one and a paper, not email, receipt. She simply reached under the counter and produced my iPod. I declined the shopping bag because I could put the whole Nano box in my pocket. I was back on the street in minutes.

Castle Green points at the moon - Old Pasadena CA
I walked to the Old Town Starbucks (the one which does not provide a rest room for customers because of, they say, historic preservation laws). My Starbucks purchase took longer and required me to answer more questions than I had encountered at Apple. But otherwise it was pretty much the same. The clerk was even happier and more upbeat.
The two purchases seemed identical in style and format even though I spent almost exactly 100 times more at Apple than at Starbucks.
building facade - Old Pasadena CA
I left Old Town in a sullen mood, feeling slightly dirty for doing my patriotic consumerist duty and running the corporate gauntlet. That's also sort of the same way I feel at Disneyland.

Once I was driving past auto repair garages and little shops and churches I've never been been inside of and never will, I relaxed.

wall mural - Old Pasadena CA

As a PC user I find any product that's both elegant and functional seems quite novel. The iPod box boasts "Designed by Apple in California". I hope the design team got extra cookies. And it's so small, easy to use and sounds good. It has reinforced my hope that my next new computer will be a Mac.

The box also says "Like a fine pair of jeans, iPod nano colors may vary and change over time." So my red iPod is going to fade? Would it help if I wash it only in cold water?

super high res picture of Old Pasadena CA taken from space
Initially I picked a couple dozen favorites albums, ones I'm sure I'll enjoy repeatedly, to load into it. I'll use this music to adjust to using my new device. These albums take about one fifth of total memory. The remaining space will be for unfamiliar music.
There is an awful lot of different music out there which I haven't heard yet. I'm still curious about a huge percentage of it.
And I have Willie Nelson and some corporate music flack at Starbucks to thank for this. But I won't be buying albums at Starbucks, of course, and I probably won't be buying mp3s at iTunes. I can only survive so much of that dirty "good Consumer" feeling.

stack of compact discs on my desk ready for iPod insertion

At the beginning of Mixed Meters I started a list of "David's Favorite Music" - there are still only two entries - Karnak and Mingus. Hopefully this iPod will prompt me to expand that list. The order of these albums means something - not sure what - but something.
  1. Astor Piazzolla - La Camorra
  2. Karnak - Os Piratas Do Karnak (both discs)
  3. Charles Mingus - Mingus Ah Um (original release)
  4. J.S. Bach - The Goldberg Variations - Glenn Gould (1981)
  5. Cicala Mvta - Ohkuma Wataru Unit - Deko boko
  6. Raymond Scott - The Music of Raymond Scott
  7. Frank Zappa - Studio Tan
  8. Bonzo Dog Band - The Bestiality of Bonzo Dog Band
  9. J.S. Bach/William Malloch - The Art of Fuguing
  10. D.J. Shadow - The Private Press
  11. Astor Piazzolla - Piazzolla Forever - Richard Galliano Septet
  12. Domenico Scarlatti - Sonatas - Scott Ross (first 2 discs)
  13. John Kirby - John Kirby
  14. Spike Jones - Cocktails for Two
  15. Gotan Project - La Revancha Del Tango
  16. Albita - No Se Parece a Nada
  17. Gloria Estefan - Mi Tierra
  18. Ludwig van Beethoven/Uri Caine - Diabelli Variations
  19. W.A. Mozart/various - Mozart in Egypt
  20. Big J McNeeley - Big Jay in 3-D
  21. Joe Newman/Rudy Schwartz Project - Don't Get Charred... Get Puffy
  22. Joe Newman/Rudy Schwartz Project - Gunther Packs a Stiffy
  23. Asleep at the Wheel - Greatest Hits
  24. Leonard Bernstein - On the Town (selections & 3 Dance Episodes)
old shoes on a trash can - Old Pasadena CA
StarPod Pasadena Tags: . . . . . . . . . . . .

Except for the stack of compact discs and Chowderhead with the iPod and coffee, all pictures were taken somewhere in Old Pasadena. Click to enlarge.


Peter (the other) said...

A) Do friends let friends drink Starbucks coffee? (I am not really that persnickity)

B) IPod=functional deafness?

C) Great little visual travelogue through the 'dena. I have not been up that way in a few years, time for a Norton Simon fix soon.

D) I have had Richard Galliano on my "most buy soon" list for too long (after hearing something by him on the radio that just curled my whiskers)

David Ocker said...

A) Doctor say: Walking to Starbucks Good. And surprisingly this particular SBucks has a real neighborhood feel to it. Drugs are drugs - caffeine and sugar.

B) The weak link to iPod is the damn earphones - which are always in the way and catching things. There must be a better idea. Listening to weird, dissonant music through headphones is not what causes hearing loss.

C) Nothing wrong with Norton's museum, but my favorite Pasadena tourist spot is definitely Henry's gardens. Henry as in Huntington. With lots of new features lately.

D) Can't remember why I bought this album, except maybe because it has all four Piazzolla Porteno pieces. I don't know anything else by Galliano. If he comes to play Piazzolla live in a town near me, I'll be there - having obliviously missed my once ever chance to hear Astor live. This seems like it would be pretty close recreation.

Peter (the other) said...

I do like the Huntington, its lushness, and tea room. I even like Blue Boy and/or Pinky on examination (and some good Turners I seem to recall). Yet, there is something so incongrous about the place. I like it best in mid-winter quiet weekday morning, walking about on an early date in a relationship. Hmmmm, maybe it is time to revisit, also.

David Ocker said...

My opinion of the Huntington is "Outside Good, Inside Bad" - especially since the Library exhibits got lots less literate. All those portraits and landscapes just make me want to ... yawwwwn. The Huntington has gotten much busier lately - hard to find really quiet times.

But I really do love the place, Peter. We've been members for years. If you do decide to tour the Pasadena area drop me a line. We could search for some coffffeeeeeeee.