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conqueror, thy name is apple
how i got an i-life
by alex b (@Lexistential)

I am hooked on Apple.

No day goes by without quality time spent with my iMac and iPod; I can’t picture a day where I don’t spend some time tinkering with an iTunes playlist or listening to a podcast. But I didn’t consciously know how much of a habitual iNerd I was till I downloaded an iTunes upgrade. The page greeted me boldly with an 18-point font: “Welcome to the entertainment center of your world.”

At that, I thought, "YES."

My computer and iPod are indeed the gatekeepers of my entertainment life, each providing me with tabs on the outside world and untold amounts of internal satisfaction. I never travel anywhere without my iPod, and get ready for work and dates while listening to my iTunes playlists. Thanks to pre-recorded podcasts, I have a trainer during workouts, and can listen to Shonda Rhimes's commentary when I'm fiending for a "Grey's Anatomy" fix while waiting for the train. I routinely turn to Apple to keep providing me with entertainment; I measure advancement and innovation by its little white devices. Hook, line, and sinker, I am an iGeek.

Yet it wasn’t always so.

At the start of 2005, I could have defined myself as a Luddite. Though I’ve known how to use a computer for years, I didn’t own one; jogging by the river involved no musical devices whatsoever. I wrote in journals while loitering with a latte in a coffeehouse, and didn’t have a clue about Bit Torrent programs. I considered myself a unique spirit, secure and fortunate that I didn’t need electronics and gadgetry for entertainment. But thanks to a cute guy, my smug little sentiments were destined to change.

A few months later, I met my friend Bryan -- and his computer, an iMac G4 that was just as adorable as he is. His computer caught my eye with its curved, futuristic design and adjustable flat-panel screen. Noticing my inquisitive nerdiness, Bryan explained it was impervious to most viruses as a Macintosh, and then showed me an iTunes-accessing alarm clock program called iSleep. At seeing that I could wake up to classical music instead of an irritating beeping clock I could readily destroy, I was ready to bite the baited technological hook. I wanted to get an iLife. I wanted be iCool.

But before I committed myself to a computer, I yielded to an impulse that had already been gnawing at me for some time, courtesy of advertising full of black silhouettes -- I bought an iPod. White, slender and containing twenty gigabytes of space, my iPod became indispensable. Subway rides became bearable, even enjoyable. The pleasure of listening to Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s “Once More With Feeling” prevented me from reacting badly to anyone making leery faces at me. Exercising with my iPod became habitual, along with feeling terrified that my armband would slip. I even integrated my iPod use with chopping onions and doing dishes. During a moment when I was dancing with both my iPod and the Swiffer while cleaning the floor, my former roommate John walked in on me. But I didn’t care. I was part of my generation’s iRevolution.

Then John remarked, “You’ve become one of them.”

I was aghast. Surely, I hadn’t become part of the maddening crowd, or suckered by the Machine. I was still an individual, one simply enjoying the technological boons of my generation. I wasn’t part of the Matrix. I couldn’t have sold out.

Yet in hindsight, John was right. I had changed. I no longer looked at electronics with my usual “that’s nice, you exist” attitude, but searched for sleek design and innovation. Portable CD players changed from cool to cumbersome, while headphones actually held together by a headband seemed passé. Furthermore, Apple products beckoned to me with quiet perfection every time I passed by the Apple store in Soho, making me dismiss competing brands while coveting total conversion. I was no longer perversely proud to be outside the technological bubble, but inside Apple’s Mecca checking it out -- and loving every minute.

However, I didn’t become part of a pro-Apple technological caste until I bought a computer of my own in December of 2005. Though a PC would have satisfied my actual need for a computer, none had the same cool and graceful impression of Bryan’s iMac G4. Aware of my iMac bias, a Cornell graduate student named Vishal offered to sell me his, and appealed to my nerdy instincts by playing the extended version of "Return of the King" on the DVD player. We watched Viggo Mortensen and Orlando Bloom negotiate with ghosts; we giggled at the hidden Easter egg -- a sketch of Ben Stiller and Vince Vaughn pitching sequels to a stone-faced Peter Jackson.

Without waiting to be proposed to, I said yes.

When I agreed, Vishal raised a fist and said, “Fight the power.” Buying his computer made me a smart and refined consumer, one cool enough to thwart Bill Gates. Huh, I thought. Go figure. I hadn’t known that buying an Apple conferred a vanguard edge, one akin to supporting the Millenium Falcon. But before my imagination could get too carried away, Vishal’s girlfriend interjected, “Thank God you’re buying it. He’s already got a G5 and a Powerbook.”

By the time I set up my iMac, rebellious fantasies didn’t litter my brain. Instead, I just felt happy to at last own a computer. Not only did I have one that rocked and rolled feature-wise, but it also fulfilled a need for creative design. I felt accomplished, especially while tinkering on Photoshop or burning CDs for friends. I had purchased a beautiful machine, and didn't have to put myself in debt to buy it.

Other people in my life were just as enthusiastic about my new baby. Some gave effusive compliments like “gorgeous” and “hot” whenever they dropped by, while Bryan personally congratulated me. My parents even expressed excitement, while John entirely forgot his iPod criticism to fiddle with iTunes and moan about the viruses his PC had. My former roommate Mark, already an Apple aficionado, went so far as to offer me technical support, along with some tips on how to take care of “him.” (At that, he went too far. My iMac is a broad.)

But I shook off the comments to concentrate on the practical reasons why I had bought my computer. I would write; I would compile all my photos and music. Sure enough, I fulfilled what I set out to do, and then some. Not only did I practice writing, I got in touch with family and friends. Along with storing my photos and beefing up my music collection, I sharpened my Photoshop skills. I even learned how to make DVDs. The point of owning this machine is to hone my skills. The point of owning this machine is to broaden my horizons.

According to my friend Monty, I qualify as the perfect Asian techie assistant.

Of course, things haven’t worked out strictly constructively. In the year and a half I’ve owned my iMac, I’ve gotten accustomed to being plugged in. I no longer write in my journal or suffer from “numb thumb”, for I type my drafts with Microsoft Word. I don’t readily call friends; I look for them on AOL’s Instant Messenger client or iChat. I turn to iTunes to look for Sarah McLachlan’s albums. Thanks to my acquired iLife, my day-to-day existence has become more insulated, Internet-oriented, and impersonal. I can’t remember when my friends’ birthdays fall, but I can think of their IM nicknames very quickly.

Owning an iPod has insulated me well against the unpleasant aspects of everyday New York life, but I now wonder if I'm missing out on the unexpected surprises that grace it. While the white headphones in my ears protect me from Colt 45-fueled hustles for my change or assaulting lectures about God’s kindness, they also prevent me from hearing neat percussive beats being played by a troupe of kids, or a classical violinist in the subway station. My iPod is incredibly useful for blocking things out, but since my own personal soundtrack always plays in my ears, I may have missed out on other audio gems I would have been glad to check out.

Ever since I noticed that Apple became the entertainment center of my world, I’ve taken some steps to remedy that. I’ve called friends to say hi, and taken walks through my neighborhood without my iPod. I’ve also made more time for computer-less activities like browsing through bookstores and comic book shops, and writing in my journal once again. Entertainment does not necessarily have to involve staring at a screen, but simply starts from living life instead of insulating myself from it.

But call me a sucker for Apple's clever advertising anyway. I want a Macbook and an iPhone.


An expert in coloring outside the lines while reading between them, Alex B has a head for business, bod for sin, and weakness for ice cream during all seasons. Apart from watching Bravo marathons and enjoying haute bites here and there, she writes about TV, pop culture, and coloring outside even more lines. She sneaks Tweets via @lexistential.

more about alex b


tracey kelley
5.25.07 @ 9:32a

Behold, she has been iLiberated!

I would love to covert to Mac...eventually...but almost feel my technical abilities need to be amped up a bit before I do that.

I still don't have an iPod - M bought me a little something player for my birthday, there was a problem, we had to send it off and I just got the new one a couple of weeks ago. Still haven't had time to program it, download stuff, ect...

Another reason why I don't worry about changing technology so much. I'd never keep up.

alex b
5.25.07 @ 9:59a

Hi Tracey! Yes, I'm an iLiberated iWumman. Hear me iRoar.

Though I haven't learned how to pull off all the techie tricks my cute little G4 can do, the ones I figured out didn't require a lot of technical know. The biggest adjustment was getting used to a non-Windows interface, which was dandy within a few weeks.

Ever since I converted to Macs, I've been nothing but pleasantly surprised and constantly impressed. The coolest thing about it buying my iMac is seeing that it still works perfectly fine a year and a half after I bought it used. I don't have any Internet-related virus problems. And thanks to the iSleep program, I even feel pampered- I get to wake up to film scores from "Batman Begins" and "Gladiator"- or Madonna and Timbaland.

Owning an iPod and using iTunes has thoroughly expanded my music love. I've found all sorts of great new artists and get to put together all sorts of fun playlists. Another fun Apple plus, and now I'm a bigger music junkie than I ever thought I would be. But I dig it.

Heh, though I'm drooling over the Macbook, I'm not going to die if I don't own it. iYet.

alex b
5.25.07 @ 10:00a

And heh, graphics-wise, I still get kicks watching the hidden LotR DVD Easter Eggs late at night while in bed, too- on the 17" screen. And I use iSleep's timer to turn it off...

I have to stop iWriting how much fun it is and iSpoiled I am. Damn Apple!


russ carr
5.25.07 @ 10:08a

I've been strictly a Mac user for the past 13 years. So imagine my consternation when, for the sake of a freelance job, I found it necessary to take a Wintel machine into my home this week.


Wizard this. Wizard that. The mouse plugs in here, the keyboard plugs in there. (Yes, it was a pre-USB box, if that tells you anything.) If you don't plug them into the proper plug, even though they both FIT, you have to restart after you change the plugs because the box ain't smart enough to know what you did.

Turn it on. Go upstairs. Make a grilled cheese sandwich. Come back down. It's ALMOST finished booting through umpteen screens of varying processes.


I think I could unplug the power cord to my G4 and it would just hold its breath 'til I plugged it back in, without missing a step.

I bought a Mac long ago because I wanted to work WITH my computer, not ON it.

ken mohnkern
5.25.07 @ 10:36a

A PC-savvy friend who switched to the Mac found that most of the trouble he was having with his new machine was over-thinking how to do things. For example, he wanted to get rid of an icon in the Dock. He looked everywhere for the right preference pane or wizard, until a Mac friend told him to just click'n'drag the icon out of the Dock. Poof.

My last two Macs have been refurbished (my current one is a 13" MacBook). Both were great purchases.

alex b
5.25.07 @ 4:34p

Russ- GUH. I peel your fain. I really do. Makes you really wish the G4 was there!

Ken, my PC-user friends have ooohed and aaahed over Mac's simplicity while hanging with my broad. They can't believe my machine's still cruising beautifully a year and a half after buying it used. I can only quote Johnny Depp to 'em: "Savvy?"

reem al-omari
5.25.07 @ 10:55p

I only had a clunky, ancient Discman before my Ipod. For my last birthday, however, my sister got me a 2 giga Ipod Nano. I felt like I had tons of room on this tiny thing. (Did I mention my collection consists of over 300 CDs... and still growing?) I felt cool at the gym and felt part of the Ipod club. THEN my friend got an 8 giga Nano, and I feel inferior. I'm looking into a 30 giga deal to support my swelling music collection.

Apple is evil... but it's so gooooooood.

alex b
5.26.07 @ 4:21p

Ah, Reem. You too know how Apple's hooks in your system feel- and like 'em.

iPods kick ass. Little by little, I've added music to my 4th-generation 20GB iPod. Thanks to almost all my friends's CDs and iTunes, I've now got a good 13GB of music. Moral of the story: Reem, don't forget you can turn to your friends, too :-)

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