When you need help, call a kid

When Thoreau said to beware of any enterprise that requires new clothes, he had a point. But what's scarier these days is an enterprise that requires new (to you) technology.

My wife and I want to put together a music program for a funeral. We need three songs for the ceremony, several more for the moments during which people are coming in and a couple to usher them out.

We know many of the dead guy's favorite songs, so that's a good start. We even have recordings of many of them, but of course each one is on a different CD.

Back in the day, you'd have rounded up your CDs or vinyl and recorded the tracks to a cassette. I don't know about you, but my cassette stuff is out in the nether regions of the garage along with the eight-tracks and the buggy whips and the moderate Republicans.

No, the only thing for it is to buy an iPod. An iPod will not only download songs from the Internet, it will allow you to import them, or rip them from music CDs and load them onto blank CDs. Several friends say they love the things, don't know how they ever got along without them, and so on, so it's a good excuse to join the 21st century.

Fast forward (oh, dreadful analog term!) to big chain store understaffed with youngsters by greedy corporate down-sizers and way more interested in selling big-screen TV sets than iPods. Look interested in iPod. Look longingly at iPod. Look covetously at iPod. Hell, drool on iPod. OK, give up and leave.

Cut to locally owned computer store with fast, friendly service. They don't have the 30-gig model, but the 80-gig unit is even more amazing. It holds up to 20,000 songs, 25,000 photos or 100 hours of video or movies, or any combination thereof, all in a gizmo the size of a short, wide chocolate bar. It's only another 100 bucks.

Best of all, it's ridiculously easy to use. Yesiree. Learning to use this baby won't be like all those other times, like learning new software on your computer, or all those features you never use on your cell phone. The guy even shows me where to go online to download Apple's program for transferring music to the devices.

It looks easy. Voice in back of head: Easy? Is that what you think? Try to stifle the voice. No jinx, please.

At home, I go to Apple's iPod site and download the iTunes software. It will store a music library on my computer and can play, burn, and rip from CDs (never mind photos, games, etc. for now).

Fast forward to attempt to rip "Red River Valley" from Trail Band CD. Nothing. Try "You Are My Sunshine" from "Oh Brother, Where Art Thou" CD. Nothing. Voice in back of head starts smart-alecky, nyah-nyah, told-you-so laughter. A dull ache starts behind eyes.

I will spare the reader the details of the next hour or two. Futile attempts to rip songs, tech-support conversations that go nowhere, time spent on hold, much hair-tearing, and to up the ante, the computer going slower and slower.

Funeral is tomorrow. Two choices present themselves. One, Take computer to the store along with iPod and throw self on store guys' mercy with much wailing and gnashing of teeth. Two, find ancient casette recorder in some dusty corner of garage and make a tape.

My wife, who is often maddeningly calm in a crisis, suggests not freaking out.

"This is not supposed to be complicated," I say. "Kids can do it."

We look at each other. Bingo. We need a kid.

My wife calls Logan, 15, the son of a work pal, and explains our plight. Logan nonchalantly walks my wife through the process.

It seems I didn't succeed in downloading the software, so we were doomed from the get-go. Logan soon has my wife downloading songs from the Internet, importing them from CDs, making our program.

People arriving at the funeral to Clothesline Revival's "The Time Has Come," Elvis singing "Are You Lonesome Tonight," Johnny Cash singing "Let the Train Blow the Whistle." Priceless.

Somebody says the music is nice.

There's really nothing to it.

A kid could do it.

Reach reporter Bill Varble at 776-4478 or e-mail bvarble@mailtribune.com.

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