Searching for Eddie Fisher

Joe Lavin's Humor Column

From Computoredge

Searching for Eddie Fisher

March 23, 2001

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My 65-year-old father works out of a home office, and, for the past several years, I have been his de facto tech support line. For the most part, he calls me when he can't seem to get online or when his printer is acting up. Lately, though, his questions are much stranger.

"What's that song about running?" he asked at the beginning of one recent call.

"What? I thought you said you had a computer question."

"Yeah, I do. I'm looking for that song -- you know, the one they have in the movie with all that running."

"Uh, Chariots of Fire?"

"That's it! Thanks!"

Yes, I have introduced my father to the world of Napster, and much to my surprise he is slowly getting addicted to the music-swapping program. I didn't mean to get him hooked. I just downloaded a copy of Napster onto his computer to show him what all the fuss was about. I didn't expect him to actually use the program, but the next thing I knew he was calling me every night with all sorts of Napster-related questions.

What do all those colored dots mean? Is it okay to get more than one song at once? What does it mean when someone uploads from me? Why do I keep getting a transfer error whenever I try to download this Kenny Rogers song?

I try to refrain from telling him that he just has to know when to hold them, and instead have been helping him as best I can. Interestingly, more so than any other piece of software, Napster has been easy for my father to learn. Point. Click. Infringe copyright. It's as simple as that.

"You mean all this is really free?" he keeps asking me. Yes, I tell him, and he starts to gush like some five-year-old meeting Santa Claus. Free, you see, is my father's favorite word. This is the man who has never understood the concept of buying music when you can just tape it off the radio. Once, when I was a teenager, he found an AC/DC cassette on the side of the road near our house. He excitedly brought it home and was shocked when I didn't want it. How could I turn such a gift down, he wondered. In his mind, after all, the only music worth listening to is free.

And here I was, opening a whole new world to him, a world where just about every song is free. I tried to explain the controversy surrounding Napster. I explained how many think that downloading music is the same as stealing music, but it didn't seem to faze him. He was too fixated on the potential bargain to think about it.

To be fair, much of what my father does download is not even by the living. His first job in the summer of 1951 was in a canteen on an army base, and now almost fifty years later he is using Napster to download the songs soldiers used to play on the jukebox there -- songs like Nat King Cole's "Too Young," Johnnie Ray's "Cry," and Vaughn Monroe's "Sound Off." Considering these people are all dead now, I suppose they're probably not too worried about copyright infringement.

He does listen to other music. For the most part, his collection is a strange mix between the easy listening classics of the fifties (Eddie Fisher, Patti Page) and the easy listening classics of the seventies (Elton John, Billy Joel). Recently, to my horror, I even discovered the Backstreet Boys on his hard drive. Yes, my father, who until recently had remained mostly oblivious to music, is now listening to the favorite band of every 13-year-old girl. What's next? Britney? Christina? 'N Sync? I'm terrified to look at the rest of his computer. Forget about protecting our children from Internet porn. Let's get someone working right away on protecting our parents from teen pop.

I suppose it makes sense that my father is downloading teen pop, because my mother has informed me that he's now acting just like a teenager. In his office at night, he plays all his new music so loudly that often my mother has to call down from the upstairs bedroom for him to "turn that damn music down." It's as if she has another child all over again, but unfortunately it's her husband -- and, instead of blasting quality music as I obviously did, he's blowing out his speakers with "Lady in Red" and "Candle in the Wind."

Now, my father wants to play his new MP3 files in his car. I've told him about MP3 players and CD burners -- but reluctantly so. MP3 players don't seem truly viable yet. What's the point when you can only save about an hour of music at a time? And I have enough problems with my own CD burner. I don't mind helping my father out with work-related software, but I just don't want to be the one he calls whenever he can't figure out how to burn a CD. For now, I have told him that I will not be offering tech support for either of these products.

Sorry, Dad, but my definition of tech support does not include helping you listen to the Backstreet Boys in your Buick.

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