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‘Burning’ CD leaves inner scar

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I opened the CD cabinet that stands against the wall in my office and proudly stepped back. The vast array of compact discs I listen to when I should be working was there on display for a couple of co-workers.

"Why do you do it?" one asked me as he jammed his hands into the pockets of his torn shorts. The other pulled at his goatee and queried "Why do you buy CDs?"

"Because I like music and I've got a lousy voice."

To prove my point I promptly cleared my throat and began singing "My Favorite Things," a song made famous by Julie Andrews. I sang it badly. Very badly. So badly that the fire alarm started and we all had to flee the building.

I was surprised at this development — my singing usually just peels paint.

Once outside, I asked my co-workers why they were so alarmed by my CD collection. "The Web, dude," exclaimed one of them. "It's the five-finger-discount music store of the future. You'll be able to burn your own CDs."

Over the years, I've spent a lot of time and money building a collection of nearly 500 CDs and I'm in no hurry to burn them in some sort of anti-Satanic ritual. But my co-workers intrigued me. So there I stood in the company parking lot wearing my oxford shirt, khaki pants and loafers — looking more like a guy in a hurry to get to middle age than a guy in a hurry to learn a new technology — learning all the joys of "burning" (i.e. recording) my own CDs.

So after the fire alarm was turned off and the workday was done I went out and dropped four figures on a "burnable" CD, the CD burner, a spaghetti junction of wires and some extra hardware. I also bought a B.B. King CD to listen to on my boom box while I downloaded my new music library.

Upon returning to my office I scanned the veritable alphabet soup of music services on the Web. There's www.MP3.com, www.MyMP3.com and DJ.com, which is now called Spinner.com and is owned by America Online. There's Gnutella, which sounds more like a gastronomic nightmare from a Mexican restaurant than a music service. There's also Gigabeat, MongoMusic, www.Sonicnet.com and dozens more.

I logged onto a service called Napster and, before long, I learned that I'd have to make part of my computer hard drive available to the rest of the cyberworld if I wished to use this service. Let's see, will that be the part with highly sensitive classified work documents on it? Or will it be the part with my personal finances on it? No, perhaps I should just expose the part of my hard drive that contains all the columns I've written over the past two years.

With a healthy measure of trepidation I logged on. So much for technology being a timesaver: I had to download my new CD one song at a time. By the time I downloaded my new CD, some guy had tapped into my hard drive, downloaded all my columns, scored a publishing deal, and had his lawyer slap me with a plagiarism suit. (My anger was tempered by the dollar amount his lawyer placed on my work.)

Once all the downloading was done, I hit the "play" icon. My new CD sounded like someone just poured milk onto a bowl full of Rice Krispies. That's because all I've got is a CD's worth of music on my hard drive that's being played through the half-inch speaker on my computer.

By now midnight was approaching and all my co-workers had gone home to braid their sideburns. The only other person in the office was the night watchman. When I told him I was ready to burn my first CD he immediately grabbed a fire extinguisher. I clicked my mouse on a few icons and nothing happened. I reconnected all the cords I'd bought, clicked on the mouse a few more times and still nothing. I tried for hours, with the night watchman poised over my shoulder, pointing the fire extinguisher at all the computer equipment I'd just bought . . . but still nothing.

At 3 a.m. I turned off my computer and went home.

It's probably no coincidence that B.B. King is presently singing his trademark song, "The Thrill Is Gone."

Scott Forbes is a freelance writer living in Denver.