Can't we all just get along?

As one who, for years, did not use any Apple products (indoctrinated in the ways of Windows as I was, and too addicted to right-clicking to do without it on a Mac), I was spared the full ridiculousness of the Apple/Microsoft bickering for a long while.

And then I got my iPod, installed iTunes on my (Windows-based) laptop, and started to twig to the full scope of the incompatibility between the two camps. The iTunes installation was messy and clunky, and though it eventually succeeded, it was a marked pain in the ass, which I'm told it's markedly not on Apple machines.

This afternoon, I made the mistake of falling for the Buy 1 Song/Get 5 Free offer MSN Music is currently running. (I'll save my comments on the perplexing and convoluted design of the site for another post, but will only say for now that clearly last year's exodus has had some repercussions.) I downloaded a Neko Case song--which involved an inordinate number of steps and a needless dearth of feedback (but again, that's another post)--confirmed that it was saved to My Music folder, closed WMP (which opened automatically, to my annoyance), and then tried to import it to iTunes, as one is wont to do.

But I should've known better. I should've known that files from MSN Music come not in any format that anyone else on the face of the planet would ever use, but rather in some crazy proprietary format that is, of course, incompatible with iTunes. MSN's answer to "How do I transfer my downloads to my iPod?" is basically "You can't, at least not until Apple agrees to support our file format."

I mean, come on now. Even if every other MP3 player on the market supports your wacky WM format, how far are you going to get if iPods don't? And why be stubborn to the point of almost inviting failure just to stick it to Apple? (I suppose the reverse also holds, but history seems to suggest that MS is the bigger bully by far.)

There has got to be a point at which cross-platform compatibility becomes more important than this incessant and ridiculous proprietary sparring. In the realm of online media services and serious innovation, MS has been playing catch-up for years now, and I can't imagine that releasing a music download service that doesn't allow for any compatibility with a device that is so clearly miles ahead in the market will do anything to help the cause.

I'm not quite ready to jettison my Windows-based machine (both because I just shelled out for it last year and because I'm still hooked on right-clicking as one fluid motion), but my disillusionment with the stuff coming out of MS is growing. Who knows? By the time this laptop bites it, I may well be ready to return to my days as a Mac girl. In the meantime, I've learned that even $0.99 was too big a gamble to take on MSN Music. It's back to iTunes and Amazon (and every other online music store that offers iPod-compatible downloads--which is to say, ALL of them).


The People's Temple

One of the greatest theaters in the Bay Area, hands down, is the Berkeley Rep, where I've seen Tony Kushner's Homebody/Kabul, the premier of the Tectonic Theatre Company's The Laramie Project, and, most recently, the same company's brilliant, balanced, and heartbreaking The People's Temple.

Though it's nearly impossible to be an American with any knowledge of late 20th century tragedies and not know anything about Jim Jones and The Peoples Temple (or, for that matter, of what happened in Laramie), most of us probably have a fairly one-dimensional view of the subject: horror, revulsion, and disbelief at how more than 900 people could be duped into going along with such a crackpot.

Which is why The People's Temple is so amazing: told from the perspective of Jonestown survivors, Peoples Temple defectors, family members, and reporters who covered the story at the time, the play makes clear both the madness of what happened on November 18, 1978, and the utopian dream gone awry that led up to it.

In its early days, Jones' church was a model of integration (at a time when the US was anything but), providing social services, acceptance, political activism, and a seemingly infallible model of socialist idealism come to life. People joined the church for any number of reasons, but one of the foremost among them was that it offered a vision of a society they could find nowhere else. What comes through in the play, just as strongly as that tragedy that was to follow, is the joy that members of the Peoples Temple found first in Indianapolis, then in Northern California, and then, at least for a short while, in Guyana.

The People's Temple makes no apologies for Jones or anyone else; instead, it uses source material, interviews, and the memories of those who were there to create an intensely moving, understandable, and well rounded version of a story that's been told so often it long ago descended into myth. In doing so, it not only brings a troubled and ultimately tragic piece of history to life, but also goes a long way toward answering what must be the most commonly asked question: Why?