Active Duty

Shawn Chatfield is 20. He buses at Chili's in Santee and attends Grossmont College. "I'm going into advertising," he tells us. Chatfield owns an early-generation iPod by Apple. "It's a 10-gig iPod. My friend Rocco had this and he got a new one as a Christmas present so he sold me this one for a hundred bucks. I got a deal." Chatfield owns no accessories other than an adapter that allows him to play the Pod in his car via the cassette deck. A quick inventory shows that he has downloaded 2046 songs onto his Pod. "If I wanted to listen to all the stuff in my iPod, it would take, like, 15 days. Something like that," he says. "Insane."

Chatfield costars in his own television show, a production available on DVD called Mega 64. "It's like video games, Jackass, and Mystery Science Theater all rolled into one. We wrote it, produced it, and starred in it. I played two parts." Low budget to a fault, Mega 64 was filmed for the most part in Chatfield's garage.

"We've sold a couple thousand copies. I got a check for a thousand dollars. We've sold shirts, and we got recognized at Disneyland."

How did Mega 64 come about? "We were just killing time," he says. "It got bigger than we ever thought it could be. We're making [the sequel] right now." Chatfield and his pals made six 30-minute episodes for public access television. They never aired. Instead, the show was made available via the Internet. Minor fame followed. "I get recognized almost once a week where I work. People come in and ask me, 'Are you Shawn?' I usually give 'em free chips and salsa for recognizing me."

Chatfield's iPod also had a bit part in Mega 64. "We used it as a remote. It looks like a [television] remote, so it became a prop."

He says his iPod sees a lot of active duty. "I use it all the time. This is my favorite possession. I use it while driving, and sometimes I hook it up to my computer and play it through the speakers. Usually in the morning I'll make up a playlist for the day and listen to that." Mood and environment dictate his listening habits, Chatfield says. "The weather has a lot to do with it."

During the last big rainstorm, what did Chatfield listen to? "A lot of the Postal Service, and a lot of Bright Eyes." When sunny out, the playlist rocks a little harder. Chatfield mentions names like Weezer. He has also downloaded all five of the Harry Potter novels onto his iPod from his books-on-CD collection. "It's really good for road trips."

Chatfield has a sizable record collection but owns none of the software that would allow him to rip the vinyl and convert it into MP3 files. "Which is unfortunate, because a lot of the bands I like are on record, and I can't listen to them on my iPod when I'm on the road. A record is just...I like the way it looks. You can hear it spinning. I'd listen to a record over an MP3 any day. MP3s are easier, but records have such an old feel to them."

Any downloading off the Internet? "I'll use iTunes and other sources I've come across." The way he says "other sources" makes me question him. A defensive apology follows: "Usually when I get music it's from my friends...so it's not like I'm looking for the songs. Some of my friends will send me files over the Internet. But I know the friend, so I could just go over to his house and get the CD if I wanted to. But I have stolen songs before and, no, I'm not really concerned about someone [as in the authorities] coming to the house. And a lot of the bands I'm into are not as big as, like, Britney Spears, so it doesn't matter if you steal their music. It's, like, who cares?"

What percentage of music on the iPod has Chatfield actually paid for? "About half."

Does he think people have downloaded Mega 64 without paying? "They do. I know they do. But I figure I can't be a hypocrite. Like, if I'm taking songs off the Internet." Chatfield changes direction. "I figure if they actually like Mega 64, they'll buy it. I'm kind of flattered. I've been doing it [downloading music] for a while, and it's really cool that someone takes the time to download my show."

Top ten from Chatfield's playlist for that morning:

1. "Signals Over the Air," Thursday

2. "Let Go," Frou Frou

3. "Be Still My Heart," the Postal Service

4. "Dust Rises Again," the Faint, featuring

Bright Eyes

5. "Elephant Woman," Blonde Redhead

6. "A Lack of Color," Death Cab for Cutie

7. "Hysteria," Muse

8. "Inmates," the Good Life

9. "Rose Parade," Elliott Smith

10. "Lovers of Loving Love," the Aquabats

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