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iConfess On:2005-05-31 08:39:24

During the very first week that it came out I bought an iPod Shuffle---the more expensive and cooler one gigabite version of course---and for weeks afterwards people would gaze in wonder at the coolness of it, and even stop me in the street to ask me about it (they did! they did! and more than once!!) in fact I had hit the peak of cool! But, Oh Dear! from here on in this essay my coolness quotient is going to be seen to suffer a steep decline, because...

... well because,, you know how you can tell a lot about someone by hearing their cell phone ring tone or tones, but that the things you can tell about them are absolutely boring and useless? Well the exact opposite is true of their iPod: you can't tell anything about them at all from what's on it, because you can't hear it, but if you could what you'd hear would be absolutely vital and possibly earth, or at least illusion, shattering!

So it was that, as I was walking to the Plano Coffee Haus this morning to break my fast and to beat my head against this essay, swinging along East 15th Street with my cool 17-inch PowerBook G4 under my arm and my cooler iPod shuffle glowing against my black tee-shirt (for all the world like a damned ad for the thing) and blaring (but only to me) MY music, one might be drawn to wonder what those coolest and revealingest of sounds might be.

I could perhaps have been listening to Cream or Zeppelin or even Nirvana, or, ...or, Stravinsky or Bach or even that amusing version of 'Olim Lacus Colueram' set to the chant of the Dies Irae by the Boston Camerata: they are all on there---somewhere. But the whole point of the thing (which its name at least hints at) is that it shuffles what you hear randomly. So I was actually listening to something from [WHIMPER] Carol King's Tapestry! Oh the shame of it! Ancient Chick-sounds on my iPod!

Then a sudden life-changing realization hit me, in the way that sudden life-changing realizations have of coming up and happy-slapping you. And if you don't know what happy slapping is I suggest that you avoid going to England and hanging around in areas with lots of youths (or more likely, with lots of youthful offenders) equipped with cameras on their phones. Anyway, this realization came up and hit me (and is now presumably laughing over its video of the event with its friends) while I am left to contemplate the extent to which my so-called taste in music is nothing more than a pale reflection of my early love-life. It's like that song by Cream (to get back to less gender-challenged terrritory) 'If it wasn't for bad taste, I wouldn't have no taste at a-a-all'. You see something from [WHIMPER] Carol King's Tapestry is not the full extent of the penetration into my macho iPod of such feminine music. Not by a long chalk! And statistically, or maybe I should say Shuffle-istically, that's the music I've been listening to mostly!

Now although I've been hampered in my research for this essay by the fact that almost everything before 1974 seems strangely blurred to my memory, I'm pretty certain that my enormous list of girlfriendy, emasculating shuffle denizens runs from really obvious ones like Joni Mitchell or Simon & Garfunkel (whom I've partially inoculated myself against by calling them 'Slimey and Carbuncle') through perhaps less glaring examples like Leonard Cohen, who's oeuvre could pass for man-music if the light's not too bright and the wind's in the right direction; to really blindsidey macho ones like Santana, and even some in the classical repertoire---Oh the shame of admitting that I have a soft spot for the Andante from Mozart's k.467 largely because of Bo Widerberg's 1967 chick-flick Elvira Madigan or, rather more honestly, because of the girl I took to see it. Or that the joy I get from Beethoven's Sonata No. 2 and the almost (for me) perverse liking I have for certain of Bartok's piano pieces are entirely down to the romantic practice sessions of a certain lady known to history only as 'the youthful Georgione'. I can even attribute my odd predeliction for singing odd folksongs at odd times to the fact that some of my odder early girlfriends were oddly moved by them.

And now that I've faced up to my slap-happy realization, I have a problem: I don't know if I should expunge this blot on the escutcheon of my iPod in a proper manly way with songs by the Ramones and Stones and Sex Pistols, or if I should just give in and remember to carry a hankey for the sad bits.

Cheerio for now
Richard Howland-Bolton

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