iPod, therefore iAM?

The author of A Word In Your Ear caught my attention with iME. It’s basically a link to an article by Andrew Sullivan in The Times titled “Society is dead, we have retreated into the iWorld” about the iPod infection.

“I’m one of them. I witnessed the glazed New York looks through my own glazed pupils, my white wires peeping out of my ears. I joined the cult a few years ago: the sect of the little white box worshippers.

Every now and again I go to church — those huge, luminous Apple stores, pews in the rear, the clerics in their monastic uniforms all bustling around or sitting behind the “Genius Bars”, like priests waiting to hear confessions.

Others began, as I did, with a Walkman — and then a kind of clunkier MP3 player. But the sleekness of the iPod won me over. Unlike other models it gave me my entire music collection to rearrange as I saw fit — on the fly, in my pocket.

What was once an occasional musical diversion became a compulsive obsession. Now I have my iTunes in my iMac for my iPod in my iWorld. It’s Narcissus heaven: we’ve finally put the “i” into Me.”

I am not one of the 22 million “little white box worshippers.” Not that I’m opposed to the idea. In many ways it seems practical for those radio surfers that switch to the next FM station when they don’t like a certain song, commercial or idea.

Back in high school I used to dub my own cassette tapes with all my favorite music. I’d have one cassette with mixes of Motley Crue, Whitesnake and Def Leppard. Another cassette might have songs by Paul Simmon, U2 and Michael W. Smith. And yet another would have samplings of The Oak Ridge Boys, The Statler Brothers and Johnny Cash. I had a plastic grocery bag with a half dozen 90 minute dubbed cassettes representing my soundtrack. My music tastes have matured somewhat since those high school days.

As technology advances I can now listen to online radio stations like listener supported Radio Wazee: Modern Alternative Rock or my local favorite 88.7 WNCW where I can hear everything from Buddy Holly’s “That’ll Be The Day” to REM’s “Final Straw” to Pete Yorn’s “Just Another” to Townes Van Zandt’s “Black Widow Spider.” The reason why I enjoy iTuning these internet radio stations is because I hear new artists that I normally wouldn’t hear outside my scope of friends and influences.

Andrew Sullivan goes on to write:

“Walk through any airport in the United States these days and you will see person after person gliding through the social ether as if on autopilot… You get your news from your favourite blogs, the ones that won’t challenge your view of the world. You tune into a satellite radio service that also aims directly at a small market — for new age fanatics, liberal talk or Christian rock. Television is all cable. Culture is all subculture… Technology has given us a universe entirely for ourselves — where the serendipity of meeting a new stranger, hearing a piece of music we would never choose for ourselves or an opinion that might force us to change our mind about something are all effectively banished.”

The serendipitous meeting of strangers on the bus fills me with a greater awareness of others around me. I begin to understand the neighborhood. The fact that I am an Anglo, professional, with a young family makes some of my neighbors feel threatened. So, I take the bus and listen to conversations. I learn that I talk funny (according to one of the neighbor boys) and that Usher is not a person who helps you find your seat at theater but is actually a popular musician.

I guess this means I’m one of the uncool Americans who doesn’t have those white pods budding from my earlobes. I’m one of those unhip people who enjoy listening to the bark of the neighbor’s German Shepherd who warns a trespassing squirrel or knowing that it’s 4 P.M. because the bus just passed en route to the transit station. If missing out on iPod, iShuffle or iLife makes me uncool, then I’m okay with that. I’m content to listen and observe the world around me in all its grit and glory.

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