Thursday, January 05, 2006

ipod pas

until this morning, I was about to become a member of the iPod tribe. it being my birthday this weekend, pennies had been saved, share portfolios adjusted, surplus assets in various off-shore tax-free havens disposed of, and redundant body parts promised to a very nice gentleman called Gerald in Nottingham, but then fate came along, as it does, tipped us upside down, dangled us by the ankles, and emptied out all of our pockets with a lively chinking of haemorrhaging coinage, and - hey presto - my dream of owning a lovely white icon of cool disappeared in a cartoon bubble-bursting *pop*.


I really really wanted an iPod. I really didn't need an iPod. but I really really wanted one. for why? for no better reason than that of everyone else who's realised the fantasy and joined the tribe - because it's cool.

there are, probably, a few people who've found the umpteen gigabytes of mobile storage space in a wallet-sized minimalist white box a heaven-sent boon - people whose work, perhaps, benefits from their being able to say to someone - you know, that track from the Carl and the Klingons debut album that sounds exactly like track four from Led Zeppelin III - and then being able to provide concrete evidence, there and then, at the touch of a little white wheel. but these people, let's face it, are both few and far between and, not to put too fine a point on it, rather sad.

no, the point is, not what's on it, but simply the owning it, and, by so doing, belonging to that special tribe of people whose taste and discernment is en-branded in the brand. except that, to judge by the sheer numbers of thirteen-year-olds who are sporting the post-Christmas white earbud look this year, it's actually become as exceptional and distinctive to sport an iPod as to wear Nike trainers and chew gum. any brand of gum.

whatever it is that accounts for this triumph of brand-marketing is irrelevant. of course, the design and the interface and the sound quality, compared with the closest of its competitors, is miles ahead. of course it is. it's an apple. but, actually, if, like me, what you want is occasionally to enjoy the experience of music playing inside your head at a really good sound quality - whether you're on the move or not - no mp3 player is ever going to hold a candle to a good CD player - it's in the nature of the compressed sound-file to degrade the sound quality in the compression. absolutely the only practical argument for opting for an mp3 player over a cd player is the increased storage space. and, whereas I can see that it would be nice, if, say, I were about to embark on a three-year-long backpacking trip around the world twice to be able to include in a space no larger than my wallet the entirety of my cd collection plus the option of an ongoing multitude of catch-up downloads, I can't see that I'd ever find that particularly useful, since, even when I spend the entirety of a year in my own home, I never listen to more than a fraction of the cd's in my racks, and, more often, find myself listening to the same cd, not to say the same track, over and over again for weeks, if not months at a time. the fact that I could, if I so wished, listen to anything at all - and, at the current 60 gigs that's seriously possible - would, in my own case, be paralysingly prohibitive. there is such a thing as too much choice.

actually, I find the idea of filling a 60Gb iPod a tad scary - just how much music, how many photographs, how many videos does a person need to carry around with them?
which segu├ęs neatly back to that 'want' versus 'need' thing: of course no-one 'needs' that, but needing is not the point - wanting is. wanting to fill that cool white rectangular icon of cool with the stuff that makes it yours - that defines you, that characterises you, that displays your taste out there on that discreet coloured screen - that distinguishes you from that dork in the adjacent seat on the tube who's listening to Status Quo, for godsake!

the iPod is the ultimate bling on the urban armour - that defensive psychic overgarment that everyone who inhabits a city is obliged to don before leaving their home or risk utter madness at the sheer mayhem of the sensory assault that begins the moment they open the front door.

so if, like me, you're fortunate enough to live somewhere where the drive to anywhere is through fields and hills rather than through concrete canyons, it really doesn't make any sense at all to want to detach your senses from the matter at hand. indeed, I find myself less and less inclined to listen to music in the car at all, preferring to listen to the endlessly entertaining (if increasingly daft) interlocutions of my inner voices.

so have I talked myself out of my disappointment?

have I fuck.

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