February, 2007 Edition

by Ms. Duh
Contributing Columnist

"Let's get it started..." by the Black Eyed Peas, one of my personal favorites, used to be "Let's get retarded..." which would have not been so appealing.

So let's talk about the ipod. What do I think about the ipod? Why? Because a guy named Brad Rothchild said that was going to be a question to me if he were to interview me for some thingy he was doing (and I'm not doing his thingy. I've grown suspect of most people's thingies, and tend to keep well away from thingies in general). So, instead of my usually banal comedy stylings, blame him for this ipod-centric bit of duh.

I've seen numerous documentaries, heard various explanations, read a dozen or more dust jackets on the subject of the phenomenon of the ipod. And after at least an hour of thinking about it, I've formulated a theory of why something like this is so popular. This goes along with my theory that all consciousness is just bits of energy and varying strengths drawn to each other and when you die, your energy depending upon its strength is drawn to other bits, and may in fact retain the previous information from previous manifestations and so on and so forth. I've written a whole pamphlet "Why good bits of energy do bad things", a semi successful follow up to my first pamphlet, "Why do good bits of energy make bad love decisions".

Oh. Back to my theory. Of sorts.

This ipod thing. Of which, in my household we don't like, and STILL own one. It is a convergence of three things that set about creating a perfect storm that gave birth to the phenomenon.

There's this Jeff Healy song that came out in the 90's that whenever I hear it, makes me nauseated. I like the song, but apparently have equated feeling nauseated to hearing it. Good thing I don't like it a WHOLE lot.

The first thing Steve Jobs did was take something so integral, something so primal of being human and package it. Music is a fundamental tool of self expression and self identification. It was born when the world was new. It predates language and is found in every culture, in every time span. It occurs in nature, and most higher forms of animal have it. It is used as a very fundamental form of self expression and communication, BUT, it is the self identification aspect that is at play in most instances, especially when applied to humans with money and extra free time.

It is so powerful as a basic component to your personality, or the image you have of yourself, that you don't even have to make original music to adopt it as something personal and of yourself. It goes beyond a thinking, conscious reasoning that one identifies with certain music. It strikes a chord (BWAHAHA, now that's punny) in the unspoken parts that were alive and driving humans before we could even speak.

Although everybody can make music, it a very few that can make it, and have people like it enough to pay you big piles of money for it. You can be special and unique by liking punk or pop or lesbian bagpipe inspirational hymns. It identifies you and categorizes you and as very community oriented, categorizing-crazy type of folks we are, this gives us our very first badge we can wear. You can now walk proudly on the street, pronouncing, "I like Inuit Throat Singing, AND Kenny G," and immediately you have set yourself apart AND gained a sense of belonging. You have made yourself different from the other 5,999,999,999 or so rest of us while belonging to the commonalities that like throat singing or Inuits or Kenny G.

Steve Jobs has utilized this need for self identification.

For 20 years or so I've been looking for one song I heard on the radio as a teenager, that I only remember two lines from, a snippet of the tune, and that I really dug it. In 2002, with the help of one of my old fogey friends, I found it - "Butterboy" by Fanny. It turns out, it wasn't as good as I thought.

Steve Jobs has taken music and given it the perfect marketing.

I'm assuming a lot about Jobs in the next little bit. He grew up in an age of rebellion as a fad. There was real cultural rebellion that was essential to the growth of this country (civil rights, women's rights, political upheaval of the status quo) and there was the other cultural revolution. One dealing with identity, fashion, fad, and self absorption. Yeah, I'm a fan of the sixties, can't you tell? Marketing to the counter culture, to the sub culture, to the rebel, to the young was in its infancy. It was just at this time, the youth had leisure time and had money to become an economic force. The disenfranchised youth of this era have become the middle aged power brokers of this era. They have taken rebellion, rock and roll, and the disenfranchised feelings they had, packaged it as cool and sold it to their children. Way back when, the corporation, the brand, the ownership concept, were all "uncool". The rejection of the mainstream was the identifier for a whole generation. How ironic is it that this same generation has made the corporate logo vital to the self expression of another's? And how clever was it to make it all almost spiritual? The cool factor now is a brand, it is a logo, it is the exclusivity of it all. We are cool because we wear X, listen to Y, and own Z. Apple is the prime example of the marketing of cool. It's almost spiritual how Apple is talked about or referred to in the culture. Like a religion. Look at a Nike ad and tell me what they are selling. Sure shit doesn't look like shoes to me. And what seems to me at the perfect time, the zenith of the effectiveness of this sort of cultural marketing, Steve Jobs comes in, first with the iMac, and then with the iPod. Whereas his first try with the iMac does all the cultural marketing to a small segment of the market, the iPod appears to have successfully indoctrinated 75% to 80% of the TOTAL market with the concept of cool that is Apple. Thusly, people who dislike Apple, probably own an iPod. How frikking king is that, when you can sell somebody something from a company they don't like? I OWN AN IPOD. I DON'T USE IT and I DON'T LIKE IT.

It has become some piece of cool you can have, that houses a portion of your self expression and identity. And it fits in your pocket and comes in colors.

I know one rap song. I like one rap song. I don't know any of the words to that one rap song. And I've never seen the group.

Steve Jobs took cool, and took self expression, packaged it so that YOU can own it.

I think the last thing that's happening in the world of iPod is ownership. We, as red blooded Americans, mighty and rich as a nation, powerful as a people like to own things. NAY. We have turned ownership into a national ritual. Renters are not as good as owners. Ownership denotes status, and it denotes wealth. If it is ours, by gum, we ain't gonna give it up without a fight and we can do whatever we want with it. This, in itself is ironic when applied to the iPod model. Because the artists OWN their music. Because the record companies and distributers OWN the artists. Because you want to OWN your own music you paid for with your OWN money, even though it might have come from your parents. Steve Jobs got all these people who live the American Dream, and satisfied them all to a certain extent. This is the simplest ingredient in the money pie that is iPod. Ownership. You don't want your music to go away. We are use to buying an album, cassette, CD and knowing that "IT'S MINE MINE MINE". We are so into ownership, that we can apply it to almost all situations, rationalizing where need be. And everybody is trying to apply this to art form that, until really recently in cultural development, has been, in a large part, free to share amongst everyone. I have albums I never listen to, but it would bum me out if I lost them because they were MINE. It's there in case I ever WANT it. We could go into subtle nuances and psychological origins of the meaning of ownership. But, I don't wanna. It's just the MINE MINE MINE factor, in conjunction with the YAY, IT'S MINE factor that sends people shopping in the first place.

Although I don't use my ipod, I couldn't live without my iTunes. It's my only music playing device and it houses all my OWN music and nyah nyah, nobody has a music library like mine.

All this has been cobbled together from PBS specials, discovery documentaries, audio books that I got from iTunes, and my general sense of what is going on with all that. So, you might say, that even though 90% of the information here was produced from somebody else, I've put it together, almost in a playlist like fashion, and now its MINE and it shows you a little of who I am. Plus....

....its cool cause it's about Apple.



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