Helping You Get the Most Out of Your Misery
Sunday, October 23, 2005
I'm Afraid I Can't Let You Do That...Joe
Friends, the future is here and it is absolutely terrifying.
My lovely wife surprised me on my birthday last week with a spanking new iPod Nano. You've maybe seen the ads on television, the ones where a couple of disembodied hands play grabby with the wafer-thin musicbox. It looks very playful, very fun.
Looks can be deceiving.
I immediately set about loading music onto the machine, which I'd named the CheesePod, after my favorite dairy product. I put on my out-of-touch, whitebread music collection, starting with the Neko Case album I've been listening to and going through pretty much everything I own. It took me a long, long while to do this, as we've got a five-year-old computer that has all the power of a comatose gerbil, which means I'd have to upload the songs from the CD, download them onto the CheesePod and then erase them from the computer to free up enough memory for the next disc. It was painstaking work, but I held in there and got it done.
When I was finished, I had some four hundred and twenty songs on CheesePod, not a staggering amount by many people's standards, but not too bad. I was happy. I set it to "shuffle" so that I could enjoy the depth and variety of my music selections. I hopped the train to work listening to The Shins. I walked the dogs bouncing down the street to some Stevie Wonder. But I noticed that what I was hearing the most...was They Might Be Giants.
Now, I love They Might Be Giants. I've been a fan since "Don't Let's Start" first showed up on MTV. I wore out two copies of Lincoln and can still sing the whole damn album from memory. I've got no problem listening to as much TMBG as I can get my hands on. But I'd put a whole more on CheesePod than just the Giants. Why was I not hearing Bjork? Where were the three New Pornographer albums I'd put on there? Why had I heard "Wicked Little Critta" twice an hour for every hour I used CheesePod?
It couldn't, I reasoned, be random. If it was random, I'd have a whole lot more variety than what I was hearing. But if it wasn't random, what did that mean? It meant, I discovered, that my CheesePod had developed a crude sentience. The CheesePod was not playing "Birdhouse in Your Soul" over and over at random. It was choosing the songs. Because it liked them. This would not, in and of itself, be a bad thing. Why, it might mean that I would have a little geek-rocker as my constant companion; a tiny, portable chum to entertain me. And this might have been true for awhile.
But the CheesePod didn't just share my taste in music. I came to realize that CheesePod thought...that it was me. It seemed to believe that it was the real Joe and that I was a large hairy copy. It didn't like that. It didn't like that it had to share the world with me. So it set out to kill me.
Oh, it was subtle. It would crank a Ramones song when I was crossing the street, in hopes that I wouldn't hear the oncoming traffic. It would "accidentally" drop a foam earpiece cover off of the subway platform when a train was coming. I would wake up at night to find it staring at me from across the room, it's touch-wheel turned up like a sinister smile. I didn't know what to do. I fear for my life. But I didn't want to lose the music.
My wife, by far the clearer-headed person in our household, took action. While CheesePod was plugged into the computer, she yanked the cord that was feeding it life and energy. Instantly, the songs disappeared. The evil computer chip mind went with them. I could hear CheesePod screaming and vowing revenge.
I'm loading more music on it as I type this. I'm being more careful this time, though. I'm putting on mostly ABBA and Barry Manilow tunes. I figure that if it comes to life again as, say, a Kenny Loggins fan, I can probably kick its ass. You can't be too careful with these things.