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Plug In, Turn On, Faze Out: The Zombification of the USA July 20, 2006

Posted by doctorolove in Pop Culture Rants.

I love my Ipod. It is the ultimate in mass produced electronic pacification. Simply turn it on and let the day go by as you listen to either the songs you overplay on repeat or let the mystical computerized DJ inside the little white (or black, if you plunked down extra money to be fancy) box pick and choose the songs. Inevitably, you’ll hear something you forgot you had or something somebody slipped on there in an attempt to make you more cultural. Nothing can throw off your rhythm during an Ipod fueled workout mix when your Ministry track is followed by an accidental dose of Peter, Paul and Mary. But whatever it’s playing or whatever you use it for, the Ipod has revolutionized the way we as humans interact with one another.

It is inspiring people to work out more. I can vouch for this myself. I noticed that five miles on the treadmill with my lungs threatening to explode from my chest and my calves on fire like Arizona brush is easier to take with my little earbuds blasting digitally mastered lilts of Meat Loaf (Yes, I listen to Meat Loaf while working out – it acts as a nice beat and picturing Meat does make me run faster out of fear I may some day look like him, leaving me no other career choice but singing grandiose songs while holding a handkerchief). The Ipod is creating Djs out of kids who couldn’t work a turntable with a guide and a master class from Keoki. It has handed one more reachable goal for the technogeek’s dream of scoring girls in a nightclub, because everybody wants to nail the DJ. It has also resulted in the Podcast, another long unreachable dream being reality in the ideal that now anybody can be a disc jockey and force us to listen to their meticulously formed mixes of long out of print Velvet Underground remixes. It is expanding minds, reducing waist lines, and opening doors to us normal people who couldn’t burst through the glitterati fueled gates that surround the entertainment industry.

But for all the good Apple’s tiny little box of electronic crack has given us, it has taken away from what was once of my favorite thrills in the world: eavesdropping on the randomness of other people’s conversations. Not only that but we are having fewer and fewer of them. People who would once strike up meaningless drivel with us are immediately turned away by the long white cords coming from our pockets like men being turned away at Studio 54 wearing the Isaac Mizrahi collection from Target. And without those interesting awkward conversations to listen to, people are plugging in and tuning out, without Timothy Leary’s “aides.”

Now how would a self-professed Ipod whore like myself even know the art of conversation withering around him? I mean, I attached my earphones to my ears much like an IV, my I-Tunes catalog takes up more space on my computers than important programs should, and I even picked up a pretty little case for my Ipod, so he could emulate his idol, the Fonz (Fun fact: Apple equipment worships Henry Winkler). Because this weekend, there was a death in the family. My Ipod passed away at the tender age of two. I was enjoying a pre-mixed medley of the Garden State soundtrack and synthesized porn soundtrack jazz (I called it Nude Jersey…I tell jokes just for me sometimes) when it blinked and let out a death rattle that sounded like a swan trying to free seaweed from its’ windpipe. It showed me the rumored but dreaded sad face and then I swear it wished me goodbye as it slipped into unresponsive sleep. I shook it, I held it in my arms and I looked at the sky and whimpered. No rain fell, however. I prefer my dramatic moments less Kazan then most.

And so I was forced to sit on the New York subway with no sort of distraction. I haven’t bought a paper in two years and the ads on the sides of the cars are moving in a more visual direction than long drawn out explanations, which I favor. So as I sat there, I realized that for quite some time I had not peeked in on the words and conversations that don’t belong to me. I quickly scanned the car and was hard pressed to find somebody who was not suckling at the sacred Ipod teat. And then I saw my goldmine: two women, dressed to the hilt in every designer fabric possible, various bags of stores I’m not allowed in strewn at their feet. And they were gabbing away, gesturing with their hands and pointing and snickering at something. I slid my way over towards them, maintaining my focus on the ads on the walls. I was eavesdropping like the Bush administration: focused on something else, but every once in a while, sneaking a listen on everything but that.

And, Oh, was it vindication! They were a cavalcade of clichés, a smorgasbord of phrases that I was gleefully taking out of context. They were committing my favorite aspect of the eavesdropped communication: the long debate based on a fact that I knew to be incorrect but they were serving up as a whole-hearted fact (For the record, it was them debating just how bad a certain bar had become since moving to 55th street, when it in fact, it was still in the same place—ah, naiveté!) Their pointing and snickering at the shoddily dressed hipster across from them even resulted in horrible puns involving the word “hipster” in various rhyming couplets. And I even laughed harshly, though undetected, when they at the same time exclaimed “HENRI BENDEL!” It truly wasn’t Nude Jersey, but it was pretty close.

I won’t bore you anymore with gory details, but I will say it made me upset. Since purchasing my Apple addiction, I had missed the sounds of the subway. I had missed the homeless people begging for change, muttering drunken non-sequitors. I even missed the little old ladies gabbing in a language I probably would have understood if I paid more attention in Spanish class (Don’t blame me…the girl in front of me looked just like a young Bridget Fonda!) It’s made me think. We are all so patched it to our own little worlds that the simpler things, like conversations, are disappearing. I may be one of the accused, but I have found, in my short time unattached from the Ipod that I know now what I’m missing. And as the Ipod gains more bells and whistles, pacifying a whole new generation, there may come a time when nobody speaks, because, SSHHH, ABBA’s on!

So I walked home after my return to normalcy. Maybe I see why we all have this stigma of disconnection. If I, a self confessed pop culture and gadget addict, can unhook and reacquaint myself with the simpler things, we all can. Because when it comes right down to it, life’s all about communication. But wait? Is this what I really feel is re-attaching myself to society: turning myself into what amounts to a little more than my Florida-living grandmother, who gossips about the sex lives of the catty clique that roams the pools of Boca Sun Vista Way. I am all for re-creating a society based on free speech, but I don’t know if I can handle unplugging if it means having to share my views with people I wouldn’t want to talk to anyway. Come back, my toy of toys. For you are truly keeping people like me from releasing our inner demons. And besides, why would I care about what women think of hipsters anyway? I have more than enough snickers and giggles of my own.

So I brought my Ipod in for repair today and the clerk looked at me and smiled. He said something about the battery or the harddrive or overworking the tiny gnome that lives behind the LCD screen. I wasn’t listening as the two women behind me were talking about how cute the kid in the Mac commercial was, screaming how great he was on NewsRadio.

He was on Ed, ladies.

Maybe I spoke too soon….



1. Franki - July 20, 2006

Amen to the iPod. I love mine, and yes… it is much easier to spend an hour on the treadmill listening to cheezy 80’s tunes, and wailin Walking On Sunshine! Shhhhh tell anyone, and it wont be pretty! ;0)

2. doctorolove - July 20, 2006

I’ve always felt katrina and the waves were more of a sit-ups type of beat, but don’t worry…your secret’s safe with me!

3. JamieLyn - September 29, 2006

Wow… flashback! Nice writing. I laughed out loud several times. Thanks!

4. doctorolove - September 29, 2006

Thanks Jamie! Any time you need a laugh, I hope we have plenty. I can guarantee a guffaw or a snicker. And there’s always plenty of smiles. (God, I sound like a Hallmark crad with fuzzy bears on it…)

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