iPodulation

What’s white, has a click wheel, and can hold every last Beatles song, video, and movie? You guessed it: the iPod. These portable mp3 players have become so widespread that it’s impossible to go anywhere without seeing those in-ear “Mug Me White” headphones. For those of you still lugging around those silly, disc-playing thingies, check out what you’re missing!Few people realize that iPods were originally conceived as mind-control devices. Apple CEO Steve Jobs felt parents were ready for a product that would provide them with complete control over what went into their children’s ears. Under Jobs, Apple purchased the rights to an almost-finished, portable mp3 player, refined its design, and by October 2001, iPods were hitting the shelves. However, Jobs’ vision of authoritarian parenting never came to fruition as, in an ironic twist, the parents themselves began using the iPods to drown out their obnoxious children’s incessant din.
Since their initial release, iPods have undergone a variety of changes. (She’s a man!) First-generation models held 1,000 songs, but they were cumbersome and lacked features we now take for granted. They lacked volume adjusters, song-skip functions, and backlit screens (but came packaged with an impressive-looking Apple butane lighter). Their batteries lasted a mere two-and-a-half minutes. Hell, it took jamming a large screwdriver into their sides just to turn ‘em on and off! Since then, each generation has been smaller, sleeker, and boasted more storage space and brighter screens. Here’s a rundown of their, dare I say, evolution:

o    2nd Gen – 10GB, 20GB: Added “buttons” enabled users to change songs and adjust volume. No longer had to use a screwdriver to turn it on/off.

o    3rd Gen – 20GB, 40GB: Updated battery lasted a whopping thirty minutes. This incarnation was prone to burst into flames for no apparent reason.

o    4th Gen – 20GB, 30GB, 60GB: Touch-sensitive “click wheel” added. Made compatible with Windows®. A color version was released that stored and displayed photographs – a move much celebrated by porn enthusiasts.

o    5th Gen (current version) – 30GB, 60GB (80GB!): Plays video, but unfortunately has regressed back to a screwdriver-jamming power switch. Porn enthusiasts celebrate video-on-the-go by jamming something else…

Some people aren’t comfortable with carrying every last song they own on their person at all times. To satisfy this so-called “Damn, I Wish I Would’ve Loaded Lateralus to My Lil’ Pod Before Leaving the House!” market, smaller versions of the iPod have been released.

o    iPod mini: Now discontinued, it held only one-and-a-half songs and came in eighteen different colors.

o    iPod nano: Uses flash memory instead of a hard drive. Rumor has it the newest iPod nanos fit comfortably in bodily orifices. Now who wouldn’t want 2,000 songs up their butt?

o    iPod shuffle: Like a deck of cards, but one-tenth the size.

o    iPod microscopic: Can’t be seen by the naked eye. Brand-new units are frequently reported stolen or lost moments after they’re removed from the box.

Those white ear-bud headphones, brilliant brand-identity marketing tools in their own right, have always come packaged with each iPod. The color has always been the same, but they’ve changed over the years, as well. Apparently, early tests showed small shards of glass conduct sound really well, and Steve Jobs’ market research misinterpreted consumer sentiment concerning his shattered stemware in our Eustachian tubes. A few years and lawsuits later, listeners are now less likely to get sliced up, but they’re 10,000 times more likely to go deaf.

Since Apple itself opts to manufacture little more than the iPod, headphones, and – if you’re lucky – a dock connector cable, third-party producers are making a killing with specialized carrying cases and add-on peripherals. There are a mind-boggling number of iPod “skins” to protect ‘em from scratches, falls, the pressure of deep-sea submersion, and the vacuum of space (because who isn’t listening to their iPod in space?) – all available in the color or animal print of your choice. The add-ons range from LED-based flashlights, audio recorders, FM-broadcasters, and boom boxes to car battery jump-starters, Tesla coils, and vibrators that pulsate along with the music.

iTunes, the iPod’s (free) accompanying music-management software, is also a marvel of intuitive design. No other program even comes close to the ease with which one can organize and browse their music library with iTunes. Access to Apple’s media store comes built-in, too. Pick from a sh–t-ton of songs, only 99¢ apiece! TV shows and movies are available for download, as well. If you missed last night’s Daily Show, you can download it for $2.00, then leisurely watch it on your iPod video. iTunes movies are perfect for people who’re just dying to watch Butt Pirates of the Caribbean II: Curse of the Brown Pearl, but are too lazy to go to the rental place or too impatient to wait for their next Netflix® to arrive.

iTunes, amongst other widely available/free programs, also enables internet-connected users to subscribe to podcasts, which are short audio or video clips that are set to download automatically once a podcaster posts them on the web. In a phenomenon that only the internet could foster, podcasts have had a democratizing effect on media broadcasting. To put it another way, any jerkoff with a microphone and/or webcam, some basic editing software, and an internet connection can post their worthless garbage online. From hourly news reports, daily ethnic jokes, and monthly video game reviews to annual fart renditions of different world language’s alphabets (in different octaves, mind you), podcasts cover a ridiculously broad range of topics. Personally, I subscribe to the following podcasts: NPR’s 7am daily newscast (which I listen to when I wake up at noon), Democracy Now! with Amy Goodman, Onion Radio News, “Podictionary,” and “Six Minutes of Shojisturbation” (an Asian hermaphrodite masturbation(s) vidcast).

The iPod isn’t without its detractors. The voluntary distractiophenomenon smacks of Huxley’s Brave New iWorld, and it’s eerily Orwellian the way new generations of Apple products replace the old as if they hadn’t existed in the first place. A few months ago, when I walked into an Apple Store (they have giant posters of Steve Jobs all over the place – the type that have the eyes that follow you around) with my 30GB iPod photo, the “we don’t make commission” sales clerk looked at me like I was showing her a mysterious relic from some long-forgotten civilization. Coincidentally, during this column’s creation, both the newest 5th Gen iPods, featuring more disk space and better batteries, and the sweet-looking, harder-to-scratch iPod nanos (mini iPod mini?) have been released. Congratulations: your badass, two-month-old iPod video/nano is now the sh–tty, “Oh, I kind of remember when we maybe used to sell those things” model.

Apple is oftentimes accused of monopolizing the software side of the market, because it won’t make iTunes compatible with non-Apple mp3 players (yes, they exist…but barely), AND they won’t allow iPods to be used with music managers other than iTunes. The finger-pointers typically consist of no less than a few of Bill Gates’ numerous distant cousins, developers of sub-sub-par music-managing software, and Neo-Luddites (who were already pointing their fingers in technology’s general direction, anyway). While revealingly reticent regarding iTunes’ lack of support for non-Apple mp3 players, critics of the critics defend Apple’s stranglehold – specifically the 99¢-per-song iTunes store – because, they claim, it keeps major record labels in check. I disagree, because even if Sony, Universal, BMG, EMI, and Friends thought consumers would pay $3.99 per song, they’d never have the gall to charge such an outrageous price…would they?

Though the iPod’s societal effects are still being studied, some trends have clearly emerged. The notion of “the album” (i.e., Dark Side of the Moon, The Wall, Ænima, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars) may be a dying art. Songs that are unsuitable for easily alterable playlists or unfit for (iPod) shuffling don’t get listened to. Ever. B-sides have become no-sides, and epic, thirteen-minute, multi-movement juggernauts certainly need not apply.

As evil as relentless over-playlisting can be, playing around with a couple quirky, idiosyncrasy-eliciting, playlist-creation modes can easily become a guilty pleasure. Smart Playlists makes it possible to search your music library with specific criteria (i.e., “all tracks played less than twice” or “songs with ‘taint’ in the title”) for a new, computer-assisted playlist. Even better are the SuperSmart Playlists, which offer surprisingly nuanced search fields that alter your pre-existing playlists. Check out how SuperSmart Playlisting would affect a few of the ‘lists on my cPod!

o    S2F2 (songs to f–k to): Tell iTunes how much whiskey has been imbibed – the playlist’s playing time will vary accordingly.

o    Maynard Vocal Mix: Enter how many times MJK has been seen – in person – masturbating onstage. The higher the number, the greater the songs’ homoerotic content.

o    Beatles Favorites: Disclose the number of times you’ve taken LSD and/or mushrooms. More psychedelic experiences = less teeny-bop bullsh–t.

While iPods are outrageously popular (a staggering 103% of all Americans own one), Apple fully intends to extend its influence beyond our ears into every facet of our lives. That claim surpasses the scope of this article, sure – but if you thought that virtually all new cars having an iPod docking station as a standard feature was bad, just wait until the iPhone, iTV, and iVaporizer are released. Expect the Intel-chipped, Windows-friendly, 13” MacBooks to change how personal computing is done, too. If Steve Jobs has his way, he’ll fulfill his mind-control device dream when all newborn babies shoot out of birth canals with an iPod already affixed to their yet-fused cranium, click wheel and all. And don’t act surprised when a third-party accessory maker tries to sell you a zebra-patterned iSkin to protect the precious “iPod infant” from getting afterbirth on its gear.

Apple’s portable mp3 player dominance makes them an easy sh–t-talking target, but their ubiquity is ensured by their ability to consistently crank out sleek iPods that offer intuitive interfaces, are tethered to the best mp3 software, and contain long, throbbing batteries. Of course, the bigger Apple gets, the harder it’ll eventually fall – but for the foreseeable future, it will indeed be an iWorld after all.

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This article was originally posted on October 06, 2006

October Releases Reviewed
By Chesslee Calloway 
FIFA 07 (all) – Plays like Ronaldinho’s teeth look. 

Desperate Housewives™: The Game (PC) – Would have to be desperate to play this game. 

Star Trek®: Encounters (PS2) – Star Trek: Lame. 

George Romero’s City of the Dead (Xbox) – Its comforting to know Mr. Romero personally oversaw the sucking of this game. 

Mortal Kombat®: Unchained™ (PSP) – Only October release worse than this one is Mortal Kombat: Armageddon™. 

God Hand™ (PS2) – Another weak-ass game in a long list of masturbation sims. 

Tales of Eternia™ (PSP) – Once upon a time, there was a sh–tty game… 

Naruto™: Ninja Council 2 (GBA) – Can’t decide which is worse: this game or the fact it’s for GameBoy™ Advance. 

Contact™ (DS) – Has absolutely nothing to do with the book or movie Contact, but sucks just as bad. 

Scarface™: Money. Power. Respect. (PSP) – Even. Extra. Punctuation. Can’t. Save. This. Game. From: Sucking. 

The Sims™ 2: Pets (PC, GC, PS2) – Cornering the “bestiality simulation” market. 

Family Guy™ (PS2, Xbox) – “Hey, Chesslee thinks this game sucks.” Cut to a shot of me not playing this game. 

Bully™ (PS2) – Sh–tty. Your lunch money is better stolen or spent on sloppy joes than buying this stinker. 

Justice League Heroes™ (PS2, Xbox, DS) – D.C. Comics already has a hard time justifying its existence – this game hurts their case. 

Birth of America (PC) – Death of Fun. 

Mortal Kombat: Armageddon (PS2, Xbox) – Only October release worse than this one is Mortal Kombat: Unchained. 

Touch Detective (DS) – Thou shalt not play this Catholic priest mystery/thriller. 

Destroy All Humans!® 2 (PS2, Xbox) – Destroy all humans responsible for Destroy All Humans! 2! 

Reservoir Dogs™ (PC, PS2, Xbox) – In case you feel like doing it Reservoir Doggy-Style, which you won’t. 

Marvel™: Ultimate Alliance (XB360, PS2, Xbox, DS, GBA) – Playing M:UA is kind of like Stan Lee dropping a deuce in your mouth, only worse. 

Worldwide Soccer Manager™ 2007 (PC, Mac) – Finally, a soccer game for Macs I won’t play.