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The Joy of MP3: Remastered

Image representing Apple as depicted in CrunchBase

An Apple a day keeps the cattle prod at bay

This post marks my 2nd blogiversary. That’s 2 years exactly since a drunken dare turned into my first ever post, launched onto the internet amid a haze of hangover, nerves and wind. Well, in honour of this mighty occasion, I would like to take a leaf out of the book of those diabolical film makers who rip apart a perfectly good cult movie, rehashing it for the modern market, hoping that in some way the cold hard cash will soothe the burn of bludgeoning a masterpiece. Well, I don’t have a masterpiece and I don’t get hard cash, but I refuse to let that hold me back. Ladles and jelly spoons, I give you the re-imagining of my very first piece – The Joy of MP3: Remastered.

Someone once told me that you miss out on so much of life by having your iPod permanently jammed in your ears. This person clearly talked a lot of rot and didn’t rely on public transportation as their main means of cardio (rage, not running). That said, I’m inclined to agree that going on a dinner date while wearing headphones might impede future romantic liaisons, and that going to the cinema with your favourite play list swilling round your lug holes is going to put you at a slight disadvantage when it comes to working out the finer self-absorbed plot loops of the latest Terrence Mallick flick. Hey, even Twighlight’s overly angsty emo antics require a little bit of ear work.

New parents, you should probably steer clear of the 24/7 headphone approach if you want to be able to recount your child’s treasured first word. Tempting as it may be to drown out the sound of any incessant screaming and, well, more screaming, you won’t be able to tell your child with any certainty that their first word was “da-da”. It generally is so you could blag it, or get a little creative, but I’m unsure how convinced your offspring will be when your speech at their wedding recounts how the first words out of their mouth were the 2nd verse of Wilfred Owen’s Dulce Et Decorum Est.

Moments of intimacy and cinematic pleasure aside, I firmly hold that everyday life is much enhanced by having the noise of everyday banality replaced with your very own soundtrack. Think of the athlete, be they the pro skeletal marathon runner or the amateur Boris bike pootler, these people know that there’s nothing like a good revved up ‘choon’ to keep your sweaty pins pumping away and to make you believe you look more Mo Farah than Mo from Eastenders, which is imperative if you are ever to leave the house in lycra again. Even the music industry has cottoned on to this sweaty niche in the market and you can purchase one of many pre-selected ‘Ultimate’ albums aimed specifically at the runner. Take your pick from ‘Ultimate Boob Sweat’ or ‘Ultimate Athlete’s Footfall’, or how about ‘Ultimate Jock Itch’? No? Suit yourselves.

I personally don’t care much for the running or for the pedalling of two wheeled death machines, as neither is conducive to pencil skirt and stiletto wearing, but there’s nothing can improve a beautiful roadside stroll like a carefully selected soundtrack, turning a jostling pavement crush into a so-hip-it-aches mood-infused power strut. The right track blasting into your aural cavities just as you run totter for a train can make you truly feel you’re actually the protagonist in some cool urban indie adventure. The truth may be far from glam as you delicately hop over a dog turd the size of a roast chicken, but keep those earplugs in and it’s all some witty plot device by Wes Anderson.

Walking is merely enhanced by the use of an iPod but it’s my other preferred mode of transport that truly drives home the point that your life is in no way improved by denying yourself an MP3 player. I discovered this when I was unfortunate (read – idiotic) enough to let the battery on my iPod run down to empty. Entering the delight that is the London underground network became nothing short of an assault on my delicate eardrums, worthy of a complete psychological meltdown and intense random cattle prod deployment. I know the sensible among you will be thinking that there was life before Apple and Sony, so a grown adult should be able to cope without them now. Yes, there was indeed life before iProducts; several hundreds of years without these magical music boxes, but hey, did we not also survive for decades without antibiotics and electricity?! Try getting on without those and see how chirpy you are!

Instead of being delicately introduced into my morning consciousness, I was rudely whacked around the brain with a cacophony of assaulting sounds from my fellow travellers; the sniffing, the coughing, the beeping of phone keypad tones, the screaming of children, the plapping of open mouthed chewers, the full volume jabbering of people who can make a phone call last an hour without drawing breath (I swear these people have gills). There truly is no sound worse than “general public”.

Aside from the snorting of a sinus being cleared at a rate of 500 knots, without the protective blanket of personal music, we’re subjected to the verbal diarrhoea of those around us. The fact we’re all using the same moving metal armpit doesn’t mean that we need to hear each other’s banal stories at full volume. Case in point; the ill-informed, yet very convinced, self-professed King of Trivia who was telling his captive friend and anyone who’d listen (and those of us trying not to) about how “pigs can see wind. Fact”. He actually declared this to be a scientific fact and at a volume audible to people, actual people. One can only hope that this kind of idiocy can’t be transmitted aurally.

In case you were thinking that the world isn’t really so full of noises that need drowning out and that being able to hear the laughter of a stranger’s children is just precious, I have news. If you are not wearing an iPod, chances are at least 80% of your fellow public transportation companions are and they have been graced with the dreaded white Apple headphones that leak more than an incontinent housewife at a live stand-up show. The air is filled with the metallic tinka-tinka-tinka of the very worst of the chart topping base lines, lyrics consisting of sexual grunts and grammatical barbarisms clearly audible from 12 feet away, and short of stuffing a briefcase and a folding bike into your ears, you’re defenceless. And that is the real joy of MP3, for when you are using one, you are safe from everyone else doing the same.

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