Shuffle

I have angst over mix-tapes but I blame Nick Hornby which means it’s not a massive problem. See, Nick Hornby helped romanticise the mixtape in his novel “High Fidelity”. Exhibit A, the closing words from the film adaptation of the book:

The making of a great compilation tape, like breaking up, is hard to do and takes ages longer than it might seem. You gotta kick off with a killer, to grab attention. Then you got to take it up a notch, but you don’t wanna blow your wad, so then you got to cool it off a notch. There are a lot of rules.

It’s all about the mixtape as an artistic and romantic gesture. You carefully – very carefully – choose not just songs but the order in which they are played. And it is these songs and the play order which truly shows how you are feeling (because you are shy and don’t express yourself so well in words).

This idea of a mixtape has haunted me and tormented me because I’d never been able to create a mixtape (or CD or iTunes playlist) that I’ve even been remotely satisfied with.

Example 1

I recently found a tape I’d put together in 1997 full of moody surf instrumental music. It was going to be my late-night driving music, like that scene in Pulp Fiction where John Travolta shoots up and drives around in his convertible. Only without the heroin, and in a Toyota Corolla.

I’m not sure if I ever got around to putting the tape into use, but listening to it with a decade’s distance between when I first held down play and record together, it seemed terribly pretentious and horribly embarrassing. What was I thinking? Oh yeah, Travolta.

Example 2

When I was in Nelson on holiday a couple of years ago, I burned a CD to be my soundtrack on the day I drove to Blenheim. Only trouble was about half the tunes I’d put on the playlist in iTunes were DRM-controlled and wouldn’t burn to disk. And as it happened, they were all the good tunes.

Specifically, there was no Tom Tom Club and I really wanted to listen to some Tom Tom Club tunes and the whole way over on that stupid winding road between Nelson and Blenheim I had to listen to a whole lot of songs that were not by the Tom Tom Club and then Blenheim (on a Sunday!) was silent and grey and still no Tom Tom Club and so it wasn’t until I got back to Nelson in the late afternoon that I could finally get some Tom Tom Club.

Wait, really? Tom Tom Club?

Example 3

My department at work was having a party. The venue was booked, food was organised and then someone realised there needed to be some music. “Hey, Robyn, you know a bit about music. Could make a playlist on your iPod.”

So I tried. First I separated my music into music my workmates would like (Beyonce – “Crazy In Love”, Amy Winehouse – “Rehab”, Gwen Stefani – “What You Waiting For”) and music my workmates would not like (Muffpunch – “Clitoral Thorns”, Jon Spencer Blues Explosion – “Fuck Shit Up”, “The Sexual Politics of Meat” – Consolidated).

Then, with the workmate friendly tunes, I tried to make a coherent playlist. But it just seemed about as sexy as old underwear – completely functional, but with no joy to it.

On the night, we ended up dancing to someone else’s compilation CD which alternated tracks from The Prodigy’s “Fat of the Land” and Oasis’s “(What the story) Morning Glory”. Which made me feel so much better.

The closest I’ve ever come to having a mixtape I’ve been happy with was in 1987, when I used to tape songs off the radio. I managed to capture the last 90 seconds or so of Harold Faltermeyer’s synth classic “Axel F” which – at the time – sounded really sophisticated. Yeah, I know.

I also blame High Fidelity for the romanticism of the mix-tape; the “Oh, baby, I love you so much, I made you this tape to express how I feeeel.” Yet all of the mixtapes I’ve received have been for educational purposes, probably from people who feel sorry for me.

So it’s little surprise that I’m a huge fan of the shuffle function on my iPod. I just let Apple’s algorithm pick the tunes for me, guiding from song to song in a semi-random, semi-logical flow. While shuffle can come up with some inspired sequences of songs, it always manages to stuff things up (ruining a great run of 1960s pop with a BBC political comedy radio show), just to remind me that it’s not actually a person. And certainly not a person who cares enough to have made a mixtape for me.

But I’m not about to sink into a deep hole of depression just because Nick Hornby managed to romanticise the mixtape for an entire generation. I’m going to happily listen to my iPod on shuffle, content that it will give me just what I need and a whole lot that I don’t need.

Cherries

My iPod is magic. I was planning on buying some cherries after work from the fruit shop at the village. I got off the bus at the nearby bus stop and walked along to the fruit shop. Just at that moment, my iPod randomly chose to play the Jesus and Mary Chain’s “Cherry Came Too”. There was one box of cherries waiting there for me. I happily bought it. Magic!

(Of course, you won’t see me mentioning all the times I’ve been listening to my iPod and it’s randomly played a song with no apparent lyrical connection to what I’ve been doing.)

In other news, the anti-nuclear murals on the reservoir behind the Mobil on K Road are being dismantled, digitally reproduced, and redisplayed on that wall. The originals are going to be exhibited at the adjacent Art Station gallery, and then sold in an auction.

Do you know what this means? Yes. This is my chance to have “No Nuclear Fire For Amber” proudly displayed in my lounge.

Boom

ITEM: I went for a run around the block before work today. This is the first time I have ever done this, but if middle-aged people can be up and running at 6.30am, then I can manage it at 8.00am. It was a a lot less traumatic than I imagined it. In fact, it was fairly uneventful until I got near Auckland Grammar and saw these guy Grammar boys with The Strokes hair cuts. As I wussed out and walked along Clive Road, I tried imagining what they’d look like in 15 years time, bald and suit-wearing.

ITEM: This morning I saw a seagull attacking a pigeon outside the Town Hall (on that balcony bit where the Beatles famously posed back in the ’60s). I walked over and kind of shooed the seagull away. It flew up on the balcony rail and squawked. The pigeon crawled around a bit. I knew that as soon as I left, the seagull would resume laying down the beats to the pigeon, grabbing big beakfuls of feathers. I turned and sadly walked away. Now I know how all those Kerry voters feel.

ITEM: I just saw a clip of a factory in Japan taken as an earthquake struck. Some of the factory workers were seen running to safety. They were wearing overalls and hardhats and it looked just like something from a Beastie Boys video. All that was missing was for the source of the earthquake to be a giant robot, manned by the mad scientist Beastie Boys wearing bad wigs.

ITEM: I got new earbuds (i.e. earphones) for my iPod because the old ones broke. The new ones have these silicone covers that go into the ear and help reduce external noise. But it feels like wearing earplugs, and sometimes I like to hear a bit of the street noise. And, compared to my old ones, these new ones seem to carry less bass sounds, and I like good bass.

ITEM: I’m getting sick of all the punk-arses letting off fireworks around here. Every year it’s the same. Grrr.

It’s art, ok?

My iPod is scratched and battered. I’ve dropped it more than a few times and I’ve lost the two plug covers. But my iPod brings me joy and happiness almost every day. I feel sorry for all the people who got one at Christmas, loaded it up with their mp3 collection, and have barely touched it since.

Because as well as the joy of listening to your favourite tunes (or Michael Buble), you can do silly stuff like the iPod Sonnet. It’s a sonnet – well, it’s a 14 line poem, ok? I put my iPod on random and wrote down the first line of the first song, then the second line of the second song, and so on, and this masterpiece was the result:

iPod Sonnet

Acid tooth, it’s got nothing to do with you.
It pays my way and it corrodes my soul.
I wanna take you to a gay bar.
Instead of feeling the love you break it all down into section.
Gotta get outta the way.
Sent to the earth to educate the fool.
Jeudi c’est mules pour les garçons.
I am the rain, I am the new year, I am the sun.
A broth of roots and charms.
This revolution has just begun.
So here’s a ho-kay for your whole ho crew.
But you can’t switch off my loving, can’t switch off the sun.
I’ve got a freaky secret, everybody say.
Snapped out.

A bit… metro’

I got two (2) Christmas presents, and they were both things I wanted.

– A 10 gig iPod.
– A George Foreman grill.

I’m very excited about getting the George Foreman grill (or the “Lean Mean Fat Reducing Grilling Machine”). I’ve heard they’re very versatile, and will surely do a better job than my difficult gas powered oven grill.

My iPod rules. I have it filled up with all my mp3s, and I’ve acquired a whole lot of new ones from my brother. It’s brilliant.

Oh, speaking of brilliance, I noticed that the Queen used “brilliant” in her Christmas message. That’s not as in “extremely intelligent” or “incredibly bright and shiny”, but is the slangy brilliant, as in “quite good, really.” See, her majesty is down with the common people.