A wise Buddhist once said, "We hate suffering, but we love its causes." The most recent manifestation of this truth, for me, is the iPod's shuffle function.
The fact that I'm blogging about this and not the iPhone should illustrate how many years I am behind in caring about new technologies.
I don't like the iPod's song shuffle function very much, but it continues to mystify and intrigue me enough that I can't turn away from it. When it does something goofy such as play a song titled "Strollin'" after a song called "Jammin'," or it relentlessly ushers in depressing ballads even though my selections make it clear that I'm working out and looking for upbeat songs, or it keeps playing interludes from rap CDs while completely skipping over other artists, I wonder if the Shuffle HAL was actually designed with my irritation in mind.
Part of the problem is that my own bad taste comes back to haunt me. I mean, I never really should have loaded in the entirety of Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam's greatest hits, so I can't very well blame Shuffle when I find myself tortured by an extended mix of "If I Take You Home." And how can I expect Shuffle to know that a piano rendition of "Karma Police" is not going to jump-start my gym session?
I had hoped that Shuffle would help me discover the albums in my collection ("Hey! I had never really listened to this song by Ryan Adams until my iPod dug it up for me!"), but actually it's the opposite: I realize how many of the songs are just painfully skippable at worst, or background music at best.
I used to invest a lot of time in an album: If I liked it enough to buy it, that meant I really listened to every song and knew each one, front to back. Now golden albums such as Who Is Jill Scott? commingle with the Zero 7s and Thievery Corporations of my collection. Depressive meditations contaminate exuberant pop classics, mediocrity intrudes on greatness, Linkin Park gets in my Prince. And it's all a monster of my own making.
On the other hand, the iPod can reveal aspects of your music collection that you never knew existed. For example, it turns out that my song collection could count to 10 were it not for the absence of a song starting with eight:
1-900 L.L. Cool J
2 Many Hoes (Jay -Z)
3 Chains O' Gold (Prince)
4 Leaf Clover (Erykah Badu)
5:55 (Charlotte Gainsbourg)
6 Minutes of Pleasure (L.L. again, with one of the best choruses ever: "Hey yo baby, I know you don't love me, I know why you're here, but I ain't sayin' nothing")
10 Dollar (M.I.A.)
Anybody got a shuffle-worthy eight?