bin Laden, Cairo, and the iPod

I’ve been trying to write, or rather, trying not to write lately, because there’s just so much sadness out there that I don’t know where to begin. And I’m pretty sure you don’t come here to read my thoughts on the assassination of bin Laden.  No comment, except to say sheesh, I’m not a Christian, but this is old testament-y, right?  To hunt someone down and kill them in their home?  I feel a little out of the loop, but remember trials and juries?

I’m also not going to spend much time on the breaching of the levee to spare Cairo, (who says it like that, btw?  Kare-oh?)  Or Obama’s hilarious speech at the press club earlier this week.  You come here, and come on, you know it’s true, to read about my dysfunctional workplace.  That other stuff is pretty well covered elsewhere.

Before we go there, though, one more thing.  Did anyone else hear that guy interviewed on NPR about his fiancé who died at Cantor Fitzgerald on 9-11?  It started out as a tender but strange reminisce, (“she was a sweet farm girl from Indiana, I met her at a Nascar event…”) that turned a tiny bit creepy in a “hmm, maybe you should get some help with your grief” sort of way (that happened when he described that his vehicle is plastered with photographs of her), and then turned definitely creepy in a “huh?” sort of way (that happened when he mentioned that he’s seeing someone currently who attends all the 9-11 events with him).  I wouldn’t be a huge fan of riding around Manhattan in a vehicle covered with pictures of my current partner’s former lover, the one who’s been dead for 10 years, but that’s probably just me.

The fact of the matter is, I really can’t write about my workplace because it’s slumped into such dysfunction that I can hardly figure out where to begin, like a giant skein of yarn that was crumpled up on the floor for a while, stepped on, dragged behind a car plastered with pictures of someone who died in 9-11, and then tossed into a detention pond covered with algae. And my job is to try to locate one pristine end of that yarn and weave a little story out of it without mentioning the algae, pictures, or car.  Exactly like that.

So I decided to write about my iPod.

I’m usually sort of messy, slightly disorganized, and pretty relaxed about stuff.  Except about my iPod. Every single OCD cell in my body is gathered around organizing the iPod, wanting it to function like a perfect radio station, the station that only plays songs I really like but that play randomly.  As if I didn’t arrange it.  You know that feeling when you’re listening to the radio, and a great song comes on, and you are so surprised and happy to hear it that it’s like bumping into an old friend unexpectedly? I try to create that with my iPod, which I know is ridiculous, because when you’re the one playing the music, it’s more like going directly to that old friend’s house, and then being surprised to see them.  Who would do that?  The point is, surprising oneself takes effort.

I don’t want to hear just my very favorite songs, or they’ll get over-played, like that same great friend, but now, instead of bumping into them briefly and unexpectedly, you go on a long trip with them, and on day 14 you realize oh, shit, who knew that they (fill in weird idiosyncratic behavior here). It’s really not their fault, but it turns out that you loved them ever-so-slightly better before the long trip. 

The rules are complicated, and I hesitate to share them here, but I will.  That’s how starved I am for material.

I have to acquire a minimum of 20 new songs each month.  This is really the key to keeping the music radio station-like.  Immediately upon downloading, each song is quarantined in a playlist titled, “not rated”, and then rated.  Although iTunes allows you to give a song up to 5 stars, I really only use three.  It seems particularly unkind to give a song one star.  To diss someone’s art like that is just wrong, so one star is never used. 

Songs I never want to hear again get two stars, and are gently removed from iTunes the next time I synchronize my iPod, which, I hate to confess, happens nearly every day.  The goal is to have all songs rated by Wednesday of each week, so that I can be sure everything is in it’s proper place by Thursday.  Its not like I stay up late on Wednesday night rating songs or anything.  Sheesh, that would be weird. 

Three star songs are ones that I don’t mind hearing again, but when they come on, I’m not super-excited.  Songs that I enjoy hearing just about any time get four stars. Only the very best songs get five stars.

The fours and the fives get placed on a playlist titled “All the Best.” That playlist is the perfect radio station, the one in which you like every single song, but approximately four percent of the songs (oh, how I wish I weren’t positive that’s the number) are PSE’s (code for Prettiest Songs Ever, the 5 star category). 

Can you begin to understand how this changes it from going directly to an old friend’s house, to creating a whole town in which you like every single resident, some more than others?  When you go to a coffee shop in this town, odds are high that you’ll see one of your very favorite people, but you never know for sure.

Each day when I sync the iPod, it re-orders All the Best so that the least recently played song is at the top of the list, and then the iPod is played on random, but starting with a different song.  Strangely, if you don’t re-order the list, the same random order will repeat day after day, compelling me to sync daily. (This may be where the reader makes a shift, from seeing this as the behavior of an enthusiast, to an actual diagnosable condition.  Oh, you made that shift earlier? Arrgh.)

The PSE’s get their own playlist that I’m only allowed to listen to on Thursdays so I don’t get tired of them.  These are the songs that at one point, I’d have to listen to over and over, the songs that when they end, you don’t like the next song that comes on because, well, it isn’t the one you just heard, so you replay the one over and over.  Songs you want to be able to sing, at least in the shower or the car.  I won’t go into how I have laminated lyrics in the shower for songs on PSE that I don’t know the words to yet.  No I won’t, because that might seem strange. 

If you stack all those PSE's  next to each other, . . . well, you see how it works?  You see why it’s so important to get everything rated by Wednesday evening, before the syncing happens?  I knew you would.

What happens to the threes?  They get their own playlist, but basically, they don’t live in the town with the rest of us.  I’d have to go the next town to see them.  This is the place for stuff that you really need to have but you really don’t want to encounter on an ordinary day.  Songs like Thriller.  You just might need to do the dance.

Okay, that’s it.  Thanks for sticking it out.


  1. I'm left trying to figure out if I'm a 3 or a 4.Can we get together to discuss? xo c*

  2. Wow. That is some serious method to the madness. Or, maybe, madness to the method?! Point of order: What happens if you don't have laptop access for a day or two?

    No worries for your next career (if you need): Clear Channel station programmer



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