“My Loneliness Calls” I Wanna Dance With Somebody by Whitney Houston

Part 2 in a series that over-analyzes music videos. Go to Part 1

Wow, even Whitney’s early videos had her tormented by fame a la The Bodyguard and the later more abstract signs of “get-me-outta-here” distress. In this clip from 1987, beginning with black and white footage, Whitney finishes up a performance to a crowd of adoring white people (European tour?), and then can escape into a Day-glow world of wacky male chorus dancers and blonde hair extensions and a poppy beat that chews itself like relentlessly cheery bubble gum and visuals that rip off Prince, vaudeville, Tina Turner, and a Disney channel version of Wild Style.

Somewhat ironically, even in her fantasy, she never actually gets to dance with anybody. Oh, sure, the male dancers dance for her, and some even get close enough for her to attack through jest. But “somebody who loves [her]”? I don’t think so.

She even dances with DISEMBODIED SHOES! If that isn’t the OPPOSITE of somebody, I don’t know what is.

But the end is the saddest part. She finally decides to run across the street to the Euro club where there might be somebody who loves her. But then we get one more still shot of mopey Whitney leaning on the doorjamb back at the venue, once more fame’s black and white prisoner. How can she get back to all those colors?

“Why do you work it?” Love in this Club by Usher featuring Young Jeezy

Part 1 of a series where we over-analyze pop music videos.

Envelopes are being pushed all over the music video world, not just in Erykah Badu’s recent Window Seat video. Usher declared his society-challenging intentions in the disarmingly complex short film from 2008 (I guess we could call music videos that?) “Love in This Club” by Usher featuring Young Jeezy even has a Matrix (2): Reloaded quality to it in its flashy yellow-gold-on-blackness lighting, like the scene from that uneven follow-up to 1999’s genre-breaking The Matrix where the multiethnic survivors of the Zion settlement sensually rave together in a momentary break from fighting a bleak galaxy dominated by computer-monsters.

“I want to make love in the club” croons Usher – then, what could be a disembodied bouncer/security chorus interrupts “Heyy…” as if to put to kibosh on the love-in-club-making unfolding on top of the precious-gem-studded, deep pile plush booth-beat.

This club is weird – Keri Hilson keeps slinking out of nowhere and draping herself sexily on Usher’s perplexed-expression-ed belting hunk, to which he reacts the way that Usher knows how to react – and things and people keep disappearing – while some of hip-hop’s superstars show up sunglass-ed and astounded for just a moment to be handed a length of diamonds (Blood diamonds? We wonder when Kanye West leans on the bar and plays melancholy air guitar) while Young Jeezy raps about setting us free “mentally, physically, spiritually, emotionally” over impossibly persistent horns – or is it just synth? – and perhaps this club is the manifestation of fame – confusing, making you follow urges that might not end in the best outcomes – unless you’re URsher or one of the other male stars featured, who MAYBE could make Love in a Club consequence-lessly, but more likely it could end up in the tabloids or on the Gawker mini-article feed:

“Usher fined $750,500 for ‘lewd behavior’ after love-making incident in Las Vegas club.” “Mel Gibson recorded ranting at parking lot attendant about taxes in Aramaic.” “Kim Kardashian’s Disasterous Vanity Fair Photo Shoot.” “VIDEO: LeBron James humiliated in melodic freestyle by Krayzie Bone of Cleveland’s Bone-Thugs-N-Harmony in Miami Jamba Juice.”

But maybe not, perhaps discretion is assured, part of the “deal-with-the-diamonds/divas” these rappers have seemed to have made.

Nevertheless, nothing prepares us for the end. After chasing Ms. Hilson around the club which alternately fills and empties with fellow aspiring love-makers, Usher, almost out of breath from a dope dance number heads shoulder-first into a door and is suddenly in the ruins of a windblown bluish-gray dystopia – there is no club, no Kerri, no Cristal, no icy strings of diamonds, no swirling yellow lights, no superstars (maybe there never really were any) and all you have left is your head full of a beat that thankfully still bumped through your head like a speeding dune buggy in a nearer-future, more feasible Mad Max scenario.

Neo Soul Battles the Robots

You, you built a wall

A 20 foot wall

So I couldn’t see

But if I get off my knees

I might recall

I’m 20 feet tall

– Erykah Badu “20 Feet Tall”, New Amerykah Part 2: Return of the Ankh

Erykah Badu's controversal "Window Seat" video

Yes, Erykah Badu will walk through Daley Plaza in Dallas to the spot where JFK was shot, singing her floaty I-need-space anthem “Window Seat,” while disrobing in a one-take video inspired by Matt and Kim’s “Lesson Learned” video where the Brooklyn duo strips down to their pre-civilization birthday suits in the center of Times Square, looking around like stunned members a “lost tribe” from the Amazon at the neon blinkery, only to get [SPOILER ALERTS] beaten by NYPD and then smushed by a bus.  Badu looks deliberate and driven as she sheds article after article of clothing and glances skyward from time to time. Tattooed on her back: EVOLVING.

As if maybe we have to be willing to walk around nude – or, preliminarily, choose the side of the people who think people have a right to walk around nude, and at least understand why they would want to – at some point in the coming future as things progress in whatever direction they seem to be going.  Because if we remembered that we were 20 feet tall, we wouldn’t worry over walking around nude – Avatar showed me that. Now.

After Badu is naked, she gets shot in the head and blue blood leaks out spelling GROUPTHINK – the same stuff that didn’t get the Kennedy assassination investigated. Badu stated that the video is intended to jump-start a conversation on Groupthink.

What is Groupthink? It’s what keeps us moving in a human herd with the choices we make every day. It’s the control; and the control of the control. Thumb-scanning to clock in for a job. Phone bits hanging out our ears and uncomfortable iPod earphones digging in. Conditioned automatic behaviors and lack of imagination, maybe. Official story-swallowing. Stiff necked-ness. Flouridated, manipulated.

Well, on Erykah Badu’s new album, New Amerykah Pt 2: Return of the Ankh, the funked-out self-defense diva is back to deliver a set of thoughtful grooves designed to chip away at your groupthinking cap, at least it seems to me.

Neo Soul, termed in a splashing of 1990s media  is really just thinking – that is, non commercial R&B (Erykah even coos/woos the greenbacks, increasingly robotically, in “Turn Me Away (Get Munny),” a poppy song covering yes, Junior Mafia).

Like Maxwell coming back last summer with a fade, astral-projecting (in the video for “Pretty Wings”) wearing charcoal slacks, on this dispatch, Erykah is out of the skin as well (not just her clothes).

On the album cover, the hazel eyes/hypnotizing Ms. Badu personage that we think we know is rendered as a smooth but bolted-together robot with mysterious “prehistoric” or is that Biblical / Sophia Stewart’s Third Eye scenarios growing out of her retractable-roof metal dome…

(Despite my media-buying preferences, formerly stated, I downloaded the album from iTunes.  It definitely is nice to see the cover art enlarged on the screen.  Almost as good as seeing it on a record album cover.  Anyway.)

New Amerykah Pt 2: Return of the Ankh features ear-tweaking analog tweets,  mattress-creak samples and heart-on-sleeve-wearing.  As well as Lil’ Wayne – on a song called “Jump Up in the Air and Stay There,” he and Erykah get spiritual in one breath and and get on “silly shit” with the next.

Even broken down is the concept that there are only two emotions: fear and love.  Like the updated Howard Beale speech from Network on her previous album, New Amerykah: Fourth World War, she still seems mad as hell and not really about to take it anymore, basically, just methodically and prodding warbling baseline-wise, taking us through sonic caves featuring the darker sides of human/human and human/robot relationships but bear with the woman. The album is almost like watching her construct a metaphysical defense shield and strategize for what comes next, with an option to dance.  Yes, the return.

Outburst, Jr.: Kanye West

Kanye West steals Taylor Swift's spotlight, 2009 MTV Video Music Awards

by Lauren Pabst

On Sunday, at the MTV Video Music Awards, Kanye West interrupted Taylor Swift’s sweet, fluttery, flattered acceptance speech for “Best Female Video of the Year,” boldly proclaiminig that he was happy for Taylor but that Beyoncé had one of the best videos of all time! It seemed like a desperate play for the affections of either Beyoncé, her fans, his own egotistically loved personal opinion or (less likely) aficionados of the work of choreographer Bob Fosse (Beyoncé’s “Put a Ring On It” video dance routine was almost entirely cribbed from Fosse’s 1969 “Mexican Breakfast” combination. The proof is in the YouTube).

He definitely had an unnecessary outburst. But really, who the heck knows what it was all about?

It was RUDE, everyone agrees. An offended Jay Leno even seemed reluctant let Kanye apologize (probably a huge ratings draw) on the premiere episode of his 10pm talk show Monday night. After hearing his seemingly sincere apology, Jay pulled some kind of kindly old principal rank on a stunned Kanye, chastising him, and even asking him what his mother – who passed away a few years ago and Jay had met once – would have thought of the embarrassing, probably drunken, incident.

She probably wouldn’t have liked it, Kanye West agreed, appearing flabbergasted as much as ashamed.

[I had a crazy flash that maybe Jay Leno was trying to demonstrate to Bill Cosby and Barack Obama how he thought black boys should be disciplined by their absent male role models that we hear so much about. But Kanye West is a grown man over 30!]

Kanye West was being a pop star boy behaving badly. Wait, that sounds familiar.

When Justin Timberlake snatched off the clothes of Janet Jackson at Superbowl XXXVIII in 2004, it was Janet who apologized in the immediate aftermath. It was a “wardrobe malfunction” Janet claimed, a move that went wrong. Timberlake – who had played the very active role of “ripper of bustiers” within the incident – kept mum, that is, until CBS threatened to ban him and Janet from performing at the Grammys unless they made public apologies to the network and copped to the fact that the whole thing was not a mistake. Timberlake acquiesced but Janet refused and was barred from the ceremony.

In context, Kanye’s outburst – though rude to Taylor Swift – was a pretty Chicagoland, John Hughes-style tortured insider/outsider making a move for the pretty girl by interrupting the prom queen, utterly corny maneuver. Kanye West seems to think that the MTV Network is the school administration and he is the Judd Nelson character pumping a fist. (But Kanye, take it from this fellow cheesy Midwesterner and onetime 80’s aficionado, the 80’s are way over.)

In the past few years, Kanye has made a habit of making a spectacle of himself at awards shows, showing bad sportsmanship and egotism. His lyrics have turned towards the sexualized and shallow (“She love my big, (hahaha), Ego” – on his latest collabo with, hm, Beyoncé). When he does dig deep (like on his brooding, autotune-heavy latest LP “808s and Heartbreak”), it’s about his own emotions and relationships. It seems superstardom has been weird and hard on the goofy kid from Chicago who broke onto the scene by providing infectious beats for Jay-Z then sing-songily rapping on his 2004 debut “The College Dropout” about self-consciousness, materialism, discrimination at the Gap, family reunions, car accidents and Luther Vandross.

Things seemed to take an obnoxious turn after the fascinating events of 2005. In 2005, Kanye had just put out a song about diamonds from Sierra Leone (Where? The kids found out, hopefully, when the song caught on) and spoke out boldly on another live television event.

On an evening at the beginning of hurricane season, they stood side by side in the telethon television studio: Mike Myers, Austin Powers, Wayne’s World himself was somber, talking of needing money for relief efforts in New Orleans. Kanye West seemed stoic and frantic at the same time as he poured out a series of thoughts about the stranded, hungry, hunted poor Black people in New Orleans that he saw on TV that culminated with “George Bush doesn’t care about Black people,” before the live feed was cut.

(He could have gone even farther; George Bush doesn’t seem to really care about many people except maybe other people named George Bush.)

That was probably the last outburst of quality from Mr. West to date. With all that’s around to burst out about, last weekend’s display from Kanye was boring at best, cringe worthy at worst.

But it got the news cycle churning with fresh gristle; the info-tainment and enter-mation shows chewed on this eagerly like cud for 24 hours until the sad death of “wrong-side-of-the-tracks” love affair movie icon Patrick Swayze.

The liberating, juvenile, giddy admissions of confusion that have made about ½ of his songs so loveable and interesting now seems muddled by the muck of fame. In a business that rewards egoism, it’s not hard to see why Kanye has embraced this aspect of himself that he has seemed to wrestle with on earlier tracks.

It’s not too late for Kanye (still young, though not young enough to be scolded so by Jay Leno).

Michael Jackson: The Man in Our Mirror

Michael Jackson and the Sphinx

Huh.

by Lauren Pabst, Contextual Healing

The only reason I can talk about Michael Jackson is because he’s a freak. His face is all cut up. But just remember, when you look at that thing he calls his face, that he did that for you somehow. Somehow he thought you might – maybe it would help, maybe people might like me more if I turn myself into a white, ghoulish-like creature.

– Dave Chappelle, For What It’s Worth (2004)

Like many others, I was surprised and saddened by the death of Michael Jackson.

I just took for granted that Michael Jackson would always be around – an uncomfortable work in progress, a strange and wonderful phenomenon.

I feel sad that now when I think of Michael Jackson, it will be in the past tense. I felt a similar sadness with other music greats, but in this case there’s also an upsetting sense of:

This is how the story ends.

Thanks to the harsh, immediate spotlight of our celebrity worshiping culture, though I never even laid eyes on the actual MJ at so much as a CD signing event, I – like most of us – was intimately aware of the details of his extraordinary, turbulent life.  Not just aware of the infectious grooves that have become part of our cultural sense memory and cause the blood to pump along with the bass line of “Billie Jean.” Not just aware of his unprecedented success in album sales and music videos, and his wild talent for singing, songwriting and dancing, but aware of the abusive childhood, the reported self-loathing, the clandestine surgeries, the skin bleaching, the claims of vitiligo, the pet chimp and the hyperbaric chamber, the sad attempts to create a fantasy childhood he never had, the allegations of child molestation, the surgical masks, the collapsed nose, the scarf-draped children and dangled baby of mysterious origins.

I realize that part of me was hoping for a comeback – not like the current one that was projected to make gobs of money performing for rich Europeans – but a grand triumph of self-awareness (a decision to “make that change” as he croons in the song “Man in the Mirror”). I half-hoped in the back of my mind that maybe the years ahead would see a calm, rotund, septuagenarian Michael perched on a stool, wearing a sport jacket, his face – if not transformed into the round cocoa original, at least long-since un-meddled with –  singing “We are the World” with Alicia Keys at the 2020 Grammys; releasing a book of interviews conducted by Cornell West in which he examines the troubled cauldron of influences – societal and personal – in which his once-troubled lifestyle was forged. Unlikely, I know. Maybe this would have been possible in a parallel universe. But not here. Not anymore.

And I realize that with this fantasy trajectory, I’m basically wishing that Michael Jackson grew up to be someone other than who he was. It is to wish that he had a less traumatic life, that the little kid with the devastating soulful voice singing and dancing alongside his older brothers wouldn’t have grown into an adult so clearly warped by an entire life under a media microscope.

In a thoughtful article in the New York Daily News on June 26th, 2009 about Jackson’s musical legacy, Jim Farber writes:

“Jackson’s work with his brothers did more than score bullseye’s on the charts. Their relationship gave the mass media a model of a cohesive African-American family operating in joy and harmony at a time when race raged as a dividing point in the country. From that point on, Michael Jackson’s story would be as much about symbolism as talent.”

Symbolism indeed. If in those early years, young Michael – with his youthful charisma, energetic voice and wide, easy smiles – represented a new possibility for the generation coming of age during the Civil Rights movement, then we must also examine where he ended up in terms of symbolism. The problem is that according to some, Michael never came of age. He devoted millions to indulging childlike whims that he had been denied as a famous kid and befriended other current and former child stars. In his 2003 sexual abuse trial, Dr. Stan Katz testified that Jackson did not fit the profile of a pedophile – he had emotionally regressed to being a 10 year-old boy.

In the white-hot height of his career following the 1982 release of the album Thriller, produced with Quincy Jones, the 20-something Michael Jackson seemed to have it all. His epic music videos smashed the color line of MTV and according to Farber, jump-started the pop music frenzy that characterized the 80’s.

If we follow the MJ-as-symbol theory, then when it comes to race relations, the 80’s were the decade of everything being – or seeming, at least pop-culturally – okay. Michael Jackson was the most successful recording artist since Elvis. Equality! On TV, Dr. Huxtable and his family presented a portrait of upper-middle class black contentment. Equality! But as the 80’s wore on, crack swept the streets of black neighborhoods across the U.S. and rates of black and Latino incarceration began skyrocketing. With the closing of factories and deportation of high-paying unskilled jobs, generations were born into what would become decades-long unemployment. And it seemed that that amazingly contradictory happiness of fame took its toll on the emotionally fragile, painfully shy superstar Michael as he became more reclusive and altered his famed appearance more and more.

Was the troubled, surgically altered adult Michael Jackson a sad product of post-Civil Rights era decades of pretending that everything was fine?

Symbolism alert: he made millions to star in Pepsi commercials and was severely burned.

Last night saw the expected wall-to-wall news coverage of the death of Michael Jackson. Even now, TV anchors and “entertainment reporters” are probably readying a days-long audio/video dirge for the benefit of their own ratings. In other words, the pendulum has swung the other way: as with the obscene media treatment of the death of Anna Nicole Smith, it seems that the more mocked and reviled the celebrity was in life, the more embarrassingly obsessed the mainstream media becomes with their untimely passing.

Almost like we had guilty consciences or something.

There are still those who have rejected Michael Jackson completely because of the allegations of child molestation that we brought forward in 1993 and again in 2003. Though Jackson was found not guilty of the most recent charges, many take the fact that he settled out of court with the family from the ’93 suit (in which the plaintiff was the child of a former friend) as proof of guilt. But as in most celebrity trials, it is often the case that myth outstrips fact in the public imagination. In other words: many who pass judgment don’t know for sure what happened in either case or even the details of what happened in the trial. The mere accusation of child molestation is often enough to destroy a reputation.

But when it comes to celebrities, everyone feels entitled to an opinion. That’s the way it goes in our culture: celebrity bashing is the corrosive flip side to the gilded coin of celebrity worship. No matter how much your life sucks, you can vent your frustrations at someone richer, more beautiful and crazier than you.

But even in the world of celebrity, double standards abound. In his 1999 song “Mr. Nigga,” recording artist and social critic Mos Def weighs in:

You can laugh and criticize Michael Jackson if you wanna
Woody Allen, molested and married his step-daughter
Same press kickin dirt on Michael’s name
Show Woody and Soon-Yi at the playoff game, holdin hands
Sit back and just bug, think about that
Would he get that type of dap if his name was Woody Black?

An interesting and valid point. Woody Allen (whose most recent film “Whatever Works” opened just a few weeks ago) and his public image have been basically unscathed by his admitted behavior towards his current wife, who was a minor at the time of their initial “involvement.” And what’s more, it seems that the license to bash a famous person increases exponentially when the person’s appearance does not conform to the ideals or even norms of society.

Which brings up an uncomfortable question. Namely, where does the whole of American culture fall on the responsibility spectrum for the  life of Michael Jackson – a life with as many ups and downs as a rollercoaster at the Neverland Ranch? Of course, though we are all products of our environment, personal choice and the autonomy of the individual is a large factor in the equation of who we all become. But thanks to the work of father Joe Jackson, an ambitious session musician from Gary, Indiana, Michael Jackson – from the tender age of 5 – was specifically and mercilessly groomed to entertain the American public. And he did so – in an unprecedented way.

And now we know exactly how this man’s life has played out.

Along these lines, today I think of the scene from the 1999 film Three Kings. The film, written and directed by David O. Russel (I Heart Huckabees) is set shortly after the end of Operation: Desert Storm and places that conflict in a murky and fascinating context of greed and cluelessness.

In this scene, the Army Reserve Sergent played by Mark Walhberg is kidnapped and tortured by an Iraqi intelligence officer (played by Said Taghmaoui). The topic of conversation turns unexpectedly to the King of Pop:

Tactile Media Lament Part One: I, Pod

Where did you go? The iPod Shuffle

Doing the iPod Shuffle

This week, I went out to buy a CD. I wanted the little booklet, the brittle plastic case and the experience of skinning it from its thin cellophane wrapper. In short – I wanted a tactile media experience. I wanted to go into a store, look around at my fellow shoppers, get to meet – briefly – some people from around who were working there, and see what else is out there on the shelves in the way of music.

I quickly realized that the CD store (the highlight of my high school Saturdays, where during college I stood in line at midnight on Tuesday mornings to be among the first to buy a newly released album) like the video store (where I had worked during high school and college, decked out in khaki and royal blue, “Denzel Washington on a sub? You’re looking for Crimson Tide…”) was teetering on the verge of being bitch-slapped out of existence by something as undignified as a hundred million chewy white plastic cords or a shower of red and white envelopes.

What about people without computers who never stopped buying CDs?

I myself had all but forsaken it in recent years in favor of downloading. I was a senior when Napster hit; on the computers at my high school we downloaded jam after jam, experiencing unheard-of instant gratification. We would graduate that year, 2001, into a brave new world, and our “let-me-get-that-one-song” habit grew. With access to high speed internet at college, we soon got them all. Every ditty in our head. We could get Jon Secada’s “Just Another Day” without dropping $15 on his self-titled debut album. Or something.

Since 2007, New York City has seen the demise of the Kim’s Video (113th Street location), Harlem institution the Record Shack, all branches of Tower Records and recently all of the Circuit Cities. The massive, contradictory Virgin sign still slinks redly on and off over the spreading neon stain of Times Square, but the store underneath is a dark, empty shell. The Virgin Megastore in Union Square has announced that it will shutter May 31st.

I visited the now unplugged Circuit City on 80th & Broadway when it was in the process of being picked over of its merchandise by shrewd bargain hunters, like apparently myself. The shelves were for sale too, and hanging off the walls in some places. Merchandise was herded into small sections of the showroom. I picked up $4 CDs by the stack and felt a weird guilt. There were some I wanted, and would have paid full price for at one time. It was a whole record – like about 15 songs – by musicians I really liked. Their precious little plastic packages full of grooves and heart were being liquidated.

Though national chains like Circuit City are owned by mil- and billionaires, the closure of their outlets has still meant the loss of many local jobs.

But the loss of the Record Shack, forced out of business by the cutthroat gentrification of 125th Street is perhaps the saddest story of the download revolution. Sikulu Shange came from South Africa in the 1960s and opened up the Record Shack to serve the music needs of the Harlem community. This winter, after more than 30 years, Mr. Shange lost his lease in the storefront across from the Apollo Theater. He was not only evicted but saw his entire inventory confiscated by the landlord.

In the case of the Record Shack and Mr. Shange, multiple forces of the current market acted against them. But the winds of change are blowing: the CD store is practically over.

In the past 25 years, we have cycled through four fully distinct dominant music media platforms. There was first the record album, the cassette, the CD and now the ghostly MP3. Music went from analog to digital, then finally non-tactile. Record albums of a size that did justice to the works of art that graced the cover gave way to less dignified playing card-sized plastic cartridges. A generation simply squinted and moved on.

Along with these delivery format changes, the way we listen to music has trended towards the personal. With the popularization of the Sony Walkman in the early 1980s, music began its transition into an individual experience, as opposed to mainly a shared one.

Are those white slippery headphones sucking in more than they’re giving?

Let me offer a rough but probably fairly accurate observation. Thirty years ago, the music people heard over the course of the day was mostly in the presence of other people. Today, the music people hear over the course of the day is mostly heard by them alone, through headphones or in a car. The iPod and other MP3 players have not only made music more individualistic, they have made it more accessible and prevalent. We’re musically saturated.

Before downloading became dominant, I used to scramble to tape record songs off the radio. Hearing a favorite song was – in that case – thrilling and special; my chance. The technology of cassette tapes made possible this serendipitous music trapping; as free as downloading, but more exciting. When I was lucky enough to capture a song from the beginning to the end, it felt like a sign that the forces of the universe were aligning in my favor.

Do you have an MP3 player? Do you sometimes experience premature song fatigue? With thousands of songs at our fingertips, we sometimes become bored and restless halfway through even a favorite song and itch to see what is next. This is not to say that MP3-ers do not love music – indeed, it is the ardent music lovers that have cleaved most readily to the Pod and similar devices. “My own soundtrack? To this crazy life? I think so.”

But are those white slippery headphones sucking out more than they’re giving?

Apple’s advertising campaign around the iPod (launched in October of 2001) was jazzily original… and cryptic. The ads depicted a colorful background with a black silhouette of a slim, hip person, grooving to a gummy white iPod lodged around their ear area. Ostensibly going for funky, distinctive and accessible, this image of a blacked out (missing?) person plugged into a sharply visible iPod – came to haunt every bus shelter and magazine page over the past decade. This hip person is plugged into the iPod. But they’re GONE. Where did they go?

I got to thinking about pods. Two peas in a pod, pod people… Why were these things called iPods, anyway? What if, like the Isaac Asimov book and later the Will Smith/Steven Spielberg movie I, Robot, the “I” in iPod didn’t stand for internet (or whatever), but meant actually “I, Pod.” Interestingly, you could get a glimpse into a person’s life by shuffling through their iPod – so the colorful little robots could actually be seen as a repositories of a person’s musical and cultural tastes. And who’s to say how much other information they can store (at the risk of sounding paranoid, they could even undertake mini surveillance missions). After all, they can now squeeze 1,000 songs – (that’s the 12 tracks of Jon Secada 83 times over) into something the size of a Starburst.

But as a consumer society, the United States has pretty much made the switch to non-tactile music media. But this just means a critical mass of people have done so – not everybody. What about those people who never stopped buying CDs? The people without access to computers or the internet? They are being rapidly left behind as their tactile daily newspapers struggle to keep their non-digital presses rolling, as their neighborhood video rental stores peter out of existence. They’re like rabbit ear TV watchers, cajoled by friendly but forceful commercials announcing the switch to DTV in June. After all, we already slowed up their plans – the original switch was in February – because not enough of us got the converter boxes.

Maybe it’s just me, but I detect a hint of exasperation on the part of the local TV elite embedded in the helpful announcements they’ve been commissioned for:

Bubbly local TV personality: “Digital TV is coming June 12th! If you have cable or satellite, you’re ALL SET.

BUT: If you watch TV using rabbit ears, you’ll need a Digital Converter Box. Otherwise, your TV will go BLACK on the afternoon of June 12th.”

Under her breath: “Get it together, morons.”

We’ll see if the luddite lethargy of analog TV watchers will again cause this grand transition to stick in the mud, hampering the condensation of the TV signal and eventual sale of the saved airwave space to the private wireless companies.

In the meantime, I suggest you investigate for yourself how far the CD store meltdown has progressed in your area. Go out and buy a CD, preferably from a local store. Understand what we will soon be missing for the siren song of the download. Feel the woosh of the door, as you enter a space dedicated to the distribution of music. Make conversation – or at least eye contact – with your fellow shoppers, and the folks behind the counter. Buy a whole CD – risk the presence of dud tracks. They’re probably having a sale, anyway.