I recently had my ipod stolen at some dreary Soho gaybar. In truth, it was getting old. I bought it 3 or so years back following the introduction of video capabilities (which I used as a tax write off, being a student of video art, and all). Blemished with more than a few traces of battery, the gadget was additionally beginning to show internal signs of fatigue. When playing 'Sensitized' off Kylie Minogue's X album, for instance, Bjork's face peered from the cover representation instead of Kylie's; instead of Saint Etienne's Boxette cover art, I was treated to the Future Bible Heroes' Memories of Love. Apart from this the trusty little player was in near-top form.
I bemoaned its girth, having recently moved to London and counting regular tube rides on my day-to-day. The now-bulky device was too large to slip into any pants' pocket. I cursed it at the time but was surprised by the ways in which I miss it now.
[The only image I have of my dear ipod, bottom right-hand corner]
We are a commodity culture through and through, and no matter how much Baudrillard I can consume, the pangs and effects of this comsumptive drive cannot be displaced. Apart from missing my daily soundtrack (and embarrassed by my penchant for strolling about, unconsciously mumbling, quietly orating my own), I began to consider the memory data that was lost in this theft. 'How many times did I listen to X?' I caught myself wondering. An ipod keeps track of play count. I can joke that I've played the album 800 times, but is it really 37 or 62? These bits of info, unimportant as they seem, appeal to my analytic practice -- this diminutive machinery was a form of bibliography [Kylie cited 53 times], now lost. And what of the innumerable playlists? The litany of tracks carefully assembled for listening over the past three years erased in a single, selfish act.
Of course, what is perhaps more pertinent the question is, 'How could I forge such a sensitive attachment to plastic bits of gadgetry in the first place?' What privileges this machine? Well, it is day to day. And to this extent, it could acquire religious purportions. In my prior life, commuting by car in Los Angeles, this little guy (who, I should mentioned, bore the name Gratuitous in my itunes) was my daily conduit to joissance via Pet Shop Boys, Sally Shapiro, Grace Jones, and, of course, Kylie Mingoue. Losing him is a bit like those scenes in ghost films when the kooky medium suddenly lowers her hands and loses that glazed look in her eyes. She's no longer tapped into that disembodied ether, she's no longer special. Just a person. She loses definition.
I'm over it. Since the thing is ultimately a toy, its replacement is in that corporeal ether right now, cradled in the caring arms of a FedEx worker. Poised for me to bring it life. But the sensations of loss that swam through my mind when I was distanced from this thing were really strange, unexpected. The importance we bestow onto our objects is a key and yet entirely perplexing fact of our contemporary life. Goodbye Gratuitous. I hope that, where ever you are, whatever you're playing, your life is just as sweet. And whoever you happen to be podding, may he love Kylie.
Oh, silly me, it was a Soho gaybar...