Lessons I Learned From Stealing White People’s iPods
BYT at large | Feb 28, 2013 | 11:30AM |

by Abbas A.

Podcasts are just white people talking. I said this to the last drunkship of white people I encountered. They stared at me with their white people eyes, with looks that said, “I can’t believe this brown person, who we somehow let into this country, doesn’t listen to NPR.”

NPR exists as news for people who pretend to care about the world. The hosts speak slowly, enunciate their vowels properly, as if their cadence reveals how seriously they take the world. The truth is that NPR is water-cooler talk for pseudo-intellectuals.

It’s also true that minorities are not allowed to do podcasts (I don’t consider Neil Degrasse Tyson or Jad Abumrad minorities in the traditional sense). Therefore, as a minority, I’m not allowed to listen to these podcasts.

I can’t tell you how many conversations I’ve had to interrupt with anecdotes about my own personal life that were just discussions about the latest episode of This American Life or Radiolab.

Podcasts seem to me to be the finishing school for the half-educated class of college graduates, who never really learned anything in college other than to listen passively. They have Swiss-cheese sized gaps in their knowledge which they hope podcasts will help them fill. The detail and focus on the obscure these programs emphasize illustrate the same lecture effect, with a premium placed on easy, palatable understanding that this class of people experienced in college and therefore, the effect is both nostalgic and satisfying.

That isn’t to say I’m not one of those half-educated mongoloids who didn’t really learn anything in college. I’ve yet to join this group of people, even though I have all the credentials (liberal arts degrees, interest in wide variety of subjects, self-perception as an intellectual) because of one reason. I’ve never updated my iPod.

I got my iPod after my last stint in anger management. I was in anger management because I told my mother to fuck off while I was playing video games. She walked into my bedroom, abruptly, and also abruptly, asked, “What are you going to do with your life?” I calmly replied that I was going to finish this really important Career Mode match in FIFA 10 between a Leeds United team I brought up from the lower divisions, and a very good Chelsea team. When she heard this, she attempted to block my view of the TV screen. “Mom….mom…stahp!” I yelled. She then tried to turn off the TV, but she couldn’t find the power button, because she is, like all mothers, technologically illiterate. “Mom,” I said, “Fuck off.”

And with that, I ended up in anger management, as my mother told her psychiatrist friend who immediately placed me in the class. There was another lovely therapist who led the class, and who I would gawk at during the boring parts of the session, namely the parts about other people. In that first meeting, we had to go around the room, introduce ourselves, and tell the group why we were in anger management. Everyone went around and named their reasons, usually involving a spouse threatening to leave, a job being lost, a child being estranged. Finally, it was my turn. I looked at the therapist, and then everyone else, and said, “I’m 23, and my parents still hide candy and soda from me.” By the time I had uttered the sentence I was panting.

Obviously, everyone was alarmed at the depth of my anger. My love for grief foods is exceeded only by my love for mindless soccer video games. When I went home, I told my mother that I was embarrassed, that everyone there had real problems and that I didn’t even have anger issues. “Everything in my life involves coke and candy. I don’t want to go back.”

But she made me go back, session after session, where I had to reveal even more embarrassing moments about my “anger,” most of which involved cursing at the television at random sports teams, bemoaning their existence on this earth, and throwing throw pillows against the wall after a particularly hard loss. My sister convinced my mother that this sacrifice of completing my anger management course deserved a reward, which was a brand new iPod touch.

Once I got my iPod, I put 30 or so gigs of my favorite music, which included a sundry collection of ’90s cock rock which I would croon to myself while lounging around naked in my house, ’70s progressive rock, namely King Crimson and Rush, who I often jammed out to, also naked, playing naked bass in front of my bathroom mirror, pretending I was in an arena of some type, and Radiohead.

Thus, you could say I’m out of touch. When I’m driving somewhere with a “friend” they are always alarmed at how out of touch I am. They say, “Man, you are out of touch,” as I try to drive and change the song on the iPod at the same time.

“Don’t you have a podcast on here?” they ask, in their best podcast voice.

Obviously the need to update my iPod became a pressing one. I decided I would try to look at other people’s iPods to see what people listened to. I spent all of last Wednesday riding the D.C. Metro, looking for lost iPods, or borrowing them from people when they looked like they were done with them. This latter option involved a lot of running away, but I successfully got four iPods.

The first iPod featured mostly dance music. I think. I’m not sure what dance music is. It had a beat. And there was a girl singing. And I thought she had a lisp. But I couldn’t tell. I was so focused on trying to figure out the lisp that I couldn’t enjoy the music. The band was Grimes. People tell me she is really popular/good. I hope she does indeed have a lisp. The owner of this iPod obviously loved to dance, which I determined by the number of remixes. I also surmised that this person loved to drive fast in their car, from the presence of the Drive soundtrack as well as various tracks of Tiesto. I don’t understand dance music. I mean, just, ‘why?’ — you know?

The second iPod featured mostly what I believe is called punk music. It had this band called Parquet Courts, which was like punk, but almost like talk radio. It was this punk-talk radio hybrid that had me intrigued. I didn’t understand what they were talking about. I mean, is this the future of radio? With the amount of punk bands this person had on their iPod, I was surprised that they even owned an iPod. Perhaps they love the simple 4/4 rhythms, the elementary chord progressions, and the pose of punk as anti-establishment. After all, this was a punk listener in D.C. It could have been a former punk who gave up his dream of having facial hair and playing drums in a band when he got a very cushy IT job some think tank or another. This iPod was clearly their rebellion. Obviously they can afford another one.

The third iPod had what I believe is called rap or hip hop music. Those are genres that exceed my ability to define, since I don’t deal with other minorities. I listened to this person called Kendrick Lamar, with smooth beats and deep lines that reminded me of a young Donnell Jones, except not. I couldn’t listen to anything else, as it was too bassy and deep and that much rhythm makes my hips move in very odd ways.

The fourth iPod was full of podcasts. This person was obviously very white, information conscious, and also a person who travelled a lot. I could sense that this person would eventually commit suicide, as everything about their iPod selections hinted at a chaotic, but rich, inner life, under the veneer of D.C. servitude. They listened to a lot of Planet Money, which I assume is a reference to some scheme of the Illuminati. They also listened to a lot of Stuff You Should Know, which implies that there are things on this world that this person didn’t know, which revealed the depth of their insecurity, which would obviously result in suicide.

I’ve only begun to listen to all these iPods, which amount to nearly 100 gigs of material, which I have only begun to document. I already don’t miss my old iPod, and the sweet vocal melodies of Geddy Lee, though I still have to figure out a way of playing naked air guitar to Radiolab.