Thursday, July 12, 2007

Why the iPod is the Greatest Gadget Ever

You know a company is doing the right thing when no less than eight people have asked me if I'm getting an iPhone. Short answer: No. Medium answer: No, not unless they rip out the "phone" part. Longer answer: No, because I've never liked talking on the phone, and cell phones make the experience just that much worse. "What? No, you go... I said... OK, you go first. Look, I really need to run, because it looks... What? Are you still there? Hello! I think I lost you. That means I'm talking to myself right now. Bye!" The only reason people are so fired up about the iPhone is because of the wild success of the iPod.

Here's what I love about my iPod:

Audiobooks

This summer I've listened to David Copperfield, a WWII thriller by Scott Turow, a collection of great French and Russian short stories, and I'm part of the way through The Brothers Karamazov, which used to be my favorite novel before David Copperfield -- all while riding my bike. Books and cycling are my peanut butter and chocolate, and iPod is my Reese's.

Bonus use: When my mind is churning at night, I play 1776 by David McCullough, which distracts me, mesmerizes me, and puts me asleep. I've listened to the first few chapters more than a dozen times, and all I remember is that some of the soldiers in George Washington's outfit don't have shoes.

Music

Playlists and downloads are my pride and joy et cetera.

Movies

My dentist made fun of me for watching a movie on my iPod. "What is that, a 2-inch screen? And I thought a 13-inch television was too small!" I told the dental dimwit that if you hold the 13-inch television a few inches from your face, it's huge. Then I let him watch a few seconds of The Godfather, Part II. "Hey, that doesn't look half bad!" Then all of a sudden he's making plans to buy his kids iPods for their trip to Hawaii. I didn't even tell him about the accessories you can buy to play your iPod on a larger screen. Television shows are especially good to watch. May I recommend The Wire?

Podcasts

This is a my newest delight. I love the New Yorker podcast in which they have an author read a New Yorker short story and chat about it afterwards. Minette also turned me on to This American Life. In the most recent version, they highlighted a program called Radio Lab, which I'd never heard of. In this particular Radio Lab segment, they speculate on where morality is derived. The hosts describe an experiment in which a person listens to two scenarios. In the first scenario, five men are standing with their backs to an oncoming train; the person can save the five people by pulling a lever, which switches the train to a different track that has only one person on it (no, Mormons, it's not the lever switcher's only son). The second scenario is identical, only the person has to physically push a person off a ledge to save the five people. An overwhelming majority of people say Yes to the first scenario and No to the second. Then the scientists took pictures of the people's brains at the moment of decision, and learned that the two scenarios cause different parts of the brain to become active. Then they discuss the physical evidence that moral decisions are made by deciding between warring factions in the brain. It's interesting and entertaining. Check it out.

Got any suggestions for good podcasts?