Saturday, August 19, 2006

Rant: This is a self-indulgent way to ruin a perfectly good book title

a.k.a. Review: 'iPod Therefore I Am', by Dylan Jones. Adapted from another piece of my writing.

Dylan Jones is the editor of GQ, a gentlemen's magazine in the UK. Apparently he was also a lonely teenager who went on to art school and found his way in life. He is also a dyed-in-the-wool musophile, though his tastes (apart from the odd surprisingly juvenile liking for Justin Timberlake or Kelis) are fairly mainstream and pedestrian for a man his age.

Dylan Jones has also fairly recently published a book called 'iPod Therefore I Am: A Personal Journey Through Music'. It's a shame that he got to the title first because there's a guy called Markus Giesler who wanted to use it for some real research -- and now can't because this British plonker got to it first and used it for a book that isn't even really about the iPod.

You know, I might not have had such a problem with this bok if it hadn't claimed to be about the iPod. I might even have found it mildly entertaining, except that Jones has extremely average taste in music which he thinks is progressive. I might even have been able to cope with it if it were a true personal journey through music. Sadly, it can't even be said that it is really about music.

What this book is really about, is Dylan Jones. How he had a stutter and was a bit of a sad case at school, and how he has spent every waking moment since then trying to prove to himself and the world that is it okay, he really is cool. Because, you know, he was one of the first 5% to equate fashion with music. And he nearly got beaten up by Sid Vicious once. And he saw some dodgy things in dodgy bars, and Bryan Ferry remembers him. And he is a big, successful man, and the editor of GQ, and he's met loads of famous people and he goes loads of exotic places for holidays.

Dylan Jones is in fact a self-absorbed bore. This book, though it is supposed to be personal, contains more detail about who was doing what to whom in various nightclubs than it does about his wife. His children appear slightly more often, but only as a showcase for what good musical taste he has instilled in them (and, I suspect, they in him). His parents feature slightly more as the evildoers who in fact drove him to music. And the rest of the book, though it may contain brief allusions to the iPod, is a litany of Jones' great war stories and favourite music (with war stories as to why it is his favourite). His favourites include Roxy Music, David Bowie, Pink Floyd, Coldplay, Blur, Norah Jones, and Justin Timberlake. All except for the Justin Timberlake, probably introduced to him by his small daughters, are fairly predictable for a bloke his age. In fact, not once while reading this book did I see any mention of any group that had done anything truly unusual in the past ten or even twenty years.

References to the iPod include:
  • Hearing about Jones' own anal-retentiveness in filling the thing, including some quibbling over a miniscule amount of sound quality and file formats;
  • Jones' arrogance in filling the iPods of others with his average, boring music;
  • Jones subjecting friends of his to his playlists on vacation;
  • Jones spending hours locked away from his family filling his iPod;
  • Jones being too silly to use the internet to get his track names for him;
  • Jones deciding his iPod was male;
  • Jones berating people for buying smaller iPods than his;
  • and war stories about when he saw the iPod and how he went to visit Apple and what wonderful people he knows who are hooked in to Apple.
In short, this book is Jones being an iPod bore the way he is a music bore. In fact, the only relevant points Jones makes about the iPod (and these points have already been made by real researchers) are:
  • that you can get rid of songs you don't like off an album,
  • you can make playlists,
  • and the shuffle juxtaposes really music in an unusual way.
This book held so much potential and ended up being disappointing in much the same way as a Pink Floyd song usually is -- lots of sound effects, boring, emotionless droning in the background, and no real innovation or substance, despite the promise of it being there by reputation.

In summary:
  • Jones is a pratt with boring taste in music
  • Jones thinks he's great because he saw a lot of things and got stabbed once
  • This is a waste of a good title
  • This book is not about the iPod -- don't be fooled.

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