44.8 F

Davis, California

Sunday, April 14, 2024

Column: JUSTIN T. HO

Somewhere in an office in Cupertino, Apple marketing strategists designed the iPod, a creation that would transform the music industry seemingly forever. Eight years and six iPod generations later, Apple still dominates the MP3 player market.

But often forgotten are the stringy companions to the iPod – the white earbuds that come with every iPod purchase. Those black and pink/red/orange commercials wouldn’t be the same without the easily distinguishable cords running from the dancing silhouette’s ears to invisible pocket. And from the birth of the iPod to the present, ear buds are a ubiquitous cultural movement.

But enough fluff – earbuds have become so ubiquitous that they border on the edge of cult status. At first, they seemed neat – music could be brought everywhere and people didn’t need clumsy over-the-head headphones anymore. But with the earbud craze came a multitude of behaviors that, at least on campus, are a little peculiar.

The commuter-connoisseur

These musical devotees are easily distinguishable – they actually wear their earbuds while they’re biking through campus. Don’t let the blank looks and random swerves fool you; these earbud enthusiasts – or buddists – actually do have enough motor control to ride a bike and thumb through their music library at the same time. Assuming they’re actually listening to their iPods, buddists love music so much that Davis intersections, beach cruiser crashes and bike cop officer Ralph Nuño aren’t enough to keep them away from their precious earbuds and beloved tunes.

These people enjoy (read: get off on) proclaiming that they “love music” – a valid assertion for people that seriously can’t depart from their iPod for a five minute bike ride. Sure, such a statement is not very specific, but that’s fine – these people presumably also “listen to everything,” as any true music enthusiast would. Their most-played lists likely include such diverse acts as The Beatles and Modest Mouse.

The current law requires that all buddists wear only one headphone while riding, which typically only happens after a brief scolding from our bicycle police force. But since music doesn’t sound any different coming through one ear than both to the average buddist, that’s just fine.

The in-class

As the morning jaunt comes to a close, buddists lock their Wal-Mart rides and walk into class, headphones still on. To avoid awkwardness and remain disconnected from reality, they don’t hide the bud until the moment the professor starts talking, if at all. It’s indeterminate whether they’re listening to music or not at this point, but since earbuds double as an apathetic fashion statement, who cares?

Some of these full-time listeners have the uncanny ability to listen to music during lecture and take notes at the same time.

Apathetic turns into ironic as the song playing shifts to MGMT. You know, real underground stuff.

The bus ride

Reluctant and recently damp waits at the bus stop go by faster by removing oneself from the outside world via budding. With earbuds in, you can ignore the fidgeting kid next to you or the swine flu that someone just sneezed on your shoulder.

Enjoy the swine flu.

The audiophile

It’s unfortunate that all of us can’t be music experts. Why? Because not all of us own $300 Bose headphones. Sure – these massive pieces of studio equipment aren’t earbuds, but as these Bose-owning audiophiles know, sometimes you have to pay a price for pleasure. Think of it as high-quality bud.

The best thing about these audiophiles is that their headphones make 128 kbps hip-hop tracks downloaded off of Limewire sound great. Songs don’t need correct titles and proper capitalization to sound good, and the audiophile knows it.

It’s almost as if the buddists listening to their life soundtracks through their buds. We’re all in their movie, apparently.

JUSTIN T. HO owns Sennheiser earbuds, Sennheiser over-the-head headphones and KOSS studio headphones, which are way better than Bose. Agree with him at arts@theaggie.org.


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