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iPodland

by Matthew Arnold Stern

This speech is from the basic Communication and Leadership Program manual project, “Adding Impact to Your Speech.” It was originally given at Money Talks Toastmasters in Irvine on March 27, 2008.

How many of you walk or jog in the morning? Tell me if this has ever happened to you: You are walking or jogging down the street. Someone else is walking towards you on the sidewalk. You approach this person. Perhaps you even smile, wave, or say “hello.” But this person does nothing. He or she keeps staring straight ahead, not acknowledging you at all.

Before you dismiss this person as being rude, look at the person’s chest for these. <Hold up white iPod earbud cables.> If you see these tell-tale white cables, that person isn’t being rude. That person is in iPodland. iPodland is that wonderful, mystical place people wander off to when they’re listening to music on their iPod.

I know some of you have iPods. Perhaps you went to iPodland once or twice already today.

As you know, the iPod isn’t like any other portable music player. True, we Americans have been listening to portable music since the first Sony Walkman came out over 25 years ago. But the iPod is different. First of all, you can store thousands of songs on this tiny device that tucks into your pocket. On my iPod, I have 19 hours worth of music, and I’ve only filled up a fourth of this device’s capacity. You also have these earbuds that your hook on the inside of your ear that fill your head with music and block out annoying sounds – such as other people talking.

With your iPod in your pocket and the earbuds in your ears, you can shut off the rest of the world while indulging yourself with your favorite tunes. And with the exception of these white cables, no one else even knows you’re doing it.

iPods are great for your morning exercise. They’re also great for work. I work in a large open space next to a busy hallway. If I’m doing something repetitive or requires intense concentration, I like to do my work in iPodland. In iPodland, there are no marketing people who like to conduct loud meetings with the door open, and no engineers arguing passionately about refactoring Java code.

Teenagers love iPodland, of course, and will try to visit it every chance they can. The problem is that when our teens go to iPodland, we head off to Crotchety Old Parent Land. “Turn that down! You call that music! In my day, we had real music like the Bee Gees, Peter Frampton, and Donna Summer!”

So, what music takes me away to iPodland?

First, I like to listen to ’70s and ’80s rock from bands like Styx, Kansas, and ZZ Top. I like to pretend that there was a time when I was cool.

I also like to listen to showtunes. Yes, straight men do like them. I enjoy them because I performed in musical theater in high school, and I like the stories they tell.

This leads me to the next reason I like to go to iPodland: When I’m writing a story, I like to listen to music that is associated with the story. If the story is set in the ’80s, I’ll listen to music of that era. I’m getting started on a play that is inspired by an old Kenny Loggins album, so I will listen to that.

If you know me long enough, you can guess the other type of music that is on my iPod. I have an original 1908 recording of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.” With all the time I’m spending at Little League nowadays, of course I have baseball music.

As you can see, iPodland is a handy place to go. It’s a great place to exercise, to work, to annoy your parents, to dream, and to create. So, if you see me walking down the street, if I don’t notice you, it’s because I’m in iPodland. Look for the white cables.