There are a few old iPods in my desk drawer still tangled with cables that will definitely come in handy one day. One is a Shuffle that I cut for my T-shirt during a short attempt to have a jogging phase. The other is a worn, black, fifth-generation iPod. If I charge it for hours, it plays a few songs before the screen dissolves, and if you press the wheel in a way it does not like, the screen freezes completely. It’s also a frozen item in other ways that captures life at a particular time, in playlists called things like Dip It Low !! and happy birthday Matt 7.
Last week, after a little over 20 years, it was announced that the iPod was going to be discontinued; when the last remaining iPod Touches are sold out, there will be no more. “[It] redefined how music is discovered, listened to and shared, ”said Greg Joswiak, Apple’s senior vice president of worldwide marketing, who went out of his way to get the quote to accompany the announcement. Given the sad state of the music industry for someone who is not quite on top of it, I’m not sure it’s something to be completely proud of, but of course it redefined music. As the capacity of the iPod grew, from 5 GB to 160 GB, it provided a large selection in our pockets and made it portable.
You could settle for just about any of the iPod’s innovations and see it as a turning point in how music became something we talked about consuming instead of listening to, but I keep thinking about that choice. It’s a luxurious position to be in, I know, but two decades later, I often feel suffocated by choices, not just when it comes to music, but with all the entertainment. It is easy to waste time choosing which TV series to watch on e.g. a streaming service, and more often than not I would like to admit, I will scroll, cluttered with options, before choosing anything and going to bed with a book.
It’s the same with podcasts, with movies and of course with music. How can someone settle for when there is so much to choose from, all the time? Choosing has become a meaningless activity in itself.
As is often the case with the death of a device, there has been a wave of nostalgia for the iPod, just as people happily thought about the demise of the BlackBerry and its small, intricate keyboard seen from an era where we passively press twice on a screen to send a long voice message. I felt it too. I’m nostalgic for what could have been the perfect balance of choice: just enough to make the possibilities seem endless without them actually being.
Ncuti Gatwa: no better man to be the new Doctor Who
The dust has settled on the announcement that 29-year-old Ncuti Gatwa, of Sex education fame, will take over after Jodie Whittaker as the latest Doctor in Doctor Who. (Fan forums are already buzzing with theories about the exact wording of the message, which did not point out that Gatwa was the 14th doctor, which would be numerically correct. There are suggestions that he could be the 14th doctor. new Doctor, but not Next Doctor, which is the kind of twists that give Doctor Who a reputation for being confusing.)
The broad consensus is that this is a very good choice, and Gatwa has certainly the effervescent energy that the role seems to require; as Erik in Sex education, he has been a revelation. The announcement came on social media, just before last Sunday’s Baftas. Gatwa and returning boss Russell T Davies shared a picture of two hearts and a blue box on Instagram, and then the news kind of popped up.
Given the fanfare that former new doctors have received for their arrivals (Peter Capaldi got an entire live event on BBC One, Whittaker a trailer at the end of the Wimbledon men’s finals), why was this so low-key?
Madonna: still shocking popes after all these years
In March, Hollywood Reporter published the story of an exhausting audition process that takes place to find the lead role for a much-discussed, thrillingly awaited Madonna biography.
Given the recent successes of films about Elton John, Freddie Mercury and Aretha Franklin, just to name a few, there should of course be one about Madonna, even though this is Madonna, she is co-authoring and directing it, and if the auditions are equal as hardcore as they sound, it would not be surprising if she also ends up starring as her younger self. According to the report, the film will climax with her Blond Ambition tour, which is still one of the biggest pop shows ever.
In 1990, Pope John Paul II disagreed, urging people to boycott “one of the most satanic shows in human history,” which did something in terms of career-best reviews. Last week, Madonna tweeted with Pope Francis and requested a meeting “to discuss some important issues”. She said she had been excommunicated three times. “It does not seem fair,” the woman, who appeared on stage in Rome on a crucifix in 2006, added to the dismay of another pope, Benedict XVI. It is difficult to confirm an excommunication, although there is no doubt that she has agitated popes over the years.
Arguing for the justice of excommunication with the current pope the same week she publishes an NFT triptych of digital art involving nudity and trees and butterflies coming from intimate places makes me think it is a shame that the biopic ends in 1990. The current era would be a masterpiece.