Shuffling good for passing time

By Kevin Wilson: CNJ columnist

For cross country trips, I usually like to fly. But I think everybody should, at least one time in their lives, take a cross country trip by car because the memories always beat short flights.

There are so many indescribable feelings. Try to put into words that moment when you’re flying down the Interstate, doing 79 in a 75, and you go right by a police car, and you know the officer probably has no intention of pulling you over for a measly 4 mph, but you know he would be within his right and you have no way to fight the ticket, so you constantly check the rear-view mirror for the next half mile hoping for a little good luck.

But there’s also a chance for new experiences. I have one, and I call it the Alphabet Shuffle.

I was staying at a hotel in Wyoming (state motto, “Come see us on the way to Mount Rushmore”), and had nothing in particular to do. I settled on ESPN, and was treated to Justin Timberlake hosting the ESPY Awards. I figured, maybe a cheap laugh, and I’d be good.

The only problem was, Timberlake was a great host. I don’t mean, in a “He didn’t mess it up” way; I mean it in an, “I would buy this on DVD if ESPN released it” way. He did a funny and meticulous musical number on sports, and his opening jokes were great.

The next morning, I decided I wanted to hear some Timberlake, so I searched my mp3 player for “Cry Me A River,” the song about his breakup with Britney Spears that became a turning point for both careers.

When it ended, my player did not shuffle. Instead, it picked the song immediately following it in the alphabet — in this case, Aerosmith’s “Cryin’” played.

Then some standup comedy played. Then some R&B. And that’s when I realized alphabetic order has done its own shuffle. Take any CD you own, and organize the tracks in your head alphabetically. It shuffled, didn’t it?

I stuck with it through the letters D, E, F and G. I’m an Alphabet Shuffle convert, and here are a few simple reasons:

• It forces you to know what’s in your music collection. Since you know the alphabet, and you know your music collection, you should be able to successfully predict the next track. You’ll discover a lot of music you forgot.

• You can accurately compare music, since Alphabet Shuffle groups covers and remixes with original versions. Did Boyz II Men screw up by doing an acapella version of “End of the Road” (yes) and has Moby done a bad version of “Extreme Ways” for the Jason Bourne movies (no)?

• If a song plays more than once, it’s because you accidentally loaded it twice, and now you are aware of disk space going to waste.

• You find out standup comedians are surprisingly limited in the material they tackle. A lot of comedians love making fun of Dr. Phil, for instance, and dying isn’t the automatic conclusion for every comedian who ends up braindead in a coma (Titus says, “Kill Titus, unless I’m really funny,” while Carlin said to keep him plugged in, and give him morphine, ice cream and Geraldo Rivera on TV because being braindead is the only requirement for watching Geraldo).

It doesn’t have to be a cross country trip, but if you’re going somewhere for a few hours and you only have an mp3 player to keep you company, let the Alphabet Shuffle guide you. Trust me, you will not be crying me a river.

Kevin Wilson is a columnist for Freedom New Mexico. He can be contacted at 763-3431, ext. 313, or by e-mail: