Introducing the iBump

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It’s long been recognized that fetuses can hear as early as five months, but as to what they hear beyond Mom’s physiology is still up for debate. As an expectant father, this makes me naturally dubious of “prenatal music” and whether or not DJ-ing an in utero-listening party would benefit (or perhaps even annoy) my unborn kid.

When I searched online for “prenatal music,” topping the Google charts was Austin-based Center for Prenatal and Perinatal Music. Mysteriously, its Web site greets users with an aural assault (sans an “off” button to the chagrin of my officemates) that begins with six seconds of what sounds like grappling hooks drawn across coarse gravel, followed by some New Age noodling in a minor key. After repeatedly hitting the refresh button out of masochistic curiosity, I was able to deduce that the grappling and gravel combo was actually a “rainstick,” a long tube filled with baubles, beans or beads that emulates the sound of precipitation when turned. I should have recognized the rainstick right off since (a) I’m a child of the 1970s for whom the instrument was a permanent part of west Sonoma County’s ambient soundtrack and (b) I’ve smoked pot with the late, great Darrel DeVore who made the devices and other experimental instruments in a shack in rural Petaluma. Anyway, the Center for Prenatal and Perinatal Music Web site offered little more than the “runes and tunes” musical moment and the tagline “Mothering You and Your Unborn Baby Through Joyful Sounds, Creative Movement and Color.” This all sounds very pleasant, but it was not the hard scientific data that I sought.

A deeper search turned me onto the “Baby Mozart” phenom of the 1990s (it’s still widely believed that subjecting a fetus to Mozart’s oeuvre will result in something akin to superpowers). Eventually, I discovered the BellySonic site, which proffers a belt-like device that fits around the abdomen, replete with speakers and a place for one’s iPod. Moreover, the site provided reams of research repackaged in articles from the BBC, USA Today, WebMD and even Wikipedia (not to mention a whitepaper by the nice lady from the Center for Prenatal and Perinatal Music). Admittedly, I began to warm to the idea of bringing a little belly-borne Muzak to the kid, but the $79.95 price tag swiftly cooled my inclinations. Then it occurred to me – cut out the middleman – I’ve already got the iPod and the pregnant wife, surely there’s a way to get some thump in the bump without spending $79.95. With my wife’s indulgence, I simply inserted the iPod’s earbud into her navel. As one can see in the accompanying photo, it was a perfect fit. Am I a genius? No, but now my kid will be – particularly if he sidesteps my genes for intelligence.

Now I need a playlist suitable for the pre-tyke. My own iPod playlists are rife with 1970s glam rock, Bach and entertainment biz podcasts, which would likely produce a schizophrenic. Or a concert promoter. So, here I turn to you dear readers – please send your suggested prenatal playlists to ibump@dhowell.com and together we’ll create the ultimate in utero mix. We’ll call it “Unborn to Be Wild.”

Flying High

Ah, the glories of business travel. Having marinated in the Wine Country for the better part of a year (sans the occasional sojourn to SoCal, or is that LowCal?), I am pleased to have run away this week while making a documentary (qua branded-entertainment for a “consumer packaged goods company in the natural foods sector”) on location at the Natural Products Expo East in Boston, Mass. JetBlue apparently had a flight attendant go MIA prior to my flight from the Oakland airport and had to scrape for a replacement, but they made up the hour-and-a-half delay with an extremely smooth flight across the great yawning expanse of the so-called fly-over states (Dear Fly-Over States – I personally believe each of you are citadels of a vibrant and worthy local culture – Did you know Wyoming was the first state to give women the right to vote?).

Flying has never been one of my superpowers, but, thanks to modern psychopharmaceuticals, I’m convinced there’s nothing we can’t accomplish together. That is, me and pills. At present writing, I’m waiting for the invisibility pills to kick in – at least that’s what I’m going to tell my editor who probably has noticed by now that I’m not at my desk (I’m, in fact, in Santa Barbara waiting for the “I took the wrong return flight back from Boston and am now at the beach pills” to wear off). I blame my doctor, or at least the customer service-bot on that Kanuck website. (Disclaimer: This is satire, not a suggested means of addressing one’s psychopharmacological needs. Woe be unto the sap on the same path as VinSpinPR’s Mick Robbins, who confused his prescriptions on a soul-searching trip to Joshua Tree and became, to coin a phrase, overly Viagravated.)

Anyway, at the airports I’ve visited of late, what I hadn’t expected is the sudden appearance of iPod vending machines. Is this the future of impulse-driven point-of-purchase sales? Luxury items (anything that doesn’t feed you, in my book) marketed as convenience? I should have been tipped off when driving into the Oakland airport, which greets visitors with a vast, rotating iPod sign featuring the ubiquitous silhouette of juxtaposed white earbuds. Am I the only one who perceives violent undertones in the Rorschach-like shadows of these ads? (Google our film “Orange” for the antidote.) Don’t tell me. I’ll get a prescription.

With my iPhone safely set on “Airplane Mode,” I’m already an Apple zombie, so I needn’t feed the machine. Moreover, I had loaded this pocket-sized communication-entertainment system with MP3s of “Mornings in Sonoma with Ken Brown,” on KSVY. Of course, I only downloaded the Friday edition of the show – the one I co-host – to have the pleasure of my own voice soothing me to sleep. Turns out it doesn’t work that way. What happens instead is akin to walking into an aural hall of mirrors wherein every annoying tick, stutter and stammer becomes amplified to the nth degree. I began to wonder whether I actually speak English or some horrid pidgin cobbled together from Dick Cavett reruns. I turned myself off (yeah, try that, Mick Robbins) and sought distraction by timing the exits of the apparently bladder-impaired couple next to me who tag teamed the rear restroom for the duration of the flight. When a steward rolled by peddling beverages, I hissed, “Don’t do it.” He did, and five minutes later they were tap-dancing again at the back of the jet. That’s when I realized I did have a superpower – an infinite bladder. I pledge to use it only for purposes of good, which I suppose means if I’m ever in front of you in the men’s room line at the Fig, you can ask for cuts.

The Hot Sauce Academy’s Ben Schwartz, Adam Pally and Gil Ozeri feel the same, as evidenced in their rather dark parody below.

http://www2.funnyordie.com/public/flash/fodplayer.swf

See more funny videos at Funny or Die

To leaven your mood, check out our film “Orange,” Raymond Daigle and I made using similar techniques.