Santa Monica Pier

I know I’m repeating myself with some of the following, but — in the hope of preserving my mental health, such as it is — I’m going to get a couple of things off my chest. The fact is, I spend a lot of time in the iTunes store. Too much. But given that I acquire pretty much all my music that way now, and have a pretty serious app habit, I feel I have no choice. I have at least recently found a way of (slightly) reconciling myself to the screeds of drivel posted up there by reviewers. It is, I’ve realised, a modern-day equivalent for the Victorian treat of visiting insane asylums, in order to watch the inmates cavort and drool and howl at the moon.

My best recent example? People spitting nails and demanding their money back and wishing grievous misfortune upon the developers... because none of the windows of an Advent Calendar app would open in mid-November. Seriously — search for an app called “Christmas!!” and read the comments. They make my brain hurt. How do these people manage to find their way out of the house in the morning? One of my favourite comments (though, to be fair, this reviewer did at least have the grace to edit their entry once the developer had – patiently but wearily, one assumes – let her into the big secret of what an Advent Calendar is) said that she was glad she’d realised the app ‘didn’t work’ before showing it to her children, otherwise they would have been ‘devastated’. I mean, Christ on a bike. I want to cosset and protect my child as much as the next parent, but I do hope he’ll grow up with sufficient awareness of the dark realities of the world that he will be able to bear an (apparently) non-functioning iPhone app without devastation.

I know for a fact that 'Christmas!!' (grr) is a nice little app: cute, festive and free. And yet its rating suggests that, at the very least, it comes round to your house in the night and punches you in the face. So... how does these ratings help? Especially when some of the people involved are clearly too stupid to digest their own food? Then there’s the “Does what it says on the tin” people. Stop saying that, really. Stop it now. It was quite a funny advertising slogan fifteen years ago. Now it just makes you sound like the only books you’ve ever read were written by Jeremy Clarkson. What Jeremy Clarkson writes are not books. They are wordy comics for people who don’t like books, and distrust people who do. They are mirrors. (And while I’m on the subject of berks and books, how feeble is it that the writhingly unfunny Russell Brand called his follow-up to ‘My Booky Wook’  — a title that made me want to kill people — ‘Booky Wook II’? With the tagline ‘This time it’s personal’? The first title was tragic enough. And yet you didn’t have enough imagination to come up with some other spurt of bollocks for the next? And you apparently also don’t realise that people have been conjuring the idea of sequels and then growling ‘This time it’s personal’ for bloody decades? Don’t tell me it’s ironic. There’s not enough irony in the world, you posturing buffoon.)

Back to iTunes, and now it’s the turn of the — in the UK store — rabidly anti-American reviews. People who seem unable or unwilling to understand either that (a) American newspapers and periodicals might wish to tilt their coverage of world events to the interests of their core audience, or (b) some service-finder apps only really cover the US, but are included in the UK store in case anyone wants to travel in the US. These people go red in the face because Life magazine’s photo app has a few more pictures of America than Sunderland. Their forehead vein starts pulsing because an app called “A Yellow American Cab Finder, That Only Works In New York” can’t get them a taxi at midnight in the arse-end of Northumberland. The violence of the reaction is truly astonishing at times, to the point where you can only imagine that the reviewer spent their formative years listening to his grandfather muttering darkly about Yanks being over in England in the war, perhaps even implying that grandma was known to have pulled a train for the whole of the Kansas Airbourne Division. Which doesn’t even exist, so far as I’m aware, so what was that all about? Maybe Apple needs to set up a counselling service for people who’ve acquired apps that didn’t quite meet their expectations, or fight for the recognition of a Post-App Traumatic Idiocy Disorder. Or perhaps these people need to step outside the boundaries of the UK for once, dipping their toe in the parts of the world where you can’t buy the Daily Mail.

Finally, I happened to be on iTunes within about half an hour of the Beatles arriving — an event, I must admit, that left me rather unmoved. I have a certain amount of time for the erstwhile mop-headed Mersey minstrels, but I now own all the Beatles albums I need, and have in any event found that, the older I get, the more I prefer the Rolling Stones. Anyway, my point is that by this very short time after the announcement, a number of people had already ‘reviewed’ some of the albums, including my favourite, Magical Mystery Tour ( and yes, yes, purists, I know that it’s not a ‘real’ album in the way that St. Pepper’s is, but I also know that you should get out more). Anyway, my point is that none of the ‘reviews’ were about the music. Every single one instead consisted of lambasting iTunes for the price of the albums, vilifying Apple (though not The Beatles or EMI, who I suspect may have had a little influence on the pricing) for ripping off the plucky British public and stealing their ‘hard-earned cash’.

Now, yes, the albums and songs are expensive — but I want to explain something to the world of fucktards out there. A “rip-off” is one of two things. It’s a situation where you have no choice but to buy a product or service at an inflated rate, or one where you buy something in good faith and then discover that it’s not what you believed you were buying, but instead is inferior due to reasons of either quality or price. When it comes to The Beatles on iTunes, neither applies. You have the choice not to buy. No-one’s holding a gun against your head and threatening you or your family if you don’t buy ‘I Am The Walrus’. Similarly, the price is very clearly marked, and so you can’t complain if you paid it. Any of these albums can be found far more cheaply anywhere from charity shops to eBay, as the knuckle-dragger reviewers are at pains to point out, deploying their usual playful experimentation with spelling and punctuation. If you don’t want to press the BUY ALBUM button, then don’t, you muppet. Don’t press it and then claim you’ve been “ripped off”. Go stand on a street corner and shout at traffic instead.

What I can’t work out is whether these people are like this in real life — one-starring their children’s homework, declaring the dinner they’ve just been cooked a rip-off, or nodding sagely at an episode of ‘Top Gear’ and saying that it does what it says on the tin — or if it’s a special hidden side of themselves enabled by the Internet. I really hope it’s the latter, because you can turn the internet off.

The idea of occasionally visiting Bedlam isn’t quite so amusing if one day you realise that you’ve been locked in there with them all along.