My iPod Unravels the Kennedy Assassination

Random is scary! If you've ever shuffled songs on your iPod, you've probably noticed some amazing coincidences and connections between songs.

I was playing some new music by She & Him, the new project by M. Ward and Zooey Deschanel. They originally got together to record the Richard and Linda Thompson song "When I Get to the Border" for a film. (Anyone know what film?) It's a song originally from the greatest folk rock album ever made, I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight.

When the song from She & Him ended, my iPod shuffled to "Calvary Cross," which is the best song on I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight.

Did my iPod intentionally make the connection between She and Him and the Richard and Linda Thompson song? Or was it just a coincidence?

I told this story to Chris Walla the other day. He was recording a new song for our feature called "Project Song." He believes iPods know to make the connections between songs, that it isn't something entirely random.

I wonder. Dylan had a great line: "take what you gather from coincidence" and I do.
I have, in my life, gone back and forth about the Kennedy assassination for example, and all the oddities that surround it.

I used to find myself saying "that can't just be coincidence." But since I started shuffling my songs I know it can.



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

There is actually a mathematical theory (my mom the math teacher would know the name of it) that basically says that random things tend to bunch. If you program a computer to randomly place dots on a sheet of paper, most likely on that piece of paper there will be an area that has a lot more dots then the rest of the sheet. My assumption has always been that shuffles and random plays do a similar thing.

On a more serious note, I think the iTunes on my Mac is angry at me. I have gone through a week of listening to my least favorite songs on my favorite albums to the point where I have had to uncheck many of them so they don't play. You let the battery run low once...

The mind reading technology Mac has yet to go public with in iTunes is insidious indeed.

i love this

Sent by Mac Coldwell | 12:01 PM | 3-6-2008

The movie is called The Go-Getter:

Sent by Devan | 12:19 PM | 3-6-2008

What's even spookier is you blogging about this on the day that the very same thought popped into my head. Over the weekend I ripped a Bash & Pop CD, Tommy Stinson's band. Today I was listening to my random unrated tracks playlist and Bash & Pop's "Nothing" came on. The very next song was Paul Westerberg's "$100 Groom", a song from a CD that hasn't shown up on my iPod Nano in months.

Sent by Craig Kocur | 1:25 PM | 3-6-2008

Didn't you know that all iPods come with their own DJ?

Sent by dk | 4:26 PM | 3-6-2008

the film is "the go-getter". i wish someone would get behind the silly thing, so us plebians can watch it outside of a festival. what do you think of the album? i love it! and i just got to see them in SF. they were awesome. i love fun coincidences. i never ask why..just enjoy them.

Sent by j | 6:18 PM | 3-6-2008

Read the book "Reclaiming History" by Vincent Bugliosi, and you'll see the JFK conspiracies fall apart. It's a huge book weighing in at 1600 pages, but there is a lot of nonsense out there about JFK to dispute.

Sent by Colin | 8:04 PM | 3-6-2008

I feel like my ipod has different moods. It will decide it wants to listen to mostly Beatles songs one day and mostly Pixies another. But it's more than getting stuck in an artist's folder because it will choose Frank Black or Breeders along with the main band. The best part is how often it knows what I'm in the mood for better than I do.

Sent by Gabe | 8:38 AM | 3-7-2008

What an idiot (the poster) followed by another idiot (colin, who doesn't know how completely one-sided and dishonest Bugliosi's book is. Only real researchers know that's simply a court brief for one side.)

I expect more from NPR than such inanity.

NPR didn't write those comments, it provides a place for expression.
thanks for yours


Sent by Lisa Pease | 10:48 AM | 3-7-2008

I don't pretend to know the innerworkings of an ipod, but I do know this. It is technologically possible to have a thing like an ipod automatically catalog songs based on tempo, key, volume, etc, so that when the machine is on shuffle, it can make transitions smoother.

However, I googled the subject and it doesn't appear that Ipod does that. What Mac Coldwell said is totally right. Statistics are funny - like the fact that there is greater than 90% probability that two people in a group of only thirty will have the same birthday.

Also, people (myself included) only ever notice the truly bizarre random events like the one you mentioned. The other 1000 shuffles that came before it likely had no significance.

Sent by David | 1:01 PM | 3-7-2008

As for level of spookiness, I win. This will sound like a lie, but honestly...I am reading this blog, and just as the Dylan reference is made, "take what you gather from coincidence" plays on my itunes. i was listening to Live 1966. Oh man, that's gonna stay with me for a little while...

Sent by Elish | 1:51 PM | 3-7-2008

I read Jim Garrison's "On The Trail of Assassins" and I watched The History Channel's "The Men Who Killed Kennedy", neither of which bothered to document their sources. But, I doubt anybody can seriously accuse me of only being "one-sided".

"Reclaiming History" by Bugliosi cripples those compelling conspiracies from "Assassins" and "Men Who Killed Kennedy" by actually telling the entire story AND backing the facts up with an entire CD of cited sources.

It is not a court brief (you are thinking of Bugliosi's successful trial disproving a JFK conspiracy). It tells every detail of the assassination, Oswald's entire biography, and disproves every imaginable conspiracy.

But you haven't read it, so I understand why you are so quick to judge. Right?

Sent by Colin | 2:43 PM | 3-8-2008

I wonder about my ipod too sometimes. On multiple occasions with my ipod on shuffle, it has played tracks i was thinking or hoping would follow. Strange indeed

Sent by Matthew P | 3:31 PM | 3-8-2008