The Mandy Patinkin Workout

For my money, Mandy Patinkin is this generation’s preeminent interpreter of the Great American Songbook. I say this as someone who would rather scratch his eyes out than sit through a Broadway musical. But man, that guy’s got it. He also happens to be a rather good actor, having, in his Dr. Jeffrey Geiger character on Chicago Hope, perfected the “brilliant brooding curmudgeon doctor” a generation before Hugh Laurie’s Dr. House; and he was also Inigo Montoya. But I digress.

I mention Mandy Patinkin because yesterday was my first music-equipped session in the gym: my new smaller-than-a-thimble iPod shuffle arrived on Monday and I loaded it up my iTunes tracks, one of which happened to be a rousing medley of Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious and The Hokey Pokey. In Yiddish. (A track hanging around from my role as arranger of Oliver and Sophie’s wedding music).

And so as I stood there doing my gyrations on the treadmill on Wednesday morning there came Mandy Patinkin into my ears. Needless to say that my pace picked up and I ended up running an extra mile as a result.

The next song on the shuffle was Untouchable Face by Ani DiFranco, a song from a whole other chapter of the Great American Songbook, but also a rousing song in its own laconic way.

My iTunes music library has 643 songs or 1.7 days worth of music in it. One of the things that I discovered very early on is that I’m absolutely sick of much of it. When exactly did I go through a Lisa Loeb phase?

A lot of the rest of it isn’t particularly well-suited to the workout setting (see Nearer, My God to Thee by Mahalia Jackson and Somewhere Over the Rainbow from Rosemary Clooney). So I think my next step is going to have to be an infusion of fresh music and a special workout playlist.

The new iPod shuffle is Saturday Night Live sketch come to life: small enough that you can clip it to any part of you and not know it’s there. The controls-on-earphones, while leaving one vulnerable to a non-workable device if the earphones go missing or wonky, provides enough of a usability leap to make that vulnerability worth it — I just have to get my clicks and double clicks and triple clicks and clicks-and-holds straight. Even VoiceOver, the feature that, with a click-and-hold, reads out the name of the song and the artist, is something I find myself using a lot, even if only to see how the iPod reads out “Mandy Patinkin.”