There was a fascinating radio documentary broadcast a few months ago on radio four about mix tapes. Journalist David Quantick (fantastic name) reminisced about what has become a lost art. This is where people, usually young, usually male, would sit in their bedrooms all evening with a record player and cassette recorder, making up compilation tapes of their favourite music. The art involved was trying to avoid horribly audible edits between tracks, and timing the thing just right so that the last track ended just as the tape leader spooled into view (this involved a lot of close scrutiny of the tiny cassette window). Tracks of little or no running time were a boon in this regard - "Propaganda" by Sparks and pretty much anything by the Smiths at particular times in their career came in particularly handy. These tapes would be for one's own use or would be given to friends and lovers. They served as an answer to the perennial question of my youth, "So what music do you like then?" and also as a way of sharing a little piece of one's soul with a potentially kindred spirit. Of course there is a gendered aspect to this activity also: girls if you were to receive a mix tape from your man, you have to understand that this is probably the most pure form of romance, certainly a more sincere gesture than them buying you a red rose! Now don't get me wrong, the i-pod is a marvelous thing, and I especially love the way that it instantly makes compilations of your music. When I first got an i-pod, I was struck by the serendipitous way it would reorder my music, juxtaposing tracks in such a way that they unlocked all that was fresh and exciting. However, there is something equally magical about mix tapes. Especially on those admittedly rare occasions when you were the recipient of one and it turns out to contain bands that you grow to love. I do miss them.