Friday, August 17, 2012


Tuesday, August 07, 2012

The Old Man Rants

Recently I had the lamentably banal experience of having my head bombarded with noise.  I do not refer to Japanese Noise, which is, of course, a fantastic form of artistic expression (check this out!).  No, I refer to the assault of competing media that is our modern culture. 

Let’s get this out of the way: I am just as guilty as the next person and by no means wish to impugn society and suggest that I exist in my own little vacuum.  No, no.  I’m known to have conversations via text message while watching sitcom reruns, sneaking a few pages of a book in during the commercial break.  I’m no different, but at least I realize that the jumble-fuck of activity described above is far from ideal. 

Now to the bitching:

I was at a car dealership, of all places.  While waiting for some general upkeep to be performed, I helped myself to the free coffee and took a seat in the waiting area, eager to do some reading.  That a large flat screen TV was on, volume cranked up, and monotonous club music blared didn’t deter me from Czesław Miłosz’s Road-Side Dog.  I made it three difficult pages before it occurred to me that attempting to read (and comprehend) written words is next to impossible in such a setting.  The problem was not the TV or the music; it was both.  I might have ignored the music, maybe even tapped a toe (after all, there were no words to distract me, only thumping bass and robotic beats); I might have been able to focus on the book in the face of television, difficult though that is.  But combined, they formed a wall of noise that blocked my ability to think, much less read.  Deflated, I sunk in and watched the women of America play the Brazilian females in Olympic volleyball.  (Hoo hum.)

Why the manager of car dealership thought it necessary to turn on both droning music and a loud television is beyond me, but I suspect there was no real thought behind the combination.  No one really questioned the decision; it simply got done.  Someone put the music on because music needs to be everywhere.  Somewhere between the first movie to employ a wall-to-wall soundtrack and the invention of the iPod, the unconscious acquiescence was made that we must always have music playing.   One cannot ride the train, jog, walk, bike, sit in a restaurant or bar, or even study without a soundtrack.  It’s expected.  Without music continuously playing, what would there be?  Silence?  Yikes!  I might be left alone WITH MY THOUGHTS! 

Okay, I admit that I sound every bit like the old man I swore I’d never become, but fuck it: I’ve made it past 40.  I can say it: it is not necessary to constantly have music playing.  There are times I’d sooner listen to talk radio than do the left-to-right trip down the dial in search of an agreeable tune.  If I go to a bar and the music is too loud, I get angry.  When I ride my bike past another biker, ear-buds jutting out from the side of their head, I get pissed if they cannot hear me announce “on your left.”  When they decide to change lanes and nearly take me out, I do not blame their inability to ride a bike or their inherent assholishness.  I blame the music they cannot live without for a goddamn hour.

But I’ve almost come to peace with the non-stop music.  After all, I love music, though there are other things I love that I also need a break from (pizza, booze, cable TV, chocolate, cigarettes, six shot espresso drinks, and Facebook all come to mind).  But I cannot say the same thing for TV.  Actually, it is not TV that I dislike (actually I quite enjoy TV, especially when it is fucking incredible), but that hardly justifies the ubiquity of the flickering screen.  Between flat, sleek TVs and smart phones, digital images are more prevalent than ever.  As such, that unconscious acquiescence is again evident; we have all agreed to accept the intrusion of images into our collective lives.  Not that I dislike images either (as I said before, I like me some TV), but there’s a fucking time for it.  When is not the time?  How about anytime thunderous music is simultaneously being played. 

All I ask is that we limit the aural/visual assault.  I can deal with one barrage at a time, but two?   Ugh.  I know, I know: multitasking is considered a skill these days, and that's all people are doing with their iCrap.  Still, more than a few studies show that multitasking is a poor way of executing a task. 

I suspect the average tech-savvy punk will think me, at best, quaint.  Oh, he had a flip phone until it broke.  He still buys CDs.  Isn’t he cute?  Look at those gray hairs! (I grow old… I grow old… trousers… do I dare?... peaches… mermaids…)  Let 'em.  I'll do my best to stay focused, even as the siren song of 200 channels and tabbed browsing beckons. 

Off to drink my prune juice.  Get off my lawn.