Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Bose QC25 and its affect on gay marriage

I wrote earlier about my fear
... that Bose will come out with some new model that is directly comparable to what I have but newer, and therefore better, and that this will cause my headphones to be unsatisfactory, even though they will not physically have been altered in any way by the release of a new product.
It finally happened, with the release of the QC25, but I was able to scour the reviews to find this reassurance:
The new model offers roughly the same amount of noise cancellation ... it’s a fairly mild update to the line and only offers a bit of an improvement, so QC15 owners shouldn’t feel left out.
Meanwhile, I was listening to the new TV On The Radio album, and the first song (Quartz) was so good that I couldn't bear to listen to it straight through, but had to go listen to the song it reminded me of, Lilac from High Life by Brian Eno and Karl Hyde.  Even though Quartz is a pop song, from an album noted as a move "more toward accessibility", and therefore by definition as easy to listen to as possible, I wanted to interrupt consuming it in order to consume Lilac again.

This is a freaky impulse.  Related: I wasn't listening on my QC15s, but instead on my Sure SE215 headphones, which are also noise-cancelling but only because they integrate dense foam plugs intended to be shoved in as earplugs, so they are less comfortable but much smaller than the QC15s, and thus much easier to throw into by backpack for a trip.  But the first time I listened to music through in-ear noise-cancelling headphones was fifteen years ago, a different model, and even though that model probably wasn't as good as what I have now, the experience of standing on my balcony overlooking noisy streets and putting in the headphones and experiencing perfectly isolated music was a high that nothing has touched since then.  In exactly the same way, the first time I experienced noise-cancelling magic, in a mall store, has never been equalled by headphones I've actually owned, even though they are certainly better than that mall demo set.

I share these feeble stories of consumer anxiety as introduction to a fresh batch of stories about how the developed world's social/political/economic system is sliding into disaster:

Douglas Rushkoff writes about the limitations of "jobs", the organizing principle of modern economies.

... we are attempting to use the logic of a scarce marketplace to negotiate things that are actually in abundance. What we lack is not employment, but a way of fairly distributing the bounty we have generated through our technologies, and a way of creating meaning in a world that has already produced far too much stuff.

The Telegraph offers a Niemöller for the middle class:

OK, you might say, but this has always been going on. But it hasn’t. This sort of utterly amoral screw-everyone capitalism has become much more prevalent in the last 15 years. Our financial elite is now totally out of control. They learned nothing from the crisis, except that the rest of us were stupid enough to give them a second chance. And, now, having plucked all the “low hanging fruit,” they’re destroying the middle classes for profit. 
... the sun is still shining and we can still (just about) afford the nanny. But for how much longer? The locusts are already well into the middle middle classes – you know, those poor schmucks who make, say, 40K a year.  ...
This warning might be more powerful if the author wasn't inverting Niemöller; rather than expressing solidarity with the poor, the working class, and "middle middle", the author seems merely to want the economic looting by the rich to stop short of affecting him.  Which sort of misses the point of lamenting not speaking out when they came for the Socialists and the Trade Unionists.

The connection between the two essays, in my mind, is that the the entire construct of "jobs" is integral to a system where "they" can "come for" different groups.  If your sole political motivation is to fight for someone to give you a job, you are fighting to preserve a system set up to exploit you.  I don't discount the emotional and social power of jobs, of stability, of valuing one's self through one's contribution to society in exchange for the tools of living.  I conceed that being worried about my different fancy noise-cancelling headphones puts me firmly in "consumer" mode rather than citizen mode.  But I want to know what a post-capitalist system looks like, where having nice things like fancy headphones doesn't require either winning some kind of birth lottery or being willing to take things from other people.  And of course our current system make those of us born to wealth (in global terms) complicit, because by buying nice stuff and traveling and being a consumer and getting an Ivy League education just means that all of the violent taking is being done on our behalf, out of our sight, by a "system" as much as by cartoon villains, whether that's slave-made consumer electronics, or exported pollution, or colleges whose endowments include centuries-old slave profits.

Anyway, the headphones are pretty nice.

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