Hosing Down

These Impersonal Times

To demand retribution for a perceived affront to one’s personal sensibilities is not only childish, it’s pre-embryonic. If you’re offended by something, the best way to react, it seems to me, is to understand that the problem is entirely your own. My advice is to own it, examine it, and take it to a vet and have it put down at your earliest opportunity. In this great nation anybody has the right to piss you off.

The last time I can recall being unjustly offended was ten or 15 years ago when people in retail started alphabetizing things beginning with numbers (either numerals or the words for them) to be positioned to immediately preceed the letter A. I considered the people responsible to be nothing better than dumbing-down derilicts; viperous cretins.

Go shopping for a DVD of Two for the Road and if it’s in stock, it’ll be in the very first shelf to the left, right along with 300 Spartans, 20,000,000 Miles to Earth, and Five Million Years to Earth (only four million miles a year? Aw, come on!). 2001: A Space Odyssey will be there too, whereas I recall the days when I was trusted to be able to begin to spell 2001 with the letter T, and I would indeed find it among the “T”s. Apparently that required either too much logic or education or rational thought, so the powers-that-be decided to make things easier for everyone (or the majority), whom they assumed to be retarded and if not, should damned well be turned that way.

So, when I vow never to seek out the above titles for my own DVD collection as a way of protest – to no longer patronize the pre-A numbers bin – it’s really not that big a deal since I’ve already owned those titles for years and years and why on earth would I want extra copies anyway?

Now everybody’s getting all twisted about the surprising resurrection of the boombox.

Apparently it all began around mid-June of last year, in Detroit. Music fans of modern-demented mein began realizing that for some reason, they just didn’t seem to be enjoying their earphones or headsets as much as they used to. They’d be jogging while getting down with the phat new sounds of the LmxFunkkillaz when they began to feel that something was missing. Decidedly, the music was beginning to seem more and more isolated. You needed to get people’s attention and you needed to now. They gotta know what kind of music you dig so they’ll all know how damn c_ _ l you be!

To your rescue come Sony and Hitachi and Panasonic with modernized versions of an old status symbol, the take-anywhere-and-be-heard portable music delivery system. They began marketing their own lines of large, loud, extremely lightweight models capable of playing radio, CDs, and MP3s and came with cradle and attachments for iPods. The Panasonics and Hitachis featured padded, bottom-middle recesses that allowed the unit to rest comfortably on either shoulder, while Sony’s behemoth Matri-Curve model went around the back of the head, extending a powerful speaker onto each shoulder, left and right. Now with the Sony, for the first time, the user (as well as anyone else within 75 yards or so) could himself experience the thrill of true stereo, rather than just the left channel with the right floating off into space behind your head (or the reverse, for you left-shouldered “public DJ’s”.) The center portion of the unit was curved around the back of your head, and the top of that bled seamlessly forward to become a hard plastic baseball cap (repositionable brim) with built-in sunglasses.

Immediately there was a public outcry calling the new machines (as well as persons using them) ugly, disruptive and dangerous. Everywhere they appeared, it seemed, the public was polarized. Legal bans were attempted or threatened or planned.

Around the same time as the first of these new boomboxes appeared, a lawyer was having a “phone” conversation via his headset on an otherwise silent municipal bus out here in Palo Alto, California.

Client: (across town) So what exactly did my son say to the uh… victim?
Lawyer: “Give me your wallet or I’ll kill you, fool.”

The passenger sitting next to the lawyer happened to be an undercover cop who very nearly plugged the guy before roughly cuffing and arresting him.

Later, after all had been explained, the lawyer was oficially reprimanded. 93-year-old Margaret Housler, who had been sitting directly behind the two men on the bus, wasn’t so lucky, suffering a fatal heart attack during the disturbance. I’d say she ought to get an attourney herself and sue, but that’s just me, and she hasn’t.

Within two months Palo Alto had all but banned public use of headsets.Those who couldn’t give them up had to purchase a license ($48 annually), which came in the form of a paper hat the user was required to wear at all times while using a headset. Sticking out from the crown of each hat was a colorful sign bearing the message

I’M NOT TALKING TO YOU, JUST A FRIEND AT ANOTHER LOCATION VIA MY HEADSET

“My right to free speech is not your right to listen” had been considered early on and thankfully discarded.

As for the other, reëmerging communicative device: the Ban the Blasters movement picked up some explosive momentum last month after Chicago resident Toby Lashton, 19, was jailed after having knocked unconscious a man who had approached him with a knife, demanding that Lashton turn off his “blaster” or at least “change the station to [expletive] hip-hop.” Lashton’s attourney, David Stubbins, forsees a major first ammendment showdown.

“It’s down to the concept of free speech, in this case, quite literally,” Stubbins noted at a press conference. ”My client wasn’t even playing music; he was playing Rush Limbaugh, which is simply spoken words, in a public park, and some malcontent a block and a half away didn’t agree with something Limbaugh was saying.”

Then came the controversial ruling by the Illinois 9th Circuit Court of Appeals: free speech being protected by the Constitution; it is legal for ghetto blasters to broadcast talk radio (only) in public places, speech being declared “vocal yet without melody.” This in turn has agitated fans of rap, who are demanding that their beloved hip-hop stations also be considered, by definition, “talk radio.” Meanwhile, Chicago’s music fans are stranded on the sidelines, nervous and upset and quaking in their cracker Uggs. Among them is 17-year-old Rhonda Fitzgerald who aptly assesses the temperment: “The right to have people notice me and know what music I’m all about through something other than Facebook or MySpace is important to me. It’s a right Americans have fought and died for for thousands of years. Hey, gotta extra cigarette?”

  • March 2013

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