[f_minor] NYPO Mahler 9th interrupted by cell phone

Robert Merkin bobmerk at earthlink.net
Sun Jan 15 17:59:11 PST 2012

The newspaper story is a scream, it's wonderful and rare to match a good, creative writer with such a complex, human-frought (and yet harmless, even trivial) event. Horrible as it was, this was not a high-speed collision of packed passenger trains, absolutely no First Responders were required. The worst medical symptom was the unending sensation of fingernails on a blackboard.

But the event.

To contort GG into this thread, nobody loved leading-edge electronic hi-tek gizmos more than he, and his studio pioneeering of the latest tech were his tools to achieve his aesthetic dreams.

But what hath God wrought?

The nightmare of this event isn't that idiots and fiends and yahoos and yobbos and hools and hoons and Flaming Youth can use these machines to bother the public, horribly and with multiple victims.

The real nightmare is how much damage to the human soul these gizmos can do when used by mature, educated, decent, well-meaning, responsible -- even classical music-loving -- adults. How much damage we have chosen to inflict on our true Wonder of Civilization -- our modern western-style prosperous ultra-convenient urban life.

On this list we revere not only human musical artists, but the very recent technology that has so lovingly recorded, preserved, and cheaply mass-distributed so much beautiful music.  

We have invited, even welcomed enthusiastically into our lives an inescapable swarm of robotic nanognats whose harms and annoyances open societies try to control and diminish by legislative fiat, treaty and ukase. But nearly all our organized efforts fail dismally. (My Massachusetts USA now has a law that no teenager can use a cell phone while driving. It's still theoretically legal to text or Tweet and drive. There are ghastly news stories about a young person's final ASCII characters: omg or rofl or lmao.) 

And we invented these inescapable and infuriating nanognats, and are promising to make the swarm thicker and far worse, and far harder to escape with each passing year. The CES / Consumer Electronics Show is now on in Las Vegas for a peek at the first buzzings of the next gen of the nanobots.

I can stand on a chair and see a time where even fleeing into the wilderness will not shield us from the pervasiveness of the gizmos. The future is careening our way with communications satellites, and soon no point on the surface of Earth will be free of the gizmos, their marimba ring tones, their pocket vibrations, their unsolicited offers to book us a vacation paradise weekend, their robot entreaties to vote for the best candidate for the upcoming election.

Do any of you foresee a quieter, gentler, more private and undisturbed future?

Very likely your community has been filling its streets and sidewalks with more and more closed-circuit television cameras (CCTV) for the last 15 years or more -- and not exactly doing it in secret, but very low-profile. Now your every stroll to the market is taped and stored indefinitely, and your movements can be scrutinized in detail by a variety of government agencies. Warrants or your permission aren't required because you chose to venture into public spaces, and in so doing voluntarily relinquished your right to privacy.

It's for our own safety. Who can object to that? And it's a "soft" kind of violation that you can be in denial about, you can ignore ... you can tell yourself you're not being violated at all, you can tell youself nothing perceivable or measurable is being taken from you.

One of Freud's titles is "Civilization and Its Discontents / Das Unbehagen in der Kultur" (1930). The better and safer and niftier we build our civilization, the more the Inner Human has to gripe and bristle about.

I'm sure there's a government agency to which you can write an irate e-mail to complain about ring tones at live concerts. Let me know how they respond to your complaints.
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