April 29, 2009

"It’s peculiar and unnerving in a way to see so many young people walking around with cell phones and iPods in their ears..."

"... and so wrapped up in media and video games. It robs them of their self-identity. It’s a shame to see them so tuned out to real life. Of course they are free to do that, as if that's got anything to do with freedom. The cost of liberty is high, and young people should understand that before they start spending their life with all those gadgets."

Said Bob Dylan.

Is the loss of real life the loss of liberty? Are we not free... here?

***

A theme for the last day of school (which it is for me, the professor):
A self-ordained professor's tongue
Too serious to fool
Spouted out that liberty
Is just equality in school
"Equality," I spoke the word
As if a wedding vow.
Ah, but I was so much older then,
I'm younger than that now
We don't have crimson flames tied through our ears anymore. Just white buds stuck in them.

I'm the worst offender. When I walk around outside alone, not only do I have the earbuds in nearly all the time, but I am not even listening to music. I'm listening to podcasts and audiobooks. Do I really understand the cost?

70 comments:

Quayle said...

A thousand ways to communicate resulting in virtually no true emotional intimacy.

A million things to know withing the touch of a button, and no time or attention span to ponder and reflect to truely know yourself.

Dylan is right....again.

Simon Kenton said...

As a self-defense instructor, I cringe to see these people isolating themselves from the world around them. A warrior is always alert. They aren't warriors; some scant percentage of them will be called upon to be and will start at a grave disadvantage.

Penny said...

"It’s a shame to see them so tuned out to real life."

That's rather ironic coming from a 60's icon, where the motto was "Turn on, tune in, drop out."

rhhardin said...

He wouldn't notice them if he had ipods in his ears.

Jason (the commenter) said...

In the past, only the affluent could afford to surround themselves with their favorite authors, artists, and musicians. Now the same opportunity is available to everyone and it's seen as some sort of curse?

I think it's hypocritical for Bob Dylan to even express an opinion on the subject. The only reason people listen to him now is because he was popularized by the media of the past. He might as well rail against the phonograph because it allows people to listen to music rather than create it themselves.

rhhardin said...

I never walk around with ipods in my ears; I do have a baby monitor on top of a hat that I wear out in the yard, though, that picks up what the computer is playing inside, so that I can play with the dog and not miss what I was listening to.

It has to be on top of a hat so that my body doesn't block the line of sight to the transmitting baby monitor. One experiments in real ipodless life to find these things out.

Palladian said...

I lose my identity because I prefer to listen to Bach or a Handel opera rather than the squeal of the subway and the jabbering of Mexican children?

It's sanity protection and personal choice rather than having chaos and ugliness rattle my ears.

Palladian said...

I bet John Cage wrote a duet for squealing subway and jabbering Mexican children...

TerriW said...

Everyone always complains, "Don't you understand what you've lost by not doing it the way I did?" Yes, we lost the experience you had. Do you know what *you* lost by not doing it the way that we do?

hdhouse said...

What? What did you say?

Paul Zrimsek said...

A warrior is always alert. They aren't warriors; some scant percentage of them will be called upon to be and will start at a grave disadvantage.

Hey Dwight, did you ever get back with Angela? I haven't been watching lately.

Cedarford said...

Dylan has a point. People should try and face the world with their full senses and faculties and interact with others rather than walk about zombie like lost in twiffle spouted between BFFs on cell or lost in 40-year old tunes.

Even in Dylan's era, drugs were thought to be something one indulged in on a temporary basis before returning back to the real world - perhaps refreshed or maybe with a new perspective or insight. Not as full-time vehicles to isolate them from humanity.

Ann Althouse said...

When you took the advice "tune in, turn on, drop out," you were not disconnecting from the real world -- supposedly -- you were becoming more aware of what really matters. You dropped out of the conventional economic life, but you became more attuned to nature and to other people. That was the ideal anyway.

Penny said...

"It's sanity protection and personal choice rather than having chaos and ugliness rattle my ears."

You make an excellent point, Palladian. City sounds are much harsher than what I hear in the suburbs. I would miss the sound of the birds singing and kids playing and dogs barking. I find it more soothing than an iPod could ever be.

JAL said...

Wonder if Chip can do a pix of rh with a baby monitor on top of his hat which is on top of his head so he has a direct line to his baby monitor which is picking up what his computer is playing in his house while he plays with his big black and tan dog in his yard?

Please?

JAL said...

When you took the advice "tune in, turn on, drop out," you were not disconnecting from the real world -- supposedly -- you were becoming more aware of what really matters. You dropped out of the conventional economic life, but you became more attuned to nature and to other people. That was the ideal anyway.
Sez the Professor on vacation.

See where that got us? Bill Ayers is an icon.

Palladian said...

"I never walk around with ipods in my ears; I do have a baby monitor on top of a hat that I wear out in the yard, though, that picks up what the computer is playing inside, so that I can play with the dog and not miss what I was listening to.

It has to be on top of a hat so that my body doesn't block the line of sight to the transmitting baby monitor. One experiments in real ipodless life to find these things out."

This has to be one of the funniest things I've read in a while.

Is rhhardin on anyone else's lists of favorite commenters? He's on mine.

rhhardin said...

A lot of NOW meetings you had to go to with your date in the 70s would have been a lot more interesting with ipods.

Trooper York said...

Well now that school is over you can put your "self-ordained professor's tongue" to better use.

So to speak.

rhhardin said...

Alan Bloom complained about what Dylan complains about, long ago, and Stanley Cavell replied nicely, somewhere...somewhere...

A parting word about Bloom's vision of the young with their Walkmans on, which he reads as deafening them to ``what the great tradition has to say'' (p.81). It may be so. But maybe it is to be read as their blocking out our opinions and explanations of what they listen to. I do not, on the whole, share their pleasures here. I take it that I am, on the whole, not meant to, meant not to. The young, on this reading, feel that there are times and places in which, in their solitude, they are not answerable to others. Just like us.

``Who Disappoints Whom?'' _Critical Inquiry_ 15:3, Spring 1989, p.610.

Pissed Off Hillbilly said...

Earbuds and texting while walking.
Completely cut off from reality.

goesh said...

Surely you aren't wired when snapping pictures?? oh no

Anyway, the gist of many conversations is another matter -

Hi !!
yeh - cool!
yeh...
awesome!
really ?
that is so cool...
yeh, were going to the mall...
wow!
I mean, like, you know, what can I say??
oh for awesome!
I mean, like, you know, I'm like telling this person to just back off...
yeh, cool !
Hey! I'm thinking about having a Dew...

Weeing Jesus! Someone slap a hefty tax on them for simply breathing then sterilize them...for Christ sake, they are breeding

Laura(southernxyl) said...

I always hate seeing young women pushing babies and toddlers in strollers, yak-yakking on their cells while the kid sits silently, not talked to or interacted with. HATE that. Sometimes you need to live in the moment.

I totally agree with Palladian though - if there's not someone you should be talking and listning to, better your choice of listening material than whatever strangers feel like blasting at you.

dbp said...

Palladian said...

I bet John Cage wrote a duet for squealing subway and jabbering Mexican children...

If so, how meta would it be to listen to such a "tune" in NYC? Or better yet while jogging in Iowa?

Penny said...

Dropping out economically is easy when you're in school or college. But then, like now, those damn student loans, and then the rent payments got peskily in the way. Add marriage and kids and ironically, we all end up looking more like our parents than we ever imagined was possible.

traditionalguy said...

I really agree with Bob about Cash, but then I always see things from Bob's point of view. His words work on me. My experience in the 1964 to 1969 times did not include time spent doing drugs. I had other interests. The I-Pod is also a tool to keep out noise/music coming at you from everwhere. The good audiobooks available are an education refresher.

Ignacio said...

I'm listening to Bob Dylan's new album, which I hear is pretty good.

No, I'm kidding. I'm listening to "Imagine John Lennon Dead"

"Yeah he had a reason / he had a reason to die
"Hey he had a reason / he had a reason to die"

Lem said...

The Shaman is the person, male or female, who in his late childhood or early youth has an overwhelming psychological experience that turns him totally inward. Its a kind of schizophrenic crack-up.
The whole unconscious opens up, and the shaman falls into it
.

The Power of Myth.

See, its not all bad, it's all shamantrics ;)

sierra said...

Jeez, Bob. If I listen to your new album it's got to be with headphones, because my wife sure as hell can't stand listening to your voice through the speakers.

srfwotb said...

Whatever. It cuts way way down on TV.

The walkman and the portable CD player both came before the ipod (1980s?), so it's been more than a full biological generation now.

I don't use the earbuds, they're too expensive to replace every few months and they mess with my hearing. I stock up on koss sport clipz instead.

Now if you want to talk mini-malls and cheesy ass reality TV, you got me, I'm your curmudgeon - except I haven't watched TV for more than a decade about the same time I started downloading all my music.

I'll happily go outside instead- with my ipod.

Jason (the commenter) said...

I wish musicians would stop complaining about how audiences are listening to music and make some music worth listening to. So far this year I've heard nothing new worth buying. Bat for Lashes, maybe, but one album over four months!

the quietist said...

I agree that these technologies cut people off from one another, but Allan Bloom said the exact same thing over 20 years ago about students with that newfangled Walkman thing on campus.

Is there a lesson here? If that quintessential boomer hero Bob Dylan is now echoing the Closing of the American Mind, perhaps the boomers might reflect that there was absolutely nothing special, unique, or meaningful about their overrated youthful "rebellion," and realize that old people and young people have misunderstood one another since the beginning of time. Perhaps it will also remind us that it is folly to idealize youth over experience.

I am 30 years old. I also scorned my elders and called them fascists. But then I grew up, and I will not pretend that my tantrums had some sort of deeper significance.

srfwotb said...

@Laura My sister would dreamily stare into the vid cam preview screen transfixed by the images of her then-new baby being cute while the real thing was screaming for attention not two feet away. True.

But I kid. She's a good mom.

Craig Landon said...

It's even more unnerving because a lot, if not most, of those young people are oblivious to the fact that there are those in the world who want them dead, with or without ear buds. Indeed, they want them dead BECAUSE of the ear buds.

One wonders if they'll defend their ear buds.

Dylan, et. al didn't have the same concerns. The odd police beatdown didn't have the Prophet's blessing. Soon, it will.

traditionalguy said...

@ the Quietist...Bob Dylan was far from a quentissential Boomer...few liked his voice, his appearance, or his songs in the 60s. And only 10% of us ever rebelled to the extent of becoming drug users. The history which we had no choice but to live thru (The Draft was not ended by Nixon until 1971), together with our uncharted new sexual freedoms, made Dylan's words serve as powerful explanations of the blur of those experiences when people thought back over them later. That's when we discovered his Genius which had been there all along. But you are correct that today will have to have its own struggles, and a new man/women arising to creatively explain the experience.

Joe said...

This reasoning has always baffled me. What is "real life?" If my wife and I walk down the street talking, am I ignoring real life? What if she reads my kids a book? What if I stand in on the sidewalk and have Bob Dylan sing, is that ignoring "real life"?

Based on the regular statements of morons who think they are being profound, any human activity you engage in ignores "real life". In short, you will never satisfy the busy bodies of the world.

David said...

Dylan is probably deaf as a stone after all these years making and listening to music. It's the rocker's occupational disease.

Donna B. said...

I'm with Joe. Real life is what we're living whether it's with sound or not.

I hated walkmans and thus figured I wouldn't like iPods, but have found they are useful on long trips in areas where radio stations are limited.

Outside, I prefer the birds and dogs barking, even if it is to a freeway bass.

I'm a music lover to the extent that I cannot concentrate on anything else if music is present. Reading a book with music playing in the background does not work for me.

Ti-Guy said...

Please don't tell me I should be blogging about some other subject. If you have a tip on what I should blog, email me at annalthouse (at) gmail (dot) com. Otherwise, express yourself. Be interesting. You can digress, but digress creatively. Amuse us!Good God, you're fatuous

Palladian said...

"I'm with Joe. Real life is what we're living whether it's with sound or not."

Life is what happens to you when you're busy making other plans.

"Good God, you're fatuous"

What a fatuous thing to say...

TMink said...

Once again, I concur with Palladian and Laura. While I get Bob's point, my listening to my music on my iPod is one of the most self-actualized things I do.

The musical choices are for nobody but me. It is Trey radio. I select a playlist or genre based on my mood or what I want my mood to be. There are no hair bands on my iPod, cause I don't like em, but some Sabbath with more to follow. There is no contemporary country, but a LOT of Buck Owens and BR549. I have three of Bob's records on there, Blood On The Tracks, Saved, and Highway 61. I wish I had more but my 60 gig is full so I am waiting for the day I buy a 180 gig classic.

It is one of the most me things I do in my life, and I use it to steer myself into better places, better moods, and better productivity.

I have playlists for the kids with lots of Veggie Tales and They Might Be Giants and Barenaked Ladies and novelty tunes because this is the children's music I want to inflict on my little ones.

So I understand the point about being insulated by the headphones, but sometimes I need to be insulated so I can be emotionally available for the people that matter. And those iPods plug into players that let me push my musical madness on anyone in earshot.

So love ya Bob, but ya missed me with this one.

Trey

Pogo said...

The truth is far more complicated.

The earbuds may reduce your safety, by not being able to hear someone approach (not to mention the damage to your hearing over time), yet at the same time it permits you to be left alone without 'disrespecting' someone when you do not react to their outbursts (or even when you do; e.g. "What're you lookin at?")

The cellphone increases connectivity to those in your circle, but decreases connections amongst those around you, so that new friends are less likely, especially those by chance encounters.

For city dwellers who both adore and abhor their metropolis, who simultaneously love and pity and fear the throngs, being able to exclude the din of humanity for the train ride home is a necessary respite, lest malice take root when another day brings yet more illiterate beasts speaking near-English at volumes exceeding eleven.

It's our tragic and human story, told again, this iteration differing only in the technological details. It's but another tool, to be used for good or ill, for sharing or withdrawing, for avoidance or relaxation.

It is no sin, but neither does it sanctify.

Diamondhead said...

"That's rather ironic coming from a 60's icon, where the motto was "Turn on, tune in, drop out."

That was the hippie's mantra, not Dylan's. During what most people think of as the 60's (the part with the hippies), Dylan was embracing domesticity and fleeing Woodstock ahead of the festivities.

As to his quote here, few people who've ever seen the bill for their teenager's text messaging habit or sat in a restaurant while their kid listens to Kanye will argue his point.

Beth said...

Tune in, turn on, drop out...

Coming at the end, being the little sister, of the Boomers, I was always a step behind on the real hippie stuff. I read Baba Rum Raisin in Harvard Lampoon long before I knew who Baba Ram Dass was, and by then, too late! I'd embraced snark over the Age of Aquarius. Thank God!

The only time the headphones bother me is when I see them in ears, in class. I keep a rolled up newspaper handy for that. Thunk!

No, not really. But here at semester's end, that's always a fun fantasy.

Methadras said...

There are different form of freedom and liberation. Some through the interaction of reality, some through the interaction of virtuality.

"Simon Kenton said...

As a self-defense instructor, I cringe to see these people isolating themselves from the world around them. A warrior is always alert. They aren't warriors; some scant percentage of them will be called upon to be and will start at a grave disadvantage."

That might be true. How the unwitting choose to interact with the world will usually be a determiner of how the world decides to interact with them, without their knowledge or permission. We are all slaves of circumstance whether we like it or not or whether we choose to or not. Interacting with technology shouldn't be a road to isolation. If it was then we wouldn't be here interacting in this medium.

Mr. Forward said...

How many tunes must a man down load
Before you call him a man?
Yes, and how many songs must an ipod hold
Before it slips from your hand?
Yes, and how many ears must the ear buds fry
Before they're forever banned?
The answer, my friend, is blowing off the trend
The answer is blowing off the trend.

How many times must a man hook up
Before he is free from the i?
Yes and how many ears must one man have
Before he can hear people cry?
Yes, and how many deaths will it take till he knows
That too many batteries died?
The answer my friend, is blowing off the trend,
The answer is blowing off the trend.

How many years can an itune exist
Before it's washed out for me?
Yes, and how many years can some people resist
Before music's allowed to be free?
Yes, and how many years can a man plug his ears
Pretending he doesn't hear me?
The answer my friend, is tuning in again
The answer is tuning in again.

Robert Cook said...

"The Draft was not ended by Nixon until 1971"Actually, it was 1973, as I was within months of turning draft age when it was terminated, (along with our sending military to Viet Nam). (I still had to register on my birthday,though.)

Part of Dylan's plaint is the normal tendency of older people to be puzzled (or worse) by seeing younger generations adopting new behaviors, the pleasures of which may elude the oldsters. On the other hand, it's not even that he's saying they shouldn't listen to music or should never use iPods; he's unnerved, to use his term, by what he sees as the apparent inability to unplug of so many iPod users.

I kind of agree; I have an iPod and I rarely ever carry it with me; I have an iPhone and I haven't put any music on it. Yet, I was a compulsive record buyer for decades, and even now I more often than not have music playing at home, usually the radio, but otherwise my own purchased music.

However, I don't like walking through the city unable to hear my surroundings; it makes me feel blind to my environment.

Nonetheless, each to his own really. I like to read and I'm appalled that my brother has no books in his home and his two sons never read any books. That's my prejudice, and I do think people who don't read end up lacking something, but are they really?

I'm with Bob on this one, but I don't see this position as "the way things oughta be," just as a reflection of my own experience of the world. I think Bob would agree.

Issob Morocco said...

Ahh, real life, stoking the coal boiler early in the morn, filling it from the coal bin in the back room, dark even with a 100 watt light burning bright.

The kids filling up on Ma's skillet cooking which she started a half hour before she went to bed with making the biscuit dough leaving it to rise before all arose.

Squire Dylan, what is real life?

traditionalguy said...

Robert cook... You are correct that the law allowing Selective Service officially ended in 1973. However draft anger/angst began to end when the new Lottery Number method was put into place in late 1969, ending the corrupt system of local favoratism coupled with everyone's elegibility continuing until age 26. And then the actual Draft call-ups by the new method of only calling your birthdate number if needed in one calendar year, effectively ended when the last number to be needed was announced in late 1970. Thereafter, the need for new troops was reversing itself because Nixon's negotiated pull out of Americans from Nam had startedthe need for a RIF. Those were the real hope and change days. It all happened because the "War Criminals" Nixon and Kissinger, without the newly anti-war Democrats' permission first, had "Illegally" bombed enemy bases across the border in Cambodia. That was the Left's first taste of the art of Criminalizing Politics by seeking to charge as Crimes a Republican wartime commander-in-chief's strategic decisions to win a war that the Leftists Politicians were dedicated to ending by our surrender.

kentuckyliz said...

Bob Dylan yelling at the kids, "Get off my lawn!"

TMink said...

Diamond wrote: "As to his quote here, few people who've ever seen the bill for their teenager's text messaging habit or sat in a restaurant while their kid listens to Kanye will argue his point."

A good point. That is why I canceled my 14 year old's text and photo capabilities and do not allow her to download Kanye.

And we never let our kids pod up at dinner or church etc.

Trey

David said...

"ending the corrupt system of local favoratism coupled with everyone's elegibility continuing until age 26."

Other than having trouble dealing with the occasional manipulator (cf. Bill Clinton), my recollection is that the draft boards functioned with considerable fairness and efficiency, especially for a government agency. Do you have any evidence of this systemic corruption, or even that the so called corruption was a factor in ending the draft?

By and large the draft was a great equalizer, with the glaring exception of the student deferment. Paring back the student deferment is one of the reasons the draft got so unpopular. The elite could not be sheltered any more, so they became high minded. (There was of course the female exemption, but that is another story.)

k*thy said...

It's sanity protection and personal choice rather than having chaos and ugliness rattle my ears.It can be escapism or a meditation – it all depends on your perspective, per usual.

traditionalguy said...

David...The point about the 1960s being stressful included the ever present and real possibility of fighting to the death in a jungle 90 days from now. This focused the mind of you and all your friends on how to deal with visible evidence of the truth of claims of systematic favoratism to the kids of politically connected families: The odd 4Fs granted on eminent Doctor's medical reports for their perfectly healthy kids...The special deferments for extra-education for their education hating kids... The National Guard unit spots only available to their bragging kids... Were seen as legal loopholes available to the favored few. The Draft Boards cooperated with this corruption by legal loophole. Since the honest players used no such loopholes, we declared that the Draft system was corrupt, and it was.

knox said...

By and large the draft was a great equalizer, with the glaring exception of the student deferment.That's like saying early America was the great equalizer, with the glaring exception of slavery.

Lem said...

What the I pod needs is a human vicinity compensator.

The idea is that if a human comes near you the ipod’s volume would automatically go down the alarm – red alert – would go on prompting you to your battle station ;)

molly said...

I usually listen to records, but when I do use my iPod I wear open headphones so I still hear what's going on around me. The idea of putting something into my ear just grosses me out. Am I doing it right, Bob?

TosaGuy said...

Bob Dylan is correct, the cost of liberty IS high.

It is as taken for granted in this nation as much is air, and the unaware does not realized either is gone until they are suffocating.

John said...

Ironic given how much Dylan I have on my iPod.

Have to agree with him about Bluetooth though. I'm tired of having to decide if the person coming up to me is talking to me, on Bluetooth, or schizophrenic.

. said...

who cares about bob dylan's opinion anyway?
he hasn't put out a decent record since Blood on the Tracks ... that's more than 30 years

Henry said...

Everybody
Must
Get
Stoned!

Oligonicella said...

Yeah, it's so much worse than walking down the street oblivious to the world with your nose buried in a book, which if I recall, is considered a good trait.

Never cared for Dylan. Hate his voice. Do an excellent impersonation though.

molly said...

he hasn't put out a decent record since Blood on the Tracks ... that's more than 30 yearsDid you listen to Modern Times? Only one that even compares.

halojones-fan said...

I went to dinner with some friends a few weeks ago. They had their two boys with them, both under ten. The boys were bright, chatty, attentive.

As soon as the meal came, Mom grabbed two portable game players out of her purse, and both boys immediately shoved earphones into their heads. They spent the rest of the meal with their heads down, focused on the game players, while Mom and Dad hand-fed them. It was one of the creepiest things I've ever ever experienced.

Diamondhead said...

"he hasn't put out a decent record since Blood on the Tracks ... that's more than 30 years"

Other than Desire, Slow Train Coming, Infidels, Oh Mercy, Time Out of Mind, Love & Theft, Modern Times, and the current one. So yeah, great point.

Diamondhead said...

halo, that sounds "peculiar and unnerving..."

Steve Dillard said...

Jars of Clay's latest CD has a song called "Headphones," with the following lyrics:

I don't have to hear it
If I don't want to
I can drown this out
Pull the curtains down on you
It's a heavy world
It's too much for me to care
If I close my eyes
It's not there

With my headphones on (x4)

We watch television
But the sound is something else
Just a song played against the drama
So the hurt is never felt
I take in the war fires
And I'm chilled by the current events
It's so hopeless
But there's a pop song in my head

phones on
With my headphones on (x7)

At the tube stop
You sit down across from me
I think I know you
By the sad eyes that I see
And I wanna tell you
Everything will be ok
But you wouldn't hear it
So we go our separate ways

with our headphones on

I don't wanna be the one who
Tries to figure it out
I don't need another reason
I should care about you
You don't wanna know my story
You don't wanna own my pain
We're living in a heavy, heavy world
And there's a pop song in my head
yeah there's a pop song in my head

Yeah it's a heavy world
Oh no, I don't wanna have to hear it
Heavy world

No, I don't wanna have to hear it (x3)

JAL said...

Beth The only time the headphones bother me is when I see them in ears, in class. I keep a rolled up newspaper handy for that. Thunk!
Great idea. Really. If you tell them no headphones -- no headphones.

Only you'd probably get sued for -- battery? (Tell them the consequence -- thwack!)

jaed said...

And we never let our kids pod up at dinner or church etc.

May I just say that I really like this verb, which is new (or at least new to me).

"I'm going to pod up and go for a walk."

"Yeah, I saw him in the cafeteria and tried to say hi, but he was all podded up."

Sam said...

"I'm listening to podcasts and audiobooks."

That's like someone saying "Why yes, I do read Playboy magazine, but just for the interesting articles".