Friday, January 13, 2017

Car Stereo Layla

Very often these days when I hear live music, applause is tepid, even when the crowd loved the band. Many don't clap at all. Poorly-paid musicians are in it for acclaim and approval, yet audiences can't be bothered to slap their palms and curl their mouth corners. Things have sunk that low.

At first I chalked it up to people feeling too cool to clap ("I catch every gig; let the giddy neophytes express their vulgar pleasure"). Insider's don't clap, and we're in an age where everyone needs to feel like an insider. But that's not entirely it. At performance's end, if you study the audience, they're all making their sullen, slack-jawed video game-playing faces. No beaming admiration, no recognition that it's their turn to activate in any way. They've been consuming, feeling as much responsibility to "give back" as they would toward their TV sets or earbuds. This is the slack-jawed endgame of extreme consumerism. Welcome to the Wall-E scenario.

I first observed this years ago, when a great many people assumed they were doing me a personal favor by surfing Chowhound, which I provided at Herculean effort as a public service. They'd often speak to me like their servant, brusquely instructing me on how I needed to change everything to fit their bill. If I didn't accommodate snappily, they'd become - often publicly - scornful. I learned in time that this was not the high-handed condescension it appeared to be. I wasn't an actual person - not any more than, say, one of the bosses in Grand Theft Auto. I was a guy manning a spigot, and each individual user's decision to suck from that spigot struck them as the most important thing - no, the only thing - in my universe.

Fast forward a few years. A large team and I have worked ridiculously hard for two solid years on something very ambitious, very necessary, and very heartfelt. It's nearly done, and I've given a few dozen people a preview peak. Among those who've partaken, very, very few have responded in any way. Thankfully, though, I've turned a corner. Ten or twenty years ago, I'd have been in freakout mode, assuming everyone hated it. Now, more firmly grounded in our era, I realize they love it. They're sucking from the spigot, and that's what counts. Who among us would acknowledge Eric Clapton when "Layla" finished playing on our car stereo? Everything is now car stereo Layla.

Three notes:

1. I'm smarter this time. This time, everyone has to cough up five bucks.

2. This whole situation is drastically against my religion.

3. As for people who I invited who never cracked it open, I am completely okay with that. You see, my favorite food writer, John Thorne, is a hero to me. I didn't often have time to read him back in the Chowhound days, and I somehow haven't caught up since. Whenever I pass the stack of his newsletters, I feel a warm glow of joy and admiration. But that's not sufficient; Thorne deserves my readership, not just my affection. So if I'm not eagerly reading every word of Thorne, I must completely forgive anyone who fails to follow my work. I can't expect anyone to admire me more faithfully than I admire John Thorne (more on him).

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Eric Clapton - "Layla"
The Kinks - "Lola"

But I still get your point.

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