Sleepers, Wake

By Lambert Strether of .

The was released today ( or cord, so if Apple is developing falls out of your ear while you’re jogging, it’s going to head straight for that puddle). That got me thinking how devices and screens seem to be infiltrating every nook and cranny of our lives — I like dumb phones, but I also travel with not one but two laptops, and not one but two iPads, for redundancy — including sleep (and not just because of , either). :

Lynn Taylor has a bad habit of sending emails at all hours of the night … at 11:45 p.m., then 12:29 a.m., and even as late as 2:23 a.m. When the rest of the world is checked out, Taylor is plugged in.

“I spend my day thinking of emails I need to send, and the only time I can catch up is after hours,” says Taylor, 36, a government affairs executive in Washington, D.C.

Whether it’s email, a video game, the Web, or TV, electronic devices and their offerings keep millions of Americans like Taylor connected 24/7. But the price for leading our fully wired lives is high: These diversions can keep us from both falling asleep and sleeping well.

That cause is said to be “cognitive overstimulation,” but I dunno; I always pictured myself as a terrible sleeper, but I’ve discovered that picture is false: I fall asleep (say) to episode #158, where McClellan is about to lose the Penisula Campaign, and end up back at Fair Oaks, hours later and farther back in the past, having slept peacefully through Stonewall Jackson’s campaign in the Shenendoah Valley. Then again — as I type at 2:26AM — I’m also very much with Lynn Porter, too.

All of which is meandering way of introducing the book I plan to briefly comment upon, Jonathan Crary’s 24/7: Late Capitalism and the Ends of Sleep.[1]

Capitalism and Sleep

24/7 is perhaps dazzling rather than illuminating; more a dystopian polemic than a work of scholarship. In fact — though this could be me, as I haven’t been getting enough slip — though I raced through it (24/7 is only 125 small pages long) it’s melted away from my mind, like a dream or perhaps like a pomo verbal confection. That said, Crary has one theme to which he returns over and over again, which I will excerpt (p. 10 et seq):

Many institutions [especially financial institutions] have been running 24/7 for decades now. It is only recently that the elaboration, the modeling of one’s personal and social identity, has been reorganized to conform to the uninterrupted operation of markets, information networks, and other systems….

As for example Lynn Taylor’s email. Or her iPhone. However:

In its profound uselessness and intrinsic passivity, with the incalcuable losses it causes in production time, circulation, and consumption, sleep will always collide with the demands of a 24/7 universe. The huge portion of our lives that we spend asleep, freed from a morass of simulated needs, subsists as one of the great human affronts to the voraciousness of contemporary capitalism. Most of the seemingly irreducible necessities of human life — hunger, thirst, sexual desire, and recently the need for friendship — have neen remade into commodified or financialized forms. Sleep poses the idea of a human need and interval of time that cannot be colonized and harnessed to a massive engine of profitability, and thus remains an incongruous anomaly and site of crisis in the global present. In spite of all the scientific research in this area, it frustrates and confounds any strategies to exploit or reshape it. The stunning, inconceivable reality is that nothing of value can be extracted from it.

No doubt there’s an app for sleep… Now, I think Crary gets this exactly right: Just as capitalism has commodified water (for pity’s sake), it would commodify sleep. If it could.[2] Technical barriers aside, why hasn’t it?

Workers and Sleep

The problem I have with 24/7 is that it presents the glittering irreality of capitalism as far more totalizing than it is in fact, and that Crary’s seamless exposition seems to provide no rent or tear through which the activities of dull normals can be seen; Lynn Taylor, after all, is a 10%er, a “government executive,” as surely is Crary’s audience as he glides smoothly from Foucault to Barthes to DeLeuze and Guattari. For that reason, I think Crary underestimates the determination of working people to take back their sleeping hours. For example, Pullman porters:

The heart of the [Alan Derickson’s Dangerously Sleepy] for me is the chapter on Pullman porters, who, beyond their proud place in labor history, accumulated valuable knowledge about the public health risks of systemic sleep loss. Founded in 1867, the Pullman Company employed only African-American porters in its sleeping cars because the founder, George Pullman, thought they were particularly suited to making beds, shining shoes, emptying spittoons, and other demeaning tasks the passengers demanded. And like steelworkers who worked the dreaded “long shift,” they were also subjected to temporal and spatial arrangements that made restful sleep impossible. While passengers slept in comfortably appointed compartments with soft bedding and padding protecting them against injury in the case of derailments or collisions, the porters had only couches in the washroom or smoking room. A porter in 1903 estimated that the average employee got less than four hours of sleep a night; making matters worse, the company disciplined those who fell asleep at the wrong time or the wrong place with up to 30 days’ suspension. Beginning in 1925, porters began to fight back, creating the first major national union for workers of color: the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters. Led by future civil rights leader A. Philip Randolph, the Brotherhood highlighted connections between sleep loss and respiratory, cardiac, and mental health risks — issues that have been of interest to sleep researchers ever since. More successful than these appeals to health and safety were Randolph’s appeals to common interests of employers and employees. “It is a well-recognized principle in psychological physiology,” the socialist Randolph argued, “that fatigue destroys efficiency and lessens productivity.” Despite sporadic successes in limiting work hours, the Brotherhood didn’t secure a 40-hour workweek until 1940.

I just don’t think there’s a place for those Pullman Porters — past, or their present equivalent — in Crary’s paradig of “Late Capitalism” (and doesn’t “late” rather assume what it must prove?) (to be fair, a competing sleep theorist) writes:

It seems that every so often, the idea of the 24/7 society resurfaces and compels someone to write a tract like 24/7. In the 1970s, sociologist Murray Melbin started such a project, which came to fruition in Night as Frontier: Colonizing the World After Dark (1987). Melbin had earlier published a similarly titled essay in the 1970s about the inevitable encroachment of capitalism into every spatial and temporal corner of American social life, but by the time he conducted the entirety of the research that laid the basis for Night as Frontier, his attitude had changed somewhat: yes, there was activity at night, but it was far from all-consuming, and the people who worked at night – police, truck drivers, nurses, restaurant servers – had a camaraderie based on their shared existence in the marginalized social world of night work.

“The lobster shift,” as we used to call it. And:

[T]he basis of Crary’s analysis is not the everyday lives of individuals, but the imagined experience of some unnamed individual, impelled to live a 24/7 existence, constructed through the casual reading of news items and 20th century French philosophy, with a sprinkling of references to paintings, documentaries, and a Philip K. Dick novel.

This lack of an empirical grounding is the most troubling aspect of 24/7, and it’s most likely to be the most frustrating aspect about the book for many readers. …

This leads to, or grows out of, his conception of capitalism, which is an abstract, placeless force that seems to have no instrumental actors, but, instead, only hapless victims – except for the artists and critics who are able to extricate themselves from capitalism’s morass.

How then, should sleepers and the sleepless be placed? Wolf-Meyer concludes:

[H]ow is 24/7 spreading around the globe and across class lines? How is it that once only elites were required to be on call at all times, and now even minimum wage workers need to respond to emergency phone calls from their employers when off shift? How is time-discipline, which E.P. Thompson characterized in the age of industrialization (1993), becoming sutured to ideas about 24/7 – or not? If 24/7 is such an order-word, who, exactly, does it compel, and how, precisely, is it capturing the imaginations and everyday practices of people around the world? And whom does it fail to seduce, and how are they articulating themselves against 24/7? True elites live beyond the seduction of 24/7 as much as the truly downtrodden do; it seems that 24/7 is aspirational, but only some will ever bother to aspire to it, regardless of the damage that ensues. But without firm empirical grounding from Crary, the reader can only imagine who that might be.

Conclusion

Returning to the iPhone: I was doing some Xeroxing at Staples last week, and while I was waiting for the job, I noticed a family, also waiting for a job — all staring down into their cellphones. And of course, whenever we go out to a restaurant, we see couples sharing a table, but each staring into their cellphones as well. Perhaps these are the sleepers who should wake from the dreams of their devices (or will, if we lose or three to some disaster). Are they all checking their email at three in the morning? Or are they, not being 10%-ers, even aspirationally, not? Or perhaps all of us chained to the gears and complications of financial time are the sleepers, and we are the ones who should wake. I’m not sure. But I’m going to before going to bed.

NOTES

[1] The Los Angeles Times Book Review has an excellent comparative review of the “critical sleep studies” literature, which include a discussion of 24/7. There’s a lot more work being done in this field than I had imagined.

[2] “[H]ere’s what makes this campaign truly great, in my estimation–each sample of Coffiest contains three milligrams of a simple alkaloid. Nothing harmful. But definitely habit-forming. After ten weeks the customer is hooked for life. It would cost him at least five thousand dollars for a cure, so it’s simpler for him to go right on drinking Coffiest–three cups with every meal and a pot beside his bed at night, just as it says on the jar.” –Frederik Pohl and C.M. Kornbluth, The Space Merchants, 1953.

APPENDIX

For the late night crowd, Bach’s Cantata 140: “Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme” (“Awake, calls the voice to us”), BWV 140, also known as Sleepers Wake:

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.

60 comments

  1. Skippy

    It’s telling that Apple’s Steve Jobs didn’t allow his kids to play with iPads at all.

    Disheveled Marsupial…. that’s not even getting into musculoskeletal or depth perception dramas….

    1. Optimader

      I occasionally wonder if there is a relationship between wiring of young brains in a digitally saturated enviornment and the verbal abuse of the word like?

    2. Optimader

      I occasionally wonder if there is a relationship between the wiring of young brains in a digitally saturated enviornment and the verbal abuse of the word like?

        1. optimader

          Of course, but questionable for electronic devices to be the time sucking default go-to entertainment. The electronic sitter.

          It’s a recently instituted long term, large scale behavioral experiment.

          Books are good, and free at the library. Used to burn through them as a kid, a couple a week. Back In MY day, blah blah blah! hahahha

          Where I live, the rich kids all like have the latest like smart phones, pads, whateva…
          So I am told, they are in the queue at Starbucks texting each other while getting their gagging sugary coffee-like beverages.

          1. Paul Art

            They do not read if they have devices. And even if they did read eBooks they read a hel of a lot less than they would have read if they did not have devices. Devices are evil. they also take time away from music practice. I probably would have never worn my finger tips to the bone getting every note of Starry Starry Night or American Tune if I had attached myself to a device. Both my kids are very music leaning but I am 100% sure they would spend more time on their instruments without their iPads and Laptops.

          2. Mike G

            And in my day they said similar things about Sony Walkmans. It’s about the kids’ need for escape and having control over their environment.

            1. Optimader

              Listening to tunes is a horse of a different color.
              I did some serious physical activities — road biking (and swimming w/a waterproof enclosure) ) skiing etc w/ my trusty Walkman.

              Don’t think listening to music is analogous to comtemporary forms of Digital Saturation which is by their nature seditary “activities”.

  2. clarky90

    This is a subject close to my heart. My eight or so hours of sleep are the joy of my life.

    I learned about “Lucid dreaming”, which changes everything about my view of existence. The Tibetans call it “Dream Yoga” and consider it their highest spiritual practice.

    There are lots of books. Here is a complete book by Dr Stephen LaBerge

    I learned about sleeping in the olden days.

    “AT DAY’S CLOSE is one of those books which, once finished, you can’t stop thinking about and which you want to tell all your friends about. For anyone who has thought much about the world before the modern era, it has a particularly magical touch, for it asks us to re-imagine what life was like before the electric and gas light came to be, when once the sun fell people were plunged into mostly impenetrable darkness. No wonder they made such a cult of the moon! It must have been a blessing to them. “Ill met by moonlight” indeed.”

    I now go to sleep at about 10 pm. I turn off everything and my bedroom is dark. Once you value and enjoy your dreams, there is nothing on TV or the internet that comes close.

    Our dreams are doorways into other realms. Dreaming is the Mother-lode of all inspiration. Anybody who is not having regular, vivid or lucid dreams is suffering extreme deprivation.

    It is easy to fix the situation. The very first step is to realize that wonderful nourishing, enlightening sleep is an absolute blessing. Then start to plan your day around getting a wonderful and extremely important sleep.

    1. hemeantwell

      The concept of lucid dreaming has several variants. One that I distrust emphasizes exercising control over the dreams in a way that essentially turns them into pleasurable fantasies in the conventional sense, they are enjoyable, you get the object of desire. Especially in light of 24/7’s emphasis on the extension of capitalist ordering into sleep, it becomes even more important to allow dreaming to be disorderly in the sense that they allow what is idiosyncratic and peculiar to the individual to surface, with emphasis on the peculiar.

      1. diptherio

        I’ve had a couple of lucid dreams. In one, I became aware that I was dreaming as I was walking through a post-apocalyptic cityscape. I met a couple of women, a blond and a brunette, and decided that since I was dreaming, I should be able to change the blonds hair color to something darker (being a brunette guy, myself). They both laughed at me and said “it doesn’t work like that, honey.”

        Just because it’s your dream, doesn’t mean you’re in control…in my experience anyway.

        1. Optimader

          Word for the day:
          Brunet

          Definition of brunet
          : a person having brown or black hair and often a relatively dark complexion —spelled brunet when used of a boy or man and usually brunette when used of a girl or woman

    2. polecat

      That book is great read …..

      by the way Lambert ….have you had the chance to read it yet ??

      If and when energy constraints hit home, we may all be living out similar lives as those highlighted in that book!

  3. Ignacio

    [email protected] the iPhone7!

    Ups, sorry for my language, but it is not just that i don’t mind about buying the latest gadget or that i find that crap too expensive for little extra utility. It is just that I don’t like how, by selling iPhones, to many, Apple is stealing money from us all. The hell with Apple and their foll…

    Oh no! ranting again!!

    1. diptherio

      Apple makes laptops without so much as a USB drive and walkmans with no headphone jacks…I’m constantly amazed at the power of “cool” to get people to buy super-limited technology. Like the ol’ man said, no one every went broke by underestimating the stupidity of the American consumer….

      1. Elizabeth Burton

        One does have to wonder, though, what genius came up with the idea of disposing of the earphone jack in the iPhone when the iPhone’s sales have been steadily declining.

      1. optimader

        what if that container ship ended up stranded on Gilligan’s Island? –probably no cell service :o/

      2. hunkerdown

        Over a million of the large size if bulk-packed, but that doesn’t seem safe. Possibly soon to be related: , a tale of 200 gross of bath toys lost at sea. It’s in my get-to pile right now.

  4. Tom

    24/7-ism: yet another reason why capitalists will seek to automate every conceivable job – and they won’t lose a wink of sleep over it.

    1. Synoia

      Yes, but robots cannot be laid off in a downturn, and the creditors who will finance the robots are relentless.

      1. Mike G

        Remind me of a probably apocryphal story about a Ford executive and UAW leader watching robots on an auto assembly line.
        “So, are you wondering how you can get these robots to join your union?”
        “No, I’m wondering how you’re going to get them to buy cars.”

  5. Cocomaan

    This discussion of capitalism and unused time reminds me of Polyani and his “fictitious commodities”.

    For those who haven’t read The Great Transformation, Polyani says there are things in this world considered to be commodities, but which can’t be called that so blithely because they are actually the reason commodities exist. He talks about land, people, capital as fictitious commodities.

    I think we need to add *time* to that list. But doing so violates all kinds of fundamental precepts of the philosophy of capital.

    By the way, awesome post!

    1. Skippy

      Philosophy does not have a working model of time or space see Einstein vs Bergson – meeting that took place on April 6, 1922 at the esteemed Societe Francaise de philosophie in Paris. The protagonists were none other than Albert Einstein and Henri

      Disheveled Marsupial…. then you have Stephen Hawking even declared the end of philosophy in 2011.

      1. Alejandro

        Yet “we” are where “we” are, with “free marketeers” pigeonholing “socialism” as the “violent abolition of the market”, then strawmanning a meaningless abstraction(made meaningless with cherry-picked definitions, caveats and disregarding facts).

      2. Cat's paw

        “then you have Stephen Hawking even declared the end of philosophy in 2011”

        It seems that just about every time a scientist decides s/he is going to go a few rounds with that weak little sister of thought–“philosophy”–you know, put her in her place, remind her who’s the epistemological boss around these parts, said scientist steps right out of his/her depth and right into a (metaphorical) pile of shit.

        This phenomenon is for some reason especially acute with the “best and brightest;” i.e., Hawking.

        The Einstein/Bergson dialogue is definitely worth reading about, if perhaps a little hard to follow. And Einstein, what a decent fellow. He actually respected thought and thinking and understood that he could learn some fundamental things about the world that were not written in physics journals.

      3. Skippy

        Still does not reconcile the fact that a working model of time and space is not available and as such… the discipline needs to ascribe the necessary caveats…

        The next thing you know stuff like neoliberalism becomes dominate along with the attendant monetarism under the beguiling guise of “Freedom and Liberty” ™… for all….

        Disheveled Marsupial…. sorta like when history transcends time and space without regards to being accurately contextualized… cough “Self Evident”…. ask the Tudors…

        1. Alejandro

          Yeah, sorta like the timeless yet ever evolving evolution of the “masters of mankind” and their transcendence to “masters of the universe”, yet their timeless ethos remains committed to their vile maxim-“all for us…”, AND committed to appropriating and controlling the power to shape, reshape, structure and restructure society to serve them…

          In a rare moment ( in time? ) in what seemed like an honest reflection(an attempt to contextualize?), God’s faithful servant (Lloyd Blankfein ) once said something to the effect that “this country does a great job of creating wealth, but not a great [job] of distributing it”. It was almost as if he was confessing (or maybe just mocking) that nominal “profits” don’t correlate to having created real “wealth”, but they translate into claims on the real “wealth” created…

    2. vegeholic

      I think it is “Polanyi”. I have always agreed with his concept that many aspects of society should not be subjected to market forces. Thanks for the Cantata!

  6. Norb

    The trouble with capitalism is that it consumes all. The relentless pursuit of profit distorts the world in such a way that nothing can exist for its own sake. Everything is turned in service of the system, even the process of sleep. Sleep is probably one of the last holdouts because of the extreme biological necessities that cannot be subverted. I’m sure there are probably plenty of people diligently using their creative capacities developing drugs to overcome this natural process, but I think these efforts will fail. A life distorted to such an extreme has to be seen as overreach. No marketing in the world could cover up the zombified effects such practices would inflict on the human body. But, you never know for sure.

    One of the most painful experiences in my life was working the midnight to seven shift as a security guard. On some days, putting off the need for sleep in order to finish my shift became almost unendurable. The only way I could keep going was imaging how I was going to sleep. Picturing my bed, tracing my steps to get home to my bed for sleep etc… I can understand how starving people survive a little longer by imaging food they have eaten. It is a psychological defense. As a side note, anyone rejecting the notion that sleep deprivation is not torture is kidding themselves. It is the perfect torture mechanism. Experience it and then you will know.

    A healthy culture understands and honors time and in doing so will always regenerate and perpetuate itself. Capitalism is a system that depends on endless expanding consumption. It cannot function when constrained in any way and that is it’s failure. It keeps going because the elite shelter themselves form the negative consequences. They sell the positive aspects to everyone, while most don’t realize what they are loosing or what is being destroyed in the process.

    America is truly an insane place to live these days. Marketing Fear 24/7, convert every holiday season into a consumer buying binge, and stigmatize the notion of sleep and doing nothing. Radical movements will be born of the people who reject the whole lot.

  7. Bill Smith

    A problem with the lack of a head phone jack is that there are a number of devices that are plugged into headphone jacks that people use. While the amount of power available in the headphone jack is small there is some there.

    One device I know of was a radiation scanner smaller about half the size of a pack of cigarettes that was used to inspect cargo containers. Another being that Square credit care reader. I heard of others being used in 3rd world countries where the smartphone also was the only computer available.

    1. PaulHarvey0swald

      My phone has a radio in it. (Not a radio app, an actual radio.) It uses the headphone jack for the antenna. I can plug in a 1/8″ cable and use the speaker on the phone so it, you know, acts like a radio. I don’t need a data connection – and while I cannot be sure, I don’t think I am tracked in any way. I think Apple is barking up a wrong tree on this one.

  8. JTMcPhee

    Re: the anecdote hook at the start of the piece: poor, poor Lynn Taylor, the “government affairs executive” in DC (and Stuttgart), who just has to wake to send those terribly important “government affairs” emails in the middle of the night. Lobbyists on duty, 24/7/365, making their “important” contributions to the looting and destruction.

    I wonder which corporation she serves… Ah, I see it is Merck KGaA, that public benefactor of a Big Pharma, Etc supranational… Such a pretty lady– is that a glass ceiling behind her in her LinkedIn photo? I lose sleep thinking about what people like her are doing to people like me and the rest of the Mopery— only a tiny bit of schadenfreude that she loses sleep plotting and organizing her part of the looting enterprise: “Helmut, keep after Angela on that privatizing initiative. ” Honey, don’t you know that sleep deprivation means you’ll be getting the bags under your eyes removed much sooner?

  9. Code Name D

    I remember much the same observations and arguments coming out with the Walkman. So none of this is really new.

    1. JCC

      I, too, remember some of the same observations, but they were commonly more along the line of people using them “too much” only when walking or jogging. Smart phone use and emails in the middle of the night, in restaurants, and even at work, however, are far more common and have become far more pernicious.

    2. jrs

      but of course a computerized world requires more 24/7 availability of people for obvious reasons which a walkman doesn’t. If say a shopping website is available 24/7 someone has to support it if it goes down even if it’s 3am their time (this could be mitigated by having global support but often isn’t). Also to limit processing resources many computer processes are specifically run on non-peak hours.

      So yes I think a world that expects to shop 24/7 (online) requires a 24/7 workforce at least if things go wrong. The computerized world does pose a real threat to worker sleep. Is it even worth it? Enough keeping the machinery functioning at 3am even though you as a human biological being are increasing not functioning due to sleep deprivation and no it starts not to be.

  10. Don Midwest USA

    America The Illiterate

    We live in two Americas. One America, now the minority, functions in a print-based, literate world. It can cope with complexity and has the intellectual tools to separate illusion from truth. The other America, which constitutes the majority, exists in a non-reality-based belief system. This America, dependent on skillfully manipulated images for information, has severed itself from the literate, print-based culture. It cannot differentiate between lies and truth. It is informed by simplistic, childish narratives and clichés. It is thrown into confusion by ambiguity, nuance and self-reflection. This divide, more than race, class or gender, more than rural or urban, believer or nonbeliever, red state or blue state, has split the country into radically distinct, unbridgeable and antagonistic entities.

    How is electronic information contributing to a post literate society? One in which people do not grapple with written text?

    Political leaders in our post-literate society no longer need to be competent, sincere or honest….

    The core values of our open society, the ability to think for oneself, to draw independent conclusions, to express dissent when judgment and common sense indicate something is wrong, to be self-critical, to challenge authority, to understand historical facts, to separate truth from lies, to advocate for change and to acknowledge that there are other views, different ways of being, that are morally and socially acceptable, are dying. Obama used hundreds of millions of dollars in campaign funds to appeal to and manipulate this illiteracy and irrationalism to his advantage, but these forces will prove to be his most deadly nemesis once they collide with the awful reality that awaits us.

    This was posted today on Cfdtrade. In fact it is from a 2008 article by Chris Hedges which was reposted on TruthDig Aug 31, 2016 while Chris was out on vacation.

    So, are even those who used to live in a print based literate world being moved to a world of the screen and recording? If so, what are the consequences?

    Even I, as cynical as I am at times, cannot believe the political rhetoric that Russia is playing a role in our elections and that foil is used rather than the issues.

    Here is the link to ZeroHedge which I seldom inhabit

    1. reslez

      One America, now the minority, functions in a print-based, literate world. It can cope with complexity and has the intellectual tools to separate illusion from truth. The other America, which constitutes the majority, exists in a non-reality-based belief system…. It cannot differentiate between lies and truth. It is informed by simplistic, childish narratives and clichés.

      Here’s the thing. Both Americas exist in non-reality-based belief systems. Both groups live in their own constructed fantasies. The print-based fantasies are different from the image/TV based ones, but that’s it. They’re little more than class markers. The people in the print-based group default to snap judgments as much as anyone else. They may have more education and supposedly trust in scientific inquiry, but that’s because they identify as members of that tribe. When it comes down to it they don’t function by reason or the scientific method either. Their “merit” system is 90% credentialism and social s. The remaining 10% is an important 10%, but it’s dwarfed by the glad-handing and schmoozing.

      It’s a mistake to think any sizable population of human beings operates chiefly by logic or reasoning. Look at the economics profession if you have any doubts about that. Argument by fantasy and self-serving models with no reference to reality.

  11. Carolinian

    Perhaps it’s the “phone” rather than the “smart” that makes smartphones so fascinating. For those of us who grew up in an analog world there were those very dumb phones with rotary dials that teenagers would spend all their time in their rooms talking on. Which is to say the technology simply becomes a way of mechanizing our own instinctive needs and desires. Viewed in that light it’s not nearly so sinister.

    Anyway, interesting post. Thanx.

    1. JTMcPhee

      Princess phones (TM) did not track the preferences of the teenybopper, nor have cameras to record (occasionally or often without consent) all their “off-camera” movements, nor facilitate the “collection of big data” from their ewww-grossss! lives,nor except indirectly via all that groupthink oohing over the latest fads and styles, did they facilitate separating them from “the community of real people” and from their (or their parents’) money… To the Mall!!!

  12. flora

    Great post. Thanks.

    An aside:
    “Sleepers Awake!” is one of my favorites. Great way to start the day.
    Let me add another of my favorites, Bach’s Cantata no. 208. “Sheep May Safely Graze”. In reference to people whose heads are always down “eye grazing” on their smart phones. :)

  13. human

    I arise from dreams of thee
    In the first sweet sleep of night,
    When the winds are breathing low,
    And the stars are shining bright
    I arise from dreams of thee,
    And a spirit in my feet
    Has led me – who knows how? –
    To thy chamber-window, sweet!

    The wandering airs they faint
    On the dark, the silent stream, –
    The champak odors fall
    Like sweet thoughts in a dream,
    The nightingale’s complaint,
    It dies upon her heart,
    As I must die on thine,
    O, beloved as thou art!

    O, lift me from the grass!
    I die, I faint, I fall!
    Let thy love in kisses rain
    On my lips and eyelids pale,
    My cheek is cold and white, alas!
    My Heart beats loud and fast
    Oh! press it close to thine again,
    Where it will break at last!

    Percy Bysshe Shelley

  14. Romancing The Loan

    And of course, whenever we go out to a restaurant, we see couples sharing a table, but each staring into their cellphones as well …I’m going to read a book before going to bed.

    Many of us are reading books on our phones when we do that, you know. Low lighting in restaurants makes paper books impractical, and ten years of marriage makes constant dinner conversation unnecessary. Nice article otherwise but the overdramatic “kids today” vibe of the conclusion is a little silly.

  15. WatchingEthosInFreefall

    There is a free nice and safe (no hidden junk-ware) program called f.lux that takes the blue out of your laptop or computer screen display when twilight ends and returns it at twilight in the morning. It has many adjustable settings for your personal needs and preferences. It has a ‘movie mode’ that allows you watch with normal color after hours, and many other features. It purportedly helps you maintain your circadian rhythm. You’ll notice the screen’s color shift gradually over 30 seconds (that’s adjustable too) to a more reddish tone (again adjustable down to 2700K). After a minute or so, you don’t even notice the difference. In the morning, it returns the blue to 6500K. I have no affiliation with the program’s developer. I just like it a lot!

  16. cyclist

    More people need to take seriously books like How to Be Idle: A Loafer’s Manifesto by Tom Hodgkinson. Nothing like a nice pint in the middle of the afternoon.

    1. polecat

      Nothing like sitting in the garden, on a fine warm day, listening to the comings and goings of the bees ,,,,, while sipping an ice cold ginger mead !

  17. ewmayer

    Re. Bach’s Cantata 140: “Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme” — Don’t forget this cantata inspired P.D.Q.Bach to compose his cantata for chorus of canines, “Wachet arf.” Wikipedia details:

    Compositional periods

    Schickele divides P. D. Q. Bach’s fictional musical output into three periods: the Initial Plunge, the Soused Period, and Contrition. During the Initial Plunge, P. D. Q. Bach wrote the Traumerei for solo piano, an Echo Sonata for “two unfriendly groups of instruments”, and a Gross Concerto for Divers Flutes, two Trumpets, and Strings. During the Soused (or Brown-Bag) Period, P. D. Q. Bach wrote a Concerto for Horn & Hardart, a Sinfonia Concertante, a Pervertimento for Bicycle, Bagpipes, and Balloons, a Serenude, a Perückenstück (literally German for “Hairpiece”), a Suite from The Civilian Barber (spoofing Rossini’s The Barber of Seville), a Schleptet in E-flat major, the half-act opera The Stoned Guest (the character of “The Stone Guest” from Mozart’s Don Giovanni), a Concerto for Piano vs. Orchestra, Erotica Variations (Beethoven’s Eroica Variations), Hansel and Gretel and Ted and Alice, an opera in one unnatural act (Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel and the 1969 film Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice), The Art of the Ground Round (Bach’s The Art of Fugue), a Concerto for Bassoon vs. Orchestra, and a Grand Serenade for an Awful Lot of Winds and Percussion.[1]

    During the Contrition Period, P. D. Q. Bach wrote the cantata Iphigenia in Brooklyn (Gluck’s Iphigenia in Aulis, etc.), the oratorio The Seasonings (Haydn’s The Seasons), Diverse Ayres on Sundrie Notions, a Sonata for Viola Four Hands,[14] the chorale prelude Should, a Notebook for Betty Sue Bach (Bach’s Notebook for Anna Magdalena Bach and Buddy Holly’s “Peggy Sue”), the Toot Suite, the Grossest Fugue (Beethoven’s Grosse Fuge), a Fanfare for the Common Cold (Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man) and the canine cantata Wachet Arf! (Bach’s Wachet auf).[1]

    A final work is the mock religious work Missa Hilarious (Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis) (Schickele no. N2O – the chemical formula of nitrous oxide or “laughing gas”).[15]

    1. WatchingEthosInFreefall

      These musical parodies still make me laugh after 40 years! Thanks for the reminder that they exist!

  18. Optimader

    That cause is said to be “cognitive overstimulation,” but I dunno; I always pictured myself as a terrible sleeper, but I’ve discovered that picture is false: I fall asleep (s

    Exactly the same for me, i change up, somtimes listening to ebooks on youtube or perhaps using a text reader for a long form essay here on NC for example.

    It has become clear that conscious effort to focus fatigues the (my) brain and tends to put me out.
    I will often, in the case of an ebook, need to rewind a bit to get to a place i really connect.

    Interestingly, music will often keep me in a twilight state much longer as it seemingly requires much less focus?

    A notable exception is Montserrat Figueras, her voice is an aural opiate for me

    Her singing a lullaby is like doubling down:
    Montserrat Figueras – José Embala O Menino (A Lullaby)


    Ninna Nanna 1550 – 2002 (Nanas) Alia Vox 1CD AV9826

    A good interlibary loan service will get this, better than any meds

  19. Ivy

    Lobster shift workers may end up in diners or other breakfast joints to aid the transition home. The camaraderie and sense of community and shared experience among breakfasters and those who make the meals possible may be fleeting, but it does provide some way to reconnect to a more stable aspect of life.

    Anyone who gets up early to cook, serve and otherwise assist in morning meals is worthy of respect. Be sure to tip your server well.

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