Phthursday Musings: More About More

or, Even More About Even More

Which Super Bowl will be the last one? When will they stop awarding Oscars? When will the final World Series be played?

Because, they’re all going to end, right? There’s not going to be a Super Bowl CCXXII, right? That’s as far into the future as the Civil War was in the past!

I got to thinking of things like that this week, not out of a sense of fatalism, but out of a sense of… well, things change. Don’t they?

My great-grandmother was born in 1915 in west central Iowa. They didn’t have, uh, TikTok, or whatever. But the World Series had been around for a decade. And we act today like it will never go away. The NFL started up in 1920. Her family wouldn’t have had one, but cars were already on roads. The original U.S. highway system dates to 1922.

We all seem to operate under the presumption that the things which exist today will exist indefinitely, and only go away if somehow usurped. Sure, this might fly in the face of things like, oh, climate change, but I’m getting at mindsets here. Nobody actively thinks in terms of when there won’t be baseball. If we imagine a time when there are no cars, it’s only because we think we’ll all be flying.

This sort of thinking is necessarily accumulative. Nothing just gets thrown away. At worst it gets replaced. More likely, things hang around.

And it’s not just stuff that piles up. It’s also information. Oh, maybe we forget more than any humans which came before us. But I think we just keep compiling. It’s always more. It’s existential clutter, and a huge part of the modern condition is handling the burden of more.

And yet, I still kind of think that the greatest inflection point, at least in America, coincided with my great-grandmother’s childhood. Not just the advent of the car, but so many people having them. Not just te advent of electricity, but so many more people having it. The 1920s were the decade when America went majority urban. And here we are a century later, and all of this stuff that was new then… we just act like it’s all going to last forever… plus some more.

So, I have a job. Our software generates reports. Customers, being human beings, may or may not actually read the reports. But even if they try, when the reports are incredibly long, the notion that they’re going to get the information they need… yeah, not gonna happen.

Is the ability to filter for relevance a skill? Something that can be honed? Something that some people just don’t have? Does this fit into school curriculum? Kids need to be able to read, write, add, subtract, and filter for relevance?

My brain is full of useless information. I remember details about… commercials from the ‘80s? geographic oddities? which bands were among the first to release albums on Matador Records? Oh, maybe sometimes there’s fun conversation fodder, but none of this nonsense matters. There’s always more fun conversation fodder available, after all.

Does this actually weigh me down? Is it indicative of a poor ability to filter for relevance? Or is it the opposite - that remembering more nonsense actually heightens the filtering ability, because I can more readily determine what things just don’t matter?

I’m someone where you can provide a lot more information and I’ll gladly take it and process through what I think is and is not relevant. Other people are less like this. They don’t want the extraneous crap. That’s not useful to them. That’s not how they learn. They want the tl;dr version.

From the vantage point of both a lay historian and a software developer, my instinct is to provide more. But if the recipient is somehow getting less out of the exchange, I can’t fall back on some notion that I’m necessarily in the right because I was, after all, providing more. I wasn’t withholding, I was providing! But that doesn’t cut it. It’s not just about giving people what they need, it’s also about how they need it.

The streets are icy? Delivering huge blocks of salt to everyone’s homes isn’t a solution for that. When confronted with that reality, do you double down, and deliver even more huge blocks of salt? That’s not providing. That’s wasting.

Yeah, yeah, the tl;dr of all this is: Don’t work harder, work smarter. Well. Forgive me if I think pithy reductionism isn’t quite the same thing as working smarter.

I see a relationship between all of this and what I’m calling the more of the modern condition. It’s an inherent component of modern economics: just produce more. More widgets, more bombs, more information, more report pages. More, more, more. Often more is the easy answer, the lazy answer.

Let’s talk about Oreos.

Once upon a time, there were… Oreos.

Then there were Oreos and also Double Stuf Oreos. (If anybody knows what happened to the second f, please call Nabisco.)

Then there were, I don’t know, little ones? Thin ones? Okay, sure.

Suddenly, there are like 71 kinds of Oreos. Gluten free. Mint. Carrot Cake. Birthday Cake. More. And if more is not enough, there’s even The Most Stuf.

Oh, I freely admit we have partaken, and we have opinions. Speaking only for myself and not the house at large, Mint and Lemon are Very Good, Carrot Cake is Good, Birthday Cake is Alright, but the best are still the original Oreos and Double Stuf.

In other words… none of the rest of these were necessary. But I bought them anyway! I will probably buy more! They will make excellent conversation starters! I might even write about it all in my blog!

Nevertheless this all does feel like more for the sake of more, like Nabisco rolling all this stuff out just because they can, not because anybody was quaking for Peanut Butter Pie Oreos, or ever had any idea what Birthday Cake Oreos might be. It’s like some executives made a bet over how much shelf space Oreos could commandeer at the local Jewel.

I mean… what the hell even is this:

I mean, I’ll try it. Why not? There’s always room for more.

A lot of people are approaching the end of the pandemic lockdown with something a little different from excitement… let’s call it apprehension. As awful as things have been, for many people, the lockdown has been keeping the more in check.

Now, you might think, wait a minute, mister, hasn’t this pandemic been a whole lot of more? All this virus talk and all this political stuff and masks and vaccines and come on now! And yes, this is all true.

But there’s some real resistance out there to the idea of resuming more. Yes, people want to go out to eat. Yes, people want to see their friends. Yes, we’ve reached a point where there’s real light at the end of the tunnel. But maybe some of us have grown comfortable with… a certain little bit less?

It’s going to be hard for what I’ll call The Less Crowd to effectively push back. But I can tell you this. People are not going to just roll with continuing all of these Zoom meetings and driving their kids around to three practices a week. The old more was a lot. The pandemic more has been a lot. We can’t just more more more ourselves now. It would be too much.

Speaking of too much, last week I mentioned the Too Much Rock podcast.

I bring it back up in light of this Guardian article with the provocative headline “Why bands are disappearing: ‘Young people aren’t excited by them’”.

Rock bands are not going away. If they’re disappearing, that’s because they have nowhere to appear. The Too Much Rock podcast alone proves that rock and roll is very much alive, if you care to go looking for it.

This isn’t going to be some diatribe about what the kids are really into, or what the mass media foists upon us. Instead it’s a very simple argument: whatever else is out there, bands are out there too. People like me who, most of the time, prefer to listen to bands, can find bands, if we go looking.

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago being dubious about going out to as many shows as before. I do think clubs will close down. I do think it will be harder, less convenient, less readily designed for older legs, blah blah. But the bands will still be plugging away. They’re not going anywhere.

So consider this a plug for the podcast. Oh, you might have to put up with a little bit of twee, and even an occasional folk metal song, but bands, guitar rock, especially power pop, it’s going nowhere. A good point of entry is episode #541 from the beginning of this year. If these paragraphs have caught your interest at all, do what I do: come up with an excuse, hop in the Prius, fumble with the damn bluetooth, and listen to a podcast.

The problem with writing all about more is that you feel like you have to keep writing more.

But guess what? At some point,