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Columns > Jesse Jarnow - Brain Tuba

Published: 2006/07/20
by Jesse Jarnow

Pleasant Valley Tuesday

BRAIN TUBA: Pleasant Valley Tuesday
My world is pretty alright. My iPod may or may not be dead. It was making the Sad Mac face at me last night. But now it’s working, attached to my computer. Go figure. I am kind of petrified to disconnect it. I came home to a sink full of dishes. I was irked. My roommate did them after I went to sleep. My concerns — which, last night, made me resort to mopey R.E.M. songs — are small.
The world at large is, of course, fucked. In the words of Gene Ween: most people are not okay. Of course, one can look at newspapers of any era (or any sub-division of modern times) and fear the apocalypse. Still, between global warming, missiles flying across borders, an Executive branch bent on unchecking governmental balances, and everything else, there are some really scary things occurring. Give or take the melting icecaps flooding over Brooklyn, though, virtually none of these will have any effect on my daily existence, and certainly none will irritate me as I arrive home from a weekend out of town.
I don’t think it’s liberal guilt, necessarily. How else is one supposed to react to the news of people getting blown up in other countries? The world has almost always been a terrible place in that regard, filled with hateful people, but it is only in recent decades that the horrific acts that people commit have been reported so immediately to points so distant. Did that make pre-modern people happier? Does that mean it’s the media’s fault? The answer to each could equally be "yes" or "no." Ignorance might be bliss, but a tribesman in deepest Africa unaware of the carnage of the Crusades surely had his own problems to worry about. Likewise, what else should the media do?
So what now? Certainly, my experience of this mind-bogglingly awful stuff is mediated through, well, the media: blogs, newspapers, television, films, books. How am I supposed to respond? It takes a certain type of person to drop everything and rush across the world to try to make it better. I am not that type of person. While I am upset that missiles are being shot, I am most assuredly not going to go out and join anybody’s army to stop them.
One option is doing the same as when there’s chaos in my personal sphere: listen to music. But that seems narcissistic and ineffectual (not to mention a rationalization for buying U2 records). But it might not be all that bad. After all, one can fight media with other media. As news reports have beamed me images of burned, mangled war victims that emphasize global chaos, I’ve also — through literally the same digital cables — been able to acquire discs like Sublime Frequencies’ poptimistic, Choubi Choubi! Folk and Pop Sounds from Iraq, which (not to get toooo hippie about it all) emphasize some of the more beautiful events occurring elsewhere.
The real answer, of course, is to think globally and act locally — though sometimes that’s easier said than done. Still, a start — admittedly one I have not yet made, though will soon — is filling out Kevin Kelly’s survey titled "The Big Here’ or ’30 questions to elevate your awareness (and literacy) of the greater place in which you live.’ I know my score will be poor, but I am prepared for this. If it makes me sad, I can at least listen to some local music.
Jesse Jarnow blogs at

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