The Non-Consumption Function

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Veteran indie rock prince Ira Kaplan of the band Yo La Tengo spells out baldly one aspect of the imp of the perverse behind a certain variety of consumerist and cultural refuseniks at the end of this Pitchfork interview:

I don't have…a cellphone. It's kind of up there at this point with why I don't watch "The Sopranos". Sort of like, I'm sure "The Sopranos" is a good show, but the reaction and the pleasure I get from not watching it could never match the pleasure I would get from watching it. So it's the same thing with the phone. It's not like I don't recognize that there would be advantages to having one, but still.

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  1. I’m the same way with some things.

    “The Matrix,” most notably.

  2. I have a cell phone, but wish I didn’t. Hate the stupid thing.

    Never seen the Sopranos. Doesn’t sound appealing, as I don’t usually care for mafia flicks. Local library has them on DVD, maybe I’ll check them out one day. Bigger reason for not watching, though, is that I don’t have cable…

  3. It’s funny for quite a while I cited the same reasons for not owning a cellphone or watching the Soprano’s. I’ve had a cellphone for the past year now and can’t stand the thing but will readily admit that it comes in handy. Just caught the first episode of the Sopranos which I admit to getting a big kick out of. But for years I avoided it because it seemed like every conversation I overheard it was two or more people yelping about the brilliance of the show. Ugh, it was annoying.

  4. I don’t have…a cellphone. It’s kind of up there at this point with why I don’t watch “The Sopranos”. Sort of like, I’m sure “The Sopranos” is a good show, but the reaction and the pleasure I get from not watching it could never match the pleasure I would get from watching it. So it’s the same thing with the phone. It’s not like I don’t recognize that there would be advantages to having one, but still.

    “I don’t have…a toilet, I just go behind a tree.”

  5. I lost the recharger for my cell phone 4 months ago. I don’t know if that makes me Bohemiam or just forgetful and lazy.

  6. There’s a hierarchy of anti-consumer snobbishness. I don’t have cable, a cellphone or broadband for my computer, mainly because they’d blow a hole in my budget. I doubt if that’s Ira’s reason for not having an “electronic leash.”

    The cliche “I don’t have” is a TV. Then there’s the whole set of stuff that people who read Adbusters avoid. I, for example, prefer clothing with the trademark on the inside. If Tommy Hil-whoever wants his logo on my chest, he can damn well pay me for the space. I will wear something with a logo if it’s a freebie, and I make exceptions for my favorite sports teams, my alma mater, and a few other things I’m personally connected to.

    I will admit to a stubborn pride in having refused to watch all but a few episodes of “reality TV” and none of American Idol.

    Kevin

  7. It’s not like I don’t recognize that there would be advantages to having one, but still.

    As in, you can toss the “land line” and the answering machine, save money, and get better service?

    Idiot.

  8. I have a wife. Consequently, I don’t “not have” anything.

  9. I don’t have…a cellphone. It’s kind of up there at this point with why I don’t watch “The Sopranos”. Sort of like, I’m sure “The Sopranos” is a good show, but the reaction and the pleasure I get from not watching it could never match the pleasure I would get from watching it. So it’s the same thing with the phone. It’s not like I don’t recognize that there would be advantages to having one, but still.

    “I don’t have a toilet. It’s not like I don’t recognize that there would be advantages to having one, but still….”

  10. I “don’t listen”…to Yo La Tengo.

    I think they’re totally overrated.

  11. Smacky,

    I haven’t listened to the last three or four Yo La Tengo albums, but I love older YLT, especially Drug Test, Upside Down, and all of Painful. And the Pitchfork piece was a pretty good Q&A — Ira has great taste and the music plugs (Eloise!) are dynamite. Maybe I’m overly sympathetic, but I see his quote as less anti-consumerist and more snobbishly contrarian, which isn’t necessarily a negative in my book.

    mccleary

  12. KevRob-

    I work in TV. worse in “reality” TV (and not just some on set position but above the line)—-

    And “I don’t have a” TV.

    I haven’t seen Sex in the City or The Sopranos.

    (I do have a bigass screen and a projector along w/ a decent DVD collection)

    But I take a libertarian approach to the whole thing; people want their fix and someone’s got to make the junk, no?

    I’m w/ you on the label thing too (but not the alma mater.. Slugs?)— just seems kinda tacky to me.
    And kinda desperate really…

  13. I had no problem with what he said. I understand it completely.
    I’m an IT guy myself and I often get confounded looks when I say that I don’t have any of the latest gadgets. I know blackberries and camera phones are l33t. I just don’t get much enjoyment out of them myself.
    I like the people in my life, really, but there is a reason why I am not reachable every minute of the day.

  14. Actually, what the guy is trying to express, without knowing the exact term, is the concept of “opportunity cost”.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opportunity_cost

  15. TVRML:

    I actually own 1 piece of clothing with my alma mater’s name on it, a fairly nice waterproof windbreaker that comes in handy in the fall. Since the wimps who run the school ditched our old nickname as un-PC, I refuse to buy any logowear with the new nickname on it.

    As for your TV career, should we trust a restaurant where the chefs won’t eat the cooking? 🙂

    Kevin

  16. kevrob,

    Let me guess: You didn’t like the “Gold” either.

  17. but there is a reason why I am not reachable every minute of the day

    It’s the same reason the cell phone has an on/off button 🙂

    I own a Yo La Tengo album from about 10 years ago. It’s in that “it doesn’t really do anything for me but it’s pleasant to hear every once in a while category” for me. Except for the song “Alyda”, which is wonderful.

  18. Bragging about your intentional cultural ignorance and what you don’t have is sooooo 2000.

    http://www.theonion.com/content/node/28694

  19. “As in, you can toss the “land line” and the answering machine, save money, and get better service? Idiot.”
    No, I think he means as in “people who conflate better service in cellphones with having a life really suck.” In fact, he made a point to say the cell phone people aren’t stupid or crazy. Yet you call him an idiot because your stupid idiot life apparently revolves around a hopped up walkie talkie. The way I see it, he understands your point of view, but you don’t understand his and don’t make any attempt to. People like you consume, and people like him produce. But hey, I’m sure you got a great deal on your celltoy.

  20. “People like you consume, and people like him produce.” – Lamar

    Aren’t you supposed to be over at the Adbusters web-site? How do you know that rhywun doesn’t actually “produce” something of value – like the widgets that enhance cellphone reception?

    All Eaker has apparently “produced” are a collection of crap albums. He’s not actually producing anything but more landfill material, as far as I can tell.

  21. Gotta agree though about liking being able to avoid the land line by having the cell.

  22. No, I think he means as in “people who conflate better service in cellphones with having a life really suck.”

    No, I think he means “I define myself by not conforming to what is popular”. By making his decisions by being anti- based on whats popular, he is no different than people who buy into something just because it is popular. I may or may not like something that the hip, in thing but I don’t have to poll the people around me to find out how I feel about it.

    The way I see it, he understands your point of view, but you don’t understand his and don’t make any attempt to.

    No, I understand what he is saying. He just sounds like a douchebag.

    Sort of like, I’m sure “The Sopranos” is a good show, but the reaction and the pleasure I get from not watching it could never match the pleasure I would get from watching it.

    Because then he couldn’t walk around telling people how he doesn’t conform.

  23. “All Eaker has apparently produced”
    Who? Kaplan? The guy and his wife have put out some decent albums and some so-so albums. I’ve enjoyed a couple of their shows over the last 10 years. It ain’t Remembrance Of Things Past, but it also ain’t sitting around watching Prison Break re-runs.

    “I define myself by not conforming to what is popular”
    And you hate him because you only have the balls to define yourself by what is popular. Popularity, as you may well know, is not an indicator of quality or merit.

    “No, I understand what he is saying. He just sounds like a douchebag”
    I knew there was a deep, philosophical argument in there somewhere. I’m glad we’re all on brain steroids here. You think people who don’t buy into the popular trends are douchebags (you characterize them as anti-something instead of the more appropriate ‘indifferent to’).

    If guys like Kaplan are no different than anybody else, why the bee in your bonnett? And no, there’s no ‘polling’ anywhere in the article or in Kaplan’s interview. That part you made up and imputed to Kaplan to make your argument easier.

  24. And you hate him because you only have the balls to define yourself by what is popular. Popularity, as you may well know, is not an indicator of quality or merit.

    You don’t know me and you don’t know what you’re talking about. I stated earlier that I may or may not like something that is “in”, I don’t define my taste by what is popular I define it by what I like/need. I can run down a long list of things that are in the pop culture/gadget/fashion arena that have no appeal to me. To use your words, ‘indifferent to’ would be the best way to describe me.

    You think people who don’t buy into the popular trends are douchebags
    No, I am saying that people go don’t enjoy/buy something that they may like JUST BECAUSE a large number of other people are into it are no different than people that buy into BECAUSE it is popular. They are the opposite side of the same coin.

    I have known people who were “anti-” and they are a pain to be around because their only true passion is to be different. If you don’t think he comes across this way then explain to me what “The Sopranos” have to do with cell phones! He was asked about his ring tone and he points out that he doesn’t have a cell phone just like he doesn’t watch the Sopranos. Either he is hoping to define how he is against anything popular or he just decided to slide in a non- sequitur.

    If guys like Kaplan are no different than anybody else, why the bee in your bonnett? And no, there’s no ‘polling’ anywhere in the article or in Kaplan’s interview. That part you made up and imputed to Kaplan to make your argument easier.
    He comes across as rejecting stuff based on popularity. Once again, what the fuck do The Sopranos have to do with cell phones?

    People who buy into anything just because it’s popular, rely on others to determine what they should like.

    People who reject anything just because it’s popular, rely on others to determine what they should like.

  25. You didn’t like the “Gold” either. – FC

    You would be right!

    Kevin
    (Disgruntled Warrior)

  26. temujin334:

    You complain that I don’t know you and therefore can’t criticize you, then you criticize Kaplan, whom you do not know. So what if the guy takes a left because the rest of the world takes a right? Why does that get your goiter so teased? Oh, because people who reject popular things are douchebags, that’s right. I can’t stand those “The Road Less Traveled” jerks.

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