Twitter is great. It allows for instant information from any number of sources. One of the best things about Twitter is that it gives you the chance to interact with artists and celebrities you follow. Go to any celebrity’s page and you will see their feed littered with replies to fans’ questions and comments. Sometimes this is good. Other times, not so. I experienced the latter earlier today.
First a little back story. Last night I was browsing Amazon and listening to Har Mar Superstar, the alter ego of musician Sean Tillman. I had never heard of Har Mar in spite of the fact he’s been making music for well over a decade. I found out about him through marketing by Cult Records, the label he shares with a band I like, The Virgins. I found out about Cult Records because it was founded by Julian Casablancas, the singer of The Strokes, who I also listen to.
After listening to a couple song samples, I liked what I heard and bought the album. I then took to Twitter to plug it:
— Lance Goff (@lncgff) June 4, 2013
This was intended to be a tongue-in-cheek reference to Har Mar’s on stage persona. I included a link so anyone interested could look at the album and buy it themselves if so inclined. Something got lost in the translation since this is the reply I got:
@lncgff Fuck you, obvious guy. Seriously.
— Har Mar Superstar (@HarMarSuperstar) June 4, 2013
That was unexpected to say the least. Because I did, in fact, sarcastically point out his obvious shtick. In an attempt to clarify the matter I replied back:
.@harmarsuperstar Damn, bro. I guess my facetiousness didn’t translate. Good album, though. Even if you are apparently a sensitive bitch.
— Lance Goff (@lncgff) June 4, 2013
After which, I was promptly blocked.
I sincerely meant both sentiments. It was a good album. But this whole exchange seemed so cheap and backwards. I was surprised to get insulted by an artist I had just given money to after promoting his work. It’s not as though I criticized his music. Why say anything at all? This interaction was such a fail in the end even though it had been working perfectly up until that point.
The Strokes advertised for Cult Records. Cult Records advertised for Har Mar. The advertisements sent me to Amazon. Amazon’s share button sent me to Twitter. It blows my mind that the entire marketing train pulled me right into the station only to have me rebuffed by the artist himself.
I admit, I found it annoying that Har Mar still had eight dollars from me. I even joked that I wished I’d pirated the album instead. So I lobbied Amazon to get my money back. They kindly waived their usual policy and granted my request. And don’t worry, I didn’t pirate the album either. The desire to have any association with it doesn’t exist anymore.
So now Har Mar and I are even. Like nothing ever happened. Except it did.
[UPDATE: He's since deleted the tweet. You'll just have to take my word for it.]
This morning, I heard my wife amble downstairs to feed and water our two mewing cats as part of her usual morning routine. When she got to the kitchen I heard her say, “Oh, Jenna!”
She was talking to the more mischievous of our cats who, it appeared, had become impatient waiting for us to awaken and taken it upon herself to open the cabinet containing the food, dragging the bag onto the kitchen floor, and helping herself to an appetizer.
However, instead of erupting with anger, my wife said, “You smart little cat. Did you get your own food?” She then cleaned up the mess and fed our grateful cats.
I love the moments when what you think about somebody becomes what you know about them.
Today is the first day of a whole new direction in which I plan to head. I am starting classes towards a second bachelors degree in information technology. Since this blog comprises the extent of my knowledge of computing, I’m afraid I may have my work cut out for me. And in a way, I hope I’m right.
I’m in desperate need of a challenge — something that will force me to explore subjects and opportunities that have eluded me for the past several years. Of course, I’m grateful for maintaining employment throughout the economic turbulence of the past few years, but it’s always been at the discretion of others. I’m ready to depend on myself for a change.
In the past five years, I have been a civilian consultant (read: contractor) with a branch of the United States military. During that time, I have kept the same position while being shuffled among no less than four contracts. Every September, the end of the government fiscal year brings about the stress and anxiety of applying for your own job all over again. I’ve become too burnt out and cynical repeating the process year after year.
I notice that with my current experience and education I am perfectly qualified for one job: the one I currently have. And I can only do it until the government decides it doesn’t need it anymore. I finally got tired of hearing myself bemoan this fact and decided to do something about it. I stumbled upon a very interesting program that seemed perfect. So I went for it.
One of my goals through taking on a more minimalist lifestyle was to clear out clutter — physical and emotional — and live a more intentional life. I want to choose what happens to me as much as I can help it. I want to be able to make things happen for myself. I want to cultivate relationships and be worthy of others’ time and company.
I don’t just want to live a life of purpose, I want to live life on purpose. And I only have so many days to do it.
There were numerous reasons I ventured into minimalism with consumerism and materialism unofficially ranked towards the top. I’ve made a valiant attempt to not spend any money the past couple months (with a couple exceptions) making sure to adhere to the one in, one out philosophy when I do.
One thing I’ve found incredibly difficult to resist buying, though, is music. I was a notorious online binge shopper with most purchases comprised of books and music. The five to ten dollar price tags don’t look like much individually but they would quickly add up to fifty and one hundred dollar invoices before I even knew what happened.
I’ve compiled a large enough collection of books on my Kindle to keep me occupied for months. My interests in music, however, are simultaneously persistent and fleeting. I’m always playing something while listening for something new. I have a conscious aversion to pirating so I was forced to find another way to mediate between my desire for music and my commitment to minimalism and anti-consumerism.
This dilemma, coupled with the advent of Twitter #Music, led me to the discovery (albeit seven years late) of subscription based music services. Twitter’s #Music app and website allow subscribers to Spotify and Rdio to link their accounts through Twitter in order to stream music from the artists they follow through the site.
I immediately visited both sites and was amazed at what I was missing out on. Both services are very impressive. They each offer a vast library of music, a mobile app, a web player, and a Roku channel. The pricing models for individual premium accounts are identical at $9.99 per month. Both sites also offer a free trial period that I took advantage of.
I loved both but ultimately settled on Rdio for a couple reasons. First, the user interface is stunningly simple compared to Spotify. Setting up playlists and collections of albums and songs is easily done by long pressing any album or song within the app and merely telling Rdio where to store it for you. The web player allows the same function by either using a drop down menu attached to each album/song or by simply clicking and dragging what you want to where you want it to go.
Both apps allow you to synch music to your mobile device to allow offline listening. This was huge for me since my phone doubles as my iPod and I listen to it constantly in my car. Again, Rdio’s UI was easier for me to navigate in this regard making it simple to not only synch the music, but to toggle the app’s ability to go offline with only two swipes preventing inadvertent data usage and battery drain.
The second reason I went with Rdio is more a matter of taste. Rdio exclusively carries music by a couple artists I like, namely Bob Dylan and Pink Floyd. Both sites’ catalogs are easily searchable, though, allowing individuals to align their tastes appropriately.
As far as quality is concerned, Spotify is supposed to offer a better bitrate. I found this difficult to confirm or dispute due to Rdio’s frustrating reluctance to disclose what bitrate it uses. I can say that after a few day’s use, primarily through an auxiliary jack in my car and the Roku channel in my house, I have not noticed a diminished sound quality. A more discerning listener may disagree.
The bottom line is that thanks to modern technology music lovers have amazing options now to access exhaustive amounts of recordings, old or new. And this minimalist can now subsidize his former music buying addiction for only $9.99 per month.
Carl Sagan once said:
I don’t want to believe. I want to know.
I’ve always loved that quote and used it quite often; however, it doesn’t exactly apply to my life specifically. So I’ve modified it into a version I’ll use from here on out:
I want to believe. But I have to know.
While embarking on my foray into minimalism, I came across an interesting article written by Brad Plumer in the Washington Post this past week about the phenomenon of “trickle-down consumption.” Basically, it explains in a scientific manner the detrimental effect of “keeping up with the Jonses” in an era of increasing income inequality. The article cites a study by University of Chicago researchers documenting the causes and effects of spending more without earning more:
As the wealthy have gotten wealthier, the economists find, that’s created an economic arms race in which the middle class has been spending beyond their means in order to keep up. The authors call this “trickle-down consumption.” The result? Americans are saving less, bankruptcies are becoming more common, and politicians are pushing for policies to make it easier to take on debt.
According to the research, this “expenditure cascade” effect is responsible for roughly one-fourth of the decline in household savings rates since the early 1980s. As far as keeping up with the Jonses is concerned:
As wealthier Americans spend more on things like expensive preschools or fitness clubs or even fashion, their middle-income neighbors start spending more on these goods too — without cutting back elsewhere.
On its face, that doesn’t sound so terrible. But “trickle-down consumption” can have less-happy side effects too. In an earlier paper, Frank, Adam Seth Levine, and Oege Dijk found that “expenditure cascades” tend to lead to more bankruptcies, higher divorce rates, and longer commutes. Keeping up with the Joneses takes a toll.
I won’t republish the entire article here, but it’s definitely worth a read. I’ve certainly been guilty of my share of careless consumerism — which ultimately led to my experiment into minimalism — but now that I’m looking more critically at myself with regard to finances and possessions, I’m happy to feel myself stepping off of that merry-go-round. I find the potential consequences of keeping up far too devastating to flirt with.
However, I also find validation in the probability that the people I used to envy and measure myself against are not as better off as I thought. As my priorities begin to tip in favor of quality of life and relationships instead of quantity of possessions, I can’t help but wonder: While exhausting myself (and my income) trying to keep up with others, who are they trying to keep up with? It’s no longer worth their approval to bother finding out.