Saturday, November 05, 2011

Conspicuous Consumption

Years ago I was assigned Veblen. It was a difficult read and I really didn't get it. I had to write a position paper, which I think reflected my confusion. I guess I wrote it well enough because the teacher smiled as I was reading  and I got an A+ in the class. I vaguely remember Veblen writing about the leisure class always having a big boned woman around doing all the work. I think I made a joke about being a big boned working type.
It wasn't until I read other people referencing Veblen and a bit of rereading that I began to sort of understand.
There was on thing that stuck with me. He writes about the leisure class  owning pianos that they couldn't play and stacks of sheet music that they couldn't read and shelves of books that they hadn't read. All of which were intended to demonstrate something about who they were. I did get that.
I've always wanted a book and music lined room and I always thought of that room as an expression of my identity. When I was in high school I joined the Book of the Month Club. Somehow I ended up with The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. Probably a book I didn't decline in time. It had a black cover with a big red swastika on the spine. I remember Mom commenting on it. She thought it was weird to have such a book. I had pretty great library when I graduated from high school. Full of Kerouac and Beat poets, D. H. Lawrence and Herman Hess, Kahil Gibran and Our Bodies Our Selves. A crazy amount of Rod McKuen. Listen to the Warm. Oh dear.
I stored them and all my albums with a friend when I left home and lost touch with her. I repeated that pattern throughout my life. I'd start to amass books and music decide to move and sell or give them away or store them in a basement. I've lived in my current apartment longer than I've lived anywhere and have finally built a collection that I swear I will always have. When I worry about money I imagine myself as a crazy homeless woman pushing a cart full of books.
I love my books. I love looking at them. And I do get a short of thrill when people visit and spend any time checking them out. I also have a shelf full of CDs. And I look at other peoples book  and music shelves.
I don't have an e-reader.  I think they're useful and I want one someday but I don't need one. I have an MP3 player that we were awarded at EA for doing our job. I rarely use it. I'm confused about how to make the transition to buying one song at a time.
An e-reader might have been good when I was commuting. I was always lugging a book and a few magazines around. But I love seeing what other people are reading on the bus. Can't see that if they're using a reader. I saw so many people with their ears plugged up and eyes focused on a screen. There's lots of writing about how we are a culture of isolation. Maybe. I'm not sure. We kind of have been for awhile. Is our consumption less conspicuous?
I recently started using Spotify. I can't figure out how to make it find new music for me. I've learned about a bunch of new music on Last FM. Pandora played the same stuff too often for me but Last FM scans around. Spotify can be fun when other people are using it on Facebook. I've really enjoyed checking out other people's music.
There are all the web apps like Get Glue and Four Square, which I love. You can be as conspicuous as you wanna be I suppose.


Jenni said...

I have 4 CDs in my car... they play over and over. When i get tired of them, i go to the 3 radio stations that have good stuff these days.

Tish said...

I listen to too much news. I don't even know what the music stations are anymore.