Stick it in your ear!

Indignity Vol. 4, No. 115

Stick it in your ear!


No One Wants to Hear Your Phone Audio

THERE WAS A guy on the uptown train who started playing music on his phone, out loud. Not a big guy but wiry, with prominent veins. It's natural to size up someone who begins doing something grating and aggressive in public, to project out how bad it might get if it keeps getting bad, but this person just wanted to stare at his phone while it blared music. The antisocial aspect was incidental. People do this now, crank up some music or a movie or a video game for everyone to hear in a public space, not because they're deliberately trying to get on anyone's nerves but because they've simply lost track of the fact that other people exist and have nerves at all. 

What was the music? I couldn't tell you, because it sounded like crap. It was blown-out clatter on the puny phone speakers, loud enough to grab attention but not sturdy enough to give anything to that attention. 

Once upon a time, people would get onto a train, or walk down the sidewalk, with a boom box. Boom boxes were understood, in their era, to be aggressive and annoying, but in retrospect there was something generous about them. They were there to make the music large; the person with the boom box was trying to fill the space with music. Even if you didn't want the music, everyone got a heaping portion. 

People still do that now, some, with Bluetooth speakers. It's mostly fine, especially when they're just rolling by on a bike or a motorized gyro-unicycle or something, giving themselves a little theme song as they go along. They're savoring the possibilities, enjoying their command of the sound. 

The people blasting phone audio just seem broken and miserable, at the mercy of their devices. Back in the age when people were being bothered by the boom box, there was also a contradictory moral panic about the Sony Walkman—that everyone would be lost in their own private headphones, drowning out the world with a soundtrack no one else could hear. This was what people thought the outer limit of atomization and solipsism must be. 

No one dreamed of the potential for open-air phone speakers to combine the worst of those two technologies—the self-absorption and the public nuisance—with none of the audio benefits. Now everyone, everywhere, can listen to, or be forced to listen to, cruddy sound. Cruddy sound on the train, cruddy sound at the airport gate, cruddy sound in the doctor's waiting room. 

This is almost certainly part of the general breakdown of behavior that came with the pandemic, like people running red lights or hooking a left turn from the right lane. Cranking up your streaming TV show is what you do when you've forgotten what manners even are, when you've given up on remembering the difference between private and public, home and outside, or why it mattered. 

But also, specifically, I blame Apple for taking away the headphone jack. Headphones were a universal technology. You just plugged that same plug into whatever you wanted to listen to: your tape deck, your computer, your iPod, your phone. You could plug it into an old microphone jack and drop your earbuds inside a guitar! Then, all of a sudden, it didn't work. You had to buy and pair those dumb Bluetooth ear-twigs, or get whole new headphones with a whole new kind of plug built into them, or keep track of a dongle to adapt your perfectly good old headphones to the hostile new devices. Evidently, a lot of people just gave up—on their headphones and their humanity alike. Formality follows function.

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A nice little scraggly puffball of a cloud on blue sky

New York City to Lenox, Massachusetts, to New York City, July 8, 2024

★★★ A golden road of light lay across the bed. The heat, already stifling in the morning streets, clamped tighter and tighter in the short wait on the subway platform. On the train, a woman in a sleeveless dress dabbed her brow with the cardigan she was carrying. The view from the Henry Hudson Parkway toward the George Washington Bridge was washed out with haze. Right around the bridge proper, though, the haze abruptly abated. Purple flowers were in bloom at the Saw Mill Parkway junction, and again at the junction with the Taconic, there with Queen Anne's lace floating white above them. The clouds became firm cumulus, casting clear cloud-shadows on the rounded mountains. The back roads leading away from the parkway were tunnels through overarching green, or traced the bottom of steep green canyons of rising growth. A painted turtle broke from cover onto the roadway, moving with a sun-warmed alacrity that might have gotten it all the way across anyway, had it not been scooped up and hand-carried the last few yards to make sure. The dormitory air was as damp as the inside of a rotting log. A minute or so on the gas station parking lot chased off the last spell of coolness from the car's air conditioner. The haze was waiting on the return trip, blue and loathsome, right below the bridge again.  

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CLICK ON THIS box to find today's Indignity Morning Podcast:

Indignity Morning Podcast No. 297: Leading the campaign.
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WE PRESENT INSTRUCTIONS in aid of the assembly of a sandwich—Serve before the soup—selected from Mrs. Ericsson Hammond's Salad Appetizer Cook Book, by Maria Matilda Ericsson Hammond. Published in 1924, and now in the Public Domain and available at for the delectation of all.

Egg Sandwiches with Anchovy à la St. James

Sandwiches d’oeufs aux Anchois a la Saint- James

Make small timbales of eggs. [See recipe Timbale of Eggs a la St. James in my large “Swedish, French, American Cook Book” on page 259.] Turn out and when they are cold cut them in quarters lengthwise and place them on round slices of bread that first have been buttered; spread them with anchovy paste and sprinkle with finely chopped parsley. Decorate each quarter of egg with a fine strip of truffle and all around the sandwiches decorate a border of stirred butter with a ribbon tube. Arrange them on a platter in the form of a ring and garnish with parsley in the center. Serve before the soup.

Timbale of Eggs (Oeufs en Timbale) à la St. James

Take three eggs; separate whites from yolks and put in different saucepans, stir the yolks and whites separately. Add to the yolks three tablespoons milk and one tablespoon cream, cayenne pepper and salt, and to the whites add three tablespoons milk and one tablespoon cream, cayenne pepper, and salt. Then add one tablespoon of finely chopped truffles to the yolks. Butter small timbale cups well, put a tablespoon of the yolks into each cup, put the cups in hot water and let stand on stove (or in oven) until settled. Then put a tablespoon of white of eggs in each cup, let that remain on stove in the water until settled. Repeat this: yolk, then white, next yolk, until the timbale cups are full. Leave in oven and cook until it is settled — uncovered. When done turn out on small round pieces of buttered toast forming them in a ring on the platter. Serve with hollandaise sauce in the centre and around. Garnish with parsley.

If you decide to prepare and attempt to enjoy a sandwich inspired by this offering, be sure to send a picture to 

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Supplies are really and truly running low of the second printing of 19 FOLK TALES, still available for gift-giving and personal perusal! Sit in the crushing heat with a breezy collection of stories, each of which is concise enough to read before the thunderstorms start.

HMM WEEKLY MINI-ZINE, Subject: GAME SHOW, Joe MacLeod’s account of his Total Experience of a Journey Into Television, expanded from the original published account found here at Hmm DailyThe special MINI ZINE features other viewpoints related to an appearance on, at, and inside the teevee game show Who Wants to Be A Millionaire, available for purchase at SHOPULA.

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