On pretense and population
The reason it’s so easy to remember that people largely suck and are more often than not idiots is because there are so many of them. This is as evident in Chinese smog as it is in the drive-thru lane at Jack In the Box when the woman in the Kia takes five minutes to explain the order that is–as evidenced by the otherwise empty car–only for her (or the kids in the trunk she is supposed to be babysitting). In any case, the more people there are, the harder it is to educate all of them to stop screwing each other.
My buddy Jason turned me onto this Doug Stanhope rant (NSFW, also NSF anyone who doesn’t like fairly stark descriptions of sexuality or people who take a Jonathan Swift line to make their point). Stanhope riffs on a 2009 Oregon State study which suggests that if we really wanted to save Earth, we would focus less on funny-shaped light bulbs and more on not knocking each other up. Or in more scientific terms, the carbon footprint we create by having one child is greater than just about any mess we can make with plastic bags and SUVs. I know what you’re thinking: “That’s ridiculous! What about things like air travel and cars?” But you need to remember that it’s possible to offset those things (see https://www.cooleffect.org/content/travel-offset). The science seems sound, as much as science ever does.
On its face, this seems like a goldmine of excuses for men who love tree-hugging women (“Baby, I’d really love to marry you, but you’d inevitably want kids, and I just can’t do that to Mother Earth.”). But let’s face it. While your political preferences may make you wish that the hippies and granola-snorters would stop procreating, those aren’t the people we are really worried about, are they?
Because discussions of irresponsible sex always make me think of college, I let my brain trip the light spastastic for a little bit and wondered if, perhaps, this overpopulation thing might sort itself out. That is, I wondered if maybe there isn’t a solution in place right now that we just don’t recognize. What I’m trying to say is that we may have Steve Jobs to thank for inadvertently convincing people to stay out of each other’s pants.
Stick with me on this one.
I’ve been made to understand that back when I was still listening to the Beach Boys’ “Endless Summer” and Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” on vinyl that there were more than a few amorous college students who would lure unsuspecting love interests to their dorm rooms or bachelor pads on the pretense they could check out a pretty cool record collection. I’ve further been made to understand that while there was no official rule book for this kind of activity, it almost always resulted in the vinyl connoisseurs doing the nasty. (I have no nor am no independent evidence of this, as my dad listened to the Eagles and Flying Burrito Brothers, which I’m fairly certain never got anybody all hot and bothered). If I understand science like I think I do, doing the nasty can result in two people turning into three within a way-too-short period of time.
Fast forward (how pathetic is that) to the era of cassette tapes. I can admit, I never tried to lure anybody to my room to look at cassettes, because, well, I think we can all admit that cassette tapes aren’t sexy. They are sharp, they break pretty easily, and how many times did the analog tape get caught in the gears and end up spewing all over the inside of the tape deck? What’s more, the cover art was tiny. Inviting someone to look at a tape collection was probably the equivalent of asking someone if they wanted to make love with a very small piece of sandpaper. The world population, inexplicably, still increased during the 1980s, which I suppose can be attributed almost entirely to the rampant availability of cocaine. Or Ronald Reagan. I can’t decide.
Fortunately for all people who missed the days of vinyl, the days of the compact disc came around and brought back the age of visible cover art. The discs were fairly reliable, stacked well on a dorm shelf, and were too big for a kleptomaniac paramour to slip in her bra on the way out in the morning. They were perfect, and horrible for the environment to boot. In the 1990s, more unintended pregnancies were spawned under the pretense CD collection viewing than the whole of 1950s lovers’ lane stops (I have no proof of this). The 1990s were music technology’s baby boom. College kids from Harvard to the University of Missouri to USC were working the CD Collection Pretense like Cassanova himself conceived it. Some journalism has suggested that the North Koreans teach the CD Collection Pretense to every boy at age 14 in an effort to build an even bigger population to keep locked inside the country’s borders.
It was not to last forever (except in North Korea).
As we all know, Steve Jobs came along and thought, “Rampant overpopulation and all the landfill space for those Lou Bega albums? I can kill two environment birds with one…iPod!”
Nothing has done more to ruin the free love movement than that sleek little MP3 player with the misplaced capital letter. The music collection, such as it is, has been reduced to something a frat boy can carry in his pocket. When it comes time to lure a Alpha Delta Pi up the stairs, he has have no bait. Cover art isn’t glossy so much as it is bits and bytes. The substance of the collection may be more substantial, but the actual presentation is…well…there is a greater chance of a potential lover saying, “I thought it would be bigger.” And Steve Jobs just continues to make things smaller and smaller. With a small headphone jack and the ability to hide the device in one’s purse or pocket, the iPod’s tag line should be “Self love is the first love” (which by the way was something I honestly once read inside a fortune cookie). Even worse, on some college campuses, “listening to my iPod” has become a euphemism along the lines of “punching the clown.” It’s clear that musical technology has changed significantly over the years, and it’s probably only going to keep on changing until we long for, and I genuinely can’t believe I’m writing this, the simplicity of an iPod.
Jobs has not yet taken credit for his innovation’s obviously intended consequences. He’s creating iPads (just in case the popoulation drop from the iPod is so stark that people need to be bored enough to have sex again).
For me, it’s academic. I’m married. I’ve already had two kids. We eat organic food, separate our recyclables into three bins, and re-use baby food jars. Still, our love for each other has produced a big enough and permanent carbon footprint that the Green Police will probably arrest us tomorrow.
In any case, the next time my wife gets on me for not throwing my beer can in the recycle bin, I’ll remind her I’ve done my part.
I bought two iPods and I had a vasectomy.