Reassurance You’re Being Heard
If I could change one thing in the world, I would reengineer cell phones so the person talking could hear their own voice in the earpiece of their phone…as someone who grew up with landlines, I can tell you: Hardwired phones were engineered and designed to give you the confidence that you were being heard—which is why people would whisper into their phones and know that they were being heard because they could hear their whispering voice in the earpiece as loud as they could hear their regular, full-volume speaking voice. It was compressed and loud and audible. And it’s a little bit of a reassurance that you’re being heard. The limitations of cell-phone technology are such that your voice would be delayed if you heard the actual, real signal. It’s not coming back in real time. So they just make the receivers dead, like you only hear the other end of the line, which is why everybody shouts into their cell phones. Nobody shouts into landlines. You can be in a phone booth by a highway and you can just talk and you can tell that people can hear you. But when you’re holding this dead object that is the cell phone, it makes you scream. And this is a very low-cost engineering solution to the problem of cellular telephony. I’ve thought about it a lot.”
– John Flansburgh, from this great interview
Q: What’s The Worst Concert You’ve Ever Attended?
A: This girl I dated in college made plans one time to see They Might Be Giants with her sister and her cousin, but the cousin had some conflicting work thing so he gave me his ticket. This had to be in 2000, maybe 2001. Though I liked and continue to like very much a handful of They Might Be Giants songs I was not prepared for them to do that thing some bands do in concert where they extend their songs with tons of pointless solos. They even opened songs with solos—“Istanbul (Not Constantinople)” started out that night with an accordion jam. This struck me as profoundly depressing. Part of TMBG’s appeal to me up to that point had been the notion they were above Frampton-esque instrument dickery. If they were trying to be ironic about it they did a pretty crappy job.
The capper to this frowny tale is that my girlfriend’s cousin thought he was selling his ticket to me. A week later I ran into him somewhere and he very curtly asked me for the money. Rather than argue semantics I gave the guy the cashitos and promised never to think about this experience again unless someone asked me the above question.