Thursday, May 7, 2009

Bob Dylan: Cranky Old Guy

Bob criticizes what he can't understand:
Bob Dylan may have starred in a television commercial for iTunes, but don’t look for him to become an iPod pitchman anytime soon.

In a Rolling Stone magazine cover story, the 67-year-old troubadour rails against modern technology like cell phones, iPods and video games. The man who wrote “The Times They Are A-Changin’” almost 46 years ago evidently thinks the times have changed a little too much.

“It’s peculiar and unnerving in a way to see so many young people walking around with cell phones and iPods in their ears and so wrapped up in media and video games,” Dylan told interviewer Douglas Brinkley, a professor of U.S. history at Rice University in Houston.

“It robs them of their self-identity. It’s a shame to see them so tuned out to real life. Of course they are free to do that, as if that’s got anything to do with freedom. The cost of liberty is high, and young people should understand that before they start spending their life with all those gadgets.”

Why does Dylan think that just because you're enjoying an iPod - possibly a Dylan tune! - that you're automatically tuned out from the rest of the world? Mult-tasking is a myth but it's possible to listen to music and still do things - like pay attention to the world - while you're listening. (And iPods - and other MP3 players - have earbuds so at they're polite appliances; they allow the listener to keep their music to themselves.)

And cell phones are a good thing, too. Sure, they can be obnoxious - people seem to forget they're talking in public and blast out their conversations to the world - but they serve to help us keep in touch with one another. They help us stay connected with one another and no the other way around. Hard to believe there was a time when we got along without them, thank you very much, but who wants to return to those days? A Victrola worked just fine but I doubt Dylan would insist we listen to his music through one of those devices.

Dylan brings up the cost of liberty and rightly so: a lot of people paid heavily so that we may enjoy the freedom to do what we want, as long was we don't harm others. Sometimes that freedom's ugly - heck, a lot of the time it is - but it's our choice to make. We may not like the choices others make but let's at least be grateful they can at least make them.

And grumble to ourselves about how things were better long ago than they are now.


  1. I disagree. I don't believe that cell phones "serve to help us keep in touch with one another." How is one connected to anything at all when one is too busy telling one's wife or husband or friend, "I'm about to get on the train," to notice that one is out among the world?

    I still have no use for such a thing, nor headphones. I like to be where I'm at.

    Fortunately for all of us--and especially so for the telecommunications companies--everyone is still free to do what they feel is necessary with their time/money.

  2. Thanks for the comment, hotfive. Sounds like we'll continue to disagree on this one.