As I think about the sounds and the noises we make as households, and what might or might not bother others, I can’t help thinking about loudspeakers. They’re responsible for the largest percentage of calls to police about noise violations. When we call to complain about so-and-so playing their music too loud, or having a loud party, what we’re really complaining about are the devices that enable them to produce those loud sounds, that terrible noise, the din that keeps us awake at night or drives us bonkers during the day, as we try to do our work or to relax.

I can’t help wondering what person in their right mind would invent a device that would enable morons of all shapes, sizes and ages to indiscriminately bother their neighbors or entire neighborhoods, and I also can’t help wondering what irresponsible companies would bring such products to the market, year after year after year.

Don’t misunderstand me. The speaker as a device that allows us to listen to recordings, to music, to the radio, to television, is an amazing invention. However, the speaker as a device that can be turned up to its maximum power and left like that for hours on end, is a terrible (and illegal) invention.

Every year, companies continue to develop these devices and they give them more power and (this is the really bad part) they give them more bass. Bass is the lower range of the sounds produced by a speaker, and this is what travels for long distances, through walls, through windows, through roofs, through vegetation, etc. and can drive you cuckoo in your own house. It could be the best song of the year or it could be the worst song of the year, it really doesn’t matter, because if you’re not in the room with the music, all you hear is the bass, pounding on your walls, hundreds of yards away. It’s a horrible experience.

At what point will it occur to lawmakers that it’s not just the people that need to be stopped from playing loud music, but it’s also the companies that make speakers that need to be stopped from making loud speakers? As I said before, it’s the speakers themselves that are enabling people to misbehave and to commit noise violations. At what point will there be some legislation that will force these companies to develop speakers that do not allow idiots to bother their neighbors? I see the need for truly powerful speakers at venues for public events, but what need is there for ridiculously loud speakers in an apartment or a house? Instead of focusing their R&D on pushing more power and more bass out of their speakers, these companies could focus on producing pleasant, balanced sound that does not penetrate through walls. I’d like to see speakers that can play music loudly, but do not bother the neighbors! That’d be a real achievement — not the indiscriminate increase in wattage and bass we see today.

Thoughts

On sounds and noise

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Thoughts

On bad behaviors in public

I’ve written time and again here on my site about my repulsion for people who disturb the peace and about products that enable them to do it. I think most of today’s governments are, in general, much too lax on their stance on this, and it’s the kind of thing that should not be tolerated at all, given how many people are affected when, say, a single idiot decides to play his music too loud. Hundreds of people could be bothered by it (if not thousands in more densely populated areas). Then there is the matter of one’s taste in music, which is an individual choice and should not be forced on others at all, period.

The impact of disturbing the peace is huge when you factor in the stress and its health effects (seen and unseen) on the people within reach of the noise and by and large, the fines for this sort of bad behavior are next to nothing in a country such as Romania. Not only are the fines fairly small here, but there is little to no enforcement in most cases, mostly because the population tolerates it (because they don’t know better), and also because in some cases, there is corruption and collusion with the offenders within the police force, particularly in the countryside, where the police force is stretched thin and they have few checks in place to catch bribes and other types of collusion.

On several occasions, I have experienced this sort of public disturbance myself, have called the police about it and they either did nothing, or ended up fining the individuals involved some small amount, but the noise levels were insufferable for most of a day, so all that time was wasted while hundreds of people were inconvenienced by a single moron or a group of morons.

I truly believe this is the sort of thing that spirals down. An asswipe who is tolerated by those around him when he decides to disturb the peace is only encouraged to break the law even further. Bad behavior unchecked leads to more bad behavior.

It’s the same sort of thing with littering in public. Certain people in Romania have this nasty habit of eating roasted sunflower seeds in public, then spitting the shells on the ground. They are unfortunately tolerated by the police force, in part because they feel it’s beneath them to fine someone for an offense this small, and also because they don’t want to bother. They know those types of individuals will make a scene, so they prefer to ignore their behavior and see to their other duties. But if you follow the thread of sunflower shells, to speak figuratively, you’ll see those same people, unchecked, dump trash by the roadside. It could be just an empty plastic bottle. It could be a bag of garbage. Or it could be a cart or a van full of construction debris or various things they want to dump out of their home. Instead of disposing of that litter properly, at the dump, where they’d have to pay a small fee, they simply throw it by the wayside at night. And I believe it starts with spitting sunflower seeds in public. Or throwing a candy or gum wrapper on the ground. Doing that sort of stuff, unchecked, for a few months or a few years, will gradually lead to greater offenses.

We need serious policing in a lot of countries today, particularly in Romania. We need serious fines and even more severe punishments for the people who engage in bad behavior in public. Unchecked, things will only get worse.

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bass boost sucks
Thoughts

Excessive bass is the bane of modern music

In much the same way that too much sugar will give you diabetes and too many calories will make you fat, bass-boosted music ends up being a hollow, crappy experience that will make you deaf and piss off your neighbors. And hopefully, it will also bring you lots of fines for noise violations, fines which you will thoroughly deserve.

Manufacturers are sticking more bass into everything with speakers these days. Singers and studios are busy boosting the bass on their songs too — hey, it doesn’t matter if your song is tired and it recycles the same rhythms and loops used by every talented music creator in the past… just stick a few reverse beats in there (they freshen up the whole mess) and turn up the bass! Bass bosted songs are all over the internet, much like pigeon poop is all over rooftops and statues in busy cities. You’ll find tons of these “improved” songs and you’ll also find tons of tutorials on the subject. So in that sense, this article is going against the grain. I’m aware of it. But I’m sure I’m going to be made aware of it repeatedly by some of you.

The problem is made worse by the people listening to these cacophonies. It’s the wrong type of people, isn’t it? It’s the screw-ups, the ones who don’t amount to much in life, the ones with no regard for those around them. The idiot son of the neighbors a couple of houses away, the one who can’t hold down a job and mooches off his parents, he’s got speakers with lots of bass and he plays them loudly. The no-good neighbors who practically live off social aid and whose idea of a good time is grilling pork in the yard, getting drunk and listening to loud music, they’ve got speakers with lots of bass and they love their bass boosted songs. Any dumbass, jackass or just plain ass who buys a car nowadays and drives it with the stereo turned up and the windows down, they’ve got speakers with lots of bass and they’re sure to let you know. They want everyone to know! Heck, they’ll also stick a subwoofer in the trunk, to ensure the whole bodywork rattles with every shitty bass beat.

Even the partially deaf and elderly neighbors who just bought a new TV, they’ve got speakers with lots of bass, even though they didn’t ask for them when they bought their TV.

The problem is two-fold:

  1. Adding anything extra to the music as it was recorded and as it’s meant to be played ruins the music, the inherent goodness of the song (well, if the song is any good at all, anyway). Mind you, I’m not talking about sprinkling a little salt on the soup! Boosting the bass on a song, both in the studio and on a stereo is the equivalent of heaping shovel-fulls of salt onto the soup. Let’s face it, if all a song has going for it is the boosted bass, then it’s a crappy song.
  2. Excessive bass angers everyone around you, no matter how low the volume on your bass-bosted stereo is kept. The bass sounds travel through anything, and that’s all that your neighbors will hear.

A great speaker is supposed to reproduce sound just as it was recorded, with all of its frequencies, not just the low ones that are collectively called “bass”. A good speaker comes fairly close to it. An idiotic speaker made for dimwits will have thumping bass sounds and little else. Even if you listen to an idiotic speaker at low volume, it’ll still transmit the bass sounds through walls, disturbing everyone around you, because all they’ll hear is the thump-thump-thump noise, the beat, without any of the accompanying sounds. Even if the song is great, it’ll still sound like shit as the beats pound the neighbors’ brains, boom-boom-boom, until they get a migraine.

The situation is made worse by the compressed music of today, sold mostly as MP3 and AAC files, which cannot reproduce all of the frequencies of the sounds that were recorded in the studio. It muddles them with the compression algorithm. So the producers rely more heavily than necessary on bass and beats in order to make the songs catchier. I realize this is an oversimplification, but it is true.

I would like excessive bass to be outlawed, just as excessive noise is currently outlawed. I’m not kidding. I realize I’m going completely against the grain here, but this has become a constant nuisance and these people who go on abusing our ears and our laws are everywhere. I’d like you to begin to notice them as you walk through a city and you’ll soon realize there’s a constant cacophony of bass beats that pollutes our lives, whether we’re indoors or outdoors, whether we’re awake or trying to sleep. If it’s not the neighbors playing music or watching a movie, it’s some douche driving down the street with the music turned up in his car; even if he’s got the windows up, the bass beats travel through the body of his car, across the street, through the walls of your house and into your brain. Why do we tolerate this nonsense?

To me, this thing is akin to a deranged hobo who throws poop at people as he wanders the streets. Bass beats may not be made of physical poop, but they’ll stink up your life and leave a mess behind. You may not need to wash them off, but even if you wanted to, you couldn’t. As the years go by, you’ll be able to see those same crappy beats as furrows on your forehead, as white hairs on the temple of your head.

Civilized cities already have very good noise regulations in place but they do not address excessive bass. In Europe, noisy cars aren’t even allowed to enter certain city centers, which I think is a wonderful thing. And yet no one directly addresses the problem of excessive bass. I don’t think the measures to be put in place should be complicated. Let’s not have to measure the decibels or the frequency of the sounds. The measure to be used should be as simple as possible. Is the sound traveling through the wall or the window of the house? Can it be heard on the street, or by the neighbors? Then it’s too loud. In the case of cars, is the sound of their stereos coming through the car’s body? Can it be heard on the street, even if the windows are up? Then it’s too loud.

Let us start to penalize excessive bass with excessive fines. The manufacturers, the studios and the people listening to music will follow suit, unless they enjoy paying hefty, wallet-burning fines.

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Thoughts

Modern lawn care: a lot of hot air

One of the things I strongly believe in is the need for manual labor, especially during these highly industrialized times. I believe such work yields better results and it keeps us grounded, in touch with the earth from which we ultimately draw our living. I dislike the “modern” methods of lawn care, where one uses hedge trimmers and leaf blowers to do a job which can be done much more adequately by simpler, manual tools such as a broom and a pair of hedge scissors.

Don’t mistake me for a luddite. I use lawnmowers when they’re justified, like when a lawn requires it, because of its size, or because it can’t be cut by a push-mower or a scythe. The scythe in particular is a great way to cut grass, and it’s also a great workout for one’s back and abdomen. It’s been around for millennia. It’s only been replaced by machinery during the last couple of centuries.

If you live in the suburbs, then this next picture should be familiar to you.

That, of course, would be landscaping day, or if you happen to live within a larger community that has a lot of lawns, this would be part of landscaping week, which would happen every month, or worse, during frequent rainfall, every couple of weeks. Every day of that period, the maddening roar of the leaf blowers would be heard all over the compound, gnawing away at your brain, making it impossible to take a nice afternoon nap, or to concentrate on a project.

I find it so inefficient to blow leaves around all day, for hours on end, when a pair of men with a couple of good brooms and some rakes would make short work of those leaves, with no noise at all, no pollution from two-cycle engines, and much less dust. I’ve often seen landscaping teams use tractors to mow little patches of grass where a push mower would have done just fine, or use hedge trimmers to walk for entire yards and trim little weeds here and there, when a man could have simply pulled them up by the roots.

I associated this sort of inefficiency, expense of petrol, noise and air pollution with the US, because so much gets wasted there these days, by people who feel entitled to everything the country has to offer, even though they offer little to nothing in return. So I was surprised to find the same waste had arrived in Romania, where my wife and I currently reside.

Here people still use scythes to cut the grass in the countryside. It’s a wonder to behold a good scythe-handler. A single man can make short work of an entire hillside in an afternoon. And it’s even more beautiful to hear the noise a sharpened scythe makes as it cuts through long grass: a metallic whoosh, coupled with a slight singing of the blade at the apex of its swing. Every other noise of nature is perfectly audible: the birds, the bees, the distant bleating of sheep, the breeze blowing through the grass and the edge of a forest nearby… It’s wonderful!

And yet, the noxious use of leaf blowers and hedge trimmers has found its way into Romanian cities, probably brought here through the export of popular American culture. Here, too, we can see workers parading through our street and through the city center with leaf blowers and hedge trimmers, making a huge noise of it all, for days on end. It’s such a pathetic (and polluting) spectacle. The noise is unbearable. Here we have tall brick buildings, built by the Saxons. These cities seem made for echoes. The wall of noise obliterates everything around. It bounces off the walls and can be heard hundreds of yards or kilometers away. It’s such a waste.

It was but a few short years ago that the city would hire scythe-men to come and cut the grass. In a few short hours, with a few swoops of the scythe, they’d be done, and someone would come after them to gather up the cut grass. It was peaceful and quiet. Now, we’re polluted with noise, and the blasted filthy smoke from the blowers and trimmers.

The sad part is that here, the public lawns found on streets and in city parks are not of the scale found in the States. They’re small. And Eastern European grass is soft. If one must use more modern machinery, they could easily switch to push mowers and be done in the same amount of time, without all the ridiculous noise and smoke.

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