So Long to the Cynic

So Long to the Cynic

Written by Bill Leebens

Over the last 95 issues of Copper, it’s been mentioned more than once that as a cynic…I might be a bit of a fraud.

I’ll own up to that. “Disappointed idealist” is likely closer to the truth. It may just be a matter of semantics, but semantics are important to me. So: if I’ve disappointed anyone by not being snarky enough—and that would certainly be the first time in my life that such has happened!—I offer my sincere apologies.

At any rate: fraud or no, this is the end of The Audio Cynic. As I mentioned in Opening Salvo, I’m headed elsewhere, and unfortunately, Copper can’t go with me.

What that means is that this is my last chance to rant—and no, I don’t kid myself that Cynic has been anything other than my personal soapbox. Thank you for indulging me, agreeing with me, and on occasion, disagreeing with me, chastising me, and complaining bitterly. That’s all fair.

So, class—what shall we discuss today?

What readily comes to mind is the fact that in the 20-plus years since I discovered the rich vein of audio information and insanity that was available on the internet—the world seems smaller. Much smaller.

Yes, we can communicate with folks all over the world in milliseconds now—that’s almost a cliche’ at this point. I frequently communicate with folks on 3 or 4 continents in the course of my day’s work, and I rarely stop and think about how miraculous that is. Which brings to mind yet another Leebens’ Law, from my pretentious and knowitall youth:

Leebens’ Law of Inverse Availability: The faster that communication can be made, the less-significant the message will be. When I concocted this at age 17, I was thinking of the heartfelt, detailed letters written back hundreds of years ago, which were then transported by ship, camel, horse, and might well take a year to reach the addressee—if ever.

Think of text-messaging: have you ever really, truly poured your heart and soul out into a text, much beyond LOL or TTFN? I may have, once or twice, although I live in fear of being misunderstood via a medium which doesn’t allow for inflection or nuance. That’s why emojis are necessary.

But in general, memes and jokes are the rule of the day. That may be pleasant, but it’s not generally world-changing…unless you consider receiving shopping-list updates while you’re already at Target, world-changing.

To me, that’s more an annoyance than a blessing. As you know, I’m old and cranky.

But I digress.

How else does the world seem smaller? When it comes to the worldwide audio community, these days I rarely encounter the sense of awe, joy, or celebration of sharing that seemed commonplace on the internet back around 1998. I suppose a certain level of blase’ attitude is inevitable, but most of what I see these days is polarization, exchanges of misinformation, and dogmatic defenses of whatever view the poster feels at that moment.

The closest I’ve come recently to the raw astonishment and goofy ebullience of those early internet days was visiting hifideluxe in Munich, the outrider show that takes place at the same time as the Rilly Big Shoe. I encountered companies and designers I’d never heard of, many of whom exhibited really novel, clever technologies and products. Not to sound smug or self-important, but I’m pretty aware of the audio scene worldwide, and just to encounter the unknown—was unusual, and really refreshing for me. hifideluxe reminded me of THE Show in Las Vegas, back in the day, when really brilliant designers who happened to be terrible business people exhibited next to cranks who would show once, never to be seen again. The tired ambiance of the Flamingo also added a soupcon of sleaze that was rather more honest than the pomposity of CES.

Maybe it’s not the internet that’s become blase’. Maybe it’s me. If I had that Munich trip to do over again, I’d spend more time at the little show, and less at the big one.

Maybe I’ll see you there next year. You never know where I might turn up.

Meanwhile: thanks for reading, and thanks for writing. I’ll miss y’all.

…well…MOST of y’all.

I’ve got to take one last shot at being a cynic…right?

[Pardon the self-indulgence of the header pic. If I look even tireder and puffier than usual, it’s because I was recovering from a cold. Give an old guy a break, willya?]

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