Hey, Mom! The Explanation.

Here's the permanent dedicated link to my first Hey, Mom! post and the explanation of the feature it contains.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Hey, Mom! Talking to My Mother #614 - Clutter and Noise - a Culture Jam post, part one

Hey, Mom! Talking to My Mother #614 - Clutter and Noise - a Culture Jam post, part one

Hi Mom, I have been working on this one all week. I have decided there will be multiple parts.

I have been having this problem lately: distortion. Or maybe better phrased as "clutter and noise" in my head.

I feel like my head is full, and I am having trouble thinking. It's not that my head feels full of white noise, though sometimes it does, but it feels full of all the things of life: scraps of songs, anxieties about work, Twitter feeds, Facebook notifications, anxieties about homework, plans for a new course assignment, an assignment I need to find the time to do, blog work, a grocery list, anxieties about my personal life, the email back log, the physical clutter in my office that must be trimmed, what to do about the mailbox that was ripped off its post by the wind, wondering what the dogs are doing, remembering where I am in the current laundry/food/cleaning processes, and about a hundred other things.

The term "clutter and noise" comes to mind because it was featured in a documentary I used to show in my gender and media class called Dreamworlds created and narrated by Sut Jhally. He used the term to describe the flood of jump cuts, sound effects, music, and other "jolts" delivered in music videos to keep viewers engaged and to prevent them from changing channels.

For years in that Gender and the Media course, I taught the book Culture Jam written by Adbusters publisher Kalle Lasn, and now since switching courses I have taught the book in Effective College Reading. Despite being published in 1999, it's surprisingly fresh and relevant.

In fact, the evaluation of American consciousness as mentally ill is still accurate if not even more prevalent and common.

Early in the book, Lasn chronicles the landscape of postmodern mental health hazards in a section he calls "The Ecology of the Mind." He examines the mental pollution of "infotoxins" of the modern media-rich world of music videos, advertisements, TV, and more. This is the same panoply that Guy DeBord and the Situationists called "The Spectacle." Lasn describes modern media ecology in terms of noise, jolts, shock, hype, unreality, erosion of empathy, information overload, infotoxins, loss of infodiversity, and finishes the section by calling for an "Environmental Movement of the Mind" to restore peace and harmony to ourselves and our world by combating the mental pollution in which we are drowning (Lasn, 9-27).

As Americans and consumers, we're all terribly ill because our culture makes us mentally ill. At the beginning of "The Ecology of the Mind," Lasn describes the statistics of psychological ailments from which we Americans suffer. In counting the various illnesses, he concluded that 77% of the population "is a mess," calling us a nation of basket cases (In some cases, this claim does not apply to Lasn who is a Canadian -- Vancouver, Canada.) (Lasn, 9-27).

Lasn castigates consumerism as one of the culprits for America's "suffering" (which he criticizes as an embarrassing claim). "Plenitude is American culture's perverse burden" (Lasn, 11). He goes on to describe the quest for "MORE" to fill empty lives that seem to have "LESS." It's instant gratification that's the problem. Americans can gratify needs without having to wait, no denying their desires, no want, no hunger. "Eat the instant you're hungry," Lasn writes, "and, as the Buddhist master put it, "You will never find out what your hunger is for." Plenitude feeds the malaise as it fills the stomach" (Lasn, 11).

The idea of never feeling hunger is one that bears additional thought. Perhaps there are spiritual benefits to fasting after all.

Perhaps I need mental fasting. I need isolation. I feel as if I am suffering from a lack of simplicity and a disconnection from Nature.

Part of my problem is too much noise. We're drowning in noise. According to Lasn, "in 1996, The World Health Organization declared noise to be a significant health problem, one that causes physiological changes in sleep, blood pressure, and digestion" (Lasn, 13). Noise is still a problem in 2017. Maybe even more so.

I am sitting in the quiet now. I am not playing music. The TV is off. Nothing on the computer is jangling at me. I have muted notifications. I have not checked my phone in over an hour. And yet, the noise in my head has not been swept back into the sea; it has not been reclaimed by the tide and the undertow. I am still struggling to think clearly. I am still drowning in the clutter and noise.

In 1999, in the writing of Culture Jam at both the end of the century and the millennium, Lasn commented that our culture was "stimulation addicted" (Lasn, 14). People want background music all the time. They cannot jog without ear buds and a Walkman. They cannot study without the TV on. Just think about how this passage would be updated today in the world of social media and smart phones. I live near a university. The majority of the students are literally on their phones all the time. Routinely, there's a lag now at traffic lights because the driver is looking at a phone screen and not the traffic light. Not a day goes by that I do not hear a driver honked at for sitting at an intersection with a green light. Sometimes I am the one honking. I see students looking at phones while the car is in motion or while they are walking through hallways and across campus. Dead time? Look at the phone. A lull in activity when nothing is captivating their attention? PHONE.


Though noise is still the same problem it was in 1999 if not worse, in some ways, the phone thing has reduced the noise. Granted, there are people's ringers and notification signals going off too often and at really inopportune times. I am a maverick as I am the only one in my family or circle of friends whose phone DOES NOT make noise when I get a text. But the other noise levels are somewhat reduced as people have ear buds stuffed in their ears most of the time. Fiftteen years ago, I was a rebel for plugging in my iPod and ear buds when I did the grocery shopping. For a couple of years, I was the only shopper listening to music (at least that I saw). Now, there are many. I can count on  my fingers the number of students I see crossing campus who do not have earbuds in. Many are talking on their phones via ear buds and remote microphones on walks, on runs, or while walking through a store. Hearing their conversations adds to my noise level but not as much as the squawking walkie-talkie-like Nextel phones of yesterday. I almost punched a woman once in Subway for arguing with her boyfriend on one of those squawking devices while ordering food for three children that she was not wrangling well at all.

Someone speaking somewhat quietly to an attached mic is not comparable at all, and yet, part of the "noise" is irritation. Just seeing all the users and thinking of all the bandwidth being used for useless crap drives me insane. And yet, I am a hypocrite because I do it, too. Though I try to be sensitive to those around me, I listen to my music (or audio books) a great deal with ear buds on walks, bikes, rides, going across campus; I talk on my phone in the car; I have texted or checked my phone while sitting at a red light. In fact, I am often following along in the paper copy of the book with the audio narration playing on my speakers while sitting at a stop light. So, I am hardly a paragon of virtue and have no just cause to be self-righteous, and yet moral superiority is so gratifying, it's difficult not to indulge.

Lasn refers to these diversions as "psycho-effluent." He cites the example of the advertisements in washroom urinal stalls. These are far more ubiquitous in 2017 than 1999. The consumer culture machine wants the spectacle in our face all the time. We are not far from the advertisement nanobots painting walls and the very air around us with shimmering, laser-light ad bait to charm and distract us like Faerie dust. Of the psycho-effluent, Lasn writes that "adspeak means nothing. It means worse than nothing. It is "anti-language" that, whenever it runs into truth and meaning, annihilates it" (Lasn, 21).

That's the clutter and noise I am writing about. Words that mean nothing. Talk as garbage. Information that is "disconnected from usefulness" (Postman in Lasn, 24). And it's not just a little clutter and noise, it's INFORMATION OVERLOAD. Remember, the Police did a song on this issue back in the 1980s -- "Too Much Information."

Lasn writes about the hazards of information overload. He cited William Gibson and the character Johnny Mnemonic from the eponymous short story, who would get the "black shakes" from information overload. He cites Neil Postman's Amusing Ourselves to Death (which I have read but it may be time for a re-read): "'Most information has long stopped being useful for us,' wrote Neil Postman...'Information has become a form of garbage. It comes indiscriminately -- directed at no one in particular, disconnected from usefulness; we are swamped by information, have no control over it and do not know what to do with it. And the reason we don't is that we no longer have a coherent conception of ourselves, our universe, and our relation to one another and our world. We do not know where we came from, where we are going, or why we are going there. We have no coherent framework to direct our definition of our problems or our search for their solutions. Therefore, we have no criteria for judging what is meaningful, useful, or relevant information. Our defenses against the information glut have broken down; our information immune system is inoperable" (Postman in Lasn, 24). I usually tell me students to avoid huge quotes, but that's a good one, innit? I put the last sentence in bold and italics with color for emphasis. But this quote sums what I have been trying to get at with "I suffer from clutter and noise." It's all garbage. The language is key in this quote: we're swamped, and we cannot control it. Ever open the Twitter feed all the way? It's like opening a fire house and trying to take a drink. And this flood affects our ability to understand ourselves,

Like you, I too am disconnected from the real world, from nature, from the energy pulsing at the center of the universe. I need to get back. I need to know where I came from where I am going, and why I am going there. I need the answer to "what does it all mean?"

Or, as some say, the answer is 42, so I just need the right question, but that's another topic (Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy in case you didn't get it).

I love that Lasn provides a term for the problem: infotoxins. I am suffering from the toxic wastes of toxic culture. I am infected with infoviruses that leave behind the toxic waste. I need innoculation. I need the cure.

Lasn asks if we can come up with antidotes to these infoviruses that infect our minds (Lasn, 25)?

Yes, I think we can.

I bought a copy of Adbusters at the People's Food Co-Op of Kalamazoo last month. I love that I can buy a copy of Adbusters at the People's Food Co-Op of Kalamazoo, that's a brilliant thing.

Check out Adbusters

There's great stuff on the site and in that issue that I will explore in further detail later. This is enough show and tell (and whining) for now, Mom.

I am going to continue this struggle with the clutter and noise malaise in a future post part two.

But to close, one last thought and the results of some Google searching.

Outside of reading more current issues of Adbusters, I have not checked to see if Lasn has published an updated version of Culture Jam or a new book that addresses the era of social media. And yeah, there's a book from 2012 called Meme Wars, which is the other passage I teach along with "Jolts," which is part of "The Ecology of the Mind."

It's interesting what a Google search produces for "clutter and noise" and for "my head is filled with white noise."

GOOGLE SEARCH FOR "my head is filled with white noise"

white noise filled my head - indefinissable - Supernatural [Archive of ...


Dec 12, 2016 - In the constant fluorescent glow of his isolated cell, Sam has no way to keep track of time. It passes strangely, warped and disorienting like the ...

My Head Fills Up With White Noise Right Before Sleep – Treatments ...


Also, have you (the OP) ever tried a white noise maker? Sound filled my head (distorted, slowed screaming) time slowed to an excruciating crawl, my visual field ...

Cx (c) There is this white noise in my head – Freedom from Tinnitus


My friends had to cut the white noise in the headphones because they said it looked like I .... Words can't explain the horror that filled my head when I saw her.

What is that noise in your head (not tinnitus), literally in your head, that ...


With very low ambient nose levels, such as when you are in bed with no other noises, you can ... Sign In. White Noise · Noise ... I occasionally hear small electric-like noises inside my head. What causes .... My head is full of noise from the past.

KIM CESARION LYRICS - Undressed - A-Z Lyrics


... white? I feel dizzy Like my fucking head is full of dynamite... ... Cover your body with my autograph. So let's get ... Sounds like fucking white noise in my head

The Travis Family, The Complete Series: Blue Eyed Devil, Smooth ...

Lisa Kleypas - 2017 - ‎Fiction
Finishing with the drawers, he went into the closet and started throwing my ... I was grabbed and slammed against the wall, my head filled with white noise as the ...

About 8,770,000 results (0.60 seconds) 

Clutter (radar) - Wikipedia


Jump to Clutter-limited or noise-limited radar - In addition to any possible clutter there will also always be noise. The total signal competing with ...

Noise vs Clutter - What's the difference? | the-difference-between.com


As nouns the difference between noise and clutter is that noise is various sounds, usually unwanted while clutter is a confused disordered jumble of things.
You visited this page.

Radar Basics - The basic types of clutter


Unwanted signals in a search radar are generally described as noise and clutter. (Noise was discussed earlier in detail concerning the Radar Basics.) Clutter is ...

When Information Becomes Clutter and Noise - Be More with Less


Jul 24, 2015 - Clutter isn't just on our shelves, in our closets, and on our calendars. In this thriving digital age, information is one of the most pervasive forms of ...

Chapter 11: Noise, Clutter and Interference | Engineering360

www.globalspec.com › ... › SENSORS, TRANSDUCERS AND DETECTORS

'Confusion now hath made his masterpiece' Shakespeare, 'Macbeth' 11. Learn more about Chapter 11:NoiseClutter and Interference on GlobalSpec.

Getting Attention - Breaking Through the Clutter and Noise | The ...


Jul 23, 2014 - Getting Attention - Breaking Through the Clutter and Noise. By Gregory P. Demetriou. There are almost as many URLs as there are stars in the ...

Calculation of Radar Probability of Detection in K Distributed Sea ...

by S Bocquet - ‎2011 - ‎Cited by 9 - ‎Related articles
Calculation of Radar Probability of Detection in. K-Distributed Sea Clutter and Noise. Executive Summary. Modelling of the radar returns from the sea is required ...

The infl1uence of physical clutter and noise on the activity of bats over ...

by RL Mackey - ‎1989 - ‎Cited by 71 - ‎Related articles
Clutter is an obstacle to flight and produces extraneous background echoes that must be discriminated from prey echoes. Water noise may also interfere with ...

A Probabilistic Model of the Radar Signal-to-Clutter and Noise Ratio ...

by RW McMillan - ‎2010 - ‎Cited by 10 - ‎Related articles
of the ratio of radar signal to clutter and noise. These effects are atmospheric turbulence, target fluctuations based on the. Swerling models, zero-mean Gaussian ...

Less Clutter. Less Noise.: Beyond Bulletins, Brochures and Bake ...


Buy Less Clutter. Less Noise.: Beyond Bulletins, Brochures and Bake Sales on Amazon.com ✓ FREE SHIPPING on qualified orders.






  • Various sounds, usually unwanted.

  • He knew that it was trash day, when the garbage collectors made all the noise .

  • Sound or signal generated by random fluctuations
  • (technology) Unwanted part of a signal. (Signal to noise ratio )
  • (genetics) The measured level of variation in gene expression among cells, regardless of source, within a supposedly identical population
  • rumour or complaint

  • The problems with the new computer system are causing a lot of noise at Head Office.

    Derived terms

    * noises off * noiseless


    * (Various sounds) sound


    * (Various sounds) bang, boom, crash, thud


    (Genetics meaning)'' "[http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/309/5743/2010 Noise in Gene Expression: Origins, Consequences, and Control]." Jonathan M. Raser and Erin K. O'Shea (2005). ''Science 309 (5743):2010-2013.



  • To make a noise; to sound.

  • (Milton)

  • To spread news of; to spread as rumor or gossip.
  • 1526 , (William Tyndale), trans. Bible , Acts II:

  • When this was noysed aboute, the multitude cam togedder and were astonyed, because that every man herde them speake in his awne tongue.


    * * 1000 English basic words ----





  • A confused disordered jumble of things.
  • * L'Estrange

  • He saw what a clutter there was with huge, overgrown pots, pans, and spits.

  • *{{quote-magazine|year=2013|month=May-June|author=[http://www.americanscientist.org/authors/detail/william-e-conner-1 William E. Conner]
  • |title=[http://www.americanscientist.org/issues/feature/2013/3/an-acoustic-arms-race An Acoustic Arms Race] |volume=101|issue=3|page=206-7|magazine=(American Scientist) |passage=Nonetheless, some insect prey take advantage of clutter' by hiding in it. Earless ghost swift moths become “invisible” to echolocating bats by forming mating clusters close (less than half a meter) above vegetation and effectively blending into the ' clutter of echoes that the bat receives from the leaves and stems around them.}}
  • (obsolete) Clatter; confused noise.

  • (Jonathan Swift)

  • Background echos, from clouds etc., on a radar or sonar screen.
  • Derived terms

    * surface clutter * volume clutter



  • To fill something with .
  • *{{quote-magazine|title=No hiding place
  • |date=2013-05-25|volume=407|issue=8837|page=74|magazine=(The Economist) |url=http://www.economist.com/news/science-and-technology/21578357-plan-assess-peoples-personal-characteristics-their-twitter-streams-no |passage=In America alone, people spent $170 billion on “direct marketing”—junk mail of both the physical and electronic varieties—last year. Yet of those who received unsolicited adverts through the post, only 3% bought anything as a result. If the bumf arrived electronically, the take-up rate was 0.1%. And for online adverts the “conversion” into sales was a minuscule 0.01%. That means about $165 billion was spent not on drumming up business, but on annoying people, creating landfill and cluttering spam filters.}}
  • (obsolete) To clot or coagulate, like blood.

  • (Holland)

  • To make a confused noise; to bustle.
  • * Tennyson

  • It [the goose] cluttered here, it chuckled there.
    (Webster 1913)


    Works Cited

    Lasn, Kalle. Culture Jam: How to Reverse America's Suicidal Consumer Binge -- And Why We Must. New York: Quill: Harper Collins, 1999.


    Reflect and connect.

    Have someone give you a kiss, and tell you that I love you.

    I miss you so very much, Mom.

    Talk to you tomorrow, Mom.


    - Days ago = 616 days ago

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