Solid States is the Posies’ first new collection since 2010’s Blood/Candy, and the circumstances surrounding its conception couldn’t have been more different than those of its predecessor. First and foremost were the double-gut-punch deaths of two longtime band members: drummer Darius Minwalla in 2015, and bassist Joe Skyward earlier this year. There was also a divorce and a remarriage for Jon Auer, who, like Ken Stringfellow, now lives in France. Life-changing events aside, the Posies are back with yet another great album. Stringfellow and Auer will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week.
Stringfellow: One of the recurring themes on the Posies’ new album is the encroachments on personal freedom, the closing of the ring around every day people’s self-determination, as one of the most disturbing byproducts of the information age. Yes, we have access to communication like never before, but the battle fought with ones and zeros, which are highly manipulable, is being fought in places that not every citizen has either access to or the know how to understand where and how the battle is being waged.
As we are enamored with technology, and often intimidated by it (see how your IT guy’s wages have fared compared to yours in recent years), we often accept the changes imposed upon us—by either commercial or governmental interests—without much questioning, or even the knowledge that we have the right to ask questions.
One area of debate that intersects personal freedom, technology and its promise, and public health is the Smart Grid. In many places around the world, your traditional electricity, gas and water meters are being upgraded, with new devices that take a much more detailed look at your usage, and send much more information to the utility about usage on the network as a whole. Sounds great right? The Smart Grid is modern, cool … and potentially, a nightmare. A boondoggle of epic proportions, there is enormous debate that creating expensive, power-consuming units, installing them in every home and business and chucking millions of perfectly functional, low-tech units into a landfill has any net benefit to our overall energy consumption. And then: how much information do these units acquire about citizens, and what is done with that info? When you’re home, out, how many people are in your house at any time … how invasive and how detailed? And, being that each unit is like having a very powerful cell phone transmitting at all times, are there health risks, especially in multifamily buildings where dozens of these units might be clustered next to someone’s living space?
It gets very interesting when you see the response by the utilities to force these devices on their customers. People who resist are taken to jail. Suddenly, a semi-public body without direct oversight has the ability to install potentially harmful or potentially invasive devices without giving you a choice to say no. Is that the kind of society we want to live in? And who is in charge of awarding these enormous contracts to build these devices … and manage the data?
This film, which documents the campaign in British Columbia to put the power back in the hands of citizens about these issues, is not going to take up much of your time. It’s worth spending 30 minutes to get the perspective that you’re potentially being sold someone else’s pork, or worse: willingly having a Big Brother device installed in your basement.