Musicians Alert: An Invasion from SBACE

by Laurie Spiegel

Laurie Spiegel is the developer of Music Mouse and also of a growing number of small furry warm-blooded mice who live symbiotically with the many SBACE in her New York City loft.

During the past few years, we've all noticed the increasing shortage of housing and studio space, and this problem has affected us all, whether directly, because we were unable to find or afford any, or through having had to put up our friends and/or all their worldly goods for endless periods of time. Contrary to what media are trying to convince us of, the most fundamental cause of this has nothing do to with greedy landlords, urban gentrification,or the population explosion.

The real truth is that living and working space for humans, especially musicians- and the more electronic the music the worse the problem - our space is gradually and insidiously being taken over by a truly alien and rapidly multiplying species:

SBACE (Shipping Boxes And Crates for Equipment).

When I say alien, SBACE are about as alien as you can get. They seem to have no feelings whatsoever, in fact not even the minimum sensory apparatus necessary to feel in any manner known to medical science. (They don't even react when we step on them, throw them, or spill hot coffee directly on their skins.) They appear to have no life support needs in common with other earthly life forms except for space itself. In fact, the only telltale signs that SBACE are a life form at all, and quite an intelligent one at that,are that they seem to be multiplying, reproducing and proliferating at an alarming rate, and that they've managed to beguile humans into caring for,housing, and protecting them in virtually every civilized home by now. It is sufficient proof of their intelligence that the wealthier and more secure the home, and the more educated and intelligent its occupants, the more SBACE you are likely to find accumulating there.

These SBACE ain't so dumb, but they also aren't absolute geniuses either.Their main survival technique is just to make themselves so ordinary-seeming that we hardly notice them and take them completely for granted in our familiar environments after only a short exposure to their presence. SBACE creatures try to camouflage themselves by looking like normal ordinary cardboard shipping cartons, but you can tell the difference anyway. SBACE are the ones which insist on being stored in a full 3 dimensions, because their inner organs,usually made of styrofoam, can't be compressed. Plain old cardboard cartons are the ones that you can flatten out and conveniently store behind the upright piano or in layers under the bed. Because of the size and structural integrity of the inner organs of SBACE, they also cannot be nested, one inside another, as normal cartons can. You can always tell a SBACE by its isolationism from other SBACE and from ordinary boxes. Each requires its own separate 3-dimensional place to be in. These are true Outer SBACE,and they simply will not be coerced into becoming Inner SBACE no matter how we try to force them. (Try nesting some yourself and you'll see what I mean.)

Even worse, the only species with which SBACE are truly willing to cohabit(other than their caretaker humans) are cockroaches and mice, to whom they happily provide both shelter and food. Why SBACE are willing to be open to these species is unclear, since it is sometimes directly destructive to them, but we can speculate that perhaps they mistakenly believe the organic smells they acquire through such relationships will make them seem more earthly to us and camouflage their presence better, and therefore be worth the slight loss of cardboard and the risk.

This invasion from SBACE is becoming an especially severe problem for those who live in city apartments, devoid of attics, basements, and garages, who have had to begin sharing not only our closets and shelves, but even our bedrooms, bathrooms, and other most personal places with this continually multiplying species. Just when you think you've adapted to the last wave of the invasion, having somehow gotten a larger one to earn its keep by draping a cloth over it and conscripting it into coffee-table-hood, another wave of them appears. And they usually come in groups. A big one will tend to be followed by a group of little ones whose contents are ostensibly needed to support the function of the original larger one's contents.

Why do we allow ourselves to be increasingly overrun by these SBACE invaders, with barely a communal or individual murmur of protest findable amongst us?

SBACE are smart enough to seduce us into adopting them permanently every time. (And without even being cute and furry!) They seem to have mastered human psychology to do this. First, to gain entry, they use bribery. Whenever one arrives, it will be sure to contain something we really want. This diversionary tactic not only provides entry, but ensures that we're so intent on unpacking,installing, and beginning to play with whatever the new toy is that we hardly notice another member of the SBACE ranks having taken up permanent residence in our midst. Because of the bribes of their contents, they get humans to transport them willingly, and even to fork over our own cold hard cash to pay for the trip for them. They have actually been able to successfully convince most of us that they are just inconsequential by-products of other things going on. SBACE are absolute masters of diversionary tactics.

More so than the human indifference to their presence which they contrive with their humble posturing as mere carriers of goodies, they also see to it that we keep them and protect them long after their initial usefulness as carriers for new booty has passed. SBACE mean to con us into giving them lodging and protection for life. It obviously isn't enough for them to just gain initial access to our homes.

And how do they manipulate us into such sustained cohabitation and support?It's simple. These SBACE invaders insure their survival in our homes and studios by running a sort of high-tech protection racket: They blackmail us with the knowledge that as soon as we discard an individual box, or even just the styrofoam inner organs fitted for a specific piece of equipment(so we can fold it flat at least), that piece of equipment will invariably,and probably immediately, break down in such a way as to need to be shipped back to the factory. Or even worse, we'll have to move to another country and ship everything. Or we'll run into such financial disasters or mass obsolescence that we'll end up selling everything, and the best offer will be from a buyer on the opposite coast. Clearly, SPACE only look inert. In reality, these alien beings are absolute masters of telekinetic control and other psychic forces.

On the basis of such human fears do SBACE manipulate us into sacrificing more and more of our homes and work areas to their exclusive use. If we don't wake up and start repelling this invasion, pretty soon a lot of people are going to come home and open their front doors to find nothing but an impermeable wall of solid styrofoam-reinforced cardboard. At the very least,architects are going to start having to design additional rooms for them into every new home (master bedroom, living room, kids room(s), SBACE room(s))...

But what can we earthling humans do, short of boycotting all the exciting new technology which SBACE beings use as carriers? (Perish the thought!) About the only tactic I can think of off hand is to convince the people who run the factories which SBACE use secretly for their main breeding grounds to daringly try to replace the vital styrofoam inner organs of SBACE with inflatable (or otherwise collapsable) supports for whatever equipment is to be shipped. But unfortunately, SBACE do their adopted jobs too well.They do protect equipment during transit better than any known earthly invention developed to date. In short, SBACE have made themselves indispensable to us within a matter of mere decades, and until some better way can be found to move equipment safely and protect it cheaply while in transit, we can only look forward to a 21st Century in which SBACE will probably outnumber humans by a much greater ratio than has already come to be.

Actually, what is the current ratio of humans to SBACE in the average American household? It may already be far far too late for any hope. After all, we are probably already greatly outnumbered by an alien species which has conned us into protecting its many members along with our most valued other stuff despite a 99% probability that we'll never use any individual one of them again for anything after we unpack it and put it someplace. How can this awesome invasion have gone so far so fast, and yet so subtly that we hardly noticed it going on?


Copyright © 1988 Laurie Spiegel. All rights reserved.
back to Laurie Spiegel's writings page | go to Laurie Spiegel's home page