Sideband #11: Eleven Eleven

These go to eleven.

I know people who feel the funniest moment in all of film is the bit in This is Spinal Tap about the volume knobs that go to 11. It does seem clear that the bit has become a well-known cultural meme. Just about everyone (who’s anyone) knows exactly what you mean when you refer to turning it up to eleven. For those of you just exiting the cave (Plato’s or otherwise), here’s the bit:

Nigel: The numbers all go to eleven. Look, right across the board, eleven, eleven, eleven and…
Marty: Oh, I see. And most amps go up to ten?
Nigel: Exactly.
Marty: Does that mean it’s louder? Is it any louder?
Nigel: Well, it’s one louder, isn’t it? It’s not ten. You see, most blokes, you know, will be playing at ten. You’re on ten here, all the way up, all the way up, all the way up, you’re on ten on your guitar. Where can you go from there? Where?
Marty: I don’t know.
Nigel: Nowhere. Exactly. What we do is, if we need that extra push over the cliff, you know what we do?
Marty: Put it up to eleven.
Nigel: Eleven. Exactly. One louder.
Marty: Why don’t you just make ten louder and make ten be the top number and make that a little louder?
Nigel: [pause] These go to eleven.

You can’t argue with logic like that! (Well, you can, but you’ll lose.)

All of which is just a musical intro for this moment’s Sideband. Just as the last one, #10, riffed on its number, so too, does this one. To badly misquote Monty Python and the Holy Grail (one of the funniest movies in my book), “Eleven shalt be the number thou shalt count, and the number of the counting shall be eleven. Twelve shalt thou not count, neither count thou ten, excepting that thou then proceed to eleven. Thirteen is right out!

The number 11 has a variety of interesting properties, which maybe we’ll discuss some other time, but now I have in mind something much more specific and–seemingly–weirder. I say seemingly, because it’s probably, almost certainly, no more weird than the “fact” that people act strange during a full moon.

What I have in mind is the time 11:11.

At some point I began to notice that every time I looked at the clock, it was 11:11. Well, not every time. But in the evening, when I’d be watching TV or doing something, and I would glance at the clock for the first time in a while, it would be 11:11.

Once I noticed this I became aware it was happening an awful lot. Often enough to begin to seem a little freaky. Often enough that I began to obsess about it. Often enough that I began to wonder if it actually meant something.

And, yes, when you begin to think like this, it’s time to re-examine your sanity. Or at least your thinking. The problem is what we might call, The Full Moon Phenomena. A rather dryer term is self reinforcing perception. Basically what it means is that, given a belief, we filter our perceptions to eliminate those that disagree with the belief and note those that reinforce it.

Most police and ER personnel will swear that things get very weird during a full moon. But no analysis of the data supports this (the extra light may provide some slight difference). The reality is that people are strange, weird and bizarre all the time. But when we see strange behavior during a full moon, we note that as “proof” of the belief. When we see people being weird other times, we unconsciously discount it into the background.

So there’s really no doubt that I see it being 11:11 on the clock a statistically insignificant number of times. It’s just that when I do, it strikes me that, “Geeze, it’s 11:11… again!!” It’s even possible I see the clock in my peripheral vision, sub-consciously notice it’s 11:11, and this draws my eye to the clock so that my conscious mind can be surprised again.

Of course, if I should happen to die on November 11th, you can all be very freaked out!

One nice consequence of this was that it caused me to buy the album 11:11, by Rodrigo y Gabriela. (I’m glad I did; it’s a cool album!) I’d seen them on The Tonight Show and on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson (a favorite of mine), so I didn’t buy it sight unseen or sound unheard. But how could I not buy an album titled 11:11?

I’ve written enough for this Sideband, but I’m going to have to revisit this topic. I just discovered something very weird. Go Ogle for 11:11, and you’ll see what I mean. Apparently I’m not alone and haven’t stumbled on any new,  unique or personal to me. Apparently, once again, I’m just like all the other crazies out there.


About Wyrd Smythe

The canonical fool on the hill watching the sunset and the rotation of the planet and thinking what he imagines are large thoughts. View all posts by Wyrd Smythe

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