Confession: I’m a vinyl person now. I bought a music-platter-spinning machine, and am spending actual dollars on music printed onto archaic physical discs. I am fussing with cartridges and alignment and dust and suchlike.
You’ll recall my enthusiasm for streaming, and perhaps you are familiar with my general love of technology, especially in its newest forms. What happened?
Deep background: I have quite a few vinyl-type friends. Some collectors, some DJs, some miscellaneous. My wife and I have in fact never gotten rid of our records – we have been holding onto them with no means of playing them until a few months ago. The collection includes some passed down from parents or siblings who divested themselves of their music-circle collections. Some I bought during the last time I had a record player, during college, at fire sale prices when music was actually expensive and paying for it was not optional.
There is certainly a nostalgic angle to all this. At my parents’ cottage when I was a child, the rotating music device was in the garage, and when the weather was bad I could spend whole days out there, playing Elvis, the Beatles, Wings, Fleetwood Mac, Dylan. I have many fond childhood memories of experiencing music, and this is one of my fondest.
I also have always loved the record-playing experience. The large art. The focus on albums as opposed to songs or mixes. The way the listening must happen in the foreground. I think there are limits to the value of convenience, as well captured in this article, and that physical constraints can focus the mind in important ways.
The crackle and scratch are familiar and almost comforting to me, but I don’t actually believe vinyl sounds better. I am uncommitted on this issue.
Because my daughter is old enough to be forming musical preferences, and with the birth of a brand new kid, I have been thinking a lot about the value of a personal music canon. I want to transmit to these kids my favourite music, but more importantly I want to pass down the value of treasuring music. Streaming has been great to me, especially for finding new music. But with easy access to almost all music, I find myself rarely listening to the same thing twice. I look through my “library” in Spotify and I can’t remember what half of it is. I have become skittish, manic in my listening; easily distracted by new and shiny things. Do I want to pass down a collection of 10,000 virtual albums I’ve barely listened to? Where is the value in that? Perhaps we only really value things we have spent money on, or more accurately things that do not come easily.
So I’m buying fucking records.
There’s a lot to be said about this world – the lure of crate-digging, the characters inhabiting record shops, the rare finds, the bizarre character of a marketplace where sales of a century-old medium are spiking while CD sales are tanking. I’m doing a mix of buying cheap shit at thrift stores for kicks, and gradually amassing a collection of 100 or so personally cherished albums. It’s ludicrous perhaps, or maybe it makes sense.
Whatever it is, I love it.
I have been really digging the Libby app that works with OverDrive, which is the ebook system that the TPL uses (as do many libraries). It’s a well done app that works great on phone and iPad reading-wise. On the down side, the system is founded on the artificial scarcity of electronic items, meaning it replicates the “hold” system of physical books – as usual, this is so someone can monetize it. On the plus side, free books! You just have to wait a little, or a lot, depending on what you want. But really, there are always some great, obscure books to be found that have no wait at all. The app also handles audiobooks and I’ve made use of that during this pat leave, taking long walks with the baby in the frigid Canadian winter listening to the icy tales of a doomed arctic expedition. As one does.
There is also a magazine service that uses an app called RBDigital which is not good. It works though, and it means you get pretty much any magazine you want, for free. Furthermore with your TPL card you also get free streaming access to the Criterion Collection, along with many other things I haven’t tried yet – see all of them here. If you live in Toronto you should check it out.
I am starting to have the time to write something here and this has led to a crisis of purpose of sorts. What sort of things do I like to write? It’s not that I can’t think of anything, I can think of too many things and can’t decide on a single one on which to spend my still-precious few minutes of surplus time.
That’s because of the boy. You have a baby and it throws your life into complete disarray. At first they never sleep for more than three hours. They sleep, wake, eat, shit, go back to sleep. There’s plenty of chance for you the parent to sleep also, but only on their very weird terms. As the weeks drag on you are exhausted, disoriented, isolated. You wake up in the morning but it feels like the evening. To leave the house your mental checklist extends to like 20 things you need. Plus you fear the kid crying and disrupting the restaurant, grocery store, whatever it was. If you are going to the grocery store are you going to bring that stroller? Because then you can’t push a cart can you? Things get complicated and the easiest course is often to not make that trip. When you do find a few minutes you are going to slump semi-defeated into your couch with a glass of wine and some bullshit Netflix superhero show. You are not gonna write that fucking blog post about Trump or cool smart lights.
The kid actually slept for 12 unbroken hours last night. So that’s a sort of milestone. He’s three months now, and more baby-like. Newborns are like little alien pods. They barely open their eyes, they are preternaturally wrinkly, and they are probably resentful of being out in the world which must seem cold and hostile to them. They have a bundle of reflexes but very little in the way of human reactions and expressions. These come gradually. You might see a smile that represents something other than the passing of gas. You might start to hear coos and goos that sound like the child trying to say something. Plus their sleep clumps into longer stretches at night and more predictable naps during the day. That’s where we are now, and that’s why I find myself with the time to string sentences together, and the energy to do it.
The question remains: what to write about? Or hell, this is my blog, I’ll just write and see what it’s about afterward.