Angry Robot

Disc Spinning

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 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.

Not about online photo storage really

I have been going through my photo collection on my computer because I was going to try out an online photo service and in the process write an article for my site about various photo storage problems and options. The service I signed up for costs $7 a month for 100 gigs. Turns out my library is 140 gigs. That would cost $15. I knew I could get it down. There are a lot of duplicates and rejected shots.

The collection starts in 2003 with the purchase of a digital camera. It was small and cost $700 for very little quality by today’s standards. The photos are sporadic. At first there are single tentative photos here and there, then – realizing the cost structure of digital photography – they blossomed, in fits. A night out, blurry and grainy. A day with visiting family members. Another night out.

They’re not from every day, but reflect conscious efforts to use the camera. A series of photos from a walk to work. Pictures of the condo I used to rent a room in. Pictures of the locations of the failed film I worked on. Of Lucy, my then-new girlfriend, now my wife.

They reflect my bizarre obsessions. There are quite a few of Toronto grafitti (all works which are now, I would assume, long gone). There are many shots of alleyways, signs, and abandoned things.

The years advance. Friends’ kids grow. A trip to Cuba, a couple jaunts to Ireland for a funeral and a wedding. Lucy cycles through various haircuts. There are shots of the first apartment we got together, and Christie subway station nearby, and the decrepit barber in between, and the tree that fell after a storm.

In 2008 I got an iPhone. The photos multiply. Many are mundane, fleeting images: a bruise I got after a bike accident. The serial number on my mom’s washing machine. A shot of a stranger on the subway. I delete a few but start realizing that these photos also tell little stories.

A year later another camera enters: the Panasonic GH1. The photos are all of a sudden much better. Some are beautiful, even. I bought the camera for its video capability as I wanted to shoot a documentary in Windsor. I took a ton of stills with it. The photos of abandoned things, of urban decay, explode.

I try to decide what to delete. I mostly delete only duplicates. There are quite a lot, as if the photos, left unsupervised, have been breeding like rabbits. But when it comes time to evaluate other photos I defer. Some of these I would have deleted years ago had I been paying attention, but now with the time passed, they seem much more interesting. Who am I to say what I will find interesting in another five, ten years?

A trip to Windsor, photos of the Detroit skyline. Around this time my dad was falling ill with dementia. There are only the occasinal photos of him. They are then followed by 40 pictures of my new Kindle. I was writing a review of it for my site.

Lucy’s parents’ cottage. My friends getting older. Abandoned buildings in Windsor. An image of my dad in the dark. I remember the occasion distinctly: he asked about my brother. I do not have a brother.

Then, 80 pictures from a shoot for work, with Star Wars characters. A trip to dim sum, with closeups of pristine teacups and chopsticks.

I start to realize I should not be writing about online photo storage problems and solutions. I start to wonder what reality my current urge to write such things obscures.

My dad is now three years dead and I have not written about it. I have but I have not shared nor finished it. But I am ok now with his absence. It does not seem as sad, or rather, the sadness has a character of beauty.

The photos continue unabated. Pics of houses for sale. A mortgage agreement. Our new house. Our new daughter. I do not want to delete anything.

I rethink.