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Culture Tech

Nostalgic for bookstores

Photo by Wells Baum

Our online identities have become our real-life identities, one where the rapidity of instant communication breaks down the slow pace of life. Tech makes us impulsive and drains our patience–we demand things with a click of a button and expect a drone to deliver them the same day.

So it’s no surprise that some people want to feel what it’s like to slow down again. The record store may be dead–selling CDs at least–but the bookstores continue to fight against the frenzied activity.

Amazon just opened its second bookstore on the West Coast. The Shakespeare and Company bookstore in Paris is thriving, offering “an antidote to commercialism.” Some readers prefer personal recommendations over algorithmic ones.

For some, there will always be an allergic reaction to the rapidity, convergence, and intangibility of digital life, and a nostalgic desire to visit places that encourage us to think, browse, and chat. We will not salvage or recreate everything pre-digital, but we will prop up those spaces that give us an escape from the velocity of ourselves.

Categories
Culture Life & Philosophy

One infinite loop

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  • Smart watches
  • Kindle books
  • Spotify streams

The newest technologies erode their physical counterparts, but they also revitalize interest in the old stuff.

The sensory, tactile experience of analog items as those listed above literally feel more special. They are stimulants: the subtle noise of a telltale “tick-tock,” the fresh smell of an unopened book, or the surface noise of vinyl, not to mention the album art that doubles as real-life Instagrams to make fancy wall art

People want reality. They want to disconnect from the internet’s dizzying pace and reconnect to those micro moments.

Nature nurtures and refocuses our sense of being. We are more than just robots seeking the temporary therapy of distraction.

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John Peel on vinyl

John Peel: "Somebody was trying to tell me that CDs are better than vinyl because they don't have any surface noise. I said, 'Listen, mate, life has surface noise."

“Somebody was trying to tell me that CDs
are better than vinyl because they don’t have any surface noise.
I said, ‘Listen, mate, life has surface noise.”

John Peel

Categories
Social Media Tech

How teens and hipsters stain the resurgence of Vinyl


Vinyl artwork looks like framed Instagrams. No wonder the kids use them to decorate their dorm rooms. Vinyl covers are like the new posters.

“I have vinyls in my room but it’s more for decor, I don’t actually play them”

Note: She said ‘vinyls,’ the equivalent of saying something like ‘The Facebook.’

While records are meant to be played, vinyl enthusiast Liz Buckley also points out that at least these so-called hipsters are supporting music even if they never spin a record.

Music is an elastic medium — each format birthed its stigma. The iPod obviated the mini-disc, but MP3 files clogged the hard drive. Streams made music abundant but fungible. Tapes were an interim format, albeit they are still big in Japan. Meanwhile, CDs turned song names into unforgettable track numbers.

“It’s a sadness to me that the invention of the CD means I know far too many tracks by their number, not their name. “OK Computer‘s your favourite Radiohead album? Me too, me too. Bloody love track five.”

However, vinyl is the two-sided original. Its imperfections mirror the real and raw aesthetic of Instagram Stories and Snapchat that teens love today. Like an unopened vinyl, many of those social media posts go unopened — signal exceeds the noise.

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Tech

Japan’s Portable Record Players

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It was hard to find an affordable record player in 1960s Japan. So the Japanese companies built their own cheaper, portable vinyl versions. Each design was fantastically unique.

The devices were cheap, mass-produced players that were made, not only by electronics companies, but also toy companies and even industrial companies. Looking back on all the unique designs that came out, each was more groovier than the next.

Not surprisingly, the Japanese followed up with the world’s subsequent music players: the Walkman and Mini Disc until the iPod and the smartphones became the dominant playback device.

In related news, Japanese companies announced that they will officially stop making VCRs this month.

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Simplicity is a response to a world that appears to be changing uncomfortably quickly.

Deyan Sudjic

He continues:

“A generation that never handled a photographic negative, used a landline phone, or typed a letter has rediscovered the qualities of vinyl records, and the charms of Polaroid film.”

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The CD Case «

As for the CD format, I can’t imagine listening to, say, Green Day’s Dookie any other way. Dookie is to CDs what Creedence is to vinyl. It is a record resting eternally in the collective memories of aging music fans, a lost piece of data tucked inside scarcely used multidisc changers and laundry baskets full of shit leftover from collegiate apartments. The Beastie Boys’ Check Your Head is like that, too. So are Odelay, Siamese Dream, and Exile in Guyville. You can’t hear those records without anticipating the parts where the disc is scratched to hell and won’t stop skipping.

Vinyl I get but CDs are the industry’s attempt to monopolize users into an overpriced bundle when all there may be is a couple good tracks. Plus, that shrink wrap always infuriated me.

My CD rack is old and dusty and while I’ll never use any of the CDs in it again the collection is nostalgic; it represents the days I collected music religiously. Music was so much harder to find pre-Internet but it also made discovery more fun. Nothing beats the pleasure of finding a great album that no one’s ever heard of.

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Free Music, at Least While It Lasts

The convenience of pushing a button on a handheld device that streams wirelessly to a speaker is always going to trump hunting down a CD with marginally better sound and plopping it into a player.

Always hated CDs, opening them with barricaded shrink wrap, avoiding scratches, and the fact that they took up so much space. The only thing cool about CDs was the album art, which was a miniature version of what came in a Vinyl record.

Steve Jobs killed CDs by disaggregating the format into downloadable singles. He gave the music industry a life-line. I still wonder if Apple would’ve bought Beats of Kobs was alive though. I think he would’ve used his power to renegotiate with the big heads and put Spotify out of business.

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Vinyl, 1000x close up.
Vinyl, 1000x close up.

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Vinyl’s great, but it’s not better than CDs

Perhaps the best audio-based case for vinyl is actually precisely the fact that it does mess up the original recording. A lot of vinyl fans talk about the “warmth” of records, particularly of the low-end. But, as Pitchfork’s Mark Richardson puts it, “the ‘warmth’ that many people associate with LPs can generally be described as a bass sound that is less accurate.” The difficulty of accurately translating bass lines to vinyl without making grooves too big means that engineers have to do a lot of processing to get it to work, which changes the tone of the bass in a way that, apparently, many people find aesthetically pleasing.

People enjoy listening to Vinyl because of its imperfections. Vinyl produces the same visceral vibes as unfiltered photos on Instagram.