We all stare into the infinite scroll. Sure, it was once a questionable UI solution that created an even more dubious UX for surfacing content on websites — don’t like what’s on the menu, well, what if that menu were endless — now defines how we consume content online, interrupted only occasionally as the timeline lags. It’s an exhausting, indiscriminate way to interact with media, but what’s the alternative? We literally look at mobile devices hundreds if not thousands of times a day and the social web waits to scratch an itch our brains have to be constantly entertained.
Ever since the election, I’ve striven — unsuccessfully- to change my media diet. As someone who consumes a ton of content that streams through my various timelines for professional reasons, I’m trying to be more mindful of and intentional about my media consumption and the habits that enable it.
I’ve long admired Jason Kottke’s work and lately I’ve appreciated how he’s documented his media diet in much the same way one might keep a food journal. Here’s a recent example.
To that end, I’ve compiled a list of things I’m engaging on purpose!
- Yo La Tengo — There’s a Riot Going On. Seriously just what the doctor ordered to start an unseasonably cold spring. I didn’t think they’d match the brilliance of Fade, but this is a great coda on a wonderful career.
- Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks — Sparkle Hard. Ever since I heard the first single, “Middle America,” which sounds like it would fit comfortably on Terror Twilight, yet still sounds fresh.
- The Breeders — All Nerve. Ugh I know this has been very “Remember the 90s” but the new Breeders has so much attitude! “Nervous Mary” is one of my favorite songs of the year.
- Kamasi Washington — Heaven and Earth. A perfectly defiant record. It’s how I start Sunday morning in 2018.
- Abbott. Saladin Ahmed’s phantasmagoric thriller set in the ’70s about a Detroit reporter investigating murders in Cass Corridor is reminscent of Lauren Bewkes’ fantastic novel, Broken Monsters, but less nouveau Detroit.
- Reddit. I remember when Reddit was castigated as being the internet’s cesspool, but now the notion of self-moderated communities that you can visit intentionally feels pretty great.
- Everything trail and ultra running, starting with The Barkley Marathons: The Race that Eats Its Young. The Barkley Marathons aren’t an insane race, they’re an existential crisis. A friend of mine from high school went this year to observe the race and he witnessed its brutal majesty firsthand. There were no finishers this year. Check out The Year Barkley Won in Trail Runner Magazine, too.
- Babylon Berlin — Jason wrote a bit about the music here, but I was positively spellbound over 16 45-minute long episodes. “Zu Asche, Zu Staub” is a showstopper. Babylon Berlin is thrilling and punctuated by fantastic song and dance numbers.
- The 2018 Philadelphia Phillies. I’ve been bullish on the Phillies’ rebuild, but had not expected them to lead the NL East in the first half. I also didn’t expect the Braves to be at the door so quickly either.
I’ll try to update this on a quarterly basis. How do you manage your cultural consumption habits?
Maybe I’m following the wrong people on social media, but has the word “overlooked” lost all meaning as it pertains to culture? It seems to me that when we’re still printing spoiler alerts for ten-year-old TV shows that “overlooked” has lost all explanatory power. Now when I see that word in a review, I roll my eyes. Chances are the reviews are just as overlooked as the culture they describe, if not moreso.
Sure, within your niche the new records from Vampire Weekend or the National may be on everyone’s lips, but it’s a safe bet that the word of mouth outpaces actual consumption of that particular cultural artifact. You may perceive that those records have gone mainstream, but the reality is your neighbor has never heard either band.
There’s definitely a bright side to this; with this shift, it appears to me at least that snobbery loses in the bargain. The on demand nature of culture now enables anyone curious enough to bookmark those things mentally and narrows the gap between the expert and the novice. Moreover, we’ve done away with the cultural monoliths that once dominated the pop cultural landscape that allow us to gather around real and imagined water coolers for discussion and debate.
But how do critics describe this shift as the pace of cultural creation plows under what came before? Blink and you could miss the next cultural epicycle. Has culture been marginalized or personalized? Can anything be described as ephemeral, or were we just always talking to ourselves, the myth of monoculture just another imagined community peopled exclusively by elites?
You know what makes this blog great? It’s always reminding me of my shortcomings. No, not that I post once a month; that I post resolutions every year and never fulfill them.
This year I planned on ripping all my CDs to my MacBook. Didn’t happen. It’s tedious, there’s never time, the litany of excuses goes on and on. That changes next year.
Why? Because if we’re planning on buying a new home in 2013, I need to shrink my portion of digital goods considerably. There’s no excuse to not have everything loaded onto a computer that can be accessed via home sharing. Flipping content from computer to other devices in the home is really awesome and I’m finally seeing that potential.
What does it mean? I need an iMac. While everyone is going smaller — whether that’s iPads or MacBook Airs — I’m realizing that I need a machine that can comfortably store all the CDs and DVDs I own locally that I can then access on mobile devices. My MacBook just won’t cut it. I want something that can whirr quietly upstairs and be the classic home computer. I think iMac fits the bill.
Wish me luck in 2012 in getting our digital life together! (Do people still even buy used CDs and DVDs?)
Once upon a time, I used to be a guy who compiled lists — obsessively, even — of the movies and music I wanted to acquire in some physical format. It made birthdays and Christmases so easy for everyone in my life. Distribute the list and — voila — instant gifts!
Now it’s not so easy. I still really enjoy music and film, but there’s just no pressing need for me to “own” any of it. Does this mean I’m facing a future of ties for every gift going forward?
Remember when you used to evaluate prospective friends by the books they read, the movies they watched and the music they listened to? Feels like a long time ago, right?
Less than 10 years ago I would still scurry to bookstores and record shops, or spend beyond my means on DVD sales online. Then that suddenly stopped.
Now, as I try to make sense of my home without being overrun by my toddler’s toys, I find myself wishing I’d made better use of the library. Where’d all this stuff come from? When did I ever think I’d read all the books I bought on whims, or watch all the DVDs I hoarded. Let’s not even talk about the music that accreted in my apartments over the years.
Since things started going digital in one form or other I’ve been reluctant to go all in. For those of us who’ve had physical media all our lives, a hard copy is a reassuring thing. Now I wish I’d taken the plunge sooner.
This is all to say I’m purging vast swaths of my cultural collections. If you’re someone who still likes these things, be in touch. You get dibs.