How to Defeat the Infinite Scroll

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!

Listening

  • 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.

Reading

  • 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.

Watching

  • 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 BerlinJason 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?

Overlooked Culture

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?

Taking Ripfest to the Next Level

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?)

Who Needs Birthday Presents?

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?

A Lesson in Accumulation

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.