Cover photo

The Crowd Makes Space [250]

Hi Crowd!

Before I get into it, I just want to tell the blockchain nerds here that I've minted my first photo on Solana. It's this crow, taken a few weeks ago in Shibuya. Felt like a good image to christen a new chain. It's available as an edition of 25, for anyone into that kind of thing. For everyone else who doesn't know what the crap I'm even talking about there, don't worry about it and just enjoy the photo. Related, the prints I mentioned in the last letter are up in my shop and there's a few of each still available. OK, enough with the shilling.

I'm still grudgingly using Twitter, though trying to spend more time on Farcaster which is really superior in every way, if you aren't there yet I recommend checking it out (here's an invite). Here's a short thread by Jess to get you started. OK, enough with the internet.

As everyone who has ever lived with me can attest I love records. I fell in love with music on vinyl early on in high school. The collection size has grown and shrunk, and I've gone through periods of intentionally avoiding record stores similar to how an alcoholic knows they can stay sober so long as they don't set foot in a bar, but I've never given up on vinyl and I've had a working record player of one kind or another since I was 14. I remember freshman year of high school having to bring something that we "collected" to school, and I brought a 7 Seconds 7" on blue vinyl and talked about collecting colored vinyl records to a class room full of kids, eyes glazing over from boredom, who had in all likelihood never even seen an LP. Weirdly they weren't impressed.

This is probably where my object lust was also born, as I'd spend hours looking at covers, reading liner notes and feeling different paper weights, stocks, and ink textures. This is where I learned the difference between doing a thing and doing a thing nicely. Anyone can make something, very few people make something special - usually the differences is just patience and willingness to do it. Even then I recognized that some people were just trying to get something finished and released, and other people were trying to make art. I think about that a lot.

But that's really a different story, maybe a different chapter. Right now I'm talking about records. I had 40-50 when I moved from Bradenton to Gainesville so I didn't even think about it. When I decided I was going to move from Gainesville to Chicago I realized the now hundreds in my care we're going to be an issue. I remember buying a bunch of cassettes (the real nice ones) and recording a bunch of records so I could sell the vinyl but still listen to them, assuming I could always buy them again later. You know, common things like Rocket From The Crypt and KARP albums. Dear reader, I could not always buy them again later. There are records I sold then for $10 which now sell for over $1k now - if you can find them. This was another lesson for another chapter.

In Chicago I was working at a record company designing records, so I was both getting to try and make cool stuff but also collecting lots of cool stuff. By the time I moved to Los Angeles the collection had multiplied several times over. They filmed High Fidelity at a record store down the street from my Chicago apartment and a bunch of posters for records I designed can be seen in many of the background scenes. I remember watching the movie with many people when it came out and half of the people were absolutely shocked at how many records Cusack's character owned, to the point where they said that was just too much to believe possible which prevented them from really getting into the film because it was so obviously over the top fiction, the other half of us didn't notice anything unusual about it. You can guess which side I was on.

Needless to say, moving to LA with that much vinyl was hard. In fact, I blew the transmission in our truck pulling the trailer along the way resulting in a multi-day detour in the middle of idaho, and in hindsight it was probably the weight of the vinyl which did it. I lugged it around LA from place to place, the collection size growing and growing, until I got divorced. I had some kind of a life crisis and sold half of it (along with other collections I'd been amassing). The good news is that paid for me to live for the next year, the bad news is, like with that original Gainesville to Chicago moved, many of the things I sold then have 100x'd their value. A record I sold then for $800 recently sold for $5000. A Japanese toy I sold then for $2000 recently sold for $35000. So yeah, I apparently didn't learn my lesson so well. To be honest I try not to think about it. But life comes before stuff, and at that time I was living the startup life and had to find ways to pay bills and adventures, so that's how it played out.

Over the next few years I got heavily into minimalism, which I wrote about a lot at the time. I got rid of a lot of stuff. I never went full on into the "100 Things" challenge, but I knew people who did and I dabbled with the idea. At one point almost everything I owned fit into a single bedroom I was renting in a friends house. I didn't document it, but records were probably back down to around ~300 at the time. When my son was born a few years later I had another crisis that was a direct contradiction of where my head was at at the time - what was I going to leave this kid? I don't know why but the two visions I couldn't get out of my head were him growing up and needing to have records around to listen to and learn from, and if I should suddenly die, he'd need to have my record collection to understand who I was. So I immediately started buying records back. It's a weird thing to think about, but even now I think it's pretty accurate. You could go through my records right now and get a damn good idea about who I am and what I care about. Not just the spread from jazz to classical to death metal to noise to punk, but themes and soundtracks and spoken words. There's a lot in there. But actually, there's so much that no one in their right mind would ever take the time to go through it. You'd have to be crazy, or maybe heartbroken.

When we moved to Japan I had to ship my records by boat, and it was one of the scariest things I've ever done. The waiting. It was brutal. And the fact that my "friends" kept sending me videos of shipping container laden boats in heavy storms with containers flying off into the sea didn't help at all. When they eventually arrived safely in Japan I swore I was never doing that again. 3 years later I did it again when we moved to Vancouver.

Here's the thing - for having all this vinyl, I don't actually listen to it much. Don't get me wrong, I'm listening to a lot of music all the time, but my FLAC file collection is 10x my vinyl and the ease (and horror) of Spotify is hard to fight. Also, and more importantly for the point I'm very slowly getting to - right now I don't have a good way to listen to records. In Los Angeles I was nearing on hifi standards, with big giant vintage speakers and a tube preamp and a perfectly spaced room to sit on the couch and listen to records. Could just put records on while doing things around the house and it was great. It was brilliant.

Tokyo was less brilliant, the room was small and awkward and I sold the giant speakers before the move so now the turntable was wired into the Sonos system which didn't recognize it 50% of the time. It went from just being able to plop a record on without thinking about it anytime I wanted, to being a chore that may or may not work and might require turning things off and unplugging things and resetting things and updating firmware, so I just started listening to digital more and more. I also didn't want to annoy the neighbors, so ended up more often than not with headphones. When we got to Canada it was that plus more an awkward layout in our house meant that playing records went from difficult to annoying. Rearranging things around the house solved one problem but created another. Big picture is the space we live in right now is just not conducive to this kind of thing.

And there's another thing. As some of you know I started making music when we we're in LA. A big shift from just being a consumer and enjooooooyer of it. In LA I had space, records and the stereo in one room, makin' music stuff in the other. Tokyo was much more compact and it took a few rearrangings before it sort of worked. Vancouver is wonky af and I think after several rearrangings the issue is that I'm compromising everything to try and fit everything. Which brings me to my very long winded round about point of all this.

Consuming vs creating.

Stuff vs experiences.

These things can be complimentary, they don't have have to be contradictory. Both are possible, and can benefit each other. But also, sometimes they can step on each others toes, and when that happens maybe it can help to adjust the balances a bit. Put a finger on the scale so to speak. Reduce distractions. This is hard for me because I try to do all the things all the time, but the last few years have been weighing on me and I remembered how much easier my life got when I adopted a personal uniform and thought perhaps I needed to reduce choices and "what ifs" here too. To that end, I've decided to pack up my records. I'm not getting rid of them, I'm just recognizing that right now, right here, I can't enjoy them the way I want to so rather than looking at them every day and thinking about that I'm going to remove them from my visual field. At some point in the future, with more space and a better layout, I'll unpack them. This also releases a bunch of space that I can use to properly set up some music making stuff, who knows, maybe that'll lead to making some music. Well "music." I have an idea I've been chewing on, so maybe making this physical and mental space for it will lead to something.

Thanks for joining me on that bit of self therapy. Memes and news and nonsense will be back in the next one.


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