I have spent my life collecting garbage.

So I helped my friend Dylan move apartments today. I hadn’t actually moved or helped move anyone since I made my last move over 7 years ago. It’s amazing how 7 years dull the pain.

As I’m inevitably going to move myself in a few months, it occurs to me that the sooner I get rid of my old high school stereo, the TV I bought when I was 13, my VHS deck, my old mac and the half-billion CDs I don’t like and will never listen to, the better. Because there is nothing more terrifying to me than having to move that stuff.

I come from a long line of pack rats. When I was a kid I used to (kinda) look forward to going to my Chinese grandmother’s place, a large two-story treasure trove of old crap that reeked of mothballs and old food. I never knew what I was going to find there, from a WWII era cigarette lighter to an 8mm projector. My then-college aged uncle also had most of his stuff there, and there were countless old cigar boxes that reeked in ways I would not experience again until college. 

In more recent days I had to argue with my father as he clung tenaciously onto his first DVD player, a miniature Sharp model that no longer works at all. “DVD players are $30 now, dad!” I told him. He agreed and exhaled with a sad look on his face, and I instantly understood what he was going through. I glanced over at his reel-to-reel tape deck circa 1972. It had spent over a decade of its life in my bedroom. Next to it was my first bookshelf stereo system, two cassette decks, a turntable, and a Radio Shack audio processor that never seemed to do anything useful. I had lost track of what was originally mine and what was my dad’s. (I should admit here I was less sympathetic to my mother and her over 4 full metal cabinets full of craft supplies she hadn’t touched in over a decade.)

I’ve always been a media collector, be it ancient video game ROM files, anime or obscure movies. In that way, the digital revolution has been a boon to me, as I can sort of have my cake at eat it too, or rather have a perfect reproduction of a 35mm-quality film print without having to keep the 70-pound canister of film. Now that DAYS worth of music can fit on a 25¢ DVD-R and I have the life-long creative output of a small army of movie directors in a binder on my shelf, the media and its related rituals have been lost. Romanticism aside, it seems like a decent trade-off. 

In my heart of hearts, I know I’m not going to be able to pair down this collection much. My CD library, much of it serving more a sentimental role than a utilitarian one, will probably not see much more than a 30% reduction. My DVD library, around 500 discs strong, will likely not take a hit at all. But I can try.

Ironically, the first to go seems to be not the media itself, but the engine on which I play it. My bookshelf stereo system, a Sony all-in-one replete with tape deck, AM/FM radio and 5-disc carousel CD changer, is headed for Craig’s List. I can’t remember the last time I used any of those. (I still have a few cassettes, but most of them are unimportant and easily replaced.) More alarming is that the Logitech iPod dock I bought for $30 after rebate sounds considerably better than this old behemoth. So out it goes, along with the quite serviceable but big and ugly turntable my uncle gave me. I was delighted to discover I still had my little portable turntable, the Mister Disc.


Japanese magazine ad for the red version. Only the silver was released in the States.

Japanese magazine ad for the red version. Only the silver was released in the States.

Originally marketed in Japan with the hysterical name “Sound Burger”, the Mister Disc is a turntable capable of playing full-sized records, but it folds up into a little brick not much bigger than one of my shoes. With a built-in preamp, it hooks right into a modern stereo, and even had headphone jacks. So between my Sirius radio, my iPod dock, and my Mister Disc, my entire stereo system now fits in an 18″ x 9″ square on my computer desk.

We’re living in the future.


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