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.
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.