Wednesday, 6 February 2013

The Paste That You Love

There's always an unsure moment when a friend introduces you to one of their friends that you've never met. You've heard a lot about this person, you feel obliged to get on with them at the very least. And then they say something rather controversial on the subject of religion, animals, politics, or on their preferred choice of biscuit. Where do you stand in this moment? It's not easy. There's no middle ground. They're looking at you for support. 

You could agree with them. Lay down, accept their point for now. Which would make you a bland, opinionless, arsehole. One of those boring people that just agrees with anything, nodding and saying 'yeah, yeah' to everything. You could refute their point. But there's no middle ground; you'd be locked into a debate. Oh god, they're a twat. They took great personal offence at you disagreeing. The worst part is, two others that are friends of the friend's friend heard snippets of the argument and they side with friend's friend. Great for them. They've ganged up on you and they're kicking you into submission with words. The icing on the cake? They start to use anecdotal evidence. 

"When I was in school I had a friend who got cancer who.."

"Two years ago I had a jewish friend that.."

"WELL, when I visited the factory.."

It's horrible. You got badgered into coming here to get shitfaced and you're locked in with these insufferable morons. When anyone starts using anecdotal evidence it's game over. These stories could be true; they might not be. They are probably exaggerated by emotion, but pointing that out makes you look petty. It's related to them and not the bigger picture in any way. Play it cool, turn away. You're forever a twat in their eyes. 

Anecdotal evidence ruins lives. Which is why it pains me to use it in today's blog which has decided to resurface like a bloated corpse. The point that I'd like to bring up today is that everything physical is slowly dying. And I have barely anything other than personal experience to back it up. Isn't that annoying?

What I mean by 'anything physical' is just that. Humans don't seem to be attached to physical objects anymore. Which actually sounds pretty nice, doesn't it? It's taken a while for things like Spotify and Netflix to appear and grow legs, but they're here now, replacing CDs and DVDs all the time. A couple of months ago, I saw someone on Facebook posting a status that said -

"Felt so retro today, actually went out and bought a CD lol"

The status attracted a huge number of likes (although I cannot confirm the actual amount because the person in question has unfriended me). When I go around to friend's houses, the compact disc doesn't exactly line the shelves anymore. And increasingly, the same is to be said about DVDs. People don't go out of their way to buy their favourite film; it'll probably arrive on TV, lovefilm, netflix or whatever soon enough (and if not they might just sneak in a quick illegal download). A lot of people I know have sold their collections.

My anecdotal evidence continues to slink into view when I talk about it happening already. HMV, one of the UK's largest music selling franchises has recently gone down the pan. It had attempts to launch a download service over the years, but the efforts were half-hearted and completely outmatched by the competition. I won't be too sad to see it go in all honesty. For such a large shop, there was such an increasingly shitty and overpriced selection of music that ended up being hidden behind a wall of t-shirts, mugs, and videogames. 

Aberdeen's biggest independent music shop, OneUp, has also recently closed down. There are mournful comments on the Facebook announcement they made. But we're a generation of Facebook commenters that do nothing; when OneUp announced they had financial problems last year, the sympathy increased, but customers and sales simply didn't. People had good words and fond memories, but couldn't actually be bothered going in. Last year, for an article I was doing on vinyl, I spoke to Yogi, one of the guys at OneUp. Even back then, he was pessimistic about the future of a physical medium. He said that records were for "the true music fans". But when I asked him if there were enough of them, he simply shrugged.

The last piece of horrible anecdotal evidence I will use is the one closest to my heart. The Stool Pigeon is a free music newspaper that was distributed throughout the UK and begun printing in 2005, two months before YouTube existed. In 2009 I picked up my first copy from a record shop in Paisley I frequently visited, as my music taste started to blossom from classic rock into all things new and alternative. 

I'd never heard of the vast majority of the bands, but the off the cuff articles with funny, upside down multi-coloured text that called people 'cunts' got my attention. I went there as an intern last year (and wrote a bit about it here) and spent a very educational two weeks running around and getting a bit sick and eating a malteasers ice cream next to a slimy canal in the punishing heat. The publication has now announced it will no longer continue -

"I wanted to do much more online, but the newspaper sucked up nearly all our resources and time. It's proved impossible to do both as well as we'd like and, to be frank, we're knackered."

But look at me! I'm becoming those people. I'm getting emotional here. I can't argue for physical things any more. They take up room, they burn resources, they're more expensive. I could go on about the sake of art, how everyone wants to sacrifice something good and wholesome for efficiency and better money, but all those things have been done to death. 

Do we really deserve to be nostalgic?  Is it worth getting attached to everything when it'll go away at some point? Reality is a turd-fest, so we may as well deal with it. We're a generation of emotional bloggers that will comment, upvote, retweet and like everything before we lift a finger to take action. If we truly become a nation that has bare shelves and little more than laptops and TVs to furnish our homes, will it really matter? Will we miss it? 

My prediction is that we will. We'll miss our new book smell. We'll miss inhaling record sleeve dust. But as soon as we remember how much effort it was to open a plastic case, lift the silver disc, plop it into a tray, and press play, we'll get exhausted and slouch back in our fart-powered chairs. Bliss.