A case for the tangible

Our arts and entertainment editor misses the days when you had a tangible piece of machinery and physical product you could feel while you were feeling what it was saying. PHOTO BY CORY HOPE

Cory Hope, Arts and Entertainment Editor  Ω

I was in the Future Shop a few days ago, and while I was busy perusing expensive toys I can’t yet afford and trying to find a way to justify spending my grocery money on a fancy flash for my camera, I noticed a girl.

Not like that. Minds out of the gutter, please.

She was young, probably dragged there by her parents, and while they were shopping for toys that I can’t afford, she found herself a corner to sit in and read a book.

Not an ebook.  Not Facebook.  Just a book.  The kind made of paper.

She immediately became my hero, though because of the social stigma regarding talking to girls that age without a parent being present, I merely smiled to myself and walked away, hoping that the flash I had been looking at had suddenly become marked down for clearance.

I am far from a Luddite.  I own more than my fair share of tech toys, but I find the disappearance of tangible, physical media to be disheartening.

Take records, for example.  I won’t bother you with the sound quality issue.  My mp3 player sounds better in the car than a record player would, and it takes up less space in my pocket.

It’s the rest of it.

It’s the packaging, the liner notes, the little extras you get when you buy a record, or even a cd, that make buying them worth the money.

Lookout! Records was great for that, back in the day.  Lookout! was the record label that Green Day was signed to before they got picked up by Warner.

On the vinyl version of 39/Smooth, Green Day’s debut LP (now compiled with their EPs Slappy and1000 Hours and called 1039/Smoothed Out Slappy Hours), the words “James, put down that skinhead!” are written more prominently than the band’s name or the album title.  You know what that has to do with the album?

Nothing.

And if you hold up the record (and many others by labels like Epitaph) to the light you’ll find messages scrawled into the vinyl.  The A side of 39/Smooth says “Bill, Mike, John: Loyal Filth Groupies.” (Filth was another Lookout! band) The B side says “Call Back Tomorrow, It’s A School Night.”

It’s the little details like these that make collecting records more fun than just downloading a track from iTunes.

I’m not suggesting that all media needs to be physical and tangible, but rather that there are some things that are more personal if they’re not on a re-writeable string of ones and zeros stuffed into a little electric box.  Certainly the age of digital photography has more people taking more photos than ever before, but should an album of your favourites be kept only on a hard drive?  I’ve started printing some of my favourite photos out, and even spent a little bit of money on envelopes and stamps to *gasp* send a copy to somebody in the mail!

And believe it or not, it’s appreciated.  Nobody has sent me an email back asking for a digital copy to be sent to them (well, okay – one guy did).  The response is usually via email, but more often than not it’s to say thank you.

I really am all for the digital revolution to a certain extent.  I enjoy consuming digital media at a fast pace without having to pay anything more than my Internet bill.  The examples of records and photos are but two things I’m afraid of losing to the impersonal-feeling screen I’m typing this on.

One of the great things about the digital age is how we can all be connected if we choose to, but I for one feel more connected to a photograph in my hand than a friend request on Facebook.

Especially when the power goes out.