Tag Archives: Records

All of my music is on minidiscs and LPs

When I was fourteen or fifteen I got my parents to buy me a Sony minidisc player for my birthday. It was cool for about a month or so, I felt like I was on the cutting edge of the future. I remember taking this trip into the city to shop at the Virgin Megastore, one of the only places that actually sold music on the minidisc format. And yeah, there was a minidisc section, half a wall really, right next to the collection of LPs.


I looked through the artists, there wasn’t really anybody that I had ever heard of before. But I went there to buy minidiscs, so I settled on Pearl Jam Vitology, even though I already owned it on CD, it didn’t matter, now I could listen to it on minidisc.

This was right around the time of Napster, when I could dial-up to the Internet and hope that nobody would pick up the second phone line for the six or so hours it would take me to illegally download “My Own Worst Enemy” by Lit. Multiply that process by twenty, and bam, I could make my own minidisc mixtape.

They were just like cassettes, but digital. What did that mean? I had no idea, and after a while, the whole process of taking the expensive minidisc player out of the velvet pouch it came packaged in, just so I could listen to the same twenty or so songs over and over again, it began to feel like a chore, one that I couldn’t avoid, because I had asked for this expensive piece of equipment. If I didn’t use it, if I didn’t at least put an effort into getting some sort of satisfaction out of it, then what did it say about me, about my choice in cool presents, in my vision of the future?

It’s like, if I weren’t a little kid when Nintendo’s Virtual Boy came out, I would have been one of the first suckers in line at the video game store. I guess every once in a while some new technology comes out and, even if it winds up failing, there are always going to be a few people stuck with a bunch of leftover useless pieces of hardware.

Years later, somewhere toward the end of college, I decided to swing in the opposite direction, to get into records. It started when I walked past some record shop in the city, I found a bunch of used LPs in a box and I thought, OK, this could be a pretty cool hobby. I think I might have bought Vitology again.

But this was even worse. Instead of limitations, there were way too many options in a still niche field, record collecting. I bought an old record player on eBay. Right after I made the purchase, I found an old turntable in my parents’ basement. Neither of them worked right. I tried opening them up and changing the belts. It was useless. By the time I finally got something to play, I found that if the volume was up too loud, it would cause the needle to skip and mess up the playback.

For a couple of years I had this whole setup just collecting dust in my bedroom. Eventually my parents packed everything up into boxes, who knows, maybe someday my future kids will throw them away after I’m dead.

I don’t even have all of my old CDs anymore. Everything’s online. And it’s so much better. Every once in a while I’ll read an op-ed online, something about how digital music is terrible, how we’re losing so much audio fidelity. I couldn’t care less. I don’t have time to play with manual settings or figure out how to operate all of these different mediums. It’s so much easier to click and play. And besides, all of my headphones kind of suck anyway, so I doubt that I’d be able to even tell the difference anyway.

If I ever get my hands on a time machine, well, I have a list of things I’d like to go back and stop myself from doing. And numbers thirty-seven and forty-two on that list are, “Stop myself from asking for that minidisc player,” and “Don’t walk past that record shop,” respectively.

Well, well, well. Look who set a world record.

I woke up this morning and had this sudden realization that I’ve been alive my whole life and, so far, I haven’t set any records at all. Not even one. I’ve been living this whole life of not pushing the envelope, of so not boldly going where anybody has already gone before. And I started freaking out. But then a voice chimed in my head and said, “Relax Rob, you’ve set plenty of records. Like that time that you held your breath for a minute and forty-five seconds. That was your longest held breath yet!” And my heart slowed down a little bit. Yeah, I’ve set plenty of records. More and more I calmed down and started to go about my day.

But then like ten minutes later a different voice in my head started saying things like, “You can’t really count those as record. They’re personal records. Everybody has personal records. It’s a total cop-out.” And my heart rate started going up again. It’s true. Why was I so easily convinced that personal records counted as anything record-breaking? Because they don’t. I need something to set myself apart from the pack. I need to get myself a real record.

So I went down to the track. I resolved to run a three-minute mile. I’d stay there all day and all night if I had to, but I had this feeling that if I just tried hard enough, I could will my legs to move faster and faster, each step a little faster, just slightly faster until I had the record and I could go home and go to sleep without worrying about waking up the next morning in the grip of a cold panic brought about by the pathetic fact that my life has, thus far, been completely devoid of setting any records whatsoever.

But it didn’t happen. I wasn’t expecting to break the mile record on my first try. I figured I’d have to warm up a little. But my times just kept getting slower and slower until I had absolutely no energy left and I was so thirsty but I didn’t bring anything to drink – I’m such an idiot! – and so I went to the water fountain, the public water fountain right next to the track and I started drinking, but the water pressure was so low that I couldn’t really get enough water in one gulp to really satisfy my pressing need for refreshment. Finally I figured out a way to lean my head to the side so the water would fill up inside one of my cheeks and then I could take a nice, satisfying swallow. By the time I came up for air, there was a huge line of people waiting to use the water fountain, all looking really pissed off. I didn’t get out of the way. Instead, I counted how many people were waiting in line. Was this a record breaking line? Could it be that I had unintentionally set a record? I kept counting and got a number. It had to be a record.

I got home and called up one of those record keeping institutions. I told them about the line at that water fountain, and how maybe we should just have a real quiet record ceremony, because I figured that if we put a plaque down at that water fountain than people would see it and start organizing even bigger lines, and it wouldn’t be fair, it wouldn’t be a natural line of people, just waiting for a drink. And the guy at the other end of the phone got so angry. He started yelling:

“Will you stop calling here! You can’t set records for such stupid stuff! What’s wrong with you? Don’t you have anything better to do? I’ve never in my whole career at this record keeping institution been bothered by somebody about as much nonsense as I have been by you!”

And I said, “Really? Never? So I’m like the record keeper for most idiotic record requests?” And the guy got really quiet for a while and then finally he said, “You know, you’re right! This has got to be a new record! And it’s all official because I’m an official here and I can vouch for it! You’ve done it! Congratulations!”

And that was it. World-record set. No big deal, right? Looks like I can sleep easy tonight.