Signs of Hope in Record Albums, Polaroid Cameras, Real Books, and Handwriting

My cousin recently inherited her uncle’s huge (more than 6,000) album collection, made up of a variety of genres — from classical to heavy metal and everything in between. Uncle told her to dump them when he died. She couldn’t bring herself to do that, so she has figured out how to catalog them on Discog as a first step. I offered to help, and when she and her husband went away for a week, I house and dog-sat for them and also worked on this project.

Coincidentally, my daughter (a millennial) had received a record player for Christmas from her boyfriend. They have developed a love for music appreciation via records. She told me that there is pleasure in holding the album in your hands, putting it on the turn-table, turning it on, seeing it start to go around, setting the needle down, and then listening to the music. Even the crackles are part of the whole experience.

As I was cataloging Uncle’s records, I came across some music from my formative years — the Carpenters, Grand Funk Railroad, Bobby Goldsboro, Peter, Paul and Mary, Neil Diamond. As I worked, I would play these on the computer. Though it was digitized, it still evoked memories and pleasure. But yes, when I listened to them on the turn-table, it was an elevated experience, crackles and all.

We also went to a record store, Hungry Ears, in a recent urban revitalization area in Honolulu - Kaka’ako. In that shopping center, there was a flea market. Not sure if was themed or not, but the offerings were mostly albums and cameras (analog).

This was a revelation to me — that this is a thing — Retro Life. My daughter also had a birthday recently and her boyfriend got her a Polaroid camera.

I like to think it has something to do with a pendulum swing, or maybe a spiral staircase is a better metaphor. Perhaps technology has gone too far without considering the human need for sensory, emotional, or even spiritual experiences. Perhaps the return to analog devices serves that need.

There are other anti-digital activities that I find hope in, reading real books, for example. I do travel with books and to save weight in my carry-on, I started to read e-books on an iPad when the iPad 2 came out. It didn’t take me long to realize that I preferred real books. Now, I rarely buy e-books, and when I travel, I will only take one, which I give away when I finish (my goal anyway), then buy another if needed.

Finally, I have been an advocate for cursive writing for a long time. It has fallen out of the curriculum in schools in favor of keyboarding and technology proficiency. Not only is cursive writing a form of self-expression, it is a means of brain development, as fellow Medium writer proclaims. I see glimmers of hope that this will come back. The popularity of hand-lettering and calligraphy is the basis of this hope.

I use a laptop, a smartphone, an iPad, among many other technological advances. But human impulse is to yearn for full expression. When we feel a “puka” (hole in Hawaiian), the reaction and response is to fill it. This Retro behavior is a sign of that. I don’t think of it as going back, but like a spiral, going around and up.

Playwright, essayist, teacher, artist, songwriter, poet. Creativity Activist. Learn more: https://www.dianeaoki.com

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