unboxing The New Analog

It’s been awhile since I read a book in two sittings. Even the junk fiction I’ve been gorging myself on lately usually sees me through 4 or 5 nights or more. But Damon Krukowski‘s The New Analog: Listening and Reconnecting in a Digital World went down fast. It may not be a photobook, but it’s a true page turner, engrossing, entertaining, informing and cogently argued.

The main thesis is “noise matters” and it’s pretty easy to extrapolate, as Krukowski does in the end, from music and recording, to books, movies, social media: what we ignore is as important as what we attend to. Noise, the stuff we ignore, helps orient and direct us. There’s more to phonographs than “warmer sound:”

  • each play of a record destroys it a bit, it’s a living thing, in some sense, like we are, the pops and crackles and warps corresponding to our own freckles and blind spots
  • the jacket and liner notes contain vast amounts of information: all the band members, production staff, A&R people; lyrics sometimes (Interestingly, Sgt. Pepper‘s* was the first to do this: I had no idea); photographs and graphic design in a size and shape that invite examination
  • listening to a record is an active experience, you have to get up and flip the record or restart it or put on a new one every 20 or so minutes

In the same way, physical maps don’t show us where we are, so much as where we aren’t, but the map on my phone only ever shows me where I am… Physical maps give us options, places to stop, forces us to look around. GPS is definitely useful, but it’s so hard to get lost and accidentally find something interesting now that we’re always tethered to the satellites. In a few weeks, InshaAllah, Hana and I will go on a bit of a driving tour of Texas, and I hope to stop in somewhere that I last visited in 1995 or so. I know I drove myself there, but I now can’t imagine how I did it without Google Maps.

May God forgive me.

Signal is important… the Important stuff is important. But so is the noise, so is all that boring stuff in between the excitement. Back just 5 or 7 years ago, I used to sit out on the patio at the Grigsby with friends, chatting and staring blankly at one another. Now, I only see them on Instagram, and they’re always travelling or hiking or eating fabulous meals, and never staring blankly at anything… I think this lack of noise, this curation of life, is at the heart of some of the great problems in ourselves and our society today, and I need to find ways to add noise back into my life.

Unrated, but Recommended.

If you spot this at a library, check it out. Maybe visit a used bookstore and pick it up: I saw a copy at Half Price Books on Preston Rd. in Dallas just maybe 10 days ago. It’s worth a read, and worth pondering just what we’re losing in this great new world.


*I ran out and bought a vinyl copy of the 2017 remastered version the day after it came out and filmed an unwrapping, but I mistakenly had the auto white balance set and the color shifts in the video are crazy, so I never shared it.

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