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No-stalgia

October 21, 2011

A few things happened that made me think about memory.

1. Tonight, I read an oddly disjointed piece about nostalgia by Chuck Klosterman.

2. Yesterday while I was teaching, the fire alarm went off in the Science Center.

3.  A few days ago, there was some article posted in Slate about how Facebook is changing peoples’ brains or something.

Let me start with Klosterman. His point, initially, is that the negative connotations of “nostalgia” are uncalled for.  He is primarily writing about rock music, how most critics argue that you can’t be truly objective about an album you listened to ten years ago, because it only brings back good feelings. His most salient point is that the goal of a musician is to produce an emotional response . If I listen to an old Coldplay album and get all goose-pimply, the album has done its job.

Pretty good point.  But then Klosterman starts talking about how mp3s have changed all that, and kids won’t listen to the same song over and over again– not in a grumpy old man kinda way, but just obviously clueless.  He then goes on to say some really shudder-inducing tripe, such as “Spotify is a game-changer” and “Connectivity will replace repetition”. Chuck! This Grantland thing must really be wearing you down.

The piece made me think about how I purposely avoid music I used to listen to.  When I hear Smashing Pumpkins on the radio, I shut it off. I just can’t go back there. Every now and then, I will find an old CD in some box and put it on, and it sounds really good but then back in the box it goes. I won’t let myself dwell. I can’t do it.

I used to be an extremely nostalgic guy. I would pine for days that happened just a few months before. I kid you not. I’m sure my old friends will attest to what a sappy mess I was, getting all wistful over an old t-shirt or an episode of Friends. But something switched in me, and I found that I just wanted to look forward. Listen to new music, stop taking photographs, and only talk about new things- never the past.

This is dumb. As I get older I imagine this will get harder to do. But it just is so sad, to think about all the time that’s gone and how everyone has changed, and worse, how those things you thought were important were not important at all. Really they were silly, but they meant so much to you. Sometimes I use this analysis to talk myself out of what I think is important right now. For example, if I’m getting nervous about a deadline, I tell myself, “Relax, it’s just a deadline you’ll think was stupid”. It can be kind of a problem.

to be continued…

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