Friday, December 30, 2016

Toronto Vernacular

Is there a 416 equivalent to the Vancouver Special? Sure. I call it Toronto Vernacular, and it dates back to Honest Ed’s. I don’t know what else to call our uniquely lo-fi retail aesthetic.

I read Learning From Las Vegas many years ago. My garbled, taken from memory summary is: seemingly ugly signage can communicate effectively, which means maybe it isn’t so ugly after all.

What I can say with confidence is that I’m not the only person who thinks Toronto Vernacular is meaningful:

Let’s Be Ready by The Wooden Sky and E P L P by Teenanger
Pink City by Jennifer Castle

Analog Facebooks

I finished David Sax’s book The Revenge of Analog over the holidays. I could have written the book, maybe. I don’t say that to be arrogant — I was obsessed with physidigital objects from 2011 to 2013.

I don’t think I could have written this, however:

“Tabletop gaming creates a unique social space apart from the digital world. It is the antithesis of the glossy, streaming waterfalls of information and marketing that masquerade as relationships on social networks. A Twitter conversation is nothing more than a chain reaction of highly edited quips; a Facebook friendship is more like an electronic Christmas card exchange than a real interaction; an Instagram feed captures just the shiny highlights of life.”

There are valid critiques to be made of social media. I read such critiques all the time. David Sax, you’re no JFK.

Now that I have my requisite cheap shot out of the way, some praise. Sax has a clear and easy-to-grok argument, and he does the hard work of reporting and research. There are moments of grey (digital needs analog, and vice-versa) but his thesis requires a lot of black and white. I suppose a book called Watching Atoms and Bits Make Sweet Love would be more difficult to market.

(Want to see a far more intelligent person explore the necessary symbiosis of digital and analog? Read this review by Navneet Alang.)

Sax is a solid writer, but I almost returned Revenge of Analog to the library after sentence number four: “The place smells like hot metal, sour water, and the sweet poison tang of warm plastic.”

Writers of the world! Please don’t use Whitesnake lyrics to describe a record pressing factory.

Thankfully there isn’t much purple prose in Revenge. And I might be the problem — perhaps no one else cringed at: “This wasn’t just a bookstore opening up. It was a symbol of hope, a lone flower poking up from the spring frost after a long, brutal winter for bookstores.”

I’m grateful that Revenge introduced me to Adobe’s Kickbox and Stack’s indie magazine rando-subscription. But despite my analog sympathies, I’ve realized I’m more interested in the revenge of digital:

“Moving through the dining hall, I passed the notice boards bearing photographs of the church youth. I take a cursory glance and spot my sister’s face. I wonder if Facebook is merely digital scrapbooks. Or if the recent resurgence of scrapbooks are merely analog Facebooks.”