For years, my CD collection and record collection have been packed away. The family was moving around too much to keep them out in the open; we didn't seem to have room or money for a good CD player, or room to set up a proper turntable. So the CDs and their liners were in boxes or on spindles, awaiting a time to see the light of day. And the records, generally, were packed away in a corner where they wouldn't be disturbed, or I'd simply gotten rid of them. For quite some time, I didn't even look at the CD racks in second-hand stores or anything—I knew I wouldn't have a chance to listen to them, so I'd generally ignored them. I was mostly listening to music on my phone and didn't need to track down CDs.
A couple years ago, when I still lived in Chilliwack, this changed. I started looking through 2nd hand CD racks again, feeling as if I was missing out on music, hoping to catch up with a few trends. I started finding loads of music I'd always been curious about and it felt good to hear it. I would buy the CD, rip it to mp3, and then disassemble the case and store its parts with the rest of them in a box. When my marriage really blew apart, I wound up with a car that played CDs only, that couldn't play mp3s or bluetooth, so I started keeping an eye out for good car CDs again.
This culminated in an event a few months ago: I really wanted to be able to properly hear some of the music I'd collected, so I searched on Craigslist and got a couple spinning CD towers and a super cheap stereo system. When I set up those towers and stereo, my little apartment felt a lot more like home. Since then, I've been slowly reassembling the CDs so I can easily listen to them. I track down people who are selling off their CD collections for absurdly cheap prices and replace all the CDs I'm not interested in with my old ones from the collection.
It feels really good to have the CDs out in the open again. I play them regularly and it genuinely feels good to put on some music. But really, what does this matter? If the house burns down and I lose my CDs, they're just CDs. As much as I take pride in my CD collection, in my records, they're also just things.
But even when they're on the shelf I identify with them. I like being a person with a vast, diverse, cultivated CD collection. It's sort of similar to my Maple Leafs obsession. I like being somebody who has a team to cheer for, a team with a long history, a team that's gone through hard times for a long time. Or perhaps with my love for film photography, for being somebody who carries two or three cameras around with him most of the time. It's identity, sure, but it's cultivated by the market.
I don't like identity as a concept very much. I soured on it as I found myself in circular discussions at University about Canadian Identity, and I really tried to put a nail on the coffin of religious identity when I left that behind. I think identity, as a concept, causes more problems than it solves. But that's not to say that I've bought in to some cultivated identities for myself.
In the video above, Coffin uses an awards show trope to heckle the nature of "criteria." At the start of his video. Coffin parodies the justifications we make for our worldviews: "We set forth criteria and we are happily reconizing that he fulfilled it," he says about an overly idealistic/minimizing statement from Barack Obama. And Coffin keeps going, eviscerating our cultural criteria for success for the remainder of the video.
As a teacher, this hits home. In teacher Professional Development, we're often told to make sure criteria is very clear so students know what to do. "Make sure they know how to achieve success. And I got on board fully with this idea for a bit. However, over the years I've come to see that the criteria I create is often as arbitrary as the nature of evaluation. Just because I've created criteria doesn't mean it's fair, reasonable, or based in reality.
Arguably, the ability to create criteria inherently flows from a position of privilege. Who gets to create the criteria? Why should we follow their criteria and not somebody else's? We all use criteria, but it's arbitrary.
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