Spring is coming along, in its weird upper Midwestern fashion- in starts and stops. It will be 70 degrees one day, snow two days later, and then 80 degrees to days after that. ‘Cause that’s how we roll here.
Anyway. I finally finished up two books I’ve been working on for more than a week- The Hunt for Vulcan by Thomas Levenson and The Revenge of Analog by David Sax which, ironically, I read in digital format.
The Hunt for Vulcan details how the motion of the planet Mercury didn’t match up to Newtonian physics, and so mathematicians and astronomers spent a couple of hundred years searching for a planet between Mercury and the Sun- Vulcan. Of course, we know now that such a planet doesn’t exist, but they didn’t know that then. All the math pointed to there being something there to tug Mercury out of the path that Isaac Newton had predicted. Then Einstein came along and with four papers completely changed how we look at the universe. He also disproved the idea of the planet Vulcan once and for all. I thought this was an interesting read, and it talked about several different scientists and how they tried to prove their ideas before Einstein. Levenson also discusses how Einstein came to write his groundbreaking papers.
The Revenge of Analog: Real Things and Why They Matter is about the supposed death of and subsequent new life of a variety of analog things and ideas- vinyl records, photographic films, books, brick and mortar retail stores, and education. Basically, when digital everything came along and nearly wiped away many of these analog things we used to use every day, people were declaring that they were obsolete and would soon die. But once we reached digital saturation (basically, once grandma and grandpa got iPhones and Facebook pages), analog records and books came storming back into relevance.
And it makes sense. For a fifteen year old out there, Facebook is just another thing in the world, and it’s less cool now that Grandma’s liking your status and complaining about all the food photos out there. But the thought of getting together with your best friend, grabbing a couple of vinyl records and sitting down to deliberately listen to music is pretty cool. It’s more personal that way. Instead of listening to a playlist that some algorithm came up for you, you’re picking the music based on the name of the artist or the cover art and making discoveries for yourself and building your own likes and dislikes all by yourself.
Sax also talks about Moleskine notebooks, a subject that’s near and dear to me, as I, like many of the people he interviewed for the book, prefer to keep track of To Do lists and ideas on paper, rather than typing it all into a smartphone or computer. There’s something wonderful about physically writing something down- the feeling of pen against paper, the quirks of handwriting, and the fact that I can format a page according to my own whims and not a computer’s programming. And when I write in a book, I don’t get that jagged little red line that’s trying to tell me I’ve spelled my name wrong.
I use a variety of notebooks for various functions. I have a Rhodia notebook for my bullet journal, a leather bound notebook for whatever quotes I come across and fall in love with, and I have two Moleskines. One has a dove gray softcover, which I use for my photography studies, and the other is a movie tie-in for The Hobbit. Call me dorky, but there’s a reason I picked that one. It’s my travel journal, and has been with me to England, Scotland, and Ireland. The cover has and embossed version of Bilbo’s map to the Lonely Mountain, and the cover itself is a lovely deep red. The geeky significance? In The Lord of the Rings, when Bilbo was putting together his book about his journeys, he wrote in a red leather book- the Red Book of Westmarch.
So of course, my own travel book had to be red. The map from The Hobbit was a geeky bonus.
In short, Sax is talking about how people like people, and we prefer to interact with things over digital interfaces and screens. We enjoy the feeling of having books in our hands and the interactions we have with people across the table. So while the digital world is an important part of our lives and it isn’t going anywhere soon, the analog realm is still a vital force in the world.