Periodical — 10

It’s a grey afternoon here in Durham. I’m about to shut down for the evening, put on some music, mix up a gin and tonic, and get dinner together for the family.

The kids are eager to open the first drawer of our advent calendar.

These evenings of the twilight of the year are the most magical.

That’s me writing in my home office in 2010. (Click that little icon over the image – the video will play.) Back then, my digital camera didn’t do video, but it did time-lapse pretty well. I just exported an hour’s time-lapse and added a bit of the sound I had captured of the room during that time. I was pretty into making these pseudo-videos back then; I have a bunch of them stored on a drive that are fun to look back on.

(The soundtrack is the first track from The Way Out, by The Books, which had just been released and was their last album.)

Speaking of hard drives, I’ve gone back to preferring them over “the cloud.” I maintain a couple of drives that are always connected to my machine — one I have named “Apps” and the other “Files.” Each is 1TB, which is ample for my needs. I also have an 8TB RAID that I back up to periodically.

Anyway, that’s the boring part.

The exciting part — for me — is that I’ve been using a newly discovered app called ClipGrab to download YouTube videos at their full, original size. I have librarian tendencies, and there are so many interesting things that others have managed to put on YouTube that I fully expect to disappear at some point. For example, I now have all five seasons of the 1990s “paranormal news” show, Sightings stored on my “Files” drive, subdirectory “Video.” As far as I know, this show isn’t streaming anywhere, so I have no compunction with this minor act of piracy.

But there are so many other things like this that I want to archive on my own machine. Random clips, news broadcasts, interviews, performances, etc. I feel like I’m making a video mixtape and building a secret library at the same time.

Everyone should have a personal library. It need not be vast or complete, or any particular format; it’s simply a collection of things that represent ideas, values, and experiences that are important to you. For years, I’ve talked about this as a personal “canon,” and for me, it was often just a long list of links to things that I’d revisit and frequently share. But I’ve been troubled by how many of those links no longer work and by how many of the things those links used to reveal are just gone now — totally inaccessible. I suppose that none were ever mine to have. But I do think of gathering media in a personal archive similarly to how I think about taking photographs: it’s a means of partially keeping the otherwise unkeepable. Of capturing a moment in time or a thing too big to be held.

Written by Christopher Butler on December 1, 2023,   In Log

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