May 21st, The End Of The World, And Your CD Collection: A Primer

May 18, 2011 at 9:26 am
The fourth horseman has three copies of Paul's Boutique, for some reason.
The fourth horseman has three copies of Paul's Boutique, for some reason.

If you're one of the 200 million people who will be raptured on May 21 this kind of debate might strike you as academic, but on May 22 A to Z's unsaved readers will find themselves facing the most important question of their lives when the imminent destruction of the earth by fire forces them to finally decide what to do with their CD collections. Some salient points to keep in mind as you go through your CD tower, attempting to inure yourself to the ineffable screams of the damned:

1. Remember, you're doing this for you. Too often Spring Cleaning can feel like a chore someone else has set for you, but remember that you're cleaning out this CD tower because you want to, deep down. You want to keep your music collection permanently digital, because it's convenient; you want to get that spinning rack out of your living room, because it makes your nice, adult room look like a dormitory from Undeclared; you want to lighten your rucksack, because when the marauders come pillaging through your neighborhood you'll be lucky to save anything that isn't strapped securely to your back.

2. Keep physical utility in mind, as related to digital utility. Does the CD have extensive liner notes, or aesthetically pleasing artwork? Does it offer a deeper sound than your low-bitrate mp3s? Can the play of light off its reflective surface distract the undead long enough for you to siphon the necessary gasoline into your commandeered humvee?

On the other side, is it a cheap reprint? Is the jewel case just a generic, one you could replace at a later date? Has it already been contaminated by The Infection? At some point you have to decide whether your physical copy of David Gray's White Ladder is giving you anything you can't get on iTunes, including but not limited to The Infection.

3. Does this physical CD evoke memories that are valuable to me as a person? I don't mean to be an old softie, because in this post-apocalyptic nightmare anybody who comes off as an old softie is likely to be murdered and turned into fuel for some commandeered humvee. But it's true that physical objects can be very real link to our past--particularly the past, almost impossible, now, to recall, that came before the Gateway Arch caught fire and generated the terrible, all-seeing Eye of Sauron.

For instance--I don't think I'll ever be able to throw Jock Jams away. For one thing, it brings to mind carefree days spent shooting hoops in the neighbor kid's driveway, pretending we were Reggie Miller, or Clyde Drexler, or Mark Price, for some reason. For another, in the sub-human society to which I find myself indentured, goofy compilation CDs have become a kind of ersatz currency. One Jock Jams is worth ten Totally Hits, so long as it's not the one with Montell Jordan on it.

Look--pruning your CD collection is never going to be fun, and it's always going to be easier to come up with reasons to put it off to some other day. But by my calculations, we only have 157 days until everything on this earth, including our copies of Cracked Rear View, explodes into an ultimate and ceaseless nothingness. So if you plan on alphabetizing--it's now or never.