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Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Day The Media Servers Died

A Facebook friend inadvertently reminded me of The Portable Phonograph just recently:

The old man seated himself laboriously, and reached out, groaning at the movement, to put another block of peat on the fire. With bowed heads and averted eyes, his three guests acknowledged his magnanimity. “We thank you, Doctor Jenkins, for the reading,” said the man who had named the books. They seemed then to be waiting for something. Doctor Jenkins understood, but was loath to comply. In an ordinary moment he would have said nothing. But the words of The Tempest, which he had been reading, and the religious attention of the three, made this an unusual occasion.

“You wish to hear the phonograph,” he said grudgingly. The two middle-aged men stared into the fire, unable to formulate and expose the enormity of their desire. The young man, however, said anxiously, between suppressed coughs, “Oh, please,” like an excited child.

The old man rose again in his difficult way, and went to the back of the cell. He returned and placed tenderly upon the packed floor, where the firelight might fall upon it, an old portable phonograph in a black case. He smoothed the top with his hand, and then opened it. The lovely green-felt-covered disc became visible. “I have been using thorns as needles,” he said. “But tonight, because we have a musician among us” – he bent his head to the young man, almost invisible in the shadow – “I will use a steel needle. There are only three left.” The two middle-aged men stared at him in speechless adoration. The one with the big hands, who wanted to write, moved his lips, but the whisper was not audible.

“Oh, don’t!” cried the young man, as if he were hurt. “The thorns will do beautifully.” “No,” the old man said. “I have become accustomed to the thorns, but they are not really good. For you, my young friend, we will have good music tonight. After all,” he added generously, and beginning to wind the phonograph, which creaked, “they can’t last forever.” “No, nor we,” the man who needed to write said harshly. “The needle, by all means.” “Oh, thanks,” said the young man. “Thanks,” he said again in a low, excited voice, and then stifled his coughing with a bowed head.

“The records, though,” said the old man when he had finished winding, “are a different matter. Already they are very worn. I do not play them more than once a week. One, once a week, that is what I allow myself. More than a week I cannot stand it; not to hear them,” he apologized. “No, how could you?” cried the young man. “And with them here like this.” “A man can stand anything,” said the man who wanted to write, in his harsh, antagonistic voice. “Please, the music,” said the young man. “Only the one,” said the old man. “In the long run, we will remember more that way.”

Yes, I have a thing for post-apocalyptic and dystopian stories about mundane things from our epoch.


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June 23, 2016 | Permalink


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