Archive for category Media

Somebody Told Me Again (AKA Going Legit, Part 3)

Preface: it’s not necessary to review my earlier posts to understand tonight’s spew, but parts 1 and 2 are here and here if you’re so inclined to trudge through them.

A while back I decided to give up a life of petty theft and electronic burglary and behave like a respectable young(ish) man. I had amassed thousands of dollars’ worth of illegal software, operating systems, games, music and movies, and had downloaded enough patches and cracks to start my own plumbing company. Think I’m exaggerating? Think again. I was a web developer, so I had the entire suite of Adobe products installed, plus the (then separate) Macromedia line, plus the commercial modelers and raytracers and development studios, plus all the operating systems my junk was running on, plus whatever else my greedy little heart desired.

But now I have a friend in Obama (he walks with me and he talks with me and he tells me how little I own), and I’ve Changed.

OK, scratch that last. I gave up improv long ago, so there’s no longer any reason for me to pretend to be gay and/or socialist in public (or semi-public, as this blog seems to be). But forgive me, my three faithful readers and half dozen stumblers-upon, for I tend to wander. I did eventually amend my habits, though, and I’m happy to report that I’m in my 20th month of keeping them amended!

Anyway, so I’ve always been interested in the concepts of piracy, DRM, copyright law, etc., and because I’ve participated actively on both sides of the central issue, it’s something I’ve often given thought to. I came across something yesterday that piqued the interest of my inner technowonk, and I want to share it here: perspective and counter-perspective on the theft of music.

Essentially, what happened was that some dude blawged about music piracy a while back, and then someone else chimed in with some actual sense, and then the original dude posted a new entry about that, and then things started really getting out of hand. OK, actually he argued in his original post that there was a big difference between piracy and unauthorized duplication, and that, while one was big and bad and evil, the other other wasn’t so much a deal. To that I say, “Fart sandwiches.” Degrees of theft can’t be quantified, and no amount of rationalization can justify taking something from someone else without their permission. He argues that it’s going to be taken anyway, so nobody should fret over it too much. He argues that it spreads the artist’s notoriety, but doesn’t explain how popularizing a particular theft and encouraging more and more folks to steal from someone will help them pay the rent. Then (my favorite part!) he speculates that maybe, just maybe, people shouldn’t be forced to actually pay for things they can’t afford.

I was waiting for his logic to start expanding like J-Lo’s butt and encompass all things in life that aren’t free but might should be, but he disappointed me by not going there. Just think: if music is necessary to life, how much more so must the Big Mac be? What right does McDonald’s have to charge actual money for their stuff anyway, when there are people who can’t afford it? I think I should steal about 20,000 fish sandwiches and share them with friends and perfect strangers alike. Wouldn’t that expand their fan base? It would be fantastic for everybody, wouldn’t it? To be fair, though, that’s not a perfect analog since it takes actual effort to create each sandwich while music can just be copied. A better example might be sex, but I won’t really explore that option in depth. The saner of you get my meaning, though, so I can probably just wrap up this paragraph with my trademark lack of conclusion.

I’ve been following Worldwide Groove Corporation for a while, and it’s actually Ellen Tift, the mom of that particular mom-and-pop, that stoked the fires with her passionate rebuttal to the dude’s original post. I’m a huge fan of chillout (and have really always been an electronica kiddy at heart), and I’m currently head over heels in love with Chillodesiac Lounge (vol. 1). I hadn’t actually been on their site much before the butt hit the scuttle, but one of the comments on the dude’s entry mentioned a Killers remix that I had to go check out there. And… wow. What can I say? Other than that I’m now the proud owner of a kickin’ version of Somebody Told Me? You really, really should go check these folks out.

I have lots of music bidness friends and contacts, and most of them are quite outspoken with their anti-music-piracy messages. They know first-hand how damaging minor theft on a grand scale can be, and they wholeheartedly support the artists and authors in question. What’s interesting, though, is that several of them do trade unauthorized copies of other things – movies, video games, etc., and I always wonder how their rationalization process works when they do things like that. Oh well, at least they’re not stealing fish sandwiches…

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Optimal LAMEEnc compression settings?

I use CDEx to rip all my audio CDs, and up until now have been using 192Kbit CBR to encode everything via LAME. Of course, all my idiot friends (hi, idiot friends!!) have always made fun of me for using such an “overkill” bitrate. They tell me 128K is plenty, but they must be deaf or summin’, cause those extra 64 Ks make a huge difference to my poorly trained ear.

So I’ve always just ignored them (as I tend to do ’bout most things) and continued to rip at 192/CBR.

But then today I stumbled across an elderly but very interesting blawg posting about one guy’s thoroughly unscientific experimentation with various encode parameters with CDEx/LAMEEnc. He now uses VBR from 192K to 320K because, although he admits it results in even bigger’n’fatter output than CBR at the lower extent of that range, he thinks it’s much closer to the original source. That source, incidentally, is some old Breeders stuff I wish I owned. I used to have a big crush on Kim Deal, even though I thought she was sort of ugly. Weird, eh?

The guy went on to talk about his sensitivity to higher registers, and how that affected his final decision. That’s always been one of my problems, too, even though I suspect I’m starting to develop midrange deafness. I can still always tell when a CRT TV is on, though, because I can hear it whine. I’ll definitely have to play with these settings a little and see if they make a difference to me.

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Devil Muzaak

Little Carter, my little son who just turned two months old, already has a favorite CD. The group is Dogwood, and we’ve been listening to Down the Road over and over and over and over and… well… it calms him down but good, and is a really excellent album to boot. I listened to some old Black Sabbath stuff earlier today, but now I feel all clean again after coming home and listening to some good old accoustic gospel with the boy.

Incidentally, I know I asked for some used Ozzy Osbourne stuff for my birthday, but I feel like I should add restrictions to that request: no Black Sabbath, please. I’m done with it, and have no more need. I guess what I’m looking for is happy 80’s Ozzy. Back when he was singing about fluffy bunnies and not actually consuming them on-stage and whatnot.



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I’m going off the rails on a crazy train

Not really. But maybe somebody will give me some used Ozzy for my birthday. I don’t own any.

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The inherent nature of the media

The media, when viewed simply as message gatekeepers, have no inherent qualities that can be judged good or bad; in a perfect world, they would be nearly transparent. But they aren’t, in actuality, freestanding machines that passively deliver content to consumers because they themselves are driven by passionate, emotive human beings. Today the same individuals that deliver news—factually or otherwise—often take on multiple roles: especially across Internet channels, the gatekeepers of information can also be the creators of it.

The media have an incredible responsibility to deliver material on time and in an engaging manner, but is the content always presented fairly? The idea that information can be disseminated in an absolutely impartial and unbiased way is laughable to many, but it’s a worthy notion even if it’s held aloft by imperfect people. The tagline of FOX News is “Fair & Balanced,” but many people, conservative or otherwise, would argue that the coverage is anything but. At the same time, however, the relatively new cable channel created a market that appeals to a large segment of viewers who claim that other sources—such as CNN—deliver news with no less (but politically different) spin. In this case, it’s the human element rather than the mechanism itself that imbues the media with the ability to distort. It can certainly be a negative quality when flawed people seek to subtly change the meaning of the message, but is it really an inherent quality?

A certain power lies with the ability to broadcast content as fact, and in the simplistic view of the media as sluice gates through which information is channeled downstream to consumers, that power is a natural force that cannot be abused. Again, however, the real world is filled with real people who sometimes do make mistakes. The drama surrounding CBS News’ loss of Mary Mapes and Dan Rather in separate episodes a while back raised both suspicion of and sympathy for the players involved, as well as the question of whether the media are always capable of delivering the truth. It’s helpful to remember, however, that content providers such as CBS News are largely self-regulating; credibility is key to the mission of every good news agency. While profitability is often of secondary importance, it’s still a critical piece of the package, and one that demands that same credibility from serious news sources. The same doesn’t necessarily apply to non-professional channels such as those used by bloggers on the World Wide Web; as individuals who have the right to speak their minds about any topic (researched or not), they are free to publish sentiments that may or may not fairly represent the truth. In most cases, however, the opinions of amateur bloggers are accepted for what they are: merely opinions. The media are self-balancing in such a way that public sentiment, as expressed through new channels of communication, is kept separate from the commentaries and news reports of professional agencies. In neither case should faulty information automatically be considered a blight on the media; the mechanism by which content can be shared with the world is by its very nature a flexible one, and it’s only through the power of human drive and ingenuity that it can become a positive or negative force.

In short, the media are what we make of them.

And also, I can write whatever I want here.

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A Savage Breast

It needs soothing.

  1. I’ve been listening to Phantom 105.2, in Dublin, quite a bit lately. I find they feature a lot of artists the typical American consumer doesn’t have much access to.
  2. Free/lazytime browsing finds me going back to Jonathan Coulton’s site again and again to sample all his killa nerd folk tracks. I think I’m just going to have to buy some of his albums. I’ve been busy picking out anthems for my good buddies, too: Mr. Fancy Pants for Perry (don’t you think?) and Re: Your Brains for Wayne. Others, too, but they’re too rude to post…

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I love the new Battlestar Galactica. And also the word frack.It’s an extremely useful word, and one that’s offensive to the ear without being your regulation swear word. It’s not even of the four-letter variety. I’m sure the in-laws wouldn’t appreciate it, but on the other hand Papajoe does use colloquialisms like “dadgum” and “razzlefrazzle…” and what are those if not merely swapouts for less socially acceptable utterances?

Still… though I doubt I’ll be using it much in mixed company, I’ll keep this word in my arsenal. It’s not an all-out F-bomb… more like a glider… but it certainly gets the job done.

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