"The only blog we have to fear is blog itself."

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Uh Oh. 

Landlord Won't Renew Lease for CBGB Club:
The existing lease was to expire at midnight Wednesday. The statement from Rosenblatt called for CBGB's to "vacate the premises both voluntarily and expeditiously" — a scenario that appeared unlikely, given the promises of Little Steven Van Zandt and others to wage a battle to the end on behalf of the bar that launched punk rock.

"We're not going without a fight," said Van Zandt, who was joined at the rally by "Sopranos" co-stars Tony Sirico and Joe Pantoliano.
Sounds like someone's about to "have an accident."

Music Voodoo Economics 

(follow-up to a previous post about the music industry gripes with Apple)

Raising the price of legally downloaded music?
"I don't think it's time yet," said Jimmy Iovine, the chairman of Interscope Records, Universal's biggest division. "We need to convert a lot more people to the habit of buying music online. I don't think a way to convert more people is to raise the price.
Many have speculated since the explosive growth of Apple's iTunes that the music industry wants to jack up the price for digitally downloading music. Obviously it's no mere speculation. Note Iovine's "yet," and others are mentioned in the article who think the time for a price hike is now.

Naturally, this would be a really bad idea. Especially when you consider that buying a full album at the standard $.99 per track iTunes price is roughly equivalent to buying the CD, except the quality and useability of the downloads are seriously limited.

Here's an example: Elvis Costello's most recent album The Delivery Man features 13 songs, and sells for $13.98 for the CD on amazon.com. Buying the album at $.99 per track would run $12.87, so one is essentially paying a $1.11 premium for the CD.

For that $1.11, here's what the purchaser gets:
  1. Durability - barring freakishly poor handling, the CD will probably outlast the user. Meanwhile, downloaded audio files can only be protected from hard drive meltdowns or other destructive forces by duplication, something that is prevented or curtailed in most legal downloading schemes.

  2. Uncompressed audio - CDs are, in effect, perfect copies of the master tapes (at least, perfect beyond the range of human hearing). Downloaded files are lossy compressed audio which trades off quality for file size.

  3. Artwork - Downloaded files come with no peripheral materials, like artwork, liner notes, or lyrics. Sometimes these are provided on artist's websites, but often they are not. Most CDs have at least some combination of these--and CDs are also increasingly packaged with DVDs or other bonus material.

  4. Resale rights - When, in a few years, you realize you are indifferent to the artist you were once excited about, you can sell the CD to a store, a friend, or to neighbors at your yard sale. You have no resale rights to downloaded music.
I'm not arguing that CDs are a better vehicle for music sales. Arguing which format is best is a mug's game. Different media--successful ones, anyway--serve different consumer needs. If you want one song from an album, clearly buying a single song is vastly superior to purchasing an entire CD. But for album buyers, that $1.11 premium gets you a lot.

However, increasing the price of downloads, even if only one or two of the more popular tracks, could make the CD price the same or even less than buying the full album via download. And once that is done--if consumers get the perception that buying the tracks online is a worse economic proposition--the incentive to seek out tracks illegally become greater (probably much greater).

They will still seek out the convenience of instant downloading, but will avoid legit services if they feel they, compared to CD purchasers, are being made a sucker.

Iovine's--and the rest of the music industry's--"conversion" dreams, wherein they can jack up the prices once they get everyone hooked on downloading, simply won't work if there are means to illegally download rather readily available. Which there are.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Gotta agree... 

With this:
Literally on television right now in Memphis:

CBS - Big Brother 6
NBC - Tommy Lee Goes To College
FOX - House
ABC - According to Jim

These are the same networks that were airing commercial free tsunami coverage for days during that tragedy. What the fuck?!?! People need to be informed about this situation. This is quite possibly the worst disaster to ever occur in the history of this country, maybe not in terms of loss of life, but easily in terms of economic impact.

Just to drill it in, nobody is talking about death tolls right now but they are certain to be in the THOUSANDS. Nobody has even begun to consider it because they are still rescuing people, not recovering. It's bad, people. Get Tommy Lee off the fucking television.
That's by a New Orleans blogger who fled to Memphis.

[Of course, the Tommy Lee part is a given regardless of tragedy.]


Chaotic Conditions In New Orleans:
Two people have died, according to Doug Thornton, a regional vice president for the company that manages the Superdome. He provided no other details.

Terry Ebbert, New Orleans' homeland security chief, had said someone died after plunging from an upper level of the stadium. He said the person probably jumped.

Young Earth Freaks & Geeks 

Adam, Eve and T. Rex - Giant roadside dinosaur attractions are used by a new breed of creationists as pulpits to spread their version of Earth's origins:
Dinny the roadside dinosaur has found religion.

The 45-foot-high concrete apatosaurus has towered over Interstate 10 near Palm Springs for nearly three decades as a kitschy prehistoric pit stop for tourists.

Now he is the star of a renovated attraction that disputes the fact that dinosaurs died off millions of years before humans first walked the planet.

Dinny's new owners, pointing to the Book of Genesis, contend that most dinosaurs arrived on Earth the same day as Adam and Eve, some 6,000 years ago, and later marched two by two onto Noah's Ark. The gift shop at the attraction, called the Cabazon Dinosaurs, sells toy dinosaurs whose labels warn, "Don't swallow it! The fossil record does not support evolution."
As the article notes, this is the roadside dinosaur attraction featured, pre-religiousification, in Pee-wee's Big Adventure.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

On Ribbons, Holds & Blurts 

File this to your list of news jargon:
And then, the final task: ribbons. Those are the titles you see on the lower-third of your screen: "Decision Day," "Battle for Iraq," "Gathering Storm," etc. Those ribbons are the result of a friendly competition that officially begins when the presiding Executive Producer raises and, with a flourish, inverts a small, cheap, tacky hourglass that sits on his desk. (I am not making this up). Once the sands of time begin to flow, the free-for-all begins: anybody who is so moved can offer a 2- or 3-word ribbon idea. It occurred to me recently that there must be hundreds of accumulated years of professional broadcast experience engaged in this semantic game!

And if there is one thing that will inspire the collective scorn of the assemblage, it's the blatant Hold & Blurt: the attempt to feign spontaneity by blurting out a ribbon idea that one has in fact been holding in mental reserve since the start of the meeting.

via Harry Shearer

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Please. Stop. Now. 

After reading an article about music industry beefs with Apple (more on that in a later post), I encountered the following sentence:
"The question is," Mr. Vidich said, "what do they want the profile of the business to look like going forward?"
And also:
In a more conciliatory statement yesterday, Mr. Lack said: "I look forward to sitting down with Steve in the fall when we are scheduled to discuss Apple and Sony BMG's relations going forward."
Can we please call a moratorium on the phrase "going forward" (or its predecessor, "moving forward")? Please?

The phrase is getting so dangerously overused it may soon explode, peppering all onlookers with a pointy shrapnel of gerund-shards.

This is especially a problem in politics. Check out this one single press briefing by White House press secretary Scott McClellan, chosen more or less at random, from February 1st of 2005:
So we need to do all we can to support them going forward.... Well, what we're focused on right now is training and equipping the Iraqi security forces so that they can provide for their own security going forward.... He will be meeting with NATO leaders, and that will be an opportunity to talk more about what the next steps are going forward.... I think we've made it very clear that all parties in the neighborhood need to play a constructive role going forward.... Shortfalls will increase from that year going forward, until 2042, when the system will be bankrupt.... But I think you see, particularly among younger Americans, that there is a real concern about Social Security going forward....
And this is fairly typical. Painfully so.

Please, for love of all that is holy amongst the language gods--please, going forward, stop using this phrase!

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Bob's sheep 

Summer Fading, Hollywood Sees Fizzle:
"I believe it's a cumulative thing, a seismic evolution of people's habits," said Mr. Shaye, chairman of New Line Cinema.

In previous years, he said, "you could still count on enough people to come whether you failed at entertaining them or not, out of habit, or boredom, or a desire to get out of the house. You had a little bit of backstop."
Hollywood bleats mournfully because their sheep have gone to graze in other pastures.

That's the thing about sheep. Eventually one of them will get a new idea and the whole herd will move along.

So maybe that 'Target Demo: Sheep' strategy wasn't the killer plan the boys from marketing made it out to be, eh, Bob?


High Schools Address the Cruelest Cut:
Because of increased complaints from parents, many high school coaches now strive to make cuts more scientific. Until she retired last season, longtime Eleanor Roosevelt girls' soccer coach Kathy Lacey made her players run 1.5 miles in less than 12 minutes to make the team. Mike Bossom, the volleyball coach at Centennial, scores players with a number -- 1 through 5 -- for each drill and then logs the scores on a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet.

For the first time this season, Severna Park Athletic Director Wayne Mook required his coaches to record running times and player evaluation grades, then hand in that paperwork to him. It is an arduous process that many coaches find tiresome, but Mook instituted it for a reason: After a player was cut from the girls' lacrosse team last spring, the family hired lawyers to meet with the school.

"In this day and age, you have to cover yourself a little bit," Mook said. "When I meet with a parent whose kid has been cut, I need something to show them. I need proof."
Parents who would threaten to sue because their kid doesn't make the team, absent actual discrimination or harassment, are loathsome creatures. And they are teaching their child to grow up to be a loathsome creature, as well.

Losing History 

Tourists Beware: The Smithsonian Is Crumbling:
The world's largest museum complex, the Smithsonian includes 18 museums and galleries, 10 science centers and a zoological park. It is charged with conserving and displaying the country's treasures, both grand and whimsical - the Star-Spangled Banner that flew over Fort McHenry, bits of moon rock from the earliest space missions, the "puffy shirt" worn by Jerry Seinfeld in his hit television series. But years of inadequate financing and maintenance have led to widespread disrepair that is imperiling the collections, institution officials say.


Smithsonian officials estimate that it will take a total of $2.3 billion over the next nine years to solve the most pressing problems. The Board of Regents, the institution's governing body, has considered charging entrance fees to compensate for the budget shortfall. Since it was established in 1846, the Smithsonian has never charged for admission, and Sheila P. Burke, the institution's deputy secretary and chief operating officer, said that so far the recommendation had been voted down.
I've only been to the Smithsonian several times, but that would be a sad day if they have to start charging admission.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Dear Leader 

Turkmenistan bans recorded music:
Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov has banned the playing of recorded music at all public events, on television and at weddings.

In a decree, Mr Niyazov said there was a need to protect Turkmen culture from "negative influences".

This is the latest move by the authoritarian president to minimise foreign influence in the isolated former Soviet state, analysts say.

He has already banned opera and ballet, describing them as "unnecessary".

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Magical AdLand 

During an article about "BlueCasting," a technique to advertise to those passing by a billboard or a street-level ad image...
As people walk past the posters they receive a message on their phone asking them if they wish to accept the advert. If they do, they can receive movies, animations, music or still images further promoting the advertised product.
...there's a quote from co-founder and chief creative officer of London-based Filter UK, the company which created the system, one Alasdair Scott, who firmly believes in the Field of Dreams approach to advertising:
"If we can provide exclusive or valuable content to consumers, they'll actively want to consume it."
Sure. And, if you can sprinkle advertisements with faerie dust, all consumers will become obedient minions to serve your slightest bidding.

Let's parse Mr. Scott's sentence. His goal is stated in the main clause: "they'll [consumers] actively want to consume it [the sales pitch of my clients]." Fairly plain.

But his dependent clause is where the faerie dust comes in. He knows he can't achieve the goal without satisfying what follows the "if":
...we can provide exclusive or valuable content to consumers...
Let's toss "exclusive" right out the window. If the "content" isn't valuable, who cares if it's exclusive?

So the nut of it can be stated thusly: valuable content = consumer attention.

And, really, what are the odds that you can send "valuable content" to random passerby? Especially content that's deemed valuable to the passerby, not some ad exec's nebulous interpretation of valuable (you know, people who think the Clio awards represent a form of immortality).

Plus, depending on placement, a certain number of people may pass by the site daily, sharply reducing the effectiveness of such a scheme over time.

This where the faerie dust comes in. One magic sprinkle, and suddenly Alasdair Scott becomes the fold-out pin-up boy for Advertising Age magazine! Kudos, Alasdair!

Monday, August 22, 2005


So Supreme Court nominee John Roberts had it in for Michael Jackson. The article, however, also notes that:
In fairness to Roberts, his objections to celebrity extended beyond Jackson. On Oct. 3, 1983, two months after opposing a Reagan remembrance of Bing Crosby, he wrote to oppose presidential remarks praising John Wayne as the epitome of American values:

"I think we are seeing evidence of what we often say will happen when we deny requests for Presidential endorsements of charitable efforts: once you do one it becomes impossible to turn down countless others. I know there's only one John Wayne — but there's only one Bob Hope, James Bond, Bing Crosby, etc. etc. etc."

Only one James Bond?
Even taking for granted that there was only one James Bond (though there were three by 1984; four, if you want to be charitable and include David Niven), and even ignoring that Bond was, well, a fictional character, hey--he was a Brit!

Sunday, August 21, 2005

His Noodly Appendage 

not new, but new to this blog....from venganza.org:


I am writing you with much concern after having read of your hearing to decide whether the alternative theory of Intelligent Design should be taught along with the theory of Evolution. I think we can all agree that it is important for students to hear multiple viewpoints so they can choose for themselves the theory that makes the most sense to them. I am concerned, however, that students will only hear one theory of Intelligent Design.

Let us remember that there are multiple theories of Intelligent Design. I and many others around the world are of the strong belief that the universe was created by a Flying Spaghetti Monster. It was He who created all that we see and all that we feel. We feel strongly that the overwhelming scientific evidence pointing towards evolutionary processes is nothing but a coincidence, put in place by Him.

According to the precepts of Flying Spagetti Monsterism,
  • Prayers are ended with the word Ramen rather than Amen.
  • Followers are expected to dress in full pirate regalia.
  • These who want to express contact with the deity usually say they have been "touched by His Noodly Appendage."
Consider me sprinkled with the Holy Parmesan! I am saved!

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Odd music reportage 

Madeleine Peyroux is a terrific jazz singer with an amazing Billie Holiday-esque voice. Her latest album, Careless Love, is highly recommended to anyone. The BBC reported on Friday morning the following story about Peyroux...

Jazz singer Peyroux 'disappears':
A record label has hired a private detective to trace jazz singer Madeleine Peyroux, whose album has been steadily climbing the UK charts.

The US singer has failed to turn up for any promotional work, according to Universal Classics.
Trouble is, the story doesn't appear to be true. Peyroux' U.S. record label says that she is not missing at all (verified by me, via email, yesterday).

And yet the Beeb story has detailed quotes from a spokesperson for Peyroux' U.K. label. Which suggests that either the Beeb got seriously hoaxed, or that the U.K. label spokeswoman perhaps decided to have some fun on her last day on the job. The third alternative is that Rounder Records in the U.S. is trying to clamp a lid on a legit story, but I tend to trust the info I was given.

I just thouht you should know in case you're a fan and wondered whether the English/Irish (and now Canadian) media reports are true (all apparently sourced to the Beeb story).

Anyway, her next concert is scheduled for September 3rd, so I guess we'll have a better idea at that time.

UPDATE: Peyroux' U.K. label gives mea culpa to the BBC:
Bill Holland of Universal Classics and Jazz said they had "tracked her down very quickly. Much to our embarrassment she was with her manager in New York."

According to her manager, Peyroux does not want to do any further promotion for her Careless Love record, currently at number seven in the UK album chart.

"He said we should go away and leave her alone," Mr Holland told BBC News.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

More from the "Snark Sells" Desk 

So the AP has a snarky article out about "best of" albums.

'Best Of' Albums Not So Great These Days:
A greatest-hits album once stood as a watershed — a milestone chronicling a collection of top-rated hits, culturally significant songs or the end of a stellar career.

But in recent years, a flood of "best of" titles from acts with only few years in the business — and performers with even fewer hits — have called into question how great a greatest-hits collection is.
Hmmm. Why is this being portrayed as new? Or even "news"? To wit--
  • The Best of the Troggs, Vol. 1. Released 1967. Their debut album had came out only the previous year. The band had two Top 40 hits in the U.S. up to this point.

  • 1979-1983 (best of Bauhaus). Released 1985. The Goth godfathers had 4 studio albums, spanning 1980-1983, and had no U.S. hits.

  • The Lemon Pipers (best of). Released 1990. The band had two albums spanning 1967-1968, and one hit song ("Green Tambourine").

  • The Different Story (World of Lust and Crime) (best of Peter Schilling). Released 1989. The German performer only had two albums out and one Top 40 hit in the U.S. when he put together this retrospective.

  • The Best of Carl Douglas: Kung Fu Fighting. Released 1995. Douglas had a grand total of three albums (1976-1983) and one hit (1974).

  • All for Nothing/Nothing for All (best of The Replacements). Released 1997. Although very influential over the course of 7 albums in 9 years, the Minneapolis band never had a pop hit.
And the above examples are the mere tip of the iceberg.

My point is two-fold:

1. There are very valid reasons for one- or no-hit artists to have a retrospective compilation in their catalogue (e.g., The Replacements), as long as you don't actually call it a "greatest hits" collection (which would imply not only a hit song, but many hits). Unless it's done tongue-in-cheek, like Phil Ochs 1970 Greatest Hits, which not only contained no hits but was comprised entirely of new material.

2. Even in cases where there isn't much justification for a "Best Of" (as in a failed pop act where hits were the ostensible raison d'etre)--see above: Douglas comma Carl--this is nothing new in the music biz. This has been going on since the delta dawn of the industry, so it's a little silly to write a 2005 article snarkily suggesting that--gawsh!--the Grand Honor of "best of" CDs has been bestowed upon Unworthies!

That premise is laughably faulty. So move along, folks, nothing to see here.

The Quotable Bus Driver 

Bus Driver, to woman: Are you getting on?

Woman, standing in the door and holding up the bus for another woman, running to catch the bus: Wait a minute!

Bus Driver: C'mon, lady!

Woman: Wait a minute!

Bus Driver: Lady, if you wait for me, it's a bus. If I wait for you, it's a taxi.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Once Again Scuffing the CD Soapbox 

So the music industry now has its collective panties in a bunch over CD burning:
Music copied onto blank recordable CDs is becoming a bigger threat to the bottom line of record stores and music labels than online file-sharing, the head of the recording industry's trade group said Friday.

"Burned" CDs accounted for 29 percent of all recorded music obtained by fans in 2004, compared to 16 percent attributed to downloads from online file-sharing networks, said Mitch Bainwol, chief executive for the Recording Industry Association of America.
I seem to remember at the height of the Napster legal battle that the RIAA tried to sound oh-so-reasonable by declaring that anonymous filesharing was evil, not like casual sharing between friends.

People who burn regular CDs and sell them in stores, street corners, or flea markets should be stopped. But I suspect much of the burning Bainwol is complaining about is exactly that friendly non-anonymous music sharing previously placed on the happy side of demonization.

The line from the article which really annoyed me, though, was this:
Simon Wright, chief executive of Virgin Entertainment Group International, which oversees the Virgin chain of music stores, said he's in favor of labels releasing more albums in a copy-protected CD format, regardless of the potential for consumer backlash.

"If, particularly, the technology allows two-to-three burns, that's well within acceptable limits and I don't think why consumers should have any complaints," Wright said.
Well, Simon, here's my complaint: I can't stand Windows Media files (which this technology tries to force you into using), and rip my CDs to mp3.

Perhaps, Simon, you feel that I have no right to choose in which format I can listen to and store audio files. But the last time I checked, Virgin didn't include an End User License Agreement with your CDs, attempting to force me to agree to certain conditions before I unwrap the CD.

I have, at work, received such EULAs on advance promotional CDs (and I live up to my obligations under them, although my first reaction whenever receiving them is to track the CD straight through--from start to finish--on the air, which is still fully legal for over-the-air broadcasting under the EULA). But other CDs do not have such licenses, seeking to limit my uses.

After all, according to the RIAA's Bainwol (from Variety via Forbes), the RIAA does not object to burning for personal uses.

So I am free to rip copies to mp3 instead of the hated wmv. And so, Simon, this consumer has a legit complaint about your copy-protection schemes.

That's why I'm glad that disabling autorun has so far made all attempts at locking down CDs invisible to me.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

The Maple Hall of Fame 

In Croghan, NY, one can find The Maple Hall of Fame. According to their website,
Each May at the Museum reopening ceremonies, two people who have been selected by their peers are inducted into the Maple Hall of Fame. This is the highest honor afforded by the maple industry.
A bunch of saps? You decide.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Here's a headline one doesn't see very often 

Llama, goats electrocuted as squall downs power pole in Cooper City

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Does "mafia" rhyme with "unnatural"? 

A music industry news blog posted a story about a deal between Universal Music and P. Diddy's Bad Boy Records. The comments are filled with people who apparently think this blog is directly connected with P. Diddy/Bad Boy.

Here's my favorite quote:
There will never be a greater mc than me. I am the best and there is none like me. I am the first and last of my time and kind. They call me "Duece" the head of my mafia.My flow is so hot it's unatural.

Emergency Alerts 

"Now when the operator calls up on their computer screen what particular three-letter ID they'd like to send, another window will pop up and say, 'Do you really want to issue this radiological hazard warning?'" said Zaleski.
The National Weather Service adds some overdue failsafe controls to its Emergency Alert System interface, after a worker accidentally transmits a false radiological hazard warning.

Meanwhile, some say that the current EAS system--broadcasting warnings via TV and radio--is increasingly a 20th Century relic and need to employ more mobile and personal communication interfaces: cell phone SMS.
"It was a good system in its time, but I don't know many people that carry radios around in their pockets anymore," [Senator Ted] Stevens says. "Therefore, we need to be able to communicate with people on their cell phones and BlackBerries."

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