aTypical Joe: a gay New Yorker living in the rural South
Sunday, October 22, 2006
I want the NJ gay marriage decision now:
The conspiracy-minded question whether the decision is being delayed until after Election Day to avoid political repercussions. Some say a ruling in support of gay marriage would goad conservative voters to punish Democrats, including Mr. Menendez.
Others think that even if such a ruling were to galvanize Republicans elsewhere, it would barely register in New Jersey. Mr. Menendez and his Republican challenger, State Senator Thomas H. Kean Jr., have both supported some benefits for domestic partners, but have said they believe marriage should be between a man and a woman.
Yet even those who study the court’s daily moves concede that they have no way of knowing what the justices will do or when they will do it. In fact, the court has no deadline; unlike the United States Supreme Court, it can carry cases over from one term to the next. One decision issued in August, for example, came 20 months after oral arguments. And court officials say a retired justice may vote and even write opinions in cases that he or she heard.
I think it would energize the Left even more than it would galvanize the Right.
The iPod turns five
The iPod turns five Monday. Steven Levy:
Happy birthday, iPod. It was on Oct. 23, 2001, that Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs stood before a relatively modest crowd in an auditorium on the company campus in Cupertino and reached into his jeans pocket to fish out a 6.4-ounce gizmo that he described (with the hyperbole Jobs exhales routinely) as “a major, major breakthrough.”
This time, however, it was no exaggeration. Though it took Apple well over a year to sell its first million units, during the last holiday season it was moving a million iPods every week. It holds a market share of about 75% of the MP3-player market (an astounding figure for a consumer electronics category). Its iTunes music store has an even more impressive 88% share of legal song downloads.
As it happens, Steven Levy is the author of ”The Perfect Thing: How the iPod Shuffles Commerce, Culture and Coolness,” reviewed today in Salon. In keeping with my earlier theme, I quote a spoilsport passage from the review (not in the book) on how the technology changes the music:
Music portability has changed—for the worse—the way engineers record music. To ensure that people can hear new songs in noisy settings, record labels now use a very low dynamic range when they’re mastering new albums. This means they set everything in a track—the vocals, the various instruments—to be at more or less the same volume, making for few interesting variations during a song between quiet moments and loud moments. To be sure, this is chiefly an audiophile’s complaint, one that doesn’t bother even most ardent music fans. It goes along with that other common snooty-sounding complaint about the iPod—that the digital compression required to make the thing work ruins music, especially classical and jazz.
Run from Colbert!
"Lawmakers are wary of his Comedy Central show, which often gives them enough cable to hang themselves,” says the LATimes in an article that looks at The Colbert Report’s “Better Know a District” segment.
Another excuse to point, again, to Georgia’s own:
Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-Ga.), discovered the pitfalls when Colbert asked him about a bill he co-sponsored requiring that the Ten Commandments be displayed in the U.S. Capitol.
“What are the Ten Commandments?” Colbert asked matter-of-factly.
“What are all of them?” Westmoreland said, taken aback. “You want me to name them all?”
The June segment showed Westmoreland struggling to name just three. Westmoreland actually named seven, said his press secretary, Brian Robinson. And the remaining ones, he added, were somewhat obscure.
A Bible Belt conservative, the embarrassed Westmoreland has been trying to live down his Commandments performance. No Republican has appeared since.
What really got the attention of House members was the experience of Rep. Robert Wexler (D-Fla.). Colbert told him he was free to make even the most outrageous statements because he was running for reelection unopposed. Then Colbert coaxed Wexler into a spoof declaration that he enjoyed cocaine and prostitutes because “it’s a fun thing to do.”
Several media outlets trumpeted Wexler’s comments without making it clear that he was only answering Colbert’s fill-in-the-blank questions.
The media negligence on that one occasioned one of the best Colbert segments ever. Before bluntly endorsing Wexler - “my friend” - he went after the network news folks with a comic ferocity that was finely targeted and absolutely 100% effective.
The python that ate the electric blanket, tanorexia, uncomfortable shoes, fake flood shots, getting peed on causes stress, the chimp playing Texas Holdum… all stories he excerpted from those real news shows to illustrate the point.
The end of music as we know it
In a post about fans shooting video of concerts and posting it to YouTube, Fred Wilson has this interesting observation on concert recordings:
Earlier this year I asked a friend of mine in the music business about a business plan I had gotten. I don’t want to go into the details of that plan here (confidential is confidential), but my friend in the music business said to me “artists will never allow recordings of their live shows to be released without their permission and they aren’t going to allow much of it to get out with their permission because they won’t like the way they looked or the way the sounded that night”.
And that is why so little of the live music that is played every night ever gets released. And it seems the best “live albums” are really studio engineered versions of live recordings. Jackson tells me the only thing live on Thin Lizzy “Live and Dangerous” is the drums.
I’m reminded of Alex Ross’s excellent New Yorker article from last year, The Record Effect: How technology has transformed the sound of music. In it Ross describes how music was once appreciated for the unique variations that came from witnessing the live performers’ impromptu performance.
Now, with recordings heard over and over, what we want and reward in a live setting is the precise technical replication of the studio-produced recording. The reluctance of modern musicians to have their concerts released and the harsh self-criticism Fred describes (not to mention the occasional lip-syncing fiasco) are a product of those artificial expectations.
In my younger years I was more a fan of the Jefferson Airplane than the Grateful Dead, but both were best known for their live performances. The Dead took that as a starting point. It cultivated and embraced “Dead Head” fans and became known for welcoming the audience to record their concerts and share those tapes.
Fred knows well that timing is everything. I’m wondering if perhaps that business plan’s time will yet come; if what were seeing now is another transformation of the sound of music, a transformation that will lead us back to the idiosyncrasy and inflection of the artist as expressed in the performance rather than the recording. A model foretold by The Grateful Dead.
RELATED: Last year Jerry Garcia’s wife forced Archive.org to take down over 1000 soundboard recordings of the Grateful Dead. Anyone know what’s happened since?
Dead drummer Mickey Hart was on a panel with SNOCAP’s Jeffrey Mallett at last year’s Web 2.0 conference. Worth a listen not least for Hart’s comments on how their embrace of fan recordings came about.