Things I Used To Like, And Now Find Annoying

My mind seems to be thinking in terms of lists. So it goes.

01.) Zombies.
02.) The Simpsons.
03.) Facial Hair.
04.) Pirates.
05.) Young Girls.
06.) Vampires.
07.) Record Collectors.
08.) Older Women.
09.) People With Enough Education To Be Interesting But Not Enough To Actually Know What They’re Talking About.
10.) Everything.

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Dirty Secrets

In list-format, no less:

01.) I’m not a Prince fan. And yes, I’ve listened to a lot of his music. I just don’t get it.
02.) I haven’t read Catcher In The Rye, and haven’t really been inclined to do so, either.
03.) I wish I liked porn as much as everyone else does.
04.) I pretend to understand WAY more than I actually do. Pretty much all the time, about most everything.
05.) I don’t think Bob Dylan is all that exciting, either.
06.) I’m jealous of most other people.
07.) I have a terrible understanding of grammar, and can’t spell anything without spellcheck to save my life.
08.) Almost everything I hate is something I’m guilty of, myself.
09.) I’m not as extremely Left Wing as I’d like to make myself appear.
10.) I’m absolutely terrified of being alone.

Now Big Brother Just Wants Attention

Yes, our lives are driven by advertising, television, the Inter-Web-A-Tron, and cell phones. I understand that. But this recent article on Slashdot really disturbed me, which discusses Apple’s recent Patent on a technology that pulls up ads on your Apple device, and then requires User Interaction before it will dismiss the ad and let you continue using said device. It’s not enough to be plagued by advertising everywhere we go, but now our computers are demanding attention from us, before they will perform the tasks we want them to.

I shouldn’t be surprised. After all, most advertising is fairly intrusive, and marketers have always been trying to pry more and more or our attention away from the things we want to be looking at so they can make us look at something else. Still, this bothers me in a whole other way. When I buy a piece of technology, I think of it as a tool. It serves certain functions, and I want it to perform those functions. Aside from existing as a physical artifact that, itself, can function as a way to advertise itself, I don’t want things I own to advertise to me anymore than they already do. The Inter-Web-A-Tron is bad enough as it stands; I don’t want my iPod to seize up every time Apple wants to sell me something.

This annoyance is part of an on-going problem with digital technologies in the last 10 years. Intellectual Property Rights, DRM, downloading as a crime, and the issues surrounding Net Neutrality, are all pointing to a future where technology works less and less for me, and more and more for a corporate empire that wants to sell me stuff I don’t need. And again, I shouldn’t be surprised; the portents have been in place since I first got my TRS-80 way back in the day. And all you have to do is watch an episode of Mad Men to get the other point: advertising has ALWAYS been that evil.

Still, I can’t help but feel that my urge to move to a cabin and live alone in the woods for the rest of my life is entirely justified.

Some Good News

>As was recently reported on Sound Opinions (footnote 3), a UK study has been researching the actually financial impact that music downloaders have on the Music Industry. The narrative that has been spread by the Music Industry has been consistent since downloading music even became possible: downloaders are killing the Music Industry, costing the labels millions of dollars every year. I have always been highly suspicious of this argument, as personal experience has proved that, when you have the ability to listen to a lot of music for free, you actually tend to spend more money on albums you actually want to own. For those who don’t have access to free music like this, they tend to be more cautious with their record buying dollars.

Well, the results are in, and it appears that I was right. According to the research, downloaders spend 75% more money on music (physical records as well as digital sales) than people who do not. The access to free music online, according to the research, creates more music fans who are more dedicated to the bands and genres they love, who then go out and buy the albums they become fans of. This behavior injects into the Music Industry four times the amount of money than your average, non-downloading music consumer does. So, downloading isn’t actually a lost sale, but rather, much like radio exposure to music that a fan might not get to hear any other way. Well, duh. I could have told you that. And did, many, many, times before.

My question, now, is: where does The Music Industry get the $330 million figure that they say they loose in sales to downloaders? In light of this research, it seems that the figure in question has to have been completely fabricated in order to gain sympathy for new Internet Legislation, and other means of keeping huge Media Entities in power. Plus, labels have to account for the lagging sales from Mainstream Media, so they don’t get in too much trouble from their stockholders.

Yes, new records are not moving in the same numbers that they did in the old days. Boo hoo. But overall sales, new and used, are up, and spread out among small bands, labels, and in other areas of the Music Industry that are not easily controlled by big Media companies. Yes, U2 and Brittney Spears are not the cash cows they used to be. But the number of fans that are spending their money on a larger number of less-famous artists and albums is going up. Fans are diversifying, and you can’t just expect a new Springsteen or Mariah Carey album to cover your ass. If anything, rather than blame downloaders for causing you to loose money (which is not true), here’s a suggestion for big Media that will benefit everyone, CEOs, stockholders, bands, and fans alike:

Only release good albums by good artists, and make the records affordable (and accessible) to fans.

I know, I know. I must be crazy to even suggest it. Sorry to interrupt your morning. Now, go back to playing Second Life and reading Yahoo. Thank you for your time.

Yearly Servotron Reference

I always wanted to join the official Servotron Robot Allegiance, mostly because humans that did qualify for cyborg status (meaning: you weren’t killed when the robots took over), were given the opportunity to serve their robot masters after they were stripped of their emotional desires and drives. The idea that you could finally have all these messy emotions removed, and work entirely with reason and logic, seemed like the ideal life. No longer would you be at the beck and call of your every emotional whim, caving into those mood swings that you weren’t really interested in having in the first place. Ah, to be reason and logic based. Every hominid’s dream, right?

So, today on the bus I was listening to this Radiolab segment, and had that dream quietly disappear. The short version: in the segment, we meet a guy who, through a series of surgical circumstances, no longer had emotional involvement when it came to making decisions, and the news was fairly grim. Not only was he not able to make decisions because he did not have his emotions there to help him out, but he proceeded to make worse and worse decisions, loosing his job, his money, and falling for scams on a regular basis. Apparently, emotions actually enable us to make better decisions, because they account for the factors that pure logic and reason cannot account for. And vice versa.

I guess things could be worse. Today, my dream of becoming a cold, calculating, and unimaginatively logical robot were thwarted by common sense and Robert Krulrich.

And I guess that’s totally fine.

Really.

Obligatory Record Review

Embryonic
Embryonic

I’ve been really impressed with the number of Great Albums The Flaming Lips have put out so far. Starting with In A Priest Driven Ambulance (their first Great Album), they have done an incredible job of maintaining that kind of energy and songwriting, while rarely repeating themselves, or getting stale. Which is saying a lot; not only are their early efforts extremely illustrative of how far they had to come to be able to record a Great Album, but the number of Great Albums that follow defies all logic, in that most bands are lucky to even record one.

Cursory listens of Embryonic has me convinced that, after a short break, they are back to defying all logic once again. Between In A Priest Driven Ambulance and their newest effort, the band has produced some really amazing (and occasionally quizzical) records. After producing Clouds Taste Metallic – to this author, a peak of songwriting skill that has yet to be fully recaptured – they released three records in a row that were all incredibly different, and each spectacular in their own unique ways. But it seemed as if the band had tapped much of their creative juices by the time At War With The Mystics was released, which, at best, is a well performed tribute to their influences. After nearly 20 years, I was beginning to think that they may want to throw in the towel, or at the very least, become a Greatest Hits band, touring the County Fair circuit, and cashing in on t-shirt and back-catalog sales.

However, Embryonic has, in my mind, proved that I had the band completely wrong. I’m sure I’m not the first to say it, but this record is their Kid A, another reinvention for the band in the same way that both Clouds and Yoshimi were. But what makes this record a must for me is the simple fact that, like discovering Parts And Labor, or that Opal record (that is admittedly over 20 years old itself), this is an album that instantly grabbed me and demanded close, careful listening. That, alone, is something I can’t ignore.

Unmistakably The Lips, and unmistakably new territory (simultaneously!), this record will once again polarize fans, critics, and anyone else who has even heard of the band. If you have never been a fan, this is a great place to start. If you’ve hated them in the past, this could be your entry-point, too. And if you already know and love them, then you probably already have the record, anyway, so, ’nuff said.