Quite possibly veteran users of Microsoft Outlook Express

Nº 51:

On the Grammys, Mike Greene lamented the online ripping of music files. The wired generation laughed. For anybody who’s done it knows that you download music. Ripping is the process of putting a CD into a CD-ROM drive and converting tracks into MP3s. A perfectly legal behaviour, as a matter of fact.

On the front page of the New York Times Business section, Michael Eisner castigated Apple Computer for condoning piracy in its “Rip. Mix. Burn” campaign.

[Indeed, he points to an Apple marketing slogan, “Rip. Mix. Burn,” as inciting the kind of illegal behavior that Mr. Jobs says would be easy to extinguish with smart new strategies. But Mr. Jobs said it was perfectly legal for consumers to “rip,” or copy, their own music to a computer and “burn,” or record, a custom mix of the songs to blank CD’s for their own use.]

Only one problem. Ripping, mixing and burning are perfectly legal! For in order to rip, you must possess the CD! Mr. Eisner was confused here. He was thinking of downloading! No one who’s ever performed any of these activities would make the same mistake. It’s clear that Mr. Eisner has not downloaded, ripped, mixed or burned. And, that puts him alongside Mr. Greene, completely out of the loop.

The idea of a technology of medium isn’t enough to understand or regulate that technology or medium. A little knowledge is dangerous. You need actual lived experience, preferably a lot of it, to avoid making a fool of yourself.

I suppose this isn’t the most novel observation in human history, but listen, it keeps coming up, even in my own line of work.


Rob Halford’s, shurely?!

Nº 34:

I was driving in my car and I heard “Hand In Pocket” on the radio. I cranked it to a volume that could be heard in Sacramento. I was as happy as a metalhead sucking James Hetfield’s dick.

Meanwhile, back to the psychology of blogging

Nº 28:

I dialed my friend Jeff. Could he do me a favour? Could I install MusicNet on his computer?

He instantly said yes. He was doing me a solid. True computer-savvy people don’t let anybody fuck with their machines. Certainly not with beta software. But in light of 9/11, everybody’s cutting everybody else a bit of a break.

And on the drive over there I was edgy. I’ve been edgy for weeks.

But as soon as I walked through the front door, a calmness settled over me.

Just being with a friend. Around a human. I live alone and work alone.

Jeff does too. Melissa. Right now, the formula doesn’t work. It’s too lonely.

Why was the early lesbian soap opera entitled Two in Twenty? “Because ‘One in Ten’ sounds lonely.”

Music is a nice, viable hook on which to hang so-called RL friendships. Using the computer as an intermediary between you and your musical friend also makes sense.

But what does not make sense is the Weblog gathering. I’ve made them work, once or twice. I’ve certainly attended enough of them. It is now so easy to start a Weblog that the Weblogging population is, as they say, diverse and representative, that is, filled with types to whom you wouldn’t ordinarily give the time of day. In Toronto, it seems that every leading Weblogger is a young, inexperienced, inoffensive gay photographer or a young, inexperienced, inoffensive faghag thereof.

Webloggers, particularly of this sort, are not a sufficient respite from Weblogging.

The allied problem here?

These days it is hard to find intelligent, educated people who are not online. You pretty much cannot find intelligent, educated people who lead entirely real lives. A complete respite from Web-browsers is no longer easy to arrange.

You and your friends are able to discuss Web sites, E-mail each other (particularly for followups from the meeting: “Remember that site I mentioned?”), and independently research whatever was discussed, including each other. You and your friends share a vastly-wide back channel.

In essence, you and your friends are all tainted by this back channel. Thanks to snatchmail, Steve Case Instant Messaging, and Weblogging, we as a society have invented new forms of friendship. But we have also irrevocably altered the old forms.


SACD: I think not

Nº 70, “The Stones”:

So you’ve got this independent. Who decides to release CDs in dual-layer format. Yup, CD and SACD on the same disc, for the same price. It’s a stealth marketing campaign for SACD. Hell, makes you wonder if Sony spiffed them any dough (Sony Electronics, not the label... you’d think the label would be leading the way, but it’s too busy foisting Jennifer Lopez on us). You buy a CD, and lying latent, embedded in the disc, is a whole ’nother level! Kind of like a video game! You’ve got kids. Ever see them give up before they complete the video game. No, they sit there and sit there until they conquer them, get to the ultimate level! Having these CDs makes you want to hear the high-end versions, makes you want to buy the high-end equipment just to hear them!

Think about it. The film exhibition business blew up by selling higher-quality sound.

Home theater is about high quality.

God, every high school kid is watching DVDs on the weekend. Yet, the music business is stuck in the ’80s! Bitching! Instead of being like Silicon Valleyites, always marching forward into the future, the labels have stopped! They deserve to be chided! They just want to protect what they’ve got; they’re not interested in developing new markets, enlarging the market! [...] They’re lobbying for the institution of bucket brigades when the fire engine’s been invented!

Now, how does this not sound like yet another attempt to force everyone to replace music they already own in order to obtain an allegedly superior format?

(See SACD vs. DVD comparison at the very long DVD FAQ, which name-drops me in a couple of places.)


The true meaning of blogging, shurely?!

Nº 45:

Because of an incident with a member of our circle, my mother now knows to take depression seriously. She paused for a moment. Let a beat go by. Waited for further information. I told her it wasn’t anything serious. Just momentary. I was just being honest, telling my story, which is something I don’t often do with my mom, only with you.


Waaay back in 1994, in the hoary old Toronto Star, where I wrote (get this!) an Internet column, I engaged in a kind of exteriorized self-revelation as I explained early on that we say things in E-mail that we would never utter verbally. I knew this because it happened to me. I was also able to find a cinematic example (seen also at NUblog):

In the winsome 1992 film The Waterdance, Eric Stoltz portrays a writer recovering from a paralyzing spinal injury. His girlfriend, played by Elizabeth Dennehy, is married to another man. She visits Stoltz in the hospital one day armed with an (ancient) Macintosh Portable, ostensibly so he can keep writing while recuperating. Immediately he types out:

– how often do you fuck him when you see him?

She’s a bit surprised, but Stoltz eggs her on and she types back,

– Every hour on the hour.

– so there are problems in the bedroom.

– Why are you pursuing this?

– because, before, you said you were going to leave him.

– It’s not so simple.

– now, you mean.

– Then. And now. I love you both.

– bullshit. you can’t love two people at once.

– I do.

– well make up your fucking mind.

This little scene cannily illustrates how rules governing what you can and cannot say – rules at play in human discourse even if we’re not conscious of them – are apt to change when the computer is the medium of communication. Stoltz and Dennehy would never have spoken the words they typed out. At the same time, the immediacy of the computer transforms the written word into a form of dialogue that postal letters couldn’t emulate. The computer gave the words emotional distance, but that distance, ironically enough, encouraged them to use emotional words.

To my surprise, the same phenomenon recapitulated itself with Web sites, where we said things yet again different from other discursive forms. Not only would you never say what you post on your site, you would not even E-mail it. We weren’t done yet: Instant messages differentiated themselves as a distinct discursive form, different even from snatchmail. It holds manifestly true that it can be easier to tell the world something (knowing deep down that only a self-selected subset of the world will actually read it) than to tell a single solitary person.

I wish someone would investigate why it all remains true. A fainter wish: That more of us would acknowledge it is.

Once we’ve nailed down that psychology, let’s work on explaining why some who post online are shocked when whatever few readers they may have actually are, turn out to be, or turn into writers, too. You can repeat a spoken conversation second-hand, and also record it, though that is inconvenient and rare. It’s easy but uncommon to forward private E-mail (as distinct from business or joke E-mail).

Species boundaries can be crossed, with greater or lesser likelihood. I phone people in response to E-mails all the time. I don’t phone people about Web sites or SCIMs. Instant-messaging transcripts are occasionally posted, but resemble spoken conversations in degree of privacy (or the degree to which they remain undisclosed to others, which may not be exactly the same).

But Web sites are public and breed within their species. Everyone can read your site, and anyone can write about your site on their own. It’s an evident fact, but it bites certain of us in the arse from time to time. Why act surprised, I wonder? What else are you going to do with Web “content” but remark upon it on the Web itself?


So let’s start off with Señor Moby

As far as Bob is concerned, Moby is something of a washed-up sellout. Nº 65:

So in Moby’s case, they’ve got a flat-expensive video to a non-hit track all over MTV a month before release of the album. And, the audience, eager to hear the follow-up to Play... ended up scratching its head. This is it? It’s not bad, but it’s not good! And then, every individual talked to his friends, and in a matter of days, if it took that long, everybody decided the new Moby album sucked, that it wasn’t worth buying, they should pass. But, but you say, they only heard one track! Yeah, but kids are knowledgeable. Hell, they get Entertainment Weekly, they see SoundScan. They’ve got most of the information you do. They’re very business-savvy. And, from observing the marketplace for years, they know that now, in the spring of 2002, an act releases its best track first. Hell, they learned from the boy bands. Hell, you might not get another chance! So, if this is the first track, the record must suck! [...]

But, you say, Moby is anti-charisma!

Well, that just means you’ve got to release a better record.

The problem with this theory? Mobyism is cyclical.

Expectations were suddenly higher after Play. (Weren’t they after Jagged Little Pill and Nevermind, too?) But Moby’s cyclical nature remained immutable. Bust–miniboom–bust–superboom–bust.

So what does that tell us? What’s gonna kill? The next album, that’s what.

Oh, but Bob isn’t done yet. Nº 60:

And, what about Señor MOBY??

God, do you know that Mr. Moby made dozens of tracks and asked the label’s opinion with regard to how to proceed? Picasso never asked for advice. Hell, I’m never going to take advice! As soon as you take advice, you’re compromised! Art is supposed to be a statement! Directly from your brain, your heart! It’s about resonance, not fame or money! Fuck, what the hell’s up with that Moby video. And the track ain’t that great. That dude fucking blinked!

Oh, dear. I’m only 3/5 Bob’s age and I already know that’s oversimplified. Instincts must be tempered. It’s a multivariate process: Artistic creation tempered by the mere desire or need to ask for advice, tempered further by the actual advice. I work in too many obscure fields not to understand the dangers of going off half-cocked. It really is possible that you don’t know enough about something. You may need to ask the label for advice.

What if you’ve got 15 great songs, you love 11 of them dearly, you’ve got space for 13, and, as a gesture and because you like the idea of a sort of collaborative input, you ask the label what the other two songs should be?

Not much of a sellout then, are you?