Thursday, October 12, 2006
It's all Economics 101. You have something I want but the price is high or the supply is low. At a certain point it becomes profitable for a 3rd party to supply me with the same goods either at a lower price or higher supply. For him, the potential profits outweigh the risks (the drop in William's case). Of course, it couldn't happen today, could it?
My cassette picture reminded me of the this one. The golden early 80's where the record labels predicted the death of music for the first time as millions of teenagers grabbed their cassette recorders & copied each other's albums with impunity. Even the mighty Quincy Jones got into the fray, standing before a judiciary committee and claiming that without protective legislation the days of the 5 million plus selling album were over (bad news Quince, your Thriller album, released later that year went on to sell over 25M in the US alone). He even supported the insertion of an audio notch at 3KHz ("that no one could hear") into all recordings which would disable the record feature on cassette decks.
Of course the music industry didn't die. In fact, following MTV & the CD introduction, they went on to make more profits then ever before. But the rhetoric was not so surprisingly similar to what we hear today about file sharing, downloading, bit torrents and broadcast flags. "Our business model isn't working so we need regulators to step in and save it."
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
The current wave of Hispanic immigration is predominantly Catholic yet so many of my faith are opposed to their entry, basing their prejudices on the flimsiest of racist rhetoric and media hysteria. Our church's teachings are pretty clear on the subject of the treatment of fellow human beings irrespective of immigration status. Jesus' teachings are even clearer.
Monday, October 09, 2006
That would be legal, downloadable music with no pesky DRM encoding, some of it for no-$ free too. Since I've had it with DRM and the RIAA and am trying to avoid iTunes Music Store wherever possible I thought I'd spread the word.
1) Mercedes Benz Mixedtape - believe or not the venerable German automaker publishes a monthly mix of around 15 songs from new and established artists. Leans on the mellow eclectic Euro-music side but the download includes artwork and artist info. If I didn't already own a BMW I'd be tempted towards Stuttgart by their musical tastes alone. Look for a complimentary podcast too.
2) Beatport - primarily a source for DJs but open to all, Beatport has a web interface to beat all and a choice of downloads in high quality MP3 or uncompressed WAV files. Per song prices range from $1.49 to about $2.99 but their is always a ton of free tracks & mixes available to registered (registration is free) users. A most for the electronic dance & trance fan, they also have a somewhat regular podcast.
3) e-music - offers independent releases in every genre imaginable for a slightly confusing monthly subscription system (like any good drug deal, the first few are free). However, unlike other subscription rip-offs, the songs you download are in MP3 format & yours to keep for eternity. What makes this site great is the reviews and write ups for almost every artist listed. The preview system is a little clunky (I open the links in Quicktime) and leaves lint all over the desktop.
4) Techtronic Sounds - great & regualr podcast in the dance/trance/techno genres. Great mixes, not much else to get in the way of the music.
I got my toiletries unceremoniously dumped by the 'droids at TSA in Orlando this weekend. I had carefully packed them all into a Ziploc bag as required but it turned out that the bag was the wrong size so it was bye bye handcream, toothpaste & shaving lotion. I'm so glad the TSA are on top of this kind of thing, imagine a whole traveling nation pulling out any kind of sealable baggie they fancied for the toiletries! It makes me shudder to think what an Enemy Combatant could do with a 2 quart freezer pack.
In all seriousness, doesn't this kind of moronic behavior invite ridicule of the whole TSA system? They have already become the joke butts of the late night talks & even Garrison Keillor's Prarie Home Companion took a dig at them this weekend. As Mr. Bumble said, "if that sir is the law, then the law is an ass."
Wednesday, August 16, 2006
From Green Day :
Don't wanna be an American idiot.
Don't want a nation under the new media.
And can you hear the sound of hysteria?
The subliminal mindf**k America.
Monday, June 19, 2006
I was not much of an athlete growing up in England but I do remember that every street, alley, park or playground was an excuse for a game of football. With discarded sweaters as goals, teams of diverse numbers & ages would form merely for the fun of the game. On my travels I've seen similar pick up games all across the World except in the US where the Soccer Mom, Coach & YMCA League seem to be the only outlet. Parreira's point is that without these thousands of hours of unconscious refinements of skill the USA can never hope to compete with the soccer powerhouses. Of course England ain't been looking too great recently either!
However, the dubious appointment of former fast food executive Len Roberts and then the subsequent resume gaffs from his successor have brought this once highly regarded chain to its knees. Floundering between the big box electronics retailers and discount chains the stock performance clearly shows that the once proud Radio Shack has completely lost its direction. Unsuccessfully flirting with various third party manufacturers including RCA, Compaq, Blockbuster & Apple has only served to confuse the brand further.
A visit to your typical store will show a mish-mash of cellular phones, home entertainment equipment, computer peripherals, toys & electronic parts & accessories. Of course batteries are still a mainstay but the traditional selection of cables, parts and innovative problem solvers have been largely eliminated. Days were you could pretty much fix any electronic equipment with parts bought right at your local Shack. I remember finding an IC for an Otari 24 track recorder right there on the shelf. Nowadays you’re lucky to find an antenna cable let alone a replacement transistor.
Now the company’s reasoning behind these changes is that the homebrew electronics fan has largely disappeared and if you’re talking about the guy with the breadboard & smoking soldering iron then that reasoning is largely true. However he has been replaced by a much larger group, the home computer builders & PC hot rodders. Here is where Radio Shack has completely missed the boat. These individuals are into building the biggest, baddest home computers with clocked chips & neon lit cases; their retail source for parts? Not Radio Shack who helped usher in home computing and had a vast wealth of electronics knowledge but Frys Electronics, the abandoned grocery store retailer turned mass marketer. While Radio Shack are going toe to toe with Wal-Mart, Best Buy & a million corner store phone retailers Frys are selling high ticket microprocessors, hard drives and cases to the new generation of home experimenters. To add insult to injury some Frys are actually located in old Incredible Universe locations, themselves another failed Radio Shack project.
The Company’s current solution seems to be mainly cost cutting, plans are to close 700 stores worldwide in 2006, however, the investment community remain to be convinced and I’m right with them, Radio Shack just doesn’t have a product to sell anymore.
My advice? Get back to what made you great in the first place. Firstly, a neighborhood store that actually stocks the things you need to get that Best Buy HD TV to connect to your home stereo. Put together a high-tech parts selection with the kind of stuff the current generation of home experimenters want. People are editing videos and cutting CDs in their front rooms, you used to sell decent pro-am audio equipment, expand the line to offer the kind of hardware home creators need. And most importantly, staff the stores with people who know & understand the technology, “You’ve Got Questions, We’ve Got Blank Stares” is getting old.
Tuesday, June 13, 2006
All of which helps drive Apple's bottom line. Looking at the numbers the Cupertino folks make about 50% on every iPod sold and are set to hit the 50 million mark this year. Sites like Allofmp3, PirateBay and the traditional P2P networks help drive those sales. Even barely tech-savvy consumers know that there is an almost endless supply of cheap or free media to fill those hard drives. Apple's stock price has almost doubled in the past 12 months due in large part to this wide availability.
What about iTunes though? Don't the P2Ps & pirates eat into legitimate sales for Apple? Undoubtedly yes, but at an estimated profit of 4 cents per download it takes a lot of music sales to cover the profit in one Nano. Either way Apple gets their cake & eats it.
Monday, June 12, 2006
When will they learn? After tepid support for the War On Terrorism now various EU members are starting to grumble about the Digital Rights Management flags inserted in various downloadable media such as Apple's iTunes.
Naturally the French went first, claiming that Apple's restricting of iTunes music to no other portable than it's own iPod was against the interests of French consumers & that the music should be made available in a cross platform format. Now the Norweigans are getting into the fray, giving Apple until June 21 to comply with a similar order. The Swedes are close behind and to complicate matters further the EU is hearing complaints against regional pricing differences between iTunes downloads in violation of EU policies. Now to be fair to Apple they have largely been singled out because they are the largest supplier of downloaded music in Europe which represents over 20% of iTunes total music sales. And let's face it, no one has held a gun to a European head insisting they buy music from Apple.
However it seems that the Euros are increasingly dissatisfied with DRM imposed by US legislation and the real battle ground may be shaping up to be Allofmp3.com. I'll let the Wikipedia entry explain the site more thoroughly, however, according to their FAQ, they are completely legal under Russian law. Of course the RIAA is up in arms, claiming that Allofmp3 have no such rights and their downloads (about $1.75 for an entire album) are completely illegal. What must be doubly troubling to them is that the site is highly professional (no porn pop-ups or the like) and gives the customer download choices in both file format & quality. I'm just not sure how much jurisdiction the Recording Industry Association of America can claim in the Russian Federation or anywhere else? Therefore they are petitioning the US Trade Department to apply pressure on countries (Russia and China particularly) openly ignoring copyright violations.
These WTO tactics can probably have some effect on the piracy of hard goods such as designer handbags, watches & the like but digital music? To operate a site such as Allofmp3.com you only need 3 things, electricity, a server and an internet connection. I predict an endless game of international Whack-A-Mole with the RIAA fruitlessly chasing pirates around the globe.
But it's hard to find much sympathy for the RIAA, perhaps if they would leave hamming teenagers and low res pop videos on YouTube alone and concentrate on the real issues they might see some support. Right now, as Dicken's said "if that is the law then the law, sir, is an ass."
Friday, April 07, 2006
So how does Chet's workshop sound? Nice, full & well rounded. Good detail in the bass and a surprisingly fat sound considering it was recorded in 1961. A recording to be proud of. The guitar work is impeccable of course.
The only theory I can espouse for the Workshop title is that, reading between Pulitzer journalist & author David Halberstam's sleeve notes, a Studio is a place for hire whereas a home set up would be a Workshop. For further enlightenment I contacted Halberstam's publisher to see if I can shed some more light on this.
Watch this space.
Wednesday, April 05, 2006
Now it seems that Korda's egalitarian spirit passed away with him in 2001. Lawyers representing the family estate have not only pursued perceived infringers vigorously but also licensed the image (and any others based on it) to Atlanta based Fashion Victim. In typical high handed style, internet specialties company CafePress has been "cease & desisted" even for images which are merely artistic renderings of Korda's photograph.
From Fashion Victim's website: "Join the revolution with us here at Fashion Victim! These are revolutionary times, so where better to get the gear you need. We have all the latest designs in the world of propaganda and revolution, not to mention we are the only licensed retailers of Che Guevara shirts in the US of A."
The shirts themselves are apparently not made in the US of A, but then perhaps that's the ultimate statement in this whole sorry case. Revolutionary wear made in sweatshops, no coincidence then that the word revolting comes from the same root.
Monday, April 03, 2006
The phrase most dreaded by sports fans across the US? "Here we are, tied up, bottom of the 14th."
Wednesday, March 22, 2006
Tuesday, March 21, 2006
Friday, March 03, 2006
So the business cycle spins; the old buzzwords of the 90s have apparently been replaced with new ones. Integrity. Honesty. Are our corporations gaining new sensibilities? Am I just a cynic in believing this may have more to do with Sarbanes-Oxley than an actual change of heart? Maybe when I see a real commitment to bettering employees lives I'll become a believer. Who will be the first to offer their overworked salaried staff a 36 hour work week & 20 days paid vacation? Remember, charity begins at home.
Thursday, March 02, 2006
Tuesday, February 28, 2006
Monday, February 13, 2006
A letter to my Congressman, Rep. Pete Sessions:
I applaud the move by your colleague Rep. Chris Smith to place Internet & high-tech companies under closer scrutiny when doing business with the regime in China. As our troops fight and die in Iraq and Afghanistan to promote a democratic and free society some of our corporations seem happy to kowtow to oppressive regimes in order to further their “shareholder’s value.”
The responsibility to promote freedom is not the sole prerogative of the men and women in uniform but is the duty of us all, citizens and companies alike. I urge you to support Rep. Smith in his efforts.
Probably says it all for me. Please write your Congressman and let them know your feelings on the subject.
Saturday, January 21, 2006
Time to wax & wane on about my scooter! I bought this screamin' orange baby right before Christmas having done extensive research on pretty much every scooter available, from the Vespas to ebay specials I looked at them all. I was convinced a 150 would be about right for my non-highway, about town use, however, once I was introduced to the hot rod 50s from Derbi, Aprilia and Kymco I was sold on the hooligan moped concept. My local dealer & all-around good people Scooters of Dallas had this one sitting on the floor. With a water cooled 50, ABS disc brakes, monoshock rear, 2 year warranty and a price substantially less than the Italian competition I was hooked. I've put about 1,000 miles on it now and can honestly say it's the most fun I've ever had on 2 wheels. This from a guy who's owned some fairly serious motorcycles, a Ducati 750SS & Yamaha FJ1200 not withstanding.
Dallas has a small but happening scooter scene which has good mix of machines and is refreshingly free from the "my scoot is better than your scoot" rhetoric.
So, 50mph, 65mpg, $160p/year full coverage...does it get any better than this?
Friday, January 20, 2006
I headed off to Atlanta on Delta (blah, delayed 3 hours, seat in the waaaay back) to work on a pilot for a TV show about, and named, "Excellent Women." Ex-CNN'er Bobbie Battista was once of the principals responsible for the production. It took me a few seconds to tie the face to the name though. I was a big CNN junky back in the days when Bobbie, Goodnow, Russell and the others headed a network known for pretty serious news coverage rather than the magazine format one finds there today. I think I probably gave up on CNN on 9/11, it seemed then that their staff cutbacks and format tweaks had left a network incapable of responding to such an event effectively.
We shot a single show, 5 cameras to 6 DVC Pro decks, Gil Gillum did his usual bang-up job of directing (and in this case TD'ing too). I mixed on a Midas Verona which is my favorite small-format console but not exactly designed for broadcast production work (the direct outs are post-fader). Lots of DAs & splitters later we had stereo program and tons o' iso channels on the 12 bit/4 channel DV setting. I used my trusty Behringer 2496 Finalizer to process the mix, the sound stage was somewhat noisy but I think the product was acceptable.
Back at Hartsfield, of course there was CNN Airport News, now that's a processed audio feed!
I finished a show this week at the ever pleasant Marriott Desert Ridge in Phoenix. The event was for US Smokeless Tobacco, makers of, among others, Copenhagen. Busy show it was too, a live band interacting with presenters and multiple video roll-ins. This was my first trip on the Digico D1 (I've been a happy D-5 bunny for a couple of years now, http://www.digico.org). It operates almost identically to the D-5 but has two 8-bank fader surfaces and Macro Keys that can be set up for further functionality. For the price (it's less than half a D-5) it's hard to beat & certainly makes me wonder why anyone would buy the functionally deficient Yamaha PM-5D? I probably should have specified a D-5 as those extra faders would have been useful, anyway all seemed happy with the results.
What with all the smoking & chewing in the ballroom it was like "Back To The 80s."
Tuesday, January 17, 2006
Thursday, January 12, 2006
After discussing the drug trade and the Nazis maybe it’s the time for something a little more easily digested. We’re dissing CSI, as in the “currently in 3 flavors” TV drama airing almost nightly on CBS.
When was the last time either a CSI victim or perp (good Law & Order word) was not either a supermodel or metro-sexual hunk? I must assume that in order to get the crime scene folk interested you have to fit the profile. No oldies, fatties or uglies are going to get their DNA in the Petri dish. No Way Baby. For Horatio to look you in the eye and deliver a well-timed cliché you’d better be looking hot. No DKNY, no Gucci’s, no service at this establishment.
Now the cast is impressively turned out as well and I can understand why. Walking into a blood splattered motel room I’m going to have to look my best too. A little mousse, some Italian loafers, well see here, it’s an exit wound!
While we’re flogging this horse, why aren’t the good citizens of Miami, Las Vegas & New York demanding more accountability for their tax dollars? In Dallas, if I see an officer of the law tooling around in a department Hummer I’m going to be looking for some answers.
So I give the show a credibility factor of 4, in other words, I’d rather read 10 teen Jesse McCartney blogs than watch this.
My son (the 10 year old in the bio) is a big reader. Yesterday he picked up a copy of Anne Frank's Diary at the school library & settled down for most of the afternoon with it. Of course that introduced much discussion & googling about the concentration camps & Hitler's Final Solution. This is all the more relevant to him as his Grandmother's side of the family were all Austrian Jews, some of whom fled before the Nazis and a number who waited too long. His namesake & Great-Great Grandfather survived, his Great-Great-Grandmother and most of the others perished at Auschwitz.
Without belittling the obviously horrific human cost I have difficulty understanding why the 3rd Reich, already short of troops & materials, were prepared to commit such huge economic resources to the extermination of the Jews and other undesirables? The systematic murder and disposal of over 6 million people is no small task. Was their collective hatred so great that they were prepared to jeopodize the other theaters of war in order to continue this undertaking? Obviously so.
And they say "Love is Blind?"
Wednesday, January 11, 2006
On a show yesterday we had a speaker from a very large (the largest maybe) consumer electronics manufacturer. The show was for a producer of Supply Chain Management software which as far as I can figure out, controls the flow of goods from raw materials to, in this case, the shelves at Best Buy and the like. The speaker was noting how this software had revolutionized their ability to predict changing market conditions and ensure the right products arrive at the right stores in time. He was particularly interested in the flow of Plasma TV's which apparently were the hottest big-ticket items this Christmas. Claiming that California, Texas and Florida were the biggest markets for these TV's he noted wryly that "Florida's demand for hi-tech consumer goods peaks & troughs with the success (or lack thereof) of the drug trade!"
Now he didn't actually claim that they were using the software to predict such market conditions. However, it certainly demonstrated how ridiculous our "War On Drugs" has become when major manufacturers are factoring the narcotics trade into their supply chains! It begs the question, how many other industries are doing the same?