So about that 'being finished' thing ...

I readjusted my monitors a little bit, and listened to "I Love You Monster" in between some other things, and ... anyway, the upshot is, I went back and mastered it again to boost the low end a little bit. I had been going for a bass-light '70s-AM-radio vibe -- I was listening to the Go! Team record a lot, and there's almost no bass at all on there -- but either I overdid it or I don't have the courage of my convictions. (The fact that the recording sounds nothing like '70s AM radio in any other respect, apart from the percussive static in the second verse, didn't help.) Anyway, the new version is up at the same place. The change is nothing too dramatic -- just three dB or so, around 95Hz -- and it's not like there's anything too interesting going on down there anyway. (The bassline consists of one note over and over again. I was hoping that this device would make the song equal in magnificence to "Your Love Keeps Lifting Me Higher" by Jackie Wilson; it didn't.) But, you know, it was that or spend the rest of my life thinking of that song as "the one without enough low end." We are now, I promise, finished.

Malcolm Gladwell now has a blog.

She sold her Warlock and bought a drum machine ...

I've been using a computer to make music since about 2000. That's the year I bought a G4 Powermac to record my band. At some point between then and now, I got interested in the possibilities of using the computer to generate the music as well as record it. Since then I have acquired a lot of software for that purpose, starting with the incredible program Reason. It seemed to answer some kind of deep-seated need in me. I found the site almost at random, downloaded the demo, and sent them my credit card number 45 minutes later.

Using Reason and other music software applications has changed the way I listen to music as well as make it. Specifically, it has stopped my ears from getting hung up on audio realism and taught them to love the artificial. (Reason has had another significant influence on my life: if it weren't for Reason, I would not be writing a novel in which the protagonist designs software interfaces for a living.)

One of the difficulties about using music software is that you can keep tweaking things, literally, forever. A little while ago, I realized that, while I had a few dozen song files on my hard drive, I had never actually finished a song, never said, OK, that's done. It's this kind of endless tweaking that blew out my arms.

So a while back, maybe a year ago, I decided: I'm going to pick a song-in-progress, and I'm going to finish it, and I'm not going to work on any other songs until this one is finished. I can't put in fourteen-hour sessions anymore, thanks to those arms. At first I worked on it in 45-minute installments, which is just about enough time to boot up the software, play the song through once, try changing something, and change it back. I'm stronger now, but I have homework to do too, so it balances out. (I try not to work on music unless I've gotten some writing done, or I'd be doing music all day.)

All this is to say: I finished a song this weekend. I mixed it, I mastered it, I realized it needed some other stuff, I went back and did the stuff, I mastered it again, rinse, repeat. And then this evening I said, You know, it sounds OK. I like it fine. I'm going to leave it like that.

So here it is -- a piece of robot bubblegum called "I Love You Monster." The vocals are by the estimable Kari Files. (I was being all arty and leaving them really low in the mix, until Tali said, "If you don't want people to listen to the vocals, you should get someone to sing who doesn't have such a pretty voice.") Off the top of my head I can think of 12 software programs that were involved in its creation; I may be forgetting some. The drums are sampled from a song you know well. It is about four-and-a-half minutes long, and I probably started it in 2003. Now I am going to start something else.


Do you like things that are tiny? How about Pac-Man? If you answered yes to both, click here.


"Irrationality is a very infectious disease, as we see from the United States."


Andrew Keen is my new favorite thing. From his blog:

Behind every LCD a mirror. Unfortunately, that’s not just a metaphor.

That's a good one. Also: "The movement bridges counter-cultural radicals of the '60s such as Steve Jobs with the contemporary geek culture of Google's Larry Page." Boy, that's a long way.

(By the way, Steve Jobs was born in 1955 and graduated in high school in 1972, but if you're writing in the Weekly Standard you get an extra 20 bucks every time you can blame something on the 1960s.)

More Irreverent Fun with Web 2.0 and its Critics

My favorite part of that article about Web 2.0 is where he goes: "Empowered by Web 2.0 technology, we can all become citizen journalists, citizen videographers, citizen musicians. Empowered by this technology, we will be able to write in the morning, direct movies in the afternoon, and make music in the evening. Sounds familiar? It's eerily similar to Marx's seductive promise..." But it was him who described Web 2.0 that way. So of course he can make it sound eerily familiar to anything that'll help prove his point. Idiot.


Wikipedia - the evil empire

Apparently there is no limit to the topics that conservatives can be stupid about. Look, here's Andrew Keen comparing Web 2.0 to Soviet communism.

If you democratize media, then you end up democratizing talent. The unintended consequence of all this democratization, to misquote Web 2.0 apologist Thomas Friedman, is cultural "flattening." ... Just the flat noise of opinion--Socrates's nightmare.
Apparently no one has explained to Keen about the wisdom of crowds. (Or maybe they have and he was too dumb to understand it. We are, after all, dealing with a mind that refers to Lawrence Lessig as an "intellectual property communist.")

(If you're not sure what Web 2.0 refers to, a good introduction is here, and a fine assessment is here.)

Crazy and possibly valid Apple-saves-Blockbuster scenario here. (This and the previous link via Reddit.)

You need sound for this, but it's about as rock 'n' roll as juggling gets.


Best Birdshot-Gate Theory Ever

Now it all makes sense.


I grew up between Bleak Prizes and Harm Flack. (Anagram Tube map.)


Gay Blogging

One of the many interesting things about Andrew Sullivan, now blogging at TIME, is his irrepressible urge to out Anderson Cooper. He once wrote that he and AC used to work out at the Y together. Today, he writes:

Sorry for the late start today. I did Anderson Cooper last night (I mean the show, smart-asses), and then, well, uber-nerd watch coming up, but I found myself engrossed in the CSPAN hearings with Alberto Gonzales.

It's almost like he can't bear the fact that some people don't know that AC is gay (and a surprisingly large number of people don't, judging from my informal polling) while everyone knows he, AS, is.

Ooh, second-wave feminist catfight: Germaine Greer totally pisses all over poor dead Betty Friedan.

Patently Absurd

Just posted the thing below at the Washington Monthly site. But I thought I'd post it here too.

There's been alot of concern lately about the prospect that the BlackBerry might soon be brought down by a "patent troll" -- in this case, a small Virginia company, NTP, which holds a patent on wireless email technology and is now suing RIM, the BlackBerry's maker, after it refused to pay NTP a licensing fee.

This Slate piece does a good job of capturing the issues in play, but I'd argue with its contention that the problem is confined to the software industry. In fact, over-broad and possibly invalid patents stifle innovation in a range of fields, and the negative human consequences in areas like bio-technology are more immediate, and perhaps more damaging, than in software.

Take breast cancer research. As we reported in The Monthly last year, one company, Myriad Genetics, holds a patent on the study of a gene, BRCA1 known to cause breast cancer. Women who want to get tested for the gene have to go thru Myriad, and pay a much higher price for the test thanks to Myriad's monopoly. Worse, researchers trying to create a better test, that could more accurately identify BRCA1, routinely receive cease and desist letters from Myriad's lawyers. One scientist at U Penn told me she'd moved on to other projects thanks to Myriad constantly hassling her.

Of course, without the incentive of a patent, companies like Myriad wouldn't conduct life-saving research. But in fact, a consortium of scientists from across the world was working to sequence BRCA1. Myriad's founder, Mark Skolnick was part of that group, and he used the group's work as a foundation before crossing the final hurdle himself. No one doubts that, absent Skolnick's work, the consortium would have got there soon afterwards.

In other words, a crucial area of breast cancer research is now effectively closed off to all but one for-profit company, despite the fact that thier "invention" would surely have soon been developed without them. And just as with software patents, at the root of the problem is a patent system that makes patents too easy to acquire, and gives patent-holders overly broad rights. Tell me how that promotes innovation again.


This confirms my dim memory: the English teen pop rag Smash Hits, of which I was a semiregular reader, was actually pretty good. It also advances my tentative theory that British people really are smarter.

Update: Here's another nice Guardian piece with more colorful moments from teen-pop history. After Stephen "Tin Tin" Duffy announced his intention to form a folk-rock band (which would, of course, turn out to be the Lilac Time), the Smash Hits interviewer apparently responded with: "But isn't that incredibly boring?"


It's not often that the New Yorker makes a dumb mistake, but there's one on the Contributors page of the current (Feb. 6) issue. Tobias Wolff is in fact the author of three books of short stories, two memoirs, one novella, and two novels, one of which is out of print. He does, however, teach at Stanford. Weird that it's still on the website as of 3:22 PST on 2/1.

On the other hand, any issue of any magazine that includes pieces by Wolff, Malcolm Gladwell, and Katherine Boo is OK by me. Too bad there isn't an article about Alan Moore's Watchmen, though. That would put it over the top.

Update: I didn't really get the Wolff story -- or at least, it failed to produce that mysterious effect in me that most of Wolff's stories do, where I feel somehow oddly transformed and have no idea how or why. In my MFA program people talk about this effect of stories all the time, but to be totally honest I've rarely if ever felt it outside of Wolff's fiction -- not in classics like "Farewell My Brother," even. But pretty much every story in any of TW's collections does it to me every time. I quite liked the Man United piece until Zack pointed out how many things were missing, though.

The New Yorker, Yo La Tengo, Ruud Van Nistelrooy

A story in The New Yorker about the English football league is one of those exciting but slightly anxiety-provoking things where two things you love are brought together. It's great and everything but it's almost too much, and you feel a bit left out, like at a party where all your friends from different parts of your life meet each other. For you it would be a bit like if Yo La Tengo sang a song about Alan Moore's "The Watchman" comic. Or, I suppose, if The New Yorker did a story on Alan Moore's "The Watchman" comic. Or if The New Yorker did a story on Yo La Tengo. Anyway, you get the idea. (For some reason the story isn't online so I can't link, but it's probably a safe assumption that all 3 or so regular readers of this blog subscribe to the NYer anyway.)

So anyhoo, it's a good piece, and I certainly have no argument with those who claim that something's been lost since the league was transformed by an infusion of money in the early 90's. I enjoyed as much as the next man the privilege of paying 8 pounds to stand at QPR for 90 minutes and call the ref a wanker with little more than a cup of weak tea for sustenance. And I enjoyed it more, I'd wager, than John Cassidy -- who betrays no real love for the game itself in however many thousand words -- ever would.

But I do think it would have been worth pointing out the ways things have changed for the better, as well as for worse. The reasons why you no longer hear nearly as many racist chants at games as you did in say the mid 80's (when John Barnes was pelted with bananas, and black players routinely endured monkey noises from fans) are probably way too complicated and numerous to resolve, but the change does seem to have something to do with football getting taken over by people who had financial reasons not to tolerate that kind of thing. Cassidy makes no metion of this. He also might have included the fact that one of the results of the shift has been that people no longer, you know, die at football games. (He mentions in passing, the Hillsborough disaster -- and the requirement for all-seater stadiums it spawned -- but doesn't properly connect it to the vanished footballing way of life he's mourning. And he ignores the Heysel disaster altogether.)

Nor does he mention, sort of incredibly, the fact that the football has unarguably gotten better. Indeed, the English league has, in the last 15 years, gone from being a relative footballing backwater with a reputation for an unimaginative "long-ball" style of play into the acknowledged best league in the world, with world-class players from all corners of the globe displaying skills that 20 years ago, English fans had literally never seen. Back then, we almost never used to be able to attract top-quality foreign players to play in England (I remember what a coup it was seen to be when, in the late 80's Newcastle signed the mediocre Brazilian striker Mirandinha). Now, foreign stars line up to play here - it's been not uncommon over the last few years for Chelsea to field a team with not a single Englishman. It's pretty much been a line starting with Cantona in the early 90's, thru Bergkamp and Henry to Van Nistelrooy and Ronaldo. And whereas before, almost all of our truly world class players right up to Gazza eventually went to play in Italy or Spain, if Man United doesn't want to sell Wayne Rooney it's rich enough that it doesn't have to. (And they only sold Beckham because he fell out with Fergie. And okay, Owen going to Spain focks up my argument but he came back in a year.)

The point is the game is better now in a lot of ways that Cassidy doesn't mention. And insofar as this was a profile of Malcolm Glazer there was no need to mention them. But it was also, more interestingly, a look at what's happened to the league over the last 15 years, so in that regard, it seems like a bad omission.