REVIEW: Sony’s NetMD Minidisc Player

What: Sony’s latest portable Minidisc player
Where: Stores everywhere
How Much: $129.99 MSRP, I paid $62.83 at Ubid.com

For years, Americans as a whole have been avoiding the minidisc. Minidiscs look something like one of those small 3″ CDs encased in a floppy disc shell. Revered by audiophiles as the only real way for the average person to listen to music digitally, the American hoi polloi have avoided them like the plague, and with good reason. For starters, there’s the whole format issue. Minidiscs came out not too long after CDs began to be the accepted music medium; this was also the same time that DAT and DCC came out, so it’s easy to see how the average person would stick with the more accepted CD. Also, since minidisc is a proprietary format, only Sony makes the players. This means that there is little (OK, no) competition to force prices down like there was for VHS or CD players. Lastly, minidiscs have also traditionally required realtime transfers. This means that copying 70 minutes of music to a minidisc required, well, 70 minutes. So even after Sony started lowering prices on MD equipment – which happened well after CD-R drives started invading American homes – people were loath to waste the time making MDs when even the slowest CD-R drive can do the same in about half the time.

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MP3: Still “Good Enough”?

Back in the 1980s, a new audio format was invented at a research facility in Germany called the Fraunhofer Institut. It was called “MPEG-1 Layer III”. A patent was issued for the new format by the German government in 1989 and Franuhofer would receive an American patent for their format in the United States on November 26th, 1996 – by which time the format was simply known as “MP3”. And so time rolled on… until 1997, when programmer named Tomislav Uzelac developed the “AMP MP3 Playback Engine” for his company Advanced Multimedia Projects – get it? Advanced Multimedia Projects… AMP? Anyway, AMP was the first MP3 software player to hit the market, but MP3 had yet to take off. And so time rolled on… until two Americans – Justin Frankel and Tom Pepper – would take part of the AMP code, give it a nice Windows interface and call it WinAMP. And time rolled on yet again – until 1998 when newer versions of WinAMP became more stable. Finally, the MP3 format would become all the rage.

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REVIEW: Madonna Obsessive Support Group

What: A play. A comedy (sort of)
Where: Dad’s Garage, 280 Elizabeth Street
When: 12 April – 11 May 2002
Website: http://www.dadsgarage.com

Dita and I were heading north on Buford Highway when she stumbled across the ad in the Creative Loafing:

“Look, here’s something for you – the Madonna Obsessive Support Group…”
“Gee, thanks. I know I’m a bit obsessed and all, but…”
“No, it’s a play… at Dad’s Garage.”

I completely forgot about it by the time I got home, but Dita emailed me a reminder shortly thereafter. I hadn’t been to Dad’s Garage since I was in college. Back then it was called “Actors’ Express”. How would Dad’s fare given the somewhat recent gentrification of Little Five Points? I went to the website and checked it out. And then I thought “what the hell – why not”? Was there ever a play more tailor-made for me?

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REVIEW: Keane live!

What: A review of the British band Keane in concert
Where: The Roxy Theatre, Atlanta, GA January 28th 2005
How Much: $20, plus TicketBastard’s “convenience charges”

Don’t you just love falling in love? I think everyone has the same kind of moment… you’re in the car listening to the radio… at a friend’s house listening to CDs… or hangin’ out at a club… and then it happens! Some song comes on and makes all the hairs on your arms stick up. It grabs your attention and holds it completely, just like a beautiful woman. And the next thing you know, you’re at a record store buying every CD from the artist you can find. You’re surfing the Internet looking for fan sites. You’re bidding outrageous sums of money for the artists’ memorabilia on eBay. You even spend the few extra bucks to order their CD directly from the UK, just so you can have it before any of your friends. The next thing you know, you’re even considering naming your first child after them!

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REVIEW: Emiliana Torrini’s Fisherman’s Woman

What: The new album from the Icelandic chanteuse
Where: Currently available in the UK only
How Much: £8.50 at Amazon UK

Torrini CoverYou know what I hate? Have you ever bought a great CD from an artist, only to never hear from them again? I suppose in a way it’s better than really bad follow-up albums. After all, was there any need for A Flock of Seagulls’ 1995 stinker The Light At The End Of The World or The Fixx’s unheard-by-anyone 1991 album Ink? At least when an artist disappears you don’t have some godawful claptrap ruining your memory of the band. But still, a collapse into nothingness is sad. There are a slew of abandoned websites out there that promise “a new album coming out soon!” yet haven’t been updated since 1999. I thought that one artist in particular was going to fall into this trap, but thankfully she hasn’t.

I don’t remember the exact moment I first heard Emiliana Torrini. I do know that it was while working for Pathfire, where one of my co-workers – good ol’ Joe Klingler – had a massive music-sharing file server set up. It’s kind of funny – he was told to spend the rest of his department’s budget for the year, so he went out and bought a massive server with a RAID-10 disk configuration and gigabit Ethernet in it and… Well, it’s not that important, really. It suffices to say that he commandeered a massive amount of company hardware that held well over 200GB for music on it at the time. So anyway, one day he turned me on to this mellow Icelandic chick whose voice sounded a lot like Bjork but who’s smooth, mostly downtempo electronic music was much more soothing and consistent than her fellow countrywoman. I mean, I’ve got nothing against Bjork, but the girl can sometimes just be all over the damn place. And while I can appreciate her wanting to develop a new sound for each album… well, sometimes it’s just a bit too much. Emiliana Torrini has a much more… controlled sound. When you listen to her, you can rest assured that she’s not going to go off on some loud, jazzy “It’s Oh So Quiet” rant just when you’re falling asleep. No, Emiliana is far more smooth and atmospheric, some would say in the Massive Attack vein. I think that that comparison is a bit off, but there *is* certainly some truth to it. While Emiliana is mostly softer electronica, that doesn’t mean that all of her songs have less of a beat than most Zamphir tunes. No, no… far from it. The girl can rock when she wants to!

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REVIEW: New Order’s Waiting For The Siren’s Call

What: A review of New Order’s newest album
Where: Stores everywhere, April or May 2005
How Much: Around $15

I wish more of the members of my musical generation would die early. Seriously! Think about those tired, old 60s “heroes”… Would Jim Morrison still be revered as an “American Poet” if he was playing in Branson, Missouri today? Would Jimi Hendrix still be granted God-like status if he were pimpin’ his new albums via late night infomercial? Would people still get all misty-eyed about Janis Joplin if she was telling us to “get more” from T-Mobile?

Instead of our rock gods dying early, it seems that far too many of them are pumping out album after album of dreck that ends up in the $1.99 bin faster than William Hung’s newest crapbomb. Lord knows I loved The Cure back in the day, but to see Robert Smith still trying to fly his freak flag at age 45 is saddening. Watching Sting trying to remain “cool” while putting out disc after disc of elevator music is saddening. Even though Motley Crue and Guns and Roses are not my type of music, watching Vince Neil and Axl Rose still trying to be relevant is saddening. Even though Duran Duran’s new album is pretty damn good, it easily could have been a train wreck of the first order. It’s all depressing and it’s senseless, and that’s where this New Order disc comes in.

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Has The Music Industry Lost Its Mind?? (Part 2)

In part two of a two-part rant, Jim Cofer discusses the Sony DRM fiasco and its long-term implications for DRM within the music industry in general. Hopefully, this article will be far more coherent than part one, which was just some assorted rambling.

Karma’s a bitch, ain’t it? It seems the bad news just won’t stop for Sony Music these days – and given their almost maniacal hated and distrust of their own customers, it’s not hard to see why karma’s so busy dumping on them lately. Just about every website on the planet – including this one; see my news for 11/01 – covered the initial news about the “rootkit” that Sony included on 20-50 audio CDs for sale in the United States. Here’s a brief recap in case you missed some of the finer points of the story:

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The Cure or Mr Rogers?

Do you remember MTV’s Remote Control??? It was a game show hosted by Ken Ober (with occasional guest Adam Sandler!) that featured categories like “Dead or Canadian” – where contestants were given a list of celebrities and had to guess whether each was… well, dead or Canadian.

In the spirit of Remote Control, I’m pleased to announce my very own version! Below are several lyrics to songs by either the British band The Cure or from Public Television’s favorite “man in the neighborhood”. See if you can guess which artist wrote which lyrics. The answers are after the jump – NO PEEKING!!

 

#1

I think you’re a special person
And I like your ins and outsides.
Everybody’s fancy.
Everybody’s fine.
Your body’s fancy and so is mine.

#2

You know those things I said
All those things that made you cry
I didn’t really mean that stuff
I didn’t really mean that stuff
All I ever really mean
When I scream and shout the way I do
Is I don’t know
I really don’t
I’m just the same as you.

#3

I love it all
These games we play
I close my eyes
You run away
I’m sure I asked you to stay
But now you’re gone.

#4

I can stop when I want to
Can stop when I wish.
I can stop, stop, stop any time.
And what a good feeling to feel like this
And know that the feeling is really mine.
Know that there’s something deep inside
That helps us become what we can.
For a girl can be someday a woman
And a boy can be someday a man.

#5

I can go far away, or dream anything,
Or wear a scary costume or act like a king.
I can change all my names
And find a place to hide.
I can do almost anything, but
I’m still myself,
I’m still myself,
I’m still myself inside.

#6

Nothing ever puts me out
Nothing ever pulls me in
Nothing ever makes me want to jump
And nothing makes me want to begin
Nothing ever gets me down
Nothing ever gets me uptight
And nothing ever makes me run around
And nothing makes me feel I might

#7

It’s you I like,
It’s not the things you wear,
It’s not the way you do your hair–
But it’s you I like
The way you are right now,
The way down deep inside you–
Not the things that hide you,
Not your toys–
They’re just beside you.

#8

I never felt like this with anyone before
You only have to smile and I’m dizzy
You make the world go round
A thousand times an hour
Just touch my head
And send me spinning.

#9

Let’s think of something to do while we’re waiting
While we’re waiting for something new to do.
Let’s try to think up a song while we’re waiting
That’s liberating and will be true to you.

#10

If you’ve got an hour,
Now’s the time to share it.
If you’ve got a flower,
Wear it.
This is just the day.

#11

Oh you know how it is
Wake up feeling blue
And everything that could be wrong is
Including you.
Black clouds and rain and pain in your head
And all you want to do is stay in bed.

#12

Please don’t think it’s funny
When you want an extra kiss.
There are lots and lots of people
Who sometimes feel like this.

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What You Didn’t Know About… “I’m a Ramblin’ Wreck”

“I’m a Ramblin’ Wreck from Georgia Tech” is the official fight song of the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech for short). You probably knew that already, but you might not know that:

  • Vice President Richard Nixon and Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev sang the song together during a summit in Moscow in 1958. The mood was quite tense, so Nixon suggested doing something to lighten the mood. For some reason, they chose to sing a song together. “I’m a Ramblin’ Wreck” was picked because Khrushchev had heard it on an Ed Sullivan sing-a-long during a previous trip to the United States, and Nixon knew no Russian songs.
  • “I’m a Ramblin’ Wreck” has been featured in movies: Gregory Peck sang it while strumming a ukulele in The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit, John Wayne whistled it in The High and the Mighty and Tim Holt’s character sings a few bars of it in His Kind of Woman.
  • “I’m a Ramblin’ Wreck” was the first school song played in space.
  • Because of the song’s many references to drinking, a student group backed by MADD often petitions the student government to change the song to something more sober. These petitions are heavily defeated each time they are proposed.

ADDITIONAL TRIVIA: There are only five FBS schools that do not have the word “University” in their official name. Georgia Tech is one, as is ACC rival Boston College. The others are the service academies: the United States Military Academy (Army), the United States Naval Academy (Navy) and the United States Air Force Academy (Air Force).

RANT: Ashlee Simpson Lipsynching

It looks like lil’ ol’ Ashlee Simpson was actually booed (quite vocally) at the end of her halftime performance at the Orange Bowl.

Let me tell you, that was DAMN REFRESHING to see! Now, I’m not being naive here. I know that I’m far past the age of being in MTV’s target demographic. I know that record stores and radio stations no longer care what I think about music. I know that teenagers these days refer to my 80s music as “oldies”. But I’m also not stupid enough to believe (as some frustrated musicians apparently do) that the single yardstick by which musicians should be measured is musical ability. If that were the case, teenage girls all over the world would have posters of Andrés Segovia or Anne-Sophie Mutter on their walls.

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