Thursday, June 25, 2009

School and the Constitution

Finally, the court has instituted some limits on American schools' crapping all over the Constitution.

By JESSE J. HOLLAND, Associated Press Writer Jesse J. Holland, Associated Press Writer – 51 mins ago

WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that a school's strip search of an Arizona teenage girl accused of having prescription-strength ibuprofen was illegal.

In an 8-1 ruling, the justices said school officials violated the law with their search of Savana Redding in the rural eastern Arizona town of Safford.

Redding, who now attends college, was 13 when officials at Safford Middle School ordered her to remove her clothes and shake out her underwear because they were looking for pills — the equivalent of two Advils. The district bans prescription and over-the-counter drugs and the school was acting on a tip from another student.

"What was missing from the suspected facts that pointed to Savana was any indication of danger to the students from the power of the drugs or their quantity, and any reason to suppose that Savana was carrying pills in her underwear," Justice David Souter wrote in the majority opinion. "We think that the combination of these deficiencies was fatal to finding the search reasonable."

In a dissent, Justice Clarence Thomas found the search legal and said the court previously had given school officials "considerable leeway" under the Fourth Amendment in school settings.

Officials had searched the girl's backpack and found nothing, Thomas said. "It was eminently reasonable to conclude the backpack was empty because Redding was secreting the pills in a place should thought no one would look," Thomas said.

Thomas warned that the majority's decision could backfire. "Redding would not have been the first person to conceal pills in her undergarments," he said. "Nor will she be the last after today's decision, which announces the safest place to secrete contraband in school."

The court also ruled the officials cannot be held liable in a lawsuit for the search. Different judges around the nation have come to different conclusions about immunity for school officials in strip searches, which leads the Supreme Court to "counsel doubt that we were sufficiently clear in the prior statement of law," Souter said.

"We think these differences of opinion from our own are substantial enough to require immunity for the school officials in this case," Souter said.

The justices also said the lower courts would have to determine whether the Safford United School District No. 1 could be held liable.

A schoolmate had accused Redding, then an eighth-grade student, of giving her pills.

The school's vice principal, Kerry Wilson, took Redding to his office to search her backpack. When nothing was found, Redding was taken to a nurse's office where she says she was ordered to take off her shirt and pants. Redding said they then told her to move her bra to the side and to stretch her underwear waistband, exposing her breasts and pelvic area. No pills were found.

A federal magistrate dismissed a suit by Redding and her mother, April. An appeals panel agreed that the search didn't violate her rights. But last July, a full panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found the search was "an invasion of constitutional rights" and that Wilson could be found personally liable.

Justices John Paul Stevens and Ruth Bader Ginsburg dissented from the portion of the ruling saying that Wilson could not be held financially liable.

"Wilson's treatment of Redding was abusive and it was not reasonable for him to believe that the law permitted it," Ginsburg said.

The Constitution does not end at school grounds. In ANY way shape and form. Justice Thomas can go screw.

Morals, Sex, and Politicrits

LiveScience has posted an article about the recent Sanford sex scandal, and they basically explain that politicians will do stupid crap like this because power and corruption go hand-in-hand. Gah!

It's not corruption! Having sex with another woman is not corrupt. Even if you campaigned as being against sex with women, it's not corrupt. Corruption in politics means that you did something for your own good to the detriment of those you are supposedly representing.

The only problem in the situation is that we have a populace that will be taken in on moral grandstanding, and vote for those who scream about it from the bully pulpit. Sex with those other than your wife is fine, as long as your wife doesn't mind. If your wife expects fidelity, and you boink someone else, you better be prepared for the consequences with her. Everyone else can just fuck off.

Still, I'm happy when I see people like this fall so spectacularly. Moral crusaders and those who campaign on family values are all full of shit. Luckily for us, we get to see that shit every now and then, and man is it entertaining. Especially when they're forced to discuss their behavior within the paradigm they had been espousing. For example, Sanford had to get up on TV and say that what he did was just plain wrong. Wrong? Define wrong. I say it wasn't wrong. I say it was merely stupid.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

These Governors Have Really Got to Just Start a Club

Governor Mark Sanford crying for Argentina (photo:AP)

Well, that didn't take long.

Governor Mark Sanford of South Carolina has admitted to an affair, which is why he was down way the fuck in Argentina. Witnessing yet another politician self-destruct has me again thinking, why does any of this matter? This culture's singular obsession with sex is maddening. We blew how much money during that Ken Starr/Clinton/Lewinsky circus? Who gives a fuck?! As soon as something event remotely shifty happens, people's ears perk up. Like "What? Oooooh? Looks juicy!" We're an entire country of gossip queens.

This of course brings to mind Eliot Spitzer, the former governor of New York who famously got caught Sir Humpsaloting some prostitutes. At least with that, Spitzer was revealed to be a glaring hypocrite in light of his crusade against prostitution. I don't know about Sanford's past and his platforms, but all of these cases end the same way, with some guy crying in front of the cameras. You'd think that after this happened enough times, people would start, I dunno', thinking that this sort of thing is common and not really worthy of getting worked up over. We live in world of instant communication, near-ubiquitous camera coverage, and, as I mentioned, a populous so bored with its own insignificant existence that anything interesting happening in others' lives becomes instant news fodder. Yet, still, men in positions such as this will put their entire careers and lives in jeopardy for some roll in the hay.

This incident basically destroys any chance that Sanford had for the Republican run in 2012. Why? What about having an affair has any bearing on that? Presidents have been ridiculous philanderers for all of history. Because regardless of what many people want to think, we're animals, and males in power will hump just about anything with two legs and a pulse (Or not! Pulse optional!). Some of our greatest presidents were comically unfaithful. Kennedy is well-known, but so was FDR, Teddy, and even the fat ones like Grover Cleveland were having illegitimate children. This behavior is part of the human animal.

I don't have much respect for even the very concept of sexual fidelity. I think our obsession with it is both a misogynistic and religious construct. Why misogynistic? Because who stands the lose the most from sexual infidelity? Men. Men don't want to raise a child that isn't genetically theirs. Emotional infidelity is damaging for the female, because she loses the support of the male, but that's not what we're talking about, here. We're talking about sex. No one cares that he may have been down there reading bad love poetry to this mystery woman. They care that he had sex with her.

Sexual fidelity is a fantasy. Some people have it, certainly, but that's because they want it. Others do not want it. It is not our place to judge them for that.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Hard Sex

I've said before how I consider myself a practical feminist. I have always said that the more militant feminists actually do a greater disservice to the cause of female equality than they do good. For a historical precedent, I look to Martin Luther King and his peaceful approach, basically revealing the racist whites to be the barbarians that they were, as opposed to the angry blacks which contributed to the Great White Flight.

I also decry modern racism as "fake" racism. It's not real racism that has a significant effect on the lives of otherwise upstanding blacks. We have black men in all echelons of power and prestige in various industries. Real racism has nothing to do with cops racially profiling, it has to do with the subtle, underlying assumptions that people don't usually think about.

This applies to sexism, as well. The feminist straw man of a belligerent, overtly-sexist asshole ranting about how women are all alike doesn't exist in any significant way. Sure, those men run gas stations across the country, but they don't exist for the most part. Instead, we have subtle assumptions that result in the treatment of women in a different way. This can sometimes result in ostensibly positive behavior, whereby women are gauged with less rigor than men.

For example, sports. Yes, it could be argued that men are better at many sports simply because they can get stronger more easily. But what about snowboarding or skiing? There is nothing different between men and women that should result in the wide difference in stunts, times, and successful moves seen during the winter Olympics. It has entirely to do with the men being treated differently. They're judged more harshly. The stakes are higher. The competition is fiercer. This is real, damaging sexism.

One area that's sticky, though, is sex. I consider men and women, as far as non-social programming goes, to be effectively identical. Social programming, though, is different. There is an undeniable difference socially and sexually.

For example, I present the case of Valeria K., aka The Black Widow;

A young Russian woman, a devoted collector of horror films and spiders, is on trial for sedating and raping ten men.

The police were shocked that 32-year-old Valeria K., a quiet good-looking woman from the city of Tambov, was the mysterious rapist who abused ten local men after poisoning them with clonidine, reports.

Valeria, who has already been nicknamed the Black Widow for her love of spiders, would get acquainted with men and invite them to her place.

She gave them drinks with clonidine, which almost immediately sent them to sleep for almost 24 hours.

After that, she undressed her victims and raped them, tightening a rope on their male organs to kep them erect.

Waking up in hospital with clonidine poisoning and penis trauma, all the victims could remember was a friendly brunette who gave them drinks.

Finally, local police identified the offender and arrested her.

At present, the police know about ten of Valeria’s victims, although one of them refused to file a complaint against her.

“It was great,” the unnamed man said.

“I like hot women. I only wish she hadn't use the clonidine on me.”

The most interesting aspect is the thing I can't copy: the comments. Comment after comment on all the blogs is the same thing, where can I find this woman?! I want to be raped! The difference is so staggering. And even in myself, I'd be fine with it. I would love to be raped by a woman. I guess that means it can't possibly be rape, but still.

I don't believe this difference is cultural/social. The thought of a woman being raped is repulsive down to my very core, but the idea of me being raped? That's fine. I guess if I change the staging of the hypothetical rape, a woman forcibly penetrating a man anally sounds worse perhaps, but even then, it's kind of kinky/cool.

It just doesn't seem possible that it's cultural. Rape has been a blight on society in multiple cultures for thousands of years. When ravaging packs of women roam around (the few times it's happened), they just kill and steal. When men do it, they kill, steal, and rape. I even think that the psychological damage done to boys by priests has more to do with culture than sex with boys causing any fundamental harm. Why? Men and boy sexual relations has happened in multiple cultures in many areas on the planet. Homosexuality among young soldiers and older soldiers was common. There is a precedent to indicate that it may be cultural that the event was harmful to the boys. Rape of women has no such precedent.

So, for me, rape is a difficult point. I have become convinced that a militant attitude is in fact necessary to sort of punch out latent prejudice when it comes to rape allegations.

I was doing random research on sex and rape and came across this text book, first published in 2000, for college classrooms. Just Sex discusses sort of the history of student activism in the march towards equal rights for women.

The story of Brown University really drives home how far we have to go.

This was 1990, people! The Sega Genesis was out! It's stunning to think that a highly liberal area such as Rhode Island would be at the center of such a controversy.

Rape and sex are part of the animal human, which I separate to a degree from the higher-functioning aspects of the human. As a species that considers itself advanced, we must push aside some aspects of animalism in favor of a recognition that all of us, men and women alike, are merely thinking entities. To look at one another as people as opposed to a man or a woman. Rape cannot be allowed in that world.

I must say the determining if rape has occurred or not is difficult. Most of the time, all that can be determined is that sex has occurred. So we are left with a he-said she-said. But even here, in court, a woman's life can be brought into consideration, but the man's past history, unless a pattern can be identified, is out of bounds. There's something fundamentally wrong with that.

I default to believing women who say that they have been raped. Unfortunately, every case I've encountered, it's been eventually revealed that either the woman lied or exaggerated. That's very depressing. I want to believe. I must believe since any logical, caring person would err on the side of caution, but I've been proven wrong in all cases.

Still, it doesn't matter. In the same way that racial profiling is idiotic, sexual profiling is just as dumb. To take my experiences with previous women and then project their actions into this new person is laughably wrong. To do otherwise is sexist, and it is here, perhaps, that militant feminism is needed.

For example, one of the girls I knew who went to a New England university claimed rape. The case was handled aggressively by the University police, the local police, and the boy was brought in, fingerprinted, and questioned. He was suspended from school for the duration of the investigation. That didn't last long, because it was revealed two days later that the girl had lied. She told the story to friends, didn't expect them to call the cops for her, then kept the story going. The innocent boy's life was turned upside down, he now has a criminal record, and resources were wasted.

It was an injustice, to be sure, but perhaps a necessary one. If men the world over know that pendulum has swung very far in the opposite direction, and that their life could be ruined for even a minor misunderstanding, it will force men to be cautious when entering into sexual relations. We could go as far as Antioch College's famous manual to consensual sex, and while that's pretty stupid, again it may be necessary. I think that goes a bit too far. Rape is pretty easy. If she says "no," and you keep going, congratulations, you're raping her. It's not hard to avoid this.

This article from Newsweek in 1993 decries what it sees as the overswing of feminism and injustice against men. It's startling to read the barely concealed venom and condescension by the author. It's also startling that all of the authors are women. They lament the loss of sexual surprise and unexpectedness if these rules are followed. Yeah? Well too bad. When you're stupid and drunk, like most college students are, I'm completely behind strict, no-nonsense, unromantic rules.

It may seem to you that I'm about a decade late in writing about this, but I don't think so. These issues still exist. Sexism is still rampant. I don't even want to think about the number of men I heard who voted for McCain-Palin because they thought Palin was "hot." Gah. The pendulum is again swinging back towards center, and hopefully it won't overshoot it by too much.

I mentioned a belief that militant feminism does more damage than good, and also that hidden 'isms are what are truly dangerous. The Newsweek article makes an excellent point in this regard.

This defensive mind-set is at the heart of the escalating battle over date rape. Critics charge feminists with hyping the statistics and so broadening the definition of rape that sex roles are becoming positively Victorian. Women are passive vessels with no responsibility for what happens; men are domineering brutes with just one thing on their minds. "People have asked me if I have ever been date-raped," writes Katie Roiphe in "The Morning After." "And thinking back on complicated nights, on too many glasses of wine, on strange and familiar beds, I would have to say yes. With such a sweeping definition of rape, I wonder how many people there are, male or female, who haven't been date-raped at one point or another . . . If verbal coercion constitutes rape, then the word "rape" itself expands to include any kind of sex a woman experiences as negative."

Roiphe, 25, a Harvard graduate and now a doctoral candidate it Princeton, argues that a hysteria has gripped college campuses, fomented by "rape-crisis feminists." "The image that emerges from feminist preoccupations with rape and sexual harassment is that of women as victims, offended by a professor's dirty joke, verbally pressured into sex by peers. This image of a delicate woman bears a striking resemblance to that "50s ideal my mother and the other women of her generation fought so hard to get away from. They didn't like her passivity . . . her excessive need for protection . . . But here she is again, with her pure intentions and her wide eyes. Only this time it is the feminists themselves who are breathing new life into her."

The hidden 'ism that is doing actual damage. Still, that strong pendulum swing was needed. Humans as a whole never work in fine details. We don't deal with gray areas. We only move and change when REALLY big things happen. Look at school segregation. It took small wars to break out. I think that continued militant behavior is the only way through. Yes, it's overblown. Yes, it's paranoid. But I think that a fear that at any moment, a woman can totally ruin a man's life with a single word is what's needed to permanently banish this behavior from society.

If that destroys romance, at least for a time, so be it. Men and women will be forced to treat each other as people, as opposed to the opposite sex. Sex will simply be off the menu. Hmmm. Perhaps a university that's free and liberal in every way except not allowing sex between students. Have sex, get kicked out. Interesting idea. Would never work. Interesting, though.

UPDATE 6/24/2009: I was thinking about the Newsweek article and its assertion that we are reverting back to a more Victorian form of sexual identity, whereby women are pure and helpless and men are horrid brutes. I don't fully agree that women are being portrayed as pure and helpless, but men are being portrayed as brutes. But I see that as the point. Humans operate best on primary drivers. I think the biggest of those drivers is fear. If men are literally fearful of talking, touching, looking at, or otherwise interacting with women, that is the kind of circumstance that results in psychosocial change.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

The New Epidemic.

Every generation changes things. Frankly, I think that change only comes with each generation and the passage of power. It seems pretty simple as to why this is. Humans are remarkably intransigent creatures. Combined with a healthy dose of stupidity and fear, we sort of determine what the world is and should be at a pretty young age. Changes beyond that norm are to be either feared or hated.

I look to a recent survey done in Rhode Island, my home state, where the gay marriage debate is heating up because our governor is a little bit slow in the brain case. If this survey is to be believed, that's not surprising.

In it, 60% of Rhode Islanders supported gay marriage, with 31% opposed. Further cementing the Republican party as the party of intolerance and outright idiocy, those numbers went strongly along party lines, with Elephants against and Donkeys for.

But it was the generational divide that was interesting, with a scant 32% of those over the age of 70 supporting gay marriage, but 18-29 year-olds supported strongly with 87%. 70% of 30-39 year-olds gave their support, as well.

This all leads to video games. How so? Well, the generation of people who are currently, apparently, Repbulican and against gay people, think they're ruining our children. Because, seriously, what isn't ruining our children?

Every generation has a boogeyman. Whatever the parents don't understand, they hate. And yet, with every generation crying how they'll never become like their parents, they do the same thing. Over and over again. The children don't dislike the particulars, be it comic books or video games, but they never seem to catch on to the underlying principle, they thus make the same mistakes.

I have long been against any politician who says things about video games. Joe Lieberman is a modern-day Anthony Comstock. He's a grand-standing blowhard who uses hot-button topics to further his own career. He is total scum.

I'm aware of the fact that Hillary Clinton has discussed similar topics about video games, and yet I supported her during the elections. Basically, Hillary never turned video games and other possible first-amendment issues into a personal crusade as Lieberman did with Mortal Kombat all those years ago. Moreover, my primary desire out of the presidential elections was a good manager to basically fix what Bush broke.

The irrepressible march of society continues, and despite the cries of untold fear-mongers throughout history, we're still here. We haven't devolved into bestiality and cannibalism. Out children are not all rabid serial killers. They were wrong. They were wrong then. They're wrong now. Just shut the fuck up.

Is it the only lesson of history that man is unteachable?

-- Sir Winston Churchill

The disturbing material in Grand Theft Auto and other games like it is stealing the innocence of our children and it's making the difficult job of being a parent even harder ... I believe that the ability of our children to access pornographic and outrageously violent material on video games rated for adults is spiraling out of control.

- US senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, 2005

The effect of rock and roll on young people, is to turn them into devil worshippers; to stimulate self-expression through sex; to provoke lawlessness; impair nervous stability and destroy the sanctity of marriage. It is an evil influence on the youth of our country.

- Minister Albert Carter, 1956

Many adults think that the crimes described in comic books are so far removed from the child's life that for children they are merely something imaginative or fantastic. But we have found this to be a great error. Comic books and life are connected. A bank robbery is easily translated into the rifling of a candy store. Delinquencies formerly restricted to adults are increasingly committed by young people and children ... All child drug addicts, and all children drawn into the narcotics traffic as messengers, with whom we have had contact, were inveterate comic-book readers This kind of thing is not good mental nourishment for children!

- Fredric Wertham, Seduction of the Innocent, 1954

This new form of entertainment has gone far to blast maidenhood ... Depraved adults with candies and pennies beguile children with the inevitable result. The Society has prosecuted many for leading girls astray through these picture shows, but GOD alone knows how many are leading dissolute lives begun at the 'moving pictures.'

- The Annual Report of the New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, 1909

A pernicious excitement to learn and play chess has spread all over the country, and numerous clubs for practicing this game have been formed in cities and villages. Why should we regret this? It may be asked. We answer, chess is a mere amusement of a very inferior character, which robs the mind of valuable time that might be devoted to nobler acquirements, while it affords no benefit whatever to the body. Chess has acquired a high reputation as being a means to discipline the mind, but persons engaged in sedentary occupations should never practice this cheerless game; they require out-door exercises--not this sort of mental gladiatorship.

- Scientific American, July 1859

The indecent foreign dance called the Waltz was introduced ... at the English Court on Friday last ... It is quite sufficient to cast one's eyes on the voluptuous intertwining of the limbs, and close compressure of the bodies ... to see that it is far indeed removed from the modest reserve which has hitherto been considered distinctive of English females. So long as this obscene display was confined to prostitutes and adulteresses, we did not think it deserving of notice; but now that it is ... forced on the respectable classes of society by the evil example of their superiors, we feel it a duty to warn every parent against exposing his daughter to so fatal a contagion.

- The Times of London, 1816

The free access which many young people have to romances, novels, and plays has poisoned the mind and corrupted the morals of many a promising youth; and prevented others from improving their minds in useful knowledge. Parents take care to feed their children with wholesome diet; and yet how unconcerned about the provision for the mind, whether they are furnished with salutary food, or with trash, chaff, or poison?

- Reverend Enos Hitchcock, Memoirs of the Bloomsgrove Family, 1790

Some Quotes Of Note: Politicians Damning New Technologies/Cultural Artifacts (
Forget Video Games, Why Aren't Politicians Complaining About Chess? (

Friday, June 12, 2009

Two Great Things!

Two great things!

First, the surprise upstart in Iranian elections, Mirhossein Mousavi, may actually win! How 'bout that! I know very little about him, all I know is that Ahmadinejad sucks very, very hard. He's a tyrant, an ideologue, and a poopy-face.

I have felt very strongly about Iran ever since reading this article in Smithsonian. In short, Iran has been on the verge of embracing the ideals of freedom, tolerance, and democracy more than just about any Muslim state. One of the big reasons for it failing? The West keeps going in there and fucking around. And we wonder why they don't trust us.

Second thing!

Both popular and legal resistance to the prostitution bill has been building. Even if it passes, I'm glad that there are many people out there who don't fall for the absurd propaganda and moral grandstanding.

I have not been quiet in my support of the full legalization of prostitution. It's a matter of freedom, pure and simple. Women should have the freedom to have sex for whatever reason they choose. The state has no right to regulate their choices or their bodies.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

More Fun With Tasers

You should fear nothing more than you fear the police.

I do not fear my neighbors. I don't fear criminals. I fear the police. A criminal points a gun at me, I can fight back. If a cop does the same thing, and I fight back, I go to jail. And for fuck's sake. Would you look at the caveman in the interview! Want to take bets on his IQ? Eighty? Seventy-five?


I just read about a similar incident, this one even stupider. Two cops were confronted by an agitated five pound chihuahua mix. They did the logical thing by, of course, tasering and shooting it three times.

I am all the more convinced of my belief that the cops are either as bad or worse than criminals.

I have bitten my tongue in the past on my postings as to not appear too extreme or kooky, but no longer. When cops are killed in the line of duty, good. Good people, bah! Serving and protecting, bah! I don't buy it.

Obviously, I can't make a strong generalization. There have to be good cops out there. I've seen videos of cops handling the most extreme shitheads in the world with cool, easy aplomb. But the risk that I'll encounter a near pre-verbal meathead with absolute power over me is too great. I hate cops as a general rule. I avoid them as an absolute rule.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

No no, ChimpIN

Has anyone else been to Or read the forums.

It's absurdly racist. It's racist beyond the bounds of even racist logic. It's so racist it's actually funny.

I don't think it's serious. If it's not serious, it's hilarious. If it serious... my dear. Any thoughts, anyone?

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Who Cares? There's a Billion of Them

Live Science has a fun little quiz for those old enough to remember Tienanmen Square well.

* When did it all start?
* What started the protests?
* How many protesters ultimately gathered in the square?
* How many people were killed when the tanks rolled in June 4?

You want the answers? Go to Live Science. And on the final question, we know how many weren't killed: less than 241. That's the official Chinese Government estimate. If that's what the government is saying, we can rest pretty well assured that the actual number is a whole lot higher.

Freedom for China.

I was glad to read that over the past couple of years, more and more Western companies are getting tired of China. The "limitless" possibilities for growth is seriously tempered by the no-man's-land nature of the law, and the oppressive and still dictatorial government.

The government has used economic growth as a salve to quell popular uprising and fucked around with Western companies trying to do business in China. For example, Baidu is China's major search engine. How did it become that way? By using Google to search for anti-government pages and documents, then showed that to the government, illustrating how so much bad stuff is on Google. Google was promptly blocked.

They want to play that game? Fine. They can be the poor, dumb, manufacturer of our disposable crap for the rest of their pathetic lives. I urge any American company to withdraw as much as is feasible from Chinese operations. I also urge American's to buy not American, just specifically not from China.

What brought this on? This.

Alright, the video was taken down, but it showed plain-clothes detectives in complete sunshine, roaming around Tienanmen Square with umbrellas, blocking anyone with cameras. Subtle.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

On Music

One of my favorite blogs, Gizmodo, is running what it calls The Listening Test. It's a week-long tribute to all things audio that ended on April 19th.

There are a couple of posts about audiophiles, and a couple more about the hardware that gets these guys hard. Now, aside from the fact that I think most ultra-high-end audio equipment is bullshit, I don't think it serves a point at all.

I've mentioned how I think aesthetics is an important ponderable to ponder, and what constitutes music is a big part of that. Think about it. With every generation of audio technology, we've reached the ultimate in realism. It's like you're there. Well, what the hell does it mean to be there?

For example, lots of audiophiles like to say that vinyl is superior to CD. Apparently, with a good album press and a half-million dollars in audio equipment, it's just like being there.

Only you're not there. You're not even close. If the goal is to sound like you're right there, why not actually be right there and pay to see live music? And if the goal is to be right there with Led Zeppelin, well too bad. Even on the magic of an album, all that can exist is one or two sound waveforms. Unless you can get ahold of each individual channel and play them on their own speakers, you're at the mercy of the master.

How do you think the musician masters his music? With headphones. We can even see them do this in behind-the-scenes videos. What does the audiophile think they're going to hear? Do they think they'll hear something that not even the original musician knew was there? Well I sure as hell don't want that. Music is an art which means its an expression. I want to know what the expression is, which means my ideal is to hear the album as the artist heard it while making it.

Recorded music can never sound like the original and it shouldn't. A recording is a musical production in its own right. The goal shouldn't be to make it sound like you're there, because think about all of the limitations of being there. You can never be in the perfect listening position for each instrument. The angle of your head, or the angle of the stage all have subtly negative and positive effects on each part of the performance. A recording is a mic placed in the perfect listening post by each instrument, resulting in an experience that is, in many ways, superior to being there.

And music by people like Brian Eno is nothing but production. You can not possibly be there. There is a soundscape, in which you can place yourself and have sounds emanate from "locations" within the sound, but if you want that, buy a $1,000 pair of studio-level headphones. There. You just spent more on headphones than many people spend on a refrigerator.

I think ignoring that produced, mixed, and re-mixed music is an artistic production and should be recognized as such and shouldn't be subject to some fruitless quest to achieve a perfection that doesn't exist.

Even audiophiles will admit this, in an indirect way. Many of them prefer vinyl records to digital or CD. I'd imagine that most people willingly gave up those for the clear sound available on CD's. You can't possibly get that on vinyl. You'll have cracks, pops, and constant hiss. But audiophiles love that.

I'm not here to attack the validity of that position. In fact, I completely understand. I too don't think someone has heard Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds until they've heard it on vinyl. What I'm pointing out is that these are, at least theoretically, faults in the recording. Yet, somehow, it makes them better. Because it's about the recording and not specifically what's being recorded. The recording itself is part of the artistic process that can augment, and even completely change the final music. The fact that so many vinyl-lovers are also older, meaning they grew up in the age of vinyl, is not surprising. If this article is to be believed, once those old audiophiles pass on, we may end up with a new generation of audio fanatics who prefer compressed digital music. Is it just because their ears are used to the sound? Perhaps. Is it better or worse? That's impossible to answer. What if a producer takes a symphony and purposely jacks up the volume and adds a thundering bassline, then piles on some distortion. Is that inferior to the original? How is the clarity better than the distortion? Is No-Fi music by the Wavves inferior to the Rolling Stones?

The quest for perfection has no end because its baked into the concept. It's not that people would never be satisfied, it's because there is no end to even reach towards. It's people with lots of money grabbing out into an existential darkness, trying to find what they think they want.

A recording shouldn't even try to be like you're there. The way to do that is set up two microphones on either side of a mannequin's head, then place it somewhere in the studio. But then you'll get people complaining that the guitar is muffled, and the drums are too loud, and you can't really hear the singer of the piano. The last thing we would want is to be like we're there. I certainly don't. If I want that, I'll buy some live versions (which certainly have their own appeal). Otherwise, I want each instrument mic'd up to the hilt so I can hear something superior to the original product.

Fidelity means accuracy or exactness... and sexual faithfullness, but regardless, accuracy of what? How can something that at any stage is legitimate, be accurate? As an audiophile, the goal is to draw out as much as possible from the music. To hear it as the musician and producer heard it, because it's art. I want to know what the artist wanted me to know. They created an end product from a performance that, truly, does have details to be drawn out. But the refrain from audiophiles is that many high-end pieces of hardware aren't better or worse, they're "different," which is the most limp argument I've ever heard.

I don't want different. I don't want to turn my living room into a personal, electronic piece of art that reinterprets the music over and over again for ever-increasing amounts of money. I want to get as close to what the intent of the product was as possible, and then stop phutzing around. Anything beyond that, I think, damages the end product.

In this response to a Boing Boing article about Michael Fremer, a famous audiophile, Mr. Fremer points out how many audio engineers are serious audiophiles. And how many of them prefer vinyl because it sounds closer to the original tapes.

While I agree with the quest for fidelity to the original tapes, this isn't a good argument. What the original engineers and producers are saying is that it sounds closer to the original MASTER. Which of course they're going to like the most, they made it. They obviously liked it the most, or they would have made it different. When they say that they dislike the CD, they're saying they dislike the different master of the audio. Now I'm not saying there aren't large differences between CD's and records, but the bulk of the difference between versions is what audio engineer mastered the tapes.

Moreover, there's a big difference between an audio engineer and some general engineer. I would certainly expect audio engineers to be audiophiles. They are not engineers in the hardest sense.

As this article from Rolling Stone discusses, the primary cause of a drop in quality and fidelity in today's music has nothing to do with the medium on which its transferred, but the actual masters. It has to do with the art and not the canvas. In it, they specifically mention The Arctic Monkeys, which makes me happy. I bought the CD and had high quality FLAC files of their other works and it all sounded like crap. It was the master.

I am also not attacking audiophiles insofar as they are audiophiles. Trust me, they have a point. Music played on a $50,000 setup sounds fucking amazing. I myself have spent thousands on various audio setups through the years. I'm also not arguing the idea of diminishing returns, where fifty thousand dollars can get you 95% of the way there, but you need one hundred and fifty thousand dollars to get 96% of the way there. I'm arguing that returns stop at a certain point. As in, you can go no farther. All you can do is phutz around at the limit. It is there where things sound "different" and not "better." I find that silly. I have an entirely different goal as opposed to different or better. I want to achieve fidelity to what the producer originally heard. For example, Brian Wilson was deaf in one ear. He only ever worked in mono. As such, a stereo mix of Good Vibrations would be pointless. I want to hear what Wilson heard, because it is his art. I would even argue that I would want to hear the song through only one ear.

Sound weird? Yeah, a little. But I consider it better to have a strange end than have no end at all. The actual music is only part of the product. Every step of the way affects what I hear. The room, the instrument, the producer, and the medium. It is ALL part of the art.

On Knowledge

All I ever know about the world is what I experience. An apple is sweet and crisp, but what is that? Don't we now know that the apple is nothing more than a collection of atoms? How are those atoms sweet and crisp while other atoms are not?

We can even set aside philosophical ideas and appeal to science. We know about quantum mechanics and the mind. We are disconnected from the world by no less than four steps. We don't know what an object is like. We see the light bouncing off of it. We don't know what light is actually like, we only know what our eyes tell us about it. We don't know what our eyes are telling us, we only know how our minds interpret that information. We don't even know what our minds are telling us unless we attend to that information. There is a famous experiment where a group of people are told to count how many times two people bounce a ball back and forth. They focus so completely on this, that almost everyone in the group misses the gorilla that walks by in the background. The gorilla was there, the light bounced off of it, the eyes detected the light, and the mind registered the information, but they didn't “see” it.

This is the very reason why magic works. Our perception can be easily fooled. Perhaps fooled is too negative a term. When we “see” or more accurately attend to information, it's actually rather difficult to fool a human. That's the reason why magicians are so skilled, they need to be. Our brains are very good at understanding the world with the limited information it has.

We say we “know” many things. When I use the word, I will use it in the popular sense and explicitly state when I'm using the word in other ways. For example, we know something if we read it in a respected magazine or journal, or if we see it with our own eyes.

I don't necessarily consider belief as an idea without reason, such as a belief in God. I believe my friend is at work right now. I have very little reason to think this, but he's usually been there at this time in the past, but it's well within reason to think he called out and is instead in my kitchen eating all my food.

Faith could be considered an extreme degree of belief, where there is basically no reason for believing. But even that is open to interpretation. I have faith that if I was trapped in Bolivia with no money, my friend would send me money for a ticket. That situation has never happened, and he's never needed to do something like that for someone else, but his character seems to indicate that he would do it.

I actually count belief in God as the only true baseless belief.