death of cd’s / rebirth of paying for music (

Part 1: CDs are dead

1999: the year I started college. That summer I ordered from the Apple store my very own computer (my mom paid for it obviously), one of the new all-in-one iMacs. When it arrived to my parents’ house I immediately installed and configured the operating system and hooked it up to my parents’ phone line to begin doing things. Configuring Netscape, I guess. Re-bookmarking my favorite sites. Probably some stuff with my AOL account. I think I downloaded some cool “computer graphics” artwork to set as my desktop picture. A The Matrix screensaver. During the installation process, Apple had walked me through the steps to configure it for a WLAN network, but I wouldn’t understand what that was until a few weeks later, when I moved into dorm and followed the IT helpdesk’s guide to getting connected. After successfully setting my (pink) computer up to run on the FASTEST INTERNET I HAD EVER EXPERIENCED, I quickly began to realize from friends, via AOL instant messenger and ICQ, that one of my life’s passions, music, was about to blow up in my face.

A new friend, an upperclassmen I had introduced myself to online in one of the Washington, D.C. rave forums over the summer, sent me a drum and bass song via chat. I started finding songs online to trade back to him, and to keep. Napster did not yet exist for Mac, not until the summer of 2000 I believe, but there existed actual webpages offering downloads, spyware- and ad-free. The MP3 Crackhouse was one that I went to a lot. My collection grew; especially after I figured out how to get the iMac onto the college’s Windows network, to access all the music which my PC-using colleagues were downloading and sharing.  I signed up for a show on the campus radio station, knowing that I would be able to offer amazing new music every single show, fresh off the internet. That Christmas I asked for a CD burner (decent hardware MP3 players weren’t yet available). At first I was converting all my MP3s to audio format to listen to on normal CD players, but by the end of my sophomore year, I was just using the discs to store the MP3s as data, having realized that I would never buy another CD player ever again.

My purchase of CD albums didn’t altogether stop, though, not right away. In 1999 a lot of MP3s were still kind of rough in quality, and even with Napster the infrastructure to find non-pop music wasn’t fully developed. That came with P2P networks like Oink, where you had to upload something good in order to be granted downloading privileges. So I kept buying CDs for a while. Music stores were still often good “curators;” Willie’s Records and Tapes (no website, sorry) in Richmond, Virginia still had tons of hiphop I wouldn’t have known about or been able to get if I relied solely on the internet. Plan 9 music, also in Richmond, and Other Music, in New York, had a lot of good compilations. I remember I went to London in 2002 and dropped about 200 GBP on electronic music compilations, all on CD. By 2003, however, I was only really buying second-hand CD’s. It was really starting to sink in that digital was more useful to me as software, and in 2006 I effected a vinyl-only policy for hardcopy music.

Part 2: it is an honor to pay for things that I value

In all this time I had, meanwhile, never purchased any digital music. MP3 Crackhouse gave way to Napster for Mac (Macster?) gave way to Soul Seek gave way to bitorrents. In 2007, blogs, supplemented by Soul Seek or bitorrents for special needs, had become my main music source, or DJ mixes. I was no longer stealing most of my music; I was being given it for free. RCRD LBL is a great service if you like their editorial taste, which posts free mp3s, paying artists with ad revenue. I was on their daily mailing list. I even contributed to a music blog for a while myself (— it migrated to a Mexican domain after I left… they’re following me!), uploading music I was ripping from CD promos received via my community radio station, where I had a show. (I also started doing a weekly show showcasing music blogs!)

I did make one purchase, finally, in 2009. My friend’s band, Zombie Zombie, had released an EP that I had been unable to find for free download. And since I actually know them, and actually wanted to own the music, I bought it on Beatport for 5 bucks. It was worth it, of course, but that is really the only time I had been confronted with music that I wanted that I couldn’t easily get, without paying. (I have never used iTunes, by the way, for content. I consider it a pain in the ass.)

Until! Until… last month I signed up for, the online music sales service started by the record label Ghostly International in May 2011. They, a favorite label of mine, have recruited other really good labels, such as Stones Throw, Domino, Morr Music, Dirty Bird to be part of the service. Customers like myself choose a label and pay a monthly subscription fee, set by the label, to receive whatever content the label wants to send them. I signed up for Morr Music, a label out of Germany featuring cerebral, non-dancy electronic music. They give me an album a week for $10 a month. It’s working out great. I have new music served to me, and what’s more I am thrilled to be buying music again! Really. Possibly because I know that 70% is going straight to the label, a good label that I like and who probably shares as much revenue as possible with their artists; Drip gets 30% for disribution. What I am not paying for is plastic, marketing and distro to Clear Channel Communications, or record store overhead.

Ghostly, the way they talk, seem to be taking as an experiment. I guess they don’t want to go too bold, considering all the flux around digital. But what I would like to see is them offering packages if I buy more than one label, for example. I could also see a music promotion service, the companies which send promos to radio stations and probably bloggers in exchange for airplay/publicity, doing something like Drip for regular listeners. There were several that served my radio stations that I would pay for: Spectre was one of my favorites, though now defunct, and Terrorbird… I would consider paying for their stuff. Forced Exposure is awesome– at the college station, I convinced them to start sending us promos, but I had to really differentiate us, our station, in their eyes in order to get them to. As a grown up, I would probably pay them $30 a month, for the quality and variety of stuff they carry.

My Morr Music/ dashboard:


terms of endearment

So I mentioned Terms of Endearment a few entries back. It wasn’t just so that readers know how white I am. It was actually because my parents always had a copy of that movie on VHS sitting in the video cabinet, that I somehow never watched.

My parents were pretty cool about letting me watch movies. The only movies I couldn’t watch were things they weren’t interested in. i.e., They wouldn’t let me watch crap because that meant they would have to watch it with me. So I never saw any teen 80s movie, for example– why would my mom want to Watch 16 Candles or Ferris Bueller, really? But I did see Thoroughly Modern Millie, Mary Poppins, Steel Magnolias, Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure, Beetlejuice, Batman, Secret of My Success (Mom movies), Poltergeist, Indiana Jones, Fantasia, Back to the Future, A Clockwork Orange, Apocalypse Now (Dad movies), etc, etc. The main parameter was bed time, really, but even that was overlooked from 1988 onward on certain nights of the week (Roseanne, Twin Peaks).

Anyway, I am waxing here. I never saw Terms of Endearment. I am pretty sure that I asked about it a couple of times, seeing it there in the cabinet. It seemed to have some kind of forbidden mystique, although I doubt that it was expressly forbidden at any point. If anyone hasn’t seen it, there is no reason it should have been forbidden.

Nor was it ever forbidden. It was probably always more like, “ahhh, How ’bout Romancing the Stone?” But the reason that they wouldn’t let me watch it, I think, is that I was simply too young. I would get bored and start picking on my sister. Or she would get bored and start making cartoon noises. It is a movie for mature audiences.

So I caught a whim to watch it recently. Now that I have turned 31 and, no longer anxious to prove that I am in my 30s, started to have a little fun with the fact that my body, mathematically speaking, is on the decline. Seriously, that is why I got the urge to watch it. “Hey, I am old now. That means I can watch Terms of Endearment! Finally.”

Summary: mother and adult daughter (warning) continue supporting each other through thick and thin, with Jack Nicholson as a washed-up astronaut. Starring Shirley MacLaine, Debra Winger, Jack Nicholson, Jeff Daniels, John Lithgow and SCREENPLAY BY JAMES L. BROOKS. Huh?

Then it hit me, that I remembered this movie from something else, not just my parents’ video cabinet. It seems to me that William Goldman references it extensively in his book Screenplay. Because it’s really good. Simpsons creator does Chick Flick. Before the Simpsons. SO obvious in retrospect.

u.s. news media lame oh wait that’s not news

Ugh. Just wanted to check in with English-language/U.S. coverage of the student uprisings that were happening in Mexico this weekend, so I went to my old source the Washington Post and searched “Mexico.”

The first thing that comes up is this crap. “Front-runner in Mexico’s presidential race pledges respect for democracy and plurality.” That is the headline.

I didn’t realize that the PRI owned the Washington Post (actually, the Associated Press) as well as Televisa, but it sure sounds like they’ve got the same bland-ass copywriter on their payroll.

Background: this candidate is the “front runner” because the Mexican media is heavily manipulated by politicians (and vice-versa), and also gangstas judging by the journalist homicide rate. (Because there are homicide statistics for journalists here.) When characterizing the persecution of journalists and hampering of free speech in Mexico, Freedom House actually uses the term “systematic impunity.” Apparently this news is not as important as the story about a politician who, quote, pledges to respect democracy and plurality.

Anyway, since there seems to be not that much reporting on the student marches that happened this weekend in Mexico, I will briefly summarize. Around 40 thousand “mostly young,” as AP says, college students marched through the city Friday and again Saturday to demonstrate what they see as obvious falseness in media claims that he is the “front runner.” There were offshoot marches in cities around the country, and even in other countries (including a group of 40 in NYC). This was after he was jeered by hundreds a week earlier when giving an obligatory interview to the Ibero University’s radio station.

I get that these kids are fresas, but AP doesn’t even make it to that level. What we have here is a very clear example of syndicated journalism eating its own barf, and then the Washington Post goes and republishes it.

Seriously, it makes sense that a wire service like AP would get stories from the big local media conglomerate, but why bother running the story if they aren’t even going to fact check it? Or reality check it?

Here, of course, the L.A. Times has a more realistic take.

internet activism

I watched that Kony 2012 video and was mildly annoyed by the guy who made it. It’s hard to be outraged by some douche in California  in comparison to the guy who has been leading bands of child warriors in Uganda for the last 20 years, which “the douche” is making me aware of for the first time.

And, as he himself doesn’t hesitate to point out, the douchey guy in California is doing something kinda interesting (cough, I mean BESIDES exposing the horrible child war lord), which is experimenting with the extent of the internet’s power to mobilize masses.

It’s not really news that even the internet has been a revolution in terms of making us more aware of what’s going on the world. And then with Egypt and stuff, people started talking about whether the internet could be a tool for helping to bring around real revolution. And then people started realizing, nah, not really: most of the people who say on the internet they care about stuff still don’t really care enough to do anything about it. And now a friend has just pointed out on facebook that we are all sharing our outrage about Trayvon Martin, but how many are actually going to reflect on what we will do about it.

But still, information and idea sharing are powerful in their own right, even if their outcomes are minute in comparison to what we hope for. But what is a minute outcome even mean, and is it significant? Continue reading

not blogging

In case you’re wondering why I don’t write much anymore, it’s probably because I am in a relationship now. So instead of writing my ideas on the internet now I just share them with him. Ha. But for a lot of people, including me, that happens.

However I do have an idea I feel like sharing, and the man friend is busy this weekend, so I guess I can see to it to do a blog entry. See next entry.

bahamadia, “spontaneity”

HOLY CRAP. I had this song on a tape I recorded when I was 15 of some dj mixing live on St Louis community radio (KDHX 88.1 FM if you wanna know). I never knew who the song was by.

A couple of years later I learned about Bahamadia on the Roni Size/Reprazent album New Forms. She raps on the title track– this is one of my favorite songs of all time.

I’m so happy to have found the mixtape song. Since the internet got good I guess in like 1998 I have from time to time searched this song by the only lyrics I could remember clearly, “mad explosives.” Finally, just now, the song “Spontaneity” turned up …so happy that it’s by Bahamadia. I love her.

public data

I recently had someone I met out and about (at the Au Pied du Cochon 11th Anniversary party, actually) mention some things I had published online. Since this person does not have Twitter or Facebook, we are not “socially” linked in that way; ie, he had no real way of finding this stuff without googling me. Which he later admitted he had done. It’s pretty easy, even if you don’t know my last name. All you need to do is spell “Mary Claire” correctly and throw in the word “Mexico.” Boom.

A couple of questions come up from this situation:

1) Is it weird for this person to have access to stuff I publish online without him sharing similar information about himself?

2) Should I think again about the breadth of stuff I publish online?

3) Even if I continue to share the amount of stuff that I do, should I be restricting access in a way that allows me to monitor who is reading it?

Well, it was pretty easy to get the dude to admit he had googled me. He had sort of hidden it at first (why would you tell someone you just met that you had googled her); he mentioned some links I had recently shared as if he had found them himself. But he mentioned them both at the same time, so I knew right away. I called him on it, but in the context of “look, I know that publishing this goldmine of information about myself makes that information, well, public.” Also in the context of, “What I say is my honest thoughts, and it really is my voice, but it’s not actually my private life. I don’t publish stuff that I consider private.”

So no, I don’t mind that people can google me and find out what I think about GE’s tax evasion or how I feel, exactly, about having a maid, or whether I was drunk or went out dancing on Saturday night.

I do realize, though, that I am fortunate this dude is clearly not that much of a freak if he was willing to admit to tracking me down online. He actually seems like a pretty cool guy. But I wonder who else would do that who isn’t going to be so open about it.

Perhaps I should protect my tweets so that I can keep tabs on who is reading them. I am not sure I want to do this, though, because I am not sure I would get the interesting followers that I do if they had to go through the step of asking permission. I do think of my Tweets as being directed a general public rather than at people I actually know (unless I specifically direct a Tweet at someone).

I guess the main thing it makes me think twice is the information I publish that connects to my physical whereabouts… i.e, Foursquare. Yes, Mexico City is big, but I don’t know that I should be reporting the places to which I routinely go. And come to think of it, although the output goes to the same place (Twitter), my mentality when using Foursquare is much more “friend” than “public” oriented. I am thinking of my friends in Mexico when I hacer check-in. Checking in is a fun game, but maybe I will just stick to checking into the places I go to sporadically or something.