Social Security Shenanigans | Return of Billmon

February 15th, 2005 § 0

The American shenanigans with Social Security are mind boggling. Almost out of this world. Spending more on a system that provides less benefits.

The clearest and most amusing look at the Social Security debate comes from Tom Tomorrow.

His archive of cartoons is well worth a look. A persistent skewering of political nonsense – more of which is coming from the right at present than the left.

On a similar note, Billmon is back in 2005. (Without comments, thank heavens. The comment section was too overwhelming. Eventually it became too repetitive. Sadly without trackback. The trackbacks often led out to interesting sites.)

Billmon has shared his unique take on social security twice. There is an hilarious take on Abraham Lincoln’s sexuality. If Lincoln was gay that will pose a great dilemma to republicans many of whom would have to repudiate the statesman as a matter of principle. There is a frightening look at the false science at the US Department of Natural Resources under the Bush administration.

In any case, Billmon is back and in fine form. The entries are shorter this year and made up more often of contrasting exhibits, like this one between Hitler and Bush’s policies in relation to torture.

Social Security Shenanigans | Return of Billmon Continues »

Legal Online Music: The Curated Music Gallery at Fingertips

February 11th, 2005 § 0

Finally someone gets it right with online music. A curated weekly gallery of high quality songs from both known and unknown artists. The slant seems to be rock/pop in English, but the quality is very high.

What the editor at Fingertips seems to understand better than Joshua Ellis at Mperia is that the importance of editorial filtering in promoting independent music. We don’t want to have the raw Reuters or AFP newsfeeds in our kitchens spewing out the largely irrelevant (to us) news of the world. We want the sections which we follow and understand edited to a size we can digest. This is what fingertips offers:

just because there is an eye-opening amount of free,
legally available music online these days doesn’t mean the good stuff is easy to find.

I believe, in fact, that good music has never been harder to find. It’s quite
the conundrum, actually–there is more good music being produced than ever before
in history, and yet it’s harder to find than ever.

Free, legal MP3s are particularly hard to find, as they tend to be scattered across hundreds if
not thousands of different web sites around the world.

And it doesn’t help that free, legal MP3s of quality are inescapably lost in a
morass of free, legal MP3s of shall we say questionable quality. Because (alas!)
the flip side of there being more good music being produced than ever before is
(you guessed it) there is also more mediocre music (let’s not call it
“bad”; people are trying their best, after all!) being produced than
ever before.

While fingertips is brilliant as online concept and music editorial, there is no commercial transaction for the artists. By sharing some quality MP3’s, they do attract new fans. Many of whom will pay for CD quality versions after a short period. When you have four of the nine tracks in 128 bit MP3 of one of your new favorite albums, how long will you deprive yourself of the other five, the whole lot in CD quality? Not long is my wager.

So with quality online editorial guiding our selection to quality artists who are new to us (who very well may have had twenty year careers before we find them), all the artists need is a venue from which to offer their music. While each artist can set up his or her own website, there is a lot of redundant work, drudgery and expense in maintaining online commerce.

What independent music artists really need are places where the editorial selection is uniformly high and the prices reasonable in order to flourish and overwhelm the majors. We could call them mini-labels.

While working on the sound track album and press package for Lapinthrope, I think I may have found such a place. In France of all places. It is called Ocean Music. There are just seven signed artists, of which I am familiar with the music of three. They are all wonderful. Their music shares enough traits – sophisticated lyrics and wonderful voices – to interest one another’s fans.

Lapinthrope composer Rachel Smith has just signed with them to create a new album with Clearing producer Karl Mohr.

The only catch is that while one can order the music online, one has to wait for regular CD delivery. All the music should be available for online download at reduced prices (no physical product). As I’ve suggested in the past, music lovers have a set monthly budget which is likely only to increase if prices go down. If the expense and trouble of trying new music is reduced, we will do more of it. And once I’ve bought one album from an artist in electronic format, if I like it I am likely to buy most of the rest in CD format. If I never buy the first album – time, trouble, expense – I’m not likely to buy any of the others.

Hopefully the independent music vendors and artists will click on that concept one of these years soon.

Highly recommended.