The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'rant'
Australians all let us rejoice, for Schapelle Corby, Ostraya's own People's Princess, is to be released on parole, after serving nine years of a 15-year sentence in an Indonesian prison. Corby became a cause celebre of bogan Australia after being arrested in 2005 for smuggling 4.2 kilograms of prime weed into Bali in a boogie-board case (which, of course, makes her a "legend"). This happened at around the time of the Asian tsunami, and resulted, among other things, in true-blue Aussie bogans across the country angrily withdrawing their tsunami relief donations, on the grounds that if the Asians are going to lock up One Of Us (especially one who's a hot chick), well, fuck Asia then. Also, if you were wondering about the sprinkling of eight-year-old Schapelles across the primary-school classrooms of today's suburban Australia, alongside the ubiquitous Jaydens and Kaydens and suburban kids whose faux-biblical names were imported from America with Oakley Thumps, Jersey Shore and gangsta EDM, there's your answer.
Today, I cancelled my iTunes Match subscription.
I subscribed to iTunes Match as soon as it became available in the UK, because the idea of being able to upload my music collection into The Cloud™ and access it without physically shlepping it around seemed very useful. Over the next few weeks, I embarked on the project of uploading the contents of my music collection (which, in its unabridged form, resides on a small Linux machine running mpd); manually copying it to a MacBook, dragging it into iTunes and waiting for it to sync up with the servers and verify or upload my music. Slowly but surely, a virtual copy of my music collection took shape in the cloud, accessible remotely wherever I have my iPhone and an internet connection. And then, towards the end, I hit the 25,000-song ceiling, and no more songs would go on.
iTunes Match, you see, has a limit of 25,000 songs per user, not counting purchases from iTunes. This is a hard limit; there are no premium tiers which will bump this up to something more generous for those outliers on the right-hand side of the music-collection bell curve, not at any price. Well, you could always repurchase part or all of your collection from the iTunes Store, freeing up slots for out-of-print rarities and CD-Rs bought at gigs and such, but that kinda sucks. It is not clear why Apple did not offer any sort of reasonable option for prolific music collectors; perhaps the various music rightsholders, long used to the role of the dog in the manger, decided that those people could pay extra and demanded extortionate prices, or just flat out refused to allow it, because they could. Perhaps Apple thought that having different usage tiers broke up the elegance of their iTunes offering, that 25,000 songs was more than enough for the typical user (whose music collection consists of about two dozen albums, among them Coldplay, Skrillex, a few albums of classic 90s alt-rock and the obligatory stylishly understated European indie wallpaper music), and that the tiny minority of power users who need more aren't really the kinds of clients they are interested in. Perhaps this is simply a cynical ploy by Apple and/or the RIAA to arm-twist the punters into repurchasing their record collections in another format (namely a digital file much like the one they already have, but with the option of accessing it on iTunes Match for free). But in any case, the upshot is that one is stuck with the 25,000-song hard limit.
For a while, I made do with the limit. My plans were downgraded from “get everything into iTunes Match” to “get most of it into iTunes Match”. I scanned my iTunes collection, performing triage, coldly relegating albums into a second tier: non-essential; not to be uploaded. The non-essential albums were deleted from my MacBook (there is no way to mark part of your iTunes collection as “yes, I might want to listen to this, but please don't waste any of my 25,000 iTunes Match slots on it”); should I wish to listen to them, I would have to do so at home, on the small Linux box in my living room. Initially, only a handful of albums got relegated, with the rest squeezing in at somewhere over 24,000 tracks. And all was, if not perfect, then acceptable for the time being.
Time went on and, as I bought CDs (some at gigs, some in record shops I visited, and some just because they had artwork and packaging the digital copy was not privy to), every now and then I'd run out of space in iTunes Match, and would do another sweep of my collection, finding more records to consign to the outer darkness. As the low-hanging fruit disappeared, subsequent sweeps became more difficult, until, at some time last year, I resigned myself to not having any new music in my iTunes Match collection, unless it had proved itself so good as to be worth killing something else for; Album Deathmatch.
And so, when the email from Apple came in, notifying me that the renewal date for iTunes Match had come around and I would be billed £21.99 for another year of a flawed service, the choice was clear. Enough was enough, and so I cancelled the renewal. As of now, Apple's systems will have undoubtedly deleted the obscure Australian indiepop tracks that iTunes uploaded some two years earlier.
I would have kept iTunes Match, had it had one of two changes: ideally, the option of a higher limit. Or, if the limit is, for some reason, not negotiable, the option of keeping tracks in one's iTunes whilst keeping (or taking) them out of iTunes Match. The “I like this, but not enough to want to get to it from my iPhone” option, if you will; a no-brainer when dealing with a scarce resource one has paid for.
So what comes next? Well, all the rival services, such as Amazon's and Google's ones, seem to also fall short with large numbers of tracks. I suspect that my next music locker will be a USB flash drive I carry with me; there are 256Gb flash drives on the market now, and while they're expensive, their price will inevitably drop. It's not implausible that, by the end of the year, they will cost less than £21.99.
I am currently visiting Sweden for a few days; consequently, I now have a Swedish mobile phone number.
I have no plans to actually move to Sweden, and no current plans to return (though it's not unlikely that I will at some point), and so the +46 number I have will most probably sit idle, the SIM card in a drawer next to the German card I bought in Berlin last year (unlike that one, though, this card can be topped without having a local bank account in the country in question, making it more likely that I'll reuse it). But at the moment, the SIM card is in my iPhone, providing me with access to maps and similar services on demand, and my British SIM card is in my second phone (a Palm Treo 650, a piece of mid-oughts executive power-tech that looks ridiculously clunky these days and probably will be considered retro one of these decades).
The reason I went to the somewhat absurd extent of investing 99 Kr (almost exactly £9.90) in a foreign telephone number I will use for a few days is because of the unusable state of data roaming in 2011. While, in the EU at least, roaming charges on phone calls and text messages have come down, data still remains prohibitively expensive, with the foolhardy user who enables data roaming on their smartphone likely to drain their prepaid credit in minutes or, if on contract, be on the hook for thousands of pounds.
Things have improved slightly, though not enough to make using a smartphone abroad with one's own SIM card remotely economical, except for the super-rich and those with the deepest of expense accounts. For example, Vodafone (my UK carrier) now offers either 5Mb or 25Mb (depending on the country) of data abroad for £2 a day, with subsequent use being charged at £1 per megabyte. I tried using this when in Paris a few days ago, and found, to my chagrin, that the quota evaporated within ten minutes of idle time. Presumably Vodafone's offer is intended for users of something other than modern smartphones. Not quite sure what: perhaps those social-network featurephones marketed to teenagers with limited allowances?
I suspect that this has less to do with smartphones sucking up vast quantities of data and more to do with the way roaming data being metered being incompatible with the way smartphones use data. I imagine that what is happening is that, for billing purposes, one megabyte is one megabyte or part thereof, and the clock stops whenever the phone stops sending or receiving data for a period of time and/or when the phone connects to a different server. Which was probably fair enough a few years ago, when the much simpler phones did one thing at a time, and internet access on phones was an afterthought, a special mode added on after the fact. Today's smartphones, however, are entirely different beasts, being effectively UNIX-based computers designed to be permanently connected to the internet, and constantly sending and receiving small quantities of data, from notifications to location hints. Because this data is sent as internet packets, a premium-priced service on top of the mobile phone network, the partial megabytes soon stack up, and so does the bill.
With smartphones, we're living in The Future, but only in our home countries. There, we can pull down maps, check email, upload photos to the web, and even, particularly ironically, get spoken text translated into other languages. Elsewhere, we're still in the mid-2000s, forced to rely on pre-cached data and scrounge for open wireless access points (themselves an increasing scarcity, due to the three apocalyptic horsemen of terrorism, paedophilia and copyright infringement). Of course, one can, for a tenner, buy a new SIM card, and then freely use the same networks one would otherwise be paying through the nose for, at the cost of losing access to one's phone number for the duration. Which, all in all, is an absurd situation, and The Future won't officially arrive until this is resolved.
US satirist Matt Taibbi has a fantastic rant about Sarah Palin, the US Republican Party's awful (though quite possibly spectacularly successful) vice-presidential candidate:
Sarah Palin is a symbol of everything that is wrong with the modern United States. As a representative of our political system, she's a new low in reptilian villainy, the ultimate cynical masterwork of puppeteers like Karl Rove. But more than that, she is a horrifying symbol of how little we ask for in return for the total surrender of our political power.
Right-wingers of the Bush-Rove ilk have had a tough time finding a human face to put on their failed, inhuman, mean-as-hell policies. But it was hard not to recognize the genius of wedding that faltering brand of institutionalized greed to the image of the suburban American supermom. It's the perfect cover, for there is almost nothing in the world meaner than this species of provincial tyrant. Palin herself burned this political symbiosis into the pages of history with her seminal crack about the "difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull: lipstick," blurring once and for all the lines between meanness on the grand political scale as understood by the Roves and Bushes of the world, and meanness of the small-town variety as understood by pretty much anyone who has ever sat around in his ranch-house den dreaming of a fourth plasma-screen TV or an extra set of KC HiLites for his truck, while some ghetto family a few miles away shares a husk of government cheese.
All of which tells you about what you'd expect from a raise-the-base choice like Palin: She's a puffed-up dimwit with primitive religious beliefs who had to be educated as to the fact that the Constitution did not exactly envision government executives firing librarians. Judging from the importance progressive critics seem to attach to these revelations, you'd think that these were actually negatives in modern American politics. But Americans like politicians who hate books and see the face of Jesus in every tree stump. They like them stupid and mean and ignorant of the rules.
The truly disgusting thing about Sarah Palin isn't that she's totally unqualified, or a religious zealot, or married to a secessionist, or unable to educate her own daughter about sex, or a fake conservative who raised taxes and horked up earmark millions every chance she got. No, the most disgusting thing about her is what she says about us: that you can ram us in the ass for eight solid years, and we'll not only thank you for your trouble, we'll sign you up for eight more years, if only you promise to stroke us in the right spot for a few hours around election time.
Some music that I've heard more of recently than I would have liked:
- Eddy Current Suppression Ring. Big dumb Aussie pub rock, sounding like a cross between AC/DC and something from Sunbury in 1972. They're's nothing particularly interesting about it, no musical innovation beyond the blues-based rock formula, nor any wry commentary or post-ironic cleverness in the rather lumpen lyrics (to think that your typical British Carling-indie lad band, for all that genre's knuckle-dragging awfulness, is ahead of them here puts it in perspective), it's just straight up meat-and-potatoes Aussie Rock. And yet all the coolsies think they're the best thing ever. (And I do mean all; if you aren't into them, you are, by definition, not a coolsie, and should consider deleting your Mess+Noise account if you have one and staying well out of Fitzroy/Newtown.) It's almost religious; Local And/Or General play runs of two of their songs in a row, which is one reason why I've stopped listening to Local And/Or General.
- George Pringle. A nasal-voiced early-twentysomething from Oxford or somewhere who does spoken word over electronic beats. To be more precise, she does tedious, terminally self-indulgent spoken-word over monotonously repetitive beats. All her songs follow the same formula: the lyrics are about the narrator's mid-youth crisis, and alternate between enumerating her possessions/the contents of her music collection/the subcultural signifiers she repeatedly dons, Mighty Boosh-fashion, with the rudderless anomie of her life. A fragment might sound something like "I dyed my hair black then bleached it blonde then dyed it black again. Walking down the high street at 3PM, listening to The Clash and Girls Aloud on my iPod, smoking a cigarette. If you had any idea what it's like to be me..."* The beats sound like they were put together in 15 minutes in Fruity Loops, and, lacking any musical variety or progression, are as monotonous as Ms. Pringle's complaining delivery. After a few songs, you're ready to stick a biro through your eardrums to make it all stop. For some reason, though, Anthony Carew keeps playing her on The International Pop Underground (which, I must say, is otherwise excellent); perhaps this is because he has never sat through an entire set by her (as I did once, when she supported Emmy The Great).
An excellent rant from Patrick Farley (of E-Sheep web-comics fame) about the present state of affairs:
I'm sick of being told that catastrophe is victory.
I'm sick of being told that mythology is science, and vice-versa.
I'm sick of millionaire drug-addicts instructing me on how to live a virtuous life.
I'm sick of being told that Petroleum is the Lifeblood of Civilization.
I'm sick of being told in late 2005 that "It's all Clinton's fault."
I'm sick of Working Class Heroes who can be depended on to swallow any shit, so long as it's wrapped in a flag and served on a Bible.
I'm sick of "Christian" ministers who show up at funerals carrying signs which read "YOUR FAG SON BURNS IN HELL!"
I'm sick of being told that questioning authority makes me a traitor.
I'm sick of being told I must fear God.
I'm sick of being told that the worship of force is the highest of human virtues.Someone should put this to music.
Momus gets stuck into what he calls "fashion goth", which seems to be a construct containing a whole bunch of things he dislikes, from the Goth subculture and BDSM to Suicide Girls to the New-York-hipster fashion of wearing clothes with skulls on them to show how hard and cynical you are and to Judaeo-Christian asceticism in general.
I'm not into Suicide Girls. I hate tattoos and piercings and the cult of self-injury. Sex is not evil or wicked. What Christian sect do you guys belong to?
Japanese people tend not to be fashion goths, or into kitsch. Even the black lace Gothic Lolitas in Japan are something else, really. They're human mille feuille cakes, not goths.
Can you imagine a fashion goth soaking in a sento and then playing pachinko and then eating a hearty meal at an isakaya, chatting away and laughing at the comedians on TV? "Where's the agony?" he would cry, meaning "Where's the beauty?" He'd miss the beauty in the food, and in the water.
When I was in New York this time all I could see on everyone's T shirt was skulls, skulls, fucking skulls. How can you protest the Iraq war if there are skulls all over you, fucking fashion goth?
A magazine called the Buffalo Beast has a list of The 50 Most Loathsome Americans of 2004; featuring odious right-wingers, spineless Democrats, moronic celebrities and others, written up in gonzo-rant style.
Toby Keith: The worst kind of proud-to-be-brainwashed dolt, one who feels he should express himself. The fact that this ambulatory hamburger's opinions were ever given public forum is an indictment of our entire civilization and all human history leading up to this point.
Every role (Halle Berry) takes will be hailed as another milestone in civil rights history by virtue of her barely discernible smattering of African DNA, when in reality her success only underscores our nations incapacity to accept a truly black actress.
Dick Cheney: So visibly evil that all of the documented evidence against him is superfluous. The kind of guy who starts talking cannibalism the minute he steps on the lifeboat.
Regular Null Device reader Mike Stuchbery (who, presumably, is not related to the editor of The Australian) lays down the law to "Techno-Shamans, Sexual High Digital Priestesses, Psychonauts & Other Gibsonite Tossers".
The world isn't going to end. You aren't apocalyptic harbingers, here to save the world through your mescaline-fuelled LAN orgies or body modification performance art rave parties. You're not releasing 'digital, mental virii' into the population. You're not 'hacking the system'. You're not bringing forth 'the next stage of human evolution'.
A couple of years ago, you did a little too much Acid and Shrooms, caught way too much sun at an Earthcore or Burning Man and figured that you're a couple of rungs above the rest of us, that we're all fascist workdrones, steadily crunching Gaia's fruit into our combine harvester mouths, wanting another Hitler to assign us annihilation duties. Thus, you ran back to the safety of your college dorm or university campus and figured out a way to stay there as long as possible whilst expressing yourselves.
Something Awful gores indie's sacred cows, i.e., Joy Division, The Smiths, Pavement and My Bloody Valentine. (via Graham)
Everyone who considers themself a hipster should take note: name-dropping Pavement isn't going to win you any merit badges in my scout troop. You'd be a fool not to see that even the bands that everyone loves are just as terrible as the bands that everyone makes fun of. The only difference between Nickelback and The Smiths is that Smiths fans dress slightly better and don't beat their girlfriends as hard.
I hypothesize that if Ian Curtis had continued to live and exert his gothic influence over the band, they would have eventually sounded like Siouxie and the Banshees except with a terrible singer. I also hypothesize that Ian Curtis would now be fat.
They're dead-on about Loveless, btw:
Its one of those rare albums that really sounds like the album cover looks: its an indecipherable blur of noise and distorted guitars. It boggles the mind that so many goofy hipsters are so in love with an album with so little to offer. All of the songs sound basically the same, and you really have to pay attention to figure out where one ends and the next begins. The lyrics are so incomprehensible that they might as well not even be there at all. Although there are certainly noises on this album that have never been made before or since, none of them are particularly interesting noises. In most cases, its the sound of several guitars playing a couple of chords with a few layers of grinding and feedback in the background. Sure, it probably took quite a bit of time and money to make those sounds, but are they particularly interesting? No, not really; when its all put together, it just sounds like a waterfall of sludge running through your speakers.
This is part of the Your Band Sucks section, which also includes articles about bands like Radiohead and Coldplay (though, granted, there's no challenge there).
New Spectator Sport, a rant from Warren Ellis about the decline of the music industry:
TV shows specifically designed to manufacture the absolute least offensive pop product through game-show structure and the application of telephone democracy. If you're dumb enough to be able to sit through those shows without the front of your head filling with tumours, you get to vote for the performer who is retarded enough to be a comfort to you. Loathesome as they were, even the Spice Girls delivered with some character. I remember novelist and critic Nik Cohn saying he never would have been so hard on Bob Dylan if he'd known Bruce Springsteen was around the corner. People railed about the Spice Girls being a manufactured band, but who knew there was a TV-powered pod-person hothouse around the corner?
The American music industry, from my perception here in Britain, seems to have sunk into a bizarre obsession with paedophilia. Britney Spears has gone from schoolgirl gear to a deeply strange hentai look, little-girl head stuck above great shiny plastic boobs, singing in a Minnie Mouse voice. No wonder she was being stalked by a shifty-looking middle-aged Japanese bloke. He probably had a suitcase full of tentacles to use on her.
Mainstream pop music is almost always bad., it's a given. But, God, can you remember a time when the most popular acts were this empty? It's like that awful vacuum before punk, when people were buying Dean Friedman records just to have something to buy, and poster companies were printing off six-foot long images of Nana Mouskouri and Demis Roussos just to have something to sell.
gonzo rant about critique of where the Forces Of Good's Iraq strategy falls down, and why attempts at recruiting idealistic young peacekeepers is exactly the wrong way to go about it:
The last kind of person we need in Iraq is a young, idealistic intellectual. These people make lousy conquerors, as was proven repeatedly in Vietnam. In colonial wars, what you really need to get the job done are efficient professional killers, like the French Foreign Legion or the Korean mercenaries we used in Indochina. People like this, when they go into a "problem" village, they dont spend a lot of time with the Inspector Closeau search for the hidden insurgents among them. They just chop everyones heads off and move on.
If you want to recruit killers for foreign conquest, you need to be able to offer them the three basics: treasure, murder and pussy. This is why Iraq is a dead end. There is no pussy in Iraq, absolutely none. No "me so horny" scenes will be shot in the inevitable Iraq movies. There is treasure, but the soldiers dont get any; you cant steal a sack full of oil. Impotent white guys in Texas get all the treasure, which must really piss off the soldiers. That leaves murder as the prize. And as is made clear in the Klein column, we are not making murder part of our sales pitch.
Mind you, actually conquering Iraq may be the wrong way to Win The War(tm):
A much simpler and significantly more profitable strategy would be to invade France and Germany and leave Afghani and Chechen sentries there to keep the peace. No more worries about Airbus contracts or the euro in that scenario. And with Shamil Basayev sitting in Jacques Chirac's office, it is hard to imagine domestic unrest being a serious problem. Beyond that, we wouldnt need to pay a ransom for our new mercenary security force: The women of France would be sufficient compensation for at least the first few years.
The blingerati arrive in Edinburgh for the MTV Europe music awards. Edinburgh? What the flaming hell were they thinking? You know what Scotland is full of, don't you? Pale people in anoraks who are into twee, shambling jangly indie-pop and such. You'd think that if they had to have the MTV music awards in Britain, they'd do so in Brighton (home of lagered-up big-beat dance parties) or the superclubs of Manchester or someplace. But not Scotland; otherwise they may as well hold next year's ones in Reykjavík or somewhere.
Insert Wayne Kerr intro here: If there's one thing worse than that bloody busker playing on the train, it would probably have to be an entire teenage grunge band playing on the train. Some genius at Connex had the idea that live bands would attract more customers, and so they recruited a bunch of teenagers who could almost play Smells Like Teen Spirit (they got through the intro before fumbling and going onto another song). Their drum kit and amplifiers were set up in the aisle; being a Friday afternoon, this made the rest of the carriage considerably more cramped; and never mind the oldies like myself who aren't into three-chord yoof-rawk.
The most amusing thing was the gaggle of teenage girls standing in the aisle, watching the band and carrying on. Obviously they were not groupies, but were pretending to be groupies, and having a lot of fun doing so. Oh, the hypermediated postmodernism of it all...
Speaking of that bloody busker, btw, he was on the train again this evening, and since there was only one carriage open, there was no chance of escape. Maybe next time he asks for requests I'll ask him to play something likely to be outside of his repertoire; at the moment it's a tie between Anarchy in the UK and I Should Be So Lucky.
I'm Wayne Kerr, and if there's one thing I hate... it's loud, obnoxious sports fans. Given that this was Grand Final weekend in Melbourne (something to do with a bunch of blokes kicking a ball around a field to appease the gods or something), they were out in force on public transport. As was I, commuting between the old and new premises. Last night, as I was sitting on the train, trying to read, I had the misfortune of sharing a row of seats with three drunken revellers, one of whom (an obese woman with a high, screeching voice not unlike fingernails on a blackboard) insisted on singing (or rather bellowing) the Essendon football club song and accosting other passengers, telling them to support her team. Her companions tried to tell her to shut up, but she wouldn't have a bar of that. I was attempting to read my book, studiously ignoring her attempts to strike up a conversation; needless to say, I didn't get much reading done in that journey.
Today it wasn't quite so bad (by some miracle, I avoided that particular train that would be packed to sardine-can densities with a sweaty crush of football-scarved biomass, instead getting a subsequent one with some stragglers), though the raucous, off-key choruses of football fans that kept erupting were not pleasant.
Good rant about the surfeit of open-source projects: (Freshmeat)
Is there a cool KDE application? Rewrite it from scratch with the GTK+ toolkit. Don't contribute enhancements to the existing project. Don't even evaluate their codebase for potentially reusable code; that goes against the spirit of COMPETITION. You need to write something... cooler. Is there a Java version yet? Rewrite it. What about a console version? Rewrite it. A applet? Rewrite. An EPPLET? REWRITE. A pure assembly version? RE. WRITE. ... Remember that rewriting is always a more creative process than porting, and there's nothing more important in mental health than a creative outlet. Doing a search on the appindex for "icq" will demonstrate how popular this method of project development/psychotherapy can be.