The Null Device

Posts matching tags 'wayne kerr'


They call me Wayne Kerr, and if there's one thing I hate… it's records that are available only on LP with a download code; with no CD, and no option to buy just the download.

On one hand, this is an improvement on the previous state of affairs: records being available only on vinyl, with no downloads or digital copies whatsoever, so if you were the kind of weirdo computer-nerd to whom the words “download” and “MP3” meant something, your options would be to rig up one of those USB turntables, play your newly-bought record through them, recording to a WAV file, trim it to the separate tracks and do your best to EQ out the inherent suckiness of vinyl so you'd have something approximating what a hypothetical digital copy would sound like. Or if you don't have a USB turntable or reasonable Audacity skills, you would illegally pirate the digital copy from someone who does. At least with download codes, there is an audio file which hasn't been through the vinyl-transfer wringer. On the other hand, though, you can't have it without also accepting the slab of vinyl it comes with, because Authenticity.

The existence of the download code mockingly acknowledges the shift in ways of listening to music, the fact that not everybody owns a turntable or is willing to partake in the vinyl ceremony (taking the record gingerly out of its anti-static sleeve, placing it reverently in the middle of the vinyl shrine, sitting down cross-legged exactly between the two speakers and, for the 22 minute duration of a side, reverently contemplating the gatefold artwork with a joint in one hand, as one's forebears did in the prelapsarian Sixeventies, when love was free, weed was good and rock was the real thing), and that, with the rise of digital audio and portable sound players, the vinyl record has metamorphosed from the humble, utilitarian carrier of most convenience it was in the age of the teenager's Dansette into a fetish object; one part collectible trophy, one part quasi-religious totem of Authenticity. The denial of downloads on their own affirms the primacy of the cult of vinyl: you will take the vinyl record, it dictates, and you will regard it with quasi-religious reverence, as it is a sacred relic, a splinter of the True Cross, in which is embodied Authenticity.

The cult of vinyl-as-ark-of-Authenticity is a sort of conservative (with a small 'c') reaction to, and attempted brake on, the hurtling pace of technological and social change, which, in less than a lifetime, has rendered ways of engaging with music obsolete. The way people consume music has changed as the amount of music has increased and the price has plummeted; consequently, one has considerably more music at one's disposal than one's parents (or even one's younger self) would have, saving up for a few months to get the new LP by their favourite band and then listening the hell out of it. (A few years ago, Jarvis Cocker said that music has become something like a scented candle; something consumed casually in the background, without one's full rapt attention. Of course, Cocker's reaction to this phenomenon is coloured by the contrast with his own formative experiences in the early 1980s, which in terms of the culture of music consumption, were an extension of the Sixeventies.) Meanwhile, with the world's rising population (there are roughly twice as many people alive today as in 1970) and urban gentrification, the size of the typical residence (i.e., one affordable to one of ordinary means) has shrunk; as such, a nontrivial collection of music in physical format is increasingly becoming a luxury only wealthy eccentrics and rural hermits can afford; and this goes doubly so for space-inefficient formats such as vinyl records. The upshot is that each piece of recorded music in one's collection can expect both less attention and less physical space than might have once been the case. Which is why digital files come in handy. But, of course, that wouldn't be Authentic; when you listen to an MP3, you're not really listening to the recording and having the authentic experience of the music; you're a ghost, alienated from your own music-listening life, listening to a ghost of the music, having a ghost experience that doesn't really exist, not in the way that your dad's experience of the Stone Roses did. Or so the narrative of the vinyl mandate goes. Which is why we are stuck buying a slab of vinyl, opening the package, pulling out the card with the download code, and then putting the actual slab of vinyl in the gap behind the IKEA BILLY bookcase with all the other votive icons of Authenticity, its grooves doomed to never be touched by a gramophone needle. Time goes on and the mass of reluctantly adopted household gods grows.

The vinyl mandate is the product of a Baby Boomer elite (and, to a lesser extent, the Generation X that followed it and absorbed some of its superstitions and prejudices), having aged into seniority and cultural power, staring into the abyss of its own mortality, feeling the chill of rapid change having made its own formative experiences obsolete, recoiling before the sublime terror of one's insignificance in the face of the march of time and desperately clutching for the conditions of its own long-gone youth and virility; since these involved listening to rock'n'roll from vinyl records, it is decreed that the way that they consumed music (record player, reverent contemplation, possible recreational substance use; definitely not with a pair of white earbuds at one's desk or in the gym, and absolutely not sacrilegiously shuffled with the rest of one's collection of music) is the one true, Authentic way of truly connecting and engaging with the music. Granted, many of the artists and label owners who enforce this mandate are too young to have invested in this myth first-hand; perhaps they are motivated by a Couplandian displaced nostalgia for the golden age of authenticity they weren't born in, or perhaps such is the power of cultural transmission that values get propagated beyond the rationale from which they sprang. In any case, the myth persists for now, and we're stuck with piles of vinyl records which will never be played, all for want of a download code.

As for physical artefacts: could they not be something more practical? Personally, if I'm at a merch stand, I'd rather buy a band T-shirt or button badge with a download code affixed to it than a vinyl record with one.

authenticity culture music rants vinyl wayne kerr 0


We haven't had a Wayne Kerr post for a while, so one is overdue. Anyway, I am Wayne Kerr, and if there's one thing I hate... it's websites attempting to coerce you into registering.

A while ago, there was an online newspaper named the International Herald Tribune. Owned by the New York Times but published in Paris, it was quite a good paper, with fairly incisive articles not too far from Economist territory. Then someone at head office decided to kill the brand and roll it into the New York Times brand, and became And, with that, inherited the New York Times' draconian insistence on users requiring to register and log in to view their their precious content.

The New York Times, you see, is not satisfied with the standard online news business model (make their content freely viewable and linkable and sell ads to those surfing in on web links from wherever in the world they may be); that may be good enough for rabble like their London namesake, but the NYTimes' content is worth more than that. At the start, they even tried charging for online access to it. Of course, as Clay Shirky points out, this is not a viable business model for online news (current events cannot be copyrighted or monopolised, and someone can always do it cheaper), so the NYTimes soon dropped the demands for subscription. However, they have doggedly kept the other part of the equation: the insistence on users subscribing, remembering yet another username and password, and giving a valid, verified email address, as well as some juicy demographic information. Of course, there are ways around this; the most popular site on BugMeNot, a website for sharing free usernames/passwords to such sites, is the New York Times. However, such accounts usually have a very short lifespan; either they perish when the email verification period lapses or, failing that, the Times' web admins hunt them down and kill them, like an ongoing game of Whack-a-Mole.

The New York Times, however, is not the most irritating example of coercive registration; that accolade would probably go to a site named, ironically, Get Satisfaction. This is an external tech support site, used by a number of web 2.0-ish sites, including SoundCloud and As a web site, it is the very model of a modern website; rounded corners, quirky retro fonts (oh so San-Francisco-via-Stockholm), pastel-hued gradients, animated fades, you name it, it ticks the box; it would be perfect, but for one fatal flaw in the human interface design.

What somebody neglected to notice is the typical use case of such a site. One doesn't go to Get Satisfaction to socialise with friends, share photos or music, find a date or a flat, or do anything one does on a typical social web site; one goes there when one has gone to such a site and found that it doesn't work properly, and wants to notify somebody to fix this. Now when that happens, the last thing one wants it to have to think up another username and password, and be cheerfully invited to fill in one's profile and choose a user icon representing one's personality. As far as support forums go, less should be more, and Get Satisfaction, for all of its pretentions to being some kind of online clubhouse, falls short.

Not everything that isn't charged for is without cost; there is a cost, in time and finite mental resources, to keeping track of usernames and passwords. (Of course, you could use the same password across all sites, but that replaces a psychological/time cost with the security risk of all one's passwords being compromised.) And sites which put registration speed bumps in their users' way could find users going elsewhere where offers a smoother ride.

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I'm Wayne Kerr, and if there's one thing I hate... it's web sites which use Javascript to disable the right-button menu. It's the web equivalent of copy-protected CDs; it doesn't stop people from downloading their images/content or stealing their HTML design secrets (if your browser can download it, you can grab it), but does prevent honest users from opening a link in another window/tab, should they so desire.

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I'm Wayne Kerr, and if there's one thing I hate... it's web sites which sacrifice usability to be "arty". Such as the ACMI site. I went to book a ticket to one of the Cremaster screenings, but there's no indication of where the box office is; the only links are lower-case verbs like "experience", "learn", "play" and so on. Ooh, tres artistique! Now about that ticket I wanted to buy...

annoyances usability wayne kerr web 2


I'm Wayne Kerr, and if there's one thing I hate... it's intentionally corrupt CDs; and if there's one thing I hate more than intentionally corrupt CDs, it's websites which selectively neglect to tell you that the CD you're about to buy is fux0red, whilst at the same time giving warnings for other dodgy CDs. Case in point: I ordered The Thrills' So Much From The City from, after noticing that its page didn't have a "this CD is copy protected" warning (and, by contrast, their page on Radiohead's Hail To The Thief did). Guess what I noticed when I took the CD out of the packaging.

annoyances copy protection drm wayne kerr 1


I'm Wayne Kerr, and if there's one thing I hate... it's Movable Type weblogs demanding that one enters an email address when posting a comment. This, I believe, is a useless requirement, and serves no purpose except to make posters jump through more hoops; it's the equivalent of useless bureaucracy.

Why is it useless? Well, if you submit your email address, it will either be displayed on the web or it won't. If it is, then, sooner or later, a spam spider will come along and harvest it and the address will be inundated with advertising for dodgy debt-elimination/penis-enlargement schemes until the end of time. If it isn't, then why bother collecting the email address? It's not actually used to send a password to the user or anything like that. It's like the "Anonymous login OK, send email address as password" thing FTP servers send, only even less sensical, as back when FTP came about, some human may have conceivably looked through the email addresses thus entered and gotten information out of them. (And that's not counting the sites which don't show addresses in their HTML but leak them in their RSS feeds, but I digress.)

So you decide to write 'none' or something. No dice; Movable Type has ways of making you submit something that looks like an email address (or, to be precise, that is within a Perl regexp's distance of one). Not that it does much to defend the MT email address collection system's integrity against spam-wary users; something like '' fools it. In other words, the enforcement mechanism is strong enough to be annoying, but utterly useless against someone determined not to comply. It's not a huge effort to remember to type or something in every time you post a comment to a blog, but that's not the point. The point is that there is no logical reason to enforce this requirement, and a very good reason for not entering one's real email address on any such form. It is also impossible to verify whether the address coerced out of the users is valid or just looks like it might be. As such, the decision to require email addresses in comment posting forms is bad design, and does nothing other than annoying users and filling databases with garbage.

annoyances movable type privacy wayne kerr 3


I'm Wayne Kerr, and if there's one thing I hate... it's Bryan Adams songs being played on PA systems at railway stations. There should be a law against ubiquitous performance of Bryan Adams in public places (perhaps under the Geneva Convention, if we're still signatories to that oh-so-September-10 piece of paper, that is). I was subjected to Everything I Do I Do It For You whilst waiting for the train home this evening. That braying, jeans-too-tight vocal, and that moose-mating-call guitar riff were still looping in my head when I got off the train. Not a pleasant experience.

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I'm Wayne Kerr, and if there's one thing I hate... it's web sites which disable your browser's right mouse button, just to show that it can be done/to assert control over your web browsing. Like this one. If I want to open a link in a Mozilla tab, instead of the menu I get a pop-up message saying "function disabled". Oooh, I stand in awe of your godlike JavaScript skills. Wanker.

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I'm Wayne Kerr, and if there's one thing I HATE... it's the piped music at Museum Melbourne Central station. The station has an expertly-designed PA system which gives uniform coverage of all parts of the station, from the escalator leading into it to the platforms. Unfortunately, some marketing type at the newly-privatised operators of the station decided to "add value" to the waiting-for-a-train experience by piping music through this system. The music, in this case, being past chart hits, adult-contemporary rock ballads and bubblegum R&B. Supposedly, on average, people like this.

Thanks to you, Mr. Bayside Trains Marketroid, I now have I've Had The Time Of My Life playing in my head, I hate you, Mr. Marketroid.

annoyances earworms piped music public transport wayne kerr 0


I'm Wayne Kerr, and if there's one thing I hate... well, allow me to explain with a story:

Recently a flyer caught my attention; it announced, in ravey typography, that a singer/songwriter named Julia Messenger was performing at a pub known as the Grace Darling. Reading further, it mentioned her involvement in the "downbeat" and "electronic dub" scenes in Germany, and worked with Klaus Schutze (of Tangerine Dream fame). This piqued my interest; this would at least be interesting, I thought, and probably somewhat enjoyable. There was nothing to prepare me for the pinkness and horror that was to await.

The show was tonight, scheduled for 10pm. I arrived half an hour late. Instead of a musical performance, I found a fold-out stage prop in the form of a cruise ship and three inflatable floaties. It turned out to be the set of some dating game show called the Love Boat. Two loud-voiced women in sailor costumes were asking questions like "what is your star sign?" and "which reality TV show describes you?", of a group of fashionably dressed (and probably fashionably drunk) late-twentysomethings. The audience seemed to be similar people, as well as a large proportion of middle-aged people, and a few children running around making noise. A bad sign; definitely not an avant-garde crowd.

I was told the game show was running overtime and Julia Messenger would perform at 11pm. I sat down at the bar, reading a copy of InPress and waited, expecting some music. At 11pm I was assaulted with the Love Boat theme blaring out of the PA, and the synchronised off-key singing of the two hostesses as the next instalment of the game began. I retreated to the other room, lest I win a dinner date there with one of the contestants.

Julia Messenger did perform, finally, just before midnight; though her show didn't seem anywhere near as interesting as the flyers suggested; it seemed more like radio-friendly pop songs over canned electronic backings, with one of the choruses sounding dispiritingly like a Britney Spears song.

If they have band venues in Hell, I now know what they must be like.

false advertising naff trash wayne kerr 0


I'm Wayne Kerr, and if there's one thing I hate... it's people who go to band venues and talk loudly over the music, as if cognitively incapable of perceiving a distinction between a group of actual musicians playing for them and a radio tuned to FOX-FM*. I went to see Dandelion Wine tonight at SubTerrain; when the band started playing, a lot of the people kept talking loudly amongst themselves, oblivious to the music. One table, which seemed to be comprised of jocks and Barbie dolls, was the worst offender; Why can't people like that just go to a pub or something?

* FOX-FM is a commercial radio station in Melbourne which plays current and the past few years' Top 40 swill, and is typically heard in establishments frequented by people of no musical discernment. It is indistinguishable from MMM and TT-FM.

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I'm Wayne Kerr, and if there's one thing I hate... it's prolonged spells of hot weather. Two of the posters in my room have gotten into the habit of falling off their respective walls, most probably because the heat has deteriorated the Blu-Tak (or, more precisely, the bright green Blu-Taklike adhesive) holding them up to the point of unusability.

annoyances wayne kerr weather 0


I'm Wayne Kerr, and if there's one thing I hate... it's that stupid JavaScript scroller gimmick. You know, the one that some pages have, scrolling a flickery message (typically something droolingly inane like "Hi! Welcome to my web page!") through your browser's status bar. You can't stop it (as you can GIF animations), you can't see any links you put the cursor over, and it's irritating as hell. And no, it's not cool, or clever, and it makes the designer of the web page (or the pointy-haired management type who signed off on it) look like a cretin. Unfortunately, the Ausway street directory home page has succumbed to this particular lapse of taste.

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I'm Wayne Kerr, and if there's one thing I hate... it's the piped music they've started playing in City Loop stations. There are speakers covering the entire station, which until now have been used exclusively for announcements. Now, perhaps to make the new, privatised train companies look more like a service, they have started playing what can be loosely termed music from these. The music covers the gamut of naff radio fodder from Phil Collins to Celine Dion to indeterminable boyband ballads. Some executive at Bayside Trains probably thinks this creates a pleasant environment.

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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.

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I'm Wayne Kerr, and if there's one thing I hate... it's web sites which require JavaScript to work, for no reason other than custom pop-up windows looking cool. Sadly to say, the Fringe Festival site is one example.

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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.

annoyances idiots rant wayne kerr 0


I'm Wayne Kerr, and if there's one thing I hate...* it's homies who play their ghetto blasters on public transport. I was catching a train this evening and had the misfortune to share a carriage with a posse of such miscreants. About four of them were seated at the front of the carriage, attired in tracksuits, with a flip case full of CDs and a loud portable stereo, putting on CD after CD, debating amongst themselves what to play next.

But the crowning horror was what they were treating their fellow commuters to. It was not underground gangsta rap, as one might reasonably respect of a crew of tracksuited badasses; nor was it some major-label manufactured rap, as a bunch of suburban poseurs could get away with being into. It was boy-band R&B.

Perhaps that's some kind of peacock-tail phenomenon of conspicuously flaunting one's badness, as in "I'm such a mackdaddy that I can play utter crap and no-one will fuck with me". Or perhaps it's a mutant form of vandalism; the sonic equivalent of kicking out windows and tearing up seats.

* with apologies to the Doug Anthony Allstars.

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I'm Wayne Kerr, and if there's one thing I hate... It's dance nazis. I went to see the Ku-Ling Brothers tonight. Not a bad show, with synths, turntables and live drums/guitars (if a bit confused and generic-breakbeat-dance in places; not quite as cutting-edge as I had hoped something featuring the founder of Cabaret Voltaire would be). At one stage, as I was watching the show, a girl behind me tapped me on the shoulder and said, "excuse me, but you're standing in the middle of the dance floor." Well, excuse me, Ms. Dance Nazi , but I came here to see a band play. As it happens, I didn't feel like making the effort of going through socially-acceptable dancing motions throughout it; had I felt that way I'd have gone to one of the many nightclubs the kids go to to shake their booty to canned doof, as opposed to going to see a live fucking band.
Anyway, that's my story, so spread the hate. And praise "Bob".

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