July 2006

Audio Culture by Christopher Cox and Daniel WarnerWhen I started out the “year of non-fiction” (as I’ve been calling it), one of my sub-goals was to also read a wide variety of material as well. Because I also write music reviews in my spare time, I figured that one area I would try to fill in some knowledge gaps was in the realm of music. Earlier this year, I’d read a book on the history of hip hop, and I thought it would also be nice to read a little bit more about the pioneers of electronic music.

Audio Culture: Readings In Modern Music came recommended to me by several sources, and although I enjoyed it, it ultimately felt like a big grab bag of sorts. The major problem with the book is simply that it’s a collection of lots of different essays by a huge number of different authors. The writing styles are varied, and although the book is loosely structured into different themese, ultimately the voices of the authors themselves shine through and make for a sometimes difficult read. For instance, the tone of the articles ranges from hardcore music theory to pseudo-intellectual (and using LOTS OF CAPITAL LETTERS to make a point) to downright jokey and playful at times.

The parts of the book that I enjoyed most were the essays written by the musicians that I follow closest, even though they were also some of the ones that I learned the least from. In the end, I came to realize that although music theory and breaking everything down is fun to talk about sometimes, I’m really just one of those people who wants to sit down and do it instead of trying to place everything on a grid.

What it boils down to is that I’m kind of an idiot when it comes to creating music. I’ve never learned to play an instrument, and when I make music it’s entirely by ear with lots and lots of trial and error. When people start talking about theory, I tend to want to run away and just smack my keyboard around for awhile and hope that something nice-sounding comes out. Hunting and pecking indeed.

Although I’ve always heard great things about Apple’s customer service, this was the fourth (yes, you read that correctly) weekend that my computer has been in for repair. When I first took my computer in, I was told it would take 3-5 days, but for the past 16 days the response for Apple has been that they’re “waiting on a part.”

Needless to say, in that span of time I’ve lost a lot of respect for Apple computers. Since I bought my Powerbook, I’ve been a big fan of it and even tried to fight the the various problems that started cropping up. When the problems (outlined below) became too much to ignore, I finally had to bite the bullet and get it repaired. So, as mentioned, here’s what went wrong with my laptop…

  1. About three months after purchase, one of the USB drives stopped working completely (which wasn’t a huge issue, since I used a 4-port hub on the other port).
  2. About four months after purchase, all of my desktop icons suddenly started re-arranging themselves every time I turned on the machine (yes, this was annoying, but since I worked through the finder I again overlooked it).
  3. About a month ago (nearly as long as Apple has had my computer in repair), the Superdrive stopped working. This was the final straw, as I could no longer burn CDRs, nor read from CDs (although I could still burn DVDRs oddly enough).

In the time that my computer has been AWOL, I’ve been forced back onto my crappy desktop machine (running Windows 95), and I’ve actually become accustomed to it at this point. It’s a little bit slower at everything I try to do, but I’ve had it for 8 years and still have never had a single problem with it, whereas my Apple laptop had 3 separate issues within 8 months of buying it. Compounding my frustration is the completely slow repair time by Apple, considering that if they have it for 3 more days, it will have been in their possession 1/12th of my first year of ownership.

Apparently my repair case has become somewhat of a local legend where I work, though, as a co-worker I don’t see very often asked me about it at a meeting recently, mentioning that they’d heard someone else talking about the repair time in disbelief. I guess that’s kinda funny.

Or something.

How Would A Patriot Act by Glenn GreenwaldIn the midst of getting all bent out of shape about my laptop taking far too long to be repaired (no, I still don’t have it back almost 3 weeks later), I forgot to mention that I’d finished another book. Because it had been awhile since I’d read something political, I decided to dive into the short, but very excellent How Would A Patriot Act? by Glenn Greenwald. I’d first heard of Greenwald when I started reading his great blog Unclaimed Territory last year. In a short period of time, his site had become a daily must-read for me. His language is straightforward and to-the-point, and his ideas are clearly formed and have a lot of research behind them.

His first book (which is a very brisk 140 pages) is basically a fleshing-out of different posts that he’s made on his site in the past, but it’s a great way to fill in the specific gaps in terms of the different ways that the current administration has been picking away at the Constitution and using the global war on terror as an excuse.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people use the phrase (or something like it), “Your civil liberties don’t mean a whole lot if you’re dead.” Greenwald puts that whole argument to bed pretty quickly in his book, defining the different (and rather underhanded and sly, as most people don’t seem to really even know the full level of it) circumventions and flat-out ignoring of laws that have gone on in the past five (and even longer) years.

Read this book and weap, or at least wonder when the next big tea party is going to happen.

Sad PowerbookAlthough I do quite enjoy the Powerbook that I got late last year, I’ve had some weird little issues cropping up with it in the past couple months. When it wouldn’t recognize a CDR (four different brands) last week to burn a disc, that was the last straw. I took it into the repair shop and it has been sent back to Apple for some repairs. I was hoping to have it back for the July 4th weekend so I could get some things done, but alas that wasn’t in the cards.

Because of this, I’ve been forced back onto my old desktop computer (a 400mhz, pentium 2 PC) in the basement. I hadn’t turned this machine on in months, and going back to it seems like a chore after being able to haul my Powerbook around and set it up anywhere.

Oh, and there’s a big spider crawling across the front of my monitor right now. Sweet.