It’s a question of who vs. what

I decided to scrap that story, since on second read, it came across as pretty disjointed and sucky. Also it was only fun to write for the first half, when I didn’t know what was going to happen myself. But then as soon as I figured it out, writing became very tedious. You can practically feel the momentum take a nose-dive near the end. Eh… it’s good to remind myself every now and then why I shouldn’t become a writer :).

Went to a couple more shows this week. I realized that it must mean nothing to you when I just list names of artists I’ve seen. So I think from now on I’m going to try to give you a taste of what the music’s like, in the hope that you might find some of them appealing, too.

Thursday night was The Tragically Hip, at the ill-placed Fillmore. The Hip are incredibly popular in Canada but hardly known here (partly by their choice, I think). Anyway, they play kickass rock with literate and (often) obscure lyrics, and their live shows are highlighted by singer Gordon Downie’s insane ramblings and stage antics. Grace, Too is one of my all-time favorite live songs — it’s got a great beat and to hear and participate in the crowd singing along to every word (which, sadly, this live recording omits) is electrifying. At the Hundredth Meridian is a representative studio recording.

Saturday was Gillian Welch, also at the Fillmore. She and co-songwriter/singer/guitarist David Rawlings play what I can only describe as “Americana” (think O Brother Where Art Thou?): a mixture of beautiful ballads and primitive, almost sinister tunes. My First Lover is an example of this latter type of song. I Want To Sing That Rock and Roll gives a taste of their live harmonies.

As for other recent concerts, without explanation, here’s one of my favorite Pixies songs, River Euphrates, and a great tale by Richard Shindell, Fishing.

I haven’t been writing about it much, but I’m kind of going nuts about the Red Sox. This year’s team is definitely the most likable I can recall. My high school friends and I were recently discussing our favorite sports teams, and I think my top five are:

  1. UConn basketball
  2. Boston Red Sox
  3. English national team (soccer)
  4. Newcastle United
  5. Sacramento Kings

Given UConn’s sweep in the spring, even if the the Red Sox just make it to the World Series, this would be my greatest sports year ever. Now, if only that would somehow help me with research…

I was thinking the other day about why so many Hollywood celebrities are liberal. An intuitive classification I had thought about earlier seemed to supply an answer.

One way to classify fiscal conservatives and liberals is to say that the former value efficiency/productivity above everything else (and thus any policies that encourage deadweight loss — like taxes or a minimum wage — are bad), and the latter feel that there there are metrics other than efficiency, like median standard of living, that are better indicators of a country’s success.

Another, more intuitive way to look at it is that conservatives feel like they’ve earned all the money they’ve accumulated, and so any government meddling in their money is akin to stealing, while liberals feel like they’ve been lucky to be given the resources and opportunities they’ve had that led them to make this money, and so taxes, etc. are a way to even the playing field — to pass the luck on, so to speak, to people who haven’t been born with or into it.

(For the record, to me there’s no question that I’ve been incredibly lucky to be where I am today.)

I was talking about this with Manu last night, and we feel that in either classification, both sides are quite defensible, given differing but reasonable sets of axioms. It seems that civil conservatism is much harder to defend.

Anyway, I think many Hollywood actors feel quite lucky to have become so successful — I think there are many more capable (and attractive) people than there are superstars, and perhaps this is what leads actors to feel a kind of obligation to society for allowing them to become as successful as they have. No doubt this is a gross simplification, but it sounds vaguely plausible :).

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18 Responses to It’s a question of who vs. what

  1. rwclark says:

    Just curious, but what’s with the WMA format of your sound samples? I never realized people actually use Windows Media Player to listen to music.

    • aj says:


      Eek, you have a Mac, right? WMAs are playable in Windows and in Linux, the two OSes that I use, as well as by my portable MP3 player (IRiver ihp-140). Also Windows Media Player rips music really fast and is a pretty good program for organizing lots of music.

      However, I should convert these files to mp3… check back in a day or two ;).

      • Re: Ahh..

        WMAs are playable in OS X too, actually. it’s just that it’s a weird closed format for something that really should use an open format, and for which plenty of good open formats exist (both ogg and the mp4 format that apple uses are open; mp3 is open-ish – certainly more open than wma).

        For ryan: (if you want to debase yourself :?) you can download a copy of windows media player for OS X here:

        • rwclark says:

          Re: Ahh..

          Yeah I had it. Like I said below, I was just wondering why AJ didn’t use some sort of CS-geek open-source format.

          • aj says:

            Re: Ahh..

            I think OGGs would have been a good choice, except that they’re larger, and decoding them is harder, and as a result drain batteries faster on portable players (which tend to last 25% less or so).

            I’m not too worried about WMA now since I have a decoder available — I can convert to any other format whenever I want, and Microsoft can’t possibly do anything in the future to change that.

      • rwclark says:

        Re: Ahh..

        Actually they have Windows Media Player for Mac too so don’t sweat it. I was just curious…

      • ccho says:

        Re: Ahh..

        ITunes works pretty well for ripping mp3s/AAC and is probably better for playing music if you like functions like organizing albums, equalizer/volume memory, etc. I tried encoding the same WAV with ITunes and LAME, and they came out to almost the exact same file size (which means ITunes probably uses LAME).

        These days I rip CDs using EAC (Exact Audio Copy) and FLAC (free lossless-audio codec) which converts files to around 40-60% the size of a CD but can also be converted back to a CD without loss in quality.

        I also use Foobar2k as my main audio player since it uses less resources than others, plays most formats, and has a ton of options/plug-ins. There’s also some database function which I haven’t tried yet which should speed up the search function.

        • aj says:

          Re: Ahh..

          Actually I’ve tried them both and they’re nearly identical in the features you mentioned. I don’t like AAC — not supported by most players, especially the ones that I liked more than the iPod.

          • Re: Ahh..

            which leads to my major beef with wma being pushed by microsoft; aac is actually the most supported of the codecs that could be used for portable audio… just not by portable audio devices. for example, it’s the standard that the cellphone industry agreed on for compressed audio on 3G cellphones, long before microsoft or apple started pushing portable audio at all. it’s also the audio layer of the mpeg-4 video standard.

            apple opted for compatability by using aac (though i would say they should have long since opened up their drm-wrapper – except that it isn’t actually theirs to open); in an ideal world, microsoft would have settled on the open standard as well, instead of trying to push apple and real and others out of the market by using wma. good for business, bad for consumers. oh well. the world ain’t ideal, but with a little luck apple will choose to and be able to push dolby to open up the fairplay drm spec… we’ll see.

          • aj says:

            Re: Ahh..

            I don’t think MS has tried any extortionist methods to make sure that the independent mp3 hardware companies (Rio, iRiver, etc.) didn’t support AAC, which actually costs more than twice as much as WMA to license (although it’s still a lot cheaper than getting an mp3 decoder license). As far as I know, they didn’t because they didn’t have a good reason to, as they play mp3s and are generally made for Windows machines.

            However, I agree — it would have been nice if MS decided on some OGG-like format with DRM piggybacked on.

          • ccho says:

            Re: Ahh..

            I just looked at WMP 10, and didn’t know that they had added all those features (even though I’ve been using it for video for some time). Can you do kernel streaming in WMP as well?

            Look at the Media Player Comparisons section in this review:

          • aj says:

            Re: Ahh..

            kernel streaming.

            That “rojakpot” link is broken…

          • ccho says:

            Re: Ahh..

            Sorry, it was a state-aware link. I think this one works:

            I was just pointing out the low CPU and small memory footprint foobar2k uses compared to the others that they compared.

            Still does not answer my question of whether or not WMP10 has the option to use kernel streaming — just because the architecture is there doesn’t mean it’s actually used by WMP (and to my knowledge it wasn’t implemented in WMP 9). Only reason I keep pressing this point is that kernel streaming offers bit-perfect output to your sound card (though doesn’t guarantee anything afterwards)… not that I claim to be able to hear or mind the difference unless it’s a matter of a split-second interruption.

        • Re: Ahh..

          For the record, iTunes doesn’t use LAME, it uses the quick-time mp3 and aac encoders, which in general perform slightly better than LAME does (recent versions, anyway), though not by much, and not in all cases.

          I’ve never bothered with the lossless encoders, since i generally actually own the CD in question, and own a laptop; i’d rather save space on my 40gig harddrive and have to possibly re-rip things in the future.

  2. ccho says:

    Interesting, I had a similar conversation last night with a friend of mine though it had nothing to do with Hollywood actors and very little to do with being liberal (I wonder how many Hollywood actors actually feel obligated to contribute to society, wealth-wise, and what the situation would be like without taxes).

    I think it started with the discussion about downloading Korean dramas… then he wanted to know my opinion about the documentary, Fahrenheit 911, and then we moved into a dry conversation about social democracy vs. free market. We even started discussing taxes and productivity (how would you react if you knew most of your taxes were going to directly benefit you vs. taxes being used for other reasons like military spending).

    Then it transitioned into Korean people are more greedy and distrustful than people in the US. I’d better stop now before someone accuses me of being racist.

  3. manu_s says:

    A related article

    Here, from today’s LA Times. It has some interesting info on how people aren’t conscious of the extra financial risk they’ve been shouldering due to changes in government policy since the 70s.

    Re: Hollywood actors, I’d imagine that civil liberties issues make them lean liberal at least as much as fiscal stuff, eg. free speech, accepting everyone’s beliefs, etc.

    • aj says:

      Re: A related article

      Yeah, you’re totally right. Artists in generally tend to be really liberal (musicians, especially, too). And many of them seem to be “liberal” on tertiary issues, too (such as being anti-war). I wonder how these things are correlated.

  4. Anonymous says:

    time for a new LJ entry:)