We all live in Lester's basement now
April 21, 2011 5:12 AM   Subscribe

Lester Bangs, the late, great early-rock critic, once said he dreamed of having a basement with every album ever released in it. That's a fantasy shared by many music fans—and, mutatis mutandis, film buffs as well. We all know the Internet has made available a lot of things that were previously hard to get. Recently, though, there are indications of something even more enticing, almost paradisiacal, something that might have made Bangs put down the cough syrup and sit up straight: that almost everything is available.
posted by octothorpe (137 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
 
one word: nicotine
posted by telstar at 5:25 AM on April 21, 2011


Yeah, well, if almost everything is available, I want to know why I still can't find a copy of Ida's cover of "I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight" that I can steal or buy.
posted by craichead at 5:39 AM on April 21, 2011 [5 favorites]


Already posted as a link in this thread from earlier in the week.
posted by briank at 5:47 AM on April 21, 2011


shorter: almost everything is stolen.
posted by warbaby at 5:47 AM on April 21, 2011


Almost everything is available! Or rather, "everything" is increasingly defined as "what's available for free online," which is sort of a tragedy, because trust me, the web is not nearly a complete archive even of English-language popular music history.

There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamed of on your internets, dude.
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:48 AM on April 21, 2011 [23 favorites]


True, but you just have to ask around now and there's a good chance that someone will send you a copy or a link.
posted by pracowity at 5:52 AM on April 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamed of on your internets, dude.
- fourcheesemac
Give it time.
posted by lyam at 5:55 AM on April 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


Not for the stuff I want.

Here's a challenge: somebody find me -- online -- an mp3 of Fiddlin' Frenchie Burke doing "Mama's Picture," ca. 1979 or so, arguably the darkest song (and the most explicit song about incest) in the history of country music. So dark that if it were well known, Burke would be infamous and the song would have been banned.

I have it already. On vinyl. I'm just challenging the hypothesis.
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:58 AM on April 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


Last night I was reading 2001: A Space Odyssey on my Android tablet. I was at the part where Haywood Floyd travels to the Clavius Base on the Moon. Aboard the airliner-like spacecraft Floyd reads from several newspapers on a device very similar to a tablet computer. He marveled at the technology that put such a vast array of information at his fingertips. And I marveled at the Escheresque imbedded realities of life imitating art at my fingertips. If I had known as a teen back in '77 that one day I'd have a little screen on which I could watch Star Wars at anytime, I think I would have ecstatically morphed into the next stage of human evolution.
posted by Serpentio at 6:01 AM on April 21, 2011 [17 favorites]


I have it already. On vinyl. I'm just challenging the hypothesis.

As soon as you put it on soundcloud, it'll be there.
posted by empath at 6:13 AM on April 21, 2011 [13 favorites]


As further evidence of this, here's the film Tron: Legacy, on YouTube, in it's entirety.
posted by Pastabagel at 6:13 AM on April 21, 2011


That was a better essay than I expected, and a good followup to an essay written 11 years ago anticipating this eventuality, The Heavenly Jukebox.

> Here's a challenge: somebody find me -- online -- an mp3 of Fiddlin' Frenchie Burke doing "Mama's Picture," ca. 1979 or so

Similarly, I've got a variety of regional punk recordings in mind that I've never found online. Some of them I'm reasonably certain are digitized and available if I know where to look, because a few of them had some kind of brush-with-fame relationship with a more important act which made their own work interesting to aficionados. Some of them I'm reasonably certain are not.

Finding old, obscure vinyl online is pretty easy; the form itself fuels collector interest and there are people swooping up old platters to digitize just to see what they sound like. The real archival black hole is probably cassette tapes - there was a period in the 80s and early 90s where it was the primary means of circulating your band's earliest demos, but they were too easy to lose, destroy, record over, or just neglect.
posted by ardgedee at 6:16 AM on April 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Here's a challenge: somebody find me -- online -- an mp3 of Fiddlin' Frenchie Burke doing "Mama's Picture

I'm not saying it's already out there, but that asking in the right places is likely to get someone to make and post a copy for you.

If you had known who and where to ask in the pre-internet days, you might have landed a cassette copy of a copy of a copy of a scratchy record, but it would have cost someone some time and money to make and send it to you.
posted by pracowity at 6:16 AM on April 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Here's a challenge: somebody find me -- online -- an mp3 of Fiddlin' Frenchie Burke doing "Mama's Picture," ca. 1979 or so

it had been posted online once, but it's no longer up
posted by pyramid termite at 6:23 AM on April 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


English-language popular music history

One the one hand, copies of that Fripp and Eno bootleg I paid $35 for when I was 15 are easily available, but on the other hand just looking at African popular music there are god knows how many records that remain unavailable. While there still is enough to satiate even an obsessive collector such as myself, I do get frustrated at these kinds of articles which work from the premise that Western popular culture equals all the popular culture of the world.
posted by williampratt at 6:23 AM on April 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's not just the hard to find artists though, I've had a hard time finding albums by groups with Top 40 hits. Granted I can buy some of them, but usually it's a 30 year old copy on vinyl that someone wants hundreds of dollars for. Not really different than it was 20 years ago, just that it's easier to find if you want to spend the money.
posted by inthe80s at 6:27 AM on April 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


in it's entirety

I wish Schoolhouse Rock were still around so that they could put an earworm jingle in people's heads that might reduce the seemingly eternal its / it's confusion.
"Its," when a possessive, has no a-pos-tro-pheee,
like "his" or "hers" or "mine" or "yours," punc-tu-ation f-reeeee...
But when "it's" stands in for "it is," it contracts two words,
and gets a mark like "that's" and "what's," it's not ab-surd....
(Sorry, Pastabagel, not a dig at you personally, of course.)
posted by aught at 6:28 AM on April 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


OK, close pyramid. I stand almost corrected!

Anyone who has visited the ARC Archive of Contemporary Music knows that there is stuff out there on vinyl, often in only a few copies, that you will never hear in any other format.

I get it -- I often book-nostalgists that their fantasies can't compete with the sheer real-time searchability of the (digitized) archive google has enabled. I can find one keyword across 100 books in less time than you can pull down the next volume on the bookshelf and open it to the index.

But especially as a college teacher, I often run into the attitude that if it's not online, it doesn't exist. It's leading to a vast gap in cultural continuity, loss of historical cultural memory, and revision of important historical narratives in dubious directions. So *much* is online that it's hard to believe that's only the tip of the informational iceberg. I am aware of thousands of hours of significant analog audio archives (of singular material, I happen to manage one) that are not online, or in some cases even searchable online.
posted by fourcheesemac at 6:30 AM on April 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


This was #3 in Robert Darnton's 5 Myths About the Information Age. What's online is nothing close to "everything" and won't be for a very long time, and lots of what's online doesn't stay online permanently. The Internet is not a great archive of culture, because it's too susceptible to whims and fads.
posted by RogerB at 6:31 AM on April 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


(And I once worshipped Lester Bangs, for what it's worth.)

Rarity can be a feature, not just a bug.
posted by fourcheesemac at 6:31 AM on April 21, 2011


There's a lot less offline that isn't online than there is stuff online that isn't offline.
posted by empath at 6:33 AM on April 21, 2011


Was that sentence tortured enough?
posted by empath at 6:33 AM on April 21, 2011 [4 favorites]



(Sorry, Pastabagel, not a dig at you personally, of course.)
posted by aught at 9:28 AM on April 21


It isn't that I don't know what the proper usage is, of course I do. It's that my fingers are flying and certain key combinations are fixed in muscle memory. And that I never ever ever proofread.
posted by Pastabagel at 6:34 AM on April 21, 2011


Bruce Sterling has an aptly annoying term for this : atemporality. (video : transcript)

In summary, the decoupling of the historic repository of information from unique physical artifacts is deeply altering our conception of time and being. I'm inclined to agree, even though the condition is of course not an absolute one.

There are good and bad aspects to this, I suppose. We won't have awesome weird independent record/video stores anymore, but we also won't have asshole weird independent record/video snobs in the same way either.
posted by Casimir at 6:35 AM on April 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


where are the snows of yesteryear?
posted by Postroad at 6:35 AM on April 21, 2011


I made a record with my crappy band in the 1970s. We pressed up 500 copies. We couldn't give 'em away. I threw half of them in the garbage over the years. I may have a few copies in closet somewhere. Anyhow, one day the record pops up -- both sides -- on a website devoted to obscure 70s singles. Now it's all over the place. You can watch the label spin as you listen on YouTube. You can buy a copy for an obscene amount from Europe. Who was searching for this thing? Who put it on line? Amazing.
posted by Faze at 6:39 AM on April 21, 2011 [14 favorites]


where are the snows of yesteryear?

right here
posted by pyramid termite at 6:39 AM on April 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Mama's Picture was included in the July 13th, 2002 edition of Saturday Night Country, that may be another avenue towards finding an online version. Or someone could just buy the LP for $10 and digitize it. I realize this is a pointless tangent, there is indeed a lot of stuff that is not available online. Time will tell if the Internet does become good at being a durable archive, so far the record is a bit mixed.
posted by ChrisHartley at 6:43 AM on April 21, 2011


it had been posted online once, but it's no longer up
posted by pyramid termite at 9:23 AM on April 21


This actually isn't a fair example. Fiddlin' Frenchie Burke's albums are on Amazon, but with the note "This product is manufactured on demand using CD-R recordable media." Here's his legit MP3 page.

This is only one step away from saying the internet doesn't have everything because the song I wrote on the piano last night isn't on the Pirate Bay yet. If the artist himself doesn't want people to get the song, in any form, from anywhere, then you can hardly fault the internet from coming up short.

That said, it also seems like almost no one wants the song. Given how much of a pain it would be to go from vinyl to digital, why bother going through the effort if no one even wants it?
posted by Pastabagel at 6:45 AM on April 21, 2011


I just want Lester Bangs back.

Even though he died exactly 3 years before I was born. I tried writing like him for a bit. It didn't take, but he colors every interaction I have with rock and roll. He talked about the joy and importance of it. His essay on Astral Weeks made me buy that album. His continuation of 'Maggie May' is a great little story.

I did post this essay in the previous thread, and the idea of 'Lester Bangs basement' sounds alot like the 'infinate library' Borges talks about.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 6:45 AM on April 21, 2011 [5 favorites]


There are good and bad aspects to this, I suppose. We won't have awesome weird independent record/video stores anymore, but we also won't have asshole weird independent record/video snobs in the same way either.

We still will. There's still marketing and distribution, so most people will still listen to what's popular. I hang out an indie games forum and for every mainstream game you mention there's a better underground alternative, or a maligned entry in a popular series or a game coded in somebody's basement or something.

You can't find something if you don't know where to look.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 6:48 AM on April 21, 2011


Many popular things are available. But give me a couple of minutes and I could name 10 albums or movies off the top of my head you can't find anywhere online.

But I think I'm starting to figure out why. People who were the same music nerds that helped fuel the MP3/internet audio revolution, the same nerds who used to flock to Napster, Gnutella and Soulseek are no longer interested in being so generous with either their time or their collections, and it's not about copyright.

It's about the resale/collector value of the physical copies of objects in their collections. I've already had a number of conversations with music collectors and creators over the last few years who are adamantly "Please, don't put this online." or "No, you can't rip that (particular) album or have copies of my personal home server rips."

I have a friend who has been looking for a particular Milk Cult album that he hasn't been able to buy used or find online anywhere for years. A copy finally popped up on Discogs for sale, and the price was fairly reasonable. About $40. Considering my friend probably paid 20-ish for it when it was a new CD release that's not such a big deal.

But I've met serious crate diggers that have 50,000 to 100,000 item vinyl collections and they're not at all interested in digitizing or posting their collections, and it's not just about the time and energy.

It's about scarcity and rarity. They can't turn around and sell those records online if they post perfectly good high res rips of them, because people don't actually DJ w/ vinyl much anymore. They DJ with high res compressed files and computers now.

So we're kind of getting back to the bad old days of club DJing where people would use "label covers" to prevent trainspotting, or they'd scrub off the labels, or stick white labels over them. I've had DJs close their laptops while trying to spot their tracklists, or they'll copy and rename their tracks to simply a number for the purposes of that set.


And besides all of that? There's a constant stream of new art, new performances and new music being produced all the time. And sometimes you couldn't record it if you tried. Last night I saw Robert Menke (aka Monolake) play some kind of high resolution quadraphonic or 4.1 surround sound ambient/noise/field recording soundscape show that was just incredible, like abstract holographic paintings for your ears. Like if Klein and Pollack got together to paint textures straight into your mind's eye.

Sure, you could record and master a 4.1 channel SACD or DVD-audio, but do you have a full strength high quality PA in your house? Rigged for 4.1, bi or tri amped? With monster subs? More than one? If so, your neighbors probably hate you or you own a night club, and I want to come over and party.

These "non-mediated" experiences can't ever be recorded. They pale in comparison to the real thing. And the beautiful thing is they'll probably never be able to record these kinds of immediate experiences and performances, even if we gain the ability to record one's own consciousness in real time. It's still just going to be one consciousness that's being recorded. One viewpoint.*

In the meantime the state of the art of art itself is going to keep on leaping past the state of the art of recording. This is what artists do is push the boundaries of craft and technology - and experience.

The internet isn't even a mirror. It's a stone rubbing, or a plaster mold. A pale simulacra to the real thing. (Not that the internet isn't real and fantastic, but metaphorically there's a difference between attending a concert and photographing one with your phone.)

*Granted, I fail to acknowledge the possibility of some truly god-level technology like an artificially induced collective consciousness where people could actually share, transmit, receive and record their direct perceptions and experiences in real time like today's twitter on a phone. Imagine the possibility of being able to actually tune in to everyone at a show or concert and share experiences. That would be kinky, and I'm all for it.
posted by loquacious at 6:49 AM on April 21, 2011 [12 favorites]


Anyhow, one day the record pops up -- both sides -- on a website devoted to obscure 70s singles.

there's a whole internet subculture devoted to obscurities from the garage band and early hard rock eras of the 60s and 70s - rarities that collectors would pay up to 300 bucks for are now available for nothing - mostly local label stuff that never saw national distribution

it's very curious to see people rant and rave about music that to me, is mostly mediocre (and sometimes bad) imitations of the more popular and talented bands of that time - it's strange to me, having grown up in that era, to see these people revise the history of that time period in music so willfully, without considering the context of what was more popular

it's also very curious to realize that if grand funk railroad hadn't caught on, there were at least 20 other contemporary bands with a similar sound that might have caught on instead - although grand funk seemed just a bit more focused with a bit better songwriting
posted by pyramid termite at 6:52 AM on April 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


This also points up the fact that record companies, as manufacturing centers, are entirely superfluous this days. It used to be hard to make copies of music. You were getting an important service when you bought a record.

Now, hundreds of millions of people all over the world can trivially make and distribute perfect copies of a master for a small fraction of a cent. Yet, the record companies demand we keep paying them the same old fees for this service, and are destroying lives all over the country to try to get them.
posted by Malor at 6:52 AM on April 21, 2011


Some things are findable if you want crappy 700 megabyte files of movies taped off of TMC or muddy MP3s. Some are not.

Saints help you if you want a physical copy. I'm reduced to tracking down founders of previous labels to try to lay hands on Laura Barrett's Ursula EP ... unless I want to drive to Toronto, because, hey, the one place that does sell the disk does not ship. I am getting CDs shipped from Japan, from Poland, from Estonia (Don't laugh, the Estonian music scene has some interesting stuff). I am tracking down one very surprised guy with a very common name because I really dug the song his band did a decade back on a Smiths cover album. I still can't find either of Clare Fader's Live at the Reynolda House CDs for sale. I will probably never get ahold of the Ninekiller EP and have almost as little hope for finding The Electric's sole album.

I have a love/hate relationship with the hunt. What I cannot abide, however, is some sparkling twit who thinks he has gotten the music scene by the Long Tail and can ride that tiger into the Singularity of Heaven's Record Store, where milk crates of decades past fit LPs just so. He's a drunk looking for his keys under the lamppost, only at least drunks have the intellectual advantage of knowing that there is that which is not illuminated by their search.

The vastness of that which is not available and exists just barely as that above rumor ("it is a blessed condition, believe me") is startling.
posted by adipocere at 6:53 AM on April 21, 2011 [5 favorites]


Here's his legit MP3 page.

mama's picture is not available there
posted by pyramid termite at 6:54 AM on April 21, 2011


Yes, adipocere, you're better than that guy. You tell him!
posted by Malor at 6:56 AM on April 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


I still can't find that Octoblade razor commercial from The Chimp Channel.
posted by scrowdid at 6:59 AM on April 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I was going to post a satirical rant in the voice of an old-time record snob taking some kind of futile rear-guard action against the kids who now know everything he knows, and learned it much more quickly, by insisting on the rarity of his tastes by name-dropping a few things that, oh no, you REALLY can't find this, no, only I could find this, YOU couldn't possibly...

But I see adipocere beat me to it.
posted by Pickman's Next Top Model at 7:02 AM on April 21, 2011 [6 favorites]


So we're kind of getting back to the bad old days of club DJing where people would use "label covers" to prevent trainspotting, or they'd scrub off the labels, or stick white labels over them. I've had DJs close their laptops while trying to spot their tracklists, or they'll copy and rename their tracks to simply a number for the purposes of that set

DJs that do that kind of shit are terrible DJs, imo. If you depend on nobody being able to copy your set list to have a competitive advantage, then you have no business calling yourself a dj. You are playing other people's music. You should recognize and promote them.
posted by empath at 7:04 AM on April 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


I started my old audioblog because I realized there was tons of stuff you can't find online anywhere. Whether or not people actually want it is another matter altogether, but I strongly doubt that we'll ever reach a point where "everything" can be found online.

> Lester Bangs, the late, great early-rock critic, once said he dreamed of having a basement with every album ever released in it.

When I was a kid I hoped that one of the things people who went to heaven had was some sort of magic stereo with every song they wanted on it. And now I have one and don't even think twice about it unless it breaks down or something.
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:05 AM on April 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


The hipster backlash ("you're only talking about how all kinds of obscure stuff isn't on the Internet to make yourself look cool") is really poisoning the well here. If "everything" means "everything popular," then of course nearly everything is online at this point. If we're talking about what isn't, some of it is going to seem obscure. Maybe this is why the discussion of the Internet-as-cultural-memory problem goes better when we talk about books or music, where having obscure taste is allowed.
posted by RogerB at 7:08 AM on April 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


*books (or film) instead of music, that is.
posted by RogerB at 7:09 AM on April 21, 2011


You can buy Freebie and the Bean now?!? Sweet!
posted by heatvision at 7:09 AM on April 21, 2011


But give me a couple of minutes and I could name 10 albums or movies off the top of my head you can't find anywhere online.

Albums are pretty easy because so much stuff is out of print and it's not always easy to digitize them, but with movies I think it would be more difficult to find ones that were released commercially and are available offline (i.e. not random film fest entries that were only screened once) but aren't online. I would guess that most films that would fall into that category would be straight-to-video ones from the VHS era.

What's online is nothing close to "everything" and won't be for a very long time, and lots of what's online doesn't stay online permanently. The Internet is not a great archive of culture, because it's too susceptible to whims and fads.

One thing that helps is that storage ability tends to increase exponentially. Video games from the 80s are available in relatively extensive collections (even for systems with a lot of games, like the C64) because you can fit nearly every game from that decade on a single DVD. When it gets to the point that you can buy storage media for $1 that holds every film ever made at HD quality (which will happen eventually) then it will be much easier to have a create and distribute a complete collection of everything.
posted by burnmp3s at 7:10 AM on April 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


But give me a couple of minutes and I could name 10 albums or movies off the top of my head you can't find anywhere online.

i'm not sure how one could prove or disprove that a particular piece of media is or is not online, given the existence of invitation-only sharing sites. if you're not invited and are barred access to their records, how do you know what they have?
posted by jammy at 7:11 AM on April 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


For what amounts to a decentralized, often times illegal activity, I remain impressed by what is available on the internet, even without access to the private sites/trackers. Contrast today with what was available a decade ago and the difference is astronomical.

And while the internet may not currently & illicitly offer up your favorite obscurity to the media buffet, give it time.
posted by Hesychia at 7:14 AM on April 21, 2011


Isn't it a fucking great time to be alive
posted by fullerine at 7:16 AM on April 21, 2011 [6 favorites]


there's a whole internet subculture devoted to obscurities from the garage band and early hard rock eras of the 60s and 70s - rarities that collectors would pay up to 300 bucks for are now available for nothing - mostly local label stuff that never saw national distribution

it's very curious to see people rant and rave about music that to me, is mostly mediocre (and sometimes bad) imitations of the more popular and talented bands of that time - it's strange to me, having grown up in that era, to see these people revise the history of that time period in music so willfully, without considering the context of what was more popular


It's because when you like a certain sound, you want to hear more of that sound. I'm not a proper garage collector but when I hear it it seems like the perfect music - rough but romantic, poppy but still hard enough to be rock. And the examples of it that hit the mainstream were few. So people seek out any example.

As for 'every media', I'm not sure it applies to videogames. I was getting rid of my old PS2 games and I kept about half, even though I don't have a PS2, because I'm not sure what I'd have to go through to get God Hand or Dragon Quarter if I got rid of the discs.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 7:22 AM on April 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


adipocere: I'm reduced to tracking down founders of previous labels to try to lay hands on Laura Barrett's Ursula EP.

Are you saying you can't find that one online? iTunes has it, and it's available in cd quality on at least one music torrent tracker.
posted by robinhoudt at 7:24 AM on April 21, 2011


DJs that do that kind of shit are terrible DJs, imo.

I used to think the same thing, but I've met too many really incredible DJs that are protective of their track lists. Sure, the DJs I'm thinking of wouldn't obscure their tracks or records, but go ahead and try asking for copies of their easily copied files. "No, sorry, I don't put strange flash drives in my computer." Or "Oh, hey, look at the time! I have a gig to get to!"

With the advent of Final Scratch or Serrato it takes a lot less technical skill to perform as a beatmixing DJ. The only thing people have left these days is the uniqueness of their music and the style in which they play it.

And I'm not just talking about techno/hiphop/house/dance DJs. Ambient, noise, experimental. Sure, they'll talk about the music. They're music nerds. But obfuscation tactics appear to be on the rise again.

Seriously. Stop and think about what you're saying. Almost everone is or can be a DJ now. I've been DJ'ing since the very early 90s and I first started learning about beatmatching and pitchmatching on reel to reel tape decks with pitch controls. I didn't even get a chance to practice or fuck around on a pair of 1200s with a proper DJ mixer until a year or two later.

Yet now anyone with a half decent computer can download or pirate a copy of Traktor 2 (pro) or whatever and practice their ears off, and it still does most of the work for you.

I still DJ using the now very old Traktor 2.5 (predates Pro/2 for those following along at home, empath probably already knows this, and yeah, I know it's confusing) and I can do it without a cue channel or headphones. Just a pair of outputs live, no cue channel. I beatmatch by knowing my tracks and watching the blinkenlights. And I do it on a netbook.

I don't mention this to point out that I'm a badass - I'm just fair to middling as a DJ and I work this way because I have to. I'm mentioning this to point out how far the state of the art and how automated DJing has, in a sense, become.

It's all about track selection now, not that it hasn't been before... but discerning ears in the IDM/EDM music scene demand more. They don't want to hear the same tracks they have at home. They can DJ them themselves. The rarity, eclecticness and freshness of a working DJ's collection is extremely important these days, more important than it ever was.

You can hang on to your old world ideas about accessibility and PLUR but people are just going to run circles around you. It's not 1996 anymore. People don't have to dig through crates at record stores to find rare white labels... "Rare" is increasingly hard to find, and it's increasingly valuable.
posted by loquacious at 7:25 AM on April 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh, it's not satire. And I own about ... six LPs, tops. And I spent some time listing things I can't find. And I think Wyman is might be older than me, so I would be the kid. I don't think I was ever part of a guard, rear or front or off to the side sitting on a bench.

What was it you were on about again?

Look, I like weird music, and it isn't as a point of pride. It's an inconvenient habit, at best. There's a large part of me that wishes I could like Nickelback or whatever is on the radio (played at a reasonable volume). It would be easier. It would be cheaper. It would mean that I wouldn't be the go-to guy when someone's mom wants both of Sanford-Townsend Bands albums. It would take less time. There's very little cool or hip about it because I know precisely one person in real life who has even vaguely similar music tastes to me and it is very pointless to be cool or hip to an audience of one.

I hear something and I say, "I like that. I want to hear that again" (or, worse yet, I want to hear all kinds of things that person has done). And most people, normal people, happier people, forget. Normal, happier people don't lock in on it and begin to pursue. I'm a cat chasing a red laser dot. I want those (connect the) goddamn dots. I want the 12" remix of "Stigmata," the one I originally heard, not the one that comes standard on Land of Rape and Honey. And sometimes I like weird movies that nobody has even bothered to torrent but a friend and I saw fifteen years ago and we'd like to see it again, so I go to the trouble of locating an unopened VHS copy to rip because rental copies will look like ass. I am haunted by a tune for which I could only hear a few notes because the cafeteria was filled with people talking on their cell phones. I heard it six years ago and I can no longer even remember how it went, but, yeah, I found out who their Muzak people were and what channels they might have had on at the time and I sent emails and then letters and got no reply and I still want to hear that again.

This article is basically someone saying, "Hey, here's some Hibiclens" when I'm way past that, I'm at the stage where I have a shelves lined with meticulously labeled and dated jars of my urine. The only pride is, "Check out these really nice shelves I made myself to hold all this urine."

It's not cool, it's obsession.
posted by adipocere at 7:25 AM on April 21, 2011 [6 favorites]


All's I know is when I wanted a copy of Dominic Frontiere's amazing, incredible, super-funky soundtrack to Bruce Brown's motorcycle documentary On Any Sunday, I had to track down that sumbitch on vinyl. As far as I know that's still the only way to get it.

It's a good thing I ripped a digital version, too, because I would've worn the grooves out on that fucker by now. That Carol Kaye bass... such groove... such magnificent groove...
posted by pts at 7:30 AM on April 21, 2011


It's kind of a weird and anomalous situation we're in right now. More things are available online than ever before, but you can walk into almost any thrift store in the country (let alone any record store, or even any good-sized record collection) and find something that isn't.
posted by box at 7:32 AM on April 21, 2011


Yay! My friend is mentioned in this article! Whee!
posted by Kitteh at 7:33 AM on April 21, 2011


i'm not sure how one could prove or disprove that a particular piece of media is or is not online, given the existence of invitation-only sharing sites. if you're not invited and are barred access to their records, how do you know what they have?

Well, this is a good point - but I'm pretty well versed in searching online, even dark corners. I was probably one of the first 1000 people to get on Oink before anyone knew what Oink was. Same goes for slsk. I used to have the sickness so bad I'd mail HDDs around.

I'm extrapolating from that experience. I don't trade files any more because I've been saturated with music. Now I wait for friends who know me to hand me things. Flash drives. Burned CD comps. More often than not these days it's stuff that they created, produced or recorded live. And I'm still drowning in music. I can't listen to it all, so I've become more selective and careful in my music.

More oddly I tend to listen to a lot of my own music or DJ sets. Because, duh, I created it or DJ'ed it because I really like it, and I have no problems listening to it more than once. It's kind of cool, like writing software (or designer drugs) tailored for my own ears. (If I had my druthers I'd be running Ableton Live on a PDA and just noodle with that wherever i was instead of plugging in an MP3 player.)

Anyway, I'm digressing. The stuff I'm looking for that I could name, if it existed online I would find it. It would be there for the asking. Many people I know run home media servers that are chock full of unobtanium, meticulously tagged and cataloged.

But it's not there, at least not on a connection that faces the internet. I can't make any provable arguments, but if you will - trust me on this one. Audio hipsters and weirdos are circling their wagons and intentionally protecting the concept of "rarity" for better or worse.
posted by loquacious at 7:35 AM on April 21, 2011


As far as I know that's still the only way to get it.

*cough...I'd never heard of this but it sounds right up my alley so thanks for that & I'll be *cough listening to it on my way into work now...
posted by Hesychia at 7:35 AM on April 21, 2011


I'm in the process now of finishing up my short ebook of almost every movie and television movie William Shatner did in the 60s and 70s. With the exception of one movie, every single one is available through Amazon.com, on YouTube, or, in the case of the television movies, in horrible third-generation VHS dubs to CDR that are sold through the gray market.

Now, I'm pretty sure nobody else is taking Shatner's body of work during this period as a subject for genuine intellectual inquiry (although there is a site that detailed all his toupees from the era), and so I can't imagine who would want these films. It's like the Internet has conspired to make an extremely weird book of film criticism possible.

So I say: Thank you web. And future generations of Shatnerologists will thank you.
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:38 AM on April 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


All's I know is when I wanted a copy of Dominic Frontiere's amazing, incredible, super-funky soundtrack to Bruce Brown's motorcycle documentary On Any Sunday, I had to track down that sumbitch on vinyl. As far as I know that's still the only way to get it.

Thanks! I'm listening to the entire album right now for free on Spotify.
posted by vacapinta at 7:43 AM on April 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Faze: "I made a record with my crappy band in the 1970s. We pressed up 500 copies. We couldn't give 'em away. I threw half of them in the garbage over the years. I may have a few copies in closet somewhere. Anyhow, one day the record pops up -- both sides -- on a website devoted to obscure 70s singles. Now it's all over the place. You can watch the label spin as you listen on YouTube. You can buy a copy for an obscene amount from Europe. Who was searching for this thing? Who put it on line? Amazing."

Are you not going to give us a link?
posted by HSWilson at 7:43 AM on April 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


But especially as a college teacher, I often run into the attitude that if it's not online, it doesn't exist. It's leading to a vast gap in cultural continuity, loss of historical cultural memory, and revision of important historical narratives in dubious directions. So *much* is online that it's hard to believe that's only the tip of the informational iceberg. I am aware of thousands of hours of significant analog audio archives (of singular material, I happen to manage one) that are not online, or in some cases even searchable online.

I call bullshit. The fact that a song from the '70 that only five people ever heard isn't available online isn't leading to a gap in anything, much less "revision of important historical narratives." (I have no idea what that whole sentence is supposed to mean beyond a generic "you kids these days with your interwebs.") The whole reason for your fetishization of the unfindable is that it's rare--which means that in a historical sense it's more or less irrelevant, since the vast majority of people have been able to get by perfectly well without being aware of its existence.

I'm an eighteenth-century historian who studies a very (deservedly) obscure niche topic. The source loss there, in terms of things that exist on paper in archives, is so huge that it seems ridiculous even to point it out. But even on more important questions we're missing a lot of stuff--you'd be surprised at how little Adam Smith material there is extant. Is this leading to "a vast gap in cultural continuity"? Of course not, and I think it's hard to argue that Random Garage Band is more important than Adam Smith. Culture and history route around gaps very easily, and in fact the whole notion of a "cultural continuity" that can be positivistically reconstructed by gathering together every bit of recorded everything is very new and dependent on new technologies (of which the Internet is the most successful example). The Internet may be helping us realize what we're missing, but squatting with trembling fingers in front of your precious, undigitized collection of rare vinyl is not contributing anything to "cultural continuity" or anything else.

All's I know is when I wanted a copy of Dominic Frontiere's amazing, incredible, super-funky soundtrack to Bruce Brown's motorcycle documentary On Any Sunday, I had to track down that sumbitch on vinyl. As far as I know that's still the only way to get it.

Nope, found it on Soulseek in under a minute. (Soulseek is still one of the best sources of obscure music out there.)
posted by nasreddin at 7:44 AM on April 21, 2011 [11 favorites]


I haven't seen the term mutatis mutandis used since one of my earliest bosses twenty years ago. I have tried to google it in the past to understand what it means but never found it decently enough.

Pray enlighten me, O gentle OP...
posted by infini at 7:45 AM on April 21, 2011


I was getting rid of my old PS2 games and I kept about half, even though I don't have a PS2, because I'm not sure what I'd have to go through to get God Hand or Dragon Quarter if I got rid of the discs.

They are both in the Redump collection, which is (illegally) available online in various places. It's still probably easier to buy used copies for a few bucks though.
posted by burnmp3s at 7:46 AM on April 21, 2011


It's all about track selection now, not that it hasn't been before... but discerning ears in the IDM/EDM music scene demand more. They don't want to hear the same tracks they have at home. They can DJ them themselves. The rarity, eclecticness and freshness of a working DJ's collection is extremely important these days, more important than it ever was.

It was always about track selection, but I have kicked DJs off the decks at house parties that were bombing and played out of their own record crate and got people dancing -- with the exact same set of records that people were ignoring before. And I've had the same thing happen to me when I couldn't get a read on a room. (Embarassingly, Jessie Tittsworth did this to me at his club when I played there and started bombing -- he didn't play the same songs I was playing, but his stuff was definitely less obscure than mine was). I can usually get people on the dance floor with almost any set of dance records in any genre. It's just about reading the room and controlling the flow of the set.
posted by empath at 7:47 AM on April 21, 2011



The hipster backlash ("you're only talking about how all kinds of obscure stuff isn't on the Internet to make yourself look cool") is really poisoning the well here. If "everything" means "everything popular," then of course nearly everything is online at this point.


I agree with you. But it's worth noting that even having all the popular stuff available is a big, big change.

As recently as ten years ago, there were albums that were notoriously out of print — music nerds across the globe could all tell you "Oh, yeah, that thing, it's supposed to be great but you can't get it anywhere, it's never been reissued." The pent-up demand for some of these things was huge. There were thousands of people who wanted copies and couldn't get them. That's just not the case anymore, and it's a big deal, even if it falls short of total access to every last thing.
posted by nebulawindphone at 7:51 AM on April 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Culture and history route around gaps very easily, and in fact the whole notion of a "cultural continuity" that can be positivistically reconstructed by gathering together every bit of recorded everything is very new and dependent on new technologies (of which the Internet is the most successful example).

YES.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 7:51 AM on April 21, 2011


As recently as ten years ago, there were albums that were notoriously out of print — music nerds across the globe could all tell you "Oh, yeah, that thing, it's supposed to be great but you can't get it anywhere, it's never been reissued."

Yep, I almost spent $100 trying to get this record on ebay 7 or 8 years ago. Just the other day I decided to do a quick search for it to see if anyone had made an mp3 of it and found it in less than 5 minutes. Previously, I could only find versions from various mix cds it had been included on. There used to be such a thing as rare dance records. There aren't any more. They've all been ripped or are being ripped soon.
posted by empath at 7:56 AM on April 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's just about reading the room and controlling the flow of the set.

We'll have to agree to disagree. I used to think the same thing but if a paid DJ walked into, say, the Baltic Room here in Seattle and dropped a bunch of tracks that were overplayed or otherwise common they wouldn't ever play there again.

The techno heads in Seattle are fiercely evolved and well-versed in the music. It's a tough and discerning - but enthusiastic - crowd. (Which is one of the reasons why Decibel Festival is here.) I have to say it's been educational.

Anyway, let's agree to disagree and stop derailing the thread.
posted by loquacious at 8:04 AM on April 21, 2011


Following on my earlier comment, I've found that Spotify fills almost all our music needs.

This despite Mrs. V having a predilection for strange classical music like Gyorgy Kurtag and me sometimes liking to reminisce about my Mexican childhood with music from small Mexican trios. When we have guests, we sometimes challenge them to name some obscure track they like and usually, seconds later, we are listening to it.
posted by vacapinta at 8:04 AM on April 21, 2011


I'm extrapolating from that experience. I don't trade files any more because I've been saturated with music. Now I wait for friends who know me to hand me things. Flash drives. Burned CD comps. More often than not these days it's stuff that they created, produced or recorded live. And I'm still drowning in music. ... Many people I know run home media servers that are chock full of unobtanium, meticulously tagged and cataloged.

still, you made those connections via the internet in the first place yes? and that's the thing: it's not just about having good search skills. sometimes it's about participating in a community and getting to know other folks and earning their trust. sometimes "finding something on the internet" means "connecting with someone who has that thing via the internet".

i mean, i don't participate here on mefi too very often and even so, i've had more than a few neat things emailed to me unrequested from other mefifolk who i don't even know, just because i left a comment or posted an askme question.

my point: this phenomenon is not just because the internet is good for storing & sharing stuff. it's also largely because the internet has facilitated connection and communication between folks with shared interests who in previous times would have likely never found each other.

p.s. "unobtainium" is an awesome word!
posted by jammy at 8:06 AM on April 21, 2011


infini, in response to your query above-

mutatis mutandis: "by changing those things which need to be changed"
posted by jammy at 8:08 AM on April 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I pitched this story back in 2001 and nobody bit.
posted by mrgrimm at 8:10 AM on April 21, 2011


fourcheesemac: as a college teacher, I often run into the attitude that if it's not online, it doesn't exist. It's leading to a vast gap in cultural continuity, loss of historical cultural memory

nasreddin: The source loss there, in terms of things that exist on paper in archives, is so huge that it seems ridiculous even to point it out. [...] Is this leading to "a vast gap in cultural continuity"? Of course not

Let's call the kind of "source loss" or forgetting that nasreddin is talking about missing(1): how very little of once-extant material is now archived and available to researchers in any physical form, even if undigitized. This is very different from the one that I think fourcheesemac is trying to talk about, missing(2): how little of the extant, even well-catalogued(1), material is found by people whose naive techno-utopian attitude leads them to confound senses (1) and (2), treating what's easily findable online as though it were "everything," the whole informational universe available — which is the same as the way this article talks about the universe of music. It might still be argued that even compounding loss(1), which historians are used to dealing with by necessity, with a further loss(2) of 90% of the archive doesn't dramatically change the historical record, but that'd be a harder argument. And I don't think the Internet helps us realize what we're missing(1), since we don't even seem to realize, given the way we seem to recurrently talk about these issues, how much the Internet is still missing(2) out of what's readily available(1).
posted by RogerB at 8:16 AM on April 21, 2011


The fact that a song from the '70 that only five people ever heard isn't available online isn't leading to a gap in anything, much less "revision of important historical narratives."
I can give you an example of what he's talking about that has nothing to do with music. The New York Times is the paper of record today, and therefore its entire archive is online and full-text searchable. But it wasn't the paper of record in 1910. It was one of many competing New York newspapers, each with their own political perspective, and it happened to be the most conservative of the bunch. Most of the other New York dailies of the time have folded, and I don't think any of them are online and full-text searchable. So if students only use the internet to find primary sources, they will get a distorted view of what New Yorkers were reading and thinking in 1910.
posted by craichead at 8:17 AM on April 21, 2011 [6 favorites]


that is to say, what's that word: asymptote? as time approaches infinity, so does the catalog of *available* digitized media. sure, there are literal tons and tons of music, movies, etc. that *aren't* available yet. but the line approaches zero.

i'm not sure how one could prove or disprove that a particular piece of media is or is not online, given the existence of invitation-only sharing sites. if you're not invited and are barred access to their records, how do you know what they have?

yes yes yes. how much stuff is just sitting in someone's Dropbox folder? or on a protected/non-search-indexed server. "available" is relative.

it is interesting, though, that i found the example used in the article--"Rod Stewart and the Faces' 1974 live effort, Coast to Coast: Overture and Beginners" in about 5 seconds using:
"coast to coast: overture and beginners" site:mediafire.com
You can watch the label spin as you listen on YouTube.

Oh c'mon. Link?
posted by mrgrimm at 8:20 AM on April 21, 2011


This is very different from the one that I think fourcheesemac is trying to talk about, missing(2): how little of the extant, even well-catalogued(1), material is found by people whose naive techno-utopian attitude leads them to confound senses (1) and (2), treating what's easily findable online as though it were "everything," the whole informational universe available — which is the same as the way this article talks about the universe of music.

But it's not like people would be exposed to more of the unavailable stuff if the internet wasn't there. I'm not seeing any net loss anywhere in this scenario.
posted by nasreddin at 8:24 AM on April 21, 2011


I can give you an example of what he's talking about that has nothing to do with music. The New York Times is the paper of record today, and therefore its entire archive is online and full-text searchable. But it wasn't the paper of record in 1910. It was one of many competing New York newspapers, each with their own political perspective, and it happened to be the most conservative of the bunch. Most of the other New York dailies of the time have folded, and I don't think any of them are online and full-text searchable. So if students only use the internet to find primary sources, they will get a distorted view of what New Yorkers were reading and thinking in 1910.

I'm pretty sure that many of them are, in fact, digitized, whether on Google Books or on specialized databases that you need an institutional subscription to get to. Unless you're a student at an institution with a major research library, there's no way you would have had access to most of them anyway.
posted by nasreddin at 8:28 AM on April 21, 2011


As recently as ten years ago, there were albums that were notoriously out of print — music nerds across the globe could all tell you "Oh, yeah, that thing, it's supposed to be great but you can't get it anywhere, it's never been reissued." The pent-up demand for some of these things was huge. There were thousands of people who wanted copies and couldn't get them. That's just not the case anymore, and it's a big deal, even if it falls short of total access to every last thing.

Even though we can split hair about "everything" that's the real significance here. Even if you set the content as "almost everything produced in the last 50 years"

I don't know why, b/c I'm not a huge fan and I might just be making this up, but I often think of Basquiat and his method of painting, where he would be simultaneously reading 2 or 3 different books and listening to the radio or watching television, and a lot of his painting are informed by the specific passage or news items, etc.

I think the collective world's mind is still boggling at the concept of what the next generation's artists will do with the resources they now have available to them.
posted by mrgrimm at 8:44 AM on April 21, 2011


RogerB is quite right. I am in the process of donating some of my mother's old 45s to the music library. She won them in dance contests, back in the day, and for a few of them I have found no trace of online. They're probably trash to most people, but to a few folks that was their band they were in, just another memory in a retirement home, one that will be lost to stroke or heart failure or to something else. It might be a little nothing a girl danced away to some time in the fifties or it might be Penny and the Quarters.

Who knows? The Internet did not make it go away but we lose a little something by looking at what is available for torrent and saying, "This is all that is."
posted by adipocere at 8:45 AM on April 21, 2011


thank you jammy
posted by infini at 8:46 AM on April 21, 2011


I'm wondering if all these years I was googling with a wrong spelling or this is a recent entry adn I just haven't done the search or thought about the phrase in a few years... hm wonder if that was when wikipedia got launched
posted by infini at 8:48 AM on April 21, 2011


we lose a little something by looking at what is available for torrent and saying, "This is all that is."

What do we lose, concretely?
posted by nasreddin at 8:49 AM on April 21, 2011


Most of the other New York dailies of the time have folded, and I don't think any of them are online and full-text searchable.

Check out Chronicling America at the Library of Congress. They currently have four NY newspapers, and of the three in operation in 1910, two have 1910 digitized, and the third currently up to March 1909.
posted by fings at 8:56 AM on April 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


I should say that I'm not dogmatically committed to the idea that everything that's important is already online. What I'm saying is that we should stop acting like this is some kind of inherent problem with the medium and keep working to make sure more and more material is digitized and online. Any other stance on this issue strikes me as elitist and obscurantist.
posted by nasreddin at 9:05 AM on April 21, 2011 [5 favorites]


Concretely? We stop looking when there are things which could still be found, just not on a quick Google search. We think smaller when we could think bigger. We stop funding music libraries that preserve these things because well, this stuff is all on the net now, right?

This is a general problem in libraries. Students search on Google, they don't go deep into library resources, libraries therefore cannot report great usage stats, budgets either get smaller or stay the same as costs increase, so library resources dwindle because the usage doesn't justify budget increases, and there is now less to find in libraries, so students search more on Google because the library had to cancel that subscription to that journal, and the cycle continues anew.

Nothing is being yanked out of anyone's hands or deleted from their iPods. The only loss is potential, that the past does not progress into the future. It's about shrinking horizons.
posted by adipocere at 9:11 AM on April 21, 2011 [5 favorites]


adipocere, as I understand it, most private torrents sites do not appear in a google search.
posted by gorgor_balabala at 9:18 AM on April 21, 2011


I wish Schoolhouse Rock were still around so that they could put an earworm jingle in people's heads that might reduce the seemingly eternal its / it's confusion.

Oh! If you want it to be posessive
it's just I-T-S
But if it's supposed to be a contraction
then it's I-T-apostrophe-S!
Scallawag! (direct mp3 link)

-- Strong Bad Email #89
posted by straight at 9:26 AM on April 21, 2011


I am in the process of donating some of my mother's old 45s to the music library. She won them in dance contests, back in the day, and for a few of them I have found no trace of online. They're probably trash to most people, but to a few folks that was their band they were in, just another memory in a retirement home, one that will be lost to stroke or heart failure or to something else. It might be a little nothing a girl danced away to some time in the fifties or it might be Penny and the Quarters.

(Aside from potential illegalities) why not digitize/upload them and send a link to any number of music blogs that would distribute the info about those 45s to X number of possible fans around the world? You could still donate them to the library after.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:27 AM on April 21, 2011


You can watch the label spin as you listen on YouTube.

Oh c'mon. Link?
posted by mrgrimm at 11:20 AM on April 21


Yeah, I mean holy shit I want to hear any band that Faze was in...I somehow imagine they sound like a proto-punk Huey Lewis and the News.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:31 AM on April 21, 2011 [7 favorites]


Check out Chronicling America at the Library of Congress. They currently have four NY newspapers, and of the three in operation in 1910, two have 1910 digitized, and the third currently up to March 1909.
That's great, but that means that there are about ten other New York newspapers that aren't online. And if you're looking at the late 1910s or early 1920s, the situation is even worse.
Unless you're a student at an institution with a major research library, there's no way you would have had access to most of them anyway.
Most university libraries have access to interlibrary loan. And pretty much every library will have some print materials that aren't online, so the same principle holds at every library, although with different materials.

I'm hugely pro-digitizing. Digitized books have made my life much, much easier, especially since most of my stuff is in the public domain. But people miss out on stuff when they rely wholly on digital resources, and that will continue to be true for the forseeable future.
posted by craichead at 9:32 AM on April 21, 2011


What I took from this article wasn't so much an absolute 'everything is available online' statement, inviting the inevitable Google games. Instead, I got a melancholic R.I.P. for the "thrill of the hunt," searching for that treasure that you had read about all those years and then finally, somehow, being able to hold it in your hands (or a fuzzy VHS copy of it). I do think that feeling is a lot rarer these days thanks to Internet accessibility. Don't get me wrong ... I find it fantastic that I can read about some obscure song or film and, 95% of the time, find it (or previews of it) somewhere on the web to satiate my curiosity. But on the other hand: when I was in college in the late 80's I had a friend with an amazing VHS-copied film collection. I would regularly stay over at his house just to sit there - all night, alone - watching these rare art films that I only read about before (this was in a very small town). It was such a thrill, and I really looked forward to these after-hours movie marathons. As for my friend, the only reason he had these movies was because he would regularly go on business trips to "the big city." He travelled with two VCRs and would find the 'cool' video store, renting and copying from his hotel room as time would allow. Such obsessiveness was a lot of fun. Again, I love the instant access and can't imagine life without it now, but I also miss the lengths many of us resorted to in order to hear and watch this fantastic, obscure stuff.
posted by General Zubon at 9:33 AM on April 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I mean holy shit I want to hear any band that Faze was in...I somehow imagine they sound like a proto-punk Huey Lewis and the News.

I would be disappointed if they weren't called John Galt and Randroids
posted by entropicamericana at 9:35 AM on April 21, 2011


Can't wait for the backlash. It's already starting. Vinyl is bigger than it's been in decades and, especially, cassette-only labels have huge cultural cachet now. Zines are going to come back in a HUGE way. Going to Kinko's and making like 30 copies of your zine or comic, it's going to be the thing everyone does like having a tumblr, and some of it will get scanned and posted online but most of it you'll just have to snag a copy somehow. Internet availability backlash. Ripping will suddenly be seen as deeply uncool. A return to scarcity, because with scarcity comes desire and rarity and excitement. As much as I'm in paradise right now, I feel that itch that there's something we've given up in the process. So I can't wait, personally.
posted by naju at 9:39 AM on April 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


The Internet did not make it go away but we lose a little something by looking at what is available for torrent and saying, "This is all that is.

That's true, I've just spent a couple of hours looking for the obscure DarkCore track "We Fear Change" by The Strawmen
posted by fullerine at 9:40 AM on April 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


As for 'every media', I'm not sure it applies to videogames. I was getting rid of my old PS2 games and I kept about half, even though I don't have a PS2, because I'm not sure what I'd have to go through to get God Hand or Dragon Quarter if I got rid of the discs.

Are you kidding? Nothing is more comprehensively archived on the internet than video games. A search for "God Hand iso" will lead you to hundreds of working links.

I seriously doubt that anyone can name a commercially-released video game that can't be found on the internet. The major exception that proves the rule would be a bunch of recent arcade cabinets the ROMS of which haven't been dumped yet out of respect for the makers of the games, but who have owners who fully intend to dump and release them when the cabinets are no longer earning money for the companies that made them.
posted by straight at 9:47 AM on April 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


If anyone has a copy of Faze's second early-80s band 'Jimmy Crack Crow and the Lawn Dark C Plus Plus Ultra Good' (throbbing gristle meets neo-swing) on original white-on-white vinyl I'll give you a million dollars.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:48 AM on April 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


what general zubon said.

in the early 80s, i was in high school, and had heard the song din daa da once (george kranz). it became kind of a quest to find other people who had at least heard that song. these people were usually dressed interestingly or something, and i would ask them if they were familiar with it. we usually ended up singing a little of that together, and the search broadened. then i would get an artist name, and start the search thru the network of known cool music shops. same for trio's da da da. it was definitely a fun part of being into music. i don't mourn the loss of that sort of time-intensive searching, but i certainly enjoyed it at the time.
posted by rude.boy at 9:49 AM on April 21, 2011


Internet availability backlash. Ripping will suddenly be seen as deeply uncool. A return to scarcity, because with scarcity comes desire and rarity and excitement.

That sounds horrible. Tracking down music is fun and all, but the real excitement comes from listening to it.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 9:55 AM on April 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


That sounds horrible.

No kidding. What is the appeal of this kind of fashionable nostalgia for things that actually sucked? I don't understand it at all.
posted by enn at 10:04 AM on April 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Internet availability backlash. Ripping will suddenly be seen as deeply uncool. A return to scarcity, because with scarcity comes desire and rarity and excitement.

It's hard to imagine a more precise distinction between music lovers and music collectors.
posted by straight at 10:04 AM on April 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


The more I can have, the less I want.

This has actually turned out to be true.
posted by Decani at 10:11 AM on April 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


still, you made those connections via the internet in the first place yes? and that's the thing: it's not just about having good search skills. sometimes it's about participating in a community and getting to know other folks and earning their trust.

I know you probably don't know my history, but that's practically a definition of what I do in life when it comes to art and music communities, and communities in general.

So, yeah, it's not all about the internet, and not all of the searching I'd do for music happens on the internet. A lot of it is sneakenet or word of mouth, too.

And places like Oink were entirely community/trust based. You didn't get an invite unless you knew someone, and you didn't get to stay on the site unless your rips were of high quality, rare and otherwise wanted. They actually had a leech ratio and it was steep. You had to share more than you took from the site. To have someone go out of their way to invite me to Oink without me asking that early on was really kind of a big deal. I just happened to know the right people and they new I had a bunch of random/rare stuff. (And sadly, I never really used Oink that much because the community was so daunting and really active.)

Anyway, yeah. As others are also pointing out, there's all kinds of stuff not available on the net. And it'll probably always be that way, because people are still making new things.
posted by loquacious at 10:19 AM on April 21, 2011


Concretely? We stop looking when there are things which could still be found, just not on a quick Google search. We think smaller when we could think bigger. We stop funding music libraries that preserve these things because well, this stuff is all on the net now, right?

This is a description of something that could theoretically happen, but I see no evidence that it is an actual trend in real life. There was never a big push for the public to preserve copies of all popular media in the way that we naturally do online, which is why there are so many stories about a media corporation's warehouse burning down and thus losing the only original copy of some extremely important and popular piece of media.

Huge collections of content online tend to attract more organized and diligent collectors and archivists to push toward better, more robust collections. Look at something like MAME or Wikipedia, there was never a point in those projects where people said "Okay, we're done now, what we have now isn't everything but it's good enough." If you cataloged what mp3s were online 10 years ago, it was mostly popular stuff, but the fact that you can listen to pretty much every popular song ever released on YouTube at this point has lead to music blogs about obscure rarities. The easy availability of everything mainstream or popular does not discourage people from looking anywhere else, it encourages people to find the more obscure things and make them available as well.
posted by burnmp3s at 10:21 AM on April 21, 2011


The most obscure, rare music exists only as a single 8-track in the back of a forgotten closet. Is it still music though, if no one can hear it?
posted by bonehead at 10:21 AM on April 21, 2011


Going to Kinko's and making like 30 copies of your zine or comic, it's going to be the thing everyone does like having a tumblr

No, it won't. Having a tumblr will be the thing everyone does like having a tumblr.

As much as I'm in paradise right now, I feel that itch that there's something we've given up in the process.

It's called nostalgia. We all have it, most of us get over and move on. The rest of us become adipocere.
posted by timdicator at 10:23 AM on April 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I love the instant access and can't imagine life without it now, but I also miss the lengths many of us resorted to in order to hear and watch this fantastic, obscure stuff.

Just as many of us will fondly remember running outside to play ball while our grandkids haul out the Nintendo Z and don their Virtuogoggles for a quick match at Wimbledon.

The digitization of the world's media library only makes live performance that much more significant. Or what loquacious said somewhere up there.

The more I can have, the less I want.

This has actually turned out to be true.


Another argument in favor of digital media. Less production; less consumption.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:28 AM on April 21, 2011


This is a description of something that could theoretically happen, but I see no evidence that it is an actual trend in real life.

I work in a library. We were talking about this particular problem this week. We have to justify budgets in the face of "Isn't this all on Google?" constantly. If it isn't something we're hearing from the CFU, we hear it from the students.

Ask me if we are winning.
posted by adipocere at 10:28 AM on April 21, 2011


librarians and collectors may not be winning - but WE are
posted by pyramid termite at 10:31 AM on April 21, 2011


Well, there's an "internet availability backlash" I'd like to see, and it's an end to the gap between performers and audience members.

So, okay, anyone in the world can download all the songs they want. But the visceral experience of singing close harmony with a good friend is one that you can't download. And that makes it a pretty inflation-proof source of social capital — one that will hold its value no matter how much shit is online. I like to think that in the future, more people will be all "Forget your mp3 collection. Recordings are so 2010. If you really want to get this party started, you should call that one guy who leads drinking songs really well."
posted by nebulawindphone at 10:35 AM on April 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


It's called nostalgia. We all have it, most of us get over and move on. The rest of us become adipocere.

If it's actually only nostalgia that drives people to want to create things with their own hands without a computer, we're so fucked.

I just got a bunch of "useless crap" back from storage after not having it for almost 2 years, and in that crap was a bunch of nice paper and pens and other art supplies.

Stuff pure cotton rag paper that's an eighth of an inch thick that I had been meticulously saving for "good" art. The first thing I did was say "fuck it, I haven't seen this stuff in 2 years. I'm going to use up some good paper just doodling."

Anyway, point being it's not all nostalgia. There's pleasure in creative processes - and getting your hands dirty - that can't be replicated by a computer. Pixels are not ink on fiber, or toner on copypaper, even. To discount this is kind of missing the entire DIY aspect of zines or home recording.
posted by loquacious at 10:41 AM on April 21, 2011


Edit: Stuff +like pure cotton rag
posted by loquacious at 10:43 AM on April 21, 2011


Ask me if we are winning.

As a researcher, I'm keenly aware of the problem, particularly in scientific and industrial research publishing. As the post down-page shows, access to scientific and other technical info is currently being hoarded (there's really no other word) by commerial gatekeepers.

It's not just journal articles either. There are whole fields of "grey literature" of one-off reports from NGOs, corporate researchers, government data reports, conference reports, etc... that aren't captured by the "scientifc literature". Getting these on-line, catalogued and properly referenced is a huge problem, but it's a huge problem that only needs to be solved once (in theory).

Unfortunately coordination is almost non-existant and there's lots of duplicated effort, which can mean a lot of money wasted. Yeah, librarians are always going to have to fight for resources, but not-invented-here and data-hoarding tendencies dont' really help their cases from an end-user point of view. To be clear, this is often more a problem of decision makers over the librarians' heads, but the effects are the same from the outside: divided and fragmented collections.
posted by bonehead at 10:44 AM on April 21, 2011


I mean holy shit I want to hear any band that Faze was in

I think I heard them. Weren't they called Fazey Hand and C?
posted by octobersurprise at 10:49 AM on April 21, 2011


Tracking down music is fun and all, but the real excitement comes from listening to it.

It's hard to imagine a more precise distinction between music lovers and music collectors.

And yet I deeply love, and listen to, music more than almost anyone I know. I like the idea of more scarcity not because I'm obsessed with collecting (I don't even collect mp3s, I listen to most of my music on streaming cloud services). I like it because when everything is at my fingertips, I take it for granted and value it SO much less. Maybe I want to go back to the thrill of finding something hidden and playing the SHIT out of it for a month straight because it's all I can afford for the moment, and knowing that record inside and out and having it mean something to me. Instead of just saying 'Yeah, good," and moving on to the next thing.
posted by naju at 10:50 AM on April 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


For instance, one of the largest collections of music (in Canada) is said to be the CBC archives. Beyond the commercial stuff, they have many, many obscure releases, demos, field recordins and the like. Millions of hours of music and audio, well indexed. Is this archive, fully paid for by public money available to the public? No.

The reason? Copyright, some they can't control, sure, but a lot native to the CBC itself, which they could release if they wanted to. Funding to make it available too is an issue, but a lesser one than the theory that some radio program from the 1960s is too valuable to release.
posted by bonehead at 10:50 AM on April 21, 2011


It's disheartening that we're taking the immense potentiality of instant global communications and essentially limitless storage to create our own little Libraries of Alexandria. "Information wants to be free" but money is more powerful than knowledge alone. If it's not available on the vast human library of the internet, any personal profit is dwarfed by the immense value of making it available to everyone (potentially and ideally forever).

This can work with reasonable IP laws. Scarcity of information is a backwards concept.
posted by polyhedron at 10:54 AM on April 21, 2011


It's called nostalgia.

This is not the case for the legions of 15-21 year olds that are becoming vinyl LP collectors. They were barely around for the peak years of the CD, let alone the record. People are overwhelmed by the amount of EVERYTHING available online, and can't bond with the intangible. Making bonds with the stuff is what enjoying any artform is all about. When the mechanics of discovering and enjoying music are basically the same process as YouTube cat video watching, well, it's obvious why this 'backlash' is occurring.

And it's not black and white. I LOVE discovering new and obscure stuff from mp3 blogs. Despite the fact that I've worked at record stores over 10 years, I've discovered more new and exciting music online than I ever did stickering endless copies of the same hit albums. At the same time, I'm getting back into tracking down the vinyl for archival purposes. I've tried being strictly HD/iPod, for convenience and all the usual reasons, and after a while it dissolved my enjoyment of music.
posted by tremspeed at 11:05 AM on April 21, 2011 [6 favorites]


"But especially as a college teacher, I often run into the attitude that if it's not online, it doesn't exist. It's leading to a vast gap in cultural continuity, loss of historical cultural memory, and revision of important historical narratives in dubious directions. So *much* is online that it's hard to believe that's only the tip of the informational iceberg. I am aware of thousands of hours of significant analog audio archives (of singular material, I happen to manage one) that are not online, or in some cases even searchable online."

My girlfriend, a medical librarian, describes something similar which I saw a lot of from my fellow students when I was still in school, and that's that if something's not on Google, they don't think it exists.

I do think that accessibility is over-estimated when you start getting into niche topics — one example that I can think of is when I was writing a poli-sci/art history paper on the outgrowths of Mexican muralism into Nicaraguan revolutionary murals. I saw frequent mention of how graffiti and murals were an important mode of communication, especially symbolically, during the Nicaraguan revolution against Samoza, but they were almost always passing references rather than notes with examples. The murals were important because they were one of the few ways to communicate propaganda with an illiterate population, and did actually serve practical use in terms of mobilizing the population and serving as demarcations of control. The primary icon was the Sandino hat (kind of an infinity symbol with a half-loop perpendicular), which was first used covertly to coordinate movements, then more openly as a statement of support, and which was added to a bunch of already existent murals as the revolution gained steam. (A similar, but less prevalent icon is the shoes for Zapatistas, a bit of a pun on zapatos).

Unfortunately, finding good examples of the murals from that time period was nearly impossible, even though there were ostensibly a couple of photo books that documented the murals. Those books were out of print, though commonly alluded to, and weren't digitized. Without seeing those primary images, and without a broader explication of the iconography, I just couldn't do enough research to be able to support anything aside from "These several commentators on the revolution all agree they were important."

I'm not saying that my undergrad paper was going to blow the world open with its original scholarship, but in dealing with librarians trying to help me find the primary sources, it did really show how something that was ostensibly an important part of the Nicaraguan revolution (itself important to studies of Latin America and political violence and even art history) was just inaccessible.
posted by klangklangston at 11:12 AM on April 21, 2011


[T]he experience of making and taking in culture is now, for the first time in human history, a condition of almost paralyzing overabundance. For millennia it was a condition of scarcity; and all the ways we regard things we want but cannot have, in those faraway days, stood between people and the art or music they needed to have: yearning, craving, imagining the absent object so fully that when the real thing appears in your hands, it almost doesn't match up. Nobody will ever again experience what Keith Richards and Mick Jagger experienced in Dartford, scrounging for blues records.

It totally depends what you're looking for. I get off on ephemeral treasures like flyers with staples and telephone-pole splinters still in them, short-run stickers and buttons, set-lists, and other little things that require some patience, some luck, and some fanatacism to snag. --not to mention original issues and singles and such (though it's back in the available-everywhere category with those)
posted by herbplarfegan at 1:06 PM on April 21, 2011


I just got back from the used record store. Picked up Carolyn and Erma Franklin's first albums, and one of those Arista Freedom Anthony Braxton albums.
posted by box at 1:16 PM on April 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


a lot native to the CBC itself, which they could release if they wanted to. Funding to make it available too is an issue, but a lesser one than the theory that some radio program from the 1960s is too valuable to release.

I was not aware of this massive archive but I suppose it makes sense--I for one would have no issue at all paying a membership or user fee to access it if taxes aren't enough to fund such a project. While I'm not sure it would be a great source of revenue for them, this would be something tangible enough to be used to justify continued funding of the CBC when the budget slashers come knocking.
posted by Hoopo at 1:19 PM on April 21, 2011


Last night I was reading 2001: A Space Odyssey on my Android tablet. I was at the part where Haywood Floyd travels to the Clavius Base on the Moon. Aboard the airliner-like spacecraft Floyd reads from several newspapers on a device very similar to a tablet computer. He marveled at the technology that put such a vast array of information at his fingertips. And I marveled at the Escheresque imbedded realities of life imitating art at my fingertips. If I had known as a teen back in '77 that one day I'd have a little screen on which I could watch Star Wars at anytime, I think I would have ecstatically morphed into the next stage of human evolution.

This. I think about this often, and it makes me excited for the world to come by default. Given the fact that my grandparents had 2-digit phone numbers, it's safe to say that a quick, 2-second glimpse to when I'm their age would probably make me involuntarily pee my pants out of sheer glee.

um... that is NOT an incontinence joke.
posted by herbplarfegan at 1:20 PM on April 21, 2011


I'm with the optimists. The internet isn't quite a universal library of everything yet, but it's more comprehensive, if you know where to look, than anyone ever dreamed in the wildest science fiction or futurology of even the very recent past. People are forgetting just how difficult it was to access stuff before the online revolution - if you missed a TV programme in the 1960s, that was it, perhaps for ever. Well, there'll never be another missing episode of Doctor Who again.

As bandwidth and storage grow apace in capacity and become ever cheaper the amount online will continue to mushroom. It will never have everything, and nothing lasts forever as the recent Google Video takedown shows, but let's not be churlish about the unbelievable resource it is, available for everyone all the time (unless you live in China, Burma, Iran etc).

Every time a new form of information technology comes along people complain that it will destroy content and reduce choice - they said it when CDs replaced records and Socrates said it about writing itself. In truth new technology greatly increases our capacity - otherwise it wouldn't be widely adopted. I think it's great, but then I'm a glass is 98% full kind of girl.
posted by joannemullen at 2:40 PM on April 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Whenever someone publicly claims they can now find anything on the Internets , I immediately perk up and check the usual torrent sources to see if I can find Claire's Hat, the great and hilarious underground documentary made by Bruce McDonald on his fiasco directing the movie "Pictures of Claire".

Still no luck.
posted by storybored at 3:26 PM on April 21, 2011


Well, there'll never be another missing episode of Doctor Who again.

preach it!
posted by jammy at 3:36 PM on April 21, 2011


naju: "cassette-only labels have huge cultural cachet now"

Oh FFS. This "trend" will last approximately as long as it takes for the middle of the bell curve of cassettes to start stretching, warping, blurring and then jamming up everyone's damn tape players. And then the only people left into them will be those too fetishistic about hipster pseudo-apartness for anyone to take seriously.

During the vinyl/tape era, cassettes were never the first choice of anyone who actually wanted to listen to music. They were the reluctant choice of many because they were the only tech that could affordably record in a small package, and the music company cartels had such price rigging power that they could set the price of vinyl (and then CD) artificially high compared to cassette prices. Also, they sounded like crap unless you splurged for metal tape... which still gacked up your player after a while.
posted by meehawl at 4:41 PM on April 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


Agree with meehawl, cassettes are willful obscurity and nothing more. Unlike vinyl, which never went away, cassettes are trash that went away for very good reasons.
posted by tremspeed at 5:09 PM on April 21, 2011


As for 'every media', I'm not sure it applies to videogames. I was getting rid of my old PS2 games and I kept about half, even though I don't have a PS2, because I'm not sure what I'd have to go through to get God Hand or Dragon Quarter if I got rid of the discs.

Are you kidding? Nothing is more comprehensively archived on the internet than video games. A search for "God Hand iso" will lead you to hundreds of working links.


Sweet! Guess I can trade in the rest of my collection than. Good, 'cause I need the cash. Didn't realize you could pirate PS2 games like that.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 5:37 PM on April 21, 2011


During the vinyl/tape era, cassettes were never the first choice of anyone who actually wanted to listen to music.

yes and no - if you wanted to take it with you, you had to go with cassettes - and decently made cassettes with high quality tape were less noisy than vinyl

my '97 escort has a cassette player - i never heard of a car with a record player

still, i have a lot more vinyl than i do cassettes

(and we'll just pretend 8-track never happened - god knows i did)
posted by pyramid termite at 9:43 PM on April 21, 2011


I'm spending more effort trimming my iTunes collection than I did adding to it.
posted by whuppy at 3:02 AM on April 22, 2011


Hesychia writes "For what amounts to a decentralized, often times illegal activity, I remain impressed by what is available on the internet, even without access to the private sites/trackers. Contrast today with what was available a decade ago and the difference is astronomical. "

It is truly amazing. I was torrenting a sitcom (don't judge me) the other day and a week after first network showing there were 50K+ seeders. 50K! And lately it seems like I can go searching for what I figure is the most obscure content and I'll find that a dozen or more people are actively seeding it. When I contrast it with say fax back tech support in the 80s, itself a wild improvement over mailing requests for information and SASEs, I sometimes feel faint.

naju writes "Internet availability backlash. Ripping will suddenly be seen as deeply uncool. A return to scarcity, because with scarcity comes desire and rarity and excitement."

Not withstanding loquacious's comment on the fun of physical creation; fuck those guys. Rarity for rarity's sake is elitist clique bullshit. It's joy in having something because others don't. And in the case of most audio and video there isn't any reason for it. Working in a limited release because of the nature of your media is fine but going out of your way to make stuff limited isn't much more than stone age DRM.

pyramid termite writes "i never heard of a car with a record player"

Automotive record player, Two different factory options from Chrysler, Dodge and DeSoto in '56 and '60 respectively.
posted by Mitheral at 6:59 AM on April 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


" and decently made cassettes with high quality tape were less noisy than vinyl"

You're doing it wrong then.
posted by tremspeed at 7:27 AM on April 22, 2011


I can't believe there are still people arguing vinyl vs cassette. The correct answer is: neither.
posted by pracowity at 10:52 AM on April 22, 2011


The correct answer is: vinyl.

Maybe I want to go back to the thrill of finding something hidden and playing the SHIT out of it for a month straight because it's all I can afford for the moment, and knowing that record inside and out and having it mean something to me. Instead of just saying 'Yeah, good," and moving on to the next thing.

When I find something goood online, I usually play the SHIT out of it for at least a month or two. Then if it stands up I buy a copy of the album. On vinyl.

a week after first network showing there were 50K+ seeders

A year after, however, there will be ... 12?
posted by mrgrimm at 11:00 AM on April 22, 2011


I like some of the labels that release stuff on cassettes (though I don't buy the tapes--I haven't had a deck in years), Not Not Fun and Hooker Vision and stuff, and I love some of the tape-archaelogy blogs. Lots of cassette-only releases are produced in tiny quantities, and, for artists who release in multiple formats, cassette releases are often a place for rougher and/or more immediate stuff. And it's true that tapes fail pretty quickly, but that's not necessarily a minus for some folks. The sound of a CD failing is only interesting to John Oswald and Girl Talk ten years ago, but tapes (and records) wear out in a way that some folks enjoy. Though I'm not a tape guy, I can see the appeal.

I thought this NPR story about cassettes was surprisingly good, though it's probably not going to change anybody's mind.
posted by box at 11:22 AM on April 22, 2011


Cassettes was also a noise scene thing for a long time, and a lot of the labels that do cassette only releases are sort of coming out of that, or appropriating it.

With labels like American Tapes, which was run by the guys from Wolf Eyes and had a bunch of Wolf Eyes and side projects on it, the degradation was part of it. When a lot of the folks coming out of the "shitgaze" scene adopted tapes only aesthetics, I saw it in line with their noise heritage (a lot of "shitgaze" is just noise pop with a clever name).
posted by klangklangston at 11:37 AM on April 22, 2011


I really don't think I'm an elitist collector type at all, and I don't even know how to refute that, but whatever. I'm only saying that more people are going to come around to this view that the internet is like a high-class buffet where everything you could want is available immediately and we're in the stage now where we're loving it and gorging ourselves, but sooner or later we'll start puking and want to return to something outside of the 15 minute blog hype cycle and instant mp3 gratification.
posted by naju at 11:54 AM on April 22, 2011


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