Bit Rot

Archaeologists are able to study previous lives of homo sapiens by digging up old artifacts and studying them. Then they write down their findings on another medium for future civilizations to discover and study. So far this process, plus a mix of oral and written tradition, has allowed us to study the past by examining a single continuous thread of human history.

2015

It's 10 minutes until the new year! I couldn't let 2015 go by without at least attempting a blog post. I'm hanging out with some friends ("Holla!!!") and I am ruminating on what to write here. A lot has been running through my head, and I actually had started many drafts over the past year - but was never really satisfied with the direction where the posts went. Maybe my self-expectation partly stifled the writing process, maybe I don't want to reveal too much, or appear to be boring - I'm not really sure.

The last few years I've found myself trying not to overthink things as a method of fighting anxiety, which has been a humbling and sometimes difficult experience. I hope to continue that learning process and even push beyond it to see if I can overcome some elements of self-consciousness without losing a sense of self. I'm excited to share some new projects (music and otherwise) in 2016 and seeing where time takes me...sure to be a wild ride, full of drifting and dead reckoning.

crazy dream

had a crazy dream...featuring a coin operated elevator and a lunatic chef fighter...

i was in this building in chicago, some sort of hotel/hostel, i go to the top floor and exit outside and it's night time. i'm on the chicago lakefront on the far north side where the shore curves a bit so i can see the lights of the city looking south...

the lakefront somehow has these weird giant white floating cubes and a white mesh net for the public to sit and walk out over the water on. i walked out onto one of the floating cubes, and then walked a bit more out on the net. i thought it seemed kinda dangerous to put a bunch of moving floating cubes on a public beach with big gaps that people would have to jump across...

Sentient spam

I had to turn off my comment system due to sentient spam. I might turn it back on in the future, but for now you can reach me through the contact form.

I started writing a bunch of stuff here related to online data theft, but I lost my train of thought. Something about businesses having the ability to skirt accountability in a way that governments and individuals cannot, and this turning into a kind of jealousy & envy by the latter.

With the increasing anthropomorphism of business entities in America, individuals now not only have to fight social and government oppression, but also businesses who claim to be a type of person, an "oligohuman" - in reality just a fair-weather friend. The concept is a little too clever, and a little too dangerous.

In comparison, a spambot seems downright endearing.

Let It Wash (over me)

A song Aaron and I recorded earlier this year. I've been working on new material and this project really surprised and motivated me. Looking forward to sharing other surprising things.

Visuals & Words

My brain tends to think first in sound (shapes and movements of sound) before visuals and words, though I know it is all related. I think focusing on non-auditory elements when writing a piece can really contextualize a song as it is being written. Usually people talk about the opposite phenomenon, of a piece of music powerfully altering a scene in a movie...but I like the idea of writing a song for a movie scene that doesn't exist yet.

On the Pono Player vs Compact Discs, and why the music industry is still insane

In recent years, compact discs have gotten a lot of inexplicable hate. I've heard folks talk about how it is obsolete, just a waste of plastic, while simultaneously stating that vinyl (a much larger piece of plastic) is a far superior listening experience.

I actually agree that vinyls and cassettes are a better listening experience. There is a wonderful tactile and "reuse" economy around these formats, allowing music to be shared and discovered and rediscovered in thrift shops, record shops and friend's basements. The nature of these formats also can result in more active listening since it is harder to skip around, combating attention deficit style listening habits. I like that these formats degrade sonically - sometimes a scratchy, warped Maceo Parker record sounds better than the original.

But, what's with the CD hate? I don't get it. I guess it isn't as romantic as tape or vinyl and not as convenient as MP3s. It's a mutt, a digital medium stuck in an analog world. But I think that makes it pretty unique on its own. You can play it back directly, copy it, or import it into your computer. Its fidelity is proven to be higher than cassettes, and meets or exceeds the fidelity of new, premium grade vinyl. There is no sonic degradation over time. You can store 80 minutes of audio on one disc compared to 22 minutes per side on a 33 RPM LP. All of this is stored basically on an ultra cheap 5" round metal sticker. Compared to other digital mediums like hard drives and cloud storage, this is a pretty good deal.

Now listen asshats, stop yelling at me - I just said that tapes and vinyl are more fun to listen to. I'm on your side. But people tend to conflate the quality of their subjective listening experience with the quality of the medium. They are not related. Music is connected to our emotions, however, so there is a lot of opportunity to exploit people's emotions for fame and profit.

Which brings me to Neil Young's bumbling $6 million dollar eye roll: the Pono Player. Somewhere along the way, Neil Young got duped into being a spokesman for the Pono player, which recently raised $6 million dollars on kickstarter for a toblerone shaped player that aims to sell customers giant audio files with extended frequencies that only bats and dogs can hear. The funny thing is that most studio masters probably can't support the higher resolution offerings, nor can many of the existing audio playback devices accurately play them. This means that you not only need to buy the Pono Player, but in order to reap the sonic benefits you need to upgrade to higher resolution audio files (if they exist) as well as upgrade your headphones and speakers, and also hope your ears can hear these supersonic frequencies.

To me, a CD already does exactly what the Pono Player does in an elegant and cost efficient way. But why the hate? And why so much po-mo navel gazing and nostalgia over audio formats?

I think this obsession over formats is a distraction from a larger problem, one related to the perceived value and worth of art and music in our society, and how it fits into a hyper connected global economy. In a world where almost all music is instantly available for almost nothing, the market value of music has dropped and artists seek any way to bolster its value - by offering supposed audiophile level formats or only selling one physical copy.

If people are interested in pushing audio mediums, there are so many ways we can innovate and improve: surround sound releases, hybrid video/audio, multitrack stem releases, music that responds to the environment, decentralized music distribution and better revenue share models.

The Aura of Analog

In the Pitchfork op-ed entitled, "The New Analog," author Damon Krukowski tries to articulate the importance of analog technology in today's digital world.

Unfortunately, he ends up confusing his readers and perpetuating digital myths. Already too often people romanticize technology, especially older analog technology, imbuing it with some sort of cosmic power of nature and righteous historical lineage. Digital technology is often seen as flat, processed, and lifeless. Krukowski takes this stereotype further, applying it to the human condition. Analog, good! Digital, bad!

So what is really the difference between analog and digital? Continuity. An analog signal is continuous, and a digital one is discrete. That's it. Modern circuit design often deals with a mixture of the two, and often deals with converting back and forth. Like a lot of engineering, the choice of dealing with a signal in either domain ends up being a series of tradeoffs. A designer tries to use the best techniques available to balance parameters like efficiency, control, and accuracy within given constraints. Analog techniques are still used today - it's just no longer the *only* technique available, thanks to the transistor.

Ok - now I know people don't always use the word analog literally, but I've also heard it misused in place of words like tactile, human and organic. I think the word people actually mean to use is serendipity. A lot of the positive mental associations of analog are the result of the non-linear and unpredictable nature of older analog circuits - the happy accidents. So, what people seem to love about this gear is the serendipitous nature of them. Knowing this, why can't "serendipity" be yet another feature that a designer builds into a circuit, digital or analog?

In the midst of all the confusion, Damon Krukowski incorrectly attributes an increase in social self-isolation to the digital age. He sees current technology as dividing us, and somehow thinks older technology will reconnect us. To look to older technology as a therapy for modern social discontent is missing the mark entirely. Why can't we define the future relationship we want with technology instead of imagining it as an immutable force of nature that defines us?

Krukowski is troubled by social trends, but rather than dig deeper into the social dynamics of technology he gets lost trying to assign blame to digital design. He comes to strange conclusions (GPS and headphones "digitizing" the human experience? Audio processing and compression "removing" human elements from our communication?) and so his conclusion is that we've lost something along the way, and we must look to analog for the answers. Maybe what Krukowski really wants is more serendipity in his life.

If there is anything to take away from the piece, it's that technology has succeeded in appearing to be the root cause and cure of all human problems, cementing its permanent relevance in our lives. In doing so, technology keeps us talking about technology, preventing us from talking about anything else. This conversational roadblock is a source of excitement as well as resentment, and I believe why we feel "controlled" and trapped by technology. It is presented as a false dilemma, something we either must totally reject or accept. To get past this, we have to stop imagining technology as a force outside of human control, and realize we imagine it, we create it, and we use it - and so we are capable of redefining our relationship with it.

New EP out! Dead Reckoning by Black Tie Elephant

Whew! Despite all the delays, finally released. Really happy with how the artwork turned out.

http://blacktieelephant.bandcamp.com/

In ship navigation, "dead reckoning" is a method of determining your current position based only on your previous position. It is a calculation based on guesswork. How do you know which decision is the correct one? How do you know where it will lead you?

Dead Reckoning is a four part story about a man lost at sea. Battling the inner torment of feeling lost, he must let go of the idea of home being only in one direction, and instead find comfort in the everyday choices he must make. Instead of asking "Which way is the right way?" he begins to ask "Which way do I want to go today?", turning his unknown fate into possibility.

The front artwork, drawn by Emi Yokoshima, is a Japanese yojijukugo that consists of four characters meaning: "Favorable wind, full sails."

released 19 November 2013
All songs written and performed by Farsheed Hamidi-Toosi and Brendan Finucane.


Voyage into the unknown

Getting older is like a trip to a foreign land. There are moments of joyous celebration, moments of utter confusion, moments of boredom and despair, and at times complex and unpredictable combinations of events that lead to bizarre clarity and insight. Days can drag into months into years, never seeming to change, and then all of a sudden two weeks will pack in a lifetime of experiences.

I think to be lucky is to be open to the unexpected, new experiences, even if they may seem scary or initially unexciting.

I realize I'm being a bit cryptic here, but then again I don't really feel like I can fully articulate my experiences or express myself in a blog post. I guess I write this as a reminder to my future self, and maybe in order to spark some kind of conversation with whomever stumbles across this post.