Matthew Wrather, Peter Fenzel, Jordan Stokes and John Perich overthink Steven Soderbergh’s Haywire and Neil Young’s hatred of contemporary music technology.
0:00–18:53 Question of the week: What’s your favorite Kate Beckinsale movie?
39:11–58:17 Neil Young and music technology
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Neil Young Angered By “Sound Of Music Today”
You Are Not a Gadget: A Manifesto
Tips for Saving Oil, from DotcomTuscon
Though the title of the podcast fits nicely, I think it might be a missed opportunity that you guys didn’t call it “Wu-Tang Jazz Acapella”.
No joke, one of the titles we were considering was: “The RZA!… The GZA!!!…” “The Warrant!”
Deep cut there. Who watched Carmen Sandiego?
Perich, I really love The Last Days of Disco. Then again, I really love all Whit Stillman’s movies, because I really like movies where people have “hyper-literate conversations” instead of sharing their feelings. But there are a couple scenes where people do drop all the pretense of their hyper-literacy and just sorta happen – and those scenes are all the sweeter because of their rarity. Robert Sean Leonard is in it, too. And by the way, Kate Beckinsale’s character is a completely dreadful person, who you may wish to reach into the screen and slap a couple times. If you watch The Last Days of Disco and like it, the next steps are the director’s earlier film Barcelona and the Noah Baumbach film Kicking and Screaming, which are very similar.
On the subject of digital music – personally, I listen to all my music on laptop computer speakers. None of the aural expansion that would theoretically be present on a phonograph album will be making it to my ears. For many situations, digitally compressed music files are exactly what is required. And I’m honestly a little skeptical of an industry insider levelling criticism at the digital music market just days after SOPA and PIPA were tabled indefinitely.
On the sound compression of AM radio – there’s a great essay at the end of David Foster Wallace’s book Consider the Lobster called “The Host”, which is about an AM talk radio host. Apparently, radio stations use sound compression for a couple things. One is to make sure the program fits inside the station’s allotted swath of the AM spectrum – they can get in big trouble with the FCC if they stray too much outside their band. The other is to make sure there is enough time for local ads. Many talk radio shows are syndicated – recorded in one location, and then sent out over wire to other stations for rebroadcast. If they wish, the station managers can use pretty advanced audio software to speed up the show a little bit, so they can make more time for commercials, or trim a program that runs a little long – and this process itself causes major sound compression (like listening to a cassette at high speed). It’s in the station’s best interest to not do this too much, because it would make the host sound like a squirrel – but their profit-making interests kinda demand that they do it at least a little bit. Anyway, thought you (Wrather) might like to know that.
How could none of you have not come up with “Cold Comfort Farm”? It was the first movie Kate Beckinsale ever made, and perhaps, the last good one.
I think maybe I lack the sensibility to appreciate the Underworld movies…
Or perhaps you have enough sensibility. ZING!
In all seriousness, I’ve seen the first two, and neither impressed me. I tried to like them and wanted to, and I entered with no expectations in order to try and facilitate that. But I liked the villains a lot more than the protagonists, probably because they’re the only ones that seem like mildly competent actors. And those villains didn’t have enough screen time to carry the movies for me.
And the thing is, I can actually enjoy Van Helsing, despite its being so terrible. There’s some sort of tongue-in-cheek spark embedded in it that makes it… Well, I can’t think of the word to use, but “adorable” or “precious” come to mind. But the Underworld movies just don’t really get away with that. I can appreciate a good bad movie, but… Meh.
You guys are going to have got deep inside my brainpan given how ill and lying dozing I was whilst listening to this.
Much Ado About Nothing: Y’all know Joss Whedon took a weekend out of his Avengers filming schedule to make his own version with all of his regulars, like NPH and Nathan Fillion… right?
Neil Young’s complaint seems counter to arguments I’ve heard in favor of digital files, not against- I’d heard digital files are the best because they can be cleaned up and that the compression stuff is good for music. And a lot can have to do with equipment. I’m not trying to advertise, but those Beats Audio headphones are rather spectacular- I can hear more layers of a recording of the same song with them on my head while on the bus than when I have it playing as loud as my laptop can handle with no other sounds in my apartment. I was just borrowing them from a friend (I wish I had my own, but by golly are those things expensive), so I only used them once, but I think the difference between them and regular earbuds or my laptop speakers shows how there are lots of ways sound quality can be changed. I think of it like a trajectory or path with little ditches that can capture or alter part of the sound along the way. The equipment capturing the sound during the initial recording; the equipment mixing it (if it’s different); the format it becomes; the device it gets copied in/on; the device projecting it; any potential background noise; your own ear; and your brain. At each stop, a little bit of it can get lost or messed up. We can’t make our brains process music better (as far as I know…), but it’s true that high-quality equipment makes a difference.
Anyhoo, I guess I also question what Young is really getting at, too.
Just take a bath in Ra’s al Ghul’s Lazarus pit. I bet it’d exfoliate your skin nicely, to boot.
And apparently there are rumors that Gina Carano may play Wonder Woman…?
Careful, becoming an audiophile is tumbling down a deep and expensive rabbit hole and the Beats are nowhere near the most expensive thing out there.
But I think the point Young is trying to make is much like the ones that photographers who prefer film over digital are making. Even in a world with full-frame DSLRs that shoot at 24 megapixels, nothing can beat the quality of a photo shot on film. I’m guessing that might be the case with sound as well. I wonder how he feels about lossless formats like FLAC or even high quality MP3s?
And of course Wikipedia knows all: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Analog_recording_vs._digital_recording
Further reading about Beats by Dr. Dre and how they transform music for the current bass loving generation (to much hatred by audiophiles): http://pitchfork.com/features/resonant-frequency/8757-permission-to-avalanche-four-fragments-on-bass/
Heh, linked to the same article.
Haha, actually, I saw a lot about the Beats line prior to its release, and I really, really, reeeeeeally wanted a laptop with it installed in the speakers (since my external speakers blew at about the same time my laptop started going apesh** on me). But, well, that made the computers pretty pricey, too… But I’m a fan of cranking up the bass.
With digital photography vs film debate the main issue isn’t resolution/megapixels as it is exposure latitude or dynamic range- being able to capture detail in a range of bright and dark areas at the same time. Digital capture wasn’t usually good at that but has made lots of headway where now it has the same dynamic range as film and has much better low light capability than film could ever have. There’s also the issue of color, that digital can’t capture the subtly and range of colors like film, and honestly I think that’s true but it’s too close to tell most the time.
To relate back to Soderbergh, Traffic was shot on film and went through all sorts of ridiculous processing steps to get the color and exposure latitude reduced. Which is the image equivalent to heavy bass.
yeah, last time i was buying headphones i went for sennheiser hd 595 and apparently i’m never coming back :)
OT: i quite like the new design but i’m sad to see the “latest comments” window go away (maybe it could be under the “latest posts” or just selectable layout option for registered users?
I’ve never listened to anything on a pair of Beats headphones, but they look very appealing from a design point of view. I’m not an audiophile, but I have a nice pair of big headphones (AKG K271s, which I love), and they really do enhance the listening experience (though I look pretty ridiculous when I have them on). The same is true of the various other nice headphones I’ve tried, and I imagine the same would be true of a high end stereo system, but that’s way out of my price range.
An easy comparison that ties in with last week’s topic is the experience of watching a movie. Think back to what it was like watching a movie on VHS on an old TV, versus watching it in HD on DVD or Bluray on a really kick-ass home theater setup, versus watching it in a nice movie theater. Crappy headphones will lose a lot of fidelity from even the best recordings, like watching a movie that’s resized for television will lose some space on the sides. The quality of the source material plays a part as well.
My understanding of the Beats headphone model is that it’s tuned to produce a sound that’s very bass-heavy. It works really well for a certain type of music that’s popular right now, when a lot of club and hip hop music plays with big bass beats and the exact reproduction of sounds in the high registers isn’t as important. For a long time, the reference for high end audio equipment was classical music, so getting a response from the equipment that didn’t distort the sound was a mark of quality (which is why audiophiles don’t like the Beats headphones). Going back to the movie analogy, if you want to watch Avatar, you’re better off seeing it in a movie theater, because that movie is really calibrated to that experience. There are other movies that would play fine on a home theater setup, which is more appealing to different people.
Here’s a nice article on that: http://pitchfork.com/features/resonant-frequency/8757-permission-to-avalanche-four-fragments-on-bass/
To add insult to injury, I’m borrowing an HP Pavilion laptop with Beats built into it right now (my own is… well, “imminent failure” messages kept showing up, so…).
Wow. Just… Wow. Cranking Jay-Z and loving the bass. I mean, it’s not as good as a huge set of external speakers, no, but certainly the best I’ve ever heard come from a laptop.
As a means of comparison, I listened first to some music by The Weepies, a light, folksie group, that doesn’t rely on much bass. And it sounded quite crisper and cleaner than my own laptop (which is also an HP, a G-series).
So mayhap I’m just too fake of an audiophile to realize Beats messes up the sound if it’s not bass-heavy…? Hm.
I don’t think it’s so much that Beats headphones mess up non-bass-heavy sound, it just pushes the bass up relative to the middle and high frequencies. It’s like changing the equalizer settings to emphasize bass. Doing it for the 1812 Overture may mean the cannons overwhelm the rest of the music at times, but it doesn’t mean the orchestra won’t sound good too.
I also don’t know anything about the Beats speakers in laptops, but I imagine doing ANYTHING to make laptop speakers better would be an exponential improvement.
Well I hope Neil Young will remember, technological advancement don’t need him around anyhow.
This is something of a technical note, but since you guys just did a site redesign, I guess now’s as good a time as any to bring it up. When you post the show notes, could you include a brief breakdown of what discussion is going on at what times? Filmspotting does this. Sometimes I’ll post a comment without remembering that doing so reloads the page, and thus, restarts the podcast. This happens more often than I’m proud of admitting. It would also be useful for finding particular segments that I want to show a friend or something.
For example, for this show, it would look something like:
0:00 – 18:53 Question of the week: What’s your favorite Kate Beckinsale movie?
18:54 – 39:10 Haywire
39:11 – 58:17 Neil Young and music technology
58:18 – 1:00:43 Closing
You can get more or less granular if you prefer (like the Inception podcast, which would basically be QotW/Inception).
My other comment was that you could show the topics of the podcast under the titles in the archive, because a given title is usually not that descriptive of the contents, but that was taken care of in the redesign.
I like this idea.
I think it’s a great idea! I’m not terribly confident in our ability to reliably churn out annotations, considering that doing the show at all is a small weekly miracle. But if the community wants to do them, we’ll add them back to the main post, as you can see I’ve done above—with thanks!
I could do that, I kinda do it already, just kept them to myself because I’m a selfish selfish man.
By the way: If you use the podcast player on the homepage, it pops up in a separate window. Before too long I’ll have it implemented on individual podcast pages as well.
I’ve seen that compression referred to in some online film score communities as “bricking,” since the waveform will look like a brick rather than having varied dense & sparse areas. I’m not sure what impact it has on popular music (perhaps out of frou-frou elitism, perhaps because I don’t listen to particularly much of it), but in orchestral music it can be really noticeable.
I still think Harvey is funny by the way. As a reoccurring panel member, he deserves to answer the question of the week.
Thirded! (I know this is Overthinking It, but as the self-appointed Official Brazilian here I reserve the right to make up my own words). Also, Harvey – with the assistance of my wonderfully talented boyfriend – has started making special appearances in my life lately.
Just had an idea! How about finishing the podcast with a short song by Harvey every week?