"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 27 August 1996. Updated every WEEKDAY.

White Riot


[Noise Buster]

Remember the whole concept of

"noise pollution" from the '70s?

It's not really a problem

anymore, thanks to the

insulation and isolation Sony

introduced with the Walkman in

1981. Today there are extensive

lines of personal

noise-cancellation products,

which generate an equal and

opposite sound wave for every

unwanted burp, fart, and squeal

the modern age can hurl at you.

If you'll just slip these

luxuriant headphones on, you'll

be whisked away into an Elysium

of soundlessness. Nonsense, we

say. Never mind the Quiet Zone

2000. Let's have some rigorous

hardware handshaking.



For some time we've been

searching for a plug-in, add-on,

extension, or preference file

that would allow that pure rush

of information - the white

noise you hear when your modem

connects - to play in the

background throughout the

workday: ambient music for the

info age, Muzak for the

digerati. Instead, a handful of

modem manufacturers actually

have the nerve to offer silent

dial-up. Actually, the coding

for silence was a cinch, easily

predating the invention of the

modem back in 1963. For some

reason - apparently there were

more pressing concerns - it took

thirty years for manufacturers

to respond to the simple

question, "Does it have to make

that godawful sound?" Whatever.


[Liquid Audio]

So far, the underwhelming success

of online audio has been

entertaining to everyone outside

the entertainment industry.

Despite the hype, there was no

real reason to fear that

RealAudio or TrueSpeech would

compete with, say, the Delco in

the dash of your ratty Buick

Skylark. The excitement of

streamed audio quickly gave way

to the same old dry hump we've

grown accustomed to: chronic

downloads of .aiff, .au, .mpeg,

and .wav files. But last week,

an upstart California firm

announced the imminent release

of their audio-streaming server,

in collaboration with Dolby

Laboratories (the same people

who brought you the ubiquitous

but not-very-useful-after-all

Dolby Noise Reduction). Liquid

Audio, they claim, will be the

first real breakthrough in

quality streaming, though they

tactfully avoid the one word

that would have had us shaking

our leg: "stereo."


[Header Graphic]

Still, they managed to raise a

few eyebrows by asserting that

such a breakthrough - when or if

it ever materializes - will do

wonders for the music industry

by making quality, seamless

sound available on the web. The

kicker is their claim that this

technology will be a real

comfort to musicians, labels,

and publishers who are already

royally pissed at the quantity -

never mind the quality - of

unlicensed, uncredited, and

unapproved online copies of

their heavily copyrighted audio.


Whether it's noise gates,

compression, and streaming, or

Clipper chips, SurfWatch, and

Terms of Service, it's clear the

online industry is concentrating

on its filters in an effort to

provide some kind of guarantee

on content quality. We're here

to say, "Filters be damned!"

Give us a straight shot of the

real thing. If Huxley, Leary,

Alpert, and the gang considered

the unstupefied human mind sort

of a trickle valve, a door of

perception waiting to be flung

open, we say turn on the



[Ear Information]

We can only hope that cable

modems will come with audio

monitors that'll reproduce the

blast of six-figure bps in

surround-sound. Who cares about

sheafs of online newspapers and

new media hacks? With their

reheated news clips and metamedia

punditry, who knows what they're

actually gibbering about anyway?

Like any moron raised on

late-twentieth-century radio,

it's not like we're listening to

the words. In fact, we can barely

hear them above that annoying

ringing in our ears - is that

the modem connecting or the

siren call of tinnitus? What

difference does it make? It's an

incurable condition either way.

courtesy of E. L. Skinner