I'll Sleep When I'm Dead
It seems that Death didn't waste any time in getting back to work after the summer holiday, and it is with much sadness that we report the passing of several notable artists.
Warren Zevon died Sunday, September 7, after spending a year fighting lung cancer (for which he initially was given a prognosis of only a few short months). A not unexpected death, it was one that Zevon faced with his typically brilliant dark sense of humor, remarking: "You make choices and you have to live with the consequences." A lifelong smoker, ironically it was not Zevon's smoking that led to his death, but mesothelioma, which is caused by exposure to asbestos. Releasing a little-noticed debut in 1969 (Wanted - Dead or Alive), Zevon spent the '70s writing hit songs for Linda Ronstadt, finally receiving critical notice of his own and a rabid cult following his third release, 1978's Excitable Boy, which contained probably Zevon's most well-known number, "Werewolves of London." Zevon spent the '80s and '90s building on his following and cementing a reputation as a no-holds-bar social and political ironist. Diagnosed with terminal lung cancer last year, Zevon wasted no time spending his final months recording a last album, The Wind, which was released this past August and included contributions from Bruce Springsteen, Dwight Yoakam, and Ry Cooder; all fans. Zevon also survived long enough to see the birth of twin grandsons, born to his daughter Ariel. Of death, he said: "The knowledge of death and fear of death informs my existence. It's a safe, kind of cheerful way of dealing with that issue." Zevon was 56.
Rest in peace Paul Burlison, whose groundbreaking rockabilly guitar work in the '50s with the Rock 'n' Roll Trio would influence generations to come, including everyone from Jimmy Page to the Stray Cats. Said Page of Burlison in 1998: "He was a massive influence to me ... I don't let too many people play my guitar, but it'd be an honor if he played it." According to Burlison, his trademark distortion sound was created as the result of an amplifier that was dropped during a show; claiming that he liked the sound so much that he tried to replicate the fuzz effect in the studio by wiggling the tube amps. Burlison died after a lengthy battle with cancer. He was 74.
Rest in peace Robert Palmer, who died of a sudden heart attack September 24th. Palmer was best recognized from the video for his 1985 hit "Addicted to Love," which included some rather leggy models in short black dresses sporting aloof expressions. Palmer had several chart hits during the '80s, including "Simply Irresistible," "Some Guys Have All the Luck," and "I Didn't Mean to Turn You On." He was 54.
Finally, and with much love, rest in peace Johnny Cash -- the Man in Black -- who spoke for the workingman and the downtrodden, and is most likely the first, last and only person God will ever allow to wear black inside the pearly gates. Cash died of respiratory failure due to complications from diabetes, but following the death in May of June Carter Cash, his beloved wife of over 30 years, his passing really came as no surprise. Best known for his songs "Ring of Fire", "I Walk the Line," and "Folsom Prison Blues," with its line "I shot a man in Reno / just to watch him die," Cash enjoyed a resurgence in the '90s with his critically acclaimed work with producer Rik Rubin, releasing four albums in total whose material included interpretations of other artists' songs as well as Cash originals. Their last album together, 2002's American IV: The Man Comes Around, garnered Cash a Grammy nomination for a cover of "Hurt," originally recorded by Trent Reznor. Of that version, Reznor said, "To hear that Johnny was interested in doing my song was a defining moment in my life's work. To hear the result really reminded me how beautiful, touching and powerful music can be." In all, Cash recorded over 70 albums and was awarded 11 Grammys. He was 71. Travel in peace, Highwayman.
Black Hole Hums B-Flat
Scientists at the Institute of Astronomy in Cambridge, England, announced recently that there's a "supermassive" black hole (about 2.5 billion times the mass of our sun) at the heart of the Perseus Cluster (a giant hodgepodge of galaxies a mere 250 million light years from Earth) quietly humming B-flat to itself. Seriously. B-flat. Using NASA's orbiting Chandra X-Ray Observatory to focus on the black hole's edge, scientists said that the intense gravitational pressure of the black hole (or any black hole, for that matter) pulling material in also creates jets of material shooting back out. The rhythmic squeezing and heating of this cosmic gas creates pressure ripples, and since pressure ripples equals sound waves, all researchers had to do was calculate how far apart those ripples/sound waves were to determine what note the black hole was emitting, er... singing. Located about 57 octaves below Middle C, it turns out to be B-flat in this particular case. And even though it's a wee bit deeper than humans can hear, apparently "the intensity of the sound is comparable to human speech."
No word yet if this particular black hole has been offered a management deal or a recording contract. In fact, we're not even quite sure if the thing can carry a tune, but that's what AutoTune is for, right?
Infrasound Gives People the Heebie Jeebies
And in more "ain't science cool" news, you know those mysteriously snuffed out candles that happen to you all the time? And the cold shivers and creepy sensations you sometimes get and blame on the ghost of your long dead Great Aunt Gladys? Well, turns out that the culprit might be infrasound and not your crabby old dead relative who gave you even less respect in life than she does now in death. Scientists in England have performed a controlled experiment using infrasound -- extreme bass, in other words -- and have discovered that its effects on people include anxiety, chills, revulsion, and fear. Using an audience, the researches performed four pieces of live music, some of which included infrasound, and then asked the audience to describe what they felt. In the songs that included infrasound, 22 percent reported noticeable experiences that were not present in the pieces that did not contain infrasound. "These results suggest that low frequency sound can cause people to have unusual experiences even though they cannot consciously detect infrasound," said Richard Wiseman, professor at the University of Hertfordshire.
Infrasound can also be produced by storms, seasonal winds and weather patterns, some types of earthquakes, animals such as elephants (who use it to communicate), and, as mentioned in the previous article, black holes. No word yet on which one of these is responsible for giving you the heebie jeebies, but scientists say that there's a good chance it just might not be the ghost of your Great Aunt Gladys after all.
RIAA Gives People the Heebie Jeebies, Too
Let's see, what's the Recording Industry Association of America been up to this past month? Well, after filing 261 lawsuits against people it claimed were illegally sharing copyrighted music using the popular P2P program Kazaa, it turns out that one of the defendants was a 12-year-old girl living in the projects (whose mother settled with the RIAA for a measly few grand), and another a grandfather. A third case charged a 66-year-old woman of illegally sharing more than 2,000 songs. Claiming herself to be a "computer neophyte," the defendant, Sarah Ward of Newbury, Massachusetts, complained to the RIAA that she had never installed P2P software, and couldn't even use Kazaa as her machine was is a Macintosh, which does not run the software. Ward demanded an apology, and the RIAA admitted to the mistake and dropped the charges against her.
In related news, in September a three-judge federal appeals court panel wondered aloud if the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act really does allows folks like the RIAA the right to obtain the identities of alleged copyright offenders without first filing a lawsuit, something that is key to the RIAA's current legal strategy. Without saying if it would continue to allow the RIAA to use the DMCA's subpoena procedures, the judges did seem to agree that peer-to-peer networks are being used for the illegal transfer of copyrighted material. However, commenting on whether or not it is illegal for someone to make copyrighted material available for download, Judge John Roberts said that if the door to his library were left open and someone came in, "that doesn't make me liable for copyright infringement."
And in yet more "litigating to make a profit" RIAA news, they recently announced the Clean Slate Program, where people who haven't yet been served papers for copyright infringement can clear their conscious and avoid future litigation by signing an affidavit that says you've deleted all illegal songs from your hard drive, removed all questionable P2P programs, and promise, promise, cross your heart and hope to die promise that "I agree from today forward to stop any and all illegal downloading, copying, or 'sharing' (that is, uploading/distributing) of files of copyrighted sound recordings on P2P Networks." All it takes is your full name, street address, email addy, ISP name, notarized signature, your signature, the signature of your parent or guardian if you're under 18, and a big fucking jar of Vaseline. Can you say "sucka!"?
Kazaa Fires Back
Not content to watch the RIAA get all the fun litigation in, the owners of Kazaa, Sharman Networks, recently announced that they had filed a lawsuit in federal court against the RIAA, claiming that the dirty, thieving bastards had themselves committed copyright infringement by using Kazaa Lite, an unauthorized version of their popular P2P program, to snoop on users they believed were guilty of copyright infringement. The RIAA responded by saying "[Sharman Networks] newfound admiration for the importance of copyright law [is ironic and] self-serving." Unlike the RIAA's lawsuits, of course.
Napster Makes Comeback
And it just wouldn't be a stitch 'n' bitch session about all that glorious P2P fun if we didn't mention that Napster is slated to make their big comeback. Bought last year by Roxio Inc. for $5 million, the company plans to launch "Napster 2.0" October 12, a paid site that will be radically different from what most remember Napster as being. Hoping to cash in on brand recognition, Napster 2.0 will offer 500,000 songs (more than any other pay-for-download music service).
iTunes Auction Raises Legal Brows
In early September, George Hotelling put a song he had purchased from iTunes up for auction on eBay, curious to see if under the "First Sale" doctrine of US copyright law he would be allowed to sell it without the permission of the copyright owner. Legal experts felt that the doctrine did not apply to digital goods; iTunes claimed that there was no way Hotelling could technically transfer the file to another owner without passing along all of the account info with it, which would then allow that person to access all of the songs purchased under that account; and eBay decided that while selling thousands upon thousands of used CDs and DVDs through its auction site was okay, selling one digital song was not, and pulled the auction, claiming that it violated company policies. And George Hotelling? Merely wanting to "highlight the legal and technical nuances of emerging digital music services," George Hotelling ended up giving both eBay and iTunes the finger by selling the song to Keith Elder, someone he met on the Internet. Hotelling did it by transferring access to the account the song contained (the only song in the account) to Elder. The price? 50 cents. The song? Devin Vasquez's version of Frankie Smith's "Double Dutch Bus."
Universal Slaps Forehead, Cuts CD Prices
Realizing that the stupidly outrageous price of CDs might be one reason why so many kids are staying out of stores and downloading online, Universal Music Group announced that it was putting a $12.98 retail cap on its CDs, in the hopes that it can woo the buying public back into stores to purchase music. Says president of Universal Music and Video Distribution Jim Urie, "Our new pricing model will enable US retailers to offer music at a much more appealing price point in comparison to other entertainment products. We are confident this pricing approach will drive music fans back into retail stores."
So how is it that Universal can afford to take such a big slash out of its profit machine, and cut back on the tropical getaways, hookers and mountains of Bolivian marching powder for its executives? According to the September 19th issue of Entertainment Weekly, stores that want to play ball with Universal must devote 33 percent of "merchandising and marketing opportunities" and 25 percent of shelf space exclusively to Universal artists, or the company won't deem them eligible for the reduced cost.
C-Murder See Jail
Corey Miller, better known as rapper C-Murder, will be spending the rest of his days in the pokey due to an automatic life conviction for the death of 16-year-old Steve Thomas after jurors found him guilty of second-degree murder. Thomas was beaten and then fatally shot on January 12, 2002, during a fight outside the Platinum Club in Harvey, Louisiana. Two witnesses testified to seeing Miller beat and kill Harvey, while nine others said Miller didn't do it, but gave conflicting accounts of both his clothes and his whereabouts in the club. There's a moral to be found here, kids, about Miller's name; his lifestyle, the braggadocio of living it, and what you can expect from it all in the end... but some things are just self-evident.
Hell on Earth? Commit Suicide
Quietly hoping to garner some publicity and attention (which it did) under the guise of raising the awareness of a person's right to euthanasia, obscure metal yuk band Hell on Earth announced that during its October 4th concert in St. Petersburg, Florida, they would broadcast the suicide of an unnamed terminally ill person as a way of raising the issue (or their notoriety, you choose) of a person's right to die. Well... word got out and the city of St. Petersburg decided killing yourself in front of a live (and online) audience wasn't so bright, or legal, and decided to nix the event. At the same time, the ISP that hosts the band's website, Candid Hosting, closed Hell on Earth's website. Or, if you're to believe a news piece on BayNews9.com, a bunch of Hong Kong hackers were responsible for shutting the site down. And Hell on Earth? About an hour after the band was originally scheduled to hit the stage, their website briefly came back up with word that the concert, and the suicide broadcast, would be rescheduled the for sometime during the week of October 6.
Free press, free press, gotta love all the free press. I'm not arguing against a person's right to die a dignified death -- one of their choosing, if possible. Quite the opposite. But Hell on Earth's approach is a cheap gamble in the hopes of free publicity at the expense of another's life -- something rather contrary to being dignified. But will the band land a management deal and/or a recording contract? Methinks the Perseus Cluster black hole has a better chance... and a longer-lived career ahead of it in the music business.
Quotes of the Month
"Sunset (Apologies to Emily Dickinson)
I'll tell you how the sun set. As shadows marched in lines.
And God sent west his rainbows. A color at a time.
The hills put on their blankets. The hawk and crow were done.
And as I said softly in twilight. See you tomorrow, sun.
I sat out in the darkness. And I felt the dew drops fall.
I watched the moon rise in its place. I heard the night birds call.
God's world, in perfect order. In line, one after one.
May I be in accordance. On my last setting sun."
-Johnny Cash (from the liner notes to Unchained)
"I wear black because I'm comfortable in it. But then in the summertime
when it's hot I'm comfortable in light blue." -Johnny Cash
Editor-in-Chief (or so they keep insisting)