Monthly Archives: April 2010

Wrapped Up Like a Douche

Lyrics websites — those sites that appear on the first page of search engine results when you type a song name followed by “lyrics” — have proven themselves useful to me from time to time. Since my CD collection is locked away at home, when I need to look up the lyrics to Manfred Mann’s “Blinded By the Light” [Google], I can pick a site, any site (none of which I’ll link to here since they are so widespread, yet deceivingly similar),and I’ll see that Manfred is singing “Revved up like a deuce”. Rather handy.

My problem with these lyric sites is that they are essentially traps for personal information. Every one of these sites is set up to entice unknowing users into giving up their personal contact info. Every link suggesting you “download this as a ringtone”, “send this song to your phone”, “download this song”, “share this song with a friend”, “add to library”, is a trick to get the user to divulge their cellphone number, their email address, name, contact information of a friend, sometimes even the user’s secret login details on a social networking site. If it’s data, they want it for free.

I’m wary enough that I don’t provide them with any info, but not everyone is savvy enough to catch wise to the ruse. The promise of musical rewards in exchange for a verified bit of info is the bitwise equivalent of a Nigerian 419 scam, where the victim must put up something valuable first before the deal can go through. That deal never goes through. What happens, instead, is the victim’s contact info is collected, used and sold for unsolicited advertising. What you expect is a ringtone; what you get is marketing texts that won’t stop. What you expect is to share your favorite song with your best friend; what you get is you and your bestie dumped on by a mountain of spam.

Personally, I hope my friends and family are wise to this, but that is seldom the case. And that scares me.

My final complaint about the lyrics sites is that they are predatory money-mills for their owners. They’ve figured out the formula for maximizing ad revenue and minimizing cost per click by publishing these sites in bulk. Each site has its own domain name and templates, but they’re run on the same servers by the same companies. There are centralized databases of song lyrics behind whole groups of them; the same content is served by all of a group’s sites. There are companies whose only product is an interface to return lyrics for plugging into a webpage. The lyrics now mean nothing; they are bait. They are just a draw to expose users to a page full of advertisements. Each time an ad is served and presented to a user, that’s pennies in the bank. Draw enough users, and the site owner is raking in good income. Run enough websites, each as disposable as the one before it, and you are guaranteed a heavy income for almost nothing.

Honestly, I can’t begrudge anyone their ability to make money. We all have to survive. It’s just that I see it as a cheap move, and part of me is pissed that I’ve never been able to drop my morals low enough to try this kind of income stream. Slime molds grow on any surface. I don’t see an end to this kind of business model any time soon; the model of using a shedload of cheap, disposable gateway sites to lead the user (and their wallets) to a pyramidding series of websites has been around since the early days of Internet porn, and exists in some parts in the spamming world. As long as it’s cheap enough to flood the market with worthless content on cheap websites, each referencing the other in order to bump up their PageRank on the search engines, while raking in the cash while serving advertising, then this kind of model will persist.

Phaysis.com: Celebrating a Decade of High Hopes

> whois phaysis.com

Whois Server Version 2.0

Domain Name: PHAYSIS.COM
Registrar: GODADDY.COM, INC.
Updated Date: 09-mar-2010
Creation Date: 14-apr-2000
Expiration Date: 14-apr-2011

Yeah, you read that right! Today, Phaysis.com (this very website, yo) is TEN YEARS OLD! Oh shit! That’s older than most websites I visit. If it were my kid, it’d be in fifth grade by now! What a mild ride this past decade has been! So much squandered potential, so many false starts, so many failed attempts, but my website still stands.

I started this site in April of 2000 as a way to learn web programming, to finally have a place on the web to call my own. Once I moved to Austin, it became a way to keep in touch with friends back home. Time and tide wears all shores, and Phaysis itself has changed, albeit slowly and almost imperceptably (and sometimes nonexistently). And now, it is the mostly-functioning site you see now. Hail Progress!

Today is an important milestone for my site, and I want to thank all of you for reading as often as you have and for coming back even after all my update neglect and my half-assed attempts at the Big Dreams. I still have dreams, and still have hope. You people are why I keep doing this. Thank you!

So here’s to ten more years!

Least Career

So I’m getting feedback from three of my proofreaders regarding “Lost Carrier”, and it’s all some heavy stuff. They’ve provided me with a ton of ideas and a few pounds of problems to work through. They’re proving to me that no matter how “done” I think a thing is, there will always be more work necessary to get it polished.

The general feeling I’m getting is that the story needs more, that the world of the story needs more flesh on its bones. In the spirit of a noire story, I made most of my descriptions as sparse and dry as possible. But the instances where I rambled on, I provided too much detail, and they stand out as accidental focal points. So the solution is to either trim them back or backfill everything else.

I had set out to make this a short story, but with the number of named characters, scenes, and themes, it calls out to be a novella or a serial. This will require of me more time and attention — and more writing — so I will not be publishing as soon as I had hoped. Sorry, kids.

Again, I would like to thank my proofreaders Amy, Rachel, and Jana. Your notes and comments have been incredibly helpful. Fresh eyes see best. To the rest of my proofreaders, let me gently nudge at you for a bit. Nudge-nudge.

Vintage Inspiration

It appears I’m developing a gear fetish. Been feeling the itch to make music again, and my recent acquisition of music equipment is apparently spurring that. It started years ago with a MIDI controller and a softsynth. Then, two years ago, a microphone, an audio interface and a drum machine. Then, in the past year, a mixer, a sound module, and a PC I built for audio work. That got me going for a while.

And then my latest conquests: a 1984-vintage analog synth and a 1992-vintage sampler. When I count those with my 1987-vintage non-MIDI keyboard (from high school) and my 1991 sound module, it becomes clear to me that most of my equipment was not made in this century. Meaning I can truly, without studio fakery, create the Vintage sound.

For the first time in a while, I have sonic and artistic freedom. I have outboard gear that I can tweak and explore. I’m not spending hours getting frustrated with software synths. You turn it on, turn it up, and play; it’s really exciting. I’ve barely scratched the surface of what is possible, and that freaks me out. Every time I punch buttons, I should be pressing “Record”. I started doing that, calling the recordings “Noodle Sessions”, since they essentially are that. But I need to do more. Real songs, complete songs.

And that’s the problem. It’s a Thing now. I need to record. I need to make new music. Glass Door has been rather dormant this past decade, and that’s a travesty. My friend Jared demands new music, and I’d rather like to oblige him. I’d love to get the project flowing again. But I’m having difficulty.

I think one of my problems with creativity is getting it going. It’s that standing friction. Getting it rolling reduces the problem down to rolling friction, which offers much, much less resistance. Having a friend, a cohort, a fellow musician working alongside would really help. It makes sense that some of the best electronic bands are composed of two guys; one bounces ideas off of the other, and the productivity flows.

But the nexus of my creativity problem, though, stems from the source of creativity itself. From which well does creativity flow, and how does it flow? Should it flow out freely of its own accord, like an artesian well, or do you have to draw it out yourself? How do you dip your bucket to draw it out? Once it’s out, should the water pool like a lake, or flow against its constraints like a stream?

Do you punch buttons and play melodies and overlay them until you feel like you’re done, and hope for the best? That seems rather random and subject to the environment surrounding the moment of creation. Do you wait until a good idea forms, and then try muddling your way through it until you get a shadowy facsimile of what you intended? I’m between these extremes, and like the hungry mule equally between two identical stacks of hay, my creativity is dying of starvation due to the indecision.

I can only hope that I make some motion soon before the current urge to create eats itself and dies.

Feaster Unday

What bothers me most about Easter is that it becomes brutally apparent to me how different I and my ideologies are from those around me. There are a few christian holidays a year, and it’s on those days that those in my various circles of friendship, who are otherwise filial and unobtrusive, get irritatingly noisy. Being a member of Facebook serves to amplify this effect.

I have the regrettable fortune of growing up in a largely christian society. It was fine when I believed as they believed, when I went with the grain and became engrained with the monotheistic, evangelical culture. But the moment I dropped out, I immediately found myself contrariwise to the culture and out of step.

The atheists are no better. The christian and jewish holy week leading up to Easter is also the week that the atheists take upon themselves to broadcast their dogma. I don’t mind their dogma. Hell, I’m an atheist myself. But I refuse to evangelize. It’s that desire to make others believe as they believe that makes them exactly the same, in my eyes, to the christians and their “Great Commission” — which is “Go ye therefore unto all the lands and make disciples of the peoples”. It’s still spreading the seed.

When trees spread their seed and the yellow pollen is in the air, you know what I get? An allergic reaction. To hear a person say “Lift up HIS praises” or “HE is risen!” or “Keep CHRIST in CHRISTmas!” induces an allergic reaction in me, and several times a year I fall ill with disdain.

I am an atheist, but only in the sense that I am nonreligious. I choose to not believe anything; it’s as valid a choice as christianity, judaism, zoroastrianism, or pastafarianism. It’s not that I believe that there is no spiritual plane or no higher deity from whom all matter originates; it’s that I just don’t care, and that’s intentional.

I wish there was an AdBlock for religion.