How to listen to “classical” music, a 20-second guide

When I was in college, I went to NCUR (’94, I believe) presenting a paper I wrote for music history on Baroque performance practices on modern recordings, using Handel’s Water Music as an example, and specifically comparing an $18 CD by an ensemble that specialized in Baroque music with a $5 budget CD by an anonymous orchestra.

Today I went looking for Debussy (not Baroque, that’s not the point) in Apple Music, and… ugh. Not saying you should judge a book — or a recording — by its cover. But when that’s all you have to go by, it can still be fairly effective. There is so much anonymous garbage on the streaming music services now. (Granted, Spotify is orders of magnitude worse in this regard than Apple, but both are plagued by it.) I feel like I need to write an updated version of that paper for 2022.

Hint: Don’t waste your time listening to an album with a generic landscape cover and a title like “The Most Famous Classical Music” or “The Best Classical Music.”

Although I was hoping to hear something new today, I ended up settling for the same album I have owned on CD for ~25 years. This one is excellent.

My hot take on 303 Creative v. Elenis

This morning I’ve been preoccupied with 303 Creative v. Elenis, a case presently being heard by the Supreme Court. I have a lot of complicated thoughts on this case. Too many to sit comfortably with long enough to craft a well-structured blog post about, when I have actual work I need to be doing.

But since this case has potential implications for my “actual work,” it matters. I’ve been exploring the idea with some friends on Facebook, so for now I am going to just encapsulate my thoughts with a few lightly-edited excerpts of what I posted there.

First off, let me be clear that I’m on the opposite end of the political spectrum from Lorie Smith, the plaintiff in this case. But we do similar work, and I absolutely feel that as a freelance consultant, I should have a right to choose which projects I take on. I would have no problem building a website that was pro-same-sex-marriage. But I would absolutely choose not to work on a website that was anti-same-sex-marriage.

In broader terms, I would eagerly accept work that fights discrimination, while I would actively refuse to accept a project that promotes discrimination. But it’s impossible to just invert my political beliefs and say that’s where Ms. Smith stands. Because the work itself isn’t for or against discrimination. It’s the refusal to do the work that constitutes the discrimination. Still, should she be legally compelled to do work she personally disagrees with?

That case with the bakery a few years ago always made me feel uncomfortable, even though ultimately I sided with the gay couple who wanted the cake. I think I’ve hit on the key point: there is a significant difference between selling an off-the-shelf product in a public space, vs. accepting a job to produce new custom work to client specifications, or to do future work-for-hire off-site.

In baking there’s a “gray area” in work-for-hire, unlike web design, and it comes back to the generic sheet cake example. (The baker was willing to produce a generic cake for the couple.) There’s no equivalent to a “generic sheet cake” in web design, other than a service like Squarespace. I don’t think a service provider (e.g. Squarespace) that commodifies a website as a prebuilt, “off-the-shelf” product should be allowed to discriminate in who uses its service, as long as their activities are legal. That’s radically different from compelling a “creative” to produce new, custom work promoting ideas they don’t agree with.

But ultimately this whole case just reeks of ulterior motive by the political right wing. Any reasonable person in my position, when asked to take on a project they disagree with (or just don’t care to do, or are too booked up to take on) should just offer to refer the potential client to someone else and leave it at that. This lawsuit is not about individual freedom of speech… it’s a salvo in a culture war. I suspect it could even play a role in future cases concerning content moderation on social media sites.

Please tell me no one takes Sherri Shepherd seriously

I’ve maybe seen 1/10 of an episode of The View in my life. And if this is the intellectual level of the discussion that goes on, I’ll be sure, for the sake of my sanity, never to see any more of it.

Apparently, not only does she consider the shape of the planet to be up for debate, but she also fails to grasp the basic sequence of well-documented events in human history.

To the others’ credit, Whoopi did her best to seriously, and non-condescendingly, challenge Sherri to think a bit more carefully about the matter, and Joy was obviously stunned into silence. But the fact that someone could get on a national TV show and shamelessly (proudly, in fact) flaunt such ignorance is still reprehensible.

Microsoft does well by their customers… and even better by their non-customers

I was curious to read today about Microsoft’s new Windows Genuine Advantage changes coming in Windows Vista Service Pack 1.

The current draconian system of locking down machines that appear to be running pirated versions of Windows has not been well received, apparently, especially a few weeks back when a buggy update was released prematurely and left thousands of “genuine” customers without working copies of Windows. So Microsoft is softening the approach, as described in the article linked above.

In the new version, PC users found to have a pirated copy of Vista will continue to be able to use their computers, but with unmistakable signs their operating system is a fake. The desktop wallpaper will turn black, and a white notice will appear alerting users to the problem. Each time they log in, they will be prompted to buy legitimate software, and every hour, a reminder bubble will appear on the screen.

Users with a high tolerance for irritation can put off switching to genuine software indefinitely, but those who relent and buy a real copy of Windows can do so at reduced prices — $119 for Windows Vista Home Premium, half the regular retail price.

OK, well that does seem to be an improvement, but… wait a minute! Read that second paragraph closely. Surely it can’t mean what I think it means, but it sounds like what they’re saying is that if you pirate Windows first, and then after enduring the automated nagging for an indefinite period of time, you’re entitled to buy Windows for half the regular price paid by loyal customers who purchase a legitimate copy up front.

Well, at least it’s consistent with Vista’s backwards approach to system security. (Throw up excessive warnings to the user about nearly everything they’re about to do, but don’t actually restrict their access to those things based on permissions.)