Sunday, August 21, 2005


Bring concerts into the living room (September 10, 2006)

Peer-to-peer, the ubiquity of DVD burning hardware now standard on new PCs, and access to aspiring bands all over the globe via places like, have taken a toll on the record industry:
Albums sales in the US dipped by 7% in 2005 but the music download market doubled over the past year, according to early figures.

Sales stood at 602.2 million during the year, down from 650.8 million in 2004, report analysts Nielsen Soundscan.

Downloaded music reached 332.7 million for 2005, an increase of 148% on the previous year. More than 95% of music is sold in CD format, with Mariah Carey and 50 Cent proving the year's biggest sellers.
This is a continuing trend. Over the four years from 2001 to 2005, total album sales dropped about 32%.

Downloads are much cheaper than traditional CDs, which list at almost $20. WalMart sells downloads for $.88 per song. Of course lots of people don't pay for them at all. So the growth in downloadable songs and albums is not as lucrative as the physical album market, even with the material (virutally nothing) and shipping savings (Hershey bars cost a couple of pennies per capita to send across the country, albums are probably not much more), which are negligible anyway.

But the live act is far from moribund. Indeed, older artists are doing quite well:
Looks like concertgoers aren't so intimidated by high ticket prices after all.

With splashy tours from Madonna, the Rolling Stones and Billy Joel as lures, fans paid an average price of $58.11 per seat in the first half of 2006, up 15.6% from the first half of 2005, according to concert trade magazine Pollstar.

Total ticket sales rose 20% to 17.4 million.

Pollstar pegs total sales at more than $1 billion, up 38.5%, while the Billboard Box Score tallied sales at $990 million, up 24.6%. Either way, first-half revenue broke
These acts draw lots of fans now in their forties and fifties, who were pimply-faced teenagers when the artists were new. They have the disposable income to pay for the shows. Even with sagging album sales, it's not a bad time to be a long-established act (trying to bust onto the music scene for the first time is a different story, with infinite competition selling at a price of free).

But I think it could be even better. I just finished imbibing myself of a Dave Matthews Band concert presented via internet feed by AOL. They played in Palm Beach. I live in the Midwest. Thousands of fans from all over saw it in the comfort of their own homes as well. These aren't people who would've been able to come to the actual show. Within the traditional concert framework, their revenue potential would be zero. But feed every show and suddenly your venue capacity has increased by many orders of magnitude at almost no additional cost. Cameras are in place anyway to provide footage for the big screens--transmit that directly to a web feed and no additional recording hardware or manpower is required. Charge some amount to tap into the feed, probably less than ticket price. Most fans, especially of musically versatile bands like dmb that have made the bigtime because of the diversity and spontenaity of live performances, will still choose attending the actual concert when it's in their home towns. The concert feeds wouldn't be cannibalistic, they'd be gravy.

I don't attend more than one concert a year because of schedule restraints, cost, agoraphobic tendencies, but most of all because they're in other cities. I'd pay for a couple of these, however. With surround sound and a 30' flat screen monitor, all the existential pleasure is there with the additional benefits of climate control, easily accessible drinks and snacks, and the ability to use the facilities between songs and be back without missing anything. Instead of piling into a car or two, my group of friends could just meet at someone's house and enjoy the show together without fighting the traffic and the riffraff that causes it.

Happy birthday Lion King (June 24, 2006)

Disney's The Lion King turns twelve years old today. Initially a second-tier project to Pocahontas, TLK instead became the highest grossing animated film ever. It's been my favorite since I saw it in theaters at the ripe old age of ten, as my inchoate philosophy of life was beginning to coalesce. Besides a score that won Hans Zimmer an Academy Award for the Best Original Score in 1994 (here for the epic "King of Pride Rock" with angelic voice euphoria near the end), dazzling multi-layered animation constructed from meticulous study of animals from the Serengeti, and a complete lack of human characters to confuse the personifcation, the film promotes traditionalist/conservative values throughout. It didn't make NRO's list of the best conservative movies of all time (although said list came out the same year as TLK). I'd put it near the number one spot. I've only seen five of the eighty-plus movies on the list, but am confident a strong enough case can be made (with themes/beliefs in red and blue--virtually all traditonal/conservative themes have a positive effect while the leftist and post-modern ones lead to suffering) for TLK to at least come in ahead of Ghostbusters.

Order. The opening vignette is almost a tribute to Confucious. All creatures converge to give reverence, arriving and lining up in specific and complementary places. An acceptance of each one's proper place that evinces social harmony. The film concludes in the same way. It is the deviations from this understanding of social nature that cause all the trouble.

Disaster looms as it is revealed that Scar wishes to challenge the status quo. First, he rejects his obligations to the family by not attending Simba's birth. He, concerned with his own desires, has not elected to start a family of his own. Later, he wishes to create a new utopia that will incorporate pan-culturalism, including the hyenas. Ammoral through and through, Scar isn't convinced that the hyenas are incorrigibly bad news (though they are). Ultimately, Scar will be, like Judas, killed by the very devils he tried to court.

Mufasa sets absolute standards for his son, but the existential tempter Scar convinces Simba to break the rules (analogous to the second creation story). On his way to the forbidden graveyard, Simba laments having to work hard to become the next king. He likes the idea of living for himself ("No one saying do this/no one saying be there... I'm gonna do it all my way") without all the responsibility being a person of power demands. Giving credence to his own volition instead of adhering to the advice of those who have come before, Simba has his first multicultural experience in the hood. It would've gotten him killed if not for the intervention of the ultimate police enforcer, the patriarchal Mufasa.

Instead of gushing over Simba's safety, Mufasa takes a hardline parental stance. He rips into Simba's reckless experiantilism, pointing out the impact his personal decisions have on the well being of others, including those who were not physically threatened but cared about him and were troubled in that way. By accepting responsibilty and expressing remorse for his misdeeds (or sins), he is forgiven.

When the stampede occurs, Mufasa disregards his own safety to save his son. After Scar commits fratricide, the hyenas go after Simba but get tired of their work and return to merrymaking. This impulsivity will come back to bite them in the future.

After being taken in by Timon and Pumba, Simba lives an Epicureal dream. But his atomist lifestyle has dire consequences. When Nala finds him, he becomes cognizant of the terrible effects on society his dereliction of duty have had. It's not explicitly recognized, but we can infer that the pacifistic insouciance of "hakuna matata" would have led to, without Simba's chance appearance, Timon and Pumba being gobbled up by a ferocious outsider. With the aid of the priestal Rafiki, Simba decides to face his demons rather than rationalizing or embracing them.

Scar's centrally-controlled kingdom is collapsing. After Simba realizes it was Scar who killed Mufasa, he demands a confession of the truth. Scar tries a go at relativism ("Truth is in the eye of the beholder..."), but Simba demands veracity. As the battle ensues, Simba and Scar meet. Simba quixotically attempts to let Scar off the hook for murder. In return, Scar nearly kills him. It is finally capital punishment, at the hands of the evil ones Scar embraced, that finishes off the usurper. With order restored, the kingdom once again prospers.

I don't care about the party, I'm only going as far as my DVD rack tonight!

Supreme equality? Who wants it? (May 31, 2006)

This won't be winning many Middle Eastern hearts and minds:
The Jerusalem District Court has ordered the Jerusalem Municipality to pay the city's Gay and Lesbian Center NIS 350,000 [$77,500 US, plus court fees] for "cultural and social activities" held by the organization over the last three years, a court spokeswoman announced Monday.
Tel Aviv is vying with San Francisco for the right to be known as the homosexual capital of the world. So Jerusalem will make a nice satellite. Except it's a holy city for the two largest religions in the world, as well as their mutual father, and all three do not look favorably upon homosexuality, especially the conspicuous public display of it.

The judge deciding against the city wrote:
It must treat this [homosexual] community with equality, out of recognition of the supreme value of equality, and out of respect for the values of tolerance and pluralism, which exist at the heart of democratic society.
What happens when the only way to retain the viability of tolerance and pluralism as core values involves restrictions on who can participate under their auspices? I wonder what they're saying about this in meetings under the Dome of the Rock. These values are not self-sustaining. Unfettered tolerance does not have an answer for rigid intolerance.

"Pluralism" is a euphemistic name for anti-Occidentalism. No belief system, be it empirical, rational, existential, religious, or otherwise, welcomes restrictions on its own influence. The advocates of pluralism are not exceptions--their goals include the suspension of Western moral judgmentalism and the marginalization of the white middle class that sustains it. But Western elites face a reckoning when they are no longer competing exclusively with 'traditional' bourgeoisie in an arena founded upon free expression and the acceptance of compromise or defeat.

The 160 million Muslims living in places bordering Israel do not appreciate such forced 'equality'. In the Middle East only Israeli society will accept, without the coercion of force, a deeply unpopular diktat from the judiciary (three-quarters of Jerusalem residents are opposed to even allowing the parade to take place for which the funding will go). An open Israel would realize in short order that the values the judge speaks so highly of are only as strong as those who support them. They are not existentially eternal. They will be supplanted by value systems (say fundamentalist Sharia law) that take advantage of the tolerance/pluralist auto-immune deficiency, using tolerating acceptance to spread intolerance (which potentially describes any competing belief system).

There are important lessons here. Belief systems are only as influential as the people supporting them. Societal propositions are largely the result of, not the cause of, the environment they flourish in. The US enjoys a high standard of living, free expression, social mobility, a representative republic founded upon democratic values, and isonomy is due to plentiful land and resources, a high IQ majority, its reformational (Protestant) history, a geographic location that enabled it to emerge from WWII as the giant of the earth, etc, not because its leaders declared all men to be created equal (al-Maliki can do that all day long to no avail).

The US (and the rest of the developed world) needs to preserve the propitious conditions that allow for universalistic, liberal values to flourish from within. Exporting these values to places hostile to them, and eager to employ them only as far as they benefit the hegemony of a different value set does not do this. Nor does importing hegemonic alien belief systems. That means no more costly adventures in third-world hellholes and no more value-subtracting immigrants with beliefs and abilities detrimental to American prosperity and social cohesion.

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