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Positive Feedback ISSUE 13
may/june 2004


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Auroville 29 - Hardened Criminals
by Srajan Ebaen

Agonizing over audio minutiae is a bloody luxury. All it means is that you've got discretionary time and income. It also means you've got nothing better to do. In a nutshell, it means you're obsessing and enjoying the liberty to indulge in something nonessential. Is it any wonder that 'ordinary' people who look in on our scene mistake us for dweebs and propeller heads? And—do they really mistake us or do they have us pegged to perfection?

We're not inventing a cure for aids after all. We're not sending $500 to Poland to keep a family of 4 alive for a half year. We're not performing any service that, in the grand scheme of things, amounts to anything important. My personal arbiter of importance? It's an imaginary scene of some after-death realm. In a personalized version of the Last Judgment Day, we get to hold court over our own just-passed life. From a higher vantage point, we get to critique it without passion, determine which lessons we learned, which lessons we missed and what might have to come next to continue our evolution.

I'm not asking you to believe that. I'm merely proposing it as a conceptual exercise. In such a fictitious scenario, would our audio madness—what we owned, how we tweaked, how much time we spent reading and writing and arguing and fretting, how much money we wasted—even appear on our disembodied radar screen? If it did, would we be able to relate at all while simultaneously surveying the relationships we lived, the relationships we avoided, the talents we developed, the talents we squandered, the destiny we fulfilled or missed, the roles we played in other people's lives?

I dare say that most of us from such a vantage point would agree that we take audio far too seriously right now in this very earthly and material plane. Online chatroom strings which endlessly belabor certain magazines and writers tend to overlook that just as a baker, audio manufacturers and paid reviewers produce product to put food on the table while trading a commodity that will be of use to the buyer. It's a livelihood, pure and simple. Alas, just as non-actors forget that acting is a mere profession and not good-enough reason to endlessly obsess over stars and their personal lives and choices, so non-manufacturers, non-retailers and non-reviewers often forget the very ordinary context of making a living that propels their favorite subjects to do what they do.

What's missing in all of this is the occasional reality check. Under the guise of freedom of speech, certain audio chatrooms can turn into lame excuses that entitle posters to indulge far beyond what's healthy while casting judgments and throwing stones on others who are simply making an honest living. Similar to actors and athletes, albeit on a much smaller scale, writers and manufacturers who engage in responses become public figures. Our modern society's overall boredom quotient is such that vicariously living through others is seen as entertainment while conveniently forgetting to live one's own existence without the scrutiny of public exposure. Those who live full and interesting lives usually neither have the time nor inclination to worry about what others do with theirs.

In fact, if some posters spent just half their posting time to actually listen to their rigs they profess to love so much, their quality of life would surely increase exponentially while the public perception about our hobby and its participants would gain immeasurably by their chatroom absence. This is no blanket indictment about electronic forums. They serve a wonderful real-time function of feedback to questions and concerns of the community. Unfortunately, that's not the extent to which they're used. Much posted content makes you wonder what some of these folks to do for a living to spend so much unproductive time in front of a computer.

As far as the press goes, online publications are free. If you so much as get anything out of reading them, you already owe massive thanks to the people who made it possible without charging you a dime. If you get nothing out of them, why waste your time reading them in the first place, then comment ad nauseam about their uselessness? Isn't that throwing bad time after bad time? At the ridiculously low subscription rates of the print magazines, if you only discovered one new CD from reading a monthly issue, I'd consider it a dollar and a half well spent. You surely have spent far more than that on watching a movie that proved disappointing.

What irks many in the press are the constant personal attacks. It's not quite as bad as being an actor seeing your life censored in the tabloids with fake captions and doctored photos, but it comes close if you love what you do and get stoned for it. What's worse, not responding to hair-brained allegations is often construed as admission of guilt while that very mechanism completely overlooks the closing line of Robert Redford's Quiz Show flick in which the television executive tells the investigative committee "It's not like we're hardened criminals, your honor—we're in the entertainment business after all."

At the end of the day, that's all audio reporting can hope to be—provide entertainment while informing and educating. We all love to learn more about our hobby but we certainly don't want to battle poor prose or inferior presentation to get at this information. Those who work hard every day to provide this entertainment should be thanked rather than grilled, and if your idea of entertainment diverges from what they provide, switch channels and stop complaining. You'd do us all and yourself a big favor. Unless, of course, you viewed your destiny in life as a castigator of others. If so, you may have one massive surprise coming at ya in the hereafter when you're asked to determine whether your life was wasted or not.

Visit Srajan at his site

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