Perfect Sound Forever?

Thirty years ago, the ads in the hi-fi magazines said that Compact Discs offered “perfect sound forever.” “Perfect sound” is a complicated topic, but it’s apparent that “forever” isn’t happening. NPR has this piece on CD deterioration.

Some CD players do a better job than others at handling marginal discs, as I demonstrated in this post. It seems that the gold discs manufactured by defunct specialty labels like Mobile Fidelity and DCC are superior after all.

On the subject of “perfect sound,” I have come around to accepting that the CD format is as good as 2-channel audio gets. 16 bits, sampled 44,100 times per second, represents the limit of what the human ear can hear. There are plenty of things that can be done wrong, and were wrong for a long time, with digital-to-analog conversion in CD players, but the bit depth and sampling rate are fine. Here is the best explanation I’ve seen.

… and now for… the rest of the story

The revelation that Robin Williams had Parkinson’s Disease adds new meaning to the comparison I made between him and Michael J. Fox a couple of days ago.

CNN Breaking News

2:53 PM

Robin Williams was sober, but was struggling with depression, anxiety and the early stages of Parkinson’s disease when he died, his widow said today.

Williams was found dead in his Northern California home Monday from what investigators suspect was a suicide by hanging.

“It is our hope in the wake of Robin’s tragic passing, that others will find the strength to seek the care and support they need to treat whatever battles they are facing so they may feel less afraid,” Susan Schneider, said in a written statement.

Michael J. Fox posted this comment:

“Stunned to learn Robin had PD. Pretty sure his support for our Fdn predated his diagnosis. A true friend; I wish him peace.”

Why didn’t Williams reach out to Michael? I assume we will never know. Williams played Oliver Sacks in the movie “Awakenings,” about the use of L-Dopa, which is the basis for Sinemet, the most effective medication for managing the symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease.

Market Basket orders customers back to stores!

The Market Basket saga continues. The latest is that Governor Deval Patrick is calling for workers to return to their jobs, but that position seems to reflect the Arthur S. Demoulas side of the feud, and Patrick’s wife works for the law firm that represents Arthur S.

The Guardian has information about Market Basket that I haven’t seen before. Apparently, Arthur T. made an ill-timed 2008 investment of the $46m employee trust fund in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac stock.

http://www.theguardian.com/money/2014/aug/14/market-basket-arthur-millions-investing-protests

The timing of the investment was disastrous. Only months after Demoulas poured Market Basket’s profits into Fannie and Freddie, the US government took over the two companies, wiped out their preferred stock so that it was worth zero, and made them wards of the state. The upshot: Market Basket’s entire profit-sharing plan was lost in the stock market…

Dead Performers Society

Who is this?

Superstar

  1. Sean Penn
  2. Bono
  3. Robin Williams
  4. I can’t tell!

Robin Williams’ suicide is tragic, and yet perhaps it was inevitable. Like Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death by overdose was. Robin Williams was doing drugs with John Belushi the night he died, and that was 32 years ago, so in a way the only real surprise here is that he managed to double his lifespan.

Michael J. Fox and Robin Williams both returned to TV last fall, and both of their series were cancelled. I watched the premiere episodes of “The Michael J. Fox Show” in New Haven, with a group of doctors, scientists, and Parkinson Disease patients from the Institute for Neurodegenerative Disorders. We were spared having to sit through the commercials, because Mike had provided the Institute with a DVD copy.

Fox has often said that one positive outcome of his Parkinson’s diagnosis was that it got him to stop drinking. Before that he was downing at least two bottles of wine every night and, as we all know, Michael isn’t a large guy.

Williams checked himself into rehab in July, so presumably he was using alcohol and/or drugs again. I don’t know if losing his TV series had anything to do with Robin’s downward spiral into depression, but I assume that Michael is disappointed that his own show was cancelled. Neither depression nor Parkinson’s Disease are easy to live with, and the unrelenting progression of Parkinson’s causes many patients to become depressed and, yes, some of them commit suicide. [See my follow-up - Dograt] Instead of thinking how sad it is that Robin Williams killed himself, I’m thinking what an inspiration Michael J. Fox is.

By the way, episodes of “The Michael J. Fox Show” are still available online from NBC, at this link. Not everything in the sitcom worked for me, but I enjoyed it a lot, especially the really off-the-wall bits they did. The one tweak I would have made? Drop the “taking to the camera” gimmick, aka “breaking the fourth wall.”

Come to the Sunshine

Something that Denro and I talk about incessantly is how drastically music changed year-to-year in the 1960′s. The best place to go for a thorough and insightful exploration of Sixties popular music is Andrew Sandoval’s unique and outstanding online show, Come to the Sunshine.

Andrew Sandoval, "Come to the Sunshine"

Andrew Sandoval, “Come to the Sunshine”

After Pop gave way to the Psychedelic shake-up of 1967, 1968 was the year when underground FM stations started to take over the older teen market. The influence of FM on AM could be heard in records like this one, which became an unlikely top 20 hit.

What made underground, aka Hippie, radio possible in the Sixties? The same thing that was behind other 60′s happenings like NASA, the pre-Internet Arpanet, and the Vietnam War. The United States Government, that’s what.

To promote the adoption of FM stereo radio, on January 1, 1967 an FCC mandate went into effect that required radio broadcasters to no longer simulcast their AM signals over their FM stations. College-aged disc jockeys started to flood the airwaves in major cities, formats changed overnight, and instead of playing the latest singles they played album cuts.

The iconic Boston station, WBCN, had an overnight format change, but it didn’t happen because of the simulcast requirement. What made ‘BCN possible was the desperation of the owner of a failing all-Classical station. Former ‘BCN disc jockey Carter Alan, who is now on WZLX in Boston, has the story in his excellent book, “Radio Free Boston: The Rise and Fall of WBCN.”