The Michigan Daily - Weekend etc - Thursday, January 20, 1994 - 3
Hits keep on coming
Mini-disc player expensive toy
By TOM ERLEWINE
Recently, I was given a Sony Mini-Disc player to experiment with for a
week, to take on a test drive. The University was part of Sony's target audience
in an attempt to spread the word of the Mini-Disc. Big-Ten schools were
chosen to be the core of Sony's fall marketing campaign because we, as college
students, are the audience that is most receptive to new technologies. We are
also the audience that spends the most money on music, but that's beside the
Theoretically, what makes the Mini-Disc so attractive is its combination of
portability and recordability. It is smaller than any Discman; the discs
themselves are smaller than a 3 1/2" computer disc and the player itself is very
compact, about the size of a large Walkman. Although the size.of the player
is attractive, what makes it more appealing is the fact that it can store
information in its memory so the music never skips. You can swing the Mini-
Disc around in a circle above your head and the damn thing would still sound
as if it were lying on a table.
Sonically, the Mini-Disc is very impressive. Through headphones, the
system sounds identical to a Discman. When it's run through an amplifier,
however, the differences between a CD player and a Mini-Disc become
apparent. Compact Discs remain the superior format - CDs have a warmer,
fuller sound than the comparatively thin, trebly Mini-Disc (which is odd,
considering that they are frequently criticized for being harsh and inorganic by
some vinyl-loving audiophiles). In particular, Pearl Jam's "Ten" benefited by
the extra sonic presence of the CD. Still, these minor sonic differences are
barely noticeable when you're walking around town underneath a pair of
Noticeable, unfortunately, is the sonic inferiority of home-recorded Mini-
Discs. On the sample blank Mini-Disc I recorded several songs that featured
extreme dynamic levels. At first I recorded Urge Overkill's "Sister Havana,"
which begins with a few seconds of sound effects before a single guitar plays
the riff, followed by the rest of the band in a couple of measures. The Mini-Disc
player read the quiet sound effects at the beginning as the overall dynamic of
the track; when the guitar part began, it was quite loud. Instead of the music
becoming even louder when the bass and drums kicked in (as it was supposed
to), the player realized its mistake and adjusted for the new level, making the
music muted and quieter. Thinking that this might be a fluke, I decided to see
what the organ to guitar transition in the Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again"
sounded like - it suffered from the same muted dynamics as Urge.
For some this might seem like a trivial complaint, but the fact of the matter
is, these changed dynamics alter the emotional impact of the music. On PJ
Harvey's "Rid of Me," a song where the guitar and vocals are barely audible
for the first ninety seconds, the music was brought out to the front, completely
ruining the devastating impact of the full band's explosive entrance later in the
Some music fans can ignore these fluctuating dynamics, preferring to
concentrate on the fact that you can record the tracks on the Mini-Disc in any
order and rearrange them later. Others, like myself, will be frustrated by the
sonic inadequacies of the Mini-Disc. Still, the sound of the pre-recorded discs
remains impressive and more and more titles are being pressed in this format,
including such unlikely candidates as Sugar's magnificent "Copper Blue" and
the Outfield's largely forgotten "Play Deep."
No matter how many titles are available, the question of whether the market
is ready for another format remains. Competing for the same market as the
Mini-Disc is Phillips' Digital Compact Cassette, which can also play normal
analog cassettes in addition to the digital cassettes. Both formats boast similar
list prices (around $750) and both feature allegedly similar sound. Neither
format is selling very well because the market doesn't need another piece of
hardware; it needs cheaper software.
Even the difference between a Walkman and the Mini-Disc is quite small..
It is very hard to notice the sonic differences between the two systems on a
portable player because, no matter what anyone says, you don't really listen
for sonic details when you're walking out on the street. The Mini-Disc does
offer several neat features as well as remarkable sound, but ultimately it is a
luxury. Still, it's a lot of fun for those who have some extra cash.
Abel Ferrara's first mainstream film will be a remake of "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" and some are wondering if it will equal his independent work.
Will manstream prove rise or fall of Abel Ferrara?
By ALEXANDRA TWIN
Home for Christmas and I started reading the
papers again. New York papers are slightly differ-
ent from other forms of syndication. They take a
certain pride in uncovering and exposing raw,
homegrown talent not simply because it's from
New York, but because they figure that everybody
else will find it interesting simply because it's
from New York. It's a certain acquired arrogance
that you gain if you live there long enough; I'm no
stranger to it.
So it was with a certain gloating interest that I
turned to New York Newsday's Abel Ferrara
article, expecting to be patted on the back for
sharing the city with such a cool, weird, "out
there" kind of guy. Well the writer was certainly
pleased with this independent filmmaker, but not
for any of those reasons. She first half-apologeti-
cally referred to the trademark use of violence in
his films and then went on to applaud him due to
the fact that his newest and soon-to-be released
"Body Snatchers" remake is a $20 million thriller
from some major production company. Appar-
ently this factor indicates his "progress towards
the mainstream" as she put it.
Progress? I don't know. Maybe. But there's
something that really bothers me about a state-
ment like that. Consider the fact that the majority
of independent films are far better than the major-
ity of mainstream films. Consider the fact that
Abel Ferrara's a guy who's spent a good deal of
his career attempting to expose the scratchy un-
derbelly of American culture. All this in mind, it
seems ironic at best to indicate that Ferrara's
sudden involvement with mainstream films is a
sign of progress (it also supposes another false-
hood - that mainstream films are generally and
automatically better than their independent coun-
Progress? Why does this define progress?
Granted, it's a tricky word to pinpoint, but in this
case, it would seem that if Ferrara is moving any
where in the direction of progress, it is away from
and not toward.
No, this is not the standard "all filmmakers,
musicians, writers, etc. who leave their indepen-
dent roots to get involved with major companies
are sell-outs" argument. That's not the point.
There's nothing wrong with seeking a broader
audience. The problem lies in the fact that in
deliberately seeking a broader audience on some-
one else's terms, you automatically run the risk of
compromising yourself and your artisitic ideals.
There is also the idea that art at its best tends to
come from a state of being tat's not completely
comfortable. This may be true for the artist per-
sonally or for the people who observe it or even
just for the material as a separate entity unto itself.
"Outlaw stuff," as independent filmmaker Hal
Hartley staunchly refers to it, "Art is very often
outside of society, a thorn in society's side."
Regardless of whether or not you personally
agree with that arguably extreme position, it would
seem to be almost undeniably true that the notion
of art as stemming from discomfort is pretty
incompatible with the notion of art as stemming
from an all-expenses paid, mass-audience-appeal-
at-any-price seeking company.
Maybe it's completely unnecessary to judge
films as works of art, instead of simply as movies.
All filmmakers are certainly not artists and most
artists are not filmmakers, or at least not modern-
day filmmakers. So let's leave it alone. Let it go.
Put your feet up and enjoy the movie. Two hours
of unconditional bliss.
Yeah, that works. That works for a while. It
works through "Die Hard;" it works through
"Cliffhanger;" it works through any James Bond
film. And then after awhile it doesn't work quite
so well, and you find that you want something a
little more substantial. That's when it comes back
Film is a form of art. Bottom line. It may not be
the best form, but that's what it is and that's how
it ought to be looked at. When you remove the key
artistic element from art and center it around the
desire to garner mass-appeal, you've not only set
the writer up to be a whore and the producers his
pimps, but you've stripped art of the very element
that defines it - that it is a genuine and unlimited
form of expression.
That's progress? I don't know. Maybe it's a
pretentious New York thing or maybe Ijust didn't
like "Cliffhanger," but as for me, I'll take Abel
Ferrara in the gutter over Abel Ferrara on a
While day people sleep, night people sweep
By JOHN R. RYBOCK
Plowing the streets after a major
storm. Patching up broken watermains
or fixing potholes. Maintaining lines.
Without these jobs, the city of Ann
Arbor would grind to a halt.
But there is more to Ann Arbor
than the mere practicalities of run-
ning the city. There is also the
*ightlife. And, I am proud to say, that
life would grind to a halt if it wasn't
OK, I am not alone. I am part of an
almost secret society which resides
not just in Ann Arbor but in many
cities across the country. We start our
day after the first soap operas have
aired and been forgotten, as Oprah
starts talking to Nazi cross-dressers .
We work into the night, punching out
f work as most of our peers are
passing out on their floors.
We are, in case you have not fig-
ured at out, the people who make the
restaurants, bars and other staples of
the :Ann Arbor nightlife function.
Bartenders, floormen, waitstaffers,
cooks and behind-the-counter jobs.
When our classmates are cutting loose
on a Thursday night to blow off steam,
*om their exams, we are serving them
the shots that help them in their en-
Know how to read?
Like to read?
deavor. When students make it out to
one of Ann Arbor's fine restaurants,
we wait on them and make them their
Not that many of us actually com-
plain. For many, the jobs pay our
I am part of an almost
secret society which
resides not just in Ann
Arbor but in many
cities across the
bills. Most of us wait tables in a
crowded bar or a nice restaurant, get-
ting paid $2.52 an hour (Michigan
state minimum wage for tip-receiv-
ing jobs), giving the best service we
can to earn our tips. Jobs off-campus
often prove the best in that regard,
making up for their inconvenient lo-
cations by the older, more generous
clientele. It's tough to get a tip from a
guy with three bucks to his name
buying a dollar pitcher.
And in the often closed Univer-
sity community, these jobs allow us
some interaction with the outside
world. In Ann Arbor, we are not just
University students. We attend EMU,
Washtenaw Community College or
maybe we have recently graduated. It
was amazing at first to realize that
there was something in the Midwest
other than the University.
And those of us working the bar
scene, we truly become creatures both
of the night and of little sleep. We
clean up the spilled beer and crushed
cigarettes (to name some of the nicer
things). And for us, the party hasn't
even begun. For many of us, it seems
gmazing when friends who are not
part of the society say "Boy, it's one
already. I better head hofme." When
we get off work, the bars are closed
(we closed them), so we find
someone's place and blow a little
steam. We start thinking of heading
home only as the morning's papers
are dropped on the doorsteps.
Somewhere in there, some of us
manage to get our school work done.
And seemingly more often then not,
by some grace of God, we manage
decent grades. Maybe it has some-
thing to do with the fact that we often
can't drink on school nights.
But in the end, we enjoy being the
motor that keeps Ann Arbor's night
life going. Customers are often en-
joyable to talk to when they are not in
adrunken stupor. And on some nights,
those of us making tips actually go
home with some decent money. But
you'll never see us go home.' You're
already in bed.
THE ,BRIDAL SHOW
Sunday, January 23rd
Sheraton Inn, Ann Arbor
Over $5000 in door prizes
including two free airline tickets to Florida
courtesy Regerncy Travel and Key Tours
J\ ~ 12:30 pm to 3:30 pm
Donald J. Munro
Professor of Philosophy and
Chair, Department of Asian
Languages and Cultures
1994 Warner G. Rice
Humanities Award Recipient
The Distortion of
Inquiry in China
Consequences of an