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November 05, 2009 - Image 12

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The Michigan Daily, 2009-11-05

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0

4B - Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Michigan Daily -- michigandaily.com

BLUES
From Page 1B
store) doesn't feel like it's some-
thing that's really hitting home
to me, because of the convenience
and the quickness and the accu-
racy you can get online."
"I don't really have that nos-
talgia of going to a record store
and being really pumped about
a release that's coming out in
the way that our parents or older
siblings might have felt," Leahy
admits.
Marc Taras of PJ's validates this
generational gap, explaining how
his core demographic has shifted
in the past 15 years from 25-and-
younger to 25-and-older.
While these stores are remark-
ably staying afloat, the general
engulfment of culture by the
Internet is increasingly pigeonhol-
ing them in a niche market. And
the fan base for this market may
be dying - literally.
THE DEATH OF THE CD
When it comes down to it, the
root of the problem lies in the fact
that the CD, the former bread and
butter of most record stores, has
become financially inviable com-
pared to the MP3.
"If you spend $1,000 pressing
a CD, you have to sell 100 of them
at $10 before there's even a dollar
actually made," says Al McWil-
liams, CEO of Quack!Media, an
independent multimedia distribu-
tor in Ann Arbor.
On the other hand, you don't
have to pay up-front costs to pro-
duce an MP3.
"With digital, you have to make
one penny to profit," McWilliams
explains.
While record labels haven't
stopped selling CDs just yet, sales
figures might give them incentive
to go totally digital. According to
eMpyre ramireX, the pseudonym-
masked president of Galactic
Dust, a Detroit-based indepen-
dent record label, for every $45
he makes on MP3 sales, he only
makes about $5 on physical CDs.
So why do these companies
continue to sell CDs? Well, mainly
because certain people keep buy-
ing them - there's a sort of CD

fetish inherent in bona fide music
nerds.
Brian Peters of Ghostly Interna-
tional, an independent Ann Arbor
music label, discusses the com-
pulsive tendency of hardcore
audiophiles to "want the tac-
tile sense of holdingthe LP:
seeing the art, having that
ownership over the prod-
uct and that connection
to the band."
And, of course,
there's the issue of
sound quality.
"The amount of
quality information
- audio bits - that
are on a CD is just such
a higher sampling rate
than what's on (the
usual) MP3," explains
Mark Clague, assistant
professor of Musicology
at the University.
Bradish of Underground Sounds
speculates that "people who are
buying a CD or an LP have usually
heard it and know what they're
getting into and are making an
investment in sound quality."
As far as MP3s, Bradish
is turned off: "It always
comes off flat and com-
pressed and tinny.
There's absolutely
no room sound ...
most vinyl, if
it's mastered r W
correctly ...
you can c
actually
get a
feel
for
the
room it
was record-
ed in."
Luckily for these record stores,
audiophiles have shown a rekin-
dled appreciation for the subtle-
ties of acoustic fidelity. While CD
sales are plummeting, sales in
vinyl have enjoyed an unexpected
resurgence, and local record stores
have capitalized on this trend to
stay alive.
"We sell a lot of CDs, but they
just pay forthe rentbasically," says
Dale. "We make our money off of
(vinyl)."
While the CD market may be
drying up significantly, the true
music fan's unrelenting passion for

local music from the past ump-
teen years. Encore, Wazoo and
Underground Sounds all
carry extensive collections
of local releases. And
they do it on an essen-
tially non-profit basis,
marking up the CDs
just enough to cover stock-
ing costs.
Butmostimportantly,AnnArbor
record stores actively spread the
love for local artists. Leah Diehl of
the band Lightning Love mentions
how Bradish fervently pro-
moted her music, hooking
her band up with a show in
Ohio and selling her album
to people who had never
even heard of the group.
And while Google may be
cheapening the value of a record
store owner's musical expertise by
placing all of that knowledge and'
more within the easy-access reach
of a search engine, there's a human
element inherent in record stores
that will never be displaced by the
Information Age.
Peters of Ghostly International
talks about the sort of invaluable
relationship that a consumer can
build with a record store owner.
"Matt Bradish at Underground
Sounds is really good about bring-
ing in specialty discs. I got the My
Bloody Valentine reissue EPson
vinyl. And he knew, the second I
walked in he knew I'd want it,"
Peters said. "He knows me. I know
him. And there's just that great
sense of curation that I think you
don'tget at Best Buy."
And Clague mentions how, while
the Internet has revolutionized the
spread of culture and information,
it "has a way of sort of atom-
izing everything to make
it almost invisible."
There's a cer-
tain preciousness
to witnessing
all of these

musical trinkets huddled together
under one roof, a preciousness that
evaporates when this information
is relegated to Web pages.
"There's something about walk-
ing into Encore, in a-space where
the titles are almost falling down
because the stacks are so high,"
Clague says. "And you get a vis-
ceral sense, a physical sense, .a
psychic sense of the kind of legacy
and amount of art that's been cre-
ated that there is to grasp ... If you
just started at one end and tried to
listen your way through the store,
you'd die before you made it 10 feet
past the front entrance."
Perhaps more than anything,
local record stores are refreshing
slices of reality in a world that's
been increasingly digitized. While
they may be quaint, local record
stores are a crucial component of
Ann Arbor's cultural vibrancy as a
sort of embassy where audiophiles
can converge instead of walking
around, severed from the out-
side world by their iPod earbuds.
And while the stores may be on or
near their deathbeds, they're still
around for now.
"We can't take our whole life
and put it online. There has to be
somethingyou can walk out of your
house and actually do," McWil-
liams of Quack!Media says. "I have
a special appreciation for record
stores but I also have a general of
appreciation for real life
and leaving the house
sometimes. I met
girls in record
stores."

0

If you want to live in
a fascist society, keep
buying on the Internet ...
This town's turning into a
giant restaurant anyw .
- Matt Bradi
Owner, Underground Sounds

the physical object is a staple that's
preventing these stores from clos-
ing down - for now.
LOCAL RECORD STORES:
KEEPING REALITY REAL
So what is it thatwe would all be
missing out on if our local record
stores just decided to up and leave?
According to the major players in
the Ann Arbor music scene: alot.
For one, record stores are help-
ing to keep downtown Ann Arbor
culturally alive ina time when real
estate is becoming increasingly

smothered by mass-produced
chain stores.
Bradish is particularly vehe-
ment on this subject: "People have
got to realize, what do they want?
Do they want corporate control of
everything? If so, keep buying on
the Internet. If you want to live in
a fascist society, keep buying on
the Internet ... This town's turning
into a giant restaurant anyway."
These stores are keeping the
local music scene alive, too.
Just walk into Encore - the r
front counter is overflowing
with shelves of exclusively

0

YOU'RE SMART. DO THE RIGHT THING.
Write for Daily Arts. E-mail battlebots@umich.edu for an application.

'DIDDY KONG RACING' (1997) N64

ario Kart's multiplayer superior

By JACK PORTER
Daily Arts Writer
"Mario Kart 64" was the video
game that defined the kart racing
genre, inspiring a legion of knock-
offs in its wake. The kart fad,
though short-lived, produced a few
stellar games.
While "Mario Kart 64" still had
the best multiplayer, itssingle-play-
er modes were shamedby the Story
Mode in "Diddy Kong Racing," a
game that has been sorely over-
looked. "Diddy Kong" offered more
than just a vanilla racing package
- the extra plane and hovercraft
vehicles, item-collecting challeng-
es and boss battlesbrought new life
to the format. Best of all, the wick-
ed track designs and devilish diffi-
culty ensured the game's longevity.
At first glance, "Diddy Kong
Racing" appears infantile and its
cast of colorful cartoon animals
with squeaky, child-like voices
can grate on the nerves. The plot is
also woefully vapid, meaning Story
Mode fails to live up to its name.
Taj, a thickly Indian-accented blue
elephant wearing a turban (really)

summons Diddy Kong and his
friends (some of whom later star
in their own games, like Banjo and
Conker) to save their island para-
dise from Wizpig, an evil porcine
wizard. The plot is really just a silly
contrivance to provide grounds for
the platforming and adventure ele-
ments interspersed into the racing
gameplay.
Another distinctive quirk is the
game's focus on collecting objects,
from golden balloons to silver coins
and amulet pieces. The golden bal-
The Clinton era's
finest kart game.
loons are garnered through racing
victories and found while explor-
ing the game's island overworld.
Silver coins are snagged during
specialraces, and amulet pieces are
collected after besting each world's
boss in two races.
The collecting aspect works
because the sense of incremental
accomplishment is addicting, as

countless other games have proven.
Rare, the game's developer, is a
master of the collect-a-thon ("Don-
key Kong Country" was its break-
out title), so this idea was a natural
fit. In the end, Rare should've made
more racers.
As an oddball racer, "DiddyKong
Racing" shines when it comes time
to put the joystick to the plastic.
Courses are filled with daunting
hairpin turns, steep drops, speed-
boosting strips and shortcuts. By
crafting clever alternate paths,
Rare endowed the game with sur-
prising depth.
During .the Silver Coin Chal-
lenges, the player mustcollect eight
hidden coins throughout the track
within three laps and still manage
to finish first. To ensure victorythe
player has to learn the intricacies
of courses like the pirate-themed
Treasure Cove, which has at least
three shortcuts. This brings a stra-
tegic element to the racer, as the
player needs to plotout fast and safe
routes to the coins. If this demand
for precision sounds masochistic,
well, maybe it is. "Diddy Kong Rac-
ing" is not for the faint of heart, and
the bosses are proof of that as well.
The boss races appear simple
enough in theory: The goal is to
finish first against the boss while
he attempts to squash or other-
wise sabotage the player. But as
the game progresses, the difficulty
skyrockets. Most notorious among
the bosses is the third level's octo-
pus, which veteran players unof-
ficially refer to as "that fucking
octopus."
Inthe race, the player.must con-
trol the hovercraft (which has the
most fickle handling of any vehi-
cle) while dodgingerrant logs and
giant bubbles, which the octopus
lays as traps -one mistake and the
raceis effectivelyover. Butaswith
any well-designed video game, the
profanity-spewing player will still
want to give it"just one more go."
Despite its cheery, candy-coat-
ed exterior, "Diddy Kong Racing"
delivers a challengingsingle-play-
er mode with considerable depth.
The "Mario Kart" series is a blast
with friends, but none of those
titles can provide such a lengthy,
rewarding solo quest. Any fans of
unrealistic racers should pick up
"Diddy Kong Racing" and expe-
rience the controller-chucking
magic that has endeared gamers
to"thatfuckingoctopus"sincethe
Clinton administrabon.

Apr 40
F w

s'I

-IL A- d - _ - -L- - A - M _- I_- M O

Panel Discussion and QA withthose
who support President Obam's
Exeuive Order banning tortue
Reardmiral John D. Hutson, JAC,tJSN(Ret)
BIgadierGeneral Stephen N. Xenalds, USA(Ret)
Elisa Massimino, CEO and Executive Director, Human Rights Frst
University of Michigan Law School
Honigman Auditorium, 100 Hutchins Hall
Thursday, November 5
4 -6P.m.
E B
SPONSO(EDBY THE OFFICE #F PUBLIC SERVICE,

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