Fan mail

Some fan mail truly cracks me up!

Discogs is a cross-functional site. People use it for all sorts of things.

Some use it for research, some use it to showcase their personal music collection, and some use it to buy and sell stuff. Other users are here just to chat with like-minded gear heads.

To many, it’s a hobby. It’s a small community.

Then there are those dedicated ones who delight in identifying IFPI codes and CD matrices to help nail down the exact date and location that a CD or record may have been pressed, authoring the most informative articles about pressing plants and recording studios while other users make concerted efforts to identify and profile every artist they can.

Take, for instance, a guess at how many British rock guitarists named “John Smith” there are and then understand that no one John Smith is more relevant, important, topical or “bigger” than another simply because of a numerical suffix.

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Rewind: 2015

Pssst! Want to know who our users are?

Ah, 2015! What an eventful year.

Marred by the wilful decimation of fellow human beings, this year has once again shown how adept the human race is at causing its own demise. We love harming one another.

France was a particularly popular place for getting executed by people of Arab origin who take their religious beliefs way too seriously: 2015 started with two gunmen shooting up the offices of the Charlie Hebdo satirical newspaper as part of a series of coordinated attacks in Paris during which 17 people were killed. Later in the year, on Friday, the 13th of November, another series of terrorist attacks across Paris left 130 people dead, including 89 at the Bataclan theatre.

ISIS also claimed responsibility for the downing of a Russian airliner over Egypt that left 224 civilians dead in October.

All of this is chicken feed compared to the ongoing spate of mass murders by fellow militant nutjobs like Boko Haram in shitholes such as Nigeria and Cameroon, or the continuing acts of terrorism by the Taliban, al-Quaeda and ISIS Daesh in places like Ankara, Beirut, Kenya, Tunisia, Yemen, or San Bernardino, USA.

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Best-of-the-year radio charts

Radio 5: Good vibes countrywide

Like most teenagers of the eighties, I grew up with one ear permanently stuck to the radio.

Not only was a good radio station a “random playlist” of the popular tunes of the time (with the odd few oldies thrown in), it also told the news, had interviews, played live or recorded concerts (even via FM-stereo simulcasts with mono TV), and anything else related to music and pop culture.

Radio provided the soundtrack to my formative years.

In early-80’s South Africa, it was Radio 702 (being an English language-only station) before I switched to Radio 5 in around 1985 after they ditched their Afrikaans presenters and went FM-stereo.

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Revisiting the SA BBS Scene

Loose, hand-scribbled BBS notes

May I quickly point your attention towards the SA BBS Scene microsite?

Originally launched in 2011, new and missing information has become painstakingly slow to find and validate over subsequent years. Thankfully, some ex-SysOps and users have since crawled out of the woodworks to help fill in some of the blanks, and to wax nostalgic.

Those loose snippets of data have finally been incorporated.

But no, I still haven’t found more details of the bulletin board system that was run out the Stax store in Alberton City — although I did speak to its SysOp on a few occasions.

Nor has anyone else been willing to commit their full and sordid BBS stories to the afterworld because either the data was deleted, stolen during a burglary or is best left unspoken due to the “unpleasantness” associated with software- and porn raids.

It’s as if for some people the BBS period is a chapter they would rather forget about.

Memories are starting to fail. History is getting lost in front of our very eyes.

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The future is today

Roads? Where we're going we don't need roads!

Today is “Marty McFly Day” or, alternatively, “Back to the Future Day”.

Today is the day in the future that Marty McFly arrived on 30 years ago.

Over the last few years there have been numerous waves of idiotic memes or gullible Facebook posts which proclaimed that “today” was the day, or that we had just missed it, or similar such stupidity. They were all wrong.

That day is today.

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How to digitise audio tapes

So what's your DR-score?

Or: Cassette Project #2: A reprise

A few years ago I digitised my old tape collection. The results were rather satisfactory.

As is the nature of this beast, other ideas and more tapes have collected since. Some of those tapes were rare, if not unique. Others demanded more attention than the rushed 128kbps rips from the previous round. It seemed sensible to archive some and re-rip others at the highest possible sampling and quality rate.

Here then, if you will, is a list of hints and observations on how to rip audio tapes.

But before you start, do ask yourself what it is that you want to digitise: If it’s stock-standard pop fodder from your youth, you’re better off finding the CD on eBay or in the supermarket’s bargain bin. If it’s on iTunes or Amazon, don’t waste your time ripping tapes; spend a few bucks and “support the artists”. The quality is likely to be better, too.

If you want to preserve or backup historically-relevant tapes, then you shouldn’t need this guide because you’re a qualified expert and have already done so with professional equipment before storing the originals in a climate-controlled archive.

If your reasons for bringing your tape collection into the digital world lie somewhere inbetween, then please, do read on.

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The art of German party music

Karneval in Kölle

Or: Die Kunst der deutschen Stimmungsmusik

As someone who’s amassed and “processed” several hundred tapes in recent years, I had the opportunity to take a good look at certain visual cues in the design of the products put out by record labels. I’ve also mentioned previously how awful Romanian pop music sounded to mine ears.

What I’ve not pointed out is the peculiar pattern in the pictorial artwork (“front covers”) showing photos of the performers — usually wearing traditional garb and almost always posing among trees under poor lighting conditions. A child might have easily had this as the very image of typical Romanians permanently imprinted into an impressionable mind.

The same could be said about the cliché presented by other regional “specialty records” — such as Italian grindcore, American CCM, South African boeremusiek, Japanese lolicore, or any cheesy euro house from the 90’s.

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Being Human


Today I learnt a very valuable lesson about humanity.

I’ve taken a leap towards understanding what “being human” means.

While we marvel at the so-called artificial intelligence of software like Siri and Cortana, we simultaneously fear for our privacy, and we shudder at the thought of autonomous weapons systems and rogue drones.

We need not fear machines. We need to fear those who steer them because those who control the machines pursue not death and mayhem but, rather, take aim at commercial targets. And what’s more human than greed?


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