Censorship reflects a society's lack of confidence in itself.

--Potter Stewart

Monday, July 5, 1999
Sites, Sights, Sounds, and Saints

Today marked the official observance of Independence Day, although, practically speaking, said observance was observed in one area only: it was a day off from work. Which, I suppose, is all anybody really cares about when it comes to American holidays.

Switching to one of those other countries with a red-white-and-blue flag, I've been getting a bit worried about the newly enacted Internet censorship bill in Australia. From what I understand, not only will it restrict "prohibited content" produced in Australia, but it also holds Australian ISPs responsible for making sure users can't access prohibited stuff from overseas.

Given the vast number of sites out there, and the sweeping scope of the law, it seems fairly likely that Australian ISPs will resort to filtering software. (Not that it's likely to help.) And here I am with a site that uses the word "fuck" occasionally. I must say I'm concerned.

Any of my Australian readers care to reassure me? And if not, any suggestions on how I should handle this?

(More information on the bill, which takes effect on January 1, 2000, can be found at Electronic Frontiers Australia. A more personal, ideosyncratic, approach is at Prairie Dog, but that includes some (shudder) prohibited content.)

So the reactions to my photos have been rolling in. I have now been roundly informed that my self-image is way too negative, and that I look just fine. Cute, even. Two readers even went as far as to say that I looked handsome, but there are limits to my suspension of disbelief. :-)

Incidentally, if you see a reddish tinge reflecting off your monitor just now, that's me blushing.

Seriously, I am aware that my self-image isn't completely founded. Actually, what bothers me the most is (a) my posture -- I have the impression that my head is always leaning to the side, and (b) my beard, which just plain isn't me. But I've never shaved. Long story, which would probably lose everything in the translation anyway.

Well, okay, in a nutshell: Shaving with a razor is out, under Jewish law. Other means of beard removal are where the questions come in. Most American Orthodox Jews are of the opinion that scissors, depilatories, and most electric shavers are just fine for this purpose, and should be used. Others disagree, or at least hold that it shouldn't be done, even if permissible.

My father belongs to a group which has the latter opinion. Is that binding on me? Given that this is not, in fact, a family tradtion -- my father joined said group in his late teens -- almost certainly not, but I do need to speak to a rabbi about it, and I haven't actually had a rabbinic advisor to call my own for a few years now. Which is a problem. End of oversimplified explanation.

Anyway, one or two people mentioned that they really appreciated being able to put a face to my writings. Not being very visually oriented myself, I hadn't quite realized that it would matter, but I do understand now, I think -- being audio-oriented, I've appreciated the occasional sound files on others' sites -- so, on the whole, I'm glad I posted them.

Speaking of sound files... this last bit really belongs in tomorrow's entry, chronologically speaking, but I have other stuff to write there, and it fits better here anyway. So. A number of years back, I purchased a low-end karaoke machine, in the hope that I could do something I'd long wanted to do: play the kazoo with myself, doing both the melody and the harmony.

This was actually just the shadow of a long-cherished dream of mine, in which I'd find three other decent kazooists and a conductor/arranger, and, after a couple of months of practice, we'd take to the streets of Manhattan in matching outfits and proceed to kazoo our hearts out in four-part harmony. It's never ever going to happen, I know, but a man can dream... Anyway, I figured that, with a karaoke machine, I could at least achieve a somewhat similar effect all by myself.

It didn't quite work out that way. For one thing, the most-recently-recorded bit tended to drown out the earlier stuff, so much fiddling with the volume was required to make the two parts come out even. Plus, the background ambience added up with each successive cycle, making for less than stellar results. The upshot of this is that I ended up returning the thing within the 30-day period I was given. And I eventually spent my money on a 5-CD changer instead.

But in the period in which I had it, I did make a few recordings, to see what I could do with the thing. Including the file attached to this entry. I should like to note that it was made in order to test the machine out, not for the sake of art, and that I know the ending is really cheesy.

I should further like to note that I made this file by playing the tape on a fairly cheap tape player, connected to my sound card with an even cheaper patch cable. It was then made into a fairly low-resolution .wav file, which lost some sound quality from the original.

Now that I've gotten the disclaimers out of the way, I present an 850k .wav file of Yours Truly playing When the Saints Go Marching In. Enjoy.

(I'd tried a compressed version, at half the size, but while Netscape could handle it, it didn't work in my DOS-based .wav player, so it's out. Sorry about that.)