Disc and Track Names on Books on CD

Frankenstein - Book on CDI like books on CD. A librarian friend of mine told me recently that she had managed to make it through James Joyce’s Ulysses with some cliff note and a book on CD while she read along. That struck me as a brilliant solution to reading a book I have tried to read many times over the past three decades. She is now applying the same technique to Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time. I consider this a less laudable endeavor. I don’t doubt Proust’s brilliance (although I’ve always found him, in translation, rather boring). After reading the whole thing, one needn’t go searching for the lost time. It was lost in trudging through the seven large volumes—Over four thousand pages!—of getting to the end of the novel where you learn that Proust has figured out the secret that he’s been writing about and will now go and write what you just read. It’s a circular ending every bit as fulfilling as that in Finnegans Wake. (You understand that I was being sarcastic, right?)

I find books on CD useful for when I’m driving or walking. And this normally requires that I rip the CDs onto my computer in the form of MP3s. And in doing this, I’ve noticed something very interesting: they aren’t consistent. I don’t mean from title to title. I mean that a single title will not be consistent with itself. Take for example, Elaine Pagels’ book, Gnostic Gospels. It comes on six CDs. But they can’t even be bothered to name the discs the same. The second disc is named, “Gnostic Gospels Disc 2.” This pattern is used for discs 3 through 6. But the first disc is named simply, “Gnostic Gospels.” I’m a being petty? Maybe. But it gets worse.

The first disc numbers the files from 01 through 16. Very simple and easy to understand, even if not helpful in finding your place if you don’t listen straight through. The second disc does the same thing. What’s more, it adds more information to let you know that the files are actually 17 through 32. Very helpful. The third disc is the same: 33 through 48. But the fourth disc provides a rather different format. Still you get the same information but in a much more flamboyant form. The first track is labeled, “The Gnostic Gospels Disc 4 Track 49.” The fifth disc is back to the old way, just numbering the tracks from 65 through 80. But then the sixth disc labels the tracks from 001 to 017. It makes little sense, but it makes more sense than many.

Terry Pratchett’s Making Money has the very same disc labeling problem. This seems to be standard. I don’t know why. It drives my mathematically inclined mind crazy. And the tracks are similarly bizarre. For the first two discs we get a very nice system of labeling discs and tracks. So the fourth track on the second disc is labeled “02-04.” But then the third disc has tracks labeled, “Track 1” and so on. So we lose useful information (the disc number) and gain useless information (the fact that a track is a track). This new system is continued on the fourth disc, but we get something entirely new for the fifth! This disc isn’t even consistent within itself. The first six tracks are labeled, “Macking Money track X disc 5.” That wasn’t a typo on my part; it really says “Macking” and not “Making.” But this problem is fixed for the last two tracks that are simply labeled, “Track X.” The next three discs go back to the same format as the first two. And the last disc is the same as the third disc.

I started looking at this because I recently got Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. This one is really great, because the first disc does not go in the Mary Shelley folder. Instead, it goes in the Patrick Doyle folder. For those of you who don’t know, Patrick Doyle is a film composer who the music of Gosford Park and Brave. It took me quite a while to find the MP3s after they were ripped. But once I figured that out, they were logically put in the folder named Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Inside the tracks were descriptive, which is fine. The rest of the discs went into the Mary Shelley folder, so that’s something. But it’s also about all.

The second and third discs were named “Frank X.” That’s fine. I have no problem with brevity. And their tracks were the standard disc and track numbers. That’s fine, but it’s totally inconsistent with the first disc. The rest of the discs were named “Frankenstein Disc X.” Another inconsistency. The fourth and fifth discs give simply the chapters they are part of but with no subdividing. Then the six disc gives us something new and inconsistent. The first nine tracks are labeled, “Frank 06-0X.” So it’s kind of like the second and third discs but with “Frank” put at the beginning. But on the tenth track, it goes back to listing the chapter. The rest of the discs continue the chapter format.

There is a slight change on the last disc, but it actually makes sense. Frankenstein is a frame story. It starts with a series of letters and ends with a series of letters. So it names each of these tracks with “Final Letters” and then the dates of the letters. It’s actually rather shocking to see something done correctly. Of course, the letters are the beginning were not done the same way.

What I figure is going on here is that the publishers of books on CD do not expect that people will put them on their computers. In fact, they probably fear this and think that people will steal them, even though they really are pretty useless to keep around after you’ve listened to them. So my bet is that they don’t put out what each track should be called. And so it gets crowd sourced on the internet. And like most most things done in this way, it is done badly. And that’s how we get things like “Macking Money.”


I was going to finish this article with, “God save us from the cult of the amateur.” But that’s not how I feel. There are a lot of amateurs who do excellent work—better than professionals. But work like entering track names is the kind of boring work that no one takes great pride in. It is the sort of thing that someone should be paid to do so they make sure it is done correctly. We would have a great society if only the really tedious work was paid. And that way, we could all divide it up and only have to work five hours a week.

Anthony Cumia and How Racism Works

Anthony CumiaMartin Longman brought my attention to the fact that, Opie and Anthony Are No More. Apparently, for almost twenty years, there has been this thing called, The Opie and Anthony Show. It’s one of those shock jock shows that young men of limited intelligence think is super keen. I don’t mean to paint with too broad a brush, but Howard Stern is generally considered the best there is and I find his show to only be of reasonable quality with many aspects that don’t much appeal to me. I figure that Opie and Anthony are on the lower end of the maturity scale, but I really don’t know.

Well, it seems this last week, Anthony Cumia was out in New York City trying to take some pictures. A black woman happened to be in one of his pictures. She objected, Cumia escalated the situation and before long things got totally out of hand. According to Cumia, the woman “punched” him several times, but without minimizing it, I suspect it was what I would call a hit or a slap. And when I’m out in public and I call a woman the n-word and the c-word, I don’t think I’m in much of a position to complain if she knees me in the groin. Apparently, then some black guys came to the defense of the woman. But he doesn’t claim that they touched him and Cumia never went to the police.

Instead, he did what any privileged white man would do: he went on Twitter to vent to his 162,000 followers. And vent he did. No one tweet is a total barn burner. He never uses the n-word (but his followers do), but he does use the c-word. He talks about “those people” and how he was attacked because he was white and how they are savages and it’s a jungle. But his whole interaction was with one black woman. And the black men who came to her defense, probably did it because all they heard was him yelling expletives at her. Regardless, as we know (though it isn’t always right), in an altercation, people will go to the defense of the woman.

But let’s assume that it was a group of ten blacks and Mr Cumia was unfairly wronged by them. And let’s assume that he didn’t go on Twitter and say a bunch of racist and misogynistic things. His takeaway from the incident is the fundamental racist problem in the United States. If the same thing had happened with a group of white people, Cumia would likely be just as mad. But he wouldn’t generalize about it. It wouldn’t be “those people” in the general sense; it would have been “those ten people” who abused him. Because in modern America, white isn’t a race. It’s just the default. All other races are defined by how they deviate from white.

Now I know that Cumia will say that he has nothing against blacks and women. And in fact, right now, his latest tweet [Since deleted. -FM] is of him smiling with his arm around a black man. That’s not it. That’s not how racism works in the “I make $3 million per year crowd.” The problem is thinking that if one person who we’ve arbitrarily placed in some “race” (an artificial construct, but a useful one) does something we like or don’t like, it must say something about the entire race.

Anthony Cumia With Black Man

My favorite example is a racist driver. A black guy cuts him off in traffic. The guy thinks, “That’s totally typical! That’s what blacks are always doing!” If a white guy does the same thing, he thinks, “What a jerk!” And that’s the end of it. But if a black guy does something nice like allow him to merge into heavy traffic, the guy thinks, “Well, that’s unusual.” Nothing changes, of course. The nice black guy is just the exception that proves the rule. That is racism in America: white people are individuals whose actions only reflect on them; black people are representatives of an entire class.

The terrible thing is that I doubt seriously that Cumia is any more racist than any of us. In my life, I fight gut reactions (good and bad) all the time. But I am at an advantage of understanding somewhat how it works. I don’t delude myself into thinking that just because I would never consciously treat a black man differently that I don’t suffer from racist impulses. I am afraid that it is unlikely that Cumia will ever understand this, especially since so many of his fans seem to be egging him on in the opposite direction.

[In checking the broken Twitter link, I noticed that Cumia now has over twice as many followers as he did at the time of this article. Racism is a good career move in America. -FM]

Dems Only Need a Little Help in Senate

Jonathan BernsteinOn Thursday, I wrote, Jobs Report Good News for Senate Elections. As if reading my mind, Jonathan Bernstein responded, Sunny Jobs Report Won’t Save Democrats. His argument is that if things go very badly for Obama in Ukraine, Iraq, and elsewhere, or the economy tanks, it will be very bad for the Democrats. But if none of these things happen it will not help the Democrats all that much. Fair enough, but I think he’s being too simplistic about it regardless.

Looking at the Senate, the very fact that the control of this chamber is pretty much a toss up is an indication that the lack bad international news and a rapidly improving economy are having an effect on the election. The Democrats are way overexposed. They ought to be looking at being decimated with only 43 seats come January. Instead, the most likely result will be that will have 48 or 49 seats.

But let’s look at the unemployment numbers for this year and the previous two mid-term elections. In 2006, the unemployment rate was going down by 0.03% per month. The 2010 number was 0.04%. And the number thus far this year is 0.12%. So while the economy was improving when Bush and Obama saw their parties lose big, it was not improving at a fast enough rate to stand out in an off-year election.

If the current trend continues with the employment, the rate could 5.5% by the time of the election. I’m not saying that would have a huge effect, only that it would have some positive effect. And even Bernstein accepts my overall argument. He wrote “there’s more downside risk than upside opportunity.” Well, yeah. We all know that. But Mark Begich might win in Alaska without any help at all from the economy. Mary Landrieu only needs a little help in Louisiana. No one is suggesting that if the economy adds 400,000 jobs each of the next four months that Matt Silverstein will be the new Senator from Oklahoma and the Senate will have a Democratic super-majority.

But Bernstein is right to note the downside risks. Things could go very poorly over the next few months. The Republicans in Congress have almost unlimited powers to harm the economy, but I think at this time they are likely to stay quiet, figuring they will sail into power if they do nothing. And I don’t see Obama doing anything too terrible in international affairs. The good economic news really is good news for the Democrats. But it’s not time to start partying.

Art, Opium, and Jean Cocteau

Jean CocteauOn this day in 1889, the great writer Jean Cocteau was born. But really, it is wrong to limit him as a writer. I have this little annoyance with Wikipedia where it will list someone as “actor, director, author, musician, and political activist.” Normally, this means they are actors, once directed a play, had a ghostwriter produce an autobiography, once sang a song in public, and told Barbara Walters that it was wrong to drown kittens. But in Cocteau’s case, he really did do a lot. If he had only been a film director, he would be listed in Wikipedia. He was also a prolific poet, novelist, and screenwriter—any of which would have made him an important writer.

He is best known for his 1929 novel, Les Enfants Terribles. It was first translated by our old friend Samuel Putnam, who most of you know for having written what I think is the greatest English translation of Don Quixote (not that later translations aren’t better, but they have the advantage of Putnam’s work). It is an amazing book about a brother and sister (Paul and Elisabeth) who play a game to see who can annoy the other to the point of exasperation. In my generation, it would be forcing the other to say “uncle.” But Paul is the passive one; it is Elisabeth who actively tries to annoy Paul while he tries to annoy her by not reacting. This game continues long into adulthood where Elisabeth actively sabotages Paul’s love life. This causes Paul to drink poison. While he lays dying, Elisabeth thinks that Paul is going to beat her so she kills herself with a gun, “winning” the game. Of course, it is all more complicated than that. Elisabeth is fundamentally in love with Paul. The game is how they show their love. And Elisabeth cannot live without Paul.

I know Cocteau best because of his book, Opium: Journal of Drug Rehabilitation. Literally, that is: “Journal of Drug Rehabilitation.” But for some reason, it is now published under the English title, Opium: The Diary of His Cure. And earlier editions were “a cure” and not “his cure.” But the latter translation of the book is probably better, because the book is more Cocteau than opium. He does a better job of describing opium than most authors because he admits to why the drug originally had a great pull but then how it turned into a trap. But when it is all done, he notes, “Now that I am cured I feel poor, empty, broken-hearted, and ill. Yeah, that’s about right. Of course, the book is more just his reflections of his life and art. It is scattered but brilliant.

Happy birthday Jean Cocteau!