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I hate every audio format

I hate every audio format. Allow me to explain why. Then allow me to tell you what I really want and what the future holds.

I hate CDs

Monkey see, monkey do. When I was out in New York City in February and later in September, I saw how my buddy Tom had pitched his “jewel cases” and put all his CDs in a big book that holds them in a neat and unitary manner. Of course, people have been doing this for years, but I guess I can be a bit slow to catch on. Pitching all those cases reminded me of how much I really don’t like CDs and inspired me to write this post.

I grew up on vinyl, whose sound quality is not perfect but in many ways better than that of a CD. You’ve read the arguments pro and con elsewhere. It really doesn’t matter because in our hearts we all know that neither vinyl records nor CDs are ideal as far as sound quality goes. If CDs were ideal, no one would ever have come up with audio DVDs, etc. More on vinyl’s sound quality in a moment. A lot of the time, however, CD sound quality is okay. I really only notice a lack, an inadequacy, when I’m listening to classical music. Which I listen to a lot. So CD sound quality does bother me a lot!

Moreover, going through my CDs, I realized how much I hate them as physical objects. I hate the packaging, the wretchedly fragile cases with their too-small art. I hate fooling around with them, organizing them, managing them. Too many of them have only a few songs I need. So I have a huge pile of CDs I’m going to sell after ripping the tunes I want to a hard drive or iTunes or whatever. But wait–that’s illegal! Oh no, may lightning strike me dead!

I hate vinyl records–sort of

Vinyl is both great and a huge pain. If a classical music record is in perfect condition, the sound quality pretty much blows that of a CD out of the water. The trouble is that most of the time the condition is not perfect, and you hear all the pops and clicks that made classical music fans aching for CDs in the early 1980s.

Like my best friend Tom, I have a semi-huge vinyl collection, several thousand records, and I do like the physical objects, the covers, the liner notes, the crazy fact that sound can come from a spinning plastic disc. I like the fact that I can play 1940s and 2000s albums on the same machine, the continuity of it.

I have a soft spot in my soul for records, but I can only romanticize them so much. The pops and clicks really are atrocious, and records are a huge pain to transport and organize (I have mine in alphabetical order, but Heaven forbid you put one back in the wrong place! Those thin little sides make searching a chore, people!).

I hate MP3s

MP3 is crapola audio format that is a severe, inarguable devolution from the CD format. It’s just totally unacceptable. Plus, the iTunes store is going to “lock” songs so that I can only play them here–or there? Step off!

I hate everything else–and so does everyone else

The aforementioned audio DVDs–a total flop! And–what are they called?–super ultra-value high-quality CDs? Not beloved by the masses, people!

What I want, and what the future holds

I want a super-realistic format whose flaws are imperceptible to the human ear. I know that some people claim this for CDs (or say that CDs are close enough to be good enough), but don’t believe it, and I don’t think most genuine audiophiles do either (I’m a semi-genuine audiophile). This format may already exist–perhaps just digital audio with a high enough sampling rate is fine. Heck if I know. But I don’t want to compromise.

Then, I want a no-bother delivery system. I don’t want to own anything. I want to go to my computer, stick “Haydn string quartets” in the search and have a list pop up of every recording ever made. I want to be able to pull up the album covers and liner notes for the albums (presumably under such a system album covers would not be made for new recordings, but I would like to access those of the past). I would be willing to pay a substantial amount for such a system–a subscription fee or whatever.

I fully recognize that systems like this already exist: my mom and stepdad have whatever-it’s-called in their condo, and it’s pretty amazing. Clearly, things are only going to keep moving in this direction. We’ll have to keep fighting the record companies and the RIAA and all the other “stakeholders” delaying progress; we’ll have to choose the audio format and iron out the tech; but within no great span of time we’ll have perfect audio on demand without the limitations of physical media, iTunes, and all that claptrap!

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Bailing out Ford, GM, and Chrysler

I work in the automotive industry in a marketing capacity: about 60% of the writing I’ve done over the past four years has been for two major Japanese automakers, and that figure for this year would be about 95%. I care about the industry, so here is my take on the plight of the American Big Three.

As the MSM and blogosphere have noted, the problem isn’t that the Big Three make poor cars any more: quality is as good as or better than what Europe makes, and about as good as what Japan makes. Nor is the problem sales per se: regardless of the fact that the Big Three have lost market share bigtime to foreign brands since, well, a long time ago, their combined and separate market shares are still huge. Nevertheless, the numbers don’t add up and they are bleeding cash.

And that’s really the essence of the problem: there is no one thing that needs fixing, no two things, nor any group of things that one could change to make things right. Operations, marketing, finances. Nothing particularly stellar, yet nothing standing out as fixable for salvation. This state of holistic malaise is what makes the future of these companies look so grim.

The reason why it has gotten to this point, I surmise, is the same reason why Nissan was nearly bankrupt a decade or so ago: there are too many “stakeholders” with incentives not to change. The parasitic execs and deadwood middle management just want to hold onto their jobs, the union is playing its own game, the dealers want things to be as easy as they were in the good old days, and so on. The change that is required to make any these companies viable will be not pleasant for the majority of people in them. How much easier, then, to cross one’s fingers, beg the government for bailout money, and pray that the same system can produce different results.

I don’t know how easy it would be to implement either legally or culturally, but my plan is, indeed, to change everything:

  1. Put all three companies into whatever kind of receivership is legally possible so that the execs no longer have control. My general impression of “public” companies in the United States (and Japan, for that matter), is that management runs the company for itself, not the shareholders. The cuts must be deep: symbolically canning a few C-levelers will only invite new parasites to take their place.
  2. Give the workers a fair contract paying them what the Japanese companies pay their employees. Use this opportunity to axe mercilessly any deadwood here, too.
  3. Send in the ops people to make manufacturing perfect. Shut down every facility and get rid of every asset that is not performing as needed.
  4. Cut out every brand and every model that is not doing well in the market and does not show potential for success. If this causes dealers to fold, do something for them that is fair.
  5. Let the government enact universal health care and assume the pension debt of the automakers. Let them start from scratch, without excuses.
  6. Let the government subsidize and otherwise support every intelligent green technology the companies are working on.
  7. Install new management from the ground up that is incentivized to make cars of revolutionary greatness.

I’m not talking about cleaning house here; I’m talking about gutting the building.

If this were done, the American auto industry really would have a chance to compete with Europe, Japan, and Korea. I say this because I have seen the Japanese auto industry from the inside: I know the language, I know the culture, I know the thought patterns. Japan does a pretty good job of creating good cars, but the vast majority of its cars are (like those of the Europe and US) boring and uninspired. US companies light on their feet and ready to make bold moves could leave the ponderous Japanese business culture in the dust if they so chose.

The American auto industry is, of course, a lot, lot more than Ford, GM, and Chrysler. It’s the huge RV industry, it’s Mack and Peterbilt and other truck and specialty automotive companies, it’s Harley-Davidson, it’s all the American suppliers to the foreign and domestic automakers producing here, and, yes, it’s also the foreign automakers and their many US plants employing many US workers. That said, automobile design and brands born and bred in the US have an important role to play both here and around the world, so my hope is that the Big Three (or some surviving subset thereof) can get their act together and create a purposeful and exciting future for themselves.

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10 signs that you've found your soul mate

  1. Looking looks back.
  2. The fear is gone, especially of the future.
  3. The free and easy chance to snap, dig, cut, one up, or smack down is not taken.
  4. 2/3 of the way.
  5. You feel a hand on your shoulder when you sit and think.
  6. Four lungs make sleep easier.
  7. Iron loyalty, lapidary trust.
  8. You don’t have to sell.
  9. Dreams written down overlap much and conflict little.
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My name, "Matt Rouge"

My last name, “Rouge

In case you didn’t know, rouge means “red” in French, but my ancestors did not come from France. My great-grandfather, Charles A. Rouge, came from Geneva, Switzerland, to New York City in the early 1900s. I don’t know much about him. His son, Charles F. Rouge, ran an art supply store in Manhattan until his death in the mid-1950s. My father, Lawrence Rouge, entered the military soon after he got out of college and married my mother, who is originally from Southern Indiana. They settled in Indianapolis in the early 1970s, and thus begins the story of my Hoosierhood (actually, I am adopted, so four people established my Hoosierhood, for which I am extremely grateful).

I am the last of the male Rouges in my family, and there are only three other persons currently of the tribe who have borne this august appelation from birth: my unmarried sister, my unmarried aunt, and my three-year-old daughter. It’s a rare name, and a good one I think, so it would be a shame if I did not combine DNA with a suitable partner and have some sons to carry on the tradition (the first of which will definitely be named “Charles”).

In English, “rouge” is a word not so rarely used (a woman rouges her cheeks with a bit of rouge). Despite this fact, throughout my life people have mispronounced my name egregiously, calling me “rogue” or “roogie.” I finally discovered a way to get people both to say it correctly and remember it for the long term: when introducing myself, I say, “I’m Matt Rouge–like ‘Baton Rouge’ without the ‘baton.’”

Should I ever run for president of the United States, my campaign slogan will be, Rouge, White & Blue. Were I not to do so, I am quite certain that the GOP would accuse me of being an effete Frenchman a la Kerry and “red” like a communist.

My first name, “Matt”

To be sure, there is nothing unusual about the name Matt. I did have an issue with it, however. I used to go by “Matthew” in a halfhearted way:

New Person: Hi, what’s your name?
Me: Matthew.
New Person: ¡Mucho gusto! Is that “Matthew” or “Matt”?
Me: Either, I guess.
New Person: Well, which do you prefer?
Me: Gosh. Let’s go with “Matt.”

When I lived in Japan I was always “Matto.” When I came back to Indy in 2004, I decided just to go with “Matt”: simpler, easier, and with no confusion about whether “Matthew” or “Matt” is desired by moi (not French, Swiss!).

For what it’s worth, I never use my middle name.


My sister Emily wrote this on my Facebook wall:

Hey Matt, actually our ancestors did come from France – our great grandfather’s wife – Josephine Piquet was from St. Pierre, France

So I guess I am an effete Frenchman after all.

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I'm splitting my ticket: Obama and Daniels

I’m neither a Republican nor a Democrat, although I have been more of a Democrat over the past eight years because George W. Bush has been a horrible president, and the national Republican Party has enabled him.

Here in Indiana, however, the parties are not so far apart, there are good politicians in both, and so for me it comes down to who is the better candidate for the particular office.

Why Obama?

Obama is the first presidential candidate in my life about whom I am genuinely enthusiastic. He is intelligent, inspiring, and appears to be of good character. More importantly, he seems to be wise, understanding people and the world on a deep level.

I don’t just think Obama is a good guy; I also think that he, unlike Carter, will be able to deal with the people and institutions of Washington successfully and accomplish things. Further, I agree with what he wants to accomplish, especially universal health care. I think it’s hard to object to Obama unless one is a hard-core dogmatic conservative who recoils in horror at any whiff of liberalism.

Why not McCain?

I would have preferred Gore, but McCain could have and I think would have been a decent president eight years ago. Today, however, he just seems old and off his nut. He is flailing, saying anything to get elected, and some of it is pretty execrable. In the debates and TV interviews, McCain just seems rageful, resentful, and on the verge of totally losing it.

But I don’t think McCain has just become unappealing as a person; I have also not heard from him a single appealing idea. I think he would be pretty ineffective in getting anything done of substance, and I see no signs that he would diverge much from GWB’s disastrous foreign policy.

I like Palin as a character; she would be fun to watch on TV. I think she is an absolutely dangerous wacko as a political candidate, not to mention completely incompetent. Her selection was a joke.

Why Daniels?

I have met Daniels and have talked to a lot of people who know him personally; the consensus is that he is just a great, genuine person. But, more importantly, Daniels has a record of success in office. We had a horrible property tax problem here (my own more than doubled), but Daniels handled it deftly and quickly in bipartisan cooperation with the legislature. Daniels has worked tirelessly to bring business from Asia to the state and overall has supported policies that are good for business and good for the people of the state at the same time.

So I’m going to vote for him and the rest of the Republicans running for relection in the state; they have done a good job.

Why not Thompson?

To be frank, I have not been following the campaign in detail. There seems to be nothing wrong with Thompson, but Daniels has been such a success that I have no reason to consider anyone else (I guess I am a “low-information voter” in this case!). Thompson seems good and competent, but even with long Obama coattails I do not think this is going to be her year.

There you have it: a split ticket. I think many Hoosiers will be voting similarly next Tuesday.

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Matt Rouge at Firefly coffee shop in Fort Wayne, Indiana.I’m worried about you: broke, pregnant, switching from a more stable job to a less (any new job is unstable, but this one seemed especially so to me). Worried that you’re going to go back to him and he’s going to beat the crap out of you or worse. Worried that you’re too proud and obstinate to call me if something really bad does happen to you.

It’s been nearly a year since we first met and my reality changed forever, for the better, despite the tribulation I went through by first touching the divine (I did, even if you feel you did not) and then losing the divine. “Better to have loved and lost,” as they say.

If I emailed you, I know you’d write me back: you like the attention. Then I’d have to endure the same passive-aggressive communication, the doling out of words on your part, the puling for attention on mine. I don’t miss that.

But I miss you, the higher you. The advocate. I hope she’s taking care of you and your/his baby.

I was up in Fort Wayne recently to check out a manufacturing facility. Wherever, however you were and are, I raised and raise this morning chai in your honor. Blessings to you, Great Spirit!

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Where's my licorice?

You said you’d send it….

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