Blogging About Blogs That Sometimes Blog About Blogs

In the beginning, weblogs were little more than personal journals. With that in mind, the blog ballyhoo was terribly misleading: The mainstream press kept banging away at the idea of blogs being an exciting, mysterious, newfangled contraption that finally allowed plebeians to have an opinion online. Simultaneously, blogs were treated in a condescending fashion, promoted as cute little diaries that sometimes exposed a flub or flaw in corporate management, politics, or news coverage. Mostly, newspeople just liked saying the word "blog" because it was a fresh catchphrase.

Blogs were hyped as The Next Big Thing, but also winked at as nothing more than a lark, like miniskirts and Rubik's Cubes. In truth, blogs—Internet journals, website logs, or what have you—were really nothing new. Online diaries had existed for years, and a plethora of private websites had long tackled the establishment with personalized rants and raves.

The real revolution online was the implementation of unique technology shaken and stirred with an invigorated sense of community. With little or no knowledge of HTML, without expensive WYSIWYG software (like DreamWeaver), without a need to create an entire website structure/wire-frame from scratch, anyone can now hop online and create a basic website that’s easy to update and looks at least semi-professional. This was (and is) Part 1 of the blog revolution.

Part 2: By automatically integrating the ability to leave comments on any post, the blogging software changes the landscape of personal websites. No longer is this one person shouting at a wall, occasionally receiving a congratulatory or argumentative email. No longer is the sloppy Guest Book or disjointed Discussion Forum needed—the public now comments directly on the story, for all to see. And within the comments, links to related articles can be posted, arguments and discussions can erupt, and the original article, rant, or link evolves into a richer page of content and disparate opinion.

Also, because blogs typically post new content at the top of the page, with old content automatically falling back into dated archives, there’s a sense of immediacy that many personal websites lacked in the past. It’s this aspect—along with the simplicity of the medium—that prompted blogs to become not just journals but sources of true news and inside-the-belly-of-the-beast commentary.

Google’s acquisition of Blogger/Blogspot hastened the revolution by providing easy blog software, free hosting, excellent templates, no bandwidth or storage limits, and, remarkably, no banner or pop-up ads (along with built-in Google search integration).

Of course, the simplicity of blogging has increased the already lopsided good-website vs. bad-website balance. For every great blog, there are a 1,000 mediocre and 10,000 horrible ones. Blogs full of unreadable ramblings, illiterate mumblings, and fake blogs chockablock with spam. Blogs of unoriginal content or absolute navel-gazing worth only a passing look. Or blogs like Celebrity Cola, with truly unique content but very infrequent updates.

The best blogs update several times a day, combining original content with relevant links and leaving the public-comment option on. But to keep the content flowing day in and day out, all year long, multiple website editors are usually needed, or a financial backer is a must. Thus, the corporate-sponsored pro-blog has risen among us, infiltrating the ranks of the amateurs (and shouldering in on the terrain of pro and semi-pro writers operating for zero dollars under a pen name because they can’t get their most inflammatory rants published elsewhere).

All the while, the line between blogs, traditional websites, online diaries, and corporate/political mouthpieces continues to bleed, and everyone with a computer is prepared to jump on the bandwagon. Will the form survive? Can amateur bloggers compete with the corporate hacks when money and proofreaders are lacking? We’ll see...

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The following is a ragtag compilation of blogs that are influencing the mass media and the way we surf the ’net. These aren’t just personal journals and link compilations—instead, I’m listing the big guns of the nascent new media. Look and learn, pops.


A Historical Overview of Blogging:

Weblogs: A History And Perspective


Blog Platform Analysis:

MovableType vs TypePad vs Blogger vs b2evolution vs WordPress


Blogs of Note:

Andrew Sullivan: a well-known political blog from the controversial gay conservative journalist.

Arianna Online: High-profile liberal pundit Arianna Huffington was among the first of the famous to latch onto the blogdom. Her realm expanded with the recent foundation of The Huffington Report, an online 'zine featuring a group blog written by some of the brightest celebrity names the left-wing has to offer (like semi-retired actor-director Warren Beatty and hardnosed ol' magazine editor Tina Brown).

BlogCritics.org: Hundreds of bloggers present their best critiques in one big megablog organized by category, topic, and date.

Blog Sisters: A coven of female writers up the estrogen count of the blogosphere. For more girl-power bloggin', Infomaniac recommends Ms. Musings (among others), while WitNit has made his own list of BabeWits.

Bloggerman: MSNBC's "Countdown" anchor Keith Olbermann writes and writes and writes...

Boing Boing: “A Directory of Wonderful Things.”

The Daily Kos: An influential political blog with multiple writers.

Dan Gillmor:
A sharp blog about blogging, grassroots journalism, and the new media.

Dave Barry’s Blog: Other than snappy headlines leading into the links, this blog doesn’t showcase much in the way of the famed humorist’s writing. Instead, it’s proof that the bestselling author spends a LOT of time surfing the ’net.

Dean's World: "Defending the liberal tradition in history, politics, science, and philosophy."

The Drudge Report: This conservative tabloid doesn't exist in print, it's certainly not the mainstream media (MSM), and it's run by one dynamic personality. So even though it doesn't look the part—it must be a blog!

enGadget: a popular gadget blog.

evhead: A blog from one of the most visible creators of Google’s Blogger (which was invented by Pyra Labs).

The Gothamist: A frequently updated blog about NYC.

Instapundit:
The classic news/politics/law blog by Glenn Reynolds.

James Wolcott: An award-winning, veteran magazine columnist blogs with the best of 'em.

JK on the Run: A mobile-device blog.

Media Matters for America: An excellent, blog-style news site operated by a nonprofit organization that seeks to expose “conservative misinformation” in the popular media.

Neil Gaiman: The beloved fiction writer ("Sandman," etc.) keeps a journal about, well, himself--where he responds to inquiries and fan letters and, when the inspiration arises, vents about random topics. (Another good blog by a comicbook scribe is WarrenEllis.com.)

Outside the Beltway: A news & politics blog written by multiple editors. Although mainly interested in prosaic mainstream conservative issues, OTB is surprisingly balanced and good-humored -- they even link to a funny story about President Bush's daughter Jenna caught doing the "butt dance." OTB isn't as consistently entertaining as the conservative-but-witty Wizbang, but it's good enough to make you wish there were more liberal blogs out there as accomplished as this...

PressThink: A serious, academic look at journalism and the news. A must read.

The Truth Laid Bear: An influential blog about politics, computers, and bloggers.

Vodkapundit: "All the news that's fit to drink."

Wil Wheaton Dot Net:
Star Trek's young Ensign Wesley Crusher discovered a new creative outlet in the world of blogging after his acting career went belly-up. As one of the first bloggers to achieve national recognition, Wheaton helped carve the path for bloggers everywhere, even though his acting career is still trapped in a reverse warp-drive wormhole.

ZuDfunck: An entertaining overview of thousands of blogs and the good bits of the World Wide Web.


A few of Gawker Media’s very popular, irreverent sites:

Defamer: A roundup of L.A. entertainment gossip. Take no substitutes.

Fleshbot: A gossip column for the porn industry. And if you’re curious about the latest celebrity sex tape or you’d like to get your grubby paws on up-to-the-minute pics of whatever starlet has most recently fallen out of her dress, then Fleshbot—and the non-Gawker sites

DeansPlanet, The Superficial, Big-boys, UselessJunk.com, and DrunkenStepFather—is the place to be.

Gawker: A superb blog about the media industry and NYC gossip.

GizModo: A gadget blog.

Life Hacker: A technology and software blog sponsored by Sony.

Screenhead: 12 posts a day about funny and weird things online.

Sploid:
Tabloid news with a bite.

Wonkette:
A political blog with a gut full of D.C. gossip.


Note: Gawker Media’s blog editors are paid to work on a single blog full-time and the company reportedly makes a lot of money through ad sales and corporate sponsorships—both approaches that revolutionized the industry.

According to Wired Magazine, Gawker Media founder Nick Denton's “move to professionalize blogs bestowed instant credibility on an unknown single-writer Web site. When Gawker launched, it was still unusual for a regular media site to reference the personal blog of some savant wordsmith, but it was well within bounds to discuss the well-hired hand of a new media publisher - and even write stories about her. Denton hadn't merely created a blog, he'd created a brand. In almost no time, Gawker not only won an audience but was chosen as one of Time's 50 Best Web sites and made Entertainment Weekly's IT list.” Source: "How Can I Sex Up This Blog Business?"


Upstanding Blogspots:

Arizona Perspective & Junk: Topical news and views from Arizona.

Baghdad Burning: A girl records her true adventures inside Iraq.

Catoptrophobe Nightmare: A New York law-student’s personal journal.

Don't Touch the Feet: Inimitable television views from Toronto.

Dumpster Bust: “Manufacturing Miracles from Mind Trash” in California. Now featuring DB Radio, a regular MP3 audiocast of indie music, band interviews, cultural news, and more.

Elkboy: Raised by elks, this young man has finally discovered civilization. Quite hilarious.

Film Geeks: Musings from some lovable film dorks.

Flaming Duck: Conservative politics, news, and rants, served with panache.

I'm Not Crunchy! A blog about the environment and everything else.

Itly Pongal Vadai Sambar: Life in India (conveniently written in English).

Jesus' General: A left-wing blog pretending to be a right-wing blog, wherein important info is disguised in a thick layer of glorious satire, courtesy of Patriotboy.

Johnny Nobody: Links and short rants from a left-wing guy who devours “right-wing noise like a fat kid eats cake.”

Made Out Of Mouth: Good reviews of bad—and/or obscure—films. And well-thought thoughts about whatever other cinema these dudes stumble across.

Money-Crushing Machine: A solid example of an online diary, written by an expatriate living in France.

My Meandering Thoughts: Thoughts and opinions from India and the U.S.A.

Slipshod and Simple: Quick hits from a fellow frustrated NY writer.

The Sorest Loser: Exceedingly well-written political rants.

Universal Acid: Tracking the intersection of biology, science, technology, and society.


A Blogger's Delight:

All About My Vagina: TMI (too much information)? MTYWTK (more than you wanted to know)? Perhaps. But very nicely done.

Big Botched Blog: Silly, rude, and very funny. A combination of the diary-blog and news-blog formats, with useful info skillfully mixed in with drunken exploits.

The Daily Meme: Spreads ideas, concepts, and words throughout the blogoverse. (A meme is a unit of cultural information, such as a cultural practice or idea, that is transmitted verbally or by repeated action from one mind to another, like a idea virus. Source: The American Heritage Dictionary.)

David’s Medienkritik: The watchdog of the German press.

Fistful of Fortnights: Hyper-intelligent commentary from the land known as Oklahoma. The site's author, Sadie, provides a swell collection of links, and FoF has led me to such endearing ledgers as New Zealand's AwesomeGirl blog, Freudian Slippers.

Hacking Netflix: DVD rental news and analysis.

Maddox, a.k.a. "The Best Page...": Insane blogging from one of the old-school masters.

A New York Escorts Confessions: For my views of this odd site, see my article entitled To Possess or Not to Possess, That is the Grammatical (and poltergeistical) Question.

Red Between the Lines: Left-wing Canadian politics.

Space Coast Weblog: Covering Florida and the world in blog-like form before “blog” was even a term. There’s always something new at the Space Coast blog, and the site's editor also maintains a variety of useful reference links.

TechNudge: Frequent, incisive tech and gadget updates. Do visit the Nudge!

Twitch: Film news and reviews centered around dark, strange, unusual, cult, action, and sci-fi films of the foreign and domestic varieties.

Venture Chronicles: A first-class venture-capitalist, investment, and software/tech news blog. Also see: VentureBlog.

A Yobbo's View: Australian lads making rude jokes (that's a good thing, mate) and having reactionary political opinions (maybe not so good).

Zinovate Weblog: A nice tech/design site, although, sadly, the Zinoblog rarely updates.

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Related Posts:

The New Blog Carnival Showcase Extravaganza

Preserving Formatting When Posting Documents Online

Weblog Directories, Blog Tools, RSS aggregators, Search Engine Notes, etc.

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Germane Notes:

As a reaction to one of his readers saying his blog was "all over the place," blogger Will Brady explains why he writes about the topics he does, noting "I could be producing one of those [so-called-blogs] that endedlessly repeats, spamlike, key words about specific subjects, like 'health care or 'Student Loans.' (You know, the ones that have no profile or email attached.) I could be writing endless self-absorbed adolescent prattle about what CD's I just got or how boring history class was yesterday... or about my cats. But I don't."

Agreed: If I read one more blog about the cute eating and pooing habits of kittens I'll chew off my left foot. And these spam blogs need to be eliminated immediately; free services like Blogger need to lay down some ground rules about blog spammers. First blogs were attacked with comment/trackback spam and now entire fake blogs ("link farms") are being used to corrupt search engine results by endlessly linking to business sites.

Also: At the PoliBlog, Dr. Steven Taylor explains the the motivation of professionals who blog for free in their spare time. He then admits in his article's comments section that "Indeed, part of what stops some from being bloggers is their work schedule. One of the clear advantages to the professoriate is flexibility."

And: Eric Berlin chews on some celebrity blogs, spits out the dirty aftertaste, and finds comfort in the word "webzine." He also leads us to an excellent Wil Wheaton post where the former Trek-teen discusses the good, the bad, and the ugly sides of blogging.

Variety: 31 Flavors of Blog asks, “What is a blog?” The answer, it turns out, is less than definitive.

Finally: Micro Persuasion is the preeminent news blog that chronicles blogs, bloggin’, how the blogworld affects the real world, and other issues relevant to blogpeople. Inbred little universe this thing can be, eh?

Cheap Music for the Masses

Finding quality music online can require a lot of work. I recommend first finding a nice, quiet office job (or maybe some steady temp work) that has a bangin’ high-speed internet connection. That way, you’ll get paid on an hourly basis to download music.

I've spent many happy months of my life being paid $15 an hour by nameless corporations to scour the internet for MP3s, which I then spend hours labeling, tagging, and listening to with J. River's Media Center/Jukebox (the latest version of which makes it extremely easy to listen to podcasts and Internet radio, as well as your typical CD and DVD viewing, filing, and ripping options).

You’re employer will think they’re paying you to shuffle papers, make photocopies, collect invoices, coordinate with FedEx, and answer voicemail, but your bosses are suckers—it’s all about collecting tunes that you’ll eventually take home using your portable hard drive, iPod, or CD burner.

The following is an evolving list that reviews websites, tools, and tricks for facilitating the downloading of cheap and free (and often even legal) music online:


And Now For the Gratis Tunage:

AllofMP3: Super-cheap access to mainstream U.S., European, and Russian music (less than 10 cents a song, depending on the quality you want; even the dirt-cheap “low quality” files are superbly encoded). They’ve even got a high-quality bootleg version of the Beach Boy’s lost Smile album. And bunches of the Beatles’ albums (not available online anywhere else). And rare imports. And some indie music. And lots of Bjork. And, and, and . . . And it’s all kinda sorta legal thanks to sketchy Russian copyright/royalty laws held over from the Soviet Union days. There are other reliable Russian music sites running similar gambits (notably, MP3Search.Ru and MusicMp3.ru), but this is the biggest, oldest, most trustworthy, most quickly updated, and easiest to use... All-in-all, AllofMP3 is quite possibly the greatest music-download website ever known to man (for standard-issue U.S. and Euro pop/rock/dance tunes, anyway) . Gotta love commies cum capitalists.

Always the Volume: Contains dozens of free demos, b-sides, interviews, and live tracks from the gorgeous and talented twin sisters Tegan and Sara. Listen to their tunes because they’re incredible artists with nice lyrics and a super-group indie backing band, not just because they’re alterna-chick lesbian sex kittens. (Yes, they are. Oh, lord, they ARE! Meeeeow. Especially catchy: the Interruptvector stompin' dance remix of T&S's acoustic Hello. "Until I've done all that I can...")

Amazon.com's Free Music Downloads: Normally I'm a big Amazon fan, but this slick-looking area of the Virago empire is an emperor without any clothes -- exclusive MP3 files are often nothing more than streaming or copy-protected files with a fake MP3 extension, meaning you can't burn the track to a disk, or the ability to play the track expires, or it just doesn't play at all. Other Amazon download offerings turn out to be nothing more than 30-second or one-minute long samples. There are a few good tracks here and there, however, if you have the patience to sift through the crap.

AntiFolk.net: Doesn't host any music files, but it links to a plethora of hep, off-the-beaten-path bands that usually have MP3s posted on their own sites. For instance, AntiFolk will lead you directly to one of my favorite new NYC bands, the Ben Folds meets honky tonk piano-backed Creaky Boards, where MP3s are always around.

BannedMusic.org: A free-speech rioting site featuring such modern classics as the awe-inspiring The Grey Album by DJ Danger Mouse, The Double Black Album by Cheap Cologne, and the Illegal Art Compilation by Stay Free Magazine ("A compilation of songs that have been the subject of lawsuits, primarily for unauthorized sampling. Includes music by Negativland, Biz Markie, The Beastie Boys, Public Enemy, and De La Soul").

betterPropaganda
: a "music discovery" site that aims to help users find new music that will fit their tastes. Concentrates on edgy electronic, rock, and hip hop, including the more interesting indie fringes of those genres. Features podcasts, streaming music, music videos, mini-reviews, and -- most importantly -- free MP3s of new singles from a wide variety of artists. No username, password, or fees required. They'd like you to buy the complete CDs, but there's no pressure. The number of tracks offered is limited in scope, but fresh tracks are very frequently cycled into the free queue.

BitTorrent and the nifty BitTorrent client known as Azureus: Okay, most people know about BitTorrent, and I personally only use it for downloading TV shows, but it’s undeniably great for quickly grabbing entire albums all at once. (Umm, I mean, if I were going to illegally download TV shows in a widescreen and commercial-free format, then this would be the program I’d use, but I’d never do anything, uh, illegal). Once you've installed your BitTorrent client, begin your search for files at the BitTorrent Search, ISO Hunt, Torinium (aka HyperTorrent), NewNova.org (from the ashes of SuprNova.org), and Link2U.tk pages.

Bleep: Falling somewhere between the worlds of eMusic and iTunes, there lurks Bleep.com. On the one hand, buying an album on Bleep is more expensive than buying from eMusic (nearly $10 an album instead of approximately 25 cents a track) -- but on the other hand, Bleep provides many hip "major indie label" and British/Euro rock-pop albums that eMusic hasn't got the rights to include in its digital indie-tune database. Like iTunes, Bleep is a la carte; eMusic requires a modest monthly subscription fee and charges you that fee even if you don't download anything, so Bleep is a safer bet for the casual downloader that doesn't need a monthly fix. Unlike iTunes, Bleep delivers high-quality MP3 files instead of the proprietary DRM file-types most legal music services now force upon users. In that sense, Bleep and eMusic are kindred spirits, both providing completely safe, legal MP3 tunes for a decent price and paying close attention to the indie rock/pop scene.

Bluetack Internet Security Solutions: If you think you might be downloading music that you, well, perhaps legally should not be downloading, then you'll want to make sure you supplement your firewall and/or router with some hardcore protection like Bluetack's free Blocklist Manager (BLM) and Protowall, or good ol' PeerGuardian. It'll help keep out the bad guys and music cops. (I also use the free versions of Kerio and AntiVir as my basic firewall and antivirus software, respectively. And once a month I run Spybot, Ad-Aware, CWShredder, and CCleaner to clean out any problems that may have snuck in with my surfing. All of these costless programs are safely available at Download.com.)

Bootleg Browser: A frequently updated list of bootlegged concerts from every genre, era, and style. The Bootleg Browser will lead you to a small hoard of free, fresh, and piping-hot new MP3 sites, whether your taste ranges from Tom Waits to the Barenaked Ladies to XTC to, um, a live Avril Lavigne concert to Iranian/Middle Eastern tunes you can't understand one iota of 'cause they're in Farsi... it's time to boot up!

CCC Mash-Ups Galore: mashmeister CCC mixes together classic tracks, forming entirely new sounds. His big project in 2004 was Revolved, a complete reworking of the Beatles' Revolver album -- not bad. Keep this guy on your radar.

Classic Cat: A directory of no-cost classical music. Nearly 2,000 files were available the last time I checked, from Karl Friedrich Abel to Carl Zeller, with plenty of Puccini, Wagner, Tchaikovsky, Mozart, and Beethoven in the mix.

CNET's Music.Download.com: In the wake of the old (better) version of MP3.com closing down, there weren't many good places for unsigned bands to gather together, promote their music, and give away free MP3s. But then along came Music.Download, and the melodies flowed freely once again. The problem with unsigned bands, obviously, is that 98% of it is worse than athlete's foot. But since it's free, there's no harm in digging around for buried treasure, which the CNET editors' reviews and users' ratings help with. Music.Download spices the dish by throwing in some tracks from big-name acts like R.E.M., Snoop Dogg, Postal Service (a fave of mine), and Ani DiFranco, and hipster comedians like David Cross. They even have a handful of tracks from my overly talented old classmate Sam "Iron & Wine" Beam.

Coverville: A very smooth, 30-minute music podcast featuring top-notch cover songs. Licensed with ASCAP and BMI (i.e., it's supererogatory legal!).

Dailysonic: A daily radio show/mp3zine/podcast "for the hipclectic crowd." It's one big, free download (usually about 35 minutes long and 28 megabytes in size) and includes alternative news and music.

DVD Tools: Rip, copy, save, play, and burn music and video from even copy-protected and region-locked DVDs with the software, hacks, and advice found on the Doom9, DVD Decrypter, Clone AD, and MPEGX websites.

eMusic
eMusic: The best MP3 service for indie, alternative, and world-music MP3s. This site is 100% legal and chock full of useful info, the artists and labels get paid, and it's pretty cheap -- less than 25 cents a song, on average, depending on how much you pay into your monthly subscription (unlike other subscription-based sites, eMusic downloads are real MP3 files, so they don't expire when you cancel your subscription and they'll work on any music player). Compared to services like iTunes and Napster that charge you an outrageous buck a song, eMusic is a steal, and many of its excellent albums simply cannot be found on mainstream sites (like rarities from the K Records label). But hey! It's not just indie music. Styles include: Alternative/Punk, Blues, Classical, Country/Folk, Electronic, Inspirational, Jazz, New Age, Rock/Pop, Urban/Hip-Hop, World/Reggae, and Soundtracks/Other. They've even got some Ray Charles, Del the Funky Homosapien, and the White Stripes.

Epitonic: An exhaustive source of indie info and bios, with free MP3 (and WMA) files provided for almost every artist profiled. Translation: thousands of superb songs for zero dollars, if you hunt around the site long enough.

Firefox: If you're browsing with the Fox -- and you should be, punk, since it's the free open-sourced wonder browser and there are all sorts of audio/video media-, music- and MP3-based extensions you can add to make it your perfect multimedia browser, too -- just install the nifty Firefox extension DownThemAll (DTA) and you'll be able to easily download all MP3 files from every page of most websites with a simple right-click of your mouse. No more hunting and pecking on hundreds of MP3 links or trying to figure out how to download the file instead of listening to it -- let DownThemAll do the grunt work for ya! Although there are similar plugins for other browsers (and for FireFox itself), this one has no spyware attached and is soooo sweet, mate. Note: As of this writing, the default downloading filters on Firefox's DownThemAll are only for “all files,” archives, images, and videos.... To enable one-click music downloading, click on Preferences/Advanced Options, choose the Filters tab, and then quickly set up a new filter by entering “Music” as the “caption” (this will be your new filter button) and then typing .mp3 (and/or .wma, .wmv, .ogg, .acc, etc.) in the “filtered extensions” box. Once it’s set up, grabbing music off the web couldn’t be easier.

GarageBand: Independent musicians load their music onto GB, users rate and review the tracks, all the tunes get ranked by popularity and categorized by genre, and everyone gets to download boatloads of free MP3s. Find: Incredible music by NYC's famed subway troubadour Theo Eastwind, melodies by talented Ohio songsmith Peter Adams, and lots of terrible music hidden among troves of gems. If you like what you hear, you can email the musicians, join their mailing lists, or order their CDs. The downside: although it's all free, finding and grabbing good music can take a long while--and GB only lets users download one MP3 at a time.

Geek Dreams: This site's owner infrequently posts music files, but when he does it's of hard-to-find material like the original, unreleased version of Fiona Apple's "Extraordinary Machine" (a fantabulous album that Apple's record company, Sony, shelved for over two years until sites like Geek Dreams began distributing leaked copies, forcing Sony to finally release a highly revised version of the CD in late 2005) and live bootlegs of the Pixies and Radiohead performing at the 2004 Coachella festival, etc. If you enjoy Geek Dreams, I'd also recommend the music archives at the Achtung Baby! blog.

Glorious Noise: a stalwart alternative music mag that always posts a bundle of "free legit MP3s."

The Hype Machine: An oft-updated archive of links to the audio files posted on the most popular MP3 blogs. No matter if you're an oddball looking for a bootleg of Ben Gibbard covering April Lavigne or you're just a song junkie seeking every hot, strange, new and weird track getting passed around the music zine circuit, you'll find it here. (Recommended by the The Rawk Blog.)

The Indie MP3 Blog: a UK-based site that posts music news along with a couple of really good new MP3s every day or two (alongside the main site, www.indie-mp3.co.uk, which frequently hosts some lovely Brit pop). Basically, the editor of the site finds smashingly kosher indie music files online (like legal MP3s from The Besties), and then shares the love. Nothin' wrong with that! Also, check out the Indie MP3 Blog's infrequent-but-superb mixtape-like podcast.

InSound MP3s: Also super-indie and super-free. Again, it's a limited selection (they want you to sample some tracks before buying full albums), but it's updated regularly and it's good, hard-to-find stuff (includes tracks by Lou Barlow, Cat Power, Airborn Audio, Eluvium, and Marianne Faithfull).

iPodder.org: Lists new podcasting websites every day and upkeeps a directory of thousands of online audio sources. If you're not running the free iPodder software, this site won't be as easy to use as it should be, but the music section of its podcast directory will still give you the names of hundreds of music websites that offer complimentary MP3s in the form individual song downloads and massive podcasts (online radio shows converted to a savable—usually MP3—format). A similiar site -- which is actually easier to use -- is Podcast Alley, a careful organization and ranking of hundreds of MP3 audiocasts.


iRate MusiciRATE radio is a free, open-source music downloading client (for Windows, Linux, and the latest Mac OS) with access to over 50,000 files (and growing). Full downloading access to a selection of fine Creative Commons-based music websites, combined with open-minded artists and record labels trying to promote their latest singles, allows iRATE to find music, which it then sends to you, the user. As you rate the tunes, it automatically finds more music that you'll like -- and filters out music it thinks you'll hate --by comparing your opinions to the ratings of other users on the system that have similar tastes. And unlike similar services, iRATE is free, legal, and adware/spyware free.



Kazaa Lite Resurrection (KLR): A safer, spyware-free, RIAA fightin’, possibly illegal version of the popular file-downloading Kazaa Media Desktop. Created by some badass hacker types at FileSharingPlace.com -- home to the legendary and free K-Lite Mega Codec Pack that includes QuickTime Alternative, Real Alternative, Media Player Classic, and tons of tools and codecs that will let you play every type of file known to man without having to use programs that are controlled by The Man -- KLR is the among the safest and easiest ways to fileshare. But make sure you only download programs like KLR and K-Lite (Kazaa Lite) from FileSharingPlace, lest you end up with a fake version laden with adware. While there, check out the classic Soulseek and the hot new windows P2P (peer-to-peer) client eXeem. A comprehensive list of other P2P applications and P2P in general can be found at Wikipedia's Peer-to-Peer page, including links to the popular eDonkey/ed2k and Morpheus filesharing clients. Note: For Mac users, Acquisition is a good choice, and LimeWire will work for everyone. If you need a second opinion before using a new P2P client, try searching the FileSharingPlace forums or read the user reviews of all the mainstream "Mp3 Search Tools" at Download.com.

Keeping It Peel: Thousands of radio broadcasts from the late, legendary BBC radio host John Peel, who specialized in bringing bands in for interviews and then coaxing them into incredible live performances. The radio studio recordings of the performances are known as the Peel Sessions, and they're really, really, really worth checking out, especially since the BBC now has them available online for free. Regrettably, the BBC has chosen to code these Peel offerings as RealMedia files; as everyone knows, RealOne/RealMedia/RealPlayer is evil and their files are not playable on iPods, etc.

KnobTweakers: A blog full of carefully selected and totally free indie-label and no-label electronica music. Since only promotional tracks are used, these downloads are legal. (This site was previously entitled simply "Free Music Downloads," which has gotta tell ya somethin'.)

The Live Music Archive: Thousands of absolutely free and legal live music bootleg recordings from hundreds of "trade-friendly" bands, such as Godspeed You Black Emperor!, Billy Bragg, Jack Johnson, Jason Mraz, the Grateful Dead, Phish, and Jump, Little Children. The donation-dependant Live Music Archive works in association with those lovable LosslessEncoding freaks over at Etree.org, an organization that also happens to host the bt.etree.org Community Bittorrent Tracker, where I've found mind-blowing live performances by Wilco, Yo La Tengo, Rachael Yamagata, etc... (By the way -- you haven't truly heard the scorching soulfulness of the post-Bumpus, ultra-femme-fatale Yamagata until you've heard her live. Preferably, live and with a head cold, because the hoarser her voice, the better the groove.)

Magnatune: Allows you to stream albums from hand-selected, micro-label bands (of varying genres) for free. Of course there are plenty of other websites and programs that let you stream music and radio stations on the cheap—even mainstream stuff—so the real benefit of Magnatune is that it’ll let you listen to entire CDs, and then, if you dig 'em, download disks for only $5 a pop. Good news: The artists get half the cash.

Media Search Engines: SingingFish and Altavista Audio are both good and, according to Tech-Recipes.com, the following search command will use Google to “find open directories with MP3 files with Pearl Jam [or whoever]. Obviously you can change the band name or file type to better define your search”... -inurl:htm -inurl:html intitle:"index of" mp3 "pearl jam". If that’s too much work for you, you can just use WebJay to grab music directly from playlists compiled by users that scour the web for MP3s to stream (and download) from the WebJay on-site player.

The Mobius Mixdown: Every week, Dan "Mobius" Sieradski airs a groovy mix on Israel & Palestine radio station 107.2FM, Radio All For Peace. Then, the entire set (usually 15 songs), is released online as a single MP3. The eclectic shows have have included music by Handsome Boy Modeling School, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Sparklehorse, Van Morrison, DJ Dangermouse, Funki Porcini, Ladytron, Kimya Dawson, Ween, and more. See the Mixdown section of the OrthodoxAnarchist website for full set-lists and MP3 files of each and every show.

Mocking Music: Euphonic album links and song downloads are used to spike the punch of this blog's rummy, satiric discourse.

MP3Dimension: A search engine and user-updated database of free (but not always legal) MP3 files located online. The site has some bugs and incorrectly labeled files, but otherwise it seems to be legit.

Multi-Source P2P Proggies: A trusty commentator on my site has heartily recommended TrustyFiles, a slightly bulky but useful program that combines the power of the Gnutella (Bearshare/Limewire) and FastTrack (Kazaa) networks with a BitTorrent client. However, the Yodas at FileSharingPlace.com have recommended using KCeasy instead, because TrustyFiles, while dependable, is associated with the P2P-regulating DCIA. KCeasy, by comparison, is committed to battling the darkside. Just add the giFT-FastTrack plugin to KCeasy and you'll be able to scour the Gnutella, OpenFT, and FastTrack networks all at once. Personally, I'm lovin' every minute I spend on KCeasy. A similar option is the in-progress proggie giFTwin32. For your Apple Mac, check out The Poisoned Project.

Negativebeats.com: Is reportedly riddled with spyware and evil cookies. The same goes for Positivebeats.com and most other free music sites that force you to download software or a browser plugin in order to download music. Stay away. I'm not even gonna link 'em here, even though they appear to have a lot of music available--'cause they're bad news.

NellieMckay.net: Serves up a healthy serving of live tracks from the bubbly, idiosyncratic songstress Nellie McKay.

NME: Blistering British music news and the occasional free MP3 (and some streaming albums and concerts).

Pandora: Alright, so Pandora won't help you add to you MP3 collection, but it's an amazing website nonetheless. After landing on the homepage of this deceptively simple webspot, you merely type in the name of a band you like, and Pandora, accessing the knowledge of the Music Genome Project (MGP) and it's own database of legal-to-stream tunes, finds either a song from the band you're looking for or a track from a sonically like-minded act. While it streams the track to your headphones, it begins compiling a list of other songs that MGP thinks you'll like, and then plays the tunes in the form of a personalized radio station. In TiVo-like fashion, you can rate each of the songs being played, which further informs Pandora about your likes and dislikes. And you can add more band names to your list. Very quickly, Pandora has nailed your musical tastes; from then on, every time you log in you'll be confronted by an individualized radio station that not only plays most of your favorite bands, it plays tracks that you'll love even though you've never, ever even heard of half the acts. It makes mistakes, to be sure, but the more songs you rate and the more bands you add, the more accurate Pandora becomes. Creepily so: It often knows what you like before you know what you like. Sound quality? High. Cost? Free (for now). Ease of use? Superb. (Similar music-streaming services include AccuRadio and Last FM -- but AccuRadio didn't behave very well with my FireFox browser or my firewall, and Last FM charges a subscription fee).

Pearsall's Tunes: Dance/techno mixer Pearsall Helms stays on top of the mix-master world in his music blog, posting some MP3s and advocating for other club/rave/techno blogs like Autonomic for the People, Bassnation, Blackdown, Chantelle Fiddy's World of Grime, Drumz of the South, Freaky Trigger, Ghetto Postage, Gutter Breakz, Kode 9, Love Ecstasy Crime, Silver Dollar Circle, and hip-hop blogs Can't Stop Won't Stop, Government Names, Houston So Real, and We Eat So Many Shrimp.

Pitchfork: Informed, intelligent, and irreverent indie music news, reviews, and, yes, free tracks.

Podtropolis: Legal and illegal torrent files, including video podcasts, audio podcasts, TV shows, and films.

PopMatters: How very indie. And how very, very free. This dependable online culture zine -- in association with Filter Magazine -- coughs up a small new handful of cherry-picked MP3s, videos, trailers, streaming media, and media links once or twice a week on their PopMatters Music Downloads page.

Pure Volume: You have to join PV before getting access to the tunes and forums, but once you sign up (it's free, yo) it's non-stop fun, boys and girls! Run by Unborn Media, the site's mission is to provide an online venue for unsigned bands and small indie labels -- currently, over 100,000 tracks are ready for download. Pure Volume is like a slick version of the old-school, buggy Internet Underground Music Archive (IUMA).

Radio Podcasts:
Lots of radio stations are now offering quality podcasts (radio-type or mixtape-style broadcasts packaged into single MP3 files) -- download the shows to your PC, put 'em on your ipod, keep, delete 'em, whatever. It's hot. And usually free. Check out, for instance, KCRW Podcasts, BBC Radio, and Australia's ABC and Triple J (JJJ), the latter featuring the brilliantly funny and insightful Sunday Night Safran ("Religion, Politics, and Hoochies" with John Safran and Father Bob). For groundbreaking new music, the two top dogs in the U.S. are probably KCRW's Morning Becomes Eclectic (MBE) and NPR's All Songs Considered. KCRW also keeps delivering the goods with the Music Exchange podcast, which teams MBE host Nic Harcourt with BBC Radio's Steve Lamacq (the new John Peel, some might say). Many other web-based shows abound, including Whole Wheat Radio's streaming ultra-indie broadcasts and "audio magazine" downloads. Or visit Odeo to search podcasts by topic.

Sonic Sunset: A weekly streaming radio broadcast also available as MP3 files, Sonic Sunset features funk-house-electro DJ mixes built upon "a wide variety of funky futuristic records from all styles and years, inspired by Detroit's seminal open-minded radio DJs."

Songzilla's Digital M4 Music Blog: In addition to unique music news and analysis, Songzilla presents an MP3 tool that aggregates "promotional Internet releases for the shared benefit of the listener and artist." Translation: free MP3s. (The last time I checked, the music aggregator drop-down menus were not working very well, especially with Firefox. But when it works it's muy nifty.)

Stylus Magazine: Subtitled "The Needle and the Damage Done," Stylus features a couple of MP3 links in it's daily styPod blog.

Sub Pop Records: The fabled independent record label unleashes fistfuls of free MP3s to everyone they can.

Superburst Mixtapes: Comic-book legend Warren Ellis curates exquisite sets of tunes.

Take Your Medicine: A great new music blog providing sizzlin' indie and Brit pop/rock tracks, including MP3s from Kate Bush, Badly Drawn Boy, Bell And Sebastian, Ash, et al.

Various BitTorrent Sites: File Soup features BitTorrent info, forums, and advice; isoHunt is a dynamite torrent search engine; Torrent Reactor provides links to thousands of torrents; LiteZone.com ranks and categorizes other BitTorrent websites; and Hypertorrent is another decent torrent search engine. Also good: Mininova.org, MyBittorrent, #BT on EFnet, TorrentSpy, and TorrentBox. Note, however, that due to server overload and legal problems, many of these sites appear and disappear regularly.

VicChesnutt.com presents a healthy smattering of tracks from the inimitable Vic, who's worked with eccentric legends like Van Dyke Parks, covered eccentric legends like Daniel Johnston, and been lauded by R.E.M. legends like Michael Stipe.

Weezer Tunes: WeezerNation has more rare =W= tracks than a cow has tits (demos, B-sides, covers, promos, oh my! Just click on "media" and then "audio"); the Weezer Bootleg Archive has hundreds of live tracks (although the site is known to disappear now and again); Weezer 101 provides lots of band-related news along with links to other websites that have media files from the Weez; Weezer Riff-Raff at Weezed.com has a sparkling collection of =W= rarities in its A/V section, where you can check out Weezer singer-songwriter-god Rivers Cuomo's acoustic crush-tribute to my good friend Ann Poonkasem, a.k.a. the Annie/Ann Tapes, a.k.a. the banned Rivers MySpace.com Posts (Note: Weezer Riff-Raff cycles through offered songs and does not always have downloads available); finally, visit the BitTorrent forums at WeezerForum.com. Also, if you dig the Weez, you must also adore Matt Sharp and the Rentals, so check out the Rental's rare tracks at Citizen Lowell and Seven More Minutes, nick a couple of solo promo tracks at In Music We Trust Records, and visit MattSharp.net in case the former Weezer bassist-songwriter is feeling generous in his "downloads" section.

The Wikipedia MP3 Blog Page: Lists off lots blogs that supply the world with free , including FluxBlog.org (formerly the newflux.blogspot), which doles out rock and pop; Aurgasm, an "eclectic menagerie of aural pleasures"; Cocaine Blunts & Hip-Hop Tapes, which smokes out some hip-hop files; Scissorkick, featuring "moody sounds for headphones and dance floors"; Soul Sides, "music for rhythm addicts"; Tofu Hut, which attempts to give forgotten music "resurrection and due recognition"; music (for robots), which is just too cool for words; Teaching the Indie Kids To Dance Again, the best-named music blog on the planet; No Frontin', "a music, politics, and culture blog"; and various audioblogs, podcasting sites, and music webzines. More audio blogs can be found at the MP3Blogs Aggregator.

***

Related: GoingWare's Legal Music Downloads article, featuring hundreds of links, tips, and ideas for grabbing tunes online.

More TK (that means "more to come," for you non-publishing-industry folk out there). Drop a comment below if I'm missing any good MP3 info, and I'll add it to the list.

Hi-Tech/Lo-Tech: Surviving the End of Times (When the shit hits the fan, Armageddon it on!)

Listen, I’ve been to a Solider of Fortune convention before and it’s a bunch of chain-smoking deadbeat dads with dark circles under their eyes and a belief that a limited-edition 12-inch blade (and officially licensed movie merchandise) will save their truck from getting snapped up by the repo man. And that Patriots Guide to Survival handbook you got from Aunt Sandy? Well, as much as I like duck tape, you’ve just gotta realize you’ll need a little more to survive in the future. Will Cosmo Girl save you? Naw—when the shit goes down and Johnny and Luther Htoo are trying to run a "Rambo II" reenactment on your scalp, only Celebrity Cola will leave you prepared.

[Note: Celebrity Cola is not actually suggesting that you buy into any of the products, organizations, or ideas listed below. This piece was originally written for a counter-culture music/lifestyle magazine, but the publication got canceled before this issue ever went to press. The article’s concept was to poke fun at the usual “cool new products that you must buy” section that’s so often found at the beginning of most magazines. You know, that front-of-book part of glossies where the editors plug their sponsors under the guise of an article called “Makeup you can’t live without!” or “Cool New Gadgets Men Love!” That being said, the following list does contain some gobsmacking cool shit.]

Hi-tech:


Bow-Lingual: Remember how in “A Boy and His Dog” good ol’ Don Johnson’s only reliable sidekick is his telepathic talking-dog, Blood, who helps him scout out food and women? Well now your dog can help you scout out the post-apocalyptic landscape as well. With Bow-Lingual the only friend you have left will be able hold a rudimentary converstaion. At least you’ll know what he thinks of your plan to rig a radio transmitter to the water tower...

Yumemi Koubou: Japanese for “Dream Viewing Workshop,” this handy little multi-sensory device will help you sleep peacefully even after all hell has broken loose. Plus, if used properly, you’ll be able to program yourself and you’re your friends in great Manchurian Candidate style, insuring you don’t all go insane.

No-Contact Jacket: stylish, chic, and wired with 80,000 volts of low-amperage electric current. Put this puppy on and you can dance all night at the club without boys grabbing at your hoo-ha’s.



Neoterik’s Np2131k Gas Mask: anyone in a gas mask is vaguely sexy in an end-of-the-Earth kind of way. And whether the Russians are coming or your roommate’s just eaten too much chili, having this baby around could be mighty helpful. Plus, it’s specially designed to allow you to keep talking without the normal gas-mask annoyance of a muffled voice.

SOLAR SCOTTeVEST: When the power goes out all your shit can still be powered. This jacket has thin solar panels sewn into the fabric that allow you to connect and recharge all your gadgets. You can even tear off the sleeves and rock it “Invasion USA” style. But if you need more power, check out the portable, lightweight SolarRoll at www.brunton.com.

Garmin GPS Rino 130: When you can’t trust anyone to give you directions, you can count on satellite readings to help you out. The Rino 130 includes an electronic compass, barometric sensor, a weather receiver for seven NOAA weather channels, and a detailed map of North and South America. Oh, and did I mention it’s a walkie-talkie? You can communicate with the other radio holder up to two miles away.

Steri-Pen: This “Pocket-Sized, Ultraviolet Water Disinfection System” is a portable water purifier that will destroy all those pesky viruses and bacterium the enemy may have slipped into our water system. Plus, if you’re in Mexico, it’ll keep you from getting the runs. UV sterilization is used by hospitals around the world to disinfect water and contaminated instruments, while the U.S. military sometimes prefers the MIOX Purifier, which uses salt instead of UV light.

Z-Medica’s QuikClot: Used by U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq, Z-Medica's blood-clotting powder only costs about $20 a dose. Good for serious skateboarding accidents, knife wounds, and Zombie bites, although there’s no guarantee you won’t turn into a zombie if infected.

HUMMER Shake Flashlight: specially designed to capitalize on the growing strength of your wank wrist. Jostle it back and forth to charge.


Low-Tech:

The Zombie Survival Guide: Most hokey survival books take the perspective of someone out in the woods alone. Chances are, when the end comes, you’ll be trapped in a city and everyone is hungry and desperate. At this point, most people will be behaving like crazed zombies. Or perhaps mutant viruses and radiation exposure will actually spawn flesh-hungry zombies. Author Max Brooks (son of Mel) teaches you how to cope.

Ted Nugent’s Gonzo Meat Biltong: The worst part about being vegan is having to deal with all the patchouli and hair braids every time you go shopping for food at the co-op. That and knowing a delicious cheeseburger would be really good for your hangover. As your chances of obtaining tofurky dwindles, you might want to consider Ted Nugget’s D.I.Y. ethos of “If you kill it, you can eat it.” Even Ian Mackay can respect this. What’s the problem? Yeah, like you’re more punk than Ian Mackay? In the meantime, stuff some of the Nuge’s special-recipe beef jerky down your throat. (We're sorry to announce that this product has been discontinued, but we figure there must be a warehouse of unsold Gonzo Meat Biltong out there somewhere. We’re not sure where you buy this stuff, but we want it—bad.)



Nuclear War Survival Skills, by Cresson H. Kearny, is a practical guide for the nuclear-paranoid that shows you how to quickly and simply build such useful things as fallout shelters and radiation meters using mostly household items. So if a warhead hits the mainland before you’ve built your own underground lair, you better have this book in your bedroom or your skin is going to get so nasty even Botox won’t help. Fpr extra credit, read The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook, Gonzo Gizmos: Projects and Devices to Channel Your Inner Geek, and Sneaky Uses for Everyday Things to learn how to turn a penny into a radio or use lemons to make a battery.

Boulder Outdoor Survival School (BOSS)
: For 14 days you’ll hike across rugged mountains in deserts in southern Utah, with no food or water except for what you find. The emphasis is on knowledge and low-tech techniques for survival. Added bonus: Hikers often lose up to 20 pounds from their fat asses.

GSI Vortex Blender
: Electricity gone? Black clouds of doom keeping your solar panels from working? Don’t fret! The GSI Vortex will keep the frozen daiquiris coming, since this hand-cranked beauty easily spins it’s stainless steel blade at 7,000 rpm. Now if only you can find some ice and booze...

PB-V3/PB-207 Blue Flame Pocket Micro Torch: An old-fashioned lighter with the heat turned up a notch. Light your ciggies in high-wind conditions, start a campfire in the rain, solder together a make-shift radio, melt a lead pipe into a spear, and heat your soup with this hand-held 1,300 degree Celsius flame. Fits in your pocket, as does the similarly ultra-hot Mini-Bunsen Burner. Try not to burn your lips off. (Or see ThinkGeek.com for a lighter that doesn’t light shit but does take digital pix)

Cold Steel’s Special Forces Shovel: modeled after the original Soviet Spetznaz army shovels, this combat spade will enable you to dig a bomb shelter lickety-split. The edges are axe-grade and can chop through tough roots and enemy necks. The heat-treated carbon steel can be sharpened for extra slicing power. Plus, it makes for a nice frying pan. (More combat shovels can be found at www.bynoon.com/survive.html)

Kurt Saxon: A former Nazi, Satanist, UFO cultist, Scientologist, and spiritualist (among other pursuits), Saxon is now a octogenarian that believes he’s transcended racism, religion, and politics. He sees himself as a modern-day Buddha and Survivalist, although he hints that Muslims might be Martians and still harbors some extremist views. But then again, he’ll also tell you how to turn corn or cheap wine into 90-proof alcohol (great drinking and good fuel!) using a pressure-cooker or turkey-fryer as a moonshine still. Check out his books and CDs for useful survival info and weird-ass ramblings.

Gore-Tex & Wind Stopper Outerwear: Ugg boots offer sheepskin/wool simplicity that elicits a saucy caveman vibe, but outside of Aussie footwear it seems surprisingly difficult to find decent prehistoric-style attire. Come to think of it, it’s hard to find sheep-based products at all in the U.S. The last time I was Down Under every decent restaurant and dirty hole-in-the-wall offered up lamb, and sheep’s brains were the delicacy de rĂ©sistance. That’s true troglodyte chic, and Australian clothing is desperately needed for this whole modern-primate esprit de corps. But until the fashion world realizes that we all want to dress like Crocodile Dundee in a snowstorm, the miraculously waterproof products utilizing Gore-Tex and Wind Stopper technology will at least keep us dry, warm, and looking rugged.

—by Lucas Brachish & Byron Karl