A Much Belated CMJ Report

CMJ in New York City is a clusterfuck. Too many bands billed at each venue for them to handle with ease in one night. Too many shows to choose from all within a 2-block radius with about fifty bands you have never heard of and only nine you have. And too many people who are there for the “CMJ” experience rather than to witness the bands. Nevertheless, this CMJ was a good one.

My first year of CMJ, I avoided it completely. The second year, I managed to catch one show: Prince Rama live the Cake Shop. At the show, I met Sara, a pixie-nosed blonde. Afterwards, we shared a drink at Arlene's Grocery and talked about how it’s possible for a realist to be an optimist. Later we snuck into a 24-gym. That morning, I woke up on the train at Coney Island cold and lonely.

This year, I was determined to make CMJ better. SM slaughtered me with emails for CMJ events. Many events featured sponsorships from various organizations including: marketing organizations (Terrorbird Media, Sneak Attack Media), the press (Noisey, Relix, Stereogum, Nylon), and even the automotive business (Scion). This CMJ, I managed to see nine different bands, a tiny sliver of the 1000+ bands booked in New York City for the five-day festival.

My CMJ began on a Tuesday at the Brooklyn Bowl, a deceptively high-quality music venue with excellent live rock sound, immersive lighting, and plenty of space. A tall and lumpy red-velvet curtain runs high behind a wide stage facing a pit the size of a middle school gym perpendicular to sixteen lanes of bowling. Bowling balls whir up the gutter as others crash into clusters of pins. Cheers follow. All of these sounds then disappear as the band starts to play.

Opening at the Bowl were the sisters of SHEL, a quartet from Colorado equipped with keyboard, mandolin, fiddle, and djembe playing ambitious and hearty (as in full of heart) acoustic pop. Honestly SHEL could become the next darlings of the audiophile world with their diverse instrumentation and rich harmonies. They even have a song called “Vinyl Memories”! Mikey’s gotta hear it. Their self-titled release sounds a little squashed on some of the material and other recordings more dynamic, but holy crap are the songs well-written.

Like anyone who shows up at a-show-of-a-band-they’ve-never-seen-before-where-there’s-a-mandolin-player, I wondered, “Are they going to play Battle of Evermore?” This usually never happens, but by George. Their version starts with a vocal introduction mimicking the original’s guitar and mandolin harmonies followed by a bare-bones verse: mandolin with a simplified strum and lead vocal. In comes the fleshy earth-pounding djembe, and suddenly the girls are in full swing with each other performing with gusto and recreating a classic with respect.

Particularly striking was an instrumental piece titled “Tuscany” by mandolinist Eva Holbrook. A duet between herself and violinist Sarah Holbrook (yes, the girls are all sisters: Sarah, Hannah, Eva, Liza—SHEL—now do you get it? SHEL?). Eva’s dynamic performance featured subtle slow-downs and powerful tremolos and showcased her deft composition skills with witty melodic turns and sophisticated resolutions.

Basically, SHEL deserves your attention.

Following SHEL were headliners The Infamous Stringdusters, a bluegrass 5-piece visiting Brooklyn as part of the PledgeMusic, Relix & Tunecore Present: Silver Sky Tour 2012, Official CMJ 2012 Showcase. The Stringudsters played a jam-filled set to a surprisingly phriendly audience. Most impressive about the Stringdusters was their ability to weave tapestries of string interplay with each individual pick or strum well-placed in the arrangement, clear and supportive. Their bouncy set included the rollicking “The Hitchhiker” and the head-bopping “Fork in the Road”, and while I didn’t get to hear favorites “Rockets” or their heartfelt cover of John Mayer’s “3x5”, the audience was treated to a version of the Grateful Dead’s “He’s Gone”. Everyone sang along. For a download of the Stringdusters show at the Brooklyn Bowl, here’s a torrent.

And here’s video of their performance of “He’s Gone” recorded by YouTube user blwoodable:

Following the Stringdusters, I hopped on the L train to catch Sparxx, a Brooklyn-based pop act that use deep synths and ambient guitar bursts to support hypnotizing choruses. Heather Sparxx performed graciously for her crowd at Legion by walking and swaying with the crowd while singing and smiling, a pleasing contrast to her stark and cold synthesizers. Guitarist Justin Matthews replicated Alex Lifeson’s atmospheric gusts of notes from the mid-to-late 80s Rush records while also throwing in blasts of fast slides and distorted triplets. I asked Matthews if he listened to Lifeson after the set, to which he cackled and then yelled to drummer Cinque Kemp, “Did you hear what this guy just asked me?” as if this had been a topic of conversation before. Matthews then addressed me: “Most definitely.” Sparxx’s songs are delightfully simple with catchy melodies and ethereal and spacious sonic effects. Total ear candy. Sparxx’s music can be heard here.

Thanks to a nod from Music Hall’s Leland Leard via SM, I awkwardly attended the ultra-hip Fred Perry sponsored live recording showcase at Stratosphere Sound on 11th Avenue on Thursday. Bands participated in short live recording sessions while attendees enjoyed Oreos and Brooklyn Lager. I caught a performance by Slug Guts.

Bands recorded into Stratosphere’s room-sized 32-input NEVE 8068 MkII console from behind a sound-proofed enclosure. Vocals were recorded in a separate booth. Two large unused Genelec speakers rested within the walls. Monitoring was instead done through the classic Yamaha NS10s. Here’s a great article by Gizmodo’s Bryan Gardiner summarizing why the harsh NS10s have stuck around since the 80s as a reference for studio monitoring.

Slug Guts of Brisbane, Australia played aggressive boogie rock with angry howls and odd time signatures. A saxophone punctuated their experimental edge with out-of-synch blasts from his horn. The bass player had a paper-thin yet crunchy attack to his sound at Stratosphere. Their latest release Playin’ in Time With the Deadbeat can be streamed on Spotify or purchased at Sacred Bones records.

After Slug Guts was a band called Bleeding Rainbow, but I had to get moving to meet some friends at Cameo for the Carpark/Paw Tracks CMJ showcase where I saw Dog Bite, Dent May, Young Magic, and Prince Rama. Dog Bite, an alternative band from Atlanta, Georgia, were disaffected and unanimated. I thought the southern boys would bring a little bit of that Southern rowdiness, but instead, they were just trying to be another boring Brooklyn band. Fortunately, the ultra-peppy Dent May from Oxford, Mississippi came in to save the room with their 80s inspired disco hipster frat-rock. They even played the Dead’s “Shakedown Street”! That’s two Dead covers in one week! Not bad.

While bundles of sage were lit and circled around the room, Young Magic began their set of throbbing drones and heavy drums. Laser dots speckled the audience for the most packed show of the evening. Sullen and seductive guitarist Melati Malay conjured evil and foreign sounds from her multi-effected guitar, which she arpeggiated flawlessly while singing. Young Magic impressed with their cohesion and inherent grooves, a suitable opener for Prince Rama’s oncoming rhythmic onslaught.

Taking the stage at approximately 1:30am were headliners Prince Rama, a late start probably due to their complicated stage setup. Sisters Taraka and Nimai Larson seem to have been working for years on their vast collection of synthesizers and percussion instruments. Taraka surrounds herself with samplers, Casios, and rich-sounding synthesizers. Nimai circles herself with layers of tom-toms, splash cymbals, and a cowbell or two. Also performing with the band that evening was all-purpose dude Christopher Burke on bass and guitar. All band members smeared their faces with gold glittery face-paint.

At the start of the show, Taraka is carried on her back like a funeral procession by a willing ensemble of men. As she is carried forth, her spirit shrouded in white haunts the crowd, like a possessed “Like a Virgin Era” Madonna with stark poses and spooky chant. Taraka’s ghostly introduction served as a death-knell to Rama’s hyper-rhythmic, transcendental, and Krishna-inspired chats of older albums and ushered in the a new era of Prince Rama. Nimai Larson and Burke join the stage.

Performing songs from their latest release Top 10 Hits At the End of the World, Prince Rama’s new material was everything their title indicates: apocalyptic, sacred, and full of joy. While Rama’s previous shows were plagued by their severe spirituality, the new songs brought their spiritual intensity into a global and accessible context of pop music. Nimai’s wild and wide grin no longer looked like a mad spirit induced from their divine yet unearthly incantations but now an expression of the unadulterated happiness that their music's positive energy spread around the room. On the closing number, the sisters jumped into the audience for a song’s performance full of synchronized dance moves. The smiles between the sisters brought on such a warm fuzzy feeling of familial love, far holier than anything I’d seen or heard from the sisters before. After the show, Nimai was ecstatic to share, “We’re done with the serious stuff!” Prince Rama’s Top 10 Hits At the End of the World is available from Paw Tracks records. It’s even available on vinyl!

Although there were no late-night rendezvous nor piercing cold winds, I’m happy to say it was a great CMJ.

JohnnyR's picture

........about Ariel. He comes across as a well meaning likable fellow in all honesty. I really don't care what words he used in the article.I've seen way worse in not only the Open Forum but the other forums on here. Now is that saying I condone that JA lets such language be used in a public forum? NO,,,,,BUT........it's his forum and he seems to do whatever he wants anyway and uses bad language himself. He's NEVER wrong ya know.

I think Ariel would be happier in an honest environment where he doesn't have to deal with JA and the other suck ups that are employed by him. Giving up your moral ideals for a job is very hard on most. Here is my advice to you Ariel......RUN.........RUN as fast as you can from this cesspool of subjective BS known as Stereophile and seek employment in something your heart tells you is right. You've been here long enough to see how things are done I am sure.

To paraphrase the very last comic strip of Calvin and Hobbes (My avatar is based upon Calvin by the way Regadude, NOT Johnny in a swing, you dolt)  ..."Its a magical world Ariel ol' buddy........lets go exploring"

Twochannelman's picture

the leaders are the ones who set the examples; be it in government or military or business or family. If those examples are poor in one or more aspects, then so will their subordinates; often times being worse. It goes to prove that this article's subject matter and content was and still is the full responsibility of the editor / Mr. Atkinson as he is responsible for the conduct of the people under his leadership / authority. What ever happened to a proofing editor to read a writer's article and edit it for subject matter and content ? Isn't that what this writer is supposed to be doing as "Editorial Assistant" or not ? Also, how this writer met the qualifications to be interviewed, hired, and gainfully employed is beyond me as this article displays a significant lack of skill, command of this language's vocabulary, and a level of maturity that is lacking at best.

melodichord's picture

The reality is this—nothing is at stake here.  Nothing real, at least.  A few readers decide to read elsewhere?  Whatever.  Whether you're offended, annoyed, bugged, disturbed, grieved, whatever, by this 'issue', it really doesn't matter.

No moral values are being degraded, dragged down, influenced negatively, by the use of that word.  Nobody is getting hurt in any way.  And better yet, no information is being lost.  The use of a word—whether you like it or not—doesn't really matter, if information is still being passed on.  Because that's the purpose of this website, this article, this experience.  Ariel wanted to write something and he did.  He wanted to explain the current CMJ experience, and you chose to read about it.  And you chose to let a combination of letters—a combination, which, described a thought accurately—become your focus.  As if it really matters, in any way, at all.  Ever.  

It doesn't. 

It really, really doesnt.

Anyone who chooses to have a problem, is creating the problem themselves.

And Plankton, even if your child peeps and sees the word clusterfuck (she might as well have seen you write 'asshole' in all caps at me—can't keep your cool much?), I don't understand how that's a problem.  Be a mature parent and explain things when you need to.  

Honestly, what's causing me any stress, is knowing how annoyed some of you are by this 'issue'—the use of a word, and what you think it implies.  Ariel has not shown a single sliver of disrespect towards any reader.  Move along, people.

dandydan's picture

Whether or not CMJ truly is a "clusterfuck" according to Websters, Ariel Bitran certainly did his job of getting your attention and drawing you into his article.  Of course, you will have to read further than the first sentence to get a fuller picture of the event, which is expressed clearly and in detail by Mr. Bitran.  The impression the article leaves me with is that the writer clearly has a musical background, a strong feel for the music, and a gift for descriptiive writing.  I'm guessing that's what his boss is paying for...

mauidj's picture

Actually I for one never read the entire article...just way too long winded for me. So that concept is not working in this house!

Twochannelman's picture

Thank you for replying to my comments and acknowledging them.

1. As for my desire to "file a formal complaint" ... as far as I am concerned, it has been formally filed via this forum via your receipt and acknowledgement of it as such. What you choose to do with it is apparently solely up to you and no one above you.

2. As for my service time, I stated, "That being said, it does not make me better or more of an American for having done so as it was a choice of mine each time to serve."  Perhaps you missed that prior to your response to me of, "However, please note that your service doesn't give you any more rights than any other American citizen, nor does it confer any greater weight on your opinions when it comes to questions of English usage." I agree with you completely, and attempted to convey that with my statement above; which is now stated a second time.

3. Regarding your reply of, "I haven't commented because Ariel expressed my own feeling on the matter: that while I don't condone a writer's gratuitous use of profanity, there are times, such as this one, where the profanity truly is the word that best expresses the specific meaning the writer intends." ... While I understand the concepts of your reply, and even if or when the use of profanity is the word or phrase or expression that best expresses the specific meaning the writer intends, that does not inherently mean that it should be used or allowed by his boss being the senior editor responsible for the work of his subordinates at all times; especially under certain circumstances, scenarios, or environments. I have read this magazine for a "fair number" of years, both in print and on line, and I know by that experience that you in particular have a well developed vocabulary to employ; be it common language or technical in nature as related to the sciences involved in this industry. For you of all people to say that is to actually condone the use of profanity, as this article started off with, and is therefore in complete contradiction to your statement that (you) "I don't condone a writer's gratuitous use of profanity" Gratuitous or spartan in nature, the use of profanity in any form and in any amount has no place in this publication. It is a fundamental sign of gross disrespect to the readers and sets a lewd tone of subject matter and content that I am not comfortable with or find acceptable mostly because Stereophile is supposed to be about audio components. Also a key element in being a professional is one's conduct; be it physical or verbal or written, as it can quickly and thoroughly show the true nature of an individual or an entire organization as is happening with this article, its writer, its editor, and the publication. I mean, seriously, would you want an employee of yours speaking or Emailing these types of subject matters and content (profanity and vulgarity and unrelated trivial dissertations via elementary forms of expression) to your clients and customers if it were your personal business at stake ? I would not tolerate it and the person would either be substantially reprimanded in writing or fired on the spot depending upon the specifics of the infraction and the impact to / response from the client or customer.

I literally was shocked and appalled in disbelief upon seeing that term in an article of this publication as it would never have been allowed. It seems that now it is not only condoned, but bordering on encouraged and applauded. My, how the standards of what is considered acceptable have changed. It saddens me far more than it offends or angers me as it shows a substantial and deliberate decline in the standards of journalism as it relates to this industry and this magazine, and I find it disheartening. Perhaps this writer has other talents that may be put to better use and could serve humanity instead of profane it via this magazine's allowance of it when the term or phrase best describes the specific meaning the writer intends. Situation ethics never have any true rules as they inherently can change to what is perceived to be better or best or of benefit to the person at that time for whatever reason is called upon to justify it. That is no standard at all, but is merely a self-allowing policy subject to change without customer, or reader, notice while it disgusts the readers in full.

Twochannelman's picture

Are we expected to refer to the "urban dictionary" ? Are we also expected to be happy with reading unrelated articles about drunken people or how long the lines were to the restrooms or the lustful interests of a writer's gaze upon and interaction with some woman or other antics and events that belong only in a far different venue ?

If, for example, your interest was log cabin homes, and you logged onto the website of your favorite publication and saw that word and phrase in an article about something, would you not be shocked or appalled or offended or disgusted ? Would you not find it totally out of character and out of place ? Would you not lodge a complaint about it ? Or would you simply choose not to care or not stand up for your rights to fairly expect relevant articles from highly qualified writers who are also highly qualified reviewers of such topics that is free of lewdness for the money paid or the time invested to read ?

Please, retract this article in full or at least remove the entire phrase and word(s) in question as applicable. Also, please let the replies from those of us who do not find this article or its subject matter or its content appropriate tell you clearly that this should be used as an example of what should never be allowed or done again.

mrplankton2u's picture

There have been a number of excuses put forth attempting to justify the inclusion of the word/phrase "fuck" in a press report. In most quarters, the word "fuck" constitutes profanity. While it may be commonly used in Rolling Stone or Hustler, it has not been a word or idea associated with the stereo equipment magazine - Stereophile. In all the years Holt worked for the magazine - did he ever use or condone the publishing of profanity? 

The issues come down to "journalistic" and "editorial" standards. With the copious use of swear words in comments above, I attempted to show the blind and nonchalant  that use of profanity is a slippery slope. Start with "fuck" here, then it's "shit" there, and soon it becomes acceptable to use these words on a regular basis - not just when a newbie writer or his alleged "sage" editor can't think of a better word. Having been called a "troll" by his eminence, Mr. Atkinson, I can assure you, I have a lot of choice words in mind to describe him and his not insignificant role in everything I've discovered to be wrong with the "audiophile" community. But I refrain for four essential reasons:

1) self respect

2) commitment to making my points for a higher purpose without clouding them by profane distraction

3) respect for other readers

4) the target of such description is not worthy of the keystrokes or carbon dioxide


In all the years I've known and read Stereophile (going back to 1983), I've never seen an instance of the word "fuck" or for that matter ANY other profane language. In one sentence, that track record has changed irrevocably - because a new writer and his editor couldn't think of a better word to use. While it's certainly not the end of the world, I , and I believe a lot of other readers sincerely hope this is not the beginning of a trend of gratuitous, moronic profanity.

mauidj's picture


Dear J.A.

First off...I would like to state to you and other posters here that I am not offended by the article or word. I am saddened.

Are you seriously suggesting that clusterfuck is the only descriptive applicable here.


Seems about as gratuitous as a word can be in this context and publication. But then again using that language in anything other than a novel is gratuitous and indicative of a lack of basic writing and grammatical skills. IMO.

Would you shout it out in a restaurant. No. So why use it here?

And I'm sorry...actually I'm not sorry at all....I'm sad that Stereophile is heading in a direction that is not thrilling me. As mentioned by another poster, the magazine has lost it's way lately with ridiculous tweeks, substandard prose and gratuitous pandering to a select group of manufacturers. I can't get into the recent VPI review or article about turntable setup because it was so bad it defies comment.

It seems to me that you are steering the magazine towards a new demographic. One that does not value expertise, great writing or balanced reporting. Rather one that prefers badly writen and drawn cartoon strips, pubescent references to girls and other lifestyle matters and reviews from starry eyed newbee reporters with zero technical skills or knowledge.

I for one am over having to read through a page of waffle about France and Italy, some obscure book or a bloody brass gong before getting to the actual HiFi commentary.

Of course that is just my opinion. For how much or how little it is worth.

Good luck with the new direction. Glad your readership is going up. I hope I can hang in with them for a few more years, but it's getting harder by the issue.

J.A. I am not making these comments lightly or without due thought. I enjoy Stereophile more than any other publication and it matters to me that you are at least knowledgeable about how I and maybe others feel about our favorite magazine.

Please keep up the GOOD work...and dump the rest......Aloha!


quintrala's picture


I'm stunned by the ignorance some of you have shown.  Clearly many of you do not know the proper use of the word "clusterfuck".  Some of you are using this word out of context, and it is there you find yourself falling into ignorance of the language. For the father that thinks his 10 yr old doesn't know the f word - I got news for you, I'm a mother of 4 and a teacher at an elementary school.  Trust me, your children know far more of this kind of language than you did when you were young.  I read all of Mr. Bitran's articles I find his opinion honest and trustworthy.


mauidj's picture

If you are really a teacher then you should know better. To suggest that clusterfuck is a legitimate word to be used in everyday speech is absurd....and incredibly ignorant. Your educated kids might use lots of profanities but don't tar the rest of the world with your brush. I know exactly the context and use of the word and it has NO place in a magazine about audio. No wonder this country is so behind the rest of the world in education.

Twochannelman's picture

I too did not read any more then the first sentence as that turned my stomach to the point that I had no willingness to read any more as I might be subjected to even more uncalled for vileness. I also never had any interest in the article to begin with as it is completely unrelated to this publication. Music may be what audio components reproduce to varying degrees or realism and accuracy, but articles and reviews of music itself and music performances are more befitting in a music publication.

john abramson's picture

Two Channelman et al:

It seems that we have been posting on this forum re l'affaire Bitrin on the mistaken assumption that JA gives cares about our opinions and critcisms. JA does not give a 'tinker's damn' about negetive forum postings; just read his replies; it seems that posters have not made a single legitimate point worthy of his response. Essentially, we are 'pissimg into the wind', which is mighty uncomfortable.  As one poster wrote. "it is time to move on.

JA follows his own bliss and that "bliss" demands growing circulation by appealing to a young demographic; one that appreciates writing that is sub professional, as long as it is ostensibly hip. I asssume that JA sees outreach as a noble experiment.   I guess we are not suitably evolved or sufficiently young to appreciate his efforts. So be it.

Perhaps we need to take another listen to "My Generation" and just follow Roger Daltry's advice to ",,,just f-f-f-f- fade away",

GeorgeHolland's picture

Not surprising that Mr Atkinson doesn't care. He has a business to ruin. Oh excuse me I meant run of course. So when the "posse" as Regadude calls us ( I think there are more than three of "us" now?) dares to question certain authority, then we are looked down upon as cretins and just silly people who don't know what we are talking about. Does the loudest voice win the contest here whatever that may be? I was brought up to always search for the truth and honesty. It's sad that so little is shown on this forum or by the people who claim to run it. Side by side we see real objective tests with the subjective crazy products and it's business as usual. We are supposed to accept crazy theories laid forth by JA and not question his authority. He "knows" what he is doing. Yes I am quite certain he really does know what he is doing and that's the scariest part of all. When you turn your back on the truth you end up believing the same crap you tell others.to believe in. What a legacy to leave behind for others to see and shake their heads at.

music guy's picture

..it has nothing to do with any modest little offense the small minded may feel by the use of a word we use all to frequently;  not at all.  I happen to think that the two Richard Pryor's live in concert stand-up shows were chock a block with brilliant comedic genius...operatic pathos, real sadness, great laughter and the blue-est language imaginable.  Love them and make a point of watching them ever few years or so.  

On the other hand, Eddie Murphy's similar shows were just vulgar...so why the difference...the language served the message.

The fact that this arrested development guy with his photo of his tongue hanging out can only come up with clusterfuck as the best use of his language only tells me one thing...he's out his league.  Who gives a royal fuck about "fuck".  In most cases, it's used inelegantly, and it degrades the argument...but some times it the only word in the world...ie:  what, in the fuck, are you talking about...etc...lovely and funny....


I believe the passion shown here today tells me of people who believe that Stereophile is something they have enjoyed, perhaps, at times, just loved reading but are degraded by this shit.  

Ariel has used "fuck" in other articles...it is wrong...it is juvenile.  When did anyone first learn of the term "clusterfuck?...likely in Junior High, and then they spent the next two weeks callng all their buddies "clusterfucks"...as in "ya, you clusterfuck"...and their reply "now way dude"...you "way"...etc  Fubar wasn't even that clever.

just moronic and juvenile.....


JA is this your new magazine?  You need to step up and offer a more thoughful reply...but you won't.

John Atkinson's picture

JA is this your new magazine?  You need to step up and offer a more thoughful reply...but you won't.

Perhaps you missed it? You are welcome to disagree with what I wrote, but that's not the same as suggesting I didn't offer a reply, thoughtful or otherwise. People have offered their opinions, I have offered my own.

Please note, BTW, that I have never referred to anyone posting to this site as "cretins" or some such adjective, nor have I belittled anyone in that manner, as was just stated by another poster. That is a projection on their part.

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

bej's picture

This thread is most definitely a clusterfuck. 

Twochannelman's picture

What has occurred to me is that there is a great opportunity for redemption, restoration, and dare I say it; repentance, with the intent and desire for all of these opportunities being as follows: 

1. The proper professional disciplinary actions taken against this writer, Mr. Bitran, for committing this grievance and all of what it has led to as that was caused by his article with its content being the fundamental and gross disrespect of the readers in a variety of forms and methods. 

2. The proper professional disciplinary actions taken against the editor, Mr. Atkinson, for allowing this article with its subject matter and content to be posted. It was fully irresponsible and negligent of him to do so. Someone is this man’s boss and he can therefore be held accountable with all of the repercussions that it may and hopefully will bring upon him, as he also should be, for his complete and deliberate failure in his role as he voluntarily chose to allow it by his admission that he agreed with Mr. Bitran’s assessment of the environment / situation as described.

3. The redirecting and development of not only this writer’s style of writing, but also the subject matters, content, and proper use of legitimate grammatical sentence structure as they apply to the reviewing of audio components.

4. The redirecting of this publication’s focus on the subject matter of articles so that they are tightly restrained within the realm of reviewing audio components and are done by highly trained, technically competent people with writing styles that are indicative of someone with a respectable level of education, skill, and relevant prowess.

5. The redirecting of this publication’s focus on producing high quality journalism as it pertains to ethical and moral conduct as it once was but is no longer. There is a written standard for ethical and moral conduct with clear statements and absolutes that do not change based on the circumstances or views of the editor that may happen to concur with a junior writer’s assessment versus the constantly and inherently changing situational ethics that have been implemented for this article and many others from this writer and a few others in recent times.

6. The discontinued application and usage of assumptions and expectations that were clearly made by this writer and the editor that what is acceptable to either or both of them should be and/or will be found to be acceptable to the readers. While it is fair and legitimate that people have their own beliefs and values, morals, ethics, and standards of conduct, as professionals it constitutes a vile and damaging blow to the publication, its readers, and this industry as a whole.

7. The redirection and redefining of the methods of operation, standard operating procedures, and protocols to ones that are in line with providing what the readers have the right to fairly expect and prefer while simultaneously attempting to forge new frontiers within the “unfamiliar” or “not interested” markets and demographics, but in ways that are noble, honorable, respectable, of high caliber, and quality befitting an educated person of dare I say Godly character. I personally know the greatest speaker who ever lived, and if there is one thing that He never did and does not do now, it is to change His ways and conduct and become like the person or people that He is diligently and sacrificially attempting to reach and serve. Stereophile does not need to “act” in the ways of the world as a way, or the way, to reach the “unreached”. Offer what Stereophile used to offer; a high quality product or service of such high caliber and educational benefit that it inherently draws the “unreached” to it. It was His inherent character and His messages that drew people to Him to be educated and enlightened in such things that yielded true benefits to the person or people. Stereophile is capable of applying the same principles just as every business is. Whether it chooses to or not shall be quickly realized. Consistency, gentlemen, with honorable ways of providing technically competent and relevant articles, is the way to reach those who have yet not been reached.

I challenge this writer and the editor on a professional and personal level to diligently seek the source of the principles that I made reference to, apply them as stated, and see how it impacts readership and your lives as well.

I also ask this writer and the editor the following question: did you invest in the education and training that you engaged in for your career as a writer to produce what has been produced in this article and others like it, and are you honestly proud of your work as it pertains to this article with its subject matter, content, and writing style ?

8. Perhaps develop and perform a formal and scientifically formatted survey over a 90 day period where readers are asked highly pointed and candid questions about such topics as preferred subject matter and content for articles, unwanted subject matter and content of articles, and completely unacceptable / forbidden subject matter and content of articles. Add to that list the same categories for writing styles and quality of writing. Offer a reader input section for personal expression about such things so that people can express their responses as applicable for such topics and others like use of profanity or sexually illicit topics or words or phrases, totally unrelated / trivial content, etc. Correctly tally and annotate the results and disseminate them in a timely, 100% accurate and impartial manner for all to see in both printed copy and on line. Then, as with so many other consumer driven markets; adjust your services, products, efforts, writing styles, and methods accordingly. We may all be surprised at the results.

John Atkinson's picture

What has occurred to me is that there is a great opportunity for redemption, restoration, and dare I say it; repentance, with the intent and desire for all of these opportunities being as follows...

With all due respect for the effort you have put into composing this comment, Twochannelman, I think you are overreacting. You believe that there is never a place for profanity in published writing; I do, for  the reason I gave earlier in the thread. In which case, you have the right every reader has, which is to turn the page, even stop reading the magazine. I'm sorry if we have offended you, but these are irreconcilable philosophies.
Thank you  for taking  the time to read this response. But please note that while you and others keep referring to the "publication," this is is a blog on a website, not the paper magazine. The two media are different, I believe, when it comes to assumptions about content and readership.
John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile
violanotviolin's picture


Everybody on this pathetic attempt at self-rightenousness of a thread needs to take a deep breath, count to ten, and CALM DOWN. The word 'clusterfuck' is not exactly premiering as one of society's top ten offensives these days; so, above all, I suggest you folks should find something more productive to do with your spare time then harp on young man for his use of the word fuck. 


Now, @mrplankton2u, perhaps you should reconsider writing ASSHOLES in all capital letters before you complain about your three daughters reading over your shoulder and seeing the word clusterfuck. Then you decide to publish "Who the fuck do you think you are?" in another comment. Jesus man, hypocritical much? That's just outright embarassing. Sadly I think you may have succeeded in undermining your own little child-rearing crusade here, good sir. 


Moving FORWARD, to all you frantic, frenzied parents out there I have some very big news for you: PROFANITY IS EVERYWHERE. If your children have access to a computer, they have access to profanity, pornography, violence-- oh yea buddy. Now, if you want to shield your child from the maladies of modern western society that is undoubtedly your prerogative. However, they'll find them, inevitably, and virgin eyes is hardly a good game plan. 

Good parenting has barely anything to do with sheltering your kids (as, let's be real here, that's honestly a futile effort), and EVERYTHING to do with how you teach your kids to handle it when it happens. Because it will happen again and again and again anad again. 



Regarding the issue of diction: If you think profanity lowers the grade of an individual's writing, then I suggest you refrain from reading Faulkner, Joyce, Hughes... shall I go on? Now, that's not to say I am equating Mr. Bitran's works to the likes of these revered literary icons. I am merely reinforcing the notion that using profanity in no way reflects a dearth of eloquent vocabulary. 

Lastly, just a thought for all you elitist champions of the English language who apparently have all the credibility in the world to assail Mr. Bitran's writing as amateur or subpar or what-have-you: since when does coloquial style and tone neccessarily connote poor handling of the English language? 

Maybe you kids should brush on on your post-modern literature. I am truly embarassed for you fools in the way that you all have made such unfounded, narrow-minded, ill-informed critiques on Mr. Bitran's language-handling abilities.  

bej's picture

really, thank you for some sanity.

mauidj's picture



Alright kiddies????

Why do you feel the need to lable and pidgenhole others to make your point. 

You could easily state your preferences without slagging the character or choices of others. So clusterfuck is OK by you...great. I have zero problem with that. I do have a problem with being called names and characterized over my preferences or thoughts.

So you are the authority on parenting? Interesting.

As for Faulkener et al. You completely miss the point of these posts. I think I can speak for the other contributors in saying that there is a place for language such as this in literature, comedy, film etc. But why is it needed in a HiFi magazine when so many other words or phrases could be employed with equal or more success?

This is not post modern literature and I certainly don't need to brush up on it. You come across as exactly the person you are accusing some of us as as being. Hypocritical and condescending are two descriptors that come to mind.

You state that "I am merely reinforcing the notion that using profanity in no way reflects a dearth of eloquent vocabulary." But that's exactly our point.......It does reflect on his ability to use eloquent vocabulary. What is so eloquent about clusterfuck? 

As for profanity being everywhere. No argument there. But again does that justify using it in this context. In my mind it does not. Two wrongs do not make a right!

And finally...as for his writing style. If you truly know and understand the beauty of the authors quoted in your text then you have to agree that Mr. Bitran has a long way to go before even being mentioned in such company. I realy dislike his style and I'm allowed to do that and voice my opinion of such. If anyone is promoting censorship around here it's you!

So from this old fart...take a breath and chill yourself. Your opinions are your own and I defend your right to have them. Now let me have mine without the personal attacks please.

Oh, and you can save your embarassemnt for your own faux pas not mine thank you.


Twochannelman's picture

Eloquence in one's writing style and content is a true gift and developed talent to not only have, but to wield; especially as a professional writer. In comparison to this article's writing style and content, eloquence would be a true surprise. I would gladly settle for the inherently classy and old fashioned values and definitions of "professional" writings which used to be dignifying and respectful to the readers by being profanity free, vulgarity free, sexually illicit topics free, unrelated topics free, and with only technically competent reviews of audio components and the like. This entity and its staff have lost much ground, class, and my respect.

Twochannelman's picture

... then Mr. Bitran's actions (which ironically are words and phrases and sentences) of writing and posting and defending this article with all of its subject matter and content) clearly reflect his impaired writing ability as well as his personal and professional character, values, ethics, standards, morals, priorities, and assumptions that we are all OK with not only any of it, but all of it. Many of us are all not OK with any of it. Is the new demographic / targeted audience truly the class or caliber of readers that you want, or are you trying to boost sales and maintain a career with its resultant income regardless of tactics or venues that have been clearly disapproved of by the people who can simply stop or cancel subscriptions in concert with no longer purchasing printed copies and suggest that friends and colleagues do that as well after making their own accurately and thoroughly informed decisions about it. People in groups, such as local area audiophile societies, can make a noticeable reduction is sales especially as it catches on and one society after the next does it out of sheer principal and values.

Oh, and let's clear something up right here and now please. This is not about censorship by a ruling government or dictator or similar scenario. It is about basic journalistic and professional ethics and standards of practice and conduct.

stereo slim's picture

thanks to violanotviolin for bringing back some mental (and semantic) sanity to this thread!

During intermission, why not relax with the troll trio - no sorry: with Helge Lien Trio's wonderful "Hello Troll" album, a true stereophile delight ...

... or - for those who cannot yet let go of the evil "c**k" word and need some more sedative power, I would recommend the classic "Cluster & Eno" album ...

... before they bring on Butt Trumpet's "Primitive Edema"

Twochannelman's picture

Think as you may that I have over reacted. You have the right to your opinion and to state it as such. Your assessment of me supposedly over reacting is merely your personal opinion whereas my statements in here have largely been in response to an unwelcome word and phrase within an article written by a professional writer who is under your authority to be responsible for. Your reply to my comments clearly imply that you are fully OK with this article and its subject matter and content; be it profanity or otherwise, and you are also clearly indifferent to not just my responses, but those of many others who have clearly and thoroughly disapproved of this article and all that it includes. Apparently, you are the head honcho without anyone above you to get you back in line with what quality journalism actually is; be it a physical printed copy of the publication or merely an on line version of it to acknowledge your comment to differentiate the two. You do not care if your ways, and those of your subordinates, offend the readers. Your ethics and standards are in league with Mr. Bitran's; which is far worse than merely sad as it sets the tone for the entire magazine, publication, website, forums, threads, etc. in accordance with your personal preferences and values instead of ones that are in accordance with the readers who used to pay good money for this magazine when it actually offered a viable product. It is truly disappointing to realize that such a legitimately talented and knowledgeable man as yourself has figuratively sold his values for profit and income and exchanged his ethics for notoriety and acceptance by the masses.

What I find of interest is that you have not challenged any of my actual points of complaint with this article or the single word in question that it contains. Is it perhaps that because somewhere deep down inside, you know that what I have said or asked or shined the light of truth and fact on is actually correct and you are simply not willing to embrace it and act on it ? Are you not willing to stand up for the readers who do have the right to either stop reading or turn the page or stop buying or cancel subscriptions and influence others to as well ? Are you that indifferent ?

Lastly, Mr. Atkinson, simply not reading an article any further or turning the page once an unacceptable word or phrase or topic is discovered in an environment where it does not belong is the medical equivalent of ignoring the cancer tumor which inherently allows it to fester into whatever it shall become with all of the damage to the host that will encompass. Perhaps that is what you deserve in the occupational sense as this magazine, publication, website, thread, etc. vanishes.

As for other genre of writers whose work I strongly prefer and value due to the professional credentials, writing quality, style, subject matter, and content, that partial list includes Dr. Charles Stanley, Dr. Tony Evans, Dr. David Jeremiah, James McDonald, Erwin Lutzer, E.L. Moody, and similar. Doctors of theology or certified Christian clinical psychologists ... versus newly hired employee with a street level education at best and a wholly unholy lacking display of higher education if it exists at all. 

John Atkinson's picture

What I find of interest is that you have not challenged any of my actual points of complaint with this article or the single word in question that it contains. Is it perhaps that because somewhere deep down inside, you know that what I have said or asked or shined the light of truth and fact on is actually correct and you are simply not willing to embrace it and act on it ?

Not at all. You are expressing your opinions and  I don't think it appropriate to challenge your opinions. You have every right to express these opinions and I have read every one of your comments. But as I said, your opinions and mine are irreconcilable and we shall have to agree to disagree.

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

stereo slim's picture

spinnin' 'round and 'round ... sounds like Billy Preston's "I've got a song but I ain't got no melody" (with a lot less cool, though)

Twochannelman's picture

Mr. Atkinson, you said to me: "Thank you  for taking  the time to read this response. But please note that while you and others keep referring to the "publication," this is is a blog on a website, not the paper magazine. The two media are different, I believe, when it comes to assumptions about content and readership."

Q1. Why are you making any assumptions about content at all instead of simply providing professional quality reviews of audio components by technically competent writers using only related and appropriate vocabulary and phrases and subject matter to begin with ?

Q2. Why assume what you think is or will be acceptable instead of polling the readers to find out what actually is and is not ? Again, you have been and still are negligent in your functions which yields massive disrespect to the readers. It is only proof of your arrogance that you assume such things and act on them. Any assumption has only a 50% chance of being correct because it also has a 50% chance of being incorrect as it will be either only one or the other. You have assumed wrongly, and we, the readers who were offended and disrespected, pay the price of your incorrectness, arrogance, indifference, and irresponsibility. With you in charge and your ethics and standards in place, it is no wonder as to how and why this article was allowed and supported and protected by you as it reflects your assessment of the scenario down to the exact word or phrase selected above all others. It is sickening to me to have such blatant liberalism that inherently allows, supports, defends, and encourages such conduct and far worse. I am reminded of why I have always preferred The Absolute Sound with articles written by people such as Robert Harley and Jonathan Valin as they are actually qualified in all aspects.

Your willingness to agree to disagree upon what you call philosophies is simply nothing more than your own arrogance excusing / condoning / justifying this filth and written squalor along with defending and asserting your preferences over those of the readers which is disrespectful. It makes me wonder if your employment (and Mr. Bitran's) was based on being elected like a political candidate if you would be re-elected or booted out or impeached before being booted out. I would vote for the latter option with a newly realized depth of understanding and awareness of failure.


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