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.

mrplankton2u's picture

Ariel Bitran says :

"CMJ in New York City is a clusterfuck."


Really, Ariel? Is use of the word "clusterfuck" supposed to make your article seem more cool or compelling? 


Given that your Editor-in-Chief is prone to using the expression "STFU" in these webpages, I'm not surprised at the first sentence of your "article". Perhaps in your magazine's desperate attempts to reach new readers - you're all pushing that envelope a little. I get it. But then I'm also glad that none of my children (all 16 years of age and under) feel the need to read Stereophile's website. They love music - all three are top level performers on flute, clarinet, and saxophone. And fortunately, they're not into dorky articles written by amateurs edited by "professionals" who claim to know what "negative frequencies" sound like!!!

In the last couple of weeks, I'm beginning to see what JohnnyR was talking about when he suggested he read Stereophile for the laughs. Thanks for the laughs guys...

music guy's picture

Completely agree with your post...think Ariel is vulgar and I'm no prude.  Where is the editor?  This kind of language when not in the service of some greater point is moronic.

Ariel Bitran's picture


Hey guys,

I’m sorry I have offended you with my word selection, but this is precisely the word I wished to use to describe exactly what CMJ is: a clusterfuck. 1200+ bands in one city at a limited number of venues, some of which can barely hold 3 musicians on the stage, where you can’t hear the vocals or the guitar are too loud, or some event-spaces of which have been created just for CMJ and thus lack any staff or organizational skills needed to run a proper event, with wait times longer than the sets between acts, with crowded rooms of drunk people, hundreds of unknown corporate sponsors barraging you with their name, and long lines at bathrooms keep you from catching the artists. They can’t even fit all the events on their own website b/c there are too many so they leave it to other independent organizations to try and list all the shows in one place. Thus, there’s never even a consistent resource to find out where all the shows are even happening!

The only word that I could possibly think to describe the insanity that is CMJ is clusterfuck.  

Referencing urban dictionary’s definition:

Today, however, "clusterfuck" is commonly used to descriptively generalize any situation with a large scale of disarray. 

possibly synonyms: mess, disaster

1. "Well, that concert was a clusterfuck." 

This word originates as a military term, where it was used to describe situations which were FUBAR (Fucked Up Beyond All Repair) or in NATO as “Charlie Foxtrot”, a polite way to say clusterfuck in front of your commanding officer. Unfortunately, I don’t think many people know what I mean if I say CMJ in New York City is a Charlie Foxtrot.

Hope you enjoyed some of the artists in this article. There are a lot of great musicians out there.

music guy's picture


A picture of you with your tongue hanging out and an article with an, oh! so clever but, oblique reference to pot are cool when you're 15 and spend most of your time spanking the monkey over the toilet of your parent's home but not in an international magazine speaking to a world community....but then again, we haven't heard from JA. Maybe this is the newer, dumber and more vulgar world that Stereophile needs to extend its brand.


john abramson's picture

i enjoyed the SHEL video enormously. on the other hand, you hyper-rationalize and over -defend your choice of  use of the words "cluster fuck". assuming for the sake of aargument that the words fit the siuation, you unfortunately experienced, you do demonstrate lazy writing skills, when your justification falls back on " The only word that I possibly think to describe the insanity that is CMJ is cluster fuck". and then follow up that excuse  with a didactic shell game.

i guess the only words i can possibly think to describe that excuse is bull shit. granted, ja is not the next coming of maxwell perkins, but i think he could have done a bit of editing on your piece, or returned it to you for a quick re-write,even if you were unable to unearth an equally descriptive term; that is what i meant by lazy.

you are right to note that "there are a lot of great musians out there", and i do realize that one aspect of your work is to write about tne new music. i appreciate your efforts in that respect, but, damn it, don't become a lazy writer. you will not be doing your readers or yourself any favors.


himynameisjuan's picture

Had no problem with the term "clusterfuck." Seemed to fit the circumstances.

The use of "pixie-nosed blonde" was a little strange though.. I mean, of all her memorable features you chose to recall the nose?

mrplankton2u's picture

Why did you focus on such a minor, insigficant apsect of Ariel's article?" Pixie nosed " is such a harmless description of a person. Were you shitfaced when you posted that comment? I know "shitfaced" is a little harsh but it's the only word I could think of to describe your apparent condition...


: )

Ariel Bitran's picture

@juan: while Sara was certainly somethign to look at, with her tiny frame and button nose, that was unfortunately the most I got to of know here. nothing really happened there, so all I was left with was the memory of her face.

melodichord's picture


I created an account just to respond to this thread.  Here goes.

As a professional adult, a working musician in New York City, as a well-traveled internet user & reader with a deep love of language and an appreciation for vulgarity when appropriate....and as someone living in the modern age—living, not in agitation of things like 'vulgarity', or a blog post which, while not brilliantly composed, certainly delivers an informed opinion in a respectful manner... but rather, living in fear of fools like the first two people to chime in on this post, who feel the need to attack someone for a word choice, and to imply all sorts of ridiculous character-flaws in doing so, and to generally become so very annoying and whiny and problematic—maybe it's time you logged off, and didn't come back for a while.

The idea that there is absolutely no place, even for words like 'clusterfuck', even in a well read publication such as Stereophile, is an ancient one.  This is the internet, you twats.  It's a clusterfuck of ideas, images, sounds and thoughts.  It's a scary place.  It may not be for you.  

Oh, and your sweet, flute-touting 16 year old?  She or he probably knows, and uses, the word clusterfuck, and many others like it—or will very soon.  And guess what?  She or he...will be just fine.

IF you allow yourself to be offended, disgusted, to become so bitter over something like a word, to launch into an attack on someone's character when they have said nothing personal against you (user: music guy), even after you've attacked them and they politely respond — I have sad news for you.  You're not built to last.  The times are changing—the times have changed.  And you are a fool.

User 'music guy' claims that 'Bitran is vulgar' while, then, saying things like "when you're 15 and spend most of your time spanking the monkey over the toilet of your parent's home"—Right on.  Way to bring it full circle for us.

Not trying to bitch any more than anyone else.  I just think you people who are 'offended' by something like a word—a word which, despite there being alternatives, is not going to hurt you, should probably shut your traps and just read something else.

mauidj's picture

...and that is what some of us will undoubtably do if this guy is the future of Stereophile!

mrplankton2u's picture

Yes, you found your inner asshole -  no big surprise there. Everybody has one. Glad this article and the responses to it compelled you to participate. 

For your information, I have three daughters.  ranging in age from 10 to 16. All three as noted earlier are music lovers and instrument players. My ten year old does know how to read and frequently looks over my shoulder at what I'm doing/reading online. 

Contrary to your perspective (doubtful you even have children),  not all 10 year olds know what "clusterfuck" means. And that probably is not appropriate language for a 10 year old. 

I never thought I'd see the day when I had to cover up my screen when my kid walks by to prevent her from seeing commentary by ASSHOLES. But I guess, that's where we're at. 

Please forgive me for noticing this. Maybe I"m late in the game and fuckups have been spreading their foul language on this site for some time. In any case, I'm now aware and prepared for that circumstance. Again, thanks for your useless opinion and glad you found something compelling enough for you to get off your fucking ass and participate.

music guy's picture

I think you're completely incorrect in your response..l used the Monkey spanking image as it is in line with the language and tone of Bitean's relatively juvenile prose.  That this language Is used is not offensive to me at all (I'm a big boy) but it is merely reductionist, juvenile and suggests a strangled, limited vocabulary.   It's unnecessary.

I'll shut up now

mauidj's picture



I was begining to think that I was becoming a grumpy old man after reading the recent writings (sic) of Ariel Bitran. So it's a bit of a relief to see that I'm not the only one completely unimpressed by his meandering and childish style.

I've been a reader of Stereohile for over 30 years and of course there have been ups and downs. Also not everyone can be pleased all the time. But having said that, I am rapidly become disechanted with the content of the magazine and web site.

As for Mr. Bitran's so called appology..."I'm sorry I offended you but" I'm going to use the F word somemore just to rub it in!!! 

More like a slap in the face or dare I say "FU readers"!

So if he can say what he wants then I can too.....Mr Bitran in my opinion you are no writer...or artist for that matter. The fact that you could only find the word in question out of the thousands available to you to discribe the situation is proof that you are no wordsmith. Your prose (and cartoons) are lame and rambling. It serves no purpose in entertaining or educating and at present is driving me from the magazine I have loved reading more than any other.

Keep up the good work!


melodichord's picture

Aww, mrplankton2u, you seem a little aggrivated now.  Maybe you need a nap.

mrplankton2u's picture

I'm actually enjoying this thoroughly... It's good to finally see some hot air bled out of the giant windbags at Stereophile purporting to do a service for the community that celebrates good music. Among other causes, it's been the unscrupulous support of sham tweak products and promotion of talentless writers that have caused the "audiophile community" to shrink. Recognizing you have a problem is the first step to fixing it. And I've been doing my part to hold up the mirror to this "journalistic entity" that is now celebrating 50 years of "service" to the community. Nobody likes criticism - constructive or otherwise. I'm sure these people don't appreciate getting an F (for fuckup) on their report card.  But in the end, I think they'd much rather get F's and keep their jobs then get faked A's and see readership continue to decline to the point of closing the doors.

john abramson's picture

There are a number of posters, myself included, who, were disappointed  with  AB's cruel attempt at writing.  Giving AB the benefit of a doubt, let's assume  that his shambling unprofessional writing style is a consequence of him having little to no experience with producing print quality journalism.  If AB  has a modicrum of writing talent, is he receiving any mentoring, as would any young writer? With all due respect, JA, has been absent from these posting exchanges.No doubt Ariel is a fine young man; but do readers have to be subjected to his high school level writing? All I ask for is professional grade writing. Most importantly the new Stereophile demographic deserves quality writing.

i expect just a bit of reconsideration, a shred of rehinking from AB, rather than his'know-it-all' rentrenchment in his adolescent rebuttal.l. Perhaps, I  set my expectations too high. In that case,  I am will continue to derive pleasure derived from reading Fred Kaplan and Robert Baird. My thanks to JA for keeping Fred and Bob on staff.

michaelavorgna's picture

By everyone who is offended!


Censorship is the work of McCarthy-loving dilettantes who prefer to drink milk from a bowl cowering on their knees rather than live free! OK maybe not but maybe those so easily offended who are in turn even more offensive are just overreacting because they have more sour grapes in tow than a truckload of farmhands can pick in a lifetime. "Pick me, pick me!"

Make wine, not whine.

Long live the word even if that word is clusterfuck!


music guy's picture

...that was clever.

mrplankton2u's picture

I'm not offended at all. I may have to minimize the screen when my kid comes by and looks over my shoulder to see what I'm reading - big fucking deal!  I just thought it was shitty (read: lacking imagination) writing and shittier editing. But now I'm offended that you think I'm offended...

: )


Btw Michael,

Your article "Reflections on the Audiophile Image" is my favorite to date. As good as it was, it would have been even better if you attempted to explain the role of trade rags like TAS and Stereophile in helping create a shrinking audiophile community of freaks and OCD sufferers.

JohnnyR's picture

.........to say STFU like he did in another thread? I mean Ariel is just mimicking Fearless Leader's language skills as of late. Please lets not use the term "shit faced" some people on the staff get peeved for some reason.

Regadude's picture

Yup, this thread is going down the crapper. Who is responsible? Well a member of Johnny's "troublemaker posse", Mrs Plankton. 

Wherever there is trouble on this site, Johnny, George or Plankton are usually front row and center...

mrplankton2u's picture

And what have you contributed?

"Great going guys....I love Rega turntables....your turntable review was downright inspiring..."

Over the past several months, I've posted a few congratulatory comments for well done artilces. Unfortunately, they have been few and far between as of late. Unlike you, for example, I don't consider Meijas' debut review of a VPI turntable - full of his personal relationship details to the manufacturer - to have been a credible work worthy of publishing.  It was rather an embarassment for a review magazine that wishes to present at least the outward appearance of objectivity, impartiality, and credibility. You on the other hand were thrilled with it - go figure. So we may have opposite viewpoints. I'm guessing my viewpoint is more mainstream as evidenced by steadily declining readership (Editor-in-Chief's assertions notwithstanding).

If you feel the need to heap accolades on Bitran's article, by all means - have at it. But your attempts to stifle dissenting view are just typical of the incestuous "our little club" bubble mentality that Stereophile and other trade rags have been fostering and living under. The current, tiny, stagnant audiophile community reflects that situation.

Btw, the article was shyt to begin with. And the three critics you love to antagonize are not the only ones voicing that opinion.

John Atkinson's picture

mrplankton2u wrote:
I'm guessing my viewpoint is more mainstream as evidenced by steadily declining readership (Editor-in-Chief's assertions notwithstanding).

As I have told you before, mrplankton2uyou are entitled to express your opinions, but not to disseminate falsehoods. Stereophile's readership is not declining. Here are Stereophile's ABC-audited circulations for the past 5 1/2 years:

2012 (first 6 months): 71,969
2011: 71,900
2010: 72,293
2009: 71,192
2008: 74,843
2007: 74,609

Yes it declined slightly from 2008 to 2009, but that was due to the recession that hit hard at the end of 2008.

It is fair to say that as Stereophile's circulation was >90,000 12 years ago, there has been a decline in the longer term. But that decline halted some years ago and the figures above show small variations around a mean for the past 4 years, ie, not a steady decline.

Any further attempts by you or other trolls to insist, without evidence, that Stereophile's readership is declining will be deleted without warning.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

JohnnyR's picture

........dissenters  who dare speak badly about Stereophile!!!!! Our perfect little world has been invaded by a "posse" of objectivists and free thinking people.........how horrid indeed!!!

Yes Regadude, you have found us out,we three decided to get together and post here. It's all a commie plot designed to infiltrate and take over.

Now that I have confessed to your intelligent sleuthing, I have some ocean front property I am willing to sell to you for  a bargain price!!!!!!!!

... the above was SARCASM. [Edited by John Atkinson to remove flame content, as JohnnyR was warned in other threads.]

bej's picture

Really, what's wrong with all you people? Is the use of "clusterfuck" threatening the moral fabric of america? does it mean the world is falling apart? It' shard to believe that this one article could cause you such a huge problem. 

If a minor sees a word like "clusterfuck", first, if they don't know what it is in the first place, then they won't know it when they see it, and if they do know it and you have done a good job educating your kids, then they will know it's a bad word (and that's also a relative term). 

Please, just state your opinions, respectfully, and move on. 

I enjoyed the article and will look up some of the bands. Thanks Ariel.

Twochannelman's picture

1. While the word in question is correctly described as a military term, this is not a military related publication; so it has no place in this publication.

2. The writer stated that he wanted to clarify where the term comes from and what it means as he admittedly assumed that most people would not be able to get the hang of what he is trying to describe. For those of us who do know all of that, regardless of how that knowledge came to be, I have this to say about it: I am an armed service veteran from the army active duty and the army reserves and the coast guard active duty, and as such, I have gladly defended and helped to maintain the freedoms and civil rights that we all thankfully still have as Americans. 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. What irritates me about this is that while I have the used the term too, the right to freedom of speech came with a dire price to many people who lost far more than what most of us ever will have to. That freedom to say or write such things as this article with the word in question may be this writer’s right, but the writer and his boss (Mr. Atkinson) would greatly benefit the readers if he applied a generous dosage of respect for others as he crafts his work so that the end result that is printed is actually relevant, appropriate (meaning no profanity or vulgarity of any kind or amount), and at least seems professional in skill levels and vocabulary as fitting for a writer.

3. The use of the word in question displays a complete, deliberate, and blatant lack of respect for every reader as profanity of any form and amount has no place in this publication; especially this word of profanity as it implies a sexual connotation to things, and this is not a sexually oriented publication.

4. The clearly obvious unrelated and unprofessional content (subject matters) of this writer’s article shows that this publication is getting further away from and already is so far away from what its original intention was: to have highly qualified professionals credibly and thoroughly review audio components in a beneficial and appropriate way so as to inform and educate readers for potential purchases and as the hobbyists that many of us are.

5. The supposed apology from this writer shows a complete lack of sincerity as he uses the word in question (or a portion of the word in question) several more times. If the writer has any true sense or humility and remorse, then the apology would not have attempted to justify, rationalize, explain, and condone the reasons for selecting and then using the word in question. Being married for eight years now has taught me that you do not offer an apology and then try to condone your actions or statements because it nullifies the apology. Either actually apologize by admitting wrong doing that should not have happened, as is the case here, and perhaps even ask to be forgiven for it, or offend the recipient(s) again by defending your position as was done with explicit terms and attitude.

6. This writer’s professional title is editorial assistant. He has a boss; the editor, whom he assists. We all know who this is: John Atkinson. It is the complete professional and moral failure and dereliction of duty of the editor to have even allowed this article to contain the word in question to begin with and to allow so many of these replies to contain it. If it is true and correct that the editor uses the internet term “STFU” to interact with people, then is that not a violation of the terms of conduct for these forums just as much as the word in question; be it from this writer or anyone replying to this article ? Profanity and sexually related content and subject matter have no place in this publication as they are not only irrelevant, but also simply inappropriate. Simply stated, John Atkinson has failed and has been completely irresponsible and negligent in his job to have allowed any of this. He is responsible.

7. Lastly, many of us readers have no interest at all in any of the subject matters of this article or so many others written by this writer and a few others as well. Many of us readers would simply like / prefer to be able to purchase a printed copy or log onto the website and find one component review after the next without any of what this article was about or contained and without any advertisements from manufacturers or dealers. Many of us readers are savvy enough to get on line and find the manufacturer’s site, find the nearest authorized dealer, and contact them that way. Perhaps removing the advertising would allow for more of what this magazine’s original intent was. Regarding that point, personally, I do not want to have to wade through one article after the next that is completely or substantially unrelated. Articles about the best guitar solos are pointless as they are merely opinion based to begin with from a writer who clearly has little command of this language to draw upon in spite of having an electronic thesaurus at his finger tips as we also do and that subject matter is covered by Guitar Player magazine. Stereophile has truly gone to the dogs and serves the gutter better than its readers. John Atkinson’s lack of addressing the use of the word in question in this article proves that he truly and completely does not care about the content unless it offends him or comes across as racism or something hatred based. While I hate no one, he has grossly failed us. If or when Mr. Atkinson edits my response(s), it will only serve to prove my point as being valid, correct, and truthful that much more.

John Atkinson's picture

Twochannelman wrote:
I am an armed service veteran from the army active duty and the army reserves and the coast guard active duty...

Thank you for your service. My brother-in-law is finally back in the US after having served in Afghanistan and my wife can finally stop holding her breath. 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.

Twochannelman wrote:
John Atkinson’s lack of addressing the use of the word in question in this article proves that he truly and completely does not care about the content unless it offends him or comes across as racism or something hatred based.

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.

Twochannelman wrote:
If it is true and correct that the editor uses the internet term “STFU” to interact with people, then is that not a violation of the terms of conduct for these forums just as much as the word in question; be it from this writer or anyone replying to this article ?

Yes, it was ill-advised of me to use this phrase. But if you read my entire posting at www.stereophile.com/content/50-years-stereophile?page=2 - it's the comment entitled "Trolls," posted on November 11, 2012 at 3:06pm - I was reaching the end of my tether with 3 people who, while not being readers of Stereophile, were despoiling the comments section with trolls and flames. They were both attacking other people and disrespecting the many talented people with whom I have had the privilege of working alongside since I took over from J. Gordon Holt as Stereophile's editor. If my usage bothers you but not the behavior I was condemning, then so be it.

Twochannelman wrote:
If or when Mr. Atkinson edits my response(s), it will only serve to prove my point as being valid, correct, and truthful that much more.

I haven't edited your comments. Where I have edited or deleted comments from others it is to get rid of flames and attacks on other readers. Note that I have given those posters fair warning that continued offensive behavior on their part would not be tolerated.

And "file a formal complaint"? I am not sure what you mean by that phrase. Please clarify.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

mrplankton2u's picture

Atkinson said:


"Yes, it was ill-advised of me to use this phrase. But if you read my entire posting at www.stereophile.com/content/50-years-stereophile?page=2 - it's the comment entitled "Trolls," posted on November 11, 2012 at 3:06pm - I was reaching the end of my tether with 3 people who, while not being readers of Stereophile, were despoiling the comments section with trolls and flames."


Really Atkinson? I'm not a reader of Stereophile? Who the fuck do you think you are? Do you follow me to the mall to see what magazines I buy at Borders? You've really thrown your considerable weight around here - calling those with constructive criticism "Trolls" because you don't like the message. Being Editor-in-Chief does not give you carte blanche to "kill the messenger" as you seem so intent on doing. You may stifle opinion on a forum such as this. But you will do so at your peril. People who have supported you and your employer have legitimate gripes. DEAL WITH HERE OR DEAL WITH IT AT THE NEWSTAND.

There are a lot of clusterfuck things in this world. Your warped sense of reality is certainly one of them. How dare you!

mrplankton2u's picture

Thank you for yor service to the country and your service to the community that appreciates the accurate reproduction of fine music. I agree whole heartedly - particularly with the part concerning a publication's duty to respect the reader. Given that the industry at large (can't blame just Stereophile) has been peddling things like Bybee Golden Goddess Speaker Bullets for years to balance the checkbook, it's pretty clear that principles such as respect for the reader/consumer have fallen by the way side a long time ago. The damage has been done but I hope it's not too late to correct course. It's easy to get buried in the anger, frustration, and sarcasm. But underneath all that, there is genuine concern for the future - making quality reproduced music accessible and affordable to all who seek it.  It's sometimes hard to envision a better future when every other add or press report seems to be covering a $10,000 preamp or $1500/meter power cords. But that should not discourage us from continuing to push for change - and a little  R-E-S-P-E-C-T.


Twochannelman's picture

Someone's right to say or write something stops at my right to not have to be subject to it; especially in an industry established publication where such subject matter and content was not an issue because it was written and edited by people who displayed fundamental respect and dignity to its readers. Sadly, here is proof that has changed. If this article with its subject matter and content and unskilled quality of writing is the current and futuristically accepted method or form, then I will gladly focus my attention and disposal income on its competitors such as The Absolute Sound or other credible and clean publications.

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

music guy's picture


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.

John Atkinson's picture

twochannelman wrote:
Why assume what you think is or will be acceptable instead of polling the readers to find out what actually is and is not?

An interesting question that I shall answer by quoting Henry Robinson Luce, founder of Time and Life magazines:

"Editors are men able to see how stories, episodes, and personalities flow and merge one into the other to reproduce the pattern of a world that only their own inner eye perceives."

In effect, the readers are polled each and every month on whether the world perceived by my inner eye conforms to their own vision. If it doesn't, I am out of a job. That is the only means of assessing the effectiveness of an editor.

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

mrplankton2u's picture

Mr. Atkinson....Mr. Atkinson.....

This is the world knocking on your bedroom door.....it's time to wake up....you've been sleeping for a very long time....time to wake up now and go to work - you've had enough time to nurse your hangover.



. Atkinson and the other snake oil peddlers have been dreaming away in heavenly advertiser slumber land for so long, they're starting to believe the promotional BS they've been slinging on a daily basis. I'd encourage the reader to take a good look at the recent  tube amp review (Rogers) to assess how accurate Mr. Atkinson's "inner eye' is. A poorly measuring, ridiculously priced, dinosaur technology antiquity whose volume control gets too hot to touch after an hour or so of operation - and these turds give that turd of an amplifier a :

"Very Higly Recommended"


Regadude's picture

Plankton, you don't think that getting this angry, and using such language for a non issue is inappropriate? Take a chill pill...

john abramson's picture

Twochannel man,

I offer the following understanding of ja's appproach to answering questions posted in this thread.

playing school yard basket ball ever so many years ago, we used a simple, common expression:"my basket ball, my rules, my game.  there is no option of appeal:  " it is what it is, and it ain't what it ain't".

your postings are  exercises in futility, regardless of how you word your requests.


Twochannelman's picture

It is sad, isn't it ?

john abramson's picture

I wish it was " sad". in my mind, ja's position is, unfortunately, authoritarian. as mel brooks put it in his film, "history of the world, part 1", "...hey. it's good to be the king".

alas, ja is the king and we his subjects. take  a look at the work of  max horkheimer, theodor adorno and herbert marcuse, founders of the frankfurt school (critical theory) in the 1920s and 30s.

take care and don't further waste your time. no doubt, you have more fruitful and productive labors that await your attention...as do i.



music guy's picture

...odd world when the customer is an ass and the salaried guy employed by the commercial fund is the boss...just, absolutely, totally, fucking odd...in fact it's a modern day clusterfuck...


let get just totally base together....where does it stop...?

music guy's picture

...this only shows how irrelevant this magazine and our share of the high end audio market is.  It appears that no one in an ownership position seems to cares.  Nothing to lose.

Whoever are the current owners of this particular financial vehicle, they don't seem to notice or care how it's managed.  So it is must only be a line on a financial report.

Imagine if a reporter from, say, Sport Illustrated wrote that stuff and then the editor showed up with a ridululous photo of himself drinking a silly drink and told their customers to just forget it and in so many words, to fuck off.  How long would they be employed?

Well, he must be well positioned or no one cares....

John Atkinson's picture

music guy wrote:
Imagine if a reporter from, say, Sport Illustrated wrote that stuff and then the editor showed up with a ridululous photo of himself drinking a silly drink and told their customers to just forget it and in so many words, to fuck off.

No-one from this magazine has told the readers of this blog to do any such thing. I have read all the comments, which I take seriously. I have discussed them with Ariel Bitran and other members of the editorial staff, and I have offered my own point of view. Ultimately I made the decision that while some people have been offended by his usage (including some, like you music guy, have who have used similar language in their own comments), on balance the usage in this blog was justifiable. If that means that some people will no longer read the print magazine, then that's unfortunate and, in my opinion, an over-reaction, but so it goes.

And I like my avatar photo! :-)

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

music guy's picture

...this is ridiculous...

GeorgeHolland's picture

"If that means that some people will no longer read the print magazine, then that's unfortunate and, in my opinion, an over-reaction, but so it goes."

Such an attitude shows how little you respect the readership. But so it goes,

John Atkinson's picture

GeorgeHolland wrote:
Such an attitude shows how little you respect the readership. But so it goes,
With almost 72,000 readers, I cannot allow just one reader's needs to dictate the magazine's policies and contents, I am afraid. It is the aggregate needs that of necessity must concern an editor.

And please note that Stereophile  is no more a Christian magazine than it is a Jewish or Islamist or Buddhist one. My apologies if our secular nature offends anyone's specific beliefs but so it goes.

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

Les's picture

I get the sense you are waiting for some form of an apology and/or meting out of some punishment. I can't speak for the publishers, but I seriously doubt what you are expecting/hoping for is forthcoming, which leaves you basically with just 2 choices: a) continue to be deeply offended b) move on to other fine publications like TAS, as you have pointed out. My advice is to go with b).  

It is very clear that the article/the word deeply offended your Christian values, morals and sensibility, which you have rightfully, albeit most didactically, made known. I can understand and respect that, actually. But to be continued to be offended in the face of no possibility of resolution, makes you seem almost a glutton for punishment. You have made your feelings known, in the most verbose way, all to no avail. Any more, and it would just be self-flagellation.

You are at an impasse, and the choice is yours. Stereophile, for better or worse, is what it is, and ultimately it doesn't owe you or me a thing. Save yourself, please. Find yourself where your diginity is not assaulted.

Twochannelman's picture

This magazine; be it in print or on line is no longer worth my time or money. The standards are set in place by an editor who values himself more than the readers and encourages his subordinates to do the same along with defending and speaking for his "oddly silent and uninvolved protege" Mr. Bitran. Neither man has the willingness to do business in noble ways, as has been clearly stated and proven. 

I made my attempts to legitimately point out gross errors in judgement, poor journalism, inspire improvement, correction, and proper and fair reproof, but as you said so well; without success. I, and none of us as we all now realize, could have succeeded with someone like Mr. Atkinson at the helm and in the captain's chair. People in this blog or forum have said that it is good for Mr. Atkinson to be "king". He is not a good king though as he is quite fond of asserting his position and values to maintain his preferences, comfort zone, and standards of conduct; which are lewd and unGodly, over the readers as if we are his subjects to bow down to him, his dominion, and his ways. I shall not. Historically, "bad" kings have usually been dethroned; often times due to their own pride and haughty spirit via ways that are thoroughly humbling. I am reminded of scripture that states, "Let no unwholesome talk come from your lips." ... or fingers via typed trash. I dare these people to apply the principles of the Bible and see how the magazine would flourish in accordance to the promises of God's for obedience to His Word and authority and models for how to do business and conduct yourself. Judgement of persons is left to Him, but as His child, we are given not only the right but also the command to judge the behavior and conduct of others and to not have anything to do with them. That being said, I bid a no longer fond adeiu (read that as a deeply engrained contempt and complete professional and personal disrespect for) to these writers for good as neither they, nor their worsening expressions of repulsion, deserve my attention. As Job promised God, I shall set no graven images before my eyes. This, to me, is graven and has only gotten worse. As the scriptures also says, their mouths are as open graves. So is what they "say" via their typed articles in print or on line. Trash.

I personally believe that this writer's and Mr. Atkinson's choices and indifference violates the basic civil rights of the readers to not be subject to what this article deliberately subjected us all to. It is my heartfelt desire that this man and his protege be put out of business; quickly and permanently. It seems that they both missed their true callings and have many of the character traits and values befitting presidential candidates and politicians in general. At least then they could be voted out of office.

Lastly, it is cowardly and irresponsible for Mr. Bitran to not have responded as he has been challenged and requested by more than me, and also a sign of professional and personal indifference to let or have Mr. Atkinson do nearly all of the talking for him. It is analogous to the perpetrator having his attorney represent him, and is therefore inherently and significantly pathetic. How his "mouth spoke so loudly when he used the phrase that he did to begin this travesty with its resultant decline. Now, once challenged and confronted in force by multiple responders, he replies a mere two times up to this point and then goes silent while "big daddy" comes to town.

Someone posted in here that it is no surprise that mr. Atkinson feels the ways that he does about this as he has abusiness to ruin; which he shall in due time. That is one demise that will no longer sadden me as all of us readers thankfully retain our rights to reject them and their ways for what we actually value, want, and approve of.

Twochannelman's picture

I (a mere commoner / peasant within your kingdom) am giving you my permission to terminate my membership / account / user ID for this site and all of its contents effective immediately as I no longer have any desire to be involved due to what I have learned and realized. It was a waste of time. I think I'll get a two year subscription to TAS and send a thank you letter to Robert Harley for printing that which is acceptable to me.

In no uncertain terms ... good bye.

john abramson's picture


my quote of the mel brooks line, re being the king, was merely a comedic line to clarify how ja does his job, yes indeedy- do, ja understands the powers of kingship; and wields that power as he sees fit..

as long as you do understand my usage, have a good journey.


mrvco's picture

Obviously we need some sort of Hays Code for blog posts enlightened

JohnnyR's picture

[Flame content deleted by John Atkinson]Please tell me WHY you delete my posts about it if it's not true?

John Atkinson's picture

JohnnyR wrote:
Please tell me WHY you delete my posts about it if it's not true?

You have been warned multiple times not to post offensive and abusive comments, JohnnyR. I will delete all such posts of yours (and others) that in my judgment meet that description. If you continue, you will be prevented from posting to this site.

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

JohnnyR's picture

All I did was copy and paste what YOU posted Atkinson. This is just silly.

John Atkinson's picture

JohnnyR wrote:
All I did was copy and paste what YOU posted Atkinson. This is just silly.
Plus add a snide little jab, JohnnyR, which is why I deleted your post. We have cut you an enormous amount of slack, but if you continue to post flames, you will be banned.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

Regadude's picture

Little Johnny is in deep... He can't behave, he will get the boot! smiley

GeorgeHolland's picture

As usual, your mature responses on here are a shining example.

John Atkinson's picture

RegaDude and GeorgeHolland, I have just deleted an exchange between the two of you that was flames. If you continue to behave like children, I will continue to delete your postings.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

Twochannelman's picture

Now get it done.

Ariel Bitran's picture

Your account has been deleted.

Any posts will remain on the website to serve as an archive for the conversation.

Your comments were appreciated. Thanks for your participation.