The Ultimate Index v3.0 – The Innerspace Labs Media Exploration Master Workbook is LIVE!

It’s been a magnificently productive day at Innerspace Labs and we’ve reached what is to date our most prestigious milestone. I published a feature last March about the evolution of my life-long list-making of sound works, cinema, and literature that I’ve been meaning to explore. These lists also served to touch upon some of the special collections in my archive.

In the previous article I described how this process began with leather pocket journals, and as the scale of my library grew I began to publish annual print editions itemizing large collections.

Innerspace Labs Archive Index Books 2013

Innerspace Labs 50 Top Artists Book

These efforts were radically transformed several years ago when I migrated to Google Drive. But as the years passed and spreadsheets and documents multiplied, it rapidly became apparent that I needed to consolidate all of these various lists into a single, deep searchable index otherwise countless lists would be forgotten and disappear into the digital void of my Google Drive.

Thus began the Innerspace Labs Master Workbook project this past spring. Though this venture posed several new dilemmas. As the workbook grew to nearly 200 tabs, I received this error stating that Google Workbooks are limited to 5 million or fewer cells.

Google Error 5 Million Cells Spreadsheet Workbook.png

And it quickly became evident that navigation of all those tabs was painfully arduous in the mobile environment, as was its loading time. Thankfully, after careful research into various potential solutions, I’ve implemented a system of scripts and formula expressions which make navigating this large workbook a snap and its interactive response time nearly instantaneous.

By combining over 200 named ranges, and incorporating a primary dynamic drop-down and a dependent secondary drop-down field, along with an “=INDIRECT(CONCATENATE” expression calling named ranges based on user input, I’m now able to hide and lock all but one master sheet and made the entire workbook navigable from that single homepage.

The home sheet offers the user a primary drop-down of LITERATURE, SOUND, or VIDEO, which in turn controls a secondary dependent drop-down to populate and auto-alphabetize a list of all related content for that category.

I’ve also employed a script which is triggered by Google Clock to rescan the entire workbook for newly-added lists and to automatically incorporate them into the search fields alphabetically and by category as the workbook continues to grow.

I understand that it may not have significant value to anyone other than myself, but it’s intended to serve as a reference document along with the over 200-pages of archive summaries I’ve drafted in a companion Google Doc. With this easy-to-reference Workbook, I can pull up a list in seconds and start exploring. My hope is that the project helps introduce me to some spectacular content and that it helps me rediscover forgotten areas of my library.

The next phase of the project is to apply uniform formatting to all lists, as these were drafted independently over the course of nearly a decade, so I apologize for the crudity of its present format. And of course, there may be errors or omissions among the lists. But you know that I’ll work tirelessly to make this project as accurate and accessible as I can.

Here is a link to a copy of the latest version. It showcases and attempts to organize ~26,000 of the most noteworthy elements of my personal library and related subjects of interest. All cells are locked for editing except the two dynamic drop downs, which is sufficient for general users to explore and interact with the document. It’s far from perfect, but it’s a labor of love that I will continue to work on and which I hope will enrich my life as it continues to expose me to some of the greatest works of the ages.

The Ultimate Index: The Innerspace Labs Media Exploration Master Workbook

February has been a whirlwind of productivity and I’m excited to share the results of my efforts. Thus far I’ve introduced five projects. First I discovered that the disk snapshot solution I’d been employing for my server would no longer work at its current scale, so I had to research and implement a new solution. Once that was a success, I set myself to the task of merging and updating two music database systems I’d created years apart on two different operating systems. That was an incredible challenge.

The next three projects were featured here at Innerspace Labs – first the Nipper RCA “His Master’s Voice” project, then the six-hour drone high-fidelity ambient experiment with Eno’s Music For Airports, followed by the Fred Deakin archive update. But it was the sixth subsequent undertaking which would consume countless late night hours as the latest project continuously exploded in scope and scale, each time introducing new challenges to test my problem-solving skills.

For as long as I’ve been breathing, I’ve been compiling and organizing lists of all manners of subjects. I thrive creating order from chaos – chronicling and curating media of the 20th-century. As a young man, I penned lists in leather pocket journals but was frustrated by the fixed and static state of the data one committed to the page. I quickly graduated to Microsoft Office and then to LibreOffice, and by 2013 began self-publishing books of collected lists and spreadsheets to document the progress of my archive.

Innerspace Labs Archive Index Books 2013

Innerspace Labs 50 Top Artists Book

But the true game-changer came when I adopted the Google suite of apps, most notably Google Docs, Sheets, and the Google Keep task manager. These applications introduced undo history, increased accessibility, and most importantly, shareability to my list-making efforts.

Still, the seamless convenience of Google Drive came with a caveat – scores of lists once generated were quickly forgotten, and the sheer number of them made Google Keep and Google Calendar reminders cumbersome and an ineffective method of managing them at this scale. What I came to realize was that dozens of quality sets of information were disappearing into the digital black void of a Google Drive overrun with lists.

That’s what inspired this latest project. I decided to survey my entire history of list-making, compiling databases created in a wide array of formats and constructed on multiple platforms over the years, and to merge them all into a single workbook on Google Sheets. It was an incredible challenge, as the formatting of the data varied tremendously from .M3U to .PUB to raw .TXT to .XLS to proprietary database systems built for Windows XP (OrangeCD), to web-based database systems like Discogs and Goodreads which each offered .CSV exports.

To depict folder-structure-based organizational systems, (commonly employed for artists and label discographies), I utilized tree -d list.txt for large libraries. To extract %artist% and %title% metadata from RYM toplist playlists I’d constructed, I developed a spreadsheet combining four formulas to pull nth row values and to truncate “#EXTINF:###,” expressions and file paths from .M3U lists outputting a clean list of tracks.

In October of 2017 I’d authored The Innerspace Labs Journal: A Listener’s Guide to Exploration in Google Docs as a contextual survey of my larger collections. It spans eighty-four pages and includes an active hyperlinked TOC with an X.XX indexing structure and served my needs well for the past two years, but for simple down-and-dirty lists a spreadsheet seemed like a more accessible format.

Screenshot of Innerspace Labs Journal A Listener's Guide to Exploration

And so I constructed this latest effort – The Innerspace Labs Media Exploration Master Workbook – a cloud-based 180-tab set of spreadsheets combining all of my list data into a single, searchable, sharable index with a hyperlinked Table of Contents for easy navigation. The interface is intuitive, it loads lightning fast on even the most modest of systems and across all browsers and platforms, is mobile-friendly, and it will continue to grow as new content is introduced to my library.

The TOC is segmented into four primary themes:

  1. Literature and Essays
  2. Cinema and Television
  3. Sound Pt 1: Music Surveys, Best-Of Lists, and Guides
  4. Sound Pt 2: Artist Discographic Chronologies, Audiobooks, and Old-Time Radio Dramas

While a few of the tabs contain hyperlinks to lists from multi-page sites which do not send themselves well to text extraction, I’ve done my best to embed as much of the information as possible locally in the workbook, itself and to keep the layout consistently uniform to facilitate navigation and clarity.

Screenshot of Innerspace Labs Media Exploration Master Workbook

Unlike the self-published books or the somewhat daunting length of the Journal, this workbook is simple and localizes the data a viewer is most interested in exploring to a single, plaintext sheet for quick and easy reference. The shareability is key to aiding curious listeners/viewers in finding quality content relevant to their interests, and it is simultaneously a tool to empower me to delve into the many areas of my own library which I’ve yet to explore.

This is a milestone for Innerspace Labs, and I will continue to refine and expand the project into the future.

Beyond Big Cable: Millennial Viewers Ditch Network Packages and opt for Greater Value with Streaming Services

roku tv

For as long as we can remember there has existed a well-established monopoly whereby consumers have little or often no choice between high-priced cable packages offered by a small handful of national providers.  Broadbandnow reports that five major companies provide service to nearly 250 million customers in the US. And Comcast dominates the market with a staggering 113 million customers in 40 states.  The resulting market is one of ever-increasing prices, preposterous service fees, and abysmal customer service, all at the expense of the consumer.

Fortunately, if current media consumer trends are any indication, none of that matters anymore.

“Cord-Cutting Is Accelerating!” proclaimed the Wall Street Journal this month, citing that, by 2018, 21% of U.S. Households won’t pay for traditional TV.  The feature includes a foreboding line graph with a plummeting projection of cable subscription rates in the years ahead.

And honestly – who can blame consumers for jumping the sinking ship of traditional TV when a streaming cruiseliner comes sailing by?

To set the stage for this sea change of service subscriptions, let’s look at the market as it stands today.

A FEW PRICING FACTS FROM BIG CABLE

The National Average for a Cable Package in the US:

Starter packages run $50-$65/mo while premium packages run $68-$127/mo.

Add to that $6-$8 per mo. in fees for your HDTV cable boxes.  An HD DVR receiver will cost you another $10-$16 per month.  Service to additional rooms or outlets range from $7-$10 each.  And if you want the premium channels you’ll have to shell out an additional $10-$15 per channel per month.

That quickly adds up to a whole lot of money for a passive-feed of non-interactive, commercial-loaded content, which is precisely what Thomas Pecoraro of Western NY thought in 2003 when he was shelling out $130 a month for cable and HD premium channels with Dish Network.  “I really wasn’t using 90% of the content,” Tom explained.  In 2006 his growing dissatisfaction would inspire him to explore the then brand-new concept of streaming media from AOL/Time Warner’s In2TV.com.  

In2TV was an ad-supported stream of content from the Warner Brothers archives.  Tom quickly realized that he could patch an S-video cable from his laptop to his CRT television and enjoy this web-sourced content on his television set.  “The early 5-14Mb/s broadband was not a reliable connection,” noted Tom.  “You could play what you want when you wanted it, but there was heavy pixelization and frame drop abound.”

That same year, WB.com began offering similar free retro cartoons and sitcoms.  It was the early days of streaming, and networks were testing the technology with archival content that they couldn’t otherwise capitalize upon at the time.  “What a lot of consumers don’t realize,” Tom  noted, “is that Time Warner’s IN2TV streaming service was the precursor to Netflix.”

In 2007, Netflix added streaming to their DVD rental subscription service, and by 2008, they made a deal with Starz to expand their catalog.  “They had Give Me a Break, Charles in Charge and a variety of other programs,” said Tom.  “It was exciting to revisit my childhood shows on demand.”

The Next Step: Roku

“As soon as Roku was launched in 2008 I bought the very first model,” said Tom.  “It made it so much easier to access media content.”  At the time he had both Netflix’s DVD and streaming packages for a total of $16 a month.  With the ease of accessibility Roku offered, Tom quickly cancelled the DVD portion of his subscription and kept the streaming service for $8 a month.

“The beauty of Roku,” Tom explained, “was that it was an affordable, one-time investment.”   That same year Tom purchased a Google TV, but the service faced challenges.  “It had a keyboard interface and a browser to search various networks for streamable content.  Many offered programs at the time, but when the networks realized that Google was accessing and distributing their media for free, they unanimously decided to block Google TVs from receiving their media.”  

“Roku approached access rights differently.  They steered clear of network content.  Roku made deals with providers, podcasts, and with Archive.org to ensure that there were no issues with the content.  That’s a big contributor to why Roku came out on top.”

Hulu Enters the Arena

Hulu was the next step in an experiment of networks streaming their own content on their own terms.  It began as a web-based portal of content where networks could supply old and new content without worry of maintaining multiple websites while simultaneously introducing a new avenue of content distribution, so they let anyone sign up to watch the content for free.  

But as new streaming boxes and “media PCs” premiered on the market, each pointing to online content (such as Google TV and Boxee Box), the networks became frightened at their loss of control of distribution.  They began blocking IPs for Hulu and other non-computer devices.  Hulu created “Hulu Plus” for Roku, smart TVs, DVD/Blu-ray players and game systems (and any other market offering competitor Netflix’s content).  

“Individuals like me who watched the web version of Hulu saw Hulu Plus as a joke and a scam,” noted Tom.  “Why pay for Hulu Plus when you would see ads running on their service?  After years of this nonsense and the fear of SlingTV, HBO and others entering the ring, Hulu Plus rebranded Hulu for both the web version and the streaming boxes introducing a new $12 ad-free tier as well as a premium tier for movies from the usual suspects – much like the market of the early years of cable.”

Dish Network – Too Little Too Late

In early 2015, Dish Network launched their SlingTV service (not to be confused with the SlingBox).  The basic package offers 19 channels for $20.  Marketed as “The Best of Live TV,” SlingTV features general interest content like food, sports, and travel.  And, like its competitors, SlingTV also offers premium tiers for children’s programming, sports, and movies for an additional fee.  But it’s passive live streaming, just like regular TV but distributed over the internet.  The basic $20 package gives you access on only a single device, and it’s riddled with commercials.  There’s really no reason to explore this option unless you’re satisfied with passive content.  “SlingTV exists solely for members of the older generation who wish to break free of their cable contracts but want the familiarity of traditional television,” Tom observed.  

Amazon Prime – Great Value For Its Price Point

To compete with Netflix, Amazon in the early days offered a simple rental plan of $4 a movie.  They later launched Prime with free streaming of older video content.  If you order products with any regularity from Amazon then Prime already pays for itself in the money you save on shipping.  Today’s annual rate of $99 is still a great value for their library of content.

Adding It All Up – Streaming vs Traditional Cable

Tom has tried every major streaming service available in his area since the advent of streaming in the early 2000s.  Today he has subscriptions to several content providers, making his monthly bill an excellent case study for a comparison of old services vs new.

Tom kept Hulu for $8 a month because they offer Japanese and 70s sci-fi content that he would otherwise spend far more to purchase outright.  

He also utilizes the free ad-supported Crackle service on Roku which offers a variety of movies, TV shows, and anime.  “It’s a one-stop shop for great content,” said Tom.

An avid fan of Japanese programming, Tom also pays for 3 premium anime services via Roku – Funamation ($8), CrunchyRoll ($6), and Anime Network (also $6).  Together, these services provide a wealth of content both old and new from Japan.

Tom also enjoys content from numerous other providers catering to niche interests.  Services such as:

  • TwitCh – for Gaming
  • <>.TV diamondclub.TV – a community of fan-based content and a video podcast channel
  • Frogpants – similar to diamondclub
  • TuneIn – free radio
  • Livestream – for live broadcasts
  • IHeartRadio – free radio and music stations
  • Archive.org (an unofficial third-party channel) for their unparalleled library of public domain content
  • Presto – the best of HBO and Showtime for a low monthly rate
  • the Google Play Store
  • and PBS

The one-time purchase of the Roku and annual $99 Amazon Prime fees aside, Tom’s total monthly cost for all this content is $35.  All of the media is on-demand and much of it commercial-free.  Compared to his $130 Dish Network cable contract, cutting the cord was a no-brainer.

image(1).jpg
Thomas Pecoraro – Cable-free since 2013

A Nationwide Trend

In Oct 2013 Statista.com reported that 43% of users age 18-36 opted for Netflix while 46% utilized traditional cable packages.  I asked Tom whether he believed there will still be a market for cable in 10 years’ time.

“It’s not a black or white Netflix question,” he answered. “It depends on whose stats you read.  But in 1979 networks were frightened about the new concept of cable television.  It’s the same scare now.  They’ve always been slow to change and the technology shows no sign of slowing down for them.”

I’m curious, as I know my readers span a variety of ages and demographics.  Have you cut the cord as well?  To my younger readers – did you grow up with an entirely post-cable experience?

And what is your media center interface of choice?  Do you prefer XBMC?  Plex.tv?  Or Roku?

Whatever you use, it is wonderful to see consumers empowered by a new era of media technology.

First 25 LPs at the New Lair

Greetings friends!  It’s been a crazy month but I’m finally moved into my new Lair (which you can check out here).  I apologize for neglecting the blog but I’m back with the last 25 LPs I’ve picked up.

One of the first people I met at the new apartments is close personal friends with Mark Burgess of the Chameleons, and we went out to the first goth night at a club in town.  She turned me on to proto-industrial, post punk and minimal wave music and so I assembled a collection of 319 essential albums from artists like Cabaret Voltaire, the Chameleons, Einstürzende Neubauten, Fad Gadget, Muslimgauze, the Residents, Solid Space, Suicide, Television, The Normal, Throbbing Gristle and others.

As luck would have it, I stumbled upon two NM Chameleons singles at a flea market two days later!

Chameleons, The - As High As You Can Go

Chameleons, The - Singing Rule Britannia (While The Walls Close In)

Just before the move, I found a little hole-in-the-wall used record shop which had sprung up in town.  I was delighted to find a few LPs I’d had on my list for some time, and I traded a small pile of duplicates and got them all free!

Hugo Montenegro - A Fistful of Dollars
I have his Moog LP and this was a wonderful addition to my library.

St.-Elmos-Fire
St. Elmo’s Fire – filed beside my copy of The Breakfast Club Soundtrack

Best of BBC Themes
Best of BBC Themes 2LP (feat. the original Doctor Who Theme)

Jimmy Castor Bunch - Supersound
Jimmy Castor Bunch – Supersound.  Funky!

Jimmy Castor Bunch - Butt of Course
But THIS was the Castor EP I’d been after!  “The Bertha Butt Boogie!”

The next two record stores I visited each had a few Miles Davis LPs I had been looking for, and I picked up each for no more than $4 apiece.  I am trying to assemble the complete Columbia recordings on vinyl.

Miles Davis - Round About Midnight

Miles Davis Sextet - Jazz at the Plaza

Miles Davis - Porgy and Bess (6 eye)
The week of the move I visited my old home town to pick up my items from storage and happened upon still another new record shop.  I was blown away to find a mint original press of Portishead – Portishead, Tom Waits’ Big Time (one of the few discs I was missing), and, believe it or not, The Black Rider!

Portishead - Portishead

This is an absolutely essential Trip Hop / Downtempo disc of the 90s and was a proud addition  to my collection.

Here’s the biggest hit from the album, “Only You” performed live in NYC.

Tom Waits - Big Time

I don’t know how I’d gone this long without ordering a copy of Big Time.  What a great disc!

I had to pass on the copy of The Black Rider, however as it was stickered at $100 and I needed to pay for the U-Haul that day.  Next time, Gadget.  Next time.

I received a few Discogs alerts for classic singles I’d always wanted from Underworld (I have over 250 of their releases between vinyl, CD and FLAC.)  Not passing up another opportunity I grabbed them both.

The first to arrive was the limited white vinyl edition of “Rez”/”Cowgirl”, two of their best-known songs.  This copy was still in its original shrink.

Rez Cowgirl

Here is the best-ever live performance of the two tracks, from the Everything Everything Live DVD.

But the real treasure came two days ago – an original first pressing of JBO29 – the first single featuring “Born Slippy.nuxx”.

Born Slippy Nuxx jbo29

If the title of this floor-stomping anthem isn’t familiar, you might know it better as “that song from Trainspotting.”

Next I visited my favorite antique market and didn’t hesitate when I found Steve Reich’s Desert Music.  I have a huge thing for 20th century minimalism and the next box set I buy will be Philip Glass’ Einstein on the Beach.

Steve Reich - Desert Music

I did make it to a record show just before the move and didn’t get a chance to post the one item from my list which I was able to find.  I’ve been on a HUGE experimental German music kick and felt like a kid at Christmas when I found Amon Düül II’s Phallus Dei on vinyl.

Amon Duul II - Phallus Dei
File under “creepy German psych shit.”

Also in the mail last week was a milestone recording – Nick Drake’s Pink Moon.  I had recently purchased a mint pressing from the late 2000s but flipped it for cash to order this elusive pink wax pressing as soon as I saw it post to discogs.

Nick Drake - Pink Moon

Speaking of colored vinyl I also sold off my mint sealed Spiritualized Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space 2LP and quickly snatched up a copy of the same album on blue vinyl, a Record Store Day release from 2010.

Spiritualized - Ladies and Gentlemen (Blue Vinyl RSD 2010)

This is my all-time favorite shoegaze record.  There is also a fantastic 3CD expanded edition which I highly recommend.

In my recent travels I’ve also been looking for Ken Nordine’s Colors and Word Jazz LPs.  So far I’ve only found Son of Word Jazz, but rest assured, I will find the others.

Ken Nordine - Son of Word Jazz
The interest in Ken Nordine was rekindled when I heard his guest vocals on DJ Food’s Kaleidoscope, an early release on Ninja Tune which I couldn’t resist ordering.

DJ Food - Kaleidoscope
Here’s the track feat. Ken Nordine – “Aging Young Rebel.”

Still on the Ninja Tune kick I ordered an original pressing of Cinematic Orchestra’s Remixes LP as well as the pressed-to-order reissue of their greatest album – Motion.

Cinematic Orchestra - Remixes

Cinematic Orchestra - Motion

And finally, I received another discogs alert when a seller posted the first two limited edition mint Black Swan drone music LPs for a total of only $15 including shipping!  The first, In 8 Movements was limited to 300 copies worldwide, and the second (my favorite) – The Quiet Divide was pressed on red vinyl and limited to 100 copies.  What a steal!

If you’re into drone this is some killer music.

Black Swan - In 8 Movements

Black Swan - The Quiet Divide (ltd ed red vinyl 100 copies)

Special thanks to The_Dig for kicking me in the butt to get blogging again.  So sorry I’ve been gone so long, but thanks for sticking with me!

It’s good to be back.