Moving lines

August 20, 2021
 by Paul McGowan

As we’re growing up it’s our job as children to test limits. How far can I go before my fingers get burned or I get caught?

As a parent, I was greatly pleased (as well as amused) watching my four sons stretching their boundaries. I would often give them at least two shots at upping their game before I would draw the proverbial line in the sand. While one doesn’t want to stymie their growth, there needs to be some sort of guidelines for them to grow with.

Once the line in the sand had been drawn they’d inevitably ask me what would happen if they crossed over and my answer was always the same.

“I think you should cross it and find out.” The threat seemed enough for them to never challenge it.

(Truth was, I had no clue what punishment I would inflict.)

I think that as we grow older we tend to move our lines in the sand to better fit our experience and knowledge.

How many times have I declared I would never consider doing something like giving up the clarity of the electrostat, listening through high-end headphones, or moving from vinyl to digital?

Our boundaries are all made up. They help us tell our story.

They are not always so easy to move but knowing they are self-imposed helps.

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33 comments on “Moving lines”

  1. You could’ve threatened them with a strictly vegan diet!

    Stubbornness, dislike of change, lack of understanding.
    I was swayed to move my whole music library from vinyl to digital (CD) back in 1987 because there was no grove/surface noise (snap, crackle, pop) with CDs & the dynamics were so-o-o much better.
    My very first CD Player was a Toshiba XR-40 (1984) & it was far from harsh, given that I had a Luxman PLD-264 with a Pickering XVS-3000 cartridge to compare it to.
    If something sounds better to me, then I don’t have a problem moving that line in the sand; which is why I don’t stream.

  2. As an identical twin, my brother and I tested our teachers’ limits many times. We got all “A”s except “D”s in deportment. As a pair we were so disruptive in the classroom that they separated us into different classrooms when we reached the fifth grade. We were smart enough to gage when our teachers were near their breaking points, and charmed our way out of any visits to the Principal’s office. Even in my professional career, whenever there was a classroom training session I reverted back to my childhood antics, testing the instructor’s patience, tripping them up with loaded questions, injecting humor and diversions into their boring lectures. As a faculty member at two major universities and a trainer later in my career, I appreciated students who added that kind of lively spark to the classroom. Sorta like the kids on “Welcome Back Kotter.”

  3. I don’t know how many of you, are old enough to remember these.
    Paul, I know you are, so no worries there.
    I grew up in a home, where there was a large stack of 8track tapes.
    But even at the age of 3, something to me, just didn’t sound right about them.
    But later on at the age of 6, I discovered an open reel tape recorder behind the pulpit of my dad’s church.
    I wanted to take that, and compare it to the sound of 8tracks.
    I discovered that, I liked those better then 8tracks, because they didn’t wobble while they were playing.
    I thought many times, my dad was gonna choo me out for even putting a finger on that recorder.
    But to my surprise, he didn’t say a word to me about even touching it.
    But expounding upon what FR was talking about, I bought my very first CD and CD player when I was 13.
    But something about the sound of CD’s just didn’t sound right to me in 1985.
    And so, I held on to both vinyl and tape until about 1993 or so.
    But by that time, I couldn’t see how to play a record without scratching it, so I let that part of listening to music go.
    And also, in the early 1990’s, records were becoming harder and harder to find.
    And so, I switched back and fourth from CD’s to tapes.

    1. John, you were a PK. So was I. One of my father’s pastoral duties was to supervise the chimes that played hymns each morning to remind people in the community that they should go to church. The chimes were just a recording on vinyl, played by a timer-activated integrated turntable/amplifier connected to a pair of loudspeakers in the base of the steeple. Sometimes the needle would get caught in a rut and skip, repeating the same notes over and over again until my father walked the 1/2 block from the parsonage to the church to move the needle. Sometimes the timer malfunctioned and the chimes would come on in the middle of the night. Those irritating, scratchy chime records blared throughout the town for several years until the player died. So much for vinyl trying to substitute for live performance. I think today there are more reliable digital versions of fake chimes for church towers and steeples.

      1. Good morning JosephLG!
        The tape recorder that my dad had, was a vacuum tube 4track recorder that he bought in 1957.
        It was an old Empex recorder.
        He used it to tape his sermons just so that, he could have them broadcasted on one of the loco radio stations here in Lake City.
        He ended up giving me the tape recorder right along with his old BOGEN DS-265 tube amp, for my tenth birthday.
        The amplifier right now, is being rebuilt.
        And as for those chimes, I once saw a website that let you download just about any sound afect.
        However, the audio file type, was always, MP3.
        I believe, the name of that site, was Sound Ideas.
        I don’t know if it’s still up and running thoe.

        1. My father had a tube reel-to-reel tape recorder as well, circa 1957. It and the tapes are long gone. I remember the peculiar smell of the tape recorder and reels. I also remember the electronic smell of vintage tube receivers and tube testers. I don’t know what it is about vintage tube circuits that gives them that characteristic odor.

          1. Good afternoon JosephLG!
            I don’t know the whole story behind that either.
            But I did have a man God rest him, that yoost to live up the road from us.
            When I was about 11 or 12, I had a really long conversation with him about things like that.
            In 1936, this man worked for RCA Victer at the time.
            He told me about this special spray, that was oil baste.
            They would spray that all over the outside and inside of the equipment before they packed it up, and got it all ready for shipment.
            But right today, that is, if I cared to pay close attention to it, I still smell that when I turn on my vintage Fisher 800 receiver.
            I would still be playing my Fisher 400, if only I could find a replacement matched set of 7868 tubes for it.

        1. Such was life in mid-century small town America. Another awakening sound at night was the volunteer fire department siren calling firemen to the station, and then the sound of the old pumper fire truck cranking up. Many of us would throw coats over our pajamas, jump in cars or on bicycles and follow the fire truck to watch the house or barn burn down. If it was a home the whole community would pitch in and assist the family with food, clothing, shelter and money. The population of our town was only 1,100 people, a little larger than Hooterville.

  4. “How far can I go… before I get caught?” Apparently, at least in the US, all the way to Secretary of Defense, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, or even the Presidency. Good luck to all.

  5. When it comes to audio, if it sounds good or “better” to you then there should be no concern about crossing any line.

    In life there are plenty of lines that shouldn’t be crossed. (Both moral and societal)

  6. The line in the sand was not proverbial, it was drawn by Mark Sykes and Francois Picot in 1916. It split the Ottoman Empire in two, so was a dividing line rather than a safety line.

    That said it was not a straight line, it was a bad idea, a nice theory but of no practical value.

  7. Let’s just say that I was a very problematic child and leave it at that. As to audio, my wife tries to draw the line on my audio gear and most of all on how many vinyl LP’s I have. I currently have about 4000 and I expect more in a few days.

    All this discussion of lines reminds me of when my wife and I were newlyweds and had this silly idea ( we are both suppose to be very smart people ). We had a young cat that we wanted to keep out of the living room where my first stereo system was. Silly us, we put up a four foot high board to keep the cat out of the living room. The nine month old cat came to the board, wiggled its hind quarters and jumped over the board as easily as you or I would walk up steps. My wife and I looked at each other and wondered how could we be so dumb.

      1. Actually, I think quiet the opposite is what the cat thought. When we went to bed that evening I took down the board after the cat had jumped over it several times in both directions. The cat always slept with us at the bottom of the bed. When we got up the next morning the cat went out to the hall to find the board gone. He sniffed around the area where it had been as if to say ” where is the jumping board, I was having fun jumping”. Of course, no one really knows what animals are thinking.

        1. He was probably thinking: “They gave up and removed the board. I outsmarted them.” Cats are clever. I once had a cat who would climb an 8-foot stepladder to enter the utility room through a small hole to get to his favorite spot on top of the water heater.

  8. Every aware decision or non decision is good.

    Some also draw or move a line without having had a real choice or experience with suitable alternatives, they just decide so and then stick with it. That’s also fine for themselves but it was no aware or knowledgeable decision in this case, just a decision. There I see a difference, there’s also no meaningful story to tell then.

  9. Maybe I will cross the line a truly venture into vinyl one day. I’ll never say never, but my SACDS sound so damn good.
    It is expensive to do vinyl right, but I will never say never. 😉

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