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Volume VIII Number 1
June 2000

The Letter I sent to Peter Aczel, Editor Of The Audio Critic, Notifying Him Of Receiving The Sixth Annual Cuckoo Clock Award!

April, 1999 No need to tell you that over the years you and I have been in almost total agreement regarding things in the audio world. Your conversion from a subjective to objective weenie- and the resulting admission that you were wrong in various proclamations during your subjective fling-is to be admired. To admit (publicly and in print) the error of your ways, knowing that zealous members of the subjective school would demand your impeachment (so to speak), takes courage.

Being a fellow member of the objective school (in my case an objective weenie from the cradle and eventually to the grave) I have allowed our common bond of objectivity to make me mute regarding a blatant disregard of fairness and courtesy on your part. I'm far from perfect in these two categories, but at least I make an effort, however imperfect, to practice both. I can't continue ignoring this blatant lack of fairness and courtesy on your part; it's time for me to take a stand. The lack of courtesy is especially evident in how you treat your subscribers. I'll elaborate on that just a bit.

How quickly the time does fly. Only twenty-one months between receiving my latest issue (March 1999) of The Audio Critic and the previous issue (May 1997)! No apologies from you, just the same old baloney about things have to change; talk about an understatement! Perhaps your rumored love affair with dogs and dog shows had something to do with the delay. If that's the case it can be said that you treat your dogs like paying subscribers and your paying subscribers like dogs. Or, in the parlance of the audio world, you treat your paying subscribers like woofers and your woofers like paying subscribers!

I would have expected the courtesy of at least an apology to your subscribers for a publishing delay which is unpardonable. And fairness would be a simple statement on your part offering to refund the unused portion of their subscription. I'm sure most (myself included) would have appreciated the apology and not requested any subscription refund. But for whatever reason you choose to do neither. And please, Peter, save us the same old baloney about being overworked and waiting for someone with big (financial) pockets coming to your rescue. Would you invest good money in a publication where the editor (retaining his autonomy and exempt from being fired as conditions of the sale) can't even get out an issue per year?

On a humorous note (a real howler, as you would say) you publish (issue number 25) a letter from some dude who teaches English at California State University. The letter provides you with a convoluted justification as to why an irregular publishing schedule is not a problem but something to be admired, separating you and the intellectuals of academia from the hoi polloi. To quote the correspondent: "...Believe me, I will not complain about irregular publication schedules. I tell my students the same warning about when to expect back papers they hand in; if I am to do a good job commenting they must wait until I am ready." With sheer delight you respond with: "Isn't it interesting that university people endorse and support us so much more consistently than the untutored audio-salon dweebs and magazine-rack moochers? Is there a socialcultural conclusion to be drawn here?" Whew! Talk about stretching to justify your arrogant and condescending treatment of subscribers. How dare anyone complain about your publishing schedule when the world of academia has given its seal-of-approval to your irregularity (!) in publishing. Do I detect a bit of intellectual bullying and superiority here, Peter? And calling individuals dweebs and moochers if they don't endorse and support you smacks of Joe McCarthy and Edward Teller type name-calling behavior.

My question to you and the English teacher turned audio expert is how would you mark a student's final paper which was twenty-one months late! Say, while I'm thinking about it ask David Rich (also an instructor, but in the technical arena) how he would mark a student's paper that was twenty-one months late. Even better, I tell the IRS my tax return is twenty-one months late because I am a member of academia, it takes time to do a good job, I'm overworked, and they'll just have to wait!

I note that in the bowels of issue number 25 is a comment from your contributing technical editor (David Rich) which also reflects frustration with your publishing schedule. David writes, referring to the Rotel RQ-970BX phono equalizer: "A review sample has been promised to us, but in view of our laggard publishing schedule I see no reason for you to wait." Our laggard publishing schedule?! David should have said, "In view of Peter Aczel's laggard publishing schedule I see no reason for you to wait." David is to be admired for being a good soldier and not disassociating himself from the fiasco of a twenty- one month hiatus in publishing! You owed David the courtesy of absolving him from any blame by inserting an editorial comment to the effect that you thank him for sharing the blame, but as editor you alone are responsible for the publishing schedule.

About being fair... You might not publish this letter but even if you do I don't want to wait twenty-one months for my comments to be read! I am sending a copy of this letter to Stereophile and the absolute sound with my permission to publish if they so choose. I've hit these publications hard on occasion but they never attacked me personally, nor do they make me wait twenty-one months for the next issue. I don't know if they'll publish or even comment on this letter but it's important they know that my being a hard-nosed objective weenie doesn't preclude me from being fair and courteous.

On a final humorous note I wish to notify you that you've won my sixth annual Cuckoo Clock award! Something's definitely cuckoo when a quarterly magazine (The Audio Critic) publishes only once in 1997, not at all in calendar year 1998, and finally publishes in March of 1999, a total of twenty-one months without publishing! As I said, no apologies in your latest issue, just an editorial comment which reads: "Meanwhile you hold in your hands two issues worth-counting the number of test reports, other reviews, and features-for the price of one." With that disclaimer the subscriber is holding something more than just a magazine in their hands! Man, talk about nerve of a bugler and not even a hint of tongue-in-cheek! What's next? Another issue twenty-one months late in which you proclaim the subscribers are getting four issues for the price of one!

I would imagine that like John Atkinson and Harry Pearson, previous recipients of the Cuckoo Clock award and recently crowned black hat bad guys, you would prefer that instead of having me send you a cuckoo clock I contribute the cost of a clock to a worthy charity. The worthy charity is the American Cancer Society. The society thanks you and I thank you.


Joseph M. Cierniak (Joe)
Sound Off

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