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January 31, 2004

Bowling for Columbine

I just finished watching Bowling for Columbine and all I can say is wow. Highly recommended.

Funny, sad, sometimes disturbing and scary. Michael Moore is thought-provoking and irreverent. He explores the issue of gun violence in America without jumping to too many conclusions or giving pat answers. Definitely worth watching.

January 30, 2004

Thanks

Thanks for the email Lori. Good to hear from you again. Feel free to write any time!

January 28, 2004

Stupid Toys

Hey, Pat Dooley, this one's for you:

This is a spectacularly stupid toy.

Copyright (again)

Yes, it's my favorite hobby-horse.

The History of the DeCSS Haiku is a little long and dense around 2/3 of the way through, but it covers a lot of interesting ground and gives pretty good context to the frustration in the software world with the state of copyright in the western world and the antics of the movie and recording industries.

"So somehow in our world the law allows us to say how to kill people, but not how to decrypt DVDs" ... "The highest irony in light of the position of movie studios on the legal protection of software expression is that movies were originally not recognized as speech."

"Because of this, we have an odd problem today; we are constantly trying to show the literary merit of software." ... "Do we worry about showing the extent to which people read cookbooks for literary merit, or home repair manuals for literary merit, or textbooks for literary merit, or tables of logarithms for literary merit? Are these books not speech because of their functionality?"

"It's sad to see much of the self-identified "creative community" fail to support intellectual freedom here. Particularly galling is the short-sighted proprietary attitude toward the First Amendment expressed by some people in the culture industries..."

Tax Relief

In my recent post about the tv-newsmagazine show on the top 10 myths and misconceptions in America, I mentioned one of the myths of the show: "the rich don't pay their fair share of taxes". The show countered that "myth" with the IRS statistic that the richest 1% of Americans pay 34% of taxes. I suspected as I watched the show that there was some context missing from that tidbit, and now I have something slightly more concrete to back that up.

This evening, in an unrelated conversation I overheard, somebody said that the richest 3% of Americans have 90% of the wealth. I'm not sure if that figure is accurate, but it does illustrate how the tv-show stats may have been designed to be misleading. For example, if the richest 3% of American's pay 60% of taxes (the show mentioned something to this effect but I forget the exact number), but actually possess 90% of the wealth, then perhaps they don't pay their fair share of the burden.

So, hurrah to 20/20 and ABC for helping the poor, ignorant masses shed their unfounded resentment of the humble, wealthy folk. We should all have new sympathy for the taxes shouldered by the rich, and by all means support reduction of those taxes.

As an interesting side-note, I also read recently something that I hadn't thought of on my own, but makes perfect sense. It is actually reasonable for the rich to pay more tax than the poor, because there are large parts of the government that provides services used primarily by wealthy people. For example, the majority of the legal and judicial system deals with corporate laws and the interactions of business. Who owns the large businesses that use and depend on those systems? Of course, the wealthy.

Yes, there are also portions of the system that benefit primarily the poor - medicare and social assistance come immediately to mind. I don't argue for one particular point of view, I only want to say that the issue of who pays enough tax is not as simple as some would want you to believe.

Thanks Fuji

I recently got my rebate cheques from Fuji. One of the reasons that I bought my digital camera before Christmas was the price. I think it was a pretty good deal, but only after the mail-in rebates were factored in. I've bought computer stuff with mail-in rebates before, but I haven't had much success in getting the rebates actually honored. This time, not only did I get the rebate, but it was prompt.

Read This

Everybody should read this article.

January 25, 2004

Eastlink Foodlink Telethon

I'm working on the Eastlink Foodlink Telethon today, so if you have cable and tune in between 3 and 11 this afternoon, you'll see my lighting for the musical acts (such as it is). If you check out the line-up of local bands on the telethon website and see any you like, you can even come out to the Alderney Gate theatre to watch them live. Admission is a food donation, I think.

January 24, 2004

Hee-larious

The all-McDonald's Diet speaks for itself.

Lies, Myths, and Downright Stupidity

Tonight's special edition of 20/20 on ABC was about 10 common myths and misconceptions among Americans.

Yes, it's good for us to know that viruses cause colds, not cool temperatures. However, once they went down the list to the richest 1% pay 34% of taxes, banning DDT is causing millions of malaria deaths in Africa, and gun control is a criminals best friend (cause it keeps law-abiding citizens disarmed) it REALLY started to sound like a Republican party shill. I don't know how the host maintained any self-respect.

Yes, logically I understood the truth all of the 10 points they made, and I'm not saying they were wrong on anything. But they so simplified the issues and overlooked the details that it's easy to believe that many people would form opinions that are equally stupid on the other end of the spectrum.

I know that the USA won't run out of land to turn into landfills for thousands of years. No thinking person says that space to put garbage is running out. But who wants to live in a country paved with landfills? How do you keep water supplies safe from leaching when landfills cover every state and county? No, that's not the situation now, but that doesn't mean we should discard Reduce, Reuse and Recycle as a useless misconception.

Their number one point "Life is getting worse" I agree is a myth. Then they shoot themselves in the foot by quoting an expert who says "Right now is the safest time to ever have lived" -- ok I'm with you -- " ...and America is the safest place to live." Uhhh, are you sure? Well, I got no data here, but my crap detector is dinging...

I especially liked the little passing comment in the closing about how cities 50 years ago were covered by blankets of smog, and air pollutants have dramatically reduced everywhere. Seems like a thinly veiled statement in support of Bush's anti-Kyoto protocol stance. Yeah, maybe we aren't mucking things up quite as quickly, but that doesn't mean we're in the clear. But John Stossel certainly isn't going to make any great effort to give you both sides of that picture...

January 23, 2004

Work and life

Mom was worried that I was having problems with my computer, since I haven't written in such a long time.

Work is going well. For the last two weeks I've been splitting my time between setting up some digital processors for our PA systems, and doing some installation work. Working with the PA stuff has been fun and the install work pays really well.

It looks like the plans are made for me to be one of the crew heading to St. John's for the ECMAs. I'll be flying on Saturday Feb 7 returning Monday Feb 16. We don't actually starting setting up until Wednesday the 11th, so I have three days to spend with family and friends. Christiane, I meant to call you last night and ask if I can stay with you for those three days (Saturday night to Monday night). If you don't read this first, I will call you tonight!

Kerry has lots of activity happening in her life right now. She's in Calgary working on her research now, and she's also starting to hear back from some of her PhD applications. I'm sure this winter will fly by quickly.

This weekend I'm doing lighting for the Foodlink telethon on Eastlink television, so I'll spend today packing and tomorrow setting up for that. I guess I should call Phil and tell him I won't be able to play bass on Sunday.

January 22, 2004

Silly Ads

TV ads are often silly, and sometimes downright stupid. If you've seen the latest Hyundai TV ads, you'll know what I'm talking about.

The tag line has got to be one of the most blatantly contentless statements I've heard lately. "When you get the most out of your car, and life, you win!" It's like saying "When you have a lot of money, you're rich!" How again does that relate to Hyundai? I've heard of selling the sizzle, not the steak, but this takes the cake.

January 08, 2004

Music industry

Notes From the Underground "...figuring out how to profitably micro-market heterogeneous bands to scattered audiences is something the music industry has not yet figured out how to do."

"Big artists do indeed lose with file sharing, and it's their profits on which the industry depends for survival. That's why they're fighting it so hard. But it's a fight they will eventually lose, and that won't be a bad thing either for bands or fans."

"Meanwhile, file sharing helps small artists with limited distribution find their audience and make a decent living--a truer expression of the free market in music. If everyone could download tracks from groups playing in their city that weekend, the best band would draw the most fans and a lot of unknown bands would surge. That may scare big groups who have become popular under the current system, but it shouldn't scare fans or scare the industry. Record companies will just have to get better at serving their customers."

January 07, 2004

Bling Bling

Just flicking through the channels after The West Wing tonight, and I happened to stop on a hip hop music video on Much Vibe. I don't know why I noticed tonight more than any other time, but suddenly I was stuck by the many levels of contradictions in that whole music industry sub-genre (or sub-culture if you like).

The 'star' sings about his hard life while he displays a life of conspicuous luxury. His bizarre apparel, jewelery and body art scream bad-ass rebel, yet the video itself is evidence of the focused and savvy big-business marketing machine behind him. Self-important, he is shown surrounded by his posse and lots of lovely groupies, yet the girl-du-jour sitting next to him has a studied look of boredom, as if she were supremely confident of her position next to the stud of the universe.

I guess I don't understand either the stars, nor the target market of that whole scene, but I confess that it strikes me a little sad that this image of careless extravagence and pointless self-importance is the highest things some young people will ever aspire to.

Of course, I should probably stop sounding so self-important and start working on some lofty ideals so that I have something to aspire to myself.

January 05, 2004

Food for thought

From the essay What you can't say, about critically examining moral fashions and taboos:

When people are bad at math, they know it, because they get the wrong answers on tests. But when people are bad at open-mindedness they don't know it. In fact they tend to think the opposite.

Interesting essay...

January 03, 2004

Much More Music

Well, I guess that Manhattan Transfer isn't exactly what most people would call popular music, but I already knew that. I was already familiar with Weather Report too. The other thing I forgot to mention is that I bought Toto IV at the Virgin megastore at Picadilly Circus in London. Mmmm, musical goodness all 'round.

Oh, Rich, the song I was thinking of in Qatar was Minute by Minute by the Doobie Brothers. I knew it was a Doobie Brothers song, but I had forgotten that I ordered the Doobie Bros with my Columbia House order, so that was a nice surprise.

Anyway, I'm going to stop typing and go back to enjoying the music.

New Music

I just got home from my Christmas vacation (yes, we all made it safely, Mom), and I had thought about writing a bit about the trip. Turns out what motivated me to write was the batch of CDs waiting for me in the mail.

I just finished my Columbia House committment, and in the last order (buy 1 get 3 free, yay) I got (in no particular order):

  • Boston - Greatest Hits
  • Phil Collin ...Hits
  • The Best of Weather Report
  • The Very Best of The Manhattan Transfer
  • The Best of The Doobie Brothers Live

(If you're curious about the math, Kerry got 3 others CDs, to make 8. We paid for one each, since we halved the Columbia House membership, but she only picked out two "free" albums, so I got four in addition to the one I paid for)

Anyway, I'm very much enjoying my choices, recognizing songs that I've heard for years but never known, and generally expanding my pathetic knowledge of popular music.