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Archive for the ‘Entertainment’ Category

Music in the cloud

Cloud or con trail, Cranborne, DorsetToday I decided to avail myself of some of South by Southwest‘s CLE offerings. Since I have some interest in internet law, including issues like cloud security, I was very interested in “Gimme Shelter from the Storm Clouds.” This was advertised as a panel looking at “the disruption caused by some new cloud-based services and how this disruption is affecting existing industries.” That’s not exactly what they talked about. The panel consisted of two lawyers and the owner of mp3tunes, a “music locker” service.

Let’s just say there were fireworks.

Copyright law allows people to keep “ephemeral phonorecords,” meaning digital copies of music you own, i.e. ripped copies of your own CD’s. It gets tricky when you start sharing that music with others, and it gets really tricky when you upload that music to the internet. A major issue for the cloud is whether a license is required for every digital copy of a song. There does not seem to be a consensus on this question–if there is, it was not in evidence today. It’s still a pretty good question.

Who has the burden of establishing whether a given track infringes a copyright? The law basically says that the copyright holder has that burden, but they argue that the service provider has the most readily available information on the upload itself. On the other hand, the service provider does not have the resources to review every possible license a file could have. The technology is advancing far, far faster than the law can possibly pace.

A few years ago, mp3tunes reportedly received a copyright takedown notice after it linked to a song on the SXSW website. This was, according to the speaker, just a link to the page where the song was posted. I asked how that could possibly be infringement, and he told me that it was an attempt by the copyright holder to intimidate him, or something along those lines. I find the argument interesting given that one website linking to another is pretty much the foundation of the internet, without which SEO wouldn’t even be possible. The question of whether linking to copyrighted material, especially deep linking to specific files, is infringement is still somewhat of an open question.

They talked about the MegaUpload case at length. On the one hand, the federal government arrested a large number of people for copyright infringement–not normally a criminal matter per se–and seized all of their assets with little to no due process. On the other hand, a comparison was made to a RICO prosecution. I’m not as familiar with the case as I should be, so I guess this will lead to more posts.

Photo credit: Cloud or con trail, Cranborne, Dorset, copyright Clive Perrin and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence


Arabic numerals! They’re everywhere!!!

No 5 - ArabicThe keen eye of Jesus’ General has caught something that I had completely overlooked: the nefarious influence of Muslim extremism over our society at the numerical level:

Lowe’s may have bowed to God’s will and pulled advertising from TLC’s “All-American Muslim,” a show with the gall to depict Muslimolibs as human beings, but the hardware/appliance chain still promotes the Islamuninistoprog agenda. They do so by using Arabic numerals in their pricing.

Arabic numerals (e.g. 1, 2, 3…) were designed by a Muslim named Al-Khwarizmi in DCCCXXV A.D. They were then imposed on the West by the Great Whore of Babylon, Pope Sylvester II, a man who constantly fingered his astrolabe, in the late Xth Century.

Please write Lowes, today, and ask them to stop exposing our children to Arabic Islamonumbers.

Great Scott, he’s right! Not only did this Al-Khwarizmi fellow create this insidious numerical system, he also developed a form of mathematics that he called al-jabr, translated into American as “algebra.”

Algebra, of course, was the instrument used to torment me endlessly in MCMLXXXVIII, when I was in the VIIIth grade.

His name also forms the basis for the word “algorithm.”

You know what’s even worse? Pope Sylvester II was French. Our entire numerical system is a conspiracy of evil Islamofascists and cheese-eating surrender monkeys [source].

Or, maybe numbers are just, you know, numbers, and it’s just that the people who made the decision to pull Lowe’s advertising have made effective parody almost impossible to distinguish from actual crazy ideas.

Just my II cents…

Photo credit: No 5 – Arabic by kirstyhall, on Flickr.


The Florida Family Association has gotten me to do something I never thought I would do

They have gotten me to willingly watch a TLC reality show.

You should understand that I hate reality television. I’m currently doing an improv show based on “The Amazing Race,” and I refuse to even watch that show for source material. But I have now Tivo’d all available upcoming episodes of TLC’s “All-American Muslim,” the reality TV show that has angered people whose anger and annoyance usually tickles the crap out of me. I can’t add much to what has already been said by people who are arguably more clever and insightful than me. To quote Popehat’s commentary on the matter:

It is beyond question that some Muslims are violent religious extremists who will kill Americans if they can. It’s even beyond question that some such Muslims are here in America. It’s clear that some Muslims favor imposition of Sharia law — antithetical to American values like equality and freedom of expression and worship — upon societies, and that some harbor a grand ambition to impose Sharia law here in America.

But those Muslims — however many of them there are — are powerless to change America’s nature by themselves. The most horrific terrorist act, the most aggressive campaign to impose their religious values upon us — none of that can, by itself, alter fundamental American traditions and values. Those traditions and values were born in rebellion and deprivation, raised on the frontier, toughened through slow and painful progress from wrong towards right. They include hard work, fair play, due process, equality before the law, liberty, and individuality. Terrorist bombs cannot quell them.

But Americans’ reactions to terrorist bombs could.

I’m going to watch as many episodes of this show as I can, and I am going to learn. I encourage everyone to watch this show and to learn. Educating ourselves is one of the best tools, dare I say weapons, we have against people like the Florida Family Association. I believe that they are the real enemies of freedom, preferring to have us cowering in fear, jumping at shadows and lashing out at anyone or anything they deem to be too unfamiliar, to strange, too other for their liking.

As a final note on the more capitalist aspects of this whole debacle, I feel a need to violate my self-imposed ban on excessive profanity, because quite frankly, some people and institutions do not deserve our politeness.

To the architects of Lowe’s decision to pull its advertising from this show, I say this: Go fuck yourself.

I will be buying my home improvement wares at Home Depot from now on. I hope you’re proud of yourselves.


A Wisconsin professor had best make peace with his dear and fluffy lord

I have one viable claim to hipsterdom: I was into “Firefly” before it was cool.

I watched the show obsessively in the fall of 2002. I evangelized for it. I yelled at people who dared to doubt its awesomeness. I wrote letters to Fox urging them to give the show a fair shake. I mourned–O, how I mourned!–when the show came to its ignominious end (oddly enough, by showing the very first episode last).

Several years later, when the DVD allowed the multitudes of people who either didn’t know about the show in 2002 or had better things to do on a Friday night in 2002 and couldn’t work a VCR to discover the show anew, I was there to say “I told you so.” When a surge of popular support and demand led to the 2005 release of Serenity, the feature film follow-up to the TV series, I was out front to see it, to marvel at the power of fans, and (SPOILERS AHEAD) to mourn Book and Wash.

“Firefly” lives on in many ways, even if Joss Whedon’s subsequent projects haven’t been quite as compelling (although I am a big Dr. Horrible fan). The career of Summer Glau as the go-to strange, smart, unsettlingly hot guest actress on various shows (most recently “Alphas”) is but one of the testaments of “Firefly.” It has also left a lasting impact on my vocabulary (“shiny”) and left us many, many excellent quotes.

And that’s where I am no longer content to say that haters gotta hate.

That’s where the tribulations of University of Wisconsin-Stout theater professor James Miller enter the picture. Professor Miller’s tale threatens so many of the things I hold dear in life: satire, snark, free expression, generous use of move and TV quotes, pushing both buttons and envelopes, and so forth. To understand Professor James Miller, though, you must first understand Captain Malcolm Reynolds.

Captain Malcolm Reynolds, or “Mal” to those who know him (he doesn’t really have friends per se) is a fictional character portrayed by actor Nathan Fillion, but not a soul has seen an episode of “Firefly” and not wanted to hang out with Mal. He fought on the losing side of a mid-26th-century civil war waged across an entire solar system. Afterwards, he bought a spaceship (a Firefly-class cruiser) and travels the ‘Verse. If you have a job, he and his crew will take it. They don’t much care what it is.

Malcolm Reynolds, via io9 (Fair Use applies)

I'm shaking in my shoes. How about you? (via io9)

Mal left us with quite a few classics of television philosophy before they took the sky from him. Chief among those is this exchange with a new passenger on his ship:

Simon: I’m trying to put this as delicately as I can…how do I know you won’t kill me in my sleep?
Mal: You don’t know me, son, so let me explain this to you once: If I ever kill you, you’ll be awake. You’ll be facing me. And you’ll be armed.

See, it’s an expression of honor. Mal wants Simon to know that, even though Mal doesn’t like Simon, Simon is part of his crew. As such, Mal will protect him, fight for him, and never, ever betray him. (Part of the story is that Simon has a hefty price on his head as a fugitive from the government, and has to stay hidden and on the run. Simon is extremely nonviolent. Mal offers him safe haven.)

Not everyone sees the quote that way, of course. Specifically, Lisa Walter, UW-Stout’s chief of police/director of parking services, found a poster on Professor Miller’s office door displaying that Malcolm Reynolds quote to be unacceptably threatening for an academic environment. So she took it down, and then notified Professor Miller. She told him that “it is unacceptable to have postings such as this that refer to killing.” She further warned him that future postings in a similar vein could lead to a charge of disorderly conduct.


I was not able to locate any examples of UW-Stout faculty or staff getting into criminal trouble for being a Roberta Flack fan, but it is possible that it could happen using Chief Walters’ standard.

Professor Miller, not being one to go quietly, put up a new poster stating his thoughts on the dangers of fascism and its possible effects on the skull and brain. Of course, UW-Stout administration, having spent the past several years developing an immunity to irony, found this poster comparably objectionable, somehow concluding that Professor Miller was encouraging fascist violence.

The matter went up the chain of command, all the way to the university chancellor. Surely the highest echelons of university power could see this for the overblown clusterf*** that it was, and cooler heads could prevail, right?

Via The Daily Caller (Fair Use applies)

Apparently this is an actual call to arms or something (via The Daily Caller)

If you think that’s where this story is going, you must be new to my blog. I deal in stupid stuff.

Chancellor Charles W. Sorensen had this to say:

[W]e…have the responsibility to promote a campus environment that is free from threats of any kind—both direct and implied. It was our belief, after consultation with UW System legal counsel, that the posters in question constituted an implied threat of violence.  That is why they were removed.

This was not an act of censorship.  This was an act of sensitivity to and care for our shared community, and was intended to maintain a campus climate in which everyone can feel welcome, safe and secure.

So a quote identifying all the reasons why a fictional character won’t kill you, along with an obviously-stylized bit of satirical protest, constitutes “an implied threat of violence”? Is the administration honestly worried that Professor Miller might come to school with a gun and only shoot people who are similarly armed, awake, and facing him? Or that he might don a helmet and beat stick figures with a baton? Have universities become so teacuppish that students cannot handle this level of non-threats?

I weep for the future. I weep for the students of UW-Stout who have to get an education and plan for a future in such a colossally cowardly institution. I weep for the cancellation of “Firefly” (and no, Fox, I am never letting that go, dammit.)

I end with the remainder of that exchange between Mal and Simon:

Simon: Are you always this sentimental?
Mal: I had a good day.
Simon: You had the Alliance on you, criminals and savages… half the people on the ship have been shot or wounded including yourself, and you’re harboring known fugitives.
Mal: We’re still flying.
Simon: That’s not much.
Mal: It’s enough.

Extra reading on this topic:
College professor threatened with criminal charges for Firefly quote, io9, September 26, 2011
I Swear By My Pretty Floral Bonnet, I Will Censor You, Popehat, September 26, 2011
Chancellor Charles W. Sorensen Vigilant Against Threat of Satire, Figurative Speech, Hurt Feelings, Popehat, September 28, 2011
Banned posters rile ‘Firefly’ TV show fans against UW-Stout, Pioneer Press, September 29, 2011


Toad the Wet Sprocket and My Birthday

I mentioned Nirvana the other day, but a discussion of what was going on twenty years ago is not complete without mentioning Toad the Wet Sprocket. In one sense, Toad offers me one of my few claims to mild hipsterdom, in that I knew who they were and was a rabid fan before they were getting much radio play. Of course, they already had three albums out on a major label, so it isn’t as though I found them in some small dark club and followed their career into the stratosphere. I actually just heard “Walk on the Ocean” on a compilation tape I got for free in a 12-pack of Coke during the summer of 1991.

Point being, I thought it was the greatest song ever written, and so, approximately twenty years ago today, I took my birthday money to Sound Warehouse and bought the tape of “Fear,” Toad’s third studio album and their breakthrough one. I then spent months on a wild goose chase around town looking for their two earlier albums (i.e. tapes), “Bread and Circuses” and “Fear.” It took almost a year of periodic looking before my collection was complete. I even bought compilation albums that I thought might contain songs by them that I already had on other tapes. I joined their fan club and got special editions tapes that I’m sure have long since turned to dust. By the time “Dulcinea” came out in 1994, I had switched over to CD’s.

I always thought “Walk on the Ocean” was about some sort of vacation (quite a few people seem to agree about that). When I saw them play in Houston in 1995 (okay, actually I saw them play in Houston in 1995 twice), the lead signer, Glen Phillips, said the song was about “basic human rights violations.” I’m still scratching my head about that one.


Nirvana and my birthday

Twenty years ago today, the fate of the universe was forever altered by the release of Nirvana’s Nevermind album.

I am of course exaggerating, but it sure seemed like that to 17 year-old me.

September 24, 1991 was also the day Dr. Seuss died, although I doubt there was a connection.

Today would also be the 115th birthday of F. Scott Fitzgerald and the 75th birthday of Jim Henson.

Also, here’s a fun read: Nirvana’s Secret Feminism by Amanda Marcotte.


This year, ACL comes to me!!!!!!

I wish I could get more excited about the Austin City Limits Festival. I am very excited that it exists, that it draws huge talent, and that it draws my friends in from all over the country for one weekend. But dangit, I like shade and being able to sit down when I want to. So I am grateful for modern technology.

It is odd to think that, when the festival started in 2002, YouTube did not exist, streaming video was quite the luxury item, and most people had still never heard the word “blog.” Now the whole world can suck up bandwidth watching odd hipster bands play to a parched, dusty, remarkably smoke-free (I hope) park crammed full of sweaty people. Enjoy the show everybody!


Great moments in animation, with bunnies!

This is a song by Australian band TISM. It has at least one instance of a NSFW lyric, but the awesome ought to make up for that.

Yes, I know this really has nothing to do with law. But lawyers need to have fun, and are often no strangers to sexual frustration.


I believe you have my stapler

Since I’m already on a bit of a self-promotion kick, and since I like to also promote cool events, I present the Austin Young Chamber of Commerce‘s Office Space spoof, starring me:

The video was made to promote AYC’s Office Space Quote-Along, which will be next Wednesday, September 7, at the Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar at 7:00. If you live a convenient distance, you should come!



Today really is the day that they’re gonna throw it back to him

Liam Gallagher is suing Noel Gallagher for libel. The two brothers were in Oasis, a band that was big in the ’90s, but I can’t remember which brother did what in the band. I never thought that much of the band. I honestly felt like listening to them made me simultaneously dumber and a bigger d-bag. Many, many people loved them for whatever reason, though. Anyway, they broke up, one or more members started new projects or solo careers, blah blah blah. Then one mouthed off about the other to reporters in July:

While the London press conference was set up for [Noel] Gallagher to talk about his solo career, it did not take long for reporters to ask about the state of his relationship with Liam.

The pair fell out two years ago just before a gig in Paris and have not spoken since.

“I had a sweepstake on how long it would take,” Gallagher laughs, when the first question was put to him just two minutes into the event.

The guitarist explains how the brothers’ row escalated after Liam cancelled their V Festival slot “because he had a hangover”, although the official reason given at the time was that he was suffering with laryngitis.

Oh, snap! A rock star was hungover before a show? That’s hardly implausible, but who knows what actually happened that specific morning? Anyway, fast-forward one month, and a lawsuit ensues:

Former Oasis frontman Liam Gallagher is suing his brother Noel over his claims the band once cancelled a gig because the singer was hungover.

Noel Gallagher told journalists at a press conference in July that it was the real reason why the band pulled out of the V Festival in 2009.

The official explanation at the time was that Liam Gallagher had laryngitis.

In a statement, he said he had “tried to resolve this amicably but have been left with no choice but legal action”.

“All I want is an apology,” he added.

I’m no expert on UK law, but I have to wonder if it is wise to involve the courts in a demand for an apology a mere two months into a dispute. Also, if your brother refuses to apologize to the point that you feel you have to sue, do you really think an apology will ever be forthcoming? These two don’t seem to have ever been a portrait of brotherly harmony.