Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Pandora Under Fire

Today Tim Westergren, founder of the Pandora net radio service, sent out an email to urge listeners to sign a petition against new legislation from the Copyright Royalty Board. Apparently the royalty rates are going to triple for internet radio, which could cause serious reprecussions, and according to Westergren, drive most, if not all, web radio services out of business.

As Westergren points out in an interview with Gizmodo, the two main reasons supporting this decision are illusions. First of all, artists will NOT get more money; rather, the record companies will the royalties, and the artists only their usual percentage. Basically, this means that it will filter through the record companies, and very little will get to the artists themselves.

The second reason, that they can charge more royalties because the radio companies have a large profit, couldn't further from the truth. As Westergren says, "For most (including Pandora), it's still a money-loser at the old rates that we are working as hard as we can (15 full time sales people are on the job) to turn profitable in a year or two." Even with rates that are a third of the new value, the companies are losing money. Also, based on the new rates, royalty expenses would exceed revenue. It's also retroactive to 2006.

These rates are typical of an ignorance to the value of the industry. Internet radio is a fantastic way to get new artists' names out into the world. Pandora takes your taste in music and recommends other artists and songs. This means that, for people like me, I will hear a song or artist I like, and if I really do like 'em, I'll buy the song off iTunes, or head out to get the CD, or go to a concert the next time they're in town. This means more money for the artists (AND the record companies).

This isn't the first time internet radio has been screwed. In 2002, the CRB gave an initial royalty fee, was a 0.07¢ cost per song per listen. Since there could be hundreds of listeners for even the smallest webcaster, this was a huge cost. This money went straight to the record companies. This was also in addition to royalties stations were already paying. And the kicker: it was retroactive 4 years.

The question is, what makes people so paranoid about copyright, and especially so when the internet is involved? Steps against piracy end up hurting those already hurt by it, and it never seems to achieve its goal. Not to mention that traditional radio barely yields enough money to make producing singles worthwhile for all but the most successful artists. There is hardly much of a difference between that and internet radio, except that internet radio is more convenient, tailors to your taste better, and doesn't have annoying audio ads. Oh, and that it isn't charged per listener.

Non-linked sources:

Friday, April 6, 2007

An Inconvenient Truth

Movie: An Inconvenient Truth


I know, I know, my blog is "turning into a movie review place" - it's just because I use reviews as practice/fodder to keep me writing. I have a couple o' things on the way, this just happened to come along first.

Anyway, An Inconvenient Truth is a documentary starring Al Gore. In one way, it is a documentary about global warming, but more accurate perhaps is that it is a documentary following Al Gore's presentations on the subject. It is a filming of a presentation given, sometimes showing him talking, and sometimes showing the slides or videos he uses. Spliced in throughout this presentation are videos with voice overs, showing Gore on the road, in hotels, creating the presentation, and discussing personal reasons and reflections. These aren't necessary, but do add a nice touch - it makes the movie seem more like a movie and less like a videotaped lecture. Unfortunately, it's very easy to tell when it switches from his presentation to voice overs, which could peeve those who expect seamless editing.

Gore does present a very strong case, from demonstrating clearly that global warming exists and is linked to CO2 emissions to showing that doubt of its effects are manufactured by the media and state. He does not give any alternative theories or viewpoints (if they exist...), but is convincing enough without mentioning any - he is speaking to persuade as well as inform. He was also shortwinded when mentioning how we can act to prevent global warming, but then again, his point is that we can act.

In general, Gore had 3 goals, which he definitely achieved. He spoke to inform us of the problem, and even a skeptic would be doubting their doubt after seeing this. He spoke to tell that the consequences of inaction are dire, and this was a very well covered section. His main point, though, was that there are many things we can do, reasons against them are weak if not nonexistant, and that they stem from apathy and ignorance. The title is his case in point, that politicians do nothing because people either doubt any problems or don't care. When people start to realize the issue, he argues, politicians can no longer ignore this inconvenient truth, and will have to act. With that in mind he made the film, and it was effective - it's well known, having won an Oscar, and is well done and convincing. Though this is by no means an answer, it has turned into an effective means of spreading word.

Flaws: Gore's manner of speaking, with his blatantly American speech and annoying pronunciation of a few words was a little annoying for a good part of the film, though it let up at the conclusion. Also, the interludes, although nice, could irritate some people - they aren't completely relevent.

Bottom line: It achieves its purpose to spread word and convince, and was well done to boot.

Rating: 8.6/10

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

To Fulfill These Rights

The voting rights bill will be the latest, and among the most important, in a long series of victories. But this victory--as Winston Churchill said of another triumph for freedom--"is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning."

That beginning is freedom; and the barriers to that freedom are tumbling down. Freedom is the right to share, share fully and equally, in American society--to vote, to hold a job, to enter a public place, to go to school. It is the right to be treated in every part of our national life as a person equal in dignity and promise to all others.

But freedom is not enough. You do not wipe away the scars of centuries by saying: Now you are free to go where you want, and do as you desire, and choose the leaders you please.

You do not take a person who, for years, has been hobbled by chains and liberate him, bring him up to the starting line of a race and then say, "you are free to compete with all the others," and still justly believe that you have been completely fair.

Thus it is not enough just to open the gates of opportunity. All our citizens must have the ability to walk through those gates.

This is the next and the more profound stage of the battle for civil rights. We seek not just freedom but opportunity. We seek not just legal equity but human ability, not just equality as a right and a theory but equality as a fact and equality as a result.

For the task is to give 20 million Negroes the same chance as every other American to learn and grow, to work and share in society, to develop their abilities--physical, mental and spiritual, and to pursue their individual happiness.

To this end equal opportunity is essential, but not enough, not enough. Men and women of all races are born with the same range of abilities. But ability is not just the product of birth. Ability is stretched or stunted by the family that you live with, and the neighborhood you live in--by the school you go to and the poverty or the richness of your surroundings. It is the product of a hundred unseen forces playing upon the little infant, the child, and finally the man.

- Lyndon B. Johnson, 1965

How true, and how unfortunately unrealized even 40 years later.

View the whole thing here.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007


Movie: 300


Arthur Millar's graphic novel comes to life in thi-wait, sorry too cliché.

Arthur Millar's graphic novel becomes a movie in Full of gore, action, shouting, and even a narrator, this movie was sold out, cramped when I finally got in, and full of high expections. And it met 'em.

300 is all about atmosphere. The movie looks and feels exactly like a graphic novel - the camera acts more like a still life for half the shots. The rest use slow motion to capture the feel of different panels. They reflect perfectly on the genre - blood is everywhere and captured in full spray, with bodies flying from the impact, capes flowing. I came in expecting the slow motion to get contrived and tired, and though it was applied liberally, I wouldn't change any of it. The lighting is also extremely well done - you can almost see the pencil lines where shadow would be drawn in. It was like watching a picture book, only one with Dolby Digital and a 50' screen.

The acting, for the most part, was good. Gerald Butler, as Leonidas, tended to shout a lot - more than necessary - and was a slight bit too flippant when he was in a joking mood. However, when the warrior king was introspective and reserved, as he had to be in some key parts of the movie, he looked the part. He also looked the part when fighting, which was about half the movie. And since the atmosphere relied heavily on appearance and how you carried yourself, he did a marvelous job. Lena Headey, as the Spartan queen, does a fantastic job of showing the placid, hard front of her people's values, and the inner emotion she has to hide.

The dialogue was mediocre, in a grand fashion. Everything that was said was sweeping and huge, and every third word was either "Sparta" or "Spartan". And of the other 2 words, one was usually "Honour" or "Duty". But the script was good enough not to interfere with the action or the atmosphere, and the grandiose nature was almost needed.

In short, this movie was gorgeous, grand, and had some of the best action I've ever seen. The Persians were given a bit of a fantastic streak to make it just that much more legendary. The rest of the movie's aspects were good enough that you won't notice anything wrong with 'em, and the focused parts - namely, the camera - are absolutely awesome.

Rating: 300 9.0/10

Saturday, March 3, 2007

The Departed

Well, I have a blog. Let's try a movie review!

Movie: The Departed


Having heard good things about this movie, I stuck it near the top of my "To See" list. After it won an Academy Award, well, that kinda clinched it. And man, was it worth it.

The movie offered little paradigm-changing aspects, and was nothing ground breaking. It's merit, though, rests on simply how well it was done, as well as some innovative little quirks. The acting was exceptional; both Matt Damon and Leonardo DiCaprio captured the duality and conflicts of their characters, and Jack Nicholson was right at home as a mob king. The entire movie was surprisingly believable, the story was complex and engaging, and it dealt well with the themes of loyalty and identity. The confrontations between the characters - which happens a lot with a story of symmetrical moles - were tense and would've had me on the edge of my seat, if I weren't lying on a couch.

Some of my favourite aspects, though, were the little touches with the music and editing. The movie had a ton of quick little cuts that set up the mood and caught the eye - a scene with DiCaprio's character, frantically packing a bag, has bits of footage simply taken out, so his hand jumps around. The music, too, was often cut mid song, coinciding with a scene change, and then after a few seconds immediately continued. As the climax is approaching, the heavy music cuts out with a scene change to the police headquarters as Damon's character makes some key decisions - and half a minute later, the tension is built and the chase continues, with the music blaring.

There are a couple contentions against the movie that I can think. One is its length - you think the movie is 15 minutes in before you see the title flash - although I paid attention all the way through. Also, its focus on Irish American life and customs, though adding realism and depth, makes the film less accessible to everyone. It also did not quite deal with its theme of father/son relationships as thoroughly as one might hope - it started out strong, but started to fizzle out later on.

Rating: With everything said and done, it's been a while since a movie has held my attention so raptly for so long, and made mob dealings seem real. And the editing kicked ass. 9.5/10.

Thursday, January 25, 2007


I was struck with a curious thought the other day, and forgive me if you've thought of it before, but anyway. Here goes.

All that humanity has created, all our fancy science, our efforts to explain our world, our attempts at expression and self definition, comes from the fact that we don't have to worry about survival. Left with all this extra time, we had to think up things to do. At first, we had to hunt and gather, reproduce, raise young - you know, all that work type stuff. That takes time. But suddenly, BAM! We get ourselves a farm, and shortly thereafter, a community. A little bit of division of labour later, we have some people raising the young, some people getting us food, some people takin' care of shelter, and if you're only doing one thing for the community, then you're alot more free to reproduce. This gives a bigger population, more people to do the same number of tasks, and with a bigger population comes an even bigger population.

Eventually we reached the point where we had too much time to kill with reproduction alone. I know, it sounds crazy, but it happened. And as soon as we hit that point, we were bored. And as we all know, being bored sucks. So we invent things to keep us amused. Literature? Discussing what other people have said and disguised simply so that we can discuss what they have said and's just a way of eating up time. Science and Religion? We don't have to worry about where food is coming from, so we ask, "What is food? Why do we need it? Where does it come from, and where does it go?" Wars have been fought 'cuz we thought, "Well...I need something to do, and we can always use more land..."

Once we had agriculture, we simply HAD to kill time, or we would die of boredom. And everything we did from then on was either for our own amusement, to occupy us, or to give us MORE time to kill (See: Technology, non-pornographic uses of). It seems that, because we're all lazy, we work really hard to make things easier on us and give us more free time. I think the ultimate goal of humanity is to accomplish a perpetual state of Saturdayity. Which is why we always look forward to the weekend, to vacation days, sabbatical, holidays, what have you - it gives us a taste of what's coming. And new holidays are popping up all over the place - Christmas has evolved into a secularly commercial behemoth, reading weeks and summer breaks (originally there to help with, you guessed it, farmin') are everywhere and growing, and our governments decide to give us a Family Day. Who's really gonna spend Family Day at home? I know I won't. 'cept for the sleepin' in. That's some quality Family Time®, yep.

(DFR, shut up with the incest jokes =P)

Anyway, the point is this: Because I'm lazy, I embody everything that a human being SHOULD embody. Thus, I should be considered incredibly sexy, powerful beyond all belief, and have a country and harem all to myself. And a robot butler. I can't be bothered to open my own doors now, can I? (Which are made easier by oil, and hinges, but 'cuz that wasn't enough, we have automatic ones, rotating ones you don't even have to push...)

The future will be a glorious place.

First Post!

I now officially have a blog. W00t.

Now to see if I can actually post consistently. Yeehaw.