God Help Writers, Artists and Us All if Leigh and Baigent Win Their Court Case

Da Vinci Code sued for Plaigarism

I hope to God that the plaintiffs don’t win this case.

Here’s the implication if the plaintiffs win: Knowledge is now copyrighted. Copyrighted in that you have to pay the owner of the piece of knowledge for knowing it. For ninety years.

I’m sure the RIAA and MPAA are following this avidly. After all, we’re talking about the ownership of songs. With the right technology, we could see constant reenactments of Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind in record stores and courts for a long time.

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Why am I worried about corporations erasing people’s memories? Simple: Ownership not only implies the right of use, but the right to dictate non-use. In short, if Richard Leigh and Michael Baigent win the court case, they can actually dictate that authors and others are barred from reading their book and gleaning the (questionable, in my opinion) knowledge within. And, theoretically, if they can bar knowledge, they could remove this knowledge.


Now, what would it take to remove knowledge from the mind?

Consider this: Once you stick something in your mind, it may die out or it may connect to other items in your memory. If you embrace it, the connections grow deep. Try to erase the original item without erasing these side items. If the item becomes a matter of faith with a multitude of connections to other items, can we expect a major change in personality?

And what happens when that piece of knowledge has a strong connection with the society that individual runs around with? Imagine losing friends, work, knowledge of his surroundings, habits, and unable to have any sort of regular life because of the inability to learn that set of knowledge that would link you to all these things.

And if that knowledge in intimately related to your family? Say goodbye to your identity.

THAT’S what we’re going to deal with if Richard Leigh and Michael Baigent win their case. And not just for some book loaded with enough falsehoods to sink a ship.


What Rocked about the Eighties

http://www.blogger.com/post-create.g?blogID=13612391Okay, as I promised: What was good about the eighties. A smaller list, imho, but equally important.

  1. The Underground
    As Radio became blander and more backwards looking with both “New Hits WVIC” on top of the Lansing Radio heap and “Classic Rock WMMQ” inventing the format that would take over FM radio (where Country wasn’t involved), there was always the local scene. You could go to your locally owned record store (new or used), and if the owner went about his business right you could find out what was going on locally, regionally or nationally. You could find stuff that the mall chains had no idea existed, plus magazines and other bits of info that would make the world outside of the mainstream tolerable.Alas, this resource has shrunk down in recent years. Between video games, the internet and mp3 trading via P2P networks, the record store has become pretty much obsolete. There’s still some around, but not nearly as many; and the college market, once the best place to find the odd, unique and underground items, has been decimated.
  2. College Radio Format
    Okay, so many reference may be skewered by the fact that Michigan State got their college format radio station in 1989. But consider this: College radio became a way for many bands now barred from popular radio’s narrowing formats.While not spread out across the nation (let’s just say one would be hard-pressed to find alternative music in the middle of Missouri or northern Georgia), it definitely opened the ears of a truely appreciative audience. And it was these people who would take their tastes into the rest of the nation in the nineties, and why many groups from the early eighties went from college darlings to mainstays of radio.

This list isn’t as big as the “What Sucks” list, but is important because sometimes one piece of good is better than ten items that suck.

Because good DOES have a power that evil doesn’t.

Ten Things That Sucked About Music in the 80’s

Okay, so I’m being a bit long-winded here, but probably the biggest thing about music today is that it seems to have inhereted the worst aspects of the eighties without welcoming any of the good things I remember about that time. Kinda sad that every time I listen to the radio for music I find myself wishing for the days when the idea of “sucking” was that the radio could have used more of my music, not that it didn’t like music.

Anyway, here’s my list: Top Ten Things That Sucked About Music In The 1980’s (and that suck more today)

  1. Is It Live, or Is It Memorex?
    In 1976, ELO got in trouble because they used some tape here and there in their concerts (or they lip-synced the whole thing — depends on who you talk to). In 1985, much of the Duran Duran show used taped sequences, and a few years later Milli Vanilli would use frontmen as lip-syncing props, much to everyone’s seeming shock and dismay.Nowadays there are acts whom it’s known lip-syncs through their concert (indeed, their acts dictate that they must); indeed the present crime seems to be bad lip-synking or not knowing what to do when the background isn’t what you want it to be.
  2. The Development of the Megahit LP/CD
    In the 1970’s you had billion-selling albums because the album was both artistically original and touched the soul of millions. “Tapestry” told of losing and gaining love, “Rumors” was about holding onto the good of a bad relationship. Accidental megahits, both; and proof that mass appeal didn’t have to mean a pile of shit was sold to the masses.Then came “Thriller,” and the game was changed. While it had something for everyone, there was nothing in it that reached into the heart.

    Michael Jackson never recovered. Neither has the music industry. And artists suffer: where once you had abiding loyalties you now have one-album wonders who put out five albums to diminishing returns and fan bases.

  3. The Rise of Pseudo-Country music.
    Country becomes lame enough for mass-consumption. America gloms on lame country stereotypes, revels in a past they spent running away from the past two centuries.
  4. Hair-Metal.
    Now admittedly this wasn’t what they called themselves. I don’t blame them for this, as I wouldn’t want to be known as a group that spent more time in front of a mirror than practicing for the next gig, either.In many ways, this was the final, fatal outcome of trends within music during the eighties. Bands that once had to spend years practicing their chops found themselves bestowed with multi-million dollar contracts for the sole reason of being in the right place at the right time with the right look. Looks became more important than sound. And once you had your big hit, good luck hitting the charts after that.
  5. “Positive Mental Attitude” Music.
    Do I honestly need to hear eighteen thousand songs telling me to chase my dreams and believe in myself? Especially when nobody else wants to believe in me or find out about my dreams, and the system is setting itself up to oppose such actions? And why does the edification get measured purely in terms of money and things? Since when did the word “We” become criminal?
  6. The Isolation of Tastes via Formats
    Used to be you listened to a pop station, you got to hear a little of everything: some country, some rock, some pop, some R&B, even the occasional novelty song. Now each of these formats has their own station, and only in lame format ideas that view variety as an aspect of the past to be invoked when playing “older songs” only (like the JACK(off) format) are they allowed to mix with any sort of freedom.
  7. The CD Format.
    With LPs, you had two sides with up to 20 minutes (25 if you wanted to really squeeze things in), which gave a limit to work with, so you had to choose and edit what you chose. Double LPs were signs of bravado and confidence in your spurt of creativity, they’re usually revered because such confidence was usually justified — to put out a release with two slabs of vinyl instead of one, you’d better be sure your stuff was good enough to be worth both slabs.Then came the CD with its single 74 (now 80) minute platter. Now you could throw everything onto that disk, including the nineteen minute epic (that would rock out at a six minutes, or better yet be a hit at four), and justify it as “giving your customers their full money’s worth.”

    Too many did just that. From Robert Palmer to Tori Amos and many more, uncooler artists to boot.

    A now-dead friend of mine had his own comment to this: “Triple Albums should have been Double Albums, Double Albums should have been Single Albums, and Single Albums should have been EPs (twenty minutes, faster play time, lower cost).” Add to this the idea that Doubled CD Releases (Springsteen, Guns ‘n’ Roses) should have been shrunk down to a single 60 minute disk.

  8. Reissues.
    Didn’t matter if it was put out on cassette or CD, the reissues were almost always crappy, half-baked affairs complete with blank insides and cookie-cutter formats. The only thought put into them was to see how small they could make the front cover of the LP look on a cassette cover.
  9. MTV bought by Warner Brothers.
    When it was first out, it brought interesting music by bands willing to try out a mix of visuals and music, the pox of Rod Stewart’s sellout period to the contrary. However, once Warner Brothers got into the Video Showing business, art became covered up by commerce. Thousand-dollar video budgets were replaced by million dollar video budgets, and outsider groups were replaced by the old guard. Worse yet, the video became the center of the song, not tunes, the singer or the song.
  10. The New Fame Cycle.
    Used to be bands would slog years and create a sound that both was true to themselves and connected with the audience. Bob Seger comes to mind in this instance — an artist who spent ten, twelve years making music, then figuring out a way of staying true to himself while appealing to an audience large enough to fill stadiums. And it wasn’t just Seger himself, many artists of the seventies worked their wares to the point where it was both good and popular, and the fans were rewarded.Then, in the eighties we started learning of a new fame curve: Sign, write immature songs, make hits, move on to more mature stuff, watch your audience leave you for newer bands.

    Now, you’re given two CDs to make your case. And if that first one doesn’t sell millions of platters, don’t expect any support for the second CD.

    You don’t get that in Country. Country may suck, but the format still makes you prove yourself before working you through their machine. And guess what: Country thrives. Coincidence? I think not.

Next posting (if I don’t get one of the items I presently have in the editing queue polished enough to post): What was good in the eighties (and still survives in some form).

Dissolve The Democratic Party?

Time For a New Party(?)

Interesting topic, interesting viewpoint, good tack. I agree with the idea that the Dems have gone from being the party in power to the opposition party to what I call the “Straw Party” used to identify enemies to abuse and neglect.

Problem is, I’m not sure I want the Democratic Party to dissolve.

Not because I suddenly believe that Abortion should become a rite of passage for our girls to enter into adulthood with. Not because I’ve learned that the Democratic party has suddenly become the party of stand-ups and that the rest of non-corporatista America is about to learn that truth and line up to join. Not because the democrats suddenly realized that they could make the Republicans a moot party by changing their mind on Abortion.

But because I don’t think that a second party could now legally arise in this nation.

Seriously: the way the laws are set up presently make it almost impossible for a third party to make it to the ballot at many places, and unless they receive a certain amount of votes in an election they have to go through the same thing again next time. Makes things hard for a new party to make it, and imagine some single-party state using the rules to make it impossible for an opposition party to even exist.

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Anyway, here’s a list of possible happenings, as my limited viewpoint lets me see:

  1. The Democratic Party dissolves, the Republicans Split into Two
    • Hoped For: The Christian Right remembers Jesus’s teachings, takes on the Democrat’s pre-1972 idea of standing up for the little man. While abortion may become illegal, it actually becomes folded in with the idea of caring for everyone and the corporatistas become the minority.
    • Feared: Corporatistas rule both parties, the question becomes who’ll be your God: Jehovah, or Wal-Mart (and be sure you give what both group considers their due, or suffer the consequences).
  2. The Democratic Party Dissolves, Republicans stay as one party
    • Hoped For: New party (somehow) arises, takes on almost all the Democrats and the Republicans who fear the Democrats but not a new party, makes the Corporatistas again the minority force.
    • Most Feared: Republicans able to hold down outside dissent, give enough to the Christian right to keep them under control, create a Dictatorship of the Corporate elite
  3. Democrats able to hold together
    • Hoped For: Democrats start standing up, able to grab another group of voters on board.
    • Feared: Democrats stay a straw party, eventually votes are faked so that certain areas are marked for attack and looting by the ruling party.

Finally: while it may be easier to enter into the Democratic Party and save it from the inside, there may not be enough time. I don’t like the idea of destroying the Democratic Party (why risk letting the Republicans have a chance at creating one-party rule and recreating slavery while they’re at it?) but it may need to be done.

News: Online Shopping More Satisfying Than B&M Shopping

Consumers Take to Online Buying

I remember that the skuttlebutt on Amway/Quixtar discussions was that online Retailing was today what Catalogs were before the Internet: Something for people who know what they want, what they want to give, or know they can’t find what’s in the store. If you can get it immediately, there’s no reason to wait. Chances are, you could get it cheaper in the stores as well.

So went net wisdom. I, however, always added the caveat that the one thing Brick and Mortar stores had to concern themselves with was sales. Therefore, it was possible that Brick and Mortar stores could reduce their stock, forcing those of us who didn’t fit their profile into looking onto the Internet. (And something I didn’t think up at the time: If they could make us buy at their e-store instead of their storefront, so much the better for them as they didn’t have to stock as much to serve the same market).

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Looks like that caveat may prove itself useful. As the linked story above notes, people get a better experience from shopping online than in the stores themselves. Aggregate satisfaction has improved three points over five years for online shopping, while Bricks and Mortar stores have dropped a half-point.Brick and Mortar stores still hold a 97.5%/2.5% advantage over online stores, but the online place is growing MUCH faster.

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A simple equation, really. When you buy online, you know that when you can’t find something, it’s not there. With Bricks-and-Mortar shopping, when you can’t find an item it means the store chose not to stock it, which means it don’t want to serve you.

Case in point: a recent visit to a store in Michigan City. I tried out some stuff, but what I was able to find that approximated me didn’t quite fit, and little else was there for me to find. I left the place disappointed.

Of course, here’s where the place will end up very happy: what I had wasn’t cash, but a refund slip. I’ll have to spend the money at their company anyway, so I’m going to go online to try to find what I want or need. If I don’t find anything, I may end up having to buy gifts for people with it. 😦

So what happens? The company gets to ship stuff instead of having to have its stock in various stores. I have to spend money getting the stuff shipped to me or, worse yet, maybe making a gift of something that was meant to be MY gift.

Not a happy prospect, and something I’d like to avoid in the future, if possible.

Insomnia, Or An Older Pattern Reasserting Itself?

Dreams Deferred — New York Times Article

And for those who don’t like the NYTimes, or think it’s too liberal (trans: not yet to the right of Mr. Arthur Coltrane/Mrs. Ann Coulter) (or are too lazy to look it up), here’s a distillation:

Americans have worried themselves into a tizzy over the lack of sleep they’re getting — so much so that they’re doping themselves to sleep.

So much the pity.

First off, it’s not like they have to worry about bedbugs, coldness, wild weather or pollution from trying to heat the house. We’re also healthier than ever, meaning not only do we sleep well but so do those around us; and the poor have benefitted mightily, allowing them to do a full day’s work.

Second, it’s not as if the folks back then slept all night, even when they were able to do so comfortably. Their sleep was broken up into two parts, with a late night wakefulness to take care of business, or meditation or prayer…or pleasure, if both people were in the mood (and not necessarily the husband and wife, methinks…).

So what causes our present version of sleep, its one-segment throughout the night? Late night lighting. Remove late-night lighting from the night, and after a few weeks we shift to the historical version of sleep: sleep early, awake a little time at night, then sleep into the morning.

And that night wakefulness is different than the regular wakefullness we know and loathe. It’s a calm version of wakefullness; an almost-welcome moment of peace which allows us to view the world in a more benign light. A period of time when you can be busy with your thoughts without the cares of the day invading — is it any wonder the night has been praised throughout history?

It’s also possible that our modern problem of Insomnia may be nothing more than the attempt of the body to return to its former pattern of sleep. Our attempts to impress on it the modern version of sleep (one long lock) may cause us more grief than relief.

I remember when I was going to college that I would nap whenever I got the chance. It was always during the later part of the afternoon, between the business of the day and the activities of the night; and almost always for an hour or two. I always liked it, as it allowed me an early-ish morning and a late night.

Now maybe it turns out that if I had gone to bed a bit earlier in the evening, I could have had a more enjoyable few hours late at night, with the poets and other nightlife, with a more peaceful mind and calmer presence.

The Problem With Present Day Copyright Laws

So I’m listening to Sound Opinions and Lawrence Lessig was talking about how Present-day Copyright law is being used to control and limit creativity. This led me to this thought, which I had thought before but hadn’t expressed yet (I believe):

At present, Copyright Law views each work as a sacred whole, complete and indestructible by itself. While one can make live version or a cover, it is almost impossible to use a piece or two of said work to make a new work.

In other words, if someone can declare that you used something of theirs in your work and can prove it (in however tenuous ways), they own you.

Another way to look at it: George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord” was judged to be a copy of “He’s So Fine.” While the judge agreed that Harrison had no intention of copying the work, the fact that there were enough aspects of “My Sweet Lord” similar to “He’s So Fine” that the Chiffons could use Harrison’s words to their music meant that Harrison ripped off their song without intending it.

Of course, why the hacks who wrote the song to “Gilligan’s Island” didn’t sue Led Zeppelin for making “Stairway to Heaven” I’ll never know. Probably because they were 2-bit writers and the Zep was a band known for Multi-media bullying (lawsuit plus actual fisticuffs (by paid goons, natch) plus bad words all around). At least now one of the surviving band members likes the song enough to welcome its release.

But anyway, this viewing of each work as an organic whole that can’t be touched or used (even if accidentally) except as a complete piece of work is very much limiting as a whole. You use even an identifiable note of the other work, you’re stuck with paying for the whole work — and it’s usually very pricey.

Is it any wonder rap went from a wonderfully dense soundscapes to what now passes as simple noodling over a keyboard? Is it any wonder The Wind Done Gone had to be passed off as a parody when it was a serious work of alternative history (and let’s not forget: Sally Hemmings and Thomas Jefferson’s progeny was long considered a bit of alternative history folklore — possibly believable, but not provable).

Copyright laws at present threaten to freeze people’s creative juices at a time when more people are able to create art than before. What was once considered an act of ownership over a piece of art — memorizing it — now threatens to enslave the memorizer. There’s now less and less a possibility of multiple interpretations of a piece, as more and more the “original work” (read: the work released by a multinational with millions of dollars to waste on SLAPP lawsuits) becomes the only possible version of the work, slavishly copied when allowed and otherwise left pristine.

I believe the Creative Commons idea is many steps in the right direction. It allows for ideas to become warped and expanded in a way that keeps the rights to the whole work intact. I don’t think that Sony, the MPAA or The Margaret Mitchell Society will abide by it, but they’re dinosaurs who’re waiting for their time to die.

Copyright Law needs changes. Maybe this time change will come on its own, despite the laws.

Understanding The Recent Press Drift

Is it me, or has the New York Times drifted to the Right.

When I first subscribed to the New York Times, it was definitely a liberal paper, complete with a token conservative. Now it has a number of conservatives on the staff, and much of the opinion pieces have drifted over to the (classic, not neo-) conservative viewpoint.

While admitting that some of these items have merit (I’m a moderate, if my aim is at the right it’s because that’s where the threat is), it’s still rather disturbing. It’s as if the bullies who’ve castigated everybody not marching lock-step to their dictates aren’t not even opposed by something sentient anymore.

Of course, there is an unique possibility which I’ve thought over the past few weeks. In NPR’s On The Media, when they were talking about the new phenomena known as meta-journalism (watching over the reporters and how they report), the person talking about how this stuff started referred to the Clinton/Lewinsky affiar, and said the gulf started when the press waxed righteously angry while the public cared less about what happened.

Which leads me to the possibility of thinking “What if the press listened?”

Consider this: The press shouts righteously in anger over Clinton/Lewinski, the majority of the public cares less, and the Religious Right reacted by forcing the impeachment hearings?

Maybe those impeachment hearings were the thing that won them the nation.

Consider: People listen to them that listen back. And when the Press talked about Clinton/Lewinsky, the only people who would appear to say “You’re right, and that matters” were the religious right.

Now, these people who were reporting on Clinton-Lewinsky are now likely in positions of some power and authority. And when the people who listened to them before start shouting about “The unfairly liberal press,” the reporters are bound to try to change in an attempt to placate them. After all, you don’t piss off the people who liked you before, unless you can do better by doing so; or are sure you’re so right you don’t need or want them.

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Thing is, how would your average liberal have reacted at that time? After all, it’s not like Clinton was trying to bring down the government; the once agreed-upon definition of an impeachable offense. Who would have thought this would have been seen as a betrayal by those who would gain power in the Journalistic world?As it happened, this may have been a watershed event in what has become the great distrust in Journalists by the American Public. While one can point to such items as the cowing of the press in the face of Reagan VS Patco, the birth of Fox News and the Washington Times (thus sparking the era of “News Is What I Want To Hear About, How I Want To Hear About It, And Without Any Disagreement Whatsoever”), the development of News Departments as profit centers for corporations and even theories held by dissenting professors in college (one professor I knew said there was no such thing as neutrality, saying that every word held hints of bias and that one couldn’t remove these “connotations” from words); the Clinton/Lewinsky story seemed to point in stark contrast the appearant nontrustworthiness of the press:

  • First the way it ended up becoming a big item (exposed by a blog predacessor after refusal by a major magazine)
  • Clinton’s infamous “I did not have sex with That Woman” speech. I could tell the millisecond I heard that sound-bite that he’d have to violently change the English Language to keep that statement true (and he was successful: a whole generation of youth has redefined the word “Sex” to not include any acts involving a mouth touching the genital area (or buttocks).)
  • A large group of people tuned out the press at that point, realizing they knew it all.

That last point is important. After all, who of us cares much about our paper anymore?

Just the radical right. And the fact that they care gives them power.

And that’s why, despite the obvious butchering of the news by Fox News, Ed Stassel, et. al; it’s only the left-leaning press’s problems that get noted. And why the press is moving to the right.

(or at least one specific reason. There’s others, none of which I care to touch upon here tonight.)

Vault Hits The Nowthwest Indiana Area/Comment and Response

First, the comment by Grimace and my response:

look dude, surge isn’t an energy drink and never was. as far as i can tell, vault will never last! MDX may fail as well cause it’s too expensive for such a small amount.

Fair enough, the market has seen and rejected many other sodas before. Crystal Pepsi, Like Cola and Faygo Candy Apple are flavors that come to mind (although I loved the Candy Apple, it seemed like too much a specialty flavor to be out for long). However, I don’t think Surge WAS ever marketed as an energy drink. Obviously it was meant to be a competitor to Mountain Dew, but failed at that.

As for Vault, it has made it into the Northwest Indiana area. Saw signs up for it already at the Speedway stores, being sold for an introductory price of 79 cents. It’s already affected the Mountain Dew pricing, as that’s now at a reduced price of 99 cents (compared to the normal price of 1.29).

I will give Grimace a bit of leeway here, as sodapop markets tend to be very conservative. Once you have a market, it’s impossible for another similar brand to break in and take it. Pop makers know this, and while they work like crazy to overcome it, they also work to make sure the markets stay firm. The last time a company successfully invaded another’s locked market was when Pepsi did their “Pepsi Challenge” (and I suggest looking up this link to find out HOW it actually works), and that ended pretty much with the “New Coke” pseudo-fiasco. So while I hope Vault succeeds, at the very least I’d like to see it replace Mello Yello (no link, no link deserved) in the store shelves.

The Democratic Party?

Kinda sad, actually.

Here’s a president doing really bad, stuck in a war that has no way out or up and swimming in the middle of a massive scandal in his party. And nothing’s going on.

The press has been shifted further and further to the Neocon/Big Business/Believer right. While one can’t judge what will happen with the new Supreme Court Members, things are likely to shift further to the pro-rich and pro-corporation side of the ledger. More people are falling to the wayside, and all you hear are celebrations along the lines of “things are getting better.”

And what happens? We get a bunch of bullies in congress, and they bluster their way to victory after victory. And what do the Democrats do? Talk about bipartisanship, spout the occasional “they lied” (which is quickly shouted down, in lockstep fashion, by the organized right) then run like hell to make out like they’re still buddy-buddy with those bullies beating them up.

What I fear now is that the Democratic Party has become a Straw Party: something used when either agreeable patsies are needed for some heinous actions or an enemy is needed to beat up on, then set in the corner and left alone.

Notice that the places now allowed to vote “Democrat” in the presidential electoral college are those places which the factions of the Republican party view as the home bases of their enemy:

  • Neocons: The Northeastern Seaboard
  • Evangelicals: The Left Coast (Hollywood and San Francisco)
  • Big Business: Unionized Midwest (or what they can get away with: I’d be afraid if I were Ohio and I keep shrinking like they have)

And naturally, this “enemy” is kept marginalized and separated so that the “Real America” knows their unitedness.

Also note how badly New Orleans has been treated since the Hurricane conveniently opened the (conveniently located) not-quite-quality leevees and flooded out the poorer, blacker (and conveniently Democratic voting) parts of the city. They knew how weak the leevees were, and that they broke immediatly (if not sooner).

But yes, I’m now worried. We may now have one-party rule with a mechanism to identify that party’s enemies for exploitation. And they may be able to do it down to the individual, thanks to these new “paperless” voting machines that can take fingerprints and match them up to the FBI files (thereby giving name and face to votes). Say goodbye to the secret ballot, hello to the Nationwide Tammany system (though now for the rich).