Saturday, February 24, 2001

And he said: "Son, this world is rough
And if a man's gonna make it, he's gotta be tough
And I knew I wouldn't be there to help ya along.
So I give ya that name and I said goodbye
I knew you'd have to get tough or die
And it's the name that helped to make you strong."
He said: "Now you just fought one hell of a fight
And I know you hate me, and you got the right
To kill me now, and I wouldn't blame you if you do.
But ya ought to thank me, before I die,
For the gravel in ya guts and the spit in ya eye
Cause I'm the son-of-a-bitch that named you "Sue.'"
- Johnny Cash, A Boy Named Sue

So I went to AudioGalaxy this morning looking for early 80's techno, and ended up with a bunch of Johnny Cash songs instead. Yes, it's official, and you heard it here first: I now have country music on my hard drive.

Saturday morning, eating breakfast and downloading mp3's. AMG All Music Guide in combination with AudioGalaxy is the best tool for exploring music right now. The reviews at All Music aren't always good, but they usually do a very good job of recommending which albums of an artist you should start with, and where to find similar kinds of music. And AudioGalaxy is much better for tracking down non-top 10 music than Napster. I don't care what the american courts say, I'm not going back to Napster.

Friday, February 23, 2001

Even as a 320x240 VCD, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is a pretty fucking great movie. There are so many things here that's been dying in Hollywood for decades: style, beauty - dialogue. And the core is the same as in all truly great movies: love, and violent conflict - clear emotions and colors, no irony or cynicism or clever allegories.

Norway's Ministry of Cultural Affairs has proposed extending the tax on recordable media to include CD-R's and DVD's. Looks like we'll be following the rest of Europe, then. Their justification for fighting piracy at the recordable media level is interesting:

En samlet vurdering av de hensyn som gj�r seg gjeldende tilsier at det b�r innf�res et vederlag som kompenserer rettighetshaverne for det tap de lider som f�lge av den private eksemplarfremstilling som finner sted fremfor et forbud mot privat eksemplarfremstilling. Hensynet til vern av den enkeltes private sf�re og manglende muligheter for kontroll i denne sf�ren tilsier at det ikke b�r innf�res et generelt forbud mot privat eksemplarfremstilling.

And, somewhat less priceworthy, (but in traditional social democratic spirit):

I tillegg foresl�s det at en tredjedel av samlet oppkrevet vederlag fordeles kollektivt. Et sentralt form�l med slik kollektiv fordeling av oppkrevet vederlag er � sikre nyskapende og mindre kommersiell kunstnerisk virksomhet.

This law will be irrelevant by the time it is passed. It might have served some purpose a few years ago, as most digital piracy until today has involved CD-R's at some level, but there's no guarantee that removable media will continue to be the primary storage of pirated data. By the end of the year I'll propably have houndreds of gigabytes hard disk space, why bother with 700mb CD-R's, or even DVD's? The tax will succeed in annoying some people, and possibly subsidize a few accordion players, but if the music industry can be compared to an overweight dickensian factory owner thrown out of a plane without a parachute, (and I think it can), then a CD-R tax is the cushion placed on the ground beneath him.

Thou art media! (With sincere apologies to Heinlein.)

Thursday, February 22, 2001

There's no easy way to say this, but I worship Groucho Marx, (30's comedian and brother, currently dead, no relation to Father of Communism). He's got The Gift, just watching his picture starts me chuckling, expecting a joke. The Pavlov effect is so strong I'll laugh at anything with a cigar, moustache and glasses.

I'm still trying to finish my (admittably small) collection of Marx Brothers movies - which isn't easy when you're limited to VHS PAL. I've watched the ones I've got so many times I don't really laugh at them any more, I know all the lines, my brain has absorbed and adapted to them.

LikeTelevision has several episodes of 50's Groucho gameshow You Bet Your Life online now. It's not as funny as the movies, but there's no way to put Groucho in front of a camera without him spitting out brilliant one-liners like a machine-gun.

What a shame. I keep getting addicted to websites that doesn't work with Opera, (worlds best web browser, best norwegian invention since the cheese cutter, etc. etc). First there's MySpace, where I download Twilight Zone and Star Trek episodes. Downloading is so unreliable I need to have a window open all the time, to grab a connection when I can. Then there's Blogger, of course, which I also have running all the time, and Napster-substitute AudioGalaxy, which is to Napster what Napster was to FTP.

Shame, (shame, shame!), on all of these excellent services for forcing me to use dinosaur technology again. This might be a bit difficult to understand for those of you who associate Opera with fat women in viking costumes, but using Exploder (or Netbloat/Bugzilla) after having tried Opera is a bit like going back to ISDN after living with a private 1mbps connection - yes, it does roughly the same thing, but you end up getting annoyed with all these little things you've begun taking for granted that aren't there.

Oh no, enani is unhappy.

While norwegians are barely allowed to buy heavily taxed beer in the supermarket, the danes are carefully considering raising the legal drinking age from 15 to 18 years. The whole debate is so alien to sober norwegian eyes that it's easy to forget there are only a few miles of water between us. Consider this quote from J�rgen Winther, health spokesman in Venstre:

Det er vigtigt, at b�rn f�r et naturligt forhold til alkohol, s� de l�rer at drikke. Det allerbedste er vel, at for�ldre og b�rn g�r disse erfaringer i f�llesskab,

Say again?

Minister of Justice Hanne Harlem (AP) has an interesting article in todays Aftenposten, detailing the governments view of the current status and challenges of law enforcement. Not surprisingly, coming from a social democrat in a time of nazi hysteria, she advocates more use of the law against racism. The law itself, she says, is adequate but under-used, and she also eagerly awaits the upcoming report from a commission that most likely will propose stronger legislation against neo-nazi organizations. And then there is this:

Av andre tiltak de senere �r, vil jeg s�rlig fremheve utvidet adgang til inndragning av utbytte som stammer fra straffbare handlinger. I saker der en person blir kjent skyldig i en straffbar handling som kan gi betydelig utbytte, for eksempel narkotikaomsetning, ran eller torpedovirksomhet, kan domfeltes eiendeler inndras. Det er alts� den tiltalte selv som m� bevise at hans verdier er skaffet lovlig til veie � s�kalt omvendt bevisbyrde.

I realize that recovering stolen / illegally acquired property from convicted criminals can be difficult, but the phrasing here worries me. Doesn't shifting the burden of proof over to the accused violate some fundamental principles of justice?

It is with little surprise I note that Eminem didn't win the Album of the Year Award at the Grammys last night. Commercially, it was the only logical choice. First they nominate a controversial artist to guarantee viewers, then they give the award to some safe 70's comeback so the controversy doesn't permanently stain their reputation. Why anyone still takes these phony back-slapping rituals seriously is beyond me.

I haven't seen the Elton John / Eminem duet yet, but I think the idea is hilarious. If you read the lyrics, you'll see that they're not anti-gay. I mean, they're anti-everything, but not consistently anti-gay. They are, however, consistently misogynistic - Eminem is practically killing off his wife in every other song. Which is why Elton John playing the role of Eminem's alter-ego Stan's wife strikes me as brilliant dark comedy.

No matter what his naive apologists says, though, I think Eminem's misogyni is real. It comes through in so many different ways, he's obsessed with killing his wife, even if all the anger and violence is clouded by jokes. I'm not really a fan, but The Marshall Mathers LP is still the most important album of 2000, judging by the way it resonates with a whole generation of teenagers, and, unlike that poseur Marilyn Manson, simply refuses to be dismissed as commercial shock music.

Wednesday, February 21, 2001

Another great Filler at Suck, the conclusion to her annual-or-so women to avoid / men to avoid freak-show galleries. Polly Esther is a cynic, but I don't hold it against her.

Looks like I can start buying CD's and videos from Amazon again. The dreaded norwegian tax on cheap (<200NOK) mail-order items is going back to the hell-hole it creeped out of. The 23% VAT was never the real issue, the problem was the 120NOK the postal service required to administrate it, and the numerous weeks required to get packages through customs. All in all, this made buying CD's from foreign websites both more expensive and much more annoying than popping by the local teen-pop-only CD shop. Protecting norwegian business from more efficient distribution channels was, of course, the intention. Cheers to Schj�tt-Pedersen (AP) - I won't forget this one.

Tuesday, February 20, 2001

Every six months or so I rediscover Spr�ytvarsleren, Martin Ystenes' weblog dedicated to tabloid pseudo-science, and then I forget to bookmark it. Now it's up in the useful link menu. Reading it may be a bit depressing, if you happen to believe in journalism. I don't.

If your connection is up to it, go see Nosferatu (1922) at LikeTelevision. That is one dot com I'll miss if they go down in flames. Their website feels a bit amateurish, but that only goes to show that they're spending money on techies, not professional designers.

Oh, and Dario Argento's Suspiria is pretty great too.

The writer of this [CIA] memo concluded indignantly and unequivocally that he did "not recommend [LSD] testing in the Christmas punch bowls usually present at the Christmas office parties".

Lee & Shlain, Acid Dreams, chapter 1. And it gets better. Some of these 50's and 60's CIA experiments puts the ending of Dr. Strangelove in a very new light:

During this period he initiated Operation Midnight Climax, in which drug-addicted prostitutes were hired to pick up men from local bars and bring them back to a CIA-financed bordello. Unknowing customers were treated to drinks laced with LSD while White sat on a portable toilet behind two-way mirrors, sipping martinis and watching every stoned and kinky moment. [...] White's harem of prostitutes became the focal point of an extensive CIA study of how to exploit the art of lovemaking for espionage purposes.

Reviewing this 1986 book, the Independent interestingly claims LSD was made irrelevant by colour television. I wouldn't know, but if I didn't have cable TV, computers and the web I might very well have ended up experimenting with drugs too. Having music in my ears 10 hours a day, and all the information in the world at my fingertips, I'm already too far out to bother. Psychedelia lives on the web, but I see no place for drugs in the information revolution.

About time for a new desktop wallpaper. Out goes Michael Whelan's illustration to Isaac Asimov's Foundation. In goes M.C. Escher's visual koan Relativity.

Monday, February 19, 2001

Ooh, got a mail from Torbjørn Jagland today! Apparently he's not very bright. Says he's travelling around the world these days, (this part might be true), discussing human rights with the bad guys, (Turkey, Saudi-Arabia, France), and making some serious progress with the chinese.

Den mest omfattende dialogen idag er med Kina, og det er mitt inntrykk at den har bidratt til en bedre forst�else for menneskerettigheter hos sentrale kinesiske beslutningstakere. Norge er ett av f� land Kina har dialog med. Dette hindrer oss ikke i � ta opp forhold vi er kritiske til, snarere tvert imot.

Earth to Jagland: Free beverages in an expensive Beijing hotel room does not mean they're listening to you.

All your base are belong to us!

Feed has an interview with Warren Spector, big-league game developer, on the status and future of computer games. Right now is a golden age of gaming creativity, and if you're not playing any that's your problem. Computer gaming as an art form / media is old enough for developers to learn from the early classics, but it's too young to have been abducted by pretentious art connoiseurs yet. (Well, with some exceptions.)

There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man's fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we call "The Twilight Zone".

One of Rod Serlings introductions to his 60's TV show the Twilight Zone, this sums up the connection between Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror better in four sentences than Truth in Cinema manages in four articles. Thanks to Kristok for adding Twilight Zone episodes to his excellent website - oh, and thanks to MySpace for their, erm, invaluable contribution to the piracy community by hosting the files. Don't tell anyone, but I suspect their business model actually is piracy - public sharing vastly increases the adview/storage ratio, and free, private online storage would be the silliest business model since charging for 128kbps mp3's.

What are Napster users supposed to make out of this pressrelease?

The solution the two companies have been working on will maintain the peer to peer structure of Napster, but will allow in the future restrictions to be placed on what can be done with the transferred files, such as limits on the ability to burn music files onto CDs.

I'm all for paying for information, but a future of music lovers crippled by paranoid protection schemes is not what I have in mind. At some point you simply have to trust users to do the right thing, even if it means accepting what should be obvious by now, that a minority of dedicated pirates will get what they want anyway.

I like the business model of EMusic - pay money, download mp3's. No elaborate protection schemes, no spyware - they're even offering a subscription service. Now, if only they didn't encode their mp3's at such a ludicriously low bitrate, I would be spamming their URL everywhere. They don't seem to have any immediate plans to change this either. Digging their own grave, they are.

Sunday, February 18, 2001

And the price for most charming Kuro5hin writer at the moment goes to enani, whos quest to make everyone happy by posting anime-referencing nonsense, eerily balances out the pompous and merciless Paget-Paget/Streetlawyer sleazewar. Moshi moshi!

Yeah, the death of k5 meme has finally reached me too. I will be back, of course. Stupidity and flamewars are as old as the net and as real as taxes. I'm just tired of ignoring self-absorbed egomaniacs and poorly written geek-oriented freedom rants, (including my own, of course).

Threepwood '01 archives