Saturday, March 03, 2001

Rest In Peace: Napster. We'll never forget ya. (Technically it isn't dead, but their offer to block pirated music makes the difference irrelevant.) Whatever happens next, I will always remember Napster as the brilliant piece of software that opened my eyes to the world of music. Things are changing, and the death of Napster (and similar services) breaks the ceasefire between art creators, owners, distributors and consumers. What the music industry does next will determine which side I and many others will be standing on. Consumers have the Bomb, and it's called FreeNet, but it shouldn't be used carelessly.

Friday, March 02, 2001

From Modern Humorist: CIA, CUL8R - inside the CIA's secret chatroom.

Yay, my period of Kuro5hin apathy is over. Several interesting articles today, about the myth of global warming, women being discriminated online, and Taliban tearing down statues. Actually I heard that last one on NakedNews two days ago, but this time it wasn't hilarious.

Norway's Ministry of Trade and Industry is preparing legalislation for digital signatures. I don't know much about the specifics here, but it's worth keeping in mind security and cryptography expert Bruce Schneier's objections to digital signatures:

For years, I would explain the mathematics of digital signatures with sentences like: "The signer computes a digital signature of message m by computing m^e mod n." This is complete nonsense. I have digitally signed thousands of electronic documents, and I have never computed m^e mod n in my entire life. My computer makes that calculation. I am not signing anything; my computer is.

Today may be the last day in the life of Rome... For nine hundred years Rome has lived! For nine hundred years architects, mathematicians, poets, and philosophers have fled within her arms sheltered from superstition, prejudice, hate, and every form of human cruelty For nine hundred years this one heart of humankind has been defended by the likes of Pompeii, Mark Anthony, Julius Caesar, The Divine Augustus, Claudius, Trajan, Hadrian, and my own father Antoninus Pius. Now, it has come down to us! It has come down to this one day... Five years we've lived together, you and I, in a state of total war. We have shared cold, rain, heat, bitterly watched the deaths of beloved friends. We are not alone. Look around you! Consuls and Senators have forsworn the luxuries of home and moved with us to the front to ensure that the administration of our government radiates from the source of her bravest citizens. But on this day I ask you to put those nine centuries down -- they're too heavy for us to carry into battle again! So, we'll leave them here for the Senators to guard for us! This day I want you to fight for the cold and the heat and the filth -- and for all those friends who will never feel the sun on their faces again! I want you to fight for you! For at the moment of battle you and you alone are Rome!

Marcus Aurelius' speech from David Franzoni's original script to Gladiator, which for some reason I will never understand was rewritten and crippled by John Logan before being made into a movie with very cool fighting scenes but a totally lame story. So perhaps the original script had some faults, but they actually deleted entire scenes that made the characters look like real human beings, and not cardboard stereotypes. And now it's competing with Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon for best movie of the year at the 73rd Annual Beverly Hills Backslapping Awards.

FrP's surge on the polls was fun while it lasted. I don't support their ideology, but anything that gets Steinar Hansson of Dagsavisen to reveal himself as an elitist, and our entire stock of established journalists and politicians to wake up at night, screaming, must be good for something. It's time to end it now, though. Regardless of ideology, FrP is one of the three most important parties to keep away from political power right now, (following NKP and AP). FrP is our national gallery of village idiots, (second only to no.samfunn.politikk.diverse), run like the personal property of a few ambitious egomaniacs. I don't think they're racists, or that they will ruin our country more than other parties, but if this is how their internal power struggles look like, imagine the trench wars if they ever came close to real power.

Thursday, March 01, 2001

With a lot of help from Jill Walker I've created a list of norwegian weblogs and online diaries. Not too many around, really, so I think it's important to gather the few that exist in one place. If you know of any I haven't listed, please let me know.

Wednesday, February 28, 2001

Naked News - "The program with nothing to hide". Educational porn, what a great idea! (Clearly inspired by Monty Python.) The nudity in itself is pretty average, as pornography goes, but as Online Journalism Review correctly points out, the news coverage is definitely above average, all things considered. It also has something you rarely see in pornography or regular TV news: it's charming, and some times even hilarious. Otherwise dull news items get double meanings when read by a nude woman, such as todays story about the Taliban puritan government planning to tear down Afghanistan's statues.

I'm not sure I can go back to watching regular TV news now, without envisioning the reporters undressed. The Naked News is actually too friendly to be truly decadent, but I'm sure there must be dystopic science fiction novels and religious pamphlets that apply here.

I have a very bad feeling about the future of AudioGalaxy and other napsterites right now. This could be related to the fact that there was no milk in my fridge this morning - hours later the abstinence symptoms are still churning in the background - but it's propably a coincidence. What I mean is, Napster is going down, they're living on borrowed time. And when the courts finally pull the plug, the music industry won't need longwinded trials to shut down the rest of the centralized p2p services. A few cease and desist letters to investors and NSP's could be enough to kill most of them, (including Napigator).

How far can we trust the Big 5 to replace it with something affordable that actually encourages people to explore new music, without burying them in paranoid protection schemes? Will they repeat the mistakes of EMusic, by sticking to low quality 128kbps? And if Napster and AudioGalaxy goes down today, will I be able to sign up with Sony tomorrow? Napster has enabled me to have a music collection at 22 which I couldn't have had at 32 in an netless alternative universe. They're killing off an invention as important as the library, without any guarantee that they can replace it.

Of course, there's always FreeNet, which should prove very resistant to legal attacks, and there are interesting projects that could make mp3 trading through FreeNet as easy as it has been with Napster and AudioGalaxy. But I really believe that artists deserve to be paid for their work, and unlike Napster, FreeNet makes that impossible. The ideal solution for both artists and consumers would be a subscription service that is easy to use, reliable and fast, and doesn't put unnecessary restrictions on the files you've paid for. Is it possible to combine these features at all? How many years will we have to wait?

Tuesday, February 27, 2001

Check out these 1920's Felix the Cat cartoons over at LikeTelevision. Apparently he was one of the first famous cartoon characters - and I see why. You can see the origins of the disrespectful comic surrealism in later WB cartoons.

I especially loved Felix Goes to Hollywood (1923).

I heard the mp3 of the Eminem and Elton John Grammy duet just now. The idea is hilarious, but it came off pretty tame. Eminem sounds like a whining kid, not a homicidal maniac, and Elton John gave me flashbacks to that dreaded celebrity version of Perfect Day a few years back. It's also, obviously, censored, and while this is also true for the radio version of the song, hearing mister "You think I give a damn about a Grammy?" voluntarily replace fucked up with messed up for some cheap publicity offends the rock'n roll rebel in me.

Oh well, at least AC/DC won't sell out on me, start singing with Pavarotti for Tibet, or whatever.

If there is a philosophy behind my weblog, (besides, uh, "anything I feel like writing about"), it's this: Get your information directly from the source and the experts. This is true for local norwegian politics, as well as international news. For instance it is better to read a summary of Høyre's tax views on their own webpage, obviously but predictably biased, than to read VG's interpretation of it, propably also biased, but in an unpredictable direction. You know what you're getting from a party webpage, but who is VG's Gyri Aure planning to vote for this year? Few regular journalists will reveal their political flag, and what's worse: they rarely link to outside sources, so what they tell you is all you get. Which is why I trust op-ed pages and party press releases more than so-called neutral journalism.

When it comes to international news, going to the source is even more important. While local news only goes through one level of unpredictable distortion before ending up on your breakfast table, international news are edited and rewritten and summarized and dumbed down so many times that you're lucky if there's still a grain of truth left by the time you read it. 10 years ago, this was inevitable. Today, why read Aftenposten's foreign section at all, when all they do is parrot and summarize international press agencies and foreign newspapers you can read for yourself online? By digging deep enough, you might even find the original sources of these foreign newspapers as well, thereby eliminating another level of unpredictable distortion. This leaves you with the responsibility of extracting truth from propaganda, but who says you're less suited for this than an Akersgata hack writer? (Well, they do, but then they have a reason for saying this.)

I wear the black for the poor and the beaten down,
Livin' in the hopeless, hungry side of town,
I wear it for the prisoner who has long paid for his crime,
But is there because he's a victim of the times.

I wear the black for those who never read,
Or listened to the words that Jesus said,
About the road to happiness through love and charity,
Why, you'd think He's talking straight to you and me.

Well, we're doin' mighty fine, I do suppose,
In our streak of lightnin' cars and fancy clothes,
But just so we're reminded of the ones who are held back,
Up front there ought 'a be a Man In Black.

- Johnny Cash, Man in Black

Goths go home, is this depressing shit or what? Well, mr Cash can carry the sins of the world if he wants to. Personally I'd like to carry some of the better parts.

Monday, February 26, 2001

You've seen Bert is Evil. Now, go read about Evil Lassie.

I get a nice, warm Truman Show feeling from reading the little stories over at the norwegian Big Brother website, which opened yesterday. Apparently, Anita was angry at Rodney last night, (but they sorted it out), Anne Mone is a bit shy, and Lars Joakim's hair isn't real. How about that! It's all hilariously anti-newsworthy, even for a soap, and yet oddly fascinating. The social pseudo-scientist in me enjoys the thought of 10 volunteers subjected to the psychological experiments of greedy TV producers. (No, no .. I shall resist!)

Anyway, enough with the sermonizing attacks on the show in todays newspapers, ok? Dagsavisen predictably criticizes it for voyeurism, Aftenposten "reveals" that it's all artificial (well duh!), VG finds the whole idea distasteful, and even our perfectly useless minister of cultural affairs wants to do something about it. (Don't just do something, sit there!) I couldn't care less about the morality of surveilling people who will prostitute their social life for a million NOK and 100 days of fame. The show is either entertaining or boring, and that's all there is to it.

Whatever you do, don't listen to Dagbladet's guide to Napster-alternatives. It's so lacking and full of errors and inaccuracies that you're propably better off doing the opposite of whatever they're recommending. For instance, they complain about the 6 mb size of LimeWire, a Gnutella clone, because it will take forever to download over a modem. This isn't necessarily incorrect, but if your connection is that slow, perhaps you shouldn't be downloading mp3's in the first place. Ok, I know, ignorant journalists are pretty dead, horse-beating-wise, but there are actually people out there who take these people seriously, who pay attention to the drivel of your average uneducated navel-gazing Akersgata hack writer.

To be fair, though, Nettavisen's Napster coverage is even worse - more so because much of what they write is actually based on the truth. As always, of course, you're better off getting your information from the source and the experts, in this case places like Napster itself, The Register and InfoAnarchy.

Through FNA and possibly satirical communist shrine Stalins�llskapet I've finally tracked down Sången om Stalin, a 70's propaganda song used to great effect in a swedish miniseries I forgot the name of. And for more unintentionally funny proletarian music, go here.

"Om barn skulle p�verkas av videospel skulle de som v�xte upp med Pacman p� 80-talet springa runt i m�rka rum, �ta piller och lyssna p� monoton musik."

Quote of the month from Flashback News Agency #138.

The nerve! The swedes are taking credit for Anarchy Online, a scifi MMORPG which I'll propably never play, but that's beside the point. The point is that the game is developed by Funcom, a moderately successful norwegian game company. Making better movies and better music than us is not enough, oh no! They have to steal our game developers too. Just like they stole J�mtland and H�rjedalen in 1645! Oh no, we haven't forgotten, we only let you think we have while we prepare the revenge, and what a beautiful revenge it will be. All the land you've stolen will be ours, and all those movies too! And our stocks shall rise high!

What a great movie: Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961). Best scene: Timber!. That Varjak fellow is a forgettable dork, of course, but Audrey Hepburn could play against a cardboard cut-out and I'm not sure I'd notice.

Threepwood '01 archives