Thursday, May 26, 2005

Get up, stand up

I'm proud of my Republican Senators.

Mike DeWine signed the filibuster compromise. George Voinovich is fighting the good fight against the eminently unqualified (anti-qualified?) John Bolton. And they're both drawing fire from the radical right wing of their own party to do it.

So as soon as I post this, I'll be sending them each a supportive email. They need to know that they're not out there alone. There are centrists and lefties out here who appreciate their leadership. And we'll remember.

If you're an Ohioan (and I know two or three of you are), you should write them too. (And you should do it RIGHT NOW, especially if we want to stop Bolton.) And if you're not, you need to check up on your Senators and Representatives. If they're acting like statesmen, thank them. If they're not, tell them to get on the stick.

Monday, May 23, 2005

If my eyes don't deceive me there's something going wrong around here

(Official Hip Deep No-Prize to the first person to get the title reference.)

I just got through watching an ESPN show called You Can't Blame... Generally, this is a reasonably entertaining show which makes the argument that guys like Bill Buckner and Chris Webber take a lot more heat for their flubs than they deserve. And today's episode?

You can't blame the 1919 White Sox for "throwing" the World Series.

Now, I'm a pretty trusting guy. I believe that Joe Jackson played to win. I believe Kenesaw Mountain Landis cleaned house and didn't give a damn about the specifics. I believe that Arnold Rothstein wasn't behind it. (I believe Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. I believe there ought to be a constitutional amendment outlawing Astroturf and the designated hitter... I'm sorry, wrong monologue.)

But I can't blame the guys who did try to fix it? You have just got to be kidding me.

ESPN's reasons five through three are practically a class in moral relativism. There was rampant corruption and gambling in society. Comiskey was a tightwad. There was no whistleblower to substantiate all the rumors.

Put another way, society made me do it, you made me do it, somebody shoulda stopped me. That didn't wash with the nuns or the brothers, it didn't wash with my folks, and hey, ESPN, it doesn't wash with me.

I think Curt Flood is a national hero. The crap that baseball owners pulled year after year after year is just inexcuseable. I will almost always side with the union against the cabal of owners and Bud "Satan sold his soul to me" Selig. But a bad situation makes it OK to do a bad thing? Not hardly.

Reason two almost holds water. The game stats are inconclusive. But then again, it's supposed to be hard to see something you don't want to get caught doing. And it doesn't address the fact that multiple players did confess.

Reason Number One, according to ESPN, is that the players were acquitted of defrauding Comiskey and the White Sox and the public. But all this proves is that throwing a sporting event wasn't actually illegal in Chicago in 1919. There are lots of things which are immoral which there aren't (and often shouldn't be) laws against. That doesn't mean there shouldn't be consequences.

For reminding us that sports are more complex than the flashbulb memories we carry around as tokens, a pat on the back to ESPN. But for excusing flat-out lying, a big dope slap to the back of their corporate head.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Loose talk in the classroom

Tom Cruise : Katie Holmes :: Joe : Charlotte Church.


(Also the Olsen Twins, but that joke's just too easy. And still, eww.)

On the other hand,

Ashton Kutcher : Demi Moore :: Joe : Christie Brinkley.

Well, she is the Uptown Girl, but Billy Joel's my boy. Then again...

AK : DM :: Joe : Ellen Barkin.

Oh my Lord, Ellen Barkin. Two words: Buckaroo Banzai. Three more words: The Big Easy. Where's that laminated list?

You go, Ashton. You go. Live the dream.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

You know something's going on, but you don't know what it is

Hugh asked me about 5 things I don't get, and obviously my essay on intellectual property isn't getting written. So here are some.

1) Pot. I just don't get it. Tried it a couple times in college, and it basically made me bouncy and hungry. I later realized that being 19 made me bouncy and hungry, and didn't involve a federally controlled substance. I switched to booze and never looked back. (Alcohol, of course, makes me erudite, insightful, witty, and sexy. At least until the next day, when someone tells me what actually happened.)

2) Cigarettes. Full disclosure: I used to love pipes and cigars. I liked how they tasted, I loved how they smelled, I liked how they felt in my hand and my mouth. Unfortunately, I can't hold my nicotine anymore; I seem to go straight from the third puff to "oh, Mister Toilet Bowl, you're my only friend." As a prop, I can understand cigs; they do have the whole Bogie/James Dean thing going. But I always thought they tasted and smelled gross.

3) All auto racing except Grand Prix. Horses and humans are beautiful when they move. Motorcycles are cool, since you can see the rider. But for a car race to look good, you just gotta turn both right and left, in quick succession. Straight lines and wide turns? Booooooo-riiiiiiiiing. Frank De Ford said on Morning Edition that NASCAR is basically just a movie car chase unencumbered by plot, but come on... imagine Bullitt or The Dead Zone or The Blues Brothers if they only turned left.

4) P*r*s H*lt*n and the rest of the Professionally Famous. What have you done for me lately? Hell, what have you done for me ever? Do something first, just once or twice, and you can be a celebrity forever. But these people who think they get the spotlight by mere birthright? Let's treat them like the five year olds (or overgrown mascots) they are... just don't look and they'll go away.

(OK... on further reflection, I might be actively opposed to the Professionally Famous.)

5)The Brady Bunch. I simply don't understand why this is such a touchstone for my generation. Sure, it was amusing, but no more so than any number of other sitcoms I watched as a kid. Although I will say that if anyone has a bootleg of Boomslang singing the words to The Brady Bunch theme to the music of Freebird, email me and name your price.

Friday, May 06, 2005

He wants me if he can keep me in line

Caught an interesting documentary on AMC called Bleep! Censoring Hollywood. I found myself torn on this, because I think there are pretty clear copyright issues on one side, and then some interesting larger intellectual property questions on the other.

At issue are a small number of copies which sell DVD "sanitizing" services. The basic model for these companies is pretty similar. They buy a retail copy of a movie, import it into some video editing software, and remove what they find offensive. They then market these as cleaned-up versions of the films, more suitable for young viewers.

It seems to me that there's a blunt copyright violation going on here for those companies which market the videos for sale or rental. You've created an unauthorized copy of the vast majority of the work for commercial purposes. Copyright violation, do not pass go, do not collect any dollars. Yes, all the companies are careful to also buy a retail copy of the movie, to minimize economic harm to the producers, and that is one aspect considered under fair use. But I don't think there's much of a chance it outweighs the fact that they are editing and reselling something which is not theirs to edit or resell.

What, though, of the company which does this on a "subscription" basis? AMC didn't go into enough detail on this business model, unfortunately. But it seems to me that there might be a loophole if what you sell is a "service" instead of a "product." Clearly, I am allowed to make my own cleaned up edit of a movie I personally buy. I don't see why letting someone else do the editing for me would change things. I don't know if it's possible (or practical) to run a legal business in this manner, but I'm curious. (My hunch is that it's allowable, but probably not practical, since the letter of the law would suggest that the movie would have to be recut from scratch for every new clean copy made.)

And then there's CleanPlay, who markets a specialized DVD player and a software DVD with the codes for what portions of the movie might be found objectionable in what ways. (The end user can then decide what to watch... gimme a full order of sex, with a half side of violence, hold the F-bomb.) It works with any regular off-the-shelf DVD (if they've coded it). I just can't see any way this is a violation. Essentially, they're selling an unofficial viewer's guide, but they're not copying the original work. If this is illegal, so are concordances and Cliffs Notes.

So that's the legal end. The IP and artistic end gets hairier.

UPDATE: The President has signed the "Family Entertainment and Copyright Act" (PL 109-9), which expressly makes these sanitizing services legal, particularly the software-based ones. At the same time, there's no protection for the sale or rental of these copies, only for editing them "by or at the direction of a private household." So there's still some undetermined area as far as the business model.

It also increases the penalties on for-profit movie piracy, and prerelease theft, reauthorizes LC's National Film Preservation Board and Foundation, and gives libraries and archives a bit more latitude in dealing with orphan works (i.e. works where we can't locate the copyright holder).

So if you're scoring at home, or even if you're alone, that's Small Conservative Businesses 4, Large Liberal Businesses 2, You 1.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

We're coming up on re-election day

There's an election on a school bond issue in Little College Town today. (It is actually the only question on the ballot. There's not a single other thing on there.) The pro-bond forces have done an admirable job of trying to motivate all our recently registered new neighbors to come on out and vote.

Needless to say, this has motivated the high-brow carefully considered dialogue which email lists and electronic bulletin boards lend themselves to. I'll excerpt from the diatribelogue:

GRRR! Rich kids deciding my taxes! ARRR!
        Voting's cool, man. Vote for the kids.
Taxes don't affect students!
        Jeffersonian democracy poststructuralist deconstruction antidisestablishmentarianism I've got some more big words over here.

As for myself, I've got a couple of thoughts. Frankly, I think it's kind of sad that students don't have a strong enough attachment to their "homes" that they'd change their legal residence so easily. It's unfortunate that they don't want to stay informed about their local government issues, their own Senators and Representatives and statehouses and bond issues. And to a certain extent, I feel like we've tried this move to a swing state thing before and it didn't go well.

But that said, if you live in a place for 8 months a year and it feels like home, it's your right to choose it. Heck, I'd be shocked if I voted in a single municipal election while I was in college, so if the students are voting today, more power to them. I do think you ought to reregister your car and pay your income tax here and all that jazz, but Ohio law doesn't actually seem to force you to.

What I really wanted to address, though, is that "taxes don't affect students" idea, because it's so blatantly wrong. At the end of the day, all taxes are actually paid by consumers. And say what you will about the 18-22 year old demographic, but boy oh boy are they consumers.

But this is a property tax, you say? Exactly. I just voted for my property taxes to go up. And when they do, I'm going to be looking for a little more pay. And if I get it, the college will go looking to the folks who consume my services to foot the bill. And the same thing will happen at the barber, the bookstore, the grocery, the bar, the clothing shop, every rental landlord... and those changes will affect everybody.

What I'm saying here is that this is not just a "rights of man" issue. It's also basic bad math.

[Columbo voice] Oh, ahhh, I'm sorry, there's just one more thing. I like the little voting shuttle that's been running up and down the hill. That's very public spirited of you. I was just wondering... aren't you folks who need to drive a car 4 minutes to vote the same people who were yelling "No Blood For Oil" a few years ago?[/Columbo voice]

It's a pretty day. It's a 10 minute walk. No Blood For Oil, but No Walking For Me. Got it.

Really someone

Just a quick Googlebomb to Hugh's post about the exemplars of a class act: Camilla Cai, Harlene Marley, and Roy Wortman. It's been a privilege to meet these fine professors, and I'm very sorry to see them go. Each of them has impressed me as the kind of professor who would've motivated me to do my best... not just because they're excellent teachers, not just because I would've desired their approval, and not just because I would've been too terrified not to bust my butt, but that magic combination of all three.

I think the best comment I ever heard for a teacher was that he thought "more of us than we did ourselves. (It) made us both proud and vaguely uneasy."