Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Inciting Anarchy in the UK?:: The Piracy Surcharge

Video::  Posted on Youtube by Spikedude44.  
The Sex Pistols, "Anarchy in the UK," Live in Sweden, 2 July 1977.

The UK Parliament is considering the Digital Economy Bill, which would effectively push the alleged costs of Internet piracy on the consumer by requiring Internet service providers {ISPs} to act as police.  So, here's an overview::
  • The UK music market brings in £3.6B [1]
  • 46% of 2008 music sales were physical CDs [2]
  • The estimated loss from piracy is £200M for 2009 [3]
  • The estimated costs for ISPs to police users is upwards of £500M per annum [4]
  • There's an expectation of £1.7B in extra sales for the film and music industries over the next ten years, along with £350M from extra VAT {sales tax}. [5, ibid]
  • Some estimate the added charge to subscribers' bills would be £25 annually {$40US, $41.93 CAN} [6, op. cit., 3]
  • Some estimate that this would result in 40,000 households giving up Internet access  [7, op. cit., 3]
The ISPs are, not surprisingly, against this, as I don't see it that likely that they will be able to pass off all of the costs to the consumer.  I can also see how the government can see this as an additional source of revenue.

In my mind, if Parliament turns this into policy, it won't work.  Those wanting to pirate intellectual property from the entertainment industry will find a way to do so.  The fundamental problem of "what really is our business model?" needs to be addressed::
  1. How to generate value-added for consumers, requiring a sound definition of what the "product" is.  For example, is selling the music secondary to selling concert tickets, ancillaries, and licensing for films, TV, and commercials?
  2. How to facilitate legitimate purchasing?  In my mind, this means better usability and lower prices.

I also feel this policy is effectively a huge tax, shifting what should be private costs on the public.  If you look at the UK music market as £3.8B, i.e., £200M pirated and £3.6B legit., the pirated lost sales represent 5.56% shrinkage.  While this is high compared to other retail "goods," typically, European retailers spend between 0.29 and 0.34% on loss prevention per annum [8].  Guess what?  At 0.34% of £3.6B, that's £12.24M that retailers would spend on loss prevention, which is a far cry from the £500M the entertainment industry wants the Internet infrastructure to spend on anti-piracy by fiat through Parliament.  If that doesn't incite web anarchy, I'm not sure what will.

In a future post, I'll examine Sweden's experience with tougher piracy policy, which has differential implications for popular versus. indie artists {i.e., along the long tail}.  While Canada has the reputation for being piracy central, Michael Geist does a good job of setting the record straight.

Twitterversion:: UK Parliament considering Internet piracy legislation that would shift loss prevention costs onto consumer.  Policy #fail @Prof_K

Song:: Sex Pistols-"Anarchy in the UK"

Monday, December 28, 2009

newmusicmonday #23:: Owen Pallett f.k.a. Final Fantasy

image::  photo of Owen Pallett from tomlab on the Torontoist {2007}

Owen Pallett {MySpace, CBC Radio 3, LalaWiki} until very recently, went by Final Fantasy, a name he is voluntarily retiring.  A Toronto violinist and composer, he's also done quite a bit of remixing and has a history of collaborating with the likes of Grizzly Bear's Ed Droste, Beirut, Deep Dark United, Jim Guthrie, The Hidden Cameras, Royal City, The Vinyl Cafe, Gentleman Reg, and Arcade Fire.

Pallett won the inaugural Polaris Music Prize in 2006 for his sophomore album, He Poos Clouds, and his long-awaited follow-up, Heartland {details from Pitchfork}, is being released on 11 January 2010.   Here's two tracks via Pitchfork from the forthcoming album, "Lewis Takes Action"::

and "Midnight Directives"::

He'll be touring in January and February, which kicks-off with a sold-out CD release party for Heartland {Domino Records} at the Mod Club in Toronto on 12 January 2010.  The full list of dates are here and here are some selected dates::

  • San Francisco:: 14 January 2010, Bottom of the Hill
  • NYC:: 18 January, Bowery Ballroom
  • Guelph, ON, 6 February, Hillside Inside
  • Montréal, PQ, 20 February, Théâtre Outremont
  • Hamilton, ON, 27 February, Lincoln Alexander Centre

While many an indie act see licensing their music as merely a path to cash and exposure, Owen seems to transcend this.  When his "adventure.exe" was used in Orange {mobile phone carrier} commercials in the UK, due to a mixup with his label {Tomlab}, he donated the income to Doctors Without Borders/Médicins Sans Frontières {Canada} {USA website}.  A year later in 2007, when his "This Is The Dream Of Win & Regine" was used without permission in a commercial for Wiener Stadtwerke, Pallett and his booking agent approached the company requesting sponsorship of a music festival, in lieu of litigation.  The result was the Maximum Black Festival.  

Here's a video for the track, "He Poos Clouds"::

and covers of OMD from their 1983 album Dazzle Ships::

Selected tracks are on the Groovehark, including the cover of Björk's "Possibly Maybe" with Ed Droste of Grizzly Bear.

Finally, make sure to catch Owen on Twitter.  He's often funnier than many writers like Diablo Cody.
Workt all day and my eyes are as dry as a Swedish sandwich.

from web

"Insert coins for more health" really rang true for me today
from txt 
La Roux needs a La Botomy.

from txt

Twitterversion::  #TorontoIndie @owenpallett {f.k.a Final Fantasy}—this week's #newmusicmonday.New album:11Jan.Clips/links. His Tweets ftw. http://url.ie/4gad @Prof_K

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Boxing Day

...was actually yesterday, but here in Canada, the retailers have extended it to Boxing Week {the 26th. through 31st. of December}, which has been compared to "black Friday" in the US.  So, the frenzy is on and the expectations are high for Canadian retailers, given higher consumer confidence.  There's an expected jump in Boxing Week Internet sales, but while the crowds were out for the sales in Toronto, the Toronto Star notes that the bottom-line may be a wash::
"Analysts were expecting Boxing Day to be a big day for retailers. But Deloitte Canada analyst Duncan Stewart cautioned that while Boxing Day represents huge sales in terms of volumes, it doesn't necessarily translate into profits."
This was my third Boxing Day in Canada and have yet to participate in a Boxing Day sale, online or bricks-and-mortar, but the week is young.

In Whit Stillman's Metropolitan {the second reference to that film in a week}, the week between Christmas and New Years is Orgy Week.   DVDVerdict sums it up fairly accurately::
"After the debutante season ends at Christmas, the characters spend the week between that holiday and New Year's in what they sarcastically call 'orgy week.' Here, the tuxedos are ditched in favor of business casual, and the lengthy debates turn to more base subjects, including sex. No one's seen hopping in bed with each other, but it's certainly hinted at. What 'orgy week really provides is a feeling of change. On the DVD's commentary, Stillman claims 'orgy week' is symbolic of the changing attitudes among New York's youth from the late '60s into the early '70s. The formal debutante atmosphere slowly fades into the distance, and that causes the characters to drift apart. One of the girls starts dating someone new, another pursues a singing career, Nick hops on his train, and Fred wanders off when the alcohol runs out."
Back to Boxing Day.  It's a secular holiday, but not a Federal stat. holiday.  It is a provincial one in Ontario.  The origin of the name is still unclear and coincides with St. Stephens Day.  At one time, Boxing Day was a day given off to servants, with families eating buffet lunches and playing parlour games.  Here in ye olde Kingston, Ontario there was take and bake Loblaw's pizza and Rukshuk.

There's an Australian film of the same name and there's an Elvis Costello and the Attractions' song, "T.K.O. {Boxing Day}."  Here's a 1983 live performance of BBC's "The Tube," with a sweaty Elvis and a seemingly double-time performance::

Twitterversion:: The 26th. was #BoxingDay in Canada, kicking off #BoxingWeek, a week of retailer sales here in Canada.  http://url.ie/4frj  @Prof_K

Thursday, December 24, 2009

4AD Records Sampler — Free Download

Twitterversion:: @4AD_Official Records sampler w/free download of 12 MP3s :: @camera_obscura_, @st_vincent, @ musicalnannyla, & more. @Prof_K

Are HP Computers Racist?

I saw a mention of this YouTube video on BBC News, where the "face tracking" software doesn't recognize Desi, who is black, but recognizes Wanda, who is white.  Apparently, according to HP, this is a lighting issue and they are looking into it.  The video has over a million views.

In sharp contrast, Wanda Sykes on a 2005 episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm found that Larry David's dog, Sheriff, recognized black people just a little too much.

Twitterversion:: @BBCTech News article on YouTube vid alleging #HP computers are racist. Facial recognition software #Fail. Links avail. @Prof_K

Song::  PIL-"Rise"

Five Francophone Indie Videos

Bonjour Brumaire-"Brooklyn"  From the solid album, De la Nature des Foules {2008}.  "Brooklyn" is a song that get's stuck in your head.  Get the MP3 {201 kbps} here for 15¢!

Malajube-"Porte Disparu" Montréal fave band of mine with anglophone crossover appeal because of their funk-laden sensibilities evoking the 70s.  Track was on Labyrinthes {2009}.  New ep, Contrôle {2009}, is out, avail here.  Video cast:: Le barbu: Charles Duval  La femme fatale: Larissa Corriveau  La femme forte: Isabèle Jacques Le colonel: Mario Arcand  Le jockey: Maxime Després  Les membres de Malajube

Monade-"Regarde"  Ethereal Marxist music that may evoke Stereolab.  Wait, it's fronted by Lætitia Sadier of Stereolab.  Track is from Monstre Comic {2008}.

Caracol-"Le Mépris"  Montréal folksy indie that evokes a prior decade.  Eastern Canada tour is forthcoming.  Song is from the album, L'Arbre aux parfums {2008}.

Kodiak-"Angle Mort"  Melodious rhythms & catchy hooks, with plenty of layers.   The track is on La Méchanique {2008}.

Twitterversion:: 5 francophone indie video finds for 2009, including @bonjourbrumaire, @malajubeMTL, Caracol, Kodiak, & Monade. @Prof_K

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Web 2.0 Wayback Machine :: Recipes During Wartime

I saw on Twitter that the Nova Scotia Archives had an account.  A recent tweet had links to scanned images from World War II recipe books, which I perused.  The above image is from a 1940 cookbook, which includes recipes from Princess Alice.  Most of the recipes are skimpy on the details, but I get a feeling that people in those days had much more tacit knowledge of cooking, so recipes didn't have to be as explicit.  The recipes called for precise measures, as opposed to subjective measures like "knobs" of butter, but sometimes oven temperatures were along the lines of "medium."

This recipe caught my eye::

Last summer I was in Osoyoos, BC and had Linnyqat's nana's meat pies along with a homemade pickle relish everyone was going nuts over.  This recipe seems close, but I think it's a little different.  Maybe we'll get a definitive answer in the comments.

The $1 price seems trivial, but it was actually a chunk of change.  Using the Bank of Canada inflation calculator, it's the equivalent of $14.22 in 2009 dollars.  What were the proceeds for?

I'm finding my reference points in history are slightly off in Canada.  Britain was involved in the war in 1939, which meant Canada was in the war.

On another note, this got me thinking of music from that era.  My knowledge of music from the 1940s is nonexistent.  I saw some titles from the year 1940 and the only one that looked vaguely familiar was "A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square."  It was originally performed in a show, New Faces, by Judy Campbell, who was Jane Birkin's mother.  Jane and Serge Gainsbourg had a daughter, Charlotte, who has a music and acting career.  {I loved her in La Science des Rêves and wanted to see her in Antichrist}.   I couldn't find Judy's version, but I could find Glen Miller's version, which was from 1940.

Twitterversion::  #Web2_0WaybackMachine @NS_Archives tweeted about scanned WWII recipes from #Halifax.  @Prof_K

Friday Night Videos—The Early Edition :: The Kinks & Bowie/Crosby

Friday Night Videos & The Rhizomicon Christmas Blog

Merry Christmas to all, a tad early, since it makes more sense to post this now.  Here are some indie rock Christmas MP3s from Stereogum, 10 from Music Under Fireand the National Post has ten more, many of which can be downloaded for free, if this sort of stuff is your bag.  Oh, here's more from AudioMuffin & NME.  While I love the late Kirsty MacColl, you'll have to find "Fairytale of New York" with the Pogues on your own, as I've been burnt out on it for over a decade.  It's really easy to find, along with umpteen covers.

I've already blogged about my fave song here for this year which is Standard Fare's "Tinsel Politics"::

Another favourite is Everything But the Girl's "25th. of December" {See Grooveshark player below}::
"Have I enough time, have I just some time
to revisit, to go back, to return, to open my mouth again
and say something different this time."

Tonight's featured video is from 1977, The Kinks' "Father Christmas," although  I didn't hear this until the early/mid-80s.  Thumbing their noses at the commercialism of the holiday::

"Father Christmas, give us some money
We'll beat you up if you make us annoyed
Father Christmas, give us some money
Don't mess around with those silly toys

But give my daddy a job 'cause he needs one
He's got lots of mouths to feed
But if you've got one, I'll have a machine gun
So I can scare all the kids down the street

Father Christmas, give us some money
We got no time for your silly toys
We'll beat you up if you don't hand it over
We want your bread so don't make us annoyed
Give all the toys to the little rich boys"

The next video is the David Bowie/Bing Crosby duet of the "Little Drummer Boy."  I remember when I was a kid, the song wasn't one of my favourites.  I do remember the Christmas special::

I was old enough to remember the Bowie/Crosby duet from Christmas 1977, which was two months after Bing Crosby passed away on 14 October, so people were making a bid deal out of it.

That Christmas break, I remember the local ABC affiliate, KABC, showing the Beatles movies, A Hard Day's Night and Help.  There was also a lot of buzz for Saturday Night Fever::

On Christmas Day in 1977, I got a Tyco electric train for Christmas and remember heading to the beach in the afternoon.  I thought it rained that day in southern California and I was right.  A week before, The Sex Pistols were supposed to be on SNL a week before the holiday, but couldn't make it because the members' criminal records made visas a bit problematic.  Elvis Costello and the Attractions were touring North America and agreed to be the musical guest.  Elvis wanted to play "Radio Radio," but, allegedly, SNL producer Lorne Michaels thought "Radio Radio" was a bit too "anti-media," hence had concerns about the band playing the song.  So, the band was slated to play "Less than Zero" and started a few bars of the song, but it was a false start.  Elvis stopped the band and said, "I'm sorry, ladies and gentlemen, there's no reason to do this song here," and the band played "Radio Radio" {embeddable player doesn't work, so click on image for link in new window}::

Lorne Michaels threw a hissyfit and Elvis was banned from SNL until 1989.  Here's a list of the banned.

Twitterversion:: #FridayNightVideos early: Kinks' Father Christmas & Little Drummer Boy—Crosby/Bowie. Xmas'77! Also, links to indie xmas ♫.  @Prof_K

Band Aid + 25

Image::  Bob Geldof {front left}, Paul Weller {front right}, JT Taylor {back left}, and Phil Collins {back right} in "Do They Know It's Christmas" video {1984}.  Click for larger image.

One thing that makes you feel old is seeing footage from your youth and seeing how young everyone looked, back in the day.  I had that feeling when I saw the "Do They Know It's Christmas" video again for the first time in years::

I don't recall Band Aid II or Band Aid 20, which isn't too surprising, given there was relatively little buzz outside the UK for these projects.

I also missed Pulp's 2002 parody, "Bad Cover Version".

The original Band Aid "supergroup" was founded by Bob Geldof {Boomtown Rats} and Midge Ure {Ultravox}, with the objective of raising funds for famine relief in Ethiopia.  The 1984 version of "Do They Know It's Christmas" would raise £8M for charity.  I recall hearing about the standoff with the British government at the time.  According to Wikipedia::
"Geldof appeared on Mike Read's BBC Radio 1 Breakfast Show to promote the record and promised that every penny would go to the cause. This led to a stand-off with the British Government which refused to waive the VAT (sales tax) on the sales of the single. Geldof made the headlines by publicly standing up to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and, sensing the strength of public feeling, the government backed down and donated the tax back to the charity."
On that note, I leave you with the English Beat's "Stand Down Margaret"::

Twitterversion::  Reminiscing about Band Aid's "Do They Know It's Christmas" 25 years later, which raised £9M for famine relief.  @Prof_K

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Madness, Civilization, & Institutions :: The Silos of Law & Psychiatry

Darius McCollum, from the New York Times {2005} by Brendan Bannon
Crossposted on ThickCulture. This will be part of an ongoing series on mental illness and the law, which is part of an article I am writing.  

Way back in July, I was driving along the 401 from Toronto to Kingston, Ontario.  I was listening to CBC, which was rebroadcasting an Ideas programme, part II of The Dark End of the Spectrum, which was about one man’s struggle with Asperger’s Syndrome.  Asperger’s is a distinct form of high-functioning autism that manifests itself in intense preoccupation with specific interests.  A Fox Searchlight film that came out in the summer, Adam,  has its protagonist as an Aspberger’s sufferer:: The subject of part II of The Dark End of the Spectrum is Darius McCollum, whose fixation is the New York City subway.  McCollum saw the subway as a way to escape the violent bullying of the schools, stemming from his Asperger’s, and as a boy, he started to spend a lot of time in the NYC subways and befriended its employees.
"Darius spent hundreds of hours watching trains at 179th Street. He estimated the angle of every track intersection in the yard. By the time he was eight, he could visualize the entire New York City subway system. (Later he memorized the architecture of the stations.)" [1]
Over the years, Darius' Asperger's manifested itself with his focus on the subway and became a self-taught expert on the system, its trains, and how to run them.  The problem with Darius’ preoccupation is that it compelled him to impersonate subway employees, often with their help, and was always polite and helpful.  He was known to “cover” for employees who were on the clock and when he was 15, he even managed to drive an E train from 34th. Street to the World Trade Center, when the driver became ill [2]  The preoccupation manifested itself with Darius impersonating employees and forging signatures, landing him in trouble with the law—repeatedly [3]. Enter the self-proclaimed Wicked Witch of the West, Justice Carol Berkman, who came down hard on the “recidivist” Darius in 2002 sentencing him to maximum security prison for 5 years.  What is curious is that this judge has a history of being an “activist” against mental health defenses, as this Judicial Reports post details.  What is troubling, at least to me, is how she clearly admits to using the DSM in ways it was never intended to be used::
“Perhaps we could bottom line this . . . having educated myself on the website and with the DSM and so forth, Mr. McCollum has some characteristics which are very much inconsistent with Asperger’s. He’s got a lot of friends. You told me he has a fiancée, and one of the major signs ... is social dysfunction. Not just, gee, his friends think he's a little strange sometimes, but an inability to relate to others. . .”
I'm puzzled by why a judge would deem it proper for her to conduct "research" on psychology and pass off her findings, as if she somehow managed to have expertise on the subject of autism or Asperger's.  Berkman tries to justify her actions by couching them in broad brushstroke generalities with an affliction where understanding is murky to say the least::
"I suppose there is no way of the Court coming out of this looking anything but monstrous. . . . This man is a danger. . . . But in the meantime we’ve made him a poster boy for the system’s lack of compassion for the mentally ill. Well, I have a lot of compassion for the mentally ill. You know, we don't lock them up anymore. We let them have lives, and most of the mentally ill, I hear from the experts . . .  lead law-abiding lives. Darius McCollum does not. That’s too bad. The law says he has to face the consequences of that, because . . . he has free will. . . . So all those people out there making faces at me thinking of me as the ‘Wicked Witch of the West,’ are, in fact, the people who are stealing his humanity from him.”
So, rather than allow a real psychiatrist to examine McCollum {Riker's Island, the New York City jail facility, prevented the defense from letting a psychiatrist evaluate him}, Berkman went in a different direction and took a page straight out of Michel Foucault's Discipline and Punish [4] and Madness and Civilization [5].  Berkman promotes a set of actions by the legal institution, acting like a machine of social control, that does the following::
  1. Nonviolient McCollum with his compulsions must be rendered as a "docile body"
  2. His inability to "control himself" required him to be enclosed in a state apparatus of prison to render him docile
  3. The institution of the legal system serves to internalize within its subjects the power relations of dominance and control
Somehow, I doubt if Berkman has read Foucault, but her actions exhibit the bleak and negative {in my opinion} Nietzschean philosophical stance of Foucault with respect to society, in terms of power, institutions, and the individual.  Berkman paints herself into an ugly corner.  She, not a qualified professional, deemed McCollum to be sane enough to be fit to be tried and stated on the record that she feels he is a danger to society, paving the way for her to throw the book at him. Berkman think she's doing right by society, but not everyone agrees.  A legal scholar at Fordham commented on her conduct in the McCollum case::
“That was entirely inappropriate. She’s supposed to be impartial. She’s not supposed to be an investigator for one side of the other…The timing is critical: it converts her from an impartial jurist into advocate for a certain position. She doesn’t ask for anything and she does her own research. If the state thinks mitigation based upon this mental illness is inappropriate, they should say, ‘Judge, it doesn’t add up.’ Then they should take a position, written or oral: ‘Judge, we’ve researched this, these are the elements to Asperger’s, these are the elements of the defendant.” [6]
A fellow justice, Alvin Schlesinger, came out of retirement to speak on the case.  Berkman cut him off and wouldn't hear a word of what he had to say.  Schlesinger was shocked::
"'She tried to make herself the expert in a very complicated field. The only thing I wanted was an adjournment to see if we could help this man. I am disappointed it happened this way.'' [7]
While the institution of psychiatry struggles to figure out the complex workings of the mind, the legal institution is sometimes caught in its own logics or the logics of those in power to make decisions that hold people's lives in the balance.  These two institutions are like independent silos of knowledge and practice, which allows people, real people like Darius McCollum to fall through the cracks. I sent a friend of mine with experience with Asperger's an e-mail discussing Darius and she sent a reply that was quite illuminating for me::
"...sadly, groups of people on the autism spectrum do so very well in a think tank, or lab...and when kept busy with intellectual pursuits (and this takes a special kind of 'teaching' or coaching, too) are remarkably stable and productive. environment is EVERYTHING..."
The MTA {NYC Subway} isn't interested in hiring Darius and the courts have tried to keep him out of New York City by making that a condition of his parole.  He continues to return and has been arrested at least four times on transit-related offences since being sentenced by Berkman in 2001.  
Twitterversion:: July #CBC Radio b'cast on #DariusMcCollum's #Asperger's casts world according to #Foucault. Silos of law & psychiatry? @Prof_K  
Song:: Dare Dukes-"The Ballad of Darius McCollum"

1. Jeff Tietz, “The boy who loved transit: How the system failed an obsession,” Harper’s Magazine, May 2002, available: http://www.harpers.org/archive/2002/05/0079165. [Accessed 22 December 2009].
2. Clyde Haberman, “Back in Prison, Guilty Mainly of a Fixation,” 12 April 2005, available: http://www.nytimes.com/2005/04/12/nyregion/12nyc.html?_r=1http://www.nytimes.com/2005/04/12/nyregion/12nyc.html?_r=1. [Accessed 22 December 2009].
3. Sam Knight, “On the wrong track: Newspaper articles about Darius McCollum have called him a ‘bus rustler,’ a ‘transit kook’ and a ‘train in the neck,’ 18 April 2005, http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/article382503.ece. [Accessed 22 December 2009].
4. Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison (A. Sheridan, Trans.). New York: Vintage, 1995 [1977].
5. Michel Foucault, Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason (R. Howard, Trans.). Vintage: New York, 2001 [1961].
6. Jesse Sunenblick, “Wielding a Mean Gavel,” Judicial Reports, 2 March 2007. [Online]. Available: http://www.judicialreports.com/2007/03/wielding_a_mean_gavel.php. [Accessed 22 Devember 2009].
7. Dean E. Murphy, “Judge, Clearly Not Amused, Sentences a Subway Impostor,” 30 March 2001, available: http://www.nytimes.com/2001/03/30/nyregion/judge-clearly-not-amused-sentences-a-subway-impostor.html. [Accessed 22 Devember 2009].

Monday, December 21, 2009

Giants Win{ning}!

Watching Monday Night Football for the first time in ages and the NY Giants just scored in the first quarter to go ahead 7-0.  Manning is looking good.  I couldn't help but think of Carl from Aqua Teen Hunger Force who went mental on a "Giants Win!" rant a few years ago, when they were going to the Superbowl {XLII}::

Here's Carl's opinions on Michael Vick::

More Carl from promos::

Twitterversion:: Watching #NYGiants on #MondayNightFootball, which made me think of Carl Brutananadilewski from #AquaTeenHungerForce. @Prof_K

Song::  MC Chris-"I Want Candy"