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May 4, 2007

i was a tv baby

I ran across a weird confluence of items concerning television content of the 1970s.  This has a special significance for me, as I was a child of the 1970s, and my parents were not hippies, so I was basically parked in front of that RCA for a good ten years.  (Which RCA I'm convinced was the repository of my talent -- sorry, genes.)

First, LoCal Memory writes about the news of the series "WKRP In Cincinnati" finally being released on DVD, which is of note because the distributor had to replace much of the music originally incorporated in the episodes.  This is what we call a "music legal" issue, and it is what I spend a good portion of my working days on.  It's good to see awareness raised, so more people can understand the importance of "music legal" issues while they listen to library cues fill in the spaces where once was Earth, Wind & Fire.

And then, like, the next site I visited, I learn that TV's Tom Poston married Suzanne Pleshette some years ago, which is an interesting bit of trivia, although a sad bit of trivia since I had to learn about it in the news of Poston's passing.  This news is brought to you of course by Grizzle McGrizzle, who of course manages to also invoke Leather Tuscadero.

This is almost enough to make want to watch TV again.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:57 AM

May 3, 2007

09 f9 har dee har har

Again, I've you've heard of this, you've heard of this, and if you haven't, you need to.  The wars that will eventually be fought over copyright, and more discrete aspects of intellectual property?  It's being fought right now, and the good guys are winning, for once.

The short version: a hacker uncovers the decryption key that could be used by someone with sufficient technical experience to enable HD-DVDs to be copied -- basically, without the key (a sequence of letters/numbers sixteen units long), HD-DVDs are uncopiable.  So this hacker dude posts the key on a message board, and the entity that licenses this encryption technology sics lawyers on the message board.  This in turn enrages the geek community, who then take to posting this key in as many places as they can, thus defeating the lawyers with a grassroots geekswarm:

Predictably, this legal effort has backfired, resulting in eternal Internet fame for the key in question.  In addition to having been posted on hundreds of thousands of web sites (and resulting in the temporary shutdown of Digg.com), the key has already spawned a song, a quiz, a domain name, and numerous T-shirts.

Basically, I'll see your squadron of lawyers, and I'll raise you a couple hundred thousand pissed off consumers, who now (thanks to Al Gore and his Internets) have access to the same barrelfuls of ink originally only available to print publishers.  Not to mention that they are the only dog in this fight with a sense of humor, which pretty much means that they will not be broken.

The passage above is from a very smart, concise article laying out the legal implications of the situation from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, who basically mans the front lines of these skirmishes over the fate of digital property.

And if you are interested in more in-depth coverage of this, Boing Boing is just lousy with posts, ranging from coverage of the Digg chairfight to the various and sundry ways that the key can be incorporated into user-generated artwork.

Posted by mrbrent at 4:38 PM

i double check my alarmism, to make sure it's yummy

I'm growing a little leery of the ongoing monitoring of the bees, and their precious little colony collapse disorder.  Maybe it's going to turn out like that terrible hurricane season that 2006 was supposed to be, or (for those of you with the longer memories) the race wars that were supposed to start after the Rodney King-inspired riots of 1992.  I don't want to be the victim of unfulfilled expectations.  Maybe the bees aren't so much as disappearing as they are hiding, or vacationing.  Maybe they'll all come back and then the apiarists will start shouting about bee invasions, and someone will unearth an alleged quote from Einstein about how, if bees declare war on man, homo sapiens will have four years, tops.

Fundamentally, the question is, are news stories enough to make one speak of the sky falling, or does one need to wait until one is hit in the head with an actual chunk of the sky?

In the meantime, in case the bees don't pan out, I'd like to put the next "Your Planet, She's-a Trying To Kill You" obsession on deck.  What shall it be?  It could be China's insidious plot to poison us all, though fortunately we have the ultra-vigilant Bush Food and Drug Administration to protect us.  But then again, I've always found that multiple drug resistant diseases are an incredibly sexy pre-apocalypse story, as mankind pays the price for dousing our food supply with antibiotics like salt.

Or maybe some new fun doom story will pop up later today.  This is America, after all.

Posted by mrbrent at 11:04 AM

May 2, 2007

wherein i misuse 2-3 minute of my online banking experince [sp]

You'd think that the bloom would be off the rose on reprinting bad spam, but it is not the case.  A phishing email made it past the little robot that lives in my computer -- SpamGoalie, I call him.  While a malicious email making it past the little fella is not news in and of itself, I was just taken with the style and sentiment contained therein:
If you last logged in you online account on Thursday April 5th 2007, by the time 6:45 pm from an Foreign Ip their is no need for you to panic, but if you did log in your account on the above Date and Time, kindly take 2-3 minute of your online banking experince to verify and register your computer now to avoid identity theft, your protection is our future medal.

Ooh, I hate panicking.  Yup.  I'm just not very good at it.  So, that was very nice of the criminals, yes?  Even still, I am resolutely not panicking.

Also, I thought it was very kind of the hopeful identity thieves to persist in ginning up a bank notice email that has at best a short-bus knowledge of the English language.  Typos?  Check.  Twisted syntax?  Check.  Phrasing that reads like a T-shirt from Nippon?  Checkity check.

Hopefully, the treaty that all the phishers signed that prohibits them from trying hard enough to even write a complete sentence will never expire.  After all, my protection is their future medal.

Posted by mrbrent at 5:13 PM

glenn beck is a doughy gasbag

Any day's a good day to share some Glenn Beck.  He is just a doughy Random Crazified Allegation machine, and CNN should be as proud as a new parent.

Beck (who is a radio/CNN talk show host, if you are lucky enough not to be well-acquainted) set stunning new heights of flabby demagoguery by constructing an analogy wherein Al Gore and other climate change activists somehow have some equivalency the Third Reich:

You got to have an enemy to fight.  And when you have an enemy to fight, then you can unite the entire world behind you, and you seize power.  That was Hitler's plan.  His enemy: the Jew.  Al Gore's enemy, the U.N.'s enemy: global warming.

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing, yes?  It makes me miss the days of the invisible robot in Ross Perot's teeth.

Beck has some sort of special addressing these topics on the TV this evening.  I personally will be very busy not watching it, but Beck would love to have you along:

...before we're all sent to respect camps, make sure you watch it on Wednesday.

Sometimes you suspect that some of the perpetrators of vile political speech (your Limbaughs, your Coulters) speak cynically in an attempt to appeal to the baser (basest?) instincts of the listening public.  I don't think that this is the case with Beck.  Beck (a) actually believes this vicious gibberish that vomits forth from his mouth; and (b) is seriously cuckoo for cocoa puffs, if you know what I mean.

But enough time writing this!  I'm late for my Respect Camp Steering Committee meeting.  They're gonna have donuts!

Posted by mrbrent at 1:09 PM

May 1, 2007

sanitary thoughts -- the law, not just a good idea

I'm posting on this in case you haven't heard about it.  In Chicago, a high school student turned in a creative writing assignment that contained some violent imagery.  For which he was arrested.  Which delightfully manages to be world-class paranoid and free-speech-abridging at the same time.  And this wasn't Barney Fife gettin' all excited and acting rashly, either:
It's noteworthy that this action wasn't a knee-jerk response.  It followed a round-table discussion by school district officials, who not only concluded that Lee's essay was so disturbing as to demand action, but evidently eschewed moderate responses like contacting his parents or referring him to the school counselor in favor of having him arrested and charged with a crime for his words.

So I guess I should be careful what I write, as I'm pretty sure that this website is available in Chicago, and Cook County generally.

High school was a million years ago.  In fact, I think high school became about a million years ago by the time I was a college sophomore.  But I can remember enough to say with confidence that any effort to weed out homicidal maniacs by monitoring their free writing samples is going to be an effort wasted.  Oh, I'm sure that your potential homicidal maniac will write something florid and juvenile and stabby -- unfortunately, so will your basic upstanding teen who grows up to be as decidedly unhomicidal as you are.  That's why they call them "teens".

There is a discernible and growing portion of our culture that is Perpetually Panicked, and is willing to criminalize adolescence because it is sometimes associated with disturbing thoughts.  Dudes, crazy people with guns are scary, but unfortunately no one is going to develop a helmet that will protect your children from gun-toting crazies.  Life is risky; people sometimes go nuts.  Meanwhile, that McDonald's your feeding your kids is a whole lot more threatening to their welfare.

Ironically, if you read the young man's recreation of the offending essay, it's an easy argument to make that the teacher blew this kid in not because of his violent content, but because he basically calls her a bad teacher and a shallow person -- funny how often potential terrorists are the same people we have some grudge against.

Posted by mrbrent at 11:43 AM

i link because i care

Links are updated this morning.  I've spending too much time skidding through science-oriented sites (bees!), so I've decided to share the fun.  Additionally, this fellow has rescued his blog from dormancy, and this fellow you you might recognize, as he used to be someone else.

Is this the portion of the post where the obligatory hand-wringing of the efficacy of links in this modern age goes?  Yes.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:23 AM

April 30, 2007

gonzales dumb enough to put it in writing

This may be a bit nitty or gritty, but it's a nice-sized scoop.  The National Review's Murray Waas reports that the politicization of the Gonzalez Justice Department may have been more than the happy coincidence of like-minded individuals.  This would be the lede, though I'm going to withhold a crucial phrase, for shits and giggles:
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales signed a highly confidential order in March 2006 delegating to two of his top aides extraordinary authority over the hiring and firing of most non-civil-service employees of the Justice Department.

Yes, Mr Waas has obtained a copy of this highly confidential memo.  Though it could seem defensible if the administration employs its usual obfuscations and wordgames like "pursuing the policies of the unitary executive".  The qualifying phrase left out, however, refers to the two aides, and reads:

-- who have since resigned because of their central roles in the firings of eight U.S. attorneys --

So, actually, the two functionaries in charge of the DoJ Employment Slush Fund have since resigned in a cloud of scandal.  Which perhaps elevates the memo obtained by Mr Waas from an interesting sidebar to a Smoking Gun.  The entire piece is worth your closer examination.

For those of you with long memories (six to nine months), Murray Waas is the journalist who seemed to have a supernatural ability to see behind the closed doors of the so-called "Plamegate" investigations of US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald (who may be the only US Attorney overseeing matter hostile to the Administration who survived the purge).  It's not hard to imagine Mr Waas going through a substantial amount of shoe leather in the course of a year, and it would be hard to imagine him sitting at a table with Sanjaya at the White House Correspondents Dinner.

Posted by mrbrent at 5:37 PM

wedding videographers: it's on

There are many interesting stories making the rounds from the weekend, I see.  Hopefully, in the course of the day I'll get to one or two of them.

Unfortunately, I'm back from a wedding over the weekend, which was very lovely, of course, but still, I am now consumed with trying to figure out a way to declare war on wedding videographers.

Wedding videographers may seem harmless (or, to those of you who watch footage of your ceremony on birthdays and anniversaries, irreplaceable), but actually they are very dangerous to our social cohesion and customs.  These are the people who destroy the occasion and ceremony of your average wedding reception by making the reception feel more like a film set than an actual wedding reception.  Attendees behave as if anything that happens when the green light isn't on isn't actually happening, and off-camera, they are wan and slack, no doubt calculating their next moment of localized fame. I wish that participants in such events would be more concerned with celebrating the moment than being recorded celebrating the moment.  Until that moment comes, however, we will have to harass wedding videographers into pursuing gainful employment in some other, less soul-destroying field of pornography.

(I'm sure that wedding videographers are no worse people than I am your average decent person is.  But once that camera-mounted halogen hits me in the eyes, then that very nice videographer person is fair target for invective, or my gin and tonic. )

Hopefully, I'll have this worked out by lunchtime, and then I can go back to making fun of bees, and doom.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:57 AM