Friday, September 27, 2002
Amaze Your Friends, Confound Your Enemies...
...with the arguments you'll find in this brief opinion piece eviscerating the media industries' robotic "antipiracy" consensus. Written by Gary Shapiro, who as head of the Consumer Electronics Association has rather an axe to grind, it is as concise and cogent a set of talking points on the issue as I have seen. Give it up for Gary, ladies and gentlemen.
The music industry has made little effort to look at new business models or provide a viable and attractive alternative to the downloading services. Instead, they spend their time complaining they "cannot compete with free," referring to the free downloading the Internet allows. But the marketplace demonstrates you can compete with free. Purveyors of bottled water do it. America Online does it. Book retailers do it with libraries. Independent online music services say they can do it, if they can clear the rights.
Thursday, September 26, 2002
You Don't Miss Your Water Till the Well Runs Dry
Lawrence Lessig has come up with an anti-spam scheme that is smart and simple and makes me just a little sad.
It's a two-parter: (a) require all unsolicited commercial e-mail to take an [ADV:] prefix in the subject line and (b) offer a $10K bounty to anyone who tracks down violator and proves the crime. Line (a) makes it simple to filter out the spam; line (b) gives line (a) teeth, as current, unwieldy measures for legal action against spammers fail to do. Add line (a) to line (b) and the bottom line is the end of spam as we know it.
Whence my sadness. A few weeks ago I tried for the first time to imagine what a world without spam would be like. I closed my eyes and visualized the dreamt-of inbox: no more penis-enlargement offers, no more Nigerian cons and discount ink-jet cartridges, no more bright, breathless, improbable offers and cajoling, impersonal appeals. Nothing remained but the important stuff -- the pressing business communiqués, the letters from old and distant friends, the dense and relevant postings on my favorite mailing lists. The inbox of my dreams held only information that deserved to be there, that commanded my attention as only that which threatens in some meaningful way to shape our lives can command us.
Naturally, I missed the spam.
And I'll miss it for real if and when Lessig's scheme ever comes to pass. True, it would still be possible for me to leave my mail unfiltered and let all the junk keep coming, but (a) how could such a taming of the spew as Lessig proposes fail also to tame the wild, sleazy spirit of the come-ons that persisted, and (b) what sane person wouldn't turn off spam if they could? I'm not insane. Just not entirely unamused by the carnival of crap that currently dances through my inbox. I'll miss it, and not too much later I'll get over it.
Tuesday, September 17, 2002
Home Is Where the Heart Aches
Not to name-drop or anything, but my sister, Dominique Dibbell, is a superstar. Obie-winning performer and founding member of the downtown New York lesbo-camp theater sensation the Five Lesbian Brothers, she can also write like heck -- as witness this beautiful personal essay, published in last Sunday's L.A. Times Magazine (registration required), about going home to the Southern California hinterlands we grew up in and finding out how hard it is to ever really grow up. Plus what dumb-ass beeyotches people can be.
Monday, September 16, 2002
1. Is there anybody out there who is taping The Sopranos and would be willing to hook me up with a weekly copy? If so, please get in touch.
2. Wait a minute -- did I just solicit a violation of the 1997 No Electronic Theft (NET) Act, punishable by up to a year in prison? Doh...
Please Refrain From Slaying the Mourners
Here follows in its entirety the one piece of pre-9/11/02 media solemnity that actually came close to moving me. Posted September 10 at The Camelot Herald, official update site for the massively multiplayer online role-playing game Dark Age of Camelot:
Tomorrow is the anniversary of September 11th, a day that is meaningful to many of us. There are two schools of thought for observing this day within an alternate world such as Dark Age of Camelot - one, that this is the community of choice for many of us, and so our observances here have meaning; and two, that this is a game, and an escape from a world that sometimes makes no sense.
We believe that both are true, and that we must endeavor to respect the wishes of everyone. So there will be no offical in-game events, to allow our players wishing to escape the real world to do so. However, there are many player-planned events across all servers taking place over the next few days, and I ask you all to please respect these gatherings and not attack the participants if you encounter them. In turn, I ask the planners of these memorials to please keep them low key, and off the beaten path. We cannot enforce the peace if the gatherings are held in frontier zones, but if ever there was a day to give each other the benefit of the doubt, this is it.
Thanks, everyone, in advance.
Thursday, September 12, 2002
Probably I will enjoy Al-Jazeera's web site much less once I resume my Arabic studies and can actually understand more than a word or two of the headlines. Meanwhile it's info-age Arabesque at its sportiest, with every now and then a photo oh so fine:
Friday, September 06, 2002
Once upon a time I was a music critic. Maybe someday, when writing about the Internet has finally rendez-voused with destiny and become as exciting and lucrative as writing about indoor plumbing, I will be a music critic again. Meanwhile I write the occasional record review, such as this one, a 1500-word piece on "Brazilian mad-genius avant-pop weirdo" Tom Zé in this week's Village Voice.
Now, here's the thing. Kurt Andersen, in the aforementioned Slate exchange, says that one of the great things about blogs for a professional writer is the freedom to republish articles as they were written, before some editor had his wicked way with them. By that logic, I should be dying to post my original Tom Zé review here, complete with the elaborate bad jokes I fought editor/uncle Robert Christgau tooth and nail for. Somehow, though, I'm not. I will, however, note that in the elaborate but maybe-not-so-bad joke that was my fantasy made-for-TV movie version of the Tropicalismo movement I should in fairness have cast Billy Crudup as the young Caetano Veloso, and not Jeff Goldblum. (Though I think Bob would agree that Goldblum is the funnier choice.)
Thursday, September 05, 2002
So, are blogs in fact a Big Deal? Or as the formidable meta-media duo of Andrew Sullivan and Kurt Andersen are putting it in their ongoing exchange at Slate: Are Weblogs Changing Our Culture? Their answer seems to be no. Still, mine own previously referenced case for the affirmative, "Portrait of the Blogger as a Young Man," does rate a kind mention ("amusing") by Sullivan.