Archived News for January 2008

A Short Film

The pilot dies. Horribly. Lots of close-ups on the attractive single mother and the grizzled anti-hero. But they stay in their seats. Instead, six or seven of the passengers all get up and try to be heroes. Some of them are drunk. In the end, the flight attendants fly and land the plane without any trouble. (Auto-pilot, see.)

Then, advertise the film as a full-length feature. And make it twenty minutes long.

Dark Room

This was written in Dark Room.

(It's a text editor that allows you to edit text. And not worry about other troublesome details.)

Dark Room is, along with it's associated brethren/ancestors, perfect for removing distractions from the writing process. My system tray notification area is always blinking and clogged; my desktop is bright and gaudy; I always feel I need to multi-task. These problems disappear behind the black expanse of a Dark Room window.

There are no menus or title bars, no spell check (so, no annoying squiggly lines), no formatting. Nothing to get between the writer and the written.

There's always Notepad, if you want to write notes. And there are various advanced forms of Notepad for programming and technical tasks (ConTEXT, TextEdit). Just think of Dark Room as being a form of Notepad entirely dedicated to creative tasks.

Of course, such things are only neccessary if you're stuck in Windows or Mac OS. If you're using Linux, a plain, 80-character-width console vim window is always just a few keystrokes away. But if you can't be bothered, I recommend Dark Room.

The Utility of Copyright

There are discoveries made almost every day that make the world a better place to live in. We are constantly improving our lot, and the lot of those around us. Consider pennicillin. It was a true 'discovery' not an invention, in that it had always existed. But once its use was found, things improved. A lot. Millions of lives have been saved by antibiotics.

I believe that digital information processing is such a discovery. The effects are perhaps not as apparent, but I hold that the discovery of the digital computer and of information processing has made (and is making) this world better.

Discoveries, in their nature, are like that. They need not come at a cost; the world is just becomes a bit bigger, wider, better when they happen.

In the early 1990s, digital music was in its infancy. Then came the adoption of mp3, napster, lawsuits, and the current situation - widespread, pervasive copyright infringement. That music could be replicated for almost no cost was a discovery.

The world is bigger because of it. The world is also different because of it.

A utilitarian is said to have a calculus to determine the moral worth of actions. Previously, the calculus for copyright went something like this:

That content producers benefit greatly, and that a few people benefit from the content, and that content so continues to be produced; these things outweigh the natural freedoms everyone has with regard to such content. We should, therefore, put in place restrictions on the copying of content.

With the ability to copy more easily, cheaply, and in greater numbers, the calculus changes. A single piece of content can now serve every human being alive; it need only be digital, and be made available. In other words, our ability to copy affects how many people can benefit from such copying. And this means we must re-evaluate in favour of the greater good.

The freedom to copy would have always benefited some people. But now, "some" can actually be "everyone but the content producers". And that changes things. That copyright should not exist becomes a classic utilitarian decision: less utility for a few people, with a little more for everyone.

Public Party

I had an idea. It's called Public Party. I want to have a party, every year, to celebrate works that have passed into the public domain.

Hopefully, the first such party will be on the second Saturday of next year. If I know you, you're welcome; give me a call or something for more details.

And hopefully the idea sticks for people who don't know me, and other parties spring up. None will be as cool as those we have in New Zealand, though; with our 50 year term on films and sound recordings, we're headed into the swinging 1960s!

I've set up a little system to countdown to each party, and to keep track of some of the works we'll be celebrating. It ties into a larger system I'm working on, to keep track of works that are due to become public domain.

I'm sure I'll post more about this in the months ahead. If you can think of a better name, let me know.

Cryptic Copyright Law

I have a theme, so I'm sticking with it. Sorry if I'm boring you.

The Copyright Act 1994 has the following clause, which I found interesting:

(1) It is not an infringement of copyright in a sound recording to play the sound recording as part of the activities of, or for the benefit of, a club, society, or other organisation, if the conditions contained in subsection (2) of this section are complied with.

(2) The conditions referred to in subsection (1) of this section are—

  • (a) That the club, society, or organisation is not established or conducted for profit; and

  • (b) That the main objects of the club, society, or organisation are charitable or are otherwise concerned with the advancement of religion, education, or social welfare; and

  • (c) That the proceeds of any charge for admission to the place where the recording is to be heard are applied solely for the purposes of the club, society, or organisation.

So, if you're a charitable, non-profit organisation, you can ignore copyright in sound recordings for the purposes of your next fundraiser. And your members can dance the night away to sweet, sweet unpaid-for music.

Breaking Bad

Breaking Bad just started. It's a dark comedy about a 50 year old chemistry teacher who starts cooking methamphetamine. There's a bit more to it, but I think it might be best to watch the show for that - you can get it at all the usual places. Highly recommended.

Money laundering

Election Year

Well, shit. It looks like the theme for the election might have been chosen already: youth. God, I hope not. Check these tag clouds: {Helen, John}, taken from their latest speeches.

Ephebiphobia is a fucking shame. It's collective, wilful ignorance of what's actually happening, of the facts. And it comes from the same scaremongers who tell us we're in the middle of a crime wave, that we need to "get tough on crime", and that today's youth ("the me generation", "the iGeneration", "generation Y") are lazy miscreants who want it all.

(Almost certainly wrongfully) attributed to Peter the Hermit, 13th century:

The world is passing through troublous times. The young people of today think of nothing but themselves. They have no reverence for parents or old age. They are impatient of all restraint. They talk as if they knew everything, and what passes for wisdom with us is foolishness with them. As for the girls, they are forward, immodest and unladylike in speech, behavior and dress.

John Key, 2008:

This wasted potential is there for us all to see: teenage parents with no plans for their or their children’s future; illiterate and innumerate school leavers; youth gangs prowling our neighbourhoods and sporadically dishing out beatings. [...] More than 13,000 teenagers are collecting a welfare cheque and many others are filling their days with nothing but Playstation and TV soaps. Violent youth crime is at an all-time high. Robbery is up. Grievous assaults are up. Aggravated robbery is up. Young criminals are graduating from petty crime to more serious crime; unexploded time-bombs on a fast-track to Paremoremo.

Sounds serious, doesn't it. But here's a look at the supposed crime-wave, using Statistics New Zealand data:

Youth apprehension as a percentage of total apprehensions

Obviously, Kiwi teenagers are too busy filling their days with Playstation and TV soaps to get out onto the streets and raise the youth crime rates.

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