Thursday, October 12, 2006

Pirated Goods - A Short History Lesson

This gentlemen (name of William Heath) and his smuggling cohorts & predecessors plyed the English south coast from the 1300's until the mid-Victorian age. As the English Crown levied ever higher import duties on wools & luxury goods in an attempt to control & profit from all trade, our smuggler friend here found himself increasingly popular. And rather than being seen as a scourge to polite society, William was actually lauded as it's supporter. Fine ladies would boast of their smuggling connections as they served tea over lace cloths. In fact, it became increasingly difficult for the Revenue Men (government officials charged with catching smugglers) to get justice in the local courts because the magistrates were enjoying the benefits of smuggling themselves. Finally, after hundreds of years of battles, both physical & legal, the English dropped the tariffs and put William out of business.

It's all Economics 101. You have something I want but the price is high or the supply is low. At a certain point it becomes profitable for a 3rd party to supply me with the same goods either at a lower price or higher supply. For him, the potential profits outweigh the risks (the drop in William's case). Of course, it couldn't happen today, could it?

Oh - Those Good Old Days

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My cassette picture reminded me of the this one. The golden early 80's where the record labels predicted the death of music for the first time as millions of teenagers grabbed their cassette recorders & copied each other's albums with impunity. Even the mighty Quincy Jones got into the fray, standing before a judiciary committee and claiming that without protective legislation the days of the 5 million plus selling album were over (bad news Quince, your Thriller album, released later that year went on to sell over 25M in the US alone). He even supported the insertion of an audio notch at 3KHz ("that no one could hear") into all recordings which would disable the record feature on cassette decks.

Of course the music industry didn't die. In fact, following MTV & the CD introduction, they went on to make more profits then ever before. But the rhetoric was not so surprisingly similar to what we hear today about file sharing, downloading, bit torrents and broadcast flags. "Our business model isn't working so we need regulators to step in and save it."

Wednesday, October 11, 2006


I've been up on this soap box before and taken more than my fair share of jabs over my stance on immigration. I think this excellent piece says much about how I feel on the subject. I picked this frame for the header because what surprises me most is that some of the most vehemently anti-immigration voices I hear are Catholics! Yet it was often traditional Catholic immigrants (particularly the Irish and Polish) who bore the most hatred when coming to the US.

The current wave of Hispanic immigration is predominantly Catholic yet so many of my faith are opposed to their entry, basing their prejudices on the flimsiest of racist rhetoric and media hysteria. Our church's teachings are pretty clear on the subject of the treatment of fellow human beings irrespective of immigration status. Jesus' teachings are even clearer.

Monday, October 09, 2006

DRM-Free Online Music

That would be legal, downloadable music with no pesky DRM encoding, some of it for no-$ free too. Since I've had it with DRM and the RIAA and am trying to avoid iTunes Music Store wherever possible I thought I'd spread the word.

1) Mercedes Benz Mixedtape - believe or not the venerable German automaker publishes a monthly mix of around 15 songs from new and established artists. Leans on the mellow eclectic Euro-music side but the download includes artwork and artist info. If I didn't already own a BMW I'd be tempted towards Stuttgart by their musical tastes alone. Look for a complimentary podcast too.
2) Beatport - primarily a source for DJs but open to all, Beatport has a web interface to beat all and a choice of downloads in high quality MP3 or uncompressed WAV files. Per song prices range from $1.49 to about $2.99 but their is always a ton of free tracks & mixes available to registered (registration is free) users. A most for the electronic dance & trance fan, they also have a somewhat regular podcast.
3) e-music - offers independent releases in every genre imaginable for a slightly confusing monthly subscription system (like any good drug deal, the first few are free). However, unlike other subscription rip-offs, the songs you download are in MP3 format & yours to keep for eternity. What makes this site great is the reviews and write ups for almost every artist listed. The preview system is a little clunky (I open the links in Quicktime) and leaves lint all over the desktop.
4) Techtronic Sounds - great & regualr podcast in the dance/trance/techno genres. Great mixes, not much else to get in the way of the music.

The Wrong Baggies!

I got my toiletries unceremoniously dumped by the 'droids at TSA in Orlando this weekend. I had carefully packed them all into a Ziploc bag as required but it turned out that the bag was the wrong size so it was bye bye handcream, toothpaste & shaving lotion. I'm so glad the TSA are on top of this kind of thing, imagine a whole traveling nation pulling out any kind of sealable baggie they fancied for the toiletries! It makes me shudder to think what an Enemy Combatant could do with a 2 quart freezer pack.

In all seriousness, doesn't this kind of moronic behavior invite ridicule of the whole TSA system? They have already become the joke butts of the late night talks & even Garrison Keillor's Prarie Home Companion took a dig at them this weekend. As Mr. Bumble said, "if that sir is the law, then the law is an ass."