Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category (feed)

Would an One-Way Ticket to Mars be Acceptable?

NYTimes posted an article about Mars being the next frontier and that it might require astronauts to never come back, in order to cut down costs. At first glance this sounds inhuman, but the reality is, sacrifices must be made for the human race to survive. I am personally not against such a solution if it is to accelerate our space program and bring humans closer to space colonization. To me (and Mr Spock), the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. I would personally be a volunteer in such a scenario, if I had the knowledge and fitness required.

Regarding the Google Chrome OS

A few years ago I went into lengths both on OSNews and on my personal blog evangelizing the basic ideas behind a cloud-based OS, and specifically claiming that Google is the company that can make that true. The comments back then were ranging from “it will never going to happen”, to “it’s not feasible”, to “you are dreaming”.

Finally, Google announced last night the Chrome OS. While I feel vindicated about it, it’s true that such an OS does not fit all shoes and it does raise privacy concerns. For example, doing video editing in such an environment would be a pain in the bum. Other actions though, e.g. emailing, might be better.

As for privacy, I think we are going past that. The world is going towards a supposedly-democratic outlook, but with totalitarian roots. Such a software system makes sense for our modern policed nations. And if Google wouldn’t be the one bringing that technology to us, someone else would. I am glad that it’s Google for now. But in 30-40 years down the road, when Larry and Sergey would be long gone from the company, I don’t know how things would be.

Regarding ringtones

I was just reading the ludicrous news about “ASCAP Wants To Be Paid When Your Phone Rings” at Slashdot. We obviously living in some very restrictive times, and I am more liberal than that I am afraid.

But after the initial shock, I kind of liked the idea of not using popular copyrighted songs as a ringtone. In Greece, a lot of people are using some of this terrible pop-bouzouki music as a ringtone. Not only it’s terrible to hear such music over a small speaker when you happen to be next to one such cellphone ringing (it just sounds like noise), but there’s a “feature” where you can enable that ringtone to be head on the OTHER side of the line, while you’re waiting for someone to pick up the damn phone. Basically, having moved to the US, thousands of miles away, doesn’t spare me of the torture of having to listen to that crap.

In fact, the last time I was in Greece (this past May), my cellphone rang using the default Nokia ringtone (which was properly designed to have the right volume/crispiness/frequency to be easily heard). When my mother heard it, she said, “Oy! What is that? What is that stupid sound? Put a good song in there, something from Elena Paparizou.

ASCAP of the world, do save us from pop song ringtones! Don’t let anyone use them!

The future of entertainment

There are those who say that by 2011, all music will be free, and the labels will offer artists 360 contracts in order to survive (meaning, putting the artists under more financial pressure than they are now). There are those who say that RIAA/MPAA will eventually win, and convince world governments to draconian laws about piracy. And there are those who say that indie/CC art will eventually take over and make RIAA/MPAA irrelevant.

I think that the truth lies somewhere in between all this. There will be 360 contracts, some of the major-label music will be free (but not all), some music will be streamed for very cheap/free in exchange for ads, more laws will take place, indies will become more mainstream via the internet, advertisement will be more evident in art projects, and piracy will continue to exist.

Today, making music is cheap. Mixing isn’t as expensive as it was even just 10 years ago. Making an indie movie is also cheap. When costs go down, more people jump into the bandwagon for the opportunity, over-saturating the market. Currently, the indie music scene is super-saturated with wannabes (and only about 5-10% of all that music is actually good). There are so many indie bands in the Bay Area alone that is not even funny. I stopped counting at around 600. And I personally like only about 20 of them. Don’t even let me start at the thousands of albums released every week on sites like eMusic.

Put all that together, and you will see that all these happenings will weaken the industry. I believe that the last super-star is already being born, and the last Box-Office movie (meaning, $100 mil or more of sales) will be out in less than 15 years from now.

Maybe I am wrong. But maybe I am right. It’s inconceivable for us to think that there won’t be any new super-stars to gossip about, or a new super-expensive movie. But like with any other profession, they all have their time limit, as the circumstances change (in this case, the digital age). For example, being a clock maker back in the 17th Century was something! Being a clock maker today doesn’t even get you laid.

Basically, what I am trying to do with this blog post is to answer to all these other blog posts and analysis articles found on the web that the future of music/movies will be with this or that. In my opinion, the future will be a mix of all these things, which will eventually weaken these professions, and downgrade them to just normal jobs.

This doesn’t mean that music and movies will be dead. That kind of art will never be dead. But they won’t be multi-million products anymore, but smaller projects from smaller groups. It’s not that the digital age killed the industry. It’s just that it put it back in its place. Before the digital age, Hollywood over-capitalized on the whole thing — because they could. Now that they can’t anymore, they will crumble under their own weight. They will still exist, but their golden days will be over. And this is true for the indies too.

Now, some will say, “does this mean that we will never see again an artistic masterpiece?”. And the answer is “we will”. There are many masterpieces in our history written by people who don’t have 10 assistants and millions of dollars in the bank. I am looking forward for these kinds of masterpieces again. All these thousands of wannabe artists will go back to flip burgers at MacDonalds, and the ones who really can deliver will stay alive in the (now crumbled) industry and make a basic salary. But don’t expect super-stars anymore.

That’s my take on the thing, and I am good with such an outcome. The same thing I believe about my old profession btw: developers. The good developers will continue making some good money, but I don’t expect super-stars anymore (e.g. Havoc, Linus, Miguel etc). The vast majority of the programmers of the future will just “write C# for food”.

Greek lawmakers need a clue

First, it was the computer games (they briefly made them illegal because they couldn’t distinguish them from gambling). Then, they invalidated perfectly good passports (while *no other* country in the EU did so when they also moved to biometric passports). This cost me $3000 back then (I had bought plane tickets), because the local Greek Consulate who had issued my previous passport didn’t even fucking sent me a letter to let me know!!! ANY OTHER country would have sent letters to people who live abroad (my address at the time was registered with the Consulate here).

Now, they want to invalidate 13.5 million SIM GSM cards that exist in the various Greek cellphone networks because they are “anonymous”. This just sucks. I do NOT object to offering your name to get a connection, but I do object in yet another massive invalidation, AND to the fact that in order to get a new pay-as-you-go SIM card from now on you HAVE TO ALSO BUY A CELLPHONE WITH IT. At least, this is what the article says.

This is fucking retarded. These people have no clue what they are doing. They always take the most extreme routes to battle a problem.

The ethics of an alien invasion

My daily brain thought stream can usually be divided into three categories: music, video, and… exo-politics. I am afraid there’s no space left for good taste in fashion.

I am not a [firm] believer of UFOs or alien abductions, but I surely try to keep an open mind about it all. So, let’s assume that the alien abductions are true, and that — according to Temple University professor David Jacobs, Ph.D — the aliens’ sinister plot is to replace the human race with new Grey-human hybrid beings (so they can survive in this planet, while otherwise being Grey). To continue reading this blog post, please read the link above. Now, how is all that “alarming” and “unethical”?

Sure it’s alarming for our race, and our history, and our culture, but is something like annihilation of a species unheard of? Humans have been killing other humans to take over their land, they have killed off whole species numerous times for no good reason, and as very correctly my husband pointed out the other day: “how’s our genetically modified soy, or corn, different than this alien-human hybrid?” The same ethical rules apply (saying that sentient beings have priority over other lifeforms is sorely misguided). That didn’t stop humans from devouring this planet, and changing it and its species fundamentally. It’s one thing to hunt for food, and another to act like you own the whole star constellation.

So why are all these UFO web sites, and forums, and alleged abductees are crying foul? Why do they think that humans can do all these things to others but no one else can do this to them? Oh, of course, the various abductees will reply to my argument with a “but I personally never did any of these things”, but we all know that they didn’t do anything to stop it either. When was the last time you wrote to your Congressman, or camped outside the White House to protest a bad environmental law? Or even stopped buying corn or soy products? Fuck, you can’t even stop buying RIAA music (I know I can’t), no matter how much you disagree with their tactics. We are ALL responsible for what we collectively do, so shut the fuck up and enjoy your alien anal probe.

And who is to say that “evolution” is only a natural process, and not also an artificial one? So if our next step as a species is to be part alien, and adhere to new philosophies or beliefs, why is this exactly bad? I am pretty sure when most of you who have read of the Neanderthal species and how it eclipsed to make space for Homo Sapiens, you applaud it (even subconsciously). Well, what if this is something like this? Why stop progress? Who is to say that we are better than this hybrid species and we deserve to continue be who we are? And who says that if we weren’t the ones with the superior technology we wouldn’t do the exact same thing to other alien species? I bet you $100 that’s what we would do!

Maybe at the very end it is all about the law of the jungle, but on a galactic terrain. Don’t get me wrong. In the event of an alien invasion, I will be in the front line, fighting for my, personal right(?) to live. I fantasize of punching Greys in the face. But this doesn’t mean that I don’t “understand” where these beings are coming from, and why they do the things they do. It’s just that when I read comments online from alleged abductees saying that “the Greys are not ethical beings”, it first makes me chuckle, and then it makes me angry. Are we all so blind, hypocritical, and arrogant anymore?

Ok, back to real world now. Felt good in the la-la land.

Warner issues take down DMCA notice to Larry Lessig’s presentation

This is just plainly, fucked up.

They issued a take down notice for this video. Two things are happening here:
1. An stupid clerk issued the DMCA notice, without really understanding what he’s doing.
2. A legal team of Warner Music specifically decided to go against Lessig, and destroy fair use via legal precedence.

Of course, Larry Lessig‘s videos are fair use. Even if he makes money from his presentations and books, Lessig’s videos are more educational & journalistic (which are fair use points), than all Warner works put together. More over, Warner Bros will never be able to prove that they lost money on the examples Lessig shows on his presentations.

Not only that, but what’s really interesting here, is that Lessig’s part of the presentation that supposedly infringes are the parts where fair usage examples are shown. So basically, the “infringing” parts, are simply in there as EXAMPLES of fair usage. So, Warner Music will not only have to fight Lessig’s presentation, but they will have to DOUBLE-prove non-fair usage on the included remixed videos too. Good luck with that.

Which makes me believe that point number 1 above is true: some idiotic clerk, issued a take down notice, and now Warner Music will have to battle the bad PR. They won’t be able to battle this case in a court. If they go ahead, then there are some sinister reasons behind the whole thing, where they would use Lessig to “destroy all free thinkers out there”. A political move, in other words. If they win the double-fair-usage point I made above, then they will have destroyed fair use in the US.

Say hi to your corporation overlords

Copyright term for music recordings must be extended from 50 years to 70 years, says legislation adopted on Thursday by the European Parliament. […] Composers already enjoy copyright protection for 70 years after their death. More here.

If this is not a fucked up system, just like in the US, I don’t know what is. They say copyright exists just so artistic innovation keeps happening, but I fail to see how this helps the artist after his/her death, and especially the human culture. This was voted just so the corporations, that usually own the copyrights of their artists’ works, can keep making money.

Personally, I believe that musical copyright shouldn’t exist for more than 10 years, just like it should be with medical patents. For audiovisual, maybe 20 years. For software patents, it should be no more than 5 years. If I was a rock star, I would move my work to CC-BY 10 years after the original publication and transfer the copyright to the Creative Commons organization too.

In other news, if I get swine flu, I am dead. My body is very frail already, it wouldn’t manage that kind of flu.

Pirate Bay founders found guilty

A court in Sweden has jailed four men behind The Pirate Bay (TPB), the world’s most high-profile file-sharing website, in a landmark case“, says BBC.

So, the four founders were convicted, even if the files were not hosted in their servers. According to DMCA — that Sweden doesn’t abide to — if you help others to pirate in any way, you are guilty. So they got themselves convicted.

In my opinion, they are indeed guilty — they have been total assholes to lawyers who have sent them takedown notices over time. These dumbasses think that they are some kind of revolutionist heroes. Yes, a revolution is needed for copyright laws and the entertainment industry today, but these guys haven’t realized that in this day and age there is only one way to start a revolution: work through the existing system’s limitations and lobby extensively for new laws. Anything other approach will be shot down by the system and the corporations. This is not 1789 France. You can’t win with riffles, and picketing or rage anymore. You simply can’t ignore the laws. We live in a bureaucratic, corporation-led world, and so you will have to work through these constrains to change the world (e.g. via Creative Commons which is a clever approach that doesn’t cancel the current laws, so it can’t piss off the establishment to come after you). This Gandhi approach works: if you don’t buy the RIAA/MPAA-bound products, these empires will eventually fall, but it’s the only way to do it.

I hold the same opinion about the anti-Scientology Anonymous group: they go at it the wrong way by picketing outside the Scientology buildings and hacking their web sites. Oh, rest assured, I don’t like Scientology one bit, but writing a complaint to their Congressman is probably a more productive way to fix the problem.

I wrote this blog post not to debate if the Pirate Bay founders are guilty or not though. Instead, there was a comment on CNN that caught my eye:
Mohammad: “In my country, if we don’t share new movie, there are no ways to get it!”

The issue here is political. It has nothing to do with royalties, or the entertainment industry, or cheated artists. It has to do with something that’s bigger than any of that: the communication between people from different places in the globe that can’t communicate otherwise because of religious or political reasons. If the only way to get touched artistically, and learn about the lives and hopes, and dreams of the western people is to pirate their precious movies and music, then that’s what you will have to do. Cultural communication is more important than the billion dollars entertainment industry. But I am sure MPAA/RIAA would disagree, although in this case CIA probably wouldn’t.

Terra: do mistake repeaters deserve to live?

Every few days I get down all existential on me. This time, it was because of the upcoming animated movie, Terra, written & directed by fellow Greeks Evan Spiliotopoulos and Aristomenis Tsirbas. The movie is set to be released this May in the US theaters.

The story is as such: “A peaceful alien planet faces annihilation, as the homeless remainder of the human race sets its eyes on Terra.” So basically, these future humans are the bad guys, having gone through several planets already, by using their resources up. They are portrayed as a species that doesn’t learn from its mistakes, as they keep repeating them on every new beginning they do on a new planet that they find to colonize. So these last remnants of humans, find this peaceful alien race living in a planet that it’s “almost” compatible with what humans need, and with some light terraforming it can be used by them. But if they do that, the very intelligent but not very tech-savvy alien race will have to die, as they are not compatible with the changes.

So the big question posed by the movie is if the humans have the right to annihilate this peaceful alien race in order to use up that planet too, and save their species once more. Here’s what I think. The answer is two-fold:

1. Speaking as a Darwinian cheerleader, it’s the right of every species to survive, no matter the cost or the ethical questions posed.
2. Speaking as a cynicist though (Diogenes being my favorite of all ancient philosophers), the humans deserve to die. They didn’t learn from their mistakes over and over again, so they should disappear from the galaxy’s face and leave it to those who do have respect for their surroundings.

Maybe the right answer is to let the humans die, but save their history, art, and DNA in a sort of a galactic museum. This way their existence will always be remembered, and their achievements will be respected, but they won’t be around to wreck havoc anymore.

Kind of like the dinosaurs. They had their time. Huh.