Saturday, December 30, 2006

Book Review

Inspired by MadJenny, I've decided to review a book here from time to time, when I actually get a chance to read them (I've been pretty good of late). Given my tastes, expect a lot of:

  1. Non-fiction, especially history, politics, philosophy, religion, war and technology

  2. Graphic novels and comic collections

  3. Genre fiction, especially speculative fiction

Ignorant Armies: Sliding into War in Iraq by Gwynne Dyer (2003)
Dyer wrote this book in three weeks over the period when the Bush administration was moving towards the invasion of Iraq. Dyer, a Canadian journalist based in London, specializing in international politics, is probably best known for his CBC series War and its companion book. His column is published in newspapers worldwide. I had the pleasure of seeing Dyer speak while I was an undergrad (despite being in the middle of finishing two fourth-year papers and working on very little sleep and very much espresso), on the topic of NATO's bombing campaign in Serbia and Kosovo. For the record, Dyer considered the campaign a great success, and perhaps the only time in history when a military action was won solely through air power.

Ignorant Armies of course turns out to be a fairly prophetic piece, its main weakness is that even a seasoned commentator like Dyer could not predict the incredible bungling the Bush administration and the Pentagon in this conflict. Dyer's focus is more on the effect a US invasion of Iraq would have on the global order, fearing a diminishing of international law and the legitimacy of the United Nations.

In both this and its companion work, Future Tense: The Coming World Order?, Dyer advocates on behalf of the UN. While many commentators criticize the UN for failing to save the world, Dyer maintains this was not its original purpose. In his view, the UN has succeeded in the primary goal of its founders: to prevent another war between the major world powers. While the world since 1945 has seen no end to violence, such violence has been contained to smaller-scale wars and terrorist actions, and not the total mobilization of world powers towards a war footing. The UN and the international order has done this in two ways, basically by saying: a) wherever national boundaries are drawn now is where they will stay; it is no longer legitimate for nation-states to acquire territory by force, and b) no state has the right to intervene in the internal affairs of another. Violations of either are in theory to be punished by the UN or its Security Council. In practice, especially in the post-colonial era, this was not always upheld (a little thing called the Cold War tended to make Security Council consensus a pipe dream), but it was upheld enough that the major powers more or less followed these protocols, and the smaller powers lined up behind either the Americans or the Soviets, and for the most part, followed suit as well.

Unfortunately, the non-interference directive above means the UN has not always been successful in upholding another one of its founding principles--the universal protection of human rights. However, it has perhaps blunted such activities as compared to pre-1946. The Civil Rights Movement in the United States certainly did not eliminate racism, but it did succeed in making racism a dirty word. In the past, racist rhetoric was common, even accepted at face value. Today, being openly racist will destroy you in the public eye, and probably cost Virginia Senator George Allen reelection. No one wants to be known as a racist, even if they are one. Likewise, although genocide and ethnic cleansing still occur, they are almost universally condemned. Whether the political will exists to do anything about it, or whether the great powers consider dealing with it worth violating the other founding principle of the international equilibrium (the sovereignty of nation-states), is another matter altogether.

However, just as racist rhetoric seems to be on the rise again, so too is the kind of imperialism and eliminationism we saw in the pre-1946 world. So-called experts and political leaders now speak openly of imperialism and ethnic cleansing, and this frightens Dyer. Should the international order collapse, the great powers would fall back on alliance-systems and imperialist spheres of influence, the kind of order that resulted in the brutality of colonialism from the Renaissance up until a few decades ago, and two savagely destructive world wars.

Focused on this possible outcome, Dyer speaks less about the occupation of Iraq. (For any educated onlooker, the invasion's success was a foregone conclusion.) It's likely he (like many others) could not predict such blunders as the disbanding of the Iraqi army; trusting Iranian stooge Ahmed Chalabi; recruiting the inexperienced children of influential neoconservatives to rebuild Iraq's social institutions, despite their ignorance of the Middle East and their intent to use Iraq as a laboratory for their political agendas, regardless of the efficacy of such ideas; and ignoring the State Department's input into the project completely.

Ignorant Armies is a short and riveting read, but ultimately fell short of predicting the true outcomes of the invasion of Iraq.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Sometimes, being a librarian is rewarding

I got a really interesting question through the library's email reference service. I really went to town trying to answer it, and I'm quite proud of the result. I'll reproduce the question and my response below, concealing identifying details:

Major Beatles fan, here. Aside: (In fact, I had the distinct thrill of seeing them perform in the Kaiser Kellernightclub in Hamburg, Germany before they hit the bigtime. Raunchy, goofy, loud, loutish, obscene? Yes to all of that. Electrifying? Charismatic? Yes to both. It was easy to see that the four moptops had "star material' written all over them)

My question : I want to find information on the death of Beatle George Harrison in 2003. You will no doubt recall that the news media provided the world with all kinds of post-mortem details after John Lennon was shot to death. One papparazzi even snapped a photo of Lennon dead on the table. We all learned that his body was cremated, the urn containing his ashes rests in the home of Yoko Ono, and that a special area in New York's Central Park was dedicated to him and given the name "The Imagine Circle."

However, did you notice that there was hardly any media coverage of Haarrison's death. We were told in most accounts that he expired in Los Angeles at a friend's house. The media reported nothing (that I can find) on the disposition of his bodily remains; memorial service or death rights that may have been performed for him. Was he creamated or buried? Isn't that a curious thing. I tracked down one account from a website about baby boomer cultural practices around death, which I paste into this window : "...generation long into self-actualization and self-expression is now processing death on a gut level as it moves through middle age, as illustrated by the recent departures of boomer heroes George Harrison and Ken Kesey. Kesey, a pillar of the '60s counterculture, commanded a parade of his compatriot Merry Pranksters in his honor. Harrison, the "mystical" Beatle, sought eternal rest in the Ganges River."

What? Did someone just dump "Harry" into the Ganges and let him float away, or sink? I knew that Hindus consider ablutions in the Ganges a holy practice, but I've never heard of dumping bodies into the river to float away, sink, and rot.
What happened to Harry's body? I have been unable to locate any mention of a memorial service for him.

Did Harrison's family deliberately keep informaation about his death out of the media? He had a sister living in the US. Did this sister "manage" news about details of his passing?

Can you suggest a source where I might be able to get these details?

And my response:

On to your question--it does seem that there is some mystery surrounding George Harrison's death. Harrison's death was late November 2001, only two months after the September 11th attacks on New York and Washington, and about a month into the NATO operation in Afghanistan, so perhaps Harrison's death did not receive the kind of media saturation it would have under different circumstances.

Time magazine's obituary gives the official story that he passed away at a friend's house from cancer.

The Melbourne (Australia) paper The Age had this article on the release of Harrison's will. It also notes that Harrison was cremated but his ashes were not released into the Ganges river as expected.

The web site "The Smoking Gun", known for presenting scans of important documents of celebrities, politicians and other public figures (e.g., marriage licenses, mug shots, etc.) posted George Harrison's death certificate but noted that the listed address doesn't exist.

A couple of reports noted an official complaint about the erroneous address listed on Harrison's death certificate.

However, this BBC article claims the complaint lead to an investigation by the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office, and that the address was corrected (but not revealed in this article).

The prevailing theory for the false address is noted in the BBC article: "It is thought the first address was given on the certificate in an attempt to deter memorabilia hunters and tourists."

Marc Shapiro's biography, Behind Sad Eyes: The Life of George Harrison (available through [the library system I work for]), notes the following details about Harrison's death:

  • George was checked into New York's Staten Island University Hospital in early November 2001.
  • Reportedly, Paul McCartney had a six-hour visit with George in the hospital.
  • Friends and family were of the opinion that George had resigned himself to dying, and only continued to receive cancer treatments to extend his time with his family.
  • On November 15, George, his wife Olivia and his son Dhani flew to LA. George continued treatments at UCLA Medical Center.
  • While in LA, the Harrisons stayed with friend Gavin de Becker (who later reported the death and the erroneous address).
  • George passed away November 29, 2001 at 1:30 pm.
  • George's remains were cremated hours after his death at Hollywood Forver Memorial Park. George's ashes were returned to London, where two members of the Hare Krishnas performed formal Hindu rites.
  • Shapiro then states Olivia and Dhani brought George's ashes to the Ganges and immersed them in a pre-dawn ceremony.

A Rolling Stone article from June 6, 2002, counters many of the claims about Harrison's death:

Harrison's Mysterious Last Days

It's been six months since GEORGE HARRISON died after a long battle with cancer, and there are still many mysteries about his last days. According to sources close to Harrison, reports that Hare Krishnas were present at his deathbed, that his ashes were spread on India's Ganges River and that he left $30 million to the Krishnas were all false.

Questions have also been raised by those close to Harrison about the conduct of Staten Island University Hospital's Dr. Gil Lederman, who treated the ex-Beatle last fall. Following Harrison's death, Lederman gave a number of television interviews commenting on Harrison's religious beliefs, personal values and whether he was in pain at the end. “George actually spoke with Dr. Lederman very little,” says family friend Gavin de Becker. “But Dr. Lederman mounted a press tour exploiting George in the most shameless way.” Lederman did not return calls for comment, but a representative of the New York State Department of Health confirmed that the doctor's statements to the press could be considered misconduct.

De Becker himself came under scrutiny when a Los Angeles district attorney accused his office of falsifying the address on Harrison's death certificate. An investigation later determined that no impropriety had occurred. “They still don't know where George died, and they never will,” says de Becker. “Which proves that even a very famous man can lead a private life and have a peaceful, private death.”

Another Rolling Stone article from February 5, 2004 (abstract acquired through the EBSCOHost database, available through our web site: [URL]), reported that Harrison's estate sued his doctor at Staten Island University Hospital:

Eliscu, Jenny
Source: Rolling Stone; 2/5/2004 Issue 941, p10-10, 1/5p, 1c
Document Type: Article
Subject Terms: HARRISON, George
MEDICAL ethics
ACTIONS & defenses

Abstract: The article reports that the estate of the musician, George Harrison has filed a $10 million lawsuit against a doctor who allegedly, mistreated him during the days leading up to his death in November 2001. The doctor, Gilbert Lederman of Staten Island University Hospital, New York, is accused of giving interviews that violated confidentiality and of forcing the bedridden Harrison to autograph a guitar. According to the suit, the doctor brought his kids to the home where Harrison was convalescing.

This People magazine article from February 25, 2002, allegedly reveals the actual address where Harrison died:


Section: Scoop
When George Harrison passed away at 58 last Nov. 29, the death certificate said the former Beatle had died at 1971 Coldwater Canyon Road in Beverly Hills. The only problem: There is no 1971 Coldwater Canyon Road there. Now, after an investigation, the L.A. District Attorney's office has determined that the death actually occurred at 9536 Heather Road, a Los Angeles house once rented by Harrison's ex-bandmate Paul McCartney. (The certificate has since been amended.) Gavin de Becker, whose firm provided the erroneous address, calls the probe "a big waste of money and time." Civil rights attorney Gloria Allred, who filed the complaint that spurred the investigation, disagrees: "No one has the right to falsify public records. There is no celebrity exception in the law."

Here's the map to the address.

That's what I'm able to find. I hope it helps to answer some of your questions.

If you have any further questions please reply directly to this message or contact [phone number].

Thank you for using [our email reference service]. And thank you for a very interesting question! It was a lot of fun to try and answer it.

Update: This map shows that the false address on Harrison's death certificate was just around the corner from the actual house where he died.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Stop dicking around

Via The News Blog comes this charming tale.

Phil Plait, the Bad Astronomer had this to say on Skeptic magazine's podcast, Skepticality, regarding religion versus science:

A lot of people say things like, "scientists are always changing their minds"; "science keeps changing" like it's a weakness. But that's science's strength...the fact that religion doesn't change--that they pride themselves on not changing their dogma...if you don't bend, you're going to break.

Even on the subject of religious dogma, why are the religious so off-base? This article hits the target dead on (emphasis mine; scroll down to the heading entitled "Sex Talk"):

On the other hand, look at how much energy many religions put into discussing sex. Although there are a lot of Biblical condemnations of sexual sin, some simple word counts will show that there are at least as many condemnations of economic injustice. A search of the New International Version found 79 occurrences of “adultery” and its variants. “Prostitute” and its variants occurs 74 times, but the majority of those verses refer not to sexual sin but to religious apostasy. On the other hand we find 126 occurrences of “oppress.” “Steal” and its variants occur 50 times and “rob” 28 times. “Poor” occurs 178 times. So why don’t we hear a lot more sermons about, oh, cheating on taxes and expense accounts than cheating on spouses? Or more sermons about the evils of poverty than pornography? Why does homosexuality, mentioned directly only a couple of times in the Bible, merit so much more attention than cheating the poor, which is mentioned dozens of times?

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Compare and Contrast:

Finland's power-metal conquerors, Nightwish, performing "Nemo":

America's baroque-pop darlings, Evanescence, with "Lithium":

  • Video set in snowy landscape
  • Heavy, distorted guitar riffs and thundering drums backed by piano and strings
  • Female singer fronting heavy rock band (Tarja Turenen of Nightwish; Amy Lee of Evanescence)
  • Singer ends up immersed in water in this video
  • Singer known for:
    • Long, black hair
    • Snow white skin
    • Trained, melodious voice in a rock/metal context
    • Unique, period-inspired outfits
    • Massive falling out with co-founder(s) of band (Ben Moody left Evanescence; Tarja Turenen was fired from Nightwish)
Because MadJenny brought it up:

Learn more about Crosby and Bowie's "surreal" collaboration.

Friday, December 15, 2006

A Christmas Classic

Just in time for the holidays, it's Ragin' Rudolph!

Fun with Film Editing

Thanks to MadJenny for this one:

Funniest thing I've seen in a while. In fact, maybe funnier than this one:

Thursday, December 07, 2006

L is for Lemur, that's good enough for me

M & R's baby has finally arrived! Congratulations!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Christmas in November

I was at a scandalously early Xmas party this past Sunday. In fact, I cooked the meal (what says Christmas more than Madras Curried Chicken, I ask you?). The sordid tale can be found here and here.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Lest we forget...

...Remembrance Day.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Pirate Party?

No--M & R's baby shower for the "lemur"!

More at R's blog and Mad Jenny Flint's.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

T - two days and counting...

Two days before the Tool concert. Wow, recently I've been seeing a lot of bands that haven't been around for a while. By which I mean 5+ years since their last album. Or in the case of The Sisters of Mercy, 7 years since the last time they played Toronto (their last release was 1993, and it was a greatest hits album). As for the rest, we also have Nine Inch Nails, who I saw in 1999 (same year I last saw Tool in Hamilton). Their show back in November was pretty good, despite the less than ideal seats.

Next month, I should be able to add Evanescence to the list. It's been 4 years since their first album, but I believe I saw them around Christmas 2003.

Here's the video for one of my favourite Tool songs, "Stinkfist":

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Fun with Faith!

Two entertaining items from YouTube today.

First, an "Atheist Church" from MadTV:

Next, the "Dr. Seuss Bible" from Kids in the Hall:

Friday, July 28, 2006

More Music Industry Lies...

Michael Geist, in this post, reveals a fast one pulled by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) in their latest "piracy report".

The IFPI, which represents the major music
labels internationally, is out with its annual piracy
. Canada gets a fair amount of attention as we are one of ten
priority countries. In explaining the situation in Canada, the IFPI
resorts to a series of mischaracterizations and omissions that piggyback CRIA
claims and therefore demand a rebuttal.

Via Boing Boing.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

The Path of the Muses

This article is a thorough treatment of the ideas George Lucas borrowed from Frank Herbert's Dune series and adapted for Star Wars. I don't believe the intention of the article is to accuse Lucas of plagiarism (though others have all but accused him of such). Indeed, as the article goes on to mention Herbert's diverse influences for Dune, I think the author's intention is to trace a lineage of inspiration from one artist to another (Lucas was inspired by Herbert, who was inspired by Shakespeare, who was inspired by Sophocles). This "Path of the Muses" is integral to artistic creation, and I would be remiss if I didn't mention that contemporary intellectual property law threatens this progression. (For an amusing take, read this.) But that is a discussion for another time.

On a related note (admittedly engaging in some semantic gymnastics), I will be seeing Muse, the band in concert this Sunday. Can't wait!

Friday, July 21, 2006

Recently I rediscovered the early 90s series, The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. This was a TV western that incorporated a lot of fantastic and science-fiction elements, but mostly humour. Starring the incomparable Bruce Campbell, the show lasted one season, though it managed to finish the main story arc of that season: Brisco's hunt for the outlaw John Bly, killer of his lawman father. Although the show was fantastic, it was not renewed for a second season. The main reason for this was low ratings, but I have my own theories:

  1. The show was aired on Fox. Fox is the network that kills promising TV series. Along with Brisco County Jr., Fox also killed Brimstone, Firefly, Fastlane, Space: Above and Beyond, Futurama, and Arrested Development. (I'm sure I'm forgetting some.) Fox sets these shows up for failure by placing them in lethal spots in the broadcast schedule (the infamous "Friday night death spot" that killed Star Trek back in the 1960s, for example), or shuffles them around the schedule making it difficult to build an audience, or not allowing these shows the time to develop a proper audience. Fox instead promotes dreck like COPS, Beverly Hills 90210, Melrose Place, When Animals Attack, and Married with Children (to be honest, I found the latter entertaining most of the time, but it couldn't hold a candle to some of the cancelled series). The Simpsons and The X-Files appear to be the only atypical (at the time) and promising series that didn't get cancelled by Fox and went on to incredibly successful runs, only to peter out on a whimper in the case of the X-Files, or continue ad naseum while its fresher, hipper successors make it look like the tired and old franchise it is in the case of the Simpsons.

    To be fair to Fox, I should note that in most cases, Fox was the only network willing to take a chance on shows like the above, while the "Big 3" played it safe, preferring instead to rip off Fox's successful ideas. The success of the X-Files, for example, led to several knock-offs, most of which sucked (Dark Skies, anyone?). These days, though, it looks like the networks are out of good ideas. Creativity is coming from cable and syndication these days.
  2. Brisco County was a Western in a time when the genre was starting to die off. Although the genre got a bit of a shot in the arm from the Lonesome Dove miniseries and Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, by the mid-90s is was clear that the genre was just about done. The influences of the Western were quiet profound on American fiction, TV and cinema. Many aspects of the Western genre could be found in action films, science fiction, and martial arts movies. But the Western itself seemed to be on its last legs (this is before the more recent revival thanks to shows like Deadwood).

Thursday, July 20, 2006

The aerial bombardment of civilians: a survey

Given its topic relevance right now, I thought I'd highlight some articles on the bombing of civilian populations in wartime.

This post from TomDispatch is a few years old, and asked the question why aerial bombardment is rarely covered by war journalists. During the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the media made a big fuss over "embedded" journalists riding shotgun with Army and Marine units, and undertook detailed surveys and analyses of ground tactics and troop movements. However, the role of aerial bombardment, especially that of the United States Air Force, was practically ignored. No journalist embedded themselves for a B-52 run, for example. Given the central importance of air power in the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, and their continued significance during the occupations, why isn't it given more coverage?

Englehardt's article mentions the fascination aerial bombardment had with speculative fiction writers long before it became a reality. But once it did, many military theorists pondered its use as a weapon against enemy morale. Specifically, bombing the enemy's civilian population until they were so terrorized they pressured their government to surrender.

One of the pioneers of this school of thought was the Italian general Giulio Douhet. Douhet recognized the value of air power early on; first dirigibles, then fixed-wing aircraft. He put forth many "radical" ideas of the time: that air power should be represented by a separate branch of the military, and the use of air power in warfare. He put these ideas to the test during Italy's war with Turkey over Libya in 1911. In that conflict the Italians pioneered the use of aircraft in reconaissance, artillery spotting, transport, and bombing.

Douhet theorized that aerial bombardment could be used to cripple "the will of the people" to make war. This was a theory that gained much traction by the interwar theorists. The acceptance of this theory was seen in the Second World War, during the blitz of London by the Luftwaffe and subsequent German V-1 and V-2 rocket attacks, and its response by the Allies as personified by "Bomber" Harris.

Its effectiveness has been debated, however. Despite months--or even years--of bombardment, the morale of the British did not flag. There is every indication that German bombardment only served to stiffen the resolve of the British people. However, there is also evidence that the bombing of cities in Germany and Japan in the last few years of WWII did negatively affect civilian morale. This paper by a USAF major examines the topic thoroughly.

UPDATE (26-Jul-06): The UNITED STATES STRATEGIC BOMBING SURVEY of World War II Allied bombing has a section on the effects on German and Japanese civilians.

(Via The News Blog.)

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Matthew 12:37

"For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned." (King James Version)

My friend Dave T has come up with a fun party game. Rather than try and explain it, I'll just post our chat last night here:

9:49 PM
me: hey tig
Dave: Hey Joe. What's up?
me: not much, etes-vous?
Dave: I created a game which is quite funny
9:50 PM
me: what is it?
9:51 PM
Dave: Basically, you take famous quotes/song titles, and change every word in the quote or title to a synonym of the word. An example: Your Father has an entirely unused sac
(Papa's got a brand new bag)
me: lemme try:
9:52 PM
mentally disturbed locomotive
(Crazy Train)
Dave: Exactly. Except the other people have to guess what it is
Emmanuel Show-stopper
9:53 PM
me: this is just song titles?
Dave: Well, it can be song titles, famous sayings, etc
Book titles
9:54 PM
me: I want to say, God-something
God curtain?
Dave: Jesus Christ, Superstar
me: good one
9:55 PM
Dave: 8.12403840463596
9:56 PM
me: Square root of love?
Dave: Route (root) 66
Ben and I were laughing ourselves silly
9:57 PM
me: LOL
Dave: Adam was coming up with some really good ones yesterday
9:58 PM
I had one that went something like "My Olfactory sense detects heightened adolenscent glandular activity"
me: smells like teen spirit
Dave: Yes!
So, that's what I've been doing in between shifts of Census work
9:59 PM me:
lemme try one
I'll start easy
Homo Ferrum
Man on the run?
Iron Man
Good one
Did I get it?
me: iron man it is
10:01 PM
Dave: What was the old term for Mississippi river?
Or maybe just mississippi
me: the Mississippi sea?
Dave: It was Novus something
me: Lepidoptera and cyclones
10:02 PM
Dave: Butterflies and Hurricanes
me: bingo
Dave: Someone's got Muse on the brain
Ghenna Gap
me: Hellhole!
10:03 PM
Dave: Yup
me: Inferno's Peal
Dave: Ring of Fire?
(actually, his might be a better answer than mine)
me: nope
10:04 PM
Dave: Blazing Thunder
me: hell's bells
Dave: Ah... VERY good
10:05 PM
A great older male has perished
10:06 PM
me: hmm...
10:07 PM
I give up
Dave: Superman is Dead
Try this one: Baron of the Boulevard
me: King of the Road
Dave: Yup
10:08 PM AKA Dictator of the Drive
Or Emporer of the Close
oops, Emperor
10:09 PM
"It is impossible for me to attain negative fulfilment"
10:10 PM
me: I can't get no satisfaction
Dave: lol
It's a good thing they didn't name songs like that in the 50's
10:11 PM
me: Guilty of assassinating the head of the local constabulary
Dave: I Shot the Sherrif
me: yup
Dave: Oh man, we should publish this game
Even if it's not very good, at least it'll sell a thousand copies to bars
PM me: "Remain here or move on. Decisions, decisions."
Dave: Should I stay or should I go
me: yes
10:13 PM
Dave: Underwear, Underwear, Positive positive positive
10:14 PM
Gitchy Gitchy Yeah yeah yeah
me: ha ha
Dave: (it's probably not the name of the song, but oh well)
me: it's not, but oh well

me: A certain individual of the fairer sex has disabled my ocular faculties via experimental methodologies
Dave: Hmm...
Blind to her love...
I got nothing
What is it?
me: She blinded me...with Science!
Copyright woes

Hunh, looks like Rhapsody was forced to change their names due to copyright issues. They are now known as Rhapsody of Fire.

I know there is a Japanese pop duo also called Rhapsody, but I haven't found details of the copyright and trademark conflicts. Now, I remember a few years ago there were several bands on the Canadian indie music scene (many on the Sonic Unyon label) that were forced to change their names, but most of them were bands less than three years old that had yet to establish themselves. Why does a band that's been around for a decade and made quite a name for themselves in the European power-metal scene all of a sudden have intellectual property issues?

I'm reading a good book on IP right now. I might post more on it when I'm finished.

Now, through the magic of YouTube, I can present the work of legendary (well, according to their marketing, anyway) Italian power-metallers, Rhapsody!

The "Unholy Warcry" video featuring Christopher Lee:

The "epic" version of "Unholy Warcry" (clocks in at about ten and a half minutes):

Rhapsody performs "Unholy Warcry" live on a European TV show with Christopher Lee:

OK, so their videos are kind of cheesy (believe me, this is nothing compared to the cheese of "Holy Thunderforce" or "Rain of a Thousand Flames"), but they still rock!

Monday, July 03, 2006

It's been a while, but I thought I'd mention one of my analogies:

Why the creative team of a comic book (writer, penciler, inker and colourist) is like a rock band

- is analoguous to the lead singer. Generally, he writes the story and dialogue (lyrics), and, especially these days, is seen as the primary creative force behind the comic, or generally the main reason to buy the comic. Aside from the character/title, which we'll equate to genre or musical style--e.g., metal fans buy metal records, Batman fans buy Batman comics. In both the comic and rock worlds of today, the writer/singer is the star.

Penciler - is the lead guitarist. Just like the famous singer/lead guitarist songwriting teams of rock (Jagger & Richards, Page & Plant, Tyler & Perry, Van Halen & Roth/Hagar), the penciler is seen as the co-creator of the comic, like the lead guitarist is seen as the co-creator of the band's music. Also, while the layperson can appreciate the penciler's work and recognize pencilers they like and dislike, generally the fine points of pencilling are only appreciated by other artist-types, just like a guitarist's technical skill generally escapes the typical fan, but is appreciated or critiqued by other musicians. There was a period in rock music, mostly the 1980s, when the guitarist became the star attraction, and many bands attributed their success to the technical wizardry of their lead guitarist (q.v. Eddie Van Halen, Randy Rhoads, Yngwie Malmsteen, Paul Gilbert, etc.). Similarly, there was a time in the North American comic world when the art became more important than the story (the Image era of the early 1990s) and pencillers
were thrust into the limelight (Jim Lee, Tom McFarlane, J. Scott Campbell, etc.). Both these eras ended, generally with a lot of backlash (1990s grunge and alternative almost killed off the concept of guitar solos, while the late 90s saw the comic world get less flashy with the visuals and emphasize story more).

Inker - I equate the oft-neglected inker to the bassist. Many genres of rock build on the "power trio" format pioneered by the blues-rockers of the 1960s. The power trio as realized by Cream was quite influential, typified by the bassist doubling the lead guitarist's riff an octave lower (so when the guitarist broke off to play fills or solos, the riff was maintained). Basically, the bassist is playing what the guitarist is, only thicker and heavier, just like the inker traces over the penciler's lines. Yes, I'm calling inkers "tracers", just like poor Banky in Chasing Amy, but that's what most of them are. I'm also taking a dig at bassists, but since I am one, I think it's justifiable most of the time.

Colourist - I link the colourist with the drummer mainly because 1) drums are considered essential to rock music, much as colour is necessary for a mainstream comic in North America (black and white indies rarely get the same popular attention as full-colour mainstream titles), and 2) these days most colouring is done by computer, just like many drummers have been replaced by (or at least supplemented with) drum machines and sequencers.

So what about North American indie comics and Japanese manga, which are ostensibly written and drawn (with no colour and minimal inking) by one person? Clearly, these are analoguous to the lone singer-songwriter, a la Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, and tonnes of folk singers.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Dr. PZ Myers, of Pharyngula blog fame, shows his true colours in this post.

"One of us! One of us! One of us!"

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Perhaps the "invisibility cloak" will soon be with us, a la Harry Potter and Ghost in the Shell. (Thanks to DailyKos.)

Also, here's a cool mash-up of Renaissance masterpieces with comic-book heroes. (Thanks to BoingBoing.)

Saturday, April 01, 2006

After years--nay, decades of searching, the Cure for Information Overload has been discovered!