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.