Sunday, July 31, 2005

 

Mac Spreadsheet?

posted by Corey Reid

Would somebody PLEASE make a useful spreadsheet for the Mac that

A) Isn't Excel?

B) More or less works without being hideous (I'm looking at you, Mariner Calc, and you, Mesa, oh, and you, Appleworks)

C) Doesn't take half an hour to start up (hi, Neo Office)

If you're willing to do this, I'm willing to shower you with praise. Thank you.

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Saturday, July 30, 2005

 

Kill Copyright

posted by Corey Reid

I don't really mean that. But copyright has gotten wildly out of control, and somehow, someway, somebody has to put it down. So I'm stepping up. I'm not the brightest, I'm not the best, but I do have a sword.

"Copyright" ought to do what it says -- protect the right to copy.

That's COPY, not quote, or mock, or adapt, or make reference to (or even use of).

We have copyright so that artists don't LOSE money through bad people copying their work and selling it as an alternative to the "official" version. That is, David Bowie records an album and tries to sell it, only to discover that everyone's buying the CDs I'm burning in my basement. Copyright law makes sure that in such a case, where Mr Bowie has demonstratably lost sales, he gets paid.

This strikes me as a fine thing. It also strikes me as something that shouldn't go on forever. At some point, EVERYONE ought to get a chance to sell David Bowie CDs, regardless of what Mr. Bowie thinks about it. He makes his record, gets a fair chance to make some cash on it, and then it just becomes another batch of music anyone can do whatever they like with.

Cool? I think so. And that's pretty much how it works.

But something funny has happened. Copyright law has gotten both fatter and taller.

First off, it's obvious that eventually, copyright will be extended indefinitely. That means created works will NEVER become public domain, will NEVER be available for anyone to use. This is a problem. It means artists will never be able to use these works to develop their own stuff, not without paying whatever prices the copyright owner (who won't be the original artist, now long dead), wants to set. The word "artist" is preceded by the word "starving" sufficiently often that we won't folks don't need to have pictures drawn to understand what a bad place that is.

This is Mickey Mouse's fault. IF copyright is not extended to last indefinitely, then eventually Steamboat Willie (from 1928) will pass into the public domain, and from that point on, the rest of Disney's catalogue will stop generating such massive and reliable profits for the immense corporation that is Disney these days. Everytime we get close to seeing Mickey for free, a great hullabaloo sets up in Washington DC and they move the goalposts a few yards further down the field.

Somebody's gotta stop this. Seriously. This is out of control. At first copyright lasted a set number of years. Then it lasted until the death of the creator. Then it lasted till 50 years after the death of the creator (how does THAT make sense?), then 75. What's next?

Of course corporations now make sure the copyright to the works they profit on are in the name of the corporation. Not sure how you measure when a corporation dies.

Anyway, copyright is also getting extended OUTWARDS. Take the recent case in which Raincoast Books of Vancouver asked for AND RECEIVED a court injunction forbidding people from reading the copies of Harry Potter they had lawfully purchased, on the grounds that Ms. Rowling's copyright gave her the power to restrict the readership as she (and Raincoast) chose.

This has nothing to do with protecting Rowling's earnings from loss through unauthorized copying. This is just strong-arming the public to maximise revenues. The real danger, though, is that this case can now serve as a basis for yet further extension of the definition of copyright -- a definition that is already dangerously over-extended.

When libraries are unable to lend material, when schools cannot make use of educational matter, when computer manufacturers force users to use only the software THEY want them to use, when people die because pharmaceutical companies won't allow their patent drugs to be sold in a generic form in countries where nobody can afford the "brand name" version -- we have a problem.

There needs to be fair use, and fair access to information. There needs to be a flow of works into the public domain so that penniless artists (and surely we will always have those) can make use of them to develop their own art. If Shakespeare had been subject to copyright law many of his works could never have been written, as they draw heavily on other sources.

I feel moderately strongly about this. Frankly, I don't even think having to pay musicians to use their music in a movie makes sense -- it's not like anybody's going to buy the first season of Moonlighting INSTEAD of Let It Bleed, are they, so it's not like Mick et al are LOSING money because "You Can't Always Get What You Want" is playing in one episode. So why should they get paid? They're more likely to MAKE money, anyway, as people hear the song and say, "Hey, that rocks. I'm downloading that right now."

Well, okay, maybe they're not going to make a lot of money that way. But anyone who sees a strong future in BUYING recorded music isn't really paying attention to what's going on, are they?

Point is I think we'd all be better off, and less confused, and artists would be making more money, if copyright was scaled back and meant just what it means -- protection of the right to copy.

Some links:

The Lay-Person's Guide to Copyfighting

Cory Doctorow Interview

Access To Knowledge

The Geneva Declaration on the Future of the World Intellectual Property Organization

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Wednesday, July 27, 2005

 

Beer == Ostrich

posted by Corey Reid

There need to be more Surreal Beer Commercials.

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Tuesday, July 26, 2005

 

Some Walk By Night

posted by Corey Reid

What are you watching?

What am I watching? Moonlighting.

Moonlighting?

Moonlighting. You know, the goofy private eye show from the 80's. Cybill Shepherd, Bruce Willis, a zillion lines of dialogue a second?

Is it good?

Is it good? Does Google goog? Does Spielberg spiel? Does Buffy buff? Yeah, it's good. No, scratch that. It's great.

Great?

Greater than great. Greatest.

Greatest?

Greatest. Imagine it --

I'm trying not to.

No laugh track for the funniest dialogue in twenty years. No web pages detailing the trials and tribulations of the heroes. Some of the best supporting actor work you'll ever see. And what's got to be the small screen's most incendiary, compulsively watchable relationship ever.

Compulsively watchable? Does that even make sense?

And then there's the whole "talking to the camera" thing.

Are you listening to me?

They just turn and make snide remarks straight to the camera. "The writers made me do it." "The network won't let us."

Why are we even pretending this is a dialogue?

"I'm a TV character."

The people who are reading this know it's just one person.

One person?

One person. The blogger.

But it's not.

It's not?

No, you don't see the big picture.

The big picture?

On the small screen.

The big picture on the small screen?

When they start talking to the camera, to the audience, don't you see? It's like saying these characters -- these PEOPLE -- exist outside the show. They don't exist in our world because yeah, they're fictional, but they're still people. They have an internal world of their own.

I wish you'd stay in your internal world. But I see what you mean. The show is telling us that even though we all know these are fictional characters, we can still believe that they're real people and still care about what happens to them.

It's the old razzle-dazzle.

Razzle-dazzle?

Razzle-dazzle. Tell 'em what you're gonna do, explain how you're gonna do it, then go ahead and do it right in front of them and get away with it.

I don't know if they get away with it. Not forever.

Nothing's forever.

It is gutsy, though. I guess that's why I like it.

You like it?

I like it. They're saying "We know these characters aren't real, and we know you know these characters aren't real, and we're even going to TELL you outright that they aren't real, just to make sure you know we know you know they aren't real and we're STILL going to make you care about them."

That's gutsy.

Gutsier than just ripping off the style and using that to pad a post.

Pad a post?

Pad a post.

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Thursday, July 21, 2005

 

Everybody = Kung Fu Fighting

posted by Corey Reid

Obviously you have to make a major motion picture about The Bolivian Wrestling Girls.

I just don't know who you cast in it.

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Tuesday, July 12, 2005

 

With A Bullet -- New Adventure

posted by Corey Reid


Caught by surprise! But it's true!

With A Bullet, a brand-new adventure for Gun-Fu: Balletic Ballistics, is now available at RPGNOW.

The adventure costs only 99 cents and features maps, pics, statblocks and loads of coolness. Everything you want. Very little you don't.

There's also a EN Minigames web page on EN World (thanks, Russ!) where you'll be able to keep up on upcoming releases and whatnot. Enjoy!

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Monday, July 11, 2005

 

Two Guys and a Girl

posted by Corey Reid

It's kind of funny that the cover image for Versus, which is far and away my favourite samurai/gangster/zombie picture, is a picture of a cool guy in a trenchcoat with a sub-machine gun in one hand and a katana in the other.

Because the story itself, once divorced from the impressive amounts of pretension that it's wrapped in (that's not a bad thing, you understand), is really just the old old story of two guys and a girl.

With, as mentioned, an immense amount of straight-up pretension. And nobody does pretentious like the Japanese, it has to be said. Not even the French.

Versus is really just two hours of pretentious puffery surrounding a story in which two guys fight over one girl. All the screaming violence, the over-the-top gore, the ultra-cool poses, the hip threads, the goofy metaphysics and the intense expressions on everyone's faces for the entire picture are all just that -- a way of adding importance and "seriousness" to a story that has none.

This is a good thing. It means that when watching Versus, the only bit of the story you need to pay attention to are the expressions on the faces of the hero, the bad guy and the girl. Everything else is just there to make you go, "Ooh, cool." And that gives the whole film a sort of lightness that a picture like, say, Night of the Living Dead (which most definitely is NOT a "two guys and a girl" story) doesn't possess.

We usually think of pretention as a fun-killer, as something heavy and ponderous. But in Versus, it's the pretention that sets the story free. Interesting that the "heaviest" point in the whole picture comes when the bad guy explains everything to the hero. This is just a waste of time, really, since it has nothing to do with who's going to get the girl. It's trying to make the pretentious parts of the film actually MATTER, which they patently don't, and the fit isn't convincing. And so I always find myself losing interest right around here. It feels like the film-makers are starting to believe their own pretention, take it seriously, and that's nearly a kiss of death.

Fortunately a lot more people die (most of them more than once), and lots of things explode and get holes blown through them and there's one of the best swordfights EVER, so it's all okay.

I guess the point is that when pretention contributes NOTHING to the story, it's actually easier to take. I think this is why I always drink the foam off my cappuccinos first -- froth is fine, and coffee is fine, but mixes them accomplishes nothing. Too many pictures do a far worse job of separating their froth from their coffee than Versus

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Wednesday, July 06, 2005

 

posted by Corey Reid

Be Your Own Hotspot

That's incredibly cool.

4th Generation Media

Jonrog being even more incredibly brilliant than he usually is. Scroll down and read the comments -- the gathered brilliance in this conversation will make your head explode.

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Underoos

posted by Corey Reid

If you watched the original release of Underworld and didn't like it quite as much as you wanted to, you ought to track down and check out the new extended version. It's a markedly better film, although the last act still falls apart.

Still, vampires, werewolves and Kate Beckinsale's shiny bottom. Underworld gets forgiven all its flaws.

Thing is, this movie wears its "meaning" so boldly on its sleeve there's not really much to comment on, is there? Yeah, yeah, we all need to get along better, yeah, yeah, lying is bad, yeah, yeah, arrogant old spuds need to get their clocks cleaned by svelte young things in skintight leather. With swords.

But heck, I found things to say about frickin' Ninja Scroll, surely I can manage to blather on about Underworld for a while.

There's no doubt that I have a bit of a thing for steely-eyed women dealing retributive mayhem. Ripley, Xena, Beatrice, there's a long line of these gals on our DVD shelf, and I'm a sucker for it everytime. Probably best not to delve too deeply into the reasons why, but the really successful stories of this type are the ones that manage to maintain the character as a believable woman while still giving her stomp-down ass-kickability. Ripley and Beatrice were both excellent demonstrations of that. Xena was for two seasons at least (maybe two and a half).

And now Selene. Steph pointed out that Selene's journey is to give in to the emotion she's feeling for Michael, and THAT'S what gives her the ruthlessness she needs to carve a space for herself free of Victor's oppressive influence. As long as she keeps herself repressed, as long as she refuses to let her natural, "human" emotions to rise up within her, she can never break free of the hold her elder has over her. It's only once she begins acting to manifest the love she's acquired for pretty-boy Michael that she can gain her true independence.

Love leads to ruthless, gory, redemptive violence. It's almost Shakespearean.

Underworld nearly collapses in on itself as it lurches towards its over-blown climax, but the final moment has a certain lovely poetry. Selene is ultimately forced to chose between her boyfriend and her father, and she makes the choice that Western society has been telling us for a long time is the right one: she chooses the relationship she found, rather than the one that was given to her.

And in the moment she does so, Selene soars into the air in one of the most graceful shots in the whole picture. Released from the restricting bonds of obligation and opression, our heroine becomes gravity-free. In skintight leather.

With a sword.

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