May 11, 2002
Better ENRON Project Code Names
- $100,000,000,000 Pyramid
- The Big Lay-bowski
- Don't Show This to Watkins
- Rate Heist
- Investor's Wet Dream
- Money Laundry Bags
- Skilling Spree
- Andersen's Funky Calculator
- Legal Schmegal
- Treasure of the Sierra Monda
May 10, 2002
Don't Steal This Blog
Copyright is not an issue of discussion many would think of tackling in a humorous way. So let's do that, shall we? First, I hate when columnists hold off their views on a matter at hand until somewhere near the end. I assume they do it to improve the illusion of a logical, dispassionate discovery method of composition reaching a definitive and correct conclusion -- which also happens to be where they stood to begin with. Or maybe they enjoy emulating Sherlock Holmes. Well I hate mysteries, so let's straight off put to rest my position on copyright: I'm in favor of it as it stands, but I'm also certain it's in need of a major overhaul.
You were aware that Ambiguity is a sweaty mistress in jackboots and tie-dye Phish pullover, weren't you? She's also a real looker, no doubt about that.
Clarity! I'm for copyright because it still works reasonably well at providing legal protection to the originator of a work, in as much as something three hundred years past its meager origins can be expected to function. What those rights and protections are continue to be modified, varying depending when or where on the planet one exists. But it does its job when it's allowed to. Why does an "author" require such protection? Why do we have laws to deal with kids jumping in Honda Preludes they don't own to take them for a spin? A creative work, whatever medium it's placed in, is rarely produced for the sheer joy of the muses. True that the inventive process is often riding gunshot, but there is also an underlying force which follows the same lines of a paid vocation or desire to exact riches (earned or not). They say we must work for our supper, and I've yet to stumble over a political system that disagrees with this.
On the other hand, copyright theft, piracy, borrowing
, whatever you prefer to call it, has vastly changed from the image of a back alley sleaze it was once thought to be, thanks in total to how easy our technology makes it for the general public to copy and redistribute another's work. This is what keeps the question of copyright dropping on the hot button. A book can be scanned, run through character-recognition software, receive a little manual cleanup, and it's ready for a Web site. Artwork is even easier; no text to read. Music probably receives the most press, good and bad. There's a tech love oozing from the mp3 format. As for programs and other bits of computer code, it's already a digital beast. All this is to say that the world around us changed, and in some small way has changed us along with it. When you copy a song off the newest 2 Live Crew CD and send it off to a bunch of friends, are you considering the finer details of copyright law? Forget how low a state you must be in to rip 2 Live Crew.
To badly mangle Plato, laws are made in the interest of those in or with control, with the side benefit of punishment to those who do not abide by them. As our representatives would have us believe (I guess to some degree it's true) they also protect ourselves from ourselves. Plato felt disobedience of a law one believes to be unjust is fine and dandy, and most would be hard pressed to come up with a good argument to the old Athenian these days. However, to call copyright law unjust is stretching things, since there are few components to it which can be seen to infringe upon the rights of an individual. How is being unable to e-mail Stephen King's new twelve-hundred page tome an encroachment on your rights? But they can definitely be seen as out of step with the times, and to ignore this loses site of a goal behind legal protections like those of copyright, at least as stated in the US Constitution (Article I, 8.8): "...to promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts..." So we can thank laws like those of copyright for the tools that now challenge it more than ever. Ah, sweet Irony. She's as hot as Ambiguity, only more confusing to talk to.
I've said before (not here, but around) that I'm not a lawyer, but I play one when this topic comes up. I play it badly but definitely in earnest by entertaining enough layman's interest to reach an opinion based on an informed understanding. Wish we could work that way in all things. But enough! No more on my jurisprudential depths when it comes to copyright. I'm in deep enough, let's leave it at that.
May 09, 2002
New Internet Rules
Discovered cross posted to numerous newsgroups (and all off-topic):
From: Horatio Tonkin (email@example.com)
Subject: Internet Usage Guidelines - Preparatory Notice
A group of concerned Internet users I belong to had a meeting a few days ago, and we came to the decision that too many of you out there are not employing the Internet in a manner befitting its true power and worth. In light of this distressing fact, we created some important rules for its use.
We hope the following are promoted widely and accepted as standard guidelines for Internet behavior. They are neither comprehensive nor conclusive, but the preliminary notes we've written up seemed important enough to release at this time. We plan to put forth many more rules in the coming months.
- Don't set up pages with frivolous Web content
It's acceptable to have a page on which animals are discussed, but pets can't use browsers, so don't claim they do. Charades of this type must stop. And no more pages for just "experimenting". If someone visits you, they want professionalism.
- Join online forums using only one username
This also goes for the newsgroup forums. Please do not argue privacy with us: you can certainly create an anonymous username, but just one. We see no need to litter the Internet with "fake" users.
- If you have an IM account, use it
No one wants to know your AIM or Yahoo Messenger or ICQ number if they can't reach you. When you connect to the Internet, log on to your Instant Message account, and stay on it.
- Don't get all technical
Most people have better things to do than figure out what you mean by "multiprocessor system" and "BIOS". Write clearly and in layman's terms, and if you must use acronyms, explain what they mean -- a lot.
- Don't point people to search engines
If they knew how to use them, they wouldn't need your help. Also, don't berate them for posting in the wrong place or when they have a question that's been asked one hundred times before. And don't send email just to explain they did something wrong. That in itself should be considered bad "netiquette", and not what you accuse them of.
- Avoid the use of hacker spelling
Regular everyday Internet users do not know what l33t means, and do not want to know. If you can write in English, then do so. If you can't, then learn.
- Don't tell people something you didn't mean
There is no way to see you are using sarcasm on the Internet. So don't.
Notice: The people I speak for are not an official governing body of the Internet, and we wield no power which allows us to compel anyone to adopt these rules. (We don't even have a name for our group.) However, we're presently figuring out a way to gain such power, as no one else seems willing to do anything about the problems. We'll let you know when we come up with a name.
"The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame." -Proverbs (Hebrew Bible)
May 08, 2002
Sales Through Annoyance
It's said in media circles that talk about oneself, whether positive or negative, is a good thing. Any press you get is valuable press, even if you're raked through the coals by it. For some reason, a desire for this feeble kind of fame has been translated into the world of advertising. Instead of being whittled away by the time honored methods companies favor in persuading consumers to buy their wares, we now endeavor to hold down our lunch through cloying sales techniques and marketing toilet remnants. This is disconcerting when you learn how ad copy is expected to generate hype, not heckles. Or perhaps I missed class that day. Actually, I missed entire semesters, so I might just be thankfully misinformed.
To make this simple in the explaining part, specimens from the world of television commercials display my point and revulsion quite well. Verizon
's "Can you hear me now?"
nerdy service rep is as good a place to start as a fall off a mountaintop is a nice hiking experience. Like a running gag in an Ernest film
, it loses any appeal it may have pretty much the first time you see it. Then there's comedian
Carrot Top hawking AT&T
's collect call service. (Don't the tops of carrots sprout green, not auburn? Sorry, wrong rant.) You must have seen his "Cee Aye Ell Ell Aye Tee Tee"
by now and wondered when remote controls will finally include a Kill Me
button. Am I the only one who finds his harassing antics a great sell for competitor and fellow adgravation 1-800-COLLECT
And just for a final deadhead count, let's consider ever so briefly Dell Computer
's gushing "Dude!"
and his need for education in more than just name brand PC's. Haven't seen that one yet? You lucky bastard.
Clownish faces peer from magazine adverts while crappy balloon text sprouts from their mouths, providing little sense and less of a relationship to the company that paid for it. Roadside billboards berate us if we don't pull over immediately to pick up a pair of shoes, or a bra, or cat food, all necessary items for a long drive, apparently. TV and radio and the Internet are a constant flash flood of brainless and (in my eyes) ineffectual advertising tricks and gimmicks. Maybe it sells a fraction of a percentage point more cheeseburgers or computers or funky items at the local Christmas Tree Shop
, just barely enough to let mid-level executives keep their day jobs.
And perhaps they dig into that part of our brains better suited for use in a street brawl because they've run out of ways to break past the desensitization a cavalcade of cute jingles, celebrity endorsements, and countless experiments perfecting an antidote to freewill have built in us. I certainly don't expect brilliant and enlightening content in an ad. But why they need to confuse, irritate, and pester is beyond my comprehension, unless it's a yen to treat us to the advertising equivalent of fingernails on a blackboard -- then I understand.
How I loath that screeching noise as it works it's way down my spine. Few things cause a classroom to face forward quicker. Too bad for the ad wizards it only gets our attention, not our interest. Got any spitballs ready?
May 07, 2002
The Politically Correct Tarot
The Sensitive Male
Trusting; sacrificial; undemanding; effete; wimpy; asexual; dull; vegan. Represents personal frugality while generous to life partner's every whim; accepts no
as answer; succor only with the simplest of issues; artsy-crafty; chatty; lack of overt masculine traits. The Sensitive Male of Swords card reflects a muddled, enigmatic component in a relationship, and may denote homosexual tendencies. Reversed: mock brooding; desire to return to old fashion values; secret yearning to "be the man".
May 06, 2002
The Blurried Musings Trashbin
This blog is not like most other blogs. I don't post a flurry of brief but brilliant thoughts off the cuff (with links and everything!). I've had such weblogs, and no doubt always will. Blurried Musings isn't like that. I post just one article a day, and take time to think over the topic of each piece. That may be as little as 30 seconds, and the final product may feel rushed and lack coherence -- when something ties together, consider it an accident. Still, I treat what I place here as a professional creation. This doesn't make what you find on here special, just not common stuff for a blog.
Working it this way forces me to note down thoughts for future entries. Part of the duties in a former job required me to play an idea generator and I fake it well; but a fuel tank runs dry eventually, and keeping a spreadsheet of pre-cooked notions helps get something up here every day. Often there's only a title, which may be enough to indicate what I was going for. It doesn't hurt when a few lines popped up to go with it, or I set down an explanatory paragraph so I later know what was flopping around in my head. My ideas can require lots of explanation. The problem is, many end up trashed or untouched because I'm not able to take it past that initial foot in the door
stage, or fail to see what interest I had on its first go around. Once in a while I'm unable to find a humorous way to write about it. The ultimate death knell here.
So I'm left with these limping abstracts I'd like to but can't put to use, as they refuse to form into complete, servicable compositions. It's probably best for me to forget them, leave them as they are and move on to something that actually leads to a full Blurried Musings submission. You'd be right to expect this, but sadly, that's not the way I work...
One is called Six Degrees of Adolph Hitler
, which is me playing on the better known Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon
, itself fooling with the theory
that everyone, on average, is connected to each other through no more than five other people. At issue here (with my concept, not the theory) is I've never been able to decide how to go at it. A pseudo-theory? A game? A rant? A fudge brownie recipe? And I've got to face facts: Hitler is a hard comedy nut to crack in these one-offs.
An idea I've always liked but never went far on is to create a series of posts with the blanket title The Kafkaesquí Desk Reference
. Each would be written in that common monotone, false intellectual style of any general reference tome, but on subjects their editors lack the guts to tackle (or have the smarts to skip, I'm not sure which). One focuses on ways for the jaded to recapture innocence. Another is meant to provide information on life-threateningly fast weight loss techniques. A third just says Cheese Holidays
. Maybe I won't dump this one after all.
Then there's the simple one liners which fail to get past that single sentence. Gumption
lost it's meaning, hence it's gumption, at some point. Blogged Down
is far too cute a title to contain anything I'd want to spend time with. Shatner's Women
, which I'm fairly certain refers to the green ones he had as Start Trek's Captain Kirk, is both overly Trekkie and done to death -- whether or not I've got a new slant on it. And if someone can deduce what I had up my sleeve with Shabadoo's and Don'ts
, I'm willing to hear you out. I'll even give co-author credit. A small one.
There's a lot more prep and production for this blog than what finishes up on the page. Yet look at that! I still found a way to get the debris in a Blurried Musings article. Garbage can make good fuel, if a bit pungent.
May 05, 2002
Fragments From the Memory Log, Entry Seven
What are the key ingredients for making a bad myth? I ask because I came into contact with many as a child. Some must have been devised by fellow children, either to amuse ourselves, scare our peers, or explain away something we were unwilling to ask an adult about. But many seem rather advanced to have emerged from the imagination and guess work of the uncomplicated minds of youth. Or perhaps I'm too naive for our own good.
For a time, I lived in walking distance to the banks of the Wabash river. It is my archetype for rivers. Where it comes into relation with the memory of my past, it's no deeper than a four year old boy on tiptoe, no wider than a soda can throw across, and no faster than a meandering rat. There's lots of tales moored along the Wabash, but the one that affects me is of an old headstone my friends and brothers and I would pass on the way to the river, or to our favorite frogging hole. (For those who grew up in the city or in other ways avoided the folksy rural life, I guarantee such holes exist).
Naturally we questioned how a grave marker came to be a mere few dozen yards from the riverbank. There were no churches or such nearby, nor signs of other graves. It sat alone along a foot path, a thin dark stone, broken and askew, any engravings it displayed long ago weathered away. We probably bothered a parent or two about it, but I don't recall receiving useful data that way, nor should we have expected any. A grave in the middle of nowhere, along a trail few traveled. Not a topic of intense research in a low-rent working community. However, someone (no doubt a kid) figured the grave must be for an individual our town wouldn't risk burying in a local cemetery, making it (obviously!
) a witch. Forget that witches weren't an issue in our area, or anywhere in the Midwest when the stone was laid. We could have fingered Mormons, but had yet to learn that level of intolerance from our elders. In any case, we didn't consider the subject closely; doing so would have ruined the "facts".
Still, having a witch buried near our homes wasn't the full package. As the story goes, anyone who walks around the headstone three times at the strike of midnight brings down the standard allotment of doom and gloom. The "I know someone who knows someone who's third cousin met a guy who tried it and woke the next day with a goat's head sticking out of his shoulder"
story never came by my ears. Then again, I only required the threat of such a curse to accept it. For a while.
A self-inflicted jinx was no match for the watery depths of the Bottomless Pit (appropriately capitalized). We'd often drive by the Pit, so it offered a more immediate hazard. It's a simple thing for a kid to fall into a hole (in opposition to sneaking out at night, locating a grave stone in the pitch black, and still have the nerve to begin circling). That the Pit was surrounded by an eight-foot tall wire fence was not much of an impediment in my mind. Young children love a healthy climb before an endless tumble. And for danger totally outside of ones control, I recount how our town -- built in the shallow depression of the Wabash Valley -- when hit by a tornado (not if
), will see it bounce back and forth through the valley, a twisting crisscrossing destructive nightmare until it runs out of steam some days later.
Forget logic, or a knowledge of meteorological science, and maybe even the laws of physics. Kids prefer to keep good sense from getting in the way of a bad myth. So do most adults. The scary things in life that are also real just aren't as fun.