Our Generation

October 20, 2009 Leave a comment

“We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War’s a spiritual war… Our Great Depression is our lives.” -Fight Club

Such an iconic line, so powerful when it came about. Fight Club, a movie that shaped so many young angry lives was tragically pre-terrorism scare. However sick and tired of people touting 9/11 around, 9/11 changed everything for our generation. Before the towers came down, our generation had no Great War. We had no Great Depression.

Now we’ve had both. We’ve had our Great War, and then some. We’ve sent our children across oceans to destroy something that scared us, and our war machine became overeager. It’s simply what happens with a war machine as powerful as the one we’ve built. We’ve had our Great Depression, where jobs are becoming scarce, and simply staying fed is what most of the paycheck goes.

It turns out collapsed buildings aren’t as romantic as we’d hoped. Instead of a crushed economy birthing a new honed system, all we were left with was a lot of dust and some dead friends. Our Great War hasn’t united us, or brought forth a new system. Instead, our Great War is our brothers and sisters in some hot desert where everyone hates us, and the only thing we can do is stay up at night waiting for the phone to ring. Our Great Depression didn’t leave us with a shiny new economy; rather it left our wallets lighter, our rib cages thinner, and our debt a little higher.

Our generation doesn’t need people who tear buildings down, or rip apart the old system. We’ve got enough of those scattered around the world doing damage to our lives. Our generation needs builders, those who can look to the future and see where change can truly be built. Because our generation isn’t angry like Tyler. Our generation is angry at the injustices that have been done, that people go without water and food, and that good men and women starve every day. Tyler’s reason to be angry was some indignant rage at Ikea.

So what part of our generation are you? Are you a builder, or will you tear things down?

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Categories: Musings, Politics, Rants

Announcement and First Review

October 12, 2009 Leave a comment

Dear valued readers: We’re starting to notice some dedicated traffic here. We’re sort of bewildered as to why you care about our opinions, but hey, who are we to complain about site traffic? So here’s the deal: We’re looking at ways to diversify our topics. One proposed idea has been the inclusion of some creative writing. In addition, I’m (Ironspork) going to be reviewing one CD a week for this blag. The reviews will be something that I hope is an accessible genre, and something that my user base may be able to enjoy. An example review would be the following.

Album art for the Plushgun album Pins & Panzers

Album art for the Plushgun album Pins & Panzers

Plushgun seems to be a new emergence to a wonderful genre; that of Electro-Pop. It’s a fairly soft genre, with sometimes powerful emotions countered by fluffy and enjoyable songs. A comparable band for them would be Postal Service, or Owl City (sans auto-tuning). Their first studio album, Pins & Panzers is a powerful first album, enough that I can see this band going fairly far.

Their sound can be described as a deeply thought out and well constructed melody, backed by synthesizer and wonderfully executed rhythm. Their powerful vocals seem to be ones that can be related to by the masses, and this aids their music greatly.

The album opener, “Dancing in a Minefield” brings a powerful melody into union with a beautifully executed piano line. The two blend incredibly well, and the song is a definite must hear. The band’s songs are fairly catchy, with enough diversity to keep the album interesting the entire play through. I’ve had this album in a playlist that’s been shuffling for at least half of the last two weeks, and I haven’t gotten sick of their songs yet. The vocals are performed excellently, with enough genuine emotion to capture the listener’s attention.

Overall, Pins & Panzer’s rates an 8 out of 10 on the Spork Scale, and is definitely recommended as a must-listen.

Copyright Law

October 11, 2009 Leave a comment

In the modern era, technology has created a flow of information unlike anything humans have seen before. With the ever rising adoption of the Internet and related services, information and file sharing have reached new levels. Where one used to need hours in a library to research a report, it is now possible to spend a single hour online, and gather the same or more relevant research for the same report. With this rise in information sharing comes the ability to share files as well. This flow of information, now in whatever form desired, is only held back by one thing: Archaic Copyright Law.

Laws developed in the early 1700’s are now shaping the legislation and actions of modern corporations and lobby groups. What began with the Statute of Anne1 has now escalated to a legislative behemoth, one capable of leveling any individual to bankruptcy should one violate the laws that have been put forth. Current copyright law, for example, makes the sharing of a video no longer produced by a film company illegal. Even though the company is no longer profiting from this video, the law enforcement arm they employ has managed to convince the court system this steals profit. This “loss of profit” is what drives most cases pursued by the MPAA, RIAA, and other such organizations.

For a group so concerned about profit, these watchdog groups transfer little money from court settlements or damages to the artists whose intellectual “property” has been infringed upon.2 This concept of intellectual property is one that does little to secure the “rights” of the musicians. The concept of intellectual property was originally legislated to ensure the rights of the musicians to control distribution of their own material, but has been seriously twisted over time. With the advent of the recording label lobbying power, copyright law shifted to enable the recording industry to control the music (and money as a result) after it is produced. This idea of a company owning the rights to something, rather than a person, is one that seriously threatens the open flow of information in our world today. In the modern society, the ability to freely access information and media is one that is crucial to development of a solid education. As long as large lobby groups and media watchdogs attempt to control the flow of media to the archaic form of a Compact Disc, this flow is effectively stymied.

The companies that own the rights to music and videos have chosen a legally dubious tactic to defend their intellectual “property,” by suing the very users that used to give them money. Rather than invest the money used on court fees in pushing new music distribution technology, these groups would rather sue their own user base. However, not all fronts of new distribution are as dismal as it seems. Apple and Amazon are both pioneering a new online music store, and the progress there is astounding. The user base now has the ability to purchase a wide selection of music at a rapid rate. However, the recording industry still has their claws sunk deep into this trade, this time in the form of DRM. DRM (Digital Rights Management)3 refers to the locking of a media file to a single user. This seems like a good idea from a surface level, as it allows these media files to be treated much the same as a CD would have been.

DRM runs into problems once one takes a deeper look. A user with multiple computers is not allowed to use the music that they legally purchased on more than five computers, a problem that many families that wish to share their legal music will encounter. Under the DMCA4 (Digital Millennium Copyright Act), attempting to circumvent this DRM is a violation of the copyright. Copyright infringement, under the terms of the DMCA, is as simple as burning one’s own music to a CD in order to re-import it, effectively shedding the DRM. The problems with DMCA laws arises when technology changes. If a new music technology arises in the next several years, and a user wishes to attempt to salvage the DRM locked music they legally purchased in an effort to convert it to the new technology, they are a criminal under the DMCA. However, if they illegally pirate the music, thus circumventing the DRM, they are also a criminal. This gap in logic is one that lawmakers who know little about technology have created.

Only recently have music companies began to allow online music sales to sell music without DRM, but with one caveat: the price is usually higher. A user must pay more money in order to be able to use the music as they please. It is this type of lawyering that holds the music industry back from true open sharing, and from even larger profits. Rather than adopt a new protocol of music transmission, and attempt to gather profits from it, these companies seem to be stuck on suing their way out of the problem. The Peer to Peer technology (mainly pioneered by Bit Torrent5) allows users to share nearly any file at previously unheard of speeds. The more users that have the file, the faster it is to share. This technology hinges on having a single source of who has the file, called a Tracker. If the recording industry opened their own Tracker with a membership fee, as well as ad-supported content, they would be able to reach a much larger user base than they are currently. The majority of users are using Torrent sharing because it’s free, with a very close second unable to get the material anywhere else.6 Would the Recording Industry attempt to gain some profit by pushing this technology forward instead of attempting to sue it into the ground, they would be opening an entirely new revenue stream.

In conclusion, it can be seen that those pushing the laws regarding intellectual property and copyright have little to no clue what the actual population wants.7 These archaic copyright and intellectual property laws are only holding back the flow of media and information. However, all is not hopeless, as several companies are pushing forward more progressive ways to acquire legal media. One can only hope that these companies will keep an open ear to the user base, and attempt to deliver a service worthy of use by the masses.

Please note: This was a paper I was required to write about a year ago. The footnotes did not copy over correctly. If you see a number next to a source, and would like to see the source I used, drop a comment and I’ll get back to you.

Categories: Politics, Rants Tags: , ,

Left Wingnuts

October 11, 2009 4 comments

(please note: This post contains many sweeping generalizations. The world is not this polar. Please take this with a grain of salt.)

Let’s face it, every side has their wingnuts. These are the pot smoking, tinfoil hat wearing folks on one side, and the suit wearing, bible thumping fundies on the other. Each side has their crazies. Now, I’m not one in favor of a bipartisan system, but that’s the type of world we live in. Here’s a little precursor of the point I’m trying to make: In general, the liberal nuts are slightly more intelligent than the conservative nuts. Now to prove it.

The conservative side of the clusterfuck that is American politics seems to draw their morality (and legislative ideas, for the most part) from their good ole’ bible. Abortion laws? God is against it, so they are too. Taxation? The only tax they support is the 10% to God! The list goes on with a similar formula: When in doubt, go check with the Bible. The liberal side of the pile, however, seems to draw their opinions from a different source: The real world.

Now, I’m not defending the liberal wingnuts here, as tinfoil hats chafe my ears pretty badly. But here’s a redeeming fact about the left side of the camp: Their morality and compass of choice isn’t usually a religion, but rather the facts brought forth by the world around it. Here is where I will draw my primary example: Abortion (we just LOVE to poke hornets around here!).

Abortion can be argued in several ways, with the primary being the issue of fetal pain. I’ll focus on that aspect for this post. Now, most qualified medical scientists agree that fetal pain is impossible until around 26 weeks into a pregnancy. [1] This post isn’t about debating abortion, it’s about the political opinions regarding. So, we have one camp that argues all abortion should be illegal in any cases, as their theological beliefs state that all fetuses are created by a divine power. All issues of separation of church and state aside, this side rarely calls upon the medical research in the field. Science agrees that something is not sentient until 26 weeks, and so one side believes that abortion can occur before that time. The other side refuses any scientific input, as their ancient religious book tells them how the world ought to work.

Here is where my main point emerges: The dicotomy between the political parties. We have a side that accepts the input of the evolving world, and adapts their understanding, and we have a side that has chosen their position through the ancient texts of a nomadic tribe.

So who’s in touch with the real world, now?

Categories: Musings, Religion Tags: , ,

What’s Wrong with Peter Sprigg

October 6, 2009 1 comment

I admit it. I watch Fox News.

You should thank me. I’m taking a bullet for you, here. I am absorbing the rays of stupidity that Fox News exudes so you don’t have to.

FAUX news recently aired a story about the possible pros and cons of spanking children. Arguing the pro position, they featured Peter Sprigg.

I had never heard of Peter Sprigg before today, and I’ll assume that you’ve never heard of Peter Sprigg either. So, you’re wondering; who is Peter Sprigg? What does Peter Sprigg represent? Where did Peter Sprigg get his degree in developmental psychology?

Turns out Peter Sprigg doesn’t have a degree in developmental psychology, or any type of psychology for that matter. This sentence could alternately be read as; Peter Sprigg has no right to go on television and spout the nonsense he spouts on the subjects of disciplining children, marriage, and homosexuality. So, what is Peter Sprigg qualified to talk about? Well… He’s a baptist minister with a Bachelor of the Arts degree in political science and economics. Oops!

My question to Fox News is; if you like to have people on your show to talk about topics which they have no expertise in, can I come on your show too? I have a degree in Yak Taming, and I want to present some new theories I’ve developed regarding environmental science. I think I’ve reached a breakthrough; global warming isn’t caused by the acceleration of the carbon cycle! It’s actually caused by an army of fanciful, flatulent elves who dance about farting joyfully and releasing greenhouse gasses.

Ok. I’m not such a hardass that I won’t take anyone seriously unless they have a piece of paper affirming they know what they’re talking about. Academia has its charms, but there are other, just as valid ways of learning. I for one have never formally studied biology, but it’s a topic of great interest to me and I consider myself fairly knowledgeable in certain fields of it. But the problem isn’t that Peter Sprigg isn’t qualified to tell people how to raise their children because he has no formal training or special expertise; it’s that he has no formal training or special expertise, AND he’s an idiot.

Consider this gem of Peter Sprigg intellect;

HOST: Peter, I know you personally approve of spanking. But does this new study suggest that one is too young?

PETER; Well, I think that’s an important point. The problem is that this study is a relatively narrow finding about one year olds… The experts we consulted with suggested that spanking can be an effective form of punishment between two and eight years old. This study actually confirmed that spanking for children from two to eight years old is positive, in a way, because the two year olds didn’t display some of the negative characteristics of the one-year old children.

Children whose parents start hitting them when they’re a little older are less likely to be violent fucktards themselves, therefore you should definitely hit your kids? Also, what experts? Why is Peter Sprigg – the guy who is NOT AN EXPERT – on TV instead of his experts? Hey, Peter. You don’t have any expertise in child psychology, and you’re on TV as part of a ‘special panel’, so what kind of qualifications – or lack thereof – might your experts have? I’m guessing Peter Sprigg’s experts are much like his God; knowledgeable, useful for citing when you don’t want people to know that they have no real reasons to listen to you, and imaginary.

It goes on.

PETER: … One may be a little young because of their cognitive development.

Yeah. As any expert will tell you, cognitive development is pretty much over at two years of age. So spank away!

…And it goes on.

HOST: Can spanking sometimes be used as a deterrent?

PETER: I think everyone understands that the police are allowed to use force in a way that ordinary people are not allowed to use force. They can use guns in ways that ordinary citizens can’t.

…No, asshole. You’re dead wrong. Dead wrong. Let me ask you something.  Does a police officer catch a guy and then, after the person has surrendered, beat the crap out of him with his baton to deter him from a repeat crime? No! Of course not. Police officers who do use extraneous force are supposed to be punished, under the law. If there’s an analogue in the real world to what you’re suggesting we do with children, it’s called POLICE BRUTALITY.

Now, we know that there are plenty of stupid people waiting at all turns with legions of stupid comments that they feel the world would like to hear. What is so problematic about Peter’s suggestion that police use force as a punishment and deterrent is that it displays the ignorance and sadism that has seeped into our American culture. A grown man can go on national TV and show, in the course of four minutes, that he is completely ignorant of how law enforcement is supposed to work, and furthermore that he embraces this fantasy in which police officers dole out beatings as punishment for bad behavior, and concludes the whole shebang by suggesting that parents set up a similar hierarchy in their home, and no one bats an eye.

Well, except for me and a few others. But for the vast majority of people, this moment will slide by unnoticed. And why shouldn’t it? In America it’s not just normal for a man who doesn’t understand the law and can’t make the distinction between justice and revenge to be brought onto a new program watched by millions to give advice in a field he has no special knowledge of, it’s expected.

How has it come to pass that Americans are more attuned to dominance and retribution then fairness and indeed, a value we proclaim so loudly, equality? Why did we create, and why do we perpetuate, a culture in which justice has been replaced by a sort of sensational sadism, which seems to be egged on by the American people?

Something occurred to me recently. If you know me well, you know that I sparsely have good things to say about America. But I don’t hate ‘the system’, I’m not a conspiracy theorist or any of that, and in general I have great respect for the founders and the principles they decided to establish America on.  And I realize that we have a lot of good things; we’re wealthy, generally speaking we live comfortable lives, and we can do a lot of things that people in other countries can’t. So why can’t I bring myself to identify as a patriot? Why aren’t I proud to call myself an American?

It’s the people. It’s us, and what we’ve chosen to do with our freedom. It’s the fact that McDonalds is selling their shit food like crazy, and that people who get fat eating it sue, but it doesn’t matter because McDonalds already owns us and Americans will keep right on buying burgers. Because, hey, when we’re too fat to walk, the corporations will save us! With their pharmaceuticals and their potions and their endless appeals to the most immature parts of our psyches. It’s how we accept the truth of advertising and buy ‘miracle’ pills to cure our indigestion, our chronic headaches, our disability to become sexually aroused, and never once do we stop and say, ‘hey, why isn’t my body working right in the first place?’ It’s our refusal to take personal responsibility for our problems and our deference of them to the corporations that thrive on promising to eliminate them – miraculously, with no side effects. Americans don’t want to sacrifice anything; we are so afraid of sacrifice that we will pretend that there is always, always, always a way out of giving something up. We like to have our cake and eat it too, literally, and often twice. It’s how we childishly see freedom as the freedom to always have our own way, even if that means eliminating another person’s rights. No married gays in my state. People can’t do drugs, because I don’t agree with how they live. Let’s outlaw burning the flag, because that offends me!

So no, I don’t hate America. I’m not against the supposedly American principles; freedom, opportunity, equality, and justice for all. I am for those things, and that’s why I can’t stand people like you, Peter Sprigg and Megan Kelly and Bill O’Reilly of Fox news. And do you want to know why it’s you and your America – the one you and people like you have hijacked and reformed into a nursery school playground – I can’t stand? It’s because you’re not for those things. You are only for those principles insofar as they are of immediate benefit to you. So, if you guys, you and your flag-worshiping posse, you and your bible-thumping supporters really love America as much as you say you do… Do America a favor and shut the hell up.

Categories: Politics, Rants Tags: ,

Drug Legalization, and Related Nothings.

October 5, 2009 5 comments

Here we go: Time to prod the hornets nest. Let’s set up a scenario. We have a man named Joe. Joe works at the local In-N-Out, flipping burgers. When Joe gets off work, he goes home and smokes weed. A LOT of weed. Then, he sits and watches TV until sleeping. This is Joe’s life. Can anyone point out anything that he is doing here that harms society, or hurts others?

Thought not. Joe doesn’t hurt anyone, he just sits and stupidly smokes. I don’t condemn nor condone his actions, but I do believe this about them: Joe’s weed time shouldn’t be illegal. Here’s my rationale for legalization: No one is hurt. In a legal weed business, someone would grow it, put it in a truck, send it off to a factory. Marlboro would release Marlboro Greens, and would sell them to people. People smoke them, and soccer moms still donate spare change to the whining media groups. People still get lung cancer, and people still die. Where in this business are cartels forcing peasants into growing? Where are the cartels taking over local governments? I don’t see anything wrong with this system, mainly as a result of the society we live in.

Our American system was founded on letting others be as long as they don’t hurt you. Weed doesn’t make you crazy, it doesn’t make you hurt others. Find me a single stoner who has blazed and beaten his wife. No other person is hurt by Joe toking it up in the privacy of his own home.

Have any thoughts on why weed shouldn’t be legal? Bring em up.

What Space Carrots Have to do With Religion

September 22, 2009 3 comments

I will now present you with a hypothetical scenario. Hold on to your pants, my friends. (Unless you don’t want to. They probably will not go anywhere.)

Meet Crazy Harold. Crazy Harold has just moved into a house down the street from you. Crazy Harold enjoys; tether-ball, feeding his nineteen cats, and being crazy.

Now meet Vivian. Vivian has just moved into a house down the street from you on the other side. Vivian is a Catholic. Vivian enjoys lacrosse, book club, and incense.

On a bright and beautiful Saturday morning, you rise early, cook up a scrumptious plate of eggs, and sit down to check your email.

The first email is a mass email from Crazy Harold, who wants to announce that he has had a revelation; the moon is made of playdough, carrots are actually a breed of super-vegetable from space, and everyone is sort of a transcendent demi-god trapped in a worldly body until we can liberate ourselves by realizing that nothing is real.

You have a good laugh and delete it.

The second email is from Vivian, announcing the next book club. Her emails, like those of many people, are automatically signed with a signature line of text; “I believe God put me on this earth to do good.” Cheesy, but really kind of sweet. Well, her belief might not exactly resonate with you, but it’s her belief and who are you to question it?

So, quiz time; what is the difference between Harold’s belief and Vivian’s belief?

A) Bacon

B) Vivian’s belief can be used to reduce swelling in the instance of head trauma

C) Harold’s belief makes a tasty snack

D) Not much, really

If you picked ‘D’, pat yourself on the back!

No, I am not saying religious people are comparable to crazy people and should be mocked. If you know me personally, you will find that I am among the (dwindling) number of atheists that still respect religious people and leave them alone, as long as they afford me the same courtesy.

Although, by the way, if you think mentally ill people should be mocked, then you need to take a long look in the mirror, and then give yourself a head-clearing smack in the face.

So, what’s the difference between Vivian’s belief and Crazy Harold’s belief? Nothing but a shiny stamp of approval from the masses. Crazy Harold believes in things based on personal revelation. So does Vivian. The only difference between Harold and Vivian is that Vivian’s unverifiable belief has somehow come to be viewed both as commonplace (which is is) and highly personal and sacred (which it is not necessarily).

So, Vivian’s unverifiable, revealed ‘truth’ is thought of as noble and sacred, and therefore immune to inquiry, while Harold’s revealed ‘truth’ can be discarded outright?

With my keen senses, I have detected a double standard.