Thursday, February 20, 2003
Grimmys or Grammys
"Itís going to take a lot to keep this yearís Grammys from looking like the Grimmys. The good news for viewers is the blockbuster lineup for Sunday nightís Madison Square Garden show. The bad news for the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, which presents the Grammys, is that all the star power and glitz in the world canít mask the pall of desperation that has overtaken the music industry in the last two years....
Granted, the recording industry has cried wolf for decades: Extended radio play was crippling the industry; home taping was crippling the industry; sales of used CDs were crippling the industry. Bootlegs, imports, dubbing decks ó the perils were endless. And somehow through decades of complaint, the recording industry was racking up booming sales and profits that other industries could only envy....
The industry is still crying wolf, with the only difference now being that a wolf is vigorously gnawing at its innards. Unlike the boy who cried wolf, people arenít ignoring the recording industryís predicament: Theyíre just rooting for the wolf....
A rare situation exists today where Sony, as a member of the recording industry, is part of a lawsuit targeting manufacturers whose products make illegal downloads easy, one of which is Sony: The corporation is so cumbersome that it is suing itself. Meanwhile, in a belt-tightening move Iím sure we can all empathize with, Universalís parent company, Vivendi, has begun selling off its corporate jets....
There may be no greater indication that the NARAS is in sad shape than the fact that its financial condition is a lot more interesting to write about than the music theyíre hawking. So it has always been. If anyone thinks the U.N. is irrelevant, they should look at the NARASís record of consistently missing the boat on recognizing the significant music of its time....
In recent years the Grammys have made a desperate effort to become hip, embracing Beck, Eminem and other critical darlings as credibility poster children. It also has helped that with every passing year the Grammys introduce more award categories ó from an original 26 in 1958 up to a record 104 this year ó so that via blind chance if nothing else theyíre bound to recognize some artists of substance, as long as theyíre best-selling artists of substance. That 104 awards, by the way, isnít counting Hall of Fame inductees (an elephantís graveyard of albums and artists the Grammys ignored in their prime) or the 41 categories in the three-year-old Latin Grammys (whose first televised ceremony last year was a ratings flop, yet one more Grammy woe). Wait a few more years and theyíll probably give each of you a Grammy just for watching the show....
The Record of the Year category has historically been an embarrassment. Given even a modicum of hindsight, was Celine Dionís 'My Heart Will Go On' really the best that humanity came up with in 1998? And what era would choose to be remembered by Christopher Crossí 'Sailing' or Olivia Newton Johnís 'I Honestly Love You'?
This time the Record of the Year choices include Norah Jonesí fine 'Donít Know Why' and catchy, if not especially memorable tunes by Nickelback and Nelly. But the nominees also include ďA Thousand MilesĒ by lightweight waif Vanessa Carlton, and Eminemís 'Without Me.' Eminem has done some OK stuff, but 'Without Me' is to music what spackling is to oil painting." [MSNBC]
Sorry for the longish excerpt, but MSNBC articles tend to disappear and this one was just too emperor-wearing-no-clothes perfect to let it dissolve totally into the ether without a trace. I was going to bold the best parts of it, but there were just too many. You should still read the whole thing for yourself, print it out, sign it, and send it to your legislator. This is the industry they want to protect??
Rock on, Jim Washburn!
Side note: who will take Michael Greene's place this year and chastise their (now non-) paying customers on national television? Or will they come up with an even more bone-headed move? Maybe they'll team up with DC Comics and have a superhero fight downloaders during the broadcast!
"We've decided that this here page will be the place to go when you want to find all of those interesting daily developments in the Web world, links to oddball sites, pictures of us horsing around, and basically anything that we want you to know about that we're too scared to put on the actual frontdoor of Webmonkey.
To start (in a rather boring and self-serving way), have you seen the Tripod Blog Builder? It's what we've used to create this page, and it's easier to get started than you can possibly imagine. Well, don't take our word for it, just go and try it out yourself." [via Underway in Ireland]
I find it interesting that Webmonkey is blogging now and that they're using Tripod's recently unveiled blogging software to do it. However, the first entry was on February 11, and there are only two other posts since then. Not too many daily develompents in the Web world? This is the first Tripod-based blog I've seen and, unfortunately, it looks like Tripod doesn't offer RSS feeds.
In the mail today, we received the latest Lego catalog. They've upped the ante again, creating new basketball game sets that are co-branded with the NBA.
"Now you can play championship basketball with real NBA players! The Ultimate NBA Arena features 10 amazing collectible LEGO NBA mini-figures - Shaquille O'Neal, Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Dirk Nowitzki, Kevin Garnett, Allen Iverson, Jason Kidd, Tracy McGrady, Vince Carter, and Antoine Walker. Fire a pass to your favorite player, dodge defenders, and go for two! It's non-stop NBA action - plus a great way to start your LEGO NBA mini-figure collection."
The mini-basketballs even have Spalding logos on them, you can vote for the NBA All-Lego team, there's a Lego NBA draft, and "authentic jersey detail shows player team and number." Brilliant cross-marketing. There's even a separate set for a game of horse, one for a slam-dunk contest, and one for streetball. The games look fun, too - kind of mini-foosball basketball games that you, of course, have to first build before you can play. It's just too bad that you can't buy one big pack and make the various sets from all of the pieces, including your own courts. I suppose eventually the mini-figures will have little chips implanted in them and they'll trash talk. :-P
In other news, Hasbro is updating Twister and calling it Twister Moves (due in June):
"TWISTER MOVES(TM) is sure to get players on their feet and moving to the direction called out by two recorded DJs. The DJs (a male who directs the left side and a female who directs the right) engage in comedic banter as they provide dance move directions to the players. First, players listen for the dance sequence as called out by the DJs, then they follow the moves with their feet on the TWISTER MOVES(TM) mat. Miss a move and you're out!
Complete with three CDs, each with 60 minutes of dance-style music, and mats, the game has over 100 different dance moves.
To personalize the experience and increase the challenge, at the beginning of each CD, players are allowed to make up their own special moves to incorporate into the game. Each CD increases in challenge and at the end of each there are three to six Super Sessions, where players have to successfully complete four sets of moves together as one sequence."
So in a way, I guess this is kind of Twister Dance Dance Revolution!
The Three Stages of Blog-awareness
"One of my lawyer friends who is tech-savvy and runs a cool website has recently been made aware of blogs. After a few weeks of studying the blog phenomenon he sends me an E-mail and reports the following:
'OK, a couple of weeks ago I knew nada about the subject of blogs. Here is my take on the 3 stages of blogging:
1) There must be something to blogs because so many people are into it, but I don't have a clue.
2) OK, it does seem kind of cool and there is much, much more to it then I expected. I just don't see any really practical applications.
3) Oh my God, the things I can do with this are coming to me faster than I can keep up with.'
Well, looks like another one has been assimilated. We who have already been assimilated know that resistance is futile. Apparently, he's working hard in his laboratory on some new fangled way of doing things that will revolutionize the world. Man, I love it when the complete absence of a plan comes together." [Ernie the Attorney]
This is so true! Come to the SLS Tech Summit about blogging on Thursday, February 27, and skip directly to step three. Pass GO and collect $200! :-)
Pre-movie Ads Rip Off Theatergoers, Suits Claim
"How much is three to four minutes of your time worth--especially when you're waiting for the latest "Lord of the Rings" movie to start?
That question was posed in two lawsuits filed Tuesday against movie theaters that claim in their ads they'll show movies at a certain time, but, instead, show on-screen commercials at the advertised time, delaying the movie's start....
The lawsuits were filed in Cook County Circuit Court. One is against the Downers Grove company Classic Cinemas and the other against New York-based Loews Cineplex Entertainment, which also operates theaters here. The suits argue that the practice of showing the ads constitutes fraud, false advertising and breach of contract....
Both suits ask for damages of no more than $75 per person. More important, the attorneys who filed them say, is that their clients want the commercials dropped--or they want ads to state the time a movie actually begins, not just when the commercials begin to roll....
The suits don't take issue with movie previews. That's because moviegoers have come to expect those trailers 'as a time-honored part of the moviegoing experience,'' Weinberg said." [Chicago Sun-Times]
I like that the plaintiffs are asking for reasonable damages and actions, not something crazy like $10 million. I don't think they'll really win, but it's nice to see someone bringing this issue to the forefront and fighting back. Maybe we can at least stop further commercial intrusions (before the movie starts, anyway).
Automated Nigerian Scam Response
"Stefan sez, 'How convenient. Enter some details from that Nigerian 419 scam letter you just got, and shazam!, this web form generates a blathering reply.'
I was quite redy to offer Renwano C. my asistance with the transfer his Father's money when I got your letter. You see, I have performed poorly at my job this year, and did not receive a yearly bonus from my employer. Therefore, I believe that if I were to transfer a large amount of money (even as much as TEN MILLION - $10000000 DOLLARS, the amount your are proposing to move), the authorities would simply believe this to be my bonus and it would not raise eyebrows or trigger any red flags." [Boing Boing Blog]
Recording Firms Ask to Scan University Computers
"Recording companies have asked the Federal Court to allow their computer experts to scan all computers at the University of Melbourne for sound files and email accounts, so they can gather evidence of claimed widespread breaches of copyright.
In Sydney yesterday, the companies - Festival, Sony and EMI - reached agreement with the University of Sydney and the University of Tasmania to preserve the files as evidence. The universities have not agreed to hand over the information.
Counsel for the companies, Mr Tony Bannon SC, said industry studies of piracy had found public institutions such as universities and libraries were the biggest repositories of unlawful sound recordings." [Sunday Morning Herald, via LawMeme]
Emphasis above is mine.
The sad thing is that the record labels don't have the slightest clue how libraries operate, and they obviously have no interest in learning the truth. Most libraries lock down their computers so that patrons can't make changes to the operating system or programs. If they let you do any downloading at all, it's usually just to a floppy. Most public libraries are not yet at the level where they would offer CD burners on the computers and academic libraries aren't that much further ahead, so good luck trying to fit those MP3s on a 3-1/2" floppy!
Yeah, that's us - homeless shelters, hospitals, and libraries. We're some of the "biggest repositories of unlawful sound recordings."
Oh, and porn.
"I think I'll make one more minor change before I go. I'm going to designate one of the new Mammal species as the Planet caretakers during my absence. I'm going to program them a slight appendage modification, called an 'Opposable Thumb' and I'm going to boost their CPU capacity a little.
With these enhancements, this species (which I've decided to call 'Primates') will have dominion over the rest of the Planet so they can keep things under control while I'm gone.
Oh, and blogging will be light for a few millennia until I get back from the Seventh Dimension." [via Jarrett House North, via McGee's Musings]
"The LibraryLookup project seems to be moving forward nicely. The Feb 15 issue of Library Journal has this article by Brian Kenney....
Now that the idea has taken root, the appropriate place to find the bookmarklet that works with your library is...on your library's website. I'll help wherever I can, and in particular, I'd like to expand the number of systems covered by the bookmarklet generator -- any contributions there will be most welcome.
Looking back on the project, it's fascinating to see how certain implementation choices preclude this style of lightweight integration. OPACs that launch Java applets turn out to be LibraryLookup-hostile. Likewise OPACs that generate session IDs into their URLs. There may be defensible reasons for these choices, but the LibraryLookup approach throws the tradeoffs into a whole new light. I've been amazed to see non-technical librarians describing their OPACs as being 'the wrong kind' of software. To them, 'wrong' means "doesn't work with LibraryLookup." Translated into geekspeak, it means 'isn't RESTful' or "gratuitously requires session IDs." I hope the legacy of this project will be that, in some small way, it helps bring these two worldviews closer together." [Jon Udell's Weblog]
Amen and hallelujah! Another interesting aspect is what this means for potential vendor sales. If my library was investigating new database vendors right now, I wouldn't even talk to anyone whose product didn't work with the LibraryLookup bookmarklet. Why? Because your catalog is going to be a deserted island useful only to your users in limited ways, rather than the world at large. You won't be able to play nicely with others, and any further innovations in web technologies will most likely be unavailable to you.
That's not what libraries are about, and in a time of technological innovation mixed with shrinking budgets, that's not a good thing. Yes, Z39.50 and other protocols could conceivably help, but you really need a vendor that's proactively preparing your catalog for the future, rather than one that's making you completely reliant on what they offer (most likely for a price). What if someone figured out the ISBN mapping service tomorrow, but you couldn't participate because your searches are locked up in a Java applet? Not good.
If your catalog does work with the LL bookmarklet, consider this a reminder request to add a page explaining it and making it available from your web site. Promote, promote, promote! Then drop Jon a thank you message. :-)