I just caught the end of a "town hall" sort of program on telly, on which the topic of discussion was illegal downloading of music in Australia. The main focus of the discussion was whether Australian ISPs ought be involved in the prevention and discouragement of illegally downloading, and if them doing so would count as punitive enforcement or not. Much like in America, the music industry here wants ISPs to sort of "play nanny," giving up information about their customers and enforce a sort of "three strikes" program after which a customer will be permanently disconnected.
The thing that I found most interesting is that, currently, the ISPs seem to be holding back the attacks of the music industry in ways that simply didn't happen in the US. They are currently saying "no way," that it isn't their job to be policing the Internet or held liable for what is done via it anymore than the post should be for materials sent through it. In The US, this sort of step was pretty much skipped over via legislation; it was simply made law that content owners can force ISPs to do their bidding for them, and thusly they've all had to do so. I have no doubt that it will eventually be the same here in Australia, but I'm really encouraged by the rational arguments against doing so that have been made so vocally.
The thing that discourages me, however, is that the debate seems to have been sold to many Australian musicians as if the Internet is some sort of music dispersal medium like radio or television. They seem to think that, like as with the radio, the ISPs are selling customers the ability listen to music, and thus ought pay royalties for the ability to do so. It's discouraging to me because it does make a sick sort of sense; they ARE after all charging their customers, and they ARE (sort of) providing them a mechanism through which to listen to music. If providing Internet access is eventually designated as the same sort of service as radio and television, all sorts of scary doors will eventually be opened, so I'm hoping that this line of thinking is put out to pasture.
The one thing that all parties involved in the debate keep bringing up, however, actually strikes me as the sort of system I'd like to see. Everyone -- save for the music industry, natch -- is advocating a low-cost flat fee for music usage, kind of like the television license fees to which people outside America are already accustomed. The figure that keeps being brought up is $10AU a month, after which you are free to listen to as much music as you'd like, however you'd like to do so. Enforcement of this plan would obviously be problematic; it's not as if the illegal file-sharing networks are going to put in place some sort of authentication system to ensure that only licensed individuals can access them. People will clearly still be able to access music without paying the fee. Why then, would anyone bother to pay the fee?
What I would like to see, however, is for some enterprising ISPs to bundle this "all-access" music license into the cost of their service. If the fee is $10 a month, they could subsidize it down to something like $5 or $6 extra a month -- or even cheaper as an introductory perk. This could also be bundled with higher data caps (oh yes, if you're not currently operating under a data cap, you soon will be) to create another sort of revenue stream for the ISPs. After all, if they're now going to be legally downloading tons of music, they're going to need to buy extra monthly bandwidth as well.
According to the program I saw, studies done in Australia show that just $10AU a month would be enough to fully remunerate all entitled parties with compensation. I suspect this figure would need to be re-factored for use in the US, but I suspect most people would be willing to pay at least double or triple that for unfettered access. Some people already pay this much on top of their Internet access fees to facilitate the ILLICIT transfer of music and video, and NONE of that money gets to any entitled individuals. Surely a workable scheme can be devised.
I joked earlier about how the "war on Christmas" drove us to flee to another country, but that's only the tiniest bit true. Granted, I get really upset every time I'm accosted by a Salvation Army bell-ringer, but I'm mostly just amused at how people get so worked up about someone wishing them a happy incorrect holiday.
Here in Australia, all the ads on telly that I've seen say 'Christmas.' There's nary a mention of generic "holidays," nor any mention of specific non-Christmas ones. I'm not sure whether this is due to the fact that Australia is considerably more secular a society than the states, or some other factor of which I'm unaware, but people are clearly laid back about the whole thing. Even the non-religious folk seem to have no qualms with wishing each other 'Happy Christmas," which is something I think the US could learn a few things from.
This laid-backness regarding 'uptight about Christmas' is why I was so utterly shocked to see this poster at the cinema yesterday:
I'm guessing that the title change is due to a generic "foreign" marketing campaign, wherein they just make one set of marketing images for all the english-speaking non-US countries, allowing for other countries who aren't nearly as laid back about the whole thing. Still, it's jarring. If they had done this in the states, there'd be boycotts and outrage. "How dare they take 'Christmas' out of the title of that sucky movie??!" Bill O'Reilly would have to have Reese and Vince on in order to berate them. Geez.
While D took the train to work this morning, I decided to go grab a pastry and a flat white -- and, more importantly, take advantage of the free wifi offered by the coffee place. I had a thick slice of toasted pear-raspberry bread (think banana bread, but pearier and raspberrier), which was delicious, and an hour or so of really, really slow wifi. Gloria Jean's Coffees is not the place to go in Cronulla for good wifi -- or even good coffee, really. Gloria Jean's is sort of the Starbucks of Australia, apparently, and while having an excellent range of pastries, I've not found thier coffee to be that great.
After that I headed to the grocery to get some photos of something that this American found particularly amusing. Next to all the steaks and pork chops and chicken and what-not in the meat case was a section for animals:
I don't know whether refrigerated meats for animals is a response to the tainted pet food epidemic from a couple years back, or if Aussies just love their pets more than Americans, but I'm reasonably certain that this doesn't happen in America. I'm not going to tell my cats about this when I get back, and I'd appreciate it if you wouldn't either.
After picking up another variety of Lemon-lime & Bitters at the grocery (thus far my favorite is still Schweppes's, but Bundaberg's is a really close second) and taking a codeine-infused paracetemol (that's Australian for acetemenaphine) to help soothe my severely sunburnt skin, I headed out for an hour-long jaunt down the road that runs between Cronulla and Sutherland. On the way I saw a few interesting things, but nothing nearly as exciting as this:
So I was thinking about the now-infamous shoe attack on President George W. Bush, and I was reminded of something someone's grandpa used to say: "close only counts in horseshoes and hand-grenades."
The journalist who threw his shoes came pretty darn close to hitting George, BOTH times, without even a twitch from the secret service between the first salvo and the second. He got close, but seeing as how thiis is neither horseshoes nor hand-grenades, it just resulted in funny newsreports world-wide.
Imagine, however, how the situation would have played out if the shoe-thrower in question had been Richard Reid, the so-called "Shoe Bomber" responsible for us having to take our shoes off at airport security. BLAMMO! Every future press conference would then feature reporters in just their socks, slipping and falling on the polished marble floors.
"Mr. President, I'd like to ask you about your space policy; but first, check out how well I can moonwalk."
At this time, I'd also like for you to imagine how it would have played out had it been Reed Richards -- the stretchy "Mr. Fantastic" of Fantastic Four fame -- who had attacked Dubya with his shoes. He wouldn't have even needed to THROW the shoes; he could just kick from wherever he was standing, definitely able to hit his mark.
It was also mighty delicious. I could get used to roasted tomatoes, mushrooms and baked beans with my breakfast.
D just headed off to the train station to head to work, leaving me here at the cafe to take advantage of the free wifi to update y'all and to upload some photos. As promised, I've taken some photos of the greatest energy drink ever made:
It was really tasty, but I can't report any kind of psychedelic effects. Bummer :)
Before heading to breakfast this morning, I watched the local news broadcasts on telly, sort of round-robining through the 3 different news stations each time they got to the sport report. The big stories this morning are that the 30th ATM in Sydney was exploded during the night (they didn't get any cash this time, however), a famous Aussie bloke with the nickname "Chopper" was attacked by a nutter with a tomahawk, and that after months of talking up the 20-20-20 plan (reduce carbon footprint by 20% by the year 2020) was just reduced to 5%. There is apparently much protesting. Oh, also, there was great coverage of the Iraqi journalist who threw both his shoes at George W. Bush during a press conference.
I got a little bit sunburned whilst walking around yesterday, and one of my eyes is completely bloodshot after the plane flight. Now I understand why they call late night plane flights the "red-eye." International travel tip: it is counter-intuitive, but it's actually better to sit in the middle part of your plane's row as opposed to the aisle. At this point I feel pretty fantastic, not at all jetlagged at all. (Other than waking up at 5am local time and unable to continue to sleep.)
No phone connection yet, but at this point I'm seriously considering just not bothering. I'm clearly rather addicted to always being connected, and it will probably do me some good to have to go out of my way to check in. Anyway, catch you later. I'll check in later with some more things I've found interesting.
We made it safe and sound to oz. It's right about noon on Monday as I write this, due to the magic of time travel. Kind of jetlaggy. Or, the Green Fairy Absinth Energy Drink I just drank (60% alcohol by volume, the alcohol in question being absinth) is messing with my brain. If I drink another I'll take a pic for you.
Haven't worked out connectivity yet, but I've managed to upload a few pics from the journey thus far. Hopefully tomorrow I can get back the pre-paid SIM I got when I was here in March. I've got little magic hardware SIM-fooler thingies for both my G1 and my iPhone 3G, so there's at least double the chance I can get some kind of only vaguely-overpriced Internet access.
I've had just about enough of you and your War on Christmas, so I've decided to take some time away from you. We shall be spending our Christmahanukwanza ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE PLANET. Australia here we come.
Hopefully I'll be blogging and taking photos and whatnot as connectivity allows. Stay tuned.
Know what the world doesn't need? Another freakin' Captain America movie.
Just because Hollywood keeps making PUNISHER reboots, and they've now managed to reboot both Batman and Hulk franchises, TWICE -- not to mention a pending Superman reboot -- doesn't mean we need another Captain America.
I've decided that, from now on, only the first incarnation of a comic book film will be acknowledged.
For instance: I did indeed see The Punisher, and he was played by Dolph Lundgren -- and it was terrible. I also saw The Fantastic Four, which was produced by Roger Corman -- and really, REALLY, terrible. Batman's greatest weapon was shark-deterrent spray.
Yesterday I had the pleasure of reading Roger Ebert's eviscerating review of Ben Stein's film "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed." I hesitate to link people there, because while it does a fantastic job of pointing out the poor logic and deceptive tactics used in the film, it also carries a tone of condescension that is sure to turn off anyone who might have fallen trap to the film's dishonesty. Like most well-written screeds against the ideologies to which logic-minded people take issue, Mr. Ebert's is clearly intended to "preach to the choir," using language aimed at individuals sharing the opinions therein. Everything Mr. Ebert has to say is backed by logic and scientific evidence, but while saying it he sounds like a total asshole.
I think this one-sidedness is one of the many things keeping this ludicrous "debate" alive, ensuring that people on both sides of the issue keep fighting into the coming decades. I airquote "debate" in the previous sentence because the actual issue is extremely simple: Intelligent Design is not science, and thus doesn't belong in science classrooms. See, Science™ is a protocol devised to get to the bottom of things logically and rationally, limited to what can actually be observed and tested. That's it. No magic, no faith; just What You See is What You Get™. If you can't observe it, it can't be covered by science. If a theory cannot be backed up by testing and observation, it can't be called science.
Rather than putting effort into explaining to the layman that science is a protocol designed to attempt the determination of how things work, using ONLY WHAT CAN BE OBSERVED AND TESTED, proponents of science (who are by definition anti-ID -- not because of some hatred for religion, but because an Intelligent Designer CANNOT CURRENTLY BE OBSERVED OR TESTED FOR) feel the need to attack the misguided attempts by ID-proponents to attack the theory of evolution, and even science itself. Back and forth these attacks go, doing nothing but reaffirming what IDers already believe: that evolution is an attack on Christianity.
Unfortunately, I fear this is going to continue for a very long time. While I take issue with how the ID movement portrays science as "anti-religion," I have to admit that many of the outspoken folks trying to cry foul of Intelligent Design's methods, logic, and purpose happen to actually BE anti-religion folks, many of them of rather asshole-ish persuasion themselves. (I'm looking at you, Richard Dawkins.) I find this incredibly disheartening.
As of now, the opposition to the teaching of Intelligent Design in science classrooms is as follows: scientific theories are based upon the notion that observations and evidence overwhelmingly back them up. Intelligent Design theory posits no such testable, observable theories. All their time and energy is spent finding problems with portions of the evolution model, which, while actually pretty useful, is not the same thing as positing a theory of their own. The notion that everything was created by an intelligent force is a nice notion -- one which I happen to believe -- but it is not the same thing as a scientific theory. If you want to do science, then you have to do considerably more than just come up with a nice notion.
ID proponents (and Ben Stein's film) portray themselves as being "shut out" by science, that what they're doing is being ignored on the grounds that it attacks the accepted model, and that science is akin to persecution of religion. This simply isn't true. If the ID folks actually were to do the work involved in creating such a theory, doing the experimentation and observation necessary to back it up and get their work peer reviewed, it WOULD be accepted by science. Unfortunately, the main proponents of Intelligent Design Theory have no interest in doing that; they'd rather just fabricate controversy, pretending that the mean-old scientists just won't let them play because scientists hate Christians.
Sadly, it's far easier to rile up congregations and make them feel persecuted than to actually do the science they purport they're doing. By portraying evolution as anti-religion while claiming persecution at the hands of scientists, they've painted an inaccurate portrait of the "debate." People with no understanding at all of science now feel that their viewpoint ought be represented where it simply doesn't belong. This two-faced approach is nothing short of dishonest, and I personally feel that the level of dishonesty exhibited suggests that it's not just misguided, but also intentional.
I'm not sure What Jesus Would Do™, but I'm pretty darn confident that he wouldn't support lying to and misleading people in order to get them to believe the things he says.
Today while listening to an interview with John Hodgman, I heard the best explanation of The Church of Satan I've ever heard. (I frequently find myself trying to explain to people that Satanism really has nothing to do with Satan, which only ever has the effect of making people think that I'm a Satanist.)
In any case, the rest of the interview is fantastic as well, but the explanation of Satanism went like this:
"They do not worship Satan, per se. They're not a coven of witches in the dakota. You know what I mean?... who are trying to summon up spirits. It is more of a sort of, um, self-determination... anti-authoritarian cult. It's kind of like, uh, Ayn Randian Objectivism... with funny goat masks. It is a rejection of, sort of, what they consider to be hypocritical moralism of churches, and instead, they um... have sex with eachother."
Now if only I could explain Ayn Randian Objectivism to people. Everytime I try, it has the effect of making people think that I'm Ron Paul. Hmm, on second thought, maybe I'll just stick to explaining Satanism.
Anyway, I encourage you to check out the entire interview, if only to learn the context in which Satanism came up in a John Hodgman interview. (It's pretty funny.)