April 25, 2007

sing yourself to sleep

Not so vim-filled today.

I woke up every 20 minutes last night with the Scissor Sister's I Don't Feel Like Dancing running around my head. Each time I had to sing something else to myself in my head to get back to sleep again. I'd get through about 1.5 renditions of something like Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and be asleep again. Then I'd wake up 20 minutes later and repeat.

May have to resort to 'watching' the yacht races again tonight. Very effective sleeping aid (though it does mean I spend a lot of time sleeping on the floor in front of the telly).

Posted by carla at 09:42 PM

April 24, 2007

sunset on dawn raid

Well, having waxed lyrical about the goodness of music formats which are easy to copy, local hip hop label Dawn Raid went into voluntary liquidation citing lost revenue due to illegal copying (amongst other things).

So, there are at least some cases where the positives I listed were not enough to keep the music being supplied (though it will be interesting to see whether the actual artists stop making music).

Posted by carla at 10:11 AM

April 20, 2007

life is no way to treat an animal

I was pointed to Kurt Vonnegut's website by his obituary in the Economist.


Posted by carla at 04:52 PM

criminalising good parents

Well, Sue Bradford has set off a lot of fluster by trying to ban smacking (or beating, or whipping, or grabbing) offspring. For the most part, I've been listening to the debate with a modicum of interest and no strong opinions. I have an abhorrence of inexact law, but the general law of assault is daft and no-one notices, so I doubt the actual implementation of this change will have any impact. After all, it is technically a breach of the law to grab your partner and pull them out of the way of an oncoming truck.

What I am curious about is the criminalising good parents line Key is taking at the moment. This suggests one of two things:

1) Key thinks smacking is a valid part of good parenting, or
2) Key thinks smacking is not a valid part of good parenting, but asserts that good parents will sometimes smack their children.

For a lot of people, smacking is justified as being legitimate only when it is used in cold blood. That is, when you are calm enough to figure out whether it will do any good, whether its application is consistent with other punishments, and when you can control how hard you hit.

For some smackers, I expect this is actually how it is used. Particularly when the punishment is delayed. However, my subjective and uninformed view is that smacking is only justified when applied very close in time to the offence (and pretty much only with children old enough to figure out the connection, and young enough that they won't learn the lesson through other means).

However, my impression is that the good parents Key is talking about are the parents who occasionally smack their child in hot blood. When their child has just done something breathtakingly dangerous, or has pushed them to the point of distraction through being an annoying little sod. For this they feel guilty, and this is why they don't like the idea of it being against the law. Not because they think it is good, but because they think it is a common, human experience in parenting.

Which is all very well and good, until you start looking around for analogous laws. Speeding is against the law because it is dangerous, but there are plently of good drivers who speed occasionally because they are late, they can see there are no other cars within 3 km of them, they weren't watching the speedometer closely and were caught up in a good song on the radio. But Key isn't suggesting that we shouldn't criminalise (well, fine) good drivers...

A more difficult analogy is the lack of a defense against a charge of murder on the grounds that it was euthanasia. There are certainly circumstances where I think the right thing to do is to provide someone with a quick and painless exit. However, Key doesn't appear to be concerned that the lack of a defense criminalises good doctors and nurses (and, even worse, good offspring).

The law of assault itself has very few defenses. It is technically *any* contact with another person, so long as you intend to touch them. This includes throwing things, or using bad breath as an offensive weapon. Curiously, you can't consent to assault for sexual pleasure, so we're criminalising all sex (unless I'm drawing the wrong conclusions from my second year criminal law paper). This would have the bizarre result that the act which created the kid would be illegal, but hitting the kid wouldn't be.

You *can* punch someone in the nose really hard and intentionally on an rugby field and get away with it. Happens every day.

I think my point is that the law of assault is daft, and is genuinely sorted out in its implementation (as Sue B has been trying to explain). I don't think feeling guilty about smacking kids in hot blood is a good enough reason to require an explicit exemption.

Posted by carla at 12:31 PM

April 17, 2007

The Great Snail Race

Written and Directed by Edward Lynden-Bell.

This film was probably best described as a love poem to Wellington. It follows a flatfull of young twentysomethings as they navigate the choices about responsibility and consequences. It has a plot of sorts, but mostly a collection of plotlets all woven together into a gestalt. Ed's long history of flats, arts and politics give this study of how people navigate their convictions through their real-world options a real depth and echo. And his careful watching of Wellington over the last few years provide that rare thing, a capture of place. This enabled him to pull some fast ones with geographic reality without jarring. For example, I totally bought that the inside of Happy could be matched to the outside of Valve.

If I had to try to explain to a foreigner what I find special about Wellington, I'd probably show them this film.

Posted by carla at 11:22 PM

April 16, 2007

fiddler on the roof

Went to see the Fiddler on the Roof that is on at the St James this evening. Topol (the guy who plays the lead) is very good. Like watching someone who has a very old, but beautifully made and preserved jacket on. He managed to be fresh in his performance, but so finely tuned, it was like watching beautiful clockwork.

Pity I can't say much for the rest of the cast. The Matchmaker was very good, but the rest seemed somehow vocally thin, and their accents were *very* uneven. I get sick and tired of shows where each actor just picks an accent they feel comfortable with. There were two Kiwi accents, at least one American jewish one, and an assortment of European jews. It rather ruined the sense of a small, cohesive village of people who were related to each other.

The live orchestra was a blessing, it made the performance much warmer somehow. And while the backdrops were weak, the on-set building and mechanists were excellent. I think the dancing of the buildings was better than the dancing of the cast.

However, all up, this very pregnant lady sat quite happily through nearly 3 hours of show without falling asleep or wanting to leave.

Posted by carla at 11:54 AM

April 09, 2007

Apple supports proper downloadable music

Thank God, one of the major corporates has finally figured out that there is a profit to be made from providing proper access to digital versions of recorded music. Apple and EMI have agreed to provide a premium iTunes service which lets you pay $1.29 USD for a high-quality, DRM-free version of a song. It is even Fairplay free (Apple's rights-restriction technology).

I'm sure you've all heard this before, but I'm going to have an initial stab at the free music format debate anyway. This isn't thoroughly thought through, so I'd appreciate your feedback, and please consider that this is unlikely to be my final position on the matter.

I definitely acknowledge that giving copies of digital music to friends (who then do the same thing) is a hole in the balloon of income for recorded music. Though I think that that reflects a fundamental shift in the underlying nature of the economics of recorded music. It used to be that distribution was expensive and controllable. It is now dirt cheap and tends towards the anarchic. It is (in economic-speak) becoming a public good, that is, a thing which anyone can consume, instead of just the owner. Public goods are:

  • non-rival (that is, someone consuming a copy of a song doesn't preclude another person from consuming it (unless a distribution site crashes under load), and

  • non-excludable (that is, you can't stop people using it).

The classic problem with public goods (traditional examples include clean air and street lights) is underprovision. That is, everyone will wait for someone else to provide them (at which point they can consume them for free).

However, I honestly can't see how we'll end up with not enough recorded music being produced.

Firstly, there are elements of the music production process which are entirely excludable and rival, namely making the music in the first place, having the music connect with the audience, and having a decent copy of your music you can listen to without having to play it. This value alone is enough to get hundreds of wellingtonians to be part time musicians, in some cases producing pretty decent music. I've always been bit confused by the recording companies' attempts to stop the music getting to the audience. For so many musicians that was the point of becoming a musician in the first place.

Secondly, Impatience. Most fannish behaviour tends to be (from my distant observations) rather impulsive. If there is a thing you can purchase (and it is within someone's budget limits) they'll buy it. So CDs get purchased on the high at the end of a good gig, because you can have it then and there, without waiting to go home and hope someone else has purchased it and made it available for download.

Thirdly, add-on goods which are excludable and rival goods: tickets to performances, official (signed) copies of CDs, T-shirts, stickers, backstage passes, etc.

Fourthly, patronage. Okay, this is an archaic word, but it basically means that some people will give money to someone to help them to continue to produce something they like. Namely, some people will pay full price for the CD despite a bunch of other free or low-cost options simply because they know it is a useful way to support the band. Patronage currently keeps the Apache Foundation bubbling along at a Microsoft competing rate. The best way to support this cultural - that is, it is cooler to have an official version rather than a free one. This is produced at least partly by having a close relationship between the band and the fans.

Fifthly, democratisation. This is a bad word to use, but I'm running out of good ones. Basically, this covers the shift in recording costs, and record company power. It used to be that recording was so expensive, that it took a company to pay for it (and they were repaid from album sales). Often the band underwrote the cost of the recording anyway, which resulted in many almost-made-it bands being indebted to the distribution company they'd signed to. Nice. The companies distorted the market by promoting music which had a wide audience, and by trying to make supergroups (which could make them vast profits). As they had a stranglehold on the recording and distribution of recorded music, they could do this. What has happened in the last 10 years is the recording tech has become much more affordable (you can produce decent recordings pretty cheap now) and the distribution channel of the internet has become pretty cheap too (though making the connection to people who actually want your music is still a difficulty). This factor makes it easier to produce recorded music, which suggests an increase in supply.

Lastly, better access to a wider range of music. This is pretty simple, I'm more likely to have enough music I like, if I have a world full of recorded music to look through. This means that the world doesn't have to produce as much music in order to meet everyone's recorded music needs, so the chances of not enough music being produced (which was the economic concern which lead me into this rant) are greatly reduced.

So, in other words, I fully expect it to be much harder to make a good living as a musician, but a much happier bunch of music listeners regardless. And I'd expect it to be *very* difficult to become an overpaid recording company executive (which, strangely, I don't have a problem with).

Posted by carla at 09:21 AM

April 02, 2007

font my words

One of the more unpleasant things about renovations is negotiating with people who have done a crap job about why you don't want to pay their invoice in full. In this case, it was because it cost other contractors quite a lot to fix it.

On this occasion, however, it gave me a new insight into myself, namely that I have passed over that nebulous divide between normal people and design geeks. I seriously started to consider which font the letter should be written in. I never use Times New Roman because it seems strangely bitter to me, but for this letter I thought it might very well be appropriate and lend my letter an official and accurate tone. I definitely discarded my usual Garamond, as being way too open and warm spirited. Eventually E came to my rescue by suggesting Palatino (after laughing at me quite a lot).

Meanwhile the walls go in, and I hope that I can ward off the council inspector with a surfeit of smoke detectors.

Posted by carla at 10:05 PM