AutoRip: Another Reason Record Labels Suck

Amazon recently announced a service that would have been cutting edge in 1999. AutoRip lets you buy a physical CD and automatically get sent the MP3 files to go with it. Why didn’t someone think of this in the last century? Someone did. Michael Robertson started companies to offer this service in 1999, 2005, and 2007. Each and every one was torpedoed by the industry (with the occasional help of incompetent courts). Turns out some kind of stupid are just beyond helping.

Michael Robertson, whom I imagine saying, “I told you so!”

Read the ArsTechnica article for more of the sad story, and some excellent quotes from Robertson.

Pictogram Movie Posters

See a collection of movie posters for famous movies based on pictogram representations of their plots. The posters range from the humorously simple:

Did they really need a title for this one?

To complexity that might be a little confusing if you don’t remember the movie pretty well:

I think I understand all of this one, but it took me a minute or two.

Check out the full list here.

Don’t Blame This Man (For Your Lost Cell Phone)

The Las Vegas Journal-Review has an interesting article about what happens if Sprint decides to use the GPS coordinates for your home as the reference point for GPS navigation in your area. The answer includes numerous middle-of-the-night interruptions from people with phone-locating software who are convinced you have their device. Oh, yeah, and lots more interaction with the neighborhood cops than you might otherwise have.

If You Must Watch the Star Wars Prequels…

Quick backstory: I was in middle school when I heard about the prequels and, too young to know any better, I spent the next few years in breathless anticipation. (Yes, years in breathless anticipation. It’s a miracle I survived, but I had Magic: The Gathering to tide me over.) When tickets for the first movie came out, I got my sleeping bag and hopped into line in position #5. I played Star Wars Trivial Pursuit in that line and I won, in that line. So yeah, I’ve got my Star Wars credentials.

Then I watched Episode I in the theaters six times, willing myself with fervent desire to enjoy the films. I couldn’t.

Then I went on my mission and let the go.

I have watched some weird iMax version of Episode II that apparently skipped several bits and I did end up watching Episode III because, you know, might as well. Both were pretty terrible, and I’d essentially given up on the entire franchise forever. (The only Star Wars novels I like are the Timothy Zahn ones, and I haven’t played any of the video games since the 1990s either.)

But with the announcement that Disney has purchased Star Wars and there are going to be some new films, I’ve allowed a faint flicker of hope to be rekindled. I’m not exactly excited, but I’m not pretending Star Wars doesn’t exist any more either. I want to give Disney a chance, but I also don’t want to get my hopes up.

So, now that I”m reading articles on Star Wars again, here’s a good article about the “correct” order in which to watch the series if–for some reason–you insist on watching the prequels: IV, V, II, III, VI.

I’ll let the article explain the reasoning  behind that order, but I’m pretty convinced. My kids will be ready to watch the movies in a couple of years, and this is probably the order we’ll watch them in.

Bonus: did you know these exist?

Painstakingly recreated by fans, these are 720p versions of the original theatrical release. I must have them, unless Disney does us all a favor and releases 1080p restored versions from that vault of theirs.

I did not.

Euthanasia As Hedonism

Canticle for Leibowitz CoverThere’s a gripping scene near the end of one of my favorite books, Canticle for Leibowitz, where a priest tries to convince a mother not to kill herself and her daughter after they have received a probably lethal dose of radiation during an atomic war. The government has set up euthanasia festivals–looking for all the world like state fairs–where parents and their children can go to ride a carousel or a Ferris wheel before going to the final tent to end their lives. He begs and cajoles her not to go, but in the end is left to watch, powerless, as she takes her little girl’s hand and leads her toward the colorful tents, the delicious food, and the end of their lives.

Walter M. Miller, Jr (the author of Canticle), you will not be surprised to find out, was a Catholic. I am not a Catholic, but I have a deep love and admiration for the moral and intellectual courage of that tradition, and nowhere is that courage and sensitivity in starker display than in Catholic teachings about suffering and death. The Catholics understand, as so few in our modern age do, that suffering itself is not the measure of a life. They realize that, no matter how deceptively noble and sympathetic the arguments for euthanasia may be, in the end condoning suicide is indistinguishable from embracing shallow hedonism.

A heartbreaking news story brought this back to the forefront of my mind on Monday. Two brothers, aged 45, were killed by Belgian doctors at their request after finding out that they would go blind. The identical twins were born deaf, and they were unable to face the pain of never being able to see each other again. I have absolutely no condemnation for their decision, tragic as it might be, but I am deeply disappointed at the behavior of the doctors who ended their lives. 

Read moreEuthanasia As Hedonism

One of my Favorite PA Comics

I didn’t keep up with my Google Reader feed over the last week, so I missed out on a lot of my usual webcomics until I started catching up last night. So, even though it’s from last Friday, I didn’t see this one until yesterday. And it’s a classic.

If you play Call of Duty (any of them, really), you’ll recognize this!

It’s not quite my all-time favorite, but it’s close. I think I might get a printed version for my cubicle at work (along with a little sticky note to avoid getting in trouble.

Oh, and if you’re curious, this is my all-time favorite PA comic. I even bought the hoody. (Not a euphemism.)

Mormon Eclecticism vs. Pop Art

A Motley Vision has an interesting piece asking whether Mormon bands that “clean up” pop songs are expressing a genuine Mormon aesthetic or corrupting the artistic vision of the original artists. The prototypical example, of course, is Clean Flicks. Before being shut down due to law suits, Mormon families could purchase their very own censored editions of popular movies. I think the problem with that approach is that it treats the moral content of art as more or less equivalent to after-market car products: you can add on or take off what you like in discrete chunks. In reality, however, the “bad parts” of movies that Mormons might find objectionable are embedded into the narrative. So on that front, I think the effort to try and reclaim pop art can be essentially a lost cause.

On the other hand, there’s no denying the awesomeness of this song:

And that makes me wonder if another side to the issue is a kind of authentic Mormon eclecticism: taking  what we love and claiming it as our own. Spoiling the Egyptians, one might say. And as far as the artistic vision of the original creators: as long as you’re not claiming the work as your own or copying it wholesale than we’ve got a happy coincidence of Mormon  eclecticism and art-as-remix.

And that might be the real difference between the song above and Clean Flicks. Instead of trying to give you a sanitized version of the original, they’re taking what they like best and making their own art with it. Not only am I OK with that, I think it might even be something to be proud of.

So, About Rape Culture…

I’ve been meaning to write a short piece about this for the longest time because it bugs me to no end. And now’s as good a time as any.

Please consider the following:

Exhibit A: How To Stop Rapes (But Not So Much Other Crimes)
Exhibit A: How To Stop Rapes (But Not So Much Other Crimes)

Now, this might be a waste of time because the folks who seem to use words like “rape culture” are pretty passionate about it, and my friends who tend to be skeptical of this consider it generally unworthy of response. But I’m going to go for it anyway. 

Read moreSo, About Rape Culture…