On a Tangent
A blog for those who love a wandering mind…

Aug
05

Will Turner: You didn’t beat me. You ignored the rules of engagement. In a fair fight, I’d kill you.
Jack Sparrow: That’s not much incentive for me to fight fair, then, is it?

It is eerie how the sentiment of a fictional swashbuckler from the 1700’s still rings true with a completely incongruent pirate culture today. What is the incentive for consumers today to legally acquire their music? “I don’t blame the consumer,” said Sandy Montiero, head of Universal Music Group Malaysia. “If it’s good quality and cheap, you’d want it (Whitley, 2006).” The answer to Montiero’s rhetorical question comes up a resounding yes; this consumer generation does want it.
The RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America), however, does not have a single target in their sites to make this new pirate culture walk the proverbial plank. Efforts to destroy piracy have targeted content aggregators, private individuals, universities, Internet Service Providers (ISP’s), software developers and the federal government.

Piracy exists in all forms of media, whether it be the film industry, video games, or even in print. However it is the music industry and the RIAA that has brought the issue to the forefront of society’s consciousness. They have demonized the practice to a level as to relate the act of piracy as a gateway to “everything from handguns to large quantities of cocaine and marijuana” as well as terrorism, according to published reports (Norton, 2008).

Music piracy does not begin or end where many people believe. Napster, Kazaa and Limewire were not the first technological threats on the RIAA’s radar. When personal cassette tapes were made available to the public and hit their peak in the mid 1980’s, the recording industry griped their business would by crumbled by individuals’ ability to record songs off of the radio (Steal This Film, 2006). Obviously no such catastrophic effects were felt by the industry as they continued to thrive into the new millennium. The threat, however, was not a technological impossibility. The technology and equipment was there for the majority of people to capitalize upon. So what kept such a revolt squashed?

Although it is fun to speculate conspiracy theories about “The Man” keeping the artist down and the industry up, Anders Bylund of Ars Technica assesses the situation from a business perspective. He explains consumers make purchase decisions based off of three factors: price, convenience, and quality (Mitchell, 2008). Applied to the cassette model, the recording industry merely needed to strike the proper balance to entice the majority of consumers to continue purchasing albums instead of recording them. Because of the existence of the technology, there would always be a group of people who would form a culture of defiance and not purchase their music. However, by creating a superior recording that grouped all of an artist’s tracks on one medium and then offering that product for a price that the market was willing to pay for this convenience and quality, the record industry was virtually unfazed. In fact, they continued to boom through the heyday of the compact disc in the 1990’s.

Online piracy, however, has created a new breed of monster for the recording industry. According to a study done by the Institute for Policy Innovation, piracy has cost the industry over $13 billion. The American economy suffers as well, citing the loss of 71,060 jobs with 26,860 of those coming directly from the recording industry, amounting to a cool $2.7 billion in lost earnings. Not to be swept under the rug is the $422 million in lost tax revenues at both the state and local levels (Siwek, 2007). These numbers alone are alarming. The picture they paint, however, must be examined from the correct perspective.

The calculation of these figures is not at issue. The derivation of the formulas used to propagate these results is of concern, however. In principle, the recording industry does not lose money every time a user downloads a song. Financial loss extrapolations are based upon the idea that a song downloaded illegally is a product the user has not purchased. This is based upon the assumption that the user would have bought the product had it not been available for free download and that they are not inclined to purchase it after it has been downloaded. The IPI does admit that:

“…the degree to which these legitimate purchases would occur differs by market, [but] it appears nevertheless that such purchases would comprise a very significant fraction of the total number of pirated CDs now purchased… It is then assumed that only 20% (1 in 5) of these downloaded songs would have been purchased legitimately if piracy did not exist (Siwek, 2007).”

Actual statistics, however, do not match up to these assumptions. In a 2006 study, three out of four users said they purchased the same music after illegally downloading, with 21% confessing they had done so ten or more times. Of this same cross section, 67% of the average user’s music library consisted of tracks ripped from CD’s, purchased online, or downloaded from an artist’s website. Peer-to-peer (P2P) downloads accounted for the last 33% of an average music library (Fischer, 2006). While not an insignificant number, this figure lies in contrast to those presented in the IPI study. The interpretation of each set of figures in the respective studies can be argued endlessly, but remain unimportant to the real issue: the approach towards piracy from the industry.

Court proceedings have been a mixed bag of results. The RIAA sent out 407 pre-litigation letters to 18 universities, citing specific IP addresses used to illegally obtain music. The schools were asked to distribute the letters to the proper students who were assigned to the addresses. Some schools, such as TCU, abided to the requests, leaving students disgruntled for the lack of support. “Don’t shoot the messenger,” said Brooke Scogin, assistant dean of campus life. “I personally sent out the letters to the students and attached the settlement letter from the RIAA (Blease, 2008).” The settlement packages ranged from $3,000 to $5,000, generally a healthy deduction from the $750 per pirated song damage formula constructed by the legal representation at the RIAA (RIAA, 2008).

Not every student is jumping at the chance to settle, however. Kevin Cabla a junior finance major at TCU, does not believe he is obligated to take any action until he receives more information. “The RIAA only has my licensed IP address and if they want to sue me they will have to subpoena TCU for my information (Blease, 2008).” Such attempts by the RIAA have yet to turn in their favor, as both the College of William and Mary and the University of New Mexico won similar cases in court and were not required to hand over any student information (Blease, 2008). The RIAA’s only case brought to trial against a file sharer also turned out to be their only major victory; for now. Jammie Thomas was fined $222,000 for “making available” 24 songs on the Kazaa network. Professors, however, are now arguing the presiding judge erred in his decision, as they interpret the copyright law to require proof of distribution to constitute such a claim, a technological quagmire (Kravets, 2008).

Montiero explains, “What we’re trying to do is get piracy to a level where the industry can thrive again (Whitley, 2006).” In Bylund’s opinion, threats of legal action and lawsuits only work to destroy the industry’s image in the face of their consumers. “You subject these rebels with the tools of free enterprise. Piracy is just another business model, and the pirates will lose and go away when you come up with a better model…Capitalism, properly applied, will beat the rebels every time (Mitchell, 2008).” The problem is, no one can seem to agree on the proper model. The recording industry remains in a constant battle with ISP’s over who should be responsible for monitoring the problem and creating a solution.

Industry players continue to lobby for an Internet surcharge. This extra monthly fee would be distributed back to participating labels to curb their piracy losses. A proposed $5 per month fee for developed countries would create a hefty nest egg of approximately $20 billion (Bruno, 2008). With such a payment system in place, access and software interface would be available to provide unlimited user downloading, or in theory, a monetization of piracy. ISP’s are not quick to jump on board as they stand to lose much more than they would gain from such a deal. Change would have to be legally mandated across the board, otherwise one service provider refusing to sign on to the deal can prospectively create a situation to capitalize on consumers abandoning ISP’s who would carry such a charge. This is especially true for the millions of users who do not download music, as they would surely not be willing to pay for other people’s music.

This model is also problematic for the industry itself, as the huge cash purse needs to be divvied up. Recording labels are at war with their artists as they try to determine a suitable rate model for downloads as a purchase or performance substitute. Currently the difference is a large, as artists receive 15% on a purchase and 50% on a performance, creating a heated debate as to how Internet downloads are to be handled (Bruno, 2008). The only evidence of any formative solution being an immediate possibility is a tiered subscription structure being proposed by ISP’s AT&T and Time Warner. This system would charge heavy bandwidth users at a premium rate and low bandwidth users at a lower cost. None of these plans have become available yet.

With no solution in sight, the battle continues to be waged over how to police the problem. The RIAA continues to track and subpoena information, but the technological logistics of such an operation are far too complicated and vast to accomplish more than throw a few lawsuits at college students. In the United States, the RIAA has resorted to fruitless civil action against Internet giants Google and YouTube for aiding the pirating culture through their products. With little bite behind these claims, they have also have implored ISP’s to police their own networks for pirate activity. Once again, however, such a measure would only be logistically and economically sensible if it were to be mandated by the government, as all the burden of cost for such an initiative falls onto the ISP’s (Bruno, 2008).

In other countries, there has been mixed results through business and governmental decisions. In Italy, Germany, Denmark and Canada, little progress has been made on either front as ISP’s voice a need for a business solution and courts have ruled on the behalf of user privacy over industry rights. In France, a three-strikes legislation has been passed that will place the burden of surveillance on the government, an agreeable situation for the ISP’s. Those found in violation of the law will face steeper penalties for each offense. As a result of industry pressure in Japan, the four major ISP’s have agreed in principle to develop a plan to curb users file sharing. Such a market solution in the United Kingdom has been given a timetable, as Parliament has said legislation will be introduced in April 2009 if the service providers cannot agree on a common solution (Eliezer, et al., 2008).

With this kind of government intervention not yet present in the United States, some groups have taken to the fight themselves. ArtistDirect Inc., a promoter of independent bands, owns a media task force known as MediaDefender. This group policies the Internet and attempts to foil illegal downloading for clients in the music and film industry. Their main tactic is to place phony files on P2P networks, clogging up the flow of information and making it harder for users to find what they are looking for. Their tactics, however, have come into question recently as an attack on a legitimate BitTorrent tracker run by Revision3 caused a full outage of their online television shows, including popular titles Diggnation and Tekzilla. Jim Louderbeck, CEO of Revision3, was concerned by the implications of such actions where operations such as these are allowed to operate without boundaries and cripple servers at will. “At the very least, it was a pretty poor implementation and pretty grossly negligent. What if these computers had been at a hospital (Menn, 2008)?”

The new BitTorrent technology, a P2P interface that allows users to download bits of media from different users, has created new problems for the RIAA, MPAA, and video game industry alike. Creators of The Pirate Bay, a major BitTorrent aggregator, believe the answers lie in the shift of social change. They call the act of piracy an “organized civil disobedience”, as people voice their desire to get their entertainment for free. The RIAA has had very little success in their efforts to crush the Pirate Bay, as the Swedish based company lies outside American jurisdiction. Continued pressure from the WTO on the Swedish government to handle the situation has been backed by the promise of sanctions. As a mediator, however, the Pirate Bay’s actions are not directly unlawful, as they do not post files (Steal This Film, 2006).

Their platform of social change does hold merit within the facts. When Swedish authorities raided the Pirate Bay servers in 2006, the system was up and running again within a week. Now the creators say the network is too big and can never be shut down. Even if the Pirate Bay was to be eliminated, the interface still works and can be used around the world. Not allowing information to be shared is a kind of “terrorism of the mind” in their eyes. They feel social change cannot be outlawed, and the continued repression of the network only makes their initiative more effective. “It’s all about control and profits,” says one creator. “When the industry loses control of the information, they lose their leverage to make profits… Consumers can now become producers. Here, only positive social effects can come from the addition of new authors into society (King, 2007).”

Is that the real answer though? Many artists do not appreciate having their work repurposed without receiving the financial benefits of their labor. Advocates for change would argue once the work is changed, it no longer belongs to the original author. Radical idealists would suggest the work does not belong to anyone, but society in general. At some point, all work has to be funded by some means, which would suggest that there must be some protection in place for artists and companies that foot the bill to provide us with these cultural works.

Therefore, it is not surprising the RIAA is in such a panic about the current situation of piracy and copyrights infringement. Whether or not their course of corrective actions is effective is immaterial. Likewise, the legality, ethical and social questions regarding the act of piracy cannot be explained in a single statement to encompass its legitimacy, or lack thereof. What is clear is that until business and society meet in a common place regarding the issue, it will always cause problems. With the technology in place there will always be pirates. If legal action is not an effective solution to curbing the issue, a more comprehensive and acceptable business solution must be the answer. Without this, societal choice will work to cripple the industry, but only if it chooses to do so.

Bibliography
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Doran, J. (2007, February 13). Media groups urge Google to fight piracy. Retrieved June 14, 2008, from Lexis Nexis: http://www.lexisnexis.com/us/Inacademic/results/docview/docview.do?docLinkInd=true&risb=21_T3867429031&format=GNBFI&sort=RELEVANCE&startDocNo=1&resultsUrlKey=29_T3867429034&cisb=22_T3867545137&treeMax=true&treeWidth=0&csi=10939&docNo=17

Eliezer, C., Ferguson, T., Koranteng, J., Ferro, C., Kelly, N., Levy, S., et al. (2008, May 24). A GLOBAL PROBLEM. Retrieved June 14, 2008, from Lexis Nexis: http://www.lexisnexis.com/us/Inacademic/results/docview/docview.do?docLinkInd=true&risb=21_T3867576700&format=GNBFI&sort=BOOLEAN&startDocNo=1&resultsUrlKey=29_T3867429034&cisb=22_T3867545137&treeMax=true&treeWidth=0&csi=5545&docNo=9

Fischer, K. (2006, March 20). Study: P2P Users buy more music; apathy, not piracy the problem. Retrieved June 17, 2008, from Ars Technica: http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/20060320-6418.html

Gibel, B. (2007, July 2). Judge’s ruling doesn’t dimiss RIAA’s case. Retrieved June 12, 2008, from The Daily Lobo: http://www.dailylobo.com/home/index.cfm?event=displayArticlePrinterFriendly&uStory_id=5492c27e-2a9a-4912-b136-b07dcb942de7

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Menn, J. (2008, May 30). INTERNET; Anti-piracy misfire takes down online TV network. Retrieved June 11, 2008, from Lexis Nexis: http://www.lexisnexis.com/us/Inacademic/results/docview/docview.do?docLinkInd=true&risb=21_T3867445781&format=GNBFI&sort=BOOLEAN&startDocNo=1&resultsUrlKey=29_T3867429034&cisb=22_T3867429033&treeMax=true&treeWidth=0&csi=306910&docNO=3

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Reisinger, D. (2008, March 5). I don’t like the RIAA and never will. Retrieved June 9, 2008, from The Digital Home: http://news.cnet.com/8301-13506_3-9886296-17.html

RIAA. (2008, May 15). Congressional International Anti-Piracy Caucus Releases Priority Country List. Retrieved June 15, 2008, from RIAA: http://www.riaa.com/newsitem.php?news_month_filter=&news_year_filter=2008&resultpage=&id=7D79DA80-38AB-6667-121C-16FE883BD080

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RIAA. (2008, March 23). Jury Renders Guilty Verdict in First Ever Criminal Online Music Piracy Trial. Retrieved June 15, 2008, from RIAA: http://www.riaa.com/newsitem.php?news_month_filter=&news_year_filter=2008&resultpage=&id=5B7A1145-01B2-EC94-56A1-36A084A8FDC9

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Robertson, G. (2006, December 6). RIAA moces to reduce artist royalty payments. Retrieved June 13, 2008, from Digital Music: http://digitalmusic.weblogsinc.com/2006/12/06/riaa-moves-to-reduce-artist-royalty-payments/

Siwek, S. E. (2007). The True Cost of Sound Recording Piracy to the U.S. Economy: Policy Report 188. IPI Center for Technology Freedom.

Steal This Film (2006). [Motion Picture]. United Kingdom: Independent BitTorrent.

The Washington Post. (2007, February 11). The Buzz on the Beats. Retrieved June 14, 2008, from Lexis Nexis: http://www.lexisnexis.com/us.Inacademic/results/docview.docview.do?docLinkInd=true&risb=21_T3867294101&format=GNBFI&sort=RELEVANCE&startDocNo=1&resultsUrlKey=29_T3867287765&cisb=22_T3867287764&treeMax=true&treeWidth=0&csi=8075&docNo=18

Whitley, A. (2006, July 4). Piracted discs thrive in Malaysia; Intellectual property issues cloud trade talks with U.S.; MARKETPLACE by Bloomberg. Retrieved June 12, 2008, from Lexis Nexis: http://www.lexisnexis.com/us/Inacademic/results/docview/docview.do?docLinkInd=true&risb=21_T3867294101&format=GNBFI&sort=RELEVANCE&startDocNo=1&resultsUrlKey=29_T3867287765&cisb=22_T3867287764&treeMax=true&treeWidth=0&csi=8357&docNo=9

May
05

There is no doubt the Internet is a beast of technology the likes of which our society has never encountered before. Giving global citizens the power to spread information across the world in real time has changed the way we consume news and information. In return, legacy media have been forced to submit control of the flow of information, sharing the responsibility with the blogosphere. Calls from those occupying formerly important gate keeping roles have looked to label the Internet as a bastardized free wheeling quagmire of tangled information that devalues news, journalism and communication through its very existence. Fear of the beast, however, does not mean the creature cannot be tamed.

It seems silly to think that stalwarts in the legacy news media continue to be scared stiff of a technology that can potentially expand their readership. Yet, pieces like Marc Fisher’s “Essential Again” chronicling the “renewed” need for journalists following the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, demonstrate the blind eye and ignorance towards the potential of the Internet to help journalists. Journalists seem steadfast in their need to continually assure themselves that they are still necessary in an increasingly digital society. Even those who are of the elite class of news reporters address the issue, as Judy Woodruff spoke at the University of Notre Dame asking the question: “Are Journalists Obsolete?”

This constant banter borders on the narcissistic when examined from outside the established news culture. To all journalists out there: YOU ARE NOT OBSOLETE. The only outdated element of journalism may be the definition itself. We are in a time of great change and opportunity where the classic skills of the journalist, writing, research, and news sense, are of the utmost importance. The Internet is begging for people to solve the puzzle of how to provide accurate, important, consumable news amidst the chaos.

Instead of harboring malcontent, entrenched legacy journalists and students alike need to embrace and employ the utilities of the Internet. Why does a journalist have to report for a paper or a television station? Put simply, they do not. Yahoo.com’s news now features original reporting that offers a different dynamic than print or television for both the audience and the reporter. People trying to tackle the world of original online reporting need to not only understand how to disseminate information for the web, but also basic journalistic skills. Those who possess both skill sets will be at a premium for media conglomerates as they can work in print, television, online or all three. This versatility will be extremely useful in expanding journalists’ opportunities in the job market.
Common gripes among legacy journalists towards the news online include the lifting of news organization stories to place on blogs, the unmanageable mountain of information, and just plain bad writing. Rather than complain and criticize, it seems journalists, who have the skills and resources to remedy these complaints, should put their feelings into action. Instead of letting the medium exploit you, exercise your power to change it.

In his “Laptop Brigade”, James Walcott addresses the “danger of drowning in blogorrhea…”. With the exponential growth of the blogosphere in recent times, this theory holds a certain weight. However, with search tools like Google becoming more sophisticated, the likelihood that the average user will ever encounter sites on the Internet is very small. Users tend to visit the same group of sites for the majority of their surfing. When they decide to venture outside this comfort zone, a search engine such as Google automatically filters the most relevant sites to the top of the heap (generally). Therefore, when people search certain terms they are directed to the same sites, building the online relevance of the sites with the best application. Obscure blogs and sites that do not carry societal weight are found only those who actively seek them out. Otherwise, they tend to go unnoticed and have little effect on the online experience of the majority of users.

Blogs that are able to rise above the squalor do carry some sort of societal or cultural significance, even if that significance is the relentless following of celebrity antics. Even so, the majority of these blogs are nothing more than annotated aggregating systems that give users a quick outline of a story then link to deeper information on other sites. In this mold, blogs themselves will never overtake established news outlets as sources for information. If anything, they will help to point people to these outlets for more in depth coverage.

At the same time, legacy media should understand that blogging is not beneath them. A blog such as Engadget could very easily be maintained by a legacy news medium through their web presence in a technology section. Newspapers especially are predisposed for such a structure of reporting. Most, if not all, newspapers are put together in sections. Blogs for each section could easily be setup and maintained, with the links connecting directly back to the paper’s site itself. This would be an easy system of self promotion.

In the end, the future of the Internet and journalism lie solely in education at both ends of the spectrum. As consumers, people need to be educated in the basic workings of the Internet and how to avoid the mush pile that is inherent with the medium. More importantly, however, the journalists need to expand their education into the medium of the internet. Understanding how to write and report for an online audience are necessary skills for a journalist as the landscape continues to change.

Journalists who continue to view the Internet as the enemy will soon be swept up by the surging current. Rather, those who choose to adapt and embrace the utility of the technology will hold a marked advantage. Journalists who continue to question their necessity in society are choosing to not see the expansion of their profession. If they do not feel the need to embrace the new role they are being afforded, undoubtedly someone will.

May
05

It wouldn’t be a fair selection of lyrics without some Eminem. “When I’m Gone” is off his “Curtain Call”.

Yeah…
It’s my life…
My own words I guess…

Have you ever loved someone so much, you’d give an arm for?
Not the expression, no, literally give an arm for?
When they know they’re your heart
And you know you were their armour
And you will destroy anyone who would try to harm ‘her
But what happens when karma, turns right around and bites you?
And everything you stand for, turns on you to spite you?
What happens when you become the main source of her pain?
“Daddy look what I made”, Dad’s gotta go catch a plane
“Daddy where’s Mommy? I can’t find Mommy where is she?”
I don’t know go play Hailie, baby, your Daddy’s busy
Daddy’s writing a song, this song ain’t gonna write itself
I’ll give you one underdog then you gotta swing by yourself
Then turn right around on that song and tell her you love her
And put hands on her mother, who’s a spitting image of her
That’s Slim Shady, yeah baby, Slim Shady’s crazy
Shady made me, but tonight Shady’s rocka-by-baby…

And when I’m gone, just carry on, don’t mourn
Rejoice every time you hear the sound of my voice
Just know that I’m looking down on you smiling
And I didn’t feel a thing, So baby don’t feel my pain
Just smile back
And when I’m gone, just carry on, don’t mourn
Rejoice every time you hear the sound of my voice
Just know that I’m looking down on you smiling
And I didn’t feel a thing, So baby don’t feel my pain
Just smile back…

I keep having this dream, I’m pushin’ Hailie on the swing
She keeps screaming, she don’t want me to sing
“You’re making Mommy cry, why? Why is Mommy crying?”
Baby, Daddy ain’t leaving no more, “Daddy you’re lying
“You always say that, you always say this is the last time
“But you ain’t leaving no more, Daddy you’re mine”
She’s piling boxes in front of the door trying to block it
“Daddy please, Daddy don’t leave, Daddy – no stop it!”
Goes in her pocket, pulls out a tiny necklace locket
It’s got a picture, “this’ll keep you safe Daddy, take it withcha'”
I look up, it’s just me standing in the mirror
These fuckin’ walls must be talking, cuz man I can hear ’em
They’re saying “You’ve got one more chance to do right” – and it’s tonight
Now go out there and show that you love ’em before it’s too late
And just as I go to walk out of my bedroom door
It’s turns to a stage, they’re gone, and this spotlight is on
And I’m singing…

And when I’m gone, just carry on, don’t mourn
Rejoice every time you hear the sound of my voice
Just know that I’m looking down on you smiling
And I didn’t feel a thing, So baby don’t feel my pain
Just smile back
And when I’m gone, just carry on, don’t mourn
Rejoice every time you hear the sound of my voice
Just know that I’m looking down on you smiling
And I didn’t feel a thing, So baby don’t feel my pain
Just smile back…

Sixty thousand people, all jumping out their seat
The curtain closes, they’re throwing roses at my feet
I take a bow and thank you all for coming out
They’re screaming so loud, I take one last look at the crowd
I glance down, I don’t believe what I’m seeing
“Daddy it’s me, help Mommy, her wrists are bleeding,”
But baby we’re in Sweden, how did you get to Sweden?
“I followed you Daddy, you told me that you weren’t leavin’
“You lied to me Dad, and now you make Mommy sad
“And I bought you this coin, it says ‘Number One Dad’
“That’s all I wanted, I just want to give you this coin
“I get the point – fine, me and Mommy are going”
But baby wait, “it’s too late Dad, you made the choice
“Now go out there and show ’em that you love ’em more than us”
That’s what they want, they want you Marshall, they keep.. screamin’ your name
It’s no wonder you can’t go to sleep, just take another pill
Yeah, I bet you you will. You rap about it, yeah, word, k-keep it real
I hear applause, all this time I couldn’t see
How could it be, that the curtain is closing on me
I turn around, find a gun on the ground, cock it
Put it to my brain and scream “die Shady” and pop it
The sky darkens, my life flashes, the plane that I was supposed to be on crashes and burns to ashes
That’s when I wake up, alarm clock’s ringin’, there’s birds singin’
It’s Spring and Hailie’s outside swinging, I walk right up to Kim and kiss her
Tell her I miss her, Hailie just smiles and winks at her little sister
Almost as if to say..

And when I’m gone, just carry on, don’t mourn
Rejoice every time you hear the sound of my voice
Just know that I’m looking down on you smiling
And I didn’t feel a thing, So baby don’t feel my pain
Just smile back
And when I’m gone, just carry on, don’t mourn
Rejoice every time you hear the sound of my voice
Just know that I’m looking down on you smiling
And I didn’t feel a thing, So baby don’t feel my pain
Just smile back…

Apr
28

One of my favorite songs of all time today. Blink 182’s “Stay Together For the Kids” off of “Take Off Your Pants and Jacket.”

It’s hard to wake up, when the shades have been pulled shut
This house is haunted, it’s so pathetic, it makes no sense at all
I’m ripe with things to say, the words rot and fall away
My stupid poem could fix this home, I’d read it every day

So here’s your holiday,
hope you enjoy it this time, you gave it all away.
It was mine, so when you’re dead and gone,
will you remember this night? twenty years now lost.
It’s not right.

Their anger hurts my ears, been running strong for seven years
Rather than fix the problems, they never solve them, it makes no sense at all
I see them everyday, we get along so why can’t they?
If this is what he wants, and it’s what she wants, then why is there so much pain?

So here’s your holiday,
hope you enjoy it this time, you gave it all away.
It was mine, so when you’re dead and gone,
will you remember this night? twenty years now lost
It’s not right.

So here’s your holiday,
hope you enjoy it this time, you gave it all away.
It was mine, so when you’re dead and gone,
will you remember this night? twenty years now lost.
It’s not right

Apr
26

Often coined as one of the very best screenplays written in the 70’s, All the President’s Men is an exciting mystery in which everyone knows the outcome. The brilliance of the screenplay lies in its ability to entertain the audience with a description of process and discovery when the audience already knows how the story will end. Ultimately, a product is produced that can be appreciated in both print and on the screen.

Overall, the screenplay clearly belongs to the characters of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. However, the selected scene, which takes place outside of Bill Bradlee’s house, differs as it is written for Bradlee.

The circumstances of the three characters clash. Though Bradlee and the reporters share the same objective, they occupy completely different ends of the spectrum in terms of how they reach these goals. Both reporters have been working tirelessly, under the guidance of Bradlee trying to uncover the truth behind the Watergate scandal. In the depicted scene, the fulcrum of the story is established, as the pressure on the reporters to come up with concrete evidence, and the pressure on Bradlee to publish the most reputable national newspaper is approaching a tipping point. Compounding the situation, many politicians in the Republican Party are continually crushing the commentary coming from the paper by deeming their reports as Democratic propaganda at best, adding more weight to the crushing pressure already straining down on them. The action could seemingly tip in favor of the newspaper, or the thin hold they cling to the story by could break, bringing the entire paper down with them.

The dynamic relationship of the characters in the scene is carried visibly through the actions and mannerisms of Bradlee, as he demonstratively expresses his feelings to the reporters. He drives the action, with the reporters in a more submissive role as they know that they must listen to his entire rant whether they agree or not. The dynamic realized from this experience is his escalating mood, as he becomes more vehement with his delivery as the monologue continues. The two reporters grow fairly uneasy as the speech progresses, but this type of behavior is something they have come to expect from Bradlee, as he is a very outspoken character. At the same time, however, they realize much more is at stake than there has ever been before, making them aware of the gravity of his words. Therefore, the tension between Bradlee and the reporters also rises with the action.

The spine of the story is based around the investigation into the Watergate scandal and the massive cover up that ensued. The reporters are trying desperately to reveal the deception behind the break in, but are buried in political rhetoric from the Republican Party, due to insufficient and inconclusive evidence. As viewers, our prior knowledge of the situation provides us the awareness that the allegations are true, making us more interested in the process of the story, rather than the outcome itself.

The spine of the scene is put together using the immense amount of pressure the three characters are under at this point in the narrative. We can tell Bradlee is reaching a breaking point as his patience wears thin. His venting of frustrations lets the viewer know the importance of the investigation and subsequent reports of the information the journalists are gathering.

The spines of the characters themselves relate, but also differ due to the respective hierarchal standings of the characters. As previously described, Bradlee is worried both about being first to break with the story and the credibility of the newspaper. The two reporters are driven by their investigative need to uncover the truth behind the case, not to mention the security of their jobs.
The tone is demonstrated on an escalating scale, culminating in a very harsh and direct manner. This comes through in the deep emotion and threatening comments Bradlee is expressing to his reporters. Once again, we experience a measured amount of desperation and frustration in his voice and mannerisms as he vents on the reporters.

The wants and needs of Bradlee can be described through the examination of his spine. He wants to be the first news source to break the story and also to maintain the credibility of the newspaper, while retaining the jobs of the thousands of people employed by the newspaper. He is worried about the validity of the accounts being published and the reputable reputation of his newspaper. Most importantly though, he wants to break the story and uncover the truth behind the cover up. The obstacles facing Bradlee are two fold. The most obvious of these obstacles is the political structure that is defending the perpetrators and sustaining the cover up. At this point, dropping the lead is not an option as any withdrawal would signal weakness and an admission of incorrectness.

The reporters’ wants are, once again, similar to that of Bradlee’s. As a result of the enormous amount of time they have invested into the investigation, their main goal is to reveal the truth in the case, and to be the first to do it. Their obstacles are, like Bradlee’s two fold, as the political machine stands in the way of their reporting. However, just as the reporters hindered Bradlee, they also find him as a hindrance, as he is constantly looking over their shoulders and forcing them to do things his way, creating tension.

In this scene, the reporters’ actions consist mostly of listening to Bradlee. This becomes important action because, as their boss, he is expressing the importance of their assignment and the new meaning that it has taken on. Bradlee’s actions are necessary for his wants because he is looking out for the well being of the company by expressing his take on the story to the reporters. He needs to make sure that they are conducting themselves and the investigation within the best interests of the company as whole.

In terms of motifs, I feel that the use of dark shadows and contrasting light to the affect the mood of the scene. To create the edgy feel necessary for the scene, the use of the source light as a key light, letting shadow drop on the opposite side of the face will be necessary.

To achieve visual significance with placement of the characters and the camera, I will employ a low angled shot for the intense section of Bradlee’s speech. Through the use of this angle, the viewer will see Bradlee as a more powerful character in the scene, as he will appear to be large in the shot. It is this power that is essential in the effectiveness of this scene. This use of placement and staging captures the action in a way that emphasizes the most important character: Bradlee. His mannerisms and movements capture the importance of the scene through his emotions. These characteristics also help make what is internal transform into the physical, for Bradlee in particular. Internally, he is ready to explode with stress and anxiety. This is exhibited in his physical behavior, as we are aware that he is very tense, but wants to burst out.

Apr
24

Cartel’s “Chroma” gives us “A” today. Its a long song, but worth the listen. It knows what is important.

And you can take this however you want
Yeah you can take this however you want
And don’t be so so sure this is all it adds up to….you

You’re justified
But there’s no justice if it’s just a lie
No, go and find yourself
You will if you look inside
And I’ll never know
And you never will
Still I’ll never know
And you won’t until someone stands up
Then you’ll get some answers

And you can take this however you want
Yeah you can take this however you want
Just don’t waste your breath unless you can save us
And tell me can you
Can you save us?

Can you save?
Can you save us?
This can’t go on without the meaning in the rhyme
Can you save?
Can you save us?
I can’t go on
Out of rhythm with our time

Our days were numbered by nights on too many rooftops
They said we’re wasting our lives
Oh at least we know that if we died
We lived with passion
They said we burned so bright

(And tell me, can you save us?
Oh, whoa, oh at least we know, that if we died
They said we’d burn so bright, bright, no, whoa
But we’re not wasting our lives
And if we die, oh maybe you, maybe you
And oh maybe you can save us)

(We run and we run)
We know there’s an answer
We know by going home we’ll find it by ourselves
(Whoa)

When what you want is what you’re getting
(They’re catching onto us)
(Oh whoa oh oh oh)
When all you can do is hide
(Don’t be afraid)

Oh maybe you can save us..
When all you can do is hide..

Oh (We know there’s an answer,
We know by going home we’ll find it by ourselves)

Apr
24

The Number 23 was another foray away from his more widely accepted roles as a comedic film actor. Although it could be argued that the plot was slightly underdeveloped, the premise for a good story telling experience was present. The film dealt with a rehabilitated mental patient’s realization of his murderous past, followed by his slow decline back into madness. Walter Sparrow stumbles across a book that begins to consume his life. The book details a man’s obsession with the number 23 as the number begins to eerily connect to everything in his life. As Sparrow reads of the sorrows of the fictitious Fingerling, he begins to find similar connections in his life. He starts to derive the number through any and all permutations that are possible (and seemingly impossible), becoming completely obsessed with the frightening coincidence of the number’s associations. The more and more he reads, the more he is able to connect the characters in the book to those in his life. His slow decline begins to affect his family life, as his wife tries to convince him that he is projecting all this madness from his own paranoia, but his son becomes intrigued with his father’s case. As Sparrow begins to piece together what he thinks is the conspiracy against him created through the author of the book, the obvious is finally revealed that he is the author After this realization, he is confronted with the truth that he committed a murder and sent an innocent man to jail for his actions. Therefore, Sparrow does the noble thing, turning himself into the authorities finish the sentence he deserves.

Although the translucence of the plot may appear contrived to some viewers, I found this transparency interesting. As an audience, we quickly pick up on the visual metaphors and story motifs that tell us Sparrow is the author of the book. The use of the color red is a strong motif that ties Sparrow into the trouble that awaits him. The book itself, the walls in his home, and numerous instances of colored key lights used were a bright blood red. Also, when Sparrow first began to read the book, drops of red blood ran down onto the pages. The author listed on the cover of the book was “Topsey Kretts”; a rather obvious play on words: Top Secrets. This is a major sign to show that there is a deeper meaning hidden within the book’s pages and Sparrow’s instincts are not far off. Also, following his dog bite, Sparrow must undergo psychoanalysis, not immediately revealing any protruding manic tendencies, but displaying an uneasiness in the mood of the scene. This shows the audience that there is some credence to Sparrow being in the office and that the interviewer most likely had a knowledge of his past.

Even though one can quickly pick up on the plot direction of the story, the film does not ultimately fail because of it. The plot itself lacks a change in first act as we are just introduced to the string of coincidences that add up to the number 23. This makes the film drag a bit and lack believability, as real time takes too long to pass. However, I felt that the immediate understanding that the man’s own work would ultimately be his undoing was tragic to watch. With the facts out of the way and hidden to a majority of the characters in the movie, the audience can sit back and concentrate on watching Sparrow fall apart, already knowing that he is not a heroic crime fighter as he thinks.

This concept ties in well with the main theme of the movie, that being fate. In the film, fate was personified in the form of the dog, Ned. Sparrow narrates that if it was not for his run in with Ned, he would not have been late to pick up his wife, who in turn would never would have found the book. Also in this first encounter, Ned bites Sparrow, but manages to get away. Also, Ned watches over the grave of the girl who Sparrow murdered, telling us that something is not right with her death. Most telling, however, is when Sparrow actually catches Ned and shoots him with the tranquillizer. We find that Ned is not actually a stray, as he is watched over by the keeper of the graveyard. It is also now when we realize that Ned is always leading Sparrow back to the grave of the girl that he killed. This tells us that we cannot escape or capture fate, but are at the mercy of the predetermined plan, no matter the course you take to get there. This also brings with it the idea that you will be held responsible for your actions. Anything you do you are inexorably tied to for eternity. There is no escape from your past, even if you have consciously erased it from your memory. Your actions and the consequences of those actions will always catch you in the end.

Apr
21

The stunning sense of place created and maintained by the Coen Brothers in Fargo, is facilitated by multiple factors. The first, and most obvious of which, is the snow. Put bluntly, it is everywhere. We get our first taste of this white wash on page one, as the film fades up to a low visibility snow squall (FADE IN FROM WHITE 1). This motif continues as a constant throughout the film, both interiorly and exteriorly. On the very next page, we are introduced to the snow swept parking lot of the Jolly Troll Tavern. These references to exterior occurrences and usages of the flakey continue on pages, five, eight, twelve, etc., as they are included in nearly all exterior action lines. Even when Jerry seems to have escaped the snow by entering into the comfort of his home, we are reminded of its presence as he stamps it from his snow boots. These references show the importance and significance of the gloomy, snowy landscape, as it is a dominating trait of the upper northwest. The viewer would become weighed down by the gloominess of the images the Coen Brothers employ, were it not for the oblivious locals. These people have grown accustomed to such a bleak geographical tapestry, that they are unaware it is depressing at all, conducting themselves normally. Ironically, even the television that Carl tries so desperately to bash into submission, only gives him a snowy reception.

Also employed in the film to establish setting and place is the distinct accent of the people native to the region. Once again, this trait is shown to the audience strait from the get go. From the first personal interaction we are introduced to this accent, as the waitress is refilling the coffee for Carl and Gaear; “Can I warm that up for ya there?” (CHAIN RESTAURANT 2). This style of dialogue immediately tells the viewer where they are in the country. The linguistic precedent established in this one line of dialogue is carried through the rest of the film with the characters who are native to the area, that being all but Carl and Gaear.

Another element of the film that helps establish a strong sense of the place is the frigid temperature. Indoors or not, the viewer feels cold in every scene. Instances as early as Jerry walking in the house with his heavy parka tightly zipped to his chin, his scarf securely wrapped around his neck, and his snow covered boots, let the viewer experience the extreme cold of the region (MINNEAPOLIS SUBURBAN HOUSE 5). This parka is covering Jerry for a majority of the film, and we never see him outdoors without it. Helping to augment the feeling of freezing temperatures through dry humor is the conversation that Mr. Mohra and the local police officer have outside his home (OUTSIDE 67). As the two discuss the conversation that Mr. Mohra had with Carl, it is obvious by their stiff body language and heavily layered clothing that it is bitterly cold. Yet, at the end of their conversation, they depart by commenting on the impending cold front and inevitable shift to “cold” weather. This is a comically absurd way of reminding the viewer how engrained the cold is into their bodies.

We are also reminded of place by the bleak, open country that makes up the landscape of the exterior scenery. The viewer is introduced to this reality on the two lane “highway”, bordered on both sides by barren snow fields (WHITE 8). The mere fact that this pitiful piece of pavement is considered a high traffic area is contrary to the reality of highways in most parts of the country. Comically, we never see more than two cars on the road at the same time during any point of the film, yet this is still a highway into Brainard. This kind of wide open, barren, and often deserted landscape, is local to terrain for very few, providing the film with another element into the equation of creating place.

In an amusing cutaway shot, the sense of place is reinforced through the signs of culture in a teenager’s room. After Jean has been kidnapped, Jerry must tell Scotty about the ordeal and assure him that everything will be alright (SCOTTY’S ROOM 37). Comically, however, as Jerry closes the door to the room, the “Accordion King” poster draped across the back of Scotty’s door is revealed. No where else in the country would a teenage boy be expected to know of, let alone advertise, the existence of such a brand of music. This gives the viewer a stronger sense of place on a local cultural level, as most viewers would not be able to relate with such a taste in music, separating the film from many other places.

A final element that adds to the sense of place conveyed in the Coen Brothers’ film is the small town atmosphere that is generated through the relationships of the characters on screen. When Marge returns to the police station, she is greeted by Norm sitting at her desk having lunch (BRAINARD POLICE HEADQUARTERS 39). There are not many establishments of law that would allow for such lax treatment of the professional environment. However, as these people know most other people in town, Norm is a friendly face that he poses no threat. During this same scene, after Norm and Marge have been discussing the painting he has been working on, Lou walks in and immediately asks about Norm’s painting as well. This kind of knowledge of people’s lives can only be achieved in small, close knit communities. Such a relationship between many people can only be achieved in a small town setting, not common to many other locales.

Ultimately, Wade Gustafson was the monkey wrench to the well laid plan of Jerry Lundergard. Had Jerry been able to get the money he needed from his father-in-law in the first place, Jerry’s plan would have never been necessary. After this original mishap, Wade continued to hinder the every step in Jerry’s plan. He demands to be part of the process, rather than sitting back and letting Jerry orchestrate the drop. He will not leave Jerry alone, keeping him under constant pressure and raising Jerry’s stress level to a constant boiling point. Not only this, but Wade takes control when the money is on the line and the delivery needs to be made. Even with all the other intervention, Jerry’s plan could still have been successful had he been able to deliver the money himself. However, Wade decides that he wants to play hardball and transports the money himself. This, unfortunately, was where Jerry’s plan finally spiraled out of control, with no hope of recover, as Wade was left dead and Jerry without his money.

Carl Showalter’s role proved to be very harmful in Jerry’s scheme as well. As a result of Carl’s forgetfulness in putting registration plates on the new car, he and Grimsrud are pulled over by the trooper. Had this been avoided, then many of the problems, including the initial complication, would have been avoided. However, this still would not have stopped Wade from interfering, and ultimately ruining the plan.

Carl’s associate, Gaear Grimsrud, is in line right behind Carl in the blame game. Had Grimsrud been able to keep his composure and refrain to killing every person that got in the way (or rubbed him the wrong way), the plan might not have gone south as fast. Inevitably, however, his actions were only inflammatory to the other actions that caused the downfall of the plan.

Jerry, although he got himself into the mess, is not the reason his plan was ruined. He was way in over his head and had no idea how to operate in the criminal world. He was not able to control the actions of the people that were dragged into the situation and. Frankly, he had no control over the direction of the operation, because he was too meek to exercise any kind of power. The only person less responsible for his downfall than himself was Marge.

Within her life and occupation as a police officer, she was only doing her job throughout. She was smarter than all the criminals involved, and was ultimately going to bring them to justice from the moment she was introduced into the equation. However, she would have never become involved, had it not been for the murders. Through the actions of the characters before her, she was brought into the situation. Without the actions of the other characters, she never would have gotten involved in the story, making her the least important character in the downfall of Jerry’s plan.

For the story as a whole, it can be regarded as the systematic deterioration of Jerry Lundergard’s plan. Although much of the screen time is dominated by Marge, she is merely a character in Jerry’s story. She is on the outside of the situation, trying to find the inside scoop, whereas all the other characters are actively participating in what they know is the plan. If Marge is not introduced into the story, it will continue and the plan will still be foiled regardless. On the flip side however, if Jerry is taken from the story, there is no story. He is the reason that there is a story to tell. It is his plan that has initiated the course of action driving the story line throughout the film.

Marge’s involvement is part of her daily life, a life that would continue whether she was part of the events or not. The audience is made to think that, although this is not standard procedure for Marge, she takes the situation within the realm of her everyday work. Jerry, on the other hand, is completely outside his normal operating means, as he has fallen into a situation he cannot handle. Therefore, the story is driven by his actions (and consequently the lack thereof) as he tries to manipulate, but falls ineptly flat on his face throughout the course of the proceedings that lead to his eventual arrest.

Apr
21

A little darker than usual but poignant nonetheless. This is Alkaline Trio with “Radio” from “Maybe I’ll Catch Fire” (2000).

Shaking like a dog shittin’ razorblades,
waking up next to nothing after dreaming of you and me
I’m waking up all alone, waking up so relieved
while you’re taking your time with apologies,
I’m making my plans for revenge
Red eyes on orange horizons
If Columbus was wrong I’d drive straight off the edge
I’d drive straight off the edge

Taking your own life with boredom,
I’m taking my own life with wine –
it helps you to rule out the sorrow,
it helps me to empty my mind
Making the most of a bad time
I’m smoking the brains from my head
Leaving the coal calling the kettle black and orange and red
This kettle is seeing red

I’ve got a big fat fuckin’ bone to pick with you my darling
In case you haven’t heard I’m sick and tired of trying
I wish you would take my radio to bathe with you,
plugged in and ready to fall

Apr
16

Today its Glen Hansard off of the soundtrack to the film “Once” with “When Your Mind is Made Up.” Not only is this a great song but I highly recommend the film along with the rest of the soundtrack.

So, if you want something
And you call, call
Then’ll come running
To fight, and I’ll be at your door
When there’s something worth running for

When your mind’s made up
When your mind’s made up
There’s no point trying to change it
When your mind’s made up
When your mind’s made up
There’s no point trying to stop it

You see, you’re just like everyone
When the shit falls all you want to do is run, away
And hide all by yourself
When you’re far from me, there’s nothing else