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Burn Piano Island, Burn!

Last night I was at the Temple Bar Music Centre to see this lot:
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The Blood Brothers on stage at the TBMC

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It was an excellent show (click here for a review) despite the poor turnout. If anything, it was better that way due to the favourable lack of poseurs.
The people who were there were pretty bemused, though. I only spotted one person dancing, but he was quite drunk so it doesn’t count. And I, for one, wasn’t about to leave my well-earned stool to start bustin’ moves at the foot of the stage (not without friendly support, at least).
I just hope the Brothers weren’t too put off by it; many a touring band has abandoned these shores as of late due to our fear of the new or unusual.
Hell, I’ll book them to play in my own back garden if I have to.

Friday Five #50

http://fridayfive.org/
*1. What was your most memorable moment from the last week?*
My most memorable moment was probably the Blood Brothers gig last night. (More on that later.)
*2. What one person touched your life this week?*
Since the weekend, I can’t really say that anyone has ‘touched my life’. I didn’t know a weekly life-affirming moment was mandatory; I must be in the wrong club.
*3. How have you helped someone this week?*
Earlier this week I worked with Dave a bit on his mini-thesis, just brainstorming ideas and going through my structuralism and post-structuralism lecture notes from last year. I hope it was a help to him.
*4. What one thing do you need to get done by this time next week?*
I need to get my final year transcript sorted, so I can finish putting together my graduate school application. I’ve already confirmed my references, so now it’s just a matter of getting all the pieces in order.
*5. What one thing will you do over the next seven days to make your world a better place?*
To be perfectly honest, anything I _might_ do over the next seven days to make the world a better place would be purely coincidental.

Take The Hawks Bowling

So the Oscars went ahead last night, with a number of unexpected occurances. Roman Polanski winning best director for The Pianist for one, showing that some people can overlook past indiscretions and evaluate art for what it is. Another shock was an anime film, Spirited Away, picking up the gong for Best Animated Feature, which must have really stuck in Disney’s craw (although, being the film’s distributor in the States, they still get a piece of the pie). And of course, for all us lefties out there, Michael Moore actually getting the nod in the Best Documentary Feature category for his mostly excellent Bowling for Columbine.
Not that he wouldn’t or shouldn’t have been top choice for the award anyway, but considering the climate we now find ourselves in, and the fact that Moore isn’t exactly softly spoken about his feelings for the Bush Administration and everything it stands for, it was a pleasant surprise–but a surprise nonetheless–to see that jingoism hadn’t taken hold of the Academy. Despite this, however, there was some very audible dissent in the audience as Moore gave his expactantly inflammatory acceptance speech, and I for one was disappointed at this to say the least.
I like Michael Moore. For the most part he is a man of strong principles and convictions and, let’s be honest, testicular fortitude — few people would truly have the gall to pull some of the stunts that he’s pulled in his time, yet still be sincere (and obviously so) about his motives.
I _do have_ a couple of problems with Michael Moore. One is that he has a tendency to let his satirical side get the better of him (case in point: a section in his book Stupid White Men outlining a possible and potential plan for bringing peace to the Middle East, directly followed by a tongue-in-cheek call for the conversion of Protestants to Catholicism as a solution to the problems in the North) unlike, say, Mark Thomas, who strikes a finer balance and hits his points home harder as a result. Another is that, while I can easily identify with his sentiments, his stance is far too dogmatic, the practicalities of situations obscured by his principles. I can see clearly, therefore, how and why many people might have a problem with him and what he says.
But booing the man? What’s up with _that_? That’s just plain childish, even more so coming from an audience of supposed role models. When certain people had a problem with Elia Kazan a few years ago at least they weren’t so boorish about it. And besides, such infantile behaviour merely adds fuel to Moore’s righteous fire; if you’re going to criticise someone, surely the last thing you would do is help make them look better?

More Words on the War

>…anyone who is 100% sure of the morality of their position with regard to the war in Iraq probably hasn’t understood the issues involved. Be prepared to have your mind changed. Remain open to new ideas. Protest / Advocate only what you really believe to be true…
Smart words here from Tom Coates. (Although personally I’d replace ‘believe’ with _’know’_.)
I mentioned a few days ago that ??I still don’t know the whole story, and as every day passes I learn a little more??. At this point, the only thing one can truly affirm is the confusion of the situation. There is no clean and neat binary opposition. There is nothing clear cut. There is no _black and white_. Even the moral position is clouded by uncertainty.
One one hand, it cannot be denied that the Iraqi people–particularly those on the periphery, as evident from the beginning of the Allied incursion–are more than happy to be free from Hussein’s opression. On the other, is this undoubtedly favourable end truly worth the sometimes excessively forceful means used to achieve it? Can these two valid yet opposing standpoints be reconciled? And is the question even as simple as that?
Maybe this is a question that can never have an answer, but that’s not to say we shouldn’t continue searching for one.

Friday Five #49

http://fridayfive.org/
*1. If you had the chance to meet someone you’ve never met, from the past or present, who would it be?*
There are so many. I would love to meet Mike Watt. If I could go back in time, I’d love to meet both him and D. Boon together; that’s an equation for a great conversation.
*2. If you had to live in a different century, past or future, which would it be?*
I’m not sure about this one. Despite all the bad things, the 20th and–so far–the 21st centuries have been pretty damn good for us humans. The future, one hopes, will be even better. I’d like to see what the world will be like, say, 200 or 300 years from now.
*3. If you had to move anywhere else on Earth, where would it be?*
I would _love_ to visit Japan, in fact I’ve been toying with the idea of applying for the JET programme, but of all the places I’ve been so far I’d have to move to Canada. It’s a lot different to what I expected it to be, better even.
*4. If you had to be a fictional character, who would it be?*
Right off the top of my head, Har Mar Superstar seems to have a whale of a time, despite being a fictional character: a fact that no reviewer of his recent album in the British press seems to have realised. (NB: Sean Tillman (AKA Sean Na Na) and his ‘brother’ Har Mar are one and the same person.)
*5. If you had to live with having someone else’s face as your own for the rest of your life, whose would it be?*
Oh dear, now this is a real toughie… my girlfriend’s got a thing for Dr. Carter off of ER so _maybe_ him. If I had to.

Get Your War On

So the attack on Iraq has begun. To be perfectly honest, despite my TV being tuned to news reports since 7am this morning, I still don’t know what’s going on. I think they want it that way.
On a slightly lighter note, here are some pictures of puppies. May it serve as a reminder that, while nothing is perfect and serious problems do need addressing, we are lucky to have what we’ve got.
And besides, puppies are lovely, and looking at them makes me feel better. The Japanese call it _kawaii_.

Israel Under the Spotlight

Earlier this week I saw some pretty disturbing pictures of Rachel Corrie, an American student and peace activist, who had been literally run over by a bulldozer sanctioned by the Israeli military as she protested against the needless destruction of Palestinian homes in the Gaza Strip on Sunday. The images, though fuzzy and blurred, were undoubtedly powerful, even frightening to look at. Especially since Israel are supposed to be ‘the good guys’.
I’ve learned enough by now to know that such images (some of which can be seen here) never tell the whole story–in fact a number have pointed out some potentially significant discrepencies between photos of the event–so I did some searching and discovered this, a series of e-mails from Rachel to her family in Olympia, Washington published in yesterday’s Guardian (there are additional e-mails archived here), where she gives a vivid account of everyday life in the Palestinian territories.
Somewhat related to this, albeit unintentionally, on Monday night the BBC broadcast a shocking documentary on the plight of Mordechai Vanunu, the whistle-blower who exposed Israel’s secret nuclear weapons program, and his illegal apprehension and treatment at the hands of the Israeli government. As to be expected, the Israeli response was one of indignation.
How much is it going it take for the world to realise the corrupt nature and moral bankruptcy of the Israeli government? The evidence is there. Ariel Sharon and his ilk are right up there with Saddam Hussein in the bad guy stakes.

The Iraqi Problem

I haven’t really posited anything here about the current situation in the Middle East. This is because, in part, I felt that most of what I could have said has been written elsewhere, but also because I still don’t know the whole story, and as every day passes I learn a little more. Not that I haven’t wanted to spout off on these pages before, of course, but any opinions I have or have had have really only developed in response to the questions or rhetoric of others. While one cannot hope to escape from the turmoil we currently find ourselves in, that doesn’t mean I want to turn this into a war blog.
(So where do I stand, you might ask? If I must be more blatant, I will give you the digest version of my position: I am opposed to the war. I am opposed to Hussein. I am opposed to terrorism. I am opposed to political and religious oppression of all kinds. I am opposed to the religious or moral justification of violence, particularly against innocents. That’s just the short of it; like the truth, my opinions are much more complicated.)
However, out of the mess of political rhetoric, regurgitated nonsense, crossed wires and misunderstood opinion comes, every now and again, something that makes me sit up and listen closely. Yesterday saw one of those moments, a wonderful speech by the British Labour MP Robin Cook, as he resigned from his post as Leader of the House of Commons in protest over the imminent rush to war with Iraq. I caught most of the speech after the fact on one of many TV news replays; while guilty of the odd rhetorical flourish (a vice of even the best orators), I was nevertheless captivated by his eloquence and directness–a quality all too absent in modern politics–and an impressively strong delivery that reflected his absolute conviction. It is certainly worth reading or hearing the whole thing (there’s a RealAudio recording and a full transcript available courtesy of the BBC, c/o plasticbag.org) but I would still like to quote one of the statements that struck me the most, something that almost encapsulates the confusion surrounding this conflict, something I’m surprised I didn’t see for myself:

We cannot base our military strategy on the assumption that Saddam is weak and at the same time justify pre-emptive action on the claim that he is a threat.

It seems futile to sit here in my comfortable room, typing on my state-of-the-art computer, about things that won’t directly affect me but _will_ affect thousands of innocent people–men, women and children–trapped in a country with a leader who cares very little for them, if at all, and whose supposed liberators have decided to rain bombs down upon them, in the name of ‘freedom’. I couldn’t even begin to understand what they’re going through, the anxiety and fear they’re experiencing, and I would never pretend to. You think it’s bad that American or European kids are upset at the prospect of a war? What about the Iraqi children who can’t escape seeing and hearing the bombs dropping on their cities, children who shouldn’t have to experience such horror?
I could go on until I’m blue in the face, but what would that achieve? The cold hard fact of the matter is simply that _I’m not there_, and the least I can do is appreciate the good things I have. If more people in the Western world appreciated their personal freedom as a privelege, not a right, maybe then they’d begin to look beyond themselves, to understand.
I think I’ve said all I needed to say.

Waiting for the Picture Show

I brought my camera when I went to see The Happiness of the Katakuris last week, so it was basically mandatory that I took some photos of the theatre before the show began. I was actually quite surprised at how they turned out.
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Waiting for the picture show

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While I’m on the subject, I’ve also uploaded some digital snaps from my trip to Toronto last year. -They might take a while to load; I’m going to tinker with the file sizes to rectify that- The file sizes should be small enough to load swiftly on dial-up connections like mine.

Friday Five #48

http://fridayfive.org/
1. Do you like talking on the phone? Why or why not?
I used to hate talking on the phone. I particularly hated calling people I don’t know. I don’t feel that way so much anymore, but I do much prefer to talk with someone in person, or write a letter or an e-mail.
2. Who is the last person you talked to on the phone?
The last person I’ve had a proper telephone conversation with is my girlfriend. I was only supposed to call for a few minutes, but it ended up being half an hour. I couldn’t resist staying on the line; I don’t get to hear her voice as often as I’d like.
3. About how many telephones do you have at home?
There’s one main phone in the hall, I have an extra phone in my room that I plug in sometimes (my computer is normally always connected to the line extension), and both my mum and myself have cellphones, so the answer to this question is four.
4. Have you encountered anyone who has really bad phone manners? What happened?
I haven’t personally but my mum, by virtue of her line of work, has presumably had quite a few. Not that she’s told me any details, of course, because that would technically be breaking the law.
5. Would you rather pick up the phone and call someone or write them an e-mail or a letter? Why or why not?
If I’m contacting someone I don’t already know, a letter or an e-mail is better as I’m much more comfortable as a written communicator. Otherwise, it doesn’t matter so much, although e-mails are easier as I can get across everything I want to say in one go, with less expense. (No such thing as a free local call over here, you see.)

Guardian cricket writer comes unstuck

The link for this piece might not be live for long, so I’ve copied the best bit for everyone to enjoy:

Meanwhile, have you ever thought WHAT SORT OF LIFE IS THIS AND WHAT THE HELL AM I DOING BOARDING A TRAIN FOR MOORGATE AT 6.30 IN THE MORNING AND THEN STANDING AROUND FOR AGES WAITING FOR A TUBE WHILE STARING AT A SIGN TELLING YOU THAT IF YOU WAIT FOR FOUR MINUTES YOU CAN BOARD A TRAIN TO UXBRIDGE I’D RATHER WAIT FOUR HOURS FOR A JOURNEY WITH THE GRIM REAPER QUITE FRANKLY AND THEN YOU GET TO WORK AND THEN THERE’S THIS AND I KNOW THE CRICKET’S GOOD AND ALL THAT BUT I’VE GOT OUT OF THE WRONG SIDE OF BED THIS MORNING AND IN ANY CASE IT’S NOT AS IF I’LL WRITE A CRACKING MATCH REPORT AND THEN GET REWARDED BY BEING SENT ON A WONDERFUL ASSIGNMENT AROUND THE WORLD BECAUSE I’LL BE VERY SURPRISED IF ANY OF MY BOSSES WILL READ ANY OF THIS LET’S BE HONEST THEY WON’T ALTHOUGH ON THE OTHER HAND THAT’S PROBABLY JUST AS WELL HEY I WOULDN’T BE ABLE TO GET AWAY WITH TYPING THINGS LIKE THIS KIqL!UYS%$DFLI ZSDSAFC SFE4O92 )((o”$ bBLKU E875O3 96&%o*”$ogb LOOK I’M SORRY THIS ISN’T EXACTLY THE SORT OF QUALITY EDITORIAL COPY YOU EXPECT FROM THE GUARDIAN BUT LOOK AT THE FACTS I’M ADRIFT IN THE MIDDLE OF ONE OF THE WORST CITIES IN THE WORLD SITTING IN FRONT OF THE SAME COMPUTER SCREEN I FACE DAY AFTER INTERMINABLE DAY HELL I COULD BE WAKING UP IN SAY THE MALDIVES OR SYDNEY OR COPENHAGEN OR A CROFTER’S COTTAGE IN SKYE AND GOING FOR A WALK IN THE CRISP MORNING AIR?
No? Only me then. Good.

Many thanks to Paul on the Watt List for the tip-off and the title.

Update: There’s a lot of commentary about this over at plasticbag.org, which might explain things a little more clearly.

Death Rage Speed Freak Extreme Biker Killaz

With the recent Stateside release of Jet Li star vehicle Cradle 2 The Grave, The San Francisco Chronicle’s Mark Morford despairs at the state of the modern film industry (from the Morning Fix, 03/03/03):

A new upcoming film, “Death Rage Speed Freak Extreme Biker Killaz III,” will feature martial arts, hardcore rap, bitchin’ street racing, extreme snowboarding, really fast motorcycles, sharks attacks, nail guns, and many shots where the angry-lookin’ hero guy spins in the air like, twenty seven times while swallowing a stream of machine gun bullets and then shoots them back out his penis in the general direction of the ugly bad guys, who, being mutant robot demons dressed like savage clowns in drag, will just laugh and then speed off in their totally bitchin’ tricked-out M3 BMWs, which will then explode on a rain-slicked nighttime LA street for no apparent reason.

Now, call me dumb if you wish, but that sounds like a movie I’d rather enjoy.

Thoughts On the Film Festival

The film festival finishes today, and even though I only attended a handful of screenings and so obviously can’t judge for the festival overall, it was well worth the hassle for me. Even the badly-soundproofed confines of the Screen on D’Olier Street–where all of the films I attended, bar one, were screened–didn’t ruin my enjoyment as it might otherwise would have, maybe due to my appreciation for the lack of talking and ringing cellphones that usually mar my moviegoing experiences.
Sunday morning was spent at a sparsely-attended screening of George Clooney’s directorial debut Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, the story of Chuck Barris — TV producer and host of the infamous Gong Show by day, _alleged_ CIA operative by night. The premise sounds absurd, but the material is handled with pathos and great affection for the subject, fleshed out with solid performances (Drew Barrymore in particular shines), some nifty visual trickery and moments of fantastic composition. Clooney may be seriously indebted to the likes of Milos Forman and his close pal Steven Soderbergh and as a result doesn’t yet have a true directorial voice, but this is damn good for a first attempt. (So good, in fact, that one wonders if it wasn’t really ghost-directed.)
Nifty trickery was still on the menu for the following evening’s showing of The Rules of Attraction, Roger Avary’s adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis’s callous but excellent novel. Multiple angles, split screen montage, reversed scenes and dialogue, sudden stops and crash-zooms blur together in an admirable attempt to recreate and reflect both the multi-narrative structure and the desperate, unsettling atmosphere of the novel. Sadly, Avary plays for straight laughs rather than black humour a little too often, and resultantly fails to truly capture the dark heart of the source material. That being said, I was pleasantly surprised by James Van Der Beek’s almost tangibly malevolent turn as the sociopathic Sean Bateman. I don’t think I’ll ever watch Dawson’s Creek in the same light again
Full Frontal, Steven Soderbergh’s post-modern _cinéma vérité_ experiment with digital video seemed to go down well with the film festival audience in attendance, but was a damp squib for me. I was reminded far too much of Jean-Luc Godard’s absolutely _dire_ Éloge de L’Amour. And I have to be honest, I drifted off thinking about other, more interesting things for most of the movie. But hey, thanks to HB’s sponsorship at least I got a free ice cream out of it.
I hadn’t really expected it to be the highlight of the week, but for me The Happiness of the Katakuris–a musical black comedy, if you can believe that, from the director of the brilliant, wince-inducing Audition–blew everything else out of the water. I’ve yet to see a film that was so utterly insane in both substance and execution. Completely mad, and a huge bucket-load of fun to watch. So much so, in fact, that I can’t wait to get my hands on the video so I can see it again and again.

Friday Five #47

http://fridayfive.org/
*1. What was the last song you heard?*
‘We Like Having These Things’ by Numbers, from their debut album Numbers Life on tigerbeat6. Numbers are a great art-punk band from San Francisco with a Moog for a bass. If I ever get my pipe-dream record label off the ground I would kill to licence their stuff. We just don’t have anything like it here. The Irish music scene, even the so-called _underground_, is pretty conservative in the big scheme of things.
*2. What were the last two movies you saw?*
Thurday night I stayed up late and watched Lost Souls, a weird but okay occult thing with Winona Ryder and that bloke who used to be in Game On, and The Original Kings of Comedy, which barely made me laugh at all, it was all style and little substance; too _vaudeville_ for me, maybe.
*3. What were the last three things you purchased?*
I bought five Tootsie Rolls and a Pinky bar from Cybercandy, a British-based international candy store. I’m hoping they’ll arrive sometime next week. I love Tootsie Rolls.
*4. What four things do you need to do this weekend?*
I don’t actually _have_ to do anything, besides going to a film festival screening tomorrow (Sunday) morning. And this.
*5. Who are the last five people you talked to?*
In descending order: my mum, my grandad, Benitha, Dave… I can’t remember who I’ve actually _spoken_ with before Dave. I’ve been living a sheltered existence.

A Reply to ‘Freeloader.com’

Perhaps my personal feelings on the matter have clouded my judgement, but I find it hard to believe at this stage that there are _still_ people (otherwise intelligent, articulate people at that) who fail to completely understand the mechanics of, the concepts behind, and the artistic benefits of music file sharing over the Internet. With an opinion piece in last Friday’s Guardian, G. Beato seems to me at least to be one of these people. And it frustrates me no end.
The kernel of Beato’s article appears to be that “the music industry apocalypse” is inevitable; its cause is the free availability and distribution of music files on the Internet, and the (implied) effect is “plummeting” record sales, and ultimately the devaluation of music. Supposedly, “digital distribution is bad for artists for the same reason that it is bad for record companies (and good for fans): it makes too much music available.” I am the only one to whom this seems merely regurgitated major label rhetoric?
Beato, merely one of many who share similar misguided beliefs, appears to be under the misconception that file sharing is completely to blame for the downturn in the corporate recording industry over the last few years. The reality, however, is that record companies aren’t losing money solely because of the Internet; they’re losing money because they continue to perpetuate the rock star aesthetic, they’re losing money because of their outdated business models (ie. advertise the fuck out of something ’til it sells, and if it doesn’t, keep squeezing ‘til it does, or dies).
Beato tries to bolster his argument with the idea that ubiquity equates with loss of value, and in turn loss of revenue, justifying this with the example of print publications’ forays into the treacherous territory of the World Wide Web, and the _plight_ of independent content creators in the murky waters of the blogosphere. Pardon me, but this is total crap. For starters, ubiquity of content isn’t the primary reason pay-to-view newspaper websites aren’t as successful as hoped, just as it isn’t really the primary cause of falling revenues in the recording industry; the weblog phenomenon shows that people like to _share_ what they find on the Web, like one might share this morning’s newspaper with one’s workmates or family, but it’s difficult to share restricted content unless the people one’s sharing with also have access. Most people (AOL users excluded) resent being restricted when they’re on the Internet; they resent being restricted in their usage of information, period. This is just one reason why the Guardian website–one amongst an international selection of newspapers available for free online–is more popular than other newspapers that charge a subscription for access to their online archives.
Furthermore, Beato applies this ‘ubiquity equals dilution’ theory to the independent creative community. There may well be “hundreds and thousands of independent content creators who make nothing” for every Andrew Sullivan-esque success story, but most independent content creators (myself included) don’t do it for any financial gain, they do it because _they love it_. As the proprietor of a weblog himself–by definition, an independent content creator–does he really mean what he’s saying? If I didn’t know better, I might presume that Beato wouldn’t bother writing anything if he weren’t being remunerated by the Guardian for it.
The deeper we get into the article, the closer we get to the nitty-gritty of the prejudice behind this position. Just one example is evident in Beato’s description of the publicity surrounding Janis Ian’s support of file sharing in an essay criticising the “perfidy” of the recording industry (not the first to do so I might add; that accolade goes to Steve Albini and his seminal tract from a number of years ago, ‘The Problem With Music’), in which she is painted as “a legitimate music industry figure who recognised the value of copyright infringement”. This brings up a significant point–who’s copyright is being infringed upon? Although many would like us to believe so–and usually draw unfair comparison to the publishing industry for support–it’s not the artist’s. Many fail to understand that while the composer or composers of a song own the rights to the lyrics and the music, most of the time they have no control over the sound recording, which is owned by the record company. If I were, for instance, to download the latest Eminem single from the Internet today, I may be infringing on the record label’s copyright, but not _his_; to therefore imply that file sharing is detrimental to the creative community is obviously false.
Another thing that strikes me is Beato’s frustrating confusion of music file sharing and the ‘digital distribution’ of music as one and the same; while they may be complimentary, they are most certainly separate issues. Digital distribution for one has obviously faltered, not because of the ubiquity of content, but due to the failure of the major label business paradigm to adapt to technological advancements. File sharing and free downloading, on the other hand, has been a godsend to independent, grassroots labels and distributors who, while maintaining business based on traditional tangible products, utilise the provisions of the Internet to their advantage, as a result reaching a much wider (even international) audience that would be otherwise almost impossible. In this sphere, mp3s are more a promotional tool than a finished product, so it’s really no surprise in this respect that independent labels and artists can stay in the black, while the Big Five cry foul, apparently haemorrhaging cash from every pore.
Beato actually makes a valid point when he states that “musicians who successfully use the Internet to generate revenues directly from fans will be exceedingly rare”, but appears to labour under the impression that any artist who wishes to break free from the corporate chains must circumvent the ‘middleman’ route completely. The big mistake here, in my view, is the presumption that the music industry as a whole has a fatalistic destiny: as the compact disc replaced vinyl, so the mp3 file _must_ replace the compact disc. (Just try explaining this to those who know that vinyl never died, it just went underground.) With many independent labels and distributors flourishing in a climate where record sales overall are purportedly “plummeting”, even though only the corporate giants have taken the biggest hit, what really necessitates the direct approach? In the majority of cases where artists do sell direct they’re not selling digital downloads anyway, so why not sign or license to a small label that pays a favourable royalty rate and promotes and markets your wares on a small, yet highly targeted, scale to mom-and-pop stores and online retailers alike? Plain and simple, real music fans want something you can hold in your hands, something that has been conceived, designed and packaged with care. Real music fans want albums, not songs; they are fans of musicians, not merely the tunes they play.
Unlike, need it even be said, the unwashed masses; the chart worshippers, the kind of people who buy their music in Woolworths or Tesco, the kind of people who might be perfectly happy to download their music; they cannot honestly be described as music fans. Their average musical diet most likely consists of whatever wank MTV has shoved down their throats today, music made by what I like to call Singles Oriented Artists (SOAs), who don’t produce songs as such as they do _entertainment packages_: the tune, the accompanying multi-million-dollar video, the photo shoots, the gimmicky remixes to fill up the single and its inevitable pointless ‘special edition’, the TV spots, the radio airplay (payola _is_ alive and well); the list goes on. With all that money spent, is it any wonder that major labels get pissed when that overpriced single they’ve been trying to flog to the masses stays on the shelves while people who only really want the song–they get the rest of the package from the MTV ten times a day anyways–get what they want, gratis, on the Internet?
Beato seems certain that “many of the lucky few artists who now make a lot of money will no longer do so. And most of the ones who make little money will continue to do so.” But where’s the proof of this pudding? There is more evidence to prove the opposite, at least for the artists who make little money at present. A quote from an interview with Cory Doctorow regarding the major labels brings this to light:

”(T)he recording industry has a story of, “We do two really important roles. One is to make music available and the other is to compensate artists.” But one of the things we know is that 80 percent of all of the music ever released isn’t for sale anywhere in the world. And another thing we know is that 97 percent of the artists signed to a recording contract earn less than $600 per year off of it.”

Today’s big money-makers aren’t so much artists as they are _brands_. Musical talent is no longer a necessity. (Say what you will, but at least many of the pop stars of the 80’s could play their instruments.) They are merely marketing strategies, nothing more. This is the realm of the corporate whore, where the likes of Louis Walsh pimp a relentless production line of shrink-wrapped, genetically modified, meticulously manufactured garbage.
From the overall tone of this article, Beato–whatever his credentials–comes across as really not having a clue about the machinations of the music industry as a whole, nor the motivations of major label business practices. He maintains to the end that the Internet will devalue music. But economics aside, how can one devalue something that has no inherent value to begin with? The only ‘music’ that will truly suffer as a result of file sharing is the vacuous, bankrupt Top of the Pops tripe that deserves to be killed off anyway for polluting popular culture. The file sharing Vandals have come to tear down the walls–I say bring on the fall of the Corporate Music Empire.

At The Movies

I haven’t had much to do lately (besides enjoying the box of goodies from Midheaven that arrived yesterday, and one or two other, very important things that I don’t need–or want–to divulge here), and as you might imagine I’m kind of stuck for inspiration, so I’ve chosen to fill the void with film.
The first flick I’ll mention here, let’s just say it didn’t exactly reaffirm my faith in the movie industry. Against my better judgement, I went with John and Grover on Tuesday night last week to see The Ring. I went prepared to be disappointed–I only agreed to go because it was something to do with the guys and, well, I thought it might be fuel for these pages–and disappointed I was, for almost every reason I had anticipated.
To put it simply, it pales in comparison to the simply brilliant Ringu on so many levels–the story is convoluted, unnecessarily complicated and, ultimately, confusing as fuck (strange how the funny foreign film turns out to be more accessible, eh?); it goes for a succession of cheap shocks and edge-of-seat moments rather than the almost tangible creeping dread of the original; it’s spoiled by special effects that strip away all the mystery that made the orginal so powerful; it even plays at times like a showreel of cinema’s most horrific moments (Freddy-esque nightmare sequence? Check! Obvious banjo-kid-from-Deliverence homage? Check! Nod to Cronenbergian visuals? Check!). Lest my laughter in utter disbelief at what I was seeing confuse you, it was actually quite offensive to my cinematic sensibilities. In fact the more I think about it, the more it sucks.
But at least they got the location right (rainy Seattle is a suitable stand-in for rainy Toyko). And I’ll grudgingly admit it passes the time. Just.
The week wasn’t a _complete_ washout, however, as two days later I caught an early showing of The Kid Stays In the Picture, the documentary adaptation of one-time big-shot producer Robert Evans‘ autobiography-slash-Hollywood reminiscence. Much of his story I had already gleaned from Easy Riders, Raging Bulls, Peter Biskind’s account of Hollywood’s true Golden Age, but still, however selective–or embellished–Evans’ memories of the time may be, it sure was something to hear it straight from the horse’s mouth.
And I’m not done with movies yet. Last night saw the start of the Dublin International Film Festival, at which I will be attending four screenings over the next few days: George Clooney‘s Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, The Rules of Attraction (which I’m really looking forward to, despite the bad press it’s gotten), The Happiness of the Katakuris (been waiting four months to see this, since it was bumped from the Horrorthon to make room for Donnie Darko) and Steven Soderbergh‘s Full Frontal. I may go see one or two more, depending on my finances; one doesn’t get opportunities like this very often, after all.