Category: "miscellaneous"

Free Culture and the constitution

Jack Valenti, longtime president of the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) said this in 1982 in a testimony to congress: "Creative property owners must be accorded the same rights and protection resident in all other property owners in the nation." Valenti and the MPAA aggressively lobby our government for stronger copyright laws, and this is his basic reason. It sounds logical enough, but it goes against a long legal tradition regarding 'creative property.'

Article I, section 8, clause 8, of the Constitution says, "Congress has the power to promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries." This clause does provide for protections on creative property for the purpose of promoting progress. Why would someone work hard to create a new idea if it could be easily stolen? But this clause does make an important distinction; it says that exclusive rights should only be secured for a limited time. This contradicts Valenti's claim that physical property and creative property should be given the same legal protections.

I'm learning a lot about copyright law from Free Culture by Lawrence Lessig. I first saw Lessig on The Screen Savers, and I went to his website where the book is available for free in several formats (I went for audio and MS Reader).

The problem with current copyright laws, according to Lessig, is not that they give protection to creators, but that those protections have grown beyond what was intended by the framers and what is healthy for our culture. Take the limited time mentioned in the above quote from the Constitution. The original length of a copyright was 14 years. It could renewed, if the author was still alive, for another 14 years. That would cover the commercial life of just about any creation, allowing the author to make money, but sending the creation into the public domain while it's still relevant. Today the copyright term is 95 years. The only ones who benefit from such a long term are the corporations who hold the copyrights. No artist is still alive and hoping to profit from his creation after 95 years. This extended term also means that the public domain is starving.

I haven't finished the book yet, so I don't know what Lessig suggests as a solution, but it's been interesting to learn how copyright law has changed over the years. And, sadly, those changes protect corporations and make it harder for individuals to be creative without fear of litigation.

Communion meditation

On Sunday I was responsible for a communion meditation at church. I decided to use a passage from The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis. The book was written in the 15th century and it's in the public domain now, so you can read the entire thing online. I made took one of the chapters about communion, trimmed it down, changed some wording and added a response part. Here it is.

Thomas à Kempis
The Imitation of Christ
Book four
The Second Chapter

TRUSTING in Your goodness and great mercy, O Lord, I come as one sick to the Healer, as one hungry and thirsty to the Fountain of life, as one in need to the King of heaven, a servant to his Lord, a creature to his Creator, a soul in desolation to my gentle Comforter.

Who am I that You should offer Yourself to me? How dares the sinner to appear in Your presence, and You, how do You condescend to come to the sinner? You know Your servant, and You know that he has nothing good in him that You should grant him this.

[With the congregation repeating each line]
I confess my unworthiness.
I acknowledge Your goodness.
I praise Your mercy.
I give thanks for Your immense love.

For it is because of Yourself that You do it, not for any merit of mine; so that Your goodness may be better known to me, that greater love may be aroused and more perfect humility born in me. Since, then, this pleases You and You have so willed it, Your graciousness pleases me also. Oh, that my sinfulness may not stand in the way!

O most sweet and merciful Jesus, what great reverence, thanks, and never-ending praise are due to You for our taking of Your sacred body, whose dignity no man can express!

But on what shall I think in this Communion, this approach to my Lord, Whom I can never reverence as I ought, and yet Whom I desire devoutly to receive? What thought better, more helpful to me than to humble myself entirely in Your presence and exalt Your infinite goodness above myself?
You invite me to Your banquet! You desire to give me heavenly food, the Bread of Angels to eat, none other than Yourself, the living Bread Who come down from heaven and gave life to the world.

To Watch or Not to Watch...

Last night, I finally realized that this 2-hour-a-day Dawson's thing is getting ridiculous. So I decided to watch today's episodes and call it quits. (Don't congratulate me yet.) I looked up the episode guides for the rest of the season and realized that there are only 6 episodes left. That's only 3 days! What do you think I should do? Should I quit now and risk regretting not making it through 6 seasons, or should I watch the remaining episodes and risk being even more bored with the horrible plot lines than I already am?

List Makers of the World Unite

Why didn't I think of this one? Blender magazine is publishing its list of the Top 50 Worst Songs Ever. Care to share yours?


Today is the day

DSL service is set to be turned on today at the office. I've got the modem turned in and as soon as the light changes from orange to green I'll know it's on. I just hope this hasn't been some elaborate April Fool's joke.

Space tourism news

This makes three:

Space Adventures®, Ltd., the world's leading space experiences company, announced today that American technology entrepreneur Gregory Olsen, Ph.D. will be the next private space explorer client. - Read more.

Pretty cool stuff. And the US House of Representatives passed the Space tourism bill earlier this month.

Three Haikus

Two Haikus from "The Screen Savers" latest newsletter:

Videogames rule.
Hey, why not make your own ones?
Because it is hard.

You can make fun games.
Katie Salen shows you how
On tonight's program.

And one from me:

Newsletter sign-up
Or watch the show at my house.
I Tivo it.


Das flashengamentag!


Sorry, no top 5 tonight

Due to a continuing bout with a stomach virus, I have nothing to write about. Unless you want to hear the top 5 reasons I hate having the flu. Yeah, I didn't think so. In order to keep your attention, I decided to let you read some ramblings I wrote a few months ago. Enjoy.

Sometimes I feel like all of my life decisions have been made for me. Which is certainly not a bad thing, considering. Exhibit A: boys. Men. Whatever. Two 'official' boyfriends in high school, numerous cheating experiences, all of whom I "knew" were the one. In college, I was ready to pack up and be with one of the male species in a strange city, willing to work at a 7-11 (not a bad job, but…) and finish school at a mediocre university just to be with the one I loved at the time. Luckily, I reconsidered.

Exhibit B: career. I was always obsessed with becoming a news anchorwoman, probably because of the cheap suits and overdone makeup. I honestly don't know what made me think this was a viable career choice, but it makes for a good transition into explaining how I make decisions. I get bored with decisions very easily. At a restaurant, for instance, I will scan the menu and, generally, pick the first thing I see with the word 'spicy' or 'seafood'. By the time the wait staff leaves my table, I have completely forgotten my order--which makes for an embarrassing moment of silence when the aproned woman returns bearing plates. But I digress…

For whatever reason, anchorwoman was my decision. (If you ignore that byline in the kindergarten yearbook where I said, 'ballet dancer'. Wishful thinking, I guess). Stemming from the fact that I began and ended my stint in pre-undergraduate education at a school boasting a whopping three hundred students, Columbia University was out. Heck, Columbia, MO was probably out as well. So I blindly chose Truman State--far enough away from the parents, and it sounded smart. Lots of trivia nerds there, or so I heard. Actually, I had heard nothing about it. So don't feel bad if you haven't either. They are still pulling the 'Harvard of the Midwest' card, though. Ego trip. By my sophomore year, I realized that I hated journalism. I don't mean I had a few bad classes, professors, etc…I actually hated the profession and all that it entailed. Interviewing topped my list of dreaded activities (Hello-that IS journalism.) But since I am not one to change decisions midstream, I kept the major and actually performed quite well, minus not writing for a newspaper or working on the broadcast crew. You might say I ended up at graduation with someone yelling out "Journalism?" and me, looking around cluelessly, finally standing up and saying, "Oh, that's me."

Maybe one of the reasons I can't decide major things is because my head is swimming with minor ones. This is significant because my life is defined by minor moments that occurred somewhere else. I have always been one for trivia; any insignificant fact that a normal person would overlook I take in like it's "All I Ever Needed to Know". And music. Don't get me started. Danny recently brought home an article about a guy who claims to have an iPod in his head. I have a jukebox. Like the ones at Pizza Hut, complete with annoying jingles and that song by the guy who everyone thought was hot until they found out he was gay. Please.

I used to be on the 'nerd bowl' at my high school. Translation: I would voluntarily arrive at the Science building at 7:45 a.m. to drill questions such as, "Who wrote The Count of Monte Cristo"? Alexandre Dumas, in case you were wondering. And yes, I actually knew that, in spite never having read the book.

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