Category Archives: Current Affairs

Not the Daily Show explains the writer’s strike

If I haven’t made it clear already, I fully support the Writer’s Guild of America. I’m happy to note than a clear majority of Americans does, too.

If you’re unclear on the main reasons the WGA is on strike, allow one of the writers from The Daily Show to explain it.

Uh, you should actually watch it, uh, anyway, even if you already understand the issues behind the strike, because it’s the closest we’re going to get to The Daily Show for quite some time, I fear:

Man, I miss The Daily Show. Those guys are awesome writers, and they deserve better than they’re getting from the AMPT.

these points of data make a beautiful line

I got my dates confused in my head, and thought today was Veteran’s Day. I’m embarrassed and a little ashamed that I completely missed it yesterday. So even though it’s one day late: Thank you, veterans, for your service.

And now, some various things, most of which I came across while Propelling today:

Researchers in Russia found what they believe to be the impact crater of the Tunguska Event.

I keep hearing this ridiculous line of bullshit that writers make massively inflated salaries, so nobody should support them and their greedy strike. It’s the same tired line of crap that’s thrown out at any group of skilled workers who have the audacity to expect a fair wage from our employer, and are forced into a work stoppage to get those employers to negotiate with us in good faith.

I hope to be a WGA member one day, but even if I didn’t, I would completely support the writers. John Rogers has written several great posts that lay out, in simple but passionate terms, why the WGA has to strike against the AMPTP. He also linked a video that is quite effective in helping the WGA make their case to a skeptical and misinformed public.

Sean McDevitt reviews The Happiest Days of Our Lives:

The Happiest Days of Our Lives
is all about surrounding yourself with people you care about, interests
you enjoy and finding the passion in the "every day." It’s why people
come in droves to read Wil’s blog and why he has been as successful in
nearly every endeavor he has pursued. The book is a collection of the
happiest parts of his day. I’m glad he put it all together.

Flickr’r *Out of My Mind* took a very cool picture, with a little Geek in it.

Mental Floss is one of the greatest magazines in the history of life. Their website pointed me to The Nerd Handbook, which I think WWdN readers will enjoy (and Propel, maybe?):

Written as sort of a "Nerds are From Mars…" guide for nerds’
Significant Others, The Nerd Handbook explains nerd habits and
motivation. While the article seems focused on computer nerds
specifically, many of the nerd behaviors described are applicable to
the entire nerd spectrum.

Reader B sent me a link to an awesome polyhedral dice desktop image.

John Scalzi’s brilliant and wonderful The Sagan Diary was just made available online, in its entirety, from Subterranean Press. In announcing this news, John says something I’ve believed for a long time, but was never able to articulate in print:

I think the story just lives better in book form. One of the
things you learn when you get published is that a book isn’t just about
the text; there’s a whole aesthetic that goes with the book, and that
esthetic matters. This is one of the reasons I think that printed books are going to be around for a while, in some form or another.

Okay, now I’m going to try: I like to read things online, and I believe that publishing online is part of the future of any writer’s life, but nothing compares to actually holding a book in my hands. Books just feel right, magazines just feel right, and I hope that readers of my blogs and books will agree, so I don’t have to make the difficult business decision to save all the stories people tell me they love from my blog for my books, so I can make a living and support my family by writing.

What They Play seems like it could be a cool and useful resource for parents, if the editors steer clear of Thompsonesque hype and pandering. [via game politics]

If you enjoyed my Geek in Review from last week, and are interested in Interactive Fiction as a result (or if, like me, you got to the end and really wanted to play Lurking Horror again) you may want to stay away from the Interactive Fiction archive. It’s an easy (and awesome) way to lose an entire day.

The cake is a lie, but I’m still alive.

And now I’m going outside. It’s a spectacularly beautiful day here in Los Angeles.

they can polish their medals and sharpen their smiles

Wow.

A small private intelligence company that monitors Islamic terrorist groups obtained a new Osama bin Laden
video ahead of its official release last month, and around 10 a.m. on
Sept. 7, it notified the Bush administration of its secret acquisition.
It gave two senior officials access on the condition that the officials
not reveal they had it until the al-Qaeda release.

Within 20 minutes, a range of intelligence agencies had begun
downloading it from the company’s Web site. By midafternoon that day,
the video and a transcript of its audio track had been leaked from
within the Bush administration to cable television news and broadcast
worldwide.

The founder of the company, the SITE Intelligence Group, says this
premature disclosure tipped al-Qaeda to a security breach and destroyed
a years-long surveillance operation that the company has used to
intercept and pass along secret messages, videos and advance warnings
of suicide bombings from the terrorist group’s communications network.
"Techniques that took years to develop are now ineffective and worthless," said Rita Katz, the firm’s 44-year-old founder.

In recent years, those of us who
question our leaders, want to preserve our Constitution, and believe
supporting our troops is more than a bumper sticker slogan have been
vilified, attacked, and consistently called "traitors" by this
administration, their supporters, and their allies in government and
media.

But when powerful Bush administration officials leak
classified information to further their own personal political agenda,
the self-appointed defenders of the American way of life fall
conspicuously silent.

I used to be outraged by this sort of
thing, but now it just makes me sad. What happened to my country?

(via Propeller)

RIAA, through SoundExchange, is lying to webcasters

The RIAA and its goonsquad, SoundExchange, is working very hard to destroy internet radio, by forcing webcasters to pay royalties that will run from 60%-300% of their annual revenue. For context, satellite radio pays 5%-7%, and over-the-air broadcasters pay nothing.

Why is the RIAA trying so hard to destroy Internet Radio? I wrote in a Geek in Review a while ago:

Because the
RIAA (which is essentially the major labels) has spent a lot of time
and a lot of money building a monopoly with a few media conglomerates,
and it’s been very profitable for them all for decades. 

This effort to wipe out independent online radio has nothing to do with
protecting artists, and everything to do with protecting a status quo
that supports a very few top 40 acts at the expense of everyone else.
In their effort to protect their outdated business model and insanely
corrupt relationship with a few broadcasters, the RIAA is happy to
prevent their artists from having a magnificent way to reach potential
customers who will buy albums, merchandise, and concert tickets.

I am rather worked up about this because I believe it’s about choice.
The airwaves in the United States are supposedly
owned by the American people, and licensed out to broadcasters for use, but in practice, that’s not the way it works at all. In practice, the airwaves are owned by Clear Channel, and they work hand-in-hand with the big four record labels to limit our choice of music. It’s a great scam they’ve got going, and it’s been a very profitable system for all of them for a very long time.

For the rest of us, though, this system sucks. For guys like me who can’t stand top 40 music, who can’t stand the utter crap they play on KROQ these days, and who want some fucking variety in their music, we’re screwed . . .

. . .with the notable exception of Internet radio, where we have choices as diverse as Radio Paradise, WFMU, Groove Salad, and Indie Pop Rocks.

Indie webcasters like SomaFM have been working tirelessly with the Save Net Radio Coalition
to educate our representatives in congress so that legislation can be
passed which would make it possible for these indie broadcasters to
stay in business. The RIAA doesn’t like this, so they’re trying to fight it, but in a surprisingly competent move, Congress is forcing RIAA and its goonsquad SoundExchange to negotiate realistic and fair royalty rates with webcasters.

That brings us more or less up to today, where we discover that the RIAA is getting desperate, and doesn’t like that it can’t get its way simply by threatening a lot of people and paying off a lot of congressmen.

Rusty Hodge, the GM of SomaFM, has been in DC for a couple of months, working like crazy to save his business and an entire industry. He’s been blogging about his experiences, sharing the little victories and big frustrations during the fight.

The RIAA must be afraid of Rusty and everyone who is working to save internet radio, because they’ve now resorted to outright lying to webcasters, in their latest efforts to threaten and scare them:

RIAA has SoundExchange issue press release to try and trick congress
into thinking the royalty situation has been solved. Nice work guys.

The reason many people are signing is because they fear lawsuits
from the RIAA. RIAA representatives have been calling webcasters and
telling them if they didn’t sign by Sep 15th, they would be operating
in violation of the law. That’s the only reason they signed.  It’s like a Sporano’s episode.

The only way that webcasters can escape the high royalty rates is by signing this current agreement and only
playing SX affiliated label music. This means less independent music,
and more big label music. Which is exactly what the RIAA wanted.

The press release Rusty is referring to is reprinted in his blog, but here’s the short version: 24 webcasters signed an agreement with SoundExchange that gives them slightly-better royalty rates now, but expires in three years, putting them right back where they are today. If SoundExchange can scare enough indie webcasters into signing this horrible agreement, the RIAA will be able to go to congress and tell them that they really don’t need to pass the Internet Radio Equality Act, which would permanently save internet radio by preventing the RIAA and SoundExchange from jacking up royalty rates so high, it would force indie webcasters out of business.

And this "deal" is actually a giant load of bullshit. According to Wired’s Listening Post:

However, the agreement only covers artists and labels who are
SoundExchange members.  Webcasters who sign the agreement but still
want to play music from other bands would have to pay SoundExchange the
higher per-song rates originally specified
by the CRB for those songs, because that music is not part of the
deal. In essence, small webcasters who sign have an economic incentive
to avoid lesser-known music.

So that’s what this is all about: stopping lesser-known music from even having a chance at finding an audience. The RIAA’s major members — Universal, Warner, Sony BMG, and EMI –  are trying to put indie webcasters out of business. They’re not working to protect artists. They’re working to protect their monopoly, and now they’re lying to do it.