Ever get annoyed? Ever feel like someone needs to be told where the dog died? Or handed a crowbar and a tub of Elbow Grease to help them pry their head out of their arse? Congratulations--you've come to the right place.

And when I'm not commenting on the latest thing to piss me off, I'm trying to figure out my own twisted life. Because, hey, I'm like that.

On a gentler note: for anyone dealing with depression, anxiety, and other assorted bullshit: You are NOT alone.

And if you're looking for a laugh, search on the key word "fuckery." It's just my little thing (as the bishop said to the actress).

Monday, January 24, 2011

Random Notes: Ethics of Sharing

"Bittersweet Symphony" by The Verve is one of the prettiest songs ever made. Just saying.

Tomorrow is pay day, so tomorrow will be music download day! Hooray! I realized the other day that I don't own a single CD by The Pixies. There goes my indie cred, right down the shitter, so I must remedy the situation. :-D

Y'know, years ago, it was so much easier when it came to dealing with music, etc. I mean, I recently pitched a box full of old cassettes that were all labled "Radio Songs" which was what I'd call my mix tapes taped directly off the radio. (For those of you who may not remember what a "cassette tape" is, see the picture above. That was one of the higher end brands; sometimes I could convince Mum to buy my stash for me; otherwise, it was the el cheapo Radio Shack house brand.) I did not, however, throw out the track lists. Some of them were slightly... errrrrrrmmmm... embarrassing. Some of them brought back excellent memories and a resolve to acquire some of those wonderous songs.

Of course, I own a bunch of them on vinyl, as well as a USB turntable so that one of these days when I have a little extra time, I will be able to convert all my awesome old skip & pop vinyls to digital, especially some of those gems that will probably never see the light otherwise. Every week, FNX asks for someone to be the "guest chef" on the Leftover Lunch on Friday--I am tempted to throw them a curve ball, as many of those tapes were taken off of FNX when it was WLYN, Y102. (If anyone reading this remembers that station, congratulations--YOU'RE OLD! Like me. *sigh*)

Anyway, it was a lot easier to share music in some ways. You went out, bought an album, taped it on a cassette, and you'd put together mix tapes for your friends and swap your music. It was a local thing. There were these wonderful places call "record shops"... Discount Records in Harvard Square was where I bought my first Bowie album in freshmen year, ChangesoneBowie. Used to haunt Stereo Jack's on Mass. Ave (still in existence)... and then there was Disc Diggers in Davis Square, the greatest effin' record store on the planet. I bought more than half of my record collection there, incredible finds... original copies of Sergeant Pepper, Sadinista!, Blah! Blah! Blah! *dreamy smile* I actually had the guy behind the counter offer to trade me his CD copy of Blah! Blah! Blah! (Iggy Pop's 1986 album produced by David Bowie--still a fucking classic and untouchable) for my vinyl after I'd been in there for the seventh time trying to track it down, to which I said, "HELL NO!"

This was the same guy who sold me my first CDs, and when I hefted the bag and made a disappointed lemon face and said, "It's not the SAME," nodded his head sady and said, "I know. I KNOW."

I never had an issue taping a record for a friend--records were expensive and a pain in the ass to tote around, and cassettes were lightweight and ephemeral. I have no problem ripping a CD to my computer's library and putting the tracks on my MP3 player, or burning a copy of a CD for a friend--that's not an issue or a problem. I do, however, have an issue with putting crap out on the torrent stream.

I've been thinking a lot about this stuff lately, the ethics of it, especially as I'm preparing to get out into the e-verse with publishing, podcasting and performing. In the pre-digital age, it was very simple: if I wanted to read something, I bought a book. If a friend wanted to read the book, I lent it to them. If I wanted a book and couldn't afford a new copy, I went to a used bookstore OR I got it via interlibrary loan. On a very, VERY rare occasion if it was an out-of-print book and I had access to free copying, I would make a copy of it.

Movies... unless you video taped them off of the TV, you had to buy or rent them.

Now... now it ain't so simple.

The internet is a bloody miracle. I remember when it first got started--I was working at one of the companies responsible for creating it, and may have been one of the first non-engineers programming in HTML (very briefly) in January of 1994. Doug, one of the engineers I worked with at BBN, showed me this amazing new technology that was coming out--a way to look at things on a computer that wasn't just text: it was images and everything else! I was a usenet user back then (anyone else remember usenet? All those wonderful newsgroups that migrated to google and fuck knows where they are now, and I'm not going looking for 'em), and my first glimpse of the web boggled my mind. It was something completely new.

It's been 17 years (*gulp*) since that first glimpse, and in that time, there's been a revolution. Now, if it's out there, a dedicated searcher can find it. EVERYTHING is digital, just about, and if it's not digital, the information about it is. Even the most hands-on of things, the DIY movement, has gotten some of it's biggest boosts from the internet simply because of the information-sharing capabilities. (I love instructables.com. LOVE IT! And the fact that there are even adult versions... )

An ex informed me that the porn industry has been the biggest motivator in terms of developing new advancements in web technology, and I completely believe it. Consider: the 'net was developed by defense contractors. What are the two most basic elements of human existence? Fucking and fighting. There you have it.

With new technologies, however, comes new ethical issues (you knew I'd get back to it eventually). My own potential adventures aren't the only thing that has brought this home. A couple of months ago, Celebricrush posted a line on his FB stating that anyone who had ever illegally downloaded a movie from the internet was scum. Now, I took it with a grain of salt and a drop of humor, but it provoked some serious, serious discussion, as well as a troll who really took what was said personally and posted some seriously naive statements and threats. Based on the private message he sent me, I think I managed to make him cry.

As a "working" artist (i.e. someone who has to work a 9 to 5 job because when I was younger I didn't take the chance and try to make the art full-time, so the art is part-time) I am not doing shit for free. Sorry. You want my work, you're paying for it. Some stuff--like this blog--is free because, honestly, there is nothing polished about what you're getting here. These are my free-form rants and ruminations, weeping and moaning, and random bits of fuckery, and considering all that's gone into them is a bit of thought and a lot of typing (and I'm doing this to keep myself from losing my shit and going insane) AND it's publicity in the end, whatever. HOWEVER... my novel is another matter. I have worked my ass off on that, writing, rewriting, polishing, editing, taxing the patience of other writers and asking them to critique. You want that, you're paying for it.

That being said, I also want to be sure that when it goes out, it's at a fair price. I HATE the price of books these days; it's insane. That's the real advantage of the ereaders--they're making reading much more affordable. And easier on the back. That's the other thing I like about the whole electronic music industry--I don't have to shell out $10-25 for a physical CD that may have only one or two decent tracks (honestly, I seldom pay more than $10 for a CD; I have to really, REALLY love the band to buy a brand new CD that isn't on sale; if I'm paying more than that, you can bet I love the band and the collection is a greatest hits that has EVERYTHING). I can drop a buck, get the song that's buzzing my bean, and I'm happy--just like the good ol' days of 45 rpms. (I miss 45's... some of 'em were works of art.) Right now, as I'm trying to clean out my crap in the house, I'm consolidating down my CD collection, which means with very few exceptions, I'm pulling out the covers and back inserts and tossing the cases (most of them are pretty beat up, so recycling is the only option rather than reusing) and putting everything in albums. Which means the 12 crates of CDs are being reduced down to four albums that will take up less than a bookshelf. Ditto with my DVDs.

BACK TO ETHICS... That troll's words stuck in my head because as the rational anarchist I am, I kinda saw his point TO A POINT... He said he was a working musician who was happy making 500 pounds a week (roughly $800/US, or $3.2K/month--almost double what I make as a librarian), and that art should be free! I agree that there needs to be a cut-off point--I think the entertainment (and I include pro sports in here) industry is out of control. The cost to the consumer is fucking ridiculous, which is why you will not see me at Fenway or Foxboro or the Garden. Last year, for Muse and the Silversun Pickups, our tickets were $35/ea plus whatever fees. The Foxwoods tickets for Celebricrush (if I go) will be $45 for the VIP, $30 for the regular. I can deal with that. That's fair. Eight years ago, a friend called me from the Garden to tell me she had an extra U2 ticket--$250. My response: ARE YOU FUCKING SERIOUS?!?!?!?! Is Bono going to take me out for dinner and fuck me afterwards?

Because, kids, NO ONE is worth $250. Not to sit in a ginormous stadium, crammed in with umpteen thousand other people, without a single piece of commemorative merchandise sold for less than $10 (if you're lucky) that was made for less than a buck in the third world in conditions that amount to slavery. The Eagles started it with the Hell Freezes Over tour--everyone was in shock because they were setting tickets at almost $100. Now... now, it's obscene. The luxury boxes, the amenities... I'm almost glad I don't have kids because we wouldn't be going anywhere with the prices they charge. I still want to put Mick Jagger against the wall and strangle the $80 for the two tickets to the Steel Wheels show in '89 because it was such a rip off.

I wish I knew how to fix this. Actually, I do, I guess, at least for my little corner of the world... if I e-pub my novel, I can set the price point and be sure that you're paying a fair price for good work, and for my critters (going up on etsy this week, I hopes), again, a fair price for good work.

Anyone else want to weigh in on this?


  1. Oh my gosh someone who remembers usernet...lol. And the damage it did to your Phone bill....Lol. and stuff just streaming by randomly. hehehe....yeppers. I stopped by for the page 99 but ended up reading all sorts of stuff that made me giggle. You might come by if you have a second....check out my "all about writing" turtle analogy...hehehe. have a great day.

  2. Welcome, new blurker! :-D I will definitely give a stop by. Writing... I tell people it's an addiction. Heinlein said something like, "There's no shame in writing, only do it in private and wash your hands afterwards." (Not as funny as "never try to teach a pig to sing; it wastes your time and annoys the pig," but that one isn't appropriate to the sitch.)
    Good to know I'm not the only old person here. *snicker* What scares me is that it was less than 20 years ago... but there are kids who have no clue what we're talking about. My reaction to Facebook is like, oh, yeah... alt.Callahans, only I know everybody.