Sometimes Cory Is Smart

No, not me. I spell my name, correctly, like Corey Hart does. Me and Corey Hart, we may not be so smart, but damn we're pretty. And good with the spelling of our names.

No, this is an interview with Cory Doctorow, who may spell his name wrong but is otherwise pretty awesomely clever. He has said a lot of wise things about copyright and technology and for some reason this little interview (with I think I got from taky) outlines a lot of the ideas I find compelling of his:

If it turns out that P2P is the death knell for $300 million movies and artists who earn a living from recording, so what? Radio was bad news for Vaudeville, too.


P2P is enabling more filmmakers, more musicians, and more writers and other creators to produce a wider variety of works that please a wider audience than ever before. That's the purpose of copyright -- to enable maximal expression and cultural participation, even if it costs us Police Academy *n-1* and payola-driven boy-bands.


If you're in an industry that demands that bits be scarce, you have to change or die. Radio made it impossible to exclude non-paying audiences from a performance. VCRs made it impossible to ensure that audiences watched commercials. They foreclosed on some of the existing businesses of the day and created new ones.


Should people aspire to make a living off their creative work?

Cory: Sure, if they're prepared to starve. ... Writing, music and other forms of creative endeavor have never been a reliable way of earning a living for the vast majority of their practitioners. There was never a moment when even a large minority of people who wrote for money made a living at it. Artists are fundamentally irrational economic actors in that they continue to produce work even when there's no demand for it.


Copyright is supposed to safeguard creativity -- so you can tell it's working when there are more people being creative in more ways. Not when the cost of a movie goes from $200 million to $300 million.

See? Can't spell his own name, but otherwise, pretty smart.

Amoeba Idol

Do you belong to any networks? Take this handy quiz:

Q: Are you alive?

If you answered yes, then congratulations! You belong to networks. Even if you're an animal. Yes, even if you're a single-celled organism, you belong to a network. Even stand-up comedians do.

When you're part of a network, you often get asked to do stuff by other members of that network. Mom. Mr. Grimsby. The flight attendant who wants you to stop, for God's sake, laughing at American Idol, because you're freaking out the other passengers. Some of those requests are implicit -- your Mom's birthday, for example. Some are not so much: "Take those headphones off and SHUT UP before I strangle you with this flotation device."

Our networks give us jobs to do. By performing these jobs, we strengthen our networks. Getting Mom a birthday present deepens the bond with the old homestead. Taking off your headphones and being polite helps you avoid getting chucked out the airlock.

Why doesn't WestJet have airlocks on their planes? Never mind.

Anyways, doing the jobs we're given is one part of participating in a network. That's basically what an amoeba does. Its network says "You're hungry" and it goes off and absorbs something. Or whatever amoebas do.

I'm not an expert on amoebas. Take the point, and let's move on.

In any event, we're not amoebas. We're much, much larger. I believe. And smarter, for the most part, although amoebas aren't noted for watching American Idol. I assume. Again, not an expert on amoebas, but I think I'm on pretty safe ground, there.

Anyways, because of this, we have "meta-jobs" with respect to the networks we're involved in. We have to actively look for ways to strengthen our networks. If we don't, we might as well just watch American Idol. We need to build things up, or else we're tearing things down. And the thing that we can do that does the most building is to help other network members who are failing.

When someone isn't doing their job, or is driving you crazy, or otherwise troublesome, if I don't make a strong and determined effort to help them improve I'm being profoundly disrespectful and ultimately self-destructive.

I need to tell people when they are interfering in my ability to serve. And I need to tell them directly, clearly and in all sorts of ways. Nobody sets out to deprive their own network of value. Nobody WANTS to be anti-helpful. But people often have trouble seeing where they fit into a network, and they have trouble seeing how their actions might influence events in another part of that network.

It's one thing, when things go wrong, to make them go right. Often that's the immediately necessary thing to do. That's the job you're given. That's the amoeba role. And often you can't stop to point out what happened and why and how. But if you do not later find the time to identify the failure and establish how to prevent that failure from happening again, you are selfishly allowing your own network to degrade.

Because the message that ignoring failure sends is that it's OKAY to fuck up. Actually, it's even more insidious than that. It hides the fact that there was a fuck-up, and allows the fuck-uppers to persist in a mistaken notion that everything has gone fine. And that means that you, if you're the hero (and aren't we all heroes?), have just encouraged your network to keep on failing.

My job is not just to deliver the products and features the client wants. My job is not just to accomplish the immediate goal. My job (and the job of anyone who's involved in a network -- see above for notes on whether or not this includes you) is to strengthen the network. Only strengthening the network creates growth. Everything else is just putting out fires. Just doing your job. Being an amoeba.

And if you must watch American Idol, please, try shutting up. Think of the amoebas.

School In Borneo

Okay, it's been a while so let me drive-by with some premium linksluttage.

Minor League Ball, Major League Funny

First up, I'm not really a baseball fan, nor do I listen to the radio, but if Ken Levine were still announcing minor league games, and pulling goofy stunts like announcing: "Colin Washington is warming up in the pen. Most people don’t know this but Colin has seven brothers and six sisters, all of them named Colin,” I'd be tuning in every night. And more. But none of that is as funny as "No School In Borneo". Damn. Some of these writer guys are funny.

It IS the Droids You're Looking For

And I think I stole this from JonRog, but it's worth a repost. R2D2, Rebel Mastermind. "As we now know, the rebel Alliance was founded by Yoda, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Bail Organa. What can readily be deduced is that their first recruit, who soon became their top field agent, was R2-D2." Brilliant. And I'll add a shout-out for Boom Studio's new book, Ninja Tales. If it's half as good as Cthulhu Tales was, it's a story value extravaganza.

Oof! Pulp Knockout!

And this next bit comes courtesy of DISContent, who I've linked to in the past. A trailer for a book:

Sure, it's about a minute too long, but holy crap.

Obedience School

Guillermo Del Toro seems to be on a crusade with his new movie, Pan's Labyrinth. And he wants to mess up anyone willing to go along with him.

There's a host of lessons on obeying instructions in this film, and none of them are simple and easily summed up. Del Toro has thankfully abandoned the scattershot comicbook approach he took in Hellboy and has put together a film that offers actual food for thought -- a rarity in the cinema world at the best of times. And the past year has not been the best of times for cinema.

Pan's Labyrinth is at its heart a story about the gaining of wisdom, and about both the joys and pains suffered by those who are willing to go as far as required in order to discover the truth. About themselves and others and the world.

Our heroine, Ofelia, finds herself in a fairy tale while around her society collapses into the blood and mayhem of the Spanish Civil War. And as in any good fairy tale, our heroine is issued with very specific instructions to follow. And of course, inevitably, she runs afoul of those instructions, and badness ensues. But never quite the badness one expects. And by the time it all falls apart, you are no longer so sure that obeying the instructions is such a good idea.

Del Toro accomplishes something very exciting here: while showing us a classic fairy tale, and setting up the inevitable failure of the heroine, he intercuts with the sordid and distasteful tale of a Facist captain trying to bring a group of rebels to heel. We see inside the face (quite literally) of the captain and come to understand that this horrible man, this monster, is driven by the desire, in fact by the unquestioning NEED to obey his orders, and the capacity to limit his own moral judgement to the question of how completely he has fulfilled his comission.

So that instead of rolling our eyes and going "Oh, please, all she had to do was follow the instructions, for gosh sakes," when Ofelia crosses the line, we are instead conflicted. The logic of fairy tales tells us that breaking the rules is absolutely not on, and yet we have already begun to suspect that in this world, having followed the rules is not sufficient excuse for moral crimes. And by the end of the film, we worry more that the survivors will fall prey to the same trap, and that this cycle of obedience leading to corruption will never come to an end, than we do about the eventual fate of the characters.

This is not to suggest that the fates of the characters does not register. The violent horrors that are perpetrated on characters throughout this film give us terrible suspicions about what's possible in this world, and our suspicions turn out to be well-founded. There's an interesting moment where Ofelia's mother tries to get her daughter to give up this fascination with fairy tales. She has (like everyone else in this pain-filled film) suffered greatly, and she says, "Real life doesn't always turn out nice and pleasant like your fairy tales." (I may have the exact wording wrong. Sue me.)

But by this time in the film, we know that fairy tales DON'T always turn out nice and pleasant. In fact, we have come to understand that fairy tales generally turn out horrible and painful for everyone involved. Ofelia's mother's inability to imagine possibilities other than what she already accepts dooms her to her fate, and the lesson is not lost on young Ofelia.

Unthinking obedience is a kind of death, a walking death, a death from which there is no escape other than shattering trauma and horror. To truly live, Del Toro's new film says, one must recognize the tendency to bound one's moral judgement within the limits of the orders and expectations placed upon one, and push beyond those self-imposed boundaries. We have to judge ourselves without excuses. It is that very act, that ability to look upon ourselves and direct our actions according to moral, not social, standards, that makes us human.

Yes, the film is beautiful in every regard. It is thrilling and surprising and three-quarters of the way through, you have NO IDEA how it will all turn out. And it fulfills its own point wonderfully -- not only are the characters forced to disobey their orders or fall into darkness, the film itself disobeys its own conventions and turns inside-out before it's all over. Nobody gets away unscathed in Del Toro's world. Not even the audience.

The Eternal Struggle

THIS is totally brilliant:

My hat is off to these two guys. That's a five-minute film with twenty minutes' worth of ideas.

(thanks to Boing Boing)