Archive for October, 2007

Music for a Darkened Room

Tuesday, October 30th, 2007

(Reprinted from last year, with some editing)

I’ve got a lot of music in my ol’ iTunes Library — well approaching 3,000 songs — and in the spirit of Halloween, I have assembled a short playlist of the very, very best creepy songs I’ve ever come across (but you probably haven’t).

The Poor Clares - Resurrected LoverFirst off, we have “Lover’s Last Chance”, by a little-known Celtic group from New Orleans called The Poor Clares. It starts off sounding just a bit cheesy, as the singer goes on about Halloween night and “werewolves a-howlin'”, but it quickly takes a turn for the dark, moving to a haunting ghost story and… well, give it a listen and tell me if it doesn’t give you the creeps.

The album is called Resurrected Lover, and though it may be a bit hard to find, it seems they pop up on eBay and the like from time to time. Get going in time for next year! If you like good Celtic music, one of the singers, Beth Patterson, has released some other albums that are available as well.

Note: The Poor Clares’ rendition isn’t available online that I could find, but another singer’s version is on iTunes. I like the Clares’ version much better, as the haunting background vocals really make the song.

Kate Rusby - HourglassNext off is I Am Stretched On Your Grave, as performed by Kate Rusby.

Creepiest. Song. Evar.

No, really. If Edgar Allan Poe had been a songwriter, this would have topped his greatest hits. It’s a traditional Celtic song (what is it with those Irish makin’ wit’ the creepy, anyway?), and it has been performed by others before, but this rendition really takes the cake, with a minimal rhythmic drive carrying you along down a very dark road. The only thing a bit odd about this song is that it is a woman singing what is lyrically clearly a man’s “role” in the story, but that’s easily ignored. it’s from her album Hourglass. Go get it! (link is above)

Third in the list is yet another Celtic tune (funny, when I started this post I hadn’t realized the common source of these three songs — the sound of them is different enough that they are far from sounding alike!) called “She Moved Thro The Fair”. Finbar Wright - A Tribute to John McCormackThis one is performed by Finbar Wright (former member of Irish Tenors) on his album A Tribute to John McCormack. There are several versions of this song out there, but again, rendition means a lot when looking for the truly creepy song. The interesting thing about this one is that it can sneak up on you. It’s entirely possible to hear this one several times before it suddenly hits you what happens in it — the lyrics are clear but subtle, in a way sure to appeal to fans of ghost stories.

Sting - The Dream of the Blue TurtlesLet us not forget Sting’s “Moon Over Bourbon Street“. A song written by Sting, inspired by Interview With The Vampire. ‘Nuff Said.

Okay, okay, okay I’ve got a bonus song for you. You’ve all heard this one, you just didn’t realize how creepy it is.

First, it’s story time:

A man comes home late one night to find his wife murdered, lying in a spreading pool of her own blood. He actually catches the killer in the act! There is a struggle, during which he clearly sees the man’s face, but the man overpowers him and escapes into the night. The police never catch him.

Years pass. The man never really recovers from his wife’s horrible death, or the thought that he was so close to catching the bastard who did it. That face — those eyes — are seared into his memory.

Late one cold winter evening he is walking at night when he hears faint cries for help in the distance. He follows the voice, and comes to a frozen lake, where someone has broken through a thin patch in the ice. The man runs toward the lake, grabbing a fallen branch along the way that he can use to help the man trapped in the icy waters. He gets to the edge of the ice, and slowly starts to work his way out closer to the man struggling desperately for purchase on the slippery edge of the hole. Suddenly he stops.

He knows that face.

He knows intimately the face of the man in the water. He has seen it exactly once before and will never forget it. After standing there for a moment, watching the man reach out to him from the freezing water, he turns and makes his way back to the shore and drops the branch, then turns and sits down.

..and watches.

Now go listen to Phil Collin’s In the Air Tonight. It will never be the same song again.

Happy Halloween.

Copywrong

Wednesday, October 24th, 2007

Jeff comments on a recent kerfuffle in which a Fox affiliate station in Texas did an “ambush” report on a gun owner. The video has been making the rounds in blogs, and the station has since tried very hard to clamp down on it — threatening legal action against people who show or distribute it. He states:

Claiming that ?they?re trying to send it down the memory hole? or saying that ?this is the video they don?t want you to see? utterly fails to justify your act of theft.

When you make a copy of that video, you?re stealing the television station?s property. Just as surely as you would be if you broke into their studio and stole the videotape.

I think there’s a distinction here, Jeff.

Fox was doing a report on gun owners. In the process, the report itself became news. People aren’t distributing this for the subject of the report (that is, guns), but because of the manner in which it was reported.

I see this entirely as fair use. If I post an appropriate clip of the video and talk about my opinion of their “ambush”, I am reporting about Fox itself.

“Here’s a report about gun control” would be stealing it. “Look at how they did this report” is fair use. Yes, context does matter. Invoking copyright to cover up something you did wrong doesn’t fly — or shouldn’t.

It reminds me a bit of Scientologists copyrighting their sacred texts, and then suing the crap out of anybody who says anything publicly about them. (Because to comment on them you actually have to show them to someone, and that violates their copyright….) (And as a side note: any religion that jealously hides what exactly it is they worship is deserving of suspicion.)

The NFL has (or had) a disclaimer on their broadcasts that claimed that (among other things) restating the events of the broadcast without permission was prohibited by copyright law. This is legally absurd, as you cannot copyright an event. That is, you can’t copyright something that happened. A law professor made a short documentary commenting on the legal absurdity of that disclaimer, and showed the disclaimer itself. They immediately sued her for copyright violation, for having shown the copyright statement.

In the United States, copyright is, legally speaking, not there for the sake of the creators directly, but for the good of society in advancing the creation of creative works.

Showing that newsclip might not be good for Fox’s business, but not for reasons covered by copyright. It’s bad because it harms their reputation, not because it steals their creative effort.

Or to put it another way, copyright is there so that creators can have the benefit of their creation, not so they can hide from their actions.

Triple Negative

Friday, October 19th, 2007

The following headline caught my eye in the Chicago Tribune this morning:

House Fails to Foil Health Care Veto

It took me a couple seconds to figure out if the bill passed or not!

Anti-anti-theism

Monday, October 8th, 2007

The following is an open letter to James Taranto, in response to the item “Self-Chosen People” in the October 3, 2007 issue of the “Best of the Web” newsletter, which is distributed by the Wall Street journal:

Dear Mr. Taranto,

I understand that the loud ones are the ones who make the news, but I wish you would stop labeling people such as [Richard] Dawkins simply as “atheists”. It is an act akin to pointing to a televangelist and saying, “that’s what Christians are like.”

While Dawkins is certainly an atheist, he makes the news because he is, more specifically, an anti-theist. Atheists do not believe in God. Anti-theists actively fight against religion. There is a rather large distinction between those two.

Through the Internet, (especially blogs) I have come to know a great number of highly intelligent and reasoned atheists. Steven Den Beste, who has been published in the Wall Street Journal, comes to mind. (You can see examples of his writing at <http://denbeste.nu/bestof.shtml>.) Dawkins and his ilk are more prominent as atheists because atheism itself is a crusade for them. The vast majority of us are quite content to let people believe what they choose to believe. As such, we remain largely invisible.

Sincerely,

Stephen Rider

[Update:

Taranto responds! Via email:

It seems I myself am a "celebrity atheist":
http://www.celebatheists.com/?title=James_Taranto

So it appears I'm preaching to the choir?]

Hillary’s Baby Buyout

Friday, October 5th, 2007

This just in: Hillary has yet another remarkable new plan to redistribute wealth:

WASHINGTON (AP) – Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton said Friday that every child born in the United States should get a $5,000 “baby bond” from the government to help pay for future costs of college or buying a home.

…or a car, or a kewl new stereo, or to party like a rockstar for about five minutes. Handing something to somebody does not teach them responsibility. In fact, getting something for nothing generally promotes irresponsibility.

Oh, and is it safe for me to assume that “every child born in the United States” includes those born to people who are here illegally? Hey, we’ve got a problem — let’s encourage more of it!

The New York senator did not offer any estimate of the total cost of such a program or how she would pay for it. Approximately 4 million babies are born each year in the United States.

Well, lessee… four million births times five thousand dollars is twenty billion dollars. Every year. Forever. Oh wait, my bad. The birth rate does tend to rise over time….

Clinton said such an account program would help Americans get back to the tradition of savings that she remembers as a child,

You know, the way Social Security taught everybody to save for their own retirement? The way Welfare taught the poor how to get themselves out of poverty? Just like that.

and has become harder to accomplish in the face of rising college and housing costs.

And five seconds after the law is passed, the Democrats will suddenly realize that it won’t provide enough money to entirely pay for college, or a house, and immediately decry how it therefore exploits the poor and subsidizes the rich (See also: school vouchers). Naturally the amount will have to a) be raised enough to pay entirely for college, and b) taken away from the eeeevil rich folks who don’t need it anyway, and c) clearly this awful disparity is all the Republicans’ doing, as it’s all about them buying votes from Big Corporations (‘cuz, y’know, corporations can vote), and the principled pure-as-the-morning-dew Democrats must stop these destructive politics.

She argued that wealthy people “get to have all kinds of tax incentives to save, but most people can’t afford to do that.”

Actually, I’m impressed. I didn’t realize Hillary supported the Fair Tax!

“I think it’s a wonderful idea,” said Rep. Stephanie Stubbs Jones, an Ohio Democrat who attended the event and has already endorsed Clinton. “Every child born in the United States today owes $27,000 on the national debt, why not let them come get $5,000 to grow until their [sic] 18?”

Yeah, you moron. Now every kid will owe $32,000 on the national debt. Or did you imagine that the money would magically appear out of thin air? If somebody owes me five dollars, it makes no sense to loan them five more dollars so they can pay back the first loan.

This proposal is two things to me:

  1. One of the dumbest political proposals of my lifetime, and
  2. The most blatant attempt to purchase votes I have ever encountered

…unless of course you’re a politician who is far more interested in your own personal power than in actually doing some good for the country; in which case it all makes perfect sense.

Hati Tip: Space4Commerce

[Update: From YoungGoGetter: "She says it will help Americans get back into the swing of ?savings?. I think it will get Americans back into the swing of abusing government funds." A-Yup.]

Thatsch Funny

Friday, October 5th, 2007

There’s a website out there called Woot.com, and what they do is sell one product a day at a big discount. At midnight, there’s a new product.

The product descriptions are usually pretty humorous — the admen at Woot are clever guys. But today’s description had me laughing. The product? A set of Klipsch speakers. Here is an excerpt — I defy you to go read the whole thing out loud and not laugh….

Scho, I wasch lischening to some muschic lascht Schaturday, schpeschifically the dischco schtylingsch of K.Schee. and the Schunschine Band, and it schounded to me like schomething wasch misching. ?Where?sch the bassch?? I aschked myschelf. ?Thisch schoundsch like schlop. How am I schupposched to dansch to thisch? I schupposche it?sch time to schpend a little schcratch on schome new schpeakersch.? I had alscho notisched that the schound left a little schomething to be deschired when I wasch watching moviesch.

Unbeknownscht to me, my life wasch about to change. For on that day, I was introdusched to the Klipsch Schynergy EschLXch Scheriesch Schpeakersch.

Schusch schound! Schusch schtyling!

Some how this really tickled my sense of the absurd.

For the Life of Suzy?

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2007

Jeff writes an impassioned plea for support of a new proposed law: The Suzanne Gonzales Suicide Prevention Act of 2007. Suzanne (“Suzy”) was a 19-year-old girl who committed suicide in 2003, having been essentially manipulated into doing so by members of an Internet message board. Jeff wrote about it at the time: The Shape of Days.

The bill, in Jeff’s words, is:

H.R. 940, the Suzanne Gonzales Suicide Prevention Act of 2007. It?s not a long piece of legislation. The bill, if passed, would make it a crime to knowingly use the Internet to teach someone or help someone to commit suicide.

I know where Jeff is coming from in supporting this. I very much believe in promoting a “culture of life” — I’m strongly pro-life/anti-abortion, for example. I’ve been reading Jeff’s stuff and commenting for a long time now, and I respect the man, but I’m a little wary of this. I’m not even playing “devil’s advocate” here — I don’t know on which side I stand.

A few things to think about:

  1. What happened to Suzy was horrible, but it’s a particular instance. Passing laws from that one story reminds me of Democrats pushing their latest socialist schemes by trotting out some poor hapless granny who’s eating dogfood. Laws based on tugged heartstrings are generally not the best, in the long run.
  2. Part of the nature of the Internet is that it can easily serve as an echo chamber. This can be good or bad, but generally I think limiting ideas is more bad than good.
  3. Suzy hit the wrong site at the wrong time, and the “echo” she got was horrible. What the people there did was wrong, but I think the law takes the wrong approach by silencing discussion of suicide (yes, even “how to” discussion).
  4. What, specifically, is the point of this law being limited to the Internet? Speech is speech, and incitement is incitement. Arguments related to what’s done on the Internet would also apply to what’s done in person, or on the phone, or…. I’m also wary of any law that specifies a particular technology, because they tend to do weird things years down the road when technology changes in ways the lawmakers didn’t (and couldn’t) foresee. [Update: Upon reading the text of the bill, I note that it does not specify the technology, but instead refers to "any facility of interstate or foreign commerce". This makes sense for jurisdictional purposes, but, it should be pointed out, includes "facilities" such as roads.]
  5. It is currently illegal to directly incite somebody to violence with words. If I get somebody riled up and convince them to go kick someone’s ass, and the attackee gets killed, _I_ can be held responsible. Perhaps a better solution would be a slightly modified version of this. Directly inciting suicide (self-violence) to somebody who otherwise likely would not have done so should be illegal. For that matter, do the existing laws against inciting violence apply to violence against the “attacker’s” own person?

Suzy was a 19 year old girl. Teenagers are emotionally vulnerable as it is, and these vultures swooped in. But what about the 50-year-old who decides to take his own life? Not an impulse decision, but a considered decision? Our society basically assumes that any person who desires death is… what… insane? At the least, “wrong”. I’m… uncomfortable with this assumption being automatic for all cases.

Preying on the emotionally vulnerable is wrong, and it’s legitimate for the law to step in. But as one of Jeff’s commenters points out, this law allows for no gray area.

[Update: I originally stated that her age was 13. Jeff informs that she was 19. Corrected text above.]