Friday, April 23, 2004

Dirty Text.

ASCII Art Ensemble - deep.ASCII

Thought of this one as a naughty site *after* my column was sent to print this week -- it's a complete remake of the classic adult film "Deep Throat" done entirely in ASCII.

It's crazy hard on the eyes. If you manage to watch this all the way to the end, you've clearly got some pretty messed up fetishes. Which is, you know...different strokes for different folks and all that.

Would I have included this in my column if I had remembered it in time? I guess we'll never know...

Oh, it's worth noting that this requires a Java enambled browser. I only mention this because Java seems to be buggered up on my own browser right now, so I guess I'll have to live with text-based pornography for awhile longer.

C'est la vie.

Saturday, April 17, 2004

Once you've had a free lunch, it's hard to justify paying for it ever again.

Napster debuted five years ago, in 1999.

For those of you not around for Napster's initial appearance, it wasn't the pay-to-download service that it is today. When it first appeared in 1999, it was one of the first peer-to-peer file sharing applications available.

Unlike Kazaa, on which you can find, not only music, but movies and applications and more viruses than you can shake a stick at, Napster focused solely on the music, taking advantage of the newly developed MP3 format that allowed people to shrink their digital audio files to about a tenth of their uncompressed size.

This made the files much, much, much easier to illegally download over the Internet.

Obviously, a lot of people thought this was a pertty cool idea. And started downloading the files. Lots of them.

Obviously, the US recording industry wasn't thrilled with the whole thing, and promptly sued the freaking be-jesus out of Napster. After a short but valiant struggle, Napster collapsed, disappearing from the face of the 'Net until it's reappearance last year as a legal, pay-to-play MP3 download service.

Not that Napster's demise had *any* affect on music downloading. It's death simply meant the appearance of more applications. AudioGalaxy, Gnutella, eventually the Kazaa that we know and love/loathe today (depending on how you feel about popups and spyware).

The lawsuits are still being flung around, because the RIAA doesn't like the idea of people getting their music for free. And that's a fair complaint. But the thing they never really got was that, even in 1999, it wasn't solely about getting free music. It was about getting *digital* music.

People wanted small, portable MP3 files that they could store on their computers (with their rapidly expanding storage space) instead of dozens or even hundreds of CDs, cluttered around their office / living room / study / wherever-the-heck-you-decide-to-put-your-computer. And as much as Napster might not have been the legal way to do it, it was, unfortunately, the *only* way to do it.

Even if you wanted to pay the recording industry a buck or two to be able to download a song legally, you couldn't. And it took years before you could.

They were more interested in filing lawsuits than they were in providing a legal alternative for digital music. That was a mistake. A big mistake.

The only real big-name options for legally downloading music -- Apple's iTunes and the newly legalized version of Napster -- appeared just last year. That's four years of people getting used to eating a free lunch. Now you expect them to pay just because you're asking nicely?

Don't hold your breath.

On top of that, if you want to run either Napster or iTunes, you'll need a computer running at least Windows 2000 or Windows XP. Windows 98 won't cut it.

Any particular reason why not? Windows 98 runs Kazaa just fine.

So, if you're running Windows 98, you can choose to either download music for free, or spend $250 to upgrade your computer so that you can download songs at $.99 apiece. Which is makes more financial sense to you?

Here in Canada, even if you *do* have Win2K or XP, you're going to have to move south of the border if you want to use either service. Napster won't run at all in Canada, and iTunes -- while you can open it up and do music searches and listen to 30 second clips of the songs you're looking for -- won't sell you a song until you have a US mailing address.

Pardon my language, but...what the fuck?

Are you planning on shipping me the MP3? Were you going to send it to me on CD, maybe? Or print it out in binary so that I could turn around and retype the song into my own personal computer?

Who the bloody hell cares where I live? It's a stupid digital song, made up of stupid 1s and 0s, that I can download in less than a minute over a high speed connection. Now just goddamn send it to me!

Five years since Napster invented the music disitribution method of the 21st century, and the music industry executives still don't have it figured out.

It's no wonder that people are still happily scarfing down their free lunches...

Sunday, April 11, 2004

I am he as you are he as you are me.

Which would be more pompous...

To assume that I am the only who feels this way?

Or to assume that everyone does?

PS: Happy Easter

Saturday, April 10, 2004

Are you there, God? It's me, Manuel.

Okay, let me explain why I think the whole notion of "prayer requests" is completely absurd.

First off, we'll have to assume that God actually exists. Because if he doesn't, then prayers of any kind become automatically absurd, and thatmakes my argument far too easy, but it also wouldn't be convincing in any way to those who *do* believe in God.

So, first off, we assume that God exists. Okay?

And we're going to also assume that praying actually has the potential to alter someone's fate. If I'm dying of cancer -- hypothetically -- then we can assume that there's a chance, even a slim one, that the power of prayer alone can push that cancer into remission and allow me to live a long and healthy life.

Now, if I pray all by myself, maybe nothing happens. Either because God doesn't hear me, or because he thinks I'm being selfish for asking to live, or...whatever, he's God, I'm sure he has his reasons.

But if a whole bunch of people who've never met me and know absolutely nothing about me pray for me, *then* God will listen and grant their wishes.


Doesn't it seem likely that God -- and remember, we are assuming that he exists -- would take into consideration where the prayers were coming from? I mean, if I use someone who's never met me before as a personal reference on my resume, it's going to have very little bearing on whether or not I get the job. And if someone who doesn't know anything about me, and about whom I know nothing about, is praying on my behalf...isn't God going to kind of wonder why? And why would I count those person's prayers? How does that person praying know that I'm worth praying for? Is he doing it just to be a nice guy? And is that enough of a reason to have God change his mind about whether or not I should die of cancer?

Of course not.

It's absurd to think that a prayer is going to have more *oomph* just because 200 people who know absolutely nothing about me pray for me at the same time. It's like you're trying to trick God into granting your prayers, fool him into agreeing to it just by the sheer power of the numbers you have supporting you, and not because there's any actual reason to grant those prayers.

As I've said a few times, absurd.

Saturday, April 03, 2004

Science, religion, cheeseburgers.

I was supposed to write something about science and religion today, because I didn't do it yesterday, but then a kind soul commented on that very column over at MyCariboo which, yes, prompted a response from me, and now I'm not sure how much more I have to say about the topic.

I guess the thing is this. In a nutshell.

Some days, I look out at the world and think that it's absolutely monstrous that some have convinced themselves that all of this -- all this brilliance and beauty in the world, in the universe, the very fact that any of us exist as all, that we exist as we do -- could have all just happened accidently.

Do I think there's a creator? Yes, I do. Do I know his name or what he looks like? No, I don't. Do I think I have to go to any particular church or recite any particular prayer in order to get on his good side? No, I don't. Do I think that any particular organization of religious intent has all the answers? No, I dont.

Does that mean the answers are unreachable? No, not necessarily.

It's my belief -- and this may be either naive or overly-optimistic, or even both -- that there answers out there to the questions we seek. I think if we work at it, we can find them. I also think that we'll find them a lot faster of stop worrying about labels. As I said in the column, does it really matter that much if science happens to stumble across something that feels a little too much like religion? Would it really be the end of the world, say, if a religion decided to shift around its central belief system in order to accept the existence of something like the dinosaurs?

I think we're too stuck on making sure our science stays scientific and our religion stays dogmatic to ever really get to the heart of things.

Which is too bad, really. Because that assumes that it's more important to be sure that you're asking the question in the right way than it is to actually find the answer.

And I just don't believe that.

Friday, April 02, 2004

Well, slap me with a pancake and call me Earl.

Tony Pierce linked me today. Which is not only incredibly generous of him, but it's also -- without a doubt -- the coolest moment of this young blog's life.

I only wish that, you know, I had some slightly more interesting content kicking around here when he dropped by. Kind of embarassing, really...

I should have posted something about science and religion today, but I didn't. Look for it tomorrow.

Thursday, April 01, 2004

Naked Canadians are the best kind.

Raymi is Canadian. She doesn't post to her blog with anywhere near the regularity that Tony Pierce does. When she does, it's sometimes incoherent, it's sometime beautiful, and it sometimes contains half-naked photos of her. This is not a bad thing.

Happy April Fool's Day.

April Fool's Day Gallery