Redding: Day 40

I hope I can have more posts as brief yet detailed as this one. There will be a Day 26 to 39 post, but I’m in a mood to share and don’t want to be brought down by the silly notion that I have to do this in order.

Balloons

We’ve had balloons in our house for three days now, absconded from a party on Friday night. They floated on today, and Jesse (my brother) had the awesome idea to release them from their ribboned bondage and let them loose.

This led to fifteen minutes of light headed blowing and waving things trying to move the balloons from different distances and positions, a series of trials taken on largely by himself; with me watching. Then the even better idea of using the fan to do all the heavy air lifting, with him guiding the balloons to continuous bouts of buffeting.

The funniest part was he left the fan on and balloons near it, so throughout the day you’d hear something akin to people skulking about your house, when really it was the balloons. What fun.

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Soup!

I endeavoured to make soup from scratch today, it took way longer than expected, and looks like someone yacked a three bean salad into a pot, see below:

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It’s a thirteen bean soup with kale. It actually tastes way better than it looks, and will nourish me well. I’ve wanted to make soup from scratch for a long time, about a year now. This a promising start!

Man Up Mondays

You may have noticed in that pitiful excuse for a picture of a balloon being hit by a fan that Jesse was looking like one dapper catch (ladies…). According to Sam Mondays are ‘Man Up Mondays’; where men, of this house, think back to a classier time and dress like the dapperest of sirs. I enjoyed the excuse:

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Somebody get me a monocle!

Sam is home now, Jesse’s showing him the balloon basics, still like a sir:

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Online Piracy, One Commodore’s Opinion

Yo ho ho and all that nonsense,

In this post I’ll be talking about the sharing of information and media, principally music, movies, and television. This is not a tips and tricks guide to getting what you want without paying; it’s my observations on society’s reactions to piracy, industry’s reactions, some historical examples of similar issues, and the effects of piracy on the average pirate. That’s a lot to cover, so let’s jump in.

What is piracy?

For the purposes of this post, we’ll define piracy in a general sense: the sharing or duplication of material with others without the consent of the creator of that material. Creator includes whoever has distribution rights of the material since, consent passes to them. So, this post is not pirated, Netflix is not pirated, but any movie, episode of TV, or song you download without paying for is, 99.9999% of the time, pirated material.

Piracy Is Not New

Remember VCRs? Watching those christmas specials and fast forwarding through the commercials? How about recording your favourite songs off of the radio on a casette tape? Well technically, that’s piracy folks. The movie and to a lesser extent the music industry were not happy with these developments at all, as we’ll see soon.

Some History (Heavily Paraphrased)

We live in a capitalist society. That means to live you need to have money, and if you are a creator of things, be it paintings, sculpture, film, photos, music, or something else, you need to be paid for what you create (this will be covered further in my upcoming post on creativity).

Two hundred years ago, if you wanted to hear music, it was live. In my opinion far more people had a reason to learn an instrument, if for no other reason than to entertain themselves. Almost every public establishment had some form of musician, from saloons to high class restaurants to hotel lobbies. At this point, movies haven’t been invented, so plays and *overly dramatic british voice*, “the theeahtorr,” are the equivalent. And software or games? You hired people to make life easier I suppose.

Let’s jump ahead to the industrial revolution. Inventions are sprouting up everywhere that are threatening the livelihoods of artisans by making them obsolete. As an example, Singer’s sewing machines received a tremendous backlash from the seamstress and tailor communities since his product had the potential to put over 90% into early retirement (the fastest seamstress could do 40-50 stitches per minute, while Singer’s machine could do 900). Personally I can’t think of a world without sewing machines, and am grateful that I can clothe myself so affordably. I do regret that I can’t get a hand made suit like I could have in those days, but in today’s dollars I think I’d still be looking at $1000-2000.

Let’s jump again! It’s the turn of the twentieth century. Thanks to Tesla, electricity is becoming practical, and Marconi has made long distance wireless communication possible. Edison is on the scene, and his inventions are really shaking things up. He’s invented a device for recording music and another for recording video. Interestingly, there was a backlash from sheet music publishers who were worried that Edison’s recording device would put them out of business.

More importantly, film is born, and it’s so expensive that to actually produce it as mass media huge investments are required. I can’t do this topic justice, so if you want more information check this guy out. Point is Hollywood ended up owning the way movies are made. The world today sees movies that titillate and appeal to our baser instincts for the sake of profit. More about that later.

Radio befalls a similar fate. Eventually radio moves from being something where you put a pole on a hill and you have a radio station, to a regulated system to costly to run without sponsorship. Regulation here boiled down to having to pay to use specific frequency bands to broadcast over an area (e.g. AM 940). In theory, this makes tons of sense and I agree with it. The problem starts when sponsors want to maximize their listener base, which leads to our modern day ‘Pop’, ‘Best of the 80s, 90s and now!’, ‘Classic Rock’, ‘Oldies’, and ‘Public Radio’ stations. Unless you live in a city with over one million people, you’ll be lucky to have stations dedicated to Classical, Jazz, Indie, Alternative, Techno, Electronica, Metal, or World; because it simply isn’t profitable.

Alright, I’m going to skip the software part of piracy, but suffice it to say that from the birth of the internet free sharing has been a philosophical idea people have made their camp in.

Present Day

Today, we can already see the effects piracy has had on the industry. In 2009, the movie Avatar revived 3D, a technology still largely exclusive to theaters. Companies make most of their money, and all of their budgeting decisions on ticket sales. 3D allowed theaters to stay a step ahead of home theaters, for a time at least.

Another effect besides technology is massive declines in cost. CDs cost a fraction of what they used to, and now you can rent movies in HD online for just four dollars. Software is cheaper too. Apple’s OS X Lion sold for $30, and it’s newest Mountain Lion is selling for $20. Compare this to Tiger (2005) which had an MSRP of $130. I can assure you that the software didn’t cost 75% less to create, but Apple recognizes that in a world where spending nothing to 99 cents on a program is normal, $130 isn’t going to work.

Societal Perspectives on Piracy

Generally, people believe piracy is wrong; and generally people think speeding is wrong. When I was in college I earned a reputation as a man who could ‘get things’. You want the second season of Captain Planet? Done. You want the original version of Ghost in the Shell (Kôkaku kidôtai) in the original Japanese, and in HD? You got it. A set of acoustic recordings of Sigur Rós? My pleasure. People asked me because I could do it, and because they wanted to distance themselves from the affair. I got a kick out of it.

Most of the things I dug up in those days were so obscure they didn’t exist anywhere else. Only because some guy in Sweden had a copy on his computer could I too take in these pieces of entertainment. Of course there were the more common things like current American television shows, but that was played off as ‘well I would have watched it on TV, but I was busy at the time.’ If it wasn’t for piracy, I don’t think TiVO, and later PVRs, would have become as ubiquitous as they are today.

Why I Like Being A Pirate

There are many reasons, but here are a few:

  • I have opinions regarding music/film that can be backed up. I have watched over 700 movies by now, some were real gems, and most I never would have seen due to availability. I’m not saying it would have been impossible for me to watch ‘Funny Face’ with Audrey Hepburn, just that I would not have marked my calendar for the once in a year time it’s on TV, or mail ordered the Audrey Hepburn collection in hopes that it would be good. Music follows a similar pattern.
  • People can rely on me to advise them on movies. I like being able to help people. I like saving them money. I like telling them that ‘Fast 5’ or ‘Expendables 2’ are not worth it, but maybe ‘Where Eagles Dare’, ‘The Great Escape’, or ‘Predators’ are (for their tastes).
  • I know when I’m being conned: The music industry doesn’t want you to know about any music they aren’t selling. Hipsters are the first to say that, albeit condescendingly. Now getting your music out there is easy enough for anyone to do. The number of styles are as numerous as there are people making it. But I digress.
  • I wouldn’t be who I am today: Every time I learn a new computer language, I used pirated software. Assignments from school, same. Music I’m listening to? Also pirated. Almost everything on my computer, with the notable exception of video games and the operating system itself, was not paid for.

The behaviour I’m modeling has forced dramatic shifts in the way media is produced and distributed. It’s led to crowd funded television, free CD promotions for live shows, and (one day) a better enriched public.

Imagine a world where movies had to be innovative and original, where endless sequels would stop and TV shows wouldn’t make money after 7 seasons (it’s rare outside of America for shows to run as long as they do, with the notable exceptions of Dr. Who and Japanese shows based on popular manga series). This is the kind of world I want to live in, when I hear that Fast & Furious 6 is coming out next year, my heart sinks. We can do better! Inform yourselves, and then:

Use that information to vote with your money. It’s capitalism so that’s how they react, to money. Don’t wait for DVD, don’t wait for the dollar theater after the accountants stop caring. If you want to see more awesome stuff, pay for it. I know this seems like a sudden switch from all the free talk I was making earlier, but I want to be clear. I pay for videogames, especially from indie developers. I pay for concerts and performances, and I pay for tickets to the big theater experiences. These are the things I believe are worthwhile and we need more of. That’s why I’m voting for them. And if it wasn’t for piracy, and pirates, and this guy again, I never would have known any of this.

Closing Thoughts

So really I’ve only scratched the surface. But we’re talking about seven years of personal experience and over a century of deeply mixed social, economic, and political history. Piracy will never go away entirely, it will continue to cost companies money, but never so much that they will all fail. Hopefully, people will regain an appreciation for live music since it’s somewhat scarce, and musicians can find money there, doing what they love. Hopefully, people will go to the movies, but wait to see cookie cutter style film on DVD, because they aren’t worth it.

Ultimately, piracy is a threat to a norm, just as sewing machines, phonographs, the radio, and VCRs were threats to seamstresses, musicians, newspapers, and theaters. But in time norms shift, and society adjusts to accommodate it, as we’ve begun to see with digital distribution, the removal of DRM, and the plummeting prices of songs, film, and software.

Acknowledgements

I have to thank my friend Andrew ‘Birchy’ Birchall for introducing me to electronic music, it changed my life. While I’ll never sit on the bleeding edges of the genre with him, I can enjoy the more mature, collected work produced later.

I also have to thank Bob ‘MovieBob’ Chipman, for his extensive insights on Hollywood. MovieBob is a movie critic for The Escapist and also has a weekly show entitled ‘The Big Picture‘ which I linked to twice in this post and discusses topics surrounding pop culture, the internet, movies, comic books, television, and whatever else crosses his mind.

Redding: Days 1 to 25

Dearest Canada,

I hope this letter finds you well. I write from Redding, in the American state of California. The weather is dry and the heat relents only with the setting of the sun. Curiously, the lawns are greener than any I’ve seen for such weather, and even ooze water in the mornings.  The people here are a curious folk, not rude or unfriendly as some of the rumours would have you believe, but sociable, kind, and generally pleasant.

I’ve seen lizards and some deer since I’ve come here, do you still see deer often? Write back soon, Dave.

Ok, so I thought doing this post as a war letter might be funny, way harder than expected. I also wanted to use the name Caroline, not sure why, but figured that would draw too much attention to itself.

So, my highly anticipated (mostly by me) post on life at Bethel in Redding. I’ve been putting this off mostly out of business, though I’ll confess, also out of a worry that I won’t say what I want to correctly. Well, here goes.

For those of you who are unaware of the purpose of my presence out west, it’s twofold. First, to rekindle my relationship with God; and second, to find the next step on the path of life. These purposes are very much intertwined, and I rejoice in the progress already made. I’m attending the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry, with a strong emphasis on the supernatural. In this post and future ones I’ll chip away at this with examples, but for now picture impossible things made possible through the power of God and the faith of his people.

Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry, referred to simply as BSSM, is a school that grows character, identity, helps you grow in your relationship with God, and cultivates a hunger for revival in the world through building a culture of people ready to go for God. BSSM is associated with Bethel Church here in Redding, California. Bethel also has satellite campuses in a number of cities across the US.

For a moment I’d like to touch on what I mean by ‘growing identity.’ This is probably the single most tangible change people see in the day-to-day life of a Bethel student or graduate. The best way I can define it is like this: does the expression “everyone has baggage” sound familiar? Well it shouldn’t. When your identity in Christ as a son or daughter of the King, literally a prince or princess, is solid, you don’t have baggage. Is it always solid? No, of course not. But it’s an achievable goal, and certainly one worth pursuing. Since I’ve been here, I’ve seen dozens, possibly hundreds of people, get a lot closer to this objective, including myself.

My experience at BSSM has been fantastic so far, in case that wasn’t already obvious. The atmosphere in Redding is one of hope, people are positive, and the locals I speak with seem to have an awareness of the US’s dodgy position from a social, education, and economic standpoint. Election fever hasn’t hit yet, but I’ll give that two weeks.

The weather here is hot, no lies. It was 35 degrees today (Celsius, all units on this blog are assumed to follow Canadian conventions unless otherwise stated, generally metric). Our house is lovely, furnished, and visited; which is my favourite. I live with my youngest brother Jesse, of 20 years, and two of his friends in 2nd year at BSSM: Dylan Gross, my roommate, and Samuel Basden, his roommate. Despite the fact that Sam, Jesse, and I are all from Canada, everyone one in the house is an American citizen, free to work, and vote, in the US.

We live a brisk twenty-five minute walk from the Civic centre, where first year classes are held, and thirty minutes from Caldwell park, where Jesse and I play ultimate frisbee. Our housing complex also features a lovely pool which I had the pleasure of frequenting twice today. I find my level of physical activity has skyrocketed since I arrived. I’ve gone hiking four times in the last ten days, ranging from one to ten miles in a day. I’ve seen fumaroles, mud pots, boiling springs, and cyan lakes at Lassen Volcanic National Park (Bumpass Hell & Terminal Geyser specifically). Every day I get to walk for an hour to get to school and back, I dance on Saturdays at the Rec Center (Salsa last month, East Coast Swing for October!), and I play ultimate on Wednesdays and Fridays.

I’ve quickly discovered that reading for school needs to be taking a higher precedence than it currently is, with my readings behind by a week more than I’d like. I would call the time well spent though, I’ll just have to spend it even better.

Well, that’s all I care to comment on for the moment. I have no desire to write monolithic posts, so I’ll have to update again soon to share more. I hope this post helped to shed some light on what I’ve been up to with a minimum of tedium and am excited to write more!

Bit of admin: Just added a new, and in my opinion better, theme for the site. When I figure out how to add pictures to posts, I likely will.

Comments appreciated!