Monday, August 29, 2005

Movie industry needs help

As the entertainment industries work (music, movie, software, etc.) on blaming other's for their money problems, the whole story isn't ever given. This is going to pick on the movie industry. While movie watching in theaters has declined, DVD and satellite sales have brought in a nice and tidy sum, and is growing.

Nonetheless, profits are not as high as the suits want. Why is that? Pirates distributing movies for free? The theater-going experience isn't as good as it used to be, with cell phones and the such?

There is a theory (and it is a theory) that a certain level of piracy is good for business, and can be considered free promotion. True or no, piracy levels have not been reduced, despite all the legal efforts. Perhaps the answer doesn't even lie in that direction. The truth seems to be that moviegoers are finally realizing that movies aren't that good.

We, the public, are starting to figure out that sequel after sequel, remakes of bad TV shows and just bad stories and acting with lots of explosions do not make good movies (I mean, who really thought we needed a Dukes of Hazards or Charlie's Angels made into movies?). Oh, there are still the occasional good movies coming out, but very little that gets us excited. The New York Times seems to agree with me.

I love movies and always have. In fact, I buy more movies that CD's. Sadly, I can get good movies for cheaper than a CD, and have a better return investment for my money. But I can't stand to see all the garbage coming out now. The entertainment industries all seem to think they can forever foist garbage on the public and get away with it. I can't wait till they realize that the world has changed, for the better. Maybe movies will finally get better.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

The good and bad of technology

Anyone who has talked to me or read my old blog knows that I am not fond of RFID tags. However, I can admit that there may be good things about them. There may be ways that time and money can be saved by using these and other technological gadgets. And isn't saving time and money a good thing? Well, yes, society teaches us that these things are good. I would argue that there are higher considerations.

Technology can be wonderful and I am a happy benificiary of progress, from my computer hobby, cell phone and DVD player to the car I drive and the job I have. But technology and science have no morals on their own. It is up to individuals to impose a morality and ethics on science. For example, it is not a question of if we can clone humans (not tested but a good likelihood, at this point), but whether we should clone humans that occupies lawmakers around the world. This is not an idle topic, but something we are currently wrestling with in public dialogue (for more on the topic, read the following article).

So, what is the answer? Should we clone humans? Right now, I'm not going to touch that question. Perhaps at a later date. I bring this up to illustrate that point that science doesn't much care for ethics. Humans as individuals and as societies struggle to direct science, and sometimes cannot come up with a satisfactory answer. Look at abortion technology and the debate that has raged for years and years about that topic.

Where does this leave us with RFID tags? What morality do they have? On their own, none. However, we should not just adopt this technology without examining its impact on privacy and human dignity. I recently read a CNET article whose author feels this technology will be adopted because we are lazy people and anything to make our lives easier will be worth it. Is this true? I shudder to think it may very well be true. Would we sell ourselves to corporations and governments for the promise of an easier life? Is ease our ultimate goal in life? Frightening thought, that.

Music industry gets a clue. A small one, but a clue

Yes, it is true. At least seven years after I got turned on to digital music, available on the web, the music industry decides that they will distribute new groups songs on the web in "clusters," instead of albums. Huh.

You mean people hate buying albums for just one or two good songs? People don't like being forced to buy a product they only listen to twice so they can get the one song they want? Oh, you also mean people don't want a bulky disk to carry around when they have their Ipods and other MP3 players? Boy, am I shocked!

Seriously, I wonder who came up with this. He or she should be given a huge bonus for talking some sense into the minds of the other Warner suits. Too bad they couldn't have done this years ago.

No, this isn't about "control[ing] the means by which artists' voices are heard, but to amplify those voices." They care about artists and their needs. Money is not the issue. And I am positive that they weren't exaggerating when they said Warner is"excited by the power of digital distribution now available to every potential artist," because we have seen how excited the music labels have been before by this digital media. Not just the illegal digital distribution, but their love of even legal digital distribution.

Ok, enough sarcasm. Despite the glowing, self-congratulatory statements about how wonderful they all are, I do see this as a step in the right direction. Who knows? Maybe people will take the music industry seriously again. Maybe they will invest more in artists. Perhaps artists will see more of the profits they deserve, instead of giving it all to the "middle-man." Anyway, if you want to read more about this, go to the following BBC article:

Monday, August 22, 2005

Pictures of the Fuhrer

I grew up in parts of Bavaria, Germany, before moving to Arizona at age 10. The whole World War I and II thing has always been fascinating to me. I also grew up watching movies about those wars, which only enhanced this interest of mine. I grew to love the German people, but couldn't (and still can't) understand the atrocities they committed. How does something like that happen?

Though there is no excuse for the things that were done to Jews and other minorities, I think that most of the German people did not really understand what was happening. The average German was probably quite decent, if massively misled. Meanwhile, the worst that Germany could produce ended up in the SS. Bad combination. The average Hans over there did not take a stand when he could have. There are some examples of heroism and bravery among the common German, but too many people were willing to accept empty promises and let others do the thinking for them.

It is easy to criticize others, though. How would the United States act in a similar position? We may already be in a similar position. Misled or not, I think that any people should be willing to stand up when they see something going wrong with their government. We in the U.S. should stand up and complain until something changes, rather than sit complacently and watch TV, surf the web and go to football games because that's easier than thinking or taking action.

So, what makes a man like Hitler become a man like Hitler? We have had other tyrants in history, some quite recently, but he alone stands as a man apart in the imagination of most people. How does someone like him grab the attention of an entire nation, and ultimately, the worlds attention? I don't have an answer, but I found an article on an early interview with the man, including some early pictures. The particular article (,3605,1076455,00.html) is about the backlash of a man reproducing the original article from and issue of Homes and Gardens in 1938, but has the actual pictures available. It is very interesting to read. I hope you enjoy.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

The Patriot Act renewed

Anyone who has read my old blog will note that I am not a fan of the Patriot Act. I think it was a knee-jerk reaction to a bad situation that some power-hungry politicians used to take away many of our freedoms. Thankfully, there are people today who are willing to take a stand and complain about the more offensive portions of the bill (as opposed to just after 9/11, when no one said anything, for fear of being called unpatriotic). Unfortunately, the powers that were supposed to end have been renewed and made permanent. How convenient that there was a terrorist act somewhere in the world that we cared about (England) right before the bill was put up for a vote. In the following article from CNN, it's reported that there are no reported instances of abuse of the Patriot Act powers.
My biggest beef is this: just because they haven't been abused doesn't meant they won't be abused. True, the corallary could also be said: Just because excessive powers have been abused in the past, doesn't mean the U.S. government will abuse this power in this instance. There might be some validity to that point, but I still wonder how far we can go in trusting our politicians.
Their goals include gaining more power and getting enough votes for reelection. Are our interests really being watched for, or is it just the big business interests? I know I don't have enough money to garner attention from Washington, so I kno where I place my bet. And I know enough history to know that given a little extra power, a lot more will be taken. You could almost call it human nature, but there are some nice humans out there. Just not enough in Washington.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Psychiatry, psychology and the definition of sick

As I attend graduate school, working my way toward becoming a counseling psychologist, I feel I have learned a few things. I have also gained a little cynicism for how people are diagnosed with mental illnesses. The definition of what is mentally ill is not absolute, nor is it always reasonable. We claim to be a reasonable society, and those that are deemed "ill" are considered a "threat" to society in some way. Well, the history of psychology (and even worse, psychiatry) is such that many decisions were made for political reasons. As the winds blow, there goes the choices of the mental health professional.

It is especially interesting being a non-liberal in a currently very liberal field. I break a few expectations and get into some interesting discussions. The wind is blowing in a liberal way, right now. In the 80's, it was conservative. I am neither. So it was interesting to read this article on how the definition of mental illness has changed and is currently changing. Just remember, nothing is as cut and dried as it seems. Enjoy the article, originally appearing in the New York Times.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Utah's Mormon Population

Interesting article I saw recently, found at Utah Valley's Daily Herald. I have been out of town, so I'm only now getting to comment on it. As a Mormon, it is always interesting to see what others think about Mormons. Although I never expected to live in Utah, three years ago, I moved this sea of Latter Day Saints. The culture here is different from anywhere else I have been. For the curious, the places in which I have spent significant time include (in roughly descending order): Arizona, Germany, New York State, California, Alaska, Mexico, Washington state. Well, I have been other places, but this is a good enough list for now.

Unlike some Mormons, I welcome the day when the state of Utah does not have a religious majority of Latter Day Saints. Those who live here tend (and I'm speaking in very general terms and recognize there are exceptions to this rule) to be comfortable with their religion, because everyone else is the same. While comfortable is nice, it means that people don't try as hard, don't extend themselves, don't work at standing for what they believe. Losing that majority edge will be a great test for many Saints, but I suspect this is what this church needs to rouse its faculties in this state. Maybe, the realization that many people are moving in to Utah who need some happiness in their lives will be good for the missionary effort. Hopefully, this population shift mentioned in the article will help to reduce the levels of pride I have seen around here. Of course, I am imperfect and shouldn't judge, but I know what I see and I know hypocracy.

Anyway, I promise not to get too preachy here. I just had to comment on this article. Mormons, thy days as the majority are numbered!