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To: Prince

Dear Prince,

You don't need autotune. You're Prince.

Your fan,
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For those who feel disappointed and disillusioned by the story this weekend that President Obama was abandoning the public option, I have good news and bad news. The good news is that he hasn't reversed his position. The bad news is that his position has never been what you thought it was.

At a town hall meeting on Saturday, Obama said something he's said before - that a public health plan is not the only important part of health care reform - and the AP and the media spun it into "Obama throws public option under bus". The AP article contrasts Obama's comment this weekend to an earlier statement that doesn't actually contrast with it. In July he said that "one of the best ways to bring down costs, provide more choices and assure quality is a public option". Notice how he didn't say that a public option is the only way to achieve the goal? How he didn't say that health care reform without a public option is meaningless?

Obama thinks that a public health insurance program offered alongside private insurance is the best way to ensure all Americans can get the health care they need. However, if if health care reform without a public option makes it through Congress, he's not going to throw a tantrum and kill the bill. This is Obama's position. It hasn't changed.

President Obama still supports a public option. I don't believe he's given up on it. But other people have! And one of the best of them is Nate Silver, who explained on fivethirtyeight.com yesterday why he considers the public option unlikely to pass, what he thinks about the prospects for reform without a public option, and what to do next.
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Kate drew a 24-page, 24-hour comic, and I liked it, so I posted it on Facebook, but I still like it, so I'm telling you about it here on LiveJournal too. It's called The Parakeet Caper.

(Actually it took her 29 hours. Still pretty fast.)

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Some thoughts evoked by this rant, and dedicated, with decidedly mixed feelings, to my old colleagues at Liquid Audio:

Sometimes I read about how the major labels are just in the music business for the money, they don't really care about music, and they're oppressing the artists. Sometimes I also read that they're oppressing innovative music industry start-ups.

Okay, maybe they are, but let's be honest: Internet start-ups are in it for the money too. Not that everyone who works there is motivated purely by profit. (Label employees aren't either.) But it's the nature of business. Businesses exist to make money.

This kind of false opposition is especially bewildering when the innocent start-up is imeem or Lala (partly owned by Warner), InSound (owned wholly), or Last.fm (a CBS subsidiary). Who does anyone think anyone is fooling here? Let's not talk about Big Music vs. iTunes, either.

On the Internet we used to talk about what was happening "IRL", in real life. Then gradually we discovered that the Internet was becoming real life, and vice versa. To a great extent the Internet is no longer separate from our daily lives.

Similarly, it makes less and less sense to talk about "the music business" and "the internet music business" as separate things. It's all part of the same mess: a great swirling ocean of venality with little islands of grace.

a footnote

Apr. 20th, 2009 02:42 pm
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One final quote from The Gift, a footnote from the chapter on gender, p. 97:
In the modern world the rights that adults have in their children - male or female - normally pass away slowly from parent to child during adolescence and become fully vested in the child when he or she is ready to leave home.

If our lives are gifts to begin with, however, in some sense they are not "ours" even when we become adults. Or perhaps they are, but only until such time as we find a way to bestow them. The belief that life is a gift carries with it a corollary feeling that the gift should not be hoarded. As we mature, and particularly as we come into the isolation of being "on our own," we begin to feel the desire to give ourselves away - in love, in marriage, to our work, to the gods, to politics, to our children. And adolescence is marked by that restless, erotic, disturbing inquisition: Is this person, this nation, this work, worthy of the life I have to give?

Dr. Liar

Apr. 20th, 2009 01:41 pm
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Chapter 7 of The Gift traces a history of usury in the Judeo-Christian world (with brief visits to Islam, Aristotle, and others). In Deuteronomy, a distinction is drawn: You can charge interest to a foreigner, but not to your brother. A gift economy prevails within the tribe, and a market economy with the outside.Read more... )
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Chapter 6 of The Gift is about market economies and gift economies as "gendered". I'm mostly going to gloss over that, as it's a complex set of ideas that seems risky to summarize. But toward the end (p. 106) he talks about a continuum between market-based work - "banking, law, management, sales" - and gift labor - "social work, nursing, the creation and care of culture, the ministry".Read more... )
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Before I return The Gift (mentioned previously), I'm going to post a few more passages I liked. Here's one, from page 82:
"Academic freedom," as the term is used in the debate over commercial science, refers to the freedom of ideas, not to the freedom of individuals.... The issue arises because when all ideas carry a price, then all discussion, the cognition of the group mind, must be conducted through the mechanisms of the market which - in this case, at least - is a very inefficient way to hold a discussion. Ideas do not circulate freely when they are treated as commodities. The magazine Science reported on a case in California in which one DNA research group sought to patent a technique that other local researchers had treated as common property, as "under discussion." An academic scientist who felt his contribution had been exploited commented, "There used to be a good, healthy exchange of ideas and information among [local] researchers.... Now we are locking our doors." In a free market the people are free, the ideas are locked up.
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Over on the Tin Cat blog I wrote an open letter to a mother concerned about file sharing, one of many published today by blogging musicians around the web. Her son thinks he shouldn't pay for music because the money all goes to the label, and anyway bands make their money on touring. His mother thinks not paying for music is stealing, and anyway he's a musician and what's going to happen when he needs to make a living?

My favorite response is David J. Hahn's:
My perspective on file-sharing is probably different that you would expect. I think that your son should download every track he can find. I mean it. Download every song out there and sift through them one by one. And not just the genreā€™s he likes - but everything - Creole bandeon playing, French rap, hymns, metal, classical, South African jazz, samba - whatever he can find.
Go read his post to find out why.
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... or so I hear.

Today I got a notice from my bank that my credit line had been cut roughly in half. This is okay - I rarely buy on credit - but they said their "decision was based in part on information provided by" Equifax. That sounds like I got a bad credit rating, which sounds like something I don't want.

So I went to Equifax's web site, to see if I could get my credit report without writing a letter. I was delighted to find that they offer credit reports online, and they don't even make it hard to find! I filled out a form with some basic identifying information, and then I got this:
Read more... )
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I'm reading Lewis Hyde's The Gift, and it's great - deeper and denser than most of what I read, which is why I can't really say much about it now, except to recommend it to anyone who's interested in the creative commons or the worth and/or value of art, and to quote this tidbit (one of many I've been marking to share), from the section on Walt Whitman:
To be "enthusiastic" originally meant to be possessed by a god or inspired by a divine afflatus. The bacchants and maenads were enthusiasts, as were the prophets of the Old Testament, the apostles of the New, or, more recently, Shakers and Pentecostal Christians. Enthusiasts, having received a spirit into the body, have never been hesitant to describe their spiritual knowledge in terms of the flesh, to speak of "a sweet burning in the heart" or of a "ravished soul." Whitman is no exception....
And, a little further down:
Enthusiasm has recurrently fallen into disrepute because there have always been those who claim they are filled with the spirit when they are only full of hot air.
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Obama's tax plan will hit Silicon Valley hard, San Jose Mercury News, 2/28/2009:
President Barack Obama's tax plan, which would boost income taxes on those earning $250,000 or more a year, would affect about twice the share of taxpayers in Santa Clara County as in the state and nation.

... But high-earning valley taxpayers who have been paying the so-called alternative minimum tax may get a little break. People at the $250,000 to $400,000 income level are likely to be hit less hard by the Obama tax plan in high-tax, high property-cost states such as California, because their exposure to the AMT will be reduced as their regular tax bill rises, explained Clint Stretch, managing principal for tax policy at Deloitte in Washington, D.C.

The good news is, you are not going to get hit as hard by the taxes that the president has proposed, he said. The bad news is, they've already been hit by the AMT.
How about "The good news is, you make three hundred thousand dollars a year"? Except for one paragraph, this entire article is about how the tax plan will affect rich people.
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Screengrab from MySpace: 'Its one of the most anticipated albums of the year, now listen to Album Title exclusively on MySpace.'

I've heard Album Title is one of they're best albums to watch.
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We have five Best Americans in the house right now, and before I take The Best American Comics 2008 back to the library I wanted to write down my favorite comics from the book. And where better to write them down than in public? )
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We made/ate vegetarian dinner at Wei's house, with Jason, Wei, and Wei's friend Steph.  Tofurky, roasted vegetables, steamed brussels sprouts and spinach, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes and gravy, and apple pie.  Jokes were made, cards were played.  I didn't have high hopes for Thanksgiving this year, but it was really nice.

Today we went to Hijinx Comics and picked up 13 trade paperbacks for $5 apiece (well, one was $7).  Kate came home, said "I think I'll make some dinner," and immediately started reading.  I expect she's halfway through them by now.  Also we saw "Slumdog Millionaire."  I like movies a lot, especially good ones.  I liked this one.

Things are pretty good.
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[This post began as a letter to my cousin, who is active and vocal in the movement to reject Prop 8. I'm proud of him for that. But I really don't know him well - we see each other now and again at family gatherings - and eventually it seemed wrong to be blasting all this concentrated thought in his direction, complete with unfounded assumptions about what he thinks or doesn't think. So instead I'm posting it here, as sort of an open letter to the person I imagine him to be.]

Read more... )


Nov. 7th, 2008 01:05 am
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Saw Oliver Stone's George Bush movie today. Something like a record by a really good tribute band. All the hits are there, but some of them truncated and worked into a medley. All the players are excellent, but some of them don't exactly mimic the nuances of the original. Oh, and although you know all of the songs from the radio, you really kind of hated this band.

Two notes:

  1. I really miss Donald Rumsfeld's presence in public life. I'm glad he's no longer in any part of government, but I enjoyed his press conference persona. I think he should host a reality show.
  2. The facts of the war in Iraq are still infuriating.
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I find I'm ambivalent about the election - maybe more than I should be.

Obviously Obama's victory is great news for the country. More about that in a future post, I hope.

I'm most disappointed that California's gay marriage ban passed, writing a new form of discrimination into the state constitution. I plan to write about that one separately too.

And everything in between. )
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I've been volunteering lately for the Obama campaign and, briefly, for No On 8.  But today there's not much for shy people to do, and I voted yesterday at the registrar's office, so today I've kind of got the day off.  I dropped by a few of my neighborhood polling places.

At the library they said there were 50 people waiting in line at 7:00, and since then there's been no more than 5 people at a time.  (I don't remember if that was "5 in line" or "5 voters on the premises".)  At the unidentified church, um, they were just kind of confused by my presence.  And at my polling place, a guy told me he's been doing this for years and this is the highest turnout he's seen:  200 ballots mailed in, some 300 so far on site, and the lunch rush still ahead.

Everybody seemed to be having a good day.  I'm having a good day.

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