Monday, May 31, 2004

Some Non Music Reviews

I finished a couple of books this week. First was The Yom Kippur War: The Epic Encounter That Transformed The Middle East by Abraham Rabinovich. It was significantly better than The Eve of Destruction. If you're interested in the Arab Israeli peace process it is fundamental that you understand this war. This book explains the change in political mindset of the Egyptians and Israelis brought about by this war better than any other I've read. It explains the stalemate created by the 6 Day War and the Wars of Attrition and the effect they had on Israeli policy. It is an earnest and down to earth piece of history without a lot of the character adoration that was in E.O.D. It also gives a lot of insight into the character of Ariel Sharon.
The other book I read was Abraham Lincoln: Redeemer President by Allen Guelzo. Apparently this book won the 2000 Lincoln Prize. I'm not totally sure what that means and this is the first book I've read about Lincoln so I don't know how authoritative it is. With the disclaimer out of the way I'll say that it was really fascinating. Lincoln was one of the first Republicans and his personality and beliefs strongly influenced the way the U.S. economy and culture developed. The book explains a lot of the nuance of the civil war and the cultural battle between the Jeffersonian agriculture myth and the free labor system. It's also interesting to see the differences in campaigning then and now. There are accounts of some of Lincoln's foibles which makes him more human and more interesting. The book doesn't lionize him as a great moral American hero, but as a real person who struggled to do the right thing and regretting his weaknesses in extraordinarily difficult situations. Lincoln is more admirable and impressive as a more rounded and human character. This is a must read for pretty much everyone.
Last I saw Pieces of April last night. The movie was hilarious. It's like a middle class Igby Goes Down. It has a little less of the Holden Caulfield aspect than Igby, but that makes April more likeable and her problems funnier. The family is reconciled at the end, and it is a little cheesy, but it is only a small quick part of the movie. Pay the three bucks to rent it.

Sunday, May 30, 2004

I got a job...

sort of. I'm waiting for some paperwork to go through, but hopefully I can start work on Tuesday. I'll be working with agricultural workers. It should be interesting. Most labor laws and standards don't apply to ag workers so the law is kind of unique, but it's also frustrating. The basic rights we expect, such as minimum wage, just don't apply so there is a lot of room for outrage. I'll also get to work on my Spanish and maybe diminish my pochismo a notch or two.
In other news, some of my best friends had a kid. I'm going to teach it a bunch of Irish drinking songs. Instead of knowing Mary Had a Little Lamb he'll know Sick Bed of Cuchulainn and Finnegan's Wake.

Sunday, May 23, 2004

The Music Industry

I hate the recording industry. Part of it comes from my Punk Rock/ Fuck the Man/ DIY dogma that was essential to being "in the scene" during the early and mid nineties. Part of it comes from reality. The industry rips off bands. They take them to the cleaners and destroy valuable and creative music projects while foisting teen pop on the airwaves.
There was an interesting article in the U.S.A. Today awhile ago that gives you a breakdown of how an average record contract works. Two things I want to quickly point out in the section marked Royalty Math. First "independent promotion" means payola. It's money that people, that the record companies have hired, give to radio stations to play songs. It's the major cause of the dull homogeneous radio culture. Second most CDs are sold under the $18.98 suggested retail price and that skews the math, especially as Best Buy/Circuit City/Walmart make deals with distributors to buy the CDs for a lower price because they can sell more. And this quote
"You have artists represented by very sophisticated counsel who understand the ins and outs of the industry. The length of the deals and the complexity of the industry results in contracts that are lengthy and complex. It's not as if the provisions are a surprise to the artists."
is just a bald faced lie. Madonna does have excellent counsel, but that came after her first contracts with the labels. When a label sends an A&R guy to talk to a band the scale is definitely balanced in the labels favor. Most bands are young and barely have money to keep their tour van running. They aren't sitting down and reviewing a letter of intent on the same footing as the Sony Music lawyer who wrote it. They sure as hell can't hire a lawyer to look over the letter of intent. A band doesn't usually get a lawyer until it's too late.
Steve Albini also wrote an essay which is a little more vituperative but a little more accurate in my opinion on how signing a label works.
Anyway, the musicians, who deserve support, had a big meeting in D.C. with some lobbyists and others to figure out what to do about illegal downloading. Generally this downloading stuff doesn't affect me, I download independent music and I almost always end up buying the CD. When I don't buy it,it's usually because it sucks, and so I delete the track. However I recognize that most people don't operate that way. So how do you make downloading work to pay musicians and songwriters?
What I find interesting in the whole discussion is that people still seem interested in using the major labels to do it. Why should they be involved? Is it because they have the capital? If you look at the atrocious way they run their business why would you want them involved. The U.S.A. Today article said only one in ten records they put out makes money. That doesn't sound like a successful business plan to me. I recognize that some business operate with different losses than others, but look at small labels. They either break even or make money on most of their records, or they fold. They do this by following bands and releasing records they think will succeed. Basically they research a band before they invest in it. It makes sense. Meanwhile the Washington Post had this article about some A&R guys surfing the web and then signing a band to a five record deal. That's a lot of money to invest in a band that's never toured. No wonder the majors have a failure rate of 90%.
Another instance of how unimpressive the major's financial strategy is how they're managing their online music. Almost nobody has made any money off of their downloading services. I think that's for two reasons. One, it's a hassle and two, it costs too much. The services have too many rules on transferring or recopying songs. When you buy a song you should get the song free and clear. I know they're worried about people pirating the music, but once they've put it out on a CD it's out there to be pirated and there is not a lot that can be done about it. Why pay 99 cents to download a song that can't be transferred around from your minidisc, to your computer to your lap top, to a burnie when you could get the same song for free and do all of that. And that brings up price. 99 cents is too much for a song that doesn't come on a CD with any artwork or a jewel case. The majors don't have to pay for storing or distributing this stuff. The money they could save on each CD should easily offset the costs for servers and tech maintenance.
So when I look at how inefficient the majors are I start to wonder what exactly they do that is so important. They don't really make anything. The band does the music, an engineer records it, a CD presser and printer get the CD ready for market. So they are a distributor and marketer. Remember the "independent promotion" from the U.S.A. Today article? That's how they stay in business with a 90% failure rate. You're market strategy is basically bribes. Majors bribe music outlets to limit what is played on commercial radio, in movies, and on TV. It creates purchase options that are limited to mostly their own products.
With internet and satellite radio and massive downloading services around the horizon the majors won't be able to keep a strangle hold on the media. If they don't get on the ball soon they'll have a hard time convincing anyone that they're still relevant. Bands have traditionally made their money by touring. If bands can reach enough of an audience directly through download services and these new types of radio to support a tour it will be really hard for the majors to justify their existence.

Downhill Battle has some decent information on the state of illegal downloading. They are not always that realistic about the business aspects, but the majors don't seem to be either.

Thursday, May 20, 2004


The Sarin shell found in Iraq is pretty big news. Conservatives are accusing the "liberal media" of brushing over it. I generally don't buy into the idea that there is a "liberal media", but I think the conservatives may have a valid point. Now that it has been confirmed that the shell contained Sarin it's important to find out where it came from, without torturing anyone. From what I can glean it may not have been apparent to anyone that it was a chemical shell, the army engineers who destroyed it didn't seem to realize what it was, and it may have just been mixed with other artillery shells somewhere or part of a stach of chemical weapons.
Safire has a Op-Ed piece in the NY Times about the shell. He lays out "Four Noes" that he accuses liberals of making. The first one is that this one shell doesn't constitute a stockpile, but that doesn't prove there is not stockpile. Second he challenges that there was no link between Al Queda and Iraq. Third, that our mistreatment of Iraqis at Abu Ghraib doesn't deprive us of our moral high ground because what Saddam did was much worse. Last he says that claims that Arab culture isn't capable of democracy are racist.
I agree that he has some points but they do not merit his predictions. First I'm going to start with his last "No". It would be racist, or culturally supremacist, to say that Iraqis aren't capable of democracy, but who exactly is saying that? I don't know of anyone that is seriously claiming that Iraqi culture will prevent Iraq from having a democratic government. This is a straw man that Bush raised during his press conference on 4-13-04.
Some of the debate really center around the fact that people don't believe Iraq can be free; that if you're Muslim, or perhaps brown-skinned, you can't be self-governing and free. I strongly disagree with that. I reject that, because I believe that freedom is the deepest need of every human soul, and, if given a chance, the Iraqi people will be not only self-governing, but a stable and free society.
I have not heard a single peep about it since. People do argue that the way we are proceeding is aggravating factionalism and spurring demagoguery and hindering a possible democratic Iraq. These are substantially different claims than the alleged ethnic claims Safire raises.
His third "No" is based on another strawman. There are some hysterical elements on the left who are equating us with Saddam because of Abu Ghraib, but the general concern is that there were violations of the Geneva Convention and that little was done about it until pictures were leaked to the press. Red Cross reports from 29 visits apparently alerted officials of abuse in January and little was done. There are also concerns for Iraqis who were killed resisting arrest. Estimates of Iraqis who are in custody mistakenly range from 70 to 90 percent. This is substantially different from what Saddam did, but it is still wrong and needs to be addressed. Defending the atrocious actions at Abu Ghraib by claiming they aren't as bad as what Saddam did is detrimental to any claim of moral high ground that the administration might try to make. The U.S. needs to set a higher goal then "not as bad as Saddam" if it wants to make any claims about acting morally.
The "No" about Al Queda is consistently raised by conservatives, but without proof. The press has repeatedly aired stories about Iraq's meetings with Al Queda, but instead of proving any collusion they show that the two groups were unwilling to work together. Claiming that an influx of Al Queda operatives after the war or right before the war still completely fails to show any collusion between Iraq and Al Queda to commit terrorist acts against the U.S. before the U.S. had threatened Iraq with an invasion.
The only "No" that bears serious consideration is whether or not this Sarin shell is evidence of the WMDs. Until there is evidence about the shell's origin I don't see how a conclusion of weapons being spirited away to Syria can be justified. It is likely that there are several similar unmarked shells stashed around Iraq that were misplaced by the bureaucracies of UNSCOM and Iraq. That is more reasonable than hidden arsenals that still haven't been activated or an undetected transport of weapon caches across the desert to Syria. The U.S.'s intelligence was bad, but it's hard to believe it could have been that bad.
Whether or not the "defeatists" will admit they were wrong hopefully depends on some credible evidence and not some baseless predictions in an Op Ed Column.


Not for Sheep has a post about finals nightmares. I've been having them, and so has pretty much everyone else I know in law school. Because the schools don't seem to give you your grades until 2 months after the semester you have plenty of time to think of worst case scenarios. You have two choices (I got this from my horoscope). You either suppress it or repress it. I think most of us try to repress it since there's nothing that can be done about it and we want to go out and have some fun before the summer is gone.
I've had various dreams about teachers shouting at me, calling me stupid, asking what the hell I was doing during the final, but my favorite one involves my crim pro final. I'm taking the final and a student freaks out, stands up, and starts shooting at the rest of the final takers. I get shot twice in the gut and Prof. Crim Pro says that I can't leave since I've already started the final. I'll just have to tough it out and try not to get blood on my answer because that would jeopardize the anonymity of the final.
I finish the final and come back after I'm better. The final is already graded and I only got 233 points out of 1400. Prof. Crim Pro tells me not to worry because a bunch of people got shot and the curve reflects it.
So this is what all you aspiring law students have to look forward.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004


I went and saw Troy last night. Not only is the book better, but so are the assorted 15 odd plays that deal with all the tangential parts of the story. It stunk like a gym locker, and it wasn't just Brad Pitt's fault. The story overreached the Iliad, a bunch of people who weren't supposed to die died, a whole other group of people weren't even in it, Diomedes jumps to mind. It was lame enough that it should enter the lexicon like your mama jokes. "Prof. X sucks at teaching Admin Tort Pro. He sucks like Troy."
On a side note, my roommate and I have talked about making "Pissing Calvin" stickers. He could piss on the Fitzgerald and Latimore translations of the Iliad, maybe even Fagles. I figure we could sell two to school librarians and a couple more to humanities profs.

Friday, May 14, 2004

Screwed up

I tried to get fancy with my blawg and goofed it up. I'll try and get it fixed today, but I need to find a job.
Jeremy's Blog has this great post about the top beverages before an 8 hour exam. He left off the most important one for me. Coffee, blacker than the soul of the Prof. who wrote the 8 hour exam.
And last for right now, Congratulations to everyone who finished finished this year of law school.

Thursday, May 13, 2004


I'm not the world's best consumer. I like to buy stuff, I just don't like to go to stores like Walmart and Costco. If I had it my way all the stores would be like the mercado in Juarez. Buying anything would be a test of resolve, determination, rapid math and bargaining.
I went to Costco with some friends over the weekend. I noticed that they generally don't have the price per ounce listed so you can't quickly compare and see if it's cheaper somewhere else. I also noticed most of it is crap I don't want in the first place. I don't care if the DaVinci Code is 20% less than somewhere else. You check that book out from the library and read it in an afternoon, you don't need a copy. It's not As I Lay Dying or something you're ever going to read again.
I am unhappy with the checking your receipt part at the end of the trip. My friends pay a membership to go there. They shouldn't be treated like theives everytime they walk out of a store they just spent $100 at. I told the guy that he couldn't check my reciept. He thought I was joking. "I'm not joking, let me talk to your manager." I know the guy at the door is just doing his job and didn't want to deal with me. He got his manager and my friends were shocked.
When the manager came over I told him they weren't going to treat me like a thief, they can't check my basket unless they want to hold me for the police and if they did I would sue them for false imprisonment. The supervisor, he wasn't a manager, told me they didn't check the cart to see if I had stolen anything, they do it for my benefit in case the clerk made a mistake. "I watched the clerk, she didn't make a mistake. So you don't need to check my cart." His face kind of dropped, he said he still needed to check the chart.
Then I asked him why he didn't train his clerks properly, he said that Costco did. "Why do you need to hire another set of people to make sure that the clerks did their job right then?" He said that they're human and they make mistakes. I asked if the mistakes were enough to offset the labor, taxes, worker's comp and other costs they pay to this second set of employees. He said he didn't know the amount of merchandise that was caught through checking receipts. "Have you caught any so far today?" Once again he didn't know, but he was sure they had. This led right back to the fact that he obviously wasn't training his clerks properly. I told him I had managed and trained people to work a register and if I thought for a second that I would need another set of people to check their work I would either retrain them, reevaluate how I was training them, or fire them.
At this point my friends were looking very uncomfortable. Other people were stopping to look, the supervisor was kind of angry, and I wanted to go. I made him promise to alert his manager of my dissatisfaction, and to give me a call to apologize. He said Costco wouldn't change their policy. I then relented.
I do not understand shopping at Costco or Sam's Club. Fry's is at least honest, they have expensive components that can be hidden in your bag and that's why they check your stuff. This lie that it's in your interest to let them check is moronic. If you shop at Costco let them know that you watched the clerk and your receipt checks out. If that's not good enough for them ask them why they're treating you like a theif.


I found this blog today. It looks like they only have one post up, but it's interesting. This is the face of illegal immigration I know. Not people coming in to steal jobs, but people who work hard and are an asset to the country's culture and economy.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

A couple things

First, the new blogger deal is kind of freaking me out. In the little tour it says it has all this neat stuff, but I can't figure out how to use it. Also, it's going to let you put comments up on it. I don't have a whole lot of comments, so I wonder what would be the big deal about switching from whatchamafuckit. I would lose all my old ones, but then I'd have one less component to the blawg. I might do that, I also have the time to switch over the side bar and change all the colors and stuff now.

Second, I got a gmail account. I know they're evil and they scan all your stuff and save it, but the government is probably doing that anyway. The way blogger and google are warming up one day I'll have a homepage with my mail, blawg, the weather, news feeds, and favorite stores all in one place. It'll be like My Yahoo, but without all the clutter.

Third, my old lady is evil. She got me hooked on Buffy the Vampire Slayer last semester. I ended up wasting a bunch of time during finals watching season 3 and now I'm on season 4. Season 6 is coming out soon. I've already finished 1,2, and 5. I think 6 is coming out soon and it looks like there's a season 7. This is going to eat up a huge amount of my life.

Fourth I'm done with finals. I have the sinking feel as I walk around and think, "I never laid out the factors of control under Respondeat Superior on my torts final! Oh No! Wait, was there a hypo that had vicarious liability?" I can't actually remember the hypos anymore, only what I didn't write about. I figure this will continue until I get my grades and then I can just feel bad.

Fifth, I have this compulsion, whenever I post I open up the blogger window and as soon as I publish I click the refresh on blogger. My hope was to one day see my blawg up in the most recently published window. I never did and now that I think about it, the way the new blogger is, I never will. Damn.

Last, since I'm done with finals I don't need the cheesy flash games. But this one is cool and worth playing. I've got some ideas for some posts so I'll probably be pretty active the next couple days, and I'll probably change up the blawg a little if I can figure out how the stuff works. There's a button for block quotes which I'm pretty excited about. I also get to read for fun now so I'll pass on any good books. Rock on.

Thursday, May 06, 2004

Reigning Sound

The Reigning Sound's new Record "Too Much Guitar" came out last week. I've been listening to it pretty much non stop since then. It's a great combination of their first two records, it tones down some of the country feel of their first record and ups the rock of their second record. It then turned that up a notch and fuzzed it out. On a lot of the songs it created a more classic sixties garage sound than either of their first records. The sound really comes out on the Your Love Is a Fine Thing. But the country influence that really helps define their sound is still their on songs like Drowning.
They also seem to have picked up a little of the rhythmic gospel sound The Deadly Snakes have played on their last two records. "We Repel Each Other" and "When You Touch Me" has a bass heavy stripped down thumping blues influenced rock with an evangelical twist. A kind of charismatic Memphis root feel to it shakes its way through the record. You can imagine an audience of tambourine bangers fainting and fanning themselves.
The production on this record is a little muddier and the guitars are more jangley, especially Get It, than either of their other records and the guitars are turned up and in the front of the mix. But the record is called Too Much Guitar for those who don't quite get it.
There are enough songs on this record that could fill the A side of a forty five that the record almost totally lacks the slow spots of "Time Bomb Highschool". Except for Funny Thing and Excedrine Headache #265 the record barely slows down to let you breathe. In The Red Records and the Reigning Sound have turned out another winner and y'all should rush down to the record store with your hard earned green clenched in your waving grimy fist to get this record.

Hard at Work

I've got like 15 hours until my crim pro final. My outline is done, I'm most of the way through the Gilberts( I think the information is laid out more clearly in Gilberts than in the E&E, but the hypos in the E&E are much better than Gilberts. Someone should combine the two. They could easily talk me out of $35 per class for their book.), and I've got a couple practice tests to do. I think I'm making good time.

So I started goofing off on the net. I found this great example of persuasive letter writing. This should have been used as a model in Legal Writing.

I also found this site. We should have a contest. Whoever uses the most really bad metaphors on their exam wins 100 Lexis points.

Speaking of Lexis points, I went to their site to see if I could spend my points on a BB gun. It was no good, but they did have a paint ball gun. If anyone can find anything else they offer that fits into the category of "irresponsible things to give drunk celebrating L1s at the end of the year" let me know. Maybe they've got model rockets?

Hard at work

While toiling on my crim pro outline, which is actually looking pretty fabulous, I came across some pretty cool sites. Slim Jim's site has a FAQ and explains what mechanically separated chicken is. Unfortunately no flash games. Necco Wafer also has a site. That kind of surprised me since they're the most low tech old fashioned candy I could think of. They don't have flash games either, but they are hiring! They need an Electrical Control Supervisor. Moonpie has a decent site, with a Flash Game! And last, Murray's Pomade has a site with a groovy soulful intro. No flash game, but the intro is still cool. They also have new t shirts for sale.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Random stuff

I bought some Vietnamese fish sauce last week. I wanted it for some noodle dishes I'm trying to make. It warns against refrigeration. It says specifically not to. I've heard of foods that recommend you keep them in a cool dry place, but never anything that said "Do Not Refrigerate". That's kind of spooky.

Next, Disney is preventing Miramax from distributing Michael Moore's new movie. I'm not the guys biggest fan, but this is troubling. After CBS dropped the Move On add during the superbowl it becomes even more so. There was an article somewhere about Fox airing only pro Bush editorials too. It's not suprising, but generally the media's self censorship isn't so glaringly flagrant. I'm also not too huge on Noam Chomsky, occasionally he has a decent point if he doesn't draw some huge conspiracy theory from it, but he seems to be more right everyday. The NY Times article is a little more indepth than the Post's.

I had my torts exam yesterday. Prof. Torts has two classes, with probably 115 students total. The exam was huge, probably the average answer was between 10-15 pages. I wonder why the hell you would want to read that many exams that were that long. That's his business, I just wish I had more time.

There's an article from the Cato Institute on Padilla. The best part of it is that it doesn't have an alarmist left wing tone. It's useful if you want to discuss the Padilla problem with a conservative because it points out that any power Bush creates for himself, he creates for every President. So they may like Bush, but what if Kerry gets elected? Would they feel safe having him exercise the same unchecked powers Bush is claiming.

Last I hope to get off the ball ("off the ball" is correct in this instance because any blogging I do about music is an attempt to avoid outlining) and post about some music, that's why I started the blog in the first freaking place. Since I have a crim pro outline to write and the test isn't until Friday there's a good chance I'll get those posts out.