Slashdot is linking to a pair of articles (1, 2) about some really interesting economic underpinnings of filesharing. They're both by one Umair Haque of the London Buisness School. They make for interesting reading, as do the writings on his blog.
In essence, Haque argues that we can view the record labels as being contracted by consumers to perform a task that consumers aren't normally capable of doing: researching and developing music that we like. However, as the labels, our "agents" in economic-speak, are capable of hiding their activities to an extensive degree, they create what is called a "moral hazard" in which the "principals" of the contract - us - are incapable of monitering the activities of their agents. The way around this is filesharing, because that allows us a way of seeing which music we like before paying for it. But this creates a second moral hazard because not only are the activities of the principals almost entirely hidden from the agents, but filesharing allows us to avoid paying altogether. Still, most people do it because they don't have any other option if they want to listen to good music without having to trust the RIAA's taste (which sucks).
Haque's argument is much more detailed, but that's it in a nutshell. He then discusses music services like iTunes and suggests why they won't solve these problems.
I've been listening to Crooked Fingers self-titled debut album quite a bit, especially in the past few days. Some of the songs, especially "Crowned in Chrome," "New Drink for the Old Drunk," and "Broken Man" are really getting to me.
I've recognized two different types sorry-for-myself music in the past few days. The first I call the "pissed-off chick" category, and it comprises such artists as Aimee Mann. Her stuff is really good, especially the Magnolia soundtrack, but I'm liking it less and less these days. The attitude of most of her music can be summed up in one line from "How Am I Different" off of her Bachelor No. 2 album: "Do you really want to wait until I prove you wrong?" The fundamental assumption running through the whole thing seems to be that whatever difficulties you may be facing, the real problems lie with someone else. It's a victim, a martyr attitude, and it's profoundly unhealthy and unproductive, not to mention damaging to those around you. It's self-affirming in a place where repentance is probably more appropriate.
Crooked Fingers, on the other hand, provides portraits of various people who have come to the end of their rope. Yet the attitude is pretty uniformly that whatever misery you are currently experiencing, you are the primary cause. It's full of lines such as: "Spitting in the eyes that helped you look away/ From your darkest hour" or "And you cringe as you binge to forget how you hate/ All the doom in this pitiful room you create". It may be heartless, but this really seems to be true.
Aimee Mann comes off basically sounding prideful, as if she has been wronged and is waiting for whoever it is to apologize. Eric Bachmann sounds as if he's been to hell, hasn't really come back yet, and has an intimate knowledge of the fact that "it's so hard to take a stand when you're a broken man".
It's really a shame, but I know people of whom the following is true: "You say that you're slipping away/ As you turn from the hand that could save you" and it breaks my heart.
Break is going well. I've had time to relax, seen some old friends, and learned that I'm eligible for exemption from final exams. I'll be back in Chattavegas on Sunday.
I saw Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World on Friday night. A brilliant film with many things going for it. First, they didn't use many digital effects. I only noticed one, and it was something they really couldn't do otherwise (you can't really drown someone off the coast of Cape Horn for a movie). I'm told there were one or two others under similar circumstances.
As a boy, I read C. S. Forester's Horatio Hornblower series and thoroughly enjoyed them. The series follows the career of one Horatio Hornblower from Midshipman to Admiral during the height of the Age of Sail: the Napoleonic Wars. I've also played a lot of Avalon Hill's Wooden Ships and Iron Men, a superb board game simulation of Napoleonic era naval combat. Both of which were good, since I haven't read any of Patrick O'Brien's Aubrey-Maturin series. The Hornblower books - and my study of history both in and out of school - gave me an insight into the political situation of the film, which was really necessary. Why exactly Aubrey felt so strongly about finding the Acheron is much more apparent if you realize that if he hadn't, Britain would almost certainly have been invaded due to the damage the Acheron would have caused to the Empire's Pacific shipping. The board game taught me a little bit about naval tactics and exposed exactly how ballsy a lot of Aubrey's manuvers were, and exactly how devastating a stern rake can be.
So I was already really tuned into the context and detail of the movie. Both were portrayed fantastically. On top of that, the way they exposed the dynamic between the crew, especially between the enlisted and officers, was really dramatic. Today people tend to sneer at the kind of paternal care these officers had for the men under their command as condescending. Maybe. It it's also quite beautiful and I would argue that it's the only thing that kept those little islands of humanity from literally falling apart. I like noblesse oblige.
I am tired. I went to bed at 11:00 tonight, but am somehow no longer in bed. I am not entirely sure how this happened. In the meantime, you might enjoy this.
I ran across this little gem while surfing aimlessly in the attempt to not work in either of the two papers I should be writing. It is entitled, "A Letter That Seems To Be From My Garden Gnomes."
It's been a busy few days. On Thursday, I and a friend drove to Nashville to see Badly Drawn Boy in concert. An amazing show from first to last, though we had to leave before he finished due to the excessive lateness of the hour - after midnight Central time with a 2 hour drive ahead of us. I've liked his music ever since Matt introduced it to me two years ago, but this concert really renewed the music for me. I've been listening to The Hour of Bewilderbeast, Have You Fed the Fish?, and the About A Boy soundtrack a lot for the past three days as a result, and really enjoying it. Some songs, like "River, Sea, Ocean" that I hadn't really appreciated before were refreshed by hearing Damon Gough live. He also played a lot of stuff from his upcoming album, to be released in March.
On Friday, my parents arrived in town. I had class or other commitments most of the day, but they came up to campus for dinner, and then saw the school play. Saturday morning, I went down to Greyfriar's for breakfast. The actors' call for the play was at 12:30PM, so I headed back up the mountain and spent the rest of the day either getting ready to perform, performing, tearing down the set, or at Todd Willison's place for the cast party. A full day, but a good end to what's been a big part of my life for the past three months.
Now I have to go to bed. My parents are coming to church with me tomorrow, and then taking me and some friends out to Big River Grill downtown. Time for sleep...
New York Press, which bills itself as "New York's premier alternative newspaper," if that tells you anything, has a rather interesting article that provides a bit of cross-analysis of much of Thomas Friedman's work. For those of you who don't know, Friedman is a centrist-to-conservative commentator at the New York Times and one of the biggest supporters of US action in Iraq. Apparently he has something of a fixation with cars. I don't really like the tone of the article, especially in the past paragraph, but it is pretty funny for all of that. Check it out.
It's been a while. I've been really busy for the past two weeks, what with the play and a round of tests this week. Three of 'em. We have the play again this weekend, and my parents are arriving in town on Friday. I've also been dealing with some fairly messy relational stuff, so as a result, I've not been keeping up with my Internet reading and haven't really had much to say. But here's something by the estimable Andrew Sullivan that's worth your time.
However, the author has missed a critical point. The reason that HMOs are able to dictate the prices that they do is because the Federal government has done it for them. Medicare/Medicaid only pays about 33 cents on the dollar of hospital bills. The rest is basically written off. HMOs have no incentive to pay more than that, and will frequently pay a point or two less. So when hear talk of the spiraling costs of health care, know two things: First, advanced care and new technology actually is really expensive. Second, the hospital only really expects to receive about a third of what it bills - provided you have insurance. That's why billing figures are so high. If the cost to a hospital for a procedure is $30k, it's probably going to bill in the neighborhood of $100k or more.
There are stories of doctors who are currently refusing all forms of health insurance. The Wall Street Journal had a front page article on that very subject today. The real problem is not that health insurance companies are forcing hospitals to engage in reverse price discrimination, as the author of the Kuro5hin article suggests. The problem is that the Federal government has created a system in which they can.
OpenSecrets.org is reporting that as of today, President Bush has raised only slightly less than his five most promising competitors. His tally is just shy of $85 million, while Howard Dean, John Kerry, John Edwards, Dick Gephardt, and Joe Lieberman have raised about $85.5 million. Is anoyne expecting this to be a contest?
Thomas Friedman has an op-ed in the Sunday New York Times concerning the current state of US/Europe relations. It's entitled "The End of the West," and has to do with the current disjunction between US and European perspectives on the world. It's really worth the read.
This semester I am participating in the school play. The premiere is on Friday. The female lead broke her ankle last Thursday, so against pretty much all her wishes, the director has assumed the role. Dress rehearsals started on Saturday and will occur every night this week. Last night's was particularly grueling, since the drama professor came to critique our results thus far. Suffice that to say I'm going to be out of the loop for a few days.
Okay, that's funny, in a twisted sort of way. Apparently the newest rage in the ultra-chic section of NYC known as Williamsburg is beating up hipsters. Obviously I can't approve, but you kinda have to admit that they had it coming.
Chattanooga's own Infradig Ensemble just played an absolutely kick-a concert in Founders. They truly rock. Their first set was original material, and good as they always are. The second set was all covers: "Seven Nation Army" by the White Stripes, "Misty Mountain Hop" by Led Zeppelin, Radiohead's "Talk Show Hosts," "OK Computer," and "The National Anthem," and several others. About a hundred people showed up, and a good forty or fifty of them were dancing. What a blast.