Charleen

My friend Claire and I were discussing women’s shoes. Hey, it happens. I like women. I like their shoes, too. I quickly found it difficult to describe my preferences with only words  so I went searching for images to illustrate my point. Since I wasn’t buying, I went straight to the premium brands, and found this beauty.

I often find that shoes are difficult to judge if they’re presented without being worn. Indeed, sometimes they look ridiculous. The Louboutin Charleen is such a beautiful shoe that it looks like a piece of art as is. Imagine a lovely woman wearing them with a complimentary outfit! No wonder they’re asking $775.00 US for a pair.

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Image copyright Christian Louboutin

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Upsetting the balance

Copyright protection is an artificial construct. Without copyright, new artistic creations would enter the public domain and become part of our culture as soon as artists release their works. With copyright protection, the government allows artists to enjoy exclusive control of their creations for a set period to encourage their creativity. Then, when the copyright period on their work expires, it enters the public domain so anyone can build upon it to enrich our culture. You can look at it as a compromise. The public is not allowed to take full advantage of new creations to encourage artists to create more. It’s good for both the artists and the public, as long as it maintains a balance between the interested parties.

In the past, copyright has worked differently than it does now. Under the Copyright Act of 1842, copyright protection lasted for the life of the creator plus 7 years, or 42 years from publication (whichever was greater). The Copyright Act 1842 was a British law which affected Canada, since Canada was a British colony at the time. After Confederation, Canada enacted its own copyright regulation, the Copyright Act of 1875, which change the period of protection to an initial term of 28 years, with option to renew for another 14 years.

Today, things are quite different. The terms of copyright protection depend on the artistic work. For example, if you write a song, copyright will protect the song for the length of your life, plus 50 years. If you record the song and release it, the recording, until very recently, would enjoy copyright protection for 50 years from the recording date. Why the song itself and a recording of the song have different terms, I don’t know. In once sense, it doesn’t matter because while the recording is protected for only 50 years, the recording is merely one performance of the song, and the song is protected for the artist’s life, plus 50 years. Once the first 50 years expires, the recording falls into the public domain, but the song (the composition itself) is still protected.

Earlier I said that until recently, a recording enjoys copyright protection for 50 years. This is because in the latest federal budget, the Conservative government extended copyright protection on recorded works from 50 years to 70 years. Certainly copyright issues are not at all related to the budget, but this government is absolutely in love with omnibus bills, in which they include all sorts of unrelated items in the hopes that comparatively unimportant, but unpalatable items, are accepted because of the higher profile, more desirable items in the bill. This is why a copyright extension appears in a budget.

But honestly, does a 70-year term of copyright protection really serve the balance for which copyright was created? I’d suggest that it does not. To encourage the creation of artistic works, copyright protection must expire so the artist is encouraged to create new items. It’s not hard to imagine that the bulk of most artists’ creative output occurs after they are 20 years old. Most people don’t live until the age of 90, so a 70 year protection is effectively life-long. If the artist hits it big and has enough money to live on, they need not create anything ever again. This does not at all serve the public.

The first copyright protection in the United States had a term of only 14 years, with a 7 year renewal being an option. Now that would certainly encourage an artist to keep creating new works!

Of course the elephants in the room are the record companies. They’re the ones who want the longest term possible, because they hold the copyright on the artist’s work. Handing them ownership of the copyright is a term of the record contract. For all their belly aching about how the artist needs protection, it’s really their own interested they serve. This clear when you consider the terms of a record deal. The record companies to everything they can to make sure the artist makes as little as possible.

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Prime Minister Stephen Harper. He is always ready to help out a business pal.

So here we have a government who extended the copyright term on recorded works. No one saw this coming. There was no public consultation, no debate, and not even any notification that this was being considered. Yet as soon as the government released the budget, literally minutes later, Music Canada (representing Sony, Warner, and Universal Music) posted a press release stating how pleased they were at this announcement. Further, Prime Minister Stephen Harper wrote to Music Canada President Graham Henderson stating that he felt a 50 year copyright term wasn’t sufficient to protect artists, so it would be extended to 70 years. The letter was dated April 11, 2015, the same day the government tabled the budget. All the big U.S. labels had to do is write a letter and ask for the copyright term extension and the Prime Minister fell all over himself in compliance. I’ve written the Prime Minister several times and I can assure you that I’ve yet to even receive a reply, much less get what I want.

In the balance between the artists who create the music and the public who buys and enjoys it, who does the Harper government reward so richly? Neither of course. They shower favour upon the foreign companies who do their absolute best to screw both the artists and the public.

This is the Harper government, at its finest.

Posted in art, law, music industry, rights | 2 Responses

Bullshit sexism

Lauren Wiggins is a New Brunswick high-school student who was doing nothing but minding her own business when she received a detention for breaking her school’s dress code. When she wrote a letter to the vice-principal expressing her opinion, they added a one day suspension to her detention.

Yes, she did break the dress code. That much is true. One can argue whether it is reasonable or not, but that isn’t what has me incensed. It’s what they told her. Unfortunately, the school is refusing to answer media enquiries, but the CBC reports that

says she was told the full-length halter dress she wore to school on Monday was considered “inappropriate” and a “sexual distraction” to fellow students.

The dress Wiggins was punished for wearing.

The dress Wiggins was punished for wearing.

I call bullshit. High school is the last stage of preparation that young people receive before going out into the world or pursuing higher education. Telling a young woman that she can’t wear certain clothing because of how the boys will react is a big problem. The school is telling the boys that they are not responsible for their actions, and even worse, that the girls are responsible for the boys’ actions. This is a very dangerous message to give to young people. Not only dangerous, but absolutely wrong.

Young people need to understand that they are responsible for their own actions. More importantly, they need to realize where their responsibility ends and other peoples’ begins. The school has this one entirely wrong and they’re enabling the boys’ poor behaviour.

If her dress was inappropriate, that’s fine. Say so. Don’t blame her if the boys haven’t been taught how to behave. Teach the boys how to behave and stop enabling their poor choices! But on the topic of the dress, I saw much worse in my high school days. I might be dating myself, but remember designer jeans? Like I said, much worse.

I’m also terribly disappointed that Wiggins was suspended for expressing her thoughts about the situation to the vice-principal. She posted her letter on her Facebook page and it’s entirely polite and reasonable. Suspension for expressing her thoughts politely is ridiculous. She ends her letter,

If you are truly so concerned that a boy in this school will get distracted by my upper back and shoulders then he needs to be sent home and practice self control.

Then she thanks the vice-principal and wishes him a nice day. Not only is she entirely correct, but she’s polite and eloquent… and for this she’s suspended? Ridiculous bullshit.

I’m glad she’s making a big stink about the situation and I hope the staff who handled this so poorly are taken to task for it. She deserves and apology and the way they handle things needs to change.

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Photo from Lauren Wiggins’ Facebook page

Posted in big questions, consequences, freedom, idiocy, responsibility | Leave a comment

The mayor remains mum

I have yet to hear back from the mayor regarding the letter I sent him. I find this surprising. When has a politician hesitated to ingratiate himself/herself to a voter? At an absolute minimum, I expected a form-letter reply about how he’s always glad to hear about his constituents’ thoughts. But no, not even that. I guess I’m just not worth the trouble.

There was a city council meeting yesterday, and I decided to attend because the practice of opening council meetings with prayer was on the agenda. It was an almost sombre affair. The meeting opened with a moment of silence and introspection, then a performer sang the national anthem. The meeting chair got right into it when he explained that the Supreme Count of Canada ruled that prayer during city council meetings was a big no-no so they were doing to stop doing it. The question was what they would do instead. The quotes I read in the newspaper seemed to indicate some councillors took the Supreme Court ruling as a personal affront, and I expected some resistance. Happily, I was wrong.

Unfortunately, the chair noted that he was certain that some would be offended by anything they might choose to do, even a moment of silence. In my opinion, poking at the city residents who spoke up about being treated unfairly wasn’t the best first step in trying to find a solution to the problem. It was a minor quip on the chair’s part, however. I’m just glad that they managed to come up with something everyone can live with.

The result is either a moment of silence followed by the anthem, or perhaps replacing the silence with an entirely non-religious inspirational quote. They also decided that if a councillor will recite an inspirational, they must run it by city staff first.

A reporter from the local paper attended (or watched the meeting on the community cable channel) and wrote about the issue.

The only real surprise was Councillor Victor Pietrangelo stating that he felt that the Supreme Court decision doesn’t include everyone, but it rather excludes everyone. I think he’s going out of his way to split hairs because there is no way to include everyone, unless Council meetings start with a prayer from every religion, and a moment of silence for the irreligious. One can see how impractical this would be!

While I disagree with Pietrangelo, I think that with Council following the Supreme Court ruling, everyone will be treated the same, which is still an improvement over the way it has been to this point.

Posted in politics, religion, rights | Leave a comment

My letter to the mayor

May 2, 2015

Mayor Jim Diodati
4310 Queen Street
Niagara Falls, Ontario
L2E 6X5

Mayor Diodati,

I read “Pope’s prayer draws criticism” in the Niagara Falls Review on Thursday. The article stated that you announced a council meeting would open with a deputation for peace that Councillor Victor Pietrangelo then read.

I’m not going to get into rights, or freedom of religion. What you’ve done by having a prayer written by Pope Pius XII recited as part of a council meeting is exclude everyone who is of a different faith, or no faith at all. You and the city council represent everyone in the city. Not just the Catholics, but everyone.

I respect your beliefs. I respect Councillor Morocco’s beliefs as well, but she seems to be more about division than inclusion. She’s quoted in the article, saying,

What are they going to do? Throw us out of our seats?

Right there she’s invoking an ‘us’ and ‘them’ division that has no place in city government … especially when she’s talking about herself and her constituents!

If Council feels that it’s appropriate to recite a Catholic prayer during council meetings, you’re telling all the city residents who are not Catholics that they are not being represented. It seems that the easiest solution would be to treat all beliefs equally and not incorporate any sort of prayer or deputation as part of the council meetings. Framing this as denying councillors their individual faiths is completely misrepresenting the issue. It’s about denying non-Catholics the special treatment the Catholics on the council currently enjoy. That some councillors think this is entirely appropriate has me wondering why they want to be councillors at all.

Imagine if councillors actively worked toward promoting their own individual economic advantage, rather than the good of the city at large. What would happen? They wouldn’t last long, because they’re supposed to be there for all of us! So why is promoting their own personal religious faiths somehow acceptable?

In preparing this letter, I checked Friday’s Review and found you quoted in “Falls council to drop prayer/invocation?” as saying,

The reason why so many immigrants want to come to Canada is because they are able to express their religion, their customs, their cultures.

I question whether you really understand the issue. Immigrants being free to express their religion is praying in their own faiths at home and being subjected to Catholic prayer if they take enough of an interest in city government to attend city council meetings? That’s freedom of religion to you?

The outrage I read in the article from the councillors at having their special treatment questioned makes me wonder. They’re telling me in no uncertain terms that I’m not part of their privileged group. Shouldn’t city councillors instead treat all the city residents equally and encourage as much inclusion as possible?

So let me ask you plainly, do you and the city councillors represent all the city residents, or do you plan to continue to show favour to the city residents who share your faith. Everyone in Niagara Falls deserves to know.

I look forward to your reply, Mr. Mayor.

CC: Niagara Falls Review, Letters to the Editor
CC: Niagara Falls City Councillor Joyce Morocco
CC: Niagara Falls City Councillor Victor Pietrangelo
CC: http://www.alienshore.com/another/2015/05/my-letter-to-the-mayor/

Posted in politics, religion, rights | 2 Responses

Leave a little room

Sometimes the smallest, most unexpected things give me pause for thought.

The most recent was a visit from a door-to-door salesperson from Bell. Yes, I detest companies who try to sell me things on the phone or at my door, and I make an effort to avoid patronizing them. Bell in particular has a laundry-list of reasons we all should avoid any dealings with them, but this wasn’t the reason for my continuing to ponder this brief interaction.

The reason is I entirely misjudged the saleswoman. And yea, I hear you already, smartasses… it’s not because she was a woman!

One personality trait that I have always admired is the ability to put someone immediately at ease and talk to them when you’ve just met. I like to think I’m a good communicator, but I don’t I don’t have this gift when first approaching someone. This woman certainly had the gift.

She wanted me to sign up with Bell’s Fibe television service. My Mom has cable, and not only is she perfectly happy with it, but it would be an ordeal for her to learn to navigate a new remote control, and an entirely renumbered sequence of channels. My television viewing is via over-the-air antenna and a lesser quality, more expensive service isn’t about to sway me. I can’t imagine anyone walking the Earth could talk me into signing up with Bell.

Once she knew she wasn’t going to make a sale, I thought we were done, but she surprised me by asking me if she could have a glass of water. She pointed out, almost apologetically, that it was warm and sunny, and she was wearing mostly black. I saw no harm in it, so I asked her to wait a moment. On my way to get the water, I realized that I’d been had. Once she had the glass in her hands, she could continue to regale me about how great Fibe was and I’d be captive for as long as the water lasted.

What surprised me, and this is the part that has me continuing to ponder the event, is she made no further mention of Bell or Fibe. The remaining few minutes of our interaction was regular small talk. When she finished, she thanked me for the water, and went on to the neighbour’s house.

I prejudged her and I was wrong. I like to think that I give people the benefit of the doubt, and leave them room to disappoint me. In fact, this event tells me that I’ve grown more cynical than I’d like, and often fail to give people the benefit of the doubt, leaving only the smallest margin for people to surprise me in a good way.

I’m glad she came by.

Posted in consumer life, happy ending, me | Leave a comment

Because we do

I have the dictionary.com app on my iPad. I have a few dictionary apps loaded, but that’s the one I decided to use today to look up a word. While I was in there, I noted that I had five new messages in the dictionary.com app. Curious, I selected the link that took me to these messages.

Contrary to the way they are presented, which I suspect is no mistake, they are not personal messages. Rather, they are links to the mobile version of the dictionary.com blog.

The first link took me by surprise because of its simplicity:

Why do we capitalize the first-person pronoun, I?

Simple question, yet an absolute showstopper. My first answer is the same as the first sentence in the message:

The short answer is because we do.

They go on to say that although it feels natural for English-speakers to capitalize ‘I,’ English is the only language in which this is standard practice. The non-mobile version of the post goes into more detail, but the answer is pretty much the same.

Because we do.

I bet much of E. E. Cummings isn’t the same in translation.

Posted in me, words | Leave a comment

Mama and her children

20150415-134216 iPhone5s IMG_0639.jpg: iPhone5s, back camera @ 4.14mm, 1/3700, f/2.2, 32 ISO

File: 20150415-134216 iPhone5s IMG_0639.jpg
EXIF: iPhone5s, back camera @ 4.14mm, 1/3700, f/2.2, 32 ISO

And of course, her children are newly sprouted pepper and tomato plants. They’re all out for a little sun.

Posted in happiness, me, photography, show and tell | Leave a comment

Business blunders V

Your social media presence is the face of your business. Make damned sure the person in charge of it knows what they’re doing. Even more important, the people following you on Facebook, Twitter, and other platforms, are your tribe. They spread the word about you and are worth more than any advertising or marketing plan you can buy. Treat them as partners, and never forget why they follow you.

While not strictly a business, OpenMedia.ca is an advocacy group that relies on their followers to further their goals. They also treat their followers poorly. Let me give you two examples.

Privacy

They claim one of their principle goals is protecting privacy. Their About Us page states,

Protect privacy and defend everyone’s ability to control how their data and devices are used.

Unfortunately, their behaviour indicates otherwise. They sometimes send e-mail messages to their followers soliciting participation in petitions about various issues. You simply click the button they provide, enter your e-mail address, and you’re onboard. But much like businesses who harvest your information to their advantage, you need to read the small print. If you do so, you’ll often see that OpenMedia provides your e-mail address to their ‘partners’ in these petitions.

The first time it happened, I found out because I received a message on the topic from a web site that I had never visited. I wrote this site and asked where they got my address. They never answered. After thinking about it, I wrote OpenMedia and asked if they gave this site my address. After they failed to answer for about two weeks, I wrote again. This time they answered and explained that the small print said they’d be doing this.

Frankly, I expect businesses to pull crap like that. I do not expect an organization that promises to fight for my privacy to do the very thing they say they’re fighting against, and I told them so. They apologized and said they’d take my comments under advisement. Just as you’d expect, the next time they asked for participation in a petition, the small print was there. I didn’t sign, and I unsubscribed from the mailing list.

Social Media

I did remain subscribed to their Twitter feed, however. Until today. Over the past day or so, they’ve posted 31 (and counting) nearly identical tweets. Here’s a sample of 17 consecutive tweets:

This is asinine, and nothing but clutter. Further, it’s embarrassing. If you have to write to three-dozen celebrities to tell them your message is going viral, it’s not going viral.

I sent them a message through their web site last night before I went to sleep suggesting that their nearly two dozen identical tweets seemed excessive. This morning I saw more and publicly replied to the then newest tweet:

Since then, 20 minutes ago, another six of these tweets have appeared from OpenMedia.

Enough is enough. I stopped following OpenMedia.

Convincing people to follow you is difficult. Pissing off the followers you have to the point they leave is a special kind of stupid.

Don’t be stupid.

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Logo courtesy of OpenMedia.ca

Posted in consequences, consumer life, me, privacy | Leave a comment

Poor pianist

Meet Valentina Lisitsa. She’s a pianist who was scheduled to perform two shows with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra this week. She feels she’s being treated unfairly because she’s been replaced. Despite her still being paid, it’s clearly not fair!

What prompted the TSO’s hand was her performance on her twitter account. See, she’s very pro-Russian when it comes to the Ukraine. Differing opinions happen, but she’s taken it a step further. According to WQXR, Orchestra CEO Jeff Melanson said,

Due to ongoing accusations of deeply offensive language by Ukrainian media outlets, we have decided to replace Valentina Lisitsa.

I went to her twitter account, but it’s such a zoo that I never got back as far as these alleged offensive tweets. She’s draped herself in freedom of speech and accused the TSO of censorship. Frankly, when I saw all that, I thought perhaps she was very young. In fact, she’s in her 40s and should know better.

I’m bemused at her not realizing that the things we say can have consequences we don’t like. The TSO has not censored her in the least. She continues to enjoy the freedom to say what he wants. But those pesky consequences!

To my amusement, one of her supporters lamented that music should be free of politics. Putting aside overtly political music, I agree. I replied and voiced my agreement. But I added, “…so who brought politics into it? Not the TSO.”

The performance, Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in this case, should indeed be about the music, but she turned it into a circus. She brought politics into it and I can’t fault the TSO for their actions. Melanson nailed it perfectly when he stated,

Valentina Lisitsa’s provocative comments have overshadowed past performances. As one of Canada’s most important cultural institutions, our priority must remain on being a stage for the world’s great works of music, and not for opinions that some believe to be deeply offensive.

It’s precisely because of this kind of thing that I do not understand entertainers who ‘let themselves out’ in social media. The moment they make their Facebook page, their Twitter feed, or their web page a platform for their views, especially political views, they’re going to drive people away. That’s simply not good business unless what you express is a common belief among your audience. I’m not suggesting that entertainers should agree with everyone, but why not just entertain, and express outrage to one’s friends and family, like most of us do?

I’m also not suggesting that anyone limit themselves if they simply can’t help it, but don’t portray yourself as being wronged when I exercise my freedom of choice and support another artist who cares more about sharing their craft than their politics.

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Photo by Michael von Aichberger, used with permission (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Posted in art, idiocy, int'l affairs, politics | Leave a comment