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Tuesday, August 17, 2004
News: Revisited and reconsidered
•Beheading faker is a candidate
I predicted some people would try to excuse the behavior of the man who pretended he was beheaded by Iraqi militants on political grounds. It turns out I overestimated human nature. The fellow was running for office in California and apparently thought the stunt would enhance his electability. The Desert Suneditorializes.
Misguided Benjamin Vanderford, 22, originally staged his own beheading to draw attention to his campaign for a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. He eventually decided to distribute the video on Kaaza, a Web site that trades millions of software files daily. It crossed over to the major media and aired on Arab television. He later said that he was making a statement against the war in Iraq.
This incident is even more troubling because Vanderford has shown no remorse for his disgusting act.
No matter what type of statement he was trying to make, he showed absolute disrespect for those who died this agonizing death -- and for those who have to live forever with the horrid images of their loved ones suffering.
I am no Right Wing editorialist, but I agree. Perhaps we've sent a message to American youths that any kind of stunt is acceptable if the objective is marketing oneself. T'aint so. Does it matter that Vanderford is coming from the Left of the political spectrum? Not a whit. His actions were irresponsible regardlessly.
•"Wake Up Everybody" is a a timely tune
Who says Old School rock and soul are necessarily 'old'? I recently wrote about Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, whose fame peaked in the 1970s, though their lead singer, Teddy Pendergrass remained popular. The group was part of the history making Sound of Philadelphia, which fell on hard times after CBS stopped distributing the artists of Philadelphia International Records. Now we learn that one of the group's best known songs, "Wake Up Everybody," will be used to launch, hopefully, a million votes, in 2004.
Add Babyface and Missy Elliot to the growing list of artists looking to get out the vote in the months before the Nov. 2 presidential election.
The R&B star and hip-hop queen lead a cavalcade of music superstars--Brandy, Mary J. Blige, Wyclef Jean, Eve, Ashanti and Jadakiss, among them--who have come together to record a new all-star version of the classic hit "Wake Up Everybody" to benefit voter initiatives.
The anthem, recorded by Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, was used by Democrats in 1976 during Jimmy Carter's run for the presidency to mobilize black voters.
Now Kenneth "Babyface" Edmunds, who produced the new cover, hopes to do the same and win the hearts and minds of Americans in an effort to unseat President Bush from office.
The lyrics to the original "Wake Up Everybody," on which Pendergrass, who has a remarkable baritone voice, sings lead, are sympatico. Here's the first stanza:
Wake up everybody, no more sleepin in bed
No more backward thinkin,'
Time for thinkin' ahead.
The world has changed so very much
From what it used to be
So there is so much hatred war and poverty.
Wake up all the teachers time to teach a new way.
Maybe then they'll listen to whatcha have to say.
Cause they're the ones who's coming up
And the world is in their hands
When you teach the children, teach'em the very best you can.
No message could be more on point at this time in history than the chorus.
The world won't get no better if we just let it be
The world won't get no better
We gotta change it, yeah, just you and me.
Old School is not so old after all. Efforts to reform much of what is wrong with America began in the 1960s and 1970s, but the work is far from done.
•Real reduces price, ups ante against Apple
Real Networks has decided, "in for a dime, in for a dollar." It has slashed the price of downloads from its online music store to 50 cents per tune. The effort is an attempt to attract Windows users from Apple's iTunes Music Store.
RealNetworks will slash its song and album prices in half Tuesday in an attempt to lure music fans to buy its music downloads, which play on a slew of portable music players, including Apple iPods.
At 50 cents a song and $5 an album, the prices are the lowest yet offered by a mainstream digital music service. The bargain prices will last for "multiple weeks," according to Dan Sheeran, a senior vice president at RealNetworks.
Real's promotion is the latest volley by the company to pressure Apple Computer into opening up its music format to interoperate with other players. Several weeks ago, Real unveiled its Harmony technology, which allows music bought from Real to be played on more than 100 different portable players, including Apple's iPod.
Ironically, I anticipated this change for all online music stores in comments at another blog. But, I did not expect it to happen so soon or as part of a price war. If this is a war. We will not know until we see whether Apple, or other competitors, respond in kind. The more likely result is that Apple will attempt to expedite its lawsuit against Real claiming opening the iPod's software violates the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).
•Many of the current reports about the Blue Notes contain inaccurate information. Harold Melvin died in 1997. The present group, which performed at the 2000 Republican Convention, does not include any of the members from its hit-making epoch with Philadelphia International Records. Read a history of the Blue Notes.
•Mac-a-ro-nies previously considered Real's 'trespassing' on Apple's turf.
Wednesday, August 11, 2004
Music: The Blue Notes were ultimate
American music can be like a knitted sweater. Pull on a thread and watch a sleeve, or the whole thing, unravel. I am reminded of that by a recent experience of that interconnectedness. I developed a renewed interest in soul singer Teddy Pendergrass after Janet Jackson mentioned having fantasized about him as a child. She enthused over having the hots for the Teddy Bear (pictured) when she was 12 years old, in an effort to overcome sagging sales of her new album, Damita Jo. It was also influential that Nelly has one of the most popular Hip Hop recordings ever with a cover of Pendergrass.
(Jul. 23, 2004) Somewhere, Teddy Pendergrass is smiling. His 1981 masterpiece of seduction “Come Go With Me” fuels the hit single “My Place,” sung by new Charlotte Bobcats co-owner Nelly and ghetto crooner Jaheim, and has become the first joint since Eminem’s “Without Me” in 2000 to earn Greatest Gainer and Most Airplay Adds on three different radio formats.
“My Place” is the #1 most added at track on the Urban, Rhythm Crossover and Top 40 charts, and is the Greatest Gainer on all three as well.
Five recently purchased Pendergrass CDs, one autobiography and a performance DVD later, I'm reviewing the Blue Notes. I suppose that is inevitable. Teddy Pendergrass developed the style that would make him one of soul music's greatest success stories while performing with Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes from 1969 to 1975.
The Ultimate Blue Notes, the most attractive compilation of material by the Blue Notes at the peak of their popularity I could find, relies heavily on the Pendergrass era, but the other Blue Notes are also present enough to remind one this was a group. Harold Melvin's classy tenor shines on the group's rendition of "Hope We Can Be Together Soon," a harmonious duet with the very talented Sharon Paige. She is the only female member in the Blue Notes' 50-plus years of history that I am aware of again. Paige is again represented in "You Make Me Feel So Good," a duet with Pendergrass. The other male members of the Blue Notes -- Laurence Brown, Bernard Wilson, Lloyd Parks and Jerry Cummings -- provide backup and the seemingly effortless integrated harmony on other numbers, including "Weak for You," "The Love I Lost," and "Satisfaction Guaranteed (Or Take Your Love Back").
Still, one comes away from The Ultimate Blue Notes in awe of Teddy Pendergrass. How in the world could Harold Melvin have thought it was just fine to emphasize his name instead? Why did he believe the group would maintain its status without the young baritone the audience's ears had become attuned to? There are at least three faces of Pendergrass on the album. He is bewildered and nonplussed mark wondering where all his pals and money went on the amusing "Where Are All My Friends?" The wronged lover in "If You Don't Know Me By Now" "I Miss You," and "Yesterday, I Had the Blues." The preacher comes out on "Bad Luck," with a monologue in which the young man from Philadelphia takes President Richard M. Nixon to task. The most surprising cut on the CD is "Don't Leave Me This Way." The Blue Notes' version, dominated by Pendergrass, is, if anything, better than the hit disco queen Gloria Gaynor made of the same song. Pendergrass' baritone is mellow through most of the song only to build to a passionate crescendo at the finale. I had never heard the Blue Notes do the song before and feel I've been deprived all these years.
There were five charting albums by the Blue Notes during the Pendergrass period -- Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes (1972), Black and Blue (1973), Wake Up Everybody (1975), To Be True (1975) and, All Their Greatest Hits (1976). All where products of Philadelphia International Records when it ruled the soul music roost. They are all probably worthy of purchase. However, The Ultimate Blue Notes is an excellent distillation of the group's finest work.
Pendergrass emerged from the Blue Notes. But, they were far from his only influence. He says the vocalist he was most in awe of is fellow baritone, Marvin Junior of The Dells. Though I was a child during the Blue Notes' 'blue period,' I remember the stand-outs, such as "If You Don't Know Me By Now." I was more cognizant of Pendergrass' hits in the late '80s and '90s, such as his smash duet with Whitney Houston, "Hold Me." I recall a single song by The Dells, the famous "Oh What a Night," which still gets plenty of play. But, after some online exploration, I want to know more. I now realize that the movie, The Five Heartbeatsis about The Dells.
One of the highlights of The Dells' career, which introduced them to the "Hip-Hop Generation", was when director Robert Townsend wrote the inspiring movie The Five Heartbeats based on the tumultuous lives and career of The Dells . This film produced the hit sound track chartbuster "A Heart Is A House For Love" which catapulted The Dells into another dimension as 'superstars'.
I'll be picking up a compilation of The Dells' best material at a music store this week. I tugged a thread on the sweater of American music and a sleeve is unraveling.
A brief history of the Blue Notes.
Sunday, August 08, 2004
News: Man fakes beheading in Iraq
Perhaps sex is not the only thing I'm slow in regard to. I can't fathom why anyone would consider pretending to have been beheaded by Muslims in Iraq a cool thing to do. Yet, a young Californian has done just that. He seems to be under the impression he is helping the anti-war effort by posting a false claim of decapitation on the Internet. The known incidents of beheading did attract attention to the issue of whether Americans should be in Iraq. But, this effort to piggyback on legitimate, and tragic, events is indefensible. Reuters reports.
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - A tech-savvy young San Francisco man who staged his own mock beheading on the Internet duped international media on Saturday into believing Islamist kidnappers had executed an American hostage in Iraq.
The video, which appeared on a Web site used by Islamic militants, showed a man who identified himself as Benjamin Vanderford appealing to the United States to leave Iraq. The Web format was that used by al Qaeda ally Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and was introduced by a headline that said it showed Zarqawi killing an American.
"If we don't (leave Iraq), everyone is gonna be killed in this way ... I have been offered for exchange for prisoners here in Iraq," the terrified-looking man said, rocking back and forth in his chair, his hands tied behind his back.
The video showed a hand with a large knife apparently slicing through the neck of a limp body.
But it was all a hoax.
Some people will try to excuse the hoax on political grounds. They will say that since the faker's goal is the honorable objective of casting doubt on the occupation of Iraq, the means justify the end. I disagree. The stance of liberals and progressives in regard to the invasion and occupation of Iraq has been that America and the world need to know the truth. We are irate with the Bush administration because it lied to provide a rationale for the invasion. We believe the goals of the Bush adminstration in Iraq are to impose imperialism in the region and exploit the country's oil resources. Our opposition to lying about what is occurring there is undermined if we support this dishonest attempt to create opposition to the occupation. Benjamin Vanderford's behavior is irresponsible, not praiseworthy.
Saturday, August 07, 2004
Entertainment: Isley sidelined, James exits
It hasn't been a pleasant week for fans of old school rock and soul. Notorious punk funk king Rick James died in middle-age, after suffering a stroke and having hip replacement surgery in recent years. The legendary Ronald Isley (pictured) has had a stroke. The Isley Brothers are such fixtures in soul music it is difficult to imagine their absence.
Ronald Isley isn't going to let a little stroke get in the way of his passion for performing.
The longtime lead vocalist for the Isley Brothers suffered a stroke in London last Friday, but he is recovering swiftly, according to a statement released Thursday by Def Soul Classics.
Ronald Isley is best known for his silky-smooth vocals that have graced Isley Brothers hits for the better part of 40 years. The group got its start in 1951, but it wasn't until their 1959 debut for RCA, "Shout," that the band started to sell well. "Shout" went on to move a million units, despite virtually no support from radio.
. . .Their most recent studio release, 2003's Body Kiss, gave the Isleys their first number-one record in almost 30 years, selling 155,00 copies its first week out.
Isley is 63. James died at 56.
The positive aspect of stories like these is that these performers have significant achievements that make their health problems or early exits less depressing than if they had just begun to prove their mettle. The Isley Brothers' history, four decades long, is impressive enough that they could rest on their laurels if they chose. Though James had hoped to revive his career, his effort failed when he had a stroke while performing in 1998. Resilient, he was again on the rebound when he died.
James has since performed sporadically, including some gigs this year and a tour set for 2003. According to his Website, RickJames.com, he spent nearly four weeks in the hospital suffering heart problems that required the implantation of a pacemaker. Since then he says he's given up cigarettes and alcohol and remains drug-free.
James' skills and notoriety guarantee him a place in the memories of rock and soul aficianodos despite his early death.
Thursday, August 05, 2004
Internet: Mac users show Jobs they care
As you may know by now, Apple Computer's chief is recovering from a major health problem.
Apple Computer CEO Steve Jobs has survived an operation to remove a cancerous growth from his pancreas, Reutersreports . Apple has been surprisingly forthcoming about Jobs' illness considering its reputation for secrecy.
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Apple Computer Inc. Chief Executive Steve Jobs has had successful surgery for a rare form of pancreatic cancer, the company's co-founder told employees in a company-wide e-mail on Sunday that was made available to Reuters.
"This weekend I underwent a successful surgery to remove a cancerous tumor from my pancreas," Jobs wrote in the e-mail. "I had a very rare form of pancreatic cancer called an islet cell neuroendocrine tumor, which represents about 1 percent of the total cases of pancreatic cancer diagnosed each year, and can be cured by surgical removal if diagnosed in time (mine was)."
He added that he "will not require any chemotherapy or radiation treatments."
Jobs wrote that he will recuperate during the month of August and expects to return to Cupertino, California-based Apple in September. He is also chief executive of animated film studio Pixar .
Leander Kahney, who follows Apple closely for Wired, says there has been an impressive outpouring of sympathy and support for Jobs (pictured).
News of Steve Jobs' cancer operation has Mac news sites seeing record traffic, forums are bulging with unprecedented numbers of postings, and Apple is being swamped with messages of sympathy.
"Having anyone as well-known, respected and as popular as Steve Jobs announce that kind of news is going to cause an especially strong emotional reaction in the community he helped create," said Chuck Joiner, editor-in-chief of the Macintosh User Group Center , which represents hundreds of Mac user groups. "The sentiments are obviously overwhelmingly supportive. If anyone knew how they could help, they would in a second."
. . ."Traffic to our article about Jobs' surgery is right up there with the biggest stories of the past couple years," said Larry Angell, editor-in-chief of MacMinute , one of the first websites to post the news.
On Sunday, two of the top five stories on Yahoo's news site concerned Jobs' cancer scare.
MacCentral and Macworld.com, two of the most popular Mac news sites on the Web, saw high volumes of weekend traffic, online editor Jim Dalrymple said.
I also noticed a great deal of concern about Jobs at tech sites I visited during the last few days. The focus was not on technology, but on wanting one of the most intriguing of high tech leaders to continue his career of innovation. "Screw the stock price! Just get well," a remark posted at MacCentral, was typical of Mac users' thoughts. The situation leads one to ask whether there would be a similar outpouring of empathy if Microsoft multi millionaire Bill Gates or Oracle honcho Larry Ellison were to report being seriously ill. I don't think so. Apple users are more of a community than other buyers of hardware or software. Part of their solidarity is the result of the continual criticism they're subjected to as users of the minority platform and computer. (There are people who believe anything 'minority' is, by definition, bad, even a computer.) One positive aspect of the situation I have noticed is that some of the people expressing concern about Jobs' health are . . . Windows users. As the iPod and iTunes have penetrated the Windows market, more denizens of Wintel are becoming interested in Apple. The mystique that has long surrounded the Macintosh, and its companion hardware and software, is being pierced, too. A sizeable proportion of the get well cards flooding Apple will not be sent from .Mac accounts.
Wednesday, August 04, 2004
News: Female rapist released from prison
Perhaps, when it comes to sex, I am slow. Very slow. Or maybe I am just not romantic enough. I have reason to wonder after learning one of the most notorious criminals in the Pacific Northwest was released from prison today. Nearly a decade ago, the saga of Mary Kay Letourneau began. She was an elementary school teacher, unhappily married and the mother of four children. She initiated a sexual relationship with a student. She had known the child, the son of Samoan immigrants, since he was in her second-grade class. The relationship would result in the birth of two children and two prison sentences for Letourneau.
ABC News has the story.
GIG HARBOR, Wash. Aug. 4, 2004 -- Mary Kay Letourneau, the one-time grade school teacher who served 7 1/2 years in prison for having sex with her sixth-grade pupil, has been released, a corrections spokeswoman said early Wednesday.
Letourneau was a 34-year-old elementary school teacher in suburban Seattle and a married mother of four in 1996 when her friendship with the then-12-year-old Fualaau mutated into flirtation and then sex.
The illicit relationship was revealed when Letourneau's husband, Steve, found love letters from the boy. Steve Letourneau later moved to Alaska with the couple's children and was granted a divorce.
When Letourneau was arrested in 1997, she was already pregnant with Fualaau's daughter. A judge sentenced her to six months in jail for second-degree child rape, and ordered her to stay away from Fualaau.
But the temptation proved too much for her to resist. A month after Letourneau was released, she was caught having sex with Fualaau in her car, a violation of her parole. She was sent to prison for seven and a half years, and gave birth to Fualaau's second daughter behind bars.
In addition to the revelation of the unseemly sexual activity to Steve Letourneau, the couple's young daughter is said to have witnessed her mother and the boy having sex.
Fualaau knocked about during the intervening years. A poor student, he dropped out of school at 15. There were brushes with the criminal law. He fathered at least one other child. A lawsuit filed in an effort to hold the school system liable for his rape was rejected by jurors. Meanwhile, his mother reared his children along with her own. Today, the 21-year-old Fualaau is unemployed and seems to lack any prospects. Throughout the saga, Letourneau has claimed the seemingly sordid affair was not about an adult taking sexual advantage of a child, to his detriment. She says that hers is one of the most romantic love stories of our times.
Letourneau's own background sheds some light on the situation. She is the daughter of John Schmitz, a far Right politician from California prominent during the 1960s through the '80s. Schmitz was a member of reactionary Roman Catholic groups and the John Birch Society. He was particularly hostile to the Equal Rights Amendment to equalize the status of women in society and very 'pro-family.' He progressed from a city council member, to a state senator, to a candidate for the presidency.
John Schmitz became the 1972 Presidential candidate of the extremely right-wing American Independent Party. No one expected him to win or even to garner as many votes as its previous standard bearer, the far better known Governor George Wallace. However, about one million Americans voted for him, adding up to about 1% of the popular vote.
His meteoric rise in politics came to a halt after it became known that he had maintained a second family with his former secretary for years. Learning her father was a bigamist did not effect Letourneau's strong loyalty to him and his beliefs. The emphasis she places on childbearing -- even under really dubious circumstances -- seems to relate back to his values. She now says she would like to have additional chidren by Fualaau.
Fualaau has asked that he allowed to have contact with Letourneau, KGW-TV reports.
Vili Fualaau says he's an adult now and can pick his own friends, including Mary Kay Letourneau, his elementary school teacher, rapist and the mother of his two children, who was released from prison Wednesday.
Just hours after Letourneau completed her 7 1/2-year prison term for raping Fualaau when he was 12, the now 21-year-old Fualaau sought to reunite with her.
N. Scott Stewart, an attorney for Fualaau, filed a motion to vacate a no-contact order between Fualaau and Letourneau, 42, that was part of Letourneau's sentencing.
That Fualaau and Letourneau would want to get together was no surprise to some who know her well.
"She has a personal need to get back together with him to prove to the world this is a love story and not a crime story," said Gregg Olsen, who wrote a book about Letourneau's case. "Part of Mary Letourneau will never let go of this love."
Perhaps the reason is a lack of insight into romance on my part, but this situation seems like one in which two people have harmed themselves and a half-dozen children. Actually, make that seven children. For most of these years, Fualaau was a child himself. I am doubtful that a continuing relationship between Letourneau and Fualaau would really benefit either of them.
A fairly balanced narrative of the life of Mary Kay Letourneau can be read at Court TV's Crime Library.
Tuesday, August 03, 2004
News: Soldier says Americans abused Iraqis for 'fun'
American military personnel who abused Iraqi prisoners did it "just for fun," an Army investigator testified Monday. He was explaining the context of the abuse in a hearing to determine whether Pfc. Lynndie England should be bound over for trial. You may recall that England is the young woman photographed holding one prisoner on a leash and pointing at another's genitals.
The Associated Press reports.
FORT BRAGG, N.C. (AP) - Prosecutors portrayed Pfc. Lynndie England as an out-of-control soldier who mocked Iraqi prisoners in photos ``just for fun,'' seeking Tuesday to discredit claims that she was following orders when she abused detainees at Abu Ghraib prison.
On the first day of a hearing to determine whether England should be court-martialed for her actions at the prison, witnesses testified that the naked detainees shown with her in human pyramids and tethered to a leash were common criminals of little or no value to interrogators, abused only for sport.
An Army investigator, Paul Arthur, testified that when he interviewed England about the photos three months before they became public, she told him they were taken while ``they were joking around, having some fun, during the night shift.''
England has told the press that she and other soldiers accused of mistreating inmates at Abu Ghraib were ordered to do so by superiors. She claims that instead of being evidence of petty and vicious behavior, photographs and videos of the abuse are part of a planned scheme to elicit useful information from prisoners. However, the consensus among persons in positions to know is that most of the prisoners had been arrested casually, and, did not possess information useful to prevent terrorist attacks in Iraq and elsewhere. Many of the detainees have since been released without ever having been charged.
The assaults on Iraqi prisoners, some of them of a sexual nature, had been known to American military and political leaders months before they were leaked to the media. In the aftermath, Arabs and Muslims worlwide reacted with outrage, perceiving the material as revealing dehumanizing, and possibly racist attitudes, toward them by Americans. Terrorists who have kidnapped, and on two occassions, beheaded foreigners in Iraq, have cited the abuse of Iraqi prisoners as justification.
Defenders of England say she is being made a scapegoat. However, evidence offered at the Article 32 hearing, which is similar to a grand jury inquiry, was not favorable to her. The prisoners involved are not persons who were sources of intelligence. Arthur testified that England never mentioned turning the images over to military intelligence to be used in interrogations of other prisoners, as has been claimed by her lawyers. Furthermore, England, who was not a prison guard, but a clerk, had been told that she had no official reason to be in the area where she posed for and took pictures of Iraqi detainees being abused.
England is charged with 13 counts of abusing detainees and six counts stemming from possession of sexually explicit photos which the Army has said do not depict Iraqis. The maximum possible sentence is 38 years in prison.
. . .He [Arthur] said England claimed to have gotten permission from military intelligence to ``rough up'' a couple of rape suspects, but later noted she was the only member of the 372nd to tell him of the orders by military intelligence.
England is one of seven reservists from the 372nd who have been charged in the scandal. One, Spc. Jeremy C. Sivits, has already pleaded guilty and been sentenced to a year in prison.
To bolster their claim that the military and political elite are responsible for the prison abuses, the defense added Vice-President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to their witness list. Their efforts to obtain testimony from the two were rejected.
The hearing will continue tomorrow.
•We last considered the role of Lynndie England in "The face of Iraqi prisoner abuse."
•One of the military's highest ranking women has been demoted because of the Iraqi inmate abuse scandal.
Saturday, July 31, 2004
Technology: Apple opposes iPod downloads via Real
Apple Computer has responded to Real Networks announcement that it will implement a program, Harmony, that will allow users of iPods to download music from Real. Until now, only music downloaded from Apple's iTunes Music Store was compatible with the iPod. Other commercial sources of MP3s were locked out. Apple is not pleased that Real has created a skeleton key. Its response is explicitly hostile.
We are stunned that RealNetworks has adopted the tactics and ethics of a hacker to break into the iPod, and we are investigating the implications of their actions under the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) and other laws. We strongly caution Real and their customers that when we update our iPod software from time to time it is highly likely that Real's Harmony technology will cease to work with current and future iPods."
Real's defense is that Harmony does not violate the DMCA because it allows interoperatibility without negating copyright protection for music producers.
The situation could produce some interesting interpretations of the law. It clearly puts the question: Who is eligible for protection under the DMCA -- producers of creative content or purveyors of that content? I would expect Apple to argue that there isn't necessarily a disjunction between the two roles. Though it is not the producer of the actual content, it did develop the mechanism that allows that content to be sold within the constraints of the DMCA. But, Real's assertion that the rights of producers are what the DMCA intends to protect seems convincing to me. There doesn't appear to be any potential for loss by music producers because of the implementation of Harmony. Sure, some iTMS users might migrate to Real. But, music producers are free to sell their products to different online music sites. Any potential loss of revenue would impact iTMS, not music producers. Ironically, freeing the iPod from iTMS might not be detrimental to Apple either, since it would give users the option of buying music available at Real, but not iTMS. That freedom would be another reason to purchase an iPod.
From a consumer's perspective, the worst case scenario would be Apple damaging accessibilty to the iPod in efforts to thwart Real. Veteran iPod users employ a plethora of third-party freeware and shareware to enhance their experience with the device and iTunes. It isn't hard to imagine those programs failing as Apple changes its software to confuse Real. Let's hope it doesn't come to that.
This disagreement is one I will be keeping my consumer and legal eyes on.
Real downloads with Harmony are up and running -- for Windows users. The Real site offers next to no support for Macintosh owners. (Maybe that lack or reciprocity is part of what has Apple peeved.) You can test the new Real Player 10, with Harmony, free for two-weeks. The offer seems to be worthwhile for Windows users.
Visit Real here.
Discover how the conflict between Real and Apple started.
Friday, July 30, 2004
Politics: Drop in income may impact election
One of the anecdotes one hears about Ronald Reagan is he famously asked voters if they were better off after he was elected president than before. What he meant by 'better off' was whether their incomes had risen. If voters were pleased with having more money in their pockets, they were to vote Republican. It would not be a good idea for George W. Bush to borrow that ploy from the Reagan play book. Because some liberal said so? No, the source of the information is much more formidable than that. The Internal Revenue Service has spoken.
The New York Times has the story.
I.R.S. Says Americans' Income Shrank for 2 Consecutive Years
. . .The overall income Americans reported to the government shrank for two consecutive years after the Internet stock market bubble burst in 2000, the first time that has effectively happened since the modern tax system was introduced during World War II, newly disclosed information from the Internal Revenue Service shows.
The total adjusted gross income on tax returns fell 5.1 percent, to just over $6 trillion in 2002, the most recent year for which data is available, from $6.35 trillion in 2000. Because of population growth, average incomes declined even more, by 5.7 percent.
Adjusted for inflation, the income of all Americans fell 9.2 percent from 2000 to 2002, according to the new I.R.S. data.
The report credits two factors for the decline in income:
•The fall in the stock market in 2001, and
•The unavailability of enough well-paying jobs since the turn of the century.
But, will the Bush administration take a Reagan-like approach in the last months of the campaign season? The resounding answer to the question of whether one is better off since Bush took office is 'no,' for most Americans. That even applies to many who are wealthy, who were unable to recoup their losses through tax breaks. Considering the source of the data, it will be difficult, if not impossible, for the Bush administration to discredit it. Perhaps they will ignore it or try to get people to look elsewhere instead.
With public opinion divided over the viability of the invasion and occupation of Iraq, a strong economy would have provided a welcome focus for the GOP. However, with neither the economy nor the war on terrorism going well, the GOP may feel it needs to resort to its old dirty tricks. 'Social' issues are likely to be exploited as fully as possible. The process has already begun. Though the federal effort to amend the Constitution to forbid gay marriage failed, it distracted the citizenry from more important matters, including the occupation of Iraq and our economic doldrums. And, expect that message to continue to be sent. It is a time proven tactic that providing people with enemies, internal or external, will distract them from the problems that are really plaguig them. The Christian Right will increase its determined efforts to scapegoat homosexual Americans as the national election, and showdowns over ballot initiatives seeking to ban gay marriage, near. As the campaign season ripens, I expect to see similar messages sent in regard to race, religion and abortion. The ultraconservative Club for Growth began that process with its funding of extreme Right candidates such as Pat Toomey and Jack Ryan. Though it failed to drive moderate Republican Sen. Arlen Specter from office, that race was extremely close. Ryan fell over his own feet, or Illinois would be considering a candidate for the Senate who opposes just about every progressive aspect of contemporary society. However, other candidates favored by the far Right will communicate the divisive messages that are part and parcel of the Southern Strategy and other schemes. In that sense, we are returning to the Reagan years -- becoming the divided society that was the srongest characteristic of that era.
•A far Right attack on a Republican senator, Arlen Specter, failed.
•The senatorial campaign pitting Barack Obama against Jack Ryan highlighted the differences between the parties.
Thursday, July 29, 2004
News: Jack Ryan succumbs to pressure
Jack Ryan has officially withdrawn as a candidate for the U.S. Senate from Illinois. He made the announcement today. Republican party leaders had been concerned about Ryan's refusal to cooperate in the process of replacing him on the ballot. Ryan's campaign failed after allegations of sexual misconduct became public. The Guardian has the latest.
CHICAGO (AP) - Republican Jack Ryan officially withdrew from the U.S. Senate race Thursday, nearly five weeks after a sex scandal forced him to abandon his candidacy.
The Illinois State Board of Elections received Ryan's withdrawal papers Thursday morning in Springfield, according to elections officials.
His exit came a day after Republican leaders said they were tired of waiting for him to take the step and scheduled a meeting of the committee that will choose his replacement.
Ryan still says he just didn't have time to complete the process. However, the paperwork involved is said to be a half-page long and takes less than a minute to fill out. It appears Ryan may have taken a perverse pleasure in holding his former comrades' feet to the fire. The nomination process required that he formally withdraw before anyone else could replace him on the ballot.
Party officials were fed up with Ryan's foot-dragging.
Wednesday, July 28, 2004
Politics: Jack Ryan stays on ballot
Jack Ryan is still on the ballot as a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate from Illinois. Ryan (pictured) has given no rational reason for having failed to remove his name from the ballot more than a month after he said he was withdrawing from the race. Ryan's campaign fell apart after it became known he allegedly tried to force his ex-wife, actress Jeri Ryan, to participate in erotic activity in sex clubs. The allegations were made in 2000. The information became known after Ryan lost a court battle to keep it secret weeks ago. Leaders of the Illinois GOP wish the erstwhile candidate would go away.
CHICAGO - Republican officials on Wednesday called a meeting of the committee that will choose a replacement for Jack Ryan as the party's U.S. Senate candidate, even though Ryan inexplicably remains on the ballot nearly five weeks after he said he would drop out of the race, party chairwoman Judy Baar Topinka said.
"We really can't wait anymore. He's dragged this on too long," Topinka said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press.
Topinka said the State Central Committee will meet Tuesday in Chicago to discuss "the office and either discuss him being on the ballot and how do we get him off, or, if he's already gotten off, discuss the candidates and make our appointment."
The 19-member State Central Committee cannot officially pick a replacement for Ryan until he takes his name off the ballot.
It is unclear why Ryan has chosen to annoy his fellow party members. Though most of them eventually stopped supporting him, that was not until after it became known that he had misrepresented the contents of his divorce files. Ryan failed to block the partial release of divorce records, which he claimed pertained only to child custody. Most of the material in them was was blacked out. However, the files revealed that participation in public sex was a bone of contention between the Ryans before they separated. Ryan has directed much of his anger at the media, claiming it had no right to be inquisitive about or reveal the contents of his divorce records. The former investment banker, who is very wealthy, attacked the media in print and broadcast interviews following the disintegration of his campaign. He has not taken responsibility for problems in his marriage or for not being forthcoming with the Illinois GOP. His seeming mockery of the party could be an effort to get even for its unwillingness to go forward with him as its candidate.
State Republican leaders are frustrated, and the uncertainty about who will be atop the ticket is a lingering embarrassment to a GOP still trying to recover from the indictment of former Gov. George Ryan in a widespread corruption scandal and a disastrous 2002 election in which it lost almost every statewide office.
At the same time, a rosy glow surrounds the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate, Barack Obama. The state senator from Chicago delivered the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention on Tuesday night to rave reviews, and the national media have labeled him a rising star in the party.
Five competitors are vying to replace Ryan on the ballot. However, most well-known Republicans from Illinois declined invitations to replace him, realizing the race will likely be a bloodbath for the GOP. In order for a replacement to appear on the ballot, Ryan must officially vacate his candidacy by Aug. 27. Until he does, state officials and would-be candidates will remain limbo.
•The Chicago Tribune reported the contents of the parts of the divorce records that were not redacted in a story headlined "Ryan file a bombshell."
•Mac-a-ro-nies previouly considered the Ryan imbroglio in "Jack hits the road" and "We do know Jack. . . Ryan".
Technology: Harmony tunes to play on iPod
When we last heard from Real Networks CEO Rob Glaser he was asking Apple CEO Steve Jobs if he could play in his sandbox. Glaser was concerned that proprietary software prevents music downloaded from his MP3 site, Harmony, from playing on the iPod, the most popular digital music player. Jobs resisted Glaser's entreaty, not needing a new playmate. Apple's iTunes Music Store is the source of 70 percent of music downloaded legally online.
Wired has the details of the courtship.
"Seattle-based RealNetworks said Thursday that Apple chairman Steve Jobs had declined an offer by RealNetworks' chief executive Rob Glaser to meet and discuss forming an online music alliance involving Apple's best-selling iPod portable players.
"He's in the neighborhood, but whatever meeting Rob wanted with Steve isn't happening," RealNetworks spokesman Greg Chiemingo said Thursday. "Steve just doesn't want to open the iPod, and we don't understand that.""
Glaser is back and he has news for Apple.
RealNetworks Inc. said Monday it would start selling through its music store songs that can be played on Apple Computer's popular iPod, defying Apple's attempt to make its player compatible only with music downloaded from its iTunes store.
The disclosure is part of a broader initiative by RealNetworks to increase the number of devices that can play music from the multimedia software maker's Internet store.
To increase its reach, the company said it has developed digital rights-translation software, called Harmony Technology, which makes it possible to keep the copyright protection contained in downloaded music. Proprietary security technology often ties songs to particular music players. Apple, which has refused to license its FairPlay copy-protection technology, did not return requests for comment.
Apple has not yet responded, but is likely to do so -- in court. The easiest way for Real to imitate the digital rights protection aspect of Apple's music downloads for Harmony would be through reverse engineering. That means taking iTunes code for DRP apart and coming up with a reiteration of how it works. Reverse engineering raises the issue of whether Apple's intellectual property rights have been violated. Real emphatically denies that it reverse engineered the code to get it to work with Harmony.
RealNetworks claims it did not break Apple's protection through reverse engineering, which is the process of taking software apart, analyzing its workings in detail, and then reconstructing a new application that does the same thing, without actually copying anything from the original. This is important because the federal Digital Millennium Copyright Act made it illegal to reverse engineer software to bypass protections embedded by the original author.
If the matter goes to litigation, Real with need to document the process it did follow to create a way to use Harmony on iPods without violating DRP. Perhaps the developer anticipated a need to defend itself from the start and is ready for that fight. If not, the costs associated with litigation could be a disincentive to use the technology. After all, is unclear whether significant numbers of iPod users would consider buying music from Harmony instead of iTMS.
This conflict is about a sandbox and securing turf. Apple can use proprietary software to prevent other digital music retailers from selling music that can be played on the iPod. It can refuse to allow competitors to sell iPods. But, both those approaches to protecting its sandbox have now been breached. Real has freed the iPod from iTunes. Jobs agreed to let Hewlett Packward play it in its sandbox earlier this year -- HP-branded iPods will be available in September. The approach that does seem to be working is making sure that the iPod is the best MP3 player available. Indeed, Glaser's desire to play in Jobs' sandbox is confirmation of the domination of MP3 players by the iPod. It is continuing that domination that will ultimately protect Apple's sandbox.
Newsweek has recognized the iPod as the celebrity it has become. Learn why.
Tuesday, July 27, 2004
News: Gay marriage ban makes Oregon ballot
The weeks-long window of opportunity that allowed Oregon to become the gay marriage mecca of America this Spring ended when politicians decided to wait for a court ruling on the topic. Multnomah County froze its practice of issuing marriage licenses to homosexuals. Though the issue is still awaiting a legal decision, another branch of the government will take action on it in November.
The Oregonian has the story.
The initiative that would ban same-sex marriage qualified Monday for the fall ballot, setting the stage for another hot battle in the culture war of Oregon.
The initiative would amend the state constitution to define marriage as only between one man and one woman, jeopardizing more than 3,000 marriages between same-sex couples registered in Multnomah County earlier this year.
The Defense of Marriage Coalition collected more than 240,000 signatures, thought to be a record, and had 104,000 more valid ones than it needed to join medical malpractice, workers' compensation, property compensation and state forests among the issues on the Nov. 2 ballot.
Despite its reputation for relative liberalism in regard to homosexuality, Oregon was a hotbed of anti-gay action during the 1980s until the mid '90s. The Oregon Citizens Alliance regularly filed ballot iniatives seeking to curb what it considered damage to society by homosexuals.
Oregon's measure is the latest in a series of initiatives in the past 16 years to address gay rights. Voters in 2000 rejected an Oregon Citizens Alliance measure to bar schools from promoting homosexuality. The group also sponsored broader anti-gay rights measures in 1988, 1992 and 1994. The first passed but was declared unconstitutional in court. The other two failed.
The group fell upon hard times later and has been largely dormant as its leader, Lon Mabon seeks to evade the sanctions imposed in lawsuits he lost. The current anti-gay activists are not necessarily associated with the OCA. However, as a state without a Defense of Marriage Act, Oregon is an ideal place to test the waters in regard to gay unions. Polls show that most Oregonians oppose marrying gays, as is true in the rest of the states. However, politicians in the metropolitan Portland area have been surprisingly sympathetic. Four of the five Multnomah County commissioners favored issuing marriage licenses to gays. Support of gay unions from heterosexual citizens and businesses is common. The ballot measure will be a barometer of how many people throughout the state share the live and let live attitude of many pols and citizens in the state's largest city.
Oregon will not be alone in bringing the issue to voters. Legislators in several states, seeing the absence of laws barring gay marriage as a loophole in need of closing, have encouraged ballot initiatives.
SALEM, Ore. (BP)--A constitutional marriage amendment in Oregon qualified for the ballot July 26, meaning that voters there will have a say on the issue of same-sex "marriage."
The announcement makes Oregon the 10th state with a marriage amendment on the ballot. Three other states -- Michigan, North Dakota and Ohio -- could follow.
. . .The other nine are Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Oklahoma and Utah.
Though I believe whether gays can marry may ultimately be decided in the courts, these initiatives provide an excellent opportunity for states to offer equal protection to all their citizens through the ballot process.
Friday, July 23, 2004
Technology: The iPod has arrived
A person knows she has become a public figure when she sees herself staring back from a general circulation magazine. Someone, or rather something, had its role as a cultural icon confirmed this week. The iPod is the cover story at Newsweek. Apple CEO Steve Jobs displays the latest rendition of the world's most popular MP3 player next to the headline, "iPod, Therefore I Am." The cover story explains the appeal of the iPod and dispels some misconceptions about the product.
Music hits people's emotions, and the purchase of something that opens up one's entire music collection -- up to 10,000 songs in your pocket -- makes for an intense relationship. When people buy iPods, they often obsess, talking incessantly about playlists and segues, grumbling about glitches, fixating on battery life and panicking at the very thought of losing their new digital friend. "I'd be devastated if I lost it," says Krystyn Lynch, a Boston investment marketer.
Fans of the devices use it for more than music. "It's the limousine for the spoken word," says Audible CEO Don Katz, whose struggling digital audiobook company has been revitalized by having its products on Apple's iTunes store. (Podsters downloaded thousands of copies of Bill Clinton's autobiography within minutes of its 3 a.m. release last month.) And computer users have discovered that its vast storage space makes it a useful vault for huge digital files -- the makers of the "Lord of the Rings" movies used iPods to shuttle dailies from the set to the studio. Thousands of less-accomplished shutterbugs store digital photos on them.
Though Apple is approaching having half of the MP3 player market, much of the hoi polloi either does not understand what the iPod does or thinks it is only a music player. Just this week, I talked to several persons who needed an introduction to the iPod. One of them surprised me because I assumed that he was high tech savvy enough to know more about the device. Apparently, some people know its name, but not what it does. The Newsweek article is likely to ease the burden for iPod evangelists. The iPod is the Cadillac of MP3 players for both Macintosh and Windows computers. From its inception, it has also been a hard drive that allowed users to back up their entire computers to it. But, since generation two, about a year and a half, the device, now in its fourth generation, has been able to do even more. Many of the uses for the personal digital assistant are now transferable to the iPod, including contacts, notes and documents one wants to read or have read to him. Books can be downloaded in iTunes from Audible and other ebook sellers. Photographs and movies can be stored on the hard drive and accessed in FireWire mode. Accessories allow users to send music to their stereos, home and car, for broadcast, and record voice memos. The iPod has earned its celebrity status through a combination of versatility and hard work. Now, the story is being been told to just folks.
The latest generation of iPods seek to address the two most common complaints about the device -- price and battery life. These improvements may deter competitors in their quest to claim some of Apple's market share. MacWorld considered how the changes will enhance the strutting success of the iPod and iTunes.
On Monday, Apple introduced new iPod models at lower prices. The 20-gigabyte version is now $299, down from $399, and a 40-gigabyte model is $399, down from $499. Both come with a longer battery life of 12 hours, versus eight hours previously.
With 70 percent of the market for legal music downloads and 45 percent of the market for portable music players, Apple's nearest competitors including Rhapsody from RealNetwork, Napster from Roxio and Connect from Sony do not attract anything close to the traffic on the iTunes network.
Even the RIAA, no fan of so much of what is occurring in high tech, is pleased with Apple.
"The iPod and iTunes store are a shining light at a very bleak time in the industry," says Cary Sherman, president of the Record Industry Association of America. Since just about everybody feels that within a decade almost everybody will get their music from such places, this is a very big.
True. The significance of the iPod goes beyond the affection of those of us who own and love them. The iPod is the first device to demonstrate how miniaturized high tech will allow the tranfer of a variety of information digitally for consumers.
Read the entire article about the arrival of the iPod, online at Newsweek.
•Eliot Van Buskirk at ZDNet Anchordesk rates the iPod.
•What's 'on' on my iPod? Friday is Old School day for the Diva. The Chi-lites are asking "Have You Seen Her?" The Manhattans want to "Kiss and Say Good-bye." Teddy Pendergrass says to "It Don't Hurt Now."
Thursday, July 22, 2004
Confession: Ms. Jackson and the Diva -- macking
Toni and Foxxy, cold Crystile in wine glasses.
We macking -- Brown and Braxton.
Toni Braxton and Foxxy Brown
"You're Making Me High"
Rich people are different. So, it would be presumptuous of me to declare much commonality with Ms. Jackson. I had my wisdom teeth removed at 18. Janet Jackson had a CD, a starring role on a television series and a Rolls Royce at 18. 'Nuff said. So, it is with some amusement that I admit to sharing an experience with a Jackson family scion. In a recent interview in Blender magazine, Jackson describes certain prurient aspects of her early adolescence. The Vancouver Sun summarizes the article.
NEW YORK -- Long before her right breast was exposed to the world during the Super Bowl halftime show, Janet Jackson says she had thoughts about sex.
"As I've gotten older, I've come to realize that I had a very active sexual mind at a very young age. I hope that doesn't sound bad," Jackson tells Blender magazine for its June-July issue.
"My first crush was on Barry Manilow. He performed on television, and I remember taping it. When no one was around, I used to kiss the screen."
Jackson also recalls having a "major crush" on Teddy Pendergrass when she was 12.
"I thought he was singing to me," says the singer, now 38.
"When you're a kid, you have little fantasies, but I saw myself being with him as an adult, not as a kid."
Make that a double.
Wait a minute. I do not mean Barry Manilow. Scratch him and the donkey he rode in on.
But, Teddy Pendergrass? TP? Teddy Bear? For Ms. Jackson's fantasy to come true, she would have had to knock me down to get to him. The gift of a TP CD has reminded me how enthralled I was with the sensuous singer back in the day. He may be the last of the soul men and deserves more attention than he gets. The late Barry White pales in comparison, despite his reputation for being the man to get down to. For more than a decade Teddy ruled that roost. That voice -- always 'reasonable,' yet sensual and commanding. From smooth baritone to gruff growl. That face -- soulful eyes that seem to look right into yours, luscious lips that beg to be kissed, and possibly the only beard I've ever wanted to run my fingers through. That body -- long and lean, deep chocolate, and always clothed, though somehow it seemed not to be.
Teddy Pendergrass' genius was to transcend the material he was singing, to endow it with a soulfulness that it lacked in the voices of less magnetic singers. From his early 20s on, he had the ability to convey both sexuality and spirituality in a manner that mesmerized. The songs, some sensual ("Close the Door," "Love TKO," "Do Me") and some evangelistic ("Somebody Told Me to Deliver this Message," "Wake Up Everybody") made him the first African-American male vocalist to have five albums in a row go platinum. His erotic appeal, acomplished without ever removing clothing or sexually explicit dancing, took American girls and women by storm. Millions must have fantasized about 'their' Teddy Bear.
That one Teddy CD was not enough. I bought Life is a Song Worth Singing and Joy this week. Couldn't stop there. I have TP's autobiography, Truly Blessed, and hope to finish reading it soon. Watch for the review.
It is difficult to describe how convincing Teddy's songs can be in print. Suffice it to say that when he wheedles, "Let me do what I want to do. All I want to do is make love to you. Let me do. . .do. . .do" on "Close the Door," even a nun might be not just willing, but eager. Ms. Jackson's judgment might be questionable sometimes, but she couldn't have chosen a man more worthy of erotic fantasy than Teddy Pendergrass.
Whats's the art?
Teddy Pendergrass' smile.
Read the article in which Ms. Jackson gets nasty at Blender.
Read a capsule history of Teddy Pendergrass' career at MP3.com.
Wednesday, July 21, 2004
News: Bono to speak on AIDS and economics
Bono is coming to the Pacific Northwest, but not for the reason you are thinking. The rock star has decided to go beyond speaking out about political issues briefly at benefit concerts for causes he cares about. Though other entertainers, including Whoopi Goldberg and Linda Ronstadt, have been pilloried for daring to criticize the current administration, Bono (pictured) is becoming even more politically active than he has been in the past. Goldberg was recently dismissed as a spokeswoman for Slim-Fast, a product that supposedly helps people lose weight. She had mocked George W. Bush at a fundraising event. Just this week, Ronstadt was ejected from the Aladdin casino in Las Vegas when she dedicated a song, "Desperado," to controversial auteur Michael Moore. Bono appears to be undaunted. He, minus his band, U2, will be appearing in the role of spokesman on international relations and poverty. The Oregonian explains.
When Irish rock star Bono appears at Portland's Rose Garden Arena this fall, he won't sing while sprinting around a heart-shaped stage, as he did in an April 2001 show with his band, U2.
The World Affairs Council of Oregon has recruited the singer to kick off its 2004-05 International Speaker Series, the council will announce today.
Bono, a singer and activist for the world's poor, is expected to deliver an address on how rich countries' foreign aid and trade policies have hampered Africa's ability to fight the spread of AIDS. He won't sing at the Oct. 20 event, but, as with the three other speakers in the council's series, Bono will deliver a 45-minute address and take written questions from the audience.
Though the right of people, including celebrities, to express their views publicly is a given to me, by so demonstratedly changing his role from singer to activist, Bono doubtlessly risks oppobrium from some quarters. It will be said that he should stick to what he knows. But, the entertainer seems to be doing that already. He has gathered an impressive body of information about AIDS in Africa and is well-informed regarding the topic. The notion that a person should engage in only one kind of work seems silly to me. I believe it is evidence of the anti-intellectual bias in American society. Talent is distrusted. The doubly talented are doubly distrusted. If an individual is capable of achieving in more than one field, that is a benefit to society. But, I think many people resent such displays of versatility.
Any criticism Bono is subject to as a result of 'gettng out of his place,' will be cushioned by the success of U2.
U2 became one of rock's hottest tickets in 1987, with the release of The Joshua Tree, an album that put the previously niche rockers on magazine covers worldwide. Bono's ability to reach a diverse audience helped U2 mark the second-highest gross sales of any rock tour in history in 2001.
The audience for Bono's speaking engagement will be limited to less than 5000 people. The Council hopes that featuring the rock star will attract attention to the issues of debt relief, AIDS and the relationship between First and Third World countries from young people.