Lileks: Meta-Weblog Post

Okay, this isn’t related to the “meta weblog API”; we’ll get that one out of the way now. But in the middle of a rambling but funny story about an Internet outage at his day job, James Lileks tosses out a beautiful metadescription of the archetypal weblog post:

Clever teaser headline that has little to do with the actual story, but sets the tone for this blog post.

Breezy ad hominem slur containing the link to the entire story.

Excerpt of said story, demonstrating its idiocy (or brilliance)

Blogauthor’s remarks, varying from dismissive sniffs to a Tolstoi-length rebuttal.

Seven comments from people piling on, disagreeing, adding a link, acting stupid, preaching to the choir, accusing choir of being Nazis, etc.

<blogauthorRemarks>No dismissive sniffs or Tolstoi-length rebuttal from me today. Probably no seven comments from other people either. But God, it’s scary how many of my posts fit this format. Teaser, slur, excerpt, remarks (+comments). Maybe next time I’ll experiment and put the slur at the END.</blogauthorRemarks>

Kicking Kenny

Just saw this article from 2000 by Pat Metheny (thanks to Flangy for the pointer) about boycotting Kenny G. Nicely sums up what I felt fifteen years ago about Mr. G, but prompted by a more serious offense than “Songbird”: playing over Louis Armstrong. Sample comments from Pat:

his saxophone style is in fact clearly in the tradition of the kind of playing that most reasonably objective listeners WOULD normally quantify as being jazz. it’s just that as jazz or even as music in a general sense, with these standards in mind, it is simply not up to the level of playing that we historically associate with professional improvising musicians….

but when kenny g decided that it was appropriate for him to defile the music of the man who is probably the greatest jazz musician that has ever lived by spewing his lame-ass, jive, pseudo bluesy, out-of-tune, noodling, wimped out, fucked up playing all over one of the great louis’s tracks (even one of his lesser ones), he did something that i would not have imagined possible. he, in one move, through his unbelievably pretentious and calloused musical decision to embark on this most cynical of musical paths, shit all over the graves of all the musicians past and present who have risked their lives by going out there on the road for years and years developing their own music inspired by the standards of grace that louis armstrong brought to every single note he played over an amazing lifetime as a musician. by disrespecting louis, his legacy and by default, everyone who has ever tried to do something positive with improvised music and what it can be, kenny g has created a new low point in modern culture – something that we all should be totally embarrassed about – and afraid of. we ignore this, “let it slide”, at our own peril.


On the absurdity of directories

Dave kvetches about the awkward (if not incorrect) taxonomy of aggregators on DMOZ. I think that Radio didn’t make the list because of the small type at the bottom of the page: “This category needs an editor.” This is probably also why RSS aggregators are buried under “Cataloging/Metadata/RDF/Applications/RSS.”

Two interesting points here:

  1. A directory, like any other catalogue, is a work of opinion and therefore inherently one-sided.
  2. You can’t really have a page without an editor and expect it to look good.

The thing about DMOZ, like MusicMoz, is that the choices of more than one editor are incorporated, and that becoming an editor is easy.

Larry and the Supremes

During my blogout yesterday, Larry Lessig argued his case against the Bono Copyright Extension Act of 1998 in front of the Supreme Court. The case meaning what it does to the Net, there was a ton of coverage of various depth out there. My favorites include

Lots of interesting quotes abound, both from the actual arguments and from the commentary. For starters, Sandra Day O’Connor sums up the issues with the case when she says, “I can find a lot of fault with what Congress did…This flies directly in the face of what the framers of the Constitution had in mind, but is it unconstitutional?” (from the AP coverage).

Kwin seems to have the best summary of the entire arguments of both sides. He writes:

“Lessig has framed a very conservative argument. … Congress has retrospectively extended copyright — ie, granted term extension to existing (as opposed to new) works — numerous times. Doing so violates both of the constitutional limits on Congress’s copyright-granting powers.

“In addition, Lessig advances a second, separate argument that
extending the terms of existing copyright violates Freedom of Speech
protections under Article I, because the ‘restrictions on speech’ greatly outweigh any plausible societal ‘benefits.’ As I understand it, this test of restrictions/benefits is termed the ‘intermediate’
test under First Amendment law, and is the general test applied to
content-neutral regulation of speech.”

Kwin goes on to state that the Supremes challenged the first point mostly on what it would do to previous copyright term extensions (such as the 1976 extension), but essentially drilled the second point out of existence. This is going to disappoint a lot of the Internet folks who wanted a broader ruling about free speech from this case.

Kwin also writes,

“The one non-obvious tack Olson’s argument took was to continually emphasize that the ‘promot[ing] progress’ language wasn’t intended to apply just to authorship, but also to distribution. Making things widely available required that publishers have a strong economic interest in the copyright system. By implication, the 1998 law was intended to promote progress by strengthening publishers’ interest.”

This is an interesting argument and one that I didn’t see coming: argue that publishers really are adding value and as such are entitled to the same considerations as content creators. Justice Breyer aggressively questioned the economic rationale behind this point and asked whether the damage done directly and indirectly (by letting works fall out of circulation because finding the copyright holders would be too difficult) exceeded the “benefits” of the law.

It’s all fascinating. The fact that the Supremes implicitly acknowledged the real economic harm done by copyright extension and that the current practice of extending copyright without limits may violate the Constitution is encouraging. But I’ll leave it to Greg to do the legal handicapping.