Saturday, January 21, 2012

One person's pirate is another's patriot

It seems pirates have made headlines once again. Not just the SOPA and PIPA bills, but also the recent shutdown of a popular file sharing website. The Hong Kong based website, which was taken down and whose founder and three other employees were detained in New Zealand on Thursday, has servers in the US. An excerpt from the article,

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, which defends free speech and digital rights online, said in a statement that, 'This kind of application of international criminal procedures to Internet policy issues sets a terrifying precedent. If the United States can seize a Dutch citizen in New Zealand over a copyright claim, what is next?' "

I then cruised around Pirate forums and websites and came across a press release from the Pirate Bay (TPB) published on the 18th-the day of the “blackout,” I mentioned this website on the other Pirate post, they have connections to the Swedish Pirate Party and host a file sharing website, which I believe is not operational in the states. To paraphrase its opposition to the bills, it begins by submitting the creation of Hollywood as a sort of geographical/legal response to Edison’s patent on motion pictures vis-à-vis the Kinetoscope. In that time, it was very expensive to produce movies without the patent, but it was possible on the west coast  since there was no patent on the device, and so began the industry in a town called Hollywood, “circumventing immaterial rights,” and thereby making a tidy profit and over time this town has become what TPB calls a foothold into the world’s culture and media.

TPB goes on to describe the studios as charlatans peddling the hard work and collective creative sweat of others manifested in its products; be they on the big screen, printed on a T shirt or on your soda cup at [insert fast food chain here], who are afraid of the pirates for no other reason than competition. TPB calls their service a more efficient way of facilitating direct communication between users all over the globe, which is what the Motion Pictures Association of America refer to as, “criminal websites designed to steal.” TPB even touts their support of free speech and belief that power ought to lie in the hands of the masses, not the few elite, as kindred with America’s founding ideas. I mentioned that the Pirate Bay as having Swedish roots. Apparently, in Swedish, “sopa,” means “trash,” and “pipa,” means “pipe,” they then make an analogy of the internet as a one-way pipe where government stands at the top shoving trash through which comes out on the other end, where the consumers are.

The Chamber of Commerce is unlikely to see eye to eye with what they call, “rogue websites that are a threat to the US economy.” I’ll try not to delve too deeply into what I’ll call the “rogue rhetoric,” which has been used by other US politicians to incite feelings of fear from some intangible foreign conspirator (remember enemy combatants?) in order to push through legislation that upon closer inspection may also be interpreted as, “restricting free speech and degrading internet security.” (PPI) Though the legislation is meant to target a certain group of people, namely, “a stealthy menace seeking to rob [the US] for the ingenuity for which it is so well known.” (Chamber of Commerce) The Pirate Party International calls the action, “not compatible with democratic values,” and “promoting censorship,” which would, “erode the rights of every internet user around the world.” What the MPAA calls, “protecting the theft of American intellectual property,” the Pirate Party refers to as, “giving the US government and corporations the power to block access to-and take down-websites that they consider to be infringing on their copyright monopoly.”

I know it's an obvious statement, but I guess it boils down to perspective. That is to say, how you view the internet. Is it a tool for finding information, in all its forms, or is it a potential weapon, threatening the viability and jobs of artists? I suppose it depends on who is writing your press releases. Either way, as the blackout showed, these pirates carry as much clout and capability as their opponents. I guess we will just have to wait and see how it pans out, but suffice it to say, it will impact everyone no matter what.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Schon Ausgerutscht

So, Frohes Neues Jahr! That’s one thing I learned here last year, it’s ok to say “Happy new year,” even a few weeks after the 1st. I think the unspoken rule is, if you haven’t seen that person yet then it’s still ok to greet them as if it were the 2nd. I feel the statute of limitations on this greeting is until late January.

The holidays were great and I enjoyed a nice little homecation. I had a week and a half without classes and I took the time to not do work and relax. At the moment I am entertaining a fellow Californian. Since I've lived here I decided having someone from the states over is always a nice reason to take the train to Paris, since it's about two and a half hours away. 

It was my third time in Paris so I felt a little more comfortable than the second (since my first time I was with people who knew the ins and outs of the city). I feel like the hardest part for me is figuring out the metro network. Every trip (I mean trip within the city, moving from one point of interest to the next) becomes about coordinating stations and making connections, at least for someone like myself who is hopeless at reading maps and prone to losing my way if I have to walk more than a few minutes. Incidentally, I was there with my mom last year in April and was forced to figure out the metro to get us around. I did just fine with no blunders if my memory serves correct. We could see Sacré-Cœur from our hotel balcony so I thought, “well I could get us there.” Armed with a set of instructions from the hotel reception, which I obviously forgot upon exiting, and a crude tourist map I set off in the direction of the basilica. After taking a few side streets that probably (actually definitely not necessary) and a little wander later, we arrived after about twenty minutes or so. 

This time around, I actually found the metro stop for the Sacré-Cœur and had to walk only a few minutes. I remembered the hotel where I had stayed was also a short walk from the Moulin Rouge. So atop the hill I suggested to Jacquelynn that we try walking there rather than getting on the metro. I was a bit nervous I’d get us lost but actually we were only minutes away from the hotel, ha. 

The next day I decided The Louvre would be a good choice. It was a Monday so I thought that would mean it would be less busy. I found the key was getting there early, just after opening time, before all the tour groups get there. Before we entered the museum, we felt a few pictures of I M Pei’s pyramid were in order. There were some other tourists who were there as well, and they made one of those jumping pictures where you look airborn after jumping off something/springing in the air. I will be the first to admit I have a terrible center of gravity and am not by any stretch of the imagination nimble or otherwise aerobatic, but for some reason I thought I'd try it. I got a good amount of air, but actually more than I bargained for. I ended up landing on my heel with most of my body weight. It hurt pretty bad. Too bad it was not even 10 and I had an entire day of city walking planned. I continued to lead a mini tour de force through the city, hitting up Notre Dame and the tower before my inevitable surrender before we could get to the arc. I made it back to my friend's place for a nice home cooked meal and a bit of rest before the trip back.

(view from the hotel balcony in April)

 (Jump at own risk)

 Really not as exciting when compared to some of the other works, but here's a picture of it (Photo credit: Jax!)

The next day I shuffled to the train station, with Jacquelynn’s help carrying my bag,
and made it back home. I went to the doctor today and the good news is that nothing’s broken, just a bruised ego and an uncomfortable foot for a few more days. I learned that I can do just fine checking in to a hospital (answering questions is no problem), but taking directions is still iffy. I had to have Röntgenaufnahme (X rays) and the technician was trying to tell me what to do because she didn't want to hurt my foot. I realized there are so many body parts and verbs for movement that I still just don’t know! It’s ironic that I didn’t heed one students departing words, “Guten Rutsch! Aber nicht so viel rutschen! Nicht ausrutschen!” Looks like I didn’t make it into 2012 as gracefully as possible.