Monthly Archives: January 2012

Movie Review: Copyright Criminals

Copyright Criminals Boxed Set CoverSaw Copyright Criminals on Netflix Monday night while cooking up a mushroom risotto. Isn’t that the best time to watch a documentary, while you are waiting for something to boil or stirring occaisionally? Anyway, it’s a great great hip hop history, looking at the ways that copyright and remix culture intersect. You get interviews with all sorts of great turntabilists and producers like Public Enemy, De La Soul, and EL-P, but then you also get the side of guys who made the beats in the beginning like George Clinton and Clyde “Funky Drummer” Stubbelfield.

It turns out that if you cover a song, you are in the clear. Just don’t change any lyrics, you’re legally ok. However, if you lift a guitar riff, distort it and change the tempo or stutter it, then you’re a copyright criminal and you can’t make any cash off your music. There is a really good bit where the head of Tommy Boy and De La Soul are interviewed, discussing how the legal implications of sampling definitely changed the music they were making. Samples became more distorted to hide their origins, some songs are abandoned just because you can’t hope to clear the rights to a popular track. It’s strange to think of all the ghost songs floating out there that were smothered in their cradles before they could be heard or developed.

One last bit of the movie I really loved were the visual breakdowns of remix and mashup songs. Nothing makes it clearer how much actual artistry is happening than seeing the interleaving, distortions and tweaks in all the clips visually.

Podcasts of Note

I always assume people already know these things before I do, but a friend just told me about Deadmau5 and so I’m sheepishly realizing I haven’t been telling about the treasures I’ve discovered.

Podcasts are great.  You can subscribe to them in many ways.  I use the google listen app on my android phone because that lets me listen on the subway.

I’m assuming you already know about A Prairie Home Companion, right?  The show so popular they don’t even bother to have a podcast, not for them. You are getting to hang out with America’s grandpa, Garrison Keillor every Sunday, telling the same old jokes over and over and loving it each time.  Good.  I’m glad you are.

So now I also guess you’ve heard of This American Life.  It’s so mainstream that they had a few seasons of a television show on Showtime.  It was good! But this is such an institution that it has become almost it’s own style.  I can recognize their favorite musical bits by now, because they use them over and over to back all sorts of stories. I think the Fiasco episode, just the intro to it, is the funniest thing I’ve ever heard. I cried.

But because of This American Life, I found Planet Money.  See, there was an episode of This American Life called The Giant Pool of Money and it was such a good explanation of the financial collapse of 2008 that the individual reporters for that show got their own series.  This is a look at economics through an understandable lens.  The reporters have covered things like where did China’s economic rocket get lit ( a farmhouse, with a secret document hidden in bamboo), how and what happens when you buy a mortgage backed security ( you lose your money), what if you take what you’ve got left and buy gold, etc. etc.  It’s a personable look into the actual workings of the global economy making it understandable for those folks who don’t work with derivatives and reverse repos every day.  Subscribe, understand the water that you swim in every day, my little fish friend.

Another thing I found because of This American Life is Radiolab. It’s a beautifully scored exploration of the best questions in the world.  Like “Where Am I”, “Who are you?”,Memory and Forgetting, Animal Minds, and what happens after life. It is my favorite. Jad and Robert, the hosts, are so good and wonderful and they look at the best most interesting things the world has. The sound style and storytelling of radiolab is so good that it is infecting the rest of public radio, and for the better. Really, you can start with just about ANY episode. Try “Talking to Machines

From Radiolab I was introduced to a new winner – 99% Invisible, a melange of architecture and design. I know, those are visual things, this is audio – but stay with me. The stories are what matter, and Roman Mars takes the time to calmly walk you through the implications of moving a capital city, of how the design of a fountain can affect the homeless, and how the design of a studio got a band to release it’s first album in years. It’s a winner.

What am I missing out on? Any great podcasts that I should be listening too? Some hidden gem of a specialty where just the right person is explaining the emergency value of ultrasounds in a podcast?

WordpRSS Status Update: pretty sweet

Current image of wordprssI’ve been using my kaizen hack time to work on a social feed reader for WordPress. Right now, here’s what it can do:

  • Install itself and set up database tables
  • Put in a few sample feeds
  • Pull feed entries down into the database.
  • Display the list of feeds
  • When you select a feed, display the items

Continue reading WordpRSS Status Update: pretty sweet