Archive | November, 2007

Cover Charge

The Romantics are suing the makers of the game Guitar Hero for including a cover of their song “What I Like About You” in the game.

Why? Did the game makers use the song without permission? Nope. They had permission.

The Romantics So what’s the problem? Well, it turns out that the cover sounded too much like the original, and so “infringed the group’s right to its own image and likeness.” (I’d always thought “image and likeness” was a Biblical phrase, not a legal one.) “I was very upset,” explained the lead singer of this band that borrowed its name from an 1894 play by Edmond Rostand, “because the band had worked very hard over many years to develop and use its distinctive sound.”

Well, who wouldn’t be upset if somebody took away from them something they’d worked many years to develop and use? But I don’t see how this applies in the current case. Has the Romantics’ distinctive sound really been taken away? Did they go to practice one morning and suddenly find out that they sounded different?

And even if I believed in IP – which I don’t – I have trouble seeing how the Romantics have much of a case when they gave Guitar Hero permission to do a cover in the first place. Covers that sound a lot like the originals are not a particularly unusual phenomenon; indeed there are cover bands – and not just amateur ones either – that specialise in sounding like the originals. (For example, doesn’t the Swingin’ Swamis’ version of “Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps” sound a lot like Mari Wilson’s more famous version – which of course is also a cover?) It seems to me that when you give permission to do a cover, it’s a reasonable expectation that you might get an imitation of the original unless you specify otherwise.

I suspect what’s really going on here is that Guitar Hero turned out to be more lucrative than the Romantics expected, and they’re kicking themselves for not asking for a better deal up front – so they want to rewrite the contract retroactively. Money quote (literally), from a spokesman for the band: “The sales of this game are huge …. We’re all for good commerce. We just want to share in it.”

Blame the Strike

Just finished watching Razor (excellent, by the way), our last dose of Galactica until March or April, when Sci-Fi will start giving us the first half of season four. As for the second half, it remains to be seen whether it’ll ever get made; the writers’ strike has placed the show’s continuation in jeopardy. (See the story here; for background from Ron Moore see here, here, and here.)

Tyrol on the phone Or at least that’s how everyone online seems to be describing it – even those sympathetic to the strike. But how is this situation supposed to be specifically the writers’ doing, or the strike’s doing?

Yes, it’s true that the writers could quickly get BSG out of danger by cancelling their strike. But it’s equally true that the media companies could quickly get BSG out of danger by giving in to the writers’s demands. It takes two sides to make an impasse; the fact that responsibility for the impasse is being assigned one-sidedly, to the writers, shows how pervasive is the assumption that whatever the employers want is the default reality. That fact by itself is presumptive reason to support the writers’ side; when one side in a dispute has acquired that kind of default status, that’s evidence that it has been enjoying an unfair power imbalance in its favour.

P.S. – Galactica fans will know why I picked this particular photo to illustrate this post ….

Amp Up Your Girlishness

From today’s Dear Abby:

DEAR ABBY: I haven’t had a boyfriend for a while now, and I’m not sure why. Everyone says I’m cool, funny and outgoing. I play video games, sports, and do things that boys think girls would never do (like paintballing in the woods or bungee jumping over and over again).

All my guy friends think I’m awesome, and I do get compliments on my looks as well. I’m not a tomboy, I wear nice clothes and some makeup, but for some reason, whenever I get a crush on a guy, he says it would be “weird” because I’m a “really good friend.”

What am I doing wrong? I love who I am and so do boys. So why don’t they think I could be “girlfriend material”? – BOYFRIENDLESS IN CONNECTICUT

feminine ideal? DEAR BOYFRIENDLESS: It may be that “guys” see you as one of them. And because of it, they don’t consider you in a romantic way. Therefore, it’s time to emphasize your feminine side and present yourself in a different light. This may mean temporarily downplaying your involvement in boys’ sports and paintball games, and amping up your “girlishness.” Give it a try and see what happens.

Why do we still have to read crap like this in 2007? A man who can be allured only by a deceptive acquiescence in antique gender roles isn’t worth catching. Since when is the need to be found pleasing to some goofball so important as to justify sacrificing a woman’s authentic identity? What Abby should have told her is that the problem is not with her but with these guys who think being a romantic partner is incompatible with being a “really good friend” – a warning sign if I ever heard one. Instead, she essentially told her to sacrifice her integrity in order to get some Neanderthal to date her.

And for any libertarians who don’t see why I’m making a fuss about this, here’s a start: it’s like telling libertarians “you’d make more converts to your position if you dropped your opposition to Government Program X.”

Geat Geek

I saw Beowulf today – in 3D, which is definitely the way to see it (well, I suppose IMAX 3D is the way to see it, but there’s no IMAX venue in Auburn), and I suspect 3D will become a more and more frequent format for big-budget action movies. (The theatre showed three previews for upcoming 3D films: Neil Gaiman’s Coraline, a Journey to the Centre of the Earth remake, and – for some reason – a U2 concert film.)

the active life of an animal control officer It was a lot of fun, especially the amazing fight with the dragon at the end – which really made me want (even more) to see movies of The Hobbit, and The Children of Húrin, and Dragonriders of Pern, and Elric of Melniboné, and a proper version of A Wizard of Earthsea …. (Incidentally, I thought I detected an homage to Dragonslayer’s Vermithrax.)

Grendel, by contrast, didn’t strike me as quite right – he seemed a bit too modern in conception, a distinctively 20th-century nightmare. As for the human characters, the ability of computer animation to convey human facial expression has improved dramatically, though it still isn’t quite there – with the exception of Beowulf’s excellently done face, on which they clearly spent the most time and effort. (He often seemed like a real person surrounded by video-game people.) The bawdiness in the hall, and particularly the initial portrayal of Hrothgar as a drunken fool with his clothes falling off, struck me as overdone; the 1998 cartoon did a better job of capturing the dignity of the original poem. But Hrothgar (voiced and semi-faced by Anthony Hopkins) certainly recovers with his more subtle performance through the rest of the movie. And John Malkovich did his best Severus Snape as Unferth. Happily, none of the characters seemed to have an American accent – though, truth be told, each character appeared to have a completely different accent from all the others! I guess Castle Hrothgar was a more cosmopolitan place than we had thought.

There’s even some Old English in the movie; the bard who recites the tale of Beowulf later in the movie does so in the original Saxon tongue (albeit unaccountably, since that’s what everyone else has supposedly been speaking all along), and even the etymology of Beowulf’s name is given correctly (“bee-wolf,” a kenning for “bear” – sadly, the only kenning that survives into the film). Plus Grendel speaks a dialect that is clearly meant to be reminiscent of Old English, although I think it’s mostly just modern English with a funny pronunciation.

On the other hand, for those who know anything about the cultural background, Hrothgar’s claim to have been the slayer of Fafnir is startling (though admittedly the original Beowulf poem does contain a misattribution, or variant attribution, of Fafnir’s slaying – to Sigmund rather than to his son Sigurd/Siegfried – yet certainly not as far afield as Hrothgar), as are the references to Beowulf’s supposed fame in Iceland and Vinland (in the 6th century, some 300 years before the settling of the former and some 400 years before the discovery of the latter); and the screenwriters seem not to know the difference between “lay” and “lie.” I suspect most viewers will manage to overcome any discomfort caused by these errors.

Easy-to-miss moment: Beowulf briefly sees Grendel’s momma in her true form (on the cave ceiling) – and doesn’t realise it; she just looks like more of the treasure with which the walls are encrusted.

Weirdest self-parody moment: Ma Grendel has stiletto heels – despite having no shoes. This was the film’s most jarring reminder that we are dealing with Hollywood rather than Heorot.

Oh, and the theme song sounds okay when the queen (who looks distractingly like an ex-girlfriend of mine ….) is singing it in the mead-hall, but not when it’s being sung in clearly modern fashion over the closing credits.

Passing from Heorot to Camelot, and from swan’s riding to Starfleet – okay, this has nothing to do with Beowulf, but if you have any geek in you at all it’s a must-see.

Two Ole Boys Gooder Than Which None Can Be Conceived

Men that have hazarded their lives
for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Acts 15:26.

The Bible informs us that “Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight” (Isaiah 40:4 – language also familiar from Händel’s Messiah).

The Dukes of Hazzard theme song (from the tv show, anyway; I didn’t see the movie) describes its protagonists as “straightenin’ the curves” and “flattenin’ the hills.”

Bo and Luke are one What is Waylon Jennings trying to tell us? Clearly that Bo and Luke Duke are a metaphor for the Messiah. (Why two brothers to represent one man? No doubt to represent Christ’s two natures, one divine and one human – though which represents which I tremble to say. But the picture on the right is unmistakably signifying that the two brothers are one. And anyway “Dukes” is obviously to be interpreted as dux, the Latin for “leader,” in the singular.)

And if the Duke brothers are the Messiah, then surely Boss Hogg must represent Satan, the “Prince of this world.” C. S. Lewis, move over!

I’ll spare you any attempt to assign theological meanings to the other characters….

Powered by WordPress. Designed by WooThemes