Wednesday, May 18, 2005

When I met you at the station, you were standing there with a bootleg in your hand

Via Salon, specifically the Audiophile column which regularly has links to free MP3s, three of which have actually been good songs, recently linked to the Bootleg Browser. The question posed by the Audiophile was whether folks considered bootlegs posted on the web as fair game, or did it infringe upon the artist's copyrights and lose them money?

Well, like I do on a lot of issues, I'm on both sides. If an artist doesn't want you recording their show and putting it for free on the web, well then you shouldn't. But, so many artists are bright enough to realize that allowing fans to tape shows and even trade them achieves a lot of things at once:
- It shows you have live chops, so they'll probably pop for a ticket next time
- The quality of boots is usually pretty bad, so anyone who cares about the sound will end up going out and buying a CD or two - unless they own it already, and then the artist got their money anyway
- The goodwill it sows pays off in spades (whatever that means - whose ever been paid in shovels and was happy about it?)

Anyway, since there weren't band statements on bootlegging to be had (and direct me to them if you know of any), I went and snagged some of my favorite bands, because I know, for instance, Dave Grohl wouldn't care. Besides, I doubt he'll ever release his impromptu version of "Big Me" where he changes the lyrics to a treatise on the Technicolor yawn, renamed "I'm gonna fucking puke." Had I known of this when I wrote
my soliloquy to the accidental personal protein spill
, I would have linked to it then and dubbed it the theme song for the post. Alas.

Also hunt down Elton John's "Rocket Man." It's got that way back in the cheap seats ambience common to bootlegs, but somehow that renders it more poignant.

And, for those of you who want to find MP3s of songs, just to sample, delete, and then go buy legal copies, I've found that Alta-vista - one of the original web search engines until Google eclipsed everyone's sun - has a pretty decent audio search. Check it out, mang.

Oh, and whoever recalls the song referenced in the title gets a cookie!

The Footprints of God by Greg Iles - a review

This was a mildly entertaining expansion on the famous sci fi short story - the author and title of which I forgot to look up but it's anthologized all the time - where scientists construct a giant computer to ask it the one question, "Is there a God?" To which it replies, "There is now." A major plot point of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy centers around such a computer. Another precursor to is the movie (from the books) Colossus: The Forbin Project. Yet another, kinda tangentially, is the movie and book The Demon Seed by Dean Koontz.

Yes, it's been done before. And some of those were better.

Still, The Footprints of God is a diversion that's not a total waste of your time.

I give it this lukewarm review only to put it on the radar of fellow avid readers whose reading lists need a decent thriller/sci fi jaunt, but also to quibble about a development near the end.

So, for those of you who intend to read the book, surf away now. SPOILERS are en route.

Ok, just us?

Here's what cramped my nougat not that much, just a little tiny bit: The author attempts to reconcile ALL religions into one view of God - kinda sorta an attempt at stirring together all of the views of the elephant that the blind men report. The reason this sticks in the craw is that religions are elephants unto themselves, not parts of one elephant. Were you to try and merge several elephants into one larger elephant, chances are you'd encounter resistance from those very elephants.

There is a tendency in America, born by the civil rights movements and other factors, that wants everything that can be used to define a person to be truly equal, no one category of something is inherently better or more true than the other. Since religion is something most people consider part of their identity, some well-meaning folks want some grand unification theory of all religions, so they don't have to pick, or be forced to declare one religion better or truer than the other.

Well, sorry folks, but outside of Unitarianism, all religions - yes, even Buddhism - claim exclusive ownership of the truth. That means if you believe one is true, all of the rest are false. You have to make a choice - including choosing to not choose. Trying to mash them all together as if they were all puzzle parts of some larger truth just ends up making an incoherent mess that no one wants to clean up.

I mean, gosh, thanks for trying, and bless your heart, but just - don't.

Oh, and btw, this is a theme of the novel: Unifying that which is separate to create a greater whole product than the sum of the parts. The plot surrounds an effort to create an artificial intelligence by doing a very detailed CAT scan of a human brain, and recreating that structure (which supposedly contains the knowledge and experience of the person) in a computer. Because thoughts can travel at the speed of light (electricity) in a computer rather than at the speed of electrochemical reactions as in our brains, any brain loaded into these computers can think thousands of times faster, while having the advantage of instantaneous access to any knowledge that can be stored on computer disc, i.e. instant learning. This makes the brain in the box very powerful, "almost like a God" as the novel sets it up.

Well, humans getting fantastic godlike power invariably end up like those in the first true Star Trek with Capt. Kirk, where his buddy and a shrink on the ship both end up with god powers, replete with glowing eyes, zapping powers, and dramatic music queues. This is solved in The Footprints of God not by dropping a really big rock on the supposed god, like Kirk did, but by loading two more brains alongside the original one - one of them female - to create a trinity of minds that will balance each other, in theory. This becomes tied to the merging of religions theme because yin/yang, Hindu views of male/female duality/unity, the Dao - and so on and so forth - is central to those religions, and so this merging of the male and female into one supposedly perfect whole fulfills some of their goals.

Again, gallant effort, but ultimately doomed. It kinda made the book very silly in the end.

No comments: