Matt McHugh

Matt - Blog - June 2009


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The Ceiling Collapsed, Thank God


June 1, 2009

The wife calls me at work today and says, "I've got bad news. A big piece of plaster fell off the ceiling into the living room."

That's it? I ask. Yes, she says.

I am vastly relieved. Every time the wife calls with "bad news" it's inevitably about the boy getting in trouble at school. I am so sick of hearing that. Thank God it's just some costly home repair.

I knew that bit of ceiling was coming down anyway. It's been sagging for a few months, and over the weekend, I noticed a huge crack had widened visibly in the middle of the sag. I should have gone up and pre-emptively taken it down, but of course, I didn't get around to it. Fortunately, no one was hurt, nothing was damaged, and a neighbor who does this stuff for a living offered to help me repair it.

And I didn't have to go see the principal again. Not much bad news there at all.

-- mm


See But Hear No Copyright Evil


June 2, 2009

Here's a trend I've noticed recently. All over YouTube there are all kinds of videos people have made -- montages of cats, sports clips, babies crawling around, etc., etc., etc. -- that have some popular song as a soundtrack. More and more often, I see these up on YouTube with a pop-up saying "Due to copyright violation, the audio has been removed."

I kind of do and don't get that. On the don't side, you tell me how anybody's revenue or reputation is negatively impacted by video highlights from a birthday party clipped together to "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun." On the do side, if I created that song or owned the rights to it, I'd want to control the context where it gets used, and potentially exposed to millions. I'm thinking more on an artistic than a monetary level here. If a viral video featuring a song I labored upon goes nuclear and suddenly my work becomes now and forever known and the "Mascot Getting Hit in the Crotch" song, I'd be pissed. The power of mass media to inadvertently recontextualize things is pretty formidable.

However, I doubt that kind of artistic integrity is behind this. More likely, it's just money -- which I don't get. Somebody does something to make your song more popular, you only stand to profit from it. It's astoundingly short-sighted to be threatening home movie editors with infringement, but I place nothing beyond the stupidity of copyright aggregators. Most would rather destroy unprofitable content than let it go free, concerned about the "bad precedent" -- though I'd simply call it bad form.

-- mm


E-book E-litist E-diots


June 3, 2009

Via a friend's Twitter (not as worthless a thing as I once thought!), I tripped over a quotation from noted author Sherman Alexie who, whilst sitting on panel discussion at the recent BookExpo in NYC, called the Kindle "elitist" and quipped he wanted to smack a woman he saw on a plane reading one. That got quoted in the New York Times, and blogger Edward Champion managed to interview Alexie, who qualified his comment somewhat.

In the spirit of the self-promotional hyperbole of it all, I had to post a comment on the blog's site:

Sherman Alexie said: "Books saved my life.... I rose out of poverty and incredible social dysfunction because of books."

And, now he wants to deny future generations around the world the same experience by trashing the beginnings of the digital text revolution that can **literally** and **within our lifetimes** make every word ever written available to every person on the planet.

Let me say that again: Digital book readers offer the very real potential to make all written knowledge universally available. You gonna do that with stacks of bound paper, are you bunky?

You print-o-philes crack up me, tossing around words like "elitist" to describe the greatest democratizing technology in history because it threatens your comfort zone. This ain't about the Kindle. It's about the obsolescence of tree pulp (and maybe you, too, print book authors!).

Ah, there's the rub.

Adding to the good, cathartic fun, somebody commented on my comment, calling it "**wonderfully** insane...."

Stuff like that really does make the day so much more entertaining.

-- mm


Completely "Missing" the Lyrics


June 4, 2009

Today's "stuck in my head / bought it from iTunes" song: "Missing" by Brit husband-wife duo Everything But the Girl. A few interesting tidbits about this one:

First of all, I always kind of liked the sound of the song -- the sweet, mournful lead voice in particular -- but was never enamoured of the house-music beat of it. I hear it, and I just think of the Chris Kattan "Mango" skits on Saturday Night Live, the annoyingly catchy use of the beat rather than the humor sticking in my mind. Recently, in a store, I overheard the song in a stripped-down, acoustic version -- so it was that I set out to get. To my surprise, I found out that was the original version and the thumpity-thump one was a remix. Makes perfect sense, but that image of thought-bubble dancing Mango was so strong that it never occurred to me to think of the song in another way.

Even worse, I totally mis-heard the lyrics, again due to the undue influence of that fairly lame SNL bit. For years, I thought the chorus went:

And I miss you
Like the dancers miss the rhythm

-- went, in fact, it is:

Like the deserts miss the rain

Wow. A fascinating -- and kind of understandable -- error, I think. Just goes to show how a song can be recontextualized by its use in popular video. Anyway, here's a YouTube with the real music and lyrics (© Virgin Records ... have they missed this?), though you might now think about the MetroNorth every time you hear the song now.

-- mm




June 5, 2009

Had to go to a big shopping mall. Rarely any more do I set foot in such a space and I find them kind of intolerable now. I've always enjoyed window shopping, just looking at nifty things that caught my interest but I would likely never shell out the money to buy. That's actually a long-standing pastime of mine, and a big, upscale shopping mall is pretty much the best place for such an activity.

Only now, I can't help but see them as monumental monuments to our imploding consumer culture and I find walking through them actually distasteful. There's less and less stuff I personally want to buy (though I'll still drool my way through the Apple Store or Best Buy) and I just look at the throngs filling them like junkies out for their fix of novelty. How easy it is to forget your problems for a short while with the distraction of shiny new things. Of course, it's our collective addiction to acquisition that's gotten us into such trouble.

I guess it's just me turning into a grumpy old man ahead of schedule, but these temples of retail excess have begun to offend me on many levels.

-- mm

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