One Man’s Torture…

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“We heard through a reliable grapevine that our music was being used in Guantanamo Bay prison camps to musically stun or torture people… We heard that our music was used on at least four occasions.  So we thought it would be a good idea to make an invoice to the U.S. government for musical services.“ ~Skinny Puppy

The invoice they are referring to is for the sum of 666,000 dollars. Should the U.S. government pay for music usage? If you know anything about U.S. media usage laws, the answer is a resounding, “Yes!” According to law, anyone using an artist’s music must pay that artist if the purpose is to play the music to anyone other than the initial purchaser, or to play it for any other reason than personal entertainment. The same law involves broadcasting over radio, or showing movies to a collected crowd. For businesses that can’t select what they are playing before multiple events, they can opt for a general use license which gives them access to most available artist’s music. Did the Pentagon have a general use license?

In this case, the music was being played for someone other than the original consumer. Even though the intent was not to entertain, but to terrorize, the use was not for any personal consumption. I think the band Skinny Puppy has a legitimate complaint here. My bias is certainly for the band. However, since I have something of a background in the law concerning media rights, it also appears to me that the law is on the side of the six hundred and sixty six dollar invoice.

Paying an artist their just due is not all that Skinny Puppy stands for of course. The band members have a habit of igniting debates over injustices concerning animal rights, conspiracies of controlled diseases, music industry hypocrisy, and the abstraction of nuclear weapons. The latest album from Skinny Puppy is titled Weapon. The theme of weapons for the new album is in regard to the idea that there is a nuclear war happening continually. The environment is affected by residual radiation levels that originate in nuclear accidents like that at Fukushima in 2011.

Whether you have heard of Skinny Puppy or not, you may be hearing about them soon. They have even gained the attention of the Wall Street Journal with this latest exposé and subsequent request for payment. If you’re lucky, you’ll get to hear not only about them but hear their music too. It’s amazing and fascinating. Their music is progressive in every way. One of my favorite aspects of their music is that it does not cause boredom by repetition. Skinny Puppy does not follow the school of “mainstream” popular music that tends to think that repeating a maxim forty times in a row constitutes music. Instead of producing earworms, Skinny Puppy develops music that invites introspection and encourages creativity through opulent layers of sound. In fact, if the political detainees at the Guantanamo Bay prison got to hear the new album before me, I am completely jealous. How can I become a part of the “Tunes for Torture” program and be on the receiving side? After all, I’d be asking, “Thank you sir, may I have another?”

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Valuable Lessons Learned

Have you ever been to a conference of your peers? Do you have peers at all? Do you accept the peers you have?

If you have ever gone to a conference with the hope of learning from those who have already succeeded at what you would like to do, you may recognize some of the observations I made at my latest expedition for learning. I went to a writer’s conference and I must admit I had high hopes. On the first day, I noted that three out of the nine sessions I attended were interesting, well-crafted and informative. ONE THIRD! Is that a good portion? Doesn’t seem like it to me. The people who were in the “driver’s seat” were dull and lifeless in six of the sessions I attended. Each session was an hour, so you can easily add that up and say I wasted six hours, though the other three hours were fruitful. I should however point out that I was there to learn and so my choices were for the educational sessions. There were other options. I may have simply chosen the wrong sessions to attend. So, it could be said that I chose wrong two thirds of the time. There were “fun” sessions available, but I was determined to get my money’s worth and further my education. Well, regardless of my choices and the dullness of the sessions, I still learned, though I learned the lessons that were given behind and beyond the spoken word.

Lesson one: If you want to appear aloof and boring, sit behind a table, don’t mingle at all with the crowd, and use a tone of voice that is as dry as the desert (you know, where cattle wander off and die of dehydration and get picked apart by buzzards). If you want to sell people your personality as well as your books, try the opposite of the above: mingle, talk to people, shake hands, and have a tone of voice that sounds like you are happy to be where you are. Some of this can be faked, but hey, at least faking it is a step in the right direction.

Lesson two: Give the people what they want, but not everything they want. In one particular session, there was only one person presenting and the place was packed. The presenter was aware that not everyone would get a chance to ask a question. He was also aware that there was no session in the room following his time, so he stayed as long as people wanted him to answer their questions. Some questions were redundant though, and when they became redundant, he referred the person to his website. See? He gave the people what they wanted, but not everything they wanted. Limits: set them before you go (Lesson two point five).

Lesson three: Find the best food. I brought my own lunch the first day. On the second day I found a half-decent burger place. It was your standard meat and potatoes. Not really worth a second visit. On the third day however, I went to a sandwich place (Sensuous Sandwich) that was worth a repeat visit. They heaped my sandwich with lettuce and peppers and everything I asked for, just the way I like it. It was delicious, and quite honestly better than the sandwich I had made for myself from home.

Lesson four: People in capes are not so mysterious as they are repulsive. Lots of people went to this thing with their costumes, and I couldn’t really find the space from which they originated, you know what I mean? They were definitely from another dimension; one which I could not fathom. It should also be noted that none of the presenters wore capes, although there was one man who dressed like a magician. He wore a very fancy suit, with a silk vest. It was an odd sight, though he comported himself like a gentleman, so that the suit matched his personality. About the combination of blue-jeans and capes however, I wonder whether that is affirmation of style or aversion to it. You decide.

Lesson five: Don’t be an arrogant, pompous, self-centered ignoramus. One presenter acted that way, but then again, he did sort of admit to it halfway through his presentation, so there is hope for him yet. He also asked if there were any youngsters in the room, and after finding out that there were, he promised to tailor his speech and repress his curses, so he deserves kudos for that.

Lesson six: The presentation on how to be a quality presenter should have been required for all but three of the presenters at the conference.

Lesson seven: I cannot attend that conference again, unless I am either in the sales room or presenting. I can’t survive the dull sessions, and hanging around waiting for the next great session is not worth the time. If I was in the sales room, I could at least mark the time by counting how many Sensuous sandwiches I had earned.

As Promised

As promised, I will let you in on the general topic of Mr. O. S. Card’s speech. He talked mainly about where his most famous character Ender originated. He (Card) has had many years to contemplate this and analyze where the character was born. Ender, Card said, is a product of isolation and separation. Card was often a loner. A smart kid among sportos, he often got the best grades in his class. He moved around a bit when he was younger and this also made him feel isolated. He felt isolated in some of his church callings, though he made it sound humorous rather than sour. He also wrote plays while other children his age were out playing. He was late to learn how to drive, so he spent the time waiting for his father to pick him up by writing. He put these traits into his character Ender, though Card claimed not to have thought about it so much back then. He only recognized it more and more after the fact. He also said that he wrote a lot of versions of the screenplay for the recent Ender’s Game movie, which made him think about how Ender was created, and yet none of them were quite right. Card said that when someone else came up with the script that focused on the relationship between Ender and the other children did it all finally work.

Life, The Universe, And Everything

So, I’m at a writer’s conference this weekend. I’ve learned quite a lot, met a lot of interesting people, and mostly wished I was writing rather than talking about writing. I mean how many times can you repeat your introduction before you get tired of hearing about yourself? My thoughts keep leading me to the next generation. I’m not a well-established name in the libraries and bookstores, nor am I a young man still dreaming of what it’s like to be a writer. I’m in the beginning of the middle somewhere. However, I think the young ones deserve our attention. Now is a fabulous time! We have so many opportunities to inspire the young men and young women who are our future scientists and science fiction writers. They have so many events to look toward and to experience. We may soon have buildings on the moon and Mars. We may soon have a detailed map of Mars, like that road atlas they give you free at the tire store. We will soon (sometime in 2015) have a probe in the area of Pluto, which is often our most distant planet. On that note, we have great debates to enter about whether Pluto is a planet or a dwarf planet, or a mini-planet, or a “Plutoid”, or a planetoid, or an asteroid. This is a great time to be alive. This is a great time to discover science and science fiction. We have so many resources out there for inspiring and encouraging our little Einsteins. And our resources are growing exponentially. We have data compiling faster and faster and faster than ever before. We can study any subject, from geology to astronomy, with a swipe of our busy fingers. Consider too, how easy it is for the youth of our day to understand a new language. It’s because their minds are fresh and ready to accept the new information. It works the same way with anything they learn. They can learn sciences that the older generation might have difficulty grasping because of limited space in the cranial cavities. Youth can be amazing, and even more so if we who are a little older encourage them. It is my opinion that we have a responsibility for inspiring the next generation. We owe it to those who came before us, and inspired us, to show those who come after us, how fascinating the world really is. If we don’t take this responsibility, I think we are some kind of unworthy ingrate.

That said, I have to brag. I’ve had the chance numerous times to hear Larry Correia speak. He’s a dynamic personality, that’s for sure. His best quote was when he was talking about treating your writing as a job. He said, “I used to be an accountant. I couldn’t go to work and have accountant’s block. They would’ve fired me.” Oh yeah. There’s one thing on which he and I agree. I’ll give my full opinion on “writer’s block” in another post. There are other subjects in which he is totally wrong, like for instance: why does he keep saying his own name wrong? He says it like the country. Korea. It’s pronounced Core-ay-ah. When is he going to get it right?

Also, later today, we at the conference will have the pleasure of hearing from the long-since established Orson Scott Card. I’ll have a follow-up post to this one concerning what he said that was important. (I like to filter out the other stuff.)

Until then, ciao. Oh, and keep inspiring the youth!

Hidden Messages Revealed

Have you ever been insulted by someone, and you know they have no clue what they’re talking about? Maybe they called you a name that was so far off the mark that you had to pause to wonder why they would call you that. Maybe they used some big words to try to make themselves appear smarter than you, or in an attempt to impress some invisible web trudger that they don’t even know, or perhaps even to impress their wide-eyed, brighter-than-them, inflatable spouse. Psychotic isn’t it?

Here is my answer to some insults, and a clue as to what they are really saying when they insult you (anagrammed hidden messages revealed):

“I used to be a lot like you!”

Translates to:

“I use auto-bidet; yell, ‘Ook!’ ”

Well, of course you do, you silly monkey. Keep typing, keep using the bidet (it’s so refreshing), and yell, “Ook!” as many times a day as your heart desires.

Another insult that they may throw at you is:

“You don’t know.”

First of all, is that really an insult? Anyone who doesn’t know can probably study the subject. The insult has a faulty foundation of assumption. It’s extremely weak, because the one who used it assumed that you don’t know, when to make the assumption they could not know whether you know! I wouldn’t have to turn that one inside out. It could stand on it’s own as a back-firing insult, but it’s fun for me to twist and rearrange, so I did, and this is what I found:

“You don’t know,” becomes, “You took N down.” Which I didn’t, and wouldn’t. N is up. N is always up. Check a compass or a map if you don’t believe me. N sometimes looks like this:

Compass-N

See how the N (which stands for North, by the way) is showing you a direction? That direction is up, or away from you, so hold the compass accordingly and you may be able to find your way around.

“Cismale gendernormative,” is another one that is extremely lame to try to convert into an insult, because its definition is a man who identifies as a man. Yeah, as if sanity were an insult. Disturbingly it anagrams to:

“Malice organs inverted me,” which says more about the person trying to insult this way than it does about the insulted person, obviously. The man who thinks he’s a man isn’t inverted at all. The fish who thinks he’s a fish is swimming in reality. And what, I wonder, are those malice organs? Only the inverted can know for sure.

“Cismale gendernormative,” could also be, “Dreaming cleaner motives.”

That seems obvious.

One other possibility for this insult is:

“Incogent male smear drive,” which makes some sense. Anyone with a drive to smear all males everywhere is definitely without a relevant argument. Especially if they follow the, “Cismale gendernormative,” attack with, “You don’t know.” Sounds to me like they fell in their own trap.

A couple more fun insults, like the common insult:

“You ignorant twit!”

This is my favorite, because it’s my victory every time, as you’ll soon see.

“Tar toting, you win!”       I have been known to tote heavy things.

“Tart ingot, you win!”       You shouldn’t eat that.

“Argot tint, you win!”        My words bring victory!

Lastly, the overused, and therefore impotent: “Homophobe?”

To me, this one always appears to have a question mark after it. The insult tosser is never quite sure. Always on that foundation of assumption, and most likely feeling very much the hypocrite, since they are probably accusing you of “labeling” someone else, or something else. And let’s not even get in the sea of phobias out there, like Allodoxophobia, or Epistemophobia. Regardless of the circumstances, this insult has more to say than at first meets the eye. It translates to:

“Hobo Mepho?”

Again with the question mark. They are calling you a Mephistopheles? Or perhaps heralding themselves as such? If they don’t know, how can you? Well, you know where you are. You are right there, where you’ve always been. And this insult has the definition of “wandering devil”. So the next question is, “Where is your accuser?” They are out there, so out there.