Posts Tagged ‘politics’

A story of piracy

14.11.2012 17:16

This week, RIAA’s Vice President, Joshua P. Friedlander, released a blog post as a response to the claim that illegal downloaders are those who also spend more money on legal content (downloadable or otherwise). Of course, his opinion is biased, considering that his paycheck comes from the organization that spends millions (if not billions) fighting all forms of music piracy, no matter how large or small the infringement. No P2P downloading network is safe from becoming a target by his employer.

This same week, there was also a news story saying that the latest strict anti-piracy laws in Japan actually hurt the industry, when they correlated with a significant drop in sales. Supporters of these laws claim the sales drop might have nothing to do with illegal downloading (or attempts at it), but rather a “cultural chance [… because] people don’t feel the need to fill silence as much as they used to”. Personally, I call bullshit on that statement, and on Friedlander’s claim as well.

Let me tell you a little story.

Back in 2008, I came across a video on YouTube called “When Graphic Artists Get Bored” – a slideshow of photos collected from the Worth1000 website. The background music used for this video slideshow: the track “TV Song” by Blue Man Group. I seriously doubt that this music usage was licensed, but it created a spark in me. That same week, I (illegally) downloaded the two Blue Man Group albums that were already out on the market. Later that year, I found out about their “How to be a Megastar World Tour”, and that the closest it would pass by where I live, was in Copenhagen, Denmark, and in late October that year (a couple of months away at the time). Luckily, my city’s airport had direct flights to Copenhagen, so I bought a ticket for that show, and booked a hotel room and flights, making a full vacation week out of the trip (I checked my e-mail archive, and I found that I booked everything in late August). After seeing the concert in Copenhagen, I immediately wanted more, and looked online to see if they had any further tour stops in Denmark, but it was simply too far away on such short notice (I think it was a couple of hours of travel time, by train or bus, from Copenhagen).

Shortly after New Year’s Eve, I found out about the Blue Man Group community, and after a short while, a fan event was announced, which would happen in Orlando (Florida) in July 2009. This was in March, though, so after some analysis of my economy, and some in-depth research on what else to catch while on my first trip to the U.S., I booked flights, hotels, and tickets to see Blue Man Group (along with the fan event in Orlando) in both Las Vegas and Orlando, spending one week at each of the two destinations (of course, catching other sights as well, including a few days at both Universal Studios Orlando and Disney World). On this trip, I made sure to buy the physical and legal versions of the albums I had previously downloaded illegally, and I also attended 3 shows in Las Vegas and 2 shows in Orlando.

In 2010, I found out that Blue Man Group would have shows in Stockholm, Sweden, for a short period of time (October and November), and I made a vacation of this as well. I was there for about a week, and I managed to attend all 7 shows that had been set up for that week. Unintentionally, I was invited for a quick backstage tour after the 6th show that week, and got to see most of everything behind the scenes up close (and seeing first-hand some of the “trade secrets” of the shows, as I had previously only read about in the community forums).

Last year, 2011, I found out about a fan event in New York, the primary home of Blue Man Group, celebrating the 20th anniversary of the company. This triggered another vacation trip to the U.S. for me, and since they were now touring North America with brand new material, I also wanted to catch a show or two with this new material while I was already this far away. The only show I could find at the time within a two-week window was in Winnipeg (Canada), so I made sure to also book a hotel stay (single night), flights and show tickets (two shows in a single day), just to catch this show. Since I was already so close to a magic round number, I decided to keep up attendance, and the show on the day of the fan event actually marked my 20th Blue Man Group show (or concert) over these years.

This year, I wanted to attend another Blue Man Group fan event, and I directed my attention to the annual European fan event, centered around the only regular show in Europe: Berlin, Germany. Considering the fact that the guys who plans the annual fan event in Berlin (and who were also a major part of the planning process for the New York anniversary event the previous year) is based in Netherlands, it was well within reach for me, too. I planned the Berlin trip as my primary vacation for this year, and booked a trip for two weeks this past October (less than a month ago, at the time I’m writing this). I also managed to catch a total of 7 shows spread across these two weeks, just to give me the annual dose of Blue Man Group live shows.

Through the years, I’ve also bought all the other albums from iTunes, and both concerts (“The Complex Rock Tour” and “How to be a Megastar”) on DVD and Blu-ray (only the latter). No pirated versions, but the actual physical (or downloaded, in the case of iTunes), licensed products.

I estimate that over these 4 years, I’ve spent a total of almost 3,000 USD just in show tickets, plus somewhere around 17,000 USD in travel costs (flights+hotels only) to see the various shows around the world (rough estimation based on my archived travel confirmations – good thing I have Excel to find out these totals). CDs, downloads, DVD/Blu-ray discs (both for myself and bought as gifts) and official merchandise (mostly T-shirts) comes on top of this. And I keep coming back for more, like most other fans.

All of this sparked by an unlicensed use of a music track in a YouTube video. In return, I’ve gained several friends in the community, a true sense of belonging, and inspiration that I never would have known without Blue Man Group. Because of that video, the Blue Man Group gained at least one more fan.

Basically, my point is, good things can come out of a little piracy. Have you discover something through an act of piracy, even if it was indirectly?

The war on piracy continues

14.06.2012 13:35

Early last month, we were told that the DVD piracy warning was being updated. And not for the better, mind you. Now, consumers are still being called criminals, even before they’ve done anything wrong.

The new FBI anti-piracy warning

With such a warning, I still feel just as violated, and I still have to sit through DVD content I can’t skip past, making the wait even longer before I can actually start watching the film itself. Not only that, from what I understand, you will now have to sit through two warnings; one from the FBI, and one from the National Intellectual Property Center.

The new National Intellectual Property Center warning

Wonderful. Just wonderful.

I understand that piracy is a crime, but I don’t need to be reminded of it every time I want to watch a DVD that I bought through legal channels. I feel like these organizations are basically punishing consumers for doing the legal thing.

Here’s a thought, though:

The illegal version of watching a movie: Download from an pirated source, watch the film immediately.

The legal version of watching a movie: Go buy a DVD and put it in the DVD player, watch the FBI notice, watch the anti-piracy movie (they’ll probably have that, too), watch the previews (trailers for other movies and/or special features, such as a commercial for Blu-ray), get to the DVD menu (wait for it to settle on or show the menu items), hit “play movie”. If you’re lucky, the film starts at this point. If you’re unlucky, you have to sit through yet another warning about piracy and public screenings of the DVD.

I mean, what’s the point? Just let us watch the film, already! When movie pirates copy a DVD, they don’t copy these warnings, they only copy the film itself, without all the extra junk (although, they usually don’t include the special features and extra material that some of us want to see).

I’ve also seen warnings that include street vendors who sell pirated DVDs. I mean, the majority of the movie, music and software piracy “industry” happen online these days. The people who rip a DVD for downloading are usually people who are sick and tired of having their cash flow through an outdated corporate scheme.

Those in the industry claim that piracy is the direct cause of monetary losses, but in my opinion, that’s only half true. If you’re going to account for losses, do they also account for how much money they’re wasting on lawyers, lawsuits against individuals (grandmothers, single mothers, and such) and torrent sites, and various DRM schemes?

I’m not saying they shouldn’t fight piracy, but I’m criticizing their current methods of fightin it. I feel that they should rather fight piracy with awareness campaigns, where they focus on why the legal path is good, and showing why you should support the industry. Plain and simple, make people make good about themselves when they spend their money on a DVD, Blu-ray, CD, legal download, books, merchandise, etc. And on the side, they can keep on with lawsuits against those who make large profits from piracy.

Last time I saw one of the few well-made “anti-piracy” warnings out there, was when I bought and fired up my DVD for The Adjustment Bureau. I had originally downloaded this movie illegally, which I usually do when I’m uncertain about the movie’s quality (in terms of story, directing and acting, that is). After seeing it as a pirated download version, I thought it was so good, I got the real version (I had it on my wishlist, and if I hadn’t gotten it for Christmas, I would’ve bought it myself). I’ve ripped the warning from my DVD here and put it up here (unlisted on YouTube, in case you wanted to go searching for it), just so you can see what I mean:

Short, simple, and it made me feel good about myself for buying the DVD and supporting the people who are in this business. This is the type of anti-piracy warning I want to see. With this, I feel like I’m contributing to the good part of the business, and not feeling like I should expect a lawsuit whenever possible.


Side note: The anti-piracy warning video is probably copyrighted, and I’m assuming Universal Studios has something to do with it, given that they’re the publisher of the DVD I got this from. I copied it from there for illustration purposes; please don’t sue me. If you’re reading this, and own the copyright to this, please either grant me a non-exclusive license to use this, or point me to some existing version of it online, so I can link to or embed it from my blog. I’ll put up a proper copyright notice if you want me to.

Another year over

29.12.2011 15:34

Christmas is more or less gone (at least the climax of it), and another year is almost over. I can’t help but wonder what 2012 will bring. New Year’s Eve usually has that effect on me, and I assume I’m not the only one who does.

As usual, this year’s Christmas catch was modest, and I don’t mind at all. This year, I got a large tea cup, two mugs, two small plates (which goes with several tea cups I already have with a similar design), some licorice/cinnamon tea (Pukka brand, not pictured) that was actually quite good, a small bath towel, a concrete @-sign decoration (which unfortunately broke the second after I had opened it due to bad packaging, also not pictured), a luxury soap with bath towel, a fleece hat, a scarf, and some DVDs. Out of DVDs, I got Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows parts 1 and 2, Hodejegerne (a Norwegian thriller released earlier this year), Cars 2 (Blu-ray+DVD edition), and the two first seasons of NCIS. All of these DVDs were on my wishlist, but I’m going to exchange Cars 2 and one of the last Harry Potter films, since already got Cars 2 about a week or so before Christmas, and I got two out of Deathly Hallows part 2. No biggie, though, as they’re in “exchangeable” condition (sealed). And, as usual, I got another thing I wanted, which is on my list every year: Time spent with family.

I can’t help but notice a disgusting trend recently making rounds of well-deserved ridicule around the Internet, though. Namely, the high number of spoiled brats who complain about getting or not getting an iPhone/iPad/iPod, laptop/MacBook or even car, or getting the wrong one of these. I’m simply baffled that people can be that selfish and spoiled to feel depressed about something so materialistic when there are people in the world who don’t have a great life. People who don’t have a home, who don’t have a family, who don’t have enough food or clothes, who don’t have safety and security, who don’t get presents, or even a combination of these. And I’m not just talking about people in poor and/or war-torn countries in the so-called second or third world, but also domestically in the so-called Western civilization. There are people who spend Christmas alone, not because they choose to, or because that happened to be the case this year, but because they don’t have anyone to spend it with, even if they desperately want to. There are people who consider “a great Christmas” to be shelter and food for the day, or maybe even the whole week, and when I see people complain about such high-priced gifts, I feel like whacking them with a clue stick. I mean, at least you got something! If you don’t like it, you still have to option to exchange it for that other thing you might’ve wanted!

When it comes to helping those in need, I feel that organizations like the Salvation Army does help a lot. I may not agree with them in religious or political terms, but I do believe they do a lot of great work for the less fortunate people in the local community (in terms of food, heat, and to some degree, shelter). I did contribute my small share to their Christmas kettle in the weeks leading up to Christmas. It wasn’t much on the larger scale of things, but I did at least contribute something, and I hope they will keep doing the good work they do. And they do it without pushing religion onto those they help, which is a big reason I like their work.

To sum up, be thankful for what you have, be even more thankful for other things you get, and hope the new year only have good things in store for us. And to make my wish a little early: Happy New Year! 🙂

Skrudde vilkår i NRK-lisensen

12.09.2011 19:18

Noen pågående nyhetssaker i det siste rundt NRK-lisensen gjorde meg såpass irritert at jeg bare måtte sende en e-post til de som styrer med slike ting; kulturministeren (og kulturdepartementet), lisensavdelingen i NRK, Medietilsynet, og ikke minst, de to journalistene som la ut de to siste nyhetssakene hos VG Nett. Jeg føler for å også oppdatere mine lesere om disse tingene samtidig, så jeg vil gjengi hele min e-post i uredigert form her på min blogg, noe jeg også vil gjøre med eventuelle svar og videre korrespondanse rundt denne saken (jeg gjengir selvfølgelig ikke e-postsvar som enten ikke har med saken å gjøre eller som avsenderen spesifikt har bedt meg om å ikke gjengi).

Min første melding er da som følger (med bare noen få endringer i formateringen):


Jeg leste i dag på VG Nett to artikler som omhandlet strenge vilkår i NRK-lisensen. Den første artikkelen handlet spesifikt om to personer som hadde vært utsatt for brann der deres TV-apparater hadde gått tapt i brannen, og som møtte liten vilje fra lisensavdelingen i NRK til å yte service for noen som gikk gjennom en tøff periode. Den andre artikkelen håndterte de strenge lisensvilkårene på litt mer generell basis. Etter å ha bekreftet mine mistanker ved en gjennomlesing av de faktiske lovene og forskriftene rundt dette, la jeg igjen en svært irritert kommentar under den førstnevnte artikkelen. Jeg vil gjerne gjenta min kommentar her (lettere omskrevet), adressert til de sentrale organene og personene rundt denne saken, inkludert de to journalistene som sto bak nyhetssaken hos VG Nett.

Først av alt, her er lenker direkte til de artiklene det gjelder:

Jeg vil også si at dette ikke er første gang jeg hører om en slik sak, og det gjør meg provosert at ingen hos NRK, Medietilsynet, Kulturdepartementet, eller tilsvarende politisk hold klarer å se at noe må gjøres med slike strenge vilkår – jeg tenker bare på at til og med straffeloven har formildende omstendigheter.

Det er veldig trist at lisensavdelingen i NRK ikke klarer å yte service for de som har vært utsatt for noe som husbrann. Spesielt dette stusser jeg på (sitat):

“Nilsen fikk klar beskjed om at hun skulle ha gitt beskjed før lisensperioden startet 1. januar.”

Jeg kan bare tenke meg hvordan en slik beskjed hadde foregått; “Hei, jeg skulle gjerne ha stoppet lisensavgiften min, ettersom huset mitt kommer til å brenne ned 18. januar, altså om fire uker.”

Det er rett og slett høl i hodet (for å bruke et slikt uttrykk) at det skal være såpass strengt og uvilje hos NRK på slike hendelser.

Jeg leste også gjennom hele den forskriften som Freddy Lysfjord siterer en paragraf fra, og jeg synes det er skremmende at det er absolutt null slingringsmonn i loven med tanke på ting som er utenfor vår kontroll. Selv om du skulle bli utsatt for brann eller naturkatastrofer som ødelegger mottakeren helt, eller blir utsatt for lengre ufrivillig sykehusopphold (ulykker, koma, osv) eller dø, så må du betale lisensavgiften (selv om du ikke er i stand til å betale noe som helst av regninger). Det er ingenting i loven som gir fritak fra lisensavgiften i slike tilfeller, og dette burde ha vært gjort noe med for lengst.

Og jeg må nesten sitere en av de mer tåpelige utsagnene fra Freddy Lysfjord, avdelingslederen i NRK Lisensavdelingen:

[..] ”Men dersom en person dør før ny termin begynner er vedkommende selvsagt ikke lenger avgiftspliktig for den nye terminen.”

Kort sagt, hvis en person dør for eksempel 3. januar eller 5. juli, er vedkommende avgiftspliktig for neste periode? Hvem skal i så fall betale denne avgiften? Gjenferdet til denne personen? Hva med å bruke §5d i forskriften om fjernsynsmottakere? Hvis man er død, vil man da ikke kunne regnes som noen som ”varig er sterkt funksjonshemmet slik at det er vanskelig for dem å bevege seg utenfor boligen eller å få kontakt med andre”? Man vil da være såpass funksjons-”hemmet” at man ikke kan bevege seg noen steder (verken innenfor eller utenfor noen som helst bolig), og til tross for påstander fra såkalte ”klarsynte”, tviler jeg sterkt på at den døde kan få kontakt med noen som helst. Dette er da å sette denne problemstillingen helt på spissen, ettersom generelle avtalesammenhenger vil avslutte et kontraktsforhold på en skånsom måte dersom den ene parten skulle falle fra.

Ettersom NRKs lisensavdeling sier at det ikke finnes noen formildende omstendigheter, burde det ikke egentlig ha vært tilgang til nettopp formildende omstendigheter i lovforskriftene for slike tilfeller? Man kan jo ikke kreve at å kontakte NRKs lisensavdeling skal være en av de første tingene man må gjøre i forbindelse ekstreme forhold som brann og naturkatastrofer? De som har vært utsatt for slike ekstreme hendelser, og også pårørende til ulykkesofre, sykehuspasienter og avdøde, har gjerne andre og viktigere ting å tenke på enn å avbestille NRK-lisensen for neste periode.

Men også med tanke på at per i dag, må alle, etter at de siste senderene av analoge TV-signaler ble slukket, ut med et månedsbeløp til en eller annen signalleverandør (enten det er digitalt bakkenett, kabel-TV eller parabol) for å i det hele tatt motta signaler (eller kjøpe en signalboks fra RiksTV for å kun motta NRK-kanalene), mener jeg også at NRK-lisensen i sin nåværende form har utspilt sin rolle. Jeg mener da også at lisensen enten blir fjernet helt og/eller blir bakt fullstendig inn i månedsprisen man betaler til RiksTV, Canal Digital, Get, Viasat, eller en av de andre leverandørene. I sistnevnte tilfeller kan det da også være tilfeller der det er muligheter for redusering eller frafall av lisensdelen av denne månedsleien i spesialtilfeller (blant annet de unntakene som nevnes i §5 i dagens forskrift).

Dere som har kultur og medier som sentrale virksomhetsområder trenger virkelig å få gjort noe med dette snarest.

Med vennlig hilsen,


Valg 2011

09.09.2011 16:31

Nå nærmer vi oss slutten av valget og valgkampen for 2011. Kommende mandag er selve valgdagen, og i dag (fredag) er siste mulighet for forhåndsstemming.

Jeg er såpass “heldig” at jeg bor i en av de kommunene som er med på prøveordningen med stemming over nettet, og det gikk forholdvist smertefritt da jeg gjorde min plikt hjemmefra onsdag kveld. Slik jeg opplevde det, krever denne ordningen at Java er installert på maskinen, men noen jeg kjenner hadde problemer med dette fra sin Mac, så systemene er foreløpig ikke helt perfeksjonert. Jeg vil tro at dette vil bli løst hvis ordningen skal utvides ved stortingsvalget i 2013, og jeg håper virkelig at stemming via nett er noe som vil videreføres til senere valg.

Med tanke på at det nå er lokalvalg (kommune og fylke), valgte jeg å gå bort fra det partiet jeg vanligvis stemmer på, og satte heller ned en liste over interessante partier på venstresiden (ettersom jeg er sosialist i mitt hjerte), og gikk for et parti som ville sette enkelte lokale saker på dagsorden (og hva de ville gjøre med dette).

En av disse sakene er da diskusjonen rundt det å opprette bompengering rundt Ålesund, slik det har vært i Oslo ganske lenge nå. Dette er en ordning som jeg er sterkt imot, og jeg mener at dette vil være en sterkt medvirkende faktor til å drepe næringslivet og boforhold i byen vår. De som er for en slik bomring vil kanskje peke på økt bruk av kollektivtrafikk, men dette gjelder nok dessverre ikke for alle. Vår by er rett og slett for liten for en slik type ordning (beregnet folketall for Ålesund kommune nærmer seg 44.000 i disse dager).

La meg ta et lite Min mor og stefar jobber begge i Spjelkavika, som da vil være utenfor bomringen, men bor i boligfeltet Fjelltun. På Fjelltun går det i dag buss tidligst 07:15 om morgenen, neste buss er da 07:50 og deretter går det en buss i gjennomsnitt hvert 40. minutt gjennom dette boligfeltet. Min mor må noen dager begynne 07:30, og må dermed spasere ned til hovedveien for å ta bussen derfra. Hvis hun skal være fremme i tide, må hun begynne å gå hjemmefra klokken 6 om morgenen (og er da fremme på jobb like før 07:00 – det er enten denne bussen eller den som går 35 minutter senere, og da kommer hun jo for sent). Til vanlig bruker hun ganske nøyaktig 15 minutter med bil hver vei, så da må hun velge mellom en reisevei på til sammen 2 ekstra timer hver dag, eller å bruke opp mot 200 kr per dag bare for å få lov til å gå på jobb.

Det henger ikke sammen, og hun er ikke alene om en slik situasjon. Ikke alle er i en posisjon der de kan ta kollektivtrafikk til og fra jobb, og ettersom buss er det eneste kollektivtilbudet her i byen, passer ikke en bomringordning for vår by. Det kan hende at en bomring passer for andre større byer, men Ålesund er ikke en av disse.

Derfor falt valget mitt denne gangen på et av partiene som ønsker at en slik ordning skal utsettes for en folkeavstemming, som vil være mer demokratisk måte fremfor at politikerne overkjører oss med en såpass omfattende endring av bymiljøet.

En annen ting som har frustrert meg over valgkampen den siste tiden, og for så vidt også under alle lokalvalg, er at de forskjellige partilederene reiser rundt i Norges land for å drive valgkamp. Jeg føler at dette blir helt feil, ettersom det er de lokale sakene som er på dagsorden, vi trenger ikke en generell gjentakelse av hva de forskjellige partiene står for sentralt. Jeg vil mye heller høre hva de aktuelle listekandidatene vil gjøre for lokalsamfunnet. Hvis jeg skulle f.eks. høre fra valgkampen til SV, ville det være mer interessant å høre hva Anders Lindbeck, Eirinn Landgren eller Rune Kleiven hadde å si (disse tre er SVs toppkandidater for kommunevalget i Ålesund – jeg lette opp dette), fremfor å høre fra Kristin Halvorsen. Det blir feil for toppolitikerene å reise på Norgesturné under et lokalvalg, og enda verre blir det når de reiser rundt i en buss som er ulovlig enkelte steder.

Dessverre er tendensen at disse sentrale politikerne ikke lærer seg hva folk faktisk vil, og vi kommer nok til å se samme oppførsel om igjen ved neste lokalvalg om 4 år.

Jeg har for min del allerede stemt, og hvis du ikke stemmer selv, vil jeg si som en valgreklame på NRK i 2005 sa: “Da har du valgt leverpostei“. Med andre ord, det å frasi seg retten til å stemme ved valget, er også et valg. Og da mener jeg at du også frasier deg retten til å klage over de folkevalgte.

Not quite there yet

02.05.2011 17:21

One thing’s for certain: I’m up top again now, considering last week’s bad start. But it did take me a full three days to get back on track. Monday was the day of the blowout and being flat out in bed, while Tuesday and Wednesday were used to recover from the whole ordeal. I finally got well enough to go to work Thursday and Friday, even though I could feel my digestive system wasn’t completely balanced (no runs, though). Today I can truly say that I’m fully recovered.

Later this week, my sister’s boyfriend’s (can I still call him “brother-in-law” if they’re not married?) family comes over from Sweden to celebrate my niece’s first birthday, so that could be fun. They’re always a joy to hang with, so it’s all bound to run smoothly. Two of them are even going to be guests at our house, simply because accommodation elsewhere isn’t always affordable and/or available. But hey, it’s family, right? 🙂

In other news, early yesterday, it became clear that my auction was a bust. No takers. I can see two reasons for the auction failing. One, I started the auction that close to Easter, and most people take the Easter week off in Norway (since there are only two and a half workdays that week, anyway). That would put a dent in the possible attention it could get during its two week run. And two, the price was simply too high for a single sponsor. Taking this into consideration, I waited until today to run a second attempt on the auction (NOTE: Norwegian text only). This time, I divided the sponsorship into 4 parts, which would hopefully be a more suitable value for smaller sponsors. The auction runs for 14 days, ending on the 16th. If it doesn’t happen this time around, it will never happen that way.

Who knows? Maybe I’ll get lucky this time around… (Of course, if anyone else would like to contribute, I’ll accept.)

Also in the news, Osama Bin Laden has finally been taken out. As someone I know pointed out, Obama did in 2 years what Bush couldn’t in 7. Then again, it has been a long process in the making, I’m sure. All this mess, and in the end, it ended up with a shoot-out in a villa in Pakistan. A small tactical team was what it finally took to get him. Not huge airplane fleets dropping bombs, not convoys of tanks, but good intelligence and a group of specially trained soldiers (fine, I suppose they did have the support of several tanks and other heavy equipment, but still). What it really takes, is good and solid intelligence with sensible leadership behind it all to do a good job. Not acting on a whim, like Bush did with Iraq. Not to mention bombing the hell out of Afghanistan. Sure, Afghanistan and Iraq had leaders rotten to the core who ignored everything about human rights, but it would still pay off in the long run (both in reputation and in actual costs) to have intelligence reports people can count on as well as people who know what the hell they’re doing.

Like I said when the US started dropping bombs in Iraq, I asked myself several times: Why couldn’t they just gather enough solid intel to take out Saddam Hussein and his cohorts with a small tactical team (or a few assassins)? That would be much quicker and painless than attacking a bunch of civilians. It would have been much cheaper, too. And with Afghanistan, “he must be hiding in a cave up in the mountains” is not a solid enough lead to start bombing the landscape.

We (as the whole world, more or less) can finally start rebuilding the messes we made in both Afghanistan and Iraq, and turn over the keys to the sensible leaders actually elected by the people so they can continue on their own.

Now, who’s next?

Way beyond normal (in the wrong direction)

05.11.2010 15:23

I’m seriously starting to wonder what the hell is going in with South-East Asia in general. (If you’re sick of rants about China, North Korea and/or politics, skip the next two paragraphs.)

As you may’ve caught, China strongly disapproved of the Nobel Peace Prize laureate of 2010, Liu Xiaobo, as they consider him to be a criminal. They’ve gone as far as sending letters to the Oslo-based embassies of Western governments, urging them to disapprove of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize (and not attend the ceremony on December 10), as it interferes with Chinese domestic affairs. All mail sent from the Norwegian Nobel Committee to the Chinese embassy lately has been returned unopened. Liu’s crime? Signing a public manifest (Charter 08) which disagrees with some of China’s politics. Something which is strongly encouraged in most of the rest of the world, and in all of what’s considered the Western world. It’s just silly.

And today, it was revealed that North Korea has a new device on its market. Where the concept of a PDA is more or less outdated in the rest of the world (or at least in developed countries), this appears to be “cutting edge” in North Korea just now. From what Engadget could tell by the photos, this PDA runs Windows CE, a half-sibling to the Windows Phone platform (previously called Windows Mobile). It doesn’t have Bluetooth, GPS, WiFi, broadband, or even phone capabilities, which more or less states that it doesn’t have many areas of practical use. The cost? Around $140 for the high-end 8GB model with a microSD slot. And that’s in a country with an estimated $150 monthly income per person (btw, that’s pure guesswork based on the GDP numbers per capita from CIA’s World Factbook).

In more positive news, my blog article on my little backstage tour of the Blue Man Group production in Stockholm was recently featured on Blue Man Group’s official Facebook page, as well as shared on their recently created Twitter feed. My, I feel proud. 🙂

I just hope I’ll be able to repeat such a trip next year. I’m hoping to either visit one of the stops on the U.S. National Tour (which has brand new material) or see the permanent show in New York (which is the classic show, going “back to the roots”). I’ll have to see what direction the economy takes me once 2011 has begun. If I’m extremely lucky, I’ll go for both options, but there’s also a chance the outcome will be neither one – I’ll just have to take it as it comes. I won’t know for sure until the end of March or beginning of April, though. Mid-April would be the last opportunity for a well-planned trip in July (although I could plan it as late as mid-June, but that would be pushing it to an uncomfortable level). Until then, I’ll happily accept suggestions for possible destinations. 🙂

Chinese “diplomacy” – what’s that?

18.10.2010 17:07

As some of you might’ve caught, this year’s Nobel Peace Prize laureate is Liu Xiaobo, a Chinese human rights activist, something the Chinese government wasn’t too thrilled about. In the recent week, Chinese officials have responded by silently cancelling all appointments and events relating to Norway and Norwegian officials, and the Chinese Foreign Ministry has even gone as far as critizing the Norwegian Nobel Committee for awarding the prize to a criminal.

And what crime would that be? Openly expressing his opinion about human rights in China and, in essence, openly critizing the Chinese government. That’s right, the freedom of speech which most of us in the so-called Western world take for granted, is forbidden by law in China.

According to a poll on the subject in China, they also demand that the Norwegian Nobel Committee should withdraw the prize and apologize to the Chinese people.

Honestly, there’s nothing to apologize for. The fight for human rights and the freedom to peacefully express one’s opinions is on the path to peace, which I believe is in line with the Nobel Peace Prize. The Chinese government should be able to see this, and relax some of their laws pertaining to freedom of speech and domestic political disagreement. I mean, China apparently wants to be treated differently by the rest of the world (as in, “we are right, everyone else is wrong”), which is a factor to establishing the Great Firewall of China and more or less separating Internet in China from the rest of the world to minimize political influences. To a great extent, they appear to want to be the “Iron Curtain” of the 21st century, and we all know how well that went for the old Soviet Union…

It’s time for China to realize what they’re doing and stop their childish ways, especially in the treatment of other nations in the world. I know I probably won’t be able to visit China after this post, and considering the political situation, I’m not sure I want to either.

And communism is just a nice theory, but human nature makes it unfeasable and impossible to implement in the long run. There, that should cement my status as a criminal according to China, right?

Earth Hour? What a concept!

02.03.2010 19:53

I recently caught on that my hometown is going to participate in the Earth Hour event, which this year lands on March 27.

Now, I’m all for changing the global climate and protecting the environment and all that. I just don’t think that shutting down non-essential lights and appliances for an hour a year (on a Saturday evening, no less) will do the trick.

We have come to a point in our technological advancement where electricity is a requirement. When we lost power in Ålesund and the surrounding area for an hour last week (mid-day on a Tuesday), our society more or less halted. You need electricity to register bar codes, fry/heat/cook food in cafes/restaurants/fast-food joints, pay with a debit or credit card, pay with cash where things like CashGuard are used, cool things down in fridges and freezers, work at an office (where computers are essential), etc. Basically, while not intended, we’ve already had our Earth Hour.

I see less of a point of the focus on an event like Earth Hour in Norway, where the vast majority of our power production comes from renewable energy. Living in a country full of mountains and subsequent waterfalls does have its benefits.

Also, we export more power than we import, so I don’t really see the point in the power companies’ major need to export power as much as they do.

Basically, with the amount of renewable energy produced in Norway, I simply don’t see the big need to “celebrate” an event like this.

So why do we do it? “Raise awareness?” What good will that actually do? It seems to me that the only countries participating are either already fully aware of the world’s energy and climate problems, or not big enough to make a significant impact in either direction.

We don’t need to cut back on energy consumption, we just need to find more efficient methods of both producing and consuming the energy, and that should be more up to the companies who make the energy production and energy consuming products. Although it’s more or less up to us consumers to select the right products, the companies making the products should be forward enough to do the necessary changes without having to wait on consumers and/or local regulations. And in particular when it comes to energy production, we also need the methods to be environmentally friendly.

To sum up just a couple of the not-so-environmentally-friendly energy production methods:

Fossil fuels: Coal, oil, the burning of wood, stuff like that. Sure, they produce the energy needed, but they icky stuff behind, both in the air and where they actually burn. That dark smoke is not a good thing, you know. Forests are replanted all the time, but unless you can dispose of both the ash and smoke somewhere other than Mother Nature, just skip it. Burning of wood in a fireplace should be saved for the rare occasions.

Fission: Or, in three words: Nuclear power plants. Sure, there’s a high yield compared to any other energy production, but there are also higher risks. Last I heard, nuclear waste still can’t be broken down easily; all they can do is store it in a safe place for a few thousand years in containers built especially for that purpose. Also, if the careful balance of keeping a nuclear reactor online is askew just enough, there are serious consequences, much like dropping a nuclear bomb in the area. Worst case scenario: think Chernobyl.

When it comes to the awareness bit, most of us are already well aware. What we need is for manufacturers to keep up, and preferrably in a quicker speed than now.

After all, if awareness with the consumer is so important to the environment, why aren’t the airlines pushing the manufacturers for more energy efficient airplanes? Instead, they choose to only focus on “reducing your carbon footprint” and buying carbon offsets.

And there’s another less-thought-out plan. Buying carbon offsets is really just marketspeak for paying a country to use some of their carbon emission quota which they weren’t going to use in the first place, and seems to be merely a the modern form of indulgence.

I’m just saying.

Cartoon trouble

10.02.2006 01:50

As most of you have caught up in recent news, the Danish newspaper Jyllandsposten published a caricature of Mohammed, the Muslim prophet. Knowing full well that depicting the prophet is against Islamic law, several other European newspapers republished these caricatures for some strange reason, among others, a Christian extremist newspaper called “Magazinet”. I have a feeling that they did this just to piss someone off.

These events generally caused Norwegians to become targets in countries and cities heavily influenced by Islam, with flag burning, riots and physical attacks against Norwegian offices and tourists in those countries. Not police, though, but by rioting groups. And it almost feels like we’re on the brink of World War III, which I seriously hope never comes into fruition.

The newspapers and magazines that have published these caricatures claim freedom of speech as the reason for doing this.

I think this is wrong. With freedom of speech also comes the personal responsibility for what you’re saying. Say the wrong things, and people get insulted. I’m not saying we should abolish freedom of speech altogether, but I think that those who have the freedom also should take the responsibility to not directly offend anybody’s religion, race, gender or sexuality.

The rioters were also demanding that our government apologize for the insult. Trouble is, with freedom of speech also comes the fact that a gathered country can’t take responsibility for what a single person expresses. If they’re going to paint targets, do it to the ones who were insulting them instead of targetting an entire country. We don’t all have that same opinion, and people should respect that.

I heard a good example today that could help you get a feel for how muslims react to this issue: How would you feel if someone either found a nude picture of your grandmother or constructed one and then published the picture on the front page of a nation-wide newspaper? False or not, “all” they did was use their freedom of speech, expressing their opinion of the world or their skills as an artist. Even so, it doesn’t make it right, does it? There’s a fine line between trying to provoke a reaction and outright stupidity, apparently. If you have something you know will violate the emotions of an innocent person or a group of innocent people, the freedom of speech you should exercise is to not publish it. You know, spare their feelings.

At least something good came out of it; the editor of the Norwegian newspaper was reported to the police by the Muslim Al-Jinnah Foundation. It’s good to see that doing something like this isn’t entirely without legal consequenses.

Aftenposten: Caricature publisher reported to police

I’d like to say that I don’t side either with the rioters or the publishers. The rioters on their side went too far with their death threats against the people who were even remotely involved with the publishing of the caricatures (such as Norwegians or Danes in general). The publishers on their side went too far by throwing these caricatures into their newspapers. Bad ideas from both ends, I think.

Death threats are medieval ways in this modern world. Modern times react better to lawsuits. I say that all Muslims take up class action suits against the newspapers that published the caricatures. Judging by the widespread of Islam in today’s world, single lawsuits are a waste of time; several gathered class action lawsuits would be more effective in my opinion.

Go ahead. If you’re a Muslim reading this, gather up your friends and fellow believers in your region and get in touch with lawyer. I’m sure there’s something you could figure out there.