The Real Thieves (Screed #11)

June 22, 2009…


We’ve been reading in the news lately about a couple of people that have been singled out by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for illegally downloading and/or hosting music files over the internet, and absolutely appalled and outraged over the fines that they have been charged. One woman was caught with 24 songs on her computer and was fined almost $2,000,000. That boils down to $80,000 per song! Talk about the punishment not fitting the crime! How, in their unbridled greed, can the record industry justify penalizing someone that much money over one song? Most music websites, such as iTunes or Napster, charge 99 cents per song, yet the penalty is going to be about a million times that amount? The fact that these cases haven’t been laughed out of court just goes to show you what real injustice is all about in this country, and who the real thieves are. Just another example of the giant crushing the little person.

We realize that downloading music, without paying for it, is illegal – but this is beyond all comprehension and reason. It’s like penalizing someone for stealing a 5 cent candy by throwing them in jail for 20 years. It’s complete overkill, not to mention diabolically cruel. And what kind of message does this send anyhow? The people who have gotten caught can’t possibly ever pay the fines, so the next person will think, “if I get caught, I’ll have to pay over a million dollars in fines myself, which I can’t possibly come up with, so I might as well keep illegally downloading – what’s the difference if I owe $1,000,000 or $2,000,000? – and perhaps I’ll get lucky and never get caught.”

The recording association has mailed more than 30,000 letters to individuals and families in recent years, demanding payment for illegal file sharing. Most recipients have settled out of court for $3,000 to $5,000 – which we also feel is a ridiculous amount, considering that each song is apparently not worth more than 99 cents apiece.

There are millions and millions of people, of all ages, throughout the world, who are illegally downloading music every day of the week. Now, we realize that just because that many people are doing it, that doesn’t make it right – but it seems like you should either go after every last person who is committing this “heinous” crime, or not go after any of them. Singling out a few random people seems extremely cruel and unfair.   

Plus, the record industry, in their brilliant wisdom, figures that this will deter future illegal downloading, but we all know the threat of jail time or even the death penalty does not stop people from committing all sorts of crimes, including murder – what makes the record industry think this will be any different? And with all the problems we have in this country, is this really that much of a concern? Considering that these people will probably never be able to come up with the money to pay off these fines anyhow, and the RIAA will probably never see more than a small fraction of the money, isn’t this just a complete waste of taxpayers’ time and money by bringing these frivolous cases to court? Makes us wonder if it’s really the money they want, or if it’s just a message they are trying to send out by using scare tactics.   

Perhaps if the record industry hadn’t been so shortsighted concerning the whole digital/downloading industry, and hadn’t tried to fight it all these years, they wouldn’t be in the dire situation they are in now. Plus, also, if they hadn’t been charging people up to $15 or more for a CD, when we all know they cost less than a dollar to produce, people wouldn’t feel such a need to steal music – especially in the bad economy we live in, where only people with disposable income can even afford to buy CDs anymore.

If the recoding industry wants to stop illegal downloading so badly, then why don’t they try to stop the internet itself? – which, of course, is impossible. They want to use a public resource for private profit. By utilizing the internet they are subject to the same pitfalls that the public is when it posts photographs or film on the internet. There is really only so much you can do to control what goes on over the internet. And the web is here to stay, so they need to come to terms with that fact once and for all.

Keep in mind that many people only download the music for free because they want to see if they like it enough first before they go buy the actual CD or pay money to download the song. If they can’t hear the music prior to purchasing it, they probably won’t buy it anyhow, which means the record industry would not end up making money from that person, with that particular album.

This reminds us of the mid-1980s when the RIAA went on a ridiculous crusade by trying to have blank cassettes banned, stating “home taping is killing music.” It did no such thing. Blank cassettes lived on (at least for awhile) and the record industry continued to make billions of dollars in profits despite it all.  

Nowadays, the record industry wants to make CDs (as well as DVDs) impossible to burn. It’s ridiculous and counter-productive. They are dictating to you, as the consumer, what you can do or not do with something that you paid hard earned money on. At every chance they get, the RIAA have fought the Fair Use Act, which allows you to make a backup copy for personal use. They argued that if your record, tape or CD breaks or malfunctions that you should not be able to make a backup copy to continue enjoying what you paid for. They argued in court and before legislature that you should have to buy a brand new copy of the album. And they have the money and the power to get away with this kind of insanity. 

Also, as Bob Dylan has said in recent years, concerning the poor sound quality of modern albums, as well as the lack of artistic quality, the reason why people don’t pay for music anymore is because it’s not worth anything anyhow. Look at the garbage the record industry turns out year after year. People are no longer buying albums because they know that there is only going to be one or two good songs on it, and the sound quality is going to be terrible.     

We all know that the recording industry is on its last legs. Many major artists are breaking away from the whole record company contract structure and releasing music through their own channels (like Radiohead and Prince). It will continue this way even more in the years to come. The RIAA is losing billions of dollars every year and they need to recoup some of that money any way they can – even if it means singling out a few poor people and ruining their lives by making shining examples of them. You can say these people deserve it because they did something they knew was wrong – but is charging them an insane amount of money and publically humiliating them really the answer?

Some folks will also claim that by illegally downloading music you are taking money out of the artist’s pocket – but how much of the money that the RIAA is fining people, like this woman, is going to end up in the artist’s pocket anyhow? We would guess very little. The RIAA is notorious for ripping off artists throughout the decades. They have stolen far more money out of artists’ pockets than illegal downloading ever has. Look at all the money record companies have made by exploiting deceased artists like Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison over the years. Talk about thievery and hypocrisy!

We read that one Harvard-based lawyer out of Massachusetts, by the name of Charles Nesson, decided to step in and defend a Boston University grad student (who decided to fight back against the RIAA) by taking on the industry, on his behalf, free of charge. We applaud his actions. More lawyers should be stepping forward.

Let’s face it, illegal downloading, whether right or wrong, is here to stay – the same way that bootlegs have continued to survive over the past forty years, despite all the efforts to stop them. The RIAA needs to accept that fact and find new ways to survive, as well as prosper. Destroying peoples’ lives is not the way to go about it though. It’s just another example of pure, unbridled greed. This is also very bad for public relations on their part and will eventually come back on them.

If the record industry does in fact completely collapse someday, they have nobody to blame but themselves.


Non-Reality TV (Screed #10)

June 9, 2009…

Can we finally say it? Enough of reality TV! We are sick to death of all of these so-called “reality” shows that have been clogging up the airwaves for much too long now, as well as daytime talk shows like The Jerry Springer Show. Straight up, these programs are pure garbage, and the people who watch them religiously, and actually think they are “real,” are complete tards. TV has become close to unwatchable over the past ten years. That is why we very rarely watch it anymore.

It all started with MTV’s The Real World (which was anything but) back in the early 90s, and what seemed like a totally contrived and brainless but seemingly harmless novelty all those years ago, slowly turned into an unstoppable, unending phenomenon, and is one of the contributing factors in turning America into Tard Nation. It also shows that we have completely run out of ideas for quality programs. Where are the Norman Lears and Larry Gelbarts of today? Why pay for good writers and actors when you can hire a bunch of talentless hacks to turn out cheap mindless drivel? And as a nation, we have become so dumbed-down that we passively accept this garbage and think we are actually being “entertained.”

And people actually take these shows very seriously. We find it sad that they look at who wins American Idol as a life-and-death situation, yet could not care less about problems such as poverty, global warming, an endless war, the economy, terrorism, and the decline of education in America. Everything is about entertainment. Isn’t this how the Roman Empire fell?      

American Idol, Survivor, Big Brother, Cheaters, Fear Factor, Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire?, Jackass, The Apprentice – there is no end to these contrived, moronic, and especially degrading TV shows. People will do ANYTHING these days to get on television and get 15 seconds of “fame” (never mind 15 minutes anymore), by acting like complete imbeciles, assholes and douchebags. Anything to be famous. The dregs of society will go on Jerry Springer and brag about how they are sleeping with their daughter’s boyfriend. This is the culture we are producing now – everyone wants to be instantly famous, at the expense of their dignity. Kids are growing up thinking they must be famous (even infamous) in order to feel a sense of self-worth. They don’t care what they have to do or how they have to do it. Even if they end up on To Catch a Predator; hey, at least they’re “famous,” right? 

We are sick to death of hearing about Jon and Kate (from Jon & Kate Plus 8) and Spencer and Heidi (from The Hills and recently I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here! – we couldn’t make up these names if we tried). Two sets of complete tards that people in this country have become obsessed about. Who are these losers and why do they have their own shows? Who cares about them? Apparently anybody can get their own show these days. Now we hear “Octomom” is going to have her own reality show. The thought of that sends shivers up and down the spine. She is the epitome of someone who doesn’t live in reality. Who wants to watch this nutcase and her million kids? We would rather have nails drilled into our heads. But we’re sure there is an audience out there for her ridiculous antics. There always is.

Plus, none of these shows have the slightest sense of any “reality” that we’ve ever seen. How “real” can you be when you have a constant camera filming your every move? You can just tell that the producers also encourage certain members of the show to act controversially to stir up ratings. Even on Jerry Springer, guests are told to swear and start fights with each other. That is what gets the tards watching.

Yes, we admit that The Osbournes was a guilty pleasure, but at least Ozzy Osbourne is like a heavy metal Benny Hill, and could genuinely be funny at times. Was it realistic? We highly doubt it. He was playing to the cameras, no doubt. It was amusing nonetheless. We also have to admit that Keeping Up with the Kardashians is another guilty pleasure – who wouldn’t want to look at Kim Kardashian whenever possible? Still though, the show is moronic. And what the hell is going on with Bruce Jenner’s face? 

We are also tired of hearing all of these so-called reality show celebrities (or “nonebrities” as they are sometimes called) whine and complain about not having privacy. Hello? You are on a reality show, having your every waking second filmed. What did you expect? You are “lucky” (is that the right word, when you think about it?) that you are even on TV, being that you were plucked from total obscurity and have done nothing of any significance or artistic merit to warrant this newfound fame, or you are a washed-up has-been who is back in the spotlight, showing what a loser you have become over the years. So, shut up the hell up and deal with it! This is the price you pay when you sell your soul to the reality show devil.    

We predict in the future, every single person on the planet will have their own reality show (probably on the internet), and it already seems to be heading in that direction. Aren’t Myspace and Facebook in small ways, early examples of that?

The 1976 film Network predicted the whole idea of “reality TV,” as well as 24-hour news programs. It all came true. In the future, we expect to see actual murders on TV, for our viewing entertainment. What else is left anyhow? We’ve degraded ourselves as far as we can possible go. Murder is the next step.

It’s enough to make us just want to throw our television sets out the window.


In related news…our choice for Most Obvious Statement Ever Uttered in the History of Mankind: 

American Idol‘s Adam Lambert: “I’m gay.”

Lastly, can there be a more annoying person on television than Marie Osmond-lookalike Mary Murphy of So You Think You Can Dance? Her constant, exaggerated screeching and yelling has got to be one of the most obnoxious spectacles we have witnessed in recent times. Of course, there is an audience who eats it up.

Truly mind-boggling…

Roll Call #2

June 9, 2009…

Musical roll call (in no particular order)… 

The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, U2, R.E.M., Led Zeppelin, Van Halen, The Beach Boys, Elvis Presley, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Bob Dylan, Prince, Elvis Costello, John Lennon, Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Nicks, Charlie Parker, Paul McCartney, De La Soul, Marvin Gaye, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Black Sabbath, Public Enemy, The Sex Pistols, The Clash, The MC5, Public Image Ltd., Stevie Wonder, Chuck Berry, Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington, The Replacements, Talking Heads, James Brown, A Tribe Called Quest, Johnny Cash, The Kinks, Big Star, Syd Barrett, Robyn Hitchcock, The Who, Muddy Waters, The Flaming Lips, Judas Priest, AC/DC, Jerry Lee Lewis, Woody Guthrie, Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band, Frank Zappa, Brian Wilson, Captain Beefheart, George Jones, Smokey Robinson, Charles Mingus, Dizzy Gillespie, The Strokes, Nirvana, Sun Ra, The Ramones, Pearl Jam, Kraftwerk, Squeeze, Can, XTC, Pink Floyd, Tangerine Dream, Otis Redding, Aretha Franklin, The Stooges, Wings, Todd Rundgren, Electric Light Orchestra, The Pogues, Thelonious Monk, Paul Simon, John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, Gang of Four, Robert Johnson, Willie Nelson, Howlin’ Wolf, Patsy Cline, The Miracles, Lindsey Buckingham, Van Morrison, Waylon Jennings, The Temptations, Merle Haggard, Amy Winehouse, The Beastie Boys, Brian Eno, Phil Spector, Leonard Cohen, Herbie Hancock, Adele, Dave Brubeck, The Grateful Dead, John Mellencamp, Ornette Coleman, Teo Macero, George Gershwin, Hank Williams, Little Richard, The Byrds, Neil Young & Crazy Horse, The Band, Sonic Youth, Husker Du, The Orange Peels, Beethoven, Neu!, The Minutemen, Simon & Garfunkel, Queen, Green Day, Rancid, Lee “Scratch” Perry, Prince Buster, Tchaikovsky, Tricky, Fats Domino, Photek, Elton John, Rush, King Crimson, The English Beat, JJ Cale, The Cars, Terence Trent D’Arby, Fela Kuti, The Four Tops, Big Audio Dynamite, Charlie Christian, Bud Powell, Bukka White, John Lee Hooker, Arthur Lee, Roky Erickson, Echo & the Bunnymen, The B-52’s, Devo, Derek and the Dominos, George Harrison, Gil Scott-Heron, Linton Kwesi Johnson, Prince Far I, Blue Oyster Cult, John Legend, The Undertones, The Rutles, Fleetwood Mac, The Eagles, Bessie Smith, Neil Diamond, Roy Orbison, Carlos Santana, Julian Cope, Klaus Schulze, The Pixies, David Lee Roth, Lou Reed, Yoko Ono, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, The Meat Puppets, The Supremes, Eddie Cochran, David Bowie, Jefferson Airplane, Funkadelic, Wilson Pickett, Sly Stone, Parliament, Cream, The Roots, Common, Eric Clapton, Bob Marley, Wayne Shorter, McCoy Tyner, Peter Tosh, Beck, Abba, The Lyres, APB, Paul Westerberg, Alex Chilton, Warren Zevon, ZZ Top, The Chesterfield Kings, The Doors, Wilson Pickett, Betty Davis, NRBQ, Sonny Rollins, Weather Report, Jackson Browne, Joni Mitchell, Steely Dan, Bob Seger, Burt Bacharach, The Buzzcocks, Hall & Oates, Ziggy Marley, Gary Usher, Curt Boettcher, Etta James, Dinah Washington, Sam Cooke, Larry Williams, Ray Charles, Carl Perkins, The White Stripes, Gene Vincent, Roxy Music, Pete Townshend, Harry Nilsson, Richard Thompson, The Pretenders, Maceo Parker, Traffic, The Time, The Meters, Freddie Hubbard, John Fogerty, Tony Williams Lifetime, Band of Gypsys, George Martin, Lieber & Stoller, Cole Porter, Bach, Patti Smith, Rick James, Weezer, Robert Plant, Ozzy Osbourne, Charley Patton, The Mothers of Invention, Peggy Lee, Utopia, Moby Grape, Chet Baker, Blind Willie McTell, Curtis Mayfield, Esquerita, AR & Machines, The Four Seasons, Dion, Bush, Prince Paul, Oasis, Don Henley, Edgar Varese, George Michael, Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five, Robert Wyatt, Les McCann, Donald Byrd, Marshall Crenshaw, The Smiths, The Allman Brothers Band, Pete Rock & CL Smooth, Jimmy Reed, Steve Miller, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Elmore James, Carole King, Son House, Skip James, Shuggie Otis, Solomon Burke, Wilson Pickett, The Hives, The Rascals, Tony Joe White, Wendy & Lisa, Tom Jones, Chic, Bootsy’s Rubber Band, The Faces, Jeff Beck, Cheap Trick, Third Eye Blind, Joe Jackson, The Move, Graham Parker, Deep Purple, Mozart, Mississippi Fred McDowell, Big Brother & the Holding Company, Slayer, Diamond Head, Os Mutantes, The Yardbirds, Siouxsie & the Banshees, Gary Numan, Billy Joel, B.B. King, Thin Lizzy, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Serge Gainsbourg, Alice Coltrane, T. Rex, The Velvet Underground, Blur, Hound Dog Taylor, Al Stewart, Jimmy Cliff, Allen Toussaint, Badfinger, The Bee Gees, Billy Bragg, Morrissey, Motorhead, RL Burnside, Ravi Shankar, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Robert Cray, Booker T. and the MGs, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Jerry Reed, Johnny Paycheck, The Police, Junior Kimbrough, Iggy Pop, Depeche Mode, Charles Ives, Budgie, John Cale, Bunny Wailer, Lenny Kravitz.